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Archive for September, 2012

A number of you have asked for ways to improve your French now that you have a francophone girlfriend or boyfriend.

If you feel frustrated that you cannot maintain conversations completely in French, there’s no need to give up. Try a different approach to keep moving forward in French if your frustration level is really high.

For most of you in this situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend is probably bilingual. If you’re with a unilingual, I’ll guess that your French is probably already very strong and that this isn’t a concern.

If your bilingual boyfriend or girlfriend agrees to it, consider speaking in English yourself while the other speaks in French.

This way, you’re still getting all the exposure you need to French but without the frustration of having to speak it yourself right away.

Start incorporating more French into your speech as time goes by. This will become much easier after you’ve been listening to your girlfriend or boyfriend speak to you in French for an extended time.

I don’t feel that you must eliminate your language to learn French.

Listening to French is essential. Don’t think for a minute that it doesn’t count towards improving your French, even if you’re still speaking in English right now.

Speak whatever French you know and keep extending your boundaries, but just because you resort to English in the earlier stages doesn’t mean that you won’t learn French.

If you both resort to always using English, however, then you’re stuck!

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Let’s continue with some more French from the first episode of Les Parent, season 5. In this episode, Louis and his wife Natalie receive a visit from Louis’ cousin Kevin (played by real-life Kevin Parent).

Louis and Kevin spend a late night out in a bar in rue Saint-Laurent. The next morning, they both wake up in rough shape with a hangover. Natalie comments on how awful they both look:

Vous êtes donc ben maganés!

With the adjective magané, Natalie commented on the rough, hungover look on their faces. It means something like “ruined.”

She also intensified maganés by adding donc ben before it. Donc ben is pronounced don bin, and it’s just an informal way of saying “really.”

Quote from Les Parent, season 5, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 17 September 2012.

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Let’s look at some more informal French from episode 1 of Les Parent, season 5. (It’s still available on tou.tv as I write this.)

The Parent family are all seated at the table eating supper. Louis (the father) asks his youngest son Zak how his maths exam went.

Zak got a low mark on the exam, so he tries to avoid giving his father a direct answer about how he did. When Natalie (his mother) asks Zak what he got on the exam, only then does he admit how poorly he did.

Louis — Coudon Zak, t’étais pas supposé d’avoir le résultat de ton examen de maths aujourd’hui?
Zak — Quel examen?
Louis — Ben… ton examen de maths la semaine passée.
Zak — Ah ouais… c’t’examen-là!
Louis — Oui.
Zak — Ben, euh… c’était correct.
Louis — Correct…?
Zak — Correct comme dans correct, là.
Natalie — Zak, combien t’as eu?
Zak —
Quarante-cinq.
Louis — Combien??!

Here’s the conversation in English:

Louis — Hey Zak, weren’t you supposed to get your mark on your maths exam today?
Zak — What exam?
Louis — Well… your maths exam last week.
Zak — Oh right… that exam!
Louis — Yes.
Zak — Well, uhh… it was okay (an okay mark).
Louis — Okay…?
Zak — Yeah, okay as in okay.
Natalie — Zak, what (mark) did you get?
Zak — Forty-five (%).
Louis — What did you get (how much)??!

A closer look at some of the language from this dialogue:

Coudon is similar to “hey” or “so” in English, in that it can signal that a question is going to be asked. Sometimes it’s also spelled coudonc, but the final c isn’t pronounced.

The expression la semaine passée, or “last week,” contains the â sound in the word passée. (It sounds like pâssée.) Remember that â sounds a little like “aww.” Start listening for â so that you’ll hear just how it sounds.

Both Louis and Zak used the informal ben, which is similar to “well” in English and can serve as a filler word. It sounds like the French word bain.

Zak pronounced cet examen as c’t’examen, or like stexamen.

Both Louis and Zak pronounced correct informally as correc, without the final t.

In this conversation, tu étais was pronounced informally as t’étais, and tu as was pronounced as t’as.

The short form of mathématiques is maths or math. Although you’ll hear some people pronounce it as mats, the pronunciation mat is felt to be more correct regardless of how it’s spelled (with or without the s). Louis used the pronunciation mat.

Useful expression to learn: combien tu as eu? (informally: combien t’as eu?), or “what mark did you get?”

Dialogue from Les Parent, season 5, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 17 September 2012.

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The first episode of Les Parent season 5 was aired this week. For a limited time, it can also be viewed on tou.tv within Canada.

In this first episode, Marie is visiting Louis and Natalie at their home.

When it gets late, Louis offers Marie a lift home. But Marie declines the offer, saying that she’ll take a taxi instead:

Non, non, dérange-toi pas, je prendrai un taxi.

With dérange-toi pas, Marie told Louis to not go out of his way for her. This is an informal way of saying ne te dérange pas. It’s simply dérange-toi with pas added to the end to make it negative.

Similarly, you can hear things like this in the spoken French of Quebec:

inquiète-toi pas (informal for ne t’inquiète pas)
fâche-toi pas (informal for ne te fâche pas)
dis-moi pas ça (informal for ne me dis pas ça), etc.

Quote from Les Parent, season 5, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 17 September 2012.

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In this first video, Ricardo shows how to barbecue fruit.

J’adore la saveur des fruits grillés sur le barbecue. C’est très simple à faire. Pour les fruits comme les pêches, les prunes ou encore les mangues, on coupe le fruit en deux, on retire le noyau, mais on ne le pèle pas. Pour les bananes, même chose — on peut la mettre entière ou encore la couper en deux, mais on garde la peau. Pour les ananas, je les pèle, je les coupe en tranches, mais je garde le cœur. Comme ça, la chair se tient bien.

Dans tous les cas, vous allez chauffer votre barbecue à puissance élevée, et vous pouvez mettre un trait d’huile végétale, ou d’olive même si vous voulez, sur vos fruits, comme ça ils colleront pas et la saveur sera pas changée. Et là, on va les mettre à plat, sur la grille. Et pour pas que les fruits soient trop cuits, grillez-les d’un seul côté. Pour ce qui est des fruits plus petits comme les fraises, la meilleure façon c’est encore de se faire une brochette.

On n’a même pas besoin de refermer le couvercle. On les laisse griller là quelques minutes, on les vérifie de temps en temps pour s’assurer que le marquage est à notre goût. Si jamais vous avez envie de parfumer vos fruits avec un sirop, y’a pas de problème. Mais faites ça à la toute fin, sinon ça va brûler. Wow. Ça, avec une boule de glace à la vanille ou encore un trait de sirop au chocolat, vous avez un dessert parfait prêt en quelques minutes.

In this second video, Ricardo presents a pair of pizza scissors that he’s designed. The feminine word pointe means “slice,” as in a slice of pizza.

Ça faisait des années que je me disais : il doit y avoir quelque chose de plus efficace qu’une roulette à pizza. On s’est dit : pourquoi pas des ciseaux à pizza! Parce que tout ce qu’on a à faire, c’est de couper notre pointe, de tourner les ciseaux de côté, et ça devient la spatule de service.

C’est simple comme ça — et ça va au lave-vaisselle. On défait nos ciseaux en deux morceaux, dans le panier, c’est réglé!

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If you struggle to find the courage to speak to native speakers, you know how risky it feels to jump into a conversation or to initiate one yourself.

When we feel anxiety, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we must not be ready to speak yet. And so we wait.

We study some more, hoping that the right moment will come along.

But the longer we wait, the more we risk letting anxiety build up. We may never take action.

There is no right moment.

Take more speaking risks, and early on, before the anxiety builds up. Your French will be messy, and that’s normal.

If you believe that you must get it right every single time, you’ll be too tense to allow yourself to explore. Progress will be a battle.

Take the pressure off.

Give yourself permission to make all the mistakes you want.

When you see that nothing bad happens, your anxiety will go down. You’ll begin to take risks more willingly. Learning will speed up.

Language learning involves a lot of relearning. Let the mistakes come out — you’ll fix what needs fixing along the way.

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Comedian Martin Matte reminds us of the importance of instilling a sense of respect in children for their parents.

When watching the videos on this blog, listen a few times without peeking at the French transcription first.

Un autre p’tit truc, un enfant doit apprendre à respecter son père en toutes circonstances. Alors il faut surtout pas hésiter à mettre son respect à l’épreuve.

— Papa, j’aime pas ça quand tu viens me chercher à l’école, ça me gêne!

— Oh! Qu’est-ce qu’y’a là, hein? T’as honte de ton papa? Est-ce que c’est ça? Vous avez honte de votre papa? Il faut jamais avoir honte de son père. Allez jouer, là. Par là-bas! Va jouer…

Tss… Tu fais tout pour eux pis c’est comme ça qu’ils te remercient…

ça me gêne, it embarrasses me, it bothers me
qu’est-ce qu’y’a (informal) = qu’est-ce qu’il y a
t’as (informal) = tu as
pis (informal) = puis

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