Saturday 2 August 2014

French holiday conversation


Est-ce que tu as déjà … ? Have you ever …?

Est-ce que tu es déjà allé à + ville/en (f) /au (m) + pays ? Have you ever been to…?

Est-ce que tu es déjà allé en Grèce/Turquie ?

Est-ce que tu as déjà fait du yoga/ski nautique ?

Have you ever done yoga/water-skiing?

Est-ce que tu as déjà visité les Etats-Unis ?

Have you ever been to the USA ?

Réponses :

Oui, j’y suis déjà allé : Yes, I’ve been

Non, je n’y suis jamais allé : No, I have never been

Mais je prévois d’y aller bientôt/l’année prochaine/un jour

But I plan to go soon/next year/one day



Quand est-ce que tu pars? When are you leaving ?

Tu pars pour combien de temps ? How long are you going for ?

J’y vais pour une semaine/un mois : I’m going for a week/a month

Tu pars avec qui? Who are you going with ?

Tu pars de quel aéroport ? What airport are leaving from?

Ton vol est à quelle heure ? What time is your flight?


Faire la grasse matinée : to have a lie in

J’ai fait la grasse matinée hier : I had a lie in yesterday

Je ne vais rien faire: I’m not going to do anything

Je vais lire au bord de la piscine: I’m going to read near the pool

Je vais faire des excursions/ du yoga/des visites/des dégustations/de la marche/des cours de cuisine/d’espagnol/de grec/de japonais

I’m going to do day trips/yoga/visits/tastings/walking/cooking/Spanish/Greek/Japanese lessons.

Je prévois de + infinitive/ j’ai l’intention de + infinitive…I plan to…

Retour :

Quand est-ce que tu reviens ? When are you coming back?

Quelqu’un vient te chercher? Is someone picking you up?

Monday 30 June 2014

Rester is ‘to stay’, but it’s also…

My students are always at a loss when they’re trying to say:
‘How much time have we got left?’ ’We didn’t have time left’ etc.
The structure is very different in French:
Il me restera du temps: I will have time left
Il te restera 2 heures: you will have 2 hours left
Il lui restera 100 euros: he/she will have 100 euros left
Il leur reste 2 billets: they have 2 tickets left
Il nous restera un peu de crème: we'll have a bit of cream left
Il vous restera un peu d'énergie: you will have a bit of energy left.

It always starts with 'il' and depending on who is talking, you amend the pronoun preceeding the 'rester' verb.

A few examples in the past:
Il me restait 1h pour prendre le train. I had 1 hour left to take the train.
Combien il vous restait de temps? How much time did you have left?
Combien il vous restait (d'argent)? How much money did you have left?
Combien il vous restait de kilomètres? How many miles did you have left?

Others examples:
Il te reste de la peinture? Do you have paint left?
Il nous reste 3 exercices à faire. We have 3 exercises to do.
Il vous reste 3 mois à faire. You have 3 months left to do. 
Il t’en reste combien? How many have you got left?
Il nous reste combien de temps? How much time have we got left?
If you hear someone French start a sentence with ‘du reste’, it means: besides/moreover.
And ‘des restes’: means ‘leftovers’. We know the difference because of the articles – ‘du’ and ‘des’ sound very different to a French person.
Last but not least, ‘to rest’ is ‘se reposer’.
At the weekend, I rested: Ce weekend, je me suis reposé(e).
Se reposer is a reflexive verb, hence ‘je me suis…’

Saturday 24 May 2014

New French words


This is a link about some of the new French words in the dictionary this year with a guest who participates in making the dictionary. Go to 27 minutes 37 seconds for the start of this discussion.

New words (which they will mention in the programme; this is a good listening practice by the way):
vapoter: to smoke an e-cigarette
Psychoter (prononcez le 'p') = ruminer en boucle = to keep thinking about something negative or the definition I extracted from the dictionary:
'Angoisser de façon excessive, irrationnelle, imaginer un scénario catastrophique, laisser sa pensée tourner en boucle dans un sens systématiquement empirique' [psychologique].
'Arrête de psychoter': stop thinking about it (something negative).
la zénitude: being zen
C'est une tuerie (from 'tuer': to kill): it's amazing

For another listening practice: this is last Saturday's programme talking about the Cannes festival which was coming up and other things that happened during that week, with different journalists, some of them from the Elle magazine, but it's quite intellectual, being French.

Et pour finir, une interview de Julianne Moore (en français) qui vient de gagner le prix d'interprétation féminine au festival de Cannes:

About the radio programme links, either listen to a few minutes repeating it many times to catch the words, or/and listen to (depending on your level), 10/20/30 minutes of it and repeat or carry on till the end.

Let me know how you get on. Bonne chance!

Wednesday 14 May 2014

A funny language video with Jim Chapman


I loved this video where Jim and Zoe read each other sentences in different languages and try to guess the meaning. A great fun video!

Sunday 11 May 2014

French GCSE tips and useful phrases

Here are some tips inspired by my GCSE students’ mistakes in the last 2 weeks.

stutents studying


 Dans le matin, dans le soir, dans le weekend

Write: Le matin, le soir, le weekend (In the morning/In the evening/At the weekend)

Aussi, je vais à la patinoire   Je vais aussi à la patinoire.

‘Aussi’ is an adverb, and all adverbs should be placed after your verb or between the auxiliary and past participle for tenses such as perfect, pluperfect, future and condional perfect.

Aussi, j’ai visité la Russie et le Japon  J’ai aussi visité la Russie et le Japon. (perfect tense) .

‘Très’ doesn’t work with the adjectives below, replace it by ‘vraiment’ if you want to insist:

très nul = vraiment nul

très génial = vraiment génial

très délicieux = vraiment délicieux

What is the difference between ‘j’allais’ and ‘je suis allé’?

J’allais (imperfect): I used to go/I was going

Use ‘j’allais’ for things you used to do in the past, when you were younger for example, or if an action was interrupted by another:

J’allais chez le docteur quand mon amie m’appelée: I was going to the doctor’s when my friend called.

Je suis allé (perfect): I went (one-off event)

Hier, je suis allé au journal pour présenter mon article. Yesterday, I went to the newspaper to present my article.


JE VAIS = I’m going/I go (present)


propre: own (ma propre chambre: my own room)

or clean (la maison est propre)

sale: dirty (not to confuse with ‘salle’: room, although it’s the same sound)

About hobbies/activities and why you like them:

Cela me donne de l’énergie: it gives me energy

Cela me met de bonne humeur: it puts me in a good mood

Use new words, don’t just stick to ‘bon, bien, super, génial’, that everybody uses, be different and stand out.

For food:

succulent = délicieux

For subjects, films, holidays, day out

passionnant = fascinant = très intéressant

palpitant: exciting

By the way, they are adjectives

Some essentials:

La plupart du temps: most of the time

Tout le temps: all the time

Bien que: although

J’ai  l’intention…d’aller/d’étudier/de partir = I plan…to go/to study/to leave

J’ai l’intention de + infinitive

Je voudrais: I’d like to

Je voulais: I wanted

ne…que: only

se soucier de = to care/to worry

Useful irregular futures:

J’aurai: I will have / je ferai: I will do/make /j’irai: I’ll go /je verrai: I’ll see


A lot of my students say ‘je jouais’ to say ‘je joue’ or j’étudiais’ when they mean ‘j’étudie’. The ‘e’ is silent. So if you pronounce the verb the wrong way, like above, you’re saying ‘I used to play/I was playing’ instead of ‘I play/I’m playing’ or ‘I used to study/I was studying’ instead of ‘I study/I’m studying’.

Thursday 24 April 2014

Eddie Izzard talking about French


As you know or may not know, Eddie Izzard loves doing stand-up comedy in French. So if you’re in need of a laugh after (or before) your French lesson, watch this video.

And this one: ‘Eddie Izzard on stand-up and French language’, with lots of interesting questions from the Brunell students.

What do you think? I’m interested to read your comments.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Tips to improve your French


I’ve reached a plateau, I’m frustrated

How do I improve my French?

You’re frustrated with your speaking

• If you want to improve your speaking, you have to speak regularly even to… yourself. Sing French songs, find or write the lyrics (listening practice) and then sing!

• Speak French to your family and friends, even if they don’t understand everything, you  practice and develop habits, create automatisms and reinforce your vocabulary with the repetition.

• Repetition and regularity is everything

Liste de mots et phrases utiles (to carry with you at all times in your pocket/phone/ipad to revise in the tube/train/bus)

• C’est pas grave: it doesn’t matter

• Je lui ai dit: I told him

• Je suis perdu, où est…? I’m lost, where is…?

• Vous avez le même en rouge? Do you have the same in red?

• 70: soixante-dix, 71: soixante-et-onze…

• 80: quatre-vingt, 81: quatre-vingt-un…

90: quatre-vingt-dix, 91: quatre-vingt-onze…

How to practice the 4 skills of listening, writing, reading and speaking?

• Find friends on websites such as: and and start talking either with tools such as Skype or in writing, exchanging messages. Ideally both, writing is likely to become boring in time and live conversation are fun and don’t have to last too long.

Immersion in the UK

• To be immersed and speak French, go to Franglish events, (, Euroclub, French exhibitions, French events for Bastille day (14 juillet), Fête de la musique (21 juin) or Galette des rois (janvier). You will be exposed to French traditions, people, sounds, music, food. One learns better when learning is linked to pleasure, such as enjoying your food and wine!

Things to do on a regular basis

• Go on holiday to a French-speaking country: France, the French speaking part of Belgium, Luxembourg, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Senegal, Mauritius, Guyana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Québec.

• Visit places where you will hear, see, listen to French in London:

• The French bookshops in South Kensington, the French Institute, become a member of its médiathèque, borrow books, DVDs, CDs, attend conferences, go to the Cinéma Lumière’s Q&As.

Practice: Don’t be scared - What’s the worst that can happen? A funny mistake…

• Make mistakes, this is how we improve

• Ask to be corrected

• It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything you read and hear, you will understand more and more in time. There will be some ‘Eureka’ moments. Never hesitate to ask what something means, people are happy to help and will be delighted you’re making an effort to speak to themJ

Things to do regularly

• Listen and talk to French people in the tube

• Read the news

• Listen to the French radio: France Inter, Europe 1, French radio London, France Culture, RFI

• For fun and practice, repeat what the presenter says. And if you listen to podcasts, you can go back several times to try to understand what the person said, this is a typical language lab exercise at university.

• Find an excuse to speak French in the UK, ask the time, directions, there are 500,000 French people in London, and that’s without counting the other francophones!

The key to progression and fun: mix learning with pleasure

• Taste and learn more about food and drink


clip_image002                       clip_image004 


Read about what you like in French

• Vous aimez cuisiner? Faites des recettes françaises


Vous aimez jardiner?

• Read about gardening in French


Vous aimez le cinéma?

• Lisez des articles sur vos acteurs préférés



Vous adorez les biographies?

• Lisez-les en français


For listening practice

• Youtube channels to follow:

• Cynthia Dulude, for beauty/make-up tips in québécois French

• Jardinjardinier, to discover famous and non-famous French gardens

• A video about cuisine with subtitles (sous-titres)

A few more tips

• Try to read bilingual books, with the page translated in English on the left.

• You can write French words/expressions you want to remember on post-its you place in strategic positions in your house (

• Some phone apps are great to learn new vocabulary (Duolingo).

Never underestimate grammar


• It’s the skeleton of a language

• And the clothes are the vocabulary.

• You might get by without grammar and verbs for simple things such as shopping, but it will be more difficult for a conversation with the police, customs, plumber or doctor.

French TV

• Watch the news, it’s easier as you will know some of the world’s news already in your native language

• Some channels:

• TF1

• France 2

• France 3 (all the local news at lunch time and 6pm GMT)

• M6

• W8

• W9

A few websites :



• French cinema in South Kensington







Events: francophone events, search by genre

www.cercles.alliancefranç Local events organized by the Alliance française in 34 UK towns the Edinburg branch of the French Institute

Blogs in French







·    Facebook: Soline cuisine

Private tuition

• If you can, it’s useful to have a teacher to encourage you and remind you of doing these things we have talked about.

• Tips if you have a tutor:

• Don’t be scared to say what you want to do/change in the lessons, if you feel you do too much of one activity and not enough of another.

More on tuition

• Ask for books, methods, music, event recommendations. Some tutors might lend you films, magazines, books, bring you food from France.

Learning in a group is cheaper, very social, but the risk is that the level will be too advanced or too basic. And if you’re shy, you’ll never speak.

How to stay in touch?

• Facebook: Voulez-vous parler

• Twitter: Voulezvousparle

• Email:

• Website:

• If you want to subscribe to our newsletter, please send us an email. (No more than 1 email a month).

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Thursday 13 February 2014

Joyeuse Saint Valentin!



Happy Saint Valentine’s day! If you haven’t bought anything to your loved one, there is still time. Why not buy 1, 2 or 10 French, English, Spanish or Italian lessons? Call us and we’ll prepare a voucher we can email you or your Valentine. We can even text him/her to tell her the news.

Useful phrases in French:

Je t’aime:  I love you

Joyeuse Saint Valentin: Happy St Valentine’s day

On sort ce soir: I’m taking you out tonight

Tu veux aller boire un verre avec moi? Do you want to go for a drink with me?

Je t’emmène dîner: I’m taking you out for a meal

Je suis amoureux/amoureuse de toi: I’m in love with you

Veux-tu m’épouser? Do you want to marry me?

Je suis fiancé(e): I’m engaged

He proposed: il m’a demandé(e) en mariage

She proposed: elle m’a demandé(e) en mariage

Things to do in Paris today: