Five Online English-French Translation Tools

Life is most certainly getting the way of my good blogging intentions, so here’s a quick post with links to some useful French translation sites. It’s by no means exhaustive – more a way of me keeping track of the list I have so far – and I’ll update it in future, when I have more time.

My Top Five English-French Translation Tools

Stabouli

https://www.stabouli.com

This is a new one to me but it looks interesting as it’s just an English-French translation tool. I haven’t had much chance to use it yet but I know that will change. With a few months of use behind me I hope to have some idea how it compares to other tools I’ve been using, nameley:

Reverso

http://www.reverso.net/text_translation.aspx?lang=EN

This is an excellent translation tool, far superior to Google, which really does come up with some dubious translations at times. Reverso also has an excellent dictionary, which gives context-based translations.

Google Translate

https://translate.google.fr

Google Translate is probably the least accurate but also the most convenient. Perhaps this is most useful in the web browser, allowing you to quickly translate a page from French (or any other language) into English. It’s not perfect but you can get the idea. If you’re using this for translation from English to French I recommend running your text through another translation tool as well and then cross-checking any differences. Google seems to simplify translation and doesn’t account for nuance. It’s the quick and dirty option.

Linguee

https://www.linguee.com/english-frenchL

Linguee is fantastic dictionary and als very useful for translating short phrases – definitely one of the best translation tools that’s out there given it takes context into account. There’s now a mobile app, which I’m yet to try out.

Cambridge Dictionary

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/translate/

Whenever James sees me using Google Translate he berates me for forgetting about the Cambridge Dictionary translation tool. This is his favourite. I use it as one of my go-tos for double-checking Google’s efforts.

 

 

 

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Vocab post about coughs and colds hijacked by coughs and colds! Splutter.

I had planned to get a post written and scheduled for tomorrow about coughs and colds but – wouldn’t you know – this week has been hobbled by them! Not all week. I’ve been a little distracted from my French learning this week thanks to an exciting new venture in the form of my new business, Languedoc 121 Tech, which will offer personalised home and small-business computer services and training. Most spare moments have been dedicated to that. The site’s not quite done but it’s getting there. If you hop over to take a look, please let me know what you think – both of the site and the concept.

But back to the cold. Actually, it’s a cough. Knowing I was in for a busy week I planned to work on this new post at some point today and then this evening. That was before my gorgeous little DS was up for a good few hours coughing his little lungs up. It was a wet, sticky cough in the night that had turned into a dry hack by the morning. He was a bit wheezy too and obviously, feeling under the weather, a proper little cling-on. No free time for me then.

What I have discovered though – and this is definitely something of a cultural inauguration – is the power of the suppository. We just don’t do those in the UK, except as a last resort but here and in most other countries in mainland Europe they’re just another method of administering medicine, no big deal. At the chemist to source something for DS’s cough – wanting to avoid another disrupted night, if possible – the dispenser persuaded me to buy a suppository called Coquelusédal. That’s what we normally use, she said. I wasn’t 100% sure I’d use them but for 4 euros, why not? I bought them. Then at ludothèque shortly after a couple of the mums commented on DS’s chestiness, prompting a recommendation the very same stuff: Coquelusédal. Oh yes, they agreed, it worked very well. I was on about 90% persuaded now. If it worked, why not. Better than a trip to A&E at 1am, right?

DS was shattered after a busy morning after his restless night the night before, so fell asleep on the way home. An hour later he woke up in a pretty bad way. His chest sounded really bad and he couldn’t stop coughing. He kept saying “poorly poorly” in the saddest little voice you’ve ever heard. I was thinking we’d be off to the doctor shortly. Time to try the Coquelusédal? James wasn’t keen but I’d done research while DS was asleep and discovered a few things about this particular medicine and suppositories in general.

One, it is an old herbal remedy typically administered for bronchial problems and asthma. The two active ingredients are Grindelia and Gelsemium. I’m a big fan of “old” remedies like this: two of the most effective medicines we use are J Collis Brownes and Gees Linctus. Sadly the latter is becoming harder to come by, which is a shame because it’s incredibly effective. (If you do ask over the counter for them, expect a sideways gaze from the pharmacist before they are handed over.)

Two, the reason it’s given anally not orally is because the compounds are harsh on the digestive system, so it’s not safe to give it orally, especially not to a child.

Three, suppositories are an incredibly effective way to get medicine into the system at home. Especially with a small child who will often resist. They work quickly as they are designed to melt at body temperature and are then rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. A mum online, whose child refuse oral medication, reckons a paracetamol suppository can bring a fever down in 15 minutes.

Armed with these factoids I informed James that I thought we should try it, despite his reservations (which concerned bodily autonomy, which I agreed with.) He agreed I could give one and if it made no difference, we’d bin the rest. So I administered my first ever suppository to a screaming, sobbing toddler. Following the instructions I’d read online, once I had some light on the situation it was pretty quick and easy (definitely not something to try and do in the dark!)

The result? Not 20 minutes later (and after one enormous poo) DS was transformed – an entirely different child. He was riding his bike again, talking, running around the room. And not coughing at all. Nothing. I was expecting it to work and was just happy that he was obviously feeling better again. James was surprised that it had worked so well – conceding that we would not be throwing them away after all.

And today, after giving him another before bed last night, he’s totally back to normal. There was some coughing in the night. We were awake for a while but today he’s got some colour again, no coughing, his breathing is fine. I’m sold.

So far winter is a hygge-fuelled knit fest

December was a busy month for me. With the run up to the Christmas there was extra shopping, crafting, and multiple trips to La Poste, in addition to a bunch of admin tasks I was determined to clear from my to-do list by the end of the year. Getting things done was in some ways greatly aided by a run of fairly bad weather – Manchester weather, by all accounts! Grey, windy, pretty cold, more often than not rain, plus a few days of snow. Because we’ve been cooped up a lot this month, I’m extra grateful to be in this warm and spacious house in this quiet and friendly hameau: this would have been a terrible year to come to France and rent that draughty little gite where we spent the winter last year. If we had, I think we’d be seriously considering coming back! Having a warm home for winter is so important here.

I think it’s because I’ve been feeling all cosy and hygge, that one of the many things that’s kept me busy this month has been knitting. I picked up my needles a few months ago, inspired to knit presents for some of Holly’s friends, starting with a hat pattern I thought would suit one of them. I decided to knit a test hat first using a spool of yarn I’d picked up for a song (£2) in a bargain bucket several years ago. I’ve always liked the colour of it but never really knew what I wanted to do with it but I thought it would work nicely with the Capucine pattern. And I’m sure it would have if only I was still capable of following a pattern correctly. I swear, something has happened to my brain since I last sat down to do some knitting and I lay the blame entirely on lack of sleep and general parenting fug, because somehow I managed to knit using both the wrong number of stitches and the wrong size of needles for the yarn resulting, not surprisingly, in a hat that was not quite the desired size. In fact it was considerably smaller; only just big enough for DS!

Undeterred (it’s powerful stuff this hygge) and feeling confident that I had figured out (albeit too late) what I’d done wrong I embarked on a second attempt. This time using the right number of stitches on the right sized needles. Except I managed to muck it up again. Introducing a hat suited only for the largest of heads. It’s huge! I haven’t bothered sewing the ends in as it’s I will repurposed it at some point.

img_1527

Capucine done badly: one too small, one too big!

But unlike the overwhelming urge to never ever make anything ever again that occurs after making mistakes with sewing, for some reason it just made me want to knit something else. Next came the bumblebee hat – a yellow and black version of the Luuk pattern, which had been on my to-do list for a while. Cute and pretty much to the pattern but sadly almost too small for DS. I did consider gifting it to a friend but I’m not sure I like it enough – plus the yarn’s not great for a baby, being of unknown origin from said bargain bin. So I keep putting it on DS. And he keeps taking it off. I the long run, that’s one for the Magasin Gratuit, I think.

KnittedLuukHat

A Luuk Hat for Sam – “Bumblebee”

Still not ready to quit, my mum and I reached for the needles to knit socks. It was snowing. We had no Internet. My kids only had thin socks for their wellies. So we sat by the fire and knitted. It was very hygge but, sadly, not very productive. As I didn’t have the right sized needles I made mine on slightly smaller ones and my mum made hers on slightly larger ones than the pattern stated were needed. Sadly, this did not turn out well. We each finished one then tested them on DS who, without shame, screamed when I tried to put them on him. So that was that.

Then I realised that DD didn’t have a scarf or any mittens. I started on the mittens, got distracted, and – having stumbled across a nice pattern on Make And Do Crew – decided to also make her a cowl. Following the easy pattern would be too simple though, so I went off piste creatively and used the 4 rows knit, 4 rows purl method from the Luuk hat, as I figured that might sit better. The result is a super-bright and super-snuggly cowl. I thought it was too big for her when it was done and was all ready to frog it and start again but she loves it. At last, a wearable product! I definitely want one of these for myself and James has requested one too, although probably in a more subdued yarn than the one DD has (it’s Cygnet Seriously Chunky in Macaw.)

Colourful Child's Cowl

A MakeAndDoCrew/Wurm hybrid design – very snuggly

After that, back to the mittens. They’re made with some really very natural, which translates as itchy, wool from Cornish Organic Wool recycled from the failed sock experiment. I originally bought it to knit a soaker for DD when she was small and I was experimenting with night-time reusable nappy solutions. It does soften nicely over time so I figured it’d be perfect for mittens given my intention is to shrink them a bit and then lanolise them so they can be worn in the snow and keep small hands warm. I found this pattern but of course impatience got the better of me to so I decided to make a start on slightly smaller needles than recommended since I didn’t have the right size. I made the 4-8 year old size, which have turned out to be just right for DD. I hand-felted them a bit (I got bored after 10 minutes) and haven’t found my old, stiff tube of Lansinoh yet, so they’re yet to be lanolised. There’s no rush since DD was given several pairs of stretchy gloves and some super-soft mittens for Christmas (thank you, Grandma) so refused to wear the pair I made because they’re too itchy. DS is happy to wear them though, bless him. They’re huge on him, of course, but can be made to fit if I sew some synthetic fleece liners inside. He needs mittens anyway so it’s worked out quite nicely.

A picture of some child's mittens in cream wool with an orange stripe across the palm

First attempt at slightly-felted mittens

 

I think once they’re done that’s it, I’ll be all knitted out for a while. Then it’s back to the sewing machine for a bit.

Real Life Bullet Journal: Monthly Planner

Ah, the bullet journal. This discovery has truly changed my life because it enables me to be organised at the same time as being wildly disorganised! I’ve tried to convert those around me to the system but to no avail so it’s a lonely endeavour. My only gripe with it is that there’s something of a cult for beautifying them, for primping them, for showcasing creativity and your commitment to self-reflection and self-improvement. Is that because it’s attracted a lot of scrapbookers? I have no idea. But for me it’s not all that. I don’t have time and I’m not sure I have the interest. If I find myself with more time I will be sure to do something more interesting (to me) with it than primping my bullet journal! It sometimes feels a bit competitive and I think much of the prettiness may put people off from using what is in fact a simple but brilliant way of reorganising your thoughts, ideas, and tasks into one place. It doesn’t need to be beautiful to be practical! Just search Google for “bullet journal” or search for it in Pinterest or Instagram you’ll see what I mean. All those BJ posts; so beautiful, so thoughtful, so colourful! And then there’s mine; practical, functional, and not pretty at all. But actually, that’s how I like it. I figured I can’t be the only one using it this way so I thought I’d be part of the counter-revolution in normalising bullet journal. This is BJ for pragmatists rather than dreamers, for nerds rather than creatives. That is not my current phase of life. When I first drafted this post (it’s taken me over a week to get if finished so it was started before Christmas) I had a to-do list of about 50 things and bullet journal got me through. I’d still be staring at the wall feeling overwhelmed by it all if I had to worry about the looks of the thing!

So here’s my first proper BJ share: my (current) favourite monthly planning layout. When I first started with BJ I used the “classic” vertical list, like the one on the main bullet journal page, but it wasn’t working for me. I like to be able to quickly see what day it is an I like a more visual layout and a more traditional calendar-style layout makes more sense to me. I’m almost at the end of a notebook and I’ve been using this approach the entire time. I like the at a glance organisation into weeks. No colour coding, no fancy key, no pre-formatted lists for tasks.

This is it. Warts and all.

BulletJournalDec2017

Because I’m busy trying to learn French I’m writing days of the week and most other headings in French. It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of the months and days of the week – and numbers up to 31 – by doing this. Now it’s second nature to use French for the labels and headings.

In a few days I’m starting a new book as there are only a few pages left in this one. Happily that will coincide with the start of the new year. I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried to! Starting afresh gives me a chance to think about what worked and what didn’t in the old book, like the key, the index, list pages, etc. I am also thinking about any templates I can create to save time moving from book to book in future. I have a few favourite pages that I return to again and again that will need to be carried over and I’ll write a post about that once it’s done, but I think most of it can be archived or copied onto a digital list for future maintenance (I use Wunderlist.) Plus I’ll be setting up my year-ahead planner and other reference pages.

So that’s me and my bullet journal. I hope you like it and that by sharing my shabby scribbles you’re inspired to use the system as a tool and get organised. If you’re living a busy life short on time you really don’t need to about whether it looks pretty or not, if that’s not your thing. And if you are one of those people who does manage one of this Instagram worthy notebooks, I salute you! I’m sure in days gone by (pre-kids, maybe) I’d have put more time into mine. I love looking at the beautiful sketches, the calligraphy, the carefully crafted layout – but this system is too good to be all about looks. At the end of the day it’s a tool, a method, of organising every aspect of your life. The beauty of it, I think, is that there is something for everyone. Make it look pretty, if you want to, but remember – looks really aren’t everything!

A Quiet Christmas in France

It’s Christmas! It’s the first year that DD has really grasped the concept and for the last two weeks she’s talked of little else than Père Noël (Father Christmas) – when will he come, how does he get in, will she hear or see him, etc. It’s wonderful.

This time last year we were crammed into a tiny gite that was barely habitable during the winter. In hindsight we were stupid to stay there at all. DD had only started at the school a few weeks before so although we went along to the Fête de Noël (a band and a buvette) and the party for the children (lots of cake and an incredibly tedious story teller!) our language skills weren’t all that and it was difficult to know what was going on. We didn’t really have the internet and we weren’t feeling all that Christmassy. Plus the weather was better.

This year we’re much more settled into daily life – and with worse weather it somehow feels more like Christmas. Maybe that’s how it will always be for the Brit abroad at this time of year. Christmas just doesn’t happen here like in the UK, not out here in the sticks anyway. Yes, there’s a Christmas aisle at the supermarche, but it’s nothing like the barrage of festivity that you get in the UK. If you go to a Christmas market of course, Christmas is on, obviously, but otherwise, apart from the appearance of the Christmas markets, the brass bands that play there, there’s not much to know it was Christmas. It’s quite nice. I get the impression that Christmas here is much less about shopping and more about spending time with family and friends. I may be wrong, but I’m not feeling any of that sense of pressure to spend, to shop, to provide, that I used to get in England. And because we generally have less to do anyway we’ve been able to make time (and in doing so, save money) making presents and cards when maybe in the UK we’d have just bought them without thinking so much. I made mince pies for the teachers and then, because I couldn’t find a way to package them (or anything to package them in that didn’t cost a bomb) we made some pretty gift boxes using some fabulous card and the instructions on this other blog. They came our really well! Likewise, cards. A charity pack of five cards was going to cost 8 euros, so we made those too.

Handmade Gift Boxes


As far as lunch goes, we’re staying at home, cooking a chicken big enough to feed the four of us, going out for a walk while it cooks, then curling up by the fire to watch a film. Simple. And no Christmas TV, which is the scourge of Christmases at my parent’s house! James took DD to the park while DS slept and I managed to get everything wrapped and ready. That worked really well, much better than leaving it to the last minute then sitting up until 1am, trying to stealth wrap, because DD won’t go to sleep – which is what happened last year. We’re ready!

So that’s the practicalities.

For the children I’m trying to keep presents to a minimum, following the rhyme:

Something you need, Something to read,
Something to wear, Something to share.

This is a bit of a get out when it comes to Christmas as it means we are mostly buying things that would be bought and provided anyway. When I first heard this rhyme, it was:

Something you want, something to wear,
Something to read, something you need.

But then what would Santa bring? So I’ve outsourced the Something You Want to Santa, who they’ve been told brings only one present. That works fine. I like the idea of them having a shared present. I like that they’re not expecting Santa to fill the house to the rooftop with everything they want (DD has quite a list!) Otherwise we buy something they want and then Santa brings something else on top. That’s just too many presents in terms of both expense and clutter. 

Then there’s a stocking each, of which the contents looks like this:

  • A handful of nuts and a mandarin (satsuma)
  • A few chocolate coins
  • A Schleich animal
  • A tube of bubbles
  • Some socks and gloves
  • A new lunch box (for DD) and a harmonica (for DS)

I had planned to put a tub of Playdoh or something crafty in each one too but I ran out of time. I think they have enough stuff anyway so am happy that I didn’t manage to get more.

They also get new pyjamas. I would have given them those this evening, by way of encouraging them into bed, but DS had been running a temperature for the last two nights so sending him to bed in super-fluffy winter jammies was not the best idea! Luckily DD didn’t need any encouraging. They can have them tomorrow instead.

On the festivities front, DD has been learning some French Christmas songs at school so we’ve been listening to them on Spotify so she can teach us and so we can learn a few more. Our favourite album (of the weekend, at least) is French Christmas Carols (The Best Christmas Songs) by the French Young Singers.

Our top three songs, which coincidentally are the ones DD has been learning at school to perform at last Sunday’s Fête de Noël last Sunday afternoon – are:

It’s really fun trying to sing along and to learn the lyrics of these new songs. Even if the tune is familiar because the language moves differently, they’re not so easy to sing!

It’s interesting just how different the songs are despite having identical tunes. For example, vive le vent, which is sung to the tune of Jingle Bells (learn the lyrics here), is all about the wind and the weather – no bells or reindeer anywhere! I suppose the other way around the French will be surprised to know that we don’t have sing about the wind in our version 🙂 Most of the traditional English carols and Christmas songs have French equivalents – so there are many to learn. As far as that one goes, I rather like the French version: it’s romantic than. I like the idea of generations connected by memories carried on the winter wind.

And with that thought it’s time for bed. Night night. And Joyeux Noël !

Working with Google Sheets

In my previous life within a large corporation I worked a lot on metrics and reporting. Because tech writing is usually an afterthought when it comes to a large R&D and Sales focused organisation like the one I worked for, naturally we had no money for this so it was all done with a digital-equivalent of make do and mend. Our stats were spread out everywhere in different systems (systems is overstating it somewhat) and the formats weren’t unified. It fell to a nerd like me, someone who just can’t stand that level of chaos and also has a thing for Excel, to design a more streamlined system that would enable me and my fellow managers to a) keep track of the monthly stats for our team and b) create meaningful(-ish) reports to justify our existence for the higher ups. In tech writing, a fairly uncreative definition of the stats usually means numbers of docs, pages, etc. That’s what our main superior was interested in (he was a numbers guy and didn’t care for modern nuances like quality, consistency, customer satisfaction) so that’s what we did.

Anyway, I digress. What I’m trying to say is that I used Excel – a lot. Now, on my home PC, I have Open Office and I also use Google Sheets. I like Open Office very much because it’s free open source. It’s not as easy for me to use as Excel, I think because I’m so familiar with the Excel interface. That’s just a learning curve. Functionally, I think it’s on a par but since I haven’t had the need to put it through it’s paces, I can’t say that sure.

Google Sheets, on the other hand, I mean please. It’s sooo basic! And slow. We have a 20MB connection here and it’s tedious just trying to format a cell. I’m trying to set up some really simple accounting spreadsheets and it’s painful! I know I could use OO but I really want these particular docs in the cloud as then they’re handy to share with my accountant and also accessible from any machine. It would seem the price for ease of access is functionality, unless I’m missing something. Anyhow, in the spirit of keeping things handy, here’s a link to the list of functions that can be used for calculations.

Google spreadsheets function list

I know I’ll need it again.

Now to figure out whether it can do pivot tables (I suspect not!) should the need ever arise again (I hope so! I have a rather love-hate relationship with them; mostly it’s love.)

Do you do fancy, clever spreadsheety things with Google Sheets? If so, please enlighten me!

Year Ahead Blogging Plan

This past few months I’ve struggled to make time to keep up with the blog but that’s not for lack of thinking about it. I am constantly distracted, thinking of things to write about and frustrated that I never find the time. As such I always feel “behind” – even though this is a personal project and I’m not accountable to anyone. I also feel like there’s quite a lot of drift and a lack of focus because I write about anything at any time. With that in mind  I’ve decided that a plan would make it easier for me to stay on top of things and also give the blog some much-needed focus. Given my current mission is to improve my French, I’m going to plan to write one post a month focussed on a specific subject that is useful to me right now, thinking about the main areas that I need to work on. That way the blog becomes a tool that enhances my language learning rather than another thing on my to-do list. So here’s the plan:

JANUARY
Illnesses and body parts. This is so necessary because since early December there have been many bugs going around. I need to be able to confidently talk about and understand any conversations at creche or school that relate to DD or DS’s health. That’s why this is top of my list.

FEBRUARY
This is usually a dark and dreary month, even in France (at least it was last year) so I’ll try to brighten my days by thinking about trips and outings for the rest of the year, so the focus for this month will be making plans.

MARCH
Winter in the mountains. This is my favourite time of year to go snowboarding but this year, if finances permit, I’d like to try a few skiing lessons. We also want to ensure the two littles can make the most of the snow while there’s good access to the mountains as the warming sun means the roads will be clear on sunny days. DD loves sledging and it will be DS’s first year, so there’s lots of fun to be had.

APRIL
I always get an urge to start spring cleaning so I may put some vocab together about that. More likely though I’ll talk about all activity that is taking place in the natural world as the flowers start to grow, the trees come into leaf, and we do some work on our vegetable patch, whether that ends up being on our own land or on a small plot we may ask rent from a neighbour.

MAY
French holidays and festivals. It’s not just the UK with bumper public holidays in May; France has more than its’ fair share too. This month I’ll take a look at the various public holidays here in France and try to find out more about their origins and any traditions surrounding them.

JUNE
This is the month of the summer solstice, so I’ll take a look at traditional celebrations that take place in France as well as language related to the moon cycles and any pagan influences in the language.

JULY
It’s the holidays! In July the schools finish and the long holiday, les grandes vacances, starts. Time to drift around, swim in the lakes, spend a day or two at the beach or go camping. (That’s is our kind of holiday, anyway.) And there’s the Tour de France, of course.

AUGUST
It’s hot, hot, hot – and likely to be busy. I’m English so naturally I’ll want to talk about the weather.

SEPTEMBER
La rentrée! It’s the end of the holidays and parents across France breathe a sigh of relief as the 8-week summer holiday comes to an end. This month will be all about going back to or starting school in France.

OCTOBER
This is always a bit of non-month for me but this month there’s a big mountain bike event in the nearby town. I’ve wanted to take part for the last two year so hopefully this year I will get my act together. This month will be all about bike chatter.

NOVEMBER
In the UK it’s bonfire night, but that doesn’t happen in France (no Guy Fawkes, no bonfire night!) so instead of writing about James’s favourite time of year I’ll focus on the other big event in my life this month; birthdays (DD will be five!)

DECEMBER
It’s Christmas, so of course that has to be the theme this month.

In between times I may also try to write other posts about my experiences navigating the different cultural and administrative landscape – as well as any updates on our land-buying/house-building plans (if the status of any of that changes) – but otherwise the focus will be on these 12 themes and language learning. That’s my number one to-do for 2018.