Category Archives: french

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.

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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!

Feeling right at home in Béziers


Girolles!

What a lovely way to start the day…..

Last Friday, as usual, François and I headed over to the “Marché du Vendredi” after dropping the kids off at school.  It’s a weekly pleasure, going to the market with a list of things we must have to create all of the wonderful little dishes we’ve dreamed up to prepare for our little family, and always coming home with twice as much as we planned.

This time, we came home with more than we expected!  As we stood in line at the butcher, trying to decide on a veal or pork roast, we were greeted in English by a beaming lady from Blog Land!  She asked us if we were American, then introduced herself and her husband.  They’re from New York, and have owned a place here for about ten years.  Just about two years ago, they moved here with their daughter (who happens to be Charlotte’s age!!).  She’s heard about my blog (!) from a friend who also lives here.  Since there’s a big picture of both of us on the main page, she recognized us at the market.  Talk about a small world!

I’m so looking forward to getting together with Ellen and Will for coffee sometime soon, and to meeting more people around and about Béziers. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting together a monthly meeting, at a café or something, for any other anglophones living around here to get to know each other.

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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The Simple Life


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We have officially been living in our apartment in Béziers for three days now.  It’s like a dream come true.  We absolutely love our apartment, imperfections and all!  We love the neighborhood and it’s cafés and gardens, and can’t wait for school to start next week.  Last night I was on our balcony (I always wanted a balcony), taking in the view, and I took a few minutes to take into account that this is really happening.  We have moved to France.  It’s no longer something that we “want to do someday”.  We’ve done it, we live here now.

When I was growing up in Louisiana, it was always in the fall that my “new year” began.  Since then, the only profession I’ve ever known is that of a teacher.  In my mind, next Monday (la rentrée or first day back to school for the kids) will mark the first day of a new year, a new beginning. The difference this time is that the beginning of this new year will not take place in a classroom.  It’s a new life for us, a new business to get off the ground, new friends to make, a time for new life experiences.

The kids are ready to start CP (first grade for Charlotte) and CM1 (fourth grade for Tristan).  To my great surprise, they told me that they’re tired of vacation, and they’re ready to get back to school!  It’s true that they’ve had a bit of an extended summer vacation this year to the tune of about three and a half months total.  I think they’re ready to meet some kids their own age.  It’s funny how kids don’t get worked up about things the way we adults do sometimes.   French school, American school, it’s all the same to them.

We plan to take a “trial walk” to the kids’ school today to see exactly how long it takes to get there by foot.  I’m thinking 15 minutes or so, and since we’ll be doing it 8 times a day, it should be good exercise!  In case you’re wondering why we’ll make the trip 8 times a day, it’s a round-trip in the morning to drop them off, then a round-trip to pick them up for lunch.  Add a round-trip to bring them back to school at 2:00, then another round trip to pick them up at 5:00.

Before leaving St. Louis, one of the students at the school where I taught read in the school newspaper that I would be moving in Béziers with my family.  He came to my office to tell me that he has a cousin who recently moved to Béziers (small world!) and that she and her husband own a bike shop here.  I plan to go meet them today, and maybe see if they can help me put my bike back together.  For now, we don’t have a car, so having our bikes would be pretty handy, and fun too!  It’s so liberating to live a simpler life, without the things we considered to be necessities back in St. Louis.  I love the idea of being able to get (almost) everything we need for daily living just by walking down the street.

P.S. Yesterday we ordered the mega-electricity-transformer that one of you so graciously took the time last spring to tell me about, and we received it only 24 hours later!  We can now vacuum and play on the Wii.  Life is good!

Pictures of our apartment in Béziers


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We may have found an apartment in Béziers!


I’ll begin the  official 10 day countdown tomorrow, but for today, it’s worth noting that I’m leaving for France in 11 days!  I’ll be there for about a week before heading down to Montpellier to start my summer job with Oxbridge Académie de France.  François and the kids will follow, but not for a few weeks.  They’re staying here to tie up some loose ends and to deal with the shipment of our container.

Originally I thought the container would take months to arrive in Béziers, but now they’re convincing me that it will be there in 30-35 days (!)  and they need an address for delivery.  We were planning to take the month of August to look for an apartment, but now it looks as though we’d better have one by August 1 when our container arrives.  This may seem a bit stressful, but it’s not!  It’s really very exciting, and this is when I realize (once again) how very fortunate we are to have family who are happy to help.

My sister-in-law in Béziers has found an apartment for us, and it seems like it will be the perfect place.  What’s really nice about it is that the owner’s are friends of friends, and they’re willing to reduce the rent by €50 and not charge us a deposit.  That’s great news, and the apartment is in a nice and safe part of town.  It’s right across the street from the university and médiathèque, and it’s only a 12 minute walk from the school where our kids will go.

I asked my sister-in-law to give me the not so good news about the condition of the apartment first.  Basically, there is a lot of painting to be done, and some of the windows don’t close very easily.  But now for the good news!  It’s HUGE!  The apartment measures 167 square meters, or 1800 square feet.  There are four large bedrooms, an office, living room, dining room, kitchen, three small balconies on the back side and one large one all across the front.  There’s only one “toilette”, and it’s separate from the bathroom, and that’s all fine with us.  There’s a nice size kitchen, but it doesn’t come equipped with a stove or refrigerator or any of that good stuff.  From what I hear, that’s very typical in French apartments, and it’s what we were expecting.  There are fireplaces in all of the rooms, and though I’m sure none of them are functioning, they’re still pretty.  There are 13 foot ceilings.  Yep, that’s right.  When you walk into the apartment, you enter a large (wide) and very long hallway, and you enter all of the rooms from either the left or the right of this hallway.  It’s big enough to furnish and serve as a sort of foyer.  The “toilette” is at one end, and the bathroom at the other.

To give an idea of what the place looks like, I’ll show a few pictures.  It’s obvious in the pictures that the place needs some sprucing up, but at the same time I can see it’s charm.

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Here’s a picture of one of the bedrooms.  This one is on the front, and the windows open up to a balcony and view of the university and library below.

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This is the big hallway that I mentioned earlier.

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This is the living room, the picture’s taken from the balcony.

It’s all very exciting, especially now that we can visualize our new home.  Having spent a lot of time in Béziers, and with the help of Google Earth, it’s easy to imagine exactly where the apartment is located.

Moving to France in 21 Days: The Why and How?


I was recently invited to write a guest post on a fellow blogger’s website, and as I was answering her questions I realized that I’d never shared much of this information on my own blog.  I’ve decided to post it here, exactly as it will appear on her blog, and I’ll share the link once she publishes it.

Question #1:  A little about yourself, where you are living now, what you do now, children etc..

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Jennifer, and I’m a mother of three and wife of one.  I’m originally from Louisiana, way down south in Cajun Country.  My whole family still lives there.  My parents have told me on numerous occasions that they don’t know how I turned out the way I did because I’m so different than my brother and sister.  So far I’m the only one to have been bitten by the travel bug, but that may change because we have decided to uproot the family and move to France one month from now.  My sister and cousin from Texas used to tell me I was adopted, and that was why there were no pictures of me as a baby at my Granny’s house, but I know they were teasing and I have my mom’s skinny legs and freckles to prove it.

Question #2:  Where are you from originally?

I’ve been living in St. Louis, Missouri ever since I came up here seventeen years ago for graduate school to study French literature.  It was only a year and a half later that I met my Parisian husband, François-René.  People love to ask me if we met while I was studying in Paris, but I never studied there!  We met by chance in a 1997-style Internet chat room, way before the days of Match.com.  I was there to practice my French, and he was there to practice his English.  One year, many transatlantic flights, and many dollars spent on long distance phone calls later, we were married and off to live in France for a year while waiting on his Green Card to come through.

At that time, back in 1998, we decided that even though he was from Paris we would settle down in the South of France.  We moved to Béziers in the Languedoc-Roussillon region where his sister and her family were living.  We stayed there for one year, and decided to move back to St. Louis so that I could finish up my MA in French.  We told ourselves that we would move back when I’d completed my degree.  Now here we are 14 years later, still in St. Louis.  I’ve been teaching high school French all this time, and to an amazing bunch of young men

François started out in the corporate world since he’d studied business administration, but after ten years of that he decided to make a career change.  He went to work as a teacher in a French immersion school in the city.  We have enjoyed every minute of living here, and it’s a wonderful place to raise a family, but that’s no reason for us to feel stuck.  And a year and a half ago we started to feel stuck.  That’s when we decided to sell the house and move back to France.

Question #3:  When are you moving to France and with whom?

Before we had come to a complete decision, we did ask our children how they would feel about it.  At this point it is important for me to say that being teachers, we’ve been able to spend two months in France every summer for the last 14 years.  Our children are all completely bilingual with no trace of an accent, because we’ve only spoken French with them since they were born.  Compared to our American friends, we lead a very “French” lifestyle already in terms of every day family life.  We have three children, but only two still at home.  Our eldest is now 22, and though he plans to eventually come to France to study the culinary arts, he will stay here for now.  We also have a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.  They are very excited about moving to France, and naturally a bit sad to leave behind their school and little friends.  We will be moving back to Béziers, where François-René’s sister and her family still live.  The kids will go to the same school where our older son went when he was in first grade.  We will live fifteen minutes from the Mediterranean coast and one hour from the Spanish border and the Pyrenees.

Question #4:  Where are you going to move?  Why did you choose that area?

While considering where to move in France, at least for now, there are only two real options.  There’s Paris, where Grandma and Tante Guénaëlle still live, and then there’s Béziers.  We want to be near the family (a luxury we’ve never known), and honestly, choosing between hectic city life and the good weather and serenity of the South, it’s not a difficult decision to make.  All said and done, it took us a year to get our house on the market and sell it.  For now, we are planning to rent in Béziers.  I’m kind of hoping for an affordable little house, or “villa” as they call them, but we’ll see what we can find.  We won’t be in a huge rush to find something because it will take our container up to two months to arrive.  In the meantime we can stay with the family in July, and in August they’re going on vacation so we will house sit.  We usually stay with them for about six weeks every summer anyway.  Plus they live in a house surrounded by vineyards with horses and a swimming pool.  It’s a pretty sweet deal, and all the more so because they are 100% adorable and we don’t seem to get on their nerves too much.

Question #5:  Why are you moving to France?

We have not decided to move to France for an awesome job offer, nor have we decided to move there because we’re independently wealthy people.  Why have we decided to move to France?  We are schoolteachers.  We work hard and want to enjoy our lives as much as possible.  We want the very best for our children.  I’m sure that turning 40 had a lot to do with our decision to move to France, and why not?  I don’t want to wait until I’m retired to live the good life.  St. Louis has been great, and so will be France.  I’m looking forward to the temperate summers and winters.  I know it gets hot there in the summer, but you don’t know hot until you’ve lived in hot and humid Louisiana and St. Louis.  I’m also looking forward to learning how to slow down.  Relax.  Take a load off.  Enjoy life.

I’m looking forward to summers at the beach and winters in the mountains without having to spend an absolute fortune like we would have to here in the States.  I’m looking forward to not having to worry about the cost of health care.  And what about the food, the wine, and yes…the French people!  I’ve found the people we’ve met in the South of France to be very genuine and caring people.  I’m also very much looking forward to raising our children with a strong sense of “politesse” that is becoming harder and harder to find in the US.  We’re doing our best, and they’re very polite and sweet, but I can remember how much easier it was (when my eldest was a little boy in France) when it wasn’t considered an abnormality for children to be polite.  It was the norm.

Question #6:  What will you do when you arrive in France?

Upon arriving in France, I will be working for 5 weeks in Montpellier as Summer Program Dean for Oxbridge’s Académie de France.  It’s a summer French immersion program for teenagers from around the world.  Though I’ll be living on campus during that time, it’s only about a half an hour away from Béziers, and that’s where my husband and kids will be.  They can come to see me, and I also will have one day off every week.  I’m very excited about this position, as I usually spend a month every summer traveling around Europe with my students from St. Louis.  I am also hoping to make some good connections.

After that first month I will return to Béziers with my family, and we will await our container while searching for a house or apartment to rent.  From that point on, all we will need is a strong Internet connection, a willingness to work hard, and a bit of good luck to launch our online language academy.  I’ve been working very hard for the last nine months or so to get it up and going.  I will teach English and French via Skype  (I’ve already started), together we will create podcasts, videos, free French and English lessons, we’ll maintain several language related blogs, websites, and Facebook pages, and continue to expand my YouTube channel while attempting to make a living from it all.  Aside from that, we’ll be spending our time living out a dream.

Question #7:  Have you a blog?  Facebook “Like” pages?

I have a personal blog, C’est la Vie! and it’s all about our original plan to move to France and the steps we’ve been taking to get there.  Once we’re in France, I plan to blog about daily life in the Languedoc.  I also have a blog to help people learn to speak French, Learn French With Jennifer, and one to help French speakers learn to speak English, Apprendre l’Anglais Avec Jennifer.  In addition, I have a commercial website that I’m working on (it’s not 100% complete) to promote the Skype lessons that I mentioned, and it’s called Love Learning Languages.  Anyone who is interested can easily access my Facebook pages, Living in Languedoc , Love Learning French , and Love Learning English.  In case that’s not enough, I also have a YouTube channel to which I upload videos to learn French on a daily basis.

Thank you so much for inviting me to write a guest post on your blog.  I wish you all the best in your return to Ireland, and hope that you will keep nothing but fond memories of your 11 years spent in France.  I dream to one day go to Ireland, the homeland of my ancestors.

Tying up the loose ends before moving to France


images-3With our departure date only a month and four days away, it’s time to go to Chicago to get (another) long-stay visa that will allow me to live and work in France for a year.  During the first year, I plan to apply for French citizenship.  This time last year I went to Chicago for the same exact visa.  Turns out I didn’t need it after all, but I said it last year, and I’ll say it again.  French bureaucracy  may have a reputation for making official procedures as difficult as possible, but the people who work at the French Consulate in Chicago are really, really helpful.  I do think that it helps that I write all of my emails to them in French.  Perhaps if I were writing them in English I wouldn’t make such a good impression, and they may be less willing to take the time to help me.  They literally located all of the documents I will need for my visa.  I just have to show up with my passport, a few photos, and an envelope for them to send my passport with the visa inside back to me.

This time last year, we had big plans to move to France.  We were hoping to sell our house quickly and move to France during the summer.  As it turns out, our house didn’t sell until October, so back in August we made the decision to spend another year in St. Louis.  Life doesn’t always work out the way we would have hoped, but in retrospect, having this extra year to get our affairs in order has been very advantageous for us.  It’s given us more time to think about what the next step will be, and I’m not just talking about where we will live.

For example, I’ve been spending a LOT of time trying to get my online language school website up and running, and hopefully it will take off during the first year.  I’m also working a lot on a second blog, Learn French With Jennifer and recording French language videos for my YouTube channel.  This is so much fun, it’s truly exhilarating!  I never knew how great it would feel to create something of my own.  Have any of you created Internet based businesses?  I’d love to hear about it if you have, because I only have one and a half more weeks left of working as a high school French teacher.  I also need to come up with a name for my French & English language school, so feel free to share if you have any ideas 🙂