National Book Lover’s Day | What and How to Read To Improve Your English | For ESL Learners

Good morning, everyone! I have been away from the blog a lot in the last two weeks. This is because I have had time off from work, so I have not been creating new materials for my ESL students lately.  Next week, I will be back with a couple grammar posts, I promise!

In the meantime, today is National Book Lover’s Day in the United States. As a librarian, I love books, but I also recommend reading a lot to all of my ESL students. Reading is one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary as an English learner. It also introduces you to common expressions and different cultural ideas. Even if you are a beginner, you can benefit from reading.

How to Read to Improve Your English

I generally recommend the following technique for reading.

  1. Read once for comprehension. See what you can already understand without using a dictionary or looking up new words.
  2. Read again. Write down new words and expressions. Look up (online or using dictionary) these new words and expressions.
  3. Read one final time. Notice how much better you understand the last time than the first time!

If you are reading a long novel or book, this technique is more helpful if you read small sections at one time.

What to Read to Improve Your English

Now that you have a technique for reading, what should you read?

everything

Everything can be helpful. Instructions, newspapers, children’s books, romance novels, blogs. My main recommendation is that you read authentic language items (things that are written for English speakers so that they contain authentic English).

Because today is National Book Lover’s Day, I am giving some book recommendations.

For Beginners

For Intermediates

You can still learn a lot from Children’s Books and Newspaper articles, but you can also try some longer books. Young adult literature is helpful for intermediates.

I personally do not recommend only reading books that have been simplified for ESL learners. However, if you would like to read more classics and are would like to read them more quickly, many people find the Penguin Readers for ESL learners helpful: http://penguinreaders.com/pr/students/index.html

For Advanced Learners

As an advanced learner, you have many options. Just read!

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Happy reading, everyone!

L’Acropole des Draveurs {Logger’s Acropolis} Hike at Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie

And finally, I’m wrapping up our road trip recaps. If you missed the others and happen to be interested, check out Part I (the scenery), Part II (the camping), and Part III (the whale watching). I really didn’t plan on dragging it out so long, but my computer access is limited on the weekend, and I was pretty wound up in the world of Harry Potter. Finally finished that series–it only took reading it in French to motivate me…onto the main subject!

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The highlight, in my opinion, of our Charlevoix trip was our hike. The Acropole des Draveurs, or Logger’s Acropolis, is located in Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. Yeah, that’s a mouth full of French, I know. The park entrance is approximately a 50 minute drive from the La Malbaie area (just ignore the “the/La” redundancy okay). Unless you’re camping, when you get to the park, hang a left into the general parking area, head inside to the visitor’s center, and pay your daily access fees. Like all Québec national (provincial) parks, the cost for the day is $6.50 per person. From there, you can hop on the shuttle, which will take you to the trailhead. Be sure to be listening well, because most riders seemed to be continuing on, and if I hadn’t waved my hand saying we wanted to stop at for the trailhead, the shuttle driver would have driven on by.

hautes-gorges-de-la-riviere-malbaie

l'acropole-des-draveurs

If you’re in the mood for a person-less hike, this is not the trail for you. We crossed paths with other hikers on a regular basis, at least once every five minutes or so. This is, however, great for anyone working on the pronunciation of the French greetings Bonjour, âllo, or salut. You might also hear a few Voulez-vous dépasser? ‘s if you’re going fast enough.

The hike is hard work. It climbs steadily for three miles, with, quite honestly, not much to see most of the way. This is not a the-journey-is-as-important-as-the-destination kind of hike. If you don’t plan on making it to the top, it’s really not worth climbing halfway. There are a good number of switchbacks, rock staircases, and just a few peeks at the scenery to come. But don’t lose heart.

l'acropole-des-draveurs

(He’s typically not included in the scenery.)

l'acropole-des-draveurs

Your efforts are most definitely rewarded when you reach the summits. It took us about 2 hours to reach the first summit (there are three). We ate a late lunch here (it was around 2 PM when we reached the top), taking in the gorge below us. The gorge is approximately 1,080 meters deep, about 700 meters away from Grand Canyon status. I loved being able to see so much green from the vantage point. After finishing our lunches, we fell into a discussion about whether we should continue to the second and third summits.

l'acropole-des-draveurs

l'acropole-des-draveurs

I know, you’re thinking, Why wouldn’t you finish and hike to the other two summits (especially since the distance between them is minimal)? Well, one of us believes the other is irrationally not afraid enough of heights, and the other finds the other’s fear of heights to be irrational. Take a look at this photo of the second summit. The arrow points to a very tiny little spot toward the edge of the cliff. Squint if you want to. That’s a person at the top of the second summit.

hautes-gorges-de-la-rivière-malbaie

Of course, the one of us who thinks the fear of heights is irrational pushed the other one to continue, arguing that no one forces you to walk that closely to the edge, and everyone’s going up there. You don’t want to come so close, not do it, and then regret it, do you?! 

And so we continued. The trail between the summits is not bad at all if you’re someone with no fear of heights. You’re always given at least a two meter leeway between yourself and the edge. And in the two parts where it’s a bit tricky, hikers wait on one side or the other, so that two people aren’t crossing at the same time. On the other hand, if heights are a problem for you, I think your time might be better spent calmly taking in the view from the first summit. The views from the other two summits are great as well, but you probably won’t be able to enjoy them if your heart rate won’t drop.

One of us continued on, and lived to share the photos with the other one.

l'acropole-des-draveurs

The trail’s not so bad here….

l'acropole-des-draveurs

…but does look to be quite close to the edge here…

l'acropole-des-draveurs

…and here…(notice the rope to keep people out of vegetation, not people from the edge, haha)

l'acropole-des-draveurs

l'acropole-des-draveurs

The view from the third summit in the other direction:

l'acropole-des-draveurs

After spending about about 40 minutes around the summits (including the lunch, the photos, the coaxing, the decision to split, the rest of the climb to the second and third summit), we started heading back down. The way down was easy on the lungs, but hard on the joints. People of all ages pulled out their hiking poles on the descent. I think I’ll wait out the purchase for at least two more years until the big 3-0 comes my way.

In total, we spent about 4 hours and 15 minutes on the trail. We had previously planned to head farther into the park and hit up another mini hike for a different view of the park, but decided we were both tired, wanted water, and had seen the crown jewel of Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. There is a lot of the park that is not accessible on foot, so I would love to go back some day to rent a canoe or kayak to paddle to the northern end.

So, yes, there’s a lot to see, do, and eat in Charlevoix. If you’re in Montréal, or especially near Quebec City and wanting to add a little fresh air into your trip (without spending days of driving to get to the Gaspé Peninsula), I think you’d do well to swing into the Charlevoix region. If you’re a French learner, you’ll be pleased to find that if you begin a conversation in French, they will not switch to English because of your accent. I got so much more practice in in four days than I would in Montréal in two weeks (excluding conversation partners, of course!). However, if you’re simply a tourist with no-to-little French base, you’ll be happy to know that everyone seems quite friendly and will help you with whatever English they might know.

So, go, breathe in the fresh air, take in the scenery, and for heaven’s sake, eat some quality cheese.

Wee Bit of Whale Watching: A Day Trip to Tadoussac

I could say we had a whale of a time. But that would be uncool. So I’m not going to say it. I am also going to resist using the word whale in the place of the word well or while. Because that would be annoying.

During our mini-cation to a more northeastern part of Québec, we made it to Tadoussac, a town of about 800 people that thrives on tourism. What’s the draw? The scenery, too, but really the whales. Tadoussac is about an hour and twenty minute drive plus a ten minute ferry ride from the Malbaie area (where we were camping). If you time it right, you might not even have to wait too long for the next ferry. The ferry is free, and during peak seasons, comes every twenty minutes or so during normal day time hours. The ferry will take you over the fjord to the town.

tadoussac ferry

tadoussac ferry

Once you cross, you can hit up information, or simply look for a place to park. There is metered parking around the waterfront, but for anyone without mobility problems, I suggest driving three blocks to the residential streets of town to park for free. You really cannot get lost in this town and it’s obviously small enough to navigate on foot. Many shops or stands will have information on whale watching cruises or tours if you’re interested.

There seem to be a couple nice places to have a nice meal or sip a beer while in town, but we were equipped with lunches, so were set on strolling around. Tadoussac has a photogenic little church, which is said to be the oldest wooden church in North America. And, luckily for anyone who likes pictures of cemeteries (me! me!), a really interesting cemetery. Actually Tadoussac seems like quite the setting for a horror flick…you have to take the ferry or a boat to go back home, there’s a Shining-like resort overlooking the shoreline, the town only has 800 people or so, etc., etc. Maybe there’s already a Quebecois horror film with this setting…

tadoussac church and cemetery

tadoussac church and cemetery

tadoussac church and cemetery

Don’t get too distracted by the scenery or you’ll end up taking a digger on the sidewalk. And the old people around you are only interested in the whales and the beach, so they won’t even throw an Est-ce que ça va? your way. Note to self, take band-aids even when not hiking!

tadoussac

My knee and my finger were slightly hurt. The ego is still kinda bruised. Yeah, I probably let out a real whale when I fell. Hey, I never promised not to use it to replace wail…

Since Jordan and I had a horrible (EV.ER.Y.ONE. was seasick!) experience on our last whale watching adventure in Boston, we decided to forego the excursion in favor of the cheapest whale watching venue in Tadoussac: the rocks. Walk down to the beach, head toward the rocks. It looks like a short walk but took us about 10-15 minutes. Once you reach the rocks, there is a trail that leads up and over the rocks all the way to the other section of beach. We were content to spend our time on the rocks.

We had several whale sightings, maybe around 10 or so, and we do know for sure that there were at least two different whales since we saw them at the same time. The whales come quite close to the rocks, so I didn’t feel like we missed anything by not paying for a boat excursion.

tadoussac rocks

tadoussac rocks)

tadoussac rocks

tadoussac rocks

tadoussac rocks

And I’m proudly supporting the Sevier County Public Library System everywhere I go by wearing my fleece 🙂

tadoussac rocks

tadoussac rocks

There’s a whale in that last photo, I swear. We never made too much of an effort to capture the whales on camera, since we preferred to see them with our own eyes, instead of through the lens. Plus, whale photos are like starry night photos….never as exciting in an amateur photograph.

We left Tadoussac around 5:30 or so, timing the return ferry perfectly. Though our time spent in Tadoussac felt absolutely right for the trip we had planned, I could see how spending a couple days here would be time well spent as well. There seems to be plenty of camping north of the city, and oodles of B&Bs or inns in town for those who didn’t want to go the Shining route. Whether you can stay, whether your budget and time allow for a day-long whale watching cruise or a simple afternoon on the rocks, there is definitely a charming quality to the town that nous a fait du bien.

Around the Campfire in Charlevoix: Camping Chutes Fraser and My Camping Recipes

Okay, yes, you caught me. I’m saving all of my really cool hiking pictures for another post. But I am still plodding along through my Charlevoix photos, I assure you. While holding out on all of you, I thought I would share a little more about our camping experience on the trip.

We camped at the same campground every night during our trip. Why? Well, it’s easier, the campground was centrally located in the region and quite nice. I first found Camping Chutes Fraser, or Fraser Falls Campground, in a Charlevoix travel guide that my French Conversation club leader gave me. Internaute  that I am, I went on the website, and sent a lovely (hopefully error-free) French e-mail to ask about making a reservation. They quickly replied saying they don’t take reservations, but they’ve never filled up, so they’d love to have us during our stay. Now, I understand that I understand how huge the campground is (325 sites!), I understand how frustrating taking reservations would be.

campground

We paid 28 dollars plus tax per night for a sans services tent site. By that, they mean your site has no electricity or water hook-ups, but still there are plenty of services. Each area is equipped with flush toilets (oh the luxury!), showers, potable water, and agreeable campsites. Though we never made use of the other services, there is mini-golf, laundry, and a pool on site. There is also a man who makes the rounds with a small truck full of firewood if you don’t want to leave your site to buy it. The camp store doubles as registration, and the staff was friendly and put up with my French. (Though we primarily communicated with the staff in French, they helped Jordan out with some English as well).

camping charlevoix

All that’s great, right, but the real highlight was the Chutes Fraser (the waterfall). I had seen the photos on the website, but Jordan having been content to leave the campground search up to me, wasn’t expecting much. I think he was pleasantly surprised. The walk to the falls is short, maybe a quarter mile, but a bit steep. Still, I found it a bit shocking that no one else was really hanging out/picnicking by the falls when we stopped in.

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chutes fraser camping charlevoix

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While I am certainly not interested in being labeled a glamper (glamorous camper), I will grant you that our camping style has improved quite a bit throughout the years. No, no, there’s no air mattress or wine glasses. Though I can’t swear it’ll always be that way. We just pick and choose our conveniences at this stage in our camping lives. We’re the kind of campers who sleep in your average, non-mummified sleeping bags and find twigs to whittle into marshmallow roasting sticks. But we’re also the kind of campers who have a morning espresso with their breakfast combo of kale, eggs, and local cheeses. I am learning how far a bit of extra preparation can go before camping. Planning menus, mixing dry ingredients at home, and checking off checklists can go a long way.

We ate well on this trip, even though we only ate out twice (the Charlevoix brewery stop and a Subway stop on the way home). Eating well is slowly becoming our norm. Even when camping, I find it necessary to try to incorporate new foods and try new recipes. We ate many, many local foods, with everything from the bread to the cheese to the kale to the beer coming from the region. I recommend La Vache Folle RyePA and the Flacatoune (it is labeled an intelligent blonde…hehe).

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beer charlevoix 482 (512x344)

We had sack lunches with cheese sandwiches (made with rolls from Boulangerie Pâtisserie Charlevoix) during the day, with salt and vinegar roasted chickpeas and sweet curried almonds for snacks. I also tried a new-for-me granola/energy bar recipe, which turned out to be a hit with the husband. I recommend adding chocolate chips. The evening menu plans consisted of items like fish tacos, complete with this wickedly good sauce (which I prepared in advance), a fire-baked brie with maple syrup and cranberries, vegetable hobo pouches, and campfire pizzas. The last night I also made this Martha Stewart berry grunt with blackberries. Jordan and I had earlier met our biker (of HD variety) neighbors, so we decided to share a bit of the dessert with them. They assured me it was ÉCOEURANT!, which for you French learners out there, is actually a nice complement in Quebecois French. (It  means disgusting in other Francophone areas, but I assure you they finished the plate!) They insisted we each have a bit of whisky in return for the dessert. French practice for the day: check!

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S’more ingredient:

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camping food charlevoix 308 (512x344)

coca cola glass bottle camping

camping food charlevoix cheese

Okay, so maybe there was a little bit of glamping going on, maybe. But if so, so be it. Hotdogs are so over.