French language and culture commentary from the U.S. capital

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Four Influential French Inventions


If you were to ask yourself in what areas the French are at their best, the first things that come to mind probably fall in the realms of food, art, cinema, or the like. And while these are undoubtedly among their assets, France’s men and women have also made countless other contributions to the world that would certainly be missed if they had never come into existence. Here are just a few… Read More

Lavender: The Beauty of Provence Inside and Out


Vibrant violaceous lavender blooms sweeping the arid fields of Provence is one of the most emblematic postcard images of France—and extends to the point of legend. The story goes that a young girl named Lavandula was dismayed when she saw the wasted bounty of the Lubéron land and her resulting teardrops were scattered across the region, sprouting to form the colorful blooms that now mark the hilltop towns of Apt and Gordes, as well… Read More

Beyond the Meow: Six “Phrases Idiomatiques” Based On Animals


We generally think of language as humans’ domain, but having lived for so much of our history in such close proximity to members of the animal kingdom, it’s not surprising that their habits have infiltrated our spoken word.  Indeed, we’ve found unique ways to transcribe their tongues into our own languages: there’s le chat qui fait miaou, le chien qui fait ouah ouah, or le canard qui fait coin-coin. Beyond these words for animal sounds, cultures have… Read More

Five Ways to Sound More “French”


Many French students remark upon their first visit to France that spoken French is very different from what they have been taught in school. Indeed, spoken and informal French make major departures from the formal way of writing and speaking that is taught in French lessons. So, if you want to “sound more French” and when you speak, follow these five tips to better understand the language when it’s spoken and to add some fluency,… Read More

Libertines and Other Dangerous Liaisons


On Friday, October 10th at 7 PM, the Alliance Française will screen Stephen Frears’ 1988 adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Set in pre-Revolutionary France and exposing the height of the perversions, decadence, and corruption of the Ancien Régime (“Old Regime”), the film is based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel of the same name. The original novel is rooted in the libertine tradition, most recognizably… Read More

Speaking in Color: Emotional Red, White, & Blue Idioms


As in other languages, colors en français have been culturally appropriated into everyday expressions to make certain moods, emotions, and behaviors more verbally vibrant. And while nearly every color of the rainbow has a place somewhere in the French language, we thought we’d take a look at a few idioms stemming from the nationalistic sliver of the spectrum: those involving le bleu, le blanc, et le rouge. Bleu Sure to be familiar to Anglophones is… Read More

Regions of France: The South


Whether you’re a traveler just passing through or an avid Francophile, you’re probably familiar with a few locations scattered around the hexagone whose names are inextricably linked with certain images: Burgundy for its wine, Saint-Tropez for its luxurious seaside resorts, Normandy for the D-Day beaches. France is indeed a nation that promises a rich mélange of experiences to entice anyone from the photographer to the antiquarian to the foodie, but to best appreciate its abundance it can be useful… Read More

The French Connection: Hollywood à la Française


The overwhelming influence of Hollywood and American media around the globe is hardly headline news, with films, television, and music spreading like wildfire around the world with varying degrees of adaptation and localization. Despite this impact, however, the Hollywood machine has also become an unsuspecting expert at the inverse: borrowing and adapting plenty of its own films from foreign origins. It might even surprise you, in fact, to learn that a number of seemingly… Read More

Food for Thought: Five Culinary “Phrases Idiomatiques”


If there’s two things that go better than peas and carrots, it’s the French and their food. Thankfully, they’re the cream of the crop when it comes to their culinary skills, so though the cliché may be old as the hills, at least it cuts the mustard. They own world-renowned culinary schools, debate over which restaurants merit the coveted Michelin stars, and pride themselves on having some of the best chefs in the world. If… Read More

5 French Pastries That Will Make Your Mouth Water


Buttery flakes of tender, delicate pastry that melt in your mouth, with a gush of warm chocolat that evokes the very spirit of France — a perfect, just-out-of-the-oven pain au chocolat is a near life-changing pastry, it’s true. But as iconic as it is, it is by no means the only French pastry worth salivating over. La patisserie and  la boulangerie are essential fixtures of any French town, whose daily commerce in croissants and baguettes is often their… Read More