Tag Archives: France

Betty and Cat – Hennie’s Multilingual writing adventures

This week I have a real treat in store for you. An interview with the amazing Hennie, author of the Betty and Cat books.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Holland, immigrated to Montreal, then lived in Toronto, moved back to Holland when I had a mid-life crisis, and now spend my time between Holland and France.

How many languages do you speak?
I speak Dutch, French, and English. I studied German, but for some reason, the words won’t come out of my mouth properly! My current thing is learning Spanish.

Have you always been keen on languages?
I’ve always been keen on communicating, and sometimes it takes another language. At home, languages were always a thing – my dad was keen – he spoke four and started learning Spanish at an advanced age. He also thought Esperanto was the way forward and learned that.
Living in Montreal at a time when the English were in power, we were the only family I knew that had Francophone friends. We were different, they were different, and the people we lived among (the Anglophones) must have thought that we were different. Somehow, that ended up making us more tolerant, and I think more interesting in the long run.

Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey as a child,
Learning English (there were three of us kids; my parents already spoke school-English when we immigrated) was always fun at home. We shared stories, we showed off, we were shown off (I remember my dad having me recite Humpty Dumpty into a tape recorder for the folks back in Holland). It was never considered a chore, hard, un-fun, or extraordinary.
New year’s day we had Dutch friends for lunch and ended the day with French friends. My husband is American. So: we started the day in English, nattered in Dutch over lunch, spoke French all evening, and then went home talking English. There are millions of people all over the word who live like this, and were probably never taught to make a big deal of it. It just happens.

Could you tell us a little about your career background?
I was a copywriter all my working life. My greatest joy was writing a two-part children’s story for the newspapers around the Santa Claus Parade, sponsored by the department store I was working for. I even got a fan letter.
What inspired you to write and publish your books?
A friend here in France, an illustrator who has grandchildren growing up bilingually in Brussels, asked me if we couldn’t collaborate on a bilingual kids’ book. She ended up being too busy to illustrate it – but I caught the bug, and did it. Not for a second, though, did I consider a translated book – the Betty & Cat books just flopped out in two languages.

Anything else you’d wish to add?
There are so many people around the globe working with kids – and adults – teaching second, third and more languages it gives you hope for the future. Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner. And one way to truly understand is to learn the language.

Find out more about Hennie’s amazing books at bettyandcat.com

What’s the use of French?

We have a brilliant guest post from Jess, on her final week of Erasmus Programme in Nantes, France. Team Lingotastic only exists because of the Erasmus programme, we met in the UK as native German Maik came over with the Erasmus programme. But, enough of our story, over to Jess…

“What is the point of learning French ? Surely they can all speak English over there?”

I am faced with this question almost daily. Friends, family, acquaintances, the internet, even celebrities seem to find learning a second language pointless and a waste of time. (In the words of Jeremy Paxman earlier this month, English is the “only language that you must have”, and learning French is “positively bad for you”)

So, what is the use of French? I often struggle to find the words to answer this question quickly, but in brief: language really is so important in our lives. From the beauty of communication, to the gateway to getting about, language really is essential. We go about our daily business using it, and without language, the world would be completely silent. Learning a second language on top of your mother tongue really is a journey, and you can learn so much more about the world and yourself by doing so. Not everybody on this earth speaks English, and learning French has opened up my mind and given me so many new skills that I would never have gained before.

Hello- multilingual pic

I started my language journey at age 12 in secondary school. Like most of the kids in the class, I never really saw how French could be “useful”, and had a similar mindset to people such as Paxman, thinking that if I spoke English really loudly when abroad everyone would have to understand me (just a hint, this doesn’t work) . It was only at 16 that everything clicked into place, and by watching French films, reading French editions of Cosmopolitan Magazine and listening to French music, I started to see how the language fitted into another culture. I was lucky enough to have a French teacher at A Level who really gave me a love for the language, enough so that I chose to pursue it at a degree level.

Nantes

It is true when they say that you only really learn a language when you become immersed in it. Thanks to the Erasmus Programme, I have been able to study in Nantes, France for the past academic year, and meet the most wonderful people from all around the world. Erasmus is a wonderful scheme and an excellent opportunity for all language learners, as it lets you study or work in the country where your chosen language is spoken, and offers a lot of financial support. I would recommend this programme for anyone looking to improve their language skills, or even start from scratch, as immersion is a great way of getting into a new language and culture.

Learning French in France has helped me improve considerably. You really cannot comprehend how important having a second language is until you live daily life outside of an English speaking country. From organising accommodation, paying rent, getting the bus to going food shopping…all of this requires you to communicate and understand what is being said. You will pick up so quickly, and after a few weeks, it became a second nature. I’ve managed to learn so many quirky expressions, learn so many amazing stories and pick up things that make perfect sense in French but do not even have a meaning in English. I think this is so valuable and special, and helps me love France and French even more.

The skills I have learnt living in France have also been so valuable. Languages teach you so much. You have to think on your feet always, and you have to be confident enough to laugh off the mistakes you make whilst also learning from them. I do not regret moving over to France one bit, and would do this year all over again if I had the time and money. It has been amazing to get this opportunity to go out there and be a part of French society, and speaking the language really makes you feel a part of France.

So the point really of learning a language is that you open your mind. It can take days, weeks, or even years to feel like you have mastered a language, but the skills you gain along with is will aid you for life. I am grateful that my languages journey has been so positive, and I hope that when I qualify as a teacher, my journey can help others to start their own.

If you want to read more of Jess’s time in France check out her blog

JessJess

Is this THE best method for learning a language?

Languages, lessons and learning

This week we have a blog from Alex who is just as evangelistic about early language learning as us here at Lingotastic. Over to Alex…

Hi, I’m Alex the worst tanned Paraguayan EVER. This is a sort of summary of my language learning journey and the entrepreneurial adventure I’ve embarked on since graduating from university in languages last year. I’ve co-founded One Third Stories, where we create bedtime stories that start in English and end in a different lingua.

I would describe my upbringing as alternativo, as there aren’t many people who are born in Paraguay, America del Sud and look this white. I’m told I sound typically British when I speak in inglese, but then when I switch to spagnolo, people will recognise a strong accent from America del Sud that feels out of place, given my pasty complexion. But that’s just me (and my unfortunately pasty siblings).

A none Paraguayan looking family

A none Paraguayan looking family

There are so many benefits to learning another language, but when I was growing up I never realised how lucky I truly was. My parents were missionaries (another reason for my use of the word alternativo), and they made the conscious decision to bring me, my brother and my sister up bilingual. My dad was the linguist (he just loves words) and would speak to us three in spagnolo, and my madre would speak to us in inglese. We attended an international scuola there studying everything in both lingue.

Moving to the UK helped me realise how lucky I was to speak other lingue. From a professional perspective they helped me get my first ‘real job’, as a Spanish Assistant at the scuola I attended as a student (Biddenham Upper School). Academically, I realised that it was something I wanted to pursue further so I decided study Politics with italiano e portoghese at università. My Year Abroad was the best year of my life, and the one where I probably changed the most. I was an intern at Armani, studied in Venice and volunteered in Brazil during the World Cup. I truly believe every person should live abroad for a little while, but unfortunately it’s something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Brazil, France and England/Paraguay during the 2014 World Cup

Brazil, France and England/Paraguay during the 2014 World Cup

Besides offering me experiences to meet amazing people, opportunità to travel and grow as a person, lingue have played opened up so many doors. I graduated last year and with one Third Stories found a way to pursue this passion I share with Sarah, and inspire the linguists of tomorrow. I’m lucky enough to be working with one of my best friends Jonny Pryn, one of the first people I met in the UK, who has a lifetime worth of negative experiences in languages and is absolutely convinced we can provide a single positive one for future generations. If you want to check out our work we have a free audiobook of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to learn español or française.

'The Three Little Pigs'

‘The Three Little Pigs’

‘The Three Little Pigs’

Is this THE best method for learning a language? If you feel like you’ve understood the lingua (italiano) I’ve embedded in my story, then our ‘Clockwork Methodology’ works. If you want to find out a little più about it go to One Third Stories, visit our website or email me at alex@onethirdstories.com

Let us know what you think in the comments below.