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Parlez-vous français ?

-Iris Rona

Learning about the treasures of the French language.  (Click to view larger version...)
Learning about the treasures of the French language.
When Shawn Simpson, who is American but has lived all over the world, joined the Welcome Office of Iter France, one and a half years ago, her goal was to make sure that the first ITER arrivals got the French "survival" course to get by in France for the bare essentials.

Shawn, who is Training Project Manager at the Agence Iter France Welcome Office, started out her professional life in a very different area. She has a Masters in Roman Archaeology and as such she was part of underwater diving teams for Roman shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. She then gave her career a different spin, got a Masters in the Management of Service Activities and became an adult teacher, something she has been doing for the last 20 years, with a strong focus on intercultural issues. That experience of course was invaluable in setting up the ITER Language Program she is responsible for.

The Program is designed to have ITER pupils reach a basic level, which Shawn defines as being able to ask and answer simple questions, give information about oneself ( name, address, etc.), go shopping, make a doctor' s appointment etc.

In 2007, 170 people enrolled for the courses, all of them new ITER employees and their families, and this number will no doubt grow with another 90 people arriving at ITER in the first half of 2008. Even before their arrival in France, these new employees will be asked to fill in a "Training Needs Analysis Form." Based on that form and on an individual assessment discussion, Shawn will then propose a language program to best fit the needs of every individual.

The program proposes a variety of modules such as group courses, individual multimedia sessions and private tuition but also includes seminars about the practical and cultural aspects of life in France, such as:

How to fill in administrative forms French wines Where to go on holidays in France French songs French stereotype Some of these, with practical info on daily life will be recurrent.

Combining this mix of language courses and seminars with an already very full work agenda definitely is a challenge. It demands considerable motivation and discipline but it is really worth the effort. "Somebody with standard language skills, who is willing to put in the average 5 hours per week that it takes to participate in the program, will find that after about 6 months he can go to the market, the doctor or the post office without help," says Shawn, "which makes life in France much easier and even more enjoyable."


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