A Program on French Cultural Studies


(April 5-8, 1998)



I travelled to Toulouse in order to examine the Toulouse French Program directed by the School for International Training.  I think it is an excellent program for students who wish to learn French through a hands on approach rather than in traditional university courses.  They need to be able to work independently although they do get much help from the director Matt Green who is extremely devoted, and they must be ready to work hard (so they say!).

Students first spend one week in Paris for orientation.  Here they are given a list of topics to choose from to do a project.  For instance, they can go to a particular metro stop and try to find answers to questions given to them by the director.  This project forces them to speak to French people in the street.  It gets them used to being in France and is a bonding experience with their peers.
When they arrive in Toulouse their first project is to prepare a report on a special topic again, such as visiting a cheese factory or pastry shop or a historical monument etc... 
The students are given certain guidelines to follow and give a presentation at the end of their stay. At the 
same time, they take language classes which combine grammar and culture with a very charismatic professor, Dominique Pozzo who also teaches Political Sciences and apparently can teach Literary Analysis. 

The language class meets several times a week for five weeks and students do exercises and review grammar on the computer program designed by Mr. Pozzo. There is also a core course on Cultural Studies course which consists of French Economics, French History, French LIterature etc....These classes are usually split in two parts each and last from 2 to 3 hours each time.  The Cultural Studies course is an overview of many aspects of France which gives students a taste of various things but without delving into anything in particular. Students write daily but I don't think they are given very much reading to do.  However, they do speak French a great deal.
I attended the French Literature class which was the second meeting with the professor who was excellent, dynamic, well read and humorous but she was asked to cover too much material.  The class lasted from 9:30 a.m. til 1 p.m with a short pause. The professor reviewed the previous class which covered the Middle Ages up to the 11th century and she lectured on Descartes as well as the 18th, 19th and 20th
centuries.   Students were a little lost because things were going too fast and they did not seem to be too trained in literature.  The Director did tell me that the class would be restructured in the future.
   I must say that this class came after the wonderful 9 day stay that students spent in a small village in a different host family from the one they have in Toulouse.  Students go on several field trips.  I know that this group, for instance, had visited grottoes in southern France and was going to explore Collioure, a beautiful French town with many historical and cultural treasures.   However, it is not just for the fun of it.  They must not remain passive for they always have to write what they expect to find and upon their return write what they did find.
I was lucky to go to St Girons with the students and listen to the report each student made on their village experience. They enjoyed being forced to speak French since they were separated from their friends who were in other villages. Their village host families were present to listen to their American student's report which created a very warm and loving atmosphere. Faculty, students and host families had a picnic together by the river.  The students were all from different American colleges and universities and had different majors: International Relations, Finances, Anthropology, English, Humanities, Communications, Political Sciences etc...They were asked to make a report on their village findings which they were required to illustrate with slides. They all raved about this wonderful experience which allowed them to improve their French and delve into a special topic in a very enjoyable atmosphere.

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