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?

Olympics Vocabulary in French

I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympics or of watching sports on TV, but I have caught a few events on French TV this week. If nothing else, it helps with learning sports vocabulary in French. [And why did I never notice before that the French use Pékin whereas we use Beijing? ] […]

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Foreign Service Institute French Basic Course

If you haven’t already checked out (and/or downloaded) the free Foreign Service Institute language courses at, you need to go there right now. The FSI courses were designed by the Department of State, mostly in the 1960’s, to teach languages to employees being sent overseas. They’re actually quite comprehensive, if a bit boring with […]

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Vieille Ville of Annecy

So not a lot has been happening lately, mostly because France basically shuts down for the month of August and I’m not working which means no income and no fun. The big excitement for me last week was going to the eye doctor and ordering new contacts. You wish you had my life, right?  But […]

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Où vit-on le mieux ? Le Palmarès 2008 des Départements

I found a copy of L’Express from the end of June lying around the apartment a few days ago, and noticed it was the rankings of the best and worst départements in mainland France. The winner overall is Haute-Garonne (Toulouse) in the Midi-Pyrénées, followed by 2. Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Pau) in Aquitaine, 3. Ille-et-Vilaine (Rennes) in Bretagne, […]

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Definition of City.

My family in Michigan drove to the UP this weekend for vacation. Flint to Houghton is about nine hours, so they stopped in Newberry on the way. I couldn’t remember where it was, so I looked it up on Google Maps and found this picture of the downtown area: For most of my life, this […]

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Dear Auchan, you are a jerk and I hate you.

Last month, I got all excited when my local Auchan started remodeling and expanding their already big store. Wider aisles, they promised. More stuff that you can’t afford to buy, they said. And look! Fifty feet of space of between the aisles and checkout lanes instead of just five! No more shoving yourself and your […]

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All in a Day’s Work

Instead of going to the Fête du Lac yesterday in Annecy where I knew there would be thousands of people, I decided to stay home and work on my IE Languages website. I spent all day redesigning the layout (for about the 17th time since I created the site), and I think I’m happy with […]

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Not Goodbye; See You Later

I met Lucy on the train from Grenoble to Annecy in September 2006. Grenoble’s Assistant Orientation was finally over and we were all heading to our respective towns to get settled and start work. I had arrived in France only one day prior to the orientation with no place to live, very little contact with […]

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CAPES d’Anglais 2009

David has decided to prepare for the CAPES d’anglais! Normally, in order to become an English teacher for l’Education Nationale in France, students do a Licence in English for 3 years and then go to an IUFM (teacher training college) where they prepare for the CAPES for a year and then do their student teaching […]

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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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