Monday, 25 October 2010

My Dictionary, Holiday Time and Others

I decided to write a song in French a couple of weeks ago. It was ok - standard fare really, albeit in French. In the course of this adventure, I had to look up the gender of a word, but didn't have a French dictionary or anything like that. However, there happened to be a very old one left behind in my flat from a previous resident, so I used that one and order was restored. It has since remained untouched by me, though its title is still visible underneath the other books I have stacked on a shelf. It does make a strange claim though on its subheading, stating that it is "La Bible des dictionnaires bilangues" (I shouldn't need to translate that). It only really hit me the other day what an odd thing this is to claim.

So what exactly did they mean by that? Does the first part (French-English) act merely as a precursor to the second (English-French), making bizarre half-predictions about what's going to be featured later on? Is the second part considered by many to be more important than the first, rejecting the silly French-English claims as being unrealistic and brutal, and deciding that the words in English-French section are more representative of the true translation? Is there a group of people who reject the second section entirely, choosing to focus solely on the French-English part while waiting for a "real" English-French part to displace the currently existing one? Are there wild contradictions throughout, with the initial translation of the word "table" being cross-referenced in the second section as "armadillo", without anyone seeming to notice. Did a group of people in Utah extrapolate on the translations, putting special emphasis on the word "underwear" and "polygamy"? Did they claim that the founders of the dictionary travelled to America, where they proceeded to reveal the real translations to a select group of people? Ok, maybe that one's a little silly, but you get my drift. It amused me anyway.

So after 3 weeks of teaching very little (owing to the strikes), I have a 10-day holiday. Whether this is a good thing or not is still uncertain, but I'm sure I shall find ways to remain busy.

Peace x

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cuts? Try Civil Unrest

The government is cutting things, apparently. People don't like this, apparently. Fine, go and ahead and dislike it - your thoughts are your own and no-one can or should stop you. It does beg the question though, "What the fuck did you expect?" We are in a seriously sticky economic situation and no amount of sticking our fingers in our ears is going to solve that. People are going to be affected, some more fairly than others, but that's life; we must attempt to make the best of our situation, regardless of whether we agree with it or not. Throwing our toys out of the pram will not get us anywhere, especially as everyone considers themselves deserving of immunity from cuts. It just does not work that way. Yes, hit the higher earners with more stringent taxes - as far as I can tell, leafy suburbs in the home counties have not really been affected by the recession at all (in any practical sense), and a little sacrifice for the national benefit is a worthy one to make, in my opinion.

At least we're not French though. They take insane politics to a new level, quite frankly. "2 years' more work!? 'Ow very dare zey. On va tous manifester!" etc etc etc. Seriously guys, deal with it. If we protested/went on strike every single time a vaguely unpopular law was passed, we'd become a laughing stock. It would be like a world run by Bob Crow, and no-one wants to see that, except for Bob Crow (and maybe Ed Milliband). So yeah, we're not all that bad at the northern end of the Channel.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Strike 3?

So yeah, I knew the French would start striking spontaneously, but still.
Background: I was meant to be on some sort of handy training course to learn how to actually do the job I'm supposed to be doing for the next 6 months or so. Having been presented, however, with a timetable for a certain specialist group that could not be moved, it was decided that I not go on this training day and teach them instead. They had ensured me the week before that they would all be present and correct etc etc etc, despite the strike. Guess what? No-one rocked up. Not a word of apology or anything, despite my having taken time out for their benefit before they try to speak a vaguely coherent sentence to vastly more hard-working Swedish people. Not impressed. Seriously, if you want to strike, fine. But don't pretend you'll be there, causing me to change my plans, then decide you can't be arsed. It is seriously not on.

It's weird being back in a school environment. 2 years of university makes you forget the things we considered completely normal at the time but now seem completely ridiculous. Bearing in mind that the people I'm teaching are often older than me, it is expected that the relationship be that of pupil and teacher, not student and lecturer (or equivalent thereof). I find it most peculiar, though at least they haven't started calling me 'Mr Homewood' yet...

Apparently it's perfectly acceptable for French people to start singing the Marseillaise to each other on nights out. I was asked to provide a rendition of 'God Save The Queen' for good measure and duly refused for obvious suicide-related reasons, but did consider teaching them slightly more colourful uni-based night out songs...perhaps another day.



Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ratios, Potatoes and Hungarian Luncheon Vouchers

Right, a week done. Teaching people older than me is always interesting, but for the most part it was manageable. In short, technology tried to screwed me over but ultimately failed. A bit like I-Robot...

Things to note:

(i) If you're going to spend a day on the coast/beach, prepare things to do/places to go. Organisation has never been my strongest point and leaving it up to 2 Germans seemed a perfectly reasonable decision for obvious stereotypical reasons, but standing around in a provincial tourist office looking for places to go isn't a wonderful experience after a while. Bless the Germans for finding things.

(ii) If you're invited to a "typical French evening", expect there to be potatoes. They really lap them up for some reason. Seriously. I got into the car on the way over having completely forgotten to bring anything, and asked the girl driving me whether it would be a problem. Her reply (translated) - "No it's ok, we've already got the potatoes." Brilliant.

That's about it for this installment, so be grateful there's no rant this week.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Existing in France and Miscellaneous

Right, France/Angoul√™me. Larger than I expected, and a little prettier in parts. I'm actually living in the school itself, which is a half-hour walk from town. Could be a lot worse though, as the French Government keep trying to find ways to give me money for no discernible reason. Maybe they felt guilty for Vichy or something...
So yeah, I'm here. Saturday is the critical day in this account though. Basically I was looking for somewhere to watch the Ryder Cup, as the TV in my room didn't have the right channel (Canal+ Sport for those of you interested). So, where better to watch it than a golf club, right? Right; well at least until C+S decided to cut off the final hour of Saturday's coverage - the climax of the entire day's play no less - for the sake of some football match between the Lyon 4th XI and the Parisien Blind School (insert real team names as appropriate). WHAT? C+ actually has its own specialist football channel, so WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU FILLING A CHANNEL FOR REAL SPORTING COVERAGE WITH THIS RUBBISH? The switch was met with genuine indignation from my fellow watchers - I somehow felt vindicated.

So that's Me 1 French TV 0 (in hockey scoring, that is). The people are remarkably friendly too - people meeting other friends whom I have never met will randomly shake my hand just for being in the same room: that's quite nice. The people I'm teaching appear to be manageable for the most part as well, which always helps. All in all, no complaints.