Opening our senses to the world

For years, institutes such as Max Muller Bhavan, Alliance Francaise and the British Council have been a part of Bangalore's cultural scene. Get a taste of the global and the local through their interesting initiatives.

The city of Bangalore is constantly changing. With the numerous flyovers, the metro which promises to be completed in a few years, the shopping malls coming up every day and the ever changing urban population of Bangalore, the city seems to be transforming every minute. However, nestled in between the green locales of the city, Bangalore’s foreign cultural centres seem to have endured the test of time. Call it a quiet escape to an art exhibition or a keen desire to learn new languages; Bangaloreans still take that trip to these centres; even if it means travelling from one part of the city to the other through the choc-a-bloc traffic jams.

When you enter the Alliance Francaise, one of the first things that catch your eye is a saying in French: “Une langue est une fenetre ouverte sur un univers”. (A language is an open window to a universe). Pic credit: Alliance Francaise

Learning a new language is always interesting and challenging, plus it adds to your resume! Lucas Malcor, director of Courses at the Alliance Francaise, Bangalore says, “The Alliance has been at Bangalore for almost 35 years. Earlier, learning French was more of a hobby; something people used to do to learn more about French culture and the country. But now, the learning is more for an academic purpose. With the setting in of the recession, more people are interested in learning French to improve their career and add a useful skill. As a result, we have seen a 30 per cent  increase in the number of students enrolling this year.”

In this age of globalisation, where boundaries between different countries are fast vanishing, this makes sense.

Dr Evelin Hust, Director of Goethe Institut, Max Muller Bhavan, Bangalore (MMB), the German cultural centre confirms this, “People have slowly started realising the utility of German as a foreign language.”

Europe has always attracted Indian students wanting to pursue higher studies abroad. Once you know the language, studying in Germany can be comparatively economical, says Evelin. And if you’re trying to decide which university to select, these centres are once again there to help you out. At the Max Muller Bhavan, the German Academic Exchange Service counsels students on the choice of universities and gives them the necessary guidance.

“The British Library facilitates a lot of cultural and scientific exchange between the UK and India.” Pic credit: British library.

To help prospective students interact better with these universities, the Alliance Francaise recently organised the South India Admissions Tour on October 30th and 31st. Says Vidya Suresh, Education Advisor at the Alliance, “Generally, when students apply to universities abroad, they apply online. But through this tour, both the interviewers or the universities and the students got to meet each other face to face”.

MMB selected around 17 universities to come  and interview the students for courses such as Management, Film Studies, and Hotel Management and so on. And for those who want to study in France, there is also the Intensive French Course which will be started soon at the Alliance. “It is a seven month course and we are the first Alliance in India to start this course.  It will be a 400 hour course and would give students an intermediate level of knowledge in French.  But it will also be a comprehensive course. It will give students Linguistic and intercultural training and methodology”, adds Vidya. This course is meant for students interested in learning in French. In France, there are universities which teach in English and those which teach in French. Subjects like Neurosciences, IT and International Relations are taught in French.

Dr Evelin Hust, Director of Max Muller Bhavan says, “You can learn and understand all the nuances of a language only when you understand the culture as well. Both are interdependent and related.” Pic credit: Max Muller Bhavan.

There are not just students at these centres. You will find professionals from the corporate world spending a few hours every week-end trying to master the nuances of French or German so that they can interact better with their foreign counterparts.  To help such professionals excel, Alliance Francaise has specially designed corporate training programs. The Alliance boasts of having conducted Business French and cultural sensitivity courses for organisations such as Cap Gemini, Cognizant, Honeywell, HSBC, Wipro and Schneider.


The cultural activities of these institutes cater to local interest as well. The Alliance Francaise hence conducts spoken Kannada classes in association with the Kannada Prasara Parishad to help those who are new to Bangalore. Says Malcor, the Director, “I joined these classes too, to understand the basics and to help myself in the market, while travelling and so on.”

Goethe Institut’s Dr. Evelin Hust, Director of Max Muller Bhavan says, “You can learn and understand all the nuances of a language only when you understand the culture as well. Both are interdependent and related.” That is why these centres are not just academically oriented but also host a variety of cultural events throughout the year. The Max Muller has collaborated with Ranga Shankara in Bangalore to produce children’s theatre. Says Evelin, “We found very few activities or entertainment for children. This resulted in the collaboration with Ranga Shankara.” This has resulted in the annual AHA! Festival showcasing contemporary German children’s theatre productions.

Goethe Institut has initiated the Bangalore City Project, and work with citizens, on projects related to art and culture. During the recent celebrations of World Heritage Day 2009, they helped organise a number of events such as the heritage hunt, photo exhibitions, heritage Quiz and so on.

For music enthusiasts, the Fete de la Musique at the Alliance Francaise is a ‘must visit’ every year. Both Indian and French bands perform every year to the delight of music lovers. “The Fete de la Musique was started 20 years back”, says Malcor. “The French Cultural Minister had started it back then and it has continued ever since.”

Audience at a Goethe Institut event. Pic courtesy: Max Muller Bhavan.

When it comes to cultural cooperation between different countries, the British Library has played a major role for the last 49 years in Bangalore. Charu Sapra, Manager of British Library says, “The British Library facilitates a lot of cultural and scientific exchange between the UK and India. The London book Fair which took place recently had the theme of India. As a part of this, we took a few Indian authors to London; such as Girish Karnad, Anita Nair, Nandan Nilekani and so on. UK gives prime importance to Climate Change and as a result, we have a lot of projects such as the ‘Low Carbon Futures’ where we try to create awareness and work with policy makers.”

For years, these institutes have continued to add to the cultural flavour of Bangalore.  They ensure that we get a taste of cultural developments in different parts of the world. Evelin of Max Muller says, “Culture is the creative force that moulds society, serves as a binding element for its members and also defines the nature and direction of society. Yet, it is nothing fixed and eternally stable but changing over time – as societies change over time.” True to this, these institutes keep coming up with constant innovations and activities.

In December this year, the Alliance Francaise will get busy with organising the mega festival, ‘Bonjour India’ which was flagged off on the French National Day. As a part of this 10 city-event, French musicians, performers, researchers and entrepreneurs will interact with their Indian counterparts. Meanwhile, Max Muller will kick off their 50 year celebrations in November with a Jazz Concert and a host of other events. Also lined up at Max Muller are the 20 year celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  As for Children’s day on November 14, the British Library is planning an array of events for parents and children.

When you enter the Alliance Francaise, one of the first things that catch your eye is a saying in French: “Une langue est une fenetre ouverte sur un univers”. (A language is an open window to a universe). Looking at these institutes, one realises that this is exactly what they are doing: opening our senses to the world around us.  

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