The Big Mistake

Yesterday my professor, Jean, prepared us for learning a small thing. He lowered his eyebrows and began speaking in a low, conspiratorial voice. He looked around the room, as if checking for hidden microphones.

He then said he had spent an evening recently with three French friends and a new acquaintance. Throughout the evening, the visitor spoke flawless French, and her companions were sure she was French. But toward the end of dinner, she made what I have come to call The Mistake. Jean said that even Jodi Foster, the American actress whose French is otherwise perfect, makes The Mistake. Even after Jean had explained how to correct The Mistake, it proved so tenacious that we continued to make it for the next 15 minutes of practice in class. So gather round, would-be French speakers. I will now reveal how to avoid The Mistake.

We will begin with the above photo, which I took yesterday between classes when I spotted the rarely seen sun bathing a spray of daisies, or “des marguerites” in French. If I asked, “What are these?” the answer in English would be “they are daisies.” An English-speaker’s natural translation into French would be “ils sont des marguerites” or “they are daisies.” Eh voilà: The Mistake!

The correct answer to the question is “Ce sont des marguerites.” “Ce” in my digital English-French dictionary is translated as “this” or “these.” So the correct phrasing is something like “These are daisies.” In English the difference between “these are daisies” and “they are daisies” would be small, and both phrases would be correct. Not so in French.

If you’ve read this far, you have shown yourself to be as obsessive about miniscule quirks of language as I am, so I will fearlessly press ahead. There is one situation when “ils sont something” would be correct. That is when the noun following the verb has no article or modifier. The most common example of this usage is stating someone’s profession or nationality, as in “they are writers” or “they are Americans.” Here, it is correct to say “ils sont écrivains” or “ils sont américains.” The same principle applies in the singular. “Il est américan” is correct, but to say “he is AN American,” you must say “c’est un américain.”

It is part of the genius of the Institut de Français method that so much attention is placed on such small matters. And it is part of the genius of a master teacher like Jean that he is able to instill memorable drama in the learning of these nuances.

The next time I see Jodi Foster, I will help her correct The Mistake. And then she will be as I have imagined her—truly flawless. Posted by Hello

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One Response to The Big Mistake

  1. Anonymous says:

    My auntie passed this article on to me. It has helped with my understanding. Hope it helps your readers

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    Children with ADHD

    There is a perplexing state of affairs in today’s society, there lies a strong correlation between the affluence of a society and the amount of disease that is present. There is also another correlation that troubles many a people and that is with affluence comes disease at an Earlier age.

    Working with children and the parents of these children I often get asked the question, ‘Why are Children with ADHD on the increase?’

    The answer as you shall find is one that is both interesting and challenging.

    Children of today are really no more different from the children of yesterday in terms of genetic makeup. However, if you examine the issue more closely you will tend to find that many children today have been given labels. For example, ‘Oh, those are children with ADHD’ or ‘Those are the children who can’t sit still.’ Or ‘That is the kid that always gets into trouble.’

    These labels are not only destructive but also become a self fulfilling prophecy as it is repeated adnauseum.

    So as a 21st century parent or a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent with children with ADHD, what knowledge framework do you need to equip yourself with to ensure your children live out their true potential?

    Here is a quick reference list for thinking about ADHD
    ? ADHD is a source of great frustration because it is misunderstood
    ? ADHD medications are a great short term time buying device and should be avoided long term
    ? The above point goes for any sort of drug consumption. Think about it for a minute. Unless you have a biochemical deficiency in your body like Type 1 diabetes where your body fails to produce enough insulin or any at all, why would you take an external drug? A body that is in balance is totally healthy. It is only when the body is out of balance that dis-ease symptoms start to creep up.
    ? ADHD is a biochemical imbalance of the mind and body.
    ? The Head of Psychiatry in Harvard states that drugs for ADHD simply mask the effects of ADHD. It does not cure ADHD. This is an important point because a cure implies never to have to take the medication. This means that once you start on medication you will have to be on it for the rest of your life i.e. you have medically acquired a dependency for a biochemical imbalance. That is like stuffing all your rubbish (problematic behaviors) into a closet (medication) where no one can see it. But if you continue to stuff more rubbish into that closet, one day you will not have enough space and need to do one of two things. You either empty the rubbish (the natural conclusion) or you get a bigger closet (i.e. change to stronger medication to control the symptoms). The choice is obvious but sometimes when you don’t have the necessary tools to deal with ADHD you tend to think the bigger closet is the only option.
    ? ADHD children are super sensitive to the emotions around them. Often they pick up emotional cues from their parents without realizing. Many parents come home frustrated or annoyed from work, the child with ADHD picks this up and starts to ’cause trouble’ by becoming restless. Parents frustration increase because they just want some peace and quiet. They get angry which in turn is picked up by the child who then intensifies their activity. Things get way out of hand and some sort of punishment is handed down to the child who has no idea what just happened. The cycle repeats itself every so often.
    ? Our brains are wired emotionally. Positive praise is interpreted as an analytical/thinking exercise. Negative criticism including scolding, name calling, physical punishment all go directly to the emotional brain of children with ADHD. This means in order to ensure you get your message across in the most optimal way, you need to learn how to communicate with your ADHD children the way they like to be communicated with.
    ? Every negative comment requires 16 positive comments to neutralize the emotion. Save yourself the frustration and agitation by practicing positive communication.

    The list is by no means complete. In dealing with children with ADHD there are a certain set of behavioural principles to follow. I will detail these steps in the coming weeks. I’ll also build on the list as you continue to learn about what appears to be a mystical disorder known as ‘Children with ADHD’

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