Sunday, December 7, 2008


Salut tout le monde!
Not too much exciting news to share but I thought it was about time to keep you guys informed of the goings on. Last weekend me and two American friends toured the great town of Torino Italy. We couchsurfed chez Camilla and Giacomo and they were wonderful hosts with an amazing apartment, we really lucked out. Italy is great, the people are funny and interesting and they're culture is amazing. I really want to start learning Italian now, it's such a pretty language and I can already understand a little bit when my Italian friend Erica talks. The highlight of Torino for me was the National Film Museum. It's in an amazing looking building, the Mole Antonelliana, and the inside is just as gorgeous. There was a great exhibit on Roman Polanski while we were there with great photos of him directing and it's just a really nice museum. We also got to enjoy Bicerinos which are these amazing chocolaty, coffee drinks that were delicious. Torino is famous for it's chocolate so it was great to try that.

This weekend we got to enjoy the Fete des Lumieres in Lyon or the Light Festival. It was really great, with lots of cool light sculptures and light shows all over the city. There were also tons of street vendors and yummy food to eat, which is rare for the French since they're not big fans of walking and eating. Chambery has also gotten a lot more festive with Christmas lights on every street, piped in Christmas music and the Christmas market which is pretty freaking adorable.

I guess what I really wanted to share with you guys is a little about the French and they're crazy language. The other day I was telling my roommate, Laura, that my friend Fiona is coming in from Madrid next week and staying with us a couple of nights. I told her that she doesn't speak French, only English and Spanish and her response was a frank, "why doesn't she speak French?" I didn't know how to respond to that... but I think it kind of sums up the attitude that the French have, and the reason people have a negative view towards them. My friend's host mom in Bordeaux told me a joke, if you're trilingual you speak three languages, bilingual two and one language you're French. The French are notoriously bad at speaking English because they really don't have a need for it. They're country is big enough they can travel around and see everything they could want without leaving, and without practicing another language. I don't have a problem if a French person can only speak French, because well look at the US, but the French have a very strict opinion of their language, it's the best. France has a organization called the Academie Francaise that actually regulates the French language (sorry no translation for english, hehe). They're two missions are translated literally "take care of their language and carry out acts of patronage", or give out literary prizes. I'm not sure if an organization exists like this anywhere else in the world but government documents and any public documents, I believe, must adhere to strict guidelines from the Academie. Ending a letter for example, can be very complicated, almost a paragraph in itself. The French citizens also take this very seriously and apparently the French are constantly correcting each other's grammar and speech. A friend told me in bathroom stall graffiti sometimes you can see someone has crossed out a sentence and rewritten it correctly. While this obviously isn't always the case with most college aged students, I find it very foreign and somewhat annoying for me. While the French language may not change as much as English, making one little grammatical mistake can make you look stupid. At the same time this is what makes the French well so French and it's somewhat fascinating. I tried to explain to my French professor that the US had no official language and she just couldn't grasp that concept "all government documents are written in English right?" "well yes, but it's not technically the official language," "well if they're all written in English then it is." For the French there's nothing comparable to their language, and that's definitely a trait unique to the French.


Sara said...

That is really interesting. I've always thought that the rest of the world made fun of Americans for only knowing one language (in fact, I'm pretty sure we make fun of OURSELVES for this). It seems like the French are PROUD to only know one language. It's definitely a different attitude from the states, where we kind of feel guilty for not knowing more than English. I had heard of the French language regulation thing, but I had no idea it was so crazy strict. Now I'm nervous to visit France again. I'm pretty sure all I'll know how to see is "Where is the bathroom?" and "I'm doing well!"

Tyler said...

Haha. That is intense! In America, we're so polarized with our language. It seems like half the country is stubbornly in love with English, a quarter of the country desperately wants to learn other languages to be more cultured and escape from the stubborn Americans, and the other quarter are just too lazy to learn a new language.
I would love to learn a beautiful language of stubborn people, but for now I'll have to lazily spew english and be proud of my northwest accent.