Le Mot du Jour

J’aime la langue française.

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Ce Blog est en Français partir d’aujourd’hui

1969 Dodge ChargerHier soir notre professeur de Français dit, “Le Français est un langue écrite.  Si ne pouvez pas l’écrire, vous ne pourrez pas le parler.”   Le même soir, j’ai fait ma première présentation orale.

J’étais vraiment très fier!

 

Quand j’avais seize ans je travaillais dans un cinéma. J’êtais un caissier. J’acceptais le paiement pour les billets et inspectais l’identification pour les filmes réservé aux personnes de 18 ans.

De plus grande importance il y avais les plaisirs que j’êtait apprendrait de mes amis. J’apprenais pour fumer de la cigarette, pour boire de la biére et de la vin, et j’ai rencontre ma premiere petite amie. Elle s’appelle Sandy, and aujour’dui elle est une infirmière a Kelowna.

Le cinema me payait trois dollars par huere, et j’croyais que j’était trés riche. J’ai âcheté un stéréo pour ma maison, et un stéréo huit-pistes pour ma voiture.

Ma voiture etais un mille neuf cent soixante-neuf Dodge Charger. C’etait trés vite, trés fort, et trés rouge. J’êtais rassemblé plusiers des contravention pour excès de vitesse.

Aujourd’hui je ne fume plus, je conduis plus lentement, et je suis marié, mais j’aime encore la vin.

Français vs 官话

Just a quick update.  To some degree our planning for the move to France has been derailed by an invitation to travel to China this summer.  Specifically we’ll be staying in Chengdu, with a side trip to Beijing.

All of which explains why I am simultaneously talking classes in French and Mandarin.  Or, more interestingly, I am finding that Mandarin is actually easier than French. (For me; your mileage may vary).

pinyinchart_1
Borrowed from chinesepod.com

Probably the biggest difference is that Mandarin is pretty much free of irregular verbs – that bane of every French student’s life.  All in all, thus far, it seems to be a sensible and reliable language with few surprises – except for being tonal. I won’t go into all of the fine points, but it helps a lot if you hold your mouth in a “Chinese” fashion while speaking.

French on the other hand requires you to hold your mouth like you’re sucking a lemon, and as far as I can tell there are exactly three verbs that are actually “regular.”   Still it’s going reasonably well both because I studied French in college forty+ years ago, and because I have a wife who is a dedicated and brutal study partner.

I’ll add to this later – after I’ve written my oral presentation for tomorrow’s class.

As for Mandarin, admittedly I’m still working with Pinyin and spoken versions. I am quickly realizing that I will need to learn at least a some characters to really know what I’m doing.

 

 

France vs Fake News

We all know that all politicians are terribly concerned about Fake News® and interference with elections.  Really, they tell us all of the time.  If you’re interested the Poynter Institute is now monitoring what various countries are doing to deal with the problem.

In Canada that means :

… a multi-pronged effort to combat misinformation ahead of elections in the fall.

… the government created a “Critical Election Incident Public Protocol” that will monitor and notify other agencies and the public about disinformation attempts. That task force will be led by five non-political officials and is an addition to a “rapid response mechanism” housed within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Second, the government called on social media platforms to do more to combat disinformation ahead of the election. The move comes in tandem with Bill C-76, legislation that aims to compel tech companies to be more transparent about their anti-disinformation and advertising policies.

Third, Canada announced it was giving $7 million to projects aimed at increasing public awareness of misinformation online.”

If you translate that from political-speak it basically adds up to a) we’ll watch really, really closely and b) and ask Facebook really, really nicely to do something.  I think we all know how well that will work.  Even with a robust “public awareness” campaign, or as it is also known “blame the end user for not being clever enough to tell “real” news from “fake” news.”

Meanwhile in France:

The law, which passed in November, provides a definition of “fake news”: “Inexact allegations or imputations, or news that falsely report facts, with the aim of changing the sincerity of a vote.” It’s designed to enact strict rules on the media during electoral campaigns and, more specifically, in the three months preceding any vote.

The legislation gives authorities the power to remove fake content spread via social media and even block the sites that publish it, as well as enforce more financial transparency for sponsored content, in the three months before election periods. That builds upon an 1881 law that outlaws the dissemination of “false news.”

The law contains three major provisions. First, a judge is authorized to act “proportionally” but “with any means” to halt the dissemination of misinformation before elections. For the judge to act, a specific request must be filed by political groups, public authorities or individuals. The judge “acts within a delay of 48 hours from the notification.”

Second, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be required to publish who has purchased sponsored content or campaign ads and for what price. That component takes a page from the United States’ Honest Ads legislation, which applies existing standards for TV and radio stations to social media.

And finally, the law grants the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA), the broadcasting regulator, new administrative and executive powers to ensure that platforms abide by the law. It will “publish a regular report” regarding the effectiveness of measures enacted by platforms. Additionally, the CSA can now “unilaterally” revoke the broadcast rights of TV and radio outlets operating on French territory who are found to work “under the control or influence of a foreign state” and “disseminate misinformation.”

Now let’s get this clear.  In France, right now, you can file a complaint about mis-information and a judge will decide on it within 48 hours.   And the broadcast regulator can shut down radio and TV stations that are controlled by foreign governments and spreading fake news.  I cannot conceive of that ever happening in Canada. Ever.

All of this speaks to a governmental culture that still see a role in making society better instead of just rolling over when any large corporation claims that regulation will hurt their bottom-line.

2019. We’re still planning the move

why-u-haul-orange-old-lv-trailerI see now that it’s been a number of months since this blog was updated – August in fact.  That’s not because we’ve stopped looking at France, but because life has suddenly become a little bit crazy.  In the course of a few months we had a dog pass away, a grandchild born, another dog pass away, and now find that our cat needs radio-isotope treatment for thyroid issues.  And I had cataract surgery.  And am having some success at building a paid writing career.

On top of that we’re closely watching the madness that is Brexit, the Gilets jaunes (or the Russian provocateurs behind them), the relative rates for the Canadian dollar, the Euro, and the Pound, property prices in Vancouver (dropping) , and of course Trump.

How do you plan when you’re living in end of empire chaos?

Still, it remains the case that nice houses in Normandy are a bargain, and France still retains strong unions, good healthcare, a dramatic sense of its national identity, and robust funding for the Arts.  Our second choice for a move, Britain, looks like it’s heading into some kind of self-propelled disaster, with no-one willing to admit that it is inconceivable that Brexit could be anything less that a horrible catastrophe.

So watch this space, or even better, become our first ever Patreon subscriber!

A Canadian to head Air France? Mais non!

Word is in that a former head of Air Canada has been hired to run Air France, whose previous CEO resigned after the airline’s unionized workers rejected an offer of a 1% pay rise after having compensation frozen for seven years.

Air France-KLM has been locked in a bitter dispute with unions over pay and working conditions since 2014. In autumn of 2015, the airline unveiled plans to slash 2,900 jobs as part of a restructuring programme, including some 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots, sources said at the time.

The stand-off quickly reached a fever pitch with the infamous shirt-ripping incident in October that year, when around 100 employees angry over job cuts stormed a meeting, causing Air France executives to flee. Two had their shirts torn to shreds and were forced to scale a fence to escape the mob, photos of which went viral.

Air France boss without shirt

All of this is amazing from a Canadian perspective.  First there is the idea that unions are strong enough, and militant enough, to force the resignation of the big boss.  Second is the suggestion that they also don’t feel a great need to compromise with the employer.

Third is the remarkable story of union members crashing a board meeting and causing enough of a ruckus to actually frighten the managers into running away.

Even more amazing, “In a joint statement, nine unions objected to the appointment of a foreigner, citing the need for a CEO that will pursue “our national airline’s interests“.

Union fears were exacerbated by French media reports that Smith was seeking a remuneration package worth €4.25 million ($4.8 million), or three times that of his predecessor.

Yes, there is actually a suggestion that executive pay should reflect some reasonable amount, not just “how much do you have?”

Beyond that, does Air France really want to sink to the level of Air Canada?  To be the airline of last resort?  To be the airline that all of France chooses only if there isn’t a foreign competitor?   It’s all very sad, especially when you consider that this is an airline that once flew the Concorde.

 

France is Moving Forward, And Canada?

French feministsEvery once in a while something happens that makes me take stock and question why I’m living in Canada.  Every once in a while a government somewhere else does something simple yet important that for whatever reason I can’t see Canada’s government ever doing.  Our country is fine with commissions, and panels, and high-minded policy statements, and broad gestures like Trudeau’s “Because it’s 2018,” but terribly weak when it comes to actually doing the kind of simple, attainable, and obvious things that will  actually improve people’s lives.

An obvious example is the longstanding promise to provide First Nations communities with safe drinking water and housing that is equal to what we find in the suburbs of any city in Canada.  Both problems could have been solved in months if the will had been there to do it.   There are companies – Canadian companies – that build portable water processing plants.  You just haul it in by truck or helicopter, add a generator, and bang – clean drinking water.  It really is that simple.

There are companies that build pre-fab homes. Everything is assembled in a factory, and then the house is delivered by truck in three or four house-trailer sized chunks.   It’s fairly affordable, the build quality is excellent, and it would be dead simple to do this for most First Nation communities.  So why don’t we do it?  Seriously, why don’t we?

What got me on this tangent was the news last week that France had made cat-calling illegal.  The law had been in the works for a while, but after one particularly nasty and widely YouTubed incident the Macron government was able to pass this into law almost immediately.  They didn’t spend years studying it, they didn’t appoint a panel, they didn’t try to find a mild and inoffensive (to assholes) compromise.  They just did it.

Conde Naste Traveler has a nice article about this, but a quick search will find any number of other stories.  I quote from that article:

Only a few days after a shocking video surfaced (and quickly went viral) showing a Parisian woman getting hit in the face by the catcaller she had reportedly just shut down, France has officially made catcalling and other street harassment punishable by law. Under the new law passed on Wednesday, sexual harassment on the country’s streets will now result in on-the-spot fines of up to €750 (about $871), according to Reuters.

“Harassment in the street has previously not been punished. From now on, it will be,” Marlène Schiappa, France’s secretary for gender equality and a primary architect of the bill, told Europe 1 radio on Thursday. “What’s key is…that the laws of the French republic forbid insulting, intimidating, threatening, and following women in public spaces,” she said.

I sincerely doubt that Canada will ever pass a law like this, even though a large part of our population would support it.  Actions like this take courage, and that seems to something that Canadian politicians lack.

So why are we moving to France?  A lot of it comes down to staying in a country that can’t even be bothered to provide safe drinking water, or moving to one that takes a serious stance in the battle to eliminate sexual harassment.