Bien Joué! Why Jackie is leaving Lyon

Coiffure hair salon french village
Today, find out why my daughter was at the hairdresser's when she should've been on her way to FINAL EXAMS! 

Note: After today's post this journal will go on break thru February 8th.


    : well done!, good job!, way to go!
    : well played

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I really want to learn a new thing, I do not know what I am interested in, though. UI/UX design? Being a certified therapist? Fashion? So much that I can or could be. Should I pretend to be someone until I am this person?

The above is an excerpt from a letter our daughter wrote one year ago. I am happy to announce we are all rejoicing now that she has passed her examen oral in Lyon—la dernière étape in a race to earn her BAC + 3, or bachelor's degree in one year. Bien joué, Jackie! You did it! You hunkered down, put your doubts and fears behind you, and traded your bartender apron for a student’s cap. Then you proceeded to wow us all! Tu nous as bluffés.

I admit when you shared you were going to study UX/UI design, I was doubtful: did you say computer coding was part of the curriculum? I had similar misgivings when you dropped out of fashion in Toulon to go to bartending school in Miami. But if there’s one thing about you it’s this: once you know what you want, your determination follows. I watched you line up everything, lightening speed: you located un logement in Lyon, turned in all your papers at le pôle emploi (to the stellar counselor who found you this intensive program and knew could do it), packed your belongings, sold some things and once again headed off into the unknown in search of who you might become.

Then, the first setback. After quitting your job, you got a call informing you you were rejected from the program! Was this a sign? Some of us here at home whispered we didn’t think computer design was right for you, but you remained calm. You called the director to ask, Why? You told him you were very interested in this program and to please reconsider your candidature. Meantime you looked for a last-minute employment and tried to stay out from underneath that cloud that forms above you during transition time, dark as the inside of a cocoon before the butterfly struggles out and takes flight.

Friends talked you into a weekend getaway. You had just landed in London when your phone rang at the airport. You almost ignored the call, but finally answered. It was the school director. Having had a second look at your dossier, he decided to give you a chance. Class started in less than a week!

You hung up the phone and quickly called back the rental company. The room was still available! You flew home and boarded the train to Lyon.

You were the first to arrive at the renovated house-turned-apartments in Villeurbanne, never suspecting the strangers now filing into the common space (it was their first night in these new digs too) would become friends for life: a young doctor from Saudi Arabia, a computer programmer, a student musician, 2 nurses, a nuclear engineer, a biochemist, a dental hygienist, a logistics specialist, a shop manager/wedding photographer, and an agronomist (ahem, a weed producer).

You had me laughing when your biggest concern the first day of school was switching out your rickety chair for the one across the classroom you’d already set your sights on. I now see it as a metaphor….

At 25, you always considered yourself un mauvais élève: a dreamer with severe test anxiety. But you set your mind on overcoming these obstacles and soon you had that chair, and more. You wasted no time choosing your project (your mock business was a cruise company for seniors, and you threw your heart, soul, and sweat into designing your logo, your app, your webpage, and interviewing seniors (your grandparents included).

The calendar ahead was challenging, 3 years of work crammed into one--including an internship (it was up to you to find the company, dar dar!). Six months into the program and the pressure was unbearable: you wondered how you were going to turn in your preliminary report, finish your internship at the PR company, print out all your work in a series of booklets, and create your PowerPoint presentation. C’était la mer à boire! A bitter and impossible feat!

When in the 11th hour you had a panic attack at the PR office and an ambulance took you to ER you might have had a good reason to call it quits….after all, was this accelerated program worth the toll it was taking on your nervous system?

Back home we held our collective breath. “Jackie is tough! She's a Marcus!” Grandma Jules reminded us. Meantime, there in Lyon, your roommates rallied around you, gathering in your shared living room to hear you practice your 50-minute speech for your final exams before un jury. They took notes and shared “improvements”. 

You made it home for a needed rest at Christmas. After 4 days you wasted no time returning to Lyon. You had to find un imprimerie to print out your project, including 4 bound reports, or the 200 pages you had carefully written, and present it before the real jury. You buckled down to business and we did not hear from you again. Le silence radio…

On January 10th you called me unexpectedly. I braced myself as it was your exam day.  "Hi Mom, I'm on my way to the hairdresser’s."

“The hairdresser’s? But shouldn’t you be cramming for your exam?”

Your voice on the other end of the line was so peaceful. Now that you had finished your internship and turned in your work, the intense pressure had subsided. As for your presentation for your oral exam, you knew your subject like the back of your hand. Speaking of which…

“I also got my nails done,” said you. Je vais mettre toute les chances de mon côté. I’m putting all chance on my side and presentation is important!

Well, I couldn’t argue with that, and I hung up the phone with a big smile on my face. I knew right then you would be OK.

Still, I held my breath until you called back that afternoon.... Ça y est. C’était bien passé!”

“Well, what did they say?”

”They said I'm ready to do a master’s!”


Voilà, dear reader. I hope you enjoyed this happy update. Jackie is still waiting for the official news, the confirmation that she will receive her certificat (incredibly it is the equivalent of à BAC +3 diplôme) from the vocational school in Lyon. Meantime she finished the challenging UX/UI design program, having met all of the requirements. Bien joué, ma fille! You got that chair and now you’ll get the graduation cap!

Jackie at the hair salon
Jackie at the salon in Lyon, finally feeling ready for her examen oral.

I love reading your comments and learning more about you with each note. Also, you can join me in congratulating Jackie! To leave a comment, click here.

Jackie, left, during her internship at a PR firm in Lyon. After this, she had a few weeks to turn in her final project. And in January, stand before the jury for her oral presentation.

Jackie (right) and her roommates. They shared many meals together and Jackie insists she would never have made it without their care and attention. 

Don't miss the soundfile.

Click here to listen to the French terms below

bien joué! =
good job!
la derniere étape
= the last step
BAC + 3 = bachelor degree
tu nous as bluffés = you blew us away
un logement = accomodation, housing
le pôle emploi = the employment center
un mauvais élève
= a bad student
dar dar = right away
C’est la mer à boire = it’s like drinking the entire sea, no small feat
un jury = examinations board
une imprimerie = printer's
le silence radio = radio silence
mettre toutes les chances de son côté = to put all chance on one’s side

Sincere thanks to these readers who recently sent in a website donation. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal! --Kristi

Joan S.
Walt S.
Mike P.
Patricia S.
Suzanne R.

Bonne année, Kristi! —Mike 

Your journal is a lovely combination of everyday family happenings with many useful phrases and new words to learn. It is well written and I look forward to reading it on Thursdays.  I also enjoy your instagram postings. —Joan

Ricci, receives some scratchies while Jackie rests and enjoys the Australian Open tennis match. 
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une idée fausse

Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Shakespeare and Company: an historic expat bookstore in Paris. Still soaring from the high of speaking at the American Library... I marched right into Shakespeare & Co. (before Fear had a chance to bully me and lie to me again...) and offered up my new public speaking services... To get this new gig--I acted as if--as if I had the confidence and composure of a conquistador (never mind that my previous speaking engagements included passing out on the floor). Convinced, they signed me for an author's talk on March 1st! 

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

idée fausse (ee-day fowce) noun, feminine

    : misconception

(The verb is "suer" : je sue, tu sues, il sue, nous suons, vous suez, ils suent => past participle = sué)

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download Wav File

Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie mais complexe.

  (Please help me to translate this sentence in the comments box!)

A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

The following are some idées fausses, or misconceptions, that were running around my hopeful mind during the week leading up to my (once feared and dreaded) public talk:

...When my talk is over I will be okay again...
After my speech I can relax, let go...
...Life will begin again
after the speaking event. I will be able to taste my coffee, feel the breeze on my skin... I will smell the autumn air once again... my senses will no longer be dull (all-consumed with cowardice).

I will go home, put on my favorite soft robe and cozy slippers
and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate....  I will experience bliss. I will have my reward. Imagine this!

The strange thing is: none of these things happened. Instead, I had a revelation:

The joy, the bliss, the aliveness that I believed would be mine after this tortuous trial (a.k.a. The Speech)... instead took the place of it. Instead of feeling like the proverbial deer caught in hell's headlights, during my speech I felt the power of love, warm and bright.  I never felt so alive! The speech was the reward.

Could it be that public speaking is the best-kept secret? And that 99.9 percent of the earth's population (that is, the percentage of people that are petrified by public speaking) are depriving themselves of what is, in reality, a powerful instant -- a divine drop of distilled life?

Public speaking may be, after all, the best-kept secret. If you want to hog the spotlight (and all of the "life" that comes with it) then keep on perpetuating the idée fausse that public speaking is something that will kill you. (It will kill the Ego... so add that to your "Gifts I receive from Public Speaking" list.)

But if you want to join the revolution, and begin to murder the misconception, then please tell someone today that they WILL be okay the next time they have to speak, publicly; that the secret reward that nobody is telling you about is this: speaking can be bliss!

(We'll talk more about this on Friday, when I'll post another list of tips and techniques that worked for me....)


(former fainter, aspiring orator)

Post note: It is important for me to remember that nothing is ever "a given". That is: I have not conquered my fear of public speaking (Coach Conchita, and others of you, might beg to differ). The truth is, as long as we have our fickle "feelings" we won't be spared of what amounts to internal warfare. But we can take winning steps to counter this, and experience the bliss, when we recognize our God-given gift of confidence and assurance.

One of the most common fears that public speakers have is the belief that they will lose control of themselves in front of an audience. For me, this meant that I might somehow come undressed during my speech! (One tick that you will witness--when you view my speech--is this: I kept placing my hand over my heart -- not because it was beating violently (it wasn't)... but because I feared the snaps on my back might come undone (as they had in gym class... before my bra busted, some 20 years back!). Horror of horrors that this might happen again, now--in front of an audience! And so all that obsessive hand-to-heart business you see amounted to my checking (and rechecking) to make sure my "underwear" was still "there".

Witness this tick for yourselves in the video from my Paris talk! See the video immediately, when you sign up to become a supporting member of French Word-A-Day.

Finally, here is a book that I have just ordered. I am excited to learn and grow in the area of public speaking. Won't you join me? Check out this book and read along with me!:In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing


Comments ~ Corrections ~ Stories of your own...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comments box. Please forward this post to a student or stilted speaker. I hope it will help someone and eventually open the door of opportunity to others.

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Restaurant in Paris, Chez Julien, Lou Pescadou, 2CV, citroen (c) Kristin Espinasse,
 "Parisian Parking"-- why not forward today's edition to a friend? Or sign up a family member for French Word-A-Day?

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety