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Le projet français IV

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Bonjour à tous,

Il y a deux semaine, on a écrit un email à l’école, ça y est!
On a demandé une interview avec les chefs, pour le 11 septembre.
L’interview ferait 15 minutes.
On espère qu’ils accepteront notre demande, on croise les doigts et on touche du bois…

Réponse la semaine prochaine!

PS ce post est un peu en retard, désolé mais le travail est en cours:)

Le Projet Français III

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Bonjour tout le monde!

La semaine dernière, nous avons partagé une liste de francophones célèbres à Chicago que nous avons considérés pour l’interview.

C’était une décision difficile, mais nous avons choisi d’interviewer les fondateurs de l’école de la pâtisserie (French Pastry School of Chicago). Nous avons décidé cela parce que nous sommes intéressés par la pâtisserie française. C’est une institution fascinante qui a eu un impact dans notre ville natale.

Pour préparer l’interview, nous…

-Regarderons le film “Kings of Pastry”
-Rechercherons des informations sur l’organisation
-Allons lire des biographies
-Etudierons la terminologie de la pâtisserie (comme les outils, les ustensiles, les appareils, la chimie, etc.)
-Regarderons les interviews avec d’autres chefs célèbres comme Pierre Hermé

Pour documenter l’interview, nous allons écrire, enregistrer de l’audio et filmer. Ensuite, nous utiliserons les meilleurs moments et les meilleurs médias.

Nous avons commencé notre recherche pour les fondateurs et nous les contacterons cette semaine.

Visitez le blog la semaine prochaine pour en savoir plus sur nos recherches!

Le Projet Français II

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Cette semaine nous avons discuté des personnes potentielles pour notre interview. Il y a beaucoup de personnes intéressantes qui sont des francophones célebres à Chicago.

Voici la liste finale:

1: Les fondateurs de la French Pastry School.

2: Florence Derieux, la conservatrice d’art américain du Centre Pompidou à Paris. Elle va être à Chicago en septembre pour faire une expo d’art moderne à Navy Pier.

3: Les danseurs/répétiteurs du Joffrey Ballet (il y en a deux qui viennent de France).

4. Frédéric Nalis, le PDG de Bel Brands USA. Ils font les fromages “vache qui rit” et “Merkts”.

5. Le Consul Général de France.

6. Chef Joho du restaurant Everest.

Visitez ce blog la semaine prochaine pour découvrir le choix final!

Le Projet Francais

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Bonjour tout le monde !

Laissez nous nous présenter…

Nous sommes un groupe d’étudiants français qui termine le niveau A2 à l’Alliance Française de Chicago et nous entreprenons un projet spécial avec notre prof, Geoff Ruiz, pour utiliser la langue française dans “la vraie vie”!

Pendant les prochaines huit à dix semaines, Andres, Ashley, Lauren et moi, Kim, travaillerons à la réalisation d’une interview en français avec un professionnel français à Chicago.  Nous sommes heureux et nerveux de  commencer ce projet difficile mais nous sommes prêts. Suivez les billets de notre blog et participez à notre voyage vers la francophonie !

Cette semaine nous allons faire de la recherche pour nous aider à décider qui sera le sujet de notre interview. Nous avons un large éventail de personnalités parmi lesquelles choisir, chefs de cuisine, architecte, artistes, personnalités politiques, chefs d’entreprise etc.

Rejoignez- vous à nous la semaine prochaine quand nous révélerons les personnes que nous contacterons pour notre interview.

Allons-y !

We met Dany Laferrière… Do you want to know all about it?

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A few weeks ago, on February 13, in conversation with our very own Director of Programs, Aimee Laberge, Dany Laferrière told us stories about his life.

When asked where he lives these days he responded whimsically that he lives in the vast space of writing. He also spends a fair amount of time in hotels due to the large amount of travelling he does. Some of the places he described travelling to included Italy (where two of his books are set) as well as Haiti, Madagascar, Algeria, Canada, China and France. He also confirmed that his books have been translated into a wide variety of languages.

Dany Lafèrriere at the Alliance Française de Chicago

He described some of his recent speaking engagements at various colleges and language schools. He also spoke about his experiences with author festivals and book fairs. He described the importance of the diversity that is brought out at such events where people with different origins can learn about many cultures and learn about each other’s favorite books.

He described his style when it comes to using the logic of language, comparing language to mathematics. He feels that simplicity is important in language because it allows clear communication. You don’t want your thoughts to be at odds with your writing.

He also talked about the way language is used in the modern world in a way that is less nuanced than it used to be. He talked about how people are inclined to use less complex verb tenses because, in general, everyone is in a bit more of a rush. He went on to describe language as a living thing as well as the importance of understanding the life of languages that might be less well known than the ones with the most speakers. Emphasis was put on the importance of not judging a language speaker on amount words or grammar complexity used but by the emotions behind the words.

Check out our other upcoming cultural events and classes!

The romance between French and English

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No language is a completely static thing. In a way, a language breathes and grows, similar to a living organism. Over time, words are gained and words are lost.

A language tree of Proto-Indo-European language relationships. The dotted line shows the influence of French on Middle English.

English started as a Germanic language but it has evolved through exposure to other languages. After German tribes came to Britain they influenced the Celts and this lead to Old Frisian. This, in turn was influenced by the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons so the language developed into Old English. Next Middle English was the result of influence from the Normans and the French. Modern English emerged after the great vowel shift and the English Renaissance.

So as you can see, language does not just have one origin. it is an ever-evolving thing. Even today you can see how we integrate slang and other languages into our lexicon. Even the tree to the right is an extremely simplified version of all the languages that have influenced each other.

French and English have a long history of influencing each other and it is theorized that a third of Modern English words are somehow related to French. For example, in the 14th century, at the height of the black death, the infected were required to be isolated from the healthy for forty days. In French the word for “forty” is “quarante” and doesn’t that sound similar to the word “quarantine”?

If you want to learn more about the relationship between English and French, click here to sign up for our upcoming lecture on the topic!




Learning a new language makes you a better person

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Imagine that you are on the train. You’re sitting down and trying to read an Alliance Française blog post on your phone but you can’t help but get distracted by those around you. The man across from you is loudly eating a ham sandwich. The woman next to you yawns and suddenly it strikes you how you also need to yawn.

Some theories suggest that you are feeling the urge to yawn because of your mirror neurons. On a mechanical level, mirror neurons are neurons that have been observed to fire both when you do something and when you see someone else do the same thing. They are known to exist in humans and other primates (and maybe more) and while they are thought to originally be a simple survival mechanism, they have developed into a facilitator of culture, language learning and empathy.

Mouse spinal cord neurons.These neurons are not necessarily mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons are a big part of what allows babies to copy facial expressions and later replicate sounds and language and all of the cultural norms that go along with learning. Babies gather endless things to mimic and later cut some behaviors and sounds to most effectively fit into the culture(s) they are being raised in.

In some ways, adults learning a new language are not too different. When you learn a new language you aren’t just learning the words and grammar structures in a vacuum. If you are learning a language fully, you are learning about the cultures related to the language and the tiny mannerisms that make up the meat of interaction and understanding the similarities and differences between that culture and others.

When you first try to replicate the sounds of a foreign language and mannerisms of a different culture it is very possible that you might make a few mistakes along the way. While this might make you cringe in the moment, this is actually essential to you learning effectively. By making these mistakes you know what not to do and you hone your skills more specifically on a specific culture similar to the aforementioned babies. Making mistakes and learning from them in language learning causes you to develop a higher tolerance of ambiguity and this in turn helps make you a more empathetic person in general.

Increase your empathy and sign up for a French class at the Alliance today! Just in time for the 2nd four-week session of the season!


We’ve discussed just a few of the major theories of mirror neurons here and there is still a ton to learn about the nervous system and how it relates to language learning and empathy. Here are our sources if you want to read about this topic more in depth:

Irène Jacob for a live jazz concert at the Alliance!

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Irène Jacob is a singer and an actress of stage and screen. She doesn’t seem to be one to shy away from any genre and her career so far is a rich tapestry woven with a little bit of everything, from dramatic TV shows to Shakespeare to French art-house films, all of which she shines in.

When reading interviews with her, she makes it clear that every project she engages in must speak to her or she won’t take part in it. Most recently she acted in an android-centric re-imagining of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and the Showtime series, The Affair. 

Irene and Francis Jacob

But as wonderful as her acting is, the reason we are lucky enough to welcome her and her brother Francis is for their musical talents. Francis plays the guitar while Irène sings. Their music is soothing and also engaging and thought provoking. They have released a number of albums, the most recent of which is “En bas de Chez Moi“, which was released in 2016. On her website they describe the album as having a lot to do with the geographical distance that there is between them with Irène living in Paris while Francis lives in New York. This is reflected in the style of the music as well as the lyrics.

If you want a taste of their music, check out this clip:

If you want to see them in action, join us for our Francophonie Launch and Fundraiser where they will give a concert. To get tickets, click here!


Dolphins become bilingual in their sleep. What does that mean for us humans?

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At the Planète Sauvage in Port-Saint-Père, France in 2011 it was observed that captive dolphins were talking in their sleep. While sleep-talking in general can be rather alarming, what made this even stranger was that they weren’t speaking the same dolphin language they speak during their waking hours. Instead they the sounds were closer to a whale language!

For their entire lives, these dolphins were raised in captivity and so it was not possible for any of these dolphins to have met a whale, let alone learn how to speak in the same tongue.

The dolphins spend much of the time during their days performing in shows aimed at educating the audience about dolphins. At the

Some dolphins hang out under the water.

beginning of these shows there is an audio montage including sounds of the sea such as seagulls, dolphin whistles and whale sounds.

Since this recording was the only time that the dolphins were being exposed to whale sound, it started to seem possible that the sounds the dolphins were making in their sleep was actually them rehearsing the performances in their sleep. The dolphins never made these sounds during the day, close in time to the performances themselves. Why the great difference in time between hearing and replicating the sounds?

These studies have allowed the scientific community to better understand how language and memory relate to each other in aquatic animals and understanding this can also greatly aid in our understanding of the relationship between our own sleep and episodic memory. Episodic memory is another way of describing the memories that you make during the day. At night these memories get integrated into your long-term memory. This is also known as memory integration and this is what makes it possible for you to retain information and as a result

, what allows you to learn a language.

Make sure to get a lot of sleep after your French class at the Alliance Française de Chicago and learn French in your sleep!



Kremers et al. (2011)

Cheesy cheesy melty food

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In the mid-west we are known for our casseroles and hot dishes. If you grew up here you might have memories of eating mounds of tater tot hot dish or green bean casserole. These recipes probably involved some variation of vegetables and/or tater tots swimming in a pool of condensed mushroom soup.

Green bean casserole that is not in an actual casserole dish.

The word casserole itself has french origins. “Casse” refers to the type of pan that casseroles are usually cooked in. This makes sense as the early casserole was created in 1866 by a French Canadian named Elmire Jolicoeur who immigrated to New Hampshire. In the 1950s, preparation of casseroles became very popular and this had a lot to do with an increase in availability of light-weight glass and metal pans as well as modern inventions such as canned and processed food becoming available. People could easily create a dinner with canned goods.

What many seem to agree on in casseroles is the importance of a variety of textures. No one wants a casserole that is all soft and mushy! To add a bit of crunch dried onions are often added to the top of a green bean casserole and tater tots make up the crust of a tater tot casserole. In France, the gratin is what adds a texture to what is usually a soft inside.

An example of a gratin.

Gratin refers to the brown crust of cheese and/or breadcrumbs a dish such as potatoes gratiné. Gratins can have a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, pasta, and seafood. Pretty much anything can be a gratin as long as it has that crunchy crust. 

Fun Fact: “Le gratin” is also an idiomatic phrase that refers to being “the upper crust” of society.

Learn how to make a perfect gratin in our next cooking class: Winter Gratins, and hurry up we are almost sold-out!