Berlitz Global Business Solutions


A French Engineer and His Family Warm Up to Life in San Diego

Over a family dinner conversation, 8-year-old Arnaud de Villeneuve casually mentioned to his father how he talked his way out of a confrontation he had with a bully at school. His father, Thierry, was quietly astounded to hear his son was able to use his English skills to escape a challenging situation. A year ago, his son probably would have been more upset by the episode.

Relocating from Grenoble, France to start up a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Southern California for STMicroelectronics, Thierry moved to San Diego for a two-year international assignment bringing his wife, Christine, son and daughter, Claire. Upon arrival, Thierry’s English skills were advanced, however, the rest of the family knew just enough to survive.

“When we first arrived my English wasn’t perfect,” says Christine. “I was somewhat comfortable going shopping and talking to someone one-on-one.”

Fortunately, the de Villeneuve children attend a French private school that teaches in French and English. The majority of students are bilingual.

In the first year, everything was going smoothly, although, only having a basic command of English was difficult for Christine. Also, both parents felt strongly their children needed to advance their English skills. 

The de Villeneuves turned to Berlitz for Individual Instruction. Since September every Tuesday and Saturday, Christine and her two children go to the San Diego Berlitz Language Center. Each family member has a tailored program.

“We were all well past the basics,” says Christine. “Berlitz’s one-on-one program gives each of us the flexibility to build in the areas where we need to improve. The children never complain about going to Berlitz so that tells me they are getting as much out of it as I am.”

The results, thus far, have been impressive. Besides Aranuad talking his way out of a confrontation with a bully, the parents feel their English skills have tremendously improved their children’s self-esteem and adaptation to American life. 

“Now, without much fear, they talk to English speaking people,” says Christine. “And due to my English lessons, I’m much more comfortable participating in a conversation over the phone or with a group of people. That makes me feel better.”

Also, this new skill set has opened their children’s eyes to truly understanding the American culture. It’s more enjoyable for them to participate in ballet and baseball and watch TV or a popular movie.

“I really noticed how much their English comprehension improved when we saw the movie ‘My Favorite Martian’ last week,” says Thierry. “They didn’t interrupt me every five minutes to find out what was meant or why a scene was funny as they always did before. They really got it.”

As someone who speaks four languages, Thierry grasps how valuable it can be to speak another language. According to Thierry, in Europe it’s not unusual to speak three or more languages. In fact, for business it’s a “must.”

“The more languages you speak, the better. No matter what country you’re living and working in being able to speak a language can help you with your career,” suggests Thierry. “As a teenager, I read technical books in all different languages and gained such a broader understanding of the field I’m working in today. I’d like my children to experience the same opportunities as I did because I know it will only benefit them.”

Besides improving their English, attending and participating in extracurricular activities at the French school has helped the children as well as Christine adapt. Both Thierry and Christine feel children adapt to a new home country as smoothly as their parents.

“To the children, it was a game. We moved their belongings, toys and their entire universe. For us, it was frightening facing all the overwhelming difficulties of everything being different,” says Thierry.

Now almost two years later, the de Villeneuves are prepared to spend additional time in California if Thierry’s assignment gets extended.

“My children may not appreciate what their experiencing today, but I know 10 years from now, they will see how valuable it was to live and understand what life was like in another country.”

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