by Lyne des Roberts alias La Dame dragon
Thursdays are pizza days at the cafeteria of the building where most of my students are working… Usually I have lunch with either Dave or James and… when they are not available, I ask Seema to join me… Wednesday James told me he could not make it this week because he was part of a team for Trivia from 12:00 to 1:00 P.M. When I asked Seema, she said she was also part of a team with Alice… Then I was invited to go and sit (quietly of course!) behind Alice, so I could observe. Hey!… why not? I thought it could be fun!
When I got there, Seema had already grabbed a chair for me and I ended up between her and Frédéric… of course I was not supposed to participate since each team was made of 4 players… BUT! how is it possible to keep your mouth shut? Actually, it is impossible! Even more impossible when you have a big mouth like mine!!! Although I was not of a big help to the team… shame on me!!!
The first 10 questions were about Canada… Pfff! a piece of cake, n’est-ce pas?… False! The team was made of three non-native Canadians: Seema (Indian), Alice (South-African with Scottish background) and Rod (Hong Kong Chinese)… the fourth participant was a young Québécois pure laine, Frédéric. Since I was kind of part of the team by default, we were actually two native Canadians from Québec. Finally we were quite an interesting brochette and we were hopeful to do well…
We were disenchanted right at the beginning… Our glaring inaptitude sent us down the dumps and none of the following questions ever raised our spirits… Five intelligent and well educated people who could not answer basic questions on geography or History… Both Alice and Seema studied in British Columbia and they were able to name the highest mountain… But when we were asked about the largest lake, we all agreed on Superior Lake (one of the Great Lakes) based upon its name… Duh!… the right answer was Huron Lake… To the question “what day was celebrated the 400th Anniversary of Quebec City?”, we all knew it was at the beginning of July and we voted for the 4th although Alice was convinced it was the 3rd… well… she was right! Useless to say both Frederic and myself wanted to cringe under the table! Two Québécois de souche, beaten by a South-African woman!!! Shame on us!!! Then we were asked to give the name of the longest bridge in our country. We all have been on that bridge at some point in our lives… we could tell the location, but we arbitrarily wrote “Centennial”… the answer was “Confederation” and, how generous of the scrutineers… they gave us half of a point! I am convinced James got the answer right since he is originally from Nova Scotia, and his team got one full point!…
Alice, Seema and Rod had an excuse for not knowing certain things related to Canadian History and geography… but what excuse did Frédéric and I have? Since we are no morons, I will say it is due to the Québec Nationalism… in school, we were taught about every little detail related to Québec and then about the world: I hardly remember anything that was said about the rest of Canada… Okay, my excuse sucks! But I will hold on to it so I will not feel too stupid… We did not do well on those 10 questions because of the Québécois’ natural penchant for contemplating their own belly buttons… Right Frédéric?
In the ensuing rounds, I (and probably the other players too!) banked on Frédéric’s age to come up with the correct anwers to questions on movies, TV shows, actors, etc… Well… I realized age had nothing to do with Trivia: it had to do with personal interests and taste… Frédéric shared with me that he did not watch television, therefore… he was not more knowledgeable than the rest of us… As for myself, I only managed to come up with one good answer in the Movie category: Ghandi! I thought Seema would know right away… NOPE! It appears we know more about other countries than our own… except for the Americans, of course!
Our answers on The Olympics were probably our best… Rod and Alice seemed quite well informed on that topic… I would have wished Diane (the French teacher from Michigan) had been part of our team, or at least, I had had access to her blog during the game… a couple of weeks ago, she had written a post answering the very same questions that were asked yesterday… I had read it and I thought I had learned something… indeed, I had… but apparently it never sank in… once again, I realized that information retention was linked to interest… and since I never was an Olympics’ fan, I am not surprised I sucked in this round also! Finally… we did not do great, although we were not the worse players. Alice said something that stayed on my mind all day… she had the correct answer to a question and Rod asked her if she was sure “Yes I’m sure! For once, I can show I have an education!”
Of course, being a thinker, I did not stop pondering on what happened yesterday… I do not really know what the other players’ interests are, but I know mine well: any questions related to arts, literature, cinéma d’auteur, fashion, philology, ethymology, languages or traveling would have been easy for me to answer… as for Alice, I am convinced she would have been terrific in a round on cycling!
Knowledge, in fact, is based upon individual interests… we all may have heard of the same stuff (in school or elsewhere), but we did not necessarily “learned” it… I hated physics, maths, statistics, biology and chemistry… and I do not remember anything of what was ever said in class… on the other hand, I have vivid recollection of latin and greek… although I do think I forgot most of it, I know I could do either a latin version or thème quite easily. Same thing with all those old languages I learned in university some 25 years ago (picard, anglo-normand, occitan, francien), I know for sure I can sit down and read texts written in any of these languages and understand them naturally…
Learning occurs when learners are interested in the subject… learning is about knowledge retention… I can hear the same information day after day and it will never stay with me, only because I could not care less!
This is the reason why it is so important for me to get my students interested: not in French itself, but rather in the way it is presented to them… Teaching them only with work related stuff is not a good idea: they need to read, write, hear and talk about stuff that arouses their curiosity and appeals to their personal interests… otherwise, the second language will never stick with them for very long. Perhaps for the few minutes their oral evaluation test will last… but never beyond…
“Je suis un écrivain célèbre dans un pays qui ne lit pas. Souvent, quand les gens me reconnaissent, ils me disent qu’ils aiment beaucoup mes films.”
John Grisham, écrivain américain