Tag: Phonetics

Life as a lectrice in France (Part II!)

It’s four years now since Fiona Mears completed her BA Hons in English and French at Stirling, and two years since she did her MSc in TESOL with us. The intervening period has seen Fiona working at a Language School in Edinburgh and taking up a post as a lectrice (ie an English Language Assistant) at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon back in Autumn 2015. Having been asked to stay on for a second year, Fiona is continuing to juggle the University-level teaching with work in a local Language School and has sent us an update on her adventures in France and in language teaching:

2016-fiona-mears-update-photo-nov16“Life continues in Besançon much as I left it in April, but with one major change: my two closest friends from last year have left, so my social life has taken quite a hit! Between seeing friends who are still here, though, and juggling my two jobs, I’m kept pretty busy. The new semester at the university got underway in September without any hitches and work resumed as normal at the language school after my five-month absence. At the university, things have been easier this time around. I’m teaching many of the same classes as last year, meaning that I know what I’m doing, much of the material is already prepared and I knew a lot of my students from last year which, if nothing else, was a blessing as it meant I didn’t have as many new names to learn. After the mild panic of having to teach it last year, phonetics is a breeze this semester. Even ‘transversal’ classes – language classes for non-specialists – are going more smoothly because I know what works well in the brochure and what to adapt. The only disappointment is that I don’t teach my favourite class from last year: 3rd year listening comprehension and oral expression. You win some, you lose some!

At the language school, too, I’m finding that lesson preparation comes more naturally and takes less time. I can reuse material from last year and, with experience, preparing new resources has become much easier. Back in September, I also started to ‘work’ with a lovely family, tutoring two teenagers in English once a week. I say ‘tutoring’: both of them speak almost perfect English having lived in the UK for a few years, so my role is to help them maintain their level. I go to their house, chat to each of them for a while and then stay for dinner. To be honest, I see it more as socialising than working!

2016-fiona-mears-update-maison-blanche-nov16

Teaching at the university finishes at the beginning of December, so I have just a couple of weeks to go. After that, I’ll have some invigilation to do, speaking exams to help with and I’ll be working at the language school right up until I head home for Christmas. I have a friend coming to visit in December, so our plan is to soak up the festive atmosphere by indulging in a spot of Christmas market hopping before flying home together on the 18th for a much-needed break.”

Thanks once again to Fiona for this update and enjoy the well-earned Christmas break when it comes!

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From phonetics to creative writing: life as a lectrice

Since she graduated from her first degree in English Studies and French back in 2012, we’ve been pleased to get updates from French at Stirling graduate, Fiona Mears, on where her degree has taken her. As Fiona prepares to set off for a second year as a lectrice in France, we’ve asked her to tell us what life has been like in her first year in the job:

‘After working at a language school in Edinburgh over summer 2015, I embarked on my next adventure in France, this time as a lectrice at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon. Having taught teenagers in various educational settings, I felt ready for the new challenge of working with older students – at both undergrad and postgrad level – and teaching areas of language that I had never tackled before.

2016 Mears Lectrice photo I

I have enjoyed the opportunity to work across a range of modules, from oral expression and phonetics to creative writing and translation. Although daunting at first, creative writing ended up being one of the most enjoyable classes to teach. The primary guidelines were such: get them to write. The freedom to think outside the box allowed me to plan lessons which encouraged students to have fun with language and to really use their imagination. My students didn’t disappoint when it came to the latter, making for some interesting reading come marking time!

Never having studied it myself, phonetics proved more troublesome. The first weeks of my phonetics learning/teaching experience were spent being spoon-fed information and desperately hoping that students wouldn’t ask too many questions in class. But I soon got the hang of it and in the process learnt a valuable skill for any language teacher.

2016 Mears Lectrice photo II

As in all jobs, though, there were some tricky situations and system-related difficulties to navigate. Most of my gripes stem from the policy of not preselecting students, the direct outcome of which being that the attitude and behaviour of certain students is, to say the least, not what you would expect at higher education. Organisational anomalies can also prove frustrating, as can the infamous French bureaucracy. That said, the positive aspects of the job far outweigh the negatives, so much so that I jumped at the offer to return to the post for a second year beginning next month.

Never one to allow myself too much free time, I also worked for a local language school throughout the year teaching business English to professionals. I quickly discovered that going out to companies and working with adults in a non-educational context brings its own challenges and rewards, and provides a welcome change to the standard classroom environment. The one downside to being kept so busy is that I was unable to travel as much as I would have liked during the year, but there will be plenty time for that when I finish up next April. For now, I’m making the most of my last weeks in Scotland before heading back to France to pick up where I left off.’

We look forward to more updates (and some postcards…) from Fiona in the future and wish her all the best for her second year at UFC!