LIFE IN PARIS: Learn French with  Carrie Anne James

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For this week’s Life in Paris interview, we chatted with French teacher extraordinaire and all around inspiring woman who moved from the US to make Paris her home and created an online french teaching program French is Beautiful – Carrie Anne James

Over the last years I’ve gotten to know this beautiful soul and super happy we can share her story and tips with you all.

What made you fall in love with speaking/teaching French? Is that why you moved to France?

Music made me fall in love with speaking French; inspiring others made me fall in love with teaching it. I moved to France because when I arrived here as a student it felt like I had come home.

 

Best advice you have received when you were learning French or any other language?

The best advice I ever received personally? Speak as much as possible. The best advice I ever heard came from a conversation with a lovely, elderly French woman in a ladies room in Paris. She was impressed that I spoke French, adding that ‘not many Americans speak it.’ I explained to her that, in fact, many of us do, but are afraid to use it. She was stunned. ‘Why?’, she asked. I told her that many French learners are afraid of making mistakes, to which she replied, ‘A little humility!’ ( Un peu d’humilité ! ) What she meant by this is that no one cares about your mistakes more than you do. My advice is to never forget that waiting to speak French ‘perfectly’ before you practice speaking it with French people will just preclude your progress. The only way out of the awkward phase of learning to speak French is through it. And the only thing to fear is the regret of not trying.

 

If you could give any expat one piece of advice before moving to Paris, what would it be?

Get organized. Your existence is about to become represented by one big beautiful collection of ever-evolving documents and forms. This is part of the process of living abroad. Stay optimistic and remain open to the adventure of a lifetime. Embrace unfamiliarity and remember that it was what you were seeking for when you first had the idea of moving to Paris. Prepare your heart for a deeply surprising journey of self-discovery. Remember that you are a guest in someone’s home. Don’t lose focus or drive with administrative tasks related to your titre de séjour, sécurité sociale, getting an apartment, paying taxes or being self-employed in France – it’s all part of the process ( see my comment above about ‘unfamiliarity’ ). And last, but certainly not least, learn French. Avoid moving back to your native country with the regret of a lifetime of having lived in a foreign country without learning its language. Gift yourself with the experience of knowing French culture in the deepest way possible – in French. ( Side note : There is no better way to ensure success with your meetings for anything administrative in France than by being able to conduct them in French with pristine French politesse. ) That’s more than one piece of advice, but it is what I wish someone had told me the day I picked up my visa from the French Consulate in San Francisco.

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What is on top of your list for places to visit in Paris this summer?

La place des Vosges and les bords de la Seine, with the objectif of laying down, staring at the sky, sitting with a glass of wine through conversations with friends or with a book. Those moments make for the best visites of Paris in the summertime.

 

You have a new audio program! Care to elaborate on your process for teaching French?

My process is natural – I focus on what people need to know in order to communicate and to connect with others in French, incorporating my practice methodology in a way that is easily integratable into their daily lives. ‘Daily’ being the key word here. I liken learning any language to making a new friend as it requires a consistent investment of attention and affection. I first came to Paris as a piano student, which taught me that practice doesn’t make perfect, but it makes permanent ( if you embrace it ). Let your French practice time be your ‘me time’ and watch your true potential reveal itself. No one is incapable of learning a new language. Many people are incapable of the long-term focus and humility necessary to do so, however.

 

Paris is a place to discover yourself. Since moving here, what has Paris taught you?

Paris has taught me to trust myself and to lean on that most uncontrollable force of nature – time. There is no experience like being an expat to show you what you are capable of and no other element that is more humbling ( or helpful, if you let it be ) than time. I believe that the French have the most authentic, the most sincere, the most admirable relationship with time. They understand what it means to create time for the activities and people that they love. They understand that life is not a race, but a story that we are writing made up of moments that we are creating. When people tell me they don’t have time to learn French, I say, ‘That’s right, you don’t have time, no one does.’ Time is intangible and its overall quantity is beyond our control. Part of this human journey is learning how to create time for the experiences we desire. This is how we write life stories that make us smile. Whether you, dear reader, desire to speak French fluidly or to laugh more over twilight dinners outdoors with friends and family this summer, my wish for you is that you begin a new, empowering relationship with time. In doing so, you’ll be well on your way to becoming French.

 

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