The Benefits of Learning French. Part 4
“With languages, you are at home anywhere” Edmund De Waal (British artist and author)
That is certainly true of Peter, the fourth student whose story I am going to tell you today. Peter’s home is in England, but in his heart he has a second home - France- and sometimes he almost lives there.
Peter is a fifty something, extremely gifted bespoke carpenter-joiner, who has been running his own business for many years, very successfully. I met Peter through a circle of friends, so long ago I cannot even remember the year, when I was still looking after my children and had stopped working. Peter is in fact -most likely unbeknown to him- the driving factor behind me returning to teaching, because he was so keen to find a private tutor and have regular lessons that his positive energy spurred me on! I assented and Peter became the first student of Cassis French Tuition.
Peter had not learnt French at school -in fact at school all he wanted to do was to work with wood- but in his travels, later on, as an adult. Whilst holidaying in the Jura (east of France) he had met a lovely French family, and after that every year the two families would spend a couple of weeks together, in the UK or in France, visiting the region, sampling the local food and trying to communicate in each other’s language. They had become such good friends that Peter and his family had even welcomed the daughter of the couple for a few months one year, as she sought to perfect her English before starting Uni. As a matter of principles, Peter would always try to speak as much French as he could, and his efforts were rewarded by a steady progress.
Something must have attracted Peter to the French countryside, its people, or perhaps the simplicity of a certain way of life in moutainous areas like the Jura, where everything slows right down in the spring and autumn months, after the ski, biking, and swimming in lakes season. I am a big fan of the Jura myself, not for skiing or golfing particularly -although there are breathtaking places- but for the peaceful, unspoilt landscapes and the long established local gastronomy (see the links at the end of this article). Whatever bug he caught there stayed with him and when I met Peter, one of his goals was actually to take exams in French, firstly because he had left school very capable but with hardly any qualifications ; secondly because he wanted to spend more time exploring France, perhaps even one day live and work there….
At Cassis French Tuition it is not only teenagers who can revise and prepare for their exams, adults can too, and so Peter got working and ready for his GCSE, did very well and later on passed his A level in French too, with flying colours I may add! As you can probably imagine, or know if you have been in that position, taking exams as an adult can be a bit daunting ; however it is important to point out that the experience is very different from school, because you are self-motivated, you do it for yourself, you have a particular goal in mind and you can take the time you need to get ready. So the experience was in fact very pleasurable and the pleasure in qualifying all his. For Peter, the real added bonus was to be able to try all his new expressions on his friends, as well as on complete strangers on campsites. Did I mention Peter likes a good chat?
Apart from camping, Peter and his family enjoy serious bike hikes and one year his wife and himself took three weeks holiday to do a tour of France on their bikes. It was obviously a very big physical challenge, but the route he designed made them go through small places, not big busy towns, and sample the village life : one more step closer to living there. Another year saw them pilot a boat on the Canal du Midi. It was not living in France per se, as family, friends and business are firmly settled in England, but it was close enough. However, I have to say that the one “holiday” that came the closest to it, and certainly the one that most impressed me, was when Peter scoured the Internet in search of a self-employed carpenter/joiner ; found one with a very similar business to him in Picardie (now part of the Hauts-de-France) and sent him an email asking if he could come and work alongside him for a week.
The answer came back as a “yes”, then he packed his bags and went on his adventure! He spoke French for a week, lived with a French family, learnt all the minutiae of running a small independent carpentry business in France, paying taxes, employing one member of staff and training apprentices through the year. For one week France was his home and he lived like a Frenchman. I think there might be more of these little trips in the years to come…
Article By: Isabelle Stevenson
Owner and French tutor at Cassis French Tuition
If you would like some information on learning French with a private tutor visit my website
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