Stefanie contacted me around mid july about my French immersion program for adults in Paris. We exchanged a lot of mails since then, and so we were more than happy to meet us « for real » last month.
You have been in Paris for the first time. How did you organize your stay in Paris ?
A good question! I’ve always wanted to learn French and travel to Paris, and had studied French for a year by myself. Because I felt that I had plateaued in my studies, I felt that an immersion program would be the best thing for learning and experiencing more of the French culture and language. In fact, my friend, who lives near Paris, recommended that I study in Paris, since it would be easier to get around and see more fun and historic sites. Without my friend’s advice/suggestions, I never would have found Pascale and her website. I also wanted to talk more, and study grammar less.
After having found Pascale’s Paris immersion program, the rest was easy to plan. I really liked the idea of renting an apartment through Airbnb than staying at a hotel for two reasons: 1) I am a vegan (I don’t eat eggs, meat, fish, or dairy products), so I wanted to cook for myself, and 2) I wanted to feel like a Parisian living in Paris. I searched for about a week, and finally found an Airbnb that looked good. It was close to two subway stations, lots of restaurants and cafes, and places like the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees. This apartment was also located in a safe area of Paris, and the hostess/owner was very communicative.
Luckily, I already had a valid passport, and all I had to do was choose the dates for my trip!
You learned French alone at home, which is amazing.What are the difficulties you met ? Could you explain this choice of learning?
Learning French by myself is a real challenge, but I like it very much. I found that it’s necessary that one has a lot of patience and that one works/studies hard every day. One can’t make rapid progress overnight. It’s also necessary to have strong enough reasons for learning French, like maybe traveling to France one day, or speaking with a French friend or relative. Otherwise, it will be difficult to continue studying (any language).
My main reason for learning French was when I could finally learn a language in school, Ireally wanted to learn French (I liked the musical sound of French, and I wanted to travel to Paris one day), but my school stopped the program unfortunately. I also didn’t have a good way or opportunity for learning. So, I tried teaching myself French from books and movies, but nothing stuck, and I had no way of evaluating my progress. Last year, I finally found a language program called Duolingo, and I started to learn French right away by myself. I guess I had enough internal motivation because I have never stopped learning French since that moment.I’ve also found that French liaisons and pronunciation are hard!
Because I had studied a lot of vocabulary and grammar by myself through Duolingo (and I studied Spanish before
French, so I already knew a lot of basic grammar rules), I couldn’t practice my accent or pronunciation a whole lot. I also had no idea if a French-speaking person would understand me well, and if the French I had learned was “modern” and “everyday” enough. So, it’s definitely a good idea to find a conversation buddy / private teacher, or
read out loud to oneself to practice more, something that I finally started doing this year.
We spent 3 hours a day together for 5 days, which is my French immersion program in Paris. Do you think this is a good opportunity for speaking French and discovering Paris at the same time?
I really loved this method of learning! When I made the decision to travel to Paris, I really wanted to “experience” Paris and work more on my “everyday French.” I found that Pascale has a real passion for Paris and for teaching French. She made me feel welcome and comfortable since our first day together when we did “la bise,” and we hardly spoke any English. It was a true immersion experience! Pascale is very patient and also listens really well to the needs and whims of her students. For instance, I really, really wanted to go to Montmartre, and she made sure that we went/did it. I also really liked that I didn’t feel like a tourist at all (I felt as if a friend were showing me all that Paris has to offer), and that Pascale gave me a much more intimate knowledge of the city, for example some of her favorite places like a local café, a public garden, a small museum, a good chocolate store, etc.
I also found that we were able to do A LOT in three hours. Three hours may sound short,but is more than enough time. For example, during our first day together, we went to the Invalides area of Paris, bridge Alexandre III and the Seine, the Champs-Elysees for shopping, the Arc de Triomphe, the Royal Palace (where François Hollande lives), we
took the metro and the bus, and we have coffee at a local café. This was a typical day for us!
We visited a lot of Parisian districts according to the wishes you shared with me before your stay. Which one was the most interesting for you ? Is there an area you would like to recommend or revisit next time?
That’s a tough question! I can’t pick just one area, since each area of Paris has a very different feel to it. Let’s see…
If you love art, history, and hills, Montmartre is the perfect place for you! When I think of Paris, I always think of Montmartre. Montmartre has a certain charm to it, and is a really beautiful area. All of the markets/stores, all the people (both tourists and the French), the mix of old buildings and nature, the cobblestone roads, and the artists’ studios–I love it all! One day, I’d love to go back and have some wine at the Museum of Montmartre (they have their own vineyard) and visit more of the local artists’ studios.
I also really like the Invalides and Champs-Elysees areas. They were close to my place / Airbnb, and there were a lot of historic things to see, for example, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, bridge Alexandre III, the Ecole Militaire, the Hotel des Invalides, etc. One can also go shopping at the Champs-Elysees, walk along the Seine, and look at the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night. There were also lots of small restaurants, stores, bakeries, and cafés. These two areas seem really good for night activities.
The 1st and 3rd arrondissements were also great. There was a mixture of both historic things to do/see, and lots of small boutiques and small restaurants there. Of course, I liked the Louvre, walking along Pont Neuf, seeing Palais Royal and Notre Dame, visiting small museums like Victor Hugo’s apartments and the Carnavalet Museum, visiting
several churches, and walking along the small and old streets of Paris. I’d absolutely love to have more time next time for shopping, seeing the apartments of Napoleon III at the Louvre again, and going to the Pompidou.
Any further recommendation to share with the reader?
It’s a really good idea to practice as much French as possible before your trip. Having a good vocabulary is especially important. I found that I was more confident and less embarrassed to speak French with Pascale, since I study it every day (I do things like read Harry Potter in French, watch TV shows in French or with French subtitles, listen to French podcasts, speak with someone, etc.). I was able to make mistakes while learning more phrases and vocabulary, both of which helped me immensely during my trip.
Wear really comfortable shoes during your trip to Paris–you will walk a lot and all over. At first, I wore boots, which was a bad idea. If your feet really hurt, the rest of your day can seem miserable and never-ending.
The Paris metro is very easy to use–don’t be afraid of it! I used the metro more that I thought I would, and I was happy that I did. I felt more independent and mobile, and I was able to discover and explore more areas of Paris than if I’d walked. The metro also isn’t expensive, and there are lots of signs to direct you.
It’s a good idea to take small breaks. Traveling alone, being far from home, and speaking a different language can be very overwhelming. There were moments when I was quite tired and frustrated, and taking a break at a café or a public garden helped me a lot. I could better gather my thoughts and rest. There’s a reason for all the cafés and public gardens in Paris!
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and laugh at yourself. You are in France to learn and speak more French, after all! I had some rather embarrassing moments when I was by myself, but I tried to learn from my mistakes. I’ve found that the French are very patient and kind. They understand that you’re trying to speak their language, and they are
grateful that you’re trying!