Top 100 Language Lovers Blogs: Voting Starts Today at Lexiophiles

By   May 17, 2011

Lexiophiles’ Language Lovers 2011 competition is now open for voting. This year the four categories are:

– Language Learning Blogs

– Language Professionals Blogs

– Language Facebook Pages

– Language Twitterers

Since I won 3rd place overall last year (in the Top 100 Language Blogs) and 2nd place in the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs, my blog was automatically nominated again for this year’s competition. If you’d like to vote for me, click here and choose Jennie in France. Thank you!

Voting ends May 29th at 11:59 PM (French/German time) or 5:59 PM EST.

Sorry the blog/site hasn’t been updated much lately. I’ve been a little overwhelmed with the funeral, finishing my translation work before my upcoming annual trip, and the big move to Australia in a few months.

Starting my PhD in Languages and Linguistics… in Australia

By   May 9, 2011

Here’s another secret that I’ve been keeping for a while: I’m moving to Australia in a few months to start my PhD in Languages and Linguistics.

I received a scholarship that pays all of the tuition fees as well as a living allowance for three years. My research will be on the teaching of French (of course!) and my research question will be focused on the vocabulary presented in textbooks that are commonly used in university classrooms and to what extent they teach spoken, informal, non-standard French.  I have a ton of ideas on how to improve the teaching of French – as you can see from my website – and I can’t wait to get back to doing academic research and being in a university environment.

Capital cities of Australia

I will be in one of these cities

Since my research will be a full-time job, I won’t have as much time to devote to the website but I intend to keep updating the tutorials and blog as much as possible. However, I suppose I will need to change the name of the blog since I will no longer be en France.  I have a ton of things to do before I leave (I don’t yet have an official date, but sometime in mid-July or August), including learning some Australian English and getting used to the accent. Any Aussie friends out there who can recommend some good Australian movies or series?

Size of France (blue on left) compared to Australia

Thank You André and Rest in Peace

By   May 6, 2011

My father-in-law, André, passed away yesterday. He was a very kind man and a devoted husband, father and grandfather. A few months ago, he helped contribute to the French Listening Resources mp3s by answering a few questions on French cuisine, traveling around the world and France’s national holiday. I hope that his words, spoken with his slight Provençal accent, help French learners understand the beautiful language and culture that he was so proud of.

Mon beau-père, André, s’est éteint hier. C’était un homme très gentil et un mari, père et grand-père dévoué. Il y a quelques mois, il a contribué à French Listening Resources en répondant aux questions sur la cuisine française, le tour du monde, et la fête nationale française. J’espère que ses mots, parlés avec son léger accent provençal, aident les apprenants de français à comprendre la belle langue et la culture dont il était tellement fier.

He was diagnosed in early 2006 with stage IV lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of 1 to 5%. And he did survive longer than five years, which I like to think is proof of his unfailing commitment to take care of his family. During that time, his granddaughter Mélina was born and he was able to spend nearly three wonderful years with her. I met him in October 2006, shortly after my arrival in France, and even though his doctor thought that he would have passed away by then, he was full of life and happiness. That is how I will always remember him.

Au début 2006, on lui a diagnostiqué un cancer du poumon au stade IV, qui a un taux de survie de cinq ans de 1 à 5%. Et il a survécu pendant plus de cinq ans, ce qui (j’aime bien penser) est la preuve de son dévouement intarissable à sa famille. Pendant ce temps-là, sa petite-fille Mélina était née et il a pu passer trois années merveilleuses avec elle. Je l’ai connu en october 2006, peu après mon arrivée en France, et même si le médecin avait dit qu’il s’en serait déjà allé à cette époque, il était plein de vie et de bonheur. Je m’en souviendrai toujours de lui comme ça.

André with his granddaughter, Mélina, in 2008
André avec sa petite-fille, Mélina, en 2008

Thank you André for creating such a great family and letting me be a part of it. Thank you for teaching me and so many others the French language. You will never be forgotten.

Merci André d’avoir fondé une famille exceptionnelle et de m’avoir permis d’en faire partie. Merci de m’avoir appris à moi et à tant d’autres la langue française. On t’oubliera jamais.

French Language Tutorial (2nd edition) Now Available

By   May 2, 2011

The 2nd edition of French Language Tutorial is now available! This is a major update from the first edition, available in either PDF format or as a coil-bound paperback.

French Language Tutorial: Vocabulary, Grammar, and Pronunciation

Changes from the first edition:

  • Much more vocabulary and sample sentences, such as asking for help, giving advice, expressing opinions, likes & dislikes, etc.
  • New order of topics with cross-references (clickable within the PDF) for easier review of previous vocabulary
  • Conjugations in present, past (imperfect) and future tenses for irregular verbs throughout the book, with IPA for pronunciation
  • Each page has its own mp3 to make listening and reading along easier
  • Mp3s have been re-recorded by three native speakers (including a female voice)
  • Alphabetical index for vocabulary and grammar topics

The 2nd edition of FLT is on sale for $14.95 (PDF) or $29.95 (paperback) with free mp3s. Purchase of the paperback includes the pdf at no extra cost – simply email me your receipt and I will send it to you!

Visit the store for more information or click Buy Now to order online. If you’d like to see a preview of the book, including the new table of contents, go to the Lulu Marketplace page and click Preview under the cover photo.

French Language Tutorial (2nd ed.) e-book

PDF format / 226 pages

Immediate download through E-Junkie


Buy Now

French Language Tutorial (2nd ed.) paperback

coil-bound / 228 pages

Shipped worldwide by


Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Remember: the website tutorial no longer matches the book, so make sure to download the new mp3s available at

Numbers and Counting: American vs. French

By   April 27, 2011

I’m still endlessly fascinated by cultural differences between the US/North America and France/Europe that most people probably don’t spend much time thinking about. A McDonald’s commercial on French TV got me thinking about numbers and counting in other languages and cultures.  You learn quickly that Europe uses the 24 hour clock for schedules and the 1st floor in Europe is the 2nd floor in the US, etc. but did you know that Europeans also count on their fingers differently?

The American style is to start with the index finger but Europeans start with the thumb, which I have NEVER been able to remember to do – and I end up confusing my 2 year old niece who doesn’t understand why weird American aunt Jennie doesn’t know how to count correctly.  If you just hold up the index finger, some people will misinterpret it as 2 instead of 1.

Written numbers also gave me some problems in French. This was the validity date on my first autorisation provisoire de travail as an English assistant. I knew that European dates were in the format day/month/year but I wasn’t yet used to how numbers were actually written. When I first glanced at the dates, the 1’s looked completely bizarre to me and I thought the second date was 30/06/07 instead of 30/04/07.

Here’s how David writes numbers:

For comparison, the way I write numbers is below. My students always thought my 1, 2, and 7’s were weird whenever I wrote numbers on the board. Even the post office makes me cross my 7’s because they’re afraid that someone will mistake it for a European 1. I don’t know about other Americans but we used to get in trouble at my elementary school for crossing our 7’s…

Another major difference pertaining to numbers is that the use of periods and commas are reversed. Periods are used as the decimal mark in the US, while commas are used in most of Europe. Commas are used as the thousands separator in the US, while periods or spaces or nothing are used in Europe (there are many differences depending on the country).  This doesn’t cause many confusions but one mathematical operation probably will at first glance.

This is how David was taught to do long division:

And this is how I was taught way back in 5th grade:

Learning words and grammar is never enough!

Comparative Grammar of the French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Languages

By   April 23, 2011

My new favorite book.

Published in 1868!

400 pages of comparative goodness.

Verb conjugations (we really should bring back thou hadst and the T-V distinction in English!)

There’s even vocabulary at the end, though the words are not grouped thematically like they are in The Loom of Language.

I’ve also ordered A Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Italian and Spanish by Oliver Heatwole (1949) as well as Comprendre les langues romaines: Du français à l’espagnol, au portugais, à l’italien & au roumain by Paul Teyssier (2004), but I haven’t yet found a book like this for the Germanic languages. As soon as I can determine if Notley’s book is in the public domain (there was a reprint in 1977 by an American publisher), I will start scanning and/or re-typing it to share it online.

Female Polyglots and Language Learners – Where Are You?

By   April 19, 2011

The lovely Susanna, author of Language is Music, and I were talking about the lack of female polyglots online even though most language classes have higher enrollment of women than men and many language teachers are female rather than male.

Most polyglots online – especially on YouTube – are men and we can’t seem to find many blogs dedicated to learning languages written by women. I imagine it has more to do with certain personality traits (bragging has come up often in forum discussions) and who uses the internet and for what purposes rather than anything else, so I would like to hear from female polyglots on why or why not they have a blog/website. I certainly know a ton of female expat and travel bloggers, but I’d like to know more female polyglots, so if you’re reading this, let me know!

Language learning blogs by women (some no longer updated):

See and Speak with the World (Susanna’s blog)

Judith’s Language Learning Blog

Diary of an Eternal Student (formerly Aspiring Polyglot)

ich estudio langues

Baby-Steps to Fluency

These are just a few personal blogs that I’ve been following over the past year or two, but of course there are many female contributors to larger sites such as Lexiophiles, Multilingual Mania, Transparent Language blogs, etc. Can you recommend other blogs by female authors?

Getting Used to Being an American Abroad (and Realizing that 30 Degrees is Hot)

By   April 11, 2011

The weather has been gorgeous in France this past week and I’ve been looking at the forecast everyday hoping that the sunshine sticks around for a while. Yet every time I watch the météo on TV or check the prévisions on, I always have to stop for a moment and convert the Celcius degrees to Fahrenheit so that I will know the “real” temperature. Even after 4.5 years in France, I am still not used to talking about the weather in Celcius because it just seems so… unnatural to me.  I’ve finally memorized some conversions (30 is hot enough for me to go swimming, for example), but I still cannot convert automatically and instantly in my head.

But is 10 degrees cold?

Yesterday while we were driving home from grandma’s house, David asked about speed limits in the US and after the requisite “it’s different for each state” line that I have to say for everything concerning US laws, I immediately started rattling off numbers in miles per hour, which of course meant nothing to David. Unlike North American cars, mainland European cars have no use for an odometer which includes both miles and kilometers, so I had to use a conversion app on my iPod to give him the equivalents in kilometers per hour.

Makes driving to Canada much easier

So that got me thinking about other small changes that Americans who live or travel abroad have to get used to, because the US just has to be different from everyone else. Not only is it Celcius for temperature instead of Fahrenheit, or metric measurements instead of customary, but also:

  • writing the date in day/month/year format instead of month/day/year: personally I like the logical progression of smallest to largest, but at the same time, I like knowing the month first because that’s how calendars are designed
  • using the 24 hour clock instead of AM and PM: it seems like only the military uses the 24 hour clock in the US but everyone uses it in France, for public transportation, flights, opening hours, work or class schedules, television programming, etc.
  • chip-based cards with a PIN instead of the swipe & sign type: this is major headache for American tourists trying to use any machine in Europe without cash (or coins in France since few machines take bills*); barely any American banks or credit unions offer chip & PIN cards, though Travelex now does even if the exchange rate is not that great
  • 1 and 2 euro/pound/dollar coins instead of bills: even though the Government Accountability Office wants to switch over to at least the $1 coin, I don’t see it happening any time soon for the same reason excuse a change to chip & PIN cards won’t happen anytime soon – too many machines and cash registers to upgrade even though coins last longer than bills and chip & PIN cards are more secure than swipe & sign cards
  • manual cars instead of automatic: I never learned to drive a stick shift because my family didn’t own any by the time I was 15, and my driver’s training class would only teach us how to drive automatics. Learning to drive a manual transmission was a hassle where I’m from, just like trying to buy an inexpensive automatic car in France. Most rental companies in Europe don’t have many automatic cars, and if they do, they are usually those weird cars that can be driven as either automatic or manual but that don’t have much acceleration power, don’t shift into reserve when they’re supposed to, and roll back when stopped, like manual cars. (I have never had a good experience with renting automatic cars in Europe!)
  • inconvenient opening hours: there may be some 24 hours grocery stores in Paris, but most stores/pharmacies/post offices/hairdressers/museums where I live close for lunch between 12 and 2, close for the day by 7pm, and are definitely not open on Sundays. Banks are generally closed on Mondays. Library hours are completely sporadic. Drive-throughs for ATMs or mailboxes are extremely rare, though they are common for fast food restaurants. Even many restaurants close down between lunch and dinner so you cannot eat a late lunch after 2pm or early dinner – by French standards – before 7pm

On the other hand, there are many differences between the US and Europe (or more specifically, France) that are easier to get used to and come as pleasant surprises when compared to America, such as finding out that going to university doesn’t have to cost a small fortune (only 300€ per semester), health care is NOT reserved for the rich, extensive public transportation and train networks are quite convenient, separation of church and state actually exists, incoming calls are FREE on cellphones as well as many outgoing calls when it’s landline to landline (or any phone in the US/Canada), and you can’t just buy something because you want it even though you don’t have the money for it which prevents you from going into debt and losing your house.

For foreigners visiting the US, it almost seems like adjusting to these changes is easier because chip & PIN cards can be used as swipe & sign cards so there are no problems when trying to pay for something (except for those ridiculous minimum amounts that certain places require for debit or credit cards), automatic cars are easier to drive plus the cost of gas is much cheaper (compared to $9 a gallon in some parts of Europe), and stores that are open 24 hours a day and on Sundays are much more convenient for tourists who have limited time to see and do everything they want while on vacation.

So my fellow Americans, anything major that I missed? Canadian friends, which ones are the same up north? And for the non-North Americans, anything else that you have to get used to while in the US?

* Tip: In France, you can find change machines in major post offices and video arcades, which are usually connected to movie theaters, if you need/want coins instead of bills. You can always try asking for change in stores or tabacs, but don’t count on them to help you out. The train station in the town where I live won’t give change even if you just want to use the machines in the train station!

Recent Foreign Language and Traveling News

By   April 6, 2011

Some interesting articles and websites on foreign languages and traveling that I’ve come across in the past week or two:

Lastly, Brainscape has just updated their French Vocab Genius mobile app to include web synching to your online account, so if you haven’t already downloaded the app, it is free for a while!

My Say it in French Phrasebook Available in September from Dover Publications

By   April 4, 2011

Guess who’s a published author now? It’s on Amazon so that makes it official, right? One of my jobs last year was revising and updating Dover Publications’ Say it in French phrasebook. The original was written in the 50’s and included a section on telegrams and cablegrams, so there was a lot I needed to change and add. I didn’t even know what a cablegram was! Essentially I rewrote most of the book to include modern language that tourists but also regular learners of French in the 21st century would need.

Say it in French

I will post again before September 15 when the book is available and explain the many, many changes I made but I just wanted to finally tell everyone about it because I’ve been keeping this secret for over a year. You can already pre-order it on Amazon. The price is only $5.95.

There are more secrets I am keeping for the moment related to my current job and my future in France, but I’m just waiting for things to be official before I announce anything else!