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"ESPACE FRANCE" offers language, friendship and fun

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-12-25

France has a long history of fine culture, traditions, and food. Its many facets of daily life, from architecture to language, have been fancied by many admirers from around the world. French art, music, and wine are some of the things that have made their way into the homes of many people, some of whom have never even been to France. Every year the demand for more of the country's rich culture grows. In Japan, French cuisine is one of the most popular of all foreign foods served at restaurants, homes, and parties. Travel to France from Japan is at the top of the list for places to visit within Europe, and students studying at many of France's fine university's have continued to help bring back to Japan the exquisite and romantic French language. Although the number of French natives living here on Okinawa is still relatively small, there is an opportunity to study the French language and learn more about the culture from a few of those residents at "ESPACE FRANCE", a recently formed French language group.

ESPACE FRANCE was started in July of 1998, and its purpose is to provide the opportunity to speak French. The group currently has twelve members, and it also introduces people to the culture of France through some of its planned events throughout the year. It gives both Okinawans and foreigners, who share an interest in the French language, a place to meet and form friendships. Members meet every Thursday from 7 pm until 8:30 pm at Tomarin in Naha, on the 5th floor at the "Women's Center". Each week covers a different theme, providing different subject matters to practice and learn the language. The first Thursday of every month has students learn useful conversation phrases when traveling in France: making hotel reservations and ordering at a restaurant are some of the topics covered. The following week focuses on grammar, with an emphasis on verbs and their usage. On the third Thursday of the month, students have a chance to practice free conversation on a pre-selected topic from the week before. The conversation subjects are chosen from both "OVNI", a Japanese newspaper in France, and from "Les Voix", a French magazine available here in Japan. Each week ESPACE FRANCE provides a native French speaker to guide the class. Everything is conducted in French, and a fee of 2,000 covers the first three lessons of that month.

The final Thursday is designed for beginners, and uses a text book to teach basic grammar and conversation skills. Students at this level also have a native French speaking teacher to conduct their lessons. The fee for attending this class is 850.

Miyuki Chinen explained some of the benefits of joining their small group. "We have three different teachers from France, who alternate teaching the classes, so you have a chance to practice listening skills from the different styles of speaking."

With the first three Thursdays of every month conducted completely in French, the classes give both beginners and advance level students a chance to learn and improve their conversation skills. Beginners combine listening practice with the basics they learn in the final Thursday classes, while advance students receive more practice in translating by helping those students who do not yet have the capabilities to ask questions in French.

ESPACE FRANCE is now getting ready for their Christmas party, which will feature traditional French songs, a present exchange, and a lamb dinner. Chinen also mentioned that there will be other events in the near future. Some of the members also go out to eat at various French restaurants around the island.

If you are interested in learning French, or would like to have a chance to practice and improve your French language skills, ESPACE FRANCE welcomes anyone who would like to attend their weekly gatherings. For more information please call Miyuki Chinen at 050-815-2780.

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