Archive for French

Learn French – Singapore needs it!

the Francophone world (click to enlarge)

It’s a widespread belief in Singapore that if you speak English and Mandarin, well then practically the whole world is at your feet.

But it’s actually a mix-up. In large parts of the world, you’re much better off speaking French. Just have a look at the accompanying map (courtesy Wikipedia) to see what huge area of the world is using French as a first, second or important language.

Granted, English is used more in Asia, and if you live in Singapore, French will at most be your third language, on top of English and your mother tongue.

Do you think the French speaking area on the map isn’t all that impressive? For comparison, check out the map of the English speaking world (also from Wikipedia).

English speaking world (click to enlarge)

I know a number of French speakers in Singapore, and each of them is using their French language skill to their advantage.

Two of them are corporate trainers. When dealing with French companies and expatriates, they have a unique advantage. There are many trainers, but as soon as there is a need to speak French, they will be the ones who get the job.

Then I know a French speaker who has worked in a Singaporean IT company. His expertise is in IT systems, but sure enough, when French speaking clients come up, he is about the only one in the company that can interact with them.

Another guy was working in sales for a Singaporean company and sold his goods to French speaking African countries.

These people all speak English and they are qualified professionals. Yet their ability to speak French opens a world of opportunity to them that is not available to other, equally qualified professionals. Especially in Singapore, where French speakers are still scarce.

One caveat, we’re not talking about just speaking some conversational French here, but about fluency in the language. Want to get started learning? Check out my post on French learning options in Singapore which I wrote a while back and update regularly.


Where to learn French in Singapore?

haute couture

“Haute Couture” is French for “high fashion”

Thinking to learn French in Singapore? There are many good reasons for learning French. It’s the language of fashion, arts and gastronomy, and a working language of organisations like the UN, WTO, FIFA, EU and many more.

French is a relatively popular European language to learn in Singapore, and thus it’s no surprise that our directory sports a good selection of French courses.

Which one to pick? It depends on your objectives and situation.

Three French-only language schools in Singapore

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In Focus: French Toast Language Center

Remi teaching a corporate class

Who would think that a French architect could become a language school principal in Singapore? I am sure that even Remi Malachin of French Toast Language Center himself wouldn’t believe the story. Yet that is what happened.

Wanting to experience working in another country, he learned about Singapore on the Internet in September 2007, and having arranged a job and apartment, set his first foot on Singapore soil on January 10th, 2008.

How could he have foreseen that in a few months, he would be married to his newly met Singaporean wife and expecting a daughter? Settling down so quickly, he was looking for a job that would allow him to spend more time with his family.

He initially found that in French tutoring, which he started doing in weekends and later dedicated himself to it full-time. Just a few months later, he was teaching 20 students, 7 days a week, and still receiving lots of enquiries. Time to grow bigger. And so French Toast Language Center was born on 1st June 2010.

In October 2010 he opened the doors of his French Toast Language Center at Upper Thomson Road. I’ve been there, and the hand of the architect is visible – it’s a really cozy place with 2 big classrooms, a small one and a reading room.


Remi believes in combining professionalism with fun. You can sure see the fun aspect in the schools name and logo. Many students join French Toast’s courses wanting to learn about French culture on top of the language, and they want to have a good time learning.  But don’t confuse fun with a loose attitude. He places great importance on listening to his students, have staff committed to honoring commitments, and making sure any inquiry is answered promptly and professionally.

Every student learns differently, so he and his tutors make sure to approach every student on their own terms. For classes, he has selected materials he believes are good, but recognizes the class ends up to be totally different when the different teachers use the exact same materials.

So hiring good teachers is very important and French Toast looks for motivated and professional teachers, who are passionate about French language and culture. Another criterion is that teachers preferably need to be in Singapore for at least another 2-3 years, so that students won’t have to cope with constantly changing teachers. I reckon that this last criterion makes the search rather hard: most native French speakers in Singapore are here only for a limited period.


French Toast’s student population is diverse. They have taught students from 20 different countries, aged from 2 to 62 years old. About 50% of them are Singaporean, and the rest come from all over the world (Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Brunei, Argentine, USA, Germany, Belgium…).

And there are many different motivations to learn French. Some students are children and teenagers learning french at school as a second or third language; others learn French for work purposes, then there are some students who learn French because they are dating or are married to a French speaker. But most students learn out of pure interest, because they like the sound of the language, the culture, the country, and because they are eventually planning to go to France, be it for study, work or holidays.


As a young school, French Toast’s future is already looking bright. The growth rate during the first few months of the school is extremely encouraging, and the team is already starting to think about moving to larger premises. The wish list includes more classrooms, a bigger library and reading room and one room dedicated to children with appropriate design, decoration and materials.

Looking 5 years down the road, Remi considers the language school as just the tip of the iceberg, the very beginning of a much bigger project. But he smiles mysteriously when asked what that project might be. “Let me just say that it has something to do with French culture”.

Want to find out more about French Toast? You’ll find their school profile and French courses on!

Learning Chinese vs French: Chinese verbs are easier

Drinking man

In my eyes, discussing about which language is easiest to learn is not very helpful. Each language has its own easy and difficult points. As an illustration, this article describes how verbs work in Chinese and French.

I’m using the verb “to drink” as an illustration of how the different tenses are formed in both Chinese and French.

In French, verbs are conjugated depending on the tense and the person that is acting. Let’s just limit ourselves to  present tense and compare how the verb ‘to drink’ is used in English, French and Mandarin Chinese.

Here’s an example of English, French and Mandarin in the present tense:

English French Characters H. Pinyin
I drink je bois 我 喝 wǒ hē
you drink tu bois 你 喝 nǐ hē
(s)he drinks il/elle boit 他/她 喝 tā hē
we drink nous buvons 我们 喝 wǒmen hē
you drink vous buvez 你们 喝 nǐmen hē
they drink ils boivent 他们 喝 tāmen hē

As you see, in English the verb only changes when we’re talking about he or she, while in French the verb changes practically every time. Not only the ending, the root is actually different for “we” and “you (plural)”. In Chinese, only the personal pronoun (I, you, they…) changes. The verb is one and the same character, pronounced one and the same way.

Besides in the present tense, French verbs keep changing depending on the pronoun in all other tenses. English only has minor changes. Chinese has no changes, the time is implied by the context of the sentence. For example: 昨天,我喝了… (zuǒtiān, wǒ hē le; litt: ‘yesterday, I drink…’).

So which language is harder to learn in terms of getting the tenses right? I leave you to draw your own conclusions.