Art. 1er. - LOI n° 94-665 du 4 août 1994
"Langue de la République en vertu de la Constitution,
la langue française
est un élément fondamental
de la personnalité et du patrimoine de la France."
"Language of the Republic by virtue of the Constitution,
the French language is a fundamental element
of the personality and the patrimony of France"

More or less serious
Reflections about the French language
and foreign language learning in general

The Republic, the Constitution( s ), the Personality, the Patrimony of France! Every word could be the title for thousands and thousands of captivating pages, and while continuing reading the above mentioned law , you will find other words like "la communauté de la francophonie ", worth some thousands of pages more.

But we will only have a little chat about "la langue française".

Big enough as a subject, even treated the way we will do it, and without all that "facheux" - for some people, certainly not for you - stuff like: "passé simple, passé antérieur du subjonctif, rules of agreement for past participles or adjectives, or minor (?) subjects such as: "le" instead of "la" - or vice versa, I agree, and ...

... - here we are interrupted by one of my German friends, who confesses, that he is particularly traumatized by the "y" and "en" business and that he puts at least two of them into every sentence to be sure not to miss one! ....

Whereupon our American friend admits that he still has problems understanding why some French words have feminine gender in the plural use and a masculine one in the singular - let's be honest! He is not the only one!

Whereupon our Italian friend remarks that this is a harmless problem, but lately he tried to use the verbal form of a noun, with a quite, not disastrous - he says - but annoying result. " You all know ", he continues, " the words un bacio, a kiss, ein Kuss, un baiser and the according verbs baciare, küssen, to kiss, ... "

O.K. but here I stop him! We all know that the French expression for "to kiss someone" is "embrasser quelqu'un" and not ... (what our friend used)!
" How could that happen to him ?, the Italian ! " Did I hear a slight undertone of jealousy in this remark of my German friend? All these "clichés" !! ...

But a little revision of my friends' French skills seems necessary !

By the way, do you know, that the French take their language very seriously! By law and under penalty !
Good for my business!!

Now, you and me, we certainly do not think like a certain Frenchman, who was supposedly a bit chauvinistic ...
" How surprising! " I hear- certainly a bit sarcastically - from some other friends (do you remember, we left them on their virtual trip through France).

O.K., back to our Frenchman:
Answering the question" What has made French the universal language of Europe" he wrote (and won a prize!) : "What is not clear, is not French. What is not clear is still English, Italian, Greek or Latin".
Do not hit on me! Not yet at least. He really said it. His name was Rivarol. It was in Berlin! In 1784 ! In Berlin and more than two centuries ago! Surprising! Or not? Anyhow, if you don't believe me, read it yourself in the report of the Royal Academy of Science, Berlin, 1784, Dissertation sur l'universalité de la langue française , page 28 or 29.

We also certainly do not agree with this rather well known Prussian King, Frederic, second in his line (also called the Great) and a very good friend of another Frenchman named Francois Marie Arouet (better known under his pen name Voltaire . ("There is no parallel in history for this great genius". You must read Clarence Darrow's essay !!!) .

By the way - believe it or not - it was reported* ( "By whom? by whom? Give names!"I hear from my friends in a kind of general hilarity) , in June 1997, that the new Socialist Premier** of France, Lionel Jospin, was born "on a couch raised up on a set of the complete works of Voltaire to make it easier for the midwife."
* New York Times, 3 June 1997, p. A 8. ** see annotation 'xuses, Mr. Prime Minister !

Gossip!? Voltaire would have loved that story and would have written certainly one of his so brilliant but poisonous letters.
Your homework: Try to imagine a little appendix -in Voltaire's style and mind - to his CONCATENATION OF EVENTS or any other subject - of your choice - of the The Philosophical Dictionary (don't miss this site !!).

I simply can't resist -
and the above mentioned King must wait a bit! 'xuses, Mr. Prime Minister !

Lionel, Lionel, as a Socialist, you should have chosen Jean-Jacques Rousseau ! Either you change your PR advisers or you make them read - at least - this page ! Hurry, before your President discovers, that his favorite reading - in younger years - was " A Dissertation On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind "!

Now what? I must admit, I lost the thread! Jospin's "Voltairean birth" has really nothing to do with the French language and a Prussian King! ... ??? King ?! Great! I found my way back!
Frederick the Great, who, by the way, (and there we go again!) also admired René Descartes who introduced the now famous Latin phrase "cogito ergo sum". It was certainly not Descartes' "ésprit cartésien" with which every respectable Frenchman prides himself, ...
"boasts about, boasts about!!" That is my German friend again, who - it's sure now - is a bit jealous. Why can't they let me finish my sentences ??!!
Where am I ? I lost my thread again! Oh, yeah!

... "Cogito ergo sum". What the heck! Why didn't he use French or English? "Je pense, donc je suis" or - if you prefer - "I think, therefore I am" sounds as good. Doesn't it? But here it comes even better: " De Prima PHILOSOPHIA, In quibus Dei existentia, & animae humanse à corpore distinctio, demonstrantur ". Don't run away! Be curious and follow the link. It'll be good for your English, French or Latin. You'll find the text translated in three languages.
! That was our subject. And especially the French language. Finally, we are back!

Let's restart at the beginning ( Please bear with me and my "excursions"!), where we did not agree with Mr. Rivarol and where I was about to tell you that we do neither agree with Frederick the Great, also a genius in his kind and King of Prussia, who considered French as the only speakable language for civilized people and who should have treated his mother tongue, in this case German ...
(By the way, it seems that he had made several attempts to change the whole thing into Prussian, but did not succeed completely. "Fortunately, fortunately !" I hear. Who was that again???!!! )

... O.K. back "zum Alten Fritz" (they call him that way!) , who should have said something like "German ..., this language for coachmen ... " But you know! People!
But you certainly agree, when I say that French is an elegant, wonderful, flexible and "adroit" language, which has been for centuries the intellectual expression of a certain European Way of Life and has been in use for a long time as the language of diplomacy.

Oh, Dear! I shouldn't have used a past tense!
And you should see our French friend, brandishing his American friend's passport and you should hear him triumphantly reading: " Le Secrétaire d'Etat des Etats-Unis d'Amérique prie par les présentes ......."
" So, what?! Has been, has been...!?? "
" And they did put the accents on the right place, contrary to people I know! "
, he continues with a significant look at our other friends. There we are again! He is a bit susceptible. I told you already.

But, let's come back to our subject. French is spoken by almost 200 million people (at the moment) all over the world (If you want to know, where and by whom exactly, go to this very instructive site !).

Now, the fact that you are reading these lines already shows your interest in the French language.

You are not only interested, but you speak French more or less fluently! Don't you? ...
(If not, I know a very good language school !! Guess where?)

What do you think about a little vocabulary test ? Your mother tongue is English | German
... Already back again? You did lose some illusions!? Wasn't that a spiteful remark!? Beg your pardon!
I know, you just realized, that there are only some little gaps.
Don't become too "euphorique", that was only a little vocabulary test!! (I can't help it, it's my nature. Excuses again!)
Let's have a little check up! There is a whole battery
And ... one never stops learning! And ... if you don't speak French (yet!) , if you have to learn it, for one reason or the other, or if you simply agree with Kipling's statement (I've mentioned it somewhere) , and, if you can't go to a good language school (did I tell you already, that I know a real good one?) , why don't you start, free of charge and right here on the Web , a French language course with Jacques Léon? In case you should have some little problems with the verb conjugation, this site will be quite helpful.

But before you go and become another man or being (Kipling again, see my home page) ,
I would like you to read this :
"Have I ever failed?" (by John Walker)

Remember this mantra of the survival language learner. Better yet, translate it into French and remember that! For if your goal is to live in a French-speaking culture and conduct your day to day life in that language, then the only real criterion for success is success itself--can you, in fact, get along in that language? At the start, you'll be short of skills and confidence and things will be a little rocky. And you will continue to grind your teeth every time you mis-conjugate a verb, blow an adjective agreement, or fail to come up with a noun that's "right on the tip of your tongue". And that irritation will probably last the rest of your life. But after a month or so, think about this: once you've rented an apartment, bought a car, arranged for insurance, opened a bank account, ordered a turkey for Christmas, gotten the oil tank refilled, etc., etc. and never had a real disaster (you know, disaster: like having a ton of steer manure dumped in your neighbour's yard), then every time the molars start gnashing, just ask, "Have I ever failed?"...failed to get done what I set out to do, without having to find somebody who speaks English? And as long as you haven't failed, then you're succeeding--succeeding in living your life in a language you didn't grow up speaking--a skill that the vast majority of humans on this planet never acquire or even attempt. And as the days and weeks pass, "never failing" will mature into "success" and then "proficiency". Then you can start on German*. * We'll come to that later, John. Just a moment!

Things could be "a little rocky". I agree.
And you don't have "to have dumped a ton of steer manure in your neighbour's yard".
There could be things much more embarrassing or inauspicious. Believe me !!
Especially in French! I could tell you ... ! Or ask our Italian friend (do you remember?) !

But, let's come back to John Walker.
You really should visit his site. No, You MUST!! Not only that he did a lot of work, which could be useful for your French (see his collection of those current little French words , you always have right on the tip of your tongue, but ... . Or look at his "veritable travail de fourmi" -(n'est pas, John?!), he did with his page about the gender of French nouns (Chapeau, John!) ; and don't miss his page " Resources for Learning French ", full with useful hints, written out of experience - obviously a bit hard sometimes . By the way, if you don't have neither the opportunity nor the time (or tenacity or the courage) to follow all his recommendations, what about a good language school ? Did I tell you ... ? OK! OK!

... Now, I lost the thread again! What a hell of a long sentence!

Oh, yeah! Not only that John Walker's site will be useful for your French, but it is also one of the most interesting sites on the Web. In my eyes at least. A subjective point of view and perhaps not very significant! I agree. But when I tell you, that my 14 years old son Alexander, a pure product of his age and time, generally only interested in television (X files, mangas, etc.), in skating, surfing, in hard metal music and in ... ( you certainly know all those paternal suspicions - " unfounded, unfounded!!" , he says ), is now interested in astronomy and spends hours of his so precious time only on this site and its links, that is significant! Thank you, John!
(I hope you did not lose the thread now. I have to try to make my sentences shorter. I know!)

" And you jump "du coq à l'âne". Don't stray always away from the subject! "
That was my son. I must have hit one of his sensible sides. But he is right. Back to the subject.

No! Not yet! John Walker and you (yes, yes! You I mean!) are not the only ones who find language learning a "little rocky". The following is especially dedicated to our German friends, who think that French is a difficult language to learn, but also to everybody else, who is trying to learn a foreign language. These lines are thought as an encouragement, even if they don't look like it on the first view! But it's easier nowadays. Perhaps not easier, but shorter ! We have our ways !!! Believe me !!

Now let's read some excerpts about what an other gentleman wrote about his language learning experience:
The Awful ....... Language
by Mark Twain

Disclaimer: Beg your pardon, Mr. Twain, but I blanked out -for the moment and only for educational reasons- the language and country specific words and features. The kind reader may replace them with the specific words and features of the language he is struggling with.

A little learning makes the whole world kin.
--Proverbs xxxii, 7.

I went often to look at the collection of curiosities in X.......... Castle, and one day I surprised the keeper of it with my X....... I spoke entirely in that language. He was greatly interested; and after I had talked a while he said my X...... was very rare, possibly a "unique"; and wanted to add it to his museum.

If he had known what it had cost me to acquire my art, he would also have known that it would break any collector to buy it (Our fees are not so high, Mr. Twain. Really not!) . Harris and I had been hard at work on our X...... during several weeks at that time, and although we had made good progress, it had been accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance, for three of our teachers had died in the mean time.

A person who has not studied X...... can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is. Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech, he turns over the page and reads, "Let the pupil make careful note of the following EXCEPTIONS." He runs his eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the rule than instances of it. So overboard he goes again, to hunt for another Ararat and find another quicksand. ...
... My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days
(Could be done, could be done! Perhaps not fluently, but ...) , and German in thirty years (Isn't that a little exaggerated, Mr. Twain?) .

Now, dear reader, please go to The Awful German Language by Mark Twain . Read and enjoy this still and always relevant satire about German in particular and - language learning in general !

"Satire"? Did I say "satire"? Of course, Marc Twain wrote it in his brilliant satirical style, but don't we say in French "Il n'y a pas de fumée sans feu" (something like "No smoke without fire")?

He must have suffered. At least a little bit! Couldn't he find an address of a good language school?

O.K.! You are right! It's time to find back to our original subject.

Which was ...? Ha! Caught you!
Fortunately I still know what we were speaking about. You should be more disciplined and stay with your subject! You asked me about French language resources on the Web before you strayed away from the subject - which is far too vast to be treated as an appendice of this page. Therefore, let's go together to my page of French language resources on the Web .

And this time it'll be real and serious work. Promised !