Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ask the Prof. Goin’ Crazy? ….then get going with these comms tips.

I get a letter from a desperate woman…or is it a man? Goin’ Crazy is embracing life in Strasbourg with the full force of his or her Syracuse might. Classes, navigating Strasbourg, struggling with French “le baguette….la baguette?”, not to mention friends and sport and nights out.

So, Goin’ Crazy, here are Prof B’s quick and dirty survival tips.

1. Get out the post-its.

The key to survival is to prioritise. Find a pack of post-its and a big piece of wall. On each post- it write one word for each of your activities. Carry on until you are really sure that you have covered everything – studies, calls home, walks to the centre, shopping. When you have finished, stick them randomly on the wall. Step back and take a good ten minutes reviewing them all.

Next step, prioritise. Create three categories…Must Do…Want to Do…Optional. Batch your activities under each heading. Now your priorities should be clear (and by the way, don’t forget that you must wash, you must breathe and you must get some exercise to stay healthy, otherwise you won’t manage anything, me dear!) Dump the stuff you know you won’t do. You can’t do everything!

2. Make a plan

You now have your priorities, so you should be able to start blocking off the time. Use any system you like, online, gadget, pencil and paper. Plan on a week by week basis, it is will make it easer to scan the plan. Use colours if you want…..but remember not to pack the schedule too full. Put buffer zones around appointments and don’t forget travelling time. Give yourself space to breath.

3. Discipline yourself to follow.

Discipline isn’t hard. You know what they say. Just do it.

4. Give yourself a break

Enjoy the planning and enjoy the doing. Plan in something you love every day. Give yourself downtime. And don’t beat yourself up for the slips. Aim for 80/20. (This by the way is the famous Pareto principle. Look it up)

And some tips for the French skills? Here goes

1. Two sessions of quarter of an hour a day is better than trying to cram it all in at once.
2. Forget vocabulary lists. Instead find something you love and use it to expand your vocabulary. Always link the words to give your brain a better chance. Learn silly and interesting things.

3. Listen to trashy pop songs in French and sing along, it is great for getting a good accent.

4. Remember all those 1930s sultry French stars? Nothing better to cultivate an accent than imitating them by sticking a cigarette (or as a non smoker I prefer a pen) between the lips, and trying to speak.

5. Learn those little words and sounds that fill in between words “vous savez…” “euhhhhhhhhh”. No teacher will ever encourage you to use them, but they give the brain that precious nano second to search for the right phrase.

6. Talk talk talk as much as you can. If people try to come back at you in English, learn a nice polite phrase to let them know you are learning and actually want to speak French.

7. Most of all, relax and enjoy it. It will come. All it needs is perseverance.

Best of luck, goin’ crazy. Let me know how it goes.


  1. I received an anonymous letter in my school mailbox today which reads as follows: "I wanted to thank Professor Burton for helping me get my head on straight. Her tips have already been a world of help and I cannot thank her enough for helping me figure out how to de-stress my life. She is a lifesaver and I am forever thankful. Signed, Goin' Crazy"

    -Looks like your advice was exactly what they needed Professor Burton! Great job!