"One of the best French immersion courses"
Look Before You Leap Into a Language
You May Have to Put Your Money
Where Your Mouth Is
These are excerpts from an article by reporter Brandon Mitchener on intensive and full-immersion foreign language training.
The article appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe Edition,
Friday-Saturday, June 27-28, 1997.
LESSON ONE: Look at language classes like any other investment. After shopping around for a two-week crash course, David Ecklund, a 47-year-old American sales executive living in Brussels, thought he was lucky to get into a group course that a local school was running for another U.S. multinational. It was cheaper than places out of town and so, says Mr. Ecklund, "I figured I’d stay in Brussels."
He got what he paid for. Instead of building the little he had learned of the language at high school, Mr. Ecklund got an intensive exercise in frustration. "In a classroom environment with seven to 10 people," he says, "you learn at the pace of the slowest student." Even worse, he was so put off by the experience he gave up entirely on learning the language for three years.
Whether you pay for language classes yourself, like Mr. Ecklund, or your company pays for them, there’s nothing more frustrating than wasting time and money on language lessons - especially in a class that’s supposed to be "intensive." But even one-on-one instruction can be a waste if you choose the wrong school. And with prices for intensive and full-immersion classes ranging from $20 to $100 an hour - not to mention the possibility of losing income from having to take time off from work or using vacation time - it pays to choose carefully. (Intensive refers to morning classes with afternoons off, while full-immersion programs pretty much involve round-the-clock attention.)
First off, decide what kind of return you want on your time and money and choose a school - or combination of schools - that maximizes the potential reward while minimizing the chance of wasting time and money. Many language schools don’t offer refunds. The most important criteria for a successful intensive or full-immersion experience are small class sizes and professional teachers as well as preparation, follow-up and realistic expectations on the part of the student.
On his second try, Mr. Ecklund found just what he was looking for: a full-immersion program at DIALOGUE, that both helped him with his pronunciation and grammar and adapted itself to his interests - including vocabulary geared to his logistics business. Mr. Ecklund is commercial director of Caterpillar Logistics Services Inc., a unit of Caterpillar Inc.
The key to Mr. Ecklund’s satisfaction, in his view, was the one-on-one philosophy of the school, DIALOGUE, which offers individualized courses ranging from 20 hours of instruction a week to a more extensive 40 hours a week.
Mr. Ecklund is convinced that the school, which is run out of the home of the teachers and includes full board and round-the-clock attention, is a bargain. "If you go to group classes, you might save money, but you’ll probably spend the same amount over time because it’ll take you much longer," he says.
In fact, people who have taken a full-immersion plunge say group classes should be limited to five students, especially if you’re beyond the absolute-beginner level. The more numerous or more advanced the students, the more likely the ability level will vary wildly.
Small Is Beautiful
A reason to opt for one-on-one instruction, or at least go to a school that offers one-on-one lessons, is the opportunity to work on specialized vocabulary and cultural issues that wouldn’t be part of a traditional curriculum.
Of course, schools like DIALOGUE have their price. (…) But considering the degree of individual attention they provide, students who attend them have a better shot at satisfaction.
"Château French immersion courses"
Michael Nathan chose an French immersion course with DialoguE - France
Weekly lessons in a class, often with friends, is one way to learn French but what if you want something more?
These are excerpts from an article by reporter Lizzie Chapman on different teaching methods to learn French.
The article appeared in theFrenchPaper
CHÂTEAU IMMERSION Michael Nathan, 61, is a retired public health scientist who now lives in France. He improved his French through a week-long immersion course DialoguE-France, in Brittany. Run by Belgian couple, Bernard and Véronique Henusse, the one-to-one lessons and accommodation are held at their château.
I have been living in France since 1998. However, I was working for the World Health Organization in Geneva and because it was an international environment it functioned almost entirely in English. In the area close to Geneva, many people also speak English, especially when they hear non-native speakers so, unfortunately, it is easy to get by with only rudimentary French and frankly, I was very disappointed with the progress I had made in ‘assimilating’ the language from around me.
With retirement in mid-2008, my wife and I planned to stay in France, so I wanted to improve my limited French skills so I could function more effectively and integrate better into the local community.
I had ‘schoolboy’ French but had never used it (at the beginning of the DialoguE course I was assessed to be at basic-intermediate level). I learned some Spanish while posted to the Caribbean and working in Latin American countries, and had found the ‘total immersion’ and ‘one-to-one’ approach far more effective than group/classwork several hours a week that I had tried several times. For this reason for French I again looked for one-to-one immersion, and in particular for an intensive course in France, tailored to my own needs; an emphasis on aural comprehension and speaking. DialoguE met these criteria, came recommended by a work colleague, and as a bonus was located in a delightful part of the country.
The course lasted five days, with seven 45-minute sessions a day for a total of 70 hours of one-to-one learning. During the morning session I spent a considerable amount of time watching, listening to and repeating film dialogues. It advanced my listening skills and helped to train my ear to everyday French. The afternoon sessions were on free expression. In addition, there were delicious meals eaten with the family, with conversation exclusively in French, and on occasions, local visits including one to meet a beekeeper because I had indicated that I hoped to begin beekeeping as a retirement pastime (which I have done!). There was homework too - always an opportunity to review, revise and listen to audio material in my room when energy levels permitted. Moreover, in the heart of rural Brittany there are no distractions!
The accommodation was in Bernard and Véronique’s delightful and very tastefully converted old farm cottages. I had an en-suite room that doubled as both my bedroom and my classroom, with audiovisual and other necessary classroom equipment. Véronique is a wonderful cook and she prepared delicious and different meals every day, with lots of fresh vegetables from the garden, and homemade jams and bakes. Mealtimes were a genuine delight for me, and the French continued informally throughout.
The course certainly advanced my French language skills, improving my confidence, comprehension, expression and writing abilities. Of course, there is much more progress to be made but this was a genuinely intensive boost to my skills and I would love to go back for more. I have since taken a local classroom course that is two afternoons a week for three months. However, it only confirms my previous experiences - that immersion works best.
It is not cheap but it does bring results and that is what is important. If one is serious about progressing in French, be prepared to put in some really hard work – but this is an excellent and enjoyable way to do it !