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Archive for February, 2009

Photo originally uploaded by jew_bokobz on Flickr

I recently came across a great article in Courrier International entitled “Obama inspiré par Sarkozy.”

Courrier International is a French weekly which takes articles from papers around the world, drawing from publications as eclectic as the Madagascar Tribune and the Yorkshire Post, and translates them into French. I wish we had an English version of this – does anybody know one?

This particular article on Sarkozy and Obama was a translation of a piece that originally appeared in Newsweek under the title “Big Government is Back – Big Time”. The author used a teasing lead-in, claiming Obama’s speeches were becoming more and more like Sarkozy’s but the rest of the article simply focused on Obama moving towards a more “European-style” paternalistic government.

Courrier International’s translation of the article was spot on (compare the Courrier verision and the original if you like) but the editor couldn’t resist sexing up the title. Use Obama in the headlines because Obama sells.

Such is Obama’s popularity in France, that in the last 12 months, Obama has been Googled by the French twice as much as they Google their own president, Sarkozy.

I found this out using Google insights. If you look at the bottom of this Google insights search, you’ll see that the most popular search terms for Sarkozy are actually for his wife, Carla Bruni.

Oh dear. It looks like Sarkozy is the one in need of inspiration.


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Happy Shrove Tuesday everyone. If you’re after pancakes à la française, try this step by step guide to making crêpes from videojug:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And if that inspires you, why not try out something a little fancier. French food blog La Tartine Gourmande was one of the nominees at the Best Food Blogs Awards 2009. Check it out, if nothing else, just to make your mouth water. Another good site in English is the About French Food Blog.

My favourite blog written in French is not so imaginatively titled Mon Blog Cuisine. (The recipes are much more imaginative, I promise.)  Tambouille is another great little site, with really simple recipes and brilliant illustrations.

Bon appétit!

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At a lecture at City University yesterday, media commentator Roy Greenslade blamed Britain’s press for the British public’s continuing negative attitude towards Europe.

He pointed out that the papers rarely covered the goings on of the EU and that when the EU did hit the headlines it was often portrayed in a negative light.

According to Greenslade there are two competing narratives advanced by Euroskeptic Fleet Street: Underlying most news stories is either the assumption that there is a Franco- German conspiracy to run the EU together or the assumption that the EU is a sham because individual nations are constantly at each other’s throats.

Certainly the big EU story of the moment is the Czech President’s call for an EU summit to prevent French “protectionist” measures. The move came after Sarkozy announced a €6.5bn rescue package for French carmakers and said that they should consider relocating their plants in the Czech Republic back to France.

The difference in the coverage of the events by the French and British media is really interesting and seems to offer a good example of Greenslade’s thesis. While the Brits tended to focus on Czech- French tensions (see this article in the BBC for one example), the French looked at how the European Commission was investigating the matter first, and Czech accusations only second (see this article in L’Express).

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this one event. What do you think? Is the British media’s EU coverage too negative? Is the French media’s coverage any better?

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Many thanks to my friend Ali for showing me this clip. It made my day. Maybe it will make yours.

I’m guessing if you’re reading my blog you’ve got an interest in France. You may be interested in learning the French language.

Forget textbooks – or at least don’t rely on them alone. The best way to buff up your language skills is to watch as much telly or film en français as you can. Listen to French radio and download French music.

If you’re looking for French songs where the lyrics are easy to understand try Carla Bruni. France’s first lady isn’t just a hot fashionista. She’s a singer-song writer with a penchant for singing about her sex-life. And she sings slowly and clearly enough that you can grasp most of what she’s saying, even with G.C.S.E French.

Many French television stations put their programmes online. My personal favourite is TV5 – it’s got an international focus and normally has a cultural bit at the end. TV5’s site also has a weekly news round-up in video clips and specialised news video sections for science, the economy and Africa

Getting hold of as much of this media as you can will make all the difference to your French. When I was teaching at a French Lycée, the pupil who spoke the best English was the one who was so obsessed with One Tree Hill that she couldn’t wait for it be translated into French. She learnt English (with an American accent) downloading the series off the net.

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On French television a couple of days ago Sarkozy declared France would not commit the same economic errors as Britain, saying:

 «Les Anglais ont fait le choix d’une relance par la consommation avec, notamment, une baisse de la TVA, dont on voit bien que ça n’a amené absolument aucun progrès.»

[ “The English chose to boost [the economy] through consumer spending by lowering VAT, which, we’ve seen, has led to absolutely no progress.”]

Downing Street responded in that most typical British fashion – it resorted to irony, telling reporters:

“The Elysee have been in contact this morning to assure us that these remarks were not meant as a critique of UK economic policy – which is nice.”

Less than a year ago on a state visit to England, the French premier had promised that an “entente formidable” would develop between the two countries.

It should be no surprise that this beautiful promise didn’t come to fruition. From William the Conqueror to more modern times when De Gaulle said non to Britain joining the ECC, the Anglo-French entente has always been something of a love-hate relationship.

That Sweet Enemy by Robert and Isabelle Tombs is a brilliant book documenting this relationship from the time of the Sun King to the present. I would definitely recommend it. It’s humorous, insightful and well worth the read. Although at nearly 800 pages, it is perhaps too long, so you might want to just dip in and out of chapters.

For something far less time-consuming, see the YouTube clip below. Before you do, I just want to say I absolument don’t agree with the politics behind the video but it is funny nonetheless.

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A French spy film set in London has shot to number two in the French box office.

The film, Espion(s) has also received rave reviews from the press in France for its beautiful shots of London and sexy storyline: Guillaume Canet plays Vincent, a baggage-handler at DOrly who is forced into becoming a spy by the French secret service and MI5 after he witnesses a bomb explosion. His first task is to charm the French wife of an English millionaire.

Its being touted as an art-house, more philosophical version of the Bourne films. Lets hope it makes it way over here.

If you want to get the views of average French people on the film see Allocine. This useful website gives a synopsis of the film, details the star ratings given by big French publications and has users’ film reviews.  

For more high-brow analysis, try Matthieu Tuffreaus cinema Blog at Le Monde. (You can find Allocine‘s homepage in my bookmarks and a link to Matthieu Tuffreau’s blog in my blogroll.)

Or if you just want an overview in English, try this page from The Guardian.

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As we begin to get over our initial excitement at yesterday’s snow and start to grumble about the disruption it caused, spare a thought for our neighbours over the channel.

Today it was announced that the storm which battered south-west France last week will cost insurers up to 1.4 billion. And that figure accounts for damages alone.  It does not take into account the money which Storm Klaus has cost businesses.

It’s been ten days since the storm hit France’s Atlantic coast. Life still hasn’t completely got back to normal in the nine départements (regions) which were affected.   

According to the freesheet 20minutes, 39,150 homes are still without electricity and rail services had not yet returned to normal.

When I was searching through Flickr for photos of Klaus, I came across an appeal for victims of the storm. See post below if you’re interested in donating.   

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