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Topology and languages part two: the easy version of Wednesday

FRANCE | Sunday, 20 September 2015 | Views [421]

Thursday required me getting up in time to be at a 10:45 class. It is one of only two morning classes I have this semester. Life is rough.

The class in question was topology. I think it won the dubious title of most comprehensible topology class I have ever had. We went over all of the definitions were should have had the day before, and even the sketch of proving several of the exercises. The professor never detoured into fluid mechanics, (or any other branch of physics, come to think about it) and the definitions were making way more sense.

I actually left feeling slightly confident about topology. And wondering if the TD was the right TD for my to cours magistral. (According to the online schedule, yes. Raise your hand if you have any confidence in the online information being right.) It would make a lot more sense if she thought she was taking to students who had had two weeks of lectures.

Once topology was over, I headed back to my apartment to lunch, then on to the back. If called them to get my address changed for insurance purposes, and they'd told me I needed to show up in person as soon as possible. (This had been on Tuesday. "As soon as possible" takes a while when I have classes in the afternoon and don't want to get up and leave the house early just to go to the bank.) They'd subsequently told me there was an online paper for me to sign (there was, out just didn't have my new address or a place to put my new address anywhere on it) and Erin that I really needed to show up to sign the papers. So, once the bank had opened after lunch again, off I went.

I waited for a while, and finally someone came over to help me. Explaining what I wanted was tricky, because to be honest, I wasn't quite sure. I did know that Erin had told me to do this, and it wasn't supposed to be this complicated.

I answered all their questions as best I could, and thought I was making progress until the person I was talking with started asking me about electricity bills. No, I didn't have any in my name... Yes, I did have a lease, but not with me... I'd come back with it.

I left and headed to the office. Because I knew Erin wanted a copy of the paper that had come with my student ID, (I'd gotten that on Tuesday) and because she had a copy of the lease and was closer than my apartment, and because I was pretty sure I didn't actually need the lease to change my address.

I was right. Erin got on the phone, talked to several people, and established that:

1) No one else has needed to even go to the bank after calling to change their address

2) Sometime between this morning, when Erin had received an email from Anaïs saying I needed to go the bank to sign the forms they'd been faxed and the time I'd shown up there, they'd lost all record of that

3) All I needed to do was come back with my computer and ID number and I'd be able to log into the bank and provide an electronic signature. If for some reason that didn't work, Erin would help me communicate with the bank to resolve it.

Perfect. By this point, there was not really enough time to justify going back to my apartment again, so I made my way back to the university, stopping in a bookstore along the way. I stayed there longer than I would have for any other class, because this was A2 French and I didn't really care about getting there early. So I got there right on time (I would have been late if I'd let the fact that the campus doesn't make sense throw me) and ended up sitting outside waiting for a number of minutes. Next to me, two girls were having a decently quick conversation, and I thought that maybe this level wouldn't be so bad. Then I realized we weren't waiting for the same classroom, and they were probably French students studying English or something.

When the class actually started, it became increasingly obvious that I was in the wrong level. The professor spoke so slowly, and she repeated the same information about three times to make sure everyone understood. Plus, on a handout that she gave us, it said that every level had about four hours of homework a week. At a level so much below what I could do, that was a lot of busywork.

Fortunately, the only thing we did the first day was take a test. Unlike the placement test, this one would be writing and speaking focused. (Who thought that a multiple choice test was a good way to put students into levels that are mainly distinguished by their fluency in holding a conversation?) And, if I proved my competence here, I could move up to a higher level.

The writing assignment was to write a letter of at least 120 words to a French friend describing our move to Paris and our plans for this semester. Mine filled the first half page and most of the back, and managed to throw in the conditional and subjunctive. It was also a mix of reality and fiction, because I found certain lies much easier to write about than the truth. It was definitely not the best writing I'd ever done, or even the best in French, since I was bored by the subject matter and was more focused on writing a lot than writing perfectly. And, when I was done, I did not have the energy to proofread it. So I turned it in, mistakes and all. It certainly proved that I could write competently and at length about things other than shopping.

I was the very last person to go up for my conversation with the instructor. It was slightly after eight, and she clearly wanted to be gone. While I understand that, it meant she did not give me the attention she gave literally everyone else. I'd listened to her spend 10 stumbling minutes rephrasing questions so that people with a limited grasp of the language could respond, and I'd listened to her telling three out of the last four people to go up what the higher level class would be like and what it would study, and why, even though it would be more of a challenge, she thought it was a better fit, because she saw a lot of things that she liked in their paper and their conversation. So it was hard not to feel snubbed when her comments to me were "you speak well. You have some spelling errors, but I'll look over your writing tonight, and if you need to go to B1, I'll tell the office and you should go there on Monday to transfer to a new level." And I nodded at her, thinking that it I wasn't transferred up, I was dropping the course.

While I'm sure I disappointed Madame Crosby (high school teacher) by not including five uses of the subjunctive in a four-minute conversation, what was this instructor expecting out of me? She definitely asked me less questions, and she was not nearly as encouraging as she was to the others. If she wasn't going to read long enough to see where I used subjunctive, conditional, and fancy vocabulary, (and yes, it was well over 120 words, but so were most of my classmates') what had been the point of me staying for the last half hour. It was so clear to me that I did not belong in this class, but the instructor never gave me the courtesy of acknowledging that. (The next day I got an email from the office of French as a foreign language telling me to go there to enrol in the new class immediately. Nice, friendly touch.)

Frustrated by the fact that after five hours of testing, I still wasn't sure I'd end up in the right class for my language abilities, I started the walk home. And I was treated to this view.

 Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, sunset

I can’t say that it made everything instantly better. But it did give me a wonderful sense of perspective.

Tags: banking, french, math, sunset, topology

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