Sunday, July 6, 2008

Idioms

Where there is low, there is high.

Last night, we were invited to the Lady Lord Mayor's house for dinner. She's the Mayor of Bangangté and married to a French man. The entire city didn't have power or water, making it a perfect night to hang out at the Mayor's pad. Rest assured, there was water AND electricity; also booze and food. Food. I have never in my life been so excited to see cucumber, lettuce, and solid chucks of meat that were not drenched in sauces. Also plain chocolate cake never tasted so good. The meal was probably average by US standards, but for all 38 of us, that was heaven. 

Meat is not a big part of the diet here. Fish is, but quality meat is not. Many of us have been eating way too many eggs as source of protein. Joe was rattling off the stats that he's eaten 68 eggs (or there abouts) since arrival. That's an average of 2+ eggs a day. We are all going to have cholesterol through the roof at mid service health exams. 

Last night was the perfect example of high to contract the low of previous night. The meal was fantabulous and when I got home, I had great conversations online with Michelle and Katie. You realize the true power of friendship when you are in Africa. 

Anyway, changing topic. I am currently reading The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan. It's her memoir and I just finished a chapter on the English language that hit very close to home. This past week, we were learning idioms in my French class. I was getting so incredibly frustrated, because I don't know them in ENGLISH. The following passage from the book regarding standardized tests and language in immigrant families particularly stood out for me:

"...Sociologists and linguists probably will tell you that a person's developing language skills are more influenced by peers than by family. But I do think that the language spoken in the family, especially in immigrant families which are more insular, plays a large role in shaping the language of the child. And I believe that it affected my results on achievement tests, IQ tests, and the SAT...Those tests were constructed around items like fill-in-the-blank sentence completion, such as 'Even though Tom was ___ Mary thought he was ___.' And the correct answer always seemed to be the most bland combinations, for example, 'Even though Tom was shy, Mary thought he was charming,' with the grammatical structure 'even though' limiting the correct answer to some sort of semantic opposites, so you wouldn't get answers like 'Even thought Tom was foolish, Mary thought he was hilarious.' Well, according to my mother, there were very few limitations as to what Tom could have been and what Mary might have thought of him. So I never did well on tests like that... Asian-American students as a whole, do significantly better on math achievement tests than on English tests, And this makes me think that there are other Asian-American students whose English spoken in the home might also be described as 'broken' or 'limited.'..." 

I think Amy Tan has solved my inferiority issue with my low(er) performing scores on all the verbal section of standardized tests. If Amy Tan, a widely celebrated Asian-American writer, can blame her less than stellar performance on verbal sections of the SAT on her family's English, so can I.  

1 comment:

Sebastian said...

You can also blame it on the City of St. Charles Schools.

For the record. :)