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Friday, March 16, 2012


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Bill in St. Paul

I, too, have many French language books and tapes, but if you don't use the language on a daily basis you don't improve - at least I don't. So I just stumble along with my half learned French and the French are kind enough to figure out what I mean. (We had dinner last night with Chief Grape at 128 Cafe. It was a wonderful evening with great wine, good food, and great table mates!)

Kristin Espinasse

Yay! So happy to hear that, Bill!








I, too, took 3 years of French and learned to conjugate and am familiar with "Mr. and Mrs. Vandertramp" etc.! But since those classes I've had no experience speaking it, and my confidence in writing it on this forum is quite low! But I love this column for helping me to at least keep it fresh, and I am able to read much of the news in the French papers.


Yabla might just what I have been looking for to renew the French language part of my brain........I understand everything, but when I try to speak French a mixture of Italian and Spanish (my other languages) plus French tumbles out of my mouth....
Max looks so handsome. Have a great week-end.

Glenn from St Paul

Je ne crois pas que je puisse pour acquis French-Word-a-Day. C'est un petit coin de France pour moi. Sorry to have missed Jean-Marc and the 128 Café event this year. Maybe one of these days I'll even get to meet "Bill in St Paul." I'm currently reading FWAD from the beautiful San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, where I'm also trying to pick a few words of Spanish. Hola, Jules. Y hola a todos.

Nancy L.

Kristi, what a great post! And a wonderful plug for Yabla. I'm going to try it. Just today I was looking at our photos from our visit in November and yearning to return . On our first visit to France (in '06), I studied hard with language CD's to "get back" my college French, and it worked quite well! We were at a family wedding and I was one of the only family members from the States that could have a French conversation with our new-formed French relatives. After that, I became "overconfident" thinking that just being in the French "air" would bring it all back through osmosis, so with our next visit, I got lazy and just waited for it to "come back" to me. So in '08,our next visit to our relatives, we sat down to dinner and I was flooded with French conversation (after all, they KNEW I spoke French)...ooops, well, it seemed I really didn't...or was just faking it the year before at the wedding. Ha Ha, I was caught! Subsequently, I try to practice a bit before our arrival--but it's like cramming for an exam and I always freeze when I'm 'caught in the clutch'. So I'm going to try Yabla and see how it goes!
Thanks for the tip(-:

Nancy L.

P.S. Max looks Grrrreat in his Superman get up! I imagine he will be turning a few females heads(-:

Erin from Canada

Hi Kristi,

I'm going to try Yabla too. It sounds great! Thanks for writing about it.

I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about carnivale? Is it like Halloween in March? Max looked so authentic dressed like Superman!

Have a great day!

Mike Armstrong

Great post, Kristin. you're an inspiration and Yabla looks like a great way for those of us who don't hear French everyday to not only keep in touch with the language but to keep improving. Merci infiniment et bonne continuation.

One question: how often do you use the subjunctive in daily conversation?


If you don't have shares in Yabla I bet you do now!

Julie - Milwaukee

Great post Kristin!

It's funny how we get comfortable in our current language abilities. When I talk to my French friends who live in the US they have used words such as stresse' (stressed) snobbish (same - snobbish) in sentences and I have picked up their usages without knowing if these are French or Franglais! I may never know the real French translations for these words.

I too love Yabla especially for the historical and city / town videos they do (especially cool hidden gems in the arrondissements in Paris). It is also a great way to keep tabs on some of the issues in France for us who are so far away de la belle France.

J'espere que tu t'amuses bien avec ton nouveau project!

Louise Tramontano

Bonne matin Kristin,
For many Heras beca use of my husband's Connecticut with The Caribean, i have been perfecting my Spanish. But there has alwaya been a longing in my heart to study French again. My grand morder was Parisién and I remember fondly, that and five years of French in school.
So I purchased an expensive popular program to start to learn French and I have to tell you that I am quite bored. Do you think, knowing words and being able to read somewhat, there are other programs like Yabla that might be better. Is Yabla for the intermediate or advanced? Or like me a non quite beginner?
Please try to help me solve this problem as I would so like to work on my French and enjoy it. I read your column daily and would love your or any of your readers opinion.

Louise Tramontano

Kristin, forgive my spelling, I was so excited to write that I did not proofread it. It starts, for many years,

Barry Stein

This from today's column is what I have been hoping for in your columns:
Tip: A helpful tool is the flashcard option: when you click on an unfamiliar word, Yabla saves it on "flashcard" to be reviewed--and mastered!--at another time.

If only I could master the words you present on the day you use them...
THank you again for the joy

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

To learn French would be wonderful. I have many French lesson books and cd's that I try to work on a few days a week. And yes, studying and speaking it every day is the key to learning. Is there anyone in western Michigan that would like to be a phone pal and speak French to one another? It's the best way to understand it. We are going to St. Victor La Coste (NW of Avignon) on a restoration project in May and would love to speak the language. Yabla sounds like the answer. And what about Kristin's Max!!!! He looks great as Superman.

Lisa DeNunzio, La Dolce Villa

Yabla has Italian lessons as well. I have dabbled in the free trial and it does seem to be good. Currently I am studying at the University of Miami Adult Studies (over 55). I have a bright young teacher and high hopes for learning. I think, though, you are in a great position to learn - BEING There........ Buona fortuna.

Best, Lisa

mhwebb in NM, USA

Understanding everything your husband says in French means you love him and have been married quite a while. You anticipate his gestures. When I speak Spanish, my husband understands me even when he doesn't understand the words. He said he could understand me no matter what language I might speak because he loves me.

Chris Miasnik

Why go to Yabla when I can simply go to French Word-A-Day? I get my minimum RDA there! Thanks for the info, though.

Nancy - Minnetonka, MN

Hi Kristi,
I've been reading your blog for a few years as a great addition to my French classes. I'll have to check out Yabla. I love learning the more everyday expressions and hearing about life in France from you. I have a goofy Golden Retriever who is almost a year old, so I adore the pictures and stories about Braise and Smokey. I had the honor of meeting Jean-Marc at the dinner in St. Paul last night with a group from my French class. It was a fabulous evening with amazing wine.


Yabla is really good. I found it thorough your column and I have it on my toolbar at the top of my page. They not only have the slow mechanism - for those of us who are slow- but also the loop - which means it repeats the saying - for those of us who are slow. And for those who want to just try in, they have free ones. Start with those and you will love it.


Once again, you're an inspiration. I'm on my way to my office to study des regles & check out Yabla. Here's hoping it'll help me finally hear & pronounce en, in____, on, & un correctly!


I feel I am forgetting my french day by day,,,maybe YABLA is the key if it only takes a bit of time each day...don't give in to pressure from family...most french in US speak non-fluently and we love them for just trying anyhow.


Lisa Hawkins

Kristin, I've read and enjoyed your books and am loving the blog. Yabla sounds great--if you have a way to practice your French in "real life," too. Max looks great as Superhomme. (And by the way, that American slang term for money is spelled "moola," not "mula." Can't help it; I'm an editor.) Wish I were there.--Lisa

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Kristin, I love Yabla--- I go to the site several times a week. I take French classes in Portland, OR but l am always reviewing voc & grammar. I did see Chief Grape on the video --- very interesting. I hope to meet him Mar. 22 in Portland.

I also like --- it is very helpful. It helped me learn ALL the numbers. Up to 1000!

Stay well, I love your posts!

Kristin Espinasse

Lisa, Thanks for the edit for mula--er moola! 

Mike, re how often does we use the subjunctive -- I dont know.... but it does seem to come up from time to time! (Il faut que jaille chez le coiffeur... yes Ive got to get to the hair cutters or il faut que tu te dépêche! (youve got to get a move on) are easily two things I might have said today.

Louise, good question. I think Yabla is for all levels (if I remember correctly, they mark certain videos, indicating the level. Ive noticed that, in the comments section, learners sometimes write in to agree or disagree with the level markers!)

Chris, thanks for your kind words! But youll hear a lot more French at Yabla. We all need to hear more French in order to speak better.

Sandie, Shares in Yabla. Now there is a good idea!...

Coleen, glad you brought up the loop feature, which can be used to repeat the sayings. Also, I should mention that Yabla has integrated dictionaries. For example, in a video I am currently watching, the speaker hesitates (using euh). When I click on the euh text in the transcript, the dictionary pops up and I see:

euh interj. 
um, ehh! (sound showing uncertainty); exclamation of hesitation (in speech)

It is fun to see this little known filler words pointed out and defined. For example, we know the English equivalent of euh is spelled um, but when we hear the French, we dont know. Just how useful knowing euhs spelling is, depends on the learner! (for me, a writer, it is helpful for dialogue!)

Pat, Roanoke, VA

My brain just isn't going to absorb this belle langue francaise, well, un peu. I am another owner of French language books, which--dommage--collect more dust than usage. I wrote today's words/phrases in my book, having been bitten by your excellent post to think I would try again! Pouquoi pas!? Wonderful expressions aujourd' hui! Mais il est necessaire etudier! Whoever said today they did not have the nerve to write in French on this blog, to you I say: go for it. Know my little attempts are no doubt riddled w/ mistakes, but what the hey! SPEAK(WRITE) fast, aim with your heart, and sign outa here like hell!!

Toujours, chere K, merci.

Marybeth Gallot

You're being too hard on yourself and so is your family.

My french husband makes mistakes in English and sometimes I correct him, but most of the time I remember the mistakes I made when I lived in France and how hard and tiring it was to constantly be thinking and talking in French. Just trying to remember whether a noun was masculine or feminine was frustrating. Everyone you meet knows you're American so they don't/shouldn't expect perfection.

Having said that good for you for wanting to perfect your french. You also encouraged me to try and find the time for Yabla.

Marybeth, Naperville, IL

Jan Acorn

Great post and thanks for sharing this as I can certainly relate. I am currently visiting a friend in France for two weeks and surprise myself that I continue to make so many mistakes speaking French! By now, I should be better if I worked at it a little more.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA


J'aime le Superman costume! C'était une bonne idée!


You, Kristin, must be the best plug for Yabla.
I am no native English, nor native French speaker and I observe if you learn a foreign language when you are very young, the language sticks. My children came to USA when they were young, from 5 to 14. And now they speak English like natives. Since they are now professionals, their English is maybe better than many native speakers. Meanwhile I came to USA as an older person, a mother of five, my English is still corrected by my children who did not even know much English when they came stateside. Ne sois pas étonnée si je fais des fautes en Anglais ici. J’ai eu une education secondaire dans un lycée Français et je n’ai pas de problème avec la prononciation des mots Français. Mais avec le temps, mon vocabulaire Français a beaucoup diminué. :-(
J’ai dit plus d’une fois que Max te ressemble, chère Kristin. Mais dans ces photos de Superman, Il ressemble beaucoup à son père, une resemblance tellement frappante entre père et fils. Hahaha, he took your "advice" and remained Superman for as long as it was worth the 30 Euros. C'est un grand et beau garçon, maintenant.


J'étais pressée, hélas, comme d'habitude, et maintenant je vois des fautes d'orthographe: reSSemblance (avec deux S) frappante entre JM et Max. And since misery loves company, je vois que toi aussi, tu as oublié le S dans ta phrase "il faut que tu te dépêcheS"

Bill Facker - Kauai

For the first time ever .. please forgive me, Kristin, but because I'm running to make an appointment, I didn't read a word .. simply enjoyed the great shots of Max .. Good Shooting! Aloha, Bill

Carolyn Chase

I'd say the peignoir - literally as well as figuratively! You want to be all he's dreamed of while he's been away and more.

Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland

What fun reading your post today, Kristin! I enjoyed everyone's comments about their struggles with learning a foreign language; it is hard but rewarding work. Those are great photos of Max "up in the air" over the sleeping vineyards! Thanks to everyone.

Christine Dashper

Thanks for the inspiration Krisitn! Also I love that last photo of SuperMax wandering away from the camera. Obviously after a job well done!

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Salut Kristin,

Ca va bien aujourd'hui? Merci pour l'histoire de tes etudes francais et les photos superbes de Max!
I am looking into language programs so I can gain back what I studied through high school and college. I've been considering Rosetta Stone as I've heard it's excellent but I was hoping to get some feedback from readers as to what they've tried and liked. Maybe I'll give Yabla a try but I would like to have a few choices so I can compare. Anyone have any ideas? Thanks!
Bon weekend a toi et toute la famille Kristin! Glad to hear Braise had most of her stitches removed. Big kisses to her and Smokey.

Leslie Sorensen-Jolink

Thank you for the encouraging example, Kristin. I am a Francophile who has spent decades trying (in many ways, (including immersion) and failing to become conversant in French. You have renewed my determination to not give up! I enjoy and learn from your blog. One request: when you are teaching us a French word with more than one syllable, it would be helpful if you would indicate which syllable is to be emphasized. Looking forward to more! Leslie from Portland, Oregon


Je reviens te relire. I admit I did not read all the long story, this morning, car j'étais pressée. From your story, I now learned the new argot "crevard", for which I thank you. Before, I only knew un grippe-sou pour avare. I think practice makes perfect, those language programs only help at the beginning. I have language tapes for German, Rosetta Stone for Chinese and now without practice, my vocabulary in those languages is dwindling. The key is PRACTICE, l'entraînement.
Kristin, un ESSAI s'épèle sans E à la fin du mot (dans ta phrase"...before the période d'essaie ran out!". Et c'est le CARNAVAL pour "The Carnival" also sans E.
Bon courage et bon weekend.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

I think periodic classes or programs done alone are tremendously helpful for keeping up with a second language.

Kristin you are proof that living with French speakers, expressing your thoughts in French, hearing others, are not enough for pronunciation to be improved, for rules of grammar and spelling to stay in the mind. Your vocabulary expands, to be sure. I do applaud your effort, and hope you have both fun and success, see that measure of improvement you seek.

That active mental involvment with language alone, just like learning it the first time, makes a difference.

This all makes me think more kindly of my own 19th century emigrant ancestors -- coming from different parts of Europe to succeed in Chicago, doing the best they could with communication.

Skills need tending. One must have the skill, own the skill, to practice it.

Thanks for a great post, and may I say, your son is growing up to be
beau comme son père.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Millie, for the carnaval and essai corrections. All in now :-)

Dana Strout

Hi Kristin - I've been using Yabla French and the Spanish one for several years. They are great for all the reasons you state. For those interested in taking things a bit further, I might recommend a publisher called Linguality - they do books (short novels) in French with the right page the text and the left side the difficult words translated, so you don't have to look them up. Living Language's Ultimate French Advanced is also superb. Lots of fun this foreign language, surtout pour nous vieillards! Dana S


Hi Kristin,
I can certainly relate to your frustrations. In the past few months I have been honing my French in order to passer un examen for teacher certification in French. After 35 years of living away from the language and being quite lazy about practicing it is truly a daunting task. I have a huge stack of French grammar books sitting by my bed! I found Yabla (I think from your column) and it did help me to get my ear back. I also found Some of your readers might find it beneficial. It matches you up with native speakers of the language you wish to acquire and the participants help each other learn their target languages. You end up cyber meeting people from all around the world. Thanks for your comments on a topic to which so many can relate!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

On St Patrick’s Day, this Irish toast seems appropriate for Kristin’s blog where so many friendships have been formed…….

There are good ships
and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may they always be.

Steve & Maxine

Hi Kristin,
Especially enjoyed this post. We both had a couple of years of French classes in high school a hundred years ago, and we've always managed well on our many trips to France. Now that we've got our eye on a particular property in the Languedoc, we are hoping that step will incentivise us to move forward with structured learning.

After living in or near Orange County, California for decades, but living in England for the last four years, we were disappointed to be missing Chief Grape's appearance in OC next week. By an unexpected turn of events, we both find ourselves in OC for the next two weeks, and we are so looking forward to meeting Chief Grape in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.

As always, thanks for writing your blog.


Is Max looking for a telephone booth? ;-)


Bonjour à tous.

While French word a day is useful for vocabulary and especially for inspiration, the more ways one exposes oneself to the language, the better. And the audio here is just too short for enough listening practice. So for those Americans whose current finances do not permit signing up for Yabla beyond the trial, please visit your local public Library where my colleagues nationwide are waiting with not only books, but CDs and DVDs to help you. In addition, my library and many others have subscriptions to Mango language learning service, with videos and a feature which lets you compare the sound wave of your pronunciation with that of a native speaker. Ask your librarian!

Another free option is BBC languages at but Americans should not use this for Spanish because it is understandable aimed at European Spanish. Sorry, Jules!

Cheers for all who work to increase their understanding of other languages and cultures throughout the world.

Mara in Wisconsin

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Kristin, I'm still waiting to hear about the reason for Max's Superman get-up. Even without the costume he's looks like he's getting as big as Superman. Merci beaucoup for this post on Yabla and your continuing struggle with French. I learned a lot in a class I took last spring, so I felt more confident in my travels (at least in present tense). However, my life has been so hectic since the fall I haven't gotten back to a formal class -- not even the informal conversation class. This Yabla thing looks perfect for Brad and me to work together, but at our different language levels. I'll be subscribing because your post got me excited about ramping up my very minor language skills from poor to passable.

Diane in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S.A.

It will be interesting to hear Max's explanation of his school's Carnaval. Here in the States, such celebrations are usually held near Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday. This year Mardi Gras was 21 February. The word Carnival/Carnaval comes from the Latin for "carne" = meat, and Valé = Goodbye. In other words, "Goodbye to meat." [I used to teach Latin and French.] A long time ago it was a Catholic practice to give up eating meat the forty days of Lent to show willingness to make a small sacrifice. Now Catholics abstain from meat only on Ash Wednesday and the six Fridays of Lent. For those who are not familiar with all these expressions, Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving before Easter. As for timing, spring is a wonderful time for schools to have carnivals outdoors--food, games, face painting--great moneymakers and community builder. Now it's Max's turn!

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