Tag Archives: English

A Cookie By Any Other Name


Photo: Real Simple

Known as palmiers in France, palmeritas in Spanish, ventaglio in Italian, and elephant ears in English, these little cookies have a devoted, global following.

It is believed that they are French in origin, where their name translates to “palm leaves.”

They are widely available in bakeries and from companies such as Goya, but they are also easy to make – so long as you don’t try to make your own puff pastry!

Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten that was posted on www.foodnetwork.com. Try it and let me know what you think.


Filed under Eat, Europe

How Do You Say That Again?

It happens to us all.

You’re all proud of the language skills you acquired during your three years of high school Spanish or semester studying abroad in France or even two years in a village in Africa, and the poof – you forget how to spell “read” in Spanish or conjugate the verb “to smell” in French.

You fear you’ve lost your language cred and instead of welcoming the chance to speak to people in another language, you pretend to have a sore throat or a headache.

Just a hint, people see right through that.

You also can’t use the excuse that “I keep melanging my English and French” or “Yo no creo que yo puedo hablar anymore.”

So how can you cheat your way back to some semblance of language proficiency? Because let’s face it: you have too many responsibilities to consider jetting back to Africa or Nice or high school.

Here are some free and easy ways to get back in the game.

Online Translators
If you’ve seriously never mastered a language, don’t try this trick. Without a basis in the language, you’re apt to translate your words and phrases into the clunkiest most nonsensical violations of language – all language – known to humanity.

But if you’re familiar with the language, this can help jump-start your brain when you just can’t remember the word for “peach” in Spanish (hint: melocotón according to Google Translate and Yahoo! Babelfish.)


I did a simple search on www.youtube.com for “speak Spanish” and came up with this video. There are many, many more like it. One caution – as with all Youtube videos, be careful about reading, or allowing children to read, any comments on any of the videos. Some people don’t have any sense in any language.

iTunes Podcasts

If you have an ITunes account, just go to the online store, click on podcasts, and click on “Language Learning” on the far right side of the screen. Then just take your pick.

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Crazy About Soccer/Football/Whatever!

Beginning when he was three, my son has played organized soccer.

I know – this is crazy. But when one of your parents comes from a soccer-mad country and the other one is an agnostic about sports (I believe that sports exist, I just don’t see how they are relevant to my life), and therefore apathetic about whether or not you play, the soccer-mad parent is going to win.

But it turns out that it’s a win for everyone because soccer is a really fun sport to play as well as watch (so long as you can tune out the parents screaming instructions on the sidelines).

It’s also an international sport. Unlike baseball, basketball, or American football, soccer’s passport has been enthusiastically stamped in almost every country in the world.

It can boast of 3.3-3.5 BILLION fans worldwide.

According to WikiAnswers, soccer (referred to online – and almost everywhere in the world that is not America – as “football”) has about 7 times as many fans as baseball does.

There are 70 English league teams, 40 Italian league teams, and 40 Spanish league teams. And that’s just Europe.

It’s a terrific sport because it can be played with so little equipment. You basically just need a reasonable soccer ball, and you’re done. The goals and lines can be marked out in dirt or grass or using anything that ingenuity can corral.

If that still hasn’t sold you on the sport, watch this:

This year the World Cup will be played in South Africa beginning on June 11. Check out their cute mascot!

He is a leopard named Zakumi, which basically means “South Africa 10.”

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A Culture Double-Standard

When people find out that I am encouraging my son to be multi-lingual (so far, English, French and hopefully Spanish), they usually applaud my efforts.  They don’t know how successful (or unsuccessful) I might be in actually accomplishing my goal, but they typically quote statistics about how children are more likely to master a language if they are exposed to it early in life.  They might also point to studies that show mastery of another language actually improves students’ performance in English.  

That is why I am always surprised – and disappointed – to hear people express negative opinions on families who speak Spanish at home.  Instead of applauding their efforts (the way mine are), people condemn them.  I won’t pretend to be an expert on why this double-standard exists but I am hopeful that the more we think about – and draw attention – to these double standards, the better our chances of eradicating them entirely.

OK, off my soapbox now.images

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Filed under Europe, Latin America, Learn