english in bourguignon

When I posted about our unplanned trip to Franche-Comté, I don’t know how I managed to do it, but I completely forgot to tell you about one of the best things that happened during our trip!

J’s mom works at the primary (elementary for Americans) school in Bourguignon (where J is from). We were chatting about the school and English lessons, and J’s mom brought up how disinterested some of the kids are in English despite the fact that their teacher loves English.

I joked that I should go in and talk to the kids. 

Next thing I knew, his mother had talked to the teacher who invited me to come in and give an English lesson to the CP/CE1 class (first and second grade).

And that is how I found myself in front of about 20 or so 6 to 8 year olds at the only school in Bourguignon (population 957 – the kind of place where the school, post office, and town hall are all one building).

We arrived during recess and many of the children stood around staring at me. They knew of my arrival and many of them had probably never seen an American in real life. Some of the braver ones approached me with “Hellos” and “How are you’s?”.

Apparently, they had told J’s mom how lucky my nephew (who’s in their class) was that he could speak English with me whenever he wanted. Yeah, like that happens. He’d rather never be able to watch TV again than speak to me in English.

The class was fun – the kids volunteering to speak and answer my questions. They were enthusiastic and couldn’t wait to be called on. Some of them could barely stay seated trying to raise their hands up as high as possible. Even my nephew answered questions!

At one point, while the teacher was pulling out flashcards of the words they knew, I asked if they liked dogs. They hadn’t actually learned the word yet. I turned to my nephew and asked him what Elliot was. The look on his face as the realization dawned on him and announcing the answer proudly was priceless. He even announced to his grandmother later that he had learned a new word in English.

alostbilingue elliot

What is Elliot?

The hour or so flew by, and they were so disappointed to see me leave, asking me when I was going to come back. The older grades were disappointed that I didn’t come see them (they’re the ones who are really disinterested in English), and the teacher told them if they acted better, I’d come see them next time.

It reminded me of the times when I was a TAPIF assistant, and I would accompany my colleague to the primary schools he taught in just for fun (there wasn’t much going on in small town Chauny). The excitement for English!

When do they lose that?


12 thoughts on “english in bourguignon

  1. I’ve always loved French and other foreign languages (numbers, not so much). In 6e, I was looking forward to experiencing my first English lesson. The excitement died in the following years, mostly because ALL my teachers were native French speakers in their late 50s who had been to the UK ONCE in their freaking life and were completely disconnected from the British (or American/Australian/Kiwi/Canadian/whatever) culture.

    I ditched English for Mandarin because my teacher was, well, Chinese. And I picked up English when I first came to Canada in 2001 (I only knew basic-dumb-French English :lol:).


    • From reading your blog, I would think you’ve been writing in English most of your life! Oddly my written French has suffered since moving to France. I very rarely write more than an email or text in French! I should try to blog in French, but I don’t yet have that sort of motivation.


  2. I never realised the world-famous Bourguignon was such a small place (presuming it’s where the boeuf comes from?)

    From what I observed as a teaching assistant, I guess the rote memorisation and public shaming of mistakes gets them down. Not all my teachers were like that, of course, but definitely some needed to make it more fun and relevant to real life. I’m sure you helped with that!


    • Nope. Boeuf bourguignon comes from the Burgundy region where as the village of Bourguignon is in Franche-Comte.

      Yep, as they were young, they weren’t yet afraid of making mistakes. What I didn’t mention in my post is that I talked to them about the importance of learning languages and keeping at it. I told them in French, so I know they understood. Hopefully, it left some sort of impression on them!


  3. Pingback: la rentrée (me included) | Almost Bilingue

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