Book Review: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

by David McCullough

What do the invention of the telegraph and the Louvre museum in Paris have in common?

What happened to the American living in Paris during the German invasion of France in 1870-71?

Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is an epic story of many generations researched and written by David McCullough. The title refers to the great distance Americans had to travel to get to Europe in the early days before luxury cruise ships. Back in the days of wind and sail the journey was still quite dangerous and could take a long time.

McCullough documents the story of Paris through the eyes of visiting Americans between the years 1830, when such a sea voyage was still a risky venture, until 1900, when visiting France became a little more common.

For the book, McCullough has researched the lives writings and even diaries of a number of famous and lesser-known Americans who made the journey across the Atlantic. Including; Elizabeth Blackwell, James Fenimore Cooper, (who wrote several of his classic American novels in Paris) Mark Twain, (who was more a fan of Germany) Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Chappe’s semaphore signal tower, with moving arms that would send messages by sign language to be relayed by other towers just within eye-sight of each other.

These men and women were not just tourists, they were medical students, writers, artists, politicians and architects. Samuel Morse came to Paris as a painter spending day after day in the Louvre learning from the master by emulating their work, but then was struck with an idea for a new “electronic” communications systems after seeing Frances manually operated signal towers. Chappe’s semaphore signal towers line the hills around Paris. The signal towers were used to manually repeat and pass on messages over great distances.

Morse didn’t know a lot about the new field of electricity but he began to wonder if the huge towers could somehow be automated with the new miracle of science.

 

Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Paris (1870–71)

One of the most fascinating characters in the book is Elihu B. Washburne, who served as United States Minister to France, during the Siege of Paris. Washburne had been given the position as Minister to France as a reward after his dedicated and strenuous service during the American Civil War. But then the Franco-Prussian War broke out

Elihu B. Washburne

and unlike most of the other ambassadors from other nations, Washburn decided to stay while the city of Paris was put under siege by the Germans.

The book in many ways really captures the soul of the city. Paris had the ability to inspire great work and political thought. At a time when African Americans were still used as slaves, there were black medical students studying in Paris. The arts were appreciated in Paris as on no place on earth. Sculptors, painters, and writers chose the city as a place to work and study. Some of the Americans mingled with the locals others kept to their own kind.

The results of these early pioneer adventurers’ greater journeys has deeply affected American culture, medical, political and artistic today.

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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is a 2011 non-fiction book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough. It is the story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900.

Interview: With – Lindsay does Languages

Polyglot Interview

This is an e-mail interview with Lindsay Williams from “Lindsay does languages”.

Lindsay works as Language Tutor and Blogger. She is based in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

Lindsay Does Languages

Lindsay has a language learning blog with all kinds of fun and exciting games and resources for language learners at;

http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/

I first discovered Lindsay on her Facebook page, where she has wonderful tricks and tips for language learners, along with movie and music recommendations.

https://www.facebook.com/lindsaydoeslanguages/

Interview

Learning French: Hello Lindsay.

Lindsay

Lindsay: Hi Todd

LF: Just for the record how many languages do you know at this time? Including languages that you have just started learning?

Lindsay: I’m a native English speaker, then in order how much I’ve studied/how well I know them – French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Dutch, Esperanto, and Korean.

LF: (Wow!) What language/s are you working on at this time?

Lindsay: Indonesian at the moment!

LF: What first attracted you to learning other languages?

Lindsay: Croissants and Shakira! Haha.
I went to French club in primary school and kept going because they gave us croissants and orange juice at the end of term.

And Shakira is the reasons I wanted to learn Spanish – to translate lyrics on her Laundry Service album!

Shakira

[Note: Shakira is also a bit of a polyglot. She was born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, in Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia. She grew up speaking Spanish and learned Portuguese while touring in Brazil as a teenager. Shakira also speaks English, Italian, and Arabic.]

LF: Ha ha! I love Shakira!
I’m learning French at this time and would like to learn Italian next? What languages would you like to learn?

Lindsay: Ooo, so many! I’ve been drawn to Burmese for a few years now but haven’t got there yet. I’d also like to look a little closer at Russian and Arabic but I think there are others I’ll end up studying before that.

LF: I make a bucket list from time to time of all the languages I’d like to learn. (I’d like to learn Greek and Spanish, Dutch, Swedish and German at some point and many more.) Do you have a bucket list of languages? What attracts you to a language and or culture?

Lindsay: I certainly do! Normally it’s travel-related. If I’ve been to a place and fallen in love with it then I’ll be drawn to the language as a way to learn more and go beneath the surface. However, sometimes, it can be pure curiosity.

LF: I live in Sydney, Australia, where there are local newspapers printed in Italian, and a few other languages. We used to get the French newspaper Le Monde at newsstands, but only rarely now. Do you read newspapers in your target language/s?

Lindsay: I do online sometimes yes. I really like the website http://newspapermap.com/ to find newspapers in the language I want.

 LF: Thanks for that! (Spends the next few hours at newspapermap.com). Are there any podcasts that you can recommend in French?

Lindsay: Oh yes! I wrote a huge blog post called The Ultimate Guide to Podcasts for Language Learning recently and there’s plenty in French there to get into. (Here’s the link: http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/language-learning-podcasts/)

LF: What is your daily routine when learning a new language? Do you use cue-cards? Or do you have other methods that you have created yourself?

Lindsay: I normally have an hour for language learning each weekday morning (Mon-Fri). I plan my time out using my free monthly planner link:  https://ldlpages.leadpages.co/languageplanner/  ) and that helps me to make the most of my learning time. What I do exactly varies, but it always includes Memorisation and it incorporates a mix of activities such as italki lessons, listening activities, course books, setting myself my own writing and speaking tasks on social media.

LF: When do you, yourself believe that you have reached the level of proficiency with a new language? Is it when you can read a book or hold a conversation? Or is it when you can watch a movie in your target language?

Lindsay: I think it’s when you feel comfortable. If you can hold a conversation, but you’re concentrating so hard to listen to what’s being said, that your answers are a little monosyllabic, then (although that’s a great place to be) there’s still room for improvement. However, as soon as you feel comfortable using a language, that’s where you’re likely to also feel comfortable calling yourself proficient.

LF: What do you do to keep languages alive once you’ve moved on to a new language?

Lindsay: To be honest, not much! Other than my stronger languages of French and Spanish, all the others need a little time to reactivate because I don’t have time to study/use/practise 11 languages each day. But that’s a choice I’ve made. I learn languages because I enjoy learning a little about people, cultures, and places different to where I’m from. People are always so pleased if you can even just say a few words in their language that I’m not worried about reaching crazy native-like fluency in all the languages I’ve studied.

That said, my main language goal for this year is to review the languages I’ve learned so far more or less one at a time because I don’t want them to fade completely.

LF: Do you have any polyglot heroes that have inspired you?

Lindsay: Yes – everyone around me when I’m at a polyglot event. Hearing people’s individual language stories is always crazy inspiring!

LF: Personally I never thought it would be possible for me to learn a new language. I always dreamed that I would. But I found language learning in School really boring. It was only when I went to France a few years ago and then found all the Polyglots, like yourself, giving advice on Facebook on YouTube that I decided to give it a try.
Were you always gifted with languages or was it just a strong desire to learn other languages that turned you into a language learner?

Lindsay: It was definitely a strong desire to learn other languages! By learning French in primary school, I could ask people their names at the park or order a baguette in the morning when I went camping in France.
With Spanish, I had the music that I loved from the start to keep me going. From there, it was a Spanish teacher who said how easy it would be for me to learn Italian or Portuguese with my knowledge of Spanish and I suddenly realised this whole world of multiple languages had opened up to me, which was pretty exciting!

LF: I am looking forward to the day when I can watch movies in French and understand them. I have a way to go. What is your big goal with a new language?

Lindsay: It varies from language to language. With Indonesian at the moment, it’s to get to a level where I can have casual conversations with street food vendors, shop keepers etc. without too much worry.

LF: I see on your blog you just posted your top ten favorite French films. I’m also a big fan of the 1960 movie “Breathless”. Do you have any tips or tricks to watching movies in other languages?

http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/10-essential-french-films/

Lindsay: Ooo yes! Films are great because they’re so versatile. Once you find a film you love, you can start by watching it with subtitles in English or your native language, then change the subtitles to the language you’re learning, then watch without subtitles.

You can also take small segments and focus on pronunciation and vocabulary if you want to take things further and make it more of an active task.

LF: I’m also a big fan of Tintin and Asterix. Do you read comics, graphic novels and or Manga in your target languages?

Lindsay: Sometimes I do, yes! Tintin is one of my favourites!

LF: Thank you so much, Lindsay!

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You can find Lindsay’s Blog at;

http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/

And on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/lindsaydoeslanguages/

My free monthly planner link:
https://ldlpages.leadpages.co/languageplanner/

And Lindsay’s recommended podcast here:
http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/language-learning-podcasts/

Lindsay recommended 10 essential French films.
http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/10-essential-french-films/

Lindsay also recommended the following newspaper site:
http://newspapermap.com/

 

 

Book Review: Paris Reborn

(Above) 1852 cartoon showing the inside of the new George Haussmann style apartment building.
Book Review:

“Paris Reborn: Napoléon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City”

Author: Stephane Kirkland

Review by A.T. LeMay

Modern Paris is not as old as one might think. Although Paris is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to the time of Julius Caesar, the city as we now know it was recreated and modernized in the middle of the 19th century.

Between 1848 and 1870 Paris was rebuilt in one of the largest building project ever undertaken before the age of the bulldozer, and modern building techniques. This was when Paris was transformed from a city of dark crowded streets to the “City of Light”.

The 19th century were turbulent times in France. Starting in 1789 with the French revolution France went from being a country ruled by a king, to a republic, to an Empire created by Napoléon, back to a kingdom back to an Empire for one hundred days as Napoléon escaped his captors and led an army to Waterloo. In 1848 France was back to being a Republic once more.

This political turmoil took quite a toll on the city as Paris had been rocked by riots and mass executions and war. The Notre Dame Cathedral had been badly damaged in 1789 when crowds of Parisians attacked the building as a symbol of the church which had protected the corrupt rule of the king.

Napoleon III

In 1848 Napoléon’s nephew was elected president of France. Louis Napoléon (who later became known as Napoléon III) was elected the first president of the new republic. He won the election more because of his uncle’s name than any political leadership experience he had.

Louis Napoléon at once decided to rebuild the city that had been so neglected and devastated by the events of the preceding 50 years Paris was also suffering from the effects of overcrowding and poor waste management (Paris had no effective sewers) and disease was rampant.

Paris was so bad that in 1682 King Louise XIV had moved his court from Paris to Château de Versaille. Napoléon III first order of business was to rebuild Paris. Transforming it into a clean modern city.

Baron George Haussmann

Georges-Eugène Haussmann was a successful no-nonsense bureaucrat with a reputation for getting things done. Haussmann was given the title “Prefect of the Seine” and the job to manage the rebuilding the great city.

Stephane Kirkland gives an account of Haussmann’s tearing down and rebuilding of Paris. Haussmann as Prefect of the Seine, dealt with accountants and architects, artists and hosts of bureaucrats. Haussmann unlike many modern more pragmatic city planners cared deeply about the aesthetics of the new Paris, choosing carefully the architects and artist whose designs and work he used to refit the city.

At the same time, Haussmann could be completely ruthless using the government’s right of ‘emanate domain’ to take possession of and demolish family homes in order to carve out great boulevards through the middle of the city.

 

Haussmann style apartment building.

In his designs for Paris Haussmann incorporated new ideas, like parks to give the people a place to relax and enjoy themselves. He also championed new concepts like gas lighting.

Paris was the first city to be built with street lights that ran on natural gas. These street lamps when lit up gave Paris it’s new nick-named “The City of Light.” Although taken for granted now, street lights at night were a miracle of technology in the 19th century.

In the 1860s Paris streets were illuminated for the first time by 56,000 gas lamps.

But the political situation in France had not yet been settled. In 1852 Louis Napoléon declared himself Emperor Napoléon III. A war was fought with Prussia. The people of France demanded that their republic be restored once more. And through all this work on the City of Light continued.

“Paris Reborn: Napoléon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City” is an excellent book for anyone who has ever wondered about how the modern city of Paris came into being.

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“Paris Reborn: Napoléon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City” By Stephane Kirklanz



In the mid-nineteenth century, the Paris we know today was born, the vision of two extraordinary men: the endlessly ambitious Emperor Napoléon III and his unstoppable accomplice, Baron Haussmann. This is the vivid and engrossing account of the greatest transformation of a major city in modern history.

Paris Reborn: Napoléon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City

 

Who makes the language rules?

Lexicography” is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries.

Lexicographer” is a person who writes dictionaries and studies the history and meaning of words.

There are few different elements that go into making the rules of a language. I am still not an expert in French by any means. But this is a little essay on where our modern languages come from.

I remember reading about Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) who led a team of nine scholars in creating one of the first English language dictionaries. In 1755 “A Dictionary of the English Language” was published for the first time. In doing so Dr. Johnson actually changed the language.

Before 1755 there were no real standardized spelling rules. Different parts of England had different names for different things. A “bumble bee” in some areas of England was known as a “dumbledore” in other places. Dr. Johnson chose one name for an object and stuck with that one name.

Many of the older names for objects are now considered to be slang terms. E.G. An older term for a “girl” was “bird”. “Bird” is now considered a slang term but it is, in fact an older word that was discarded from the mainstream.

I’ve been studying in French and Italian recently it’s interesting to me that the languages are very similar, as they are both based on Latin, but their choice made at some point in history as to what constituted a word was made. Take a look at the simple statement, “follow me” translated into Italian, French, and Latin.

English = Follow me.

French = Suivez-moi.     (Suivre= follow, moi = me)

Italian = Seguitemi.     (Seguire  = follow,  mi = me)

Latin = Sequi me. =      (sequi = follow,  me = me)

In English (the newest of the four languages) “Follow me” is two words.
In French, it is two words joined with a dash.
In Italian, it is one word.
And most interesting of all, in Latin, the granddaddy of all these languages it’s two words.

At some point in time four sets of Lexicographers working in four different countries, most likely working with quill pens, decided if “Follow me” was one or two words. Hundreds of years later we still live with their decisions.

These are the kinds of choices made by ancient Lexicographers that we are still living with today.

It should be pointed out that Languages change over a period of time. Shakespeare is considered “modern English” yet most people today find Shakespeare’s plays difficult to understand.

So who made the rules for the French Language?

Published more than 60 years before Dr. Johnson’s dictionary Le Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française {The Dictionary of the French Academy} was published in 1694.

It’s interesting to think that the Lexicographers of Le Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française were exploring uncharted territory. For as in English, French which had been written for centuries before the Dictionary, there were no set rules. And the rules and traditions of the language were different in different parts of France.

The Lexicographers compiling the Dictionary of the French Academy said that their mission was to “preserve the status of the French Language as it should be written (and spoken).”

Work on the first dictionary took more than forty years. The second volume of the Dictionary was a little quicker taking only 36 years.

Now this may seem like a lot of time and it can be pointed out that the first English dictionary took only nine years and the English language has more words than the French language, however, it should be noted that the French language was in official use for a lot longer than the English language. The researchers of French had to go through a lot more material than those compiling the English dictionary.

French, was in fact, the official language of the British House of Lords until the beginning of the 20th century.

For many years English was considered to be a sort of street slang language. It was spoken but not written down. The British nobles spoke French, the House of Lords kept their records in French and the Clergy spoke Latin. English was spoken by most of the people without any rules so it was allowed to evolve and become more fluid.

It’s always interesting to me that the French don’t pronounce the final consonant of their words. I’m sure that at some point and time these consonants were pronounced but slowly but surely they were dropped from speech over the years.

This most likely happened after the creation of French dictionaries. So now the population of France had a spelling and an oral tradition that out of sync. This happens in English as well but as English was standardized later the Lexicographers could record a more modern version of the language.

I don’t want to seem bias here. As a native English speaker, I have grown up with the language. I realize that other language learners find English confusing. Spanish has very exact rules and is a very consistent language, from what I understand. I’ve seen comedy routines where a native Spanish Speaker makes fun of the inconsistencies of English.

The inconsistencies of French, in my opinion, may have been caused by the earlier creation of a dictionary. Before 1694, did anyone really know what a dictionary was supposed to be? It may simply be that English being a language of the masses and not the nobility was a lot less formal than French, but it could also be that Dr. Johnson learned from and improved on the idea about how the French language was recorded in Le Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française, when creating his own English dictionary.

In English we say,

  • I go
  • You go
  • He goes
  • They go

(There are only two versions of the root word “go”.)

In French:

  • Je vais = (I go)
  • Tu vas = (informal – you go.)
  • Vous allez = (formal – you go)
  • Il va = (he goes)
  • Ils vont = (they go).

(The French root word “go” = «aller» changes with each usage.)

By creating all the tenses and adopting all the word genders from Latin the early French Lexicographers may have felt that they were making the language more logical, scientific and in the Latin tradition. As French was a language of the Royal court it would have also been important to have a formal word for “you” and as well as an informal version.

Latin was considered the most important of Languages at the time when the French and English dictionaries were created. As members of the church and universities spoke and wrote in Latin. Latin was also the language of the early scientists.

Francis Bacon

English scholar Francis Bacon, (1561 –  1626) who only ever wrote in Latin, saying that it was a much more expressive language than English.

Latin was once considered a B-class language. In the time of Julius Caesar (100 BC to 44 BC) the Roman upper classes spoke to each other in Greek. Greek was considered to be the language of learning. It is interesting that Caesar’s last words were in Greek, however in Shakespeare’s play Caesar’s last words “Et tu, Brute?” are in Latin which was more prestigious than English and more widely understood than Greek in Shakespeare’s day.

Gaius Julius Caesar Born 13 July 100 B.C. – died 15 March 44 B.C.

Caesar’s last words according to Roman historian, who lived at the time of Caesar, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69 BC – after 122 AD) were;

“καὶ σὺ τέκνον “
(pronounced Kai su, teknon) = {You too, my son/child.}

The Greek Language predates that of Latin by thousands of Years. Homer’s epic poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” were written about the Trojan war that took place around 1194–1184 BC. As a result of this ten year war the survivors of the Troy fled for their lives and settled in what is now Rome. They lived in small villages for the next few hundreds of years. The early kingdom of Rome was founded around 753 BC.

Greek was the older language and greater language. There were books and plays written in Greek. People from other countries around the world studied Greek. On the other hand, Latin at this time was just the language of the Romans. Who were for the most part unknown to the rest of the world. And they would have been looked down upon as the offspring of Trojan refugees and escaped slaves.

Latin gain importance because of Rome’s military prowess in the time of Julius Caesar. Caesar lived about 700 years after the founding of Rome. Caesar marched with his army around Europe conquering the broze age tribes in what is today, Spain, Britain, France, Germany and Belgium.  The language of Latin was spread all over Europe. Caesar spread the language to Gaul, which is now modern France and the language mixed with the language of the native

Caesar spread the Latin language to Gaul, which is now modern France and the language mixed with the language of the native Parisii people (the people living in and around modern Paris) and Frankish and Norman invaders and eventually formed French.

Book Review: “The Way of the Linguist”

“The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey”
By Steve Kaufmann

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, Steve Kaufmann is one of my language learning heroes. I’ve always wanted to learn a second language but never really knew how. A few years ago when I turned 50 I found Steve Kaufmann’s videos on YouTube. I found his fresh and supportive approach to language learning very helpful and encouraging and he is an excellent role model.

Steve knows someplace between 9 and 15 languages. (Depending on which Youtube videos you watch as he is always learning more.) He may be up to 16 or 17 by now. It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, I am currently reading his book, “The Way of the Linguist”. It is very well written. I guess if you are going to speak 15 plus languages you know how to get your point across with as few words as possible. The book is very tightly written with just the right amount of detail about his travels to different countries around the world to make it interesting. I’m sure he could have written a book about just his travels and another about the food he’s eaten and anther about doing business in foreign lands, but this book is focused on language.

After college, Kaufmann was work with the Canadian Foreign diplomatic Service.  His first government posting was in Paris where he learned to speak French properly, studying the language under a native speaker. Kaufmann studied in Paris for two years.

His next post was to Hong Kong and also mainland China where he learned Chinese. Next Kaufmann was posted to Japan where he undertook to teach himself Japanese, and so on.

Kaufmann ended up with enough contacts overseas that he was able to set up his own export business in the private sector in Canada. It wasn’t until I read Kaufmann’s book that I realized what a good investment it is for a government to train its diplomats in foreign languages. Even if the diplomats don’t continue to work for the government.

Steve Kaufmann’s language learning website; LingQ.com

Kaufmann took his language training and his overseas contacts and set up a successful export business in Canada. Thus improving Canada’s exports and GDP. Canada got it’s investment back from him.  Kaufmann, whom I believe is in the lumber business, says that he has done business with a number of clients from different countries around the world in the client’s own language. That has to be helpful to a private business owner.

America has a Foreign Service Institute (FSI) that trains Americans with overseas postings on foreign languages. I hope with all the budget cuts and the attacks against so-called “big government” the recently elected party realizes the long-term value of the FSI is to America.

Kaufmann learned his languages one at a time over a period of time, by a combination of;

  • Study of interesting written content
  • Talking to native speakers of his target language
  • and “living in the language”

Living in the Language

For me, Steve Kaufmann was really the first Linguist that I ever heard about that made language learning accessible. Prior to Kaufmann most polyglots I read about or saw interviewed seemed to have some sort of chip on their shoulder. They knew all these other languages and I didn’t blah blah blah. And they never encouraged anyone to emulate them. They were part of an elite group that didn’t seem to want any new members.

Kaufmann shares my frustration with how foreign languages are taught in school. Kaufmann being Canadian was required to take two years of French. He passed the test but. However, he quickly found that he was unable to speak French after he was finished with school.

Kaufmann points out that there are a number of reasons for this. He also talks about this in a few of his videos. Basically, in school, you are taught what you need to know to pass a standardized test. But that test has little to do with fluency or practical use of the language.

To really learn a language, Kaufmann points out, one has to “live in the language”. This doesn’t mean one has to go to France to speak French. But one needs to set aside time, each day (consistency is important) to read and study a language. He also said that it is important to meet and talk with native speakers of that language. This can be done by seeking out native speakers of your target language in your neighborhood, and or via Skype.

Kaufmann says that language is more about food and culture than it is about words and grammar.

In his early days of studying German on his own. Kaufmann went to the second-hand bookstore and bought about nine or ten German books. Many of these books were formally owned by other students of the language so they had helpful notes scribbled on the pages. Now days, we have it easy, with the internet and iPads and iPhone we have a world of books in all languages at our fingertips. Not to mention google translate and other such sites.

The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey

366 Days with Duolingo

I am not the most disciplined person in the world. I tended to start off very excited about a new project and then lose interest about 75% of the way through.

I’ve just completed a year (a leap year even) of doing Duolingo every day. I started Duolingo two years ago, 10 January 2015, after trying a number of other online websites both Free and paid. I had a dream of learning French but wasn’t sure how to get there. Now I can kind of read French Newspapers and can often understand some French conversations. I do have a way to go. But I don’t think I would have come this far without Duolingo.

I have had a dream of learning French for years, but wasn’t sure how to get there. Now I can read and understand French Newspapers and can often understand some French conversations. I do have a way to go. But I don’t think I would have come this far without Duolingo.

Duolingo is Free so this is not a sponsored add. I also use other paid websites including Rocket French, however, it is Duolingo that I come to first every day.

I have written about Duolingo before. But this is the one year mark of a perfect streak so I have something to celebrate. To tell you the truth I did miss a few days from time to time. But Duolingo lets you use your acquired points, called Lingots, to get a one-day streak protection, so that your score doesn’t go back to zero. It is very disheartening to see your score go back to zero, but then I have to remind myself that I am here to learn French and not run up a score.

Interestingly enough it’s the score that keeps me coming back. I’m not overly competitive but I use to be a hardcore gamer back when “Doom” and “Duke Nukem” were new. So there is something about Duolingo’s ‘gamification’ that appeals to me on a deep level.

Steve Kaufman creator of the LingQ.com website.

I guess, by keeping score, it makes me feel like I’m making progress even when I find the language frustrating. But as the experts like Steve Kaufmann say, language learning is about spending time daily with the language. Duolingo has done that for me. It has made me sit down each day and just do a little bit. As you can see from my

As you can see from my screenshot at the top of the page, I am only doing Ten words a day right now. I was doing thirty, but then Duolingo ran out of French and I had to do Italian for a while.

Duolingo’s lessons expire from time to time, so you need to revisit them. So I am back to doing French. I’m doing only 10 again to pace myself. And by only doing 10 a day it gives more time for my completed lessons to expire. I’m doing my real language learning at Rock french these days.

If I were to list the things Duolingo has done for me. They would be, (in no particular order).

  • Made French Learning a habit. (Habits are very important)
  • Kept score – which made me protective of my score. Which made me come back.
  • Gave me a variety of different styles of lessons.
  • Slowly built up my vocabulary over the last two years.
  • Kept me learning during the times I was really over the whole thing. There are some weeks that I just go in a do the minimum. But if you can get through these times you will make progress.
  • Gave me a sense of completion. Last October I completed the last French modules, I felt like I had done something. Yesterday when I completed 365 days and today when I did the whole leap year I felt that way again. As silly as these little feelings of pride are, they are very important in the overall progression of learning French.

I don’t think Duolingo will teach you French, but it will build your vocabulary and your confidence and it’s a great place to start.

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Rocket French

Learn French on-line with Rocket French. Click here for a free trial.

 

 

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

2017 is here at last! Time to Set New Goals.

It seems like the New Year has crept up on me rather fast. So it is the First of a New Year. Time to start all over again.

I’ve recently read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I highly recommend it along with the book, “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

Talent is Overrated” takes a look at the science behind getting things done. It looks at people like Mozart and Tiger Woods whom everyone assumes to be born talented but were in fact born into families with fathers who were really good coaches. Geoff Colvin looks at different groups of high achievers and how often it is the case that the Highest achievers are just the ones that practice more while also practicing on their weakest areas. The full name of the book is; “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“.

It is a kind of feel good book. I never really thought that I was gifted. But now knowing that all it takes is practice and focusing on my weakest areas I am given new hope.

The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is all about the power of setting up regular habits for greater achievement. The full name of the book is; “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business“. (Wow all these self-improvement books have such long titles these days.)

These books were recommended to me by the very successful self-publishing author Chris Fox. I wasn’t really going to write about self-improvement in this blog, as this is a French language learning blog, however, these are the things that I am thinking about on the first day of 2017.

My daily dose of French.

This time last year I was interested in setting up new and better habits but didn’t know where to start. I did make myself type out the page from my French Living Language Calendar and do a daily session on Duolingo.com. I am currently on day 362 on Duolingo. So habits do work. However, I realize now that I was just doing fun habits, which is an important way to start, but do really reach French fluency I need to start working on my weaker areas. Grammar rules.

I hated Grammar rules in English (as invented by Grammar-Nazis) however I need to mix them into my regular learning. I can really feel that I am not too far from fluency.

I found the video that I posted of Carrie Fisher speaking French very helpful. I could mostly understand her, although the subtitles helped. But it was also nice to see a fellow American struggling and succeeding with the language. It just goes to show that she was a real princess as princesses were often expected to understand a number of different languages.

I had a boss at one time who was German, her father had been a Count but her mother was Jewish and the family was forced to flee, leaving her families title and castle behind. She always told me that it was important when traveling to at least try and start the conversation in the local language.

My goals for 2017
(Subject to Change)

Learn French Grammar: I will work on the how later.

Speak more French. I know a number of French-owned cafes and restaurants in my area. I am going to go in and make my orders in French. I’ve been a bit shy about this in the past. Put I’m really going to push it. What have I got to lose?

Steve Kaufman creator of the LingQ.com website.

Read more French books. – an Hour a day. Polyglot – Steve Kaufmann recommends reading in a new language. Even if it means going over and over again on the same page.

Rocket French: – I am currently working my way through the Rocket French website. I am going to do a lesson a day.

Duolingo: I ran out of new French content in October last year. But I am just going to continue to do review lessons every day until the language becomes second nature.

Goal: I want to be able to watch French movies and or French TV programs and understand the content. (I’m at a strange point right now where I can kind of follow bits of the conversation and pick up a word or a phrase here and there.)

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Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Zah Zah Gabor

(Jane Avril, (9 June 1868 – 17 January 1943) in a photograph and in a painting as brought to life by Toulouse-Lautrec and in a movie as portrayed by Zah Zah Gabor.)

I’m sad to hear about the passing of Zah Zah Gabor. While I wasn’t a huge fan I did really like her in John Huston’s 1952 original version of “Moulin Rouge”.
The Original “Moulin Rouge” is a very touching movie depicting the life of painter Toulouse-Lautrec. It was one of the favorite films of my late father and I still think about it every time I see the movie.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was born the son of a count, but because of his family’s inbreeding, he never grew very tall. He lived in the golden age of Paris, the “La Belle Époque” {the beautiful era} when the city of lights finally came to life after a century of war and revolution followed by a half century of reconstruction.

Jane Avril dances the can-can in a poster by Toulouse-Lautrec.

Paris became the city of light during Toulouse-Lautrec’s lifetime (because of the installation of gas lighting). It is was to Paris that he traveled from his parents home in Toulouse, in the southwestern French department of Haute-Garonne to make his name and fortune as a painter.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings capture Paris in his day and especially the people that lived and worked in Moulin Rouge.

Writer/Director John Huston was originally a painter and a fan of Toulouse-Lautrec. Huston hired a friend and fellow painter who had worked his way through art school in Paris creating counterfeit Toulouse-Lautrec paintings to play the onscreen hands of the artist as he drew in the movie.

Jane Avril was a friend of Toulouse-Lautrec and she was the subject of a number of his most famous paintings and posters. Like Toulouse-Lautrec Jane Avril came from an upper-class background. She had been born Jeanne Beaudon but escaped to Paris to become a dancer after an abusive childhood.

They seem to be an odd pairing but chances are they were never more than just friends. Toulouse-Lautrec painted Avril in many different aspects of life. On state, at the printers, at the photographers etc. She was one of his favorite subjects.

Little is know about Jane Avril’s personality but she is brought to life by Zah Zah Gabor as only one of the Gabor sisters ever could. Avril died in 1943 just 10 years before the movie “Moulin Rouge” came out.

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Moulin Rouge

 

 

 

 


The Little Prince

 

 

 

 

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The Little Prince.

 

 

 

 

Road Testing French Lessons Online – Part I

In this segment, I will be testing different French learning systems. It is important to realize that what works for me may not work for others. The goal of my French learning is to speak and read French I want to be a “practical” French speaker that retains the language and not someone that passes a test on it to get a grade in school.

I’ve done a number of reviews on this page of different learning systems. You can find them in my past posts.

My two current systems that I use daily are;
duolingo-owlDuolingo French. (I have completed the Duolingo French system a few months ago, so currently I use it as a daily review.)
https://www.duolingo.com/

French Living Language calendar
I have a process where I review the French word and phrase of the day. This is a fun part of my day.

I will be starting my own French word of the day (Word du jour) mailing list very soon.

My daily dose of French.
My daily dose of French.

If you are interested in buying a Living Language calendar here is a link. Full disclosure I do make some money from affiliate links (in theory anyway) it does help me to keep this blog going. Thanks for your support.

Living Language: French 2017 Day-to-Day Calendar

 

This week we’re are going to look at Rocket French.

For the Rocket French website Click Here!

rocket-french-ii

Rocket French

Today I’m looking at a new system called Rocket French. I found the Rocket French site online and they appear interesting.

The main presenter of the course is Paul who has a charming English accent. Paul introduces himself as having lived in France as a child. Paul claims to speak fluent French. (This is important. I’ll talk about French accents a little later.)

The other presenter is Claire. Claire is a native French speaker and she does most of the French speaking on the sight. Claire has a lovely and strong French accent when she speaks Engish and demostraight how to say things in both perfect French as well as in “street French” which can be a bit harder to understand.

So far so good. It’s important to learn from a native speaker, or at least someone who has known the language since they were a child. This course appears to have both.

Accents

Pardon me while I digress here for a moment.

Why is it that someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have lived most of his life in the United States still has such a strong Austrian accent?

It’s because when we learn a language as a child we learn to listen for and make the little sounds that collectively create the language. I have lived in Australia for many years and yet still have an American accent.

I found out recently that the French have difficulty with the “Th” sound in “Thistle” although a French speaker can quickly learn to make the sound perfectly, it takes a bit longer for the sound to connect with the language center in their mind so that when they make the “th” sound it registers as important meaningful sound and now just a random noise.

There are sounds in French that English speakers have difficulty making. I’ll see if I can find more on this later.

I saw an interview once where Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he had accent reduction classes for years. His accent has been somewhat diminished however it is still quite strong. It should be pointed out that Arnold hasn’t let his accent get in the way of his success, and neither should you.

I must confess that I use to be a little impatient with people who spoke English badly. But now that I’ve seen how difficult it can be to learn a new language I feel a bit of admiration and even kinship with someone that speaks broken English. I can only imagine what I sound like when I speak French.

The Challenge

Rocket French offers a  free seven-day sample of the course. So I’m am going to test it out for seven days and see what I think.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve already tried the Pimsleur French (which was presented with American accents) which I tried very early in my French learning undertaking.

Pimsleur was one of the first courses that I bought online, however it was just an audio CD, (I also have the Audible version) and there was no written version of what I was saying.

I found myself wanting to see what the words look like. I think that I would do better with Pimsleur now that I have done Duolingo French for almost two years.

Duolingo is my favorite learning system so far. I started on 10 January 2015. But I think Duolingo has taken me as far as it can go. I’m out of vocabulary and am searching for a new system to take me to the next level.

Targets are important

I graduated high school hating the word “Goals” as I had a teacher that overused the word way too much. So we can replace it with “Targets”.

My Targets French Learning Target

(I stole this from TED talks. I am grateful. I think this ia great way of measuring personal improvement.)

In a hypothetical French Restaurant

  1. Be able to read the menu (in French).
  2. Be able to order from the menu in French.
  3. Be able to understand the waiter when he/she speaks to me in French.
  4. Be able to answer the waiter in return in French.
  5. Be able to listen to French conversation of the people around me.
  6. To be able to join in on the French conversations.

(My own targets)

  1. To be able to read Tintin in French
  2. To be able to read French Newspapers (online) in French.
  3. To be able to read a French book.
  4. To be able to watch French news and movies and understand them.
  5. To be able to hold a conversation in French with native French speakers.

I am starting this seven-day test and will report back on this post with my results.

This is the first language course road test I will have started (I plan to do more in the future) so I am not really sure on what criteria I will be judging the course on.

The real test will be if I like the course or not.

  • Will it work for me?
  • Is it something I can do daily and not get bored or frustrated with?
  • I hope that it’s something that I will look forward to, or at least not dread.

So there will be a Scale of “Dread” to “look forward to”.

  • Dread” being  Zero.
  • Look forward to” being Ten.

Day one – 21 November 2016

  • I like the sound of both Paul’s and Claire’s voices. There is a written thing version of everything they say so it is possible to follow them.
  • There is a written thing version of everything they say so it is possible to follow them.
  • Paul who is the narrator tries to keep the feeling of the lesson light and positive. (I know this may put some people off, but his he was cynical and uncaring no one would listen to him.)
  • I’m listening to the first lesson a few times and I’m saying the words with them. (I was listening on my laptop in a public place – down at the gym- so I’m pretending that I having a Skype conversation.) Not that I care what people think of me. I just think people will tune me out and leave me alone if they think I’m on a call. So I am repeating most of the dialog to myself in a mumble. The lady next to me is chatting away in her loudest tone of voice.

I’m looking forward to my next lesson.

Day Two – 22 November 2016

Learning the French alphabet.
Learning the French alphabet.

Today I looked at Rocket Lingo’s lesson dealt mainly with the Alphabet. This is something that I’ve been working on for some time. It’s not really covered in Duolingo. Knowing the French Alphabet is extremely important. The inner snob in me scoffs when thinking that I have to learn the alphabet again. However learning the alphabet teaches you all sounds that you need to make in learning French. It’s a good facial exercise as it helps you to develop the different facial muscles that you need to speak French. It also helps you develop an ear for the language.

The inner snob in me scoffs when thinking that I have to learn the alphabet again. However learning the alphabet teaches you all sounds that you need to make in learning French. It’s a good facial exercise as it helps you to develop the different facial muscles that you need to speak French. It also helps you develop an ear for the language.

Tip: The French use the same Roman Latin Alphabet that the English do. Most of the French letters are pronounce the same as they are in English. There are a handful of exceptions. The Vowels “e”, “i” have exchanged names in French for some reason. Also “g” and “j” have also exchanged names.

As a child I always thought that the “w” looked more like two “v’s” than two “u’s”. The French seem to agree with this and the “w” is called = “dooble vay”.

The last few letters of the French Alphabet.
The last few letters of the French Alphabet.

I didn’t know this before put the letter “y” was borrowed from the Greek alphabet. The French call it “ee-grayk” meaning the “i of the Greeks”.

The French an the British both call the letter “z” = zed.

Day four – 24 November 2016
I’m sorry I have been busy. I have kept up the language learning. I am quite enjoying Rocket French.

The creators of Rocket French seem to have thought of a number of things that have frustrated me with other courses in the past.

The conversation is broken down into parts.
(Screen Cap) The conversation is broken down into parts.

Often I get long conversations and then they are broken down. Rocket French does this as well. But then it has each part of the conversation on a separate line, where you are able to listen to the parts that you choose and play them separately without having to replay the whole conversation.

This is handy as often I find it’s only a few parts of a sentence that I need to work on.