January 22, 2013


Despite being certifiably fluent in French (as was the requirement for my masters program), the first days of school seemed such a language blur. My every day familiar language wasn’t enough.

Technical vocabulary aside, I could tell I’d lost some of my ability over the 8 months spent at home. It has come back to me over time, with hard work and lots of intense listening, leading me to the last week of lectures where I understood everything the teachers said. Well, almost everything.

When giving us details about one of our final exams, the head teacher explained that normalement (normally) we are allowed the use of documents for certain questions posed by different guest lecturers. To me, that left a certain amount of doubt about whether or not things would be the same this year.

After that we didn’t hear whether the test was open book or not, and so I studied everything.

Come test day, it was written on the exam which parts had authorized documents, and which hadn’t. A sense of relief poured over me. This test was going to go better than I had thought.

After the exam, I expressed my sense of joy at being able to use the materials from lecture to my fellow students.

I was the only one relieved, however.

To my French counterparts, the normalement wasn’t so ambiguous.

They expected to be able to use their documents.


  1. That's the point in being optimistic ... (or lazy to learn everything ... ).

  2. I wouldn't have been so sure myself. For me, "normalement" means "in general / in most cases" but the fact that someone feels the need to use it makes me think that there might be exceptions. Why say "Normalement you're allowed to use documents" when you can just say "You're allowed to use documents"??
    You were right to have doubts and the other students were probably a bit over confident. :-)

  3. I'm envious that you can do this. It's something I should have done.

  4. I think in English when we say "normally" we are saying "normally yes.. but this time no," but I realized as I live in France with a ch'ti who is only learning English.. when he or others have said "normalement" they mean.. like "this is how it will be unless something else happens." I'm glad you read it the American English way! Good for you! Thanks for blogging!


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