Friday, November 18, 2011

the conception of bilingualism ...... partout c'est la meme chose.

When I was a kid one of the most fascinating things in the world was to hear my mother speak portugeuse. It didn’t happen often and it wasn’t for very long, but when it did I kept rapt attention the whole time. I would watch her from the couch, dinner table, or passenger seat of a car. She would babble on the phone endlessly, she seemed equally entranced. I watched her lips dance like a person clacking their heels. The foreign words tasted like a new spice in my ears. It was unfathomable to me how she could do it--a bunch of nonsensical sounds that somehow formed words. 

I have a big enough grip now to explain the mentality. But Listen, I’m not going to jump the gun and claim to be completely fluent in French. But I do feel very confident. It struck me today when I was in Literature class, that I could interpret almost a full page of text and not only translate from french to english, but also work out the grammar in french, in my head. I felt like I had just climbed everest. 

        My train of thought was this...
This sentence doesn’t make sense. moving on. 
Oh wait. I recognize the form of that verb. it must be in the present first person tense. 
That means that the second word is also another form of a word I know, but in a different tense. 
THAT MEANS I can connect the subject of the sentence with that verb, that ad-verb, and the few adjectives I already knew in the female version of the word that I knew!

But as french gets easier and easier, it’s bizarre to think that the whole world of english speakers won’t progress with me. It sounds bizarre written out, but in my head it makes perfect sense. It's strange to think that everyone else can't understand, because it's the same concept as english completely. It's just comprehension and response, whether you're writing or speaking. It feels natural and very spiritually enriching to be speaking two languages. It makes me sad that so many people will never experience that feeling. 

         I think the concept of language in humanity works like this. 
Each language is a train track. There are thousands of train tracks. 
Tracks like English have been so worn down and globalized that the language contains more slurs than consonants and vowels. But languages like french and Spanish stay crisp, clear. But each twists and turns in vastly different directions that a newcomer could never be expected to anticipate. As you study vigorously and travel to a new country, all becomes infinitely clearer. You memorize the track, the route, the twists and turns and you’re able to anticipate more and more. 

 I used to think that a new language would bring you to a new state of mine, change how you think and learn and...exist. In my head it made sense. But really, it’s still 100% you. Your thoughts are exactly the same, your laugh is the same, you stay the same in your conversation. You’re just riding on a different track. 
I wanted to say thank you for everyone who actually reads this humble little blog. I’m really happy I have so many cool people in my life who are interested in what I do and support me. I have reached almost 3,000 views! WHAT? That’s 1,000 for every month...
Things never really stop getting interesting over here, so keep checking in at this link. AND THANK YOU! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

A personal space.

One thing I didn't expect or think about as much on exchange is that you are not only leaving your own world, but stepping into someone else's. You won't be eating the same foods, waking up at the same time, and probably not wearing the same clothes. The people you look to as parents aren't Diana and Eric. They're Laure and Philipe. 

I know who my biological parents are, obviously. But if I need bus money, permission to go somewhere, a problem with school, friends, or feeling sad, it's who you go to. I'm following their rules and living in their home. 

The point I'm trying to make is, you leave literally everything in your life behind. You make new friends, new habits, and (I think) become very different. You're braver and you don't girlishly overthink every single detail of every situation. Everything's going to work out. You dye your hair a different color and lose five pounds. The world is a different place from the old one you knew, and so far you really dig that fact. 

But also, this new world around you doesn't comply with your preferences. First off, the language around you isn't your native tongue. Hm, difficult, but I'm a language person so I love learning and making progress. But I can also be deeply introverted, and sometimes that doesn't fly. My idea of a fun friday night in Michigan would be to  shut the door of my room, putting on some cds and reading until I was too tired to see. But here you can't just alienate yourself, there are people around who are trying to help you learn French and that isn't really the personality of french kids (to like to be alone). So it's really hard, but you must abandon this personality of the only person living in the world. The change may not be permanent, but if it adapts to the culture and makes those around you happy, it is for the better. And it's made me more comfortable in many social climates. So sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end with your eyes closed and nose plugged. 

I love my friends at school. I love my friends at school. Oh and have I mentioned, I LOVE MY FRIENDS AT SCHOOL?! Even though the teachers can be quite negative and without understanding, the kids in my class will never fail to make my day better. If you just put yourself out there and smile, people will gobble you up. Because you're an exchange student, you already have something to talk about.

Where are you from??

The United States! 


No, Michigan!

...Like Chicago? 

Uh, sure, close enough! :) 

And then you're friends who are learning to knit and play guitar together. Or maybe you just like to make fun of each other's accents. I love everyone in my school <3 . I've also met with the rotary exchange students from my neighboring district, and THEY ARE GREAT, from places like australia, brasil, india, bolivia, and canada. Thank you Jean. 

Three months soon (smile)

P.S. if you haven't you have to listen to Florence (+) The Machine's new album, "Ceremonials". It is my favorite collection of music in this world. I don't think it's available in the united states yet (haha), but when it is, get on it. Worth every penny and then some. Good night 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Compulsiveness is next to godliness.

There's no other way to say it. I had a shitty day at school. One of my teachers is an absolute dick, and he decided to go crazy at me for...something? In front of my entire class for about five minutes. He's a drinker, he does that to everyone else but it really freaked me out. I think it was about how I'm not doing enough class work. Too bad I have no idea when he's giving an assignment... 

Right now my job is to learn the French language. Which is actually going pretty great. I do what class work I can, but also I have special french classes that I work on homework for. Kind of like "ESL" at grand haven. It's boring, but great for my french. So excuse me if I'm not killing myself for studying the urban and multicultural habits of lille and its corresponding city. Sorry, me no comprendo. 

I have been thinking for a while about acquiring an instrument. I've gone through piano and clarinet and violin. None were right for me. I love music and a favorite genre of mine is actually Latino, which includes many intricate and beautiful GUITAR songs. So yesterday I asked my friend Lucas if he knew a place where I could check them out, and told me what route to take on the metro and drew me a map of the street and the store. 

After school ClĂ©mentine and I were walking to the metro, and as a split second decision I asked her if she wanted to check out this place, "Euro Guitar", with me. I was still feeling pretty down about the incident that morning. She agreed and we rode three stations down the line to a place I had never been before, Gambetta. 

We got to the store and went to the back, where the guitars ran about 100-400 dollars, all acoustic and normal colored. A man came back to try and help us, but I told him we're just looking. He asked, for your first guitar? I didn't really understand, but ClĂ©mentine did and she nodded helpfully for me. He said, I hope you like red, and disappeared into a storage room. Uh, ok. 

He brought out a really kicked around box, but pulled out the most beautiful instrument I've ever seen. Red like a strawberry with latino markings around the sound hole. 

He said 49 euros, take it or leave it today only. 

........uh......HELL yeah ! 
This is at least a 250$ value for less than FIFTY. I paid 15 more dollars for a black case with big pocket, and left with Clem in an incredibly good mood. I thought I would save my money and get one for myself for my birthday, but I guess Christmas came early this year. 

His name is Gitano because he was made in Spain.
I'm going to surf the internet for beginner videos now.

I've wanted to play the guitar for a long time because whenever you see pictures from campers or explorers in Chile/Argentina/Patagonia, at night they make a big campfire with their friends and play guitar songs under a sky full of stars. So now when the time comes I'll have something to do too !