Wednesday, 20 May 2009


My desk calendar (mardi le 19 mai) says ‘prépare-toi pour une journée incroyable'. There are lots of words that you can guess in French. Prépare is prepare. You should know toi as a command, and if you want to be more formal you would say préparez-vous. It's the same reflexive command as dépêchez-vous, and prépare-toi is the same form of command as dépêche-toi which is sung by the pop group Blondie their song Sunday Girl.

is usually translated as ‘for’ so this word is easy. Journée is one you have to watch. Le matin is morning and la matinée is also morning but in the sense of talking about what has happened in that morning. Think of a soirée, a word we sometimes use in English to describe a social evening. It is the same with la journée and le jour. They both mean day but la journée is describing a passage of time throughout that day. Incroyable is close to incredible.

It has taken some time but now you know that you should prepare yourself for an incredible day – nothing to do with journeys.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Pierre et le Loup

When I was a teenager I went to Paris with school. I remember looking in a music shop and seeing a classical record by Prokofiev called Pierre et le loup. I didn't know the word for wolf at the time and I was too young to appreciate the connection with the music even though Pierre et le loup est un conte musical pour enfants. The point is that sometimes you don't need a dictionary or anyone telling you anything to learn French. You just need to experience it.

I am watching the apprentice while I am writing the blog and I am listening to some French music by Camille Saint-Saens called Carnival des Animaux. Again, if you know the music you don't need the translation. A record cover or just reading a French blog will tell you the words for carnival and animals. It is much better to learn words in context as it is much easier to remember them. Since I looked at that record cover I have never forgotten le loup.

A bientôt

Friday, 8 May 2009

La Ville de Lumière

Paris is known by many names one of which is the city of light or en français la ville de lumière. You may also hear that Paris is the city of love and Gay Paree.

I have a theory that whatever you want to learn, it takes three goes to learn it. This could be a new skill like decorating or learning an instrument or learning a language. Life is a little more complicated that this but if I write la ville de lumière encore une fois (one more time) then you will know that Paris is the city of light.

This is why you should read this blog if you want to learn French. It may also be useful if you go to a pub quiz. Who knows? You may get a question on the city of light.

A bientôt

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Singular or plural?

Pronunciation can make all the difference as to whether you are understood. It doesn’t matter which language you are speaking. Think of all the different accents in English. If the accent is strong it may not matter that you are fluent in that language.

If you want to pronounce words in the plural then in French this is slightly confusing because there is often no difference at all. Adding an s is common but la rue and les rues makes no difference to the pronunciation of rues. There are many examples like this, just look in a dictionary. La gare, les gares, la fille, les filles.

You can see the answer. You say le or la if it singular and les if it is plural, so you have to make the word for 'the' very clear . The basics are important.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Adjectival Endings 2

Grammar is traditionally boring except for people like me. I enjoy conjugating verbs. I prefer to order a beer in a bar but conjugating verbs is fine. Adjectival endings may well come into the boring category so take it peu à peu, and use these blogs as if a friend were talking to you about speaking and writing in French. There is the latest technology in every school but children are still finding it difficult to come to terms with grammar. Learn to enjoy it is the best advice that I can give you.

The commonest rule in French is that feminine adjectives add an e. If the adjective already ends in an e then add nothing. One example is un tapis bleu. Notice how the adjectives of colour come after the noun. A lot of French adjectives come after the noun, so do be careful with word order. You add the e for a feminine word so it is une robe bleue.
Adjectives ending in x in the masculine form change to end in se in the feminine. It may be un home heureux but it is une femme heureuse. Une réponse is not faux, it is fausse.

The best way to learn adjectival endings is to make them up yourself. La pelouse est très verte. La maision est blanche. Le cinéma est beau. If you are saying something in English then think about the translation into French.

A bientôt

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Adjectival endings.

That’s a posh heading for this blog. If you know what an adjective is, then I have just changed the noun ‘adjective’ into an adjective. In English we just right down the adjective like good, red, soft or small. In French you change the ending depending on the gender of the word that you are describing.

Do you know the difference in pronunciation between un and une. If you don’t then get used to it because the word for one or a comes up very often. Un is pronounced like a nasal ‘an’ whereas une is pronounced like an English moon without the m. Now you have the hang of that try the French for brown. The masculine version is brun which rhymes with un, and the feminine is brune which rhymes with une. Une bière brune is a dark beer so make sure that you say it correctly.

A bientôt

Monday, 4 May 2009

You have to look for French singers.

Most of my French blogs have been looking at reasons to find the inspiration to learn French. Recently I have looked at joining in with the singing of children's songs. It is fun to sing but it is also a good learning experience. Where do you find French songs in England?

I remember watching a Marx Brothers film called Monkey Business in which Maurice Chevalier does some singing. He does sing in English but it is with a French accent and it was a link for me to his French songs. I have also heard songs by Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud and Sacha Distel but usually there were no French words just a French accent. A few years later I came across Plastic Bertrand whose hit song was called ça plane pour moi. Unfortunately these words were the only ones in the song but that's alright by me. There is a more recent disco song with the title encore une fois.

Occasionally English singers would sing in French. Donovan sings a verse in French in his song Jennifer Juniper. The Beatles sang in French about a girl called Michelle. Manhattan Transfer sang chanson d'amour. You may be able to add a lot of songs to this list and if I spent longer thinking about it I may even be able to double this list. The point is that if you want to learn by singing French then you have to find the French singers because they don't come to you. I have mentioned some singers in these blogs and I am sure that I will mention some more. You can always comment with some suggestions.

A bientôt

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds

Childrens' songs are not a bad way to learn French. I recently sang 'tête, épaules, genoux pieds' to a year 8 group. They joined in, they enjoyed singing, and they liked to point to the body parts at the same time. This eventually became almost a complete mime as we missed out one word on each repetition. The main point is that those children went away from that class and knew all the words in the song.

There are a few variations to the song. In English the last word is toes. The French for toes is doigts de pied. It doesn't fit. Another word is orteil. This does fit but the word for the foot is more important so I chose pied. For the second part of the song I just named and pointed, but in this version you get the bonus of 'j'ai un', and 'deux'. It is also awkward to fit in the et between genoux and pieds so I prefer to miss it out. This song is fun, so if you know a group of children then get them to sing it.

Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds
Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds
J’ai un nez, deux yeux
Deux oreilles et une bouche
Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds

A bientôt

Saturday, 2 May 2009


On the theme of children's songs in French I want to look at Alouette. The best way of learning any song is singing it, but you can also listen to the songs on the internet. If I have any comment on this song it is the brutality of the translation. As is the case with many sentences, this song sounds so much nicer in French. L'alouette was also the nom de plume (do you get it?) of Jeanne d'Arc or as we know her Joan of Arc and is the name of a play by Jean Anouilh. I have seen this play many years ago at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester but it was in English. Voici la chanson.

Alouette, gentille Alouette Skylark, nice skylark
Alouette, je te plumerai Skylark, I will pluck you
Je te plumerai la tête I will pluck your head
(Je te plumerai la tête) (I will pluck your head)
Et la tête And your head
(Et la tête) (And your head)
Alouette Skylark
(Alouette) (Skylark)
O o o oh
Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai

A bientôt

Friday, 1 May 2009

Chevaliers de la table ronde

Recently I have been writing about French singers and songs. If you have heard of them and you already listen to their music then that's great. If you haven't heard of them I hope you have followed up the blogs by listening to the full tunes on your computer. Have one window playing the tune and in another window you can read les paroles. Very often you don't even need to know that the French for lyrics is paroles before you do a search, as long as you know the name of the French song that you want to listen to. Here is one that I learned when I was young. I could sing this when I was in primary school even if I didn't know the meaning of all the words. Try learning the song chevaliers de la table ronde. It is better to learn with a group who are singing in a bar and it sounds so much better after a few beers. Voici le premier couplet et le premier refrain.

Chevaliers de la table ronde,
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon.
Chevaliers de la table ronde,
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon.
Goûtons voir, oui oui oui,
Goûtons voir, non non non,
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon.

A bientôt