Category Archives: learn french in france

Summer’s Almost Over


Summer was never my favorite season, and in fact I’d say for a long time while I was growing up it was truly the one I enjoyed the least.  I loved the freedom that summer offered as a child, but I grew up in all the heat and humidity that Louisiana has to offer.  By the time August rolled around, I was the child who counted the days until school would start again.  New school supplies, new classroom, new teacher, new things to learn.  I always had the best teachers ever!  

I spent 15 years teaching in St. Louis, Missouri.  The same heat and humidity that enveloped the entire region was something to escape, and I had a job that allowed me to do just that. Every summer I had the privilege of running off to the South of France where I could enjoy outdoor summer activities without melting in the heat (even without air conditioning!).  Still, I wasn’t at home, and when it was time to go back in August I can remember giddily making lists and notes for the school year that was quickly approaching during the long flight home.  I have such fond memories of those trips back home.  I looked forward to going back to my classroom and to seeing my students again.  

Now I live in the South of France.  I feel so fortunate to be at home here.  It’s August, and nothing has changed.  I’m spending my days making lists, organizing my office, preparing lessons, and really looking forward to next week when I get to see all of my students again. Some students have moved on, and new ones will take their place, but one thing remains constant.  As a teacher, this is my “New Year”.  It’s a time for renewal, goal setting, and anticipation for what lies ahead.  Though I’m now self-employed and not in a traditional classroom setting, I find myself doing the same things I did as a child the week before the new school year, and I can’t wait for it to begin.  

I know that I owe this love for education to the teachers who taught me from the time I was a small child all the way through graduate school.  Some people aren’t so lucky, and I realize that.  This is why I want the students who come my way to have the best learning experience ever, and that is what gives me license to sit here on my computer in my home office pinning away on Pinterest and sharing ideas with colleagues who mostly live in North America. Finding good ideas that work in the classroom is contagious.

The only hard part about teaching from home (on Skype and with students here in Béziers) is finding the students and the time to market myself as a teacher. Any ideas?  I’m not afraid of trying something new and thinking outside of the box.  

Bonne rentrée à tous! 

Love Learning Languages

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Il y a un an . . . we moved to France


1010452_10151640711113374_1425742124_n Tomorrow it will have been exactly one year since our container from St. Louis had arrived and we were beginning to move our furniture into our apartment.  With our place being on what the French call the second floor, but to Americans is actually the third floor, those 54 steps up to our new abode were a challenge, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. One year ago. couloir Sometimes I wonder where the time went, and other times I know exactly how each moment was spent.  Since it hasn’t always been easy, sometimes I wonder how it’s only been a year.  We were still in the midst of scrubbing walls, floors, doors, toilets, and sinks when our container arrived.  It was exciting, yet frightening to finally enter the door and step into our new life in France. We’d opened the door to enter that corridor of relative homelessness when we’d left our home and friends in St. Louis two months prior. The corridor was familiar territory,  not much different than spending two months on vacation in France as we had for the last 15 years. When the container arrived and we set up house and home in Béziers, started filling the cupboards and purchasing school supplies for the kids, the corridor disappeared, and porthole to a previous life had been sealed.  It’s not a short term stay, we’re not ephemeral expats living out a dream to spend some time in France. This is our new home. That was one year ago.

group shot                                  img_2338

I’m a teacher, have always been a teacher.  Of course I’d be teaching in France.  The idea of teaching English in France frightened me a little, but annoyed me more than anything. “Tu devrais enseigner l’anglais à l’université”, “On m’a dit qu’ils cherchent une prof d’anglais par-ci et par-là.”  Wonderful, thanks for your concern, but I’m not an English teacher.  I’m a French teacher.   I started thinking about that, long and hard.  Why, I asked myself, would I consider doing something that I didn’t want to do at 41 years old?  Didn’t I deserve more?  I really love French, and love teaching it. That was when what I identify now as “the American in me” took over.  I can do whatever I want to do, as long as I’m willing to work very hard, and not be intimidated by the threat of failure or having to teach myself how to do something new. unnamed                           unnamed One year ago.  I told myself that I could do it.  I learned to ignore those who told me I couldn’t.  I overcame my fear of telling French people that I’m going to teach French here.  I started a new business in France. I became an English speaking French teacher in Béziers and on Skype.  I told myself that I am good enough.  I realized that I am. When I started writing this blog several years ago, I didn’t even want to tell my family and friends about it because I was embarrassed.  I was sure my writing was bad, and that nobody would be interested.  I didn’t tell my husband about it until I’d been writing for at least 6 months. When I started recording French lessons and putting them on a YouTube channel, nobody knew.  They didn’t know because I didn’t tell them. I’m not sure why my self-esteem had dropped from the time I was a young 20-something, but during the last year and a half I have seen myself change.  I see now that the greatest hurdle was telling myself that I am good at something, and learning to realize that people who don’t believe in me don’t have the final word on the matter. One year ago.  I didn’t know I was good at much.  Somewhere inside I guess I knew it, people had told me, but I didn’t believe it.  This first year of living in France has taught me that I’m not good at everything (like stress management and not taking on too much for one sane person to handle).  However,  I’ve accepted that I’m a really good French teacher, and I’m good at meeting new friends.  I’m a good mom, too.   I’m good at taking on a challenge, and I’m good at learning new things.  I guess the most important thing is that I’ve begun to accept myself, and I feel like I’ve made a new friend in me.   Now I need to learn to trust my new friend.  I think she cares about me more than anyone else can.

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.

 


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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