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Celebrating 20 Years with Chicago Public Schools

By | Language | No Comments

Last week, almost 50 students from Chicago Public Schools visited the Alliance for one of their last times this school year and exchanged laughs, memories, and even some bittersweet tears at the 2018 Awards for Excellence Program. It was an evening for students who successfully completed their program to reflect on their time with teachers and friends. The ceremony was also a celebration of 20 years of bringing CPS students into the Alliance to study French.

Since 1998, the Alliance Française Educational Outreach Program has offered motivated students weekly after school language programs, broadening their educational endeavors and open-minded outlooks. Some students are selected for language immersion scholarships to France and Concordia College Language Villages in Minnesota for their hard work during the program.

The guest of honor, Dr. Ernesto Matias, Chief of Language and Cultural Education for CPS, spoke on community and the importance of learning new languages. Consul Général de France Guillaume Lacroix gave remarks and President of the Alliance Française de Chicago Hervé de la Vauvre read an original poem.
Special thanks to the School of Culinary Arts of Kendall College and their chefs extraordinaires for making the ceremony sweet and savory and to Les Vins Gerard Bertrand for generously contributing the evening’s wine service. Merci !

Connected Through French Language

By | Language | One Comment

Meet Jin Jin, better known by her family and friends as Kitty!

When she first stepped into the Alliance Française de Chicago four years ago she didn’t know any French, not even “bonjour.” She had just quit her job and moved to Chicago where she knew no one. Now she is an accomplished French speaker who wants to continue to perfect her skills and share her love of the language.

“I never thought of learning French although I was a language teacher. But, one day I walked past the building and thought, why not,” Kitty said.

She began watching YouTube videos and movies in French to help her prepare for class.

In her initiation class with Jamal, she found it challenging to talk about her new city in French. She grew up in China where she taught English to travelers and studied Korean in grade school and German in college. So when she wasn’t grasping the French language at first, she became very frustrated and thought about giving up.

“That really did a number on me, because I was a straight-A student in my student life, always loving learning languages. I’ve never felt like I didn’t get a language. It was very frustrating for me,” Kitty said.

In China, learning new languages was often a strict and rigid experience. Even students’ accomplishments were met with stress and comments on studying harder. When Kitty’s teachers at the Alliance pushed her to keep trying, she found the support refreshing and encouraging.

“They taught me to have fun and enjoy the process of learning. Having class is not so serious, it’s a fun process,” she said.

Despite her hesitation, one of her teachers, Elodie, encouraged her to take French proficiency exams B1 and B2. She offered her materials and suggestions on how to study, and to Kitty’s surprise, she passed both successfully.

“The ambiance here is very friendly. As you can see Elodie and Jamal, they’re not only my teachers they’re my friends,” Kitty said, reflecting on classes with Geoffrey, Elodie, Jamal, Marie, Anie, and many other teachers.

She also thanked her husband for her progress in French. He went to her first class with her and even though he did not continue, often brought Kitty cartoons and movies to watch in French and would watch them with her multiple times to help her practice.

One of her favorite memories at the Alliance was last year when everyone threw her teacher, Camille, a going-away party. She baked a cake and students and teachers brought gifts and even invited Camille’s boyfriend from New York.

“I was thinking, ‘what if I leave? I’ll miss everyone so much, is anybody going to miss me,’” Kitty said. Her thoughts were answered when it came time for her to move once again, as usually happens every few years due to her husband’s job. During the past few weeks many have given their email and home address and asked Kitty to write en Français.

Her favorite word in French is clapotis, the French word to describe the sound of water droplets, because there is no word for the sound in Chinese and she loves how precise the French language can be.

Before moving overseas last month, Kitty check to see if there would be an Alliance Française near her and was happy to find out that there is a location near her new home. She plans to continue learning French and will start a blog written in French about her adventures in a new city.

“Even though I’m leaving, we will always be connected. I told Elodie, ‘you will always be my teacher.’ So, it’s not just a language school for me. It’s a place to meet people and share the best moments here in Chicago,” Kitty said.

Je t’aime Alliance Française !”

Gazette de l’Alliance par nos étudiants !

By | Classes | One Comment

As some of you might have seen this past week we have released our first edition of the “Gazette de l’Alliance,” our very own student-made journal available here.

I am very proud to introduce this fantastic work realized by our students and I want to congratulate and thank them for their hard work, their perseverance and their accomplishments in learning French. I am thoroughly impressed by what they did and as a teacher I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with them. Bravo à Ashley, Kim, Lauren et Andres!

I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did.

Please let us know what you think and if you are interested in participating in one of our upcoming class projects.

Merci et bonne lecture.

Geoffrey Ruiz,
Director of the Learning Center

French, Pierre de Coubertin and the Olympics

By | Language | One Comment

The 2018 Olympics are upon us and let me preface this blog post by saying that I am a huge Olympics fan. Being a naturally competitive person, I am drawn to competitions and what competition is more grand than the Olympics?

But don’t worry, I am not here to just talk about my love for sports, athletes and world-wide competitions. Although, if you want to geek out about the Olympics, come into the Alliance and we will chat about fun sports like curling and long ski-jumping (which still blows my mind… I mean how do you get into that?).

But no, let’s talk about the role of the French language in the Olympics. You might be surprised to learn that English AND French are the two official languages of the games. And there is a good reason for that! Firstly, English is used as an international official so therefore, the use of English makes sense for the Olympics.

But what you may not know is that the French language has a long history with the modern Olympic games. In fact, the “father” of the modern Olympics games was a Frenchman by the name of Pierre de Coubertin. He founded the International Olympic Committee (Comité International Olympique) in 1894. The IOC is also located in a French speaking city, Lausanne Switzerland, and guess what… the official languages for the IOC are English and French! So, as you can see, the French language has been closely intertwined with the modern-day Olympic games since their conception. In fact, the International Francophone Organization, that is dedicated to representing French speaking countries around the world sends a representative to each games to ensure that French is being properly used and represented during the competition.

Even though there are more Spanish speaking and Manderin-speaking people in the world vs. English and French speakers, more countries in the world list English or French as an official language (English: 54 and French: 29). Therefore, it only makes sense to have French and English be the official languages of the Olympic Games.

So, why does it really matter? Well, when you tune into les Jeux Olympiques in the coming weeks, listen to the announcers on the loud speakers. For instance, during any medal ceremony (like the one below), everything is announced in French, then English and then in the host country’s official language. In the video below from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, that happens to be Russian. So, for all you French speakers, gear up to use your language skills while you watch your favorite winter sports.

To start you off before the Opening Ceremony, let’s dive into some winter sport French vocabulary. And since I love lists, I made you a couple.

For you hockey fans:

  1.  Hockey – hockey sur glace
  2.  Offense – attaque
  3.  Defense – défense
  4. Goal – un but
  5.  Puck – un palet

For those who can’t get enough of skiing:

  1.  To ski – skier
  2.  A ski – un ski
  3.  Ski goggles – un masque de ski
  4.  Downhill skiing – ski de descente
  5.  Ski jumping – saut à ski

For the curling enthusiasts (me):

  1.  Curling – curling
  2.  Curling stone – une pierre de curling
  3.  To deliver (the stone down the ice) – lancer la pierre de curling
  4.  Broom – balai de paille
  5. 12 foot circle – cercle de douze pieds 

Let the games begin… Je déclare ouvert les Jeux de Pyeongchang célébrant les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d’hiver !

Jane Eagleton







Paul Bocuse: A French legend and culinary icon

By | History | No Comments

Paul Bocuse, embodied all that you think of when you think “Chef” — White coat, tall hat, bit of a play-boy, French. But he was much more than just one of the most decorated chefs of the 20th century. He was a symbol of pride for the French, a leading chef of the post-war era movement “la nouvelle cuisine” and an overall icon of the culinary world and French culture.

That being said, not just France mourned the passing of the “Pope of French cuisine” on Jan. 30 of this year. In fact, hundreds of chefs from around the world dressed in white chef coats to attend his funeral, held in Lyon.


But enough about his death, what about the life of Monsieur Chef Bocuse.

To begin to understand this grand chef, let’s look at the opening line of Paul Bocuse’s cookbook La Cuisine du Marché: “Tous les matins — c’est une tradition lyonnaise dont j’aurais bien du mal à me défaire — je me rends au marché et je flâne parmi les étalages. […] Parfois, je ne sais même pas quels plats je ferai pour le repas de midi : c’est le marché qui décide.” – Bocuse 1976

This was a man obviously in a love affair with ingredients, cooking, and the culture around food in France. And he came by it honestly! He came from a long line of chefs, you could call it the family trade. In fact his son is also a chef. What a family affaire, right?

Anyways, he is most known for being the father of la nouvelle cuisine that strayed from the caloric and rich food being served in France and experimented more with light, fresh ingredients in a more simple way. His new and innovative techniques with fresh ingredients inspired an entire generation, maybe multi-generations of chefs around the world. In fact, he practically created the “celebrity chef” image as well. But Bocuse’s fame and success elevated the profession to what it is today, and not to mention that many of Bocuse’s students have become world renowned chefs themselves. Chefs today are respected, celebrated and famous. However, this wasn’t always the case. But thank goodness times have changed, right? Because where would we be without the endless cooking shows on television?

I can’t say enough about how important M. Bocuse was to the culinary world, but if you don’t believe me, just look at his awards and accomplishments. I’ve made a handy-dandy list of some of them for you down below:

  • The Culinary Institute of America honoured Bocuse in their Leadership Awards Gala on 30 March 2011.
  • He received the “Chef of the Century” award.
  • In 1975, he created soupe aux truffes (truffle soup) for a presidential dinner at the Élysée Palace. Since then, the soup has been served in Bocuse’s restaurant near Lyon as Soupe V.G.E., VGE being the initials of former president of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.
  • He received the medal of Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, which is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte .
  • The Bocuse d’Or, the Concours mondial de la cuisine / World Cooking Contest, is a biennial world chef championship, named after him.
  • His restaurant L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges was the first restaurant to earn 3 michelin stars and has held those stars since 1965.


Overall, this man was highly revered and respected and the impression he left is timeless. Un grand merci à vous M. Chef Bocuse pour nous inspirer et pour éléver la nourriture française. Vous vivez toujours dans nos esprits et coeurs. 

ATTENTION: Stay tuned for our upcoming events and look for a cooking workshop tribute to the grand Chef in April!

A bientôt !

Jane Eagleton




Grammar with Elodie — “U” vs. “OU”

By | Podcast | No Comments

Bonjour à tous!

Elodie Kaplan, our wonderful co-director of the learning center sits down with us and gives us grammar and pronunciation tips when learning French. In this series of the Mais Oui! Podcast, get to know her and improve your French!

For the third episode, Elodie tackles vowels again but this time the sounds “u” and “ou”. Stay tuned to learn how to better pronounce tricky vowels in French!

On y va!