Thoughts on: Trip, Apartment, and Conference

Trip: Of course my trip was amazing. We saw so many places and I took far too many photos. The weather was mostly hot and sunny and we didn’t have any major traveling problems. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful sites France has to offer, and I’m dying to see more of this country. Spending time with Michelle & Jason was a blessing as well. I’m glad they got to see three regions of France and hope they come back someday.  Meeting up with David in Montpellier was a nice treat, as I obviously don’t like being apart from him. I won’t have time to get all of the photos on my website until after my Istanbul trip to visit Martha, for which I leave at 7 AM tomorrow morning!

Going back to Italy after 10 years was long overdue considering how close it is. Chambery to Milan is only 4 hours by train, and it should be shorter than that within a year when the high-speed track between Turin and Milan is finished. I still can’t understand much of Italian, but I was able to remember the basic words and phrases to buy things, like gelato and more gelato.

The Côte d’Azur was full of beaches and tourists, which I expected. I’m glad I finally went there, but I don’t think I’d like to live there. Monaco and Cannes were very crowded because of the Grand Prix and Film Festival, but Antibes was much quieter. Provence was lovely, as usual, and very very hot. But I love the heat, so it didn’t bother me. Especially because we were staying at a rather nice hotel just outside of Aix-en-Provence (Kyriad Mas des Oliviers) that had air-conditioning, unlike our “hotel” that was really a hostel in Nice.

Languedoc didn’t seem as hot, but maybe it was just the wind, which was strong almost everywhere! There were a few times I had trouble walking because of it. Montpellier was incredibly nice, just as I had imagined, and I really liked Nîmes too. Pont du Gard was impressive, Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer was cute, and La Grande Motte was a bit strange because of the architecture that I have never before seen in France. I loved walking through the cité médiévale in Carcassonne – I just wish it hadn’t been so cold so we could have stayed and enjoyed it more.

The only thing I didn’t like was the car we rented. It was a Citroën C3 Sensodrive that can be driven as an automatic or manual. Except the automatic mode was scary to me because I’m not used to the car rolling backwards when I’m stopped, or the car turning off when I’m stopped (Eco function), or the fact that shifting into reverse did not work sometimes! What are you supposed to do when you’re stopped on a hill and need to back up so you don’t hit a parked car in front of you, but reverse doesn’t work???

Apartment: Even though I left from our apartment in Annecy in May, I came back to the new apartment in Chambéry with Jason. We’ve tried to put things away as much as possible, but there is still a serious lack of storage/shelves/drawers in the kitchen. It almost feels like home to me though, if only David and Canaille were here and we had all the furniture we needed. Being able to walk downtown within 10 minutes is convenient, and I can run most of my errands without needing a car. Living in the city has its advantages, I must admit, but one day I’d like to be back out in the countryside.

We’ve only got one bedroom, but the living room is large, and the entire apartment has been repainted. We’re currently having a problem with the water heater (auto doesn’t work), so I have to turn it to on at night and off in the morning. There are two balconies, one on each side of the building, that look out onto the main road and the parking lot behind it. We have a nice cross breeze through the living room and kitchen if we open both balcony doors. I figured out where the cave was, and it is quite possibly the creepiest, most dungeon-like storage space I’ve ever seen. We still don’t have the keys to the garage we rented for my car, because the agency can’t get a hold of the landlord, who initially gave them the wrong keys or something, so my car is parked on the road for now.

Here’s the view of the Alps from the kitchen balcony:

The only thing I’m worried about is Canaille falling or jumping off the balconies. We’re only on the 2nd floor (3rd floor American), but I’m afraid he’d seriously hurt himself if he did fall. And there is a nest of birds in the tree right next to the front balcony. I’m hoping that since he is a such a scaredy-cat, he won’t actually step foot on the balconies, but we’ll see what happens next weekend when we bring him home.

Conference: The previous 3 days I worked at an International English Pronunciation Conference at my university, and got to sit it on many presentations since I was the tech person in charge of computers. It was exhausting, but fun and interesting. I was Miss Powerpoint the first day, making sure all of the presentations worked properly, which many didn’t… Then I had to be a subsitute chair for a presentation while also being the tech person, which of course was the ONE time there was a problem with the computer.

I had missed being in an academic setting, with professors and researchers talking about things that I am interested in (linguistics, phonetics, technology, etc.) I am still thinking about doing my PhD in France, but I have no clue where or in what subject. I just can’t imagine narrowing down my interests to one topic and researching it for 3 years. I want to learn everything about everything!

And I loved the three plenary speakers! John Wells talked about the polling carried out for the new edition of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, and he also gave a presentation on using intonation to change meaning in English. (Also check out his Phonetics blog.) Helen Fraser spoke on Cognitive Phonology and its implications for teaching pronunciation, which I had never really thought about before.  Yvan Rose introduced the Phon software and PhonBank database and explained how they can benefit research on second language acquisition of phonology.

I also discovered a book edited by Marie-Jo Derive, who works at my university, that will be extremely useful to learners of French. It’s called Mots étranges pour des étrangers and it’s a corpus of idiomatic and slang expressions that foreign students learning French at the university had to learn the hard way (i.e. not understanding because no book ever taught them, and having to ask a native speaker to explain the meanings). Here’s the summary from the publisher’s site:

Il s’agit d’un recueil de mots étranges compilés par des apprenants de français. Tout le monde sait que, même lorsqu’on a atteint un haut degré de compétence, le plus difficile à maîtriser d’une langue est sa chair idiomatique nourrie de ces mille et une expressions intraduisibles et souvent éphémères de la communication parlée. L’apprenant ne les trouve que rarement dans les manuels et cet apprentissage doit se faire “sur le tas”. C’est cette pratique “de terrain” dont le volume se fait l’écho à partir de l’expérience de plus de cent étudiants étrangers sur six années consécutives. Plus qu’un simple dictionnaire, qui de toute façon est très vite caduc, l’idiomatique étant aussi changeant que la mode, il s’agit d’un témoignage qui, grâce aux commentaires des intéressés sur la façon dont ils ont entrevu le sens de l’expression en contexte, éclaire sur les processus de l’apprentissage en milieu naturel. Ainsi le livre sera utile aussi bien à l’étudiant étranger – non seulement comme source de référence, mais comme incitation à l’acquisition active du lexique – qu’à l’enseignant de FLE, en France et surtout hors de France. Il intéressera également le lexicologue qui y trouvera un portrait sur le vif du lexique des étudiants.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.