Learning French in France

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Aug 22nd, 2005, 02:16 AM
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Learning French in France

I am literally just returning from two weeks in France with my daughter (see "greetings from les alpilles" for a quick summary of our first week.

The second week was spent studying French in Noves, France, which is twenty-five minutes southeast of Avignon--not quite in Les Alpilles, but with distant views to Les Alpilles and the Luberon.

The name of the week-long program that we attended is Parlons en Provence. I discovered it through an internet search. It is residential and is probably unique in that it is so small and quite relaxed in atmosphere. The program is run by a wry, helpful French woman named Magali, and she is supported by her wonderful English husband, Colin, and her parents, who visit and help engage in activities with the students. One of the benefits for us is that the program accepted both my 15 year-old daughter and me to study for a week together; alot of other programs seemed to classify students by age (understandably), but this afforded us a chance to travel and study a bit together. The program offers week/two week courses and one can pursue beginner or intermediate sessions.

It's a bit like living with an extended family for a week; we had three English people with us and we all got on quite well. Classes are held in the morning and the afternoons offered opportunities for guided tours of local areas. The emphasis of the teaching is on conversational French, and in the intermediate course we ran through some of the fundamentals of futur prochaine, l'imparfait, pronunciation etc. Magali gauged the class based upon where we all stood. There was a bit of a range in the class, but we worked well collectively.

How useful is a week's immersion in this kind of course? Good question! I think that I had arrived with sufficient French to make myself understood, to have a reasonably satisfactory conversation with people, all the while, hacking the language with grammatical mistakes that most people seem to forgive. I found the people in Southern France to be quite accepting of my limitations; many have a very strong accent--with a decided emphasis upon their final syllables--but the relative slowness of their speech more than compensates for my occasional difficulty in discerning their annunciation, in my opinion!

I think that the class was hard for me in that it was a bit of a reckoning in showing me the multitude of mistakes that I still make. To a certain degree, in that I have gone back to French after a layoff of one year's intensive study thirty years ago in college--I am kind of self-taught. Doing grammar exrecises on the computer (even if you already have an okay accent--I was taught by Pierre Capretz) is one thing, but putting it altogether in the moment in real life conversation is another!

Because I am basically a verbally oriented person, and in my last few visits to France in the last five years,I've just gotten more comfortable expressing myself and managing to glean enough to understand the responses! One of the values of the Parlons program was that it highlighted for me the kinds of details that I will now have to go back and study if I really want to be more literate. On the other hand, the general experiences that I had in speaking with people these past two weeks--even in negotiating complicated issues with Air France service people--suggested that I HAVE been making progress. Perhaps my favorite moments on the trip involved hopping on my rented velo and meeting local folks--people who ran gites, a former farmer roaming about on his bike, a lawyer and amateur bike racer out for a spin through the mountains...It can just get a bit discouraging realizing how much more work you have to do to bring your game to the next level!

Back to the program: I suspect that some of the more formal programs that are perhaps certified by the French might well be more rigorous and likely much more formal. But if you want to learn in a comfortable, relaxed, small-class environment, then Parlons en Provence would be a good bet. The instructor and her family became our friends, and as one English chap said, he felt he might have made more improvement in his French sitting around the table at lunch or dinner conversing, than in the formal course.

The location is countryside but a bit isolated. There is no panoramic view from the house; you have to stroll/jog up the road a bit to gain views of the Luberon and Leas Alpilles. Friendly as the hosts are, and you do get out every day, I found myself itching a bit for just rambling about as we had done in our first week of vacation. But the whole experience of living with our class for the week was nonetheless very rewarding. I plan on buying a French textbook (which I reviewed at the school)to consolidate further my French instruction.
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 03:57 AM
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Very interesting post, letour.

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Aug 22nd, 2005, 06:51 AM
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<<...just returning from two weeks in France with my daughter (see "greetings from les alpilles" for a quick summary ...>>

Months from now, or years, this post will still be here for someone to stumble on to, but your reference to another post by its title will not be as helpful for finding it as it is today (and only then, by clicking on your name)...

... a bit more useful is to post the URL for any other thread you wish to reference. It never changes and will always take another reader directly to that thread.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34662802

Best wishes,

Rex
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 11:09 AM
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What is "futur prochaine"?
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:06 PM
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Hey, Anthony: Other French scholars could probably be more illuminating on this question, but I believe that futur prochain is a tense which points to things that one is going to do in the near future. To that end, one uses the verb aller to support the conjugation i.e Je vais aller (I am going to go) as opposed to using the future tense: J'irai. My instructor explained that the French really tend to rely upon futur prochain in conversation to explain upcoming events, rather than using the future tense. Future tense would be used more in written expression.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:54 PM
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Futur is masculine, so it is futur prochain (not prochaine). I've never heard it called that, but thought the usual term was futur proche. That term makes more sense in understanding it as it means near future (not next future).

It's the same thing as in Spanish, they have that same tense, which is interesting as it translates directly into English (I am going to .....).

We used to call that the "baby future" in French class as it was the easiest way to express it until you learned the real future tense. I don't know if it is really more common in spoken French than the real future tense, but it would depend what you are saying. It is for things that are in the very immediate future.
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Aug 24th, 2005, 04:26 AM
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Thanks, Christina. I think that you are correct in your terminology! I did get the sense that futur proche is used in conversation to discuss immediate, upcoming events, but I am going to ask some of my French friends who teach French for clarification. Nuances, nuances!
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Aug 24th, 2005, 05:10 AM
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bravo letour! =D> (especially with the south accent!)
as for the futur proche most of the frenchs use it.
ex "je vais faire les courses dans une 1/2 heure" ou "je vais aller faire les courses dans une 1/2heure".
or even: "demain je vais aller faire les courses dans un nouveau magasin".
"demain j'irai faire les courses..."
or even "demain je ferai les courses dans un ... "
actually it is very difficult to choose one sentence, so don't worry you can say all of them!
I'm glad to be french cause I wouldn't like to have to learn all that grammar again as an adult!
corinne
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Sep 5th, 2005, 04:49 AM
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coco: Thanks for your kind support and for the assistance! Your explanation is consistent with what I was taught--including maybe using futur proche for an upcoming event/action (say, the next day.)It's wonderful to have a native French participant!!!

Au revoir!

letour
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Sep 5th, 2005, 07:01 AM
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mais c'est tout naturel voyons! toujours heureuse d'aider quelqu'un ici!

à bientôt
corinne
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Oct 3rd, 2005, 06:31 PM
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Hi Letour,
Can you give more information on 'Parlons en Provence'? I am interested in checking it out for future.
Merci.
GG
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Oct 6th, 2005, 07:16 AM
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Georgiegirl: Here's the website for Parlons en Provence. Let me know if you have any other questions. I believe that Magali is taking a maternity leave for a few months, but you could enquire.

All the best, letour

http://parlons-en-provence.com/english.htm

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Oct 6th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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I checked the website. Speaking only for myself, seems like a good "deal". Heaven knows I want to speak more better. <GRIN>
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Oct 6th, 2005, 08:29 AM
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Thank you Letour. I checked it out and it looks like what I am looking for in an immersion language program. Short stay with natives in a small town. I can't stay too long. Husband refuses to learn. Now they have 5 night-stay for 880 euro. If I get to go next spring, can I contact you directly?
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Oct 6th, 2005, 09:15 AM
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Hey, georgiegirl. If I can be of any help to you, feel free to contact me, but I have no affiliation with them. I am just a student (and now friend) of the people who run the school.
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