We are used to excessive paper-writing in the U.S.—three pages here, five pages there, ten pages (with research) at the end of the semester. In France, you write a large dissertation at the end of the semester, but you are also required to do something called an “exposé.”
The last time I made a presentation in front of a class, it was in an entry-level speech class and lasted for less than three minutes. An exposé is much different than just a brief speech in front of the class—it replaces part of the professor’s lecture. You are asked to speak for at least ten minutes on a subject of the course. In French, of course. The professor typically asks you various questions when you finish to make sure you understand the material and that she understands your stance on the work.
Luckily, my subject is the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s «Alice in Wonderland. »
My course, a comparison of Alice and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, examines both of these works extremely closely. As an English major, I am not unfamiliar with a close examination of a literary text…but the process of writing (and, soon, presenting) this exposé has been an experience.
Imagine an American girl handing over a (very) rough draft of a ten-minute lecture in French to a woman who speaks perfect French (my host mother). There was a lot of “Qu’est-ce que tu veux dire ici?” (What are you trying to say here?) and “Ne utilisé pas cet mot là” (Don’t use this word here).
At the end, all I can hope for is that the French students can put up with my accent for ten minutes…and that I can accurately respond to the professor’s questions afterwards. Crossing my fingers here.