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Frédéric Canovas is the faculty head of the French and Italian department at the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University. The tenured professor is French but is also fluent in Italian and English. At SILC, he hopes to show students the tremendous value of going from monolingual to bilingual to multilingual.
“I’ve always loved Italy and Italian culture, particularly art and architecture which have always been my true passion in life, even before languages and literature. … Lyon, my city in France, was founded by the Romans in 43 BC … so, I do feel Italian too, to some extent,” Canovas said.
He attributes his desire to learn languages from visiting southern France every summer and interacting with tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
Canovas said that he was mesmerized by the many different spoken languages. He used to collect newspapers and magazines left behind by tourists, and was fascinated and frustrated not knowing what it was trying to say.
“It was like some sort of a magic spell,” he said.
At ASU, Canovas recently won the Dean’s Fellowship. This prestigious award joins him with a group of six scholars across a variety of disciplines. The group talks about current research topics and presents excerpts of their work. Canovas stated that the fellowship helped him fulfill his academic needs and enjoyed hearing about topics outside of his own research.
“I have always considered that my graduate courses were some sort of a forum to test my ideas and interpretations of literature, like the lab is for the scientist. It was helpful to be able to present my work to nonspecialists and to get their feedback,” Canovas said.
Looking into his future at SILC, he hopes to develop more courses integrating both Italian and French — like the one SILC currently offers relating Florence, Italy, to Paris. Canovas believes that France and Italy have a lot in common and that students could benefit greatly from learning both languages.
“Witnessing, on a daily basis, students’ excitement to learn languages reminds me of who I was as a young man and why I’m doing what I do,” Canovas added. “It really makes me want to go the extra mile to change students’ lives.”