Je Ne Regrette Rien
For many years, I started (and usually quit) the French language programs into which I was enrolled. The result: thousands of dollars and time wasted without progressing on my “French journey”. If I am honest, it was not the schools fault, as they were, broadly speaking, all using the same methods that worked for people who were great at languages. Just not me. I realized that for my journey to progress, something had to change. Generic group sessions were no longer the answer. My language journey, if it was to progress, I reasoned, was dependent upon finding a program that was customized to me. As I have mentioned previously, I have a traditional language foundation. And to be honest, I am glad I have it. Conjugation, sentence structure, etc. all provided me with a base upon which my French comprehension improved. But the time had come for a change!
It Takes Two
My first attempt to change was with a private tutor. Admittedly, this was expensive but if I experienced progress then I would know that I had found the answer. So, we met weekly for one hour. Talking French, sometimes English and reviewing the workbook exercises was the session. While the sessions were private, they were eerily reminiscent of my group lessons, with the same books and homework. My progress (or lack of progress) was also impacted by the fact that on occasion, my teacher arrived at my home after having enjoyed a few glasses of wine with his prior student. You guessed it, those sessions were not very productive!
At this point I truly was beginning to accept the possibility that either:
1. Communicating in French was beyond this (Ed: intelligent & successful) business woman’s capabilities.
2. French lessons just didn’t exist for adults like me that don’t want to spend all day in a classroom discussing climate change (in any language) or “Ou est Charlie?”
If I am honest, I was at a dead-end with my language journey and gave up ever improving my French. Fortunately, a serendipitous chain of events occurred which eventually helped me achieve my dream of speaking French and even getting a French holiday home. (More about that in another blog!)
I Get Around
In 2018 I planned a Fall road trip to France with a friend but they got a new job and no holiday. (Yay! Boo!) So I went looking for something new and after lots of Googling, I found an immersion school in the French countryside. Perfect, I thought: two weeks living in a small town without distractions, practicing my French with the locals and visiting the area.
What could go wrong?
As it turned out, the “immersion” just meant daily three hour French classes with the rest of the time doing home-work and visiting the local area with other (English speaking) students.
While the four students in my class were at approximately the same level, the conversation was dominated by one of the students and current events seemed to be a popular topic, especially politics.
As you may or may not know, the French love to discuss politics! Given the fact that the US had recently undergone a contentious national election, this became a popular topic for our class. One teacher tried to equalize the situation, but we only had him for a couple of lessons so, coupled with my inherent shyness about speaking French, I did not speak nearly enough French in class. Undeterred, I found a wonderful café owner who would let me practice daily with her whilst I enjoyed lovely croissants for breakfast or delicious confit de canard (crispy duck!) for lunch.
What did I learn from this latest experience?
- I was learning more relevant French outside of the classroom than inside.
- By communicating with French people (and making errors bien sûr) my confidence was improving.
- That others on the same immersion, like Carl Adkins (founder of XPF), were also having the same difficulty with traditional, classroom based French schools.
Here’s a few things that XPF gave me:
- Private lessons with a bi-lingual coach.
- Customized lessons on subjects of interest to me.
- Control of the session pace; stop, slow down or go off on tangents during a session.
- Customized audio & video materials at my disposal.
- Online & in person sessions.
- Immersion activities that were personalized for my skewed level of intermediate vocabulary with basic speaking skills. (My brother is enjoying the XPF program and he is a complete beginner!)
- Clear improvement in confidence & speaking French resulted in locals not automatically switching to English with me.
I'm on Fire
This last point was utterly amazing to me. Finally; I was working towards my goal and seeing progress - it had taken years but I had finally found my “French voice”. The moral of this blog is that even when you hit dead-ends or you make mistakes then you can still learn from them. Mine helped me find the answer with XPF and the realisation of a dream to speak French so I have no regrets. Non, rien de rien. Non, je ne regrette rien.