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Class with a Glass: Raising a glass a la française

Beatrice Smith

Learning new things can be daunting.

Whether it’s the fear of a room full of strangers judging your abilities, the intellectual commitment, or just the worry that you might not be very good at it, learning a new language can be one of the most daunting ‘new things’ to try as an adult.

While the idea of being bilingual is always appealing, for many people, language lessons are the stuff of boring high school classrooms and awkward interactions while travelling, when you swore they giggled at your pronunciation of croissant.

But a new class will attempt to bridge the gap between cultural curiosity and fear of commitment. Class with a Glass is the Alliance Française of Canberra’s newest offering and will commence in early May, with classes taking place each Friday. Director of the Alliance Française, Patrice Gilles, explains that the new style of class is a chance for students to relax and converse casually, as they would overseas.

“They won’t be as linguistic as other classes—the focus will be more on culture and discussion,” he explains. “It’s a new class designed for those who want to relax while learning French and who want to socialise after a long working week.”

The class itself runs weekly from 4.30 – 6.30 pm every Friday and as you might expect, each session comes avec du vin.

“Obviously there is wine involved, but there will also be French snacks like cheese and charcuterie,” says Patrice.

“This accompanies the discussion which is run throughout the class. The main objectives are cultural—it’s about tackling various topics that have to do with France such as the various regions and cultures. It takes you through a discovery of France at large.”

Alliance Française student Andrew Mathewson can attest to the appeal of this sort of flexible learning. Andrew started as a once-a-week student to improve his corporate French a year ago, but found that it failed to satisfy his curiosity to learn more about the land and its culture.

“I worked with French industry for the past 15 years and it was always quite challenging,” he explains. “So that and travelling to France quite regularly motivated me to pick up the language—but I never had the time.”

“Last year, I started classes once a week, but it wasn’t enough. So this year I thought I’d study what feels like an almost full time load.”

Andrew is currently studying French five nights a week, and says that while it’s intensive, the benefit of studying at the Alliance comes from its diverse community of native French mother tongue teachers from all over the world.

“For me, learning here has been very, very flexible. I’ve been able to structure a course where I bounce into other courses as well as having one-on-one time with my instructor.”

It’s this flexibility that the Alliance will demonstrate with the Class with a Glass—giving their students the opportunity to network and chat with their peers in a relaxed way, while learning more about the culture and history of France.

“France is best discovered through the regions,” adds Patrice. “We have a strong regional culture whether you go to Brittany or Normandy, the Cote D’Azur—even the South East—is one thing, and the South West totally different, and in the centre is something different again!”

Patrice, who hails from the idyllic area of Provence, explains that Class with a Glass will give students the chance to explore these regions in a way that traditional class structures have now allowed until now.

“For those who feel it’s a little too serious for them to come and learn in a class, just come to Class with a Glass—relax, have a glass of wine and some food, and learn some French!”

Class with a Glass commences in May for a 5 or 10-week term, with the first two-hour session being held Friday 4 May. The cost for the 10 weeks is $460 or $230 if you opt for 5 weeks and can be booked via the Alliance Française website.

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author