You may not always have the time to indulge in a full Netflix series. So what should you do if you want a daily dose of short (interesting) French content when you’re pressed for time?
We’ve pulled together our suggestions of sites and YouTube channels which have a constant source of contemporary, relevant and interesting French content. Most of the sites we have listed do have a subtitles option too (if you’re feeling like you need the extra support).
As in the UK, the 1st April in France is a day traditionally associated with playing pranks on people. One of the pranks French school children sometimes play is to sneakily attach a paper fish to an unsuspecting victim’s back and run away shouting ‘poisson d’avril!’ (‘April fish!’) when the victim realises they’ve been pranked.
But why fish? No one is exactly sure…Some theories say that it’s associated with the zodiac sign Pisces which begins around this time. Others say that it’s to do with the start of the fishing season. But most agree it’s probably something to do with the change in the calendar which was ordered in mid-16th Century which made 1st January the start of the new year as opposed to 1st April. Those who were slow to catch up were called ‘April fish’…
At the beginning of 20th Century it was customary to send postcards to mark the occasion. You’ll find some of our favourites below (weird but wonderful they may be!).
It can be an overwhelming thing to begin with so here’s some top tips to help you out:
Don’t look up every word you don’t know. It will take the joy out of it.
Pick a book you already know which has been translated into French (see number 4 below)
Start with children’s books as they may be written at a more accessible level.
Below you’ll find our pick of 5 French books for beginner and intermediate learners to get you started…
Pas de Whisky pour Méphisto by Paul Thiès
‘Méphisto, c’est sûrement un sorcier déguisé en chat’
At only 38 pages long, most French learners need not be intimidated by this book. It’s a tale about a cat – Méphisto – who has a penchant for whiskey… (sounds great no?). This would be a great place to start if you’ve never read a book in French before.
2. Le Petit Nicolas by René Goscinny
Le Petit Nicolas is a series of French children’s books which have remained a firm favourite amongst adults and children alike since they were first published in 1959. These charming books are narrated by 7-year-old Nicolas who tells us of the world through his eyes. Funny, witty and easy to read they are a must for French learners at any level. The illustrations by the incredible Jean-Jacques Sempé make them easy to follow, even if you don’t have all the vocab. If you like them, you can also watch the 2009 film adaption (watch the trailer here).
3. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Le petit prince is one of the best-selling books ever written and it has been translated into over 300 languages. Its enduring charm has captivated both adults and children since it was first published in 1943. But be under no illusion, its seemingly simple tale is filled with meaningful lessons about life…
4. Any Harry Potter book translated into French
If you are a Hogwarts fan, chances are you know the stories like the back of your hand. In that case, it can be a good idea to get hold of a French translation. As you are already familiar with the story, it can be easier to guess the vocab. You will also have huge respect for the ingenious translators tasked with accurately translating the names of spells and places. Can you guess what “Poufsouffle”, ‘baguette magique’ and ‘Choixpeau Magique’ mean?
5. L’Étranger by Albert Camus
Long considered a classic of 20th century literature, L’Étranger is ranked number 1 on Le Monde’s ‘100 books of the century’ list. Written by Albert Camus in 1942, the book demonstrates the depths of human apathy as the main character, Meursault, is put on trial for the murder of an Arab man. Featuring murder, death and grief this isn’t a light read but if you want to really test your French with a literary classic, this one could be for you.
We hope this list helps you on your journey to reading in French. And don’t forget that if you need some 1:1 support from our tutors (or even some book recommendations!) you can book a free 15 minute consultation with us today.
Until such time as we can board a plane to our beloved France, here’s a list of books we compiled to help transport you across the Channel…
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
This book is featured on every ‘best books set in Paris’ list for a reason. Since it was first released in 2006 it has become an international best-seller, translated into more than forty languages and named as a New York Times bestseller.
In it, we discover what goes on behind closed doors in an elegant, bourgeois Parisian apartment building where the inhabitants are not as they seem…
2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
‘An epic and a masterpiece’ – The Observer
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2015 this is a novel set in occupied France during World War 2. It follows the lives of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
3. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
“He might be ragged and cold or even starving, but so long as he could read, think and watch for meteors, he was, as he said, free in his own mind.”
Published in 1933 this 2-part memoir recounts Orwell’s time as a struggling writer living a life of poverty in the great cities of Paris and London. Sleeping in bug infested rooms and working as a dishwasher in a hotel, Orwell exposes the hardships experienced by those on the fringes of society. Not a light read by any stretch but an interesting account of the underworld of these dazzling cities.
4. Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull
“This isn’t like me. I’m not the sort of girl who crosses continents to meet up with a man she hardly knows. Paris hadn’t even been part of my travel plan…”
A must-read for anyone who has fallen in love with a French person and is trying to integrate into French society. This book follows the real-life highs and lows experienced by Turnbull – an Australian – as she navigates her new life in Paris.
5. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Set in both 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, this is a book about friendship and redemption in the aftermath of the AIDs crisis. It was selected as one of New York Times Best 10 Books of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book and a pick for the New York Public Library’s Best Books of the year.
Do you have a recommendation to add? We’d love to from you @frenchtoast_lessons or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emma Mackey (OK this one is a bit of a cheat because Emma was technically born in France and she is French and British. Her Father is French and her mother is English). Still really cool to hear her speak French though!
2. Bradley Wiggins
3. Emma Thompson
4. Eddie Izzard – If you haven’t seen Eddie Izzard’s ‘Learning French’ sketch you are in for a treat. You will also totally be able to relate if you studied GCSE French and subsequently found it completely useless…
Oh là là! For the first time in a long time, there’s hope in the air. Spring is springing and over the next few months the lockdown in England will be gradually eased thanks to the roll out of the Coronavirus vaccine.
However, whilst we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel the vast majority of us remain under a strict ‘stay at home’ order for at least some weeks yet…
So why not use this time to give your French learning an extra boost?
To help you out, here are 10 tried and tested ways you can learn French without leaving the house
Have a post-it party!
Look up the French words for items around the house and label them with post its. The more you look at them the more chance you have of remembering them over the long term. It’s not like you can have guests around right now, so it doesn’t matter if it looks a bit messy
2. Download a French radio app
Try downloading an app like Simple radio so that you can listen to French radio whilst you’re pottering around the house. 40% of all music on French radio must be of French origin so the chances of hearing authentic French music are pretty high. Fip is really cool if you like jazz. France Inter and France Culture are also great.
3. Watch French breakfast telly.
Our favourite is Télématin (TF1) which you can watch on catch up here. They have uplifting stories and great presenters and it can be a great way to start your day.
4. Watch a French TV series on Netflix.
Believe it or not, Netflix is a fantastic resource for language learning. The subtitle/dubbing options can help you out whatever your current level. Our personal favourites are 10 pour cent (Call my agent) and Lupin. Check out our Instagram posts each week for recommendations of French films and series from French Toast students.
5. Cook up an à la carte delight!
Look up French meal ideas and follow the recipes in French. Try Marmiton, or La recette for starters (no pun intended).
6. Follow the news in France.
You can follow the accounts of Liberation (@liberationfr) and Le Monde (@lemondefr) on Instagram or Twitter. Also check out their web pages.
7. Make your own ‘French word of the day’ calendar.
Print off a blank calendar template and fill each day with a new French word. For inspo, follow @frenchtoast_lessons for daily French vocab list.
8. Change your phone settings to French.
This is a great way to learn vocab about emails/the internet/social media. But just make sure you remember how to switch it back.
9. Speak French on Zoom as part of a supportive community.
You can join a French conversation class like ours or if you’re on a budget look up a language exchange (many of which are free). There are also plenty of Facebook groups where you can find people willing to exchange languages online for free (just search for French learners or French language learning)
10. Don’t go it alone.
If you’ve been using a self-guided approach to learning French you may find that at some points your motivation starts to wane. If you would benefit from some additional 1:1 support, book a free consultation with us today to find out how our native-speaker French tutors might be able to help you stay on track and make infinite progress with French.
If you’re a Brit planning to spend a couple of months of the year in France then the good news is Brexit will not stand in your way. But what if you plan to move to France permanently, can you still make this dream a reality?
The answer is yes, you can.
UK citizens can still move to France after Brexit. It just isn’t as easy (or cheap) and there’s a few more hoops to jump through…
From now on, if you plan to spend more than 90 days in France you will need to apply for a visa as would any non-EU national (gosh we took that special treatment for granted didn’t we…). If you’re not sure which visa you need, the French visa site has a handy ‘visa wizard’ to help you choose.
If you want to stay for less than 12 months then you can apply for either a long stay visitor visa or a temporary long stay visa both of which cost about €99. Once you have this visa, then you are able to apply for a Residency Permit (known as the Carte de Sejour or Titre de Sejour). Prior to Brexit, the minimum income requirement for this was around €650 per month (for a single person) but has increased to around €1250 per month. You now also need to have a minimum level of French equivalent to about A2 level. Not sure what your current level is? Book a call with us to find out.
France is not currently issuing visas due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, so if you are planning to apply it’s best to wait a little while.
Can I still buy a house in France after Brexit?
Yes, you can. Property purchases are not affected by Brexit. Unless, of course, you plan to spend more than 90 days there in which case you would still need to apply for one of the visas above.
Can I still go on holiday to France after Brexit?
Yes, absolutely. Once travel is permitted we can resume our Paris city breaks and wine tasting trips once again! You can spend 90 out of every 180 days in France visa-free. Bear in mind, however, that this is 90 days out of 180 in the whole EU. So you can’t spend 90 days in France then pop down to Italy for another 90 (tant pis).
Also bear in mind that in the next couple of years, the Schengen area will introduce the ETIAS scheme – the European Travel Information and Authorisation System which is a light-weight visa entry system (similar to the ESTA in US). For now though, things continue pretty much as they were…
It’s still early days so no doubt changes will be introduced but hopefully this has cleared up where you stand on moving to France after Brexit.
It’s no secret that we Brits find the French accent pretty sexy (merci Fred from First Dates). In fact, French has a world-wide reputation as the ‘language of love’. But where does this idea come from? And what makes it so romantic?
For starters, let’s clear something up. French is one of the ‘romance’ languages but this has nothing to do with the fact that it’s also a ‘romantic’ language (weird eh?)
The ‘romance’ languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, Romanian) are so-called because they have their roots in the Latin spoken by the Western Roman Empire. The fact that French is known globally as a ‘romantic’ language – associated with love and romance – is unrelated. So where does this association come from?
The truth is, no one really knows. Of course, there’s no official scoreboard for what makes a language ‘romantic’. But if there were, the rolling ‘r’s, mesmerising musicality and poetic phrases of the French language would probably score it near the top.
Plus, the country’s capital city is literally known as the ‘capital of love’ with a rich history of art, music and poetry strongly associated with romance. Who can compete with that?
Bottom line is, the idea of French being a romantic language is pretty cliché and borne out of Western ideas of love and romance we pick up from books, films and widely-held stereotypes (there is NOTHING romantic about Line 13 of the Paris metro in rush hour) …but it’s now so engrained in our conceptions of France and the French language that it’s hard to distinguish the two.
Rest assured, there’s so much more to the French language that just some gooey romantic phrases (although they are nice too – keep an eye out for our next post).
When you’re learning French, it’s not enough to just learn some vocab and gobble down the grammar books. Until you explore the culture and traditions of this beautiful country you’ll only get half a story. So it’s important to spend some time getting au fait with some of the festivals and traditions which exist in France (especially if you’re thinking of moving over there).
One such tradition takes place on the 2nd February: ‘La Chandeleur’ (a.k.a. French pancake day). Whilst it started out as a religious holiday it is now basically a day to celebrate this delicious French food in all its glory. French families will traditionally eat crêpes in the evening and children may take pancakes to school to share with friends.
The shape of the crêpe is said to symbolise the coming return of the Sun and in fact there are several mentions of the weather on La Chandeleur. Some sayings you might here are:
“Quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, il pleut pendant quarante jours” (If it rains on Chandeleur, it will rain for 40 days)
“Soleil de la Chandeleur, annonce hiver et malheur” (If it’s sunny on Chandeleur wintry weather and misfortune lies ahead).
It’s also a pretty superstitious occasion. In some parts of France you might see someone put a coin on top of the crepe whilst it cooks to bring luck. Others insist on holding a coin in your right hand while you flip the crêpe with your left. A successful flip will bring luck and prosperity in the year ahead (we’d better start practising…).
So if you do find yourself in France on 2nd February, make sure you stock up on eggs, flour and milk (and of course…Nutella) so that you don’t miss out on this joyous day of indulgence!