What people go through

What people go through

Saturday 16th July

This morning was our weekly class with Eugene, Julia and Nina.

Before we parted, we talked about the situation in their country, Ukraine and how hard it is for them to adapt here and learn French in Dijon. Their level is really advanced but they feel like it is not enough to live and work in France.

Don’t say it with your project is to go back“. That’s what I advised them to tell when in a job interview.

I can see the sadness in their eyes and their smiles. Their heart is with the missing ones. They remind me of the Syrian people I met back in the beginning of the war in their country. Heartbroken to see that the whole world would keep turning like nothing changed. 

While wars still go on.

Home, career, future: it is not by choice that you leave everything behind you. And at least when you do have an everything behind you. What about all those, I told them, who have nothing left but hope when they go through seas, deserts and unfriendly places, looking for a better life?

It breaks your heart when you realize that some people have a destiny you may never be at risk and even able to face yourself.

Now waiting for the bus, another day of strike in France, I turn the last pages of French journalist Florence Aubenas’ book, Le Quai de Ouistreham. Her undercover investigation about the precarity of cleaning jobs is of public interest. More than 10 years after this book was published, the yellow jackets protests started in France. 

Quai-de-Ouistreham

It breaks your self-esteem when you are stuck and silenced in a meaningless life.

The bus has eventually made it. This is another summer day safe in France. The sun is bright and the sky is blue. Everything seems under control except that we face another heat wave.

No one knows if this is the calm before the storm. 

No one knows what people go through.

Let us just stick together to what we c-a-n do.

Lifelong learning and adapting.

10 years in France but no French

10 years in France but still no French

A few months ago, I met someone who was living in France for 10 years and since he didn’t need French for work – he worked in the wine business industry -, he didn’t practice it and / or didn’t find it necessary to learn it.

A few days ago, the same situation happened: a man called and said that his wife, who moved in a few years ago now, just found it necessary to take French lessons in Dijon because she faces difficulties to get a job. He wanted to know how I could help.

😱OK.

I decided that I am not the right teacher for this profile of learner. Do you know why?

I don’t know how to deal with them. Sincerely.

A teacher is only helpful when he joins you on the journey you started

Because the first question one needs to ask himself as soon as he arrives in a new country and by the way, as soon as he decides to move in another country* HAS to be:

*of course, I am not talking about a situation of emergency when people are forced to leave their home and migrate (they have all my respect 🙏)

What is MY personal strategy to learn the language?

A language is a key that will allow you to open the door of a new country / city / community and BECOME A PART OF IT.

Without the language, you stay at the door. 

Period.

So for your own good, please take a moment and write down things you like and hobbies you have, anything you want as long as they can fit the four skills and then keep doing them but in French: 

listening / talking

reading / writing

Do you like sports? Follow instagram accounts of famous local sport teams (in France: football, cycling, etc.).

Do you like make-up vloggers? Look for French Youtubers

Can you sew? Join a sewing group, etc.

Also, the very first thing you need to do as soon as you arrive in France is to go get a library card! 😍Most of the time, it’s cheap or even FREE such as in Dijon.

I am a huuuge fan and most of the books I read come from there!

You will be able to borrow plenty of books, DVDs, etc. in French, know more about local events, meet new people, have more confidence and one day, without even realizing it: you will be fluent! Of course, it’s a process: even natives make grammar mistakes, etc. it’s normal. 

To me, being fluent in French is not about knowing the language perfectly (who can do that?), it’s more about feeling comfortable because YOU BELONG HERE.

Do you know what I answered to the man asking for help on behalf of his wife?

I asked if they have children (yes) and why she didn’t call me herself (she speaks French a little but didn’t feel confident).

I said that I could obviously make them pay for French lessons but it would be wrong because it’s not the problem here.

I gave him the advice above and added that if you start a life in France, you are physically here but you need to ask yourself if you are MENTALLY here.

When you help your children with their homework in French, when you go to the library or attend local events as a family or when you challenge yourself with actions such as calling someone you don’t know to ask for information, it makes you BE IN CHARGE. 

So you feel more and more confident.

💪 And you don’t have time to look back because you are too busy looking forward and widening your comfort zone.

How do you write a letter to a friend in French?

How do you write a letter to a friend in French?

Let’s go out from the class today to use French for real in Dijon or more exactly, in Bussy-le-Grand, 30mn far from here, to visit Bussy-Rabutin’s castle.

Use proper greetings

You can write your friend’s first name alone* or with the adjective “cher”. If necessary, make sure to show the feminine and the plural!

*definitely that choice for someone you don’t know well or you can write “Madame” / “Monsieur”

Chère Cecilia,

“Tu” instead of “vous”

For a close friend, you will obviously use “tu”! Do not assume that French people know conjugation so do the same as they do: check it*! 

*Lots of free French tools available on line, for example la-conjugaison.nouvelobs.com

Also, since it’s someone you are comfortable with, you are allowed to ask about private topics such as health, family’s, etc.

“Tu” is also possible in a professional email/letter if both correspondents agreed beforehand

J’espère que tu vas bien ? 

Past tenses to talk about past events

Imparfait is used to describe something in the past, talk about something usual in the past or different steps about something which occured in the past. 

Passé-composé is used to talk about specific actions that are over now.

Both of them have to be used alternately, it depends on the situation and what you want to say.

Ce week-end, il y avait les journées du patrimoine alors ça coûtait seulement 5eur l’aller-retour pour voyager dans la région. Au dernier moment, j’ai décidé d’aller visiter le château de Bussy-Rabutin, situé à 30mn de Dijon. 

Present tense to relate to present actions AND talk about the person’s likes and dislikes

Even if you talk about something in the past, don’t forget the fact that some things will still be conjugated with permanent present.

Toi qui aimes les châteaux, j’ai pensé à toi car celui-ci est vraiment magnifique sans parler de son immense parc de plus de 30 hectares ! 
Son plus célèbre propriétaire était le comte Roger de Bussy-Rabutin, né en 1618 et mort en 1693. Il était général des armées royales de Louis 14e, l’un des plus célèbres rois de France, et pas vraiment fan de liberté d’expression…
En effet, il va exiler Bussy-Rabutin pour avoir ouvertement dit du mal des mœurs et du libertinage de la cour. Le roi décide de l’envoyer chez lui en Bourgogne pour le punir.
Franchement, entre nous qui ne voudrait pas se faire confiner ici ?
Pour s’occuper, Bussy-Rabutin va alors écrire ses mémoires et entretenir une correspondance active avec ses amis et sa famille. Il va aussi faire décorer son château avec plus de 500 portraits des membres de la cour, un peu comme un feed Instagram !

Prepare the end of your email or letter

Adverbs are always interesting, for example to express when something happens.

Aujourd’hui, on peut visiter tout ça car le château appartient à l'État depuis 1929 et c’est lui qui se charge de son entretien et de l’ouvrir aux visiteurs.

Talk about your hopes for the future with first group verb 

espérer (present tense) + que + subject + verb conjugated with future tense

J’espère que cette lettre des temps modernes te plaira et que tu auras pu* imaginer la paix et la beauté de cette magnifique journée.

*be careful “auras pu” is “futur antérieur” of the verbe “pouvoir”! This tense is used to talk about an action in the future but still coming before another future action.

Use proper greetings (2)

If you know the person closely, you can use “à bientôt”, “à plus” (= “à plus tard” meaning “see you later” OR “see you soon” here in this context) or “prends soin de toi* (take care)”, etc.

*definitely not for someone you don’t know or in a professional context!

À bientôt

Check out example below

👇

La Liberté d’expression en France

[Free B2 content] La Liberté d’expression en France

Today’s French lesson is about freedom of speech in France! Made in Dijon for Eirini (Greece) and Ronald (Netherlands)!

What is the specific definition of freedom of speech in France?

What is the story behind?

Why is press freedom so important?

When is it important to protect or to put some limits on freedom of speech?

This issue is a good opportunity to publish our unique content as a free ressource for:

  • advanced students
  • Teachers of French looking for fresh ideas

“Ignorance and fear are my enemies but knowledge is my shield”

Go straight to the content

5 French Weird Expressions

5 French Weird Expressions

formal

1) emprunter les wc

= someone asks you permission to use the restroom

Est-ce que je peux vous emprunter vos toilettes, s’il vous plaît ?

borrow = emprunter

Imagine a situation where you make a delivery at a company, they don’t expect you to stay for more than that but you need to go to the restroom. You can definitely use this sentence to ask permission!

PS: the extreme politeness of this request makes it really hard to get you a “no”

colloquial

2) vous appeler quelqu’un 

= call someone for you

Ne bougez pas, je vous appelle mon collègue.

Don’t move, I call you “my coworker”

Imagine someone comes to you and you realize you can’t answer his questions but someone else in your team can so by using this sentence, you ask him to wait and you go call your coworker.


3) mettre quelqu’un bien

= do eveything you can to help someone feel comfortable and enjoy

Fais-moi confiance, je vais te mettre bien !

Imagine a friend is having a bad day so you decide to plan something special for him / her. Using that sentence means that he / she can leave everything to you.


4) remettre le bonjour 

= say hello to someone for someone else 

Vous remettrez le bonjour à votre femme !

Imagine you meet someone you haven’t met in a while (maybe you used to be neighbours for example)…

You talk about family, news, etc. and at the end, you ask him to say hello to his wife for you. It will be considered as small kindness.

PS: remember that if someone uses this sentence, you will probably hear “vous r’mettrez l’bonjour à vot’ femme”


5) être au taquet

= be at the limit of brackets (something that helps holding a door or a shelf)

Il est au taquet, lui ! Ça se voit qu’il veut réussir.

Imagine someone who is really motivated and does whatever it takes to succeed!

People around can say this as a compliment but depending on the context, it can also sound ironic or even mocking as an attempt to hide one’s jealousy…

Are there such weird expressions in your language? Share with us below!

Discover 10 French Original Tales (ebook)

Discover 10 French Original Tales

How about improving your listening skills in French?

Feel free to take a look at this collection of homemade French stories* (B1 and above): “Raconte-moi une histoire en attendant le Ramadhan” (“Tell me a story before Ramadhan comes”)

*Yes, as an aunt and a teacher of French, I could not escape my fate: write tales!

picture: Voyages au pays des contes, acrylic paint 70x50cm by Saïda Richi
  • L’éléphant qui broutait l’herbe des océans 
  • Les Wimés et les Géants
  • Au pays du roi Souleymane 
  • Le jardin sur lequel il y a la maison de Mamie Bouture (dedicated to Coexister)
  • Elyes et les bulles
  • Le Hadj gentil
  • Emna, princesse-sourire
  • Une histoire tatastrophique ! 
  • Patapouf, chien-gardien de moutons
  • Une trottinette électrique pour l’aïd (dedicated to R2S)

Download the Ebook (epub format) – 5,00€

Any question or feedback? Interested in taking French courses in Dijon? Contact Samyra

Why You Shouldn’t Read Le Petit Prince

Why You Shouldn’t Read Le Petit Prince

Everyone should read Le Petit Prince when he learns French

Ok, tell me who started all this? Who?

It is not that I have something against that beautiful book — it is not my favourite French classic and certainly not the best! — and if you absolutely want to read it, go on, give it a try.

(You can start off by listening to this playlist)

Here is the truth:

First, many French people didn’t read Le Petit Prince — or other classics by the way — even if they praise it and would fight tooth and nail for it!

Most of the time, they just studied some extracts at school. Only two categories of people would read the entire books: 

  • the motivated ones 
  • those interested by literary studies.

Second, you have to know that even natives may have difficulties to understand Le Petit Prince because it is complex since it is about imagination and poetry!

Thus it is absolutely normal if you face the same difficulties. One has to be really advanced in the language to understand the implicit, etc. 

Also, thinking about it, French literature is not set in stone: there are so much treasures to discover and promote…

For example, did you know that Simone de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine’ sister, was also a writer? She was older than him and when he started to be famous, he didn’t want another writer in the family (!). Despite that, she was a dedicated sister since she protected her brother’s work until the end of her life in 1978.

Their descendants, reporting they didn’t know why she didn’t do it herself, published her uncompleted but interesting childhood memories book, Cinq enfants dans un parc, to commemorate the centenary of the birth of her brother in 2000. 

I really want to pay tribute here to unknown or lesser-known authors like Simone de Saint-Exupéry who was not just “Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s sister”, but a person, a woman and a writer in her own right.

People like her make me reflect a lot on what is — or not — considered as major books and authors “you have to know”…

Anyway, there are so much great books to read out there so make your own way!

This being said, you will find below some reading advice if it can help:

1) Read books in French that you have already read in your language

Since you know the story, it will help you (and you can find bilingual versions if you want to take it slowly).

2) Read French versions of “must-read” books from all over the world

For example, read again Anne Frank’s diary, Le Journal d’Ann Frank, in a French graphic version. You can also find French versions of short writing style books like Le manuel du Guerrier de la Lumière by Paulo Coehlo. If you feel ready for more, check the French versions of 1984 by George Orwell, La chambre solitaire by Shin Kyong-Suk (신경숙) or Les Délices de Tokyo by Durian Sukegawa.

3) Read books in French about topics you are interested in

If you like travel writing, go at Librairie Grangier downtown Dijon — it is the biggest bookshop around — and flick through the “récits de voyage” area! If you are more into crime novel, try Le Mystère de la Chambre jaune*, a classic by Gaston Leroux.

* Yes, it is a version for teenagers but who cares? You will find useful annotations

If you are a soccer fan, check out this book + CD: La fabuleuse aventure des Bleus (A2). It is about the French team who won the World Cup in 2018.

And for more suggestions depending on your level in French, check out this page!

4) Read classic (or not!) books in French

Classics especially dedicated to learners of French (teenagers and adults): for example, Le Tour du monde en 80 jours + CD (A2) by Jules Verne

Classics published in bilingual versions: check out this page

Short texts: for exemple an engaged essay, Indignez-vous ! by Stéphane Hessel (30 pages), an outstanding French diplomat, resistant, writer and activist who addressed a beautiful message to the French people in 2010 (3 years before his death) about what they fought for in the past and shouldn’t forget. You also have La préférence nationale and other short stories, first book by Fatou Diome who shared her experience of immigration in France with a unique and brilliant style.

Comics to relax (but also learn thanks to the images! ): you can find lots of classics adapted into comics and if you are a comics books fan, you have to know all about Franco-Belgian comics! Here is a selection that people from all ages love to read again and again: Le Petit Nicolas, by Sempé-Goscinny (also without images here), Cédric (Cauvin/Laudec/Dupuis), Boule et Bill (Roba Jean/Dupuis), Gaston Lagaffe (Franquin/Dupuis) ⇓, etc.

“There is black ice”

➨ For more, check out Sam’s Book Club

You have an opinion about a book from this list (or not!)? Share with us below!

NEW:

Check our Free Quizzes for Beginners!

(update 20/08/13)

Small towns around Dijon: the story behind “Thil” & “Tille”

Small towns around Dijon: the story behind “Thil” & “Tille”

If you come visit or move here, you will probably hear weird sounds to refer to some villages and small towns:

  • Thil pronounced “ti-le” like in “hostile”, “subtil”, “volatile”, etc.
  • Tille pronounced “ti-ye” like in “famille”, “gentille”, “myrtille”, “Camille”, etc.


audio

Thil (= linden tree)

Around Dijon, 5 cities are named with “Thil”: Aisy-sous-Thil, Marcigny-sous-Thil, Nan-sous-Thil, Précy-sous-Thil, Vic-sous-Thil.


audio

Toponymy is really interesting: the word “sous” means “under” so basically, it implies that these towns are under this “Thil” thing!

In the old days, “Thil” would refer to a linden tree so it is actually quite poetic

We can assume that lots of Linden trees of Sully still exist here (source)! Did you know that this tree was named after Sully, Secretary of King Henri IV (16th-17th)? Indeed, he wanted linden trees being planted everywhere in the villages, in front of the church or on main square.

A linden tree in Chaignay, 20km from Dijon, certified as a remarkable tree
(source: “Côte-d’Or : le tilleul de Chaignay a reçu le label d’arbre remarquableFrance 3 Bourgogne Franche-Comté – 03/09/2018)

There is also a famous local family with the name “Thil” starting with Miles de Thil, founder of the priory of Précy-sous-Thil in 1007. Nowadays, you still have many people out there named with “Thil” but with different assumptions about the origin (source: Geneanet.com).

Tille (= waterway)

River Tille (length: 82,7km) takes its source in the east of France and runs through 26 towns in Côte-d’Or: Salives, Barjon, Avot, Marey-sur-Tille, Villey-sur-Tille, Crécey-sur-Tille, Échevannes, Til-Châtel, Lux, Spoy, Beire-le-Chatel, Arceau, Arc-sur-Tille, Remilly-sur-Tille, Cessey-sur-Tille, Genlis, Pluvault, Champdôtre, Les Maillys.

Let’s notice that some are named with “Tille” and others not… Another mystery…

Anyway, 10 cities near Dijon are named after this river: Arc-sur-Tille, Bressey-sur-Tille, Cessey-sur-Tille, Crécey-sur-Tille, Is-sur-Tille, Magny-sur-Tille, Marcilly-sur-Tille, Marey-sur-Tille, Remilly-sur-Tille, Villey-sur-Tille.


audio

Let’s notice here the word “sur” — meaning “on” — implying that these places are located alongside the river. The word “tille” itself used to refer to a waterway in local language and after that, only one of the waterways kept the common noun which became a proper noun!

So now you know something that even French people living here don’t!

As a conclusion, we can’t help but notice that the word “tille” looks like the french word for linden tree: “tilleul”. There is no coincidence here: in old french, tille or theille refers to a rope made of linden tree bark (source: Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales).

We end up realizing that « Thil » and « Tille » have a very close meaning and both help us dream about the countryside not that far from Dijon…

Are there such stories behind names of cities in your country? Share with us below!

Meet Emiko, a Japanese in Dijon (with subs)

 Meet Emiko, a Japanese in Dijon (with subs)

Recently, I was lucky enough to meet Emiko Shibata, Teacher of Japanese, who lives in Dijon since the 1980’s. Born in Kyoto, she came in France to graduate in Lettres Modernes and after teaching French in Japan, she came back here to teach Japanese!

We talked about her life, how she met dozens of french students yearning to learn japanese language and culture and of course her opinion about Dijon and French people.

Since she experienced both the way of life in Japan and in France, she knows how to take a step back on stereotypes so here is the big news: Japanese and French people have lots in common 😀

  Check out the video 

As an MFL Teacher, I like that sort of feedbacks.

First, because I would like to take after more experienced teachers than me and be able to teach French language and culture as parts of an infinity of languages and cultures. All precious and valuable.

Second, because we all tend to fall into this trap: “she is from there so she must be this“, “he wears this, it means that“. But the truth is that is exactly what taints the relationship with each other and prevents us to be open to anyone who is different.

Third, because it takes time to grow and get mature. If we don’t accept listening to others, it means we also refuse to learn more about ourselves. And that’s how you stagnate.

As soon as people from different countries take part in something, it becomes greater
Emiko Shibata