Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Claudette in Death Valley

Here are a few pictures of our annual SpeakEZ meeting in Death Valley National Park. A great break from the winter of NYC for Claudette, and wonderful company for Nathalie! Little Catherine was in charge of entertainment. As always, she made a full time job out of it... for everybody :)

We went to Badwater, the lowest point in the continental U.S. Another day, we had a picnic on the Sand Dunes with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our food had a little gritty texture to it after Catherine had dumped it into the sand... Part of the outdoors experience!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Watching Bolivia

To tell you the truth, I didn't make it through the movie. I stopped it after about 45 minutes. Too depressing!

Here's the plot: A portrait of Argentina as seen through the eyes of Bolivian immigrant Freddy. Working as the cook at a Buenos Aires grill, Freddy must deal with everyday discrimination from his boss and customers, while struggling to earn a meager living.

I thought the Spanish was hard to understand, and although I'm all about being conscious of the troubles of this world, I don't think delving in them will help change poverty, racism and associated evils. I'd rather pick a more uplifting story to learn Spanish!

On a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a 1 rating.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nathalie interviewed by Miles Mead on WUST

Nathalie talked to Miles about Vera Birkenbihl and her best-selling programs, the importance of self-confidence in language learning and, of course, the use of smart language learning strategies.

That's really the bottom line to successful language learning--think about the old adage "if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get the same results you've always got."

It's not through memorizing more grammar rules and 500 more vocabulary words that you'll suddenly start speaking, but rather after setting up your brain to soak up those grammar rules and instantly understand the words someone's using WITHOUT translating back to English, or whatever your native language is.

Listen to the interview here:

MP3 File

Friday, December 19, 2008

Listen To Foreign Holiday Tunes

Can you believe that the French Christmas song "Petit Papa
Noël" brings tears to my eyes? Then when I sing the German
Christmas carols, I feel the awe of a little girl thinking of
Christmas all over again.

Music has a powerful effect on our emotions. I'm sure you have
songs that you connect with memories of your childhood, a past
love, or a special time in your life. It's even more powerful
when you share music with family and friends.

Getting to know the music of another culture is a great way to
connect with the people who love it. It's very foreign at first,
because you might not feel much of anything listening to that
particular type of music. The more you listen to it, though, the
more you get used to it and start appreciating it, even if you
didn't fall in love with it from the get-go.

A great way to find out more about foreign holiday songs is to
get a list of titles and then go hunt for a recording on-line.
I've found some at the iTunes store, some on YouTube, and many
on Amazon as mp3 downloads.

To give you an orientation, I'll stick to the tradition I know,
which is Christmas, but you can find just about any holiday song
with the same search strategy.

Here are a few Christmas links with songs on




You can listen to two of my favorite Christmas songs here:

Petit Papa Noël (French)

Stille Nacht (Holy Night in German)

And here's a very popular Spanish Christmas song:

Los peces en el rí­o

Merry Christmas and enjoy your holidays!

© 2008 Nathalie V. Fairbanks

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mike McConnell talks to Nathalie Fairbanks on WLW

It became quite obvious during this conversation that I don't play golf! Glad it was Mike that was laughed at for trying to speak golf-Spanish rather than me, because I would have made the same mistake (plus a few more golf-related ones, I'm sure...)

Being laughed at is part of the game of learning a language. Sometimes, we just say things that sound hilarious to a native speaker! I've been on both sides of this one, the laugher and the laughee, so to speak :)

Click this link to listen to the interview:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sam Greenfield and Nathalie talk on WVNJ

Sam wanted to know if the audio-lingual method is effective. My experience teaching for Berlitz allowed me to put this method in its place. I do like it, but not as the ONLY strategy to get a student fluent!

MP3 File

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Michel Thomas Spanish Course: Report 2

I'm now at the end of CD 5 of the Michel Thomas Spanish for Beginners course.

One of the things I love is how he focuses FIRST on what I'll need most in a regular conversation.

For example, to teach present tense conjugations, he starts first by teaching me how to say "I want to do something" and "you want to do something," as opposed to presenting the endings of ALL the persons.

How often do we use "we" and "they," compared to "I" and "you" in everyday conversation? Not all that often! So why not learn the forms we'll use most, derive the principles, and only then start looking at the other forms? It makes all the sense in the world!