My son is going to French Club Summer School this year (5 mornings for a couple of hours), and although the town is only about 12 miles away, it’s really not worth me coming back home whilst he is learning French nursery rhymes and the words for all sorts of good foods. So instead, I thought I could put that time to good use by having a few French lessons myself.
(Photo by sunflowers8 on Flickr).
I didn’t think it would be very difficult to find a teacher of French around here. After all, we are practically within swimming distance of France (some people do!) and French is taught widely at the local colleges. I saw an advert in a coffee shop in a local town, a new business start up. Great, I thought, an opportunity to support a fledgling business. I made a note of the web address. Unfortunately the site hasn’t yet been constructed, so I went back to the coffee shop to get a phone number or email (which really I should have got first time round but I hadn’t had a pen with me and a web address was all I could remember). I emailed the lady a couple of weeks ago; as yet I’ve heard nothing. I think that business is not even going to get off the ground! So I asked my son’s French teacher if she knew anyone who would teach adults. She recommended someone (a native speaker) but then confided that this person thinks English learners of the language should be taught by English speakers who have learned French themselves, not a native speaker, as they understand the unique issues facing an English tongue trying to get to grips with the French accent. Well, call me old fashioned but I would have thought that a good teacher will have studied the unique issues faced by learners of different nationalities. Certainly a few years ago when I did a course in teaching English as a foreign language, we studied the difficulties that the different nationalities have when approaching English from the perspective of their own language. It hadn’t occurred to me that teachers of other languages wouldn’t have this understanding. Anyway, this person did not seem right for me, so I resumed the search.
I googled French teachers and came up with two possibilities. Again, one didn’t even reply to my email and the other told me she would be on holiday in France on the very week that I wanted to have lessons, but I could begin with her in September if I wanted to have lessons then. This kind of defeats the object: a) I want to fill the time that the little man is at French Club, and in healthier ways than on my bottom in a coffee shop with a succession of large lattes, assorted muffins and a good book, and b) to brush up my rusty skills prior to our own holiday in La Belle France. Back to the drawing board I went.
I asked a friend who used to work for the local authority Adult Education department. Google the names of the tutors, she advised. They won’t be teaching classes over the summer but will be advertising on their own web pages for private students during the down time. Great! Except that none of the tutors I found who teaches French at evening class seems to have their own website. Maybe they are all glad of having the summer off and are decamping to sunnier climes for the duration.
Who would have thought it would be so difficult to find a teacher of French?! I was beginning to think that this idea was a non-starter. After all, given the option, I’m sure most people would breathe a sigh of relief at the end of another academic year and catch the first Eurostar out of here (it’s done nothing but rain for weeks now, so I can’t say I would blame them). However, I am not so easily defeated, and so I turned to Twitter. In no time at all I had a recommendation. I emailed her. For a couple of days, there was nothing. Then a lovely email arrived from the lady’s partner, who explained that Isabelle was on holiday in France but would get in touch upon her return. Two days after that, another lovely email, Isabelle confirming that she has availability and would be delighted to teach me. Yay! This is more like it! She wants to ring me to discuss. Eek! Does that mean she wants to assess my skills over the phone? I have given her my number and await her call.