Hélène de Witte-Mesnage holds regular workshops at the Bordeaux USA club in Quinconces to help expats brush up their French skills. Bordeaux Expats caught up with her for a quick chat about her current and upcoming projects!
Read on to find out more!
What led you to teaching French conversation at the Bordeaux USA expat club?
My name is Hélène de Witte-Mesnage and I am a former expat. Born in Bordeaux, I grew up in Le Verdon Sur Mer, studied at Bordeaux Montaigne and graduated in Modern Letters. Married to a Dutch man, I lived in The Netherlands (Rotterdam) for about 13 years, where we had 2 beautiful children. Obviously, I had to learn a new language and adjust to another culture. I continued my studies at Rotterdam University to get a diploma allowing me to teach French as a foreign language to Dutch students.
When we came back to France, I started tutoring high school and college students. I was then introduced to Bordeaux-USA, which offered me the opportunity to get my first personal group class, made up of American and English students, and to teach French in a classroom. I also still give private lessons to adults and children.
Can you describe your approach to teaching in 5 words?
French – the only language used during my lessons
Confidence – encouragement to talk, supporting people in their learning process
Discovery – language, habits, culture and differences
Exchange – talking about life experiences, trips, holidays
Pleasure – having a good time
In more detail, what exactly do your sessions involve?
Whether in a group or in private lessons, I try to answer the questions that expats often ask themselves, confronted with their new life. Based on my own experience living in a foreign country, I work with a teaching method oriented towards everyday life (vocabulary, daily situations, practical exercises, conversations). From a text, discussion comes up and can go in many directions depending on students’ participation. A particular vocab or grammar problem often appears, requiring deeper explanations. Everything is in French, in small groups of people with similar levels.
How often are your classes and how much are they?
The biggest problem in Bordeaux is to find a place to teach (very difficult to find an adapted location or too expensive!). Fortunately, Bordeaux-USA allows me to use a room. In addition to the annual association membership fees, a 90 minute lesson costs 7€ (see the BDX-USA website). I also teach at home, mine or participants ones, individually or in small groups. I can teach everyday of the week, I am flexible depending on requests.
“€7 for a 90 minute group lesson”
Do you provide private French lessons?
Yes, I do but pricing depending on the student level and training intensity (class length, number of classes etc.) For private lessons, it’s around €15-25 per lesson.
What are your plans for the future?
I aim to develop my activities and gain people’s trust. My accomplishment would be to work while meeting beautiful people to exchange with. I love French and I love teaching it even more!
Anything to add?
Thanks to the expats with their vision of French society and their perception of language, I learn every day from my students.
French is very complicated (even for native French people!) and requires a lot of patience and perseverance.
My simple advice is this: DARE TO SPEAK & FEEL CONFIDENT!
Many thanks to Hélène for the interview, and if you wanna find out more or join her classes, feel free to get in touch with the Bordeaux USA club.