Really having trouble getting to sleep at the moment, despite being tired by bedtime due to lack of sleep from previous nights. Right now, the naughty cat is on the spare pillow next to me, which at least stops her from scratching on my door and crying for a solid half hour or so. There will be trouble if she pees on anything though! I can't really blame her for being more than usually eager to get in though. I think today's high was -3 and low -6 (or that's what it was when I got up this morning anyway). No snow, but it was cold! I think I almost gave myself an insta-cold walking home from work, I had watering eyes from the wind, a runny nose, swollen glands (unless that was my imagination running away from me) and frozen ears, fingers and cheekbones by the time I made it in the door. I need to suck it up and buy a hat, even if I do look silly in it. Also need to buy some more hand cream, my hands start to crack as soon as it gets cold, especially along the joints of my thumbs, and then they just never heal up :(
Anyway, the point of this post was meant to be to share a couple of podcasts I came across recently. They're both from RFI (Radio France Internationale, www.rfi.fr). The first is the Journal en français facile, which is a 10 minute daily news roundup. When I came across it, I was a bit concerned that 'français facile' would be way to easy for me. Instead, it only goes to prove that French people don't really understand how to speak slowly and clearly for foreigners. I swear, 90% of French people will say something at exactly the same speed and clarity level, whether it's the fifth time you've asked them to repeat it or not. That becomes a bit more comprehensible when you listen to this podcast, tailor-made by professionals for people learning French and realise that that's how fast they speak when they're trying to dumb it down! I can understand it, but I should considering I live here and everything - I think a beginner would be totally lost. They even have things like soundbites from correspondents in Cambodia or the Ivory Coast or wherever, who do not always have the easiest accents to understand. Still, if anyone happens to teach French, they would make good listening exercises, or obviously for improving your own listening comprehension. Plus I don't always pay a lot of attention to the news, particularly the French national news, so it's nice to have half a clue about what's going on.
The second one is 'Apprendre le français avec l'actu' which I really like. These are shorter, around 2 - 3 minutes, also entirely in French, and focused on one word or phrase 'making the news' at the moment. For example, today I listened to the one on 'mi-mandat' (this was a few days old). Of course, you don't even have to speak French to figure out that 'mi-mandat' is 'mid-mandate' i.e. referring to the recent mid-term elections in the States. But rather than just explaining the word, they give a brief account of why this word is in the news, and then more about the use and etymology. Unlike 'demi' (but like 'mid' in English), 'mi' is a particle and can't be used on its own. As they pointed out in the podcast, it's obvious but easy to miss that 'mi' turns up in words like 'minuit', 'midi' (formed with 'di' from the Latin), and 'milieu' - literally in the middle of a place. The other day, I learned that 'portefeuille', which means a wallet, can also mean 'portfolio' (and there's obviously a common root there), in the sense of a cabinet minister's portfolio - this is because 'portefeuille' used to refer to a folder for documents. Which makes sense when you think about porter - to carry and feuille - which is a sheet of paper as well as a leaf on a tree.
Anyway, I won't go on boring those of you who don't speak French, but if you do speak French to a reasonable level, I would recommend these, especially the learning French from the news one. Even if your French is really good, you will learn interesting little things about the French language I'm sure!