Calm and Collected

Calm and Collected

Minette‘s English vocabulary is expanding at a fast pace. Avid reading is of course one of the reasons why, but it is also thanks to her school’s concerted efforts to teach students how to express themselves with increasing precision and nuance as they grow up.

The other day she used the phrase “calm and collected” to describe her attitude during a recess interaction with a teasing boy she’s not very fond of. She seems to like this phrase, judging by her window drawing pictured here. “Calm and collected” is also a favorite of mine, probably because it’s an ideal that often feels out of reach… I don’t think it belongs to my active vocabulary though, as opposed to Minette’s.

When I browse her thick English vocabulary textbook, I am amazed at its scope and richness, but also at its ingenious design. Practice exercises are both thorough and entertaining — a remarkable achievement in my view. As someone with a particular interest in education and in practical solutions aligned with fundamental values, I could not be more satisfied with how Minette’s teachers have helped her grow her English skills.

On the other hand, her level of French and Tamil is inevitably lagging behind. Keeping up with English is just not a realistic goal at this point. It doesn’t mean we are giving up on the other two languages. We speak them with Minette at home. She goes to French and Tamil class every week. She enjoys reading her French magazine Astrapi and occasional French books. But she lives her everyday life breathing English.

English’s prevalence is here to stay. The only way French or Tamil could regain some ground, I think, is if she were to live in one of our native countries. Somehow, what we are doing now is aimed at keeping her connected with her roots and making it possible for her to deepen her connection by her own means if she ever chooses to do so at a later stage in her life.

Meanwhile, I love the way Minette has expanded my own English with the colloquial words she enjoys using with her friends. It’s also interesting to observe how they come into and go out of fashion. “Busted” was an absolute favorite two years ago — not so much anymore. “Bro” is the word now.

It also strikes me when I stroll around her school how compact English can be. There is a sign in her classroom that I like particularly: “Work hard. Have fun. No drama.” It’s pointed and percussive. There is no way French could express as much in six short words. And the impact would diminish with every additional word, even every additional syllable, in the French translation.

Life goes on, as Minette continues to navigate three different languages and cultures day in day out. Both work and fun are involved in this process. As for drama, well, there is no denying it’s part of the journey too. You see, you can’t be calm and collected all the time.

5 Replies to “Calm and Collected

  1. Jung carved a Latin inscription above the door of his house in Kusnacht, Switzerland: “VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS DEUS ADERIT.” In English translation, the inscription reads: “Called or not called, the god will be there.” (so says the internet) I think of this in relation to your thoughtful post. Whether it’s elusive calm, a language seeded in childhood, or unstinting parental care, the goodness will be present and available when needed. Which is way too many words for considering the quote. Latin is compact too.

  2. Travaille dur. Amuse-toi. Aucun drame.
    Le français peut être concis et percutant aussi. Mais il est vrai que le pays ayant inventé les tweets peut s’appuyer sur une langue permettant de communiquer avec 140 signes par message. Ce concept ne pouvait pas naître au pays de Proust et Saint-Simon.
    Mais je reste calme et serein en lisant ta chronique. 🙂

    1. D’accord, il y a bien six mots dans ta traduction. Mais la version française est loin d’être aussi condensée, à mon avis. Et “Aucun drame.” pour “No drama.”, franchement, ça ne marche pas. J’en pouffe encore… 😉

  3. Do they no longer teach French at her school? It was an available subject when our daughter went there (although she was not there in elementary levels, only “middle school” (7-8 grades)). Just curious.

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