About Your Teacher Elise Gonin

     Everyone comes to a language their own way, through some combination of curiousity, need, and luck. My route to English took a little of all three. I was born and raised in the south of France, growing up as one of four sisters in my family's Bed and Breakfast. I had an early glimpse at a big world. Guests from all over the world would sit at the dinner table, entertaining us with stories in many languages. Sometimes I could perfectly understand them and sometimes I heard only the melodious sounds, like music to my ears. I very quickly understood the power of languages, the need to communicate, and the real joy of differences bridged and friends met through conversation.

And yet, my own experience learning a second language was pretty chaotic. Like everyone else in France, I studied English in Middle School and all the way through High School. Seven years, eight different teachers, and hundreds of hours later my English was still a mess. I would enter the English class anxious, and spend the time there bored, frustrated, and disengaged. For me, like many, language needed to be practical and social or it would never stick.

    I moved to the US in 2012 with the goal of spending two years learning the language and going back to France speaking fluent English. I spent the first year in Bakersfield, CA where I had family. The transition was brutal. People around me were speaking so fast, using words that I had never heard or words pronounced in a regional way I did not understand. Waiting for my green card, I was unable to take any classes. I was stuck in Bakersfield with nothing to do. I floundered in that way someone really out of their element can and then one day I crashed on the couch and discovered Netflix. I binge watched the 8 seasons of Desperate Housewives. And something magical slowly happened. I started to understand people at dinner. I was laughing at some jokes and even adventured myself to make some. I was starting to crack the code!

   After years of studying and a true desire, I finally learned English watching a TV show while reading subtitles. But most important of all, I understood what I suppose we all somehow know: that we learn best when we have fun doing it. (I have to confess that I also watched a season of The Bachelor, but I'm not sure that helped at all.) Eager to share my enthusiasm, I headed to Portland, Oregon to teach at L'Etoile, a cute little French Immersion School. For 4 years I taught all ages, in English and French, from Preschool to 5th grade and opened a French class for parents with my mantra: make it fun and they will learn! And they have. So have I. I've relearned my earliest instinct about language and the community it creates. I've been able to recreate that family table in some way, to gather a diverse group of curious people and share our stories. It's never without struggle but rarely without laughter.

   Today, I'm so happy to offer French tutoring, classes, and workshops at my house in SW Portland and build this community of French learners, speakers, and enthusiasts.   - Elise -