April 9, 2014, by Guest blog

Making connections in lots of different ways

Post written by Bethan Roberts.

Hello from a very sunny Chambéry! Life as a Language Assistant is going so quickly, and I will be leaving in just three weeks. It has been a very interesting seven months, with lots of new experiences and situations to deal with, and it is fair to say that I have made “connections” in lots of different ways.

Firstly, I think it is important to talk about the people that have been part of my experience as an Assistant in France. I have been lucky in that there is a group of very enthusiastic Language Assistants living in and around the Chambéry area, so before we even started work, we all met up and have had regular outings and social occasions together throughout the year. Although we mostly speak English when we are together, it has been very reassuring to be able to chat to people who are going through exactly the same process as me. Any worries about paperwork or pay or generally dealing with life in France we were able to discuss and work through together, and this has been really helpful.

Also, the team of teachers at my school are very friendly and I have really been welcomed into the school. Although it is a fairly small school, we often all eat lunch together, and even if I just listen to their rapid conversations in French without contributing I have found it useful just being there and being involved. I have also taken the opportunity to meet one of the teachers outside of school. I helped her with her preparations for an English exam and she in turn has helped me with my speaking and writing skills.

I am very happy that I decided to choose the Assistantship for the main part of my Year Abroad, and I was very fortunate to be placed in a bilingual school with a very high level of English, which has made my job a lot more interesting than just teaching basic vocabulary and grammar. Both my parents are teachers and I have always felt that that was the general direction that life was leading me. I think the Assistantship has been a wonderful opportunity to release the teacher in me, and to work out if it really is what I would like to do for the rest of my life……

In terms of my language skills, I think the Year Abroad experience has been invaluable in transferring everything I have learnt in the classroom to real life. At first, I was weirdly surprised at how well little phrases I had heard or written down in my vocab book actually fit into real life situations here in France. For example, I had read in my grammar book that the third person “on” can be used to mean “we” instead of “nous” but I had never actually used it in that way myself. Now, I use “on” all the time when talking about “us” and find it funny that I never realised how much easier and more natural it sounds.

When I first arrived in France, there were so many new words and little sayings that I didn’t really know how to react to, but now, having listened carefully, written them down and done some research on ‘Wordreference’, I can say that I have put the pieces together and can use them myself! Similarly with some more informal phrases and abbreviations that people use, such as “aprèm” for “après-midi” or when the children at school say “trop fac(e)” meaning that something is easy. To begin with I just had to smile and nod along, but gradually the pieces have fallen into place and things make sense to me!

I am going to enjoy my last few weeks as an Assistant and I’m sure that I will keep in touch with the school and the teachers after I have left. After spending so much time there and despite the ups and downs, I really do care about the children and their progress and it will be strange to think that everything will just carry on with a new Assistant next year whilst I am back in England!!

Posted in Making connections