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 ‘ramblings’

My last travel experience in 200 words – and in French

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on June 12, 2014

writing_hand_u270D_icon_256x256This was requested of me in one of my job applications: send along some examples of your translation work and “A short text in French (200 words max) describing your last travel experience”

Fair enough, and it has been a long time since anyone restricted my verbal diarrhea with a word count, so this was tough, but here goes, in an appropriately grumpy French style:


Auvergnate, j’ai cherché pendant des années le meilleur moyen de m’extirper du no man’s land du transport public que sont les alentours de Clermont-Ferrand. Aussi lors de mon dernier séjour à la maison, j’ai décidé dans un élan de décadence de remettre mon sort entre les mains d’une “vraie” compagnie aérienne, avec des collations à bord et des journaux à l’embarquement. AirFrance.

Seulement, après avoir enregistré les bagages et passé la sécurité, le vol AirFrance de 14h05 pour Paris, opéré par HopRégional, est retardé de 5 minutes, de deux heures, annulé. Un problème technique peut en cacher un autre, veuillez récupérer vos valises et attendre. L’avion suivant a tant de retard que le vol de 18h30 arrive avant lui – retardé également puisqu’il a fallu réquisitionner un appareil plus grand pour accomoder les passagers des deux autres vols. À Paris les automates indiquent que les connections ont été ratées, allez au guichet d’information.

Avec deux compagnons d’infortune écossais – que faisaient-ils en Auvergne? – je me rends au fameux guichet où trois employés nous montrent que l’imprimante de coupons pour une nuit d’hotel est cassée. Il l’ont pourtant éteinte et rallumée, rien n’y fait.

La prochaine fois j’essaie le stop.


So, what do you think?

 

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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?

Posted in Life, Studying, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Regensburg retrospectives – part 1 : Ahne Brreeeeeze?

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on August 1, 2012

I promised some german reminiscences, so let’s start at the very beginning; when after a 13 hour and 1250 kilometre train journey carrying what felt like my own weight in luggage, I arrived in Munich central station (Hauptbahnhof) to find out my train was delayed indefinitely. Yay!

It was high time for some sustenance so I headed for the bakery stand (miraculously still open at half past ten). My german was a bit rusty after the summer holidays, so I had carefully prepared a sentence (Bretzel finishes with a “-el” diminutive… surely that makes it neuter…?). What is a Bretzel? Google it and find out. It is a type of bread bun I suppose, only not shaped like a bun. It is typically german and covered in salt. Unhealthy enough, but perfect to get into German mood and cheer up. Comfort food incarnate.  So I smiled up at the lady in a striped apron and carefully said in the most polite way I could think of: “Ich hätte gern ein Bretzel, bitte.” (I would like a Bretzel, please.)

She peered at me through my luggage and blurted : Was woin Sie hobn?

Oh dear; what? I could not understand the woman! My German had obviously become a lot worse than I had thought.  But I had noticed somewhat of an inquisitive tone, and – yes! – her eyebrows were raised quizzically. I pointed to the bretzels hanging off a hook on the counter.

Aaaaah! Ahne Brrreeeeeze woin Sie? I once again failed to understand the sentence, but did I spot one word. Brrreeeze / Bretzel… close enough. I nodded hopefully and she handed me one. Yes! I was in possession of my baked goods. However, I was starting to feel somewhat daunted by the prospect of discussing ticket swapping at the information desk.

Because you see, Munich – and indeed Regensburg – are in Bayern (Bavaria). Not just Germany, Bayern. They do things differently there. First of all: they talk funny, but there’s a lot lot more to it than just dialect. They eat bretzels and sauerkraut and strings of sausages, boiled, broiled, grilled, baked, or even cold. And they wash all this down with litres of beer which, by the way,  they produce by the ton. Women wear dirndls that make their boobs pop up and breathing difficult whilst the guys walk around in checkered shirts and knee-length leather breeches with braces (suspenders, if you are american). The very height of fashion.

Does that sound german to you? Probably. Because you see, that german stereotype that goes around is not exactly relevant to most of Germany. It is like picturing all british people wearing kilts and washing down copious amounts of haggis with hearty swigs of whiskey all day to the sound of bagpipes playing Auld lang Syne. Like the Scots, the Bavarians are quite proud of their local heritage and often call the rest of Germany and indeed, the rest of the world : “Saubreissen” (Prussian swines). You don’t want to start mixing the two.

My mind had been purged of sausage-eating, leather-pant clad stereotypes after spending a year in the North of Germany where I had been fed slimy fish as a local delicacy and not seen a single dirndl in twelve months, so it was a surprise arriving in Regensburg to find out I had to make readjustments. I had effectively arrived the land of stereotypes everyone had told me about. I cannot wait to tell you more about it!

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French girl in a german sauna… the joys of FKK.

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 27, 2012

FKK stands for FreiKörperKultur (free body culture…) Any idea what this might entail? No?

So boys and girls, let’s talk about nudity. Because you see, comparative cultural studies are a very fine thing indeed, but quite often restrict themselves to a very narrow range of rather dull subjects (such as education, economics and politics) that often turn out to be of very little use when dealing with “real life”. And so it happened that after thirteen or fourteen lessons about franco-teutonic differences I found myself cluelessly entering a unisex sauna wearing a bathing costume.

Unaware of my crime, I was happily sitting on the top shelf, completely alone in this dark damp hot hole of a room, looking through the tinted window into the corridor and waiting for S. and L. to come in from the men’s changing room so we could discuss badminton. I saw them coming, let out a mental “ooooops”, rolled onto my back and spent the next 30 minutes staring at the ceiling. I was also vaguely very aware three minutes later of three portly, balding middle-aged men coming in to join the fun and sitting themselves around me, blocking all escape routes. It felt very hot in there – but maybe that was just the sauna.


I know that nudity in saunas has less to do with naturism and the FKK than with sanitation and hygiene but the truth remains: Germans are far more willing to get their kit off in public than either the French or certainly the British. I have been scouring the internet for facts to throw at this article and found out that Berlin for example, with its 24 open-air nudist areas listed on http://www.nacktbaden.de is internationally recognised as naturist heaven. Can you imagine Central Park in New York or London’s Hyde Park having a naturist corner? Any person attempting anything like this in another country would surely end up arrested, unless Spencer Tunick were involved. And the Germans don’t restrict themselves to designated areas either, even on “normal” beaches it isn’t really frowned upon to sunbathe in the nude. You might want to draw a line at that though and not try anyone’s patience by running around starkers.

It may seem strange perhaps that residents of Germany, a country stereotypically cast as very strict and severe should so easily strip down to their bare skin. For once I will have to give credit to and agree with my lecturers at Uni. Social barriers in Germany are not as fixed ad they are elsewhere, and if that is probably not the only cause for this exhibitionist streak, at least I think it is not completely irrelevant. There is a very different concept of privacy here, a different way of dealing with public and private matters.

However being myself French and British and therefore uptight and self-conscious (you’ll never catch me condoning stereotypes. Never!), I might give the sauna a miss next time and spend those thirty minutes wondering about highly important universal questions. One example: Why is it that whenever it comes down to nudity, portly balding middle-aged men always seem to be on the front lines?

Posted in France, Germany, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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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A rapidly evolving situation

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on February 3, 2012

Over the past few weeks I must have started writing half a dozen health-related blog entries. Typical subjects were:

Three days and a lot of medication later: massive improvement

  • having the sniffles
  • having the sniffles and a headadache
  • surviving a first day at work on throat lozenges
  • waking up buried under mounds of used up hankies
  • comparing tonsils with aggressive difformed little jellyfish recently discovered by R. Attenborough
  • unsympathetic doctors
  • the uselessness of homeopathic medication
  • oh, the homeopathic stuff does seem to be doing something…

And all of these just wove in and out of each other. Not enough time to finish one paragraph: whatever I had written five minutes earlier would no longer be relevant ages before I got that far. It was a rather busy week. And it all eventually culminated with me writhing on my bed at 5 in the morning covered in angry red blotches, trying not to scratch and just shaking incontrollably whilst waiting for the on-call doctor to get extra-medicine from his practice.

My very first allergy! How exciting! I would love to linger on and tell you all about it, about the inadequacy of of the the verb “to itch”, about tiredness and recurring eczema and nice mad doctors, fairytales, medical students, ointments creams tablets and drops… BUT I am now quite far behind in my revision “plan” and exams are looming ever nearer. So I’ll just leave you with this lovely picture from last week and a suggestion for low-budget horror film makers. You know, if you need a good zombie look.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The good friend gene: am I doomed to remain single for EVER?

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 16, 2011

Like any girl I am always on the prowl, keeping my eyes open for Mr Perfect, Mr Prince Charming, or maybe even just some guy. As it happens, my life is full of very handsome, charming young men who unfortunately are just not interested in me. Well they are, but not “like that”. They like me very much, they love talking to me, I am their confidante even, but they “don’t think of me that way”. In fact: “Let’s just be friends”.

from smallpeculiar.com

Had I had this sort of conversation only once, it would not be so much of a problem, but when you reach your tenth or eleventh relegation to the friendship zone, you may start to wonder: could it be something to do with me? Do I emit some sort of “friendship” hormone which makes every one of my male acquaintances describe me as nice? Oh yes I am nice enough. Too nice for my own good even. So nice that I will swallow back my feelings when, out of the blue, you start asking me for advice about how to reclaim the heart of your ex-girlfriend (incidentally -and you know who you are-, that really hurts). But why? Why? WHY is it?

Since I have spent the past two weeks producing essays in the ultra-organised-french-essay-writing fashion, I will build my argument and analysis around three major aspects, each step of my reasoning separated into paragraphs (preferably three, each corresponding to one specific idea, with a pertinent example to illustrate it).

Naaaah, only kidding, can’t be bothered; I’ll just carry on ranting instead. Pondering the possible reasons for this curse:

Is it something about french men? Am I too boringly gallic for them? Should i go back to Germany and have all those teutonic blond young men fall for my “süßes, sexy, französiches Akzent”? Am I too nice? I have spent years shaking off my previous defining adjective: “sweet”, only to have this other one stuck to me like a label on a jam jar. But what would be the trick to remove a tenacious imaginary sticker? Because if it can help, I would be willing to submit myself to any metaphorical equivalent to boiling water and a brillo pad that you can come up with.

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