Recently I started an online Swedish course and was surprised by how difficult the first few lessons were for me, although there were only 7 or 8 new words/expressions in each lesson. Swedish is a Germanic language – and I speak Dutch and German fluently – but it is really quite different from the Romance languages that I speak. As readers may recall from an earlier blog: my husband and I had used our Spanish 1 course in preparation for our stay in Spain last year. But even though Spanish was a new language for both of us, its similarity to French and Italian (languages we know) did not make us real “beginners.”
Based on the feedback from many buyers and users who tried our free demo lessons and promotions (in May: FREE 6-day trial for complete 36-lessons courses of all four languages), we had concluded that our first few lessons were too easy. Maybe some players had come to this conclusion because our games made the beginning lessons indeed seem easy. “I was learning, but it didn't feel like learning” was an early, typical comment.
Expanding Lesson 1
We therefore began expanding the first lesson ("Scene") of our German 1 and our Spanish 1 program, which initially consisted of three foreign dialog lines with about 16 new words. The additional six dialog lines, however, stopped many beginners from progressing to the second Scene. Did they feel that learning a new language was too steep a cliff to climb? We decided to wait for more feedback before expanding the French and Italian scenes.
What makes Gamesforlanguage.com different?
By learning a language (Swedish) that has fewer similarities with languages I already know, I put myself again into a beginner's shoes (for the 5th time, actually). And I experienced first hand the difference between a typical language program and GamesforLanguage:
Rather than teaching and drilling lists of words and short expressions (hello, good-bye, thanks, how are you?, I am fine, thanks, etc., etc.) GamesforLanguage deconstructs, practices, and reconstructs the dialog of a story beginning with Scene 1: Words and expressions, as in the examples above, come up as well, but later and always within the context of "The Story."
Indeed, the learner is immersed in real life, every-day language right from the start. While those with some background in the language will find the program easily accessible, beginners may need a few baby steps to help them get started.
German 1 now starts with “Scene 0”
With German 1, we have therefore added a Scene 0, with simple words and expressions that beginners can practice with our various games (and others, with more language backgrounds can skip). We also are “lightening up” the first few scenes so that players can better ease into “The Story” of our program. We'll be curious to see whether more beginners will “stay the course” in German. If that is the case, we'll then also add a Scene 0 (or even a Level 0) to all courses.
We invite your feedback
We love comments and feedback! So, if you have tried our course or have experience with other language courses, just add your comment below!
In our blog The GamesforLanguage Program - Part 1, we describe the key points, approach, and methods of our program. Part 2 describes the various games, the players' activities and how you'll learn with the games.
In the “Memory Game” (left), you'll first see key words and phrases of “The Story.” You then pick a red (English) card and click on the matching foreign word. With this game, you'll acquire new vocabulary for your understanding of “The Story.”
In these games, you'll hear a foreign word (from “The Story”) and then - choosing among 3 similar looking words - click on the word you just heard. Such games (e.g. "Moon Landing," right) train the ear. Your brain is normally tuned to the sounds of your native language. The listening games teach you a new and different correlation between sound and spelling.
In this game, you'll hear and are asked to repeat select phrases of “The Story” before the text appears briefly on the screen. When learning a language, you are challenged to recognize new letter combinations, to pronounce new sounds, and to get the timing of the intonation right. The Say-It games allow you to focus on hearing and reproducing the melody of the foreign language without worrying about meaning. Then, to help you correlate the sound and spelling of a new foreign phrase, it appears briefly before you hear the next one. (This we always felt was missing from audio-only courses!)
Word and Phrase Games
These games, e.g. "Snap Clouds" (left), require you to identify the correct story words in different types of games and settings. By switching between native and foreign translation, you are challenged again and again to produce the right answer. At the same time, you'll assimilate the meaning, spelling, and essential grammar of the foreign words and phrases that you're practicing.
Pronoun, Verb, Number, et al. games
Here, e.g. "Balloon Shoot" (right), you'll learn and practice particular word categories and/or forms. Each language has its own challenge if you want to master pronouns, gender, verb conjugations, noun endings, etc. These games recall vocabulary as well as the special features of each language.
In these games, e.g. "Deal no Deal" (left), you are asked to choose the correct translation of each of the sentences that form a segment of “The Story.” Quick tips explain relevant points of grammar or culture, providing you with further insights into the new language.
Word Order Games
Here, you are asked to build sentences from “The Story” by clicking on individual words in the correct order. An English translation and specific word choices guide this task (see "Word Invaders," right). Once you've selected a correct word, you'll hear it again.These games draw attention to idiomatic expressions and highlight the difference between English and foreign word order.
Considered often the most difficult task in any foreign language (besides speaking), writing here becomes a fun game. In a race against the clock, you'll translate and write out first simple foreign words, then in later levels, short phrases.
In the recall-games, you'll practice the vocabulary and short phrases you learned in an earlier scene. For example, "Word Hero" (right) lets you review the words and phrases of the previous SCENE, while "Recall and Record" has you recall and speak the words, phrases, and sentences from a scene in the previous LEVEL.
Here (not really a game), you'll hear and see all individual sentences from “The Story” and have the chance to easily record each one in your own voice. A playback button allows you to compare your recording to that of the native speaker. You can do this as many times as you wish. This is a great way to improve your pronunciation, and also an excellent way to internalize and memorize individual phrases and sentences.
The table below summarizes how you learn from each Game/Screen screen and Player Activity. In order to keep you, the learner, both engaged and challenged, the sequence and configuration of the games changes throughout the six levels of each course.
How You Learn
Hear language melody
Guess meaning from context
Listen, see foreign phrases w/optional translation “roll/over”
Identify and memorize key words and phrases
Hear, see, and click on key words
Identify correct word, correlate sound and meaning
Hear, see, and click on key words
Imitate sounds, recognize patterns
Hear, repeat, then see key words & phrases
Identify the meaning and basic grammar of the foreign sentence
Hear, see, and click on translation of foreign sentence
Practice vocabulary, sound, and spelling
Identify, click and hear foreign word
Figure out idiomatic construction, word order, and grammar forms
Word Order Games
Identify, click on, and hear foreign word while building foreign dialog sentence
Recall vocabulary, sound, spelling
Hear foreign and click on native word/phrase
Practice pronouncing the melody of sentences
Listen & record own voice and compare
Translate and spell
Write foreign words/phrases
Figure out grammar forms
Pronoun, Verb, et al. Games
Click on the right grammar form
Recall earlier scene vocabulary
Hear foreign and click on native word/phrase
We invite any questions about or comments to our program and games!
A recent guest blog for us by Lizzie Davey made me realize that in addition to the many small things that help you learn a language, there is clearly one big thing that helps your new language: READING.
As some may recall from earlier blogs, Spanish was a language I started to learn last year; first with our 36-lesson Spanish 1 course, then during our 2 month stay in Spain, reading newspapers, watching TV shows, talking to the locals in shops and restaurants. And now, I continue to read Spanish articles online and sometimes even watch a soap on our local Spanish TV station.
A few months ago, my wife gave me two books for my birthday: the original Spanish version of Zorro by Isabel Allende and its English translation. (According to Wikipedia, Allende's book represents a prequel to the original Zorro story, Johnston McCulley's 1919 novella The Curse of Capistrano.) I have been reading two to three pages most nights and I am enjoying the book tremendously. Reading a novel is quite different from reading newspaper articles, which often deal with familiar topics. The language of news reports is also easier to comprehend than the literary and sometimes abstract language of a novel. A handy Spanish-English dictionary would help me translate the many new words I encounter. However, having the excellent English translation of the text has several benefits: You start to understand the story much faster; you pick up on the Spanish idioms and expressions as well as their English equivalents; you often experience the "aha" effect that makes learning both fun and effective.
When I started to read the Spanish version first, I quickly became discouraged. There were many words I did not know and I became lost in the events of the story. But then, when I began reading the English translation, the history of Zorro's beginnings - which I certainly did not recall from the movies and which, I assume, Isabel Allende invented - became interesting and intriguing. And, when I went back to the Spanish version, words and phrases became clear and obvious and became further proof of one of our gamesforlanguage key credos: Once you understand the context, you can more easily decipher sentences and structures. For several chapters I continued with this approach: I read a paragraph or two first in English, then I switched to the Spanish version.
After several chapters, I experimented reading the Spanish version FIRST. Not surprisingly, I was already able to read much further along before starting to "lose it" and having to switch to the English version for a quick "context refresher." As I continue to read about Diego de la Vega's early life - his childhood, his travel to Barcelona, and his life in Spain - his later life as "Zorro" starts to make sense. I discover, for example, the significance of the name "Zorro", meaning "fox" in English, as well as his reasons for wearing a mask! The narrator tells us: "... era todavía un mozalbete de orejas salidas, ..." (he was still a stripling with protruding ears). "... El problema de las orejas fue la razón por la cual se le ocurrió la idea de usar un máscara,..." (The problem of the ears was the inspiration for wearing a mask). Isabel Allende was able to create an image of the young fictional Zorro in which is both plausible and fun to read!
A (Big) Language Tip
There are "Easy Readers" and "Dual Language Readers" that work quite well for many learners. But, if you have already mastered some of the basics of your new language, want to expand your vocabulary, and challenge yourself, get the foreign and English versions of books that interest you. Your new language will grow in leaps and bounds!
Self-teaching language programs are available as books, CDs, DVDs, and direct downloads. Some well-known names are Assimil, Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Fluenz, Michael Thomas, Busuu, Rocket Languages, and recently Duolingo. While all programs help motivated learners improve their language skills, not all are equally effective for learning to understand, speak, read, and write a foreign language.
The GamesforLanguage learning Program has been designed to teach all four (4) language skills. Games are a way for making language learning more fun. But games - with their special ways to engage your brain - can also make learning more effective, as shown by researchers that study how people learn. For example, see Kathy Sierra’s Crash course in learning theory.
Entertaining digital games have auditory features (spoken language, sounds), visual components (text, colors, images, design), as well as kinesthetic elements (writing against the clock, clicking on moving images, etc). By engaging multiple senses, digital games enhance a learner’s ability to recall and retain new words and expressions. Language learning is about message decoding and communication, and this is not a straightforward process. Learning a language involves trial and error, a certain amount of confusion, but also plenty of insightful “aha!” moments.
Three important points guide our development of the GamesforLanguage Learning Program:
- Adults can learn a second language more rapidly online when they can relate words, phrases and grammatical structures to their native language. In this way their learning experience is quite different from that of children, who are able to acquire their first language without even knowing how to read and write. This notion is supported by observations of other learners and our own experience.
- Learning with the help of a story allows you to identify with situations and circumstances you will encounter yourself. This makes the acquired vocabulary not only immediately relevant and useful, but also helps you to memorize it more easily.
- Learning foreign languages as an adult requires an effort. Playing language games will make this effort fun. Memorizing vocabulary, phrases and sentences, identifying grammar rules and structures all occur "playfully," as you can test and improve your language skills during increasingly more challenging games.
The GamesforLanguage Learning Program may appeal primarily to teenagers and adults. However, we know that children who have just learned to read and write also enjoy the games. Our courses work for beginners without any prior knowledge of the foreign language, as well as for learners with some language background. While beginners will spend more time on each scene, advanced players may be able to move through the scenes more rapidly. Throughout each of the courses, you'll accumulate up to 12,000 points by playing various language games. At the same time you'll acquire a working vocabulary of close to 700 essential words and many idiomatic expressions. At the end of a course, you'll also be able to read and understand the entire travel story, which consists of over 2,000 words.
Each course consists of 6 levels, with 6 lessons (we call them “scenes”) per level for a total of 36 scenes. So far, the most effective approach has been for learners to do one scene per day (which should take around 15 minutes) and to review an earlier scene for extra recall. Each lesson builds on the previous one and adds between 16-20 NEW words to your vocabulary.
Each scene has a dialogue or narrative of 8-16 lines, which we call “The Story.” For the first 3 levels, or 18 scenes, “The Story” appears at the END of each scene. When you get there, you'll have learned the words and phrases in the various games, and understanding “The Story” will now be easy. Beginning with level 4, “The Story” appears at the BEGINNING of each scene, requiring the learner to guess the meaning, based on the (English) introduction and context. This is quite similar to what you would experience when arriving in a foreign country with some language background. (For the impatient player, a roll-over option provides the full translation right away.)
The 36 scenes of a course tell the story of a young man who travels to France, Italy, Spain, or Germany. From talking with his neighbor in the airplane, greeting his aunt who picks him up at the airport, asking for directions to a friend's house, to ordering food and drink, and chatting with friends, the vocabulary is a great start on learning how to communicate. The travel story engages the learner, provides relevant vocabulary, and creates a framework that ties everything together.
Part 2: Games Summary
A next blog will describe the various games we are using in our program. Our games are not just individual learning clips, nor are they simply an enhancement of a conventional language program. The games ARE the language program. We'll add a summary table that shows the specific skills each game teaches.
We are following up on our recent guest blog on GEOS Languages Plus: LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LIKE A CHILD in which we argued that adults learn a second (or third) language differently from the way children learn their “mother tongue.” The difference arises from the fact that children begin to memorize the names, or “labels” of objects, actions, emotions, etc. at the same time they grasp the “concepts” behind such expressions. An apple is a good example to illustrate the relationship between “concept” and “label.” Children learn at an early age that a real apple and a picture of it have the same "label" attached to it.
First books for young children are mainly picture books that show people, animals, fruits, cars, trains, clothes, etc. By relating these pictures to items around them, and hearing their names (or "language labels") repeated again and again, children begin to understand the “concepts” that unite real objects and their pictures; they begin to internalize the names/labels and eventually they will start to repeat them aloud.
New “Labels” for known “Concepts”
Now let's consider how adults learn a second language. They have already acquired the names (language labels) of the “concepts” in their mother tongue. So, when they learn a second language, they have to learn NEW labels for the same concepts. Plus, they have to learn how to pronounce these new labels and how to connect them in a correct grammatical way so that they can communicate.
In other words, a young child learns its first language by first understanding and speaking, and only later reading and writing. For older children and adults learning their second language, the sequence often changes: Reading goes hand in hand with understanding, speaking, and writing.
The “Learn a Foreign Language Like a Child” Fallacy
You may or may not be familiar with those hardcopy foreign language courses that contain lots of pictures. They were replaced by DVDs, and now, increasingly, by online courses and mobile applications. But even these online courses often use pictures, so that you can "learn a foreign language like a child.” In our mind that claim is a fallacy.
We're not arguing AGAINST using pictures to memorize new foreign language “labels,” as there is certainly evidence that pictures can help memorization.
We would argue that for adults - who want to express more abstract ideas - PICTURES of objects are less important than learning foreign words and expressions in the context of a useful conversation or a narrative. In that way, you can establish a direct connection between the "concept" of what you want to say, and the new foreign language words/labels.
In our experience, one can best achieve such a connection by learning foreign words (i.e. linking labels with their abstract concepts) in the expressions of everyday language, or in the case of gamesforlanguage.com in the form of a story.
An Apple is not Enough
To illustrate again: you know the label for this concept in English: apple. In the four languages of our program we have learned: ein Apfel (German), une pomme (French), una manzana (Spanish), and una mela (Italian).
To express the concept of “I would like an apple” it will be more helpful to remember expressions and context than pictures.
- Ich möchte (gerne) einen Apfel. (German)
- J'aimerais (bien) une pomme. (French)
- Me gustaría una manzana (Spanish)
- Vorrei una mela. (Italian)
You'll be more likely to remember the concept of “I would like” (which a picture may only express with difficulty) and use it to ask for different items, if you recall the context where you heard, read, wrote, or said it. Ideally, such a context would be part of a real-life experience, and next best, part of a story.
To learn a new language and communicate effectively, you'll have to remember and apply hundreds (even thousands) of expressions such as "I would like." And when you do, you may even not be conscious of just having used a conditional or a subjunctive form...
PS: German readers may enjoy Peter Bichsel's short story Ein Tisch ist ein Tisch. He humorously explores what happens when we start to "re-label" things.
Last year my husband and I spent seven weeks in Spain, both to try out our newly acquired Spanish and to retrace the trip of our Spanish 1 traveler "David." We started out in Barcelona (see one of our blogs), and then visited Granada, Sevilla, and finally Madrid. It was great fun to use our Spanish in daily life - shopping at the open market, navigating our way through the city, visiting many of Gaudi's masterworks (see his Casa Milà on the left), making small talk with people we met as we went about our daily activities.
We found that it's fairly easy to acquire new words, especially if they are items you can picture or point to. But it was more difficult to learn and use expressions that have an abstract meaning. And such expressions often include those little connecting words that are called prepositions (eg: to, in, for, by, off, over, about, etc.).
The Challenge of Prepositions
Prepositions sometimes provide a special challenge for language learners. That is because they often have several meanings and don't translate in a logical way into other languages. For example, if you google the Spanish translation of the English preposition "to" in the online dictionary wordreference.com, you'll see that the ten "principal" meanings of "to" require 5 completely different prepositions in Spanish: a, hacia, de, contra, sobre.
Phrases with the English Preposition "to" translated into Spanish
- to fly to Madrid/to Spain - volar a Madrid/a España (a = to)
- to go to the airport - ir al aeropuerto (al = to the)
- to walk to the house - caminar hacia la casa (hacia = until)
- along the way to there - por el camino hasta allí (hasta = until)
- a vote of three to one - tres votos contra uno (contra = against)
- to apply pigment to a canvas - aplicar pigmento sobre el lienzo (sobre = over)
Let me say at this point that it's perfectly okay to make mistakes, and even if you use a wrong preposition, people will usually understand what you're trying to say. In a conversation, folks can easily ask you what you meant and you can quickly correct misunderstandings. And this means you'll have the kind of feed-back that will help you to learn.
How to Micro-Learn
It's a great feeling to master an expression in a foreign language. Once you've got it, it's yours and you can build on it. So it's worth spending a little time learning common expressions that contain prepositions, and there's no mystery about how to do it:
- Tackle each expressions individually.
- Practice saying it until it stays in your ear.
- Write it down, and/or read it, again and again, until you have it in your visual memory.
- Start using it in conversations and in texting and emails.
Your new expression will soon begin to sound and look right. Once that happens, attach a rule to it. For example: in Spanish, going/traveling to a city or country always uses "a." Then, when you try to say, "I'm flying to England" - you'll know what preposition to use: "Vuelo a Inglaterra."
We are often asked why we chose games and a travel story for our language program. We answered this question in a recent article on Omniglot.com and are republishing it here with a few minor edits:
Several years ago, my husband and I prepared for an extended stay in Italy by learning Italian with the three 30-lesson courses of a well-known audio CD program. Arriving in Italy, we could communicate well enough - although not speak fluently. However, we could read Italian only with difficulty, and writing it was a disaster. We kept spelling everything the French way, French being a language which we both speak fluently.
Before our trip, we had also looked at other CD and DVD programs and had tried several, including Rosetta Stone. But as the vocabulary did not match our interests or needs, it was hard to stay motivated and we were quickly bored. For example, in one of the early lessons of RS, we practiced (multiple times) all of the following sentences: the women are eating rice, the girls are reading, the horses are running, the boy is not driving.
Gamesforlanguage was born from of a simple idea: Learn language in a relevant context. If you can repeatedly hear, read, write, and speak the words, phrases, and sentences of a story, you'll remember them more easily, because you remember the context. To learn a new language, you have to connect it to your own experiences. With travel being a common denominator for many language learners, we decided to create a travel story of a young man traveling to the European countries of our four languages we currently offer. The everyday, practical language he experiences on his trip is bound to be relevant to most travelers. (The first 6 lessons of our new course, English for Spanish speakers, are currently available for a free try-out)
Learning with Games
But Gamesforlanguage.com is also offering something still different. Our games are not just individual learning clips, nor are they simply an addition to or an enhancement of a conventional language program. The games ARE the language program. Each lesson of our 36 lesson course is made up of games that practice one or more of the four language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Here are some examples:
- Memory Game: Memorize new words and phrases by hearing, reading, and saying them
- Snap Clouds: Practice by choosing the foreign word/phrase, hearing, and saying it
- Balloon Words: Train your ear by identifying the sounds of key words
- Say It: Repeat words and phrases aloud after hearing them (and before seeing them briefly)
- Deal No Deal: Discover the meaning of the story dialogue by simple elimination
- Word Invaders: Build a foreign sentence by clicking on the right words
- Writing Clowns: Translate and spell against time
- Record It: (not really a game) Hear, repeat, and record each sentence of the story dialogue
Other games focus on particular aspects of each language, such as pronouns, articles, adjective endings, basic conjugations, etc.
A YouTube Snapshot
This brief YouTube clip Play n' Learn with Games and a Travel Story gives a snapshot of some of the games in the first Italian lesson. By the time the learner hears the full story dialogue - just before "Record It" - he or she will easily understand it, after having memorized, heard, read, spoken, and written the words and phrases of the story several times. Starting with Level 4 - after 18 lessons - a slight change occurs. Now the story dialogue will occur at the beginning of each lesson, forcing the learner to guess the meaning from the context of the story and before discovering and learning the new words and phrases. This is quite similar to what a traveler will experience when he or she tries to understand a foreign conversation.
Grammar in Context only
In contrast to some other programs, gamesforlanguage.com teaches grammar items only as they come up in the context of the ongoing story. Grammar is not taught in the form of abstract rules.
For example: In the second lesson of our French 1 course, the following sentence is part of the dialogue: "Je suis contente que vous parliez français." We explain the use of the subjunctive form "vous parliez" (instead of the indicative "vous parlez") briefly why it is used: after a phrase expressing emotion ("je suis contente que ..."). That's all. At this stage the learner would be overwhelmed by a more detailed explanation.
Audience & Technology
Gamesforlanguage.com courses may appeal primarily to teenagers and adults. However, we know that children who have just learned to read and write also enjoy the games. The online course works on all modern browsers and, since January 2013, also on iOS6 iPads and iPhones (except for the recording feature, as Apple does not support the Flash Player). We are hopeful that multichannel audio for HTML5 will soon be supported by Android devices as well.
Traveling to France? Preparing for the trip may both heighten your anticipation as well as enhance your experiences there. Travel entrepreneur Rick Steves has called this Prepare for Spontaneity. A basic knowledge of the local language and culture are essential tools for navigating new places and meeting locals.
In our four language courses we are introducing the learner to various particularities of each language or culture. For example in our French 1 course our traveler Daniel learns about the "bouillabaisse". Listen HERE to a conversation between him and his aunt. Maybe your French lets you understand how this traditional French dish got its name. If not, you'd certainly understand it by the end of lesson 33!
The 36 lessons - we call them "Scenes" - take our "hero" Daniel (and, by extension you!) for a three week journey to France, where you'll learn the language of daily French life.
For example, in Paris, you'll visit with relatives, take a walk on a famous square, order "un express" and "une tarte aux fraises" at a café. You'll buy a train ticket to Aix-en-Provence. There, you'll ask directions to a friend's house, and on a walk around the city, learn about Cézanne's occupation before he became a famous painter. In Avignon, you'll take a bus to your hotel, and check in. Later, after dinner, a friend will show you the famous bridge. (Who doesn't know the song "Sur le pont d'Avignon"?) For your last week, you'll return to Paris.
Each of the 36 lessons is based on a dialog and on part of the story. In each lesson, you'll play your way through a series of games, with which you learn and practice vocabulary, train your listening comprehension, practice speaking by recording and playing back your own voice. You'll also get essential grammar and culture tips.
Your goal will be to exceed a target score so that you can move on to the next lesson and hear “the rest of the story.” You'll also be challenged and often able to understand the meaning of the next dialog through the context of the story alone – similar to what you might experience living in the foreign country, or following an original French movie.
So, maybe, next time you're sitting in a French bistro and see the "bouillabaisse" on the menu, you'll give it a try and even know what the name means...
A recent exhibition of Paul Cézanne "The Large Bathers" at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts reminded us that in Scene 4.5 of our French 1 course our traveler Daniel learns about Paul Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence.
We recently put together a YouTube clip Which famous painter lived in Aix-en-Provence (and first worked as a banker)? And as we did in our previous blog Heidelberg & Mark Twain, we believe that knowing more about the context of “The Story”, not only makes learning more interesting, but also more effective: In Scene 4.5 we are practicing the French past imperfect tense with sentences such as “Le peintre Paul Cézanne allait souvent au Café Clément.”, “Oui, et voici la banque où il travaillait jusqu’en 1862.”, “Paul Cézanne était banquier?”, “Ah d’accord, je ne le savais pas!”, “Paul Cézanne aimait vivre à Aix-en-Provence.”, etc. By remembering the context of these sentences, you will be able to recall verbs and forms more easily, and can then apply them as well in different situations.
Paul Cézanne was Fortunate
There is not much mystery about Cézanne's life as a banker's son who became a famous painter and is seen by many (Wiki) “to form the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism.” And “His father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne (28 July 1798 – 23 October 1886), was the co-founder of a banking firm that prospered throughout the artist's life, affording him financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries and eventually resulting in a large inheritance.”
It is interesting, though, that his path was not a straight line either: As pointed out in this Cézanne's biography, his father initially opposed his artistic career; he started to study law, while also enrolled in the School of Design in Aix. The above link continues further:
In 1861 Cézanne finally convinced his father to allow him to go to Paris. He planned to join Zola there and to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts. But his application was rejected and, although he had gained inspiration from visits to the Louvre, particularly from the study of Diego Velázquez and Caravaggio, Cézanne experienced self-doubt and returned to Aix within the year. He entered his father's banking house but continued to study at the School of Design.
The remainder of the decade was a period of flux and uncertainty for Cézanne. His attempt to work in his father's business was abortive, and he returned to Paris in 1862 and stayed for a year and a half. During this period he met Monet and Pissarro and became acquainted with the revolutionary work of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet.
Learning – Rarely a Straight Line
Cézanne was fortunate to be able to pursue his dream, but it's also clear that his life did not always follow a straight path. Learning a language is also a path of many twists and turns. Relating Cézanne's story to learning French: You may have to try out various approaches before you are successful. As banking or law were not for Cézanne, so the current language method or course you are struggling with may not be the right one for you. Give it your best effort, but if it doesn't work, try out others – or learn with several simultaneously!
Recently we put together a YouTube video “Why did Mark Twain like Heidelberg?” based on Scene 4.5 of our course and our conjecture that Mark Twain liked the name "Heidelberg" because Heidelberg in English means Huckelberry mountain, (actually Heidelberg is an abbreviation of Heidelbeerenberg [huckleberry mountain].
We found it interesting that Twain had stayed in Heidelberg with his family for several months in 1878. A Wiki entry notes that he had unsuccessfully tried “to learn German in 1850 at age fifteen. He resumed his study 28 years later in preparation for a trip to Europe."
Mark Twain had published his novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 1876 and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in1884. A little further digging found several German sites which also describe his love of Heidelbeeren. He found them in the forests around Heidelberg and enjoyed Heidelbeerkuchen (huckleberry pie). By the way, the confusion between a huckleberry and a blueberry also exists in German between a “Heidelbeere” and a “Blaubeere” and the difference is well explained here.
So the character of Huckleberry Finn had already been well established by the time Mark Twain arrived in Heidelberg as this link explains further:
“Supposedly looking for a quiet village, where people didn't know him, neither of which fit Heidelberg because it was already home to active American and British communities, he arrived with his family on May 6 for the day and stayed three months.His biographer Justin Kaplan asserts Twain was aware that Heidelberg derived from "Heidelbeerenberg", meaning "Huckleberry Mountain", which may explain his affinity.
Nobody really knows," writes Werner Pieper in his updated Mark Twain's Guide to Heidelberg , 'what made Mark Twain stay in Heidelberg for such a long time. Maybe he was prompted by old dreams from the times he was passing Heidelberg, Mississippi, while working on the steamships? Did he plan to stay here or did he and his family just fall in love with this city?"
While the above allusion to Mark Twain's passing by Heidelberg, Mississippi during his days as a river pilot may also be compelling, a little further digging causes some doubts: Mark Twain worked on a steamboat, first as an apprentice, then as a pilot during 1857 to 1861. However, Heidelberg, Mississippi was only founded in 1882 by Washington Irving Heidelberg. Twain visited the river a number of times, after his pilot days, most notably in 1882 as he prepared to write "Life on the Mississippi". Maybe that's when he came across the name Heidelberg again.
So whether he already knew the name Heidelberg or whether he related to it as a translation of "huckleberry" we'll never know. But we do know that he liked his three months in Heidelberg, Germany.
And we'll explore in another blog Mark Twain's love-hate relationship with "The Awful German Language" which he published as an Appendix to his "A Tramp Abroad" in 1880.
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