For those unaware, Bastille Day is the French national holiday, and represents the beginning of the French Revolution. The storming of the Bastille (a prison) by the French people in 1789, signified a shift in power for the country, away from absolute monarchy and towards a democracy. The monarchy in France was later officially and completely abolished in 1870.
This is just one of the things that the Phuket branch of the Alliance Francaise – an international organisation that dates back to 1883 to promote French language and culture around the world teaches its 1,000-plus strong student body around this time of year.
Denis Rochel has been the Director of the Phuket branch, in Phuket Town, for 10 years, yet has worked there teaching French language and culture for more than double that. It’s a job he says keeps him extremely busy.
“What else do Thai students know about France?” ponders Denis.
“They don’t really know much. When they think about France, they think football, Eiffel Tower and baguettes – little else.”
There are more than 1,200 Alliance Francaise centres in the world in 138 different countries, with a large number in South America. There are four Alliance Francaise centres in Thailand – in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phuket. Although classified as local Thai institutions, the centres are financed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Phuket branch of Alliance Francaise has been open since 1988, when it was officially opened by the then-French ambassador. Back then the office was at the Saphan Hin Community College, but it moved to its current residence in Phuket Town in 1990.
Ever since then Denis and the teachers there have been doing much the same thing – teaching French in local schools, putting on events and promoting the French culture – but nowadays, it’s to a much grander scale.
Last year, 1,154 students were enrolled and learning French at either one of the four public high schools that Alliance Francaise teaches at, or in the Phuket centre itself. This is a major jump from the relatively low figure of 187 students in 1993.
“Many of our students only begin learning French at 15 years old, and they are taught typically four hours a week – two hours with a native speaker and two with a Thai teacher. This is up to the Thai education system, but if it was me, the children would begin at a very young age.”
Children and adults are however also invited to come to the centre at any time, to make use of the extensive library of books (le bibliotheque), DVDs and CDs. There are also French courses at every level available.
“We also sit Delf (Diplome d’Etudes en Langue Francaise) and Dalf (Diplome Approfondi en Langue Francaise) exams here, which is the diploma and qualification required to learn in a French university,” adds Denis.
Denis said that what with globalisation and the general meshing of cultures, and with English becoming the international language, the Alliance Francaise’s role in preserving the French language and culture, is, in many ways, more important than it was when it first opened in 1883.
For parents of children with French and Thai nationality, the Alliance Francaise provides a much needed and appreciated cultural service, especially the recently launched Saturday morning classes.
“Parents love The ‘Club des Mousquetaires’. These are workshops where youngsters are encouraged to learn French and culture in a fun way, through board games, creative workshops, puppets, stories, drama lessons and karate lessons.”
Another service provided at Alliance Francaise in Phuket is the only official service of providing translations. As Denis is fluent in written and spoken Thai, he can provide translations of official documents, marriage papers, divorce papers and birth papers, from French to Thai, or English to French.
There are 1,000 officially registered French citizens in Phuket, but the French embassy estimate the actual number to be around double that. Almost all of which will be celebrating Bastille Day this weekend, in the inimitable French fashion, with pride, flair and a joie de vivre.
If you want to discover the joy of life this Sunday, then a great place to go to sample the finest in French cuisine, drinks and entertainment will be at the Royal Phawadee Village in Patong.
The French National Day party will begin at 7pm. Following opening speeches by host and owner of the Royal Phawadee Village, Claude de Crissey, Phuket Vice Governor Sommai Prijasilpa and UFE President Christian Chevrier, the French flag will be raised at around 7.30pm.
There will be an open buffet from 8pm onwards and free-flowing French beverages available from 8-10.30pm. There will also be entertainment throughout the evening, including an acrobatic show and performances by French rapper Richard Taxy and singer Serge Orquin.
For further information, visit: http://www.14juilletapatong.com
Children and adults are free to drop by the Alliance Francaise at any time. It’s open six days a week: Monday 2.30–6pm, Tuesday to Friday 9.30–6pm and Saturday 2.30–6pm.
For further information, contact:
Alliance Francaise Phuket
3, Thanon Pattana, Soi 1
T. Talat Nuea, A. Mueang,
Province Phuket 83000
Tel: 076 222 988