Monday, November 7, 2011

Small Talk

While I am here in Paris, I am required by the laws of my visa (or whatever) to take French classes. I'm sure it's part of some old-fashioned law that gets as many people in France speaking French as possible. I get it. They looove their language. (Although, literally every speaks English and so many people want to speak English to me that it's difficult to fight. Yesterday the man I bought a galette from was super annoying and kept speaking English but I just kept responding in French. Biotch.)

Anyway, I take two classes. One is for language and one is for culture. They don't put a lot of emphasis on culture, maybe because we are already living here? That class is about an hour once a week (the other is 2.5 hours twice a week), and mine is specifically about literature. We read excerpts from France's big philosophers/writers and discuss. Well, the prof tries in vain to get us to speak. The problem for me is that I don't have the vocabulary to talk about these abstract concepts. After I hear the right words spoken, then I get it and everything comes together in my head. But when he just asks us to comment on the style of Molière's Don Juan, or Proust's A la recherche de temps perdue, or the technical definition of metonymy--uh, yeah I can't do that. In French.

It's difficult. We have to read one book for this class, Apprendre à Finir. I really need to buy it and get started because I'm going to freaking understand this book if it kills me! I am not really sure how people do grad school classes in French. It's one thing to learn French--it's another to learn history or philosophy in a language that you don't know well enough to express yourself. Nothing makes you feel dumber than when you are called on, and you know the answer, but you just can't get it out. It really makes me feel bad for ever getting annoyed at foreigners in the States.

Something I do for practice is when I get a song stuck in my head I will translate it into French and try to put it to the music. I'm hoping that will help me get some more phrases stuck in my head. It's so difficult when someone just asks you something out on the street and you can't think fast enough to respond. Easy kinds of knee-jerk phrases like:

"Oh, go ahead."
"Sorry I just need to reach around you."
"Is someone sitting here?"
"Did you drop this?"
"I think it's going to get colder as the day goes on." (Couldn't say this one this morning.)

Small-talk. That's what I need.

Well, I'm working on it. In the meantime, big stuff coming up this week. My first sporting event in Europe. My first train ride in Europe since spring '10 (I loooove trains in Europe). Getting out of Paris for the first time in what will be 5 weeks. A new country! Yay.

And today is my brother's birthday! He's 27. I don't feel old enough to have my brother be 27. That means I'm creeping closer and closer to 26. Yikes. (Bringing it back to meeeeee...hey, it's my blog.)

P.S. Picture is Église de la Sainte-Trinité, but it's known as La Trinité. It's in the 9e.

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