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Verlan your French! How can your French sound more like a native speaker?

By | Classes, Language | One Comment

If you have ever learned a second language you probably have had the experience realizing that the language you are working so hard to learn might be very different from the way that language is actually spoken. Think of how in the English language, numerous words become trendy and other words fall out of fashion. Sometimes rather than a few single words changing, an entire separate grammar structure is born within a language. You may be familiar with pig-latin or cockney rhyming slang but did you know that there is a secret language that has become a big part of everyday spoken French? It’s called verlan!

Verlan, basically, involves taking a word, isolating the syllables, and switching those syllables. Sometimes it is necessary to drop or add letters to the verlaned version of a word so that you can still pronounce it. There isn’t really any hard and fast rule with this but the more you verlan, the more you will be able to figure it out. The word “verlan” itself has a couple of possible origins. The main theory is that it is itself a verlan of the word l’envers which means reverse.

If you want to listen to some live verlan, La Haine (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz) is the movie to watch.


You may ask, “why would anyone want to do that?” In general, you verlan a word to emphasize or downplay it. The first time someone decided to verlan seems to be unknown. This isn’t surprising since, while there are many verlan words in mainstream French now, the practice’s start was as a way for young people to speak in code in front of police or other authority figures.


Here are some examples of verlan:

  • laisse tomber becomes laisse béton (never mind)
  • bizarre becomes zarbi (weird)
  • honte becomes tehon (shame)
  • dingue becomes geudin (crazy)
  • fête becomes teuf (party)

There are some verlaned words that have been part of the common vocabulary for so long that they have been re-verlanged. For example the verlaned version of femme was meuf and then that was re-verlaned to feumeu.

Verlan is fun and is easiest when you have a good baseline of French. So to build up you French, register for a class at the Alliance Française de Chicago!

Verlan Sources:


La francophonie behind the scenes

By | Events | No Comments

During the entire month of March, we at the Alliance Française de Chicago have hosted a variety of events as part of our Festival de Francophonie. By the end of the month you’ll have had the opportunity to learn about Russian and French cultures influencing each other, hear about books from around the world, eat amazing food, and see films that explore a variety of Francophonie experiences. While we have a lot of fun presenting you with these events and we hope you have fun attending, we thought it would be good to also give you a little bit of background on why exactly we celebrate Francophone cultures and International Francophone day beyond just the fun of experiencing new cultures.

This past Monday, March 20 was the annual International Francophonie Day. It’s observed in the 80 member states of the Organization of La Francophonie (By the way, that’s 274 million people) and is meant as a day to celebrate the French Language and the cultures of those who speak French.

Logo of Organisation Internationale de la francophonie

Why March 20th though? It turns out that beyond just

being the first day in Spring, this date also commemorates the signing of the Niamey Convention on March 20 1970. This established the Agence de Coopération Culturalle et Technique which later became the International Organization de La Francophonie. On the website of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie their mission is said to be “to embody the active solidarity between its 80 member states.” To accomplish this the organization “organizes political activities and actions to promote the French language, peace and sustainable development.”

We like to do our little part to expose people to different francophone cultures with our events. Our aim is for people to learn more about cultures that they might not know very much about. We hope that this exposure can kindle previously unexplored interests and deepen understandings of what we can learn from cultures that are different than our own.

Karel, a twelve year old attendee of soirée commune had the following to say about the event:

“I think that the Soirée Commune was a very fun event because it brought a lot of people together to share their country’s culture and get a glimpse of the culture of other countries. This was very important to me because at school they teach kids about the country they live in. Like what happened in the past, what is happening now, or what might occur in the near or distant future. Because of this, kids are often ignorant about what is going on in other smaller countries and what the culture  their is like. This event showed that there is more to Switzerland, France, Haiti and other countries, then the shocking news that is broadcasted worldwide and the general perspective that foreigners have on this countries. Overall, the whole experience was wonderful. I think the way they set it up was really brilliant. I enjoyed walking around to each booth or “country” and getting a taste of their food. I also think the passport idea made it a lot more fun too”

Student Spotlight: Lisa Kinney

By | Spotlights | No Comments

What was it about the Alliance Française that first interested you?
I was interested in the Alliance Française because of its reputation as being one of the best French language schools in the world.

Why french/francophone language/culture?
For me it was essential to learn the basics of French because my plan was to move to Paris the following year to get my Masters in Global Communications.

Why is it important to learn a new language?

It’s important to learn a new language because it helps you build more meaningful relationships with the native people of that country.

What is the most challenging thing about studying a new language?

The most challenging thing about studying a new language is understanding that it takes time to become fluent and you will definitely make mistakes.

What is your favorite thing you’ve done with French?

The favorite thing I’ve done with French was using the language while I was studying abroad in Paris and having the chance to work overseas.

Why do you think teaching your kids a new language is important?
It’s important to teach kids new languages because it gives them a more worldly perspective and an openness to learn and understand other cultures.

Finding Love at the Alliance Française

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By Monica Fredette (With input from Yves Fredette)

I met the love of my life on March 10, 2007 at Le Festival de la Francophonie at Chicago’s Alliance Française.

It all started with a look at current events in a “Time Out Chicago” magazine while awaiting my hairdresser, Parto Nadiri.  As I searched for upcoming events, I circled quite a few things of interest, but quickly honed in on the French event since I felt very at ease using my language skills learned in college and while studying in France.

At the time, it was a $15 ticket and I had a few friends who I thought would join me for an evening celebrating a culture I loved.  Unfortunately, none of my friends were free that night.  It was only due to my mother’s insistence that I go (because I had reported many wonderful experiences with FAC in NYC), that I braved it alone.

On that night, I decided to wear a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress because when I called to find out the dress code, a gentlemen at the Alliance responded:  “Madame, the ambassador of Haiti will be in attendance!”

So in I went with my navy Inès de la Fressange wool swing coat and high heels.  No one at the desk informed me that there was a coat room after I checked in, so up the staircase I went.  It seemed like a much bigger and wider staircase than in reality, but I was nervous about who I would see once I got to the top of the stairs.  I figured I would leave if I felt uncomfortable.

My eyes instantly caught sight of a very handsome man standing close to the top of the stairs.  It was obvious, I was out of place in my coat, and without hesitation, I said (as Polly Platt of “Savoir Flair” would have suggested):  excuse me, sir, but where is the coat check?”  Of course, she would have advised me to say “excusez-moi, Monsieur, mais où se trouve le vestiaire?”

My husband apparently winked at the man with whom he was chatting (confident he would spend the rest of the evening talking to me), and whisked me down the stairs to help me with my coat.  I guess he did not want to be presumptive that I wanted to go back to the party with him, so he left me on my own after hanging my coat….

Back up the staircase I went.  For no reason other than it was the first

La Raclette cheese at Soiree Commune 2017

room on the right, I walked into Canada.  It turns out my husband is a French Canadian, and he seemed to be on his way out as I walked in.  I made the visit brief, then entered the Switzerland room across the hall and got in line for my all time favourite thing, La Raclette.  There was the heavenly nutty fragrance of the melted gruyere cheese that they were sliding onto boiled potatoes and serving with cornichons pickles, cocktail onions, a dash of paprika, and a glass of white wine — an incredibly seductive combination!  (I don’t ski, but am told this is what everyone eats in the mountains après-ski).

Even more seductive was the man who had helped me with my coat had reappeared in line behind me!  All I know is we never took our eyes off one another the rest of the evening.  We went back at least 2 more times for more raclette. We conversed about all the ways his French name was spelled throughout history:  Fradet, Fradette, Fredette, Frédette….and he wrote all spellings on a Romanian Consulate card (another guest at this event).  Then he wrote down 2 of his phone numbers and an e-mail!  We perused a table full of French books for sale, and I bought “Lisa in York,” which I still have on our bookshelf.  Throughout the night, we spoke French.

Eventually, he offered to walk me home.  It was a beautiful night as we slowly strolled toward Chicago Ave.  Not far from the Alliance is Holy Name Cathedral, which we saw as we approached the corner of Chicago and State.   I told Yves that Holy Name was my church.  He said he went there, too!  Who knew that in 2008, we would be getting married at that very church?!

Just this past week, we went for our 10th year in a row to Le Festival de la Francophonie.  It happened to fall on the exact day we met 10 years ago!  The funny thing is that my husband had been going to this particular event on and off for 10 years prior to me showing up.  Guess luck was on my side that night as it was my first time going.

We cannot thank the Alliance enough for their dedication to bringing all French cultures together for this special night and for all the cultural events they host throughout the year.  We have met so many interesting people with whom we connect based on our shared love of the French language, French food, film, cooking, literature, decorative arts lectures, etc.   We feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have this cultural institution within walking distance from home.  It has transformed our lives!  Thank You Alliance Française for making our lives better!!!