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Entries from March 2010

le french flair

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French Charm. No photo of the star rugby player (see today's story...) for you. I hope a photo of a beautiful French woman will do. I met Estelle during my latest photo périple through the town of Montfaucon. At the bakery, Estelle serves chocolate eggs, jelly beans, Tic-Tacs, Hollywood gum, and melt-in-your-mouth money... enough friandises to fill the kids Easter baskets on Sunday! Merci beaucoup, Estelle, for letting me take your photo!


le flair français

: (in Rugby) french flair: a French style of play renowned for its paradoxical combination of rugged physicality and inspired grace. --Wikipedia


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Last night I was invited to a private club in Marseilles to dine on saumon à loh-zay and listen to an English rugby-man speak en français. Only, as I sat savoring dish after delectable dish, I remembered a lesson my Dad always taught me: nothing is free in life and when one forks down French chocolat like there's no tomorrow... you can be sure "tomorrow" or "Payback Time", will come!

"Payback Time" for me will come soon enough. Next month I will rendre service for that fancy feast. Luckily, I won't have to do dishes or faire la plonge to pay for my meal... a little translation work will take care of the tab. 

En fait, if I was invited to last night's Sport & Business Club meet-up, this was in order to prepare for a stint as interpreter for the club's next speaker: American boxer "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.

As I listened from the audience to the current speaker, Rugby World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson, I became increasingly uneasy about my "skills" at interpretation. First off, Mr Wilkinson's French seemed perfect to me (I later learned that he had only recently begun French lessons...). He had no need for an interpreter, but held his own during the discussion.

Indeed, I had a hard time keeping up during the Q&A session where currently the English speaker was being asked about the phenomenon known as "French flair".  I missed the first part of his response, but when Mr Wilkinson mentioned something about mites, my ears perked up, and I wondered what did bugs have do with French elegance? Indeed, what did flair have to do with football?

And then it hit me: Mr Wilkinson wasn't talking about "mites," instead he was mouthing the French word for myth,which, when properly pronounced, sounds like "meet"—something I'd "interpreted" as "mite")!

Now I am really nervous about my ability to translate for Marvelous Marvin next month. My gaffe went quietly unnoticed, but what if I had verbalized such an embarrassing interpretation?

I left the dinner a little disturbed. On my way down the stairs I passed Jonny Wilkinson, who was talking to one of the organizers. I thought about this being my chance to say hello....  Instead, I continued on in self-doubt: 

"Well, what could you possibly say to him?" I argued, "Nice to 'mite' you"?

I no longer trusted myself to speak so much as English to the eloquent Anglophone whose French shone like moonlight over the Rhône, not far from where a lagging language learner soon returned home.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is open to your comments about today's word or story. You may also pose questions about France, the French language and similar topics. By helping each other, we enrich this community by educating and inspiring one another in all things French. Click here to comment.

***

 

French Vocabulary & Audio File Download Wave

Download MP3

le flair français = French flair
un périple = a tour, journey
une friandise = a sweet (candy)
le saumon = salmon
loh-zay (pronunciation for "oseille" (f) = sorrel
rendre service = return the favor
faire la plonge = to do the washing-up
en fait = in fact
un invité / une invitée = a guest
en français = in French

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***

Words in a French Life Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French. —Booklist

 Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

Got Nintendo? Playing My French Coach for 15 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to become fluent in French

Check out Siblu's top ten blogs about France

***

 Typography
Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
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"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


se reposer sur ses lauriers

Braise & Smokey (c) Kristin Espinasse.
Resting on one's laurels. (Note: I didn't have a picture of a laurel, so how about anemones instead? Let's rephrase things now to "easing up on one's anemones"

se reposer sur ses lauriers

    : to rest on one's laurels


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I did not bring my husband his cup of kawa this morning. Instead, I crept up the spiral staircase with its dusty red tommettes, made a swift kro-shay at the top of the cage d'escalier, and ran like a thief on a twilight getaway.

There, at the end of the hall, in a spring-cleaned office, I sat down at a tidy desk and willed myself to cast out culpability and put all guilt to rest. I looked around at my treasure, this room of one's own, and let myself get lost in the bliss of Alone.

Leave me ALONE! Isn't that what we so often yearn to say at the end of any given day? But there is no room for selfishness in a world full of need. So we try our best to put Ego aside and say "Yes" to others and dedicate ourselves to deed after good deed. 

But in the early hours of the morning... before anyone else is awake, a peaceful parcel is ours for the taking, and there we claim our moment of calm and drive in our victory stake.

 Les Volets Bleus (c) Kristin Espinasse. Photo taken in Orange (Vaucluse) France

...Only sometimes we linger too long on our lauriers...

He can get his own coffee this morning! I decide, allowing my meditative moment to meander on and on... Nursing my coffee like Nefertiti, I sit back in my office chair and click open my calendar...

Monday, March 29th... !!!

Double-quick dare-dare, I ditch Nefertiti—and any other newfangled notions about nursing time—and hightail my hide back to the coffee machine in time to make my husband his café with cream. Next, I climb the stairs in rhythm with the French words of Joyeux Anniversaire!

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Will you help me to wish Jean-Marc Joyeux Anniversaire? Thanks for leaving him a message here. 

 

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Happy Birthday Chief Grape. We love you.

French Vocabulary and Audio File

(check back this afternoon, via this link, for the audio file.)

le kawa = (synonyme for) coffee
la tommette = red (often hexagonal) floor tile
kro-shay (pronunciation for "le crochet") = sudden swerve, detour
la cage d'escalier = stairwell
les lauriers (mpl) = laurels
dare-dare = double-quick
joyeux anniversaire! = happy birthday!

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.


I Know How To Cook The bible of French home cooking, Je Sais Cuisiner, has sold over 6 million copies since it was first published in 1932. It is a household must-have, and a well-thumbed copy can be found in kitchens throughout France. Its author, Ginette Mathiot, published more than 30 recipe books in her lifetime, and this is her magnum opus. It's now available for the first time in English as I Know How to Cook. With more than 1,400 easy-to-follow recipes for every occasion, it is an authoritative compendium of every classic French dish, from croque monsieur to cassoulet.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


bapteme

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Around the time I met my husband... Il y a vingt ans. We've been following each other's dreams ever since. Read on in today's column (photo of Jean-Marc. His picture is taped to my computer screen).

le baptême (baa-tem)

    : baptism

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le baptême de l'air = first flight, first ride in an airplane
le baptême de l'eau = first swim, sail... first time in the water
le baptême du feu (baptism of fire) = first combat
la robe de baptême = christening robe

Note: le baptême was word of the day on August 15, 2008

.
:: A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse ::

The brook below is pocketed with pluie and the mallard ducks are hiding out. A storm is brewing outside my window and it is a good thing, I think, that Jean-Marc finished planting yesterday... given the hue of the horizon: deep grumpy gray.

Hier, the sky was bright in patches and the sun shone down across the barren field below and cast clouds across the campagne.  If you were a canard colvert or some such feathered friend flying over France, the field would have been just another peaceful patch along a cozy country "quilt". But down below, where three men toiled and soiled, peace gave way to parched...

With over 4000 baby vines to be planted there was no time to stop and refuel let alone refresh oneself. Thirteen varieties of white grapes were going into the ground at an alarming, no-time-to-hesitate rate. By the end of the day all plants would be laid. No machines were used, just six hands to manoeuvre or "man work" the earth.  Jean-Marc was thirsty, but stoicism won out: the future "father" wanted to get his infant vines planted in time for nature's baptême (rain was just around the coal gray corner).

Like the mallards that return each spring to have their ducklings, our farmer-Frenchman is helping the earth to give birth. Jean-Marc will have to wait another year and a half to take his babies home... but that doesn't stop the proud père from dancing over the newly planted loam.

***Video of Jean-Marc and équipe!***

These guys ROCK! Do not miss the following video (click over to the site if you are reading via email).

Note: those "sticks" that are being planted are actually baby vines topped with red sealant. The vines will soon push through, just as one man's dream continues to do.

I think the words in the video go so well with my husband's dream:
One love.. you've got to share it... it leaves you darlin' if you don't care for it.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

The comments corner is now open! Talk about today's story or share one of your own. Can't think of anything to say? Here are some ideas: what city do you live in? (my Dad's favorite question). What is your favorite French word? How old are you? (One of my Mom's favorite questions!)  Click here to comment.

 

 

French Vocabulary & Sound File

Download MP3 or Download WAV


il y a vingt ans = twenty years ago
la pluie
= rain
hier = yesterday
la campagne = open country
le canard colvert = mallard duck
le baptême = baptism, christening

 

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An old French Citroen, outside the town of Orange, and a beautiful almond tree in blossom.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


aubade

 Remparts (c) Kristin Espinasse
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une aubade (oh-bad)

    : dawn serenade

donner une aubade à quelqu'un = to serenade someone

 

:: A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse ::

On ne sait jamais ce que demain sera... One never knows what tomorrow will bring and for Tessa and me that meant that someone would sing!

After finishing our writer's room chore, we got into my car and set out to explore... driving past bare vine fields, lone cabanons, and the almond blossoms of promise. 

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Speeding past the flowering forsythia and irises in the brook beside the road, we felt Hope's hallelujah as we shook off Winter's sock it to ya! Beaten in our hibernal caves, we were venturing out with an emphatic olé oollée!

Sauntering into the town of Tulette, un village avoisinant, we parked in front of an ancient moulin and took out our cameras for a photographic spin. Tess is an aquarelliste who takes photos with an artist's objective in mind: her "captures" will become colorful canvases. I thought about what attracts me to a certain scene: character, quirkiness, and charm to name a few. And people, I love people too!

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With that Tess and I headed like bees over to the town fountain, where we met Lolo and Driss! Strangers no more, Lolo and Driss "le Marocain" graciously posed for pictures before the former offered an impromptu tour of les environs.

In front of the town Mairie, Lolo pointed out the Provençal words that amounted to "liberty". He talked about the moulin (beside which we had parked) and told of the fresh water that his town once enjoyed... until a new mayor came along and upset the source—joining the town to an industrial water line.

Lolo marched into town hall one day and "exchanged words" with the mayor.
"Why don't you just take this pic," he said angrily, and go outside and chisel off the word liberté from the sign above the door?!"

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Lolo, when he is not fighting for his fellow Frenchmen's rights, enjoys pointing out the Renaissance architecture. Before we said goodbye, just outside the town renovated ramparts, Lolo shared a little about himself.

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                                              Lolo has charming fossettes (dimples)

"Je chante dans le chœur...
"

Tess could not help herself, "Will you please sing for us?!" And that is how we found ourselves serenaded by the man who almost chiseled liberty. It would have been a sacrifice, defacing the sweet sign above the town hall's entry, but l'eau, just like the air we breathe, is a human right that should not rhyme with industry.

Tess held back her tears until Lolo got into his car and put it in gear.  The serenade, which the French call "aubade", was a gift from above... as is freedom, as is love.

:: Le Coin Commentaire ::


Thank you for leaving comments, which helps to foster this French community. Click here to leave a message and to tell us which part of the world you are writing from.

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Visit Tessa's blog : click here

French Vocabulary and Sound File listen Download Wav or  MP3

une aubade
donner une aubade à quelqu'un

on ne sait jamais ce que demain sera = one never knows what tomorrow will hold
le cabanon = little stone hut (check out our Facebook page)
avoisinant, avoisinante = neighboring
un village avoisinant = a neighboring village
le moulin = mill
le moulin à eau = water mill
aquarelliste = watercolorist
le Marocain (la Marocaine) = Moroccan
les environs = the surroundings
la Mairie = town hall
la source = spring (water)
je chante dans le choeur = I sing in the choir
le pic = pick(axe)
la liberté = freedom
l'eau (f) = water
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A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey

Smokey says: that's my mom. Isn't she bee-yoo-tee-full! And those are my sisters who harvested her milk last September, when everyone else was harvesting grapes!

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


la question mille francs

Photo taken in Tulette, Vaucluse (c) Kristin Espinasse
Balance, order, and sunshine -- essentials for a thriving mind.


la question à mille francs (lah-kest-yon-ah-meel-frahn)

    : the sixty-four thousand dollar question (something that is not known, the answer for which wins top prize!)
.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

It is WONDERFUL to be back in my writing room! So how did I find myself typing in a corner of my bedroom on top of a felt-bare card table? Ça—c'est la question à mille francs!

My dear friend Tessa has her theories. Tess is the one who pried me out of my corner cave, where I fancied myself Writer In Residence for the past twelve months.

"Really, I like it here," I swore to my friend, who pulled me out of my délire, by the ear!

Soon we were knee-deep in the not-so-distant past as I watched the woman with the crate delegate. 

"We'll need garbage bags, a broom, a dust-pan, and a plumeau," Tess said, handing me dozens of dusty old books that had been pulled out of a poubelle and given to me by a neighbor.

"Well, they should have STAYED in the bin!" Tess declared, pointing out the bug-infested pages. They will contaminate all of your favorite books!" There was no arguing with the bossy one. And so I followed orders, feather dusted, and filed.

"Why don't we stop for tea?" wondered little ol' me.
"Because we've only just begun!" Tess hummed, naturally. When she wasn't humming she spoke in "theatrical tongue" using many made-up words as we laughed and we purged.

"Is that a real word?" I asked when a favorite came up.
"Oh, I hope not!" Tess replied as we giggled and chucked stuff.

"How did you ever end up in that corner?" Tess wanted to know.
Qui sait? Though I suspect it has something to do... with how fast my office grew!

That is when I wandered off... to the quiet line of a corner and a clutter-free card desk... paring things down to where my mind could finally rest).

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is now open for fun and sharing. Talk about today's word or story -- or ask questions about France or the French language. Let's help one another learn or, at the very least, laugh. Click here to leave a comment.



French Vocabulary
(sound file will return on Wednesday...)

la question à mille francs = the 64 thousand dollar question
le délire = delirium
le plumeau = feather duster
la poubelle = garbage can, bin

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Smokey says: Psst: she forget to tell you that not only did Tess clean and organize her office....

 DSC_0011
But the dear artist brought her tulips...

 DSC_0020
...and even painted her a watercolor tableau for her renewed writing room! Thanks, Tessa!

 

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


petiote

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Meet-up: Jean Marc will be in LA soon... & elsewhere in the States...

une petiote (peh tee oht)
    : little girl, lass

un petiot (peh tee oh)

    : little boy, lad
.

.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Don't you just wonder who lives behind these fascinating French façades? The characters that cohabit, the personnages who putter derrière la porte? I want to know each and every one, and yet....

Ever since I was a child I have asked "qui habite là?" And so I spent a lot of time knocking on doors. If someone was out in their yard, I'd wander up and wait with hopeful eyes until I got invited over to the other side of the property line. If I didn't get invited in, then I might return minutes later with a handful of just-picked desert flowers. How could the neighbors refuse?

I wish this favorite passe-temps had never left me; regrettably—as a social conscious scaredy-cat—I've lost that free spirit, the one that used to drift, dreamy-eyed, from one door to the next. Toc, toc! Anybody home?! Oh, the people I would meet!

As a child I was outside and discovering just soon as I rose from my bed. I could not wait to tie on my roller skates and glide around the neighborhood looking for a new friend. Our trailer park was populated with characters of all ages. And where there's character, there's atmosphere! I was curious to know what everyone else's insides looked like—the inside of their trailer, even the inside of their refrigerator.... I knocked on a lot of aluminum-sided front doors and eventually got invited in for cookies, ice cream, and a chat. I'm not sure what I had to offer in the way of conversation, but the neighbors didn't seem to mind my company.

I loved listening to the exotic foreigner who ended her sentences with "eh?" I was told she came from a country way up north... and I wondered whether she'd ever crossed paths with Santa Claus, eh? I picked desert wildflowers for her and hooked her up with my mom. The two became fast friends.

Three doors down from mine, a man wore a jupe and played funny pipes. I'd never seen him wear a skirt but my friend Donna said that people like that did. I was fascinated. I played the clarinet and wore bell bottoms which were boring in comparison.

Over in the cul-de-sac, a man, whom everyone called "Father," and his wafer-thin daughter, took me to church. She was so skinny, which was odd given the kind of service they took me to. (I had never before seen people snack at church and I couldn't wait for my turn for "crackers" and "juice" from a fancy goblet. Turns out you only got one of those crackers (and only one sip of the "juice") but the fact was, we were eating and drinking in church!)

The characters whom I encountered in my childhood... from the Canadian to the kilt-wearing bagpipe player to the Catholic priest... continue to impress me and I know that those magical times can be relived. Such experiences are no farther than the next French door. All I have to do is summon that fearless fille inside of me, and head out to the village, with its characters and their mysteries.
.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Help encourage others in this community to participate by sharing your thoughts in the comments box. Don't worry about your words—just jump in and say hello. Tell us which town you live in. You might even share your age, if you so fancy (and that's as fancy as we get here :-)

 

 

French Vocabulary & Sound File...

Download WAV or Download MP3

la façade = front wall of building, home
le personnage = character
derrière la porte = behind the door
qui habite là? = who lives there?
la porte = door
le passe-temps = pastime
toc toc = knock knock
la jupe = skirt
la fille = girl

 

 DSC_0020
And a tug beneath her ear lets her know Smokey's near...

Words in a French Life Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French. —Booklist



 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


but

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Flowers far from France...


le but (bewt)

    : goal, aim
.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Yesterday morning a great big soupir stopped me in my tracks and had me asking why? Why do I do what I do? What am I aiming for? Am I on the right track?

I called Mom last night and caught her ironing. Le repassage? I asked her the same question that I had asked myself that very morning: Mom, are you doing what you love? I already knew the answer, for my dear Mom would love nothing more than to paint and to pursue people (on the street, at the café, via Facebook, here, in my comments box). She loves Art and Others. Tout simplement. Yet she is inside... ironing.... She hasn't picked up a paint brush in eight months, hasn't chased down an unsuspecting stranger in weeks. Instead she irons her husband's shirts, which are coming apart at the seams.

And what about me? Am I doing what I love? I love Writing and Characters. (Well, I love characters and I think I love writing... ) I think I want to paint people via words....

This morning I wrote a story about mon enfance. Unlike other writers, I had a very happy childhood. I would now like that same carefree feeling to fly forth in my work: no rules, no regulations, only trust, play, and discovery day after day. Yes, this is what I love!

Et encore...

My wish is that my words and my photos will lighten hearts... while growing my own. I hope these missives will help to connect people, collapse cultural barriers, and cause more laughing and rejoicing. At the very least, I hope these journal entries will help us not to take ourselves too seriously, after all we are, deep down, more alike than we are different, you and me.

If I can give back even a chouïa of the knowledge and espérance that I receive from the readers who respond to these "every other day epistles," then perhaps my growing heart qui bat will signal I am, after all, sur le bon chemin, or on the right track.



:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Comments are the best part of French Word-A-Day. They help connect people and help to share ideas. Thanks for leaving a comment today. If you have never left a comment, don't be shy. You might simply say "Bonjour from (name your city)!" Merci for commenting.

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"The Adoration": Smokey and Braise with Uncle Jacques. (Photo taken in January.  Smokey is two months "bigger" now. Leave Smokey or Braise (or Jacques) a message.

French Vocabulary & Audio File:
Download WAV
or Download MP3

Thus the aim of art is almost divine: to bring to life again if it is writing history, to create if it is writing poetry. Le but de l’art est presque divin : ressusciter, s’il fait de l’histoire; créer, s’il fait de la poésie. Victor Hugo

le soupir = sigh
le repassage = ironing
tout simplement = quite simply
mon enfance = my childhood
un chouïa
= a tiny bit
l'espérance (f) = hope
et encore = what is more
qui bat (battre) = that beats
sur le bon chemin = on the right track

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


analphabetisme

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Ever read to someone at the library... because that someone could not recognize the letters in the story?

analphabétism (an-alfa-bah-teezm)

    : illiteracy
.

Precious Precious. Precious Jones, an inner-city high school girl, is illiterate... and faced with the choice to follow opportunity and test her own boundaries.See the film. Order it here.

 

 

 A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

On Sunday I was invited over to couscous (so as not to tell you the names or show you the faces of those who would rather remain like the best prayers: in secret).

My cheeks are still sore this morning suite à or followed by a six-hour sourire. How could you not smile in the presence of so much warmth and conviviality?

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I had to wait until tea was served (after lunch) to meet the woman who had welcomed us with a friendly feast, one that she had begun preparing au lever du jour.

When Madame M. sat down beside me and offered me a cup of  freshly-brewed absinthe tea, I had the chance to listen to her story: that of a young Berber bride who came to France in the 60's. Her marriage was arranged, by tradition. And like that she was wed even before she had the chance to learn the alphabet....

These days her own children read to her, teach her to recognize letters, and tease her terribly in the process. Beyond her traditional, brightly-colored garments, her face is an eternal light as she speaks eloquently, in perfect French, about her illiteracy—something she has struggled with ever since reading became a need.

Alone in the foreign land of France while her husband was away all day at work, it was up to her to buy food and necessities at the market. After pointing and waving and similar such gesticulating, Madame returned home helpless and alone. The little village in which she lived in isolation soon wrapped its fingers around her in a cloud of depression.

She gave birth to all of her children in France, losing two (des jumeaux) in the process. I think about the fear she must have felt, as I did, not understanding what the nurse and the doctor were saying in the delivery room. She must have communicated with her eyes, as I did with mine, never losing contact with the sage-femme's face. My own son was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and I will never forget seeing those unfriendly forceps. No French was needed to understand the implications of intervention; no neatly-aligned letters could spell the relief that I felt on seeing my baby breathing. Madame was less fortunate... and no alphabet could begin to spell the sadness or describe the tears she wept. 

Madame M. does not know her exact age. "62" her son offers, give or take four years. She has no official document of her date of birth, which reminds her of a story about the naissance of her first daughter: because of a malentendu, her girl was given a boy's name.... just one of the many misadventures of Madame's literacy-challenged life.

"Why don't you share your story in a memoir?" I suggest. Madame says she would rather learn something new: English for example. She tells me that Berber is similar to English, closer to it even than it is to Arabic. I wonder, is Madame pulling my leg? Her son assures me she is not.

"But... your memoir," I remind her... Madame M. says she prefers to look forward. With this her face, which peeks out from so many satiny scarves, brightens and her eyes twinkle like stars over le désert saharien, from which her husband hails.

Madame reminds me of a dear friend... one that I have the fortune to keep in touch with via the phone and the internet—both of which were missing on that lonely farm back in 1962 where a young étrangère fought isolation and illiteracy in a foreign country.

As I sit facing Madame, I am anxiously aware of our cultural differences and I am nervous about overstepping the bounds of Berber. I let the light in her eyes guide me as I question her history. There is so much I want to ask Madame, but I remember to keep it simple and so end up asking a lot of "do you like this and do you like thats". Each time her children answer for her: Elle aime tout! Elle n'est pas compliquée.

She likes everything. She is not complicated. I decide that this must be the secret behind the peace on her face and the calm contentedness that her very Berber being emanates.

:: Le Coin Commentaire ::

This forum is now open for any comments about today's story -- or for general questions or requests. Here are some examples. Don't be shy to add your own to the comments box.

A question from Mrs. Sacks:

Bonjour. I would like to visit the south of France and I love to bike. Is there any way you can direct me to reserve a tour bike?

And here is a request, from Montimarie:
I am looking for a nice French woman who would like to have a pen-pal. Je voudrais continuer de practiquer mon francais.  If you have any ideas. Please let me know at montimarie (AT ) yahoo.com


***
 

Educational note: Berber definition

noun:  a cluster of related dialects that were once the major language of northern Africa west of Egypt; now spoken mostly in Morocco

and this....
noun:  an ethnic minority descended from Berbers and Arabs and living in northern Africa (Thank you OneLook.com!)

French Vocabulary
le sourire = smile
au lever du soleil = at sunrise
le jumeau, la jumelle (jumeaux) = twin
la sage-femme = midwife
la naissance = birth
le malentendu = misunderstanding
le désert saharien = Saharan desert
un étranger, une étrangère = foreigner
elle aime tout = she likes everything
elle n'est pas compliquée = she is not fussy, she's not complicated

 

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A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey

Smokey says: Please study the photo above... next, learn the literal translation of "No Bones About It"!

Stuck with sticks for now, yours,
Smokey
P.S.: when  you purchase something via the following links, you help to support this word/woof-friendly journal. Merci and barks of glee!

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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--Melanie


coup de dent

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What is love? Photo taken yesterday, outside our kitchen window. 

Free delivery of French Word-A-Day, direct to your in-box! If you haven't yet subscribed, take a moment and sign-up now (click here). And thank you for over a hundred Best Tips For Learning French. Don't miss them, here.

*** 
 

un coup de dent (koo-deuh-dahn)
 
    : a nip (a little bite)

.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I received an email this morning that had me shaking my silver-templed head. It read:

Pourquoi protéger les dents de son animal ?

Pourquoi indeed!  Yes, "Why protect the teeth of one's animal?"...when your doors are now dent-ed, your halls hacked, and your books bouffed?

The French words appeared in the subject line of a newsletter that I receive from a French pet-supplies store. I'm not sure how I got onto their list-server (so far I haven't un-subscribed).

Now if only I could un-subscribe to the daily "updates" that our 7-month-old Golden delivers:  little mordant messages left hither and thither 'round the house, chewed into the chairs, tooth-torn into the sofa, munched across the mur, and bitten into the baseboards.

The dry-walls in our kitchen are coming apart at the seams, evidence that our puppy has been sinking his teeth into more than the croquettes and the home-made doggy terrines.

Néanmoins, I can't help but feel sympathy for our little chewing machine.  Because he was attacked and left for dead as an 8-week-old, I wonder whether the hither and thither damage is his way of getting back at the attackers, and ending up the victor?

And--chew! gnarl! crunch!--take that! Smokey says to the door, to the magazine rack, to the leash to which he is attached.

My husband has a different theory... and a tough-love solution that will have us biting back: it has to do, tout simplement, with nipping this bad behavior in the bud!

***

Update: Recently, the véto examined Smokey's teeth and discovered that many of them (way in the back) had been broken during his attack. As to "Why protect an animal's teeth?" how about "because our furry friends would ask us to, if only they could speak."

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is now open for any comments about today's story -- or for general questions. Looking for the French word for something? Need an answer to a French / France related question? This is the place to ask. This is readers helping readers at its best! Comment here.

Here are some questions to get the ball rolling: Chris writes:

What does "tirer a ses quatres épingles" mean? .... I think it means to play one's role well, or know how to play the game.   But I don't understand how we come to this conclusion using the literal meanings of these words. Answers here, please.

And here's another inquiry, from Paula:

Do you have any suggestions for car rentals (in France)? We usually rent from (....) but it gets expensive for the 4 weeks.

Thank you for using this link to access/answer where to Rent a Car in France

 

 

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French Vocabulary and Sound File: Download Wav or MP3

Smokey a donné un coup de dent au canapé.
Smokey nipped the couch.

Pourquoi protéger les dents de son animal ? Why protect your animal's teeth?
bouffer = to eat
le mur = wall
la terrine = terrine or pâté
néanmoins = nevertheless
tout simplement = quite simply
le véto (vétérinaire) = vet

***
Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream

In French music: France Gall

Songs in French for Children including Alouette, Sur le Pont d'Avignon, Claire Fontaine, Prom'non Nous dans les Bois...

Caudalie: vine therapy for the skin!

France Magazine subscription

***

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
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    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Best Tips for Learning French

  Sainte Cecile-les-Vignes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Does the idea of learning French make you shiver? You are not alone! In today's edition, we ask readers to give us their very best tips on learning French!

BEST TIPS FOR LEARNING FRENCH

Whether you have improved your French with audio CDs, a tutor, or by participating in an intensive program--we would love to benefit from your experience. Thank you for using the comments box to share helpful ideas for language learning.

To improve your French did you use flash cards? Do you watch French films? Do you carry around a pocket-size French-English dictionary? Subscribe to the French version of Reader's Digest? Do you attend a local French meet-up? Welcome exchange students to your home? Do you fall asleep to French music in hopes your subconscious will record it all by memory? Do you secretly follow Francophones at the mall, like I used to do? 

Click here to read or to submit a BEST TIP FOR LEARNING FRENCH! 

Thanks for forwarding this post to a language-learner who might be inspired by the many excellent ideas submitted by readers.

Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
Thanks for keeping my book, Words in a French Life, in mind as a language tool. Here's a review:

With its innovative and entertaining way of teaching the finer points of French, Espinasse's memoir will be popular with travelers and expats alike. --Publishers Weekly 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie