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 ‘studies’

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

Posted in Germany, Studying, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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?

Posted in France, Germany, Life, Studying | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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!

Posted in Germany, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Germany, Life, Studying | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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!

Posted in Life, Studying, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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)

Posted in Life, Studying | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

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

Oooh look! Grammar…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 20, 2011

Like oh-so-many people, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship thing going on with grammar, and german grammar in particular. I mentioned a few days ago that Mark Twain called it the “awful language”, partly because of its strange and mind-boggling syntax. I still haven’t read the rest of his essay, but I like to imagine it like a metaphorical summary execution, each rule being dragged out of the dark recesses of a grammar book, into the light, exposed to everyone’s view and shot down. Aaaah, if only someone could do that with Russian genitives…

looking for the local tribes in the German library

But I’m missing the point really, because although I could kill a prepositional verb right now, as well as the person who turned up with the idea of declensions, in fact I really love grammar. I love observing it, and as with most things pertaining to language, I think it’s a wonderful invention. I personally am definitely not a grammarian: I don’t like putting labels on things and saying : “This is the way this should be” or “that should happen in such and such a way because that’s the way it is and otherwise it would be wrong”, just in the same way that I hate it when people put their pre-conceived set ideas on my and label me as “nice”, “boring”, “french”… Some people go through languages with a magnifying glass, a butterfly net and a pair of tweezers, ready to catch a grammar rule, pin it down onto a page and pull it apart under the microscope. I’m much more of an explorer: I travel through the world of languages with my backpack and a safari hat, taking a few notes, and trying to get used to the strange customs of the native compound-adjective tribes. And the populations of these heathen lands are both fierce and shy. I had to circle around the declension village about ten times before I could even get close, and even today some of the little guys won’t come out of their hiding place.

I honestly do get a little thrill of joy when I find out something in the way a language works which cries out loud: I am somehow related to such and such another language. I get pangs of recognition, sometimes, in Russian or German, and I go: but that’s just how it works in English, or I wonder if that’s related to the way they say that in spanish… I get all flustered and most people think I’m crazy, but I just love it. In fact, I’ve long since figured out that’s the only way to understand a language.  By observing it in situ. All those guys with their butterfly nets and their glass boxes haven’t understood a thing, and this is probably why there are so many display cases hopelessly labelled: Exceptions

So basically I love grammar, I just don’t like studying it. Am I a linguist then or am I not?

Posted in Life, Studying, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Starting afresh: un-New-year’s resolutions for today (yes, again)

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on January 18, 2011

For those of you who were already aware of my blog’s existence, you may have noticed that this is somewhat of a repeat. For those who hadn’t a clue: well it’s pretty obvious in the title anyway, and I won’t be cross-referencing so you should be fine. The point is, I was having a bit of  a writer’s block today, and lists are always an easy thing. For example, here is a quick list of the things I could talk about today, but won’t: starting karate; changing my plans for the future; the constant litter on our front door; the gardening-inducing weather and the lack of garden on my top-floor flat; holiday plans… etc.

See: easy.

But anyways, revenons à nos moutons. Resolutions: I need to make some and write them down. Publishing them on this blog really helped the last time: exposing your failings to public scrutiny seems to be a good incentive. And also a good means of procrastinating: while I am writing those resolutions down, I am also postponing the fatidic moment when I will start living by them. Today is my making lists day: tomorrow will be the start of my new year. The Chinese, Christian Orthodox, Japanese, Tamil… have their own so why shouldn’t I? From now on, the 19th of January will be the first day of the AmphibianAlice calendar.

Seriously though, I need to make some improvements in the way I lead my life, and you will notice that unlike my previous new year (which started on the 9th of November), the following list includes a lot of habit-type resolutions. Things I will have to do on a regular basis. It just dawned on me during my exams that I simply didn’t work enough. Like my mam says: if I want to do something, I have to give myself the necessary means. This, it would seem involves a lot of studying.  I kinda knew I wasn’t working enough: I was bright-ish at school and never really needed to put in a terrible amount of personal effort into my studies; now’s the time to change that! So here goes:

– Every morning I will arrive at Uni before 9:15 or 8:30 am (having watched German channel arte on the telly) and open up the library where I will work and read german newspapers until my lessons start.

– Every week translate the headline articles of “die Zeit”

– As soon as I get paid, purchase a swimming pool card and go once or twice a week (do it girl, stop talking about it!)

– Always concentrate during trainings, even if/ especially when I am tired or in a bad mood

– Try not to leave my lessons till the very last minute. (try not to leave everything till the very last minute; and that includes administration)

– Either stop obsessing about being single or do it more scientifically and be funny about it, not sour or despondent (I know it may be weird, but I really like that word: despondent)

– Will keep to the strict-ish timetable I will set up tonight (and set myself exercices and everything…): let’s prove all of them wrong, who think all linguists are lazy. I know I am, but I’ll try and fight against it. You watch me…

-actually learn my Russian vocabulary

– Cook more / Eat less

– Of course at the back of my mind there are also the usual : lose weight, cycle more often, smile more, live more healthily, take more photos, be more artistic, etc, etc…

As you may have noticed, most of these have something to do with studying and improving my German. An lecturer let drop after one of my exams that I had really better spend another year in Germany before I even attempt applying to the ESIT translation school in Paris. I had a vague feeling my spoken german wasn’t good enough, but reality catches up with us all in the end. I guess next year’s destination will shift to Regensburg 430 km further away from Paris than I am now, and ever so slightly more to the east… Anyway, the bottom line of it all is that I need to improve: if I do end up in Regensburg in Bayern ( Ratisbon and Bavaria to you and me), I will have to attend proper university courses and lectures entirely in German, and I doubt the lecturers will stop and translate everything for me, so I’d better be up to it. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ll let you know if I’m sticking to my resolutions at all or if it’s just been a waste of an hour. I’ll come back to this post in one month and if I’ve kept any of my promises I’ll cross them out.

I think I’m starting to understand my aunt Hilary’s enthusiasm for lists.

Posted in Life, Studying, Work | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »