Professor nabs knighthood teaching French with social media

Fri Jul 8, 2011 4:49pm EDT
 
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By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A University of South Carolina professor will be knighted by the French government for using social media to connect her students with their peers studying English in France.

This fall, the French consul will knight Lara Lomicka Anderson as a member of the academic order that was founded in the early 1800s by Napoleon and honors contributions to French language and culture.

Since 2005, Anderson has paired students taking a year-long French course she teaches in South Carolina with students at L'Ecole Des Ponts Paris Tech, a civil engineering university.

The course incorporates language study with social networking tools the students already employ. Using French and English, they Skype once a week, chat by email, communicate through Twitter and conduct Facebook group discussions.

"They're on the sites all the time," Anderson told Reuters on Friday. "Why not throw the French in there? It's fun for them. They don't even realize half the time that they're speaking in French and not in English."

At the end of the course, Anderson's students spend 10 days in Paris and meet their partners.

"We call them 'key pals,'" said Lesley Smith, a 21-year-old senior who found that French was indeed the language of love. She has been dating her former French language partner for two years.

In June, the French government banned use of the words "Twitter" and "Facebook" on radio and TV because the references amount to unlawful advertising for those sites.

Anderson said she'll stick to saying "social media" at her knighthood ceremony.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)