By Ray Petersen — NIZWA: March 22 – The French Ambassador to Oman, Roland Dubertrand visited the University of Nizwa to create awareness of International Francophonie Week. He was received by the Chancellor of the university, Dr Ahmed al Rawahi, Head of the Foreign Languages Department (DFL), Dr Khalfan al Harrasi, and French Section Head, Dr Djamila Gabruck. The ambassadorial delegation was received at the Chancellor’s office prior to a tour of the campus. He was then welcomed by French and Translation students, and introduced to a number of linguistic initiatives currently under research and production by the students and faculty, in addition to being entertained by a series of speeches and presentations from the French speaking students.
In his address to the gathering, the Ambassador explained the timely nature of his visit, as “the 20th of March heralded International Francophonie Week, and the commencement of a week of celebration of the global francophonie experience.” He praised the “active role of Dr Gabruck in promoting the French language learning experiences of her students,” in the university, which currently boasts possibly the strongest and most active student body in the Sultanate. Dr Gabruck responded that “the students were delighted with the opportunity to speak with the ambassador, and to discuss their prospects and opportunities.”
The Ambassador spoke of the duality of the ‘Francophonie’ saying that “it is not only the reality of the language learning experience, culture and traditions, but a global institution, from its origins in Senegal, Tunisia and Cambodia during the 1970’s, to its formal establishment as a 58 nation entity in 2005.” He pointed to the far flung influence of the French language with an estimated 285 million global French speakers currently, but also revealed that a massive 700 million French speakers will be evident by 2050. He spoke of the “diversity of cultures across all continents, from much of Europe, to Canada and the Caribbean in the Americas, to North and Central Africa, and the Arab region in Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Syria, through South East Asia, and even as far as the South Pacific, where New Caledonia maintains its strong French identity.” He also remarked that, “the intellectual spread, through academic and cultural interaction in the Francophonie was certain, with French being the second most used language on the internet.”
Dubertrand took the opportunity, in his address, to remind his audience of the “strong economic presence of France within the Sultanate, which has significant investment in the region, and of the need to continue to develop investment opportunities in the areas of energy, and tourism,” also offering the advice that the education sector “should maximize employment opportunities for the French language students, within those sectors,” during a Q&A session.
The official party then took in a display of current research and development initiatives in a “Oui Jes Parle,” or “Yes we speak French,” themed exhibition, where Dr Harrasi commented “This is a very important event for our students and a great opportunity for them to showcase their skills in the French language,” as he indicated the ‘Latifa Project’ where the students are producing the 50 most used French verbs, another where animal names are being translated, and yet another where 100 proverbs are similarly treated.
He introduced two students, Sara Nasser al Saidi, and Abdulaziz Saoud al Ghadfri, who are currently translating a book authored by one of the French section faculty, Dr Guillaume Thourrode, entitled ‘Letters de Brazil,’ in which the translators have the difficult task of taking emotional letters to a dying father, and making them linguistically and emotionally relevant in Arabic. Students’ final year projects, were also viewed, as the ambassador delighted the students with his questions and comments, which, according to one student, “showed his genuine interest and understanding.”
The culmination of the visit was a luncheon hosted by Dr Rawahi, who said, “This cultural event is intended to enhance the skills and develop the intellectual and academic capacities of our French language students. The speech, and indeed this visit to the University of Nizwa by His Excellency the Ambassador of France to the Sultanate, highlights aspects of the French language and culture, and available opportunities for further, higher education opportunities for our students, in France.”