Monthly Archives: April 2009

Batman Garage Sale with Adam West!

After Citibank becomes nationalized, you can expect everyone to be liquidating their stock…

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You’re not fluent until you can read the signs!

I started my professional career as a corporate language trainer in Switzerland.  Although I had already achieved a considerable measure of fluency in French and German – two of the three major languages spoken in my beloved, surrogate homeland Confoederatio Helvetica , experiencing the language acquisition process from the perspective of my adult students gave me fascinating new insights into what really gives students a sense of ownership in the target language.

So what is it that really give them that elusive sense of ownership, that first heady taste of foreign language ROI? The moment when they complete their first freeform language transaction? They understand, are understood…and then they get the emotional payoff – to feel like a conqueror of undiscovered lands!

Well, there have been several evolving theories as to what constitutes this sense of target language ownership, heretofore referred to as language acquisition theories – and anyone who’s studied a foreign language knows that memorizing verb conjugations isn’t the way to make friends with your new foreign language!!  Although certainly a necessary component of language education, what really makes students fall in love with language is to bring the perspective down to the reality of everyday life – verbs, nouns, idiomatic phrases, and simple automatic responses. What are automatic answers to questions that their mother asks them daily? Or what’s the foreign translated title of their child’s favorite disney film? Over the holidays, I liked introducing my students to US Christmas traditions – the original Grinch cartoon (so memorably narrated by Boris Karloff), Christmas carols in English and working through recipes for traditional holiday foods like cookie cutter, frosted sugar cookies, etc.

Most importantly, I found that humor was a very seductive incentive; give them a comic book or joke that they can practice and then repeat to friends and colleagues offers exposure, not only to idiomatic phrases and timing, but to the critical component of the target language’s humor psychology. (And believe you me – humor psychology is NOT universal!!)

Which brings me to the point of today’s blog entry: getting to simple, everyday applications of the target language/culture’s psychology is a powerful and effective method of creating that sense of ownership – and it doesn’t even have to be verbal! In other words, getting a student to replicate  (not just write a book report) some small gesture – and know WHY they’re doing it – gives the student that elusive, sought-after feeling of ,”I’ve got this, I can do this!”

The website that I’ve cited here below does an unusually great job of presenting these psychology bits in a simple and extremely accessible way, as applied to the French language!  At the bottom of this French Culture & Communication page, the teachers give a few etiquette points and then move into some fun and accessible hand gestures. (Not THOSE kind of hand gestures, mind you!!) For example, the site teaches students how to count on their fingers as French people do (it’s not quite the same as in the US), how to make the French ‘ok’ sign, what hand signs should accompany the expression for “I promise to…”, and how to non-verbally tell someone, “It’s over!” (Which is especially appealing to high school students who can relate to that phrase to their relationship high-dramas…)

So, if you’re related to anyone studying a foreign language – be it a child, neighbor, spouse – look for websites like the French one cited above that can supplement the book lessons with some of these fun, reality-based applications of the target language….and then encourage them to go beyond reading about it. Get out and use it!!  Be your own part of globalization!!

The Two Deadly Sins of Book Loving

From an early age, I have been an active fan of the rich detective novel series, The Deadly Sins, of the late Lawrence Sanders.  But I never anticipated indulging in any of the deadly sins myself!!

That is, until I found Nancy Pearl’s website and book! Her expertise and knowledge have tempted me into BOTH book Envy and book Lust!

For your reading and recommendation pleasure: “The New York Times calls her “the talk of librarian circles.” Readers can’t get enough of her recommendations while bookstores and libraries offer standing room only whenever she visits. Since the release of the best-selling Book Lust in 2003 and the Librarian Action Figure modeled in her likeness, Nancy Pearl has become a rock star among readenrs and the tastemaker people turn to when deciding what to read next.” (from her bio page)


Check out her website, Book Lust….just be ready to ask for forgiveness!

Her Morning Elegance

In a slight departure from my primary focus on language, communication, marketing and advertising I would like to share a music video with you…

In this case, the visual artistry and whimsical/dreamy music were exquisitely blended to culminate into a poignant statement that I felt compelled to share.

So, for your consideration, here is: Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie.

Radio Days!

I have been caught up in a tornado of excitement around my new volunteer opportunity, and in sharing my experience with you here I’m hoping to bring more awareness to this fantastic service!

One of my favorite senior Marketing Communications mentors, Deborah Galloway, introduced me to a specialty radio station called GaRRS – the Georgia Radio Reading Service.  Part of the Georgia PBS family, it’s a 24/7 radio station dedicated to reading aloud for people with visual impairment conditions.  Their official tagline is, “Providing Access to the Printed Word and Information for Georgia’s Blind and Print-Handicapped.”  So at any point in the day, “readers” are selected to read aloud various books and periodicals; some broadcasts are pre-recorded and others are broadcast live. There are even specialty programs, such as the National Enquirer hour and Golden Oldies from the heyday of radio programming (Abbott and Costello, Jack Benny, George and Gracie Burns, etc.).  It’s an inspiring service  – an entire radio channel dedicated to keeping visually impaired people engaged in all current events and best sellers!! My family has been very fortunate to avoid any visual impairment issues, but I do regret not having learned about or come into contact with this service earlier.

I just can’t say enough good about it – imagine THAT!


Last week I auditioned at GaRRS, and was selected to be on their reader team…and even more exciting, I am now part of the Friday news radio broadcasting team! Every Friday night from 6-8pm, I’ll be one of three readers covering the AJC print and online breaking news – LIVE!!  It’s a nurturing, caring and supportive service for the visually impaired — it’s also a fun, exciting and thrilling opportunity for me and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute my time.

I would invite you to read more about their service – and to either pass along the word to anyone in need or, if you love reading aloud, offer to volunteer your time to support their efforts!  You will be richly rewarded for your good purpose works!!

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