Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Finding French Culture in Charlottesville: Stephan Warden

Stephan Warden is the first person I’ve interviewed for the Finding French Culture in Charlottesville blog series. I wanted to interview him because has been a fun person to interact with in my French class this semester, and I wanted to learn more about his background. His mother is French and his father is American, so I asked him about what it is like to be in France with an American background and the United States with a French background. He joked about how he wears darker clothes when in France, particularly in Paris, so he doesn’t appear like the standard American tourist. He mentioned how communication with his mother’s family in France can be difficult at times since they mainly only speak French, and sometimes there are some French slang words that he doesn’t understand. I asked him how he copes with moments like that, and he just smiled and replied that he normally just smiles, laughs, and keeps it going. When at UVA, Stephan embraces his French background as an important part of his identity. Stephan loves French literature and taking French classes as a way to maintain his French culture.

Posted by Itohan Omorodion
-AFC Stagaire  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Finding French Culture in Charlottesville: Riya et la ville de Lyon

Riya Jadeja is a third year French and Psychology major who spent this past summer in the beautiful town of Lyon! 

For Riya, French culture means an exploration into the art world and years of glorious history. She equates French to the "poetry of nations" because the language is so rich with history and passion that many people can't help but indulge into. Her time in Lyon really opened her eyes to all the history and art that France had to offer

She hopes to go back to Lyon real soon but until then she will relive those days through all the pictures she took while she was there

Merci beaucoup Riya for sharing!

-Claudia Kuchler
Stagiare de Alliance Francaise de Charlottesville

Friday, December 4, 2015

Finding French Culture in Charlottesville: MarieBette

Salut tout le monde! 

This week's spotlight shines on our favorite European-style café, MarieBette! 

A restaurant and café, their breads, pastries, sandwiches & coffee are of a quality only matched en France, all made with locally sourced ingredients!

According to their website, they believe that the local bakery is the heart of the community and are proud to provide Charlottesville with the most basic of human needs—good bread and a place to gather and connect. 

One bite of a MarieBette croissant took me on a walk back down the Champs d'Élysées, with the Arche de Triomphe en face and the sounds of French all around.

Check out their menu here: http://www.mariebette.com/#european-inspired

Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding French Culture in Charlottesvile: Sweet Liaison Lover

There’s something about the way that French sounds that mesmerizes me. Maybe it’s the sweet liaisons or throaty ‘R’s’ that entice me. I’m perpetually in awe when I hear smoothly flowing French. When I came to college, I initially intended to only take enough French classes to satisfy the area requirements, but after traveling to Montreal I quickly realized that I needed more instruction with the language in order to engage in fluid conversations. I then decided to study abroad in Morocco and obtain a minor in French Language and Literature. For me, forming genuine connections with people is a precious experience that I absolutely cherish. Language is a wonderful tool to actualize this. I still fumble with the language, but it’s the awkward moments that motivate me to work harder and keep learning. One of my aspirations is to live and work in West Africa, which is one reason why I’ve decided to learn French as a way to render living and working in a Francophone country more accessible. 

Posted by: Itohan Omorodion, AFC Stagiare

Monday, October 19, 2015

Finding French Culture in Charlottesville: De la 10eme Arrondissement à Charlottesville!

Meet Claudia, another "stagiare" or intern at AFC!

Claudia is a third year Foreign Affairs and French major. The French lifestyle has been, to some degree, instilled in her since birth as her father is French. Many of her summers were spent on her grandparents balcony in the 10th Arrondissement in Paris and the city holds a very special place in her heart. She hopes to be able to use both her majors in order to study and work in France in the coming years.

For Claudia, French culture isn't necessarily something you just find in France, rather its appreciating and wanting to know more about French language, food, movies or music that builds up the idea of the culture no matter what part of the world you're from. She loves the idea of the Alliance Francaise because it brings the aspects of being French to places where it normally wouldn't be accessible. 

Posted by: Claudia Kuchler, AFC Stagiare

Stagiare AFC

Meet Kelsey, stagiare at the Alliance Francaise de Charlottesville!

This upcoming spring, Kelsey will graduate from the University of Virginia two majors: French Language & Literature, and Global Environments & Sustainability. This past spring and summer, she was able to combine her passions for French and the environment through an internship with the Hydrology & Geochemistry Laboratory of the University of Strasbourg, located in the heart of the capital of Alsace.

Of all of the things she loved about her experience in France, she misses the coffee the most, along with spaetzle--the equivalent of Alsacian macaroni and cheese. Her favorite thing about Alsace was the uniquely mixed French-German architecture, particularly that of the Petite France sector of Strasbourg. She hopes to return to France after graduation to continue to continue working with renewable energy sources and international relations.

Monday, October 12, 2015

New AFC Blog Series! Finding French Culture in Charlottesville...

New AFC'ville Blog Post Series:

"Finding French Culture in Charlottesville"

We're on a mission.

And you're invited.

Join us every Monday as we uncover the hidden & unexpected 
French culture in Charlottesville.

Whether people, food, or custom, we know it's out there 
and we're looking forward to revealing them to you here
every week on our blog.

Stay tuned, you may just find you know the people and places
we're about to share with you...and that they are lovers
and practioners of...all things French; just like us!

Come with us as we discover a new way to unite our community,
through French!

A bientôt!

PS: Want to be a part of the fun? Let us know, we'd love to post your story on our blog: info.afcville@gmail.com

Monday, September 7, 2015

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter- NYT Sunday Review 2012

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

Correction: March 25, 2012 
The Gray Matter column on bilingualism last Sunday misspelled the name of a university in Spain. It is Pompeu Fabra, not Pompea Fabra.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Planning a French Dinner Party

The summer is coming to an end, or at least for students, so why not celebrate the ending to one hot summer by throwing a French-style party?  It is actually much easier than what you would expect and we are here to help you get started!

First, the French love great food and company.  Start with compiling a list of close friends that may or may not know each other; always great to meet new people.  The number of guests can be either small or large depending on your personal preference; I personally believe the more the merrier. 

Second, to do this the French way you will have to start the evening with an apéritif.  An apéritif is normally an alcoholic drink consumed before a meal to stimulate or activate the appetite.  Drinks do not always have to be alcoholic and should be changed accordingly to the party crowd. 

When I was in France the family I stayed with would more than often drink Champagne.  This bubbling, sparkling wine product was perfect as it is light and refreshing.  You however, may choose other drink options such as cocktails, juices for children, or anything that even the crowd may ask for.  We also served a few small finger foods as we drank.  You can consider doing the same.  Items such as grape tomatoes, spreads, crackers, pretzels, and other small finger foods are perfect. 

Next, start to plan the menu.  Depending on how hungry everyone may be you should decide how many courses to prepare. 

Here are some ideas for appetizers.
Main Dishes:

After the dessert a cup of coffee or cappuccino may be requested.  From my experience this is the time when the in depth conversation continues.  The French are not afraid to start dinner later in the evening and stay up late to share ideas, converse, and rekindle with great company.   
Here are some rules and etiquette important to know about French dining..
-Do not rest your hands on your lap it is similarly rude to place your elbows on the table in America.  Keep hands on table.  
-Bread will most likely be served at every meal.  You should have a bread plate but if one is not present the bread should remain on the tablecloth and not on your plate.  Be aware to rip pieces of bread from a larger chunk versus taking bites from a larger piece. 
-Follow the host.  Wait until everyone is served to begin to eat.  Same for the apéritif, wait until the host raises his/her glass to make a toast to drink. 
Now that you have a general idea of how to host a French dinner party good luck and enjoy your company!

Monday, August 3, 2015

La Rentrée- It's a big deal in France

If it wasn't already evident from the back-to-school advertisements, August has somehow crept upon on us once again. School, for better or worse, lies right around the corner for kids and young adults all across America. 

La rentrée scolaire

The French, however, have an entirely different concept of "back-to-school." In France, what is called "la rentrée" applies to not only students but to all citizens, as the beginning of September marks the end of many adults' holidays as well. Restaurants re-open, television and radio programs change their programming, and novelists unveil their new works. There's an excitement and optimism in the air marked by the convening of some many beginnings at once- c'est la rentrée!
The dramatic commencement of the new work and school year is the result of several policies implemented by the French. The French school year begins nationwide for all schools at the beginning of September. This year, fittingly, schools will open the 1st of September. The French have a more nationalized school program than what we have in the USA, making la rentrée truly a more concentrated and significant event than our "back to school" season. The program is so nationalized that there is even an official French list of school supplies that all students must have!

"There we go! I don't we've forgotten anything."
"Yeah we did! A giant backpack to carry all of that!"

For adults in France, la rentrée holds major significance as well because labor laws make August a favored vacation month for the French. In France, the minimum work week is 35 hours, and all workers receive two and a half days of paid leave per month worked. For some odd reason, Saturdays are factored into this calculation, and all French workers are left with five full weeks of paid leave throughout the year (wouldn't that be lovely...).

One would imagine the French 35-hour work week looks a little like this

Another aspect of French labor law states that one of these five weeks of vacation must be taken separately from the main school holidays (the Toussaint in mid-fall, Christmas, the winter holiday in February, and the spring holiday in mid-April). This law, in combination with French tradition, leads many workers to take long vacations in the month of August.

As a result, August has become somewhat of sacred month in France. Millions of French northerners flee towards the southern beaches in August, leaving their jobs behind. Paris in particular feels empty in August due to the sheer number of shops and restaurants that close down due to the August tradition.

Parisian roads get very congested in the month of August as people
flee the city for the south.

Once September rolls around, however, you can be assured that everything in France will return to business as usual.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tropical Francophone Get-Aways

Summer may coming to a close, but for those of you looking for a warm slice of paradise this coming winter, look no further! At these spots, you can have your fill of french-speaking culture while enjoying time in the balmy sun year-round.

St. Barthélemy

Tucked away in the Lesser Antilles, St. Barts has long been a destination for celebrities, including Jimmy Buffet, David Letterman and Steve Martin. That doesn't mean, however, that you won't find your average joes' there as well!

La côte de St. Barthélemy

St. Barts is a "separate overseas collectivity," meaning that it is still technically part of France while retaining small freedoms. The French influence, however, is undeniable. Most inhabitants on the island speak French, and the high-end French cuisine is what attracts many visitors to the island each year.
A fisherman shows off freshly caught lobster on St. Bart's
Sushi from Le Bête à Z'Ailes, a renowned restaurant
St. Martin

View of Marigot, the island capital
St. Martin is split into two regions: French in the north, Dutch in the south. Much like St. Barts, St. Martin is an oversea collectivity, albeit with a slightly more European vibe. Still, vacationers will have no trouble finding natural destinations such as the Cupecoy Bay and Loterie Farm's tree-to-tree zip-lines.

Zip-lining in St. Martin

A view of mountainous Martinique

Going further south in the Caribbean, we find Martinique, an island first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Natural beauty is the name of the game in Martinique, with rugged mountains in the north and calm white sand beaches in the south. Mont Pelée, the dominant volcano towards the north of the island, provides stunning views at the summit as well as a daunting challenge for anyone daring enough to scale the sides of the mountain!

Mont Pelée and the surrounding area

Another more historic, yet equally fufilling destination in Martinique is the Schoelcher Library, which was shipped and reassembled in Martinique after being presented in 1889 at the World Fair in Paris. The library is famed for its unique and impressive design as well as for its name, given in honor of French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.

Schoelcher library

Monday, July 20, 2015

Review of Bastille Day

Just a little over a week ago Bastille Day celebrations took place on the beautiful streets of Paris and many other cities in France.  Many other francophone countries hold Bastille Day celebrations to take pride in France's independence.  Some of the top places in the USA to celebrate Bastille Day are as follows...

1. Philadelphia
2. New York City
3. Seattle
4. Milwaukee
5. New Orleans
6. St. Louis

Do not forget that the Alliance Française of Charlottesville had its own celebration which is worth talking about!

If you were unable to attend our celebration and festivities this past week next year is a must!

Our Bastille Day celebration was located on the quiet streets of 2nd St. NE and East Main St. where the cozy restaurant Petit Pois is located.  Petit Pois provided and endless amount of hors d'oeuvres followed by two exquisite entrees along with a chocolaty and savory dessert that left myself and many others wanting more.

Three types of French wines were served by the lovely Petit Pois staff.

Breads, and little pastries were provided by MarieBette and delightful French-style cheeses by Flora Artisanal Cheese.

Live music was echoing through the air while people gathered around to eat, converse in French, and of course enjoy the lovely Tuesday evening of freedom.

The children that attended were awaited by French coloring books, face painting, and a photo booth (where any individual could get their Bastille Day photo taken!).

So plan on attending next year and mark your calendars now! July 14th is the Bastille Day celebration you do NOT want to miss!

If you attended Bastille Day with us last Tuesday and want to see our/your pictures check out our website and click here to see them all!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bastille Day: The History of its Celebration

Bastille Day is an important day for the French, embodying the fighting spirit of a people united against tyranny. Of course, the national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille, when the people of Paris rose up and captured the political prison on July 14, 1789. Today, the French and people around the world celebrate Bastille Day, and the story of how this day was adopted by the French is an interesting one.

The first celebration of the storming of the Bastille was actually on July 14th 1790, only one year after the event. At a relatively calm point in the revolution, the people celebrated a "Fête de la Fédération" (festival of the federation) to signify the unity and peace of France one year after the historic flash point. Of course in retrospect, nobody could predict how bloody and long the revolution would be, but it still seems a little ironic that the French would be celebrating peace so early!

When exactly did July 14th become the official symbol of French nationalism that we know today? The first celebration of Bastille Day after the revolution was on July 14 1879, when the government sponsored military exercises and feasts in for the Republic officials. The daily paper, Le Figaro, wrote, "people feasted much to honor the storming of the Bastille." This was not, however, the first time the government had sponsored a national holiday. A year before, on June 30, 1878, a huge feast in Paris was arranged to honor the French Republic. Claude Monet's famous painting, Rue Montorgueil, captured the nationalistic fervor of Paris that day.