Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lectures in French

As part of the Summer course in Langue et Civilisation Français, the civilization part consists of lectures in the afternoons about all kind of topics related to French culture and politics. So we go, because we are taking this course seriously, not like some of our young classmates who seem to be affected by severe cases of hangoveritis or can't make it on time to class, even if class starts at a leisurely 10:30 am. Half my class has a mysterious case of severe sniffles. They are all coughing and blowing their noses and coughing up phlegms the entire class. Did they immerse themselves in the frigid waters of the Seine at 3 am? Perhaps. Some are serious and do their homework; others never have their exercises handy or they have been absent for half the time. Whatever. Luckily, I'm not the only relic of an ancient era in the class. Three other women are even older than me. Most everybody is American. For Americans, French is hard. Having Spanish is very helpful because the grammar is very similar and so are many of the words, although really half the words in French have Latin roots like Spanish and the other half are similar to English. And then there are the purely French words like donc, and jusqu'a that are a pain in the derriére.
The lectures, suprisingly, are very well attended. Yesterday for instance, the first lecture was about poetry and la chanson française. There were actual French poets and composers of chansons in attendance. We heard music (you know some of those French chansons that seem more spoken than sung) One of the lecturers sang to us with a guitar. He was out of central casting. Longish gray hair, glasses, a pack of cigarettes waiting to pounce, the face of a penseur. They had a spirited discussion (all their discussions seem always very passionate, quoi!) about the difference between the chanson and the poéme. I think the conclusion was: the chanson has music and the poéme doesn't. It was fun.
Then there was this guy who should be turned into tablets and marketed as the most powerful sleeping pill ever discovered. I defy even a person with 50 grams of cocaine in their system not to fall into a deep slumber when this man talks. Yesterday his topic was "French Gastronomy Today" (as you can imagine, a topic dear to my guts). Well he managed to make it as dry as statistics and as excruciating as trigonometry. But I can't really tell you much because I woke up to hear him tell an amusing story that involved him buying risotto and overcooking it. This had something to do with globalization. Nobody laughed.
But the one after him was a riot. He talked about France and the European Community and he was funny and engaging and active and cracking jokes. He was super expressive, using those typically French facial expressions that would be considered a stereotype if they didn't exist for real. He always talks about politics and economics, but I've become a groupie 'cause he's fun.

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