Operations Manager at Cactus, Leticia Artiles Gracia, tells us her reasons for learning French and how much she enjoyed immersing herself in the language in Antibes
I love and enjoy doing many things. But if I had to choose two, they would definitely be: travelling and learning languages.
What if you are given the choice to combine both? That is exactly what I have been doing once a year since I joined the Cactus team, almost 4 years ago. This time I took a 1-week holiday and went to do a French course in Antibes.
I must admit that this was a bit of a risk as French is not really my favourite language. I have tried to study it many times without success and not because I find it difficult: I am Spanish and that helps a lot when it comes to understanding the language, its structures, its spelling, etc. The real reason behind my lack of interest in French is that I have never had a real motivation to learn this particular language.
Now I do have one: I am learning Arabic in Morocco and the Moroccan dialect uses a lot of French terms and in many cities of Morocco they use a high percentage of French words.
So, there you go, if I want to communicate with people in Morocco, I need to improve my French too!
So I decided to give myself another chance and instead of going for a normal course I thought: why not to go there for a week and immerse myself completely in the language and the culture? I am so glad I did.
A language holiday is such a good choice for a solo traveller. The General Course is perfect in terms of number of hours. I had to get up early in the mornings to go to the school but then at midday I was free to go and enjoy my free time while practicing what I had learnt in the classroom. During the 3 hour class we practiced all skills: listening, reading, writing, speaking.
My teacher & classes
My teacher could not have been better. You could tell she was highly qualified and experienced and she managed to motivate us to produce as much language as we could. I was placed in a higher level than I expected and that was very encouraging. I cannot say it was not a challenge, but it really pushed me to try and learn as much as I could in a week.
The whole class was entirely in French, not a single translation in English and the teacher did not allow us to use dictionaries or applications to translate. What was not understood at first was explained using different techniques such as: giving examples, using synonyms, mimics, sounds, anything! My vocabulary grew by the days and my oral expression and understanding were definitely improving. The course was complemented with a grammar book created by the school with clear explanations and examples.
Due to the fact that the week I was there was low season, we did not manage to get enough people together to do any of the extra activities the school offers. These included city tours and a wine and cheese tasting evening. Next time I will have to go when it’s busier but that would also mean more people in the classes. The class size at this time of the year is between 6 and 8 people, perfect if you want to make the most of the week.
Although most of the students were in their early twenties, there were also quite a few people over 30. I managed to meet people of my age not so much in the classroom as in the residence where I stayed. This one was definitely the best choice as most people were over 25 and it was a nice and quiet place to stay that invited you to relax and study during your free time.
There was where I met Diana, a Dutch lady, with whom I shared lovely chats (in French!), nice seafood and wine dinners and entertaining excursions in and out of Antibes. We agreed that although we both spoke much better English than French we would try to speak French as much as we could and so we did.
Antibes & the surrounding area
Antibes has a lot to see; it’s a lovely and picturesque town on the Côte d’Azur, full of small cafés, restaurants and shops. It has a beautiful beach really close to the school, perfect to run to right after the classes for a couple of hours. There is also a traditional market right in the heart of the town. It is a place that allows you to travel back in time.
The residences are in a more touristic area called Juan les Pins, a lively place perfect for partying. From my point of view, Antibes is much more authentic – it has the perfect southern French taste! People are very lovely, although there are many tourists. You still get that personal treatment and after going to a café twice, they already know what you want.
I managed to visit Nice and Cannes. My favourite was definitely Nice, a very charming city with a mix of traditional architecture and modern buildings and a great promenade to enjoy a pleasant walk in the evening. There is also a nice waterfall at the top of the mountain definitely worth visiting.
Other class mates visited other small cities and they all sounded very nice too. I wish I had gone for 2 weeks so that I could have had time to see a lot more.
All in all, the experience was extremely positive. Now that I have experience learning French in a country where it´s spoken I can´t wait to do it again.