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Confession time: Unlike so many people, I am not naturally gifted with the ability to learn a second language. So in order to truly challenge myself I knew it was essential I step outside my comfort zone of a classroom in Australia and immerse myself in the French language and culture I so much admire.

I was nervous – considerably so – but I need not have been. My week living under the same roof and under the tutelage of Isabelle in the pretty little town of Parentis-en-Born was an absolute delight.

Isabelle structured my lessons to take into account my strengths and limitations, while at the same time she encouraged me to really stretch my linguistic skills, whereas once I might have been frightened of making a mistake.

The “classroom French” I had been taking has an over-emphasis on grammar at the expense of conversation, but Isabelle instead urged me to engage in discussions, occasional banter and introduced me to the idioms and peculiarities that make the French language so rich and wonderful. Furthermore, she and her family welcomed me into their home with genuine warmth, good humour and patience and they all encouraged me to take part in conversations as much as I was capable.

While I don’t pretend to be able to fluently respond in French, my ability to understand and follow conversations grew exponentially from day one – and I consider that to be a significant achievement. It has given me the confidence to express myself when talking with French speakers, which I have continued, unafraid, since completing the immersion.

I should also make special mention of the other drawcard – beautiful Bordeaux region and the wonderful scenery to visit once the lessons are finished. One of the principal reasons for taking part in an immersion course is that even when the books are closed for the day or the internet switched off, you continue to learn simply by exploring the towns and conversing with locals. It is as much an absorption of culture as it is an immersion in it.

My thanks to Isabelle and her family for a genuinely memorable visit which has significantly accelerated my comprehension and use of French and has reinforced my determination to conquer learning this difficult language.

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