The Flipside of My Un-March-Break (or: How to translate 3 great québecois expressions of enjoyment)

For primary and secondary school teachers and students (and many of their parents!) in the Quebec City area, it was the March Break this past week. A delicious week of rest and relaxation to sleep in, go skiing, skating or tobogganing, or take in a movie, visit a museum or just plain stay home and be a couch potato.

This is the first time in fifteen years, that I didn’t have the March Break.  That’s because I left the school system last June and now teach in the business environment.  Since, I have a trip planned for May, taking a week off now was out of the question.

What to do? I wondered how I was going to ‘survive’ the week that for so many of my friends is a hard-earned perk of being a teacher. Well, I am happy to say it was great! And I figured out how to translate a trio of tricky expressions while enjoying it!

Expression 1: Décrocher (as in: J’ai besoin de décrocher!)

This expression is invariably used within the same breath as the word ‘vacation’. It means ‘to unwind, relax and take it easy’. In other words, chill! How did I do that this week? Check out the following song:

Let me tell you, the corporate environment, and your colleagues dancing in their chairs, beating their pens on the conference room table or humming are to provide a momentary slice of tropical paradise – right in class!

 

Expression 2: Se changer les idées (as in: Il faut que je me change les idées!)

One of my students thanked me for getting his mind off of things (clearing his head) after a stimulating discussion on leadership, as a spin-off of a discussion about the Trudeau-Wilson-Raybould-SNC-Lavalin debacle of this week).

Another instance of mind refreshment took place when, instead of sticking to the program of review- -new point-practice-reinforce-production, I opted for a game fresh off of a webinar I attended this week. It worked like a charm and certainly motivated the students, who vied furiously against each other to win the remainder of the freshly-baked banana cake I had brought to class. I think it’s safe to say that despite the Arctic temperatures outdoors, the heat was on.

Don’t know about them, but for me, it certainly gave me an opportunity to get my mind off of things – like not being on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean!

 

Expression 3: Un bol d’air frais (as in : J’ai pris un grand bol d’air frais!)

This is such an interesting expression for anglophones who have recently arrived in Quebec. What? You took a bowl of fresh air? What a weird expression – yet how eloquent at the same time!  In English, we simply say: Enjoy the great outdoors (or the fresh air). It is also one of those examples of an expression that is so much better said in French than in English. It is much more poetic and visual!

I got my bowl of fresh air today when I sat outside (suitably dressed, of course!) to simply bask in the sunshine and catch some rays. I enjoyed the sounds of my neighbor frantically shoveling the snow around his garage, the chirping of a couple of song sparrows and the occasional airplane. Bliss!

So, there you have it: the flipside of my un-March Break. I was able to unwind, get my mind off of things and enjoy the fresh air, while still taking care of business as usual.

I guess it’s the little things that count the most, right?  How did you enjoy your Un-March Break, my faithful readers?

– Claire :O)

 

[Photo: Shutterstock/Song_about_summer)

Here’s to 2019!

In one word, how would you describe your Christmas vacation?

I gave each of my adult business English students a pale blue hashtag-imprinted post-it. The students kind of gave me a funny look, then took out their pens and began to write.

When they were done, I asked them to stick them on the conference room whiteboard.

“What should I write?”, I asked, thinking aloud.  

“Wonderful!”, someone quipped.

“Not so sure…”, I responded, then thought for a moment. “Sure, it was wonderful”. I repeated the word as wonder – full for extra emphasis.

“Teaching moment!”, I realized. I can teach them about the many meanings of the word ‘wonder’. I laughed. It was wonder-full. Full of wonder. Wonder can mean awe, surprise, to be stunned, to be amazed, to be impressed by something bigger than self.

I then asked the group to choose one of the papers and interview the person who wrote it.

Once we had reviewed open and closed question formation with past tense verbs, we began.

My turn. “So, why was your Christmas vacation wonderful?”, the student asked.

I explained. It had been a wonder-full period.

My brother-in-law passed away suddenly on December 31 from cancer. Shock. Disbelief. Anger at apparent medical error. Pleasure and pride to hear of how his colleagues had honoured him at work by wearing bowties, in his own signature style.

“How is that wonder-full?”, you may ask. Three ways. Three words: life, language, learning.  

Life. It’s precious, out of our control. You never know how long you have.

Language. The Saturday before passing away, Ben, my brother-in-law was looking through the photos of the trip to Switzerland he and my sister had taken last summer. My sister later shared some of the comments he had made about the trip. Those words became extra meaningful, and valuable, personal memories. Words are powerful.

Learning. I spent the first week of 2019 at my sister’s place. I realized firsthand how important it is to have records up-to-date, in order and accessible to get the legal and financial paperwork underway. I saw the cards and flowers and meals caring neighbours and friends dropped off, sent and had delivered. I witnessed my sister’s reaction to sympathetic calls and texts. I was floored. It was a sobering, yet essential, learning experience.

Throughout the year to come, we’ll all have our share of life, language and learning To what extent we make 2019 wonder-full, will be up to us.

To varying degrees, our language class ended with us all reflecting on the following three questions:

  • What can we do here and now to make the best of the life I have?
  • What can I say today to those around me to encourage and help them?
  • What can I learn today from what I am experiencing?

Whatever the following months hold, have a wonder-full 2019!

Any comments or ideas? Just drop a note below. I’d love to hear from you! – Claire