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

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