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Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Thankyou for listening to us – there are quite a lot of people now, who listen to our new podcast every Monday. Don’t forget to check out our website at www.adeptenglish.com to have a look at our courses and at all the other podcasts and our articles.
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So we’ve just come back from two weeks in France and I was thinking about why I like France so much. Don’t get me wrong – that means ‘don’t misunderstand me’, I love England too, but probably in a different way. I think that France has things which are good that England doesn’t and vice versa. When we say ‘vice versa’ means ‘and the same the other way round’ – so England has also things which are good which France doesn’t and France has things which are good, which England doesn’t. That’s vice versa.
I’ve been visiting France regularly since 1989, when part of my family moved there, so I’m probably what is known as a ‘Francophile’ – a person who is not native to France, but who loves France. There is also a word ‘Anglophile’. And we use ‘Anglophile’ of a person who is not native English, but who loves England. So it’s interesting to reflect on – what’s good about England and what’s good about France, as I see it, it’s a personal viewpoint, of course.
It probably depends upon the part of France that you live in, but one of the things I enjoy about it is that there is a lot of rural France. Rural means ‘out in the country, out of town’ – R-U-R-A-L. So there is lots of space and lots of green fields and much of the land looks the same as probably it did hundreds of years ago. Where my family live, it is very picturesque. ‘Picturesque’ means it looks very nice, very pretty. There’s a big river and lots of old stone buildings. If you wanted to buy a 400 year old building and live in it in the UK, it would cost you a lot of money. Whereas in certain parts of France, living in old buildings is nothing unusual and they often come with a bit of land and a great deal of charm. I guess they also come with lots of problems of maintenance probably, which I guess you don’t see when you visit for a couple of weeks. Because of the climate, it’s normal to grown tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, garlic, onions as well as flowers. While we were staying in France, we were given lots and lots of vegetables by different people – because often in the summer, people have more than they can use themselves. So there were great big tomatoes – all shapes and sizes. Whereas in the UK, you would buy your tomatoes in the supermarket probably and they’d all be round and perfect – and relatively expensive. So it seems like the tomatoes we were eating in France were more like the real thing!
My family live in the south of France, midway between the coasts, so not on the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. But it’s hot in the summer and you get to use an outdoor swimming pool. People sometimes have swimming pools in their garden in the UK, in the south of England at least. But it’s not really worth it, because in England you don’t get that many days each year where it’s warm enough to use a swimming pool. Whereas in the south of France, you can use an outdoor pool probably between May and September. I like the climate also, because even in the summer, you get some rainfall. This usually comes in the form of thunderstorms. So it’ll cloud over, there’ll be warnings on the weather, you unplug your Wi-fi in case of problems with lightning. It’s often very dramatic – we had about three storms while we were there in two weeks. A lot of rain falls in a short space of time, then it’s usually sunny again the day afterwards. So the rainfall keeps things green. So you can still have a nice garden and green grass, but you get much more sun than in the UK. That’s in the south of France at least. I think that the north of France is much more like the UK, weather-wise.
I like the French language as you know and I’m continuing to practise and get to speak some French when I visit, so I know the hard work, and some of the pain, that you’re going through, in your learning English. My family are not like many ex-pat British families who live in various places round the world, who only know other British people. My family are fully integrated into the French way of life, run a tabac and café and are all fluent French speakers. And the children in the family all went to school in France. So they know all the local characters and all the local traditions, so when we visit we have much more of a window on real life in France.
Another thing I like so much about France is the food. There is a lot of attention paid to food and cooking and people tend to cook much more ‘from scratch’ than in the UK. ‘From scratch’ means starting at the beginning of something. With cooking that is starting with raw ingredients. Food is treated as special in France. If you go to a restaurant, or at least a traditional restaurant, there are often many courses and a meal can take several hours. It’s very sociable and something to be enjoyed, so really the opposite of ‘fast food’ though you can get fast food in France too! But even if it’s bread, wine and cheese, and a few grapes, it’s to be enjoyed, to be savoured. Most people who live in France have a garden and will grow herbs – that’s normal. Whereas in England, we would probably buy them from the supermarket or possibly have a pot on the kitchen windowsill. I like also that in France there are many ‘spécialités de la région’ – so special foods from a particular area, so special dishes and recipes. We do have this in England too – but not to the same extent. People in France are very proud of their ‘spécialités de la région’.
In praise of England though, I think if I lived in rural France, there would be some things I might miss. Good Wi-fi seems difficult to find in rural areas and I’d miss English television very much. Sorry French TV! Also I like English humour. Humour means the things which make you laugh. So English people like to laugh a lot, especially in the face of adversity. ‘In the face of adversity’ means even when they’re having a bad time, they like to laugh. I think possibly – and this is making a contrast with where I live in the south of England and very rural France – there is more entertainment, more to go and see and do in the UK, especially in the winter. So although I like France in the summer, I probably prefer England in the winter, because even in relatively small towns, there are lots of things to go and do, which don’t need good weather. There’s lots of entertainment that goes on inside, whether that means going shopping, going to the cinema, going bowling or just going to the pub. In most English towns, people live much closer together, but there’s always lots of things to see and do and there’s always something going on.
Earlier in the year, I visited my niece in Paris – and of course, Paris does have lots to see and do, just like London. In fact, I was struck by just how similar the two cities are. We travelled through Paris on our way south this time and found a really amazing short-cut. So we were basically driving from the top of France to the bottom. And ‘a short-cut’ is a quick route, a quicker, shorter way to get somewhere.. Quite by accident, or at least only through using our satnav (and satnav is short for satellite navigation system in the car), we found ourselves in the A86 tunnel, which runs for some distance underneath Paris. We had no idea where we were going and it was surprising that an underground tunnel in a city should go on for so long. But this tunnel takes you right to the edge of Paris. It was also strange, because there didn’t seem to be many other vehicles in the tunnel – so we did wonder where we were going. And the ceiling – the roof of the tunnel – so that means the ‘top’ of the tunnel is so low, that lorries and commercial vehicles are not allowed in there. It’s just cars. When I looked it up online after our journey, I discovered that this tunnel is the longest urban motorway tunnel in the world – 10km of underground tunnel underneath Paris, so quite a find!
OK, enough for now – enough of my trip to France. Listen to this podcast a number of times, until you can understand all the sentences, all the words without really trying. And this will help your English understanding improve, then when you are more ready to start speaking English and there’s opportunity to do this, the words will come much more quickly to you.
Enough for now, have a lovely day, speak to you again soon. Goodbye.