13 brands that have become nouns in French.

Here’s a list of common items that are now referred to by the leading or original brand name. You will already be familiar with some I’m sure:

1.  Un BIC is a pen (from the brand BIC that also makes lighters and razors).

2. Un Caddie is a shopping cart.

3.  Un Chamallow is a Marshmallow from the name given by the company Haribo to the “guimauve”. In Quebec, the term “une guimauve” is used. They like to make fun of us Frenchies who use the term Chamallow 🙂

4. Une fermeture  Éclair is a zipper. Fermeture à glissière is a proper way to name a zipper but it just isn’t used very much at all.

5. Un frigo is a fridge from the brand Frigidaire.

6. Un Karcher is a pressure washer named after a company that makes them.

7. Un Kleenex, just as in English, is a tissue.

8. Une Mobylette is a moped. The name comes from the company that built a popular model many years ago.

9. Une Boule Quiès designates ear plugs.

10. Le Sopalin is the common name of paper towel. The name originated from the first company to ever produce them: Société du Papier Linge.

11. You can probably guess what un Tupperware is. It is any type of plastic container used in the kitchen.

12. Le Nutella is a staple of French breakfasts. The brand name is now used to designate any chocolate spread that tries to mimic the original.

13. Un Kway is a rain jacket, named after the company that sold many jackets in France a few decades ago.

While the above words are technically not the proper ways to designate the corresponding items, using them will make you or your French Immersion student sounds more like a native French speaker.



Why May is the best month in France

The month of May is a good time of the year in most places. In the northern atmosphere, we’re happy that winter is finally over, the days are some of the longest in the year and gardens look fresh and colourful with new growth.

In France, there is another element that takes May to the next level: holidays. While we have the May long week in Canada and the US, France does what it does best and adds another two holidays in the same month.

The following are France’s May holidays:

May 1st is France’s Labour Day. The date was chosen because of the large strike in the US in 1886, aimed at reducing the legal work day to 8 hours.

May 8th is the first of two annual Remembrance Days, the other one being November 11th. May 8th marks the anniversary of Germany’s capitulation in 1945.  Large events are planned across the country with particularly large gatherings in Paris and in Normandy to remember and pay respect to the ten of thousands who gave their lives or their health to free France from Nazi Germany.

The Ascencion of Jesus is celebrated 39 days after Easter, which also falls in May. It marks the day that, according to Christian belief, Jesus returned to heaven.

Most would agree that 3 days off in a single month is quite nice! To top it off, Ascencion day falls on a Thursday every year, so it is not uncommon for people to take the Friday off, which they call “faire le pont”, literally “make a bridge (to the week end)”.



May 1st is also la Fête du Muguet (Day of the Lily of the Valley).  The origins seem to come from way back in 1561, when the French King of the time, Charles IX, received on May 1st, a bunch of Lily of the Valley as a lucky charm. He liked the idea and started offering the same flowers to the ladies of the court on that day every year. So if you find yourself in France around May 1st, don’t be surprised to see people selling “des brins de muguet” (lit. stems of Lily of the Valley) in the streets.

Happy May 1st everyone!



The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is one of the most popular destinations in France. It consists of a scenic route, partly along the River Loire.  In a small area, visitors are treated to a wealth of historical treasures as well as vineyards and beautiful towns.

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I wish I knew more French… 5 ways to do just that.

As a parent of a child in French Immersion, have you ever said that? I have personally heard it many times.  You might even have given your child the opportunity to learn a second language early because you wish you had benefited from that same opportunity. There is nothing you can do about your own education as a young child, but it’s never too late to learn at least some French.Wish I knew more French

When we say we “wish we knew how to do something”, what we really want is being able to take a pill or get a shot which would literally give us  the ability to do something without putting in the time of the effort. I have seen no such pill or shot so if you are sincere about “wishing you knew more French”, then get to it! If you actually have a child in French Immersion, it’s a golden opportunity to learn, which, be honest, you thought you would when you registered your little one. I am a big advocate of parents learning French alongside their child, it’s much more motivating for him or her and it’s a great opportunity for you as well.  Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Get yourself a travel book.

Those little language travel books are usually well made and categorize entire phrases that you can learn little by little. You can start by learning greetings. That’s always useful and easy to practice every day. You can move on to daily activities: make your bed, eat your supper, etc.  Don’t be afraid to incorporate only bits of French in your sentences, you don’t have to know the whole thing, your young francophile might help you translate it, if not, at least there is some French in there.

2. Attend a French event.

Language isn’t much more than sound unless it is used to communicate.  Participating in a French-related event is an excellent opportunity for a real-life lesson where you can practice your “bonjour” and “merci”. It will also help your son or daughter appreciate that French is actually used outside the classroom.

3. Get your child to teach you!

You signed up your child in French Immersion, you might as well take advantage of it. Sure, kids learn languages more easily than us but it’s no reason not to make an effort. Be flexible, an easy way to incorporate some French in your daily life is to replace some of your usual English words with French ones. Meals are a great opportunity to learn from your youngsters. They will be proud to teach you and happy to make fun of your accent!

4. Follow a board on Pinterest.

Of course you should follow our Immersion Help Pinterest board, that goes without saying :). There are many other great ones that feature vocabulary, facts or simply pictures.

5. Read both sides of the cereal box.

That really only works when you live in Canada… We are lucky here to enjoy both English and French text on food packaging.  I always enjoy reading both versions, and I am particularly interested in how slogans and tag lines are translated (a little nerdy some of you might say). Many such phrases use rhymes or play on words that cannot be translated word for word so it’s cool to see how they chose to relay the same message in a different language. Apart from the marketing message, the text is essentially faithfully translated so it can a good source of quick, easy breakfast knowledge.

What better way to start your day than with a few new French words?

French Immersion Help Website

5 French slang words to designate a shoe.


Today I thought I’d share various words used instead of the word “shoe”.  While the English and French languages both have lots of ways to identify different types of shoes, I would venture a guess that in French, we have more ways to name the general type of footwear. The correct words being “une chaussure” or “un soulier”, the following are also used very frequently:

1. une gaudassechaussures

2. une pompe

3. une godillot

4. une grolle

5. une claque (not used as commonly as the other words)


While these are not slang words, it’s good to know that sneakers are often referred to as des tennis or des espadrilles in Quebec. Espadrilles in France are casual shoes with fabric tops and rope and rubber soles like in the picture on the right.