France.

*Disclaimer: no offense intended is my usually warning. 

ON the cusp of nearly two whole weeks living in that croissant-eating and cigarette-smoke ingesting, romantic country we know as France, it’s clear that I am indeed in another land.

I’m on my Erasmus exchange in Nantes, sixth-largest French city who scandalously left the region of Britanny after centuries of unity to join the Pays-de-la-Loire. Talk about the French being faithful lovers.

Already I have had the opportunity to form a few opinions of Nantes and France as an obvious outsider.

  1. Graffiti

I can confirm that the French are passionate people. They express themselves gesticularly and wear scarves even in the summer just so they can dramatically swish them around their necks in a quick fashion while complaining about the over-baked baguettes being sold in the local SuperU.

Young people also express their passion by punching bus shelter walls (I saw this). I don’t know if his bus was late or not. I did not stop to ask him considering the risky circumstances. Although I have to admit the public transport system here in Nantes is so efficient compared to Bus Éireann whose buses sometimes don’t even arrive.

Anyways, another more permanent way of expressing the deep angst you feel as a grungy French teenager is by getting a few cans (- of spray paint) and literally writing total shite everywhere , even on the ground and I’d say if the sky had a molecular make-up to support the clinging of spray paint to it, they would also have covered that too with “nique ta mere” (literally, “fuck your mother“, a very popular way of denigrating). Also this graffiti gives me anxiety because I don’t actually understand 99,9% of it because it is a mix of a coded French called verlan* and slang that my granny vocabulary does not register. Honestly, some of it is just mindless like writing “Des escaliers de merde” (“shit stairs”) on the stairs.

*Switching letters around and adding one to the end in words to codify them: e.g. francais -> céfran, femme -> meuf. It’s a phenomenon.

But sometimes, among the scrawls of penises on the side of the walls, there are provoking messages, placed there for everyone to see and ponder.

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“À bas la Bourgeoisie” – Down with (that sort of thing) the bourgeoisie.

“À bas la Bourgeoisie” I can’t confirm this as a fact but this was probably graffitied over the map of the Tertre Campus of Arts and Social Sciences during the student strike that took place last semester of this year in response to a change in the university acceptance system which led to classes being cancelled for a whole semester.

You heard me.

A whole semester. (source)

I tried to look into this new law called la Loi Vidal but it was so complicated and honestly they probably went out on strike cause it was such an ambiguous law and every one was very unclear about what exactly was happening (or maybe that’s just me).

The French are known for their penchant to strike immediately if something meets there disapproval. There is even a website called cestlagreve.fr to notify you of all the strikes that are happening in France in real time. (source)

The French are a very expressive nation.

2. French and cigarettes

 

I think I have solved the mystery as to why French people can speak impecable French and others can’t. The r’s aren’t the hardest part of the language. The perfect pronunciation of the word serrurerie (locksmithing- who uses this word anyway?) is a life goal that be achieved. I think the essence of an uncanny French accent comes from the throat. That guttural, hoarse sound is all down to:

PHLEGM.

If a scientific experiment was conducted on a random French citizen and a random citizen of any other European state, the French specimen will be found to be made up of 50% phlegm.

Why is that?

Because EVERYONE SMOKES. I’m not generalising*. Young baby-faced 14 year olds sitting outside their lycée during their break as well as their middle-aged teachers smoke at the same time. Literally smoke clouds when you look up and when you look down, phlegm on the ground deposited by teenage boys.

Indeed it is no coincidence that the etymology of the word cigarette finds its origins from the French language (proof)

If France was a scented candle, it would smell like a cigarette.

3. Attractiveness

I have to say that the French are an attractive specie.

I shall now compare an Irish specimen to a French specimen (no prize awarded for guessing correctly):

 

The French are fit. It must be the cigarettes because 50-year-old men have skinnier thighs than me. Not fair.

All around campus, French girls are rocking the oversized 90-inspired wardrobe that’s all the rage at the moment. Meanwhile, their Irish counter parts need to wear figuring-giving synthetic materials to make them appear less potato shaped. The result more often than anything, Irish girls look half-naked and the slightest move can expose a poor boob that is suffocating in that shrunken crop top.

French girls also opt for the au naturel look when it comes to make-up. Perhaps a bit of mascara or face powder but that’s it. And as they get older, they seem to face the world make-up free and still manage to look hotter than any 20-year-old Irish girl with gold-fish coloured tan and liquorice sticks for eyebrows.

Don’t get me wrong, Irish girls are beautiful when they can’t be arsed to cake on make up and just jump into a pair of blue jeans and a hoody in my opinion but what happens at night is like something from American Horror (WHORE-ror) Story.

 

 

 

5. English

Long are the days when you could go to France and ask for where the camping site is to be met by Jean-Pierre and his baguette to hear “zorri ie dontt speek inglish verry vell”. 

The invasive nature of the English language has proved itself. Young French people seem to learn English as a prerequiste. While we were learning Irish at school sometime during the 2000’s, the French education seemed to have quietly upped their game to have produced a nation of young French people who have a pretty good degree of English, definitely in comparison with their anglophone counterparts in the reverse situation.

Plus American pop culture is everywhere. In Pennys, we have t-shirts with rubbish like “La vie est belle” and “l’amour” across them and over here, they also seem to translate everything. On the tram and walking in the city centre, millennials are blasting American trap and gangster music from speakers as they’re rolling along on their skate boards in their All-Star converse and that one red stripe on white Levi t-shirt they all share, half- tucked into their equalled branded Levi Strauss jeans. And every once in a while when zoning into people’s French conversation, you’ll hear the odd “oh my God” and “fack”.  Nevertheless, you will never find Paddy saying “oh là là” when he takes a mouthful of his wife, Jackie’s divine bacon and cabbage, nor will you ever hear him say “coucou” to greet the cows every morning. 

 

🇪🇸 Things about Spain I will never understand … 🇪🇸

While lying in bed the other morning, I had to stop and think of where I was for a split second.

The unfortunate answer was Ireland.

I can’t express how lucky I feel to have been able to have been in Germany for a month and before that, working and living in Madrid for 6 months. I only seem to be processing all of this now. Germany is obviously fresh in a mind as that was last month- a sweet, summery dream set in a paradisiacal bubble of a town called Eichstätt. But I was also in Madrid, the incredible metropolis capital city of Spain. It’s surreal as a contestant on X-Factor would say.

I still haven’t gotten around to writing down my experience in Spain yet. I will write you a love letter soon. However today, I was thinking to myself about how happy I am to be back in Ireland- in the safe, confines of my little Irish village, my routine and familiarity in general.

Why? Well, I am going to tell you about some of

The things about Spain I will never undersand

1. Dinner time

Oh my God. This was probably one of the most diffcult aspects of Spanish culture to get used to. This is why it is the first point. Hear me out.

In Ireland we have dinner from any time between 6 pm to 7:30pm (if you’re really running late). However, when I lived with my Spanish host family, dinner was only served up at 8 pm during the week because of the kids’ bedtime and 9pm on the weekends. And in Spanish terms, this was considered early. Let that sink in.

Oh my God, the rumbling of my stomach could be heard even beside the busy motorway near our house. I was weak, pale, starved. No matter how much lentils I had eaten at lunch time (normal-ish time of 2 pm), I was nearly in a vegetative state by 7 pm. And going out with friends? No dinner until past 10 pm love because everything in Spain is late.

It’s true that a merienda (afternoon snack at 5-6 pm) exists where people would have a bocadillo de jamón serrano (this stuff needs its own bullet point) or chorizo and pastries.

But lads, why don’t ye just have your dinner at that time, clean up the dishes, put the kids bed, have a shower, get into your pjamas , all before the 9 o’clock screening of an American movie dubbed into Spanish and then fall asleep on the couch?

My day was SO LONG in Spain and that was mainly down to the fact that my dinner was delayed by 3 hours. I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight as well because who can sleep after eating a (another) big plate of lentils and an unidentified cured meat that you just had 20 minutes ago? I for one can’t.

Call me a cow.

As in, cows are creatures of habit. I, like a cow, enjoy my routines.

2. JAMÓN F*#KING SERRANO!!!!

If Ireland is obsessed with tea, Spain is pyscho about jamón serrano, a cured piece of a pig’s leg. J.S. is the reason why I am now pescatarian as I ingested unquatifiable amounts of that stuff  over my 6 months there.

It’s not ham. You need a pair of electric garden clippers to chew through it it’s so tough and salty and fatty.

IT’S ALSO EVERYWHERE!!

They even have Museos del Jamón, which translates to The Ham Musems that are restaurants/ J.S. cult hangouts. Kids at their grandparents houses would poilsh off a packet each. That or a stick of chorizo. And the meat section of the supermarkets smelt like death. Why? About 30 legs of that rotting flesh out on display.

I went along with it  because I just wanted to fit in but I would say, stay true to your morals and stay away from anything that has jamón serrano (also sometimes disguised as jamón iberico) in it.

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3. Can we split the bill?

Hardworking, single mother of three, Marta, goes for some tapas and a relaxing sangría after working all week at the restaurant next door. She invites her well-off childhood friends, Barbara and Lourdes, both married to two successful catalán lawyers- Jaime and Pablo- twins. Marta orders a meagre serving of gambas and one sangría and nibbles on the free bread basket while the girls order the sea food platter and three glasses of white wine each.  After some banter, a few used toothpicks and lipstick-smeared glasses, the girls call it a night. Marta left her kids with the neighbour, an old Franco-supporter with a large mole on her left cheek. She is eager to get home. They ask for the bill from the camarero. It amounts to €35.

How much do Marta, Barbara and Ínes each spend?

The answer: exactly €15 per head.

Why?

IN SPAIN YOU CAN’T SPLIT THE BILL!!!

What injustice for poor Marta.

You will be happy to hear that Marta won the Euromillions after a serendipidous stop at a kiosco and now lives in a refurbished castillo in Mallorca. The girls, on the other hand, have met harder times and cannot frequent Zara as they once did as their husbands invested badly in shares in a corrupt catalonian bank.

4. Tuesday the 13th

Can Spain surprise us anymore?

Yes.

Apparently Friday the 13th is no cause for alarm in Spain.

However, it is Tuesday the 13th when we should all hide our precious jamón serranos or as the famous saying goes, “En martes, ni te cases, ni te embarques, ni de tu casa te apartes” (don’t marry, go on a boat, or leave your house on Tuesday) x

It is also a day of bad luck in Greece and many South American countries. According to Wikipedia, the roman god of war, Marte (where the word for Tuesday in Spanish comes from) is ruled by planet Mars of “destruction, blood and violencex . And then I guess that 13 is just an unlucky number.

An Italian lady who I worked with agreed with me that this was yet another unfathomable Spanish thing because in Italy, Friday the 17th is unlucky. Yes I agree Valentina…

Wait what? Friday the 17th?

I think I’m just going to say that everyday on this god-damned earth is unlucky.

5. Bull fighting

They love it. Kids love it, old cute grandmas trying to chew jamón serrano with their dentures love it. It is such a big part of the Spanish nationality. A lovely Sunday afternoon should be spent seeing a man running around a ring, trying not to be bisected by a bull in a stadium of hundreds.

I really don’t understand the pleasure received. It’s cruel. Pointless and just old fashioned barbaric.

I asked my host father about his views on bull fighting to which he gave me his version of the glorified history of this art, how the bulls chosen to fight are raised in beautiful prairies away from humans and graze on natural grass strains so the first time they make contact with humans will be in the ring. I casually said, well I feel sorry for the bull, I don’t think it’s right to anger him and make him perform like that, to which he just huffed and replied that the bulls want to do it. It’s in their nature to want to charge at a human. Hell, if a an annoying eijit was waving a big red towel in my face and stabbing me in the back with swords I would also charge at him.

But I just stayed there lips tight and internally exploding. They also kill the bull after and eat it.

Despite it all, Spain is a beautiful country that I love. I will explain that in more detail once I get over these few little things I will never understand about Spain.

I feel Yellow.

 

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I am a visual person.

I chose pictures over words. Instagram over Facebook.

I have seen amazing things, especially this year, my Erasmus/exploring year. However, I am rarely capable of effectively expressing with words the intense feeling of awe and wonder that I’ve felt on seeing a particularly spectacular thing. Translating what my eyes see to words is one translation I will never master.

When I think of Spain, I think of yellow– happiness and warmth. When I think of France, red– passion and love. However, Germany was, in the past, always associated with grey for me- unexciting, serious and dull That was until I spent one month in probably the most beautiful place I have ever been to, in Germany.

At the end of July, having just returned from 6 months in Madrid, Spain (the yellow country), I was honestly a little worried about embarking on a trip to Eichstätt in Bavaria to do a month long German intensive course. I think the dread stemmed mostly from the fact that I left Spain on such a high- the late-night, loud, fiesta way of life still coursing through my blood stream. I wasn’t ready to go to Germany, the land of grey– the remains of the Berlin wall and that pale, granite-coloured Bockwurst thing. However, this is when words start to fail me.

When I came off the train into the small town of Eichstätt, it was raining. Hence, grey skies. I also had to climb a MASSIVE hill to get to the hostel. More greyness. However, once I unpacked my things in my home for one month, the sun came out- physically and metaphorically. I remember looking out of my window and receiving the most beautiful panoramic view of the town of Eichstätt- one of the thirteen churches in this town’s steeple nearly grazing the blue drape of sky above, white buildings and rusty red rooves and a cradling fortress wall surrounding it. I also met incredible people, from all around the world on my first day, who all loved German wanted to improve their ability, as did I. I also met real Germans in the form of my tutors who were LOVELY, SUNNY, FUNNY, YELLOW PEOPLE! (Yellow as in the metaphor. I am not aware of any of them being a long-term sufferer of jaundice.) Whoever said Germans were cold, emotionless cyborgs were probably just old communists jealous of Germany’s efficiency, because the stereotype is true. The course was so well organised. EBVR3329We even received a little booklet with our class time tables, planned trips and other helpful information. And guess what colour that booklet was? Yellow.

The next morning, I woke up so excited and ready to go to the Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. We all walked together, following our tutors like little ducks through an unknown pond. Houses and shops were dotted around in different colours- pink and cream and yellow. The early morning sun sleepily made the gold embellishments of the buildings shine.  I remember crossing a bridge over the Altmühl river and seeing the looming silhouette of the proud cathedral and felt myself already falling under a spell. The medieval cobble stones beneath my feet paved the way to through Domplatz and past many quaint bakeries that had my mouth salivating for some Brezes (funnily enough I lost weight while in Eichstätt. Another reason to go back).

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Marktplatz, Eichstaatt.

Finally, we arrived onto the most beautiful campus … ever. A tour guide informed us that a pope-prince (good rapper name maybe) used to have his summer residence on the campus and you can definitely see the affluence in his Sommerresidenz- a baroque-style building with apricot framed windows and doorways, leading out onto a garden with copious fountains. I felt very underdressed in the presence of such fanciness. But I never got the feeling for one minute that Eichstätt or its people were pretentious. Germans are quietly working their way to being the best, modestly. This may have something to do with that taboo subject- WW2. However, after the forties and later after the Wall toppled, Germany had the chance to reinvent itself, resuscitate a nation of people who felt guilt and shame every day. And they have achieved that. Germany is…. beautiful (someone buy me a thesaurus for my birthday).

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Der Sommeresidenz, by day and night, KU.

 

On my course, many trips were organised for us to places that left me walking around like an open-mouthed tourist. Places such as Regensburg and Rothenberg, fascinating, picturesque, unique Medieval towns that we don’t have in Ireland. regensburg 2018I think tourists who come to Ireland should be blind-folded the minute they come off of that Ryanair plane. I’m not trying to be mean to my own country here (I love you Éire), but Ireland is more of a spiritual experience. The tourism is in the friendly, welcoming, charming and funny people you meet and the ambience because a lot of the time, the weather is atrocious (grey) and puts a dampener on the sights of Ireland which in my opinion, could be better taken care of. On returning to Ireland, I can see a difference. Small Irish towns look dilapidated to me now, dirty and in need of modernisation but also preservation in comparison with places like Eichstätt. For example, a lot of our Norman castles have sadly been eroded down to crumbly walls by the passage of time and neglect. If you don’t take care of what you have, it will fade away. I admire Germany’s community spirit and desire to look to the past and try to improve it for the future.

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Regensburger Dom

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Spot the tourist. Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

The colour came to me once I first started to connect with the other 26 nationalities on my course. This time, the colour was red as my cheeks were stained with the blood of a million poppies from all the laughter that took place in class and outside. Every day I came to our small but intimate class, with a big, non-Hofmühl-induced smile plastered across my face. Apart from my classmates, I adored my two tutors, Zlatka and Simone. The word that can be applied to them is “Banter”. Both distinct bespectacled women-one a proud Balkan Bulgarian woman with a good sense of humour (she said I was funny once…) and the other a not-so-tereotypical sweet German who admitted to not liking the hyper punctual and strict approach to life that we claim to be the reason for Germany’s success as the Mother Ship of Europe. Either way both of these women taught us SO MUCH. I can honestly say my German upon my arrival to Eichstätt (and after 1 and a half years of studying it at university…) was restrained to random words (Gehirnerschütterung), bad sentence structure and knowing all of Germany’s 80’s pop princess, Nena‘s songs off by heart. When I accepted my certificate last week, I can’t describe how proud I was to have achieved a 1,3 grade in B1 German. This was all thanks to those two incredible ladies who imparted their knowledge onto me but also gave me the confidence to do a presentation in only German, speak only in German whenever I was in class which was nerve wracking for me at first.

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Wir springen?

Within the short space of one summer month, I grew attached to so many people and some more than others. I don’t understand how it was possible to have created such a deep bond within such a short amount of time. I guess that has to do with the fact that we were like a family- we ate breakfast together, walked to class together, threw our laundry quickly into the washing machines before class together, then sat in class with each other, had lunch in the Mensa together, picked up laundry we almost forgot about together, studied side by side in the beautiful campus library, had dinner and a few drinks together then walked back up that hill, both out of breath but content with our productive day and simply being with each other.

 

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Sisters from international misters.



Pause Banter.

I now sit in my room on a rainy August day in the middle of and Irish summer and I feel grey. But thinking about the experience I had just only a week ago and the luck I was given to have been accepted onto the KU Sommerschule course in a little Bavarian town, I feel yellow.

 

 

http://www.ku.de/en/international/summer-school/

DAAD grant to study in Germany

✨ Language Goals 2018// italiano ✨

New year, new me bla bla bla. I’ve stopped making unrealistically disproportionate new year’s resolutions because I’m only setting myself up for failure.

Instead, I am just going to carry on being the best person I can be, to give, to love, to fight for what’s just and against what isn’t, to appreciate the opportunities I get in life and the take them. Among that list of cheesy things, I am going to throw in a challenge for 2018 because tbh, that’s a lazy list.

This year is going to be an interesting one given the fact that I will be away from my university for the whole year and will instead be spread across Europe- in Spain first for work experience then France for Erasmus. That in itself will be a challenge to front in terms of my language learning as I am leaving the classroom and teachers who drip feed me like a cactus with the material I need to basically now be responsible for what I choose to learn and to maintain/improve my proficiency in the languages I am studying. So as if trying to keep up 3 languages wasn’t enough,

I am going to set myself the task of learning Italian.

I guess this blog post is kind of the contract I’m making with myself to master at least the basics of this language before 2019 comes along. So if I don’t manage to achieve that goal, this post will be testament to how much of a piece of trash ass I am.

I so much want to learn this beautifully euphonious language that I fell immediately in love with when I lived with an Italian family last summer. I don’t know how to explain it but I’ve never felt this way about a language before (feel free to vomit).

From the minute I heard Italian, my mouth was ready to try to mimic its sounds that bob rhythmically, oscillating up and down in a hypnotising manner. I was ready to feel my tongue flutter as its trilled ‘r’s gush to the tip of my tongue to graze the roof of my mouth. This is sounding slightly sexual. Sign the petition below if you’d like me to found a new genre of literature: linguistic erotica.

Ever since, I’ve been dabbling with Duolingo, listening to music and watching the odd Italian movie but I’m just not satisfied with the progress i.e. I want to be able to have a fast-paced screaming match with someone in Italian. That’s how good I aim to be. At the moment, if I was met with this situation, thanks to Duolingo, I would only be able to retort with phrases such as: Io leggo il giornale ( I am reading the newspaper) and ho un ombrello ( I have an umbrella) (that one could be threatening….)

Therefore, this year I am going to motivate myself to learn Italian properly the following ways:

  1. Old school books and paper-back dictionary: this contradicts literally everything I’ve spoken about on this blog in the past but I think a balance beween a physical textbook and technology is necessary.

The ones I will be using are: Buongiorno Italia! (Joseph Cremona, BBC) ( a nice Christmas present from my dad who knows me too well ), Italian in three months (DK/Hugo) and Oxford Essential Italian Dictionary.

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2. Memrise & Duolingo: The two best language learning apps in my opinion that suplement vocab you might not come across in books. They go hand in hand, like ying and yang, what one doesn’t have the other gives. They are basically any sad language nerd’s relationship goals. Maybe 2018 will be the year I find the Memrise to my Duolingo…

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To finish up, this is my goal for 2018 (not my resolution cause I don’t like that word). Adiamo.

 

French Reading List 2017

As 2016 was coming to an end, I  made a vow to myself read more books in French. And as 2017 is coming to an end, here is a list of the books I managed to read this year. Most of them were ones I studied for my French and French literature modules throughout the year (but that still counts….)

I adore French literature. English literature is BORING in comparison. The French are quite frankly insane and that’s why I love them. Their classic works from centuries ago tackle themes and “tabboo topics” that would have raised our prude un-pruned eye brows over here at the time. For example, in my first semester of French literature, we studied a few stories from Sidonie Colette’s collection of stories La Femme Cachée (1924), and they were very modern. In particular, one  told the story of a lady who was slowly going mad because she missed her lesbian lover. Like how exciting was that in the 20s. Then we moved onto Le Passe-muraille (1951) de Marcel Aymé, which tells the story of a beloved anti-héro called Garou-Garou/Dutilleul (how do you even say that?) who had the magically ability to go through walls to play tricks on his boss, rob banks and have an affair with a married woman. In the end, karma catches up with our unfortunate hero and he gets stuck in a wall. Classic French literature.

The French love him so much, they erected this piece of craziness in Monmartre. www.coolstuffinparis.com/le-passe-muraille.php

January/February:

Les Justes (1949)– Albert Camus (Russian terrorists/ Romeo & Juliette.)

L’Étranger (1942)– Albert Camus (This guy just couldn’t handle the heat. All this drama could have been avoided if Meursault moved back to the North of France)

February/March/April:

Les Petits Enfants du Siecle (1961) – Christiane Rochefort ( Guido the Pedo. Read book to enjoy the pun.)

Stupeur et Tremblements (1999) – Amélie Nothomb (Japan is crazy.)

May/June/July/August:

 D’apres une histoire vraie (2015) – Delphine de Vigan (Suspense and lesbian subtext. Just made into a movie with Eva Green yasssss x )

L’Amie Prodigieuse (2011) – Elena Ferrante (Love it. French translation of the original Italian novel L’amica geniale) Also bought the sequel but haven’t had the chance to open the thing.)

September/October:

Candide (1759)– Voltaire (Insane French literature at its best)

La Place (1983)– Annie Ernaux (Interesting but I’m glad it’s a short novel…)

November/December:

Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard (1730)-Marivaux (Marivaux aka Shakespeare’s French bro)

Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville (1796) -Denis Diderot (This guy just wants the ride. Gross book but this was one of the mandatory readings for class.)

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To be honest, I didn’t really achieve my goal to read as much as I had hoped to due to general exhaustion by the time I finished work and a long day at university. My brain was fried. I bought about 12 books when I was in France with the intention of reading them all, but, yet again, things got in the way of my idealistic cosey pre-bedtime ritual. Maybe 2018 will be a more productive year in general for me. 

Youtubers and Languages

So:

  1. exams down,
  2. moved away from UL and  house mates with questionable personal hygiene
  3. neglecting to count the number of biscuits I’ve been eating, general idleness and melting into the sofa cause it’s Christmas

This leaves little opportunity for my target languages to crop up naturally which is scary. Even today, I momentarily forgot the word for “fork” in French, a language I have been learning since the age of 4.

I thought to myself, 1. brains are the worst, why can’t we be more efficient at retaining useful stuff and not things like every embarrassing moment of your life in a “Best hits“-style compilation video in your mind…  and 2. I need to maintain (or improve) the level  of fleuncy in the languages I have worked so hard to attain throughout the university semester. So, I decided to do some productive Youtube-ing (not a word) and I found YouTubers who are enabling me to passively hear Spanish and Italian instead of All I want for Christmas by Mariah Carey on repeat.

Spanish- Dulceida

Like her name suggests, her life is pretty sweet at the moment. In her late 20s, she has already become an extremely successful Youtuber turned reality personality who even gets sponsorship from Rimmel in Spain. Hilarious, likable, a fashion guru and very social media savvy, she is conquering YouTube with her videos that range from literally every thing- from fashion and travel vlogs, to goofy Youtube challenges and adorable videos of her and her equally adorScreenshot_2017-12-18-17-41-40able wife Alba (they are relationship goals). I have been ignoring the “cancel” button that comes up when autoplay fills my screen. I really enjoy her videos. She’s everything I could hope to be but I’m boring and single, so I can’t replicate her for the moment.

Even though the videos are in Spanish, very fast Spanish… I’m actually surprised by what I’m understanding and retaining. Today I learned the very useful phrase “Nunca serás una real diva como yo“. Which is so true.

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She is also very present on social media: on Instagram and Snapchat etc. She even has her own app (very successful) which acts as a blogging platform where she posts short posts on fashion and other things in Spanish with English translations.

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So, thanks to Dulceida, for allowing me to hear and read Spanish outside of the language lab in university. Mucho, mucho, mucho Amor.

Italian- Federica Gibellini

I don’t study Italian formally at university (unfortunately. *Heart breaks) My knowledge of Italian ranges from dispersed words on DuoLingo to lots of melo-dramatic romantic songs (Check out Mina- Parole Parole and Nada Malanima- Ma Che Freddo Fa. They are tunes). As a result, the way I may come across speaking Italian might be, odd.

However, watching Youtubers who are young, use young and current language while describing their everyday lives within an 8-10 min time span is a linguistic gold mine.

Federica can only be described as a very sophisticated MIMG_20171219_122311.JPGilanese girl teenager who makes her Irish counterparts seem like trolls. She is also very rich so that helps the aesthetics of her videos’ backgrounds and topics. She talks about everything in her vlogs from fashion to study tips and her experience au-paring in Dublin to a family who served her meat, mash and pasta all on one plate to the horror of any self-respecting Italian girl.

Even though I only understand about 5% of what’s being said, I am still listening to a native speaker and picking up vocab slowly, but surely.

 

An other aspect I love about foreign Youtubers would be the cultural insight of non-nationals living in their new country. I ADORE Tia Taylor: the coolest American-Nigerian-Jamaican girl living and working in Milan. Her videos tackle cultural differences and weird things that Italians do and the things she loves about Italy, in mostly in English but she also does some in Italian too with the added bonus of English subtitles. I think she is probably my fav YouTube personality. Also being Nigerian/Jamaican/American, she addresses her tri- andScreenshot_2017-12-19-12-37-12 now quad- identities which is really interesting.

 

 

Using this blog for personal study

Pancomido: learning & teaching Spanish

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I’ve lately been emphasising to my Form 6 classes the importance of personal study in Spanish. It’s not that this is an alien concept to any student, but it can be hard sometimes to realise just how much personal study and revision must be done in a language compared to other subjects.

YOU CAN’T CRAM A LANGUAGE!

My classes are sick of hearing this. But if you can’t cram a language, what do you do?

It’s a common question and issue: I don’t know how to study Spanish. When I ask students what they’re doing, all too often, they’re going back to their lists of vocab and writing them out over and over again or looking at them and testing themselves. This is useful, but if it’s giving you the same results over and over again, and they’re not the results you want…maybe it’s time to adapt your approach.

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Aupairing: A summer of languages and culture

I’m blog-procrastinating.

It’s exam time and I’m thinking of happier days to get through it. So feel free to read, but like I said, I’m just procrastinating and lamenting and used to doing it on my own.

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A blue sky in Lyon. First bit of Vitamin D I’d gotten that didn’t come in tablet form.

Most people who know me will be aware that I worked as an aupair over the summer because I have not shut up about it since I was dragged off the plane at Dublin Airport.

I thought to myself in mid-March last year, no way am I staying in Ireland for the summer. I needed to get out of this country whose culture seems too often to be chicken rolls, pints and holy medallions being handed out to you on the street …

Also, having been an Applied Languages Student for about a year at that stage, I was completely enamoured with everything and anything foreign, so I arranged to get my culture injection over the summer. I landed in Lyon and was picked up at Lyon Saint-Exupéry by an Italian-Portuguese family whose kids also by the way, were born in Spain so they could speak: English, French, Italian, Portuguese and a bit of Spanish thrown in there. I have never felt so inadequate as a language learner in front of 6-year-old Mattie who roll her rrrs perfectly the French, Italian, Portuguese AND Spanish way. Meanwhile, my tongue cramped from trying to pronounce her little sister’s name Rebecca, the Italian way … not fair.

But, after my 2 months with this family, my language skills and in particular, my ability to interpret and reason a language that I couldn’t fully understand was a million times improved. For example, like I mentioned above, I was in a very multicultural household where 4 languages at least could be bouncing off the walls at once. I picked up such useful/not so useful vocab that families use every day (especially commands and ways to scold your kids in Italian and the word for slippers in Portuguese).

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For intercultural competency I had to

I was also lucky enough to travel to Italy with my host family where I met, Nonna, the kids’ grandmother and literally my grandmother after I left. I loved spending time with her even though not one of us had a language in common: I spoke no Italian (other than orders which would have gone against all the formality rule of Italian I guess…) and she spoke no English. But we got by pointing to things and teaching each other new words.

I guess the moral of this post is: literally fully immerse yourself- like literally, go into a bakery in Italy at 8am when Italians are competetively queueing up for their focaccia and threatening each other to be the first to get a waiting number at the machine…. just listen and you’ll be surprised what you’ll pick up. Don’t be scared that your Leaving Cert textbook didn’t teach you all the insults a crazy person is shouting at you in a Paris métro. Embrace it. For language learning, you need to get out of your comfort zone.

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A trad sesh in Italy lol

For me, I got out of my time zone by going to France which was in itself, scary for 18 year old Déarbhla whose mother worried if she went into the back garden without letting her know. Being an au pair is also physically and emotionally exhausting. You get the culture and the language but you also get those uncomfortable moments where you think to yourself: I wish I had my own en suite so the kids wouldn’t barge in on me (not one moment of peace) or God, literally no one cares about me when a 4 year old tells you you’re ugly. You also have to deal with living with strangers with different values and temperaments. I am a very open, talkative and honest person, but even I felt awkward sometimes purposely hiding the fact that I’m very much a Eurovision and women-loving gay for example, because you just don’t know how another family who isn’t your own and has no sentimental attachment to you will react.

I’ve gone off topic. Revenons à nos moutons.

I would recommend au pairing as a way to learn a language but also to fully experience a culture. I love my host family, even though it was difficult at times… I still think about my 3 host kids every day and will probably always remember them.

 

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When your host child gets a hold of your phone while you’re loading the dishwasher

 

 

Just make sure you get paid well and don’t end up looking after 3 kids and a farm while the parents are gone on holiday (true story from a “Blacklist Aupair families” FB group).

 

 

DGBLL- Digital Game Based Language Learning

 

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If my husband was still playing PlayStation at the age of 35 I think I would divorce. Games are for children, wasting time and avoiding getting a job.

Or are they?

Today I discovered that when language learners and games collide, they can actually be something very productive. Go home and apologise to your World of Warcraft partners. As my lecturer pointed out, the way that we all learnt essential concepts as a child was through play. Playing with dolls to learn social skills or role-playing and dress up to learn about different professions and roles in society (stereotypical and sexist roles by any who….)

Overall, games are not just for “nerds” or people who procrastinate,  they can also be an innovative resource for language learning. This is called Digital Game-based Language Learning (DGBLL).

I was kind of an anti-gamer until I tried a language game out myself because I have a brother who is betrothed to his X-Box and to me, seems like his wasting his days shooting zombies. However, if he just utilised the amazing resource that is X-Box and most importantly X-Box Live, he’d be able to improve his skills in French (which he is learning) by far. For example, X-Box Live allows you to talk with millions of gamers around the world who share the common goal of shooting zombies. But what if you attempted using your French skills to kill zombies with Jean-Pierre over in Bordeaux? Even simply changing the language setting of the game could allow you to kill zombies and learn interesting vocabulary associated with the profession of zombie killer. I tried to explain this to my brother, he just didn’t hear me over the sound of zombies being killed.

There exist so many language learning games on the internet which are very effective in helping you learn and most of all retain new vocabulary and phrases. After all, when you’re playing, it doesn’t seem as though you’re learning so it’s fun and enjoyable. Today I tried out a game-based language learning site called Digital Dialects and I have to say that in the 20 minutes I was playing little vocabulary and phrase building games, I was able to learn quite a lot and most of all, I was engaged.

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I tried out some games in German and Italian (my Italian is zero) and I surprisingly was able to retain words. La moschea.

The games were interactive and colourful and I felt myself getting competitive even though I was playing against a computer. Imagine if you were playing a really intense game like Call of Duty on multiplayer mode but also speaking in French, Spanish, German etc. because you were playing with people from around the world? It must be quite exciting.

Before, if you had asked me to play a game instead of studying a vocab list, I would have said that you should have asked me that question 10 years ago when I was a child. But now, I think that games aren’t just for children or a means of distracting yourself from writing an essay. They can be powerful tools in language learning and acquisition.

I might just join my brother the next time he’s shooting zombies.

 

 

 

 

My phone is wasting my life away.

A day in the life of a 19 year old student in 1987 would be quite different to that of a 19 year old student today. I guess she’d wake up to the sound of her alarm clock, get dressed in her outfit consisting of shoulder pads probably and proceed to fluff her permed mullet then put on her make up, grab something quick to eat then dash out the door to get to class.

Fast forward to today, the sequence would go: she’d wake up to her alarm set on her phone. Before getting dressed, she’d check what the weather was going to be like on a weather app, do her hair and make up, check Facebook, Instagram and send her first Snapchat of the day to her friend of her brushing her teeth cause oversharing is so Generation Z. Then she’d pick on a slice of toast but pay more attention to her e-mail in the hope that she’d see an announcement on her warm screen that one of her lectures has been cancelled. Then, she’d head out the door, but not before putting in her headphones and syncing up to Spotify.

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It’s frightening to say but we are slaves to our phones. Our dependence on them is frightening. The addictive effect they have on us is, well, frightening. But they are a social imperative, a work imperative and a lifestyle imperative. Phones are the main way people can contact you including your friends and your employers so no doubt you’re going to be pressing your home button constantly to check for any vital updates. Lifestyle in general has changed so much from the 80’s too due to phones. My timetable is on my phone, my reminders and notes, my pictures and not to mention apps for language learning to which I have written love letters on this blog.

I downloaded an app called Moment to really measure how much time I spend on my phone from the minute I wake up, to the minute I check my e-mail one last time before bed. To be honest, I am somewhere in between Generation Z and Generation X, between 19 years old and a 48-year-old suburban mom called Mindy in every single way. Therefore, I try to avoid using my phone for mindless things like playing stupid games or using it as a distraction when bored. I feel bad when I do that. As a result, I limit myself quite successfully. However, I do confess to tapping on many pointless things that pop up on my phone to pass the time…. from time to time.

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I installed Moment on my phone about a week ago and it has been giving me daily visual reports of how many minutes I spend on my phone a day to even when I unlocked my phone to get a sneak peek at Facebook before class. To some, this will be a FRIGHTENING reality check. But actually I’m pretty ok with my feedback considering I aim to not be glued onto my phone and have a life. (says the one with no life)

 

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From about 10:50  am to 3:30, I had spent 41 minutes on my phone.

 

My report from today also noted that I picked up my phone 40 times which is quite a lot considering that the average person picks up their phone 85 times a day….I had only made it half way through my day here….

I guess even though I spend roughly 3 hours on my phone everyday, I’d like to spend less time doing so. Think of all the things I could have done in 3 hours?- done an essay, knitted a scarf or found a life partner and settle down and had kids.

In all honesty, this will sound old (Mindy talking), but people my age have lost track of reality, what’s productive and what’s not. Phones are great tools for organising, learning and communicating but we can’t ignore the absolute shit that takes up our time too on our phones. Does it matter if I post a picture of my lunch on Instagram or if I share my unwanted opinion on something on Twitter? Does it matter if I have to “like” someone’s new profile pic and also, is the only way for me to find an elegable partner on a dating app? I think no to all of the above.

I’d love to go a day without having to check my phone. Because it’s this “having to” that’s really making me spend time on my phone.