WorldView: A Language Blog

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The CLVway: How Lac du Bois Changed My Life

By Greg Cash | Published: March 8, 2016

Grégoire as a mono (counselor) at Les Voyageurs in 2015

Around my 10th birthday, my mother noticed that I did a good job of mimicking a French accent when I heard it on the radio or on television. Suddenly I was heading to Lac du Bois, a French camp in the North Woods of Minnesota, from my home in Illinois. I arrived not understanding a word of the language, but with the ability to sound like Pepé Le Pew, a Gallic skunk from the cartoons of my youth. After two weeks of eating, sleeping and breathing in French, I was hooked. The immersion approach used at Concordia Language Villages is called the CLVway.[1] Over the next ten years, I returned to Lac du Bois nearly every summer, eventually becoming a fonceur, a villager who receives one year of high school credit for four weeks of intensive French study. I became a counselor and continue to serve on the French staff today, participating in academic-year weekends and in summer family sessions for Lac du Bois and Les Voyageurs.

Lac du Bois staff in the summer of 1974

By the time that I graduated from high school (Harvard, IL), I had completed the equivalent of six years of high school French, including the time spent at Lac du Bois. When I entered college, I was placed in French classes designed for students in their third year. By college graduation, I was quite fluent in French and well versed in the culture of la France and la Francophonie (other French-speaking countries). My French language skills helped me get my first job in the international division of Medtronic, Inc. On my first trip to the company’s European headquarters, then located in Paris, you could see the look of relief on the faces of my native French-speaking colleagues when they realized that they did not need to speak purely English with me. I was able to take my relationship with my French colleagues to another level, something my co-workers who spoke only English were not able to achieve.

I had the good fortune to receive a number of expatriate assignments over the course of my career, including a stint in Paris. I also picked up other languages along the way, made easier by having already mastered one foreign language. While studying Italian in Milan, I was considered a star pupil. Knowing French and German was helpful with concepts like multiple genders, verb conjugations and idiomatic expressions in Italian. This all comes more easily once you have already learned a language other than your native tongue.

While language learning in the classroom is an effective approach to introducing a student to a second language, nothing can replace being immersed in the target language and culture. Even the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages recommends “flipping the classroom” or providing a blended environment of learning inside and outside the classroom.[2] In terms of language immersion, I know of no program doing a better job than Concordia Language Villages. The Villages made a huge difference in my life and career and can have a similar impact on yours.

[1] CLVway, Concordia Language Villages Website, http://www.concordialanguagevillages.org/youth-languages/our-teaching-methods/clvway
[2] A New Approach to Language Instruction – FLIPPING THE CLASSROOM, The Language Educator, November 2013.
 

About the Author

Greg Cash is President and Chief Executive Officer as well as a director of BioSig Technologies, Inc., a publically traded medical device company. A career medical device executive, he has lived and worked in London, Hong Kong, Paris and Milan. Greg is a member of the Language Villages’ National Advisory Council and speaks French, German and Italian. Greg’s involvement with the Villages began in 1967 and his children attended Lac du Bois, El Lago del Bosque, Sēn Lín Hú and Sjölunden.


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