Archive for Latin

le grand amphithéâtre de l’Université de Lyon

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2017 by xi'an

The talks of the statlearn 2017 conference took place in an amazing 19th Century amphitheatre that looked in much better conditions than the corresponding amphitheatre of La Sorbonne. After checking on-line, I found that this place had suffered a major fire in 1999 and had been renovated since then.

The main wall features a very academic painting by Jean-Joseph Weerts representing a rhethoric competition in Lugdunum (the hill of the god Lug, in Latin), under the Roman emperor Caligula. (It is hard to imagine this was painted at the time of the Impressionist revolution!) Which creates a huge distraction from listening to the first talk when one enters this room, as there are many stories woven into the painting, including the fate of the poor rethoricians, thrown in the Rhône by the emperor’s guards!

English courses again

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2013 by xi'an

In the science leaflet of Le Monde, Marco Zito—a particle physics researcher at CEA—dedicated his weekly tribune to the issue of teaching some courses in English in French universities, “cours en “globish”? Non, merci” being the title of this very poor contribution to the on-going debate… A wee tad late, as the change in the law had already been voted by the French parliament. Francophile readers can judge of the relevance of his arguments against teaching in English by themselves, but I do find them rather poor: first, French students are poorly trained in English; this is the fault of the secondary school system and addressing this handicap is outside the purposes and goals of universities. Wow! Replace English with maths and repeat the sentence. Sounds stupid, right?! If students have deficiencies when they enter the university, those should be addressed, full stop. Furthermore, learning English through a topic of their choice should provide a better motivation for the students than reading dull newspaper extracts as they do in secondary school (where language teaching is indeed appalling). Second, having courses in English would favour higher class kids and reinforce our “société à deux vitesses”. Re-wow! We are in  May…2013, right?! I had not read this kind of crypto-Marxist drivel for ages and, apart from reminding me of goode olde days, it sounds so lame. On the one hand, the kids of the most favoured parts of French society avoid universities as much as possible: they go to grandes écoles or abroad, in places where teaching in English is already implemented. Refusing to train the scions of less favoured parts of French society towards a better English proficiency is increasing the “big divide”. (And this is certainly the least of the barriers facing those entering the French university without the rule book.) The second part of the tribune is even weirder, if completely unrelated to the current debate: Zito starts arguing about the lack of neutrality of a given language, even in hard sciences, and then suddenly switches to the social awakening brought by Renaissance intellectuals writing in the vernacular (rather than Latin). Concluding that moving to courses taught in English (or “globish”) would bring us several centuries back. Just plain ridiculous.