Meet this French in the land of Dogras

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Arun Sharma | TheDispatch

Born and raised in Jammu, Arun Sharma has made a name for himself among the language enthusiasts of the country with the excellent service he has rendered in the promotion and propagation of French language in the state. Having climbed up the ladders of success with his dedicated hard work, he is the most famous French teacher in the state, having helped hundreds of students get respectable jobs in various prestigious varsities, educational institutions and MNCs, in India and overseas. He is also the first and the only author from the state to have written 4 books on the French language.

His tryst with the language began at the age of 18 when his uncle who lived in Canada, visited him and suggested him to learn French. Working on his suggestion, Arun started learning basic words of French, which intrigued him to no end. The more he delved deeper into its realms, the more he was fascinated by French and finally decided to pursue it, academically.

“At that time, not many colleges were providing any course in the language. So I started with a certificate course in French from the University of Jammu, before moving to Symbiosis Institute of Foreign and International Languages in Pune for further learning. My advanced diploma course was from Punjab University and finally, I completed my Master’s degree in French from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. I am glad I ignored all the naysayers and stood firmly in furtherance of my passion for French. It is probably the best decision of my life,” tells Arun. It is also pertinent to mention that besides these aforementioned qualifications, Arun also holds post-graduation degrees in English and Business administration (Tourism Management).

Arun explains his love for French, “I love pretty much everything about French, be it is the vocabulary, the grammar, the pronunciation or the culture embedded in the language. It can be regarded as the preferred language for diplomacy and romance. It may not be as commonly spoken as English, yet its aesthetics are second to none. I want to learn as many languages as I can and they are all unique and beautiful in their own way, but I know that French will always be my first love.”

The love for this language made Arun decide to work for the promotion of the language in the city as he started efforts for incorporating the language in the curriculum of various schools and colleges. His efforts have been fairly successful as more than a dozen schools in the region are currently teaching French to their students. “At present, there are 14 schools in Jammu which teach its students French language. The cumulative numbers of students of the language stand at approximately 3400. I am happy that all the teachers teaching at these schools have learned the language from me and thus I have been able to contribute my bit in this,” he smiles.

This can be taken as an understatement from Arun as he certainly has done more than ‘just a bit’ in helping French getting recognition and acceptance among the people of the region. Arun has been teaching French to students within as well as outside Jammu and Kashmir since past 11 years. He joined the University of Jammu as a guest faculty in 2010 and currently teaches different courses at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, The Business School and the Department of Lifelong Learning, there. He is also working as guest faculty for the Central University of Jammu in the department of Business Administration (Travel and Tourism Management).

Besides generating the interest among people, Arun has authored 4 books in helping the interested lot understanding the language better. His first book, “Mon Livre” (French for ‘My Book’) was the first French book from Jammu and Kashmir aimed at basic French learners. The book contained all the basic things as well as translation of many words and sentences of daily use and was accepted with wide acclaim by Language enthusiasts, all over the country. The book appealed to all age groups because of its simplicity and systematic approach and was sold outside the state as well, making Arun a well-known name among the lovers of the language. He followed his first book with 3 more books titled “French Phrases and Useful Words”, “Conjugation” and “Solution key of Cours de Langue”, all of these going on to become very successful and highly recommended books in academic institutions.

Arun answers why the language French has got so many followers in the country, “French, as I said earlier, is a very beautiful language. It owes its beauty to some technical points, too. French has an ardent dedication to “euphony” or the quality of sounding harmonious. It always sounds melodious.”

He, however, stresses upon a proper understanding of the rules that make French so. “There are rules to make sure that French always sounds like a song or an old-fashioned melodrama, it’s not just a coincidence! One rule, for example, is that it avoids using words that end with a vowel sound before words that begin with one. Either the vowel is silent or consonant sounds are placed in between so that the words can flow into each other. There is a lot more to the language and once you start learning it, it all becomes very intriguing,” he adds.

However, Arun realizes that he cannot reach out to the larger audience through his books only and hence to impart the best education to all the sections of society, he founded a Club named ‘Club de Francis’ or ‘French Language Club’ in Jammu in 2010. It was first of its kind initiative in the state and has been working for the propagation of the language, imparting education to over 5000 students ever since.  The club is slowly but steadily inching towards the milestone of a thousand members and provides for a platform for the seekers of the language.

“Besides being a beautiful language, French is significant because of its relevance in job sector also. It has a good scope in sectors like hospitality, aviation, information technology and diplomacy and thus it is important to train youngsters to avail these opportunities. The club provides short-term courses as well as advanced courses in French. The members have been truly amazing and have helped immensely in shaping the scenario of the language in the state what it is today. We organize various events on regular basis and try to move to new places every time. We also organize events in various orphanages and old age homes, as involving them gives them a new hope,” tells Arun, who is also the president of the club.

Arun makes it a point to assure that promotion of French in the state will not result in anything harmful to any other language in the state. “While we must work on conserving our local languages like Dogri, it does not, in any way, stop us from promoting a foreign language. In fact, with it gaining popularity and acceptance here, we can look at the possibility of translating our Dogri literature into French and vice-versa. This can be a real opportunity to serve as the perfect platform to showcase our culture globally,” he says.

So has Arun achieved what he had set out to achieve at the beginning of his journey? We find out, “I am elated at how far we have come in this journey but the mission is far from over. While there are around 14 schools and a couple of Polytechnic Colleges in the region which have integrated French in their syllabus, we have a thousand miles to go before we achieve what we intended to. The day all the schools in the region, and not only the CBSE schools, include this language in their curriculum, I will consider myself successful.” He ends the chat with a promise to come out with a new book very soon.

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