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Archive for November, 2011

Take responsibility for your learning

Here’s just one possible daily routine you can set up to get you closer to your goals. I’ve written this routine with intermediate learners in mind who don’t have daily contact with francophones and who struggle with understanding the spoken language. But even if you’re at a lower level in French, the sooner you start exposing yourself to genuine spoken French the better. Remain positive by focusing on what you do understand rather than what you don’t.

If you speak with francophones for several hours every day, you can disregard all of the listening suggestions I’ve made here. Speaking with real people in large doses is always preferable to any other listening method. Of course, you can always add in these suggestions to help round out your skills, or just for pleasure.

This daily routine is for people who want to make real effort. You will need to make the time to implement it if you want to make progress. It will require two hours a day of you. (I did say it was for people who want to make real effort!) Of course, if you have even more time to dedicate to French, then you can increase the time recommendations I’ve made below as much as you’d like.

You can also decrease the time if necessary, but I’m sure you know that the less time you spend with the language, the slower your progress will be and the less momentum you’ll gain.

The emphasis here is on listening, not reading. Reading is important (as you’ll see in the last step), but if you want to make real progress in conversational French, then you’ll probably want to increase the time you’re exposed to conversational French!

One final note: Everything here is just a suggestion. You can use this page for ideas only, if you like. Or you can decide that nothing here interests you and go about things your own way! You’re in control of your own learning, so do what’s best for you.

60 minutes of watching television

Spend one hour a day of watching television programming from Quebec. Ideally, you will pick programming that uses conversational Quebec French. It is important to listen to conversational French to get used to hearing speakers talk in a natural way and so that you can model yourself on them. You’ll hear natural voice intonation, see facial expressions, and receive other contextual clues.

If you’re in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada, go to tou.tv and watch Les Parent, 30 vies and La Galère. These are the best shows using conversational Quebec French that are available on tou.tv at the time of publishing this.

If you’re outside Canada, many of the shows on tou.tv will be restricted. However, some programming there is accessible outside Canada: look for the green circle in the A-Z list. You can also check out Télé-Mag Québec. There are hundreds of videos here that you can watch from outside Canada. (I’m always on the look-out for better stuff for out-of-country viewers and I’ll update this section as I make new discoveries.) Alternatively, increase as necessary the number of minutes you spend listening to the radio described in the next section.

And if all else fails, look for some series on DVD and watch the episodes not once but many, many times. I recommend 19-2, Les Parent, La Galère, Tout sur moi, C.A., Trauma, François en série, Rumeurs, Les Invincibles. Look for them online at Renaud-Bray and Archambault.

30 minutes of radio

Listening to the radio is a very useful way to improve your listening comprehension and speaking skills, but it’s very often overlooked.

By listening to the radio, you’ll train yourself to pay attention to French with fewer contextual clues. You may find listening to the radio tiring at first because of this. If this is the case, start with fewer minutes then work up to 30.

No matter where in the world you are, you can listen online to 98,5 fm from Montreal. On weekdays, the programming is all talk. Most of the talk deals with current events, but the style of language used is conversational.

This is excellent for you in two ways — you’ll listen to a natural way of speaking and keep up with issues of interest to the Québécois at the same time.

If you live outside of Canada and are having real trouble finding good conversational French from Quebec to listen to, then increase the amount of time you spend listening to this radio station accordingly. I can’t stress enough how useful this radio is — I have seen some learners make phenomenal progress in French after listening to it in a dedicated way.

By the way, just having the radio on in the background probably doesn’t count towards your 30 minutes! It doesn’t hurt to do that, but what I’m encouraging you to do here is to spend 30 dedicated minutes to active listening (in other words, try to pay attention, okay?).

30 minutes of reading about current events

If you’ve followed the routine up to this point, you’ll have spent 90 minutes listening to French. Consider completing the last 30 minutes of your two-hour routine by reading about current events.

Why current events? You’ll probably want to know how to talk about what’s going on in the world around you. You’ll increase your vocabulary by reading about current events, and you’ll also absorb a large amount of vocabulary related to specific fields of activity in Quebec, such as government, education, sports, and so on.

You can read any online news source from Quebec that you like. If you don’t know where to begin, give Le Devoir from Montreal a try.

Please do consider this step. Even if you speak to francophones every day in large doses, this step is still worth considering. Strive to understand the world in which Quebec French is used.

You can do it

Reaching a high degree of proficiency in conversational Quebec French is most certainly within your grasp if you’re serious and consistent, and if you approach it with the right attitude of curiosity and excitement.

Oh, and, if you find it hard to dedicate two hours a day to French, you may just have to start waking up a little earlier!…

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You’ll feel it when the wind bites at your neck and sends an icy chill through your body. You’ll feel it when a tear streams uncontrollably from your right eye as the cold air slaps you in the face.

You’ll feel it when you jump across that pool of black, soupy water at the corner of Peel and Sainte-Catherine in Montreal. Sometimes you’ll make it across without getting wet, and sometimes you won’t.

You’ll feel it when you wake up the next morning after slipping on the ice and landing on your back in the street. You’ll feel it when your lips chap and your ears burn.

You’ll feel it when you see newcomers laughing and playing in the snow for the first time in their lives, and it reminds you of how excited the first snow made you and your friends feel when you were ten years old.

This is a pair of heavy industrial work boots with a steel toe. They’re insulated, waterproof, and have a really thick tread.

Close your eyes and imagine the sound of snow being crunched underneath them on a chilly night, in Montreal.

C’est ça l’accent québécois.

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Stéphanie in La Galère wants to become an editor for a publisher named Martin. But, first, she needs to learn how to become a good editor.

Martin tells her the tricks of the trade: He passes her a bunch of manuscripts and tells her that if she can’t get into the story after two pages, to just throw it the hell out. Ah, editors.

Si t’embarques pas après deux pages, tu me crisses ça aux vidanges.

If you’re not hooked after two pages, just throw it the hell out.

Les vidanges, that’s “the garbage.” Aux vidanges, that’s “in the garbage.” Just throw the damn thing in the garbage!

I guess it’s a good thing I can bypass the editors with this blog, otherwise my writing might have ended up aux vidanges...

Today’s your lucky day — here’s another scene in La Galère where this expression was used:

Stéphanie has broken up with her boyfriend. She’s at home, putting his clothes in a box so she can return them to him. Her friend Claude, la bitch in La Galère, gets pissed off with how nice Stéphanie is being towards her ex by packing his stuff up. So she grabs the box from Stéphanie, empties it all over the place, and tells her to just throw his stuff the hell out.

Tu me crisses ça dans un sac à vidanges!

(I want you to) throw all this the hell out!
(I want you to) put all this damn stuff in a garbage bag!

[First quote: Said by Martin, La Galère, season 4 episode 10, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 14 November 2011. Second quote: Said by Claude, La Galère, season 4, episode 9, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 7 November 2011.]

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In a scene from the TV show Les Parent, Thomas asks his mother to buy him a new cell phone.

Mother gives son the usual lecture — your current cell phone is fine, you don’t always need to be à la fine pointe de la technologie, it’s just peer pressure to have a better phone, bla bla bla…

Thomas tells his mother the real reason he needs a new cell phone, though. It’s because he’s dropped his current one in the toilet. Oups.

A couple ways you could say this French (the next time you find yourself in this situation!):

J’ai échappé mon celluaire dans la toilette.
I dropped my cell phone in the toilet.

J’ai échappé mon cell dans la toilette.
I dropped my cell in the toilet.

You can also say mon téléphone instead of mon cellulaire or mon cell.

How’s that for some useful French?? Ah — I guess you should also learn this one: déboucher la toilette. To unclog the toilet.

[This entry was inspired by Les Parent, “Trois garçons dans le vent,” season 4, episode 10, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 14 November 2011.]

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Quebec French karaoké! (#326)

In entry #289, you watched a video of Stage Lacroix talking about his new album Fêtes. Stage Lacroix’s producer has pointed me to his new expérience sociale (social experiment; more here) that I’m sure many of you will like. If you’re a French instructor, you may enjoy doing this in class — but anybody can take part! Here’s what to do:

  1. With your friends, classmates, students or even alone, film yourselves singing the song below.
  2. Upload the video to YouTube with this title:
    Ma participation à la vidéo “Postérité” de Stage Lacroix
  3. Choose this licence to allow for its reuse in a new final video:
    Creative Commons — Paternité (CC-BY-Réutilisation autorisée)*
  4. Send the YouTube link to the email address on this page.

*Creative Commons Attribution licence (reuse allowed) more info

If you’re a French instructor, here’s your chance to showcase your students’ singing talent in French (or your own, of course)! If any of you decide to take part, be sure to send me the link to your video. 🙂

You can visit this page on Stage Lacroix’s site for more details.

Here’s the song to sing.
Belle chanson, Stage!

If you can’t see the video above, watch it here on YouTube.

Some informal language from the song: mononc (oncle); matante (tante); pis (puis); chui (je suis); y vaut mieux (il vaut mieux); r’voler au ralenti (être projeté au ralenti); j’m’ennuie des balançoires (je m’ennuie des balançoires = les balançoires me manquent); j’aimerais ben ça (j’aimerais bien ça).

If there’s anything else you don’t understand in the lyrics, just leave a comment. And if you need the lyrics typed out, that’s here.

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Yesterday I said here that the French verb puer comes from the Spanish noun puerco, which means “pig.” I know, I know, this is wrong. I was testing you.

Everybody knows that puer comes from the Portuguese word porco.

In yesterday’s entry, you learned the expression puer de la bouche.

Tu pues de la bouche!
You stink from the mouth!

But why stop there? Now that you know that one, you can talk about stinky feet too:

C’est qui qui pue des pieds de même?!
Whose feet stink like that?!

But if you already know who it is and you want to confront the offender directly:

Tu pues des pieds! Ouache!
You stink from the feet! Gross!

Yes, I know that you don’t say “to stink from the mouth” and “to stink from the feet” in English. But, come on, doesn’t it sound better that way?

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And I don’t mean being all politically correct about it.

Your indispensable French verb for the day is:

puer
to stink

from the Spanish puerco (pig) *

Right, so the air around the offender’s mouth stinks, ça pue! Signal this to him by pinching your nose. Pincez-vous le nez.

Now you’ve got his attention.

If you’re a subtle type, you can let him know things are really off with a discreet question:

As-tu oublié de sortir les vidanges?
Did you forget to take the garbage out?

OK, that’s not discreet at all.

But if it’s not direct enough for you, then just tell him straight out that his breath really stinks:

Tu pues de la bouche.
Your breath reeks. (You stink from the mouth!)

If you want something a little bossier, you could even try:

Tu pues de la bouche. Si tu veux me parler, mâche de la gomme avant.
Your breath reeks. If you want to talk to me, chew some gum first.

But don’t forget to make a sour look on your face.

Some good adjectives that might come in handy for you more expressive and creative types include:

nauséabond, toxique, fétide, puant, meurtrier

Examples: haleine nauséabonde, effluves fétides, haleine meurtrière…

P.S. Yes, I’m feeling fine. Just thought we could have a bit more fun around here. It’s a rainy day in Montreal.

Next: stinky feet

* Thanks for the emails everybody — I was kidding about puerco though. 🙂

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