Lisa, Alejandro, Diana, Nadège, Elodie, Tristan and Isabelle, graduate management students from Grenoble EM, describe their experience within the Charla language classes.
Charla, or chat in English, gathers French speaking students learning Spanish and Hispanic students learning French. For half an hour the students speak in French and then switch to Spanish during another half an hour. The idea is to put students in an authentic situation as explains Carole Gally, initiator of Charla along with Ana Cerro. Subjects and guided activities are only suggested, the students can go far beyond these basic guidelines as they meet natives with whom they can interact about cultural or linguistic subjects which they are concerned about rather than sticking to more artificial situations like you can find in a regular classroom.
Diana, an incoming student from Mexico, explains that she goes to Charla because she wants both to practice her French and make French friends. Attending to Charla sessions is not mandatory for her but combines both of these goals so it appeared to her as an obvious choice. Now she is actually taking this course, she is not disappointed and likes taking part into these discussions as she describes the French students attending to them to be very nice. Helping others to learn her own language is another motivation for Diana as she stated before letting Nadège, her French interlocutor at the time of the interview, expose her opinion about this course.
Nadège explains that French students have the possibility to subscribe to Charla at the beginning of each year, making it mandatory for them to attend to. Nonetheless, she is very pleased with it as it completely changes from classic Spanish classes in the sense that it enables the students to properly practice Spanish and French in an entertaining manner. She adds that despite the fact that there are many international students at GEM, they are rarely members of the various societies available in the school so Charla is a great opportunity to actually meet them. To conclude, Nadège exposes that, due to the high demand of French students to attend to these sessions, French natives can only attend to eight of these sessions. Indeed, a selection campaign is launched at the beginning of the year based on the “first come, first served” principle with only 60 places available to French students. So if you are French and willing to subscribe, don’t lose time and secure your place among these enthusiastic students as soon as possible!
Moving to another table I encountered Lisa and Alejandro who also shared with me their motivations for attending to Charla and the benefits they gain from it. Ladies first, Lisa started: As a French student willing to learn Spanish, she considers that the weekly hour and a half of Spanish course that she receives at the school is not enough to properly improve her level. Actively looking for ways not to forget what she already learnt in Spanish and seeking to meet international students, Charla appeared to be once again a sensible choice. Being originally from Grenoble, she is also glad to help her interlocutors and answer any question they might have about the city, the mountains and other surroundings of the school. As for Alejandro, he explains that not only is Charla a good way to practice French, it is also accountable for the number of mandatory French classes that he has to take as an international student at GEM. Additionally, he considers this course as a good way to meet and get to know French students as they don’t necessarily
share the same courses. Concluding together, both Lisa and Alejandro highlighted that the freedom of discussion topics is very enjoyable. Some topics are suggested by the supervisors
Ana and Carole but the students are free to put them aside and talk about whatever they want.
The final group I interviewed was composed of three students, two French (Elodie and Tristan) and an Hispanic: Isabelle. Elodie chose to take the Charla classes because she is fond of the Hispanic culture and really wanted to speak with Hispanic students while being at GEM. Furthermore, she explains that these sessions are almost the only opportunity she found to properly discuss with international students. Opposite to small talks in hallways, these moments are fully dedicated to communicating with Hispanic or French students and this is exactly what she was looking for. Tristan comes to these sessions for similar reasons. He expressed both interest for Hispanic culture and his will to have a direct link with it and make friends with a different culture than his own. Like Lisa, he also considers that Charla is a convenient way to maintain and build on his already acquired Spanish level. Furthermore, Charla is relevant to his plans to live in South America and experience life there. When it came to her turn, Isabelle explained that she joined the Charla community to improve her French level as well as to learn more about the culture of this country she now lives in. In addition to meeting French students, it also helps her practice their language which she has not the opportunity to do otherwise in the school as her courses are in English. Once they have met at Charla, students can later meet outside of this context but as some of them just have too much work to handle, this class is a reliable way to ensure language practice.
Overall Charla appears to be mutually beneficial for both international and French students regarding entertaining languages practice, credits validation and making new friends from various countries.
Author: Antoine Maridat, exchange student from EBS Business School