I’m Learning French!

Me in Avignon, France 10 years ago – when I did not speak any French!

Parlez vous Francais?

I hope that in the very near future, I will be able to answer this question with a resounding “Oui!

The idea of learning French first popped into my head while I was on my career break. As much as it was great to be able to speak Russian to converse with locals, I felt like I could have connected with other travelers better if I knew French. The majority of people I met seemed to speak French as a first or second language and when I was in hostels, groups of Europeans would slowly revert to speaking French as a common language that was more natural for them to speak than English. As a result, I was often left out of the conversation.

Now, as I look ahead to my travels to Mali and Burkina Faso in November, learning French seems even more appealing – it is spoken in both countries.

As a first step, I went to a “Bilingual Bootcamp” a couple weekends ago at Multilingual Connections – a translation company and language school here in Chicago. Located in the Logan Square neighborhood just off the Blue Line, Multilingual offers these day-long bootcamps as a way to get quickly immersed in a language. And they have a great variety of languages from which to choose! While I was learning French, other classrooms were chattering away in Spanish, Polish and Arabic.

The bootcamp went from 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. with a half hour break for lunch midday. The class was small – just six of us – and our instructors were skilled and enthusiastic. While they were both Americans and native English speakers, to my ears they could pass for native French speakers. Elizabeth started us off in the morning with the basics – the alphabet, pronunciation, numbers and basic vocabulary. Alison continued with us after lunch going a little more in-depth with articles and verbs and some more vocabulary. While it may seem disruptive to have two different instructors, it was actually nice to hear their different accents and experience different styles of teaching – especially since I was interested in going on to the weekly courses.

Having studied Spanish in high school and college, and Russian in college and again during my career break, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy French felt. There seemed to be a lot of similarities to Spanish and it definitely didn’t feel as difficult as Russian. I felt like my biggest stumbling block is (and will be) pronunciation. The good news is that I will have plenty of time to practice since I will be starting a weekly class in early August!

Since I completed the bootcamp, I’ll be jumping into a Beginner II level class for eight weeks. If all goes well, I hope to continue with Beginner III right afterwards, which should take me right up to my departure for Mali and Burkina Faso. My class will be Thursday evenings, 8:00-9:50 p.m. with Alison, one of the instructors I had during the bootcamp. Multilingual also offers a free French conversation café on Monday evenings, so I’ll have another chance to practice each week.

I should be parlez-ing Francais in no time! Stay tuned to hear how it goes!

Disclaimer: Multilingual Connections is providing me with a complimentary Beginner II class, but all opinions here are of course my own.

Sign up for a class of your own this summer using the code KATIE19 and get $19 off the price of tuition!


8 thoughts on “I’m Learning French!”

  1. I wish I would have taken advantage of more of what Chicago had to offer when I lived there (2012-2014). Language classes sound wonderful. I’m trying to learn Spanish on my own right now. I hope your French went well.

  2. Good luck, Katie! I’m back learning French too (although right now it’s on my own). I’ve known MLC for years, took many Spanish classes there. Great school and teachers! Maybe I’ll see you in their French Cafe.

  3. In the German part of Switzerland, we learn French in school. But unfortunately I don’t use it a lot in my everyday life and I forgot a lot. I really want to do some classes to refresh my knowledge because it’s such a beautiful language. Good luck in learning it! I’m sure you’ll do well!

  4. Yes, Spanish and French are so similar, but then have a small difference. I kept saying dos instead of do (don’t know how to spell it). I also kept rolling my r’s, because I’m used to Spanish.

    But I think this is a great idea and I wonder if they have it here for Spanish.

  5. Sounds like a great program! I wish they had one in Denver, would love to take it. I need to look into other options before heading to Italy for a few months next year.

  6. I would love to take this course! In Spain this past year I thought it would be fun to start studying French, so I picked up the book “French for Dummies,” as well as a few french grammar books, from the library. It’s really similar to Spanish so the grammar and vocab weren’t a huge problem, but as you say, the most difficult thing about it is the pronunciation—so a book can only get you so far!

    1. Yeah, there’s nothing like actually speaking it with others who know the language to really make progress! I tried to learn some French phrases before a trip to France years ago but my pronunciation was so bad, it didn’t help!

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