Lesson 3: Nice to Meet You !

simple-french lessons

Learn what to say in French when you meet people for the first time and how to introduce other people. Look up the words and do the interactive exercise at the end check your knowledge of the vocabulary from the dialogue.

1. Dialogue

Nice to Meet You !

Alberto, un garçon italien, va à l’Université il a cours de français. Sur son chemin il rencontre Marc, un ami français.

Marc: Salut Alberto !
Alberto: Salut Marc ! Comment ça va ?
Marc: Ça va bien. Et toi ?
Alberto: Moi aussi, merci.
Marc: est-ce que tu vas ?
Alberto: Je vais à la fac. J’ai un cours de français dans une demi heure.
Marc: Alberto, je te présente Marie. C’est une amie.
Alberto: Enchanté Marie !
Marie: Salut Alberto !


2. Notes

Vocabulary

French English
aller to go.

Eg. Il va à l’Université. He goes / is on his way to the University.

where*

*(see the questions words in French below)

(un) cours course / classes / lessons.

Eg. des cours de français. French lessons.

(un) chemin way / path / track.

Eg. J’ai perdu mon chemin. I’ve lost my way.

rencontrer to meet
(un/une) ami a friend.
salut Hello / Hi.
bien well.

Eg. Tu parles bien français. You speak French well.

la fac the uni. (informal way of saying “the University” in French. It is the short for “la faculté”)
présenter quelqu’un (à quelqu’un) to introduce somebody to somebody.

Eg. Je te présente Anne. Let me introduce you to Anne.

C’est This is / It is.

Ce (it) + est (to be).

Enchanté(e) The word literally means “enchanted” but is used as the English Nice to meet you.

  • Enchanté (boy)
  • Enchantée (girl)

The pronunciation stays the same.

 

A. Asking how somebody is:

 

Informal (Friendly) Formal (Polite)
  • Comment ça va ?
  • Ca va ?
  • Comment vas-tu ?
  • Tu vas bien ?
  • Quoi de neuf (Used when you haven’t seen someone for some time)
  • Vous allez bien ?
  • Comment allez-vous (Madame, Monsieur) ?
  • Comment ça va Monsieur / Madame ?
Grammar

Le présent ( Present Tense )
aller = to go. Conjugaison du verb (Verb conjugation)

Personal pronoun verb example
je vais à la plage.
tu vas à la maison.
il / elle / on va faire des courses.
nous allons en cours.
vous allez bien ?
ils / elles vont bien ensemble.

 

The basic Question Words in French:

French English
Qui ? Who ?
Quoi ? / Que ? What ?
? Where ?
Quand ? When ?
Pourquoi ? Why ?
Comment ? How ?

Phonetics

/ɛ̃/ italien bien, chien 
/y/ salut, une, d
/œ/ heure, beurre, sœu

Don’t forget about the liaison in French ! Almost always you need to make a liaison when a consonant (d, t, s, z, x, f, n) is followed by a vowel (e, i, o, u)

Je vais_à la fac 

 

Je vais_à la fac 

metro-paris-stephen-h-flickr


3. Exercises

Explanation of the exercise

Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.


  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.

Translate the following sentences

1. How is it going ?
?
2. How are you ?
?
3. Fine, and you ?
a) It goes well, ...
?
b) I'm (going/doing) well, ...
?
4. I’m going to the uni.
Je .
5. (Let me) introduce you to Marie.
Marie.
6. Nice to meet you !
!
7. He has got his French lesson at the University.
Il à l’Université.
8. Where are you going ?
?

 


 

4. Homework

  1. Read the dialogue out loud several times (3-5  times). The same goes for the pronunciation exercise.
  2. Using what you have learnt in lessons 1 and 2, write a short dialogue between Marie and Alberto. Write the possible questions that Marie could ask Alberto and make up the answers for Marie too (her age, nationality, where she is going).

 

Lesson 5: What do you do for a living ?

Learn how to ask somebody for his / her profession. Learn different profession names in French, how to ask polite questions and what the possessive adjectives are. You will also see the difference between “tu” and “vous“, or how to politely address to other people.

1. Dialogue: What do you do for a living ?

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie Monsieur  ?
– Je suis professeur d’histoire.
Et vous Madame, que faites-vous dans la vie ?
– Je suis médecin. Je travaille dans un hôpital.
Qu’est-ce que votre voisin fait dans la vie, Monsieur ?
– Mon voisin ? Je crois qu’il est pompier.
Que fait votre fille dans la vie ?
– Ma fille est vétérinaire.
Et toi, qu’est-ce que tu fais dans la vie?
– Je travaille dans un salon de coiffure. Je suis coiffeur.


 2. Notes

Grammar

Asking questions: Est-ce que / Qu’est-ce que / Que …

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ? = What do you do for a living ? / What is your occupation ? / What do you do ? (Formal and polite  expression)
que = what (very common word in French). It can have several meanings.
 tutoiement:
using tu: informal, used only between young people or friends. 

Examples:

Qu’est-ce que tu fais ? What are you doing ? 

Comment vas tu ? How are you doing ?
 vouvoiement:
using vous: formal and polite. Used with people you don’t know or to whom you need / want to refer with respect.

Examples

– Que faites-vous dans la vie ?

– Où habitez-vous ? Where do you live ? 

est-ce que : a very common way of asking questions in French.

Qu’est-ce que …. =  What do you …. (Que + est = Qu’est (e != e))

no inversion of the subject and verb in questions with est-ce que. 

Examples:
Qu’est que tu fais ? Whare are you doing (right now)
Qu’est ce que tu fais dans la vie ? What do you do for a living ? 
est-ce que tu travailles ? Where do you work ? 
est-ce que tu habites ? Where do you live ? 

Inversion: 

Que faites-vous dans la vie ? = Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?

It is a very formal way of asking questions in French.

Conjugation: faire | travailler

Faire ( to do ) Travailler ( to work )
je fais
tu fais
il fait / elle fait / on fait
nous faisons
vous faites
ils / elles font
je travaille
tu travailles
il /elle / on travaille
nous travaillons
vous travaillez
ils / elles travaillent

Additional Grammar

Possessive adjectives (adjectifs possessifs): my, your (polite and friendly forms)

I’m speaking about my neighbour(s):

  • mon voisin: my neighbour
  • ma voisine: my (female) neighbour
  • mes voisins: my neighbours (the “s” in voisins is not pronounced !)

I’m speaking about your neighbour(s):

  • ton voisin:  your neighbour
  • ta voisine: your (female) neighbour
  • tes voisins: your neigbours

I’m speaking about your neigbour(s) (polite)

  • votre voisin: your neighbour  
  • vos voisins: your neighbours


 3. Exercises

Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.
  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.

1. What do you do for a living, sir?
Qu’est-ce que , Monsieur ?
2. What does your neighbour do for a living ?
a) ? (polite)
b) ? (friendly)
3. She is a doctor.
.
4. I’m a firefighter and she’s a veterinary.
Je .
5. I work at school.
.
6.I’m a professor of French
.
7. Where do you work ? (friendly)
a. ? (inversion)
b. ? (est-ce que)

4. Homework

  1. Write in French what kind of work you do and where (in what place) you work. Record your work.
  2. Choose 5 people from your surroundings and write what their professions are and where they work.

Lesson 4: Talk about Yourself

Learn how to briefly talk about yourself in French. Learn how say what your name and age are, where you live (city and country), what you do for a living, what you like doing, where you work and what languages you speak. Audio text with interactive exercises to improve your learning.

Read the text below and listen to the audio for pronunciation. Next, do the reading comprehension exercise and answer the questions at the end. For any problems with comprehension, take a look into the Notes section.

1. Text: Talk About Yourself in French

Bonjour. Je m’appelle Marie.
Jai 27 ans et jhabite à Nantes, en France.
Jai toujours vécu dans cette ville.
Je suis professeur de français et je travaille à l’Université.
J’aime apprendre les langues étrangères.
Je parle anglais et espagnol.
J’aime également sortir avec des amis et voyager.
Je suis déjà allée* en Allemagne, en Pologne, en Espagne,  en Angleterre et en Irlande.
Et toi, quels pays as-tu visités ?

2. Notes

Vocabulary
French English
habiter à to live, to dwell
travailler to work
aimer to like
apprendre to learn
parler to speak
les langues étrangères foreign languages
sortir to go out
aller to go
quel (quels / quelle / quelles) which, what
visiter to visit, to go to

habiter à Nantes / à Paris / à Rome
travailler à l‘hôpital / à la radio / au centre commercial
Jai vécu: I have lived / I lived …
aimer apprendre / manger / voyager / rencontrer

Grammar

Le présent et le passé (Le passé composé )

A. Simple Present Tense:

 – Le présent : current actions and situations, habits, general truths

Examples:

  • Je m’appelle Marie.
  • J’habite à Nantes.
  • Je parle espagnol.
  • Je suis professeur.

Conjugation example:

The most common French verb group is the the “-er” group, that all the verb that end on “er”. Examples: parler, habiter, aimer, s’appeler.

All of them conjugate the same way, by adding the appropriate suffixes to the stem (its base)  of the verb.  -e, -es,-e, -ons, -ez, -ent

habiter : to live in, to dwell
j’habite en France

tu habites à Paris

il / elle / on habite près de chez moi.

nous habitons ensemble

vous habitez loin

ils / elles habitent à côté.

B. Past Tense

 – Le passé composé: completed actions in the past.

être / avoir + verb (past participle).

Whether you need to use être or avoir depends on the verb.

Eg. avoir + vivre

  • Je vis à Nantes. I live in Nantes.
  • J’ai vécu à Nantes. I lived / have lived in Nantes.

Eg. être + aller

  • Je vais à Berlin. I go to Berlin.
  • Je suis allé à Berlin. I have been to Berlin.
  • Je vais à l’école. I go to school.
  • Je suis allé à l’école. I went to school / I have been to school.

! I have been to Spain = Je suis allé en Espagne = J’ai visité Espagne. 

! Je suis allé= you add the “e” at the end of the “allé” when you “Je” refers to a girl. It exists and is visible only in writing.

Le passé composé conjugation

avoir + vivre être + aller
J’ai vécu à Madrid

Tu as vécu en Espagne

Il / elle / on a vécu séparement

Nous avons vécu dans une maison

Vous avez vécu à Moscou

Ils / elles ont vécu en couple

Je suis allé à Paris

Tu es allé au travail

Il / elle / on est allé(e) se laver les mains

Nous sommes allés à l’église

Vous êtes allé(s)* vous promener

Ils / elles sont allés en vacances

The “s” in this sentence should appear if “Vous” refers to more than one person. If it is “vous” as in the polite and formal way of addressing someone, the “s” is dropped.  

3. Exercises

Reading Comprehension: 

Explanation of the exercise
Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.
  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.
1. I live in Paris.
.
2. We have already been to Ireland.
Nous .
3. I lived in Germany.
.
4. I am an English teacher.
Je .
5. I work at school.
.
6. I like to speak French.
.
7. I have learned to speak French.
.

4. Homework

  1. Write about yourself following the structure of the dialogue in this lesson. You need to include:
    1. what your name is and how old you are
    2. where you live (city, country)
    3. what kind of work you do and where you work
    4. what you like doing
    5. what foreign languages you speak
    6. what countries you have visited
  2. Or answer the following questions. Record the answers, upload them to SoundCloud and post them in the comments below or on my Facebook page:
    1. Quel est ton prénom ?
    2. Quel âge as-tu ?
    3. Que fais-tu dans la vie ? (Où travailles-tu ?)
    4. Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire ?
    5. Quelles langues étrangères parles-tu ?
    6. Quels pays étrangers as-tu visités ?
  3. Learn by heart the answers you have created.

French R Sound Pronunciation Practice

The French R makes you sound French and the only way to master it is through pronunciation practice.

The rrrrr sound is a distinctive sound of the French language. It gives satisfaction to those who can pronounce it effortlessly and nightmares to those who can’t.

I can say so because I have been through it.

Even if your speach is fluent, that is you understand and you speak without efforts, there might still be some slight differences in the way you pronounce certain French sounds.

Normally, anyone knowing that you are a foreigner won’t point those out, but it is indispensable if you want your French to sound, well … French.

And what makes you sound French ? Of course, the French guttural rrrrrrrr…. sound.

Why the French R is Important ?

Your French nasal sounds may be awful, your stress and intonation despicable, but as long as you are able to pronounce the French “r” you can feel French. It’s just so distinctively French that nothing beats it, but that is just my opinion….

With a correct pronunciation, you will avoid some sarcastic remarks too, people are people after all, whatever the nationality I guess …

Why did I create these exercises ?

I’m not French myself, so ever sine I came to France I wanted to learn the French language and sound French too. I just couldn’t stand the spiteful remarks and the way people would look at me if I started to speak with a hard “R”, the way the people from the eastern countries often do…

I thought that if your mouth muscles produce the sounds of your native language that your brain is subconsciously telling it to do, then all you need to do is to convince your brain to do the same but for new sounds.

And how you do that ?

By repeating the specific sounds many times. That is how you develop the muscles in your mouth to produce the sounds and get your brain accustomed to hearing them and producing them.

I don’t think it’s going to become 100% subconscious as with your mother tongue, but it will significantly improve your pronunciation.

That is why it is easier for the people already living in the country where the language is spoken since they hear and produce the specific sounds (or at least something that is close to it) on everyday basis.

However, it is wrong to think that this is the sine qua non condition to an adequate pronunciation. Far from it !

How many people have you met who have been living abroad for ages and still struggle to sound more like a native ? Lots of them.

Unfortunately, there are people who have been living for decades in a foreign country and they can’t even speak the language of their new home country. But that’s a different story, since there are many factors that must be taken into account: human factor, family relations, psychology of the individual, social contact, etc.

And this is not because they are less gifted or less smart. They just don’t know how to learn and didn’t take time to work on it.

That’s why I like to think of second language acquisition as very similar to physical workout, especially nowadays when the world is going fast and you need to (and want to) learn fast.

And this is particularly true in the case of pronunciation, since your muscles are involved in the process. It’s just you won’t come across people doing these exercises at your local gym .

How to produce the French “R” sound ? 

diagram_uvula
Uvula (french-linguistics.co.uk)

It is a sound that is produced in your throat.

What you should do is to gurgle as if you were cleaning your throat, or trying to scratch your itching pallet with the compressed air coming from your lungs.

The French “R” sound is what the specialist call a uvular fricative.

You need to have the feeling that the back of your pallet is working slightly and your tongue should stay motionless.

It is very close to the sound of snoring on exhalation (when you breath out). You can try this out.

It is very easy to inhale the air and make the palet vibrate. It is slightly more difficult to do the same on exhalation, but this is where you will find your French “R”.    

Of course, this is only an approximation ! Your gurgled “R” will sound a bit artificial and forced at the beginning.

To pronounce the French “R” correctly, you will have to practice it a bit to make it smooth.

You should not worry too much about pronouncing it correctly, as in the real speech you don’t pay that much attention to one particular sound.

That is also the secret of mastering this particular sound. Many learners of French commit the mistake, quite naturally, to push it a bit too far.

They overdo it and it makes them sound weird. This kind of behaviour is quite normal.

That’s why some of the learners give the whole thing up and either pronounce the “r” as the would in their native language (à l’américaine (the English style) ou à la russe (the Spanish style) , or they keep overdoing it. The solution lies, as usual, in between.

The types of “R”

You also need to know that the French “R” does not always sound the same way. Sometimes it is more or less audible. It may depend on such things like:

  • the speaker,
  • the speed of speech,
  • the place of the sound in relation to other syllables in the sentence,
  • stress that the speaker puts on that particular sound or others
  • or other things that I am not clever enough to enumerate …

But you don’t need to analyse all that in your speech, it is just good to know. With a bit of practice you will come to the same conclusion.

You might hear some of the French People make a trilling “R” with their uvula (like the one you can hear in the songs of Charles Aznavour or George Brassens).

This is not the reference however and most of the French people don’t speak like that.

How to practice the French “R” ?

In order to have an impeccable French “R” pronunciation, you must speak French and listen to a lot of French all the time ! Yeah, right….

That would take ages and would cost you a lot of frustration along the way !

In order to improve a particular aspect of something, you need to make a conscious and concentrated effort over a given period of time to accelerate its improvement.

In our case, you need to focus on that particular aspect of the French pronunciation (that is the French R sound), exhaust your muscles (yes, your mouth and throat have muscles too !), by repeating the sound in exercises, exaggerating it even, and then smooth it out in speech.

Exercise 1

Do you remember that gurgling  and snoring I told you about ? You take it and you repeat it continuously with all of the French vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u). You start slowly.

With some practice you can make it faster so you can produce that uvular fricative “r” sound effortlessly.

  • ra ra ra
  • re re re
  • ré ré ré
  • ri ri ri 
  • ro ro ro
  • ru ru ru 

Exercise 2

With nasal vowels as with an, in, un, on.

In this exercise not only will you practice your French R sound but you will also practice the other distinctive French sounds, that is the nasal vowels like an [ã], in [ɛ̃], and on [õ].

  • an [ã] : grand, franc, ranger
  • in [ɛ̃] : brin, fringues, ringard
  • on [õ] : rond, front, gronder

Try to do that exercise whenever you have time (in a car, in the elevator, in your shower, etc). Once a day for a minute for one week would be perfect.

Exercise 3

The other trick is to practice with words. The ones below will really muscle your vocal apparatus. Some of them can be really hard.

They will not only make you work your French “R”, but also some other important sounds associated with o, e, é, er, an, u. 

  • rajouter, râler, racorder
  • regarder, recevoir, redire
  • répéter, réussir, récupérer
  • rire, ricaner, riche
  • robert, robinet, romantique 
  • rural, rustique, russe

 

Buy the ebook: “Master the French R Sound”

Do you want to take your French pronunciation to a higher, native like level ? Here is how !

Master the French R eBook

Example page French R

Conclusion

The best advice I can give you as a conclusion is to work hard your exercises everyday for a week exaggerating the sounds while practicing them and not to worry too much about it in the actual speech.

In fact, forget it is there and that it doesn’t sound very “RRR” like the real French “r”.

If you concentrate too much on pronouncing the French “R” correctly, not only will it sound strange but it will also wear you out, make your speech less fluent and natural and you will feel quickly exhausted.

That’s right, speaking a foreign language is kind of a strain for your brain (though beneficial and giving lots of satisfaction) so you’d better take it easy concentrate of the fun part.

Should you have any suggestions concerning how to pronounce and improve the French “R”, share it with me in the comments !

 

Resilience, brain workout and foreign language learning

brain, resilience in foreign language learning

The way resilience and the foreign language acquisition are connected is pretty straightforward. If we are to believe two renowned scientists, one a psychiatrist, the other a neuroscientist, in a recent article in TIME magazine (June 1, 2015), different people have different degrees of resilience. You may ask: so what ? This might explain why some people think they are bad language learners. Not without a reason. Simply, the resilience in that particular psycho-sociological case is not the same for everyone.

What the heck is resilience?

Well, according to the American Psychology Association, it is the individual’s ability to “bounce back”, or “to pick oneself up” after hardships or difficult situations experienced in life. It generally refers to pretty traumatic things (catastrophes or war experiences for example), but according to the TIME article “The Art of Resilience” people’s lives, especially nowadays, comprise of multiple small but stressful situations, and those are quite obvious: work, an angry boss, quarrels with other people. The key thing here however is that the brain can be trained in order to cope with these kind of situations, and even the big ones, better. In other words, the resilience, and that is your brain, can be trained to do that well. Or at least do better than it used to.

Some conspicuous extreme examples of weak / strong resilience and how different people react to it are: people suffering from heart disease and brain disorder, Alzheimer’s disease frequently, on the one side, and Navy SEALs, highly trained US soldiers, or POWs on the other.

brain, resilience in foreign language learning
Brain. Allan Ajifo, Flickr.

How does resilience refer to Language Learning?

If we are to apply the way the resilience works and how different people deal with it, it becomes clear why some people (referring only to adult learners in this case) are better foreign language speakers than others. It comes down to the person’s psychological response to a psycho-social stages of development in foreign language acquisition while learning and especially interacting in that new language. Some of those experiences can be more traumatic than others and thus influence the individual’s resilience accordingly.

To make it simple: here are some psychological factors that may deter from effective language learning:

 fear of being ridiculous: at the early stages, learning involves saying some unexpected and funny things.

 fear of being ridiculed: perception by other learners or native speakers, traumatic experience)

lack of control: some people might be scared at the idea of not being able to express everything they want. It may be psychologically interrelated with the two previous concepts.  

language inferiority: when an adult learner starts to learn a language, she/he doesn’t even speak as well as a 4 year old child. It might be quite frustrating. 

How can you improve your resilience ?

The good news is that resilience can be trained almost the same way the muscles are trained: you give your brain some stimulus at the right time and at the right places and thus progressively build up the brain’s strength (or resistance) to fight off more efficiently the traumatic and unpleasant emotional experiences. On the side note, the physical exercise increases brain’s resilience too in its own way.

The article gives several interesting and simple things that help developing resilience. Here are some of them that I find also easily applicable to a better language learning:

Developing a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake

Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened

Don’t run from things that scare you: face them

Learn new things as often as you can

Find an exercise regimen you’ll stick to

Recognize what makes you uniquely strong – and own it

That set of tools could be particularly useful in a successful language acquisition. It can also be seen as what people don’t do and thus fail in acquiring the language or at being a successful foreign language speaker. All of them equally important but the most frequent, in my opinion, are:

a consistent, well defined and interesting foreign language exercise regimen to stick to

recognizing what your unique strength is,

and running away from problems and challenges.

This also proves several interesting points about language learning :

  • foreign language acquisition can be trained in a similar way the body is trained (but how and in what way, it is a different story): it accounts for 50% of successful language learner
  • psychology and personality of the individual: they make up the other 50 %.

The sum of both gives a truly individual result, superiour to the sum of the both parts. You may take a look at the study case I did on Arnold Schwarzenegger (to be published ) as an adult foreign language learner to get an example of how it looks in practice.