samedi 3 octobre 2009

Ciel Free French Profiency tests online

Found some more proficiency tests. In fact, I think these are the best I've found so far. From doing the tests I've gathered that I'm somewhere between A1 and A2 level, which I think is accurate.

Ciel tests here

My scores:

Reading comprehension DILF A1-1 - 18/18 (100%)

Reading comprehension DILF A1-1 - 20/20 (100%)

Reading comprehension A1 - 10/10 (100%)

Reading comprehension A1 - 10/10 (100%)

Reading comprehension A2 - 10/19 (53%)

Reading comprehension A2 - 2.5/10 (25%)

Reading comprehension A2 - 5.5/10 (55%) (the pictures were strange, I didn't really understand them!)

Reading comprehension A2 - 5.5/10 (55%)

Reading comprehension B1 - 4.5/15 (30%)

Audio comprehension A1 - 10/10 (100%)

Audio comprehension A1 - 17/26 (65%) (once again, when it comes to those pictures, I don't even know what they are in English let alone French!)

Audio comprehension A2 - 8.5/10 (85%)

Audio comprehension A2 - 8.5/10 (85%)

Audio comprehension B1 - 3.5/12 (29%)

Somehow, my listening is much better than my reading but I actually found it quite hard because the questions were not asked in the same order as the dialogue flowed. Hmm... I might do these tests again (and the rest of the B1 ones) in a month or two and see if/how I've improved :)

An American tale - Fievel et le Nouveau Monde - Très loin là-bas

This is one of the very first videos on YouTube I watched when I started to learn French. I started with Disney songs (which I already knew in English) and then I found this one. It's one of my all-time favourite songs. It's so beautiful, and even more beautiful en français à mon avis!

Les paroles (lyrics)

Très loin là-bas, sous la lune d’opale
Quelqu’un se sent triste et pense à moi ce soir
Très loin là-bas, quelqu’un parle aux étoiles
Dites lui que je l’aime,
Et que nos prières se croisent
Même si l’immensité qui nous sépare me fait mal,
Je sais que tu confit le même vœux à la même étoile
Quand le vent tristement chante sa plainte sur les toits
Je sais que tu vas t’endormir sous le même ciel que moi !
Très loin là-bas, si tu as fait un vœux
Nous serons ensemble,
Très loin là-bas, où le ciel est bleu !

Very far, over there, under the opal moon
someone feels sad and thinks of me tonight
Very far, over there, someone speaks to the stars
Tell him that I love him
and that our prayers (will) cross
Even if the vastness which separates us makes me feel bad,
I know that you confess the same wish to the same star
When the wind sadly sings its moans on the roofs
I know that you are going to sleep under the same sky as me!
Very far, over there, if you've made a wish
We'll be together
Very far, over there, where the sky is blue!

Welcome to the Sticks

I found this film through YouTube and as I was watching it I realised it was strangely familiar.. then it occured to me that I had seen it about a year ago at one of those free outdoor movie events...

C'est amusant... regardez!

Almost French re-visited, Ce que pensent les hommes

Previously talking about 'Almost French'...

I decided to read 'Almost French' again and re-live all of Sarah's experiences with her. Only a few pages into the book she wrote:

"...We can't even communicate, for god's sake, I'd thought. What are we going to talk about for a whole week? At the end of ten excruciating minutes I'd said goodbye and he'd said, 'I kiss you,' which made me cringe. What a sleaze! Had I paid more attention during French classes at school I might have remembered that in France this is the sort of farewell you could say to your sister or grandmother but all I can think now is how weird it sounded..."

I almost laughed out loud because the first French guy I met (C), we had only met once and we had only exchanged a handful of emails.. he signed his email with 'bisous' which means 'kisses'. I was quite shocked and surprised when I first saw this but didn't think too much of it.

I guess on one hand it could be interpreted as being sleazy but I didn't take it that way at all. I just thought it was funny and sweet. And what's even funnier is that I wouldn't know of a single Australian (or Anglo) guy who would sign off his emails like that... it would be the equivalent of signing off with 'xxx' or 'xoxo' I guess (which I do myself sometimes, with close friends)... I couldn't imagine a guy who barely knew you doing this until you were already dating each other and were exclusive. Does it really mean that French men are more open with their feelings and/or more romantic? I can't say I'm qualified to judge but we shall see...

Now I don't have any sort of romantic connection with these guys so I wonder if it's just an ordinary every day thing they do to everyone and that French people don't make a big deal out of it like 'we' do.

A couple of months ago I was looking up something... can't remember what... I think it must've been around the time I saw the film 'He's just not into you' (which is called 'Ce que pensent les hommes' (What men think) in French) and I found this interesting series of videos by Liz Tuccillo (who is one of the authors of the book the movie was based on).

In this particular video she is interviewing (through an interpreter) two young men on the streets of Paris who I assume are in their early 20s and talk about dating and love. I think the interview is quite fun(ny) to watch!

Your tango - other videos in the 'Single in France' series.

jeudi 1 octobre 2009

More Livemocha-ing

So last night, or this morning rather, I stayed up till almost 1am chatting with someone on LiveMocha. I've been starting to think my thoughts in my head in French and I wanted to say, "I wish I was there already" (meaning Paris). I tried various combinations of different words, different tenses, typed the phrase into the Google and couldn't find anything. I was ready to pull my hair out!

I remembered that a lot of ESL speakers I know get "wish" and "hope" mixed up so instead of "Je souhait..." I tried "J'espère..." which seemed to turn up more search results. I wanted to use "y" for there (assuming I had mentioned already the place name).. anyway, so I came up with "J'espère que j'y ai déjà été" since various parts of the phrase existed in Google, just not the sentence as a whole. I really wanted to know how to say this seemingly simple sentence so I hopped onto LM to see if anyone I knew was online...

Now, I should mention that Australia (well, Sydney) is 8 hours ahead of France which is a bit of a nightmare for me as I inevitably end up staying up till 1am or getting up at 6am if I want to chat to anybody. When the time is mutually agreeable for both of us (eg. 8pm for me and 12pm noon for them) it's still hard for me to 'catch' anyone because most people are at work or having lunch then (and/or afterwards) or busy doing other things.

So it happens that 2 of my 'friends' were online. Now, I've never really used the chat feature on LM. I don't like the interface and as I said, I don't usually 'catch' people and I'm never sure if I am bothering people since I prefer long chats rather than a "Hi bye" sort of encounter. So I messaged one of them and we ended up talking for one hour! I could've talked longer but it was way past my bedtime. It turns out that we're a similar age and work in the same profession. I didn't know this before. It also turns out that both our ethnic backgrounds/heritage are not the same as the one we were brought up on (ie our parents were not born in the same country as us).

So apart from him helping me out with this sentence - which* - I didn't end up practising or using much French at all. His English was really good so we just typed in English and since we're both fast typers, the conversation flowed very easily (as I have found in the past, if people aren't fast typers, the conversation tends to stall and for me, it can get boring).

He told me that he didn't know any English 3 years ago and learnt it from watching films, tv shows and cartoons and memorising lines! Unlike most people (including myself) who think in their own language and translate in their head, he says he doesn't really know how to construct sentences from scratch and somehow just 'picked up' the grammar from watching these shows over and over again and memorising the lines. I'd heard of this with other people but never really thought I'd 'meet' someone who'd learnt a language through this method before.

I found out lots of interesting things about him, and also about Paris (where he lives). So even though I didn't learn much in terms of the language I certainly learnt more about the culture and society in which he lives, and in which I hope to live someday... really soon!

* in case you were wondering, is "J'espère déjà y être" (there are some sentences you can't translate word for word!) (which means "I hope to already be there") or "Je suis impatient d'y aller" and I'm sure you can figure out the meaning of that sentence, with even just basic/beginner French!

13 weeks of learning French

13 weeks and 2 days away from my 3 month mark (3 Oct). I think I did quite a lot of Assimil but not much of the others. I have passed lesson 50 which is a milestone because I'm not into the 'second wave'. I started doing FSI French Phonology again even though it's kinda tedious. So far I have:
  • Done up to the end of Pimsleur French - Level III Lesson 16 (76 of 90 lessons)
  • Done up to the end of Coffee Break French - Lesson 32 (of 67 lessons)
  • Done up to the end of Assimil - Lesson 54 (of 113 lessons)
  • Done up to the end of Live Mocha - Lesson 19 (of 50 lessons)
  • Done up to the end of French in Action - Lesson 11 (of 52 lessons)
  • Done up to the end of FSI - Lesson 16 (tape 3.4) (of 189 lessons)
  • Done up to the end of FSI French Phonology - Lesson 3 (tape 2.1) (of 20 lessons)

The law of attraction

Les idées toutes faites (set ideas)

Be warned, I'm about to get all psycho mumbo jumbo on you all...

So there's this book called 'The Secret' by Rhonda Byrnes which talks about the Law of Attraction and some people believe it's hogwash. However, I kind of believe in it. Now, I don't believe that thinking and wishing for a brand new car is going to make one appear within the next few days out of the blue (and for free for you) but I do believe that your thoughts tend to attract the things you think about.

When I hear people say that they French are arrogant, unfriendly, etc etc.. I fully believe it's because they have these pre-conceived notions, judgements and prejudices.. so what happens is that when they actually go to France, they attract these shorts of people and situations and therefore it somehow 'proves' that their theory was right all along.

Now, 2 years ago I moved overseas and while I was gone, my sister came to live in my apartment. Recently, I was chatting to her about the medical centre nearby and how I almost always have good experiences there and never had to wait more than 10-15 minutes, whereas she complained and said she always had to wait over an hour... then she launched into a tirade about how she didn't like the people in this suburb. They were rude, selfish, annoying, etc. Hang on a minute! I was confused. Were we talking about the same place? Yes. We were talking about the exact same apartment, suburb, people and places, yet we had totally different experiences. Why was this? I fully believe that it's because she has this inbuilt prejudice which attracted all these negative experiences to her.

Where am I going with all of this? Well, I was just reading this blog where this women mentioned how wonderful Air France were to her, her husband and her young son. Now, it's rare to hear someone give glowing reviews about an airline and come to think of it, my best experience was with Emirates. If I'm going to get all philosophical and psychological about this, I had read that they were one of the top 3 airlines in the world almost every year so somehow I must've attracted these great experiences, right? I guess I had high expectations but was pleasantly surprised when they did actually meet my expectations and I have nothing but glowing things to say about them.

So my conclusion to this convoluted post is that if and when I eventually get to France I'm just going to think positively. Sure bad things happen to everyone once in a while and there's always that 1% of humanity/society which suck but the rest should be OK. I think that if I keep this positive frame of mind that the French people are nice, friendly, helpful, etc... then somehow I should attract these sorts of people along the way! Afterall, the few French people that I know have all been nice and friendly to me, especially the one I met by random when I was living overseas.

mercredi 30 septembre 2009

French vs American culture

I found a really interesting and long discussion here about typical French and American stereotypes and people's viewpoints on the two different cultures...

mardi 29 septembre 2009

Movie and tv show dubbing a hindrance to language learning?

A few days ago I had dinner with my family and some friends... it turned out to be a trilingual conversation with English, Chinese (Mandarin) and German (no French unfortunately).

There was an interesting conversation (in English). One of the Germans (who is a friend's sister's cousin's uncle's friend's son's dog's owner's neighbour - or something to that effect) mentioned that the northern European countries are much better at English and learning other languages because none of their English tv shows are dubbed, whereas in Germany (and most other Western European countries) English programs and movie are almost always dubbed.

There is a discussion on Antimoon about this topic.

In Australia, hardly anything is dubbed. After consulting Wikipedia it does mention animated programs for children, and some advertisements, which is true. I do remember in my childhood, (Japanese) cartoons such as Astroboy being dubbed into English. Also I remember a tv commercial for shampoo or something that seemed to have been filmed in the Phillippines (I think) that was dubbed into (Australian-accented) English.

But films, tv shows and documentaries are never dubbed. In saying that though, on free-to-air tv non-English programmes are very rarely aired. They are mostly shown on the SBS channel (which features news, programmes and movies from around the world). They've shown some really brilliant foreign films on that channel.

It might sound strange, but I actually like to read sub-titles. Since I'm OK with Mandarin (but definitely not fluent) I like to read the English sub-title and see how close it is to how I would've translated it. I found in a lot of cases it is quite different but I've learnt that translating films is an art. They just have to get the meaning across, not translate it word for word. Also, they have to fit the words into the allocated space on each screen so they can't be too wordy.

I've found that when I have French subtitles (either on a French or English-speaking film) it helps immensely, but I've found that when I watch a French film with English subtitles it doesn't help me much (in terms of learning French). Sure it helps me watch the film, and understand what they are saying but it's far more useful for me when I see French subtitles.

One of my favourite films of all time is Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella) (1997). I remember putting the DVD into my DVD player and was horrified to hear them speaking English. Somehow the default was set that dubbed English was the audio track. Yes, they were speaking English with a faux Italian accent. It was horrible! I quickly switched it off and preferrred to listen to the original Italian audio track (even though I didn't know what they are saying) and read the subtitles.

Getting back to the topic though, if you look at the map on Wikipedia, Blue = dubbing only for children's programmes. Red = General dubbing: Countries using exclusively a full-cast dubbing, both for films and for TV series.

It seems that in parts of Eastern Europe they don't dub either. I don't know if it's a stereotype or if it's true but most Eastern Europeans I've come across are very good at languages and at being bi/tri/multi-lingual too.

C'est intéressant, non?

Link: Watch foreign films without dubbing

Mulan Reflection Reflexion?

What is going on? Am I missing something? Almost all of the last 50+ visitors to my blog found it because they were looking for a picture of Mulan. Why? I am confused.

lundi 28 septembre 2009

Les Mots - Mylene Farmer and Seal

Another beautiful, wonderful bi-lingual French-English song!

NB: Not Seal in the video I don't think!

Les Mots - Mylène Farmer and Seal

Fixement, le ciel se tord
Quand la bouche engendre un mort
Là je donnerai ma vie pour t'entendre
Te dire les mots les plus tendres

Fixedly, the sky twists 
When the mouth generates a death 
There, I will give my life to hear you
To tell you the most tender words

When all becomes all alone
I'll break my life for a song
And two lives that stoop to notice mine
I know I will say goodbye
But a fraction of this life
I would give anything, anytime

L'univers a ses mystères
Les mots sont nos vies

You could kill a life with words
So, how would it feel
Si nos vies sont si fragiles
Words are mysteries
Les mots des sentiments
Les mots d'amour, un temple

The universe has its mysteries
The words are our lives
You could kill a life with words
So, how would it feel
If our lives are so fragile
Words are mysteries
Words of the feelings
The words of love, a temple

If one swept the world away
One could touch the universe
I will tell you how the sun rose high,
We could, with a word, become one

Et pour tous ces mots qui blessent
Il y a ceux qui nous caressent
Qui illuminent, qui touchent l'infini
Même si le néant existe

For a fraction of this life,
I will give anything, anytime

And for all these words which wound
There are those which cherish us
Which illuminate, which touch the infinite
Even if nothing exists
For a fraction of this life,
I will give anything, anytime

L'univers a ses mystères
Les mots sont nos vies

We could kill a life with words
So, how would it feel
Si nos vies sont si fragiles
Words are mysteries
Les mots des sentiments
Les mots d'amour, un temple

The universe has its mysteries
The words are our lives
You could kill a life with words
So, how would it feel
If our lives are so fragile
Words are mysteries
Words of the feelings
The words of love, a temple

dimanche 27 septembre 2009

L'auberge espagnole (2002) et Les poupées russes (2005)

I typed 'jeune' into YouTube to see what would come up and I found this video entitled 'Le Jeune Homme Curieux 45.' Turns out that that's not the name of it, the name of the film is 'Les poupées russes' (the Russian dolls). You can view it here (I can't embed it). There are more clips of it on YT but that's one of the longest (at 10 minutes). It's subtitled too, which is good.

It had me hooked right from the start and it turns out that the main actor is Romain Duris who also stars in Paris and Le Divorce, both of which I've talked about before. It's directed by Cédric Klapisch, the same director as 'Paris.' It also stars Audrey Tautou who I've talked about many times before too.

It seems to be somewhat of a sequel to 'L'auberge espagnole' (The Spanish Apartment) made 3 years prior, in 2002.

imdb's synopsis:
As part of a job that he is promised, Xavier, an economics student in his twenties, signs on to a European exchange program in order to gain working knowledge of the Spanish language. Promising that they'll remain close, he says farewell to his loving girlfriend, then heads to Barcelona. Following his arrival, Xavier is soon thrust into a cultural melting pot when he moves into an apartment full of international students. An Italian, an English girl, a boy from Denmark, a young girl from Belgium, a German and a girl from Tarragona all join him in a series of adventures that serve as an initiation to life.

Sypnopsis of 'Les poupées russes':
Xavier is now thirty. No longer a student, he is not yet a well-balanced, fullfiiled adult either. His career is unsatisfying : far from being the renowned novelist he aimed to be he must be content with little jobs such as reporter or ghost writer. His greatest "achievement" in "literature" is his collaboration to the script of a corny TV soap ! His sentimental life is not much better, rhythmed by one night stands and unfinished romances. It looks as if when he seduces a woman beautiful outside and inside such as Kassia or Wendy he can't keep them. Will he ever bring his life into focus?

Another two films to put on my ever-growing list of French movies to watch!

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