Life on the Summit: Saying bonjour to a life-long French lover
February 7, 2014
"Bonjour, mon ami, comment ça va?"
That's everyday French for "Good day, my friend, how are you?"
That and a few more well-pronounced phrases (a little wine helps) come from Spike!'s three years of U.S. Army duty in Toul and Nancy, France, in 1964-'67.
Talk about being immersed; but it's nothing like what Jennifer David of Denver, who has a second home in Breckenridge's Highlands with husband Steve, can rattle off.
Her education in things French started back in grade school in Lincoln, Neb., and continues today.
"Fascination with French began at age 10," she explains. "My school offered fifth-graders a 30-minute class after school on Wednesdays to introduce the language. Our teacher was young, pretty, energetic and inspiring. There were fun songs and rhymes and dances, and I was thrilled to think that I was learning exactly what youngsters a world away in France were being taught."
That interest endured, and French class became a favorite subject in junior and senior high school, to the point that it became one of her two major degree subjects at university.
For several years after graduation and prior to starting a family, Jennifer taught secondary school French classes in Nebraska and Minnesota, "peeking in on French from time to time" in the decades following, taking a French class here and there, visiting Paris, seeing a French film now and then.
"It was just enough to enable me to keep in practice and build a bit more on what I'd learned years before," she recalls.
Recently, Jennifer enrolled in classes at the Alliance Française in Denver.
"One day last fall the most accomplished student in our class mentioned she had recently returned from the Institut de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer, just a few miles east of Nice on the Côte d'Azur," Jennifer says.
The classmate, enthusiastic in her praise of the school and its method, attributed much of her enviable French to having attended two, month-long language immersion sessions at the "Institut."
"She later shared with me more details about her experience, and soon the idea of my spending a month immersed in French — in France — grew in my mind," says Jennifer. "Last spring, I took a leap of faith, enrolled in the September session, and booked my flight to France."
"No regrets," she remarks. "My month there was 'formidable' in all respects."
An added bonus was the southern French countryside.
"Villefranche-sur-Mer's environs are stunningly beautiful, and Villefranche is stunningly hilly," she adds. "I returned home substantially fitter than when I left. The weather was next to perfect virtually every day."
The school-arranged apartment was great — well located and comfortable.
There were 77 students in the September session, which began with a written and oral test to determine class placement.
"I was astounded to find myself at the most advanced level," says the modest madame.
"There were 10 students in my class, several like me, there simply for the self-fulfillment of building on a life's interest in the language. Others were attending to perfect their French for their work positions."
"We were four Americans, a Spaniard, an Estonian, a Bulgarian, a Canadian, and two Londoners, eight women and two men, spanning a wide range in age and professions — Francophiles all," she notes.
Teaching at the Institut is unique and intense, its primary focus being that of perfecting the student's spoken French, according to Jennifer, with the goal of instruction to "parler plus couramment" and "correctement."
("Speak more fluently" and "right.")
Her certificate reads:
"Eléve serieuse et agréable, Mme David a fait de bon progrès dans tous les domaines, aussi bien en compréhension qu'en expression orales et écrites. Nous la félicitons pour les très bons résultats obtenus."
("A serious and pleasant pupil, Mrs. David has made good progress in all areas, just as much in comprehension as in oral and written expression. We congratulate her for the very good results obtained.")
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former Climax miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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