13 Nov

LES PRÉPARATIONS

Hier était une journée chargée! Peut-être contrairement à certains (ou beaucoup!) d’entre vous, chers amis et lecteurs, je ne déteste pas les lundis. Jusqu’à présent, grâce à la générosité de mes gentils étudiants, j’ai réussi à garder le premier jour de la semaine de travail libre de leçons, ce qui me donne le temps de mettre la touche finale à la semaine à venir, en préparant des articles pour le blog, des infographies pour Instagram et, comme c’était le cas hier, en pensant au Salon de la France 2019.

Preparations.    Yesterday was a busy day! Perhaps contrary to some (or many!) of you, dear friends and readers, I do not hate Mondays. So far, due to my lovely students’ generosity, I have managed to keep the first day of the working week free of lessons, which gives me the time to put the finishing touches to the week to come, preparing blog posts, Instagram infographics and, as was the case yesterday, thinking of the France Show 2019.

Prenant place pendant le dernier week-end de janvier à Olympia à Londres, j’espère être en mesure de rencontrer beaucoup d’entre vous pendant ces trois jours fabuleux. Et afin de faire une super bonne première impression, je prépare de nouveaux posters et panneaux pour informer les gens qui s’approchent de mon stand de ce à quoi ils peuvent s’attendre de la part d’ALK: 4 livres à la vente, de bonnes leçons sur Skype ou en cuisine, et pas mal de flexibilité, ce qui rend l’apprentissage du français plus facile.

Taking place during the last weekend of January at Olympia in London, I hope to be able to meet a lot of you during those fabulous three days. And in order to offer a great first impression, I am preparing new posters and banners to let people approaching my stand know what they can expect from ALK: 4 books for sale, great lessons on Skype or in the kitchen, and a great deal of flexibility, making learning French that much easier.

Pendant le Salon, j’apparaîtrai aussi (avec un peu de chance), sur le forum language et voyage chaque jour, pour offrir aux visiteurs des conseils sur l’apprentissage à travers une présentation marrante et interactive. Alors s’il vous plaît, si vous avez des conseils que vous aimeriez me donner pour mon public, n’hésitez pas à laisser un commentaire ou à me faire signe sur Twitter. Je recherche des petits trucs qui ont marché pour vous, de l’acquisition du vocabulaire aux opportunités de parler, en passant par des activités amusantes.

During the Show, I will also (hopefully) appear on the language and travel forum each day, to offer visitors tips on language learning through a fun and interactive presentation. So please, if you have any tips you’d like to offer me and my audience, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch on Twitter. I am looking for little tricks that have worked for you, from vocabulary acquisition through to practice opportunities, via fun activities.

Me préparer pour le Salon m’a aussi beaucoup fait réfléchir sur ALK, et ma présence sur les médias sociaux, qui est, comme vous le savez, la façon que j’ai choisi (et que je peux me permettre) pour me faire de la pub. Je dois admettre que je suis curieux de vous lire à ce sujet également: que pensez-vous de la façon dont ALK est représenté sur toutes ses plateformes? Pensez-vous recevoir assez de mises à jour et d’information sur ce que fait Monsieur tALK? Sa page Instagram vous est-elle utile? J’ai hâte de vous lire, les gens, alors n’hésitez pas à m’écrire quelques lignes.

Preparing for the Show also made me think about ALK, and my presence on social media, which is, as you know, how I choose (and can afford) to advertise my business. I have to admit that I am curious to hear from you on this front, too: what do you think of the way ALK is portrayed on all its platforms? Do you think you receive enough updates and information about what Monsieur tALK is up to? Is his Instagram feed useful to you? I look forward to read what you think, people, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

09 Jan

Good resolutions

A new year has just started, and I don’t particularly want to reflect on how quickly the old one went by! That said, 2017 did bring a few good things not only to me personally, but also to ALK. First of all, there were funny, moving, hilarious, sad, informative, and important moments with friends and family, wonderful new discoveries near home and further afield, during fabulous holidays, cruises and outings.

Then, there were my students, and my lessons with them. Each one of these lessons stands out to me, because they are all unique and never to be repeated. This is what makes them so special, and working with my students a real pleasure. Whatever their goal is, I take pride in helping them reach it and, more often than not, set new ones.

Which brings me to the crux of this post. It is this time of the year when a lot of us take resolutions, some to fall by the wayside after a few days, others that will transform our lives. If your New Year resolution is to improve your language skills, rekindle your love for all things French or simply find someone to chat to, I can help!

Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and the sheer variety you, dear friends, students and readers, bring to my life is simply amazing. So I look forward to meeting you at the France Show at the end of the month, or speaking to you on the telephone or via email. All the details are on this website. So go on, treat yourself to some lessons and come find out how good you can be!

 

DES BONNES RÉSOLUTIONS

Une nouvelle année vient de commencer, et je ne veux pas particulièrement penser à quelle vitesse l’ancienne est passée! Cela dit, 2017 a apporté quelques bonnes choses non seulement personnellement, mais aussi pour ALK. Premièrement, il y a eu des moments heureux, émouvants, marrants, tristes, instructifs et importants avec ma famille et mes amis, de magnifiques découvertes près de chez moi et un peu plus loin, pendant de fabuleuses vacances, croisières et sorties.

Et puis il y a mes étudiants, et mes leçons avec eux. Je me souviens de chacune de ces leçons, parce qu’elles sont toutes uniques et ne seront jamais répétées. C’est ce qui les rend spéciales, et travailler avec mes étudiants un pur plaisir. Quel que soit leur but, je suis fier de les aider à l’atteindre et, aussi souvent que possible, à en fixer de nouveaux.

Ce qui m’amène au coeur de cet article. C’est l’époque de l’année où de nombreux d’entre nous prennent des résolutions, dont certaines sont abandonnées après quelques jours, alors que d’autres transformeront nos vies. Si votre résolution pour la nouvelle année est d’améliorer vos compétences linguistiques, d’attiser votre amour pour tout ce qui est français ou de tout simplement trouver quelqu’un pour causer, je peux vous aider!

La diversité est l’épice de la vie, comme on dit, et la pure diversité que vous, chers amis, étudiants et lecteurs, apportez à ma vie est simplement époustouflante. Alors j’ai hâte de vous rencontrer au France Show à la fin du mois, ou de vous parler au téléphone ou par email. Tous les détails sont sur ce site. Alors allez-y, payez-vous quelques leçons et venez découvrir à quel point vous êtes doués!

13 Jun

I like to help

My students are all very different, and more importantly, all have very different backgrounds and a different sort of motivation pushing them to learn or practise French. The only thing they have in common is that they have chosen me to help them with this particular task.

Some of them want to get the basics right, others wish to concentrate on forming tenses and getting to grips with complicated grammar points, while a few of my students simply want to gain confidence and chat.

Whatever the reasons for which they contact me, I thank them profusely. First of all, of course, because they allow me to teach, to work, to have a purpose, and to earn a living. Second, their motivation is a joy to behold and a wonderful tool that allows them to make progress. It is also highly contagious.

And this is where L comes in. I first ‘met’ L. on Twitter, after she posted a question regarding her Open University course. She was very clear: whilst her reading and writing skills greatly improved under OU study, she felt the need to take her listening and speaking skills in her own hands, as must do all foreign language learners.

Of course, music, TV programmes and films are great to improve comprehension, and these days they are all easily available. The difficulty sometimes lies in finding the right person to talk with. L’s point was that she was looking for a native speaker to help her gain confidence in her already impressive skills (my assessment and opinion!).

Which is where I come in: her assessment of the situation is that I am particularly well placed to help her. As a native speaker and a qualified teacher, I bring my expertise, clarity and rigour to the table, to be mixed with her motivation and enthusiasm. Our first lesson is Friday. I will let you know how it went soon!

 

J’AIME AIDER

 

Mes élèves sont tous très différents, et, de façon plus importante, diffèrent tous en matière de motivation et de contexte, qui les poussent à apprendre ou pratiquer le français. La seule chose qu’ils ont en commun est qu’ils m’ont choisi pour les aider dans cette tâche particulière. Certains veulent couvrir les bases, d’autres souhaitent se concentrer sur la formation des temps et maîtriser des points de grammaire compliqués, alors que quelques uns de mes élèves veulent simplement causer en prenant confiance.

Quelles que soient les raisons qui les poussent à me contacter, je les en remercie du fond du coeur. En tout premier lieu, bien sûr, car ils me laissent enseigner, travailler, me donnent un but et de quoi vivre. Ensuite, leur motivation est une joie, et un superbe outil qui leur permet de faire des progrès. C’est aussi super contagieux.

Et c’est là qu’entre en scène L. J’ai ‘rencontré’ L pour la première fois sur Twitter, suivant une question au sujet d’une de ses classes à l’Open University. Elle fut d’emblée très claire: pendant que la lecture et l’écriture deviennent plus faciles en étudiant avec l’OU, elle sentait le besoin de s’occuper elle-même des exercises d’écoute et de conversation, comme doivent le faire tous ceux qui apprennent une langue étrangère.

Bien sûr, la music, les programmes télé et les films sont super pour améliorer sa compréhension, et ces jours-ci sont assez faciles à trouver. La difficulté vient quelquefois de trouver la bonne personne à qui parler. Ce que L voulait dire était qu’elle cherchait un français pur beurre pour l’aider à prendre confiance en ses dons déjà impressionnants (mon jugement et mon opinion!).

Et c’est là que j’arrive: de la façon dont elle voit la situation, je suis particulièrement bien placé pour l’aider. En tant que Français de naissance et prof assermenté, j’apporte compétence, clarté et rigueur, prêtes à se mêler à sa motivation et à son enthousiasme. Notre première leçon est vendredi. Je vous dirai bientôt comment ça c’est passé!

11 Jan

The joys of the countryside

Arnaud’s Language Kottage has now been my home for over six months, and I am loving every minute of it. You find me typing this blog entry in front of a roaring fire in the log burner, a hot chocolate by my side, after a long wintery walk through fields and woods, and a shared bottle of champagne and nibbles with our neighbours.

Some of my ‘friends’ were very quick to let me know, in no uncertain terms, that the long awaited move from London to a more rural location was never going to happen, but I am so glad to have proven them wrong. Other friends celebrated with me and have now been to the cottage and have loved it, remarking that it was ideal for me at this moment in time.

And I have to agree with them. As previously stated in this blog, I love seeing a lot of green, even in winter, and the foggy, damp or grey days have not affected me as much as they would have in London. In fact, I would go as far as saying that they haven’t affected me at all… The long walks, new neighbours and general friendliness of the area simply make me happy!

Of course, I have lost some of my London clients, who liked coming to my kitchen for their lessons, but I have retained my students on Skype, who still enjoy the same relaxed sessions with me. Of course, I also hope to find some more students to join me in my new home, between Henley-on-Thames and Marlow, for French baking sessions, or simply for face-to-face tuition.

Since it is this time of year again, why not make it your resolution for 2017 to learn, improve or practise your French? I’ll tell you what: if you get in touch with me from this very website before the end of February and quote the word ‘RESOLUTION’, I’ll give you 15% off a 10 hour course… Go on, what are you waiting for?

 

LES JOIES DE LA CAMPAGNE

Voilà bientôt six mois qu’Arnaud’s Language Kottage est mon petit chez-moi, et chaque minute qui passe est un délice. Vous me trouvez en train d’écrire ce blog devant un bon feu dans le poêle, un chocolat chaud à mes côtés, après une longue promenade hivernale à travers champs et bois, et une bouteille de champagne partagée avec les voisins autour de quelques canapés.

Quelques uns de mes ‘amis’ n’ont pas perdu de temps à me dire, en termes plutôt directs, que le déménagement tant attendu de Londres pour une destination plus rurale ne se ferait jamais, mais je suis tellement content de les avoir fait mangé leurs mots. D’autres ont célébré avec moi, sont même déjà venus au cottage, et l’adorent, ayant fait la remarque que c’est l’endroit idéal pour moi en ce moment précis.

Et je dois bien avouer que je suis d’accord avec eux. Comme je vous l’ai déjà dit dans ce blog, j’aime voir tout ce vert, même en hiver, et les journées pleines de brouillard, humides et grises ne m’ont pas fait le même effet que si j’avais été à Londres. En fait, j’irais même jusqu’à dire qu’elles ne m’ont pas affecté du tout… Les longues promenades, nouveaux voisins et l’amabilité locale me rendent tout simplement heureux!

Bien sûr, j’ai perdu certains de mes clients londoniens, qui aimaient venir me voir dans ma cuisine pour leurs leçons, mais j’ai gardé mes étudiants sur Skype, qui apprécient toujours les mêmes leçons décontractées. Bien sûr, j’espère trouver quelques élèves prêts à me rejoindre dans ma nouvelle demeure, entre Henley-on-Thames et Marlow, pour des leçons de pâtisserie en français, ou tout simplement des cours en face-à-face.

Puisque c’est derechef cette époque de l’année, pourquoi ne pas faire de votre résolution pour 2017 d’apprendre, améliorer ou pratiquer votre français? J’vais vous dire quelque chose: si vous me faites signe à partir de ce site même avant la fin février en mentionnant le mot ‘RESOLUTION’, je vous ferai 15% de réduction sur une séance de 10 leçons… Allez, qu’attendez-vous donc?

07 Oct

Another guest!

Dear friends and readers, we have another guest on the blog. I asked the very clever, über tech-savvy and all-round fab man that is Rob to tell us about his experiences as a language learner, and after you read his wonderful piece, you will want to watch his vlog or contact him on Twitter… Here he is :

 

Being asked to write a blog as a non-blogger is a little difficult. Yes I create video content but it’s mainly an escape from my bad spelling and punctuation, plus it also enables me to ramble. The written word is something I have always loved but never been too eloquent with.

So enough of the excuses, I suppose I should get down to my story. Who am I? Well my name is Rob, and I am a self confessed language learner. I have been learning French now for over 2 years and although I am not yet to a level that I could call fluent, I am quietly confident that if dropped into the middle of a French speaking nation I could make myself understood.

My love of language started as a small child, one of my first memories of being fascinated with language was sitting in the Happy Eater (a very cheap 80s restaurant in the UK) and pretending to speak in a foreign tongue. This is something that carried through my childhood and I remember loving to listen to languages I couldn’t understand although I didn’t really know why.

Then I started high school at 12, and started having German lessons. Unfortunately this is where my story takes a dive, as because of low self image and lack of self belief, I thought, and had been told, that I was pretty bad at English, and so when difficulty hit I was never one to push through. I just gave up.

Now my English was always on the low side, the education system at that time in the UK taught nothing of basic grammar and then when grammar was discussed in English it was something I always thought was well over my head.

This all worked against me when it came to learning German! When you are taught a language, things have to be explained and those things are normally explained via grammar terms. So I fell right back into the black hole of “I don’t understand because I am stupid”. Truly believing I would never understand I started to flounder and unfortunately I missed out on a great opportunity to learn German.

So what happened? What changed? Well I grew up. I realised the things I believed about myself were not true and, because I am actually quite a logical person I reasoned that I could actually do it and would like to… So after a few dips into other things like BSL, Greek and Hebrew I finally took up the challenge of French.

Other than being able to count to 10, I had no knowledge really of French, but I started out on the intrepid adventure! 2 years later I have learned more than French, not only did I get a stronger base in the dreaded grammar, I actually found that it was one of the most fascinating things about the language learning process.

So what are my reasons for learning? If you follow anyone with an interest in language learning or someone who has learnt one or more languages, they will tell you that motivation and persistence is what makes your language learning successful, and I would have to agree. My motivation started as the dislike of the apathy for language that most English speakers have. There is a very big case of “well, the world speaks English, so why should I learn x”. This ignorance really saddens me and so what’s the best way to do something about that? Well it’s to do something about it yourself.

After that initial feeling, I love learning about cultures, I love the fun of idioms and grammar. I love food, I also love realising why people who have learnt English sometimes say things in what seems to be a strange way. Using one’s own grammar structures in a new language always brings a smile to my face and really shows how the brain is hardwired in its native tongue.

Language learning is part of my soul now, I have big plans to learn as many as I can for as long as I can – I’m not looking to become the best polyglot on the planet, but I am looking to grow in knowledge and understanding of people and cultures and to hopefully inspire people into learning new languages by showing them that if I can do it, anyone can.

We live in a vastly colourful world of expression, through our advanced tool of language. And what an amazing place to explore!

03 Oct

A very special guest!

Dear friends and readers, this week, I have a treat for you. I have convinced a dear friend of mine to write a little something for you from the point of you of a lover of languages and student of French. So without further ado, I give you A Polyglot Mum:

So here I am, sitting on the sofa at the A Polyglot Mum headquarters, writing a guest piece for the formidable Arnaud, whom I met over Twitter and has, over the last few months, become a firm friend and mentor, not to mention my Skype French conversation teacher.  It is a privilege for me to write for Arnaud in my capacity of languages student but I have to admit I am wracking my brains nervously to be remotely interesting so not to send you all to sleep, but perhaps it’s too late for that anyway!

So I’m Leila, and as my blog by-line says, I’m a mother, language learner and coffee drinker… I might have to put geek on the end of that, as am also currently going through a Star Wars-athon with the kids!

Languages have always been a passion for me, ever since I started learning French in secondary school way back when. Although I grew up bilingual speaking Farsi and English at home, I never really had too much exposure to European languages (although I knew who Alain Delon was!) and most of my time was taken up studying pianoforte from a very young age. There was no time for anything else. French was the first language I was introduced to in school and although I knew the usual words such as bonjour and au revoir, I promptly fell in love with it after hearing the musical nuances and beauty more and more in each word.

A year later, we also began learning German and that was it. Languages had burrowed their way into my heart and I went on to do the usual standard G.C.S.E. exams and at that point I would have gone on to A level but my parents made a big life decision and we moved… to America.

After a senior year studying Spanish over there, things took a different turn. I loved languages, yes, but there wasn’t really a huge push for anyone to learn them over there and so because I didn’t carry on, when I returned to the U.K. a few years later, I made a few decisions that changed my path (and my major to biochemistry) but not ones I regret at all, because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone that way.

Fast forward a few decades and the usual life situations, I found myself at a point where I could finally devote some time to doing something I wanted to do. I tried my hand at a few different things. Food is also a passion of mine but having had my whole life embroiled in the restaurant family business; it wasn’t something I was going to commit to. The children were now old enough to entertain themselves and after much soul searching, I decided to get back into learning languages. Of course French would be on the list, I had managed to speak a little each time I visited France over the years so there was no question there and after a few conversations with the Open University, it was decided I would take Spanish as well.

I began reading for my degree in 2012 and chose The Open University for premium distance learning, and am now studying my final French module alongside Upper Intermediate Spanish. Because I am a little insane, I also sometimes study a bit of Dutch, but only sometimes, as spare TIME has become a very valuable commodity.

So there you have it, in a couple of years, I will have made the achievement of a lifetime, for me anyway, but there are so many more languages to learn too…Who knows? Maybe German and Italian will be next!

15 Dec

A dream lesson

It will have taken me a long time to write about this experience, but I really wanted to do it justice, so I waited a little while to tell you about it. A few months ago, I received a real treat for my birthday: dinner at the wonderful Angela Hartnett’s Murano restaurant. I will not detail the menu, perfect from start to finish, and served by a friendly and attentive team. Being my birthday, I even received a kiss from the chef-patron herself.

This being a present in itself, it isn’t what I would like to tell you about: I was also delighted to be given a place in what happened to be the last of the master classes Angela is to give for a while. So on a beautiful Sunday, I met my fellow students at the restaurant, where the celebrated chef taught us the art of pasta making (delicious spinach and ricotta tortellini), how to properly fillet a fish (sea bream to die for) and a fool-proof recipe for tarte tatin. We of course enjoyed it all, paired with delicious wines, with our invited guests.

Angela’s warmth, charm and expertise were on show that day, and she lavished all of us with so much attention that we all felt we learnt a lot more than just how to cook the dishes we prepared. Yes, the food was delicious (even if I say so myself!), the staff attentive and helpful, the setting utterly exquisite; but, as always, the main reason this lesson was a success was the teacher herself. Definitely serious about her craft, yet down to earth and a natural with her students, Angela (I hope she will forgive me the familiarity) is a great chef, a great teacher, and a great person.

So when’s the next master class?

UNE LEÇON DE REVE

Me décider à écrire à propos de cette expérience m’aura pris un petit moment, mais je voulais vraiment lui faire justice, alors j’ai attendu un peu pour tout vous dire. Il y a quelque mois, j’ai reçu un super cadeau d’anniversaire sous la forme d’un dîner à Murano, le restaurant de la superbe Angela Hartnett. Je ne vous décrirai pas le menu en detail, parfait du début à la fin, et servi par un personnel attentive et amical. Et vu que c’était mon anniversaire, j’ai même reçu la bise de la chef-patron elle-même.

Ce repas étant un vrai cadeau, ça n’est pas ce dont je voulais vous parler: j’ai également eu la chance d’obtenir une place dans ce qui se révéla être la dernière classe donnée par Angela, du moins pour un petit bout de temps. Alors en ce beau dimanche, j’ai retrouvé les autres étudiants au restaurant, où la célèbre chef nous a appris l’art de faire des pâtes (des tortellinis au ricotta et épinards délicieux), comment fileter un poisson proprement (une daurade à tomber par terre) et une recette infaillible pour une tarte tatin. Nous avons bien sûr dégusté le tout, accompagnés de vins délicieux, avec nos invités.

La chaleureuse approche d’Angela, son charme et son art étaient tous en évidence ce jour-là, et elle nous a donné tellement de son temps que nous avons tous eu l’impression d’avoir appris beaucoup plus que de simplement cuisiner les plats que nous avions préparé. Bien sûr, la nourriture était délicieuse (même si c’est moi qui le dit!), le personnel attentif et présent, le décor tout simplement exquis; mais, comme d’habitude, la raison principale pour la réussite de cette leçon était la prof elle-même. Définitivement sérieuse au sujet de son art, et pourtant terre-à-terre et naturelle avec ses étudiants, Angela (j’espère qu’elle me pardonnera ma familiarité) et un grand chef, un super professeur et une grande dame.

Alors à quand la prochaine classe?