Immersion France summer language courses in Loire village

Suèvres is an ancient, beautiful, friendly, working village near the Loire, just east of Blois. Full of streams, water mills, Roman remains and mediaeval buildings, it has a strong sense of community. There is a thriving café life, village choir, football team, monthly street market and there are many lovely walks. We have known it for many years and have many friends there. Twenty-five years ago we bought a small river-side cottage with a water mill attached. Twenty-three years ago, we started Immersion France as a small enterprise that we run during the summer holidays.

What we offered was an intensive French language course combined with immersing students in the kind of French village life that the French call la France profonde. Students would stay with village families well known to us and enjoy breakfast and some evening meals with them during which they would engage in relaxed conversation about daily life in France.

Regular morning and afternoon classes, based around what students told us about their linguistic needs, would be held in spacious classrooms provided for us by the Commune de Suèvres, with morning coffee breaks taken in one of the lively village cafés and working lunches held in our riverside garden.

There would be visits to a local chateau like Chambord (whose lofty towers and turrets have been compared to the skyline of Istanbul!) or Talcy (where the poet Ronsard wrote his famous love poetry) and the town of Blois, with its cathedral, hanging gardens, maze of mediaeval streets, squares, and chateau overlooking the Loire.

That was twenty three years ago and we have been learning from our early successes and mistakes ever since. Our students are welcomed by all the villagers. Our main teachers are all university lecturers, well used to mature students, who aim to make learning both structured and enjoyable. We are Jane McAdoo, who taught French language and literature in the French Department of Goldsmiths’College, London University and at the Open University where she was also an examiner for their French degrees, Penny Sewell, ex-Head of French at Birkbeck College, London University and Monique Meager, a native French-speaker who taught French for many years with the Open University. We also have a retired French School Inspector, Michel Pigny from Suèvres, who contributes to our teaching and visits.

We take a variety of abilities (although no absolute beginners) and ages. Twelve students a week is about our maximum, usually divided into two self-selecting groups to facilitate students progressing at their own pace. We never underestimate how nervous some students may be at the start of a week’s course so confidence-building is a central aim.

Our students have been welcomed by the villagers and over the years, we have added such elements as a ‘Philosophers’ Café’, introducing  the basics of French philosophy from Descartes to Sartre and De Beauvoir (in English – no previous knowledge needed!), some French literature for those interested, an optional French cookery class and a class in singing French chansons from Piaf to Brel (no singing expertise required!) because singing in French does wonders for your French pronunciation!  On the week of the French national Fête, Bastille Day, there is a street party with accordion and French chansons on the 13th  July and on the 14th, an open-air communal feast on the village green, followed by a torch-lit procession around the village and then fireworks and dancing.

On your arrival, if coming by train, we always meet you by car at Mer railway station, a ten minute drive from Suèvres. If coming by car, you drive direct to our house where we will be waiting to take you to your family. The first evening you come to our house around 6.30 pm from where we go on a  guided stroll around the village. This is followed by an aperitif (one of the great French traditions!) and  welcoming dinner  in our riverside garden, the main aim being to overcome ‘first night nerves’ and make you feel at home.

We also invite several native French speakers to join us because from the very first, we encourage you to talk only in French, even among yourselves. Our approach on the first night is:  ‘don’t worry too much about making mistakes, have a go! Tune your ear in!’  We and our French friends may correct you, but only very gently! The other evenings you will be eating and talking with your families, except on the last evening when we take over a local restaurant, La Bergerie, for a final meal, during which we also try out some French chansons, accompanied by Dédé on the accordion.

We have had many returning students over the years. For more details, see our website:

                                                    www.immersionfrance.co.uk

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