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Relax into Peace

Tired of the politics of commercial software development, I’ve started looking for simpler options. The first thought was counseling or therapy, but I see five years of study before I can do that professionally, which leaves me only five years to pay off student loans.

So I went out to the Peace Corps site and found that they’re looking for physics instructors in Guinea. That’s seems really simple: nothing exchanged except knowledge and sustenance; no substantial compensation that seems to give people the idea that they should be allowed to tromp around in the garden of my mind.

The only catch is that the community is francophone. I took a year of French in college, thirty-five years ago, which is almost a loss. Happily, when my sons took French in high-school, I purchased a license to TellMeMore and began working through the lessons. I’ve picked it up with renewed enthusiasm now.

It will be a haul: ten courses of forty hours each. In the first week, I made it through half of the first course, which is material that I remember fairly well.

The effort is in the dictation. TellMeMore has voice recognition. Even English diction is a hazard for me: spending all day doing abstract reasoning has made my brain unbalanced, and that shows in my facial musculature. The left side is lazy.

I remember working hard in French during college, and I do mean physically. Jaws, lips and cheeks became tired from the contortions required to approximate the nasal vowels and the consonants. Again in that mode, TellMeMore kept complaining that it was having trouble with my audio equipment. On a scale of seven, I had trouble making even three, the minimum passing score.

The dictation sessions were the slowest part of the lessons.

I finally realized that French is all about vowels. This was gathered by comparing my sound profiles with the reference recordings. This improved my scores somewhat, but I still had trouble with the transitions between vowels and consonants. In particular, the consonants caused me to close my throat, which made it hard to get the vowels going again. Certain passages made me gag.

So: keep the throat open, which means dropping my tongue at the back of my palette, relaxing the jaw and letting the front half of my tongue form the consonants. And then this shift happened, with a frission that normally indicates that I’m working with other people: let the back of the throat roll from vowel to vowel, the consonants only interjecting rather than interrupting.

And I begin to sound like I’m speaking French.

It will be charming if this also improves my English diction. I’ll find out at work tomorrow.

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