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…

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I was right to be terrified about erasmus…

It turns out my fear was justifiable.  I’ve spoken almost entirely in English so far (I got here yesterday).  It’s a nightmare.  I need to avoid it, but can’t.  Maybe after orientation and all that I’ll be able to settle in properly and actually speak French as much as I’d like to.

So far, it’s been nowhere near enough – an occasional question or encounter with university staff or shop assistants, but basically nothing else.  Which has made me realise that my French is terrible now.  I can barely ask basic things, and attempting to hold a conversation just fries my brain.  I keep speaking Spanish by accident (things like ‘bueno’ and ‘gracías’, mainly, as well as normally saying ‘y’ instead of ‘et’).  I hope that doesn’t last.

I don’t want to forget my Spanish or the tiny bit of an Argentinian accent I may have picked up when saying certain phrases, but I don’t want to keep letting Spanish get in the way of learning French.  Quel cauchmar.

My pronunciation is terrible too.  I just don’t remember how you’re supposed to pronounce things in French  – vowels, the letters ‘c’ and ‘j’, and even where to put the emphasis in a word.

Basic vocabulary too, grammar – you name it, I’ve probably forgotten it.

Everything is really expensive as well.  So that’s awful.

On a happier note, it’s quite sunny.

Why I’m terrified about going on erasmus

Yes, that does say “terrified”, you’re not hallucinating…

But erasmus sounds amazing? Yes, yes it does.

And didn’t you just spend five months living in Argentina? Yes, yes I did.

So then what’s the problem?!

My problem is, that the whole point of me going on erasmus, is to learn a language. Yes, that’s the point of most people going on erasmus, unless they study abroad, but in a place where their native language is also the local one. However, most people who speak English don’t learn as much on erasmus, well, as I’d like to. I’m not saying that they’re stupid and I’m aiming to learn much more because I’m clearly better than them. I’m not. They probably don’t want to learn a language as much as I do. Or, want to put their erasmus to what they think is better use – maybe by getting to know people from all over the world, and just enjoying the whole experience. And I don’t disagree with them at all. Both of those are hugely important to me too. You can’t just go on erasmus and be stuck in dictionaries and grammar books for the whole time you’re there. I have no intention of that. I just want to improve my French.

Unfortunately though, English is quite a universal language especially when it comes to Europe, and most students who do erasmus speak some English – therefore (and because many of them are native English speakers) it automatically becomes the language they speak with each other, rather than the local language, which they obviously have to know, or at least learn at some point, too. Often, the local language is their third language, and English their second, so it’s actually easier for them to speak English.

This is fantastic if your first language is not English – you can do one erasmus and improve hugely at two languages.

As a native English speaker though, I’m filled with dread at the thought of having to try so hard to avoid speaking English with others in France, if it will even be possible – I won’t be able to completely escape it, but I will speak it as little as possible. Basically, I’m setting myself up to have no friends on erasmus, because I will run a mile from all the lovely erasmus students who (quite harmlessly) dare to speak to me in English, and even the French ones who do the same. Erasmus students don’t generally mix that much with other students and it’s because of this that I’m scared about going on erasmus. I’d rather not have no friends, but I don’t want to only make friends with people who solely speak English to me. In France, I mean. Obviously at home that’s fairly tolerable.

The internet and language learning

I have a theory. Which I haven’t had a chance to test yet, but it’s fairly obvious and likely to be correct. Basically, the internet can be the most detrimental thing to a person’s language learning.

Hear me out.

I mean when abroad, in the country of their target language, it’ll be the internet which will slow down or inhibit their second language acquisition.

Obviously enough (duh Sarah), it will make you think in your native language, unless you never use the internet in your own language, which would be extremely rare. Say you’re a native English speaker. You go on Facebook – English! You check the news at home – English! You read your emails – English! You open Twitter – English! You Skype someone at home – English! You do almost anything – English! Every time you use the internet in these situations, you revert back to English, your comfort zone.

God Sarah this so obvious to anyone with any common sense why are you even blogging about it god.

I’m writing about this now because soon I’ll be moving continent for a few months, and doing my best to absorb and use as much Spanish as I can. But I’m going to want to keep in touch with people at home too. And that will have to be through English. Which will hinder my attempts to immerse myself in Spanish a lot.

So what can I do? Delete Facebook while I’m abroad? Delete Twitter? Ignore the world at home? Avoid reading my emails for months? Skype home less often? Okay so all of that would probably help but it would be likely to make me a lot more distant from my friends and family. And I don’t want that.

Solution (and maybe a challenge I can take up): Hugely limit my use of social networks while I’m away. That alone would probably help a lot, no matter how challenging it would be.

Then again, I don’t know what part of Argentina I’m going to yet. I might not have internet. Which would be awful. Or, in light of everything I’ve just written, would be the best thing that could happen… (I’ve jinxed it now, haven’t I?)

Hasta pronto,
Sarah