Posts tagged: French

Thoughts on Language Learning (Part 4 of ?)

I realized this a little while ago, but am only getting around to writing it down now: the reason why people are so confused about this idea of Chinese grammar is because there isn’t any. At least, not in the conventional expected sense as with other languages. You know those rules that you have to learn in other languages about conjugating verbs, so on and so forth? Chinese doesn’t have rules like that. It’s so simple, especially if you’re coming from another SVO-language, which, fortunately, English is. Actually, a significant portion of the day-to-day stuff that gets picked up in language classes are subtler (less widespread, and thus less explicitly taught) grammar patterns that involve very specific vocabulary. For example, how do you use words like “ぜんぜん” or” はず”/”つもり” in Japanese, or words like “because” or “not only…but also” in English, or words like “lo” or “estar”/”ser” in Spanish, or words like “ni” or “manquer” in French. The broadness of applicability varies among these terms, but the point is that the grammar points fall between the extremes: between applicability across the language (e.g. “this is how you conjugate all verbs ending in…”) and very narrow applicability (e.g. “蜻蜓 means ‘dragonfly’ [in Chinese]“).

Indeed, Chinese is full of such grammar points. Most of what is usefully learned in Chinese classes, besides vocabulary, are what I will refer to as “common/useful phrase constructions.” As the examples in the preceding paragraph demonstrate, most languages have these kinds of grammar points, but most other languages also have more widely applicable and necessary grammar points, including, but not limited to, things like verb conjugations, rules for noun-adjective gender/count agreement, etc.

So all this while, I’ve been slightly mystified as to why all I seem to be able to teach are these sorts of “common/useful phrase constructions” in my Chinese class sessions and worrying slightly that information is being imparted more slowly because there’s not more widely applicable grammar information that I can provide. But now that I’ve realized that all languages have this type of information (and in fact, Japanese has both vast tracts of widely applicable stuff to keep in mind and lots of these applicable-to-a-mid-range-of-the-language grammar points, which does make it slightly more annoying to teach), I will continue to teach Chinese as I have been, because this is, in fact, the way to teach this language, in my humble opinion.

Thoughts on Language Learning (Part 2 of ?)

I was writing an email today, to an alum who is part of a group of Chinese-learners, and it occurred to me that practicing a language conversationally not only helps one keep the phonemes/grammar/vocabulary in shape and readily accessible, it also helps to focus the direction of further acquisition in the language. Back in the day, MIT Medical organized a “cultural language exchange” program: you filled out a form indicating which language(s) you were proficient in and which language(s) you wanted to practice, and they paired you up with someone who was reasonably proficient in the language(s) you wanted to practice. My first pairing was with a native French speaker. As we talked, I realized what sorts of things I liked to talk about, what sorts of things I wanted to say about myself in casual conversation with a new acquaintance, and so on. As I realized what these topics were, I found myself wanting to learn richer vocabulary to talk about them, and thus, where I had been confused and overwhelmed by the vast body of French there was left to learn, I began to develop an idea of the direction for further studies in French (whenever I chose to continue them).

Kyo – “La Vérité Nous Ment” (The Truth Lies To Us) Translation

I was in a terrible state of mind on Thursday, and then I ran across this song, which was amazingly calming and soothing. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t really know what the song was about, so I decided to do a translation. Here goes!

Tu sais le monde a peut-être raison
De ne pas se poser trop de questions
De continuer à vivre
De continuer à croire
Que ce n’était pas à toi de dire la fin de l’histoire

Faut pas que tu t’accroches
A ta solitude
Je connais cet endroit, cette habitude
Faut pas que tu t’attendes à décrocher la lune,
La vérité nous ment,
Parfois elle se dénude

C’est vrai ça ressemble à l’amour qui s’en va
Mais derrière lui les traces ne s’effacent pas
Ce qu’il te laisse, tu finieras sûrement
Par l’accepter même, en faisant semblant


Tu peux mentir ça me servira à rien
Les mensonges en série on n’en voit jamais la fin
Maintenant tu peux contempler le ciel
Et t’avouer que t’as connu plus fidèle


You know the world has a possible reason
For not asking too many questions
For continuing to live
For continuing to believe
That it wasn’t for you to say the end of the story

It’s necessary that you hang on
To your solitude
I know this place, this habit/custom
It’s necessary that you wait to take the moon,
The truth lies to us,
Sometimes she (truth) bares herself

It’s true, it resembles love that leaves
But after her, the traces aren’t erased
That which it leaves for you, you will surely finish
By accepting it all the same, by pretending


You can lie, that won’t serve me at all
The lies in series, one can never see their end
Now you can gaze at the sky
And confess to yourself that you’ve known, more faithfully


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