Acton — There's no place in town you can get closer to France than at Cynthia Edelman's suite on Davis Road.
Edelman, 48, seems to breathe French culture and the language, which she tries to bring to her 70 to 80 students of all ages for one hour every week.
The 11-year Acton resident started her business, French in Acton, after first working at Michelin, a French tire company. She also taught the language at local elementary schools and community education programs. She said her clientele kept growing, and in 2003 opening a school seemed logical.
Her lessons take place in a first-floor suite at 42 Davis Road and the walls in almost every room are accented with drawings and pictures of French scenes and advertisements that she has acquired from her frequent visits to the country.
"I like to go back every year or every other year to touch up on my linguist skills, shop for supplies and I like to look for new places to stay," said Edelman, who also offers French travel consulting.
Edelman started learning French in elementary school in Pennsylvania. She graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in French and a minor in business, which she said was to appease her parents. She studied at La Sorbonne, a college in Paris, and after getting married a return to France was in the stars.
"My husband's [job] moved to Paris and that's when it all clicked," Edelman said. "I had kids and started dabbling into [teaching French] on a much more full-time basis."
She lived abroad for three years and had two children whose first language was French. Since her return to the United States, her passion for French evolved into a career.
Edelman said she was fascinated with speaking with someone in his or her native tongue and understanding the culture behind the language.
"I'm not sure if I like it because I'm good at it or good at it because I like it," she said.
Students trek to Acton to take classes with Madame Edelman from Acton, Boxborough, Concord, Sudbury and beyond.
When Edelman talks about her classes she switches back and forth between French and English.
"My goal is to absolutely, positively make learning French fun," she said, "which makes them keep coming back. The kids come bounding in saying, 'Madame, Madame' and can't wait to start."
Edelman offers classes for students of all ages with some as young as 4 years old and others older than 18. She especially loves teaching the younger students who she says are like "little sponges."
They're absolutely fascinating, Edelman said. She likes to conduct her classes using as much French as possible and one group of kindergartners once asked for the English translation of 'le poisson,' which means fish. "They couldn't remember. It's very interesting and amazing what kids are capable of."
Edelman's teaching philosophy is one reason why Tara Zantow, a Boxborough resident, has both her children enrolled in the classes. Zantow's son Max, 13, is in his eighth year while her daughter Isabel, 9, will start her sixth.
"[Edelman] teaches foreign language like you'd learn it in the house—she teaches vocabulary, they play games and sing songs," Zantow said. "She's very serious about it and wants people to love the language and the culture."
Zantow studied French when she was in school and lived in France for a short time. She said she enjoys attending the conversation nights Edelman holds every few months.
Catherine Adams of Concord has a special affinity for France as she was married in Paris. She and her husband signed their children up for classes because they feel learning another language is beneficial.
"After years of taking French, all I could remember of the language was at a third-grade level," Adams said. "So if I got [my children] in at a younger age then all the better."
Adams said the students and families, as well as Edelman's teaching, are key factors that have kept her kids enrolled.
"I like the community, and I think she's a masterful teacher," she said.
Edelman said her classes are just like any other extracurricular activity a parent might enroll his or her child in and many students come simply to enrich their language skills.
"I find a lot of parents who value learning a second language and it's the reason why I've been so successful," she said. "Running my own business has been a very rewarding experience."
Edelman currently teaches around 25 classes per week and new classes begin in September.
For additional information, contact Cynthia Edelman, Director of French in Acton, Acton's premier French language school, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-929-9101.
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