Thursday, April 30, 2009

As easy as uno, dos, tres!

The reality that language learners know is that mastering numbers can actually be quite challenging. Far more than just counting to ten (or even one hundred), you need to be able to quickly understand appointment dates, meeting times, addresses, phone numbers, prices, hotel room numbers - not to mention numbers for buses, flights, trains and platforms!

The good news: we've tackled the challenge for you.

Language Routes is pleased to introduce its newest audio learning guide, Los Números, available today on our website.

This Spanish audio learning guide starts with the basics and helps you build your way up to understanding and using numbers in everyday situations. The dialogues will flex your comprehension abilities while the listen and repeat exercises improve your pronunciation and intoniation.

Los Números truly makes it as easy as uno, dos, tres! Click here to find out more about this CD and booklet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

La fête des langues 2009 !

The 32nd annual Fête des Langues, organized by the Centre d’Animation en Langues in Brussels, was held this weekend.

The Fête brings together people from many nationalities to celebrate the wide variety and richness of cultures represented in Belgium. The weekend events include over 50 workshops in 20 languages, as well as internnational music and dance performances.

Even if you're not in Brussels, you can join in the celebration. You could host an international dinner featuring dishes from around the world, or even choose a specific region or country. Not much of a kitchen star? How about an international game night? Awale, boules, or conquian anyone?

© L'édition 2008 de la Fête des Langues

© L'édition 2008 de la Fête des Langues

© L'édition 2008 de la Fête des Langues

Friday, April 24, 2009

How to kiss a total stranger

When I arrived in France one of the hardest challenges was mastering the art of the bisous, the cheek kisses. I watched other people and tried to understand out the rules, but just could not figure out who to kiss, when to kiss, which cheek to kiss first, whether it was one, two, three or four kisses...

Now it's actually become second nature and it feels odd when we see other Americans and don't give bisous.

Here are some guidelines for the art that is the bisous.

1. Who?
Girls give bisous to both girls and guys.
Guys give bisous to girls, but generally only to very close guy friends or family members.

2. When?
When you meet someone and say hello in a social context and then again when you say goodbye. Make the rounds, giving bisous to everyone, rather than giving a big American "see you all later" wave to the whole room as you go.
Tip: If you wear glasses, it's polite to take them off with one hand and hold them out to the side while giving bisous, especially if the person you're about to kiss is wearing them too!
3. How many?
This is really the only tricky part because it varies depending on where you are in France. But if you've got the mental capacity to remember where you are, you've got the capacity to remember how many.

(c) Strange Maps

In Lyon, you give one on each cheek. In the Paris area, four is the lucky number. (That's two on each cheek, not back-forth-back-forth-back-forth-back-forth. Don't be silly.)

4. Which cheek first?
After much observing, I could NOT figure out the rule determining whether you start left or right. And then someone told me there is no rule. You just go with what feels most natural, like when you give a hug. You don't plan a side - you just do it. And yes, even French people occasionally have an awkward oops-we-both-went-the-same-direction moments.
Tip: When giving someone's cheek a kiss, you can place a hand lightly on their shoulder if you know them well. Think of it as a hug-kiss combo package.
5. Bonus
The word bisous is pronounced bee-zooh. If you are giving someone cheek kisses, it's called se faire la bise.

There. Now you're all set to go practice in the mirror.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hey bébé, what's your name?

The popular baby names around the globe in 2009 aren't the same as those you hear at the playground in the US. (Who knew that when Ross and Rachel named their baby Emma it would spread across the globe like Nutella on a hot day?)

Here are some of the most popular bébé names in France at the moment.

Garçon: Lucas, Enzo, Nathan, Mathis, Thomas/Tom, Théo, Hugo, Maxime, Raphaël, Louis

Fille: Clara, Inès, Chloé, Léa, Camille, Lilou, Emma, Océane, Maëlys, Manon

In Spain…

Niño: Alejandro, Daniel, Pablo, David, Adrian, Javier, Alvaro, Sergio, Carlos, Marcos

Niña: Lucia, Marla, Paula, Laura, Marta, Alba, Claudia, Carla, Andrea, Sara

And in Germany…

Jungen: Leon, Maximilian, Alexander, Lukas/Lucas, Paul, Luca, Tim, Felix, David, Elias

Mädchen: Marie, Sophie/Sofie, Maria, Anna/Anne, Leonie, Lena, Emily, Johanna, Laura, Lea/Leah

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today's itsy-bitsy Hungarian lesson

5 Hungarian words you didn't know you knew

From 'kocsi', a horse-drawn wagon with springs above the axles. Named after the village of Kocs in which this type of vehicle was invented.

From 'ici-pici', meaning tiny.

From 'paprika', a spice made out of ground hot or mild red peppers.

Paprika at the Grand Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok) in Budapest, Hungary

From the Hungarian word 'szablya' for sword. The word made its way into English through French (sabre, sable) and German (Säbel). The Hungarian verb 'szabni' means to slice or to tailor.

Supposedly a Hungarian invention, its name in many languages was derived from the Hungarian 'szappan': soap, Seife, savon, jabon, etc.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Audio learning guides 10 ways

One advantage to the audio learning guides from Language Routes is the variety of formats in which they can be used. For example, you can read the booklet, listen to the CD, follow along with the booklet as you listen, put the tracks on your MP3 player, etc... But there's more.

Here are 10 ways to use the audio learning guides to maximize the time you spend improving your language skills. You could use any of the audio learning guides in these situations, but we have made recommendations that we found helpful based on our own experiences.

1) Behind the wheel
Practice your pronunciation and intonation while driving in the car. What better place to work on rolling your Rs than in a car by yourself?

Recommended listening:
The Good Pronunciation Guide, Bien-dire Essentials
Working in English, Go English Essentials
Los Nùmeros, Hispánica Esencial

2) In the kitchen
Making dinner just got interesting. Listen to an audio learning guide as you chop, stir and sample. Who knows? You may get inspired to make a French tarte Tatin or all-American chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Recommended listening:
Bon Appétit !, Bien-dire Essentials
Let's Eat!, Go English Essentials

3) Walking the dog
Put the leash on Fido and an audio learning guide on your MP3 player. Did you know that in french an MP3 player is called un baladeur, which comes from the verb se balader, meaning to take a walk.

4) In the waiting room

No one likes being sick. But there can be a silver lining around the cloud of waiting at the doctor's office. Take an audio learning guide with you and follow along with the booklet while you wait. And remember - being polite can go a long way with the nurses!

Recommended listening:
La Politesse, Bien-dire Essentials
Polite English, Go English Essentials

5) At the gym
Work out your body and your left inferior parietal cortex at the same time. Warm-up with what you already know and then learn new words and structures. Stretch yourself as you strengthen your skills.

6) On the plane

Buff and polish those language skills between take-off and landing. You'll be more confident speaking the local language and adapting to the culture when it's fresh in your mind.

Recommended listening:
Travelling in English, Go English Essentials, 2008 Bestseller
Authentically French, Bien-dire Essentials
Authentic English, Go English Essentials

7) One word: DMV

Okay, so it's actually one acronym. You get the idea.

Les Mots Croisés, Bien-dire Essentials

8) At home and in the garden
Multi-tasking multi-lingually. Listen to an audio learning guide as you clean the house or work in the garden. This is a good time to dig a little deeper and learn about the culture and understand the way of life and relationships in other parts of the world.

Recommended listening:
Las Conversaciones Sociales, Hispánica Esencial
French Expressions, Bien-dire Essentials
Idiomatic English, Go English Essentials

9) In your pocket
The flashcards are held together by a key ring and fit easily in your pocket. They are a great way to entertain the kids while in the car or waiting in line. And the bonus - you both get to work on your language skills at the same time!

*Free MP3s to accompany the flashcards are coming soon. Sign up for the Language Routes newsletter to find out when they are released.

10) On the commute
Take a mental escape from the world of mass-transit. You're no longer stuck in a crowded subway or bus, but you're enjoying an apéritif with friends on a terrace in France. Listen to an audio learning guide on your commute as a way to relax at the end of the day.

Recommended listening:
C'est la Vie...en France !, Bien-dire Essentials

Of course, this is just the starting point. How will you use your audio learning guides?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Drinking coffee like the French

Every coffee you're served in France will arrive with sugar cubes (and often a little square of dark chocolate). Even in people's homes, the sugar cubes are there. You may assume that they are for sweetening your coffee, and you'd be right... in part at least. But there's more.

Quack, quack!

Dunking a sugar cube into a cup of coffee and then nibbling at it to get all the sugary-coffee goodness is known as 'faire un canard'. A canard is a duck, so I'm guessing it's a reference to a duck dipping under the water.

So the next time you're in France and a friend (not just the person next to you in the café - let's be clear on this before I'm accused of teaching impolite habits) has a steaming café noir, grab a sugar cube and ask, "Je peux faire un canard?"