Would teaching French be your dream job in Paris?
I met Monsieur Jean-Thierry le Bougnec in Paris and felt I had found someone with such a passion.
For Jean-Thierry, when teaching French, the most important thing is to ensure the enjoyment of everyone in the class, and to have a great time together. Jean-Thierry is one of the most experienced teachers at the Alliance Française Paris-Ile-de-France (AFPIF). I wanted to find out more…Cliquez ici pour lire l’interview en français.
Jean-Thierry, what do you like most about your work?
What I really like is that in twenty years I’ve done so many different things. I have never spent more than three or four years doing the same thing.
That’s also the reason that I have stayed here so long. I started as a French teacher on a casual contract. I taught the evening classes to a very special cohort at the time: refugees, and people who worked during the day.
Then I taught the more regular classes, in the mornings and afternoons… I specialised in orientation, which means that I conducted the tests to place people in the different levels of French.
I then became a teaching supervisor, so in other words I accepted in my classes people who came to observe my teaching, who were studying teaching methodology; then after that they would do their teaching practice in my class.
For the past four years I have coordinated initial teacher training for French teachers. This involves internships and exchange visits abroad.
“Each time I go back into the classroom I feel great.
This is very important for me.”
What I like about this profession is that I learn a lot!
Sometimes even more than the students, even after twenty years. It’s a very rich experience, socially and culturally.
At the AFPIF, there are classes not only in French as a Foreign Language (FLE), but also for training to be a teacher of FLE.
Could you tell me about these courses for foreign teachers?
Yes, there is initial training, and further training. Further training is for teachers who are already teaching and simply want to know how they are going with it. To become better trained, to advance in their profession, or to just do a better job. There are courses focussing on new technologies, new methodological approaches; some teachers already have a lot of experience, have researched the methodological bases of theoretical training, and are now seeking a more practical approach.
Initial training is for those people who want to become teachers of French—we teach them the basics and the practical aspects.
We also have distance courses, in partnership with the CNED (National Centre for Education). These can last from one to two years, and are very varied; they are taught as distance courses for people who are working full-time.
In this job one meets people who are already teachers, or young people who have just left university, or people engaged in vocational retraining. We have bank employees… People who are 50-59 years old but have decided to retrain, to try a different profession. These are French people as well as foreigners.
Jean-Thierry you have written, together with other teachers, textbooks for teaching French as a foreign language.
What was your principal motivation in writing them? What feedback have you received — from teachers or students?
My first motivation, given that I am a trainer of teachers, is that I never stop trying to enrich my own knowledge. Writing a methodological book allows me to commit to paper my expertise at that time.
These books are for students: grammar for adolescents, a phonetic method for students, and an advanced-level method for adults. I wrote a whole collection for adolescents from 11 to 14 years.
The feedback I have had has been entirely positive. The method for adolescents was very well received and has had a lot of success, and the advanced level also. In my books, I try to adopt an adolescent tone which young readers like.
When I write the methodological works, I try to keep enjoyment in mind. My enjoyment and especially the enjoyment of those in the class, so we can all have a good time together.
Each time I go back into the classroom I feel great.
This is very important for me.
To remain effective one mustn’t forget all the theoretical aspects. But informal exchanges, and having a good time together – that’s what counts.
What are the most difficult concepts to master for students of French? Why are they so difficult and what is the best way of approaching these concepts?
The most significant aspect for me is the music of the language, the rhythm.
For Anglophones, I always use the example of the word Canada. When you speak French you must say: “le CA NA DA”, and also “J’HAB ITE A PARIS.” All syllables are equal except the last which is the longest. The words are attached too, and for me this is the most important aspect, the rhythm of the stresses on syllables.
Jean-Thierry’s favourite places in Paris
For lunch when I’m working – a sandwich in the Luxembourg Gardens.Le 6ème, 75006, Paris
On the weekend it’s a picnic at City University, it’s so quiet there.17 Boulevard Jourdan
Métro: Cité Universitaire
I love nice, unpretentious bistros, I don’t like trendy places – just a local bistro. Something simple.
La Palette: rue de la Seine, next to the Art College, has a lovely terrace and very good white wines.43 rue de la Seine
Métro: Mabillon ou Saint-Germain-des-Près.
The Rodin Museum79 rue de Varenne
The MUCEM MUCEM — the museum of European civilisation at Marseille.1 esplanade du J4
For a day trip
The green belt by bicycle69 Rue Jean Jaurès
A canal boat ride on the Canal St Martin
Merci beaucoup Jean-Thierry, for speaking with me – it was a pleasure to meet you and understand more about your passion for teaching.
What are your experiences teaching or learning French? What were the biggest challenges? To join the conversation please comment in the box at the base of the page.Image credits:
1, 3 & 4. Courtesy Alliance française Paris Île-de-France.
2. Jean-Thierry, by Carolyne Lee.
5. Jardin de Luxembourg, via Wikimedia Commons.
6. La Palette, by X via Flickr.
7. Le Penseur à Musée Rodin, via Wikimedia Commons. Proud Partner of Alliance française Paris Île-de-France (AFPIF)