Studying French 6 Hours a Day

Today marks Day 1 of my most intensive two weeks of language classes — mornings and afternoons and daily IMG_0331homework. Wish me luck; I’ll need it.

Our superb language school, IS-Aix, seemed to stumble a bit in its week-to-week handoff. The teachers assigned no homework, so I watched a lot of television in French (hey, I’m a geek), reviewed the 400+ vocabulary words I put on Quizlet last week, and read through all my notes and handouts on the subjunctive, which, along with some of the complex prepositional phrases, remain something of a mystery to me.

Still, I’m trying. I’m excited to meet two new teachers and a largely new class this week. David, the Irish philosopher and retired engineer in my group, has finished his classes. Two other students have opted for private lessons. The only other student continuing in my group is Luciano, a Brazilian-born, Milan-trained engineer whose work now centers on importing gourmet foods. (The backgrounds of many of our fellow students are fascinating.)

I’m not sure how IS juggles all the comings and goings at the school every two weeks, when one crowd of students leaves and another arrives. We will find out.

It rained, hard, all weekend here in the sunny South, but that made it easier to hunker down, take afternoon naps (I’m an old geek), and read a bit.  We ventured out in the rain last night to watch a screening of the Bolshoi Ballet, sent to theatres around the world.  We were accompanied by my Australian bridge partner, Sarah, with whom I can’t wait to get back to the tables (besides, at Aix’s bridge club, I feel like a young geek, given the average age).


I suspect the next two weeks will either kill me or force me to improve. As the French like to say: Courage.  I think I might need a bit more skill, too. My new classmates include an Australia who (gulp) teaches French, a Swiss veterinarian who studied it for six years in school, and an already bi-lingual Canadian-Guatemalan braille teacher whose French is really good.

How does one say in French, “Where can I hide below the radar?”

6 Replies to “Studying French 6 Hours a Day

  1. We are friends of Ellen and Frank Taylor. Ellen put us on to your website and travel blog. We met while living in the Pays de Gex while Frank and my husband, J., worked at CERN. We have traveled extensively in France and look forward to following your experiences. This Sept. we will spend two weeks in the Luberon – one week in Aix for a meeting for J. , and another with 4 other couples in a restored 1700’s farmhouse in Goult. It’s called Le Touron should you wish to look at their Facebook page. We will look forward to your various recommendations for this area.

    Bonnes aventures!

    1. Hi Patricia,
      Lovely to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to write to me directly with questions before your trip. We’ll begin venturing into the small villages of Provence in about three weeks. Right now, while students at IS-Aix, we’ll go on the more conventional (but still lovely) bus trips to more touristy places from Avignon to Marseille, Gordes to Cassis. Our landlady has a nice list of local restaurants, the first of which, Le Bistroquet, was lovely. We’ll work ourselves through that as well. I’ll also be poking around in the area vineyards and farms that sell directly to customers. And sometimes we’ll just follow small roads to see where they lead.

  2. Hi, i am using your articles to improve my daughter’s Chinese. (Your 12tips on huffington post got us started) (N.B. We started learning French as beginners 10 years ago and now she is in the best senior high school in paris but forgetting her Chinese, while i am still learning my french). You and your wife are obviously enjoying the best of France. We really like your stories:)

    1. Hi Angela, Thanks for your note and your kind words. Your daughter sounds like a
      talented linguist so I’m sure her Chinese will return quickly. A question for you:
      We’re heading to Paris later in our trip. Can you recommend
      any good neighborhood restaurants? Not haute cuisine, just good cooking. Thanks.

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