• Andrew Starr

Portsmouth College Improvers (2)

This blog page is to help those studying the French Improvers (2), advanced improvers class on Monday evenings at Portsmouth College.

The easier to remember link for this page is:

Further support is available via Google Classroom

There is a Facebook page for this group and alternatively, a password-protected website. I would have given you the password if you are in the class.

Radio Garden is a website where you can easily access streaming radio through a web browser on any capable device.

This link will take you to France Bleu Normandie in Caen.

France 24 is the equivalent of BBC News 24 or Sky News in France it is free to watch in streaming here.


As we are under Covid-19 rules, the college prefer to have a paperless, where appropriate class environment.

While this is not so easy, if I can put as much as possible here for you in advance of the class you can then access it on a phone or tablet if you can connect to the internet, alternatively you can bring in your own printouts and take them away.


Course continuation is currently paused, until the college feels it is likely we can return to campus safely (under the previous safety measures).

The College website reflects this as of November 2020, click here to see the fun courses landing page


Inserting foreign accents into documents

The blog post here will help you put the accents in documents on various devices.


The college is hoping to advertise lessons as usual on campus from January. (Most likely week beginning January 11th) Once I am aware of the advert going live I will add the link here. If you see it before me, do let me know!

This website gives fables and fairytales in parallel texts for many languages. You can choose the English and French Version and you'll be able to read both alongside one another. Some also have audio recordings... Can help you learn equivalent phrases in French.


On Weds December 9th from 7-m there is an online social in English for people who wish to drop in. There usually are some people from Caen there, ready to practise their English. Why not come along (it works the same way for the French, German and Italian meetings, it is just the main spoken language which varies).

This is the link where you can find out more and where future online meet-up dates, times and links where be placed. When the new normal is established we'll hopefully be able to meet up in the pubs once more.

Monday November 30th, 2020

This lesson will be on Google Classroom

Discussion point 1:

This may seem familiar to some of you as I wrote and used it last year. It is full of relevant vocabulary and themes to discuss Christmastime

What happens in France at this time of year?

Les fêtes de la fin de l
Download PDF • 37KB
Pour le Nouvel An
Download PDF • 74KB

Discussion point 2:

Do you have any presentations prepared to talk about Christmas past and present?

If so we will listen to them now. You should also be able to share anything on your screen to all of us.

Discussion point 3:

Parallel texts.

We will look at a page from Dickens' - "A Christmas Carol"

Cantique de Noël
Download PDF • 54KB

Available from the Gutenberg Project, here are two versions of the very famous tale.

'Cantique de Noël'

A Christmas Carol
Download PDF • 221KB
Cantique de Noel
Download PDF • 220KB

Discussion Point 4:

These files give information about customs in France at this time of year.

Download PDF • 2.77MB
AS_Christmas in Provence
Download PDF • 630KB
Download PDF • 87KB

Discussion Point 5:

There are some Christmas Carols around in France at this time of year, however they also listen to Christmas songs in English and other languages. It is through Canada that many French versions of the songs we all know have come...

Johane Blouin and Ginette Reno have done at least two Francophone Christmas albums each. Most songs are secular and religious songs that also exist in English.

Les anges dans nos campagnes
Download PDF • 44KB
Vive le Vent - GR
Download PDF • 24KB

These are riddles - The answers to which are all items that can be found at they time of year

Devinettes de Noël
Download PDF • 35KB

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année - A la prochaine fois en 2021 - peut-être.


Monday November 23rd, 2020

This lesson will be on Google Classroom

Discussion 1:

Des nouvelles tristes - Daniel Cordier, membre de la Résistance pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale est mort

Daniel Cordier
Download PDF • 467KB

Discussion 2:

Festive food & drink

KS4 Le réveillon de Noël
Download PDF • 695KB

This website from Québec has many festive recipes...

Discussion 3:

You may have prepared something about your past, using various tenses, including the imperfect tense.

Il était une fois à Noël - Now use this concept to prepare a story about what Christmas used to be like for you, how it is different this year and what you hope it will be like in the future/2021/22.

Il était une fois à Noël
Download PDF • 205KB

Discussion 4: - Cantiques de noël / Chansons de Noël

Some of you will have done this song before. I won't use it as a listening exercise, however you may wish to listen to it and look at the lyrics. This song (not this version) is pretty much the French equivalent of 'Away in a manger', as it is learned and recited by little children each Christmas.

Annie Lennox - il est né
Download PDF • 29KB


Monday November 16th, 2020

This lesson will be on Google Classroom

You were going to prepare a few lines/a paragraph on something you found interested in the news this week.

Stop Press/la dernière heure

First point for discussion

In case you are interested, this is the online form you must fill in when you want to leave your home in France under their latest lockdown. It will generate a pdf you can print or show on a device.

Alternatively, there are some often printed in local and national newspapers for those without easy access to IT. They can also be downloaded as pdf printed and filled in see below:

Download • 92KB

Taken from the French Govt website > "9 novembre 2020

Face à une situation sanitaire qui continue de se dégrader, des restrictions de déplacement entrent en vigueur sur le territoire métropolitain et en Martinique. À compter de 0h00, dans la nuit du jeudi 29 octobre au vendredi 30 octobre, les déplacements non-essentiels ne sont plus autorisés. Le non-respect de ces mesures entraine :

  • Première sanction : une amende de 135 euros, majorée à 375 euros (en cas de non-paiement ou de non-contestation dans le délai indiqué sur l'avis de contravention)

  • En cas de récidive dans les 15 jours : une amende de 200 euros, majorée à 450 euros (en cas de non-paiement ou de non-contestation dans le délai indiqué sur l'avis de contravention)

  • Après 3 infractions en 30 jours : une amende de 3750 euros et une peine de 6 mois d'emprisonnement."

Second point for discussion

Newly initiated vocabulary into English - also mentions ome newly entered French words

New French Vocab_Confinement
Download PDF • 3.50MB

Third point for discussion

We have looked at euphemisms for death in French. Here is a brief elegy from the Mayor of Caen to one of its citizens who has done much for art in the city.

joel b tribute to YM
Download PDF • 112KB

Something else to talk about:

La Nostalgie est-elle dangereuse?

Le plus âgé que l'on est, le plus on aime se rappeler du bon vieux temps, mais l'histoire, est-elle aussi bien que nos souvenirs?


The cartoon below inspired the choice of theme today! Along with the above video also popping up!

Quand j'étais petit
Download PPTX • 1.86MB
L’imparfait moi j'étais
Download PDF • 27KB
Download PDF • 70KB
The Imperfect Tense
Download PPT • 62KB

Something that showed up on Social Media from France... Mais pourquoi écrit-on en anglais?

Above is "une infox" of course, as proven by this slightly more historically accurate song from 1974.

Abba - Waterloo VF
Download PDF • 26KB


Monday November 9th, 2020

This lesson will be on Google Classroom

This is the direct link to the video link

I am hoping you all have your logins and can get in to the classroom.

Clicking on this link will take you to the Google Classroom login page for our class.

See this link for instructions on how to login to Google Classroom if you are having difficulty.

I will prepare a few things, I will post as much as I can here, in case you cannot access the Google Classroom Video Link. I hope that if you find you cannot access the Google Classroom Video Link, that you contact IT at the College, who are still supposed to be working. Do e-mail me anything you may have done and wish for me to look at.

Tonight online, we will look at...

Some phrases to embellish French. Beginning with French Conjunctions (it starts off with ones you'll all know, but gets more complicated...

French Conjunctions Chart
Download PDF • 1.69MB

The usage of certain phrases in French:

These various pages explain them well and give lots of ready made examples...

The uses of:

'il s'agit de...' which could mostly be translated into English as 'it is' or 'it's'


Current Affairs

The US Elections from a French Perspective - Joe Biden

Ouest France - Three policemen injured on Saturday evening in Caen

Download PDF • 1.29MB

Covid mutation in Mink farming in Denmark and elsewhere

Six pays signalent des cas de Covid
Download PDF • 429KB

The Covid-19 Situation in France

Covid FRANCE 08.11.20
Download PDF • 243KB


Monday November 2nd, 2020

A few things to promote discussion...

  1. We should look at the rôdeur text... It can support discussion on criminality.

  2. We can look at some French idiomatic expressions, adverbs of manner and lesser known conjunctions.

  3. These clips ...

Some rather vulgar terms (perhaps a shame), which are used a lot by the French too, the sort of thing you will hear when surrounded by the French. Full of idioms and the rest!

Cocovoit - Congénitagueule - Une série Comédie+

La patience est une vertu

Tu or vous?

Tutoiement - Cocovoit, une série Comédie+

Le tutoiement c'est pas évident pour tout le monde

and this one ticks all my 'irrit' boxes

A Québecoise with a muted accent talking about 'La drague'

A lot of outrage and more rising of Marine Le pen and her Front national to the fore (she has really latched on to the public feeling about the murder of the teacher in Yvelines) This is a cartoon looking to make some sense of such far-right attitudes...

These are the latest posts from November 1st and November 2nd... we may use these instead of the ones on this page. let's see what happens...

Points de discours
Download PDF • 294KB

Monday October 19th, 2020

This will be the fifth lesson so the last one for this half term. The next lesson will be on 2nd November.

I am working on the adverbs of manner and other such conjunctions and will create a resource for a future lesson.

As there's a current affairs event of note concerning France, we will use some materials from LCI website as a discussion point.

Assassinat d'un prof Yvelines
Download PDF • 423KB

Some difficult questions to answer in any language.

<< Les terroristes que veulent-ils atteindre ? >>

<< Après un attentat terroriste, comment faut-il réagir ? >>

If you see this before the lesson, you might want to prepare a few sentences to answer these questions.

We should then be able to look at: or both of the documents from October 12th (below) << Un rôdeur sur le campus à Caen. >>, or the never-ending saga of the chocolate with a particular feature on Québecois French usage.

Also we have the choice, depending on timing, to look at the song by Mylène Farmer also posted on October 12th or some more of the chapter from the Coursebook Saison 3.

From the publication Libération online shared widely by the cartoonist himself.

Above a further cartoon widely shared online this last weekend.

Further reading (for AS)

Academic article on terrorism

Monday October 12th, 2020

Today, for part of the session, we will use a section of the work from the coursebook Saison 3, designed to attain B1 and for learners of French from all linguistic backgrounds.

You were going to talk about someone you admire in French, based on the questions set out on the 5th October class below.

We may also look at either one or both of these articles:

Un rôdeur repéré sur le Campus 1 à Caen
Download • 253KB
Download PDF • 772KB

A topical comedy created in the style of Shakespeare about Covid restrictions. It uses very rare, but nonetheless useful constructions.

If we have time we will work on this song:

GAPS_MF L'âme dans l'eau
Download PDF • 26KB

A little 'tense' joke...


Monday October 5th, 2020

As requested we will look at some examples from French Grammar of the complicated multi tense usage in French.

If you managed to prepare something on what you would have done if there had been no Covid-19 lockdown, then we would be able to use this as a basis for applying the grammar.

We will also use some ideas from the coursebook Saison 3 their chapter about 'taking your time'

Something to prepare for a 'speaking exercise'

1. Vous-êtes fan de qui?

2. Pourquoi êtes-vous fan de cette personne?

3. Faites-moi une description de cette personne - quelles sont ses meilleurs œuvres?

Someone we will have heard in the song we are looking at and her tragic story.

Download • 403KB
Download DOCX • 15KB


Monday September 28th, 2020

Today is the second class, where we will work on some 'realia' from France and the French Speaking World.

We will also look at the formation of tenses, as a refresher and to consolidate your knowledge.

This website is a good overview of tenses in French and their use.

Can you recognise the tenses of the verbs in these articles?

We are going to work on these in class, so you need do no more really than print them out or preload them to your device, unless you want to note the tenses you think you see used in the articles .

This article from the crime section of Le Trégor is quite sickening. It has emotive language and is a result a useful tool for talking about such things.

Autour de Lannion
Download PDF • 327KB

You may find this article funny...

Insolite en Dordogne
Download PDF • 70KB

This article, from Ouest-France is about someone you know...

OuestFrance 2016-10-22
Download PDF • 1.29MB

Une chanson pour améliorer les compétences auditives...

GAPS_RLR_Patricia Kaas
Download PDF • 27KB


Monday September 21st, 2020

Today is the initial class, where we do some admin work and layout what the plan for the coming 10 weeks are.

As we are under Covid-19 rules, the college prefer to have a paperless, where appropriate class environment.

While this is not so easy, if I can put as much as possible here for you in advance of the class you can then access it on a phone or tablet if you can connect to the internet, alternatively you can bring in your own printouts and take them away.

As this is a small class (due to Covid keeping people away, usually there's initially around 15 per class for my courses, which is the maximum the college usually permits)

We can set the syllabus and what we study, so if you have anything you'd particularly like to focus on in a given lesson, let me know...

For this group I will normally work on themes and topics from newspapers or other media. this is the sort of thing that happens in University based language seminars. Using authentic materials gives you an idea of French (as she is spoke...) written down. Many idiomatic phrases and language not found in a course book.

I am looking into course material books and have already these three in mind

Alter Ego 3

Tempo 2

Saison 3

Article to discuss and use as word mine:

Coiffeur - Lannion
Download DOCX • 57KB

Une chanson pour améliorer les compétences auditives...

Le monde est stone
Download DOCX • 13KB


A really useful way to tune your ear into French is to find some singers and bands who perform in French and begin to follow them on youtube or if you do have a paid for music streaming service, you may be able to access them on there.

Brand New from Mylène Farmer (The French Madonna around since 1987, but still gets to number one in France!)


Zaz does a wide variety of old and new songs and Jazz style. This one is a cover version of a Daniel Balavoine song. he was huge in the 80s, but unfortunately was killed in an helicopter crash. This song was part of a tribute album to him.


A band from Rouen, big in the late nineties and early noughties and came back a few years ago...

I cannot possibly cater for all tastes in music, but searching YouTube will bling you a plethora of different artists...

There are so many more including a multitude of rappers!

For non-rappers, try: Shy'M, Keen'V, M. Pokora, Marc Lavoine, Renaud, Desireless, Louane, Patricia Kaas, Amel Bent, Calogero, Christophe Maé, Christophe Willem, Etienne Daho, Francis Cabrel, Patrick Bruel, Grégoire, Indila, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Joyce Jonathan, Najoua Belyzel. Navii, Raphaël, Vianney, William Sheller and Yseult....

All have a presence on YouTube and then of course there will be recommendations for more similar things down the side...

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