You will find Ma Petite France (MPF) in the bowel of Trinity Mall at No. 12, Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos. It is an agency that specialises in the teaching of the French language to kiddies and adults. On May 25, the agency was visited by august guests, the duo of Jerome Pasquire and Laurent Polonceaux, respectively the French ambassador and the Consul General. For nearly two hours the French emissaries held a strategic meeting with the staff of Ma Petite France. Timeout had a tête–à–tête with Tosin Adesina, founder and head of the agency.
Why the French’s visit
We want to discuss how MPF is promoting French language education in Nigeria. MPF is a French language agency, comprising of a bookstore and a library. The main purpose of the visit was to establish relations with the embassy so that they can recognise MPF for what we do. One of the major goals of the embassy is to promote the French language in this country; since that is what we do, we can work together with the embassy in terms of job opportunities, exchange programmes for students and so on.
Importance of learning French
Just look at Nigeria in its geographical location––we are completely bordered by French-speaking countries: Benin and Togo to the west; Cameroon to the east; Niger and Chad in the north. In terms of bilateral relations, being able to speak another man’s language helps remove the language barrier. If you meet someone with whom you speak the same language, you can discuss education and business and it opens door to a lot of opportunities. Globally, French, alongside English and Spanish, are dominant languages. So if more Nigerians can speak French, they will have access to global opportunities and global career.
Learning French as an adult
We have a beginner class for adults. We teach them like kids, starting from the alphabet to word pronunciation to building their confidence in speaking basic French. We have different language levels from A1, the beginner level, to C1, which is the mastery level, following that with good textbooks, a learner should be able to speak basic French in six to eight months. However, don’t ignore the importance of also being in a French environment. I always suggest to adults to take a course in a French country or to go for an exchange programme in French countries. That way, you are putting what you learn into practice. We have the eight-Saturday class for adults. It is an introductory course to French language and culture. We have resources here, books and CDs.
French for kiddies’
MPF’s key goal really is raising bilingual children, because it is easier for them to learn when they are young. We offer home tutoring services to kids age five to 16. We help schools build French language hubs––that is basically creating a mini French environment in schools to help the children with French. That hub is filled with French books, French music, French CDs. That is basically where they have the French class.
Bedside our home tutoring––which comprise of four hours, twice-a-week French class with a dedicated tutor––we also have French club for kiddies. The teens’ club holds on Tuesday when teenagers come around to just speak French.
Motivation for starting the agency
As a student of the French language, I understood the difficulty involved in learning the language. I know we didn’t have access to quality materials. I took a language course in France and while there, I saw that things could be easier and better in the manner of teaching and I said to myself, “when I am back in Nigeria, these are some of the things I am going to try to correct.” So basically, that is what I am representing.
I studied French at the University of Ibadan. After graduation, I served at Channels TV, and also worked there for a few years as a reporter and associate presenter. With my educational background, I know the salient problems that French students faced all over the country. I saw a problem I can provide answers to. That was what I did by establishing Ma Petite France in 2018. As long as the problems are there with regard to the French language in Nigeria, the big objective for MPF is to keep providing the solution. I also want to provide job opportunities for French graduates.
Government’s role in bilingualism
Government itself first need to understand the importance of learning French, of how it opens doors to trade and how it facilitates bilateral relationships with the Francophone countries. If they understood all these perspectives, then they can begin to take it seriously. Private schools provide the opportunity of learning French to pupils; why can’t the same be obtainable in public schools?
The journey thus far
The agency is a business and in Nigeria, businesses have their ups and downs. I am in the game. The response I have gotten has been great––people want better opportunities for their kids. They want them to travel and see the world. I tell people, French is an added advantage to whatever background you have or profession you are into. Being fluent in another language gives you a certain advantage, so why not raise your children bilingual?
A word of advice
Don’t be scared of learning the French language. It is a good opportunity, take it. Learn French and travel the world and learn about other people’s culture––it helps you see the world in a better light. When you understand another man’s language and culture, you can relate to him on a different level.