Words with Friends

I don’t think I’ve ever actually played that game. I’m no good at scrabble. But I thought it was a fitting title!

Part 1: Learning French or Learning English?

The bridge we cross everyday on the tram.

On Friday I went into town excited for a more advanced ballet class than normal and…surprise! There was a pointe class as well! I was glad I had brought my shoes and that painful half hour was a good reminder not to go more than a month without doing releves en pointe.
Immediately after, I went to the ice-rink and had a great night of basically prom on ice. There were disco lights, loud music and dance circles included! This was a wonderful exposure to French culture and also led to a reflection on my own culture and language…

English is weird. Lost in Translation: We tried explaining “So” and its several different uses to a French man who doesn’t speak English. What a bizarre word.
If you know French, this is what we came up with: so = alors/donc and so = trés and so = comme ça.
Once returning home, I promptly looked up the “actual” definition of “so”.

Speaking of English…and in English…I find it interesting how no matter what the background noise, I can pick out my native language from even long distances away. Sort of like the way you can hear your name in a crowded room or you notice when someone isn’t speaking English walking down the street. It doesn’t matter what accent, dialect or anything of English it is, my ears will still perk up and I have to find the source. It is a comforting and familiar feeling to hear my mother tongue in a sea of Française.

I tend to not filter before I begin speaking in French, which, since I’m trying to learn the language can be good because I don’t avoid telling stories and things I don’t know how to say, but at the same time gets me into awkward situations in which I am just floundering for words and the moment gets lost. I usually just begin talking or telling a story before I realize that I have no idea how to explain nor the vocabulary to support my point.

While I’m on this topic, I may as well mention that this trip isn’t quite what I expected in terms of the amount of English I still speak on a daily basis. At first I was really worried that I was going to have a roommate and I’d be tempted to speak English too often. Then when I arrived, I was beyond relieved to have someone else who could help me learn and communicate or understand around the house. We’ve become a good team. It was (and still is) also wonderful to have a site director that speaks both languages and can answer all my questions and solve my problems. It’s especially nice after a long day of class, such as in September when it was a lot more draining, to have a place to go to be surrounded by a familiar lingo. However, as I’ve progressed and can more or less fend for myself, I wish I didn’t speak so much English. I still have to put in a serious effort to speak French even while living in France and it is a little frustrating. It takes extra time and effort to avoid English and fully immerse in French while living in France so I’m worried that I’ll lose it when I go home.

However, I’ve realized an appreciation for my mother tongue like never before. It’s actually pretty cool to master a language, and make jokes and puns and rhymes. Or use big words and slang.

Part 2: Quotidian
Quotidian is a fun French word that roughly translates to something along the lines of “Daily”. So this section is my daily culture lesson.

Saturday didn’t go as planned because the two hours I’d set aside for touring our local museum were the two hours it was closed for lunch break. So instead, I bought socks (honestly to put off doing laundry a bit longer) and watched the weekly excitement in the square. I believe it had something to do with rights this week…

The band was good! I got bisoued as we like to say by a band member. Its a franglish word for the french greeting of two kisses.

Lazy Sundayz
My roommates and I didn’t even leave the house this Sunday. We had a lazy homework day. We felt a little guilty but those days are good sometimes. Plus, since I had finished my homework I ended up being able to skype home! This week was the first time I’d used skype since coming to Europe and in one evening, I spontaneously talked to 3 friends, my whole family and my cat!

This is what Sunday evening often looks like. Homework, Skype, some facebook and youtube, And mostly just not studying till late at night because we get distracted by roommie bonding!

Look Both Ways
One of the weird things around here is cross walks. There are crossing lights that change regularly, but no one seems to pay much attention. Contrary to Austria (where there is a huge fine for crossing on red) the French just cross when clear and cars just go. Usually it’s safer to go on red. Monday, I began to walk on a green light in the cross walk and was almost taken out by a large truck.

Crosswalk sign from Google images. I’m not sure where my picture is.

Joyeuse Anniversaire
Tuesday was my (real) mom’s birthday. Tuesday was also my host dad’s birthday! For my mom, my friends and I made a video that included “Happy Birthday” in about 8 languages. For my host dad, we brought him wine and had a slightly fancier than normal dinner!

Parlez-vous française?
Homework is picking up and we got to meet our conversation partners on Wednesday evening!  These are French students that want to practice English and help us with French. We are assigned to people but the first meeting was all of us together to avoid awkward silence. My partners are two 18 year old girls and they don’t speak a ton of English. So far we don’t know each other very well but I hope to hang out son. In the mean time, Carina and I met a young woman wanting to practice English that we’ve met with twice in a café. She offered to help us with homework when possible. It’s really hard to not use English. It’s hard to meet people when you only have basic conversation skills and a whole group of Americans around all the time.

Four Day Weekend
After many dead ends, we finally made plans for Toussaint! With the help of site director Sue or rather our travel agent Sue, we planned our trip to Corsica! One day in high school French class we watched a presentation about a mysterious beautiful Island off the coast of France. Corsica is a popular vacation spot and I assumed I’d never get to go there. So I tried my best to ignore the trip packages and forget about this surreal place. Thursday the 25th of October, I bought plane tickets to go there. Real life.

Friday morning as I got dressed I was stressing slightly that my Oregonian-ness was showing too much because I was wearing a flannel button-up shirt.  When I got downstairs I got more worried because my host mom (who wears wedges to leave the house) asked me if I was going to wear “that” to school. I guess I was right. I was her if it wasn’t European enough and she hurriedly explained “Non, non! C’est jolie! Pas trop Americaine!”. Turns out she was just worried I’d be too cold.

Finally,I bought Harry Potter a l’ecole des sorciers and have been attempting to read it. I figured reading a book I know and love in French would help make it easier to get through, but as it turns out, I’m finding that I get board because I know too well what is going to happen and so I don’t actually need to translate the French.

The cover!

C’est tout!


2 thoughts on “Words with Friends

  1. I have the same thing with being able to pick out an American accent from across the room. I’ve had it more with traveling and staying in hostels, and I keep being surprised to meet other Americans. I usually assume that they’re from Oregon too, and tend to talk about where I’m from like they have some idea of what I’m talking about. An another American girl and I started reading the “Accent Challenge” list with an English guy last night. That’s the list of words that tend to be pronounced differently by people from different English-speaking countries (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua7nyAaf3pE). We found out that we (Americans) tend to skip over syllables in a lot of words, where English people pronounce things the way they’re spelled. Examples are caramel (we say “carmel”), mayonnaise (“maynnaise”), Crayon (cran), etc. The only exception is theater/theatre. Americans say “the-a-ter,” Brits say “theatuh,” without separating the “e” and the “a” sounds.

  2. I look forward to your posts and am always entertained. But more importantly, I love that you truly absorb what is around you. You see and hear so much from a variety of perspectives. You notice things that I suspect other students also observe but never write about. I applaud your efforts to speak in French–keep them up! Michele

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