Regional support centre for French language studies

In an effort to boost quality at French language centres in universities, HERACLES – the World Forum of Language Centres in Higher Education – plans to open a regional office in the Middle East to provide support services for countries including Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Lebanon and Jordan.

This was announced at the HERACLES Regional Meeting – Lebanon 2014, held from 12-13 June under the theme “University Language Centers in the Middle-East: Which missions and for which purposes?”

The meeting was organised by Holy Spirit University of Kaslik and hosted by the faculty of letters and the French section of the language centre, in partnership with HERACLES, the World Forum of Language Centers in Higher Education, the Middle East Office of AUF – de l’Agence universitaire de la Francophonie – and the French Institute in Lebanon.

Last week, University World News interviewed an independent higher education expert and a participant at the conference to get their views on the significance of establishing a HERACLES regional office for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The office will boost French language skills and learning opportunities, which is of crucial importance to the individual goals of both students and staff in study and research,” said higher education expert Samir Khalaf Abd-El-Aal.

“It will also promote innovation and excellence in language teaching and learning through research, training and consultancy.”

Ranya Salameh, head of the French Language Center of Arts at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, who delivered a presentation at the conference titled "Quality Approach Within a University Language Centre”, told University World News that a regional office could indeed contribute to enhancing quality in French language teaching.

It could do this through exchange of experiences in syllabus design, curriculum guidelines, providing teaching and learning materials, and assessing language proficiency.

HERACLES regional office

The HERACLES regional office will assist university language centres to promote and support language learning among students and staff at universities.

It will help centres exploit the latest technologies and pedagogies to develop bespoke language teaching and learning materials, as well as providing professional advisory services to support individual language learners. It will provide high quality learning resources in multiple media, physical and virtual.

The HERACLES office will also help university language centres to collaborate and share expertise with other language learning providers in universities and other organisations, nationally and internationally.

Ranya Salameh told University World News that there were different kinds of French language centres in the Middle East and North Africa, and their status varied between universities.

“The centre can be an independent unit inside the institution providing remedial courses for university students as well as French courses for adults wishing to learn French as a foreign language. The learning outcomes are taken from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching and assessment.

“In some universities, the language centre is a department inside a faculty and provides language courses for all the university students. These courses can be for special purposes including French for business, French for law students and French for science.”

To promote French language centres in the Middle East and North Africa, Salameh called for providing language as well as translation courses based on an intercultural approach.

“Moreover, partnerships are very important between a Middle Eastern university and a European one, especially in the field of scientific research” and supervising PhD candidates, Salameh pointed out.

One important outcome of the conference, Salameh said, was: “We are working on the governance of a university language centre and we will soon publish a guideline as well as a system of reference for university language centre instructors.”