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French in Acton teaches conversation amid fun

French in Acton director Cynthia Edelman guided students through a language lesson. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Cynthia Edelman began studying French in elementary school in Pennsylvania, but became truly immersed in the language while living in Paris for three years in the 1980s. A member of the American Association of Teachers of French, the Acton resident has returned to France “too many times to count” while sharing her love of the culture as founder and director of the French in Acton language school.

Q. Did the school enjoy immediate success or grow slowly?

A. I opened French in Acton in 2003, but I had been sharing my language skills in a less formal way since we moved to town in 1996. I used to cart my supplies from house to house, giving French lessons to children on the floor of people’s dens. Now there are 100 students from 20 towns, and I’m the only nonnative French speaker among three instructors.


Q. What age do you recommend introducing a child to a foreign language?

A. As young as possible, although for practical purposes we start at age 3. Sometimes parents will enroll two children and say, ‘I’m a little worried about the younger one,’ when it’s the younger one who learns with more ease. With that said, 40 percent of our students are adults. We give equal attention to both.

Q. What is your teaching philosophy?

A. We’re masters at keeping students engaged and having fun. We’re not into memorizing words, but rather situational learning and direct association, which are much more permanent ways of learning. The biggest class size is six, so there’s a lot of one-on-one interaction and laughter.

Q. Is it common for beginners to feel intimidated?

A. All the time, which is why I interview them first to alleviate any fears, and invite them to a trial class. They don’t have to participate if they don’t want to, but the relaxed environment puts people at ease. We’re all in the same boat.


Q. Do you miss Paris?

A. It was a wonderful experience, but you still have to buy groceries, go to work, and pay taxes, and every person you’ve ever met in your life comes to visit and sleeps on your couch. It’s not all romance, but everyone has to see Paris — and no matter how many times you go, you have to see it again.

French in Acton is at 42 Davis Road, Suite 2-6. Call 978-929-9101, or visit

Cindy Cantrell may be reached at