Learning French in Community: Le Cours d’Alphabetisation

I am French-illiterate. I think I’ve made that plain. (Although I do know the title should have an accent over the ‘e’ in alphabetisation, but I can’t get wordpress to change it). I arrived with as much French as a one-year-old, and eight months later, I might be a match for an 18-month-old, but probably not. Still, I am very grateful for the French class offered by my city’s mairie, or city hall. It has been wonderful, completely in French, with small groups and lots of talking. It is two hours twice a week, with the first hour usually all conversation, and the second hour including written exercises and some simple grammatical concepts. I don’t know where I would be without it. I do supplement with my invaluable Pimsleur, but my class is vibrant and alive and relevant to my current circumstances.

For instance, months ago, when my water heater grew a leak (and then just gushed all over), my French teacher was able to glean my problem and give me suitable vocabulary to use with the plumber our apartment manager sent. When Theo’s bike was stolen, one of the assistant mayors came to class and made sure I knew what and how to tell the police about the theft! This class is an extraordinary resource, and the staff are all wonderful people.

We recently had a field trip to the studio of a stained glass artisan, third generation. He was in the next town over, and we rode a bus together. Admittedly, I am possibly the least fluent person the city serves in this class, so almost the entire explanation and question-answer session was over my head, but the instructors checked with me to make sure I knew the gist of what was said, and explained the most important parts I missed in simpler French or even some English.

The master explaining how the glass is broken and chipped to just the way he wants it, with some art pieces behind.

The master explaining how the glass is broken and chipped to just the way he wants it, with some art pieces in the background.

The dusty old shed that serves as a studio was filled with things in use for three generations, which is very French. And this young gentleman’s passion for something he does with his father and grandfather is also very French. I love that about these people. The windows they design, often on a much larger scale, are framed in concrete, which I found quite surprising. The glass in the windows, rather than being delicate panes, are thick chunks of color, faceted like gemstones to catch the light.

The heavy frames made more sense once I considered the thick ceramic or stone walls on French homes.

The heavy frames made more sense once I considered the thick ceramic or stone walls on French homes.

They were extraordinary, but I didn’t have the skills to ask if a person could buy a small one somewhere. And it sounded like they pretty much just worked commissions.

Additionally, our classes get together four times a year for a lunch party. We are a pretty international group, and three people at each party volunteer to cook for us: one the entree (which is the first course in France), one the plat, and one the dessert. Then we stay and do something fun together. It’s like a three or four-hour party! In December, we had foods from Turkey and north Africa, and played lotto, which is bingo. At the end of February, we had another, with foods from Egypt and Morocco, with Black Forest cake from Germany.

Cooking for more than two dozen classmates at the neighbohood center, or maison du quartier.

Cooking for more than two dozen classmates at the neighbohood center, or maison du quartier.

We are probably 4 out of 5 ladies, but the hummus and homebaked bread was courtesy of an Egyptian gentleman.

We are probably 4 out of 5 ladies, but the hummus and homebaked bread was courtesy of an Egyptian gentleman.

My wonderful, amazing, big-hearted instructor cutting the cake whipped up by a German classmate.

My wonderful, amazing, big-hearted instructor cutting the cake whipped up by a German classmate.

I have not been in class for a couple of weeks because they follow the school vacation schedule, and I miss them. I’m hoping that after a year with my international friends, I might be able to keep up with a French 3-year-old!

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2 Comments

Filed under France

2 responses to “Learning French in Community: Le Cours d’Alphabetisation

  1. Anne Noelle

    And where exactly is that stained glass artisan?

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