Resources for learning French: 7 jours sur la planète

The web, and the shelves of your local bookstore, are full of resources for getting introduced to the French language.  Once you get to a more advanced level, it’s much more difficult to find good materials.  One that I like is the 7 jours sur la planète app.  Available for the iPhone and for Android, 7 jours gives you the following, every week:

  • 3 TV news stories
  • For each story:
    • the film clip,
    • an audio recording of the story,
    • its transcription, and
    • a selection of words from the story with monolingual definitions (i.e., definitions in French).

There’s also a vocabulary-learning game, although I’ve never really figured out how to use it in any amusing sort of way.

The topics of the news stories are always topical.  (Is that a tautology?  I think maybe it is, but can’t think of a better way to say it.)  This week’s topics are:

As one of the reviewers on the Apple App Store pointed out, the words that they select to define are often not the ones that you would want.  For example, in the story on the Malian festival, the words that the app defines include attaque, festival, lutte, and quartier, all of which I would think you would learn in French 101.  However, the story also includes échassiers, fanfare, investir, orphelinat, and couche, all of which seem to me to be more advanced, and none of which get defined.  (The word orphelinat is obscure enough that it actually appeared in a previous post on this blog.)  However, since the whole thing is transcribed, it’s not difficult to identify words that even as a more advanced speaker, you might not know, and to then look them up elsewhere.

echassiers n549526613_1699868_8418
Échassiers in Togo. Picture source:
  • l’échassier (n.m.): wading bird; tall, skinny person
  • la fanfare: brass band; fanfare
  • investir: to flood (several other meanings)
  • l’orphelinat (n.m.): orphanage
  • la couche:  social class (several other meanings)

Tout commence par la traditionnelle parade.  Des centaines de personnes suivent échassiers et marionnettes géantes au son de la fanfare.  Pendant quatre jours, les artistes investissent les quartiers, les orphelinats, les villages alentours.

Everything starts with the traditional parade.  Hundreds of people follow stilt-walkers and giant puppets to the sound of the brass band.  For four days, artists flood the neighborhoods, the orphanages, the surrounding villages.

On permet aux couches défavorisées, à toute personne sans distinction, de pouvoir vivre la culture…

This lets the disadvantaged classes, every person without distinction, to be able to live the culture…




6 thoughts on “Resources for learning French: 7 jours sur la planète”

  1. One of the downsides of using films and TV is that there are so many words learners would never think of using. But the advantages win out. I train my students to disregard (and not even search out) words they absolutely don’t recognize. En passant, a great resource for higher level learners of English are Ted Talks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally see your point for a beginner. Once you pass the beginner point, though, structured vocabulary acquisition gets a lot tougher–Zipf’s Law is a real thing for language learners. At that point, media like the news, films, etc. get really useful. My take on the news in particular is that presumably you want to know the vocabulary for the things that are part of your life, and to the extent that the news is part of your life, then newspapers, BFMTV, and the like are a way to get exposed to the vocabulary that the people around you are going to be using to talk about it.

    Your point about being able to tolerate not knowing a certain number of words is an excellent one, and one which I found quite counterintuitive before I was exposed to it. My experience with this: I recently took a French theater class in the US through the Alliance. The whole thing was centered around Molière’s Tartuffe. Preparing for the class, of course I tried to read the play. It was agonizingly slow going! I was looking up every single word that I didn’t know, and it was taking me forever. At the first class meeting, the prof said not to do that. His point: you’re going to understand the language of Molière about as well as you understand the language of Shakespeare. (For context: everyone in the class was an educated native speaker of English. As typical native speakers of English, we can mostly understand Shakespeare, but we definitely do not understand every word.) So, read through it, absorb as much of the feel of it as you can, and just look up the words that are really preventing you from getting the sense of it. He was soooo right. Once I adopted that attitude, I was able to cruise through the play pretty quickly, and I LOVED it!

    Another good thing to listen to for American English in particular is podcasts of the radio program This American Life. The shows are typically quite absorbing, and you can get transcripts for free on line. (WordPress won’t let me include a URL.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with your cruise through method above. This is how read French and I can grasp a story pretty well this way. For a learner at my stage, though, it’s not just about vocabulary and conjugating verbs but sentence structure and phrasing etc ( a classic issue I have is WHERE DOES THE ADJECTIVE GO!!,)

    Liked by 1 person

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