Campus / News / Student Research / November 10, 2010

Honors profile: Alison Spataro

Senior Alison Spataro’s Honors project is entirely in French. In English, her title is “The Frequent Usage of English words and expressions in the French language.”

The Knox Student: What are you working on?

Alison Spataro: This term, I’ve been working on doing a lot of background research on language purism and how nationalism can play into that. I’ve also been looking at laws that relate to the protection of the French language in France. I’ve been figuring out which groups of people use English words the most in France—whether it depends on social class, age, race, etc. It’s mostly people under the age of 25 who have knowledge of English and use the words and expressions in their everyday speech.

The second half is actually finding the English words that are most frequently used. I’m looking at sources such as blogs, magazines for young people, newspapers, etc. I also have a spreadsheet where I keep track of each word, its function, the nature of it, the context, which French words it’s used with, the part of speech. My research has that linguistic aspect, which is my advisor’s specialty.

TKS: How did you come up with your topic?

I studied abroad last winter and spring in Besançon, and I noticed a lot of English being used in commercials, advertisements and magazines, and I heard a lot of French young people sprinkling their conversations with English. That really piqued my interest—why this preference for English?

AS: Why do you feel this topic is important?

I think that there are a lot of negative stereotypes about the French and their feelings about their language. People have this idea that they’re too extreme with the protection laws. I’d like to show both sides of it—they’re really proud of their language and its history, but at the same time, not all of them are like that.

TKS: What do you hope to learn?

AS: I personally would like a better understanding about why there’s a preference for English among the young people. Is it an admiration? Is it cool? Is it because of globalization—is the English language overpowering French like they’re afraid it is?

TKS: How do you balance Honors with everything else that you’re doing?

AS: This term it’s been kind of rough, because I’ve had a lot of readings in my other classes. Next term, I’m taking two credits of Honors, so all my time will be spent in the library doing reading for it. It’s hard when you’re only taking one credit of it and you have to balance it with your other courses, especially as a senior because your courses are more challenging. They’re just such big questions to answer, so I’m trying to break it up step by step and not overwhelm myself with it all.

Maya Sharma

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