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I’ll be writing two posts about my time learning French in France. Maybe even three. So I’ll keep this first one short. MAINLY because I am also going to attempt to translate it into French to show you that I didn’t just learn to speak French, I also learnt how to write it. Yeah, that’s happening. All you native French speakers can get ready for a good laugh 😛 Anyway, here we go. This is how I ended up learning French in France.
French has ALWAYS been a part of my life. My mother lived in Paris for a year and fell in love with the language. So, as children, myself and my sister were exposed to French pretty continuously. She was obsessed with the idea that we learn to speak French. We had stickers on all of our furniture stating the French word for each piece. To this day I will never ever forget the word armoire (wardrobe). I’ve been attending Alliance Français in one form or another since I was a child in primary school and I did three French exchanges in secondary school.
Whenever we went to Paris my mother would insist we spoke in French to anyone we met. I studied French during the leaving cert for fun, as a break from studying “hard” subjects like Chemistry & Accounting. To say I was a French nerd is probably an understatement. I was only short of being born with a baguette and bottle of wine.
Despite all this, I kind of gave it up after school. That’s nearly 10 years ago (YEP, I know I only look 20, but I am, in fact, 26. I can almost hear your gasps of shock!). Sure, I still read books in French when I can find them, or magazines, but I don’t SPEAK it. I lost my confidence. I was too embarrassed to respond to even the simplest of questions, for fear I might make an error.
I’d gone from being considered bi-lingual to barely having the confidence to ask for a bottle of water. It was only while I was travelling this year, after meeting some wonderful French/ French-Canadian people that I realised that I really didn’t want to waste my knowledge of this gorgeous language. I needed to refresh my knowledge and regain my confidence. I needed to go to France. After all, what better way to improve than learning French in France??
So, I set about finding a school where I could learn to speak French. The search was somewhat overwhelming. But after looking at a lot of sites and reading A LOT of TripAdvisor reviews I came to a conclusion, it had to be Coeur de France, Sancerre. The school looked like a mini castle set high on a hill in the Loire Valley, and well, you can’t really argue with TripAdvisor reviews (view them here). I also liked the fact that it was run by a couple, it wasn’t a big company. It seemed more personal. So let me tell you a little bit about learning French in France with Coeur de France.
En Français (Don’t laugh TOO much)
Je vais écrire deux messages blog sur le temps que j’ai passé en France . Peut-être trois. Donc, le premier sera de courte durée. Principalement, parce que je vais le traduire de démontrer mes nouvelles compétences linguistiques. Tous les francophones natifs allez rire. Alors, Allons y. Voici comment j’appris le français en France….
Français toujours faisait partie de ma vie. Quand elle était plus jeune, ma mère a habitée à Paris pendant un an . Donc, pour la plupart de nos vies, ma soeur et moi étions exposés au français. Nous avions des autocollants sur tous les meubles. Je ne peux jamais oublier le mot “armoire”. J’assistais à l’alliance française depuis des années et je faisais trois échanges de France.
Quand nous allions a Paris, ma mère insistait pour que nous parlions en français. Pendant le bac, j‘ai étudiée le français chaque jour. J’étais un “nerd” du français . Malgré tout, je l’ai abandonnée après l’école. Il y a près de 10 ans. Je lis encore des livres ou des magazines en français quand je peux les trouver. MAIS je ne parle pas en français. Je n’ai pas beaucoup de confidence. J’ai peur de parler en français au cas où je me trompe.
Quand j’etais jeune, On me considérait comme bi lingue, mais pas maintenant. Il était quand je voyageais que je réalisai que je voulais réapprendre cette belle langue, Français. Donc, je devais rafraîchir mes connaissances. Je devais aller à la France. Quelle meilleure façon d’apprendre le français?!
Ainsi, je essayais de trouver une école. La recherche était écrasante. Mais après avoir regardé beaucoup de sites Web , je trouvais Coeur de France, Sancerre. L‘école ressemblait à un petit château sur une colline dans la vallée de la loire. De plus, il avait beaucoup de bonnes critiques sur TripAdvisor. Il est géré par un couple, pas une grande entreprise. C’est plus personnelle. Maintenant , laissez-moi vous dire un peu plus sur l’apprentissage du français en France avec Coeur de France.
*If you didn’t understand, that’s fine, you probably will after a course at Coeur de France.
**OK, so that’s enough French for now or else it would literally take me days to finish these blog posts, plus that word count is going up and UP. Don’t want anyone falling asleep mid post!**
About Coeur de France (Back to English!)
The school was founded in 1996 by Marianne and Gérard Chartrand. That makes it 19 years old! So if you’re thinking of going, next year would be pretty cool as they’ll be celebrating the school’s 20th anniversary. Marianne says it will only be a small celebration, but she did promise “beaucoup de champagne”, lots of champagne. Marianne teaches and Gérard is “l’homme derrière l’ordinatuer”, the man behind the computer. Gérard also takes students on wine tasting tours (yep, wine features heavily at Coeur de France) and aerial tours of the Loire Valley castles.
The school is open all year round apart from a couple of weeks at Christmas. Marianne and Gérard have a team of 8 fully qualified teachers. They all help their students to learn to speak French and discover the French culture through personalised instruction. The busiest time of year is during the Summer, from May to August, where they can have up to 45 students (MAXIMUM) at the school per week. However, on average it’s between 20 – 30 students per week with most students staying between 2 & 4 weeks.
Students come from all over the world. During my one week stay there were people from France, Canada, America, Australia and Ireland (of course). While I was there I met a couple that was returning to the school for their second year. The school has a 25% return rate which is INCREDIBLY impressive considering the average return rate for a language school in France is around 8%. I think that figure particularly demonstrates how much the students of Coeur de France enjoy their time at the school learning French in France.
How do I get there??
From Paris it is very easy to get to Coeur de France. Marianne and Gérard recommend that you take the 5909 train from Paris Bercy to Cosne sur Loire. It takes nearly 2hrs by train. Tickets vary in price depending on how far in advance you book them. I payed 17euro for my ticket to Cosne sur Loire for a first class ticket (yep, I’m such a baller). However, I did book that months in advance. The return trip I booked a few days before leaving and that cost 40 euro for first class (it’s just so much nicer and really didn’t cost that much). Once you arrive at the train station in Cosne sur Loire the school can organise a taxi to pick you up (which is what I did). This cost was about 36euro between 4 of us.
You can, of course, rent a car and drive to Sancerre directly which is a good idea if you’re going to be there for a couple of weeks and might want to go on excursions at the weekend. You can find all the info you need on the highly comprehensive Coeur de France site.
In the next instalments of “Learning French in France”, I’ll give you all the details about accommodation, classes, tours, the town of Sancerre and how you can learn to speak french with Coeur de France in general. I’ll even let you see my French HOMEWORK!
A bientôt! Gros bisous!!