French emersion instructor Mary Morgan-Child (center) guides her new students in how to order food at La Provence Patisserie and Cafe on San Vicente Friday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — What’s not to love about Paris? It has fabulous food, unbelievable clothing, all those iconic landmarks — the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Champs Élysées — and of course, that deliciously romantic language.

Whether a trip to Paris is on the horizon or not, if you want to really learn French — the essentials that only true “fashionistas” with discerning palates know — and embrace the full Parisian experience, you might want to think about taking one of Mary-Morgan Childs’ French immersion classes.

Sure you can sit in a classroom and take lessons in the Language de Amor, but Childs, who has been teaching French for over a decade, takes her specialized immersion program beyond the classroom applying French studies in the community with fellow students, trotting them off to shops, restaurants and patisseries.

“The classroom is an excellent way to learn from your mistakes but it’s limiting in that we can only practice but we can’t use the material,” Childs said. “I structured this program in a way that allows students to use the material in a real life setting that gets them closer to an authentic French situation.”

The French speakers interacting with the class are from either France or Belgium and because of the limited class size (two to four students per class, in a semi-private setting) students receive a wider range of interaction with the instructor.

In advance of the classes, Childs interviews potential restaurant owners and their serving staffs to ensure they are prepared to speak to her students in French. There are several places she prefers.

“La Provence [in Brentwood] because the cashiers and waiters are all French and they play French music, and Acadie French Crepes Restaurant [in Santa Monica], which is a more casual country style restaurant that you might find on the Atlantic Coast,” she said. “Acadie is a traditional ‘creperie’ which means they serve crepes of all kinds.”

And what’s more French than a crepe?

Childs began her unique program on the east coast in the upscale area of Greenwich, Conn. Residents there were frequent travelers to Geneva and Paris and their goal was to learn practical French — how to understand menus, how to get around, how to interact with shopkeepers. Childs combined practicality with what France is known for — food and fashion. She wanted her students to go beyond understanding the menu. She wanted them to be able to carry on conversations.

“Students explore French through interactive group work, themed dialogues [skits] and excursions. The outings are designed to enjoyably reinforce the material covered in class,” she said.

Though she was born in Connecticut, from the early age of 3, Childs spent time in France over the summers. Exposed to the language and culture and raised in France she finally moved to Paris when she was 18 where she worked as an interpreter for a French artist.

Today she resides in Santa Monica, though she travels annually to Paris, and her students learn the beautiful French language in their community, while dining at local French restaurants and shopping on the grand avenues, such as Montana Avenue and the Third Street Promenade. The course not only promotes local businesses but also offers an immersion experience for motivated travelers and French enthusiasts.

The beginners’ program is designed to provide maximum exposure to the French language and culture in a short period of time. There are also intermediate and advanced levels. The price is about $297 for a six-week course and the classes meet for three hours at a time.

If you’re worried about having to purchase a cumbersome textbook, you can stop now. You don’t have to. Childs culls material from college textbooks that she has used in the past and provides each student with tear sheets.

“What I love most about France is that their society is not as stressed out. They respect the 30-hour working week and there is always time for family and friends, which are considered just as important. It’s a more harmonious way to live,” Childs said.

She wants to bring that joie de vivre to her students, helping them learn the language of love though community immersion, dining, shopping and socializing à la française!

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