Kamini: Singing what he knows best

Kamini is a French rapper who came into popularity about a year ago with a rap video he posted on YouTube paying homage to his hometown of Marly-Gomont, in Picardy. The song pokes fun at the rural lifestyle of the town. They say one writes best when writing what he or she knows. What does one know better than his hometown? Kamini sings from the perspective of someone who has hometown pride but isn't afraid to poke some fun either. Look out for some cameos from local cows and townsfolk. The video for "Marly-Gomont," as the song is aptly titled, became so popular that Kamini got a record deal and has started a successful music career. I only recently came to know about Kamini, and I thought I'd share the story with those of you who have yet to discover him. Here is, for your viewing pleasure, the video that started it all.

The Three Musketeers in Anime form

Alexandre Dumas' great novel Les trois mousquetaires comes alive in manga (Japanimation) form in the Japanese cartoon series Sous le signe des trois mousquetaires. Obviously this is the French translation of the title. The series is available to watch online on YouTube in French (just search for the title). This might be something of interest to teachers teaching the story (but beware - there are many historical inaccuracies) or someone interested in the story who does not have the time to read it. Watching it in French will in turn improve your vocabulary and comprehension and help you understand the book better if and when you decide to read it. Here is a preview from the first episode:

French Holiday Songs

Christmas is almost here. What better way to celebrate winter and the holidays than with French holiday songs? Many familiar Christmas songs are translated into French, and the French also have a few holiday carols of their own! Paroles.net has lyrics to many different French Christmas carols. If you're looking to purchase some holiday music of your own, here are my personal recommendations:

Roch Voisine: L'album de Noël - Roch Voisine has a great voice, and sings all the holiday favorites on this CD. There are a couple of English tunes mixed in, including an original song he wrote! The lyrics are included in the songbook.

Céline Dion: These Are the Special Times - Céline's two French Christmas albums are hard to come by, but on this popular English-language one are a couple French treats: the very last song is "Les cloches du hameau" a beautiful song Céline recorded with her family. "Brahms' Lullaby" has both French and English lyrics. For those of you who enjoy all foreign languages, there's also a rendition of Feliz Navidad, and a song called the Prayer with Andrea Bocelli sung in English and Italian.

Improve Your French Tip: French Karaoke

The last Improve Your French Tip was Watch French Movies, and this is somewhat of a followup. Even if you have a horrible voice, you can practice your French in the privacy of your own home with French karaoke! Discover new songs, learn the words to the ones you already know, or even enjoy a few Disney songs in French! YouTube has a plethora of French music videos with subtitles (try searching for karaoke + sous titres). Here are a couple to get you started:

Disney songs are fun to learn in French because the tune is familiar, and some of the words may be as well. The songs tend to be a little simpler and slower, therefore easier to comprehend. This Lion King video has both French lyrics with English translation:

This Céline Dion song is wildly popular among French speakers:

Operation Overlord: June 6, 1944

Omaha Beach, where the invasion took place
Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day or the Battle of Normandy, is the name given to the Allied (US, UK, France, Poland, Canada) airborne and seaborne invasion of Nazi-controlled France in World War II at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer in the Basse-Normandie region on June 6, 1944. This marked an incredible victory for the Allied forces, but unfortunately an incredible loss of life. There is now an American cemetery right near the beach commemorating the lives lost at D-Day. I had the opportunity of visiting the area in 2004, and I feel it's a place everyone should visit while they are in France.

American Cemetery
Not only is the area beautiful, but it is an incredible feeling to be able to look at a place that was once the stage for a battle that changed the course of history. Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon takes place in part on D-Day and has scenes at the cemetery as well. To see more pictures from Basse-Normandie and read more about the region, read the Basse-Normandie article from the geography section. To get a detailed history of Operation Overlord, check out this page from The History Channel.

New Feature: Maps!

After reading Craig's post at This French Life about Google Maps, I realized this feature would be a great addition to the geography section of the French Corner. I have been hard at work (hence no posts) adding maps to every region of France in the geography section. They all have points of interest, but you are welcome to submit your own by email and I will add them as well (with a link of applicable). These maps should make it easier for you to explore the different regions and what they have to offer. So please check out the new and improved Geography of France! And feel free to give me any feedback so I can improve it!

Also, I just wanted to direct you towards The French Journal, a wonderful blog about what's going on in France from culture to news to language tools. I am happy to report the author recently wrote a post about the French Corner!

Jobs Where French is Useful (And Maybe More So Than Spanish!)

As I am planning on pursuing a career in teaching French, I can rest assured that my foreign language skills will be put to use at work. But many wonder why they need to put so much effort into an endeavor that may wax useless in the long run (especially those of us living in the United States, land of English!). Another challenge thrown in the path of French promoters such as myself is the big question "Isn't Spanish more useful?" As the number of Spanish speakers living in the United States grows, more and more people choose Spanish as a second language. However, there are a number of jobs where French is just as useful if not more so than Spanish (I apologize in advance for all the comparisons!).

The United Nations & Other Global Environments
Someone interested in a global job will need to know at least one other language. The official languages of the United Nations are English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and Russian, but the two working languages are English and French. French is the official language of 29 countries, while Spanish is only an official language of 21. While that sounds like a petty difference, perhaps what is more important is that French is more widespread throughout the world, spoken in far more countries than those which have granted it an official status. An ability to communicate with these millions of people gives you a strong competitive edge in the world job market.

The Fashion Industry
French designers dominate the fashion industry. Anyone hoping to pursue a career in fashion will find it to their benefit to be able to speak and communicate with representatives for Dior, Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint-Laurent, and the endless other couturiers. Some non-francophones can't even pronounce these names, so having a grasp on the native tongue will be very impressive, say nothing of how essential it will be if you choose to work directly for one of these companies!

Ballet & Opera
Anyone interested in the world of dance and theater will need to know French! Most opera singers are required to speak French fluently since so many operas (The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen) have is as their original language. In addition, ballet dancers' every move is a French word from the arabesque to the pirouette, and knowing what the words mean in English can help a dancer better understand what he or she is doing.

The Culinary World
If you plan on serving up Coq au vin with a glass of pinot noir and a lovely crême brûlée for desert worthy of the Cordon Bleu, you better be able to speak some French! The culinary world has a vocabulary rich with French words for professions, cooking instructions, and dishes, and many of the world's best chefs come from the land of fromage. Fluency in French will only enhance your foray into cooking!

Tennis, Cycling, Soccer, Rugby
All of these sports are immensely popular in France. A sports commentator will want to accurately be able to pronounce French athletes' names, interview them, speak with coaches, or even have the option of commentating for a French TV station. All of these options open up for you if you have a grasp of the French language.

A Dozen Ways to Practice Your French on the Weekend

Don't let the weekend slip away without one word uttered in French! No matter what level of mastery you have achieved in French, you will lose it if you don't practice as much as possible, but of course you already know that! So here are a dozen unintrusive ways to practice your French on the weekend (or any day for that matter):

1. Find the lyrics to your favorite French song and sing along to it!
2. If you don't have a favorite French song, learn La Marseillaise, the French national anthem (and even if you already know it click on the link to learn more about the song!).
3. Go to a French restaurant and communicate with the staff completely in French
4. Try setting your phone (or iPod, or TV, or computer) to French
5. Print out a recipe in French and cook it! (Advanced only!!)
6. Search for French commercials (pubs), music videos (clips), movie trailers (bandes annonces), etc. on YouTube
7. Discover a French blog in a subject you like (try browsing Blogolist or Bookmarks.fr).
8. Buy a French comic book!
9. Watch a movie in French
10. Play an online game in French
11. Browse the headlines at Le Monde
12. Never forget the best way to practice: talk to a friend in French!

What do you do to practice your French on the weekend?

5 Punctuation Errors You Never Have to Make Again

A French teacher once told me you've got to know the rules before you can break them. He was talking about grammar. I often get the sense that speakers of any language throw punctuation to the wayside, never bothering to learn the rules and happily breaking them. Correct punctuation is the mark of how professional your writing looks (in any language) but because it often does not affect the meaning of the sentence (especially in French, since the language is less ambiguous than English), many often assume it is unimportant. So, without further ado, here are 5 punctuation errors you never have to make again in French:

1. One space goes before every exclamation point, semicolon, ellipsis, question mark, and colon (but not period).
It may seem weird to write "Bonjour !" with a big space like that, but this is actually the correct way to do it! In addition, the semicolon, ellipsis, and colon take one space after them. I have seen these spacing rules used in written conversation and writing, but sometimes it is ignored in promotional or informal writing.

2. Quotations are indicated by either a dash or the chevrons (« »).The dash is used in literary writing, always starts a new line, and doesn't require closing:
-Il fait beau aujourd'hui, il a dit. ("It's nice out today," he said.)
The chevrons often quote phrases or words (but can quote speech as well) and require a space after the opening and before the closing: On appelle la France « l'hexagone ». (They call France "the hexagon".)

3. The comma and decimal point are reversed in numbers!If you mess this up, you could make 4,321 into 4.321 or the reverse! As a result, three digits do not need to follow a comma in French.

4. Accents are not only optional in capital letters, they are considered overkill.Sure, if your teacher or professor wants you to remember all the accents, there's no harm in putting them in, but show a French person how savvy you are by leaving them out when you know you can! Just remember, this only applies to accents, cedillas (ç) must remain!

5. "Number" (numéro) is abbreviated with a degree sign.Yes, it's Chanel N° 5, not No. 5.

Nature & the Environment / La nature et l'environnement

The latest addition to the French Corner's directory of French vocabulary and expressions is nature and the environment. In a world that's trying to become more eco-friendly, it's important to know how to communicate about the environment to other francophones! If you need vocabulary about weather, click here for a separate post.

Vocab Words
le monde = the world
la terre = the earth, the land
un arbre = a tree
une feuille = a leaf
un arbuste = a bush
la nature = nature
l'envrionnement = the environment
le climat = climate
le réchauffement climatique = global warming
l'écologie = ecology
l'océan (m.) = the ocean
la mer = the sea
un lac = a lake
un étang = a pond
un glacier = a glacier
fondre = to melt
geler = to freeze
une montagne = a mountain
une vallé, un val = a valley
un fleuve= a river
une rivière = a river
l'herbe = grass
une fleur = a flower
la plage = the beach
une légume = a vegetable
organique = organic
la forêt = the forest
la marée = the tide
le marais = the marsh, swamp
le paysage = the landscape
la campagne = the countryside
réduire = to reduce
réutiliser = to reuse
recycler = to recycle
le recyclage = recycling
une ressource = a resource
naturel/naturelle = natural
renouvelable = renewable
l'atmosphère (m.) = the atmosphere
la pollution = pollution
polluer = to pollute
la couche d'ozone = the ozone layer
l'eau (f.) = water
un jardin = a garden
une plante = a plant
le sol = the ground, soil
semer = to plant, to sow
un nuage = a cloud
une tempête = a storm
gaspiller = to waste
le monoxyde de carbone = carbon monoxide
l'oxygène (f.) = oxygen
vert/verte = green
émettre = to emit
le plastique = plastic
le verre = glass
le caoutchouc = rubber

Useful Expressions

On devrait réutiliser nos sacs du marché; c'est meilleur pour l'environnement.
We should reuse our bags from the market; it's better for the environment.

Si on grimpe une montagne, le climat au sommet sera plus froid et il y aura moins d'oxygène.
If one climbs a mountain, the climate at the top will be colder and there will be less oxygen.

Un lac, un océan, une mer, un fleuve, et étang son tous des corps d'eau.

A lake, an ocean, a sea, a river, and a pond are all bodies of water.

Je pousse un jardin plein de légumes organiques.
I am growing a garden full of organic vegetables.

Le plastique n'est pas une ressource renouvelable, donc il faut éviter ce produit autant que possible.
Plastic is not a renewable resource, so we must avoid this product as much as possible.

Portrait: Jean-Jacques Goldman

This will be the first post in a new category of articles I am calling "Portrait" (feel free to pronounce that the English or French way). I will be profiling the lives of some famous French (or Canadian) people, particularly whose work I admire. I chose Jean-Jacques Goldman to be my first portrait, in part because he is NOT featured in the French Music post, and also because I love his music!

Jean-Jacques Goldman is a hugely successful pop-rock musician in France. There aren't really any other artists who sound like him; he is known for very catchy, often synthesized tunes and original lyrics. His video ideas (except for his many live ones) never fail to be unique (see "C'est ta chance" below, done in animation). Instead of just the usual love songs, Goldman deals with a wide variety of topics in his songs He got his start in the 1970s as a member of the French rock group Tai Phong (Vietnamese for Typhoon). He began to see a quick rise in his solo success in the 1980s. He is a good friend of Céline Dion, having written songs for and having sung with the Canadian chanteuse (her album Une fille et 4 types had his work, and he sings "J'irai où tu iras" on The French Album; he wrote the album for her). Unlike Céline, however, JJG, as he is affectionately called by his fans, is virtually unknown in the United States. Goldman's music is predominantly in French, with a few songs featuring a chorus in English. Another collaboration he is well-known for is with singers Carole Fredericks and Michael Jones, with which he formed the group Fredericks Goldman Jones. Goldman has also written music for other popular French artist, often using pseudonyms like Sam Brewski and O. Menor. His career is still going strong today. His music is not available on iTunes, but you can buy most of his CDs at Amazon.com. If you want to learn even more about Jean-Jacques Goldman, visit this amazing site: Parler de sa vie

Rounding Up Some French Sweepstakes!

If you're a little tight on the budget or just want an all-expenses-paid trip, why not try entering one of these contests to win a trip to France or Québec?

Bonne chance !

Improve Your French Tip: Watching Movies in French

Thanks to the DVD, you can now watch almost any movie you want to in French! Beginners might shun this idea because they feel they won't understand anything, but this can be an excellent way to quickly improve your French, no matter what your level. Pick a movie you know very well, and if you need to, put English subtitles on (be warned though, this will distract you from paying attention to the French). You will be pleasantly surprised at how many lines you are able to recognize because you know what they are supposed to be saying in English. Take a look at this trailer for the French version of the popular film Titanic, and see how much of the language you understand:

If you had trouble, no worries. Start off watching a movie in English with French subtitles. This way, you are able to slow down and read the French at your own pace. Once you feel more comfortable with it, try watching that same movie dubbed in French. Another alternative is watching it in French with French subtitles to help you understand the rapid dialogue, but remember that subtitles, especially when they are not in the movie's original language, don't always match word for word what is being said onscreen.

Of course nothing compares to watching a movie in its original language, so once you have mastered watching familiar movies in French, you will want to watch original movies in French. For some ideas, read my post on French movies.

The Fleur de Lys: How it Represents France

A fleur de lys design from my store
I have always been fascinated with the fleur de lys, ever since I learned it is considered the symbol of France. The first time I went to France, I bought a pair of very small fleur de lys earring which later fell apart and were replaced with fancier ones I found in a local jewelry shop. I'm not sure what it is about the fleur de lys I love so much. I think it's pretty, but I also think part of my fascination lies in the fact that it is very elegant and makes a beautiful print or design on jewelry (I am very into fashion). Although not exlusive or original to the French, the design has been a widely-known symbol of French royalty for centuries, probably first used after the crowning of Frankish (the predecessor to the French) King Clovis with a lilly. Modern French arms feature three fleurs de lys (the ancient design featured a pattern of many fleurs de lys). The design is supposed to by an artistic representation of a lilly flower (which is what fleur de lys means in English). The flag of Québec has four fleurs de lys in its design, and the Acadiana region in Louisiana uses the fleur de lys in its flag as well. Fleur de Lys is a popular name for businesses or establishments that claim to be elegant or French themed.

And now for a shameless plug: The French Corner Store has a number of fleur de lys themed products, including the design above, and one especially for girls.

Some articles on the fleur de lys:

Web 2.0 in France: An Interview with Bertrand Hardy of Bookmarks.fr

Bookmarks.fr: French social bookmarking
"Web 2.0" is the term used to describe the wave of new concepts that has swept the Internet over the past few years: blogs social bookmarking sites (where users can look at other people's favorite sites), networking sites (like Facebook and Myspace), and the general user-built community that some say has reshaped the face of technology. I have only recently begun to recently explore Web 2.0 by transforming the French Corner from a static site into a blog last month. I thought it might be interesting to explore how Web 2.0 is taking shape in the French-speaking community, so I interviewed Bertrand Hardy, the creator of Bookmarks.fr, a French language social bookmarking site similar to Del.icio.us. The interview was conducted in French, so I have included both the original interview and a translation for you here.

The site Bookmarks is very similar to the site Del.icio.us, except it's in French. Do you think the French-speaking community needs more social bookmarking sites like Digg or Del.icio.us?
Of course, otherwise I wouldn't have started Bookmarks.fr ;) Bookmarks was effectively born following the success of del.icio.us, and its interest is simply to be reserved for the French-speaking community (because many French people are not familiar with the language of Shakespeare).

How might a French student be able to use Bookmarks as an educational tool?
For example, by saving all the sites useful for his or her learning. Example: a math student would add all his or her favorite sites having to do with this subject and add the tag "mathématiques" to it. (http://www.bookmarks.fr/tag/mathématiques)

What types of sites are the most popular at Bookmarks?
The most popular sites are blogs, in particular those that talk about web 2.0 and the new technologies. What also works well are reference sites on how to make a website (example: Wordpress tutorials), certainly because I have announced the launching of the site on a large webmasters' forum (www.webrankinfo.com).

Why did you choose an English word for the name of the site, if it's a network for French-speaking people?
Effectively that can cause some confusion, I admit ;) Simply because "bookmarks" is a word that more and more French speakers are understanding. And I am hoping in the future that it speaks to everyone.

Do you think there will be more French versions of the phenomena of web 2.0, perhaps a French MySpace?
MySpace is already available in French ;) Yes, "web 2.0" is very trendy, as illustrated by the number of blogs that discuss the subject ;)

Et en Français ...

Le site Bookmarks est très similaire au site Del.icio.us, sauf qu'il soit en français. Est-ce que vous pensez que la communauté francophone a besoin de plus de sites marque-pages sociaux, comme Digg ou Del.icio.us ?
Bien sûr, sinon je n'aurais pas lancé Bookmarks.fr ;) Bookmarks est effectivement né suite au succès de del.icio.us, et son intérêt est justement d'être réservé aux francophones (car beaucoup de Français ne sont pas familiés avec la Langue de Shakespeare).

Comment est-ce qu'un étudiant de français pourrait se servir de Bookmarks comme outil éducationnel ?
En sauvegardant par exemple tous les sites utiles pour sa formation. Exemple : un étudiant en mathématiques va ajouter tous les favoris liés à ce sujet et y associer le tag "mathématiques" (http://www.bookmarks.fr/tag/mathématiques)

Quels types de sites sont les plus populaires à Bookmarks ?
Les sites les plus populaires sont les blogs, particulièrement ceux qui parlent du web 2.0 et des nouvelles technologies. Ce qui marche bien également ce sont les sites traitant du référencement, de la conception de sites (exemple : tutoriels wordpress), certainement car j'ai annoncé le 1er lancement du site sur un gros forum de webmasters (www.webrankinfo.com).

Pourquoi est-ce que vous avez choisi un mot anglais pour le nom du site, si c'est un réseau pour la communauté francophone ?
Effectivement ça peut prêter à confusion, j'en conviens ;) Simplement car "bookmarks" est un mot que comprennent de plus en plus de francophones. Et j'ai espoir à l'avenir qu'il parle à tout le monde.

Est-ce que vous pensez qu'il y aura plus de versions françaises des phénomènes du web 2.0, peut-être un MySpace francophone ? (MonEspace ??)
MySpace est déjà disponible en français ;) Oui oui, le "web 2.0" est très tendance, il suffit de voir le nombre de blogs qui abordent le sujet ;)

Improve Your French with Online Games

You may have considered using video games as a learning tool a little too elementary, but have you ever considered playing what the French play? Playing games in French that are intended for French-speaking audiences can greatly improve your language skills. Words games are great for vocabulary building, trivia games force you to think, and other games allow you to test your skills with instructions. A lot of the games available are French versions of American games (such as Text Twist and Text Express), but the games on these sites are conducted entirely in French. Here are some sites where you can find online games in French for free:

The "Magic" of France at Disney World

A picture I took of Epcot France - Click to view full size
France seems to come alive right before your eyes as you make your way towards the France pavilion at the World Showcase, a sort of jumbling of countries at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center. Certainly this make-believe France is no substitute for the real thing, but the folks down in Florida sure do their best to make you feel like you're there. Every single person working there is from France, and they can communicate with you in either French or English (some speak even more languages). The fancy "Les chefs de France" restaurant has an impressive collection of French wine and treats for lunch or dinner. A crêpe stand on the side of the "street" will catch your eye as you wander around, admiring all the carefully designed architecture that really gives a French feel (most of it is very Parisian). A large book and souvenir shop has everything from a handbag with a Robert Doisneau photo printed on it to a snowglobe with the Eiffel Tower in it. Fashion lovers will revel in the beauty shop with French fragrance and makeup from Guerlain, Lacoste, and other French couturiers. There is even a small Beauty & the Beast themed vestibule connecting two of the shops. If you've overlooked Disney World as an opportunity to immerse yourself in French culture, you may want to give it a try! I really enjoyed speaking French with the waitresses, sales associates, "vendors" and cashiers, all of whom were eager to speak it with me!

French Bread the Old-Fashioned Way

Today I bring you the very first guest post at the French Corner. It comes from Craig McGinty, whose blog This French Life is a great way to learn about life in France. Here he talks about how the French buy their bread:

BREAD has an almost mythical status in France so a chance to go out on the daily delivery run could not be missed.
Marie Ange Brouqui was to be my guide and as we loaded up the van, with the still warm loaves, she also checked over her route. It was to take in the surrounding villages, schools and farms with a longer stop at Villefranche du Périgord. “The bread is different compared to regular bread as it keeps fresh for longer,” Marie Ange explained. “This comes about from the baking process so it means that many of the homes will buya loaf every couple of days.” As we hit the road you could hear the bread crusts crackling as they slowly cooled in the back of the van. But it also means that inside the van it is warm, useful in the winter but a problem during the long hot summers. Soon we disappeared up a single-track lane into the woods and discovered a small cottage or group of farm buildings. And with a beep of the horn someone would pop out of the house and pay a couple of Euro for a large loaf, which measures about 18 inches. “Many of the people we deliver to have been buying bread off us for years so they know they are going to get good quality,” Marie Ange said. “But times are changing and younger people especially, don’t buy their bread from the boulanger they just visit the supermarket every week.” Driving down a tight narrow track we would come across a collection of tumble down buildings, with smooth stone archways and a crumbling stairway to a wooden door. Or the valley floor would open up and a large farm often producing foie gras would come into view. “I used to be a post woman which comes in very useful for remembering which lane leads where,” Marie Ange said. “And often on the drive you will see a beautiful view or catch the sun in the leaves, it really is very calming.” By mid-morning the van had been loaded up again and it was off to Villefranche du Périgord. Here we stopped in the market square and attracted a bit of a crowd as they bought up their bread straight from the back of the van. We would also shoot up and down the four main roads in the village beeping the horn, or tapping on the window, as people came out. “I sometimes think I should stand in the middle of the square and whistle to attract everyone to the van,” said Marie Ange. “And you always get one or two who think they are the boulanger and ask how the bread was made, is it fresh, what does it taste like?” By lunchtime the deliveries are made and the ritual of the bread begins again in the boulangerie ovens - but that is another story.

Craig McGinty runs the This French Life website which provides readers with news, advice and information on living in France.

Verlan - That "other" Slang

Verlan is a concept that does not exist in English. It is a type of slang developed by French people who needed to use code words to communicate about private, often illegal matters around their parents or people of authority, and some of it found its way into mainstream vocabulary. Verlan comes from l'envers, which means the opposite in French. These words are flipped around kind of like pig Latin, and then the spelling is modified to make the pronunciation match French phonetics. Sometimes they are even flipped back again when the word becomes too well-known. Just as with the other slang words, these should not be used in a classroom or other formal setting. Here is a sampling of some Verlan words:

  • Looc came from cool
  • Ouf came from fou = crazy
  • Feuk came from keuf came from flic = cop
  • Meuf came from femme = woman
  • Tromé came from métro
  • Relou came from lourd = heavy
  • Ouam came from moi = me
  • Ouat came from toi = you
  • Teuf came from fête = party
  • Réssoi came from soirée = party
  • Chébran came from branché = trendy
  • Zyva came from vas-y = go ahead
  • Vénère came from énervé = annoyed
  • Veurg came from grave = serious
  • Chanmé came from méchant = naughty
  • Zarbi came from bizarre = weird
  • Chelou came from louche = fishy
  • Zicmu came from musique = music
  • Céfran came from français = French
  • Keum came from mec = guy
  • Goutdé came from dégouté = disgusted
  • Keupon came from punk
  • Zonblou came from blouson = jacket
  • Reme came from mère = mother
  • Béton came from tomber = to fall

French Designers / Les couturiers

Right up there with Milan, London, and New York, Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Many world-famous designers are French, and you probably have heard of most of them. Their impact on the world of fashion has been immense. They have brought us the world of "haute couture," or high fashion. There are many French designers; here are the some of most recognizable:

The Chanel line of apparel, handbags, shoes, accessories, makeup, and fragrance, was founded by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. She is credited with inventing the "tailleur," the female pantsuit. Among her other famous creations are her No. 5 fragrance and her classic pairing of black and white. Chanel pieces are timeless and last just as long.

Christian Dior's line of apparel, handbags, shoes, accessories, makeup, and fragrance, is very feminine (except Dior Homme of course!), and his "cannage" quilting is a signature mark of his haute couture. Much of the Dior look today is designed by Italian couturier John Galliano. Yves Saint Laurent (see below) was in charge of the Dior house of fashion.

Louis Vuitton
The Louis Vuitton label of handbags, luggage, shoes, and accessories, is one of the most exclusive brands in the world. It is only available in Louis Vuitton stores and at eLuxury, and items never go on sale. The Louis Vuitton logo, the LV pictured at left, is easily recognizable and very often counterfeited (not unlike Chanel and Hermès). Louis Vuitton is famous for their brown canvas purses, refashioned each season with new shapes and details.

Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent is not as well known as its predecessors, but it is no less fashionable. The line of clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, and fragrance, is known for funky shapes and textures that still maintain an "haute couture" status. The house of Yves Saint Laurent is no longer open (it closed in 2002) but the brand is still alive under Gucci, its Italian parent brand.

French tennis player René Lacoste started this line, which originally started out as the famed polo shirt with a crocodile logo, and has now expanded into both casual and athletic wear, handbags (from sporty to almost dressy), shoes, accessories, and fragrance. Lacoste is one of the first luxury brands to recognize casual clothing as high fashion. Today, the Lacoste brand is very involved in professional tennis.

Hermès' line of handbags, fragrance, and accessories is extremely prestigious and pricey. While canvas handbags can be found on sale for several hundred dollars, the line's most coveted items, the "Kelly" bag, named for Princess Grace Kelly, and the "Birkin" bag, named for French actress Jane Birkin, require a waiting list and cost several thousand dollars. Each handbag is handcrafted individually, ensuring the finest quality for that top dollar.

Although the Givenchy label includes clothing and accessories (Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy were two of many famous wearers), today it is best known for its fragrance and makeup. Hubert de Givenchy, a very well-to-do Frenchman of Italian descent, founded the line in 1952, and it has been a staple of Western fashion ever since.

Jean-Paul Gaultier
Jean-Paul Gaultier's fashion line includes clothing, handbags, accessories, and fragrance. Gaultier is not a typical fashion designer. He did not attend fashion school, and he was essentially "discovered" by submitting his sketches to haute couture designers. His designs are very modern and edgy, in contrast to his more classic, old-fashioned predecessors.

Guerlain is a high quality line of makeup and fragrance. It is one of the oldest perfume houses in the world, dating back to the early 1800s. It was a family brand from its inception. The brand's legacy lives on today, even though the house was taken over by Louis Vuitton's parent company in the 1990s. Members of the Guerlain family still take part in the design process.

An Interview with Laura K. Lawless

Laura K. Lawless runs a website called LawlessFrench (previously About.com). She runs the entire French site by herself, a valuable resource for all students. I recently interviewed her about learning French, her site, and more. Here's what she had to say:

How did you get interested in learning French?
It all started with a calendar I got when I was about 9 or 10, with the numbers 1-10 written in a different language for each month: German, French, Japanese, etc. I was fascinated by this and tried to learn them all. At that time, my older brother was studying French in high school, and one day he helped me with the French 1-10, and then taught me 11-20. And that was that - I loved it and chose French as my foreign language when I got to high school.

Why do you think it is important to learn a second or third language, especially French?
There are so many reasons - understanding the world, getting to know other people and different points of view, being able to watch movies and read books in the original language (I don't like reading translations and I absolutely hate dubbed movies), better job opportunities... I could go on and on. For me personally, the most important reason is being able to communicate in foreign countries. I love traveling, and it's a lot more fun when I speak the language. I can't tell you how many times I've met people in France or Costa Rica or Morocco who were happily surprised, even delighted that I speak their language. It shows them that I respect their language and culture, and they in turn respect me. On the other hand, I felt like a complete jerk in Italy, and I always feel bad when the other person switches to English for my sake. (I know sometimes they're happy to do it, because it's an opportunity for them to practice, but it makes me feel like I should have done more.)
As for learning French in particular, aside from the fact that it's a beautiful language, it has had an enormous impact on English, so if you are at all interested in English linguistics, you can learn a lot from French. Plus it's an official or administrative language in dozens of countries, and an official language in many international organizations.

What advice can you give students new to foreign language about the challenges of learning French, or any new language?
Be patient and don't be afraid to make mistakes. When I started teaching adult ed French, I had one student who was afraid to open her mouth, and another who thought he'd be fluent by the end of the 10-week course. Learning a language isn't just about memorization - you have to use it. Being able to conjugate avoir and knowing how to count won't do you any good if you don't get out there and speak. And it will take a long time to learn, especially if you're not immersed. No one would ever think they could "master" chemistry or calculus in a few months, but for some reason people often think perfect language will just magically start coming out of their mouths. It's hard work, but it's worth it, especially if you fall in love with the language along the way.

What does your job at About entail?
I'm the French language Guide at About.com, which means that I am the person behind the French language site. (Many people refer to the site as the French guide, but it's not - I am.) I write all of the lessons and quizzes, record the short sound files, send two newsletters a week, oversee 4 forums, maintain links to dictionaries and other tools/information I can't provide myself, answer hundreds of emails a week, and constantly think of new lessons to write and old features to revamp. (My to do list never gets any shorter, because for every lesson I write, I think of at least 1 or 2 more.) I get a lot of emails thanking me and my "staff" for the great site, when in fact it's just me (other than my two forum hosts and a couple of friends who proofread certain features). I've been working on it full-time for the last 8 years.

How do you keep your French fluent when you're not in a French-speaking country?
It's not easy. Working on my site helps, because it keeps my thinking in and about French all the time. My husband and I usually chat in French a couple times a week, and I also read in French and listen to the radio or an audiomagazine once in a while. The truth, though, is that I do start losing a bit after a while, but as soon as I go to France I get it back almost immediately.

Do you have any memorization tricks that really helped you?
Well, for verb conjugations I just kept writing them out and saying them out loud until they were mine. When I can't remember the gender of a particular word, or whether it has an accent, or how to spell it, I write it on a post-it and leave it on my computer until I do (usually takes a couple of weeks, and then I never have trouble with it again). For the longest time, I had to keep looking up "to be part of" because I couldn't remember if it was "faire parti" or "faire partie," so I finally wrote faire partiE on a post-it and that finally did the trick.

What's an aspect of French culture that you really enjoy that's missing in North America?
Aside from the language and the great conversation that goes along with it, which is what I really long for, I miss the food: fresh bread several times a day - hot croissants in the morning, freshly-baked bread at lunch and dinner. Bakeries in the US always seem to close by noon, and the bread isn't as good anyway. I also miss the coffee - very few restaurants serve really good coffee in the US, and I can't stand Starbucks. And the wine and cheese, and the outdoor marchés, and the crême fraîche with berries, and the butter on toasted brioche.... And the French appreciation and knowledge of good food is delightful - everyone knows about pairing wine and cheese, they love to eat and drink good food. It's such a great way to live.

Tour de France 2007

In honor of the Tour de France 2007, which is going on right now and is full of controversy (many riders have been accused of doping and thrown out of the race), I learned 10 new things about the cycling race:
1. The first man to win the Tour de France was, fittingly, a Frenchman: Maurice Garin in 1903.
2. The prologue and the first two stages take place in England and Belgium.
3. A polka-dot "king of the mountain" jersey is awarded to the cyclist who reaches the top of mountains the quickest.
4. The media have declared the "death" of the Tour de France this year, because several riders have been removed from the competition based on suspicion of drug use, while others shown positive were not removed.
5. The Live Tracker uses Google Maps technology to track the progress of the race.
6. No one really knows why the color yellow was picked for the most prestigious jersey.
7. Fans lining the course try to snag water bottles as the cyclists toss them when they are done.
8. L'étape du Tour is an event where amateur cyclists ride over the same course the professionals do. It is held during the Tour de France.
9. The "peloton" is the French word used to refer to the pack of riders.
10. L'avenue des Champs-Elysées rounds out the Tour, and it is especially challenging because it is cobbled.

Vélib' - An alternative to the métro

In an effort to make the city of lights a little "greener," la Mairie de Paris has recently launched a new program called Vélib' (a corruption of "vélo" and "liberté"), in which bicycles will be parked at different stations around town for tourists and locals alike to ride around town free of charge for the first 30 minutes. Just like the Métro, you can subscribe to Vélib' or pay per use. When you're done, leave the bike at another station closer to your destination. This reminds me of the campus cruisers that appear on my college campus during the spring, yellow bicycles which students can ride anywhere on campus. I guess I am just left wondering why the logo looks like a child drew it?

Bande-annonce Ratatouille

If there is one movie I am dying to see this is it!! Yes, I have been a little behind the ball in seeing this movie but judging by the trailer (here in French) it's going to be adorable and have tons of French cliché jokes in it for me to laugh at. All I know so far is that it is the story of Rémy, an adorable rat living in Paris who wants to be a chef. The official site has a lot of fun features, including a contest to win a trip to Paris! If you can't get enough of the movie, get your licensed merchandise at the Disney Store Online. Let me know what you thought of the movie!

French Comic Books

Comic books are much more mainstream in France than they are in the United States. Stateside, it's considered a hobby. Across the pond, it's just like picking up a book! There are a number of different types of comic books for different age groups, but some have more credibility than others. Here's a look at a few of my favorite French comic book series:

Visit The French Corner @ Amazon.com for even more comic books!

Be sure to click on the covers to purchase them at Amazon.com!
Astérix: Where to begin with Astérix? Firstly, one could argue that his series is the most educational since he is loosely based on the Gauls during the time of the Roman empire, though you'll have to overlook the humor to actually learn anything from these. His friend Obélix appears with him and also has his own comic book series. The series takes place during the Roman empire and characters are modeled after different cultures of the time. A number of animated and live action films have been made based on the series, as well as an amusement park.

Tintin: Tintin is definately my favorite comic book character! He is a young detective (licensed, I'm not so sure about) who always has a big adventure to go on in each book, and he brings along his adorable dog Milou! The products available from Tintin range from plush animals to small figurines, and of course movies and TV shows! You'll be rooting for Tintin when you pick up one of these books!

Star Academy: Star Academy is like American Idol in France, only better. The comic book series chronicles the lives of the finalists each season as the all live in a château together. Of course, the series is fictional, but it's a great way to cash in, combining a popular show with a popular pastime. It's amusing if you watch the show, otherwise, it's quite confusing.

Iznogoud: Iznogoud is a humorous series about a grand vizier (second to the caliph) living in Baghdad many years ago. All he wants to do is overthrow the caliph Haroun el Poussah, and he is, much to his chagrin, always unsuccessful. A couple years ago, Michael Youn starred in the live action adaptation of this series, which, aside from being quite humorous, also had an excellent soundtrack.

Titeuf: I first discovered Titeuf on a box of cookies I bought in France that were shaped like characters from the series. I decided to buy a book and I was pleasantly surprised. Titeuf is a young boy who, in his comic books and hybrid comic-text novels, discovers the world around him, from a young child's perspective. His inaccurate observations are quite humourous. Titeuf has, like so many before him, jumped the TV series bandwagon so if reading alone doesn't fill your desire, subscribe to French cable and toon in every day!

The CPE: Who, When, Where, Why

I have written about the anti-CPE riots because I was in Paris while the worst of them were taking place. The picture above is one that I took. Here is a brief history of how this political manifestation came to be:
Who: Young students from all over France protested the CPE (see below) for its unfairness, in hopes that prime minister Dominique de Villepin would withdraw the contract. Rioters had few inhibitions while exhibiting their anger: cars were set on fire (I had the interesting and somewhat frightening opportunity of watching one burn), tear gas was released (I also had the experience of inhaling some on two different occasions), streets were congested so bad that no traffic could move in some areas of Paris.

When: The riots took place during the third week of March, 2006.

Where: Rioters manifested themselves in many large cities in France, including Marseille, Lyon, and Strasbourg, but Paris saw the largest number of protesters (see graph below).

Why: The CPE (Contrat Première Embauche) allowed employers in France to terminate their workers' sessions without a valid reason if the employee was under 26 and had been working for the employer for less than two years. The purpose of this contract was to keep recycling older workers for younger ones in order to save money. The anti-CPE riots are reminiscent of the riots in Paris in May 1968 following the closing of one of the Sorbonne universities.

Now: A month later, the CPE was withdrawn on April 20, 2006 to be rewritten.

Additional Resources
Read the CPE (in French)
Dominique de Villepin's Biography

French Speaking Countries

French is a vast language: 113 million people around the world speak it! It is an official language in 25 countries! It is also the 11th most common first language spoken in the world. Très impressionnant ! These countries all have French as an official language (the ones in bold have French as their only official language).

Belgium (Belgique)
Burkina Faso
Cameroon (Cameroun)
Central African Republic (République centrafricaine)
Comoros (Comores)
Côte d'Ivoire
Haiti (Haïti)
Mauritius (Maurice)
Senegal (Sénégal)
Switzerland (Suisse)

Lexicon of French Geography

It is difficult enough to learn the geography of a foreign country, without foreign terms popping up everywhere. French geography is very particular, so here is a list of terms that might come in handy while exploring the different regions of France on this website.

Arrondissement - District; a division of a department.

Canton - A division of an arrondissement.

Capital - Capital city of a region or country.

COM - Collectivité d'Outre-Mer; a French "community" overseas.

Commune - A division of a canton; a city or town.

Département - A division of a region, similar to a county.

DOM - Département d'Outre-Mer; a French colonie overseas.

Municipal Arrondissement - A division of a large metropolitan city (only existant in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille).

POM - Pays d'Outre-Mer; a French "country" overseas.

Préfecture - Capital city of a department.

Région - Main divisions in France, similar to states but much smaller.

TOM - Térritoire d'Outre-Mer; a French territory overseas.

Useful Links for French Teachers & Students

Frenchculture.org - This site has information about French film, literature, music, books, art, and more.

Embassy of France in the US - Just For Kids - A great way for young students to learn all about the French language, history, and culture in a fun and enjoyable fashion!

Federation of Alliances Françaises USA - An organization that promotes francophonie and education. Find links to great resources!

Paris.org - The official site of the city of Paris, this site has everything you ever wanted to know about the place on it, and lots of fun features and links to check out.

Teacher's Discovery - A French teacher's (or enthusiastic student's) haven. Find posters to decorate your classroom, videos and DVDs in French with study guides, rewards, and other great teaching tools. In addition, there are many Spanish teaching resources on this site.

The National French Contest -Information on the national contest which is held every year in schools across the nation. A great opportunity to put your skills to the test!

American Association of Teachers of French - A widespread organization in America, the site contains some great resources on it.

French.About.com - A great resource for all kinds of materials: grammar lessons, links, and tons of fun stuff like gestures. Excellent for both teachers and students. Read my interview with guide Laura Lawless here.

Babiole's Shop - "Everything Eiffel" is its slogan - get tons of goodies sold in Paris! From watches to scarves to keychains and everything in between, it's all here. But be prepared to pay a hefty price for it!

TV5 - This is a great site to learn about French music because there is a full analysis of 100s of popular French songs on this site, with vocabulary, lyrical analysis, and comprehension questions. There are also videos, games, and a plethora of other fun things to look at.

Bookmarks.fr - A French social bookmarking site, like Del.icio.us. Read my interview with founder Bertrand Hardy here.

TeacherTube - It's like YouTube for teachers! Watch videos about French.

Fun Sites in French

A great way to practice your French is to spend some time at sites done completely in French.

  • Yahoo! France - The French version of Yahoo. This is a great way to find out news in French or find sites in French. In addition, you can get your email at yahoo.fr - completely in French!
  • Amazon.fr - The number one resource for all sorts of entertainment in French. Granted, the shipping price is a little hefty and you better know your French before you make a credit card transaction online here, but in the end it's worth it. Lots of French materials that aren't available in the States can be purchased here. Just a tip: don't buy any videos or DVDs, theytypically won't work in American players.
  • TF1 - A newsy variety site based on the French TV channel of the same name. This site furnishes the webcam of Paris, but it also has news, videos (some quite amusing), shopping, and other fun things on it.
  • Fnac.com - Another great entertainment online shopping center. This site won't ship outside of France, but there are more opportunities to sample the music than there are at Amazon.fr.
  • Académie Française - The official site of the Académie Française, which includes a list of new additions, and an opportunity to buy some of their dictionaries.
  • Paroles.net - The first place to look for lyrics to French songs. In addition, a great place to find ringtones for your cellphone (unfortunately, however, they are not polyphonic).
  • Le site officiel de la Tour Eiffel - This is a super page with everything you'll ever want to see and know about the Eiffel Tower, Paris' biggest and brightest monument. There's galleries, a 360-degree view, games, and practical information about it's inside accomodations.
  • Monum' - Monum' is the center of national monuments of France. You'll find information, pictures, games, and more, about your favorite châteaux and momuments all over France. It's all very nicely put together with your choice of a flash or HTML layout.
  • Culture.fr - This site refers to itself as the portal of French culture. If there's something in France you want to know about from architecture to zoos, it can all be found here.
  • TV5 - This is a great site to learn about French music because there is a full analysis of 100s of popular French songs on this site, with vocabulary, lyrical analysis, and comprehension questions. There are also videos, games, and a plethera of other fun things to look at.
  • Recoins de France - A great site with recipes and tourist information for every region of France! The adorable illustrations are great too!
  • Elysée.fr - The official site of the French government, comparable to our Whitehouse.gov. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French government straight from the source.
  • La bande à Sylvain et Lulu - A fun interactive site in French.

Verb Conjugations

Verbs in almost any language are conjugated. They have different forms depending on the subject. Sometimes this is a hard concept for anglophones to grasp because the verb forms in English don't vary much. But in most verbs, it is "I speak" but "he speaks. In French, the forms are more diverse. There are regular verbs and irregular verbs in French just as in English. The three classes of regular verbs are -er, -re, and -ir. The rest are all irregular. All verbs in French end in -er, -ir, -re, -oir, or -oire. Below you will learn how to conjugate regular verbs in the present tense, and some irregular verbs as well. To learn how these verbs work in other tenses, consult the tense topics at right.

regular -er verbs
Example verb: conjuguer, to conjugate

  • Drop the -er from the infinitive.
  • Add the following endings:
    • je: -e (je conjugue=I conjugate)
    • tu: -es (tu conjugues=you conjugate)
    • il/elle/on: -e (il conjugue=he conjugates)
    • nous: -ons (nous conjuguons=we conjugate)
    • vous: -ez (vous conjuguez=you conjugate)
    • ils: -ent (ils conjuguent=they conjugate)

regular -ir verbs

Example verb: choisir, to choose
  • Drop the -ir from the infinitive.
  • Add the following endings:
    • je: -is (je choisis=I choose)
    • tu: -is (tu choisis=you choose)
    • il/elle/on: -it (il choisit=he chooses)
    • nous: -issons (nous choisissons=we choose)
    • vous: -issez (vous choisissez=you choose)
    • ils: -issent (ils choisissent=they choose)

regular -re verbs
Example verb: rendre, to give back
  • Drop the -re from the infinitive.
  • Add the following endings:
    • je: -s (je rends=I give back)
    • tu: -s (tu rends=you give back)
    • il/elle/on: nothing (il rend=he gives back)
    • nous: -ons (nous rendons=we give back)
    • vous: -ez (vous rendez=you give back)
    • ils: -ent (ils rendent=they give back)

Some common irregular verbs

être - to be
je suis=I am
tu es=you are
il est=he is
nous sommes=we are
vous êtes=you are
ils sont=they are

avoir - to have
j'ai=I have
tu as=you have
il a=he has
nous avons=we have
vous avez=we have
ils ont=they have

aller - to go
je vais=I go
tu vas=you go
il va=he goes
nous allons=we go
vous allez=you go
ils vont=they go

faire - to do
je fais=I do
tu fais=you do
il fait=he does
nous faisons=we do
vous faites=you do
ils font=they do

pouvoir - to be able
je peux=I can
tu peux=you can
il peut=he can
nous pouvons=we can
vous pouvez=you can
ils peuvent=they can

mettre - to put (and its compounds)
je mets=I put
tu mets=you put
il met=he puts
nous mettons=we put
vous mettez=you put
ils mettent=they put

vouloir - to want
je veux=I want
tu veux=you want
il veut=he wants
nous voulons=we want
vous voulez=you want
ils veulent=they want

croire - to believe
je crois=I believe
tu crois=you believe
il croit=he believes
nous croyons=we believe
vous croyez=we believe
ils croient=they believe

boire - to drink
je bois=I drink
tu bois=you drink
il boit=he drinks
nous buvons=we drink
vous buvez=you drink
ils boivent=they drink

lire - to read (and its compounds)
je lis=I read
tu lis=you read
il lit=he reads
nous lisons=we read
vous lisez=you read
ils lisent=they read

dire - to say
je dis=I say
tu dis=you say
il dit=he says
nous disons=we say
vous dites=you say
ils disent=they say

voir - to see (and its compounds)
je vois=I see
tu vois=you see
il voit=he sees
nous voyons=we see
vous voyez=you see
ils voient=they see

conduire - to drive
je conduis=I drive
tu conduis=you drive
il conduit=he drives
nous conduisons=we drive
vous conduisez=you drive
ils conduisent=they drive

écrire - to write (and its compounds)
j'écris=I write
tu écris=you write
il écrit=he write
nous écrivons=we write
vous écrivez=we write
ils écrivent=they write

savoir - to know
je sais=I know
tu sais=you know
il sait=he knows
nous savons=we know
vous savez=you know
ils savent=they know

connaître - to know (a person)
je connais=I know
tu connais=you know
il connaît=he knows
nous connaissons=we know
vous connaissez=you know
ils connaissent=they know

prendre - to take (and its compounds)
je prends=I take
tu prends=you take
il prend=he takes
nous prenons=we take
vous prenez=you take
ils prennent=they take

venir - to come (and its compounds)
je viens=I come
tu viens=you come
il vient=he comes
nous venons=we come
vous venez=you come
ils viennent=they come

tenir - to hold (and its compounds)
je tiens=I hold
tu tiens=you hold
il tient=he holds
nous tenons=we hold
vous tenez=you hold
ils tiennent=they hold

Le passé simple / Simple Past

This tense is somewhat rare. Only advanced students should attempt mastering this tense. It is translated just like the passé composé. It is called the passé simple because there is no helping verb. Sometimes it is referred to as the past historic. This tense takes the place of the passé composé in some literature, but it is never used in spoken French. To form it for any regular verbs, drop the -er, -ir, or -re, and the endings are as follows:

regular -er verbs

  • je: -ai
  • tu: -as
  • il/elle/on: -a
  • nous: -ames
  • vous: -âtes
  • ils/elles: -èrent

regular -re and -ir verbs
  • je: -is
  • tu: -is
  • il/elle/on: -it
  • nous: -imes
  • vous: -îtes
  • ils/elles: -irent
For irregular verbs, often times you will take the past participle that you used for the passé composé, and you will have your stem. If the past participle ends in a consonant, drop the final consonant so that the stem ends in a vowel (for example, drop the "t" off of "dit," the past participle of "dire" to get "di" as your stem). Add the following endings:
  • je: -s
  • tu: -s
  • il/elle/on: -t
  • nous: -^mes
  • vous: -^tes
  • ils/elles: -rent
And for those times when the past participle is not the stem, here are some irregular stems for you to memorize (use the same endings for irregular verbs):
  • venir (to come) --> vin-
  • faire (to do) --> fi-
  • mourir (to die) --> mouru-
  • naître (to be born) --> naqui-
  • être (to be) --> fu-
  • voir (to see) --> vi-
  • écrire (to write) --> écrivi-
  • craindre (to fear) --> craigni-
  • ouvrir (to open) --> ouvri-
  • joindre (to join) --> joigni-
  • peindre (to paint) --> peigni-
  • construire (to construct) --> construisi-
  • joindre (to join) --> joigni-
  • vaincre (to conquer) --> vainqui-
  • traduire (to translate) --> traduisi-
  • tenir (to hold) --> tin-
  • souffrir (to suffer) --> souffr-
Here are a few examples of verbs conjugated in the passé simple:

chercher (to look for, to seek)
je cherchai=I sought
tu cherchas=you sought
il chercha=he sought
nous cherchames=we sought
vous cherchâtes=you sought
ils/elles cherchèrent=they sought

attendre (to wait)
j'attendis=I waited
tu attendis=you waited
il/elle/on attendit=he/she/one waited
nous attendimes=we waited
vous attendîtes=you waited
ils/elles attendirent=they waited

tenir (to hold)
je tins=I held
tu tins=you held
il/elle/on tint=he/she/one held
nous tînmes=we held
vous tîntes=you held
ils/elles tinrent=they held

NB: You may see these irregular stems and endings spelled various ways in different text books or sites because there are many different methods of describing them, so just be consistent in adding the adding the endings to the stems the way each individual text or site describes so you conjugate correctly.

Le subjonctif du présent / Present Subjunctive

This is a very hard tense because the subjunctive mood is almost non-existant in English. It is used in French to express doubt or emotion. Here are the most common uses:

  • Informal commands, requests, or recommendations. Examples: He wants that she study (He wants her to study), I recommend that we leave, She ordered that he stay.
  • Talking about something that doesn't exist. Example: I am looking for a person who can answer my question.
  • Expressing doubt or denial. Example: I doubt that they come (I doubt they will come).
  • Expressing emotion. Example: I am happy that you accompany us; my friend is disappointed that he can't join us too.
  • Impersonal expressions. Example: It's important that we avoid this area, It's interesting that he speaks Swahili.
  • There are certain conjunctions or phrases that take the subjunctive after them (see below). A verb in the subjunctive will never appear in a clause without a conjunction unless it is a command (which are not covered on this site).
Most verbs get their subjunctive stem from taking the ils form of the verb and dropping the -ent. For regular -er verbs there is no visible difference between this and the present indicative except in the nous and vous forms. Some verbs, however, have irregular stems, and some verbs conjugate irregularly. Below are the endings that you attach to the stem, followed by some verbs fully conjugated in the present subjunctive, and some stems which stay the same all throughout.
  • je: -e
  • tu: -es
  • il/elle/on: -e
  • nous: -ions
  • vous: -iez
  • ils/elles: -ent
Verbs that conjugate irregularly

prendre - to take (and its compounds)
je prenne, tu prennes, il/elle prenne, nous prenions, vous preniez, ils prennent

être - to be
je sois, tu sois, il soit, nous soyons, vous soyez, ils soient

croire - to believe
je croie, tu croies, il croie, nous croyions, vous croyiez, ils croient

voir - to see
je voie, tu voies, il voie, nous voyions, vous voyiez, ils voient

aller - to go
j'ailles, tu ailles, il ailles, nous allions, vous alliez, ils aillent

avoir - to have
j'aie, tu aies, il ait, nous ayons, vous ayez, ils aient

venir - to come (tenir - to hold done same way)
je vienne, tu viennes, il vienne, nous venions, vous veniez, ils viennent

boire - to drink
je boive, tu boives, il boive, nous buvions, vous buviez, ils boivent

vouloir - to want
je veuille, tu veuilles, il veuille, nous voulions, vous vouliez, ils veuillent

Irregular stems
falloir (to be able) --> il faille (only conjugated in this form)
pouvoir (to be able) --> puiss-
savoir (to know) --> sach-
faire (to make) --> fass-

Conjunctions/phrases that take the subjunctive:
  • quoique (although)
  • falloir que (to be necessary that)
  • bien que (even though)
  • quoi que (whatever)
  • qui que (whoever)
  • avant que (before)
  • afin que (in order that)
  • jusqu'à ce que (until)
Some sentences illustrating common uses of the subjunctive

Je veux que tu viennes avec moi.
I want you to come with me. [lit. I want that you come with me.]

Avant que tu ne fasses ça, viens ici.
Before you do that, come here. [lit. translation]

Qui que tu sois...
Whoever you are... [lit. Who that you be]

J'ai besoin que tu achètes ça.
I need you to buy that. [lit. I need that you buy that]

Je cherche une calculatrice qui marche bien.
I'm looking for a calculator that performs well.

Je regrette que nous ne puissions pas vous accompagner.
I am sorry that we cannot come with you.

Elle doute qu'il entende.
She doubts that he hears.

C'est intéressant qu'il parle Swahili.
It's interesting that he speaks Swahili.

Le conditionnel / Conditional

This tense basically describes and action that would happen, given certain condition. A clause beginning with if followed by a verb in the imperfect usually precedes the clause with the conditional verb. An example in English:

  • If I won the lottery, I would buy a mansion.
This tense is very easy to form. You take the future stem of the verb and add the imperfect endings this time. Consult those two pages for help. Here is an example of a verb conjugated in the conditional:

parler (to talk)
je parlerais=I would talk
tu parlerais=you would talk
il/elle/on parlerait=he/she/one would talk
nous parlerions=we would talk
vous parleriez=you would talk
ils/elles parleraient=they would talk

Here's how it can be translated:
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they would [verb].

Le plus-que-parfait de l'indicatif / Pluperfect Indicative

Pluperfect indicative tense is used to express an action that had happened. An example in English:

  • He had gone out.
To form it, you need to be familiar with the imperfect and the passé composé, which you can review on this site. That said, you take the imperfect indicative form of your helping verb (avoir or être), conjugate it to fit your subject, and add the past participle. It's very much like the passé composé, only the helping verb is conjugated in the imperfect instead of the present. Here are some verbs conjugated in the pluperfect indicative:

venir (to come)
j'étais venu=I had come
tu étais venu=you had come
il était venu=he had come
nous étions venus=we had come
vous étiez venus=you had come
ils étaient venus=they had come

se laver (to wash oneself)
je m'étais lavé=I had washed myself
tu t'étais lavé=you had washed yourself
il s'était lavé=he had washed himself
nous nous étions lavés=we had washed ourselves
vous vous étiez lavés=you had washed yourselves
ils s'étaient lavés=they had washed themselves

avoir (to have)
j'avais eu=I had had
tu avais eu=you had had
il avait eu=he had had
nous avions eu=we had had
vous aviez eu=you had had
ils avaient eu=they had had

Here's how it can be translated:
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they had [verb]ed

Le passé composé de l'indicatif / Passé Composé Indicative

The passé composé (literally, the composite past) is used in French to express a completed action. When you are studying other languages, it is sometimes referred to as the perfect tense or the present perfect tense. Some examples in English:

  • I went shopping on Saturday.
  • I have been to France.
  • I did like that movie.
However, now there is a fork in the road as to how to form it. We must now discuss helping verbs and past participles. To form the passé composé in French, you must always have a helping verb, which is not always necessary in English. Most verbs use the helping verb "avoir" (to have). However, verbs having to do with coming and going, as well as reflexive verbs (verbs where the subject and the object are the same) take the verb "être" (to be, but it will not be translated as such when used as a helping verb). A helpful way to remember the most common coming and going verbs that take "être" is DR. & MRS. VANDERTRAMP. Each letter stands for a verb:

  • D: devenir=to become
  • R: rentrer=to return
  • M: mourir=to die
  • R: revenir=to come back
  • S: sortir=to go out
  • V: venir=to come
  • A: aller=to go
  • N: naître=to be born
  • D: descendre=to go down
  • E: entrer=to enter
  • R: retourner=to return
  • T: tomber=to fall
  • R: rester=to stay
  • A: arriver=to arrive
  • M: monter=to go up
  • P: partir=to leave

*Exception: DR. & MRS. VANDERTRAMP take avoir when they have a DIRECT OBJECT after them (not an indirect object).

Now what's a past participle? It's the word that usually means ___ed in English. For regular -er verbs, you drop the -er and add -é (example: passer goes to passé). For regular -ir verbs, you drop the -ir and add -i (example: finir goes to fini). For regular -re verbs, you drop the -re and add -u (example: rendre goes to rendu). For irregular verbs, you just have to memorize them. Here are the most common:
  • aller (to go) --> allé (went, gone) - appears regular
  • apparaître (appear) --> apparu (appeared)
  • atteindre (to reach) --> atteint (reached)
  • avoir (to have) --> eu (had)
  • boire (to drink) --> bu (drank, drinken)
  • conduire (to drive) --> conduit (drove, driven)
  • connaître (to know) --> connu (knew, known)
  • courir (to run) --> couru (ran)
  • couvrir (to cover) --> couvert (covered)
  • croire (to believe) --> cru (believed)
  • découvrir (to discover) --> découvert (discovered)
  • devoir (to have to, to owe) --> dû (had to, owed)
  • dire (to say) --> dit (said)
  • disparaître (to disappear) --> disparu (disappeared)
  • écrire (to write) --> écrit (wrote, written)
  • être (to be) --> été (was, been)
  • faire (to do, to make) --> fait (did, made)
  • joindre (to join) --> joint (joined)
  • lire (to read) --> lu (read)
  • mettre (to put) --> mis (put)
  • mourir (to die) --> mort (died, dead)
  • naître (to be born) --> né (born)
  • offrir (to offer) --> offert (offered)
  • ouvrir (to open) --> ouvert (opened)
  • paraître (to seem, to appear) --> paru (seemed, appeared)
  • prendre (to take) --> pris (took, taken)
  • plaire (to please) --> plu (pleased)
  • pleuvoir (to rain) --> plu (rained)
  • pouvoir (to be able) --> pu (could)
  • reconnaître (to recognize) --> reconnu (recognized)
  • rire (to laugh) --> ri (laughed)
  • savoir (to know) --> su (knew, known)
  • souffrir (to suffer) --> souffert (suffered)
  • sourire (to smile) --> souri (smiled)
  • tenir (to hold) --> tenu (held)
  • valoir (to value) --> valu (valued)
  • venir (to come) --> venu (came)
  • vivre (to live) --> vécu (lived)
  • voir (to see) --> vu (saw, seen)
  • vouloir (to want) --> voulu (wanted)
Now, to form it, you conjugate your helping verb (either avoir or être, depending on the verb), and add the past participle. If the helping verb is être, the past participle acts like an adjective, so it must modify its noun correctly. If it is a girl, add an e. If it is plural girls, add es. If it is plural guys, add s. Here are some examples of verbs conjugated in the passé composé:

venir (to come)
je suis venu=I came
tu es venu=you came
il est venu=he came
nous sommes venus=we came
vous êtes venus=you came
ils sont venus=they came

se laver (to wash oneself)
je me suis lavé=I washed myself
tu t'es lavé=you washed yourself
il s'est lavé=he washed himself
nous nous sommes lavés=we washed ourselves
vous vous êtes lavés=you washed yourselves
ils se sont lavés=they washed themselves

avoir (to have)
j'ai eu=I had
tu as eu=you had
il a eu=he had
nous avons eu=we had
vous avez eu=you had
ils ont eu=they had

Here's how it can be translated:
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they have [verb]ed.
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they [verb]ed.
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they did [verb].
Note: Sometimes the passé composé and the imparfait are both translated the same way, but they are in different contexts. See the imperfect for information.

Le futur / Future

The future tense is used to express an idea that will happen. It's generally a little later in the future than the futur proche, but you shouldn't have trouble with it because it's used just like in English. An example in English:

  • I will do my homework on Sunday.
It is formed by taking the future stem (which we will get to in a moment) and adding the following endings:
  • je: -ai
  • tu: -as
  • il/elle/on: -a
  • nous: -ons
  • vous: -ez
  • ils/elles: -ont
Now, what's the future stem? It is the part of the verb that tells you that it is in the future tense. It is just the infinitive of regular -er and -ir verbs. For regular -re verbs, it is the infinitive without the e on the end. Many other irregular verbs use their infinitive as a future stem, but there is also a plethera of irregular stems. Here are the most common irregular stems. You will notice that all future stems end in r.
  • aller (to go): ir-
  • avoir (to have): aur-
  • devoir (to have to, to owe): devr-
  • être (to be): ser-
  • faire (to do, to make): fer-
  • falloir (to be necessary): faudr-
  • mourir (to die): mourr-
  • pleuvoir (to rain): pleuvr-
  • pouvoir (to be able): pourr-
  • savoir (to know): saur-
  • valoir (to be worth): vaudr-
  • voir (to see): verr-
  • vouloir (to want): voudr-
Here is an example of a verb conjugated in the future tense:

être (to be)
je serai=I will be
tu seras=you will be
il/elle/on sera=he/she/one (we) will be
nous serons=we will be
vous serez=you will be
ils/elles seront=they will be

Here's how it can be translated:
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they will [verb].
  • I/you/he/she/it/we/they shall [verb].

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