The Many Benefits Of Learning French
Type “5 reasons to learn French” or even “10 reasons to learn French” into Google and you will have a plethora of very good answers : statistics on how your brain power will improve ; evidence of better employability in business, academia and government posts ; historical references on how the French and English languages actually have a lot of words in common, thanks to the Romans invading Britain, and then the Normans … and of course -maybe reason number one for many- a way to make your holiday abroad more enjoyable.
I am definitely going to write about these in the weeks to come, for indeed these benefits are real, but it is worth remembering that every learner is on a different journey, therefore their experience and it’s benefits are always unique. For this reason, in the coming weeks I would like to tell you how learning French has changed the lives of some of my students, and how this could happen to you too….
For many people making their first step towards learning French there is the dream of a holiday that goes smoothly, where they can not only ask for what they want or need, but also sometimes try a little bit of conversation with the locals. I know, there are many phrase books out there, and now a great many apps, which can get you out of basic situations -provided the answer you get is not too long- in fact George had always been very keen on those.
George, a cheerful, meticulous, artistic retired gentleman, came to me for lessons last year, a few months before spending a fortnight in France. He was going to a big wedding. There would be French and English people attending and everyone would stay in a château for a few days, before carrying on with their private holiday. So the phrase book might not be enough, unless he just wanted to speak to the staff and order just a little bit more Champagne. George wanted more ; he was hoping to engage with everyone, socialise, learn stuff and really be himself -a very sociable guy- rather than a shrinking violet in the corner.
We worked hard and then George went on his holiday….and he loved it! He loved it because for the first time he understood a lot more of what was going on around him, what was being said ; in fact he was part of the action, instead of just waiting for things to happen. He delighted a few French guests with his hesitant but not-out-of-a book French and obviously charmed the pants of them. He asked people about themselves, their jobs, their families, their towns, etc -French people like that- and whilst he was at it he did order more Champagne for everyone. George turned out to be very popular indeed.
Incredibly, he even served as an interpreter for one of the British guests who was not feeling well the first night. The guest and his wife were a little uncertain as to what to do to get help, and who to ask for it. It could have been George last year, but this year he was seen speaking with the locals, so the couple approached him for help. He probably did not have all the words to explain fully, but obviously enough to make himself understood. He knew what was happening, what had been decided and he was able to reassure the couple that the matter was being dealt with.
Full of confidence, George carried on with his holiday into another part of France and, in his own words “for the first time discovered people, not just a place”. People always respond positively to the effort of speaking their language, of course. As the great Nelson Mandela himself once said : “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head ; if you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
A sentence out of a phrasebook is cute, but a little effort at conversing is more personal and brings the interaction to a whole new level. If you don’t believe me, type “Bradley Cooper speaks French”intoYou Tubeand let yourself be charmed….
George’s newly acquired skill means he now has confidence to tackle almost anything and this has already brought him friends, some insight into the French culture and of course a very memorable holiday.
Owner and French tutor at Cassis French Tuition
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