Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stealing words from other languages

Well, it's something we do all the time in America: stealing words or expressions from other languages. In fact, there is so much in common between French and English, that typically, when I don't know a word here in French, chances are it's exactly the same as the English word. That wasn't the case today in my flute lesson, though. My teacher asked me what "la nuance" was, and I gave him a blank stare. I didn't get what he wanted me to say. I mean, how do you explain a nuance? It's a tiny little thing, and typically you don't explain a nuance - you just play in a nuanced way, I suppose. Anyway, I was confused because I've never been asked to explain a nuance before. I said something (honestly, I don't remember what...) and he pointed out that the dynamic was piano. For those non-musicians out there, that means quiet. So, I figured he meant I should be playing with nuances that were appropriate to a soft dynamic or something. Then, a few minutes later, he asked me what "la nuance" was and said not to look at the paper. After another blank stare, he finally realized that I wasn't sure if I really knew what "une nuance" was. He said it was forte (loud) and I came to my senses. Apparently, "la nuance" is the dynamic! I had assumed "dynamic" was "dynamique" but he said they only use "dynamique" for physics and other really technical things. To sum it up, I suppose that words aren't always the same, even when they look exactly the same! By the way, French people also pronounce the P at the beginning of the word psychiatrique. 

Other than my flute lesson, it wasn't a very interesting day except for the fact that I spent a ton of money on future weekend trips. I don't know when I'm going to have time to work when I'm going to Strasbourg, Normandy, Pisa and Florence, Belgium, Madrid and Granada, and who knows what else? That's four weekends and the first week of my spring break right there! I am here to study, right? Good thing Paris 8 is so much easier than Johns Hopkins and too bad l'ENS isn't. Speaking of l'ENS, I just found a very funny facebook group: Ecole Normale Supérieure en Alcool. Apparently, the students in this group think that what is really superior about the students at ENS is that they really know how to party. I'm going to have to investigate this. I had just assumed that it was like Hopkins, another school "where fun goes to die." Just kidding - everything's fun with George Steiner around! I can't wait for tomorrow! And no, Uncle Jeffrey, I don't need to calm down!

Just to add another thing I found on the internet: I decided to google my ENS course just for fun. This is what I found: "La validation consistera en un court travail écrit." (The grade will come from one short written assignment) Seriously - the whole grade from one written assignment? Short? What does ENS consider short? Justine has to do seven hour dissertations. What do they consider that? I bet "short" at l'ENS is like a four hour one. But still - it doesn't seem like enough to grade us on for an entire course!

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