Here's what I listened to, watched, read and did this month in French.
RFI Revue de presse française – 3-4 minute daily roundup of French press. This month's themes included: inflation and growth in France; diplomats on strike protesting against planned eradication of diplomatic corps; 100 days of war in Ukraine; parliamentary elections; Roland-Garros win by Nadal; a divided Europe in the war against Ukraine; Mélanchon - the man to beat in the legislative elections; abstentions; heatwave (canicule); Macron's visit to Kiev; homage to Jean-Louis Trintignant; elections in France's overseas regions; more upheaval (le grand chambardement) after Macron fails to secure absolute majority; EU says yes to candidacy for Ukraine and Moldavia; and shock ruling by US Supreme Court on abortion rights.
France Culture Grand Reportage
'Après mon AVC: 5 ans de silence radio' (15 April, 2022, 58 mins) https://www.radiofrance.fr/franceculture/podcasts/grand-reportage/apres-mon-avc-5-ans-de-silence-radio-6623691
Bruno Cadène, Radio France journalist, talks candidly about his stroke (accident vasculaire cérébral) and his five years (and counting) of working tirelessly towards rehabilitation. His determination to recover, especially his speech, so he can work again as a reporter is incredibly moving. The statistics are scary - 150,000 stroke victims per year in France, with only half surviving - and the importance of time, as every minute during a stroke 1.9 million neurons are damaged. There's also crucial information on how to recognise the symptoms, how to recover and, most importantly, how to avoid strokes.
'Idlib, une nouvelle bande de Gaza’ (22 April, 2022, 58 mins) https://www.radiofrance.fr/franceculture/podcasts/grand-reportage/idlib-une-nouvelle-bande-de-gaza-8684677.
To the north-west of Syria is the province of Idlib which is home to 2.5 million refugees who fled the bombings during the Assad regime. Harrowing interviews with men and women, who speak of the hardships of displacement and loss (one man shares how he lost five of his ten children and his wife to the bombs...). Puts everything into perspective...
'Égypte: les grands travaux d'Al-Sissi pour refaçonner le Caire' (29 April, 2022, 58 mins) https://www.radiofrance.fr/franceculture/podcasts/grand-reportage/egypte-les-grands-travaux-d-al-sissi-pour-refaconner-le-caire-1572746.
Report on the construction of Egypt's new administrative capital 35km east of Cairo, which comprises business, government, cultural districts and residential areas stretching across a surface area as big as Singapore! Mix of interviews but consensus seems to be that this is a political project with pretty disastrous fallout. One woman spoke of how she was given just a day to pack up her belongings before her house was demolished and she was rehoused far from her family, friends and job. Gentrification and the consequences on the poor. Leafy avenues, trees, green spaces all eliminated to make space for super highways and sky-scrapers. People dying trying to cross these 20m-wide roads which have only been conceived for cars and with access to the new capital in mind. Two quotes stood out by interviewees: this is a 'surgical catastrophe' and a project that is 'too big to fail'.
'Comment enseigner la Shoah aujourd'hui' (6 May, 2022, 58 mins) https://www.radiofrance.fr/franceculture/podcasts/grand-reportage/grand-reportage-direct-du-vendredi-06-mai-2022-5874796. Lili Leignel (née Keller- Rosenberg), amazing 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, travels around schools and other venues sharing her experiences as a child during World War II and how Holocaust denial spurred her to overcome her shyness and speak out and share what happened. Although Leignel has always felt that her talks have been well received by school children, others have experienced problems in the form of antisemitism, competing memories and representation of the Holocaust and victimisation. Different ways of teaching about the Holocaust are discussed, such as focussing on the perpetrators rather than emotional witness testimony, and looking at genocide as a whole to show how we are all affected by political processes. Fascinating podcast!
'Agés mais toujours connectés' (20 May, 2022, 58 mins) https://www.radiofrance.fr/franceculture/podcasts/grand-reportage/grand-reportage-du-vendredi-25-juin-2021-2113305. Inspiring interviews with 70-95-year-young French men and women discussing how they adapted to self-isolation during Covid lockdowns (learning how to use technology - visioconférences - to keep connected); the importance of life-long learning and purpose in life; encouraging intergenerational relationships; and challenging stereotypes of elderly people. This is what I aspire to!
French Song/Artist of the Month
My song for June is:
Si Maman Si, by France Gall - I discovered France Gall when I was 18 and living in Switzerland, and so her songs are very much associated with my memories from that time. Gall started her career at the tender age of 16 and won the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg one year later singing Poupée de cire, poupée de son (not her finest work...). To be honest, only a handful of her songs appeal to me, but this one holds a special place in my heart. I actually prefer this melancholic live performance and arrangement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUYKQyzwyPk to the recorded version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYF8n5aRzwM.
This month, I actually managed to watch a whole season (granted, it was only four 45-minute episodes...) of:
Une mère parfaite/The perfect mother (2022, 1 season). How well do we know our own children...? Series set in Berlin/Paris about a devoted mother's attempts to prove her daughter's innocence after she is accused of homicide. The deeper she delves into her daughter's life (with the help of a former lover now lawyer), the more she realises just how little she actually knows about her...
I've almost finished L'amour dure trois ans, by Frédéric Beigbeder. So for my next book, it's time for something with a little more substance:
Une mort très douce, by Simone de Beauvoir. Written in 1964 shortly after her mother's death, this is a very personal and moving memoir chronicling her last days. This is my first foray into de Beauvoir's work, so I look forward to discovering her style.
Working out, language exchange, all things French...
French Mondays workouts in June included a mix of calisthenics, targeted workouts and yoga.
FRANCE CALLISTHENIE – Callisthénie: 13 exercices pour une base solide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUDzAatW6UE).
I'm restarting callisthenics workouts from this week after several months off. This isn't a follow-along vid, but I pause after each exercise and do 30-second reps: hollow body hold, hollow body rock, superman, dish shape rolling, plank shrug, alternative 'T' plank, downward dog, body wall tension, tabletop lift (option to raise each leg), deep squat, tricep dips with shrug, dead hang, scapular pull-up. For the last two, you need a bar, which I don't have (yet). I'll have to research the French for these terms - anyone care to educate me? I found it quite tough but then I am out of practice!
Simon Hamptaux – Entraînement de jambes - Callisthénie
A10-min instructional video which I tried for the first time today. Oof, it was a touche too hard for me! I'd never heard of these exercises (I'm just a beginner in Callisthenics) but I'm up for the challenge, even if I choose the "easier" options. Skater squat (hard); Nordic curl (no way!); leg extension on knees (I can do this!); lying leg curls (don't have the right equipment but improvised); wall squat (very used to this one) but the harder option of raising each leg (uh-uh); cyclist squat (easy-peasy); and calf raises (pas de problème).
Lucile Woodward – Routine FITNESS Débutant 20 MIN FULL BODY (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJAOKycXBLs).
Aimed at beginners, the exercises are not particularly hard - leg raises sitting on chair, squats, bicep curls, tricep rows, inner thigh squeezes, wide legged lunges, sit-ups and side crunches, bridge and supine twists. However, Lucile does do 40+ reps of each, so it feels like a long time! She explains and demonstrates extremely well, so this is a perfect workout for newbies but also a good full-body session for all levels.
Laura Day FIT - Affiner et tonifier ses bras
12-min workout for arms and shoulders, starting without weights and then using whatever you've got to hand (bottles, tins of beans...). Not overly challenging, unless you use heavy dumbbells! If you keep your abs tight throughout, even better.
Delphine Marie Yoga – 15 minutes de yoga pour être heureux (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT0XuJOmU8U&t=1s).
Nice quick flow of poses to open up your heart and hips. I hadn't slept well the night before so was feeling a little grumpy, but I actually did notice an improvement in my mood after this session. This stuff works!!
Delphine Marie Yoga – Yoga autour de l'élément de l'eau: créativité, émotions, sensualité (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gLk78u_URo).
30-minute dynamic flow for the sacral chakra (located below the navel and associated with our emotions). Lots of hip-openers (where emotions reside, according to this school of thought), twists, forward folds and heart opening poses.
Delphine Marie Yoga – 15 minutes de Yoga debout sans tapis - voyage, genoux et poignets fragiles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YnfRQnL3k8).
A quick session of cat cow variations, yogi squat with side twists, standing twist, Warrior 1, 2 and 3, triangle, and goddess pose with twist variation. Great wherever you are (no mat required) or if you have any kind of joint injury or weakness.
Yoga Fire by Jo – Soulager les bras & les épaules
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBQRpmUyoIQ). I searched specifically for a yoga practice for arms this week, as I've been doing strength training targeting the upper body and felt a little sore. Jo's 25-min session really hit the spot. I like her style of teaching and her soothing voice, so I've subscribed and will look out for more of her vids!
As I mentioned in last month's post, I was looking for another opportunity to speak French other than with Maman and I found one through LinkedIn with three other translators - shout out to Suzie Withers, Édith Félicité Koumtoudji and Claire King. Great to immerse ourselves in the language for an hour et pour se connaître un peu mieux. Looking forward to the next chat in July!
Word(s)/expression(s) of the month
There are so many, it's going to have to be in the plural... The first two idioms are from one of the French Voices podcast 'Wonder Betty':
Parler à bâton rompu - to talk about this and that; to have an informal/casual/random conversation; to ramble; banter...
Sauter/passer du coq à l'âne - to jump/hop from one subject/topic to another; to change ground; to jump to conclusions; non-sequitur/segue...
This was from L'amour dure trois ans:
Fier comme un paon - proud as a peacock
The Larousse offers these alternatives:
1. Faire le paon - se gonfler d'orgueil, se pavaner
2. Pigeon paon - pigeon d'agrément, caractérisé par la faculté de pouvoir relever et étaler la queue
3. Se parer des plumes du paon - tirer vanité de ce qu'on a emprunté à d'autres
4. Vaniteux comme un paon - très vaniteux
I had no idea how to pronounce the word, luckily the Larousse came to my rescue:
[pɑ̃], comme dans pantoufle. Paonne n.f. (= femelle du paon) se prononce [pan], comme panne; paonneau n.m. (petit du paon) se prononce [pano], comme panneau. Le o ne se prononce jamais dans ces mots.
Origin: from the Latin 'pavo' (peacock).
I discovered an interesting website (thanks to the ITI French Network group emails) on French expressions - https://www.expressio.fr/ - which, if you subscribe, sends you a different expression each day. At the time of writing, today's was:
Prendre ses jambes à son cou - courir très vite; s'enfuir; se sauver le plus rapidement possible; partir; s'enfuir précipitamment.
English: take to one's heels; run for cover; run screaming for the hills; run for it; cut and run; leave as fast as your legs will carry you...
I'm always on the lookout for new content and ways to use French, so please share any activities you're doing. I've decided to put these blog posts on hold for now and instead post a shorter version of French Mondays on LinkedIn. A bientôt!