Le Best of French Cinema

August 13, 2010 by Stephanie Engelsen
Category: Culture

french cinemaIt’s summertime. That means happy-go-lucky, action-packed, bigger-than-life Hollywood films. If you’re looking for something different and a way to practice another language (or get good at reading subtitles), regardez (watch) these films in French, among my favorites of le cinéma français.  They take you away from the special effects and saccharine happy endings that riddle summer blockbusters, and invite some depth and beauty into the summer.

"Le grand bleu" (The Big Blue) 1988
You’ll never stare out into the ocean again and not think of this film. Two boyhood friends compete with one another for the world free-diving championship. Stars Jean Reno, Jean-Marc Barr and Rosanna Arquette and directed by Luc Besson (also know for "La femme Nikita", another great French film). An extremely poignant, often funny and unforgettable film, despite the dated 80s synthesizer music.

"Le goût des autres" (The Taste of Others) 2000
Directed by Agnès Jaoui, this movie creeps up on you. Wham, at the end you’re floored by its subtlety and truthfulness. An unappealing man falls for his charming, popular female opposite, yet the tables imperceptivity turn by the film's end. A movie about human nature and the whims of attraction.

"Le Football" in Cameroon

June 14, 2010 by Stephanie Engelsen
Category: Culture

world cup 2010For a country that ranks 153rd out of 180 countries in the United Nations  Development Program’s Human Development Report, Cameroon tends to be the unknown country on the African continent. Its population isn’t wealthy by any means, but it’s not the poorest country on the continent either. The country is not in the news due to a civil war or a coup d’etat, but it’s not an African “success” story either. It’s just another western/central African country struggling to get by. That’s why le football is such a lifeline. It’s a way for this country to feel proud about itself and get its name out onto the world stage.

When Cameroon lost today 0 – 1 to Japan in the biggest upset yet in the World Cup, Cameroonians lost a little bit of hope and self-esteem as well. Le Football is the great equalizer. Anyone and everyone plays no matter their gender, religion, tribal affiliation, or poverty level.

French Goes Global - On Its Own Terms

April 29, 2010 by Stephanie Engelsen
Category: "Spot" on Language, Culture

france-globalizationEvery few years, French purists talk about the supposed decline and fall of the French language. Then there's a vain attempt to ban words like le t-shirt or le weekend. This language patriotism tends to coincide with elections, anti-immigration initiatives, non-conformist music fads (i.e. French-Arabic rap), and anytime France falls into a periodic malaise.

A malaise is going on right now fueled by a stark economic crisis, decline in global superiority and influence, lack of popular support for the government, and fundamental, yet unavoidable, changes to a way of life that has persisted for centuries.

Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times writes about this latest crise of identity and language in the midst of a world that's going global. And the French are going global with it — kicking, screaming and throwing their exception-riddled subjunctive tense into the poubelle.

Let It Rain – The Fulbe Language of Northern Cameroon

Let’s talk weather — a topic that is neutral and relevant to everyone. In many parts of Africa, the weather dictates people’s livelihoods and determines how much food will be for dinner. So it makes sense that many African languages place additional emphasis on words and expressions related to Mother Nature and all her whims.

speakers of fulbe in cameroon

This is true for Fulbe, the language of the nomadic Fulani people of Central and West Africa. The 27 million Fulani live in the arid, sparsely populated countryside spanning from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east.

In northern Cameroon, Fulfulde is actually the lingua franca; non-Fulani also speak it on a daily basis. With over 200 tribal languages in Cameroon, a unifying, local language emerged along with the official languages of English and French. Fulfulde became the dominant language in the north, just as pidgin English became the dominant language in the country’s western areas.

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