A difference of opinion

What do you do when someone says something to you that is so foreign to your way of thinking that it’s offensive?

I just got back from a private lesson with Patrizio, who is back in France for another month or so, after having spent December at home in Milan. We were doing a class with conversation topics under the heading ‘Sex Sells’.

In case the name didn’t tip you off, the topics were all related to sex, and I find controversy is usually a good way to get people talking (though you do need to pick and choose your students carefully).

We’d been chatting for about 30 minutes when this topic came up:

What should the legal age be to have consensual sex?

Not too controversial – I said that in Australia the age is 16 so, as long as it’s consensual and one person doesn’t have authority over the other, then that’s fine. He said 18 for the same reasons, the only difference being that he said the legal age in Italy was 18.

The next topic was:

What should the legal age be to have consensual gay sex?

“I think never,” Patrizio said.

“Okay,” I said, “and why is it different to consensual straight sex?”

He shook his head a bit bashfully, “no, I don’t want to injure your opinion.”

I grinned, “look, the point of these topics is that they’re controversial, which is supposed to get you talking. I’m always going to ask ‘why’ to get you to speak more – this is just about practising your English.”

“Well, for me, gay people are not right. A person who is gay is a . . . personne malade.”

“A sick person?” I wondered if I heard correctly.

“Yes, mentally,” Patrizio said, “and we need to help them to become better.”

What the hell?! I tried to understand. “So what you’re saying is that being gay is like having a mental illness.”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“. . . so if they are cured of this illness, they’ll be heterosexual again?”

He looked at me blankly.

“I mean, if they get better, they’ll start to like women again.”

“Yes,” he said.

What do you do when someone says something that is so different to the way you think? Do you argue and say that they’re wrong? Do you ignore it and move on? Do you pretend to agree so you don’t lose a student?

I’ve used these topics in one other class, and the question about consensual gay sex was interesting because the student looked at it and her instinct was to say that the age should be later, but she acknowledged that there was no logical difference.

Who’s to say that it takes a gay person longer to realise that they’re gay than for a straight person to realise that they’re straight? If straight wasn’t considered to be the ‘norm’ in society, would I have really cared one way or the other until I was attracted to someone?

I’m straight, but I became interested in guys quite late. I went to a Catholic girls’ school and, at fourteen, I couldn’t figure out why the girls got so excited when they could see boys from our brother school walking past. At our Year 9 and 10 socials (Jolie at ages 14 and 15, these were held with the brother school), I flirted and got the attention of boys, though if I was honest it probably had more to do with the excitement among the girls about the event than with interest in the boys.

I still remember my first crush – Julian (sigh). I was seventeen (see – I told you I started late. A single-sex school, ballet as a hobby, and a general lack of interest resulted in a lack of exposure to boys). It was in January 2003 at a two-week maths camp (yes I know – I’m a nerd). That was the first time I’d been attracted to anyone in that way and, if it hadn’t been for society’s expectations, I probably wouldn’t have thought about whether I was gay or straight before that. I’d never been attracted to any of the girls at school, but I’d never been attracted to a guy before either, so how could I have really known?

And who’s to say that a boy or girl who’s attracted to someone of the same sex at the age of twelve doesn’t really know?

So to hear Patrizio saying that consensual gay sex should be illegal at any age, not because people don’t know who they are but because people who want this are mentally ill made me so angry!

I generally think that I’m a tolerant person – you can live your life the way you want, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s not my place to say. But to hear someone condemn the way someone else lives his/her life . . . it got me so mad. I didn’t want to pretend to agree with him. But I also didn’t want to get into an argument that could quickly become quite heated.

I was going to move on, but then he asked, “and you?”

I answered carefully, “I think a bit differently to you. I think people should be able to live their lives as they like – as long as they aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else. I don’t think that people having consensual gay sex are hurting themselves or each other, so I’m okay with it.”

“But, when you think of it,” Patrizio seemed to be searching for words, “when I think of two men . . .” he couldn’t find them, but I could see the thought made him uncomfortable, maybe even queasy.

I shrugged, “look, I’m straight. I’m attracted to men, so it’s not for me, but I don’t have a problem with gay couples of either gender.”

“So if a woman came to you and asked you . . . ?”

I smiled, “I would say that I’m very flattered, but no thank you.”

Patrizio smiled. He almost seemed relieved.

I wonder if he would have cancelled our classes if I were gay.


I resigned from my position at BTL today.

After doing my hours for the month and looking over the material for my next class, I approached Renée in the planning office. “Hi Renée, can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Of course Jolie. Would you like to do it in private?”

“Yes, that’d be good.”

Renée picked up a pen and notepad and we went to one of the class rooms.

She sat across from me and clicked her pen, “so Jolie, what did you want to talk about?”

“I’d like to resign,” I said brightly (on reflection, I probably used more enthusiasm than was necessary).

“Okay – may I ask why?”

“Well, last month I learned that my best friend is getting married in May, and I’d like to do some travelling before I’d go back home.”

“Okay. You do know that you need to give two months’ notice? So you would be leaving in February,” she noted the date in her book.

“Yes,” I nodded, “I was planning for the last Friday in February.”

“Okay, it’s good that you’re honouring that.” Renée smiled, and told me that she would send me an email covering all of the technicalities. “We’ll be sorry to lose you – when does your visa expire?”

“In June, and the wedding’s in May, so there’s no real point in me flying back from Australia to just work for a couple of weeks.”

“Ah yes, that’s a shame,” she took some more notes, “because you were planning to stay for the whole year, weren’t you?”

“Yeah . . . originally I thought I would stay for the year and travel a bit afterwards, but there’s now a limit on my time here, and I would like to see more of Europe before I go.”

“Mmm – it’s a bit difficult to travel with this job.”

We chatted for a little bit, and then she said something so lovely that it surprised me:

“You know, you’ve really grown since you’ve been here. You’ve gotten so much more confident.”

My confidence seems to come in waves – I was very confident in and immediately after London, but I think I lost some of that back home, and I definitely wasn’t in the best place when I arrived in Paris. It’s so nice to hear that it’s now coming back.


Whether I’m teaching at Groupama, Société Générale, Lagadère Sport or Natixis, all of the companies have one thing in common.

No one knocks.

I don’t understand it – when I have a class, the meeting room doors are closed. Some of the rooms even have a window in the wall, so someone could actually look and see if someone is inside. But several times a week someone (at Soc Gen it’s always the same talking woman with a phone attached to her ear) barges in, then gasps and apologises. He/she then backs out in astonishment in the fact that someone could possibly be using the room that he/she wanted.

I’ve always had a very simple rule when it comes to door-knocking:

If the door is closed, you knock.

It’s not difficult! If the door is open and the person in the room is not expecting you, you poke your head in and asked if they’re available. If the door is open and no one is in the room, feel free to barge in and use it for your phone call.

Clearly the French don’t think like I do. The only times I’ve seen someone knock are when my class is in one of my students’ offices.

I’ve started using a Katia and KylieMac interview with Stephen Clarke about French clichés in some of my lessons. In it, he tells a joke which the English love, but the French never get:

‘A Frenchman goes into an English pub carrying a giant snail.
The barman says, ‘Jesus, where did you get that?’
And the snail says, ‘In France, there are loads of them.’’

The reason he thinks the French don’t get it, is because they can’t understand why the barman would want to talk to a snail when there is a Frenchman standing right there – it removes the Frenchman from the centre of the universe.

All of these French people who don’t knock think they are at the centre of the universe. They expect the unreserved room to be waiting for their phone call or meeting or illicit midday shag.

They probably think that the Australian English teacher is rude for having the indecency to be in the room first.


Why don’t men ever listen? I had a solution. It may not have been elegant, but it was simple and quick. Instead, he decided to rebuild his laptop because the DVD wasn’t playing properly.

Yesterday I had my last lesson with Jean-Phillipe. Jean-Phillipe is one of my most frustrating students. Yes, he’s a nice guy, but he is on a book that’s too advanced for him and, no matter what I try, he never seems to progress (this probably says more about my teaching than about him, but I’m starting to think that some people just can’t learn languages).

As I didn’t have much inspiration for his last lesson, I asked if he could bring in a laptop and then we could watch some English TV episodes with French subtitles.

I arrived at the office 10mins early. 10mins later, reception managed to contact him and sent me up to the 8th floor. Our usual room was locked, so I took a seat near the elevator while I waited for him to arrive. After another 10mins Jean-Phillipe appeared, and hooked us up with a room 5mins later.

He set up the laptop and I started the DVD, praying that the subtitles would work. They did. The sound didn’t.

Jean-Phillipe unmated the computer. He turned up the volume on VLC. Nothing. He opened it in Windows Media Player – this time there was sound, but no picture. He tried RealPlayer and QuickTime – picture but no sound.

“Why don’t we just open VLC and Windows Media Player and play them at the same time?” I suggested – not brilliant, I know, but we were already over half-an-hour through the lesson.

Jean-Phillipe said nothing. He played with some more settings, opened and closed the file a couple of times, re-started the computer and tried it again. “I go to get a new disk,” he said.

“Why don’t we just play the two together?” I asked again.

“No, it’s at my desk,” he said. Five minutes later he came back with a new hard disk and switched it with the old one.

He started up again . . . it worked!

45mins through the lesson we got started – my way would have been much quicker.

After one and a half episodes of Chuck, Season 1, we finished the lesson. Having really enjoyed it, Jean-Phillipe asked if he could copy the files and return the disk to me in reception.

“My next class is in Val-de-Fontenay,” I said, “so I need to leave.”

“Do you have five minutes? I just go to my desk.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

15mins later, I was still waiting.

Recon work

Having been lazy for a few months, a couple of weeks ago I decided to start replying to unread Conversation Exchange emails in my inbox. Last week, I met up with Patrice for a coffee near Opera after his Japanese class.

Yesterday we met at the same time, and he brought along Bernice*, another Australian teaching English in Paris.

As my only teaching job has been with BTL, I’m always curious about the conditions at other schools, so I took this opportunity to interrogate her.

Bernice works for Berlitz, where they don’t have a regular timetable with the same students every week, but only teach students for one class each course (so the students get 10 or 20 teachers over their courses). They don’t get paid for preparation time, but are expected to follow the course books, so don’t need preparation time. The teachers are expected to work for 35 units a week (I think she said a unit was 45 minutes, with 40 minutes of teaching and a five minute break).

Bernice works Monday to Saturday, and says that although she is supposed to have Mondays and Wednesdays off, the school usually books classes for her then.

So far, BTL sounds better to me. I like that I get to see the same students each week. Admittedly, a couple of them have been a little trying, but I generally enjoy building a relationship, and find that the better I know a student, the better I become as a teacher because I can plan more interesting lessons.

I also like having the freedom to plan lessons. Yes, course books are a godsend and I would really struggle to organise everything without them, but it’s nice to be able to take a break. As I told Bernice about how I use the Ethicist and BreakingNewsEnglish podcasts, OneStopEnglish news lessons (a few weeks ago I had great fun with the story about the Belgian skydiver who murdered her love rival), Mad Men extracts and Almost French extracts in my lessons, I rediscovered my enthusiasm for my job. I think it would be extremely different if I was constantly chained to the books.

However, the main advantage of working at BTL was the salary.

At BTL I earn €16.50 an hour. At Berlitz, Bernice earns €9.00 an hour. At 35 units of 45 minutes a week, that works out to €236.25 a week. That’s what I’d earn in 14.5 hours, and although I’ve had some slow weeks, I haven’t consistently worked that little since summer.

I think I might have to enlighten the other teachers at BTL – there has been lots of grumblings about uprising in the teachers’ room lately.

*Bernice’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity – and her job.

Unrequited love

The contract of a teacher I know is coming to a close. We’ve been debating whether or not she should ask out a student that she likes – apparently he’s very cute, and they’ve been flirting since the course began.

I wonder what I’d do if I liked one of my students . . . the drama of it all is definitely intriguing.

I’ve had two students whom I definitely found attractive. I only took them for replacement classes, so the ethical issues weren’t so relevant. :p

The first one was Guillaume of the Eric-Bana eyes.

I don’t remember the second one’s name (I must have suppressed the memory because it was so painful). When he came to get me, I think I may have gasped because he was so lovely.

Probably in his early to mid-thirties, he had greyed early and had thick silver hair. His eyes were an incredibly intense blue, shadowed by dark, expressive brows.

When he smiled, the crinkles around his eyes would deepen, and every time he smiled I found myself falling for him a little more. I wondered what his broad shoulders would feel like under my palms.

“So, how are you today?” I asked when we reached the meeting room and I had started unpacking my books.

“Oh, I am very tired today,” he said with a smile. “My husband is sick and I have been taking care of him.”

I blinked in confusion. Did he have the wrong word? “I’m sorry?” I asked.

“My boyfriend is ill,” he said.

Nope – it was the right word.

Every time he smiled from then on, I felt myself die a little inside.

Rolling my Rs

Once a week I am subjected to a routine humiliation.

I enter the office and am greeted with a familiar nod by the receptionist.

I say, “J’ai un rendez-vous avec Monsieur Roure.

Avec qui?” he leans forward, a smile dancing around the corners of his mouth. I think he enjoys this – we’ve been performing this ritual for two months now.

Monsieur Roure,” I repeat, the two French ‘r’s putting strain on my mouth so that it’s a challenge to get the required volume for the vowels.


Roure, R-O-U-R-E,” I spell in French.

Ah, Roure,” the receptionist says with a satisfied smile. As he calls my student, I slink to one of the seats to wait.

I have accepted that there are some words I’ll never be able to say in French. Neuilly always gives me strife, which is rather embarrassing, considering that I live in Neuilly sur Seine.

And this student’s name has reawakened me to the difficulties of the French ‘r’. Generally I do it quite well, but there are some words where I just can’t manage it. Roure, for example. Roi is one I’ve struggled with since high-school – followed by this vowel sound, my ‘r’ often sounds more like a ‘w’.

Admittedly, the other day I found myself struggling to say ‘rural’ to a student . . . so maybe I struggle with ‘r’s in general.

Another day in my life – October 14th

In an attempt to accurately represent the life of a TEFL teacher in Paris, here’s another ‘day in my life’ selected at random.

My alarm wakes me up at 7:31. I stare at it and grumble a little as I contemplate snoozing – on Thursdays I don’t start until 10:00, so I can usually sleep in. However, I realised last night that I hadn’t made some photocopies that I would need today and would have to go to BTL’s office before my classes.

I grudgingly get out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth. When I return to my room, I decide to snooze after all, resetting my alarm. After four minutes I feel guilty and decide to get up – as well as leaving early today, there are some things I need to finish before I go.

Next – making the bed. In Australia I was quite lazy with my bed, but here it’s a necessity. I can’t open my wardrobe when it’s out.

Step 1 - unmade bed

Step 2 - made bed (yes, the mattress is strapped down)

Step 3 - my daily bench press

Step 4 - the mirrored wall in my beautiful, spacious, bedless bedroom

Last night I was preparing some video activities for my students, and this morning I realise neither has gone the way I’d hoped. One was going to be some extracts from the Friends episode where Joey tries to learn French (S10E13), but none of my downloads have worked. Luckily I realise that I can save videos from YouTube, so quickly get the clips I need. The other video was of some extracts from episode 1 of Mad Men, which I’d clipped and pasted together using Windows Movie Maker for the first time. Unfortunately, when I publish, the video plays with a green bar across the bottom half of the screen. After following the advice of some online forums, it doesn’t play at all. Fortunately I discover that I can play the unpublished project full-screen using Movie Maker, so that will have to do.

I leave at 8:20 and go to the bakery across the road from the metro to pick up a pain au chocolat for breakfast (at €1.20 they’re a little expensive here, but I’m hungry). I then walk to the station. In front of the entrance are three people distributing each of the free papers – Direct Matin, Metro and 20 Minutes. As I approach, they stand in a diagonal line across the entrance and offer me a paper, saying ‘bonjour Madame’ in a canon so well timed that it could have been choreographed. I turn all of them down and scamper to the train. Today it’s line 1 from Pont de Neuilly to Franklin D. Roosevelt, then line 9 to St Augustin, then a five minute walk to BTL.

First I photocopy Unit 4.4 from The Business, Pre-Intermediate for my first class – Groupe Laudic. This is supposed to be a class of two, Antoine and Daniel, but only Antoine has come to date. Having reported this to BTL a few times over the past month, Daniel has confirmed his attendance today, so I’m a little nervous. I’m planning to start with the Friends episode and use this to lead into a discussion about learning languages and re-setting our objectives (this way I can learn Daniel’s objectives and confirm whether Antoine is happy with the course), before going on to some work on performance appraisals from the book.

Next I go to one of the computers to print out an activity sheet I wrote last night to go with the Mad Men extracts. Upon opening my email, I see a message from Antoine:

‘Hi Jolie,

I’m really sorry, but I couldn’t be there today because I have some issues with the person who keep my daughter.

Take care

Hmm . . . so I might have a lesson with just Daniel. Although he said he would be there today, I’m not sure I trust him after his performance over the last six weeks. I reply to Antoine, and send Daniel an email, asking him to confirm his attendance by 9:30.

At 9:20 I go to Lisa in planning and ask if she can call him. Her side of the conversation goes something like this:

Hello Sir, it’s Lisa from BTL . . . I’m fine, thank you. I just wanted to confirm that you would be at your English class today . . . oh good, I just wanted to be sure, as Antoine will not be there . . .” she frowns, “. . . it’s at 10:00 this morning . . . ah, okay, so you won’t be there after all?

Yay – late cancellation! This means I get paid for 1.5 hours without doing anything, and next week’s class is already planned. Not having anything else to do at BTL, I decide to do some grocery shopping – some of the other teachers have said that the Monoprix near Saint Lazare accepts restaurant tickets, and I’m eager to test the theory.

As I reach the checkout, I tentatively ask, “puis-je utiliser les tickets-resto?

Oui, oui, c’est bon,” the cashier says. I grin as I realise that my food expenses are going to plummet – I’ll rarely have to pay for groceries anymore.

Now I go home to relax before my 1:00 class. It’s a shame I didn’t get the cancellation last night – I could have slept in after all :p

At 12:10 I leave again, taking line 1 to Chatelet then Line 14 to Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand. From the metro I head to Flammarion’s office, on the bank of the Seine.


13:00 – 14:30, Marie-Maud, Advanced

Lately I have been feeling uninspired with lesson plans. Unless I make some notes on class ideas in the previous lesson, I often find myself struggling to think of interesting activities – I seem to have used everything in my arsenal on all of my students.

So I was rather grateful when one of the other teachers at BTL told me about the DVD-ROMs that come with our course books. As well as having a digital version of the books and audio activities, they also have video activities which I’ve been using for the past fortnight with some success. Videos from The Business take about 45 minutes, which consist of watching a 3-4 minute video a couple of times then going through the activities on the disk, including multiple choice questions, matching the beginnings and ends of sentences and re-ordering dialogues so they match the video. Market Leader videos are much shorter, as they only come with one set of multiple choice questions, so I generally do two or three together.

Now, Marie-Maud’s lessons have been giving me strife for a few weeks – being my most advanced student, she gets through the book quite quickly, so I am constantly looking for (interesting) external activities to do, and have run out of ideas.

However, as I was planning to use my laptop for my next lesson, I decided to create an 8 minute video of extracts from the first episode of Mad Men – I was introduced to this series last week and instantly fell in love with it. Being set in an incredibly sexist time, some of the comments made to and about women are both ridiculously offensive and entertaining, and I think that this will be good for some conversation topics about how society has changed, feminism, etc.

After doing some grammar work on comparatives and superlatives, I open the laptop and we watch the video three times, then go through the worksheet of discussion questions and ‘complete the quote’ exercises I wrote the night before.

The video is interesting and Marie-Maud enjoys it (she asks if I can burn the season onto a DVD for her), but we still have 15 minutes left at the end of the lesson. So I quiz her vocabulary.

Shockingly, she has been forgetting words! Marie-Maud is usually very conscientious with studying her vocabulary, and today she doesn’t remember half of the words I ask her. Her homework? Write sentences using all of the words she didn’t get.

Now I just need to think of something for next lesson . . . if anyone has any ideas, please send them in.


14:30 – 16:00 Muriel, Pre-Intermediate

Last week I used The Business – Pre-Intermediate DVD with Muriel. The first video on this disk is my favourite, so I’ve used this with a number of different elementary to intermediate students – one of the characters makes an entrance wearing a black suit and sunglasses, and a James Bond theme sounds in the background.

‘The name’s Pond,” he introduces himself, “James Pond.”

“James Bond?” Mrs Follet, who runs the guest house in the film, asks.

“No, Pond,” he corrects her.

Then when she checks him in, “it’s a double – 07.”

. . . I know, I’m easily amused. But a few little jokes like that make the activities much more interesting, and as the rest of the videos follow the same characters, it’s easy to keep my students interested.

Now I did this video with Muriel last week and she loved it. I was planning to go onto the next video in the series this week, but when we start our class, I realise I’ve forgotten the DVD, and I haven’t prepared anything else!

Instead we take the Market Leader – Pre-Intermediate DVD from her book and look at a video from that (much more boring – it’s a story on a current affairs show about office bullying) before going on with vocabulary revision, which she had requested.

After Muriel’s class I take the metro (line 14) to Saint Lazare and walk to BTL, where I have my last class of the day.


17:00 – 18:30, Magali, Pre-Intermediate to Intermediate

For the last two weeks Magali has been at a conference with Médecins du Monde in Kathmandu. She was basically the MC for the 10-day event, so we had been doing a lot of work on introductions, speeches and general pleasantries over our past few classes.

Today she arrives a bit late and a bit stressed, so we have a fairly relaxed lesson – we start by talking about the trip, and then go onto a podcast from Breaking News English about holidays stressing workers out.

This leads nicely into a discussion about different stressful situations and how to relax, which then leads nicely into Unit 5 of Market Leader, Pre-Intermediate, which is about stress. As Magali flies through the exercises, I’m flabbergasted by how much her English has improved. The reading and writing exercises only take a couple of minutes, and when we do listening from the book, she generally only needs to hear the tracks once (a student should usually take 3 tries to fully understand something at his/her level).

I make a note to start using activities from the Intermediate book – I think she’d enjoy the Unit on travel.

Having been out with a friend the night before, and knowing that I’ll go to the customary Friday-night drinks with the other BTL teachers tomorrow, this evening is a quiet one, consisting of a face-mask, a long shower, and staying out of the way of Bénédicte’s crazy cat as she bounds up and down the corridor.

Real TEFL wages

Why ‘real’ TEFL wages? As I had previously only worked over the summer, September was my first opportunity to see what I would probably be making each month. My previous Money article was a true representation of summer pay expectations, but I think the rest of the year will be more profitable.

At BTL I worked 99 hours so earned €1,633.50. After taxes, transport and restaurant tickets (I need to pay for 40% of them) were taken into account, this ended up being €1,291.63 in my bank account.

Unfortunately I lost 19 hours of classes to early cancellations, so I had been expecting a little bit more. There are two types of cancellations at BTL – late and early. Late cancellations are made less than 48 hours before the class. Early cancellations are made at any point before the 48 hour mark. We get paid for late cancellations, but not for early ones. The theory is that late cancellations leave no time for a replacement class to be organised for the teacher, thus this policy protects our wages. The problem is that classes cancelled 60 hours in advance also don’t really allow enough time for a replacement class to be organised, so we do end up losing a bit of money.

So my 19 hours of cancellations were early, and although some classes were replaced, I probably lost about 12-15 hours of pay, which makes a difference since I’m taking a holiday at the end of the month (holiday leave doesn’t get reimbursed until the end of the school year/end of my contract, so I’ll just get paid for the three weeks I worked).

Having a private student eased the end-of-month strain, though. I had 9 lessons, or 13.5 hours, with Patrizio in September, for which he paid me €225 in cash, which really helped when my bank was being uncooperative, and without which it wouldn’t have been possible to do anything with my visiting friend last week.

So, in total I finished with €1516.63 for September, plus 19 restaurant tickets valued at €5.60 each. This is pretty good – from now on I’ll just accept cancellations as a part of the job and stop counting my chickens before they hatch.

Outside the classroom

Although I really enjoy teaching, some of my favourite moments in this job are the ones that happen outside of the classroom.

Take Wednesdays at Noisy –

A few weeks ago I was waiting for the elevator with Joelle, who I teach at 9:30-11:00. When the elevator doors opened, one of Joelle’s colleagues was inside and the two women started talking.

The other woman nodded at me and Joelle said, “c’est ma prof d’anglais – elle ne parle pas le français.

I smiled and said, “en fait, je peux parler le français, mais je ne le parle pas avec Joelle parce que ceci serait mauvais pour son anglais.

The look on Joelle’s face was priceless. I must admit that it’s fun to show off when the opportunity presents itself.

On another Wednesday, also a few weeks ago, I was waiting for the elevator with Loïc, who I teach at 3:00-4:30. When the doors opened, one of his friends was waiting.

Bonjour,” he greeted.

“This is my English teacher,” Loïc introduced me in French.

“Really?” his friend raised his brows, “très bien.”

I smiled, pretending that I didn’t understand as they chatted. When we left at the next floor, the friend came too, telling us that he was following us.

“Not to the lesson,” Loïc said, “we need to work.”

“I don’t think you would do a lot of grammar,” the friend grinned before we retreated into the meeting room.

This has happened to me a couple of times – the week before, Xavier (one of my Société Générale students) and I bumped into his boss. When Xavier explained that he had English class, the boss commented that Xavier was very lucky and asked if he could join us.

The week before that, Muriel (from Flammarion) and I saw her boss, who looked me up and down and said that he thought he needed English lessons.

I should compare notes with the other female teachers to see if this is normal. Either way, it’s very flattering!

But back to my Wednesdays – last week I went to Denise, one of the receptionists, at the end of the day to exchange my visitor’s badge for my driver’s license. Denise doesn’t speak English, but I know that Dan, one of the other BTL teachers, has been teaching her the odd phrase here and there.

So I couldn’t help but smile when she said ‘J’ in English as she looked for my card. She handed it back to me, asking how she says my name.

“[Jolie],” I said with a smile, then translated it into French for her. “C’est comme [belle] en français.”

Ah,” she laughed, “parce que vous êtes un très belle mademoiselle.”


Donc, belle en anglais – B . . .

“B-E-A-U,” I spelt it for her in English, “comme ‘beau’. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.”

“Ah – boh-ti-foo,” she said.

I repeated with a grin – “beautiful.”

“Beau-ti . . .”

“Ful,” I prompted.

“Ful!” she finished with a laugh. “Donc Mrs, non, Miss . . .”

“Yes, Miss,” I confirmed.

“Miss Beautiful!” she handed me my license triumphantly. “See you next . . .”

“See you next week,” I said.

“See you next week!” she repeated.

As far as nicknames go, that is one I could get used to.