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Language Quest: My Francophone Thoughts

Bonjour! Guess what? I enjoy French again! Hooray! I wanted to give you a quick update today and share some interesting things I’ve learnt so far about ‘Francophone Culture’ (if that’s even a thing…ooo…)

For my final dissertation, I’ve been given the option of 6 questions. The question I’ve picked to answer is, in a nutshell, “Is there one Francophone culture or multiple Francophone cultures?”. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s a pretty obvious answer there!

I’ve started by reading around the topic to give myself a wider knowledge than just my own brain and I’ve learnt about some interesting ideas. Just to be clear, this isn’t my essay and I’m not asking for help, although of course your opinions are welcome in the comments!

Tiken Jah Fakoly


Ok, I have an addiction. French reggae. I love this guy so much. Partly because he fits perfectly into my essay plan and partly because his music actually has meaning. There ain’t nothin’ goin’ down, and ain’t nobody yellin’ timber. Tiken Jah Fakoly is an Ivorian who sings in French. Ok, so that’s Francophone, right? But he’s pretty much dissing France, colonization and all that jazz in 90% of his songs. So is that still ‘Francophone’?

What is ‘Francophone’ anyway?

Francophone is often used to describe someone or somewhere or something ‘French speaking’. This would mean that ‘Francophone culture’ was culture from French-speaking countries across the globe, including France. However, some folks (by ‘folks’ I mean essay writing chaps who probably have a lot of letters after their names) claim that ‘Francophone’ means someone or somewhere or something that uses the French language but isn’t from l’Hexagone. Whether the term includes France or not, how can countries so diverse share a culture purely based on their language?

Colonisation

Yes, the French (and Belgians to a lesser degree) did their fair share of colonisation, and yes, this spread their language across the world to these countries now considered ‘Francophone’. However, if you compare somewhere like Vietnam, where the French were beaten in the First Indochina War by the Viet Minh, with somewhere like French Polynesia, where citizens vote in the French elections, the impact of colonisation surely can’t be similar enough to group them together as having one culture.

Francophone cultures

With the definition of the term ‘Francophone’ being disputed, how could you claim there is one ‘Francophone’ culture? To me, the answer is clear: there are a multiple of cultures within the French speaking world, some of which may not even be directly influenced by the French way of life, even if their existence is due to French colonisation. For example, if someone takes all you have, when they disappear and leave your country in a mess, do you aspire to their way of life, those who attacked you and took your freedom; or do you look to the past, to your ancestors who created what was before the French?

This still poses an interesting question – why do people like Tiken Jah Fakoly express themselves in French when their message is so rooted in their own, in this case African, culture and almost ‘anti-French’? That’s what I intend to get to the bottom of in my dissertation. Bring it on!

Have you studied something similar? Do you have any thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments!
And, a reminder, as I said above, this is not my essay, rather a collection of a few thoughts buzzing around right now that I wanted to share. I am not looking for answers, I merely wish to share what I’ve found with you lovely people!

American English vs British English

Over the summer, my sister (who makes cool stuff over here by the way) had a friend, Emily, staying. Emily is American. About a month into her stay I realised I was completely missing an opportunity to exploit her Americanness and make a video about it. And thus, this video of American English vs British English was born! Hurrah!

It’s a bit longer than my usual videos but I’ve cut it down from 40 minutes of footage. Editing is tough!

What did you think of the video? Let me know in the comments!

12 Top Tips for Teaching on Skype

Teaching on Skype has quickly become a big part of my business. It’s a valuable part too – I can go from one lesson to another without the risk that’s always there with “real life” lessons of getting stuck in traffic. This means I can teach more. Instead of one lesson 3-4 then 4.15-5.15 then 5.45-6.45, I can work from 3 straight through to 6! Giving me an extra 45 minutes to catch up on some work, teach someone else, or even finish earlier! Brilliant!

With the likes of italki becoming bigger and more essential language learning resources by the day, teaching online is big business. So today, I wanted to share with you my top tips for teaching on Skype.

1. Good equipment

diary and laptop language learning lindsay does languages blog It doesn’t matter if your laptop is old or your headset is your gaming one. The important thing is that your equipment works, and when I say equipment, that includes Internet connection. Likelihood is that your provider can’t always guarantee 100% perfect connection but make sure it’s as good as can be. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic to fix your car with a spanner from Poundland, would you? That said, I’m not trying to put you off! Go for it and make the best of what you have now to see if it’s right for you before investing big time.

2. Good resources

When I started my business, one thing I was adamant about was making my own resources to set me apart from the competition. This is still something I do today. Having a good, solid base of teaching resources will make your job a lot easier.

Teaching online though also means you have to think outside the box a little bit – it’s no good having boxes of beautiful flashcards when your student can’t touch them! Focus your attention on Powerpoints, PDFs and Word documents – all things you can display and share easily with your online students. Check out my Pinterest page for some ideas.

3. Twiddla

My absolute essential for “real life” teaching is a whiteboard. Obviously, this is tricky to use via Skype. Thankfully, I discovered Twiddla! It’s an online whiteboard tool that you and anyone who you share the link with can see and edit at the same time. Perfect for awkward explanations you just can’t do with words and emoticons!

You can also view webpages together and write all over them, as well as upload images and documents. Very useful for you, very interactive for the student.

4. Screen share

Skype seems to have recently opened up it’s screen share option to everyone (I’m pretty sure it used to be a premium feature). This is perfect for online tuition! Sometimes, Twiddla doesn’t load Powerpoints very well, on those days screen share is perfect. I’ve also found it useful when trying to explain to new italki students how to confirm lessons or book new ones.

5. Always keep moving forward

gifboom bike riding gif language learning lindsay does languages blog Once you’ve found something that works, don’t sit still! Constantly look for ways to improve your teaching, keep making resources as well as updating the ones you already have.

6. Treat your students well

Consider your students as your employer as well as your customer, after all, they are the ones paying you and without them, you have no job. Make each student feel special by remembering what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. If it helps, you could use a little notebook to keep track. Of course resources can be reused for different students, but from time to time, I love making resources with specific students in mind!

7. Take advantage of the Internet

There is almost no point teaching online if you’re not going to do this! The Internet is there so use it in lessons. Ideas include using a Google Image search to explain word definitions, searching the Internet together (on Twiddla) for relevant information and making use of online dictionaries as a last resort.

8. Mix your media

There’s so much stuff out there that it seems a shame to constantly give students the same source to work with. Use videos, audio and articles as stimuli for conversation. Podcasts, news, YouTube, social media, whatever you use, focus on real examples of the language and keep it fun and interesting! Sending these before the lesson will not only make you a keen and professional teacher but also give your students a chance to prepare any questions beforehand. Why should they pay for your time and then spend 5 minutes watching a video they could have done before the lesson?

9. Plan!

Once you’ve got your resources, both technical and teaching, you can begin to plan lessons! I find it useful to have a few back up lessons plans for situations like if a new student books a lesson the very next day and you know nothing about them and you know you won’t have time to prepare anything. Be prepared. Like a scout.

10. Promote yourself

white board girl on a bench language learning lindsay does languages blog When you’re all set up and ready to go, you can begin to promote your services. Don’t do it until you’re ready – there’s no rush! Facebook, Twitter, blogs, italki…basically the Internet! One of the joys of teaching online is that you can offer your services to anyone anywhere. Don’t waste your time or money pushing leaflets through doors or paying for an ad in the local paper. Look wider. Be nice. Sell yourself. But not like a lady of the night.

11. Enjoy it!

After all, if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? Teaching online isn’t for everyone and sometimes you’ll want nothing more than a day away from being huddled inside with your screen and your headset. A full day of Skype tuition can be tough. Which leads nicely to the next tip…

12. Look after yourself

jumping summer girl language learning lindsay does languages blog If you want to make this a big part of your income, then chances are you’ll be spending a lot more time online than you do now. You have to consider this. Plan in regular exercise and get yourself outside! If your work is being on the Internet talking to people then playing your Xbox will have no positive relaxing effect. It’s just the same.

I hope these tips are useful for you if you’re planning on expanding into teaching online. It’s a relatively young industry so it’s a very exciting time to get involved. If you’re a student, be sure to sign up for Skype lessons with me beginning this Autumn! There’s not many spaces left! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you! Good luck!

Can We Write Laughter?

Language is, always has been, and always will be, constantly changing. A little like technology. But when it seems technology is advancing so quickly, does language adapt itself at the same speed?

I remember way back when in 200*cough cough* and I was the proud owner of a Nokia 3210. The shops were overloaded with the likes of “A Dummie’s Guide To Text Talk” and “C U l8r: How 2 Txt”. I totally made those titles up, but you get the idea. We wanted, nay, needed, to know how to talk to each other wth shrt wrds 2 sy mre + py less 4 txts. And, inevitably, before long, teachers, parents and everyone else over the age of 25 was blaming texting for corrupting the spelling of the youth. Corrupting or changing? Well, that’s a debate that can be had another day.

Point is, texting changing language, dramatically. Round about the same time as texting, e-mail reared it’s head in a big way, which also contributed its fair share to language change. Both of them paving the way to a future (currently a now) with more people reading and writing than ever before, but not in the traditional sense. ;) Ooo, see how that winky smiley just make that sentence sound flirty? I’m not flirting with you, I promise. ;)

So then with texting and emailing, these punctuation aided smiles began emerging. Expressing emotion, earning themselves the title of emoticons. When you write, it suddenly becomes easier to tell your reader how you want things to be read. :( Now you think that I think that’s a bad thing, right? Just because I put a little sad face. Or a colon and a bracket depending on which way you look at it.

And you can put your own personal twist on this! Do you give your smileys a nose? :- ) A square mouth? :] Or a non-head-tipping ‘meh’ quality? ‘__’

Another thing that strikes me as being super personal is the way we laugh in writing. Lol. Rofl. Haha. Hehe. LOL. Roflcopter. Bahaha. Just to name a few I’m sure. Then to contrast, we have the super personal ways we interpret it when people say them. I’ll give you a little example, my granddad always ends a text with “LOL gdad xx”. Is he laughing out loud in a demonic Bond villain kind of way before completing his message or chuckling before signing off? Well, no actually. Turns out he means ‘Lots Of Love”.

So you see, it’s a minefield of abbreviations, three letter acronyms, and emoticons out there. But laughter is the one that really gets me. Do you think we can express laughter through writing? Can we write laughter? Do different ways of writing laughter come across as sarcastic? Now, I don’t know the answer to this, or even if there is one. Also, if English isn’t your first language, how do you express laughter in your native language? I’d love to get your opinions – what do you think? Lol. Just kidding. ;) Now I’m flirting. :o Now I’m shocked. Ok, I’ll stop now. Over to you!

Learning English: Infinitive vs Ing

Getting to grips with the basics of a language is one thing, getting a hold on the nitty gritty advanced grammar that will blow natives away is quite another.

Currently, I have a wonderful array of pretty awesome English students with a pretty awesome level of English. It’s got the the point where we’re discussing those nitty gritty advanced grammar intricacies to take them to the next level. Yay!

One thing that’s come up this week is when to use the infinitive and when to use the ‘ing’ form. Infinitive vs ing. Eek! If you can say both “I hate playing football” and “I hate to play football”, why can you say “I enjoy playing football” but not “I enjoy to play football”. English, have you been at it again? Inventing crazy ways to confuse us all? Tut tut.

Well, I’ve put together a handy little reference sheet to help you. Although it doesn’t necessarily explain why (sometimes you just have to nod and smile), it does explain when and how. You are very welcome to pin it, print it, save it, share it, blow your nose on it. Although I’d prefer if you didn’t do the last one. Enjoy!

infinitive vs ing info graphic english language learning grammar verbs lindsay does languages blog

Also, I’ve been hard at work compiling a playlist over on both 8tracks and YouTube of songs that use the infinitive and songs that use the ‘ing’ form. For when it all gets too much but you know you should still be working.

English Verbs: Infinitive vs -ing. from LindsayDoesLanguages on 8tracks Radio.

So, over to you, what baffles you in English? What would you like me to explain to you? Would you like video explanations over on YouTube? Let me know in the comments!

World Cinema Club

Guess what? I want a way to connect better with you. Yes, you! I considered a book group but we’re all studying and speaking different languages so that’s a bit tricky. But then one day, I was on the cross-trainer (my prime foreign film viewing time) and I had an idea: let’s watch films together! Let’s start a World Cinema Club!

It’s pretty simple really. I’ll tell you mid-month what the film will be for the following month to give you a chance to buy it, download it, find it on Netflix or however else it’s possible to watch a film nowadays and then at the end of the next month, I’ll post a blog asking some questions to get us all chatting! What do you think?

Given my current need to fill my brain with French, I tossed and turned between a hefty selection of my French film favourites and eventually came to a decision I’m happy with!
delicatessen lindsay does languages blog Delicatessen. Have you seen it? It’s a film from way back in 1991 when I was still wearing nappies and definitely not speaking French. It’s Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s first feature length film – you know the guy that brought us Amelie – so it should prove interesting!

Even if you don’t study French, you’re totally welcome to get involved! Just find yourself a copy and watch in French (with or without subtitles – no pressure!). You’ve got all month and there’s no set date to watch the film by. Even if you haven’t got around to it by the time I post the discussion blog post at the end of September then no worries! Just bookmark the post until you’ve seen it and then join in the conversation!

I’m looking forward to watching lots of lovely foreign films with you all!

Will you be watching this month? Have you already seen Delicatessen? Do you have any suggestions for future films we could watch? Let me know in the comments!

Reading in French

Free time is normally 5 minutes before heading to bed, a few minutes waiting for the kettle to boil or brushing teeth. Brushing my teeth is my least favourite thing that you have to do daily. I hate it. Don’t get me wrong – I still do it! Just don’t ever ask me to watch a film when there’s a scene of someone brushing their teeth. I’ll curl up in crippling sound pain. Ew.

Anyway, some would call this dead time. I like to keep it alive and make it useful. So to make it bearable I tend to read something while I brush, boil or bed. Normally, it’s a travel guide with pretty maps that don’t take too much attention or brain power, but lately, what with my quest to beat university French ‘n’ all, it’s my LaRousse guides to conjugation and grammar. That’s right, I live on the edge, my friends.

Last week I wrote all about what I’m doing to improve my listening in French, this week: reading. Here goes!

LaRousse Grammar Guides

laRousse grammar and conjugation guide books lindsay does languages blog
These are currently residing no further than 3 foot away from me at all times. Or so it seems. They’re grammar and conjugation guides (no surprises there then) but they’re actually in French.

There’s two bonuses there. Number 1, I’m getting more exposure to French. Number 2, it’s aimed at French people who have French people problems when they speak French. So all the nitty gritty that doesn’t normally appear in your average grammar book? Right there! Yay!

Lingua.ly

lingua.ly app lindsay does languages blog
This one tends to be the “I’ve finished my Memrise session so I deserve a little treat” reading. Like I said, I’m living on the edge. Lingua.ly is an app that presents you with articles based on words you’ve told Lingua.ly you find difficult on previous visits to Lingua.ly. Lingua.ly, Lingua.ly, Lingua.ly. Does the word mean anything anymore? It starts you off with “cat” and “dog”, or at least, it did me. Pretty useful as it’s super quick to use. Yay!

Actual Hardcore Reasearch

open french book lindsay does languages blog
a.k.a Proper Reading. Yes, pure, educational reading in the form of research. Ok, so I haven’t got there quite yet. But, I’m very close! This week, my plan is to finish my entire course during the evenings. By Friday, it’ll be done. (This means no video this week – sorry guys!). I normally do the majority of my study at the weekend but it’s my birthday on Sunday so there’ll be none of that this weekend. However, as of next week, proper reading research will commence. Yay…?

Word Lens

When I’m bored and I really can’t be bothered to do any reading in French, I Word Lens it. Just for fun. And if I notice something Word Lens doesn’t then bonus! What the heck-a-roo is Word Lens, I head you cry? Well, it just so happens I made a nifty video explaining all last week. Shameless plug? I think so.

What do you use to help to improve your reading in foreign languages? Let me know in the comments!

What is WordLens?

When people know you have a passion, you tend to get big news about your passion coming to you from all over the place! A few months ago it was this video, lately it’s WordLens. I like this by the way – please keep telling me language news!

What is WordLens?

WordLens is a (currently) free app which aims to translate signs in foreign languages before your eyes. The initial release in 2010 saw a lot of media attention, however the much more recent purchase of the App by Google has reignited interest.

It sounds way to good to be true, right? This is 2014 not 3014! No technology can do that! Or can it?

I couldn’t resist trying this out on my recent trip to Vienna. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it struggled and sometimes it made us laugh. A lot. As a language lover, I’m inevitably going to be critical of any machine that claims to translate and although WordLens still has a long way to go and a lot of potential growth, there’s no way you can deny that it isn’t amazing.

You may have already seen my favourite translation over on Instagram? Genuine bulging…hmm…!

Take a look at the results in the video below and subscribe on YouTube for regular video updates!

Have you tried out WordLens? What did you think? Do you think computer translation will ever be as capable as a human? Let me know in the comments!

Listening To French

Lately I’ve been listening to lots of French! In the car, at my desk, on a horse. Well, the last one’s not true. But you get the idea. I wanted to share with you today the ways I’m listening to French, most of which can be swapped over to other languages too!

At My Desk

This is where most of the listening I do takes place. I love listening to French playlists, some of which I’ve made over on 8tracks for each and every mood, which I have discretely embedded in this post for your listening pleasure.

See, discreet, huh? But sometimes, I also like to just listen to words in the background. I find France Culture to be one of the best for this because they tend to just talk and talk.

In The Car

I mentioned in my recent post about my latest Language Quest to beat university French how I’ve found a French radio station on an AM channel in my car. This is great but sometimes there’s a really lame buzzing in the background and so I have to turn it up really loud to hear them and then the buzzing just gets louder. If the French AM radio station is having a buzzing day, I’ve got my MP3 player fully charged with a nice mix of Stromae and co. That said, I have found a site with some great French audiobooks. I’ll put one on in the car this week and update you on how that goes.

In my free time

“Free time? HA.” Everyone’s reaction to being told to do something in your free time, right? That’s why you have to take advantage of the little 5 minutes here and there! My favourite way to do that right now is with Norman. No, I’m not talking about the ginger boy from Fireman Sam. Norman Fait Des Videos is one of my favourite YouTube channels. He is awesome! If you’ve not seen him, the video below with English subtitles is a good place to start.

There’s loads of other little things I’m doing right now to improve my general French level but that’s about it on the listening front. What works for you when you’re listening in a foreign language? Do you prefer music or words? Active or passive listening? I’d love to know in the comments!

How Every Memrise Session Goes Ever.

Memrise has to be one of the greatest language learning tools to surface in recent years. But I’m beginning to notice a slight pattern to my Memrise sessions…

Seeing that little red icon telling you just how much you have to do for weeks.

image (10) memrise lindsay does languages blog Gulp.

Finally feeling motivated enough to do it. All of it.

image (11) memrise lindsay does languages blog Yeah! Yeah! YEAH!

Then this happens.

image (12) memrise lindsay does languages blog Dang it.

So you start watering the course most in need and have the water line super close to the end for what feels like 34 more rounds.

image (2) memrise lindsay does languages blog Almost there!

Of course, you’re getting the first word of a long phrase wrong. Inevitably. Delete, delete, delete.

image (1) memrise lindsay does languages blog LE! LE contrat!

Next thing you know, you’re missing the accent at the start of a word. Delete, delete, delete.

image (3) memrise lindsay does languages blog Should’ve known.

Then your fat fingers get the better of you, meaning you have to repeat a word you actually know over and over.

image (5) memrise lindsay does languages blog Curse you oversized fingers and undersized screens!

When you’re really getting into the swing of it, all of a sudden, you get the most random meme.

image (6) memrise lindsay does languages blog Whaaa?

Followed by the most amazing.

image (1) memrise lindsay does languages blog Genius. Why can’t Terry Wogan be in every meme?

And before you know it, you’re accidentally starting a new level because you end up getting so engrossed.

image (7) memrise lindsay does languages blog LOVE this.

Then you’re thinking, “Ok, now is the time to stop.”

image (8) memrise lindsay does languages blog 38. I can live with that.

Before long, you’re seeing that little red icon still glaring back at you. How many words can there be in the world?!

image (10) memrise lindsay does languages blog Ok, red icon the battle is on.

And you do it all again because you just love languages. Go Memrise!

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