May 26 / Ellie Louis

Shift your perspective - it's time to think on your feet in French!

Meet our fictional avatars

Let me introduce you to Emily the Culture Enthusiast, Richard the Retiree, and Alex the Competitive Learner. These are all fictional avatars created by AI to describe typical French Room students. If you are throwing your arms up in disgust at this notion, I’m pleased! You are not a number, a statistic, or a made-up avatar. But these three characters and their ambitions might resonate with you more than you might imagine.

Real-Life Success: Terri's Journey

Let me now introduce you to Terri, a real French Room student. Terri came to me 18 months ago stating her intention to become fluent in French. At first, her attendance in live classes was sporadic; maybe I’d see her every 3 or 4 weeks, and we would retrace our steps each time. Then she joined a class, and others in that class were a little flaky, making it hard to get momentum. So we started working together in a private class. We worked on verbs and pronunciation and the mechanics of the language, but more importantly in some ways, we discussed learning strategies, motivation, and self-confidence. In that way, Terri became a “think on your feet” fluent French speaker.

Reflecting on our school days

Many of us learned French at school, and people come to me and talk about their “schoolgirl or schoolboy French.” It’s interesting, isn’t it? I can’t imagine referring to my schoolgirl maths, for example. It seems that some of us suspend our language skills in time back to our school days. Many of us spent at least 5 years studying the language as an academic subject. Maybe it was 7 years or even 10. And the bizarre thing is that often, despite all this investment, which may have even been supplemented with additional evening classes or self-study in adulthood, we still can’t have a conversation in French!

Small Conversations, Big Impact: Ruth’s Story

And what if we were to lose all the progress we have made so far? Because it turns out what we really want to be able to do with our French might be quite small. Meet Ruth; she owns a chalet in the Alps and wants to be able to have simple conversations with people she might be sharing a ski lift with. Simple, snatched utterances commenting on the weather, the quality of the snow, whether it is busy for the time of year. You know, small exchanges, that it turns out can rank up the dopamine levels and make her day. Ruth calls these “life-affirming moments,” and I know what she means.

Embracing Spontaneity in Language Learning

Imagine yourself in the scenario: you don’t know when the conversation might happen or what will be said. There are so many elements beyond your control, and yet when they arise, you feel calm and collected and able to connect in the moment. How brilliant is that!

Making the Decision to Speak French

Terri and Ruth have both decided to be able to speak French. Some might say that they are wasting their time or foolish to believe it’s possible. The French speak so fast, after all! But it’s the kind of experience most of us would like to be able to live if we only had the right support and guidance to get there for ourselves.

Beyond Classroom Time

This isn’t just about classroom time. In fact, it’s what you do beyond the time with your tutor that marks you out as someone who will experience speaking French in an “on your feet,” real way. You can do Duolingo and the apps, Instagram and YouTube, and so many more things, but how do you know that what you are doing is time well-invested? How can you measure your progress? Where do you find the self-assurance to use it in real life?

Fictional Avatars in Action

If we come back to our fictional avatars, let’s see what they would be doing at The French Room.

Emily the Culture Enthusiast:
Emily can picture herself reading a French novel on the terrace of a French café in the south of France. On the same day, she has visited an art gallery and a museum and later on might catch a film at the cinema. Bonjour Brilliance and Ellie’s inspirational emails are, well, brilliant for Emily! Every week, in the months building up to her trip, she has been guided by Ellie through current French culture whilst also improving her listening skills and pronunciation and expanding her knowledge of actual words she will see in France!

Richard the Retiree:
Richard knows what he wants. His goals are less about envisaging a moment in France and more about enjoying the process of learning French and the health benefits for his brain and general well-being. His live classes are the highlight of his week. He enjoys the challenge, the camaraderie of the group, and the preparation that it inspires in him. Richard chooses Bonjour Brilliance for the free library of resources that come automatically with the subscription combined with a class pass that gives him the peace of mind that he has French time allocated with Ellie and the group.

Alex the Competitive Learner:
Alex is really all about beating his personal best. He’s not someone who does things by halves. He wants a firm foundation and to know that he can practically apply his skills. Alex wants his French fluency to allow him to make the most of his cycling trips to France. He can imagine himself booking into a Chambre D’hôtes and sitting around the dinner table with his hosts discussing wine, the price of things, the government, and sharing a few jokes wherever he can get them in. Alex chooses several private classes a week alongside Bonjour Brilliance, which he uses in two ways. He loves being inspired by Ellie through her weekly emails and also is slowly building up his knowledge and filling in gaps using the extensive tutorials in the five sections of the free library.

The Limitations of School French

Contrast this with the school French experience: a classroom with desks in rows, passive listening and writing, not much speaking, and not a lot of control over what you learn and when. This all culminates in an exam. The speaking part is often learned by rote from stock phrases, and you couldn’t make it a more rabbit-in-the-headlights moment if you tried. It is a test, after all, and you will be marked pass or fail! This is not to dismiss the great teaching that happens in schools. I myself have my school French teachers to thank for my deep knowledge of French grammar. But this kind of academic learning was never designed for the necessities of real-life, respond-in-the-moment, adult conversation.

The French Room: A Different Approach

You are beyond school at The French Room. You’re here because you want to be. Some spark has ignited the desire to speak French, and you want some help getting there. I remember one of the moments that sparked me to keep chasing those linguistic highs! I had a rush of the greatest feeling one day just from queuing up in une boulangerie, asking for my croissant, and suddenly becoming aware that I was treated like any other customer. “I am French,” I felt. “Oh la la!”

Believe you can

I’ve met many people over my decades of teaching who have found it so hard to believe that they can speak French. I recall one lady who came to every class bursting with anxiety. One day myself and my French assistant greeted her as she entered the room and shared a little nicety about how the room we were using had been refurbished. We both spoke to her in English. Her belief that she would not be able to understand was so strong that she panicked and said, “I’m sorry, can you say that more slowly?” This was a reaction she had developed to all spoken French. But this time we had spoken in English.

Beliefs are so powerful, as the famous phrase from Henry Ford goes: “There are those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t, and they are both right.” At The French Room, both I and your fellow learners do all we can to help you believe you can.

The Perfect Time to Start

Now is an amazing time to come back to or start learning French. Here at The French Room, you have complete flexibility on how and when you learn. You have a huge range of finely tuned tutorials and classes designed to build up your competence and confidence, and behind it all is a highly experienced and passionate tutor to help you towards your goals, whatever they may be.

Explore The French Room

Bonjour Brilliance is a self-paced French course. Regular emails from Ellie guide you through different themes such as French films, listening habits, and drills to improve your pronunciation. When you subscribe to Bonjour Brilliance, you get automatic free access to over 289 tutorials recorded by Ellie on the five skills of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, listening, and reading.

Flexible Live Classes
Live classes are bookable flexibly either in small groups (max 8 in a class) or as private tutorials. This ensures personalized attention and a tailored learning experience.
Come and see how you can learn with a combination of Bonjour Brilliance and live classes at The French Room.
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