(February 7, 2011)

Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073

Students Learning in Communities at Centenary

By Icess Fernandez

Centenary officials aim to teach language outside classrooms

SHREVEPORT, La. (Shreveport Times) — At Centenary College, students in one part of the dorms will most likely say "bonjour" rather than "good morning."

Pauline Turpin
Pauline Turpin, of Lille, France, works on decorations for her dorm room at Centenary College in Shreveport on Thursday afternoon. She is an exchange student studying at the school for one semester and she lives in a French immersion floor on campus. (Val Horvath Davidson/The Times)

They'll also watch television from French-speaking countries and even carry on entire conversations in French.

Welcome to Centenary's learning community, where students are completely immersed in everything French. The students here may be on U.S. soil, but it's hard to tell that when the students get together. The goal, Centenary officials have said, is for students learn the language outside from how they learn it in a typical classroom.

The students aren't allowed to speak English while in the dorms, only French. About 20 students are in the program. Requirements include French II or its equivalent. Students who participate receive lab credit.

Among the Centenary students participating is senior Alexandria Pittman, who wants to travel to France and teach English after graduation.
"It's hard," she said of speaking French-only in the dorm. "It's like splitting my brain into half."

Despite that, Pittman said she loves living in the dorms, that her French has improved and so has her knowledge of French culture. She attributes a lot of that to her roommate, Pauline Turpin.

Turpin is an exchange student from the Catholic University in Lille. She signed up to come to school in Louisiana through a partnership Centenary has with her school.

"Every time I said I was going to Louisiana, people said 'they speak French there,'" she said with a smile. "But they don't speak French."

Turpin is working on her master's degree in management and communications and hopes to work for an international company coordinating its external communications. Her stay at Centenary will help her, she said.

So far, culture shock for Pittman and Turpin has bonded the roommates together. While Pittman is getting used to speaking, thinking and absorbing French, Turpin is learning about U.S. culture.

Most surprising: the accessibility of professors.

"You can go and talk to them (professors)," she said. "In France, they don't have office hours. They don't even give out e-mail."

About Centenary College of Louisiana

Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and has been recognized as "One of the Best 373 Colleges" by the Princeton Review and one of "America's Best Colleges" and one of "America's Best Private Colleges" by Forbes.com. In 2008 Centenary College celebrated 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.