Livingston High School Students Recognized for Excellence in French Competition


LIVINGSTON, NJ — Ending the school year on a strong note in Livingston, 25 Livingston High School students were nationally recognized for excellent performances on the competitive Le Grand Concours (the National French Contest) exam for 2015. LHS French teachers Gerard Amsellem and Soukeyna Diop-Tall taught and coached the LHS students, who competed against more than 90,000 other students and attained prizes symbolizing their high marks.

Sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), the annual competition challenges students of French in all 50 states and abroad from grades one to six, who participate in the “FLES Contest,” and grades seven-12, who participate in the “Secondary Contest.” LHS students Justin Melnick, Shira Li, Sorasicha Nithikasem, Natalie Kahn, Laura Serban, Sharon Perlmutter, Raphael Miller, Jessica Rosenblum, Gabriela Ontaneda, Elodie Shevins, Weiying (Wendy) Lu, Jennifer Liao, Michelle Goltsman, Josephine Chian, Sarah Wang, Catherine Yu, Mary Yang, Annette Kim, Justin Wang, Patrick Yim, Eileen Dong, Yibin Long, Varun Maheshwari, Sabrina Ngan and Luke Spiegler all achieved national recognition for excellence on the written exam.

“Receiving recognition in the competition means a lot to me in that it is like the fruits of labor from what I learned this past year,” said ninth-grade Silver Medal Winner Catherine Yu. “Language isn’t one of my best subjects so earning this award showed me that I was able to succeed on this competitive exam.”

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All students — private, public, home schooled and students of non-AATF members — are eligible for the annual exam. Students enter the National French Contest, or Le Grand Concours, via their French teacher, who applies for entry by contacting the local Chapter Contest Administrator. According to Yu, Amsellem and Diop-Tall ensured that each of their students was well prepared by teaching them through past copies of the contest made available through AATF. 

“Monsieur Amsellem has always been supportive and he spent class time on practicing for the exam so that we would do well,” said Yu. “I’m greatly appreciative to him for enriching my experience of the French language.”

Justin Melnick, an 11th-grader who completed a senior-level Advanced Proficiency French class this week, also wanted to thank the teachers who got him this far as he approaches his senior year at LHS, including former LHS French instructor Florence Jaouen-Steffener. Melnick received the Level 5 “Special Mention AP” prize in the competition, alongside his classmate Shira Li, and saw it as an affirmation that he is headed in the right direction for his future plans. 

“Mr. Gerard Amsellem, Ms. Florence Jaouen-Steffener and Ms. Soukeyna Diop-Tall have all helped me through my French studies,” said Melnick. “Earning such a prestigious place in this competition is important to me because I plan to go into international business or any real-world application in which I can use foreign languages.” 

Of the 90,913 Concours participants, 20,768 students were eligible for Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in 2015. LHS completed this year’s competition with one Gold Medal Winner, four Silver Medal Winners, six Bronze Medal Winners, five special mentions and seven “mention d’honneur” certificates.

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