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!

Slangy French Expressions

Learn French slang with us every week!

This is one of the very first expressions I ever learned of real French. I had found a job as a waitress in a small bistro in Saint-Rémy de Provence and a girl I worked with said to me one day: « ça caille! » I, of course, looked at her like, « I don’t understand. » You know, with the big eyes and everything. She then explained to me that this meant: it’s freezing outside.

What she failed to mention was that this is an expression from Argot, which is French slang, not to be used in polite company, at work, etc. I had to learn this the hard way.

I’ve had many experiences like this, so I’ve decided to share slangy French with you from now on! Each week, we’ll have a new one to learn, and I want you to try to use it! Of course, be careful of your company, this is for friends and family, not for acquaintances and people who are easily offended by « risky » language.

You’ll see, French is full of colourful and fun expressions that you’ll love to use!

Groupetude Newsletter: week 19

Weekly English Fix

Rain, rain, go away!

By Klaudyna Piatek May 10th, 2021

Oh what to do on a rainy day? On a rainy week? 

How about card games! We’ve recently rediscovered some great card games to play with friends. Board games and card games are super popular in France, and many people have got a nice collection for every occasion. 

Lately, we’ve been playing Smile Life and Mini Ville. They’re lots of fun, even if there are only two players. If you’re learning French, this is a great way to practice without feeling like you’re studying, and the language in the games will really help you with everyday vocabulary. 

Learning English? Why not try scrabble online. If you’ve got someone to practice with at home, then you could even order the English version of the game. 

Don’t forget to join our group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/groupetudecommunity

THIS WEEK’S

TOP STORIES

Spring and painting and Normandy, interview with David Hockney:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/may/10/david-hockney-on-joy-longing-and-spring-light-im-teaching-the-french-how-to-paint-normandy

The colors of spring, beautiful paintings, Normandy, and an interview with David Hockney, why not?! 

The myths you shouldn’t believe about the rights of Brits in France after Brexit

https://www.thelocal.fr/20210423/the-myths-you-shouldnt-believe-about-brits-rights-in-france-after-brexit/

It’s always good to keep afloat of important info concerning your status. The Local dispels a few myths for you in this article. 

THIS WEEK’S

TOP TIPS

Long Term Improvement

As I already mentioned above, play some games! They’re really lots of fun, and will help so much with ease and fluency. Try Smile Life, really, it’s fun! If you play once a week with your partner, in French or in English (depending on what you’re trying to improve) I promise you will improve your vocabulary and confidence! 

Vocabulary

Learning French: confused about whether a word is feminine or masculine? Check the dictionary or type it into Google, it’s a quick and easy way to get it right! 

Learning English: Have you been following our Word of the Day? If not, do so! Every Tuesday and Thursday on the blog, on Facebook and on Instagram! 

Grammar Spot

Learning French: it’s sometimes possible to determine the gender of a word depending on its ending. Here’s a website which helps you with that! https://wwwling.arts.kuleuven.be/alfagram/nom/desc/genre/inanim/fter.htm#:~:text=noms%20masculins%3A%20%2Dage%2C%20ai,%2C%20%2Disme%2C…

Learning English: follow the next few weeks’ posts about grammar where we explain the rules surrounding modal verbs. You’ll find them on the blog every Monday! 


Ok, do you have any questions? Drop me line, I’ll get back to you ASAP! 

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Groupetude SARL

21 AV Jean Giono

13090, Aix en Provence

Improve your French with a cook book!

A few years ago for his birthday, I got my husband a cook book, and it was a hit! He loved it, and as it turns out, I loved it too. Inside were the key recipes to learn for every region of France. Since we had embarked on an adventure to learn how to cook properly, cooking our way through French regions seemed like a great idea. Another reason we had for trying this method was the TV5 show Echappées Belles, which makes us salivate each and every time!

Since then, I’ve stopped eating meat, which has made this process somewhat more difficult, but with an adjustment here and there, it’s also possible.

So what’s another bonus of this? I learned so much more French vocabulary in the process! The nice thing about cook books is that they’re very clear, they don’t beat about the bush, and they’re authentic. These aren’t French as a foreign language (FLE, acronym in French) books, but real, French guides used by real French people.

An alternative is also watching a cooking show in French, though beyond Master Chef, I don’t have any good recommendations. Do you? I’d love to hear about any good cooking shows out there. I tend to go on You Tube to look for videos of simple recipes, particularly in terms of baking, so that I can really see what the chef is doing!

So, to summarize, here are some great reasons to cook in French:

  • It’s pretty useful in terms of learning all the different names for kitchen utensils.
  • You’ll be able to find alternative products for things you can’t find here, and learn their names!
  • Especially if you’re in the south, there are many vegetable varieties that we don’t necessarily have at home (I’m from Toronto, Canada, so the varieties here in the south are really wonderful).
  • It can be fun, and certainly a different way of learning.
  • France has really got some great regional dishes so you’ll have a wonderful meal for every day of the year!

Do you practice French while cooking? Let us know below!

And don’t forget, you can always join one of our cooking workshops on Thursday evenings!

Groupetude Newsletter! week 18

Weekly English Fix

May

By Klaudyna Piatek May 3rd, 2021

I always love the month of May. Doesn’t everyone? It’s spring, flowers are in bloom everywhere, and the warm weather becomes a more regular visitor. 

So what’s on the menu this month? 

We are going to be organising a series of Facebook Lives for all of you lovely people. Yes, you read that right, we’re giving away lots of learning tips. However, we need your help! Join our group, Groupetude Community, where the Lives will be hosted, and post your questions! There will be two threads, one for English and one for French learners. We will use these to organise the Lives and do our best to answer as well as possible. 

So get ready, we’re starting the week of May 17th! 

THIS WEEK’S

TOP STORIES

French Réunion: the postmen of the peaks

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/03/french-reunion-the-postmen-of-the-peaks

This is an island I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Interested in La Réunion? Read about the postal workers who scale peaks to collect and deliver the mail. 

EXPLAINED: Do you have to pay duty if you bring furniture from the UK to France?

https://www.thelocal.fr/20210416/explained-do-you-have-to-pay-duty-if-you-bring-furniture-from-the-uk-to-france/

I’ve read a lot of questions concerning this issue on various expat forums, so check it out. The article breaks down the most popular questions, hopefully it’ll help you or someone you know! 

THIS WEEK’S

TOP TIPS

Long Term Improvement

This one is going to seem so obvious, but, make a friend. It’s so much easier to learn when you’ve got someone to talk to. You get free practice and have a good time all the while. If it’s hard to figure out how to make a friend, join a club; anything you enjoy doing really, and you’ll meet people that way.

Vocabulary

Learning French: Here’s a site I found for French vocabulary. Let me know if you like it, it seems to be quite useful! https://www.transparent.com/word-of-the-day/today/french.html

Learning English: check out https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ it’s fantastic because it’s a dictionary for English learners and gives you a new word each day, along with the level and pronunciation. 

Grammar Spot

Learning French: When I was learning French I had trouble remembering when to use the verb être in the past. Here’s the House of être, useful as a memory tool and the website has some explanations on it too. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/french/french-i/french-i-the-passe-compose/the-passe-compose-with-etre

Learning English: if you want to compare two things that are the same, you can use “as”. For example, Mary is as tall as John. The melon is as big as my head. You can also do this for the negative, when two things aren’t the same: my tea is not as hot as yours. 


Ok, do you have any questions? Drop me line, I’ll get back to you ASAP! 

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Groupetude SARL

21 AV Jean Giono

13090, Aix en Provence

How about a bit of music?

Jeanne Moreau – thank goodness I found this gem among my mother-in-law’s records! It now lives at our house :-).

Learn French with by listening to Jeanne Moreau!

Alors, pourquoi Jeanne Moreau? C’est simple: j’adore ses chansons! Elles sont douces, elles sont drôles et elles me permettent de m’entrainer en français de manière détendue.

Si vous souhaitez découvrir un peu plus sur cette icone française, je vous invite à lire à son sujet sur France Culture:

https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/une-vie-une-oeuvre/jeanne-moreau-lunique-1928-2017-0

Vous y trouverez des morceaux d’interview, un podcast et un peu d’informations biographiques.

Et la cerise sure le gâteau? Ecoutez ce morceau sur YouTube !

Alors, qu’en pensez-vous ?

Children’s books in French

If you’ve got young kids and you’re learning French, why not read some great children’s books with them!

Here is a series that my 4 year old adores! Written by Catharina Valckx, her Billy series is fabulous. It’s about a hamster that lives in the Far West with his dad and goes on local adventures with his friends: a mouse, an earth worm, a bison and more.

Here are some titles: Le Bison, La Fête de Billy, Billy et le gros dur, Haut les pattes ! and a few others. They’re wonderful!

So how will this improve your French? By reading out loud, you’ll be practicing your pronunciation!

What children’s books have you read in French?

Listen to music!

Photo credit: Getty Images

I’ve been listening to some great classic French music lately, and it’s amazing how much you can learn if you listen carefully!

For example, my mother-in-law gave us some of her old records, so I’ve been playing them one by one and loving it!

My latest discovery is Juliette Greco. Apart from being taken back to Uni when I listen to it, (I used to go to these 60s nights at a local club) it’s fun to listen to the lyrics.

What do you listen to?

Groupetude Newsletter: week 17

Weekly English Fix

Back to school

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

By Klaudyna Piatek April 26th, 2021

Vacation’s over kids! Time to go back to school, and back to a normal working week for mom and dad. It’s eerily quiet now in the flat, apart from the dog barking at random I-don’t-know-whats. 

As we steer towards the end of April, stay tuned to Groupetude to find out about our Facebook Lives throughout the month of May! We’re going all out, twice a week, with tips and tricks and more to help you learn. 

Also, don’t forget to join us on Thursday evenings for our Cooking Hour in French, where we cook and chat and are generally jolly! These workshops are absolutely free and provide precious practice. 

So don’t forget to book a spot, we’re limited to 10 people per workshop so that it doesn’t get too crowded and everyone ha a chance to speak! 


THIS WEEK’S

TOP STORIES

Bottoms up! Five things to know about proposing a toast in France

https://www.thelocal.fr/20210416/bottoms-up-five-things-to-know-about-proposing-a-toast-in-france/

If you want to fit into French society, you’ve got to frequent the apéro whenever you’re invited. Or, whenever you invite! And what’s important during an apéro? The toast! 

Oscars 2021: Full list of winners at the Academy Awards

https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/oscars-2021-full-list-of-winners-at-the-academy-awards-1.6001854

Wondering what to watch this week? How about one of the winners? The list does seem to be at least a little bit more diverse this year. 


THIS WEEK’S

TOP TIPS

Long Term Improvement

Join a bookclub! I’ve just started one in Aix en Provence, where I live. We’ve come up with a list of books, now it’s time to choose one and set a date to meet! It’s hard getting started on a book in a foreign language, so one way to get around that is by teaming up with others. Go on, give it a shot! 

Vocabulary

Read the dictionary. Yeah, you read that right! Sometimes it’s fun, though I don’t mean from cover to cover! Looking up words in the target language itself is useful because you learn even more words through the definitions. Try it, it can’t hurt, right?

Grammar Spot

Write in your target language. Keep a diary, or write short notes or text messages to your friends. If you do it on the computer, you’ll get help from spell check! This totally helps me remember to add the extra “e” on a feminine French word. 


Ok, do you have any questions? Drop me line, I’ll get back to you ASAP! 

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Groupetude SARL

21 AV Jean Giono

13090, Aix en Provence