Australian Society for French Studies Conference 2014

By   December 9, 2014

Last week I was in Melbourne for the annual Australian Society for French Studies conference, held at RMIT. I hadn’t been to this conference since 2011 since it’s usually held in December when I am often traveling. Thanks to my frequent flyer points and no registration fee for full-time students, it ended up being a very inexpensive conference trip for me.

Australian Society for French Studies Conference

The first plenary speech, De l’aventure napoléonienne au malaise européen actuel, was given by former prime minister of France, Lionel Jospin. He gave the same talk in English, From the Napoleonic venture to the current European malaise, at a public forum the same night.

Most of the presentations I attended were on teaching or translation. One that was particularly interesting, especially for the purposes of teaching French conversation, was La discussion française comme conflit ludique: lien entre atmosphère sonore et réussite de l’échange. Conversations that were considered the most réussi by native French speakers (from France) were those that included more concessions, overlaps, refutations, questions and brouhaha as well as less silence and fewer instances of “saving face.”

A talk on Variétés du français en Louisiane: tensions sociolinguistiques d’hier à aujourd’hui was also quite interesting and made me really want to visit Louisiana the next time I’m in the US.

Next year’s conference will be at Newcastle (north of Sydney).

Bescherelle Le Jeu and Other French Language Games

By   November 26, 2014

If you are looking for games to buy for learning French or to use in French classes, I recommend the following: Bescherelle Le Jeu, Jeu de 7 Familles, Tam Tam Safari, and Apples to Apples.

Bescherelle Le Jeu: Le défi des conjugaisons et de la langue française is a very cool and nerdy game about the French language, mostly focusing on verb conjugations. (Click on images below for full size.)

Bescherelle Le Jeu Board

The board is supposed to simulate the French school year, beginning with la rentrée and ending with les vacances d’été. You can read the rules online at the official site, but essentially the spaces you land on are either pronouns (conjugation questions) or Bescherelle (other grammar questions). If you land on a pronoun, you also have to spin the spinner to find out which verb tense you need to conjugate for.

Bescherelle Conjugation Cards

The conjugations are mostly indicative tenses (including passé simple). Some questions on imperative, present subjunctive, and imperfect subjunctive can be found in levels two and three of the langue française cards; however, conditional is not included at all. The langue française cards also include questions on gender, plural nouns, spelling, homonyms, paronyms, etc.

Bescherelle Niveau 2 Cards

Le jeu de 7 familles, or Happy Families, is a great game for learning family members and the question do you have…? I bought several decks on and had students play in groups of 4. Most decks I found online use animals for the families, but I’ve also come across professions, nationalities, etc. There are also some free pdfs online if you’d like to print/laminate your own cards for different vocabulary topics.

Jeu de 7 familles / Happy Families

Tam Tam Safari is a deck of cards that I came across when I was last in France. There are actually many ways to play with the cards, which include both words and pictures. The deck I have is CP level 1, but there are other levels available as well.

Various ways to play Tam Tam Safari

I haven’t yet had a chance to use these cards in my classes, but I imagine you would need a few decks so that students could play in groups of 4 or 5.

Tam Tam cards

Lastly, there is a French version of Apples to Apples! I had trouble getting my hands on it since Canadian Toys R Us wouldn’t ship outside Canada and sellers on wouldn’t ship outside France. I bought it ages ago but picked it up when I was in France in June. My students really enjoyed playing this, even if the first years couldn’t understand some of the red cultural cards. The green adjective cards have four synonyms though, so it’s great for learning more vocabulary.

Apples to Apples in French cards

New Zealand Studies Association 21st Annual Conference: Empires and Cultures of the Pacific

By   November 17, 2014

Are you interested in New Zealand and Pacific Studies? Like Vienna and Hundertwasser? Want to go on a boat trip on the Danube? Then you should come to the New Zealand Studies Association conference in July 2015!

If you’d like to present at this conference, the call for papers is now open. Deadline is January 11, 2015. A selection of the conference papers will be published in the association’s journal, The Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies.

New Zealand Studies Association conferenceHope to see you in Vienna next year!

EMMA: European Multiple MOOC Aggregator

By   November 8, 2014

If you’re looking for MOOCs in languages other than English, EMMA (European Multiple MOOC Aggregator) currently offers courses in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and English, with courses in French, Catalan and Estonian coming soon.  Some videos don’t have subtitles (in any language), while some do so it’s a bit hit and miss at the moment. Spanish and Italian tend to have subtitles in their own language as well as English, but unfortunately the Portuguese ones do not.


For courses in (European) French and Spanish, other options include FUN and Miríada X (as well as Coursera which has a few courses from Mexico.) For German, there are a few courses on iversity.

The platform is in beta so there are still some bugs and I can’t seem to turn off e-mail notifications for class messages. Hopefully it will grow to include more languages and courses over time.

Do you know of other MOOC platforms with courses in languages other than English? I’d be really interested in finding some courses in Brazilian Portuguese (spoken and subtitles, not just subtitles alone.)

EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

By   October 27, 2014

EuRom5 is a multilingual book and accompanying website for learning to read and understand five Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and French). It is written for a native or advanced speaker of one of these languages, so there are no English translations. The book is divided into three main sections: the introduction that explains the theoretical background and research on comprehension of multiple languages, 20 short articles for each of the five languages with some words and phrases glossed in the other languages, and a grammar section with tables to show the main differences in structures among the languages. The texts are not translated into the other languages so there are 100 articles total from various European newspapers and news websites.

EuRom5 Cover

The major selling point for this book is the website which offers recordings of all of the articles that you can listen to online or download. You will need to register for an account by answering a question about the book (something like, what is the third word in the fourth Italian text?). Even though you can choose any one of the five languages for the website interface, some parts are still left in Italian. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, click on Matériel didactique or go directly to the Textes page from here. (Signing in through the Description and Textes links seems to put you in a loop that keeps telling you to log in when you are already logged in.)

You can also turn on or off various notes and translations so that when you mouse over a word, you can see translations in the other languages. If you listen to the recording online, each phrase will be highlighted in yellow so you can follow along while reading.

For some grammatical structures (in pink), you can also click on the word(s) to open a PDF of the grammar tables from the back of the book.

Since this is a European project, the articles and accents are obviously European as well. You can buy the book on,, or through the publisher for 25€ to 40€ (plus shipping).

If you’re interested in other multilingual books, check out a previous post on Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Languages Simultaneously that I continue to update.

English Teaching Assistant in France & Overseas Departments 2015-2016

By   October 15, 2014

If you would like to teach English in the public school system in France as an assistant for the 2015-2016 school year (October 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016), use the links below to find out the specific requirements and application process for your country.

In general, you must be a native English speaker, have finished two to three years of university & be between 20 and 30 years old by October 1, 2015, and speak French at an intermediate (B1) level. The teaching assistantship program in France is open to citizens of other countries as well, to teach German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, etc. in French public schools. Refer to the official CIEP website for all countries and languages involved in the program.

Assistants work 12 hours a week and are paid about 795€ a month net, with paid vacations in October, December, February, and April. There is only one contract length (7 months) but you can still choose between two levels: primary (elementary school) or secondary (middle school, high school, or both). For the majority of countries, assistants can be assigned to mainland France + Corsica and the overseas départements of Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and La Réunion. Assistants working in the overseas départements have a slightly higher salary to compensate for the higher cost of living; however, assistants working in Paris or other cities with high costs of living in mainland France do NOT have a higher salary. Australia and New Zealand also send assistants to New Caledonia, but the school year is between March and October so the application process is different.

You can read through my Guide for English Language Assistants in France for more detailed information and my personal experience as an assistant in 2006-2008, as well as download all of the ESL lesson plans I created for my classes.

Applications for many countries are now available, and the deadlines range from December to March. You should be notified between April and June if you have been accepted. Most countries require you to go to the French embassy/consulate to get your visa before leaving for France, so make sure you take that into account because it could be very far from where you live and you will have to pay for your own transportation. All Australians must go to Sydney and all NZers must go to Wellington, for example. The visa is free, however. Assistants are responsible for buying their own plane tickets to France and finding their own housing (though some schools may be able to help with this.) Non-EU citizens are also required to undergo a medical visit upon arrival in France. Since assistants have low incomes, they are eligible to receive money from the state (CAF) to help pay rent, though the amount depends on age, current rent, previous income, etc. Assistants can give private English lessons and baby-sit to earn extra cash.


Links to each country’s French embassy page:

Deadline is January 15, 2015, (deadline extended to January 29) and there is an application fee of $40 USD. Dual French-American citizens are not eligible to apply; however, all other dual EU-American citizens may apply. Applicants must have completed three years of higher education by October 1, 2015. Check out the TAPIF USA page on Facebook if you have questions that are not answered on the French Culture site linked above.

Deadline is March 1, 2015, and there is an application fee of $40 USD. Dual French-Canadian citizens are not eligible to apply; however, all other dual EU-Canadian citizens may apply. Applicants must have completed two years of higher education by October 1, 2015.

Deadline is December 19, 2014.

Deadline: February 20, 2015.

Deadline: December 17, 2014. There are also positions in New Caledonia, but the deadline for teaching March-October 2015 has already passed. Application deadline for New Caledonia is usually in September.

Deadline: February 27, 2015. There are also positions in New Caledonia and Wallis et Futuna, but the deadline for teaching March-October 2015 has already passed. Application deadline for New Caledonia is usually in September and Wallis et Futuna in October.

Deadline: December 2, 2014.

Deadline: January 5, 2015. Also note: “The program is also open to students from the University of the West Indies from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Citizens of South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados are also eligible, but I could not find any pages on the assistantship program on the embassy websites. The official CIEP site has applications for these countries, but the deadline dates are not specified.

If you do not qualify for the teaching assistantship program but would like to teach English in France, there are also lecteur d’anglais or lectrice d’anglais positions available at universities for those who have more than a Bachelor’s degree. I will post any open positions for 2015-2016 on this blog as I find them. You can also look at the positions for 2014-2015 to get an idea of what was available last year and the typical deadlines.

MOOCs for Learning Languages

By   October 1, 2014

In a post about using MOOC videos and subtitles to learn languages, I noted that none of the major MOOC providers were offering courses to teach languages. Luckily that has changed over time and there are now MOOCs for learning languages:

MOOCs for Learning Languages

Although not courses specifically designed to teach the language, several courses in French and Spanish are available via the platforms FUN and Miríada X (as well as Coursera and EdX.) For German-language courses, try iversity and

Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture Exhibition in Sydney – October & November 2014

By   September 10, 2014

If you’ll be in Sydney this October or November and you have an interest in Easter Island, then head to the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre for a free exhibition on the representations of Easter Island in popular culture. I am co-curating this exhibition and I will be at the Powerhouse for the soft opening where we will have some hands-on activities for kids (October 11-12), but the official opening is Saturday, October 25 at 10am.

There will be a cabinet dedicated to the Francophone bandes dessinées that mention or are set on Easter Island. I was recently interviewed for my university’s research degrees newsletter about my research on these comic books and how the Rapanui people themselves are represented.

Mr Magellan

The one appearance of Rapanui in Mr Magellan: a souvenir vendor who says two lines

I’m also planning on presenting at the Pacific History Association conference in Taiwan in December if you’d like to hear more about Rapanui in French-language comic books. In any case, hope to see you in Sydney soon!

Teaching Tools Tip of the Day: Dry Erase Sheets and Dry Erase Pockets

By   August 25, 2014

Dry erase boards and markers for use in the classroom are well worth the money. It’s no secret that I love to make games for my French classes, and I am so glad I decided to invest in both dry erase boards and dry erase pockets.

You can actually buy sheets rather than boards so they weigh less and take up less space. I bought a pack of 30 sheets that are .5 cm thick here in Australia for $40 AUD (including shipping) but I’m sure they are cheaper in the US. For comparison, individual dry erase boards tend to average at least $5 each in both countries – and when you have 20 students, that’s a bit too much.

For beginning French classes, Hangman is an obvious choice for a game to practice the alphabet. Drawing activities (such as drawing a floorplan of a house from oral descriptions of locations) are a little easier to do on dry erase boards. Trivia games are fun to do if every student or team has a dry erase board, as well as Scattergories or Pictionary.

Dry erase pockets, or shop ticket holders, are also useful for playing games in class. I recently bought a set of 25 dry erase pockets for less than $20 USD from Amazon and a bunch of ReWritables Mini Dry Erase Markers – with the not so correct French translation of sec-effacez – since they come in many colors and have erasers on the caps.

Connect 4 and Guess Who/What

Connect 4 to review verb tense and Guess What to review food and colors

The dry erase pockets waste less paper since students can easily erase and start a new game. They are also handy for preventing students from quickly writing down translations when you want them to try to work from memory and speak spontaneously instead of reading their written notes. Here are some of the games you can use them for:

Guess Who/What – I’ve used the traditional Guess Who set of people for describing physical characteristics, but I also created a Guess What version for fruits and vegetables (and colors, shapes, etc.)

Connect 4 – I’ve mostly been using this game to review verb conjugations; students must say the translation in French in order to color in that spot

Tic Tac Toe – again I’ve used this mostly for verb conjugations with the tic tac toe grid including the subjects and verbs student must use, but I change which verb tense they must use every few minutes

Bingo – obvious choice for practicing letters and numbers, but could also do vocabulary with words written in English but students will hear and have to say the words in French

Battleship – can be used for letters & numbers, subjects & verbs, or even prepositional contractions (je vais, je viens, tu vas, tu viens, etc. in top row and places/cities/countries in left column so students must say complete sentence with correct preposition or contraction)

Scrabble – this can work as a smaller version of Scrabble (don’t make the squares too small to write letters in), but since my classrooms have large tables, I am able to print out this Scrabble board on size A3 paper instead


Any other games you can recommend? I am always looking for more ways to get my students speaking in every class.

AILA World Congress 2014: International Applied Linguistics Association Conference

By   August 20, 2014

I was in Brisbane all last week for the AILA 2014 World Congress, the largest conference for applied linguistics in the world. It is held every three years and I had just missed out on the Beijing conference in 2011 by one month when I first started my PhD. I presented my research on stylistic and geographic variation in French textbooks and was pleasantly surprised at how many people were interested in my presentation. The conference was quite large – over 1,600 delegates – and exhausting but definitely worth it. The program was over 200 pages, not including the abstracts, and there were about 25 parallel sessions to choose from. I found all of the plenaries interesting and was overall impressed by how well run everything was. I can’t imagine organising a conference of this size is an easy task.

Opening ceremony of the AILA Olympics

Opening ceremony of the AILA Olympics

You can check out the program and abstracts via the website to see the diversity of presentations and symposia. It can be a bit overwhelming reading through it all – now imagine having to choose only one session among all of them. Tough decisions!

Plenary on language that looks like English but isn't really

Plenary on language that looks like English but isn’t really

I tended to stick to the strands on language teaching, learning and educational technology. I even found myself in a talk that reported on a Māori teaching course, which I wasn’t expecting from the title since it didn’t mention any specific languages. Hearing Māori – and let’s be honest, incredibly adorable New Zealand accents – is always nice!

So happy to find myself in a talk about Māori language

Jocelyn even said a mihi before the presentation and it was beautiful

My favorite presentation was by Tom Cobb since it’s very relevant to my research. He has recently been adopting English-based corpus tools to French, which also helps improve his amazing Compleat Lexical Tutor website.

Top 2,000 words of French account for 92% lexical coverage

Top 2,000 words of French account for 92% lexical coverage (cf only 80% in English)

Even though it’s winter in Australia right now, it was in the 20s C / 70s F in Brisbane. I love Queensland! However, learning about the existence of gigantic burrowing cockroaches at the (free!) Queensland Museum did leave me a little traumatized…

Swimming in winter

Swimming in winter

The next AILA World Congress will be held in August 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! See you in South America, my fellow applied linguists!

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