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Profile of a Lifelong Learner: Debbie C.

Profile of a Lifelong Learner: Debbie C.Here at ICLS, we love getting to hear about how language can become a lifelong learning journey for people all around the world! So we were so excited for the chance to sit down with lifelong Francophile Debbie C. to hear all about her language adventures. Whether you’re learning French or looking for inspiration for your next travel adventure, Debbie’s story is sure to inspire. And if you are ready to get started on your journey, check out our language classes for mature adults.

Falling in love with French

Debbie C. is a lifelong Francophile. She took her first French class in high school only because it was a requirement. While everybody else was interested in Spanish, Debbie was a free spirit — and she wanted to do something different.

She quickly became hooked on French and continued taking classes throughout her high school years. Today, when people compliment her accent, she still credits her high school teacher. That instructor, a native speaker from Haiti, inspired Debbie’s love for the French language and culture.

Debbie took her first trip to France as a high school sophomore. It took some convincing for her mother to allow it, but once she arrived at the University of Dijon, she quickly fell in love with the country.

Lifelong Learning

Debbie continued her studies with a few French classes in college, but had to put her language learning goals on hold after school. It wasn’t until her retirement from a career in public administration in 2016 that she rekindled her love of the language. She began taking French classes again, and when she met with her Parisian tutor on Zoom, she was surprised by how much she remembered:

Although I hadn’t studied French in over 20 years, I remembered the alphabet, I could still count to 100, I knew the days of the week, the months, and how to ask and tell time. It was all stored somewhere deep in my brain.

And while she struggled with some vocabulary items, her accent remained very good.

From carefully planned trips to spontaneous explorations

As Debbie resumed studying French, she also took every chance she got to travel to France. Over the years, she has taken over a dozen trips to France both with friends and by herself. She’s extensively explored not only Paris, but also Lille (North of France), western France (Mont Saint Michel), and the south (Avignon). She first went on a few organized trips with built-in itineraries such as the Smithsonian Journeys or the Trafalgar Tours. Now that she’s traveled to Paris a few times, she no longer plans her trips carefully. Because in her own words:

“There is always something to do! Even if you just go to a café and sit down, there is always something to experience.”

For example, while walking around during fashion week, she once stumbled upon an outdoor fashion show. She promptly called her friends to invite them to join her, and it was the sort of spontaneous experience that she might have missed had she stuck with a pre-planned itinerary.

Exploring French culture

Language classes for mature adultsShe likes to visit specialty shops and strike up conversations with local cheese or wine shop owners, who carefully curate their products and are incredibly knowledgeable about their origins and particularities. As she points out, many of these businesses have been passed down from generation to generation, and their owners take pride in sharing their knowledge and expertise with their customers.

For her spring 2022 trip, Debbie applied for an extended visa. She plans to stay at least three months, maybe more.  She’ll explore the South of France, Marseille, Nîme, Bordeau, and Aix En Provence. As she excitedly shared:

“I can’t wait to bring back some lavender wands. Although I am not a shopper, I go for the experience, the food, and the culture.”

When in Marseille, Debbie wants to learn how their famous soap is made.

Making friends

The first time she traveled alone, Debbie became acquainted with the Paris Greeters, a group of volunteers who curate their own walks in Paris for free.

“It’s a great service. You go on the website, and you pick a walk. You get to meet people and see amazing things. Once, while walking in the Marais neighborhood, this lady showed me a door that dates from the Middle Ages! I would never get to experience something like that in the US!

Taking part in the greeter program and attending luncheons for American expats has allowed Debbie to forge new friendships. As part of her upcoming trip, she will take a break from the French Riviera and travel back to Paris to attend a fellow American wanderluster’s birthday party.

Health benefits of traveling

Over the years, Debbie has noticed the positive health benefits of traveling and learning a foreign language. She points to research showing the cognitive benefits of learning a new language. Learning French has helped her stay mentally sharp. She also does a great deal of walking while in France.

As Americans, we rarely live in walkable communities. It’s life-changing to walk out of your hotel and decide what direction you want to go in and have a whole entire unplanned experience.”

Why learning the language matters

Millions of people travel to foreign destinations every year without thinking for a moment about learning at least some essential aspects of the language. Yet, it is challenging to make meaningful connections without being acquainted with the language.

It’s important to understand that when we go to someone else’s country, we should try to understand their values and culture. And that’s encapsulated in the language. We are probably one of the few monolingual countries on the planet.

Debbie is quite correct in her assessment. According to many estimates, there are more bilingual people than monolingual people in the world.

There are many different ways to acquaint yourself with a new language or brush up on existing skills, no matter how buried they might be. You can take a class such as the ones we offer in our Lifelong program or in our Online Group Classes. At the very least, you can commit to memorizing the top 20 words and phrases you need to know.

As Debbie pointed out:

“With all the technology tools available to us, there’s really no excuse to be culturally insensitive anymore.”

Lifelong Learning at ICLS: Language classes for mature adults 

Inspired to start your language-learning journey? Whether you’re looking to dip your toes into a new culture, prepare for an upcoming trip, or boost your professional skills, ICLS has a language class to help you become a lifelong learner! Our highly experienced, top-tier instructors will make sure you achieve your goals and have fun while doing so. 

Our Lifelong Language Program offers 6-week online language classes for mature adults centered on travel and culture themes in French, Spanish, and Italian. 

And if you’re looking for a more intensive experience, try our 10-week Online Group Language Courses. Choose between courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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