French on Fridays: Make Me Laugh


Do you have something you want to learn? Try having fun with it.

Harary and Weintraub, authors of Right Brain Learning In 30 Days have a cool idea about the function of humor in learning. They say...

It is our opinion...that there is a kind of humor barrier that must be traversed before learning can become truly instinctive and intuitive on every level.... It is almost as though it is okay to learn, once it becomes okay to laugh.

The authors then suggest finding cartoons that relate to your field of study. Or making up silly sayings. Or bantering with fellow learners.

In this spirit, here's one of my new favorite funny French songs, Foux du FaFa. Like Jeanne Damoff says, anyone who took high school French will totally appreciate it. If you didn't take high school French, no worries. It's still good for a chuckle.

Foux du FaFa Lyrics

Scrabble photo by L.L. Barkat.


Want to participate in French on Fridays, but don't know French? Type any English word here and get a translation into French. Include your word in a poem or vignette. Or just write about anything French (music, history, art, food). We're flexible. If you feel comfortable doing so, link back here in your post. That way we have a meeting place.

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French on Fridays: One Swallow

Fountain 1

Copying French by hand (and I do this with Spanish now too) is the perfect way to learn. This makes sense, and I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. After all, it is a common home-education practice to have children engage in "copy work" as a way to teach them proper English.

Also, this morning as I traced the words of Neruda over and again with my finger, in big invisible letters I made right there on his pages, I was reminded of a Memory Theory that suggests the more senses we engage the more we retain (go here for that info, which is called into question by this particular source but I think has a level of accuracy).

In any case, it worked with Neruda this morning. I "wrote," read visually, and spoke the material aloud concurrently. Within minutes I remembered "Allí se estira y arde en la más alta hoguera/mi soledad que da veultas los brazos como un náufrago." (There my loneliness stretches itself and burns upon the tallest bonfire, twisting its arms like a drowning man.)

It might be slow going if you learn French with me by copying one little word at a time. But then you are just here for the fun. Here is my offering for this week. A whole phrase instead of a word!

Une hirondelle
ne fait pas
le printemps

One swallow. One
hirondelle, watercolor
brown. Does not make.
Ne fait pas.The Spring.
Le printemps.

Nor one seed, a field
of rippling golden wheat.
Or one drop of white-blue
rain the weep of April.
But one glance from you—

a flock, a field, a flood.


Want to participate in French on Fridays, but don't know French? Type any English word here and get a translation into French. Include your word in a poem or vignette. Or just write about anything French (music, history, art, food). We're flexible. If you feel comfortable doing so, link back here in your post. That way we have a meeting place.

Need a little companionship to get the ball rolling? Take your French word over to Tweetspeak Poetry's game page and we can play a leisurely (untimed) poetry game together for a few days. It could make good grist. Also, we'd love to choose a few poems to feature next week at Tweetspeak!

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Night World

Moon in Flare, Kelly Langner Sauer

Little One has been writing again. This one delighted...

Night World

In a place, in a land, far from where we are, is a frantic fight in the dark of midnight,
A shadow lurks in the distant nearby, and as an onlooker you ask... why?

A girl and a boy, each on a black mount, moon shines in the sky,
Wind makes their hair swirl, the noise of that wind loud as a shout,
The air as cold as a knife, lightning strikes a nearby tree, the horses
Heads wheel about, and it's there without a doubt, the shatter breaks the air...

There's fire all around them, it begins to surround them, a sword slashes through
The bonds that tie them, fire closing in, their saver sees the last of her life in that
Night so dreadful... all would have been gone if it were not for their saver lost...

They find a riddle that reads like this: the stars to close they sparkle to embers,
The flower petal burnt, the bird's call sounded to save him from a trap so dreadful it
Couldn't be said, but the gold lost shall find the end...

Poem by Sonia, age 10. Used with permission. 'Moon in Flare' photo by Kelly Langner Sauer who has been lending me her moon. Used with permission.

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French on Fridays

Girl at Piano in Paris

Bonjour. And welcome to French on Fridays (I understand that today is Thursday, but I wanted to give you a chance to get ready for tomorrow, this being the first time and all.)

Anyhow, French on Fridays is my way of trying to make sure I do a French post every week (or almost every week, except when I get lazy, busy, or forgetful). And if you like croissants, Paris, French movies, or even Edith Piaf, you are welcome to join me and leave your link below. I don't know how much French we'll learn. But we could have fun. And Cassandra might even share a few gateaux (cake) recipes if we're lucky.

Honestly, I have no idea where this is going to go. But by now you know that is a very "me" thing. Cast something to the sky and see where it drifts.

Today I am going to do something very simple and offer a poem-ish thing. I know that French can be very intimidating, but I hope that's not how this goes. I hope you feel free to look at your counter, find an empty wrapper and maybe write something about it using a single French word somewhere in your vignette or poem. Really, the sky's the limit.


Jamais means 'never'
and only the French could bring
such softness to a word I would
prefer to close my eyes to as
I lounge upon my chaise. Oh, heck
you don't know French...


Want to participate but don't know French? Type any English word here and get a translation into French. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could link back here in your post. That way we have a meeting place.

Sonia at the Piano at Shakespeare & Co., Paris, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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How to Learn French

Marseilles top of city

Sometimes I get these crazy ideas in my head. Things I want to learn, for no particular reason. Studying French qualifies.

That said, I have my reasons...

1. Studying a language wards off senility; I may be a little early on this one, but that's okay

2. French is sexy and that has its appeal (true confession :)

3. When the ballet teacher says renversez, I remember I just learned it means "to spill." This kind of matches what I am supposed to do (bow from the waist, with a flat back and look graceful).

4. If I ever go to France again I can order my croissant in French instead of Spanish. This is a plus.

5. Some day I'll be able to read French poetry (sexy, times two)

This is all well and good, but studying French is one of the hardest things I've ever done (with the possible exception of beginning ballet as an adult.)

Here is what I'm doing to try to smooth the process:

1. Suspend my disbelief (this is hard to do when you've got a whole incomprehensible language before you, but I think it's essential)

2. Listen to French music every day; it helps me get that lilting pronunciation in my head

3. Read children's books. They are repetitive, which is good. I just have to hold back the sense that I can't even understand what the average French-speaking two-year-old can understand. (My current personal favorite is Je Vais Me Sauver)

4. Do one chapter in First Start French I every day. Try not to worry that I already forgot a third of yesterday's lesson.

5. When I'm not too lazy and forgetful, listen to that Frenchpod.com subscription I paid for. It I ever meet the President's wife, I will know how to say a proper hello. And if a friend falls during skiing I will know how to tell him to get back up after he renverse (spills himself not so gracefully).


For anyone who is interested, here is the basic conjugation of the verb renverser, which means to spill, topple, turn over...

je renverse
tu renverses
il renverse
nous renversons
vous renversez
ils renversent

je renverserai
tu renverseras
il renversera
nous renverserons
vous renverserez
ils renverseront

Marseilles Top of City photo, by L.L. Barkat.