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vermillon
Triglot
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United Kingdom
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 Message 273 of 1317
07 November 2012 at 3:25pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Quote:
feutre: felt hat
biberon: bottle
toile: fine cloth



Sorry I'm late, but I just wanted to react to these:
-biberon is specifically the bottle with a sucker used to give milk to babies. (a "baby bottle"?)
-just in case, feutre is felt. Using "feutre" for a felt hat is probably correct (but I've never heard it), but "feutre" is most often used for a felt pen (un feutre).
-toile is not "fine" cloth at all, and usually the opposite. Your tent is probably made of toile, and so is the support on which you would see Mona Lisa in the Louvres. Also note (if you don't already know it) the "toile d'araignée" is a spiderweb and the internet is often called "la toile".
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emk
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 Message 274 of 1317
07 November 2012 at 4:54pm | IP Logged 
vermillon wrote:
Sorry I'm late, but I just wanted to react to these:


Thank you for your notes! When I post definitions in this log, I try to use the definition that corresponds with how the word was actually used in context. I suppose it would be useful to readers to post more complete definitions, but I'm lazy, and like to deal with only one usage of a word at a time.

And I'm not sure what I was thinking with 'toile'. Thank you!
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vermillon
Triglot
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United Kingdom
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 Message 275 of 1317
07 November 2012 at 5:06pm | IP Logged 
I had guessed that was the way you were proceeding indeed. My comment's aim was merely to suggest that, when learning vocabulary, one may be tempted to learn the "most common meaning" of the word. I'm thinking mostly of the hat exeample here: learning that "feutre" is a kind of hat is of little practical value, while the meaning of felt pen (and to a lesser extent felt itself) is far more common.

Not sure if it's any clear: perhaps it's like learning that "wood" is a word for a kind of musical instrument before knowing it's a kind of material?
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Expugnator
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Brazil
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 Message 276 of 1317
07 November 2012 at 5:18pm | IP Logged 
I don't usually trust what glossaries say or what the dictionary says either. When I come across a word that is important, I try to absorb many meanings at once by looking at context, translation (if provided), monolingual definition and machine translation into English and Portuguese.
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emk
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 Message 277 of 1317
07 November 2012 at 10:04pm | IP Logged 
Actually, I know both definitions of "feutre." But if I only knew about "felt hat", and not "felt", I'd actually be OK with that. That's a very natural sort of vocabulary problem, and it would sort itself out in about 5 seconds when I ran into the more general meaning.

To use your English example, let's imagine a student of English who knows the difference between "woodwinds" and "brass intruments". If somebody asks them, "Hey, can you bring in some wood to throw on the fire?", then it won't be too hard to figure out the general definition. Even if there's a moment of confusion, the new definition will be easy to remember.

In general, my strategy is to understand the text before me with an ever-increasing degree of precision. I look lots of stuff up, but I learn at least as much from context. And I try to tolerate ambiguity and fuzzy definitions, and have faith that another 500 pages will sort it all out.

There are plenty of French words—including a few common ones like arriver—where my "definition" is really just a collection of examples:

- J'arrive, ma biche ! (I'm coming, my doe! —from Asterix)
- Il m'arrive quelques fois de ne plus avoir le choix.
- Je dois le quitter… mais je n'y arrive pas !

I use arriver spontaneously, and—to the best of my knowledge—in a reasonably idiomatic fashion. But I've never bothered to look up a proper translation for the second example, because it makes sufficient sense to me. I just know when French speakers tend to say it, and roughly what idea they're trying to convey.

This may or may not be an efficient way to learn French. But I find a certain childlike joy in collecting examples and puzzling things out.



My current puzzle is the French expression d'office, which I ran into twice in 48 hours:

Quote:
Si vous ne choisissiez pas un avocat, nous en désignerons un d'office. (Camus, L'Étranger)

Aujourd'hui, j'ai pris le RER B, bondé comme d'habitude. Collée à un gars de mon âge, je sens qu'il est pris d'une soudaine érection. C'est alors qu'il me sort : "Hum, vu la situation, pas la peine de te demander ton numéro, c'est mort d'office, nan ?" VDM


Three different dictionaries gave me the following:

Quote:
1. Impérativement.
2. (Figuré) Personnellement, de son propre chef.
Anglais : ex officio.

retraite d'office: compulsory retirement
avocat commis d'office: court-appointed lawyer
membre d'office: ex-officio member

Par la voie hiérarchique. Sans demande préalable.


At this point, my passive understanding of the French word is probably in the general ballpark. The dictionaries help a bit, especially the ones with examples. But I don't grasp this word nearly well enough to use it for anything other than describing a court-appointed attorney. Of course, I'm not 100% solid on how to use ex officio in English, either.
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Josquin
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Germany
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 Message 278 of 1317
07 November 2012 at 11:34pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
To use your English example, let's imagine a student of English who knows the difference between "woodwinds" and "brass intruments". If somebody asks them, "Hey, can you bring in some wood to throw on the fire?", then it won't be too hard to figure out the general definition. Even if there's a moment of confusion, the new definition will be easy to remember.

This reminds me of the old joke among (brass) musicians:
"What's the difference between an oboe and a bassoon?" - "A bassoon burns longer."
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emk
Diglot
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 Message 279 of 1317
08 November 2012 at 12:13am | IP Logged 
Josquin wrote:
This reminds me of the old joke among (brass) musicians:
"What's the difference between an oboe and a bassoon?" - "A bassoon burns longer."


Heh. Not that I want to turn this log into a collection of music jokes (unless they're in French), but my personal favorite is: "How do you know there's a drummer at the door? They keeping knocking faster, but they don't know when to come in."

On an unrelated subject, I want to mention that movies are awesome: They contain lots of colloquial dialog, they're entertaining (obviously), and they have lots of handy visuals and plot which provide big hints about what people are saying.

It's a pity that only a minority of French films have subtitles and that films are hard to use until you reach upper intermediate levels. I mean, I like Assimil's jokes as much as the next person, but films are way better.

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DaraghM
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Ireland
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 Message 280 of 1317
08 November 2012 at 10:00am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
It's a pity that only a minority of French films have subtitles


I don't know if you can get the channel TV5 Monde, but they show a lot of their programs with French subtitles, including films. Since my French is still at the early stages, I needed a dictionary to find out that 'bagnole' meant car.


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