Archive for November, 2013

Children in France: Schools for International Students

Posted on November 29th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »


Raising children is a challenge—I only have one, but she has the trouble-making capabilities of (at least) two children. Raising them internationally is even harder. There’s so much to account for when your child is a part of two distinct cultures, and once they’re school-aged, the list seems to multiply.


studentExpatriate families have a lot more schooling options now than they have in the past, and as the parent it’s up to you to make the best choice for your little (or not-so-little) one. French public schools offer a high level of instruction, and many children don’t have a problem integrating to a French-only school, but if you find you want something a little different, there are always international schools. An international school might be right for your child if they’ll be traveling back and forth between counties and you want a sense of continuity in their education, or you want your child to socialize with other international students.


What kind of school are you leaning towards, a school that focuses on the UK curriculum? Or maybe a private bilingual option? Here’s a list of a few schools that specialize in the English national curriculum worth taking a look at. Admission for all three is non-selective, so all parents have to do is fill out some forms and provide the student’s prior school reports when they visit the school. If none of these catches your attention, there are loads of other great schools for you to research.




Founded in 1954, the British School of Paris is one of the oldest international schools in the world. The school is divided into two campuses situated on the picturesque banks of the river Seine. BPS is also very accommodating of students with special needs.




This school is the best of both worlds with half the day being taught in English and half in French. BIS is the only bilingual private school to be recognized by the French state and the smallest with accreditation from the Council of International Schools. If you plan on traveling around and don’t want to disturb your child’s studies, this school also offers boarding with a local French host family.




This school focuses on the British National Curriculum, but makes a point of rounding out the student’s education emphasizing culture and sport in addition to academics. Situated in a pine forest, this school is a dream for anyone with an “outdoorsy” child.


No matter what your choice, local or international, the important thing is to do what is right for you and your child. Want to communicate with your child’s French teachers more effectively? Why not contact us for some language courses to help you understand all the praise your star student is getting.

Flirt in French: Getting Lovey-Dovey in the Language of Love

Posted on November 26th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »


The winter months are a time for sweaters, scarves, and snuggles, don’t you think? To me, there’s nothing better than cuddling up with a loved one and sharing conversation over a steaming cup of hot chocolate. If your significant other is French—or your next one is going to be (wink*)—it would be especially romantic to whisper a few sweet nothings to them in their native language. Make sure your déclarations d’amour go straight to their heart instead of sending your loved one straight to a dictionary by trying out this list of 5 romantic phrases in French.


1.        Tired of using English terms of endearment with your French sweetie? Try referring to them as “mon petit chou-fleur”. Literally translated, this means “my little cauliflower”. A bit strange to us, sure, but it’s a commonly used term of endearment in France.


2.      If your french femme is the woman of your dreams, let her know by saying: “Tu es la femme de mes rêves!” If the object of your affection is of the male persuasion, just switch the gender in the phrase: “Tu es l’homme de mes rêves!”winter


3.      If the cuddling is getting a bit heated, you might want to ask: “Il fait chaud ici, ou c`est juste toi?” Sure it’s a bit corny, but asking “is it hot in here, or is it just you?” at the right time might lead things in a more amorous direction. 


4.      Stuck on what to say, or just enjoy comfortable silence? Try out this line by the famous French poet Desbordes-Valmore: “Entre deux coeurs qui sáiment, nul besoin de paroles” romantic and also true, “Two hearts in love need no words”.


5.      Let your love interest know you had a nice time by saying “Merci pour cette soiree” (Thanks for the evening).winter3


Want to learn more? Nothing like learning the language of love to make your French significant other’s heart skip a beat, take things to the next linguistic level by checking out our French courses today!

How to Get Where You’re Going

Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »


You’ve learned the language, you’ve studied the culture, and you’ve successfully booked your flight. Now what? Often overlooked by tourists and left for last minute is transportation. Once you’re in France, how do plan to get where you want to go?


France’s transportation network is one of the densest in the world. With more than one million kilometers of roads, and over 30,000 Km of railways, the system of transport looks a bit like a web centering on Paris. Once you arrive, you’ll be an itsy-bitsy spider with a lot of options.



Most towns have at least one bicycle rental shop. Generally, bikes can be rented for a set price per day which is paid in addition to a deposit in case the bicycle is stolen or damaged. Be sure not to leave it locked up outside overnight if you want to see your bike—or that deposit—again. Also, be sure to take the necessary safety precautions, the roads rarely have proper shoulders; instead, try taking back roads that usually have much lighter traffic.


Bicycle law:

·         bicycles must have two functioning brakes, a bell, a red reflector on the back and yellow reflectors on the pedals


·         After sunset and when visibility is poor, cyclists must turn on a white light in front and a red one in the rear.


·         When being overtaken by a car, cyclists are required to ride in single file.


You may even find that some city centers can even be explored completely on foot if one is so inclined.


Trains and Busses

France’s rail network reaches almost all parts of the country. The down side: since the majority of the railroads radiate outward from Paris, going from one provincial town to another that is situated on a train-6different major line heading out of Paris can get complicated. If you’re transferring in Paris, be sure to check what station your connecting train is leaving from; it may be different from the one you arrive at.


Travel by bus can be hit or miss. It’s generally used for travel in rural areas with few rail lines, but bus services can be slow and irregular at times. If you are planning to concentrate the majority of your journey in rural areas, a car may be a better option.



Sometimes there’s just no other option than to get your own set of wheels. This is especially the case if you want a bit more freedom and wish to visit more remote parts of France. All that independence comes at a price, traffic and parking can be a nightmare, and then there’s the matter of documentation (you may need to obtain an international driving license).  


If you do decide that you want to travel the roads of Paris by automobile here are a few things to remember:


·         The minimum driving age is 18.


·         In France, you drive on the right hand side of the road.


·         The speed limit is 50km/h (30mph) in cities, 90km/h (60mph) in regional areas and 130km/h (78mph) on motorways unless indicated otherwise.


·         Seat belts are a requirement by law and must be fastened by passengers in the front as well as in the back of the vehicle at all times.


·         The use of a mobile phone while driving is illegal unless in use with Bluetooth or a hands-free device.


·         The maximum blood alcohol limit is 0.5mg/ml


·         It’s mandatory to have a high-visibility vest and hazard triangle in your car at all times in case of emergency



I hope this gave you a general idea of the options available to you. Once you’ve decided on the best method of transport for your trip, you can get situated with whatever you need to make your visit to France as memorable and stress-free as possible.


Which method would you prefer? Personally, I’m still waiting on jet-packs.

Food for Thought: Escargot

Posted on November 19th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Food is a very important part of any culture. When we celebrate, we eat. When we experience misfortune, others offer us food with their condolences. Most importantly—and most relevant to this blog post—when we travel, we crave the food of our own culture. We long for the food of our respective homes. Sometimes this can keep us from trying things that aren’t necessarily common in our own food culture, but this is a shame because some of the best food memories I have involve one of my younger siblings uttering, “ewww” beside me.


French food culture is diverse and can sometimes seem unappealing to those less adventurous diners among us. That’s why I decided to start this bi-weekly series to try and demystify dishes and ingredients that are common in French culture.


I thought for today’s post we could talk about that slimy French delicacy: escargot. I’ll tell you all about where they come from, how they’re prepared, and how to eat them without looking like an out of place foreigner.


When you say snails, do you mean garden snails?


Sort of. Not all species of snail are edible, but the species most commonly eaten, Helix Pomatia also known as the Roman snail, is an air breathing land snail. So yes, you could potentially find it in a garden, but I wouldn’t go around eating any snail you find inching along your vegetable garden. Snails that are eaten are either farmed or caught in the wild (doesn’t that make it sound like they might attack the person gathering them) and prepared for several days before they’re fit for consumption.


The snail cleanse


No, I’m not talking about some Hollywood fad diet. Before snails can be sent off to fancy restaurants to fulfill their delicious destiny, they first have to be purged for a few days while fasting or eating only corn meal. Hmm, I guess it sort of is a diet. Anyway, there’s no telling what a snail has eaten, and some of the things they may have snacked on, like a plant called foxglove, can be poisonous to humans.  


After they’ve excreted everything they’ve eaten prior to capture, their ready to go. The most common preparation of escargot—which refers to the snails themselves, not a specific dish—calls for the snails to be:


·      escargotKilled: usually by being tossed into boiling water.


  Removed from their shells


Cooked: commonly with garlic and butter. Yum!


   Put back into their shells


Served with garlic butter sauce



How can I avoid looking like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when I eat them?


We should all be so luck as to look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. But if you’re referring to how inexperienced she seemed when eating the escargot, well, you’ve got a point. If you want to avoid looking like a foreigner when you dine on your snails, you might want to watch a few YouTube videos on how it’s done.  I know it seems silly to watch a video one the proper way to eat something when you’ve been eating your whole life without incident, but this is an appetizer that requires specialty tools. Just do yourself a favor and watch how it’s done. Here are the finer points:


  •   Hold the snail in a napkin covered hand or with metal tongs if they are provided.

  •   With the tiny two-pronged snail fork in your other hand gently try to pry the snail out with a twisting and pulling motion. Be sure to twist the fork in your direction, you don’t want to accidentally fling it across the table at someone.

  • Once the escargot has been gently removed from its hiding spot, you may dip it in the butter and consume.


I haven’t had snails in this kind of application, but I have had them in a seafood cocktail, and they were really good despite the cries of “ewww” coming from my sister-in-law. If you don’t fill your head with all the reasons why you might not like them, you’ll be able to judge without prejudice whether or not you do.


Do you consider yourself a picky eater, or are you brave with your food choices? Would you ever try escargot?

Keep Your Answers Short, Sweet, and French

Posted on November 14th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »


Learning a new language can be frustrating. You’re excited to be able to converse, but your skills haven’t quite caught up to your expectations. When your understanding of French is greater than your ability to speak it or you can catch the gist of what’s being said but can’t speak well enough to answer, this list is meant for you.


Sometimes one word is all you need to get your point across, and sometimes one word is all you can really manage to say. Learn to say a few of these one word answers and you’ll be having (short) conversations in no time.


·         Yes: Oui

·         No: Non

·         Maybe: Peut-êtrecheck one


·         Now: Maintenant

·         Later: Plus tard

·         Always: Toujours


·         Here: Ici

·         There:  Là-bas

·         Somewhere: Quelque part

·         This: Cette


·         Bad: Méchant

·         Good: Bon

·         Great: Magnifique

·         So-so: Comme ci comme ça


·         Huh?: Hein?

·         Seriously: Sérieusement

french flash cards 

Practice makes perfect, and you should practice speaking your new language every chance you get, but until your vocabulary gets to where you want it to be you may have to stick to one word answers for a while.


Is it frustrating keeping your conversations short and sweet? What methods do you have for speeding up vocabulary acquisition?

Bonne Chance with French Superstitions

Posted on November 12th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »


I’m sad to say that while I think some superstitions are ridiculous, I sometimes find myself (sometimes) following them anyway. It’s just been ingrained in me, I guess. They’re a part of my culture and upbringing. And while I don’t really think someone is talking about me if my ears are ringing, I always wonder…


That seems to be the case with superstitions, they may seem irrational to some, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re an integral part of who we are as a people no matter where we hail from. They have the potential to influence everything from government, politics, business, public life, family life, travel, and social conduct; understanding them can prove advantageous for travelers and business professionals looking to avoid potential faux pas.


Here are a few superstitions from France to get you started on your quest to learn the local lore:


You must never give a friend a knife as a gift. If you do you’ll be “cutting” your relationship with them. You must counteract the knife’s effect by first accepting a coin from the gift’s recipient. If they symbolically “buy” it from you, the cutting consequence will be nullified, and you two can continue being BFFs.luck


You must not light 3 cigarettes with the same match. Other than the fact that you might burn yourself with the match, this superstition is thought to bring bad luck to the smoker of the third cigarette. This is supposed to come from the customs of WWI trench warfare. Striking the match alerted any possible snipers, lighting the second cigarette allowed the sniper to account for distance, and the bearer of the third cigarette being lit was shot. That’s not just bad luck, that’s the worst kind.


You must not step in doggie doo-doo with your right foot. Anyone would consider this bad luck, but the French custom dictates that to step on dog droppings with the left foot is lucky. Personally, I wouldn’t be too excited about either alternative, but if I’m going to have stinky shoes I’d rather they be accompanied by good fortune.


 You must not have 13 guests. Don’t even get close to thirteen for fear a few callers might bring along a friend; having 13 people around a dinner table is meant to be very bad luck. Conversely, Friday the 13th is considered fortuitous in some parts of France, and apparently it’s the day when lottery ticket sales soar.


breadIf you’re planning on emigrating to France you might find it interesting to know what strange set of superstitious beliefs hold sway in your new nation, and if you’re doing business with someone from France it might be worthwhile to know the correct way to hand a loaf of bread—handing a loaf bread upside down is bad luck—should the need ever arise. Whatever your reason to learn about France, superstitions and folklore are an integral part of the French culture whether people follow them or resist their folksy pull. Getting to know the local customs will get you one step further towards fitting-in.


These are just a few French superstitions, do you know any others?

Are You Already Speaking French?

Posted on November 7th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Thinking about learning French? Chances are you already know more French than you might think. Borrowing is something that happens often between languages, and French is no exception. Many French words are used so often in the English language that you might not even be aware of their origin, and others are used precisely because they carry that French je ne sais quoi.


  • À la mode (In the way/style of): English speakers generally use this phrase to mean “with ice cream”.


  • RSVP = répondez s’il vous plait (Reply, if it pleases you): Party invitations look naked without this acronym, though I doubt many people know it comes from French.


  • Femme fatale (Deadly woman): Often dressed in a sexy black dress, the femme fatale is as dangerous as she is seductive.

borrowing cul de sac

  • Cul-de-sac (Bottom of the bag): This one just rolls off the tongue like it was created to describe a dead end street. The problem comes when one wants to make it plural. The English speaker adds the obligatory –s at the end but the proper pluralization is culs-de-sac.


  • Faux pas (False/wrong step): Don’t stress out about committing too many of these or you’ll lose your…


  • Joie de vivre (Joy of living): This one is pretty self-explanatory.


  • Chic (stylish): Chic sounds more chic than using the word “stylish”.


  • Eau de toilette (Grooming water): “Grooming water” sounds a lot better than the bathroom related faux amis usually attributed to this phrase.

borrowing appetizers

  • Hors d’oeuvre (Outside of the work): Want your cheese and cracker appetizer plate to seem more chic call them hors d’oeuvres and call it a day.


  • Ménage à trois (Household of three): I doubt there are many people over the age of 14 that don’t know what this means to the average English speaker.


  • Déjà-vu (Already seen before): I bet you’re feeling a bit of that looking at this list. How many of these words have you been using without really knowing you were speaking French at the time?


So, how do you feel about learning French now? Do you feel like you have a bit of a head start? Learning a new language can seem daunting, but the important thing is not to worry about what you have yet to do and stay positive about what you’ve already accomplished. By the looks of this list, you’ve already accomplished quite a bit without really even trying. Good for you!


What other French words have you been using in your everyday life?

Ratatouille: Not Just a Movie about a Mouse

Posted on November 5th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I should probably preface this by saying that I have a daughter. She’s two and a half, in case that makes a difference. So it goes without saying that I watch more than my fair share of animated movies. Seeing as my daughter is currently on a veggie strike (she smells her food, and regardless of how tasty something smells if it has the least bit of green or red it gets an “ewww” from her) I thought I might as well put those cartoon characters to good use and encourage more diverse eating habits. So I popped Disney’s Ratatouille into the DVD player and hoped for the best.


“Why is it called Ratatouille?” asked my husband when he walked in half way through the movie.


“Because it’s a movie about a rat who can cook, and the first part of ‘Ratatouille’ is ‘rat’.”


“So Ratatouille is a real food?”


“YES! It’s French, now be quite so we can watch the movie.” My daughter chose this moment to give my husband and me a stern look before turning her attention back to the movie.


ratatouilleRatatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish. The full name of the dish is ratatouille niçoise, and like the name indicates, it originated from Nice. It can be served as a meal, if accompanied by rice or pasta, but ratatouille is generally served as a side dish.


There’s a good amount of debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille; some cooks chop and sauté, others slice, layer, and bake. Most cooks can agree, however, on the key ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, onions, courgette, aubergine, and bell peppers.  


The version of ratatouille from the film is called Confit Byaldi, a more contemporary take on a nouvelle cuisine dish by Michel Guérard, which was popularized by American chef Thomas Keller in his cookbook, The French Laundry Cookbook.


oven-ratatouille-topWhile the movie progressed and the rat and reluctant cook became friends and co-conspirators, the accordion-heavy soundtrack wasn’t the only thing floating in the air, so was the smell of some yummy ratatouille I had popped into the oven ahead of time. By the time the food critic had a plate of the movie’s namesake in front of him, so did my daughter. She doesn’t yet possess the language skills to have given a detailed account of her thoughts on it, but she cleaned her plate and that’s as good as a “délicieux” to me.


The recipe I made wasn’t the most traditional, but if that’s something you’re looking for then the internet has a wealth of recipes (including the movie version).


Do you have any favorite traditional French recipes?

Are there any you’d like to know more about?