France’s 2015 Eurovision Submission!

Posted on 21. May, 2015 by in Culture, Music, News

Image courtesy of This Week UK

Image courtesy of This Week UK


On Saturday night, most of Europe will be watching the finale of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. If you’re not familiar with this contest, it’s an annual song competition with countries in the European Broadcasting Union participating. This year, for its 60th anniversary, the contest is taking place in Vienna, Austria, because last year’s winner was Austria. Eurovision is a very popular: this year, an estimated 600 million viewers globally will be celebrating 60 years of singing.

How it works is each country selects a singer to represent them. What surprised me is that the representative doesn’t have to be a citizen of the country he’s singing for! Canadian singer Céline Dion (ever heard of her?) sang for Switzerland in 1988 with the song “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” (Don’t Leave without Me), for example. Her participation helped launch her international career, so I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that we can think Eurovision for our chance to perform our own drunken renditions of “My Heart Will Go On” at karaoke. Merci, Eurovision!

Céline isn’t the only big timer to come from a Eurovision background. ABBA won for Switzerland in 1974 with “Waterloo.”

The competition has two semi-finals and a final. For each semi-final, the 10 countries with the highest scores will make the journey to the Eurovision host country. Regardless of where they place, there is a group of 5 countries known as the Big Five that automatically place into the finals because they’re the biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union. They are: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Australia. (Hey..that’s not 5. That’s 6! And Australia??). The previous year’s winner is also automatically in the final.

The winner is decided by 2 factors: a jury and public vote. Both are given 50%. This method can lead to a lot of geopolitical voting (which is interesting in and of itself).

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Sorry For Le Temps: Lessons From Mistakes

Posted on 20. May, 2015 by in Grammar

Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo by UMP Photos on Flickr.

Nicolas Sarkozy, photo by UMP Photos on Flickr.

There are many fautes (mistakes) that francophones make in French that are useful. The complicated conjugations also hide how easy things are. Cependant (however), there’s another easy French lesson that is often overlooked!

When francophones speak English, they make fautes that show how they are thinking in French and directly translating their thoughts into English. This always happens when you speak a foreign langauge, but what’s important is how these silly mistakes can be free lessons!

Ces fautes are a look into how the speaker organizes their ideas in their native language!

Voici quelques exemples :

I proposed to him… – Je lui ai proposé…
Faute: Proposer – To offer
Proposer is a false friend that means “to offer” in French.

I’m learning you French – Je t’apprends le français
Faute: apprendre – To teach
Apprendre can mean both to teach and to learn in French.

I am agree – Je suis d’accord
Faute: Être d’accord – To agree
“I agree” in French uses an adjectif rather than just being a verb.

Mail address – adresse mail
Faute: Mail – Email
Mail in French means Email, so your adresse mail is your Email address.

What’s Happen? – Qu’est-ce qui se passe ?
Faute: Present – Present progressive
The present progressive (ing verbs) isn’t used very often in French. Le présent simple is used instead.

Can you explain me? – Est-ce que vous pouvez m’expliquer ?
Faute: M’expliquer – Explain to me
The verb expliquer doesn’t need une préposition in French, but in English it does.

Ces fautes sometimes show up when high profile French politicians speak to the press, often resulting in all of France feeling embarrassed.

Here are some famous examples from former president Sarkozy:

“[We want] to make some money with you for us.” – Nous voulons faire de l’argent avec vous pour nous.
A direct translation of la phrase française (the French sentence).

“Sorry for the time.” – Désolé pour le temps.
Le temps means both time and weather in French.

Sometimes ces fautes are a bit harder to understand. The famous phrase said by Jean-Pierre Raffarin is a perfect example:

“Win, the ‘yes’ needs the ‘no’ to win, against the ‘no’.”

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Quels sont vos livres préférés?

Posted on 18. May, 2015 by in Literature, Vocabulary

Les Bouquinistes

Les Bouquinistes, Courtesy of Amaianos

Aimez-vous lire, chers lecteurs/chères lectrices? Si vous répondez “oui,” quels sont vos livres préférés?

I love to read. Some books have changed my life and some have saved my life. They’ve transformed the way I view the world and the people around me, have taught me how to empathize, and have helped guide me through rough patches in my life.

And, of course, a great many of these books that I have fallen in love with were originally written in French. I’ll tell you more about my favorite French-language books below. But, first, here’s a list of vocabulary about books and reading, which will prove useful if you’re a bibliophile:

un roman — a novel

Un livre de poche — This means, largely, a paperback novel. This is also a large French imprint of La librarie générale française that publishes paperbacks.

Une histoire vraie/vécue — non-fiction. In France, it’s more common to hear “une histoire vraie.”

Un bouquin — This is the familiar way of saying “book.” You’ll hear this all the time.

Les bouquinistes — These are the antique and used booksellers set up all along the Seine in Paris. Don’t miss checking these out.

Une librairie — A bookstore. This can be confusing for English speakers.

Une bibliothèque — A library

Un dictionnaire – A dictionary

Une nouvelle — A short story

Un conte — A tale. For example, un conte de fées would be a fairy tale, also known as un conte merveilleux.

La poesie — Poetry.

Les romans policiers — Mystery novels. This would be an example of a genre, or type of book, a familiar word to English speakers because it has been adopted into English.

Un/une auteur(e) — An author

La littérature étrangère —Foreign literature

Écrire/rédiger — To write. While écrire is a more familiar verb, rédiger is the correct verb to use in the case of writing a longer work, such as a book. Écrire signifies “the act of writing,” while rédiger means writing a longer, meaningful and coherent text.

Éditer — To edit

Imprimer — To print

Publier — To publish

Take these vocabulary words and try to create a paragraph of French text, such as the one below:

Quand j’ai habité sur Paris, j’allais souvent chez les bouquinistes pour acheter des livres de poche. J’aime plus acheter des bouquins d’occasion que d’aller en acheter chez la librairie. J’aime beaucoup de genres littéraires, surtout la poesie et les romans policiers. Alors, je vous donne mes titres préférés: La jalousie par Alain Robbe-Grillet, L’Enfant de sable par Tahar Ben Jelloun, Madame Bovary de Flaubert, Le Petit prince de Antoine de Saint Exupery, et L’Amant de Marguerite Duras. Quels sont vos livres préférés?