Nous parlons aussi francais ici

Casey Chow and Coan Wong

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French is one of the major languages of the world. It is the official language of 33 countries. More than 131 million people speak French. There are more than 400 French companies and 5,000 French nationals or French speakers living in Hong Kong.

As CityU President H K Chang reminds us, one must adapt to rapid changes in order to cope with modern life. To succeed in the job market, one must also possess many important tools. This is why the French Section in the Division of Language Studies was established at CityU.



Following the development of a French studies programme by the Division of Language Studies at CityU's College of Higher Vocational Studies in the second semester of 1998, the French language has proved a popular choice at CityU.



Indeed, our very own President, Professor H K Chang, speaks French. Professor Chang learned the language when he was studying at National Taiwan University. After graduation, he worked at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, for eight years. Because French is the official language in Montreal, his time there provided a chance for Professor Chang to practice his language skills.



According to Professor Chang, learning French helped him better understand the French culture. He offered these tips to mastering the language: try to think in French, he said, and make use of the language every chance you get.

These are words of advice to which French programme students pay particular heed. Pepe Lo, a Year 2 student in the Higher Diploma of English for Professional Communication programme and winner of a one-month study grant to France, said that the best way to learn French is to practice often. Practice, however, includes such novel methods as watching French movies or joining a French chatroom on the Internet.



"Once you enter the chatroom for French, you must speak French. It is a good way to practice," said Pepe, who is generally interested in language. He has already learned German, and is now working as a part-time interpreter for a German company. But he is interested in learning French, too. Asked whether he will learn other languages in the future, Pepe smiled and said: "I don't think so, knowing French and German is sufficient." 

Another prizewinner, Nelin Woeryanto, is a BA student in the Higher Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language programme. "I am hooked," said Nelin of her attitude towards French studies. Nelin thanked her teacher, Mr David Santandreu, for her achievements in French studies. Her key to success is asking questions whenever there is a problem she comes across. Nelin, who has also studied Spanish, said that unresolved questions accumulate into a big problem that will hinder her studies. Courses at the French section of the Division of Language Studies are divided into four parts: French I to French IV. At the beginner's level, French culture and basic communication skills in spoken and written French are introduced. In French III and French IV, grammatical structure and expression are taught. The French section employs two lecturers, Ms Barbara Salinas and Mr David Santandreu.

"I arrived at City University last September and I immediately felt at home," Mr Santandreu said. Before coming to CityU, he taught for seven years at the University of Hong Kong. Mr Santandreu said students at CityU are enthusiastic and eager to learn, and the atmosphere of learning is relaxed.



He realizes that many students are interested because French is such a romantic language. Others are interested in the French fashion industry, or would like to study in France or work in French companies. Mr Santandreu said the French is Latin-based, and so is completely different than English, especially in pronunciation and grammar. "For example, when you use a verb to describe the action of a person in English, all you need to change is the tenses. But for French, the verb used should vary according to the gender of the person." For this reason, many English-speaking students find it difficult to learn French.



To make the lesson more interesting, Mr Santandreu teaches French in an interactive way. He gives students the opportunity to speak and listen. "Practice makes perfect," he said. Because the French Section sets a limit on the number of students in any class to 20, the lecturer can talk to every student and use strategies to assist students in learning. During the class, Mr Santandreu usually uses role-playing, group discussion and video methods to encourage students to talk and listen. Through videos students can see the facial expressions and gestures of the speakers, and can guess what is being said, even if they cannot understand every word properly. At advanced levels, students prepare commercial scripts or business letters and learn how to apply French to real-life situations.

The French Consulate contributes much to encourage the study of French at CityU. Each year the Consulate offers tremendous financial help to the French Section. Students enjoy French books, videos, DVDs and CD-ROMs, all courtesy of the Consulate.



The First French Awards, sponsored by the French Consulate and Continental Books Limited, were held by the French Section this year. The Awards encourage students to pay more attention to their French studies, and help promote French at CityU. Three students were awarded for their distinguished performance in their French courses.



To recognize their excellence performance in French, one student from French II and another from French IV received books and DVDs. Also, a one-month study grant, sponsored by the French Consulate, was awarded to a student in French IV. He will study at the Universite de Bourgogne in Dijon, France for a month, taking 20 hours of classes per week. The grant will cover tuition fees, accommodation and some pocket money.

This summer, the French Section will organize the first study tour to France. Fifty CityU students will study for four weeks at the Centre International d'Etudes Francaises of the Universite de Bourgogne. Many will live with French families and receive further exposure to French culture.



Beginning in June, the Department of English and Communication will offer one-month intensive courses that offer a variety of courses in European languages and culture, such as French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. The French Section is also considering establishing a French V course to provide students more advanced study possibilities.


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