Julia Pound is a Wonder Woman.
I first encountered Julia as a university student when I enrolled in a first-year (absolute) beginner French unit. She was my teacher for the semester and it's safe to say the only reason I finished the course able to utter anything remotely resembling French is thanks to her skill, passion and (let's be honest) incredible style.
Julia is not your average teacher. There is something other-worldly about her that captures the imagination. It's not surprising to learn that before her latest project, Julia ran Dagmar Rousset, a fabulous boutique that sold beautiful clothes from independent brands by day and hosted French classes by night.
Since wrapping up the store, Julia has been studying a Masters of Teaching and after a flash of inspiration, a sprinkling of magic and no doubt a lot of hard work too, she recently opened Chouchou French School this year to combine her love of French with her passion for education.
A self-confessed "French language nerd", Julia has been teaching the language for over 15 years to students from all walks of life. Chouchou is based in the iconic Nicholas Building in the heart of Melbourne, a place so charming you couldn't dream up a better location for her.
We met Julia there to find out more about her latest adventure...
Intro by Ally Macrae
Can you tell us about your journey with learning, and teaching, French and what led you to open Chouchou?
Julia: My parents took me to France when I was nine years old. I distinctly remember trying to speak to the locals with the help of my Berlitz phrase book and an undoubtedly atrocious accent. I’m fairly sure that atrocious is the right word because I still remember the looks of befuddlement and genuine amusement on the faces of the poor, hapless souls I chose to speak “French” to.
When I found out a few years later that French was compulsory in Year 7 at my school I pretended to act all cool and nonchalant about it but I was secretly going out of my tiny 12-year-old mind. I have no idea why I have always felt drawn to the language – I have no French blood and no one in my family speaks it.
After I finished my undergraduate degree, in which I did absolutely every French subject on offer, I went to France to pursue further study for four years. I learnt so much during this time, not only about the language but also about a country and people I'll forever be besotted with.
I decided to open Chouchou because I obviously love French, but I also love teaching. Ask any committed teacher why they do it and most of them will use the word “fun”. If you’re lucky enough to have teaching in your blood it truly is the most wonderful, exciting profession. In fact, I am getting shivers just typing this now!
We LOVE the Chouchou Instagram account, branding and the school's fit-out. How did it all come together?
As with everything I do, it came together quickly and haphazardly. One day I was doing yoga and I had a vision of myself teaching people French in the Nicholas Building. Within a week I’d found a little space there and contacted two of my favourite artists to help me with the website (Alice Oehr) and the Instagram account (Grace Crawshaw-McLean).
The fit out wasn’t carefully planned – I just asked the brilliant Jem Freeman of Like Butter to make me a huge table and the rest came from Ebay and junk shops (and another place that shall remain unnamed – you know the one!).
What do you think are the keys to success when learning a foreign language (especially as an adult)?
I swear by the five-hour rule. You’ve got to spend at least an hour a day each weekday honing your skills. If you just show up to classes once a week and forget about French in between times (or spend a frantic few minutes doing homework exercises the night before class) you’re probably not going to make any significant progress.
You also need to find a teacher who loves what s/he does and actually cares about your progress. This is a frequently overlooked factor but is extremely important. If you don’t like your teacher, find a new one.
Can you tell us a favourite French phrase?
One of my favourites is “avoir les jambes en coton” (to have legs made of cotton) which is used to describe that jelly-legged feeling you have when you’re in love.
What does being radical mean to you?
Many years ago I saw a show by the comedian Adam Hills that changed my life. In it he spoke about how we all have a choice to be either a “deflator” – someone who criticises, judges and takes the air out of others’ balloons, or an “inflator” – a person who enriches others’ lives through empathy and kindness. It sounds simple but I think we sometimes fall back into deflator mode when things aren’t going so well for us. As far as I’m concerned, radical people are always inflators.
We are hosting a workshop led by Julia tonight at the Radical Yes! Pop Up Store.
Ideal for students of any language, at any level, this FREE talk will go through new tools for learning a language, how to change your mindset and some tips and tricks to help you on your journey.
WHERE: Radical Yes! Pop Up, 99 Therry St.
WHEN: Thursday 14th July
TIME: 6 – 7pm
TICKETS: FREE but limited spots available. RSVP via Eventbrite