Start French by Michel Thomas

If you find languages interesting, have I got a treat for you!  There is an excellent language learning series by Michel Thomas that is great listening!

I began with Start French. I always wanted to learn a little French, but it was offered during music class at my high school, so I could only choose one. I chose music and took an afternoon Spanish class for my foreign language. I’ve always found French to be a challenging accent to get, and reading the words on a page just didn’t work for me.

Enter Michel Thomas and his method.

When I popped his CD into my car, suddenly my commutes and errands turned into listening in on fun little conversations. He introduces basic words and phrases in a way that builds successively on one another, feels natural, and is a little easier to remember than trying to memorize nouns and conjugate verbs. He also relates the French word to the root of the English word, helping form connections in your brain to both words and their shared meaning.

After some time, I began talking with the recorded Thomas and enjoying being able to speak un peu de francais. I couldn’t help but share my discovery with family members and friends. My Dad wanted to try Start German. He has been listening to it before bed each night and greets the day with a guten Morgen!

This series is also currently available to check out in Irish, Italian, and Spanish. Also coming soon…Norwegian!

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is How you Lose HerPulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Díaz writes with a kind of swagger and cool that makes it pretty hard to believe that he’s a creative writing professor at MIT.  Having recently finished reading his third published book, a collection of short stories called This is How You Lose Her, I am convinced that he knows every dirty word in English and Spanish.  Particularly if the words are referencing female anatomy.  So be warned, this is not the novel for anyone offended by salty and sexual language.

But if you can get beyond that, I can’t recommend this book enough. Díaz, himself a Dominican immigrant, tells stories about immigrants that help create a full picture of why someone is who they are. He shows that machismo is often a projection due to a lack of respect, and poor behavior isn’t something to be excused, but it can sometimes be explained. This is never more true than in his semi-autobiographical character, Yunior, the protagonist of most of this collection.

Readers may have met Yunior in Díaz’s The Brief Life of Oscar Wao (winner of the aforementioned Pulitzer) or in his first published collection of short stories, Drown, but I met Yunior for the first time after he cheated on Magda in This is How You Lose Her.  As he cheats his way through many of these short stories — and continues to imprison himself in grief and regret following the discovery of his transgressions — Yunior’s story becomes less about each individual relationship and more about how Yunior’s relationships reflect his own self-image and cultural identity.  The most powerful passages in the novel occur in his home, when we meet his family and see the effects of his father and brother’s infidelity on the family. Equally funny and frustrating, Díaz has written a complicated novel that feels both universal and unique.

Latino Books Month

latinoCinco de Mayo is only the beginning!  The entire month of May has been designated as Latino Books Month by the Association of American Publishers.  Simply put, it’s an effort to encourage people to read books by and for Latinos.  What’s great is that you can choose to read many titles in either English or Spanish.

If you read Spanish, you’ll be able to check out some books that, in English, never seem to be on the shelf!  For example,  Luna Nueva by Stephanie Meyer.

If you prefer Latino authors, try Carlos Ruiz Zafon and his El Juego del Angel or Para Salvar el Mundo by Julia Alvarez.  Can’t read Spanish?  No problem, we have the English versions of those titles as well.  Hint:  Look for The Angel’s Game and Saving the World.

Also, in the children’s section, we feature many bi-lingual editions as well as clever videos.  Did you know that exposing children to another language at a young age can really help their fluency in later years?   Why not give it a try?