The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Posts Tagged ‘miscellaneous’

My last travel experience in 200 words – and in French

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 12, 2014

writing_hand_u270D_icon_256x256This was requested of me in one of my job applications: send along some examples of your translation work and “A short text in French (200 words max) describing your last travel experience”

Fair enough, and it has been a long time since anyone restricted my verbal diarrhea with a word count, so this was tough, but here goes, in an appropriately grumpy French style:

Auvergnate, j’ai cherché pendant des années le meilleur moyen de m’extirper du no man’s land du transport public que sont les alentours de Clermont-Ferrand. Aussi lors de mon dernier séjour à la maison, j’ai décidé dans un élan de décadence de remettre mon sort entre les mains d’une “vraie” compagnie aérienne, avec des collations à bord et des journaux à l’embarquement. AirFrance.

Seulement, après avoir enregistré les bagages et passé la sécurité, le vol AirFrance de 14h05 pour Paris, opéré par HopRégional, est retardé de 5 minutes, de deux heures, annulé. Un problème technique peut en cacher un autre, veuillez récupérer vos valises et attendre. L’avion suivant a tant de retard que le vol de 18h30 arrive avant lui – retardé également puisqu’il a fallu réquisitionner un appareil plus grand pour accomoder les passagers des deux autres vols. À Paris les automates indiquent que les connections ont été ratées, allez au guichet d’information.

Avec deux compagnons d’infortune écossais – que faisaient-ils en Auvergne? – je me rends au fameux guichet où trois employés nous montrent que l’imprimante de coupons pour une nuit d’hotel est cassée. Il l’ont pourtant éteinte et rallumée, rien n’y fait.

La prochaine fois j’essaie le stop.

So, what do you think?



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Learning key life skills in Germany

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on May 27, 2014

When navigating your way around a german kitchen, or indeed a german party, one of the most difficult things to find is a bottle opener. Surprising, is it not? When all your instincts, long nurtured clichés, and the physical evidence of empty Pfandflaschen (deposit bottles) piling up on every street corner/table/ledge tell you beer is indeed flowing. So a word of warning: when you, confused tourist in teutonic lands, ask for one, do not be surprised when someone hands you a lighter instead.

You see, a true German can open a beer bottle with just about anything, and not having a bottle opener leaves room in the kitchen drawer for other, more obscurely exotic kitchen essentials: your schnitzel hammer for example or this terrifying and dangerous cousin of the tin opener (you may actually need the schnitzel hammer to work it):

Having become used to this state of affairs, my policy has long been to find the nearest smoking german and ask them to open my beverages. If there are no smokers around, any german person will do the trick, the only condition being that there is in the vicinity an object with an edge. Not too difficult then. Do not judge me for taking the easy way out. Over the three and some years I have lived on this side of the Rhine, I have tried, usually ending up covering myself in beer and ridicule: at best I would manage to slightly bend one tiny bit of the beer cap and give up with a sore knuckle. Worst case scenario so far, I broke a lighter and dropped the bottle which smashed on a rock, spraying everyone with the foamy stuff. Maybe it is simply that my frenchness prevails when it comes to accessing alcoholic drinks. Certainly I may be rubbish at opening beers with an USB sitck, but I am very good at uncorking wine. It was even noticed by my colleagues when I was working in a posh-ish hotel in Kiel. Give me a wine bottle and a corkscrew and sit back and enjoy the show. I won’t need to lean on anything or squeeze the bottle between my thighs, no drop will be spilled, no loud popping noises and would Sir like to try a sip first?Scan0012



Maybe that was what my friend Jan picked up on last Sunday at the barbecue. Not that I did open any wine there – all screwtops there (BLASPHEMY), but there was a wine bottle lying around and that was what I was told to use, if I wanted to get to my beer. No I won’t open it for you, you need to do it yourself.

I failed miserably the first time around, but the second cap flew a metre or so away with a satisfying pop on my first try. I could have clapped, if I had not been holding a bottle of beer in my left hand and a bottle of wine in my right. Never mind, and hurray! I am now officially one step closer to being German, which considering the french results of the European elections, cannot be such a bad thing, surely.

Posted in Germany, Life, Uncategorized, Wine | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Units, conversions. How big is the Great North Run?

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on September 14, 2012

Now I am no mathematician, figures and numbers always take for ever to register in my mind. So usually in order to comprehend any statistic that gets thrown my way, I bring it back to something I know. Growing up between French and English culture, I have had to do this all my life. 1 mile is 1,6 kilometres. £1 equals approximately ten francs. Or 1,65 euros. Ounces and pounds to grammes, yards to metres,  Fahrenheit to Celcius…

It is the same thing when it comes to demographics. I was raised in a very small village in the middle of nowhere. Growing up, I moved from village to town to city, from school to high school to Uni, moving to ever bigger places, groups and communities. Inevitably, every time you get to a new place, someone will helpfully bombard you with information and tell you how many people live, learn or work there.  Now like I said, numbers are not my forte. I have as much difficulty picturing a population in millions as you would a travel distance in bolts, cubits, furlongs or megalithic yards.

So I bring those figures back to my village-girl level. I have my own special demographics unit: the Chaméane. How many times would my village population have to be duplicated to make as many people. A Fokker airplane would fit most of my disgruntled village neighbours. My high school in Clermont was about 16 Chaméanes. The total number of people working and studying at the University of Regensburg last year was 165 and a bit Chaméanes, you could fit 10 times my village in the biggest lecture theatre.

And in three, no, two days, I’ll be taking part in the Great North Run. 54 to 55 thousand people. Have not tried converting that into Chaméanes yet, but it will be so many I might have to find another, better unit… 2,5 Universität Regensburg? 25 or 26 times my high school? I have seen pictures of the startline, crowd stretching as far as the eye can see.  It will be massive I can’t wait.

PS: I am running for Alzheimer’s SOciety. Sponsor me here

PPS: Great North Run ≈ 3,2 x Chaméane2

Posted in England, France, Great North Run, Life, Sports, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A rapidly evolving situation

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 3, 2012

Over the past few weeks I must have started writing half a dozen health-related blog entries. Typical subjects were:

Three days and a lot of medication later: massive improvement

  • having the sniffles
  • having the sniffles and a headadache
  • surviving a first day at work on throat lozenges
  • waking up buried under mounds of used up hankies
  • comparing tonsils with aggressive difformed little jellyfish recently discovered by R. Attenborough
  • unsympathetic doctors
  • the uselessness of homeopathic medication
  • oh, the homeopathic stuff does seem to be doing something…

And all of these just wove in and out of each other. Not enough time to finish one paragraph: whatever I had written five minutes earlier would no longer be relevant ages before I got that far. It was a rather busy week. And it all eventually culminated with me writhing on my bed at 5 in the morning covered in angry red blotches, trying not to scratch and just shaking incontrollably whilst waiting for the on-call doctor to get extra-medicine from his practice.

My very first allergy! How exciting! I would love to linger on and tell you all about it, about the inadequacy of of the the verb “to itch”, about tiredness and recurring eczema and nice mad doctors, fairytales, medical students, ointments creams tablets and drops… BUT I am now quite far behind in my revision “plan” and exams are looming ever nearer. So I’ll just leave you with this lovely picture from last week and a suggestion for low-budget horror film makers. You know, if you need a good zombie look.

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Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 16, 2012

Yes I will be talking about the weather.

We had the most amazing sunshine today, a proper crisp winter day that just felt lke a proper crisp winter morning, only played over three times in a row. The light held its slanty sharpness, the grass stayed white until evening come. It was sunny but I could not feel it, just see it ; the warmth of it was swept away by this tiny wind before it had time to settle on my cheeks. Nevertheless it was comforting standing there on a frozen puddle, loooking at the light through the branches, through my eyelashes, through my eyelids, and thinking how I could use all this in terms of blogging.

And then I got home and settled down to write, full of cold thoughts and frosty ideas (and it had nothing to do with a t-shirt wearing tiger) when our neighbour came knocking; her heating did not seem to be working, was ours? After we do all share one boiler. We went down to the cellar and sure enough: no huff, puff or other heating-related noise was to be heard. Only thing that was working: the wireless connection to the outside thermometre, indicating -1ºC (now -4). Handy.

Extra blankets anyone?

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Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 14, 2011

Sleep is such a fickle thing. Sometimes it feels a bit like having a lunatic boyfriend. On certain days it follows you around, clings on to you . It will entangle your arms and legs in sheets and blankets and will make it ever so difficult to get out of bed. As you struggle with the bed linen, it wraps its arms around you and whispers: “Why bother? Come on, stay – Just five more minutes!” I have heard people say each minute with the one you love can feel like an eternity. The problem is with Sleep, the extra minutes you spend in its company often turn out to have been hours after all.

On the other hand, when Sleep has gone out for the night and left you alone, it is amazing just how much of eternity manages to fit in sixty seconds. Oodles and coils of it unravelling in the darkness as you lay in your bed, inwardly listening for signs of Sleep’s return home. Which sometimes just does not happen. And the following day, there it is, waiting for you in a lecture theatre at Uni, wanting to make up for its inconstancy.

And some other times it just leaves.

It has other plans, I suspect it goes off on boys’ trips with its friends: Concentration, Motivation and Patience. They just all scurry off and leave you on your own to cope. In their absence you find yourself flirting with another set of friends. The bad boys of behaviour and health; certainly more exotic darkly entertaining and unusual, and definitely not the sort of blokes your mam would like to see you bringing home: Insomnia, Restlessness, Distraction – and also it would seem: a penchant for drawn out metaphores.

Posted in Life, Studying, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Half-marathons and musicals; singing my way to the Great North Run.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 11, 2011

I am dreadfully exhausted, completely kaputt, one might even say bloody knackered. That is because, ladies and gentlemen, I have now gone officially bonkers and have embarked on a project bigger, greater than any other I have ever mentioned here: I have picked up running.

Now you may think this is a bit of an anticlimax, and the most attentive among you (or possibly those with the greatest amount of spare time) may already be aware of my recent acquisition of a pair of running shoes. Since that day I have been trying to go out running every now and again, but nothing especially awe-inspiring. However now I have decided to take part in the biggest, most amazing, mind-blowingly great half-marathon of them all: the Bupa Great North Run. Maybe you’ve heard of it? 54000 runners, millions raised for charity every year. I think it’s awesome.  And what’s more, the finish line is just next to where my auntie Hilary lives. I’ll only have to run a few hundred metres further to get a shower and collapse on a comfortable settee with a nice cuppa (and possibly with both feet in a bucket of cold water).

But in order to get any of this, the first thing I need to do is actually reach said finishing line! I signed up on this “Take to the Streets” website I’d heard of which generated a lovely, very reasonable looking training plan, bought a pair of reasonable track suit bottoms and got running. Except it appears that unlike my outfit I myself am not reasonable, and struggle to keep to the official training plan.

It tells me: You’ll be running about three times a week for the next year or so. We’ll be starting gently: first week, do 5 – 10 mins easy run/walk. So I went out running and came back quite a while later, calculated the distance; 5k, not mad. Second week, maybe de 10-15 min easy walk/run.  Ok, so I felt quite good doing 5k, why shouldn’t I try doing a bit more. I came back 1hour and 9k later. Third week, you want to get used to your new rhythm, so do something similar to last week, 10-15min easy run/walk. I did 10k, got lost and somehow got home an hour and a half later. I don’t think I’ll be going quite  this far every single time I put on my sneakers – I simply don’t have the time – , but I also can’t imagine the use of  sticking to “10-15min easy run/walk” either.  So my plan is: whenever I get an automated reminder saying  “run”, I might just go the extra mile (or two, literally). Does that sound good? Are there any expert opinions out there?

So now I have just added something else to my already busy timetable (lessons, aikido/kickboxing, writing, exploring, going out culinary experimentation – latest to date: savoury muffins filled with feta cheese spinach olives and parma ham-…). And I don’t even like running that much! When I was at school I couldn’t stand even the idea of any form of physical exertion. I am getting better, but still going out running when one could stay nice and warm in bed… You need something to keep you going. What does the trick for me is west end and broadway musicals. I have heaps of them stocked onto my mp3 player. Admittedly it can be a bit of a bummer when you reach a hill, it’s raining and suddenly “Lost in the darkness” comes on…You just have to skip.  But just imagine, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on a bright sunny morning… just what you need to help you beat your personal best. The only really tough bit is not to burst into song and start tap dancing on the way.

There are auditions these days at the Uni for some sort of musical… maybe I should sign up. I really have too much free time 😉

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Very late breakfast: unexpected comfort food for expats in Berlin

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 7, 2011

Should I really  apologize again for my unpredictable, more than patchy writing habits? I think not, time is scant enough as it is and my bed is beckoning dangerously so let’s get to the point! I spent the weekend in Berlin, and it was pretty good.

You might be aware -or not- that I have been in Deutschland this past month and a half and the fact is: since my arrival, I hadn’t once stepped outside Regensburg (lovely little university town – I’ll come back to it some other time). So when Sven and Paul suggested a trip up to the capital, I jumped out of reason’s range, into the back of the car and we sped along northwards on the motorway, leaving all homework, academic and administrative bothers behind. This weekend was NOT going to be museum orientated: we set out to be unreasonable and  enjoy youth while we still have it; party much, drink a reasonable amount (my mam might read this blog so I’l leave it to everyone’s imagination) and sleep very little.

So at some point around 2pm on Saturday as we were walking along in the parks around Kreuzberg drinking takeaway coffee and gently emerging from our stupor, we realised we were going to need breakfast. And we went to THIS place:

We had walked past that shop the night before on the way to a party and it looked cool, a nice sort of whacky modern vintage look with big chunky furniture and many lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, and of course classic display racks and glass shelves covered in carrot cakes and scones and muffins. As an official half-expat it was pretty obvious I would have to go there at some point.

I was a little anxious at first, and with good reason: my experiences of british food abroad have been very mixed. Soggy chips, half-defrosted fish and wobbly set gravy. Some people do seem determined to confirm everyone’s deep-seated prejudice that british food is crap. Well this time I was pleasantly surprised. Particularly as far as the tea was concerned.

Tea preparation and serving policy varies much from one establishment to the next I have noticed, and this cuppa was very much in keeping with the contrasted stylish/funky atmosphere of  “East London- God Save Brit Food”. It came in one massive thick mug, and with all the elaborate paraphernalia one might expect from a specialist coffee/tea shop. Now I’m not normally one for over-complicated pedantic tea ceremonial. Like anyone else I just shake a teabag around in a mug of boiling water until the desired colouring has been achieved and then add milk. However for once I decided to obey the 5min indication on the timer and it was worth the wait. I drink about 1,5Liters of tea every day, and since I have come to Germany all I’ve had to quench my thirst was, well… german tea (ie: not English). But this time was something else. Possibly the best cuppa I have ever had. EVER. I was heaving a sigh of pleasure with each sip. Does anyone out there know what brand of tea they serve in that place, I didn’t even think to ask.

Anyway, that was for the tea. The food was good. I know this is a bit of a contrast with the lyrical description of a humble cup of tea but it was scrambled eggs on toast, so how much can I say? I could I suppose write an ode to comfort food but it’s getting late. Scrambled eggs is not exactly a good choice if one wants to write a restaurant review, but that wasn’t the point. It was comfort food, it was obviously freshly made, tasted good and was just what I needed. It went perfectly well with the cup of tea and I felt at home for a while, except I was speaking German all the way through.

What else can I say about the place… The staff are very friendly and all native English-speakers! If I remember rightly the cooks were English, and the waiters Australian and Irish. We were waited on by ozzy Annabelle, who smiles a lot and fits in perfectly with the surroundings: friendly bubbly and just a little bit odd (and I mean that as a compliment). She even posed with a scone for me, how much more helpful can you get?

So my verdict: I will definitely go again next time I’m in Berlin, if only a cup of tea and a scone and to enjoy the atmosphere.

And I know it’s a veeery long shot, but if the young man who was sitting at the table opposite us should ever happen on this blog, I really feel I should have come over and said hello that day (Saturday 5th of November) ; please get in touch?

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Off to Deutschland; let’s get packing!

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on September 14, 2011

Yes, your intrepid froggy narrator is off on a new adventure. I’m off to Regensburg for a year for my studies and once again somehow my life has to be crammed into a couple of suitcases and follow me along over a few hundred miles to my next destination.

Over the years, my packing skills have vastly improved:even I am impressed by my ability to fit very large amounts of stuff into a very small number of cubic centimetres. However, choices must be made of what I can take and what must be left behind. I hate having to make those choices. There is always something more I would want to bring along (usually a book – or ten)

But there’s no point in beating around the bush, something must be done, and not just because even my packing skills have limits. Yesterday evening I had finally finished (or so I thought) cramming all the stuff I will be “needing” into my bags and was taking a minute, looking with fondness on my finished work: a suitcase, a backpack and a sports bag neetly filled and piled over each other.  And then I thought it’d be fun to try carrying my stuff for a while. You know: 1:30 am, you can’t sleep, you’re bored, what’s a girl to do?

I heaved my rucksack onto my back and almost fell backwards (Fig.1). A great miracle of mind over matter allowed me to straighten up however and soon all was good. Or was it? As I looked at m yself into the mirror, I noticed I was indeed standing as straighat as a die, but at a 45 degree angle to the floor (Fig.2).  Subsequent weighing of the bags on the bathroom scales has informed me I am carrying the equivalent to 3 times an average airline passenger’s luggage allowance.

Good job I’m travelling by train!

Anyway, whatever happens, I am definitely leaving tomorrow (Fig.3)

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Chronicles of a French Bistro, part 2: I am NOT single

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 7, 2011

Well ok, I am, but don’t breathe a word of it to all the fat smelly old pervs who sometimes (regularly) come and have a drink in my bar. They do not need to know. If telling them I’m… married can in any way deter them from further flirtation, then that will be my official line.

Let me explain the why and wherefore of today’s rant. My boss, expecting it to be a quiet shift, booked an appointment at the hairdresser’s and left me in charge (I feel so grown up when I say that hihihi). It was very quiet though. I had only served a couple of coffees when two men came in. They were obviously father and son, and quite probably came from the gipsy camp down the road. They had a martini and a glass of white wine. They were sitting at the bar, so what with it being so veeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry very quiet, I couldn’t escape talking to them. So. The son asked me – like many other people do (it’s such a wonderful, imaginative way to start a conversation) – whether I had a boyfriend or not. I’m afraid I confessed to being single, which caused a glint to spark up in the (hairy smelly old) father’s eye. Euuuugh! I immediatly knew I’d made a mistake.

And when the son when out for a fag, the dad started advertising to me the health benefits of having sex on a regular basis, and how nice it can be to do it with random strangers. After all, the luuurve is a part of life is it not? One simply needs to have intercourse every now and again…it’s only natural, isn’t it? Eeeeek! All the while I was trying to –well– get him to shut up, basically, but he had an answer to every thing; when I said my life was fine as it was, and none of his business by the way, he just said that you know, there’s life, and rrrrrrrr sex life. Ooooooooooow, I have already mentioned that I am no fan of text speech, but …*shaky panicky voice* OMG !

I could go on for a while about the specifics of today’s encounter, but I’ll spare you the details. Sufficient to say it made me both want to be safely married, and avoid all contact with males. However I might shift my marital status back to “single” the next time a handsome, well behaved, interesting young man comes through the door, perhaps. We’ll see.

Posted in France, Life, Work | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »