Getting Started With a New Language

Because I’m constantly trying to convince my family that they should join my in learning French (how fun would it be to speak with my family!), I am sometimes asked questions about where they can get started. This makes me super happy because then I know they’re considering it! How great would it be to share a coffee with my sisters in French (or the somewhat broken French we’d be speaking).


Below are some of the resources I recommend for anyone who asks me who how they can get started or dabble in a language. Some of these are great if you just want to learn a little bit about what the language sounds like.

Getting Started

  • Your local library! My former workplace offers Mango (over twenty languages) free of charge for library card holders. Many other public libraries offer web resources, CDs, movies, and books for language learners.
  • When I was spending some time commuting in our last month or so before leaving Tennessee, I used a French-in-your-car method to get used to some new pronunciation. There’s no one to hear you putting on an exaggerated accent. I used the one that my library had available, but if you’re going to put some money into them, maybe check out some of the reviews.
  • DuoLingo: This is my top suggestion for complete newbies. It’s free, lets you speak, write, read, and listen. There’s a great application you can use on a tablet or mobile device, but the website works great, too. Feel free to add me (I’m LeMoine!)
  • Similar toDuoLingo, but with a bit more of a social networking feel. I enjoyed using the Premium Version back in the day, but it is only available for a trial period of seven days. After that, you can still access many free lessons, but with a more limited scope. At that point, I think you’re better off returning to DuoLingo. Unless you have more spending money than me.
  • If you’ve got internet at home and are trying to learn a language, you should pay the 6.99 monthly to access videos in your target language. Okay, this maybe only applies for French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Portuguese, Italian, and German. I can attest that you’ll have plenty of Spanish and French material.
  • Radio Lingua Resources: If you’re digitally inclined and can download the iPods and then listen to these in your car, I would recommend them over the typical learn-in-your-car courses. Each class is about 15 minutes, and they start from zero. They do not have every language, but if you’re in the market for French, Spanish, German, Italian, or ESL, you’re in luck.

Once You’ve Gained Some Momentum

Depending upon how dedicated you are, you’re probably going to want to expand from those resources after a few months. If for no other reason than you might get bored with the language if you don’t actually interact in the language with another human being. Now you can start concentrating even more on language used in real life contexts.

  • Conversation Exchange Website: This have been an enormous blessing for me while in Montreal. I’ve met some really great people who are committed toward learning a new language while helping me learn mine. For face to face meet-ups, this is more helpful if you live in a large city, but if you’re looking for chat/Skype practice, you will be able to find a partner as well.
  • Again, check your library! What your library offers is going to depend on where you’re located, but many libraries offer some sort of ESL or foreign language classes. The Friends of the Library in Montreal offers French conversation courses for beginners, intermediates, and advanced learners.
  • MeetUp: If you live in a bigger city, you might find some like-minded people who are interested in practicing, too.
  • Keep watching movies to listen to how native speakers interact with one another.
  • Internet Reading: Find newspapers, children’s books, or ebooks in the target language. You can read children’s books online at the International Children’s Digital Library in several languages, find newspapers published where they speak your target language, or online e-books in your target language.

I hope this resources will help you get started in your search. Soon, my family and I will be chatting over coffee in whatever language I badger them into learning!


A Visit to BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)

Today I bring a very special version (for librarians, anyway) of my vocabulary practice: library vocabulary.

Just before I left for Puerto Rico, I meandered over to the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec/National Library and Archives of Québec again.

This time, instead of simply wandering, I had documentation in tow, so that I could sign up for my library card. The website, available in both English and French, has very clear lists on what documentation is and is not accepted. Passports are accepted as proof of identification, just an FYI.  The sign up process was streamlined and efficient. The signage directs you to a specific line to sign up, and you are given a brief, personal orientation to the library. Information is provided on what materials are offered, what is expected of library users, etc.  I believe all of the same information is on the website, but in person explanations are appreciated.

The library offers books, e-books (Bonjour Overdrive!), magazines, comics, bazillions of Manga books, language-learning materials, DVDs, CDs, etc. And of course, a place to use wi-fi and study without having to pay for more caffeine that I should not ingest.

While visiting, a spoke a mix of English and French, because I didn’t have much library-focused vocabulary at the time. I’m preparing for my subsequent returns by creating and reviewing this vocabulary list:

  1. the library card/subscriber’s card=la carte d’abonné
  2. to check out/to borrow=emprunter
  3. a loan=un prêt
  4. to renew=renouveler
  5. to reserve=réserver
  6. available=disponible
  7. to return/to bring back=rapporter
  8. an overdue fine=une amende de retard
  9. a self-checkout station=un poste de prêt en libre-service
  10. a circulation desk=un comptoir de prêt
  11. an e-book=un livre numérique
  12. an audiobook=un livre sonore
  13. a software item=un logiciel
  14. a password=un mot de passe
  15. a new release/new item=un nouveauté
  16. Interlibrary Loan (ILL)= prêt entre bibliothèques

If anyone sees any errors in the vocab list, feel free to comment or let me know however you prefer. Not only for the benefit of the blog, but for my usage at the library!

Unfortunately for me, the library user guidelines specifically prohibit photography within the building (to respect privacy of visitors), but I took some photos of the outside to show you the architectural structure. (The inside is open, airy, light, and full of good places to set up shop).

Happy reading/learning!




Catapult to Success | Teen Read Week

This year’s Teen Read Week Theme is “A MidSummer Knight’s Read.”  All about knights and dragons and medieval times.

Today, we launched fireballs over the castle walls.  Okay, so we launched pennies disguised as fireballs into a box that was poorly-disguised as a castle.  But building catapults was still fun.

We had no instructions, but we did have a diagram.  I had flashbacks to my days at “Engineering for Girls Camp.”

I think that most of the kids a bit overwhelmed at first.  Of course, there was one that had it figured out right away.  He should be an engineer when he grows up 🙂

Here’s my prize product:

I ended up parting with my catapult, since we only had four and probably 12 kids who wanted to take them home.  But at least I know how to make another if I need to launch an attack.

Graffiti Art Library Activity for Banned Books Week

I have got a great job.  (Don’t get me wrong, there are days with seriously upset patrons and computer problems, etc., so please, when I’m feeling burned out, show me sympathy!) But today was a good day.

In the morning, I joined my co-workers for a database training.  I am a training nerd.  Love it!

In the late morning, I prepared a program proposal on assistive technology for those with special needs. I also corresponded about a health promotion month, scheduled a group of master’s students for a library tour, and then it was the afternoon.  I prepared some things for an afternoon meeting, and then I had even more fun.

Remember that it’s Banned Books Week?!  This week’s teen art event was a Graffiti Contest.  I will admit, I was nervous.  I had visions of my go-to work pants being covered in paint, teens grabbing cans of spray paint and running off to the streets, and the building actually being graffiti-ed.

But the teens were awesome today.  Naturally, I hadn’t planned things fully out, and they all stepped up to help me tape our “canvases” together.  We figured out how to fight the wind, and when we didn’t have enough boards for all the kids to take part, almost all of them decided to let someone else help them on their board.  They also reminded me that trash bags could double as aprons.  I believe a couple of them proudly called them “Hillbilly Aprons.”

Thankfully, I got a few pics of the back of their heads, so I can post those online.  I have some other really great pictures with faces that I wish I could share on here.  (Funny story about me and pictures…one boy was surprised to learn that I was the manager.  He thought I was “just the Library Photographer.”)

I think for a while they just had fun spraying as much as possible onto the poster boards.  But when they learned they only had 15 minutes, the paintings began to take shape.

Woo for banned forms of expression!

The votes for the winner are still coming in.  We’ll be announcing the winner tomorrow.  But I’m convinced that I’m the real winner.  I got paid to help kids spray paint.  No one sprayed anyone else.  Parents hung around to watch their kids and called other mothers to say they’d take pictures for them.  Only a few spots of grass got sprayed. My work pants are paint-free.  I had a blast.  Some of the teens actually said “thank you for doing this for us.”  And I got to listen to this while one of the participants called her mom:

  • Girl: Mom, I’m going to stay at the library a little longer today for the graffiti art contest.
  • Mom:  Mer, mer, mer (I couldn’t hear that end of the conversation).
  • Girl:  Remember, I told you they started doing all sorts of fun stuff at the library?


ALA Conference in New Orleans

Some days I love being a librarian.  Well, really, most days.   But today definitely falls into that category.

I started the day with a run.  I know, it’s hard to believe.  I do not normally make a point to exercise a bundle on vacation (hiking just happens to fall into that category), but we have that 5K coming up next Saturday, so I figured I better try to make an effort.  I found some suggested running routes on  I ran only about 2.5 miles of this 5.3 mile route.  Because I am realistic, and it is really humid here.

I really enjoyed the route.  There were beautiful historic homes to wish I owned along the path.  When I returned to the hotel, I hit up the continental breakfast, which was your typical breakfast.  I had a bagel and two plums that I had brought with me from yesterday’s road trip.

And then in true Graesser fashion (I love you, Leah :)), I headed off for my second breakfast at a juice bar around the corner from us.  It is so close and so refreshing that I think I will become a regular during the few days I am here.  Now, I normally make it a point not to eat things that glow (or things that have gimmicky rhyming names–think ooey gooey), because they usually are not natural.  But this orange-carrot juice was glowing.  And I was too–from the humidity.

I finished this on my way to the convention center, which I was headed to for registration purposes.  I had not received my badge in the mail like most attendees, so I had to stop by the “Special Assistance” booth.  They got things all squared away once I showed them my payment confirmation e-mail.  (Smart phones are nice!)

And then I received a badge, a monster program booklet, and an enormous ALA tote bag.  This bag makes playing “Spot the Librarian” a whole lot easier.

But let’s be real, our “I <3 the Library”,  “Mysteries are bloody good”, and “746.43” (the Dewey numbers for knitting) tote bags already gave us away.

After registration, I headed over to my YALSA (Young Adult) preconference session.  I had signed up for this while I was the manager at a smaller branch that did not have anyone designated for Teen Services.  But with our Teen Services staff member at part-time (and on leave at present), I think it was still very beneficial.  I am now excited and curious about what can be done in our library system.  I had fun chatting with some pretty nifty fellow librarians while there.  YA librarians have so much energy!

I headed back toward the convention center after the preconference.  Librarians stood waiting anxiously outside the Exhibit Hall until 5:30.

Unfortunately, since my preconference session was not over until 4:30, I was not able to attend the opening speaker session with Dan Savage.  But while I was waiting in line, I was able to catch part of his speech on the television in the lobby.  And then I moseyed into the Exhibit Hall with all the other librarians.

I talked with a few vendors.  One was LiveMocha, which is starting to move away from its free model.  I love the idea of LiveMocha (think RosettaStone with Social Networking instead of the automatic computer feedback), but I wish my patrons would not need the library to subscribe to it.  I also asked a couple places about automated check out services and wireless printing capabilities for library patrons.

I’ve marched back over the the Garden District and am preparing to pick Jordan up from the airport.  His flight has been delayed.  I should be looking through my conference guide and planning out some other sessions.  Or reading more of “To Timbuktu.”

We are planning to go out for supper when he gets in.  But I got hungry.  And I ate a Snickers.  And some free grub at the Expo.  Good thing I made that run a priority….

Library Love

I fell in love again. With a library, of course.  I can’t help it.

Yesterday was pretty fabulous, yet only somewhat productive.  In the morning, I walked myself to the County Clerk to get another copy of our registration.  Then I headed over Henley St. to the UT campus again.  This time I went to the library to look at a couple specific books.   It is the most attractive university library I’ve been in.  Don’t get me wrong, I have strong feelings for Briggs Library:

Halloween at the Circ Desk.  I thought it would be funny to dress “as a librarian.”  This was before I decided to actually be one.

I also grew attached to McKeldin:

But the main library at UT is striking and bright.  From the outside, it looks like this:

Which reminds me a bit of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park:

Maybe a stretch, but that’s what my mind saw.

When I walked in, there was a beautiful atrium:

The second floor is where most of the action happens.  They’ve got a large information commons (library jargon for massive computer lab where you can be talk in groups, get help for computer and research questions, etc), a convenience store, a large Starbucks, a media center, and other things I did not explore:

I found myself a little study spot:

I lost myself in books about libraries (which are sometimes really books about books) for a good while before heading home.  Since eating and drinking are allowed in most of the library, I was even able to snack and sip from the Nalgene while reading.  I didn’t get back home too long before Jordan came through the door and then we feasted on some homemade pizza.

He told me that I’d really outdone myself, so I think I’ll be making another homemade pizza sometime soon.

Our night ended with some Jeopardy (teen style), Glee, and Skype time with Glenn, Kirsten, and of course Walter.  Walter’s pretty animated now, making for a fun Skype session.


*Lesson of the Day: I really, really do like libraries.  And pizza.*