I think it would be fair to say that this year is far from how any of us imagined it would be. Our plans of staying in France have been turned on their heads as we came back to spend the time with the boys back in Exeter and we spend time worrying about friends and family both in the UK and further afield.
We have been having coffee and Aperos with friends in France via Skype, I’ve taken to Facebook Live talking about pieces for my business and have even run a virtual stall from our front room on Zoom as part of a Live Bath Artisan Market. All of a sudden life is being run on a virtual level and at the moment it means we can still stay in contact, continue to work and explore different ways of doing things.
What is really important though is that Andy has been able to continue his french lessons whilst we are away.
He has been having lessons with Marina from Ecole Franci Discendum, a small school based up at Viens since we bought the house and whilst he loves the face to face lessons that he has when we are there….
He has also benefited from having Skype lessons whilst he is back in Devon. It would be easy for him just to take a break and relax, but he knows that just the regular contact with Marina via Skype is worth its weight in gold, just to keep him on track and to continue to reinforce his understanding.
I know at first he worried that he wouldn’t get as much from doing the lessons remotely, but any concerns he may have had quickly disappeared after the first lesson and now he just sees the sessions as part of his ongoing learning.
As ever with Marina, she ensures the lessons are geared to Andy’s level and interests, focusing on what he enjoys to ensure that the time they spend together is both productive and useful. It also seems to be fun, as often all we can hear from the front room is giggling amongst the chatter, which is how learning should be.
Marina also makes sure he is well prepared for the lessons, sending through homework in advance for him to complete ahead of the lesson so that they can go through it. As I type this, he is sitting next to me in the garden working on crosswords based on verb conjugation ahead of tomorrow morning’s Skype….
Homework is never Andy’s favourite bit, to be honest I don’t think many people would put their hands up in response to the question ‘Who likes to do homework?’ , but it is important and he knuckles down to get it done …. he understands now that he can’t learn the language and converse without learning the grammar first. …
He has found the great thing about learning with Marina is that she pushes him gently to learn new things, encouraging him to look further than the books and to explore more about France and its culture too. Even remotely she ensures that he experiences much more than just the basics of the language, sending him articles to look at, helping him to understand the differences in culture and approach between the countries, all of which means he gets a much more rounded education than the words alone can give.
At the moment that is more important than ever, keeping him in touch with what is happening in our area of Provence and ensuring we remain in contact with the area that we love on both a practical and more cultural level. He looks forward to his lessons and the opportunity to chat in French with his ever-patient and friendly teacher.
I like to think that Marina enjoys the lessons as much as he does. Her knowledge of cycling, rugby, house renovation and brocante markets has grown considerably since she started teaching Andy, as she has geared the lessons around what he wanted to focus on, what his needs were at different times to help him develop and build his self-confidence when speaking.
It has also been useful for sharing different things during the lockdown …. she has forwarded us links to French programmes and other activities for us to look at and we have done the same … her 2 boys are now getting active with Joe Wicks’ PE lessons and have been introduced to other children’s activities too.
I have a feeling now that tomorrow she will start learning more about 2CVs as we start to plan to bring Fifi down to France in the future and that will require a whole new set of terms for Andy to get to grips with.
The main thing is that he keeps learning and Skype lessons with Marina are the perfect way to do so when he cant actually be there in person. Learning remotely with Marina can be just as rewarding as being there in person and at the moment the perfect way to start or to continue to learn french when we can’t actually visit the country in person.