Want to Test Your Language Progress?

You’re making progress with your language acquisition and feel like you’re grasping it better. However, you’re running out of ideas to keep the learning fresh and you’re fed up of taking mini tests and quizzes.

There is a way.

Take a scene from a film you know extremely well (remembering the dialogue will make the task easier); best to use Youtube because then you can easily replay the scene. Pretend you’ve been tasked with providing subtitles in your chosen language. Grab a dictionary, grammar book and notepad: it should be challenging enough to keep you interested. If you struggle to find ways to translate, then you know you have a long way to go.

I used this scene from Suite Francaise and did well up until a certain point. It showed me that I could translate easier sentences/every day phrases but had gaps in my vocab. Then there’s the enjoyment of watching favourite scenes repeatedly (for educational purposes, of course * wink *).

Give it a go!

The “I’ve Forgotten My French!” Survival Post

Consider this like Regaine, only instead of it stimulating hair, we’re going to re-grow your French. Regaine for False-Beginners.

The French is there still, buried inside your memory, you just need to find ways to draw it back out. There is hope. You just have to overcome the block that is making you feel like returning to your old ability is impossible. Et voila:


Je Sais Pas, Celine Dion. This doesn’t have English subtitles, but an English version exists so you’ll get the gist (although the lyrics deviate from each other, somewhat).

Mea Culpa, Enigma. A hypnotic track using chanting, Mea Culpa contains some interesting sentences that may stick.

Sadeness Part 1, Enigma. OK, so Latin features more prominently in this song, however it’s a great way to ease your way in, starting with a few repeated sentences in French. It’s a great song to relax to, so you hardly feel like you’re listening for the sake of it. This particular video contains the lyrics in Latin, French (and Polish) with the English translation.

Disney in French! Find the songs on Youtube, close your eyes, and enjoy the beautiful, stylish French lyrics. The best part is, you’ll enjoy them so much that you won’t feel like you’re trying to study.


Mafiosa, 2006. For UK citizens, it’s currently available on 4OD. Set in Corsica, a female barrister becomes head of the clan when her uncle dies, which causes much discontent in the ranks. Occasionally some Italian is spoken which is a bonus. If you are watching via 4OD, subtitles are attached to the video so, if you want to test your listening skills, you’ll have to ignore them. It’s 5 series long, which is plenty of immersion.

No Second Chance, 2015, Netflix. A doctor wakes from a coma to find that her husband is dead and her baby daughter is missing. Very twisty-turny, so it’s best to watch with subtitles even though lack of subs would be beneficial.

Divines, 2016, Netflix. A surprisingly magical find on Netflix, Divines takes you on a journey of a young woman with dreams to escape her life and make it rich as a wannabe gangster.

Scout your DVD/Blu ray collection. There’s a chance that many have French either as a subtitle option or, if you’re lucky, the dub. Be brave, select French early so that your menu is in it as well. Get used to seeing French in different situations. You know the plot already, so turn off the subtitles and just get lost in the language.


The best way is to start with familiar stories, so that you can focus on testing how much language you remember. The French edition of Macbeth is free for the ebook version and extremely affordable in paperback. Or perhaps bilingual books with short stories.

The Rocket French Quick-Start Guide. Another free resource, this resource is a little heavier on the discussion side, nonetheless it does ease you in.

French Self Taught, Franz J. L. Thimm, Archive. This is ancient (OK, very ancient), but it’s free and offers endless vocabulary. There is also an audiobook version on Youtube. The book just cuts out explanations and you dive straight into sentences and verb tenses. It’s worth copying them down repeatedly in order for you to get your worth.


Memrise French Course. The most important resource because, wait for it, it helps you Mufasa Voice remember. This will drill vocabulary into you until you’re hearing the audio tracks when you go to sleep. Sessions are timed, which is excellent as it forces yourself to work harder. You’re also pitted against other users; if you’re a competitive person then this is your calling.

Duolingo French Course. Use this in combination with Memrise, as its focus on grammar and translation will complement the latter. It’s not timed so you can take your time, and the Discussions section offers further support. To really test what you remember, you can try the English for French speakers by switching. Note: this discussion.

Read newspapers like Le Monde or watch news broadcasts online. They offer short bursts of information which shouldn’t be too taxing. French radio stations are also a (daunting) way to try to tune your ears to native level speaking.

In addition, snoop around for some French-speaking celebrities. Serena Williams has a few videos of interviews on talk shows as well as the French Open. There is even a hilarious one where she’s outed as a Rafael Nadal fangirl. Because she is a learner, her pacing might be more attractive. If you’re feeling really brave, try native speakers such as Marion Cotillard and Lily-Rose Depp. At least that way you’ll be interested. If you’re feeling geeky, try to write down what they say to compose a profile on them.

Finally . . . :

Invent scenarios which stretch your vocabulary and encourage you to use everyday phrases (flashcards if you don’t feel like writing a lot). If you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, maybe even labelling furniture in your house so that when you spot them, you immediately associate the sight with the names in French. That’s if you don’t irritate the people you live with.

It’s going to take time, but with the right attitude and motivation, you can regain what you used to know.

Featured Image by Alex Borland.

Disparue/The Disappearance – Review (No Spoilers)

Disparue (2015) is the French adaptation of the original Spanish version Desaparecida, so the trail expands. I haven’t yet seen the original Spanish version; I can’t comment on the similarities and differences. Hopefully, though, BBC 4 will continue to gift us European dramas that rival our own in terms of acting and production values.

Disparue 2
Lea Morel

Just-turned 17-year-old Léa Morel has disappeared on her birthday in her home city of Lyon, having attended a concert. Her brother Thomas (Maxime Taffanel) and cousin Chris (Zoé Marchal) left with her yet neither claim to know what transpired. At first Léa’s absence is dismissed as just teenage antics: she’ll return after she’s enjoyed herself, family and friends rationalise. Her mother Florence (Alix Poisson), as most mothers are, is beyond such thinking as her maternal instinct is buzzing. She knows something terrible has happened and seems the only one willing to accept it. Léa’s father Julien (Pierre-François Martin-Laval) is strangely blasé when Florence first notices that Léa hasn’t returned in the early hours of the morning. Granted, some of us are extremely groggy/like our sleep, but still. It’s rather suspicious. They both embark on a mission to locate her, following tidbits from the youngsters as to where Léa might be. “Oh, by the way, Léa has a secret boyfriend”. That’s the gist of how it’s presented during Chris’ questioning. The beginning of many “oh by the ways” to come regarding their daughter. It’s only when Léa completely misses her birthday celebrations at home, does the family realise that Florence’s worrying is justified.

Disparue 1
Commandant Bertrand Molina

Enter our detective: Bertrand Molina (François-Xavier Demaison). New in town. Blunt. Serious. One must be to be in charge of such operations in the police force. When asked how he’s finding Lyons, he replies rather unenthusiastically ‘It’s ok’. Regardless of his distant nature: he has arrived just in time to save the day. He also drives a motorbike and wears black which instantly makes him cooler, naturally. Molina only lightens up his stern demeanor as he awaits his daughter’s exit from her school, only to watch her reject his phone call. Lyon’s teenagers are not presenting themselves in such a good light – accurate, yes – but they sure have their parents dangling on tenterhooks for some communication.

Molina’s questioning of Léa’s relatives subjects the audience to a merry-go-round of potential suspects. Everyone looks equally guilty and suspicious of having something to do with her disappearance. This is an excellent device by writers to maintain the pace and suspicion throughout the entire series. Is it the father? Is it her brother? Uncle? Cousin? Secret-now-not-a-secret boyfriend? Teacher? An unseen enemy? As we and the police officers place the suspects under intense scrutiny, Léa’s little sister Zoé reminds us all of innocence lost through this incident. The family cushioning her throughout the investigation is difficult to watch at times, especially as she constantly wonders where her sister is. The little sister is arguably the one who will be most affected by the disappearance.

Special mention goes to supporting character Camille Guérin (Alice Pol), Molina’s second-in-command. She offers a variation in comparison to the other characters; a bit of relief without the laugh-out-loud comedy. Her compulsion to eat during anxious moments endears us to her. Additionally, she balances out Molina: both offer objective perspectives to each other’s respective suspicions during the investigations.

Disparue does well to introduce you to the character of Léa before the suspects are lined up. As the police probe more into Léa’s life, her parents discover that they knew more about her after the disappearance than before. Disparue doesn’t pretend to be anything but itself. It doesn’t try to compete with the more famous dramas, but that’s the beauty of it: it focuses on remaining consistent rather than trying to be gimmicky.