first day of my life

Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Saturday, August 26, 2006


There has been a lot of coverage this week of the decreasing number of pupils taking modern languages at GCSE and at A-level, thus forcing universities to limit the choice of languages offered or worse still, close departments, due to the declining number of linguists. There was an article in today's Guardian by Agnès Poirier, who gives us many valuable reasons for learning languages and why giving children the choice to drop languages at 16 is depriving them of access to whole new worlds. Here are some bits and pieces from her article, and the whole thing can be read here

Why can't languages be taught as compulsory subjects from nursery to A-level, as they are in almost every country in Europe? I didn't have much say in what languages I learnt back in France. It was obligatoire, no bargaining possible. I had to learn two new langues vivantes (though I could choose which two among a poor choice of five) and one or two langues mortes, Latin and Greek. If I had been given the choice, I probably wouldn't have chosen any, and right now I would be writing in French and living in Paris. What does a child know?

The majority of British youth are deprived of one of life's greatest joys: access to whole new worlds in which others see things differently, express their feelings and lead their lives in unexpected ways.

There is no secret: to really get to see things as others do, and thus to understand them, one must master their language and, in the process, endure hardship and ridicule. Not a job for the faint-hearted. Try it and you'll be mocked for your accent; you'll struggle to make yourself heard, let alone be understood; you will stumble on words, fall silent, unable to keep up the pace of the conversation; you'll suffer a thousand deaths, that of continual misunderstandings, the kind newly arrived immigrants face every day, everywhere in the world.

But once the many hurdles are passed, you are guaranteed heavenly surprises and otherworldly gifts. You lived your life in black and white; it is now in colour. A whole new horizon has opened up. This is precisely why there is so much clamour for tests to ensure that new immigrants to the UK speak good English.

And for those sceptical about the usefulness of languages, let's remember that having studied foreign languages can help you get a job, and a better one. One survey showed the percentage of graduates in single honours languages who were still looking for work five months after their graduation was 5%, and 11% for media studies.

When somebody refuses to learn someone else's language on the grounds that it is not useful, they implicitly reject the other's culture and their way of seeing the world - not a very good start for universal peace and understanding. Not a helpful way to make the world a more complex and richer place to live in either. Rather a recipe for unilateral, over-simplistic dogmas, such as the war on terror.

Now, let's get back to basics. What schools need to teach children is simple: mathematics, plumbing and three languages. Au travail!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

songs for guitar

I've been practising She's Losing It (from B&S's Tigermilk) since my last guitar lesson and I think I've just about cracked it. Well, to tell the truth, these chords should be barre chords, but since they're rubbish I'm not using that kind ;-)

I do want to learn something non-B&S next time. I gave NF guitarman a CD with some songs I'd like to learn, including these ones:

Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles)
Stockholm Syndrome (Yo La Tengo)
Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From (Teenage Fanclub)
New Slang (The Shins)
Something (The Beatles)
Labour of Love (Frente!)
Your Song (Love Psychedelico)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)

Not sure which one I want to learn next. Maybe Stockholm Syndrome...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Little Fish

I saw this film tonight. I'm too tired to think of anything to write. I thought CB was very good in it and I hope they all get their happy endings.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

purple broccoli

I'd never seen or heard of brocolli being purple before Sunday night. Apparently it's been growing in our garden and I didn't even know about it until it turned up on my plate! It tasted fine though. Still not understanding why it needs to be purple...

I saw 36 Quai des Orfèvres, or 36 as the title is in English. I kind of knew from the start I'd have trouble following and I did. I think I understood most of it though, with a little help from Mr S. I liked the music too, even if it was a little overbearing. Hopefully I get to see Little Fish tomorrow with my swimming friend!

I've also given in and signed up to a phone contract. I get a snazzy new phone for quite a bargain really and so many free minutes that I don't know what I'm going to do with. I'll be sad to see my little old one go, although it'll have a new life in Tenerife, so that's good.

I discovered new music that I like. I heard Don't Bring Me Down at the end of 36... You can listen to some of her music here Sia. I especially like Breathe Me too:

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
I hurt myself again today
And, the worst part is there's no-one else to blame

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Je suis allée en Corse

Long time, no blogging... Where has the summer gone? Only just over two weeks until the hard work starts again. Wish the summer would last forever!

I just spent a week travelling (I literally mean travelling, too!) on the island of Corsica. (By the way, I've been to France three times already this year. Not bad going really!) It's certainly beautiful, if somewhat touristy and full of Italians eating pizza, which I found rather odd (why eat French pizza when Italian clearly rules?). (Is this the French Tenerife?) And I don't even think we saw the most impressive parts.

You definitely need a car though, unfortunately. The public transport system is pretty thin on the ground (only one or two trains a day between the major 'cities') and basic... But I liked it. I liked the rattly old train that weaved its way through the mountains and past the goats chewing on grass. I even forgave the bus driver who wouldn't let me go to the toilet (since there wasn't one on the bus) as he kindly dropped us off at our campsite along the way to Calvi. We moaned a lot about dog poo, the smelliness, no public toilets (or if there were some, no lights/loo paper) and long queues, but I still do love France and would really like to go back and discover the real Corsica...

Here are a few snaps I took along the way:

These are some of the old buildings you can see in Nice in the old part. Nice was pretty chaotic - not really that impressed. But the moon shining over the sea was beautiful... I've never seen this before! (The picture's a bit rubblish though...)

Trying to keep cool in Calvi on our posh sunbeds...

Blueness... the sea around the citadelle...

This is where we stayed in Calvi. Possibly the cleanest campsite ever! We even managed to make cups of tea on our little stove here... (This was one of the best bits of the trip.)

We even spent time in a car park in Italy. (Yes, that's right. We did!)

A week is definitely too short. Next time, two weeks, a car, proper camping equipment and no lilo to carry in a Lakeland bag!

It was a good trip. Here's to more camping adventures!