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  • Bill and Nancy

March 2003

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

Our California vacation was fun and easy on our brains because we could speak the language and understood the culture. If we wanted information, we could ask without having to look up words in the dictionary first. The day after we arrived in San Francisco, we went shopping for a prepaid SIM card for our French cell phone. We asked many questions, explaining that we were visiting from France; we said that we just wanted to buy a card that would allow us to make calls on our tri-band phone during our visit.

As we were paying for the card, the salesman said, "Where did you learn your English? You speak it very well".

One language down; one to go. In the hope that someday someone might tell us that we speak French well, a few weeks after we arrived back in France, we repacked our suitcases and drove toward Lyon to a small village in the Beaujolais region. We settled into our room in the farmhouse at Fondvielle Language School and went for a walk around the nearby town of St.Vèrand. That evening we met our classmates, teachers, and some of their neighbors and friends at a cocktail party before dinner. Since only French was allowed, it was like diving into the deep end of the pool on your first day of swimming lessons.

We exchanged stories about why we chose to live in a country where we had to learn to speak a new language, and we tried to find the words to express what it is that makes France such a lovely place to live. We have had this conversation many times with friends in the boating community.

After they cleared away the breakfast dishes, our classroom appeared, and our school day began. We were seven, eight if you count Toby, divided into two classes by our ability level, with one group in the farmhouse and one in the main house.

We had morning and afternoon classes, and we did our homework in the hours in between. Our plans to walk in the countryside each afternoon usually gave way to the greater need to finish this task. Writing an essay is a slow process when you have to look up some words' meaning and check the spelling on most. Each night as dinner time approached, we brushed off the eraser dust before heading to the main house to enjoy a delicious dinner of traditional Lyonnaise dishes served with a generous supply of the local Beaujolais wine. French was the language of choice at dinner, and with a teacher at each end of the table and a full day of speaking French already behind us, it was easy to relax and enjoy the evening.

Just like when we were kids, the school work was hard, and we complained about the amount of homework, but we also laughed often, and we're pleased to be in the company of our teachers and classmates. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

When our week was over, we said our thank you's and goodbye's and drove to Lyon to do some errands. We marched up to salespeople full of new confidence and described what we were looking for with more ease than ever before. We were in and out of each store in a flash, proving that paying attention in class and doing your homework helps you succeed in life. We rewarded ourselves with a nice lunch.

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