Quebec Pt. III: 4 Things You Inadvertently Learn in French Immersion

1) There are muscles in your mouth you’ve never used before

I’ve never thought much about language, at least not beyond trying to figure out what to say next. Even then I don’t really think things through. If you never had much of an interest in linguistics (like myself) it can come as a surprise when you start to learn about the basics of how spoken language works.

Here at Trois Pistole one of the French Teachers is a linguist and, incidentally, an anglophone. This gives him a lot of insight. As an English Speaker he has first-hand experience with the kind of mistakes we are likely to make while learning French. Then, as a linguist, he has a good idea of why exactly we make those mistakes. Luckily for us, he also hosts a phonetics clinic once a week to teach us the little details of pronunciation. Last week he focused on how French vowels work. The image I’ve included below is meant to represent where French vowel sounds come from in our mouths.

The French “i”, which sounds like an English “e”, is formed at the front of the mouth when the jaw closed (antérieure, fermée). In contract, the French “ɑ” comes from the back of the mouth and requires a wide open jaw (postérieure, ouverte).

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Please Don’t Kill the MAGIC!: A “Rude” Apologist Speaks Out

There’s a lot that I could have written about given that San Diego Comic-Con is in full-swing, but lately I’ve been flooding the blog’s Facebook page with so much superhero-related stuff I think I can pass on it. Instead, I refer all of you to the following music video, which you should watch before reading further:

“Rude” is a song by Canadian reggae band MAGIC!, and given their place of origin I was surprised to see that the track hit the top of the charts in the States. That kind of airtime is going to get you a lot of attention, which in turn is going to lead to a variety of different responses.

Before moving forward with those, however, we should probably make sure we’re all on the same page.
Essentially this is three minutes and
forty-five seconds of frontman Nasri Atweh asking the father of the woman he’s in love with if he can marry her and being denied over and over. He then tells the aforementioned dad that his approval is not actually needed, and that he will “marry her anyway”. Alright, let’s move on. Continue reading

Fame Day: The One-State Solution

This was originally going to be my topic for Monday, but I decided to put this discussion off for a few days and showcase it here. Our “Fame Days”, after all, aren’t just about celebrating achievements but include shining the spotlight on noble issues or events we believe should have more attention, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of any idea more deserving than the “One-State Solution”.

Chances are that you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s fine. Normally I rail against what I’d consider self-imposed ignorance when it comes to politics or foreign affairs, but this is a really, really obscure concept (heck, that’s the entire reason we’re talking about it today).

When we’re talking about either the “one-state” or (more common) “two-state” solutions, we’re referencing the debate over the future of Israel and the Palestinian territories. Pretty much every so-called “road map” to “peace in the Middle East” revolves around settling the question of the borders of Israel and what would eventually become the state of Palestine. Who gets what land, access to which resources, authority over which sites- you get the idea.

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Surprise Witness: Crass Cartoons and Reprehensible Rappers

GORDON: Friends, Romans, Countrypersons! Lend us your ears! We come to try out a new twist on our weekly discussions!

EVAN: Given Kat’s absence that I mentioned prior, I took a page from what’s been going on over at Marvel to really shake things up hereabouts [while still keeping the spirit of the blog you all love so much].

So Gordon and I got to brainstorming a feature to replace Culture War Correspondence for now [?], and what we settled on was a riff on a little something called “Defending Your Sh*tty Taste”, a podcast on Cracked.com.

GORDON: As the name would suggest, “Defending Your Sh*tty Taste” simply entails each of us bring up one or more cultural elements- shows, music, trends, etc.- which are generally despised, devaluated, or looked down upon by the general public, and proceeding to talk about what value we see in ‘em and why we personally enjoy ‘em.

EVAN: Before we get started in earnest, I think it would be good to lay down some ground rules, and sort of explain the general format.

Like you said we’ll each be bringing up our own topics [which we're well aware have their problems] and extolling their virtues. It will be up to the other person to point out the flaws. What I’m going to insist on is that we solely target the cultural element itself, not bringing up or comparing anything else [ex: "But as a communist doesn't this conflict with your belief that _____?"]

GORDON: I’d also point out that this isn’t really a debate. We’re not here to bash each other’s pleasures, no matter how sick and indecent they might be… Evan.

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Shame Day: The Post-Grad’s Job Search

This is pretty short as posts can get, but its length has directly to do with the topic at hand. See, I’ve been unemployed since last year, and that’s not for lack of trying to change that status. Given certain things going well there’s a chance that, instead of sitting here on the couch that doubles as my bed, I’d actually be in sunny Las Vegas with your favourite communist Culture War Reporter Gordon. Some things just aren’t meant to be, however.

I’m well aware that this isn’t going to be anything new for many of my peers out there, but just allow me this platform to vent a little. I am a college graduate. I am the child of a generation who believed that attaining a post-secondary degree more or less equated to a good job. Honestly, I wish that the piece of paper I have in a storage bin somewhere had some significant effect on my job search. See, and again, you probably already know this, what employers are really looking for is experience.

Most places are asking for three to five years with a particular task, and here I am having graduated in 2012, worked in 2013, and presently job-hunting full-time in 2014. This poorly-designed diagram really says it all:

Really, I don’t know what more to add to that. Surely Gordon, who has a job directly related to employment and has more of a finger on the pulse of current events regarding the economy, would have more to say, but I really don’t; I’m not even quite sure who to blame. It’s tough out there, and today’s just one of those days where I’m letting it get me down.

Normally I try not to let things on this blog get too personal, but honestly I think it’s a facet of post-grad culture, holding a diploma and wondering how on earth we’re going to use it. It’s frustrating to say the very least, and I just have to throw my two cents into what’s ostensibly a very large and very heavy bucket of copper-plated steel.

The Strain: It’s Nosferatu on Steroids

My last quasi-review on this blog was of Helix, a sci-fi horror show about a strange and deadly contagion which had overpowered a research lab in the arctic circle. My issue wasn’t with the set or the story, but rather that Helix wasn’t really about anything. Science fiction is a medium for us to explore big ideas, like the line between humanity and technology, free will, and responsibility. The horror genre functions the same way, with its stories serving as ways for us to examine the duality of our nature…

…our place in the cosmos…

…and questions of faith.

Going into The Strain, my biggest question was “what’s this all about?”, and readers, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that it’s a blast.

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BC Girl in a Québécois World Pt. II: What to Expect in Quebec

As you may remember from last week, I’m currently attending a full immersion language school in Quebec. A little over a week ago I gathered in a sweltering auditorium with approximately 250 other students while a professor spoke to us in English, for the last time.

“The people of this village have a name for you anglophones;” he explained, “they call you the ones with the blank stares.”

I’ve been here for about two weeks now, and more often than not that’s how it goes. I limp out something French. The Francophone responds so fast that to my untrained ears a sentence sounds instead like one very long word. It feels a little bit like being two years old again, only with memories of a time when you were actually a competent human being.

Just imagine that first image is someone trying to explain something in French.

Growing up in British Columbia I heard complaints against French language laws, which work to protect French culture. English speakers argued that it was an unfair double standard, and that the French were just being snobby. That has not been my experience here in Quebec.  Continue reading