Romasco-Kelly Family

July 30, 2002

L’Ecole des Trois Ponts, Roanne, France (

We arrived here at Chateau de Matel (built in 1536) for a week of language courses.  Roanne is in a region of France called « Le Masif Central » south of the wine-growing region of Burgundy.

Lisa and I are taking 19 hours over five days, Kyle and Evan about 6-10 hours.  There are about fifteen others here, including a family from Bermuda (Jeff and Fiona) with two boys, Damien and Killian, ages 11 and 12 (yea!) as well as a mixture of others.  There is a couple from LA (Mary Jane and Mark), a woman from New York (Laurie), an Israeli couple from Lausanne, Switzerland with a friend from Tel Aviv, a couple from Preston, in the north of England (Louis and Joan), a man from outside Stockholm (Heinrich), a woman from Luxembourg (Sigrid), and another two people from Germany.

Lisa and I are in different classes.  Kyle and Evan have had some private lessons (with Emily and Valerie) and some together.  Rene, who is one of the managers here, keeps telling us that it is very difficult to teach them because they are so young, but Valerie seems to do a good job.

August 1, 2002

L’Ecole des Trois Ponts, Roanne

We are learning a lot – I think we are doing so much better today than we were doing on Monday.  For example, we had a game today with vocabulary words like “le torchon” and “la gomme” which we had to describe – en francais, bien sur – for the other students to guess.  A common exercise which Mike’s teacher, Françoise, is doing is to have us describe an experience we’ve had (our town, a favorite vacation) which forces us to use vocabulary words and different verb tenses (imperfect and the past, called in French « passé compose »). At meals, there are two tables, an English-language table (which has effectively become the children’s table) and a French-language table where one is supposed to speak only French (and the rule is enforced in a friendly way by the other diners).  The first night we were here, I was incredibly intimidated by the thought of spending an entire dinner speaking only French, but now I don’t even think of it and we do OK – the wine really helps!

August 2, 2002

L’Ecole des Trois Ponts, Roanne

Today, I heard Evan singing to himself in French, a song he learned in class, which I take as a good sign.  And yesterday, Lisa went by their class and they were both laughing with the teacher.  So they are doing better than we expected, although there still is some resistance to the idea of being here.

We've got a bit of travelling planned for August, the traditional vacation month in France, but to our collective relief, I think, we've decided NOT to go to Normandy later this month to see the WW II beaches as we'd planned.  So we'll go from here to Grenoble, tomorrow (Saturday) and stay there for four days, getting some stuff out of our car and into storage, and let the kids see the apartment (hopefully).  Then on Tuesday, the 6th, we'll take the train back to Paris (3 hours on the TGV) and fly out that night to Iceland.  We'll be visiting friends in Iceland until the 13th, when we return to Paris.  Then we would have been going to Normandy (which would have involved ANOTHER train trip back through Paris) and we'll instead now return to Grenoble on the 14th or 15th and stay there until school starts on the 5th of September, probably with a day trip here and there.  I think it will be much better, provided it isn't too hot in Grenoble.

The weather has been beautiful here the last couple of days, after a very, very hot start on Monday and Tuesday when we had trouble sleeping.  Much of France is "sans climatisation" as they say (no air conditioning) so you really feel the heat.   But the kids are loving the heat.  I'll have to send you some of the photos in a separate mail...

We got our French report cards today and both Lisa and I were pleased (wisely, I think, the kids didn't get one).  Lisa is rated as "Professional+" (which is third on a level between "Beginning" and "Bilingual").  So that's quite good, I think.  I was rated "Social+" which is the second level, so just above beginning, which I think is probably right.  Lisa's more adept at tenses than I am -- for me, everything is happening now, in the present, not in the past or the future -- and she has a broader vocabulary.  But I think we're all surprised and pleased at the progress we've made, although we can also now see more clearly the long road ahead of us.