Thursday, October 16, 2008

THE REVOLT

It started slowly, quietly and I almost didn't realize what was happening until it was too late to do anything about it. French classes at the Alliance Francaise rotate students in and out every week so the classes are like waves of ever-changing social dynamics. What started out happily as my quiet collaborative French class of mostly Asian students and myself, by week four had turned itself into unruly three hour shouting matches between Italy and Brazil with occasional outbursts from Spain and some disjointed lengthy wastes of "I can't even formulate a question but I am going to sit here for five minutes and mumble something while I hold up class for the 6th time in an hour"....you guessed it....California.

Am I the ONLY one who actually WANTS to learn French? And learn French efficiently? My teacher is very nice but she is prone to letting students drone on and on and ON and OOOONNNNN about whatever topic they want at whatever point they want to during class. In the beginning, this wasn't really an issue. But one by one as the loud, belligerent most annoying "WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE" students infiltrated, they tested the boundaries, found none and proceeded to hijack every class. If I wanted to listen to bad, uncorrected French for three hours, all I need to do is open my own mouth. Why am I sitting in class for this? I made a TANGENT CHART and at last count the average number of interruptions per class is standing strong at 38. Why bother speaking French when you can shout in Portugese across the room? Why bother paying attention when it's OK to use an electronic translator that SPEAKS Chinese throughout class? Why bother learning French grammar when you can instead argue and INSIST every day with the French teacher who is FRENCH that "In Italian it is not like this! You don't do that! You are not right!" Are you seeeeerious? WE ARE IN FRENCH CLASS. WHY are you insulted that the teacher would even DARE to teach something that's not ITALIAN??? I am not paying a whopping 336 euro a month to listen to you flex your imaginary brain muscles and last time I checked? I DON'T CARE ABOUT ITALIAN. I LIVE IN FRANCE. F-R-A-N-C-E.
FRANCE.
Where they speak FRENCH.
That language I don't know.
The one I am PAYING to learn while the minutes tick off on your diarrhea of the mouth/I just wanna hear myself talk some more tangent.

I've officially had it with this sitcom situation where everyone is a cliché of their country. I am clearly the snotty New York bitch who thinks she's better than everyone. I try and show up late to class (in black) so I can best gauge where to sit the furthest away from the battle of the dimwits but there are too many of them now, it's impossible to escape. They are in France for only a few months, half of them don't even do the homework anymore and I sit desperately rolling my eyes at the teacher, BEGGING her to DO something. In NEW YORK time, please.

I feel that my time at the Alliance Francaise is slowly turning me into an eye rolling racist asshole so I have decided to cut off classes after next week and take another breather before I really start assuming things based on peoples' country and place of origin. Or I totally lose my shit altogether, join a secessionist movement and vote for McCain or something.

I'll be back again but I'm going to insist on getting my old teacher back from January, the one who made me cry and openly made fun of students. Hey, at least the students were too scared to speak much during class. Well...everyone except Italy. ;)

23 comments:

Beverly said...

Wow! I was thinking about signing up for classes at Alliance Francaise when I arrive in Paris; but now you've convinced me otherwise.

David said...

"the one who made me cry and openly made fun of students"

This is called a good teacher. (I don't make students cry anymore, I've soften up too much in my opinion)
Your current one should change jobs.

And no, the Alliance Française is definitely not the best place to learn French in Paris (abroad yeah, in Paris, definitely not).

KFD said...

That all being said, I just got back from class and I do really like the logic of their textbooks and their system of learning in general. Everything just hinges on the teacher you get, in my opinion.

Michelle said...

Thanks for the heads up. I was just talking to my teacher at the Alliance Française in my Australian city about maybe going to Paris and doing a month there in twelve months or so. Perhaps I will just keep up the classes here and go over and talk to lots of French people instead.

I want to post about my experiences from tonight's class but I am brain drained and need to sleep, so maybe I'll do it tomorrow if I get some time.

Etienne said...

My classes at the Alliance Française were exactly the same way, and this was a few years ago. Luckily I think I only signed up for 2 weeks for the first period to try it out, so it wasn't a total sunk cost. I think it's just the way they run their programs - as unstructured conversations. After, I started at the Sorbonne which was like night and day compared to the Alliance. My professors were much more demanding and the phonétique classes were a pain in the ass but everything I know I owe to them - definitely worth the money and time if you looking for something more structured.

trouvezmoi said...

oh! I hate it when you get students who don't want to be there. I'm studying French at uni where I'm paying thousands for my tuition and some of the others in my class don't even care! Ça alors!

KFD said...

hmmmm, maybe I'll look into the Sorbonne instead.....or elsewhere...

tom said...

As frustrating as it must be, it is playing like a fantastic comedy film in my mind. Perhaps with Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, or Vince Vaughn. And Jean Russo, of course, because he is Hollywood's token frenchman. I'm trying to learn french via podcast for a vacation in November, but without French speakers around me (or shouting Italians), I'm not sure how successful I will be. C'est la vie.

David said...

Dana, what textbook are you using?

And yeah, for having taught French to people from numerous countries (about 20 I think), I think it's non-sense having mixed classes of people from very different cultures as they all have very different learning styles.

And if I must admit that it could sometimes be a good idea to pair up some "quiet" students (Asian, mostly Japanese) with students more used to more active learning methods (North Americans for example), there's definitely one "culture" (it's actually several but they're very similar with that aspect) that shouldn't be mixed with others, it's the Mediterranean ones (Spanish, Italian, North African, etc), because their constant chatter (can't blame them, they'll die if they shut up) is just too disturbing for others...

KFD said...

We use the Hachette Alter Ego books. I find them to be very street friendly, i.e. a chapter on FNAC and the departments of a store while simultaneously learning the pronom EN. I also like the way they touch on many aspects of France from current pop culture to historical figures to banking to geography. I find it a good starting point. As a first time learner of a second language, I could use more emphasis on drilling the grammar but I find the textbooks to be helpful if I practice heavily on my own. Which, of course....I rarely do.

Ksam said...

I was going to suggest the Sorbonne too - I know two people who are students there now and they really like it. And I did the equivalent program at the Univ. de Rennes in Bretagne for two years, and I went from speaking no French at all to being pretty damn fluent (I now work as a translator). It's a big time commitment, but there is no way on earth I ever would've progressed that much had I tried to learn on my own or just by taking classes here and there. Plus, you're learning from university professors who have been trained to teach French as a foreign language, and the courses are really well-rounded. There are classes on speaking, reading, writing, listening comprehension, pronunciation, culture, etc - okay, I'll stop my free ad for them here, but honestly it was one of the best decisions I ever made after moving here.

Rion said...

My experience at AF was exactly the same... a few weeks in, a group of teenagers from Brazil joined our class and proceeded to completely derail the entire learning process with full-volume side conversations during lessons.

And when you said something to them about it, the girls would shrug it off and the boys would flirt with me about it. Annoying!!

I've heard good things about the Sorbonne classes...

Fabulously Broke said...

That is awful and rude.

Nicole said...

I was really frustrated in my French classes when I first arrived in France for the same reason. I needed to speak French to be able to get a job, and all the other students were au pairs just happy to be out of the house and talking to grown-ups. I ended up starting private lessons at home. I took about an hour and half class a week and in a year went from bumbling basics to completely fluent. It was absolutely exhausting because every exercise was focused on one of my weak points (as opposed to spending 75% of class time listening to the same basic point being explained to the class slacker) and on the stuff that I personally needed to know to get through my day/week/job interview. Its expensive per hour but in the end, since you spend less time in class, the price is not that much different than a school. Also, you have to try out a few teachers to find one that suits you, but its absolutely worth the effort. Check out the learning section in Fusac for ads or go to a Berlitz school and ask about private classes.

Sigrid said...

Are there different classes at the Sorbonne? Boyfriend and me moved to Paris in August and we plan to améliorer our French, but I have definitely more time than he does.

We still have one week at the Rougemont institute which also seems to be a kind of melting pot of French-learners but we have a great teacher there (ask for Nelly) who silences every Brazilian within seconds. Plus the classes are just round about 10 people.

KFD said...

all great suggestions....merci merci!

Anonymous said...

I went through something similar at the Alliance Francaise when I first arrived. It is impossible to learn French there with the overcrowded classes and constantly revolving student body. I then learned about the semester-long french classes available through L'Institut Catholique de Paris (www.icp.fr/ilcf/uk_index.php). They cost the same as the AF but the teachers and student are serious (less serious in the summer, though). You also have much more choice in terms of classes: I took French, phonetics, and writing. And don't let the Catholic part put you off--it is an old, highly respected University in Paris.

Anonymous said...

No wonder everyone else in the world thinks that Americans have it so high up their own asses. Apparently they really do.

Ed

jessica said...

get cortina she's the most amazing and doesn't put up with that bullshit

Melissa W said...

Has anyone tried Langue Onze? I live in the 11th and was planning to go to Alliance Francaise but you have changed my mind.

Anonymous said...

I spent 5 months at LFA in the 6th, great course, kept me interested and I learnt a great deal + it's the best value course I found in Paris. Ref: http://www.lfa-langues.fr/english/inscrire.htm

avec amy said...

I tried learning French at several private institutions throughout Paris and was really disappointed. I had similar experiences (no structure and other students monopolizing the class). I finally decided to quit my job and enroll in full-time intensive courses at the Sorbonne. It was recommended to me by two former students (both of which now speak French perfectly – they’ve also lived here many years, which helps). It’s been a few weeks and I’m really impressed with the structure of the courses and my teacher (she’s super strict). Part-time and evening courses are available too. The next session starts in February. The classes are expensive, but I compared them with the cost of AF and it ended up being about equal. (P.S. I’m from California, so take my opinion for what you think its worth).

Nellie said...

I'll be going to both Institut Parisien and Eurocentres starting November 10th.

I'll let you know how it goes.

They are really fucking expensive.

But Insitut Parisien promises a class no larger than 10.