May 6, 2009

An Honor from Abroad

Emese Soos is given tribute by the French government

By Taylor McNeil

Emese Soos, who has been teaching French at Tufts since 1982 and is coordinator of the French language program in the School of Arts and Sciences, was recently made an officer of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques, a high honor given by the French government in recognition of her efforts to spread French culture through her teaching.

Emese Soos at the ceremony where she was named an officer in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government. With her is Jean Schéré, F95, a Frenchman living in the area who nominated her for the honor. Photo: Alonso Nichols

In the ceremony at Olin Center on April 21, the French attaché noted that Soos has not only taught French for many years, but helps train some of her students to teach French.

Membership in the Order of Academic Palms, as it is known in English, is given by the French Ministry of Education.

Soos, who was born in Hungary, first learned French as a child in Switzerland, where her family had fled as refugees in the aftermath of World War II. She was there only a few years before resettling in the United States, but the lessons stuck.

“I started studying French again in high school in western North Carolina, and the French teacher had this wonderful Southern accent, and when he spoke French, the two clashed,” she says. “But fortunately I already knew better.” She took to listening to French tapes—“there was a wonderful recording of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince in French”—which helped her keep her accent. She went on to major in French in college and received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I was very surprised,” she says of the honor, and especially that she was named an officer, only second in rank to the commander of the order.

Taylor McNeil can be reached at

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