Ecole Puntledge Park's Sasha Woldnik was tops among Grade 6 students across Canada in the Concours D’art oratoire, a French oral language competition. Photo, Comox Valley Schools

Comox Valley student wins top French immersion honour

Ecole Puntledge Park’s Sasha Woldnik has only studied language for nine months

A French immersion student at Ecole Puntledge Park who is new to the language has taken the top seat in Canada for his grade level in virtual speaking contest.

Sasha Woldnik won first place among Grade 6 students across Canada in the Concours D’art oratoire, a French oral language competition.

Woldnik has only been learning French for the past nine months after he enrolled in the late French immersion program at the start of his Grade 6 year.

With the encouragement of teacher Thea Black, Woldnik entered the contest at the classroom level and was selected to represent his class in a district Zoom competition. His performance earned him the chance to submit a persuasive speech via video recording for the national level competition.

Each year, School District 71 hosts a Concours event for French immersion students at the elementary and secondary level. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, a virtual event for district students was held March 17 after a hiatus in 2020 when in-class instruction was suspended.

Like many school events and competitions, Concours was delivered in a digital format to allow the annual contest to continue. The goal of language contest is to offer a valuable opportunity for students to practise French on any topic ranging from a favourite hobby to views on current events.

Woldnik chose to speak about what he is most passionate about, competitive swimming. As a member of the Sharks swim team, Woldnik shared stories of the social interaction swimming offers and the awards he has won competing throughout Vancouver Island. He already has his sights set on joining the swim team and studying at University of Victoria.

“My speech was on swimming and why it is the best sport in the world because I’m a swimmer and I really love to swim,” Woldnik said. “You can make a lot of friends through swimming and build life-long relationships. It’s a social sport.”

His upbringing in a dual English and Ukrainian language household helped him with learning languages. Along with his teacher, his mom gave him much encouragement to learn a third language.

“I really like to thank my mom because she pushed me a lot and if not [for] her, I wouldn’t have done this program,” he said. “I’m not fluent yet, but I’ve learned a lot of French.”

Judges use a rubric to score individual speeches on vocal expression, coherence of presentation language proficiency and delivery. Woldnik earned first for his category in late French immersion, Grade 6. He received notice of his results in early June, more than two months after his video submission. He will receive a cash prize later this year.

The Concours d’art oratoire, Canada’s largest annual French public-speaking competition, is open to students in every province and territory in a wide range of age/grade categories and French abilities. The contest is organized by Canadian Parents for French (CPF) CPF, a grassroots organization that began more than 40 years ago to support bilingualism and promote opportunities to learn and use French.

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