Dutch Heritage in the US: Holland, Michigan

By   August 2, 2013

I am currently in the US visiting family and I stopped by Holland, Michigan, since I hadn’t been there in 20 years. It was founded by Dutch settlers in the mid 19th century and a large majority of Dutch Americans still live in Michigan. There is also a city called Zeeland nearby. Holland is often ranked as one of the happiest cities in the US and one of the best places to retire.

I did not go to Nelis’ Dutch Village this time (where I bought my klompen – wooden shoes – when I was 10) but I did go to Windmill Island to tour the last windmill that the Dutch government allowed to leave the Netherlands, called De Zwaan. Ninety percent of the windmills in the Netherlands were destroyed during WWII so the remaining windmills are protected by the government and cannot leave the country. De Zwaan is still a working windmill and you can buy the flour that is ground there in the shops.

De Zwaan

Unfortunately it was too late to see the tulips, but there is a Tulip Time Festival in Holland every May (as well as a Dutch Winterfest every winter to celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas). Windmill Island Gardens is still pretty cute without the tulips:


The tour of the windmill also includes a short Dutch folk dancing performance:


There are plenty of wooden shoes around:


And signs written in Dutch, of course:



Many of the street signs in Holland have a tulip on them as well:


Admission to Windmill Island is $7.50 and admission to Nelis’ Dutch Village theme park is $10 though you do not need to enter the park in order to visit the shops and cafes.

Trilingual English-Spanish-French Books for Children

By   July 26, 2013

I am constantly looking for trilingual (English-Spanish-French) books for my young niece and nephew. So far I have found two series on Amazon.com, Little Pim (which has 4 books of numbers, colors, feelings and animals) and I love to sleep/eat. Do you know of other trilingual books?

Trilingual English-Spanish-French Books for Children

Trilingual books for children

Trilingual English-Spanish-French Books for Children

I love to sleep and I love to eat are touch and feel books.

Trilingual English-Spanish-French Books for Children

Little Pim has flaps and tabs.


How Adaptation to Culture Affects Motivation in Language Learning

By   July 8, 2013

An article on sociolinguistic competence (Dewaele, 2007) introduced me to research on language learners’ ideological beliefs and conflicts with the target culture that can hinder language acquisition. Dewaele provides two examples from Kinginger (2004) and Kinginger & Farrell’s (2005) research on Americans studying abroad in France which illustrate the importance of intercultural understanding and adaptation to the target culture in language learning.

One student was annoyed that her French friend would not let her NOT have an opinion on politics and openly criticized the American government. She didn’t care much for politics and did not want to talk about it because she did not feel that it was an appropriate topic for discussion. Yet her friend would not let her change the subject. She consciously chose not to adapt to the French concept of “you must have an opinion” and decided to say nothing on the topic which created tension with her friend.

Another student purposely resisted French gender patterns because she found it “ridiculous” that French women were “obsessed” with their looks. She expressed frustration at the sexism and harassment of women she saw on a daily basis which made her “hate to go outside.” She refused to conform to what she believed to be stereotypical French standards of what it means to be woman (i.e. overly concerned about appearance) and thought it perfectly acceptable to attend class in sweatpants or pajamas, as she often saw at her university in the US. Because of this, she made little effort to spend time with French speakers and spent most of her time abroad speaking English with other students or friends and family in the US via the internet.

There have been many studies on the perception of sexism by American learners in study abroad contexts, especially in countries such as Russia or Japan. But the perceptions and ideologies of the learner needs to be understood in the context of how they help or hinder language acquisition for that individual. It is not enough to be motivated to learn a language – one must also be motivated to learn and experience the culture associated with the language. However, if cultural practices are considered undesirable by the learner, opportunities to use the language with native speakers will diminish as the learner resists or even rejects the target culture.

This is perhaps why the rate of language acquisition for students doing study abroad varies so widely. In fact, Kinginger & Farrell maintain that “systematic research has yet to demonstrate universal effectiveness of study abroad for language learning.” Living in a country where the language is spoken is not enough. There are many, many factors to consider including gender, personality, level of language competence before study abroad, time spent using the native language, etc.


de Nooy and Hanna (2003) also point out that “mere contact with other cultures may simply reinforce stereotypes and encourage hostility rather than fostering comprehension and mutual respect.” Spending time abroad in the target culture could (and unfortunately, does) cause learners to lose motivation and interest in learning the language if there are too many conflicts between the native and target cultures. Obviously, there will always be conflicts and differences between native and target cultures, but intercultural comprehension allows learners to occupy a third place between the native and target cultures with understanding and tolerance for both. Instead of judging the target culture based on how different (or better or worse) it is from the native culture, learners avoid falling back on their native culture to interpret the target culture and understand the value systems underlying the cultural differences between them.


de Nooy, J., & Hanna, B. E. (2003). Cultural Information Gathering by Australian Students in France. Language and Intercultural Communication, 3(1), 64-80.
Dewaele, J.-M. (2007). Diachronic and/or synchronic variation? The acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in L2 French. In D. Ayoun (Ed.), Handbook of French Applied Linguistics (Vol. Language Learning & Language Teaching 16, pp. 208-236). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kinginger, C. 2004. “Alice doesn’t live here anymore: Foreign language learning and identity reconstruction”. In Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts, A. Pavlenko and A. Blackledge (eds.), 219–42. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Kinginger, C. and Farrell Whitworth, K. 2005. “Gender and emotional investment in language learning during study abroad”. CALPER Working Papers Series 2, 1-12. The Pennsylvania State University, Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research.

Australian & New Zealand Universities that offer French

By   June 29, 2013

Australian and New Zealand Universities that Offer French

For Francophiles based in the South Pacific region, 20 out of the 39 universities in Australia and 6 out of the 8  universities in New Zealand currently offer French:


  1. Australian National University
  2. Edith Cowan University
  3. Flinders University
  4. James Cook University
  5. La Trobe University
  6. Macquarie University
  7. Monash University
  8. RMIT University
  9. University of Adelaide
  10. University of Melbourne
  11. University of New England
  12. University of New South Wales
  13. University of Newcastle
  14. University of Queensland
  15. University of South Australia
  16. University of Sydney
  17. University of Technology, Sydney
  18. University of Tasmania
  19. University of Western Australia
  20. University of Wollongong

New Zealand

  1. Massey University
  2. University of Auckland
  3. University of Canterbury
  4. University of Otago
  5. University of Waikato
  6. Victoria University of Wellington

If small island living is your thing, then the University of the South Pacific also offers courses in French. The main campus is in Suva, Fiji, but there are campuses on eleven other island nations.

France in the South Pacific

And of course Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie and Université de la Polynésie Française offer courses and degrees in French since these islands are collectivités of France and use French as an official language.

Let me know if I’ve missed a university.

Basic Phrases with Pronunciation: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Swedish Available

By   June 19, 2013

If you’d like to study basic phrases for French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, or Swedish, I’ve created new pages with the list of phrases and mp3s for each phrase (instead of one mp3 for all the phrases together). Now you can listen to each phrase individually before trying out the audio flashcards to test yourself.

Basic Phrases with Pronunciation: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Swedish Available



Dutch and Danish will be coming next, and eventually I’d like to have audio on the Romance Languages Phrases and Germanic Languages Phrases pages as well.

So Much for the Asian Century: Loss of Language Programs at Australian Universities

By   June 10, 2013

The University of Canberra and Curtin University both recently announced that they would be cutting their language programs. At Canberra, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish will disappear while at Curtin, Japanese, Mandarin and a major in Asian Studies may be abandoned. These cuts are very unfortunate since it leaves these universities with no language classes or majors at all. It is also surprising considering the government’s push for a focus on Asian cultures and languages. Indonesian programs have also been closing in Australia, though luckily the programs at La Trobe and University of New South Wales have been saved (for now). The University of Western Sydney is keeping their Chinese and Japanese programs, but doing away with Arabic, Italian and Spanish.

Low enrollment is always the excuse for cutting programs, and universities claim that students can just take the classes at neighboring institutions and that it will actually strengthen those programs. Brisbane Universities Languages Alliance exists for this purpose and students enrolled at any of the three universities in Brisbane can take language classes at another and have the credits count toward their degree. The University of Canberra suggests that students simply take classes cross-institutionally at ANU, while students of Curtin can take language classes at the University of Western Australia. However, this rarely actually happens as David Hill points out and “it is a myth the closure of a language department at one university strengthens those of rivals.” It is much more likely that students will just stop taking language classes altogether. Trying to attend language classes at a different university (which most likely aren’t even required since no Australian university requires a foreign language for a BA) is too much of a hassle when factoring in the time for the commute and conflicting timetables among universities. Even students at my university who are based at the city campuses are less likely to travel 20-30 minutes to the humanities campus to take a foreign language.Open-Universities-Australia-OUA_large

Even though online class enrollments have been increasing, very few Australian universities offer language classes online. The University of New England is “the only [university] in Australia to offer a full programme of French by distance education.” My university offers first year Italian as an online course through Open Universities Australia, but you cannot obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Italian or any other language from OU. Perhaps if Australian universities invested in online education, enrollments would increase in certain subjects? With so many rural students and working students, I’m always surprised that distance education is not more of a priority in Australia.

Australian universities will be hit hard with a $2.8 billion cut next year in the most ridiculous decision ever made on education funding as the money will be used to pay for K-12 school reforms instead. Australian universities could save a lot of money by decreasing the astronomical pay of vice chancellors and putting their money towards academics instead of rugby. VCs should really be paid the same amount as casual staff so they know what it’s like to be overworked and underpaid rather than the opposite. Luckily most Australian universities do not have any involvement in sports teams so academics tends to be the focus, yet most of the money still goes to a few at the top rather than the teaching and research staff who do the most work for the university. Cutting language programs should be a last resort since universities are supposed to provide students with an “international and intercultural educational experience” but I suppose we can do that in English since all seven billion humans speak English natively and belong to the same Anglophone culture, right?

iTunes U Materials and MOOCs Available in Languages Other than English

By   June 5, 2013

I recently noticed that iTunes U now lets you browse the courses by language. Finally! Previously you had to go to the list of universities and look for a certain institution, which may or may not have had any real content. Now you can simply select Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Catalan, Portuguese, Korean or Turkish and universities that offer content in that language will appear.


The  MOOC provider Coursera also now offers 27 courses in other languages (Spanish, French, Chinese, German and Italian). You simply choose which language to browse when looking at the list of courses.

Miríada X and UNED are Spanish-language MOOC providers, though I can’t seem to find any French-language providers. Usually individual universities will offer open online courses, such as Universidad de Granada or EDUlib HEC Montréal, but the number and range of courses is very limited.

Does anyone know of other non-English-language MOOC providers?

South Australia Travel Videos in French

By   June 1, 2013

Want to see how beautiful South Australia is and learn some French at the same time? The French-language travel site MonNuage.fr has a few videos of South Australia, including Adelaide, Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island. Here’s the one on Adelaide:

South Australia is also called Australie Méridionale but that’s much harder to pronounce, so let’s just stick to Australie du Sud. You’ll notice that most Australian animals have very similar names in French. I’m sure you’ll have no problem figuring out what un kangouru, un koala, or un wallaby are. However, un ornithorynque might be a bit harder (it’s a platypus), but it is really fun to say!


New French Listening Resources Videos with Transcripts

By   May 17, 2013

The latest French Listening Resources video has been uploaded! This short clip is for beginners talking about family members and their ages. If you need the transcript, check out the Watch & Read page.

There are seven more videos from Carole & Fabien on topics such as the house, typical meals, stores & fast food restaurants in France. I’ll try to get them edited, uploaded and transcribed as soon as possible.

Visit the French Listening Resources page for the rest of the mp3s and videos that are available. You can also subscribe to my Youtube Channel or the iTunes podcast.

Let me know if there any topics you’d like to learn about, or if you can help contribute more videos (especially videos that feature other accents of French!)

Readlang + Podclub = My Latest Language Learning Obsession

By   May 8, 2013

Readlang by Steve Ridout is a new site (still in beta) which helps you learn foreign languages by reading and translating words you don’t know. You simply import text from any website, click on words you don’t know in order to translate them into another language, and save these words so you can review them later. It  “uses a spaced repetition flashcard system to make sure you remember the words” that you’ve clicked on and has a feature to open a dictionary in a side panel if you want to look up more information on the word(s). You can read the blog to see the latest updates, such as export word lists to Anki and translations of phrases rather than just individual words.

Lately I’ve been using the transcripts from Podclub podcasts since I always prefer to have text plus audio. I imported the text of the latest episode of the Spanish podcast A mi aire, and I’m translating words into English. You can see below that I’ve clicked on discurso, it was translated into speech, and the dictionary panel on the left shows the entry in Wordreference. The word discurso has now been added to my list of words to review later.


Click on image to view actual size

Check it out and send your feedback to Steve so he knows what new features to add.