Last week's excursion to Auchan was educational. Our final shopping list before Christmas had all the usual suspects upon it - except Mince Pies, which we already knew were strictly British fare. So, this being our first proper Christmas in Strasbourg we had the chance to find out exactly what the French do and don't have for Christmas Dinner. On the downside - Christmas crackers play no part in the festivities. Which means no funny hats no silly little toys and no lame fun-for-all-the-family jokes. Which frankly is the best part for most of us. Boo! On the upside - no Turkey or cranberry sauce, both of which are derivative of American tradition anyhow. Instead, the French appear to opt for either Goose (which is what we traditionally ate in Britain until we discovered Turkey was a lot bigger and cheaper) or "Chapon". Now look up "Chapon" in a French-English dictionary - and you'll find that the equivalent noun in English is "Capon". If you're still in the dark this might be becuase it is a word that is [...]
'Join a club or society' is the advice I've had from several quarters, when I have complained of my limited exposure to French people. You see it's all very well chatting away in French to your fellow students, but this won't advance your understanding of the language beyond what you already know. Furthermore - you'll only ever get used to listening to French pronounced with a foreign accent. So prolonged exposure to the opinions of my German, American, Irish, Slovenian, Italian and Dutch classmates over a cup of coffee isn't necessarily going to do anything beyond boost my confidence with the language. Pronounciation, new vocab and grammar has to be picked up in class - or out on the street ... So, following advice, I have joined an French-speaking group to play Dungeons and Dragons once a month. The game, which I had a passion for in my youth - but has alluded me since my later teen years, has already suceeded in expanding my vocabulary vastly after just two sessions. For example, I now know these handy, everyday [...]
Someone pointed out this amusing little article in The Times to me. Clearly it's slightly skewed, being based upon a Fulham & Kensington lifestyle (which is hardly representative of the country) but there are many chortle-worthy truths in there that apply to us all. It is an extract from a book by Hortense de Monplaisir; entitled Le Dossier: How to Survive the English.
Today my thoughts are featured on whatenglandmeanstome.co.uk - a website dedicated to studying the concept of Englishness. The site has been set up by a group of Academics at the University of Ulster who are hoping to gain some insight into the way England is regarded, now that devolution has paved the way for a possible break-up of The Union. There are submissions from a number of prominent MP's as well as from ordinary bloggers like myself. It makes interesting reading. Please feel free to add your comments to the site. [Go there now]