Coin Flip

On Sunday, my inability to make a decision finally resulted in me choosing to flip a coin, to help me figure out what I wanted.  And I’d been told that when you flip a coin to make a serious decision, it results in you generally realising what you want before the coin even lands.  Maybe that knowledge messed it up for me because in the time the coin was flipped into the air, spun and caught, all my mind was telling me was “I don’t know”.  I actually couldn’t decide.  The coin failed.  I failed.

Except I think I just had a delayed reaction to the coin flip, or it it didn’t have the same effect because I was so aware that it was going to make me decide so I panicked, was sort of scared, and couldn’t think.  Even a minute later, when I was told the coin had said ‘heads’ – which we had chosen to mean I would stay in France for the year – my reaction was disappointment.  I knew that it would have been the same if they had said it was tails, but from that moment on, and taking into account some advice from college friends who’d all already made their decisions long ago and without much difficulty, I started seriously thinking about leaving my erasmus at just one semester, instead of extending it to two.

I think I made my mind up on the day, within  an hour of  the coin flip, but I’ve been pondering it since to make sure I’m doing the right thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to stay for the year, or come back to this town to live here for a while, but I think going home is the right decision.  If I stayed it would probably make college much more difficult, between various modules, and most of all, the equivalent of a thesis that we have to write at some point in the next year and a half.  Seeing as it’s half of third year and all of fourth year we’re talking about here, I’d rather not make things any more complicated than they should be.

I’ve had a massive weight lifted off my shoulders after that anyway.  Fully recommend making serious decisions at least a few days before the deadline (and no later) to everyone.  Except that’s generally what people do, isn’t it?  Yeah…  Well, I tried.  This is a much better result than my last few major academic decisions, which were made either on deadline day, or when it was too late.  Great day for the parish.

Full Year Erasmus – Yay or Nay?

I struggle  so much with decisions that for my next serious one – that of staying on erasmus for a year or not – I’ve decided to compile a list of pros and cons for staying, and, in an attempt to make it even more accurate to what on earth would be best, I’ve actually weighted each pro and con by giving them a value based on how important they actually are.  Yeah I’m not even joking I honestly feel the list is necessary just to attempt to come close to a decision, and well, the weighting of each point just seems like the right to do to me and my apparently overly logical brain.

It makes sense, I swear.  I mean there were several arguments for and against that got zero points because they’re really not important in the grand scheme of things.

As it happens, I then discovered that as well as simply adding up the points for each side, I could also obviously change that into a percentage, and as we all know percentages are always more fun.  Go maths.

So, the current tally on the Full Year Erasmus – Yay or Nay? vote stands at:

Yay:  54%

Nay:  46%

Does that kind of highlight my indecision, just a tad?  I mean it couldn’t be much closer, it’s like the Scottish referendum all over again.

And I haven’t even finished the pros and cons list, not quite.

If I hadn’t weighted each pro and con, it would have resulted in the no vote being up 0.65% to a round figure of 47% versus 53% for a yes to staying for a year.

(I’m clearly having withdrawal symptoms ever since I stopped studying maths back when I finished school, leave me be.)

At this rate I’ll nearly have to resort to doing what I feared I’d end up having to do and just flip a coin over it.  And I’m not doing that…  I hope.

I’ve got about a week to make up my mind.  Wish me luck.

Any if you’ve any thoughts on whether a full year erasmus might be a good idea or not, feel free to let me know!

Trop Bizarre

I recently had one of my usual (at this stage) moments where I’m surrounded by native speakers of a language I can’t speak – except this time, it was English.  I’ve challenged myself not to speak that until I leave France, so when I was out for dinner, with all English speakers, to celebrate a friend’s birthday, needless to say I spoke less at the dinner table.  Normally, I literally can’t construct the sentences I want to add to group conversations in other languages (when I understand them), or I manage to do so in my head after the subject has been changed, so it was very strange when I could easily add something in English, but I didn’t want to, well, because of the challenge.  And it wasn’t too easy to change things into French, even if it was amusing sometimes attempting to directly translate things like Irish slang into French.  Allez les mecs.

It’s a very strange experience and I’m starting to wonder why I decided to do this, but I’ve started it now, so I’m going to continue.  I’ll get the hang of it eventually…

The iPod Tragedy

Earlier this week I was silly enough to lose my iPod – which for me was the equivalent of a smartphone.  I looked for it all around the area I was in when I lost it, but to no avail.  Then, a couple of days later, I was informed that someone had put a sign up nearby saying they had found an iPod, and left their number.  So I got the number, and texted it to say I thought it was my iPod that they’d found.  The response?

“Oui je lai”

Or “Yes I have it” (should actually have been “je l’ai”, but whatever…).

Nothing else, no more information.

Basically, Taken 3 was happening.  I was about to transform into Liam Neeson, and go on a crazy mission to track down my beloved iPod…  Except then the person who’d found it told me when and where I could pick it up, so I just did that instead.  Handy.

Thank you very much to the lovely stranger who picked it up, and decided to give it back!  People – a great bunch of lads.

An unfortunate and ironic presentation title choice

On Monday, I had my first French class here (excluding a couple of translation classes).  We had to get into groups of three, and pick from the list given what we would do our presentations on.  So naturally enough, I found a pair to work with, asked what they were thinking of doing the presentation on, and went with that, because it happened to be a really interesting topic for me too, and I hadn’t really read the list too carefully.  The subject we chose, was something along the lines of – “peut-on vivre sans un smartphone ?”, or basically, “can you live without a smartphone?”.

Now, unlike most people I know, I didn’t have a smartphone at the time, had never had one, and still don’t, which I suppose gives a different angle to the presentation.  But I have an iPod Touch, so the only negative difference between the combination of that and my beloved Nokia, and an actual smartphone, is that you can’t get Whatsapp on an iPod (Viber, Snapchat, Skype, Facebook Messenger and every other iOS app I’ve ever wanted all work on them, so there isn’t much need for Whatsapp, I suppose), and you can’t pay to use internet on them.  For me, that wasn’t a problem because ain’t nobody got time fo’ that, and I usually have access to wifi, or contact people by call, text, or just later on if I don’t.  No big deal.  I consider my iPod to basically be 95% – a smartphone.

Except I don’t have an iPod.  I lost it the day after we chose our presentation titles…

“O my prophetic soul!”

Hamlet quotes are always relevant.  Deal with it.

Anyway, life without anything close to a smartphone should be fun.  Added to that, this lack of English-speaking thing I’ve started.  And, speaking of which (seeing as one rule for the no English speaking was that I could do so on Skype and the likes) – my one-and-a-half-year-old laptop now refuses to use a lot of apps (it has apps, because it’s silly and has Windows 8), including Skype.  Making calls with any kind of program, from what I can see, doesn’t really work either.  At least, I got the call function of Facebook’s video caller to work recently, but not audio on anything else.  I haven’t tried every possible means of calling or video-calling yet, but I’ve tried a few with no success, and I don’t expect others to be any more successful, but fingers crossed the audio on Facebook will work so I can actually talk to people.

There’s some extra irony at play here I think.  First, I quit speaking English, except for on Skype, and in a few other situations, then I discover that Skype doesn’t work on my laptop.  Then, I decide to do a presentation on if it’s possible to live without a smartphone, and lose what was basically a smartphone for me.

It’s a bit strange that both of those things happened within the space of two days, but hopefully that’s the end of this sorcery…

I’ve had a crazy language-learning idea that just might work

It’s taken me thirty days, living in France, to have this brainwave, but it has finally happened.  Or, maybe more accurately, thirty days of often having great craic with Irish people (oh hey comfort zone) and other anglophones, but not really speaking or learning anywhere near as much French as I’d like to.

Inspiring quotes stolen from the internet – for all your motivational needs

Anyway, on the night of September 29th, I finally had this epiphany…

What’s the best way for me to improve at French?  By not speaking English!  Okay, I knew that before – that wasn’t really the epiphany.  I’d always known it – I mean for as long as I can remember wanting to learn any language.  The idea was only reinforced recently when I read ‘Fluent in 3 Months’ creator, Benny Lewis’s article on the topic, which I recommend if you want more language-learning motivation.

But – and yes, of course there’s a but – believe it or not, that is indeed easier said than done.  Especially, when you’re on erasmus, most of your friends are native speakers of English, and most other people you know, or get to know, speak it very well, or at the very least, know some, and can probably converse a little.  People also tend to think you’re a bit mental if you just decide you’re not speaking any more English.  (Obviously, there are some rules that go with this, namely – I can skype in English, and speak it to anyone from home who visits me, but I’ll get to all that later, probably in a separate post.)  Even when people really want to improve at their target language, it just seems a bit crazy to go all out and quit speaking the only language you’re fluent in.  At this stage though, I think it’s just all or nothing.  It’s easier this way, really.

Right, here’s where my own brainwave comes in…  I honestly think it would be extremely difficult to do this without some sort of excuse that people might possibly accept (otherwise I’d probably have started earlier).  So, my stroke of genius is, that I’ll bet some money with a few friends that I can avoid speaking English (bear in mind that all the rules of this still have to be worked out) until I leave France to go home for Christmas.  That’s only all of October, November, and most of December.  It’s not really that long.  And I assume that the first week or so will be the most difficult – then after that, it’ll get easier every week.  I don’t know how much to bet, but it’s going to be a bet where I’d actually win €0 if I succeeded.  I don’t want to win money from people, I just want to learn French.  I’ll bet with people, that I can avoid speaking English until my Christmas holidays, and if I lose, I pay them all.  I think it would be about a dozen people, so it wouldn’t be much each, but, the total amount will have to be enough to give me more motivation not to lose.  The thing is, I don’t plan on losing.  I’m not being big-headed and saying I think this will be easy.  I just don’t want to just throw money away, that’s not the idea of this, so I’m setting myself what I think is a manageable challenge.  In reality, I just think money would just be a bit of an added incentive, and it might make life easier if people want me to speak English, and I’m able to say that actually, I stand to lose a lot of money I really can’t afford to lose if I do, so I can’t.

And it’s not a thing that I’m going to expect people to speak French to me.  Ideally, they would, but if English is their native language, then fine, I understand English, and if they’re here on erasmus too then we both have some level of French so we can all understand each other.  If there’s an extreme communication barrier at times, as there will be, I can switch to my broken Irish with the Irish students, or try Spanish with anyone who speaks it, seeing as I now seem to find it easier to speak than French.  Sign language, gestures, drawings, whatever, if I’m feeling really determined to use zero English (I think being allowed to ask in French how to say a word in English is just logical, and makes it easier for anyone trying to deal with my attempts to communicate with them).  If people just want to practice their English with me too, even though the idea of them being here is probably to learn French, and they’re truly adamant about learning English, then fine.  I won’t lie, I won’t be happy about it, but with English it’s kind of inevitable, so if I still get to speak French, or even Spanish to them, and they respond in English, I’ll still learn something from speaking a language other than English.  I can live with that.

Another key exception I should point out straight away is that I’m going to play sort of by the rules (or rule, really) of the gaeltacht I went to a few years ago – one full sentence in English (or in that case, a language other than Irish) is not allowed.  I also believe that the young gaeilgeoirs got a warning if that happened, and were then kicked out, but I’m not sure if I’ll add that, I suppose it’s a good idea…  The main thing though is, if I accidentally react to something by saying something along the lines of “yeah”, “what?”, or “shite!”, in English, and then realise and go back to French – it doesn’t count – stuff like that is almost impossible to avoid at the start, at least.

A lot of people might think this idea is crazy, stupid, or just plain annoying if you’re unfortunate enough to be an English-speaker on erasmus with me (le sozz, guys), but I think it’s crazy to study French (or any language) for as long as I have, study it in college, and then go on erasmus in France – it also happening to be your first time in France – and not doing your best to speak the language as much as possible.  For me it would just be such a wasted opportunity, and such a waste of time and money.

I decided to start as soon as October arrived – literally at midnight last night, I stopped speaking English.  I even tested it out a little before that – mainly warning people that I was going to start speaking French to them, explaining myself, and speaking French with some of them to see how strange or difficult it was.  And it was very odd.  But it was possible.  We could converse.  We could understand each other (most of the time).  And most people I tried speaking French to wanted to practise it too, but like me, hadn’t spoken it as much as they’d like to yet.  So when I brought it up, and awkwardly switched to French with people, it got them responding in French, even if it was only for a few minutes.  It’s a start.  And it’s shown me that it’s possible for me to do this.  So I think I will.

I guess I’ll keep you posted.  Hopefully it’ll be a succès.

 

PS:  Like a lot of challenges, I guess if I tell enough people what I plan on doing, then it’s an extra incentive to go for it, ’cause it would be kind of mortifying if I kept telling everyone about this, and then failed spectacularly.  So if you’re wondering why on earth I’m sharing this spiel, there you go.  I just want to add possible embarrassment to the mix so I’ll work harder at avoiding English.