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geoffw
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 Message 305 of 1317
25 November 2012 at 5:58am | IP Logged 
Hmm. Once upon a time (in a galaxy far, far away) I used to think that I was a real Sci-Fi fan, but now I realize I was
wrong. =)
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Expugnator
Hexaglot
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 Message 306 of 1317
25 November 2012 at 8:09pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for the great suggestions, emk! Even though I'm planning on reading more BD for a
period of time, I'd be glad to read those stories later.
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emk
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 Message 307 of 1317
26 November 2012 at 6:12pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
Thanks for the great suggestions, emk! Even though I'm planning on reading more BD for a period of time, I'd be glad to read those stories later.


I love BDs! Le Monde has recently featured several BDs in the news, including:

Moi, René Tardi, prisonnier de guerre au stalag II B. The author's father spent 5 years in a prisoner of war camp. This is his story.

A boire et à manger. Short, comedic sketches about Parisian cafés, coooking spaghetti squash, and all sorts of other things. There's an online sample, and it includes a recipe.

Tu mourras moins bête (online). Comics about science! These have the added bonus of being written in extremely colloquial French, yet spelled and punctuated correctly—a combination which can be hard to find. You can read a ton of these online for free.

I'm probably going to put some of these on my Christmas list. They look really good.

Seen on TV

Yesterday afternoon I spent several hours watching France 5 on Voila TV. I saw:

- A documentary about repairing the rudder of a big cargo freighter. This involved some pretty crazy underwater diving and lots of dangerous equipment. Badly dubbed from English, but pretty interesting, and I learned some useful nautical vocabulary like gouverneur (rudder) and hélice (propeller).

- A documentary about the history of various religions. It covered various topics, including St Paul, an early Christian martyr, deforestation in South America, and the early days of Islam. Yeah, it was a bit random.

- A really interesting documentary on restauration rapide, which is the French version of fast food. Apparently this is a booming sector in Paris right now, with tons of new restaurants and even schools for people who want to go into the business. Some of the food looked really excellent, though the French seem to be eating a ridiculous number of hamburgers these days. But then the second half of the documentary looked at the dark side of fast food in France. There was a long segment on a Swiss factory that injects various ham-like meat with salt water and fat, and another company which makes shredded "cheese" out of vegetable fat. A warning to anybody eating in France: If the ham doesn't say jambon supérieur, then don't eat it. If you're in France, you may be able to watch the documentary online.

Anyway, French TV and newspapers continue to be interesting. And if I keep my eyes open, I can often learn about news books, BDs and TV series.

Edited by emk on 26 November 2012 at 6:13pm

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Expugnator
Hexaglot
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 Message 308 of 1317
27 November 2012 at 7:18pm | IP Logged 
emk, est-ce que tu as déjà entendu parler de l'écrivain Lorraine Fouchet? J'ai feuilleté son oeuvre "L'agence", mais c'était une traduction en portugais, et ça ne m'intéresse plus pour les livres français ;)
Si tu as des suggestions des romans basés sur la vie de l'entreprise, dis-moi, s'il te plaît.
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emk
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 Message 309 of 1317
28 November 2012 at 2:54pm | IP Logged 
I haven't really read any French newspapers since la présidentielle, because I've been otherwise preoccupied with novels. But in the last two weeks, I've been reading Le Monde again. It turns out that my "newspaper French", which was once my strongest reading skill, has lagged a little behind, and I need to work on it a bit.

Le Monde, in particular, has some pretty elaborate prose. Here's an example from today (boldface added):

Quote:
Sans-papiers : Manuel Valls entrouvre la porte de la régularisation

Après en avoir à plusieurs reprises repoussé la publication, le ministre de l'intérieur, Manuel Valls, a finalement présenté en conseil des ministres, mercredi 28 novembre, conformément à la promesse de campagne de François Hollande, et après de nombreuses réunions de concertation avec le monde associatif et les partenaires sociaux, une nouvelle circulaire destinée à "clarifier" les critères de régularisation des étrangers en situation irrégulière.


Here, en means "of it", and it refers forward to une nouvelle circulaire. This really looks like something Mark Twain would have complained about finding in a German newspaper:

Quote:
There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome. An average sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime and impressive curiosity; it occupies a quarter of a column; it contains all the ten parts of speech -- not in regular order, but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructed by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary -- six or seven words compacted into one, without joint or seam -- that is, without hyphens; it treats of fourteen or fifteen different subjects, each inclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses which reinclose three or four of the minor parentheses, making pens within pens: finally, all the parentheses and reparentheses are massed together between a couple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed in the first line of the majestic sentence and the other in the middle of the last line of it -- after which comes the VERB, and you find out for the first time what the man has been talking about; and after the verb -- merely by way of ornament, as far as I can make out -- the writer shovels in "haben sind gewesen gehabt haben geworden sein," or words to that effect, and the monument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature of the flourish to a man's signature -- not necessary, but pretty. German books are easy enough to read when you hold them before the looking-glass or stand on your head -- so as to reverse the construction -- but I think that to learn to read and understand a German newspaper is a thing which must always remain an impossibility to a foreigner.

Yet even the German books are not entirely free from attacks of the Parenthesis distemper -- though they are usually so mild as to cover only a few lines, and therefore when you at last get down to the verb it carries some meaning to your mind because you are able to remember a good deal of what has gone before. Now here is a sentence from a popular and excellent German novel -- which a slight parenthesis in it. I will make a perfectly literal translation, and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens for the assistance of the reader -- though in the original there are no parenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader is left to flounder through to the remote verb the best way he can:

"But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the- newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor's wife met," etc., etc. [1]

1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide gehüllten jetzt sehr ungenirt nach der neusten Mode gekleideten Regierungsräthin begegnet.

That is from The Old Mamselle's Secret, by Mrs. Marlitt. And that sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observe how far that verb is from the reader's base of operations; well, in a German newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page; and I have heard that sometimes after stringing along the exciting preliminaries and parentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry and have to go to press without getting to the verb at all.


Superficially, Mark Twain is complaining about German prose. But 19th-century American prose was almost as bad, and Mark Twain spent most of life promoting a new style of writing: simple, clear, and effective, without all those nested subclauses and Latin cognates so popular among writers of the time. And ultimately, Twain won: We live in his world now, and convoluted sentences are out of style.

(Amusingly, the first sentence of Twain's text above is a monster. I'm pretty sure this is deliberate.)

Which brings me back to this en. My brain normally understands en without making any particular effort. It's part of my natural, organic French, and not just the superstructure of grammar rules that I know consciously. And because this is French prose, it's OK to put pronouns before the things they refer to.

But as a non-native reader, I like my referents to be somewhere near the pronouns in question. When the author decides to stick a whole bunch of subclauses in the way, I get a little lost, because I'm busy puzzling out what on earth the author means by réunions de concertation avec le monde associatif et les partenaires sociaux, and I'm still trying desperately to hold onto the en.

Mind you, I do like some kinds of complicated French prose. Tocqueville, for example, builds elaborate sentences with plenty of subclauses and parallelism. But much like Abraham Lincoln, he knew how to build a sentence. Tocqueville's prose is like the Gettysburg Address: You have to work a bit, but there's real power there.

Expugnator wrote:
emk, est-ce que tu as déjà entendu parler de l'écrivain Lorraine Fouchet? J'ai feuilleté son oeuvre "L'agence", mais c'était une traduction en portugais, et ça ne m'intéresse plus pour les livres français ;)
Si tu as des suggestions des romans basés sur la vie de l'entreprise, dis-moi, s'il te plaît.


L'agence m'a l'air très intéressante ! Merci de la recommandation. Malheureusement, je ne connais pas de livres sur l'entreprise.
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Expugnator
Hexaglot
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 Message 310 of 1317
28 November 2012 at 7:30pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

L'agence m'a l'air très intéressante ! Merci de la recommandation. Malheureusement, je ne connais pas de livres sur l'entreprise.


Peut-être que je vais l'acheter sur l'Amazon, il n'est pas si cher, le livre imprimé sur Amazon est moins cher que le livre électronique d'ailleurs. En fait, j'ai lis quelque chose de Max Barry que m'a plu comme The Company et il y a aussi Jennifer Government, mais je n'ai pas de traduction française.
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emk
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 Message 311 of 1317
04 December 2012 at 6:43pm | IP Logged 
What I love about my French: I'm never afraid that I won't be able to communicate, provided I have enough time and the other party has enough patience. This extends even to basic academic topics. I once explained basic Keynesian economics to my French tutor (using the story of the Capitol Hill baby sitting circle, which allowed me to use my parenting vocabulary), and I can tell my wife what I liked about a book, even if it's a bit tricky to explain. In a conversation between native speakers, I can follow much of the discussion and make reasonably idiomatic interjections of a few sentences at a time. And when everything lines up right, I can do a lot better than that—at times, my French can be fast and idiomatic, with minor mistakes.

What frustrates me about my French: When I want to interact with a group of native speakers, they often need to slow down and make an effort to include me. I have to ask for some things to be repeated or explained, and I choose to let other things slide. If people are impatient and tired, it's often incredibly hard for me to "take the floor" and make a point quickly and persuasively. And of course, there's always the sheer unpredictability of my French: Unless I'm totally pumped, I never quite know just how easy it will be to speak.

I can live with the frustration (usually). It's a natural part of the process, and I'm used to it by now. And my frustrations are rapidly becoming "nice to have" problems—it's never a question of "can I say what I want to say" (of course) but a question of "can I say it really quickly and persuasively to somebody who's distracted" (probably not).

I've learned to be amazingly thankful for my English. Even when I'm tired, sick and distracted, the words are always there. I can be persuasive or funny or precise. Speaking English makes me feel like a chess grandmaster or an Olympic athelete: I've spent tens of thousands of hours honing these skills; I've read a billion words or more.

This has also affected how I think about childhood language acquisition. I was listening to a 4-year-old the other day, and I realized that I could actually do real-time English-to-French interpretation for everything she was saying—I knew the French idioms, and they came to the tip of my tongue without any particular effort. So when some monolingual speaker claims that adults can't learn foreign languages, I know that's not true. I can keep up with kids. I can't keep up with smart, university-educated native speakers. And with good reason: Compared to them, I'm an utter novice, with less than 2,000 hours of exposure under my belt.

Standing where I am now, it seems obvious that enough time and exposure and practice will take me as far as I want to go. But the more I learn, the more I discover I need to learn—and, fortunately, the faster I learn it. I no longer dream of breakthroughs (much), but rather a long, steady process of exposure and practice. I know that there will be ups and downs than mask my month-to-month progress. And I spend lots of time enjoying all the things I can already do.
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Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
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3333 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
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 Message 312 of 1317
04 December 2012 at 6:51pm | IP Logged 
emk, I'd like to share this video: it's about my home state (though not my hometown). I haven't given it a full try yet, just played it a bit and could figure out some words.

Vivre Bahia


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