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 Delicious & Expensive "Veal Cutlet"
Swiss Pricing & Guest Choices
Beware of "False Friends" & innovative Pricing strategies...
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.
Dining in Barcelona
One of our pleasant surprises in Barcelona was the plethora of very reasonably priced restaurants, especially in our Gracia neighborhood.A couple of days ago we stumbled upon what we thought was a real find: “O'Gràcia” - located on the “Plaça de la Revolució de Setembre de 1868” [sic]. We saw the evening menu advertised for 15 Euros, IVA (tax) included, and decided to give it a try.
O'Gracia is a small restaurant, with two tables to seat 4 or 5, and four tables for 2. We were early, with with only one other couple there. We were seated without a reservation. (But read later online that we may have been lucky and also saw it listed in the Loneley Planet's Barcelona Guide - so others found it before us!)
Our Menu Choices
The menu,(shown above) in Catalan and Castilian Spanish, showed a choice of seven(7) “Primeros” and six(6) “Segundos”. We chose “Esparragos verdes con queso de cabra” (Green aspargus w/ goat cheese) and “Crêpe de Jamón O champiñones y queso” (Crepe w/ ham, champignons and cheese) as Primeros, and “Pollo a curry” (Chicken curry) and “Lubina al horno” (Baked sea bass). Included in the menu price was: a bottle of water, ½ liter of wine or local beer, as well as a choice of desserts. Both Primeros and Segundos were delicious, and when we asked for a copy of the menu as we were leaving, the maitre'd was happy to oblige.
Catalan Clues for Castilian Choices
We are using the menus to both learn about the local cuisine as well as to decipher/compare the Catalan and Castilian terms. For example: If we had not known “queso” (cheese), the Catalan “formatge” with its similarity to the French “fromage”, would have been a clue; on the other hand, the Catalan “pernil dolc” (ham) told us less than the Castilian “jamon”, which is close to the French “jambon”.
But there are plenty of words, where none of the languages we know is any help. We understood from the waiter that “Lubina” was a fish (“Llobarro” in Catalan), however, could not identify it, when it arrived on a plate, head and all. We later looked it up online and saw that “lubina” means “sea bass”.
We should have solved the mystery of “al horno” right away, as the Catalan “al forn” - close to Italian “il forno” or French “le four” (the oven) – would easily translate as “(baked) in the oven”.
We continue to have fun unraveling the mysteries of Spanish food and dining expressions. We also know very well that language courses such as our Spanish 1 and other beginner courses cannot cover the astounding variety of lunch and dinner offerings that we find here in Spain. It takes curiosity, persistence and, yes, a little dictionary work!
PS: A few days ago - on a Saturday evening - we went back to O'Gracia. We discovered that there was actually a second room in the back that seated another 24-26 people. The food was as delicious as the first time; the fixed price evening menu still included a Primero, a Secundo and a Postre (dessert), but the beverages were now extra and the price had increased to $16, still a deal!
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