Merci Madame le Professeur

I just received an e-mail from Mildred Camille, my teacher at Cours de la Civilisation française de la Sorbonne. Mildred is the best teacher that I have ever met. As a 60 year old returning student in a class of 18-23 year olds, I felt uncertain and a little intimidated. I graduated from university long before they were born.

But Madame Camille was  organized and thorough in her teaching and extremely clear and consistent in her expectations. Almost every week, we had a review test on Friday and a written composition for Monday. I have never seen so many thoughtful corrections in any composition.  Madame corrected online and I could tell that sometimes she  had laboured for hours on each page.

I devoted a lot of time to  my studies when I was in France. Any time that I wondered about a turn of phrase, I e-mailed Madame and she replied.  Each week, she made suggestions about museums that we could visit to learn more about French culture.  I was able to make the most of my time in Paris.

As a retired teacher of children and adults, I appreciate the role of the teacher in student success.  Those recommendations of books to read, places to visit and the conversations after class or by e-mail encouraged me to work harder and harder.  Madame's obvious passion for French grammar and literature and her dry humour ignited a similar enthusiasm in me.  I was successful in my studies at the Sorbonne and it was largely due to Madame's presentation. In France, the relationship between teacher and student is a formal one. Although I was probably older than she and had taught for 25 years in Canada, I addressed her as "vous" and "Madame". When I return to France in March, since Mildred will no longer be my teacher, I hope to take her out for a glass of wine.


  1. I'm curious/envious -- can I assume that your French is advanced enough that you are attending lectures in French? Having just read Sorbonne Confidential, I'd be terribly intimidated, but we really enjoyed the private lessons we had last year at Bordeaux University with a very impressive grad student as tutor.

  2. Yes, all lectures are in French but the Cours was started after World War 1 to promote French language and literature in the world. Students from different nations at all levels attend classes after a placement test. The cost is low, the standards are high and Mildred taught at Columbia and the Brearley School in New York as well as at the Sorbonne. I am going back in March just to do phonetics and advanced conversation because I would like the oral practise. The levels are internationally accepted. For example, with the B2 level which I completed, I could attend a francophone university. It is a wonderful course if you are motivated.


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