Helene Combe

Through my journey as an English teacher and a language learner

Month: August 2017

About hope

As you must certainly (or not) know by now, I had my very first teaching job this summer at BEET Language School in Bournemouth, one of the best in England. I got hired right after my CELTA and felt so anxious before my induction I could barely sleep.

Will I be able to plan interesting lessons?Will they behave correctly? What if I don’t understand my students? What if they decide I am too young to teach so they decide not to listen?

Will they figure it out that I am a non native and decide to hate me?

Since I am still alive to write down this words, you may suppose that everything went well. I decided, at first, to keep quiet my citizenship, mostly because my name and surname sound actually British and then, because I just decided it didn’t matter, I spilled the bean. It really didn’t matter at all. I tried my best to plan interesting lessons, tried to involve students and I enjoyed myself.

I loved every seconds of it and I literally cried on my last Friday (especially because I had to go back home, in France so I had to turn down an extra week teaching there..).

At the end of my lessons, on that last Friday, I asked them what part of our lesson did they prefer. One of them, an Arabic student, was normally chatty but this time, he just looked at me and said: “You gave me hope.”

“Hope?” (that’s my line. Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better one. Remember, last Friday.)

“You proved us that it was possible to master two languages.”

I remained speechless.

Isn’t that the precise reason we become teachers? To give hope to our students, motivation, a goal to achieve? (Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I should apply for the Global Teacher Prize award right about now, I am not reinventing the wheel.) What I am thinking right now is that, as teachers, it’s a part of our job to set up examples.

I hope that I will become one for my students.



Summer 2017: a diary

Since August is almost over, it was time for me to do a little review of my (productive) summer.

I left Lyon quickly after my exams (I passed an University diploma, basically a bachelor – except for the name – in English training in Grenoble Alpes Université – I got it with merit btw) for Bournemouth, in order to attend ITTC, and to get my CELTA.

I got much more than just a CELTA, actually.

I loved doing my CELTA. It was exhausting, I couldn’t relax for a whole month, I hated these written assignments because I didn’t feel comfortable with them, but I loved the teaching practices and I loved my teammates. I had the enormous chance to meet an awesome lady, who became quickly my English best friend and helped me to feel myself at home in Bournemouth, and the UK, in general. (I also know that, at some point, she will read these lines)

Right before the course ended, I got two job offers:

-Two weeks contract as an English Teacher at BEET Language School, still in Bournemouth, one of the best in the whole country, starting the second week of August.

-A 4 months contract as a Business English Trainer in France, starting at the end of August.

I accepted both. After my CELTA, I spent a whole week in London – full tourist mode- with my husband, then packed again and went back to Bournemouth to teach to teenagers and young adults at BEET.

It was the best teaching experience of my life. I taught three groups: Pre Intermediate, Intermediate and Advanced. I was scared as hell to teach Advanced, but it was a speaking class, which is my forte. I will (probably) write another post about that whole experience soon, but these two weeks comforted me and my idea of being a teacher. I just woke up everyday excited to teach them.

I was supposed to stay a month in Bournemouth: I stayed two. It was heartbreaking to leave (and not only because I left my CELTA BFF ahead) and I swore to come back soon.

This summer was intense but was also one of the best of my life. I met wonderful people, had not only one but two amazing experience and found new challenges (IELTS, here I come!)

This fall will be busy too: new job, studying for the IELTS (Academic) and working on my bright new website (that I hope to launch by October – fingers crossed).

After such a summer, why stop now?




The Language Experiment: 100 days later…

I like learning. I have always had, and always will, probably. 103 days ago, to be perfectly precise, I decided to learn simultaneously two languages, after reading several articles about the benefit of it. I already talked about that experiment, if you recall: I chose two languages that I already encountered, German and Italian. I began learning Italian at five, German at 12, but my level was beginner in both (because let’s be honest, I forgot every damn thing).

So, I started using Duolingo, because I have read an article about a security guard who learnt six languages using the app (and it’s free). At the beginning, I did between three to five exercises a day in each language: it was easy, the sentences were totally lame (I mean, come on! “Io parla con l’anatra” ? That literally means “I am talking with the duck”!) but it was okay, I was a student, I had a lot of free time. I progressed fast, well, as fast as I could, within a month, I went from 10% (knowledge of the German language) to 20%!

Then, I started my CELTA. Spoiler alert: it was hard to keep up.

Remember during 58 days, I was doing three to five exercises per language. During CELTA, when I managed correctly one per language, I was super happy. Like truly, freaking happy. But I never stopped, and reached to 100 days. According to Duolingo, I have now a knowledge of 29% in German and 20% in Italian (A1/A2)

Some thoughts about the experiment:

-I am going to continue, of course! I want to reach at least 50%  of knowledge in both of the languages, and I will add a third one at that point. That’s the whole point of the experiment, right?

-I am better in German than in Italian. French is my mother tongue, but since my brain is mostly working in English, it’s actually easier for me to learn German, which is really close to English (yes, it is! The vocabulary is so close, it’s astounding!)

-Learning through an app is hard. Nobody is helping you, nobody explains why you are wrong. I bought some books to help me, but I need actual people to speak with. In short, that’s why we need flesh and bones teachers.

Next article on that subject? In 97 days….

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