Think on your feet: Celine Mariage explains to her students how to perform improvisational theatre. — VNS Photo Bạch Liên
by Bạch Liên
Every Thursday, the theatre workshop that Céline Mariage offers Francophone students at the Hà Nội University attracts the most motivated French-learning students.
Here they learn about theatre and how to speak better French.
Three years ago, she was sent by Wallonie-Bruxelles International to work as a French language teacher at this university. However, she did not keep herself confined to those strict limits of her mission.
She wanted to be more creative, and decided to teach French through theatre, offering students an opportunity to express themselves through this art form which has been her great passion since the age of 18.
Her workshop is held every Thursday from 1pm to 3pm in a 30sq.m room of the Wallonie-Bruxelles International at the Hà Nội university in Thanh Xuân district.
During the first few weeks, she offers classes to familiarise the students with the world of theatre.
They learn how to warm up physically, practice to speak aloud, play games to train to concentrate better. She also teaches them how to do improvisation theatre.
Later, they learn how to write theatre scripts and perform the play they wrote together.
“I have a special course. I studied French literature, and after that, I did a PhD in management. Theater for me is really a hobby I have pursued since the age of 18. It is this passion that I try to convey to students," she explains.
Céline Mariage brought to Việt Nam several Belgian experts, including Nicolas Ancion, Belgium’s well-known writer, to help students develop scenarios for their plays. Among these theatre pieces was Golden Tripe, which was presented at the French Cultural Centre in Hà Nội during the European theater festival in 2014.
Moreover, Céline organised several other classes: a reading workshop to help students pronounce better, and literature classes to help students know better literature from other Francophone countries.
She also screens documentary films followed by debates and discussions, offering students the opportunity to express themselves better and to speak in front of others, thereby helping them overcome their shyness.
"During my several years of teaching in Việt Nam, I see that many Vietnamese students are a little shy and it takes some time for them to become more confident," she said.
"These activities teach them to dare, to have confidence in the teacher, to be more creative, to not only receive but also give a lot... And what is very important is that they learn to work in groups, something they are not familiar with.”
“What is very important in theater or in video making work, is to be able to respect others, to arrive on time for workshops... These are the rules, the things they have to learn gradually.”
“But I can see that those students really want to work, to move forward and progress. It’s very interesting,” she said with a smile.
Those classes have helped change the habits of students, making them more punctual and more confident, apart from helping them improve their French.
Ngọc Anh, one of her students, said, "Céline is very open, very friendly and very cheerful. She has a great sense of humour, and often makes us laugh, which can help us forget the stress. But it does not prevent her from being a serious teacher. When working with her, we do not speak any Vietnamese. So, our French has clearly improved.”
Other students taking part in the theatre workshop also say that she has brought a lot of enthusiasm and creativity to the students since she arrived. She always tries to help them progress and encourages them to actively participate in group activities.
A dynamic teacher, she is also highly appreciated by her colleagues.
Trần Văn Công, deputy director of the department, said, "Céline takes active part in our activities held inside and outside the university. She is also very devoted to the students. It’s she who had proposed the idea of teaching first year students how to pronounce better."
Not many know that every day , she rides her motorbike to commute the 12 kilometre stretch that separates her home in Tây Hồ district from the Hà Nội University in Thanh Xuân district, where she works. To begin her classes every morning at 7.30 am, she has to get up at 6am. It is not always easy, particularly during the cold winter days.
A mother of four boys, she has a busy schedule but is still devoted to her job.
For Celine and her family, Việt Nam is the second country of expatriation, but their first in Asia. During the two remaining years in Việt Nam, she still has a number of projects she plans to offer her students. —VNS