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July 2011

The French Writers of New England
By Marcel LaVergne Ed.D.

Les Franco-Américains sont les citoyens des Etats-Unis, descendants
des Canadiens-Français, en majorité Québécois, mais comptant aussi
quelques Acadiens, qui émigrèrent vers les Etats-Unis (et principalement
vers la Nouvelle-Angleterre) à partir de la seconde moitié du dix-neuvième
siècle. (France-Louisiane Franco-Américanie)

Note: Two books on this topic were reviewed in the June 2011 Library: Jeanne la fileuse and Canuck.

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June 2011

America's French Heritage
By Marcel LaVergne Ed.D.

When I was an active French teacher, I knew that there were American cities that had French names such as Detroit, Butte, Montpelier, Pierre, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Saint Louis, Fayetteville, and a few others, but I really never did anything with that information other than to mention it. As I became a part-time university professor of Foreign Language Methodology and a leader of summer workshops for L2 teachers I discovered that I was not alone, as the following will attest. To read more, download the full article. This month's Lesson Plan is based on this article.

April/May 2011

Ivoirian Culture & Communication
Part I: Language and Products
By Beckie Bray

Colonialism is notorious for having brought a ‘superior’ culture in to reign over the native culture. The new culture imposes structures - for example, political, educational, health, and economic – in the name of advancement. In some ways, these structures can help the locals (e.g. training doctors). But in other ways, the native culture is lost when mixed with the new culture.

My focus here will be on the blend of native and new culture. As a French teacher coming to the Ivory Coast with much experience in hexagon culture, I have found a few things that stand out as unique as the cultures overlap here in the second largest city in the country.

Following the National Standards I will first focus my observations on Language and Products. In my next article I will focus on Perspectives and Practices.

Knowing the language of French, I was surprised to be faced with numerous words and terms that do not correspond to my pre-existing French lingualexicon. For example, anyone who can causer in French knows that there are four different greetings per day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). In Ivoirian French, however, the afternoon greeting is completely skipped in favor of the evening, and, therefore, when speaking about the afternoon in general, we discuss le soir. This certainly gives pause to a francophone who hears ‘On va manger le déjeuner tard ce soir’ (We are going to eat lunch late this afternoon / this evening)! What is extraordinary about this is that in the local dialects, namely Djula and Senefou, there are still four greetings instead of the Ivoirian French’s three.

Another new word is arachides (peanuts). I know in Paris I will be laughed at, but understood, if I ask for beurre de cacahuètes in a grocery store. Here, arachides are roasted and crushed to make a pâte (paste) mainly used to make into a sauce to put on rice.

Besides vocabulary changes, there are faux amis expressions with French French – c’est propre and ce n’est pas interessant. The first expression not only means that something is clean, but if you were to ask if the job was done or if something finished well, the positive response is, ‘C’est propre.’ The second expression is the American equivalent of ‘that’s not good’ rather than anything about the interest that the topic garners. If vocabulary and expression differences weren’t enough to keep track of, the grammar is also different.

To the chagrin of the Academie Française, many rules have disappeared, likely due to the variety of languages people speak here (usually 2-4). For example, the imperative has been replaced with a subjunctive look-alike; prends-le has become faut prend, viens ici is faut viens, and asseyez-vous is faut s’assoir (if you want people to sit, however, you say that there are chairs – il y a la place.)

Avid cooks also note several food ingredient differences between France and Cote d’Ivoire. Although most words for food ingredients are similar to a Westerner’s eye, the methods of cooking make the final product quite different. Although some more experimental cooks have succeeded in making cake in marmites over an outdoor fire, wives and their helpers usually make traditional rice (or foutou or millet) and sauce (peanut, palm nut, eggplant, bean, vegetable, etc).

Although some cookies come prepackaged, most other things must be made from scratch, so even when someone says they are having rice and vegetable sauce, the variations extend far beyond the Western concept of product brands and instead reflect the styles of the individual cook.

When it comes to variety in RCI cooking, the lack of easy access to a world of ingredients means that cooks must alter their means of cooking rather than its contents. Whereas Whole Foods may boast over 40 spices on the rack, the biggest grocery in Bouake carries 8, and in the market there are about 5 more. The best is the maggi cube (kind of like bullion) that goes in everything from sauces to omelets.

Availability and simplicity are the rules of thumb here; finding the ingredients for a desired dish one day does not guarantee that they will be available the next, and a basic ingredient, such as yogurt, will not come in varieties such as non-fat organic French vanilla or even low-fat blueberry. There are exactly 7 choices of Yoplait Yogurt in Bouake on a good day: strawberry, apricot, vanilla, non-sugar, mixed berry, sugar, and exotic. Though this makes cooking a challenge, it is also a fun adventure, teaching the spoiled Western cooks to experiment with making things from scratch with real ingredients, learning to freeze and sift flour to get rid of worms, cooking granola at low temperatures for longer to cut back on butter, and letting beans sit in the sun before sorting through and storing to kill bugs.

Ex-pats are not without their comforts; two cookbooks explain how to make home-style dishes with local ingredients – including recipes for pumpkin pie and frappuccino’s (milk powder, cocoa powder, Nescafé powder, sugar, water, ice in a blender). Edited By: Andrew Bouchard

March 2011

The Unification of Italy: To celebrate or not to celebrate?

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Foreign powers ruled the Italian peninsula for many years. Then, in the 19th century, il Risorgimento, the movement for unification, began. Garibaldi became the key military figure. In 1859 he was successful against the Austrians in the northern part of Italy. He then conquered Sicily and Naples. When Umbria and Le Marche were annexed in 1861, Italy was declared unified with Victor Emanuel II, who had been the ruling monarch of Sardinia, as King. The Veneto was, however, still under the control of the Austrians and Rome was still a part of the Papal States; they did not join Italy until 1866 and 1870, respectively.

The Italian government’s decision to celebrate Italy’s 150th birthday on March 17 this year sparked controversy all over the country. Why?

Some Italians object to the year designated for the unification. Many Romans strenuously argue that Italy could not be considered a unified nation without Rome. They will tell you that the unification of Italy took place in 1870, not in 1861.

Many objected to the day as a national holiday. Why should schools and offices be closed? They didn’t see the rationale behind raising this event to such a level.

But the basic argument is many Italians simply don’t feel Italian. They do not have a strong sense of nationalism. Regionalism still predominates in the country. In 1861 the statesman Massimo d’Azeglio remarked, "We have made Italy. Now we have to make Italians."

Are there Italians in Italy today? This is the question posed by author Manlio Graziano in his book The Failure of Italian Nationhood (2010) and his answer seems to be negative. About the 150th anniversary Graziano writes, "This anniversary is very artificial. The people have no feeling for it because it does not relate at all to the reality of the country."

The North-South Divide continues to be very strongly felt. Northerners still call Southerners "Terroni" ("People of the Earth", i.e. Clods) and Southerners call Northerners "Polentoni" (’Eaters of Polenta," a kind of cornmeal mush popular in the North"). The northern political party La Lega Nord wants the North to secede from Italy. Residents in Alto Adige are more attached to German than Italian. It is a sad day if you are from Milan and your son decides to marry a girl from Rome or if you are from Sicily and your daughter wants to marry a Florentine. These "mixed" marriages are frowned upon.

Italians are still campanilisti. Every town has its campanile, its bell tower. Loyalty to one’s own bell tower runs deep. Italians are apparently still in the making. Not everyone is in the mood to celebrate Italy’s national birthday.



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