French Beyond the Classroom

I started learning French during middle school, so I am not sure what kind of vocabulary French 101 at the U-M teaches. If you are just starting to learn French, maybe you will add to your repertoire the travel-guide basics – bonjour (hello), ça va (how are you?/I’m fine), où est la toilette? (where’s the toilet?).

As you advance, you will probably learn more basic, but less touristic words, like singe (monkey) or trottoir (sidewalk). In my personal experience, though, reading French poems and writing French essays can deceive you into thinking that you are proficient, if not advanced, in French.

One of my personal weaknesses is listening. Professors speak slowly and they really enunciate well, so I usually understand everything spoken in the classroom. But, when I went abroad, I realized that the youths have their own turbo speed of chatting, especially in their special lingo. I felt like a fish out of water, but I also felt a large improvement in my aural abilities in a short amount of time.

Another perk of going abroad is that you don’t just learn French equivalents of English words; you also profit from a cultural experience. Some of the words that I learned during my internship at KEDGE Marseille are regional. They are words that will never appear on my French paper, or in my reading assignment. Maybe these words aren’t that important. As a foreign-language student, I kind of accepted the fact that there are words native speakers learn in infancy, yet I will never know.

Nevertheless, I still think that it is really cool to have a chat with a native speaker in a setting far away from the classroom. Just by being in Marseilles, I learned that calanques are these rocky cliffs surrounding an inlet, uniquely found in the region. Navettes typically mean shuttles, but they are also delicious biscuits in Marseilles.

Of course, I also learned some non-regional words. They are fairly popular, but in the gastronomic domain, so you will probably have to stumble upon them in a recipe, or during a dinner with a French friend, as I did.

An example illustrated in my internship blog (pardon any grammatical mistakes!):

Pendant la semaine, j’ai rencontré Emmanuelle (Manu), une ambassadrice de KEDGE Bordeaux. Je l’adore ! Nous avons passé beaucoup de temps ensemble et puis je l’ai invité chez moi pour le dîner. C’était une expérience merveilleuse car on ne parle pas de la cuisine à l’école alors j’ai appris ce soir-là des mots comme « cassis », « orge », « pourrir », « décortiquer » (on a mangé des crevettes dans le riz cantonais), et elle m’a enseigné la différence entre « brûler » et « griller » (j’ai trop cuit une crêpe mais c’était seulement marronne et pas noire !), et entre « espionne » et « agent secret » (je n’ai pas su avant le dîner qu’elle est étudiante de KEDGE Bordeaux alors quand elle l’a révélé, j’ai plaisanté qu’elle est espionne).

The approximate translation:

During the week, I met Emmanuelle (Manu), a female ambassador from KEDGE Bordeaux. I really like her! We spent a lot of time together, and I invited her to my place for dinner. It was a marvelous experience because we don’t talk about cooking in school, so I learned that very night some words like cassis (blackcurrant), orge (barley), pourrir (to rot), décortiquer (to de-shell) (we ate some shrimp in fried rice), and she taught me the difference between brûler (to burn) and griller (to grill, so to brown instead of blacken) (I overcooked a crepe but it was only brown and not black!), and between espionne (female spy, with a negative connotation) and agent secret (secret agent) (I didn’t know that she was a KEDGE Bordeaux student, so when she revealed that fact, I joked that she’s a spy).

I feel that I have just begun scratching the surface of “French in the everyday life.” Sure, I can run to WordReference.com if I ever encounter a word, regardless of how basic it is, that I do not know. Yet, when will I be able to fill the gaps that will make my lexicon on par with French kindergarteners’? How many years of schooling will I need, in order to attain the ultimate goal: fluency? This is probably one of the most disheartening worries that language students have.

Maybe an answer is, once you are proficient, go abroad and immerse yourself. Or, the easy way out: you don’t have to be fluent. Learn enough to make small conversations, because you will not need to be completely dependent on the foreign language.

What about a compromise? Incorporate language of the daily life into our courses. Make contact with native speakers via Skype, or other video-chatting applications. Even encouraging students to spend time together, maybe over lunch, speaking the foreign language with a fluent facilitator present, will increase opportunities to learn words like cassis.

— Sheila, University of Michigan student

The LRC: A Student Testimonial

It is often said that language is the most powerful connector between people. The thought of random sounds strung together having the infinite power to elate, infuriate or illuminate people is truly fascinating. However, questions arise about what the power of language is centered around; is language solely sound based? Must people understand each others languages to understand each other? How much do the way the sounds are made tell you about the situation you are in?

The Language Resource Center at the University of Michigan has understood the importance of these questions, and has begun to help me, and countless other students, realize the power of language in their own lives.

Being fluent in Greek, French and English from a young age I have always been intrigued by the power of my voice in different scenarios. This has led me to yearn for, at minimum, a rudimentary understanding of all languages and how they connect to their cultural home. The Language Resource Center has provided me with culturally applicable resources in different languages that show the languages used in their home culture. For example, I have been able to watch Russian TV and listen to the intonations of the actors. This has helped me appreciate that the speed of the Russian language can be connected to the speed of Russian culture and society. Furthermore, I have been able to explore how differing speaking volumes hint at specific countries cultural preferences. For example, Greeks tend to speak very loud and passionately, often you will see two people yelling at each other, and yet they truly are having what they consider a casual conversation. Yet in American cultural quiet speaking is much more the norm. Conversations in public seem to become private by the whispering and shushing that occurs. While it may be a stretch, there is an argument that connects these cultural differences to the differing senses of community in each country.

Even though these connections and questions are daunting, the Language Resource Center at the University of Michigan is a place in which I am able to attempt to learn more about these subjects. And begin to understand the power of the languages I speak, not only through their sound but also through their cultural importance. I am so excited to delve deeper into the issues of the importance of language and its power.

— Patrick M., University of Michigan student

 

Language Immersion: Terrifying at Best

“Rigor” takes on a whole new meaning when applied to studying a language at the University of Michigan. Adhering to the 4-semester LSA language requirement, many students find themselves in a100- or 200-level course during their time at Michigan, especially during their first two years as undergraduate students.

Whether it be French, Italian, Chinese, Hindi or Polish, most of these 100- and 200- level courses are taught completely in the language of study.

Thus, the students of these courses can relate to feeling like they’ve been tossed into a pool completely clothed, because that’s what language-study is like at U of M – as if you’re a kitten in a sudsy bathtub, drowning in conjugations and vocabulary and an extremely hard-to-replicate accent.

For those wet kitties who are reading this now, I want you to know: you are not alone.

Just this semester, I walked into my first day of French 101, eager to learn but without a shred of prior French experience. Much to my terror, when the professor opened his mouth, all that came out was a bombardment of oui and voilà and a slew of other French words that made absolutely no sense to me. I floundered, resisted the urge to burst out laughing or crying, and tolerated the 30 minutes of French until he broke into English.

“Welcome to French 101,” my professor declared once his lesson for the day was complete.

The entire class took a collective sigh of relief, and all at once, my every worry was mitigated: we were all baffled, I thought to myself. Not just me, but the entire class.

And with that collective sigh, I realized that even though immersion is terrifying and intimidating beyond belief, I wasn’t the only one confused or overwhelmed.

And since this realization, I have come to class each day (4 days a week!!) with an optimistic and hopeful attitude, knowing that if I understand anything at all, it is a victory.

Because I did just begin French a month ago, and if I can say even one comprehensible sentence or noun or verb, I have learned something, and that my friends, is called progress.

So for all you beginners, you bold under-takers, do not be afraid! There is much progress to be made and mistakes to learn from, and in that there is simply no shame.

After all, life (and language) is about the journey – not the destination – is it not?

–Britt Boyle

Stressed About Language Midterms?

Come check out the University of Michigan Language Resource Center; we can help!

The LRC has many resources to help students out in their language classes. Whether it’s expanding proficiency or just starting out, we have materials for every level!

Textbooks

Don’t have your textbook on you and need something for class? No problem! The LRC has copies of most 1st & 2nd yr language textbooks for you to use in the center and copy the pages you need.

Tutor Bank and Conversation Partners

Need some extra help before an exam? Check out the list of tutors the LRC has put together. The tutors are organized by language. Also provided is their proficiency, their pricing, and their contact information!

If you’d like a speaking partner to practice with, we can help you with that as well! Check out the conversation partners list on our website!

http://www.lsa.umich.edu/lrc/resources/languagetutors

Need Help With Listening Skills?

We have hundreds of movies in dozens of different languages ranging from Harry Potter to old video projects for classes. Most of these have English subtitles to help you out. All Available for use in the center.

Independent Learning Kits!

If you’d like additional practice outside of the classroom, the LRC has dozens of self-teaching kits available to be checked out. These range from the basics to the higher levels of learning a language.

Mango and Yabla!

Whether you’re learning a new language or want to brush up on one you’re proficient in, check out two of our online learning programs. The LRC has purchased descriptions for students to use, just sign in with your unique name! These programs are great because they’re organized by topics and by levels. They also show you how long you’ve spent on each program!

Check them out here:

http://www.lsa.umich.edu/lrc/resources/subscriptions

Translate-a-thon Oct 23rd-25th

Come help out your community this weekend by translating for non-profits around Ann Arbor! You can also bring your own project to work on! Work in groups or on your own! This is a great way to expose yourself to new material and realize how your language abilities can make a difference in the world!

https://www.lrc.lsa.umich.edu/translate-a-thon/

As always, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to stop by the LRC in North Quad room 1500 from 8:30a-10p M-Th, 8:30-5:30p F, and 12:30-10p Sun,  check out our website, call, or email us!

Email: umlrcfrontdesk@gmail.com

Phone: 734.647.0759

Website: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/lrc/

What Does It Mean That Russian Is An ‘Inflected Language’?

Anyone studying an inflected language?

Fluent Historian

Obligatory picture of Red Square. Obligatory picture of Red Square.

Before I started learning Russian, a lot of the sources I read said it was hard. Not only does it have a completely different alphabet, they warned, but it’s an inflected language. A quick search of this term—inflected language—revealed that Russian nouns change depending on where they are in a sentence. That is, nouns have different cases. Changing the case is called declining. The names of the cases used in Russian are nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, prepositional, and instrumental. This post will deal with nominative (used for the subject of a sentence), accusative (used for direct objects), and dative (used for indirect objects) in more detail.

To understand case in general, take these sentences in English: The cats eat and I love cats. In the first sentence, cats is the subject, while in the second, it is the direct object. It’s the same word…

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Colorful Colloquialisms – “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.” (Polish)

Anyone learning Polish? A great post and a great phrase to use!

living with linguaphilia

During a conversation with a coworker, she came out with a phrase I’d never heard before: “Not my monkey, not my circus.”  I understood perfectly what she was trying to say, but I was still amused by the phrase, so of course I had to look it up.

Shocked monkey Image via tanli at freeimages.com

A quick search turned up an entire page of results before I’d even entered the entire phrase, making me feel like maybe I should have known this one.  It turns out that my coworker’s version was slightly different from the original, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It means, basically, “not my problem” or “not my responsibility” – “I’ve washed my hands of this”.  Everything I’ve found indicates that this is originally a Polish phrase: “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.”

This seems like a great use of an idiom to change a mood.  In a situation…

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How to Learn a Romance Language.

Great advice for picking up some “functional” fluency quickly. This can be pretty helpful if you’re just passing through a country or staying for a short while.

thehappymindset

1. Don’t learn every verb tense.

 

There are lots of verb tenses in any language. However, you will eventually discover that you only need a strong grasp of a handful of them. Normally teachers will teach you about all the exceptions to the rules. My advice is to forget about this and pick out the verbs you need to know.

 

When it comes to tenses I have discovered that in the Romance languages you only need to know 7 maximum, and that is at a near native standard. I have learned that learning the Present and the Past are the first 2 most important tenses to learn. This is followed by the imperfect tense.

 

It may come of a surprise to some people that the future tense isn’t mentioned among the ‘sacred three’. This is because you can construct sentences in the future tense without actually using…

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