the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

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DaveBee
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby DaveBee » Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:09 am

Cavesa wrote:Bad news. I am noticing my French has been deteriorating in France. Of course I speak and use it, but only in medicine. Since a friend who lived in the other room for rent here left, I've been feeling a bit lonely. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with the lady at whose place I live about tons of interesting stuff. Politics, sports, and so on. But quite basic words are eluding me now. I am forgetting even quite basic stuff, that is not medicine. I think my accent is quite the same. But vocabulary is an issue.

Not meeting that many people outside the hospital is one root of the problem. Another: media. I am reading much less fiction (as I have exchanged it for textbooks) and I am not watching movies or tv series almost at all. Curiously, I get much more immersed in non-medical French in my own room in Prague. It is a kind of a failure. Perhaps a personality issue, I simply need a bit more time and more obvious opportunities to make friends. But I am still more than convinced my choice not to join the classical Erasmus style social life was correct.

One of my most important self-assesment criteria: sense of humour in the language. My sense of humour may be bad (it is very subjective after all), but I like to have the same one in all my languages, without any langauge barrier. But in French, I am just now getting used to it, as I am "shy". I am too nervous about not making a bad impression here, so my usual sarcasm is mostly gone. It was more ok with the friend here, in the same house, with whom we could just grab a coffee and talk, those were great moments. That is not so easy among students, who run from hospital to class and than to supplementary paid classes in the evening and in between, if they have a bit of time, to the library todive into the textbooks.
You mentioned you had started taking singing lessons. Could you perhaps join an amateur choir? Either one at the hospital/university, or a local one suggested by your singing teacher? If your teacher can't suggest one, libraries often keep a list of local clubs (choir? orchestra?) too.
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby Fortheo » Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:29 pm

Cavesa wrote:Bad news. I am noticing my French has been deteriorating in France. Of course I speak and use it, but only in medicine. Since a friend who lived in the other room for rent here left, I've been feeling a bit lonely. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with the lady at whose place I live about tons of interesting stuff. Politics, sports, and so on. But quite basic words are eluding me now. I am forgetting even quite basic stuff, that is not medicine. I think my accent is quite the same. But vocabulary is an issue.

Not meeting that many people outside the hospital is one root of the problem. Another: media. I am reading much less fiction (as I have exchanged it for textbooks) and I am not watching movies or tv series almost at all. Curiously, I get much more immersed in non-medical French in my own room in Prague. It is a kind of a failure. Perhaps a personality issue, I simply need a bit more time and more obvious opportunities to make friends. But I am still more than convinced my choice not to join the classical Erasmus style social life was correct.



You're definitely not the only one who's encountered that problem. I've talked to several people who found that their language level actually lowered while staying in the country where the target language is spoken. For example, I just watched this yesterday and his turkish deteriorated a bit while in Turkey:




It's strange how we can sometimes be more immersed in the language in our own rooms than we can by living in the country where the language is spoken.
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby reineke » Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:38 pm

Did someone mention brains? It could be a case of creative disorder and rewiring. Systems going offline...applying upgrade...

I'd choose Spain or France over my living room anytime.
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby Cavesa » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:32 pm

Not sure whether you are talking about brains or computers now, Reineke :-)

Of course I wouldn't choose my room over France. It's just the fact people expect so much language improvement from Erasmus it is hard not to be a bit disappointed. And it's hard not to look weird, when talking to people convinced that "it is impossible to not improve on Erasmus, I improved my Spanish so much. You couldn't have spoken so well, when you arrived, you surely just haven't noticed the progress."

A professor praised my French presentation of two patients today. Well, perhaps it was because of lower expectations, not sure. :-D

I am hiding here from my 560 Memrise reviews in the finished TA1 wordlist.

A few German related notes: Pech and Loch made me smile. Again, words we have acquired from German. There are so many!

Back to hematology. Tomorrow (technically speaking later today): some language learning again. And more nephrology and hematology.
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby Ani » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:51 pm

Cavesa wrote:Of course I wouldn't choose my room over France. It's just the fact people expect so much language improvement from Erasmus it is hard not to be a bit disappointed. And it's hard not to look weird, when talking to people convinced that "it is impossible to not improve on Erasmus, I improved my Spanish so much. You couldn't have spoken so well, when you arrived, you surely just haven't noticed the progress."


You have realized that you came into Erasmus already having a C2 whereas, iirc, you said that some students could come with a B2? You are not really sitting around wondering why a B2 would notice more improvement than a C2 level learner right? :-p No more comparing!
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby the1whoknocks » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:34 am

I'm not in a position to offer advice (not that you asked for any) since I'm not familiar with your specific circumstances. I just thought I'd mention how much I admire the high standard that you seem to consistently hold yourself to, and the impressive amount of learning you manage to do; all the while, managing to stay active on this forum.

While I don't discount that your French may have room for improvement, I'm willing to bet that you are your own worse critic and, in fact, you may be doing better than you perceive yourself to be. Reminds me of my, at times, tenuous relationship with Spanish.

Anyway, I look forward reading of your later successes.
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby blaurebell » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:34 am

Cavesa wrote:Perhaps a personality issue, I simply need a bit more time and more obvious opportunities to make friends. But I am still more than convinced my choice not to join the classical Erasmus style social life was correct.


I had a similar problem while I was a visiting student in England. I found it difficult to make friends on courses because you're always a bit disconnected when you join a course late and almost all my courses were 2nd year courses. I felt very lonely at times and it was making me anxious, precisely because I felt that I wasn't getting as much out of the stay as I could. The only way to combat this beyond going out to party like most Erasmus students is to join a common activity, a club or study group. I met very nice people dancing tango and that was a lifesaver. Without it I would have gone nuts. Find something you like and go do it over there.

As for language improvement, there is only very limited improvement possible when you already came with a C2 level. If you don't have as much time to spend on your everyday vocabulary, it will deteriorate, that's just normal. Seriously, even with your own language this can happen. Already before leaving the country I had moments of "uhm, oh, what's-it-called again, you know that green thing ..." - Zucchini. If you never speak about the green thing, why would you remember the word for it, even if you buy and eat it? It's especially difficult if you have millions of other things that you must remember at all cost and know about 4 or 5 different words for the green thing in 5 languages. While I was studying 60h a week I could tell you everything about certain philosophers, but trying to have a coherent conversation about anything else - including what I ate that day - in my own language ... forget it. It's more of a mental focus problem than a language problem.

And since you're noticing funny German words, I throw in the word "Fachidiot" - someone who knows only about his subject and is an idiot when it comes to everything else. It's so common, that Germans have a word for it. I certainly was a philosophy Fachidiot while on my super crazy schedule. This will improve as soon as you take some time for yourself, watch movies, go do something fun where you can make friends and don't spend every free minute in the library. Of course that wasn't possible for me back then and it might not be possible for you right now either. In that case be patient with yourself and don't focus too much on it. Your specific professional vocabulary and handling of the language in common hospital situations is probably improving a lot and you're not noticing it much because you focus on the problems this high intensity schedule has created for you.
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Cavesa
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby Cavesa » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:05 pm

Thank you.
Ani wrote:You have realized that you came into Erasmus already having a C2 whereas, iirc, you said that some students could come with a B2? You are not really sitting around wondering why a B2 would notice more improvement than a C2 level learner right? :-p No more comparing!

B2? :-D There are people who have never learnt French. They count on just understanding thanks to their native language being similar and learning in the free courses for Erasmus students. What do they do with the patients, I don't know. Or a girl, who studies French at university. American. Perhaps B1 (??? in the Czech Republic, you need to have B2 before entering your university studies of large langauges.) but with the worst pronunciation I've ever heard.

I know, I realize the troubles of progress beyond C2 well. But it is still a bit disappointing :-D, no idea why. And a part of all this are the people who don't believe I could have learnt French before arriving. :-D

the1whoknocks wrote:I'm not in a position to offer advice (not that you asked for any) since I'm not familiar with your specific circumstances. I just thought I'd mention how much I admire the high standard that you seem to consistently hold yourself to, and the impressive amount of learning you manage to do; all the while, managing to stay active on this forum.

While I don't discount that your French may have room for improvement, I'm willing to bet that you are your own worse critic and, in fact, you may be doing better than you perceive yourself to be. Reminds me of my, at times, tenuous relationship with Spanish.

Anyway, I look forward reading of your later successes.

Thank you. This is very kind of you.

Yes, my standard may be the problem, especially as I am too lazy. A person capable of wasting so much time cannot afford being a perfectionist:-D
At hospital, I want to be taken for a good student, not just good for an Erasmus. And outside, I would like to not look for words, simply be a good conversation partner. I know there is an ancient discussion like "advanced skills are not just vocabulary" and "you should know fewer words but perfectly" and all the stuff we all probably remember being discussed ad nauseam. The thing is: my grammar is ok. It is much worse in writing or while doing grammar exercises (the less I think about it, the better results). While speaking, I make few mistakes. While I am still a bit "too formal" compared to the natives, I am highly colloquial and natural compared to usual expectations from a foreigner. But I don't want to push this, as being a too colloquial foreigner isn't always a good thing.

The trouble IS the vocabulary. When I cannot remember words like "menacer" or "centrale nucleaire", not even perfect knowledge of the first 2000 (or what was the number) words from a frequency list can help. :-D

I probably need to actively study vocabulary again. And to read more sci-fi. The ideal source for science, philosphy, and other such kinds of vocabulary :-D And perhaps some popular psychology and self-help books. For the vocab and a good laugh :-D

blaurebell wrote:I had a similar problem while I was a visiting student in England. I found it difficult to make friends on courses because you're always a bit disconnected when you join a course late and almost all my courses were 2nd year courses. I felt very lonely at times and it was making me anxious, precisely because I felt that I wasn't getting as much out of the stay as I could. The only way to combat this beyond going out to party like most Erasmus students is to join a common activity, a club or study group. I met very nice people dancing tango and that was a lifesaver. Without it I would have gone nuts. Find something you like and go do it over there.

Thanks! It's a bit too late, as I am leaving soon. Study groups are a bit hard to find, as those people already have them: their usual class. And they are not studying the same stuff. For example now. I am studying nephrology, which is where I am in hospital every day. But the other students, while studying nephrology a bit, are focusing on pediatrics, another part of their module. Because their lectures are on pedia and their nearest exam too. My dad suggests I could join them. Yeah, sure. I have a nephrology exam soon after returning to Prague, I need it in hospital every day, and I should attend lectures on something I'll have next year instead of studying.

One of the troubles of finding group activities is health. I was ill almost whole January, for example. That doesn't favor looking for group hobbies.

Today, I am going for a coffee with a friend, so I am not totally without social life :-) I am excited.

As for language improvement, there is only very limited improvement possible when you already came with a C2 level. If you don't have as much time to spend on your everyday vocabulary, it will deteriorate, that's just normal. Seriously, even with your own language this can happen. Already before leaving the country I had moments of "uhm, oh, what's-it-called again, you know that green thing ..." - Zucchini. If you never speak about the green thing, why would you remember the word for it, even if you buy and eat it? It's especially difficult if you have millions of other things that you must remember at all cost and know about 4 or 5 different words for the green thing in 5 languages. While I was studying 60h a week I could tell you everything about certain philosophers, but trying to have a coherent conversation about anything else - including what I ate that day - in my own language ... forget it. It's more of a mental focus problem than a language problem.

And since you're noticing funny German words, I throw in the word "Fachidiot" - someone who knows only about his subject and is an idiot when it comes to everything else. It's so common, that Germans have a word for it. I certainly was a philosophy Fachidiot while on my super crazy schedule. This will improve as soon as you take some time for yourself, watch movies, go do something fun where you can make friends and don't spend every free minute in the library. Of course that wasn't possible for me back then and it might not be possible for you right now either. In that case be patient with yourself and don't focus too much on it. Your specific professional vocabulary and handling of the language in common hospital situations is probably improving a lot and you're not noticing it much because you focus on the problems this high intensity schedule has created for you.

Thanks. Fachidiot is a great word. Finally a term for the ideal medical student (by the expectation of medical faculties). The friend I am having a coffee with today has recently wrote an interesting article about it. About the value of not restricting ourselves just to medicine studies. And within them, just to what are we supposed to learn for an exam.

Btw, have I told you about my singing classes? I started right before Christmas. And I am already improving a bit, even though it is obvious I am a beginner. I love singing! Why didn't I start twenty years ago? :-D
I think my guess about its positive effects on pronunciation was correct. As I am in general correcting some bad habits coming from my native language and style of speaking in general, I am sure it must show. And while singing pronunciation is different from the spoken one, there are still things I can directly transfer. And I am strenghtening the habit of paying attention to details in pronunciation. So far, I've been singing in Italian (the etudes are a proof that absolutely anything can sound good in Italian :-D .and Italian is the language of classical music. I am learning a very nice romantic song in it) but tomorrow, I'll be starting something in French too. I need to find a teacher in Prague, so that I can continue.
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby Cavesa » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:29 pm

I wish I wasn't so tired!

I need (and want! yes, it sounds weird, coming from me :-D ) to study nephrology today, I need to get back to German (I have a new deadline, if I want to use an interesting opportunity for this summer, but I'd need to work like crazy on improving the language asap). But my eyes are closing! and I have plans to attend a concert today. Fortunately, I need mostly ears for that

And as my time to leave France comes closer, I have visited a big second hand bookshop and left there 45 euros. My original budget was 20. But after all, I'd have to buy the books for more, back in Prague. And I need a bit of balance to my studies (please don't point out it is an excuse to be lazy, I know :-D )

http://9gag.com/gag/aRmP9rM/25-hilariou ... -the-worst
I laughed a lot.
1 is not true about me, I hear poems recitation, not heated discussions. But this comes from a person with 99% preference for prose. :-D
2 is very precise :-D
8 sums up the wonder we all probably feel at times, while studying German vocab :-D
9: is it true and precise? :-D
11: Kummerspeck seems to be a real word :-D well, it could be part of the Medicine Student Syndrome. A friend of mine quickly lost 20 kg in half a year after giving up on medicine. She is now studying a related field, working, with still more free time than before, and I had never seen her happier.
12. There is a typo. But I love the word Überraschung! even the sound is surprising! :-D
13 :-D I would actually like to see Germans playing it
15 we have that too! "To je mi buřt!"is exactly the same thing, exact translation and meaning. And, as most words and phrases we had taken from German, its use is dying out with the older generations.
16 Naturwissenschaften is a perfectly logical word. But it takes up more ink, true.
18 looks like an ideal pronunciation challenge for us!
23: that is actually a very good question. Do they?
24. the word Schmetterling actually portrays some aspects of "butterfliness" (the essence of being a butterfly :-D ) the other, more tender words don't. The Czech word motýl is still just the gentle and elegant impression, while der Schmtterling immediately makes me imagine the flight!
25 is stupid

It has been a good decision to update my knowledge of French fantasy and sci-fi. For example to not recommend the same stuff all over again.

Apart from the already beloved authors, I am still crazy about the "newly found" Fabien Clavel. He, and another author I've just found, use Prague in their books, which is another bonus point (ok, sometimes just in the classical portrait of a nice place for the badguys' headquarters). But really. I've read only 15 pages of Henri Courtade's "Loup, y es-tu?" and I am in love! Mixing fairytales with conspiration theories and being funny, what a combination!

Other stuff I've just dragged from the shop:
-Les Rois maudits by Druon. I've heard so much about this! first three parts in one tome for 3 euros. yay!
-One more Clavel to put on my "to read" shelf. I am already looking forward to opening the book.
-One Dantec: "Babylon Babies", to challenge my general knowledge again, and draw me into a great story. Really, if anyone says scifi is stupid, put a Dantec in their hands.
-Two Geneforts, I left there a third one (a decision I may regret later). I am really enjoying his Hordes, and I am curious about a space opera with an opera singer as the hero! And Lum'en, the other book, got three prizes. I know, there are so many prizes that many of them don't mean much (still a better situation than with the wines. It looks like there are as many prizes as wine producers, as it is a nice marketing trick to use on us, who know little beyond "I like that/ I don't like that"). But le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire is actually a very trustuworthy one.
-La Horde du Contrevent by Damasio: It got the same prize. But more importantly: Tarvos has recommended it!
-Jean-Philippe Depotte: Le chemin des dieux: It looks interesting, a french-japanese story, and so on, something new. But what made me buy it and not something else (among the candidates, there were two books translated from Chinese, which looked very interesting, a few thrillers, and a Chinese course): "Scientifique de formation, passionné d'histoire et de littérature, Jean-Philippe Depotte est né en 1967. Il a été inventeur <<breveté>>, éditeur de méthodes de langues et directeur de production de jeux vidéo. You see? And the scientist part is the best. I love authors with scientific background. Don't get me wrong, historiens like Clavel are awesome too! But a scientist writing sci-fi, that is different.
-Estelle Faye: Thya. Finally a book by a woman on my today's list. I have a few more contemporary French fantasy writers, who happen to be women, on my to read list. She won Prix Imaginal 2015, and one other prix (from the huuuuuuuuge prize crowd I have already described above). She writes for younger readers, the other few women on my 2017 list seem to write purely adult stuff. You may have noticed the neverending trouble with this feminist issue in my heart. Yes, I want more women as popular fantasy/scifi writers. But I don't like the fact so many write crap and get it published and the idea that I don't know whether women in general write less/worse or get published less. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised, if men were taking female names and wrote the generic Twilight copies too, as an easy source of money, drawn from the pockets of 14 year olds :-D. But I don't want to choose books based on positive discrimination either. I don't know whether you see, where the "trouble" is. There are awesome women-fantasy writers. But too few, considering the fact most fantasy readers are women (can't quote it, sorry, but there was an actual research by some marketing or sociology institution).

Now, I need to force myself to progress with medicine and these fun books in a reasonable way. Ratio 3:1 (chapters med:fun) seems reasonable. But even 2:1 will be a success.

P.S. I hate the prejudices against Erasmus students. Today at hospital: I am sitting there, excited about nephrology (and still surprisingly excited about medicine after years of hating it),fighting the dossiers and papers bravely, getting through the cases, trying to not get that confused in all the ions and pHs and stuff, preparing for seeing the patients in persin, enjoying jokes about calling labs, thinking how happy I am... and here comes a compassionate remark: "Ah, the externat (years 4-6), that is not a good time to come on an Erasmus here. You cannot party too much." And he meant it!

I know it is sadly true about many people. A former classmate of mine was honestly surprised she had to study in her free time and submit homework during her Erasmus stay in Portugal! She had chosen sociology exactly to not have to study much. And Portugal doesn't have the reputation of the sctrictest country and education system in Europe, she had expected a semester of relax on the beach. How dare they demand work from students?! :-D :-D :-D
100 points for the portuguese sociologists, they've earned my respect!
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Re: the Diaries of a Caffeinated Squirrel

Postby Brun Ugle » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:23 am

I think I understand what you mean about it being harder to get good at a language in the country. I think if a person moves to a country and just does the basic courses for foreigners or even just lives their life in the country, they will eventually get to about B2 and but then they will stay there. If you want to get to a higher level, you have to actively seek to improve. You have to talk to people that enjoy speaking on challenging topics rather than those who just talk small-talk and gossip about the same things all the time. You have to read challenging books and not just beach novels. You have to write something beyond the simple everyday things like e-mails, Facebook posts, etc. Sometimes though, it is tempting to think that because you are living your life in the language, you should be able to do other things in your free time, like study other languages. I have the same problem with Norwegian. I know my Norwegian has gone downhill a bit since I was at university writing papers all the time. However, it's not really fun to study the way a really foreign language is. Living in the country will give you a very good base in the everyday language of working, shopping, public transport, etc, but to gain more sophisticated and intellectual language requires that you work on it. Someone that learns entirely outside the country might on the other hand, be skilled at intellectual conversation, but have trouble asking about bus fares.
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