La porte à tambour de TAPIF: La machine d’un programme de mobilité des jeunes

À la fin de leurs contrats en avril, les participants au programme TAPIF entrent tous dans une grosse période d’introspection. Après une année de rêve en France, ces jeunes doivent tout repenser de leurs avenirs.

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An Unofficial TAPIF Handbook: Things You Should Know, from A Two-Time Language Assistant

TAPIF, or the Teaching Assistant Program in France, is something very near and dear to me. Directly and indirectly, it inspired 99% of what I write about here.

The program isn’t perfect, but I’m endlessly grateful for the opportunities TAPIF has afforded me. In my opinion, there can never be enough first-hand accounts of the unique experience that teaching assistants have, so I’m hoping to add to the information that’s out there in an honest and complete way.

If you’re considering the program – or you’ve already applied and want to know what you’re really getting into – consider adding this post to you reading list. It’s a long one, but maybe it will answer the questions you have.

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Deconstruct a French Word: malin

malin | “MAH-luhn” | adj. | clever; sly; cunning


Imagine that little kid you used to babysit. He was always smiling, because he was always getting away with something. Even when you caught him in the act, he knew he was just too cute and that you were gonna end up letting him take that extra piece of candy or watch the extra episode of Bob the Builder, anyway. That kid is 100% malin.

Ex.: Il est malin! Il n’a que deux ans et il arrive quand même à tricher pour gagner le jeu!

Be careful though! Malin is an irregular word. The feminine form looks different than you might expect (although the pronunciation is just as you’d think):

Ex.: Zoë est maligne. Elle a attendu que le prof se retourne avant de glisser sa petite note à Victor.

When used with the verb faire (i.e., “faire le malin”), it means more “to be a smartass.”

But if you want to talk about someone who takes a sick pleasure in doing something, oddly, malin is still the adjective to use:

Ex.: Il prend un malin plaisir à faire sa campagne, Mr Trump.

Featured image of the Dictionnaire Larousse from Camilla Hoel on flickr.

The English language could get really weird if Britain leaves the EU (Quartz)

"Bon Voyage Europe," Parlamentarium - Brussels, Belgium

Quartz published a really short but insightful article about a Brexit effect few have considered: How confusing the English used in the Eurozone will become without the UK’s influence.

The long and short of it is that a kind of “Euro English” — a sort of very negotiated, middle-ground style of English — has developed since the advent of the EU. It’s what’s used in official EU texts and even how officials talk to one another; it’s a jargon version of one of the main languages of the EU that’s quite different from the actual English language used by native speakers.

How did Euro English happen? Basically, “false friends” between other European languages (most notably French) and English have allowed for certain transformations of meaning to become acceptable in  European Union-speak. The article’s best example of EU English is the word “delay.” In regular English, a delay is a hold-up that makes something occur later than expected. In Euro English, though, the word delay has been transformed to also mean a deadline or specific time-frame to accomplish something, because the French word “delai” means just that.

If Britain really does leave after this June’s referendum vote, it could mean that all legal texts and other documents produced by the EU will become further and further distinguished from “real” English. Ireland would become the de-facto guardian of English in the EU and, frankly, they may not have enough sway in the institution to keep things from devolving. The risk is that officials will have even more difficulties truly understanding one another and that interpretations of EU law will become even more varied and more dissociated from one another.

For the rest of the story on this bizarre, but very important, possible effect of the Brexit, read more below or at Quartz’ website.

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Deconstruct a French Word: Crevé(e)

crevé | “KREH-vey” | adj. | punctured; exhausted; dead

Often, the word “crevé” is used to talk about a popped tire. Like…

Ex., J’ai crevé sur l’A4. Il fallait attendre une demi-heure avant qu’un garagiste pouvait venir le remplacer.

In another sense, crevé is used to say you’re totally tired.

Ex., J’ai travaillé 65 heures cette semaine. Je suis complètement crevée!

But in the most extreme (and probably original) meaning of the bunch, the root word – the verb crever – can be used to talk about someone dying (in a sort of offensive, menacing or mean way).

Ex., Il a toujours été méchant avec moi. Qu’il crève, le connard!

So, little recap: Literally, crever means “to die,” but from that literal meaning come the other senses of to be “dead tired” and to kill a tire. I don’t think I could say all those three things can be covered by a single word in English, but isn’t that the fun of learning a language?

Featured image of the Dictionnaire Larousse from Camilla Hoel on flickr.

Choice Words: American English, British English, and Everyone Else’s English

After doing a semester abroad in London and working as an English teaching assistant for two years, I’ve had my fair share of experience with the funny little differences in word usage between American English speakers, British English and ELLs who fall somewhere in between all the different flavors of English floating around online and in the real world.

I love the quirks of major languages that span across different continents, both French and English alike. And yeah, sure, English is English and I can understand my Anglophone sisters alright no matter where they’re from. It’s all good, but an American and a Brit (or an Aussie and a Ghanaian, or any other combo of Anglophones we could come up with) won’t necessarily be choosing the same words all the time. Here’s a little taste of what I mean: Continue reading

Bodily Functions and Other Gross Words You Don’t Learn in French Class


It’s an impolite topic, but it’s still necessary. Even now, after almost seven years of learning/speaking French, this particular set of vocabulary often escapes me…because what professor is going to dedicate an entire unit to body sounds? Who’s really going to pull out a dictionary to find out how to tell someone they’re gross for farting?

So I’ll excuse the grossness by saying that even if the subject is strange, it’s still important to know how to talk about it!

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