So, I'm sitting down to write about how a French immersion course in France might be your perfect holiday gift, when I'm alerted that France magazine mentions such a course offered in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I attended that course the September before last! Incredible, n'est-ce pas? This course is offered at L'Institut de Français, situated about a half-hour taxi ride east from the Nice airport, in Villefranche-sur-Mer. The school occupies an attractive villa, with a walled, terraced garden in which one can stand under a bougainvillea-draped arbor and look out over the shimmering Mediterranean sea and the green, terra-cotta-roofs dotted Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Quite a beautiful, historic surrounding. But the French immersion school experience comes down to adapting to one's new environment and learning to converse in French. And that's where one can feel underwater at times.
One wouldn't think immediately about how the differences in energy policy between the US and France would affect one's stay, but a common subject of conversation (en Français, of course) was how uncomfortably hot our apartments were. No air-conditioning in most of them. Worse, because of theft concerns, we were encouraged to keep our window-encompassing metal shutters closed while sleeping. It was each of us and our little oscillating fan. Energy costs are high in France; the resulting discomfort was an adjustment.
The month-long, 5-day week classes were challenging and effective. Progress was made, even though we cheated at times, especially in the evenings, when we gathered for an apéritif or dinner and spoke English together. According to an Australian friend there, who has several years of experience with French immersion courses, one progresses faster if one doesn't indulge in that way! To that end she plans next to attend a two-week, relatively small (20 or so students), live-in language school in the Dordogne, where one is expected to speak French day and evening. She also said her favorite French immersion course so far is CREA-Langues, a valuable recommendation, I thought. We all agreed, however, that the very best part of our time at L'Institut de Français was meeting each other. A cliché, I know, but we did get along swimmingly.
Contributed by Ellen VanderMey
Alliance Française de Grand Rapids - Exploring the Many Facets of France.