Lingua Franca | French lessons Brisbane

French lessons, events & trips


my french story | mon histoire française

bronwen norris

Photo: Bronwen Norris

Photo: Bronwen Norris

Growing up in Brisbane I never imagined I’d have a connection to France. So when I learned French in Year 8 it wasn’t something I took seriously as I never thought I would use the language. But the classes must have sparked something in me to be awakened at a later time. As a 20-something I took some French classes at TAFE and then enrolled at the Alliance française for a term, still not too sure why as I was saving for a house and the cost of travel to Europe was beyond me. 

And then having achieved my goals of a house and some career success I had time to think about what I wanted to do and Europe became a magnet. It still took me some time to convince my husband, Gray, that he would like holidaying in Europe and that he could spare that much time away from work but finally we took our first UK/Europe holiday in 2000. Gray was immediately taken by France and decided that life was for living. Since that time we have visited France most years and even managed to buy a small village house as our home away from home. 

Over the next few years I enrolled in French courses a few times but my French never seemed to progress beyond the basics. I was always nervous and it really felt like school all over again. Then I stumbled upon Lingua Franca and found their approach suited me, and my lifestyle, so much better. I’ve done various courses with them and this year I’m tackling the Diplôme d'Etudes en Langue Française (DELF B1) with a group of three others. 

The reason I love learning French is two-fold. Firstly, I grew up in 70s Queensland so amongst my cohort the fact I have a second language is a bit different and I like the fact that in the end living in such a remote country didn’t mean I had to be mono-lingual. Secondly, we’ve now had the place in France for 12 years and I just get such a kick out of seeing the looks on my French neighbours’ faces each time I return and the positive comments they make about my progress, particularly recently.

Learning French has also benefitted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For example I couldn’t have conceived that the mining company I was working for would acquire a French-speaking company and need people to ensure that all communications were correctly produced in both English and French. While my French wasn’t at a level at the time to do the actual translation work, I was able to help the software developers distinguish between a field into which one enters data and a field where cows chew their cuds. Handy indeed! 

on aime | we like

Quelle histoire

One of our lovely students brought back this charming petit livret* on Coco Chanel from a recent trip to France. We frequently have people ask us to recommend children's books as a starting point to reading French, which in theory sounds like a good idea. However, if you think of the average vocabulary of a five or six-year-old, it is quite extensive: they can ask for pretty much anything they want.  Therefore, children's books are often more difficult to read than one would expect. At the time of writing, we still haven't found a series of simple story books for learners of French. If you know of one, we'd love to hear about it.

This series by Quelle Histore, while not extremely simple, is great because they tell the story of a known figure, using illustrations help to flesh out the tale. While you're unlikely to understand every single word, with the help of a good dictionary (we recommend you'll be well on your way to reading your first French book.

Coco Chanel is just one of many mini-biographies produced by Quelle Histoire. Bonne lecture!*

*little book | *Happy reading!

DE QUOI? | say what?

REtournons à nos moutons | Let's return to our sheep

If I had a euro for every time I've pulled this one out in a lesson...

I love this French saying as it not only evocative but effective as well.

Our French lessons here at Lingua Franca are casual affairs. Of course, we want our students to learn, and we're happy to report they do, but with groups of like-minded people passionate about French as well as countless other topics, we can sometimes become side-tracked. 'Retournons à nos moutons' (which literally means 'let's return to our sheep' or more colloquially 'let's get back to the subject') is a gentle and amusing way to remind everyone to come back to the topic at hand - le français*.

Apparently the saying originated from a 15th century French play called La Farce de Maître Pierre Pathelin. It tells the story of five characters, each more dishonest than the next, and includes a courtroom scene where the accused is instructed by his lawyer to answer all questions directed at him by saying 'Baaa' in an attempt to have him declared mentally instable. Sounds très drôle* indeed.

*French | *very funny

COIN CULTURE | culture corner

le premier mai | The First of May

I hope you all have, or had, a lovely day on Monday, 1st May. For us here in Australia of course it is Labour Day, and the French, too, benefit from a jour férié* to celebrate the Fête du Travail*.

However, the French have a celebration the pre-dates the Fête du Travail by several hundred years: la Fête du Muguet* (pronounced mew-gay). So strong is the tradition of giving these delicate flowers to loved ones, that in 2013 the French forked out €31.8 million euros on them. The flowers are considered porte-bonheurs* and it is said you must give at least one sprig of lily of the valley every year. Quelle belle tradition.*

*public holiday | *Labour Day | *Lily of the Valley | *good luck charms | What a lovely tradition

le chouchou | teacher's pet

jessica white

Name/nom: Jessica White

Age/âge: 39

Level/Niveau: Intermediate Transition

LF: Jess, quelle est ta profession?

JW: I am an academic and a writer. I’ve published two novels and currently I have a postdoctoral fellowship to write about Georgiana Molloy, a nineteenth century West Australian botanist. I’m trying to use her story to raise awareness of environmental problems and climate change.

LF: Pourquoi tu étudies le français?

JW: I have a vision of living in Paris for a year to write a novel and shop in the boutiques, and to see the golden light of Provence. French is also très romantique!

LF: Ton mot préféré en français?

JW: Ah, that is a difficult question – there are so many beautiful words in French! I would say that my favourite word is papillon, which means ‘butterfly’. A number of native pea flowers in Western Australia were given the family name Papilionaceae because they look like butterflies.

LF: Est-ce que le français est difficile?

JW: I lost 75% of my hearing to meningitis when I was four which makes learning French quite difficult, mostly because the words are so soft and fluid (as opposed to Italian, the sounds of which are quite distinct, or sign language, which is fairly straightforward). However, deafness has never stopped me from doing anything, and my best French moments are when (usually after actually having done some homework!) I can finally understand what is before me on the page. It’s thrilling when everything falls into place.

LF: Quel est ton but?

JW: My goal is to read Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in the original. I love frocks, and some days when I come home and guiltily (and happily!) unwrap my latest purchase, I think that I must have been Emma Bovary in a former life.

LF: Merci Jess et bon courage!

JW: You’re welcome, LF!



"… you have created a prison called “The Wall”, which would be better called “Hell”. Some prisoners remain in fetters … and are unable to move. They excrete and urinate where they are … Some are placed on the chevelet*; many of them have lost the use of their limbs because of the severity of the torture … Life for them is an agony, and death a relief."

Now if that's not a sales pitch for Carcassonne tourism I don't know what is. 

Thankfully the Carcassonne of today extends hospitality far kinder than that described in the extract above from a letter written in 1285 to a Dominican inquisitor describing the conditions in the Inquisition Tower.

Sitting in the verdant valley of the Aude River in the region of Occitanie, the citadel was restored at the end of the 19th century and in 1997 it was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. According to some sources, it is the second-most visited French site after the Eiffel Tower, which either indicates the bloodthirsty history has been forgotten, or is the very reason for the city's continuing popularity.

A friend of ours has a lovely apartment situated close to the city which is available for rent. Please remember to mention Lingua Franca when you make your booking to receive le traitement de faveur*.

*an instrument of torture | *the full treatment



Don't forget our free monthly Meetup events

We now run 30-minute conversation classes  which you can book on an ad hoc basis.

Think you might prefer private lessons? Until the 25th May you can book a free trial to find out.

Enrolments are open for the June DELF intake.

The French Fest in beautiful Akaroa, NZ is on again and we'd love you to come.

Fan of le fromage? Come to our cheese tasting on the 19th May.

What's the most expensive property in French Monopoly? Come along to our French games afternoon to find out.