Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Froggies and Krauts

744 words

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Elysée treaty on the Franco-German cooperation. Seeing all the reports on TV and in the papers these days makes you realise that something amazing has happened between France and Germany: I guess a hundred years ago nobody would have considered this kind of peaceful coexistence and friendship possible. People in Alsace were just used to being invaded and governed (or reigned) by one country or the other occasionally.

But the cooperation between the countries which mostly started to keep better control of Germany after the war seems to have evolved into much more than that. It was - and still is - a driving force in the EU (which sometimes means that our two countries are big forces in wasting everybody's time and money on agricultural subsidies). Since yesterday it looks like we actually do oppose random wars and that the US government has done us the honour of considering us old Europe and problems. (I tend to think that the USA - as a state at least - are not our friends anymore, but I haven't gotten to elaborate on that yet. This conclusion mainly comes from looking at how you're treated by your friends and then comparing this to how the US treats the rest of the world.)

But back to Germany and France: It seems that not so many people in both countries learn the other language these days. Which is sad. French is such a nice language, though mine has become quite bad due to non-usage since I sadly failed to get a place to study in Paris and went to study in England instead. While the latter may have actually been better for my academic progress - I still suspect that the former would've been better culturally. And cooler, of course - Paris, you know. Plus, I needn't be ashamed of my French these days. As I said, it's very nice. And when living with my froggy flatmate Rubens in my first year at Warwick and meeting many other French people, given that Warwick is a pretty international place with almost 20% non-UK students. Basically what I meant to say a couple of lines ago already is: French is nice and I could spend a lot of time just listening. After a while I'd even understand people say, sort-of.

Apart from exchange programs and such for pupils, there's also arte, the French and German station for quality television, having lots of cultural broadcasts, quality films, documentaries, no commercials and occasionally (these used to be more common in the nineties, sadly) programmes broadcast in both German and French, so you could choose which language to hear. Right now they have a little game on prejudices on their site.

Die Zeit also published an interview with Luc Ferry a French philosopher slash politician in French (OK, it turned out they also printed a translation in small type). It was very readable. I think they made an extra effort, as to not make their readers feel embarassed. (The same way as hearing president Chirac speak is encourageing as he tends to speak quite slowly, as my French teacher in the first year at uni pointed out - we were doing a course analyse d'actualités back then, watching and discussing French TV news. A very useful way of improving your language skills as you get in touch with everyday expressions this way while learning about the culture and politics as well. As for the prejudices - the teacher, a frenchman himself, promised us there'd be a news item on a grève every week all the way through term. He was right.) The interview was definitely easier to read than the 'written-Scottish' in Glue.

And Die Zeit have a special on the Elysée treaty on their site now and (also) run a little forum with common prejudices, the starter of which lists many prejudices and ends in the punchline

Bref: les français comprennent les allemands, mais ne les aiment pas, les allemands aiment les français, mais ne les comprennent pas. ou est-ce que c'est le contraire?

What else can I say? I got sidetracked many times in writing this - my apologies for lack of continuity - all these things seem to belong together for me, though. I hope I'll have the opportunity to go to France for a longer time at some stage. And We all love our froggies, don't we?

January 23, 2003, 22:53

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