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24 September 2014
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Cinq Jours En Juillet

A tree and a house in the Normandy countryside
Shades of green

Cinq Jours en Juillet

By Chris Bennett
Learning French is easier than you might think - and there is much to be gained if you make the effort. We took a five day trip into the heart of Normandy to give ourselves a crash can hear what happened here....

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A monkey held in someone's hands
Un singe. Ou est l'arbre ?

Now, I have one abiding memory of the kind of French that I was taught in school.

It's the phrase: 'Le singe est dans l'arbre'. Which means 'The monkey is in the tree'.

I've considered using it on several family holidays into our nearest cross channel neighbour, but, while there have often been arbres in the near vicinity, there have seldom been singes.

And there have never been singes in arbres, so I have yet to vault the language barrier in a convincing style.

Now, all of that seems pretty ridiculous. After all, the pleasures of France are great and varied. Start with the food - cheeses, wines, ciders - that great culinary landscape of cuisine.

Consider the pleasures of a cafe creme, maybe with a small heart-starting cognac, in a small cafe. Or take in the huge and varied regions of France; there's a bit more to La Belle France than there is on this small and sometimes rather crowded island.

So Cinq Jours en Juillet - Five Days in July - set out to prove that you can get a good grip of the language in just a few days. We linked up with Gordon Astley's Mid Morning Show on BBC Southern Counties Radio and asked the listeners to set my co-presenter Heather Driscoll a different task every day.

They obliged, in spades. First we put her through a basic but still faintly Foreign Legion style Language course with her long-suffering teacher, the marvellous Madame Jackie. On the next day she was told to go and order a drink in a cafe. Nice. Or bon!

A house in France
La maison

Then she was asked to hire a bicycle and ask for directions to Paris. Faintly complex, but still achievable. Then - and I'm not really sure where this came from - she was ordered to buy a teddy bear, cause it to suffer a terrible accident and then take it back for repair.

Finally, Heather got the dream ticket that she had been waiting for - a trip to buy perfume, have her nails given a one thousand mile service and then a few slightly nerve-wracking minutes in the hairdressers.

You will be able to hear how she got on by following the audio linksin this page.  Video follows soon - so you can get a flavour of what you're missing if, like some of us, you have never broken open the piggy bank and paid to get over the channel to the other side.

And if you see a singe dans l'arbre, let us know, will you?

last updated: 27/09/06
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