How Duolingo uses dirty gaming tricks to get you addicted to French

By watching its users learn languages – and make mistakes – in real time, Duolingo is developing a unique view of education

After months spent away from the language-learning app Duolingo, my level-five French skills were in decline. The “food” category was particularly threatened, coded red (for danger) with just one “strength bar” remaining. I clicked it, and was asked to translate: Je mange un repas. No problem. “I eat…” Wait, what was repas? My mind drifted to arepas, the Colombian snack. Defeated, I Google Translated. A meal! I should have intuited this from the English “repast”. But, in the moment, I forgot.

Learning is forgetting; or, more accurately, it’s virtually forgetting that we know something, but then being able to magically retrieve it when called upon. As Ulrich Boser, author of Learn Better, suggested to me, the human mind is not simply a computer; we will forget things, at a fairly predictable rate. So should I have simply drilled French food vocabulary every morning over my petits déjenuers? No, Boser says. The best thing “is to learn a word right when you’re about to forget it”. With each instance of effortful relearning, you remember longer [ . . . ]

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Raising a glass to the language of intoxication

 

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Language notes on the French art of drinking

As you would expect, there are many French maxims relating to booze. Alfred de Musset, a 19th-century poet, was not too picky with his preferences: Qu’importe le flacon, pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse – “Nevermind the bottle, as long as you’re intoxicated”. But perhaps the neatest summation of alcohol’s role in French life came from Napoleon, who once said, “In victory, you deserve Champagne. In defeat you need it.”

Autumn is upon us, and the grape harvest is under way in vineyards, from Reims to the Rhône Valley, so here we look at French expressions that relate to enjoying a tipple and having one too many.

We often think of the French as moderate – or, at least, quite sensible – drinkers, but in 2013 the phrase beuverie express appeared in the country’s official journal. It became part of the language and ‘binge drinking’ had officially arrived in France…

It is by no means at UK levels but with this in mind, a stock familiar phrase for saying someone drinks too much is boire comme un trou – literally ‘to drink like a hole’. Similar to this are boire comme une éponge (drink like a sponge) or boire comme un évier (drink like a sink).

To drink oneself into a stupor is boire jusqu’à tomber, while to drink someone under the table is faire rouler quelqu’un sous la table.

Conversely, someone who demurely sips at their drink can be said to boire à petits coups. Other words for ‘to sip’ are siroter and gobeloter.

Need to hand out a few words of warning in French about the inhibition-removing effects of a few glasses of wine? Try Ce que le sobre tient au coeur est sur la langue du buveur – “What the sober hold in their heart is on the drinker’s tongue” This is a rather long winded way of saying in vino veritas.

Cul sec! (‘dry bottom’, or ‘Bottoms up!’).

 

Source: Raising a glass to the language of intoxication

How you can live happily in Paris without speaking French

Living in Paris

 

Writer Charli James, who has recently set up home in Paris, testifies to the fact you can lead a rich and happy life in the French capital even if you can’t communicate with the locals in their own lingo. Here’s how.

I barely speak French but I didn’t let this stop me from moving to Paris. And I do know I’m far from alone.Now I’m not advocating remaining French illiterate, especially if you plan to live here long term, and I am working hard to improve my own French, but soon after moving here, I realized you don’t actually have to speak the language very well to have a full life in Paris.Now this may sound implausible, but I promise there are a truckload of people doing this in Paris. [ . . . ]

French sheep

Read Full Story at: How you can live happily in Paris without speaking French – The Local

Trump: Je ne suis pas bien portant

Legendary French comic singer Gaston Ouvard performs “Je ne suis pas bien portant” (I Am Not In Good Health)

Donald Trump avoided military service to his country thanks to a “minor” malady. He said he had visited a doctor who provided him a letter for draft officials, who granted him the medical exemption. He could not remember the doctor’s name. (New York Times August 1, 2016)

Continue reading “Trump: Je ne suis pas bien portant”

Marie Yolande

eisenstadtThe first French voice ever to grace my eardrums belonged to Marie Yolande. I was in second or third grade, and the good Sister of Mercy who taught French lessons to our class of forty-five children at St. Peter School, played instructional French language records while she prayed a silent novena seated at her desk. (The merciless Sr. Padraig also used this time to devise a wrestling maneuver to subdue my pal Tommy Tanner – a lethal combination of the traditional “Full Nelson” and Killer Kowalski’s “Claw hold.”)

Marie Yolande was the girl on the instructional record, presumably the same age as us, and living in France. As the scratchy record played, we learned about what Marie ate for breakfast, the route she walked to school each day, and how she might say “Ouvre la fenêtre” to let the breeze into the kitchen where her mama cooked her favorite Cherry Clafoutis. I wasn’t too good at learning French (not much better today) but I was very good at dreaming about Marie Yolande.

I’ve searched for Marie Yolande on the Web de Worldwide. I think she is probably my age (On June 9th I turned 59, sacrebleu!) She might be a bit older, as the record was produced in the early 1960s, I think. I haven’t yet found a single web reference to Marie or to the French language records. I’d love to discover that Marie Yolande now works for “Doctors Without Borders,” or that she is a brilliant artist with a nom de plume like “Left Banksy.” Maybe she is the brains behind the hacktivist group “Anonymous.”

Willa Cather wrote, “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen again.” My memories of St. Peter School, my friends, and even the nuns are like that.

Où es-tu, Marie Yolande? 

Countdown for my trip to France: 16 days