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Lesson Transcript

Sam: So what’s today’s topic, Céline?
Céline: Well today is a very special day.
Sam: Really?
Céline: Oui. I have a surprise for you.
Sam: For me?
Céline: Actually we are going to talk about a special day only for French citizens and any partisans of the French culture.
Sam: But I am one.
Céline: Oh you are not French but yeah you are true partisan, I agree. So we are going to tell everyone about Bastille Day.

Lesson focus

Sam: Oh the French National holiday.
Céline: Tout à fait. C’est le 14 juillet.
Sam: The 14th of July. Hmm.. And what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be celebrating?
Céline: Well I will celebrate that later. Before we jump in, I have something to point out. In France, we don’t use “la journée de la Bastille” or Bastille Day as in English but we commonly refer to “le 14 juillet” or “la fête nationale” but this is more the official name to talk about it.
Sam: I am sorry. What is Bastille anyway?
Céline: Bastille, it was a building situated in the East of Paris. First, it was a fortress, an arsenal used to defend the city. Later it became a prison which was ordered by Richelieu.
Sam: Ah Cardinal Richelieu. I studied about him and so I believe the national holiday “le 14 juillet” is about the Storming of the Bastille. So why is this event so important for you guys?
Céline: For French people “la prise de la Bastille” or Storming of Bastille became the symbol of the French revolution. It was the major people’s revolt event in 1789. The most of the Bastille fought Louis 16th army and liberated a political and intellectual prisoners place there by the unpopular king. Right after, they took all the guns from the arsenal.
Sam: What for? Where did they go?
Céline: Once the people were armed, they went to Versailles where the king and the court were living to take him and everybody else away.
Sam: What a captivating history but why were the people so angry?
Céline: Well because Louis 16 bankrupted the country. Some years earlier, he accepted to have the American colonies independence by sending them funds to fight their common enemy, the British.
Sam: Uh interesting.
Céline: Yeah money got scarce. People were overtaxed and couldn’t afford their basic loaf of bread. Starvation drove them to a blood thirst fight.
Sam: Blood thirsty fight?
Céline: Blood thirsty fight yes.
Sam: So what do people usually do on “le 14 juillet”?
Céline: So everywhere, il y a des cérémonies militaires.
Sam: Military ceremonies like parades?
Céline: Exactement. “Les défilés”, or “parades” are held in midsize cities and big towns. The most popular one is of course “le défilé sur les Champs Elysées à Paris” in presence of the French president.
Sam: Ah what can you see in the parade, the French army and the literal lead soldiers?
Céline: Actually they are human beings and they are also some prestigious school as the polytechnic school of engineers, the military school Saint Cyr and aerial parade taking place above the same avenue.
Sam: Wow! So you have a parade with military soldiers, the polytechnic school of Engineering, the military school of Saint Cyr and an aerial parade?
Céline: Yeah.
Sam: Wow! What’s the most fun thing to do?
Céline: For me, I think the fireworks. Cities and towns organize them on their Main Square on July 13th in the evening for the small and middle size towns and July 14th in the biggest ones.
Sam: Wow! So I have a question. Do you know that your national holiday is also celebrated abroad?
Céline: Really where?
Sam: Well places like New York and San Francisco.
Céline: I knew New York. I love New York, that’s why.
Sam: Good city yeah. So outside of New York and San Francisco, other cities have activities as well. In Philadelphia, there is a pastry throw and in Milwaukee, they have representation of the Bastille storming.
Céline: Ah bon?
Sam: Yeah and also in Seattle, there are picnics and wine tastings.
Céline: C’est vrai? Is that true?
Sam: Yeah.
Céline: Okay I am starting to love the US now.
Sam: Well you are almost American.
Céline: No, never, but you know in South Africa also, they celebrate the 14th of July. I heard about that.
Sam: Wow!
Céline: Yes.
Sam: I heard about that too. I think it is the festival of Franschhoek situated close to Cape Town.
Céline: Bravo, c’est ça!
Sam: And it’s been going on for umm, 15 years but I think like, there is like a competition - of pétanque competition.
Céline: Oui il y a une compétition de pétanque. Tout à fait.
Sam: Yeah. I played in high school. It’s a game where you throw out one ball. I think you throw a big ball.
Céline: Yeah.
Sam: Then everyone else has smaller balls.
Céline: No, no, no actually everybody has big balls and you have “le cochonnet” the small…
Sam: Oh it’s like the target.
Céline: Exactly and you have to….
Sam: If they try to bump someone else’s ball away, it’s impossible.
Céline: Exactly that’s it.
Sam: Whoever gets closest wins.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: It’s a fun game.
Céline: It’s really fun yeah. It’s played in Marseille, but actually “le 14 juillet” I think that French people like it because it’s a holiday basically.
Sam: And no work.
Céline: And no work.
Sam: And you can have a barbecue.
Céline: And you can have a barbecue.
Sam: With hot dogs.
Céline: Avec des hot dogs.
Sam: Oh sounds good.
Céline: Okay I am nice today.


Sam: So I think that just about does it for our culture class. So listeners, please come back again for our next culture class. Until the next time.
Céline: Merci!
Sam: Bye bye.
Céline: Au revoir!