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More than just French

To join the course for French, Dr. Vidya Vencatesan, head of the French department at the university. says students “should have opted for it in school or junior college or studied it at another institution. Basically, you have to have 160 hours minimum of French. Then there’s an entrance test to join our course.”

Students may leave at the end of three years or choose to earn their Master’s degree. “You would obtain a B.A. or an M.A. in French Studies, which is exclusively offered by us,” she says. “Lectures are delivered in French and students listen to French for three to four hours daily.”

The degree focuses on Francophone countries and France’s colonial past. There’s scientific and technical French, translating a manual, medical transcription and other areas of applied subjects that will equip students to make a livelihood with the language. “We also have painting,” says Dr. Vencatesan. “You can’t be a student of French and not know your Impressionists.”

Also on offer are lessons in painting, history, travel and tourism, arts, business, commerce and science. “We are not teaching them to be doctors, but they learn the parts of the body and different maladies.” In essence, students learn the French vocabulary and sentence construction related to a the particular domain that interests them.

An emphasis of the course is critical analysis, an imperative for sound education, but lacking in the Indian system. “Indian culture has a rich history of asking questions, which is called pari prashana ,” she says. “My students will leave this course with a sharpened sense of critical enquiry, a greater respect for another point of view. I hope they speak good French, but I hope as human beings they evolve to be more respectful of difference. When we respect difference, we respect everything.”

The course, with daily lectures from 8 a.m. till afternoon, excludes library hours. Dr. Vencatesan has made it her mission to acquire the latest French books for the library. “When you’re going to talk about research and reading lists, it is part of going to the temple of knowledge,” she says. “There’s a great treasure there, and we can take you there, but it’s up to you to pick up your jewels.”

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 4:57:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/More-than-just-French/article14485713.ece

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