French Input

French the natural way: joyeux anniversaire !

Coucou les French learners,

Quelle semaine ! What a week!

Input alone is sufficient

My lovely grade 12 IB Spanish learners passed their oral examinations on Thursday. Instead of going through long lists of vocabulary related to the topics they had to talk about, I have been doing Story Listening all along with them. So I have been giving them rich comprehensible input every lesson by telling them tales and folktales. What a surprise it was to have a natural conversation with them during the exam! Of course, they did some errors but they could maintain a ten minutes conversation with me, I was thrilled!

I also had the great opportunity to deliver a talk about the natural approach to a group of language learners coached by Alan Bigulov. It was the first time I was giving an online presentation about how I teach languages and what I believe in. I was so stressed out that my English was terrible! I experienced myself how important the affective filter is and how when you are nervous, your language skills do suffer!

When I explained how to acquire another language, I made the point that there is no need to spend tons of money in a language course or textbooks. All you need to do is to find input which interests you and which you can mostly understand. Your brain will do the rest. Mark Koopman, a language teacher in Japan, explained it very well I think: “Perhaps in the classroom of the future, teachers will not even be “input providers”. Perhaps they’ll be more like guides – helping students select and best utilize other sources of input.

During the presentation, I also demoed Story Listening in French. A total beginner who didn’t know any French understood part of the story, yeah!

It was a very stressful week but I am grateful for what I experienced!

Les anniversaires

Le mois de mars, March in my family is filled with birthdays! My son turning 10 this year was a special one. We kept it low key though because the truth is I don’t really like to organize big birthday parties! So my son invited his best friends, they played football outside and then had pizzas. They had the best time!

It was kind of a usual German birthday party slightly different from a French one. And this is what I chose to explain in today’s video about Les choses de la vie: the cultural differences between a French and German birthday party.

To know more about a typical goûter d’anniversaire, French birthday party, listen to the children’s story Petit Lapin Blanc fête son anniversaire.

I love hearing from you so let me know in the comments how you celebrate a birthday in your country.

Happy French acquisition!

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 :-)

P.P.S. Be sure to watch my last story from German author Heinrich Hoffmann about Kaspar à la soupe, a little boy who doesn’t want to eat his soup.

French the natural way: read & cook

Coucou les French learners,

It’s been freezing cold this week, il a fait un froid glacial !

Read a good book

So it is the perfect time to be reading a good book by the fire, au coin du feu.

And why not not taking the time to read a French book? Peter, my dearest mentor when I started my teaching career as a language teacher in the UK, has set up a lovely website for lovers and discoverers of French Literature. I love the idea behind it which is to offer vintage (and other) used novels, to feed your love of French Literature.

Peter who is a true francophile says: “After teaching French for so long, I wanted to continue working with language and literature in some way.  And so was born ‘les bouquinistes’, inspired by those purveyors of vintage literature and art along a 3 km stretch of the River Seine – so iconic that they were awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I offer the opportunity to buy a vintage or old French novel (or subscribe to 3), with a lovely bookmark and a vintage postcard included, to allow people to keep in touch, or indeed, discover the beauty of French Literature.  The twist is that each delivery is a ‘surprise’. I am very excited about this next step, and the fact that it allows me to re-connect with my love of French Language and French Literature. Please take a look for yourself at

For more tips about how to start reading in French, check out my previous post.

La soupe de légumes

Since it’s been so cold, I thought I would take you to my kitchen to show you how I prepare a good vegetable soup, une bonne soupe de légumes. During the cold months, the French traditionally have a soup at dinner time as a starter. Therefore I usually prepare a big soup over the weekend for the week to come. The traditional French soup uses basic vegetables such as leeks, carrots and potatoes but I usually mix and match according to the season.

So here is my second video in the new series, Les choses de la vie:

You will find out why the French say ” il fait un froid de canard “, a duck’s cold. Remember last week I didn’t have a clue? Well, I did some research and I finally found out why (it does make sense!).

You will also learn about vegetables and kitchen utensils in French, and especially about my life saving pot!

Did you enjoy having a sneak peek into my kitchen? For more about French soups, have a look at all the different soups here. A very popular one is la crème Dubarry, which is a cauliflower soup with cream. La crème vichyssoise is also a traditional soup with leeks and potatoes from the spa resort Vichy in central France. La Soupe à l’oignon is also very famous and delicious!

You can also listen to the podcast by Français Facile to learn how to make a pumpkin soup, une soupe au potiron.

I love hearing from you so let me know in the comments what is your favourite soup.

Happy French acquisition!

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 :-)

P.P.S. Be sure to watch my last tale from the Grimm Brothers about un vieux chien nommé Sultan, an old dog called Sultan.

French the natural way: the next new thing

Coucou les French learners,

I am back this week with some great news!

Despite the fact it is extremely cold over here, il fait un froid de canard, a duck’s cold (don’t ask why we say that in French ?! C’est très bizarre !).  And despite the fact I feel like I cannot keep up on top of things (not to mention I suffer from the pink eye disease!), I thoroughly enjoy the online lessons with my learners from all the over the world. Whether it is Story Listening or co-creating stories, it is truly enlightening to watch learners “get deeply but effortlessly involved in a story”. 

My last Story Listening enjoyment was the Queen Bee tale from the Grimm Brothers. My learners loved listening to this story and so I decided to share it with the world. It is the longest story I have recorded so far!

We we co-create stories, I usually have a few ideas in mind so that we have a storyline but I also want to let my learner’s imagination flow. The goal is to focus on the content and not the form. I want my learners to be captivated by the stories, so that they forget that they are learning another language.

Language is after all a tool to communicate ideas!

Here are the latest stories my creative learners made up:

  • Sophie adore la viande – Sophie is a billionaire living in Brazil. She needs to eat beef everyday but one day, there is no more beef in Brazil! What is Sophie going to do?
  • Olivia habite au Brésil – Another story in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Olivia’s boyfriend thinks he is funny. He plays pranks but Olivia doesn’t like his pranks. So she decides to play a prank on him!
  • Alishia ne fait pas attention – Alishia works in the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant in Paris. But she does not pay attention and instead of cooking, she starts singing in the kitchen. The chef is furious! Will Alishia stop?
  • Junko et la licorne – Junko is a Japanese nun who sees a unicorn one day. The unicorn can grant a wish, what will it be?

La chose suivante

A few weeks ago, I was reading this interesting blog post by language coach, about having the next thing ready to go before getting to the end of the current thing.

To be honest, I am not such an organized person especially when it comes to maintaining good habits! As I mentioned above, I find it hard to keep on top of things at the moment. On the other hand, I have a zillion ideas about how to help my language learners become fluent and proficient.

Just last weekend, one of my dear learners,  who wrote an excellent blog post about her French journey, told me she really enjoys watching youtubers to acquire Portuguese (as well as French, Alina is also acquiring Portuguese!) and she then persuaded me to make new videos about my life. She told me it would be so interesting that it would not feel like a language learning video.

Although I don’t think my life is that intriguing, I watched this Romanian youtuber who lives in Italy and who talks in Portuguese about the word tulip in different languages. I just loved this video so much! it was so interesting because I could understand what I was hearing (I think because I know Spanish and French, it is easier to understand Portuguese) and also as Alina said, it did not feel like learning Portuguese, I was captivated by the content, not the form! And then I thought: “Maybe Alina is right! I should do it! I don’t have to talk about the nitty-gritty of my life but I could talk about my interests, French culture, the fact I live in Germany and how it compares with France.”

And SO… Despite the fact my right eye is all red and swollen, I could not wait to make a video about the last French film I saw and which my family and I loved. The format is different because it is not Story Listening but I do hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it!

What do you think? Do you like this new format? I plan to do other videos in this format about bits and bobs that I think are worth sharing. My story listening videos are still on every Tuesday and these new videos called “Les choses de la vie”, things of life will be posted on the weekend.

I love hearing from you so let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy French acquisition!

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: carnaval & planning your trip to France

Coucou les French learners,

C’est déjà le mois de février ! It is already the month of February! Il fait froid et il y a de la neige, it is cold and there is some snow, brr !

La neige dans mon jardin

This reminds me of a story about Polo à la neige which is spot on to acquire:
Il fait froid = it is cold
Il neige = it snows
Faire un bonhomme de neige = to do a snowman
Il met = he puts on
Tout à coup = suddenly

Although it is cold month over here, Février is also festive. Right now, le carnaval is happening in most francophone countries. The word comes from the Latin expression carne vale, which means “farewell to meat”, signifying the approaching fast or Carême, Lent which will start next Wednesday, le Mercredi des Cendres, Ash Wednesday.

I love this traditional carnival song from Québec, in Canada. You can follow the lyrics here: chanson-du-carnaval

The most famous carnavals are happening in Nice, and as far as La Martinique and la Nouvelle Orléans, in Louisiana. Why? Because on March 2, 1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville arrived south of New Orleans, and named it Pointe du Mardi Gras when his men realized it was the eve of the festive holiday.

You can also read about the famous Carnaval de Binche in Belgium in this document by Oxford Education aimed at upper intermediate learners: carnaval.binche

Finally, I love this short poem by Robert Desnos entitled La Chauve-souris, the bat. Go to this slideshow and see if you can remember the words, it is fun!

Image de Tête à Modeler, un site d’activités créatives pour enfants

Planning ahead: immerse in the French culture

Are you planning to go to France in the near future? February is usually the month when we start planning our next adventure! The problem is that when you travel to a country to immerse in the language, you end up wandering around museums and sights where the tourists are, not enjoying the language nor its people so much! So it is sometimes best to go somewhere different.

I started to follow Ecole des Trois Ponts  because it is a different kind of language school. First of all it is located in a region which is dear to my heart, l’Auvergne ! It is not the typical touristy part of France, yet it is beautiful and it offers an authentic taste of the French culture. It is near to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France and it offers French cooking courses, such as pastry classes where you learn the techniques and little secrets for preparing several types of croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche and viennoiserie. Miam !

I also had the chance to meet lovely Laetitia and Valérie who run the school and I really liked the concept. The residential French courses are designed to be fully immersed in the French language and the culture. Learners have many opportunities to listen to French throughout the day in real life situations: breakfast time, with the housekeeper or chef, during an afternoon break in the sitting room or in the garden or at the convivial and relaxed dinners always in the company of a French tutor… Plus, there is the option to have individual lessons or in groups, with maximum 6 people which is ideal.

Randonnée dans la région, photo de @JansFrance

The school has generously shared with me a very special recipe inspired initially by the worldwide renowned 3-star  Chef Michel Troisgros, who happens to be from this region. It is un gâteau de crêpes soufflées and it is perfect to celebrate Mardi Gras!

Click on the picture to see the recipe better

Happy crêping!

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 :-)

P.P.S. Be sure to watch the famous fable by Jean de La Fontaine about le corbeau et le renard, the crow and the fox. And then listen to the authentic version.



French the natural way: le Festival des Chandelles (La Chandeleur)

Coucou les French learners,

Yesterday was a special day and an excuse to eat loads of crêpes ! Miam !

La Chandeleur

The French celebrate la Chandeleur every 2nd of February, which marks the day when Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem.

In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I started the Festival des Chandelles on this date, a candlelit procession through the streets of Rome that culminated in placing the blessed candles in the churches. Gelasius linked this custom to crêpes by handing out galettes or salty crêpes to the tired and hungry procession people.

Nowadays the crepes themselves are the most important thing about La Chandeleur for many and here is my recipe to make des crêpes délicieuses !

You can also watch the Tour de France des crêpesDifférentes garnitures, different fillings for la Normande, la Bretonne, la Savoyarde et l’Azuréenne (de la Côte d’Azur).

Recette des crêpes du site lefleneunclic

It’s recommended to toss la crêpe in the pan with your right hand while holding a piece of gold in your left , for good luck bien sûr, of course!

Les crêpes d’hier soir, miam !

Find out more about the story of Jesus and Syméon at the temple, the Chandeleur superstitions and the famous crêpe Suzette in this document compiled especially for you!

Meet Chris

My merveilleux, marvellous French learner today is from the US. He is special to me because he is my first “YouTube customer”. Chris started to watch my videos thanks to his former high school French teacher (who I cannot thank enough!) and also commented them.He made an interesting comment about Marie veut une vraie girafe asking me what une machine à remonter le temps, a time machine was. He said it would be useful to have one!

Chris has made so much progress just by listening and reading in French! He has totally grasped the concept of Comprehensible Input and here is his journey:

Chris dans les montagnes de Bridger, la chaîne de montagnes de Bozeman dans le Montana.

Which language(s) are you learning/have you learned?

My native language is English. But, being an engineer, on the more analytical side, sometimes even English feels like a foreign language to me. I think that mathematics might be my most natural language! With Alice’s help, I am now learning French. My long-term goal is to also learn Spanish. Right now, I’m thankful to have my wife who speaks Spanish when we travel!

Why did you start learning French?

Originally, I studied French in high school. I grew up in the mid-west in the United States, so there wasn’t an immediate need for me to learn the language. My high school offered German, Spanish, Russian, and French. I chose French because my older sister was taking it, and I thought it was a beautiful language.

But now, in my early 40’s, I have made a more deliberate choice to learn French for two reasons. First, I think it’s important, as an american, to look out beyond our country and learn from other cultures. Often, we turn inward, solely focusing on what happens here in the United States. I am excited to acquire enough French that I can have discussions around and learn about politics, education, health, and general aspects of people’s lifestyles. Second, I am excited to travel to French speaking countries with my family. I enjoy cooking, art, travel, and getting up into the mountains hiking, skiing, and biking. I look forward to helping my family navigate through the challenges of traveling abroad.

Chris et son chien Copper. La photo Polaroïd est prise par son fils Fisher.

For how long have you been learning French?

I studied French for three years in high school. Unfortunately, I did not take advantage of any opportunities to travel to France and never developed a working-knowledge of the language. Any time I did have a chance to speak French, I was frozen with fear…maybe fear isn’t the exact right word… basically, my mind would go blank, and I couldn’t get the words to come out.

About four months ago, I reached out to my former high school French teacher for advice about how to efficiently learn French so I can speak it. She told me that her approach for teaching French had changed a lot over the past twenty years. After realizing that most students, like me, never get to a point where they can speak the language, she switched to an “input” method where the students spend much more time listening to spoken French. She recommended I watch Alice’s videos on YouTube! Wow, what a difference this approach has made for me! Of course, after only four months of study, I still have a long way to go. But, I can see how I will get to where I want to by using this approach.

Why did you choose me to learn French?

I saw the logic in learning through listening. I have two young children, and had just watched them learn English by being read books, watching kids TV shows, and by talking and playing with the people in their lives. So, when I watched your YouTube videos I saw the images in the books or on your drawings, and I made connections to your words. It really felt natural. The first time I attempted to learn French, I followed the traditional approach of studying grammar and memorizing vocabulary and verb conjugations. I still think those things are important, but alone they did not help me be able to hear and speak French. I basically had a bunch of facts I couldn’t do anything with.

What do you enjoy the most during our French sessions?

I enjoy having a direct immersive experience in French, while I sit here in Montana. I enjoy talking about life, cultural differences, and listening and comprehending French at a higher level than I am able to speak right now. Also, I truly appreciate your easy-going, kind and patient nature. It helps bring my anxiety level down.

What is your daily/weekly routine to learn French? Do you have any tips to share? 

I try to spend 1-2 hours studying French everyday. It’s a challenge to balance work, kids, and other responsibilities, but learning French is a priority for me and I enjoy it. My daily routine involves watching some input videos on YouTube over a cup of coffee, listening to French podcasts while I’m in the car, reviewing vocabulary and verbs on flashcards, and learning some grammar in a French workbook. At the end of the day, I usually try to watch an episode of a TV show in French on Netflix or part of a movie. Most estimates suggest it takes around 750-1000 hours to achieve a roughly middle level of French fluency. So, I’m trying to put in my time!

I’m not sure if these are useful tips, but here are a few things I am doing: I always watch the more difficult French TV shows and movies with the French subtitles on. At least right now, it is much easier for me to read and understand than to listen and understand French. But, for the easier level videos, I keep the sub-titles off to force myself to hear the language. A second tip is that I make flashcards for different situations I expect to experience during our planned trip to France this summer. I have cards for going through customs, traveling by taxi, checking into a hotel, ordering food at a restaurant, etc. I try to visualize myself in each of those situations and practice the useful phrases I have on my cards. Also, when I’m out at a restaurant in the U.S., I practice, in my head, how I would order drinks, food, ask for the check, etc in French.

Chris au Café du Monde à la Nouvelle-Orléans en Louisiane. Il mange des beignets !

Favorite French word or expression?

During my last lesson with Alice, we discussed my family’s recent trip to Costa Rica. I told her (in my broken French) that each night we walked to the beach to watch the sunset. It was really beautiful. I didn’t know the word for sunset, so I said that part in English. She told me that in French a sunset is un coucher de soleil. I mean – come on – what a beautiful way to say and to think about a sunset!

Wow! What an inspiring and thorough interview! Catch the wave of Comprehensible Input & Enjoy learning French!

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 :-)

P.P.S. Be sure to watch my last Aesop fable about un tigre et une grue, a tiger and a crane. You can also read it on the Great Story Reading Project.

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