At first glance the French have a somewhat unusual counting system which seems normal up until the number sixty-nine (soixante-neuf). Then things get a little “Abraham Lincoln”. But I’ll explain what I mean by that in a moment.
But first lets us take a look at the French counting system.
One = un (masculine) or une (feminine). The number one is the only number to really have a gender. Also, the first day of the month is the “premier”.
Two = deux
Three = trois
Four = quatre
Five = cinq
Six = six (exactly the same)
Sept = seven
Eight = huit
Nine = neuf
Ten = dix
Eleven = onze
Twelve = douze (kind of sounds like “dozen”)
Thirteen = Treize (This is the beginning of the Teens (tens) in English. The dix numbers don’t start until 17 in French).
Fourteen = quatorze
Fifteen = quinze
Sixteen = seize
Seventeen = dix-sept (This is the start of the regular patter of the name of the number from the tens followed by the name of the number of the ones).
Eighteen = dix-huit
Nineteen = dix-neuf
Twenty = vingt
Twenty-one = Vingt-et-un. (The “et” is only used in two digit numbers ending in “one” starting with 21 and ending with 61.)
Twenty-two = Vingt-deux (There is a dash between the numbers linking them. This is the pattern for the rest of the numbers up until 69)
Thirty = trente
Fourty = quatrante
Fifty = cinquante
Sixty = soixante
Sixty nine = soixante-neuf. (Now a new pattern begins.)
Seventy = soixante-dix ( And so it starts. 70 is 60+10 Soixante-dix. Learning French numbers from this point on will help you with your mathematics skills.)
Seventy one = Soixante-et-onze 60 and 11.
Seventy two = Soixznte-douze (Just add the teen numbers to the end of Soixznte. This pattern continues until 80)
Eighty = quatre-vingt (four twenties) 4 x 20.
Eighty one = quatre-vingt-un. (four twenties one)
Ninety = quatre-vingt-dix (four twenties ten.) It really means 4 X 20 + 10
One hundred = cent
One hundred and one = cent-un
The Honest Abe Lincoln French Counting System
I don’t know if Abe Lincoln spoke French but for some reason he counted like a Frenchman. Looking at the first four words in Lincoln’s most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address the opening line is one of his most quoted and least understood lines in history.
(What’s a score anyway?)
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…”
The word “score” has gone out of fashion in America. “Score” means “twenty”.
“Score” was once quite common in English.
“…the Sheriff of Nottingham did cow bold Robin Hood and seven score as fair archers as are in all merry England?”
“The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”
Published in 1883
By Howard Pyle
What President Lincoln was really saying in his Gettysburg address was,
‘87 years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…’
In French the number 87 is «quatre-vingts-sept», which translates as four-twenties-seven or as Lincoln put it, “four score and seven”.
Maybe French numbers after 70 aren’t that far-fetched. For after all they are using the same twenty based counting system that President Lincoln famously used.
Making a Living Language French Calendar Scrapbook
I don’t know if I use my French Living Language Calendar the way it was originally intended. My personal scrapbooking system I describe in this post is sort of something I have developed over the last two + years.
I bought my first Living Language French (calendar) in 2014. Back when French was still really just a foreign language to me. I remember opening the box on January 1st and thinking, this is way too advanced for me.
In some ways it was the calendar was too advanced. It used a lot of words that I’ve yet to encounter in my studies, however I have made up a number of games with my little French calendar over the years, and I’m on my third calendar now and still having fun.
Over the past two almost three years I have use my calendar as a way of exploring French culture. It is my escape from learning boring low level French terms like “Good-day, how is it going?” etc. etc. And into the higher levels of French culture. But more on that in a moment.
With my little French calendar I get to play detective and CSI linguistics expert. My little calendar is teaching French terms way beyond my learning level.
The Daily Language Habit
Steve Kaufmann from LingQ.com that the most important part of learning a new language is the daily learning habit. If you can do even a little every day you will be progressing. LingoSteve also encourages you to have fun while you are learning your new language to help avoid burnout. (Look for LingoSteve Kaufmann’s videos on Youtube.)
Q: So how can I make my French calendar fun?
A: By starting a daily scrapbook.
The calendar features a new French word every day. This word comes with a pronunciation guide. I should point out that this is a readable pronunciation guide (yeah!) And not the fancy “International Phonetic Alphabet” (IPA) guides that I never learned about in school. The whole internet is being taken over by the IPA. It is used to show pronunciation using strange alien characters like; ɯ, ø, œ, ä, ɨ, ʌ, ʉ, ɤ, ɐ, ɞ. (The IPA guide needs to come with a guide.)
The French word or phrase also comes with a definition. Some words have more than one meaning. So often it is handy to look this word up on Google Translate.
Also Most of the translation pages have little speaker icons. If you click the speaker icon the page will read the word or sentence out loud for you. [This is one of the best tools ever created for language learning!]
Next the word or phrase will be used in a French sentence. Below this French sentence is an English translation of this sentence. (Most of the time these translations are fairly accurate but sometimes they are not. This is where the detective work begins.)
When I do my daily French calendar scrapbook. I often see myself as someone trying to break the code. (Believe me in the early days it was all seemed like code to me.) I quickly noticed after using Google translate a few times that the English version weren’t always a 100% word for word translations of the original French sentence.
Take for example the sentence: «Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.»(Little by little the bird makes its nest.) I have seen this translated on line as (Every little bit counts.) with no further explanation of the words like oiseau= or nid=nest.
“Every little bit counts” may be the underlying meaning of the proverb but it’s ironic that the translator ignored all the little bits that counted.
In my opinion, it is more important to understand what the words actually mean. Word for word. Even if the proverb is strange. Finding the meaning is an insight into how the French think.
Discover Grammar patterns
I must point out that I hate the whole idea of learning grammar “rules. However I enjoy discovering the natural way in which the French say things. Grammar is really a rhythm and and sort of logic. It is something that you learn to know by ear.
When you put words together in the wrong order in an English sentence the sentence just sounds wrong. It’s not about learning rules. Its about learning to hear pattern. The rules where made up to explain the pattern. Learning to hear the pattern first makes it easier to understand the rules.
The Experts are wrong
What are the French really saying?
I don’t know how many times that I have read that «bonjour» means “good day” and “good morning”. No it doesn’t
«Bonjour» means “good day”. The French may say bonjour in the morning, however «bon» means “good” and «jour» means “day”.
«Matin» means “morning.”
It’s good to know exactly what words mean.
«Ça va» means “It goes”
«Ça» = it
«va» = goes.
«Ça va» doesn’t mean “OK” or “how are you?”
It means “How is it going?” With the words “How” and “is” left off.
Understanding these little details are important.
My Little French Calendar Scrapbook
Here is an example from the digital scrapbook that I keep of my French calendar.
The word (phrase) of the day is «À couper le soufflé» which is given the definition of “breathtaking”.
À couper le souffle (ah koo-pay luh soo-fluh) = breathtaking
Cette reproduction est à couper le souffle.
This reproduction is breathtaking.
Cette reproduction est à couper le souffle.
This reproductrion is breathtaking.
In the table I have inserted on the page above, I have typed in the original French sentence on the left and in this case, I have used the Bing Translator translation on the right.
You can see that Bing translates «à couper le soufflé» as breathtaking. However when I added a enter between each word the Bing translator now translate «à couper le soufflé» as separate element; “to cut the breath.”
I do the same process with Google Translate just to double check. You can see in the sample below that the French word «reproduction» has been translated as “production” by Google.
Cette reproduction est à couper le soufflé.
This production is breathtaking.
But something doesn’t seem quite right here. “Breathtaking” translates as “Cut the breath”.
I try putting «couper» in Google translate by itself. This will give me any alternative translations of this word.
Google translate gives me 33 new meanings for the word couper. But which one is the right one?
To be left breathless is describing a feeling. It’s not really like being cut.
When you see something that leaves you breathless. It can feel like your breath has been “turned off”, or “breath cease” or maybe the breath knocked or “breath whacked” out of you.
The French word «couper» reminds me of the French word «coups».
There is a famous French movie called “The 400 Blows” The French title is «Les Quatre Cents Coups»(1959). The title sounds like the movie is about corporal punishment as the poster depicts a young boy.
But there is nothing in the movie about corporal punishment or any type of blows. The name “Les Quatre Cents Coups” is really difficult to translate into English as «coups» means both “blows” and “cuts”. The French title refers to an old French idiom “faire les quatre cents coups”, (make the 400 coups) which means “to raise hell”.
Somethings don’t translate. The English distributes might have been better off with a title like “Wild Oats” which had been proposed at the time.
I’ve tried to find more details about the meaning of the 400 blows idiom. One French friend suggested that it might come from French theater. When a play is about to begin the usher holds a long staff and stamps it on the ground three times. The noise the staff makes are called coups. The coups signal that the show is about to begin. The 400 coups may mean that a really big show is about it begin. (This case it still open.)
How to to make a French Calendar Scrapbook
At the top of the page I write the date in French and then English
Vingt-quatre octobre deux-mille-seize 24 October 2016
Monday – lundi
Open your French Calendar to today’s date.
Open a new MS Word documents and named it French Calendar 2016 or 2017 or whatever year it is when you start this scrapbook.
At the top of the page type today’s date in French (See the example above. Right justify the date to keep it out of the way.)
Make sure to spell the numbers Vingt-quatre octobre deux-mille-seize. The first of the month is written as «premier» and not «un».(this is a great way to learn your numbers 1 to 31.)
On the next line I write the date in English using number 24 October 2016. (the French use the dd/mm/yyyy format.)
On the next line write the day in both languages. Monday – lundi (French day and month names are NOT capitalized unless they at the beginning of a sentence. To remind me of this I write them second.)
Next type the word of the day and its pronunciation and its meaning.
Many French words contain letters that have accents. I used to skip these but then I found a pages with all the keystroke shortcuts for writing French accents. I made a little chart of these and paste it at the end of my Word document, so it always just below where I need it.
Next type the French Sentence. (Try and pronounce it while you type. Google translate will pronounce French sentences for you.)
Then type the English translation. (Remember not to trust these translations. They can be misleading.)
Type the French sentence into each translator page. (Make sure the language is selected to translate French to English.)
Press the speaker icon and repeat the sentence out loud a few times. If the sentence is too long to remember, then remove a few words. You can add them back later.
Are there any words in the sentence that you don’t understand? If you put your cursor between each word and click [Enter]. This will put the words on separate lines and the words will be translated separately.
When I have translated a sentence I copy it back to my Word Scrapbook document.
If I’ve translated each word separately I copy and paste those words onto my table as well.
If you type a single word into Google Translate then all the different definitions of the word will appear in the lower right hand side of the page. Sometimes words have more than one meaning and it’s interesting to understand these different meanings. I copy and paste these words onto my Scrapbook doc as well.
Save your work.
How to use French Accent Alt codes for PCs.
Hold down the Alt key and then type the numbers. Then let go of the Alt key and the accented letter will appear.
French Accent ALT Codes For PCs
à = ALT + 133
â = ALT + 131
ä = ALT + 132
æ = ALT + 145
ç = ALT + 135
é = ALT + 130
è = ALT + 138
ê = ALT + 136
ë = ALT + 137
À = ALT + 0192
Â = ALT + 0194
Ä = ALT + 142
Æ = ALT + 146
Ç = ALT + 128
É = ALT + 144
È = ALT + 0200
Ê = ALT + 0202
Ë = ALT + 0203
î = ALT + 140
ï = ALT + 139
ô = ALT + 147
œ = ALT + 0156
ù = ALT + 151
û = ALT + 150
ü = ALT + 129
« = 174
€ = ALT + 0128
Î = ALT + 0206
Ï = ALT + 0207
Ô = ALT + 0212
Œ = ALT + 0140
Ù = ALT + 0217
Û = ALT + 0219
Ü = ALT + 154
» = ALT + 175
Option codes for Mac
•Euro symbol (€) Press [Option] + [Shift] + 
•Acute Accent ( é ): Press the [E] key while holding the [Option] key, take your finger off the option key then press [E] again.
•Grave Accent ( à, è, ù ): Press [ ` ] while holding down the [Option] key, then press either [A], [E] or [U]. to put a Grave accent above the appropriate letter.
•Cedilla ( ç ): Simply press [C] while holding down the [option] key.
•Circumflex ( â, ê, î, ô, ü ): Press [I] while holding down [Option], then press either [A], [E], [I], [O] or [U].
•Tréma ( ë, ï, ü ): Press [U] while holding down [Option], then press either [E], [I] or [U].
•OE Ligature ( œ ): Simply press [Q] while holding down the [Option] key.
A Picture is worth a thousand words.
Next I copy the original French sentence into Google Search and do first a normal search and then an image search.
I like to illustrate my calendar scrapbook. This is often the most interesting part of the process as I often find that the sentence was taken from a French saying or part of a famous French song, or a quote or it might even be a catch phrase from a French game show. (I didn’t know that the French had game shows).
I record all this information. I usually try and write a quick biography of the author, painter or game show in question.
A lot of this information can be found on Wikipedia.
If the author doesn’t appear in the English version of Wikipedia then look on the left hand side of the Wikipedia home page. There is a “Languages” heading. Find and click on “Français”.
The Français page will be in French, but you can copy and paste the page into Google Translate.
Once a month my French calendar has short biographies of French painters or authors or other famous French people or places.
In this case I type out these biographies onto my Word scrapbook and then look for pictures on Google.
This is a whole cultural and history lesson that I look forward to every day. I’ve been introduced to several different art movements as well as the works of a number of different authors that I had never heard of.
I remember the first time I did an image search was when the French calendar was when there was an article about a French Château (castle) that I’d never heard of before.
So I looked up Le Château de Chambordthat. And I included some pictures of the Château and a map of where it is located.