Sorry you don’t have this view from your office (I don’t either – it’s Mamie’s)

Mamies office

While my Internet connection Chez Lo is faster now than it was two years ago (when it was basically non-existent), it is still not great. And that is why it has taken me two days and counting to upload my Vodoun Festival videos to YouTube so that I can share my next installment in the Benin-Togo-Ghana chronicles.

Hopefully I’ll be able to post them early next week, but in the meantime, here are some links I stockpiled so that I could one day share them here for your reading pleasure:

An amusing essay: Does Duolingo even work?

I’ve posted here before about untranslatable words in other languages. It’s interesting to see what the French consider to be untranslatable words in English.

Here’s an article from a few months ago – about why the French don’t show excitement – that is actually quite apropos for me to share now, the same week as my post about funny faux amis.

Even passive exposure can help you discriminate speech in another language, so put on that background radio/TV/computer/iPad!

That reminds me of the Paul Noth cartoon in the New Yorker that made me seriously LOL a couple of weeks ago:

screen time

And with that, I’m walking away from my screen and going to bed.

Oh, wait, before I do.. one more insightful and ever so slightly relevant thing I read ages ago but never shared (and which reminds me, perversely, to encourage you to check out my Instagram profile if you want to see some of my vacation pix ahead of me posting them here):

Good night and good weekend, all!

[Saturday addendum via Irene Pedruelo‘s listserve: this essay on “privilege-centered design” is relevant well beyond design. Amazing quote: “If we only observe and imagine those who resemble ourselves, then what we call empathy is merely introspection.”]


jumping for awesome

This morning I read a couple of chapters of L’étranger on the subway. I’m about halfway through and I am a fan of how easy it is to read in French but not really a fan of the book per se. I said to my French colleague, “I’m not sure I get the premise. Is he behaving like that because he has Asperger’s or something?” He replied that it was just like an American to jump to a psychological diagnosis and that actually this is a novel about existential ennui or something like that. Not sure I’m convinced.

After work I went to a French conversation Meetup at which I spoke with grilled a woman who had just returned from taking a year off to study French in Strasbourg. It’s a good thing my French sounds so silly because otherwise she may have been intimidated by my rapid fire interrogation: how did she do it, why did she do it, why did she do it when she did it, and every other detail I could suck out of her to inform my own “study abroad” decision.

On the subway ride home I wiped my Duolingo slate clean and started fresh with Spanish, even though I already got through the whole thing last year. I am in a no man’s land at the moment as I’m between one Spanish class and the next, which starts in September. I figured I may as well re-do Duolingo so I don’t lose the past semester’s hard-won progress. I’m looking forward to experiencing once more the haphazard juxtapositions of words that pass for human utterances. (To wit: You drink my cat’s milk.)

Alors, adios y bonne nuit!

[Photo: THX0477]

happy weekending!

la samaritaine

This weekend I plan to take advantage of the frigid temps to finally – and I really mean it this time – burrow in at home and compile all my French vocab words into one specially formatted file that will (eventually) become an Anki deck. I say “eventually” because making the actual deck will probably take me another six months to get around to.

For those who are also hunkering down this weekend… here are some interesting reads and little tidbits to keep you company: Continue reading

stockpiled links

bathroom readers

Have been meaning to share these for awhile… Luckily none of them are time-sensitive and perhaps they even get better with age. 🙂

Awesome idioms from around the world (my favorite is the Polish one)

Andre in Argentina! (My personal motherlode – French practice & Argentine nostalgia)

Ways (beyond Duolingo) to learn Spanish on your phone

A new (beautiful) French bookstore has opened in NYC

How to be French

This book sounds right up my alley

So does this one about French food idioms

happy weekend

Agnes Obel Aventine

Last night I went to see Agnes Obel play Bowery Ballroom. She’s a Danish singer-songwriter whose lyrics are in English but to whom I was introduced by Philippe, my parler pal de Paris. So she feels appropriate to talk about on this blog even though technically she is irrelevant.

Anyway… It’s almost the weekend! And I need it, because two weekends ago was taken up entirely by moving and attending an editing workshop, and last weekend I spent one day in Vermont – and two days traveling to and from Vermont. Now I really want to just sit around doing nothing all day. And maybe catch up on anki and duolingo, which can feel nicely meditative and almost like doing nothing.

But – my plans to be lazy were foiled by my 2 1/2 year old niece in New Jersey, who wouldn’t give up the phone to my brother until he said he wanted to talk to me about when I was going to visit. That prompted her to ask me in her squeaky little voice, “Can you come visit me?” Which melted my heart and all my resolve to sit on my butt for two days in a row. I practically promised to come live with her if she would have me.

So, here’s to not being lazy after all, in the name of adorableness and adoration.

And here’s some Agnes Obel to start your weekend:

(Photo: Agnes Obel)

oh, duolingo

duolingo reminders

I was in Vermont for a wedding this weekend and on the train trip back to New York I opened Duolingo for the first time since completing the Spanish and then the French lessons a couple of months ago. One of the app’s neat features is its built-in review component that allows you to do a quick and dirty refresh of the sections you’ve already passed. So I did a little bit of Spanish and a little bit of French.

I was reminded why I love Duolingo so dearly when I was served up this gem for translation into English:

Soy un pingüino.

Sure, why not?

The next day I got two emails in a row from Duolingo, one a reminder to keep up my Spanish studying and another a reminder to keep up my French. Apparently in the Duolingo food chain, it’s a penguin’s job to keep the owls happy. (I’m not doing such a great job these days.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 4.41.27 PM

done with duolingo

wooden human looking out window

Finally made it through Duolingo’s French exercises last week so now I have to figure out what’s next. I think I’m going to start doing vocabulary flashcards using Anki and/or sign up for an online language chat buddy. And keep forcing myself back to French Meetups.

Spanish has pretty much fallen by the wayside at this point, except for the occasional Destinos episode. I don’t want to lose the very little progress I made over the two months that I spent studying it but on the other hand this linguist told me that trying to learn two related languages at once is inefficient and will only result in confusion. So I’m taking his advice and focusing on French, which is the one of the two languages in which I am way further advanced.

I had been whiling away my time with Duolingo far longer than I probably should have. Now I turn to the great unknown, wistful already for the zany phrases I won’t be hearing again: ‘Pour qu’il vive je dois mourir.’ / ‘So that he may live I need to die.’ And: ‘Vous mangez des frites bien que vous soyez riches.’ / ‘Even though you’re rich you eat fries.’

Adieu, Duolingo! Parting is such sweet sorrow.

(Photo: Abdulrahman BinSlmah)

Fifty shades of Duolingo


French took a while to become as weird as Spanish Duolingo but now it seems to be on a roll. So much so that I’ve come to think of it as “him” – a strange little person with a serious personality disorder, hiding in my phone. Here are some of my favorite examples of the many sides of Mr. D.:

Morbid mind Duolingo

L’animal meurt, en étant mangé par le lion. / The animal dies being eaten by the lion.

Il mourra plus tard. / He will die later.

Dirty old man Duolingo: 

Il y a sa chaleur contre mon corps. / There is her warmth on my body.

C’est sympa d’avoir une belle fille à chaque bras. / It’s nice to have a pretty girl on each arm.

Low self esteem / passive-aggressive Duolingo: 

C’est trop pour mon petit cerveau. / It’s too much for my little brain.

Apocalyptic Duolingo (my favorite): 

Tous les organismes vivants sont en danger. / All living organisms are in danger.

Strange thoughts on farming Duolingo:

C’est ma premiere vache. / It is my first cow.

Elle perd un cochon. / She loses a pig.

Big brother / creepy voice-in-my-head Duolingo (because he produced this one while I was sitting anxiously on the subway, running extremely late for work):

Pourquoi est-ce que vous êtes toujours en retard? / Why are you always late?

After two months of daily usage, I’ve pretty much run out of steam with this little appy app. Only the prospect of discovering more strange and ridiculous statements keeps me going. Maybe it is intentionally wacky for that very purpose! (Cunning Duolingo.)

(Photo: Daniel)


l’amour est fou

useful romantic expressions in French

Saw this list of French phrases that are “useful for romantic situations” on Pinterest today, pinned from this apropos Tumblr. I love how it starts out syrupy sweet but midway through the other side of love starts peeking through – the “Are you crazy?”s and the “Leave me alone!”s.

Funny because my biggest love / hate relationship at the moment seems to be with Duolingo. When I’m not forcing myself to do it, it’s the most breezy and satisfying thing ever, but when I’m just trying to get through it so I can move on to other things, I feel nothing but resentment. As though Duolingo is the cause of my angst instead of my own tendency towards OCD. Anyway, I was upstate with friends this past weekend and ruined my 53-day streak on Sunday, which made me really sad. Ah well, c’est la vie.