It’s official! Immersion is the only way to learn French.
Apologies that I haven’t given you an update sooner, but it’s been busy here in Sancerre, with lessons, cultural activities and homework (of all things).
But we are absolutely loving it. Well, at least I am. Scott is loving bits of it – he’s never liked homework much.
We are currently enrolled in Coeur de France Ecole de Langues which sees us both studying and staying in La Thaumassière, a 16th century chateau, which was originally built by a royal physician.
The whole place is just lovely, as are the people – Marianne and Gérard the directors of the school and especially the extremely patient Valérie who lucked out when she received Scott and I as her students. Due to the school’s timetable and our travel dates, Scott and I are doing a couples course which sees just the two of us working with our ‘professeur de français’.
So, what does learning to speak French by immersion mean? Well, it means the following:
- Every word in the school environment is meant to be in French. I say meant to be, because Scott and I are still using an awful lot of English. But every response we get is in French.
- A combination of morning and afternoon classes. We are doing 17 hours of formal classes, which also include excursions where Valérie escorts us into local businesses and makes us practice on the staff. No pointing is allowed. And we have homework every night.
- Students (are meant to) speak with each other in French – regardless of whether they are experienced French students or complete beginners like us. On the morning of day one, we didn’t say much…
- All the activities are in French too. The school has a huge range of optional cultural activities on offer. They only cost a little extra, and over a week students have the opportunity to attend a Sancerre wine experience (museum, sensory garden, vineyard, cave, tasting), visit another vineyard to understand how the famous Sancerre wine is made, visit a goat cheese farm. cook up a French storm, visit the local market and see a view of the Loire Valley that only a small plane can provide – all while practicing their French language skills!
You basically have no choice but to swallow your pride and start speaking French…unless you plan to spend your time at Coeur de France pretending you are on some sort of silent retreat.
But, I’ve got to tell you, immersion works.
I can’t believe how quickly we are learning. Our pronunciation is coming on in leaps and bounds, as are our vocabularies. Today I managed to have a ‘proper conversation’ entirely in French. Ok, it was slow but it was a full conversation…not just a sentence…there were real questions and answers!!
I can’t wait to see where we get to by the end of the week.
Until next time – au revoir.