Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to becoming a French teacher?
I was born in Paris but I’m not a real Parisian since my family moved every 2 or 3 years. As an adult, I kept the rythm going for a while… until I found a way to bring diversity to me by opening a French school in the most beautiful city in the world. My background is in the communications and education fields. I worked as a consultant, an educator, a coach and a language teacher – in Paris and New York.
How did you become a teacher?
In my career, I was always focused on two things: language and learning theories. I’m very interested in these questions : how we make sense (or not) and what we manage to convey through language; how we learn new things and implement them in our daily functioning (a new language for example)…As a linguist by training and having practiced extensively in coaching, Montessori eduction and differentiated instruction, becoming a French teacher was a perfect way to combine these two interests in my daily work.
How did you transition from being a teacher to opening a school in the Marais? What are the challenges of running a school? And the joys?
Before I opened Lalangue Paris, I taught regular size groups (8 to 15/20 people) in various schools. But, as a teacher, beyond a certain number of people in front of you, it’s nearly impossible to really listen to individual difficulties and remember them for later coverage. And, to me, teaching makes much less sense if you can’t do that.
So I started Lalangue Paris and created small group courses of around 4 students to be able to really focus on each person. Everybody has his/her own way to learn. It’s not only about a level. Within the same group, people can be very different in terms of what kind of activities and instruction they need to progress and communicate efficiently in French.
How does Lalangue Paris differ from other language schools in Paris.
Lalangue Paris offers very small group classes at a reasonable price. Our groups are 3 to 6 people maximum and most of the time it’s 4. Meaning the content and the progression of a course is not simply based on participants’ level, it is tailor-made for each group. And, each person can, at the same time, contribute to a group objective collaboratively and work on his/her personal difficulties by taking the time to ask questions and make mistakes – all which the teacher is actually able to listen to and correct.
We also make sure to help our students find a class that fits their lives well, as this is the first condition for successful learning. On their first visit to the school we evaluate their level, discuss the best approach and advise the right program: they can choose an intensive class of 10 hours per week or join a less intensive program of 4 hours per week, or they can take private classes.
Are there any common characteristics among your pupils?
Not really in terms of origins, age or professions. And that’s good because diversity is key in a group : the more diverse the mistakes, the richer the learning.
The common thread is their desire to learn; they all have different motivations and experiences, but in class everyone supports each other. They are all in it together. They want to speak and practice as much as possible during class and they want to know that the teacher is carefully listening to them and will provide corrections and explanations.
They also have an interest in knowing how the language works. They notice things like: “hmm so in French you have “que” and “quoi”… in my language we use mostly the same word”… Those connections are gems: they are what makes learning stick in time. And that is more likely to happen when you have the space and the time of a very small group.
What are the biggest challenges you see expatriates facing when learning French?
Probably the pronunciation and finding opportunities to speak and practice outside the classroom. That goes for a lot of expatriates who don’t work in a French environment.
If you could offer one piece of advice what would it be?
Expose yourself to French as much as possible (movies, podcasts, reading, TV cooking shows, eavesdropping on the train…) Anything really.
Interviewed by Kevin Knight