vendredi 26 mars 2010

Those who learn foreign languages... and grammar...

Now that I'm into my second session at Alliance Française it occurred to me that a lot of people seem to learn a foreign language like their first language. There are those like me who have to know everything. I have to know how words are spelt, abbreviated, punctuated, etc. I have to understand basic grammatical rules. Ever since I started school aged 5 I remember loving to know all these little 'rules'. I was always good at spelling and could pretty much beat any of my classmates or friends in spelling bees. Coming from a non-English speaking background I was also a self taught learner as I couldn't go to my parents or younger sibling for help with my homework.

I definitely think it's a personality thing where those who are more studious like learning all the rules and such (like my father) and others just cruise along, just happy that they can communicate by listening and speaking (like my mother). I even hate to admit this but even after living in this country so long my mother cannot even read a newspaper and understand it all, or spell common words... In other words, she, like many others, just don't care. For me, I care a lot. Because I don't want to be illiterate! In fact, when I travel and go to a country where I can't read anything I feel like I am practically blind. To me it's such a disabling feeling not being able to read anything.

When I see spelling/grammatical/punctuation mistakes I want to scream and pull my eyelashes out. But that's just me. I see this sort of stuff all the time.

"your" instead of "you're"
"definitely" spelt every single way except the correct way. "separate" is another common one.
"CD's", "DVD's", "book's" on shop signs and other stupid unnecessary apostrophes.

And then there is another one that I really can't stand and I'm not sure if it's just an Australian thing but instead of saying "should've", "could've" or "would've" people say "should of", "could of" and "would of" and of course this is how they write it as well!

It became apparent to me that there are some people who do the same thing in French. They guess the spelling of words based on how they sound verbally without understanding the meaning behind it all.

I once heard a great lecture on communication and I remember the presenter talking about how we judge other people all the time, by the way they're dressed, the way they walk, and talk, for example. But for me, I also tend to judge people on how they write as well. SMS speak is OK for SMSs and maybe for chatting on the internet but for emails I find it annoying and unacceptable. In a lot of cases, I think it's just the person being lazy. But I'm sure I'm not the only person who judges others when they see spelling and grammatical mistakes in things others write. Now I'm not saying everyone has to have a PhD in English. I know I make mistakes all the time too. I know nobody is perfect but when I see simple mistakes like "your" instead of "you're" and "their" or "there" instead of "they're" it seems to me that that person just never paid attention in 2nd grade. They don't care, in the same way that someone wearing ugly clothes and having unbrushed hair doesn't care...

Meh. I guess I shouldn't care so much about others but when I read this article in the paper recently I was horrifed but not surprised. The literacy rates of Australians is going down the gurgler. I was never taught grammar at school. OK I may have had a handful of lessons on what a noun, verb, adjective is but I never learned anything or retained any of that information and I can honestly say that I've only finally gotten a handle on grammar because of all these months of learning French!

Almost half of adult Australians have literacy skills lower than those needed to meet the demands of everyday life and work in a knowledge-based economy, Bureau of Statistics figures show...

Grammar was cut in the '70s because of a view it didn't help students' writing, said Dr Sally Humphrey from the University of Sydney's linguistics department...

Pretty disgusting...

Le Bel Eté - Vanessa Bruno

vanessabruno-Le Bel Eté-SS2010 from presse vanessabruno on Vimeo.

A beautiful, whimsical video. I love the cinematography, the clothes, the music.. all of it.

mardi 23 mars 2010

Daniel Tammet - The Boy who learns a foreign language in one week

Daniel Tammet - The Boy With The Incredible Brain
learns to speak Icelandic (one of the most difficult languages) in 7 days

Looking for more listening practice material, I typed 'entretien' into YouTube and found this video.

I started watching it and had no idea what I was watching really. I thought it was great (yet found it puzzling) that this guy was speaking so slowly, but then I realised that he had an accent as well, which meant that he obviously wasn't French (even though his name Daniel Tammet sounded like it could be French).

So I looked him up on Wikipedia : Daniel Tammet and started watching related videos:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

It's an absolutely amazing documentary about a gifted autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome, a real life "Rain Man". Definitely watch this. It is one of the most extraordinary things I've seen in a long time. Does Daniel succeed in his task to learn Icelandic in one week? Watch part 5 and find out!

What's amazing is that Daniel, like all the other gifted people that feature in the documentary, seem really down to earth about their capabilities, and not at all boastful or egotistical.

In his blog he mentions that Kim Peek (who features in the video and who the movie "Rain man" was based upon) passed away in December 2009, which is sad but I guess his legacy will live on...

lundi 22 mars 2010

Baroque Bistro Bar Pâtisserie, The Rocks, Sydney

Baroque website

Last Saturday, after my French class I took a leisurely walk to the historic Rocks district to claim my free macaron from Baroque. Being a perfectly gorgeous, warm and sunny day, I didn't mind the 30 minute walk at all.

I was so dumbfounded that they gave me the free macaron no questions asked and didn't ask if I wanted to buy anything else that I didn't even think of buying more while I was there till much much later (dammit). The guy who served me was Australian but spoke French and I practised on him. Hehe. I also asked if I could take some photos and if they had said no, I would have thought, "No free advertising for you then!" As it was, they were pretty busy and didn't care about li'l ol' me snapping away :)

The only macarons I've ever tried are from The Lindt Café and La Renaissance (who have the same owners as Baroque, I believe).

I didn't have any expectations but this macaron simply blew me away! I chose the classic pistachio flavour as I love pistachio and couldn't get past the bright vivid green and gold flecks on top.

It looked quite small, but on the other hand was higher or deeper than some other macarons I've seen. I'm not sure how much they chargely normally for one of these babies (kinda forgot to ask!) but I am dying to get some more (talk about an effective marketing strategy) ;)

I took the top layer off and was surprised to find a brownish maroon coloured blob in the middle which, at first, I thought was chocolate. However, it was not brown enough to be chocolate and in that sun it would have melted a lot more than that. It was the exact colour of 'red bean' and I wondered if they would put such an 'exotic' (and non-French) ingredient in a macaron. I tasted it, trying to figure out what it was and I think it was a (cooked obviously) cherry. It was definitely a great taste sensation as well as a visual treat!

I did not like the macarons from Lindt as I found them way too sweet and the one I tried at La Renaissance (even though they are supposed to be the same) did not seem as good as this one either. The texture, the sweetness, the surprise in the middle - everything was just perfect!

I haven't mentioned it on this blog before, but I've actually been trying to make macarons myself and they are extremely difficult as everything has to be precise and it takes a LOT of trial and error. And the baking times and temperatures in recipes need to be altered drastically depending on your oven. I even got some French cookbooks. I have only just managed to make perfect little 'feet' on my macaron and get them to look right but I have not even started on colouring or flavouring them yet, or making the ganache for the middle. It was hard enough to get past the first hurdle after I finally discovered the secret of making fluffy white meringue from egg whites (the egg whites need to be left out 2 days, and there needs to be some acid in the stainless or glass (not plastic) mixing bowl for example), and making sure the 'macaronnage' was just perfect.

One of these days when I get around to making a decent macaron I'll post my embarrassing trial and error photos and cooking tips :)

Sydney AF French Film Festival 2010 film reviews - Part IV - Welcome


J'adore ce film. Il est extrêmement touchant. Il s'agit d'un homme et un garçon très différents qui deviennent amis. Le garçon de 17 ans est un réfugié kurde d'Iraq et l'homme est prof de natation à la piscine du quartier. Pendant ce film on voit la situation sensible des réfugiés et on voit aussi la situation entre le prof de natation et sa (ex) femme. C'est un film de rapports humains, je pense. L'histoire principale est que ce garçon veut nager et traverser la Manche pour aller en Angleterre et voir sa petite amie mais il y a beaucoup de problèmes qui passe. Comment peut-il le faire ? Va-t-il réussi ? Je ne parle plus de ce film, juste... Voyez-le !

J'ai aussi eu le plaisir de rencontrer le réalisateur, Philippe Lioret, à une séance de questions et de réponses, après ayant vu son film «Welcome».

This is a wonderful, touching and moving film about a boy, a 17 year old Kurdish refugee from Iraq, and his swimming teacher. However that's just on the surface. (surface, swimming, haha, get it?) On a deeper ( :P ) level, I feel that this is primarily a movie about human connections. We see the connection between the two protagonists, of course, but also between the swimming teacher and his (ex) wife, and between the boy and his girlfriend and other members of his 'posse'.

The main storyline is that this boy wants to swim across the English Channel to see his girlfriend in England. How will he do this? Will he make it? There is a lot to the story but I won't give it away. I will just say this: see it!

The movie is in 3 languages: English, Kurdish and French.

10/10 for sure.

There were 3 sessions of "Welcome" during the festival which had a Q & A session with the director, Philippe Lioret, and I had the pleasure of attending one of them. He answered audience members' questions after the film. I had thought of similar questions myself so it was good to hear his answers. He said a lot of interesting things such as how how he found the lead Kurdish actors (Bilal and his girlfriend Mina) who are siblings in real life and had never acted before. It was 'cute' when he couldn't think of how to say something in English, and he asked the (largely bilingual) audience for a translation. Sometimes the word he was looking for was the same word in French and in English!

On another note, watching the film made me have even more sympathy for the refugees, as well as the people who try to help them, especially after reading Emile Johnson's blog post.

Bande annonce

Entretien avec Philippe Lioret

imdb : Welcome : Welcome

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