Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Language learning for bébé

At what age should children start learning languages?

According to Caroline Benoit-Levy, a foreign language teacher in Bordeaux, France, the best ages are up to seven years old. But to really hit the target, introduce your child to other languages before age three.

Benoit-Levy teaches English to French students starting at 12 months and only up to three years of age. The classes are held in a workshop format lasting 45 minutes each. While sitting on mom or dad’s lap, the students sing songs, repeat words and phrases, listen to stories and play games. The variety of activities allows each student to excel in one or more areas.

  • To find out about J'apprends l'Anglais, a bi-monthly magazine for children learning English, click here. Subscription includes free MP3 audio files with each issue.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reviewed in Paris by Design

No one knows Paris better than those who have lived in its arrondissements. Karen Kane, owner of Paris by Design, draws on her intimate knowledge of Paris and her love of the city to create specialized, one-of-a-kind trips to Paris.

"As a former Paris resident, I'm committed to helping you see French culture through the eyes of someone who has lived there," she explains. "I'll introduce you to parts of the city you might otherwise miss. I'll share the secrets that only years of exploration and study can reveal."

Each month, subscribers to the Paris by Design newsletter are treated to an insider's look at culture topics, reviews of books and films featuring Paris, and a special section of reader submissions called Discovered Pleasures. In the May 2009 newsletter,one of the Discovered Pleasures is the 6-page travel feature on the Marais in issue 64 (May/June) of Bien-dire magazine.
"This Découverte article covers history, must-see locations, restaurants and accommodations, and special suggestions for music-lovers and Sunday visitors. The accompanying CD has articles read by native French speakers on news, current events, keywords and dialogues for practical situations such as having an apéro with friends and asking for directions. "Je cherche la Place des Vosges, s’il vous plaît !"
Click here for more information about issue 64 of Bien-dire magazine and here for subscription options. (Free shipping worldwide on all orders.) Sign up for the Bien-dire newsletter here.

Click here to find out more about Paris by Design or to sign up for Karen's newsletter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

10 useful phrases I said in France today

When learning a new language it’s a bit difficult to know what areas to focus on first. Do I need vocabulary for travel? Phrases for asking directions? Keywords for understanding a menu and ordering? Numbers for prices, addresses and phone numbers?

Of course, the answer depends on why you’re learning the language and when you’ll be using it. The needs of a university student backpacking across Germany are different from those of a couple moving to Spain to enjoy their retirement.

My personal experience as an American expat living and working in France (le rêve !) has shown me that the most important is mastering the things you say as you interact with people in daily situations. I did a little research this morning as I went to the market and then ran some errands. I kept a list of the phrases I said in French in order to see what the most useful ones were.

Here are my top ten:

1. Bonjour, Madame.
This one is obvious. Whether at La Poste, Monoprix or the market, greeting the person is always important.

2. Pourriez-vous m’aider ?
I say this one all the time. Why? Because I often need to ask for help! Fortunately, most people are very kind and are happy to help me figure out where to weigh my bag of fruit or how to tell when it’s my turn at the post office.

3. Je voudrais 500 g de fraises et un kilo de carottes, s’il vous plaît.
Standard market talk.

4. Je voudrais envoyer cette lettre aux Etats-Unis, s’il vous plaît.
As you see, this simple sentence structure (Je voudrais…) can get me nearly everything I want. Je voudrais €1 million. Hmm… didn’t work that time.

5. Oui, merci.
Again, very useful. This morning I said this to the vendor who asked if I wanted my strawberries in the same bag as the carrots, to the pharmacist who asked if I wanted the prescription in the bag with medication, and to the woman at the post office who asked if I wanted my letter sent priority mail. See? Très useful.

6. Excusez-moi, Madame.
Unfortunately, I have to say this one often too. I get sidetracked by the beautiful fruits and veggies and wind up bumping in to people. It’s also a phrase I use often on the métro at rush hour!

7. Vous avez dit combien ?
Numbers are tricky and I sometimes check with shopkeepers and vendors to be sure I’ve understood the prices correctly. (Especially the producteurs from the countryside who sometimes have strong accents I’m not used to.)

8. Une demi-baguette, s’il vous plaît.
Did you know that you can buy just half a loaf of French bread at the boulangerie?

9. Oui, il fait tellement beau aujourd’hui. Il faut en profiter !
Discussing the weather with my neighbor. This definitely falls under a daily activity!

10. Bonne journée. Au revoir.
Just as important as greeting, saying goodbye is the polite way to exit.

For more useful keywords, phrases and dialogues for everyday life in France, see the newly released audio learning guide Dialogues pour tous les jours, part of the Bien-dire Essentials range.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reviewed by Lyon Eats

Yesterday the following review of our audio learning guides was posted on Lyon Eats, a blog written by an American expat in France. Un très grand merci!

A nicer sounding alternative to "Dig in, folks!" is "Bon appétit!", a French phrase often used by English speakers. But saying it is one thing and actually having a good, or bon, dining experience in France is another. Beyond the language challenges, there are also cultural differences (dinner before 8pm - surely not!), table étiquette (bread on the table, not your plate) and the expectations of your dining companions to take into consideration.

There's no need to feel intimidated. Eating in France, whether at a restaurant or apéritifs with friends, is an absolute must-have experience. Overcoming the challenges is easy if you have the right tools.

An audio learning guide aptly titled Bon Appétit ! is now available from the creators of Bien-dire magazine. With 13 years of experience, their multinational team includes specialist writers, language teachers, translators and native speakers. They work together to produce lively and well-structured language products which also develop awareness of cultural differences and equip you with the skills needed to have the très bonne experience you're wanting.

Bon Appétit ! is one of the Bien-dire Essentials, a range of audio leanring guides that caters to specific needs of learners of French and offers a wide choice of topics for different ages and levels. In 2008 the bestseller was Social Conversations in French, which will soon be available in a downloadable MP3 format from Language Routes.

As a follow-up for more advanced learners of French, Dialogues pour tous les jours and Coversations entre amis were released this morning.

So what are you waiting for? Go have that très bonne experience!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Numbers talking

Currently there are 6912 living languages.

516 of those languages are nearly extinct.

The five languages with the greatest number of native speakers are Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic.

Papua New Guinea has 820 living languages, the most of any country in the world.

The oldest written language still in existence is Chinese or Greek, dating to 1500 BC.

English has more words than any other languages, approximately 250,000 distinct words.

Khmer, an Austro-Asiatic language, has the largest alphabet with 74 letters.

Approximately 4200 people speak !Xóõ in the African country of Botswana. Among living languages, !Xóõ has the most consonants (77), the most vowels (31) and the most sounds (112 phonemes).

Esperanto has the fewest irregular verbs – none!

The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, written by the United Nations in 1948, has been translated into 321 languages and dialects.

The five most common consonant sounds in the world's languages are /p/, /t/, /k/, /m/ and /n/.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You're going where?

Can you imagine seeing a sign welcoming you to the beautiful
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahul! This 85-letter place name belongs to a hill in New Zealand. It is the longest officially recognized place name in an English-speaking country.

In the US you can visit
a lake in Webster, Massachusetts. Although only 45 letters long, it’s still a mouthful! The lake is also known as Lake Webster. (Phew!)

The longest hyphenated names in the US are Winchester-on-the-Severn, a town in Maryland, and Washington-on-the-Brazos, in Texas.

Visitors to County Galway in Ireland can see signs for the longest English placename (coming in at 22 letters): Muckanaghederdauhaulia. The name comes from the Irish language, Muiceanach Idir Dhá Sháile, meaning "pig-marsh between two saltwater inlets". Sounds lovely!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit is the ceremonial name of Bangkok, Thailand. It holds the Guiness World record for longest place name in the world.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's free!

Not many things in life are free. But we're changing that. Every day on the Language Routes blog you have access to a free Phrase a Day tool in French. Click on the audio icon to hear a French-speaker say the phrase (with the appropriate panache, of course) and read an explanation of the phrase and how to use it.

There's more.

To add the Language Routes Phrase a Day widget to a blogspot blog, go to the Dashboard and then click on layout. Select 'Add a Gadget'. When the window pops-up, select 'Add your own' at the bottom of the left column. Paste the following:


Et voilà. Free looks good on your blog.