Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Teaching English and volunteering

So aside from "working my ass off" at University, ahem, I am spending a lot of time socialising, walking, drinking tea in various city centre venues,"connecting", exploring the local area, volunteering (I will tell you all about this in due course) and teaching English.

As some of you may remember, I got a TEFL certificate last year and have used it a few times since, teaching English and au pairing in Switzerland, language school application in Italy etc. This semester I had my first opportunity to teach English privately, and I have been earning 20 euros an hour (the apparent minimum rate, as seen on leboncoin). I had a few offers, but given the good wages decided not to be greedy and just accepted one student's offer. He's in his third year of a grande école, and pretty eager to get his English up to scratch for a professional competitive examination in English. Given the rigid format of the exam, the lessons are pretty easy to organise...

We start with a brief friendly chat, then either a dictation, a pronunciation point (either obvious in terms of a sheet with phonetic explanations or a sneaky hint, e.g. through the poem Chaos or some tongue twisters), sometimes go on to a grammar point for 5-10 minutes, then head into mock exam territory. I bring an article to each class, usually out of the Economist, the Guardian or the Independent. He reads it out loud. I pick him up on any errors he makes with pronunciation afterwards and give him tips for improvement. I ask him to summarise the article, then translate a portion of it into French. He is French, I am not, and thus I may not be able to pick up on some errors he makes, though I keep my ears open for wrong translations, e.g. not maintaining the same tense, changing a definite article for an indefinite article etc. After the translation and a few questions, we work our way further and further away from the article itself, talking around the topic and sometimes concluding with a little debate. His homework tasks involve writing up a little summary or some grammar exercises. Each session last between 1.5 and 2 hours, and he seems pretty satisfied. So that's 30-40 euros spending money every week and some much needed work experience...

I am volunteering at Association Phares, a hospice in the South of the city. It's quite a sad job, but at the same time the patients all seem enthusiastic to see someone young amongst the many retired volunteers, and it's quite refreshing for them to talk to someone from a different background. I have heard all sorts of life stories in French, Italian, and Sicilian dialect (I didn't understand the latter). The other volunteers are very nice and people seem to really appreciate my presence. Apparently the only other young volunteers are wannabe nurses and doctors who need work experience. It takes an hour to get to the place, taking a tram and then a slow bus which stops in every neighbourhood on the way. Though pretty tiring, the journey gives me some thinking space, allows me to see another side of Grenoble and listen to some French chitter chatter.
This Friday I will be helping with decorating and wrapping presents, on the 20th December there is a répas de Noel, where the volunteers and patients will enjoy a Christmas meal together.

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