Bon week-end tout le monde! We finally made it to the halfway point of the second semester, and final exams are starting to become a reality for us. I don’t have very many updates for this week, but I have been asked a bit about the classes I am taking, so I will mention a bit about that.
Monday evening my school friends and I went to go see a German play, Space Junk, since our friend was in charge of doing the lights for the show. It was a very…interesting show. If modern art were a play, that would describe the show pretty well. It didn’t matter whether you understood the language or not; most people left the show a bit confused. It was about these five people and their fear of flying, and these two “doctors” who have their ways of helping them get over this fear. But the story line was very random, and most of the play was built of the characters taking turns ranting about particular topics. There was even a part where a guy completely covered from head to toe in sticky notes walked onto the stage and just shook around for a bit before walking off. Very strange, but we all had a good laugh!
Tuesday evening Frenchy made dinner for all of us. We had crêpes (sweet and savory), with apple crumble for dessert. They were so good, and we all ate way too many. My turn to make dinner for everyone is coming up, so I have to decide what I am going to make soon.
The rest of the week was filled with studying and homework, as I had a couple examinations for the “end of the quarter.” I had a test for syntax, which is basically an English grammar class. We dissect sentences and identify the function and categories of certain words or phrases. It is a pretty straight-forward class, but it’s nice to get a complete breakdown of English syntax so we can compare it to other languages, and see how these structures could be computerized for language identification software.
Maths is going okay; the teacher is a bit strange, but I do well as long as I look at the material on my own. Our teacher loves to go off on tangents and talk about the most random things, so last class we got a twenty minute lecture on Italian (apparently the logic theory we are doing right now was invented by Italians, and the only books you can find about the topic are in Italian). Last semester we were doing linear algebra, but this semester is more logic based; we do set theory, propositional logic, KE deduction, and stuff like that. Basically trying to prove theoretical situations with proofs and truth tables.
Programming is grand, the class (both semesters) is basically AP computer science, which I did last year, so it’s an easy class that I don’t have to worry much about. We get weekly programming assignments, and they could be anything from designing a game to creating programs that manipulate fractions and other mathematical functions. We had a test on Friday were we had to create a virtual book store, and I feel like it went rather smoothly.
French is going fairly well too. I’m constantly in need of improvement, but I don’t feel slightly behind anymore like I did at the beginning of the year. Sometimes class can be a bit boring, since the topic every week always has something to do with politics or current social issues (could use a bit more variety). I might not feel completely comfortable ordering food off a menu in France or getting directions, but sure I could have a debate over the refugee crisis or Emmanuel Macron’s politics. I’m lucky to live with a French girl, because she is always willing to read over my essays or listen to my presentations for oral French. This week I had a five minute presentation over French colonisation, and thankfully Frenchy was there to help me, cause it is very easy to accidentally include innuendos in French…. I guess we learn from our mistakes.
Phonetics and phonology is definitely an interesting class; I’ve never taking anything like it before. We just finished learning the consonant sounds from the IPA (international phonetic alphabet), where we learned to pronounce sounds not only in English, but sounds present in other languages as well. They’re not all easy to do, however, and many of us end up choking on our own words or producing very silly sounds. We know the placement and function of all the articulators in the vocal tract when producing certain sounds, and how certain sounds behave, like whether they are fricatives, plosives, approximates, etc. Now we are moving on to vowels, which are a bit more difficult than consonants since there are so many variations. And since we are focusing on Irish English, I always have to remember to make sure I don’t answer questions based on the way my tongue and hard palate are shaped when saying certain words. Instead I have to learn to mimic my classmates and figure out how they say certain sounds.
I’m glad that my course has a pretty interesting group of modules. It’s fun to program one day, and then listen to French grammar lectures on another. The second years in our course are always telling us how everything will start to fit together for us next year, and programming takes another level in focusing on computational linguistics. Can’t wait to see what the rest of this course brings! Gotta go pack now, since we have next week off (it’s reading week) my American friends and I are going to Germany for a few days. One of my American friends is actually German, so we are going to stay with her family in Cologne. Should be a fun trip, bis später!