Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'm Annoyed: French textbooks

I'm learning French this summer and we started the chapter on food, restaurants and eating today. I have to say, it annoyed me to no end how along with names of different foods, we learned "diet," "to get thin," "to gain or lose weight" (two different verbs). Additionally, during an exercise where we went around the class asking people different things about meals (favorite food to eat while sick, etc), one of the questions was "do you only eat salads when you're dieting?"

The French language has annoyed me already simply through its use of masculine and feminine words, but today, my disappointment was directed more towards the textbook authors. They knew it was for a college audience - did they need to include words about losing weight in a chapter on food?

Two big thumbs down for Deux Mondes.

UPDATE: Even better! The online homework is aaallllllll about counting calories and losing weight. No big thumbs down anymore - Screw Deux Mondes and their online practice exercises.

8 comments:

Jen said...

My French book did that as well! In "Horizons", my book, the chapter on food was followed by the chapter on "Lifestyle" in which we were taught various verbs for exercising, dieting, and eating organic. The practice discussion questions were all about "how do you watch your weight?" (answer: I don't), and "how you do stay healthy?" (answer: I turn off the television).

Michael said...

Are you really annoyed that a language has masculine and feminine words? Really? English is one of the only ones without it. If you feel "marginalized" or "offended" by it, you really need to reorganize your priorities.

The choice of phrases is rather strange, but I think it's sort of a reflection of the culture.

judgesnineteen said...

Michael, when you say "English is one of the only ones without it" did you literally mean one of the approximately 6000 languages in the world, or were you thinking more along the lines of the Western languages you've come in contact with? If the former, I'd love to see your source, because I've been wanting to do a cross-linguistic study on grammatical gender, but I'm guessing you meant the latter, in which case you should probably keep in mind that there's more to the world than western Europe. I'm also interested in the credentials giving you the authority to decide when someone's feelings are wrong.

The gender stuff bugs me too. Good news though, in Spain they're starting to teach people to rule the gender of a mixed group by simple majority instead of always making it masculine. The issues with sexism embedded in grammar are complex, I don't always have a clear stance, but I totally understand the irritation with it.

Les mots sur le poids, ça fait partie de tous les livres des langues, je pense. La bonne nouvelle est que les Français ne sont pas aussi obsédés par le poids que les Américains. Mais leur culture a une attitude différente envers la nourriture; ils mangent tout ce qu'ils veulent, mais dans portions plus petites, et ils pensent que c'est mieux de manger seulement aux heures des repas.

Et je suis toujours disponible pour pratiquer le français :).

Lindsay said...

Are you really annoyed that a language has masculine and feminine words? Really?

Yes, I am annoyed by the fact that when describing a group of mixed gender, instead of using a gender neutral pronoun (they), in French, the group is ils (the plural of him/he). Even if it's 99 women and 1 man, the group is gendered male.

The gender stuff bugs me too. Good news though, in Spain they're starting to teach people to rule the gender of a mixed group by simple majority instead of always making it masculine. The issues with sexism embedded in grammar are complex, I don't always have a clear stance, but I totally understand the irritation with it.

Since I'm just learning, I feel like I don't know enough about it to critique it properly, but I can definitely express my annoyance.

Mais leur culture a une attitude différente envers la nourriture; ils mangent tout ce qu'ils veulent, mais dans portions plus petites, et ils pensent que c'est mieux de manger seulement aux heures des repas.

Oui! Qu'est-ce que le culturale dans la monde sont obesir avec la nourriture comme les americaines? Je ne sais pas. Et oui, je veux pratiquer avec toi pendant le annee scolaire quand je n'ai pas un cours de francais!

Lindsay said...

obeseder*

cyn said...

Mes cahiers de français (Reflets Méthode Française) n’avaient pas des commentaires sur le poids. Ils parlent seulement des travailles des personnages et les choses qui sont vraiment intéressantes, comme les anniversaires, les parents, les amis, ses passe-temps, etc. Ma professeure, au contraire, nous avions dit questions comme "est-ce que tu veux amaigrir?", et une de mes copains renaudait toujours sur son fils, parce qu’il est gros. Presque comme elle l’aimait moins que tous ses autres garçons. Très triste.

As you can see, I like practising French too. :)

Ashley said...

I studied/study French for 8 years now and while I have learned 'maigrir' and 'grossir' 'regime' that's the extent of body size that was talked about. We discussed food, but never about calories, or really diets other than learning the term.

So, at the very least it's not indicative of all French programs.

Anonymous said...

can a strictly gender neutral language set a pace for a gender neutral and egalitarian society? Let me provide with an example.

Correct me if i am wrong - but Modern Persian is a language in the world is that completely gender-free. It does not have words for "he, she" nor does it have feminine and masculine titles such as "Mr. or Mrs. or Ms." Old Persian, like languages like Latin, Sanskrit or Greek, used to have masculine and feminine and neutar terms. But during the use of Middle Persian, the use of gender in language had disappeared. But this was not a result of feminist criticism nor was it a result of a completely egalitarian Persian society. This language without any gender evolved spontaneously just by itself, over an expanse of time. Nowadays, Modern Persian is spoken in Iran, where there are many restricting laws for women, despite the fact that Modern Persian employs no use of gender.

This may be just one anecdotal example, but does a gender free language promote the sexual openness of a society? I am just hoping to stimulate a discussion in a new arena.

To reform languages like French, (or Mandarin, Sanskrit, Arabic, German) which employs the use of so many masculine and feminine terms, you would have to completely restructure the language.

Grammar is grammar - it is meant to express, NOT determine meanings. Language and linguistic change is not controllable. The history of linguistics show that language is not anything that can be planned or controlled. Languages grow and change spontaneously. The kind of theory that properly can describe the development of language is one that credits events with the capacity for developing spontaneous natural order. Theorists of such order range from the naturalist Charles Darwin, to the economist F.A. Hayek, and to the philosopher Karl Popper.

I hope not to offend anyone with my above statements, but just to engage about linguistics which i am interested in.