Head Home Previous Next Last

French Lessons

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

"Just go. They'll be glad to have you," Debra, my travel companion said as I left the hotel room I shared with her.

I was determined to take formal French lessons during this trip but I hadn't enrolled in advance because the French school in Nice wanted a nonrefundable $150 deposit. The Covid pandemic was still raging: I wasn't sure I would even make it to Nice. The US Centers for Disease Control designated France at Level 4, do not travel.

I decided to enroll on the first day of class. I had a lot of nerve.

I grabbed a handful of pecans and stuffed them in my mouth as I rushed out the front lobby of Hotel Roosevelt. In 15 minutes, tram # 2 took me to the Gambetta stop where I got off. The sun was shining but it was a cool 61 degrees. I walked two blocks to the nondescript building that Debra and I surveyed the day before.

I pressed the button corresponding to Actilangue then pushed the door. I inhaled and exhaled to tame the excitement and worry in my heart. It was quiet and dark. I climbed up the stairs to the second floor. To the right, a lighted panel said, "Actilangue."

I went inside, said "Bonjour" to the young woman in an enclosed glass cubicle and summoned my best effort to say in French that I wanted to enroll in the Intensive Course. She looked at me and asked for my level of French. I marked A2 (Elementary) on the application. A month prior, I took an online French level test thru the Centre D'Antibes and Azurlingua, French schools in Nice. I scored A2 which means "Not bad, pretty good."

On my application, she marked the box that read, "Faible a moyen" which worried me. I remembered that "faible" means "weak." Google Translate said it meant "low to medium." She said I wasn't a Debutante (Beginner), a small consolation. I decided not to take this to heart. Just get in the class, I told myself.


"I will consult the Directrice," she said as she left me standing in the office. Melissa, the Directrice, was also the teacher for the class in session. She greeted me warmly. I overheard her say, "Le test" several times to the young woman. I was ready to take any test but was happy that I didn't need to. Finally, I was registered for Course No. 2 for 477 euros (533 US dollars). The course was for two weeks, from 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the last hour for conversation.

I joined the class composed of one American (Florina), two Bulgarian ladies (Tania and Toni), one Vietnamese (Nhi) and one Portuguese (Iliana). Although I was the oldest by perhaps 27 years, I felt comfortable with them and dove right in with the lessons.

The group was in the middle of taking a test on the use of que versus qui. Next, we learned Passe Compose, then Imparfait. It was a good first day. Melissa was a great teacher: patient, creative, enthusiastic and fun. Every day, we studied grammar, vocabulary and French culture. For the conversation part, we delved into different subjects, oftentimes defending our position on a specific issue.

Learning French in France is the way to go. Hearing the language spoken all everywhere helped tremendously. I practiced speaking French at restaurants, museums, supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies and train stations.

On my last day, I was thrilled to receive my Certificate from the school. I hoped the school was glad to have me.

~ Nida Spalding






Last page
Next page
Previous page
Home page