Double grrrrrrrr

By   September 12, 2007

I received this on Monday evening from the rectorat:

Assistante d’anglais en 2006-2007 dans l’académie de Grenoble, vous avez fait une demande de renouvellement pour effectuer une deuxième année d’assistanat à la rentrée 2007.

Pourriez-vous nous dire, très rapidement, si vous êtes toujours intéressée par un poste en tant qu’assistante de langue.

Veuillez recevoir, mademoiselle, nos sincères salutations.

So I replied, très rapidement, that yes, of course, I want to be an assistant again. But has the rectorat written me back yet? NO, OF COURSE NOT!

Then I read that the US dollar is at an all-time low against the euro. Awesome. I’m so glad I get paid mostly in dollars.

Recent Happenings

By   September 10, 2007

The new assistant at my old school arrives today! I’m way too excited about this. I’m heading to the gare soon to pick her up and bring her back here. I just hope Canaille lets her sleep and doesn’t attack her feet all night like he does with mine… Plus I get to tell her that there’s already an apartment ready for her. I wish things had been this easy when I arrived last year!

So David & I have lived in this apartment for 3 months and we just got our oven fixed on Friday. I am so incredibly happy that I can now bake chocolate chip cookies and apple pie and caramel brownies! And maybe some healthy things once in a while… But of course, what was the first thing I baked? Fondant au chocolat.

David mentioned moving closer to Lyon in 6 months. His CDD ends by March, and I most likely won’t have a real job here anyway. I wouldn’t mind moving, but that does complicate things a bit with regards to the assistantship application. I have a feeling it’s going to be hard for me to find a lectrice position for the 2008-9 school year, so I was going to apply to be an assistant again. But I have to fill out the application this winter, before we even know where we will be in the spring, so I wouldn’t be able to specify a certain city.

I’ve actually been sticking my schedule for the past 2 weeks. I’m up to episode 12 of French in Action; I’ve done 12 chapters in Upgrade your French; and I’ve memorized the départements of 12 régions in France.

David has finally started helping me with my website. He’s recorded about 25 sections of the French I Tutorial, for anyone who’s interested in listening to his beautiful French voice. Or in learning French. Whichever.

I’m starting to baby-sit the little guy again, so I’ll be back to making 35 € a week! Woohoo!

P.S. In case you were planning on buying three flat-screen TVs at Auchan, beware that you cannot pay in cash if the total is more than 3,000 €. You know somehow had to have tried this or they wouldn’t have put up these signs:

Customer Serwhat?

By   September 7, 2007

I hate you, French customer service. It’s as if you don’t even exist here. Oh Conforama, why did it take two weeks instead of a few days to give us our new bookcase? The receipt clearly stated we could pick it up the 23rd of AUGUST, not the 7th of SEPTEMBER. What’s that? You want us to keep calling back every few days to see if it’s finally there? You want us to pay for those calls too? How about marking down the price since it’s your fault it wasn’t there when you said it would be? “No reduction is possible because it’s a featured item in the rentrée catalog.” Well, I really don’t care. And what difference does that make anyway??? And I suppose unloading those mattresses was more important than the 4 customers waiting in line to pick up their furniture. But what’s so bad about waiting in line for 30 minutes when we’ve already waited 2 weeks, eh?

Bye bye Conforama. I’m no longer buying my cheap furniture from you. I’d rather drive to Switzerland to shop at IKEA.

The Rudeness.

By   September 5, 2007

There’s one type of French people that I cannot stand. Those people who think they have every right to tell you that what you are doing/thinking is not right. They are nosy, pushy, and they jump to conclusions too fast and too often. They are condescending, arrogant, and just plain mean. I hate these people. And the best part? They are usually wrong in their “justification” of why you are wrong in the first place!

Sometimes this is the reason why I don’t want to go outside or downtown. I’m afraid of running into a rude Frenchie who thinks it’s perfectly ok to tell me that I am doing something “wrong” (according to them.) I wish these people would learn to just keep their mouths shut, but I know that’s not going to happen.

Some of my experiences include the woman who yelled at me for walking the dog on the SIDEWALK BACK TO MY APARTMENT because she thought that I was letting him go to the bathroom on the grass, when I had, in fact, taken him very far away to do his business. But she apparently didn’t hear/didn’t care what I had to say because she just kept repeating over and over again that dogs are not allowed on the grass and that children play there, etc. All this, while I was on the SIDEWALK! After I got back inside, I realized that she had parked in the lot for my building and she lives in the next building over, which is completely forbidden. I seriously wanted to egg her car, but I didn’t. Pas encore….

Then last week when I was waiting in a check-out line at the store, a punk teenager turns up the volume on his cell phone/mp3 player. (Why did anyone think this product would be anything more than an annoyance?) A loud woman at the back of the line goes off on him and commands him to turn it off, and then continues on about how if everyone had a cell phone that played music, on ne serait jamais tranquil and blah blah blah… She just wouldn’t stop talking. I was glad the kid turned his phone off, but I wanted to yell at the woman for being such a garce.

And two other experiences that I’ve read just in the past few days:

Poor Joy was just trying to ask a question, and a crêpe vendor treats her like an idiot.

Mlle Smith is patronized for “thinking like an American” after explaining her opinion on Sarkozy’s reluctance for Turkey to join the EU… and then informed that Turkey does not border Iraq or Iran. And people think Americans are bad at geography?

They constantly try to belittle you and convince the whole world that you are an idiot and that they know everything. But for the others who are standing nearby and have to listen to their rants… well, it makes those people look like complete jerks.

I’m definitely not saying that all French people are like this. I hate generalizing about a country’s population, such as “all Americans love hamburgers and Coke.” But it does seem that the French just don’t know when they have crossed the line sometimes…

The only good thing about their rudeness is that it’s directed at everyone, not just foreigners!

Why French Grammar is Hard

By   September 3, 2007

Sam’s recent post about the three nouns in French that are masculine when singular, yet feminine when plural (amour, délice, orgue) got me thinking about other ridiculous grammar rules in French. So I give you (some of the) reasons why French grammar is a cruel joke for those trying to learn it:

1. Use of ne and deletion of pas in negative statements. Although you can drop ne in spoken French and just use pas to show negation, you cannot do this in written French. However, you can drop pas in written French and just use ne to show negation; but thankfully only after certain verbs: cesser, daigner, oser, pouvoir, and savoir.

2. Use of ne in positive statements. Just when you learned that ne can exist on its own as a negative particle, now you have to separate it from the ne explétif, which is just a ne thrown into a sentence for no good reason (and it does not make the sentence negative!) It must be used 1) after certain conjunctions: avant que, à moins que; 2) after expressions and verbs of fear: de crainte que, de peur que, craindre que, avoir peur que, redouter que, trembler que, empêcher que, éviter que; 3) before a verb that follows a comparison of inequality: plus, moins, autre; and 4) after adverbs of doubt and negation used in the negative to express a positive idea.

3. Agreement (or not) with past participles. Some verbs require être as the auxiliary verb in the passé composé. The subjects and past participles of these “être verbs” must agree in gender and number. For all of the other verbs, avoir is used as the auxiliary in the passé composé and there is no agreement, except when there is a preceding direct object. Then the direct object and past participle must agree. (WHY?) Furthermore, all pronominal verbs take être as an auxiliary, and the subjects and past participles must agree as well, except when the pronominal verb is followed by a direct object OR when the reflexive pronoun of the pronominal verb is an indirect object. Piece of cake, right?

4. Masculine to Feminine. Adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they qualify. Not too hard. If only it were as simple as just adding -e to form the feminine. No, no, there are several ways to change masculine to feminine: -x changes to -se; -il, -el, and -eil change to -ille, -elle, and -eille; -et changes to -ète; -en and -on change to -enne and -onne; -er changes to -ère; -f changes to -ve; -c changes to -che; -g changes to -gue; -eur changes to -euse if the adjective is derived from a verb, -eur changes to -rice if the adjective is not derived from the same verb, and -eur changes to -eure with adjectives of comparison. Plus there are five adjectives that have an alternate form (bel, fol, mol, nouvel, vieil) when used before masculine singular adjectives beginning with a vowel! Oh, and there’s a dozen or so adjectives that change meaning depending on whether they are placed before (figurative meaning) or after (literal meaning) the noun.

5. Singular to Plural. Almost all masculine singular nouns ending in -al or -ail change to -aux to form the plural. But all feminine nouns ending in -ale form the plural by adding -s. Also, if the singular ends in -eu or -eau, add an -x and not an -s for the plural. And don’t forget those seven nouns ending in -ou that add -x instead of -s too: bijou, caillou, chou, genou, pou, joujou, hibou.

6. Non-agreeing adjectives. Of course there are exceptions to the agreement rule. Compound adjectives, such as bleu clair or vert foncé, do not agree. Neither do adjectives that also exist as nouns, such as or, argent, marron. And then there’s châtain, which can be masculine or feminine depending on your mood and whether or not you feel like adding an -e to the end. Either way, it will be grammatically correct. Cent agrees only when the number is a multiple of one hundred (trois cents, but trois cent un), while mille remains invariable at all times.

7. Disjunctive Pronouns with à. These pronouns are supposed to follow prepositions, but when that preposition is à, things get complicated. Sometimes à + a person is replaced by an indirect object pronoun (lui, leur). However, in certain verbal phrases, indirect pronouns are not used, and the disjunctive pronoun remains after à. Compare je lui ai dit and j’ai pensé à elle.

8. Articles. If you accidentally use the wrong gender of an article, you could be saying a completely different word. Le livre is a book; la livre is a pound. There is neither elision nor liaison with articles before nouns beginning with an aspirate h. Which words have an aspirate h? A lot of words that are not derived from Latin, but you really just have to memorize them one by one. And you had better not pronounce a z between des and haricots!

9. Inversion. Subject and verb must be inverted after these adverbs when they begin a sentence: à peine, ainsi, aussi, du moins, peut-être, sans doute, and toujours. (Aussi means so or therefore when it begins a sentence, not also, but of course you already knew that.) Inversion is also used for emphasis or just because it sounds nice to French peoples’ ears, such as after adverbial expressions of time or place and to avoid putting monosyllabic verbs at the end of a sentence. Quelle horreur !

10. Subjunctive Mood. This mood expresses a subjective statement of opinion, rather than factual information as with the indicative. It cannot be used when two clauses have the same subject (in this case, the infinitive is used). The subjunctive must be used after verbs expressing fear, doubt, desire, and other emotions. It only follows penser, croire, and trouver when they are negative. However, it is not used with ésperer, even though the subjunctive is required after this verb in the other Romance languages. And it must be used after random conjunctions that seem to have no connection to statement of opinions, such as avant que, pour que, jusqu’à ce que, à moins que, bien que, sans que, etc. The beginner student will probably assume this tense is not very important or very common in French since textbook authors insist on waiting until chaper 12 to teach it, but don’t be fooled. It is very common.

11. Passé simple. A verb tense that no longer needs to exist. In modern French, it is very rarely used in speech. You will find it in many books that you would like to read, but can’t because you never learned how to recognize the forms of the simple past. It’s too bad that this tense is shoved to the very end of textbooks so the semester is over before you get to it.

There are several other reasons why French can be a nightmare to learn (all of those homonyms, faux amis, huge number of slang words, pronunciation of nasals, vowels and r, informal reduced speech, etc.) but these grammar quirks have always stuck out in my mind as being the most ridiculous.

Possible good news

By   September 2, 2007

I talked to the responsable at my old school (Lycée Charles Baudelaire) this morning, and he’s going to try to get me a job this year. Apparently there’s a meeting at the end of September (before the assistants start), so he’ll do what he can. Croisez les doigts pour moi !

Through the magic of the internet, I’ve found one of the two new assistants at Baudelaire and she arrives on September 10. I can’t wait to show her around Annecy and help her get settled. I don’t know why I can’t find the other Baudelaire assistant who took my old post. I guess I’m just so used to finding everything I’m looking for on the internet that it’s annoying when I can’t.

Mom sent me this link today: We Didn’t Start the Fire I thought it was neat. Might be helpful for teaching 20th century American history/culture.

Cosette no more

By   August 30, 2007

I took my new kitty to the vet today to get checked out, only to discover to that she is a he. The vet even had a hard time telling that it was male, but yeah, my Cosette needed a new name.

Apparently in France, you’re supposed to name your pets according to which Letter Year it is. For pets born in 2007, it’s the letter C. (Though we had no idea about this when we chose Cosette last week).

So, according to Laboratoire TVM, here are some suggested names for male pets born this year: Caballero, Cactus, Cadburry, Caillou, Calvin, Canyon, Capone, Caporal, Captain, Carambar, Caramel, Carbone, Cartoon, Caruso, Cash, Catch, Caviar, Chamallow, Charlot, Chaz, Check, Cheddar, Chianti, Chips, Chipster, Chorizo, Chraz, Chuncky, Citrus, Clovis, Clown, Cobra, Codex, Cognac, Colonel, Confettis, Cool, Cosby, Couscous, and Cowboy.

Needless to say, we flipped the list over and looked through the female names instead. Our kitten is now called Canaille (rascal), which is definitely less feminine-sounding and more appropriate for our little whiny brat.

Drinky drinks.

By   August 29, 2007

Why is there no plain iced tea in France??? I do not want your stupid Peach-flavored Ice Tea, Lipton. Can’t you sell anything else in this country? I can’t even find regular green tea in the store. Some people don’t like mint or lemon! ::sigh::

And why do so many people like drinking l’eau pétillant (carbonated water)? I hate that stuff. It’s like drinking air bubbles and I’m just as thirsty afterwards anyway. I do find it hilarious, however, when French people translate it as “water with gas.”

On a sociolinguistic note, it’s interesting that the French say boisson fraîche (cool drink) for cold drink and they very rarely use ice because they think that drinking cold liquids is bad for your health. Coincidence?

Another reason to love Quebec

By   August 25, 2007

Why I love Quebec: Têtes à Claques TV is a collection of videos that I don’t even know how to describe. Some Québécois guys put their eyes and mouths into weird cartoonish bodies and wrote funny scripts, in Québécois French of course. Just go watch. This is one of the many ways I waste time online.

Today I noticed an ad for SFR on a completely unrelated site called ça va ouatcher with suspiciously similar looking characters. Turns out Têtes à Claques offers mobile videos exclusively for SFR customers. You can watch a few videos on their website. They even have a québécois-français lexique so you can figure out what they’re saying.

“Hé mon ami!!! t’aimes ça manger les patates ? des patates pilées, des patates frites, des patates au Cheez-whiz… Ben Uncle Tom a un super patente pour toi qui aime beaucoup les patates: le Willi Waller 2006 !”

Now I want to éplucher des patates. No sceptisisme here.

FIA Addiction

By   August 24, 2007

Just when I decide I need to get off my computer and do things in the real world more often, I agree to start writing summaries of French in Action episodes for the FIA Wiki created by my new favorite blog, Mystère et boules de gomme ! I’m going to write up a new page for one or two episodes every day. I have all of the videos and the textbook full of transcripts, so it won’t take too long. And I’m going to justify my extra computer time by saying this will be a part of my daily French study time instead, which it really is!