Sunday, 31 January 2010
Saturday, 30 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
You know the drill. You are learning French, and excitedly book yourself a trip abroad to practise your new-found language skills. Then you get, say, to Belgium, and find that everyone wants to speak English to you. Or, that beyond “une bière, s’il vous plaît”, there actually isn’t much call for conversation. Where are all these French speakers who want to ask you all about where you live, where you went on holiday last year and what you think of the current government back home?
Or your company is relocating you to Belgium. You need to learn French. Where to start? Perhaps some lessons online followed up by the same tutor face-to-face once you get there...
Or perhaps you are popping to Brussels on the Eurostar for the day on a business trip. The meeting you are going to will be held in English, but wouldn’t it be nice to at least exchange some pleasantries before you start, in your clients’ native language? Always a good way to build a fruitful rapport, too...
You’re in Brussels for the day. You’d like to fit in so many things – but where to start?
With these as with so many other situations, Not Just Waffle is here for you! We exist to help you get more from your Brussels trip by combining language learning with guided tours in whatever proportion suits you.
Perhaps we can walk you round the main attractions of the city, while chatting in French.
Or sit down with you over coffee to discuss what a good route might be, and teach you some “survival phrases” for the day.
Or talk you through any topic from the history of Belgian chocolate to business etiquette, in French or in English.
Or just have that conversation about everyday things that you’ve been longing to have with someone other than your usual tutor.
Or even go over the imperfect subjunctive with you so you can wow them on your return!
Or... or... or.... The possibilities are endless, and endlessly personalised. If you’re in Brussels for any reason or any length of time, make sure you get more from your stay than just waffle(s) and extra calories ... call on us and see how we can help you.
Email us at languagetuition at gmail dot com. Together we will come up with the ideal solution for your time here, whether you are popping across for half a day, moving here indefinitely, or anything in between!
Monday, 25 January 2010
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Catherine is bored. It’s not that she doesn’t love her books and her West Wing DVD collection, and the passion and excitement they stir in her. But she’d like something to happen in her real life for a change.
In search of adventure, or at the very least some existential angst she can use to finally do some of that writing she’s always secretly wished she had the heartbreaking past to fuel, she moves back to her native Belgium.
Yes, Belgium. Things happen there too, you know, as she discovers when she begins teaching French to Brad, an American diplomat, who, looking as he does like Bradley Whitford circa 1999 and minus the disproportionately controversial moustache, is not hard to fall in love with.
All well and good, but Brad’s ambiguous friendship with the beautiful Lucy (think Janel Moloney), back home in the US, seems to be getting in the way of the perfect Pride and Prejudice ending she’d like for her autobiography.
If heartbreak is the price for adventure, is it worth it? Should she fight for Brad? Should she settle for his best friend, who just happens to be another attractive American? Or should she retreat back into the world of fiction, living vicariously and free from gut-wrenching pain?
Come with her and help her decide...
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
I’ll give you a minute to recover from the shock.
The Twitterverse is in uproar, myself included, because my intense devotion to (a clean-shaven) Josh Lyman is second only to Donna Moss’, and not by very much, I can assure you.
Here’s the thing, though – and those of you with sensitive dispositions may wish to look away now.
Bradley Whitford is not Josh Lyman. That some of us cling to the belief that he is, is actually testimony to his talent as an actor.
I have not (as yet) had the immense pleasure of meeting him and asking him about this (and would no doubt be too tongue-tied to say anything coherent at all in that happy event), but I assume, and think I may have read somewhere, that he practises something called Method acting. I know a tiny amount about this thanks to the wonderful book “Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist can Learn from Actors”, by Bradilyn Collins, easily the freshest, more original and all-round best book I have read about writing (along with Francine Prose’s “Reading like a Writer”). (And I’ve read a fair few.) I admit that part of the reason I bought it was that I could get one tiny step closer to my heroes, Bradley Whitford himself (who needs no adjectives) and the thoroughly exquisite Janel Moloney.
Purely gratuitously, and because neither Twitter nor Facebook give me enough room to do this on my profile page, I’m copying my favourite quote from the book here. Favourite because it’s inspiring, and because it make me feel as if, if I were to sit down for coffee with Brad and Janel (and let’s throw in Allison Janney, because she’s fabulous, and Josh Malina, because he’s cool, and he makes me laugh every day), I’d have huge amounts to talk about with them, and it would be the start of a several beautiful and mutually inspiring friendships.
(I haven’t left the topic of Brad’s moustache though, so don’t tune out. This is all relevant, I promise.)
We writers of fiction are alike in one way. We’re a mighty strange breed. We view the world differently. We walk around with voices and shadowy figures inside our heads. We tend to stare out windows and mumble to ourselves. The Normals can’t begin to understand us. Only our first cousins, the actors, can come close to matching our eccentricities. For we share the same goal: bringing characters to life.
There we have it. Bradley Whitford was not put on the West Wing to be Bradley Whitford, and he’s not been put on Code 58 to be Bradley Whitford. Unlike some actors, who only really ever play some version of themselves, Brad is talented enough to be able to create a character, and it’s details like knowing that Dan would have a moustache that make a difference.
Method acting, which from what I can gather is really just good acting, means you create a new character for every role you play. You give them mannerisms in keeping with their personalities and backgrounds. You still your own inner rhythm, your own emotions (while drawing on them when necessary), in order to better portray theirs. You consciously become a blank canvas onto which you can paint all the physical, emotional and character traits of the person you are bringing to life, drawing of course on your own experience and observation of life.
So, there you have it. Bradley Whitford did not just grow a moustache because he heard I was coming to the US and wanted to hide, though it pains me greatly to think I may have walked right past him and been denied the opportunity of said beautiful friendship.
He did it because he is, and always will be, a great actor who understands his character. Which is why we loved Josh Lyman, and why we love Brad. Well, that and the dimples...
Monday, 4 January 2010
Besides, it's very pretty with all the snow, and you can warm up with a waffle. And there are languages. Lots of them. And chocolate. Rivers of chocolate flowing down the streets.
Also, a place of glorious inefficiency. Political views aside (I won't reveal mine on this issue lest I lose whatever readers I may have painstakingly gained over the last few insight-filled months), it worries me slightly that this is where the powers that be chose to put Europe, HQ. Here, where for much of the time they can't even agree on their own government.
Here, where you have to ring ahead to an undisclosed number if you want to use a trolley when you get off the Eurostar with your five thousand suitcases full of Christmas presents and sales bargains, for the simple reason that, and I quote, "ce n'est pas Londres ici, Madame." Sigh.
Welcome home, all you expats. Take a deep breath. Getting cross does not help, and I'd know. Think chocolate. Think gateway to Europe. And don't go overdoing the Borders closing sale next year.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
Yes, I have failed: this may be the quickest I have ever broken a New Year's Resolution. This one was to work on my writing every day. Oops. Can Sundays be exempt? Perhaps. Let's hope so.
I am, at least, up to date with my Merriam-Webster "Word a Day" calendar, though already I struggle to list all three of them - so far, syncretic (as in, Belgium is a syncretix mix of expats, Flemish-speakers, and French-speakers), mash (an intense and usually passing infatuation; also: the object of infatuation. As in, well Josh Lyman I guess. Is that "passing", though? Time will tell.) Today's was something to do with poetry and started with u, I think. It referred to the final syllable at the end of a line. Anyone have a clue what I'm talking about? No? Me neither. I'm too tired. Sorry.
By the way, dear readers, who are you? And what led you to my blog? I'd love to know...