INTERVIEW: MISS TOSIN ADESINA, FOUNDER OF MA PETITE FRANCE
Undoubtedly, Bilingualism or fluency in more than one language is a good thing. It enables us to talk to more people, link us to many social and cognitive advantages and can even delay the onset of Alzheimer disease. So, how can we have more bilingual Nigerian Students?
Miss Tosin Adesina, an Expert in French Language in Nigeria speaks with Top Students International from her wealth of experience. She is the founder of Ma Petite France in Lagos, a mini French language and culture immersion center that concentrates more on Children.
According to her, Children are so much linguistic geniuses that she is motivated to create a good language learning environment for them.
Tell us about yourself and what motivates you to start this?
My name is Tosin Adesina. I studied French at the University of Ibadan. I went on to the Nigerian French Language village and then went to study French Language and culture at Université Grenoble Alpes.
During my time there I saw a lot of things that I felt we should have in Nigeria. Studying French, I understand a lot of the problems and inadequacies we have in terms of materials and manners in which French is taught.
So I said when I come back, I would like to set up something. What came to me was a bookshop. Then, I also noticed that a lot of children don’t enjoy French in school. They either don’t like their teacher or don’t just have the motivation to learn.
This is sad because I started learning French in the primary school and had private teacher come to the house to teach me. Most of the teachers are not motivated.
The manner of teaching is really low; the kids are not enjoying it. So I said we are going to make French language learning fun for children. They are my priority- the children.
What we told parent is “choose to make your child bilingual”. This is an opportunity and it is an investment. Come to our bookstore, you will find everything. Three years old, four years old to the university level.
What does Ma Petite France offers?
We have a book store where people can come to buy books. Our website is open to eCommerce so you can order for your books from any part of the country. We have home tutorials for kids.
We have tutors on demand for schools that need French teachers. We also build French hub for schools from Montessori to university. A French hub is “une petite d’espace francophone” A little French space as we have here.
We have library, movies in French (we use Cana+) wallpaper, French lab. We have a teens’ club, French club for teens. We engage them in activities that will spur them to speak French.
This is more of practicing with other teenagers they can speak with. We have Saturday classes for adults (basically, beginner class)
What motivates you to focus on children?
When I was in school as a student I had to do linguistics. In one of my courses, I learnt that the children acquire language better as opposed to adults. At that age, 3, 5, 7, it’s easier for them to acquire a language as opposed to when they are in their teens.
At that stage they become shy for fear of being wrong or people laughing at them. They think so much in English that it becomes difficult. The kids are just free.
Why don’t we just hold to that……so I just try to get the right books, games and activities that I know will help them. I even do tell parents who has home tutors that two to three times a week is not enough.
We need to be conscious about creating a French environment for them. You can buy the cana+ and every Saturdays say 9am-11am or throughout, they are watching just French cartoons. The adults have too many things distracting them.
What do you think is responsible for the low standard of French teaching in Nigeria?
The motivation isn’t there. You are paying your teachers 40,000 -50,000 Naira. There is no so much they can do. You expect them to be creative? A lot of the books we have here are really expensive. The schools don’t have the exposure and the training.
You can’t demand so much from the teachers when you don’t put the right thing in place for them. I think we are growing and we will get there.
From your experience, what are the advantages in speaking French?
The major thing I do tell people is the international exposure. I mean, it’s the same thing like saying; I speak Yoruba, why do I need to learn English? Before you get a job, you need a level of English.
There are some kinds of international jobs that you may need to have the knowledge of another foreign language and most of the time, it’s always French and English. It is about international exposure.
Do you want to remain local or you want to go international?
There are some situations you find yourself where you may have to converse with people from other nationalities. Nigeria is surrounded by francophone countries; Benin, Togo, Niger and so on.
So, you want to do business, go to United Nations or any of those global bodies, you will need French. French is a language spoken in at least five continents of the world.
Why would you not just give yourself that opportunity? Indigenous languages are great, but you have to think of the future in business, politics, and international relations.
If you are a journalist, for example, French is an added advantage. Anything you do, French is an advantage because it gives more opportunity.
How can we improve the teaching of foreign languages in Nigeria?
I’m going to speak about French because I’m not an expert in other languages. In regards to French, we have so many opportunities that we are not using well.
Nigerian French Language Village is very good. The time I spent there was good. We had a lot more of activities and exposure to French Language than in our domestic schools.
I think we need to invest more in books. Language learning has really developed.
People use so many things to learn. We have games and all sort of things. You can’t just limit people to what you have in 2000s, 1990s. We need to invest in good books and try to make French language fun.
What other impactful projects would you love to do?
A step at a time.
I do ask myself the question often. Tosin, where do you see yourself in the next five years or ten years?
I did this because I wanted to solve a problem. So in the next five years, there may be another kind of problem in Language learning that I would be interested in solving.
For now, I’m doing this.