I joined the Alliance Francaise in Kolkata, out of fear that I would soon lose my dwindling bits of French. It’s been 2 months I am out of France, and neither have I had the occasion to speak to anyone in French (except for secretive chats with husband over phone) and I haven’t been doing any reading either.
I am quite impressed with the AF in Kolkata. My previous experiences with AF in other places have really been so-so. I had attended the basic level for a month in Pondichery, india many moons ago, and when I moved into France, I joined again at the same level. It’s weird but my experience at AF in Paris was quite dissatisfying. I would have thought that living in Paris, the students would have got the opportunity to be bombarded with the French language everyday, and thus improve on their French. That wasn’t the case. In the levels that I moved across, the progress of the class would continually be retarded by those students who turned up to class simply as some form of obligation.
So, when I turned up at AF, I had no idea of what to expect. The look of the old colonial building was very nice.
One would have to go up these charming narrow wooden stairs to get to the reception at the third floor which also has the library.
I did not join a strictly-speaking learning class, but a conversation class. After my past AF experiences I kept my fingers crossed that I would come across others whose level would match mine or superior to mine. The conversation class on my first day had about 18 people, mostly Bengalis of varying ages, and my jaw literally dropped at how good almost everyone was at speaking French. This has to be by far my best AF experience! 🙂
I had almost forgotten that this is Kolkata, a place where people have strong opinions on almost everything, where views are vehemently imparted, and most times no talking space is allowed once an opinion is being aired. Our French instructor had no problem at all during our 2 hour class to think of topics to keep us animated. Every slight shadow of a potential argument, debate, discussion would be spoken out, sometimes even shouted out with many animated hand and face gestures. I found this all so amazing! 🙂 Their fluency with the language definitely helped them go into the intricacies of the subject, and quite often we would find ourselves having deviated quite far from the original topic, to which Stephane, our instructor, would keep reminding us to speak about.
I enjoy going to these classes, because this is the only way I can be in touch with real real Bengalis. There are 5 women in our group who seem 50 plus, and I love to see the beautiful light-coloured cotton saris they wear. There is a man who also seems 50 plus and he is by far the most animated and lively person in the class, and I learn a lot of vocabulary from him. There’s a girl who professes herself to be ‘from the ancient age of the Kama Sutra’, someone I found hilarious. A woman who seems 45 plus, but wears clothes of a teenager (bodycon, 3 inches above knees) going to a late night party with heavy make up. I wondered if this get up wasn’t a bit much for a place like Kolkata!
So, if there’s anyone interested to learn French, do give AF in Kolkata a try. Especially, i found the fees almost cheap, compared to what I know in Dubai and let’s not even speak of Paris! My conversation classes are 750 rupees (14 USD) for a total of 8 classes, each 2 hours long.