• The Linguistic Journey of La Marinière: a guest post on Eurolinguiste

    This entry originally appeared on my WordPress blog July 6, 2012.

    It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Eurolinguiste’s first guest blogger, La Marinière. La Marinière is an American translator fluent in French and English living in France with her husband and son. She very kindly agreed to write a guest post on learning a second language and I am very happy to share her story.

    As a fellow linguist, I always enjoy hearing how others have learned other languages and how they experience them in their day-to-day lives. Here, she will be discussing her linguistic journey and how language plays a role in her life today.

    If you enjoy this article, please take a moment to check out other articles on her excellent blog. La Marinière’s blog features photos, travel essays and advice on being an expatriate in France. I first discovered her blog a few months ago and I have sincerely enjoyed her posts.

    My journey with French actually began with Spanish. Starting in seventh grade, my school offered French, Spanish and Latin. I wanted to take French, but there was a conflict with my schedule, so I opted for Spanish. I had a rough time with Spanish. Maybe it was because I wasn’t totally interested in the language and maybe it was because the teacher wasn’t that great. In either case, I took Spanish for three years, but never really took an interest in the language. However, when I got to tenth grade, I had the option of taking a second language, so I switched to French. The teacher, Mrs. Stephens, was a dear sweet lady about 10 years away from retirement. And while her spoken French was heavily accented and not terribly fluent, she had a passion for the French language and culture that really inspired me. I picked up French with surprising ease and I credit this both to having a basic background in Spanish and a strong desire to learn French.

    When I started college, I had to take a placement exam to see what my level was. I remember having an interview with a professor who asked me what my language goals were. I told her in my very shaky French that I wanted to become fluent. I was placed in a 3rd level French class and feel like I learned more French in one semester of college than I did in three years of high school. I ended up minoring in French.

    While still in high school, as soon as I heard the words “study abroad”, I knew I was going to Paris when I was in college. I spent a year in Paris when I was a junior. This was definitely a turning point for my French. The first few months, anytime I would open my mouth to speak to shop keepers or waiters or ask for directions, the reply would always be in English. But after about four months, people started to respond to me in French. Around the same time I also mastered the pronunciation of the “r” like in être or Louvre. Another hard one is “ou” like in courrier, but that came near the end of my year in Paris. The other thing that helped my French was a boyfriend. He wasn’t a French boyfriend, but French was our common language. Even though we both made mistakes, speaking French outside of classes really eased some of my fear of making errors in front of native speakers. Immersion is definitely the best way to learn a foreign language.

    After I finished college, I was able to return to France for a few years for more studies, work as a nanny, and a different boyfriend, this time a native speaker. As time went on, I moved back to the US for five years where I worked for Swiss and French companies, which allowed me to continue using my French. I also took translation classes and I now work as a translator.

    Photo by La Mariniere These days, I am back in France with my French husband and our franco-american son. Living in France now, I often receive compliments when people realize I am American after having a conversation with them in French. This speaks well of my accent and fluency, but it can also work against me. I still make mistakes. Every day. All of the time. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I have been told that I have practically no accent in French. So when I make a mistake, for example for gender agreement like when using la or le, or try to use a complicated sentence structure, or tripping up on the pronunciation of a new word when everything else is correct, I get some strange looks and leave people very confused. I once asked a woman for directions to le mairie (the city hall) with my nice accent and the lady had no idea what I was talking about since I should have asked for la mairie.

    At this stage, I would consider myself to be more than fluent but less than bilingual since I was born monolingual. To me, someone who is truly bilingual is someone who had equal exposure to two languages starting from birth or a very young age, and who not only speaks both languages perfectly, but also understands all of the nuances and subtleties of both languages. While I will never have “perfect” French, I continue to learn and improve because the different paths I have taken have always led me to places where I could speak French.

    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    September 17, 2013 • Language Resources • Views: 111

  • Macarons Making Tips Part II: The Success

    If you hadn’t seen my previous post on macarons, the outcome was definitely not a success. They ended up being the flattest macarons ever created. I am happy to report, however, that round two of macaron making was an enormous success. We (my mother and I) made coconut macarons with a rum filling and they were delicious!

    Look at these beautiful macarons!

    My mother and I attended a macaron baking class (after the failure of our first attempt) and we learned not only how to make proper macarons, but where we went wrong the previous time. So of you’re wondering why your macarons may not have turned out, I’ll share where we went wrong.

    If you plan on making macarons, here are a few tips to get you started.

    Macaron Making Tips

    1. You have to age your egg whites at least three days before you make the macarons or they won’t properly peak. Put them in a container and cover them with plastic wrap with some holes poked in it. Leave them out of the way for three days before making your macarons. Yes, it’s a bit of a bummer that you have decide to make them days ahead and can’t whip up a batch spur of the moment…

    Macaron ingredients


    2. You can’t use regular food coloring or your mix will be runny and won’t work. You have to use a gel or coloring paste. This was the mistake that I made.

    3. Macarons are baked in two four-minute intervals. For the first, you put them in the oven on the tray as is. After the first four minutes, you take out the tray, slip a second tray underneath the first and put the two stacked trays back in for another four minutes. If you don’t do this, the bottoms burn and turn an ugly brown.

    4. The buttercream (or meringue) needs to get to about 55 degrees Celsius or 130 degrees Fahrenheit over the stove before you pull it off to mix the butter in. Let the mixture cool BEFORE you add the butter in and add in only a small amount at a time. If you make the espresso filling, it takes about an hour of refrigeration before you can use it.

    5. With the batter on the tray, slam the tray against the table four times (once per side). This gets rid of any points on the tops of your macarons. You can see the macarons before they were slammed against the table below. The second picture is the macarons after they were slammed against the table and then baked – you can see that the points have disappeared.

    6. Once you have placed the macaron batter on the tray to bake, let them sit out and form skins for half an hour before putting them in the oven or they won’t cook in perfect little buttons. I did this the first time, but for only twenty minutes. The extra ten minutes allowed them to form “feet” which gives the macarons their trademark look.

    There you have it, my advice!


    We made coconut macarons which are white, so there were a few that burned (but very few). The above method really worked out. Enjoy the photos!


    September 4, 2013 • Uncategorized • Views: 94

  • The Flattest Macarons Ever

    After reading posts from DarlaCooks and Chez Chloe, I felt inspired to make macarons and try my hand (again) at food photography. Although they tasted just like macarons, they were oddly flat. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but after the 5 hours it took me to make these four batches, I had to call it quits.

    I did eventually end up making proper macarons, so I’ll post what I did wrong in another entry soon!

    In the meantime, here are some photos from the making of the Flattest Macarons ever.

    Flattest Macarons Ever | Eurolinguiste
    Flattest Macarons Ever | Eurolinguiste

    August 27, 2013 • Uncategorized • Views: 83

  • The Truth About Lorem Ipsum

    What is Lorem Ipsum? | Eurolinguiste

    I just could not help myself, being the nerdy person that I am, looking up lorem ipsum – the seemingly random text generated for the text spaces on design templates – to find out its origin.

    The Truth About Lorem Impsum

    Lo and behold, to my surprise, lorem ipsum, is not random at all but an excerpt from a book published in 45 BC by Cicero.

    This book, “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum”, meaning “The Extremes of Good and Evil” was a popular treatise on ethics, particularly during the Renaissance. It came into use as “filler text” in the 1500s by a printer and was re-popularized in the 1960s.

    There are many more contemporary versions of lorem ipsum including “ghetto lorem ipsum,”, “beer ipsum,” and “fillerati.” A simple Google search for “lorem ipsum fun” produces a number of more humorous alternatives to lorem ipsum. Be wary – some generators may insert what could be considered embarrassing text into the middle of the sample so be certain to glance all the way through!

    If you are interested in finding out more or generating your own lorem ipsum text, visit the Ipsum site.


    August 23, 2013 • Uncategorized • Views: 63

  • How Long Does It take to Learn a Language?

    Someday | Eurolinguiste

    How long does it take to learn a language enough to be able to use it?

    First, I would like to say that I wrote a post on Sociolinguistics and language learning over at I Want 2 Speak Thai, so I hope you’ll take a moment to head over and check it out! It’s my first guest post on another blog and I am really excited to have had the opportunity. Thank you Travis!

    One of the things that I really enjoy doing is teaching and passing on the things that I’ve learned to others. This passion started when I was still in high school – I tutored other students in English during my lunch hour and started a website that featured advice articles for young musicians (which still exists today). As an undergraduate, I coached music students at two middle schools and in recent years, this love has manifested itself in the form of private tutoring – I teach music lessons and French (and sometimes English to French speakers). Having taught both music and foreign language, I’ve found a lot of similarities in teaching and learning methods. I certainly understand why people say that music is a language.

    A question that I am often asked (for both music and language) is “how long will it take me to speak fluently?” Or in the case of music, “how long will it take me to play ‘fluently’ (to perform well)?” My answer for both is at least three to five years. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t perform in either music or languages until that point – you should be using the skills you are developing in performance and practice everyday. Whether you are learning new words or new notes, use them! The quickest way to improve is by putting what you know into practice. You will never get over your fear of performing or conversing if you never do those activities.

    Three to five years can seem like a significant investment to some, especially today when we have grown so accustomed to immediate gratification. We can download and gain access to pretty much anything immediately and at a low-cost. I still remember when I had to save for weeks to have the $15-20 for an album and then wait again for my parents to drive me to the store to buy it. Now, I can download whatever I want for $9.99 an album and even less for a song. We are so used to having everything now, that making a three to five-year commitment for certain things seems unfathomable. I also have seen first hand with many of my students, that if they don’t see immediate progress, they quickly become discouraged. I could take short cuts with them and teach them “tricks” to improve quickly, but it won’t help them in the long run. It’s like cramming for a test – you can learn a lot of material quickly, but you won’t retain it.

    If you really think about it, three to five years to learn to speak a language (or play an instrument) isn’t that long. For example, a child learning their first language takes five years to become totally fluent (and still that fluency is limited), and even then, they make mistakes in punctuation, with grammar, and with vocabulary choice. In fact, most children spend the better part of their first 18 years learning grammar and new vocabulary in school and will never know the majority of words in their language. The same can be said for music, where grammar and vocabulary are technique and style.

    It is believed that the average person has anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 words in their vocabulary. This being said, you could know 20,000 words in five languages before your vocabulary database is “maxed out.” The average person also only uses about 3,000 to 5,000 words of their vocabulary to communicate on a daily basis, meaning you only need 5,000 words in another language to be “fluent.” The difference between the 5,000 words we actually use and 20,000+ words we know is quite significant. The reason the average vocabulary varies between 5,000 to 20,000 words is because we have what are called “active” and “passive” vocabularies. The active vocabulary includes the 3,000 to 5,000 words we use in everyday communication while the remaining 15,000 to 17,000 (to make 20,000 total) are known as passive. They are words that we understand but do not use regularly in communication. So, for example, we all may know what the word precocious means, but we are unlikely to use it in everyday conversations.

    This difference is known as high frequency versus low frequency words. High frequency words are those that are used often in conversation or text, so an example of a high frequency word in English would be come, one or go while low frequency words would be a word like punctual.

    But all in all, it doesn’t matter if you know 10 or 50,000 thousand words if you can’t use them in a sentence. This being said, The Linguist, or LingQ, speaks ten languages and never focused on grammar. Instead, he focuses on learning languages through listening and reading. In my opinion, this is a much more enjoyable way to learn languages so that you don’t have to labor through grammar books. It also gets you speaking much quicker!

    So what are your thoughts on language learning and the kind of investment it takes?

    For more great articles on the subject:
    1. World Wide Words
    2. Television Learning: Do Foreign Films Really Help You Learn Another Language?

    For more language learning tips like this, check out my collection of articles on Pinterest!

    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    August 16, 2013 • Language Resources • Views: 241

  • Photos of Paris France | Round 1

    I have family in Paris and as a result of both being there and returning for visits, I have thousands of photos from one of my favorite cities in the world. Here are just a few pictures from a couple years ago when I was there together with my boyfriend (now husband for the first time). I’ll add more soon.

    Update: View more photos of Paris 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

    Photos of Paris France

    Paris Round 1 | Eurolinguiste

    The Pantheon was one of my favorite places to visit. It surrounded by cafés and it’s not to far to walk to the Seine. It’s all the things I love about Paris.

    Paris Round 1 | Eurolinguiste

    Of course, you can’t skip seeing Notre Dame on your trip to France. It’s one of the most beautiful historical monuments in the city – perched upon a small island in the middle of the Seine.

    Paris Round 1 | Eurolinguiste
    Paris Round 1 | Eurolinguiste

    Paris is also known for its beautiful parks and jardins located around the city. Who knows what you may find as you explore them? Whether you discover a beautiful garden or even une petite maison, there’s nothing like taking a stroll through parks in Paris France.

    Paris Round 1 | Eurolinguiste

    And of course, you can’t forget the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe!

    August 10, 2013 • Travel • Views: 58

  • Television Learning: Do Foreign Films Help You Learn Another Language?

    When people first get to know me and they hear about my passion for language learning, I am often asked how I’ve managed to learn ‘so many’ other languages. During these conversations I have heard the argument that watching television and movies in a foreign language accelerates the development of a second (or third) language. As a multilinguist, I am somewhat skeptical of this theory, even if it is how my husband claims to have learned his second language.

    Does watching foreign films help you learn another language?

    First, in establishing my argument against using television to learn a language (unless it is in addition to a variety of other tools and resources), I would like to say that I have, in fact, experimented with this method first hand on more than one occasion.

    While I was in middle and high school, I attempted to watch foreign films and absorb the languages I was learning, but I didn’t really ever feel like I was improving. Of course as a teenager, I always assumed that there was something wrong with me. I had to be the exception because I had so often heard that this method was effective.

    For me, it seemed, the most noticeable improvement I made was when I used the language I was learning in writing but most of all in conversation, not by watching movies. The only time films really worked for me was once I was already quite proficient in a language and could read the subtitles in the original language rather than my native language.

    One might argue that watching foreign-language films is a way to immerse yourself in a language when the real environment is unavailable. This is one area where I might agree, however, if one does not already have the basic tools of another language (some vocabulary and grammar), then this form of immersion won’t work.

    If you think about it, this method is like trying to learn a language through osmosis. How can you expect to absorb a language let alone understand what is happening on a screen without any roots? I would compare it to picking up a novel in a foreign language and trying to learn to speak it using that book without any previous knowledge – it’s an awfully difficult way to go. I wouldn’t say it was impossible, but I wouldn’t say it was easy either.

    One might say that children learn their first language through osmosis, but I’m quite certain that many linguists would argue. Children are born with the natural ability to decipher the complex system of language by picking out repetitive sounds, eventually words and then finally phrases.¹ The total language learning process takes them a total of five years to complete with 24/7 immersion in the language and endless interaction with speakers that are trying to help them learn the language.

    Why don’t movies work as well for language learning as one would hope?

    If you are looking for a shortcut to language learning – a fast way to learn a new language and skip steps, watching foreign films isn’t going to help you. Not without a basic  understanding of the language and a decent vocabulary already built up.

    The reason that television is an ineffective means of language learning is because it is missing one incredibly important element – interaction. It is a form of passive rather than active learning and therefore can be seen as less effective than other means. By watching others’ conversations in films or even by being read to by a computer (yes, there are now books that read themselves to children), one is missing one of the most important learning elements, that of interaction. When a mother reads to her child, they discuss the book, what is happening, what might happen next and what the child thinks, allowing them to become involved with the story and use the language they are developing.

    One could argue, however, that if one is actively engaged with the movie or television program, it could be considered active learning. Instead of merely watching the film, one could repeat expressions or mimic dialogue, and thus, make the activity interactive rather than passive. I myself have done this, but I usually find that using an expression in conversation (or picking one up in conversation) works better for me because I get real-time response from another person.

    On the other hand…

    To argue for television language learning, on the other hand, I’d like to tell you about my niece. My niece lives in a French-speaking household. Her parents are French, but they live in the US so she is frequently exposed to American television. She recently turned two and is just now starting to speak, but she understands both French and English. Her parents don’t really use English with her, so the only way she would have picked it up was by watching television. She is still quite young, so we have yet to see how she’ll progress in the two languages, but so far the scenario makes a pretty strong case for how television can be used as a tool for language learning.

    I also know that there are several techniques that you can use to make films an effective learning tool (shadowing among them). But really, when it comes down to it, films are best for intermediate or advanced learners and not as a standalone learning tool.

    So what do you think about using foreign-language films or television to learn a language?

    PS. There is this really fun tool that translates famous movie quotes into different languages with audio that is super entertaining to play with.

    1. Countless studies have been conducted on the brain activity of infants when hearing different sounds and as early as only a few months it has been demonstrated that they are capable of discerning meaningful sounds as “their” language.

    For more language learning tips like this, check out my collection of articles on Pinterest!

    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    July 13, 2013 • Language Resources • Views: 188

  • An Introduction to Eurolinguiste | A Language Learning Blog

    For those of you that are new to my blog, my name is Shannon Kennedy and I am the blogger behind Eurolinguiste. As part of the site I write about learning new languages, bilingualism, travel, and more. I love taking photos, so I’ll include pictures from my various adventures, and I’ll also write semi-monthly reports on my progress in various languages.

    An Introduction to Eurolinguiste | A Language Learning Blog

    I speak English and French, but I’m also learning Italian, German, and Croatian. One day I’d also love to learn Russian and Japanese.

    In a way this site is my language learning journal, but I also hope to provide you all with resources to help you further learn a second language.

    I also have a few other fun things I’ll include on the site such as recipes (some region-specific, some not), personal updates, and additions to the Eurodictionary. The Eurodictionary exists because I live in a bilingual household, so my family and I are constantly making blunders in one language or another. Code-switching isn’t always easy! The different expressions and words we create as we move from one language to another are added to the Eurodictionary whenever they come up.

    If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see on the site, or any tips you have for improvement, I’d love to hear them! Feedback (not trolling) is always welcome!

    Thank you for joining me here at Eurolinguiste, and I look forward to starting this journey in language learning with you!

    In the meantime, please check out some of my language learning resource pages:

    July 10, 2013 • Eurolinguiste • Views: 69

  • Eurolinguiste has a New Home

    Hello everyone! Welcome to the new Eurolinguiste site! I’m really excited about the blog’s new home, design and I’m even more thrilled about all of the new content and posts I’ll have up soon. To all of my WordPress followers, I hope you’ll join me here at my new domain.

    Eurolinguiste | Language Learning and Travel

    For those that are new, I look forward to getting to know you! Please make sure to subscribe to the new blog if you’re interested in following along on my adventures in travel and language learning.

    If you’re interested in finding out more about what you’ll find on Eurolinguiste, visit our about page.

    There are a few ways to do it – you can subscribe to our Bloglovin feed (available in the right column) or subscribe by email. I hope to be back with more posts soon! I hope you’ll continue to (or start to) follow me here. I look forward to many new travel and language learning adventures with you soon.

    June 23, 2013 • Eurolinguiste • Views: 70

  • How to Choose Language Learning Resources

    One of the great things about technology, the Internet, self-publishing, and the rise in entrepreneurship is that we now have a plethora of language learning materials to choose from. At the same time, however, one of the most troubling things about the above is that we now have a huge selection of language learning materials to choose from and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work can be quite the enterprise.

    A question that I’m often asked is “how did you learn Italian [Mandarin, Croatian, etc.]?” I typically say that I’m self-taught, but that’s not entirely true. I use a number of resources to pick-up and develop vocabulary, sentence structures, communication skills and the cultural aspects that go hand-in-hand with a language. But the truth is, I’m not really self-taught, I’m just self-motivated. It’s the native speakers I converse with and resources that I use that steer me in the right direction and help me along my way.

    The question often comes from curious, soon-to-be language learners and so I try to impart the importance of selecting materials that work for them personally. Everyone learns differently and everyone finds enjoyment in learning in their own ways. It goes to show you that choosing the right tools for your language learning journey can go a long way in helping you to remain motivated while you steadily progress.

    I began learning my second language in school, buried in grammar books and vocabulary exercises. I was focused on memorizing words and conjugations that would be stored on my mental hard drive until the test only to be dumped immediately after. It wasn’t a very useful or beneficial way to study language.

    It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to use the language outside of school that I really began to see any significant progress. Suddenly I had a reason to really hang on to the vocabulary and grammar I was learning in school. It felt incredibly rewarding to carry on a conversation in another language and it drove me to continue my efforts. In just a few months, my abilities far surpassed what five years in school had ever allowed me and that was all the motivation I needed to keep going and even take on new languages.

    Using a language with other speakers is by far the BEST way to improve your accent, your grammar, your vocabulary and your overall skill in another language, but only once you’ve set up a foundation on your own. You can’t expect to launch into a discussion of Russian literature or French politics without having learned the vocabulary to go along with the conversation.

    That’s where things like online learning programs, podcasts, grammar and vocabulary books, audiobooks and flashcards come in handy. You have to take the level you are at into consideration when selecting resources. Someone who is completely new to a language will have to implement an entirely different approach than someone who is more advanced. Just like you shouldn’t try to have a conversation with a native speaker right off the bat, you also shouldn’t stick to the same methods you started out with once your abilities become more advanced. Your speaking/reading skills may grow stagnate and that can be frustrating. The best thing to do is seek out resources that will help you reach the next level.

    As I mentioned before, the various methods and tools available are going to work differently for each person who reads this, so I cannot emphasize the importance of trying things out to find out what works best for you enough. I’ve spent several years playing around with different resources and discovering what works for me and what doesn’t. I suggest you do the same.

    Your goals also play an important role when you’re selecting resources. If you want to begin speaking as soon as possible, going with audio based resources can be one of the most efficient routes to take. For this I would suggest something like Pimsleur/a> or Assimil. I listen to Pimsleur lessons whenever I’m in my car for an extended period of time and they’re a great way to establish basic speaking and comprehension skills. Assimil is a bit different, and while it has audio, it also has text to go along with it and you really need to use the two together. Since I can’t (and won’t) read while driving, I only listen to Assimil in the car if I want to “immerse” myself in the language or review what I’ve already worked on. And, of course, you can always listen to music and watch movies in your target language as well.

    If a grammar-focused method works better for you, or you’re more interested in reading and writing than speaking, a grammar or vocabulary book may work for you. As far as resources I recommend, I like Assimil (again), the Routledge Grammar Books, and some of the books in the Practice Makes Perfect series.

    There are also dual-language books that come with one language on one side and another on the other (or one language printed immediately under the other). If you’re at the intermediate or advanced level, you can try diving right in to foreign language books, translating words you don’t know as you come across them (or after you finish each passage). Starting out with easier texts (like Dr. Seuss) and then transitioning into more complex texts (Harry Potter then even texts by native speakers on more complex topics).

    If gamification methods work best for you (or you just enjoy earning points for your efforts or playing games), some of the online tools available may work for you. I personally like DuoLingo, Memrise, and once upon a time I used LiveMocha and Busuu.

    You can also go with a good phrasebook to help you build a foundation in any language. The Lonely Planet series is pretty good, but if you’re just getting started, almost any one will do.

    If you’re looking for more recommendations and reviews, I plan to start posting several in the near future. I’ve started to create resource pages for each language I am studying. You can check out the pages here – French, Italian, German, Mandarin and Croatian. In the meantime, I recommend checking out the sites of Lingholic (who also wrote a great post on language learning material selection) and Ellen Jovin. They both write thorough and helpful reviews on various language learning materials.

    What materials do you use to study and practice the languages you’re learning? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

    For more language learning tips like this, check out my collection of articles on Pinterest!

    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    April 20, 2013 • Uncategorized • Views: 53