Category Archives: french lessons

Rugby – Vin – Féria


Some people complain about tourists.  I have a lot of Parisian friends and family, and they moan and groan about the tourists.  That’s kind of understandable, because Paris is a huge world capital, and there are always a lot of people out and about.  Down here in Béziers it’s a little different because when there are no tourists, you don’t tend to see many people.  For about a month we’ve been seeing more and more people in the streets, restaurants, and cafés.  That’s partially due to the amazing weather we’ve been having most of the time, and partially due to the mostly Northern European tourists who think that it’s delightful to take a dip in the Mediterranean when the water is only 19 ° (66° F).  If you’re from Northern Europe, tell me if it’s true  that you love the “plages naturistes“.

Tourists bring vitality this region, and it’s what the economy here thrives upon!  16 years ago, when we lived here for one year after getting married, someone told me that there are 3 passions in Béziers:  le rugby, le vin, et la féria!  I see now how true that is, and I think that this passion draws tourists to the region.  It’s what drew me here summer after summer, until we finally decided to move here last year.  Back in St. Louis, summer was definitely not my favorite season.  It was too hot to even get outside.  Here, even in the summer there’s often a slight sea breeze, and there’s no humidity to speak of.  I love to go and sit at the pub across the street and drink a cold beer while the kids ride their bikes and scooters on the big square.  I don’t even feel like we need to leave here to go on vacation this year….. but don’t worry, I won’t let that stop us!  Until then, I have to say that I LOVE MY JOB, and giving French immersion tours and French lessons in the region this summer is going to be so much fun.

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What’s it like for English speaking children to go to French school?


I’ve been inspired to write this post by a message I received a few days ago from a reader who is planning a move to France in about 18 months.  She has three small children, and is desperate for information from experienced families who have already made the transition.  In this particular family, nobody speaks French for the time being, though they’re very interested in starting to learn before making the move.

While searching school options in France, there are a few options…

For those who have the financial means, the desire to do so, and the possibility of living in or near a large city with lots of expats, there are exclusive international and bilingual schools.  I don’t have any experience with these kinds of establishments, so I can’t really comment as to whether I would send my children there.  I have known American families who have come to France for work, and their companies have paid for schooling for the children.  Everyone I know in this situation seems to have had a positive experience, but the kids didn’t necessarily go back to the States fully bilingual.  I’m assuming that’s because many of their classes were taught in English, most of their friends spoke English, and the parents didn’t learn French to the point where they were speaking it at home with the kids.

A much more economical solution, and the most “natural” in my opinion, is to send your children to French school.  Public or private, this particular option seems like the most frightening, especially for parents, but it is the most efficient way of immersing your family into French culture and learning the language.  Now, it’s true that before moving to France last summer, our children were already bilingual (we’d always made a special effort to speak only in French at home while living in the U.S., and their dad is French).  However, when we got married sixteen years ago, we did spend almost a year living in Béziers.  At that time, my eldest son (who is now almost 23!) was only 7, and he didn’t speak a lick of French when we put him in French school.  He was fully bilingual (using the subjunctive correctly and everything) by January 1.  Enrolling your children in French school is a way to help them integrate, find friends in the community, and it’s also an excellent means by which your family can befriend other families in the area.

Depending on where your’e coming from, French “private” schools (and by that, I mostly mean Catholic schools) are a lot less expensive than you may be expecting.  I’m saying that from an American point of view, but all I can say is that in St. Louis, we were paying almost $800 per MONTH for two children to attend a parochial school (yes, it’s a great school, but come on).  Here in France, the equivalent costs us 114€ per month for two children.

Here’s a question I have for anyone reading this post who may have a response, because I personally don’t know, and I haven’t heard any of my anglophone friends here in France mention it.  Are there FLE (français langue étrangère) resources for non-native speakers in public French schools, like the ESL resources provided in American public schools?  I’ll see if anyone has any knowledge on that topic, and I’ll also ask around here in town to see what kind of response I can find.

I’d be very curious to hear input on this topic.  Feel free to share your opinion:  public, private, bilingual?  Reasons why?

French Café Conversation in Béziers


French Café Conversation in Béziers

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Since last September when I launched Love Learning Languages, my online FLE & ESL school, I have had a lot of local people right here in the Languedoc to inquire about group French conversation classes.  I started looking around, and found that there’s really nothing like that to be found in Béziers.  Café, French conversation, meeting new people… What a fun idea!

If you live in the region, or if you’ll be passing through and want to stop by for an hour of fun, easy going French conversation (with me!), I’d be happy to meet you.  I started these group lessons about a month ago, and have a nice little group going.  It’s fun, because we talk about all kinds of interesting topics.  The participants come from around the world, and it’s an interesting mix of people.  Vocabulary & grammar questions come up frequently, and that’s what I’m there for! There are plenty of mini grammar explanations at every conversation.  We welcome more members, so check it out at meetup.com.

4th Grade Testing in France / Les évaluations du CM1


 

IMG_4327Elementary school testing in France is a lot more intense than anything I’ve seen in the US. I used to teach in a very competitive high school in St. Louis, and what elementary age children have to prepare for here in France is quite similar to exam prep for quarter, semester, and final exams.

 

Here is a photo of part of my son’s list of what to study for the upcoming “exam week”. He just turned ten, by the way. These aren’t national exams, they’re just the regular exams that children in France always have a week before the next vacation begins. That means they have intense exams about once every two months. In our region, the next school holidays will begin on February 28 and will last until March 17. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for now, every spare moment is spent getting ready for testing.

 

I’ve noticed that the stress involved in preparing for such an event is not downplayed by either parents or teachers. It’s as if rigorous testing were a right of passage into the harrowing realm of higher education in France.

 

There are ups and downs to every school system, and what I say next may surprise you. I like it. I like the testing. I don’t necessarily like the stress involved, and I don’t think it’s good for the whole class to know who is first in the ranking and who is last. But I do like the testing. I like that the kids are held accountable for remembering what they learned two months ago, and I like that they have to learn to study. However, it must be torture for students who struggle in school. That’s the part that sucks.

 

Children who test poorly, but who are otherwise quite intelligent and creative, visibly have a hard time finding their place in this system. The French school system is not set up to encourage creativity. If you can focus well enough to pay attention in class at least 80% of the time, not talk out of turn, and memorize your lessons, chances are you have a shot at success.  Just forget about ADD / ADHD.

 

We will aim to keep the creativity alive, all the while raising the bar high for success. I feel very fortunate that language isn’t a barrier for our children. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for expat children who attend French school. And what about parents who are still working hard to learn to speak French? It must be quite frightening when the study guide makes it’s way home less than a week before exams begin.

 

In case you cannot see everything on the study guide, here’s the list:

 

Jeudi 13 février:

 

Vocabulaire: Livre de Français: p. 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 118, 119 + Règles de grammaire: R5, R6, R7, R8

 

Calcul Rapide (maths): Critères de Divisibilité. X11, X 1/2, X 1/3, X 2/5 …. pg. 84, 90, 91

 

Opérations: Divisions à un et deux chiffres… pg. 104, 106

 

Vendredi, 14 février:

 

Grammaire: Livre de Français: p. 52 à 59, 94 à 99 + R7 – R11 (règles de grammaire)

 

Géométrie: pg. 68-69, 74-75, 126-127 + R4 & R5

 

Mesures: p. 36-37, 118 (#1 & 2) + R10

 

Lundi 17 février:

 

Conjugaison: Livre de Français p. 104 à 109, 146-147 + R8 à R12

 

Numération: p. 140 à 145 + R11, R12, R14

 

Mardi 18 février:

 

Orthographe: cahier de règles; Bled série 12, 13, 18, 23; orthographe d’usage: riz, pâle, trouver, paysage, aucun, désigner, équipage, joueux, redire, rayon, muet, respecter, horloge, rempili

 

Problèmes: Problèmes de logique; Rédiger la question d’un problème; Problèmes avec des +, -, X, /

 

Jeudi 20 février:

 

Production d’écrits: Le dialogue

 

Poésie: # 5, 6, 7, 8

 

Note: Je n’oublie pas de regarder mes cahiers de classe, mon cahier du soir et mon trieur.

 

Bonnes Révisions!

 

So what do you think? Let me know if you are curious and have any questions about this study guide. This is the kind of thing I would have loved to show to my students back in St. Louis, just to give an idea of how different things are in France.

 

Even though it’s tough, I have to say that we are very fortunate that the school we chose is a very good one, and the kids love their “maîtresse”. We’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences concerning school so far. Everyone at the school has been nothing less than helpful from the very start. I feel that they’ll be well prepared for what’s to come. Just for the record, in CP (first grade) they also have a week of testing coming up, but there is no studying involved. I think the only thing she’ll have to study will be the last four poems they’ve memorized.

 

Pros & Cons of Living in Béziers, the Short List


For this American French teacher, moving to France, and specifically to Béziers in the Languedoc-Roussillon (the “other” South of France) meant quitting my steady job back in the US and starting a new life and a new adventure.  It is exhilarating to be starting my own business teaching French online via Skype, and being able to work from home.  I never regret the decision we made, ever.  I mean it.  But. There are still a few pros & cons that are worthy of mentioning on this 4th day of FEBRUARY, 2014.

For now, I’m going to keep the short list very short.  If I had to state only one awesome thing about living in Béziers, and only one rather miserable aspect….today, and just for today, I would say:

PRO:  The sky is blue, and it’s almost 60 degrees.  It’s heavenly.

CON:  It smells like dog poop literally everywhere in this city.

Now if that doesn’t make you want to move to France, I don’t know what will.  There are ways to forget about the dog poop, like walking past a fromagerie, for example.   Smells bad, but tastes lovely.  However, nothing can take away the feeling you get when walking to pick up your kids for lunch to bring them home for crêpes, and it’s practically t-shirt weather.  Yeah, it’s February 4.  Life is good.


Beginner French:  Part 1, Au Café

November 29, 2013

Free Skype Lesson + 50% off Online French Course

Coupon Code:  BLACKFRIDAYFRENCH2013 (click on the link in the title)

I’m pleased to offer an online Beginner French lesson, in the marketplace now at Udemy.com.  The regular price for this video course is $20, on sale for only $10 today.  In addition, the first ten new students to enroll in the course TODAY ONLY will receive a FREE 45 minute French course with Jennifer on Skype.  Coupons are limited, and the free lesson is only for the first 10 to enroll in the class today.  Looking forward to hearing from you!  À bientôt!

Total Immersion!


Read what fellow blogger, travel journalist, and English teacher living in Barcelona had to say about her recent “Total French Immersion” experience with me in Béziers a few weeks ago. Immersion classes are so much fun, both for students and teacher!

Destino Infinito

So I decided it was time to try and learn French.  Having been presented with a Master’s research trip and project based on alternative tourism in France I knew I would be frustrated if I didn’t understand what was going on, if I wasn’t able to communicate and make myself understood.  I knew I had to try and learn, and quickly.  But as always, learning a language is a daunting process.  We are faced with hours of grammatical study, with the frustration of listening exercises, and with the shyness behind ‘getting it wrong’, ‘making a fool out of ourselves’.

But I knew there must be a more fun way of going about it, that learning French could be different.  I knew there had to be a way to learn a language in a more vibrant, confidence building way.  I just needed someone there to guide me, to help me…

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Poulet Rôti, Demi-Baguettes, and Macarons, Oh My!!


What is more tempting to all of your human senses than just walking down the street in Paris? These particular memories stem from my spending a decent amount of time every summer in the 15th arrondissement, where my husband grew up, and where his parents still live.  It’s a very residential district, and one of the most quintessentially “parisian” arrondissements in all of Paris, or so I’ve been told.

Take a stroll out and about just before noon.  You’ll try to navigate the sidewalk traffic, avoiding having your foot rolled over by one of many little old lady grocery carts, filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables that have just picked up at the open air market, and you will pass by the butcher shop and feel the heat of the rôtisserie. You’ll stare amazed at the chickens that rotate, rotate, rotate, just beckoning passers by to pick one up for the midday meal.  You’ll continue on your way, roasted chicken bagged up and ready to inhale, and you will see a child who has run up to the boulangerie for his mother to get a fresh baguette for lunch.  As he innocently tears away at the tip of the bread with his little fingers, and pops the freshly baked staple into his pouty little French mouth, you will decide that you also need some freshly baked bread to go with your freshly roasted chicken.

You’ll hop into the next bakery you see (and even though it’s not “artisanal” you’ll think everything looks and smells amazing).  After standing in a line composed only of local Parisian residents, you will see single people ordering demi-baguettes, and as you watch them, you will find yourself wondering if such a thing even exists in America.  Then you’ll order one of those demi-baguettes, just because you can.

Arms getting full, and stomach rumbling from desire, you will now pass in front of a pâtisserie (any pâtisserie), and the window display will stop you dead in your tracks to admire the latest creations.  You’ll find yourself uncontrollably drawn into the shop, and before you know it, you’ll walk out of that very bakery with your poulet rôti in one hand, the most adorable little pink box full of macarons and tied up with a lovely white ribbon in the other, and your demi-baguette under your left arm.  As you tear at the tip of your baguette and pop a piece into your mouth to tide you over,  will you succumb to the temptation of the fromagerie calling your name gently as you walk by? And will you content yourself to wash it all down with a bubbly glass of Badoit (and that’s not the fun French bubbly you may have in mind, that’s merely sparkling water), all the while knowing that your poulet and fromage would be much more nicely complemented by a bottle of Hautes Côtes de Nuits from Burgundy? Oh, the decisions you’ll be forced to make.

There’s a scene from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain that I think you will enjoy watching, even if you’ve already seen it countless times.  Watch as she leads a blind man around her neighborhood in Montmartre, and see if you can count the number of times your tastebuds are tingled.

Working @ Montpellier this Summer ?!?!?


Since I am not renewing my teaching contract this year, and since we are moving to the South of France in June, I’ve been spending the last six months or so really focusing on what to do about my professional life.  I see this as a real opportunity to do something different and exciting, keeping in mind my specific talents, interests, and experience.

The online classes I’m teaching are going very well.  The company that hired me, based in Montpellier, just informed me today that I will have three new students.  Two will be learning English, and one is a beginner in French.  They’ve assured me that once we live in France I will have a full schedule if I want it.

I ran across another opportunity several months ago.  It’s a position for “Program Dean” of a pretty prestigious residential French language/cultural program in Montpellier.  It’s a month long residential program for mostly American high school students.  They’re looking for someone who is bilingual in French and English, who has lived in the region, and who has an extensive background both teaching and traveling with North American students of this age group.  I seem to fit the bill rather perfectly, so I sent in my CV and letter about three months ago.

I can hardly believe it, but the executive director contacted me, and just this morning we set up a Skype interview for this afternoon.  I am so very nervous.  I suppose the interview will be in French, or at least I feel that it should be.  The interview is an hour and a half away, and my heart is already beating fast.

If I get the job (don’t worry, I just found some wood to touch / knock on), they will pay for my flight from New York to Montpellier.  That would be great for the budget!  It will mean living at the residence with the students for a month, and overseeing the disciplinary life of the program and assisting with the administration.  It would also mean working with a team of assistants, mostly local undergrads, meeting guest speakers, coordinating field trips around the region, providing pastoral care of students and supervision.  It sounds like what I do every summer with my students anyway, and since I haven’t planned a student trip this year it would be feasible.

Of course, it would mean living in Montpellier for a month while my husband and kids are in Béziers at my sister-in-law’s house, but it’s really close!  We would still be able to see each other quite often, and my nieces live in Montpellier.  I’m just imagining what kinds of doors this could open for me professionally, and all of the neat connections I could make.

So if you have read this far, please say a prayer for me today!  I’m going to try to keep the attitude that it’s not an interview with a leading professor at Oxford University.  It’s just a conversation with another human being.  If it’s meant to be, it will happen.  Thanks for reading my nervous bantering 🙂

MAY 2013 UPDATE:  I GOT THE JOB!!!!!

Teaching English and French Classes Online


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As many readers will know from my previous posts, I’m a high school French teacher.  I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, and teaching is my calling.  I love it.  I work at an awesome high school where all of the students are amazingly motivated and the parents are supportive, my colleagues are my friends.  So as I quit my job to move on to the next stage in life, which is making a permanent move to France this coming summer, I have mixed emotions.

For the last year or so I have been thinking very hard about what I’d like to do for work once we’re in Béziers.  One thing I know, at forty years old and with two kids under the age of ten, is that I want to plan my own schedule.  I want to work on my own terms.  I know, after having lived in France before, how wonderful it is to be able to pick up the kids from school and bring them home for lunch between 12 and 2.  Also, as I look at the schedule of school holidays in France, I know my family would benefit greatly by my being able to be off with the kids during those times.  Who am I kidding?  I’ve been a teacher for fifteen years, and I enjoy life with school holidays (coming from someone who has the whole next week off for Spring Break).

Sometime last fall I got the idea of teaching English online.  I have a colleague who taught Chinese online for a while, and she talked to me about doing the same.  I investigated many online language schools, and some are certainly more reputable than others.  I sent my CV off to several of the more established schools, and waited to see what would happen.  It wasn’t long before I started receiving email responses from several of them.

One of them is actually a French online school, but they’re looking to expand to teach English classes as well.  They are based in Montpellier, which is very close to where we will be living in France. That’s where they’re based, but given the nature of the business, one can live anywhere in the world.  The French owner, who is about my age, is in Thailand for the time being.  Another has recently relocated to Tahiti.  They all have children, and they all home school them.  I’m not looking to home school my children, but I love the idea of the freedom we will have.

I actually feel much more comfortable teaching French as a foreign language than English, but that’s just because I have a lot more experience doing that.  I have a BA in English as well though, and I think that’s what gives me an edge in the business even though I’ve spent my whole professional life teaching French.  I went through several Skype interviews over the months of December and January, and finally I was hired!  I’ve given a total of 8 classes via Skype so far.  These classes have actually been in French rather than English, even though I’m not a native speaker.  At first, I was very nervous about it.  Fear of the unknown!  After the first fifteen minutes, I was once again at ease.  It’s so much fun.  You just use the chat box like you would a white board.

I’ve also started creating free French lessons on YouTube.  This is just for fun, and there are only three lessons on my channel so far.  I put a link to my YouTube channel at the top of my blog page. I’m going to try to put up at least one lesson per week and we’ll see how that goes.

I wanted to get started with this new method of teaching right away, so that I could become familiar with it and hopefully get established before moving (and before my teaching paychecks stop this summer).  Looks like I’m on the right track.  I’m also getting a website, business cards, and flyers ready for one-on-one English (or French) classes in Béziers.  Wouldn’t it be great if this took off?  Call me an eternal optimist, but I really think I will find success in this venture.  I always see the glass as half full, and so far that’s worked out very nicely.