The Little French English Improvement Project

little french person trying to improve her english, little french english person trying to improve herself, french english person trying to improve a little bit… and blogging along the way. (Now in Deutschland)

Archive for the ‘Studying’ Category

Final(ly)

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on December 10, 2013

in 5 hours i will (hopefully) be going through my final exam. in 5 hours I will be going throught my (hopefully) final. this should be the final exam. Well until next time. But it should be my final exam this time around. Finally, the conclusion of my studies so far. Or is it? What if I fail?

Seriously. I am terrified.

I’m spending the next few hours re-reading my thesis, and honestly, I am glad I did not linger on it too much before. The only thing I can see are the mistakes, the simplistic approach, the frail, awkward logical connexions. Surely even a 5 year old could have done it better. Since I sent in the three copies of my magnum opus, I haven’t had any feedback from my correctors, and I haven’t dared ask. I was just too mortified. Why on earth did I ask my two favourite lecturers to do it? How could I force upon them the tedious task of reading my dreadful ramblings in halting pidgin German? I never dared ask what they thought about it because I didn’t want to hear how dissapointed they might be. “Really Alice, how could you send us this. Is this really all you have learned these past two years? Aaaah the disappointment! Ah the shame!”

Am I being overdramatic? Surely if it were this bad they would have told me. They wouldn’t let me come all the way down to Bavaria to tut me in their office and say: “Well, too bad. Try again”

Right?

headdesk

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Rough around the edges

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 23, 2013

Being a student has its advantages: you get a card, free internet access on crappy computers in stuffy rooms at uni if you get up early enough, you get to learn things, you are surrounded with people who care about your future; in fact, you have a future. Come to think of it, you have little else: People don’t so much ask what you do, as what you will do once you’re done being a student. Even when you tell people something as questionable as: “I do Intercultural European Studies” , the next question automatically is “what sort of outcome can you hope for once you’re finished?”.

Some people stroll through their studies, their lives, and the university corridors, knowing exactly where they are going and how to get there. Serene, unwavering, purposeful, they take great big determined steps towards their goal. You can hardly call them students, they are all future somethings. Future lawyers, teachers, doctors, etc. If you ask them what they want to do, they answer, “I’m studying to be a [insert job title here]”. They know. Lucky them!

I am not one of those happy few. Never been one for choices: decisions, decisions… This is why I spend ages in the chocolate aisle, why I don’t have a favourite colour, and also why I have picked the most general course I could possibly find. Literature, comparative cultural studies, image analysis, translation, media studies, cultural projects management… Some day, I know I will have to make a choice, to specialise in something or other, but I don’t wanna! Certainly, I adore plain chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa and cocoa nibs, but hazelnuts are tasty too, so is high quality milk chocolate, and who’s knows if this new “Irish coffee truffle” filling might not be even better? As long as I don’t decide, a near infinite number of possibilities exist. I could have a last minute change of heart and grab a bag of Maltesers. But I haven’t got the means of buying all the chocolate in the shop. And as long as I don’t choose, I can’t eat any of it. Or share any of it. None of this chocolate is mine.

Same with my studies: as long as I don’t choose a specialised field, I could be anything, but am nothing. I am a student without a visible future. Is that depressing or encouraging?

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Extreme flirting in Bavaria. Nope.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 14, 2013

This article has been trotting around my brain for the past 8 months.This delay means I can now pride myself that I am sitting on months of hard empirical study, interviews, and even on occasion things said by some highly respectable  and quotable people in lecture theatres.

Let’s start with a handful of stereotypes. One could say that Italians and Spaniards are very open with their flirting, especially when young, and very apt and swift at slipping their hands on people’s backside and their tongue down people’s throat. Blame it on the hot mediterranean sun and temperament. The British, in spite of their long reputation for being timid and prudish, have spent so much time baking on the white sandy beaches of Ibiza that they have adopted a similar way of flirting. A modern english damsel out on the town will typically not be wearing very much, and will not raise her eyebrows and say “Shocking!” if she should encounter an exposed pair of gentleman’s buttocks. On the other side of the channel, we French are under a lot of pressure. Over the course of my travels I have often heard the French were supposed to be good kissers, lords of the dance(floor), and queens of hearts. Paris is ze capital of romance, sacrebleu! On a more serious note, I think we lean towards the mediterranean style, only we spend more time on the preliminaries and start kissing a little later than our spanish and italian friends.

SAVE0002As a general rule, flirting has become very physical. Better people have written better texts, essays and books about this, so I’ll not gloss over the details, however, Germany seems to be an exception. Innocent flirting is much more rare, and if there are a few tigers out there on the prowl ready for action, the rest of the German population will need much beer and time before they can loosen up and start “making a move”, or at least one that a foreigner will notice. The Germans are the first to admit this as a nation: a song was even written about the bewilderment of a french girl Aurélie, when confronted with the “subtlety” of German flirting.

Aurélie so klappt das nie
Du erwartest viel zu viel
Die Deutschen flirten sehr subtil

Meaningful stolen glances, hints that don’t seem to be followed through, invitations for coffee that may or may not have a hidden meaning… Someone has yet to explain all these codes to me. With some friends, we went to serious lengths to try and understand. We pooled our experiences, we even interviewed handsome young men in Munich (whose excuses ranged from “being more career-orientated” to “intimidated by women”), but still couldn’t come up with an acceptable answer. The scientific, student-ish part of my brain reminds me: different cultures have different codes, different ways to react to different signals. But whatever  the German “signals” are, I (and a bunch of other french lasses of my acquaintance) simply cannot see them.

However, there is something unique about the politics of flirting in Bavaria. A tradition, which, according to my heated imagination, springs from the frustration caused by the local corseted rules of relationship-building. During the night before the 1st of May, young men in Bavarian villages secretly go and erect a long-stemmed tree festooned with paper garlands under their beloved’s windowsill. A sort of extreme, cumbersome Valentine card, if you will.

Trollops get a fir tree wrapped in toilet paper.

It’s all or nothing, innit?

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Regensburg retrospectives

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on July 29, 2012

I am told the word “so” should never be used to start off a sentence, let alone an entire text. Having reached this point however I think it has the right feel and conclusiveness. Sticklers will just have to get over it.

So. My stay in Regensburg has finally reached its conclusion, although my brain is still having difficulties registering it. I know my writing habits have been less than satisfactory lately but I will not apologise. It was perfectly justified: I was far too busy rocking the student life in what was ultimately one of the best years of my existence. Certainly, it has been a bumpy ride, with soaring, glorious ups and grey mopey downs, and I have much to tell. And when I say much, I mean much much more than you think. Mad, random adventures, administrative challenges and casual observations of teutonic idiosyncracies. And I have more than half a mind to tell you all about it. It will help me organise my thoughts and stories before Christmas comes with the roast ham, Christmas pudding and compulsory tales and anecdotes.

In the meantime: Regensburg, I miss you already.

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Quote… unquote.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 6, 2012

There I was reading my book the other day when I saw this:

McLuhan, page 54 of Understanding media: “…as if the central nervous system could no longer depend on the physical organs to be protective buffers against the slings and arrows of outrageous mechanism.”

Did you see it? I saw it. Hurray!  I am an educated woman. The sort who can notice a reference to Shakespeare in a modern text without a literature teacher having to point a chalky finger over her shoulder and leaving a little white mark on the page. It felt so good! I basked for a little while in the glowing warmth of self-satisfaction before realising how pathetic I was. Not only was this a reference to the most famous speech in Shakespeare’s most famous work, but the only reason I knew it is because one day in school I just randomly decided to learn said speech off by heart. Did I do so in order to be a more refined, educated person? No. I wanted to show off. How unscholarly. What’s more, if McLuhan did just happily pepper his book with quotations, Shakespearian or otherwise, he surely hadn’t limited himself to one from Hamlet on page 54. I had spotted one; how many had I missed? It would seem after all I am not the sort of person capable of floating from one text to the next in what the French call transtextualité.

So I wonder: how do the other people do it? You know when you listen to the radio or watch politicians on TV. There they all are, debating away when all of a sudden it happens: one of them says something and pauses. Just a second. The rest nod with knowing glances and smile and you know. You just know you’ve missed out on something. You look around nervously. Did the other people in the room get it? Ears peeled you listen and hear a ripple flowing through the BBC radio 4 audience. Did they really get it? Or are they just trying to sound clever? It could just be some obscure reference but all of a sudden, doubt creeps in: could it have been obvious? Are you the only one who doesn’t know? Often a benevolent chairman will kindly clear things up as subtly as they can: “Mr. N., you were just quoting Voltaire I believe… would you say his opinions on Utopia are still…”. And they always get it right.

But HOW? I mean surely they can’t know ahead of time what their panel might come up with. How can they keep in mind everything every politician has said over the past eight years, and everything every second politician has said during the eight years before that? Not to mention every passage from every significant book and article ever written. Some even manage to fit in a couple of pop culture references in there too, before conjuring up musicians, artists, filmmakers and figures from greek and norse mythology. And this database grows daily; with the media capturing every minute of everything, everyone is given the chance to speak out and have their dose of nonsense filed into the global archive. How do chairmen and women keep up?

Do they have the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and the Oxford Companion to literature digitalized and saved in their brains in zeroes and ones, and maybe a live connection to ever-growing wikipedia, wikiquote, wiktionary etc?

Or maybe I’m just stupid.

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Insomnibus

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on November 14, 2011

Sleep is such a fickle thing. Sometimes it feels a bit like having a lunatic boyfriend. On certain days it follows you around, clings on to you . It will entangle your arms and legs in sheets and blankets and will make it ever so difficult to get out of bed. As you struggle with the bed linen, it wraps its arms around you and whispers: “Why bother? Come on, stay – Just five more minutes!” I have heard people say each minute with the one you love can feel like an eternity. The problem is with Sleep, the extra minutes you spend in its company often turn out to have been hours after all.

On the other hand, when Sleep has gone out for the night and left you alone, it is amazing just how much of eternity manages to fit in sixty seconds. Oodles and coils of it unravelling in the darkness as you lay in your bed, inwardly listening for signs of Sleep’s return home. Which sometimes just does not happen. And the following day, there it is, waiting for you in a lecture theatre at Uni, wanting to make up for its inconstancy.

And some other times it just leaves.

It has other plans, I suspect it goes off on boys’ trips with its friends: Concentration, Motivation and Patience. They just all scurry off and leave you on your own to cope. In their absence you find yourself flirting with another set of friends. The bad boys of behaviour and health; certainly more exotic darkly entertaining and unusual, and definitely not the sort of blokes your mam would like to see you bringing home: Insomnia, Restlessness, Distraction – and also it would seem: a penchant for drawn out metaphores.

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End of an era and Neubeginn in Regensburg

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on September 27, 2011

Did I ever actually mention I am now officially a postgraduate student? Yes, I have a degree: I have finally been able to academically achieve something higher than the baccalaureate. It took me some time, twice the “normal” number of years (ie: a grand total of 6), it seemed like an eternity, I sometimes wondered whether I would ever graduate, but  I made  it!  And now I am moving on, specialising in “Intercultural european studies”: lots of language, lots of translation, lots of comparative cultural whatnots.  Sounds like something totally up, down and spread all over the walls of my street. And the first year of that course takes place in Regensburg! Now I mean no offence to Clermon, which is after all a very lovely town, but I needed out and now here I am, with my 43 kgs of luggage, unpacked and sprawled across my room. It would seem my untidiness followed me here…

And so: Regensburg. New town, new flat, new uni (hopefully, if I can manage to climb over/ram through the extra tough made-in-Germany wall of administration), and new blogging projects. Now I make new year’s resolutions every other minute, but this time, it is the start of a new (school)year, and I think this is ideal for resolution-making.

It’s probably best not to kill my fledging ideas by overexposure to public scrutiny, so I will not tell you about them right away, but let’s say if it all works out, there should be some interesting things in store. Let’s just say I intend to get as involved in Regensburg as I possibly can!

TTYS!

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Off to Deutschland; let’s get packing!

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on September 14, 2011

Yes, your intrepid froggy narrator is off on a new adventure. I’m off to Regensburg for a year for my studies and once again somehow my life has to be crammed into a couple of suitcases and follow me along over a few hundred miles to my next destination.

Over the years, my packing skills have vastly improved:even I am impressed by my ability to fit very large amounts of stuff into a very small number of cubic centimetres. However, choices must be made of what I can take and what must be left behind. I hate having to make those choices. There is always something more I would want to bring along (usually a book – or ten)

But there’s no point in beating around the bush, something must be done, and not just because even my packing skills have limits. Yesterday evening I had finally finished (or so I thought) cramming all the stuff I will be “needing” into my bags and was taking a minute, looking with fondness on my finished work: a suitcase, a backpack and a sports bag neetly filled and piled over each other.  And then I thought it’d be fun to try carrying my stuff for a while. You know: 1:30 am, you can’t sleep, you’re bored, what’s a girl to do?

I heaved my rucksack onto my back and almost fell backwards (Fig.1). A great miracle of mind over matter allowed me to straighten up however and soon all was good. Or was it? As I looked at m yself into the mirror, I noticed I was indeed standing as straighat as a die, but at a 45 degree angle to the floor (Fig.2).  Subsequent weighing of the bags on the bathroom scales has informed me I am carrying the equivalent to 3 times an average airline passenger’s luggage allowance.

Good job I’m travelling by train!

Anyway, whatever happens, I am definitely leaving tomorrow (Fig.3)

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Leaving for Regensburg in…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on September 13, 2011

I have 55 hours left approximately  to pack my things, travel to Clermont twice, one driving lesson (maybe two), have three nights’ sleep, six and a half meals, make tart, write postcards, tidy up my room, have a drink with friends, and probably a thosand things I haven’t thought of yet.

I’m getting so worked up about leaving for Regensburg I’ve started making little countdowns like this and putting them up all over my desktop to remind me I’m in a hurry!

COUNTDOWN

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random report from 1914

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on April 22, 2011

I just thought I’d share this because it’s hilarious:

Telegramme of the 3rd of August 1914

From the state Minister of Luxemburg to the forreign affairs state secretary of Germany:

 “J’apprends qu’un agent allemand a annoncé ici que le samedi premier août, environ 650 cyclistes français auraient traversé le territoire du luxembourg. D’après un rapport de la gendarmerie, il n’y a pas dans cette nouvelle un mot de vrai.”

“I hear a german agent announced here that on saturday the first of August, 650 french cyclists would have crossed the Luxembourgish territory. According to a report from the gendarmerie, there isn’t a single true word in this announcement”

 Just imagine 650 ‘allo’allo type frenchmen pedalling across Luxemburg to go and wage war against Gemany?

 

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