French New Year’s Wishes Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

In France, the holidays, or les fêtes de fin d’année and also known as la période des fêtes (note that the expression “le temps des fêtes” is used in French-speaking Canada), are about family, friends and feasting – especially the feasting. This applies to le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) in particular. French revelers commonly celebrate with un dîner de réveillon (New Year’s Eve dinner) complete with oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, chestnuts, truffles, mushrooms, duck, capon and all manner of other French delicacies. (Click here for a previous posting on wonderful French holiday tastes.)

 PC240165

PC240166

A beautiful French table set for “un dîner de réveillon”

Of course, no dîner de réveillon would be complete without toasts and good wishes for le Nouvel An (the New Year). The most basic is “Bonne année!” (pronounced buh nah-nay), i.e. “Happy New Year!” Or one can get more elaborate with the following: “Que cette nouvelle année vous apporte bonheur, santé et réussite,” meaning “May this new year bring you happiness, health and success.” Quite nice, don’t you think? And with these good wishes comes lots of bisous – air-kissing family and friends on the cheek.

If you are in Paris for New Year’s, you could follow your dinner and toasts by going out on the town. You could join the crowds thronging the Champs-Elysées. Or you could head to the Eiffel Tower to watch the light show going off at midnight. Or you could enjoy a more laid-back street celebration up by Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. If you are out and about in Paris on New Year’s Eve, you’ll love that Paris transport – Métro, buses, RER – are free to the public again this year from 5pm on December 31st until noon on January 1st, with most of the transport network running full force until 2:15am. Or you could stay home and watch the French President François Hollande on television sending his meilleurs voeux 2015 (best wishes for 2015) to the citizens of France.

On the subject of French New Year’s wishes, it is interesting to note that the French typically send New Year’s cards rather than Christmas cards to their loved ones. Greetings for the New Year in this format are often a little more formal. Here are a few examples:

- Meilleurs voeux pour l’année 2015! (Best wishes for 2015!)

- Nous vous souhaitons une très bonne année 2015! (We wish you a very happy 2015!)

- Nous vous souhaitons une bonne et heureuse nouvelle année. (We wish you a good and happy new year.)

- Recevez nos meilleurs vœux de bonheur pour la nouvelle année. (Please accept our best wishes for a happy new year.)

- Je vous présente mes meilleurs vœux pour 2015. (I send you my best wishes for 2015.)

- Nous vous adressons nos meilleurs vœux pour 2015. (We send you our best wishes for 2015.)

- Que la nouvelle année vous apporte paix, santé et bonheur. (May the New Year bring you peace, health and happiness.)

- Paix, santé et bonheur pour vous et les vôtres! (Peace, health and happiness to you and yours!)

- Paix, amour, joie, prospérité, santé, bonheur… Que cette nouvelle année soit exceptionnelle! (Peace, love, joy, prosperity, health, happiness…May this New Year be exceptional!)

And then there is this lovely New Year’s wish I once received from a good French friend:

“Que cette nouvelle année déborde de bonheur, de paix et de prosperité.” (May this New Year overflow with happiness, peace and prosperity.)

On that note, I’d like to thank you for your support of French Affaires and wish you a wonderful 2015 full of all good things—and mais oui, full of things French!

Bonne année à toutes et à tous! (Happy New Year to all!)

PC250386

A previous version of this article appeared in December, 2011.

First French Words ~ Upcoming French Classes & Events Friday, Dec 5 2014 

The first French words I remember learning were la fleur. ‘The flower.’ Our Montessori school teacher held up flashcards with colorful images and instructed us to repeat the French names after her. I was five years old and with those few phrases in our kindergarten curriculum, something French in me must have clicked.

flower

After a sprinkling of Spanish in elementary school, I started taking French in earnest in sixth grade and never stopped. Monsieur Ross taught us the building blocks of the French language in seventh and eighth grades. In high school, Mademoiselle Steensen reinforced grammar with the command, “Scamper to the blackboard, Mademoiselle Nouvelle, and conjugate your French verbs!” (My maiden name was “New” so I earned the name Mademoiselle Nouvelle or Nouveau depending on my teacher’s mood.) She had an eagle eye for mistakes so you definitely had to keep up on les verbes.

We graduated from French verbs to French literature by the end of my high school years. And then I continued my French language adventure in college, really taking the plunge by spending my sophomore spring in Aix-en-Provence. I still remember our vivacious and energetic Provence culture professor who kept us spellbound for hours with tales and legends of southern France–all in French, of course.

By this time, I was hooked on the language and the culture of la belle France, and it was only a matter of time before I ended up in graduate school getting a doctorate in the subject, going to the Sorbonne in Paris and finally becoming a professor of French myself. Even though I now do a variety of ‘French things’ in addition to teaching the language, I still love to work with people to help them learn their ‘first French words’ and more.

A propos, I am often asked what advice I would have for making learning French easier and not so intimidating. Here are a few astuces (tips) for saving time, learning more quickly and sounding more French fast:

- Have a positive attitude. Learning French IS possible.

- Decide why you want to learn the language. Do you want to get around on an upcoming trip to France? Do you want to come across as a ‘nice American’? Or do you think French is poetic and you’ve ‘always wanted to learn it’? Or?? Once you identify your motivation, you can choose a French course or program that best meets your needs.

- Learn the language ‘in chunks.’ In other words, don’t try to overanalyze and figure out what every little word or syllable is doing in the French sentence. That can come later if you spend more time in the language. At the beginning, it’s fatiguing and prevents one from communicating–which is the point of language in the first place. So just practice ‘je vous en prie’ and simply equate it with ‘you’re welcome.’

- Make French part of your ‘muscle memory’ with lots of practice and drills. It sounds boring but it really works. Only after a lot of tennis practice can one walk on the court and serve an ace. It’s the same with language – you have to drill the same words and structures over and over to serve up that just right French expression with that just right accent in the moment.

- Find a part of the language that really motivates you and start from there. If you adore French food and cooking, then build your communication skills and vocabulary around this topic. Maybe your love is gardens, or art, or history, or Paris. Whatever it is, make that your French language learning focus. You’ll be more motivated and much more successful.

- Get tons of French ‘input.’ The more you’re exposed to French language and culture, the quicker you’ll be able to speak and communicate. Read French magazines and newspapers (online or paper), watch French TV and movies (see if your cable company offers TV5 Monde), attend French events, dine at French restaurants, cook French food, and of course, spend time traveling in France. Your confidence will go way up – and you’ll find you can say things you didn’t even know you knew!

- Recognize that the French value good pronunciation more than good grammar or good vocabulary. It pays to make an effort to shed that American accent and ’sound more French.’ So be sure to take a French course that includes pronunciation as part of its curriculum. Or take a very focused French pronunciation or phonetics class at some point in your language journey.

Speaking of journeys, a final thought is that learning another language and another culture is always a process. It doesn’t happen overnight (too bad!), and I am not sure it’s ever possible to say one has ‘arrived’ as a language is wonderfully rich and the kaleidoscope of a culture is always changing. But with a little focus and effort, anyone can learn some French…and have wonderful cultural experiences along the way.

Flowers

Paris fleurs

A previous version of this article was published in November, 2011.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

The next round of French Affaires’ language classes will begin in January, 2015. If you have been thinking about learning your first French words or want to exercise your French conversation skills, then check out our upcoming offerings. We’ll also have our special “French for Travelers” class at SMU to make your next visit to France easy and rewarding. For more details, please click on the course titles below:

Beginning French Part 1

Advanced French Conversation

French for Travelers

Our culture seminars this spring include “Magnificent Châteaux Near Paris: Day Excursions in the Ile de France” and “French Kings & Queens: A History of the Monarchy of France.” And there are always ongoing cultural events – the French Cookbook Club, French Cuisine & Culture Workshops and more – designed to bring even more of France to the U.S.! Check out the Events page at www.frenchaffaires.com for details and updates.

NB: If you’d like to see one of these classes or events offered in your city, please contact us for more details at info.french@frenchaffaires.com.