• Andrew Starr

Portsmouth College Improvers

Welcome to the blog for the the Thursday Evening Adult Education Improver's Class at Portsmouth College.

Links are highlighted in blue bold and should take you to another webpage or download a resource to your computer.

An easier to remember link to this blog page is ...

Once you have you Portsmouth College login, you will be able to access our Google Classroom, where more materials are kept that cannot be freely shared on the net.


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


Listening to French Radio...

Radio Garden is a good source of free internet radio. This one takes you directly to a radio station near Lannion in Brittany where I once lived.

Watching French TV...

I have a TNT SAT system installed at home, which allows me access to French Freesat channels and German Freesat channels. However, that is an expensive option...

There are some current online free streaming sites that show French public shows. This link takes you to one which streams France 2, the French public broadcaster's main channel. It does however only allow a few minutes until it asks for money!

This is France's equivalent of BBC News 24 called France 24 - it is free to air via their site online

When you feel confident enough, why not join the Facebook Group 'French Speakers in Portsmouth' to practise some more and meet some new people.


I will use the second part of this coursebook for the main basis of our course. It is on Amazon new at £14 and used from £5. We covered chapters 1 to 4 in Beginners French.

I will possibly use some materials from this coursebook during the course. You might like to get a copy yourselves. Amazon sell it second hand for between £2 and £25. It only exists currently as second hand.

I also have others that I am considering. Saison 1, Saison 2, Saison 3 these books are at A1; A2 and B1 levels and I will dip in and use them as appropriate, but don't forget, if there is a theme you'd like to study or grammatical point you'd like to work on, then let me know...


Inserting foreign accents into documents

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


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.

Thursday December 3rd, 2020

This lesson will be online via Google Classroom

We will first look at how things are celebrated in France at this time of year.

Les fêtes de la fin de l
Download PDF • 37KB
AS_Christmas in Provence
Download PDF • 630KB
Devinettes de Noël
Download PDF • 35KB

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.

Then we will look at a short excerpt from a very famous Christmas story in one of its French versions, with the original version of the same page next to it. This is a really good way of learning equivalent phrases.

Cantique de Noël
Download PDF • 54KB

En savoir plus sur les cantiques de noël

The French are not so into singing songs at Christmastime. There are the habitual songs in English too played on the radio. There are French traditional songs related to the more religious aspects of Christmas. There are a few for kids too. Such as this one (a golden oldie for kids)

Josh Groban - Petit Papa Noël
Download PDF • 22KB

The Québécois on the other hand have translated and rewritten many of the better known traditional songs in the English. Ginette Reno and Johanne Blouin from Québec both have released at least two Christmas albums.

Johanne Blouin Minuits Chrétiens
Download PDF • 24KB
Noel blanc
Download PDF • 149KB

This couple will take you through many of the French Traditions around Christmas and give you some key vocabulary.

This video is nearly ten minutes long, but it does recap well much of what goes on in France at Christmas. The subtitles are in English and often not all that correct, so you need to check with what they actually say!

Download PDF • 2.77MB

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


Thursday November 26th, 2020

This lesson will be online via Google Classroom

Les tripes à la mode de Caen

Tripes à la mode de Caen
Download PDF • 2.26MB

La Tripière d'Or 2019

Les bonnes recettes de Noël

The above link takes you a québécois website which gives loads of festive recipes for anyone interested in such things.

Où faire la fête du nouvelan

The above link I will show you in the lesson in the lesson. It has audio for new year celebrations (the usual ones) across the world.

Les coutumes du Réveillon

The above link has a video and the worksheet below talk about the Réveillon suppers in France.

Download PDF • 87KB

This Figaro Magazine article is all about New Year Celebrations around the world.

Pour le Nouvel An
Download PDF • 74KB

Il était une fois à Noël - A model text for you to use to help you write about Christmases past, present and future.

Il était une fois à Noël
Download PDF • 205KB

If we've time we can study the lyrics of this song (if not next week) - Il est né le divin enfant, is pretty much the go to carol for French children to learn. A little like 'Away in a Magner' for British kids.

Annie Lennox - il est né
Download PDF • 29KB


Thursday November 19th, 2020

This lesson will be online via Google Classroom

We looked at 'la Nostalgie' last week, so you may have prepared something on how things were or 'used to be' for you at some point in the past using the materials below or those on Google Classroom.

If you have prepared anything we can certainly hear your stories. It may even be possible for you to present something from your screen.

Points of discussion 1

This video sent to me by the chair of Caen's Twinning Association shows a medley of French 'Golden Oldies' reworked to be about covid, a little like those tv ads for old record compilations...

A veritable goldmine of vocabulary.

This might be a bit of fun: preparing to auction a sibling or a spouse on eBay.

We can look at the sheet to find the key words used in selling things on eBay France.

Sell a Sibling on eBay BMe
Download DOCX • 64KB

Made about a year ago, this has been a real culture shock for the French la Covid-19.

Something simpler to help talk about 'la crise sanitaire'

Qu'envisagez-vous faire pour fêter noël?

Vous-avez les projets pour les fêtes?

Can we now talk about the present, the past and the future in the various tenses that exist?

Check your knowledge here


Thursday November 12th, 2020

This lesson will be online via Google Classroom

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. I hope that if you find you cannot access the Google Classroom, 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.

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."

Tonight online, we will look at...

1. Talking about day to day routine

Thursday Improvers Ma routine
Download PDF • 22KB

The above text uses past, present and future and gives justified opinions. It is still quite basic though and might be aiming at level A2.

We may talk about something else I have about the 1970s and Nostalgia...

2. Ceci est bien sûr "une infox" - mais pourquoi écrit-on en anglais?

The above image popped up on Social Media from France. It made me think about the dangers of Nostalgia or "la Nostalgie"

3. 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?


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

Further documents to support those below are on Google Classroom...

La nostalgie
Download PDF • 22KB

4. Something Nostalgic!

Abba - Waterloo VF
Download PDF • 26KB

5. At least the Abba song is more historically accurate coming from before the era of "les infox"


Thursday November 5th, 2020

This lesson will be the last in class one, make sure you can login to Google Classroom and the video option for the next lessons.

The videos below if you have not already seen them, talk about cultural happenings in France at this time of year. Halloween, Toussaint, and le jour de l'Armistice.

There are also a few of my photos taken in Caen on the 11th of November 2018. I was there with the then Deputy Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Cllr. David Fuller and twice Lord Mayor Cllr Frank Jonas.

We should check we are all ok with the time. How to talk about the time.

Voilà Chapter 7 has something on time and national holidays. two of which occur in France around this time.

This chapter also reminds us how to compare and contrast - on the theme of opinions about which mode of transport is best.

You may have used all the material posted under October 22nd to improve on your brief about your home town and areas (something people always want to hear about if you are abroad - or, of course, if they are visiting here for some reason). There is the brochure in French about Portsmouth linked from the October 22nd materials and on the Google Classroom there is all the material in the tourism brochures about Caen.

In the book Saison 1, there is material on Belgium and its main tourism places.

Next time we will move onto a different theme - Let me know if there is anything you want to study.

A video for you to look at in your own time about Halloween in France - How it is not all that much of a festival.

And the same guy talking about la Toussaint, the festival which is the actual one at this time of year. Not forgetting the next public Holiday on November 11th - L'Armistice - He doesn't mention that one.

...and one about L'armistice du 11 novembre 1918. I was in Caen for the 100th Anniversary of the 1918 Armistice.

A brief gallery of images taken in Caen on 11.11.2018


Thursday October 22nd, 2020

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

You may have looked at the Simira Wiratunga document and be able to either report in French about her tragic story, or recap in English what you learned about her. (see underneath the Jean-Jacques Goldman video for her story in a document.)

We have completed much of Voilà Chapter 5. If you have the book, you might wish to work through the grammar sections at the end of chapters one to five and make sure you are totally sound on all those basic grammatical points they are revising.

We may have time to work further on the city of Brussels using the Saison coursebook. This has information on writing about your town in the form of a blog.

You might find some wonderful examples here

Travelling around a town can be a bit of an issue. You will also need to know the time to do this.

N'oubliez pas de << composter votre billet!>>

On Google Classroom you will find further support for these themes.

Also here are some sheets I made using Task Magic and other resources.

Download PPT • 362KB
Download PDF • 183KB
Les moyens de transport
Download DOC • 31KB
Download PDF • 44KB
Download PDF • 60KB
Download PPT • 239KB
30. L'heure
Download DOC • 163KB

Some self-learning video produced by a School Trust for GCSE Level Students.

These videos cover much of the theme of Towns and Regions - use of the 'y' and modal verbs.


Thursday October 15th, 2020

Firstly we will look at a theme that is more focused around the house itself and rooms and finishing within.

You may have prepared a brief presentation, using vocabulary you know, about your home.

Do not worry if you do not know a lot, we are looking into describing homes now using the coursebook Voilà. The sheets below (in October 8th) may also be of help for self study (the PowerPoints are designed for beginners, but they can serve as a reminder of a way of filling gaps in your own knowledge).

If we have time, using the Voilà coursebook, we are going to look at eating out in a restaurant and dealing with some issues that might arise, something that is useful if you are indeed one day travelling in a French-speaking country (the sheets below can supplement this theme).

We may also use some resources from a new FLE Coursebook called Saison.

If there's enough time to do it properly we will look at this song and a story attached to it (if not it is for next week).

Download DOCX • 15KB
Download • 403KB

A little 'tense' joke...

The resources below can help you fill gaps in your knowledge. I will probably refer to some in class.

A la cantine
Download PPT • 587KB
a_table total summ
Download PPT • 1.20MB
Download PDF • 79KB
au cafe
Download PDF • 69KB
je n'ai pas de...
Download DOC • 57KB
Download PDF • 6KB
Int 1 speaking restaurant sheet
Download DOC • 34KB
10C.repas.homework.reading comp
Download DOC • 187KB


Thursday October 8th, 2020

Continuing with the theme of towns and tourism (we can dream!)

You asked about the alphabet and the relevant information is on the beginners' blog here

You really ought to be able to spell your names, your street, your town and also probably the city/town of birth. These are the things you are most likely to be asked to spell yourselves in French.

However, it is also likely that people will be spelling things to you and you may also need to know how to ask people to spell their names too...

What's the easiest way of asking how something is spelled in French?

We will look at Brussels and Lyon using the coursebook Saison 1. With a bit more work on phonetics and grammar.

Using the coursebook Voilà we will look at withdrawing money at a bank in France and using information gathered from the Tourist Information Centre.

Further support is on Google Classroom

This worksheet is not too taxing, but full of ways of speaking about your home, so can serve as models to adapt.

Download PDF • 774KB
house and home
Download PPT • 211KB
Download PPT • 1.04MB


Thursday October 1st, 2020

We will use some exercises from the coursebook Voilà and the coursebook Saison 1 to reinforce the theme of Town and Tourism.

In Saison 1, they look at Brussels.

We will also look at Caen, Portsmouth's twin town.

The sheet of GCSE Questions on this theme:

GCSE Home Town Local Area
Download PDF • 36KB

Useful vocabulary FYI on this theme:

Download PDF • 22KB

Further support materials are available on the Google Classroom

Our song for this week (please leave attempting the exercise until the class, but if you wish to print the sheet and bring it with you... or preload it to your device...)

Patricia Kaas - Regarde Les Riches

GAPS_RLR_Patricia Kaas
Download PDF • 27KB


Thursday September 24th, 2020

This is the first lesson, you need to fill in and check your registration papers and I need to check identity - this should have been told to you on registration.

During this lesson we will look at what you already may know. You will do a varying difficulty attainment level test, this is just to give me an idea of your current level so I can better plan to 'improve' your attainment.

You will find resources I can share for the class on this page, so if you want to prepare in advance, you should find the materials on here at least by the late afternoon of the day the lesson is happening.

From next week we will know how we are going to progress.

We will work on the using tourist information centre and talking about what to do when out and about in a town.

Au Syndicat d__Initiative
Download PPT • 401KB
Download PDF • 1.88MB
Ca se trouve ou circle vocab[1]
Download PDF • 41KB
Download PDF • 150KB
A la banque - Au bureau de change
Download PPT • 411KB

A song to help improve your 'compétences auditives'

Desireless - Voyage, Voyage

Download DOCX • 103KB

This guy does a lot of French immersion videos... Now there's enthusiastic and then there's Thomas!

He can, at least, serve as a reminder of the correct pronunciation, should you need one, he speaks generally clearly and slowly (unlike most of his compatriots!)... There's a couple of 'gros mots' in this video... oh là là là!



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...

183 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All