In August Grenoble Life editor James Dalrymple found himself with time to burn and decided to enrol in French classes at the CUEF. Here’s what he has to say.
Between finishing my job as a teacher in a private institute and beginning life in l’éducation nationale , I found myself the grateful recipient of more than one year’s untaken annual holiday. To get a taste of university life ahead of my new job on campus, and avoid spending all day in my dressing gown, I enrolled in a semi-intensive French class called Passerelle pour l’université française at the CUEF, one of the many rather inelegant departmental acronyms found there.
Centre Universitaire d’Etudes Françaises (CUEF) is part of Stendhal University and offers a variety of courses of different durations and tailored to different levels. According to the website the Passerelle “s’adresse aux étudiants désireux de s’inscrire dans une université française,“ which might lead you to the conclusion that it is less a language class than a series of lectures. In fact it is a fairly varied and pleasant FLE-style course comprising four hours of class time a day for two weeks, focused on improving a facility for formal expression and speaking.
Working on a rich range of materials including articles, video and audio reports, the course enables a broadening of vocab and a tightening of written style that suited me just fine. Longer summer courses exist, but the timing of the Passerelle was better for me. I should also add that this was not a class that prioritised free oral expression, although we had opportunity to debate the themes which arose in the materials (such as: the history of social housing in France, the future of urbanisation, surrogate motherhood).
The course was also a reminder of some of French education’s more idiosyncratic aspects: the insistence on summarizing and reducing articles from the press to their bare essentials, long after students had shown an understanding of the text. Agree with the efficacy of such an activity or not, it is a common exercise in French classrooms and worth familiarising yourself with if you are planning to study here. Personally, as someone who had learnt most of their shaky French à l’orale, I made masses of progress in terms of written structure, vocab and grammar.
The two weeks included access to a multimedia lab which was essentially just a computer room manned by a teacher-technician who could sometimes advise on specific online exercises to meet your needs. Furthermore, the fee included a guided visit to Musée Dauphinois which currently hosts an interesting temporary exhibition on Grenoble-born luminary Jacques de Vaucanson (1709–1782), one of the fathers of early robots: mechanical automatons that owed their design to greater understanding of the human anatomy.
Normally the course is aimed at B1 and B2 students, but I was pleasantly surprised to be told that I was pushing completion of C1 by the end of the course (and I was given a handy certificate to this effect; always useful in France), so there was a bit of a spread of levels in the group. This didn’t seem to matter too much, though, and it was great to be in one of those multi-national (albeit predominantly German) learning contexts where the common language is the one being studied.
If you have had good or bad experiences at the CUEF, please share them with us below. For further information on the CUEF and other French language courses in Grenoble, check this out.