Not Goodbye; See You Later

By   August 1, 2008

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 my school, and a horrible throat infection. After three days of no showers in a run-down hostel with freezing cold classrooms, I was severely unhappy and stressed.

I had all of my ridiculously heavy luggage to drag around, which made the attempt to change trains in Aix-les-Bains at the last minute (because none of us assistants initially realized we had to be sitting at the front of the train in order to go to Annecy) very, very difficult.  We managed to hop on another train, and we just plopped down in the entryway instead of storing our luggage and finding seats. At this point, I was ready to throw up because of motion sickness and I wasn’t even sure if the place I had planned to stay that night in Annecy was going to work out. And then a gentle voice with an adorable British accent asked, “Are you alright?”

After two years, Lucy and I have traveled to Barcelona, attended a French medieval festival, got overly excited about the release of Hairspray when no one else in France seemed to, went bowling at Le Bowling until nearly 3 am, enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas meals together, complained about our chiant students and remained stupefied at the inefficiency of French bureaucracy even after all this time. And that was only the beginning.

Today I took Lucy to the station one last time. She’s returning to England to hopefully find a job. Teaching English was never in her original plans, so it’s time to move on. My apartment is now filled with bags of food and teaching supplies that she couldn’t have possibly carried back home. I’ll have constant reminders of my first friend in France, and I’ll always have the memories of our adventures together. But what I would give to have her back in France…

New assistants this fall means new friends, I hope. But it just won’t be the same. It won’t be Lucy.

CAPES d’Anglais 2009

By   July 30, 2008

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 if they pass the oral and written exams. [This will change in 2010; Sarko is getting rid of the IUFM and those who want to become teachers will have to do a Master’s, or Bac+5, instead.]

However, David has a Maîtrise in Sociology, and he’s doing to the distance-learning preparation courses through CNED. Apparently the CNED option is very good, so we’ll see if he can pull it off without having a Licence in English. And it helps that he lives with a native speaker of English who loves English grammar.

This year, the required literature is:

  • King Lear by Shakespeare
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

And the required civilization reading is:

  • L’empire de l’exécutif : la présidence des États-Unis de Franklin Roosevelt à George W. Bush (1933-2006)

So yay for the civilization part being American! I’ve only read King Lear so far, but don’t remember much since it was almost 10 years ago… Sorry, Mr. Fuller! But I will be reading the books as well. One of these days I may try the CAFEP, which is for private schools. (I can’t do the CAPES because I’m not an EU citizen.)

David was actually thinking about doing the CAFEP too, but there are only 60 spots open in all of France! Both concours are very competitive obviously, but at least with the CAPES there are more jobs (though increasingly less and less…) However, the bad thing about the CAPES is that if you pass, you must teach at the school where l’Education Nationale assigns you. You can’t really choose where you want to work. And if you are young, unmarried, with no children, you have fewer “points” than other candidates, which means you’re more likely to be sent to schools in Créteil and Versailles where no one else wants to work. David isn’t as young as other candidates, and being PACSed should give him some extra points, but I’m worried that he would be sent some place that I absolutely do not want to live, i.e. anywhere within 2 hours of Paris.

If anyone has advice for someone without a Licence in English, and what David should focus most on for the exams, please let me know.

Back to Books: Libraries in France

By   July 29, 2008

In an attempt to stop being so lazy and actually learn something again, I finally got around to renewing my library card tonight (it had expired in December). Then I quickly remembered why I hadn’t renewed it. Let’s just say that I’ve never been too impressed with French libraries.

[Even though you learned that bibliothèque means library in French, most libraries in France are actually called a médiathèque. This just reflects the fact that you can borrow CDs & DVDs instead of simply books & magazines.]

Comparison of the library in my old town in Michigan and the library in my suburb in France.


US: Free.

FR: Around 20 euros a year (less for students).


US: Open 9 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-5pm Fridays & Saturdays, and closed on Sundays.

FR: Most erratic opening schedule I’ve ever seen and can never remember. Closed Sundays & Mondays. Open Tuesdays 2-6pm, Wednesdays 10am-12pm & 2-6pm, Thursdays 10am-12pm, Fridays 2-7pm, and Saturdays 10am-12pm & 2-6pm.


US: You can check out as many books as you’d like.

FR: You can check out 10 things total; a combination of: up to 8 books/magazines, 4 CDs, 3 DVDs, 1 CD-ROM, and 1 “méthode de langue.” (But this is mostly because French libraries are rather small compared to American ones with much fewer resources to borrow.)

Due date:

US: 4 weeks.

FR: Everything can be kept for 3 weeks, except the méthode de langue, which is 12 weeks. During the summer (a.k.a July), it’s extended to 4 weeks and 12 things total. But here’s the problem, a méthode de langue is any foreign language book that is not a novel, so even though you can keep it for 12 weeks, you can only check out one at a time!  Not that the library has good language books anyway… So I just head down to the children’s section and check out their language books, because those aren’t considered méthodes de langue. And they have pretty pictures.


US: Put them in a box and you’re done.

FR: If you return materials when the library is open, you have to bring them back to the correct sections and wait for them to be checked back in so you can check out new books without going over the limit. Books here, CDs there, children’s comic books here, adult comic books there.

Yearly Closing:

US: Not closed for summer vacation.

FR: Closed for the entire month of August!

Air Conditioning:

US: Ridiculously cold. So cold that I couldn’t stand to be in there for more than 10 minutes.

FR: Just right.

So even though France seems to be losing this fight 6-1, the air conditioning counts for a bazillion points, therefore, France actually wins. I absolutely cannot stand places that are so frigid my skin hurts when I walk inside, like every single store, movie theater, restaurant and public place in the US when the temperature is above 70 degrees. I will always be anti-A/C and I hope France will be too.

These are just examples from my personal experiences with these two libraries. They’re not representative of all libraries in the US or France!

Studying or Learning Multiple Languages Simultaneously

By   July 26, 2008

I’ve been working on my French & German Comparative Tutorial this week, and also searching the internet to find other sites that help people learn more than one language at a time, or even multiple languages simultaneously. I am so disappointed.

[Update: I haven’t found many websites but I have found some multilingual comparative books for learning multiple languages simultaneously. Of course, you should check out my Romance and Germanic vocabulary and verb lists too!]

Studying or Learning Multiple Languages Simultaneously

I’ve found a few vocabulary lists, but they’re mostly just showing the similarities among Romance languages. I can’t find any sites that include lessons for learning two languages, closely related or not. I’ve never been able to find books like this either, which is somewhat surprising considering that almost all graduate students must learn two foreign languages and I know I am not the only person in the world who studies French, German and Italian at the same time. Where’s the multilingual love?

Instead, all I’m finding is some misguided “advice” that learning two languages at once is a bad idea. Says who? Every single person learns in a different way. Maybe it’s a good idea and maybe it’s not, but you should at least try. Maybe you can learn as a beginner in two languages without confusing them, or maybe you need to be advanced in one but beginning in the other. It all depends on your learning style.

I took Intermediate French, Beginning German and Beginning Spanish when I was an undergrad and I never had a problem keeping the languages straight in my head. Apparently this is discouraged (!) at some American universities, like Georgetown: “Freshmen interested in pre-registering for multiple language courses must receive permission from the dean’s office. One of the deans will discuss your specific situation with you and help you determine whether or not studying a second foreign language is feasible.” You have to get permission to study languages?? How can studying a second foreign language ever be NOT feasible?? I. just. don’t. get. it. Quite a difference from French high schools, where students must learn two languages!

Of course, if you’re advanced enough in one language, you can always use it to learn another, i.e. learn German in French or learn Italian in Spanish. That’s precisely what I do when I buy language books here in France. I feel like I get two languages for the price of one. Even the cheap cahiers (usually no more than 5 € each) designed for collège-level students are useful for getting the grammar basics of German, Italian, Spanish and sometimes even Latin. LaRousse, Hachette, Magnard, and Hatier Chouette are all good ones.

Anyway, since I want to spread the multiple language love, here are some new resources that I’ve come across this week:

  • Pukka German is a podcast of informal German (slang, idioms, colloquialisms) from an adorable South African-German couple who live in Freiburg. It’s extremely useful since it’s the German that is not included in textbooks, i.e. the way people actually speak!
  • is a free Deutsch als Fremdsprache site with online interactive exercises. It’s all in German, which can be a bit intimidating if you’re a beginner.
  • Since there’s no, I searched around for online Italian bookstores where I can buy Italian as a Second Language books. I managed to find two, Internet Bookstore Italia and Libreria Universitaria, but shipping outside of Italy is not cheap.

Pour les francophones qui veulent apprendre l’allemand :

Pour les francophones qui veulent apprendre l’italien :

There are other sites for learning Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Latin and even Provençal! (The English version of the site only includes lessons for French, Spanish and German.)

So if anyone else can find free online tutorials in learning two languages together (not necessarily just French & German or French & Italian), please let me know!

How to Become a Lecteur/Lectrice d’Anglais or Maître de Langue at a French University

By   July 24, 2008

The English Assistantship is a great way for Anglophones to work in France and gain teaching experience in elementary or secondary schools, without necessarily having a university degree. However, if you are working towards or have a graduate degree and would like to teach English at a university in France, you can apply to be a lecteur/lectrice d’anglais or a maître de langue. The main difference between the two is that maîtres de langue work fewer hours overall (but in courses that usually require more preparation) and get paid more, but this job also requires a higher graduate degree. Previous teaching experience is always a plus, so being an English assistant is a good first step in order to become a lecteur/lectrice or maître de langue in France.

How to become a Lecteur/Lectrice d'Anglais or Maître de Langue at a French University

Lecteur/Lectrice d’Anglais Requirements:

– Native or near-native speaker of English
– Completed one year of a Master’s degree

Maître de Langue Requirements:

– Native or near-native speaker of English
– Master’s degree

The requirements for these positions changed in April 2013. The level of graduate study needed has been lowered (previously the lecteur position required a Master’s degree while the maître de langue position required one year of a PhD program).


Exchanges: Most of these positions are filled by students from Anglophone universities that have an exchange with the French university. However, many of these positions remain open because the exchange university has no one to send to France or because the exchange lecturer decides not to come to France after all. For example, Penn State has exchanges with universities in Lyon, Strasbourg and Montpellier and Ilinois Urbana-Champaign has exchanges with universities in Dijon, Metz, Liège, Poitiers and Lyon. For those looking to start graduate degrees soon and eventually teach in France, it might be worthwhile to check out the exchanges available since it’s easier to get a position this way.


Search: To find these jobs if you are not involved in an exchange program, you just need to look at the universities’ websites and see if they have any positions open. Often they are located under recrutement, postes à pourvoir, or emplois either on the main page or for example, on the LEA (Langues Etrangères Appliquées) page. Or if location doesn’t matter, you can simply search for lecteur de langue or lecteur d’anglais. Some job listings are in English, so you can also search for English lecturer or lectorship.


Applying: Usually all that’s required to apply is your CV and lettre de motivation (both in French), but you may need to send your university degrees as well as their certified translations in French as well. Some universities do interviews, while others hire directly from the CVs.


Deadline: Many universities require you to apply in the winter to start in the fall of the next year (either September 1st or October 1st), but some have much later application dates. I’ve seen anywhere from December 21 to June 15. If you find a job listing that is past the application deadline, you can still send your CV anyway in case the job is still open. The job I applied for had a deadline of March 15, and I sent my CV in June, so you really never know!


Visa: You do not normally need to already have the right to work in France, as most universities will provide you with the paperwork to obtain a work visa. Of course, this means paying for a return ticket home if you are already in France. Some universities specify in their job listings that they require EU citizenship or valid working papers.


Hours: Lecteurs work 300 hours of travaux pratiques (TP) per year, or possibly 200 hours of TP and 100 hours of travaux dirigés (TD). TP is generally labs/workshops/testing or other classes that require very little preparation, while TD refers to actual lectures, which obviously require more preparation. Maîtres de langue work 288 hours of TP or 192 hours of TD. For lecteur/lectrice positions, you should not be asked to work more than 100 TD hours per year. Some universities have been hiring lecteurs and forcing them to work 200 TD hours so they only have to pay the lecteur salary instead of the maître de langue salary. In January 2014, Heike Romoth published an article in SNESUP (page 17 in the PDF) criticizing this illegal practice. The official décret states that “Les lecteurs de langue étrangère assurent un service annuel en présence des étudiants de 300 heures de travaux pratiques. Leur service peut comporter des travaux dirigés sans que leur nombre d’heures annuelles de travaux dirigés puisse être supérieur à 100.”  If you are hired as a lecteur/lectrice, please make sure the university is not trying to take advantage of you. This has been a problem particularly at universities in and around Paris.


Length: 12 months – with paid vacations, of course, including July & August when you most likely won’t have to work at all. Supposedly, you can renew once if you are not from an exchange university, and twice if you are – but it is possible in some cases to work longer. You just need to ask the right people. Note that if you are not doing the exchange, you can only do two years total of either position (two years as a lecteur/lectrice or two years as a mâitre de langue) OR a combination of one year each (one year as a lecteur/lectrice and one year as a maître de langue). If you’ve already worked two years as a lecteur/lectrice, then you cannot be hired as a maître de langue for another two years.


Salary: Lecteurs earn about 1,210 € net each month [indice brut 340], while maîtres earn about 1,550 € net per month [indice brut 482].


Departments: If you are hired in the language department of your university, you’ll probably be working with strictly English classes. If you are hired in other departments, you may be working with a number of different disciplines and the English jargon required for them, i.e. medicine, law, engineering, etc. You may or may not have to create the curriculum. Each university is different, so there is no one job description that fits each position. Just as with the English assistantship, it all depends on your school and what they need.

For open positions for the 2015-2o16 academic year, please check here.

To see what was available in previous years, go here.


L’acquisition, l’avenir et l’argent

By   July 22, 2008

Not much has been happening in my life lately. I looked through the archives to remind myself of what was going on last July. Compared to one year ago, things are definitely much better. I have my residency card (good until May 2009), my French driver’s license (good until forever), and I have a job starting this fall. I still don’t have much money, but I have a feeling that will never change as long as I continue to live in France…

I know I haven’t posted about my job yet, but I will be a lectrice d’anglais at a nearby university beginning October 1st. I’m really excited already – I’ve been missing the university environment and being around linguists who see the value of phonetics in language acquisition. It’s finally forcing me out of the rut I’ve been in lately… not reading or studying anything. We’ve got so many books in our apartment that we need to buy another bookcase, yet I rarely read any of them.

This summer is also giving me an opportunity to be geeky about linguistics for another reason: Mélina. She’s only 3 weeks old, but I’ve already bought her a français-anglais imagier so she can start learning English. I’m going to record myself saying all the words so she can listen to the pronunciation when I’m not around. Children are like little sponges when it comes to languages, but it’s really amazing (and sad) that babies lose the ability to discriminate between sounds that do not exist in their parents’ language at only 6 months. Before that, they are able to hear the difference between sounds of all human languages. Must be nice.

And of course thinking about linguistics and my new job makes me think about the future and what exactly I want to do as a career. I can only be a lectrice for two years total in France (their rule, not mine), so I’ll have to find something else to do. I’m thinking about going back to school and getting a French diplôme either in tourism or translating. I suppose I could do my PhD in France as well, but I don’t know how easy it is to find a university teaching job afterwards. Sometimes I think I’d just love to work in a hotel in the south, so I can meet people from all over the world and speak several languages everyday.

So this is my summer. Thinking about linguistics, the future and my lack of money. A lot has changed in one year, but then again, a lot has stayed the same.

Bread Machine in Italian & Books in German

By   July 19, 2008

I recently ordered a bread machine from because unlike most people, I do not like baguettes and prefer big loaves of bread with soft crusts. Plus the sandwich-style bread you can buy in France does not taste very good. Even though I had ordered it from a French company and the picture in the catalog clearly showed it was in French, all of the writing on my machine (as well as the instruction booklet and recipe book) was in Italian. This isn’t really a problem for me though, as I can figure out recipes with my limited Italian vocabulary.

Coincidentally, I also received a few German as a Second Language books today that I had ordered from Maybe this is a sign that I should really devote more time to studying languages. I’ve been slacking off lately on studying French too. And I can’t even remember the last time I majorly updated my language tutorials…

When I first moved to France, I thought naively that it would be very easy to study other languages because of the close proximity to Germany, Switzerland and Italy. However, I’ve discovered that’s not exactly true. Sure, we get a few channels in other languages (Deutsche Welle; which is in English half of the time & Rai; which cannot be broadcast in France at certain times for some reason…) and most good bookstores have a nice foreign language section – but it’s not much more extensive than what I found in the US. The internet is still the best way to learn languages, and the real authentic language that is not found in books.

Yet Europe does have an obvious advantage to learning languages: cheap & quick travel among the countries. I can be in Italy or German-speaking Switzerland in about 2 hours’ drive. I can fly to Berlin or Rome in an hour or so on a low-cost airline.  I can order books from German stores and have them delivered to my home in France for a few extra euros. (I’m wondering why there’s no though… where can I order Italian books from??)

A large part of the reason that I haven’t been studying languages is the lack of motivation. I’m not taking any classes, so I have no homework or tests to study for. I don’t have to use other languages every day. I want to learn though because I want to become fluent in more than just French. And travelling to these other countries makes me realize how much more I need to learn in order to survive there – or even just be a less-stressed tourist. One day, I may have EU nationality and then it will be (hopefully) easy to relocate to Germany or Italy. The only (major) obstacle will be the language barrier.

So I’m going to grab a slice of the pain français pane francese I made, and crack open my language books that have been collecting dust on the bookshelf. But now the hard part is deciding which language I want to study first!

The Best Photo Ever

By   July 12, 2008

This photo of David & his sister, Carole, was taken about 25 years ago at the OK Corral Western Theme Park in Cuges-les-Pins, just east of Marseille. I absolutely adore it because they are polar opposites.  Notice the arm holding Carole in place!  She smiles a lot more for photos nowadays, but man, did she look unhappy back then. David’s jubilant and adorable smile hasn’t changed at all.

This photo had been in the storage space for who knows how many years. Now it will forever be hanging on our wall because it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Provençal Villages, Arles & Van Gogh’s Room

By   July 11, 2008

We’ve returned from our week in Provence!  Last year we mostly visited the larger cities (Avignon, Orange, etc.), so this year we visited many of the smaller villages in Vaucluse (74), and then drove down to Salon-de-Provence and Arles in Bouches-du-Rhône (13).

The beauty of Provençal villages never gets old to me. The colors, the flowers, the countryside, the weather, the tranquility – all of it makes me want to move there tomorrow.

The last village we visited, Séguret, is considered one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. And I would have to agree. Even the town’s mairie has an adorable sign above its door.

Another reason I love traveling in France is all of the historical information you come across. Of course, it’s always amazing to see Roman ruins that are thousands of years old, but I’m more interested in the people who lived here. I had forgotten that Van Gogh spent some time in Arles and that Nostradamus had settled in Salon-de-Provence, but the cities definitely reminded me.

Right next to the arena in Arles is a reconstruction of Van Gogh’s room, which you can visit for 2,80 €. It was actually really neat to see.

Obviously we didn’t make it down to Camargues or over to Aix-en-Provence like we had planned. Maybe next year…Now it’s back to the real world of catching up on paperwork, e-mails and blogs!

The rest of the pictures are here: Provence 2008 Photo Album