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)

Posts Tagged ‘language’

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 transtextualit√©.

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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How career advice will precipitate you into existentialism.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 28, 2011

Indecision time.

What shall I do? I am now entering the final semester of my degree, and, to be quite honest, I’m terrified. This could be the end of all these years of general expansive studying: soon I will have to specialise. Dread. And simultaneously: excitement. I’m really looking forward to working, to finally putting my years of studying and wandering around Europe to some use, and at the same time I can’t help but worry: Am I good enough to do this? Should I study some more before I definitely enter into this? Have I even picked the right career? Would I really be satisfied with translating other people’s thoughts and words? What about my own thoughts? I have thoughts! (and judging by this blog, I have trouble keeping them to myself).

Strangely enough though, this wave of turmoil hit me only three weeks ago.¬† Well, it isn’t exactly as if previously I walked serenely through life, full of confidence, never troubled by thoughts about the future. I worry as much as anyone else, and then some. But what really got me started this time was a spoken exam a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty obvious I could do with improving my German (and yes I am talking about language skills, I do not carry a small german person in my pocket). So we concluded maybe I wasn’t ready to apply to that ESIT interpreting school I’ve been dreaming about for ages. And I was really looking forward to that! So that night I cried myself to sleep and the following day I started considering my options.

I could still try out for the ESIT, with English as my first language of tranlation and forget about the German for a while. But wouldn’t it be a shame after spending so many years learning German? Add to the equation the fact that any one person can only apply there twice… I don’t want take any chances. And yet if I don’t try, I can’t really know. On the other hand, I could go to Germany for another year: there’s this bi-national masters degree in cultural and media studies, one year in Regensburg, one year in Clermont. It actually sounds quite interesting, and I’m sure after a year studying in Germany, I should be fine for the ESIT exams. And this way I would also meet a lot of new people, and maybe get some ideas for an alternative career orientation if I am still not good enough for the ESIT…

And then since questions without answers bring on only more questions, I am ow starting to doubt everything: am I really meant to be an interpreter? And this masters degree in Regensburg, is it really a way to improve my german, or is it an escape route: am I running away from growing up? because that’s what the ESIT is, in a way. It’s the end of my being just a student. I’d be an interpreter in training, almost a grown up… I suppose maybe it’s time? Oooooooooh I don’t know… and I went to the careers’ advice office at Uni today, and came out with even more questions!

So I still don’t know what to do with my life.

Decision time?

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