Catching up with my Train of Thoughts


Student Success Centre

Levels of Stress as a Volunteer (#CUopenhouse)

This Saturday (Nov. 7th) was Concordia’s Open House, where the university invited potential students from all over to come and learn everything there is to learn about the university.

As I’ve volunteered for the orientation, I was pretty familiar with the general idea of interacting with people and sharing stories. What I was not prepared for was the chaos that came with a public event – students of all ages coming in, speaking different languages (not limited to French or English) and coming from all parts of the world.

I had never seen that level of chaos before and, as a volunteer, had to quickly adapt. I found myself switching between languages (lots of stuttering) and momentarily meeting people of different backgrounds.

I was assigned to Loyola, the second campus in St-Laurent (if memory serves), where they were having free beaver tails. I don’t know if it’s a Canadian-exclusive pastry snack, but it’s a simple pastry that can a variety of toppings (cinnamon, nutella, banana, maple…) and it tastes amazing (all the while being messy). It felt so warming for a morning that ranged between 5 &10 degrees celsius (probably ~4 in the shade). Because it was so cold, We were given a bigger t-shirt to accommodate a Jacket being put under, which felt silly, but was needed.

While volunteering,  I started to appreciate my being fluent but also realized how lacking my vocabulary was in French (Mandarin might be a little bit obvious). I also appreciated looking at the university at a different angle (a volunteer introducing the university) rather than as someone who was guiding new students.

The other campus (Sir George Williams), as I quickly found out, was an entire different level of chaos. Being in downtown, people (students, parents & children alike) were coming from all directions, and questions of all sorts were asked. Similar to Loyola, volunteers were up and about, answering questions and guiding newcomers.

While both campuses had their own reasonable level of stress, I became somewhat appreciative the amount of patience that everyone had in trying to manage most, if not all, of the individuals who came by the booths. Some had very specific questions, while were unsure of what it is that they were looking for. Among us volunteers, many came to ask where to find a specific department’s booth as well as what our experience has been in the university thus far.

Packing up the day, I looked back at the t-shirt that we given as part of the Welcome Centre. Although the same shade as that of a minion, it was enough to shine a new light on the university I thought I knew.

Translation n’est pas always easy (English et Français) (Possibly Chinese)

Ever learn more than one language? Ever find that the second language might have (or probably has) too many grammar rules to remember? Ever been told that fluency means being able to speak to anyone about anything in that language? Ever hear of people who translate word by word, only to find that it actually doesn’t make any sense?

Chances are that, if you live in Quebec (and possibly Ontario), You might have been exposed to two or more languages. Here in Quebec, we learn English and French, and yet some of us can barely introduce ourselves in the other languages while sounding fluent.

Quand j’étais jeune, mon m’a corrigée les centaines de fois pendant l’école primaire et secondaire. C’était seulement depuis 4 ans que j’suis appréciative de ce qu’il m’avais dit en corrigeant mes amis internationaux qui veulent apprendre la langue. 

However, even with an educational background of both English and French, I still find it hard to translate between the languages, maybe because of all of des règles de grammaire. De plus, as I start to learn Mandarin and its rules of grammar, I start to quickly and frequently be reminded how translating n’est pas la même chose quand on le traduire mot-par-mot (That’s Google Translate… not the most accurate) and asking 中国朋友 are not as helpful since they suggest words a beginner wouldn’t know or recognize.

Funny thing is, while I might be considered as fluent in French, si tu me parles de la domaine de compatbilité, je ne te comprendrais pas un mot (If you were to talk to me about Accounting, I wouldn’t understand one word from you). It’s the same in English, where I wouldn’t understand anything in relation to physics.

When it comes to translation, word by word doesn’t mean that the context stays the same between languages. The closest is getting the equivalent from one language to the next with the least amount of context lost. And to be fluent? Practice in both familiar and new/foreign environments.

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