Book of the week: The Princess Diarist

Améliorez votre anglais avec nos astuces ! Suivez-nous sur les réseaux et jetez un coup d'oeil sur nos formations en ligne.

Carrie Fisher’s memoir is quite simply, a small pleasure to read. The language used isn’t too difficult, yet it will teach you some very useful English phrases.

It’s an unpretentious book put together by the actor from past diaries as well as musings from the time of writing (Fisher died in 2016). It’s pleasant and fun, and a quick read. Really, it’s the perfect book if you’re not really into novels (romans) but would like to start reading a little bit in English.

For those of you living in and around Aix en Provence, you can get your copy from Book in Bar, on 4 rue Joseph Cabassol :

https://www.bookinbar.com/livre/9781784162054-the-princess-diarist-a-sort-of-memoir-carrie-fisher/

Enjoy reading? Why not join our English book club? We meet once a month to chat in English about books. If you’re interest, be sure to send me your request by filling out the form below. Minimum level: B1.

Film of the week: Casablanca

Améliorez votre anglais avec nos astuces tous les jours ! Aujourd'hui, on vous conseil de regarder le film Casablanca.

Are you looking for something to watch in English, but you’re not sure where to start? Read up below!

Casablanca is one of those films that I can really watch every year. I honestly never get tired of it because the story is timeless, the dialogue is clever, and it’s kind of like a security blanket (un doudou) that you can keep by your side.

Why is it good for your English? Because there really isn’t so much dialogue, it’s relatively simple, and the story is easy to follow even if you don’t get all of what they’re saying.

So, why not practice your English with Casablanca?

Book of the week: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Book of the week: find out what book our team recommends this week! 
Envie de lire en anglais mais vous ne savez pas par où commencer ? Suivez-nous pour notre "Book of the week" !

Punctuation can often be a source of discord among writers, editors, teachers, students, and just about anybody else. It’s important to learn, but difficult to teach. It’s often overlooked, and generally perceived as boring. So why would you want to read a book about punctuation? Because this one’s funny.

Lynne Truss has written a very readable guide for punctuation. Her style is laid back yet informational, and while it’s not exactly a page-turner, it does keep you interested enough to want to keep going. Of course, I will freely admit that I’m a bit of a nerd and that this type of book is actually right up my alley. However, it’s really very accessible and highly recommended.

Pros

  • Easy to read.
  • You actually learn quite a bit, some of it even sticks!

Cons

  • It could use an index to make it easier to find information again without having to skim the entire chapter.

Have you read it? What did you think of it?

Links to author and stores

Making suggestions

Améliorez votre anglais grâce à nos astuces, tous les jours !

There are a number of ways to make suggestions in English. Let’s have a look at two today.

How about

Use how about with a gerund or a noun.

A gerund is a verb with an « ing » ending, that acts like a noun.

Here are a few more examples:

  • How about some chicken pot pie for dinner tonight?
  • How about going for a bike ride, I’d like to get some exercise.
  • How about a bottle or red wine instead of white?
  • How about cooling down by the pool, it’s so hot today!
  • How about a little bit of TLC (tender loving care)?

Why don’t

This sounds a little like a question, but is, in fact, a suggestion!

Use why don’t with you or we and a verb in the infinitive:

  • Why don’t we have a beer again soon.
  • Why don’t you just call her? It’ll be better than waiting by the phone all day.
  • Why don’t we play cards why we wait.
  • Why don’t you try roller blading if you can’t find an ice rink.
  • Why don’t we try again, I’m sure we’ll get it this time.

So, have you got any questions? Let me know, I’ll be happy to help!

Parenting and entrepreneuring: schools

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Over the last few years, I think it’s safe to say that all of us have experienced major changes in our lives: Covid 19, job changes, school changes, mindset changes; the list can go on. To my mind, change is wonderful- I much prefer change over too much stability. Stability bores me and and makes me jittery. Change can be a wonderful thing, though perhaps not in the same dose for everyone.

Young children, however, do not cope with change so well. They need stability, they need a sense of sameness to help them understand the world and they need constance. You would think that schools for young children, read: kindergartens, would understand this. Afterall, there has been much research into the topic. « To develop to their full potential, children need safe and stable housing, adequate and nutritious food, access to medical care, secure relationships with adult caregivers, nurturing and responsive parenting, and high-quality learning opportunities at home, in child care settings and in school. » (Sandstrom, Huerta 4, Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis) This seems like common sense, and is painfully obvious to any parent who is raising a child alongside life changes. Why then, don’t school boards understand this?

By the end of this week, my 4 year old son will have had 6 different teachers. 6 different people since the beginning of the school year, 3 weeks ago. He’s behaving accordingly: temper tantrums, back talk, rudeness, whining, disrupted sleep, distrust of the grown-ups around him. I can’t keep track of all the names anymore, I can’t imagine he can either. To me, the solution seems obvious: put in a permanent teacher. Instead of a steady stream of different substitutes, why not just one? Surely that makes more sense and is easier to organise?

For those of you who do not live in France, school, from age 3, is obligatory. Your child must attend. Homeschooling is very frowned upon and will soon be allowed only with specific permission from the board of education. So now with every child aged 3 and up attending school, one would think the school board would insure proper care. The reality, however, is very different.

Not only are French schools often prone to canteen, staff and teachers’ strikes, but many of them (mostly located in cities) are also run-down, underfunded and/or positively dilapidated. Last year, there were literally bits of outer wall falling off of my son’s school; inside, the walls are a yellowish-gray, the curtains old and stained; there is, of course, no air conditioning in many of them, with summer temperatures reaching up to 36 degrees inside on the hottest days- and we are in a very wealthy town: funding should not be a problem.

Furthermore, the government has only very recently taken notice of the state of the schools in Marseille, France’s second largest city and only 30 minutes from us: at least 200 schools in Marseille are in immediate need of renovation. Some of these schools have no heating, an insufficient number of desks and chairs for pupils, or even holes in ceilings with bits falling down into the classrooms. These are the kinds of environments children are expected to learn and thrive in.

These are deeply worrying matters. These changes, whether in the parade of teachers and school staff, strikes or the states of schools, impact our children profoundly. Is it any wonder that children act out? That they do less well in school? That they feel demotivated, upset, and forgotten?

My husband and I are lucky: he has a stable job and I am an entrepreneur. I work from home and, if need be, can keep my son home. I will battle the school board if I have to. But not every child is so lucky, not every child comes from a home where his or her parents have a choice. So what then? Should we just say: « they’ll be fine? » Are we only striving for « fine »?

The next step is a meeting with the school and parents tomorrow evening to discuss our course of action. Our children cannot remain without a teacher, and we will have to go all the way: write to and pester the school board, threaten them if we must, because our children deserve better.

Want to see for yourself? Have a look below:

https://www.francetvinfo.fr/societe/education/a-marseille-des-ecoles-en-deliquescence_4757467.html

https://www.europe1.fr/societe/cest-un-chantier-monumental-a-marseille-letat-des-ecoles-au-coeur-des-preoccupations-4064458

Why it’s a good idea to have a French teacher

I like learning on my own. In fact, I love learning on my own; but there are some things in French that just need explaining by a specialist!

By now, I’ve been in France for over 13 years. I speak well, and I have no problems understanding what people say to me, watching TV, or listening to the radio. However, when it comes to drafting articles, emails or letters in French, I’m never 100% sure of my grammar. I need to double check if I haven’t left out an extra « e » somewhere, or if, perhaps, I haven’t added one in where it doesn’t belong.

Currently, I’m thinking about taking a French test. I took an online « pre » TCF test and received a score of B2. This upset me because I know my level is higher than that. But, my knowledge of grammar is a little rusty, hence the need for a real teacher.

Here are the advantages of a teacher over an online app:

  • Teachers can answer your questions! Okay, this seems obvious, but it’s actually very important when learning a language. Sometimes, the grammar rules simply seem outrageous. Without someone there to help you practice and give you lots of examples, you may not get it quite right.
  • Teachers can correct your pronunciation. I’m not talking about accents here, I’m talking about getting the right intonation, making the right sound, and figuring out what to do with your mouth. An app can’t adequately help you with this.
  • Teachers are real people, and if you want to learn how to speak with real people, then you need to communicate with them.
  • Finally, they will train you and keep you motivated. I don’t know many people who have enough discipline to keep learning even when there are more interesting things to do. Maybe you’re that type of person, but you’re really not part of a crowd. If you’re paying a teacher, and you have appointments to keep, you will make sure you show up, and if you show up, then you’ll progress. Of course, there are those who will go ahead and waste their money and not show up, but for most people, spending money on a course will mean showing up for that course.

Now that you’ve been reminded about why having a teacher is a good idea, here are a few tips about different types of courses:

  • Private lessons. These can be useful, however, you won’t get the kind of interaction as you would in a group. Private lessons are good for people who are very shy, or for those who need help in a specific area. If you’re preparing a test, for example. Though even for specific tests, it may be a good idea to practice in groups.
  • In person group lessons. These are obviously great, but, you need to choose your school wisely. In person group lessons will often be expensive as they’re probably given by an accredited and well-known school, such as the Alliance Française. This well known school is good, however, much will depend on the people you study with and how often you have classes. It will also depend on the division of levels, you should always go for schools which divide their students into seperate levels. You should be with other people of roughly the same level as you, obviously. Make sure you follow this up! Another important thing to remember here is that you need to be wary of falling into the expat trap: keep speaking French even if the other people in your group speak English! This is really important because if you don’t practice, you won’t improve.
  • Group lessons at a university. For me, this was a stellar way to learn, but I think it’s best suited to younger people who want to take part in university life. My experience at the university of Avignon was wonderful in part because I was able to make friends and in turn, practice my French.
  • Group lessons online. I’m a little biased because these are the types of lessons that my school predominantly offers. But here are some tips anyway! Online group lessons are convenient because you can more easily fit them into your schedule and you don’t have to go anywhere. This is useful for anyone who lives outside of a major town. Make sure that when you sign up for these, your group isn’t too big; you’re not looking for a lecture, you’re looking for an opportunity to practice what you’re learning. You should sign up for lessons where you get a maximum time to speak. Grammar lessons are important, but they need to be paired with real practice.
  • This last point brings me to my last tip: look for lessons that take place several times a week, particularly if you’re someone who needs motivation. If you only have lessons once a week and you don’t spend much time studying outside of that, you won’t get anywhere and you’ll have wasted your money. Learning takes practice, and it’s the same for language learning as it is for learning to play a musical instrument or cooking. You need to practice regularly and you need to practice deliberately in order to progress. It’s better to spend a little more money on frequent classes than to draw them out over a year and miss out on rapid improvement.

So there you are. In my opinion, if you really want to learn to speak well, you won’t be able to get around paying for a course. Deciding on the type of course that’s right for you is important, and speaking with potential schools and teachers to see what they can offer you is primordial. Learning apps can be fun, and they can be very useful, in the end, however, in order to improve, you’ll need a coach. Everyone needs a coach (read teacher) to push and help them get better.

If you really want to improve significantly, you need a teacher/language coach.

Disagree with me? I’d love to hear your opinion and open a discussion. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Interested in finding an online French or English course? Drop me a line, I can walk you through our offers and you can see if we’re the right fit for you! Click here to read more about our offers.

Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 4, or « Bringing up bébé »

I recently read a parenting novel (book?) entitled Bringing up bébé, by Pamela Druckerman, otherwise known as, French children don’t throw food. I had read that this book was funny, but it barely cracked a smile from me. It led me to ask myself, have I become French? The answer, however, is no. Although I’m sure I’ve absorbed some aspects of French culture, I’m sure I haven’t simply « become French », as my mom sometimes says.

image from WSJ.com

What bothered me about the book was what was said about anglophone parenting in general. The author seems to say that anglophone parents let their children walk all over them, that they don’t give their kids any autonomy, and that they generally only live for their offspring. I found this to be absurd and wonder if it’s true. Now I’d almost like go conduct my own research into the topic! Almost, not quite though.

Let me explain. As I embark on my entrepreneurial adventure, I need to be OK with my 4 year old son taking care of himself. I simply can’t entertain him all day. Besides, what good would it do him? A person can’t possibly become autonomous if he or she has never had the chance to try it. A child will never learn to play on his or her own if they’ve never been given the opportunity. Today, my kid regularly plays on his own, even when we’re available to play with him. He invents stories for his toys, kind of like the little boy in Toy Story and finds all sorts of creative ways to alleviate his boredom. I’m not so sure that would have happened had we hovered over him, constantly trying to keep his attention.

At the risk of being called a terrible mother, I’ve generally found it quite boring to play with my son all day, particularly when he was very small. There are only so many peekabu games that I can handle. So, of course we played, we read and we went out; but he also had to learn, from the youngest age, that his parents need their own time. How did we do this? It was quite simply really. As young as a year old, when I noticed he was into an activity, I left him at it. I didn’t interrupt him. He would be playing with rocks or sticks or some other object, and sometimes he’d do it for 30 to 40 minutes. Gradually, this would happen more and more often.

This has come in particularly useful while working from home. Our son can play by himself an entire morning. He does, of course, ask questions or make comments every once in a while, but unless I have a class planned, I don’t need to put him in front of the TV or occupy him any other way, he knows how to « entertain » himself.

What are your thoughts? Have you read this book? Have you had experiences similar to mine? I’d be curious to find out!

Are you learning French? Are you having trouble staying motivated and looking for a teacher? Join our learning groups! Our teachers base their lessons around communication and conversation. You can also join our Facebook group Groupetude Community for tips, advice, and a support network for learning French.

Book a call with me today to learn more!

Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 4

What working for myself means to me

I’m writing this from my brother in law’s summer rental home in the Var region of France. We won’t be staying much longer, in fact, we’re leaving this morning because I have meetings. However, it really is extraordinary to work with a view like this one. The swimming pool, the hills, the blue sky dotted with wispy clouds; it’s perfect.

Too bad we’re leaving! There’s no place like home, though.

At home, it’ll be back to the grind stone while my family hangs out and enjoys their summer vacation. It’s not too bad though, really. Although my alternative would have been to have the entire summer off (teacher here) it certainly would not have meant the same freedom throughout the year. I also find that I really don’t mind working now, even as everyone else is sat with a good book or takes a snooze.

I spoke the other day with the owner of our favorite wine shop, he will be celebrating the shop’s 10 year anniversary this year and we talked about the work that goes into nurturing your business. Although there are moments where you have to work even on your holiday, it’s just not the same, though I daresay it must be annoying for the family.

I’ve dreamed of this for a long time, the freedom to work wherever you are, the freedom to be your own boss, to organize your own time and to have the potential to begin earning real money without sacrificing your family life. This is entrepreneurship for me. Of course, the risks for running your own business are not the same as when you work for someone else, but it’s worth it! It’s worth saying, yes, when your family invites you to spend a few days with them in the country; I wouldn’t have been able to do that while working for a language school, say. It’s worth having your munchkin home for lunch because you know you can be there. It’s worth being able to adopt a dog because you’re home, or you can get away from the office to walk your four legged friend in the middle of the work day. And it’s worth trying to make a real difference through your work, because it isn’t just work, it’s also something you’ve created.

The hiccup? It’s not always easy to keep a clear separation between your work and your personal life. How do you deal with this? I’m still figuring it out, but I’m very new at it! If you’ve got any tips, leave them in the comments!

L’anglais dans le milieu professionnel

De nombreuses entreprises ont aujourd’hui l’anglais comme langue de communication. Il existe différentes raisons à cela, mais bien souvent, c’est dû à un rachat par une entreprise étrangère dans laquelle l’anglais est déjà utilisée.

L’idée de communiquer entièrement en anglais au travail peut être déstabilisante, mais avec un peu de motivation, quelques astuces et un bon soutien au sein de votre communauté professionnelle, cela n’a pas besoin d’être insurmontable.

Beaucoup de professionnels ont déjà un niveau d’anglais tout à fait convenable, mais il leurs manque de la pratique.

Aujourd’hui, je vais vous donner quelques astuces pour réussir vos communications de bases en anglais au sein de votre entreprise.

L’email

Comment s’adresser à une personne par mail ? Tout dépend de votre relation avec la personne en question, mais en générale, l’anglais est assez décontracté. Nous passons très vite aux prénoms et les échanges ont tendance à être peu formels. Néanmoins, il existe quelques phrases clefs à connaître.

Au sein de l’entreprise, vous connaissez les personnes avec lesquelles vous communiquez. Alors, il est tout à fait acceptable de commencer un mail par: « Dear Jeremy, ou Hi Jeremy, ou alors Hello Jeremy » par exemple, même si c’est la première fois que vous contactez cette personne. Bien-sûr, si vous vous adressez à un directeur dans l’entreprise avec lequel vous n’avez jamais communiqué, il serait convenable d’utiliser son nom de famille, avec « Ms. » pour une femme et « Mr. » pour un homme, plutôt que son prénom. Evitez l’utilisation de « Mrs. » pour les femmes, qui est assez démodé dans le monde moderne. Cependant, s’il s’agit d’une entreprise américaine, canadienne, ou bien anglophone en générale, vous passerez probablement très vite aux prénoms, même avec votre directeur. Rappelez-vous aussi, que le « vous » n’existe pas en anglais, il est donc tout à fait normal de dire « you ».

Alors, quelques phrases pour commencer un mail:

  • I’m writing about…
  • I was given your details by… (the name of the person who referred you)
  • I wanted to see if you are still interested in…
  • I’m writing/calling regarding the email/letter I sent you…
  • Thanks for responding so quickly…
  • I am writing to confirm…
  • Concerning our telephone conversation earlier in the day/yesterday…
  • I am writing in response to…

N’oubliez pas que vous pouvez aussi, au début du mail, ajouter un « how are you? » ou alors « I hope you’re well. » si c’est une personne avec qui vous êtes déjà en contacte.

Alors, je vous laisse pour aujourd’hui, n’oubliez pas de suivre notre page pour plus d’astuces sur la communication en anglais, ainsi que pour rester au courant de nouvelles offres sur nos formations professionnels en anglais et en français langue étrangère.

Parenting and entrepreneuring: episode 4

Summer is finally here, and soon, summer vacation too! Well, summer vacation for a certain little person and an ultra-planned « day-care » schedule for him.

We’ve got everything figured out down to the very last day:

First comes sports camp for 3 days, (school ends on a Tuesday, weird, I know!) then off to grandma’s house for a week. After that, back to sports camp for another week, then daddy’s up for two weeks followed by the other set of grandparents for a week. And the last two weeks? Grandma and grandpa are coming down from Spain, and it’ll be time for a few days off for mommy, kind of.

I guess summer is a conundrum for most parents, particularly those who haven’t got any family nearby. I’m just happy that now that I’m working from home, I don’t have to worry about child care if there’s a school strike, an illness or some other last minute change of plans.

I actually find that despite the uncertainty of starting your own business, I’m much less stressed out than I was in previous years. I don’t run around like a crazy person, I can even help other parents out, if they’re stuck for child care, and I get to see my kid and my husband more often. It’s really been a transformative experience.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in going off and doing your own thing. Has it generally been positive? Have you got any hard-won advice to offer the rest of us newbies? Leave them in the comments!