For the French Connaisseur

Whilst reading Racine’s Athalie in French for one of my modules this week I can accross quite a few words which were alien to me and I had neverbefore after years of French study. This is when I came accorss this website which has really impressed me with the large corpus of definitions it has for more obscure French words.

The website is that of L’Internaute magazine and has a few different useful functions for any French speaker or learner. What impressed me personally was the encyclopedia sections which can be found under the ‘Encyclopédie’ tab or here:

As well as being a factual database, this page also has a very useaful search bar a bit further down the page which allows you to find definitions of French words. The best part of this particular dictionary, out of the many availbable ones, is that the definitions are given in French with synonyms and an English translation as well. This can be very useful to anyone studying the language because it automatically provides you with a lexical field surrounding that particular word. This isn’t often the case with online dictionaries as the majority will give only the English translations, which although useful, are limited in their teaching capacity. Seeing the definition in the relative language can help the mind to contextualise the word.

Aside from that tab however, the website itself is full of interesting articles all written in French and can allow anyone itnerested in the language a further insight into the culture behind the grammar and vocabulary lists. Arguably a language is itself a protal into the culture it belongs to. It evolves alongside its country and the changes it goes through are often embeded in the social history of its speakers. One example from French would be the conscious decision by l’Academie Francaise to complicate the grammar by adding more irregular verbs. This was done in order to clearly separate the educated classes from the non-educated classes, and also meant that there could be more control over the evolving of the language. This reluctance to allow their language to change is a very strong part of French cultural identity. In my experience of French schools, a large part of the Geography lessons are concerned with the amount of French speakers in the world, the decline or fall of speakers. The existence of the French Institutes and French Schools in most capital cities show the French government’s commitment to the preservation of the language. Taking this into account it can be easy to see how access to the language can bring a further understanding into that social and cultural mindset. The ability to really appreciate a language’s subtleties, beauties and quirks and the access to first hand sources can broaden the speaker’s world.

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In line with the title, hopefully this will be something that I get into on a regular basis. Try and find a rhythm to this new blog and my aim is to post twice a week. If you do want to follow, feel free!

Basically I will be looking at posting any interesting tips or useful sites to do with language learning and computers- so anything from dictionary links, to articles about the development of computer learning, probably a lot of it from the BBC seeing as I am a devoted fan to some fo their language tests on Bitesize. (I know I am a bit too old for that but its fun to test yourself on languages you know a tiny bit of- also surprisingly easy). I might add an opinion of my own or two and will try my best to be factually accurate when posting.

An example of what I mean is this:

Always interesting how far you can advance by yearself especially if it isn’t a language you have studies but might have a passing knowledge of. For me, as a French speaker, Spanish is exactly that type of language. On a rainy day if you fancy stretching your ability or maybe want to check out the peripheral around a language you are comfortable in, try one of these tests. You end up picking up some useful vocab.

More substantial links etc from me soon 🙂

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Empty Chairs

The empty chairs on the picture above are there to represent Liu Xiaobo and the fighting spirit of knowledge. To pursue what one believes is right and worthy even in the face of imprisonment is noble. It serves as a reminder not to give up our noble pursuits, however challenging.

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