vendredi 7 août 2009

La Vie Parisienne by Janelle McCulloch

I regret being a little hasty in my judgement of her book. I just finished it and it turned out much better. But just as it started to get better (IMHO) it ended! It's 238 pages, and I wished it were longer.

In one of the chapters near the end she talks about her feelings about her infertility which is really sad... I guess, as a woman who hasn't had kids yet I could feel some understanding and sympathy for her.

I do feel though, that it feels like the book was written by someone who was only there for a really short period of time (like a tourist) rather than a resident... I lost track of how long she was there for (a year?) but I really really wish the book was longer!

I know she's written another book about her adventures across America called "One for the road" which I'll read sometime in the near future. It is also beautiful in the design, layout, and subtle use of colour.

Continued from Books about life in Paris II

Literal translations of common French words

I always like to know the literal translations of words, which most textbooks and teachers don't tell you about.

For example, they translate "Je m'appelle ..." as "My name is..." when the literal translation is "I call myself..."

Some seemingly simple words have interesting literal translations. Some I read about, some I figured out on my own.

= always gets translated as "hello" but it literally means "good day". Bon(ne) (good) and jour (day).

Au revoir
= "goodbye" composed of "a le revoir" --> "au revoir" which literally means "at the re-seeing" ie "till I see you again" or "till we meet again". There are so many French words, which, when translated into English are totally different but when I translate them into Chinese, are the same. Eg the word for goodbye is "zai jian" which literally means "again meet" ie "till we meet again".

S'il vous plaît
= "please". From "si il vous plaît" and literally means "if it pleases you." Informal form is "s'il te plaît."

= "today" but is actually "a le jour de hui" -->; "au jour de hui" literally meaning "at the day of today" (because "hui" sounds exactly like "oui" which means "yes", people were getting confused)

= "welcome" and is made up of the words bien (well) and venu(e) (past tense of come)

Tout le monde
= "everybody" or "everyone" but literally means "all the world"

= "nobody", "noone"... made up of person (person) and ne (not (negation)) ie "not a person."

= "perhaps", "maybe", "possibly" etc... made up of the words peut (can) and être (be).

= traditional French-style wedding cake made of bite-sized spherical custard-filled profiteroles coated and held in place with caramelized sugar. From "croque en bouche" meaning "crunch in mouth."

When I come across more I'll add them to this list!

TV5 Monde Apprendre Français

Apprendre le français avec TV5MONDE

I found this link from somewhere and it's quite interesting and useful. There isn't any English on there though which forces you to try and understand what they are saying. There are lots of video lessons, etc.

5 weeks of learning French

It's been 5 weeks since I started learning French and so far I have:
  • Done up to the end of CD 6 lesson 10 (of 8 CDs) of Michel Thomas French

  • Done up to the end of Level 1 Lesson 29 (of 3 levels x 30 lessons) of Pimsleur French

  • Done up to Week 5 Day 7 (of 7 weeks x 7 days) of Teach Yourself Starter Kit French

  • Done up to end of unit 4 (of 10 units) of Collins Language revolution Beginner French

  • Done up to the end of Lesson 9 of Coffee Break French (by Radio Lingua network)

Didn't progress too much except in Pimsleur... as I wanted to finish off Level 1.

jeudi 6 août 2009

Books about life in Paris part II

On Sunday I borrowed 'Almost French' by Sarah Turnbull from my sister, and then stayed up till 2am reading it. It took me about 5 hours to read and it's about 300pages so I calculated that I read (roughly) 1 page a minute. I don't know if that is considered fast or not but I have to admit, I think I'm a pretty fast reader... anyhoo...

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have so much in common with this girl it aint funny. We grew up in a similar part of Sydney. Every time she mentioned a suburb name I knew exactly where it was and what she was talking about (in terms of the area/demographics)... Then there's the fact that we were both born in the US but grew up in Australia with only our nuclear family, and our extended family were all overseas.

I then went and read reviews on Amazon (I generally read reviews only afterwards because I hate spoilers and someone always has to spoil things) and a lot of people (women?) said they wished she had talked about her relationship more and I really agree with this. She does talk about her relationship but doesn't really get into any juicy details, which, as women, we want ;)

I also agree with some reader that she talked about her dog too much and I also wondered how the heck she 'suddenly' became fluent in French. Did she study it? Or just speak to Fréderic? Given it's written by an expat I wish she spent more time talking about how she learnt the language (as she said that Fréderic's English was quite good and that they spoke English to each other).

I am guessing that she didn't talk about their relationship much in the book to respect Frederic's privacy, which is understandable..

but I can't understand why she didn't talk about how she learned the language and how much she could speak, etc etc.. I am sure other people would also agree with me it would have been interesting to know...

And she keeps calling the French 'gallic' and herself 'anglo saxon' was a tad annoying...

I really enjoyed the funny bits.. and just the word 'pantalon de jogging' (tracksuit pants) cracked me up.

A reason why I prefer to read non-fiction is that I know the events are real and definitely happened. I don't like the airy fairy world of fiction where anything is possible (and oftentimes in real life, it isn't). So with that in mind, I wanted to know MORE. I was hungry for more juicy details about her life.. Given the book was written 7 years ago and set 15 years ago, I wanted to know what she was doing NOW...

I found a video featuring Sarah Turnbull, by the Art Gallery of NSW dated Oct 2008, and she mentions that she's just been travelling around Australia for 7 months in a campervan... From watching it I feel that she is very honest, humble, down-to-earth and a bit shy/nervous. In Sarah's video, when she says place names and such her French pronunciation seems very good.

She hasn't been in Paris since 2004 and only visited sporadically for short periods of time since then.

I also want to know if she has kids but I get the feeling she doesn't.

I'm also dying to see what Frederic looks like :(

But I really enjoyed the video.. if you enjoyed her book, check it out!

Here's an article written by her on Paris, in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007. She mostly talks about the velibs - the rent-a-bike system.


I am now halfway through 'La vie Parisienne' by Janelle McCulloch. She reminds me of the woman who wrote 'Buying a piece of Paris', Ellie Nielsen. She makes herself come across as a bit of a bimbo airhead who has no interest in anything other than fashion and trying to seduce random men. I read some reviews on Amazon and they said they liked the book but I find it boring and have skipped several paragraphs. Maybe it's because I don't like drinking (she talks about it a lot at the beginning) and although I like fashion, I'm not obsessed with it and don't let it rule my life. She just comes across (to me) as an awkward girl in high school who is trying so hard to impress the 'cool' crowd and be popular. She makes no effort to learn French and in fact I have already picked out two errors in the book relating to French words, one of which is 'macarons'.

If I hear one more (English-speaking) person calling macarons macaroons, I'm going to scream!!

I actually quickly read a few chapters in Borders and that's what made me buy it. It starts off good (to me) but then seems to degenerate... But I admit I was sucked in by the gorgeous cover and book design. The book is actually printed on bright, white, good quality matt paper (which I lurve) and has colour photos throughout. Despite it being softcover, it has a dustjacket that has a raised flocked velvet damask pattern in black. I love running my fingers over it. The pages are laid out beautifully with a scrapbook-like design on some pages featuring random photos (tidbits) of Paris. The book is very visually pleasing to the eye, and therefore very Parisienne, I guess you could say.. but I'll keep reading and hope that it gets better.

But of the three books I've read so far (all by Australian women), Sarah's is definitely the best and I can see why it's been such a popular book.

Books about life in Paris part I

lundi 3 août 2009

Lingo Lyrics

From the very beginning I've been listening to songs in French over and over again and now I can sing several of them off by heart. Of course I don't know the meaning of all of the words but slowly and surely, I am looking them up and remembering them.

I try not to use a dictionary too much and only look up a word when I've seen it at least 3 times in 3 different places. Before that I try to figure it out myself what it means by the context (also can often guess because some English words are similar).

Anyway I found this site which posts French songs with both French lyrics and English translations to help you learn French!

Lingo Lyrics

Bourgeois Bohemians - Les Bobos

Video clip here

Quite funny! With English subtitles.

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