3 Tips for Improving Your Ability to Read French

In our private French lessons, we primarily focus on learning to speak like a native, and most of our lessons are spent in conversation.

 But reading in French is fundamental to improving your speaking ability. One of its biggest benefits, of course, is that reading can substantially (and quickly) widen your vocabulary. It can help you more easily absorb grammar and sentence structure. And depending on what you read, it can help foster your understanding of French culture, politics, and humor – all of which will certainly help you adjust to your life in France.

 If you want to read more fluidly in French, try these 3 tips before settling down with your next roman (novel) or journal (newspaper).

 

     1.  Choose what you read carefully.  

When deciding on what to read, it’s key to choose a subject that’s interesting to you and that it’s at an appropriate level.

 You might be thinking: “Well, duh!” but it’s not unusual for students to read certain subjects or mediums that they think they should be reading rather than what truly interests them. But that path just leads to glazed eyes, a wandering mind, and the unfair assessment that reading French is so hard and sooo boring.

 So, don’t bother stoically plodding through Le Monde, if you think you’d enjoy reading Glamour or Top Santé more.  Think outside the box. In addition to novels, magazines, and newspapers, there are countless blogs written in French on a wide range of topics, from travel to cooking to finance.  

 If you’re longing to read a classic like Balzac, but just aren’t up to that level yet, look to classic French children’s books like Le Petit Prince or Le Petit Nicolas series. If you like comics (bande déssinees), you’ll have so much fun with the ancient Gaul, Asterix, or sharing in the adventures of the Tintin.

 Bottom line: it doesn’t matter much what you read, as long you enjoy it.

 

       2.  Ditch the dictionary (initially).

Too often students of French read with a book in one hand, and a dictionary in the other. Forget that. Interrupting your reading flow to look up new words also breaks up your broader understanding of the language and how it is used.  

 Approach reading in French similar to how you would watch a French film or listen to a French song. Let the language flow through your mind, allowing it to effortlessly call up certain images and whatever understanding you can grasp.

Your brain will fill in many of the blanks by interpreting an unfamiliar word’s meaning through context.

 (Note: be sure that you’re reading at an appropriate level or slightly above your level – if you’re baffled by every other sentence, you’d be better off finding something slightly easier.)

 Of course, we’re not saying you should never use a dictionary. While you’re reading, underline new words in pencil so that you can remember to look them up later. And when you do look them, try researching them in French dictionary, which will keep you thinking in French. But keep a good French-English dictionary on hand for times you’re truly stuck or exhausted.

 

      3.    Read aloud

Reading aloud (haute voix) is a great way to improve your French on multiple levels. You can strengthen your vocabulary, pronunciation and accent, and boost your ability to speak fluidly all in one fell swoop. Reading aloud also forces you to pay attention to words that you might skip over as you read silently.

When you read aloud, do so slowly and consciously, and read each page or passage twice. During the first reading, just let the words and understanding flow without great effort. In the second reading, pay attention to how your tongue and mouth move as you read.   Do this for 10-15 minutes every day – or even every other day – and we think you’ll be pleased with the results!

 What do you enjoy reading in French? Share your favorite books, magazines and blogs below!


Practice Your French Vowel Pronunciation

Sometimes one of the hardest aspects of learning French isn’t remembering the right words to use – it’s remembering how to pronounce those words correctly.

As we discussed last month, it’s understandable that non-native speakers have difficulties with pronunciation. The French language is full of silent endings, liaisons, and unfamiliar accents. Your lips, mouth and tongue have to move differently to pronounce these words as French natives do. And you have to learn to hear it when you’re not pronouncing a word properly.

Why French Vowels Seem So Hard

French vowels present a particularly difficult challenge for most foreigners, especially English speakers. Unlike in English, all French vowels are pure. This means that they only contain one sound as you pronounce them and that sound is short. Even though French vowels only contain one sound, however, one vowel might have different sounds in different words (e.g., example, de rien). What’s more, the vowel sound may become more nasal when followed by a consonant like M or N.

By contrast in English, many vowels sounds contain more than one vowel sound (e.g., “time”) or a long sound (e.g., face). To produce these sounds, English-speakers must move their tongue and mouth more than is usually necessary in French – a habit that causes problems when trying to replicate a French accent.

French Vowel Pronunciation Chart

This vowel pronunciation chart will help you learn the correct the French vowel sound and the mouth/tongue movement you need to produce it. Whenever you’re preparing for a French lesson or know you’re going to have a conversation in French, spend 5-10 minutes reviewing this chart – aloud, naturally – and we bet you’ll notice an improvement in your pronunciation.

[column col=”1/4″]Vowel

a à

 

e

 

e

 

e

 

é

 

è, ê

 

 

i, ï, î, y

 

 

o

 

 

o, ô, eau, au

 

 

u

 

 

ai

 

 

eu, oeu

 

 

oi

[/column] [column col=”1/4″]English Sound

ahh (father)

 

uh (above)

 

eh (best)

 

ay (may)

 

ay (may)

 

eh (pair)

 

 

ee (police, ski)

 

 

ohh (october)

 

 

oh (hello, go)

 

 

Similar to “ew”

 

 

eh (pair)

 

 

uh (sir)

 

 

wa (one)

 

 

[/column][column col=”1/4″]French Example

quatre, madame

 

le, ne

 

merci, example

 

parlez

 

café

 

Pêre, fête

 

 

merci, dîner, typique

 

 

olive, octobre

 

 

gros, hôtel, beau

 

 

une, du

 

 

lait, s’il vous plt

 

 

leur, soeur

 

 

bonsoir

[/column][column col=”1/4″]Movement

Open your mouth wider than in English, drop your jaw farther

Purse your lips and keep tongue against lower teeth

Keep mouth opening small, tongue against lower teeth

Keep mouth opening small, drop your jaw a little bit

Keep mouth opening small, drop your jaw a little bit

Keep mouth small, tongue against lower teeth

 

Stretch mouth into a near-smile, but keep the sound short

 

Round lips slightly, keep mouth opening small

 

Keep lips round; keep sound short

 

Say “oo” ; while lips are in that position, try saying “ee”

 

Keep mouth small, tongue against lower teeth (same as è, ê)

 

Keep mouth opening small, drop your jaw a little bit with (same e)

 

Start with rounded lips,then stretch lips back slightly[/column]

 

 

If you have any questions about French vowel pronunciation, ask us in the comments below or contact us!


7 Great Songs to Help You Learn French

Last week, the Guardian published an interesting essay about the benefits of learning a foreign language through song. The author claimed that that no one could understand him whenever he tried to speak Spanish or Portuguese – until he learned to sing in those languages.

This makes complete sense to us, as French teachers. Most languages have a certain musicality to them – certainly French does – and when you start learning the language through song, the rhythms, patterns and intonations of that language become more apparent than in ordinary conversation. Once you get familiar with these rhythms and sounds through song, it’s easier to replicate them in regular speech.

Moreover, when singing we repeat words and phrases continuously. We hum the song, we constantly think about it, and it can be hard  it out of your head. We often pay more attention to the chorus of a song as it is repeated several times, so the language is easier to understand and remember.

Equally important, learning French songs can draw you into the heart of the French mindset and culture like few other things can. Just listening to a classic chanson français can make you yearn to travel back to the 1950s to while the night away in a smoky Parisian cabaret; being able to belt out La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, can evoke feelings of pride, even if you’re not a French national. And singing the latest French pop song in a nightclub along with a bunch of locals can make you feel suddenly and powerfully at home.

With all this in mind, below we’ve listed 7 great French songs for you to learn, absorb and love. These are songs from different genres, rhythms, and time periods and most are moderately easy to understand, if you’ve studied a little French. Wherever possible, we’ve picked videos that include the lyrics in French to make it easier for you to memorize les paroles.

Let us know in the comments below which French song is your favorites and why!

Classic French Chansons

Chanson is the French word for “song.” But in modern French culture, chanson français refers to a certain style of lyrical song that tells story, usually about the lives, dreams and hopes of ordinary individuals. Classic chanson français chanteurs were popular over a span of several decades in the mid-20th century, and include legendary artists such as Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Charles Trenant, George Brassens, and Jacques Brel.

“La Vie en Rose”

There are far too many wonderful classic chansons to come up with a single “favorite” but our first pick is Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” Both the lyrics and tune are so romantic and evocative of the golden age of Parisian chansons, that we believe the song is a key one to have in your French musical lexicon.

“Comme d’Habitude”

Claude François’s old-style classic “Comme d’Habitude” should be fairly easy for Anglophones to learn as chances are you already know the melody. This is the song on which Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was based.  That’s right – the French song came first.

 

“Ne me quitte pas”
French has the reputation of being the most romantic language in the world. When you hear Belgian’s Jacques Brel singing this dazzlingly poignant version of “Ne me quitte pas” you’ll probably agree. This is a wonderful song to learn, not simply because it’s lovely, but because Brel enunciates so clearly and it’s not difficult to understand.

French Pop

French pop has been much maligned, especially when it’s compared with the lyrical chansons of yore. But why make comparisons? Plenty contemporary French pop songs put their finger has a modern romanticism, put their finger on the pulse of today’s mood, and just make you feel good!

“Je Veux”

Isabelle Geoffroy, known as Zaz, has a throaty voice and cheerful energy that just makes you want to sing along with her as she bops along the streets with her bassist and guitarist. We like this song not just because of its vibe but because it’s full of typical French phrases and expressions that you can incorporate into ordinary conversation.

 

“Formidable”

Stromae is Belgian, but his argot (slang) isn’t different from the kind used among Parisian youth. This song’s rhyming and play on words makes it particularly fun to learn. Take note…there are a few “gros mot” (“bad words” or “swear words”) in this song, so make sure that you understand what every word or expression means before using them in public!

French Rock

BB Brunes is a young French rock band that is distinctive not just for their indie rock style – but the fact that they usually sing in French!

“Aficionado”

French Soul/Jazz

If your musical taste runs to soulful Motown strains or jazzy beats, then you’ll probably like the smoky old-school voice of Ben L’Oncle Soul. We picked the ballad “Ailleurs” because it’s sweet and slow and repetitive – perfect for practicing an accurate French accent. And you’ll also pick up some great vocabulary words.

“Ailleurs”

Don’t forget to tell us below which song you liked best … or what song you would have liked to have seen here!


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! 


Learn French by Singing French Christmas Carols!

Christmas Carols

‘Tis the season…to hear Christmas carols all day long. Even here in Paris, where playing carols in stores wasn’t a thing until recently, we now stumble through December dreaming of a Bing Crosby White Christmas.

With the strains of all these Anglophone carols in the air, you might think that there isn’t such a thing as French Christmas carols – but they exist!

Why not get into the holiday spirit (and practice your French) by learning a few of these carols? Singing in French is an excellent way of picking up new vocabulary and practicing pronunciation. And memorizing a song is a million times more interesting than, say, repeating phrases like “Madame Bouret a un chat. Le chat est noir…” and so forth.

Check out these five popular French Christmas carols below. We’ve picked videos that have subtitles so you can learn the words easier. As you listen, write down any vocab you don’t know and look them up later.

Enjoy!

1. Petit Papa Noël

French children love this lullaby about Papa Noël (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) and French parents love the memories of past Christmases that the song brings.

 

2. Il est né le divin enfant

This catchy religious tune is usually sung at church, but it’s even a favorite among many non-church goers in France.

3. Vive le Vent (Jingle Bells)

Same tune, different words. It’s a fun one to learn from because you won’t have to think twice about the tune. Note that the lyrics aren’t translation of Jingle Bells… but it still presents a romantic image of winter and festiveness of the season.

 

4. Mon Beau Sapin (O Tannenbaum)

You’ll know this one as “O Christmas tree” or in the original German “O Tannenbaum.” Secret bias here: we love this one in French best. It’s just lovely.

 

 

  1. Douce Nuit (Silent Night)

Here’s another Christmas classic whose tune will be familiar to almost everyone.

 

Of course, there are many more. What’s your favorite French Christmas carol? Share below!

 

 


Learn French by Getting a Hair Cut

CoiffeursGetting a haircut in a language you’re not completely comfortable speaking can be a challenging and (maybe a little more for women who often have more hair to lose) terrifying experience. At the same time cutting your own hair or trying to stretch cuts to last long enough until your next visit home isn’t very reasonable either. Here’s a crazy idea, why not take a French class focused on everything you will need to say to the hairdresser or barber and start getting your haircut in France? Heck, after we at French As You Like It help you get the basics down, your hair stylist may become another of the many people in your life in Paris helping you learn French.

pricesLocal hairdresser (coiffeur de quartier) will usually have prices posted in their window. There will be a price for men (homme or lui), women (femme ou elle), and children (des enfant ou junior). Some places may offer special discounts for students (prix or tarrif etudiante). They will also post the prices for their basic services. These may include:

Haircut: une coupe
Shampoo: le shampooing
Coloring and highlights: les couleurs et mèches
Facials and other treatments: les soins et traitements
A blow-dry or blow-out: le brushing

Every Parisian neighborhood has dozens of hair salons and the prices can vary enormously from one salon to another. We suggest walking around, reading the prices, and looking at the people who are currently get their hair done. For instance, if you are a twenty something looking for trendy highlights, you may want to avoid the hairdresser who sets and perms the hair of all the old ladies in the neighborhood.

Once you’ve picked your salon, look at the front to see if they take walk-ins or if you need an appointment (avec ou sans rendez-vous).

Ok, you’ve picked a place, have an appointment, and are ready to get a cut. Here is some more handy vocab that you might need:

Describe your hair (vos cheveux) to the stylist:

Fine: fins
Thick: épais
Oily: gras
Dry: secs
Mixed: mixtes
Normal: normaux
Curly: bouclés
Frizzy: frisés
Smooth: lisses
Damaged: abîmés
Dyed: colorés
Permed: permanents
Dandruff: pellicules

Now describe what you want done:

Short or long: la coupe courte ou longue
Layered: en dégradé
Bob: au carré
Highlights or streaks: les mèches
Bangs: une frange
Hair part: une raie
Hair ends: les pointes

For men:

Sideburns: les pattes
Beard: une barbe
Clippers: une tondeuse
Nape of the neck: la nuque

Then to finish up the cut:

Blow dry with a curly look: un brushing bouclé
Straightened: un brushing raide

Also always remember that it is only hair and will grow back!

Interested in starting French lessons? Call +33 (0)6 66 10 53 64 or contact us at info@frenchasyoulikeit.com.

 


Practice Counting at the Palais de Justice

400px-Conciergerie22
interieurPalaisJusticeAs the days get shorter and the air colder, its time to move your French lessons inside. But where should we meet? Go
ahead and stand in line to go up the Eiffel Tower
with your friends. The view is gorgeous and it is an experience not to be missed, but up there it is a bit too loud and busy for a French lesson. Paris is our classroom. Let us find just the perfect quiet monument that fits your interests.

The Palais de Justice, for instance, is located in the Île de la Cité in central Paris and is often missed because of it’s noisier neighbors the Cathédrale Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle. From novices to those nearly fluent, the Palais de Justice might be just the place to learn something new, in French.

For French beginners, let’s start by counting. The building has 7,000 (sept mille) doors and more than 3,000 (trois mille) windows. It has 24 (vingt-quatre) kilometers of hallways, 4,000 (quatre mille) employees, and at least 15,000 (quinze mille) additional visitors (lawyers, police, etc…) every day. That’s a lot to count!

History buffs may be interested in talking about the Conciergerie’s role in the French Revolution. The former royal residence and the famous prison was where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being guillotined. In addition to her, 2,700 other prisoners were kept here before being executed during France’s ten month Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794. After the Revolution, it continued to be a prison for high-profile prisoners, such as Napoleon III, until it was decommissioned in 1914 and opened to the public as a national historical monument.

There’s also a lot to talk about regarding the French legal system. As far back as Roman times the site has been used as a place of government. Today it houses the French correctional court, the court of large claims, and court of appeals, which is highest jurisdiction in the French judicial order. Did you know the French law system is based on Roman law? It is radically different from Anglo Saxon common law because it is based on written codes and not on the precedents (prior decisions).

Here’s some more history about the Palais de Justice to get you ready for your visit:

Listen to the text below.

Sur le site du Palais de justice s’étendait autrefois le Palais de la Cité qui a été la résidence des rois de France, du Xe au XIVe siècle et dont il ne reste aujourd’hui que deux vestiges : la Conciergerie et la Sainte Chapelle.

Lorsque le roi Charles V décide vers 1360 de quitter le Palais de la Cité pour le quartier Saint Paul ; la royauté y maintient son administration : La vocation judiciaire du lieu s’annonce.

Le Palais eut à subir plusieurs incendies. En 1601, en 1618, en 1630 et en 1737, 1776.

Sous la Révolution, le Palais fut le siège du Tribunal révolutionnaire.

Le Palais de justice prend une nouvelle dimension politique sous la Restauration (1820). De nouveaux postes sont créés mais les locaux ne suffisent plus à accueillir le volume croissant des cas. Les affaires judiciaires ne cessant d’augmenter, un vaste programme d’agrandissement du Palais est lancé.

Le chantier est quasiment achevé lorsqu’éclatent les événements de 1870. Allumé en divers endroits du Palais de justice par la Commune agonisante, l’incendie du 24 mai 1871 réduit à néant les travaux. Les plans sont refaits et le chantier recommence en 1883. Depuis 1914, le Palais n’a pas connu de travaux d’une telle envergure.

La façade sud néo-gothique est marquée par de nombreux impacts de balles tirées lors de la Libération d’août 1944.

De nos jours, le palais est toujours l’un des centres névralgiques du système judiciaire français, puisqu’il abrite notamment la Cour de cassation, la plus haute juridiction judiciaire.

Par ailleurs on trouve dans le Palais les locaux du conseil de l’ordre, sa bibliothèque, sa salle de réunion.

Les personnes privées de liberté sont détenues en deux endroits : le dépôt, géré par la police, pour les gardés à vue qui passent en comparution immédiate, et la souricière, gérée par l’administration pénitentiaire, pour les personnes détenues qui doivent passer devant le juge.

Interested in starting French lessons? Call +33 (0)6 66 10 53 64 or contact us at info@frenchasyoulikeit.com.

Photos by Jennise.


Learn Your Colors in a Parisian Park

autumnAt French As You Like It, we are lucky enough to work with all sorts of interesting individuals with all different levels of French. From the professional singer who wants to perfect her accent to the traveling spouse who has just moved to France, we love the challenge of creating French lessons for everyone.

Whether your six or sixty, autumn in Paris is a great time to start learning French. A walk through any of the city’s many parks this time of year is the perfect classroom for learning colors, counting, and action verbs.

leavesMeet your French teacher at an entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Monceau, or the large Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Surrounded by all the beautiful fall foliage, your teacher might start by pointing at a leaf on the ground and telling you, « Cette feuille est rouge ! » The leaf is bright red. Oh yes, it is rouge! Next she may say, « Cette feuille est jaune ! » YELLOW! You understand this color too because the leaf is a magnificent yellow. Suddenly you’re having fun and understand French.

After the colors, your teacher may introduce numbers and action verbs.  «Il ya une feuille verte, Il ya deux feuilles rouges, Il ya trois feuilles brunes, Il ya quatre feuilles oranges, Il ya cinq feuilles rouges… » Now you may think what verbs would I use in a park? Let’s conjugate marcher (to walk), courir (to run), sauter (to jump), and after all this learning how about s’asseoir (to sit). Wow, look at all new things you’ve learned to say and just by doing something you would have done anyway.

Before you know it the class will be over and and don’t be surprised if you find yourself think, who knew learning French could be such a walk in the park!

Interested in starting French lessons? Call +33 (0)6 66 10 53 64 or contact us at info@frenchasyoulikeit.com.

Gorgeous photos by Carin Olsson on Paris in Four Months.


French Lesson at Hôtel de Ville in the Paris 4th

HotelVilleParis

SpeakerIcon

Click to listen to the French lesson on the Hôtel de Ville.

Location: 29 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 Paris, France

Transportation:  metros lines 1 and 11 at Hôtel de Ville

Hours: Open 8:30am to 5pm Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri; 8am to 7:30pm Thurs; 8:30 to 5pm Sat and closed Sun (reservations required one week in advance)

Admission fees: free

After your class at the BHV, continue exploring the nearby neighborhood with a French lesson at the Hôtel de Ville, the Town Hall for the City of Paris since 1357.

The maison aux piliers or house of pillars was erected on the site in 1357 as the city’s administrative headquarters. In 1533, King Francis I had the structure torn down and commissioned a larger, more elaborate building in the style of the Renaissance. This building was destroyed by fire during the Paris Commune or Fourth French Revolution. The current building, which you see today, was built between 1873 and 1892 and incorporates the original stone shell that survived the fire. The Hôtel de Ville’s façade is decorated with 108 statues, representing famous Parisians and thirty statues represent French cities.

Today the Hôtel de Ville houses the offices of the Mayor and city council of Paris. In addition to its administrative functions, it also offers regular art exhibits free to the public.

To help you prepare for your visit to the Hôtel de Ville, here is a short French text and vocabulary list:

Étienne Marcel fait l’acquisition de la « maison des piliers » au nom de la municipalité en juillet 1357. C’est là que, depuis lors, se dresse le centre des institutions municipales de Paris.

Hotel_de_Ville_Paris_Hoffbauer_1583La « maison des piliers » est remplacée au XVIe siècle par un véritable palais style renaissance dessiné par l’architecte italien Boccador. Sa construction, interrompue par les guerres de religion, débute en 1533 et s’achève en 1628.

L’incendie allumé par les Communards en mai 1871 réduit le palais en cendres. Le bâtiment est reconstruit entre 1874 et 1882. La façade, de style renaissance, s’inspire largement de celle du bâtiment disparu.

La place de Grève, rebaptisée place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 1803, a souvent été le point de ralliement d’émeutiers, insurgés et révolutionnaires : La place de Grève sous la Révolution où est utilisée pour la première fois la guillotine.

Les ouvriers sans travail vont prendre l’habitude de s’y regrouper à l’aube à la recherche d’un employeur. Il s’agissait d’une main-d’œuvre sous-qualifiée et instable qui échappait au système des métiers réglés. Ainsi, la place de Grève est à l’origine du mot “gréviste”.

 (un pilier : a pillar ; municipal : local ; achever : to end; une cendre : ash ; un émeutier : rioter ; une guillotine : guillotine ; une aube : dawn ; s’agir : to be about ; une main d’œuvre : work force)

Interested in private French lessons in Paris? Call or contact us to organize a lesson at the Hôtel de Ville or at another site “off the beaten path.”


Learn French While Biking in Paris

velib-blog-parisIt is fun, practical, and easy to see Paris by bike!

SpeakerIconClick to learn new French vocab! Can you write the words you hear in French?

Vélib’ is the biggest public bicycle sharing system in the world. Run by the Paris Town Hall since 2007, the system has over 20,000 bikes at 1,800 stations around the city. This means 27/7, you can find a bike almost every 300m Paris!

To use a Vélib’, you can buy for a day-pass, week-pass, or yearly-pass. And starting in June, Vélib’ will be running a special on their yearly subscription.

Here are some French verbs to help you get started:

aller se promener ou aller faire un tour = to go for a ride
accélérer = to accelerate
changer de vitesse = to shift gears
rouler  = to roll (along)
ralentir  = to slow down

Interested in learning more, give us a call or contact us to organize French lessons by bike. Photo from Paris.fr website.