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O Fim duma Viagem

Aimless Wednesday

FRANCE | Sunday, 13 September 2015 | Views [227]

Wednesday I had no class. This was not a typical thing, but since most TDs were nonexistent the first week, it was true this week. This gave me a full day to myself. I caught up on the emails I needed to write (intended to catch up on the blog, but that didn't quite work) and generally didn't do much in the morning.

In the afternoon, I remembered that I was not yet registered for all my classes. So I headed back to the university to see about that.

It took me a bit to find the room foreign language class registration was in. But when I showed up, and said I wanted to take a class in Russian, I was directed straight towards a table and given a form to fill out.

I'd intended to sign up for the introductory level but, when I looked at my options, I reconsidered. There were three levels: beginner, fake beginner, and middle/advanced. I asked the woman there about it, (she was not the Russian professor, since they would not be there until Thursday) and she asked if I'd taken a Russian class before and knew how to read the alphabet. I did, though I didn't know much else by this point. But she advised me to put down the second option and leave Tuesday evenings free in case I needed to drop down.

The underestimating language level is apparently a common problem for them. Next to me was a girl registering for German, having taken it for several years in high school. German had many more options than Russian (at least five courses) and she tried to put herself in one of the lower levels. The woman told her that, since she'd already taken it for several years, she would be bored in a class that focused on being able to say things like "gutentag. Danke schon." The student smiled and moved her self-assessment one level up.

I turned in my sheet, and the woman told me to expect an email but, failing that, show up at 18:00 on Wednesday. I asked where, since the sheet didn't have any indication of what building, let alone room, class would be held in. I had no desire to wander around trying to find people who spoke some, but not huge amounts of Russian. "There should be an email." I really hope she's right.

After that, I tracked down the French as a foreign language classroom and went in. They gave me my registration sheet, with the level determined from the placement test written in.

European language assessment is generally divided into six levels. Roughly summarised:

A1: "Bonjour. Merci." Simple introductions. The kind of language abilities you would need if you're traveling by yourself in a smaller town where that is still higher than other people's knowledge of your native tongue.

A2: Provided that the conversation or writing is short, you can understand and contribute as long as the topic is something that's immediately relevant to you.

B1: Generally, you can do anything you need to in the language. You can grasp and summarise the main ideas of television or novels, and can talk about your impressions of them. You might need to ask the other person to go slowly, and your own contributions might be phrased strangely, but with effort on both parts, you can get through any conversation.

B2: You're fine with pretty much anything that's interesting to you. You can understand news, novels, and can contribute to discussions. Even when the reading or lecture is not completely straightforward or you weren't prepared to get into a conversation with a native speaker, you'll still be able to manage fine.

C1: You can understand people who ramble and never need to ramble or stall to express your thoughts. You can understand technical articles not related to you, and can form sophisticated arguments in writing and speech.

C2: Give you a little time, and you can understand anything anyone says, regardless of accent. You can talk completely fluidly and recover from mistakes without anyone noticing. Whether in writing or orally, you can understand and express anything you choose. (You could probably even make that last sentence sound smooth.)

The level that they gave me was A2. Which was not so much disappointing as surprising. I would not consider myself an A2. I don't think I started Carthage as an A2. The first French class I took there was supposed to be B2 and, although that was probably a bit optimistic, (no one liked the textbook, and we had a hard time following it, so the teacher had to slow down the course) after three Carthage courses and a summer in Morocco, that's roughly the level I would place myself now. I could see why someone might consider me one level lower, but not two. I mean, yesterday I understood a native speaker lecturing about math at normal speeds. That's not exactly a short conversation about family or shopping.

Hopefully there's a way to move myself up. Otherwise, at least I'll have one really easy class. For the time being, I chose a day and received a class. Then the person registering me asked if I was interested in a phonetics class. It wasn't necessary, and I don't think there was even any credit associated with it. (I hope not, since I'm at the max amount of ECTS.) I remembered several of last year's seniors saying that phonetics had been the most useful class they'd taken abroad. So I knew I should take it. However, it was at 19:00. I had Russian on Wednesdays, wanted to leave Tuesdays free if I needed to drop down, had French on Thursdays, and wanted to leave Mondays free so I'd have more flexibility about travel plans. Thus, if I wanted to take a phonetics course it would need to be... 19:00 on Fridays. Sigh.

I left the building and double-checked the European language self-assessment. Yep, it did seem like I was overqualified for that class. Like, "how did I mess up the placement test that much?" overqualified. My French couldn't be that bad, could it?

Once out of the university, I started wandering up and down the streets. I found a yarn store, (I've never had to search out a yarn store in Paris. They always seem to appear to me magically.) a number of small boutiques, and another few bookstores before I found my way back to Librarie Eyrolles. Here, in buying a student cookbook, the cashier asked if I had a student idea. I explained that I didn't, but I would. And, just like magic, 50 cents came off the amount. I'm hoping it was a percentage (5%) and not a flat amount. I feel like "never buy items in bulk. You'll maximize your student discount if you buy one item at a time" is the kind of money-saving tip I feel Erin should have shared with us.

Tags: books, language, registration

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