By J. Shadé Quintanilla
La Petite Ecole Française, meaning the little French school, is a small language consulting business that brings a piece of France right to Pasadena. Founded and run by Caroline Busse, the school offers a variety of French grammar, conversational, and total-immersion courses to adults and children.
Busse started La Petite Ecole Française after teaching French and living in the U.S. for many years. A native to Aix-en-Provence, France, she started her career as a French instructor at Wellesley College. She later moved on to teach the language in different school settings, eventually opening La Petite Ecole Française in 2008. Busse currently teaches 10 classes for adults and three children’s courses.
When Busse opened her school, she did not expect to have as many adult students as she does now. Starting out with just one adult class made up of three students—two of them her friends—Busse started her business with the intention of mostly reaching out to children.
“I didn’t think adults would really be interested in learning French,” she said.
Much to her surprise, Busse realized that adults were indeed interested, and little by little, her adult classes grew.
La Petite Ecole Française offers different courses for children and adults at varying levels. Grammar and conversational courses in the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels are available for adults, and full-immersion classes are also available for children and teens. All classes meet once a week for an hour in The Atrium in Pasadena and range between 6 to 12 students. The school also offers private classes and tutoring.
Outside of the classroom, Busse creates many opportunities for her students to experience French culture and traditions through organized trips. From going to French restaurants and concerts to attending the French Film Festival in Hollywood, she gets her students together so that they can put their language skills in action. Throughout the year, Busse also holds dinner parties with traditional French food. At these special dinners, each student is required to bring one authentic French dish, made using a recipe Busse provides in both French and English.
Earlier this year, the French school held an all-white picnic inspired by the Diner en Blanc in Paris, an invite-only dinner party where thousands of people, dressed in white, spontaneously meet a secret location with their own tables and chairs. Called the White Chic Picnic, over 80 people showed up to La Petite Ecole Française’s own version of the tradition ready to try French food and practice the language.
Exposing American students to French culture and the language is one of the many reasons why Busse loves teaching French and running the school. She believes her classes help students think outside of the box since French culture is so different from American culture.
“By teaching them French, I help them to be a little bit more tolerant or see things a little differently.”
To sign up for courses or to learn more, visit www.thelittlefrenchschool.com.