Reading in Another Language

I began learning French in 5th grade.  I participated in my public school district’s program called “French Back to Back.”  This program consisted of 5th grade students being a paired up with a French student of the same and age and gender.  Though typically the group of American students would go live with the French student they had been paired with and their family for three weeks and then the French student would live with the American student and their family for the subsequent three weeks.  The year I did it, the school we exchanged  with whether due to disinterest or another reason would not send back the French students so we simply went there for three weeks.  In preparation for this, the 20 or so of us who signed up for this experience from schools all over the district met once a week to learn basics of the French language, French culture and the expectations and requirements of “French Back to Back.”

After this, I kept up with French throughout middle and high school and even to college.  I remember one of my classmates in high school was reading Harry Potter in Italian and I thought, “I could never do that in French.”  While in college, my reading capacity in French grew as I had to do it for multiple assignments, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I began reading in French for enjoyment.  I too started to read the Harry Potter series.  In fact, while Michael and I spent two weeks in the mountains of Greece with his yiayia we developed a pattern where we exercised and stretched in the morning, then came downstairs with our books in Greek and French respectively which we read while eating our Greek “Fitness” Cereal.

Greece 2011

Greece 2011

I have been thinking about how reading is so beneficial to learning a language.  I was a voracious reader as a child and there were so many words that I picked up from reading books.  I never bothered to look them up in a dictionary but by using the context, especially since many of these words were repeated, I was able to garner the meaning.  The same thing can happen by reading in a foreign language.  It is a great way to enhance vocabulary.  It is true that the amount of unknown words may be greater in a foreign text than if you were reading in your native language but the fact remains that you will be learning vocabulary in an authentic situation.

This is not to disregard the importance of oral practice with language learning however.  In fact, though I learned new words by reading in English when I was younger, there was some I did not know how to pronounce until I was much older.  (Example:  succumb.  I was sure it was pronounced “sahcoom.”  I sounded like an idiot when I said it aloud).  Being able to pronounce words correctly is important for oral communicatory purposes with a language though not necessarily for purely written communication.  I went years not knowing how to pronounce the name “Hermione,” but that didn’t mean I enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s books any less!

Michael and his yiayia in Greece

Michael and his yiayia in Greece

Thoughts on reading in a different language?

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Boston

I moved to Boston from Michigan this past August.  I am a natural homebody and so I was worried about how I would adjust to this change.  I am pleased to announce that things have been going quite well!  The architecture is beautiful and there is a large pond right near my apartment to go running around. During the last 6 months here, I have had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about the city of Bahston, the East Coast and living in a city in general.  10 things I didn’t know before I moved:

  1. If you go to the movies in Boston, and ask what kind of pop they have.  Most likely the guy behind the counter will look at you as if you were crazy and hesitantly point at the popcorn.  They word they are looking for is soda.
  2. Speaking of movies-want to see a movie in downtown Boston? Great idea…however, be sure to get there on time.  And by on time, I mean approximately an hour before the movie starts.  Otherwise, there might not be any tickets left or all of the seats will be filled and you will be forced to sit on those seats at the front of the theatre.  Those seats that make movie watching an incredibly painful and uncomfortable experience.
  3. The drinking fountain is called a Bubbler.
  4. Aunts are called AHHNTS.
  5. Roundabouts are called Rotaries.
  6. The subway is called the T and the passes are called CharlieCards.  I am not sure why, but I like it.
  7. The horn on a car is no longer used as a device to warn others.  It is more like a stress ball-when one is angry and frustrated in traffic, they simply use the horn to let others know so.
  8. Do not be surprised if the street you are driving on suddenly changes names or if you can’t find a stop sign for it.  These streets are meant to test your wits and willpower.  How long will you continue going even if you have absolutely no idea where you are?
  9. The New England Aquarium is really excellent, however, once you go through it, there is no point in paying for it again.  One of the best attractions, the seals and sea lions, are right outside in plain view to visit whenever you like! (Definitely go in at least once though, penguins and turtles oh my!)
  10. After a blizzard or large snowstorm, it is considered commonplace to dig out your car then place a household item such as a chair or recycling bin in order to save it.
Penguins at the New England Aquarium

Penguins at the New England Aquarium