Frustration & Creation; or Why I Spend Hours Working on my Website

It began with foreign languages. Actually it began with the movie While You Were Sleeping that I saw when I was 14 years old. Sandra Bullock’s character wanted to visit Italy so badly that it made me want to learn Italian. And then I started high school and began learning French. A year later and I had learned enough HTML to attempt to make a website. I was typing all of my notes from French class anyway, so why not put them online so others could benefit from them too?

And so it continued throughout high school, undergrad and graduate school. I added more languages and linguistics resources from my university courses. People offered to write tutorials for languages I had never studied. I gladly put them online because I know there is someone somewhere who wants to learn that specific language and cannot find any other resources for it – or at least, not any free resources.

I became more and more frustrated at the lack of free language learning materials, or at the lack of quality. Most books cater to travelers and don’t teach the real language that is spoken. Even after ten years of searching, I’ve still only found a few that teach informal language and slang. I’ve known for a while that the internet is the best tool in language learning, yet I could not find many sites that offer informal language either. Where are all the native speakers and why are they not teaching us their language? Teach us the pronunciation, the slang, the idioms, everything we need to know to survive in your country. I can only do so much with my limited knowledge, and frankly, it’s draining my energy to feel as though I need to teach every facet of a language that I don’t speak perfectly.

Then I began the English assistantship in France and continued increasing my ESL plans and materials. Again I was frustrated by the lack of information available about the program. I wanted real advice, real anecdotes, real facts, real data. So I created my incredibly detailed Assistants Guide, hoping to ease the stress of future assistants who wanted to know what they were getting themselves into. Even teaching English in the US, I could never find exactly what I wanted online, so I allowed others to download everything I’ve created for my classes and private students. What’s the point of creating plans to only use them once and never look at them again? Other teachers will appreciate the gesture of free resources, I thought.

And now I’m focusing on expatriates in France and everyday life. Everything I’ve gone through, all my experiences, could possibly help one person in France and that’s why I do this. I want to alleviate the frustration of figuring out French bureaucracy. I have been there. I know how exhausting it is. And I want to help, not for monetary gain, but because I wish someone else had done this for me – and maybe, just maybe, it will inspire others to do the same.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to teach things that I’m not really an expert in. But no one else seems to want to do it. No one else wants to share their knowledge or resources. Creating websites is increasingly easy, and everyone has something to share, something to teach; yet I still have trouble finding websites that are completely free or that have specific and correct information. Either they charge for premium content or they just exist as a placeholder for ads. There is very little on the internet nowadays that is worthwhile unless you pay, it seems.

Why should those with money have access to a better education than those without? What is so wrong with the free exchange of knowledge and ideas? Whatever happened to teaching for the simple joy of helping others learn?

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  • http://blondeinfrance.blogspot.com/ Andromeda

    I understand your frustration so much! And thank you thank you for all your resources, I hope you don’t think people don’t appreciate them, I always have!! Merci merci!!

    Andromedas last blog post..The Home Baker

  • http://blondeinfrance.blogspot.com Andromeda

    I understand your frustration so much! And thank you thank you for all your resources, I hope you don’t think people don’t appreciate them, I always have!! Merci merci!!

    Andromedas last blog post..The Home Baker

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com/ Noelia

    Je pense que ton travail est tout à fait admirable et honorable! (BTW Thanks for the link for Pukka German, it’s so fun to get the real German in my ear again!) :-)

    Noelias last blog post..Main d’oeuvre

  • http://noemagosa.wordpress.com Noelia

    Je pense que ton travail est tout à fait admirable et honorable! (BTW Thanks for the link for Pukka German, it’s so fun to get the real German in my ear again!) :-)

    Noelias last blog post..Main d’oeuvre

  • Lauren Stroshane

    Hi Jenny, I’m a California native who found your blog while searching for info on assistantships in France. In the end I opted not to accept mine, but I’m currently teaching ESL in Berkeley and wanted to sympathize with your rant about the lamentable black where free language resources should be. While my French boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago, I would have seriously appreciated all your (detailed!) practical advice for expats had I stayed in France, and I wish you all the best with your future endeavors. There are anonymous masses of us out here who read and appreciate all the work you put into your blog & website, so thanks!

  • Lauren Stroshane

    that is to say, “…lamentable black hole…”

  • Lauren Stroshane

    Hi Jenny, I’m a California native who found your blog while searching for info on assistantships in France. In the end I opted not to accept mine, but I’m currently teaching ESL in Berkeley and wanted to sympathize with your rant about the lamentable black where free language resources should be. While my French boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago, I would have seriously appreciated all your (detailed!) practical advice for expats had I stayed in France, and I wish you all the best with your future endeavors. There are anonymous masses of us out here who read and appreciate all the work you put into your blog & website, so thanks!

  • Lauren Stroshane

    that is to say, “…lamentable black hole…”

  • Frankofile

    Recently discovered you – you are special! I’ve still to work through your vast site. I’m looking for useful stuff for adults, and your site may just be the place.

  • Frankofile

    Recently discovered you – you are special! I’ve still to work through your vast site. I’m looking for useful stuff for adults, and your site may just be the place.

  • http://toutesdirectionspourlafrance.blogspot.com/ L

    Not to let anyone off the hook, but I have two possible explanations. As to why there aren’t more free language resources, I think it comes down to the fact that putting together lessons, explanations, and other things takes time and effort, and there aren’t a lot of people who are willing to do that for free. If I counted the hours I put into preparing my tutoring lessons, my already measily salary from Acadomia would be even lower. I’ll gladly help friends with their English, but I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to tutor someone for free (without any other exchange such as them teaching me a language). So lots of effort required equals not a lot of people willing to do it for free. And as for the lack of “real” language, I think the problem is that it evolves fast enough to make text books out of date in 5 or 10 years, and perhaps more importantly, street language is highly subjective. There might be a general understanding of a slang word, but it might be out of favor in one area and totally hip in another. If you teach someone to say “pop” when they want a soft drink in the States, everyone in California is going to give you a funny look and ask where you’re from. The forums on Word Reference attest to this: people are always going back and forth on the nuances and subtilities of recently coined words or expressions. Teaching street language also means the teacher has to be very current and can’t rely on what they learned 20 years ago. Maybe the problem is just intertia. There’s also a feeling of doing things for the common good that’s missing. BBC’s learning english site is a great resource and proof of the “greater good” philosophy. They obviously have resources though, which is why they have such quality material. Maybe more governments need to recognize the benefits of putting high quality language materials on the web.

    Ls last blog post..

  • http://toutesdirectionspourlafrance.blogspot.com L

    Not to let anyone off the hook, but I have two possible explanations. As to why there aren’t more free language resources, I think it comes down to the fact that putting together lessons, explanations, and other things takes time and effort, and there aren’t a lot of people who are willing to do that for free. If I counted the hours I put into preparing my tutoring lessons, my already measily salary from Acadomia would be even lower. I’ll gladly help friends with their English, but I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to tutor someone for free (without any other exchange such as them teaching me a language). So lots of effort required equals not a lot of people willing to do it for free. And as for the lack of “real” language, I think the problem is that it evolves fast enough to make text books out of date in 5 or 10 years, and perhaps more importantly, street language is highly subjective. There might be a general understanding of a slang word, but it might be out of favor in one area and totally hip in another. If you teach someone to say “pop” when they want a soft drink in the States, everyone in California is going to give you a funny look and ask where you’re from. The forums on Word Reference attest to this: people are always going back and forth on the nuances and subtilities of recently coined words or expressions. Teaching street language also means the teacher has to be very current and can’t rely on what they learned 20 years ago. Maybe the problem is just intertia. There’s also a feeling of doing things for the common good that’s missing. BBC’s learning english site is a great resource and proof of the “greater good” philosophy. They obviously have resources though, which is why they have such quality material. Maybe more governments need to recognize the benefits of putting high quality language materials on the web.

    Ls last blog post..

  • http://japanexplained.wordpress.com/ Alex Case

    I know exactly where you are coming from. What puts me off putting more time into my various blogs is the fact that time spent teaching someone else what I know is less time I can spend learning something new for myself. Think I might spend the rest of my life looking for the solution to that one…

    TEFLtastic blog- http://www.tefl.net/alexcase

    Alex Cases last blog post..Why are black belts black?

  • http://japanexplained.wordpress.com Alex Case

    I know exactly where you are coming from. What puts me off putting more time into my various blogs is the fact that time spent teaching someone else what I know is less time I can spend learning something new for myself. Think I might spend the rest of my life looking for the solution to that one…

    TEFLtastic blog- http://www.tefl.net/alexcase

    Alex Cases last blog post..Why are black belts black?

  • http://unautrejp.blogspot.com/ Justin

    Jennie,
    sincerely thank you for everything you have done. I can honestly say I would not be at the level I am at today in French if it was not for you (and I feel I am at a decent level for only starting to learn a little over a year ago). thank you so much!
    Justin

    Justins last blog post..Maybe I should move to Germany next…

  • http://unautrejp.blogspot.com Justin

    Jennie,
    sincerely thank you for everything you have done. I can honestly say I would not be at the level I am at today in French if it was not for you (and I feel I am at a decent level for only starting to learn a little over a year ago). thank you so much!
    Justin

    Justins last blog post..Maybe I should move to Germany next…

  • Minsik

    Thank you so much for all the materials you’re sharing now on the net. I was really happy to find out such a great free language learning site. I hope you’ll get more acclaim from everybody who gets something valuable like language study materials and value of sharing, so that you can get some energy from that. Thanks to you, I’ve decided to make another free language study site someday later. I’m not sure when it is though. (a bit busy thesedays for my preparation things.) So~ have a good day~!

  • Minsik

    Thank you so much for all the materials you’re sharing now on the net. I was really happy to find out such a great free language learning site. I hope you’ll get more acclaim from everybody who gets something valuable like language study materials and value of sharing, so that you can get some energy from that. Thanks to you, I’ve decided to make another free language study site someday later. I’m not sure when it is though. (a bit busy thesedays for my preparation things.) So~ have a good day~!

  • http://www.joujoulovesyou.blogspot.com/ JouJou

    J,

    Your blog has been sooo helpful. I just stumbled upon it today and I am almost finished with all of your entries. I moved to Tunis, Tunisia 6 months ago to study French and Arabic. The family that I live with are from Paris but have settled in Tunisia. I almost think it was better that I had NO prior exposure to French. I started from scratch here and so far my journey with learning the language has been extremely smooth and pleasant. There are some frustrations with the weird rules and ‘just because’ reasons in French…but knowing Spanish has helped tremendously.
    I finish my language program in 2 years and after that I will be moving to Paris. Your info about the French bureaucracy has been so helpful. Luckily I have very close friends that are French who live in Paris that will be helping me as well. Keep up the great work!!!!

    JouJous last blog post..GET YO SHI* and GET OUT.

  • http://www.joujoulovesyou.blogspot.com JouJou

    J,

    Your blog has been sooo helpful. I just stumbled upon it today and I am almost finished with all of your entries. I moved to Tunis, Tunisia 6 months ago to study French and Arabic. The family that I live with are from Paris but have settled in Tunisia. I almost think it was better that I had NO prior exposure to French. I started from scratch here and so far my journey with learning the language has been extremely smooth and pleasant. There are some frustrations with the weird rules and ‘just because’ reasons in French…but knowing Spanish has helped tremendously.
    I finish my language program in 2 years and after that I will be moving to Paris. Your info about the French bureaucracy has been so helpful. Luckily I have very close friends that are French who live in Paris that will be helping me as well. Keep up the great work!!!!

    JouJous last blog post..GET YO SHI* and GET OUT.

  • http://cultursation.blogspot.com Margaret

    Beautiful.

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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