Professor of French
Words: Katherine Braden ’16
Photos: Tony Hughes
For Dr. Alan Savage, Professor of French, French is more than a language. It’s a passkey to a new perspective.
“Being fluent in another language allows you to participate in other cultures, making life more meaningful and exciting, and enlarging the way you see the world,” he said. Savage wants to grant his students that same eye-opening experience. He also wants them to understand that learning French is about more than just communicating or conjugating verbs. It’s about learning to be open to “the other.”
“By learning to listen to those who are different from us, and to their stories, we become more compassionate and more Christ-like,” he said.
In his French and Quebecois Film class, students talk about what it means to be open to “the other,” and not to be afraid of what is different. This extends to discussions on immigration and diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Reaching out to other cultures is a means of sharing God’s love and participating in God’s creation,” Savage said. “In turn, we learn more about God and realize he’s present in all cultures.”
Savage hopes that learning French changes how his students see God’s presence in the world. For Savage, it helps him understand how big God is and grow closer to him. It also connects him to a rich spiritual tradition.
“While writing my first book, I had the opportunity to read 16th-century meditations on the Psalms from the Huguenots,” said Savage. “Getting to delve into those texts in the original French signifi cantly strengthened my spiritual life. I hope my students will have similar experiences as we read texts together.”
Currently, Savage is sorting through a compilation of hymnals, psalters, and prayer books from the 16th to 18th centuries, collected during a recent sabbatical in Paris. He’ll use them as inspiration for writing a French devotional.
The French section is also working on refashioning the French programs to increase the number of courses counting toward the major or minor. “I hope this allows more students to realize French can be an important part of their personal or professional life, and not just something to check off as a requirement,” said Savage.