The Language of Coronavirus

A useful glossary of coronavirus terms

With all this daily information about the novel Coronavirus comes a plethora of new words and expressions that we have not or rarely heard before.
So here is a little glossary to help you navigate the news!

Communicable (Adjective): term used to describe diseases that can be transmitted.

Community spread (Noun phrase): the spread of a disease in a particular area where there is “no direct knowledge of how or when someone contracted the disease.”

Contact tracing (Noun): the action of identifying people who may have come into contact with someone infected with the disease.

COVID-19 (Noun): the specific illness related to the current epidemic and stands for “COronaVIrus Disease 2019.”

Disease cluster (Noun phrase): a “group of similar health events that have occurred in the same area around the same time.”

MERS (Noun): is the name of another type of coronavirus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

Novel (Adjective): New – a strain that has not been detected in humans before.

Reservoir (Noun): can refer to either an animal, a plant or an environment in which a disease can remain for long periods of time.

SARS (Noun): is the name of another type of coronavirus, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Self-isolation (Noun): a quarantine but at home for someone with symptomatic or suspected COVID-19 who does not need to be hospitalized.

Social distancing (Noun phrase): the action of keeping a large amount of personal space (about one meter) between yourself and anyone who is sneezing or coughing.

Super-spreader (Noun): a person infected with a virus or disease who then spreads or transmits it to un unusually large group of people.

Symptomatic (Adjective): is used when referring to someone who is showing symptoms of a particular illness or disease.

Zoonotic (Adjective): a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans.


Links to Lessons on the Coronavirus & Useful vocabulary (English & French)


Breaking News English Lesson on coronavirus:
The French vocab you might need during a coronavirus outbreak:
What students should learn about the coronavirus:
What is the coronavirus:

The surprising country with the most languages in the world

7,117 languages spoken around the world

Would you believe it but according to the 2019 Ethnologue Language Database, there are 7,117 languages spoken around the world! If you have not heard of them before, Ethnologue is the research centre for language intelligence.
The fascinating infographic below published by the South China Morning Post indicates that there are at least 7,102 known languages around the world today.

The most languages in the world

Out of these 7,102 languages, 23 are a mother tongue for more than 50 million people.
But, I hear you say, this does not answer the question of which country has the most languages in the world?
Well, it is not India, with its 453 languages. And it is not Indonesia, with its smashing 710! (source: Statista)
I give it to you [drum roll] …. Yes, it is Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Oceania! With a population of only around 7.7 million!

Four official languages

Out of PNG’s 840 languages, there are only four official languages: due to its colonial history, English is the main language of government and commerce and only spoken by 1-2% of the population. In everyday situations, the most widely spoken language is Tok Pisin, a creole language that evolved from English. The third official language is Hiri Motu, a simplified trading language and the fourth language is sign language. And though it is the second largest islands in the world (after Greenland) and is slightly larger than the state of California.

The Trans-New-Guinea Family According to Malcolm Ross

The most linguistically diverse country in the world

The country’s geography is rugged, and many tribes live in the isolated mountainous interior and have very little contact with the outside world or even with one another. Some 80% of PNG’s people actually live in rural areas. PNG is also split over 600 islands with travelling often difficult. These various factors probably explain why there are still so many indigenous languages.
Papua New Guinea is definitely the most linguistically diverse country in the world!

Google Translate Mobile App Review

Browsing the apps on my iPhone, I stumbled across the Google Translate App and I am loving it!
Thank God, it is far from perfect (long live human translation! Translators are not obsolete… yet…) but great fun to play with!
With 2.3k users around the world and 103 languages you can translate between, this is an app likely to be popular!

Once you have selected the language combination you want to translate from and into, you can choose one of the four modes: camera, handwriting, conversation or voice:

Google Translate : the Camera Mode

Within the Camera mode, you have three options.

With option 1

You can get an instant translation by pressing “Instant”:

Though very handy, as you can see, this is definitely a machine, literal translation which does not correspond to the actual published translation. For example, “The international bestseller” in this context translates as “Le Best-seller international” and certainly not as “Le meilleur vendeur international”! and as you can see, the actual published French translation of the title is not “Le pouvoir de maintenant” mais “Le pouvoir du moment présent”.

With option 2

You can scan a document and select what needs to be translated:

Once the text is recognized, you can select all the text or highlight the parts that you want to translate using your finger as seen above. You then tap on the dark blue section in order to obtain the translation:

Once again, though the app allows to get the gist of what the text is about, the quality of the translation remains basic and does not account for context, flow and idioms.

With option 3

You can simply import a picture from your photo library.

With the Handwriting mode, you can write something on your phone which is first transcribed then translated. Which is absolutely terrific if your keyboard doesn’t use the letters or symbols that you want to translate. I will be honest; this is probably my favourite feature! I had such fun writing in Chinese and Gujarati!!

I did try and write Hello in Arabic, but my writing was never recognised! A great feature but you would have to be extremely precise with the characters (which is challenging when using a finger) and you also have to be very quick (which you won’t be if like me these languages are completely foreign!) as it does transcribe very fast.

Google translate : the Conversation mode

With this mode, you can record yourself or your interlocutor in either the one language or the other with an instant translation.

Finally, with the Voice mode, you can record either yourself if you need the written or audio translation for someone or you can record someone to hear or read the translation of what they are saying. Once recorded, the message is translated in writing and all you need is to click the audio symbol  to hear the translation (or play it to someone).

The Conversation mode : cool features

  • Offline translation (59 languages)
  • Instant camera translation (90 languages)
  • Take or import photos for higher quality translations (50 languages)
  • Translate bilingual conversations on the fly (43 languages)
  • Handwriting: Draw text characters instead of typing (95 languages)
  • Phrasebook: Star and save translated words and phrases for future reference (all languages)

To summarize, I think that although this is a fun app to play with and although it will give you a sense of the general meaning of your original text or conversation, these machine translations could not be used professionally and you would still need a good old human translator to obtain an accurate translation.
However, the app is very useful to get the gist of documents and help with communication, which is always a really handy option to have, especially when travelling either for business or pleasure!

This review is based on the use of the Google Translate App on a mobile phone (iPhone 8+) using Eckhart Tolle book “The Power of Now”.

Bonne fête ! Happy Name Day!

Did you know that in France, every day of the year has one or more saint’s name(s) assigned to it?

The custom originated with the Christian calendar of saints. In the past, a child would be named (either first name or middle name) after the name of the catholic saint of the day when they were born.  Every day of the calendar has a saint’s name or more assigned to it.

Today, it is still traditional to mark the day by giving a small present or to just say « Bonne fête! ». My saint/name day is on the 11th of May and living in Australia today where this is not a custom, I must say I do miss this little custom and still love receiving presents from France on that occasion and love people remembering it and sending me messages! Any excuse for presents is a good excuse I say!

So let’s go back to our calendar! For example, on the 25th of April, we celebrate the Marcs (La Saint-Marc). If referring to the saint’s day, you use the feminine and a hyphen as opposed to referring to the saint himself (le saint Marc or Saint Marc).
The French are reminded of the saint that is celebrated the following day at the end of the evening news (Le journal), after the weather forecast. Several expressions can be used, such as: « Demain, nous souhaiterons la bonne fête à tous les Maxime ! or Demain, nous fêterons les Maxime, or Demain, nous serons la Saint-Maxime ».

Note however that if you hear someone telling you « Ça va être ta fête! », they might actually be threatening you!!! (see vocabulary section below).

Every year, La Poste prints their own calendar named L’Almanach du facteur* (= the postman’s calendar) or Almanach des Postes (since 1810).
It is a French tradition for the postman to come to your door at the end of the year to sell a copy of next year’s calendar: there are various styles and versions to choose from and you give whatever you want (it is an opportunity to say thank you for the postman’s services and possibly improve them if generous!) and is part of « les étrennes » (New Year’s gift; Christmas box given to private and public workers such as rubbish collectors, firefighters and postmen/postwomen) .
As an average, the postmen/postwomen get €10 per calendar and can sell up to 600 copies. Between 15 and 18 million calendars are sold every year!

Want to see what day is your name day? Click on the links below:



Un almanach (pronounced [almana]) : « Calendrier accompagné d’observations astronomiques, de prévisions météorologiques, de conseils pratiques relatifs aux travaux à faire selon la saison » (Le nouveau Petit Robert, 2010) = an almanac
Une éphéméride : « Ouvrage indiquant pour l’année à venir les évènements astronomiques ou météorologiques sujets à calcul et à prévisions ; Calendrier dont on détache chaque jour une feuille » (Le nouveau Petit Robert, 2010) = ephemeris ; tear-off calendar.
*Un facteur / Une factrice = A postman / A postwoman
P&T = Postes et Télégraphes


Bonne fête ! Happy name day!
Ça va être ta fête! You’ve got it coming to you!
Attendre jusqu’à la saint-glinglin To wait forever
C’est une sainte nitouche She looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth!
La Saint-Sylvestre New Year’s Eve



La bise 101

Most people know or have heard of “la bise” as a French form of greeting. But what is “la bise” exactly and most importantly, how does it work? If you are one of the many people left discombobulated by the mysterious Gallic custom, read ahead!

First things first, who on earth came up with such a silly idea?

Well, apparently, it is all the Romans’ fault as they would be the ones who started this curious business! They used to have three different types of kisses: the romantic kiss (saevium), the religious or friendly kiss (osculum) and finally the greeting kiss (basium – word at the origin of the French word “bise”) which they would use in a very similar manner the French do today.

And though kissing was actually banned in France during the Plague for obvious health and safety reasons, the “bise” resurfaced during WW1 to never leave again!

These days, “faire la bise” is pretty much a social convention.

Continue reading “La bise 101”

Le retour des bons points !!!

Ah les bons points, que de bons souvenirs….

C’était le siècle dernier (eh oui, cela ne nous rajeunit pas), mais comme je les attendais avec impatience ces bons points quand j’étais à  l’école primaire. Même s’il est vrai que je passais plus de temps sous le bureau de la maîtresse qu’à trier ma collection de points, je me souviens encore du bonheur procuré par ces petites images sans prétention ! Une simple vache dans un pré ou un chaton coquin, aucun texte, mais la fierté de l’obtenir n’avait aucun équivalent!

Et je me rends compte en enseignant le français à des élèves de l’école primaire, que la carotte, mes amis, ça fonctionne toujours! J’aime pouvoir récompenser et encourager mes élèves et surtout je préfère célébrer les réussites plutôt que de sanctionner les erreurs. Et le côté ludique des bons points me semble convenir parfaitement à l’âge des apprenants.

Et plutôt que d’essayer de trouver un fournisseur local (eh oui, je suis en Australie!!), j’ai découvert qu’il était possible de tout simplement créer ses propres bons points. Tout ce dont vous avez besoin est d’un ordinateur, d’Internet, de Word, d’une imprimante et si possible d’une plastifieuse!

Et pour vous faciliter encore plus la tâche, il y a de nombreux modèles prêts à l’emploi en ligne.

Ted-Ed: on the difficulty in translating “you”!


When asked about difficult words to translate, “you” would most certainly not top your list! However…

As you will hear in this excellent video from Krystian Aparta, translating the simple pronoun “YOU” is not always as easy as it sounds!! It’s actually often impossible to accurately translate “you” without knowing more about the situation where it’s being said. Krystian describes the specific reasons why it can be difficult, citing examples from many different languages.

Watch this 3mn47 video to learn more!


Lost in Trumpslation…


As you may have read in the news, translators around the world are struggling translating and interpreting Donald Trump’s speeches.

The cause? Run on sentences, disjointed syntax, repetitions and well, let’s face it, limited vocabulary.

According to professional translator Bérengère Viennot, “For translators, Trump is an unprecendented and desolating struggle”.
And as the French say, Bérengère “n’y va pas par quatre chemins” (she does not beat around the bush – no pun intended) by adding bluntly: “When it comes to speaking of something other than his victory, he clings desperately to the words contained in the question put to him, without succeeding in completing his own thought.”

For many translators, including Ms Viennot, Mr Trump’s speeches put them in an ethical dilemma: meaning might be difficult to interpret.
On the one hand, his abrupt style and metaphors can be difficult to render in another culture; while on another hand, translating Mr Trump more smoothly might make him come across as an ordinary politician, which, clearly, he is not.
As Ms Viennot points out: “Most of the time, when he speaks, he seems not to know quite where he’s going”… Yes, we noticed…

Discover Paristique!

Paristique’s beautiful watercolour interactive map

If you are planning a trip to Paris or just want to learn more about the City of Lights’ history, head to the very cool website called Paristique!

Paristique is an interactive online map where each dot represents an urban element: a street, a square, a boulevard or a parvis (6,840 places in total).
If you want to learn about the origin of a place’s name, all you have to do is click on it and a box explaining the origin and history of that place will open.

Note: the site is exclusively in French!

Paristique Map example
An example of a street description on Paristique

Guillaume Derolez, a Google engineer and creator of Paristique, carried out an impressive amount of research about Parisian streets on the no less impressive City of Paris’ Open Data website.

The result is pretty impressive with its gorgeous watercolour map, colour-coded points of interest (white for streets, yellow for squares, pedestrian streets in blue).

So if you have some time to check it out, do not hesitate! A good way to practise your reading skills in French!


Source:;; 20minutes;fr;

Don’t miss the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2017!

AF Film Festival 2017
The biggest  festival of French films outside of France!

Now in its 28th year, the AF (Alliance Française) French Film Festival is the biggest film festival in Australia but also the biggest festival of French films outside of France.
Last year, the AF offered 2,450 sessions nation-wide with  a programme comprising 48 movies!

This festival is an opportunity to see the best of contemporary French cinema.
This year, it will be screening from the 7th to the 30th of March, opening with “The Odyssey” (Directed by Jérôme Salle / Starring Lambert Wilson, Audrey Tautou & Pierre Niney) and closing with the movie “A bun in the oven” (Directed by Nadège Loiseau / Starring Karin Viard, Philippe Rebbot & Hélène Vincent).

The festival will be presenting no less than 45 different movies in total from directors such as Emmanuelle Bercot, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Nicole Garcia, Benoît Jacquot and Mia Hansen-Løve, Philippe Lioret, Martin Provost, Jérôme Salle, Bertrand Tavernier and Roschdy Zem.

Continue reading “Don’t miss the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2017!”