Tuesday, January 25, 2011

25%: Random thoughts

I’m 25% thru my study away experience already! I haven’t done anything too crazy the last week*, so I’ll share again some random thoughts

* Actually, at the time of completion of this post I have, but there’s so much to write that I will split this post into two.


Symbols in Europe

There are obviously pronunciation differences of the alphabet between French and English. But I’m pretty sure Americans one are the only ones who use “zee” instead of “zed” to describe the last letter of the alphabet.

Also, I like the way French people write the number 1: like an upside down v. And their 6s look like G’s.
I’m also perpetually perplexed in orchestra rehearsal because Europeans for the most part use solfege for representing notes.

Sports

Top four questions to ask a Polytechnicien:
·        What country are you from (if you look non-French)?
·        What’s your PA (~major)?
·        What year are you?
·        What sport do you do?
You might be wondering about that last question? Here at X, sports are very important. Everyone is required to do a mandatory 3 practices a day for the sport they pick. You live, and hang out socially with the people in your sport.
Some interesting facts:
·        there are two 25m pools! For ~1000 people!
·        ….and a golf course
·        All sports teams get funding to take trips to foreign countries. For example, the tennis section went to Thailand last year.
·        Orienteering is a sport
·        I’m in the tennis section, and apparently they get to watch Roland Garros every year (in their uniforms)

Polytechneciens at Roland Garros. Green arrows indicate people I played tennis against last week.



Question and Answer?

Typical beginning of conversation with someone new:
·       
·        Them: where are you from?
·        Me: Where would you guess?
o   Them, response 1: China/Japan/Singapore/Korea!
o   Them, response 2: England!
o   Them, response 3: France*!
·       
·        Them: What city?
·        Me, response1: Boston
·        Them: Ah! Boston!
·        Me, response2: Michigan
·        Them: Ah… Chicago!
·       
·        Them: What college?
o   Me: Olin College in Boston
o   Them, typical response: Ah… where is that?
o   Them, second most common response: Ah… Boston College?
o   Them, most rare response: Oh Olin… do you know ____  who goes there?**

*Apparently, sometimes I can speak French well enough to hide my American accent. OK…. This happened only once actually.
** I’ve gotten this response twice. One was someone who knew Matt Ritter. The second time was a professor here who went to grad school with Brian Storey (prof. at Olin)

Culture of music

My friend Gabriel played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, mvmt 1, at a student concert. It was held on Wednesday, during lunch time, in a lecture hall.

Some observations:
·        The lecture hall was very full (>50%) of people, maybe 80 people. I don’t think this would ever happen at Olin, even for engineering-related talks. Maybe Polytechnique is bigger, but maybe there’s something with Europeans and appreciating classical music concert

·        The level of playing was VERY VERY good (my friend Gabriel seems to be going to or coming from rehearsal everytime I see him). And these are all non-music major students.

French class: not lecture-based

I had my first ever French class this week. The students in the class are a mix of all different levels, from all different countries. The class itself was very interactive. We played a “name the population of this country” game.

During the class, I remembered my meeting a language teacher at an engineering education conference once. She told me that much of this stuff Olin and other innovative engineering schools was trying to do with project based learning, student engagement, was pioneered by foreign language teachers years ago.
With this thought, I asked the teacher about her teaching style vs the lecture style in all my science classes, and she said: “I can give a lecture, but only 10% of students would listen to me. Or I can divide the class into groups to work on a “project” of some kind. In the second case, I need to repeat myself to each group, but everyone is engaged and listens”.

A theory on why this is: with language classes, the end goal is much more evident: either the student talks/speaks the foreign language better, or not. One can see that by the end of the class term. With technical classes, one has to wait until years after graduation, where the skills/knowledge learned are applied in a real world setting, to know if the teaching was effective.

Again, I would like to reiterate that I’m not trying to make a value judgment on the style of education at Polytechnique (I wouldn't know about the rest of France) versus at Olin. I’m just making observations, and writing down my thoughts.

"Name this Country's population" game!

English accents

I love listening to all my friends speaking English to each other in different accents (which we always do before the French class). Imagine what it must sound like for a native French speaker to hear us trying to speak French!

2 comments:

  1. Your comment about many different accents speaking one language made me think about heaven. I wonder what language we will speak, all with our different accents!

    I am enjoying your posts! Can it really be that your time in France is 25% over already?! Make every day count!

    Love,
    Mrs. K.

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