Archive for the ‘France’ Category

St. Pierre et Miquelon   Leave a comment

I’m really surprised that my only marked post on this topic happens to be from 10 August 2014 and relates to Alternative history. Although, that is probably the most appropriate since St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands happen to be two small islands off of Newfoundland which are still part of France. It went back and forth between Britain and France during the 18th and 19th Centuries. However, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which put an end to the Seven Years’ War, France ceded all its North American possessions, but Britain granted fishing rights to France along the Newfoundland coast, and as part of that arrangement returned Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to France. It became and overseas Territory of France in 1945.

It’s sort of like the line from Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier

That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

In this case, it’s still part of France.

I did make a hint about these Islands in a post at MikeB’s. The hint related to:

Law enforcement in Saint Pierre and Miquelon is the responsibility of a branch of the French Gendarmerie Nationale; there are two police stations in the archipelago.

The islands were resettled by France in 1816 mostly with Basques, Bretons and Normans. It feels a bit like Brittany, as does the Gaspe. Unlike the Gaspe, you really ARE in France when you are here.

Le Dictionnaire des francophones   Leave a comment

This came to my attention since I have subscriptions to a few francophone newsletters. It’s an online collaborative dictionary for the French language. What makes it different is that it contains “non-traditional” French. For example, this defintion:

prendre un chimin chien Définition: Locution verbale(Guyane): Prendre un itinéraire différent du trajet classique, en passant par des raccourcis ou des chemins accidentés.

It might be useful to someone.

More French in jokes   Leave a comment

It’s like the New York Herald-Tribune comment in my last post.

A shout out for a French tutorial site.   Leave a comment

HelloFrench and her youtube site: Learn French with Elisabeth – HelloFrench. The HelloFrench website is the better choice since she does a rundown of news stories. The downside is that she doesn’s use videos, but she does review current events. She also provides the vocabulary.

The excerpts aren’t as hard as the ones you hear on the B2, but they are good for getting used to the news on the radio. RFI or one of the broadcast services is better for more advanced French learners. Given that using the News was one of the techniques used in my intensive french course back in the day, I recommend checking out this site.

I just learned Elisabeth is from Belgium (as is Dylane, French with Dylane). My opinion is that you want to listen to as many different French accents for the DELF. Well, and I did live in Belgium.

Meet Abbé Grégoire   Leave a comment

Henri Jean-Baptiste Grégoire, otherwise known as the Abbé Grégoire, was a French Catholic priest, Constitutional bishop of Blois and a leader during the French Revolution. His good points are that he was an ardent slavery abolitionist and supporter of universal suffrage. He believed in equality.

On the other hand, this is his major flaw IMO:

The Abbé Grégoire is also known for advocating a unified French national language, and for writing the Rapport sur la Nécessité et les Moyens d’anéantir les Patois et d’universaliser l’Usage de la Langue française (Report on the necessity and means to annihilate the patois and to universalise the use of the French language), which he presented on 4 June 1794 to the National Convention. According to his own research, a vast majority of people in France spoke one of thirty-three dialects or patois and he argued that French had to be imposed on the population and all other dialects eradicated. This conclusion came from a common view at the time within Jacobin circles that the linguistic diversity of France had been purposely used by the nobility of France to keep the various linguistic groups of France separated from each other and from the political institutions, which primarily spoke French. Because of this Grégoire saw the various patois as limiting to the ability of French citizens to practice their individual rights.However, his work was still influenced by the rising sense of French linguistic superiority that had been started by Bertrand Barère with Rapport du Comité de salut public sur les idiomes (1794). Due to this he classified, Corsican and Alsatian as “highly degenerate” (très-dégénérés) forms respectively of Italian and German, while Occitan was decomposed into a variety of syntactically loose local remnants of the language of troubadours, mutually unintelligible, and should be abandoned in favour of the language of the capital. This began a process, expanded dramatically by the policies of Jules Ferry a century later, that led to increasing disuse of the regional parlances of France.

Alsatian is pretty much the language of my ancestors with the exception of my Great-grandfather who came from Saxony. Anyway, I sort of agree with the idea that the language should be unified, but I am not of the opinion that is should be petrified. In fact, the quote above links to language policy in France.

Of course, it makes sense to have one standard language than 75 different dialects, or even speaking other languages, in a nation. Some countries require immigrants to demonstrate some proficiency in the official language for residency and citizenship. I understand this.

Being multilingual isn’t as problematic as is having multiple, competitive, monolingual cultures.

See also:

So you want to take the DELF

My best advice is to go to somewhere French is spoken and live there for a few months speaking French. Geraldine at Comme une Française has this useful video on stopping people from switching to English But you wouldn’t be here if you are in a position to use French on a daily basis.

There are a lot of really good French learning sites on the internet these days that I found helpful. Check out them out and see what helps you most. I have a love-hate relationship with Frantastique, but I am getting to like it more after having passed the DELF. I find Frantastique is a better review than something that will help you pass the DELF. I plan on keeping up with it since you never give up learning French.

I’ve found that using some of the translators can be helpful since you can take a piece of text and have them read it to you. It’s not a person, but it beats having to guess the pronounciation. But the best resource is Antidote: One teacher suggested using the Bescherelle Book series. Bescherelle also has a website. Both Bescherelle and Antidote are comprehensive reference material for the French language.

I would also suggest buying a Mac since the Mac allows you to type accented characters. You can also get great French and French-English dictionaries you can use. I find being able to use the computer for grammar and definitions is really helpful. Although, beware of what Antidote calls “Locutions” which is something French is full of them. They are idiomatic phrases which can change the word meaning. For example, “accuser réception de” means to confirm that you received something.

Good luck, but it isn’t really all that hard.

What I want for Christmas

My European Union Citizenship Rights returned to me.

J’ai réussi le DELF B2.

“Why, anybody can have a brain. That’s a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma.”

― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Well, now I have the official piece of paper from the French Government attesting that I have achieved the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level of B2 for French. In addition to having spoken it for most of my life: I am now officially recognised as a francophone by an official body: The French Ministry of Education!

What if Terry Gilliam had directed the Harry Potter films?

He could have. I found this out by looking up to see if Jean Rochefort had been in any of the Harry Potter films. He didn’t, but this turned up:

J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, is a fan of Gilliam’s work. Consequently, Gilliam was Rowling’s first choice for the director of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2000. Warner Brothers refused to consider Gilliam as director, instead selecting Chris Columbus for the job. Recently, Gilliam stated in relation to this episode, “I was the perfect guy to do Harry Potter. I remember leaving the meeting, getting in my car, and driving for about two hours along Mulholland Drive just so angry. I mean, Chris Columbus’ versions are terrible. Just dull. Pedestrian.” Gilliam, though rumoured for a day or so to direct Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as per IMDb, has stated that he will never direct any Potter film.

The reason this came up in the search is that Rochefort was supposed to play Don Quixote in Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. That project flopped but was documented in Lost in La Mancha. Somehow these two missed projects joined together to get my alternative history mind going.

Anyone familiar with Gilliam’s work can imagine how cool the Harry Potter films would have been had Terry Gilliam directed them!

Final thoughts on the DELF B2

OK, I think I passed (J’ai reussi). Probably by a squeaker score, but I at least made my 5 points on the other segments.

Still, I plan on carrying on as if I need to take it again, which means some form of studying. I use French media, which means I use the French language. Try to read and write in French, at least an article a day to get past the “40 minutes on the first page” thing [1]

Also, build up your vocabulary!

I know that I WILL pass (je reussirai) the next time if I have to take it again.

[1] True francophiles will get the reference.

Yet another reason I love the EU (and call myself European)

I think I’ve mentioned before that since Modern Europe is basically a very recent thing: I don’t have an actual ethnic heritage. That means I have a lot in common with the founders of the European Union, in particular Robert Schuman who moved between Luxembourg, Germany, and France.

I just learned about Euroregions, which usually refers to a transnational co-operation structure between two (or more) contiguous territories located in different European countries. Euroregions represent a specific type of cross-border region.

So, one of my ethnic lines is SaarLorLux, which is described as

There is no well-defined structure of SaarLorLux nor even an exclusive definition of its size. Instead, there exist multiple forms of cooperation and contractual relations among all or several members. Sometimes instead of SaarLorLux, the term Greater Region is used, short for the more formal “Greater Region of Saarland, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Wallonia and (Western-) Rhineland-Palatinate”.

That pretty much sums up one ancestral line really well, which makes me French-German. While France is the only static nation in this batch of little city-states, it now would comprise parts of Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. And the languages would be French and German, with a few other dialects tossed in for good measure. This thumbnail from the history of Metz pretty much sums up the situation:

With the signature of the Treaty of Chambord in 1552, Metz passed to the hands of the Kings of France. As the German Protestant Princes who traded Metz (alongside Toul and Verdun) for the promise of French military assistance, had no authority to cede territory of the Holy Roman Empire, the change of jurisdiction wasn’t recognised by the Holy Roman Empire until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Under French rule, Metz was selected as capital of the Three Bishoprics and became a strategic fortified town. With creation of the departments by the Estates-General of 1789, Metz was chosen as capital of the Department of Moselle.

The fun thing is that some Euroregions can be within other ones! There are at least two regions which overlap in my “ethnic hertiage”. I’m not sure how up to date this list is: list. And they are in a couple of Eurodistricts to boot! It also explains yet another reason I like the Euro currency so much:

The launch of the Euro gave the citizens of the border region the possibility to trade across the border without the need for advanced arithmetic operations to calculate the price, when one German mark was about three French francs and about twenty Luxembourgian francs or Belgian francs. The Euro negates the need for SaarLorLux to have currency of its own.

I remember crossing the border back into France from Germany and literally having the cashier at the bureau de change toss about 7 marks worth of change at me (about 3.50€ or US$4). [1]

Anyway, it’s a lot easier being European (and speaking English, even though I can handle French and German with some others tossed in there for good measure) than the nationalistic alternative.

[1] I was a poor student at the time, so the amount of money he tossed at me was significant. It could have bought a decent meal at an inexpensive restaurant.

The B2 Speaking portion

I’ve been neglectful of this blog for various reasons, one of which is that blogging isn’t that important to me. I keep my hand in to show I haven’t gone away. I still support regulating Firearms, and that the Second Amendment and the concept of self-defence have been horribly misrepresented.

On the other hand, I do have a life.

Which is probably where my ease in this section came in. Having lived and spent time in les pays francophones pretty much all my life, I have used French as a spoken language. Not to the extent of actually growing up with it: especially since the French kids were more than happy to practise their English on me! And the more I learn other languages, the more I like speaking English.

Anyway, the trick here is to be able to talk and converse for 15 minutes. You’ll get to pick two subjects from a bowl and prepare one of them for your presentation. I picked the are zoos good or bad subject (as opposed to sport in school). I’ve had long conversations in French about legal topics.

The best book is How to Cheat at French Verbs, ISBN: 978-0982901946. As one of the reviewers said: “I received this book today and it’s already changed my life. The conjugations I’ve been struggling with CLICKED! Thank you for writing this book and I hope you write more.”

The nice think about spoken French is there isn’t as much room for analysing your grammar, spelling, and all the other flaws that show up when you write. So, it was the easiest portion for me. Depending on how I did, this part may have pushed me past the pass point of 50. Remember all you need is 50/100 with at least five points in a section. So, you can do really well in one section, OK in two other sections and bomb in the fourth and still pass.

The B2 reading portion

It was a bit more difficult than I expected. That’s due to the questions aren’t always straightforward. They tend to deal with themes, which was something that also applied on the listening section. The obvious example of this was the three opinions on home schooling. You had to evaluate the strength of their opinion since they didn’t come straight out and say “this is a good/bad idea.”

The only way to prep for this is to read a lot. Summarise what you read.

I think the DELF is more about test taking than actual knowledge. One person said you could pass the B2 with a super mark, yet be unable to order a coffee at CDG airport. Not sure if I totally agree with that statement.

Just remember to answer every question. Try and make an educated guess if you are unsure.

You only need to get 5 points on each section to pass. So, as long as you don’t totally blow a section, you will probably pass if you can get reasonable scores on most of the sections. So, I can get a not so great score on the listening and writing sections if I did really well on the spoken and reading sections and still pass: as long as no section is less than 5/25.

The B2 listening comprehension section

This was hard because you hear the excerpt twice. Unlike at home, you can’t go back and replay the track. This is a sample similar to what you will hear when you take the test:

Yes, there are silent bits in there where you will read the questions and then answer them. The invigilator turned on the recording and left the room while we did this section.

Your best bet for preparing is to listen to RFI: especially since one of the clips was from their Sept Milliards de Voisins. Do as many sample clips as you can listen to here: Listen to the podcasts as well:

The ideal would be to work with a francophone who can point out the “phrases” used in French (where words put together get a new meaning: e.g., freiner des quatre fers is to dig one’s heels in). You know what I am talking about if you study French. English does it as well, but not to the extent French does. The phrases can throw you when you get to the questions since the question will be about the figurative meaning of the passage.

Listen to as much French as you can and do the clips is the best advice for this section. You may want to write summaries of what you listened to as well. The crux of this test is how much did you understand the subject of the clip.

The B2 Written test

OK, this ended up being the toughest part for me for a few reasons:

  • they asked me to write a letter (more on that later)
  • the subject was pretty off the wall
  • this was the place I did freeze, but not for long

Fortunately, I was prepared and could surmount {some} of the problems, but this is where I will put a lot of effort if it turns out I have to retake the test. The criteria for this test is:

I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of topics related to my interests. I can write an essay or report conveying information or giving reasons for or against a given opinion. I can write letters that emphasize the meaning I personally attribute to events and experiences.

Heavy emphasis on writing letters, which is sort of where I was caught out. Your best bet is to get the book Production écrite DELF B2 (ISBN 978-1549947193).

The written part of the DELF was probably the most difficult for me since I was hoping for something other than having to write a letter. Fortunately, this guide was helpful at teaching me pretty much everything I needed to know to write the letter. The evaluators won’t expect your writing style to be that of Le Figaro or Le Monde, but they will expect a few things. You will need to know the format and style. You will also need to keep the letter within 250 words. You will be prepped to come up with something decent after the subject shock wears off after working with this book.

Gerard Terrien, an alien who eats stagieres

OK, The essay question was that we had to write my boss to request that a sport field be set up for employees to use for free during their lunch break. Well, most bosses would rather fire their employees than give them something like this in real life. The thing is that you don’t really need to have a horse in the race to do these subjects: just be able to talk about them. Know a few of the buzz words and embellish around them is the best advice.

Also, you only need to get 50/100 to pass the test and at least 5 points on each section. I managed to come up with the 250 letter in the time given. I was a lot sillier than I should have been. I seriously hope that the evaluator(s) is/are familiar with Gymglish and Frantastique (See Thoughts about the B2).

My advice for prepping: get the book, do the old tests online, and write as much as possible. The best thing is to have a native French speaker help you. The French teachers at Ceran were quite useful in learning to write.

If you are working on your own you should get something like Antidote ( to help you with your grammar. I would write a text and then use Deepl to see if I wrote what I thought I had.

Bottom line: write in French as much as you can.