Helping Adam use French to influence

These past few months, I was challenged by INRAE Dijon, French public research institute dedicated to agricultural science, to provide a 30h Advanced French For Foreigners Course for Research Director Adam Vanbergen.

Of course, Adam was already fluent in French but he was determined to do even better for example in situations when several Researchers interact and you have to process different things at the same time in order to provide appropriate AND convincing answers.

More than 100 pages of content

All through our sessions, I made him discover how people* build their speech. Some of them are easy to understand because their ideas are clear and when they talk, it’s well prepared. Some of them give you a headache and you have to deal with that.

Everyone still wants to make his point and builds a conscious (or unconscious) strategy to do so!

*Researchers and well-informed public (or not!) in science

French grammar, linguistics, rhetoric, argumentation: I created more than 100 pages of content from real situations and I challenged Adam with missions to accomplish. Of course, in an action-oriented evaluation of the language, I wanted this course to be useful for him as a Researcher and Research Director. 💪

Read below Adam’s feedback about this course and check link if you also want to join

Adam, merci de témoigner pour cet article ! Voici les questions :
  • Êtes-vous satisfait de cette formation et a-t-elle répondu à vos objectifs de départ ?

Oui parce que je trouve que le programme est bien construit avec un mélange de grammaire, de compréhension orale, etc. J’ai apprécié l’interactivité grâce à l’utilisation de la vidéo qui stimulait les échanges et aussi que Samyra place le sujet dans le contexte de mon domaine de recherche. C’est plus facile à comprendre.

  • Qu’est-ce qui vous a été le plus utile dans cette formation ?

La grammaire (pronoms relatifs, etc.), les connecteurs logiques, etc. ont été des outils que je réutilisais après les séances dans mon travail.

  • Avez-vous constaté des changements pour votre travail ?

J’ai plus de confiance quand je parle avec mon équipe.

  • Est-ce que vous recommanderiez cette formation à un.e autre chercheur / chercheuse ?

Oui, cette formation a été construite de manière très précise pour les besoins individuels des chercheurs. Elle est très différente des formations dans d’autres instituts de langue.

“Use French to Influence”

30h course especially designed for Researchers (B2/C1 level)

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? 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 start 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!


Check our Free Quizzes for Beginners!

(update 20/08/13)

When is the “s” in “plus” mute?

When is the “s” in “plus” mute?

Another big headache today with this article inspired by my british advanced student, Anna (thanks !)

Like I said in a previous article about “sentir vs ressentir”, as a native, you just k-n-o-w how to use the language but let’s dig more into the subject.

First, please note that we use “plus” in french when it comes to: 

  • negation: ne…plus (not anymore
  • comparative/superlative (superiority): plus grand (taller)

Now comes the headache!

We do have, for both, examples where you pronounce the “s” and where you don’t.

Let’s go for the inventory!

Plus with “s” pronounced


  • When you mean “more” before nothing, “de”, “que” and other situations

J’en veux plus ⊘ ! I want more !

À plus* ⊘ !  See you later (*Implicitly: “…tard” in “À plus tard”)

Non, ce collier a bien plus de valeur No, this necklace is much more valuable

Tu en as eu plus que moi You had more than me

⚠ Pronunciation will be “z” before a word starting by a vowel (or “h”)

 ⚠ In french, an “s” between two vowels is a-l-w-a-y-s pronounced “z”: 
Vous êtes plus à même que nous pour juger You are a better judge than us
Il est plus apprécié que ses collègues People have a better opinion of him than of his colleagues
Je vois, vous voulez pratiquer le français plus efficacement I see: you want to practice french more often
Tu es plus habitué que moi au froid You are more used to the cold than me

?In fact, when you use “plus” meaning “more”, there are plenty of situations where it is possible to pronounce the “s” or not! It depends if you want to emphasize on this specific idea of “more”. Let’s talk about the sentence below:

 Je vois que vous êtes plus motivé que les autres candidats 
I can see you are more motivated than the other candidates

➨ I can let the “s” mute OR I can choose to pronounce it and if I do, it would imply that I think this candidate is r-e-a-l-l-y more motivated than the others!

  • When you mean negation before a word starting by a vowel

Pronunciation will be “z”

Il ne veut plus avoir à le répéter He doesn’t want to repeat it again

Be careful: it is possible not to pronounce the “s”!

For example, in the sentence below, you wouldn’t if you want to emphasize on the verb (and by the way, the pronunciation would be stressed on “veux”):

C’est terminé, je ne veux plus être en retard au travail!
Enough, I don’t ever want to be late for work!
  • When “plus” is considered as a noun

C’est vraiment un plus d’habiter au centre-ville It is a real advantage to live downtown

6 + 1 = 7 (six plus un, égal sept) In that case, you don’t make the connection with the word after even if it starts by a vowel!

  • When it comes to idiomatic expressions

De plus…. Moreover…

En plus…. Then / On top of that…

Pas plus, merci ! / Rien de plus, merci ! Nothing more, thanks

Tout au plus 10 euros At most 10 euros

Il y a eu plus de peur que de mal ! It was more fear than harm

Raison de plus pour… All the more reason to…

Sans plus ! So-so ( “sans plus attendre”: “s” is connected to “attendre” so the pronunciation is “z”)

De plus en plus… More and more… ( first “s” is connected to “en” so the pronunciation is “z”)

Plus ou moins More or less ( “s” is connected to “ou” so the pronunciation is “z”)

Plus with “s” mute


  • When you mean “more” before a word starting by a consonant

Ça coûte plus cher ! It is more expensive

C’est plus fréquent que ce que je pensais It is more often than I expected

Nous voulons pratiquer le français plus régulièrement We want to practice french more often

  • When you mean negation before a word starting by a consonant

On ne veut plus prendre la voiture pour aller à Dijon, il y a le TGV ! We don’t want to drive to Dijon anymore, there is the high speed train!

Tu n’es plus habituée à te lever tôt le matin You are not used to wake up early anymore

⚠ This rule also works before “y” (indication of place): Tu ne veux plus y retourner (You don’t want to go there anymore)

⚠ Sometimes, part of the negation is omitted (informal) 
Du pain ? Non, j’en veux plus (= Je n’en veux plus”) Bread? No, I don’t want bread anymore

  • When it comes to idiomatic expressions

À plus tard ! See you later!

Jamais plus ! / Plus jamais ça ! Never again!

N’avoir plus rien Have nothing more

Plus du tout Not longer at all

I hope this article helped a little! Bear in mind that the more you will practice, the more you will k-n-o-w instinctively

Are there such big headaches in your language? Share with us below!

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.


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.


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:

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.


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 Vincent, Traceur (with subs)

Meet Vincent, parkour practicer & entrepreneur (and Obama’s french doppelganger )

french and english subtitles

All videos “Meet Them” are here:

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

Meet Albin to work on your listening skills!

Do you remember when we talked about Sylvie, Travelling Record Dealer in Dijon and around? Now this time, let’s listen to Albin, Virtual Tour Maker.

Don’t be afraid because native French people speak fast – like you in your mother tongue! -! You will find complete French subtitles in this video, even the contractions between words like “je suis” = “j’suis” or “replier = r’plier”.

Videos “Meet Them” help you focus on your listening skills in authentic spoken French and of course on your pronunciation so feel free to subscribe and share below your feedback. 🙂

Listen to 126 France’s regional accents

Listen to 126 France’s regional accents!

Researchers from CNRS* met people all over France and the result is an interactive listening map with typical french accents.

Check out here the pronunciation in Bourgogne!

Text: Esope’s fable (Fable d’Esope)
“La bise et le soleil se disputaient, chacun assurant qu’il était le plus fort, quand ils ont vu un voyageur qui s’avançait, enveloppé dans son manteau. Ils sont tombés d’accord que celui qui arriverait le premier à faire ôter son manteau au voyageur serait regardé comme le plus fort. Alors, la bise s’est mise à souffler de toute sa force mais plus elle soufflait, plus le voyageur serrait son manteau autour de lui et à la fin, la bise a renoncé à le lui faire ôter. Alors le soleil a commencé à briller et au bout d’un moment, le voyageur, réchauffé a ôté son manteau. Ainsi, la bise a du reconnaître que le soleil était le plus fort des deux. “

* National Center for Scientific Research

Click here to see the interactive map: