Language Learning: Summer Beach Reads

 In Travel Tips

You may not achieve fluency, but there is a lot you can learn from travel memoirs that include a few words in a foreign language or translations of your favorite books. What better time to pick up a few new books than when you can sit in the sun and dig your feet in the sand.

I recently read As the Romans Do: An American Family’s Italian Odyssey. The author, Alan Epstein, regularly incorporated Italian phrases for everyday items and situations. He rarely offered any translations for these words.

At first it was a little frustrating. Then I started to use the context of the paragraph to decipher these unfamiliar phrases. Just like English (or whatever your native language is) you can pick up the meaning by examining what else is being said.

By the end of the book I wasn’t stumbling over these foreign terms, I was trying to commit them to memory. The beauty of reading a book with a few new words is that you really don’t even have to try to remember them. You just absorb the new words like any other.

Need more books throw in your beach bag this summer?

For the kids:

  • The Madeleine series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans takes you through Paris with an insatiable redhead who throws a few quick French phrases and architectural monuments into the mix.
  • Huevos Verdes con Jamón (Green Eggs and Ham) by Dr. Seuss will add a little more challenge to your reading list this summer. If you thought this beloved Dr. Seuss book was a tongue twister in English, just wait until you try to read it in Spanish!
  • Harry Potter Series is always a favorite in our house…for the adults. I’ve read the books in English at least 10 times. I picked up the first two in Spanish a few years back. I sit around with a dictionary and try to see how much I can understand. It’s surprisingly easy to guess where I am in each chapter and pick up a few new words along the way.

For the grownups:

  • Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull follows Sarah as she meets a man, falls in love and moves to Paris. She picks herself up a little West Highland White Terrier and desperately tries to figure out life in this sometimes closed off culture. French words popped up here and there. And I got a love story out of it. I can always use a little romance while I squish my toes in the sand, how about you?
  • If you prefer your traveling to take more of a culinary twist follow the delicious adventures of David Lebovitz in The Sweet Life in Paris. You may gain 10 pounds before you are done. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Make learning a language more fun this summer. Pick up a few books that incorporate a foreign language to add to your beach bag or travel pack and hit the road.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Steve

    I wonder if it would change the whole meaning of the story if I misinterpreted one of the words? I’d probably be OK reading French books, but I could see myself getting a whole new story if I was trying to read Spanish or (gulp) Chinese.

  • Malaysian Meanders

    Sweet Life in Paris is a fabulous book! I like looking for comic books or graphic novels in a foreign language so I can do as the kindergarteners do and “take a picture walk” before deciphering the words.

  • Paige AllOvertheMap

    When my girls were just starting to learn Spanish, they were also big fans of the Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton series of books. We found Spanish versions of their favorites at our local library ad we would check them out and compare them side by side with the English versions to learn new vocabulary. I will now never forget how to say underwear in Spanish, thanks to El Capitan Calzoncillos!

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