Monday, January 25, 2010

French Stereotypes

This morning, instead of visiting Paris 3 - Sorbonne Nouvelle, which just doesn't interest me, I went looking for l'Ecole Normale Supérieure. It wasn't hard to find. You just get off the metro at the Cluny-La Sorbonne stop, walk down Rue Saint Jacques past Louis-le-Grand, turn left when you see the Panthéon, walk around a little until you find Rue d'Ulm, and then follow it until you get to the giant imposing buildings. They certainly don't have the aesthetic appeal of La Sorbonne. But, I suppose it's pretty on the inside with the courtyard and the fountain - I just can't sneak in there because they have some sort of special relationship with Hopkins (and practically every other top university in the world) and I bet I could get in trouble if they caught me! There are tons of old book shops down there, and it's a really nice area. The students look very smart and serious too!

In our first course today, we talked about stereotypes. Guess what - people in other countries think French people smoke, eat lots of bread, drink tons of red wine, talk a lot, and speak English back when you try to speak French. Those were pretty much all the stereotypes I knew. The hard part was when Chantal (our teacher for that course) told us we needed to say the nationality of the person who said each stereotype, but every stereotype seemed like anyone could have figured it out. Anyway, I suppose I learned that I have absolutely no concept of the rest of the world. One step at a time - I want to learn about French and get fluent in French before I start thinking about the rest of the world and their perceptions of the French.

Then tonight, instead of the regular news after dinner, my host family and I watched President Sarkozy address the nation. It's funny: no matter where you are, politicians never answer the questions they're asked. The best part was, every now and then, Sarkozy would use and English word that doesn't exist in French and my host family would laugh so much! Whenever I heard the English word, I would second guess myself and just assume that it must be a French word too since a French person was saying it, but apparently that reasoning just doesn't work. Too bad his wife wasn't with him in these interviews - I think she's hilarious! She's been quoted as saying (I'm not sure in what language, but I think I read it in either French or English) "Love lasts a long time, but burning desire, two to three weeks!" And I think she speaks much better French than Sarkozy, along with Italian, German, and English. But it was interesting watching what the president in France does when he goes on TV - first, they had a normal interview where he basically responded to every question without giving the reporter the answers she was looking for; and then they had a group of average people from all different fields just sit in a circle with him and talk with an arbiter, just in case things got out of hand. That was more interesting than the interview, but I left in the middle because I just don't know half of France's problems right now, so I didn't really have any idea about the specific things they were saying.

Tomorrow's the first of two La Sorbonne visits. I've already been there, but I have a feeling we're going to get to go inside!

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