Reflections from a Lectrice d’Anglais

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It feels rather strange to be working on wrapping up these classes I’ve been teaching since last fall.

I’m definitely going to miss my class full of sci-fi/LOTR fans. Never can tell where class discussion is going to go and my yes, do they have some pretty strong opinions. On an exam last fall for bonus points I gave them sentences to put into passive voice. One of the sentences was “Frodo destroyed the ring.” One of my students crossed out Frodo and put Gollum before putting it into passive voice. This may or may not have been the same student who spoke for the rest of class in a Gollum voice after I showed the Air New Zealand Flight Safety video with LOTR characters a few weeks ago during our travel unit.

I can’t say it’s all gone smoothly teaching here, but it’s definitely been a learning experience on multiple levels.

What’s it been like teaching English in France?

Different. Very different. Naturally, I knew it wouldn’t be the same as what I’ve been used to. My entire teaching career up to this point has been focused on teaching students French. Now, for the last 8 months I’ve been standing up in front of a classroom to teach English, my native language, and it is even more of a challenge than I fully realized it would be.

100_3968 - CopyI’ve sometimes felt like throwing up my hands because I feel like there’s an overall lack of
organization in the university system (welcome to France, Stace). Throwing me 8 or 9 classes and telling me to do whatever I want with little clue as to what my students have done previously absolutely overwhelmed me starting out. I was so very thankful for a couple of teachers who shared their lessons with me and gave me an idea of how to teach these classes. It’s been pretty rocky, but I think if I were to do this another year, it would go somewhat smoother.

What was one of the biggest differences?

The students.

Of course, it does make sense that French students would not be the same as the American students I’m used to teaching. However, I was not prepared for the discipline problems I ran into those first few weeks. After I established rules and they got used to my rules and the consequences, things did start to go smoother though I did often feel like I was teaching high school all over again. Alhough I don’t think I would ever have heard myself saying “Arthur and Clément, please put that flask away. I want you happy in this class and ready to talk but not quite *that* happy!” in either a high school or a university in the U.S. Yes, that really did happen!

What I did love about my French students was that I could talk more freely with them without worrying so much about someone getting easily offended. In my conversation classes especially we talked about so many different things and everyone felt free to voice an opinion. Although we always had a theme for the week, I really wanted them to take the conversation where they wanted it to go. They were much more likely to get into lively conversations even debates if it was about something that interested them. You should have heard one of our book discussions the other day. 😉

It was a joy to me as a teacher to see many of my students blossom. They often wowed me with their presentations. Two of the guys pretended to be sports anchors for several minutes and then had the class do a game show quiz on sports news in Europe and U.S. Or, I had another student who had the entire class involved in a game show over different anglophone accents. I’ve had students who got up in front of the class and started off nervous but as they continued, gained confidence and were able to get the class involved in discussing their topic.

Sure, I’ve had more lessons than I want to count fall flat and there were plenty of times when I just about wore myself out trying to get these kids to talk. I have also had plenty of times I left the university after a long day nearly in tears because I wanted so badly to go home as things went just that horribly with classes. I remember at one particular low point another teacher seeing how discouraged I was, sweetly told me that I was here to touch lives and that somehow or other all these other difficulties I was going through would work out. I call that a turning point because it took the focus off of myself and put it back onto others where it should have been. I’m thankful now to look back and see the strength the Lord gave me on those tough days and smile about the good times I’ve had in class. Yes, I’m also really going to miss a lot of these kids I’ve gotten to know.

The students did also pick up on my great enjoyment of coffee….

100_3965One time I intended to write on the board for students to be sure to print a copy of a worksheet to bring to class and went along giving them instructions. I was interrupted by giggles and students pointing at the board saying “Uh, Miss? Miss! *hahahaha* Print a coffee!?” Yes, it’s rather obvious where my mind was at that time. They kindly suggested I go find myself one as they walked out of the classroom. Later that same day, two students in another class were doing a partner oral exam and decided to impersonate me interviewing for a job in an espresso company. That absolutely cracked me up, and “I” apparently got the job….Woohoo!

As much of a learning and often stressful experience this has been, there are some unique things about these students that I have enjoyed uncovering. They love to tell me about their culture and about things I need to try while I’m here. Often if class discussion was lagging, I’d ask them questions about France. Conversely, you should see how excited and curious a lot of them are when I tell them about my life back in the States. Sometimes they come up to me after class to ask questions like “Do you prefer our coffee here or the coffee in the States?” “What kind of an accent do you have?” “Where did you learn how to teach?” “What does a Texan accent sound like?” “Do you really know cowboys?” We also have laughs when there’s a complete breakdown in communication in the classroom. This is usually when they mispronounce something, and I can’t figure out what they’re trying to say, so they try in French which depending on what it is might still not work. An impromptu game of charades then begins often ending in laughs.

I have many, many stories to tell, but for now I’m content, relieved, and maybe just a little sad that the semester is almost over! What an adventure it’s been!

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Where Two Siblings Went

It’s been such a busy couple of months, I’ve sadly fallen behind writing updates of my ongoing adventures among the French. It feels like after I hit the halfway point of my journey here, time has started flying. In any case, I wanted to drop by and give you a glimpse of the memories my brother Jesse and I made when he was here for nearly a month back in December and January.

Winter break was special for two reasons: (1) I was able to take a break from the stress of everyday life at the university and just travel and make memories, and (2) I got to share those memories with my little (big) brother. Hence my silence on the blog during those weeks. There was just too much to see to possibly keep up with writing.

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Having a picnic on the pebbled beach in Nice

As you can see, I was incredibly busy. 😉  It was a unique trip with several destinations and several unforgettable experiences.

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Jesse arrived around December 19th and a few days later we boarded a train and began hopping around France and England. Unfortunately, our hopping also included checking out the French emergency room at one point. You know, one should never pass up an opportunity to learn new vocab, right? Though I think we both would have preferred to learn that sort of French vocabulary out of a textbook and not from real life.

We called our adventure the Sibling Trip Winter European Edition or STWEE to borrow from the French tendency to acronym anything and everything. We explored Nice, Antibes, drove through Monaco, climbed the stairs at Eze, strolled the streets of London and later Paris, and of course, we did some hiking in the Alps around Grenoble as well as near the Italian border around Nice. The above pic was taken in the seaside town of Antibes. It was a dreamy place, I must say. I loved seeing all of the many colors of the buildings, hearing the Italian influence on the French accent there, making some new friends, and seeing some sights that absolutely took my breath away.

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Jesse and I both love French and France, but we had never been able to experience France together until now. I’m still not entirely sure that France or Europe for that matter will ever be the same after we came through. One of the best parts for us though was the people we were able to be around. Jesse got to see my life in Grenoble and meet most of my friends here including the sweet Gabins. They treated us like family and Christine made some pretty amazing Earl Grey which snapped Jesse out of jet lag and unloosed his French tongue. I’m only mildly exaggerating there. I also got to meet his sweet friends the Nadirs in Nice and Antibes.

I don’t want to give the impression that everything always went smoothly or without conflict on our trip. However, part of the beauty of our sibling relationship is that we always just keep on rolling and learn a lot lessons in forgiveness. Now, just for the record, that doesn’t mean that either of us conceded to the opinion of the other necessarily. 😉

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What made this trip special exactly?

100_3218It was watching Jesse get stared at by the French on the train as he gobbled down an entire bar of dark chocolate. It was the laughs and grunts of getting our luggage up more stairs than I can quite count. It was getting introduced to the Nadirs who took Jesse and I in while we were in Nice. I still miss those Bible studies in French and the Bible quiz Mr. Nadir and family did one of the last nights we were there. It was seeing the Eiffel Tower from the plane on the way to London. It was the laughs, the sibling comments and looks we shared seeing some of those paintings in museums, and yes, we did have to ad-lib what the statues were *really* saying in the gardens of Versailles. There were the mornings we’d wake up sore from walking but ready to go do some more exploring (once I found some coffee). It was that rainy day in Oxford when we both managed to forget an umbrella and walked around rather soaked trying to find the cross in the street that marked where our ancestor Hugh Latimer was burned at the stake.

One of the main parts of our trip was London, and it was an adventure pretty much from the time we landed. Just for future reference, arriving on Boxing Day isn’t probably the best plan if you’d like to actually eat something. As it was, we ended up arguing with some Indians running a gas station over a 4£ meal deal which was literally the only place we could find open. They don’t read their own signs and apparently, asking them to microwave a sandwich (which their sign offered) after 9 p.m. is beyond impossible. Don’t ask me why. I’ll leave the place we stayed out of it other than to say it was a big lesson in getting what you pay for. Thankfully, the rest of our adventure there went well even if we only saw the sun once maybe twice.

We crammed a lot into the 4.5 days we were in jolly ole England. It wouldn’t be exactly accurate to say that it was all completely magical. There’s a bit of disillusionment that takes place the first time you see a place you’ve always had to create in your imagination as you read. I had always wanted to go to London mainly due to my infatuation with its history and the countless books I read as a child and young adult that were either set in London or mentioned London.It wasn’t quite the dirty place you read about in Dickens, but I wouldn’t say it was quite like Mary Poppins either. I think the major disillusionment came from just how expensive everything was which is a common problem even for those who call it home.

100_2322On our first day we sauntered around Baker Street and were sure to give a respectful and amused nod to the Sherlock Holmes statue and later investigated the Charles Dickens House. Apparently, the Londoners we talked to later at a church service we attended that Sunday didn’t even know there was a Dickens museum. Instead of only them giving us tips, we were able to give them one or two. I’m quite the Dickens nerd, so it was a treat to get to see one of the places he lived and understand better where he got the inspiration for some of his novels. Despite our fatigue, we decided we’d catch the tube to see Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey at night before calling it a day.

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The next two days in London involved my trying to contain myself and not jump up and down in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey (though really few cathedrals can now compare to Westminster, sorry Notre Dame), Jesse navigating the tube map, eating in classic London pubs, seeing if London bridge was really still standing (Jesse assured me it was, but I had to see for myself), looking to feed the birds at St. Paul’s but finding none to feed, strolling around Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, seeing the Tower(s) of London and Tower Hill, having a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament which I highly recommend doing, minding the gap, and the overall feeling that the people in the tube speak a different language even if they are technically speaking English. Did we get to see everything? No, but I think we covered quite a bit in a short amount of time.

Our last full day was spent at Oxford. Of course, one can only pronounce Oxford with a highly sophisticated British accent because after all, that’s where the intellectual elite go to university. Well, that and Cambridge, but I’m going to be biased since I haven’t visited there yet. 100_2847

Oxford, what a historic little town! It hosts about 38 different colleges that are all under one big “Oxford umbrella.” Due to how much it rains there, believe me, they need a giant umbrella. I think they sell some in the tourist shops if you’re interested in one. It was during the holidays, so there wasn’t the usual student population one would normally see there. Jesse mentioned he’d now like to transfer. He’d fit in just fine, I have no doubts.

100_2937Oxford is special for many reasons beyond the pervading feeling one senses of an ancient appreciation for higher learning. Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien were all there at one point or another to give an example. Jesse and I even ate in the Eagle & Child Pub where Lewis and Tolkien often met to discuss their works and was also the meeting place of the Inklings. Jesse and I did a guided tour of the town which was the best thing we could have done to get a true feel for the history of the place though I do wish our guide hadn’t gone on quite so many rabbit trails. About the time our tour ended it started pouring rain, and I was just about done for the day. I don’t know how they get used to it getting dark at 3:30 p.m. during winter there. It made it feel like it was so much later than it actually was. I found a café and while I tried to dry off and warm up, Jesse did some more exploring around town. I think what I will remember most though was finding this cross in the middle of the street:

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 This was the marker where multiple martyrs including Hugh Latimer were burned at the stake. I’ve had multiple experiences so far in my time in Europe where I’ve seen a place that marked a horrible event or a difficult human struggle and have found myself at a loss for words. I was standing on the spot where some of my kindred in Christ paid the ultimate price by having their bodies burned at the stake knowing that the sufferings of this present world were nothing compared to the joys of heaven and eternity at Jesus’ feet. It is at times like this that we question whether we ourselves would do the same. I pray I would be willing and ready, and that God would give me grace and strength to stand for Him if I were to ever be met with such an ultimatum. It’s all we can ever pray.

The rest of our adventures were in France mainly around Grenoble and Paris. This involved forgetting everything was closed on New Year’s Day meaning that was food scarce, my mad dash to turn in grades before a deadline, Jesse coming face to face with a bathroom floor (not my doing, I promise) and spending a day learning French medical vocab on a gurney instead of catching a flight to Ireland, my making French students nervous breathing down their necks while proctoring finals, and we wound the whole thing up in Paris before Jesse flew home.

Bruva, I think we need to figure out something called “relaxation” when it comes to our trips.

London Bridge and Coffee

This is actually one of Jesse’s photos I borrowed from Facebook. We realized we hadn’t done a selfie in London yet, so we got coffee and hot chocolate and stood on London Bridge and voilà!

A Special Friend

Several years ago over a cup of coffee at a Starbucks on the corner of two busy streets in West Texas, two girls sat down with full, steaming cups and started talking about life and began getting to know each other. Both had been through some tough stuff and had no idea that the other had been through similar things. As the coffee steam subsided and the cups emptied, a sweet friendship began. The two continued talking until it was closing time. They reluctantly parted but promised to meet up again for coffee soon.

In the weeks and months that followed a special bond developed between these two. So many dear memories were made involving movie nights, coffee chats (never going to forget the soapy coffee incident…wow!), game nights with friends, sleepovers, long phone chats and texts, long discussions about life and the future, and more laughs than one could count. These friends cheered each other on in the challenges and were there for each other in the hard times.

Then, change came.

The time came to part ways in the sense that life was leading these two in different directions. What exciting adventures lay ahead for both though tears were shed at the thought of parting. One friend moved several hours away down to Central Texas to be closer to her family. About a month aftLauren and Staceyer her move, the other found out that she was indeed moving to Indiana to continue pursuing her studies…

Oh, dear Lauren, I still remember that night I came to your almost packed up apartment to say goodbye before the moving truck came early the next morning to take you south. We hugged, cried a little, and promised to stay close friends no matter the distance. Just as Anne of Green Gables said “True friends are always together in spirit,” and so we were and continue to be no matter how many miles separate us. God blessed us during those two years that we lived in the same city. He had a plan. He knew we would need each other’s friendship in the years that would follow.

This week dear Lauren had a birthday. What a blessing you have been to me, Lauren, from that first moment when we discovered we were kindred spirits. We’ve both been blessed to see our friendship mature as we’ve prayed for and encouraged each other in the Lord. I’m thankful for our laughs and our many inside jokes.

Let me tell you a little about this dear friend. She’s a sweet one, this Lauren. You will almost never see her without a100_1304 book and consequently, she’s the perfect person to ask if you need book or author recommendations. Her ready smile will brighten your day and her hugs will cheer you no matter what you may be going through. She has a tender heart as is demonstrated in how she cares deeply about others and truly desires to bring comfort and light to those around her.

By the way, she has great taste in clothing and fashion. I still mention to her that a certain purple dress of hers might just mysteriously disappear some time when I’m visiting. Of course, I would have no clue how it disappeared but may coincidentally be found wearing a similarly styled dress later on. 😉 That aside though she’s the perfect one to take along if you need some help finding a new outfit.

God gives us friends for a reason. You see, God can see ahead to what the future holds. He knows the struggles, the joys, the changes, the trials, and everything that we will face, and He knows the friends we need at those specific times. Isn’t God good!?

I’m thankful for each one of my dear friends. Thank you, Lauren, for being such a bright light in my life, and a very happy birthday to you! 🙂

Escaping

My adventures among the French hit a major snag this past week which knocked me down pretty hard. I had a moment of angrily wondering if all these complications and obstacles I’ve gone through were worth it. I realized though that a lot of why I was reacting the way I was although I will attest that the complication is indeed serious was because of fatigue. Ever since I arrived nearly two months ago, it’s been nothing but work with only a brief reprieve here and there. On top of work, I’ve been stressed about one thing or another not working on both sides of the globe. It’s been a lot to handle while still trying to keep a calm composure.

So, today, I decided that I would get out of town, leave the worries and stacks of grading behind, and return to a place that had enchanted me when I was here nearly seven years ago.

To Vizille I went. Can you tell why?

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Vizille is a small village just south of Grenoble which has a beautiful park and manor. The manor now houses a museum of the French Revolution. It’s a fascinating museum that I visited as a study abroad student, but today, I was mainly interested in strolling the trails through the fall foliage and finding myself a nice little bench to relax on while I did some journal writing. I have to confess to nearly tearing up as soon as I walked into the park. This was just what I needed, and it was just as beautiful if not more so as I remembered it being. I had hesitated going this morning mostly just due to fatigue (the neighbors next door decided to have a rather loud party last night), but my entire being just sighed with relief as I breathed in the fresh air and gazed upon the breathtaking contrast of colors.

I’ve missed nature. I feel like I’ve been stuck in the hustle and bustle of a city with dirty streets and loud vehicles for far too long. It’s so peaceful to hear the rush of water from a small waterfall, the wind blowing through the trees, and the birds chirping and singing. Yes, this was a good idea. This is what I needed.

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I strolled along and just enjoyed being here at this time getting to see France in the fall. I’ve never been here during the fall, so it’s been a special treat to see the mountains become colorful and see the trees begin changing in town and around. Others in the park seemed to have the same look of relaxation as they walked along. Occasionally I shared a nod and a smile with a passerby, but everyone seemed to be respectful of the need to unplug and just be. I was delighted to find myself a little bench and write I did for a good half hour until I felt the need to get up and walk.

My view of the castle/manor from my bench.

My view of the castle/manor from my bench.

I’m glad that God has created such beautiful places in which we can find an occasional retreat. I wrote a lot in my journal about what I’d been through so far but also enjoyed writing about the people He sent to comfort me and cheer me up. I feel like it’s going to be okay. That doesn’t mean that every detail will work out like I would like it to, but I know He’ll be with me no matter what the answer is. I’m not forgotten nor am I forsaken.

Fall in France, it’s easy on the eyes! I would be careful in a place like this though. It has a way of casting a spell on you making you dream about it even years after you return home. I have often in the years since I was last here thought of this place and how peaceful it was. Something about fall just added an extra flavor of enchantment.

However, I would not paint France as a land of paradise. Enchanting indeed, but I think I made a mistake when I was here before. I came then as a study abroad student with stars in my eyes practically floating on air that this dream to come to France had come true. This time I’ve come and am experiencing everyday life in France which effectively means that I don’t see France in the same way. I see it more as it really is because of the struggles and the experiences I’ve had so far. This is why I’m here. I’m here to truly learn what it’s like to live in the French culture.

Well, that and to drink coffee and eat pastries. Let’s not forget what’s important here in having a “cultural experience”. 😉 Take a look at this amazing coffee I got from a café the other day. Now, that is what I call a café crème! I even let out a “Wow!” when the waiter brought it. Coffee, milk, and a spoon to go along with it, perfect for the rainy day that it was. I believe I’ve found “my café”. Been looking for it, so I’m glad to have found it.

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And so, life continues ever onward even with its bumps and curves in the road. I’m thankful to know Who holds my hand and Who holds tomorrow.

Of Teaching, Tartelette Consumption, and Topics of Conversation: Just another Week at the University

It feels a little strange to be working on preparation for what will be week 4 in some of my classes and week 5 in others. I’ve been teaching for nearly five weeks in a French university! o.O Those first couple of weeks of trying to figure out this entirely different system while balancing ongoing paperwork required quite a few trips to the coffee machine and maybe a few too many pastries. I often felt like I was caught in a never-ending Monty Python skit that had been hijacked by the Barnacles from Dickens’ circumlocution office. Thankfully, things have calmed down considerably. Or, perhaps to be more accurate, I have calmed down considerably. This doesn’t mean every problem has been solved, I just don’t see the point in continuing to worry about it.The exception being the ongoing back and forth with the bank, but that’s been my ongoing saga since my arrival.

So much tends to happen in one week, I thought it would be fun to just give you a few quick glimpses to try to illustrate what it’s like at the university.

Finding a new teaching weapon

The University

The University

One thing that has slightly shocked and greatly annoyed me about teaching in France has been the unceasing chatter of students when I’m teaching. This is frustrating because I know they are going to be lost when they start the activities I’m explaining and also because it is very distracting for me trying to teach. I haven’t had to deal with this sort of problem since my days of student teaching in a high school. I was chatting about this challenge over lunch with a couple of my friends last Sunday. They explained that it seems to be a cultural thing with the French as far as they could tell. However, they gave me some excellent advice to be sure to breathe from my diaphragm when I have to raise my voice in order to not only create more volume but also to keep from straining my voice. I should have remembered this from my days of being in choir, but it had absolutely slipped my mind. So, Monday morning, I strode into class and decided I would try it to see if it would make any difference as the class was chattering away all at once. I took a deep breath from my diaphragm and raised my voice to say “Okay, class is starting. I need everyone’s attention up front.”  My voice echoed all over the room leaving the students quiet and slightly stunned that my voice could carry like that. A mischievous grin went across my face at my new found weapon. 😉 That in addition to reviewing rules with my super talkative classes seems to have helped the problem. I fear that this may be an ongoing battle with teaching and do have some theories as to why this is more of a problem here than in the U.S., but that’s a commentary for another post.

Impromptu Discussions at the Copy Machine

I have a rather hectic Wednesday. It’s incredibly long and by the end of it I’m usually speaking in completely ungrammatical English while sipping tension tamer tea and promising myself never to complain again about teaching two sections of French at Purdue. I’m not the only one with a long Wednesday though. A few of us end classes around the same time and seem to all end up at the copy machine in the faculty lounge to make copies of our attendance sheets. Fatigue is usually written all over our faces as we’ve reached the rather hilarious state of exhaustion when almost anything is funny and the topics of conversation can become rather random. This Wednesday’s impromptu copy machine meeting began with one teacher venting about the struggles of trying to get students to participate followed by another teacher entering the room to ask for some help on how to explain the difference in meaning between present simple and present continuous. We mulled of “She isn’t wanting to eat” and “She doesn’t want to eat” for quite some time as we went through all of the possible scenarios when one might use one versus the other. We didn’t exactly arrive at a solid conclusion other than that using “doesn’t” makes more sense. Somehow in our floating from topic to topic, we began discussing U.S. geography and quizzing each other on the states and capitals. At one point as three of us were stumped on the capital of Vermont, we realized how late it was getting and decided to call it a night. There was quite a feeling of camaraderie as we walked to the tram stop laughing at various things and discussing our future aspirations. We’re all here only for a year or two just passing through. Yet, providentially, we’re all here together at this time to teach French students English. And yes, the capital of Vermont in Montpelier. It’s ingrained in my memory now. 😉 As tiring a day as it was, it was refreshing to get to chat with others in the same boat.

Pot de rentrée

What a tartelette framboise looks like although the ones at this luncheon were much smaller than this one with only one or two raspberries

What a tartelette framboise looks like although the ones at this luncheon were much smaller than this one with only one or two raspberries

The above statement refers to a welcoming meeting around a table of hors d’oeuvres within a department at the beginning of a new year. This meeting began with a warm welcome to the new staff as well as a farewell to a couple of people who are retiring. It was a great opportunity to meet and chat with several of my new colleagues.I wish I had taken a picture of the spread on the table! The French definitely know how to do hors d’oeuvres! It was rather different from what I am used to though because everyone just stood around the table and picked up and ate what they wanted from the platters as they chatted. I have to confess that I was starving due to not having had time to go to the store to restock on food in the apartment, so I was as politely as possible stuffing my face and only chatting if someone walked up to chat. Everyone seemed to be congregating on one side of the room, and as I noticed an untouched platter of pastries on the other side, I made my way over to inspect the platter for non-chocolate options. I was mid tartelette framboise when a gentleman walked up and asked me where I was from and after I answered, he urged me to try the wine after noticing my cup of coffee. I remarked that I was happy with my coffee. He then insisted that I couldn’t possibly experience the French culture if I didn’t drink wine. I responded that I didn’t drink alcohol and loved coffee and expected the conversation to move along. Being French, this was too good of an opportunity for him to pass up and thus followed a rather lengthy discussion involving a subtle accusation that I was being Pharisaical in my refusal to drink. At least I could tell he was mainly teasing due to the twinkle in his eye and mischievous grin on his face. He was having quite a bit of fun at my expense that was obvious. I really think it was a ploy to distract me from the pastries as quite a few began disappearing as I discussed my point of view. Upon remembering a meeting he was supposed be at, he left suddenly leaving me to continue contentedly sipping my coffee. I was eyeing one of the few tartelettes framboises left on the platter when one of my French friends who had been listening to the conversation leaned over and assured me that I could indeed experience the French culture without drinking wine as she rarely drinks. I laughed and told her that I was glad to receive the affirmation. I’d rather experience the culture soberly, let me assure you. I decided to grab another cup of coffee as I headed back to my office just for good measure. It was indeed a warm welcome, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet some new people even if I can’t remember all of their names.

There were some other neat things that happened this week which are in the midst of becoming blog posts but haven’t quite made it past the mental editing stage. A follow up post on the continuing topic of funny little things in the French culture is also in the works. I’m looking forward to continuing to share my ongoing impressions and experiences from my adventures living among the French!

Thirty Days of Thankfulness (Days 3-14)

Well, it happened! Not too surprisingly, I got swamped with school, so keeping up with posting on the blog was out of the question. However, I did keep up with it on social media. Here’s what was posted:

Day 3: I am thankful for the gift of laughter and for my many, many laughing buddies.

Day 4: I am thankful for the right and privilege to vote. Many cultures and nations presently and in the past have not had this right to let their voices be heard. However, many have fought and died in order for us to have this freedom.We have no right to complain about what’s going wrong in this country if we are not willing to exercise this right.

Day 5: I am thankful for progress on research. I’m thankful the light bulb finally came on giving me the direction to go and the right questions to ask to further this project. Not too long ago it was a struggle just to even be able to concentrate on this stuff, thus I’m thankful for being blessed to have the capability and the desire to do this.

Day 6: I am thankful for my students both present and past. They’ve taught me so much about how to teach and not to teach, how to have fun while teaching, how to do damage control on a horrible lesson, and how to always try to do better. I may not always remember their names, but I remember faces, and it is exciting to run into former students and catch up with where they are now in their studies and what they’re up to! Makes me quite content indeed!

Day 7: I am thankful for a God who works in the details. I was traveling on the road after dark last Friday night and had a couple of moments when I felt like God was working even in the small things to make me feel safe and for me to know that He was in control.

Day 8: I am thankful for Google Maps and for safety on the road. Maybe that seems rather silly to be thankful for an app on a phone, but it really saved me multiple times in trying to find my way around in some unfamiliar areas in Ohio this past weekend.

Day 9: I am thankful for the truth of Ephesians 3:20. I often forget this truth when I’m struggling with uncertainty or worry, but time and time again He has proved this to me. Praise God!

Day 10: I am thankful for willing and patient teachers. This applies both to this past weekend when I was learning something with which I was just about thoroughly unfamiliar and to the many teachers in the past and the present who have had such an impact on my life and have helped me find my path. I would have never made it this far without them!

I came home chilled to the bone with our sudden drop in temperatures. Then, I thought of the many accounts I’ve read of soldiers in the trenches and on battlefields who had to withstand horrible weather conditions and did so bravely. Day 11: Thank you, Lord, for our veterans! My hat is off to you in salute, dear soldiers! All of you are my heroes!

Day 12: I’m thankful for the dear fella whom I affectionately call Bruva although he’s more commonly known as Jesse. He always knows how to make me laugh and has been my protector, encourager, fellow French speaker, movie line quoter, and well, he’s quite a Bruva. Wish so very much I could be there for his graduation in December! Wuv oo, Bruva!!!!

Today had barely started, and it was already a test for me of if I was going to have a grateful heart even when things don’t go the way I want them to. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, cold, deficient of vitamin D, and feeling so behind that I’m stressed out, that’s no excuse for an attitude. Day 13: I’m thankful for a forgiving God who loves me even in my weakness and who gives me repentance and the opportunity to do better today.

Day 14: I am thankful for the kind of quiet that is conducive to productivity. Well, that and consuming coffee flavored ice cream whilst staring at the screen, but that’s beside the point here because….One form is done! *high five* Let’s not think about the five or so other forms for now or the grading that needs to be done, shall we?

Do You Dream in French? and Other Common Questions

After a week of down time which has mainly involved reading and catching up on Downton Abbey, I thought I’d come back out of my post-semester hibernation and write a little about some of the common questions I get in my little corner of the world.

I really do LOVE my life as a graduate student in French Linguistics!

Okay, okay, let me clarify, MOST of the time I love my life. About the middle/end of the semester I tend to wonder what I got myself into, if I’m going to survive these years of nerd études, and if I was nuts to continue, etc, etc. However, I always come back to the realization that grad school for me is not about being an intellectual really. For me it’s more about wanting to find answers to questions through research and enjoying being surrounded by others who share similar enthusiasms. 🙂 Other than that it’s a constant fight for food, sleep, and coffee amidst piles of work that somehow miraculously get done.

I did a similar post a few years ago about the top questions I was asked when I was first starting off in graduate school in French.  I love getting questions about what I study, so I thought I’d answer some of the top ones I’ve been getting recently:

So, do you dream in French?

Yes….sometimes. If I dream at all, it’s usually school related. This consists of the typical fears of not turning in papers on time or just forgetting them, showing up to give a presentation at a conference in my pajamas, having students correcting my French while I’m teaching, not turning in grades, using the informal with an important professor, forgetting to read the books on my reading list before my exams, losing my sanity, running out of coffee…*deep breath* Whew! You get the picture, in any case…

Typically, I dream in Franglais (mix of French and English) with a random occasional Arabic preposition thrown in. It’s such a weird invention of my subconscious brain, I don’t even really know what I’m saying/thinking in some of my dreams, but somehow I manage. Really, I just live in a constant state of mixed mental lingo. It makes life more interesting, I assure you!

Lingu-Linguiii-Linguiiis-Linguine? You study noodles in France?

-Or-

Linguistics? What exactly is that? It sounds intelligent.

The first queNouillesstion was asked partly in jest by someone I’d just met! I was visiting at a church and was asked what I was studying. As is typical of me as I’m waiting for caffeine to kick in, I tend to not speak clearly anyway and someone was looking for a way to tease. But, yes, it is little known that there is a program at Purdue devoted to studying French….noodles instead of poodles. You can probably find more details if you look into culinary arts à la française!

As for the second question, the simplest way of defining linguistics, is that it is basically the science of language. That’s a very, very, very broad definition since there are several different concentrations and areas within linguistics. One can study the minimal sounds and sound combinations with phonetics and phonology or you can even go as far as studying how a language is used by people around the world in sociolinguistics (quite fascinating!). One can study the structures of sentences in syntax or the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences in semantics or how to use theories to improve teaching approaches in second language acquisition in applied linguistics. Those are just a few examples. I’m glad it sounds intelligent at least since I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it all.

Wait, how long have you been studying French? I guess you’re pretty much fluent, right?

I should learn French

Fluent? Eh, I wouldn’t say so in the strictest sense of the definition. I enjoy speaking French, but I still have so many gaps in communication when I can’t think of a word or how to explain something or I forget the proper tense to use.  However, I would say that I am conversationally confident and unless the person is speaking very informally using slang I don’t know or another dialect, I can usually understand most of what someone says in French.

Is it hard to teach French?

Any teacher will tell you that it is not always easy teaching one’s content area. I won’t go into my entire philosophy of teaching, but I do enjoy creating a welcoming, fun atmosphere teaching French. I don’t always succeed and based on my student evaluations, I still have plenty to work on with teaching. Yes, it is challenging teaching a second language, but it’s really one of the best ways to improve one’s understanding of that language. For the most part, I love teaching French! I’ve had some of the best professors, and in my teaching I try to borrow and combine some of their techniques within my own.

When are you going to finish?

Never…

Okay, well, I’ll finish my schooling probably within a few years, but I don’t intend to really ever “finish” learning French. Do we ever finish learning English really?

Why French and not Spanish since you’re from Texas?

*sigh* This question sort of tires me, but I get asked it a lot.

I came from a tiny town in Texas where Spanish was widely spoken in addition to English. The logical language for me to have chosen would have been Spanish. I suppose I chose French because I’d always wanted to learn it and well, it was something different from what was expected. Sure, I can’t understand if someone is talking bad about me in Spanish which is probably a good thing anyway, but they can’t understand me when I speak French either. mwuhahahaha! Okay, I don’t use French for that reason either.

What is culture by your definition?

I was asked this recently by a grad student and also by a friend both in other disciplines when I started describing some of my current research interests in linguistics. You’d think it would be so easy to define, but the more I dig, the more I find just how complex and intricate it is. I think, to really to find what culture is, you have to zoom in to some of the tiniest details of a culture and then gradually begin to zoom out to see the entire picture. We typically do the opposite in our study of other cultures even our own. This is just some of what I’m looking at in my research.

To put it simply, there’s more to the French culture than this…

french_frogs

 

I love getting questions, so do keep asking them. Are there any common misconceptions or misunderstandings about what you do or study?

Until next time then, I shall be enjoying a cup of my favorite rich, hot, strong goodness, i.e. coffee. Do feel free to stop by for a chat! I’d love to hear any stories you have on the topic or suggestions as far as culture is concerned! The internet is a perfect place for such observations and discussions, I find.

Coffee painting

“Coffee” by Richard Diebenkorn