Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Children's Games

Let me tell you a little more about what I'll be doing come the 7th September. I'm going to be looking after two girls aged 2 and 4, from a bilingual family - the mother is from New Zealand and the father is from France. Great for me as I get to talk to the girls in English but in general the family talk French so I'll get plenty of opportunities to speak French while the parents will be on hand to help me with the transition from English to French.

My niece recently turned one and for her first birthday party my sister gave out party bags with old-fashioned style gifts in it, my mum got a book of hand shadows, and I got a cats cradle string/game thing. I used to love doing cats cradle when I was younger and I thought this would be a good thing to take with me to show the girls. I've also been practising hand shadows - there's some brilliant ones, things like Mother Hubbard and a jester.

A witch's broom!

These got me thinking about other things I could take to entertain the girls so I've been looking at my favourite childhood books and games. Some of my favourites were the Angelina Ballerina books, which I guess everyone's heard of, and the Katie Morag books. I don't know if these were as popular but my sisters and I loved them. They were about a little Scottish girl who lived on an island in the Hebrides with her aunt and uncle. I think the Katie Morag stories probably is a little bit responsible for my love of Scotland, with it's wild stormy pictures and exciting adventures! You can read all about it here:

Any suggestions about how to keep young children entertained would be gratefully received, although if Team America is anything to go by, all French children do is go around singing 'Freres Jacques' all the time so I won't need to do much else...

Monday, 16 August 2010

The French Suburbs

In less than 3 weeks, I am moving to Paris to be an au pair for the year. I'm going to be living in the western suburbs. I thought I would start a blog to help me record and remember my experiences, so bear with me while I learn the art of 'blogging'.

Having not spoken French since I learned it at GCSE 6 years ago, I am - understandably I think - a little nervous. But I keep being reassured by everyone that I will 'pick it up in no time'. I hope they are right. I can't remember much from my GCSE years, but the two phrases that have stuck with me and I have used to amuse my family ever since are oui c'est vrai - yes that's right, and l'année dernière je suis allé en France avec mes amis - last year I went to France with my friends. Unfortunately I'm not sure how useful I'm going to find these so I better get learning.

Last night, to help me on my way to improving and understanding French, my sister made us watch 'La Haine', a French film about 3 friends - a Jew, an Arab and an African - who live in the French suburbs, the banlieues. It's about the riots and the relationship the banlieues residents have with the police and the terrible corruption there is in the French police. I've been hearing a lot about this film from my French studying friends who are fascinated by the French slang used in it. A couple of examples of the slang which I find amusing are Ta mère elle suce des schtroumpfs which means your mother sucks smurfs, and in another scene an old man emerges from a toilet declaring Ça fait vraiment du bien de chier un coup - that feels good to have a shit! A long departure from the romantic language most people associate with French! I think it will be a long long time before I will be able to understand, let alone speak French like in 'La Haine'.

There is also a great scene where a DJ pumps out a remix of 'Sound of the Police' with 'Je ne regrette rien' across the estate:


For those who have seen 'La Haine', don't worry, the suburbs I'll be in are nothing like the suburbs in 'La Haine'. It's a pretty respectable area, I should be safe.