French Input

French the natural way: top Christmas stories

Coucou les French learners,

When I was living and teaching in England, I used to sing in a choir. Yesterday my amazing conductor, Hannah Brine posted an inspiring quote:

I hear so many people around me saying things like “I am not an expert in languages” or “I could never learn another language” or “I am bad at languages”… When in fact, anyone can acquire another language because as human beings, we all have a brain wired to acquire different languages. The best evidence being that we all managed to acquire our own mother tongue. It is not about having a good memory or practicing, it is about loving it!

We acquired our mother tongue because we loved our parents and carers and we wanted to understand them and communicate with them. The same happens with acquiring French: be a French amateur, do French for the love of it!

5 Christmas stories

Christmas is a special time for stories! And since stories are the best to acquire another language, I have selected some stories for you to read. In the stories that follow, you will find many examples of what makes the Christmas Spirit so unique and special. The spirit that embodies charity, forgiveness, friendship, love and generosity.

Most of the stories are from the Great Story Reading Project and one has been imagined by one of my amazing French learners:

  1. La petite fille aux allumettes is the famous story by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It sad yet poignant. It is one of my favorite Christmas story. You can read the full version here.
  2. Dame Hiver is a Grimm Brothers tale and is a good explanation of where the snow comes from!
  3. Frigga et le solstice d’hiver is a Nordic legend with gods and goddess.
  4. Conte de Noël by French author Guy de Maupassant is quite scary, pas pour les âmes sensibles, not for sensitive souls!
  5. Gal Gadot part en vacances is about Wonder Woman who goes on holidays to her parents but they have disappeared! Où sont-ils ? Where are they?

La vidéo de la semaine

This week has been full of Christmas events in France. La Fête des Lumières has started in the city of Lyon and on Wednesday 6th December, people in the East of France celebrated Saint Nicholas. I live in Germany so Saint Nicholas is big too. He comes during the night and leaves chocolates and also clementines in the children’s shoes.

When I was a child, I remember singing this popular song about his legend.

This is the most famous French legend which you can also read here:

This video is part of Noël en préparation series: find out about a new French word, expression or story about Christmas. 25 videos, one video each day before Christmas.

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

French the natural way: countdown to Christmas!

Coucou les French learners,

Aujourd’hui, today c’est le premier décembre, it is the first of December! French children have opened la première porte, the first door of le calendrier de l’Avent, Advent calendar. C’est excitant, it is exciting!

Il y a un chocolat dans la première porte du calendrier de l’Avent ! C’est un calendrier allemand !

Get yourself into Christmas à la française ! J’ai une surprise, I have surprise !!! 25 Christmassy videos are waiting for you to acquire all the vocabulary and expressions about Noël en France ! Watch a video each day (they only last between 1 and 5 minutes each) and get into the Christmas spirit!

Here is the first one which is part on my new YouTube playlist Noël en préparation:

La vidéo de la semaine

This week’s video is very much de saison, seasonal because it is starting to snow everywhere in France, even in Paris! It is another Polo’s adventure. It is also a special story for my four year’s old niece who loves Polo’s stories.

My niece lives in London, her father is English and her mother who happens to be my sister is French, so she is a bilingual kid. Although my sister speaks to her only in French, she is more confident in English.

Two months ago, my niece started to watch my videos. She listened to my stories nearly everyday and my sister says it has made a massive difference. She says my niece “is now starting to make sentences in French, not just using spare words.  She specifically uses vocabulary from those videos like ‘étoile de mer’.” My mother also noticed the difference when they meet via Skype. In the past, my niece would sometimes answer her in French, sometimes in English. She now only speaks to her in French! As I keep repeating input is crucial!

So here is Polo under the snow. You will acquire:
Il fait froid = it is cold
Il neige = it snows
Il met = he puts on
Faire un bonhomme de neige = to do a snowman
Tout à coup = suddenly

In the comments below, let me know if you like the snow and do you like building snowmen? Est-ce que tu aimes la neige et est-ce que tu aimes faire des bonhommes de neige ?

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

French the natural way: listen to stories!

Coucou les French learners,

Last week, I mentioned a story I co-created with a learner to help her remember a list of words she had to memorize. I strongly believe in the power of stories because when your mind listens to a story, it generates multiple connections. Instead of establishing just one connection (which happens when you learn from a word list), multiple connections allow your brain to store the new word effortlessly and permanently. Therefore I am confident some of the new words are now stuck in this particular learner’s brain because she can relate them to Phoebe and her lost hamster! You can read the story here.

I now also teach a grade 12 IB Spanish class which requires students to know a wide range of vocabulary and structures. Instead of giving them weekly lists of words and expressions related to the different topics we have to cover, I tell them a new story every lesson. I follow the story listening approach by Dr. Beniko Mason where “it’s the story that counts“! Listening to a story not only builds vocabulary, it also improves fluency and accuracy in a language. More importantly, it “builds a bridge to reading because it provides the linguistic competence needed for book reading.”


After my learners have listened to a story, I ask them to write the story in their native language. I can find out if learners have comprehended the story, because “we acquire a language when we understand what people are saying to usDr. Stephen Krashen.

An example of a Spanish story retell.

You can do the same! My videos available on YouTube are story listening videos! So after you watch a video, write the story in your mother tongue and try to include as many details as you can to see if you understood what you heard. You will see that little by little (as the picture above which is a Spanish story), you will start to include French words, then full sentences. And it will mean that you have acquired French.

L’histoire de la semaine

Est-ce que tu aimes danser ? Do you like to dance? This week’s story is based on another story based on the book Putting it together by Elizabeth Skelton and Denise Milligan. The English story is entitled “Bigfoot”.

You will acquire:
Il a des très grands pieds = he has very big feet
Elle trébuche sur = she trips on
Elle tombe = she falls
Il se casse le bras = he breaks his arm

You will also hear a typical French expression which is the same as “No way!” in English. Watch my one minute video to find out more about it.

Can you believe it is story number quarante-cinq, forty-five already?

As always, I love hearing from you! Let me know whether you are enjoying Season #2? Est-ce que tu aimes la saison #2 ?

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)


French the natural way: the only cure is more input!

Coucou les French learners,

Last night, I was tutoring a 12 years old French student and she had to learn a list of vocabulary about all the different rooms in a school: la cantine, le gymnase, la salle des profs, le laboratoire… Instead of having the learner memorize each word and repeat them after me, I decided to make up a story with her. We ended up with a girl called Phoebe who goes to school with her hamster in her bag. She goes to les toilettes , the toilets but her hamster escapes and Phoebe finally finds it in la salle des profs, the teachers’ room where the director also is. Heureusement, fortunately the director is not strict and he does not punish Phoebe ! We had fun co-creating this story and most of all I am confident the new words will stick in my learner’s mind.

“Acquisition Quote of the Week” by

Le challenge de la semaine

Memorizing vocabulary lists and studying grammar is not harmful but it is painful and it does not lead to acquisition. Instead of giving my learners grammar worksheets and word lists to learn by heart, I prefer to give them a dose of daily comprehensible input.

Here is an example of what my learners can do when they do not have a lesson with me: le challenge de la semaine. One input activity in French for each day of the week (each takes around 10 minutes):

1. Lundi : watch the video A l’hôtel 

2. Mardi : read a parallel story Juliette et Robert en France

3. Mercredi : watch the video Un nuit bizarre 

4. Jeudi : read a parallel story Camping dans le Massif Central 

5. Vendredi : read another parallel story Dereck et sa grand-mère 

Bonus: listen to the song Voyage Voyage 

The theme here is about traveling because one of my learners likes to go on trips around the world. But I believe you can set yourself weekly challenges similar to the one above. Find videos, podcast and readings about things you enjoy and take about 10 minutes a day to listen, watch or read in French. YOU CAN DO IT because vouloir, c’est pouvoir, to want is to be able to.


L’histoire de la semaine

This week’s video is based on a Belles Histoires story L’énorme rutabaga.

Mathurin plants a seed. The seed grows into giant rutabaga!

You will acquire:
Il sème une graine = he plants a seed
Elle grandit = she grows
Il devient = he becomes
Ils tirent = they pull
Viens ! = come!
Ils tombent par terre = they fall on the floor

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

French the natural way: l'armistice

Coucou les French learners,

Novembre, November is un mois sombre, a dark month. Last week I mentioned La Toussaint when the French commemorate the dead. Tomorrow the French commemorate the end of la Première Guerre Mondiale, the First World War. It is on the 11th of November which is un jour férié, a bank holiday in France and it celebrates l’Armistice which happened in 1918, on the train in Compiègne in the forest. It was signed between the German and the French and it ended four years of what the historians have called une boucherie, a butchery. 10 million people were killed.

Explanation of the Armistice du 11 novembre on Maria José’s blog for French learners.

Listen to this veteran, Paul Ooghe who explains that the Armistice was un jour de deuil, a day of morning for him. You can also follow the transcript of the video as you are watching it (click on Transcription). It is heartbreaking.

Un poème sur la guerre

La guerre is the war and this simple yet poignant poem entitled Familiale by Jacque Prévert describes well how the French have felt during and after the war. It is about this normal French family: the mum knits, the dad works and the son goes to war, it is natural!

” La mère fait du tricot “

My Dear Man has kindly read and recorded the poem as well as Jacques Prévert biography. You can read both texts here. And you can use WikiTranslate to comprehend the poem.

Familiale, le poème :
Qui est Jacques Prévert ? Who is Jacques Prévert?

In the long term, I want to record every story and French comprehensible resources so that you can access them via text and audio format.

What do you think? Would it be useful to help you acquire French effortlessly? As always, I love hearing from you so leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Qui est le plus fort ?

Finally to brighten this newsletter up, I thought I would share last Sunday bedtime story from the author Mario Ramos. The title of this funny story is Qui est le plus fort ? Who is the strongest? Le grand méchant loup, the big bad wolf thinks he is the strongest but might he be wrong? My 5 years old son absolutely loves this story, what about you?

You can even understand the vocabulary from the story on Quizlet.

Happy French acquisition!

A bientôt !

P.S. Remember to watch this week’s new story about a boy named Tyler who wants to have a real Panda. I must thank Mr Brown’s French class who watches my stories regularly. They inspired me for this particular one. Merci beaucoup !

P.P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it :-)

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