Monday the 20th of March, 2017 was International Francophonie Day and in Ghana, it was marked with the grand finale of the annual Francophonie competition which was followed by a round table discussion on the joys and challenges of working in a cross-cultural setting.
The day commenced with the finals of the nationwide Francophonie competition which capped off several weeks of preparation and selection of students at the University level. There were four finalists from three universities for this year’s grand finale held under the high patronage of the French Ambassador, the Head of Cooperation at the French embassy and the Director of Alliance Française. The finalists had to demonstrate their proficiency in French language and their knowledge of general Francophone culture through a variety of word and vocabulary games, oral expression and MCQs. During a breather, students from the Mount Mary College of Education performed French songs, poetry and plays much to the delight of an audience made up of representatives from the Ministry of Education, educational institutions, civil society institutions as well as students of the French language.
The announcement of the results of the competition could not come soon enough for the candidates who were waiting with bated breath; but at the end of proceedings, it was Kamba Kombat of the University of Education, Winneba, who emerged tops, whisking away the grand prize of a two-week stay in France. In second and third place were Nana Yaa Aboagye and Esther Biney respectively, both from the University of Cape Coast, whereas the prize for fourth place went to Seyram Gawu of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
Prizes were also awarded to winners of the senior high school category. The day before, the final competition between the 10 best French high school students (1 representing each region) had been organized by the CREF network (Regional Centers for the teaching of French) with the support of the French Embassy. A laptop, tablets, cell phones, books and dictionaries were given out among winners and participants. All of them, teachers included, received a bag, a t-shirt and a notebook branded “Et en plus je parle français!” (What’s more I speak French!) The award of these prizes would never have been possible without the support of the French Embassy, the Consulate of Belgium, the Canadian High Commission, Sam-Woode Ltd., Café Mundo and Fanmilk Ltd.
The French Ambassador François Pujolas was full of praise for the zeal and enthusiasm exhibited by all the participants and their teachers. This, he said inspired confidence of a glowing future for the French language here in Ghana.
The second part of the event featured a panel discussion drawing on the experiences of four illustrious personalities to address the topic “what people from Anglophone countries should expect when working in a Francophone setting”. The panelists were Mrs. Maa Adoma Afoakwa, a Business Development Officer with Cirrus Oil Services Ltd., Mr. Jean-Pierre Diassouka, Founder and CEO of DIAS Consulting, Mrs. Delphine Adenot-Owusu, Head of France Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Samuel Owusu-Baafi, Communications Head at the West Africa Civil Society Institute.
The forum centered on the cheers and challenges involved in adapting to a different cultural working environment with specific focus on the Anglophone to Francophone transition. Panelists shared in great detail the differences observed in their experiences with both Francophone and Anglophone working environments. The Cooperation Attaché for French language at the French Embassy Julie Fournier-Angelo, who was also the moderator for the forum, encouraged participants to make the best use of the opportunity of being bilingual. According to her, a foreign language “gives you access to the foreign culture and through the culture, you understand how others work”. The audience also had the opportunity to contribute and ask questions as to how to practically adapt to the francophone working world.
The term “Francophonie” refers to all of the states and governments worldwide who share the French language. The International Organisation of La Francophonie, created in 1970, represents one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world. Its mission is to embody the active solidarity between its 84 member states and governments (58 members and 26 observers), which together represent over one-third of the United Nations’ member states and account for a population of over 890 million people, including 274 million French speakers.