Veni Vidi Vici

"J'ai étudié le français pendant des années (avec des professeurs différents, utilisant des méthodes différentes), mais les résultats étaient limités. Etudier le français pendant 5 jours au Salon de Sophie a grandement augmenté ma capacité d'utiliser le français. Et bien sûr, j'ai adoré avoir Nina et Lilly dans ma classe!" Mila

Tour dans la ville et après-midi shopping entre filles! (Bavardage en français!)

In August 2013 I was looking to take an intensive one week French class in France for as part of a ‘learning vacation’ to improve my French language skills. I consider myself intermediate but did not have much opportunity to practice. I tried to improve my French by taking courses sporadically over the years, but found that I kept on ‘slipping’ back, really not advancing past lower intermediate stage. I thought that perhaps one of those intensive immersion classes in a Language School might be just the ‘ticket’ to push me to the next stage of intermediate. As I was looking at my options, I came across Madame Sophie’s website on the internet, and everything about it ‘ spoke ‘to me. Her essence being described so clearly in the first words I read: “Salon de Sophie - a place where imagination, ideas and learning French cross roads”. It stopped me in my tracks and I looked no further.

I sent Madame Sophie an email; she responded quickly and generously, being open to meeting my dual needs for French lessons and some much needed vacation time to explore the region. She provided advice on where to stay. We also had a Skype rendezvous so I got to know her before I arrived. It was like I had a ‘safety net’ below my feet, and any apprehension one might feel before starting a class was not part of my ‘Madame Sophie experience’.

In our first face-to-face ‘rendezvous’, Madame Sophie encouraged me to speak French. She very quickly took stock of my level and needs. She informed me – and very correctly – that I was functional in French and could be understood, but was at the ‘me Tarzan, you Jane’ level. While Tarzan was king of the jungle, let’s face it, he had no competition, and ‘his’ Jane would have fallen for the any remotely good-looking guy who had a better grip of the English language, if there was one around. This image, which still makes me laugh, shows how great a ‘professor’ our Madame Sophie is – she went to the core of my problem, helped me recognize it, and went about re-teaching the basic concepts of the language so I retain my ‘learnings’. Her methodology for teaching the language is unique as it is effective. I have never felt so secure in understanding or knowing the French language until I met Madame Sophie – and the icing on the cake is it has been loads of fun.

Madame Sophie is an amazing instructor and a wonderful person. She is kind, and gentle, but when it comes to learning, you can see her passion, as she is very strict about accuracy and attention to detail. She has a wicked sense of humour. Those of us who have studied with her, know exactly what I am talking about, and there is truth in all the other testimonials.

September 2013

Update August 2014: It has been only a year since I met Madame Sophie, over that year my ability to speak and write French has increased significantly. It has been invaluable in my ability to complete a renovation project that I started in Paris and also to communicate in France with my bank, and also to make travel arrangements on the internet on French sites.

Madam Sophie continues to remain in my life, instructing me on a weekly basis on Skype , and over the last year I have visited her in Salon two more times for resetting, rejuvenation and inspiration. She is truly a unique gem. Priceless!

Mahmuda Ali
Canadian, (working in the Middleeast for the United Nations)

Bien tombé chez sophie

bald haben wir einjähriges Jubileum…..
Aber von vorne;
Ziemlich verzweifelt, weil ich mit meinem bisherigen Französischkurs so gar nicht vorwärtskam, aber doch immerhin schon 6 Monate in Salon de Provence wohnte, machte ich mich im Internet auf die suche nach professioneller Hilfe.
Glücklicherweise fand ich die Internetseite von Sophie.
Am nächsten Tag schon verabredeten wir unser „Kennenlerntreffen“ in einem Kaffee in der Stadt. Seitdem genieße ich meist einmal pro Woche den Privatunterricht in Sophies Salon.
Sophies Unterricht :
Sophie holte und holt mich immer genau da ab, wo ich mit meinen Sprachkenntnissen stehe.
Mit akribischer Liebe sucht sie meine Schwächen und verpasst mir dann den maßgeschneiderten Unterricht. Ich staune immer wieder , wie sie das macht. Für mich ein Phänomen! Ich denke, das ist Sophies langjährige Berufserfahrung und die Liebe zu ihrem Beruf , der wohl Berufung ist. So lerne ich leicht, mit Freude und Erfolg!

……. und nun haben wir bald unser Einjähriges 

Petra Pfrommer, Salon de Provence

"Studying with Sophie in "her Salon" for two weeks was much more than just an opportunity to improve my French.  Of course, I definitely feel that I did improve in communicating in French, but that was just the beginning.  Sophie showed concern, not just for the amount of progress I was making, but also for my well-being during my stay in Salon de Provence, her much-beloved town.  And when my wife visited at the end of my time there, she did everything she could to help with sorting out some travel problems that had occurred.  That's Sophie: a truly caring person, as well as exceptional teacher."  David

Les Aussies viennent aussi à Salon!

Geoff vient de réussir son premier discours indirect au Passé!

Retour du marché le Mercredi et invasion de la Cuisine de Sophie!
Déjeuner fait maison par les étudiantes!

Bill parle de Cézanne en français avec brio.

Petite excursion à Lamanon pour découvrir la campagne de Provence.
"I had a blast, et j’espère y retourner chaque année!  Pour moi ,Le Salon de Sophie est la façon idéale d’ameliorer mon français…" Mildred

Mila est revenue ou elle est retournée à Salon? Au moment de la photo, elle est revenue à Salon! Sa soeur Irina, qui vient de Sibérie, est venue pour la première fois. Mila et Irina ont enfin résolu le mystère de la différence entre "revenir" et "retourner"!

Andrea devant son endroit préféré du Vendredi soir pour une dégustation de vin gratuite en français.

Ma chère Anita!! Nous avons fait l'école buissonnière... ["faire l'école buissonnière": on ne va pas en classe pour faire une activité amusante]. Nous sommes allées au salon de coiffure ensemble! Anita était enchantée de son nouveau "french hair do" et de son expérience chez un coiffeur français.

Geoff se repose devant un paysage de la Provence.




I had the great pleasure of being the first student (or guinea pig) at the Salon de Sophie, the new teaching and learning experience run by our good friend and favorite French professeur Sophie Urbanski in Salon, France. In order to give some information and encouragement to other former students or new students considering the courses, I’ve written this short description of my experience and time in Salon. I’ll start off by saying that I encourage everyone to consider enrolling in at least the 1 week course!!! Sophie is an excellent teacher, un professeur non pareil, and I found my whole time there an immensely rewarding experience on many, many levels.

Getting There

A l'aeroport de Marseilles, Nicolas et moi.
The two closest airports to Salon are Marseilles and Nice, with Marseilles being only about 20-30 minutes away and thus much closer. There are no direct flights to either city from DC. I flew to Marseilles via Amsterdam (going over) and Paris (returning). I timed it so I flew during “shoulder season” after October 15, so my fare was a little less than $900. Not too bad. I think you can get flights to Nice via Philly or JFK. I took the bus from the Marseilles airport to Salon, but Sophie and Nicolas took me to the airport for my return flight, which I thought was especially nice!!


Sophie’s website gives a nice and very accurate picture of Salon and what it looks like and offers. I’ll just add that I thought it was very AUTHENTIC. Those of you who have been to Provence know that it tends to be very touristy and somewhat overly “charming.” Sophie very firmly but politely steered me away from visiting some of the worst of these tourist traps. While in Salon, I felt as though I was really living in France, going through the routines of studying, eating, seeing a movie, shopping or just walking around, not as a tourist but as a resident. I almost never heard English spoken anywhere in Salon and only saw one or two people who appeared to be tourists. There is one shop that sells lavender and other kitschy souvenirs, but that’s it!

Salon itself is very pleasant, with a very attractive square with a clock tower, and lots of fountains and little parks. There is a medieval chateau (now a museum), some Romanesque churches, a small pedestrian zone, and lots of typical Provencal houses and buildings to admire.

The restaurants in Salon run the gamut from tres gourmet to little snack shops, and I never ran out of places to go for pizza, typical French food, cous-cous, coffe/chocolate, sandwiches, or crepes, with most places being very reasonable. Be forewarned that on Sunday virtually nothing is open (also Monday), so to Sophie’s great amusement, my first dining experience in Provence was at an Indian restaurant!

Salon’s outdoor market is on Wednesdays, with a smaller one held on Sunday. In typical Provencal style, the market is full to brimming with stands selling fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, olives, oils, soaps, and lots of cheese, sausage, and meats. There are also stands selling books, some knick-knacks, and lots of jeans/clothes/bras/handbags etc. As we all know, Sophie has very decided tastes when it come to food, so half the fun is watching her pained expression as she passes the cheese, sausage and olive counters!!

Getting Around

Avignon-Le Palais des Papes . Tout le monde a disparu

Of course, there are great opportunities for sightseeing as well. Salon has fairly good rail (Avignon, Marseilles and Arles) and bus service (to the countryside, as well the cities named above). Service tends to be best in the morning and late afternoon and pretty much ends around 7 PM. There are local buses within Salon and its immediate surroundings, as well as a free bus to/from the train station.

Staying in Salon

I had initially considered staying in a small gite or b&b outside Salon, but decided that that was not very practical, so I consulted Sophie for hotel advice. Her website gives a good description of the choices in Salon. I opted for the Hotel Select, a small 15-20 room hotel on a side street only a few blocks from Sophie’s. I would highly recommend it! It is a simple hotel, typical of small family run establishments in France (no elevator, hall lights turn off a minute after you press the button, some interesting wallpaper), but it is scrupulously clean, very brightly decorated, and all rooms have TV, WiFi, and good views. There is a charming terrace and patio. The managers Donald and Laeticia (who live there along with their newborn baby and elderly dog) could not have been nicer, greeting me every day in French and giving me lots of tips on what to do and see in Salon. The breakfast was delicious (Nutella many mornings!)

Salon de Sophie

The Salon de Sophie is held in the house Sophie and Nicolas share with Nina (!) in the center of town. It’s a charming 2-story, mid-19th century rowhouse with typical Provencal shutters and tall ceilings inside. Even a small covered patio out back. Nina greeted me every day in her usual boisterous way and then snoozed comfortably in the classroom/sitting room for the rest of the morning.

I chose to take a 2-week course and Sophie worked up a syllabus based on my previous classes with her and according to my level of competence. It was not a “cookie cutter” program, but instead reflected my abilities and desires in learning French. Classes usually lasted between 4-6 hours depending on if I stayed for lunch. It goes without saying that not a word of English was spoken!!!

The “Sophie method” should be familiar to her former students. She uses her trusty white dry-erase board and colored markers and goes through the drill of verbs, idioms, and increasingly complex sentences. But added to that are a lot of exercises tied to music (even Celine Dion on one occasion) and television spots that Sophie has carefully selected to highlight the particular lesson, as well as give a good picture of modern French culture. So I learned about French bread, the dating habits of French farmers, Nostradamus (who lived in Provence), tourist traps in Provence, and Napoleon. We read poetry by Victor Hugo and discussed Manet. The ongoing strikes in France provided a frequent topic for discussion.

Sophie also added a few trips to the local wax museum and the nearby soap factory, which has a small museum on how soap is made. I supplemented all this instruction by going to movies in the evening (the Social Network was fun to hear/see in French), going to the market, hanging out in the numerous cafes of Salon, and just trying to speak French as much as I could. I can’t say that the “intensive method” isn’t frustrating sometimes. There were days when I couldn’t really understand more than 50% of what was being said on a TV show or film clip. There were a few “break through” moments at the beginning (like when I heard and recognized the subjunctive being used during an episode of “Law and Order”) that then increased as the sessions went on, and finally at the end I found it sometimes difficult to write a postcard in English! My comprehension of French, both spoken and written, increased 100 times over the course of the Salon experience.

And what can I say about Sophie? She is so dedicated to teaching and to getting her students to know, speak, and love the French language that it sometimes takes your breath away. She can give you a withering look when you don’t finish your assignments, but then show sheer joy when you blurt out a sentence with both the passé compose and the plus-que-parfait perfectly conjugated. She never runs out of patience, and having struggled to learn English on her own, she knows how hard learning another language can be. I can’t say enough good things about her method, her enthusiasm, her professionalism, and her great sense of humor.

So, I’ll just repeat that anyone even thinking about attending the Salon should not hesitate further. It is a great experience!!

Geoffrey Henry

Graduate—Salon de Sophie 2010