Now that the dust has settled on yet another well-attended and highly successful France Show at Olympia, London, on the last weekend in January, it is time for us here at Siffler Publications to take stock.
It is fair to say that the events of 2016 did not encourage wild optimism: Brexit, the sharp decline in the value of sterling and the attacks on French security, left many exhibitors in a pessimistic mood, but everyone I spoke to felt the show had been a great success, no more so than the property floor where the “agences immobilières” reported a high number of enquiries about French property,
On the first floor, Siffler Publications too, had a very encouraging and successful show: sales of all four of our books were brisk, especially on the Saturday, always the best attended day. This was our third consecutive year at the show; and this year we were able to offer two new titles – “Mastering the Art of Prepositions in French” and “Quoi! Your Complete Guide to the Frogs’ Favourite Four-Letter Word!”
Year 2018 promises to be even better with two more titles featuring on our stand, “The Return of the Frog – More Great Words and Phrases to Boost Your Street Cred in France” and “Frogmania: Diving Deep for Buried French Treasure”.
And looking ahead to the following year, perhaps our most exciting title of them all: “Speak French Without Fear: Putting Grammar in its Place”. This revolutionary approach to the tedious task of mastering all those complex French grammatical rules will make grammar learning so very much easier. Phew! That’s a relief!
In the meantime, enjoy 2017 in the world’s most visited country. But do not forget that you will enjoy it all the more, the more confident you feel in this beautiful language. That is what we are here to help you achieve, for Siffler Publications is dedicated to perfecting your French!
For hundreds of thousands of Brits the dream of owning that coveted French escape from dreary Blighty is already a reality; and many more will fulfil that dream in the not too distant future, particularly if the pound continues its rise (which seems likely). But even with very careful planning, that dream can all too easily end in bitter disappointment sooner or later. Buy in France and, chances are, you will be selling not buying in, on average, ten years – for five good reasons. They are known as the 5 D’s: Debt, Disease, Divorce, Death – and Disillusionment! I have no advice to offer you on the first four (that is for others). But I have plenty on the fifth.
We bought our Dordogne house twenty-seven years ago and our Paris apartment thirteen years ago. We still have them both. We hope to have them a lot longer.
So what is the secret, if there is one, of a long, happy life in your French home? If disillusionment is not to set in, then you really have to integrate. You have to become a vibrant, living part of your local French community. You have to be adopted by your neighbours, just as you might adopt a stray cat or dog. Nothing less will do.
And how do you do that? Learn to speak French! Nothing is more guaranteed to deliver the long-term pleasure that comes from feeling well and truly integrated into French society. It is idle to believe that you will be welcome with the odd “bonjour” and the occasional “comment ça va?” That does not cut the mustard with the French!
My wife, Sue, and I began travelling in France over forty years ago. At the time, neither of us spoke even a word of French. My foreign languages at school were Welsh and Latin! Not very useful when you have just broken down on a deserted Normandy road with the engine on fire! So on our return, wiser and sadly very much poorer, we vowed to learn some French, enough so that we could return sometime soon and profit from what the country clearly had to offer. But how?
Well, we enrolled that September, like thousands of others up and down the land doubtless will have done, too, at an evening class at our local Wimbledon school. The teacher was a French national from Lille, and boy was she good! But, if you have tried it yourself, you will know where I am coming from. Trying to learn the language one night a week in a class of twenty-odd other adult students from so many disparate backgrounds was very slow going indeed and, to put it mildly, deeply frustrating. So at the end of the year we decided to go solo by developing our own learning techniques through the basic strategy of self-learning. We have done so ever since – and continue to do so, incidentally. After all, you should never stop learning! Now we are both fluent French speakers; and we now spend almost all of our time these days in the company of our many French friends. Yes, I know the Dordogne is supposed to be stuffed full of Brits – but we only know four!
Of course, if you are only there for the food, cheap wine and, hopefully, the lovely weather, then read no further. This personal reflection is not for you. But the Brits we do know have gone, or are going, for much more than that. The siren call of the French way of life is simply irresistible. In a word, it is the French culture that draws you in.
Now, I do not mean “culture” in the purely artistic sense of the word. The culture of a people is its distinctive way of life and which in France is different in so many ways from ours and that of other countries you might know. You will have experienced this for yourself, if only on holiday to France. Before, perhaps, you would have been holidaying in, say, Spain. There the Spaniards like to eat lunch at about 3.00pm. But such an hour is ungodly to the French, who can scarcely wait until midday to tuck into a steaming bowl of “potage”, followed by a rich “coq-au-vin”, the unctuous sauce mopped up with generous slices of freshly-baked crusty “baguette”, followed by a plate of local cheeses and to finish perhaps, with a generous slice of gorgeous “tarte tatin” to climax the feast. (And I have not even mentioned the sensational wine they will wash it all down with!)
Of course, holidays are one thing, but owning your own property, however modest, even if it is currently reserved largely for a few weeks of escape in the summer, is quite another. We started like that, spending all our childrens’ school holidays in the house (we were lucky: I was a university teacher and my wife had a term-time only job!) But children grow up fast. Ours eventually fled the nest and we retired. Now we were there out of season so to speak and there were no holidaying Brits to keep us away from our French neighbours. So we eagerly got down to the immensely enjoyable but initially challenging task of getting to know the locals really well.
But frankly, it is only possible to get to know the French well enough to form strong friendship bonds with them if you speak their lingo – trust me, they do not, or will not, speak yours!
But by “speak” I do not mean fluently, though. It is a process; and it takes time. But once it is obvious that you are attempting to grasp the complexities of their language, then they will take you to their bosoms. For they know only too well how difficult their language can be – they will frequently admit it – but they will forgive your faltering first steps and early errors with sympathy, encouragement and very often, practical help. They will feel flattered that you are making an obvious effort to acquire their language. Now you are no longer the object of sideways glances and even sometimes, yes, disparaging remarks about the arrogant monoglot English who, centuries after the Hundred Years War, have invaded their homeland yet again. Now you are invited to their dinner tables, to their anniversaries and much more, to talk about this and that (but never politics!) and to share fully the pleasures of their very distinctive way of life. Now you have arrived. Now, to use their favourite word, you are well “integré”, integrated. When you reach this point you now realise why you dipped your toe into the French property market, perhaps many years ago. I can tell you this for nothing: it is worth it!
So, how do you learn enough French to win the approval, even admiration of your local French community? Here are my top four “killer” tips:
First, recognise that there is no one learning style. We all have our individual preferences. For some it is face-to-face tuition, for others it is tapes, discs, videos, books, films, music… and so on. There are some who believe that just being there is enough; somehow it will all rub off on you by osmosis. Unless you are a mega-talented linguist, it won’t. Do not get me wrong: being there is hugely helpful, indispensable even. But not on its own. You will also need the vital supplementary help that comes from working at your French, whatever media you choose.
Second, understand that there are no quick fixes out there. You are in it for the long run. Forget all that “French in 3 weeks” nonsense. I started “ab initio” at 27 by taking public exams, first GCSE (then “O-level”) and then “A-level”, really to incentivise me to work hard at it. We all need goals and targets, I feel, and they were mine. That took me three years. Armed with a good grammatical foundation, I started reading books, particularly novels. I started with the relatively easy Marcel Pagnol provençal stories and with Georges Simenon’s Maigret “who dunnits” which are great because his vocabulary is unbelievably limited and highly repetitious. Then there were the classic French films of Truffaut, Godard, and the rest. But there are lots of good modern French films, too, that you will find relatively easy to understand, “Amélie”, for example. And do not forget French pop music: much of it is naff, I agree, but singers like Maxime Le Forestier are really worth listening to.
All this was aimed at improving my conversational French in the main. I never harboured ambitions to read all twelve volumes of Marcel Proust’s “La Recherche du temps perdu!” But the effort meant that I was now able to read French newspapers and magazines. It is amazing how much you learn from “Hello!” magazine or “Paris Match”!
Third, do not be seduced by the overtly contextual approach to language instruction (“at the bakers”, “at the airport”, “at the restaurant” etc). To acquire enough vocabulary successfully to manage all the hundreds of contexts you will encounter on your French odyssey, you would have to learn literally thousands of new words. Yet a good basic grasp of French can be had with fewer than a thousand words. How?
Fourth, focus on the structure of the language and the important parts of speech that provide that structure. All can be important in some cases (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs… and several more). But only one is essential in all cases. That is the verb. A sentence without a verb is not a sentence: “The hunter the deer”: does that make sense? Of course not because the verb is missing: “The hunter killed the deer” – now that is a sentence. You can very often take almost all parts of speech from a sentence and still be left with a sentence: “Time flies”, for example or “Only connect” are full grammatically correct English sentences. It is just the same in French: no verb, no sentence. The verb is indeed the beating heart of language; and the good news is that not many verbs are needed to make that heart beat loudly and strongly. As my very recent book makes clear, only twenty-one “killer” verbs will do the trick. Yes, only twenty-one! That should be enough. But you will get nearly half-way there with only four: “être” (to be), “avoir” (to have), “faire” (to do or to make) and “aller” (to go). These four are so important that I label them the “serial killer” verbs. Know these really well and you will already be speaking French with some confidence and conviction. After that it is up to you.
So get cracking now (“allez-y!”) – and do not give up when it begins to get difficult. No language is easy; but the rewards for making the effort will be yours for life, not just ten years!
Derek Davies is the author of a revolutionary new approach to learning conversational French, “The Siffler Syndrome: How to Speak Amazing French with only 21 Killer Verbs”.
Paris is affordable, too, you know.
Twenty-seven years ago, when our children were four and seven, we bought a fully-restored Périgordine fermette in the beautiful Dordogne valley near Sarlat, an historic medieval town known throughout the world for its glorious architecture and rich cultural brew. We spent all our childrens’ school holidays there, winter, spring and summer. It was idyllic.
We still have that house – but children grow up fast. Both eventually went to British universities to read French. But when our daughter, Louise, decided to work in Paris during her third year out, our son, Gareth, decided that he, too, would like to spend a gap year working in Paris at the same time. So, one day they came to us with the idea of working and living together in Paris, sharing a rented apartment.
So, I did a bit of market research so to speak, only to discover, frankly to my astonishment, that Paris itself, (“Paris même”) was, thirteen years ago, amazingly cheap to buy in compared with London and other world cities.
So, Sue, my wife and I began paying weekend visits on the Eurostar to the city, initially to research the areas and the “arrondissements” that might be potential candidates for purchase. We figured out that, even if we made a “boo boo” we could sell at the end of the year, so not too much would be lost.
We must have gone for four or five week-ends, never looking at specific apartments, merely at the suitability of certain streets, even, within potentially suitable “quartiers”. Remember that we had a 21 year old daughter as well as a seventeen year old son, so good, safe streets with plenty of “commerçants” selling a bit of this and that, were what we wanted for them.
It was a process of elimination, really: some arrondissements (5th, 6th, 7th and 16th, for example) were way beyond our modest budget; and others were simply not judged safe enough (10th, 13th, 18th, 19th and 20th, for example). So we were left to search across the others.
By walking the streets we eventually drew up a short-list: 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th in particular.
Then we hired a search agent, a French-speaking Brit living in Paris who, at the time, took search briefs from people like us too busy (and naïve!) to do the job for themselves. For what we regarded as a very sensible commission, he would search and then draw up a short-list of about 8-10 candidate apartments for us to view over what turned out to be a long week-end. Of the ones we saw, one in particular in the 11th arrondissement, struck us as about as good as it could get. So there and then, that weekend, we put in an offer below the asking price which to our delight, was accepted.
Three months later we were now the proud, if poor, owners of a light, bright and quite spacious “trois-pièces” on the Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, close-ish to Bastille, with five metro lines and the R.E.R within a five minute walk from our address. Moreover, the street had everything our children would need – shops, restaurants, and much more.
The apartment needed work done to update it and restore it to its former glories, but our search agent, Sean, knew just the right man. When Louise arrived in the April, it was ready to occupy. When Gareth arrived in September, it was now fully equipped.
That year passed in a flash, but Gareth was back again three years later because he, too, was now on his year out, working as an “assistant” around the corner at a “lycée”. In the meantime, we had fallen in love, both with the flat and with the city – and the idea of selling was infinitely worse than pulling teeth. We were now spending as much time there as possible, often with English friends whom we would invite to stay for a weekend or more. We still loved the Dordogne, of course, but it is a bit of a “schlepp” (“un bout” in French!): Paris is so much closer and, well… frankly much more exciting!
But now we were getting to know the locals, particularly some of our “co-propriétaires” living in the same building – and others we would meet and get to know on our trips out and about the city. Quite honestly, we were beginning to feel a little bit Parisian, so friendly were our neighbours and others we met. Do no accept for one moment the British stereotype of Parisians. Contrary to their image, they are warm and welcoming. We were quickly made to feel at home in their stunning city.
But here I have to enter a crucial caveat. We both spoke French. All those years in the Dordogne had taught us that if you want to integrate and become part of your local French community, you have to learn French. They will not learn English, that’s for sure! Brits who fail the language test are viewed suspiciously by the natives, however charming they may appear to be on the surface. The odd “bonjour” and “comment ça va?” does not cut their mustard, I can tell you. No, you have to make more of an effort than that. You do not need fluent French; but you do need to appear to be trying to get to grips with their devilish language. Once that is evident, they take you to their bosoms; in the countryside and in Paris. (For further guidance on this issue, please see my latest book, details of which appear at the foot of this article).
One further thought. Although we only ever bought our apartment in Paris for our family and our own personal needs, never ever seeing it as an investment opportunity, it has turned out to be just that – and in spades! Its value has increased over four-fold, yes, four-fold! – over the last thirteen years – it represents a better investment in fact than almost anything in London, even.
Which leads me to the reason for this article. If you are planning to buy an old pile in the country somewhere, why not buy an old pile in Paris! Yes, I know prices are much higher now than they were thirteen years ago: and Paris is, yes, on average, much more expensive than Périgeux, say. Nonetheless, property bargains still abound in Paris. You have just got to know where to look (and what to look for, incidentally).
So, what should you be looking for; and where should you look?
First, understand that Paris is still full of small apartments for sale. Most of those beautiful buildings have been broken up into much smaller units: one and two bedroom flats are a-plenty. Conversely, good three bedroom flats (or bigger) are not quite so easy to find and are disproportionately expensive.
Also understand that all flats are sold on a m2 basis, not on room numbers per se. Often, rooms are spacious with high-ish ceilings and consequently offer flexible accommodation. So, start small and gradually work your way up.
So where should you be looking? Well, those expensive arrondissements are now even more expensive than ever; and others that were inexpensive when we were looking are now no longer cheap (the average price per m2 in the 11th is currently €10,000 for example). But as in London and other British cities, the “ripple-out” effect is transforming hitherto unfashionable and unattractive parts of the city. So, start looking in the 10th, 12th, 14th, 19th and 20th arrondissements. You will be amazed by prices here in particular.
But average prices are misleading; there are as many properties cheaper than the average as there are properties more expensive than the average (otherwise you would not have an average!) And within an arrondissement, you will find parts that are cheaper than the arrondissement average, also. Then there are individual streets that are cheaper than the street average. And there are flat averages that are cheaper than all those that make up the street average. Think like this and you will soon see that there must be bargains to be had! It is a case of winkling them out, that is all. That is where your research comes in. You do have to give the shoe-leather a bit of a work out!
But you can do lots of desk research before you book that first Eurostar ticket. Paris prices are officially published every year in magazines such as “L’Express” and “Capital”. These are broken down by new and old, by house and apartment, by room numbers, by m2, by arrondissement and by “quartiers” within each arrondissement (normally there are four). These statistics are always accompanied by detailed analysis and commentary running into many tens of pages, which all help to thread your way through the mass of data. By such means you should be able to pinpoint reasonably accurately where you might be able to afford to live before you even put foot in the capital.
So let us get down to the “nitty-gritty”: what is the minimum you will have to spend for something half-decent in a reasonably safe, attractive environment with, say, two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, bathroom and toilet?
Well, again, it all depends, particularly on whether your candidate building has a lift (“ascenseur”) or not. Old Paris buildings normally have seven floors with perhaps a “chambre de bonne” – a former maid’s one bedroom flat on the eighth floor. (Basement flats, unlike in London, say, are rare in Paris, incidentally). Ground floor flats are relatively cheap, for security reasons and get more expensive the higher you go. This is particularly true if the building does have a lift. If not, prices tend to rise up to the fourth floor and thereafter fall. The highest price in a building will normally be paid for something on the third floor.
But does the apartment have a balcony and a cellar (“cave”)? Balcony flats are particularly prized and attract a premium. A cellar is also desirable for storage but is not imperative.
All this leads me to suggest that you should be able to find something suitable in the £150,000 – £200,000 price bracket (though for less if a lot of work is required). If your budget can stretch to £250,000, then you have much more choice.
But do not forget the fees – in total about 11% of the purchase price – and service charges also need to be accounted for. To give you an idea, we pay about £1200 per annum to include water, buildings insurance, the management fee etc. The smaller the flat, the less you will have to pay. Then you will have the taxes, the “Taxe Foncière” and the “Taxe d’Habitation”. Ours total about £1000 p.a.
But what do you get for this? Well, you get Paris! Is there anywhere in the world more beautiful or desirable? And you will get capital growth, rest assured. Paris is a much smaller city than, say, London; and supply / demand considerations clearly indicate an ever upward price curve for Paris property. With the Euroland woes and the relative strength of sterling, today is just as good a time to buy in Paris as it was when we bought all those years ago. And do not forget, most Brits do not buy in Paris – they buy in the countryside, which drives prices up relative to Paris.
So, if like us, you fancy a bit of urban Parisian chic in your life – and a damned good investment to boot – look no further than Paris. You will not regret it. We certainly didn’t!
Derek Davies is the author of a new, revolutionary approach to speaking French, “The Siffler Syndrome: How to Speak Amazing French with only 21 Killer Verbs”.
This magazine devotes much of each issue to cultural aspects of French life. But when we think of that culture we understandably reflect on France’s finer points: its world-renowned cuisine, its splendid wines, its great literature, its inventive cinema and so on… in short, the products of its people’s “savoir faire” and “savoir vivre!”
But “culture” means much more than that. Fundamentally it refers to the distinctive way of life of a people – and no more distinctive way of life can be encountered than in France, whether it be in the cheap and cheerful bistros up and down the land or at the sumptuous Opéra Garnier in Paris’ opulent 7th arrondissement.
Superficial access to the country’s cultural kaleidoscope can be had through visiting France, of course as many times as possible. But to savour fully the richness of the cultural brew, there is no substitute for living there, if only for a few weeks or months a year (or over 25 years as we have!)
Nonetheless, and it is the same in all societies, it is only through knowing its people that you can truly appreciate what France has given and continues to give the world. And to do that you really have to speak its language!
Unfortunately, the British in particular do not truly understand the need any more to learn other languages: isn’t English the world’s “lingua franca”? Well, no. Not in France at least! The French are just as monoglot and they expect us to understand their language, just as we expect them to understand ours. And, chances are, even if you meet French people who know how to speak English, they will stubbornly stick to theirs. It is their superiority complex, you understand!
So how do we maintain this “entente cordiale” when they will not speak English and we cannot speak French? (Only 10,000 18 year olds sat “A-level” French in Britain in 2014, the lowest total on record). Answer: we have got to start learning it. If we really want to access their extraordinary cultural heritage and traditions we have very little choice. But how?
My forty-plus years of travelling, working and living in France has led me to view French as a three-legged stool, “un tabouret à trois pieds”.
The first of those legs is words and, in a perfect world, as many words as possible. My excellent French-English dictionary has about 650,000 different words in it – but that is a lot to learn before you go off to that 3 month art appreciation course at Giverny! In truth, most people have a working knowledge of about 5,000 words and for many that is enough for life. For that 3 month art course, you will probably only need about 900 words of French – but not all at once. If you went with, say, 200 words and stayed for 90 days, you would need to pick up the rest at the rate of, say, eight words a day. Now that is not too demanding, is it?!
The second leg is usage: “use it or lose it” as the saying has it. But this is where we Brits in particular struggle: we are terrified of opening our mouths lest we make a mistake. But you know, the French make plenty of mistakes themselves in their language (as we do in English). I have some very well educated French friends who sometimes betray a resounding ignorance of their language’s grammatical subtleties.
However, since you will only need to use 900 words in total over 90 days, usage will become less and less of a problem over time. Mistakes you make in week one, say, will have disappeared in week two – repetitive use of the same words, day in, day out, will soon take care of that little problem. With use, language becomes very predictable, because repetition quickly reveals the structure of the language and the words that you will therefore need to use.
Of course, some of the words you will need to use will be nouns, physical things like “paint-brush” and abstract nouns like “colour”. Then you will need a few adjectives, words like “beautiful”, for example. You will also need a small handful of personal pronouns, words like “I” and “you”. Some prepositions will help, too, words like “in” and “on” for example. And to string a few phrases and sentences together you will need the odd conjunction or two, words like “but” and “however”, for example. By now, I hope, you are beginning to get my drift. This little lot might total as few as a hundred. So what is left?
Well, I have not yet thrown in any adverbs, words like “beautifully” or “quickly”. And you will also need the odd participle, present participles such as “painting” and past participles such as “painted”. But frankly, I am beginning to run out of parts of speech, yet we have scarcely identified more than a few hundred words you will need to see this course through right to the end. Except one…
Verbs: You will also need a few verbs! But again, not many. You will certainly need to know what I call the “killer” verbs (I reckon there are twenty-one of these; and amongst these you will need to know what I call the “serial killer” verbs, of which there are only four: “être” (to be), “avoir” (to have), “faire” (to do or to make) and “aller” (to go).
Mind you, you will need to be able to conjugate them in at least two tenses, the present tense and a past tense called the imperfect. If you learned these at school, no problems. If not, you will quickly pick them up.
By now, of course, you are beginning to see the third leg of that stool and without which it simply would not stand up: grammar! Yes, I know, that word may already be striking terror in your heart, particularly if you are under thirty, because no grammar seems to be taught in schools anymore – not even English grammar!
Now, I cannot pretend that French grammar is exactly a walk in the park: even the French think it is damned difficult; that is why they often get it wrong. But all that I am talking about here is the relevant grammar, the rules that will allow you to put together sentences in some sort of logical, structured order. For example:
“J’aime Picasso. Mais j’aime mieux Kandinsky” (I like Picasso. But I prefer Kandinsky). Here we have:
- two proper nouns, “Picasso” and “Kandinsky”
- one personal pronoun, “J’(e)”
- one conjunction, “mais”
- one adverb, “mieux” and…
- one verb, “aime” (from “aimer”, to like or to love)
Now it should not be difficult to put sentences like these in place in week one, should it? If not, just imagine what you will be able to say at the end of three months!
But if you already love France even only half as much as I do, you will want to live there, maybe permanently one day. Even then, though, your French will only progress “au fur et a mesure”, as you go along. But your vocabulary will build, your fluency will grow with usage – and your knowledge of grammatical rules will increasingly structure your ever more sophisticated powers of expression.
But none of this will happen by osmosis: being there will not be enough. (I know some Brits in our neck of the woods who, having lived permanently in France for more than ten years, still cannot (or will not) order a cup of coffee in French. Such people deserve to be forcibly repatriated!)
No, you will need to knuckle down. If you want to be accepted, even admired, by the French around you, here are my four “killer” tips for ultimate excellence in spoken French:
First, recognise that there is no one method that will suit all learning styles; and you may have to experiment with several before discovering what best suits you. Some like face-to-face tuition; others prefer books, tapes, discs, videos, films, music… and so on.
Second, understand that there are no quick fixes out there. Forget all that “French in 3 weeks” nonsense. I started “ab initio” at 27 (Welsh and Latin were my foreign languages at school!) by taking public exams, GCSE and then “A-level” French as an extra incentive to work hard at it. That, part-time obviously, took me three years and gave me a very solid grammatical foundation for the further developments of my conversational French. Then I got into tapes, discs, books and so on. I began reading French novels (relatively easy ones at first by Marcel Pagnol, for example – but also Georges Simenon’s “Maigret” novels which really are a very enjoyable breeze with an extraordinarily limited vocabulary). And I also began watching classic French films by Truffaut, Godard, and the rest. More recently, films like “Amélie”, I have found very helpful indeed. By such methods, my conversational powers gradually increased.
Third, do not be seduced by the contextual approach to the language (“at the bakers”, “at the airport”, “at the restaurant” etc). To acquire enough French successfully to manage all the contexts you will encounter, you would need a vocabulary stretching into several thousand words.
Fourth, focus not on the context but on the structure of the language and the important parts of speech and vocabulary that are required in all contexts, not just some. Focus on what you need to know and say, not what it would be nice to know and say. Focus above all on verbs: these are the beating heart of language; and not many verbs are needed to make the heart of language beat loudly and strongly – twenty-one by my reckoning as I have already said. Yes, you will eventually need to know them intimately, in all their colloquial, idiomatic and literal applications. But this is for the long run. Get started on those four “serial killer” verbs I mentioned earlier. You will be amazed by how much French you will know and, more importantly, be able to say.
So, get cracking now – “allez-y!” – and do not give up when it starts getting difficult. No language is easy; and do not believe anyone who pretends that it is. But the rewards for making the effort will be with you for life, not just for three months!
Derek Davies is the author if a revolutionary new approach to learning French, “The Siffler Syndrome: How to Speak Amazing French with only 21 Killer Verbs”.
Siffler Publications are delighted to announce the publication of our second book: “How to Pass for a Frog with their Top 201 Favourite Words and Phrases.
After a successful launch at The France Show in January 2016, we would like to offer you the opportunity to buy this book at a reduced price of only £10 instead of £12.95. This price also includes P&P.
So, what is the book about?
French, like English, comes in all shapes and sizes. Much of it is grammatically correct and can be used in any situation you might find yourself in.
However, much of it is colloquial, possibly grammatically correct but now a bit more “familier” eg “Robert, shove the dishes in the dishwasher. Please”. Here, “shove” is not exactly the most refined way of saying “put”, but it is not going to raise many eyebrows! This book is “stuffed(!)” with such colloquialisms. I call these “one-star” words.
However, you will also find several “two-star” words. These are more than impolite; they are vulgar, eg “I have got to go for a piss, now”. This word “piss” (or the adjective, “pissed”) will only be employed amongst people who know you very well!
But French is also replete with genuine three-star words and expressions. These are genuine slang and often very vulgar indeed.
In this book, I stop at the two-star words. My experience tells me that you will not yet want or need to use some of the language’s strongest equivalents of our so-called “four letter” words. Anyway, there are plenty of books out there that deal with the language in this register. They are all written by Frogs, of course, because only they can really understand the complex nuances of French at this “argotic” level.
So do not go looking for the “dirty” words in this book! Look instead simply for the words and phrases used by ordinary French people day in, day out. That really should be enough!