Gazette de l’Alliance par nos étudiants !

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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

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 !

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

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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:


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:

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)