Because I'm interested in everything language learning, I signed up to beta test "a new approach to language learning" in one of my online language groups. This was some time ago.
In the summer, I got an email that I could "test flight" the iPhone app for Spanish and started testing it through its updates. Mid-October 2016, "SuperCoco - Learn Spanish by talking" went live. It's pretty neat.
For many people, myself included, learning to converse with some fluency in a new language is highly challenging. SuperCoco seeks to addresses that issue in interesting ways.
Except for audio programs such as the Pimsleur Language Programs, and more than any other language apps or programs that I've tried, SuperCoco encourages you to SPEAK. The instructions are simple: "When you hear Spanish, you repeat it. When you hear English, you say the Spanish."
Phil Mitchell, who is the founder of Larkwire, the maker of the SuperCoco app, told us:
"SuperCoco was built by people who love language learning. It's the app we wanted for ourselves. Version 1.0 is incomplete, of course, there's lots more coming ... but we'd really love to hear from users about what they like and don't like in the app so far. It's an opportunity for people to get the app that they want."
WHAT YOU LEARN
To date, SuperCoco has four (4) Levels: Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Early Intermediate, Intermediate.
Five (5) more Levels are to come: Advanced Intermediate, Proficient, Advanced Proficient, Near Fluent, Fluent.
Each of the current Levels has 60 or more conversations organized into 4 Chapters. In a Level you'll learn over 1000 sentences, and around 1000 new vocabulary items. (see screen shot: Intermediate Chapter 3)
The conversations are in the form of brief stories, sometimes ending with a humorous or surprising twist. These anecdotes contain cultural information and give context to the language.
You don't learn lists, you always learn words in the context of conversational sentences. That also means you learn grammatical forms as they are used.
Only new words are practiced separately in the Spanish First + words option, which is the initial and default "learning stage." Any words you've had before, are not isolated for practice.
There's a wide variety of topics. They include: Essentials, Food, Shopping, Communications, Transportation, Housing, Health, Social, Entertainment, Sights, Language, Dating, Wayfinding, Family, Work, Culture, School, and others.
SuperCoco automatically moves you through Learning Stages that are increasingly challenging.
(You could, but don't need to ever touch the Practice Mode button.)
Spanish first + words (Sp. audio - pause - words Sp./Engl. - Sp. audio - pause - Eng. - Sp. written)
English first (Engl. audio - pause - Sp. audio - Sp. written)
Partner: You take the role of one of the conversation partners (tap to hear Spanish)
Phil Mitchell also explained the following:
"Tracking every word allows the program to do something really neat: if SuperCoco predicts that you can already produce a given sentence, it jumps right into English First mode the first time you see that line. This is very powerful. First, it gives you the chance to produce Spanish that you've never heard before; and second, when you're in the flow of the conversation, you often speak the Spanish without even realizing that it's brand new. You're just speaking Spanish."
HOW YOU LEARN: FIRST LISTENING and SPEAKING
With SuperCoco you learn first and foremost through sound. When you start a lesson, you can go hands free, and just listen and repeat. The lesson continues automatically.
Or if you wish, you can control SuperCoco by voice commands, such as Coco WHAT? (alias: Coco REPEAT?) - to hear a line again; Coco SLOW - to hear the line at slower speed; Coco STOP (alias: Coco PAUSE) - to pause the conversation, etc. Go to the Library (Menu icon) for other voice commands. Note that you can only give commands when SuperCoco is not speaking.
You learn and practice each of the conversations sentence by sentence. You never hear the full conversation just in Spanish. (It is always broken up by English translation.)
After the Spanish audio or the English cue, there's a pause to let you say the Spanish word or sentence.
In the early lessons, coach SuperCoco pops up to give you tips, reminders, and encouragement.
At the end of a conversation, you can rate it: Too hard, Just right, Too easy. This information will go into the algorithm of the program, and determine how soon and how often you'll review that particular conversation.
DO YOU NEED TO SEE THE WORDS?
As an adult who's been schooled in reading and writing, you may automatically imagine how words in a foreign language are spelled - when you hear them.
Most likely, you'll apply the sound-spelling correlation that you're familiar with, i.e. the spelling of English if that's your native language.
Learning a new language means that you have to learn a new sound-spelling system. You can only do that by seeing how a word is spelled when you hear it, or right after.
SuperCoco gives you that option. You can see the Spanish text after you hear the audio, following a short delay. The brief pause not only lets you repeat what you hear, you can also anticipate the spelling in your mind.
(By the way, that's quite similar to Gamesforlanguage's “Say It” module, which we use in all of our language story-based courses.)
GRAMMAR at YOUR FINGERTIPS (if you want)
By tapping on a specific word in the conversation, you'll first see a brief grammar point.
Then, if you tap the capsule, it loads a full explanation. For a verb, it explains the tense or mood and shows shows the conjugation. You'll also see links to related topics.
For example (see screenshot above), you'll see the sentence "¿Por qué ne estás tirando fresas?" (Why are you throwing strawberries at me?)
When you tap on "tirando" and then "fresas" you'll see: tirando (tirar): to throw (verb: gerund); and, fresas (fresa): strawberry (noun: pl f ).
By tapping further, you'll load an explanations of the gerund form, and other related links.
Or, tapping on the imperative form "espere," (see screen shot) you'll load an explanation of the form, as well as the (positive and negative) conjugation of the imperative.
Very different from picture-heavy Rosetta Stone (and many other popular programs), SuperCoco uses no pictures at all. Interesting!
While pictures can certainly link to the foreign words (or labels) of objects, they can also be a distraction from learning their sounds.
With a picture-driven program you have to constantly figure out what the picture is supposed to represent. Besides, how can one show anything complicated or abstract with a still picture?
THE SKILLS TAB and PRONUNCIATION LESSONS
There are eight (8) Core Skills Lessons which give you one Key Tip in each lesson. Each is about 2-3 minutes long and includes the topics 'How to absorb Spanish faster,' 'What to do when you can't remember,' 'How to find time to practice,' and 'How and when to learn grammar.'
In the Skills Tab, you'll also find 23 excellent short Pronunciation Lessons that cover all the sounds of Spanish, with step-by-step instructions on how to produce the sounds. In each lesson, you can then Listen, Record, and Check your pronunciation. It's a fast track to getting a great accent.
Without a subscription, you are limited to one chapter of conversations -- it can be any chapter.
A subscription to the SuperCoco app Spanish is $4.99 a month in the app store. With a subscription, you have access to all the chapters.
Having a monthly subscription may quite motivating: The serious learner will want to pack in as much as possible into a limited time.
WHAT WE LIKE
The focus on listening and speaking is very effective.
Seeing the spelling right after the audio is a great option.
The stories, which are in conversational format, are humorous and use real language.
Understanding the meaning is always part of how you learn.
The many different topics cover a wide range of vocabulary.
You can find a level that challenges you and you can pick and choose topics.
The voice recordings are high quality and easy to understand.
You're pushed to translate automatically when you hear an English sentence.
You get lots of encouragement.
We really like the hands-free part. You can listen while cooking, walking, commuting, etc.
SuperCoco is currently available only for Apple devices with iOS 8.2 or later.
There's no setting for listening to a Spanish conversation in its entirety.
You cannot record and play back your own voice to check your pronunciation.
At this time, there's no reading and writing practice.
You don't get alternative translations.
CAN YOU LEARN WITH the APP FROM ZERO SPANISH?
I believe so, but since my Spanish was at an intermediate level before I started testing the app, I don't have an objective answer for that.
In my experience, the combination of hearing, repeating, and understanding the meaning of the foreign words and sentences is essential for learning a new language.
In any case, I can recommend SuperCoco as an excellent resource for learning and practicing Spanish.
Using more than one resource will help you stay interested and motivated. Once you have progressed beyond the basics, choose articles or books with topics that interest you for reading, podcasts for listening comprehension, language-exchange partners for conversations, etc.
In all, SuperCoco is a powerful learning tool that's fun, versatile, and easy to use. Whether using it alone, or adding it to whatever else you're learning with, you're bound to level up your Spanish.
That's true especially for your pronunciation, your listening comprehension, and fluency in speaking. To be contacted about new levels that are added, write to Larkwire: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.
Disclosure: GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with SuperCoco, except for having participated in some beta testing and receiving the app for free. Certain links above are to affiliates' programs with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase or subscribe.
Listening to Spanish songs, first with the lyrics, and then without, is a great way to absorb words, phrases, and even grammatical structures.
In one of our first posts on learning a foreign language with a song, we chose La Paloma, a song which originated in 1861 in Cuba.
Now listen to a much more recent song, "El Perdón," co-written and co-performed by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias, both popular singers in the Latin pop scene.
"El Perdón" became a smash hit upon its release in 2015. The official Spanish YouTube video has had over 650 million views at this time.
Nicky Jam (Nick Rivera Caminero) was born in Boston MA, USA in 1981, but moved to Puerto Rico at the age of ten. For the Wiki-bio in Spanish click HERE.
Enrique Iglesias (Enrique Miguel Iglesias Preysler) was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1975. At age 11, he was sent to live Miami for security reasons. (His grandfather had been kidnapped by the Basque ETA.) See his English Wiki-bio HERE.
You can of course listen to a song in a foreign language and never get the lyrics. That's fine. Music can be enjoyed on its own.
But songs can also be a great language learning tool if you pay attention to the lyrics to understand their meaning. So, what makes music such a powerful way of getting language into your brain? It's because songs combine melody, rhythm, and emotion with language. What's on your side is the "earworm" effect. A good song will continue playing in your head.
Listening to songs in a language you're learning:
Improves your pronunciation
Has you mimic intonation
Helps you memorize vocabulary
Familiarizes you with idiomatic phrases
Lets you absorb grammar structures
Gets you into the rhythm of the language
Listen to the song again and now follow it by reading the lyrics below. How much can you understand?
At the end of the post we have the English translation, so you can check.
Dime si es verdad Me dijeron que te estas casando Tú no sabes como estoy sufriendo Esto te lo tengo que decir
Cuéntame Tu despedida para mi fue dura Será que él te llevo a la luna Y yo no supe hacerlo así
Te estaba buscando Por las calles gritando Eso me está matando oh no
Te estaba buscando Por las calles gritando Como un loco tomando
Es que yo sin ti Y tú sin mi Dime quién puede ser feliz Esto no me gusta Esto no me gusta
Es que yo sin ti Y tú sin mi Dime quién puede ser feliz Esto no me gusta Esto no me gusta
Vivir si ti, no aguanto más Por eso vengo a decirte lo que siento Estoy sufriendo en esta soledad
Y aunque tu padre no aprobó esta relación Yo sigo insistiendo a pedir perdón Lo único que importa está en tu corazón
Te estaba buscando Por las calles gritando Esto me está matando oh no
Te estaba buscando Por las calles gritando Como un loco tomando oh
Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi Dime quién puede ser feliz Esto no me gusta Esto no me gusta
Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi Dime quién puede ser feliz Eso no me gusta Eso no me gusta
Yo te juré a ti eterno amor Y ahora otro te da calor Cuando en las noches tienes frío oh oh, oh
Yo sé que él te parece mejor Pero yo estoy en tu corazón Y por eso pido perdón
Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi Dime quién puede ser feliz Esto no me gusta, oh no
Es que yo sin ti, y tú sin mi Dime quién puede ser feliz Esto no me gusta oh yeah, oh
Dicen que uno no sabe lo que tiene hasta que lo pierde pero (Yo sin ti) Vale la pena luchar por lo que uno quiere (No puedo vivir así) Y hacer el intento (No quiero vivir así)
Refreshing a Few Grammar Points
1. Gerundio - the progressive form of a verb describing an ongoing action.
te estas casando - you are marrying (inf. casar) estoy sufriendo - I am suffering (inf. sufrir) estaba buscando - I was looking for (inf. buscar) me está matando - it's killing me (inf. matar) sigo insistiendo - I keep on insisting (inf. insistir)
2. Adding object pronouns to imperative and infinitive forms.
dime - tell me (imperative form of "decir") cuéntame - tell me (imperative form of "contar") hacerlo - to do it (infinitive) decirte - to tell you (infinitive)
3. Preterito - simple past form of verbs.
fue - it was (inf. ser) supe - I knew (inf. saber) aprobó - he approved (inf. aprobar) juré - I swore (inf. jurar)
Why would it be important to hear different voices, accents, and dialects in the language you're learning?
Think about it: You're probably never going to speak only with people who sound exactly like the person on in your language program.
Both Enrique Iglesias and Nicky Jam are bilingual, with Spanish first and English learned at the age of 10 or 11.
Comparing Enrique's and Nicky's Spanish, you'll notice some differences in pronunciation.
The Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico is part of "Caribbean Spanish," which also includes the Spanish of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and regions along the East coast of Mexico and Central America.
These are popular destinations both for Americans and many Europeans. Caribbean Spanish "is characterized by elided middle consonants and omitted final consonants, as well as an aspirated ‘r’ that is pronounced like the Portuguese ‘x.’." [10 Spanish Dialects: How Spanish is Spoken Around the World]
You'll definitely hear some of that in Nicky Jam's singing.
English Translation of “El Perdón” - Forgiveness
Tell me if it's true They told me you are marrying You don't know how I'm suffering This I have to tell you
Tell me Your goodbye was hard for me Is it that he takes you to the moon And I didn't know how to do it like that
I was looking for you Crying out in the streets This is killing me oh no
I was looking for you Crying out in the streets Like a crazy drunk
It's just that me without you And you without me Tell me who can be happy I do not like this I do not like this
It's just that me without you And you without me Tell me who can be happy I do not like that I do not like that
Living without you, I can't do it anymore So I came to tell you how I feel I'm suffering in the loneliness
And even though your dad didn't approve of this relationship I'll have to keep asking for forgiveness All that matters to me is in your heart
I was looking for you Crying out in the streets This is killing me oh no
I was looking for you Crying out in the streets Like a crazy drunk oh
It's just that me without you And you without me Tell me, who can be happy I don't like that I don't like that
I promised you eternal love And now another man gives you warmth when you're cold at night oh oh
I know he seems better to you But I'm in your heart So I'm asking for forgiveness
It's just that me without you And you without me Tell me, who can be happy I don't like this oh yeah...
(You without me) They say you don't know what you have until it's gone but... (Me without you) It's worth it to fight for what you love (I can't live like this) And make an effort (I don't want to live like this)
If you like learning and practicing Spanish with songs, we'd suggest that you try out for FREE Language Zen, a great Spanish language learning site, which uses Spanish songs and their lyrics as part of their program.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands and Canada. You can follow her onFacebook, TwitterandInstagram, and leave any commentswithcontact.
Disclosure: Language Zen is a partner site with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.
Here we'll explain how you can get some moments of mini-immersion when you set your electronic gadgets to German. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll get to understanding and using these terms.
German social media terms are made up of vocabulary that is sophisticated and generally useful. Using them, you can also learn some basic grammar forms.
If you're a Facebook user, that's a good place to start.
SETTING YOUR iPHONE/iPAD OR ANDROID DEVICES
On an iPhone or iPad, you have to set the language by going into your iPhone or iPad Settings and change your iPhone/iPad Language. You cannot do it just for your Facebook app, etc.
Click on "Settings," "General," "Language & Region," and set your iPhone/iPad Language to "Deutsch/German." (see screenshot)
On Android phones and tablets, also go to "Settings," then scroll down to "Personal," and click on "Language and input."
On Peter's Galaxy S7, he only sees the selected English and choices for Spanish, Vietnamese and several other "preloaded" Chinese/Asian languages. He has not been able to add other languages yet and is looking for help to add Italian and Dutch.
One word of caution: On Android devices, be careful with languages with a non-western writing system and, at least, remember the small icon in front of "Language and input," in case you want to get back to English!
(On your laptop or PC, you could change the language only on Facebook, etc., or in one of your browsers, or even set your preferred language for the computer in "Language & Region.")
Setting your language back to English:
On your iOS devices, click on the "Einstellungen" (Settings) icon, then go to "Allgemein" (General), "Sprache & Region" (Language & Region), "iPhone/iPad-Sprache" (iPhone/iPad Language), and finally, "English/Englisch."
"Abbrechen" means Cancel;
"Fertig" means Done;
"Fortfahren" means Continue.
WAIT! THERE'S GERMAN ALL OVER MY DEVICE
Don't Panic. The icons on your gadget give you lots of help. And here are a few initial terms to get you going:
Zum Entsperren Home-Taste drücken - Press home to unlock
Wiederholen - Try again ("repeat")
Nachrichten (f.) - Messages
Uhr (f.) - Clock
Seitenmanager (m.) - Pages ("page manager")
Notizen (f.) - Notes
Erinnerungen (f.) - Reminders
Einstellungen (f.) - Settings
Flugmodus (m.) - Airplane Mode
WLAN - Wi-Fi
Mitteilungen (f.) - Notifications
Nicht stören - Don't disturb
GERMAN FACEBOOK TERMS
To interact with you, Facebook uses the friendly, familiar "du" form. For example, the familiar imperative form of "describe yourself" is "Beschreibe dich." (The polite form would be "Beschreiben Sie sich.")
To translate "Like," German uses the verb "gefallen" for the idiomatic expression "Gefällt mir" (I like it, or more literally: It pleases me).
For forms like "Comment, Share, Show, Log out" etc. (which could be both infinitive and imperative), German uses infinitive forms: "Kommentieren, Teilen, Zeigen, Abmelden" etc.
Words and phrases that you keep seeing on your device are bound to end up in your long-term memory. You'll probably never forget them.
Here's a list of 20 or so you'll see on your iPhone or iPad:
On your Profile Page:
Suche nach Personen, Orten und Dingen - Search Persons, Places and Things
Certain social media terms can help you absorb some basic grammar structures. It's an easier way to learn grammar than to memorize rules.
1. Compound Nouns
In German compound nouns, it's the second (or last) noun which gives you the gender.
das Profil + das Bild = das Profilbild
der Titel + das Bild = das Titelbild
Some compound nouns take a linking "s."
das Leben + das Ereignis = das Lebensereignis
2. Verb Prefixes: "an" and "ab"
Many German verbs can take different prefixes, which change the meaning of the original verb.
The verb "melden" (as in "ein Problem melden) means "to report."
"Abmelden" means "to log out" or "sign out."
"Anmelden" means "to log in" or "sign up."
To say that you want to register, you would use the reflexive form: "sich anmelden."
Ich möchte mich bei Facebook anmelden. (I want to sign up for Facebook.)
The verb "brechen" means "to break"
"Abbrechen" means "to cancel" (break off).
3. Separable Verb Prefixes:
The prefixes "ab" and "an" are a separable prefixes.
In the present tense, the prefix "ab" goes to the end of the clause: Ich melde mich ab. (I'm signing out.)
In the conversational past, "ab" is separated by "-ge-": Ich habe mich abgemeldet. (I signed out.)
In the future tense, the prefix stays: Ich werde mich anmelden. (I'll sign in.)
4. Inseparable Verb Prefix: "er-" and "be-"
The inseparable verb prefixes "be-" and "er-" always stay as part of the verb and thus don't use "-ge-" in the conversational past.
The verb "stellen" means "to put" or "to place." ("auf den Tisch stellen" - to place on the table)
The verb "erstellen" means "to create" or "to make." ("Seite erstellen" - create a page)
Ich erstelle eine Seite. (I create a page.)
Ich habe eine Seite erstellt. (I created a page.)
Ich werde eine Seite erstellen. (I'll create a page.)
The verb "schreiben" means "to write." ("einen Brief schreiben" - to write a letter)
"Beschreiben" means "to describe" or "to depict." ("Beschreibe dich" - Describe yourself)
Ich beschreibe mich. (I describe myself.)
Ich habe mich beschrieben. (I described myself.)
Ich werde mich beschreiben. (I'll describe myself.)
5. German does not have a "continuous" verb form:
In English, you can say "I'm editing" to mean that you're doing it right now, or that you're in the process of doing it (at this time). German does not have a verb form for that. Instead, you would either add an adverb, such as "gerade" (just now) or reformulate: "ich bin dabei, ... zu bearbeiten" (I'm in the process of ...) to get the same meaning across.
The verb "arbeiten" means "to work."
"Bearbeiten" means "to edit" or "work on."
Ich bearbeite mein Profil. (I'm editing my Profile.)
Ich bearbeite gerade mein Profil.
Ich bin dabei, mein Profil zu bearbeiten.
As you've probably guessed, immersion works best if you have a basic understanding of the language that's being used. Just seeing unknown words and phrases (as I would, if I set my devices to Polish, for example) would be a little scary.
Still, if you're used to navigating the apps on your iPhone and are familiar with the icons on it, you can figure out what many of the foreign words and phrases mean.
Changing the language on your devices lets you try out new things and use context to guess new vocabulary. That's a good way to learn.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.
If “fietsen” (bicyling) is a Dutch favorite, “bootjevaren” (boating), which includes “zeilen” (sailing), is certainly another.
With about one third of the Dutch mainland BELOW sea level and another one third very close to it, it's no wonder that the Dutch have a special relationship with water.
Yes, Italy has Venice, which has romantic canals but also more frequent flooding. Venice also needs to worry about its future as it is slowly sinking into the Adriatic Sea.
On the other hand, Amsterdam with its many “grachten” (canals) is a vibrant international city that has well adapted to the challenges and opportunities of the ever present water.(See also European Travels 1 and European Travels 2)
And, the canal network in the Netherlands is nothing but astounding. It's a great way to explore the country.
For the fun of it, we'll sprinkle in a few Dutch words. Because Dutch is a Germanic language just like English and German, you may find some cognates.
het land - the country, land
de stad - the city
de fiets - the bicycle
het water - the water
de gracht - the canal (in a city)
het kanaal - the canal (outside of a city)
de rivier - the river
de zee - the ocean, sea
Dutch Canals and Rivers
Traveling by boat on a canal or river lets you experience the countryside in a different way than driving through it. At 7 to 8 miles per hour, you can observe your surroundings in a leisurely way.
You'll notice the different designs of houses and various building methods, admire beautiful gardens, wonder what crops are growing in the fields, what type of cattle is grazing on the pastures. Often the canals are higher than the adjacent pastures, as water is pumped continually from the lower lying fields into the canals.
While most pumps in the Netherlands are now electrically operated, there are still old windmills that are doing the job. We certainly observe more and more of the modern wind turbines every time we visit.
The ABC of Dutch Canal Travel
Operating a motor boat on Dutch canals is not really difficult, although sometimes when in tight quarters, you have to keep calm and go slowly.
You don't need a license. If you haven't sailed or operated a motor boat before, don't worry. The charter company will instruct you in how to handle the boat.
Obviously, prior boating experience helps, not only for operating a boat, but also for knowing a few basic facts:
Boats have no brakes
Boats are affected by wind and current
Boats have various electrical and plumbing systems
The forward/backward gear of boats is operated with a throttle
Larger boats respond more slowly to throttle and steering commands
A “bow thruster” greatly helps maneuvering in tight quarters
“Locks” connect waterways with different water level elevations
The lower the boat, the more bridges you can pass (without their opening)
Our 2016 Charter Choice
For our previous three canal cruises in the Netherlands, we had chartered from different local charter companies. This time we selected Locaboat, a multinational charter with locations in France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, and the Netherlands.
Their location in Loosdrecht, just north of Utrecht and close to the Dutch family reunion we attended, as well as our good experience with them during a charter in France a few years earlier, made them an easy choice.
The “Oude Rijn” (the old Rhine), as our mini barge was called, had inside and outside steering – perfect for either rainy or sunny weather – a bow thruster, and the two bicycles we had reserved.
With its 10.20 meter length (about 34 feet), it suited us fine. The midship saloon and steering station provided a great view during any meal. The compact kitchen (galley) had a refrigerator, a two-burner stove and oven, and all the pots, pans, and dishes we needed.
I noticed several improvements since the last time we had chartered from Locaboat:
The bow thruster
Electric instead of pump toilets
No switch to change from inside to outside throttle operation
A spacious refrigerator working well either on motor or shore power
An easily operated diesel heater for the hydronic heating system
Through the charter company we had ordered some basic supplies from the local grocery store, such as water, beer, etc. These arrived shortly after we boarded.
After reviewing our intended itinerary, (see map) learning about the boat's systems, and a quick test-outing into the canal with me backing into the slip, we started our trip.
While Locaboat reportedly makes WIFI available on its boats in France, we had to arrange for internet access ourselves in the Netherlands.
After some research I had selected my-webspot.com. The Paris, France based company had shipped the portable WIFI to our hotel. After an easy set up on the boat - it just plugged into the 12-V charger - we were connected. As we also had guests, with phones and iPads, the ability to connect up to 10 devices worked great for all of us.
It was late afternoon and we had to pass one lock and bridge before starting our round trip as shown on the chart.
de winkel - the shop
de boot - the boat
de sluis - the lock (on a waterway)
de brug - the bridge
het dorp - the village, town
het huis - the house
de tuin - the garden, yard
de boerderij - the farm
Shortly after leaving the Marina, we encountered the Mijnden Sluis, the first of the few locks that we had to pass on our trip.
When approaching a lock, you'll know from the position of the gates (open or closed) and the red or green lights - whether you have to wait (red) and possibly tie up, or whether you can enter (green).
Once in the lock, your crew loops a couple of lines around the bollards and holds on to them. But they should NOT TIE UP.
As the lock gates are closed and the water level rises and falls, the crew adjusts the lines so the boat glides along the lock walls, protected by its fenders. (In this picture our friends are adjusting the lines in the biggest lock we encountered, behind a large commercial barge.)
As the lock gates open again, you motor out the other side to a different water level.
In the Dutch inland canals, such level differences are often only a foot or two.
(In French canals, we had encountered a level difference of 10 feet or more in many locks. Also, in an earlier blog post, we describe how the boat lift in Henrichenburg, Germany, overcomes a 42 feet level difference.)
We had chartered a motor boat for the first time in the Netherlands, over 20 years ago in Utrecht. Our teenage sons loved it right away. At that time, a few of the bridges still had to be opened manually. The boys had to jump ashore, open the bridge, let us pass, close the bridge, and then hop on board again.
This time, we were told that we would not have to open any bridges ourselves on our trip.
The moving bridges we encountered, called “Beweegbare Bruggen,” and labeled “BB” on the chart, were operated as follows:
By an operator at the bridge or a person who monitored it remotely via cameras
By a push button, typically located on a piling before the bridge
By phone call to an operator or on an automated line
Many bridges opened as we approached, adding a yellow light to the red light before it turned green. Sometimes we called. (Telephone numbers were on a sign at the bridge. In addition, nearly all bridges had a telephone number listed in the boat manual or in the chart app on my tablet.)
More instructions were provided in the boat's handbook, but Ulrike's command of Dutch was clearly helpful for the third option.
There are only very few bridges left where the operator collects a fee with a wooden shoe on a long pole. We passed only two.
In towns and cities, operating hours often consider morning and evening traffic rush hours. Commercial vessels always have priority over recreational boats and you learn to be patient.
Your chart tells you the passing height of each bridge. Our “Oude Rijn” was listed as 2.92 m. Passing under a 3.00 m bridge left only 8 cm or a little more than 3 inches – and when steering and sitting outside on top of the upper deck we certainly had to duck. (In the above picture there were only a few inches to spare...)
The waterway chart (as well as the Dutch app for my tablet I had downloaded) not only shows all the locks and bridges, but also the marinas and mooring sites that one can tie up to. Some of the mooring sites in small towns are free.
At others, you can replenish your water or hook up your shore power (for a fee). We only did this a couple of times.
However, you're not limited to the designated mooring sites. Especially in the countryside, you can just hammer in two steel spikes ashore and tie up your boat along the canal bank.
After passing through the Mijnden lock, we turned north and were immediately faced with our first challenge.
The bridge operator of the first moving bridge we were to pass in Loenen, informed us that the next bridge had mechanical problems and could not be opened. He thought it could be fixed in an hour or two and suggested we should just tie up.
We did and explored the little town of Loenen, with its narrow cobble stone streets and its two picturesque bridges across the river Vecht. We also found a bakery and stocked up on fresh bread and pastries.
This short delay taught us again not to be in a hurry. Canal traveling has to be done leisurely.
Yes, we would not get very far this first day, but no matter. Waiting for bridges or locks to open is as much part of canal travel as finding a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner or a good mooring spot for the night.
Indeed, when the bridge operator told us that the problem was fixed, we continued north on the Vecht. (see picture above)
As it was soon going to get dark we made fast near the small town of Overmeer.
After a 10 minute walk we found a very pleasant restaurant for our first dinner ashore.
Returning a few hours later to our “Oude Rijn,” we were glad that we had not forgotten the flashlight to unlock the door.
We had a quiet and peaceful night and the next morning greeted us with sunshine and ducks and other birds in the water around us.
The Netherlands is very densely populated country. In traveling along the small rivers and canals, we passed through cities and towns, as well as commercial and industrial areas. But we also came through long stretches of farm land and pastures.
In addition to the many small towns and villages we came across and explored, the major cities on our itinerary were Amsterdam, Gouda, and Utrecht.
We've written a blog post about Amsterdam, as we stayed there before getting on the boat. But visiting Amsterdam by boat is even more fun.
You can easily get to the marina in the center of town from where you'll explore the city on foot. There are a few more marinas in the outskirts, but then you have to find a way to get into the city.
Gouda is a wonderful town with a stunning 15th-century city hall (see picture) and a spacious market place, where during the spring and summer a traditional cheese market is held every week (Thursday mornings).
You can actually moor right in the center of town, but we chose to tie up and stay overnight on the Hollandsche IJssel, just south of the city.
When we came to Utrecht, it was not possible to go through the town with our Flying Bridge Pénichette, as the many arched bridges of the Vecht were too narrow and low for the “Oude Rijn.”
However, mooring in the “Singelgracht” close to the center of town, allows you to explore the city easily on foot.
Along the Vecht, there are many restaurants tourists and locals alike seemed to enjoy on a late summer day.
The town has over 20 museums, ranging from the Aboriginal Art, to the National Military, the Railway, and the Waterline Museum Fort Vechten.
This is often one of the major benefits of sightseeing from a boat: You can moor in or near the center of a town or city (where finding a parking space for your car may often be difficult).
het stadhuis - the city hall
het centrum - the center (of town)
de jachthaven - the marina
de buitenwijken - the outskirts (of town)
de marktplaats - the market
de kaas - the cheese
de Noordzee - the North Sea
de Oostzee - the Baltic Sea
The European Canal system
While we traveled mostly on small canals and rivers (such as the Vecht and IJssel), there were also a few stretches where we encountered commercial traffic.
When a large container-laden barge is heading towards you (as on this picture), you realize how important the waterways are still for the European economy. You also do your best to keep out of the way!
Leaving Utrecht and before we could re-enter the Vecht near Maarsen, we had to travel on the wide Amsterdam-Rhine Canal. This canal serves as an important commercial link between Amsterdam and the Rhine.
Indeed, barges can make it up and down the Rhine all the way to Basel, Switzerland, or via the Main river, the Main-Danube Canal, and the Danube to Budapest, Vienna, and the Black Sea.
No wonder, traffic is heavy and recreational boats like ours have to keep well out of the way.
The European canal system not only connects the North Sea with the Baltic Sea, but barges and boats (even sailboats with a lowered mast) can find their way into the Mediterranean Sea, via the Mosel and the Rhone.
Our last overnight stop before returning to our base was Breukelen. Breukelen, by the way, gave New York's Brooklyn its name.
We again were moored right in the center of town, behind a typical old-style bascule bridge and several restaurants. In one of them we ate dinner.
There we met the Dutch artist, Toos van Holstein, who was elected the Netherland's “Briljanten Kunstenaar 2016” (Dutch Brilliant Artist of 2016). She had just organized a special art event “25 Karaats Briljant” at the gallery Peter Leen, which is adjacent and connected to the excellent Thai Same Same restaurant.
Traveling on Dutch canals leaves you with many impressions, memories and pictures, certainly more than we can relate here.
On our last evening we could again enjoy a spectacular sunset across the huge Dutch sky - a fitting end to our canal cruise.
If you're interested in trying canal boating yourself in the Netherlands or France and have more questions, drop us a line via contact and we'll be happy to help.
Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them onFacebookTwitterandInstagram, and leave any comments withcontact.
The French Travel Memories expand on our GamesforLanguage travel-story based courses, which use the cities' real street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc. We visited many of them ourselves and tell you a little more about each French city.
In future blog posts, we'll provide additional details for each of the cities our young travelers visit in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. (You'll find our first German post by clicking on: German Travel Memories 1 – Michael in Frankfurt)
Daniel's first stop is in Paris, France's cosmopolitan capital, and where his travel memories begin.
We'll follow Daniel's discoveries in Paris. For those of you who have done or are doing our French 1 course: Daniel en France, this post provides some local color. Others may discover some new things about Paris and perhaps get inspired to dig deeper.
In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational language. The vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful terms.
Visiting Paris? To many of you, Paris doesn't need much of an introduction. Besides, there are plenty of sites that can fill in any gaps. We'll just mention a few quick facts and list some basic terms in French that will help you in your travels.
A FEW QUICK FACTS ABOUT PARIS
Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC by a Celtic people called the Parisii, who gave the city its name. They settled on Île de la Cité (see photo), an island in the middle of the Seine river and located on an important north-south trade axis.
(The well-known Cathédrale Notre-Dame, seen on the photo was later located there.)
In 52 BC, the Romans set up camp on the Île de la Cité and (temporarily) renamed the city Lutetia.
By the end of the 12th century, Paris had become the largest city in the western world, and the political and economic capital of France.
By the 17th century, Paris was an important center of finance, commerce, science, fashion, and the arts in Europe. It continues to play that role today.
It was interesting to read why Paris is called “The City of Light” (La Ville Lumière).
For one, Paris played an important role during the Age of Enlightenment, a philosophical movement that championed the concepts of reason, liberty, and the scientific method, seeking to illuminate man’s intellect.
For another, Paris and London were two of the early cities to adopt gas street lighting.
Since the late 19th century, Paris has also been known as Panam(e) (pronounced: [panam]) in French slang.
The city of Paris (also called the Commune or Department of Paris) now has a population of over 2.2 million people. The urban area of Paris is estimated to have a population of 10.5 million.
Île-de-France, also called “région parisienne” is one of the 18 regions of France. It includes Paris as well as 7 other administrative departments. The Île-de-France region has a population of over 12 million inhabitants.
la capitale - the capital la ville - the city, town la lumière – the light Île de la Cité – an island in the Seine, within the city of Paris la commune - the town, municipality l'arrondissement – city district le fleuve – the river (flows into the sea) la rivière - the river (flows into a lake or another river) l'aire urbaine (f) - the urban area la banlieue – the suburbs (autonomous administrative entities outside of the city of Paris) Île-de-France – one of the 18 regions of France
PARIS CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT
Daniel is a young student who learned some French at home and later studied it in school. However, this will be his first visit to France.
On his flight to Paris, Michael chats in French with the flight attendant and with the woman who's on the seat next to him.
He arrives at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, which is Europe's 2nd busiest airport in Europe, after London.
As Daniel goes through Passport Control, he continues to speak French. Responding to the standard questions, he has to explain why he is traveling to France and how long he will stay.
le vol - the flight l'hôtesse de l'air/le steward - the flight attendant f/m l'aéroport (m) - the airport le contrôle des passeports - the Passport Control Êtes-vous ici pour affaires? - Are you here on business? “affaires” has multiple meaning: affairs, matters, business Combien de temps? - How long? un bon séjour - a good stay
Paris is divided into 20“arrondissements,” or administrative districts, arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral (snail shell) starting from the middle of the city, the first being on the Right bank (north bank) of the Seine, the 20th being on the outer edge. (Plan by ThePromenaderhttp://www.paris-promenades.com with numbers in map.)
Most of the districts have their particular brand of Parisian identity and atmosphere. A brief description of each arrondissement can be found HERE. You can click on the number of a particular district to see the streets, metro stops, monuments, etc.
RUE LA FAYETTE
Daniel's aunt and uncle live in the 9tharrondissement, on Rue La Fayette (which also continues through the 10th district). Rue La Fayette is two miles long and an important axis on Paris' Right Bank.
The 9th district is a lively and diverse residential area, with many boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Historically, the fashionable, the moneyed, and the artistic mingled there.
In the 9th you'll find the Paris Opera and the neighborhood of Pigalle, home of the cabaret Moulin Rouge. The painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec had his studio there, and Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh lived near Place Pigalle.
You'll also find the famous department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette in the 9th.
The Galeries Lafayette are a chain of upscale department stores. The famous flagship store on 40 Boulevard Haussmann had its early beginnings in 1893 with a small fashion shop located at the corner of rue La Fayette and rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin. The shop founders were two cousins from Alsace, Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn.
In the next couple of decades, Bader and Kahn added adjacent buildings, with the goal to transform the whole complex into something of a luxury bazaar.
The architect Ferdinand Chanut “called upon great artists from the École de Nancy to decorate this magnificent building in the style of Paris Art Nouveau. ... The dome, rising to a height of 43 metres, soon became the iconic symbol of Galeries Lafayette. Master glass-maker Jacques Gruber was responsible for designing the Neo-byzantine style stained glass windows.”
The store was inaugurated in 1912. You can read more HERE.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés is an administrative quarter in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. This quarter has a large number of bookstores and publishing houses, and several famous cafés including Les Deux Magots (where Daniel has “un verre” with his aunt when he returns to Paris.)
As you can see on the image on the right, the number of the arrondissement is shown on all signs of streets and squares.
In the middle of the Twentieth century, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter was the center of the Paris Existentialist movement (associated especially with the writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir).
The church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Originally a Benedictine Abbey, it was founded in the 6th century AD.
Historically, Saint-Germain-des-Prés square was an important marketplace thanks to its annual fair.
The Foire Saint-Germain, which dates back to 1176, attracted merchants from all over Europe throughout the centuries. It lasted generally three to five weeks around Easter.
Today, there's a covered market on the square.
la place – the square le marché – the market la librairie – the bookstore l'éditeur – the publisher la maison d'édition – the publishing house la foire – the fair, trade fair un verre - the glass prendre l'apéritif – to have an aperitif (pre-dinner drink)
RUE DE GRENELLE
Daniel returns to Paris at the end of his trip and stays for a few days with his aunt Juliette, who lives on Rue de Grennelle, in the 6th arrondissement.
On his way to Rue de Grenelle, Daniel passes Hôtel Lutetia, located at 45 Boulevard Raspail (see picture). It was built in 1910 in the Art Nouveau style and was named after the early Roman town Lutetia.
The interiors of the hotel are in the somewhat later Art Deco style. During Nazi occupation of France, the hotel played an important role as a shelter for refugees.
Over the years, the hotel was visited by guests such as Picasso, Charles de Gaulle, James Joyce (who wrote part of his novel Ulysses here), Peggy Guggenheim, and Josefine Baker.
Rue de Grenelle is a funky street lined with stunning 17th and 18th century mansions, charming bars and restaurants, and interesting shops. Somewhat off the tourist route, rue de Grenelle is a great place for a stroll.
Nearby, on Boulevard de Grenelle, you'll find one of Paris' best street markets (Wednesdays and Sundays). The Eiffel Tower is just a short walk away, and will certainly appear in any visitor's travel memories - whether you survey the city from above or admire it from the Trocadero as on the picture below.
LE TROCADÉRO and LA TOUR EIFFEL
After dinner, Daniel and his aunt Juliette take an evening stroll to the Trocadéro, a 20-minute walk away, and located in the 16th arrondissement.
A hill and esplanade with a magnificent view over the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, it's the site of Palais Chaillot, built for the 1937 Paris Expo. (For more info click HERE.)
Sloping down towards the Eiffel Tower are the Gardens of the Trocadéro, also built for the 1937 Paris Expo. The gardens are a beautiful open space with a large water basin called the Fountain of Warsaw, and lined with numerous statues and smaller fountains.
The Eiffel Tower (7th arr., on the Champ de Mars) was erected for the 1889 World's Fair on the centennial of the French Revolution.
The tower was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower (and also created, among other monuments, the metal structure of the Statue of Liberty). The Eiffel Tower continues to be the tallest structure in Paris at 324 meters (1,063 ft.). To get to the top, a visitor can take one of the 5 elevators, or walk up 1665 steps.
Every evening since 1985, the Eiffel Tower is lit up, and sparkles for five minutes at the beginning of each hour.
QUARTIER LATIN and DEUX MAGOTS
After visiting the Eiffel Tower, Daniel and his aunt Juliette walk over to the Latin Quarter (6th & 7th arr.) known for the Sorbonne and other educational institutions and lively student atmosphere.
Called “Latin” quarter because Latin was the language of learning in the Middle Ages, its winding streets are the home of quirky second-hand bookshops, and hip cafés and bars.
At the café Les Deux Magots, Daniel and his aunt enjoy a glass of wine to finish the evening. Located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, the café was a popular meeting place for intellectuals, writers, and artists.
Besides Beauvoir and Sartre, its patrons have included Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Albert Camus, Bertolt Brecht, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Julia Child, and others.
Since 1933, the Deux Magots literary prize has been awarded every year to a new French novel that is a little off-beat and non-conventional. The writer who received the prize in 2016 was Pierre Adrian for his novel La Piste Pasolini (published by Les Équateurs).
TRAVEL MEMORIES WITH A BOAT TOUR ON THE SEINE
Near the end of his visit, Daniel and his aunt take a river cruise on the Seine. It's his chance to see many of Paris' monuments one last time.
A boat tour on the Seine during a sunny day with the “Bateaux Parisiens,” “Bateaux Mouches,” or “Vedettes de Pont Neuf” is indeed a great way to enjoy many of the Paris sights and add to your travel memories. You'll glide under quite a few of the 37 bridges and learn about the Paris history.
(Click on the image of our Facebook page for our French Quick Game: Paris Quiz!)
A boat tour on the Seine also passes by the new buildings of the National Library.
France's national library dates back to the 14th century. First located at the Louvre Palace, the collection of book grew dramatically over the centuries and was moved again and again into more spacious housing.
The latest expansion, which included new construction, was initiated by President François Mitterrand. The 4 angular towers of the Mitterrand Library - which suggest four open books - were built on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 13th district and opened in 1996.
A dinner cruise at night may not be the gourmet highlight of a Paris visit, but lets you experience why Paris is “la Ville Lumière.”
Daniel's travels in France take him also to Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. You'll read about these two cities in a future blog post.
Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her travel memories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact or below.