Have you ever heard of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe? If not, no sweat, I never heard of it before Greg brought it up as a potential vacation destination. He was keen on learning French and loves the beach so he suggested we take French classes in Guadeloupe. I don’t speak a lick of this beautiful language so I decided to jump on the Life Bus for a really cool adventure of a different kind.
Guadeloupe is located in the ‘French’ Caribbean, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Martinique, St Martin and St Barthelemy. This lovely country belongs to France so it has a distinct French atmosphere (very little English spoken) but with a Creole twist given it’s Caribbean location. The primary land mass of Guadeloupe is made up of two islands that are night and day. The Grande-Terre has most of the amazing white-sand beaches and the Basse-Terre is where you will find the less crowded brown-sand beaches and lush mountainous terrain to explore. You can find out more about Guadeloupe via this simple link Guadeloupe Travel Guide.
We picked Apple Languages as our language school of choice. If you look at their website, you will notice they have options all around the world for every language imaginable. The school in Guadeloupe is located in the town of St. Anne on the Grande-Terre which is one of the nicer beach towns in the area.
OMG – our first day of class was priceless – we looked like deer in the headlights! The purpose of these classes is to completely immerse you in the language, therefore, not one word of English is spoken – NOT ONE – not even hello. Of course, we were the only Americans in the class and because we barely knew how to say ‘Je’, we ended up in the beginner class. Based on the other participants, we should have been in the Beginner – Beginner class. Everyone else was from Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands and already knew 2 or 3 other languages.
The experience was humbling and amazing all in the same breath. The learning structure was very basic and they tried to make it as ‘simple’ and as enjoyable as possible. I learned over the course of 5 days that French is a difficult language to learn. We did the standard vocabulary exercises where we would pick a word out of a hat and have to describe it in French for others to guess. One of my words was Beyonce. After a few moments of humiliation and laughter, there was a great girl from Germany who got it after I said, “joli, noir, chanteur, grande derriere.” That was the best I could do with limited skills.
The instructor did a great job of forcing us to speak to her in French. Every day she would ask us what we did the day before and some times she would ask us personal questions. So, I reciprocated and asked if she had a boyfriend. Apparently what I actually asked her was something about a preferred sexual position. Yeah, I stopped asking personal questions after that.
We learned how to read and write sentences and interpret different scenarios just like we all did in grade school. In the end, after crazy amounts of laughter, we walked away understanding some basic French phrases and words. It helped us when we got lost driving to the airport and had to get directions from the non-English speaking rental car agent over the phone.
French communities in Colorado are not abundant. The one thing I would change, is that I would stay for a week or two (or longer) after class to continue to immerse myself in the language. A family home stay would be ideal.
I HIGHLY recommend a trip like this, it may not be to Guadeloupe but to some other exotic location. This experience certainly challenged our brains and for once, we were able to order dinner in the local language with confidence and increase the odds we were served what we ordered!