Travel Log, August 2014

Salut FrenchCrazyites!

Greetings from New York & Montrėal!

I'll be rolling out some new articles soon considering my layover is about 6 hours long. My hiatus was due to studying for a chemistry final as well as preparing to go to France. Today I'm on my way to CDG; then I shall spend some time catching up my family and friends before relocating to my apartment in Bourg-en-Bresse.

I wish you all the best luck with your French studies. If you're in the Lyon area within the next year and would like to meet me then email me at or message the FrenchCrazy Facebook page. I love meeting my readers in person.


John Elkhoury

The Neurological Advantages of Knowing a Second Language

The advantages of bilingualism spans beyond the ability to speak another language; most people fail to see this. Bialystok found that older bilinguals living in Canada were able to stave off the onset of dementia for 4.1 years. 4.1 years! Essentially, bilinguals are able to keep their mind sharper and younger than their monolingual counterparts.

Why is this?

Think about it; bilinguals rarely speak the wrong language to the wrong person. Through cognate research, we now know that when you have two languages, both of them are always online (active)!

Unimodal bilinguals need to constantly suppress and control which language they're using. A lifetime of doing this actually helps children and adults perform better on a range of tasks related to executive functioning and attentional control. Not only that, Bilinguals also show better metalinguistic skills and if you learn a language soon enough then you are able to distinguish more phonetic contrasts (which helps improves pronunciation). But that's not all, according to Erica Hoff (2012):
Some findings have suggested that living in bilingual environments fosters children's development of the ability to understand the intentions and knowledge of others (Akhtar & Menjivar, 2012).
That's pretty cool right? I doubt you've ever considered helping your brain when you signed up for French or Spanish in high school. So, the moral of the story: it's not too late to learn a language and benefit from the increased stimulation your brain receives. Go practice your French right now!

Additional References:
Akhtar & Menjivar, 2012; Bialystok, 2005, 2009; Bialystok & Feng, 2011; Bialystok, Craik, & Freedman, 2007; Wodniecka, Craik, Luo, & Bialystok, 2010.

Cheaply Visit and Travel to France

How to Travel to France Cheaply
The best way to practice your French and experience French culture is to venture abroad and see the beautiful country in person. However I've heard of people who spent THOUSANDS to visit France for a meager 7 to 10 day period. Ridiculous.

Here's how to travel cheaply to the land of cheese and wine. Keep in mind, I've been going to France every year since 2009 for a month or two at a time. It's more affordable than you think.

Bring a Friend or Companion
A cost effective way to save money is by sharing the experiences as well as the expenses. Although bringing a friend won't save you money on airfare or train tickets it does diminish the costs of lodging and food. Not to mention, you'll have a companion to always be there and take all of your goofy Facebook photos.

Cheap, Affordable Lodging is Easy
Stop dishing out hundreds on hotel prices! Couchsurfing, lets you crash at a person's home for free and it's a great way to save money while making a few new friends. If you're not that adventurous then you could rent a room or an apartment at airbnb for prices that embarrass hotels. Likewise use trivago, priceline, expedia, or kayak to compare hotel and hostel prices for the lowest rate. The price of a hostel is great for younger people; you might have to share a room, but you'll save.

Another way to stay in France is by exchanging your house or finding a job as an aupair for a pre-determined amount of time.

Make French Friends
One of the easiest ways to save money is to befriend locals and never be afraid to ask for help or information. If you don't have a set itinerary for the day then ask some natives what are some good, cheap ways to have fun in the area.

10 French Movies You Should See

Here are the top 10 French movies you must see at least once. All the movies are in French but subtitled versions exist if needed.

Let's kickstart our list with #10 and move down the line from there. Here is a YouTube playlist with all of the trailers, in order. Below this,  movie descriptions are presented mashing up my personal comments and the IMDB summary.

10. Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain IMDB: 8.5 )
This quirky movies follows the beloved Audrey Tautou as Amélie, a Parisian girl who finds love yet has difficulty getting along with others. The movie has a few unexpected twists and turns and is very popular with anglophones.

9. Le dîner de consIMDB: 7.7 )
Each week, Pierre and his friends organize what is called as "un dîner de cons". Everyone brings the dumbest guy he could find as a guest. Pierre thinks his champ -François Pignon- will steal the show. However after a series of events, things don't wind up going as planned.

8. La Môme (La Vie en Rose) IMDB: 7.7 )
This film follows the difficult life of revered French singer, Edith Piaf. Although condensing such an incredible life in 140 minutes is difficult, what they do include is substantial. Lastly Marion Cotillard does an excellent job acting.

7. Entre les mûrs (The Class)IMDB: 7.5 )
Teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau plays a version of himself as he negotiates a year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.

6. À la folie... pas du tout ! (He Loves me, He loves me not) (IMDB: 7.3 )
"A young woman who is in love with a married doctor becomes dangerous when her attempts to persuade him to leave his wife are unsuccessful. However, when things are seen from his point of view, the real situation becomes clear."

You may not see the ending coming ;)

French Texting Slang

Texting in French
Do you want a list of useful text message lingo or abbreviations? We've got you covered. In fact, this list is not just confined to texting because you may find some of this vocabulary on online forums or comment sections.

Just a word of caution, use texting slang sparingly, especially if you're a beginner because you should learn the appropriate way of writing French before you ruin it!

First we'll look at how SMS slang is created, and then we'll look at a modest list of words.

The Methodology
The easiest way to make texting slang is to simply remove unnecessary letters in French or combine series of numbers and letters to mimic how the intended word sounds.

slt jespr ktu va b1, j'T envoé 2 sms pk tu rep pa ?
Salut j'espère que tout va bien, je t'ai envoyé 2 SMS pourquoi tu (ne) réponds pas ?
Hey I hope everything is going well, I sent you 2 texts, why didn't you respond ?

Some Texting Slang
Keep in mind that text messages are not just composed of shortcut words but oftentimes they are a mixture of verlan and other colloquialisms as well. Nevertheless, the list below can help you decipher some texting slang.

How to Remember Vocabulary Better

– Ebbinghaus 

How can I remember French words more easily? Why do I keep forgetting all these verbs and important vocabulary? I've been studying neuroscience for the past few years and have stumbled upon some information that can certainly help ameliorate these problems. But first, it's story time!

In the early 1900's a researcher by the name of Ebbinghaus sought to find out how long he could retain a list compiled of thousands of nonsense syllables. In the first hour he saw a huge decline in stored information. It only took him 20 minutes to forget 40% of what he studied. Two days later that number increased to 70%. By time day 31 arrived he could still recall around 20% of the syllables, so he lost 80% of the initial material. Ebbinghaus' little experiment showed us that forgetting follows a non-linear pattern and despite you losing more information as time passes, you don't lose everything. His findings have been replicated and repeated over the years.

That's great John, but how is this useful for my French vocabulary?

Through deep encoding.


Shallow versus Deep Memory Encoding
Cognitive psychologists propose that we store information in a continuum which spans from a shallow to a more deep understanding. What does shallow encoding feel like? You'll find out right now.