An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Mundane life of A Student: A Presentation

Article published on April 5, 2008
Article published on April 5, 2008

There is nothing more thrilling than a public performance, especially when it is done in French which still, after six months of serious efforts, is not my mother tongue. This week I had my true baptism of fire – my first exposé en oral, a presentation. It also tested how well I had managed to soak up the golden rules of the méthode francaise.

At the University of Sorbonne for every course you have an hour of a cours magistral which is a lecture with a professor and two hours of a travail dirigé which is a course in smaller groups. The idea of the latter is to have more time to go into details and to be more interactive. Well, it would be too good to be true. What actually happens is that every student picks up a subject on which he does a presentation what means another two hours of lectures per course per week. After six moths I have had to struggle through quite a number of them, and the méthode francaise with the constant repeating of the “la première grande partie, la première sous-partie, la deuxième sous-partie, la deuxième grande partie etc etc ” has started to sound like some liturgical verses from Carolingian era.The quality of the presentations has been varying. Most of the times the exposés are very dull because students just run through their dozens of pages of notes. However, sometimes the performer gives you an impression that there is something rather stimulating coming, he or she introduces the theme still proceeding in a humane pace. And just as you lull yourself into the illusion that the performance might be listenable, the student stretches his hands, grabs his pile of notes and starts lecturing with the speed of light. This is when you have what some people call a near-death experience; names, images, dates flash past you and turn into letters and numbers without logic. But, if after half an hour you are still conscious enough to find your way out of the class, you can survive anything.The fact is when everything is happening in a foreign language and you spend a lot of time just staring at a person and not understanding a word he says, you become very sensitive to other things. For instance, enonciation is my concern number one. Most students settle for muttering monotonously for 30 minutes so that you have hard time trying to make out when one sentence ends and other begins. Thus, when I had my own presentation I made sure E-V-E-R-Y W-O-R-D was well pronounced. As a result, it probably looked liked I’m lecturing to a group of half-deaf pensioners and not showing much respect for the auditory organs of my alert audience.Secondly, every presentation goes according to a plan and most of the time students would write it on the blackboard. This is the point where you can see the effect of the developed information technology and the constant tapping of the keyboard: the handwriting is impossible to read. Consequently, I had decided to save my fellow students the trouble of deciphering my scribbles, so I had my plan printed and distributed. This way everyone could stare at their paper and look very interested while decorating my grandes parties and sous-parties with flowers. What is the secret? What keeps us dragging ourselves out of our beds at seven in the morning? It is the reprise, the magical moment when the student finishes and the lecturer takes the stage and fills the gaps. You rediscover the meaning of your scholastic existence and you feel astonishingly motivated. Unfortunately the effect is short-lived, there is always another student waiting for his turn to take you on an intellectual adventure. To be fair and honest, sometimes presentations are very good, you actually enjoy yourself and you are delighted to observe that our generation is not totally lost and is competent enough to step into our fathers' shoes. However, you feel even more empowered when it is you performing, and you are able complete the mission successfully which means half an hour with no sound of snoring in the room. You know it is over and never again will you be exposing your fellow students to such a torment. Soili Semkina

Lecture 1: Not like this

Lesson 2: Like this

Conclusion: Why do we assist the lectures?