In French, It’s The Little Things That Hurt You: A Look At French For Reading By Karl C. Sandberg And Eddison C. Tatham

French for Reading, a programmed text,  is by far the most ambitious and thorough of all the Prentice-Hall for Reading series.  Unlike the other language texts in the series, this one has no gradual introduction to the history and geography of the country and no introduction to its culture.  Instead, it plunges immediately into original texts, beginning with an excerpt from a chemistry journal on the definition and analysis of polymeric(macromolecular) structures.  This is no coincidence, because at the time the text was composed in 1968, there was a great emphasis on learning to read scientific articles in different languages. So, in this book, the reader will find many articles taken from scientific journals ranging from the influence of water and light on plants to nuclear physics.  There are also literary passages, economic excerpts, religious articles, historical and political reflections.  In short, the book provides a thorough introduction to reading technical French on many levels.  At the end of the book there is a potpourri of articles for additional reading practice, including ones about how to be a shaman, why water-witching can be effective, a diary of a German princess at the court of Lois XIV, dangers of atmospheric pollution.  The good news is that all of these articles are much easier to read than the difficult passage from Pascal’s “Dialogue with the Libertines”, concerning Pascal’s famous wager and his religious thought in the last chapter, Chapter 21.

The authors state that after having completed the text, “… you will be able to recognize the meanings of all the grammar forms in Le Francais fondamental(the French government list prepared for overseas French schools.)  The most difficult and problematic elements of French are the small words.  Indeed, it is rather disconcerting to learn that there are eleven uses of the word “que”.   One has to be careful not to forget “le” and “la” which often blend into other words, leaving a solitary “l”.  The pronoun “on” has many meanings, depending on the context.  Thus, it is necessary to look at all the tiny words with extra care, otherwise you could miss the essential meaning of the sentence.  The authors are excellent guides, however, and if you work through all the frames, you should be in excellent shape to read any technical French that you might need in your research.


Some Thoughts About Mathematics And Life

The one thing that comes to mind when I think about mathematics and life is:  You can’t solve any mathematical problem with a confused or unfocused mind.  So, to do a math problem your mind needs to be clear and directed to the problem at hand.  The same could be said about any problem that arises in a life situation.  We are more likely to achieve a better solution if our mind is tranquil and rational.  In other words,  unsettling, spoiling emotions must be kept at bay.  For, a great disturbance in many life events is the spilling over of emotions that cause us to act in an irrational manner and to reach sometimes distorted and even absurd “solutions”

In the realm of life problem solving, mathematical problems form only a tiny subset of all the problems we must deal with.  Mathematicians have established clearly defined rules for solving mathematical problems.  In their special province they serve as architects, beginning with the simple counting numbers or natural numbers, and then including 0 and the rational numbers and stretching out to the irrational numbers to form the set of real numbers.  The real number line is created where all these numerical sets have their home.  And mathematicians begin with axioms and postulates(assumed truths) and from them derive theorems and corollaries to theorems.  Theorems and their corollaries must be subjected to the rigor of mathematical proof before they can be accepted as truths.  What can we use to prove a particular theorem?  Any definition(a definition is an agreement to use words, phrases or symbols as substitutes for other words, phrases, or symbols.), postulate or axiom, or previously proved theorem may be used in a proof.  The use of precedent is also essential to legal, medical and some forms of scientific problem solving.  And mathematics teaches us that to disprove a theorem it is sufficient to find only one example where the statement does not hold.  This latter statement applies to all life problems as well.  For, when we toss around generalizations, it is important to realize that it takes only one counterexample to destroy our generalization.

Mathematics also teaches us to think twice; to be careful before reaching a conclusion.  When graphing functions on the Cartesian plane, it’s not uncommon to have restricted domains, meaning the functions are defined on a certain interval.  And sometimes separate cases must be considered, for example, what does the graph look like when x is greater than zero and how does the graph change when x is less than zero.  Arguments in life may also have restricted domains and statements that may be true for an adult are utter nonsense when applied to a child.  So, we must be cognizant of our audience and know where to apply our argument.  Thus, the study of mathematics can and does help us to cope better and to grasp better the multitude of problems we encounter in life.