Monthly Archives: August 2006

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Never heard of Elvis.

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 31st, 2006|Strasbourg|

If you had asked me to name a French celebrity before I moved to France, then Gérard Depardieu or Vanessa Paradis are perhaps the only two, excluding politicians, I could have named. Certainly not Johnny Hallyday - because I'd never heard of him. This is the man who is billed as the French equivalent of Elvis - he's been rocking the French charts for over forty years. His first album was released in 1960, his forty-fourth in 2005, and he's still going strong. What's more - Johnny is still as popular now as he was forty years ago; and his influence on French culture is such that when he recently vocalised his support for right-wing politician and presidential candidate - Nicolas Sarkozy - it made headline news. In short - this man is bigger than Elvis.So how is it possible to have never heard of him? Quite simply: because he generally sings in French; and unfortunately the only way for a French artist to get any airtime in the UK is either to sing in English or to enter [...]

Subtitles for the slow of learning

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 30th, 2006|Strasbourg|

There are many ways to improve your French, and one favoured by many is to switch on the subtitles while you're watching TV. Not only will this give you a better idea of what's going on, it should also help understand the phonetics of the language a little better (provided you have the volume up); all the while improving your vocabulary too. Unfortunately for us - the electric gold-fish bowl in our living room, although SECAM compatible, does not stretch to the ultra-modern functionalities of teletext and subtitles. So we have had to look elsewhere to try out this method of language learning. Now, call me naïve but I had assumed that the DVD (or Digital Versatile Disk if you will) was invented for just such an eventuality. However, it seems that even if a disk is chock-a-block with all sorts of language options, that doesn't mean it has French as one of those options. For example, Gattaca can be listened to in English or German; with subtitles in English, German, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hindi, Hebrew, Turkish, Danish, [...]

Trust me – I speak Engleesh

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 29th, 2006|Strasbourg|

We took our nipper to see the doctor today - for one of those harrowing hyperdermic appointments. The doctor in question came highly recommended by way of an American acquaintance of ours. Of course this recommendation was not based upon his abilty to diagnose symptoms; his charming bedside manner; nor his dexterity with a stethoscope. No. His ability to speak English was all that mattered. It's amazing how much you are prepared to trust someone - just because they can speak your language. But I suppose until we have mastered the ins and outs of French medical terminology - what choice do we have? "Tony Blair? Oh yes - he's an excellent Prime Minister - I mean - he speaks English!"

En congé

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 28th, 2006|Strasbourg|

Today I was able to pick up a copy of the free local rag 'Metro' for the first time in about six weeks. No stikes, or local supply problems have been to blame for this of course - because Metro hasn't actually been published for the past six weeks! The French news industry, like all other industries in France, has been on leave - or "en congé" to use the vernacular, for the summer. Of course news per se doesn't just stop for the holidays. Le Monde, Figaro et al are all still published as normal. The trick is - finding a newsagent who isn't en congé in order to actuallly buy a copy, and then to find a story in the paper that hasn't been written by a journalist who is clearly en congé too. It is noticable from mid July onwards that the vast majority of news reports on TV and in the papers seem to eminate from some of France's most popular holiday destinations. This is not coincidence, it is simply because - that's where all [...]

More complaining

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 27th, 2006|Strasbourg|

It seems my French is destined to improve. The complaint method was again swung into action last night when I was forced to call "La Police" to express my displeasure at being woken by a bunch of Chavs partying outside my window - at 3am. Of course the brief conversation I had with the frankly tired-sounding gendarme required the standard "I must warn you - I'm English" preamble; even so, I managed to make myself understood in a foreign language when only one side of my brain was functioning (the other side was still asleep). Remarkably I was only asked to repeat myself once, or twice ... possibly more, I can't really remember.

Je suis gourmand

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 26th, 2006|Strasbourg|

The French would describe someone who loves their food as a "Gourmand"; but literally translated into English this actually means "who ate all the pies - you greedy fat bastard". Only in France could such a personal affront be taken as a compliment!

France = Personal Space

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 25th, 2006|Strasbourg|

News that the population of the UK has finally topped 60 million prompted me to do a quick bit of maths: The published figures show that the population density of the UK as a whole, which has a surface area of 247,000 square km is around 240 (people per km sq). Compare this with France, which has a similar sized population - but is over 547,000 km sq - the figure is a mere 108 people per km sq. What makes really frightening reading though, is when you exclude Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales from the calculation. England covers 130,000 km sq, while at the same time accounting for 50 million inhabitants [83% of the UK] - which brings the people per kilometre figure England up to a frightening 387. That makes England the most densely populated country in Europe!So if there was ever a reason to move to France - surely it is to enjoy 3.6 times more personal space; a 3.6 times bigger house; and 3.6 times more parking space!?

How to open a business bank account in France

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 24th, 2006|Strasbourg|

Simply fill out: a new account request (3 pages + 2 carbon copies)an accounts convention form (4 pages + 2 carbon copies)an appendix to the accounts convention (1 page + 2 carbon copies)a stocks & investments form (1 page)a personsal profile form (3 pages)a customer survey form (1 page)a transaction profile form (1 page)an active client form (1 page)...and a signature card Who says there's too much bureaucracy in France?

Linguaphone

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:06+00:00 August 23rd, 2006|Strasbourg|

My mother-in-law sent us a Linguaphone CD in the post the other day. Apparently it came free with a copy of the Daily Mail. Learn French in a week. It promises. No reading, no writing, no effort! Clearly both of these statements are untrue. Why? To learn French in a week - you need to listen to nine CDs - but in order to get the other eight you're required to buy the Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday for at least a month. While No effort'- implies that forcing yourself to buy the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday for weeks on end isn't in the least bit taxing. Who are they kidding? I would have to have had lost the will to live before buying the same paper as my mother-in-law!

Time to whinge

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:07+00:00 August 22nd, 2006|Strasbourg|

I realise that the only reason I have spoken French this week (beyond "Une baguette s'il vous plait") has been to complain about something. Quite why I suddenly become a confident linguist when I need to moan I can't explain; but whatever the reason, I'm thinking that for the sake of progressing of my French - perhaps I should do it more often? At school - rarely could I summon the enthusiasm to recite polite French small-talk. So perhaps if old Mr Evans had taught me how to say things such as: "You can bring your dog into the children's playground again, by all means, but next time I see it - it better be wearing a muzzle and have a cork up it's arse!" ... then possibly I would have paid more attention.