April 2008 issue

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French and cooking

With so many regional gastronomic specialities to offer, France is an attractive destination for food lovers. And language travellers can combine their love of the French language with their love of the local cuisine by combining a language course with instruction in various cooking skills.

Many French language schools offer courses that combine language instruction with tuition in various skill levels of French cooking. Eleri Maitland from French in Normandy in Rouen says that their French and cuisine course has been available from the very beginning “as we thought that people would be more interested in learning some French with a cultural programme attached rather than just the language, as clearly this is a smaller market than for English”.

Other schools are newer to the concept of offering such courses, as Ivo Haefliger from Eurocentres explains. “As it’s a new course, we have enrolled only two students so far. The first is 22 from Brazil and the second is 70 from the Netherlands! We created this course because many people from South American requested it.”

Damien Boucard from Institut Européen de Français in Montpellier says that their French and cooking courses attract a wide variety of ages, nationalities and sexes. “There’s no special type,” he says. “Everybody’s interested, male and female, from 17 years to retired people. The more interested are North Americans, Japanese and Swiss people.” Virginia Courau from Accent Francais in Montpellier agrees. “We are always very surprised as participants can be of all ages and both genders,” she says, explaining that students from the UAE were the most recent clients enrolling on this course.

Meanwhile, Ursula Bird from Idiom Language Professionals in Nice relates that Europeans are most numerous on their French and cooking courses and she adds, “[These types of courses appeal] mainly to adults over 35 and especially seniors.”

As in other types of language plus courses, schools and students often find that participating in some kind of activity in the language they are learning can enhance language acquisition. Following instructions from a French cooking teacher, as well as interacting with other students, all help to improve fluency and confidence in a language learner. Anna Diaz from IS Aix-en-Provence says that students also choose to study on French and cooking courses for other reasons. “[They are] appreciated by students who book them,” she says, “since it gives an insight and practical hands-on cooking in evenings and the afternoon.” Courau says their clients “also appreciate very much to share dinner together with the chef and other students”.

Maitland says that they have developed their French and cooking courses so that students can get a real overview of the local food culture. “We started doing a short course for a week where students have French in the morning and then eat a local dish, see it being made and then make it themselves,” she explains. “From there, we branched out and started the same course but with visits to local producers and tasting sessions. Normandy is home to the best cheeses in France. Coupled with the cheese we have excellent local sausages, cider, poire or pear cider and Benedictine, plus the one and only calvados (apple brandy), all of which is made in the traditional way and many of the distilleries are in the most magnificent chateaux.”

The cookery courses attached to French language tuition vary widely from those accredited by top cuisine schools to a more basic offering where individual dishes are created and eaten in a group. French in Normandy has set up a partnership with the Institut National de Boulangerie et de la Patisserie to provide vocational diplomas in cakes, gateaux and bread making. At Eurocentres, Haefliger says that they hope to develop their French and cooking courses in the future by linking up with the Chambre de Metier et de L’Artisanat to offer professional courses in cooking, pastry and aesthetic. “The course will be longer,” he says. “Around six months.”

Most French language schools employ outside professional help when it comes to providing tuition in French cookery, even for courses that do not offer an additional qualification. Bird says that they have been running French and cooking courses for two years “with growing success”. She adds, “They do not take place on our premises but either in an established restaurant in the old town of Nice or in a loft-kitchen run by a professional cook.”

The success of French and cooking courses in appealing to such diverse markets is also fuelling the development of other similar courses that make the most of France’s reputation as a gastronomic hub. “We have recently started wine tasting courses which are becoming quite appreciated too,” says Bird.
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Britannia Student

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Home Language
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