An anglophone from the west. A francophone town. Hoo boy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

perfectionism + second language = grrrrr

My first hand-in assignment / take home exam this term is for my course on legislative aspects of the environment. We had a week to work on it, and I was really good about getting a good head start on things so that I wouldn't be leaving it all until the last minute, as I am wont to do... So that part went relatively well. I found all of the necessary information, had all of the answers, and was not terribly concerned.

And then it came to the writing.

For starters, the assignment was not taxing in and of itself. A take home exam with all of the answers to be found in the course notes? The course notes that we had read together as a class? A grand total of four questions?

Ordinarily I'd be laughing. But then again, ordinarily, I'd be writing in my native tongue. That one where I can pull a four question regurgitation take home exam out of my ass in under an hour. Unfortunately, my French is not nearly up to the task. Oh sure, I can read, speak, understand, and all that useful stuff. But I avoid writing as much as possible. Well, that and answering the telephone at school (I think that's a hold over from Japan, where I answered the school telephone a grand total of one time over a two year period). It's one of the reasons for my doing a Certificate in French in the first place. I want to improve my writing and having to write for a course is a sure-fire way to force myself to write.*

So I wrote. Most of Sunday afternoon, and a few more hours on Monday evening. Which for me, marks probably the first time I haven't been frantically writing and revising up to the hour before the paper is due.

I had my in-house editor read it over, and asked specially that he not correct all of the errors, but highlight them so that I could fix them myself.

Terrible idea**.

Not that the help with the language wasn't wonderful and greatly appreciated. It was more that it made me feel like an illiterate idiot. I think the problem was and still is more that I know I'm not an illiterate idiot. At least not usually.

So, while rationally I understand that I will have to work hard and suck up that perfectionist streak to improve my writing and accept that no, I am not able to write perfect prose en fran├žais***, I really don't like it and it does not make me very happy.

* I tried setting up a blog in French to practice, but it was no fun! I never wrote a single post. Which defeats the purpose.

** Another terrible idea? Asking him to read over my stuff while the Flames of Calgary were kicking the asses of the Canadiens of Montreal. Hm. This could prove problematic if my dream of seeing both of these teams in an all-Canadian Stanley Cup final match-up comes true...

*** YET!

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