Language schools are notoriously difficult to choose. Does one want an intensive learning experience, an experience which offers a range of opportunities to complement language with culture, a school which offers a style of teaching which suits the adult student, a school which encourages the modern vernacular of the chosen language, and immersion? When I was selecting the language school with which I would invest my time, and money, all of these considerations were paramount for me, no one more important than the other.
The Institut (photo LP 2013)
My research led me, via numerous internet bypasses, to the Institut de Français and I have been a student now in the four week immersion course for two weeks.The program is unique in its approach to language learning...writing notes is discouraged, and speaking freely without fear of mistakes is encouraged. Grammar is incorporated, rather than being the primary target of the learning experience.
I had some French language background as a result of some lessons at a community based language course and also in New Caledonia at CREIPAC. My numerous holidays in France and Switzerland had encouraged my listening abilities but I lacked confidence in speaking on any level. I obviously knew more than I thought I did as after I had spoken in an obviously intelligible fashion as I was slotted into the Intermediate 3 level after my assessment test on arrival at the Institut.
The students range in age and are from numerous countries (photo LP 2013)
From day one we were advised that there was to be no language other than French spoken on the grounds of the Institute, commencing on day two. The classes are entirely in French and somehow the wonderful teachers ensure that we have close to 100% comprehension of not only the structures but the grammar we are taught...amazing!
The day commences at 8.20 with breakfast which is an important period in which we "change" from native language speakers into French speakers. The remainder of the day is broken into compartments, which include regular classroom time, practical interactive exercises, cultural experiences and daily language laboratory sessions. Lunch is also an inclusive component of the day,comprising a three course meal and general discussion at the table guided by one of the professeurs.
The gardens at the Institut are beautiful...and tranquil (photo LP 2013)
So the outcome after two weeks? My level of confidence and my lack of fear of making mistakes...100% improvement. I make mistakes every time I open my mouth, but sometimes I correct them, sometimes my fellow students remind me,as I do them; and our teachers encourage us to learn from the mistakes rather than seeing them as negatives. Having "faults" is just part of the learning process.
As to the remainder of my improvement, that is a daily situation! If I am tired my brain seems to ambush my ability to comprehend and remember the language, its cadence and certainly its musicality.
Learning a new language as a mature student is a fascinating experience. Learning a new language at a wonderful school, in a location like Villefranche sur Mer...priceless!