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 ‘travelling’

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?

 

Advertisements

Posted in France | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Learning key life skills in Germany

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on May 27, 2014

When navigating your way around a german kitchen, or indeed a german party, one of the most difficult things to find is a bottle opener. Surprising, is it not? When all your instincts, long nurtured clichés, and the physical evidence of empty Pfandflaschen (deposit bottles) piling up on every street corner/table/ledge tell you beer is indeed flowing. So a word of warning: when you, confused tourist in teutonic lands, ask for one, do not be surprised when someone hands you a lighter instead.

You see, a true German can open a beer bottle with just about anything, and not having a bottle opener leaves room in the kitchen drawer for other, more obscurely exotic kitchen essentials: your schnitzel hammer for example or this terrifying and dangerous cousin of the tin opener (you may actually need the schnitzel hammer to work it):

Having become used to this state of affairs, my policy has long been to find the nearest smoking german and ask them to open my beverages. If there are no smokers around, any german person will do the trick, the only condition being that there is in the vicinity an object with an edge. Not too difficult then. Do not judge me for taking the easy way out. Over the three and some years I have lived on this side of the Rhine, I have tried, usually ending up covering myself in beer and ridicule: at best I would manage to slightly bend one tiny bit of the beer cap and give up with a sore knuckle. Worst case scenario so far, I broke a lighter and dropped the bottle which smashed on a rock, spraying everyone with the foamy stuff. Maybe it is simply that my frenchness prevails when it comes to accessing alcoholic drinks. Certainly I may be rubbish at opening beers with an USB sitck, but I am very good at uncorking wine. It was even noticed by my colleagues when I was working in a posh-ish hotel in Kiel. Give me a wine bottle and a corkscrew and sit back and enjoy the show. I won’t need to lean on anything or squeeze the bottle between my thighs, no drop will be spilled, no loud popping noises and would Sir like to try a sip first?Scan0012

 

 

Maybe that was what my friend Jan picked up on last Sunday at the barbecue. Not that I did open any wine there – all screwtops there (BLASPHEMY), but there was a wine bottle lying around and that was what I was told to use, if I wanted to get to my beer. No I won’t open it for you, you need to do it yourself.

I failed miserably the first time around, but the second cap flew a metre or so away with a satisfying pop on my first try. I could have clapped, if I had not been holding a bottle of beer in my left hand and a bottle of wine in my right. Never mind, and hurray! I am now officially one step closer to being German, which considering the french results of the European elections, cannot be such a bad thing, surely.

Posted in Germany, Life, Uncategorized, Wine | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A year ago today: Getting to Berlin

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on March 24, 2014

p to b

Ok my Eiffel Tower looks more like that of Blackpool… but you get the gist.

It is a year today since I first set off on my Berlin venture, and to mark the occasion, I decided to get started on this long promised blow by blow account of what has happened since then (I also resigned from my job as a waitress – the 24th of March is a good day for a fresh start). So here goes.

I set off for Berlin on a premeditated whim. I had been mulling things over for a while and the absence of any culture-related internship in my 140-strong village seemed a good indication that I should be looking elsewhere. London kept sending me rejection emails and Berlin seemed appealingly alternative so I found a flatshare on the internet, booked a night-time carpooling to from Paris to the German  capital and hopped onto a train with as much luggage as I could carry. The deal was: I had two months to set myself up, find a job and an internship, or  I would have to go home.

The trip to Paris was more or less uneventful. The SNCF train was punctual apart from a smelly Yorkshire terrier in a basket which didn’t seem to be enjoying the trip. The carshare was allright too, at first. It was a big old Renault van, which meant a lot of leg room and luggage space. One by one, the other passengers arrived and started piling their stuff into the boot. Travelling me with me were five people and a dog. That worried me a little at first; having spent the previous 4 hours in the same cart as a barking vomiting hairy fiend had somewhat reduced my affection for the canine species. This apprehension was soon replaced by another however, as the driver started handing out blankets, two each. It’s quite an old vehicle, and it gets draughty, especially at night – he said. I remembered the weather forecast for that day: although spring had finally come to France and daffodils were popping up everywhere, the temperature in Berlin had been stuck at minus 10 Celcius for the past week or so. The next few hours promised to be interesting.

And indeed, after the first two hours of an elated “I’m-setting-off-on-an-adventure-hi-Im-Alice-where-are-you-from-what-do.you-study?” giddiness, I spent most of the trip looking down at the road rushing by through a gap between the door and the floor of  the van. The driver hadn’t lied, it was draughty. It didn’t seem to disturb my fellow passengers though, who slept throughout, only waking when we stopped for cigarette breaks on the way. The dog was very good too, and nowhere near as loud as the one on the train, or as the snoring of its master.

The journey lasted 12 long hours and we were dropped off in icy Tempelhof, which meant I had to travel all the way across town to meet my new and very intriguing flatmate (but he deserves a post all to himself)

Anyway. I survived a year in Berlin!

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

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 »

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

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

Ah the spirits of christmases past…

Posted by Alice Challet - alicethefrog on December 27, 2010

I know I keep saying I need to write more regularly, and every time my messages and my apologies stretch out over longer periods of time.And yet, every day I find reasons to write, lovely inspirational moments like last week as I lay underneath the Christmas tree, peering at the twinkling lights through the branches. I had a sort of epiphany, remembering moments, glimpses from my childhood. Since then I have been visited daily by the ghosts of Christmases past.

On Monday Mam and I were in the kitchen cooking… something (so much gets cooked and baked over the X-mas hols, I just lose track), and listening to BBC radio 4, as we often do since Mam borrowed Dad’s chequebook for her birthday and bought an internet radio. And on the radio that day, it was Women’s hour Christmas tradition call-in. People from all over the UK were calling with their anecdotes and family customs. Stuff that had been around their families for generations, or habits they’d started a couple of years back. From ancient traditions from Denmark, to truly modern british oddities involving motorbikes…  It just reminded me of all the things we used to do when we were small.

Christmas was such a big affair! I will not discuss here the long weeks of secret plotting it took my Mam to let our aunts know what presents we might like, complicated toy names she had to spell backwards in foreign languages over the telephone to make sure we didn’t know what she was going on about. I mean, that certainly was fascinating in its own right. But there was so much more to come. First of all, we had to travel to Christmas land. A long two-day car journey from the middle of France to Newcastle in the North of England, with three kids in the back, can you imagine it? And the evening before we left, when all our things had somehow been squeezed into the boot and under the car seats, my gran would invariably turn up with a massive crate full of “presents” for the family in England. A bottle of my grandad’s home-made walnut oil, boxes of french biscuits, freezer bags full of broad beans and various other  home-grown produce… All of which of course was rather voluminous, weighed a ton, ahappened every year, even when we started travelling by plane.  To this day I don’t think we ever told grandma about the stuff we just could not take with us.

And then it was two days of I-spy, unhealthy snacks, are we there yets, and  audiobooks.  We also had a small suitcase in plastic faux-leather which held a wealth of musical audio-cassettes. Each year there would be a different selection, my parents had very eclectic taste, but we kids would just pick the amusing and cool-sounding titles, not necessarily knowing what was on them… I think that ended with our primary school teacher asking mam why my little sister was humming chansons paillardes in school… So that lasted two days or so.

And then we got to my Grandma Thompson’s house in Jarrow, near Newcastle. I loved that house. There were so many little things different from home, so many details. And so many people. Since we only went to England once or twice a year, the world and his wife turned up for a visit, along with their second cousin thrice removed. And when we got to 8, Greenbank Villas, we had a quick and delicious dinner of Stottie-cake and bacon sandwiches and we children were sent upstairs to bed while the grown-ups retreated to the living room with a glass of wine or something to fill the room with presents. I think. Looking back, we were very good about that actually. Maybe we didn’t go to sleep immediately, but we never peeked. The threat of the omniscient Father Christmas stopped us from tiptoeing down the red-carpeted stairs, or even leaning over the landing railings. It kept us safely inside our room where we skipped from bed to chair to bed, to table, to windowsill never touching the floor so it wouldn’t creak and no-on would suspect we were awake. We would listen at the door for people walking up the stairs or talking in the corridor, and watch the metro trains rushing past the back garden out of the window. I don’t remember ever deliberately going to sleep.

Somehow on Christmas morning I would find myself waking up in bed. But mam always told us not to come downstairs too early, because we’d have to wait for everyone to wake up anyway. We’d also received instructions not to wake one another either, so I’d turn over as slowly and as quietly as possible to see if either Géraud or Lucile were awake. If one of them was, we might sign to each other, mouth “Merry Christmas”,  or whisper and giggle. If not, well I could just daydream; I was very good at it at the time. But come on, how long can you expect children to stay quietly in bed on Christmas morning? I can’t quite remember what made us come out of the room at last. It was so long ago. I think our whispers and giggles and the unavoidable running around would probably end up waking mam and dad in the room next door. Mam would lead us to the kitchen for breakfast. We would eye the determinedly shut sitting room door as we walked past it, trying to guess what lay inside, but we knew we weren’t allowed in before every single person in the house was up and had had breakfast! To keep us busy, we would be allowed to open our christmas stocking. In our family by the way, we use proper socks. None of those massive things no-one could ever wear on their foot and that can fit massive toys. The biggest thing we had in our stocking was a tangerine. And there was a pound, and chocolate money, and usually a novelty soap, and Starburst, and a pencil.

And then, finally, we were allowed into the living room. The tree was in the bay window-area, and the rest of the bay window was piled with presents. There were so many of them. Many of which weren’t to be opened by us and would lie there for days and days, but they were there all the same and helped making the moment, the room even more magical.

There are many other things we used to do, but it’s twenty minutes past midnight, and I want to go to bed with  the image of this amazing christmas tree at the front of my mind. I’ll tell you about the carols, the fenwicks windows, the mass, the shopping, the cousins, the ham and stuffing,… another time.

I hope you are, like me, still basking in the afterglow of a wonderful Christmas. Good night.

Posted in Family | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »