Health and Safety

Meet the Family Lefko-Olson and read why they love the Alliance!

01 Jun 2017 spotlights

This Spring, we had the pleasure of learning more about Robert, Annika and Martiene, former students of the Alliance and Chez Kids Academy! Read more about their fascinating journey with French!


What was it about the Alliance Française that first interested you? Both Annika and I studied French in school when we were young…more years ago than we want to admit!We met soon after college, and a few years later I surprised Annika with a trip to Paris for her birthday - with expectations that we would return to France in the future and a desire to communicate with the French in their native language, we began to take classes at Alliance Française de Chicago - we also loved the fact that studying French and conversing with the teachers and other students was a wonderful weekly break from my career working in a sports agency and Annika’s career as a management consultant.

[caption id=“attachment_3800” align=“alignleft” width=“214”] Robert, Annika, and Martiene[/caption]

Why do you think it’s important to learn a new language? We asked our daughter this question, and here is her answer - “you can learn about new cultures and meet new friends and your life can be more interesting” - Annika and I agree - we have always told Martiene that the more languages you know, the more people you can meet and the more friends you can have around the world.

What is the most challenging thing about studying a new language? Figuring out that there are many languages within each language; of course, in French, there’s the niveaux soutenu, courant/standard, et familier…then add verlan…suddenly, it all makes learning the subjunctive look easier. :)

What is the most rewarding thing about studying a new language? Meeting so many new and interesting people and learning about their culture.

What is your favorite thing you’ve done with French? Our favorite thing is actually the totality of lots of smaller things, which is to say all of the unique moments we enjoy while living our everyday life in Paris…shopping for groceries at the many different stores on our local market street, talking about wines with the propriétaire of our local wine shop, taking tennis lessons with a French instructor, going to the cinema, chatting with other parents after picking up our daughter at school, dining out with French friends, and even just having a simple conversation with a waiter at an outdoor café.

What has been your favorite Alliance Française class?

[caption id=“attachment_3803” align=“alignright” width=“300”] Robert, Annika, Martiene and their dog[/caption]

We truly loved all of our classes at the Alliance Française de Chicago, and the reason is simple - each of the many teachers with whom we’ve studied have had a wonderful passion for teaching and a strong desire to help us learn, while keeping the topics of discussion very interesting. We have such fond memories of our conversations with Adam about world politics, with Jamal about so many different subjects, and with Philippe about raising children.

What do you want to do with French in the future? Both the U.S.A. and France will be part of our family’s future, and perhaps another country as well - for now, we will continue studying French while living in Paris and continue to try to gain a greater understanding of the French culture. Of course, one important example is having the ability to properly order popcorn in a French cinema…un mélange de popcorn salé et sucré - c’est délicieux! :)

Why do you think teaching your kids a new language is important? Annika and I want our daughter to think globally - learning another language is one simple step toward understanding both the differences and similarities among us. When a person gets to know other people who speak different languages, come from different cultures, and hold different beliefs about the world around us, friendships and the desire to help one another grow stronger while the racism and bigotry that too often exist in this world begin to disappear.

What is your best “souvenir” at the Alliance Française de Chicago? For Annika and I, it’s absolutely the friendships we formed with teachers, administrators, other students, and parents who had children in the kid’s program - but we’ll let Martiene have the last word - she said “it’s a happy place where you feel at home and you can meet new friends”.