French for Life could be the new motto of Alliance Française in Siem Reap, where a host of new programmes are putting the Fun back into language and skills learning…
We stopped by for a chat with her about what they offer to students in Siem Reap, and there’s a lot more to talk about than subjunctive conjugations.
CM: First of all, can you summarise the role of the Alliance Française? Is it only an establishment dedicated to teaching French?
NP: The Alliance offers classic French as a Foreign Language (FLE) courses for anyone interested in learning French, but we also offer French for Specific Purposes (F.O.S) courses. All needs are thus covered, responding to both professional and individual motivations. However, it is important to be able to offer courses other than F.L.E or F.O.S, in order to attract all ages and to adapt to demand.
“That’s why, after a market study, we developed various workshops in manga, photography, Iyengar yoga, discovery of the French-speaking world, and more. But we’ve also introduced Khmer classes, and soon there’ll be cooking classes as well as gentle gymnastics sessions for seniors.
It’s also a way of teaching French by using it as a support, or to spread the French culture, especially by organising conferences. We also want to put the Alliance Française back at the heart of the Siem Reap community.
CM: What drives your students to learn French? Does mastering the language still offer career opportunities?
NP: Some learn French to pass entrance exams for private companies or to join NGOs. Then, there are those who want to travel to France in order to discover not only our beautiful country, but also a whole culture: fashion, perfume, the varied landscapes offered by our regions as well as the numerous French-speaking countries.
CM: How many classes are taught at the Alliance Française, and what are the profiles of your students?
NP: We teach a wide range of people, from Khmers to expatriates, from six to 77 years old. Each week, we offer 36 hours of F.L.E. classes and 12 hours of F.O.S. classes, including three hours of general French for Franco-Khmer children, which is new at the Alliance Française.
A cooperation agreement is also in force with the University of Angkor for medical FOS courses. This will allow future nurses and midwives to learn French and thus be able to train in France. We hope that other contracts with other universities will come about soon.
We also have two hours of Khmer language instruction, and one hour of activities such as crossfit, yoga, manga, a photo workshop and a cooking workshop, as well as sessions for discovery of the French language.
CM: Precisely, what is your vision of the French-speaking world?
NP: It’s a pleasure to know that the French language is being spread outside of France. Even if French is no longer the language of diplomacy as it was until the 19th century, the language of Molière remains diplomatic because of its culture and its influence, or rather its influences.
CM: What teaching methods are used?
NP: The teaching methods are face-to-face instruction and intended for non-native speakers, based on the action approach recommended by the CEFR, where the student becomes the agent of his own learning. In the near future, we will be offering online classes. Some courses offer activities that support the learning of French by application to specific fields of interest. However, we always emphasise active participation by students who are supervised by a dynamic, motivated, positive and close-knit team, who actively undergo ongoing training.
CM: The many activities on offer place great emphasis on festivities and games. Is this particularly important to you?
NP: Yes, because it is precisely through these activities that the students become familiar with French culture, which is not just about the language. Celebrating St. Nicholas Day with Santa Claus, Christmas, the Galette des Rois, Mardi Gras and Chandeleur are all ways to open a window on French culture, but also to create unforgettable memories for the children (and parents) who participate. We are fortunate to have a large rooftop terrace for shows, exhibitions, conferences and screenings.
In this regard, a next meeting on the theme of cinema will be held at the end of November, and we are thinking of resuming the regular screening of classic French films.
It is also worth mentioning the presence in our premises of a media library which, for $20 a year, allows members to borrow two books for a period of fifteen days. All themes are covered in a large selection of books, including comic books.
Finally, toddlers have their own space for reading and listening to a storyteller who comes every Monday. They can also play on our computers, on which F.L.E. applications have been installed.
CM: Can you tell us about your background and what led you to the Alliance Française de Siem Reap?
NP: After studying law, I followed my husband to Burma where I became an FLE and FOS teacher, first as a freelancer for private companies, including the French School of Rangoon. Then I was recruited by an international school that met American standards, where I created their first FLE department. It wasn’t easy, because the atmosphere in Burma is mainly English speaking!
After a year my contract was renewed, not only as a teacher of F.L.E, but also as departmental coordinator. When a position for a seminar leader became available, I was selected to take care of sending 60 teachers to various professional workshops, and then to conduct seminars on “Teaching a foreign language while playing”. I also conducted field trainings at the request of some French colleagues.
CM: What are your expectations for the future of the Alliance Française?
I’d like to recruit more teachers, to continue the training-for-trainers, and to offer more activities in the only Alliance Française in Cambodia!
Alliance Française de Siem Reap, Street 22, behind Khéma Angkor
For more information, please contact Dara at 016 29 47 96 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adapted from an article in Cambodge Mag