Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My First French Test

I guess that title's misleading. I've had French tests before, mostly just grammar ones for my language classes, but this was my first test in French that wasn't about French. This is exactly why I wanted to come here - in everything I do here, the language is only secondary. All these professors expect that I speak French and can write an essay in three hours about the topic or document they assign. The important part is what I write. At least, ideally, that's what it should be. At the beginning of the test, he announced that for every ten spelling mistakes we make, he's taking a point off our grade. Since there are only 20 points and we pretty much start at an 18 (because 20 is for God and 19 is for the professor), I hope I didn't make a ton of spelling mistakes. At least he didn't say stylistic mistakes, because I'm sure what I write in French is full of those. I'm just surprised that he expects the students to make spelling mistakes. I mean, they're French! I expect myself to make spelling mistakes when I'm writing in a foreign language, but when I'm writing an English essay by hand in an exam, I'm never concerned about spelling! If I'm not sure how to spell a word, I'll just use another one. It's as easy as that. But that doesn't work in French, and I don't want it to. For me, I'd rather make a spelling error in an attempt to use a more complicated word or phrase because making mistakes is how you learn. But, I played this essay safe. Hopefully he doesn't give it back with a note saying my vocabulary was way too simple. The first document was a Mazarinade, or anti-Mazarin pamphlet. The second was an intendant's report about taxes. I chose the first. It seemed more interesting. And I was a perfect French student the entire time - I spent the first half hour diligently reading and taking notes, choosing the document I wanted, and reading some more; then, I spent the second half hour writing the plan and choosing the order I was going to say everything; then, I spent another half hour on the introduction. The rest of the time was the other four pages. I have to say, there's something to the French method - my essay was very clear and concise and I enjoyed working on the plan.

Then, tonight, I went to the Opera Bastille (the other opera house here in Paris) to see what I thought was an opera. Turns out, it was a ballet. It was called Siddharta and it was about the founder of Buddhism. Strange topic for a ballet. Anyway, it was cool to watch, but I honestly don't understand ballet because I've never studied it. So, I'll leave the review to a critic. Anyway, the Opera Bastille is really ugly from the outside (maybe to reflect the messy stuff that happened there way back in 1789?), but the seats are much more comfortable than the cheap ones at Garnier. I was much more comfortable, which was good since there wasn't an intermission.

I'm going to make sure my interactive story is good before tomorrow. I still need to stop by CUPA and print it out - being without my own printer is very inconvenient. Good thing French universities assign much less homework than American ones. I don't know how I'd survive at Hopkins if every time I wanted to print something, I had to travel 30 minutes by subway. That might just be impossible. 

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