Outlook

Target Markets

Several target groups or sub-groups with similar characteristics are given below. Note that such information remains empirical; no market research was done, nor a survey of current participants (not realistic for now with a too small sample). None was performed in 2018-2019.

In the framework of this experimental program, one must consider three main goals:

  1. Practice spoken French, regardless of the initial familiarity with the language
  2. Improve one’s practice of spoken French, thanks to group interactions (other participants
    at comparable levels) and to the recording of each person used for feedback
  3. Broaden one’s awareness of the French culture, not limited to France as a country by itself

Program Start (Spring 2019):

  1. Students at Evergreen State College (prior/current French students) as well as others with various majors and
  2. Slightly older community members with childhood to young adult French speech practice. In some cases, those may have not always received formal language training at younger age; such individuals might have parents with itinerant jobs in places, where French was one spoken or familiar tongue


Both subgroups wish to practice how to speak fluidly, how to grasp the contemporary side of
the language, and find better ways to communicate with natives or fully bi-lingual persons.

Those wishes point to other potential market segments:

  1. West Europe-bound travelers (need for basic tools and may want more)
  2. Visitors to smaller French speaking territories outside of Europe (Caribbean, Tahiti etc..)
  3. Visitors or seasonal job seekers to smaller French speaking settings: a) Club Med resorts; b) Language-focused workshops (travel clubs, adult schools, community colleges and universities) and c) Immersion centers in Canadian provinces or West African countries

First Year (12 Months Later):

Other niches were identified in the first year, as given below. In South Sound, such “sub groups” are very small in size (in part due to the isolated geography and fairly small population base).  Such niches include :

College students, desiring to work or study in France and needing to demonstrate a good understanding (how to express themselves, listen and respond to others, how to retain new material gained verbally) – thus demonstrating readiness for such opportunities and aptitude to gain greater fluency via “on the ground” immersion.

Mostly young adults to seniors with prior involvement with Alliances Françaises (language + cultural venues + book or movie clubs, small group trips offering partial immersions).

Challenges in reaching out to existing markets (expected growth) or new markets (may need different outreach and custom tools) – What is making it difficult for a new person to decide to sign up and come on board?

Examples of potential obstacles are identified below:

  1. Not eager to try unfamiliar approach and working with other people, potentially lacking much in common to work as a team
  2. Lack motivation for taking the initial placement test (prerequisite)
  3. Fear of not being good enough to grasp the interaction with others
  4. Worry about “working in opposite directions” since new program steps apart from the more traditional French class, i.e. “safe haven”
  5. Frustrated that this approach is not recognized in colleges or universities; beyond no credits, it lacks recognition on job market
  6. Prefer “ready to go” apps over more self-initiated approaches to read & interpret written media & deal with substance (without the risk of spoon feeding)
  7. Lack self confidence for improvising or speaking in front of others or fear of awkward situation

Target Market

Already Tapped Into

Not Yet Tapped Into

TESC Students

+

 

Other College Students Planning to Work or Study in France

 

*

Community Members

+

 

People w/ Prior Alliances Francaises Experience

+

 

Travelers: West Europe

 

*

Travelers: Non-European French Speaking territories

 

*

Club Med Resorts

 

*

Language-focused workshops

 

*

Immersion Centers in Canada or West Africa

 

*

South Sound Retirees

 

*

LEGEND

+ Markets are currently participating; growth in such markets is desired in near-term

* Prospective markets have not participated; their involvement is seen in the next 5 years, in part with the launching of the new website in summer 2020

Near-Term STATUS

Introduction

OLY Parle began with basic near-term objectives, relying upon a small library of French adult and children’s books, secured from French bookstores, used book stores and monthly subscription to French magazines as well as English publications about France.  Also present have been samples of postcards (tourism, art et advertising) and commemoratives from the French post office. 

The acceptance has mostly been based on the college community response, i.e. Evergreen, and other. Also the ability to offer small sessions tailored to individual proficiency levels has drawn other participants.  

Those variables will be impacted by the summer 2020 launch of the new Web site.  But it is too early to assess timing or magnitude of potential changes.

Social Media to date

In the first year for the outreach (except for the Evergreen job and internship posting), no social media tools were used.  Some tools were used for translation and showing the unique accents.

Translate: One application for some members has been the use of an e translator from English to French and vice versa (example: google.com/search) .  For the most part, such a tool is time-efficient and relatively accurate.  Yet, when faced with too many options to translate a single English word, it becomes risky to rely on automation.  

A companion software (Linguee.fr for English to French) has a built in dictionary with select phrases; such a tool is better adapted to an academic setting, since it becomes even more detailed than the traditional bi-lingual dictionary.  The knowledge of the language prevails especially coming from a French native or a person with extensive immersion stays overseas or a special setting.  

Accents: A special tool (French.typeit.org) allows the users to add accents fairly quickly onto a text logged on with an English keyboard; still the software does not recognize any French word, so users must know which characters need an accent and which one to insert.

Mid-Term Plan-OLY Parle

The outlook toward potential changes to the OLY Parle program suggests four different action items.

a) Size: How to increase the participation at OLY Parle sessions?  Growth could be partly the consequence of the pending new Web site.  It might also stem from outreach to new target markets (such as seniors or travelers).  In line with the college calendar at Evergreen, there are more inquiries at the start of each quarter.  Having other members on board could help to stabilize demand.

b) Operations: How to cater to more participants and keep the current space arrangements with two downtown bookstores? Having such cost-effective agreements makes it possible to offer one weekly session at each site.  Expanding the demand by 25% would remain viable at one site; but trying to hold 3 sessions a week at current sites (one being in transition until summer 2020) might create space conflicts with other activities, held in same community meeting rooms.  

A related factor, if extra sessions are required (if more people enrolled and we wished to keep the size of each group manageable) is to expand the volunteer base. This means staffing by up to 2 volunteers willing to take on such part-time tasks. It would warrant training and coaching.

c) Online: This adopted style of communication rapidly changed with the COVID 19 confinement.  In lieu of holding in person sessions, the ZOOM “conference” call mode was used from March 2020 and on.  In the early phase, very few used the video component or the majority the audio only component (cell phone).  By summer time, all used the video mode and several new tools were developed to enhance the learning value of ZOOM.  As of summer 2021, the same remote ZOOM audio-visual method is still used by all participants.  The ZOOM approach and how it compares to the in person approach is found on the Learn Page under Method (https://olyparle.com/commitment/method/) 

Can we as a volunteer organization develop and update the e-library? This would be a gradual change, based on the availability of e-resources. With bi-lingual sources, one must take into account the publishing rights of contemporary authors and current news media writers or illustrators.

The rules for international consumers differ among the two countries (Amazon-USA and Amazon-France).  In spite of such constraints, one might also offer visual images, audio or video elements to supplement the print tools and gradually build an expanded on line library.

d) Space and Technology:  Should we consider a new, permanent space to house the sessions (more participants enrolled) and other related French educational or cultural events (public at large)?  Market for the latter is not well known.  While on line communication options have become very common, for this speech based program, face to face exchanges remain paramount.   Besides speaking and listening (both can be done on line), the watching, observing and interpreting the non verbal elements is key to understanding in the moment.  In contrast spontaneity is diminished on line.  Some participants prefer direct face-to-face communication for the language understanding and the interactive practice of correct pronunciationYet, one advantage of the ZOOM method is there is no need for a larger or a permanent space.   

Influx of subsidies (public or private) could expand the range of possibilities. Such funds would be used to enhance technology in the virtual setting. Another area, where financial backing would create new opportunities, could be the tailoring of breakout rooms to both bi-lingual and mono-lingual exchanges.  More training or on -line coaching would facilitate gradually moving into such new direction for the long-term (2022-2025).