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“Ça va ?” : A conversation

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Salut tout le monde, ça va?

Have you ever noticed how much francophones use the phrase ça va? Yeah, a lot. Like a lot, a lot. It feels like you and I could have an entire conversation using different variations of ça va!
Let’s highlight ways to use this simple phrase to expand our vocabulary and converse more naturally. I took the liberty of coming up with a little made-up conversation between two imaginary friends to start us off on our ça va journey. On y va !

 

M: “Salut Hélène, ça va ?” 
H: “Salut Marie ! Oui, ça va merci. Et toi ?
M: “Bah, ça va bien.”
H:Ça va ton nouvel boulot ?”
M: Ça va très bien ! J’adore être avocate.”
H: “J’ai toujours dit que ça t’irait bien.”
M: “Et toi ? Ton nouvel boulot ? Ça va ?”
H: “En fait, pas beaucoup. Être médecin est vraiment difficile.”
M: “T’inquiètes pas, cela deviendra plus facile avec le temps. Ça va aller.”
H: “Merci Marie! Alors, je m’en vais. Je t’appelerai demain. Ça ira?”
M: “Bien sûr. A bientôt!”

 

After all of those ça va‘s (9 to be exact), are you still with me? How many different definitions of ça va did you find within that conversation? Ça va is probably one of the most useful and versatile sayings in the French language and highly utilized in familiar, friendly speech. Its meanings can range from “How are you?” to “It suits you!” Master this phrase and it’s meanings and you’re on your way to mastering conversational French.

Let’s dissect the above conversation to really see how simply you can use ça va in many different ways in a casual conversation.

M: “Salut Hélène, ca va ?”
        Hey Helen, how’s it going?
H: “Salut Marie! Oui, ça va merci. Et toi?
       Hey Marie! I’m good, you?
M: “Bah, ça va bien.”
        Oh, it’s going well.
H:Ça va ton nouvel boulot?” 
How’s your new job
?

M: Ça va très bien ! J’adore être avocat, c’est sûr.”
        Oh, it’s going great! I love being a lawyer, that’s for sure. 
H: “Bon, j’ai toujours dit que ça t’irait.”
        Good! I always said that it suits you
M: “Et toi ? Ton nouvel boulot ? Ça va ?”
        And you? Your new job? How is that working?
H: “En fait, pas beaucoup. Être médecin est vraiment dûre.”
        In fact, not really. Being a doctor is really hard. 
M: “T’inquiètes pas, il deviendra plus facile avec du temps. Ça va aller.”
        Don’t worry, it’ll get easier with time. It will be okay
H: “Merci Marie ! Alors, je m’en vais. Je t’appelerai demain. Ça ira?”
       Thanks, Marie! Okay, well I’m off. I’ll call you tomorrow. Will that work?
M: Ça va. A bientôt!”
        Okay. See you!

 

There are also many more ways to use ça va. In fact, here is a list of ones that we have learned and ones to try out:

  • Ça va, Marc ? / How’s it going, Marc?
  • Oui, ça va. / Fine.
  • Tu vas bien, André ? / Are you okay, André?
  • Ça va. / Yes, I’m okay.
  • Il faut être prêt dans une heure, ça va ? / You have to be ready in an hour, okay?
  • Ça va. / okay.
  • Oh ! Ça va ! / Hey, that’s enough! (A personal favorite)
  • Ça va venir / It’ll happen, it will come.
  • Ça te va (bien) / That suits you.
  • Ça lui va bien / That looks good on him/her.
  • On va partir vers midi, ça va ? / We’ll leave around noon, is that ok? Does that work for you?
  • Ça va les filles ? / How’s it going, girls?
  • Ça va le nouvel ordi ? / How’s the new computer working?
  • Ça va les filles ? / How’s it going, girls?
  • Ça va aller ?  / Will it be okay? Will that work?
  • Ça va aller /  It will be okay.
  • Ça va le nouvel ordi ? / How’s the new computer working?

(examples found from https://www.thoughtco.com/ca-va-vocabulary-1371141)

Don’t hesitate to try out these phrases and get to talking.
A bientôt, mes amis!

Jane Eagleton

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:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verlan
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ambigramme_Verlan_fond_noir_rotationnel.jpg
http://www.academicroom.com/article/verlan-talking-backwards-french
https://www.thoughtco.com/verlan-vocabulary-1371433

 

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!

 

 Sources:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/help/faq-history

http://www.thehistoryofenglish.com/

https://www.thoughtco.com/how-french-has-influenced-english-1371255

http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/language.html

 

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:

http://theconversation.com/how-learning-a-new-language-improves-tolerance-68472

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470910701563608

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1644/20130169.full

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13670050.2012.713322

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2813993/

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(02)01251-4?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982202012514%3Fshowall%3Dtrue&cc=y=

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!

 

Sources:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dolphins-speak-language-human-communication-scientists-a7237791.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2091420/Voulez-vous-couchez-avec-moi-Dolphins-smart-speak-Whale–sleep.html

Kremers et al. (2011)   http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00386/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=Retrieve&list_uids=20182945&dopt=abstractplus

How music can aid in language learning

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Here at the Alliance Francaise we are always interested in learning about new ways to acquire language. So when we found this article we thought you could be interested too!

Cap Enfants, a network of nursery schools in France is taking a unique approach to develop the listening skills of toddlers. They believe that exposing children to different rhythms in infancy allows them to better understand languages in life.

This intent is related to a study by the Institute of Learning and Brain Science for the University of Washington that discusses the relationship between musical rhythms and language rhythms. The study looked at the neural responses of 9 month old infants after they were exposed to music. It found that infants exposed to music were more sensitive to changes in rhythm in both speech and music than infants who were not.
At the Cap Enfants,the centerpiece of the nursery playroom is occupied by a colorful igloo-like “La Bulle Musicale” that was designed to bathe the children in sounds from all angles. They hope that by exposing the children to a variety of sounds and rhythms early in life it might make it easy for them to be more perceptive of languages, both mother-tongue and otherwise. It was designed by a team made up of an early childhood educator and a sound engineer.

At the Alliance we love singing! Come see for yourself and enroll your child in our Chez Kids Academy classes. If you would just like to learn more about us, come to our Kids’ Open House on Saturday, February 4th.

To read more about Cap Enfants and the Bulle Musicale read the original article.

AF Student Spotlight: Dennis Smithenry

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AF Student Spotlight: Dennis Smithenry

 

When Dennis Smithenry learned that his ancestors were from Alsace, France, he became motivated to learn French in honor of his family heritage. His journey at the Alliance Française de Chicago began in 2012 when he became a member and started taking French classes.

Growing up in southern Illinois on a farm, his community did not place much value on learning foreign languages. Before starting French classes at the Alliance, Dennis had only taken French in high school, where the curriculum was more focused on writing than speaking. Dennis now benefits from a more well-rounded approach to learning French. “I try to balance the main four: listening, speaking, writing, and reading,” he says.

IMG_1564

An education professor at Elmhurst College, Dennis is passionate about learning. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Dennis also conducted postdoctoral research in environmental engineering and science education at Stanford University. You can view his professor bio here.

During his sabbatical, Dennis has been able to combine his academic interests with his love for French by presenting his research in French at a conference in Montréal. Dennis attended the Congrès de l’ACFAS (Association francophonie pour le savoir) from May 9 to May 13, 2016.

In his 25-minute presentation, entitled “Conceptualisation et enseignement – planifier et enseigner à partir des concepts,” he discussed how to plan a course from start to finish, and also, how to teach a student to plan courses effectively. One of the main ideas that Dennis covered was “macro-planification à rebours,” or backwards planning. This method involves starting with the end, or the learning, first. Then, a teacher designs an effective course from start to finish based on the desired end result.

Dennis loved being immersed in the French language while he was in Montréal, both at the conference and with a language partner that he met online. He went to see a play in French and also conversed in French with his AirBnB host. He is thankful for the experience.

For four years, Dennis has been dedicated to taking French classes at the Alliance and learning French in his free time as a hobby. “I think this speaks to the well-thought-out program,” he says. “The books build off of one another very well and the curriculum is more focused on speaking French rather than just writing it.”

Dennis said that he is often critical of curriculum and pedagogical techniques because he specializes in education. However, he believes that the pedagogy at the Alliance Française de Chicago is extremely effective.

He enjoys how challenging the French language can be and looks forward to continuing his studies.”Language learning is a puzzle,” he says. “The more you learn, the more complex it becomes.”

 

 

Yet another reason why French is great…or 5 actually!

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”There are good reasons for learning other languages. As scientists unlock more of the neurological secrets of the brain, they’re learning that speaking more than one language may have cognitive benefits that extend from childhood into old age. In business, knowing the language of the team on the other side of the table can make a huge difference. Diplomacy work claims capable linguists. In fact, virtually any career, public or private, is given a boost with knowledge of a foreign language.

But why French?”  ==> Here is the answer!