Sunday, 4 July 2010

Reflection... of course the title of the Disney song which I feel resonates most powefully with me at this time in my life. The song, from Mulan, communicates precisely how a young woman can feel as though she is never good enough for anyone else, and how she feels unable to be herself and has realised that people do not see who she really is from the outside. This is exactly how I feel at certain times. Alan Menken just has a gift of writing songs about female angst, which can either be taken at face value, or analysed deeply, my other favourites being "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid" and "Somewhere that's Green" from "Little Shop of Horrors".

I have just become completely sidetracked by the wonderful world of Alan Menken. The title was actually meant to refer to the week long work experience exchange to France that I have just taken part in. I was going to post a daily diary, but I realised how boring that would be for anyone else except myself to read. Considering also that my trip diary currently stands at about forty handwritten notebook pages, it's better for mine, and everyone else's, sanity just to summarise here the main things I've learnt from the trip. That's not to say my full trip diary won't be compulsory reading for a few, very lucky people.


I feel as though I've learnt many things about the language which I would never have learnt simply by studying at school. There is quite a difference between written French and spoken French, and there are very obvious differing degrees of formality, a lot more so than I would say there were in English. For instance, I regularly heard the subjunctive whilst on my placement at the town hall, but less formal conversations usually omitted the "ne" when using a negative, and often considered mainly of short, one sentence answers.

I was actually a lot better at speaking than I thought I would be. Okay, I did get several genders wrong, but then there is no equivalent to this in English. I also finally learnt when to use the imperfect/perfect tenses, and am hopeful that my previously laughable pronounciation has improved. I assume it has, because I managed to convince a man on the ferry home that I was French.

I think I have now found a new motivation for French. Prior to this trip, I was leaning so heavily towards German, but now, for the first time, I think that the two langauges are balanced in my mind, if that makes any sense at all. French sounds so lovely when it's spoken, and the intonation isn't as hard as I thought. I'm still not quite sure how to intone annoyance, but I'm sure that will follow sometime in the future.

Aside from the language side, I've also learnt many cultural things. It saddened me that the majority of the films showing in the cinema were dubbed American films, when French cinema has some of the most inspiring, unique offerings that I have ever seen. I was allowed to choose the film, so I chose the only French film showing, which, funnily enough, had received the highest critical acclaim. This situation is similar to in Britain, where there are usually a dozen or so imported, monotonously repetitive Hollywood comedies for every British/independent film.

Many of the celebrities in the magazines I read were also American or British, although I did learn a fair bit about the French socialite scene. I also noticed the complete lack of WAGs in the press, which was nice to see. I seriously question why the British press has had such a long term infatuation with such a pointless group of people.

I was also lucky enough to attend an open air theatre festival in Rouen. The amazing Hamlet in 30 minutes spoof really made me realise the true, worldwide significance of Shakespeare. I actually understood pretty much all of the spoof, mainly due to my knowledge of the play, which was a very satisfying feeling.

During my placement, which was at a town hall, the main thing I learnt was how much more important a town hall is in France than in England. This is also where I learnt the majority of my new vocabulary.

Another important observation I made was that the pace of life in France is generally slower than it is in England. At home, I tend to sprint from one activity to another, but I actually quite enjoyed the prolonged meal times and the sitting around waiting for things to happen.

When I was in Rouen, late at night, most caf├ęs were still buzzing, but I saw no drunk people on the street corners, a stark constrast to being in London at the same time. It's also different how most people tended to stay up late, then get up late in the morning. Usually I do the opposite of this, so it's currently proving quite difficult to get back into my old routine.

Overall, I feel that I have grown as a person during the short time that I've spent in France, not only have I improved my language skills, but have also gained a greater degree of self confidence, both in myself and in my abilities. I am sincerely hoping that the offer of a return visit will be taken up....

Final note:

I mustn't forget that I am extremely delighted to have amassed three followers. It's really nice to know that people are actually reading this blog, and that I may actually have something worthwhile to say. I'm also very happy with the new template I've decided to use, for it definitely reflects my personality more than the old, boring pink one.

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