OK so I feel that this moment in my life has been coming for some time. I used to pass the AF building quite often over 10 years ago and always wondered about this mysterious yet interesting place. However, I never really had the yearning to learn French so I never stepped foot inside it.
Recently (late last year), the building got a complete make-over (you can read my previous posts about it through my tags) and last week I finally enrolled and went to my first class!!
They are pretty busy and operate 5.5 days a week holding classes from morning to night. I had hesitated about going here only because they are more expensive than any other French/language learning adult college type places but I just bit the bullet and did it. I figured, why not? I can scrimp on other areas of my life...
The classrooms are really small and there are no tables, except one for the teacher. We just have those little tables (that are barely bigger than our books) attached to the side of each chair. The seats are placed around the room against the wall in a square U-shape and there were 14 seats and (including me) 12 students in total.
From the outside it just looked like an ordinary (but sparse and small) classroom but the whiteboard was something else! I was absolutely blown away and fascinated by it! It's a Smart Board (this one here) and made in the USA and costs a few thousand dollars I believe.
The board is connected to a PC running Windows (and their own special software), and the board is basically like one giant touch screen. You can also write on the board using the whiteboard 'markers' but there is no ink involved. It is rather like writing with a stylus on a blackberry or a similar effect as writing with a graphics tablet. It seemed hard to write on it (ie it was very sensitive so it emphasized every stroke) and therefore it made everyone's writing look sort of childish. I haven't had a turn yet but hopefully next time ;) There is also a back and forward arrow, so you can just jump to a blank screen without erasing anything, or retrieve any of the previous screens quickly.
In addition, it's connected to the internet so you can just hop onto Google and look up things. Attached to the sides of the whiteboard are also some speakers, and some USB ports!
Watch a movie of the Smart Board in action
OK enough about the board. At first I nearly had a heart attack because I thought everyone in the class was so much more advanced than I was. And why shouldn't they be? Most have been learning French for 6, 8, 10 or more years! although I think someone said they'd been learning it for 2 or 3.
The entire class is conducted in French and I barely heard the teacher speak a word of English (although, obviously, he can. In fact I think he's lived in Sydney for quite some time and like my previous teacher, speaks English with a British accent).
I would say the ages of the students ranged from 20s to early 50s, and with lots of different cultural backgrounds too which made for a great mixture of students. Most people in my class could also speak 1 or more languages other than French and English. The classrooms have glass walls (much like many office buildings these days) so as I was walking past the other classrooms I could see what they were learning and also noticed the different people of people in each of the classes.
We used a textbook but didn't use it for the entire class, the second half the class was mostly all oral work which is good since I need the conversation practise but bad because I knew nothing about the topics we had to talk about :(
But overall, I enjoyed it and (so far) I quite like my teacher and fellow classmates. It doesn't bother me so much that most people speak better than I do, because after doing a group exercise, I think I write better than most do (ie with correct spelling and conjugations) and I would rather be in a class that's a little too hard than in one that's too easy!
(my own photos taken in Le Grand Café by Bécasse)