Terra: French Immersion – France


Terra: French Immersion – France
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Immersion – this is a word that anyone who’s ever studied a foreign language has heard. It is tough to reach a certain level of mastery before being immersed in the language you’re studying, meaning that everyone around you is speaking that language.


Terra: Immersion
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For me, that language was French and my way of attaining immersion was traveling to France to live with a host family for a month. I had been to the country twice before, but with English-speaking tour groups. Although I got to experience the French culture and language, I wasn’t able to experience immersion.

The closest I was able to come is when I attended a meetup that took place every Saturday between people who wanted to practice their French. Each Saturday we would speak French, exclusively, for three hours.

On my third trip to France, I was really doing it. I was planning to speak in nothing but French for a whole month – and I did it!


Terra: Immersion
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A rush of excitement hit me as I stepped on the bus intended to transport passengers from the plane to the airport terminal. I couldn’t believe it. From this point on, I would have to “turn off” my English.
When I reached the airport my host family greeted me with warm smiles and “Ça va”s.

“Ça va très bien,” I answered. I was doing great. What I was thinking at that moment, however, was “Ça commence.” It begins. It was time to speak French, and I was ready to tackle the task head on.

First off, my host family took me to the city of Tours, in the Pays de la Loire region. One thing that I was able to see there was la Loire, the country’s longest river. Residents of Tours are known to speak some of the most “pure” French. What better place to be immersed!


Terra: Immersion
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Next, we went to Paris, where we stayed in the apartment belonging to one of my host family’s friends. From one of the windows, the tip of the Eiffel Tower could be seen. It is not hard to imagine how lucky I felt to be staying at a place where I could look out the window and see la tour Eiffel. Another thing I saw in Paris was l’Orient Express, an old luxury train, now on display in the city. Walking through the train was like taking a step into the 1920’s. Little tables lined the narrow car, topped with vintage looking lamps and old newspapers.

After going to Paris, we went to the South of France, to the coast of the Mediterranean. It was beautiful there, like a painting. Rich colors of blue green and taupe painted the mountainous coast. They tasted like a fruity drink on my lips as I inhaled the cool, afternoon breeze.

“Il fait beau aujourd’hui, n’est-ce pas?” I was asked.
“Oui, Il fait très beau!” I replied. Yes, today was absolutely gorgeous.

Lastly we went to Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, which is on the western Atlantic Coast. There we went bike riding through rugged trails, and indulged in lots of seafood. The beaches of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie reminded me of those in the state of Maine- flat, with jagged gray rocks protruding here and there.
At the end of my trip, I was sad to go. I’d had such a great time, and had spoken only French for an entire month. It was not until I listened to a radio broadcast in this language the last night of my stay that I noticed my improvement. Everything was so much clearer and the words finally made sense. Before, when I did this kind of thing, I was able to get the gist of what was being discussed, but it was difficult to put specific words together.

When I arrived home, I was met by my mother, by brother, and my cousin. My mother greeted me ecstatically as she took me into her arms.

“I missed you so much!”
“Tu me manq- I missed you too, mom.”

Speaking my native tongue seemed a bit awkward, because I had been communicating in another for so long!

Although taking this trip has improved my French so much, I realize that I am still far from perfect. It took a lot of work to get to the point where I was able to at least communicate in an environment where I was completely immersed in French. It will surely take a lot of work to reach the next step in my language learning journey. When I get there though, I know it will be worth it. It was the first time!

Marcella Del Plato
LEAF Contributor