The Institut Français (French Insitute) is a socio-cultural organisation with 150 branches throughout the world. It promotes the French language, values prominent in French society and cross-cultural exchange whilst showing the world the best of French culture. The Institut Français d’Ukraine in Kyiv organises a lively agenda of events, accessible to everyone interested in the language and culture of Victor Hugo and savoir-vivre. We spoke with Matthieu Ardin and Viktoria Tomenchuk to find out more.
“It’s French through business, through art, through gastronomy, through theatre- not just French through books”
Bonjour Matthieu and Vicktoria! What exactly is the role of the Institut Français d’Ukraine?
We are one of the 150 French Institutes located throughout the world. Working under the authority of the French Embassy here in Kyiv, the main objective of the IFU is to contribute to the diffusion of the French language and French culture in Ukraine through events, language classes, the mediathèque and the establishment of long-term partnerships between French and Ukrainian cultural, artistic and educational entities and projects. Around 1700 Ukrainians are currently enrolled in lessons. We also promote the French language through advertising campaigns, for example during March, there will be a large campaign for the “Mois de la Francophonie” (Month of the French-speaking world) and most definitely in 2018-2019, which will be the “Year of the French language in Ukraine”. We also contribute to the training of French teachers to make sure they’re trained to the highest standards and are aware of the most innovative methods.
What is the profile of the average visitor or is there a diverse range of people?
We have different types of visitors depending on the event. Our aim is to come into contact with the largest audience possible in terms of age, profession and social status. Our languages classes are aimed at all, from preschool to retirees, but normally they are young professionals or students. We also notice that there are many more women than men! Every time we design a campaign, we think about the demographic we’re targeting the message to and for each one it’s different.
We never want to deprive all visitors, French-speaking or not, of being able to attend film showings, events and conferences so there are subtitles and sometimes even simultaneous interpretation into Ukrainian. Some people are just interested in French cinema but don’t speak the language! It’s a real mix of people at our events.
The 13th Annual French cinema evenings took place last week, no?
Yes, the “Soirées du cinéma français” have been very successful in Kyiv! The Ukrainians’ attachment to French film has prompted us to develop a thematic French language course through cinema, which is still in its early stages. During the event, all films were in their original French version with Ukrainian subtitles. Normally these films are screened with Ukrainian dubbing, but in all of our events we try and ensure that the French language is as present as possible. We don’t just do this at special festivals but also at the “Cinema Club” every alternate Monday at the “Кінотеатр “Київ” with a new theme every month.
Can you tell me more about the students who choose to study in France?
There’s always a lot of interest in studying in France (and in French!) among Ukrainians. We not only have scholarships, which we display on our website, but we’re also the seat of the organisation “Campus France”. Their Kyiv office here is responsible for the promotion of French university life and the provision of information and support with the application process.
What other events do you have planned for the next few months?
There are many different events happening over the next few months in Kyiv- it’s probably our busiest time of the year. I can tell you about just a few…
217-24th March: Celebration of the French-speaking world: Organised with embassies of French-speaking countries, many events are planned which enable us to introduce Ukrainians to the phenomenon of “Francophonie”, which is not only a linguistic union but also a union of societal values shared by all these countries. Every year there is a theme. Last year’s was women’s rights and sustainable development and this year it will be freedom of expression. It’s not all about French!
21st March onwards: Goût de France (Taste of France): Many Kiev restaurants will participate, alongside others worldwide, to celebrate the excellence of French gastronomy and its inherent values: the spirit of sharing and pleasure. A Michelin star chef from Toulouse will also come to the city to lead masterclasses in French cuisine. For almost one week, partner restaurants in Kiev’s districts will adopt a special French menu.
April: 15th Edition of the “Printemps Français en Ukraine” (French Spring in Ukraine): A month-long French culture festival in 9 nationwide cities which began 15 years ago. It was a response to a Ukrainian proposal to have a Ukrainian culture week in Paris. From cuisine and theatre to jazz- events galore!
For more information about the programme until March, download the latest version here.
Do you believe that the work of the Institut Français d’Ukraine enriches Ukrainian culture?
I believe that it is a mutual enrichment. There’s no culture which is dominant. We just want to show French culture to the Ukrainians to enrich their culture and vice versa. The French also discover Ukrainian identity and cultural practice through the IFU. For example, a contemporary hip-hop ballet was organised in Kiev, the choreographer was French, the dancers were Ukrainian and the music was written by a young Ukrainian. This was mutually beneficial. It showed the Ukrainians that they had talented performers in the domain of hip-hop which they didn’t appreciate before and the show became a hit in France, with tours planned for this and next year. The French learned that hip-hop was indeed a Europe-wide art.