October 15, 2017

What makes the French language French?



What makes the French language French?

Qu'est-ce qui fait que la langue française est la langue française?

As I have returned to school to finish my bachelor's in French, the way that I think about language has greatly evolved. If you've been here, you know by now that the French language is ma passion. I've set out to explore what makes the French language French, giving it a sensuel and beautiful quality that draws me back again and again. Today, I will share some of my discoveries avec vous.
"[You talk about] how seemingly easy it is to learn French... that already made me think... maybe that's one of the reasons French is still taught in the United States as an option among Spanish." (Lindsay Traumata, The New Paris podcast Ep. 10)
"Is French simply English in code? Mais non!" (guest speaker in one of my université courses)
There seems to exist this idea that French is an easy language for English speakers to learn, that the differences between the languages aren't so significant. After all, we share the same alphabet. We even share some of the same words. It was probably easy for you to understand my use of the word sensuel above. 

In the same episode of the New Paris Podcast referenced above, author Lauren Collins describes her book When in French, explaining that she wanted to explore the following question:


Can a language change the way you see the world?

(click image for more info)

We'll get to this question more at the end of the post, but I want to start with the more concrete aspects of language. Of course, one must understand various grammatical rules when learning a second language. 

I'm currently helping my fiancé with his French I class. One of his biggest questions: Why do French words have genders, and how do you know when something is feminine or masculine? 

This focus on gender is such a multifaceted aspect of the French language. Inanimate objects have gender and it doesn't always make sense. It often simply is. Ice cream is a girl - la glace  but a cake is a boy - le gâteau. And that all encompassing noun/pronoun "it" we use so often in English? It doesn't exist in the French language (Did you catch how I used it there? There it is again!). One must consider the gender of the noun and refer to "it" according to its gender. My ice cream? Elle (she) est du chocolat. My cake? Il (he) est vanille. The role gender plays in French goes beyond what I've explained here, but you get the idea.

You may have noticed at the beginning of this post that I said I wanted to share some of my discoveries avec vous, or with you. I used vous here as the plural as I am speaking to many of you, but vous can also be used in the singular as a more formal and polite way to say "you". In English everyone is "you". In French, there is a distinction between tu (informal) and vous (formal) that is very important to understand. My teacher is vous. My classmate of the same age is tu. With this example, you can see that social norms are very closely tied to the use of the language. 

This brings me back to Lauren's question: can a language change the way yo used the world? 

I believe the real magic goes beyond the application of grammatical rules. When understood and spoken fluently, how does the mental and physical production of the French language impact your interactions with the world around you? 
"English is a much more straight forward language, especially when it comes to genderism. In France we've got all of these adjectives, all of these ways of describing things (flourishing), where as in English we get straight to the point." (excerpt of a conversation from the Earful Tower podcast Ep. 5) 
"You're one person in English, and then you're one person in French." (excerpt of a conversation from the Earful Tower podcast Ep. 5) 
It seems that "when in French" (to reference Lauren Collins' book) the world around you literally flourishes in a new way. This is why la langue française is ma passion. I find the language absolutely beautiful, and the way I feel about myself and the world around me in French is all the more beautiful, too. 

I hope you've enjoyed today's post, though I know I've barely scratched the surface on what is a very grand idea: the relationship between language and culture. If anything, my hope is that you leave the blog today thinking more deeply about language as an expression of ourselves and the world around us. I know this is something I have pondered as of late, and my discoveries have been fascinating. 

Do you speak French or a language other than English? How do you feel the language changes the way you see the world? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. This is one of those questions that is best explored through conversation and a sharing of experiences. 

Merci beaucoup, as always, for being here and for taking some time to let learning (with a little French flair) flourish with me today.


Warm wishes for a beautiful fall Sunday from me to you,








Inspiration de la semaine (inspiration of the week):

Podcasts. I reference them so often because they are an incredible, FREE resource for continually expanding your knowledge of the world around you. I can't recommend the two I've mentioned in the post above more highly. If you are a fellow francophile or simply a lover of language and culture, check them out!

The New Paris podcast with Lindsey Tramuta 
The Earful Tower podcast with Oliver Gee
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October 8, 2017

rêver v. faire


Bonjour readers, and bon dimanche! I am very contente to be here with you this morning. :)

I'm hoping to make up for a slow Fleur de St. Louis week last week with some fun posts in the coming weeks so stay tuned and check in when you can! 

In today's post, I am going to use two French verbs: rêver and faire

rêver - to dream - ("rev" like revving up an engine + "ay") - Try saying it with me: rêver

faire - to do - (just like if you were going to a fair) - Try saying it with me: faire

Dreaming v. doing. A concept very much at the heart of Fleur de St. Louis. How easy it is to dream of something wonderful off in the future without actually doing anything to achieve it in the present moment. 

A few weeks ago I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Happier. In the episode hosts Gretchen and Elizabeth were describing the concept of a virtual move. A listener wrote in and posed a very interesting question:
"If you could plan a virtual move, where would you move to? Would you choose somewhere with ever nice weather or seasons? Would you switch jobs? What activities or hobbies might you like to pick up in your new home? Would you want an apartment our a house?...In asking all these questions, you might find some things you'd like to change about your current life and if that's the case, why not do it right now in your current life?...We often wait for big catalysts to make life changes, but instead we should recognize that we are in charge of our own lives and happiness so we have the power to make any changes we want to in our lives."
In summary, why just rêver when you can faire? (I know my "franglais" or French + English is a little funny here but I think you get the idea.) 

I spend so much time dreaming of what my life would be like if I lived in Paris... my little clutter free, Parisian chic apartment, my slowed down pace, my leisurely walks in beautiful parks, my long and calm afternoons enjoying a coffee and people watching at a café... It's pure bliss. This is my happy place. 

But then I got to thinking. Why do these beautiful visions have to be dreams off in the future and just out of reach? Just as the listener suggested on the podcast, what can I do now to be in charge of my own happiness, to make the changes I want in my life right here where I am (even though I admit that I will still have dreams of Paris... it's unavoidable... for me Paris is pure magic). 

That said, I can absolutely make these things a part of my every day right here and right now. I spent yesterday trying this out. That dream of a leisurely stroll in a beautiful Parisian park? I can see one of the most beautiful parks in St. Louis from my bedroom window, yet I spend more time dreaming of Paris parks than I do taking advantage of those lovely walks right here. Yesterday I decided to faire. Tree lined paths with fall colors emerging? Views of beautiful historic architecture? Even a lone scattered chair (I'll explain why this caught my eye in a moment...)? It was all right here in my backyard. 


(Walking the trail at Forest Park in St. Louis)

 (Stunning view of the St. Louis Art Museum built for the 1904 World's Fair)

(When I saw this chair on the golf course I couldn't help but think of the scattered green chairs I saw in Paris' Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin du Palais Royal.)

After my time in the park, I walked down to our neighborhood coffee shop (Kaldi's) where I sat outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather with a wonderful friend. There, I gave myself permission to slow down and savor the quality time she and I had together. Our conversation was rich and I spent my walk home to our little apartment (that is just as adorable as one we might have in Paris...) feeling connected and refreshed. 

It is so easy to rêver without the faire, to believe that you could have the life you dream of if only _____ (you fill in the blank). But maybe, just maybe, the life you dream of has been right in front of you all along if only you paused and reframed your thinking in order to see it.

What can you do today to turn your rêver into faire? Revel in the opportunity to discover what it is you seek right where you are in this moment.

Merci de mon coeur, thank you from my heart, for stopping by today on your Sunday. As I mentioned at the top of the post, stay tuned for more content with a little French flair. I've got a book review and more on the absolutely beautiful French language coming your way.


Warm wishes from me to you,








Inspiration de la semaine (inspiration of the week):

A podcast with a little French flair, The Earful Tower with Oliver Gee is one any francophile should definitely check out!

This week I have been reading this lovely Paris inspired book. Click the cover to learn more.



Sling offers a French TV package that I am very excited about! I haven't yet subscribed but it is absolutely something I am looking into as a resource to continue to strengthen my French. 


October 1, 2017

l'équilibre


I'm sitting here eating a late dinner with about 4 hours left in my Sunday. There is a pile of unfolded laundry in front of me. Homework is unfinished. You get the picture - life is incredibly busy right now. I've spent most of this day trying to come to terms with the fact that today, on my 6 month "blogiversary" (technically is was yesterday), I might experience my first week since the start of Fleur de St. Louis without posting. Not only did I feel like I didn't have time to write, I wasn't sure I had anything worth saying. And then it dawned on me, as I was hanging the wet laundry, that finding l'équilibre, balance, is of the utmost importance right now and that sharing these thoughts would be the perfect theme for today.

I was texting a good friend earlier today and we were discussing some of our recent struggles. She asked me, "Why is balance so hard to find?", and that got me thinking. When I think about balance, I visualize an old fashioned scale. Just a little too much on one side and the balance is thrown off completely. Just as this image portrays, I feel that balance in life is such a delicate thing. Too much university work and I'm thrown off at school. Too much school work and I'm thrown off with my blog and business. Too much blog and business and I'm thrown off with tasks at home. (I guess I need a balance with at least 4 plates instead of the traditional two...) It's difficult to get it just right, to get that dial to hover right there in the middle where there is equilibrium and harmony. 

The art of finding l'équilibre is something I truly admire about the French culture. In my recent l'art de vivre course with Carrie Anne James of French is Beautiful, she described the French approach to balance beautifully:
"From work-life balance, to eating in moderation, to creating time, to connecting with nature + loved ones, the French have a perspective that is truly holistic and that centers around upping your joy + striving consistently to live with a low level of stress. Doesn't that sound, simply, lovely?"
I think I could learn a thing or two from the French. 😉 That's why discovering more about their language and culture is one of my life's passions. I talk about Carrie Anne often because as an American expat, she is such a wonderful window into how discovering the French culture has the power to change your life. In our course, she talked about feeling so "American" when work kept her from going out and spending quality time with friends. She explained:
"That sense of getting everything done today, of not being enough, was overwhelmingly present when I started my life in Paris as it was in stark contrast to the rhythm of those around me."
Carrie Anne, that feeling you had is a feeling I feel every day, and I am on a journey right now to discover a different way of living that will up my joy and lower my stress. This is the life I seek, and I know that with continued self-discovery and exploration of other cultures and lifestyles I will find a balance that works for me. 

I share this with you today because Fleur de St. Louis is a place where I come to move toward my joy, and it is important for me that you see me as I truly am. Of course I love to highlight beautiful images and joyful moments, but that isn't always the reality. In one of my language courses we just talked about digital communication, and how easy it is to develop false images online. It is my sincere hope that when you come here, you sense an authentic version of me leaping from the page. In  sensing that, I hope you feel less alone, connecting to someone who feels the way you might feel too. And as always, we will continue to be inspired with a little French flair as we continue our journeys to live our best possible lives. 😊

Thank you so much for being here, for taking the time out of your busy day to read something that I hope will help you begin to find the l'équilibre you seek. I don't have all of the answers, but knowing you are on this journey with me puts an extra pep in my step! Speaking of community, if you haven't gotten a chance, check out the Fleur de St. Louis Communauté on Facebook and join today! It is my vision that this becomes a place where fellow Francophiles and dreamers come together to support and encourage one another through the lens of a love of French. 

Warmest wishes for a life of équilibre from me to you,

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