Saturday, June 28, 2008

La bon pro-non-see-a-see-on

There was an interesting article on Language Log today about phrasebook pronunciation; that is, the transcriptions that are supposed to help tourists say the phrases correctly. If you know French, try to work out what these are supposed to be:

poo-vay-voo muh deer kawN zhuh dwah deh-sawN-druh
oo ay lah stah-seeyoN duh may-troh
zher per trons-por-tay ma vwa-tewr sewr ser ba-to
pwee zha-vwar ewn a-vons der kray-dee
oo sawng lay areh der kar
kawnbyang der tahng dewr ler vwahyazh?

Now check:
Language Log » Phrasebook pronunciation, or, kawnbyang der tahng dewr ler vwahyazh

Of course, the main problem with phrasebooks is that even if you can make yourself understood, you probably won't understand the answer. I've always made a point of getting some books and tapes from the local library and learning a few phrases at least a month before going on holiday. Nobody expects tourists to be fluent but they usually appreciate some effort.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Paying to hit the pupils

Back in February I blogged about a teacher who was in the news for slapping a pupil. His trial was today and he's been fined 800 euros for "aggravated violence". The maximum sentence is 75,000 euros and 5 years, so I suppose he got off fairly lightly.

The judges noted that he was an experienced teacher and the pupil wasn't a fully-grown 18 year old in a difficult area, which I suppose is a fair point. The article doesn't mention if the judges had anything to say about the father's reaction; you may remember that the kid's father was a gendarme and had the teacher arrested and held for 24 hours, which was probably a bit excessive. You'd think a policeman would understand what it's like to take abuse from members of the public who don't expect any comeback, but apparently not.

I also find myself wondering how much I'd be prepared to pay to slap some of my little darlings. 800 euros is a bit on the pricey side; two of those and you've got the price of a fortnight's holiday abroad, but would that be as satisfying?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

School's out

The last lessons were today. Rather than tell you about it, I'll let this rather good picture by Ronald Searle paint 1000 words. OK, so they weren't wearing uniforms and the teachers don't have canes any more, but you get the idea.

It's taken from the excellent Molesworth series from the 1950s and still available from all good bookshops!
I hope this plug will get me around copyright restrictions, but I'll take the image down on request

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sloths, lemmings and sperm

Today I got a note from a parent who wanted to know why her son had such a poor grade in English this year when he'd done well in the subject before. The accurate response would have been something like:

Since your son and the girl in the row in front decided that they were destined for each other, they have become as motivated by schoolwork as a couple of sloths on valium. She has enough natural talent in the subject to see her through; unfortunately, your son does not, with the entirely predictable result that his grade has plummeted faster than a lemming strapped to an anvil. Frankly, it's a miracle that the sperm that conceived him managed to reach the egg, never mind develop into something that could be arsed to leave your womb.

Of course, the actual response was something along the lines of He has great potential and is capable of getting excellent results in the subject.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Clin d'œil, clin d'œil, coup de coude, coup de coude!

The BBC seems to think the most newsworthy aspect of President Bush's visit to France is that he thinks Sarko's wife is a bit of alright. I wonder how his interpreters translated that?
"Votre femme? Est-ce qu'elle va? Vous savez ce que je veux dire? Ne dites plus!"¹

At least he got his history right, finally remembering French support for the American Revolution (which he seemed to have forgotten around springtime 2003). But the fact that he considers him "interesting" and "full of wisdom" probably says more about the US president than his French counterpart.

1. If you have no idea what I'm talking about:

Monday, June 09, 2008

RIP old friend

Last weekend my watch finally gave up the ghost after 21 years. It was a birthday present when I was still doing my A-levels, so it's been with me all my adult life. I had it through university, it came with me to every country I've ever visited, it just survived being pogoed on during a Dread Zeppelin concert in Edinburgh when it was only five years old, and a former girlfriend was forever telling me to replace it - over ten years ago.

I can't think of anything else I possess that goes back that far. I have a bundle of cassettes that follow me from house to house, but I never listen to them, and all my old books and Viz annuals are still at my parents. So replacing it is a serious break from the past; it's almost like replacing a finger. I keep checking the time and seeing the wrong watch on my wrist.

If the new one lasts as long, my next watch will probably be a retirement present. But I doubt they make them like they used to.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Summertime blues

With the summer holidays less than a month away, the conseils de classe season is entering full swing. For the uninitiated, a conseil de classe (literally "class council") is where all the teachers of one group of kids gets together along with the principal (or deputy), pupil and parent representatives. Each pupil is then discussed in turn, and we decide collectively who moves up to the next year and who has to repeat. For a class of 28 kids, this takes a while. And I have to do this for each class I teach.

But before the conseil, the teachers meet up for a preconseil ("pre-council", "coucil of war" or "meeting-about-the-meeting" depending on your preferred translation). And all this on top of our normal teaching load plus end of year marking as all reports need to be done in time for the conseil.

Of course, there are still classes after the conseil, but the kids are well aware that the decisions have already been taken so our ability to threaten them is severely diminished. So sense of impunity on their part collide head on with the tiredness on ours, with fun consequences for all.

But all anyone outside the profession ever notices is the long holidays. Let's see them survive the job without a long summer break.