La Leçon

Tuesday, I had my first private French lesson.  Last year, I studied at the Sorbonne and completed the advanced level but I want to achieve native-like fluency.  I have engaged the services of a private teacher in the fifth arrondissement to help me to attain this goal.  Having taught advanced English conversation to adults, I have some preconceptions about what fluency means.

The teacher whom I have chosen from the many available on the Internet lives 6 km from my Montmartre apartment.  My visiting friend and I set out to walk there allowing time for sightseeing on the way. We set out into the grey Paris morning visiting L'église de la Madeleine. This visit took us a couple of kms. out of our way and as my friend reminded me, I had forgotten to support my ankle. Hills and stairs quickly cause swelling right now. We stopped on the rue Rivoli for salade composée and du vin. I love French salads which are usually works of art. Mine had hard-cooked egg,
shrimp, smoked salmon and goat cheese in addition to the regular salad fare.

 After going too far and having missed our street, we eventually found the apartment for the lesson. The teacher's apartment was on the third floor (read 4th for North America) so after having walked for a few hours and having climbed  the stairs, I am slightly out of breath and my yellowish green ankle is starting to swell.

Madame le professeur asks me some questions and takes notes.  Her first impression is that I, like many Americans (Canadians are the same to many French people) speak too quickly and in a monotonous drone typical to anglophones.  I must learn to speak with "la bouche ouverte" and to divide my sentences into phrases like Jacques Chirac.

I am given a mirror to watch the shape of my mouth as I utter certain French phrases paying special attention to articulation. After 8 weeks, I hope to acquire "la bouche française".  My teacher says that I will become more relaxed speaking French if I develop M. Chirac's oratorial style. M. Hollande is not listened to because he does not articulate. I spend 90 minutes grimacing into my hand mirror and enunciating.

It is very interesting to have a private Paris teacher.  I will visit her twice a week for the next 8 weeks. I must spend some time each day practising my sounds. What a sight!


  1. We've just set up arrangements for our lessons with a private teacher in Bordeaux (same as last year). I'll be really keen to hear how your Paris experience goes and perhaps you'll share the contact info later. Meanwhile, do tape up your ankle -- ice would be good as well!


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