EDUCATION PLUS

Discover a new culture

ZéLIHA CHAFFIN

Learning foreign languages is fruitful nowadays

French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese... the choice is yours. Bangaloreans, as it turns out, have a new passion — learning foreign languages. Over the past few years, the demand for foreign language courses has increased. “Cultural centres” and institutes have mushroomed in the hope of cashing in on the demand by offering language courses at a price.

“We have an average of 3,500 students a year,” says Ruma A. Niranjan, Course Coordinator, Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, which has recently augmented its staff strength to 30 regular teachers. The French cultural centre now has five branches in different parts of the city. “We want to encourage students in their studies and help them avoid travelling long distances to attend the classes.”

Bangalore University’s Department of Foreign Languages plans to introduce courses in Chinese and Portuguese from the next academic year. It currently offers French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Korean. When it was started in 1985, only French was offered. The department now has over 320 students and 15 permanent teachers.

Who are the students?

The profile of the students is as varied as the reasons for learning a new language. Mithun Jayaram, a 28-year-old, says he is learning French, because he is “smitten with the French accent.”

“Many housewives are also taking to it. Actually most of my students are women. They take up the language courses to do something fruitful during their leisure time and also because of their curiosity to discover a new culture. Some women whose children work abroad or are married to foreigners want to be able to speak a few words to impress them,” says Kalpana Rao, a French teacher.

There is no specific age for learning as the French teacher in conversation classes from the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore says. “My eldest student is 64-years-old!” she says. Asawari, a 17-year-old student in German at the Goethe Institute-Max Mueller Bhavan in Indiranagar, said “I took up the language course as a hobby. My grandfather was a linguist and used to know many languages, so I thought I could at least learn one.”

Universal language

One of the most important reasons for this demand for foreign language courses is the recent need for Indians working in multinational companies to be able to converse with their colleagues abroad. Arun Kumar, who is learning French, says, “I worked for an European company and so travelled few times in Europe. I wanted then to live there for a while to study or work but was conscious that I needed to know one foreign language to settle there. I chose French because it appeared to be the closest to a universal language to me.”

In a city where multinational companies come to set up offices from across the world, it is becoming necessary for young workers to know at least one foreign language to deal with the global market. For this, specific courses are organised at the request of multinational companies, which want to train their employees in language skills. The Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Institute have thus elaborated different links with French and German companies in Bangalore. And, with the increasing number of MNCs, foreign languages courses are not going to disappear. “As many as 50 French companies contacted us because they plan to set up offices in Bangalore. The French Government will open a French Consulate in the city before the end of the year. We are surely going to have many students interested in learning French,” says Ms. Niranjan.



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