Friday, March 25, 2011

Bienvenue au Studio de Français


Bonjour, 
Here is an article in French best suited for intermediate level students. A free translation follows for our monolinguistic friends or those who might need help while reading.
A bientôt,
-- French Girl in Seattle


Le Studio de Français, Woodinville, WA



Dans la petite ville de Woodinville, Etat de Washington, il y a un endroit où on parle français. Ouvert en 2003, le Studio de Français accueille des étudiants de tous niveaux pour des cours hebdomadaires. 

Les places sont limitées et le groupe est composé de 5 à 7 personnes. Au fil des années, les étudiants sont devenus amis et ils se retrouvent toujours avec plaisir.

Certains sont fidèles au Studio depuis longtemps. D'autres vont et viennent, en fonction de leur emploi du temps et de leurs activités familiales. 

En 2011, nous nous réunissons tous les mercredi soir, de 19H00 à 20H30 pour un cours de conversation de niveau intermédiaire. La recette du "cocktail" est simple: Une cuillère à café de grammaire, une pincée de vocabulaire, un verre de culture française, et pour finir, une bonne dose de rires!


Groupe du Studio - Lynn's Bistro - Juin 2010
Les élèves du Studio sont des Francophiles, et ils aiment les desserts et les spécialités françaises, alors il n'est pas rare de déguster des "petites douceurs" pendant les cours. En décembre et en juin, à la fin du trimestre, nous nous retrouvons traditionnellement dans des restaurants français de Seattle. Récemment, nous avons découvert un nouveau bistro, Luc


Groupe du Studio -  Luc - Décembre 2010

Cette semaine, j'ai déjeuné avec quelques amies dans un restaurant dont le menu était presque "comme à Paris": Le Grand Bistro Américain à Kirkland. J'ai beaucoup aimé et je me suis dit que ce serait un endroit parfait pour dîner avec le groupe du Studio!

Le serveur, Le Grand Bistro Américain
Mes amies et moi formions un groupe international: une Finlandaise, une Anglaise, une Américaine, et bien sûr une Française. Nous nous connaissons depuis plusieurs années: Nos enfants ont fréquenté la même école pendant longtemps. Heureusement, les mamans sont toujours en contact! Elles ont été très sympas de m'aider à découvrir ce nouvel établissement.

Le cadre du "Grand Bistro Américain" est superbe: Il est situé au bord du Lake Washington, en face de Seattle. Des fenêtres du restaurant, on aperçoit les yachts tout blancs dans la marina de Carillon Point. La salle est spacieuse et claire, et le service discret mais efficace. 

Nous avons dégusté une variété de plats au parfum français:


Un excellent Boeuf Bourguignon


Le confit de canard: Dé-li-cieux!

Le vin était même disponible en pichet, comme en France!

J'ai beaucoup de chance de pouvoir faire partager la culture de mon pays à mes étudiants et à mes amis. Ils sont tous très intéressés et même enthousiastes. Pour être honnête, on me demande souvent: "Le français est difficile. Pourquoi faudrait-il apprendre cette langue plutôt que l'espagnol, qui est plus utile aux Etats-Unis?' J'ai trouvé récemment une affiche qui propose de nombreuses réponses à leur question:

Parler français pour pouvoir communiquer avec Johnny Depp? Voilà une excellente raison d'apprendre la langue!

On entend quelquefois dire que parler le Français, c'est "très cool", ou "la Classe!" (une expression populaire en France.) En effet, le Français peut vous permettre d'impressionner votre famille et vos amis...

Parler Français n'importe où peut être risqué...

Pour revenir aux étudiants du Studio de Français, apprendre le français n'est pas toujours facile pour eux, mais ils sont courageux. Ce sont de bons élèves même s'ils ne font pas toujours leurs devoirs!

Ils savent, par exemple, que leur professeur a quelques bêtes noires:

1. On ne prononce pas le "c" à la fin du mot "blanc" (jamais, JAMAIS, jamais)
2. On ne prononce pas le "t" à la fin de  "croissant" ou de "restaurant" (idem)
3. On essaye de parler français le plus souvent possible... Quand les étudiants parlent en anglais, je deviens subitement dure d'oreille!

Ne vous inquiétez pas: je ne suis pas sévère! Et puis, en réalité, les étudiants du Studio de Français ont de la chance. Dès leurs premières leçons, ils ont appris à se présenter, à poser des questions, ou à commander dans les restaurants. Ce sont des informations pratiques immédiatement utilisables. 

Comparons maintenant avec la France: Dans les années 1960, la première phrase que les étudiants apprenaient dans le cours d'anglais de la célèbre méthode de langue Assimil ("Anglais sans peine") était: "My tailor is rich but my English is poor." Sérieusement. Imaginez: Plusieurs générations de Français débutants ont appris par coeur cette phrase qui est complètement inutile dans la vie quotidienne. Pauvres Français! C'est d'ailleurs l'excuse que beaucoup donnent aujourd'hui pour expliquer pourquoi les Français ne parlent bien que... le Français. On ne peut pas leur en vouloir!

Enfin, bonne nouvelle pour tous les étudiants des langues française et anglaise: voici un nouvel évènement organisé dans les bars et cafés à la mode de Paris, en mars et en avril. Après le "speed-dating", voici le "speed-talking". 7 minutes en français, 7 minutes en anglais, et hop, on change de partenaire! Original et stimulant, non? ;-)



A bientôt.



Free translation:


In the small town of Woodinville, Washington state, hides a place where locals come to speak French. Since 2003, the French Studio has been welcoming students of all levels for weekly group lessons.
Seating is limited, and the group usually includes 5 to 7 participants. Throughout the years, students have become good friends and they enjoy getting together. 

Some are regulars while others come and go, depending on their schedules and family activities. 

In 2011, we meet every Wednesday evening, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm for an intermediate-level conversation class. The recipe for a successful French class is simple: one teaspoon of grammar, one pinch of vocabulary, one tablespoon of French culture, and finally a good dose of laughter. 

Photo: French Studio group - Lynn's Bistro (June 2010)

Students at the French Studio are francophiles and they love desserts and French specialties. It is not unusual to sample "sweet little somethings" during class. In December and in June (at the end of the school year), we traditionally meet in French restaurants in Seattle. Recently, we have discovered a new bistro, Luc.

Photo: French Studio group - Luc (December 2010)

This week, I had lunch with girlfriends in a local restaurant that offers a French-style menu: The Grand Bistro Américain in Kirkland. I really liked the place and thought this might be perfect spot for my next dinner with the French Studio members!

Photo: The Grand Bistro Americain - Waiter

What an international group we were that day: A Finn, an Englishwoman, an American, and of course, a French woman. We have known each other for a few years: Our children attended the same school for a long time. Fortunately, their moms have kept in touch! It was very kind of these ladies to help me discover this new restaurant.

The atmosphere at the Grand Bistro Américain is superb: It is located by Lake Washington, across from Seattle. From the restaurant windows, we could see white yachts docked at the Carillon Point marina. The room is spacious and bright, and waiters are discreet but professional. 

We sampled a variety of French-flavored dishes, including: 

Photo: An excellent Boeuf Bourguignon

Photo: A delicious Duck Confit

Wine could be ordered "in a carafe", just like in France!

I am very lucky to be able to share the culture of my country with students and friends. They are all truly interested and even enthusiastic. To be honest, people often ask me: "French is difficult. Why should I learn your language when Spanish is so much more useful in the United States?" I have recently found a poster that offers a variety of answers to their question:

Photo: Poster. "Why Learn French?" Speaking French to be able to communicate with Johnny Depp? Here's an excellent reason to learn the language!

I have heard people say: "Speaking French is very cool!", or "la Classe!" (a popular expression in my country!) It is a fact that speaking French can help you impress friends and relatives...

Photo: Cartoon. Speaking French just anywhere can be risky.

Let's come back to my students for a second. Learning French is not always easy for them, but they are persistent. They are good students - even if they do not always do their homework!They know, for example, that their teacher has a few pet peeves:

1. Never, ever pronounce the "c" at the end of "blanc."
2. Never, ever pronounce the "t" at the end of "croissant" or "restaurant."
3. Try to speak French as often as possible. When students switch back to English, I immediately become hard-of-hearing.

Don't worry. I am not that strict! In fact, my students are lucky. Right from the start, they learned how to introduce themselves; ask questions; or order in restaurants. This is practical information they could use right away.

Let's compare with France: In the 1960's, the first sentence students would learn while studying English with the famous Assimil language method ("English without Pain") was: "My tailor is rich but my English is poor." Seriously. Imagine: Several generations of French people have memorized that sentence-- and it is completely useless in everyday life. Poor French people!  Incidentally, this is the excuse used by many today to explain why French people can only speak... French. Can you blame them?

Finally, there is some good news for students of the French and English languages: Here is a new event organized in trendy bars and cafés of the French capital in March and April. After "speed-dating", I give you "speed-talking". 7 minutes in French, 7 minutes in English, and bingo, switch tables! Original and stimulating, isn't it?






-- A bientôt.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Field trip in the Emerald City



There was no school today so Junior invited a friend to spend the day with him. Even though both boys would have been perfectly happy to stay at home (no doubt spending a considerable amount of time on electronics), I offered to go on a field trip. Les Tweens looked a bit perplexed: "A field trip? In this weather?" I guess I could see their point. Low 50s' and drizzle, drizzle, drizzle; "le crachin", as it was called when I lived in Northern France with my family. "Cracher" means "to spit" in French, so when I was a kid, I used to imagine someone, up in the sky, spitting down on us-- not a pretty picture. The thing is, if you don't go out when it rains in Seattle, you never leave your house, and as my mom used to say to us: "You are not made of sugar. You will not dissolve in the rain. Allez, dehors! (Go outside!)"

I planned a fun trip for Les Tweens, and it had to be by the water because after living inland for over 10 years, I like to go by the seashore every chance I get, rain or shine. So, after 11:00am, we all piled up in Tonks, my lovely little car, with Le Dog, Hailey, extra jackets, shoes, towels (just in case...) Felix Le Chat would have liked to go, but he decided to stay home and chase moles instead... A bientôt, Felix!


Hailey and Les Tweens before their most excellent adventure


First, we had to leave the Eastside and drive across Lake Washington into Seattle. That's always a fun thing to do with a couple of kids sitting in the back of the car. The Evergreen Point Bridge (a.k.a. the "520 Bridge" to most locals), was inaugurated in 1963. Boasting 7,500 feet (2,300 meters), it is one of the world's longest floating bridges. On a pretty day, the view from the bridge is breathtaking: boats bobbing on shimmering water, Mount Rainier and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the distance. Take a look:



Problem: the bridge is old, very old, and tired too. It has been accident-prone for many years and patched up overtime. An engineer friend of mine once told me: "This bridge is the opposite of the Eiffel Tower. Good engineering vs. bad engineering" (his version was more... ahem... colorful, as I recall). Both are still standing, but in the case of the 520 bridge, for how long? Everyone fears the next big storm or an earthquake might be the final straw. The State of Washington has finally decided to replace the 520 bridge and in order to finance the costly endeavor, it will become a toll bridge this spring. Today, Les Tweens were probably hoping for this:


Dommage. It did not happen. The water was calm on both sides as the car wipers sang their little song: "swish-swish-swish". Once we had crossed the bridge, we still had to drive across another lake (Lake Union), and we finally reached the Northern neighborhoods of Seattle. No GPS needed. If you keep driving West in this city, you eventually reach the water.

While the boys were waiting in the car (I hoped they weren't busy destroying it!) I stopped at a local Boulangerie in the Wallingford neighborhood. The place has been there for ever and many people had mentioned it to me. I had to check it out. It is a raggedy little bakery that does not catch the eye or make much of an impression, but I enjoyed meeting the owner, Mr. Xon D. Luong. We had a little chat and he told me his story: He came from South Vietnam (a former French colony) some 25 years ago and he remembers learning French in school in the mid 1950's. He learned his trade with his parents (both bakers) and his younger brother. I bought a baguette, and for Les Tweens, two pains au chocolat. I loved Mr Luong's smile!

2200 N. 45th street - Seattle, WA 98103

Mr. Luong: "52 Years Experience in French Baking"
Our first stop was a local institution and a popular tourist attraction: The  Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. I like going there several times a year because 1. it involves boats 2. it's one of the best shows in Seattle 3.  it is free.


My old engineer friend would agree that if the team that built the locks in 1917 had been in charge of executing the 520 bridge, the State of Washington would not have to worry about replacing the current structure right now! This is an amazing complex. First, the Ballard Locks (as they are known) are a link between the Puget Sound (salt water), and the Ship Canal (fresh water), that connects Lake Washington and Lake Union. Both lakes sit 22 feet above sea level! The Ballard Lock system is  capably operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Because our family has been fortunate enough to own boats during 9 of our 15 years in this area, we have often used the Locks. It can be a stressful experience in the summer when the engineers cram both the large and the small locks full of vessels of varying sizes. Tensions run high and it is not unusual to witness arguments on a passing boat.

Husband: "Bow line is too tight. Release the bow line, NOW!!!
Wife: "I got it! I got it!"
Husband: "*%&$#@!!! The BOW line, not the stern line!!!" 
Wife (getting flustered and still trying to help): "I can't!!! It's stuck!!!"
Ballard Locks engineer (bending over to help the wife): "You're doing fine, Miss. Sir, you might want to bring it down a notch!"

I am telling you: it is the best show in town! 

A few sailboats wait patiently for the engineers
 to bring the fresh water level down
Once the fresh water level has been lowered,
 the large Lock opens (notice how low
 this sailboat now sits in the water)
One by one, the boats leave the Locks
 and head towards the Puget Sound (salt water)

Once you have had enough fun watching the boats, it is time to walk across the spillway to another local curiosity: the Fish Ladder. Does it surprise anyone that this city of tree-huggers (and I say this with great affection) would go out of their way to help the local fish, namely salmon, travel more easily between fresh and salt water and navigate the Locks? It is a really cool show for adults and kids alike. 


Les Tweens look very small on the spillway between the Locks and the Fish Ladder

The Fish Ladder was empty today... The next "wave" starts in May when  young salmon make their way out to sea.


Not a Sockeye, Coho, Steelhead in sight...
We did not see any salmon. We saw a few sailboats. Not a bad visit all in all, in spite of the rain and cold. Les Tweens got a chance to stretch their legs before lunch in the beautiful Carl S. English Jr. botanical garden, past the visitor's center. I was amazed none of them landed in the soggy grass, especially after they started playing tag!


This is the US: It is allowed to step on the grass!

The gang was getting hungry. Not to worry. Another institution sits right outside the Locks  complex.


We enjoyed delicious fish and chips (I picked fresh clams in a white wine broth with herbs).


We realized that poor Hailey was still waiting patiently in the car. It was time to go back outside to enjoy some fresh air... Shilshole Beach was our next stop. But wait... was there going to be a problem?



Mais non! I decided that some rules are more... ahem... flexible than others. There were fewer than 20 people on the beach. Surely, these kind souls would not mind sharing some of it with a (well-behaved) canine?

Voilà, happy Tweens, happy dog!
Let's just say that for the next hour or so, it did not matter that the rain was still coming down; that the wind was blowing our hats away; that Shilshole beach has more pebbles than sand. For the next hour or so, we all had f.u.n.! 




A bientôt!

"And I leave the children the long, long days to be merry
 in a thousand ways, and the Night,
and the trail of the Milky Way to wonder at"

Williston Fish, "A Last Will", 1898

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire...




And a happy birthday it was... I turned "28" on Saturday, you see (well, almost, but who's counting?)

While I lived in Paris, I enjoyed celebrating my birthday on the Normandy coast and would head out there for the day with a couple of close friends. Off we went, down the gorgeous "Côte Fleurie", driving through quaint Honfleur, old-fashioned Trouville and finally arriving in glamorous Deauville... Delicious seafood, crêpes, invigorating walks on the wind-swept beaches (imagine Seattle in March... unpredictable weather), some shopping thrown in for good measure in Deauville's fancy boutiques before heading back to Paris... Ah, memories, memories...

Trouville beach (Claude Monet)
15 years later... Seattle... Floc, floc, floc (that's the sound of the rain in French)... What's a girl to do to celebrate her birthday? There was no need to worry. My boys and Les American girlfriends were in charge!

On Saturday March 12, my actual birthday, les Boys took me out for lunch to a local French bistro, le Pichet. The storm was raging outside and we tried to ignore it. After paying $16 for the privilege of parking across the street for 1.5 hours (you've got to love Seattle...), I was greeted by Le Husband, Junior and... my new friend, Le Dog. When Le Husband pulled him out from under the table, Le Dog became an instant sensation. Everyone had to stop by to "Ooohhh" and "Ahhh" and ask us what shelter he was coming from. I do love bulldogs, you see, and am hoping to adopt a Frenchie sooner or later. Meanwhile, this recycled version will do quite nicely.

Le Dog and his new owner... Is it me or
does he look like a beaver???

On Saturday evening, Les girlfriends had organized a fun party - my favorite kind of party - a movie night. Delicious food, Champagne, cool gifts and birthday cards, and finally... le movie, another favorite, "French Kiss". 

Meg and Kevin ham it up in Paris!
I am very lucky. I have great girlfriends. They are fun to hang around with, and generous to boot. I need to show you some of their cadeaux and cards (I had requested "no gifts" mind you, but they ignored me):

Apparently, "someone" thought I needed to sleep
surrounded by French bulldogs!
And the word is...



A black cat (I thought it was mine!), reading French books!

Another dog... Are you starting to see a theme here?

I must admit American greeting cards are much better than French ones! When I stop by a Hallmark store or the local Target, I am always amazed at the selection. I bet there is a card for every single occasion one can think of and more-- but I digress...

The weekend was not over yet. To complicate things a bit, we had to move our clocks forward on Sunday, and that means we lost a whole hour of sleep; even more it turns out, since our family was scheduled to join friends for the Saint Patrick's Day Dash (our first!) in downtown Seattle at the crack of dawn. As a dear friend would say: "Oy!"

Off we went, into Le big minivan with our buddies, decked out in green hats, beads, scarves and doing our darnedest to keep our eyes open. Well, folks, this being the Pacific Northwest and all, it just n.e.v.e.r. stopped pouring! Still, we walked over three miles, some uphill, and had a fabulous time, joking around and dancing and finished the "race" by 11:00am. We were quite the lively bunch!

Soaked Seattleites brave (ignore?) the NW weather,
determined to have a good time!
Les amis by the 3-Mile marker

French Leprechaun - "Lutin"
We got rewarded by freebies from local vendors (some of us are BIG on freebies you see...), and drove home to a hot shower and a much-needed change of clothes. The fun was not over yet. Two hours later, the merry group reconvened to enjoy more partying, Irish dishes, and a variety of green beverages. This was a perfect ending to an amazing weekend. I did feel very special and grateful for all my wonderful friends (the most eclectic group you ever saw). When family lives 5000 miles away, true friends do make a difference. Merci les amis!

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson



Sunday, March 13, 2011

Au restaurant


This story is in French. Level is intermediate to advanced intermediate. Read it first, then look up challenging words in the free translation below. Enjoy!



En France, c'est connu, on prend le temps de bien manger. Le déjeuner ou le dîner peut être un vrai rituel. Il est important de connaître les différentes étapes du repas français (et quelques expressions utiles) pour éviter les faux-pas.

D'abord, l'apéritif. On dit aussi: "l'apéro" (Par exemple, "On prend l'apéro ce soir?") L'apéritif, c'est une occasion spéciale et une tradition en France: on passe un bon moment avec des amis, le weekend, ou après la journée de travail. On discute; on rit;  on trinque ("Santé!"), on boit un verre et on grignote des amuse-gueules (cacahuètes, chips, olives, canapés). L'apéritif n'est pas toujours suivi d'un dîner.

L'apéritif, c'est aussi une boisson, en général alcoolisée, qui a un rôle important: ouvrir l'appétit avant le repas. On peut commander une bière (pression, ou en bouteille), un verre de vin (blanc, rouge, ou rosé), un Porto, un Martini (attention: en France, le Martini est à base de Vermouth). Il existe des spécialités régionales: le Pastis, dans le sud de la France (une boisson anisée servie très fraîche), le Floc de Gascogne dans le sud-ouest (un mélange de vin et de liqueur d'Armagnac). Toute la France adore le Kir. Le Kir est une boisson originaire de Bourgogne. On verse un peu de liqueur de cassis dans un verre, et on ajoute un vin blanc sec. Le Kir Royal est préparé avec du Champagne à la place du vin blanc. 


Le Kir: délicieux et si joli!

Après l'apéritif, le repas commence... avec l'entrée (on dit parfois "les hors-d'oeuvre"). Les visiteurs américains sont souvent surpris par la (petite) taille des portions en France. Ce n'est pas étonnant, puisque "l'entrée", aux Etats-Unis, c'est le plat principal, mais pas en France. Des exemples d'entrées: salade, soupe, melon au porto, assiette de charcuterie.

Après l'entrée arrive le plat principal, viande, poisson, ou spécialité du restaurant, par exemple un plat de pâtes, un coq au vin ou un cassoulet. Le "plat du jour" est spécialement préparé par le chef, avec des produits frais trouvés au marché le jour même.

Le dessert peut-être une glace, une crème brûlée, un gâteau ou une tarte aux fruits. Dans les restaurants, le fromage est considéré comme un dessert, mais si vous êtes invité à dîner chez une famille française, il sera certainement servi avant le dessert, et accompagné d'une salade verte.

Enfin, le serveur vous offrira un café. Attention, le café sera toujours "un express", pas un café filtre (pour plus d'information sur le café en France, lisez cet article.)


Un menu complet pour 22 Euros, avec vin et café compris

Au restaurant, vous pouvez choisir entre "le Menu" (un repas à prix fixe où le chef a déjà pré-sélectionné quelques plats), et "la Carte" (une liste de plats organisés par catégories, entrées, plats, desserts). Aux Etats-Unis, la plupart des restaurants utilisent une Carte, et moins souvent, un Menu. En France, tous les restaurants proposent plusieurs Menus (à différents prix) et une Carte. 

Je conseille toujours à mes élèves de choisir un Menu: Le Menu est en général meilleur marché que la carte. Il est aussi plus facile à utiliser car les options sont limitées.

Un Menu typique (on dit aussi "une Formule") peut proposer: une entrée + un plat ou un plat + un dessert. Si le Menu est plus cher, on peut aussi proposer une entrée + un plat + un dessert. En général, les boissons alcoolisées et le café ne sont pas compris dans le Menu, mais il y a des exceptions.



Un mot important à connaître est "ou". Si ce mot est écrit sur le Menu, le client doit faire un choix. Par exemple, "mousse au chocolat ou crème brûlée". 

Que faire si vous ne comprenez pas ce qui est proposé dans le Menu? Pas de panique! Trouvez un bon traducteur (phrasebook) avant votre départ. Il y en a beaucoup sur le marché, mais mon préféré est celui-ci (parce qu'il est livré avec un CD pour vous aider à prononcer les expressions françaises). Lisez-le avant le départ et familiarisez-vous avec les différentes sections du livre. Vous trouverez les informations plus rapidement ensuite!

Et
les boissons? Les Français adorent l'eau minérale, mais elle n'est pas bon marché. Ils commandent de l'eau plate (Evian, Vittel, Volvic), ou de l'eau gazeuse (Perrier, San Pelegrino). En réalité, l'eau de ville est souvent excellente, alors pourquoi payer davantage pour les grandes marques d'eau minérale?

"Un repas sans vin est comme un jour sans soleil", disait le gastronome Brillat-Savarin. Vous pouvez demander la carte des vins, mais n'oubliez pas qu'en France, il existe d'excellents vins locaux qui sont très abordables. Pourquoi ne pas commander un pichet de vin rouge ou de vin blanc avec votre repas? Attention: révisez le système métrique avant de partir en France! Les tailles des verres, bouteilles et pichets sont toujours indiqués en centilitres. Un petit pichet sert deux à trois verres; un grand pichet sert environ quatre verres. Santé!

La Carte des Vins
Voilà quelques expressions utiles pour commander dans un restaurant:

"Monsieur/mademoiselle, s'il vous plaît!" (pour appeler le serveur/la serveuse)

"Je voudrais..." (c'est la formule magique pour commander en France)


"RIen pour moi, merci" ou "non merci" (pour refuser quelque chose, par exemple un apéritif ou un dessert)

"Le menu s'il vous plaît" (le serveur vous apportera les menus et la carte)

"Une carafe d'eau s'il vous plaît" (utilisez cette expression pour dire au serveur que vous ne voulez pas acheter de l'eau minérale)

"Des glaçons s'il vous plaît" (les boissons en France ne sont jamais assez fraîches pour les visiteurs Américains)

"Un pichet de vin rouge/blanc/rosé s'il vous plaît" (pour commander une carafe de vin local)

"Du pain s'il vous plaît" (le pain est gratuit pendant les repas)

"C'était délicieux!" (si vous avez aimé un plat)

"C'était... intéressant!" (si vous n'avez pas aimé du tout!)

Enfin, souvenez-vous qu'en France, vous devez demander l'addition au serveur. Le service est plus lent qu'aux Etats-Unis et on n'interrompt pas le client pendant son repas. De la même façon, le serveur ne débarrasse pas l'assiette d'un convive si les autres personnes à table n'ont pas terminé leur assiette. Ce serait un gros, gros faux pas. Alors, quand vous êtes prêt à payer à la fin du repas, dites simplement: "L'addition, s'il vous plaît!". Si le serveur est trop loin de vous, levez votre main gauche, et faites semblant d'écrire sur votre main droite. Le serveur a l'habitude et il vous apportera l'addition.



N'oubliez pas que le pourboire (le service) est compris. Je vous suggère donc d'arrondir l'addition en laissant quelques centimes au café et un ou deux Euros au restaurant.

Voilà, vous savez tout, ou presque. Je vous souhaite bon appétit en France. N'oubliez pas: le serveur ne s'appelle pas "garçon" (apparemment, Chevy Chase/Clark Griswold ne lit pas ce blog!), gardez le sourire, ne croyez pas tous les clichés... 




A bientôt!



Free translation for mono-linguistic readers and some of my French students who might feel too tired to struggle through the story in V.O. (version originale). 


It is a well-known fact that French people take the time to eat. Lunch or dinner is a true ritual. It is important to know the different steps of a French meal (and a few useful expressions) to avoid faux-pas.

First, l'apéritif, also known as "l'apéro" (as in, "How about a drink tonight?"). L'apéritif is a special occasion as well as a French tradition: one enjoys a good time with friends on the weekend, or after a long day at work. People talk, laugh, make toasts ("Santé"-- to your good health). Friends enjoy a drink together while munching on light appetizers (peanuts, chips, olives, small toasts). L'apéritif is not necessarily followed by dinner. 

L'apéritif is also an alcoholic beverage that has an important role to play: it whets the appetite before the meal. One may order a beer (draft or in a bottle), a glass of wine (white, red, or rosé), some Port, a Martini (beware: in France, Martini is a Vermouth-based drink). There are also local specialties: Pastis in Southern France, (an anise-flavored liquor diluted in ice-cold water), le Floc de Gascogne in the Southwest (a mixture of fortified sweet wine and Armagnac, the local brandy). Finally, France loves Kir. Kir originated in Burgundy. It is made with a drop of blackcurrant liquor topped with white wine. Kir Royal is prepared with blackcurrant and Champagne. 

(Photo: Le Kir, delicious and so pretty!)


After l'apéritif, the meal starts... with l'entrée (or first course). American visitors are often surprised by the (small) size of food portions in France. Many do not know that the entrée is the main course in the United States and the first course in France. Examples of entrées include: salad, soup, cantaloupe with Port, plate of small cuts.


After l'entrée, comes the main course, meat, fish, or the restaurant specialty, for example pasta, coq au vin or cassoulet. Specials are prepared daily by the chef with fresh produce found at the food market. Dessert may be ice cream, crème brûlée, cake or a fruit tart. In restaurants, cheese is considered a dessert, but if you are having dinner in a French home, cheese will certainly be served with a simple green salad and before dessert. 

Finally, the waiter will offer you some coffee. Beware: coffee will always be a shot of espresso, not drip coffee (for additional information about coffee in France, read this post)

(photo: a three-course meal for 22 Euros, and it includes wine and coffee)


In French restaurants, you can choose between "le Menu" (pronounced Muhn-NOO), a prix fixe meal where the chef has already pre-selected some dishes, and "la Carte" (a list of dishes organized in categories, similar to the menus offered in the United States). In France, most restaurants offer several prix fixe meals in addition to the American-style menu.

I always tell my students to pick a prix fixe meal ("Menu"). This is typically cheaper than ordering from the regular menu ("Carte"). A typical prix fixe meal (also called "formule"), may offer: a first course and a main course, or a main course and a dessert. If the prix fixe meal is more expensive, it may also offer three courses. Alcoholic drinks and coffee are generally not included in a prix fixe meal but there are exceptions (see the photo).

(photo: a formule or prix fixe meal offering a four course meal)


An important word to know is "ou" (pronounced oo). It means "or". If you spot this word,  it means you must make a choice. For example, will you choose a "mousse au chocolat" or a "crème brûlée"

What can you do if you don't understand what is listed in a French menu? Do not panic! Find a good phrasebook before your trip. There are a lot of good phrasebooks available but my favorite one is this one, mainly because it is offered with a CD that will help you pronounce a variety of French travel expressions. Read it before you leave and get familiar with the different sections in the book. It will be so much easier to find what you are looking for once in France! 

What about drinks? The French love mineral water, but it does not come cheap. They order non sparkling water, usually by brand-name, Evian, Vittel, Volvic, or sparkling water Perrier, San Pelegrino. Tap water is actually excellent in France so why pay more for a big brand of mineral water?


"A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine", said French gastronome Brillat-Savarin. When eating out you can ask for the wine list, but don't forget that in France, there are excellent and affordable local wines. Why don't you try ordering a carafe of red or white wine with your meal? Beware: you might need to review the metric system before you land in France. Glass, bottle, and carafe sizes will always be listed in centilitres. A small carafe will serve two to three glasses of wine, while a large one will serve about four. Cheers!


(photo: Wine list)

Voilà a few useful expressions when ordering in a French restaurant:


  • To call the waiter/waitress: "Monsieur/mademoiselle, s'il vous plaît!
  • The magical formula to order in France: "Je voudrais..." (juh voo-DREH)
  • To turn something down, for example a drink, or dessert: "RIen (rye(n) pour moi, merci" ou "non merci
  • To ask for the menu: "Le menu s'il vous plaît
  • Use this expression to tell the waiter you do not wish to pay for mineral water: "Une carafe (ka-RAF) d'eau s'il vous plaît"
  • Beverages in France never seem cold enough to American visitors. Use this to ask for ice: "Des glaçons s'il vous plaît" (pronounced: gla-sso(n))
  • To order a carafe of local wine: "Un pichet de vin rouge/blanc/rosé s'il vous plaît" 
  • To order bread, which is usually free: "Du pain s'il vous plaît
  • Use this if you enjoyed the meal or a dish: "C'était délicieux!" (say-TAY day-lee-SSYUH)
  • Use this if you did NOT enjoy a dish at all: "C'était... intéressant!" (say-TAY eh(n)-tay-ray-SSA(N)


One last thing: Remember that in a French restaurant, you must ask for the check. Service is slower than in the United States and waiters typically do not interrupt their clients during the meal. For that reason, the waiter will not clear a customer's plate if the other guests are still eating.  This would be considered a major faux-pas. So, when you are ready for the check, just say: "Check, please" (pronounced ah-dee-SS-EE-O(N). If the waiter is far away, do not shout, simply "air-write" in the palm of your hand. The waiter is used to this sign and he will bring the check immediately. 

(Photo: the check)

Do not forget that tip (service) is always included. I suggest you round off the check and leave some small change at the café or one or two Euros at the restaurant. 

Voilà, you know it all. Bon Appétit in France! Do not forget: the waiter is not named "garçon"... ever! (apparently, Chevy Chase/Clark Griswold does not read this blog) So keep smiling, and don't believe all the stereotypes!