Improving fluency in French while learning about the business culture
The French Foundation FACE – Acting against exclusion - has developed Entre voix as a complementary action to those, formal and non formal, existing for the learning of French such as the courses delivered by associations and training organisations. Entre voix has been co-financed by the General Directorate for Foreign Nationals in France.
Entre voix consists of hours of conversations between a French worker employed in a company that is part of the FACE network and a refugee or a newcomer. They practice professional French in pairs. But it also aims at exchanging about the knowledge of the business world and more widely the access to employment. These hours of conversation are also an opportunity for both parties to learn about each other's culture and to develop professional and human relations that are essential for the integration into the host society.
The frequency of appointments varies according to the pair: weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. Pairs are encouraged to meet at the workplace of the employee, in order to allow the refugee to become familiar with the working environment.
During this period, members from FACE, ensure that conversations run smoothly and provide support to facilitate exchanges in case of misunderstandings or difficulties in scheduling appointments. Telephone calls with employees and refugees are regularly organised to ask them about the progress.
In order to carry out these conversations, educational materials were produced by the Greta du Velay, a training centre. They are given to the pair to facilitate the exchange, they include:
- 5 thematic leaflets to facilitate 5 hours of conversation. These sheets contain suggestions of topics for discussion, with proposals of activities and some vocabulary to guide participants.
- 2 practical sheets, one for the employee, the other for the refugee, to explain the framework of these hours of conversation, and answer any questions and possible concerns.
- 2 follow-up sheets, one for each, so that they can give their opinions and suggestions at the end of each hour and on the whole programme.
- 2 illustrated folders to give the above detailed materials to participants.
As part of the project, the conversation hours process and tools have been presented to companies and beneficiaries during a one-hour presentation. Then a follow-up by pair has been organised, for a total duration of 3 hours over the exchange itinerary.
This action has been experimented in 2018 in four areas (Paris, Calais, Saint Etienne, Montpellier) with 62 pairs trained and more than 310 hours of conversation.
Newcomers find that the conversations were very useful on a professional level to discover the business world in France, to develop their vocabulary, to refine their professional project, to work on their skills and to find a job. 96% "strongly agree" that the topics covered were interesting and adapted to their needs. Many believe that this has given them the opportunity to develop their professional network and their knowledge of the different professions that exist in France. The main difficulty they encounter is the lack of fluency in French to express themselves, as well as to read and write in French.
Some testimonials of both parties:
A newcomer participant with FACE Côte d'Opale: "My mentor was super nice to me. We talked about a lot of things, we improved my CV and we wrote my cover letter. Even with language problems, we are still able to do a lot of things. I am happy to have learned and understood how the labour market worked in France."
A migrant from FACE Hérault: "Thanks to these hours, I was able to plan ahead, understand what is expected by the company and above all understand that I am capable of it.”
Human Resources Manager, Casino: "An enriching experience for him and for me. It is necessary to deepen the topics discussed. The device could be extended."
Tax lawyer, Casino: "Good exchanges, no difficulties encountered with my partner."
Technical Executive, IBM: "Interesting and often funny exchanges with a young person full of enthusiasm and optimism. A beautiful encounter that allows me to better understand the life and difficulties encountered by migrants and also the richness they can bring".
Technical Executive, IBM: "I get a better understanding of migrants' backgrounds and the difficulties of their daily lives".
Manager Technical Sales Solutions, IBM: "The first concern with my partner was to successfully enter the company. We therefore focused on finding training adapted to the position we were looking for and on the success of the job interviews.”
Project Manager, IT Department, IBM: "I didn't have any difficulties with my partner, who was very affordable and in demand. The added value of our exchanges was the oral and cultural exchange.”