Lingua Franca | Award-Winning French Lessons Brisbane

French lessons, events & trips




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NEW! French book club. Are you a lover of la lecture*? This could be great for you.

Term 3 starts the week of the 10th July. Book your spot now.

We still have a couple of spots left for our October Akaroa trip, so if you're keen on yacht cruises, Pohatu penguins and world-class cooking schools, just let us know. We'd love you to come.

Don't forget our free monthly Meetup events. Talks in a a mixture of French and English on an aspect of French culture.

Are you counting down the days to Le Festival? We are, and hope to see you there. It's shaping up to be a great year.

Celebrate La Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) by attended an event ou deux* during La French Week. More info here.

Our conversation classes run all year. Thirty minutes, a maximum of four in each class.

Did you miss this month's My French Story, featuring our very own student, Clinton Hanney? Read his touching, funny and romantic tale here.


*reading | *or two





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C'est vrai*, curfew is an English word, but did you know it has French origins?

Curfew originates from Middle French and is a mix of two words: the verb couvrir (to cover) and the noun feu (fire).

For the real intellos* out there, the word dates from the early 14th century and was originally, in Old French, cuevrefeu. Cuevre is the imperative form of the verb covrir, which later became couvrir as we know it today.

So why were the French being told to couvre-feu*? Well, it seems William the Conqueror, or Guillaume le Conquérant, the first Norman King of England, was to blame. Also known as Guillaume le Bâtard*, perhaps he was just a huge killjoy who wanted everyone safely tucked into bed by a certain heure*? In fact, his bastard moniker referred the fact that he was the son of Robert Le Magnifique* (imagine having such a great name?) and his maîtresse*, Arlette de Falaise, not that he was just a big old rabat-joie*.

In fact, demanding that townspeople return home to deaden or cover up their fires (not necessarily extinguish them) at the ringing of an 8pm bell served two purposes for William. Prohibiting the use of live fires after the curfew bell was used as a repressive measure to prevent rebellious gatherings of the conquered English. But clever William was able to pass this off as concern for his fellow citizens. Since most houses at the time were made of timber and particularly susceptible to fire, being forced to cover them at the ringing of the bell greatly reduced the risk of incendies*. Malin, non?*


*It's true | *brain-boxes | *cover-fire | *William the Bastard | *hour | *Robert the Magnificent | *mistress | *party pooper | *fires | *Clever, eh?



Photo credit: Shopstyle

Photo credit: Shopstyle

I think we can all agree that les pompes* in the above photo are sérieusement sexy*.

So how did the French expression ‘to be beside your pumps’ come to denote a rather unsexy state of mind?  And why are you beside your pompes and not in them?

As you may know, the French word for shoes is chaussures*. The word pompes came about in the 19th century as a slang word for shoes, allegedly since their flimsier construction let water in via the soles, thereby turning them into little suction pumps (pompes aspirantes).

Since shoes are associated with walking, and therefore the idea of direction, it stands to reason that if you’re not walking in your pompes, but to the side of them, you’re not exactly focused. It describes the idea of doing something without thinking, of not being in the moment, of there being a décalage* between thought and reality. A more dramatic definition describes an angoisse existentielle*, or a difficulty in adapting to the real world.

In English, we have many ways of expressing this idea, though none possibly as evocative as être à côté de ses pompes. We talk of ‘not being with it’, or ‘being out of sorts’ or even ‘being away with the fairies’. Come to think of it, that’s a lovely expression! 

The word pompe is a useful little word. Here are some other meanings:

les pompes = push-ups

  • Mon entraîneur fait 200 pompes avant d'arriver à la salle de sport.
  • My trainer does 200 push-ups before he gets to the gym.

avoir un coup de pompe = to have wave of tiredness

  • Oh là, j’ai un coup de pompe. Je vais faire une petite sieste.
  • Wow, I’m suddenly really tired. I’m going to have a little nap.

être une pompe à fric = to be a money pit

  • Ce bateau est une vraie pompe à fric.
  • That boat is a real money pit.

lâcher les pompes = to leave someone alone

  • C’est ma décision, alors lâche-moi les pompes!
  • It’s my decision, so get off my back!

*pumps | *seriously sexy | *shoes | *gap | *existential anguish





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

Next up in classes? Speaking Practice starts this coming week - alors ne tardez pas*!

We are running two great little workshops during the June/July school holidays.

Term 3 starts the week of the 10th July. Book your spot now.

Our October Akaroa trip is filling up fast. If you're keen to come, please let us know ASAP. A $500 deposit will secure your booking. We'd love you to come.

Don't forget our free monthly Meetup events. Talks in a a mixture of French and English on an aspect of French culture.

Katrina will be running a Masterclass on asking questions at the end of June. For high intermediate/advanced students only, classes are limited to six participants. 

Enrolments are open for the June DELF intake.

Our conversation classes run all year. Thirty minutes, a maximum of four in each class.


*so don't delay





Even if you've not yet made it to the town itself, it is nevertheless almost guaranteed you've bought the spa town's most famous export: Evian water. 

Located on the banks of Lac Léman* in the Haute Savoie region and a truly stunning 35-minute ferry ride from Lausanne in Switzerland, Evian-les-Bains is a high-end spa town. Past visitors have included the Lumière brothers (pioneers of French cinema), Marcel Proust, King George V of England, François Mitterand and King Farouk of Egypt. Since 1994, the best female professional golfers from around the world have descended upon Evian for the prestigious Evian Championship, held in September of each year.

The French have had a longstanding interest in the curative powers of spring water, dating back to Napoleon's first French Republic. So much so, in fact, that in 1807 a scientist was despatched to analyse the waters of the region. Deeming them sufficiently pure, the construction of linking infrastructure followed soon after and before long a booming spa town was born. The town of Evian was so synonymous with water than in 1859 its name was changed to Evian-les-Bains to capitalise on its popularity for those seeking le cure*.

With this rise in popularity came the need for more and more hotels, and in 1909 the most luxurious of them all was constructed: l'Hôtel Royal Evian (pictured). Set on 47 acres of wooded grounds, the hotel comprises 150 chambres*, three restaurants, a La Prairie spa (if there's a heaven, I hope it's this), four tennis courts and a ski-shop (naturellement*). Like most things in Evian, the hotel is owned by the multi-national food products company Groupe Danone (2015 turnover €22.4 billion), whose brands include Evian, Badoit, Volvic and Activia. Interestingly, Groupe Danone is dwarfed in financial terms by one of its neighbours just across the lake in Switzerland, Nestlé S.A., whose 2015 turnover was a touch shy of €250 billion, ten times that of Danone's.

Alors voilà*, yet another French village* to add to your list of destinations.

Fun fact: in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein spends the first night of his lune de miel* in Évian. Sadly (and a lot less romantically) he is unable to prevent his monster from strangling his new wife Elizabeth.


*Lake Geneva | *thermal therapy | *rooms | *naturally | *So there you go | *village | *honeymoon



les crottes de chien

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Those of you who are regulars at our nid* here in Newstead, Brisbane, will be aware that the walls are not exactly perfectly soundproofed. You'll often hears bursts of laughter coming from neighbouring rooms and occasionally even your name being mentioned (which can be a bit disconcerting...).

This week, however, was especially interesting. Elsa and I were beavering away in one room, while another of our tutors, Charlotte, was taking a conversation class with two of our lovely students next door. The lesson started off conventionally enough, with Charlotte asking 'Est-ce que vous avez déjà trouvé de l'argent dans la rue?* Elsa and I smiled and then went back to our work, becoming engrossed in our respective tasks. About ten minutes later, however, both of our heads snapped up as we heard 'caca'*, 'crotte'*, 'chien'* and finally 'quoi?'* in rapid fire and then Charlotte's laughter as she was cornered into delivering Scatologie 101* to our curious students.

It appears the conversation had turned from finding money in the street, to finding chewing gum on the bottom of your shoe and then, perhaps inevitably, to finding les crottes de chien - dog poo.

We've all heard disparaging remarks about les crottes de chien on the streets of Paris but the veracity of such criticism is in debate.  So what do we know?

  • There are approximately 17 dogs for every hundred people in France, a figure significantly above the 10% worldwide average for dog ownership.
  • Many hotels offer a separate rate for dogs (in the order of €10/night)  and not only are dogs welcomed in many restaurants, in some they are even able to take a seat at the table.
  • Approximately 600 Parisians are hospitalised every year from injuries sustained from slipping on les crottes.
  • In 1982 Jacques Chirac brought in specialised vehicles called moto-crottes* in order to deal with the problem. These were phased out in 2002 in favour of a new law allowing fines of up to €500 for dog owners who fail to clean up after le meilleur ami de l'homme*
  • There's an app for it! Bye Bye Crottoir* allows users to put out alerts as to the location of fresh crottes in the hope that authorities will then come along and clean them up. 

It is said that the difference between tourists and true Parisians is that while tourists spend their time looking around them at the beauty as they traverse the streets of the city, locals have their eyes fixed firmly on the trottoir*, ever vigilant for an errant crotte.

However, the last word on this belongs to Charlotte, our tutor, who was heard telling her students the upside to this whole story. "In France it is actually considered good luck to step in a crotte with your left foot".  So there you go, a porte-bonheur* with a difference.

PS This is why I love my job: in order to write this entry, I turned to to get to grips with the exact meaning of the word crotte. I literally laughed out loud when I got to crotte d'œil*. I may have an infantile sense of humour but it made my day.


*nest (our office) | *Have you ever found money in the street?" | *poo | *turd | *dog | *what? | *Scatology 101 | *dog poo | *lucky charm | *but why? | *poo buggies | *man's best friend | *a porte-manteau word mixing crotte (dog poo) and trottoir (pavement) | *pavement | *lucky charm | *eye booger


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Do you know who this is? If so, contact us and let us know. The first person to respond with the correct answer will win une bouteille de vin*.

*a bottle of wine



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If you're a student of French, I sincerely hope you've had the luck to experience a moment when for some reason, all of a sudden ça fait tilt*. As a lover of language, there's nothing I like more than when a word I've been using unthinkingly all my life takes on a whole new relevance thanks to my studies.

Take the example of the English word 'vinegar' for example. Have you ever paused to ponder its provenance? Probably not, I would venture.

However, when you look at the French word for it, vinaigre, it really does make a lot of sense. Most of you know the French word for 'wine': vin. But do you know what aigre* means? Oui, c'est ça*: sour. So vinaigre = sour wine. C'est logique, non?*

A further dig into turns up these beauties:

  • tourner au vinaigre - to turn sour (literally and figuratively)
  • un pisse-vinaigre - a sourpuss/grump
  • On n'attrape pas les mouches avec du vinaigre - You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Again, j'adore mon travail*.


*something clicks | *sour | *Yes, that's it | * It makes sense, doesn't it? | *I love my job


Bernard l'hermite

We mentioned in a previous post that we are often asked by our beginner students to recommend children's books for purchase. Since we all learn in different ways, we thought this time we'd highlight un CD* instead. 

Bernard l'Hermite is a charming collection of French songs for children with an accompanying lyrics booklet. Brainchild of Kristel Latapie, owner of a music school near Montreux en Suisse, this is a really fun way to improve your vocabulary. And jeter un œil* at the video - c'est très mignon*.

Vous voulez* your own copy? Click here.


*a CD | * take a look | *it's very cute | *Do you want


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.