Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A diversion from studying

My big test is in 7 weeks! I've been studying, but life gets in the way and I often have days where I have no time to crack open my books. Luckily, I have another break coming up, and I'm sticking around Paris to study/work/enjoy my life sans enfants for two weeks. A stay-cation, if you will.

I went to the open house ESIT held last Friday, and I feel like I have a shot. I wasn't the youngest nor the oldest (by a long shot). Lots of questions were asked, and it felt like (although admittedly, it's not like I saw other students' translations..) many people had similar questions, similar concerns that I have about the program. It's not like it's easy for anyone, even if you've had the luxury of classes préparatoires--classes made specifically to help you get in. (Part of a larger BS grandes écoles system in France.) I was certainly not the only one that was winging it on her own. If I got in, you bet I'd be proud of myself!

I fit the description of a translator to a T, and although I had originally given myself this one shot, I've decided that if I don't make it this year, I will try again next year. (You can only apply twice; if it was meant to be, it was meant to be..) I really want into this program. The further I delve into the intricacies of translating between languages, the more I enjoy it. However, I am very aware of the possibility that I will not get in. I do not let myself think, under any circumstances, that I have more of a chance in getting in than any other person. My native English means jack diddly as everyone and their mom speaks my native tongue. And besides, it's not a test of English. It's a test of how well you can comprehend, synthesize, and translate ideas from your B & C languages (French B, Spanish C) to your native language. Now, whether all these applicants speak English well or not is a whole 'nother issue. Nonetheless, I am not special for growing up in an anglophone environment. And there is no way I can be the only native-English speaker applying.

I read an article this morning (in French) about how the French place #17 out of 44 countries for English levels. (1,2,3 Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, respectively) [No bashing intended] I was honestly surprised that they weren't lower on the list. Though English is learnt by most students these days to at least a conversational level, the French, in general, cannot compete with their European neighbors. I could go into it further--another time--but in my opinion, it comes down to two things: they dub movies and TV shows, and they have such a strong love of their own language that they are hesitant to let English in. There are always exceptions, and my worry is naturally that this small group of French exceptions will be the ones that show up to the test in May...

I listened in on some conversations that current ESIT students and professors were having with would-be students, but I didn't have much to ask that wasn't answered in the 90-minute Q&A session. The longer I was there, the more stressed I felt, so I stayed a little bit to get some of the handouts and crap they were selling, and then hopped on the metro back home. I already know this school is hard, ta! Reliable method or not, I'm putting my figurative blinders on to the pressure and just studying my ass off. Trying to get through a comparative translation book this week, and then I will focus more on doing practice translations from books, and eventually from newspapers. I need to brush up on my Spanish, too, but one thing at a time. I listen to Spanish podcasts from time to time and am trying to read an adolescent book in Spanish when I'm not busy with, oh, 80 million other things. My language C is important, but I will only have to be able to comprehend it enough to translate it into my language A, never vice-versa. I would rather improve my French for the moment and worry more about Spanish in a week or two.

So that's where I am. Trying to stay motivated, but it's hard when it's just yourself doing the motivating. Going to the open house was a great motivator because I needed to see others attending it to make my instinctive "Ima kick your ass" drive kick in. I have to keep telling myself that I've essentially been studying for this for years. I take notes all the time: from newspapers, subtitles, conversations, billboards, etc. I need to group them all together (a project that has needed doing for at least 3 years), but just the act of writing down a word or phrase or grammatical structure I don't know makes it much easier to remember the next time I see it. Though 'they' might have an entire year of prep courses behind them, my one true advantage is that I have a strong language B. They judge you on translations into your native language, and your level of French. So as it would be, my 7-month intensive study stint in the Alps in 2007 and my subsequent time in Paris (all in all around 3 years by now) is an advantage that they will have trouble beating in language classes. I don't care how well you memorize, I really believe that nothing can compare to immersion.

The other thing going for me is that I'm really good at language in general. They say good readers make good writers and I guess this, along with the constant grammar and vocabulary corrections growing up helped me be the grammar nazi I am today. Thanks mom! Plus the college degrees in English and French couldn't have hurt. After going to the open house, and reading some literature they gave us I paid 15€ for, I realised how important it is to have an excellent command of your maternal language. Good with editing, finding synonyms, phrasing sentences, etc. And especially good with not mixing your languages. Funny, after just writing the entry about my franglais, huh? I need to shape up my own language and search out the correct terms, not the easy "franglicized" ones. I can turn it around if I concentrate, and I know that when it counts, I will make sure to use the most correct form of English.

Alright, break officially over. Back to the books, back to the future ass-kicking..hopefully from me, not the other way around!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Majorly long entry wherein I make up for absense with abundance of photos

Ready for some pictures? Photo dump begins in 3, 2, 1...
Spent a weekend in Amsterdam and saw a great concert by the fabulous band, The Black Keys. I'm not cool enough to be one of those people that have known about them for years [insert hipster speech] you know, before they were big and mainstream, back when they were still releasing LPs and playing in small venues..

Even as a Fall-2010 newbie, they did not disappoint! Cool indeed. My sidekick, Brittany, joined me from Switzerland and we met early Friday morning, me having taken the bus the night before. Bus got in at 5am so let's just say that it was a long day, supplemented by lots of cheap coffee. Which brings me to one of my favorite things about the Netherlands: they are convenience store junkies! Okay, nothing to the likes of America's 7-11's and QT's and Casey's, but still. You are never far from 1€ coffee and donuts. And waffles. And cookies. And little cakes I don't know the name of that are delicious. There are also these hot snack machines in train stations, on corners, anywhere you can fit them..pretty sure I gained at least 10 pounds in my 2.5 days there. Worth it!
This was my third time in Amsterdam, but there were plenty of things I hadn't gotten a chance to see yet. We went around some neighborhoods to get off the beaten path a bit. Got some good pics in a district not far from the center, called Jordaan. At the edge of the district lies the Anne Frank House, but I got the impression that not many tourists ventured past that part because we were definitely the only ones speaking English (quietly) in the streets. I love it when that happens!
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DSC_0059 - Version 2
So, all in all, a good little weekend. I like the Dutch a whole lot. I don't know if I could live in Amsterdam per se, but maybe a different city farther south in the country. I love the weird language, the brick streets, the thousands of bikes you see everywhere.

They are obviously not afraid of killing their children:

So that was Amsterdam. Had a lovely time, will probably not be back for a while as I desperately need to branch out in terms of traveling. Must..visit..somewhere..NEW. Soon.

Onwards, shall we? Let's back up in time to 1 month ago, when one of my besties from high school came to Paris for a long weekend for a conference. I only saw Katie for one night, but we managed to talk about her cute chubby baby, Emerson,
[let's stop here for a moment to show how f-ing cute he is]

and catch up on other things like small-town gossip, work, life in general. I hadn't seen her for a while, so it was a good little visit. We also took a boat tour down the Seine, and even though I've lived here for going on 3 years, I'd never taken one. Check!
Notre Dame and her flying buttresses from behind..ha
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So fast forward to last week, when I was asked to accompany a 12-year-old girl to the Louvre and Eiffel Tower while her mom was in meetings. Of course I said yes, because hey, being paid on top of guided tour and going up in Paris' most famous monument? No brainer.

Our tour guide was a bit cheeky..

Seine looking northwest

Seine looking west

Looking southeast. Big tower is Tour Montparnasse, close to where I used to live

See the Arc de Triomphe?

Okay, I think I'm caught up for the moment. I'll leave you with a picture of Girl #2's arm yesterday. She was bored in class and drew an entire BD (comic book) on her arm. How she avoided a scolding from her teacher is beyond me. Kids...

Tot ziens!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mon franglais

After studying French for years, living in France for three years total, and after working and studying in French, I feel fairly confident saying that I’m fluent in French. However, besides my classes, which are all in French, I spend a large part of my day in English. All of my jobs involve English, although not exclusively. Some customers at the café love to try and order in English, so I usually humor them until one of us gives up (them, from lack of vocab, me from lack of patience). I talk to my kids in French and in English, but sadly more French because it’s really hard to get them to speak English.

I guiltily read a lot in English, for pleasure and for research. Research is often much better/more available in English, and I’m not about to read an English book translated into French about Commnication Theory—not when it’s hard enough in English, thankyouverymuch. In order to keep my French up (and also to improve it), I’ve told myself I’ll only read for pleasure in French. However, seeing as I have little time to even read outside of the academic realm, don’t know how realistic that one is. Gotta finish David Sedaris’s new book before I commit to that pact! Add to all that the TV series I watch via the Internet, English-speaking friends and colleagues, to-do lists and thinking (mostly) in English, I am never totally cut off from my native tongue.

Through my constant contact with both languages, I most definitely have developed my own hybrid of the two languages. When I’m talking to Anglophones living in Paris, it’s not a big deal because they understand the anglicized French (and are guilty of it, too). I’m with my friend Carolina a few times a week and we both do it so much that we’ve kind of stopped even correcting ourselves. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the English word, it’s just that the French often comes to mind first, or the story I’m talking about took place in French, so I just use whatever word I remember first. English sometimes lags, but is still there somewhere in the depths of my brain. Naturally, when I’m speaking in French, I have the same moments trying to remember a French word—especially if I just spent a few days in a totally English environment. (i.e. most weekends. My French is always mistake-ridden on Mondays). I love linguistics, and I’ve always found the progression of languages really interesting. I can see now how easy it is to adopt new words into a language. It’s kind of cool to see it happen in real time.

The other thing that has affected my speech is that I work for a British school, and last year, as a language assistant, all of the material was in British English. I also run into quite a few Brits/Irish/Kiwis etc. in Paris that use different vocabulary or expressions. Work with some, too. There are just some words and grammatical things I do that have strayed away from my native American ‘dialect.’ I’m developing an international hodgepodge English methinks..

So without further ado, I know you’re dying to read the notes I’ve jotted down over the last few weeks :

*words that could be in both categories since BrE uses a lot of French words that North Americans have stopped using

British Influence

British word/phrase used instead of/in addition to American word/phrase

I’ve got/Have you got? I have/Do you have?

biscuit snack/cookie

bank holiday national holiday

cheers thanks ; informal e-mail ending

nearly almost

hang on hold on

lift elevator

garden yard*

jumper sweater (I purposely do this one, I’ll admit)

football soccer*

barman bartender*

whilst while

(on) holiday (on) vacation

postbox/postman/postcode mailbox/mailman/zip code*

university (uni) college*

to sit an exam to take an exam

prof abbreviation of professor

transport transportation

colleague co-worker

quite pretty, really

ground floor first floor (ground floor is 0, 1st floor is 2nd floor AmE)

note bill (mostly because saying bill just sounds wrong for €)*

sweets candy

mine/yours/his at my house/at your house

➡ I’ll meet you at yours, ok?

take away take out

past participles:


French Influence

Anglicized word/phrase from French word/phrase

pressed pressé, in a hurry

pass (by) passer, a verb with a million meanings in French, but here, 'to stop by.' I've also caught myself using it for 'to give.'

➡ Can you pass me your e-mail?

controlled contrôlé, means 'controlled' in the English sense, but also used in the sense of getting stopped by an officer (un contrôleur) for jumping the metro.

➡ Damnit, I got controlled again today! (Has happened multiple times..)

for why pourquoi, why. Would never say "For why are you leaving?" but when asking 'why' all by itself it happens.

rent a book (from the library) emprunter un livre (de la bibliothèque)

how many are you? Vous êtes combien? How many of you are there? (restaurant talk)

sack sac. I know this word exists in English, but 'bag' is probably used more, at least in AmE. I say sac for just about everything that can contain something and be carried by handles.

to be called s'appeler. French say je m'appelle for 'My name is.' So I carry that over to English for whatever reason. It's not that I don't notice, it's just that it sounds normal to me now. Also, may I note (Brittany!) that the usage is accepted in BrE!

What's that girl called, the one we met in the café last week?

supermarket supermarché. I say grocery store as well

cinema cinéma, movie theatre*

Other French words I use

resto abbrev. of restaurant

gare train station (usually only in texts since it’s so much shorter)

ordi ordinateur, computer (also usually in text)

Aïe! Ouch! (Sounds like ‘eye.’)

Allez! Come on!

café coffee. French uses the same word for coffee shop and coffee. I am sometimes too lazy (or don't realize) to make the difference.

Other crap that has come out of my mouth to my own horror:

I’m going to search a post in the neighborhood.

Your hairs are so long!

Put your pyjama on or I won't read you a history!

And many, many others that I do on a daily basis..

**Excuse the formatting! Blogger seems to hate MS Word's formatting and after messing with it for hours I give up!!