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A couple of centuries ago, in the summer of 1884, a visionary Frenchman by name Paul Cambon, came up with a revolutionary idea that changed the way people, the world over, perceived French culture. The idea became an overnight rage and over a period of time rapidly expanded to incorporate more and more countries to its worldwide growing network. From its inception in 1884 to its establishment in India in 1889, Alliance Francaise has indeed come a long way to becoming the most established and reputed centre for learning French as a foreign language. Today it boasts of over a thousand centres globally which are spread across 138 countries of the world. With around 23 branches in India itself, Alliance Francaise promises to offer more than just language courses; it offers a whole new lifestyle and varied opportunities to people to discover the finer aspects of the French culture, civilization and language.

The AF building at Marredpally Credit: Whyso Sirius

The AF building at Marredpally Credit: Whyso Sirius

The Alliance Francaise de Hyderabad, under the aegis of the Delegation Generale de l’Alliance francaise de Paris en Inde, has been serving the needs of the people of the city since almost a century now. Despite facing stiff competition from other foreign language universities like English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), l’Alliance Francaise de Hyderabad has carved its niche in the area of French education. When asked why she preferred AF over any of the other universities in its league, Minakshi, a student of the Marredpally branch of AF, said, “I think it is more advantageous to learn from a place which specializes in one particular language. That way you tend to learn more than you would otherwise manage to do as the emphasis is entirely on that one language alone.” For some people it is the distance, and the fact that AF is located in the heart of the city, that acts as the magnetizing pull! Vaishnavi says, “I chose AF because of the distance, it was very nearby from home for me and commutation was not a problem.” A similar opinion was shared by Aditya who said, “I was bored and wanted to do something in my holidays, so I took this up because it was very convenient for me to reach there. And also, I thought AF was a nice place to meet new people.”

The front desk at AF Credit: Whyso Sirius

The front desk at AF Credit: Whyso Sirius

The course structure is extremely comprehensive. There are three basic courses offered to any new learner; elementary, intermediate and the diploma course. The most famous course of the three is the diploma course, which comprises of seven levels, ranging from the beginners’ level to the level of mastery of the language. A learner would have to complete a minimum of 200 hours of each level to be able to complete the level. Five international exams (DELF and DALF) are conducted by the Alliance Francaise de Paris at all its centres around the world on a common date, following which the students are awarded a certificate of proficiency in French by the French Ministry of Education as and when they clear each of the exams. The entire course, ranging from the Beginners’ to the Mastery level, comes up to approximately Rs. 1.5 lakhs. At first glance it may seem like a huge figure, but then the advantage of having to pay only the level fee at a time breaks it up into smaller installments of around Rs. 4000 each, which works easier on the pocket. Apart from these, AF also offers tailor-made courses to suit the learners’ needs where everything right from the timings, the course content, to the place where they want the classes to be held is decided by the learner himself. Classes for the regular courses are held at three places – at the main AF office at Marredpally, at Jubilee Hills and at Vidyaranya High School at Secretariat. Enrolments for all the courses are done at the head office at Marredpally. Apart from all of these courses, AF also provides special translation facilities, for translating documents into French.

The AF classroom Credit: Whyso Sirius

The AF classroom Credit: Whyso Sirius

The method of teaching adopted at Alliance Francaise, is also very interactive. The course material itself is designed in such a way that a person learns more through pictures than through text. The fact that French is the medium of instruction right from the moment you join is no deterrent either. Vaishnavi, a first-time French learner says, “Even though I didn’t have any prior knowledge of French, I did not find it difficult to understand the teaching, except in the initial stages. But even that could be overcome because the professors explain through a lot of gestures and games, and even the course material is very good.” Minakshi says, “Having a prior knowledge of French does help, but only in the initial level. As you advance to the levels higher-up it is all about how receptive you are as a person. I know so many first-time learners who are doing excellently well even in the higher levels.” When asked whether only the French language is taught to the students at AF or are they even given an insight into the French culture, Mme. Gomathi Padmanabhan, a professor at Alliance Francaise said, “Language can be taught only through culture. That is why even the course material has a lot of inter-cultural aspects in it, like the French cuisine, the kind of clothes the French people wear, the festivals they celebrate and a lot of other such things. The text book itself is very illustrative of their culture.” The library at AF is equipped with an excellent collection of French books, novels, DVDs and video cassettes, which can be rented by members. Apart from the classroom teaching, students at AF are also exposed to a lot of practical aspects of the French culture. Alliance Francaise has a separate cultural department which in collaboration with German universities and other sponsors conduct French theatre and film festivals, music concerts, dance programmes, art exhibitions, etc., where experts in the field exhibit their talents. Special French days and festivals are also celebrated with great fervour.

The ever-famous AF canteen Credit: Whyso Sirius

The ever-famous AF canteen Credit: Whyso Sirius

One look at an AF classroom filled with students would stand testimony to the fact one is never too old to learn! There are those who are young by age, as well as those who are young at heart! Each of them has their own reasons for wanting to learn the language. For some it is a sort of an anti-boredom measure, for some others it is a lucrative career option while for many others out there it is just pure love and interest of the language that makes them want to pursue it! When asked as to why they decided to pick a French course over other part-time options, this is what some of the people had to say… For Minakshi, it was just her passion for the language that led her to learning it further. She says, “I had studied French as my second language in college and since then, fell in love with the language! I am not studying French now, expecting any returns in the future. I am doing it only because I enjoy learning it.” Same is the case with Mrs. Gomathi, who says, “I had heard a lovely French song when I was young; since then I’ve had a strong desire to learn French because I found it to be a very beautiful and soothing language.” On the other hand, Santosh and Geeta chose to pursue a French course hoping that it would fetch them lucrative jobs in HSBC and as a French instructor in a college, respectively. Some even come here to learn the language as a preparation to go to countries abroad! Harman says, “I will be flying to Europe two months from now, so I thought I would learn a bit of French to be able to manage better there.”

One place, two cultures! Credit: Whyso Sirius

One place, two cultures! Credit: Whyso Sirius

Surveys taken about the most important foreign language in the world, over a period of time, have unanimously declared French as the clear winner. It has even been touted as the language of the future. French and English are the only two languages that are spoken in 5 continents. Most of the jobs abroad look for the candidates to have speaking proficiency in French. A plethora of lucrative new avenues with heavy pay packets are being created by multinationals which require persons to know French like the back of their hand. In a scenario like this, the need for knowing French cannot be further exemplified. And what better place to learn, than from the masters themselves! For all of these reasons and more, it would rather be an understatement to say that nobody caters to the needs of wannabe French learners like the way Alliance Francaise does. As the native and the not-so-native speakers would put it, L’Alliance Francaise est le meilleur! If you can’t figure that out, then you know where to go!!!

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