Architecture: L’Arc de Triomphe

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


L’Arc de Triomphe is one of the most recognizable monuments in Paris. Originally inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte I at the height of his power, it has since stood as a monument to the past and present glory of France. And for 16 days last year, it stood for something different entirely. 


Arch of Titus

After Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, he commissioned the Arch to celebrate his miliraty’s accomplishments. Jean-François Thérèse Chalgrin designed it in the neoclassical style, and inspired by the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum.  It would be built in the Place de l’Étoile,  a circle plaza with 12 large avenues radiating outwards to form an étoile (a star). Although the location of the Arch remains the same, the location is now called Place Charles de Gaulle.


Emperor Napoleon

Work began in 1806, on Napoleon’s birthday, August 15. By 1810, when Napoleon married Archduchess Marie-Louisean, only the foundation was complete. So for their wedding, a full-scale wood and painted canvas model was built on the site. This gave the archetest a chance to see how his creation would look in the Parisian setting, and he tweaked his original design just slightly. Just a year later, construction slowed, then stopped completely after the Bourbon Restoration of 1814. The arch sat unfinished for nearly a decade. King Louis XVIII, however, ordered work to resume following a successful invasion of Spain. The Arch was officially completed in 1836, under King Louis-Philippe.  




Aside from periodic cleaning and maintenance, the Arch has remained unchanged for centuries. Until 2021, when an artist realized a vision after decades of dreaming. For 16 days, the Arch became an artist’s exhibition.

L’Arc de Triomphe

Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude first had the idea to wrap the Arch in the 60s, while both lived in Paris. They created thought-provoking pieces in other parts of the world, but this project didn’t come to be until 2021, 11 years after Jeanne-Claude’s death. Christo didn’t live to see the project complete, and his devoted nephew completed the work.

The pandemic delayed construction, and breeding habits of falcons found to be nesting on the monument shifted the construction from summer to fall. But after 3 months of labor by 1,200 workers, almost two miles of red cord, and thousands of square feet of silver-blue fabric, the project was complete. Mixed reviews greeted the finished work. Some thought it disgraced the monument, others didn’t understand and wondered if the ‘real’ art was under the wrapping. But some appreciated the perspectives this piece offers.

The wrapping on the arc can be interpreted as an analysis of the timeline of beauty. The Arc underneath had stood for centuries, its beauty remaining unchanged through the years. But the wrapping moved with every breeze, and the exhibition ended after only 16 days. If one were to look deeper into the meaning and inspiration of the piece, one might also analyze the meaning of the Arc itself. Napoleon built it as a tribute to the military glory of France, but what glory is there truly in war? If there was any glory, it didn’t last. Napoleon’s might faltered, and soon collapsed in on itself, giving way to a new order in France. Christo loved beauty, but he also loved deeper meaning in art.


The Arc has held a special place in France since it was first built, and has stood for a variety of things since it’s construction. It holds a special place in the center of Paris, at the center of the main roads that connect all of France.


Exploring Biliteracy in Everyday Life

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


When someone thinks about being biliterate, they often have a narrow focus of what possibilities this opens them up to. When I first started to explore the opportunities presented by being biliterate, I was focused on travel opportunities, teaching the language, and other bare-bones ideas about the benefits of multilingualism. This perception, however, is incredibly flawed and ignores the major benefits of understanding two (or perhaps more) languages. One day last fall, my perception was permanently altered by a seemingly mundane event.


The Clark Art Institute

Last fall, a group of students in my high school’s French Program visited the Clark Art Institute in northern Massachusetts. At the Institute, they have a full art museum where they give guided tours and foster interest in higher education in the field of art. The museum possesses some unique pieces of art, ranging from around the world and spanning several centuries of history. At the Clark Art Institute, they have a team of docents, who act as tour guides through the museum, that speak a variety of languages. Our docent, Sylvia, was fluent in French and provided a bulk of our tour in French. During the tour, I became enthralled by the idea of using French in this way; it was such a unique way to use the French language in one’s everyday life, far beyond what I had ever imagined as possible. 


The Interview & Revelations

After our tour, I reached out to Sylvia about an interview, which she agreed to participate in. This interview provided me with even more insight into how Sylvia used language in her everyday life. I began asking her about her experience with language as a docent. She expressed how being bilingual had helped her connect to the people that she was giving tours to. Not only could she provide information about the art, but she could provide vocabulary about art in French. This idea of using language to connect with the people around you resonated with me; it was this major revelation that actively changed my perception. I began to understand, almost immediately, that language was more than just traveling or teaching: it could foster personal connections. 


Sylvia didn’t start learning language to become a docent, and that’s not the only place she has used it, either. Somewhere that she was most proud of using the language in her life was with her kids. As she raised her kids they traveled back and forth between France and the United States, exposing them to the language and culture of both. Because of this, French has long been ingrained in the life of Sylvia’s children, providing them with that cultural connection that she fell in love with. Once more, this brought new ideas of biliteracy and bilingualism to my mind. It seemed so fundamental to one’s life to learn a new language, to become invested in connecting with others via language and experience. 


Closing Thoughts

Sylvia opened my mind to a more complete understanding of how bilingualism, and biliteracy, is useful in life. It is my goal to pass this message on to others. When I consider the way that French has changed Sylvia’s life, I find a powerful story that moves me to continue my own study of language, something that I hope to pass on to the people around me now and in the future. 


Poisson d’Avril – A fishy tradition

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

In the United States, we celebrate the first of April as April Fool’s. It is fondly celebrated as a day of pranks and jokes among friends. In France, as well as Belgium and Quebec, the first day of April is Poisson d’Avril, or ‘Fish of April.’ On this holiday, children and adults alike celebrate by “coller un poisson dans le dos de quelqu’un.” This means literally “to stick a fish in someone’s back,” and is usually done by taping a fish to someone’s back without that person realizing, at least not right away. 

When that person does find the fish minutes, or maybe hours, later, the person who put it there shouts “Poisson d’Avril! 

Why a fish? There are several theories, but no one is certain exactly what the origins of this fun holiday are. A popular theory is that this holiday began just following a switch of calendars in France. Some claim it has to do with the fishing seasons, and still others speculate that this is a very ancient holiday, with roots going back to celebrations long ago. 

A New date for New Year’s

In the 16th century, King Charles IX wanted to unify the calendar system of France, and put the Gregorian calendar to use throughout the kingdom. Now New Year’s is on January first. 

But before this, different regions of France celebrated New Year’s on different dates. Many observed New Year’s on March 25th, and followed it with a week of celebration, ending on April 1st.  

News traveled slowly back then, and some continued to welcome the New Year in March. Others protested the change in calendars, and refused to celebrate in January. Regardless of their reasons, those who didn’t observe the change were ridiculed by those who had switched over. People considered those who celebrated New Years in March to be fools, and ridiculed them and played pranks. Perhaps the fish came into play when people gave these fools fake fish to mock the end of Lent, a fasting period where fish is the only meat allowed to be eaten. 

The Season for Fishing and Ancient Holidays

Beaucoup de Poissons!

Fishing season in France ends in March, as the fish breed in April. During this period, it was impossible to get fish. Some wonder if the first Poisson d’Avril was when someone sent another, more naive someone to the market for fish, knowing that they would be impossible to find. 

This holiday could also be a descendant of other celebrations, such as the Roman celebration of Hilaria, part of a celebration of Attis, a conflicted figure in Roman mythology. 

Or perhaps the fish element of Poisson d’Avril comes from the fish as an early symbol of Christianity. 

Forgotten Postcards

One of the more obscure elements of this holiday are the postcards. These have fallen out of fashion today, but in the late 19th century and early 20th century, people would send postcards to their friends and relatives for Poisson d’Avril.

These cards were comical, cute, and featured fish, of course! Some also included clever little insults, meant to amuse the recipient. 

Poisson d’Avril Postcards

Regardless of where it came from, this holiday is a lot of fun to celebrate. One can find versions of this holiday all around the world. In France, Belgium and Quebec, it is known as Poisson d’Avril, and in anglophone places it’s called April fools. Although there, the holiday lacks any relation to fish. 

French Cuisine, An Evolving Gastronomy

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

French cuisine has long been synonymous with high-class, fine dining. It has served as the foundation of international cuisine. Throughout history, however, this culture of food has been consistently transformed in France, ranging from traditional Moorish foods to modern “Haute Cuisine.” The trajectory of French cuisine is an amazingly complex tale, and it has had radiating effects on international food.


Moorish Cuisine

In the beginning, French cuisine was largely a reflection of Moorish food traditions due to the proximity of the two cultures. Food was served “en confusion,” meaning that the entire meal was served at once, a contrast to modern cuisine, where each course is served separately. In the medieval times, meat was a massive component of French food. The French enjoyed lots of fish, poultry, beef and pork during this era.

In the most high-class dining, presentation was crucial. Sometimes, game such as peacocks and swans were cooked, sewn back into their pelts, and then their legs and feet were gilded (gold-painted). The French used edible colorants to create visual displays as well. The more effort that went into the visual display, the more sophisticated the meal was considered. The wealthy held banquets of fine cuisine to show their prominence in society. Soon after, however, the French food culture began to change.


European Influences

Louis XIV

As other European cuisines began to rise in prominence during the 15th and 16th centuries, they influenced French culture. Italy, in particular, provided a heavy influence to French cuisine. When the two royal families joined through marriage, things such as pasta, garlic, and truffles found a place in French cuisine. Particularly under King Louis XIV, French cuisine began to further embody high-class, sophisticated taste. Louis XIV began a trend towards the increased use of fresh fruits and vegetables alongside some of the more delicate elements of his dishes. Most notably, however, French cuisine in this era created the modern eating experience. 

The French founded the progression of courses in your meal: you begin with soups and starters, continue to roasts and meats, and then end with sweets. Additionally, the idea of a maître d’hôtel, who guides you through your restaurant experience, arose during this period of French history. As you can see, the French defined much of your current restaurant experience including the idea of sit-down restaurant experiences. But how has modern French cuisine shifted?

Maitre d’Hotel

Escoffier & Grande Cuisine

In the last two centuries, haute cuisine has changed to accommodate a changing taste in food. George Auguste Escoffier, a chef and restaurant owner, has been a major player in this change. He fathered the concept of “grand cuisine,” which focuses on combining or deconstructing products within a dish to create a more balanced and harmonic taste. Escoffier also focused on cleaner, more simplistic styling and presentation. French cuisine has, however, changed with the times in recent centuries.

For many years, French cuisine relied on meat and cream-based elements. As the vegan movement has risen globally, French cuisine has come to adapt. Keeping its foundational elements, the French plates have come to include more fresh produce, vegan-friendly options, and, overall, healthier and lighter options. Throughout the years, French cuisine has adapted itself to fit current trends. The future of international cuisine may very well rest on the back of how France transforms its culinary culture.

Modernized Cuisine

King Cake

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


King cake, or three king’s cake, is a festive treat originally enjoyed by Europeans, most notably in France and Spain. Since then, New Orleans, Louisiana has become famous for their version of it. The area has left its mark on this dessert through the addition of a hidden surprise and by making the world’s largest king cake.

History of the Cake

Galette de Rois

In France around the 12th century, people began eating a round, decorated cake to celebrate a religious holiday. It was eaten from Epiphany (January 6th) through Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. People knew it as king cake and ate it in celebration of the three kings who visited baby Jesus.

This king cake was different from king cake in today’s Louisiana. It would have been a decorated ring of dough eaten at home in the company of family.

King Cake in New Orleans

Rosca de Reyes

From Old World Europe, king cake came to the Americas. Places in Latin America still enjoy a similar treat, which they know as rosca de reyes. But king cake really took root in New Orleans, and the city has become famous for it.

France today still enjoys galette des rois, which plays a role in a similar celebration.

Record-Breaking Cake

Louisiana Superdome

In September 2010, Haydels’ Bakery in New Orleans made the two biggest king cakes the world has ever seen. The largest of the two weighed 1,874.68 kilograms (over 4,000 pounds). Set up on hundreds of tables, each of the cakes completely encircled the Louisiana Superdome. They took three and a half days to prepare and nine hours to set up on site.

A Hidden Surprise

King cakes are known for having a surprise within them: a little plastic baby, intended to represent the baby Jesus. This tradition has origins that go back to Europe. Originally, whoever baked the cake would hide a bean, pea, or coin in the cake. Whoever discovered it in their slice would have good fortune for the coming year.

Folks in Louisiana added to the tradition, serving king cake at lavish balls. Whoever found the treasure in their slice would become King or Queen of the ball and would be responsible for hosting the party the following year.

Mardi Gras King Cake!

king cake with baby Jesus

Baby Jesus is found!

By the 1940s, most people were getting their king cakes from bakeries, not their own kitchens. The transition from little hidden treasures to plastic babies took place around this time, due to a chance encounter between a traveling salesman and a baker. The salesman had an abundance of miniature porcelain dolls and suggested to the baker that he use them for the hidden surprises in his king cake. This idea intrigued the baker, and after receiving permission from the health department, he began baking the dolls into his cakes. This transition was popular, and once the baker had run out of porcelain dolls, he found plastic ones that he began using instead.

Today, bakers usually leave these plastic babies out of the cake for baking, and the host hides them before serving. They come in a variety of realistic or festive colors and have become an essential part of the king cake tradition.

World of French: Djibouti

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


Djibouti, a small Francophone nation about the size of New Jersey on the horn of Africa, is an intriguing case study of cultural exchange. From traditional African culture to colonial French culture, and eventually a unique modern culture, an array of influences through history have developed Djibouti.

Pre-Colonial History

Djibouti was first inhabited by nomadic tribes, including the Afars of Eastern Ethiopia and the Issas of Somalia. They used the land extensively for livestock raising and trading. Historical poems and songs from the region have been used to uncover this period of Djibouti’s history.

Being located directly on the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has also served as a battleground between religious tensions between Central African Islamic cultures and Northern African Christians. This conflict has defined Djibouti’s religious history. Today, Djibouti is mostly Muslim, with over 90% of citizens practicing the Muslim faith. 

The Aral Empire exerted control over the region from the 12th century until the 17th century. However, beyond that, Djibouti has limited historical records of the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Given its position adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, most historians have reached consensus that Djibouti served as a port area for trading, especially of livestock. Although port cities in nearby territories were larger and more prominent, Djibouti still had two main port cities on the coast. Tadjoura, a port city in Djibouti, is the busiest port city in the boundaries of Djibouti. Caravans traded livestock and slaves by caravan from the port region to the interior lands of Africa. 


French Colonization

Expeditions into the coasts of Africa in the 1830s and 1840s by French explorers gave way to complete colonization in 1855. Aboubaker Ibraheim Chehem ceded to Frenchman Henry Lambert a small section of coast. Lambert’s assassination paused further integration of the French into that strip of land. In 1862, the French gained full territorial control of Djibouti. However, Djibouti never really played a vital role in their colonization and the French largely ignored it. In the 1880s, the French would finally take advantage of Djibouti’s port cities as coal refueling stations for their troops sent to fight against uprisings in Madagascar and French Indochina. 

To secure French-controlled Djibouti, the commanders in the region signed a series of treaties with local sultans. A treaty signed in 1885 secured the French’s presence in the region and gave way to the development of Djibouti City on the coast of the nation. On June 12, 1977 Djibouti was officially declared independent, blossoming from French Somaliland to the Republic of Djibouti.


Economy & Demographics

As its own nation, Djibouti has capitalized on the competitive advantage of its geographic location. Serving as an entry point into the interior of Africa, the Horn of Africa is an important economic location. Djibouti has used this advantage to establish a strong and growing economy in the region. It’s growth rate has been near 6% for the past few years, pointing towards a booming economy in the future. Ports, logistics, and services associated with those industries remain dominant in the economy. 

Coupled with the economy, Djibouti is continuing to grow population-wise. This creates a young, energetic population that is more able to support the elderly. Many accept this theory of development that a younger population serves a nation better than an aging population. Given that Djibouti shows no signs of a slowing demographic trend, it is likely that the economic activity of the nation will continue to flourish for generations. 



The dominant traditional foods of Djibouti are heavy in dairy and meat, stemming from their traditional connection to livestock herding. Often, the foods consumed come from local herds in the rural sections of the nation. Most traditional dishes also feature grains. Perhaps most interesting in the realm of food culture is qat.

Qat is a small, narcotic leaf that is recreationally consumed by most or many men (as many as nine in ten) in the nation. Women traditionally participate less often, with roughly three in four women consuming the product. Qat is often had with lunch, when the nation basically shuts down due to the extreme heat. Almost all workplaces come to a halt around midday, when the heat is at its worst, before resuming later in the day. Even the government halts work during these hours of the day. 

Another popular use for qat is for religious services because it is believed to enhance concentration and mute the appetite. This can make long religious services easier for people to concentrate on, increasing the sense of religious devotion. 

Gender Roles

Like most nations, there is a slight patriarchal bias in Djibouti society, especially in higher-level organizations. Islamic social and religious law also prohibits some actions for women. In Djibouti, women can act as farmers, traders, civil servants, and low-level government officials. Women are dominant in informal sectors of the nation. Men also serve as farmers and traders, but in much lower proportions; they are also able to serve as high-level government officials. Men are traditionally dominant in the formal sectors including public life, business, and politics. Due to a necessity for men to work longer hours in the public sphere, women have become the traditional head-of-house in many Djibouti families, increasing their roles in domestic affairs. 

A gem to discover!

For many of us, the Republic of Djibouti is a mystery. However, with salt lakes, hot springs, beaches, marine life, giant volcanoes, mountains reaching 2028 meters (6653ft 6.5in) in height, and a history that spans centuries, it calls to be experienced.  Be it in a four-wheel drive, on the back of a camel, on a sand yacht or a boat, discover this little known gem!

Djibouti Flag

Secrets of the Paris Catacombs

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

Origins of the Catacombs

Dug by the Romans and expanded later by the French, the tunnels beneath Paris supplied limestone to the city. By the 18th century, they were becoming unstable. Officials shut the tunnels down in 1776. A collapse of one of the tunnels destroyed an entire street. 

Les Innocents Cemetery

At the same time, the city had another problem: it’s graveyards were full. By 1763, burial within city limits was illegal. However, that didn’t fix the cemeteries that were already overflowing. Les Innocents became a particular issue in 1780. Extreme rain that year caused one of the cemetery walls to collapse, and bodies tumbled into the street. Louis XVI shut down the graveyard permanently. Before that, it had been a burial site for ten centuries. 



With two major problems in the city, officials decided to solve both at once. The bones from Les Innocents and other cemeteries were dug up and dumped into the tunnels. 

Working at night, workers moved the skeletal remains of seven million people beneath the city. Some bones were over twelve hundred years old. 

Map of the Catacombs

Louis-Héricart de Thury

Thury took it upon himself to renovate the tunnels beneath Paris. He rearranged the bones that had been dumped into the tunnels and added some of the decorations from ground-level graveyards in the city. He made intricate patterns from the different bones in a variety of styles, back-filling the space behind his designs with more bones. His arrangements provided more support to the tunnels. 

Bone Designs

The tunnels were completely off limits to the public. However, after the creation of the mausoleum in 1809, authorities permitted some tours. These underground excursions weren’t open to the public, they were an exclusive experience for the elite. About four trips visited the catacombs each year. Today, the catacombs are open to all, and have become a major tourist attraction. 

Mystery of Les Guillotinés

Historical accounts tell us that the victims of the guillotine during the French Revolution came to rest in the  catacombs. Architects of the Reign of Terror, such as Maximilien de Robespierre, lay beside their aristocratic victims. However, a recent discovery has put that story into question. 

Maximilien de Robespierre

Four cemeteries, among them Old Madeleine cemetery, were built for les guillotinés (victims of the guillotine). Old Madeleine was officially closed in 1794, because, like the rest of the cemeteries, it was full. This is when it was believed that les guillotinés were moved to the catacombs. Later, the Chapelle Expiatoire was built on the site of Old Madeleine to honor Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. However, Louis XVIII had them re-interred at the Saint-Denis Basilica, the traditional resting place of French Royalty.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Biliteracy

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

What is Biliteracy? 

If you look up biliteracy in the dictionary, you’re going to get the bare essentials of a definition: “the ability to read and write proficiently in two languages.” Bilingualism is a similar concept but applied to more speech and comprehension. A person who is biliterate is, inherently, bilingual; a person who is bilingual, though, is not inherently biliterate. Biliteracy and bilingualism, therefore, are two foundational components of language-learning and proficiency. Both serve, in a way, as an end goal of learning a language. 

Bilingual = speaking/understanding 2 languages.

The concepts of biliteracy and bilingualism, however, are much more than their dictionary definitions. For many people, biliteracy is a way of life. When someone is biliterate, it is entrained into every fiber of their being. As a student of language, I have personally witnessed how biliteracy affects the people around me. Many of the biliterate people around me have pride in their languages and desire to spread their language to others. Often, they develop a passion for the culture of their languages. Being biliterate, it seems, fosters growth of a personal self. This is truly what biliteracy is: a development of one’s personal self through language. 


Language, Biliteracy, and Yourself

At this point, you may find yourself asking “Okay, but what does this have to do with me?” The answer, quite simply, is: a lot. Biliteracy is possibly one of the most crucial skills in all of society. Almost every imaginable career requires some form of biliteracy or could be bolstered by the inclusion of biliteracy. Imagine a doctor’s office, where a tourist comes in, unable to properly express their needs to the medical staff. What if a nurse there spoke that language? Or even a doctor?  This person would now be eligible to receive potentially life-saving medical attention. Not everything is life or death, obviously. Imagine a businessperson who can speak two languages. This opens opportunities for communication with more companies or customers. Being biliterate can field possibility in your career, propelling you farther in life.

Beyond your career, biliteracy is about personal connection, as we established above. For many people, biliteracy was natural, as their parents or grandparents spoke another language as their native tongue. Biliteracy, then, was how they communicated with their family. Even more, biliteracy opens your ability to communicate with others. If you can speak two languages, then you can communicate with anybody who speaks either of those languages. Imagine the potential you have just tapped into. Your future can be changed by anyone, and they just might speak another language. 


Fostering Biliteracy in New Hampshire and Beyond

How do we build up biliteracy then? Well, there are a million possibilities to start. One of the first steps to take, I believe, is educating our youth. Literacy and proficiency in languages are easier to obtain at a younger age. In the US government, a bill regarding biliteracy being integrated into education was recently discussed. You can check out this blog for more information on this act. Raising awareness in general, though, is also an important component in bringing biliteracy to more people. If more people know about biliteracy, particularly its many benefits, then more people will likely become interested in it. 

The most important part of fostering biliteracy, however, is community effort.  One person, nor one organization cannot foster biliteracy statewide, never mind nationwide. It will take the effort of entire communities to promote biliteracy and change the world. That, truly, is the goal of this blog, to begin a discussion on biliteracy in our community.


Discussing Biliteracy

The goal of the Franco-American Centre of New Hampshire is to promote history, culture, and education of the Franco-American populations in New Hampshire and around the globe. This new series, “Discussing Biliteracy,” will bring together people of our community, all from various walks of life, to discuss the importance of biliteracy and their own experiences with biliteracy. In the end, I hope to show you that biliteracy truly does foster personal growth and opportunity.

The Trouble With Computer Translators

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

The need for language translation has increased in recent years. We live in a global world, where you can message people on different continents, or purchase items from a business on the other side of the world, all while sitting on your couch. But if you don’t speak the language of those friends, or if you can’t read the website of the business, you have a problem. This is where a translator comes in. 


Computer Translators

The first publicly announced computer translation took place in 1954, and performed by the IBM 701 computer. It could translate over 60 sentences of Russian to English, giving great hope to scientists about machine translation. Many believed all computers would soon do all translations. That hope quickly faded. While translation apps and programs today are a better resource than absolutely nothing, they are unreliable. Human translators, when available, give a far better translation. 


What Makes Translation Difficult?

Translation isn’t just using a dictionary to match word definitions and applying grammar rules to keep everything organized. There are many nuances to language that we sometimes don’t even notice until something interferes with them and impairs our understanding. 

Bat vs. Bat

When you see these words, you either imagine a winged rodent or a piece of sports equipment. Two very different things, yet the words for them in English are identical in spelling and sound. Words like this are called homonyms and exist in other languages. We rely on context to determine the meaning and use of these words. You would never talk about using a winged rodent to play baseball. Without context, translation, particularly by a machine, is simply cannot be accurate.




Idioms can be baffling to explain even in our native languages. These phrases can’t be translated word-for-word, and a simple translation of meaning has a different effect and sometimes even a new meaning. Computers simply can’t process that. Phrases we use in English such as “wrap your head around it” and “fall in love” simply don’t make sense in other languages. An effective translation requires an in-depth knowledge of idioms and expressions in both languages. 


What we consider funny depends on our cultural background. Something comical may not transfer even to a different culture that speaks the same language. Trying to explain humor across cultures and language barriers requires an incredible breadth of knowledge. Computers cannot detect these subtle linguistic and comedic nuances. 


Our cultures themselves influence our language. What we say and how we say it is determined by what we deem to be appropriate to say in a given situation. Computers struggle to understand the level of formality necessary for a certain situation. And even the content of our speech is determined by what we view to be culturally appropriate. In the US, for instance, talking about a person’s weight is quite rude. To call someone fat is a great insult. But in other places and cultures, this topic isn’t so taboo. A computer doesn’t know or understand this and therefore cannot translate something of this nature in a culturally appropriately.

Multitude of Languages

It is estimated that there are 7,000 languages spoken worldwide. Just for a moment, if we pretend that computer translation is only essential to languages important in the global economy, then a computer translator still needs to know about 1,000 languages to be effective. That’s still a huge number. Now, if we consider Google Translate to be the benchmark for common translators, we would be disappointed to find it currently only recognizes 109 languages. 


Importance of Language

Language is essential in every part of our lives. It is our identity, our culture, and the way we connect with fellow humans. We need humans, not computers, to bridge the gap when we must connect with someone and we don’t share a common language. Computers don’t understand culture, idioms, or humor, and can’t accurately transcribe these human experiences from one language to another.

Beaujolais Nouveau: A Young Treasure

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Beaujolais Nouveau Day ~ November 18, 2021

What is Beaujolais Nouveau Day? 

Beaujolais Nouveau Day the third Thursday of November on the French calendar. Typically, the day is marked with fireworks, music, and festivals throughout the country. All of this celebration is in response to the first wine of the season, the Beaujolais Nouveau. The wine has become engraved in non-French cultures as well, making the tables of many American families for Thanksgiving (which falls exactly one week after the release of the wine) and acting as the cause of celebration in Wales, where bars are booked up to a year in advance for the release.  


Beaujolais Region 

The Beaujolais region is home to Les Sarmentelles, the biggest celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau.  It is also where the Gamay grapes are produced, which will be fermented for roughly three weeks before the distribution of the wine begins. The grapes are mainly produced in the southern parts of Beaujolais, just north of Lyon. French law states that all grapes from this region have to be harvested by hand.  


Wine Production 

Carbonic Maceration Process

To make Beaujolais Nouveau wine, the winemaker (le viticulteur/ la viticultrice)  uses a distinct fermentation process that ferments the grapes for only three weeks. Wines fermented for such a short period of time are typically referred to as “young wines.” For the Beaujolais Nouveau, the wine is made using carbonic maceration, which emphasizes fruit flavors and does not extract the bitter tannins from the grape skins. The grapes are introduced to carbon dioxide in a fixed container, which is integrated into the uncrushed grapes and released into the wine as they are crushed. Once ready to be drunk, the wine is fresh, fruity, and low in tannins, but has a greater acidity than most red wines.  


Franco-American Centre Gala

The Franco-American Centre hosts an annual Gala to celebrate the production of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine. This year, they plan to continue that tradition on November 20th, just two days after the wine goes up for official sale. The event is being held at Derryfield Country Club in Manchester, NH.  Want to join us?  Make sure to reserve by November 12th. For non-members, the cost is $100; for members, it is $90.  


The event is marked by food and wine-tasting. A five-course meal will be served, with a wine perfectly paired to each course. For information about the menu, click the above image.  The 2021 Beaujolais Nouveau wine will make an appearance at the event, being paired with the main courses. Other activities at the gala will include a raffle, a silent auction, and music! 

Au plaisir de vous y voir!

À votre santé!

Architecture: Notre Dame Cathedral

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral is an enormous and intricately decorated building, with hundreds of hidden details. From the front doors to the gargoyles lining the ledges, each piece has a story of its own. This ancient structure has been a sacred place of worship in the center of Paris for over 800 years. At times it has stood in glory, and it has also suffered through periods of neglect. But the cathedral has always been repaired, and its place in popular thought restored.



Île de la Cité

The area now occupied by the Notre Dame Cathedral, Île de la Cité, has been a religious site for centuries. It was first home to a temple dedicated to the Roman god of the skies, Jupiter. Then the area housed a 4th-century Christian church, then in the 6th-century it became a basilica, then a 9th-century Cathedral, which became an 11th-century Romanesque cathedral. But by 1160, that cathedral still wasn’t a large enough place of worship or the ever-growing population of Paris. So King Louis VII approved and funded the construction of a new cathedral, and construction began in 1163. Although the building has been modified and remodeled several times throughout its long history, original construction is considered to have been completed in 1345. This new church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and named Notre Dame (‘Our Lady’ in French). 


The Doors

Many parts of the cathedral are intricately decorated, and nearly every detail is associated with a story. One of the most famous stories regards the stunning ironwork adorning one of the front doors. A young blacksmith named Biscornet was commissioned to craft them. When he revealed the doors to the public, they were so beautiful, rumors spread they were far too intricate to have been made with human hands. People said that Biscornet, under such pressure to make the doors, had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for beautiful ironwork. When Biscornet died shortly after the doors were completed, people said it must have been the devil receiving his payment. Rumors gained ground when the people couldn’t open the doors until a priest blessed them with holy water. 



Gargoyles are another interesting detail of Notre Dame, as with many gothic pieces of architecture. They are grotesque animal statues made of limestone that adorn the Cathedral’s roof and ledges. The word ‘gargoyle’ comes from the French word gargouille, meaning throat or gullet. This is because gargoyles have spouts in their mouths, and spit rainwater away from the buildings they’re mounted on. They serve the practical purpose of providing a drainage system and also have a more symbolic purpose. They were intended to represent the sins & tragedy outside of the church walls in contrast with the sanctuary offered within. People at the time also believed gargoyles protected the church from evil. 


Heroes of Notre Dame

There have been many low points in the cathedral’s 800-year history. Times when the public didn’t need it anymore and it fell apart. One of these times was the Renaissance, when the cathedral simply fell out of style. By 1789, Notre Dame was no longer maintained by the Parisian Archbishop and fell into a state of disrepair. Many priceless artifacts were sold or stolen. Then in 1792, the famous spire collapsed. 

Napoleon Crowns Himself Emperor in the Notre Dame

But in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte I crowned himself emperor in the cathedral, and a surge of popularity followed. Then time passed again, and Notre Dame began to fall apart once more. In 1830, the revolution took its toll when rioters further degraded the building. Authorities considered demolishing it. 

But a year later, Victor Hugo published Notre Dame de Paris (more commonly called The Hunchback of Notre Dame in English). This again popularized the building, and breathed new life into the ancient cathedral. In 1842, a restoration project was launched. 


2019 Fire and the Future of Notre Dame

As many of us remember, 2 years ago a fire broke out on the roof of the cathedral. It raged for nine hours before firefighters could put it out. Much of the roof was destroyed, and the spire collapsed. At one point, many wondered if the cathedral was beyond repair. But the people of Paris worked to save the building’s invaluable artifacts from the fire, and since then, restoration projects have been announced. Restoration efforts will focus on recreating the original architecture (including the spire) with authentic materials. Although the pandemic has stalled restoration efforts, French president Emmanuel Macron has promised that the cathedral will reopen in 2024. This 800-year-old building will be saved again, and continue to stand tall in the center of Paris.

New Hampshire PoutineFest: A Celebration of All Things Poutine

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

What is Poutine?


Poutine, a traditional Québécois dish, deliciously combines French fries and cheese curds, smothered in brown gravy. Invented in rural Québec in the 1950s, poutine has become a staple of not only Québec cuisine but also Canadian and Northern U.S. cuisines as well. Originally, poutine did not include the gravy; in 1964, however, gravy was introduced and has never left. 


Who Made it First?


Claims to who invented poutine are fairly diverse and widely disputed among local Québec restaurants. The most known story is that a customer at the restaurant “Le Lutin Qui Rit” requested that the chef add cheese curds to his French fry dish in 1957. Despite this claim, the actual trademark for poutine is registered to Jean-Paul Roy, who owned the restaurant “Le Roy Jucep.” Roy was the first to serve the French fry dish with gravy. Another proposal is that people in Québec just developed the dish on their own, purchasing cheese curds and dumping them onto their fries. Wherever it originated, poutine is certainly a delicious Québécois staple. 


Variations on Poutine


Many restaurants have experimented with poutine toppings in recent decades. Some poutine-serving diners have variations of poutine that include meat toppings, such as chicken, brisket, or sausage. The most recent trend in poutine is fusion variations, which take traditional foods from other cultures and meld them with the traditional poutine. Some examples include Haitian, Greek, and even Japanese fusion. This trend has arisen because of the large number of immigrants coming to Québec City and Montreal, which allows the cultures to come in contact with and influence each other. 


Around holidays, some diners may offer seasonal variations on poutine as well. Perhaps the most well-known holiday variation is Thanksgiving poutine, which is often served in November. This variation is topped with traditional toppings like turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. These offers are typically promotional and will not stick around for a long period. 


For a healthier option, some alternatives have arisen from traditional poutine. For example, one can substitute French fries for sweet potatoes. This would provide a healthier option to the carb-heavy base of the staple. Another option is using mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds. Mozzarella is often considered a healthier, more low-fat cheese and thus is often used as a substitute for fattier cheese. 


What is PoutineFest?


PoutineFest is a state-wide celebration of this devious Québécois staple. Organized by the FAC of New Hampshire, PoutineFest has been celebrating poutine in New Hampshire for 6 years. Every year, people gather together to tour local poutine-serving diners and have a day of family-fun. This year, tickets have already sold out for the Halloween-themed event, which will take place on October 23rd. After missing out in 2020, FAC is ecstatic to return with the 2021 Poutine Fest!!

The Greatest Con in History!

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

Built in 1889 for the Paris World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was meant to be torn down in 1909. But it became a popular cultural symbol, and its height made it a valuable radio tower in WWI.  For these reasons, it stood tall for years after 1909. Though by 1925, a period of economic hardship after WWI, the tower needed costly maintenance.  Some wondered if it was finally time to take down the tower.


Introducing Victor Lustig

When career con artist Victor Lustig read about this in the newspaper, he was inspired!  He came up with what would arguably become the biggest con in history.

Lustig told so many lies and had so many aliases across the world, it’s hard to tell truth from fiction about his early life. Most sources agree he was born and raised in Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic) and fluently spoke five languages. He was very clever.  He had the opportunity for higher education, but found a life of crime to be more satisfying. Lustig spent years conning rich passengers aboard Atlantic cruise ships.  He also ran several jobs across Europe and America before the Eiffel Tower Con that would make him infamous.

He began by calling up the top five representatives in the Parisian metal industry. He claimed to be a government worker auctioning off the Eiffel Tower for scrap. Of course, the tower wasn’t actually being sold for scrap, so he told them that this was a controversial decision, and not to tell anyone about it for now.

They all met at the famous Hôtel de Crillon, where Lustig took them to lunch, and went to see the tower he would ‘sell’ them. Coincidentally, there were maintenance crews there, and Lustig told the businessmen that they were preparing the tower for demolition.


One born every minute!

The representatives thought it had been a business meeting, but Lustig had been looking for his mark. And after that very first meeting, he found a perfectly gullible candidate: André Poisson, an ambitious man desperate to make his mark in the Paris industry.

Lustig approached him, and Poisson admitted he was a little skeptical about the purchase. So Lustig took young Poisson into his confidence and told him he was merely an underpaid employee of the government.  Lustig told Poisson that, for a little extra cash, he’d guarantee Poisson would win the auction.

This won Poisson over. No one would imagine a con man would ask for a bribe, but a dirty government worker might. He paid Lustig’s price for the tower in addition to the bribe.

As soon as Lustig had the money, he boarded a train to Vienna.  He hid there and waited for his scam to be found out.

But as the days turned into weeks, he still hadn’t heard news of a scam involving the Eiffel Tower.  He then realized he would never be discovered.

It turned out that when Poisson realized he was conned; he was so embarrassed he kept it to himself, and no one knew about Lustig’s clever scam.

And about a month later, Lustig pulled the scam again. He spoke to five more businessmen and gave the same pitch.

But this time his mark did some homework and discovered the tower wasn’t actually for sale.

Lustig didn’t get away with the money. However, he didn’t get caught then, and French officials never caught up with him.


The law catches up

American law, however, caught up with him eventually. He had run many scams in the States before, even conning Al Capone, and had been arrested over 50 times. But there was never quite enough evidence to hold him.

Yet, over time, he had circulated so many counterfeit bills that the US economy was beginning to feel the effects.  This made officials hunt for him even harder.

As with most con artists, it was greed that got him in the end. It wasn’t greed for money that got him into trouble, though. His girlfriend found out that she was being cheated on and left an anonymous tip with the authorities. That was enough to get Lustig locked up in Alcatraz.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg & Parisian Beauty


Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Palazzo Pitti

The Luxembourg Garden, Le Jardin du Luxembourg, is an iconic Parisian monument that boasts over 25 hectares of land. Within those 25 hectares (or about 62 acres) of land, the park hosts statues, fountains, tennis courts, flowerbeds, ponds, and even a theatre! The Luxembourg Garden is without a doubt among the most extravagant gardens in the modern world; designed to reflect the Palazzo Pitti of Florence, the gardens mark the luxurious lifestyle of the old French monarchy and elite class. Although designed to imitate Italian architecture and design, the French location has thoroughly impacted the aesthetics of the garden throughout the years.


The Origins

When King Henri IV was assassinated in 1610, his wife, Marie de Midicis, ordered the construction of the Luxembourg Garden. Burdened by the memory of her husband, Marie de Midicis grew tired of the Louvre, which then acted as a palace for the monarchy, and desired a fresh start. Marie’s fresh start manifested as an entirely new palace: the Palais du Luxembourg. Surrounded by the now-famous Luxembourg Gardens, the palace and estate were designed to imitate the Palazzo Pitti, Marie’s childhood home. Completed in 1625, the original gardens were only eight hectares in size, but continued to expand until 1790. One of the lead gardeners on the job was Tommaso Francini, who designed two of the terraces along with the Palais du Luxembourg and constructed the Medici Fountain, the most famous fountain in the gardens. 

Luxembourg Gardens


Expansions & Renovations

Tuilerie Gardens

In 1630, additional purchases from the government expanded the size of the Luxembourg gardens . This expansion project was guided under the direction of Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie. Baraduderies had previously worked on the gardens of Chateau Versailles and in the Tuileries Gardens. Imitating earlier French styles, Baraduderies created a system of geometric gardens and attractions. Perhaps the most notable of these was the octagonal fountain constructed in the center of the new gardens. To this day, children use this fountain for activities such as model boat racing. After these additions, the gardens were largely ignored throughout the reign of the next few monarchs. In 1780, King Louis XVIII sold some lands, about 10 acres, to pay for the restoration of the site. This land was later confiscated following the French Revolution and added to the gardens once more. 


Arc de Triomphe

King Louis’ renovations were headed by the famous architect Jean Chalgrin, who was also an architect on the Arc de Triomphe. Chalgrin preserved the older French styles of architecture, even as he added new and increasingly modern elements to the gardens.  Many of the essential sites remained intact, including the nurseries and vineyards. Chalgrin added his own flair, of course, through elements like the addition of a path that lined the length of the garden, from the palace to the observatory. The original terraces are still intact today and line the main path in the Luxembourg Gardens. Statues began to adorn the paths of the gardens in 1848 after the fall of the July Monarchy in France. All of this would change, however, when Paris began to take a different direction under new leadership.

Luxembourg Gardens



Medici Fountain

Under Napoleon III, the gardens were renovated once more. This time, to put roads through them. One road ran right over the Medici Fountain, which was taken down and reconstructed. To date, the Medici Fountain remains in this new location. Additions were made as well, specifically the ornamental gates and fences, a significant factor in the garden’s elegant aesthetic. These features were constructed by Gabriel Davioud, who had already overseen the construction of many statues throughout the city. Devious also designed the Pavillon Davioud, a brick garden house that strikingly resembled the English style at the time. 



Example of monument

Once the garden’s many renovations were completed, the site became a harbor for preserving French culture. In particular, statues and models would find homes within the gardens, ranging from busts of famous politicians, poets, or philosophers to a model of the Statue of Liberty. This collection of French cultural hallmarks is ever-expanding. More recently, recreational additions have also been added, including tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds, etc. All of this has produced a site that truly exemplifies the Parisian beauty that we have all come to recognize. 

World of French: Haiti

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern 


FAC members & friends extend sympathy and solidarity to our afflicted Haitian friends and to the Haitian-American communities who are concerned for their affected relatives and contacts on the island.

Many organizations are working to aid the Haitian recovery effort. For those looking to make a donation, consider these organizations:

Hope for Haiti

Locally Haiti

Haitian Health Foundation


Beautiful Haiti

Haiti on the Island of Hispaniola

Mountains dominate the western third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean and hold island valleys, plains, and plateaus. In this tropical landscape lies the nation of Haiti. It is home to incredible people with a unique culture and boasts an impressive history. 

Read the rest of this entry »