From TinTin to Daft Punk: The importance of cultural education

Fulbright FLTA provides insight into global culture through French language


Madeline Bruce, Editor-in-Chief

When Laure Primerano was going through the rigorous application process to become a foreign language teaching assistant through the Fulbright program, she ranked Gannon University at the top of her list of potential host institutions. 

This, Primerano said, was because of Gannon’s reputation of being involved in its community, both locally and globally. 

Becoming a Fulbright foreign language teaching assistant spoke to her lifelong interest in international exchanges. The program, which gives individuals a grant to meet, work, live with and learn from the people in their host country, fosters the international exchanges that Primerano said have driven her life, from her education to her dedication to travel. 

“I feel like traveling and getting involved in different cultures has led me to the place I am now,” she said. 

That place, which is Gannon, is known for preparing its students with practical and global experience for their futures, Primerano said. This applies directly to her teaching philosophy, which is to give students practical experience while teaching them a foreign language. 

According to Anjali Sahay, Ph.D., director of the political science program and adviser for the campus Fulbright program at Gannon, hosting a Fulbright scholar at Gannon brings exposure and awareness. 

“It raises awareness about the Fulbright program itself,” she said. “It also exposes our students to another culture, as these scholars offer classes and special lectures.” 

Primerano is a French speaker from Belgium, a country that is often overlooked when Francophone culture is thought of. Her cultural knowledge and experience in a Francophone country that is not France offers a different contribution to Gannon’s Global Languages and Cultures program, Martha Kosir, Ph.D. and director of the program, said. 

“She comes from Belgium, and coming from Belgium, she adds another dimension for understanding the French-speaking world,” Kosir said. “Most people normally think the French language equals France. But there’s so much more to understand in the French-speaking world than just France.” 

According to Kosir and Primerano, French is one of two languages, including English, that is spoken on all five continents. It is also an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and international courts.  

Because of this, there is a vast amount of advantages to not only learning the French language but also learning the Francophone culture. 

“It gets you in touch with so many different cultures,” Primerano said. “Switzerland and Belgium have different cultures than the typical French culture, and the same goes for North African culture.” 

Some North African countries have French as their official language or use it as a lingua franca — a language that is used when different communities don’t have a unifying language — because of French colonization. 

“That’s what is important when studying French – learning more about the diversity of our world,” she said. “It also changes the way you perceive the world through language.” 

According to Kosir, it is important to emphasize the relationship between the French language and Francophone culture, as well as the difference in culture from country to country. 

“Learning French is important because of the diversity,” she said. “There’s no such thing as uniformity. Every country is an entity in itself. Just because they share the same language doesn’t mean they share the same culture.” 

Foreign language teaching assistants, or FLTAs, are cultural ambassadors, Kosir said. By being an FLTA and a cultural ambassador, Primerano brings awareness to this diversity that exists in language and culture. 

As an FLTA, Primerano is a teaching assistant for French Language and Culture I, she independently teaches French Language and Culture III, is a mentor to Gannon’s French club, tutors French students, and she hosts guest lectures in other classes in the School of Public Service and Global Affairs. 

In all of these roles, Primerano brings a firsthand account of French language and Francophone culture. 

“It’s great to be able to bring the contemporary use of French as a language to the classroom, and it’s something the students are really responding well to,” she said. “I also try to teach them about contemporary cultureal debates that they might not be aware of. 

“It’s an ever-changing language. Like English, it always evolves. I feel that I am taking the language out of the textbooks, and that gives students the sense that this is a real language that people speak.” 

Continuing her dedication to emphasizing the cultural component of the French language and Francophone countries, Primerano will be teaching GLOBL 391, a course offered in the upcoming spring semester titled “From Tintin to Daft Punk.” 

This course will explore Francophone pop culture and global issues that relate to the French-speaking world. 

“I wanted to find a way to talk about societal issues in contemporary French society, and I thought contemporary pop culture would be a way to talk about this from a more fun perspective,” Primerano said. 

The course will look at issues like colonialism, sexism, racism and LGBT+ rights using comics, music and film as a gateway into issues that have been relevant to Francophone culture for decades. This is where Primerano found the inspiration for the title of the course. 

“Since we’re going to talk about issues that span through time, I wanted to find a title that gave students an idea of the evolving nature of the performing arts,” Primerano said. “The performing arts are not set in stone. They evolve because they evolve with society, so I wanted to think of an old type of this art that can still be relevant today, as well as something from contemporary Francophone pop culture that Americans would be familiar with.” 

Primerano’s offering of this course contributes to her role as a global ambassador by being a Fulbright FLTA. By doing this, she helps the Global Languages and Cultures program to support Gannon’s mission of fostering worldviews. 

“There’s so much that can be learned from this, and she’s looking at culture from a perspective of globalization,” Kosir said. 

Primerano’s ability to emphasize culture in her teaching and educate the wider Gannon community through different courses, speaking events and tutoring has made her an asset to the university, Sahay said. 

“She brings with her tremendous insight about Belgium and Europe at large,” she said. “Students really connect to her.” 

The 2021-2022 academic year is only the second year that Gannon has hosted a Fulbright FLTA, and Sahay said that Gannon students are also encouraged to apply to the Fulbright program to be English Language Teaching Assistants in another country. 

For more information on the Fulbright program, contact Sahay via email at [email protected] 


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