How to Learn French Noun Gender: Part II

Last week, we wrote about the importance of learning French noun gender and presented multiple categories of words that tend to be either masculine or feminine.

This week, we want to give you 3 more important clues to use to assess whether a French noun is masculine or feminine. We use the word “clue” as opposed to “rule” because – alas – in every category, there’s almost always an exception. But once you memorize and internalize these clues you’ll get the gender right, let’s say… 8 out of 10 times.

Not bad, eh? Here we go:

Clue #1: Most words that refer to men are masculine; those that refer to women are feminine.

Le père (the father)

Le fils (the son)

La tante (the aunt)

La soeur (the sister)

 

Clue #2: Certain nouns are always masculine or feminine regardless of the gender of the person/animal referred to.

Always masculine nouns:

Un ordinateur (a computer)

Un témoin (a witness)

Un manteau (an overcoat)

Un cheval (a horse)

Un guide (a guide)

Always feminine nouns:

Une voiture (a car)

Une souris (a mouse)

Une maison (a house)

Une école (a school)

Une personne (a person)

Une victime (a victim)

 

Clue #3: Certain French nouns endings indicate that the word is either masculine or feminine. Exceptions abound, however. We’ve included the more common ones below, but be always be on the look out for more.

Typically masculine endings:

  • -age (le reportage, sondage, fromage, village)/ Exceptions: la plage, la cage
  • -acle (le miracle, spectacle) / Exceptions: la bâcle, la bernacle, la debâcle
  • -eur (un aspirateur, un ascenseur)/ Exceptions: la chaleur, la couleur, la fleur
  • (le café, marché) / Exception: la clé and words ending with té (see feminine)
  • -eau (bateau, réseau, drapeau) Exceptions: l’eau, la peau
  • -ème (le deuxième, le cinquantième) / Exceptions: la/le troisième, la/le quatrième,
  • -in (le vin, le train) Exception: la fin, la main
  • -ing (le shampooing, le jogging)
  • -isme (le tourisme, organisme, imperialisme)
  • -ment (le gouvernement, appartement)
  • -oir (le soir, le miroir, le devoir)
  • -oi (le tournoi, l’emploi)
  • -ou (le genou, le trou)

 

Typically feminine endings

  • -ade (la limonade, la façade)  Exceptions: masc & fem: le/la nomade, le/la malade
  • -ance (la croissance, la nuance, une ambiance)
  • -aille (la bataille, la taille, la paille)
  • -ée (une idée, la chausée) Exception: le lycée, le musée, le pygmée
  • -ette (la baguette, la courgette)
  • -euse (la chanteuse, la berceuse)
  • -ience (la patience, une experience)
  • -ine (la tartine, la terrine) / Exception: le moine
  • -rice (actrice, directrice) / Exceptions:  le dentifrice
  • -ssion (la passion, une emission) / Exceptions: le bouton-pression
  • -tion (l’information, la question, une ambition)
  • -té (la beauté, la fierté) / Exception: Le blé
  • -tié (la moitié, la pitié)
  • -tude (une habitude, la certitude, la gratitude)
  • -ure (une allure, la candidature)

 

HOMEWORK: Pick 3 masculine word endings and 3 feminine word endings and find 3 new nouns with those endings. Write your answers in the comments below! And, of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us below or contact us.


7 Polite French Phrases to Learn before Visiting Paris

 

The French – Parisians, in particular – have a reputation for being rude. But the behavior that foreigners perceive as rudeness is often the result of a cultural misunderstanding. France has its own standards of politeness and these may differ from those of your home country. In fact, when a Parisian seems rude, he or she might actually be reacting to a perceived rudeness on your part, even though in your eyes you’ve acted perfectly normally.

To avoid any such misunderstandings – and experience the best side of Parisians – learn the following 7 French phrases before visiting Paris. These phrases will show that you’re polite, respectful and have some understanding of French culture. In return, we think you’ll come to see that Parisians are much more friendly than they’re reputed to be!

  1. Bonjour – Good morning/hello

       Pronunciation: Bohn-joohr

Seems obvious, right? But many people don’t realize that “bonjour” is probably the most important phrase in the French language. In France, you should say bonjour to whenever you enter a store, restaurant, elevator, or bus (to the driver; whenever you start a conversation with a stranger (i.e., asking for direction, asking for help at a store), or when you encounter a neighbor or hotel staff. For extra points, you can say: Bonjour Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle.

 

  1. Excusez-moi de vous déranger = Excuse me for bothering you…

         Pronunciation: Ex-kue-zay / mwa /duh /voo /dey-rahn-zhay

If you’re asking a question or making a request of a stranger, preface your request with this phrase. Use especially if the person is engaged in another activity at the time of your request, such as talking to someone, reading, etc. You would not use this phrase with waitstaff or a salesperson at a store. In those cases you would simply say: “Excusez-moi…”

 

  1. C’est très gentil, merci = That’s very nice (of you), thank you.

Pronunciation: Say /trehay / zhawn-tee / mare-si

Use this phrase when someone does something especially nice for you. This may include giving you directions on the street, helping you (or offering to help) in some way, or giving you a compliment.

 

  1. Parlez-vous anglais? = Do you speak English?

       Pronunciation: Pahr-lay /voo / anhn-glay?

Want to get on a Parisian’s bad side? Start yammering away in English before asking whether or not he or she speaks the language. You’re in France. The national language is French. It’s what’s taught in schools. It’s what spoken at home. Many Parisians do speak English, but not everyone does. And of those that do speak English, not everyone speaks it very well. So, even if you feel in your bones that the person speaks English, just be polite and ask first. If you show this courtesy, you’re likely to get a warmer, more thoughtful response to your query.

 

  1. Desolé(e), je ne parle pas français (très bien) = I’m sorry, I don’t speak French (very well).

  Pronunciation: Deh-zo-ley / zhe /nuh /pahrl /pa/ frahn-say /(treh bee-ahn).

Another way of getting into a Parisian’s good graces is by apologizing for not being able to speak French very well. The French do not expect the entire world to speak the language. Still, it’s nice to hear someone making the effort to speak it and apologizing for not being able to do more.

 

  1. Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous me dire où est… ? = Excuse me, can you tell me where ______ is?

    Pronunciation: Poo-vey /voo /muh /dear /oo /ay…

If you need help in a store or on the street, this phrase will certainly come in handy. Of course, you’ll need to fill in the blank with the name of the place or street you’re looking for. And it’s almost always a good idea to preface the phrase with “Excusez-moi…”.

 

  1. C’était très bon = It was really good.

      Pronunciation: Say /et-tay /treh /bohn.

Get that Parisian waiter to smile by complimenting the fine meal you’ve had (if it’s deserving, of course!). Often after you’ve eaten, your server might say: “Ça a été?” meaning “How was it?” If you liked it, deliver your compliments in French and with a smile. Remember that “bon” is always used for food, never “bien”.

Is there a French phrase you’d like to use during your trip to France, but don’t know how to express it? Ask us in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!

 

 

 


Success! How FAYLI Made A Difference in This Expat's Life

 

We are excited to share the French language success story of one of our students, James. James, who hails from Australia, arrived in Paris in 2014, unable to handle basic transactions in French or hold a conversation. But thanks to FAYLI that has changed…

 

My wife Lily and I moved to Paris from New York City in August 2014 after my wife received a job transfer.   Lily is Parisian and her family is here, so it felt like a good move for us…except that I spoke hardly any French.

Why I chose French Lessons with French As You Like It

As part of my wife’s transfer, I was entitled to have a year’s worth of French lessons. So, when we arrived, I started Googling “private French lessons in Paris” and came up with FAYLI. The structure of the classes and flexibility appealed to me, so I signed up for trial lesson to see what it was like. And I thought it was great!

After my trial lesson, I learned that my wife’s company only paid for lessons with one specific French language school, not FAYLI.   But I enjoyed my trial lesson with FAYLI so much – and the teacher that I had worked with, Blandine – that I decided to go ahead and continue taking lessons with them. Now I study both with FAYLI and the other organization, even though I pay for FAYLI lessons on my own.

What I Like Best About My FAYLI Lessons

My lessons with Blandine are mainly conversational, which is perfect for me. We spend a good chunk of the lesson talking about our respective weeks. This is probably my favorite part of the lesson, as one of my main goals is to improve my conversational skills. She’s extremely patient with me, which I appreciate since I don’t have a lot of time to study outside of class and forget some of the things we discuss.

I also like that Blandine writes down any concepts or words I’m having trouble with during the lesson on a separate sheet of paper. It’s helpful because I can file these papers and use them for revision. That was one thing that made me decide that I wanted to pay for lessons with her even though I had the free ones.

How I’ve benefited from lessons with FAYLI

Thanks to my lessons with FAYLI, I’m definitely progressing, although only now am I beginning to get any real speed in my learning. That’s because when I first started my lessons, I was overwhelmed with the move, having a new job and living in a new country. But I see myself reaching my goal to be conversant within the next year or two.

Already, I’ve been happy to engage in some decent conversations in French at parties with my wife’s friends. And now I can handle myself around in Paris so much better!

For example, when we first arrived, my poor wife had to handle all the red tape and administration of the move to Paris. I couldn’t help at all. But recently, we had some important things we needed to send by post and I was able to communicate fully in French all the things we needed to the post office workers. I was so proud to successfully navigate that transaction. I couldn’t have done that last year. I’ve definitely got more confidence speaking in public because of my lessons with FAYLI.

Why I recommend lessons with FAYLI
French As You Like It is a great class, especially if you want something tailored to your needs and schedule. Out of all the places I investigated, French As You Like It seemed the most willing to suit your timetable. They’ll even go to your apartment. I definitely recommend it for someone who needs flexibility with work or family life.

Also, it’s more personal than other schools. With FAYLI, I always work with Blandine. I can tell her my needs and she can monitor my progress. It’s all tailored for me. 

I really like that.

Want to take a private French class tailored just for you?  Contact us today!

 

 

 


Speak Better French: Learn Your Faux Amis (False Cognates)

Last week, we discussed expanding your French vocabulary with “vrais amis” (true cognates): French and English words that are identical or nearly identical in both spelling and meaning.

This week, we’re going to focus on “faux amis” (false cognates): words that look identical in both French and English, but have entirely different meanings.

What are Faux Amis?

Faux amis – false friends – are words that you simply have to learn to recognize. Because they look so comfortingly like English words, chances are you wouldn’t have any idea that they have another meaning…that is, until the French person you’re speaking with looks hopelessly confused or bursts into laughter!

Broadly speaking, there are three different kinds of false cognates:

1.  Words that look alike but have no common root. These “true faux amis” happen to look similar in both French and English, but don’t – and never have – shared an etymological origin. The most common example is pain. The word means “bread” in French, but refers to an unpleasant physical sensation in English.

2.  Words that share a common root but have different definitions. Linguists say that roughly one-third of the English language is composed of words that have French roots, which, in their turn, were often born of Latin words. The trouble is that over the centuries, certain of these words have taken on meanings different from their original French/Latin one. For example, despite the common origin between the French verb “crier” and the English verb “to cry,” the two words have different meanings. Crier has nothing to do with sobs and tears – it means “to shout.”  The French word for “to cry” is pleurer.

3.  Words that share a common root and have partially similar definitions. These words, called semi-faux amis (or semi-vrai amis), share at least one definition in French and English, but also have at least one definition that the other language doesn’t share. A good example of this is the word parfum (perfume). In both French and English, it refers to a a fragrance. In French, however, it also refers to a flavor. So, don’t be startled when in une glacerie (ice cream shop) you get the question: Quel parfum voulez-vous? (What flavor would you like?) They’re not asking you about your favorite perfume!

25 Common Faux Amis

Dozens of false cognates exist but some arise in conversation more frequently than others. Memorize this list of common faux amis – and learn the proper French word for your intended meaning. Not only will you speak French better, you’ll show that you have a keen grasp on the nuances of French vocabulary!

[column col=”1/4″]French Faux Amis
actuel
actuellement
assister à
attendre
agenda
caméra
cave
coin
déception
demander
éventuellement
fabrique
gentil
journée
librairie
location
monnaie
nouvelle
préservatif
procès
raisin
rester
sensible
tissu
veste

[/column] [column col=”1/4″]Correct English Word
current
currently, presently
to attend
to wait for
diary
movie camera
cellar
corner
disappointment
to ask
possibly
factory
nice, kind
day
bookstore
rental, lease
small change (coins)
news
condom
trial
grape
to stay
sensitive
fabric
jacket

[/column][column col=”1/4″]English Faux Amis
actual
actually
to assist
to attend
agenda
camera
cave
coin
deception
to demand
eventually
fabric
gentle
journey
library
location
money
novel
preservative
process
raisin
to rest
sensible
tissue
vest

[/column] [column col=”1/4″]Correct French Word
réel
en fait
attendre
assister à
ordre du jour
appareil photo
grotte
pièce (de monnaie)
tromperie
exiger
finalement
tissu
doux
voyage
bibliothéque
endroit
argent
roman
conservateur
processus
raisin sec
se reposer
raisonnable
mouchoir
maillot de corps

[/column]

 

What French-English faux amis trip you up the most? Share with usbelow! 

As always, if you need private or semi-private assistance with your French, please contact us.  We’re ready to help you speak the French of your dreams!


Success Story! Former Student Liam Connell Shares His Tale

 

We are delighted to share the success story of one of our former students, Liam Connell. Liam, a retired trader living in Chicago, took private French lessons in Paris twice a week with French As You Like It at the beginning of 2013.  It thrills us that he found his lessons so enjoyable and beneficial, and that, as he says: “Thanks to French As You Like It, I felt like a Parisian instead of a tourist.”   Here’s Liam’s story! 

At the beginning of 2013, I spent three months in Paris with my wife and 18-year old daughter. I was excited about to this trip for many reasons but in particular, I was looking forward to learning to speak French.  I’d learned French in school some 34 years before and could read and write in French proficiently, but I couldn’t really converse in it.

Why I Chose Lessons with French As You Like It

As soon as I arrived in the city, I started researching French tutoring programs in Paris. I called numerous schools and programs but I was by far most impressed with Marguerite and French As You Like It.  During our initial phone call, Marguerite and I had a really intelligent conversation – in French – about what I wanted out of the lessons. She demonstrated a genuine interest in my goals and commitment to achieving them that I just didn’t sense in the other schools I’d spoken with.  I knew then that I wanted to take lessons with FAYLI.

What My Lessons Were Like

Shortly after that conversation, I began taking lessons twice a week with both Marguerite and Marion. Marguerite knew that I didn’t want lessons in grammar, as I already had a grasp of that. What I wanted was to practice having conversations in French about French politics and culture, which is just what we did and I greatly enjoyed.

Marguerite was good at ensuring I was not lazy in my pronunciation, and even made me translate my verbal tics into French ones. (I would say “so….” and she would correct me with “donc…”!) It was quite amusing in the way she would keep me focused – sometimes by tapping me lightly on the head with her pencil every time I made a repeated mistake!

I was also interested in learning common phrases and sayings that a French person would say, and Marion spent a lot of time working with me on those. Learning these phrases helped me to sound more Parisian and gain confidence when in French conversations.

How I Benefited From French As You Like It

It was really important to me to feel that I fit into Paris. Thanks to FAYLI, I felt like a Parisian instead of a tourist. My teachers made me feel more confident and relaxed.  I had great and funny conversations with shopkeepers, taxi drivers and people I met in cafés and on the public tennis courts. I also was able to understand the current affair TV programs that were on every TV channel every night. I became part of the community that endlessly analyzed the French malaise! 

Why I Recommend French Lessons with FAYLI

Learning another language is a major commitment. Use every resource to immerse yourself in the French language. There are many resources, particularly online, to help you do that. But nothing can replace the need to practice speaking, listening and understanding French. FAYLI is the best resource I know for helping in this regard.

If you’re interested in taking French lessons with FAYLI, feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help you achieve your dreams of speaking French!


Improve Your French Vocabulary with Vrais Amis (True Cognates)

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Can you spot the vrai amis??

 

Like many French language schools in Paris, our teachers often hear students fretting about the difficulty and complexity of French language. And we won’t deny it: learning French can be tough. The good news is that if you’re an English speaker, you do get a bit of a break when it comes to French vocabulary.

Thanks to William the Conqueror (or as we call him: Guillaume le Conquérant) and his invasion of England nearly a millennia ago, French and English share tens of thousands of similar words. Some are identical in spelling and meaning (e.g., impossible); some have the same meaning and slightly different spelling (e.g., adresse/address) and some have slightly different spelling and a partially different meaning (e.g., porc/pork).

VRAIS AMIS

Such words are true cognates or “vrai amis” (true friends) and they make your French-speaking life a little bit easier. Familiarize yourself these cognates – even with just a fraction of the thousands that exist – and you’ll soon find yourself packing a fairly substantial French vocabulary.

That said, learning French-English cognates still requires work, practice and, sometimes, a good dictionary. Before you start slinging French cognates around, here are four essential things you must remember:

1.  The French pronunciation is different. True French-English cognates may look temptingly identical, but they always sound different. If you simply say the word as you would in English, you are not speaking French – you’re speaking English! And you risk not being understood. So, remember to use the proper French pronunciation for each word.

2. The French usage may differ. Even though true cognates are spelled the same and have the same meaning, sometime the words have a different connotation in one or both of the languages. For example, take the cognate “carafe.” In a restaurant in France, you might ask: “Puis-je avoir une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît?” (May I have a carafe/bottle of water, please?) By saying this, it is implied that you want tap water, not commercially bottled water. To communicate the same thing in English, you would need to say: “May I have a bottle of tap water, please? The difference in usage is something you will have to learn through exposure to native French speakers.

3.  Some true cognates are actually “semi-true” cognates. A semi-true cognate is one where the French and English word are spelled the same and part of the meaning is the same, but part is different. For example, the French word “porc” shares a definition with “pork” in English in that it refers to the flesh of a pig. But porc also refers to the animal itself, whereas in English you’d have to say “pig.”

4. Be wary of false cognates. False cognate (or “faux amis”) are French words that look identical or extremely similar to English – but have an entirely different meaning (e.g. coin: in English: a form of currency; in French, a corner). We’re going to discuss false cognates in depth in an upcoming blog post. For now, just understand that not every French word spelled like an English one necessarily has the same meaning.

Now we’ve thrown all these exception and qualifications at you, you might be concerned that learning true cognates isn’t as easy as you’d thought. But seriously? Don’t worry. Just take a look at the 130 of the most common true cognates listed below. We think you’ll feel reassured.  For a look at the full list of identical French-English words, click here!

Have questions about French-English cognates or other French language concern? Ask us below!

130 COMMON TRUE COGNATES

[tab]
[tab_item title=”ADJECTIVES“]

adorable
absent
accessible

brave
bizarre
brutal

certain
central
capable

distinct
diligent
direct

extravagant
excellent
exorbitant

final
flexible

grotesque
habitable
horrible
horizontal

irritable
invisible
inverse
long
lamentable

minuscule
macabre
normal
notable

optimal
plural
plausible
perceptible

racial
radiant
respectable
rural

simple
sociable
transparent
unique
urgent

vertical
visible
violent

[/tab_item]
[tab_item title=”NOUNS“]

abdomen (m.)
absence (f.)
accent (m.)

base (f.)
brochure (f.)
budget (m.)

cage (f.)
carafe (f.)
client (m.)

danger (m)
date (f.)
destination (f.)

effort (m.)
expert (m.)
existence (f.)

festival (m.)
fiasco (m.)

garage (f.)
glucose (f.)

horizon (m.)
hyperbole (f.)
hypocrite (m.)

illustration (f.)
identification (f.)
immersion (f.)
impression (f.)

logo (m.)
lactation (f.)

machine (f.)
menace (f.)
massage (m.)

nature (f.)
novice (m/f.)

parachute (m.)
parasite (m.)
passage (m.)
patience (f.)

qualification (f.)
quadrant (m.)
question (f.)

radio (f.)
rat (m.)
rectangle (m.)
regret (m.)

sanction (f.)
satisfaction (f.)
science (f.)

taxi (m.)
tennis (m.)

ultimatum (m.)
unification (f.)

vibration (f.)
vestige (m.)
village (m.)
zone (f.)
zoo (m.)

[/tab_item]

[tab_item title=”VERBS“]

Many French and English verbs share the same origin despite the different spelling. But be careful!  Even though the verb may have the same meaning, the usage in French may vary slightly. (For example, in French “arriver” means “to arrive” However, arriver may also be used to express that arrival is imminent: J’arrive means “I’m on my way” or “I’m coming!” In English, you wouldn’t say: “I’m arriving!”)

admirer (to admire)

accompagner (to accompany)

accomplir  (to accomplish)

accepter (to accept)

arriver (to arriver)

blâmer (to blamer)

bloquer (to block)

changer (to change)

collecter (to collect)

compléter (to complete)

commencer (to commence/begin)

décider (to decide)

défendre (to defend)

dîner (to dine)

examiner (to examine)

finir (to finish)

garantir (to guarantee)

indiquer (to indicate)

influencer (to influence)

insister (to insist)

inviter (to invite)

joindre (to join)

negliger (to neglect)

obéir (to obey)

occuper (t0 occupy)

organiser (to organize)

pardonner (to pardon, excuse)

passer (to pass)

payer  (to pay)

préparer (to prepare)

protéger (to protect)

rectifier (to rectify)

refuser (to refuse)

répondre (to respond)

repéter (to repeat)

séparer (to separate)

vérifier (to verify)

[/tab_item]

[/tab]

 

 


7 Cozy Spots in Paris to Escape the Winter Cold

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In these frigid January days, those of us in Paris are scurrying from place to place under slate-grey skies, scowling as the freezing air seems to slice through every layer of our clothes. On days like these, nothing is more tempting than finding a nice quiet spot to hunker down with a good book and a warming drink.

To get you thinking warm thoughts, here are our top 7 picks of cozy places in Paris to curl up with your French workbooks (okay – any book) and get away from it all for awhile.

1.  LA CAFÉOTEQUE

The moment you enter Caféoteque, you’re struck by two things: the rich all- encompassing scent of roasting coffee beans and the palpable chalereux (warmth) of the place, which seems to take you by the hand and draw you inside. For coffee lovers, Caféoteque is the ideal place to hide out from the cold.

Founded in 2005 by Gloria Montenegro, a Guatemalan native, Caféotechque single-handedly changed the coffee scene in Paris from notoriously bad to a glorious specialty fit for a gourmand. The café features more than 20 different coffee beans, each from a different country, with descriptive profiles accompanying each variety. And the baristas know what to do with these beans, too: each has been carefully-trained in the art of roasting beans and preparing the perfect cup of coffee. The shop even offers an intense 50-hour course to coffee professionals.

 

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Even if you don’t know an espresso from a ristretto, the café is still a wonderful place to have a time-out. For a Parisian space, it’s surprisingly generous with three sitting rooms filled with a variety of chairs, pillow-strewn benches and battered café tables. The walls are adorned with central American artwork, and the back room (which includes a bar and piano) has one wall entirely devoted to their stock of unroasted coffee beans.

Caféoteque’s only downside is that is doesn’t have Wifi.  On second thought, that’s not really a downside…it makes it the perfect place to escape from the constant buzz of world for awhile. The only buzz you get here is from the coffee.

Caféoteque: 52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004

 

2. LE VALENTIN

Just as Caféotechque is a haven for coffee lovers, Le Valentin is a tea-lover’s dream. This little salon de thé is tucked away in the beautiful 19th-century Passage Jouffroy, just a few doors down from the Musée Grevin, Paris’s wax museum. Here, you’ll find more than 35 different types of teas, from green to white to Rooibos, served in beautiful cast iron teapots.

 

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As appealing as the tea are the array of patisseries offered, which range from basic croissants and pain au chocolat to more decadent offerings, such as moelleux aux myrtilles, a kind hazelnut-blueberry cake and baba rhum, a rum-soaked cake topped with whipped cream.

The salon’s elegant downstairs is certainly pleasing but the lamp-lit upstairs room is where you should head for extra charm and quiet. Featuring an assortment of canapés (sofas), tapestries, padded benches and long wooden tables, you can easily pass an hour or two in comfortable solitude. Warning: the Wifi is free but wonky.

Le Valentin: 30-32 Passage Jouffroy 75009 Paris

3. BIBLIOTHEQUE MAZARINE

That’s right – why not find some peace and warmth at an old-fashioned public library? Although this particular library might prove a little distracting: with its the phalanx of marble busts lining the halls, and ornate golden chandeliers illuminating the reading room tables, it’s easily one of the most dazzling libraries in Paris.

Created in the 17th-century based on the private collection of Cardinal Mazarine, the bibliothéque is housed in the left wing of the prestigious Institut de France – that rather intimidating-looking gold-domed building on the Seine’s Left Bank just opposite the Pont des Arts. It’s home to approximately 500,000 printed works, including a Gutenberg bible and some 2,000 incunabula (books and pamphlets printed with the earliest typography).

Prestige and grandeur notwithstanding, don’t be afraid of going inside: the library is open to the public. To sit in its reading room for a spell, you’ll just need some identification and a reading room card, which is available from the on-duty librarian. A non-renewable five-day pass is available for free; an annual pass is available for €15.

Bibliothéque Marzarine: 23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris

4. SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY

Shakespeare & Company may not be from the 17th century, but it’s a legend in Paris nonetheless. For those unfamiliar with this landmark, Shakespeare & Co. is an (mainly) English-language bookstore in the 5th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Originally opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, the bookstore was a famous hotspot for renown expatriate writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. The shop closed during World War II but was resurrected in 1964 by George Whitman at its current location.

While the crammed bookstore itself is worth a visit, if you’re looking for a cozy spot to huddle up with your French notes for awhile, the upstairs reading room is just wonderful. Lined with books (not for sale) from floor to ceiling, the room offers comfy cracked leather armchairs, a slightly lumpy pillow-lined bench and assorted wooden chairs to while an afternoon away.

Shakespeare & Co: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris

5. CAFÉ CRAFT

It’s a myth that everyone in Paris has the time to go wandering dreamily around the city or sit aimlessly in cafés. If you need to get some serious work done and need a non-distracting but congenial environment to do it in, pop into Café Craft.

Half-café, half co-sharing workspace, this modern minimalistic place is tucked away in hipster heaven near the Canal St. Martin. The front part of the café offers a space for people to chat or read the international press over cakes, cookies, quiche and truly excellent coffee (Craft proudly uses a Marzocco, the “Rolls Royce” of coffee machines, and the baristas are carefully trained to make a good cup).

 

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The back part of the café provides a long table for co-working (with an electrical outlet for each seat!) and there’s a sectioned-off part suitable for group meetings. The Wifi is fast and reliable; the baristas friendly. It’s a great place to work when your tiny Parisian apartment becomes too confining…. or if you just happen to be in the neighborhood!

Café Craft: 24, rue des Vinaigriers, 75010

 

6.  Hotel St. James Albany

If you want to step out of the cold and into warm comfort and splendor, head to the Hotel St. James Albany. This luxurious hotel is located in the 1st arrondissement, just steps away from the Jardin de Tuilieries and glitzy shopping street, rue Saint-Honoré. Here, you find a wonderful lounge– plush and cozy – where you can order a variety of drinks and snacks, from a coffee to a club sandwich to a bubbling coupe de champagne.  Exclusive though it is, the waitstaff is attentive but discreet and will never rush you out.  We often hold private French lessons here – and during the summer months, in their stunning interior courtyard.

Hotel St. James Albany:  202 rue Rivoli 75001 Paris

7.  Bonpoint Concept Store

Now, this place is one of the best-kept secrets in Paris.  Bon Point is an luxury children’s clothing boutique with beautiful, expensive offerings (a simple pair of baby socks cost about €15; sweaters run upward of €150). But never mind that – tucked away in the cellar of their sprawling concept store in the exclusive 6th arrondissement is a charming little restaurant/café that offers total tranquility.  Few people know it’s there and no signs outside advertising it.  You just have to know where to go.   Enter the store, give a nice ‘bonjour‘ to the friendly vendeuse (sales ladies), and head down one flight of stairs to the restaurant.  It’s an especially great place to go if you have a small child – it’s one of the few restaurants in Paris that has high-chairs.   (And if you’re interested in children’s baby clothes, check out the store itself: the elaborate décor will blow your mind!)

Bonpoint Concept Store: 6, rue Tournon 75006 Paris

FRENCH LANGUAGE TIP:  If you chose to escape to a café, here are some French phrases that might be handy:

• Bonjour, je voudrais un café noisette s’il vous plait  (Hello, I’d like an espresso with cream, please.)

 • Pourrais-je avoir du sucre ? (May I have some sugar?)

• Est-il possible de se connecter en Wifi? Quel est le nom du réseau et le code d’accès ?  (Is it possible to connect to Wifi?  What is the the name of the network and the access code?)

• Je vous remercie ! (Thank you!)

Where is your favorite quiet spot in Paris? Share with us below!


How to Improve Your French Accent: 6 Practical Tips

shutterstock_204827722Oh that pesky foreign accent!

As many expats and visitors in Paris know, it’s disheartening to speak your very best French to a French native and only to receive a look of confusion – or pain – in return.

We want to say two things about this. First, having an accent is natural. Unless you learned to speak French as a child, the chances are you’re going speak it with some trace of your mother tongue. So, don’t feel shame over your accent or let it prevent you speaking French with natives.

Second, you can minimize your mother tongue accent and speak more like a French native with practice. You won’t necessarily speak flawlessly – but you don’t have to. The most important thing is to speak with a clean enough accent that can be effortlessly understood by natives. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Be conscious of how your lips and tongue move when speaking French

When speaking French, force of habit will make your tongue and mouth try move as they do when speaking English, causing your native accent to sneak in where it’s not wanted. To develop a cleaner accent, you’re going to have to train your mouth and tongue to move differently.

Be prepared to move your tongue a whole lot less than you would in English. Why? For one reason, the English language is rich with diphthongs: that’s the sound formed when two vowels sounds are adjacent to one another (house, round, owl, etc). To make these sounds your mouth and tongue start with the first vowel sound and move onto the second, necessitating movement. In French, however, the vowels are pure – no diphthongs or long sounds exist. As a result, the sound is shorter and there’s no need for abundant tongue movement.

To help inhibit your tongue movement when speaking French, put the tip of your tongue against your lower front teeth. Then let your lips, jaw and, sometimes, your nose do the work. Depending on the letters you’re forming, your lips will purse (to form most “e” sounds), stretch into a near-smile (to pronounce “i” sounds), become rounded (to form an “u” sound and some “o” sounds), even as your tongue stays near your bottom front teeth. Look at yourself in the mirror as you speak to help ensure that your mouth movements are accurate.

2. Practice French in groups of sounds

When learning to read French, school children here have a cahier de sons (notebook of sounds), which teaches them how to connect the written letters with the spoken sound – not a self-evident thing in the French language! You can practice your improving your French accent in the same way – by mastering individual sounds by group.

For example, for one week, you may want to focus on saying words that contain the letters “ou” (pronounced “oo” or like the sound in “soup”). During this week, you would practice saying words like, rouge, vous, pour, fou, bijoux, etc. until you can produce the “ou” sound naturally. Afterwards, move on to another sound group.

In particular, you may want to concentrate on French sounds that don’t exist in English, such as:

– eu (veulent, feu, peu) – Don’t pronounce the “u” but only the “e” sound
– u (jus, nu, dessus) – similar to “ew” sound in English. Say with rounded lips.
– r (roux, rue, répéter) – pronounced from the back of the throat with minimal tongue tip movement.

3.  Read aloud in French

Choose an interesting text in French and read aloud to yourself slowly, taking the time to consciously produce each word. This will force you to think about each word you’re pronouncing and is great training for your tongue and mouth. It has the extra benefit of helping you absorb French grammar, sentence structure and flow. You should also record yourself while reading so you listen to your own speech and work on the sounds that are giving you particular trouble.

4. Listen to spoken French

To master an accent, naturally you must know what the correct accent sounds like. Don’t forget to devote regular time to listening to French, either through audio recordings or by watching French television programs, movies and, most especially, songs. When listening, jot down phrases and words that you’d like to learn so that you can practice them aloud.

5.  Speak with a French native

Naturally, chatting with a French friend or French teacher is an ideal way to perfect your French accent.  Make a specific point of asking them to correct your accent and watch the movement of their mouths as they speak.  (May want to give them a little warning that you’re going do this so they won’t be taken aback by your staring!)

6.  Practice tongue twisters

You might be saying that French pronunciation is tricky enough without trying to speak a tangle of words that are even difficult for native French speakers! But tongue twisters (“virelangues“) are a fantastic way to test yourself and discover pronunciation patterns. And they’re fun too. Practice saying them slowly and as you begin to get familiar with the sounds, increase your speed. Here are five of our favorite virelangues:

Dans ta tente ta tante t’attend.
(In your tent, your aunt is waiting for you)

Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse, sont-elles sèches ? Archi-sèches!
(Are the socks of the archduchess dry? Extra dry!)

Ces cerises sont si sûres qu’on ne sait pas si c’en sont.
(The cherries are so sour that one doesn’t know if they are [cherries])

Pauvre petit pêcheur, prend patience pour pouvoir prendre plusieurs petits poissons.
(Poor little fisherman be patient in order to fish several little fish)

Chouette chaussures!

(Cute shoes!)

If you’ve found this article helpful, please feel free to share it or let us know! 


12 Easy Tips to Improve Your French

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“Practice makes perfect!”

You may dream of learning French in Paris – but the reality is that you’re learning French in your car as you drive to work, or at home with an online course or books.

No worries!

The key to learning French, whether in Paris or at home, is by exposing yourself to and practicing the language as much as possible. Sure, it’s going to be more challenging if you’re not living in a Francophone culture, but there are still numerous ways for you to incorporate French into your daily routine.

Here are 12 ways you can improve your French at home. Use one of these tips every day and you’ll be surprised as at how strong your French is when you finally do come to Paris!

1.  Read in French every day.  It doesn’t matter what – just get reading! The most important thing is to read on a topic that interests you. If you’re into cooking – read a French food blog. If you like reading women’s magazines, why not read the online French versions of magazines like Marie Claire and Vogue? Current events your thing? Check out French newspapers, Le Monde or Libération.   For literature lovers, read a book you’ve enjoyed in English, in French. Remember to write down any vocabulary you don’t know so you can look them up later.

2. Labels items in your home or office.  Write down the French name of objects in your home or office on a post-it note, then stick the note to the object. Every time you look at the item, say the French name aloud. Be sure to write the definite article before the noun (e.g., “le miroir”, not just “miroir”) and always use the article when you say the noun aloud.

3. Listen to French radio. French sounds vastly different from how it is written, so an essential part of your home-study must include listening to French. Thank heavens for the internet, where you can listen to French radio sans problème. Check out France Inter, where you can listen to a variety of programs in French, from political talks to discussions of theater and music.

4. Talk to yourself in French. Admit it: sometimes you mutter to yourself. We all say things like: “Where are my keys?” or “What should I make for dinner tonight?” or even “Let’s go.” Think about what phrases you say the most – try to come up with at least 5 of them– and translate them into French. And from now on say them in French. When you can, practice saying them in the mirror so you can observe the way your mouth moves as you speak.

5. Keep a French diary. You can write whatever you like in this diary: Write about the weather. Make a grocery list. What you plan to do that day. What you already did that day. A description of a colleague at work. Until you’re comfortable changing tenses, we recommend focusing on writing in a particular tense. For example, if you’re just learning the present tense, try to write only in the present tense until you feel ready to change to another tense. Aim for writing one full page a day.

6. Get a French chat partner. There’s no escape – to truly learn French you must speak it. Thanks to communication programs like Skype and Google Talk, you can do language exchange with a native French speaker. You’d speak in French for 30 minutes, then your partner would speak in English 30 minutes, with each of you correcting the other. Check out websites such as Conversation Exchange and How Do You Do for more details.

 7. Create color-coded flash cards for vocabulary and gender. To help you remember the gender of French nouns, we recommend using colored flash cards: Write feminine words on yellow cards (for example), and masculine words on green cards. That way, when you review your vocabulary list, you’ll begin to associate the word and its article with a particular color. Even if you don’t remember that “lampe” is feminine, you may remember that it was written on a yellow card – and you’ll know to say “la.”

 8. Create a weekly “French movie night.” Watching movies or French programs can be a great way to help absorb spoken French – if it’s done right. If you’re new to French, it’s probably best to watch a French TV series or even cartoons rather than a full-length feature film. (The voices on children’s programs usually speak clearly and don’t use much slang, making it much easier to understand.) If you’re ready for a feature film, avoid watching it with English subtitles, as you’ll be doing more reading than listening to French. Instead, try to get a French film that offers French subtitles for the hearing impaired. The French words will help you understand the oral French better as well as improve your reading.

 9. Listen to French music. Nothing can pull you deep inside a language better than song. Find your favorite French tune on YouTube and learn the song by heart. Pay close attention to pronunciation.

 10. Play pretend. Look up a French restaurant on the internet and study the menu. Pretend you’re in France and are going to order something. Practice saying what you would order and the phrases you’d need to order it.

 11.  Repeat a word or phrase for 24 hours: Repetition is the best way to remember words and phrases, so choose a word or a phrase that you will repeat for the whole day. Say this word or phrase as often as possible, and set reminders for yourself.  For instance, if you want to learn the phrase: “What time is it?” (Quelle heure est-il?), you can put a note next to your clock to remind you to say the phrase whenever you glance at it.  You can also put the phrase on your phone or screen saver, so each time you look at your cell or computer, you’ll remember to say the phrase.

12. Change your technology settings.  Why not make the language on your cell phone, tablet, or computer, French?  It’s an easy way to expose yourself to the language – plus it’ll remind you to practice!

What steps have you taken to improve your French at home?


Galette des Rois: A Sweet French Tradition

shutterstock_236409652You thought the French food fest was over now that Christmas and New Year’s Eve was behind us? Think again. With the arrival of January comes a national obsession with the galette des rois – the “king cake.”

If you’re in France, you’ve probably noticed this scrumptious-looking cake, usually topped with a golden paper crown, in your local boulangerie (bakery), pâtisserie (pastry shop), or supermarché (supermarket) since mid-December. It’s flaky, sweet and best served when warm, straight out of the oven.

But the pleasure brought by a galette des rois isn’t merely due to its delicious taste – it’s also the anticipation of wondering whether you will be the lucky one to discover la fève, a tiny charm, buried inside one of the slices. If you are, you’re “king for a day” and take your place in a 700-year old French tradition.

History

The French have been serving up galette des rois  since the 14th-century. Traditionally, it’s served on January 6th – the 12th day of Christmas – to celebrate the Epiphany, a religious feast day commemorating the arrival of the Three Kings to the manger where Jesus was born. Today, it’s eaten throughout the month of January and is simply a festive way to celebrate the new year with family and friends, regardless of religious background.

You’ll typically find two basic styles of galette des rois: In northern France, it’s made of pâte feuilleté, puff pastry, and stuffed with a dense, creamy almond paste called frangipane. In the south of France, you’ll be eating a brioche-style cake covered with candied fruit. Other variations can be found as well, from shortbread-style, popular in Western France, to those that have alternate fillings, such as chocolat-poire (chocolate-pear) or raspberry.

Serving Traditions

Tradition dictates that when serving galette des rois, the entire cake should be divided such that each guest receives a slice, plus an extra, symbolic slice for any unexpected visitor, or poor person, that should pass by. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to “tirer les rois,” – or “draw the kings” – from the cake.

The “king” is represented by the fève, once a fava bean, now a porcelain or plastic figurine, hidden inside the cake. The person who discovers the fève in their serving is declared le roi (the king) or la reine (the queen) and gets to wear the golden paper couronne (crown) that comes with cake. In some families, le roi or la reine gets to choose a royal counterpart and is tapped to buy the next galette des rois.

Kids and adults alike can get surprisingly enthusiastic about the winning of the fève – many people collect them – and playful accusations of cheating might occur. To avoid this, it is traditional during the slicing of the galette to have the youngest child at the gathering slip underneath the table to call out the name of the person to receive each slice so the server can’t be accused of playing favorites!

The Modern Take

Today, pâtissiers across France make their own versions of the traditional cake, from Pierre Hermé’s rice pudding and caramel galette to Angelina’s gold-dust covered galette. And the fèves get more and more creative as well: some boulangeries create special collections of fèves depicting modern themes from great works of art, to classic movie stars, or even popular cartoon characters. Naturally, if you are making your own galette, you’ll need to buy your own fève, which can be bought here:  http://www.fevesdumonde.com.

Recipe: Chocolate-Pear Galette des Rois

Some of the best and most creative galette de rois in Paris can be found at these pâtisseries.  But if you’re not in Paris, why not try making your own?  It’s easier to make than it looks and takes only about an hour to prepare….but your guests don’t have to know that!

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Cooking time : 25min (preparation) 25min (cook)

Skill level : Easy

Servings : 8 slices

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Ingredients :

2 ready-made puff pastry

2 large pears

1 tbsp vanilla extract

60g dark chocolate

100g softened butter

150 ground almonds

100g caster sugar

1 fève (lucky charm  – if you don’t have a plastic or porcelain one, you can go old-style an use a bean!)

3 eggs

Method :

1) Heat the oven to 200C/fanC180/gas 6.

2) Peel the pears, slice them length-wise into quarters, remove core and cut each quarter in three slices.

3)  Glaze pears over medium heat in a large frying pan with melted butter.

4)  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar to caramelize.

5) Heat the dark chocolate in the microwave for one minute.

6) Put one ready-made puff pastry on a baking sheet and spread with melted chocolate.

7) Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

8) Add 2 eggs and vanilla extract into the butter-sugar mixture, then stir in the ground almonds.

9) Spoon the mixture over the chocolate, spreading it evenly.

10) Arrange pear slices on pastry and hide the fève.

11) Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second pastry piece, pressing the edges to seal. Mark the top of the pastry from the center to the edges like the spokes of a wheel or in a zig-zag pattern, then brush with the last beaten egg.

12) Bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden. Serve preferably warm.

What’s your favorite kind of galette des rois?