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 pr├ęparatoires--classes made specifically to help you get in. (Part of a larger BS grandes ├ęcoles 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!

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