BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE French language ranks a distant second to Spanish among foreign languages studied in Jamaica, but a non-profit organisation is attempting to change that.
Amandine Poret, executive director of the Alliance Français de la Jamaïque — an organisation dedicated to spreading the French language and culture — said many people don't realise the reach of the language throughout the world and its impact on business, international organisations and the diplomatic world.
"In about 136 million in 57 countries, people speak French as their first language. It is the only language along with English that is spoken in the five continents of the world," Poret said in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer.
"If you are thinking about a diplomatic career, French can be a big advantage for you, because most meetings taking place in New York or Geneva [Switzerland] take place in French," she noted.
Several Caribbean countries speak the language as well, including Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Martin, and St Barthelemy.
With France being the world's fifth largest economy, the country wields considerable power in international business, and able to converse in the language would be a huge asset, Poret said.
Furthermore, France has one of the largest tourism markets, welcoming some 70 million visitors each year. France's impact on global culture is well known in areas such as cuisine (French wine), sport (names like Yannick Noah, Zinedine Zidane and Christophe Lemaitre readily come to mind), film (France has produced actors like Gerard Depardieu), and music (Francophone Canadian Celine Dion is one of the world's most famous singers).
Currently, the Alliance Francaise offers three classes for persons of all ages, starting from the beginners' level up to the advanced. A 12-week course, comprised of four hours per week, costs $15,400.
"We try to keep one two-hour class at a rate of $350 to $400. We want to make the classes affordable to as many Jamaicans as possible. And we target people who have never done French classes before to see if they like it, so they can to discover this new language," Poret explained.
The non-profit organisation offers discounts to students who recruit new students, she added.
The Alliance also offers the DELF, the French language diploma that is recognised by universities all over the world. The DELF, which is written in June each year, has six levels, starting from the basic A1 up to the C2 in which successful candidates are at the fluency and vocabulary of a native French speaker.
Some 120 students sat the DELF at the Alliance last year, Poret disclosed. She noted that some students use the DELF to prepare for their Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams and vice versa.
In an effort to attract more people, the Alliance Française also stages a monthly Movie Night in which a French film with English subtitles is shown. There are also games and other activities and, of course, wine.
"It's French wine. It's not free, but it's very cheap [and] very nice," Poret said with a chuckle. "It's a way to develop new skills in a friendly atmosphere and an opportunity to meet new people."
The Alliance is also on the social networking site Facebook and has a monthly newsletter in order to attract new students.