Category Archives: Teaching English & Other Languages

Thoughts on: Trip, Apartment, and Conference

Trip: Of course my trip was amazing. We saw so many places and I took far too many photos. The weather was mostly hot and sunny and we didn’t have any major traveling problems. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful sites France has to offer, and I’m dying to see more of this country. Spending time with Michelle & Jason was a blessing as well. I’m glad they got to see three regions of France and hope they come back someday.  Meeting up with David in Montpellier was a nice treat, as I obviously don’t like being apart from him. I won’t have time to get all of the photos on my website until after my Istanbul trip to visit Martha, for which I leave at 7 AM tomorrow morning!

Going back to Italy after 10 years was long overdue considering how close it is. Chambery to Milan is only 4 hours by train, and it should be shorter than that within a year when the high-speed track between Turin and Milan is finished. I still can’t understand much of Italian, but I was able to remember the basic words and phrases to buy things, like gelato and more gelato.

The Côte d’Azur was full of beaches and tourists, which I expected. I’m glad I finally went there, but I don’t think I’d like to live there. Monaco and Cannes were very crowded because of the Grand Prix and Film Festival, but Antibes was much quieter. Provence was lovely, as usual, and very very hot. But I love the heat, so it didn’t bother me. Especially because we were staying at a rather nice hotel just outside of Aix-en-Provence (Kyriad Mas des Oliviers) that had air-conditioning, unlike our “hotel” that was really a hostel in Nice.

Languedoc didn’t seem as hot, but maybe it was just the wind, which was strong almost everywhere! There were a few times I had trouble walking because of it. Montpellier was incredibly nice, just as I had imagined, and I really liked Nîmes too. Pont du Gard was impressive, Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer was cute, and La Grande Motte was a bit strange because of the architecture that I have never before seen in France. I loved walking through the cité médiévale in Carcassonne – I just wish it hadn’t been so cold so we could have stayed and enjoyed it more.

The only thing I didn’t like was the car we rented. It was a Citroën C3 Sensodrive that can be driven as an automatic or manual. Except the automatic mode was scary to me because I’m not used to the car rolling backwards when I’m stopped, or the car turning off when I’m stopped (Eco function), or the fact that shifting into reverse did not work sometimes! What are you supposed to do when you’re stopped on a hill and need to back up so you don’t hit a parked car in front of you, but reverse doesn’t work???

Apartment: Even though I left from our apartment in Annecy in May, I came back to the new apartment in Chambéry with Jason. We’ve tried to put things away as much as possible, but there is still a serious lack of storage/shelves/drawers in the kitchen. It almost feels like home to me though, if only David and Canaille were here and we had all the furniture we needed. Being able to walk downtown within 10 minutes is convenient, and I can run most of my errands without needing a car. Living in the city has its advantages, I must admit, but one day I’d like to be back out in the countryside.

We’ve only got one bedroom, but the living room is large, and the entire apartment has been repainted. We’re currently having a problem with the water heater (auto doesn’t work), so I have to turn it to on at night and off in the morning. There are two balconies, one on each side of the building, that look out onto the main road and the parking lot behind it. We have a nice cross breeze through the living room and kitchen if we open both balcony doors. I figured out where the cave was, and it is quite possibly the creepiest, most dungeon-like storage space I’ve ever seen. We still don’t have the keys to the garage we rented for my car, because the agency can’t get a hold of the landlord, who initially gave them the wrong keys or something, so my car is parked on the road for now.

Here’s the view of the Alps from the kitchen balcony:

The only thing I’m worried about is Canaille falling or jumping off the balconies. We’re only on the 2nd floor (3rd floor American), but I’m afraid he’d seriously hurt himself if he did fall. And there is a nest of birds in the tree right next to the front balcony. I’m hoping that since he is a such a scaredy-cat, he won’t actually step foot on the balconies, but we’ll see what happens next weekend when we bring him home.

Conference: The previous 3 days I worked at an International English Pronunciation Conference at my university, and got to sit it on many presentations since I was the tech person in charge of computers. It was exhausting, but fun and interesting. I was Miss Powerpoint the first day, making sure all of the presentations worked properly, which many didn’t… Then I had to be a subsitute chair for a presentation while also being the tech person, which of course was the ONE time there was a problem with the computer.

I had missed being in an academic setting, with professors and researchers talking about things that I am interested in (linguistics, phonetics, technology, etc.) I am still thinking about doing my PhD in France, but I have no clue where or in what subject. I just can’t imagine narrowing down my interests to one topic and researching it for 3 years. I want to learn everything about everything!

And I loved the three plenary speakers! John Wells talked about the polling carried out for the new edition of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, and he also gave a presentation on using intonation to change meaning in English. (Also check out his Phonetics blog.) Helen Fraser spoke on Cognitive Phonology and its implications for teaching pronunciation, which I had never really thought about before.  Yvan Rose introduced the Phon software and PhonBank database and explained how they can benefit research on second language acquisition of phonology.

I also discovered a book edited by Marie-Jo Derive, who works at my university, that will be extremely useful to learners of French. It’s called Mots étranges pour des étrangers and it’s a corpus of idiomatic and slang expressions that foreign students learning French at the university had to learn the hard way (i.e. not understanding because no book ever taught them, and having to ask a native speaker to explain the meanings). Here’s the summary from the publisher’s site:

Il s’agit d’un recueil de mots étranges compilés par des apprenants de français. Tout le monde sait que, même lorsqu’on a atteint un haut degré de compétence, le plus difficile à maîtriser d’une langue est sa chair idiomatique nourrie de ces mille et une expressions intraduisibles et souvent éphémères de la communication parlée. L’apprenant ne les trouve que rarement dans les manuels et cet apprentissage doit se faire “sur le tas”. C’est cette pratique “de terrain” dont le volume se fait l’écho à partir de l’expérience de plus de cent étudiants étrangers sur six années consécutives. Plus qu’un simple dictionnaire, qui de toute façon est très vite caduc, l’idiomatique étant aussi changeant que la mode, il s’agit d’un témoignage qui, grâce aux commentaires des intéressés sur la façon dont ils ont entrevu le sens de l’expression en contexte, éclaire sur les processus de l’apprentissage en milieu naturel. Ainsi le livre sera utile aussi bien à l’étudiant étranger – non seulement comme source de référence, mais comme incitation à l’acquisition active du lexique – qu’à l’enseignant de FLE, en France et surtout hors de France. Il intéressera également le lexicologue qui y trouvera un portrait sur le vif du lexique des étudiants.

Semester is over and vacation is here. But why am I still so stressed?

I finished my last class of the semester on Monday and I am now on vacation. Technically I don’t work my regular contract hours again until mid-September when the next school year begins. Though I am working extra hours in June at a conference and proctoring the make-up exams for the other English lectrice who is returning to the US tomorrow. So I should be relaxed and happy and carefree and all of those other wonderful emotions that people feel when on vacation, but I am not.

I suppose it’s just the long “to do” list, to which I endlessly add things, but never accomplish. You would think having all the time in the world to run errands means that those errands will get done, but that is not true. Most of them involve making appointments, which I am too lazy to do, and/or spending money, which I do not want to do. So the only things I accomplished today were mopping the floor and making zucchini bread. But I WILL go to the préfecture on Thursday morning to get my new carte de séjour (they’re closed on Wednesdays, of course).

Plus I am still baby-sitting and doing private lessons this week, so I can’t really say that I’m not working because watching two young boys and teaching English one-on-one is hard work. Those will be finished by the end of this week, and David finishes his current job on Thursday, so we can finally focus on the apartment search this weekend. I’m really hoping we can find a place on the ground or first floor (so Canaille won’t die if he falls from the window/balcony…) that is within walking distance to the university and also David’s job downtown, but we’ll see. I haven’t been impressed so far with any annonces I’ve seen online.

In the meantime, I’m trying to catch up on responding to e-mails. I’ve only got 67 left. If you’ve sent me an e-mail or private message in the past 2 months, I most likely have received it and you will get a response within another, um, 2 months?

Avis Favorable

I officially received word that there was an avis favorable for my renewal, so I will definitely be a lectrice again next year! I’m set until September 2010 at least. Then I’ve got to figure out what the heck to do with my life. Continue teaching English? Get a Master and a completely different job? But in what? I suppose it all depends on where we’ll be living, which the French government is in no hurry to tell us…

I’m not going to worry about that now, though. It’s actually spring here and the sun is shining, so I’m going outside!

Remember how I complained about English words in French?

Loan words are definitely not helping my students learn English vocabulary. They were supposed to write partitive expressions to make uncount nouns countable on the test last week. All of the images they had to identify were used in their daily lessons, so they should have known which words to use.

The correct answer is a loaf of bread. What did some of my students write? Cake. Which is understandable since most bread in France does not look like this and in French, un cake is this (whether it’s sugary, salty or fruity):

I would call this a fruitcake in English, but all the others I would tend to call bread, i.e. banana bread, zucchini bread, etc. because they look like small loaves of bread even if they’re not really “bread.” A cake to me is much larger (round or square), usually in flavors of chocolate, vanilla, cherry chip, marble, carrot, etc. and covered in frosting.

This is a bowl (or box) of cereal. If the students didn’t write cereals (because it’s plural in French), they would write cornflakes and I don’t think it was because of the barely distinguishable green rooster on the box (which was black & white on the test anyway). David tells me that you can use cornflakes to refer to cereal in general in French, even though it only refers to a specific type of cereal in English.

Other answers weren’t so wrong, such as a pack of chewing-gum instead of just a pack of gum. The chewing part isn’t said very often in everyday American English, and there’s no hyphen (which annoyingly seems to make its way into a lot of English loan words in French.)

Yes, my students should have learned the vocabulary we went over in class, but I understand how it’s confusing for them to think they’re using English words properly when they’re really not. If the word was borrowed from English, why would the meaning be changed in French? I hope they’re just as annoyed about it as I am.

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

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.