Archive for the ‘French Verbs’ Category

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

HelloFrench https://www.hellofrench.com/ 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.

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 https://youtu.be/9Zo5qeSlpXE. 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: https://www.antidote.info/en. 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.

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.

Footnotes:
[1] True francophiles will get the reference.

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: http://delfdalf.fr/_media/exemple-3-sujet-delf-b2-tp-audio-integrale-comprehension-orale.mp3

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: https://savoirs.rfi.fr/en/apprendre-enseigner/langue-francaise/delf-b2-compr%C3%A9hension-orale. Listen to the podcasts as well: https://www.rfi.fr/fr/podcasts/.

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 (https://www.rfi.fr/fr/direct-monde) 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: http://delfdalf.fr/delf-b2-sample-papers.html. 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.

Exam anxiety

OK, I test in at either advanced intermediate (B2) or advanced (C1) CEFRA (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level depending on the site doing the testing. I’ve been told the grammar on the French B2 is stuff that is pretty easy. Still, I am back at Kwiziq taking their tests, but I think they are like a US public school which passes you to the next level whether or not you are ready for it. Also, Kwiziq is really more about test taking than actual knowledge.

I have been reading the following French newspapers for the last year or so: Le Monde, Liberation, and L’Obs. They are all considered advanced by this website. I decided to take a peek at L’Express which they say is intermediate in skill level.

Compared to this Dickensian sentence from Le Monde

Il aura fallu près de dix années de mobilisation, scandées d’annonces aussitôt suivies de piteux démentis, mais le résultat est là : à Venise, depuis le 1er août, les bateaux de croisière de plus de 25 000 tonnesn’ont plus le droit d’emprunter au ralenti le canal de la Giudecca pour passer devant la place Saint-Marc, offrant aux croisiéristes un point de vue unique au monde – et aux habitants de la ville l’impression désolante d’être frôlés par des monstres à l’effrayante démesure. Jusque-là, ce parcours pouvait être emprunté par des navires allant jusqu’à 110 000 tonnes.

The amusing thing is that the three I read are considered Lefty. Liberation was “founded in Paris by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July in 1973 in the wake of the protest movements of May 1968. Initially positioned on the extreme-left of France’s political spectrum, the editorial line evolved towards a more centre-left stance at the end of the 1970s.” L’Express is conservative.

Go figure.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_France

Translation of above:

It took almost ten years of mobilisation, scandalised by announcements immediately followed by pitiful denials, but the result is there: in Venice, since 1 August, cruise ships of more than 25,000 tonnes have no longer been allowed to use the Giudecca Canal to pass in front of Saint Mark’s Square, offering cruise passengers a unique viewpoint in the world – and the inhabitants of the city the distressing impression of being brushed by monsters of frightening excess. Until now, this route could be used by ships of up to 110,000 tonnes.

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.

Trucs et astuces pour apprendre le français

It’s great to live in the world of the internet and computers since it makes it a whole lot easier to study languages on your own if you have to. There are lots of great websites out there for learning languages. I’ve tried most of the Gymglish sites and like Frantastique. I was going to say I like it a lot, but not really. It can be disheartening if you are not committed to learning a language, but the tricks and tips are where this post is heading.

Online translation software (e.g., Google and DeepL) also gives pronunciation, which is helpful for learning. My weaknesses are grammar and spelling in written French, spoken French isn’t that hard. At least at the everyday level–it gets harder if you move into academic French (intermediate and beyond, or B2 and the Cs). The first trick is spoken French is actually pretty simple most of the texts out there are great if you are taking academic French.

Verb tenses, to get a major headache out of the way, but the book How to Cheat at French Verbs (ISBN: 978-0982901946). You really only have to worry about verb tenses in written French, things get really simple in spoken. My French teacher is an invigilator for the DELF B2 in another city, but she told me that only three cases are truly needed for the spoken: passé compose, futur proche, and “present progressif” (“être en train de…”). Anything else is icing on the cake (e.g., subjunctive, conditional, and definitely passé simple).

And the internet is filled with native French speakers ready to teach you how to listen. Getting a native to have conversations with is harder.

Things get more interesting when you move to written French. Apple OS is the best for that since it makes it easy to type the accented characters. As someone who used actual French language keyboards, that is a total blessing. Hold down whatever character you want; For example “e” and a window will open showing the following: è é ê ë ē ė e. Then pick the character you want. That works on iphones, ipads, and Macs. The Mac gives you options of Hachette’s French Dictionary and English French dictionary. IPad and iPhone only have the Linguee dictionary, but it is truly multilingual!

Bon Patron is a good grammar check, but it’s not great. It beats trying to guess if you are missing something, but it also misses things! Avoid using the machine translators (e.g., Google, DeepL, et al) since they are OK for simple text and might offer useful suggestions, but that isn’t always the case.

The best thing would be to find a helpful native, but that is still diffilcult!

Quelle langue est ma langue maternelle

An interesting question since I have spoken English, German, and French pretty much all my life and am functional in all three. On the other hand, there is the question of certification. For example, someone can be a native French speaker, yet not considered such for immigration purposes. The case in point is Emile DuBois, a French woman who was somehow deemed to not speak French according to Canadian Immigration authorities. The Quebec authorities decided she wasn’t a Francophone since part of her doctoral thesis was written in English! Eventually the Quebec authorities saw reason. On the other hand, I have a cousin who emigrated to Canada from the US and only had to converse with the immigration authority to be deemed proficient in French in Montreal.

Go figure!

Canada isn’t on my list of places I want to move to though: even the Francophone parts. I may like Quebec and the Gaspé, but I prefer France or Belgium.

Anyway, I had to say what was my “mother tongue” as part of my application for the DELF. I said “Anglais”. I don’t think it mattered much if it wasn’t French. Even then the purpose of the DELF is to show proficiency, even if one is a native French speaker. There are a lot of reasons for taking the DELF, business or personal. In my case, it is one of the requirements for French citizenship.

Le DELF B2 viendra!

I just registered to take the DELF B2 and will do so in December.

I’ve mentioned it before, but in case you weren’t paying attention:

The Diplôme d’études en langue française or DELF for short, is a certification of French-language abilities for non-native speakers of French administered by the International Centre for French Studies for France’s Ministry of Education. I am considered an Anglophone since I am not from France. There are a few reasons for wanting to take this test. One would be as a career step to prove your proficiency in French. Another reason is if one wants to become a French citizenship. There is a requirement of passing the B2 level to become a French citizen.

That means there are a few reasons I would pick the B2 level. One being it is less expensive than the C1 or C2 levels, which is where some non-official tests place me. The C levels would be something that would be attractive if I were still in the workplace. But I am not sure if they would have helped me much, short of moving to France back then. And the US Government would have picked the Hispanic Woman anyway for the international law jobs.

My career path ended up being completely unsatisfactory and feeling like that joke about the World Famous French lover who was on a game show as a lifeline. The punch line is that he wouldn’t have done anything the contestant suggested. Brexit happened and Britain will regret it happening sooner or later. I’m staying in Europe.

Le monde francophone

Did you know that spreading the French language is a priority of French National foreign policy? Part of this strategy is to subsidise lessons through the Alliance Française and other cultural events. Another good point is that wanting to improve your French language skills is an aid to getting residency. Although, one has to prove proficiency by passing the DELF(Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française) level B2 examination as a requirement for French citizenship, unless you can pull off citizenship through a parent.

Another nice thing is that there are loads of resources for learning French online. While you can teach yourself French, I would strongly suggest having the help of someone who is proficient in the language help you. Especially since the DELF exams test not only your reading comprehension, but your ability to write and converse. That is your ability to use the language. It’s easy to read and listen, but a different thing altogether to speak and write.

Toss in that it is true that learning French is pretty much a lifelong process.

Technically, I am at an advanced level with my French skills, which makes sense since I have been pretty much speaking it since I was a child (same for German). My conversational skills suffer without using these languages on a regular basis. Things like Duolinguo, Kwiziq, and Frantastique are nice refreshers, but they don’t seem that practical on a long term basis. Frantastique is probably the best of the lot. It’s relatively painless to get started as they put you through a 14 “lesson” test period to find your level of skill. The lessons are cute, which probably makes them effective.

Kwiziq is a runner up. I started using it because it was good for grammar, but the problem with Kwiziq is that it is like a school that wants to push you to the next grade whether you are ready for the lessons or not. By that I mean there are a few questions on a subject. It never seems to me that you do enough of a drill to see if you truly understand the material. Of course, there are chatrooms and discussions for all three of these, which the developers say are what you should be using to get the result I hope to see.

Duolinguo determined that I was fluent after I passed its level 6 without even an understanding of the Passé antérieur. It has since added on quite a few more levels, but I’m not very impressed. Especially since it translated “Alle menschen Brueders sein” as “all people will be brothers”. They should have gone on to say “all people will be siblings” if they are going to trod that path (yes, I was marked wrong for my translation of the convention “all men will be brothers”). meanwhile the Gymglish German language program, Wunderbla said I was at the advanced intermediate level.

Anyway, there are more than enough French sites which teach French as well. I have a thing for Le Nouvel Observateur’s site: https://la-conjugaison.nouvelobs.com/.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of really great sites for learning French out there. Even better, you can improve your French in France.

“Ruby Sparks Speaks Fluent French” partie trois

OK, a much more appropriate first line would have been something like: “Mes gars, le dîner est servi. J’espère que vous avez un bon appétit.” Just “bon appétit” makes absolutely no sense.

And upset French woman would probably said “putain” and some variation of “connard”.

“Ruby Sparks Speaks Fluent French” partie deux

I was surfing the web when I came up with a French Actress named Delphine Théodore who looks a bit like Zoe Kazan. Here is the link to her demo reel https://vimeo.com/5769438. Check her out and you’ll see why Zoe’s performance isn’t very accurate in my opinion. The fun thing would be to edit Delphine into the French scenes. Better yet, reshoot them with Delphine.

En surfant sur le web, je suis tombé sur une actrice française nommée Delphine Théodore qui ressemble un peu à Zoe Kazan. Voici le lien vers sa bande démo https://vimeo.com/5769438. Regardez-la et vous verrez pourquoi la performance de Zoe n’est pas très fidèle à mon avis. Ce qui serait amusant, c’est de monter Delphine dans les scènes françaises. Mieux encore, les re-filmer avec Delphine.