Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 -

Remember that big presentation I had on Halloween? Totally in French, which I was getting all worked up about already? Well, it got bumped back by a week, so now it's on my birthday. Humph. Which is kind of nice, because it means I'm not trying to prep for it now, but still: the weekend of my birthday I'll be reading up on Irish dudes killing each other, and then trying to make a coherent (and long) French presentation out of it.

- 2 -

Proof that my brain has been completely turned to mush by this whole language thing (no one who has talked to me on the phone recently needs any more, I'm sure): on Monday I had my first inability to find the English term before the French term during a conversation, so I ended up having to use the French term due to a complete lack of mastery of my mother tongue. So I was talking to my (American) professor, and ended up saying, "I'm really sorry about doing the wrong readings, but I somehow missed the memo about the ... [pause] ... retardement par une semaine." At which point he looked at me very strangely. I'm not even sure if that was a correct phrase or not, but it allowed me to say what I had to. 

This was then followed by  a complete inability to speak French all day Tuesday. See yesterday's post for an explanation and short video clip.

- 3 - 

My research project has been encouraged, and I've been trying hard to (a) not get overwhelmed by it and (b) not get ahead of myself, like I have a tendency to do. For instance, it is very important right now that I read the secondary sources so I have an idea of what has been done and also so I can get some leads on existing primary sources. That way I can structure my paper in my head using existing background knowledge before I go trotting off to the four corners of Europe to get primary sources, thereby ensuring that I use them wisely and efficiently, and also that I don't miss anything. This makes me anxious because I'm going home in two months (aww/yay!) and I want to have a working draft done before I go to make sure there are no gaping holes in the project that can only be fixed with stuff I can get here. And also, the primary source work is the most interesting anyway, so I really want to get to it. But I have to be disciplined and hold my horses for another few weeks.

- 4 -

Concordia University has informed me that my degree has officially been conferred, hooray! My friend Matte picked up my bound thesis copy for me, and is holding it until ... sometime. She took a picture and sent it to me; it's so shiny and red and gold and professional looking. Since I'm in Switzerland, obviously, I won't be making it to my graduation on Nov. 22 (hey Matte - what color are our robes in Theology, anyway?), but Matte and I have discussed plans to just photoshop my smiling visage into random pictures that she will take on the day. Assuming the fax went through and isn't lost in the quagmire of Concordia Internal mail (which I can't at all assume), I will be receiving my (registered) mailed diploma a bit before Christmas. Then I can order a hideously expensive frame for it, and it can go on my wall above my McGill diploma. Take that, McGill!

- 5 -

During my bouts of being able to speak languages this week, I had two totally strange experiences. I will tell you about one right now, because the other one is still weirding me out. I met a guy who works in the Institute who had been away so I hadn't met him before. He came by to introduce himself, and we had a few-minutes-long conversation about studies and history work. While I didn't identify an obvious accent, it turns out that he's from just outside of Montreal, originally, and he did his two degrees at McGill. Later that day, two things occurred to me: first, he totally could have switched to English, and he didn't. That was very nice of him. Second, I had an entire conversation with him in which I did not once have to ask him to repeat what he said. This is in stark contrast to European French speakers, who I normally have to ask to repeat every sentence twice in order to give me time to figure out what they said and fill in the missing parts. This has nothing to do with my French getting better; it simply reconfirmed for me that there is something particular about the way Quebecers talk that matches the frequencies in my brain labelled as "French" and filed under "Languages I know, understand, and speak", which is not present in continental French. A dozen cookies to the first person who can pinpoint what it is, because I am at a loss.

- 6 -

That being said, I'm looking forward to one aspect in particular about going home and being in an English milieu: I will once again be able to use odd English idioms, complicated words, and the random smatterings of yiddish. They add such spice to my everyday language, and it's lacking here, amongst mostly non-native speakers. I miss them.

- 7 -

That's about it for this week. I have to go do my laundry and keep chugging away at a horrible philosophy book which I'm presenting on Tuesday, because tomorrow I want to go to Lausanne for the day and poke around. Two girls downstairs are going to Bern on Sunday for the same reason, but as much as it would be nice to go with people (especially ones who speak German), I think I will need the day to get some more work done. We'll see.

Don't forget to head over to Jen's for an extra helping of this week's Quick Takes!

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