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“Je dois améliorer mon français” (I must improve my French) and Other Wildly Inappropriate Things I Now Use Google For

Okay – so I admit it – I am NOT fluently bilingual.  Far from it, in fact.  So how did I come up with these lovely-sounding, French titles I posted in the last few weeks?  It’s called Bing (or Google Translate, or Babel Fish, or – you get the idea, people…).

There are some, ummm, problems with having  a machine translate something meaningful in one language into something equally meaningful in another language, of course.  Humour is one.  Apparently very hard to translate.  Idioms are another.

I should have titled this post “Lost in Translation,” by the way.  It seems all the stories that follow illustrate not really the computer’s but my own complete failure to communicate in other languages.  Anyhow!  About those idioms…

Some years ago, for reasons I won’t go into here, I used to spend a lot of time with Ottawa’s Spanish-Canadian community.  Of course, with this came a certain amount of informal “Spanish Immersion.”  One night I was at one of those community club dinner type events.  A Frank Sinatra song came on.  “Ahhh,” I said, turning smoothly to the elderly man seated next to me, “Viejos Ojos Azules.”

I got a completely bewildered look in return.

A chorus of “¿Qué?” soon shot round the dinner table, with an embarrassed me at its centre having to repeat my (innocent!) remark again and again.  I was sincerely wishing I’d never opened my mouth to begin with, along with feeling increasingly frustrated at not being understood.

Finally a younger friend a few chairs away leaned forward.  “Did you say Viejos Ojos Azules?”  he shouted down.  He started laughing. At last someone had figured out the mystery.

And – apparently -  Frank Sinatra is not known as “Old Blue Eyes” in Spanish.  That’s how I learned that informative tidbit.  Who knew?

He DID have very blue eyes, though.

He DID have very blue eyes, though.

There’s no replacement for real, in the trenches, experience with a language.  Studying it in a book (or on Google) is not enough.  Relying on that kind of information can open you up to some really awkward mistakes when it’s time to really talk, or even listen.

Once upon a time I went to Spain.  While there, I visited an elderly friend whom I knew as Quiquin.  Quiquin met up with his friends, a motley group of other old-timers, everyday at a local café he had re-christened “Cheers.”  And so – of course! – I tagged along.

One of the friends had decided that, since I was in fact a Canadian,  I must be more fluent in French than in Spanish.  This, as it turned out, was a bad assumption.

“Ça marche bien?” he asked me in greeting.

I quickly scanned my textbook memorized French for meaning.  “Marche” – that means “walk“, right?  We were doing lots of walking in Spain, but not really any with my old friend (who was in general sedentary and in poor-ish health), so “Pas avec Quiquin” I quickly answered.

The look of shock and concern that came across the man’s face let me know I’d messed my response up badly (I think we fixed it in Spanish, btw).   It took several minutes to reassure him that, to my knowledge, Quiquin was not deathly ill.  Shortly afterwards he turned to my more fluent friend and commented “I thought all Canadians were bilingual.”

Another evening (it may even have been at the same bar) I ambled up to the counter and asked the barkeep ¿Puedo pagar ahora?” (Can I pay you now?).   Or that’s what I thought I said, at least.  Apparently, it came out more like “¿Puedo pegar ahora?” (Can I hit you now?).    Again, big laughs all round, big embarrassment for me.

I did feel like I got points for trying anyway.  Locals appreciated my efforts when they compared me to the drunken British tourist slurring “I said vodka with fresh orange!!!” over and over in a louder and louder voice, as if shouting would replace the blank look on the server’s face with one of understanding.  Ironically, a poster of a beautiful, juicy Valencia orange graced the wall right beside this brute’s head, adorned with the single word: Naranja.”

naranja

NARANJA (“nah-RAHNG – ha”) – that’s the word for both the colour and the fruit. If you want juice, say “zumos de naranja.” If you want vodka, try saying “vodka.” Oughta work.

So what’s most important in learning (and using) a new language?  I think the answer is pronunciation.  While it’s nice to have an extensive vocabulary, know all the tenses, and be able to read Shakespeare (or Molière, for that matter!), if your pronunciation is so terrible that you butcher every word that comes out, no one is going to want to talk to you.  They just won’t be able to stand it.  If, on the other hand, you can say a few things well and have mastered the basics, you may be in a better position to start really using the language.  After all, you can always add new vocab as you go.

Tons of vocab is nice, but - if your accent sucks - no one's that likely to notivce anyhow.

Tons of vocab is nice, but – if your accent sucks – no one’s that likely to notice anyhow.

In my case – and as I have recently confirmed from Boo’s teacher that we are, in fact, not kicked out of French Immersion – I can learn new words along with my son, but I can’t help him that much with homework if I can’t pronounce, or at least learn to sound out, some of the basic stuff in the little books he brings home.

In honour of this idea, today’s Crazy List Lady presentation is…

A Super-Miniature Butterflymumma Guide to Pronouncing Things in French

  1. Toit (roof) is pronounced “toi.”  The terminal “t” is silent.  If, like me, you sent your 6 year-old to school pronouncing it as “toiT,” they probably got funny looks on the playground later.
  2. Coupe (cut) is pronounced “couP” – the “e” at the end of the word is your cue to pronounce that last consonant. And so, a coup d’état is pronounced a “coo” d’état.  A “cooP” d’état means something like you cut up a country. [Don't ask me whether d'état is pronounced "day-TAH" or "day-TAT," though - I always hear English people saying it the second way.  I'm wondering now if that's wrong...]
  3. The word courrament (fluently) as in “Je parle courrament le français”  is pronounced “Cour-rah-MUNH.”  The “ment” at the end of words like this is pronounced, but it should sound sort of like you have marbles in your cheeks.  “Je veux improver mon français” is just wrong.
  4. An é (“e accent aigu”) at the end of a word gives the e a sound now.  It’s sort of an “ay” sound.
  5. A ç (“c cédille”) changes the hard sound of a c (like K) to a soft sound (like S).
  6. There are other accents in French that change the sounds of letters, or – sometimes -  differentiate between homonyms.  You can read more about French accents here.
  7. The answer to the question of “les fraises” (the strawberries) is “fray-Z‘.  The other “frais” (cold, as in the weather) is pronounced “fray.”

Okay – that’s enough of that.  I’ll be getting calls from my fluently bilingual friends pointing out all my mistakes if I keep it up much longer!

While we’re on the topic of using Google for things you should perhaps NOT, here’s another common abuse (one that I am guilty of) that cannot be overlooked - playing doctor.  Yup, I mean you, the one looking so studiously the other way, all the while still fiddling with that “really good! stethoscope you recently snagged at PlayValue Toy Superstore.  Here’s yet more news:  Reading all about it on Wikipedia is no substitute for the actual years of study, training, and real world experience your local GP has accumulated.

Remember, just because the information is out there doesn’t mean everyone will read it and understand it correctly.  And mis-understanding info is likely worst than not having stumbled across it to begin with (that’s where that old saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” comes from, no?).

While I’m on the topic, a good example of reading studies or headlines and not understanding them or asking the right questions about them is this current fad of thinking yourself so far ahead of the doctor that you decline to have your child vaccinated. This is a really dangerous “Doctor Google” trend that bucks all the hard facts.  If you are considering passing on vaccinations because you have heard that someone’s 18-month-old first showed symptoms of Autism or whatnot after receiving their 18-month vaccines, first consider the difference between a correlation and a causality.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.  Here’s a link.  You’re welcome.

I studied in a biochem program for 3 years, and then worked as a laboratory technician for 4 more – 7 years of Science Immersion in all.  Still, I go cross-eyed as soon as our doctor uses any of the terminology of anatomy (lateral, dorsal, or medial even) or talks at all about pharmacology.  It doesn’t help that he (probably correctly) assumes that I should know this stuff.

If all that training and education doesn’t guarantee me understanding this stuff, heaven help all those folks with a less science-y education!  Yet we’re all flocking to Doctor Google in hoards these days.

Thanks to the internet, increasing numbers of us are playing doctor nowadays.

Thanks to the internet, increasing numbers of us are playing doctor nowadays.

When I was rightly able to diagnose myself (via Google) with Objective Positional Vertigo last spring, that self-diagnosis kept me from going to the hospital to get the help I needed for a whole week.  Ultimately, I still needed a doctor to (literally) put my head back on straight, correct diagnosis or no.  Thanks to Google, it took me about an extra 6 days to cave in and go see one.

This time around, I’m suspecting it’s (yuck!) bacterial pneumonia I am fighting.  But a half-day of internet looking still hasn’t informed me whether I’ll suddenly be well enough to turn pages at Uncle Pierre-Paul’s Ponticello concert this weekend (I want to, I want to, I WANT TO!!!).  Instead I learned  that I should rest, treat my fever, stay hydrated, and take something for my cough if it’s interferring with breathing.  I’m guessing I’ll STILL need antibiotics to get well, though.  Google doesn’t prescribe those… yet (I shudder to imagine whether this day is, in fact, coming).

Google ALSO didn’t tell me whether it’s really pneumonia, or actually just bronchitis, maybe tuberculosis (probably not), or simply my asthma acting up.  I’ll need the real doctor to sort that out too.

And, so, tomorrow, it’s off to the (real) doctor I’ll go again.  No more Dr. Google for me.   I swear, I swear, I swear.

Okay, people, ‘fess up, what do YOU ALL use the internet for that’s really not the best???  Or was there, perhaps, a situation when you relied on book learning when only real world experience would do?   I’m dying to hear about it.

My kid’s still in French Immersion, btw.  Did I mention?  All that worry for nothing – Whew!   :)

All for now,

 

Butterfly

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“Plus d’infos sur Immersion Français” (More about French Immersion)

In 2008, an editorial in the Vancouver Sun[17][18] criticized French immersion programs for having become a way for higher socioeconomic groups to obtain a publicly funded elite track education. Since lower socioeconomic groups and children with learning and behavioral problems have lower rates of participation in French immersion, a situation has developed in which ambitious families might prefer French immersion for its effective streaming than for the bilingual skills it gives to students.

This is not me continuing to opine on the topic of French Immersion.  I cut and pasted the preceding blurb in its entirety from a Wikipedia article on the subject.

And – yes, by the way – “opine” is actually a word.  I Googled it.  So there.

It looks like French Immersion, sometimes called “Poor Man’s Private School”, is earning itself a bad reputation in more than one quarter.  Seems I am not the only one who’s getting the feeling they’re maybe getting the cold shoulder from a snobby local public school.   A warm welcome for all who wish to learn may not be guaranteed.

Yes, my suspicions that the Immersion program may be designed, in fact, to cater to an elite group within our neighbourhood has some basis in fact – or, at least – in opinions other than my own.  But, as I mused in my last post, should I be willing to pick a fight at school to ensure that my child can remain a part of it, even though the idea of elitism itself rubs me really, REALLY wrong?

I went over the whole conundrum a few nights ago with my husband, who himself – as the child of one immigrant parent (his dad was from Australia) and one “first generation” Canadian parent (both his mom’s parents hailed from the Ukraine) – is huge on a Proper English Education (and a little disparaging about the whole FI thing to begin with).  His answer surprised me.

“Well, much as I don’t like French Immersion, I don’t like the way they’re treating us MORE.  Anyway, I don’t think they can actually kick him out.  I think his right to be in French Immersion is guaranteed in the Constitution.”

My husband emailed me an article that he felt backed up this fact.  Or, err, not.  Ahh, bilingualism in Canada.  It’s actually pretty complicated.  What he was talking about, I gather, was actually the Right to Minority Language Education.  So what’s that?

Minority Language Education Rights -  These are rights that, in fact, ARE enshrined in Canada’s Constitution, but – unfortunately – do NOT mean that every English-speaking Canadian has the right to free French classes.  Were it were so.  In fact, the right to Minority Language Education simply means that, if you are French, you have a right to be educated in French.  It’s as simple as that.  While Canada’s repatriated 1982 Constitution does enshrine Minority Language Educational Rights, it does not enshrine my son’s right to be educated in French Immersion.

Like all good principles in law, the idea of the right to minority language education often works better in theory than in practice.  If you live in an area within a reasonable distance of a French school – well – they probably have an obligation to make a space for you.  In Ottawa, we have a French Separate School Board, as well as a Catholic Board, so you can pretty much choose the education that you want (so long as  it’s French, anyhow).  If, on the other hand, you live next door to my parents in rural Newfoundland and you happen to be French, I wish you luck in exercising this right.  I can’t imagine that a French school exists any closer than a 3-hour drive away.  Not even a French Immersion French school.  You’ll be moving to St. John’s.

And if you happen to be English in some parts of Quebec?  Ditto.  Good luck.  If you’re what they lovingly call an Allophone (neither French, nor English), you’ll definitely be learning to parlez.  You don’t get to choose.

Majority Language Education Rights:  As for our family, as I’ve mentioned before, we live in a WASP-y neighbourhood in a more-English-than-French part of a provincially-designated bilingual area (the National Capital Region).  So what about our rights?  What about Majority Language Education Rights?

Again, some things look better on paper than in practice.

Education is a Service Industry: Education, like every other good and service in society, is driven by consumer demand.  If more people want something, more of that something becomes available.  And who doesn’t want their little Johnny or Mary to get the best, most elite education available, especially if said elite education is being handed out for the great price of absolutely free?

A 2007 survey by People for Education found that 36% of parents who enrolled their child in an immersion program did so simply because they perceived the program to be more challenging in general.  In this scenario, learning French becomes – at best – a secondary concern.

This is something of a contrast to, say, Manitoba, where the concept of inclusivity in immersion is part of the teachers’ handbook.  Teachers here are encouraged to utilize different types of techniques for different types of students – a concept known as “differentiated instruction”. Manitoba’s French Immersion teachers are expected to be  inclusive of ALL comers, unless they cause undue hardships to the majority due to the cost, safety risks, etc., of including them.

Turns out in our neighbourhood nearly everyone signs up for French Immersion.  Almost no one’s left volunteering to send their kid to the English class.  Especially if they, perhaps rightly, suspect that the only other kids there will be the ones who have unstable homes, are poor, in foster care, or have big learning (or emotional) issues that prevent them from keeping up with the (“smarter”) kids in FI.

So Is It Streaming?  It’s not just that the  French Immersion group might actually be a better, more enriching environment, it’s also that being in the English class carries the stigma of  not being as “good”.  That Johnny and Mary are dummies if they’re in the English class.

Like I said, that’s our neighbourhood anyway.

Is that what I want for Boo?  To already be veering him away from the elite academic group?  To be giving him (and letting the others give him) the message that SK proved he wasn’t good enough?  That he couldn’t keep up?  That (maybe) we couldn’t get our shit together enough to do this?

If they’re going to offer us an option that wasn’t there before, they will need to prove that it’s in fact an Excellent English Education they’re offering.  They need to show, irregardless of what other kids may be making up the rest of the new group,  that it’s not “the slow class.”  Sorry to be blunt about that.

I did make the mistake, at one point, of letting the French teacher know that Dad – at least – was a little ambivalent about French Immersion.  Perhaps now (and I am guessing here) the school is under some pressure to make sure their “dual track” system (supposed to be offering BOTH French Immersion AND English options) is a reality on the ground, and not just blue sky-ing in a glossy pamphlet somewhere.  And, of course, they’re counting on me to pull my son out of the program he’s already successfully finished (or just about) his first year in.  After all, I did point out the absence of a real choice.

An Education Should Be About A Child, Not An Ideology:  Unfortunately, despite my personal political views on this, this choice is not about me.  Not about my husband.  It’s about Boo.  And Boo likes French Immersion.  He likes to be with his friends.  And – as far as I can tell – he’s doin’ just fine.  He read me a book (in English) again last night.  He can recite a play (“La Poule Maboule” – it’s basically a French “Henny Penny”) en français.  And he’s got his sister running around the house shouting “Coupe, coupe, COUPE!” and chopping me down by the legs.  I really believe he’s learned a lot.

For me, giving my kids some stability (i.e. consistancy, or an “absence of unnecessary change”, if you prefer) is an important part of my Prime Directive.  My Prime Directive (both at work and at home) is to NOT discourage my kids, but – rather – to foster their potential by granting them time, stability, opportunities, and self-confidence.  Pulling my son out of his French Immersion class now simply to make the point that an Excellent English Education should  have been available to him in the first place is really not on, as far as I’m concerned.  He’s already been, implicitly, promised a French Immersion education.  Who am I to take that away now?

Well anyway.  Already I’m planning to go to this meeting and make absolutely NO decisions or commitments whatsoever either way.  I’m just planning to collect the information (whatever it is) and go home.  I swore on a stack of Bibles to my husband that that’s what I’d do.  I’m saying it here so I can be publicly held to account on it too.

Back at the ranch… I still haven’t received the (promised) note home from his teacher to confirm that we have a meeting in the first place,.  So, really, I don’t know what in heck is going on.  Is this important or not?

What do I hope for my son?  My son is not me, nor is he my husband, although he is parts of us both.  He carries our history, yet he is part of Canada’s future.  This is a story that is yet unwritten.  Boo may be glad to have French.  He may travel.  He may use it for work (or not – his choice).  Then again, he may feel the second language kept him from learning other things well, kept him from tapping into his parents’ ability to help with homework in subjects like music, science, or math.  He may even blame us if he is a crappy speller.  Who knows?  My own husband questions the purpose of making the next generation “Immersion bilingual.”  And he may be right about that.

But, for now, my son’s  future is his own story to write.  And I still hope to give him the option of writing it in either official language.

Okay, So What’s Really Important Here?  The most important thing for me to keep in mind in all of this is Boo.  At home, this kid’s a big, big talker.  He started early in life.  He was chatty, clear, and verbose by the time he was 22 months old.  He demonstrated an enjoyment of BIG words – ten (and fifty!) dollar words became part of how he spoke from early on.  He likes to tell long stories.  He likes to make new friends.

For this particular little boy, my opinion is that more vocab is more vocab.  I believe that a second language could turn out to be a really great gift that I can – with surprising ease, considering my own background – give to him.   All politics aside, I think French could be a wonderful thing for both my children.  Maybe that’s something worth fighting for after all.

Looking forward to all your comments on this!  If you live in another part of the country (or world!) and have a perspective to offer on bilingualism or an immersion education, I’d particularly like to hear from you!

 

Plus de lecture sur l’Immersion Français – A short bibliography of interesting reading for the curious!

Language Policy in Canada

B is for Bilingual (from the Ex Pat’s Log)

Bilingualism May Not Be Worth it, But It Sure Is Popular

One Parent’s Look at the Pros and Cons of French Immersion

Are Immersion Graduates A New Linguistic Category?

Should You Put Your Kids in French Immersion?

And – finally – if you want to suddenly feel quite small, here’s a fascinating article about (all!) the Languages of Canada.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Canada

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“Programme d’immersion en français, c’est me frottement erroné” (French Immersion – it’s rubbing me wrong)

I am feeling troubled today, and – more than ever – I’d like the comments, perspective, and feedback of my precious readers.  So, if you’ve got a thought on this issue, please share!

Yup.  It’s back – the whole “Is a primary school education en français right for my child” thing.

First up, a little history here:  As I’ve alluded to before, I spent my own childhood moving from place to place in Atlantic Canada.  I never had the benefit of one stable hometown and school, or one steady group of amigos.  On the other hand, I’ve had the benefit of the kind of “immersion travel” you can only get by – for the space of about 24 months at a time – becoming a “local” in one new place after another.  I’ve seen what the school, social life, and countryside are like in a fair sampling of places on the east coast, learning the local history, dialect, customs, and points of pride along the way.  It was about the best childhood geography lesson ever (thanks, Mom and Dad!), but – at the same time – it was a bit like being a “jack of all trades but master of none.”  I wanted to have a deeper relationship with one place and one set of friends, and to explore the potential that grows out of that.

Then I grew up and left home.  It was time to pick a place to “come from.”  I picked Ottawa.

Ottawa’s in Central Canada.  Up until the day when my plane landed here and I hopped out I’d never been that far from the ocean before. Never been where the real “Mainlanders” come from before.  I picked somewhere entirely new and novel for me and decided to do my old trick of just trying to fit in.

I was 19 then.  That was 25 years ago.

25 years in one place is a long time, but – no matter how long I remain – I’ll never be a true local.  There’ll always be people like Boo’s French (and home room) teacher to remind me that I’m an outsider.  I didn’t grow up here.  ‘Cause, if I did, I would be fluently bilingual.

Instead, I’m anxious and awkward with Boo’s new language.  I can’t help properly.  In French I tell long “shaggy dog” stories, all in confusing present tense.  I pronounce the consonants at the end of words.

I would love for my kids to have the opportunity to parlant couramment une langue seconde.  I’m not even particularly hung up on which one.  To me, adding a language increases one’s potential, causing boundaries to fall.  It doesn’t matter what the language IS even, the same would still be true.  Languages are handy if you travel.  Too, I’m sold on the science of the boost to the brain learning a second language is reputed to deliver.

Image credit: nito500 / 123RF Stock Photo

Do we need to apologize?

But I’m an Anglophone, from a grand tradition of itinerant singers and yarn spinners on one side, school teachers and intellectual types on the other.  From my mother I inherited a classical English education, full of  proper grammar and Shakespearean prose.  Musty books lined our many shelves, drawing me irresistibly.  From my dad I inherited a natural knack for story telling and public speaking.   I sat straight and tall in the wooden pew and tried to listen my best as he intoned from the pulpit each Sunday.

I’m not sure what bits of that classical English education I see in the cards for my son.  A couple of weeks back I got a note home from his teacher informing me that they would be playing “Snake and Latter” at school that coming Friday (apparently Bing and Babel Fish aren’t on her world-wide web).  It wasn’t the first published mistake.  Maybe she is trying to make a point (“English isn’t important, you’re not important, and look what a hurry I am in” ?).  Anyhow, I try not to get offended, despite the fact that I am Old School English and Proud of It.  I don’t expect her to come from my world.

I am increasingly suspicious, however, that these French Immersion teachers actually DO expect us parents to come from THEIR world.  Already I get “book in a bag” homework for my son – 2 French readers to help him with each week.  These are (already) swarming with words I either don’t know or can’t say.

For instance, “balançoire” (seesaw).   I know it when I hear it said (there was a lot of playground French when we lived in New Brunswick).  Written down, I looked at that word and had no clue.  Other words, like “les fraises” (the strawberries) for instance, I instantly recognise but am not so sure I can pronounce.  Do we say that first “s” sound or no?  It’s hard to help Booba apply Jolly Phonics to a problem I can’t solve with it myself.

And that’s just the readers.  Ask me about the library books.  A few weeks back Boo brought home “Une centaine des faits sur la science.”  My mouth dropped open on page 1.  I can’t read him a book like that.  Who are they testing?  Him, or me?

Today, as I dropped Booba off (On time!  Again!  Huzzah!) at school, Mme. Roux approached me.  “Just the lady I wanted to see,” she began.

My stomach dropped.  Why does it feel like Boo’s teachers NEVER want to see me for anything good?   She asked for an appointment “to discuss plans for your child for next year.”

Does that mean they’re kicking him out of French Immersion?  What else COULD it mean?   After all, this is the same teacher who in November implied that she thought he was learning disabled (he’s not – unless laziness is now a disability).

Unhappily, I make a tentative date (not till next week!)  with Boo’s teacher and walk home.  Now I’m home.  I feel sick.

Even MY CHILDREN cannot become insiders in this world I have picked.  What am I doing wrong?

Boo loves French.  Although I know he doesn’t always speak it in class, he speaks and sings (and reads! despite MY difficulties) to me in French daily.  His accent is beautiful.  His comprehension, since the awful meeting in November, has grown by leaps and bounds.  I love to hear him say “les fraises” or “mercredi” and I often ask him to repeat these “rrr” words and revel in the sounds.  I am so happy for him.

Image credit: rabbit75123 / 123RF Stock Photo

Beautiful Quebec City. I want to take my son places like this and enjoy listening to him roll those “rrrr’s”!

It’s why I picked Ottawa.  It’s a land of opportunity.

I know if I really want to help (and to travel, and increase my own potential and job prospects – yadda, yadda, yadda)  the real solution is that I, too, should learn français.  And I’d like to, I honestly would.  But that’s in an ideal world, where life is like a movie and my house is clean, my hair is washed, and I don’t stink of Kafia ultimate chocolate coffee right now.

That’s in a world where our supper will be served at 5 and a maid is cleaning my house as I write this.  That’s in a world where all these stresses and dilemmas that I have been struggling with are just… gone.  My ARCT in piano pedagogy is finished.  I did that Honours BA (and an MA, for good measure) in History already (I got straight A’s, btw).  Ditto Teachers’ College and I am retired after a successful second (third?) career as a high school history teacher.

By the way, in that world my kids are long grown and left.

Priorities, people.  French is on my list, but it’s not high enough to displace the others things.

Image credit: paolag / 123RF Stock Photo

Sure I want to stay at the Chateau Frontenac, but I want to be a productive member of society – in the most practical way that I am capable of! – too.

It’s not that I don’t have a positive attitude about French.  I do.  Boo’s godfather is from Quebec City.  French is the first language at my children’s godparents’.  Last summer, I took the kids to Montreal.  At the café, Boo wandered from table to table, trying the français he’d learned in JK the year before.  He was ecstatic to be there.

This year I’d hoped to take my kids to their godfather’s hometown, where we could try out Boo’s expanded vocabulary and see the old fortifications, as well as the Plains of Abraham.

I guess the question is, is French SO IMPORTANT that I should fight now to make it the first language of instruction for Boo and Lou?  It seems to be the default for a primary education in this neighbourhood, and I certainly do still feel that my children are as capable as the neighbours’.  It seems too that, if you’re going to soak up a second language, one’s youth is the ideal time to do so (before ARCT and MA commitments, as well as reality and bills, kick in big time).  It ALSO seems that Senior Kindergarten is a little early to be streaming my child OUT of the more elite academic group of his peers (yeah, it’s there – don’t kid yourself people!).

A while back I wrote a rambling post where I mused aloud about whether to let my kids be separate people to the extend of being disengaged from this sort of stuff or whether my job as mom, who loves them more than they will ever truly comprehend, is to be their most passionate advocate, no matter who I alienate along the way.  I tend towards thinking the second is my job.

There IS a fine line between being your child’s advocate and wanting the world to roll over and play dead for your kid.   If Boo’s not smart enough, not focussed enough, or doesn’t work hard enough to do this then I will have to admit that.  On the other hand, he’s only 6.  It’s still my job to keep him from being bullied.

I’m not letting them kick him out of the program just because I’m not French.  That’s not how this is supposed to work.  It’s an English school.  The program is supposed to be for English kids.

Image credit: andykazie / 123RF Stock Photo

I’m beginning to wonder if the fortifications of Old Quebec might not have been designed, in fact, to keep people like me OUT. Nobody likes to admit to people like me that a language elitism exists in Upper Canada, but it’s still THERE.

I have a week to get ready for this meeting now.  Any and all your feedback will be appreciated.

All for now,

Butterfly

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Happiness, it’s just a click away…

Okay, okay – so I STILL haven’t gotten fully back to my writing schedule. I would like to take a moment to place the blame for this where it is really and truly deserved:  the fault for this rests squarely on the shoulders of…  MY NEW CAMERA.

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My new camera.

The day before our whole family skeedaddled to Toronto for a little March break madness, I tippy-toed out (leaving Boo and Lou with a – gasp! – babysitter) and picked myself up an expensive new toy.   A Samsung Galaxy EK-GC100 WiFi enabled camera.  Small and slick with a spiffy-looking zoom lens that glides out when you turn it on and the magical and envy-inspiring touch screen I’ve been oogling on all my friends’ devices, my new camera looks and feels more like I finally caved and got myself a Smart phone.  Best of all (?) – it’s my innermost fav colour (white!), which, I think,  cinched the deal at Best Buy.  It’s beautiful and retro-styled and Marilyn Monroe glamourous – all in a post modern, wirelessly connected world sort of way.

Sexy looking camera.

Classy, sexy-looking camera.

Classy, sexy-looking actress.

Classy, sexy-looking actress.

It’s the perfect toy for someone who (like me) loves to stay connected on Facebook, Gmail, and Pinterest.  I can instantly email, pin, or share any photo that tickles my fancy, adding whatever text I like.  No annoying transfer of SD card from device A to device B now – with WiFi that’s no longer required.  And so – I can pin and share,  more and faster.  I don’t even need to boot up my little netbook anymore.

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This device is a good 10 years more up-to-date than my netbook anyways.

And so – guess what?  I’m taking more pictures.  I mean a LOT more pictures.  1000 new pictures piled up,  seemingly overnight.  So many of them look great – it’s hard to choose some any (!) to delete.  Now I have a new problem:  I need more memory.  And fast.

It seems all these android devices come with myriad “apps” (and you can quickly get more, for free, at the Google Play Store) to help you download (or UPload) and share your photos.  There are providers of free “cloud” space – like Dropbox and Google+ – that will keep you backed-up and  “synced” so that your account and all your devices are up-to-date with your most recent (camera) shooting spree.   People argue about the implications of using this stuff – do we keep all our “rights” (as in copyrights) to our photos if we agree to the terms of Google+, Dropbox and even (gasp!) Facebook?  For now, my answer is a breezy “Who cares?”  I just want to not lose my photos and at the same time make sure my netbook doesn’t start spewing smoke  -  I suddenly own WAY too much data.  And I’m much more worried about my computer crashing than I am about missing my hypothetical 15 nanoseconds of fame.

Getting the feeling that some company is doing all this to us on purpose?  Getting us addicted to snapping, uploading, and then needing extra cloud space,  as much as retailers want to sell us more and more STUFF while realtors wait in the wings to sell us a new house with bigger closets?  Well, yeah, maybe…

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Still struggling with this idea that happiness has to mean more and more and MORE STUFF…

I recently heard of a study that showed people who photographed an event actually remembered it less well and were less “present in the moment” than other people who simply watched the same event.  This is ironic, considering that most of us photograph events precisely because we don’t want to forget them in the first place.

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/yurinonori'>yurinonori / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Careful how many pictures you take, girls! You might just end up forgetting you were even at the wedding.

As a confirmed shutterbug-aholic, I have my own ruminations on this issue.  What I notice, in looking at photos after the fact, is that they make me reminisce about the goings-on I photographed as though we all had more fun than we really did.  If my photos are beautiful, I’m just SO… happy.  I experience a digitally induced euphoria.   I remember the event, via my vivid photographs, with more happiness than I perhaps felt at the actual moment when I captured it.  Which is weird, but – hey – nice photos make me happy.  And I like that.

Some folks may say this is sad, and in fact evidence of what the study (about “photographic amnesia”) aims to point out.  I’m not sure I agree.

The way I look at it, I’m a  40-something year old housewife.  I’m anemic (enough to have memory issues with that from time to time).  I have small kids.  I’m not going to remember anyway.  At least, this way, I can check it out on my Facebook page when I forget.  And, in later years, the kids may be able to too.  That’ll be very helpful when I’m wearing a diaper.

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“OOh – look! Mum WAS there!!!”

So – for now – I’m not planning to quit snapping.  Most of my pictures, are – in fact – crappy, blurry, and repetitious.  But, every now and then, I take a really good picture.  And that one really, truly great photo makes me happy.  Sometimes, even a photo that everyone else thinks is blurry, crappy, and repetitious has that effect on me too.  And so.  It makes me happy.  Forgetful?  Perhaps.  But happy.

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Sometimes happiness is a blurry photo…

Snapping away in Ottawa,

Butterfly

Image credit: zhanna / 123RF Stock Photo

The Dream (a poem)

Sometimes something speaks that the others can't hear
Sometimes a soft music plays in my ear
Sometimes in a crowd yet I still feel alone
This feeling goes with me wherever I roam

Sometimes I could fly yet I sometimes get down
My head's in the sky and my feet on the ground
Sometimes, somethings just aren't as they seem
Sometimes I believe that it's really... a dream