Wednesday, July 10

I present today's report from the higher education trenches in Paris.

About to start studying now. Also first test in phonetics today/tomorrow (1:45 am here).

Sad face - macaroons all gone now. Wine too.

I've noticed that French people often don't bother with accent marks in email messages. It does slow you down tremendously. But there's no way I can get away with that.

Up at midnight tonight / this morning. Ridiculous even for me. Very noisy outside window, gaggle of young people having loud discussion about something. Go home and go to bed, young people. And get off my lawn. (What's a "lawn"? - Oh, yeah, kind of like Le Jardin du Luxembourg, only a little private one that's not quite as nicely decorated.)

Have pretty much completed transition from tourist to working stiff. The routine: Up way too early. Study and do homework and waste time on FB and do laundry and housework all night. Classes all morning. Eat big lunch in restaurant around 1-2 pm while catching up on news and blogs on pad. Do shopping, maybe take nap. Go to lecture ("conference" in French) in late afternoon on Mon/Tue/Thu. Eat light supper in apt. Crash and burn. Rinse and repeat. Beginning to resent all the damned clueless foreigners until I remember that I'm one of them. The 5th arrondissement is interesting, but way too touristy, the most touristy arrondissement in Paris. Walking down the elegant Boul St-Germain and down the amazing twisty narrow rue Descartes every day no longer a big deal. Métro is now boring and taken for granted, not awe-inspiring and new like at first.

Am very much looking forward to "le week-end". Strange sensation because weekends don't mean anything special to me as an old retired fart at home in Skokie. Am especially looking forward to big parade on Champs Élysées and celebration on Sunday for La Fête National, known back home as "Bastille Day".

Miss kittens terribly. While falling asleep last night I really wanted Ziggy curled up next to my belly purring like at home. Was a bit melancholy and lonely, but back to normal now after a good night's sleep.

When I surf the web here I'm getting a very interesting set of advertisements in French. Why do they think I'm interested in "Leçons d'hebreu en direct - Apprenez l'hébreu Moderne ou Biblique en ligne avec les meilleurs enseignants d'Israel"?

And here's one I really don't need:

Leçon d’anglais gratuite
Apprenez l'Anglais en 5 min par jour et rejoignez 16 millions d’étudiants.

Have become so integrated here that I've even stopped noticing all the beautiful women. Sad, isn't it?

Mostly don't need map app anymore, but still get lost sometimes. A few days ago I was super tired and got hopelessly lost in my neighborhood. For some reason the GPS on the phone was out of order and my map wan't working at all. Found myself in the middle of the campus of École normale supérieure, one of the grandes écoles. Took forever to get myself oriented and find my way back home. I think I was suffering from a bit of heat exhaustion because my brain was definitely not functioning normally.

That Armani shoulder bag aka "man purse" that I bought is perfect. Also très chic. A good purchase. Not like the first two tries on graph paper.

All done with the night's homework! Have time to start transcribing lecture notes.

Last three métro tickets were duds yesterday morning. None of them worked. Had to buy new pack of 10. What's up with that? They aren't supposed to expire or anything like that.

Been here 3 weeks as of today. A bit more than 9 weeks left to go. Still can't believe I'm doing this.

Stream of consciousness FB posting is fun.

The lecturer who talked about Versailles yesterday spoke very slowly and clearly and I had absolutely no problem understanding him. It's only when they crank it up to normal Parisian speed that it stops being language and turns into noise for me. Well, also, my vocabulary is still pretty small, so any normal speech is going to have plenty of words I don't know.

Nasty potholes from yesterday's notes:

sans doute does NOT mean "without a doubt". It means the same thing as "peut-être" (maybe).

sans aucun doute DOES mean "without a doubt" (certainement).

pas terrible does NOT mean "not bad". Just the opposite. It means very bad (très mauvais)

hasard does NOT mean hazard. It means "coincidence". The word for "hazard" is "danger", or "risque".

My classes cover grammar, linguistics, literature, conversation, oral comprehension, writing, culture and customs, phonetics, history, the arts and sciences, and everything else about French and France. Nice.

Gender = big problem for me.

I have great dictionaries on the net, all the resources I need. But the offline dictionary app I bought for the pad and iPhone is a total piece of crap.

Did not have to do dictée at board yesterday. I misunderstood. We just got our papers back briefly and were given 5 mins to correct them and hand them back - second movement of dance. Started grammar lessons, on the basics - the articles (le, la, l', les, un, une, des, du, de la, de l'). Thought I already knew that stuff but the rules are much more complicated than I had thought. There's three kinds: défini, indéfini, and partitif. Here's an example from my notes to give you an idea:

L'articles indéfini and partitif sont remplacés par « de » après un verbe à la forme négatif et quand la négation porte sur toute la phrase.

With examples, followed by a list of three exceptions with examples. The list may be longer - the lecture continues tomorrow.

Kids are starting to groan and roll eyes and complain to each other in bathroom line after class.

Enjoyed talking to a sweet young couple in class from Brazil. As is typical in all my French classes, the male/female ratio is about 1/5. Majority very young women who are taking this class for unknown reasons.

Moved on to pronunciation in phonetics class. Can't even type example from notes without exploring the outer regions of the unicode character set. Am not going to try. Anyway, we worked on the long "a" kind of sound as in the word "les" and the kind of "e' sound as in "le". How the jaw and lips and tongue should be positioned properly and so on. Then lots of practicing tongue twisters with microphone and headset with prof listening in and making comments.

Misunderstood once again. Test in phonetics class is tomorrow.

Told prof yesterday that the bookstores are out of stock of the grammar textbook, but I had located an electronic photocopy. She said that would do for now, and she's going to give them a call to try to get them restocked. So that has worked out OK.

Have been taking notes on loose sheets of graph paper. After 5 days of classes and 10 sets of notes this has become unmanageable. Bought two cahiers (notebooks) at the papeterie yesterday, one for each class. Must transcribe notes into cahiers. Decided to continue to take notes on loose sheets in class, but then transcribe them into the cahiers later, with neater handwriting, additions from looking things up in dictionaries, additions from research on net, separate lists of new vocabulary to learn, etc. This is not a bad way to study.

"Higher education"? More like what little French kids get in school, I think, in their école primaire and college years (elementary school and junior high).

Very amusing comments by prof in class yesterday about "les bobos" ("les bourgeois bohèmes") in the 9th, during a conversation about the different districts of Paris. She lives in the 4th. Every district has a quite distinct ambience and type of people who live there.

Une blague: Quand Les Verts voient rouge ils votent blanc. A joke: When the Greens see red they vote white. "The Greens" are the environmental political party. "Vote white" means vote for nobody.

By coincidence, the text we studied in class was by Raymond Davos, the same pervert who wrote that impossible poem I posted from phonetics class. It's a funny little story:

I arrived at the square. The light was red.
There weren't any cars, so I crossed the street.
But there was a policeman on the lookout. He whistled at me and said:
- You crossed on the red!
- Yes! There weren't any cars!
- That's not a reason!
I said:
- But yes! Sometimes the light is green ...
- There are cars and ...
- I can't cross!
The cop was stupefied. He turned red. I said to him:
- Your face is on fire!
His face turned green.
So I crossed.

Reminds me a lot of the funny little stories my Dad used to write, playing around with words like this.

Here's my "dictée" homework, a rewritten and self-corrected version of the first round attempt. On proper graph paper. Properly double spaced. Neatly written. Hopefully adequate. Ready to study. It's a charming passage:

Mondo knew lots of people here in this village, but he didn't 
really have any friends. The ones he liked to meet, were those 
who had beautiful bright faces and who smiled when they saw you 
as if they were happy to meet you. So Mondo stopped, he talked 
to them a bit, he posed several questions to them about the sea, 
about the sky, or about the birds. Mondo didn't ask them very 
difficult things, but they were things that the people had 
forgotten, which they had ceased to think about over the years, 
like for example, why bottles are green or why there are silent stars.

So after four days of class, do you think I'm getting educated? I think so. I'm rather pleased so far and having a great time.