Je suis assistante. . . I’m a what?!

Time for an update, folks:

This weekend I studied for my oral exam on Monday for medieval art, and I don’t know if I passed it or not. I’m not being self-depricating, I’m being honest. Even the French students said the subject was an EXTREMELY miniscule detail from the course, so we’ll see. There were long pauses of silence in between the professor’s questions and my answers, which involved a lot of “Euh…bennnn…fin…” In other words, the French equivalent of “umm, errr”. Worst case scenario, I made a “C” equivalent.

My vacation in February will come up soon (it’s the last week of February) to see a friend who is studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. I haven’t seen him since we graduated high school, so I’m looking forward to it. He lives with two Italians and a Spaniard. Which means I can practice my Italian, since my friend, A., also speaks it.

FINALLY, aside from the three art history classes that I’ll be taking this semester, all on the same day, once a week, I started my internship as an English Language Assistant. Officially “Assistante de la langue anglaise”. I have a 15 min. walk to the bus, then about 20 min. on the bus each way, followed by a 5 min. walk to school. It in the ‘burbs, far enough from where I live, but worth it. It reminds me of some ’50s-era school meets The Jetsons.

Today I had 3 or 4 English classes: 2 that I supervised while they wrote in English (and I corrected *a* paper in that time) and the last two I taught with my American friend J., who is part of the same program as me. Since it is a high school/professional trade school for mechanics and engineers (among other trades), it is 99% boys. Ages range from 15-ish to 23, so needless to say this week was entertaining. I had a really good first day, even if the professor forgot to tell us that one class was two hours long, and it was an end-of-the-day class. Motivation levels=low; preparation level=even lower. We were encouraged when some guys stayed after class to tell us that they wanted to learn English conversation (which is why we are there), because all they do is conjugate verbs so they are awful at speaking. Hooray, there’s hope! Although when asked what they were interested in? “How to talk to zee girls”. Me: “Pick-up lines?!?” J.: “Euh…okay!”

They also call J. and I by “Madame”, even though we said “You can call us J. and M”.

Anyways, we get to chill in the very large staff room, complete with the usual, I imagine: coffee machine, restrooms, and then curiously enough, real, live trees. I’m remembering professors’ names, surprisingly. They treat us like actual “colleagues” (which I guess we are) and they teach me new things in French/correct my French grammar. Speaking of French, the other day the French people I met at party didn’t know I wasn’t French. They said “Aren’t you French?!?” (and they weren’t sitting together), so apparently my accent is all right and most of what I’m saying.  I couldn’t stop laughing at their surprise.

Also, an American told me in English that my accent (in ENGLISH) is not “American”, but it’s not “French” either. So…well, I don’t know what you say to that? “Nice to meet you, too . . .”? Seriously, he didn’t introduce himself or change the subject, but talked for 15 minutes straight about how I “couldn’t be American because I didn’t have an accent”. He, too, is an English language assistant, thankfully not at the same school as me. It’s really strange when an American tells you in complete, almost snobby disbelief, that you don’t “seem American”. Well, if he’s using himself as the model of America . . .

Also, not that this is important, but some of the profs I met in the staff room where I hang out in between classes, are really good conversationalists. Meaning, they talk a lot. That is, they make me talk because they ask a million questions, then correct me, but also said I speak French well, so that’s good to hear. One taught me how to say the same time 3 different ways (didn’t know that was possible).

Besides that, the profs “tutoyer” (which means we call each other all by our first names, and use the informal). One of the younger profs made a point to tell me that, because he started in Nov. and realized that it’s a much “friendlier”, relaxed atmosphere here. (Usually, you would “vousvoyer” until you get to know someone). So anyways, American friend J. and I are off to a good start. I was at school from just before lunch to 6:30 today.

As of now, I’ll be working at least 11 hours a week, two days a week; then possibly one other day a week, but only for a half day, since the profs said anymore hours would be crazy. Actually, they called me crazy for wanting to work 3 days a week, so they aren’t letting me work more than 2 and a half. I’ll take it.

Last night, J., myself and some other international students went to a “Soirée Polyglotte”, where you meet up at Est-Ouest (a popular bar where students go mostly on Thursdays) to practice whatever language you want. I got to practice speaking French and Italian with, well, an Italian. Sometimes he would speak in English and I replied in Italian, and we corrected each other as we went along. My friend J. spoke to French people.

Also, a guy who works at the university library was there, too, which was funny. He asked if I wanted to “go to the market on Saturday”? “Actually, I’m sleeping in, but thanks”. I couldn’t lie; it’s true. He literally asks everyone that, though . . . people see him everywhere around town. If anything, living in France I’ve learned to be direct, which is not seen as rude here, but culturally correct, not to mention more polite. I think that’s why “the French” are seen as really rude by a lot of Americans.

Anyways, J. and I also met some guys from Senegal, and saw our half-English half-Welsh friend (sometimes he’s half-Irish, too), L., from the 1st semester. It was a good atmosphere all round, and a very relaxed way to learn a language and meet new people. It’s definitely entertaining.


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