French Fable by Jean de la Fontaine

Most French children learn (and can recite) this classic, French fable (written in 1668) around the tender age of 6-8 years old. The author, Jean da la Fontaine, applied human-like qualities to the animals/principale characters in his poems; the morale of this one is to not trust fake flattery, meant only to deceive.  His work was recognized and appreciated by Louis XIV and his court.

LE CORBEAU ET LE RENARD   (English version below)

Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché

Tenait en son bec un fromage.

Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché,

Lui tint à peu près ce language:

“Hé ! Bonour, Monsieur du Corbeau.

Que vous êtes joli ! Que vous me semblez beau !

Sans mentir, si votre ramage

Se rapporte à votre plumage,

Vous êtes le Phénix de ces bois.”

A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;

Et pour montrer sa belle voix,

Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.

Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit: “Mon bon Monsieur,

Apprenez que tout flatteur Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute :

Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. “

Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,

Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.

The Crow and the Fox

At the top of a tree perched Master Crow;
In his beak he was holding a cheese.
Drawn by the smell, Master Fox spoke, below.
The words, more or less, were these:
“Hey, now, Sir Crow! Good day, good day!
How very handsome you do look, how grandly distingué!
No lie, if those songs you sing
Match the plumage of your wing,
You’re the phoenix of these woods, our choice.”
Hearing this, the Crow was all rapture and wonder.
To show off his handsome voice,
He opened beak wide and let go of his plunder.
The Fox snapped it up and then said, “My Good Sir,
Learn that each flatterer
Lives at the cost of those who heed.
This lesson is well worth the cheese, indeed.”
The Crow, ashamed and sick,
Swore, a bit late, not to fall again for that trick.

(Translation Source:

Subjunctive tense in French – une bête noire !

I KNOW, I KNOW – no one enjoys learning the subjunctive tense in French; however, it is necessary/used, shows that you are knowledgeable, and that you can speak at a certain level of proficiency.  So, here are some phrases to practice.

HINT: One of these does NOT take the subjunctive — Bon courage!

1. Il est important que vous _____ mon colis avant lundi. (ouvrir)

2. Nous irons où qu’il _____ . (falloir)

3.  Il se peut que nous _____ le bus. (prendre)

4. J’espère que mon cadeau vous _____ .(plaire)

5.  Je souhaite que vous _____ content. (être)

6.  Est-il certain que tu _____ venir? (pouvoir)

7.  Elle veut qu’il nous _____. (attendre)

8.  Est-il vrai qu’il _____ trop vite? (conduire)

9.  C’est dommage qu’il ne _____ pas beau. (faire)

10. Tu peux prêter mon stylo pourvu que tu me la _____. (rendre)

Answers: 1-ouvriez; 2-faille; 3-prenions; 4-*plaît or plaira; 5-soyez; 6-puisses; 7-attende; 8-conduise; 9-fasse; 10-rendes

* Verbs espérer (like croire and penser) express certainty, so only use the subjunctive for negative or interrogative sentences with these verbs.

Check out this new language exchange concept, held on the French Riviera!

French Language Practice: Object Pronouns

Fill in the corresponding object pronoun (le, la, les, lui, leur, y, en):

1. Je ____ écris un SMS. (to them)

2. Je ne ____ vois pas. (them)

3. Veux-tu ___ manger? (some)

4. Donne-___ cette montre. (her)

5. Ils ___ vont cet été. (en Italie)

6. Je ___ parle. (to him)

7. Je parle d’ ___ (about them).

8. Il n’___ a qu’un. (of them)

9. N’___ pense pas! (about it)

10. Attends-___ ! (her)

How did you do? Pronouns can be tricky!

(Answers: 1-leur/2-les/3-en/4-lui/5-y/6-lui/7-eux/8-en/9-y/10-la)

Test yourself: French Verbs

Fill in the correct form/tense of the verbs listed below:

On va déménager lundi prochain.  Notre nouveau appartement ne 1_______ pas entièrement prêt avant la fin du mois, mais il faut quand même qu’on s’en 2_____.  Il y 3_____ un petit hôtel aux environs de Monpellier où nous 4_____ l’attendre.  Un entracte calme entre l’emballage et le déballage!  On veut visiter les vignobles tout autour et on 5_____ commander quelques bonnes bouteilles pour la crémaillère dont notre fille va nous “surprendre.”  Évidemment, il 6_____ que nous 7_____ pas mal de verres échantillons.  Tant mieux!

1. être

2. aller

3. avoir

4. aller

5. espérer

6. falloir

7. goûter

How did you do?  Learning a foreign language takes time and practice! Please email me if you have questions.

(Answers: 1-sera/2-aille/3-a/4-irons/5-espère/6-faudra/7-goûtions)

Brain food: Being Bi-lingual !

As a former middle/high school French teacher, articles about language learning always catch my attention — pretty cool that there is a health benefit linked to studying a foreign language!

According to a recent article in The Connexion, an English-language newspaper:

“Being bilingual is good for your brain – and can even fend off Alzheimer’s Disease, says one of the world’s leading experts in the subject.

According to psychologist Ellen Bialystok of York University in Canada, “the benefits of bilingualism increase with its duration and the more you practise it, the better it is”.

All bilingual children experience similar benefits, she told Le Figaro.

These include an ability to perform in a noisy environment due to skill at separating out different sounds and greater mental flexibility including enhanced ability with all tasks requiring “complex thoughts”.

A researcher at the Paris-Descartes University, Ranka Bijeljac-Babic, backed the findings. “Being bilingual helps you to pass from one piece of information to another, to change the centre of your attention,” she said.

However Professor Bialystok said “the most surprising discovery of recent years” is the way that bilingualism holds back Alzheimer’s, “significantly” – by more than five years on average.

Ms Bijeljac-Babic said the latest thinking is there is no need to follow the “one parent, one language” approach.”

L’heure (Time) – Grammar exercise

Look at the above schedule and answer the questions in French (include a.m. or p.m.):

1. À quelle heure est le cours d’anglais?
2.  À quelle heure est le déjeuner?
3. À quelle heure est le cours de géographie?
4. À quelle heure est le cours de dessin?
5. À quelle heure est la récréation?
6. À quelle heure est le cours de maths?
7. À quelle heure est le cours d’histoire?
8. À quelle heure finessent les cours?

1-Le cours d’anglais est à neuf heures du matin./2-Le déjeuner est à onze heures vingt du matin./3-Le cours de géographie est à dix heures vingt du matin./4-Le cours de dessin est à midi et demi de l’après-midi.(douze heure trente)/5-La récréation est à dix heures du matin./6-Le cours de maths est  à une heure et demie de l’après-midi.(treize heure trente)/7-Le cours d’histoire est à huit heures du matin./8-Les cours finissent à deux heures vingt-cinq de l’après-midi (quatorze heure vingt-cinq).

NOTE:  In every day conversation, the 24-hour clock is used for time, so one would say “quatorze heures trente” (instead of “deux heures et demie de l’après-midi”) to eliminate the need for a.m./p.m.

Source: Reproducible French activities

Some more idiomatic expressions

Here are some common expressions to add to your language repertoire. Expressions like these are frequently used in conversation, to express feelings, create a nuance in a given situation, and as a way to compliment and enrich every level of language ability. Hopefully, you won’t need to use the last one. (although, unfortunately, I did – about myself!)

– mourir de faim = to be starving

metro-boulot-dodo = boring daily routine (work oriented)

– se lever du pied gauche = to get up on the wrong side of the bed

– etre aux anges = to be on cloud nine, to be overjoyed

– plus on est de fous, plus on rit = the more, the merrier

– tout/ca baigne (usage is informal) = that’s cool; no problem

– de bouche a oreille = word of mouth

– quand les poules auront des dents = that’ll be the day (equivalent to ‘when pigs fly’)

– tomber dans les pommes = to pass out/faint