Thursday, December 25, 2008

La France quelque part, partout

France anywhere, everywhere or what to buy a Francophile wherever you are for wherever they are... for New Year's.

Here's a selection of four of my favorite "French" things in no particular order:

Paris dans un sac
Pick up "Paris in a bag" from the japanese store Muji. These cute wooden blocks lets you set up your own mini Paris.

La tour eiffel emporte-pièce
Add a parisian flair to this year's seasonal cookies with the Eiffel Tower cookie cutter from Sur la Table.

Coffret parfumé
Let Estéban perfume your home with their scented boxes. Each box contain different scented materials (ceramic, glass, metal, cedar, stones) in beautiful shapes and colors. My favourite of the moments are Aube irisée and Esprit de thé.

Les premiers jours par Eglal Errera et Marjane Satrapi
The Iranian and French graphic novelist of Persepolis fame, Marjane Satrapi is also an illustrator. Her illustrations drew me to Errera's book, The First Days. Errera's heroine Rebecca emigrates from Egypt to France as he did.

Joyeux Noel! Hope you all have a Merry Christmas.
Sing-a-long: Vive le vent (Jingle Bells)

La photo: En route à Harlem, New York. Décembre 2008.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Au Revoir au Maroc (guest post)

Au Revoir au Maroc
-a guest post from Karen Kindler

The short line to the outbound Moroccan passport control booth stalled as I arrived. An official pointed a balding German with raised voice and arms to the outside of the security barrier. Case closed. Go. The tourist went.

"Was ist los?" What's up? I asked the couple in front of me.

No immigration form.

Immigration form?! You need one leaving?!

I glanced back toward the security point and the rapidly growing line where the exasperated German squeezed out to look for whatever office had the required forms.

I stayed put. They can't mean me. Then it was my turn. They meant me.

I raised my eyebrows – not my voice – in helplessness. He raised his arm; his head began to drop in dismissal.

"Mais, vous n'avez pas de …?" I asked, pointing to a stack of cards on the edge of his desk. He blinked, huffed, then shuffled through the stack I pointed to … and found a blank form.

"Which flight are you on?" he asked in French. Then came another grunt, a raised finger, and instructions to complete the form where I stood, then break back in line when I was finished.

Now, I'm not a cute little girl with ample bronzed cleavage or someone with a name and position. Middle-aged, rumpled after days on a cross-country bus, and puffy with allergies that had kicked in again on the drive through the oases, it wasn't my physical charm that got me by.

It was a handful of French 101 words that caught his attention. They opened a door that English and German wouldn't have.

"Je suis americaine …" I had frequently confessed to questions during the week-long tour of the back roads of Morocco, at first unsure of the reception that revelation would bring in a Moslem country.

"Los Angeles!" or "Chicago!" greeted me.

"Mais non … Florida," I responded. Smiles, chitchat, invitations followed.

I spoke my simple French a hundred times that week. It got me directions and e-mail addresses, and allowed for unique glimpses into the lives of local people. It warmed them to me. I could feel it.

And the Germans in my tour group – most of whom had been to the States and could communicate in basic English – were thrilled to stick to German with me. They sought me out. I spoke their language. I could be trusted. And I could ask the local people questions for them, intercede with the bus driver, and order mint tea without a pound of sugar in it.

There is power in cleavage and money – short-lived and perhaps insincere (though I have neither in ample supply to really be able to judge) – but, a common language offered with a smile (even a puffy one) creates a bond beyond sex and profit – at least the opportunity for one. It can overcome religious, cultural, and political differences, and, even – sometimes – an overworked bureaucrat's first impulse to send a hapless foreigner to the back of the line.
Cool! N'est-ce pas?!

Read more of Karen's travel adventures in Stars and Stripes:
Vacation Club Deal leads to French Spa Weekend
A Month in a French Coastal Town Shows Total Immersion Has It's Benefits
Mallorcan Memories
On Top of the World

and more about her experiences in Morocco in Zaji magazine blog
Pursuit of Happiness
Mustafa and the Simply Bazaar - A Thrill Ride
A Sad Camel, A Failed Seduction and My Wish for World Peace

La photo: Karen Kindler

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Il y a beaucoup de règles de grammaire en français.

Il y a beaucoup d'utilisations de "de" aussi.

I haven't yet mastered the many rules for the usage of "de". I'd been
actually forgetting to use it at all in some situations: during my weekly lesson last week, for example.

Before last week I'd have said or written "Il y a beaucoup règles" or "Il y a beaucoup
utilisations" to indicate that there are many rules or many uses. That would be a literal and wrong translation since "beaucoup" is always accompanied by "de" when talking about many things or people.

There is an upside to this rule- it's not very complicated. There are only two

beaucoup de
beaucoup d' (for words starting with vowels or vowel sounds like "h").

That's it.

A bit anti-climactic, huh? If you'd like to be more engaged with beaucoup
you might want to check out the Forvo website with their many words! Their tagline reads "All the words in the world. Pronounced". This website lets you "add words, pronounce, listen & learn".

It's still the beta version and not all the words in the French world have been
pronounced for our listening pleasure but you can already listen to over 1200 words. So go ahead, say it (actually record it, too) and let your French be heard: Beaucoup de mots!

Devoirs- If you'd like homework, ahem, I mean to know more about beaucoup de and other expressions of quantity and do a quick exercise check out this website: Tex's French Grammar.

La photo: Many bottles of organically produced wine from le vignoble des hautes collines
de la côte d'azur (on the Chemin des Sausses) St. Jeannet, France. Juin, 2008. More Information on this website- - register so that you can get the free sample PDF of their Wine Travel Guide for the Inland Provence where more information on this winery is available: Wine Travel Guides

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bibliothèque Municipale

Back to the library to rent out some French DVDs
(though for the time being I've abandoned choosing alphabetically at my local library).

En moment,
je suis à New York. In the past weeks that I've been in la grande pomme I've heard a lot of French. En fait, du moment je suis arrivée. In the airport, while waiting in line for a ride to my final destination in the city, a Swiss woman is in front of me. The dispatcher is calling for help; he needs a French translator. I wondered how long it would take to find someone and before I could finish my thoughts I heard the woman say "Bonjour..." and begin to explain her problème. Someone French speaking had been found- mais ce n'est pas moi.

I haven't been yet bold enough to engage in conversation with the various French speakers I've heard. I smiled at the nanny commanding her toddler charge to "
viens ici" repeatedly though he didn't come nearer. I looked on as a threesome of French speakers ordered different varieties of croissants. My ears perked up with recognition everytime I heard French being spoken but my tongue went to the cat.

I decided the cat wouldn't nip my mind- specifically my aural comprehension. It seems
that listening would be what I would be doing for the meantime (with the exception of my weekly French conversation class).

Off I went to the local library and checked out three
dvds at random and watched (with sous-titres) and listened to them in this order:

Paris, je t'aime
Clara et moi
Les Temps qui changent

La photo: Un lion sur les grouns du parc national de Kruger en Afrique du Sud.Octobre 2007.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Une étape importante: cent

This week I reached my milestone 100th lesson in French.

Cent jours des leçons du français avec mes professeurs patients et encouragers:
Céline A, Stephanie, Jan, Esteban, Céline F, Virginie et bientôt Audrey!

Soixante treize posts sur ma blog et innombrables lecteurs et nombreux sympathisants.

Merci à tous!

Bien sûr, il y a plus à venir car l'apprendre ne termine jamais... and there remains much to discover that is indeed intéressant.

What I wanted to say (corrections and comments welcome):

A Milestone: 100

100 days of French lessons with my patient and encouraging teachers...

73 posts on my blog, innumerable readers and numerous well-wishers.

Thank you everyone!

Of course, there is still more to come as learning never ends...

La photo: Un léopard sur les grouns du parc national de Kruger en Afrique du Sud.
Octobre 2007.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Photo Friday's challenge this week is: Self-portrait.
That's under A - as in autoportrait - in my French vocabulary list.

Autoportrait meaning that you draw, or since it it's a photo challenge, that you take a photo of yourself. Not the autoportrait where the robot draws you.

J'ai choisi d'aller au photomaton. Oh- not the one in the streets or in the corner of some supermarket. The one on the Mac. Oui, c'est moi avec mon cahier français.

Start your photographic vocabulary list today and join me on Photo Friday!

J'ai choisi d'aller au photomaton. I decided to go to the photo booth.

Oui, c'est moi avec mon cahier français. Yes, it's me with my French notebook.

Check out the robot that draws on robotlab.
If you're a photo booth fan or a fan of French faces check out
Aux origines du photomaton (via photobooth)

C'est moi- l'autre autoportaits:
Là j'étais
Heure d'été and the Learned
Beaty is in the Eye of the Beholder

La photo: août, 2008.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Smells like French Spirit

French soaps are renowned, lovely to use and make great presents.

So I'm always on the lookout for French soap wherever I go. A recent trip to Hamburg drew me once again to the Perle Shop (they carry some cute French products). So when I saw the colorful box with the big blue RIVALE written on it I thought "bonjour" and snapped it up!

Turns out Claus Porto was saying "bom dia" to me. The Grapefruit Fig bath soap which tempted
me is in fact made by the oldest, family-owned soap manufacturer in Portugal. Oh, I thought- almost in disappointment until I turned over the brightly designed box and read the fine print: "Aromatic composition (made in France)".

Photo d'aujourd'hui: Les savons parfumés, trouvé à Hambourg en avril 2008.

Monday, July 14, 2008

nous bouffonnons

In an effort to overcome my laziness and practice conjugating French
verbs I revisited the verb2verbe website. This website quizzes you on over 4000 French verbs.

After doing a few
of the conjugation quizzes I decided that yes I'd like to do a "random test"and learn 10 new verbs by translating them from French to English. My laziness picked the least number of questions (20) and the present tense and hit "GO". And that's when the verb2verbe test program went buffoon on me.

My first random test gave me this gem: nous bouffonnons.
I had no clue so I just hit enter without actually entering anything. And it means we act the buffoon. I also learned another form: tu bouffonnes.

My second random test gave me an equally amusing gem
: tu suces. This means "you suck". But you should be VERY careful when using this verb. If you mean to say you don't like someone you could use "tu es nul". But if you aren't referring to candy: "sucer un bonbon" then make sure you really like the person you say this to... because it's only used in a sexual way.

The quizzes are great because you can go back and correct your mistakes,
helping you to remember the right conjugation form (instead of making the same mistakes over and over) and increasing recall on vocabulary words.

Unfortunately, the quiz has been programmed to count your translation
a mistake if you enter the meaning in the wrong order.

And since French isn't a "see and say" language (at least in my book, authors of "See it and Say it in French" Margarita Madrigal and Colette Dulac obviously disagree) it would be great
if you could actually hear the conjugations and French translations/questions. If anyone knows of a quiz that does this- please let me know!

If you want to see all the conjugation forms of bouffonner check out the le conjugeur website.

La photo (merci, m_ff) : Boule, St. Paul de Vence. Juin 2008.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


No translations needed for "Outlet" and the rest of the fashion shopping vocabulary falls into place:

Oh, comme j'aimerais tellement être à Paris demain!

Wherever you are expand your vocabulary and maybe your closet. Check out the les petites eshop for robes de soir, jupes and more:

More info in French and English about les petites at their website:

Oh, comme j'aimerais tellement être à Paris demain!
Oh, how I wish I were in Paris tomorrow.

La photo: A window display in Nice, France. Juin 2006.

ps- link updated for j'attendrai le suivant because the other link stopped working but now you can watch the short film again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Killing Temps

Killing time in French doesn't have anything to do with murder.

My weekly French lesson usually start outs with or ends up with questions
about the past. In the beginning it was an easy oui or non answer to the equally easy question: Tu as passé un bon week-end ? Now that I've had more than 80 lessons the questions are essay and I do essayer my best!

Qu'est-ce que tu as fait la semaine dernière ?

I want to answer that I spent
time with some new acquaintances and begin saying "j'ai passé le temps avec"

"j'ai passé DU temps avec" my French teacher interrupts to correct me. "Du temps,
to spend some time with" she clarifies. "Le temps in this case means to kill some time with".

'Oh,' I stand enlightened but not corrected. Thinking back to what I did
that past weekend it is more truthful to say I killed time with my new acquaintances.

If you're interested in killing time and learning French: hang out with l'inspecteur Roger Duflair:

Tu as passé un bon week-end?
Did you have a good weekend?

essayer to try
Qu'est-ce que tu as fait la semaine dernière?
What did you do last weekend?

J'ai passé le temps avec... I killed some time with...
J'ai passé du temps avec... I spent some time with
meurtre murder
tuer to kill/murder
le temps (concept) time
inspecteur inspector

La photo: One of two figureheads from the French sailing barque Marie Elise, shipwrecked near Ryspunt, South Africa in 1877. Now located at Cape Agulhas, Africa's southernmost tip where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet. Octubre 2007.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Je suis de retour
, never having really abandoned my French learning but skipping out on a month of blog posting.

What can I say? "Hi, again" for starters. En français it's a matter of "greetings reloaded" using the "re" at the beginning to get rid of the the "again" at the end: resalut, rebonjour, et rebonsoir.

And apropos "Encore" - this is really Janet Jackson singing in French!
French lyrics below in my comments box.

Je suis de retour I am back again

rebonjour good morning again

resalut hi again

rebonsoir good evening again
encore again

Be aware that the use of "re" and greetings is controversial- haven't found any rules about it online but for an interesting discussion check out this thread at the word reference forum on the usage of "rebonsoir"

La photo: A female Impala saying hello on the grounds of Kruger National Park in South Africa. Mi-octobre 2007.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


My weekly French lesson is being thwarted by Skype audio dropping out.
I let my fingers do the talking and tap, tap, taper a message suggesting to my teacher that we could continue silently like mimes: "on pourrait être comme les mimes".

Gesturing a conversation though wasn't possible because I don't have a
videocam. We would have to continue to type- be typists instead of mimes. Knowing that "taper" means to type, I struggled to come up with the noun. Tapereur? Tapetrice? Taperette?

"Dactylographe" my French teacher tells me.

"Quoi? Sounds like a dinosaur," I say. I'm thinking of the pterodactylus (which I later
find out is not a dinosaur although it did live in the Jurassic era).

"Le dactylo or la dactylo", she continues to explain, "is the short form depending
on the gender of the typist".

Now it really sounds like a type of dinosaur and I go back in time thinking of the typing classes I took in highschool. Back then before computers, word processors and electric typewriters (now I'm sounding like a dinosaur)- typing was a job. It was a professional skill to type over 55 words a minute without looking at the "qwerty" ("azerty" for the French) keyboard.

Now computers are everywhere and for everyone. But who really learns how to type using the 10-finger-system nowadays when the hunt and peck, two-finger system of typing is fast enough for keyboards and a single thumb faster still for mobile phones and the authors of keitai shosetsu? Mais je digresse... back to the present time and back to French.

"Les dactylos sont dinosaures," I say snapping back to the present and back to French.

Information on keitai shosetsu here: mobile phone novels.

I've linked to a typing test before but this one is different- and you can test yourself on seven different keyboards including French! (via :

La photo du M_ff: Le camélón dans Le Parc National Kruger avec notre safari guide, Lawrence de l'Afrique du Sud. Octobre 2007.

Monday, January 14, 2008

bon vs. bien

"Quand, je me sens pas bon...," I started to say.

My French teacher burst out with a good-natured laugh and proceeded to explain
the difference between using bon and bien with the verb sentir.

Thankfully, she realized I was mistaken when I had said, "When, I don't smell good..."

I knew that bon and bien both mean essentially the same thing: good. Sentir, I know from when I am feeling sick: je me sens malade. What I didn't know was that sentir can also mean to smell.

So unless you want to tell the world you smell- use bien with sentir!


je sens, tu sens, il sent, nous sentons, vous sentez, ils sentent
Quand, je me sens pas bon When I don't smell good
Quand, je me sens pas bien When I don't feel good

La photo: A Jackass penguin during molting season. Without his feathers he still looks good but he does stink! At Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. Novembre 2007.