You may remember Doug, the Christian missionary going to work for a hospital in Gabon who I interviewed for an article recently. Well as he was such an interesting chap and had such a unique outlook on learning the French language I thought I’d send him an email to see what else he had to say about his experiences of our French Immersion School in Montpellier and France in general.
How did you find ILA French Immersion School and what made you choose this school in this city?
I chose Montpellier for the weather and the lower overall costs. In addition, I prefer smaller, old world cities to Paris, for example. Also, the competitive nature of the language school niche in Montpellier pretty much guaranteed a high level of teaching and facilities. ILA French Immersion School easily fulfilled all of this. I found this French School through a recommendation by a Christian organisation which specialises in missionary work in Africa.
How are expecting learning French to help you in the future?
I will travel to Gabon several times each year and finding French-English translation help is very difficult. The hospital is very remote and little English is spoken in most of rural Gabon. It would be different in the capital (Libreville) and perhaps the handful of cities scattered around the country. In the jungle, most people grow up speaking their local tribal language plus learning French if they go to school. In these places, French is a second language to many people. For example, church sermons are often translated from French into Nzebi, the language spoken in Bongolo Hospital’s part of Gabon.
What has your French host family in France been like?
My French host family in Montpellier became an adopted family for me and vice versa. I’m used to owning my own home, so spending so much time in my bedroom was very alien at first. This became a comforting refuge inside of the first month. It re-taught me how few possessions I need to thrive.
How have you responded to the French immersion technique?
It is the only way I will ever make significant French language acquisition progress. I was in a nearly complete French environment from when I woke up, except for my devotions until I left the French Immersion School each day at about 17h. I found that I needed to rest my brain and dial down the adrenalin sometimes, so my evenings, except for dinner time with my host family, were in English (reading, calls to the States etc.)
Have you explored Montpellier much?
Yes. I like to explore new areas. Monday tours organised by the ILA French Immersion School were great for this. I’m not certain I would have found Antigone, for example, and the large library there if not for the tour.
What have the highlights been for you?
- My French host family
- ILA French School’s professionalism
- Montpellier and France itself
- Finding an English speaking church (International Chapel). It was a way to volunteer while here.
- The excursions like the Monday tour
Advice for future French students coming to France?
I would tell them to come prepared to work harder outside of class. My impression is that most of the students revert to their own languages at 12:15. Immerse yourself more. Study more. Treat this as your most important class in school, not as a vacation. Sleep more.
If you could tell yourself anything just before starting your French immersion course what would it be?
- Relax emotionally. God has this. I had a lot of adrenalin the first month (I’m a closet perfectionist with a high “responsibility” gene).
- Make and execute a plan to make French “friends”. For example, I visited one of five Montpellier chapters of an international business organization I’m part of (BNI: Business Networking International). They meet weekly, but start/end a little bit later than in the States (7:30-9:00 vs 7-8:30), which made me late for school the one day I attended. I decided it was more important to be at school, so I lost out on a great opportunity to network and meet with native French speakers.
- Financially budget for intentionally finding and sitting in the same couple of cafes every day, and speak more French through acquaintances. I don’t do this at home (too busy working and I use my money differently).
- Find a way to volunteer somewhere, again to speak more French outside of the French immersion school.
As I suspected unique and interesting insights from Doug into the world of French immersion learning and on our language school here in Montpellier. Stayed tuned for more interesting individuals with their unique impressions.