Archive for the ‘French Nationality’ Category

A visit to the brasserie   Leave a comment

OK, a defintion for some of you:

In France, Flanders, and the Francophone world, a brasserie (pronounced [bʁas.ʁi]) is a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. The word brasserie is also French for “brewery” and, by extension, “the brewing business”. A brasserie can be expected to have professional service, printed menus, and, traditionally, white linen—unlike a bistro which may have none of these.

Technically, a bistro is the original fast food. The story is that Russian soldiers would scream “Быстро” wanting the service quickly after Napoleon’s defeat in the east led to their occupying Paris. Not sure how true that story is, but “bistro” is indeed “fast” or “quickly” in Russian.

Oh, and a cafe is where you get coffee and maybe an alcoholic drink. They generally serve not much more than a “Snack” menu, if they serve food at all: platters of cheese and/or charcuterie, maybe a couple of sandwiches like the famous croque monsieur and madame and some meal-sized salads complete with ham, cheese and vegetables. Cafés are also often home of Tabacs, selling cigarettes and lotto tickets, and tend to be the meeting point of older French gentlemen at midday. That’s what was in Amélie (or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain).

There are a at least a couple of brasseries within walking distance of me. Not to mention one dedicated boulangerie, which specialises in bread. Pâtisserie, on the other hand, refers to pastries and where they are sold. Law restricts its use to bakeries who employ licensed maître pâtissier (master pastry chefs) in France and Belgium. Viennoiserie is the ‘bridge’ between pâtisserie and bread. These goods are typically made with white flour and active yeast cultures, which cause the dough to rise quickly and achieve the perfect flakiness. Many are made using an enriched puff pastry. Think the gooey, flakey pastries and you have Viennoiserie.

The brasserie I went to is the Rolls Royce of the lot in that it has a boulangerie-patisserie: as opposed to the patisserie nearby. That meant I was able to have bouche de noël a little late in the season. A galette des rois would have been more fun, but those you have to order: unless you want the cheapo store jobs. and

The bouche was nice and fresh. I may order one for next years réveillon, but we still have some left over in the freezer.

They were playing jazz. I thought I should be reading Le Monde, and could have been if I had my portable with me (left at home). Then, it hit me that the New York Herald-Tribune would have been more appropriate. Oh, and you can buy those T-shirts at redbubble.

BTW, I had to show ID and my vaccination certificate to get in.

One gripe I have with the US is that this kind of baked goods are hard to find. The US has a real problem with baguettes, but that’s another post.

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:

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!

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.

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.

General thoughts on the DELF B2:

I like to think I passed the test, but I am prepared to take it again if I didn’t. That said, what do I think was the most useful? What would I do differently? What strategies would I advise someone who wants to take the Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française or the Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française to use?

First off, the best thing is to either grow up speaking French, or spend some time in France, or other francophone region, living the language for 3-6 months. Better yet, a year using French as much as possible with francophones. It’s not really useful doing this unless the people you are interacting with are native speakers. There are linguistic nuances which just taking a course won’t give you.

That’s probably not an option if you are reading this. The next best thing is to listen and to watch French media. RFI ( is a really good choice since most of the listing segments came from them. You will have a bit of a leg up, especially if you heard the segment in question. I’ll take more about the different parts of the test in subsequent posts.

Reading is also helpful for learning orthographie. But it’s better to get a good handle on spoken French since the reading and speaking parts were fairly easy. Speaking was the easiest, but it helped to have listened to the clips. That said, there are a few site run by the French Government and media to help you prepare for the test.

You definitely want to take the test and can get old copies of the test here: The new format test is the most useful since that was pretty much what the test was like. The more I look at those, the more I think I did all right.

The two places you will have the most control over are the speaking and writing sections. The reading and listening sections are pretty much multiple guess on spoken and written segments. Again, taking the tests are the most helpful. I think working on the listening “comprehension” is the more useful of the two.

I’m not sure how useful most of the pass the DELF books are, other than the ones that prep you for the writing part. It really is go in with a bunch of “phrases tresors” and fill in the holes. “Phrase tresor” was a term used at Chateau Ceran for phrases that would prove useful in learning French. In this case, they are terms that are useful for making an argument. More on that when I talk about the writing part.

The bottom line is that unless you are a francophone, or can spend intensive time with some before the exam, you will need to study. But even francophones can have some problems with these tests because of how the questions are written (take the sample course to see). I’m planning on doing a few posts on the test. One for each of the four segments, one for prep material, study hints, and a final summary. I’m not sure which of the four I should start with: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking, or writing. In a way reading and listening overlap as do speaking and writing. There are some differences.

Thoughts about the DELF B2

I have no idea how I actually did, but I would like to think I passed the examiniation. Depending on who is evaluating me, I am either at the advanced intermediate (B2) level, or in the case of Kwiziq, Advanced level (C1). Most people think I probably passed, but the DELF is really more about test taking than actual knowledge in my opinion.

I think it’s sort of like when the scarecrow receives his diploma from the Wizard of Oz: the French Government, an official body, is saying that I can speak French at this level.

“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

So, getting this certification serves two purposes. The first is that it affirms for me that I did indeed have this ability. I mention a few times where I applied for a job which seemed to have been written for me. Well, it was actually a job cert ad and was written for someone else. Alas, unlike other nations, the US does not require that an employer look too hard to show there isn’t any local who fits the job description before hiring a foreigner.

The second is that this is part of the immigration process for France: proving a competency in the language.

I feel good about the speaking portion (Stating and defending an opinion based on a short document designed to explicit a reaction.). I probably passed the written portion, which I wasn’t going to talk about, but since I mentioned it…

I’ve found the Frantastique to be fairly useful, not great (that is a whole other post). The essay question was that we had to write my boss to request that a gym class 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. Then, I thought about the characters from Frantastique…

My message to Gymnglish about this:

OK, je viens de passer mon examen B2 aujourd’hui. Votre service ne m’a peut-être pas aidé à apprendre le français (je pense que si), mais il m’a aidé pour la question de rédaction.

On m’a demandé d’écrire à mon patron pour demander qu’un cours de sport soit mis en place pour que les employés puissent l’utiliser gratuitement pendant leur pause déjeuner.

Hum, je suis à la retraite, mais l’équipage de L’AIGF a servi d’entreprise. J’ai donc écrit à Monsieur G. Terrian une demande d’installation d’un parcours sportif. Je lui ai fait remarquer que je savais qu’il détestait l’exercice, et peut-être le sport tout autant, sinon plus.

Bernard a également servi de personne pour souligner les avantages financiers de ce projet.

Je n’ai peut-être pas réussi, mais j’aime à penser que je me suis battu fortement!

The translation:

OK, I just took my B2 exam today. Your service may not have helped me learn French (I think it did), but it did help me with the essay question.

I was asked to write to my boss to request that a gym class be set up for employees to use for free during their lunch break.

Um, I’m retired, but the crew at L’AIGF served as my company. So I wrote to Mr. G. Terrian with a request to install a sports course. I pointed out to him that I knew he hated exercise, and perhaps sports as much, if not more.

Bernard also served as a person to point out the financial benefits of this project.

I may not have succeeded, but I like to think I fought hard!

Well, after writing them about that: what was the first thing I saw when I opened my Frantastique lesson? A picture of Monsieur G Terrian!

I hope that’s a good sign!

I took the DELF B2 today.

Alas, I won’t know the results for up to two months! Seriously!

It’s the French Language proficiency certification given by the French Government. This is how the site describes the test.

A B2 user has a degree of independence that allows him/her to construct arguments to defend his/her opinion, explain his/her viewpoint and negotiate. At level B2, the candidate has a degree of fluency and spontaneity in regular interactions and is capable of correcting his/her own mistakes…Please note that, except dispensation, DELF B2 is compulsory to follow studies in the French higher education…DELF B2 examination is based on  level B2 of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

The thing literally took about four hours mostly because the oral presentation sections needed to be done one on one.

I had to show my identity card and proof of vaccination before they would let me into the centre!

I’m going to write some pieces on the best way to prepare, or at least what I found useful.

Belmondo or Baker? or Both?

Joesphine Baker loved to create a stir: I’m sure she’s having a high time with her being awarded a place in France’s Panthéon. Here’s something I wrote as prep for the B2.

Pourquoi donner une place au Panthéon à quelqu’un qui n’était pas français? De plus, cette personne n’a pas autant contribué à la culture française.

Pourquoi Joséphine Baker a-t-elle une place au Panthéon ? Autre que l’évident ? Vrai, elle était membre des Folies Bergeres, mais cela lui vaut-il une place au Panthéon ? Sa position d’interprète lui permet d’avoir accès à des personnes qui intéressent le Deuxième Bureau. Cela lui a permis d’être recrutée comme agent. Le fait qu’elle soit une espionne aurait pu lui coûter la vie. Elle a été honorée pour son service à la France pendant la guerre. Son service en temps de guerre l’a encouragée à se battre pour les droits civils aux États-Unis.

Bebel était un excellent comédien aux rôles varies. Je crois que l’un des meilleurs. Il a définitivement une place dans l’histoire du cinéma français et peut-être mondial. Mais a-t-il au moins fait son service national ? Je n’en suis pas sûr cela.

Baker avait deux amours: “Mon pays et Paris”. C’était pour la France qu’elle risquait sa vie.
La peine pour ayant été un espion est la mort, surtout pendant la guerre. Bebel a risqué sa vie en faisant des cascades dans des films.

Oui, si le critère est d’être un grand interprète, alors Belmondo mérite autant que Baker, sinon plus, une place au panthéon. Belmondo est définitivement le meilleur interprète des deux. Baker allait au-dela en risquant sa vie pour la France. Ça mérite une place au Panthéon.

Why give a place in the Pantheon to someone who was not French? Moreover, this person did not contribute as much to French culture.

Why does Josephine Baker have a place in the Pantheon? Other than the obvious? True, she was a member of the Folies Bergeres, but does that earn her a place in the Pantheon? Her position as an interpreter gave her access to people of interest to the Second Bureau. This allowed her to be recruited as an agent. The fact that she was a spy could have cost her her life. She was honored for her service to France during the war. Her wartime service encouraged her to fight for civil rights in the United States.

Bebel was an excellent actor in various roles. I believe he was one of the best. He definitely has a place in the history of French and perhaps world cinema. But did he at least do his national service? I’m not sure about that.

Baker had two loves: “My country and Paris”. It was for France that she risked her life.
The penalty for being a spy is death, especially during the war. Bebel risked his life by doing stunts in films.

Actualités de Brexit

Now, I know where my news about Brexit will come from in the most part: Le Figaro.

Now I’m really surprised that I never made anything of my degree in European Legal Studies. Toss in my thesis for my JD dealt with fisheries. Maybe I should have asked the Greenpeace chief in Brussels for a job instead of hoping for big bucks in the world of business when I found out he was a neighbour (and all round nice guy).

Angèle – Bruxelles je t’aime

I learned about Angèle last summer. The person who told me about her said she was Dutch.

No, she’s Flemish.

I really understand this song: especially as I am now working on my being certified as a “Francophone”. This is despite having the French language foisted upon me.

I don’t have the same issue proving I am a German speaker.

Enjoy! Profitez! Geniet! Genießen!

Note that I posted that last bit in English!

BTW, the announcement in Flemish at the start of the clip relates to when the CD will be released. You can preorder it online. I did!

La peur de la langue française

OK, I know I should be writing this in french (the joke DELF essay WILL BE in French), but I am feeling lazy. And this deals with grammar. My two weak points are grammar and spelling: mostly sloppy errors done in haste. But I do that in English as well. While Dutch/Frisian may be closer to English and English is a Germanic language: French also has a lot of similarities to English.

Beware the faux amis (false friends), those are the words that look a lot alike, but aren’t. There are a lot of words in English which have French roots or equivalents, which helps, but the faux amis are a pitfall.

A bit of advice I picked up in my review, while it’s about gender, the 100$ foolproof bit is pretty much universal:

No rule is 100% foolproof in French. There are a number of exceptions in word genders too. Those are a bit like double bluffs: it’s unfair, I know, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart. You will need to learn by heart, I’m afraid.

Actually, “learning by heart” isn’t really that hard, but it means practise a lot. Hell, I’ve been speaking French for as long as I can remember and I have problems. Not to mention that French people will admit that you don’t need to know all the verb tenses since some of them are found mostly in literature (e.g. passé simple). I was told I could get away with the easiest tenses for the B2!

This gets into why I am taking the B2 as opposed to the advanced (“C” levels). You don’t need to know as much to pass the B levels. The essay only needs to be 250 words (get ready for the joke essay), whereas the C level examination requires a REAL essay. B2 is the basic level for French citizenship, C is required for studying in a French university. Also, I’m retired: I don’t need to prove nothing to nobody. On the other hand, having the B2 is good for life, and becoming a french citizen.

Anyway, back to gender. The quote above comes from this cheat sheet on gender in Fench language. For the most part, it’s pretty easy to guess gender. If not, avoid singular items which allows one to use “les”, “des”, etcetera which avoid having to figure out the gender of something you are uncertain about if you don’t have a dictionary or grammar checker handy. But French is so difficult that most grammar checkers are worthless.

I’ve already given a plug for Karen Remy O’Tooles “How to Cheat at French Verbs” (ISBN ‎ 978-0982901946), but I can’t say enough about it. I know I will pass the oral section of the B2 exam with her help. Verbs are only intimidating if you are writing in French.

Reading is easy since it is recognition memory, but the DELF does ask some weird questions in the reading comprehension section. but my scores are passing in that area. Not that they don’t need work.

Anyway, french can be intimidating as heck, which I think is intention on the part of L’Académie Françiase, the keepers of the French language. Or the jerks who don’t want you saying things like septante, huitante, or nonante, as opposed to soixante-dix, quatre-vingts, or quatre-vingt dix. IMO, nonante-neuf is less of a mouthful than quatre-vingt-dix-neuf. But L’Académie is dedicated to the purity of la langue française against foreign invaders, such as English.

Blame them if you’re having problems with French.

La Marseillaise: ‘The Greatest National Anthem in the World, Ever’ – BBC News

I was looking up versions of La Marseillaise to post when I pass the DELF B2. And in the spirit of BREXIT, I post this clip that came up.

On écrit un article au DELF B2

D’ac, ça semble facile. On a besoin d’un longueur de 250 mots. Il y a aussi quelques phrases pourraient faire “filler” : Par exemple, d’abord, ensuite, en revanche, pour conclure, et cetera (on ne met pas un virgule en français avant “et”, car c’est un parti de la liste). Puis on mettrait ses pensées d’augmenter le nombre de mots à 250 (c’est le minimum des mots requis pour l’essai écrit). Ils ne vous demanderont pas d’écrire un article comme un pro, bien sûr.

L’avis est: “Mais la mise en page compte toujours à l’examen du DELF B2, alors mieux vaut respecter certaines règles. Pour plus de clarté, voyons la présentation générale d’un article sur un schéma. ” Les schémas sont trouvés partout l’internet. À ce moment, je suis presque au minimum des mots requis! Et je n’essaie pas donc ça sera facile.