Parlez-vous Français? #6: Bienvenue à l’Institut Français

Friday, October 20

As I've already mentioned on my blog, this semester I decided to switch French schools: back in April our classes at Excuse My French were put on pause, and in August I signed up for classes at Institut Français - the official international language center of the French Republic which made its first appearance on Russian soil back in 1992.

Just to make things clear: I really like the concept of Excuse My French, I think it's a great school and I will definitely keep recommending it to people around me. However, when choosing a language school, remember that the most crucial thing is that your teacher is a high-level professional who has the required qualifications and experiences. Because in the end, it's your teacher who will decide what are you going to study and how much time you will spend practicing certain grammatical constructions, what are you going to do at home and how the exercises you will do will contribute to mastering the language and «digesting» what you've been working on at class.

Unfortunately, my teacher at Excuse My French didn't live up to my expectations. Upon arriving at Institut Français, I quickly realized that I don't know many of the grammatical constructions and rules that my classmates studied at level 1. It turned out that I didn't know a lot of the essential verbs and nouns - what I knew instead were some ludicrous words that are not on the frequency lists and that an A2 student really doesn't need to know. Moreover, I found out that some of the phrases I was taught pretty much do not exist - French people simply don't understand them. Looking back, I realize that for the better part of the 3-hour classes with my previous group we would just chat, drink tea, eat sweets and watch videos (when you don't understand a single word the people in those videos are saying, it's quite frustrating, 'cause it doesn't contribute to neither your knowledge, nor your self-esteem). Like-minded people gathering together to have a good time, you know. Not quite what I needed.

Luckily, I didn't waste too much time: the amount of time I studied at EMF pretty much equals the amount of time I needed to reach my current level at Institut Français. It's just that my actual current «level» differs quite a lot from my classmates'. I don't remember how to form Futur Simple, I don't know anything about Conditionnel or Subjonctif Présent (we sort of studied them with my previous group, but, honestly, I pay more attention to the amount of milk in my morning flakes than we paid to these two very important topics). Finally, I have no idea whatsoever how to use «y» and «en». Thereby, I have to catch up on all of this myself - which is quite tricky considering how busy this pre-graduation semester is and how much homework we are being given.

Anyway, enough about the sad things! I really like it at Institut Français. Our teacher, Alexey Igorevich Tarasov (with years and years and years of corresponding work experience), ensures we are constantly being challenged and doesn't let us use simple grammatical constructions. Things we study give us an opportunity to learn a bunch of useful words and phrases - the ones that we use in our native language all the time: «crème fouettée», «retraité», «employé municipal», «bricoler», «en cachette», «les voisins du dessous», «connaître de vue», etc. And we also speak lots! After hearing quite a few ex-students complaining about not having enough opportunities to practice speaking French at class, I was a bit concerned, but in reality our teacher is giving enough time to every one out of 10 students to make sure everyone gets to talk.

We haven't studied any major grammar topics so far, but during the last 1.5 months we learned about such things as gérondif, ne ... que, omission de l'article après la préposition «de», different ways to express negation and reason/cause. I like that we use «Le Nouveau Taxi» textbook a lot and that we check homework in class - it should be mentioned that Alexey Igorevich makes sure every single student understands the rule and can repeat it out loud on their own. What's more important, thanks to the type of homework we are being given and the way the programme is built I noticed that I really use actively the new constructions and phrases.

There's finally some sort of structure to my French, and I couldn't be happier. Learning it doesn't give me any negative emotions, I don't see it as my worst enemy anymore - it seems unbelievable, but I feel like we may even become friends soon! I promise to keep you posted on how our relationship evolves from here.

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