mardi 21 juillet 2009

Le rayonnement français


André Malraux, 1901-1976. Résistant, romancier, aventurier, gaulliste, ministre.

Yesterday I had my first contact with Alliance Française in Seattle. AF now has chapters in many of the world's cities. It was created in 1883 to promote the propogation of the French language in France's colonies at the time and also in foreign lands. In 1884, AF formed its first board of directors. Many famous names in the francophone world were among the members of the founding board: Ferdinand de Lesseps, Louis Pasteur, Ernest Renan, Jules Verne, Armand Colin, etc. The first AF branch in Europe is located in Barcelona.

I was a student at the mother of all Alliance française schools, the one located at 101 Boulevard Raspail in Paris. I only attended for one quarter, because I met Jeanne, a 76-year old woman who became my French teacher... but that's another story, for another time. If Jeanne is still alive - and this is a strong possibility - she is close to 100.

In the history of AF, here is an amazing incident. In 1940, during the Occupation, the archives of AF were moved to Berlin by the Nazis, as part of a project to destroy "the instruments of propagation of the French language in general and the Alliance française in particular".

Today, AF has 1,072 associations in 130 countries.

The Seattle chapter is in Wallingford, on Sunnyside street, in the Good Shepherd Center. A new executive director was appointed recently, and I met her yesterday. She is young (this is great - AF in Seattle had a justly earned reputaiton for being a bit poussiéreux, which is why I had stayed away until now) and bicultural (French mother and American father from the state of Washington). Actually, she is tricultural, since she spent much of her childhood in Germany. She has lots of ideas for updating AF. I'm going to fill in next week for a friend who is going on vacation, but Christine is interested in further collaboration. She wants to get some French business culture classes going (again - a great idea) and thinks I can help, since my background in France is in business rather than teaching per se. I haven't been in the classroom as a teacher for a very long time and I am really looking forward to it. I met the students in one of the classes yesterday. An eclectic mix of widowers, high school students and everything in between. They are beginners; this is a challenge. I can't wait! Teaching at AF will be the perfect complement to my classes at the UW starting this fall.

Why am I doing this? I can't speak for others, but I really like embarking on new careers every once in awhile. I love my work as a translator/editor. However, I find myself wanting to have more physical interaction in a work context and, above all, my eyes are starting to feel the strain of looking at a computer screen all day. I would like to find work that takes me away from the computer, challenges me to use my skills in a new way and requires me to gain new ones. When I worked as a freelance translator in Paris, I saw my clients and fellow translators and interpreters regularly. I worked on projects that took me to their offices. Now I am very far away and see them once a year, when I do my annual business trip to France. This may be why I feel like making a change. But maybe not. It just may be time to try my hand at something new.