Monday, February 26, 2007

A tour of the audioguided tour

In the space of 3 days I was guided by these little phonelike devices no less than 5 times, round 1 art gallery, 2 museums, 1 palace and 1 Roman theatre. These experiences have sprouted some fairly strong opinions in me which I would like to air.

But first of all, just to give you some background and for the benefit those of you who may have yet to experience the delights of an audioguided tour... let me walk you through one.

You enter your historical sit/museum/art gallery of choice, past the beeping ticket barriers and are presented with an object somewhat similar in form and style to a mobile phone from the mid 1990s or "bricks" as they were affectionately known. Some galleries ask you what language you desire, some assume you want french, some assume you want english... this often presents quite some dilemna for the year abroader in France.
Do you... a. Pick french and listen avidly to every word trying to soak in all the new vocabulary and thus improving my listening skills (why else are we in France after all)? (Plus french people speak quicker so you get round the site in less time)
b. Pick english which requires less brain effort so you are actually able to look around rather than simply squinting in concentration, and really take in the visual as well as the audio.
c. Pick another language entirely, German for example, because you've been desperate to learn a third language ever since you got here, and hope that you might be able to get my ears accustomed to the phonetics of the language, and perhaps even understand/guess the meaning of at least one of two things.

I realise this might not be everyone's dilemna... all I can say is I pity those of you who truly are multilingual...

You move to the first exhibit, and see a metal plate beside it with a number beside it. There appears to be no logic to these numbers, the first one could say anything from 6.1 to 123... but you punch it into your audioguide keypad and listen avidly to the ensuing monologue in your language of choice. (I chose a. once, was given a. once without being asked, and chose b. the other 4 times) You do the same for the next couple of exhibits... but by the third your concentration begins to fade, you walk around looking blankly at exhibits, only half listening to the audioguide. By the time you've punched in the 5th number, you're wondering why on earth you need to know silly facts like the year in which the 17th Pope of Avignon died. By the 7th you're thinking option c. would have been a more educational and enjoyable experience. By the 9th you can't be bothered listening at all. You exchange a meaningful glance with your tour buddy, punch in a number and run past all the numbered exhibits whilst holding the guide to your ear and nodding and frowning in concentration. You finally arrive at the exit where you accidently try to leave without handing your guide in. The devices then start beeping loudly in burglar-alarm point the finger style, till you shamefacedly hand them in at the entrance; often a good 5 minute walk away.

Now I have nothing against the concept of these informative devices. I mean, surely the museum experience should in theory be heightened by that wonderful combination of visual with audio? But tourist authorities of the south-east of France... surely you could have...
- made descriptions concise and relevant in order to hold our attention.
- been selective about the information you wish to communicate... taking into the account the intellectual level of the likely listener (not high)
- used perhaps more of that hierarchical structure you unsuccesfully attempted to put to use on occasion e.g Press 1. for a few lines on why there is a sword in that casket, 1.1 If you wish to know more information about the person who used it, 1.1.1 if you want minute detail on the way in which these types of swords were fabricated, including all materials used and methods involved for the family history, complete with birth and death dates of the person who used the sword.
- at least have picked a less montonous BBC-esque voice.

Here ends the rant

On the plus side, the audioguides in art galleries we went to seem to be actually interesting, concise and informative.
You can always just switch if off when you can't be bothered listening anymore.

NB: If your purpose in visiting a tourist site is just so you can cross it off the haveseenlist, just pick option c. You'll probably learn more.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lent Blog

Just thought I would take this opportunity to plug this year's Lent Blog... read it, blog on it... I feel like there should be a third point there but I can't think of one... never mind... you get the message anyway ;)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Les virrages

They haven't been the only people skiing lately... I finally tried my hand at the truc this weekend here though unlike them I didn't have to travel far. An hour an a half in the bus was all it took to get me and my fellow assistant buddies aka les trois graces, qui savent faire la luge to our slopes of choice! There was certainly no shortage of laughs, nor falls... Free accomodation and lessons were swapped for home cooked food... a wonderful exchange à mon avis! Our teachers were 2 middle-aged french divorcees who worked at the school we all teach at, one silent, one not so silent, both good teachers, both with a million stories to tell. I now know all the ski jargon in french but not in english!

My skiing highlights

- I had red skis! I think that's pretty cool don't you?! :P
- la vitesse! This was however was a cause for a recurring problem, I couldn't quite work out how to regulate it. I would just accelerate and accelerate and had to throw myself to the ground because I couldn't stop.
- Finally at the end of our second and last morning, learning how to stop!
- Becoming an expert at picking myself up again after falling


And I suddenly realised that Grenoble has become, without my realising, a home. Home number 3 perhaps, but a home nonetheless! We found ourselves walking along the road one day, chatting in french, remarking on the number of étrangères, especially anglophones at the station de ski... before remembering that we are étrangères... because we lived in Grenoble and were speaking french, we'd forgotten that we were.

The French really know how to enjoy the simple pleasures, i.e eating! 2 hours spent over 3/4 course meals always finished off with a café (tea pour moi) is most definitely the way forward! And they even manage to do it during the working week! Most banks, shops and offic es are closed from 12 till 2 so people can go home eat with their families and head back into the work again! Once you get used to the strange opening hours, adjust your eating patterns to it, and stop turning up at banks and finding them to be most annoyingly closed, you can't help but love it!

Essentially it seems people are no different no matter where they're from.

Oh and did I mention that mountains are beautiful?!

Das Leben der Anderen

I saw this on Friday with french subtitles and wanted to blog about it, to encourage you all to see it because it was such an interesting, moving and well-made film based in the same era as this film which I also love but which is of an utterly different genre, but was distressed to find that google yields no results of the film showing in Britain... yet (though I might be wrong, let me know)! What I was particuarly struck by was the development of the very vivid, very real characters. I was made to like, dislike, empathise, understand, grow to like without even realising... So I'm encouraging you in advance... when "The Life of Others" is released in some manner or form in the UK, go and see it!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bullet Points are Beautiful!

I just wrote a beautifully bullet-pointed email and realised that it's been a while since I've blogged using bullet points and feel that I need to up my usage of them once again as...

a. I feel the quality of my presentation in blogposts has diminished as a result of not using them
b. They are just sooo delectible
c. They prevent me from rambling too much
d. If I do succomb, they make my rambles accessible to people with ordinary concentration spans

So here is my last week (and a bit) in bullet points

- 2 concerts down 2 to go
- rehearsals eveeeery night! (one skived)
- one spectactular opera
- many amaaaazing singers
- lots of fatigue (sore back and sore eyes = not good)
- one giant boite of nutella = happy french people and lots of pleasure
- a fair portion of banter (we cellos know how to do banter even when we are naaaackered!)

- 2 exceedingly hyperactive classes (had to send 5 kids out of one because I couldn't hear anything I was saying)
- 4 exceedingly wonderful enthusiastic classes with a good sense of humour
- 1 exceedingly bright student with one of those perfect utopian middle class families who are all fluent english speakers, open minded, cook chestnut cakes and never eat at MacDonalds, who I just started teaching privately (a happy easy money earner)

- 1 youth group weekend away = snow and huge open fires and energetic franglais speakers and giant raclettes and peace :)
- lots of getting challenged
- 1 Sunday lunch consumed with a swiss family

Phone calls to Scotland
- Several varying from 10 minutes whilst stuffing food in my mouth to 4 hours

- well

- Random communal meals consumed - 2
- Flatmates spoken to - 2 on 2 occasions
- Supermarket trips - 1
- Post office trips - 2
- Internet - time consuming (literally)
- Running around like a headless chicken = a frequent occurence
- Drinking tea - a not too infrequent pleasure
- Laughing - another not too infrequent pleasure

Total hours spent on
- Teaching - 9 hours
- Orchestra - 28 hours (!)

Lessons to be learnt here
- Don't play in a french orchestra for an opera that lasts for 3 hours.
- Bullet Points are Beautiful!