Mysterious motives in Spanish pawn movie

The Chess Player

If you want to brush up on your Spanish, French and German languages – and possibly your chess skills too – then here is the film for you: El jugador de ajedrez (The Chess Player). I saw it at part of Australia’s 2018 Spanish Film Festival, which at the time of writing is still running in Adelaide, Brisbane (till May 13) and Perth (till May 16).

A female French journalist Marianne (played by Melina Matthews) barges in at a crucial moment in a championship game involving a handsome Spaniard Diego (Marc Clotet, above) and a not so handsome fat guy. Marianne is the not the only woman in the room but she is the only lady in red and stands out amid all the black, brown and grey and the wafts of cigarette smoke. She doesn’t know much about chess, but that’s journalism for you –  journalists are expected to quickly become experts in anything they are sent to cover; it requires rapid wit and intelligence, which is why I am one, haha. Luckily for Marianne there is another suave Spaniard, Javier (played by Alejo Sauras), on hand to explain to her the finer points of chess and the mind games involved.

Needless to say, the ugly fat guy loses and the beautiful people go out to celebrate over glasses of champagne. But which handsome Spaniard will woo the French femme? More mind games!

Then things get sinister, first with the Spanish Civil War, then World War Two and the Nazi occupation of Paris. This is your cue to watch the trailer…

Just when it seems there is no hope for Diego, suddenly the chessboard is back on the table, courtesy of Colonel Maier (Stefan Weinert), who likes chess and Anton Bruckner (“the greatest composer since Beethoven” – I am with him on that one) and has a sharp mind, making interesting observations on religion and society. Diego becomes his protégé. “I hope you understand my motives,” the Colonel says. Even though I am a very intelligent journalist, I hadn’t a clue what his motives were!


El jugador de ajedrez is not a perfect film by any means but it is a gripping wartime drama, covering the whole gamut of human emotions: love, hope, despair, desperation, betrayal, courage, strength, brutality and bullying – war is the ultimate form of bullying, is it not? Don’t be put off if you don’t know much about chess: the game is peripheral to the action. This is more about how humans can be used or sacrificed as pawns. And maybe even sometimes the pawns can come out on top.


Multilingual portals that can fast-track your language learning: try Deutsche Welle

Hello, here is another look at how international broadcasters and their websites can help you with your language learning, with a focus on my five Romance languages. In the first instalment, we looked at the BBC with its online coverage in French, Spanish and Portuguese. In the second part of the series, we found Radio France Internationale went one better by adding Romanian to the above. But alas, no Italian.

Now we will look at the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle. As you will see (if you have good eyesight!) from the screen grab below, taken from its English website here, its languages component is pretty impressive: 30 all up, including French, Romanian, Spanish, and both Portuguese for Brazil and Portuguese for Africa. When you go to the DW site, you have to click on the “DW.DE IN 30 LANGUAGES” on the far right of the thin light grey panel at the top of the page, and then the language options will appear as a pop-up above that.

DW languages

OK, let’s have a look at what stories DW is running on the weekend beginning February 28, and bearing in mind that sometimes these broadcasters’ websites are not so much news services but more of a platform to promote their radio or television features.

(I will switch to different coloured text from now on to distinguish my writing from DW’s. Otherwise you will get long slabs of black on white.)

Let’s start with French: the lead story on the home page (the Africa section) looks back at how 130 years ago the superpowers partitioned Africa – with little or no consideration of the needs of the Africans themselves. 

dw french newsOn the “International” page the lead story is how Islamic State militants are destroying archaeological treasures. 

dw french news2

DW’s Spanish site has a strong focus on Latin America. One of its main stories is the capture of a Mexican drug baron.

dw espagnol

On the Português do Brasil website, the assassination in Russia of former Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is given the most prominence. 

DW portuguese brasil

But Brasil does get a mention, at least via the front cover (“capa“) of The Economist

dw portuguese brasil 2um atoleiro = a quagmire, mire, marshy place, puddle, embarrassment, mess, difficulty, pickle, immorality or degradation. 

On the Português para África website, the lead story is Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s controversial and opulent 91st birthday party or “festa“.

dw portuguese port

Finally, to the Romanian page. As you would expect, much of the focus was on new Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’s recent visit to Berlin and meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss, among other things, Romania’s desire to enter the 26-nation Schengen Area, the security situation and possible Russian aggression in Moldova (which is between Ukraine and Romania). The Schengen talks also brought up the controversial issue of the emigration of Romanians to other parts of Europe, and whether this migration was good (buna) or bad (rea), and for whom, depending on whether they were skilled or unskilled workers. 

dw romanian

To read a report in English on Merkel’s and Iohannis’s meeting, go here.

Portuguese star Tony Carreira reveals his French inclinations

My last post on the LisbonLux guide was aimed at helping English-speaking people to learn Portuguese, or vice versa; this one is aimed at those who are interested in the Portuguese-French combination.

Tony Carreira, one of the most popular singers in Portugal, has teamed up with a host of great French singers to record songs in both languages.The album, called Nos Fiancailles France/Portugal, (Our Engagement France/Portugal) was released early this year and did surprisingly well in France, peaking at No.4 on the charts. The first single from the album was Sous Le Vent (Onde Eu For), by Tony and Natasha St-Pier. You will see a lot of the Lisbon trams on this one.

The collaborations feature some great singers with remarkable voices, such as Michel Sardou (who has had no less than twelve No.1 albums in France), tenor Vincent Niclo, Hélène Ségara, Dany Brillant, Indonesian-born singer Anggun, Serge Lama, Gérard Lenorman, Didier Barbelivien and Lisa Angell.

Be warned, though, this album may mess with your brain. Usually when I want to speak in Portuguese I blabber away in French, and when I want to talk in French the Portuguese words just slip off the tongue. So this album may ruin your command of both languages, but could very well improve your Fretuguese and Portench. 😉

On the following video clip, you can hear snippets of other songs on the album, and hear Tony, speaking in French, relate how he spent a lot of his musical youth in France, so he has a great affinity for the country, its language and of course its musicians and singers. Even if you don’t speak French, this video is interesting, if only to see how artists from different backgrounds and cultures gel together (watching some of them tackle singing in Portuguese for the first time is amusing).

You can listen to snippets of each of the 13 tracks in the FNAC Jukebox section of its FNAC page listing here.

Here is an article in French on Tony Carreira, and here is some info in Portuguese.

In forthcoming posts we will have a closer look at the French singers involved.

Chansons for melancholic mates 1


OK, who wants to listen to sad old songs in French with a bit of accordian in them. You do! Imagine yourself in a typical French bar, you are on a stool at the counter, and your friend Manu is beside you, looking morose, defeated. He has just been ditched by his girlfriend and is drowning his sorrows. It’s closing time in the bar and he is slumped over the table. What do you say to him? How do you console him? You tell him not to worry, one lost girlfriend means 10 of your mates come back into your life. I am not sure it is a convincing argument. Neverthelss, take it away, Renaud, the master of melancholy…

Eh Manu rentre chez toi
Y’a des larmes plein ta bière
Le bistrot va fermer
Pi tu gonfles la taulière
J’croyais qu’un mec en cuir
Ca pouvait pas chialer
J’pensais même que souffrir
Ca pouvais pas t’arriver
J’oubliais qu’tes tatouages
Et ta lame de couteau
C’est surtout un blindage
Pour ton coeur d’artichaut

Eh déconne pas Manu
Va pas t’tailler les veines
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

On était tous maqués
Quand toi t’étais tous seul
Tu disais j’me fais chier
Et j’voudrais sauver ma gueule
T’as croisé cette nana
Qu’était faite pour personne
T’as dit elle pour moi
Ou alors y’a maldonne
T’as été un peu vite
Pour t’tatouer son prénom
A l’endroit où palpite
Ton grand coeur de grand con

Eh déconne pas Manu
C’t’à moi qu’tu fais d’la peine
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

J’vais dire on est des loups
On est fait pour vivre en bande
Mais surtout pas en couple
Ou alors pas longtemps
Nous autres ça fait un bail
Qu’on a largué nos p’tites
Toi t’es toujours en rade
Avec la tienne et tu flippes
Eh Manu vivre libre
C’est souvent vivre seul
Ca fait p’t’être mal au bide
Mais c’est bon pour la gueule

Eh déconne pas Manu
Ca sert à rien la haine
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

Elle est plus amoureuse
Manu faut qu’tu t’arraches
Elle peut pas être heureuse
Dans les bras d’un apache
Quand tu lui dis je t’aime
Si elle te d’mande du feu
Si elle a la migraine
Dès qu’elle est dans ton pieu
Dis lui qu’t’es désolé
Qu’t’as dû t’gourrer d’histoire
Quand tu l’as rencontrée
T’as dû t’tromper d’histoire

Eh déconne pas Manu
Va pas t’tailler les veines
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

Eh déconne pas Manu
Va pas t’tailler les veines
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

Eh déconne pas Manu
C’t’à moi qu’tu fais d’la peine
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

That was taken from the 1981 album Le Retour de Gérard Lambert.

Renaud’s unforgettable ode to idiotic brothers-in-law

Toulon and its military harbour, seen from Mou...

Toulon and its military harbour, seen from Mount Faron (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1981 I turned 21 and instead of throwing a big party I asked my parents if I could go to France on a family home stay. I was studying French at the University of Zimbabwe at the time, and my parents agreed. They must have thought it a wiser option than having all my friends over trashing the house and getting drunk, which is what we seemed to do in our youth. It wasn’t such an extravagant request as it might sound – my father worked for an airline so I got a discounted ticket and had to travel on standby. I don’t want you to think that I made outrageous demands on my parents.

It was the northern winter at the time so, fearing the European cold, I picked the most southerly destinations I could find, staying with two lovely families and in Toulon and Montpellier. I don’t know if I learnt that much French in the month that I was there. But trips of these nature force you to speak the language, and in doing so you gain some confidence, and lose your shyness and fear of making embarrassing mistakes.

Cover of "Le Retour De Gerard Lambert"

I first heard one of my favourite French singers, Renaud, on that trip. He had just released an album at the time, Le Retour de Gérard Lambert, and I heard a lot of it on radio. I remember being struck by his voice – he had the sort of deep sexy male French voice that I wanted to acquire myself so I could sound sexier, and perhaps more charming. Renaud is something of a satirical street poet, the voice of the working class, of the everyday strugglers. He uses a lot of slang in his work and it can be difficult for students of French as a second language to follow. I bought the LP and when I showed it to my host family in Montpellier, they immediately asked me if they could listen to it. We sat around the record player in the lounge, they chuckled along and I had no idea what they were laughing at. My favourite track, and one of the funniest, was Mon Beauf, beauf being abbreviation for beau-frère, or brother-in-law. Basically, his sister has married a gauche idiot.

There aren’t many postings of it on YouTube; the one I have chosen below will require your patience as it has a one minute plus preamble (using the Star Wars theme), but once it gets into the song itself the pictures will give you some idea of the satire involved. This is French humour, after all.

The lyrics (“paroles” in French) to this song and many other can be found on the paroles mania website. They are too complicated to discuss in full here. But I will mention some of my favourite lines.

Le jour où les cons s’ront cuisiniers c’est lui qui préparera les sauces
The day when the idiots are chefs he is the one who will prepare the sauces

Y’a dans sa discothèque tout Richard Clayderman, Y trouve ça super chouette c’est l’Mozart du Walkman
In his record collection he has every Richard Clayderman, he finds it super cool, it’s the Mozart of the Walkman.

Quand l’soleil brillera que pour les cons, Il aura les oreilles qui chauffent
When the sun shines for the stupid idiots, he will have hot ears

This is the fun side of Renaud. But much of his music was melancholic, and he had a particular gift for capturing the hardship, hurt and heartbreak of a human existence. We will save that for another post. 


Montpellier (Photo credit: jparise)

Eurovision wash-up 2: hellish fury of a French woman scorned

Giving them hell... Amandine Bourgeois lets rip for France but got lots of nul points

Giving them hell… Amandine Bourgeois lets rip for France but got lots of nul points … Merde!

France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom are the big five countries which, along with the host nation, are guaranteed a place in the Eurovision song contest final. But that is no guarantee of success. France’s Amandine Bourgeois had to open the competition, singing L’enfer et moi (Hell and me). She gave a gritty, gutsy performance, but the poor girl was confused – this was the Eurovision song contest, not a dingy rock’n’roll dive in the darker suburbs of Marseille! She was supposed to sing pretty girl pop! The rock/blues number that she belted out scored 8 points from San Marino, but just 2 points from Armenia and Iceland, 1 point from Cyprus and Macedonia, and nothing from the rest, and she came 23rd out of 26. You can check out her effort here:

Here are the French lyrics with their official translation into English. I will put them in Hellish red just to keep the theme going.

Tu m’as mise K.O d’entrée … Il faut croire que j’ai bien aimé … Liens de cuir et mains de soie
(You knocked me out from the start … At the end of the day I kind of liked it … Hands of silk and leather ties….)
Qui blesses-tu et dans quel port … Jusqu’à faire rougir l’aurore? … Tu m’as jeté comme un sort
(Where and whom do you hurt … Till you make dawn blush? … You cast me off like a spell)
Je vais te faire l’enfer … De là où tu te perds … Regarde bien derrière … Et ce sera moi
(I’m gonna give you hell … Right where you’re loosing yourself … Have a good look in the rear mirror … I ‘ll be the one standing behind you)
Tu m’as fait pleurer à vif … Mon cou porte encore ta griffe …J’aimais échanger de peau … No limits, c’est un classique … J’aimais nos amours toxiques … Celles qui font que tout est beau
You made me cry with burning tears … My neck still carries your brand … Skin to skin , fear to fear …”No limits” that’s a classic … our love was first name for toxic … but beauty justifies it all…
Je vais te faire l’enfer … De là où tu te perds  …Regarde bien derrière … Je vais te faire l’enfer  … De là où tu te perds … Regarde bien derrière … Et ce sera moi
(I’m gonna give you hell, etc, as above)
Je vais te faire l’enfer … Tu vas manquer d’air … A moins une, à moins que … On se retrouve à deux … A moins qu’il nous faille … Renoncer aux batailles
(I’m gonna give you hell … ’til you’re out of breath … unless, unless… two becomes our odd number again … unless we see our battles fall into oblivion)
Je vais te faire l’enfer
(I’m gonna give you hell)

Incidentally, the French gave their top vote to the ultimate winner, Denmark, and their second vote to neighbours Italy. But Italy gave France nothing in return. C’est la vie, non?

Eurovision, the wash-up 1: it’s disdain for Spain

Emmelie de Forest and her drummers, including flautist Jacob (on the right)

Emmelie de Forest and her Danish drummers, including Jacob (on the right), who is a dab hand with the flute as well.

Congratulations to Emmelie de Forest of Denmark for winning the Eurovision song contest with Only Teardrops, one of the few songs I can still remember the morning after. I am thinking of changing my name to Bernardo de Jungle just to cash in on the moment and be trendy. So, it’s off to Copenhagen, presumably, for the next one, unless another Danish city such as Odense, Aarhus or Aalborg wins the right to host the competition. For some reason the song Only Teardrops sounded very Irish to me (some compensation, perhaps, for Ireland, which came last?), mainly because of the flute intro and melody. The flautist and drummers deserve some of the credit for the win: I like a dramatic thrash on the drums! Here, the flautist (or flutist in American English), Jacob, gives a run-down on how to play that melody …

Español: El Sueño de Morfeo en un concierto en...

El Sueño de Morfeo en un concierto en Castelldefels (Barcelona), agosto de 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spanish entry, Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until The End), by El Sueño De Morfeo (in English, Morpheus’ Dream), came second last, getting only 6 points from Albania and 2 points from Italy. (In contrast, Spain gave Italy its top vote of 12 points). A pity, because it is not a bad song and has rousing parts to it, though I doubt it will stay with me to my end, whenever that may be.

The Eurovision website posts the lyrics of all the entries and their French and English equivalents if need be. So let’s try to learn some language from the Spanish song. Listen to the live version during the final in Malmo here…

Here are the lyrics side by side, Spanish first, of course, then French and then English. Because of the sentence construction and each language’s peculiarities, etc, the lines and meanings don’t always match up exactly. It is best probably to look at them in a wider context – verse by verse – rather than each line. (I am not the one who translated them.)

Un cielo azul – Le ciel bleu – A blue sky
gana paso a la tormentaA pris de l’avance sur l’orage – sweeps away the storm
que amenazó mi corazón – Qui a menacé mon cœur – That darkened my heart

Y llegas tú, con todo lo que significas tú – Et voilà que tu arrives, avec tout ce que tu signifies – And then you come, with everything you are
descubriéndome quién soy pour découvrir qui je suis – discovering me as I am

Eres esa luz – Tu es cette lumière – You are that light
que a través del universo – Qui m’invites à voyager – That crosses the universe
tú me invitas a viajar – À travers l’univers – You urge me to fly
Contigo hasta el final – J’irai avec toi jusqu’au bout – With you till the end

La ilusión de una vida por delante – Une vie qui est devant nous – All the hope of life before us
que comienza justo hoy – Commence aujourd’hui précisément et nous remplit d’espoir – A life beginning right now

Vámonos sin temor – Partons, sans crainte – Let us go without fear
gritemos que al final triunfó el amor – Crions haut et fort qu’en fin de compte, c’est l’amour qui a triomphé – Let us proclaim that love’s won over all
que ahora somos tú y yo – Que maintenant nous sommes toi et moi – That now it’s me and you.

Eres esa luz – Tu es cette lumière – You are that light
que a través del universo – Qui m’invites à voyager – That crosses the universe
tú me invitas a viajar – À travers l’univers – You urge me to fly
Contigo hasta el final – J’irai avec toi jusqu’au bout – With you till the end

Some basic French: nouns and articles (les noms et les articles)

Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, MA (Photo credit: thisreidwrites)

This is meant to be a language blog but recently (you may have noticed) I have been studiously avoiding grammar in favour of all sorts of other things: items on food and travel, for instance, or when one of my favourite singers dies then I use that as an excuse to ignore grammar and post some of their music and lyrics instead. But not enough good singers have been dying recently – what’s wrong with them! So I guess it’s time to knuckle down and cover some grammar. Actually, it is not so bad. It is how languages are constructed, and the construction is usually interesting.

In this blog so far we have covered the verbs to be in all five Romance languages here, here, here, here, here and here, and to have here and here. But if we really want to get talking in my five Romance languages we need to look at a lot more: nouns in the singular and plural, adjectives, the formation of adverbs, the definite and indefinite articles (“the” and “a/an”), and regular and irregular verb conjugation. And we will try to have some diversions in between.

Those people whose first language is English have to grasp some different grammatical concepts when they study Romance languages. First they will have to get their heads around the fact that nouns are either masculine or feminine. (How sexist is that!)

What gender Is your country? Check out the map for the French verdict

English: The gender of countries in the French...

English: The gender of countries in the French language: countries with masculine names are green and countries with feminine names are purple. Español: Género de los nombres de los países en francés: en verde masculinos, en morado femeninos. Français: Genre masculin (vert) ou féminin (mauve) de chaque pays du monde dans la langue française. Italiano: Generi dei nomi dei paesi in francese: i verdi sono maschili, i viola femminili. Romanian: Gen de țări din limba franceză: țările cu nume masculine sunt de culoare verde și țări cu nume feminine sunt mov. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The map to the right, for example, shows which countries, according to the French language, are macho and which are girly. There is probably some linguistic logic to it. According to one of my French grammar books, those countries that end in a mute “e” are feminine (la France, for example), whereas those that do not end in a mute e are masculine (le Portugal, for example). Who would have thought that mute es could be so influential. The same also applies to rivers (le Rhin, la Seine)

Some romance languages, as well as the masculine and feminine nouns, have neuter as well (how non-sexist is that.)

Furthermore, in my Romance languages the grammatical articles and adjectives have to agree with nouns in gender and number. How agreeable or disagreeble is that? All this means is that, in order to master these languages you have to learn heaps of rules off by heart. And just to make it more challenging, in every language there will always be exceptions to the rule. Still, if it was too easy it would be boring.

We will kick off our series focusing on nouns and their matching articles with French. Why? It seems to me the French have managed to keep these things relatively simple. Or maybe I feel that way just because French was the first foreign language I studied at school, so the concepts are pretty clear to me. Portuguese doesn’t seem too bad in this regard either, so I guess Spanish will be like that too; Italian seems to be a little more complicated; and just wait till you see what surprises Romanian has in store!

So, here we go:

The definite article in French

  • le is used with masculine nouns (le père = the father)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la mère = the mother)
  • l’ is used in front of a vowel (l’enfant = the child)
  • les is used for both masculine and feminine plural (les parents = the parents)

The indefinite article in French

  • un is used with masculine nouns (un livre = a book)
  • une is used with feminine nouns (une plume = a pen)

“Of” with the definite and indefinite articles

  • MASCULINE: du père = of the father,  d’un père = of a father
  • FEMININE: de la mère = of the mother, d’une mère = of a mother
  • VOWEL:  de l’enfant = of the child, d’un enfant = of a child
  • PLURAL: des parents, des enfants, des pères, des mères, etc

These are important to know because there is no possessive in French so these are the possessive by default. That is, le livre du père = the book of the father = father’s book.

“To” with the definite and indefinite article

  • au (masculine), à la (feminine), à l’ (with vowel), aux (plural) = to the
  • à un, à une = to a

So, which nouns are masculine and which are feminine?

  • Names of males, trees, days, months and seasons, and weights and measures tend to be masculine, while names of females and abstract nouns tend to be feminine (it seems that in French at least males  are boringly functional, females are thoughtfully abstract).
  • For other categories, generally there are clues from the ending of the noun itself.
  • In professions, most words ending in eur are masculine: le chanteur = the (male) singer, un acteur = a male actor. The feminine equivalents end in euse or trice: la chanteuse = the  female singer, une actrice = an actress. But as noted above, abstract nouns tend to be feminine, including those ending in eur: la couleur (colour), la chaleur (heat), la douleur (sorrow).
  • Words ending in –er or –ier tend to be masculine (le plancher = the floor, le papier = the paper), while those ending in –ère or –ière tend to be feminine (une artère = an artery, la lumière – the light).
  • Nouns ending in –oir tend to be masculine and –oire tend to be feminine (le pouvoir = the power, la gloire = glory).
  • Other word endings that tend to be masculine are: -eau, -t, -c, -age, -ail, -oir, -é, -on, -acle, -ège, -ème, -o and –ou.
  • Word endings that tend to be feminine are: -elle, -te, -tte, -de, -che, -aille, -é, -té, -tié, -onne, -aison, -ison, -ion, -esse, -ie, -ine, -une, – ure, -ance, -anse, -ence, -ense

But there are exceptions! I told you there was a lot to learn by heart, but as you go along you get to know it by instinct as well.

How to form the plural

  • On most words you simply add s to the singular, as one does in English. But note the following:
  • Singular words ending in s, x or z tend not to change: la voix, les voix = the voice, voices
  • Singular words ending in au, eu and eau tend to add an x: le bureau, les bureaux = the office, offices
  • Those ending in –al tend to become –aux in the plural: le cheval, les chevaux = the horse, horses
  • Words ending in –ou tend to add an s in the plural except for bijoux (jewels), cailloux (pebbles), choux (cabbages), genoux (knees), hiboux (owls), and joujoux (toys). (Funnily enough in our household we have a poodle called Bijou and a turtle called Pebbles but as yet we don’t have any owls)
  • There is one peculiarity: un oeil = an eye, les yeux = the eyes.

So, that is a lot to absorb in one hit. I had a look around on YouTube to see if there were any good tutorials on French articles, nouns, number and gender. A lot of the well-meaning tutors there are a bit slow and laborious, but this chap who goes by the name Rafatheman is brisk and to the point. He covers a lot in almost six minutes, and he has a good accent to imitate. Merci beaucoup, Rafa!

In pursuit of the hirsute

Pimpshop® mannequins with colourful wigs

The hair’s so bright, they’ve gotta wear shades. Pimpshop® mannequins with colourful wigs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every now and then you come across a word that appeals to you for no particular reason – it could be the look, the sound, or the imagery that it conjures up. Probably all three. While perusing my five Romance language dictionaries I came across their words for “wig”. Wig is a word that isn’t used much nowadays, but you never know, one day you might need it. You might be shopping in the fashionable districts of Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome or Bucharest when all of a sudden you will be struck by a whim and say to yourself “I’m going to buy a wig!” Don’t laugh, you might just do it. Recently I went to a Roaring Twenties festival (the 1920s) and lots of people were wearing fabulous wigs. So you should add these words to your repertoire.

A wig in French is une perruque, in Portuguese it’s uma peruca, in Spanish una peluca, in Italian una parrucca and in Romanian it’s o perucă. There, it’s easy! Now all you have to do is decide on the colour. Go for shocking pink.

Oh là là! C'est chic.

Oh là là! C’est chic, monsieur.

The word wig in English is a lazy and ugly sounding abbreviation of periwig, and English also has the word peruke, which was derived from the French perruque (the French must have set the trends in wig fashion in the 17th and 18th centuries).

So, to get you feeling bright and colourful, to make you feel happy and hirsute, I have incorporated some YouTube footage of a very lively French song with the word perruque in it. It is my favourite track off a compilation CD called Pop en Stock Vol 1, which I bought on my first trip to Paris as an adult. The CD came out in 1992 but it’s an “anthologie de la pop française des années 80s“. Yes, Bernardo is revisiting the 1980s, quelle surprise! The song is called Edith Nylon, by a group called Edith Nylon, it’s about a bionic woman and of course a robotic nylon girl has to wear a wig. It’s energetic and fast, so I have pasted the lyrics (les paroles) underneath. I love the guitar riffs that run underneath throughout played by le mec (the guy) in the bright red pants and blue shoes. Give me Edith Nylon over Edith Piaf any day! Turn up the volume, jump around and enjoy. 🙂

Je suis la femme bionique
artères antistatiques
perruque de Nylon
utérus en téflon
seins gonflés silicone
lèvres glacées de chrome
fémur d’acier trempé
trachée stérilisée

prothèse polystyrène
valvule de porcelaine
orbites moulés plastiques
100 % acrylique
crâne en os de corbeau
trompes modernes à pivot
vagin inoxydable
je suis interchangeable

Edith Nylon, Edith Nylon, Edith Nylon
c’est moi

Edith Nylon, Edith Nylon, Edith Nylon
c’est moi

If you want to discover or rediscover more French music from the 1980s this four-CD compilation would be a good starting point, and yes, it has Edith Nylon on it.

Allo, allo, where are the Francophones anyway?

The spectacular beach of Grand Anse on the isl...

The spectacular beach of Grand Anse on the island of La Digue, Seychelles Français : La plage magnifique de Grand Anse sur l’île de La Digue, Seychelles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my recent posts on Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian I discussed where in the world you were likely to hear them spoken. For some reason, je ne sais pas pourquoi (I don’t know why), I did not do the same for French (apart from saying they speak it in France, d’oh!). So to make up for that omission, here we will take a quick look at other places where you can practise your French and hopefully be understood by the natives. On most of the countries mentioned I have included a link to their entry in Wikipedia so that you can find out more about them if you want (I love armchair travelling), and that is why they appear in a light blue type.

All in all, according to Wikipedia, there are 29 countries where France is listed as an official language. The most obvious ones are those that border France, such as Belgium, Switzerland and Monaco, but you can go much further afield than that.

Château Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada

Château Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You will also hear French spoken in Quebec and other parts of Canada, of course, although if you have ever seen any French-Canadian films you will notice that sometimes the accent and the slang can sound odd if you are not used to it. But as the French say, vive la différenceMontreal and Quebec City are high up on the list of cities I want to visit, and the English-speaking parts of Canada are not bad either! Vancouver, for example, often features in the lists of the top 10 most livable cities in the world. If you fancy an island holiday then Seychelles, Reunion La Réunion or  New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie) would be among the places to head for, although they are a bit out of the way, but worth getting to. Just look up Isle of Pines in New Caledonia on Google images, for example, and you will be met with a beautiful array of alluring scenes. If you are in the Caribbean, make the island of Guadeloupe a port of call. It, too, is an overseas region of France. Mauritius was once ruled by the French, so that’s another possibility.

A house from French colonial time (French West...

A house dating from French colonial time in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

France also had many colonies in Africa – Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia up in North Africa; Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoireand Cameroon (République du Camerounin West and Equatorial Africa, to name just a few – although how widely French is spoken in its former colonies can vary from country to country and the political attitudes towards France. Many former colonies have had to go through wars of independence. One of the best films I have seen on the French colonial wars was Intimate Enemies, (L’Ennemi intime), made in 2007. Although it dealt with events in Algeria, the African scenes were apparently filmed in Morocco, and the mountain and valley scenery was stunning. I know southern Africa quite well, having lived in a number of countries there. Africa is a remarkably beautiful continent, but it seems to get a raw deal from the tourist industry. I suppose it is regarded as a bit rough and raw by the so-called “civilised world”, but often the rough and the raw can provide the most rewarding tourist experiences. Follow your sense of adventure and give exotic Africa a go!

English: French colonial architecture in Hanoi...

French colonial architecture in Hanoi, Vietnam.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In South-East Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia were once part of what was known as French Indochina. Vietnam has become a trendy tourist destination nowadays and its capital, Hanoi, is known for its French colonial architecture. Probably they make nice croissants there too! But in Asia, as in many parts of Africa, the French withdrawal from the colonies was often not a happy one and in Asia the conflict was particularly traumatic. By now, though, I should imagine that bygones have been allowed to be bygones. Oublions le passé, as the French say (Let’s forget the past).

So, there you have it, there are a lot of tantalising places in the world to choose from. Happy travelling, or bon voyage. And if there is no possibility of going to any of these places, you can always give your good old local Alliance Française a go. What would we do without them?

I have a plug-in that helps find pictures and images that I can use that have already been cleared for general use without contravening copyrights. I was looking for a map of the Francophone world and have included what it offered below, but for the life of me I could not blow it up to a decent size to make it more readable. You will have to use a magnifying glass. Sorry about that – pardon, excusez-moi, je suis désolé.

Till next time, à bientôt,  Bernardo 🙂

English: Map of the whole French Empire, In da...

A map of the whole French Empire, In dark green, the first colonial empire, in light green the second colonial empire.  Une carte de tout l’Empire Français, En vert foncé, le 1er Empire colonial. En vert clair, le 2eme Empire colonial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)