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Easy French Practice

The Swiss Night Watch – French English Bilingual Story + Video

Raymonde By Raymonde on November 26, 2017
Raymonde

Discover a peculiar Swiss tradition which dates back from the Middle Ages: “le Guet”, the night watchman, and practice your French with this French English bilingual story.

Cathedral’s Night Watch in Switzerland

Aujourd’hui, j’aimerais vous parler d’une trĂšs vieille tradition mĂ©diĂ©vale qui existe dans la ville pittoresque de Lausanne en Suisse. Cette tradition date de plus de 600 ans : le guet (Ă  prononcer comme “gai”) crie l’heure tous les soirs de l’annĂ©e de la tour de la cathĂ©drale. Il commence Ă  l’Est, puis au Nord, puis Ă  l’Ouest et enfin au Sud.

Today, I would like to tell you about a very old medieval tradition that the city of Lausanne has been continuing for more than 600 years : the night watchman (pronounced like “gay”) shouts out the time from the cathedral tower every night of the year, from the East, then North, then West, then South.

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A Cry of Relief

«  C’est le guet ! Il a sonnĂ© dix ! Il a sonnĂ© dix ! »

« It’s the night watchman. It just rang ten ! It just rang ten ! »

Au Moyen-Âge, le feu Ă©tait la menace numĂ©ro un Ă  Lausanne. Il y avait aussi beaucoup de flĂ©aux et d’attaques d’ennemis. La ville Ă©tait construite entiĂšrement en bois, elle Ă©tait trĂšs exposĂ©e au feu. Du haut de sa tour, le guet pouvait dĂ©tecter un incendie dĂšs le dĂ©but et alerter la ville. Le rĂŽle du guet Ă©tait essentiel. A travers les siĂšcles, il a sauvĂ© de nombreux citoyens ainsi que leurs propriĂ©tĂ©s.

In the Middle Ages, fire was the number one threat to Lausanne. There were also lots of plagues and enemy attacks. Since the city was built entirely of wood, it was very susceptible to fires. From the top of this tower, the night watchman could spot any fires early on and alert the city. His role was essential. Through the centuries, he saved many people’s lives and their properties.

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Save Lausanne’s Night Watchman

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En 1960, quand les autoritĂ©s lausannoises ont rĂ©duit les heures criĂ©es par le guet, les habitants de la ville ont craint de le voir disparaĂźtre. Leur attachement Ă  cette tradition Ă©tait si grand que la nouvelle a alimentĂ© les gazettes pendant plus d’un mois. Des titres comme « “Serait-ce l’agonie du guet ?” ou “Sauvons le guet” » sont apparus dans les journaux locaux.

In 1960, when the authorities of Lausanne reduced the hours shout by the night watchman, the inhabitants of the town were afraid he would disappear. Their attachment to this tradition was so important that many local newspapers related the story during more that one month. One could read : « Is that the end of the night watchman » ? or, « Let’s save the night watchman » .. !

Six Night Watchmen in Europe

Il reste six autres guets en Europe (trois en Allemagne, un en Angleterre, un en SuÚde et un dernier en Pologne). Lausanne est la seule ville en Europe qui a eu un guet régulier sans interruption depuis plus de 600 ans.

There are six other night watchmen left in Europe (three in Germany, one in England, one in Sweden and one in Poland). Lausanne is the only city in Europe that has had a regular night watchman without interruption for more than 600 years. !!!

A Tiny Watchman’s Office in the Belfry

Le guet officiel de Lausanne s’appelle Renato HaĂŒsler. Il a Ă©tĂ© nommĂ© par la ville il y a dix ans. Le « bureau » de Mr HaĂŒsler est un minuscule espace en bois Ă  l’intĂ©rieur du clocher de la cathĂ©drale. Il est meublĂ© avec un petit lit, des livres et des bougies. Pour Mr HaĂŒsler, son travail signifie bien plus que simplement annoncer l’heure. Il est le guet qui surveille la ville d’en haut – un homme sur les 350.000 personnes qui vivent Ă  Lausanne. Il perpĂ©tue l’histoire de cette ville chaque nuit vers le jour suivant.

Lausanne’s official night watchman is Renato HaĂŒsler. He was appointed by the city ten years ago. Mr HĂ€usler’s office is a tiny wooden space inside the cathedral belfry. It is furnished with a little bed, some books and lots of canddles. For Mr HĂ€usler, his job means much more than just announcing the hour. He is the night watchman who watches the city from above – one man out ot the 350’000 people who live in Lausanne. He carries the history of this city throughout the night and into each new day.

learn french in switzerland watchman

Picture credit: Myswitzerland.com

Lausanne’s Cathedral

La cathĂ©drale de Lausanne est le point de la ville le plus haut. Elle est de style baroque et a Ă©tĂ© construite au XIIĂšme siĂšcle. Elle fait partie des Ă©difices religieux gothiques les plus importants d’Europe. Elle est trĂšs cĂ©lĂšbre pour sa rosace, son orgue unique au monde et ses nombreux concerts de musique classique. Ne manquez pas de la visiter quand vous viendrez Ă  Lausanne !!

The cathedral of Lausanne is the highest point in the city, overlooking the centre, its suburbs and the lake region. It was built in the 12th century in a baroque style. It is very famous for its rosace, its very big organ which is unique in the world. Many classical concerts are organized the whole year through inside the cathedral. Don’t miss to visit the cathedral when you come to Lausanne !

Et maintenant, vous pouvez pratiquer votre comprĂ©hension orale du français avec cette vidĂ©o – qui a des sous-titres en anglais. Vous verrez, le guet de la cathĂ©drale parle trĂšs clairement, un peu lentement comme le font traditionnellement les Suisses: venez pratiquer votre français chez moi en Suisse francophone, et vous verrez que vous nous comprendrez tous trĂšs facilement !

And now, you can practice Understanding Spoken French with this video – which has subtitles in English. You will see, the cathedral’s nightwatchman speaks very clearly, a bit slowly like the Swiss do traditionally: come and practice your French in immersion at my house in French Speaking Switzerland, and you’ll see that you’ll understand us very easily!

Night Watchman Video

Interview with the nightwatchman of Lausanne, in French with English subtitles.

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