This page reproduces verbatim, without editing of any kind, the testimonial of Richard Zahm, who attended Dialogue's French language school in Belgium in July of 2000.
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Dialogue Recommendation Two words to describe Dialogue: IT WORKS. If youíre really serious about improving your language ability in the shortest amount of time possible, Dialogue is your best choice. Hereís why:
- You learn at your own pace, not someone elseís. Donít believe that you can learn a language by listening to other people learning a language. There is no substitute for one-on-one instruction. You address the issues that are relevant to you, not someone else. This can be pronunciation, verb forms, phrases. You proceed at your pace, not someone elseís.
- The Dialogue Method is extraordinary. Using a progressive series of exercises and drills, Dialogue literally opens your ears: you hear sounds and words that you could not hear before. A strong emphasis on pronunciation paves the way.
- Youíre inundated by the language. From the time you wake up to the time you stumble into bed, you read, speak, think, and eat in French. After that, it goes on: you start dreaming in it. There are no distractions: itís just you, your teachers, and the material you prepare with them.
- The Method reinforces itself after the course ends. Your learning does not end when you check out. You leave with notes and audio tapes that have been custom made for your needs and your interests.
My experience and what the Dialogue program is like.
Background: I studied French throughout high school and college, traveled frequently to France and Belgium and my wifeís first language (the one she speaks at home) is French. But despite all of this, my French capability had reached a plateau. All of the audio tapes, video tapes, and books that I tried just led to frustration with no improvement. I considered private tutoring in California, but found it unstructured and inefficient. I had a brief period of time available before beginning a new post and decided that I would finally take the opportunity to learn. I viewed the project as an investment of time, effort and money.
I looked at a large number of intensive French courses, including Ceran and the Institut de francais. I found that "intense" generally meant 2-5 hours of class work with 6-10 other students, followed by language lab sessions and shopping excursions in the afternoon. Many of the programs lasted 2-4 weeks. The problem was, I didnít have 2-4 weeks available to leave my work and family to improve my French. I needed results, not shopping. And then I found Dialogue. As much French as I could take, directed solely at my needs. A turnkey solution: just show up at the Villa Sylvania and they would take it from there. The program was more expensive than group programs, but when I looked closer, the fact was that the value was there: the one-on-one format easily gave a 6 or 10-to-one advantage.
How? You donít have wait for other students to learn, to make mistakes, to slow you down -- or swamp you, if they are more advanced. You have dialogues with instructors who know when to correct your mistakes, and when to keep quiet when you are on a roll. They pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses and maximize your results. I was also attracted by the fact that I could schedule the start and stop dates, as well as the level of intensity. I had a brief phone conversation with Jean Luc Godard, who directs the program. I could tell immediately that he knew what he was doing. So, despite the fact that I hadnít seen or read much about the program, I signed up.
The Program: Villa Sylvania is a large house in the country a short distance from the small town of Spa. The villa provides learning and living facilities under one roof. These include a library filled with a large selection of magazines and video tapes and individual guest rooms well fitted with study desks, lamps and reference books. You are welcomed by Jean Luc Godard and his wife Claudine, who also live at the Villa. Your day starts with study in your room (or a run or a walk), before breakfast at 8:30 with Jean Luc, Claudine, and other students in French. At 9:00, you shift to a study room or the library with an instructor. The morningís work is structured, but still flexible. Depending on what level of intensity youíve chosen, you either work one-on-one with an instructor or work with an instructor and on your own until noon, when itís time for lunch. After lunch, more instruction and study, and perhaps some time off to walk or run or study some more, using your notes and audio tapes custom-recorded for you. Dinner is at 8:00 (excellent cuisine prepared by Claudine, accompanied by superb wines selected by Jean Luc), followed by television or more study. Then sleep. If you exercise for an hour and sleep for seven, your total daily French immersion can be 16 hours each day. The combination of uninterrupted instruction, study and conversation is unparalleled.
The Result: Like anything, you get out of the program what you put into it. My seven days at Dialogue was the most intense learning experience Iíve ever had, and this includes law and business school. My French improved dramatically: I could see and hear improvement daily, not just over the course of weeks. I made more progress in my week at Dialogue than I did over the course of a year studying at school. Dialogue isnít for everybody. If youíre not prepared for a dayís lesson, there is nowhere to hide. If you donít understand something or are stuck on a pronunciation, you and the instructor work on it until itís fixed. But if you really want to learn French (or Spanish, or German, or Flemish), and youíre willing to put in the work to do it, I canít imagine a more effective method. And I canít wait to go back.
Richard H. Zahm
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