Meet Jim, A Californian Who Loves France!
What do I Love about France?
Almost everything. I love reading a French newspaper while eating a croissant in the morning at a little sidewalk café, watching people walking in the street, I love Serge Gainsbourg and his provocative attitude, his music, the relationships he had with artists of his generation, I love Juliette Binoche, I love Godard movies, French wines, French cheese, le magret de canard, the architecture of Paris, especially the Haussmann buildings, the small villages in the South, I love the atmosphere of the quartier Saint-Germain in Paris, I love the Seine, the Luxembourg gardens…
We could go on for hours. Jim never tires of speaking about this country that he simply adores, and he loves the French, too, whom he finds “very warm and generous.” He also said: “The French language has always held an allure for me, but I don’t really under-stand why.” Jim, a typical Californian born in Hollywood, gifted with a very positive and friendly personality, was 15 when he first decided to learn French. But he really started at the age of 45, and then only from a distance, by Skype, first with Céline, the founder of Learn French at Home, then with other teachers of the same team. He has never been to France more than five weeks in a row, every two to five years, and still, he has made considerable progress over the years in his fluency in the language. He is now 55, is a busy professional as one can be in the USA, spending long days and evenings solving other people’s and companies’ computer problems. That is his job. And yet, he has reached an impressive advanced level which allows him to read difficult novels in French, to listen to complex political discussions, to understand the lyrics of many French songs, and to speak easily on the phone with his French friends in their language, or to have interesting conversations with them when they share a dinner together.
Why Is Jim So Successful At Learning French?
Why? Mainly because Jim is, and remains, highly motivated. There are other reasons, too. As we said, Jim has a positive attitude, he is keen to learn, always remains modest, laughing about his mistakes, and he is never afraid, either to be wrong while saying something in French, or to initiate a French conversation in French with French people whom he does not know. And he has a goal: to be able to walk in the streets, not only of Paris but of any little village in any region of France, anywhere he won’t risk meeting people who speak English, and to be able to communicate easily with the locals, to have a coffee and chat with other customers about any news story of interest to them, to live, and speak, like a French person.
Like so many other French learners who try their best to speak and understand better this new language, Jim is doing his best to achieve this goal, so that he can fully appreciate the best of France.
…I love Godard movies, French wines, French cheese, magret de canard, the architecture of Paris, especially the Haussmann buildings, the small villages in the South, I love the atmosphere of the quartier Saint-Germain in Paris, I love the Seine, the Luxembourg gardens… Jim, a student of Learn French at Home
Jim's Strong Determination
SINCE EMBARKING on his intense study of French more than ten years ago, Jim has been determined to succeed. He wanted to speak French fluently on any subject and to make the most of every trip to France each time he had the chance to visit the country. A real challenge for someone living so far from France, who had started from scratch, and had very few opportunities at that time to forge links with French-speaking persons close to his home. And he succeeded! All the French whom he meets in the USA or during his travels overseas are amazed by his fluency when he speaks French. They are also very surprised by his extensive knowledge of everything related to France. One can talk with him about anything: French literature, movies, music, environment, politics, history or any news story — he is often the first to inform his French friends about what has happened in France during the last hours or the day before. He also has a broad knowledge of many regions of France (Normandy, the Bordeaux region, Provence, the French Riviera, the Champagne region, the Ardèche, the North, the Alps, etc.), knows the differences between the various quartiers of Paris and has his personal preferences.
What is the secret of his success?
How does he manage to speak French with such spontaneity and fluency, while living in California? Throughout the following chapters, we examine, step by step, how he did it, as well as all the tips and strategies he constantly uses to achieve his goals, and to make his dreams come true. To start with, the single element that has been the most decisive in achieving such a tremendous success is his strong, constant and un-wavering determination. He would never shirk any step of his study, he would never miss a lesson unless he was very sick or over-loaded with work, and even if he had to slow down a little from time to time, he would do everything he could to make it up as quickly as possible. Even though he has been taking regular lessons with sev-eral different teachers of Learn French at Home, he does not think that he has reached the stage where he does not need more lessons.
Furthermore, for some time he started taking a second lesson per week with a French friend who lives close by. “I find all these lessons with my teachers, either by Skype or face to face, very effective, and pleasant. When I have to cancel a lesson because of my schedule, I am always very disappointed. I have the feeling of missing some-thing important.” Now, these regular lessons, which consist mainly of a combination of discussions about French culture or politics and a detailed exploration of the vocabulary and interesting expressions, have become a new routine that provides him with great pleasure.
He Remained Determined!
As relaxed and cool as he seems, and he is, his determination has never diminished over the years, on the contrary. He knows what he wants, he has his personal goals, and nothing can deter him from achieving them.
For Jim, as well as for all our students who are the most successful in meeting their goals, determination has been the main factor for such an achievement. As is the case for any discipline. In a quote published on her website, the Indian author and motivating counselor Dr. Roopleen said: “If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.” For her, determination is the way to make your dreams to come true, as was the case for Jim.
Where Does Jim’s Determination Come From?
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek,” declared the retired Formula 1 champion Mario Andretti.
Just as he made his way through every race circuit he drove in his life, you can make your way along the path of learning you have embarked on, if your determination proves to be strong enough.
Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal… that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
-Mario Andretti, Formula 1 champion
Jim's Daily Discipline
JIM WOULD NEVER DREAM of missing any opportunity to listen to, speak or read French. Apart from his professional commitments, French accompanies him all the time, and this has been the case for a very long time. When Learn French at Home started an online Forum in 2007, giving the students the opportunity to answer the Question du Jour on any subject of life (and to be corrected online by the teacher who posted the question), he was among the first to sign up, and over the years, he has almost always submitted his answer to the daily question. From 2012 to 2015 alone, he has written more than 1,500 posts, the wide majority of which express his love for France, or relate frankly and with humor some of the difficulties he faces on a daily basis in his study of the French language.
Jim’s Daily Routine
Participating in the Forum is part of the daily discipline Jim has established for himself. First, during breakfast, he reads a few pages of a French publication, such as France, a magazine specializing in French culture and joie de vivre to which he has subscribed. Then, using his computer or iPhone, he opens the webpage of the Learn French at Home Forum, reads the corrections by a French teacher of his previous answers and the answers of other students, discovers the new daily question and the first answers, and writes his own in French. Then, he is ready to go to work and gets in his car. As a computer consultant, he spends a lot of time driving, going from one client to the other. For him, this is the best time to listen to the French podcasts he has previously downloaded: French radio programs or recorded French lessons. He alternates with French songs or French news. In the evening, before going to bed, Jim reads a few pages of a French novel, in the original language. His discipline includes a few other activities several times a week. At least one morning a week, he has a French lesson, by Skype, with a French native teacher based in France; and every Tuesday evening, he has another lesson face-to-face with a teacher and friend who lives close by — a lesson which ends with a dinner with a few French friends during which the rule is: to speak only French. On weekends, when he has more time, Jim loves watching French movies and, when subtitles are available, he prefers the subtitles in French. He also enjoys spending some more time over an aperitif or a dinner with French friends. And even when he is gardening, on Saturday morning, he listens to French podcasts on his iPhone.
How To Achieve Success
“Success is created through the performance of a few small daily disciplines that stack up over time to produce achievements,” Robin Sharma says. Jim’s advice to any student of French is to follow as much as possible the same type of discipline that he has applied for himself for more than ten years now: “I know from experience how much listening to French radio is good for the comprehension.” He adds that it is very important to learn the grammar. “If you don’t understand how to put a phrase together or how to conjugate the verbs properly, you are lost. You may understand what French people around you are talking about but you are unable to participate in the discussion.”
Jim is an excellent example of what many of our students try to do in order to make sure they are on a right path for learning: discipline themselves within a daily or weekly routine. One of them, Lindsay, who lives in France, listed in the Forum all of the New Year’s resolution that she intended to keep: to continue reading French newspapers every morning; to read at least one French magazine each month (I receive two of Learn French? Of Course You Can! 115 them: Vent Sud and Détours); to answer the Question du jour of the French Forum of Learn French at Home at least three times a week, if I like the question; to speak regularly to my neighbors, to attend each of my cooking classes which take place twice a month in my village; to attend a French-English conversation group every Friday; to do all the homework that my teacher gives me. As we said in the chapters about goals, drawing such a specific list of tasks is an excellent way to discipline oneself, and not to forget any useful step on the pathway towards a better knowledge of the language.
Success is created through the performance of a few small daily disciplines that stack up over time to produce achievements.
You can learn to be fluid in French with determination, discipline, and frequent study. All you have to do is believe in yourself, set goals, and stay on track. To read more about Jim’s inspiring story, download our ebook “Learn French? Of Course You Can?” from our online store for just $18.99.