French Lessons

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Painting Three Ways

Since France has such a rich artistic history, from Gothic architecture to Surrealism and beyond, it's not too surprising that there are three different words for "painting" in French. You'll find one of them in our new video on the artist Karine Rougier:

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Un travail à la fois de peintures, de sculptures... de pierres peintes

Works of both paintings, of sculptures... of painted rocks

Captions 9-10, Le saviez-vous? - Karine Rougier présente son art - Part 1

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Une peinture shouldn't be too hard to remember, since it's a cognate of "painting." Its relatives also have direct English equivalents: peindre (to paint), peint/peinte (painted), peintre (painter).

 

Peinture is also the word for "paint," as in the substance: 

 

Et la peinture, euh... on peut dire, se sépare pas comme une vinaigrette.

And the paint, uh... we can say, doesn't separate like a vinaigrette.

Caption 31, Salon Eco Habitat - La peinture à l'ocre

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So la peinture à l'huile, for example, can either mean "oil painting" or "oil paint."

 

In English, a "tableau" is an artistic grouping or arrangement, originally referring to a motionless group of people representing a scene or historical event, kind of like a living painting. As a matter of fact, "tableau" is short for tableau vivant, which means exactly that. Un tableau (literally, "little table") is another word for "painting" in French:

 

Actuellement, je prépare un grand tableau, "La naissance de Vénus".

At the moment, I'm preparing a great painting, "The Birth of Venus."

Caption 67, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 1

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Finally, there's la toile, which technically means "canvas," but is just as often used for "painting":

 

Vous y découvrirez la reproduction d'une toile de Sisley

There you'll find the reproduction of a Sisley painting

Caption 10, Voyage en France - Saint-Mammès

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But that's not all! Une toile is also "a web," as in une toile d'araignée (spider's web). And just as you can say "the web" in English to refer to the internet, in French you can say la toile.

 

We hope this lesson has inspired you to get out your pinceaux (paintbrushes)!
 

Vocabulary

Face-to-face with "la face"

In his new travel video on the Parisian suburb of Saint-Mammès, Daniel Benchimol uses the word face quite frequently when giving directions on getting around town: 

 

Face aux péniches de Saint-Mammès, arrêtez-vous quelques instants face au numéro quarante-et-un.

Facing the barges of Saint-Mammès, stop for a few moments in front of number forty-one.

Captions 8-9, Voyage en France - Saint-Mammès

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Face à Saint-Mammès, nous sommes à Saint Moret-sur-Loing maintenant.

Opposite Saint-Mammès, we are in Saint Moret-sur-Loing now.

Caption 40, Voyage en France - Saint-Mammès

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Face à is a useful expression meaning "facing," "in front of," or "opposite." You can even put the verb faire in front of it to make the verbal expression for "to face," in the sense of both "to be in front of" and "to cope with": 

 

La NASA a dû faire face à une avalanche de données et de preuves embarrassantes.

NASA had to face an avalanche of data and embarrassing evidence.

Caption 7, La Conspiration d'Orion - Conspiration 3/4

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The word face is used in a number of other directional expressions, such as en face (across, opposite), as the lead singer of Babylon Circus uses it when lamenting the seating arrangement of him and his love interest: 

 

 Je suis assis en face, et pas à tes côtés

I'm sitting across from you and not by your side

Caption 23, Babylon Circus - J'aurais bien voulu

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They might not be sitting close, but at least they’re maintaining eye contact by sitting face à face (face-to-face)!

Unsurprisingly, the French face is related to the English "face," but it usually doesn’t refer to the front part of your head. French actually has two words for that: la figure and le visage. (To see some incredible French faces, check out our interview with artist and master visage-painter Niko de La Faye.)

Sometimes face can in fact mean "face," mainly in a figurative sense: 

 

Ça change pas la face du monde, mais qui sait?

That doesn't change the face of the world, but who knows?

Caption 26, Le Journal - Laurent Voulzy

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Il peut voir la face cachée des choses.

He is able to see the hidden face of things. 

 

If you're particularly concerned about your reputation, you might make a lot of effort to sauver la face (save face) or worry that you might perdre la face (lose face). 

By itself, la face generally just means "side" (synonymous with le côté). Chef Wodling Gwennaël uses face in this way when explaining his delicious recipe for fried scallops: 

 

On va les saisir, euh, à peu près une minute sur chaque face.

We're going to sear them, uh, for about one minute on each side.

Caption 14, Les Irrésistibles - Recette: Saint-Jacques poêlées

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Face also applies to the side of a coin, namely, the "heads" side (that is, the side that usually features someone's face). So whenever you want to settle something in French with a coin toss, you can say: 

Pile ou face

Heads or tails?

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Voyons les choses en face (let’s face it): the word face has many faces! In other "face"-related news, make sure to check out our Facebook page for all the latest information from Yabla. 

 

Vocabulary

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