dimanche 29 décembre 2013

Sarah Turnbull's new book - All Good Things

All Good Things (from Paris to Tahiti) - Sarah Turnbull

Early readers of my blog will know that I LOVE books about life in France. But I don't like fiction. I only like reading memories or (auto)biographies or stories which are at least based on aspects of the author's real life.

I just finished watching the (Steve) Jobs movie and it really made me want to read the book (which is something I meant to do ages ago but never found the time for since it's pretty long).

But then I suddenly wondered if there were any new books about life in France and I google my old 'friend' Sarah Turnbull. I say 'friend' only because we both come from Sydney, Australia.

Here on SMH is an article about her latest book 'All Good Things'. But if you don't want any spoilers about the book or her life, don't read more than halfway down. Stupid writer says they don't to give it away and then proceeds to tell us the ending of the story (I hate that!) Anyway, it won't prevent me from wanting to read the book though.

The hardcover version only came out in September 2013 and the softcover one won't be here till April-May 2014.

I still really want to read Memoirs of a Showgirl by Shay Stafford (Bryce Corbett's wife) and this new book Naples: Way of love by Lisa Clifford (and photographed by Sydneysider Carla Coulson) which is not about Paris or France, but nonetheless interesting for a Sydney expat travel lover girl like me. Neither of these books are available on Amazon or Bookdepository though :(

When I actually get around to reading any of these 3 books, I'll be sure to write a review about them. In the meantime, be sure to check out my previous book reviews here.

and if I don't talk to you before then, Bonne Année !! :)

(image from here)

mercredi 11 décembre 2013

Casse-tete Chinois (Chinese Puzzle) Klapisch film review

First of all, read my previous blogpost on the film here.

Second of all, there are slight spoilers in my review. I don't give away anything major about the plot, and the things I talk about are mentioned in the first few minutes of the film but I thought I should warn you anyway. Also, I went and saw this film without first having seen the trailer. I recommend you not watch the trailer before you see this film if you don't want to know anything beforehand. 

Casse-tête Chinois (Chinese Puzzle) Cédric Klapisch film review

First of all, I think the title of the film is genius. Literally, casse-tête chinois means Chinese "broken head" which is translated into "Chinese Puzzle", ie it's a puzzle that drives you so crazy it breaks your head. It is obvious they wanted to keep the theme of having an adjective related to a country/culture - L'auberge espagnol (Spanish youth hostel), Les poupées russes (Russian dolls), Chinese puzzle... The only difference is this time no part of the film is set in China. If you google "casse-tête chinois" it's one of those wooden puzzles where all the pieces have to fit together in the right way and in the right order.

Xavier (Romain Duris), now 40, says his life is a mess and he wonders how he got to this point, where the pieces are obviously NOT in the right order nor in the right place. He recounts his touching, funny and personal story over the past few years through Skype interviews with his book publisher (he is writing a book based on his life).

I have seen the first two films but it has been so long ago that I cannot remember the story lines. It is not necessary IMHO to have seen them but it would help you have a deeper understanding of the main characters and their development. Fans of either the first two films will be delighted to see the actresses Audrey Tautou, Kelly Reilly and Cécile De France reprise their roles as Martine, Wendy and Isabelle. I felt that maybe the director (Cédric Klapisch) wanted to capitalize on the success and popularity of Audrey Tautou with foreigners by putting her in the film as much as possible.

In the first few minutes of the film the protagonist mentions going from point A to point B in life. What I feel is that life is so easy in your 20s (their ages in the first film) where everybody starts at the same point, at point A. In your 30s people's lives tend to go down different paths, marriages, singledom, divorces, kids or no kids, gay/lesbianism, there is no one set path and nobody can predict what will happen in your life from your late 20s onwards. I guess the film is trying to show that it's OK not to have a 'perfect' life and that there are happy relationships of all different kinds.

Apart from the main topic of romantic relationships, the film also briefly touches on parent-child relationships and features Xavier's children but also his parents in 2 short separate scenes. I don't feel that these scenes would have been missed if taken out but I am glad they were in there because when you get to the age where you have kids or 'should be' having kids you think about your own parents a lot, their relationship with each other and to you. The scene with his father was really sweet but I won't give it away what it was.

And so, Xavier is now married to Wendy (and has been for the past 10 years) and has 2 children with her. Their relationship is on the rocks and one day Wendy announces she has met a new man in New York and wants to move there, immediately, with the children. Xavier, therefore, has no choice but to give up his life in Paris and to join them in New York to stay in regular contact with his young children.

This brings up a whole new set of problems for him such as finding housing, slight language issues, finding a job, how to stay in the country legally for a long period of time... as someone who has moved overseas (several times) I found this aspect highly interesting and it shows the young people these days, are more than ever, globally mobile and willing to overcome hardships and obstacles in an effort to start a new life elsewhere.

There are many new (multi-cultural) characters and actors introduced into this third film of the trilogy and together they create an interesting patchwork for the New York setting and for the plot. There are many Chinese (Chinese American) characters in this film and Chinatown is featured often too, strengthening the multiple meanings behind the title. There is also a hilarious scene where Martine speaks Chinese

I won't go on much further other than to say that it's a much see! 10/10 for me. If you enjoyed the previous two in the series, or enjoy films that you can really relate to, full of funny, sweet and poignant moments, this is definitely one not to miss. I only have a small complaint and that is some parts of the plot were are bit too Hollywoodish. Nevertheless, the film was overall not that predictable for me and there were many surprising twists and turns.

and I watched the film in French with NO subtitles and understood 99% of it. Woohoo!

A ne pas manquer !!

vendredi 6 décembre 2013

Casse tete Chinois (Chinese Puzzle) - New Cedric Klapisch film

Casse-tête chinois (Chinese Puzzle) (2013)

I briefly wrote about the film L'auberge espagnole (2002) and Les poupées russes (Russian Dolls) (2005) here . Well I don't think I wrote a follow up post but I did end up watching both films and loving them both to bits. I really like Romain Duris or Audrey Tautou in any film!

I love films that are set in 'real time' meaning that as the characters age, they use the same actors again who've also aged the same number of years.

A few months ago, I saw the third film in the trilogy Before Midnight (2013), which came after Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) and it was excellent so I have high hopes for the third in this series by acclaimed director Cédric Klapisch.

Coincidentally, just the other day I watched American Reunion (2012) which came after American Pie (1999), American Pie 2 (2001) and American Wedding (2003).

These movies really make you think as you grow up alongside these characters (because I'm relatively close in age to the characters in all of these movies). In your teens or 20s life is so easygoing, in your 30s everything becomes more serious as marriage and babies usually happen, and then 40s it seems to get more stressful... Well I don't know yet, I'm not in my 40s, but it does seem to get more demanding and stressful as people in this age group now have very elderly parents as well as kids to look after.

Anyway I've added the trailer and the link to imdb up above. I haven't seen it yet but can't wait to!! I'll be back with a review once I've seen it.

Here are the release dates for a few countries:

  • UK - 12 October 2013 (London Film Festival)
  • Belgium/France/French-speaking Switzerland - 4 December 2013
  • Singapore - 12 December 2013
  • Germany - 2 January 2014
  • Poland - 3 January 2014


Read my review here!

 (poster image from here)

jeudi 5 décembre 2013

Funny Chinese French ... Chinçais?

I suppose you have all heard of Chinglish, if you haven't, check out this Flickr group full of funny photos of examples. It's basically bad Chinese translations of Chinese words into English (or simply typos).

But here's a new one I've never heard of before! Chinçais? I don't know if that's what it's called... but it's bad translations of French.

Check out these 27 examples of hilarity! "Les 27 pires traductions de merde"

This one I found particularly hilarious. What starts off as a simple typo in English (peed instead of peel) then gets translated into French! LOL.

and this cute one.. but of course!

vendredi 15 novembre 2013

A Cartier Christmas 2013

Check out this cute (animated) short film set in Paris in the 1920s to promote Cartier for Christmas... pour Noël ! Now is that a Winter Tale or a Winter Tail? hehe

(image from here)

mercredi 13 novembre 2013

French: Worst learners of English in Europe

Interesting article on thelocal here:

A global study of English language proficiency in 60 nations revealed that the ability of the French to master the language of Shakespeare is actually declining. The company behind the study tells The Local that France’s fear of losing its culture is to blame... 
The third EF English Proficiency Index by the international education company, ranked France 35th out of 60 countries where English is not the main language, putting it behind China, Taiwan and Italy and just ahead of the United Arab Emirates in the “low proficiency” grouping.
Most notably it was ranked last out of the European nations studied, falling behind the likes of Germany (14th) and Spain (23rd).
Perhaps unsurprisingly Sweden topped the league table ahead of Norway and the Netherlands.

Read the rest of the article on the site. What do you think about this?

samedi 2 novembre 2013

Anything sounds better in a foreign language...

Just came across this article in designtaxi. It's really funny. Apparently, if a woman is attractive and sexy, it doesn't matter what she says... it sounds great (if you don't know her language).


Kind of reminds me of people who tattoo Chinese or Japanese characters on their bodies without having the faintest clue what it really says, or people who use Google Translate claiming to know the language... Better to learn it and really know it rather than fake it IMHO.

vendredi 1 novembre 2013

HSBC Expat Explorer - Australia vs France - Classement pays expatriés

I came across this interesting interactive website called HSBC Expat Explorer which allows you to compare several countries for quality of life as an expat. Overall, as you can see by the graphic above, Australia ranks 5th and France ranks 17th.

Australia (green) scores much better for: 
  • Travelling more 
  • Quality of accommodation 
  • Working environment 
  • Making local friends 
  • Local culture 
  • Fitting in the new culture 
  • Setting up utilities 
  • Organising healthcare 
  • Organising finances 
  • Children more rounded and 
  • Children having a greater circle of friends.

France (blue) scores much better for: 
  • Healthcare access and quality 
  • Enjoying local food local 
  • Work culture 
  • Cost of education to children and 
  • Children learning a new language.

Have a play around and compare your country's stats with France's or any 2 countries on the list. It's quite eye-opening and you may learn a thing or two, especially if you are thinking of moving abroad. :)

Article (huffingtonpost.com) in English
Article (lefigaro.fr) en français
Article (challenges.fr) en français

Amusez-vous bien!

jeudi 26 septembre 2013

Native speakers pronouncing their own words incorrectly

There's a funny thing that's happened to me a few times, where a native speaker of a certain language (not English) will pronounce their own words incorrectly because they are speaking to ME and they are Anglicizing it.

Examples - French people pronouncing ballet not ba-lay but ba-llette
and the funniest one I got the other day was a native German speaker talking about a "children's garden"... I laughed (when I figured out what he meant) and said, "We call it a kindergarten too!"

jeudi 19 septembre 2013

How good is autocorrect?

... not very by the looks of things. Check this out.

It compares Cordial, Antidote, Pro Lexis and Word which are apparently all software which correct grammar and spelling. I haven't heard of any of them except Word, must be some French thing. But there is even a mistake in the last column (Word one) that the writers of the article did not pick up and highlight ;)

... just goes to show you that noone's perfect! :P

Also goes to show you that my French must not be good enough as I don't know what "entraider mutuellement" even means. I find the spelling mistakes very easy to pick up, the grammar less so.

(Image from ladictee.fr Facebook page)

mercredi 18 septembre 2013

A home of my own...

I do apologise for the lack of posts recently. I've been going through a lot these past couple of months.. both good and bad things... and haven't really been motivated to blog at all. However, I'm glad you're still reading which keeps me going and I will hopefully come up with more new posts on language learning in the next few weeks/months... :)

So...I grew up in a 3 bedroom house with huge front and backyards. As we grew up my parents renovated/extended it and added 2 more bedrooms. I don't know how big it was but it felt like a normal size to me, not big (because I didn't know any different).

Just before I moved to France, I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment in Sydney. I don't know how big it was but I would say probably around 80sqm. Compared to the house I grew up in, this felt tiny but it was nice having my own place. It also had a big balcony.

Then I moved to France into a tiny little room (room, not apartment) that was about 18sqm. It was painful living in such a small space... but as it was only for a short period of time I put up with it.

Then I moved to Geneva where I was overjoyed to have my own place again. At about 30sqm it felt huge compared to my tiny little dorm room. I also have a kitchen and bathroom. I was sure that it would be enough space for l'il ol' me.

However... now I am feeling it is too small again. When I visit friend's places I look enviously over all the space that they have... over how many walls they have to put bookshelves against (I don't even have one single bookshelf). In nearly everyone's bathroom there is a rack or shelf of some sort to put towels and extra toilet paper rolls. However I don't have any space at all to put any sort of shelf. I have to store my towels in my already cramped wardrobe.

What I'd give to have 80sqm again. Sigh...  I look at pictures online of so-called small apartments or studio apartments for furnishing ideas... and they are all bigger than mine.

I hope to be able to move into a bigger place someday. I dream about it all the time. Even more than that, I dream about owning my own place so I can do whatever I want to it. It's already hard enough to furnish a tiny place but when you can't put holes in the walls, or paint, or do anything (without a costly aftermath to get it back the way it was when you move out)... it just makes it never really feel like home.

(image from here)

jeudi 8 août 2013

YouTube Draw My Life videos

One day I came across a "Draw my life" video on Youtube and watched it, and was almost in tears. It was by Michelle Phan, whom I wrote about before here. The video was very touching and it got me addicted to watching more of these sorts of videos, made by people I'd never heard about before..

Here is her video:

And then I came across this one, by a young 18 year old French girl, Horia AKA UnMondeAuFéminin.

These days my French is definitely not progressing at all. In fact, I am ashamed to say that I hardly ever use it :( I don't really need to use it much for work and all of my friends speak English so I speak English the majority of the time.. but anyway, I'm happy to report that I can understand everything in this video, even if I do feel that she speaks super fast (like all teens do). Check out her video for some listening practice.

If there's something these videos have shown me is that no matter how happy and wonderful someone's life seems on the outside we all have the same problems, worries, fears, and ups and downs, and that's what makes us real and human.

Happy watching!

jeudi 20 juin 2013

Learning a foreign language: Surround yourself with the people, culture and context

I came across this interesting article and agree with what it says.
Basically they're saying that not being surrounded by the context and culture of the language you're learning affects how fluently you speak the language.. pretty much common sense really! ;)

Pertinent quotes

  • The findings could help explain why cultural immersion is the most effective way to learn a foreign tongue and why immigrants who settle within an ethnic enclave acculturate more slowly than those who surround themselves with friends from their new country
  • Previous studies have shown that cultural icons such as landmarks and celebrities act like "magnets of meaning," instantly activating a web of cultural associations in the mind and influencing our judgments and behavior

Check it out!

samedi 8 juin 2013

Picking up patterns in languages

Interesting article..


Some research suggests that learning a second language draws on capacities that are language-specific, while other research suggests that it reflects a more general capacity for learning patterns. According to psychological scientist and lead researcher Ram Frost of Hebrew University, the data from the new study clearly point to the latter:
"These new results suggest that learning a second language is determined to a large extent by an 
individual ability that is not at all linguistic," says Frost.
In the study, Frost and colleagues used three different tasks to measure how well American students in an overseas program picked up on the structure of words and sounds in Hebrew. The students were tested once in the first semester and again in the second semester. ...

mardi 14 mai 2013

Learn French with Draw Something app

A few weeks ago I discovered this app called Draw Something and downloaded it to my phone.
Immediately, I became addicted to it. Now, I don't play computer games at all ever because I'm a really impatient person. I also don't watch tv series or read novels (because I can't handle waiting hours, weeks or months to get to the end!)... however...

This is based on the boardgame Pictionary. A game I used to pay a lot at home with my sister and friends. and to be totally not modest, I am really good at this game... and I don't actually think it's got to do with drawing skills at all, it's more to do with being able to convey a message and get the meaning and context across.  Once I played Cranium with a group of friends. The game lasted 3 hours and my friend and I (we played in pairs) won.  A lot of that has to do with me being a jack of all trades and a master of none ;P

Anyway, so... you're wondering what does drawing cupcakes have to do with learning French? Well I'm not sure if it's because my phone is in French or because I'm in a French-speaking country... but for me, when I loaded the game, it was all in French.

And the strangest thing happened... Here I was thinking I'm pretty much fluent in French and at CEFR C1 level easily by now... BUT I didn't know any of these words! How could I draw these things if I didn't know what they were? So I had to open up wordreference.com on my computer at the same time to be able to play.

And it got me thinking about it... after a little while I realised why I didn't know these words. They were mostly nouns. If you think about it, when you're a kid you learn a ton of nouns and comparatively fewer verbs but when you learn a (second) language as an adult you learn more verbs and less nouns.

For example for those of you learning French (or any other language) - how many different types of flowers can you name in your foreign language compared to your native language? I'll bet the answer is nowhere near as many.

When you're a kid you read story books and you amasse a big vocabulary of animal types, plant types, flower types, objects and stuff like that but as an adult learning a foreign language you're more likely to learn vocabulary you actually use on a daily basis, which doesn't include things like tulips or rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?) ;)

So here are some of the words I learnt thanks to this app.

caniche = poodle
tombeau = gravestone/tombstone
beignet = donut


(mobile phone) app = app/appli/application
board game = jeu de société (society game)

The app matches you up with a random player (I'm guessing via GPS so it's someone quite close geographically) OR you can play against a friend. The more you play the more points or coins you collect and that allows you to get more colours to draw with (which is handy).  If you guess incorrectly the game is over and you start again at round 1. I got up to round 33 with one girl and she left the game! I was hoping to break some kind of record with her. You don't have to stay permanently online, the game remembers where you last left off and there is no need to 'save' or anything which is great. There are also cheaters too and I don't like this. They write the answer on the screen instead of drawing it.

Even if you can't manage to get it in French on your phone it's a fun app anyway... but I'm kind of over it now... hahaha.

Get it for iPhones or for Android.

(image from here)

jeudi 9 mai 2013



Here's a French word that I've come across a few times now that's hard to translate...

The one that fits best IMHO is "one hell of a..." from wordreference.com

Used to describe a person, thing or situation.. it's sort of colloquial/slang... and used in a positive manner to describe something that's so crazy it's almost unbelievable. I guess "unbelievable" could be another translation for it.

Even though it sounds like "sacred" in English.. in this context it doesn't have any religious connotations. It can also be used in a religious way, though.

mardi 30 avril 2013

Assimil L'Espagnol Spanish

Assimil L'Espagnol and FNAC

Here is a bit about my last FNAC experience in Paris, back in July 2011.

I lurve FNAC. Apart from clothes, shoes and handbags... it sells everything else I love: books and electronic gadgets. (it also sells concert and theatre tickets and other random stuff).

It's the kind of shop you can browse in for AGES. Now in Geneva where I live now there is also a FNAC (or several) but the books they sell are pretty much the same as the ones they sell in France except more much expensive! However, on the other hand, the electronics (such as cameras) are cheaper... weird, huh?

But be warned there are ALWAYS long queues to pay in FNAC. It's the kind of store that's almost always crowded especially during lunchtimes...

Anyway, so on my recent trip to Paris I wanted to go to FNAC to buy this beauty (pic above). I found Assimil immensely helpful for learning French and during my last last trip to Paris before this current one (July 2011) I bought the German one, hoping and planning to pick it up... Unfortunately, it never took off because I couldn't find the motivation to do it. :( I just don't like the language at all. Meanwhile, Spanish and Italian sound much nicer and are much easier for me having learnt French just before.

I ummed and erred for ages about which language to pick up but Spanish won easily since I LOVE this country, I love travelling there, the people, the food, the weather, the lifestyle.. if it weren't for the high unemployment rate I could happily live there, I think. And the other thing is that Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after Chinese Mandarin. So in the end it was an easy choice.

I have been easing myself into it very slowly (since now I work full time and I didn't when I started learning French) and have a very busy social life and hobbies, etc... I've been starting on Pimsleur and listening to Roxette songs in Spanish to the point where I can sing a lot of them off by heart now (but half the time I don't know what I'm actually singing LOL).

The Assimil L'Espagnol on the FNAC website is for the MP3s (1 CD with MP3 recordings). However, I bought the white one (pictured above) with 4 Audio CDs. Last time with the German I bought the  MP3 one but found it broke up the tracks into lots of pieces (which made it really annoying to listen to on my ipod.. why the heck did they do that?! so this time I actually left the queue to pay, went back to the shelf to grab the white one instead and hope that this time the tracks are intact!

Also, when I bought the German one it was on sale but the Spanish one was marked full price 65,90€. However, when I went to pay there was also a discount on it! Bonus :)

The interesting thing (and challenge) is that last time I was using Assimil to go from English--> French. This time I'm not going from English--> Spanish but from French-->Spanish (since you wouldn't be able to buy the English-->Spanish version one in France anyway). Although it seems like a challenge, I actually think it's easier since there are so many similar words between French and Spanish.

I remember this post that Jennie wrote "Learning a third language through a second" (way back in August 2010!). At the time I hadn't even moved to France yet and it didn't mean much to me but I still remember the post and the principle.. and now I will actually apply it.

Wish me luck! :D

When friends become parents

Continuing on from my previous post... A lot of change happens in 2 years. I can't believe it had been 2 years already since I last saw my friend and 1.5 years since I was last in Paris.

I was surprised when my friend told he had gotten married a few months back. Then I joked that the next time we meet he will have kids and he said, "I don't think so..."

Somehow, I believe he will though. If I leave it another 2 years I'm quite certain he will have at least one kid... Afterall, France has a very high birth rate.

And it got me thinking...

All these French people I met on language exchange sites... It was a coincidence that ALL of them were couples, none of them were singles. And when I arrived in France I visited them all around the country and it was very generous and kind of them to allow me to stay with them and show me around their home town.

And then, one year or so later, they all had kids. I would like to revisit them but I can't. It may sound selfish but I feel stressed around babies and young kids and they wouldn't be able to 'hang out' anyway as their whole schedule and life is now around their kids.

I think back to my friends at home, and I think to bloggers I read (and feel I 'know' because I've been reading their blog for many many years)... Their lives and blogs used to be so interesting and now it just revolves around their kids. Nothing wrong with that and it's completely normal but at the same time it saddens me as I always feel I've 'lost' my friends that way. We no longer have anything in common, we no longer have anything to talk about and they don't do much with their own lives because their life IS their kids' life (as evidenced by those who even put their child's photo as their own profile photo which I kind of find a little disturbing).

There are so many female bloggers I read and their blogs used to be so interesting but after having kids, now every single post is the same... there is nothing new or interesting.

And as much as I try to stay friends with these people I just can't. I've experienced it back home and here. People generally don't bother to stay in contact with you if you aren't going through the same things in life (except by superficial methods like Facebook posts). I go to their kid's birthday parties... and I'll start a conversation with a stranger who'll ask me about my kids.. I'll tell them I don't have any.. and then they're thinking, "Oh shit... what can we talk about then?" and all the while I wonder why I am even there and can't wait to leave...

I shouldn't complain about this I know and I know people will tell me I can still continue to be friends with these people but I really don't feel I can :(

As I write this post... last night I actually had a dream that I was pregnant and gave birth but instead of having the baby the normal way, it came out of my left side! (where my waist is) and I 'only' had a 10cm scar and was walking around normally straight afterwards. The baby was completely normal, healthy and happy... so it was a nice dream.


Babies in dreams are common, because every creation begins with an idea. Many people are invested in learning how to create in their lives, whether it's a new job, a greater relationship, or creating the type of person they desire to become. Next time when you have a baby in your dreams, celebrate the opportunity to learn more about yourself and creativity.


To see a baby in your dream signifies innocence, warmth and new beginnings. Babies symbolize something in your own inner nature that is pure, vulnerable, helpless and/or uncorrupted. If you dream that the baby is smiling at you, then it suggests that you are experiencing pure joy. You do not ask for much to make you happy.

(image from here). 

lundi 29 avril 2013

Paris, how I love thee!

Paris... Paris... will I ever get sick of you? No.. never.

Every trip to this magical city just seems to be... magic. Even if the weather is cold, grey and crap, I still manage to find zillions of things to do and enjoy myself immensely. The time always passes so quickly that I exhaust myself trying to fit as much as I can in one day until my legs turn to jelly and I cannot go on walking anymore...

It had been a whole 2 years since I saw my friend in Paris and almost as long since we last spoke... We kinda lost touch but since I was going back I decided to get in touch again. Actually he's not from Paris but that's besides the point... he's lived there for 5 years now. So we had dinner and a chat... Last time he took me on a scooter ride during the daytime, this time he took me on a car ride at night which was a totally different experience, but both equally great.

This whole trip to Paris was a bit like déjà vu because last time (with my friend) it was also in April, in Spring and with this gorgeous mid-20s sunny weather as well... (and pretty much every other time I came to Paris it was grey and cold).

That tour of Paris by car was THE highlight of my trip among all the many things I did over the last few days.

Again,  I felt like I was in a movie... we drove around both sides of the Seine (including the tunnel where Lady Dianna died :( ), around the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées, around the Eiffel Tower (which looks huge when you are right under it)... and various other places.

I didn't speak English at all the whole time I was there, even when someone spoke to me in English I'd pretend I didn't understand and continue in French.

I don't think I could ever run out of things to do there. However I will say (and agree with many French people) that I wouldn't want to live there. It would totally take away the magic if you had to go to work every day.  It would be a great place to live if you didn't have to work though. That would be such a dream. To be there and just soak up the atmosphere, just wander aimlessly through the streets no matter what time of day... to just sit in a cafe all day and people watch...  To shop in the fresh food markets...and come home and cook up something fabulous...  To observe everything and everyone...

How could anyone not love this city? :)

(image from here)

mardi 12 mars 2013

French expressions with tenir (tiens)

There are so many French expressions using the word tenir.

By itself it's a verb that simply means to hold or to take (something).

The conjugaisons are:

je tiens
tu tiens
il, elle, on tient
nous tenons
vous tenez
ils, elles tiennent

Se tenir au courant / Se tenir au jus
One of first expressions I learnt was "Je te tiens au courant" or "Je vous tiens au courant" which means something like "I'll let you know" or "I'll keep you posted." An informal version of this is "Je te tiens au jus."

I specifically remember in one of the French in Action episodes, Mireille says to her friend Hubert when he arrives, "Tiens!" which means something like "Ah...Look what/who we have here!" otherwise it'll just mean "take this" or "hold this"

Je m'y tiens à... = I get cracking and stick to it (the task)

se tenir = to behave, to stay/keep
ne pas tenir compte de = to disregard
tenir à quelquechose = to cherish something
tenir à coeur = to cherish something
tenir bon = to hold one's ground, hold on, keep going
tenir bon contre = stand firm against, stand firm
tenir bon la rampe = hold on (tight), hold out, hang on

tenir compagnie à quelqu'un = to keep someone company
tenir compagnie = to keep company
tenir compte de = to keep in mind, to take into account
tenir debout (figuratively) = to hold water
ne pas tenir à route = not hold water, not make sense
ne pas tenir en place = unable to keep still, have ants in your pants
ne plus tenir en place = have itchy feet
ne pas tenir sur ses jambes = hardly be able to stand
ne tenir qu'à = depend on
ne pas tenir sa parole envers quelqu'un = break a promise, disappoint
ne tenir qu'à un cheveu = hang by a thread
ne tenir qu'à un fil = hang by a thread
ne tenir à rien = not take much
s'en tenir à = stick to, stick with
tenir de bonne source = to have on good authority
tenir de quelqu'un = to take after someone
tenir le bon bout = to be on the right track
tenir le coup = to hold out, to make it through
tenir rigueur à quelqu'un de ne pas = to hold it against someone for not
tenir quelqu'un à l'oeil = to keep an eye on someone
tenir quelqu'un/quelque chose pour = to regard someone/something as
en tenir pour quelqu'un = to fancy/have a crush on someone
il tient que = it depends on
tenez votre gauche/droite = to keep to the left/right
se tenir les côtes = to split one's sides laughing
se le tenir pour dit = take it as read
se tenir à carreau = watch your step
se tenir à l'affût = lie in wait
se tenir à l'affût de = lie in wait for
se tenir à l'écart = shy away
se tenir à la disposition de qqn = be at sb's disposal, be at sb's service
se tenir caché = lie hidden
se tenir debout = stand erect
se tenir derrière = stand behind
se tenir droit = stand (up) straight
se tenir en embuscade = ambush, lurk
se tenir ensemble = stand together
se tenir épaule contre épaule = stand shoulder to shoulder
se tenir épaule contre épaule avec = stand shoulder to shoulder with
se tenir informé = keep yourself informed
se tenir par la main = hold hands
se tenir prêt à = stand to
se tenir prêt à = get ready to
se tenir sur ses gardes = keep yourself on your toes, be on one's guard
tenir à distance = keep from, hold off, shut-away
tenir à jour = keep up-to-date, keep updated
tenir à l'écart = cold-shoulder sb, keep sb away, keep sb out of things
tenir à l'œil = keep tabs
tenir à sa peau = value your life
tenir absolument à faire (une chose particulière) = set on something on doing, set on
tenir chaud = keep warm
tenir compte = consider
tenir compte = take into consideration
tenir compte de = take account of, consider
tenir contre = hold against, hold out against
tenir dans = fit inside, be held in
tenir de = look like, take after, verge on
tenir debout (sens figuré) =  make sense, add up
tenir du miracle = verge on the miraculous, be something of a miracle
tenir dur, fort = hang tough
tenir éloigné, à distance = hold-off
tenir en haleine = keep sb in suspense, keep sb on tenterhooks
tenir en laisse = keep on a leash, keep on a lead
tenir en tant que = hold as
tenir ensemble = hold together, holding together
tenir ferme = stand fast, hold steady
tenir fermement = hold tight
tenir informé = keep informed, keep posted
tenir l'alcool = hold your drink
tenir la dragée haute à quelqu'un = hold out on somebody
tenir la forme = keep in good shape, stay fit
tenir la jambe de quelqu'un (familier) = buttonhole somebody
tenir la maison = keep house
tenir la route = stay the course
tenir le fort = hold the fort
tenir le bon bout = be on the right track
tenir le choc = hold on, keep up, face the brunt, cope
tenir le compte de = keep a tally of tally of
tenir le coup = hold on, keep going, keep up, carry on
tenir le crachoir (familier) = hold the floor
tenir le haut du pavé = be on top
tenir le rôle de = play the part of
tenir les bras = pinion
tenir les comptes = keep accounts
tenir lieu de = act as, serve as
tenir lieu de parent = in loco parentis
tenir par = hang by, hold by

Sentence examples

* Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras = A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Il vaut mieux tenir que courir = Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow
Tenir à quelque chose comme à la prunelle de ses yeux = really care for something, I wouldn't give it away for anything in the world expression I love this book, I wouldn't give it away for anything in the world (or: for all the tea in China).
S'en tenir aux faits = Stick to the facts
Qu'à cela ne tienne = That's no problem

(info from here and here)
(image from here)

mardi 12 février 2013

Top French baby's names of 2013 prénoms

According to this site they are:

Le top de prénoms français en 2013

Top 20 French girls' names 2013
  1. Emma
  2. Lola
  3. Chloé
  4. Inès
  5. Jade
  6. Manon
  7. Louise
  8. Zoé
  9. Lilou

Top 20 French boys' names 2013

  1. Nathan
  2. Lucas
  3. Enzo
  4. Léo
  5. Enzo ??
  6. Louis
  7. Gabriel
  8. Jules
  9. Timéo
  10. Arthur
(Image from here)

samedi 9 février 2013

French Eating and Cooking Vocabulary list

A few weeks ago I went back to Australia (my first visit back after having left!) and after having come back I've somehow forgotten my French. OK not really but...

I went to the butcher to buy some minced beef. I looked and looked and couldn't see it anywhere. I wonder if they even sold it (it was a new butcher that I'd never been to before). I asked someone working there if they sold "emincé de boeuf" and the guy said something about doing it 'par main' (by hand). I was surprised wondering just how skilled they were... that they can mince beef by hand?!

OK... whatever...  So I took a ticket and waited for* my turn to be served. As it is France nothing ever makes sense right? So taking a number was pointless. The screen was stuck on number '23' and I, being number '47' was served. I pointed to some nice beef and said I wanted it 'emincé'. He begins to dice it up and I was like, 'par main?' He had no idea what I was saying... I said, 'c'est pas fait avec la machine?' (it's not done with the machine?) finally he got what I meant (hallelujah) and said, 'Ohhh..... you mean boeuf haché?' and pointed to the machine behind him. I was like, 'Yeah!' and then he asked me how much I wanted and I said, 'cents grammes' (100g) and for some reason he heard, 'cinq cents grammes' (500g) and I was like, 'Non, cent grammes'. Man was I having trouble communicating or what?! So then he turned around to face the machine, turned this lever and out it came. All perfectly minced up. And it cost me less than 2 euros.

I wondered how/why I made that mistake... ahh but of course. Emincé sounds really similar to minced! Whereas haché doesn't sound anything like minced. Actually emincé means finely sliced or diced which explains why he was cutting it up for me!

Given the popularity of my French fashion and clothing vocabulary post, here is another one!

The ultimate French Cooking vocabulary list

to cook, cooking, also means kitchen, food -  cuisine(r)
cooking, baking - cuisson
chef - chef

mouthwatering - alléchante
delicious - délicieux
yum - miam
crunchy - croquant
crusty - croustillant

Taste adjectives
sweet - doux, sucré
salty, savoury - salé
bitter - amer
spicy - piquant, épicé
sour - aigre
sweet and sour - aigre doux
pungent - âcre
astringent - astringent, âpre, caustique

Order of courses
pre-dinner drinks - apéritif ('apéro')
hors d'oeuvres, canapés - hors d'oeuvre, amuse gueule, amuse bouche
soup - potage
entrée (hot/cold) - entrée (froide/chaude)
main meal - plat principal
cheese plate - fromage 
dessert - dessert
tea or coffée - thé ou café
petit fours - petits fours, mignardises

meat - viande
vegetables - légumes

Types of meat 
beef - boeuf
veal - veau
pork - porc (pronounced por)
ham - jambon
lamb - agneau
poultry - volaille
chicken - poulet
turkey - dinde
duck - canard
horse - cheval
venison (deer) - venaison
meat jerky - viande séchée
fish - poisson
salmon - saumon
tuna - thon
sardine - sardine
perch - perche
trout - truite
anchovy - anchois
whitefish - poison à chair blanche
snapper - vivaneau
grouper - mérou
yellowtail - yellowtail
mackeral - maquereau
swordfish - espadon
marlin - marlin
cod - morue
herring - hareng
mullet - mulet, muge
flounder - flet
bass - bar
carp - carpe
halibut - flétan
monkfish - lotte
haddock - aiglefin, églefin
sole - sole
catfish - poisson chat
pollock - goberge, lieu
shark - requin
eel - anguille
octopus - pieuvre, poulpe
squid, calamari - calamar, calmar
shellfish - crustacés
prawns/shrimps - crevettes
lobster - homard
crawfish, crayfish - écrevisse, langoustine
crab - crabe
mussels - moules
oysters - huîtres
scallops - coquilles Saint Jacques
clams - palourdes, clams

Types of fondue
fondue - just by itself refers to cheese fondue
fondue fromage - cheese fondue made of cheese cooked in alcohol.
fondue bourguignonne - French meat and cheese fondue
fondue chinoise - Chinese 'hot pot' or 'steamboat' with meat and vegetables. Boiled in water, not in oil.
fondue chocolat - desert fondue with pieces of fruit or mashmallows dipped in chocolate

Types of cuts
entrecôte (ribsteak) - entrecote steak
fillet steak - filet de boeuf
round steak - rouelle
rumpsteak - rumsteck
sirloin - aloyau
flank - flanchet
brisket/rib - poitrine de boeuf
chuck beef (shoulder) - épaule de boeuf
porterhouse (beef loin) - châteaubriand
t-bone steak - steak américain
shank (lower leg) - jarret
chuck - morceau de boeuf dan le paleron, tranche de palette
mince beef patty - pâté
rib - côte
cutlet - côtelette
loin - filet
fillet - filet
drumstick - pilon
breast - blanc

Ways to cook steak
(steak haché) tartare - raw minced beef
raw/very rare - bleu
rare - saignant
medium, medium rare - à point
cooked - cuit
well done - bien cuit
very well done (charcoal) - carbonisé

Cutting techniques
chop - couper
slice - couper en tranches
adj) sliced, diced, chopped - emincé
dice - couper on dés, couper en cubes
mince - hacher
adj) minced - haché
shred, grate - râper
adj) shredded, grated - râpé
carve - découper
scallop (thinly slice) for meat - escalope
crinkle cut -
julienne (finely sliced/shredded)
matchstick cut - couper en allumettes
batonnet (like matchstick cut but shorter and stockier)- couper en bâtonnets
brunoise (finely diced) - couper en bruinoise

Cooking techniques
grill - faire cuire au gril
adj) grilled - grillé
fry - faire frire
adj) fried - frit
pan-fry - sauter (also means jump in French ;) )
adj) pan-fried - sauté, cuisson à la poêle
boil - faire bouillir
adj) boiled - bouilli
steam - cuire à la vapeur
adj) steamed - (cuit) à la vapeur
bake - (pronounced queer) cuire (like when you cure pottery in an oven)
adj) baked - cuit (eg bread)
roast - (faire) rotir
adj) roasted - rôti (eg chicken)
simmer, stew - mijoter
sear (meat) - saisir

Préparation - French Cooking Verbs
wash - laver, nettoyer
freeze - geler, congeler
defrost, thaw - décongeler, dégivrer
unwrap - déballer, ouvrir
sit (on the bench) - poser
mix - mélanger
add - ajouter
reduce - laisser réduire, faire réduire
separate - séparer
divide - diviser
stir, mix in - remuer
pour - verser
soak - (faire) tremper
marinate - mariner
knead, mould - pétrir
whisk - fouetter, battre au fouet (noun: fouet, batteur)
sift - tamiser
sprinkle - saupoudrer
wait - attendre
garnish - garnir
cover - couvrir
store (for later) - garder, entreposer
adj) ... well - bien ... or ... bien

...to be continued! :)

* Just to show that I haven't forgotten my French.. I almost typed 'waited my turn' which is exactly what a French person would have said ;)

(images from here and here)

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