Archive for December, 2012

Once you’ve learned all the basic vocabulary in French, it can be tricky knowing what vocabulary to learn next.

A good way to identify the vocabulary that you still need to learn is by speaking aloud to yourself. For example, try speaking aloud in French for 5 minutes non-stop on a topic of interest or importance to you.

As you speak, pay attention to what you have trouble expressing in French. When you’ve finished, find out how to say the parts that you struggled with. You can check a dictionary or ask a francophone.

You can try this exercise frequently every day to identify the gaps in your vocabulary. You can change the amount of time you spend on it as you see fit, perhaps increasing it as you go along.

I like this exercise because it will guide you to learn the vocabulary you are likely to need in a real conversation.

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Here’s some random informal French overheard on 98,5 fm that you can review or become familiar with.

je suis là pronounced as j’suis là (sounds like chui là)

je n’ai pas le choix said as j’ai pas l’choix

ce n’est pas compliqué said as c’est pas compliqué

un appartement said informally as un appart’ (the t is pronounced)

il n’y a rien qui va se passer said as y’a rien qui va se passer

puis il a accepté des compromis said as pi y’a accepté des compromis

il n’y a personne qui va me faire taire said as y’a personne qui va me faire taire

ce n’est pas correct said as c’est pas correc’

j’ai mon voyage!, an informal expression meaning “I’m fed up!”

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Philippe asks about the shop clerks in Montréal:

I am not shy about speaking French in stores, coffee shops, etc., but the problem is that most clerks peg me for an anglo immediately and respond in English.

Should I just continue to stumble through in French (at the linguistic level of a three year old) or is there some sort of polite “signal” I can give them that tells them I am taking French immersion and forbidden to speak English?

My advice: Try not to worry about it for now. By all means, continue on in French if you have the desire and nerve for it in these situations. There’s nothing stopping you, and Montréal is your playground for learning French. As for signals, continuing on in French yourself is a pretty good one, I think.

But if the exchange ultimately slips into English, don’t beat yourself up. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure in French. Just let it go and try again next time.

Besides, you can’t control the behaviour of others anyway, and much less that of a clerk who may not be very interested in your desire to improve your French.

Yes, it’s frustrating, but it’s a waste of your energy worrying about it. More important, I feel, are the bonds that you manage to form with francophones — friends, co-workers, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. The conversations that occur in French with people that you’ve formed a bond with is where you’ll really advance in French and get beyond your current level.

Exchanges with clerks are generally short and shallow. Once you’ve learned the basics of ordering in a restaurant, it all becomes routine and there isn’t much more to learn.

On the other hand, the conversations you’ll have with people that you’ve formed a bond with will be an endless source of learning opportunities. You’ll always be required to express yourself in ever more complex ways. Focus your efforts on this instead.

Then, as your linguistic ability increases, I think that the question of being able to carry out exchanges completely in French with clerks will take care of itself with time.

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Listening again to FM 103,3, I caught an interview with singer Karim Ouellet.

Every year Radio-Canada “reveals” young artists worth discovering for their musical originality. Karim Ouellet was chosen as one of Radio-Canada’s revelations for 2012-2013.

During the interview, Karim talked about his childhood, which he spent in this country and in Senegal, Rwanda and Tunisia. He described his childhood as having been a lot of fun:

J’ai eu une enfance très très le fun.

A little review… something that’s fun can be described as le fun in informal French (with the le), when used like an adjective:

une enfance le fun
une soirée le fun
C’est l’fun!
C’est pas l’fun!

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On radio station FM 103,3 yesterday, a speaker talked about the snow that fell the night before in Montréal.

She mentioned that driving conditions were difficult for those who took to the road in the morning:

Ceux qui ont pris la route, c’était vraiment pas évident.

pas évident
difficult, not easy

C’était vraiment pas évident.
It wasn’t easy at all.

C’est pas évident is understood everywhere in French, not just in Quebec.

A while later, the speaker used the expression again. She explained that driving conditions would be difficult during the evening rush hour:

Ça sera vraiment pas évident, les conditions routières…

You can read more about the expression c’est pas évident in an older entry, #43.

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