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Oct 5

Remember Your Favorite Teacher? Today’s a Good Day to Say Thank You

Posted on Saturday, October 5, 2013 in Other

Read more here.

I’d like to take this opportunity to mention my junior high (or rather the Swedish equivalent) French and English teacher. He was awesome. We had so much fun the three years he taught us French and English. Just to mention one thing, one day per week we got to just ‘play’ with the language – making collages. Thank you very much, sir. It was great being your student.

Feb 11

Les revenants, French tv series

Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 in Fandom, Reviews, TV series

Recently, I finished watching a really good French tv series. Swedish television had taken the rather unusual decision of airing it only online, perhaps as a sort of trial to see how popular it would get. I thought it was great. No more keeping track of time, just watching whenever I liked.

The series is about a town where strange things happen. It lies idyllically in the mountains, somewhere in France. Perhaps a French viewer can be more specific about which region it is, or perhaps it’s been left intentionally vague. I’ve seen other series like that.

The first episode begins with a teenage girl wandering around rather dazed in the countryside. She is seen climbing up from a slope, onto a road. She has no memory of how she ended up there. Her last memories are of being on a school trip, on a bus.

She makes her way home and meets her mother inside, telling her she understands if she’s been worried, but something’s happened and she doesn’t remember what. Her mother manages to keep her calm, and embraces her daughter, but we soon learn that the girl, Camille, has been dead for four years, following a tragic accident while on a school trip. Despite that, she seems exactly as she was four years earlier.

Camille only learns about that when her twin sister (!), Léna arrives home, rather late. Léna has a hysterical outburst and Camille is upset too. The family can think of no explanation for Camille’s return.

I won’t go into all the main characters, but Camille is probably ‘the’ main character so I thought I’d describe her more in depth. Léna has had a really hard time dealing with losing her sister and has rebelled against her parents, but she finds it even harder to accept her sister’s return. The two sisters have a falling out.

In later episodes we learn more about the two sisters and also about a number of other characters, some who have returned from the dead, among them a sinister little boy, a good looking young guy, who played in a band, but who, we are told, killed himself on the night before his wedding and a serial killer.

Some of the returned have no families to return to, having died ten, or even, in one case, thirty-five years earlier.

I’ll just end by saying a few words about the name of the series. In French it’s called Les revenants (“the returning”) and in Swedish it’s been given a name that is one of our words for ghosts (literally meaning ‘those who walk again’, or ‘someone who walks again’). I think that’s a bit of a misnomer, in a way. These people are not like traditional ghosts, though somehow, they seem to be able to get around in mysterious ways. However, we never get to see them going through a wall, or anything like that. You never get the impression they are not flesh and blood. They can eat (to begin with, they’re quite hungry), fight, have sex, but have a difficult time sleeping, though some are able to, as time goes by.

If you get a chance to see this series, I can really recommend it. It’s fascinating, creepy but not too terrifying (if it had been, I wouldn’t have been able to watch it). The tension builds slowly with little details adding to the feeling of dread.

Edit: Here is a link to a gallery with images of the main characters. Just click the image to see the next.

Jul 8

Language: French

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 in Humanities

My third language was French. It’s not very difficult either, at least I don’t think so. Sure there are some irregular verbs, but I never worried much about that. That might be because I was quite young at the time. I’ve read that if you learn your first foreign language before the age of six, any other language you learn after that will be easier too. And speaking of learning languages, though this may be irrelevant, I recently read that if you play a musical instrument, it makes it easier to learn (any subject, apparently).

French is quite a beautiful language. Though I don’t find Swedish, Finnish and English particularly ugly. I won’t tell you which languages I find ugly. One of the difficulties with French is that it’s quite difficult to get enough practice. The best you can do is travel to France and stay there for at least a year. But how many people can do that? I’ve realized that I’ll never be completely fluent in French, and I’ve accepted that.

I’m doing my best with what I’ve got. I watch tv, read fiction, and listen to French music. As it happens, there are several sci fi books by French author Jules Verne. My favorite book is Voyage au centre du terre (Journey to the Centre of the Earth). I’ve also read Paris au XXìeme siècle (Paris in the Twentieth Century), but that wasn’t such a good book. It’s easy to understand why Verne’s publisher wouldn’t accept that book. When I was a child I used to read some French books (translated into Swedish).One of those is Tistou les pouces verts (Sorry, don’t know what that’s called in English) by Maurice Druon. I’ve read it recently and I have to say that it’s probably the sort of story a child will appreciate more.

I’ve also found a series of historic mysteries by a guy called Jean-Francois Parot. The series is about Nicolas Le Floch, who works as a police officer in Paris in the 18 century, during l’Ancien Régime (before the Revolution).

Of course, you can cheat. Read books translated into French. I’ve done that, but it isn’t all that great, if you want to learn the language properly. The book was first written in one language, then the translator has to create a version of the book in his or her language. How much of the original language flavor is lost that way?

The French and the Belgians make lots of great comics. That’s one good way of practicing a language. TinTin and Laureline et Valerian (not sure what they’re called in English, sorry) are a few good examples, and there are many others. Read them if you’re into comics.

French is of course, spoken in France, but also in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco, parts of Africa, parts of Asia and in parts of Canada, primarily Quebec. Also in the Caribbean (several islands, where people also speak creole, which is supposed to be based on French), and South America (French Guyana) and in some smaller islands in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

There are different opinions about how many people really speak French in the world today. To some extent that depends how you define ‘francophone’. Does that include everyone who speaks French as their first language, or everyone who is able to communicate relatively fluently in French, or everyone who has ever studied French for a few years? In any case, the number of French speaking people is somewhere between 100 miljoner and more than 200 miljoner. It’s said that French is the most useful language to learn, unless you count English, though that is being said about Spanish and a few other languages as well.

With Christianity and the increasing influence of the church, latin became mixed into Swedish (and most likely the same thing happened Norway and Denmark as well).

During the 17 and 18 century, France was a major political power in Europe (though up until the early 1700’s, Sweden too, was a political power to be reckoned with, at least in the Baltic area). From France terms connected to science and culture made its way into the Swedish language (and many other European languages).

Finally (well, up until now), during the second half of the 20 century, English began its victorious conquest of the other languages of the world. Of course, as I’ve already explained, I prefer to call this version of the English language Anglo.

The reason for this is that I don’t speak English, and neither do my friends in Lithuania and India. We’re not English and we don’t live in England. Some people do their best to imitate the English as it’s spoken in England or in the US. I prefer not to. I’ve never spent much time in the UK – never for longer than about two weeks at a time.

Apr 10

French Books

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 in Humanities, Other

I want to practice my French. Anyone who’s read my blog for a while, already knows that. One of my methods is to read books, in French, preferably originally written in French.

That’s the problem. I’m having trouble finding any books I like, in French. I can find some of my favorites translated from English, but that’s not really what I want. Translations aren’t quite the same.

When I go to the website of, I have to dig around for ages, until I find some original French mysteries. Unfortunately, they all seem to be historic mysteries. Yes, I do love historic stories, but I’ve already found my favorite series of historic mysteries in French. What I’m looking for now is something set in the present. Something that isn’t sexist.

So, where does that leave me? Do I need to resort to translations? I’d be really disappointed if I have to. Where are the original, modern French mysteries? Where the fantasy stories are? Nowhere?

Maybe I can find some children’s books I might like. Maybe my wish to become fluent in French is doomed anyway. Only time will tell.


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