Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Well, French class continues to be my weekly source of hilarity.

First of all, class demographics. All female.  Half  are half young-ish people in their 20s who are daughters/girlfriends/wives of physicists (and one female physicists). The other half are women in their 40s-50s with children. Kat and I are the only Americans. The rest hail from Italy, England, Japan, Korea, Poland, Russia, Romania and Slovakia. This makes for a lot of interesting french dialects.

It’s a two hour class which is long. When I think back to college, I’d try to avoid those 1.5 hour classes even if I only had to go twice a week instead of three. With intense listening and language talking, two hours is draining. As a result, sometimes I lose my patience and start getting silly.

Take last week. About 1.5 hours into class, we’re going through some verbal exercises that Madame has asked us to model just like the cassette tape. (Yes, I said cassette tape.)


A: Il est comment mon blouson?

B: Ton blouson? Trop grand!

This roughly translates to “What do you think of my blouse?” “Your blouse? Too big!”

Got it? Ok, here’s the next one.

A. Il est comment mon pantalon?

B. Ton pantalon? Trop grand!

Last one!

A. Il est comment mon caleçon?


“What’s a caleçon?”

Madame wrinkles her nose. “That’s hard to explain…” she begins.

Kat grabs her dictionary and starts flipping through as Madame explains, in french, that it’s something that women wear on their legs, sometimes under dresses, and can be long.

Kat finds the word. “Boxer shorts.”

Madame and the rest of the class give us funny looks. But there, in her dictionary, it says boxers. Or, alternatively, long johns.

We’re puzzled as the rest of the class comes to the conclusion that “leggings” is the best translation. I finally ask whether the word can mean some other clothing for a man.

“Yes,” Madame says, apparently remembering this. “It can also mean underpants.” Aha.

At this point, I’ve either had too much french class or realized the ridiculousness of the conversation that we are about to have. “Then, isn’t this conversation a little strange if a guy is speaking?”

Kat and another younger classmate start giggling, realizing what I’ve asked. Madame doesn’t seem to get it, or she doesn’t understand my french so I have to repeat the question. At this point, the older women start to laugh, realizing what I’m asking.

Finally, Madame, with a straight face and in English responds. “Wouldn’t your husband or your boyfriend ask you something like this?”

I suppose the occasion hasn’t come up in our relationship. But, if it does, I’ll be ready.






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French class, Part 1

Last week I joined the CERN Women’s Club. Apparently, this club has been around nearly 50 years and provided activities for women at CERN. Judging by the sign up melee, it seems to be run by the Golden Girls, international edition who assume that your husband works at CERN. (Somewhat annoying for my friends who are actually female physicists.) But, for a 25 chf membership fee, I get access to a host of women-only activities including yoga, swarovski crystal jewelry tutorials, German children’s choir, and various language classes. Since I am awful at Yoga, don’t need to pawn off crystal jewelry, do not have a toddler wishing to sing Geman songs, it was French class for me.

I’m at an advantage here in SwitzerFrance because in middle and high school, I took French classes until my senior year. This all would be more helpful if I didn’t decide to learn Japanese in college, thereby pretty much undoing all my natural French hesitations and accent. I’ve found that for me, language is largely binary. That is, I know my home language (English) and something else. That something else for the past several years has been Japanese. Comprehension isn’t really the issues, it’s speaking. Let me tell you that French people look at you very strange when you say “Arigatou” instead of “Merci.” Having to discipline myself to respond in French has been a challenge, so I here I was, signing up for French Intermediate class.

On our first day, we did introductions in French and then had to take a placement test. Everything, even the instructions, was in French. Still, I was cautiously optimistic as I read the reading comprehension questions. A train announcement. An airport report. A phone conversation.

Sweet, I’ve done all this. I’ve traveled on trains, I’ve been in airports. I eavesdrop on people on the tram all the time. I was ready!

The instructor started the CD. Train annoucement: Le train vadcamzedix huinfe a voie day ennsin man twaznimu.

Omg. WHAT?

This is basically how the rest of the listening comprehension went for me. I got bits here an there like “train” and “track D,” but I had no idea what the train number was or what time it was coming.

The airport announcement was worse; I didn’t get a single word. Desperate, I read the answer choices for the questions, hoping to use my deductive reasoning skills.

What happened to the airplane?

  1. The airplane is delayed
  2. The airplane is broken and needs to be fixed
  3. The airplane has been changed

What should the people do?

  1. They need to retrieve  their luggage
  2. They should go to the new gate
  3. They need to wait until the flight is ready to board

Test aside, talk about a stressful situation at an airport. All you get is that there is something wrong with the plane. I could imagine myself doing the completely wrong thing. Well, actually, you’d probably be in an airport and watch others around you who did understand what happened and follow their lead, but here, in my french test, no such luck. I mean, I had no idea what had happened to the plane.

The rest of the pre-test was similarly frustrating. I mean, yes, I get my French isn’t the best ever, but I understood the entire passage on a princess crowned in 2003, but could not answer the question “How does the author feel about the princess? How do you know?” I read the passage twice more and realized that the three or four vocabulary words I didn’t know held the key to answering the question. So, I wrote, “If I knew what xxx meant, I probably could tell you.”

I still don’t know how I did on the test, but it couldn’t have been good.

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In search of bubble tea

Dear Groupon,

I’ve been a big fan of yours when I lived in Chicago. I got to go skydiving through one of your offers, and I discovered great restaurants that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.  Since moving to Geneva, I thought I’d have to find another discount group to get daily mails from, the Europeans being less a bargain-hunting sort.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this on my facebook pageNo, it’s not surprise that groupon has made it’s way to Switzerland, no.

It’s that we have searched high and low for bubble tea in Geneva and have not been able to find this delicious drink anywhere. And here, Groupon suggests that no only does it exist, but that I could potentially get 70% off of it.


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So, you may have been wondering where I’ve been and why the blog’s been silent. I suppose I sort of microblogged on facebook for the past few weeks, and there’s some pictures there of our recent adventures. Maybe there’s a few factors reasons why I’m returning to the blog.

  1. Microblogging wasn’t cutting it anymore, especially with the addition now of Google +, which in my opinion, reads like an unfinished equation. (Google plus what?) So, do I post do both FB and Google+….?
  2. Life continues to be interesting, and I don’t prefer to post that frequently to FB.
  3. I started to tell the same stories to people over and over again.
  4. I missed writing
  5. People seemed to miss me. (You missed me, right?)

So, we’re back. We may need to recap some things as we go forward, but we’ll get all caught up sooner or later. Here’s a story from a few weeks ago:

Seeing a movie in Geneva is a Big Deal. While it’s extremely pricey to see new releases (20chf), there is a comfort to the theater. Smell of popcorn, theater seating–you can pretend for a few short hours that you’re back in the States watching a movie (with French and German subtitles). Side note: We saw X-Men in June and, if you haven’t seen it, the movie is sometimes in German and also Russian which led to times when the translations flipped or added another row. Sort of mind bending.)

Anyways, having been a recent bride and Kristin Wiig fanatic, I was WAY pumped for the movie Bridesmaids to come out in May. However, strange international laws prevented this movie from being released here until July. I was crushed, and excited posts and tweets by friends on how amazing Bridesmaids was just made me more upset. Frustrated with this arbitrary reasoning, I swore off any movies in Geneva …until Harry Potter DHpt2 was set to be released it’s opening weekend. And in 3-D! Miracle!

Friends of hours had gotten tickets for the opening day, and said that it was great. So, I logged on and purchased tickets for the same time slot and posted on FB that we were going to get to share in the excitement that was Harry Potter Weekend.

One astute friend asked “Are you seeing it in French?” I certainly hoped not although I did go back to the website to check. Anything about dubbed? I reasoned that if people went to see the exact same time the previous day, we’d probably be fine.

Fast forward to J and I being in the dark theater. Having bought tickets online, we bypassed the queue and never interacted with anyone who I could confirm that the movie was indeed in English.

And when the movie started, Luna opened her mouth and said something in French.

Uh oh.

J glanced over at me with raised eyebrows.

We both looked back at the screen. No subtitles. I had somehow gotten us into a dubbed version of the movie.

I spent the first ten minutes debating what to do. If we left now, could we get into another showing? Was it worth to ask? Was J understanding the dialogue? While I fretted, the movie continued and realized that the french word for “wand” is “baguette.” In the opening scene, Harry is talking to Mr. Ollivander. I leaned over to J, “I thought Ollivander had a wand shop, not a bakery.”

He grinned at my joke, and we stuck it out.

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