A friend told me she was attending a French immersion course in the Alps. I figured I could use both, a serious language practice and cool mountain air in mid-July, so I signed up too.
The course was held at Lauvitel Lodge outside the village of Bourg L’Oisans, and was positioned in a large meadow overlooking several peaks. That’s where we took all our classes, under shade umbrellas. This was the view from my room.
We were nine of us in the class, with occasional participation by the lodge owner Caroline, a British expat long in France. Jane, our instructor and a native of Normandy who had lived ten years in Portland, Oregon, was excellent. She’d trained as an actress, and loved to role play. Her performances of unhelpful hospital secretaries, gas station attendants and other “service” people during our improv sessions made us laugh in recognition.
Our group met daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with class filling the time in-between, conversations unbroken and entirely in French. After five days, it felt odd to arrive in Nice and have English enter my brain. But it did, and all too quickly, hours or days passed without a word of the local language. Foiled!
It was a worthwhile experience, however. I did pick up additional vocabulary and tips on how to improve further. My favorite: read “bandes dessinés” (graphic novels), such as this one often for mastery of colloquial, spoken French.
I’m eager for more immersion but my next foray will have to be closer to Nice. The train journey from Grenoble home required two changes and took six hours. Even with AC, the car was hot, which felt worse by having to wear a mask the entire time. Which everyone was doing, thank god, as it was packed.
Normally I am happy when traveling, but in the era of Covid that was not the case. I was nervous and hyper-vigilant about getting too close, examining surfaces and using hand gel frequently. It did make me wonder how many more train trips I’ll be on.