"This way of learning a language made complete sense to me. Working with the SpeakEZ German course, I was able to understand more in 2 weeks than in five years of German in school!"
-- Asbjørn Finsnes
"The way in which this method is presented provided me with language that will suit me in a foreign country instead of a collection of unusable vocabulary words.
Those who have studied languages realize that looking-up individual words cannot convey a language in the correct manner. Becoming fluent means being able to verbalize ideas ; not learning technical rules and identifying the Past Predicate Indicative.
The audio part of this method has been my favorite portion of the learning process. Not only is the pronunciation slow and clear, but it is presented so that I remember the flow of sentences and concepts.
Thank you for the opportunity to work with this amazing program; it has been a blessing for me."
-- Destiny Yarbro, College Student
Pommes de terre douce, s'il vous
While studying in Paris, my friends and I decided to try to prepare a
"traditional" Thanksgiving dinner. My assignment was to bring yams.
There'd be twenty of us, so I'd need quite a few yams. I set out without a worry
in the world. I had not done any linguistic preparation for this outing but I
was completely relaxed. I was expecting to walk up to a produce stall at the
market, find the yams, point and ask for ten, hand over my francs, and head home
to start baking.
No big deal except I didn't see any yams. I did see perfect pyramids of baking
potatoes, russet potatoes, red potatoes, new potatoes, even blue potatoes,
something called "creamy potatoes," but not a single yam. Well, now what? I was
going to have to engage the produce guy in conversation. This was fine, I
thought. My French was respectable.
I tell the produce guy that I need some 'pommes de terre douce.' He looks mildly
shocked and replies, "Potato of the sweet earth? What's that?"
Flustered, I try to explain. "Uh, it's like a potato, but it's an orange. I
mean, the color is orange." Anxious to get rid of me, he says, "I'm sorry, Miss.
I don't have anything like that." I walk away as fast as my
double-wide-ugly-American-nun shoes will take me without breaking into an
uncivilized run back out to the street, where I start to cry as soon as the cold
air hits my burning corneas. Now what?
The scene at two more produce stands is much the same--not a yam in sight, and
no one seems to know what I'm talking about. I am a woman on the edge, all over
some tubers. I decide not to panic and to act rationally. I sit down in the
nearest bistro and order a cafe creme. I pay for my coffee and head out the
As I round the corner, I see a bookstore that I'm pretty sure wasn't there
twenty minutes earlier. I step inside and I make a beeline for the reference
section and grab the biggest French/English dictionary I can find. Sweet bread,
sweet corn, sweet tooth, sweet talk, sweet success, sweet POTATO! They do
exist--patate douce. What's the difference between pomme de terre and patate?
How was I supposed to know? I say it over and over as I reshelve the dictionary
and look for the culinary section. I find what looks like a picture encyclopedia
of foods and flip through until I find "patate douce."
Well, this explains everything. Staring me in the face is a glossy, full color
glamour shot and cross-section of the patate douce. It is decidedly not orange
but it rather looks like your average spud. No wonder all those produce guys
blew me off. Armed with my new vocabulary word, I trace my steps back to the
last produce stand. I ask for sweet potatoes correctly this time and am not met
with a blank stare. When asked how much I want, I say, "10."
I'm still reveling in my linguistic triumph when the produce guy tells me,
"That's 359 francs, Miss." Quoi?!? That's more than 50 dollars--for yams? I tell
myself, "Pay the man and let's just go home."
He must have seen the distressed look on my face because he adds, "They're 35
francs per kilo--imported from Africa." He hands me the bags.
As I am trudging home, it suddenly hits me. Hold on! 359 francs, 35 francs a
kilo. I know what's happened. I'm carrying ten kilos of patates douces, which
looks to be about 25 medium-sized yams and explains completely why I got such
friendly service. Too late now. I'm just not up for trying to return half my
Sometime during the long walk home, the handles of both bags break, and by the
time I round the corner next to the apartment, I'm hugging all 10 kilos as if
I'm carrying triplets. My pockets and the hood of my coat are stuffed with the
yams that slipped out of their bags along the way. I must look absolutely
ridiculous--I can forget about "blending" into the Parisian scene.
I pause to get my keys out from underneath several potatoes, and in that split
second, something changes. My arms relax and I lean my head back and do a Mary
Tyler Moore-style twirl in the street. I'm living in Paris. Paris! I'm not a
tourist who comes to see the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower, eat at McDo, and
shop in the American store. I live here. I read the newspaper on my way to
school and use French deodorant and meet my friends for falafel on Sundays and
go to the movies alone and pick up visitors at the Gare du Nord and go jogging
down the Champs Elysees and I buy yams from the produce guy. Ten kilos of yams,
white ones imported from Africa.
© 2009 Abbe Spokane, re-published with permission from
Culture Shocks. It's a great
site with lots of cross-cultural stories!
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEBSITE? You may, as long as you include this blurb with it: SpeakEZ Languages publishes "Language Learning Express," a free bi-weekly e-zine for language learners who are eager to discover the secrets of efficient language learning, transition seamlessly into a new culture and have fun on the way. Get your FREE subscription and your FREE e-book now at http://www.SpeakEZLanguages.com.
SpeakEZ Languages, LLC
72-12 62nd Street
Glendale, NY 11385