Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm lovin' it

In Canada it's c'est ça que j'm while in France it's c'est tout ce que j'aime. But actually I'm not professing love for McDonalds or its hamburgers. The "Big Mac" that has my heart is a Macintosh Powerbook G4.

For a few hours a week my Mac turns into French Learning Central. And what makes learning on a Mac even more fun? Applications! Or rather what Philippe Galmel programs and calls utilitaires.

Je vous presenté le Minuteur. I use it to time myself when studying French. It's amazing to see how much homework I can accomplish in just 15 minutes- especially when I stop, take a break and do something else and then go back for another 15-minute session. When I'm really enjoying my French diversions (balados, jeux, chansons) I'll actually time and therefore limit a nagging distraction otherwise called work.

Un minuteur is also helpful when your motivation and energy level has you dreading devoirs- you can accomplish a lot in 5 minutes, too. Just don't forget to take that break when the timer stops so you can enjoy what you've just finished. Put your feet up or set le minuteur and explore the other offerings of Monsieur Galmel: utilitaires et jeux pour mac, pc et palm; une belle collection de chansons françaises en mp3 et divers!

Tic-tac... goes the French clock!

le minuteur timer, egg timer
balados podcasts

baladodiffusion podcasting

jeux games

chansons songs

devoirs homework

belle nice (fem.)

divers miscellaneous

tic-tac tick-tock

La photo: Le coucher du soleil à la Costa del Sol en Espagne. Janvier 2006.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I find mastering the conjugation of verbs one of the most daunting tasks... ever.
In the past I learned the conjugated verb forms by rote or my version of "muscle memory": writing out the forms over and over and over...

Tactics relying on mindless repetition led to boredom but earnestly trying to understand and apply the principles of conjugation just left me with a mal de tête and anxiety: so many irregular verbs and which tense to use? Trying to make sense of it all only hampered my progress so I usually shut off my brain and memorized enough to pass my tests.

This time around I don't want to shut my mind off, strain my hand or get a headache! I'd been basically avoiding
the verb task- conjugating only when necessary.

So when I heard about the podcast Verbcast - French verbs by relaxation (merci Jim!) I knew I needed to
check it out. Who could resist: "sitting back, closing their eyes, and suddenly knowing their French verbs!" Pas moi! I want to "suddenly know" my French verbs in the four main tenses in just four weeks (5 podcasts a week). "Ooh-ooh-ooh, Mr. Kotter!"

But after listening to the first Verbcast it's more like "om, Mark Pentleton" -
and with a Scottish accent.
Relaxation and visual techniques as well as Mr. Pentleton's hypnotic voice helps you to project the verb conjugations on your "cerebral screen".

I've listened to four Verbcasts and it is truly a relaxing way to learn the verbs- so much so that I would recommend it to others who also have trouble with meditating or relaxing. You'll come away conjugating French verbs correctly and you will have learned how to focus on your breath as well as how to get away from it all.

The first podcast explains the Verbcast concept and if you aren't familiar with relaxation and visual techniques or have
never tried meditating it may be a jolt to enter the world of your cerebral screen. Hang in there, though- I think you will find the IMAX of your mind an enjoyable place to learn. I do.

un mal de tête a headache
pas moi not me

La photo: Les fleurs (inversed) dans le jardin du musée Marc Chagall, à Nice.
Juin 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Combien Tu M'aimes?

Well, to me it's not even "How Much Do You Love Me?" but "Wie Sehr Liebst Du Mich?" as I saw this French film in Germany.

I had never heard of this movie and had no expectations other than being entertained by a film à la Française. At the Cineplex, I briefly saw a poster with Monica Bellucci in profile looking pensive and alluring: she's turned her gaze to something outside of the poster, her hand to her slightly open mouth. The other French film that was playing was La Terre vue du ciel, it had an equally romantic poster showing a landscape from above in the shape of a heart.

I read a quick German synopsis of director Bertrand Blier's movie. Monica Bellucci stars as Daniela, a "Nutte", German for a prostitute. On the French movie website she's described as a Beauté professionelle. In the States- while the word "professional beauty" certainly would conjure up ladies with the voluptuous looks of Monica Belluci - wouldn't we be thinking more of beauty pageants and Miss America instead of nightclubs offering prostitutes in the window?

Bernard Campan stars as François, a Parisian office worker with a weak heart, an eye for a particular professional beauty and an offer she can't refuse: his lotto winnings until it runs out if she moves in with him. How can she say no, it's her J. O. B. ! Gérard Depardieu stars as Charly, her gangster-husband. I decided to see what Monica Bellucci, Bernard Campan and Gérard Depardieu were getting up to.

Coming out of the German-dubbed movie (sans sous-titres), my first word to describe the movie was German: "skurril". This word can be translated in English to mean comical, droll, odd, whimsical or bizarre. Yes- this movie is all that. That and all of Monica Bellucci. Many are probably familiar with Gérard Depardieu but it will be Monica Bellucci that many (certainly the men!) won't forget.

But for a climactic lesson that men shouldn't forget- it's Farida Rahouadj as François' next-door-neighbor that provides a riveting scene about "romantic arias" ending it with a simple question: "Does she roll her eyes?"

La Terre vue du ciel Earth from Above (movie title translation)

sans sous-titres without subtitles

La photo: Watching "Maya in Plane Movement" (video installation). New York City, mars 2001.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Lately, I have been struggling with trying to correctly decipher what I hear.

Les Français sur mon CD disent The French on my CD are saying :

Il a des sous. He has some coins / money.

Il l'a vue. He has seen her / He saw her.

Il s'est tu. He shut up (past tense).

Et j'entends And I hear :

Il a déçu... He disappointed....

Il avoue. He is confessing / confesses.

Il sait tout. He knows everything.

Test your hearing:

Not only do I have trouble figuring out when not to pronounce which
letters- but my tongue insists on stubbornly sounding out everything anyway!

I know that when conjugating verbs that I should not pronounce "ent": I know
"ils parlent" is pronounced "il parl" but I still end up saying "il parlehhnt" if I don't concentrate and literally bite my tongue. Heureusement, there is a proper time to pronounce the "ent" and sound super French - adverbs!

Not that I have been losing sleep over French pronunciation- but an article I stumbled on suggested all students of French may be losing weight. The headline screamed:


And Elizabeth Morgan reports:

"The answer is swallowed consonants," said Dr. Eric Gross, professor of biology at Lester College in Flint. "We're finding that the pronunciation of these sounds can induce a feeling of satiety in French speakers, and can lead, over the long-term, to lower body weight."

"Obviously, the degree of weight-loss increases in language-immersion programs, like the Lester College Junior Year Abroad in Aix-en-Provence,"
Dr. Gross said.

Too good to be true?

Heuresement thankfully, happily

La photo: Daily offering to Hindu gods. À Ubud (Bali) en Indonésia.
Septembre 2006.