Well I've completed my first week of classes! I already feel like I've learned so much—how about that immersion eh? It's no joke.
There were 19 students at Coeur de France, and just four others in my class (though three of them left this weekend, so there will be only two of us next week!) We have class from 9-1, and then there are optional afternoon or evening activities every day of the school week, as well as optional pronunciation lessons before classes start some days. There's so much that I've wanted to write about, especially when everything is still so new, that I fear I've just put off writing about anything entirely. But, no time like the present.
So, the school was opened in 1996 by Marianne and Gerard, who are married. Gerard grew up in the US (and spent some time in Boston!) and Marianne is from Sancerre. They are both wonderfully kind. In fact, everyone at the school is incredibly kind and supportive (none of the sterotypically terrifying French teacher stuff here) and has more patience than seems possible. And that extends to the town of Sancerre as well—everyone I've talked to in the shops and restaurants has been very patient and supportive of my stumbling words. Although, I guess after 18 years of the school, they are probably used to it.
This past week I was in Beginner 2, with Marianne as my instructor. Beginner 2 means that we're learning to converse with very simple sentences using the present and past tenses, as well as a lot of pointing and looking at Marianne desperately hoping she will tell us how to correctly say things like "it's really sunny out today!" The class is almost exclusively conversation-based, though we do some listening comprehension exercises, and some written exercises. This is, of course, the most useful way if one wants to learn to actually converse in French, but it is also definitely the hardest. Part of me longs for more rote-exercises—I excel at those, and the simplicity of right or wrong can be comforting when so few things are like that as one gets older. But no, instead we spend most of the class talking in extremely halting and broken French.
Marianne is a very talented teacher. Even though she only speaks French in class, she speaks clearly, slowly, and with the grammatical formats that we (should) recognize. She also is excellent at pinpointing our misunderstanding and deciphering what we're trying to say. I do wonder if in the evenings she goes home and speaks quickly and with complex vocabulary and sentence structure, because all morning she has been correcting adults that struggle to say they went to the store to buy eggs. But if she ever gets exasperated, she doesn't show it. She seems to take real joy in teaching us, which is wonderful (for everyone.)
My class this past week had such good chemistry, everyone was kind and patient and understanding, no one butts in when anyone else is speaking even though it's much easier to know what to say when you're not in the spotlight. And everyone here really wants to learn, which is pretty cool and unlike, say, the language classes of high school. But three of the others (who had been here for 2 and 3 weeks) left this weekend, so it will just be me and H., a Bulgarian man who is a gastronome and wine expert and a lot of fun.
Of course, I was hoping that somehow through immersion after a week I would be magically chattering away with shopkeepers and bakers about the differences between all their pastries, but alas—I'm not quite there yet. I'll be writing more on the actual process of learning a language later.