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Fast-tracking French

Alison Gentleman

42-year old Alison Gentleman manages an international team for Wateraid, a charity that improves access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Two of her team are French speakers from West Africa. Wanting to be able to communicate with colleagues is the main reason she signed up with NEC for French A level. With a busy career, Alison knew that distance learning was the only way she would be able to fit studying around often irregular work hours, studying whenever she had a spare hour. She chose NEC because it offered the course she wanted at the most competitive price, and was also efficient in responding to her queries before she enrolled.

By choosing NEC’s fast track service, Alison was able to fit a two-year course into nine months. Because she needed to work through the course quickly, her tutor marked her assignments every two weeks, sending detailed feedback on her work. Alison took her A level French oral exams at NEC in Cambridge and the written exams at Saint George’s School in Gravesend, one of NEC’s partner exam centres.

As well as studying for work, Alison had a more personal reason for studying French: she loves the process of learning languages and went to night classes in her 20s to study Spanish GCSE and A level. She still remembers the buzz she got the day she realised she could understand and speak Spanish with relative ease. In fact, she sees herself as a bit of an eternal student. In her 30s, she enrolled at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, and did a BSc in Psychology, having studied for a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts when she left school.

Alison says: ‘I’ve been fortunate because people at work know all about my French A level and have actively supported me. You have to keep on practising with languages, otherwise you lose them. Fortunately, there are plenty of French speakers at work and I make a point of listening to French radio on my way to work. I may need something more structured to continue learning grammar, so I’m thinking about whether to sign up with the Open University. When you learn a language, it’s like unlocking the door to a whole new culture and mindset. I love that.’