Do I still speak English?

Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t plan on teaching English much longer because I have been forgetting my own language. In my vocabulary classes, the students basically work for 90 minutes straight on learning new words and how to use them properly. They have to answer questions and write paragraphs and record themselves talking spontaneously while I listen, read and correct constantly. Except sometimes I don’t remember what we say in English because I’ve gotten so used to my students’ mistakes that I tend to just translate literally from French into English just like them.

Now I have doubts about what people actually say in my native language. When describing a picture, is it normal to start with We can see instead of just saying There is/are? I know French loves to use on all the time, so whenever I hear my students start a sentence with we, I wonder if it’s correct. Like when they say We are five instead of there are five of us when talking about how many people are present in a group. We are five is still awkward in English, right? And how about firstly? Is it normal to say that instead of just first?

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: mdid

Just this past week, almost everyone began their sentences about household chores with It’s my mother who… or It’s my father who + verb. In English,we’d simply say My mother or father + verb… Are there any cases in English where this weird it’s my [person] who is possible?  I’m thinking this is just a literal translation mistake, but perhaps other native speakers who aren’t losing their language can verify it?

And for British English speakers, is to take a decision really possible? In American English that is so wrong and of course my students want to use the verb take since it’s prendre une décision in French. I think I’ve heard that take a decision is possible in formal British English, but not so common in everyday speech. How about to take breakfast? Once again it’s prendre with meals or food in French, so I think  it’s just a mistake that all of my students make, but with the British English differences, I’m not so sure…

I’d really like to know why every single student says come back at home instead of come home or practice sport instead of play sports when they’ve been learning English for 7 or 8 years already. Do middle and high school classes just not teach proper phrase constructions? Or do students really think they can just translate word for word and it will work perfectly in another language?

I’d say that I’m 50% angry that students constantly make the same mistakes over and over and I have no idea how to make them learn the correct constructions, and 50% angry that they are making me doubt my ability to speak English. I actually said practice a sport the other day and I was so mad at myself for letting their mistakes influence me.

At least when pronunciation is concerned it’s a different story. I may have trouble with grammar sometimes, but I know without a doubt when a word is pronounced wrong. I almost laughed out loud when a student said “I don’t like to sleep in dirty sheets” but she pronounced sheets with the short [ɪ] vowel. I don’t think anyone would like sleeping in that.

Eavesdropping on the French [New MP3]

I’ve finally uploaded another French Listening mp3 and this one is a little different from the others. First of all, it is much harder to understand because I was basically eavesdropping on random conversations. It starts out with Mamie working on a crossword puzzle, then Parrain talking about winning the lottery and retiring, then Patricia […]

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Updates to Come Soon, I Promise!

Just a short message to let you know/promise that I will update the site soon. I fully intended on adding more comparative material and French exercises and listening resources this weekend, but of course real life keeps getting in the way. I actually have some revision and translation projects to work on, as well as […]

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Informal French Vocabulary: Common Expressions (New Video)

New video on informal French: Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel!

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Why French is Hard to Understand, Reason 17 of 428: Fake English Words

The real reason why French is hard to understand for English-speakers is the numerous liaisons (that I mentioned recently) and lack of junctures between words. English tends to pause more often between words and exhibit open juncture, while French pauses between phrases and links sounds between certain word boundaries so that determining individual words is […]

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Staying Legal in France: More Residency Card Crap (for lack of a better word)

La Préfecture, the love of my life. Immigrants in France must have a very close relationship with the préfecture. It’s the place where we have to go – every 3 months, in some cases – to obtain our residency cards and make sure we are not sans-papiers. France doesn’t exactly have a “permanent resident” status […]

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An Example of 21st Century Vocabulary

How many textbooks do you think include vocabulary words like this? If you don’t speak either German or French, the vocabulary word is “homosexual couple” and the sample sentence says “The homosexual couple is going to adopt a child.” If only that were true in more than 2% of the world… The next word is […]

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A Frequency Dictionary of French

A Frequency Dictionary of French: Core Vocabulary for Learners I just learned about this book today and I really wish I could go to a bookstore or library and look at it. Amazon’s Look Inside feature only includes the introduction and none of the actual content but Routledge’s site offers a few sample pages to […]

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March = Spring = Sun = Motivation

I was pleasantly surprised by the weather yesterday. Now that March is here, it seems like spring is too. It was sunny and not raining for once, so I got to walk to work. I hope it stays this way and winter doesn’t come back because the sunshine gives me motivation to actually get things […]

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Introducing: French Language Tutorial E-Book and Paperback Book

As of today, the French Language Tutorial is available for purchase as an e-book (PDF format) or as a coil-bound paperback book (8.5″ x 11″). It contains all of the original French tutorials (French 1-7) and French Phonetics, plus I included IPA transcriptions for most of the vocabulary lists and for all of the verb […]

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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.


The 2nd edition of French Language Tutorial is available as a PDF book. It has been updated with much more vocabulary, sample sentences, and cultural information, plus extended vocabulary lists, cross-referenced topics, and an alphabetical index.

Visit the Store to buy the PDF e-book for $14.95 as an instant download or the paperback book for $29.95 + shipping (shipped worldwide by Purchase of the printed book includes the PDF book for free! Thank you for supporting!

French Today - Master the Modern French Language

21st century French audiobooks and audio lessons