Keep up on your French

Back in the 90s I spoke French fluently (with an Idaho accent). French is still my preferred language for profanity during heated basketball games, but it’s tough to hold on to vocabulary and fluid speech without many francophones around and with visits to France few and far between. Here are a few things that have helped.

Lessons

Victor Hugo plays the guitar in the metroI’ve tried Duolingo, Memrise, Rosetta Stone, and others. They might be good for learning the basics of the language, but none of them were very engaging to me for improving beyond that. Enter Frantastique. They have the weirdest, most entertaining French lessons du monde. Daily sessions involve aliens who decided to thaw cryogenically-frozen Victor Hugo (after considering Michael Jackson and others) who then has various adventures with old friends, including Quasimodo (who needs help applying for a job). The animation is weird, the voices are weird, and the weirdness really helps the lessons stick. They also feature famous French movies and songs each day.

Radio

TuneIn is great for accessing pretty much every radio station in the world. My favorite is FranceInfo, which is similar to NPR – lots of talk and few commercials.

Podcasts

You can see the top podcasts for several countries at iTunesCharts.com. I tried several before I settled on my favorite: Sixième science. Topics are interesting (why does time seem to pass more rapidly as we age? – are plants intelligent?) and episodes are short and filled with little clips from movies and songs.

Music

News

Le Monde is the biggest. I prefer Le Figaro.

YouTube

I haven’t really found anything I come back to regularly, but check out Top Channels in France. Français Authentique is good for slowly-pronounced discussions of topics like La Bise.

Movies

Have you seen Les Choristes? So good.

Books

Le Petit NicolasLe Petit Nicolas is my favorite easy read. It’s at a child’s level with great drawings and jokes only the parents get. You can also try a French translation of a book you know well in English – I’m currently reading Je Suis Une Légende (I Am Legend). Sometimes I get more ambitious with French classics like Les Misérables and L’Étranger, but those sometimes take more mental effort than I can spare.

Audiobooks

I’ve had mixed success here. LibriVox has a bunch of free French audiobooks, but it can be tough to find a good narrator since they’re all volunteers. My library has a few French audiobooks, including Le Petit Prince. If you have an Audible subscription, they have a large collection of French audiobooks.

Scriptures

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a few apps with French content, including The Gospel Library and The Book of Mormon (a standalone app which I prefer because I can leave it in French every time I open it instead of switching back and forth). There’s also a French website – https://www.eglisedejesuschrist.fr

The YouVersion Bible app is excellent and has French content as well. There are some really good audio versions in English and it looks like some French ones, too.

Munich

We did a Fat Tire Bike tour of Munich, Germany, and then got out of the city the morning Oktoberfest started.

I probably picked traditional German music from the wrong region, but oh well.

Stonehenge and Windsor

I’m starting to convince my co-workers that business trips are better if you go out and see the sights rather than work in the hotel between meetings. We arranged for a jet-lagged visit to Stonehenge and toured Windsor Castle.

Windsor is next to Eton, home to Eton College, founded in 1440 by King Henry VI. I took a picture of the Eton Walk and decided to try it out one afternoon.

Eton Walkway sign

It was much longer than I expected, and the northern section takes you through some fairly sketchy underpasses where no one could hear you scream, but overall it was a nice jaunt. Would have been better on a bike.

Zion National Park (again)

One of our favorite places on earth is Zion National Park in southern Utah. We went down over Labor Day and had a great time biking nearby Wire Mesa Loop as well as Zion Canyon with a quick tour of The Narrows to break things up.