If you happen to go to a business meeting with French people, do not start kissing them as a greeting in the belief that it’s their custom.
It’s not, as the learners with French tutor Pierrette Humphreys have discovered during sessions that cover French speaking, studying from a text book as well as a game.
“We not only learn the language but about the differences in culture,” says Pierrette, who moved to South Holland after meeting her husband Tim in London. They live in Holbeach and have two children, Louis (16) and Stephanie (14), who both attend University Academy Holbeach.
Pierrette worked for Port Sutton Bridge dealing with French Customs when she first moved to the area but after having the children decided she wanted a more flexible job to fit around them
She studied for a teaching qualification and taught French in adult education classes arranged by Lincolnshire County Council before funding for leisure learning dried up.
Since 2006, Pierrette has been self-employed, currently teaching two classes at Wake House in Bourne on Mondays (9am to 1pm), a class at Holbeach Children’s Centre on Wednesdays (7pm to 9pm), and at West Pinchbeck Village Hall on Thursdays (7pm to 9pm).
She also provides private classes, either at people’s home or at the workplace.
Pierrette says: “I think it is very important that people learn French or any other language to open their mind to a different culture.
“The classes are a mixture, and some classes are more advanced than others.
“I have lots of learners who are retired, some are elderly and want to make their brain work or meet people because they are lonely.
“I also have younger learners who travel to France or have houses in France or just want to learn the language.”
Pierrette says, generally speaking, that she finds her pupils in this area are quite good at languages, but adds: “I think the important thing in the groups is that everybody is extremely friendly, it’s a mixture of ages and there is no shame. We all help each other.
“The dynamic at my West Pinchbeck class is fantastic. One of the learners, Philip Tucker, is fluent in French and he just comes to lessons to keep practising, but he is very good with the others. He has said he’s been learning French for 75 years.”
Pierrette also has a woman in her Holbeach class who gained her Grade A at GCSE after two years, as well as business people who need to know important things, such as learning how to say their telephone number or name in French.
Everyone is encouraged to share news from their life and work so Pierrette says she hears all the local gossip – in French, naturally.