French the natural way: meet the learners!

Coucou les French learners,

Janvier, January: les nouvelles résolutions, new resolutions!!!

This month I have decided to share with you the experiences of my faithful and incredible learners from all over the world. They have different backgrounds, different experiences with language learning. Each learner is unique. One thing they all have in common: they are on a mission. It takes time, it takes a lot of input, it is a process, it is a journey.

And as my yoga guru, Adriene keeps saying: “The journey is the reward.

Meet Nancy Jane


Photo de Nancy Jane

I met Nancy Jane a year ago. She comes from the US and we meet 4 or 5 times weekly for one hour via Skype. We laugh so much during our sessions! We have created many interesting stories together but she would agree our most memorable one is Howard, l’homme aux chaussures élégantes ! 

Nancy Jane’s greatest achievement in French is reading. She has already read 3 French novels: Les Aventures d’Isabelle, Brandon Brown veut un chien and her latest addition which she really much enjoyed Jean-Paul et ses bonnes idées !

I am ever so grateful Nancy Jane is one of my learners. Here is her French journey:

Which language(s) are you learning/ have you learned?

I am learning French. I had one year of German in high school and I played around with learning a little Irish Gaelic 15 years ago.

Why did you start learning French? 

I went to Paris when I turned 55 and fell head over heels in a deep profound love. I would like to spend a lot of time there. It is also, unlike Gaelic, a living language. I thought it would be fun, when I retired, to have such a complex task in front of me to keep myself alert and occupied.

For how long have you been learning French?

Four years ago I tried working with a couple of tutors where I live. Both are skilled and sophisticated teachers; I was completely overwhelmed with all the materials and the grammar and that kind of typical school way of teaching that one of them offered. The other I had scheduling difficulties with. I had the Fluenz program but I find I use it more now after having started with Alice as it was difficult for me to get that going for myself with no live instructor.
By accident, a couple of years ago, I stumbled onto Italki and Verbling and tried several instructors. These are great systems that did not involve travel time or meeting in public places. I settled upon 2 excellent instructors. One teaches using Assimil and the other has developed her own very sophisticated and very fun lesson plans. I liked both of these teachers immensely but I was always quite stressed as my lesson approached; I found myself wanting to avoid the lesson. I had lots of actual reasons to avoid lessons too but my fear and anxiety inhibited my enjoyment of the lessons a great deal.Also, when I arrived to lesson 31 or so in Assimil, I looked back to earlier lessons and didn’t comprehend a bit of them. I was SOOOO demoralized.

How come did you end up with me? 

Before giving up entirely on French ( I thought I might not be able to learn ), I decided to try Alice – just to go at it with someone who had a very different approach. I am so glad I took that risk of trying yet another teacher.

What do you enjoy the most during our French sessions? 

I look forward to and enjoy my lessons with Alice very much. I enjoy that she reads me stories. I enjoy that she has a huge bank of stories on Youtube that are not too difficult for me. I thoroughly enjoy that we create stories together… I was scared about this aspect of the lesson but Alice makes it so easy by the questions she asks and the guiding that she offers. I enjoy Alice’s commitment to her craft, her skill as an instructor, and her ability to help me actually learn French! I enjoy her sense of humor too – she helps me lighten up my too serious self. Alice has helped me learn not to overwhelm myself with too much learning. She iterates again and again to focus on listening and reading comprehensive input. I tend to think I should be studying with my other programs and exercise books and talking, talking, talking.

What is your daily/weekly routine to learn French? Do you have any tips to share?

For learners who might be like me, one tip I have can offer is to let go of all the heavy expectations you might have about how learning a language should “look”. I also had to discover how much studying I could actually accomplish. I had to learn how to focus upon the essentials. I had to let the end goal of becoming fluent disappear as I learned to simply settle down into the present moment and the be-here-now pleasure of learning French. I had to let myself go at the pace that works for me. Having accomplished these difficult learnings has made learning French quite fun.
My daily habit is to build up (it is like any other muscle) to reading an hour a day of some comprehensible input books that Alice told me about. I do still work with my Fluenz program – mostly because I enjoy it and it supports what I have been learning with Alice. I try to listen to (and transcribe) an Alice story every week. For me, this represents 3 hours of French study per day. Other people will probably be quicker learners than I.

Favorite French word or expression?

Vouloir, c’est pouvoir (to want is to be able to).

How inspiring! I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and that it will motivate you to keep up!

Happy French acquisition!

As promised the new season of Le Français naturellement is up and running with a first episode about les étoiles, the stars! It is an adaptation of the famous tale from the Grimm brothers entitled “Die Sterntaler”.

You can read a slightly different version on the Great Story Reading Project.

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

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