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Fête de fin d’année et de l’école

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A ne pas manquer!


It is that time of year again… when we welcome you and your friends, our students, teachers, and volunteers to celebrate work well-done en français in 2016.

Come and celebrate the season with live music, fabulous homemade food, bubbly and vin chaud!

img_8093This year we swing and swig on the dance floor with Le percolateur while enjoying a cocktail dinatoire in our salon thanks to Team Alliance under the direction of Chef McCord.

Au Menu:

Filet de boeuf sur baguette
Mousse de foie sur toast
Croustades croque-monsieur
Mousse de saumon/saumon fumé
Noix salées

Interested? So join us on Friday, December 09 at 6:30 p.m.

To register, click here!

Library Recommendations: Francophone African Literature

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The Brown Médiathèque at the Alliance has a great selection of Francophone novels from Africa. Culturethèque, the online French library, also offers Francophone African literature. Alliance members have FREE access to Culturethèque! Register here. You can browse the online selections for ‘Littérature Afrique du Nord’ here and ‘Littérature Afrique Noire’ here.

Check out this list of 5 must-reads from talented African authors! All of these books are available at our library or on Culturethèque.

verrecasse1. Verre cassé by Alain Mabanckou
*Selection for Café Littérature
*More books by Mabanckou on Culturethèque here

“A man known as Broken Glass (Verre Cassé) is a regular in Credit Gone West, a run-down bar in the Congo; the bar’s owner, aka the Stubborn Snail, selects him to record the stories of the bar’s other sodden, down-and-out habitués. That slight premise is all Mabanckou needs to spin a raucous tale of the regulars, the bar, corrupt and inept government, and life in Trois-Cents, an impoverished district of an unnamed city…it is the author’s sense of humor—and he can find humor in even the most tragic or vulgar circumstances—that makes Broken Glass a memorable and successful novel.” –Booklist

About the author:
Alain Mabanckou was born in Congo-Brazzaville in 1966. He is a Francophone Congolese poet and novelist whose absurd sense of humor resulted in his being known in France as “the African Samuel Beckett.” Learn more here.

femmesdalger2. Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement by Assia Djebar

“Algerian-born writer and filmmaker Djebar… makes her American debut with a collection offering memorable portraits of Arabic women in a time of change. Spanning the years 1958 to 1979, a period when Algeria fought a bitter war of independence from France and experienced a socialist revolution, Djebar’s stories are intended to be ‘the voice of all the women they’ve kept walled in’ in Islamic society…. As much a critique as a picture of [this] society, Djebar’s debut―plus its informative afterword―is an elegant and evocative introduction to a too little-known world.” –Kirkus Reviews

About the author:
Assia Djebar (1936-2015) was born in Cherchell, French Algeria. Her novel Fantasia, an Algerian Cavalcade won the Franco-Arab Friendship Prize and she has written and directed two feature-length films. Learn more here.



3. L’enfant de sable by Tahar Ben Jellounlenfantdesable
*More books by Ben Jelloun on Culturethèque here

“Seemingly cursed to father only daughters in a society that devalues females, an Arab conceals the birth of an eighth girl by proclaiming the child, Ahmed, a son and heir. The tale that follows is a cynical, dreamlike exploration of the roles into which Arab men and women are shaped: shackles to some, yet a clear identity and a well-defined bridge connecting the individual to society.” –Publisher’s Weekly

About the author:
Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1944 and has lived in France since 1971. He is an internationally recognized novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist, and has received numerous awards for his works. Learn more here.


4. Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoudmedium
*Available on Culturethèque here

“A thrilling retelling of Albert Camus’s 1942 classic, The Stranger, from the perspective of the brother of the Arab killed by Meursault, Camus’s antihero. The novel…not only breathes new life into The Stranger; it also offers a bracing critique of postcolonial Algeria… The premise is ingenious: that The Stranger, about the murder of an unnamed Arab on an Algiers beach, was a true story…Meursault is less a critique of The Stranger than its postcolonial sequel.” –The New York Times Magazine

About the author:
Kamel Daoud is an Algerian journalist based in Oran. A finalist for the Prix Goncourt, Meursault, contre-enquête won the Prix François Mauriac and the Prix des Cinq-Continents de la francophonie. Learn more here.



5. Aya de Yopougon by Marguerite Abouetaya

“Studious Aya and her flighty party-girl friends, Adjoua and Bintou, live in suburban Ivory Coast in 1978. Aya hopes to continue her studies and become a doctor, while her father, a manager at a local brewery, would rather see her marry well…This realistic story immerses readers in the life of an Ivorian teen of the period. Yet for those familiar with the civil unrest occurring in this part of Africa during the ensuing years, the simplicity of life depicted can’t help but be extra poignant…This pleasing volume will make a good addition to graphic-novel collections.” –School Library Journal

About the author:
Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1971 and now lives outside of Paris. Her graphic novel series taps into Abouet’s childhood memories of Ivory Coast in the 1970s. More than 300,000 copies of Aya have been sold and it has been translated into 12 languages, including English. Learn more here.


AF Student Spotlight: Dennis Smithenry

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AF Student Spotlight: Dennis Smithenry


When Dennis Smithenry learned that his ancestors were from Alsace, France, he became motivated to learn French in honor of his family heritage. His journey at the Alliance Française de Chicago began in 2012 when he became a member and started taking French classes.

Growing up in southern Illinois on a farm, his community did not place much value on learning foreign languages. Before starting French classes at the Alliance, Dennis had only taken French in high school, where the curriculum was more focused on writing than speaking. Dennis now benefits from a more well-rounded approach to learning French. “I try to balance the main four: listening, speaking, writing, and reading,” he says.


An education professor at Elmhurst College, Dennis is passionate about learning. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Dennis also conducted postdoctoral research in environmental engineering and science education at Stanford University. You can view his professor bio here.

During his sabbatical, Dennis has been able to combine his academic interests with his love for French by presenting his research in French at a conference in Montréal. Dennis attended the Congrès de l’ACFAS (Association francophonie pour le savoir) from May 9 to May 13, 2016.

In his 25-minute presentation, entitled “Conceptualisation et enseignement – planifier et enseigner à partir des concepts,” he discussed how to plan a course from start to finish, and also, how to teach a student to plan courses effectively. One of the main ideas that Dennis covered was “macro-planification à rebours,” or backwards planning. This method involves starting with the end, or the learning, first. Then, a teacher designs an effective course from start to finish based on the desired end result.

Dennis loved being immersed in the French language while he was in Montréal, both at the conference and with a language partner that he met online. He went to see a play in French and also conversed in French with his AirBnB host. He is thankful for the experience.

For four years, Dennis has been dedicated to taking French classes at the Alliance and learning French in his free time as a hobby. “I think this speaks to the well-thought-out program,” he says. “The books build off of one another very well and the curriculum is more focused on speaking French rather than just writing it.”

Dennis said that he is often critical of curriculum and pedagogical techniques because he specializes in education. However, he believes that the pedagogy at the Alliance Française de Chicago is extremely effective.

He enjoys how challenging the French language can be and looks forward to continuing his studies.”Language learning is a puzzle,” he says. “The more you learn, the more complex it becomes.”



Tricot Social

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Voulez-vous ‘crochet’ avec moi? Sign up for “Tricot Social”!


About the Course

Join crochet designer Heïdi Mullins-Lemieux for an exclusive introduction to the art of crochet: Tricot Social! In this crochet class, which is taught all in French, you will explore the history of crocheting and how it is used in fashion today. No prior crochet experience is required.

IMG_0090“For those who are interested in taking their current knowledge of the French language to the next level, this is the place to  experience it in a more social and relaxed environment,” says Heïdi. “And you get to start the week off with the opportunity to do something that can be fun, relaxing and quite creative.”

By using basic patterns, you will learn how to crochet hats, scarves, and ornaments. Tricot Social will be a space for creative freedom. Students can explore the art of crochet and practice speaking French in a relaxed and inviting environment.


About Your Teacher

Heïdi Mullins-Lemieux earned her bachelor’s degree in Fashion & Textile Design at The School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago in 2010. One of her garments from the 2009 graduating class collection was used extensively for promotional material for the SAIC Nightwalk Fashion Show of 2010. Heïdi is originally from Montréal and speaks French fluently. Growing up, she was influenced by the world of the opera and Le Cirque Du Soleil. She is passionate about costume design.

Heïdi Mullins LemieuxIMG_3807Heïdi is a dedicated designer who loves to break the common ‘crochet’ stereotypes. Instead of using a multitude of colors, she focuses more on the crochet pattern. In general, she uses no more than one or two colored yarns in her designs to make an authentic, but wearable garment piece.

Heïdi is familiar with the Alliance thanks to her mother, Elaine Lemieux, who has performed at music events hosted by the Alliance.

Heïdi looks forward to working with her students on a collaborative project toward the end of the session. “I’m excited to share my knowledge and perspective of crochet with my students,” she says. “Winter will be knocking on our door, so we need to get those scarfs and hats ready!”


Register online for a morning or evening class on Tuesdays! Or call us at (312) 337-1070.

TRIC1 : Tuesdays, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
TRIC2 : Tuesdays, 7:45 – 9:15 p.m.

To see what materials you need for the course, click here.

Sign up for Fast Track courses!

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Take the “fast lane” in French at the Alliance with our new Fast Track courses!

Fast Track courses are running from September 6 through September 9. This your chance to improve your French language skills at a quick pace before la rentrée. 
Immerse yourself in one of our three intensive levels: Initiation, Advanced Beginners, or Intermediate. Call us at (312) 337-1070 or click below to register online!


Initiation Level
6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Advanced Beginners Level
6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Intermediate Level
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Improv en français

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Check out the brand new course “Improv en Français” at the Alliance this fall!


About the Course

Taught by RenéeClaude Thériault, this course is designed to help you think on your feet and become more comfortable speaking French. RenéeClaude has many fun activities planned for the course, including character games where students will create characters through movement and voice. They will also get to improvise full scenes by the end of the term.

RenéeClaude is excited to share her love for French and improv with her class. She cannot wait to see her students progress and get more and more comfortable speaking French each week. Of her experience with improv, she says:

“It helped me gain confidence in my social interactions and kept my creativity active. Then when I moved in Chicago, I had to switch to doing improv in English and it really helped me develop linguistic reflexes in my second language. I saw an improvement in communicating. I want to bring that tool to the students of the Alliance because I truly believe that the best way to learn is through having fun!”

About Your Teacher

Renée-Claude started learning improv in French when she was eight. She grew up in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada and studied improv and stand-up comedy in Toronto for two years. In January 2014, she toured French Immersion schools all across Ontario, performing a bilingual show called “O Canada!”
She moved to Chicago in the summer of 2014 to pursue her career in comedy. Renée-Claude wrote and performed One Woman Show in French called “Pardon My French.” Since January 2015, she has been performing shows with her improv troupe, “Hulk Spanx.” For more info about Renée-Claude, read her interview (en français) with French in Chicago.

Register for 390E (Level B1) or 390F (Level B2).

Yet another reason why French is great…or 5 actually!

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”There are good reasons for learning other languages. As scientists unlock more of the neurological secrets of the brain, they’re learning that speaking more than one language may have cognitive benefits that extend from childhood into old age. In business, knowing the language of the team on the other side of the table can make a huge difference. Diplomacy work claims capable linguists. In fact, virtually any career, public or private, is given a boost with knowledge of a foreign language.

But why French?”  ==> Here is the answer!

French Beginnings: A new kids event at the Alliance

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

9 a.m. – 12:30, Free Admission

54 W. Chicago Avenue

A morning of fun, games, and a photo booth. Spend a memorable day with your kids chez nous. French Beginnings is the perfect opportunity to introduce a child to a new world of language and culture!

For reservation information call: (312) 337-1070
To register for this event, click here!


French Beginnings use

An inspirational story at the Alliance …

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As we enter a new year, we wanted to share with you what we believe is a very inspirational story about one of our students.

Meet Marc!  

Marc is a Chicagoan who plans on moving to France next year. This is what brought him to the Alliance where he has been studying for a year now.

Marc is an amicable, enthusiastic and highly dedicated student who had no previous French experience. However, his hard work and motivation have allowed him to start his very own French blog!

His scrapbook-like feeds do not aim to be perfect but rather communicate about his life and his projects in French. And they do just that. Indeed, they are easy to read and to understand for well-trained Francophiles and beginners alike.

 So check out his blog “On va y arriver” (we will make it) and join us as we congratulate Marc on his tremendous achievement.

Bravo et bonne continuation à lui et à tous nos étudiants.


 PS If you know of similar initiatives you would like for us to highlight on the blog, or if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave us a message.