I’m sitting here in my room and I can just glimpse a sanguine sun dipping behind the still-winter trees, and I’m contemplating what to write this week’s Saturday Spotlight on. It’s Friday evening, but tomorrow I have a wine-tasting tour of Alsace so I’ll be scheduling this post to appear at some point on real Saturday. But, do you know, I still haven’t written in my blog about what courses I’m taking this semester?! C’est fou! It might not make for the most image-heavy or enlightening spotlight, but I’m looking forward to writing at least something about what exactly it is that I should be studying each time I sit down and write a blog post instead :P
1. Literature and modernity at the end of the 19th Century
This class focuses on Symbolism, with poet Stéphane Mallarmé at the forefront. I have this from 5 til 7 pm, so between that and the fast pace of the class, it can be a challenge to stay focussed for the whole two hours while the sky slowly darkens outside. But I’m beginning to do some independent reading during daylight hours on other days, which helps me to consolidate what I do pick up in class! I’m confident that if I keep at the studying, there’s no reason I shouldn’t do well in this class, and the material is both interesting and relevant to my Sartre class next year. Thumbs up!
2. French linguistics
This class has been embarrassing for me. I like to participate in the discussions, and I hate awkward silences, so I’ve put forward a couple of hasty opinions that have earned me some scornful looks. Like the time I thought ‘un’ was a homophone for ‘a’ and ‘à’. Silly me. Basically, it turns out, not having a French accent can actually have quite a detrimental effect on one’s ability to do well in French phonetics. That said, it’s not all about phonetics, and with my background in linguistics I’m pretty sure that here, too, I should be able to achieve a grade to be proud of.
3. Fictional dialogues as a form of mimesis
Again, not being a native French speaker works directly against me in this class. Any course is made more difficult when you struggle to understand what’s being said in each two-hour class; but when you’re being asked to identify salient features of spontaneous interactions vs. scripted dialogues in a novel or a film, it really would be better if I knew how ‘normal’ French speakers talk, casually, between friends. All I know how to do is follow the grammar rules, and even then not always, so breaking them like a native doesn’t come easily for me. However, my professor is really understanding, always pauses to check that the Erasmus students are following, and the subject matter is fascinating and well-presented. I’m motivated to really work for this one too!
I have two separate classes for translation, one 3rd-year French-English and one 2nd year English-French – it’s much more challenging to translate into a foreign language than into your own. At least, theoretically it is, and when I’m doing it professionally (fingers crossed!) I’ll have access to all the resources I can get my hands on; but unless I can convince my professor to let me take in a dictionary to the exam, even just a French monolingual one, it might be six and half-a-dozen between the two. I dropped several marks in the mock exam because I just didn’t know some of the vocabulary used in the source text: if you don’t know what épaisseur means, you just don’t know, and the context can’t always help you out. I’m not worried about failing either class, but I would like to be doing better than I am. I’ve just got to keep on trying – after all, practice makes perfect!
5. Text-image relations in teaching French at primary
Do I want to go into primary teaching like my mum? No I do not. I don’t want to teach a whole range of subjects to small children I don’t know and can’t control. I don’t want to be the mean teacher who gives homework and doesn’t let the kids play, and above all, I don’t want to be pushing languages to the back of the curriculum behind all the other stuff that’s deemed more important. But do I want to learn more about kids and reading, and how children’s books are composed? I sure do. I’ll have kids one day, and if I get my way I want to find some way in later life to help parents who don’t have a foreign language to give their kids the chance to learn young. (Oh yeah, my new life dream is to run a language day care where I’ll read to the kids in Spanish, do activities with them and generally offer the sort of immersion that helps you to really get a kick start in languages like I got. Thanks Mum and Dad).
6. Didactics of teaching French
This looks like something I might end up doing. I could see myself teaching French at university or something, and this class provides some good base knowledge on how to prepare a sequence of classes, how your year’s lessons should fit together cohesively, etc. I’m struggling for real in this class, because I began in Week 4 due to some problems co-ordinating classes, and then wasted another couple of weeks trying to take hand-written notes like I do in all my other classes before I gave in and started bringing my computer in, typing my notes and taking audio recordings so I could go back and catch what I missed. Oh, plus my professor won’t reply to my emails despite my prompts after each lesson, so I don’t even know how it’s assessed, and I have a feeling I should be preparing a mini-memoire but he won’t tell me what it is, so I can’t. : /
I need to return 15 credits to the University of Edinburgh, and my best 10 will count towards my 3rd-year grade. Most of these classes are worth 3 credits each, so if I were to fail Class Number 6 (knock on wood)… well, first of all I’d be pissed because I’ve been hassling my tutor for weeks asking what I could be doing to prepare for the assessment and it’s not my fault he won’t answer me; but secondly, it won’t actually have any impact on my grade. If I get the knowledge I want and need from it, and fail the assessment because of lack of preparation, then I should be able to make my peace with it. I just need to make sure I pass everything else and excel in at least three classes, and I should be right on track to take on my final year.
What about you guys? I know I have readers of all ages, so I’d be really interested to hear how the lead-up to exam time (sorry for mentioning it!) is going for all my student-readers, and if this brings back any memories for my grown-up-and-successful readers. :)
Comment away, my little Easter chickies!
(I don’t know why I did that).
P.S. I do know why: it’s because I recently bought a special Easter cookbook and am super excited to make some of the chocolicious recipes. I need to get onto my Easter crafts, too. That would have been a way more appropriate post subject, considering that it’s the last weekend before Easter itself… maybe my readers can spend Easter weekend crafting along to my blog. :)