Parlez-you Franglais?

One of the coolest things about living abroad in a country where they don't speak your native language is what starts to happen to your brain. It used to feel like I might never lose the intermediary mental translation, that time-consuming stopover to convert all French input into English and English output into French. But... Continue Reading →

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I’ll have a breu-nee, please.

One of the funniest things I do on an almost daily basis is pronounce English words with a French accent so that French people will understand me. This most often happens with food: I'm currently sitting in a café waiting for the Ee-reesh Crem ("Irish Cream,"  on the menu) Latté that I clumsily attempted to order with... Continue Reading →

Quick Lesson Ideas for Desperate Teaching Assistants (and Other ESL Teachers, Too)

"So... what does the curriculum look like?" "I'm not really in charge of English." "Oh. Who is?" "Well, you." This was the gist of the conversation I had on my first day of work at one of the French elementary schools I taught at. I know an assistant who once arrived at her school to find that no one was... Continue Reading →

Parlez-vous Netflix?

I've found the landscape for language-learning to be pretty bleak beyond intermediate levels– even dynamic apps like Duolingo seem to exist in a pedagogical vacuum, lacking personality, real-world application, and the joy of discovery that comes with more organic exploration of a language. Considering the fuzzy, fluctuating borders of a language, it's easy to see how content gets... Continue Reading →

Fatal Phonemes and Emphasis Disasters

The ability to imitate an accent without making mistakes is rare, even among people who are paid boatloads of money to do it. Only a near-superhuman can avoid falling into sticky phoneme and stress traps unique to their linguistic background. For some language-nerd schadenfreude, here are a few recent endearing slip-ups I've come across while trashy tv-watching (mostly native Anglophones trying to... Continue Reading →

Friends in French

Formal conversation in another language is a little scary and not much fun, but it’s easy. It requires a limited set of vocabulary that I’ve practiced over and over again, for years, like a script. Organic, familiar conversation, on the other hand, the kind you have after you already know someone, the kind that allows you... Continue Reading →

Just call me “sir.”

Receiving emails addressed to “Monsieur” will never get old. I am in fact a woman named Jillian (Jill). Both of these spellings are rather unusual and ambiguous in France, and apparently more masculine than feminine. I’ve met French people with whom I’d previously only communicated via email who have admitted to me, “I actually thought... Continue Reading →

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