Posts Tagged ‘foot’

I’ve got a backlog of interesting photos from around Montréal on my phone to share with you.

Here are a few that I’ve taken recently, all in the downtown area of Montréal. Now that spring is around the corner, it’ll be easier for someone like me with a crushed foot to get around and take photos.

From foufounes électriques, to ouate de phoque, and asking for a light from a hot guy in a bar, enjoy this little linguistic trip around Montréal.

Foufounes électriques!

Where else but in Montréal will you find a club called the “Electric bumbums”? That’s right — Montréal’s got the Foufounes électriques!

This venue is located at 87, Sainte-Catherine Est, near métro Saint-Laurent.

Click on the image to see a larger version of the front entrance to les Foufs. Right above the grey chariot in the roo, we see the word Foufounes; to the right, in smaller letters, we see électriques.

To be precise, the feminine noun foufounes used in Québécois French means “(bum) cheeks,” or les fesses. But to preserve the playful feel of the venue’s name, I think it translates better as “electric bumbums.”

One of the founders of the venue explained in The Guardian how the name was chosen: “Ass, girls and boys have one, so it’s not really sexual, and electric sounds dancy, so that’s how the name came about.”

Ouate de phoque! (… for young girls)

Maybe you’ll remember the image of a fun t-shirt in entry #687, sent in by Philip, with ouate de phoque printed on it. This is a playful French spelling of the expression “what the fuck.”

La ouate is an absorbent cotton puff or ball, like the ones that women use to apply or remove make-up. Un phoque is a seal. So in addition to the comical spelling ouate de phoque, we’ve also got wordplay: absorbent seal puffs.

There’s even a series of books for young girls in Québec called Ouate de phoque! I took a photo of the covers of two books in the series. Obviously, the vulgarity of the English expression is lost entirely in the playful French usage ouate de phoque.

I don’t think you’ll be seeing a series of books in English for young teenage girls called “What the fuck!” any time soon.

Québécois francophones do in fact use the swear word fuck, which is sometimes also spelled phonetically in French as foque. When fuck is used in French, it feels much less vulgar than in English.

One summer, I worked in Ontario alongside a québécois francophone. This was 20 years ago (ouch). At the time, my friend was still learning English. He would often say fuck around the office. I had to tell him this was very offensive to anglophone ears, and that people in the office wouldn’t appreciate it. He had no idea.

You got a light?

I spotted this tree with paper “leaves” on it at Place-des-Arts.

The leaves are in fact bits of paper with a sentence starter on it: Je me souviens…

People then fill in the rest with whatever it is they remember and want to share. On one of the leaves (see image below), someone wrote:

Je me souviens… du jour où je suis allée demander du feu au plus beau gars du bar! I remember… the day I went up to the most handsome guy at the bar and asked him for a light!

As-tu du feu? Of course, now that smoking has been banned pretty much everywhere, this classic conversation starter has fallen into disuse!

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Last year while in Italy, I was hit by a van. The van drove over my left foot, crushing all the toes and the ankle. My foot looks pretty mangled.

Three months after the accident (and three surgeries later), my surgeon told me during a check-up that I could start walking again. Before that moment, he had instructed me to not put my foot to the ground.

When he told me to start walking again, I thought he was crazy. There was no way I could put pressure on the foot with all the pain I was in. And, yet, here was my surgeon telling me that I could start walking again.

I went home after that check-up and tried to walk. I couldn’t take one single step. Not only that, I couldn’t even bear to put my foot down for more than a few seconds. I kept trying every day. But, one month after that last check-up, I could manage only one very painful and hesitating step.

When I went back for another check-up, the surgeon scoffed when I told him I was unable to walk. For him, I should have been walking around like nothing had happened by that point. He even laughed at me.

Then he took a look at the foot and realised something was indeed wrong. He diagnosed CRPS. I was unable to walk not because I was being a wimp but because of a medical condition.

A year has passed since the accident. I still struggle with the foot every day. I walk with a limp and it’s painful. But I can take many steps now. I’m pretty sure that I even walk more in one day than some people without physical problems.

I say this not to brag but to say that it’s possible to work through difficult situations if you do it slowly. I had to stop listening to my surgeon in order to make progress. He wanted me to be up on my feet and walking around faster than my body would allow. His attitude undermined my confidence and made me feel pretty bad about myself.

Even I’m guilty of that attitude, though. It’s easy for me to say that you should listen to a few hours of French a day, or get out there and talk to people. But if you haven’t made this a habit yet, getting started can be very difficult.

At the end of January, I was able to take one step. By the end of February, I could take about ten. In March, I made better progress. I started taking hundreds of steps with the help of my crutches. This summer, I even managed to start walking a kilometre at a time.

I still have bad days, days when I can barely get out of bed. Some days I even come back home in the evening and wish that I had lost my foot in the accident because the pain is so intense. But — I can walk. I had to do it on my own terms, not on my surgeon’s. If I had listened to my surgeon, I’d have convinced myself that I was useless.

You can change your habits, but do it slowly. If you want to make listening to French every day a new habit, start so slowly that the amount seems ridiculous. For one month, I only took one step a day before my body would start screaming for me to stop.

The truth is that maybe even taking one step was too much for me. Maybe I should have just started by standing on the foot for a few seconds instead.

Start with listening to French for one minute a day. Just one minute. It’s such a small amount that it seems silly not to do it. After one week, double it to two minutes. If you keep doubling the amount like this, you’ll be at one hour a day after almost two months.

You can do this with any new habit that you want to form. Start with an amount so small that it barely feels like you’re doing anything. Increase the amount very slowly over the weeks that follow. If you try to do it all at once right from the start, you risk becoming overwhelmed and dropping it altogether.

I’ve learned to listen to my body, not the doctors. I know the difference now between just feeling lazy and being physically unable to do something. It’s good to push yourself when you’re feeling lazy, but when your body (or mind) needs a break or wants you to go more slowly, listen to it.

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“Help! I think I speak pretty good French, but I still have so much trouble understanding what people are saying!”

If that describes you, know that you’re not alone. Improving your listening skills takes time — a lot of it. If you’re struggling to understand spoken French, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a gift for languages. We all have to work on it. It just means that you need to revise what you’re doing to avoid fumbling along without making progress.

Seeing improvement in your listening skills is a lot like losing weight (or gaining it). You only see the changes in hindsight after a long period has passed. You don’t see the changes on a day-to-day basis. If you start following some or all of the suggestions below, you can be sure that your listening skills will improve.

By the way, I’m not going to include “speak with francophones” in this list. That one’s so obvious that you already knew you should be doing it.

1. Speak with francophones

OK, I lied. Speak with francophones! There can be no better listening practice than speaking with francophones. Start with just one francophone. One-on-one conversations will reform your French in ways that you can’t even imagine if you’re not doing this yet. In one-on-one conversations, you have to listen to what your friend is saying for the conversation to continue.

Please don’t be one of those people who thinks that they need to improve their French just a little more before speaking. That’s missing the whole point of learning French. Nobody cares about your perfect or imperfect French, people care about you.

The francophone you find doesn’t even need to be québécois. Just find a francophone and start building a relationship.

If you are in fact already speaking with francophones very regularly but still feel like you’re struggling to understand spoken French — relax. You’re doing everything right. Your listening skills are improving, even if you don’t see it right now. Keep doing what you’re doing.

2. Familiarise yourself with more vocabulary

Yes, become familiar with the vocabulary specific to Quebec French, but please don’t neglect French vocabulary in general. Sometimes I see certain learners get so hung up with wanting to learn all the typical québécois words (nothing wrong with that) that they forget to learn even the most basic and important vocabulary common to all francophones (that’s a problem).

Become familiar with vocab however it is that you like to do it. You like word lists? Go nuts. Flash cards? Flash away. Read the newspaper? Browse the dictionary? Do it. Just do something that you enjoy and that you’ll be inclined to do often enough.

The point of this isn’t to study vocabulary. Really, I don’t think that you’ll learn vocabulary by studying it. The point of this is to make an initial contact with lots of vocabulary on your own so that when you’re doing the more important work of speaking with francophones or listening to French, you’ll hear that vocab again and have a better chance of understanding what you hear. And that’s when you’ll learn the vocab for real.

3. Listen to the radio

I know of learners who have made incredible progress in French after listening to the radio. I’ve recommended it numerous times on OffQc: 98,5 fm. It’s all-talk radio on weekdays, which means that it’s very dense with spoken French. You can listen to it live on the radio in Montréal, or listen online from anywhere.

Again, if I’ve insisted so much on 98,5 fm, it’s because I’ve seen the success that other learners have had with it with my own eyes (or ears). If this station isn’t for you, no problem, there are others to choose from. Pick something you like and listen to it. But really listen to it. Don’t just keep noise on in the background for the sake of it — pay attention to what you’re hearing.

4. Watch television series

OffQc is full of examples from québécois television series. This isn’t an accident! I’ve chosen the language examples that you’ve discovered on OffQc because they’re pertinent to everyday language situations. Three television series that I’ve quoted from extensively on OffQc are Les Parent, 19-2 and La Galère.

These three certainly aren’t the only québécois series that prove useful, but I’ve consistently gone back to them time and time again because of their pertinence, quality and entertainment appeal. You can watch films too, but the advantage to picking series is that they have many episodes and are produced in several seasons’ worth.

The most important consideration, of course, is to watch something that interests you. There’s not much point forcing yourself to sit through something that you feel is dead boring. You’re not going to become hooked enough to want to continue. Keep looking for something that you fall in love with, then listen, listen, listen.

Don’t just watch an episode once and be done with it. Watch it the first time to enjoy it. Watch it a second time to become even more familiar with it. Listen a third time, and then a fourth. You get the idea. The more you listen to it, the more that language is going to worm its way into your head and the better you’ll become at listening.

5. Every single day, baby

As a bare minimum, spend one to two hours a day of listening to French or taking part in French conversation. If you want to pick up steam in French though, I say increase it to the highest amount that you can manage, without driving yourself crazy. There is time for it. (No, you don’t need to spend quite so much time on Facebook.)

I don’t want to be a downer, but if the number of hours you spend per month listening to French and taking part in conversation can be counted on the fingers of one hand, you’re not doing enough. This is why you feel like you’re struggling to understand.

The number of hours should be more like the number of fingers on both your hands and all the toes on your feet. And then add to that all the fingers on my hands and all the toes on my feet. (OK, maybe not my feet because I’m missing some toes. Somebody else’s feet.) And then multiply that by three. Or four…

Increase the hours dramatically and you can be sure that your listening comprehension will improve. There’s nothing magical about it, honest.

Enjoy your journey!

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