Wednesday, December 05, 2007


One of the English language's greatest bards, Shakespeare, once wrote (Act II, Scene II, Romeo and Juliet):

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

And indeed, the poetry of the French language is not lost in the English translations. Oddly enough, the English translations not only attracted me to the culture, the cities and the French way of life but also to that certain indescribable "je ne sais quoi" that is at the heart of "Frenchiness".

And at the heart of that Frenchiness is almost some story of love. Even, or most poignantly, when it boils down to only one brief meeting after an exchange of letters for Mitsou and her "blue lieutenant".

I just finished reading the novel Mitsou by the famous French writer Colette. In German. German is not my native language. It's not a language that I've learned because I'm enamored of it (but I'm certainly enamored of a certain "normal German boy"). If someone's going to be taking poetic licenses I imagine them to be speaking in French, Spanish, Italian but not German.

So it was with a bit of surprise that I found that "je ne sais quoi" of Colette's writing very understandable and giving my heart a good shaking- even in German:

"Er streicht ganz zart eine Haarsträhne aus Mitsous Gesicht und versucht seinen Vorwurf in Worte zu fassen: 'Ihr großer Fehler besteht darin, daß sie einen zwingt, an sie zu denken, während man selbst versucht ist, ihr zu sagen: Du kleiner Kummer, du – du hast nicht das Zeug, zu einer großen Liebesqual zu werden!"

Now, I can't wait to someday be able to read the original and truly know the difference in meaning between Kummer (heartache) and Liebesqual (Qual is literally torture, agony; Liebe is love), let alone the proper French words for that!

je ne sais quoi a quality that cannot be described or named easily; literally "I do not know what"

Listen to and watch Bireli Lagrene & Gipsy Project perform un certain je ne sais quoi on youtube.

La photo: Petit Fou Fou undergoes an "ostrich neck massage" at the Cango Ostrich Farm, South Africa. Octobre 2007.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

J'attendrai le suivant

It's been a waiting game for the last few weeks. Faithful readers have been waiting for a blog post. I'd been waiting to go on vacation (Afrique du Sud!) and admittedly procrastinating posting. Gasp!

I wanted to wait until my African Safari was over to surprise you all with pictures of lions, leopards, herds of elephants- OH MY! I did see the "big five" and more and have the pictures to prove it but we all have to wait a little bit longer as sorting through deux mille cinq cents quatre-ving-quatre photos is a bit time-consuming.

The wait for a blog post is over though! Enjoy this short film (only quatre minutes et trente-sept secondes): "I'll wait for the next one".

deux mille cinq cents quatre-ving-quatre 2584

literally two thousand five hundred four (times) twenty (and) four

quatre minutes et trente-sept seconds 4 minutes and 37 seconds

Listen and learn your French numbers at:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quoi de neuf?

What's new? Well to follow the old saying, "pas de nouvelles, bonne nouvelle", you'd have to assume good news since I haven't posted for more than a month. In any case - j'étais trés occupée.

Part of what's keeping me busy is what's helping me keep sane when I am too busy: beaucoup de chocolat! I might be slipping with mes devoirs de français but I'm still enriching my French vocabulaire and satisfying my discerning sweet tooth thanks to the Belgian chocolatiers les frères Poncelet.

chocolat au lait
chocolat au lait aux amandes grillées
chocolate noir aux écorces d'orange confites milk chocolate

Délicieux! You can find the complete vocabulary list (in French, Flemish, English and German) to tantalize your tastebuds at the Dolfin website. Better yet, find a store near you that carries the chocolate bars.

And if you aren't interested in chocolate- elsewhere in the world there's news to be read and seen on Newsmap (Merci mon ami Mike pour le lien). Check out the French version to see which news items take up the most space- in Google's world at least!

pas de nouvelles, bonne nouvelle no news is good news

j'étais trés occupée I was very busy
beaucoup de chocolat a lot of chocolate

les frères the brothers

délicieux delicious, yummy

La photo: Chocolaterie Walder à Neuchâtel. Août 2007.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ma maman

Ma maman est en Amèrique, elle a rencontré Buffalo Bill. Yes, my mother is in America but she's got no interest in Buffalo Bill. This is a band dessinée about somebody else's mother: the author's. It's a story about a part of Jean Regnaud's childhood wonderfully illustrated by Émile Bravo.

I was browsing the Children's section of Payot Libraire with my adorable, book-loving, seven-year old French guide/expert, Alexandra when I began to judge the book by its charming cover. I showed it to Alexandra. We thumbed through the pages together. I looked at her questioningly: Que penses tu? She smiled and nodded her approval.

I've tried to read other French children's books before but they were woefully still too advanced for moi. So it was with pleasure that I read and looked at it (it is after all a comic) AND understood Jean! It's my favorite French book of all time, so far. And not because I understood more than half the French and all the illustrations but because the story is touching and that paired with the endearing illustrations make this book lovely to read and look at again and again, with a big knowing smile.

La photo: les koalas chez Hartleys Creek Crocodile Farm, à Cairns.

Novembre 2004 en Australie.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Internet meme - you're it!

Phénomène internet - t'y es !

Thanks to Tower of Confusion for putting me on his blogroll which means I've been tagged with a meme. So without further ado- the facts about 8 Facts and then my facts à français*

les règles
  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write in their own blog about their eight things and include these rules in the post.
  4. At the end of your post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Sébastien recites my facts:

  • une: Je n'ai jamais était marquée par le phénomène internet
  • deux: Une bonne journée est celle où, je peux taper 67 mots à minute.
  • trois: J'ai appris comment jongler avec un livre.
  • quatre: J'ai beaucoup des livres que je voudreais lire mais je lis Alice au pays des merveilles par courriel, un peu de littérature chaque jour. Je ne suis jamais très ocupée pour lire des livres.
  • cinq: Mes prenoms préférés à ce jour sont Madeline et Maxence.
  • six: Cette fois-ci, c'est ma troisième tentative pour apprendre le française. Et non, ce n'est pas un tentative provisoire! Je suis sérieuse! Je veux apprendre!
  • sept: J'aime le chocolat! Est-ce que c'est un vrai fait aléatoire parce que - qui n'aime pas le chocolat?
  • huit: J'aime les singes aussi. Particulièrement, "monkey" et sa poésie. Je suis une fan et j'attends avec impatience ses leçons français pour le singe international!

Well, if you've made it this far, consider yourself tagged! Leave a link to your French answers or leave them directly in the comment box.

Bonne chance!

La Photo: Sur les rues de Neuchâtel, en Suisse. Août 2007.

*English translation of my answers in comments

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

La comparaison

Monsieur Parfait, one of my French teachers, asks me if I'm already familiar with the comparatifs et superlatifs. A simple oui from moi (to avoid a grammar reminder) and we get right down to a few practice sentences.

He asks me to say "his leg is less long than mine". Sa jambe est moins longue que la mienne. Obviously Mr. Parfait thinks that detailed sentence is also much more of a challenge than just saying Il est plus grand que moi. N'importe quoi.

Both sentences are true. I am truly shorter than the average male in the world's tallest countries. 1.7 inches shorter than the average Frenchman! Ah- but a whopping 3.2 inches taller than the average Frenchwoman.

Et toi? Find out where you stand!

Il est plus grand que moi He is taller than me
N'importe quoi Whatever

La photo: Les Murrays quelque part en haut New York, juin 2007.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

L'amour rouge d'Antoine

I need some eggs so I drop by the neighborhood whole food store. I spy some potatoes and rocket greens and grab those as well. I'm at the checkout, located next to the cheese counter. I can't help but look. And what do I see? Since I'm in Germany: deutscher Käse.

But at the edge, almost hiding, were it not blushing so to speak, was L'amour rouge d'Antoine. How can I, a French student in earnest, pass up Antoine's red-hot love? The name is French but I see that the cheese is indeed made in Germany. "Ich nehme Antoine," I say and add Anton's (as the Germans actually do call him) love to my purchases.

The smiling cashier looks at me and asks if I'm French. Hmm, I wonder to myself, is THAT cheese French? I nod no but smile back pretty pleased that at least he's mistaken me for a Französin. Is it because of my Japanese Onitsuka Tiger shoes that I got in Nice? Because that's the only remotely "French" thing I'm wearing or have on me at that moment. I'll never know the reason because he's suddenly speechless and blushing himself when I ask, "Why, are the French really loyal to their cheeses?"

"Tschüss," he says his polite goodbye and I happily skip out the door
with my French goodbye, "Au revoir!"

Maybe I make a better French impression the less I say in Français?

La photo: Merci monsieur_foufou. À Ubud, Indonésie. Septembre 2006.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Close, but no cigar!

A refresher lesson about the pronouns qui and que in relative clauses has me trying for the proverbial French cigar. I want to hear those French congratulatory words: tu as fait un tabac.

I try. Close, but no cigar. After a few more botched practice sentences for qui and que I want to at least be able to say "close, but no cigar" in French. Turns out that if you can't get it right- the French don't even want to mention a cigar.

C'est presque ça, mais pas tout à fait.

tu as fait un tabac to be a success; literally: to have made a cigar
C'est presque ça, mais pas tout à fait one of many ways to say: close, but no cigar; literally: it's close to it, but not completely

La photo: Beer-thirsty bee. Avril 2007 en Allemagne.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Le neveu

Je suis un "tita"! Well that's what the parents are calling me. The baby, if it were French, would maybe manage to get out tata or tatie. Which is part of le langage enfantin.

Mon neveu a quatre mois and so we aren't really communicating in any language much less French. He makes sounds, drools and toothlessy gnaws on my finger.

So what does my first nephew, an American, have to do with my French?
Mon neveu est très mignon. Il est un bébé si heureux! Il sourit toujours! Et quand mon frère, le père fier, l'observe il est encore plus mignon quand il pleure. La tante fière est d'accord. Totalement mignon.

What he's doing for my German, too!
Mein neffe ist sehr niedlich. Er ist ein glückliches Baby! Er lächelt immer! Und wie mein Bruder, der stolzer Vater, beobachtet ist er viel niedlicher wann er weint. Die stolze Tante stimmt zu. Total niedlich!

And with some imagination (and help from the grande-mère) what I could be saying
in Tagalog Ang pamangkin ko ay napaka "cute". Siya ay masayang sanggol! Lagi siyang nakatawa. Ayon nga sa aking kapatid, ang nagmamalaking ama, lalong nagiging "cute" pag umiiyak. Ang nagmamalaking tiyahin ay sang-ayon.Talagang cute na cute.

Oui, I'm baby-talking, too.
Not exactly saying "gazou gazou" but talking a lot about my baby nephew.

tata, tatie aunt
langage enfantin baby talk

Mon neveu a quatre mois my nephew is four months old

grande-mère grandmother

My nephew is very cute. He is a happy baby! He's always smiling! And as my brother, the proud father, observes he is that much cuter when he cries. The proud aunt agrees. Totally cute.

La photo (merci monsieur_foufou): Taxi ride, NYC. Juin 2007.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sauve la pom-pom girl! Sauve le monde!

Save the cheerleader. Save the world. Sauve mon français!

I must break my silence and confess: I've been in another French rut. Vacation didn't need to strike this time in order for my mind to wander away and abandon my well-intentioned but short-lived daily sentence project. Il n'y a plus de phrases quotidiennes.

The routine I established has gone a bit awry. I'm getting in my weekly practice of speaking French (a day or two later, plus ou moins) but I'm turning in my homework on the day of the French lesson, or gasp! days after. Oui, I need help! I need to not forget the vocabulary I've learned. I need to learn new vocabulary. I need to want to do that. Who can I turn to? Nothing short of a superhero, bien sûr. Or in this case: a whole group of them, growing in numbers with each successive episode! "Quoi?" you ask.

I'm coming late to the American tv series "Heroes". However, better late than never. En fait, c'est mieux avec les sous-titres en Français! What's a better way to review vocabulary by recognizing the words you know (Je vais bien, je veux rentrer à la maison)? What's a better way to learn new, useful "everyday" vocabulary (pom-pom girl!) by seeing it in context? As for motivation- well what's better than getting hooked on a tv show and wanting to know what happens next? There is no better way to get that "daily French fix". In fact I've been indulging myself, catching up by watching more than one episode a day. Hey.- it's educational.

...à présent, la suite de Heroes et de mon français aussi!

Il n'y a plus de phrases quotidiennes.
No more daily French sentences.

plus ou moins more or less

bien sûr of course, naturally

En fait, c'est mieux avec les sous-titres en Français!
In fact, it's better with French subtitles.

Quoi? What?

Je vais bien, je veux rentrer à la maison.
I'm fine, I want to go (back) home.

...à présent, la suite de Heroes et de mon français aussi!
...and now Heroes continues and so does my French.

La photo: Les arbres à Jagsthausen, Allemagne. Mai 2007.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Ma or Mon for the possesive of excuse?

Dictionary tells me that excuse is feminine.

From what I've learned and logic tells me: ma excuse.

Sounds right to me.

But I haven't the exceptional French ear.
Those ears can't bear to hear something so obviously ugly that it defies the grammar rules, rightly.
Mon excuse is right.

How to train my ear to spot the ugly exceptions? Well try spottin' the English from the French and don't get Lauren "bovvered".

excusez-moi excuse me (formal)

ma (fem) mon (mas) my

La photo: "Mon-Kangaroo" and "Ma-Kangaroo" tearing off each other's ears fighting for "excuse". Quelque part en Australie, octobre 2004.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I'm not sure which is easier: letting go of an old habit or acquiring a new one. In the ideal world I would be replacing a bad habit with a good one.

Five days have gone by since I've started my daily French sentence project. The effort, or not (day 3), have so far replaced the effort I usually put into my homework. Luckily, my efforts (no matter how little) have paid off so far. I find myself learning new things, remembering important things and on my way to mastering things I know through constant practice.

The important thing is to have a bit of French everyday. The challenge is fine-tuning that bit of "everyday French" so that it becomes a fun routine that maximizes the results of the efforts put in.

Right now the routine I'm trying to firmly establish is my weekly lesson, my daily sentence and my homework. Yes, in that order. A tall order if I don't want to disappoint my teacher because my homework is last on the list but not least.
Here are my daily sentences (share one of yours in the comment box, or provide a link):

jour 2: On ne peux jamais s'habituer à regarder le caca de chien

You/One can never get used to seeing dog poop.

jour 3: --

jour 4: Mon excuse pour hier était le vertige de la page blanche et le manque de temps.
Pas de phrase hier, alors deux aujourdh'hui.
My excuse for yesterday was writer's block and lack of time. No sentence yesterday therefore two today

jour 5: Il y a des factures a payer

There are bills to pay

Now, off to shower (number 14 of 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper and Better) and then get that homework done for this week's lesson.

La photo: On the grounds of the Montfort Castle in Tettnang, Germany. Mars 2007.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


For the past few weeks, well- two days shy of the whole month of March, I've been saying je me sens malade and doing little else in French. It's been a case of mal à la gorge, mal de tête et tousser.

Je me sens mal
and I didn't want to make myself feel worse by just writing
about learning French and not actually doing it. While I'm not at the crossroads of Choosing between Language Learning and Blogging the fact I hadn't written anything in over four weeks and did very little language learning might make anyone think I'd given up entirely. Pas vrai! The thought never even crossed my mind. Vraiment!

I began this blog during my milestone 10th lesson to eventually be able to pronounce
and explain those things I found so c'est intéressant in French. It was also supposed to serve as motivation for me AND my teacher. With that in mind there's really NO excuse to not be able to write at least one French sentence a day, is there?

En fait, ce vendredi, je vais avoir ma cinquantième leçon de français!*

: my what's-left-of-this-year's-resolution à la française. Join me in the comments
box! I'll be listing my sentences weekly and you are welcome to add one of yours or provide a link to all of your week's sentences. Allons-y!

je me sens malade I feel sick

je me sens mal I don't feel good

mal à la gorge sore throat

mal de tête headache

tousser to cough, coughing

pas vrai not true

vraiment really

allons-y let's go

*This sentence has been corrected because I don't want to be spreading "bad French".
If you want to learn from my mistakes look in the comments box where I have written my original sentence (wince) with an English translation, or rather my intent.

La photo: Driving through a snowy night in Germany. Janvier 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's a date!

A perfect intro to award-winning French director Claude Lelouch, the streets of Paris and the petit_foufou road to learning français: C'était un rendez-vous.

Let Lelouch take you on a non-stop 8-minute drive through 1976 Paris and then decide if you want to take a seat on the couch and spend more than an hour on him and his movies.

You can also, as I did, find it a metaphor for your learning style. I've been on the road to French since last year. While it hasn't gotten me to parler couramment le français à dans grandiose Paris (Nice was a "nice" start, though) and the road has definitely been bumpy, I've realized that it's been great fun so far. Sometimes I'm going full speed ahead and I feel the exhilaration of comprehension only to realize in hmmm, less than 8 minutes that, uh, hm, ah... Non! Je ne comprends pas plus. Somebody (m_ff?) hug and console me!

Like Lelouch's wild unstoppable ride, even the red lights of mastering conjugation (stop to learn them before going on) are blown at the expense of sounding like I am speaking a foreign language- only it's not French.

I am still watching French movies with the subtitles on, still conversing partly in English with my French teacher, still can barely manage simple dictation but I AM still having an amusing, entertaining and dare I say - educational - ride! Paris, me voila!

C'était un rendez-vous It was a date

parler couramment le français dans la grandiose ville de Paris
to speaking fluent French in the great city of Paris

Non! Je ne comprends plus No, I don't understand anymore

Paris, me voila literally "Paris, here I am"
but can be used to express Paris, here I come!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bonne Valentin!

To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau, the famous French philospher and writer, might also be describing how I've been doing my French homework. Leafing through past assignments, vocabulary I once knew escapes me now. I'm left wondering at what my French self has written. Code-breaking with my French dictionary is gladly postponed for another day: Aujourd'hui- c'est le jour de la Saint Valentin!

It's time to turn to the ones we love, long to love or if you're Filipino anyone you care about (it could be their loved ones, office mates, friends, or even those who have hurt their feelings) and let them know how you feel.

Even if you aren't en France, français, ou un francophile, you know French is not a romance language for nothing. Sprinkling your Valentine's greeting with one of the
"five loveliest French words to say" (or hear for that matter) will surely melt more than a box of chocolat. So without further ado my valentine's Haiku:

Mon amour: c'est toi!

Monsieur Foufou, j'taime

You and only you.

La Photo: Monsieur_Foufou sous-marin en Hawaii, septembre 2002
Photo by diving school instructor

Monday, January 29, 2007

dans ma maison

When you walk into my house you'll have to look hard to figure out that I'm learning French at home. The French section in my library is très petite: one hand-me-down French/German dictionary, a few old magazines snagged from past Air France flights, three exercise books on grammar and four books (three of which are children's books- merci à Alexandra, Peter et monsieur_foufou!). Voilà tout.

On my office wall, a few inches away from my computer screen, I have a list with French greetings and a collection of phrases for use in eMail correspondence. I used to have a list of four French verbs which I wanted to change every two weeks but I never learned from it so I took it down. I didn't need that kind of discouraging decoration.

Tucked into my carnet de Moleskine of the moment is a list of French phrases that I'm always on the lookout to sneak into some correspondence, witty banter or a post:

esprit de l'escalier "spirit of the staircase"
, repartee thought of only too late
gardez la foi
keep the faith
homme moyen sensuel the average non-intellectual man

mauvais quart d'heuere "bad quarter of an hour"
, uncomfortable though brief experience
nostalgie de la boue "nostalgia for the mud"
, homesickness for the gutter
nuit blanche "white night", sleepless night

vogue la galère "let the gallery be kept rowing"
, keep on whatever may happen!
à bon chat, bon rat "to a good cat, a good rat"
, retaliation in kind
à bras ouverts "with open arms", cordially

de mal en pis from bad to worse

écrasez l'infâme crush the infamous thing

My computer is another story. I have a lot of podcasts, songs and bookmarked sites and never enough time.

Ou est le français dans votre maison?

très petite/petit very small
voilà tout that's all

carnet de Moleskine Moleskine notebook

Ou est le français dans votre maison
And where's the French in your house?

La photo: dans la pièce dorée de L'Alhambra de Grenade, en Espagne. Janvier 2006

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Là j'étais

Out with the old, in with the new. Optimism and good intentions equal new year's resolutions. Adieu to the speechless débutante of 2006 and bonjour to niveau intermédiaire and beyond in 2007.

Sometimes though, optimism and good intentions are nowhere to be found. Maybe regret instead is damning resolutions and screaming for a time machine to fix things in the past so today or tomorrow can be better.

The talk of time travel brings me to La Jetée, a science-fiction film by Chris Marker. The film is from 1962 and I saw it for the first time in 1989. Watching it now in 2006 it still impresses me and reminds me of the initial reason why I want to learn French: cinéma.

Chris Marker's film is actually a 28-minute "photo-roman": a series of black and white photos with a voice-over and haunting music. It's a story about a post-nuclear present, a painful past and a future of peace. And as with the French- it is also a story of amour. A man travels to the past and the future to "fix" the present. In the past he falls in love and meets the woman whose face has haunted him since childhood. As a child he had seen her witness a death. It is to this past that he is sent.

So there YOU are- if you really had a time machine, would you fix the problems of yesterday for a better today?

niveau intermédiaire

The French we know:
l'optimisme (mas) optimism
l'intention (fem) intention

la science-fiction science-fiction

le film film

initial initial

la photo photo

la jetée dock, jetty

là j'étais there I was

La Photo: Parc national du Grand Canyon, Nord-Ouest de l'Arizona. Juin 1991.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Best of 2006

Le Theme de cette semaine sur Photo Friday est "Best of 2006". The picture I've picked probably does not speak the same proverbial thousand words, especially French, to everyone so I'm going to just list some words (not a thousand and not all French!) that meant something to the Francophile in me in 2006.

Learn French at Home
Stéphanie et Céline
C'est intéressant That's interesting, It's interesting
Adieu farewell

Aimer to like, to love

Pourquoi pas? Why not?

essayer to try

c'est marrant it's fun

FrenchPodClass avec Sébastien

Mieux vaut tard que jamais (literally = Late is worth more than never)
Better late than never

voyager to travel
Nice, Cannes, L'Esterel, Theoule, Saint Raphael en France!
Merci por ton aide Thanks for your help

I would also love to add the names of the readers, commenters and those who've
written to me per eMail- you know who you are! Merci! You've helped make my French Learning fun!

La photo: à Bali, en Indonésie. Septembre 2006.