When learning French becomes a little more delicious…

“Il s’agit d’une culture d’excellence” and “On ne s’ennuie jamais” were two of the phrases which came out of the mouths of the disarmingly funny pair; the chef and a wine connoisseur who came together to share their knowledge at Le Cordon Bleu.

Over the course of two hours, the comic duo took it in turns to amuse, teach and explain to us about what they know best: the culinary arts. By the end of the evening, there could be no doubt in my mind that this was indeed an art.

The students of the Alliance Française Paris Île-de-France and I were blown away by the range of work, research and experimenting that went into making the wonderful dishes presented to us. Rather, I thought, like the process that goes into learning French. En fait, our hosts of the evening had three key tips which paralleled the experience of learning le français. 

1. “Il faut aimer la vie et les bonnes choses”

C’était frappant, just how very French our two teachers were as they spoke to us of the paramount importance of thorough research of ingredients, and the necessity of a perfect complementary wine. Their adoration of the culinary arts shone through. 

So too did Claudia’s enthusiasm as she told me how she had worked as an accountant in the States, before waking up one day and deciding that she wanted more. She quit her job, sold her house, and boarded a flight to France – and decided to take a risk.

“I’m not sure if it’s the long term plan, no, but even if I can’t find work here, I still had a year in Paris. And I think that’s pretty incredible”. 

Why Paris? Well, it had always been her dream, and now here she was, living in the 2ème and sitting in the kitchen of Le Cordon Bleu, rather than in a stuffy office at home. Her enthusiasm and excitement were contagious.

2. “Il faut être patient”

These were the next words of wisdom passed on to us by the chef as he gently stirred a creamy white sauce which was to accompany the sea bass. 

This too, I have found, is equally true when it comes to learning a language. Although Claudia described the amount of progress she had made in two weeks as “incroyable”, she was a little disappointed that she didn’t yet have any French friends (or boyfriends). She did however, have hope that it would happen “slowly but surely”.

3. “Il faut vraiment s’expérimenter”

Learning French -www.MyFrenchLife.org.jpg2

The dynamic duo also urged us to experiment with food, to try and find which combinations really work. 

I then turned to speak to Fabiana, who had come from Venezuela to marry a Frenchman whom she had met in New York. When I asked her what language they spoke together, there was no single answer, as they prefer to speak in une mélange of Spanish, English and French. “We make a mixture – it’s a constant work in progress,” she laughed. 

Learning French with a lot of enthusiasm

At each of these events, it startles me how every student has a different story to tell of why they came to La Ville-Lumière and their many experiences here. 

The enthusiasm of the chefs and the students warmed me – they had such dedication to learning, whether it was to pronounce the toughest of French words (mille feuille’ has always been my personal stumbling block) or to make a meal fit for a king. 

The efforts were paying off. Many of the students couldn’t hold in their excitement at the progress they had made in a short amount of time, barely holding the words in as they shared their stories.

In terms of the food however, no words were needed to show our appreciation of everything we tasted. The empty plates spoke for themselves. 

What else do you think is key to learning French? Share your comments with us below!

Proud partner of the Alliance Française Paris Île-de-France.

All images © Jill Craig:
1. Wine connoisseur
2. Claudia and friend
3. Fabiana

About the Contributor

Jill Craig

I'm currently a university student in Glasgow, studying a Masters degree in English Literature and French. Soon I’ll be moving to la ville lumière where I’ll become a Paris-based intern! You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.

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  1. Selina Sykes Sep 3, 2014 at 7:01 PM - Reply

    Sounds like an amazing event Jill! Food, French and wine, what more could you want?!

  2. Christina Guzman Sep 4, 2014 at 10:35 AM - Reply

    I really like the way you linked cooking and learning french together – it’s quite the analysis. And it makes total sense too! Patience, enthusiasm and experimentation are very much essential to language learning. It’s nice to know we’re not alone when it comes to needing all of these ‘attributes’ when learning and practicing a skill.

  3. Alexandria Rogers Sep 4, 2014 at 2:23 PM - Reply

    What an inspiring story, Jill! Sometimes it really does require a leap of faith. And she’s right, even if you don’t find a job, a year in Paris will stay with you forever. Great read!

  4. Ellen Burns Sep 5, 2014 at 8:13 AM - Reply

    Great article! I also struggle with mille feuille…
    People like Claudia are an inspiration, I hope that everyone gets to have that sort of transformation in their lives. Everyone should be going out and living their dream, life’s too short!
    This sounds like a brilliant event. What else did you get to eat??

  5. Jill Craig Sep 5, 2014 at 5:43 PM - Reply

    thank you everyone – definitely one of the perks of the job is attending these events, and i met some really great people in the process 😉

    And Ellen i still struggle with ‘mille feuille’ – which is a shame because it’s such a favourite of mine!

    • Ellen Burns Sep 5, 2014 at 9:37 PM - Reply

      And I don’t suppose they’d be happy with “vanille tranche” or “crème tranche” like we would call them in Australia! 😛

      (or… dare I suggest “bloc de morve”… which sounds much less vulgar in French!)

  6. Julia Greenhalf Sep 9, 2014 at 2:10 PM - Reply

    Awesome parallels you drew here Jill! Help, I’m drooling…

  7. Jill Craig Sep 9, 2014 at 6:59 PM - Reply

    Merci Julia! 🙂

  8. Michael Dorman Dec 29, 2016 at 1:56 PM - Reply

    An addition to my comment on reading French (or any other non-native language you may be learning). Reading aloud is a good idea as well. Though you hear the French you are silently reading in your head, it is another matter to train your throat, lips and tongue to form the sounds you are not accustomed to. It is like learning to ride a bike for the first time. It is difficult to balance and co-ordinate in the beginning but bit by bit with practice, the brain and muscles train each other to work well together. Similarly with the physical part of language, i.e. it vocal part.

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