Dialogue - French

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Vocabulary

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terre soil, dirt
c’était chouette! It was cool!
plateau-repas tray meal, TV dinner
préhistorique prehistoric
grotte cave
classe class
salir to dirty
plaire to like, to enjoy

Lesson Notes

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Grammar

The Focus of This Lesson is a Review of the Past Tenses and Their Use
Ce matin, avec la classe, nous sommes allés visiter les grottes de Lascaux !

"This morning, with the class, we went to visit the Lascaux caves!"


 

In the first series you learned about two tenses from the mood indicatif: the compound past and imperfect tenses. Before going further, let's have quick review of these two tenses.

 

The Use of Passé Composé (compound past)


 

Le passé composé is used to express a punctual event or action done in the past.

The action or event has already ended at the time the speaker is talking about it.

Note that in literature, the simple past is used instead of passé composé, but we will see this point in lesson 10.

  1. Je suis allée prendre un café chez mes amis.
    "I had a coffee at my friend's house."
  2. Les enfants sont allés se balader en forêt.
    "The children went for a walk in the woods."

Examples from this dialogue:

  1. On a vu des peintures préhistoriques, et ensuite, on a mangé des plateaux-repas dans le parc.
    "We saw prehistoric paintings, then we ate tray meals in the park."

Sample Sentences:

  1. Elle a mangé tous les gâteaux préparés par Mamie.
    "She ate all the cookies baked by Granny."
  2. Ils sont arrivés en retard à notre soirée d'anniversaire.
    "They were late for our birthday party."

 

The Use of l'imparfait (the imperfect tense)


 

L'imparfait is used to indicate the circumstances of an event or habit of something that used to be.

This is used when something had not ended yet in the past.

  1. A 17h, je prenais un café chez mes amis.
    "At 5 pm, I was having a coffee at my friend's house."
  2. J'allais à la piscine quand j'étais enfant.
    "I used to go to the swimming pool when I was a child."

Examples from this dialogue:

  1. C'était une bonne journée !
    "It was a great day!"

Sample Sentences:

  1. Quand j'étais étudiant, j'allais souvent prendre le café avec les professeurs.
    "When I was a student, I often had coffee with the professors."
  2. Nous allions au parc quand nous étions enfants.
    "We used to go to the park when we were children."

 

Disambiguation


 

It's quite complicated to tell the difference between these two tenses, so let's compare two given examples: (1) is in passé composé, (2) is in imparfait.

For example:

  1. Je suis allée prendre un café chez mes amis.
    "I had a coffee at my friend's house."
  2. A 17h, je prenais un café chez mes amis.
    "At 5 pm, I was having a coffee at my friend's house"

The difference is that, for the imperfect tense, the action was still happening in the past. There is an idea of duration in the past.

In the first sentence, the action is done, everyone understands you went there today, but you're already back home. If you want to be precise, or if someone is asking about what you were doing at a certain time, you will use the imperfect tense.

Cultural Insights

The Lascaux Caves

 


 

The Lascaux caves are located in the hills of the Vézère Valley, in Dordogne, near Bordeaux. They are 18,600 years old and really famous for their prehistoric mural paintings. They were discovered by young hikers and their dog in 1940 and were studied afterwards by Henri Breuil, a historian.

These caves are quite famous in France because of their numerous wonderful paintings. One of the most appreciated friezes is the "Black Horses Frieze." For a long time, no one could say why these caves were painted, but now, specialists think that the animals are a metaphor of the seasons. For example, horses would stand for spring. These caves have been World Heritage listed since 1979.

 

 

Lesson Transcript

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INTRODUCTION
Gabriella: Salut! Je m'appelle Gabriella. Bienvenue à Lower Intermediate French, Season 2, Lesson 1 -Travelling Through Time in France!
Jeremy: Moi, c'est Jeremy.
Gabriella: Let's get started. Quel est le sujet de la leçon d'aujourd'hui ?
Jeremy: In this lesson, you’ll learn how to use past tenses to talk about what was done during the day. Le petit Marc va raconter sa journée à sa mère, Laure.
Gabriella: Ok, donc c'est une conversation familière ?
Jeremy: Oui, familière, mais polie.
DIALOGUE
Marc: Ce matin, avec la classe, nous sommes allés visiter les grottes de Lascaux.
Laure: Comment c'était ? Ca t'a plu ?
Marc: C'était chouette ! On a vu des peintures préhistoriques, et ensuite, on a mangé des plateaux-repas dans le parc. C'était une bonne journée !
Laure: Je vois ça, tu as sali ton pantalon !
Marc: Mais il y avait de la terre partout...
Gabriella: Now let's hear it with the English translation.
Marc: Ce matin, avec la classe, nous sommes allés visiter les grottes de Lascaux.
Marc: This morning, with the class, we went to visit the Lascaux caves.
Laure: Comment c'était ? Ca t'a plu ?
Laure: How was it? Did you enjoy it?
Marc: C'était chouette ! On a vu des peintures préhistoriques, et ensuite, on a mangé des plateaux-repas dans le parc. C'était une bonne journée !
Marc: It was great! We saw prehistoric paintings. Then we ate tray meals in the park. It was a great day!
Laure: Je vois ça, tu as sali ton pantalon !
Laure: I reckon—your pants are dirty.
Marc: Mais il y avait de la terre partout...
Marc: But there was dirt everywhere...
POST CONVERSATION BANTER
Gabriella: Wow, les Grottes de Lascaux! I went there when I was a child too.
Jeremy: Moi aussi, j’y suis allée avec ma classe ! D’ailleurs, la Dordogne est très belle.
Gabriella: They're old caves, right?
Jeremy: Oui ! Elles ont plus de 18000 ans et on été découvertes en 1940. They're known for their wonderful animal friezes, like the one with the black horses. But you can also see cows, bears, or even human hands!
Gabriella: That’s why all the children in the southwest of France go there to visit.
Jeremy: I remember I painted in the prehistoric way after my visit! C’est un endroit passionnant quand on aime l’histoire de France.
KEY VOCAB AND PHRASES
Gabriella: Let’s take a closer look at the usage of some of the words and phrases from this lesson.
Jeremy: Le premier est une expression courante, “c’était chouette”. “C’était” est le verbe être à l’imparfait et “chouette’” est un mot familier qui signifie “great, cool”.
Gabriella: C’était chouette de se revoir!
Jeremy: "It was great to meet again!" Yes, it’s been a long time, (laughs). You can also replace chouette with énorme, but it’s very casual and mainly used by young people. For example, Ce concert était énorme!
Gabriella: "This concert was awesome!" I can’t imagine my mother speaking like that!
Jeremy: Another common one among young people is ça déchire, which stands for “it rocks”.
Gabriella: Oui, mais les Français disent aussi “ça rocks”. It’s a loanword. You can use for any great occasion.
Jeremy: Mais faites attention, c’est très familier et jeune.
Gabriella: Got it! What’s the other word?
Jeremy: C’est “plateau-repas”. In English, it has two translations, "TV dinner" or "tray meal." En français, on l’utilise pour toutes les occasions où on ne mange pas à table.
Gabriella: I often eat TV dinners while watching TV shows.
Jeremy: “Je mange souvent un plateau-repas en regardant des séries.” Ce n’est pas très bon pour la santé !
Gabriella: Yes, I know, but I love TV shows! The French use other words too, don’t they?
Jeremy: Oui, on dit aussi bento, un mot japonais, ou lunchbox. Especially if people are bringing their meals outside.
Gabriella: Good to know! Now, let’s move on to the grammar.
GRAMMAR POINT
Gabriella: In this lesson, you’ll review past tenses and their usages.
Jeremy: Nous avons déjà étudié le passé composé…
Gabriella: the "compound past…"
Jeremy: et l’imparfait.
Gabriella: the "imperfect tense." So, what's the use of the compound past?
Jeremy: On l’utilise pour parler de quelque chose qui s’est passé dans le passé, et qui est terminé quand on parle.
Gabriella: So we can use Le passé composé to express a punctual event or action done in the past.
Jeremy: Je suis allée prendre un café chez mes amis.
Gabriella: "I had a coffee at my friend's house." Saying that, we know I’m home already.
Jeremy: Dans le dialogue, Marc est allé faire une visite aujourd’hui et il raconte sa journée à sa mère à la maison. He says, On a vu des peintures préhistoriques, et ensuite, on a mangé des plateaux-repas dans le parc.
Gabriella: "We saw prehistoric paintings, then we ate tray meals in the park.”
Jeremy: Since he’s back home, and everything’s done already, he uses the compound past.
Gabriella: I think I get it. Another example?
Jeremy: Elle a mangé tous les gâteaux préparés par Mamie.
Gabriella: "She ate all the cookies baked by Granny." What a bad girl! I wanted some too!
Jeremy: (laughs) I’ll bake you some.
Gabriella: Chouette ! Merci ! Et comment on utilise l’imparfait ?
Jeremy: The imperfect tense
Gabriella: It’s almost the same as the compound past, so listen carefully. At a precise time in the past, the action had not ended yet.
Jeremy: But it's finished when the speaker is speaking, right?
Gabriella: Exactly. That’s a bit confusing, but you'll get it easily.
Jeremy: Let’s take the first example of the grammar point. Imagine someone asked you why you didn’t answer when he called you. You can say, A 17h, je prenais un café chez mes amis.
Gabriella: "At 5 p.m., I was having a coffee at my friend’s house”. But I’m back already.
Jeremy: It’s used to talk about a precise time or period.
Gabriella: Do you have an example of a period?
Jeremy: Quand j’étais étudiant, j’allais souvent prendre le café avec les professeurs.
Gabriella: "When I was a student, I often had coffee with the professors."
Jeremy: “When I was a student” is a period, and it’s over now. People implicitly know I’m working now, or doing something else.
Gabriella: Finally, it’s not so hard!
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Outro

Jeremy: Okay, that’s all for this lesson.
Gabriella: If you need to review anything you’ve learned in this lesson, take a look at the lesson notes. And if you have any comments or questions, leave us a post on the lesson page. Ok, thank you for listening everyone, and we’ll see you next time.
Jeremy: Salut!