Q I have heard that everything is done in French – is this true?
A We do try to do everything in French, yes! So we use French for the information announcements before the talks, the talks themselves, and most of the chat at the beginnings and ends of sessions. That said, if you’re stuck on how to say something, of course you can talk in English! There will always be someone with a dictionary who can look up words nobody can think of!
Q I feel shy about trying to speak French in public – will I be made to speak?
A You will not be put on the spot, tested or embarrassed in any way – and you will find plenty of other members who do not necessarily feel very confident about talking in public. If you prefer to listen to the talks and not engage in much chat before and afterwards, that is fine. The only time when we would hope that you would at least try to have a go is at social evenings and conversation evenings, where the whole point is to talk to other members
Q My French is rusty and I’m a bit embarrassed to come along to a society where everyone’s level of French is very high.
A The level of French varies quite widely across the membership, nobody is perfect, and nobody is out to ‘score points’ against other members. The spirit of the Circle is one of encouragement and friendship. We completely understand that it can take a lot of courage to come along for the first time so do get in touch with Charlotte before your first visit so we can keep a special eye out for you!
Q I haven’t used French since I was at school. Should I take a refresher course before coming to French Circle?
A If you have had have some experience in the language you will probably quickly get back into the swing of it once you start using it again. If you want to supplement it with a course, then Alliance Française offer courses at various levels of ability. We can’t stress too much, however, that there is no minimum level so do come along and try a session – there’s no commitment to join the Circle before you have seen whether it suits you.
Q I am a poor French speaker, slow and inexpert. I have to plan each sentence in my head before I open my mouth and tend to sit there dumbly for a while if someone speaks to me in French, while I try and work out what they have said to me. I would like to become more fluent although I get the impression that your group consists of people who are either fluent or at least have a good conversational grasp. I wouldn’t want to come along and just be bewildered for the evening. Perhaps you could give me a candid answer as to whether or not your group caters for people like me?
A Some members are very fluent indeed, others far less so, and people tend to fit in at a level where they feel comfortable. We do not offer formal tuition in French, nor one to one conversational practice, so if that is what you need, you would need to look elsewhere. What we do offer is a series of interesting talks by native or bilingual speakers, which offer the opportunity to listen to excellent grammatical and idiomatic French and absorb vocabulary, structures and pronunciation. The conversation and social evenings give members a greater opportunity to put their speaking skills into practice, and here you will always find dictionaries at the ready and people who are keen to help.
Q I would like to see what the French Circle is like before I join.
A You are very welcome to come as a visitor and pay £3 per evening. If you decide after a few visits that you would like to become a member, your contributions to date will be credited against your membership fee of £20.
Q How many people come to meetings?
A We usually have between 30 and 45 members at meetings. Our very enjoyable French dinners, held outside the programme of talks, usually attract 15–20 members and friends.
Q Can I really expect to see an improvement in my level of French listening and speaking?
A This will depend on your current standard of French and on how much time and effort you put into your language work, but ‘c’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron’! The Circle gives its members the opportunity to use French regularly, which, at the very least, keeps us on our toes, and conversing with others will build up a degree of confidence which is unobtainable using self-study methods alone. Some members bring a notebook to meetings so they can jot down new words or expressions they want to check, and there is always an opportunity to ask for help.
If you have any questions that are not answered here, do get in touch with Charlotte Taylor, the President of the Circle, and she will be very happy to have a chat with you:
firstname.lastname@example.org / 07976 922636 / 0117 962 2916