Savez-Vous Planter Des Choux?

I just got back from the first meeting of French 140, French Pronunciation, at Pasadena City College. What a blast! We read aloud books that French children use to learn to pronounce words, we carefully repeated vowel sounds, and we sang children’s songs (to work on proper intonation). I’m taking this class to improve my ability to speak the language (having had a nice grammar refresher in last semester’s French Translation class). And so far, truly, it’s pure fun! (I can’t say enough good things about Mme. Pedrini, our professor; I very much enjoyed her class last semester as well.)

I also learned some things today. (Yes, it’s true.) New words:

  • bouée: life preserver
  • : dice
  • fusée: rocket
  • mûre: blackberry
  • pie: magpie
  • pile: can
  • requin: dolphin
  • ruche: beehive
  • usine: factory

In terms of pronunciation, I learned: “Vincent” contains two distinct vowel sounds (“ahn” and “ehn”). A single ‘s’ between two vowels is pronounced as an English ‘z’, but a double-s is pronounced ‘s’; for example, “choisissent” is “shwa-zees”. We also practiced breaking up sentences into units to allow you to lilt the intonation like a real French speaker… although this partitioning seems to be done more by intuition than by tangible rules (mostly breaking on phrase boundaries, though). Here is an example: “La femme de Pa-TRICK | habite à LILLE | avec son ma-RI.” TRICK and LILLE get up-intonation, while RI gets a down-intonation. After doing exercises like this for a while, it starts feeling very sing-song.

And then we launched into a real song, with music to accompany us!

Yes, imagine 29 people in a classroom at 9:30 p.m. singing along to this song. Excellent learning environment. :)

Volunteer Power!

I just returned from two information-packed days at the Get Involved Institute, a California statewide initiative to increase the number of, and contributions of, volunteers at public libraries. I was asked to join the Monrovia Public Library team in attending this conference as a representative volunteer (what a nice compliment!).

We covered a lot of different material, including tips on how to brainstorm what additional roles volunteers might take on in the library, where you might find volunteers with the skills you need, and how to conduct good interviews. But what hit me the most was the way in which the term “volunteer” expanded in my mind. I saw that volunteers could do a lot more than “just” shelve books (which of course is my personal favorite way to contribute). They can manage other volunteers, read to kids en masse at the mall, organize events, organize “ESL Conversation Circles”, conduct surveys about the perception of the library, and more. Several “pilot teams” also attended, who had had the same training last May, and their stories about what projects they’d tackled (and succeeded at) were universally fascinating and motivating. It was great to be part of an enthusiastic, passionate crowd of more than a hundred librarians, volunteer coordinators, library directors, and other volunteers.

We had some hands-on time in which we worked to develop a plan for how to engage volunteers in a new way at our own library. Monrovia’s library is already rather advanced in this respect; our volunteers provide literacy tutoring, offer computer assistance to patrons, re-barcode old books, mend damaged books, sort book donations, staff the bookstore, and so on. But we did identify ways in which the volunteer corps (almost 100 active volunteers) could be better managed, and how to build a volunteer community (with social events and recognition for outstanding achievements). As we worked to develop a position description for a Volunteer Team Leader, the rest of the Monrovia team kept teasing me for my copious note-taking and fast work with the assigned worksheets. “You do know,” our Volunteer Coordinator said, “that you’re going to come home from this with about 20 new jobs for yourself, right?” They jokingly suggested that I quit my day job and just volunteer full-time at the library. :) While I’m not ready for that, I could see myself stepping into a volunteer team leader role, if they need me. I do so love the library!