[Interview Highlights] Arthur Brunel, empowering students in Tokyo

Today’s article is special. You will notice that the interviewee is not a craftsman, but a teacher. Why is that? What do they have in common? The answer is: both of Arthur and the craftspeople base their practice on know-how (*).
First, my brain goes fast and searches for examples and counterexamples. I try to think of what cannot be learnt, what human beings are born with. Breathing is natural, innate – at least, that is what I believe instinctively. But Arthur has a different point of view. “It is very difficult to define the notion of know-how, however, I can give you a few examples. It is anything that can be acquired. Breathing is a know-how, because you can learn how to hold your respiration for a long time. Your heart beating is a know-how, because you can control the rhythm of your heart beats – with a training – and slower it so much that you get close to clinical death.”

Knowledge or know-how ?

Using History as a discipline, Arthur explains: « A historian who studies events across times and puts them in perspective and draws conclusions out of it – this is a know-how. Someone who can read documents – that’s a know-how. But remembering that Napoleon was crowned as Emperor in this or that year – that’s knowledge”.

(At least) two ingredients go along with « know-how », as Arthur mentions. “Know-how cannot be acquired without experience – that is just impossible!”. Plus, at Comme Les Français, making mistakes is truly considered part of the learning process.

In the educator’s shoes  

« When I start a class, I have no expectations. I offer activities for the students and these activities are designed so that they can trigger a realization in their mind.”

Moreover, celebrating each student’s uniqueness is of paramount importance. “I remain aware that in my class, there might be five people and they make up five different entities and there is no point trying to harmonize their levels”. Plus, these students change over time “It is important to regard students as different from last week”.

Competition is not on the agenda here. Arthur and the other educators pay the highest respect to each student’s learning pace. « In a football game, for instance, competition arises because there is only one trophy ». What is realistic and acceptable, as far as Arthur is concerned, is when students « compete with themselves ».

« Handing knowledge over is useless. We value know-how building. As educators, our role is to create a situation in which students will get the opportunity of creating know-how. Generating a new know-how can be done, not through explanation, but through experience.” That is why experience is of paramount importance.  At Comme Les Français, the educator’s role can be summed up as follow: « we are facilitators of learning. We catalyse student’s realisations. That’s our goal”.

Empowering students is at the heart of educational ethics. Responsibility is a notion that Arthur calls upon to several times during our conversation.

Towards autonomy

Students are being given feedbacks – not answers!  – and « they are free to take them into account or not. It’s their responsibility”.

Overall, students gain the opportunity of « changing their time into experience”, as well as developing know-hows and sensitivity that goes way beyond merely learning a foreign language. I had the feeling students were given tools for self-development and daily life. “Our work is to develop some attributes, such as wisdom, sense of truth, harmony, etc. – in the classroom.

Empowerment is the key because “what does it mean to speak a language? It means taking the world over, because one can speak with more and more people”. It feels like Comme Les Français helps students conquering the world – if the latter want to!

Isn’t it magic ?

Did I mention the name of the method that inspired Comme Les Français’ team ? It is called The Silent Way… Do you realize what it implies?  « I don’t talk during the classes! It means an Arab student, a Chinese student and a Japanese student can gather and have a class together. I don’t talk, I don’t explain – what I do is enable students’ realization”.

(*) Comme Les Français’s spirit is inspired by an Egyptian philosopher called Caleb Gattegno, who developed a method based on know-how to teach various subjects such as French or mathematics.


Many thanks, Arthur! 

Comme Les Français
コム・レ・フランセ 東京銀座フランス語会話学校 教室
TEL : 03-6264-0050