Category Archives: Teaching English & Other Languages

English Teaching Assistant in France 2014-2015

If you would like to teach English in the public school system in France as an assistant for the 2014-2015 school year (October 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015), 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, 2014, 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 Guyana 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, as well as download all of the ESL lesson plans I created for my classes.

Applications for many Anglophone 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 are allowed to have a second job as long as they get permission from their school and it does not pay more than 30% of the assistant salary.

France

Links to each country’s French embassy page:

Deadline is January 15, 2014, and there is an application fee of $40. Dual French-American citizens are not eligible to apply; however, all other dual EU-American citizens may apply. Also 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, 2014. Canadians must be enrolled in university at the time of application.

Deadline is January 31, 2014.

Deadline is February 3, 2014.

Deadline is December 13, 2013. There are also positions in New Caledonia, but the deadline for teaching March-October 2014 has already passed. Application deadline for New Caledonia is usually in September.

Deadline is March 21, 2014. There are also positions in New Caledonia, but the deadline for teaching March-October 2014 has already passed. Application deadline for New Caledonia is usually in August.

Deadline is December 2, 2013.

Deadline is January 3, 2014. Also note: “This year, 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 AfricaTrinidad & 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.

English Teaching Opportunities in France, Spain and Germany for 2013

Update: If you’re looking for jobs in France for the 2014-15 school year, go here.

 

If you’re interested in teaching English in Europe later this year, here are a few jobs:

 

FRANCE

Added June 12:

English lecteur/lectrice positions at Université Paris Dauphine to begin September 1, 2013.

Requirements:

  • English must be your mother tongue or a language that you speak with the same proficiency as your mother tongue
  • You must have successfully completed one year of university studies after receiving your Bachelor’s degree.

Candidates should include the following in their application file:

  • Résumé
  • Photocopy of your university diploma and a French translation of the document
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Photocopy of a photo I.D.

All applications must be submitted via email to the following address: recrutement.lecteurs@dauphine.fr

Application deadline: June 27th 2013

 

Now closed or no deadline was given (but you can always send your CV anyway):

Added May 11:

Maître de langues in English at Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France, to begin in September 2013. Native speaker of English and Master’s degree required. Send lettre de motivation and CV to andre dot pannier at univ-lorraine dot fr before May 31.

Added April 30:

Lecteur/lectrice in English at Université d’Evry, south of Paris, France, to begin in September 2013.  Teaching experience of English important, especially at secondary school/university level;  a Master’s (or at least a first year of Master’s) is required;  nationality of a European Union country is required, or if anglophone from outside Europe, residence/work papers must already be established; contract = 200 hours per year – extra hours possible. Please contact Frederick Goodman, by 21st May at the latest, at goodman at univ-evry dot fr

Added April 7:

Lecteur d’anglais at Université de technologie de Belfort-Montbéliard in Belfort, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be a native speaker or have near-native fluency as well as  an MA or equivalent degree. For more information about this position, contact Laurent dot Tourrette at utbm dot fr To apply, send CV and lettre de motivation to bettina dot steffen at utbm dot fr by April 26.

Added April 4:

English Lecturer position in Hypermedia Language Centre of the Faculté de langues appliqués, commerce et communication at Université Blaise Pascal, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be a university graduate and native speaker of English with training/experience in TEFL. Certification such as CELTA is a plus. CV, references and covering letter should be sent by email to Dacia Dressen-Hammouda at Dacia dot Hammouda at univ-bpclermont dot fr (no application deadline was given)

Added March 27:

Lecteur d’anglais in the Centre de Langues Vivantes at Université Pierre Mendès-France in Grenoble, France, to begin September 2013. Applicant should have minimum Bac+4. Send lettre de motivation, CV, copy of ID card/passport and diplomas by April 19.

Added March 23:

Lecteur d’anglais at Chimie ParisTech in Paris, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be a native speaker with an MA or a BA. Send CV and lettre de motivation in French to jean-le-bousse at chimie-paristech dot fr by April 30. (2 positions available.)

Added March 20:

Maître de langue in the UFR de Sciences et Technologie at U-PEC in Paris, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be in or have completed at least one year of a doctoral program. Send lettre de motivation in French and CV in English to Monsieur Bernard Frouin [frouin at u-pec dot fr] and Madame Andrée Martin [a.martin at u-pec dot fr] (no application deadline was given)

Maître de langue at IEP in Lille, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be in or have completed at least one year of a doctoral program. Apply between March 4 and 29.

ens

 

Lecteur/Lectrice at ENS in Lyon, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should have completed four full years of university study, or equivalent to completion of one year of Master’s degree in France. Applications due by March 25.

For more info about these types of positions at French universities, read my post on How to Become a Lecteur or Maître de Langue.

 

GERMANY

English teacher for 4 week summer programs (July/August) at Sommerschule in Wust, Germany. MA not required, but some German is. Program usually pays for airfare, housing and offers a small stipend. Apply through their website starting in May of each year.

 

NO LONGER OPEN FOR APPLICATIONS:

For those who do not yet have graduate degrees and are under 30, the teaching assistant program is still open for some nationalities (for October 2013 to April 2014). You can read about my experience in France at my Guide for English Language Assistants in France. Applications for the USUK and Indian programs are no longer open for 2013 but the applications for 2014 will be available in October. If you have citizenship in other countries, you still have time to apply:

 

SPAIN

If you’re American or Canadian (under 35) and speak some Spanish instead of French, you can apply for the Spanish teaching assistantship. The deadline for applications is April 2.

 

I’ll continue to update this page if I find any other job listings for 2013.

 

Beliefs of American University Students Towards Foreign Language Requirements and Textbooks

I’ve been reading articles and dissertations on students’ beliefs and perceptions of foreign language study recently, and came across two with some incredibly painful quotes that I had to share.

Foreign Language Requirement

Price and Gascoigne (2006) reported on 155 incoming (directly out of high school) college students who responded to this essay prompt:

One goal of a college education is to become a well-educated person. In the past, most degrees required that students study a foreign language, but many degree programs have dropped that requirement. As a new student, write an essay in which you explain both sides of this issue: why students should and why students should not be required to study a foreign language. Include your personal opinion in your response.

[Currently in the United States, around 50% of higher education institutions (according to a recent article in Forbes) have a foreign language requirement for students earning a Bachelor’s degree.  In the mid-90’s, the figure was 67.5%.]

Some choice quotes from the not-so-well-educated teenagers:

“If you come to the US, you speak the language spoken in the US. Everyone in the US should not have to learn Spanish.”

“The US was founded in English, let’s keep it that way.”

“We are Americans and our language is English.”

“There are so many foreigners entering our country, both legally and illegally, who do not know the English language, that we now have to learn their language just to get by from day to day.”

“In the Constitution of the United States you have to be able to read, write, and speak English.”

I just… ugh… what?

The United States was not “founded in English” nor is it the official language of the US and English is certainly not mentioned in the Constitution. I’m a little confused as to why these students decided to complain about immigrants instead of actually talking about Americans learning foreign languages. Do they really think that  Americans learning other languages equals immigrants in the US no longer needing to learn English? That the only reason to learn another language is to cater to immigrants? What about cultural understanding, breaking stereotypes, better job opportunities, travel, self-improvement, cognitive benefits of bilingualism, appreciation of other human beings?  Youth of America, I cry for you.

To be fair, there were many “pro” comments that were intelligent and not borderline racist. Overall, 57% of the students had a positive attitude towards the foreign language requirement. So there is still hope…

 

Foreign Language Textbooks

Virginie Askildson’s (2008) PhD dissertation from the University of Arizona, “What do teachers and students want from a foreign language textbook?”, gives us some great quotes on what students think about French textbooks. Over 1,000 students of French at American universities responded to the questionnaire. Agreeing with the statement “I trust the cultural content of my textbook,” the students explained why:

-“its a text book for a reason, if the cultural info was false it wouldnt be printed or chosen by the department. So I do believe the cultural topics.”

-“it’s proofread and someone will pick up the fact that it’s wrong if it is indeed wrong.”

– “its published in my book”

-“ if the cultural info was false it wouldnt be printed or chosen by the department.

– “I figure it had to be read by multiple people who know the material well.”

-“Because it was written and published by professionals”

– “They wouldn’t get into so much detail over something if they were going to lie about it. It simply seems unlikely that it’s made up.”

– “it is written by professors and i just trust it.”

And my personal favorite:

“books can’t lie. It’s unheard of.”

Yes, that’s right. A university student believes that books cannot lie.

….

I am speechless.

Teaching Assistant Program in France for 2012-2013 School Year

If you would like to teach English in the public school system in France or the DOM-TOMs as an assistant for the 2012-2013 school year (October 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013), 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 years of university & be less than 30 years old by October 1, 2012, 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 780€ a month net, with paid vacations in October, December, February, and April. As of this year, 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, as well as download all of the ESL lesson plans I created for my classes. If you have questions about the program, search the Assistants in France forums where many past assistants such as myself (I’m the moderator) help out the new and hopeful assistants.

All applications for Anglophone 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 are allowed to have a second job as long as they get permission from their school and it does not pay more than 30% of the assistant salary.

France

Links to each country’s French embassy page on the assistant program and the approximate number of positions available:

  • USA : 1,450 (last year 2,100 people applied)

Deadline is January 15, 2012, and there is an application fee of $40. Dual French-American citizens are no longer allowed to apply; however, all other dual EU-American citizens may apply. Also 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, 2012. Canadians must be enrolled in university at the time of application.

Deadline is December 1, 2011.

Deadline is March 2, 2012.

Deadline is December 12, 2011. There are also 4 positions in New Caledonia, but the deadline for teaching March-October 2012 has already passed. Application deadline for New Caledonia is usually in September.

Application is available now. Deadline is March 12, 2012. There are also positions in New Caledonia, but the deadline for teaching March-October 2012 has already passed. Application deadline for New Caledonia is usually in August.

Deadline is December 15, 2011.

Deadline is beginning of January 2012.

Citizens of South AfricaTrinidad & 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.

Aussie English for the Beginner

Australian English for the Beginner

And now for the post on Australian English!

Thanks to Australian friends and the internet, I had learned some Australian English words before arriving so I wasn’t lost when reading about diggers in the news or picturing the wrong thing when hearing the word thongs. Being a linguistics nerd, I am endlessly fascinated by the mixture of British and American terms used here, plus the words borrowed from the languages of the Aborigines. This cute website from the National Museum of Australia gives a nice overview of Aussie English and Australia Network has several video podcasts mostly designed for ESL students but still useful for native speakers of English who want to learn about Australia and the variety of English spoken here.

Some words are the same as in British English (zed for Z, holiday for vacation, fringe for bangs, boot for trunk, porridge for oatmeal, car park for parking lot, mobile phone for cell phone, torch for flashlight, trolley for cart, hire for rent, etc.) as well as the spellings (tyre, colour, socialise, etc.) Oddly enough though, the Australian Labor Party does not use the u in their official name because they kept the spelling that was preferred in Australia in the early 1900’s. In other cases, there are similarities with American English, such as eggplant and creek, though I am still a little confused as to the series/season distinction when referring to television shows. (Any help here, Aussies? Brits say series where Americans say seasons to refer to the year, as in Everyone loved season one of Heroes, but man, season two sucked.)

Most Americans are familiar with outback, bush, g’day, no worries mate, crikey, and that’s not a knife; that’s a knife, but the phrase that still catches me off guard is How are you going? I’m expecting to hear How are you doing? or How is it going? and so I always hesitate for a second before replying to make sure I don’t say something weird like I’m going good.

Other Australian words that I have actually heard in the past few weeks include:

tucker (food)
take a burl (take a whirl)
bung (broken)
sanger (sandwich)
salads (vegetables)
ute (truck)
capsicum (bell pepper)
light globe (light bulb)
anti-clockwise (counter-clockwise)
serviettes (napkins)
bathers / swimmers / togs (swimsuit in most areas / New South Wales / Queensland)
paddock (field)
oval (field for Australian Rules Football WHICH I DO NOT UNDERSTAND AT ALL)
bogan (lower-class person)
flat white (espresso with steamed milk; I don’t think you can find this drink often outside of Australia/New Zealand)
short black (espresso)
long black (espresso with water; similar to regular American coffee)
bottle shop (liquor store)
fair dinkum / dinky-di (true, genuine)
dunny (toilet, though usually outdoors)
Macca’s (McDonald’s)
pom (Englishman/woman)
snag (sausage)
ta (thanks)
good on ya (well done)

Bastard is a term of endearment, while root/rooting has a very vulgar meaning so Americans should never say they’re rooting for someone… Numbers and letters are often said as double or triple instead of saying each one individually. My name is J, E, double N, I, E. On most forms, you have to fill in the name of your suburb, and not your city.

Abbreviations and shortening of words is very common, especially with the addition of -y / -ie or -o:

bikkie (biscuit / cookie)
brekky (breakfast)
barbie (barbecue)
mozzie (mosquito)
sunnies (sunglasses)
pressie (present)
arvo (afternoon)
garbo (garbage)

Here in South Australia, stobie pole is used for electricity pole while heaps is a common intensifier (instead of very). And back to the beginning, a digger is a soldier and thongs are flip-flops (though I’m sure older Americans still remember when they were called thongs in the US too, but to us young’ins, it now refers to G-string underwear.) Even though Paul Hogan did say “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” in a tourism video aimed at Americans, Australians actually use the word prawn. Oh, and Foster’s is NOT Australian for beer because no Australian would ever drink that stuff.

I have now been in Australia for one whole month! More cultural observations and comparisons (for America and France) to come!

Cultural Differences in Photos: USA and France

In my English classes I taught at the university, we used flashcards with a photo of an object and the English word written out to teach and/or reinforce vocabulary. For most objects, there were no problems with the images provided but every once in a while, my students didn’t quite understand the connection between the image and the word because of cultural differences between the US and France.

For example, what word comes to mind when you look at this image?

If you are American, you would most likely identify it as a loaf of bread. All of my French students, however, thought it was a cake. Why? Because un cake in French is this:

Most Americans would probably call this a sort of quick bread, such as banana bread or zucchini bread, because the shape is similar to a loaf of bread. Loaves of bread are not all that common in France because pain has many shapes, whether a baguette, or pain de campagne, or petits pains. Sliced bread sold in loaves is just called pain de mie, or “American Sandwich” as it’s written on the bag, and it is not really eaten with meals but used almost exclusively for making sandwiches or croque monsieurs.

Another image that my students found strange was this:

Orange prescription bottles that are the norm in the US don’t exist in France. When you go to the pharmacy, you receive a box of medication but there is no printed label with the directions on it, or even your name or doctor’s name. All of that information stays on the prescription paper itself, which you must keep.

Students who watch a lot of American TV or films recognized the bottle, but it was still a foreign concept to them – just as not receiving an orange bottle is still a bit odd to me whenever I fill a prescription in France.

Now what image pops into your head when you hear the words crutches or vacuum?

If you’re American, I bet you think of these:

If you’re French, I imagine it’s more like these:

The forearm crutches and cylinder vacuum are also used in the US, but the underarm crutches and upright vacuum are relatively rare in France. I always thought it was strange when my students came to class with the forearm crutches after a car or skiing accident, because I only ever saw those used by elderly patients with lifelong disabilities or Kerry Weaver on ER. I don’t know which set of crutches is considered better for healing, but at least with the vacuums it makes more sense that the upright version is more common in North America – because we have a lot more carpet in our homes and businesses. I have yet to set foot in a home in France where there is wall-to-wall carpet instead of a few small rugs here and there. Since Europe prefers hardwood and tile floors, the cylinder vacuum is more convenient here.

Another difference that I had never thought of came to me when I was flipping through Oops magazine this past weekend. Oops is one of those trashy celebrity magazines that I only look at to learn more slang or see what atrocities French has done to English words lately (relooké always kills me). There was a picture of Zac Efron next to a car holding a few things in his hands, one of which was a tube of Burt’s beeswax lip balm, which is very recognizable to Americans – as are most tubes of chapstick. [I believe this was the paparazzi photo if you want to see for yourself.]

However, the caption in French said that he was holding a tube of homeopathic pills. I don’t think that Burt’s Bees products are as popular in France as in the US, and homeopathic pills found in little tubes are very common, so it’s easy to see why the author was mistaken:

There are many other subtle differences that don’t lead to confusion (houses with siding vs. stone houses, cars with trunks vs. hatchbacks, top-loading washers vs. front-loading) that help to identify something as American or French/European. Searching for the English word on images.google.com and the French word on images.google.fr will provide many examples. Can you think of any other items that could be mistaken for something else like the cake and tubes above?

English Language Teaching Assistantship in France for 2011-2012 School Year

If you would like to teach English in the public school system in France or the DOM-TOMs as an assistant for the 2011-2012 school year (October 1, 2011 to either April 30, 2012 or June 30, 2012) , 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 years of university & be less than 30 years old by October 1, 2011, and speak French at an intermediate level.

Assistants work 12 hours a week and are paid 780€ a month (after social security is taken out), with paid vacations in October, December, February, and April. There are two contract lengths (7 or 9 months) and two levels (primary or secondary – though only the primary level has 9 month positions.) For the majority of countries, assistants can be assigned to mainland France + Corsica and the overseas départements of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyane and La Réunion. Assistants working in Corsica and the overseas départements have a slightly higher salary to compensate for the higher cost of living. Australia and New Zealand also send assistants to New Caledonia, but the school year is between March 15 and October 15 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, as well as download all of the ESL lesson plans I created for my classes. If you have questions about the program, search the Assistants in France forums where many past assistants such as myself (I’m the moderator) help out the new and hopeful assistants.

Most applications become available in October, 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. All Australians must go to Sydney and all NZers must go to Wellington, for example.

France

Links to each country’s French embassy page on the assistant program and the approximate number of positions available:

  • USA : 1,500 (last year 2,300 people applied*)

Application available as of October 11. Deadline is January 1, 2011. As of this year, dual French-American citizens are no longer allowed to apply.

Application will be available soon. Deadline is March 1, 2011.

Application will be available soon.

Application will be available soon. Deadline will be around March 24, 2011.

Application available now. Deadline is December 11, 2010.

Application available now. Deadline is January 22, 2011.

Application available now. Deadline is December 15, 2010.

Application available now. Deadline is January 11, 2011.

Citizens of South AfricaTrinidad & 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.

*Acceptance criteria from the Teaching Assistant Program in France – USA Facebook page:

“Last year we had around 2,300 applications for approximately 1,500 spots. We evaluate applications based on a number of criteria (including French-language skills, experience teaching or working with children or young adults, experience living abroad, level of university studies, etc.) and then rank the applications. The top 1,500 applicants are offered positions in early April. Those applicants who do not make the top 1,500, but still meet the program’s basic eligibility requirements, are placed on a waiting list for spots that open up over the course of the summer due to withdrawals.”

Pragmatics: Knowing what to say in certain situations

The Foreign Language Teaching Methods modules from the University of Texas-Austin includes a section on pragmatics – how context and situation affect meaning – which is extremely important for language students to learn, yet remains difficult to master. Learning what to say and when to say it, the appropriate use of language, varies significantly among cultures and languages and if students are not even aware of these differences, they risk offending or confusing others or misunderstanding what is said to them. Textbooks do address pragmatics, but in a limited way, such as offering possible ways to accept a compliment, agreeing/disagreeing, or sharing opinions. They do not, and probably cannot, provide all of the possible responses found in native speech.

As pragmatics encompasses all aspects of language, it is not good enough to simply know the grammar and vocabulary; students must also have the cultural knowledge to understand and respond appropriately according to social norms. However, at the beginning stages of language learning, pragmatics may have to take a back seat to basic vocabulary acquisition. If students can’t even produce a coherent sentence in the target language, they certainly won’t be able to focus on the pragmatic aspect of the utterance as well. Nevertheless, we can teach some pragmatic information to beginning students.

One example from my classes is the constant misuse of excuse me and I’m sorry by my French students. In American English, we use excuse me when we want to get someone’s attention or need to get through in a crowded space; whereas we use I’m sorry to apologize for having done something or to express sympathy for someone who has experienced something sad or disappointing. In addition, we may also say Sorry? when we don’t understand or haven’t heard something. Yet my students would constantly say “excuse me” when they had done something wrong  (such as throwing pencils across the room… and yes, I taught at a university) because excuse-moi is what they would have said in French. Then they would start with I’m sorry when they wanted to get my attention. I tried to teach them the differences between the two phrases, and in which situation they should use each, but their habit of translating literally from French into English always interfered until I specifically pointed out the context, like a mother trying to teach her child good manners: If you’re apologizing because you did something wrong, what do you say?

In a different context, this wouldn’t be funny

An example of Americans learning foreign languages is the overuse of I’m sorry in the target language. In some languages, such as French, saying I’m sorry should not be used to express sympathy. If you need to send flowers because your friend’s grandfather just died, you should definitely not write Je suis désolé on the card, because then you would be apologizing for having done something, i.e. causing the death. A standard phrase such as Veuillez accepter toutes mes condoléances would be appropriate in this situation, instead of a literal translation of Sorry for your loss or My thoughts are with you. Pardon is used to apologize for something (accidentally bumping into someone) or to ask someone to repeat what they said (compare I beg your pardon? in English) in addition to meaning excuse me when trying to get someone’s attention, just as excusez-moi is used, especially in restaurants to get the server’s attention. Excusez-moi is also found in the set phrase excusez-moi de vous déranger – sorry for bothering you – so there are several translations for I’m sorry in French depending on the context.

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota has a nice site on Pragmatics and Speech Acts, including interactive units on Japanese and Spanish. I’m still looking for a site that focuses on pragmatics in French. Anybody know of any sites like this?

Free English as a Second Language (ESL) Lesson Plans and Activities

This weekend was the end of les grandes vacances in France because all public school students start the school year on Thursday. I actually love this time year of because it means that France is alive again. It’s not just back to school, but back to work since a lot of stores and businesses close in July and August when most people leave on vacation. I’m looking forward to getting back to regular life this fall even though that means unemployment for me once again.

Even though I don’t exactly have a rentrée of my own this year, I figured it was time to update the ESL Lesson Plans page for those who will be teaching English this fall. Most of the lessons I used as a lectrice were designed as interactive exercises for students to do while using a computer in class. I’ve reformatted some of them so that they can be printed and copied more easily, and will continue to add more lessons as I finally clean out the English folders on my hard drives. My first two years as an assistant I spent a ridiculous amount of time on planning lessons and therefore thinking in English, when I should have been  improving my French everyday. I hope these resources will help future assistants take advantage of their short time in France.

My lectrice job at the university was a 12 month short-term contract, renewable for only one extra year. So as of October 1, I will be unemployed because even though there are vacataire jobs at the university that have been offered to me, you must already have a job in order to be hired, because vacataires are only paid every 6 months. (Yes, sometimes you must have a job in order to get a job in France.) My only option now is to wait to see if there are any open English assistant positions at high schools in the area, but I have to wait until the original assistant assigned to the school has resigned or just doesn’t show up by October 15.

Luckily I still have one more month of paid vacation so I have some time to figure things out. Teaching English is really the only job I can get in France since I’m not an EU citizen and don’t have a degree earned from a French university. In all honesty, I would much rather teach French than English, but that’s not going to happen in France. I’ll probably start a French as a Second Language page so I can upload lessons and materials for French teachers to use, and I’ll work on creating more audio flashcards and exercises to go along with the tutorials.

For more information on the English assistant program in the French public school system, read the Guide for English Language Assistants in France. If you’re interested in working at a university in France, then check out How to Become a Lecteur/Lectrice d’Anglais or Maître de Langue at a French University.