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February 2005 issue

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Cultural interest French courses

Combining French language learning with instruction in a cultural activity, such as cooking, wine tasting or exploring French literature, seems to be a growth market and the range of courses available in this field continues to expand.

There are a number of different French and cultural activity courses now available in the marketplace, as our guide below shows, but for many language schools in France they are a relatively recent addition to the brochure. Schools that offer these types of courses report that they initially started offering them in an effort to be innovative and appeal to a wider range of students.

Eleri Maitland from Inlingua Rouen - which has offered courses in French and cuisine, Gourmet French, and French bread and cakes since it began in 1995 - says that they decided to offer the courses because ''we had a lot of requests from agents and students alike to do something a bit different and we thought that French had to be sold in a way to differentiate it from English and to differentiate ourselves from other schools in France''.

Responding to a perceived demand for French language courses with a difference was also why IS Aix-en-Provence decided to introduce cultural activity courses to their portfolio seven years ago, says Anna Clare Sainte-Rose. ''We were already more or less specialised in the 'mature' clientele and had felt the demand for this kind of course,'' she says.

Dominique Waag from Alliance Française Rouen has seen demand for French and cultural activity courses rapidly increase in three years. ''[In] the first year only three students joined [our] cultural programme,'' she says. ''Forty-seven joined for one of [the previous] season's [specialist] programmes.''

Generally speaking, French and cultural activity courses appeal mostly to the older, recreational end of the student market, although with such a wide range of programmes to choose from, their appeal can span a wide range of age groups and interests. Jérôme Serrat from Ecole de Language Française pour Etrangers (ELFE) in Paris believes that cultural activities play an important role in language learning for any student.

''We are convinced that language learning goes hand in hand with discovering the culture of a country and it is for this reason that we attach great importance to the development of high quality, unique cultural programmes,'' he says. ELFE offers courses in French cooking, wine tasting, French civilisation and recently introduced a course that focuses on French etiquette. Serrat asserts that language courses with a cultural component ''provide a good chance [for students] to practise French in a real-life situation, a less formal environment than French language lessons'', and adds, ''Language learning is more pleasurable if it is also an enriching experience.''

The fact that many cultural activity courses are open to native French speakers is an added appeal for language students, who can practise their French in a non-formal setting.

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