The Durban International Convention Centre is the proud host venue for the 13th World Conference of the International Federation of French Teachers this week. The conference which is organised every four years is historic as it is the first to be held in the southern hemisphere and in Africa. The conference programme is therefore specially geared to the needs of organisations in these regions.

The conference has attracted just over 700 international delegates which includes French researchers, teachers, professionals in the fields of language policy, language planning, publishing, media and representatives of the institutional and political world involved in the promotion and development of French.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Durban ICC, Julie-May Ellingson said French is a global language spoken by millions of people across Africa and the world and we are honoured to be the hosts of this important gathering. This is the first time the event has been held in Africa and we have made every effort to make our French speaking guests feel at home. Our public signage is in French, our staff have been given basic French lessons and we have even gone so far as to source French music to be played in the public concourse areas.

The conference is an opportunity for a variety of people dedicated to the French language to network and exchange ideas. It is also a scientific conference which showcases the latest developments in all fields involving the teaching and promotion of the French language throughout the world. The conference draws the worlds leading specialists and enables participants to pool their resources in a spirit of friendship as they work towards a common goal.

Comments from the delegates at the conference have been enthusiastic about their experiences at the Durban ICC and the city of Durban. Telma Pereira from Brazil commented, all is great at the ICC including the food, the venue, staff, and service. Given an opportunity I will return with my family for a vacation. Mrs Khadija Elbourkadi from Morocco commented, everything is perfect, but I would like bigger puddings the pudding are delicious.

Coinciding with the conference the French presence can be felt in the city of Durban with hundreds of French teachers meeting at the conference centre, and French musicians, visual artists, poets, dance productions and films visiting the city. They form part of the French Season in South Africa, the first leg of a two-way inter-country exchange, known as the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013. The French Seasons are an initiative conceived and facilitated by the governments of the two countries to give the people of France and South Africa an opportunity to understand each other better through cultural, scientific, sport, education and business engagement. The French Season in South Africa runs from June to November 2012 and the South African Season in France will take place in the second half of 2013.

During the French Season in Durban some 20 projects have been arranged, including amongst others:

Fte de la Musique, music by French composers played by the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra

A book launch and exhibition by the famous French illustrator Jacques de Loustal

The Durban International Film Festival, 19-29 July, the festival featured a strong French focus this year.

The second French Film Festival in South Africa, 23-26 August