Jemma Dixon : a New Zealander studying French in Tours, France
Jemma Dixon is a young girl from New Zealand. During a discussion with a friend, she decided to go to France to learn the language of Molière. She tells us about her adventure in France.
Just over one year ago, Louise and I met in a café in Auckland, Ponsonby; we talked about travelling in France and learning French. « One of the best feelings is being able to walk into a café or social setting in France and understand exactly what’s going on », she told me. She said something in French which I couldn’t understand and I was instantly in awe. I wanted to close the gap between wanting to speak the language and actually speaking it.
Louise recommended the school Clé, Centre Linguistique Pour Étrangers, in Tours, about two hours southwest of Paris by train. I thought a trip to France would be good for me; it was a way to think about life as an experiment — what would it feel like to speak another language and live an authentic French life? I organised my Visa, booked my French classes and soon found myself on a plane to France.
Fast forward one year later: Louise and I met again in Ponsonby, speaking French ! We talked about our experiences in France and studying at CLÉ, which recently received the international prize of « Best Language School in France 2019 », based on student responses to a questionnaire of satisfaction from varying schools.
« Why French? » I asked Louise.
I sipped on my espresso, it was subtle reminder of France. She met my eyes with a smile.
« I find it brave to connect with people in another language; there’s the satisfaction of learning the language and then being able to access a culture and people. Some people choose to stay in hotels when they go to Clé but I recommend a homestay — it was an amazingly satisfying experience, to see the way people live, the way people include you. »
She told me, « I’ve studied French on-and-off and it’s something I’ve always been interested in. It’s a magnificent feeling, going into classrooms and you see these different people from all across the world. You’d meet a Colonel in the British army, a PR executive for Swiss railways, an Artificial Intelligence student and someone controlling the satellite ops in space. Each person offers a unique window into another country which you wouldn’t know anything about. And how fun the experiences were — we laughed the entire time — there was nothing too serious about it. There were games, quizzes... we visited Châteaux and went for excursions on our bikes along the Loire ; each evening we would head to the Guinguettes (popular outdoor cafés where you can dance and drink), right next to the Loire valley. The atmosphere was incredible », Louise told me, « with the young and old.»
I remember a quote on the wall in my homestay’s house by the French novelist George Sand, it read : « The intellect seeks, the heart finds », I’d say Clé and France nurture both curiosities.