Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Etre Francaise // To be French.

So, I was thinking to myself whilst walking through town (with a baguette, naturellement), just what is it to be French? Qu'est ce qu'un francais?

It's all very well sitting in a classroom, learning grammar rules off by heart, memorising conjugations, tenses and moods, and phrases for essays, but it's a completely different thing to be French. Learning a language is one thing, learning a culture... no, not learning, learning to integrate into a different culture... well, that's something else!
In the UK, to be honest, my French lessons were starting to bore me. Endless grammar rules, exercises and presentations on fixed themes? No thank you. What I really love about studying French, what made me chose to take it at University level, is the language. The language that is spoken in France, that is constantly evolving, flowing, changing. Languages are alive. Languages are not just in textbooks. Languages are interaction, language is communication, but language is so much more than that. Language is power. With languages, you can get your message across to millions of people who speak differently, who write differently and who's culture is totally different, yet deep down, inside, we're all the same. Language connects people across the world and encourages exchanges of culture, of knowledge. Pidgin languages are languages created for people to communicate when their languages are different. Syntax and vocabulary are spliced together in an attempt just to communicate, to get your point across. Pidgins came from trading colonies mostly, and some have evolved into fully-fledged languages (Creoles) as a by-product.
So, this proves that we all have a desire, no, a need to communicate, and be understood. Languages are so powerful. If you have language skills, bloody well use them! Find someone who speaks that language, go for coffee with them and exchange stories, cultures, differences... you will learn some incredible things. Languages bridge the gap between people who live on the other side of the world. Languages are incredible.

When you learn a language, yes, you're learning words, and structures, and grammar, but it's so much more than that, to fully understand the subtle nuances of a language, you really, undoubtedly have to know the culture and the setting in which certain words or phrases are or are not used. Translation of just words is no good (see any on-line translating machine for proof of this), you need to have an in-depth cultural knowledge as well as linguistic knowledge to really be a good, and accurate translator.
I was bored studying French at Uni back home, I'll admit it, but here... oh my goodness. Here I am revelling in the glory of things that seemed so utterly tedious back home. Subjunctives are almost natural to me now, just from hearing them so often, on the bus on the way home I'll be thinking of how to tell my host family about my day, comparing uses of tense and mood, practising my conjugations and generally running a million things through my head. Basically, I'm living French, living and breathing it, rather than just studying it from a textbook. I've made it come alive, and languages work so much better like that. Languages are interactive. There's only so much you can learn from a textbook. France has re-ignited my passion for languages, and for French, and France, so much so that I really don't want to leave in May.

That said, I'm not saying that I don't miss home, my friends, family and wonderful Timmy more than I can even put into words... but it actually gets easier the longer I spend here, because I'm feeling so much more at home here than I did when I first arrived. My French has drastically improved, especially my spoken French, just from being totally immersed in it. It will be coming back with a bump when I return to the UK, I actually felt rude speaking English when I arrived back in the UK for Christmas, I'd been so used to speaking French all the time that it just didn't feel right.

A very rambly ramble, for which I apologise, but I'm not apologising for my linguist-geekery, because that can only be a good thing for a degree in Linguistics with French ;)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Apologies and updates

I know, I know. I'll try harder from now on, I promise! I've seen so many people's blogs, from Angers, France and around the world that have made me so enthused about blog-writing again, and so ashamed for neglecting mine so much! If I had to come up with an excuse, I guess it would be that I'm so settled in now that I don't feel there's anything needs saying, it's all become 'normal' and 'everyday' for me, but not in a boring way! I just feel totally at home here, totally immersed in the language and the culture and just generally being French.

So, what have I been doing with myself all this time I hear you ask?

Well, we went to the patinoire (ice rink) a couple of weekends ago, it took me a while before I found my ice legs (?) again, and had the confidence to stop inching around the edge, always within a metre of the barrier just in case. After about 10 or 15 minutes, I was slowly remembering how not to fall over and wobble so much, and getting the hang of gliding, one foot after the other, gently shifting my weight with each 'step'. After a while, I was setting myself new challenges: make it for one lap without wobbling, falling over or stopping; go through the middle without getting killed; try to do the wavy foot thing (I'm sure there is a technical term for this, it's just another way of going forwards). Then we all took a break for drinks and to rest our feet (the hire skates were killing my ankles and the arch of my foot!), then back onto the ice for a final hour, where I got a bit overconfident, got up a bit of speed, and then overbalanced, wobbled a lot and landed on my derriere. Very elegant. It didn't help that there were some brilliant skaters there, as there always will be I guess. There were a couple of guys in the middle of the rink doing breakdancing, properly standing on their hands and doing jumps and spinning on the floor and everything. I was so mesmerised I nearly fell over a second time!
It was a good day out, my ankles and legs and bum hurt the next day though!

Other than that, I can't think of much to report, I've mostly been occupying my time with trying to sort out this term's timetable, and I think I've finally got it sorted! Monday and Tuesday are crazy busy for me, Monday I have lessons from 10.30am until 6pm with only 1h15 break, and Tuesday I have lessons from 12.30 until 7.30pm so I don't get home until 8.30 or 9pm, by which time I am starving, but then I only have one lesson on Wednesday, one on Thursday and none on Friday, so not too bad!

I'm taking all of the CUFCO classes I did last term, so culture, conversation and French language, plus the others I've chosen, which are 2 translation classes (one French to English, one English to French), a History of Art class, and two classes with my favourite teacher, Monsieur Levy. One is about art, cinema and culture, the other one is more general discussion about the news. I have extra work to do for his classes to, to make the 2 credits into 3, so I'm excited about that!

I have some very exciting news to report.

I have been wanting to visit my Auntie in Torino, Italy, for ages now, but after having overspent by a very long way last term, I really just couldn't afford it. I was talking to my Uncle (my dad's and auntie's brother) on Skype the other night, and he said he would treat me to the train tickets! I am SO excited. It's all booked, I leave at about 8am on Friday morning, and arrive in Torino at 17h30, so a long day of travelling, but it will be worth it. I'll spend the weekend with my Aunt, then my train leaves at 8am on Tuesday and arrives about 17h in Angers. I'll make sure to take my camera with me and do a blog post!

A plus!