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French Culture – Les Barbapapas Posted by on Mar 10, 2020 in Culture, Language, television, Vocabulary

When I was a kid, I used to watch a lot of television. Even with a much smaller number of channels to choose from, I enjoyed discovering new and interesting programs. One that I enjoyed had a very French beginning, though I didn’t know it at the time.

Les Barbapapas

Perhaps I already had une âme française (a French soul) or maybe the show spoke to some hidden love of the surreal, but from the beginning, I was charmed by this odd story of amorphous, shape shifting creatures and their adventures.

Translated into more than 30 languages, these creations of a Franco-American couple, the Barbapapas have appeared in numerous livres (books) and cartoons. Their humorous name comes from the French for cotton candy1also known as cotton floss and fairy floss in the English speaking world, la barbe à papa (lit. daddy’s beard). The colorful family, along with their human friends, got up to many adventures … which always involved them using their capacité de changer de forme à volonté (ability to change shape at will) to resolve any problems.

You can watch the first episode of this fun dessin animé here on YouTube2For some reason the video refuses to embed in the post! Sorry for the inconvenience. For a review of useful weather-related vocabulary, check out this post. The first part of the video will help you practice!

Né un jour dans le jardin de Claudine et François, le père, Barbapapa, est rose … comme la barbe à papa! / Born one day in Claudine and François’s garden, the father, Barbapapa, is pink … like cotton candy.
La mère, Barbamama, est noire. / The mother, Barbamama, is black.3Barbamama and their many children do not appear until later episodes!

With their simplified storylines and repetitive vocabulary, children’s books, cartoons, and films can be a great resource for language learners. Other famous options include Babar l’Eléphant (Babar the Elephant), and Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs). If you’re looking for something to put yourself in a French frame of mind without the actual French, check out the wonderful Madeline series of books and cartoons.


And finally, a quick update on some previous news.

Les cadenas d’amour that once covered Parisian landmarks like the Pont des Arts have found a new home! After the municipality tooks drastic measures to prevent more of the charming-but-damage-causing padlocks from appearing around the city, a Franco-American artist has created a work of art that will grace the cour (courtyard) of the Palais Royal for a few weeks this spring.

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Photo by Genaro Servín from Pexels
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris

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