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Archive for the ‘My French experiences’ Category

Take a look at this promo video a French friend sent me. If you watch it through you’ll notice something strange. It’s meant to be a video crossing linguistic and cultural barriers – by the youth of Europe for the youth of Europe – urging them to vote in the European elections.

Yet the British are conspicuously absent. The English subtitles and a few good attempts by (my guess is) a Scandinavian at an English accent cannot mask the fact that our fellow countryman have not got involved in this project.

From my experience of living in France, Brits have a bad reputation when it comes to politics. According to the stereotype, we’re too busy drinking tea to get down to the polling booth.  

Poor British turnout in the 1999 European elections seemed to confirm this. Just under 23% of us voted, compared with the 50% of Europeans who cast their ballots.

Our performance in the last European elections was, however, much better, with 39% of Brits turning out.  In 2004 we showed Europe that, although are feelings towards it are often at best ambivalent, we at least cared enough to have a say on its policies. Unlike France, there has actually been an upward trend in Britain in voter turnout in the European elections.

Whatever the reasons for us not being involved in Five Friends for Europe campaign, we can still show our amis across the channel that we’re politically engaged enough to vote in the EU elections.

Still unsure? Try votematch – a quick online questionnaire which works out which parties you agree with most by getting you to click “agree” or “disagree” to different policy statements. Even if it doesn’t throw up the party your heart tells you to vote for, at will at least get you thinking about the issues.

See you at the polling station…

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I recently went to see Palme d’Or-winning French film The Class, or as it was called in the original, Entre Les Murs. The semi-autobiographical work is based on a book by former teacher François Bégaudeau, who plays himself in the film.

Over 120 minutes, we are shown a strikingly realistic depiction of Bégaudeau’s experiences of teaching at a high school in the 19e arrondissement in Paris. The film culminates in a pupil being expelled.

It was really interesting for me to see how this incident shows the French school system to be at once more liberal and more authoritarian than the English system.

Before the student is expelled he is invited to a tribunal where he can defend himself. The teachers then vote on whether he should stay or go. I cannot imagine this happening in England. Instead it would no doubt be a case of the headmaster laying down the law.

However, the chain of events which lead up to the student’s expulsion start with him disrespecting his teacher by tutoiying him i.e. using tu rather than the more polite vous. Would this have been looked upon so harshly in England?

This got me thinking about the differences between the French and English education systems. So I decided to interview French students at City University, London, who have gone through both systems, to see what they thought. See video clip below.

 

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Sorry to do a bit of self-promotion but I thought you might be interested in a feature I wrote about Paris in the springtime for Tell! Magazine.

Here’s the intro to tempt you:

“As the old song goes, ‘I love Paris in the springtime’. And who doesn’t? But picking flowers under the Eiffel Tower and strolling along the banks of the Seine is just so done.

Here’s five ways to enjoy some of Paris’ more unusual offerings this spring… ”

Click on this link if you want to see the full article.

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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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In 2006-07, I was working as a French language assistant in Sète, a smallish fishing port on the Mediterranean cost. It’s a beautiful place and I’d definitely recommend visiting it if you’re ever in the south of France.

I had a great year and was lucky enough to experience that special French event – la grève (the strike) not once, but five times.

A couple of times the teachers themselves went on strike. One time it was over working hours. The government had plans to get rid of a system whereby certain professeurs could work fewer hours in the classroom to compensate for time spent preparing for lessons.  

When I first heard about the strike, I was tempted to think it had been called as a chance to do some Christmas shopping. It was on 18th December, after all.

But I remember the heated discussion that went on in the staff room. On one side there were the teachers bent on striking to defend their rights. On the other were those who felt this was an unnecessary strike, that the pupils would suffer and that there were more important battles to be fought.

It was thrilling to witness people so passionate about politics when in England I’ve only ever encountered apathy.

Of course, it also helped that the strike meant I could have the day off. Even if some teachers were coming in, I was told that most pupils would use it as an excuse to take a day off.

 

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