First of all, I’m sorry for the gap between my last post and this one. I’ve been kept very busy by uni work, exams, my job and visit from the Bruce family!
I loved having my family here. I think Mum and Megan really liked seeing where I walk to the metro and where I go to buy bread and everyday things like that (amongst all the sightseeing, of course), and Megan stayed with me in my tiny wee studio which was a lot of fun! You’re welcome back any time, Megan!
We went up the Tour Montparnasse- if you want a view of Paris and can’t decide which tall structure to climb, go for this one! Not only is there no actual climbing involved (38 seconds in the fastest lift in Europe), it’s a wee bit cheaper than the Eiffel Tower and has much shorter queues. Best of all, you can see everything including all those other tall structures! The thing about going up the Eiffel Tower is that once you’re up it you’ve obviously lost the view of it. The Tour Montparnasse is nothing special to look at, but the view from the top is incredible.
The week before Mum, Dad and Megan visited I started working for a company called Babylangues who employ native English speakers to teach English to French children. Typically, you pick the child up from school and spend between two and three hours with them going about their daily routine and doing English language learning activities like songs, games and crafts. All communication has to be English and you’re to try to keep it a secret that you can speak French- this is really really hard! Babylangues provide workbooks and a teaching assignment every week but they still leave you with a lot of freedom to adapt your sessions to whatever you think will work best.
I started with a family with two children, an eight year old boy and a four year old girl (I’ll change their names for this and they can be Hugo and Lucie). They’re both absolutely adorable and they could totally be an advert for Gap Kids! The parents were lovely and really supportive, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out. Four year old Lucie was very difficult to handle, and on my second session she screamed and cried literally from the second I picked her up from school to when her Dad got home three hours later. Children start school at the age of three here and they have a really long school day, with no nap in her case, so I think she must have been absolutely exhausted after being in school for eight hours and the last thing she wanted to do was spend time with someone she couldn’t speak to!
On the first day I got started with the teaching assignments, which involved cutting and sticking bits into a scrapbook. At the training session Babylangues made it so clear that we had to look after these scrapbooks and not write directly in them. Within ten minutes Lucie had a tantrum and scribbled all over Hugo’s scrapbook, then all over her own thinking it was his. She then ran it under the tap to try to get the pen off and then screamed and threw it at me when she didn’t manage. I put her in her room to calm down, went back to continue the activity with Hugo and she stormed through and started tearing pages out of Hugo’s scrapbook…so the books aren’t looking as good as they should any more! Later that evening she grabbed a black felt tip and starting furiously scribbling over the rug in Hugo’s room but she didn’t stop when she got to her legs, scribbled all over her pyjama bottoms, then looked at it, looked at me and then just howled. Luckily her dad got in about fifteen minutes later, but not until after she’d managed to pull Hugo’s hair with such force that she fell backwards and hit her head on the bed. When her Dad got home she was screaming and crying, covered in felt tip pen and sporting the beginning of a bruise on her forehead. Not a great start.
I thought Lucie would get better but the following week she didn’t want to hold my hand walking home from school and so she bit me. She kicked me and spat on me, eventually turning our five minute journey into half an hour (all while Hugo waited patiently!). If I took a step she’d take off her raincoat and her jumper and throw them on the ground, if I went to pick them up she’d grab them off me and throw them on the ground, so I took another step and then she screamed and kicked, and this is how we eventually made it back!
Her behaviour got increasingly worse and after she bit me and scratched me again the following day I decided not to continue with them, which really is a shame as the family were very supportive and I really liked them! They clearly didn’t expect Lucie’s behaviour to be as bad as it was- they told me upfront she was quite ‘dynamic’ but they were genuinely so apologetic when they came home to Lucie screaming every night. When I spoke to Babylangues about the problems I was having they were very empathetic and agreed with my decision to stop working with the family. The point in working with Babylangues is that you are an English instructor, not an English speaking babysitter, and maybe it’s just not the right time for Lucie to be immersed in the English language! I did have some success when I played the Frozen soundtrack in English and she calmed down enough to listen to it, but then when she was in the bath she called me over all nice and friendly, then told me very clearly and very seriously ‘Lisa, tu es pas une princesse’ and then continued to shout it louder and louder while I tried to distract her with a rendition of ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’. Nobody can possibly be as creatively insulting as four year old Lucie is!
I had a first meeting with a new family a couple of days ago, just with one five year old boy (and a cat) this time. I start properly with them a week on Monday as it’s French school holidays at the moment. So keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!
I’ll wrap this up with a quick update on uni (you know, the real reason I’m here). We’re in week six of classes and I’ve had two midterm exams this week. One of them was on the history of linguistics, and it was two essay questions. Coming from the UK, it’s quite a different set up- Bernard just wrote the questions on the board in his cursive handwriting that all French people seem to have learned to write with (I find it so difficult to read, and this was my first fear when he starting writing on the board, that I literally wouldn’t be able to read the question, never mind understand it) and you used your own paper, so my pages of notes were literally the page before in my notebook. Definitely not as strict as I’m used to! I was allowed to use a dictionary since I’m an Erasmus student and he didn’t look at that either, nor did the teacher for the exam I had yesterday. The one yesterday was my French sociolinguistics class and the exam (which I’ve been told is 50% of my grade for the class) was twenty short questions and that was it! It was the best exam I’ve ever sat- so naturally, I’m now terrified for what the other 50% in December entails…it can’t be so straightforward, right?
I’m off to Barcelona this weekend for a reunion with Chloe and Anna and I am incredibly excited! Then I’ve got a visit from my lovely friend Martha before a week of more midterms!