Enchanté Institute: Homecoming of 3 women to introduce foreign languages to region

Imphal: Enchanté Institute of Foreign Languages (EIFL) is celebrating its first foundation day on Sunday. It is a language learning institute founded on August 21, 2021.

EIFL was born out of a calling to make language learning more accessible and manageable for students in the northeast to forge ahead in their careers. With an ambition to spark and ignite new students to take a foreign language course. The Institute initially started with a French Introductory Course followed by Korean and Manipuri. The Institute looks forward to adding more languages as long as there are willing, motivated learners.

In terms of opportunities and potential in the Northeast, especially Manipur, where people grew up learning or prioritizing another language since the beginning of their schooling, making a livelihood from learning languages and capitalizing on it seems fair enough. With the world emerging into a global village empowered by advanced technology, the team feel there is no better time than now to equip students in the region with language skills. Workforces across the continents can interact, work and intersect in each other’s lives more than ever.

The Journey:

The Foreign Language Institute was founded by three women, Thingshung Christin, Yarmi Sayai, and Zenngaihlun from Manipur, who left their lucrative jobs at Delhi University et al. to introduce a foreign language to the region. They reflect a new urban education pattern, leaving high-paying jobs to give back to their roots.

Born and raised in Imphal, Christin completed her B.Com (Hons) from SRCC and her Masters in French Language and Literature from EFLU, Hyderabad. She holds an Advanced Diploma in French from St. Stephens, DU, and teaches at LMA Dimapur. Yarmi is from Ukhrul. She has a Master’s degree in French and Francophone Literature from JNU, New Delhi, and an M. Phil degree in French Literature from DU. A recipient of the Charpak Scholarship from the French Embassy, she attended a Master’s Program at the University of Paul Valéry Montpellier 3, France. Zen is from Churachandpur. She has a Master’s Degree in French Translation from JNU, New Delhi, and is a recipient of the UGC/NET JRF scholarship. Both Yarmi and Zen have previously taught at Delhi University.

Growing up, Yarmi recalls how her sole dream was to become a University professor. However, after spending a year in the South of France for her Master’s program, she started envisioning a French connection in the northeast. Then, while teaching at Delhi University, she met Zen. This was a pivotal moment for Yarmi, who decided to come back home and start her dream. At home, she got in touch with Christin, who also harboured similar dreams.

After numerous discussions on where to start the institute, with Christin wanting Imphal and Yarmi wanting Ukhrul, they got in touch with Zen and eventually decided on Imphal. “It’s not something we started out of nowhere,” mentions Yarmi. “The aspiration has been there for many years. The planning and discussions which happened in 2020 materialised only in 2021”.

Reflecting on their EILF journey, Christin mentions that the idea came about 5/6 years ago. After coming back from France, Yarmi became a sort of mentor while Zen helped her clear the JNU entrance exam. During this time, Christin reached out to Zen, asking her to be a part of the EIFL founders, to which Zen readily agreed. That was when the team started planning.

Initially, Zen mentioned that she was apprehensive about starting a foreign language institution as it was a novel thing. Still, she realised this was a golden opportunity to provide a more equitable education to the region. She points out how school kids in metro cities have a number of foreign language courses while the state lacks any such facilities. With these prospects in mind, the team determined to advance their plans.

Curriculum:

The Institute started with the French Introductory Course with 12 classes of one and a half hours each, like curating the courses tailor-made by the founding members, gathering together what they feel is vital for beginners. The Institute also introduces the A1 course, which is like a beginner’s level. But then, with the A1 course, they followed a textbook and proper syllabus and lasted a week thrice for three months. The class duration is repeated by one and a half hours. If anyone’s willing to join for a more advanced level, EIFL welcomes them. But as of now, the Institute has been giving the A1 course. But they are ready to get to the B2 level.

The A1 and A2 courses are mandatory; every international language has its level given by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CECRL). The Common Reference provides the framework for European Languages. So, in this particular CECRL, they have levels A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1 and C2, consisting of six levels. This applies to European languages like Spanish and French. The EIFL starts with an introductory course, which is just an introduction, talking about the culture that the language entails, how the pronunciation is, how the alphabet is and how things go about in basic grammar. Then proceed on to the A1, where the Institute starts working on a textbook given under the CECRL level. The CECRL has an international example, DELF, which is again called the Diploma in English. This diploma is valid all over the world, it is basically like the TOEFL and IELTS.

Obstacle/Challenges:

The main obstacle and biggest challenge the Institute faces right now is that the people in the region are lagging, but they are naive and innocent due to a lack of awareness. And they’re not ready to accept and invest in language. The youth did not have the information that learning a foreign language can help them secure better jobs in the market, including their parents and guardians. So many youths are not informed of the benefits and opportunities that come with a foreign language.

When Yarmi and Christin visited schools in Ukhrul, Manipur, every principal they talked to raised the same problem: parents do not have enough money to support extra courses due to financial issues. Every parent is struggling to help their child with the school fees; additional charges and courses will add additional costs, and it will be an additional burden.

The team believed things would work out for them if the lack of awareness were resolved. Zen exclaimed that when she was studying French, she must be a second person among the Paite community, and every time Zen came home from holidays, she was bombarded with questions like “what are you going to do with French? With a foreign language?” Zen puts that these are skill sets that not only set her apart but that set her ahead, among her workmates, in jobs, or in whatever she’s doing. The sad thing is that there is no awareness, and the region is still unaware of the skills good for developing the region.

Even though the road is not well-paved, Yarmi is in great spirit. She believed the Institute is progressing; even though they do not have a stable income but still surviving.

Talking about giving them opportunities, even if the chance is up for grabs, they’re just blindfolded, laments Christin. Christin goes on that even if we tell them this is possible, a second problem seeps in, and that is the finance. Nobody thinks that investing in a foreign language is a priority, and they think it’s just an extra thing they can add on top of their education if it doesn’t work out. So actually, that’s not the case.

People who have worked in corporate and outside would know that having a high, shiny degree, without proper communication skills or technical know-how, isn’t enough for survival, or you wouldn’t be able to get any job. That’s the same thing with foreign languages. Because in this world, no company works in itself, and it works with different companies.

Speaking only English is very limited now in this global world, and in this fast developing world, one needs to equip with different languages. The EILF’s biggest challenge is breaching the importance of language and creating regional awareness.

We do not have any role models to look up to. So, a lot of students ask, What after learning a foreign language? Do we get a job immediately? Or what are the prospects? They haven’t seen anyone in the community who has learned a foreign language and made a career. It’s, again, a lack of information plus a lack of maybe a role model to whom they can look up. So, that adds up to the obstacle.

The EIFL is independent and private. They do not have any funding and are not affiliated with any institute or university.

The Institute aims to reach out to more students and help them acquire language skills that will set them ahead in their careers. With the globalising world, the rapid rise in demand for professionals with language expertise is bolstering up. The team aims to spark interest, educate and make the region aware of the opportunities language learning can bring, thereby equipping them with the required language skills to secure a better-paying job with more ease. The Institute seeks to empower the youths and provide guidance, engaging them in this global world. It is also their goal to bring a platform of cultural exchange where different cultures are learned, embraced, and celebrated, making quality skill education accessible to motivated learners. At EIFL, the team commits to providing accessible and concise lessons for learners that are fun to learn and practice for the workforce.

So far, the Institute has had many success stories as such, who have learned a foreign language with us and have got a scholarship abroad, or have got a job in MNC or any university yet. But in the future, the Institute looks forward to success stories which is their priority. The institute also seeks to spread and expand; planning to have a base in Imphal, Ukhrul, and Churachandpur.

The team has been planning to expand and has successfully introduced a regional language – Spoken Manipuri. And in foreign languages, they look forward to adding Chinese and Japanese by this year and start with a batch or two.

EIFL looks forward to bringing a new awareness and imparting skills to students from the northeast and, at the same time, bringing awareness about Foreign languages and their scope.

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