I'm three weeks into a 10 week course at l'Institut français to prepare for the DELF B2 exam in December. Here's a quick summary of why I'm taking the exam, and the presentation I did in class this week.
fureter - to ferret about, to rummage. E.g Les détectives furètent dans la vie privée des gens - detectives ferret about in peoples' private lives
franchir le pas - to take the plunge, to go for it. (franchir is to jump over, or to break through). E.g. J'ai été tenté mais je n'ai pas encore franchi le pas - I've been tempted, but I haven't yet taken the plunge
l'alpha et l'oméga - the be-all and the end-all, the all important thing. E.g. la réduction des déficits n'est pas l'alpha et l'oméga de la governance économique - deficit reduction is not the be-all and end-all of economic governance
bouleverser - to devastate, to overwhelm, to upset. E.g. J'étais bouleversé de voir l'histoire se répète - I was devastated to see history repeating itself
les doights dans le nez - very easily (literally, fingers in the nose). E.g. j'ai réussi l'examen les doights dans le nez - I passed the exam very easily
une marinière - a striped top (of the sort the French are meant to wear all the time....)
se gonfler - normally, to increase in volume, to swell (gonfler is to inflate, to blow up). However, I like the informal mean of se gonfler - to annoy. E.g. ça commence à me gonfler - that's starting to annoying me
une couronne - a crown
The subtitle of William Alexander’s Flirting with French, ‘how a language charmed me, seduced me and nearly broke my heart’ is particularly relevant given Alexander’s cardiac troubles over the course of the year he spends studying French (the question of their relatedness is left open...) It’s a tribute to his determination that he continued with his studies, and to his honest writing style that he included them in this book.
Alexander is courageous in his learning and writing elsewhere in the book as well. The story of his much-anticipated meeting with his quirky young French pen pal that ended in him speaking entirely in English to her fiancé because they were unable to understand his French is positively cringe-worthy. For me, it also highlighted how lucky I am to be a French learner in London, where face-to-face exchanges with French people are easily-arranged and therefore charged with much less nervous anticipation.
prendre le taureau par les cornes - to take the bull by the horns
reporter - to postpone, to put off. E.g. J'ai beaucoup de travail aujourd'hui, peut-on reporter à jeudi ? - I have a lot of work today, can we postpone until Thursday?
à bon escient - wisely, judiciously, appropriately, with reason. E.g. le rapport insiste sur l'utilisation à bon escient des nouvelles technologies - the report insists on the judicious use of new technologies.
faire acte de presence - to make an appearance, to put in an appearance. E.g.
sans déc - no kidding. Shortened version of sans déconner
ça envoie du pâté - that rocks, that's cool, that's awesome
une épave - a shipwreck
un homard - a lobster
un épi de maïs - a corn-on-the-cob. NB maïs is pronounced like "mace"
un pourboire - a tip (at a restaurant). A tip as in helpful advice is un conseil
la foule - the crowd
une éolienne - a wind turbine
caler - to stall (a car). Ça faisait 30 ans que je n’avais pas conduit une voiture manuelle et j’ai calé plusieurs fois, surtout dans les ronds-points - I hadn't driven a manual car for 30 years and I stalled many times, particularly at roundabouts
visser, dévisser - to screw, to unscrew
tenir la chandelle - to be a third wheel, to play gooseberry. I.e. to be the third person in the company of a couple. A wonderful image, tenir la chandelle evoque les temps où les valets et les soubrettes devaient tenir le chandelier à leurs maîtres durant leurs ébats, en leur tournant le dos.
I really like discovering that a politician, actor, singer or celebrity can speak French - especially when there is video evidence. Here's a compilation of clips of famous people speaking in French - and a little history about how they learned the language. Note, they are all at varying levels!
Hope everyone likes the new layout. It's hopefully a bit more 2014, a bit cleaner and should make reading the blog a little easier.
The French have an admirable sense that their language is so important that it should be kept pure. That means in particular protecting it from invasion by English. Interesting, then, that the body charged with protecting the French language, l'Académie Française, recently appointed an Englishman to one of its 40 chairs.
A friend recently told me about Le Gorafi - a satirical online French newspaper of the sort that will be very familiar to British readers of The Daily Mash or American readers of The Onion. The name comes from a misspelling of Le Figaro. Here are a few recent stories that I thought were pretty funny.
un lapsus révélateur - a Freudian slip
une répétition - a rehearsal E.g. aujourd'hui c'était les répétitions, et maintenant je me sens beaucoup mieux préparé - today was the rehearsal, and now I feel much better prepared
à plus dans le bus, à demain dans le train! - the equivalent of 'see you later alligator, in a while crocodile!'
canon - un canon is a cannon or a gun, but the adjective canon is informal and means great, cool or gorgeous. E.g. c'est canon! - it's great!, or elle est canon - she is gorgeous
être sur quelqu'un - to be keen on someone, to fancy someone. Very much la langue des jeunes
une tong - a flip-flop. Note that une sandale is a sandal