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A Year-Long Adventure in France

A Year-Long Adventure in France

Calvin experiencing Chinese New Year in France

Calvin Lee is 34-years-old and comes from Vancouver, Canada, where he worked as a piano teacher and as an accountant. He decided to take a break from his normal routine and embark on a year-long adventure in France as a CHI World Explorer.

Calvin began his journey studying an intensive French course in Nice last fall. In January, he started his first of three consecutive CHI World Explorers programs. He is currently in Orleans, France teaching English to his young host brother and sister. In April, he will move to a second host family that has 6-year-old twins near Lyon. Finally, Calvin will do a Farmstay program where he will live with a host family and help out with the daily duties on their farm in Tatinghem in Northern France.

Calvin shares a few thoughts on the joys and difficulties of learning a new language:

“The more I learn the French language, the more I realize I don’t know.”

“I read that you need about 20,000-30,000 words to be fluent. I did the math. If I learn 20 words a day, 5 times a week, I will learn 100 words per week. In 10 weeks, I would learn 1,000 words. In 52 weeks, I would learn about 5,000 words in a year. I’ve been learning French for a year now, I estimate I have a vocabulary of about 5,000 words. This is equivalent to 5 years of high-school French. I now know enough to: write letters and emails in French, read adolescent-level novels, watch French TV with subtitles, participate in conversation (when native speakers speak slowly). My goal is to be able to watch French TV without subtitles and participate in normal speed conversation with native speakers. Learn, relearn, and relearn again (and again and again)”

“The difficult part about learning a language is that I keep forgetting things I’ve learned. Some words I learn once and it sticks in my head. Other words I’ve seen 7 different times and I still forget what it means. To make things even worse, a single French word can mean 5 or more different definitions in English. Sometimes I would see a word I’ve learned in the past and it makes no sense in a new context. I have to re-look up the word in the dictionary only to find that it has another definition for the same word. For example, I learned early on that “Loup” means wolf (the big bad animal in The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood). But I saw in restaurant menus “filet de Loup” which I thought for some time that people eat wolves! I later learned that the word has a second meaning: sea bass (fish). That makes a lot more sense! The joy in learning a language.”

“Despite all the difficulties I’m having, I’m totally enjoying the challenge of learning a new language. It brings a sense of accomplishment each time I attain a new level and when I’m able to do things I formerly wasn’t able to. When the day comes where I am able to speak French fluently, I will look back on these tough days, and reflect how it was well worth the effort!”


Here is a great video of Calvin playing the piano for his host kids.


A Year-Long Adventure in France 1
Calvin visiting Portugal

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