Talk Out Loud!

It’s vacation time already! I have 11 days off thanks to Toussaint. Then there are only 7 weeks left of the semester (one of which is shortened by the jour férié on November 11) after that. Time flies when you’re having fun, eh? I wish I could do this job forever. I know my next job (whatever it will be…) will not give me nearly as many days off and the possibility of sleeping in almost everyday. But it hopefully will involve more French and less English and a higher paycheck, though I’m not too optimistic about that in the land of low salaries.

But back to my current job. At the beginning of the semester, I like to torture encourage my first year students by forcing asking them to speak spontaneously in English for a whole 60 seconds on a subject that we have already covered in class. Considering they have been learning English for 7-9 years already, this should be rather easy. However, by the looks on their faces and the dead silence that lasts for 5 minutes before one of them is brave enough to start talking into their microphone makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It’s as if no one has ever asked them to SPEAK in English before and considering France’s current system of teaching languages, that may very well be the case.

So I will be spending my vacation listening to and grading some 50 recordings of these timid students who are afraid to talk in the language that they are majoring in. Few of them seem to understand the importance of speaking out loud when learning a new language. Not just for pronunciation, but to remember the correct phrases and to train the muscles in the mouth to get used to a new way of forming sounds and words and sentences.

Ok, they record themselves speaking English once, but then they think it ends there. No no no! You must listen to yourself speaking. Does your pronunciation sound good? Can you spot some mistakes in grammar? Are there a lot of hesitations and unclear utterances? What do you need to improve on?  Try another recording and listen again. Then do it again. And again. None of this “once is enough” attitude and doing it just for the sake of getting it done.

And the whole point is to get them speaking spontaneously, without any written preparation beforehand. They are so used to writing everything first, and then reading it. But that’s not real life. I seriously wonder how some students think they will be able to work for an Anglophone company in 3 years when they won’t even try to speak in English in class, where there is a native speaker to help them and it’s ok if they make mistakes because I will correct them. What are they going to do in the real world when they’re asked to talk to Anglophone clients or interpret at meetings or (worst of all!) answer the phone in English?

Interpreting for Europe

Want to work as an interpreter? The EU needs native English and French speakers!

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Québec is Calling Me…

In order to feed my Quebec obsession, I’ve been watching the Radio-Canada series “Catherine” on TV5 each evening. Luckily it’s subtitled in European French because I don’t understand all the words, but when they make cultural references to Thanksgiving, Sears or hockey, it makes me a little homesick. Sometimes I catch “Pure Laine” which is […]

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Emphasizing Oral Skills in Language Education

For once I agree with Sarkozy on something. He recently announced an “emergency” plan for changing the way languages are taught in France. He recognizes that the French system currently emphasizes too much grammar and memorization when basic communication skills such as listening and speaking should be the focus of language education. Even though most […]

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Summer to Fall to Christmas in One Week

Last week I was still wearing tank tops because the temperature was still reaching 75° (24 C). This week it’s been probably about 50° or 60° (10-15 C) and the heat has been turned on in our building. We’re supposed to turn all the radiators on full blast to make sure everything is working properly […]

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Switzerland vs. France (Not a Football Match)

Oddly enough, living in France near the Swiss border has more disadvantages than advantages. At first I thought it would be nice to be close to another country that isn’t even in the EU. Geneva’s international airport has served me well over the years, but I’ve got to say that I’ve never actually spent time […]

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Bon jour d’action de grâce !

Un bon jour d’action de grâce à tous mes amis canadiens et canadiennes !!

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PACS is 10 years old

PACSing was created in France in late 1999, originally as an alternative to gay marriage, but straight couples are also allowed to get PACSed. In 2000, there were 22,108 PACS. In 2008, the number had risen to 144,716. However, less than 6% of the PACS in 2008 were gay couples. The majority of PACS are […]

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Where does the time go?

I’ve finished my first full week of classes (all 16.5 hours) and even though I only work Monday-Wednesday, I am exhausted! I would prefer to work 4 hours a day over 4 days, but the students don’t have classes on Thursday afternoons because of sports. So as of 6:30pm Wednesday evening, I am en week-end. […]

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I.D. se prononce Heidi

I somehow came across the French School of Detroit’s site when I was reading France-Amérique and I thought their page on American vocabulary was so cute. The students’ parents are not always fluent in English, so they explained a few American words that the parents will probably encounter. Lunchbox: Concrètement, il s’agit des repas pour vos […]

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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.


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