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Edith Piaf lives through “Piaf! Le Spectacle”

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Edith Piaf.
If you don’t know her name, you surely know her music. Her raspy yet smooth, inviting voice has captured the hearts of millions of people over the decades and all over the world. Her life, plagued with hardship and sorrow laid the foundation for her songs that tap into the hearts of millions world-wide. Songs like La vie en rose and Je ne regrette rien capture the love, happiness and sadness that all people feel. The passion and emotion embodied by her singing have been able to reach people of all generations and all cultures. So much so, that her songs remain relevant today.

It is precisely her voice and her soul that have inspired Piaf! Le Spectacle – a musical celebration of her life and music starring Anne Carrere. Anne Carrere embodies Piaf like no other. Gil Marsalla, the director of the show was as taken with her talent as France was taken with Edith herself, “I have worked in show business- on and off stage- for 25 years and produced shows around the world, but to this day, Anne Carrere is my greatest artistic discovery yet. Do not dare touch or polish her, she is a diamond you want to keep raw- such is the nature of her pure and natural talent.” It is this raw and untouched talent of Carrere that allows her to transform her body and soul into Edith Piaf, who was unapologetically uniquely organic.

Piaf! Le spectacle has already enchanted over half a million viewers in over 33 countries, and is now coming to dazzle Chicago at the Athenaeum Theather, October 8th! So, dive into the world of Edith Piaf, see how she became l’âme de France (the soul of France) and  voir la vie en rose.
Alliance Francaise members enjoy a 20% discount. Buy tickets here.

Jane Eagleton


Superfluous: An Architectural Project

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J’ai rencontré dans la rue un jeune homme très pauvre qui aimait : son chapeau était vieux, son habit était usé ; il avait les coudes troués ; l’eau passait à travers ses souliers, et les astres à travers son âme.
(I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul)
-Victor Hugo ; Les Misérables (1862)

If you were to walk in the alley behind the Alliance Française, you would notice an odd amount of moss on the ground and red dots painted on the wall without explanation. If you were to be curious, like myself, you might find yourself talking to one of the many people watering the moss or painting these red circles. And if you aren’t the talking to strangers type, you’re in luck because I already did all of the detective work and will let you know what is happening. Free of charge.

The buzz in the alleyway has to do with the upcoming vernissage of Superfluous: An Architectural Project. This project is an effort to use “architects as social agents” and to “trigger [people] to think about shelter”, as Odile Compagnon, a professor of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, describes it. Odile encourages her students to use their skills and talents as architects to make social change and this has brought her and her students to the Alliance Française de Chicago.

Pretty cool, right? But you’re still a little confused as to what the project is, aren’t you? Don’t worry, not even some of my coworkers knew what this project entailed and that is why I put pen to paper (well, rather finger to keyboard) to open their and your eyes to the magic that is happening in the alley of the Alliance.

Let me key you in to some connections as this story unravels. Odile points out, that this project is both a way to “open the Alliance to the community” as well as to “make French more accessible”. You know, French doesn’t always scream “language of the people” (insert pretentious French stereotype here), but it truly is. Odile and her students are helping to highlight that.

Well, okay, that is cool, but what does that have to do with architecture and the students at the Art Institute of Chicago? Let’s travel back in time to the famous Victor Hugo for our answer. (That Hugo quote at the beginning of this post is now making sense, huh?)

Hugo, infamous writer, inspiring leader, speaker for the people wrote Les Misérables and tore down the barrier between poverty and luxury by illuminating homelessness, wealth and the disparity in between. Many French writers, not just Hugo, and artists have been captivated by the superfluous and consequently what it means to have nothing but still be someone, an individual. Odile is simply keeping this conversation alive through architecture. Eleven of her students created models for projects that could be built in our courtyeard and her student Nicolas Dessotel’s project, named Clairvoyance, was chosen. Nicolas is the blonde student in the photo below cheesin’ hard because he gets to see his project come to fruition.

Clairvoyance was chosen because it breaks down the wall between the private and public spheres, the wanted and the unwanted and spills out into the ally of the Alliance. I mean, literally there is a hole in our courtyard wall. “His project is transporting you into a world that you may not be comfortable with,” says Odile as she admires the installation go up. While I am very excited for you to experience this world growing in and challenging our alley, I won’t tell you more about the physical nature of the project because a) I can’t spoil it for you and b) Nick and Odile can give an explanation more justice than I could.

So, please, I implore you to come and experience Superfluous: An Architectural Project for yourself on September 14th (register here). Engage in the conversation about homelessness and the superfluous, see the other contestant project models, learn how French literature inspires architecture, and enjoy the exhibit. The exhibit will run during our business hours until October 16.

A bientôt!

Jane Eagleton

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:)

Immersion Day: A fun French day

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Being a new intern at the Alliance Française, I am still learning about the many classes, workshops, and events that go on here, including Immersion Day. For weeks now, we have been gearing up for Immersion Day, and to learn more about what exactly that is, I set out and did a little research. Follow me as I learn more and as I implore you to participate this September 9th. Why not join in on the fun to be had?

With notepad in hand, I head down to the office of Elodie Kaplan, co-director of the school to learn more. “It’s a great day to use the French people know and discover more,” Elodie begins as she describes the day in question. Discover what? Glad you asked. Immersion Day is a special day at the Alliance where we offer trial workshops for advanced beginner, intermediate, and proficient levels. “Woah!” I thought to myself. In my short 1.5 months here at the Alliance, I have very much wanted to join a cooking or language workshop. And to think I could attend those and more on one day had me interested.

Continuing on, she adds, “people can use their French for actual activities… for real life, not just for class.” You see, during Immersion Day, we transform the large Salon into a French vendor’s market called the Petit marché. Local vendors selling French items or who speak French will be selling goods and services. I don’t want to give anything away… but there will be free chocolate samples. Not to mention, the director of the Alliance Française de Chicago will be cooking, so you do not want to miss that.

Satisfied that I got the answers I needed and confident that I know what adventures lie ahead on Immersion Day, I leave her office with a simple merci before heading back to my office. Now that we have the gist of what the day entails, I thought I might clue you in to what workshops are offered. After all, we are all interested in different workshops. Take your time reading these options, but afterwards, don’t wait one more minute before signing up for Immersion Day and the workshops that interest you! You can sign up and see the workshop schedule on our webpage.

A bientôt mes amis !


List of workshops

Conversation:Meet our French staff and talk about their personal experience in the US, and French culture at large.

Phonetics:Practice makes perfect! Work on your pronunciation and learn the, literally, life changing difference between ‘poison’ and ‘poisson’.

TV5-current affairs:Come discover a piece of worldly news by watching and discussing a clip from francophone TV.

The blunder fixer:whether it is faux amis (words that look similar but actually have different meanings) or homophones (words that have the same sound but different meanings and/or spellings) tackle and get rid of the typical challenges any learner of French faces.

Pardon my French-French slang:For once les gros mots (curse words) and informal language are allowed in the classroom, but only for the love of linguistics and to avoid misunderstandings and faux-pas.

Brush-up: Feeling a little rusty? Enjoy the immediate benefits of this grammatical review and enrich your speaking and writing skills.The art of listening:“What was that?” With this class get rid of that sometimes frustrating feeling when dealing with oral comprehension.

Littérature: discover popular and polarizing author Michel Houellebecq. He is without a doubt France’s most contemporary and controversial writer as well as a must-know.

Jouer en français: Play your favorite board games, in French (Pictionary, Scrabble…) and discover new ones, while learning how to use your French in a whole different way.

Improv en français: Build self-confidence and develop creativity while learning to have fun in French. Through improv’ games, you will become even more comfortable speaking French and think on your feet!

Voulez-vous “crochet” avec moi ? Tricot social: Explore the history of crocheting and how it is used in fashion and the arts today. Learn how to crochet by using basic patterns to make hats, scarves and ornaments.

Wine tasting: Need we say more? This year a focus on lesser known white wines from red country!

Jane Eagleton

Francophones in the outfield!

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Does America’s pastime translate to the langue de Molière ? Mais oui! Learn les positions de baseball en français and meet some of the many big-name players have connections to France. Here’s a rundown of just a few.


Eric Gagné, lanceur de relève

For a time, the most dominant pitcher in the MLB was Eric Gagné, a crafty closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most baseball fans know him for his trademark goggles and consecutive save streak. Francophone fans might also know him for his name*. Eric grew up in Quebec, knowing only French until he moved to the States. After retirement, he has spent time in France, including a stint as the national team’s manager in 2016.

*Gagné is the past-participle form of gagner, or to win. So, one can say that Eric a gagné 33 matches. An impressive career for  a stoppeur from Canada.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Claude Raymond, lanceur partant

Known by his teammates as “Frenchy”, Raymond was the first québecois player to named an
MLB All-Star. In 1969, Quebec gained its own MLB team, the Montréal Expos. Raymond pitched for the team from its inaugural season to his retirement. After his playing career, Raymond took on  an even bigger role  with his hometown franchise, broadcasting games in French for thirty seasons. Sadly, the Expos, now known as the Nationals, have since moved to a  non-francophone region: Washington D.C.


 Melissa Mayeux, arrêt-court

While Melissa has not yet stepped on an MLB field, she has already made history in the league. The shortstop became the first women eligible to sign for a team in 2015. As an arrêt-court, she is the most important defensive player on her team. Her unique combination of athleticism and intelligence has caught the eyes of scouts. Being added to the list is only the first step in many on a journey to the majors, but this young woman from Louviers has changed America’s pastime forever.





Extra innings… Les positions!

Pitcher = Lanceur
The French term is much more literal than ours: lancer means “to throw”, making lanceur “thrower”. A lanceur partant starts the game, and a lanceur de relève comes to help out of le bullpen (some words are the same in both languages).

Catcher = Receveur
Another literal interpretation, as recevoir means “to receive”.

First baseman / second baseman / third baseman = Joueur de première base / deuxième base / troisième base
While you might expect to see première basehomme as a match for our “first baseman”, such a thing does not exist. Instead, one adds joueur de in front of the noun.

Left fielder, center fielder, right fielder = Joueur de champ gauche / champ centre / champ droit
This follows the pattern used with the infield positions. You just add joueur de to the area of the field and you’re done.


Ethan Safron

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 !

French woman, science, wit and “bonheur”

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On June 8, the Alliance Française de Chicago will re-create a “Salon parisien” inspired by a significant woman of her time Émilie, Marquise du Châtelet. Zoé Moore tells us more about it;


American women love French women, so much that they try to become them and understand their attitudes and lifestyles through books and movies. Ladies like Josephine Baker and Jean Seberg serve as a golden standard of Americans turned French. I can attest: it’s hard to live in France and not get caught up in the expat life, making a haphazard attempt at fitting in, becoming French. But with influential female figures like Simone de Beauvoir, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Jeanne D’Arc, Catherine Deneuve, Simone Veil, and even Anne Hidalgo, it is easy to want to become une femme française. Their strength, knowledge, elegance, and wit make them remarkable role models that stand the test of time and have managed to travel all the way across the ocean to the United States. They all have remarkable stories and wisdom that has been passed down to my own modern American life.  So when I learned that we would be creating a Parisian Salon, a common social and intellectual gathering to inform and entertain in the 17th and 18th centuries, celebrating Emilie, la Marquise du Châtelet, I was definitely curious.



Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet (1706-1749), or as I shall refer to her, Emilie, was an amazing woman who I knew absolutely nothing about one week ago. As a girl, Emilie attended her father’s salons with elite men and women, rapidly learning through discussions on science, philosophy, and literature in lavish Parisian hôtels particuliers. This introduction to le salon and academic life put her on a path to becoming one of the greatest minds of her time. Emilie’s short biography refers to her as a major contributor to physics and mathematics, having promoted and participated in the debate on vis viva, known today as kinetic energy, and as the translator of Isaac Newton’s Principia (her French translation is still standard today). She also published the scientific book Institutions de Physique / Foundations of Physics in 1740, which reaffirmed her grasp of the domain, sparked conversation, and gained popularity during her life. Many of her ideas were published posthumously in Denis Diderot’s well known Encyclopédie.

She is widely known as Voltaire’s lover. Emilie invited him to live and work with her in her home, the Château de Cirey, where they stayed and influenced one another intellectually throughout the 1730s. Despite this mutually productive relationship, Emilie is often left in Voltaire’s shadow. She died at the age of 42 due to childbirth complications, her pregnancy the result of an ardent affair with the captain and poet Saint-Lambert. The large strokes of Emilie’s life are enticing enough, but there is surely more to the story. To do this well-bred woman of le siècle des lumières justice, it was up to me to uncover her true nature and spirit. What was she like? How did this woman manage to make a name for herself as a reputable scientist in the 18th century?


Words and wit

Luckily, Emilie loved to write letters. Even more luckily, many of Emilie’s letters and works were published and are now in the public domain. I dove into reading her letters to M. de Maupertuis, a great man of science and one of Emilie’s tutors (and possibly lovers),

Château de Cirey

that date from the mid to late 1730s, during Emilie’s academic prime living in the Château de Cirey with Voltaire. They detail her life, her thoughts, her passions, and get down to who she is as a woman and scientist. She has a voice that is serious and funny, surprisingly modern and accessible.  I have come to know a very witty, loving, and smart woman who teases and challenges her mentor amidst inviting him over to chat or keep her company.


Et le bonheur dans tout ça ?

Another one of Emilie’s publications is Discours sur le bonheur, or Discourse on Happiness. These kinds of ruminations were common for men of her era to publish, but not women. Emilie takes on what happiness means through female eyes (finally!). The takeaway is clear and much of it is still relevant today: be free of prejudices, be healthy, have tastes and passions, and be susceptible to illusions. It’s okay to have illusions? This last one jumped out at me, I didn’t quite understand where she was coming from, but I had to give some faith to my dear French sister.

Institutions de Physique, one of Emilie’s publications.

To understand this theory that one must be “susceptible d’illusions” to be happy, we must turn to Emilie the lover. Women are known so often as the lover, the extra, the emotional, but Emilie brings fresh air and meaning to love and being passionate. She stipulates that love is one of the greatest illusions and yet it provides some of the grandest happiness; it is important to trust and believe in love or you have no chance of experiencing this ultimate happiness, even if you know that it is an illusion that will eventually dissipate. Emilie remarks that even if you connect with someone on every level, the time comes to let them go and move on. She explains that this is an extremely painful experience, but you must not lose faith that you can and will love again. If I were to translate some of her sentiments to modern day language, she advises us that if someone doesn’t want you, you are better off without them! Emilie’s letters to her last lover, Saint-Lambert, illustrate her willingness to give herself to this illusion and be happy, even after her intimate relationship Voltaire, and even if it means enduring sadness or misery.

One of the most moving lines she writes while quite pregnant in 1749:

      « Quand je suis avec vous, je supporte mon état avec patience, je ne m’en aperçois souvent pas. Mais quand je vous ai perdu, je ne vois plus rien qu’en noir »

                “When I am with you, I endure my state with patience, I often do not notice it. But when I have lost you, I see only the dark side of things.”


I would like to personally thank la Marquise for her contributions to science, philosophy, and the female legacy and let her know that she remains a role model for people around the world in the 21st century. I am thrilled to have met another amazing French woman and can’t wait to bring her words and thoughts to life in our Salon on June 8. It is going to be a truly amazing evening where we discuss her philosophy with Irina Ruvinsky, hear excerpts of her letters by Melisha Mitchell, and enjoy an incredible cello performance by Titilayo Ayangade, an all-female cast to create a salon that I think Emilie herself would have appreciated.

I hope to see you all then!

A bientôt !

Zoé Moore



Francophone behind the scenes

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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”



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!

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!