Archive for the ‘language’ Category

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.

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:

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.


I would have liked to have seen French, Dutch/Flemish, and German as part of the languages choices at this ATM. Also, Russian is noticeably absent.

Oh well.

I’ll add that one of my cards will automatically get me French in some ATMs.

I’m all for being international, but…

Ich spreche non allemandian

I’m in a local food store and see this packet at the counter. I’m not sure what language this is supposed to be. It reminds me of Miles Kington’s franglais. Seriously, stick to one language here!

And while we are on Euro Junk food

Posted 17/10/2010 by lacithedog in internationalism, language


I took part in a study on aphasia when I was at University. They would insert odd things in a sentence and see how long it took me to spot the discrepancy. One sentence was “she went into the forest where she was scared by a tick”. Of course, that was a bit difficult since people ARE scared by ticks because of Lyme disease.

But in that vein, I bring you.

Only great minds can read this

If you can raed this, you have a uunsaul mnid too!

Can you raed this? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it

Well, Shakespeare never spelled his name the same way twice! COnsistant spelling was a late 18th- early 19th Century invention.

Posted 08/02/2010 by lacithedog in aphasia, language

terms of art

When a lawyer deals with a layman, the layman sometimes doesn’t realise that words in law can take different meanings from what the words normally mean. These new meanings are called terms of art. So, that’s why the term “people” in the Second Amendment has a different meaning for lawyers and the “people”.

Anyway, I was on the phone today with another lawyer who is an expert on gun laws when I learned something I never knew. I mean this guy eats, sleeps, and shits gun laws (and knows about DC v Heller). So, it came out that the term “firearm” in Chapter 61 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes basically means only handguns. Actually from section 6102:

Any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches or any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. The barrel length of a firearm shall be determined by measuring from the muzzle of the barrel to the face of the closed action, bolt or cylinder, whichever is applicable.

Now, 26 inches is pretty dinky for a rifle. Think H&K MP5A3 with the stock closed and you’re getting the idea. A Remington 870 has a barrel length of 28 inches.

Where this comes into play is § 6106.1. Carrying loaded weapons other than firearms.

(a) General rule.–Except as provided in Title 34 (relating to game), no person shall carry a loaded pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle, other than a firearm as defined in section 6102 (relating to definitions), in any vehicle. The provisions of this section shall not apply to persons excepted from the requirement of a license to carry firearms under section 6106(b)(1), (2), (5) or (6) (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license) nor shall the provisions of this section be construed to permit persons to carry firearms in a vehicle where such conduct is prohibited by section 6106.


So, technically, an AK-47 isn’t a firearm under this law which means a permit to carry a firearm isn’t valid for a loaded one. On the other hand, I could carry an MP5K since it is less than the lengths mentioned.

Got that?

I’ve been doing firearms law for 15 years now and this was new to me, but I would keep my rifle unloaded, in a case, and in the car boot. So, I wouldn’t have had to worry too much. Unlike my client who had a loaded AK-47 in the backseat of his car near an airport who is in trouble.

Anyway, Some words mean different things to Lawyers from what they mean to the masses. I am a bit disappointed in a lot of commentary on legal topics by people who aren’t legally trained as most miss the point. Some words have different meanings in law and you need to be aware of this.

Law is like a game and one needs to know the rules and terminology to properly play the game. You can’t go in with notions that are not backed in the law and try to play the game.

So, don’t come to me and try to argue when you haven’t a background in law and you are saying things which are without basis in the law. It takes a long time to properly learn the law and how to practise it.

Posted 02/04/2008 by lacithedog in language, law, laymen, terms of art