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It’s summer now, and in summer our thoughts turn to…traveling. Where are you taking off to this season? What corner of the globe (figuratively geometrically speaking) will you be exploring?

Wherever you go, share your adventures with us. Multilingual Books just launched a travel site where you can upload photos, blog about your trip, give travel tips, or write about pretty much anything that pleases you. Travel is the main focus, but you’re free to talk about anything–and creativity is encouraged. Check it out:


One great way to stay fluent in a language is to meet regularly with other speakers. Spanish speakers can create a tertulia, a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones. Or, to keep abreast of your German, you can start a Stammtisch, a “regular’s table” or “regular get-together.”

Such groups may already exist in your town. In Seattle there’s a long tradition of Stammtischen that meet weekly to converse in German, Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch, Czech, and Greek (check here for details).

Or you can create your own tertulia from scratch. It’s easy. I know a couple of my fellow islanders, for instance, who can’t make it to Italy as often as they please. So every now and then I invite them to join me for an afternoon of tea and Italian conversation. It goes something like this:

“Ciao, bella!”

“Ciao, bella! Come stai?”

“Bene, grazie. Vorresti che ci incontriamo per parlare italiano questa settimana?”

“Sì, certo! Quando?”

“Questo giovedì alle due?”

“Va bene. A giovedì! Ciao!”


Then I brush up on my vocabulary, and off I go.

Foreign Internet Radio

When I was visiting southern France last year, one of my favorite pastimes was driving down to the next village to buy fresh, hot baguettes at the boulangerie. If I didn’t get there early enough, I would have to go without bread that day. But when I did manage to score a loaf, I would tear into it on the drive back while listening to Radio Classique, crumbs snowing onto my lap.

I loved listening to French radio–real French for real French people. I could practice my comprehension skills without having to muster up a response. Listening to foreign radio is a great way to polish your pronunciation, test your mastery, or just keep brushed up.

Back home in the Pacific Northwest, I can still listen to Radio Classique–and to hundreds of other foreign radio stations, thanks to Multilingual Books’ Foreign Internet Radio directory. It’s a cinch to navigate: You can browse by language, with nearly 50 to choose from, including Arabic, Chinese, Icelandic, Portuguese, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Or you can browse by genre–classical, techno, news, rock, pop, top 40, hip hop, jazz, dance, R&B, disco, ambient, sports, public radio, alternative, house, world music, culture, variety, metal, oldies, funk, talk, trance, college radio, religious, kids’ radio, and more.

Find our Foreign Internet Radio Directory here.

Have your own favorite internet radio station? Tell us about it!

Dog Commands in French

The week before last I shared that I was venturing into the body-based grammar of cat language, and while I can’t say that I’ve achieved the fluency of even a blind three-day old kitten, I can say that I’ve had some success. Take this morning. I was doing yoga in a spot of sun when Nandi FluffyPants wandered into the room and tossed herself onto the carpet beside me. When she glanced up, I took the opportunity to blink an adoring “I love you” at her. She responded by flicking just the tip of her tail, which I took to mean “I know.”

Today’s post is for dog lovers. The tenor will be a bit different. Rather than sharing ways to whisper sweet nothings, I’ll be towing a stricter line: commandes pour les chiens.

My friends Di and Mr. Di have a seven-month-old Golden Retriever puppy-monster, Sebastian. Because the Dis are good dog owners, Sebastian is being trained to obey commands, which he sometimes does. And because Sebastian is a Canadian dog, I’ve taken it upon myself to teach him French. Should you, too, wish your dog (or gerbil or guppy) to be bilingual, the following are some handy commands.

No!   Non! (no)

Down.   Couché (coo-shay)

Off.  Degage (deh-gah-zheh)

Leave it.   Laisse-le (lass-aye lay)

Quiet.   Silence (see-lahns)

Sit.   S’assis  (sah-see)

Stay.   Reste (rest)

Okay.   D’accord (dah-core) or D’ac (dak)

Good boy.   Garçon sage (gar-sown sawzh)

Kiss.   Baisé (beh-zay)

Come.   Viens (vee-eh)

Go inside.   Entré (ahn-tray)

Go outside.   Dehors (due-or)

Heel.   Au pied (oh-pee-aye)

Fetch.   Rapporte (a-port)

Jump.   Saute (soot)

E-mail me your favorite commands, and I’ll add them to the list.

Let’s Chat: Platiquemos

One of the many perks of knowing Mr. Multilingual is that I get to try out language products from time to time. It so happens that, in preparation for a trip to the lovely and enchanting Barcelona this fall, I’m playing—errr, working my way through Platiquemos.

I say “working” because Platiquemos is the most hardcore language audio course I’ve ever done, and I’ve done quite a few—Pimsleur, Living Language, PDQ, Rush Hour—most of which I can pop onto my iPod and easily absorb while I drive. Not Platiquemos.

To do Platiquemos properly, I need all of my faculties and the companion text. This is because the phrases and dialogues are spoken at an authentic pace, which some might call “brisk” and others “breakneck.” The idea is to get used to hearing the language as it is naturally spoken. That way, there’s no need to bring your Spanish up to speed after landing in a foreign country; you’ll arrive on tempo.

But before you can drive the speed limit, you start by buckling your seatbelt and slowly and methodically learning proper Spanish pronunciation. Or should I say “overlearning”? The trick, they say, is to master a small portion of the language so well that it takes little effort to use it comfortably and fluently.

Pronunciation is learned by imitating sounds, and Platiquemos is the first audio course I’ve come across that compares and contrasts sounds in English and Spanish. Did you know that “see” and “si” are not homophones? The English “see” is open and expansive, while the Spanish “si” is shorter and somewhat swallowed. With Platiquemos, you learn to clearly distinguish the differences between the two.

I’m only a few weeks into Platiquemos, and I haven’t yet picked up enough speed to feel the wind in my hair, but I’m enjoying the ride, and I think this course is going to be well worth the extra effort. Fluency in Spanish after all these ambling years, here I come!

Note: I’ll check back in as I work my way through the course. In the meantime, I invite you to share your thoughts on Platiquemos—or your favorite audio language course.