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My week of French immersion with Chantal, her partner Stephen, and her mother Liliane was pleasant and profitable beyond all expectations. Pleasant in the way I was made to feel completely at home, and profitable from the standpoint of improving my French. The first emails I exchanged with Chantal gave me a strong impression that this was going to be very good, and by the end of second day I felt like an old friend. Chantal advises that she has clients who come 3-4 times a year and some who stay for 2 or 3 weeks at a time, and after experiencing their hospitality (and Chantal’s cooking!) it is easy to see why.

Chantal asked in advance if I wanted to mix touring with French immersion or go “all-in” on the latter. I was “all-in” and thus, in addition to 2-3 hours of intense French instruction each morning, I accompanied Chantal during her daily routine: the morning walk to the boulangerie for fresh bread, into the countryside to run the dogs, to the super marché, etc. While the main meal was being prepared I either helped with the chopping and dicing or sat on a bar stool and carried on chatting. After the midday meal I had a few hours to myself to catch a nap and work on the homework quizzes that Chantal provided each morning. In the evenings we got together in the garden for a light meal and more conversation.

Stephane is a great host in his own right and has quite a sense of humor. He goes to work early most days but when he’s home he is very much part of the experience. Chantal is accomplished at dialing down the speed of what she is saying to suit the student’s level but Stephen lets it rip at normal French speed, which keeps you grounded in reality. And to my happy surprise, as the week passed I found that I understood more and more of what he said the first time (I’m somewhere in intermediate-land). Liliane is also very much part of the experience too – she joined us every day for the big midday meal and added a great deal to the conversation, in moderately paced French that I was able to follow right off. Her recollections of growing up in wartime Paris are priceless.

For someone really trying to master French this is the ultimate experience – my French- speaking colleagues at work are helpful with my attempts to learn their language but they can only tolerate so much. With Chantal it is the whole idea and she has infinite patience. How do you say this, how do you say that, could you repeat that, no don’t say it that way, say it this way, etc. – you get the idea. It’s a gold mine!

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