A trip to Albertine (finally!)


Last weekend, I finally got around to visiting Albertine, the new-ish bookstore and reading room housed in Manhattan’s historic Payne Whitney mansion, which has served the cultural services of the French Embassy since the 1950s. Conceived as a project to bridge the French and American cultures through books/humanities/general intellectual deliciousness, Albertine carries 14,000 titles in French and English and hosts special events like discussions, book signings, and story hours. While I aspire to partake in those alluring offerings later on, my first visit consisted of a quick stroll through the place, which was intimate and well-heated, and well, getting really hypnotized by the gorgeous indigo-and-gold ceiling on the second floor (details on the design of that here).

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Happy (Belated) Lunar New Year!

Today’s language-learning inspiration comes from Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, who just wow-ed the world with another mesmerizing video of him speaking entirely in Chinese. This time, it’s a Lunar New Year greeting, of course.

Also fascinating: this deep dive over on Quartz on what exactly is this year’s Chinese Zodiac animal sign. Is it a sheep? Goat? Ram? Does it matter? Apparently, some people in China are laughing at Western media for getting hung up on this, which is pretty amusing in itself. Linguistic mischief!

Duolingo Teaches Swedish Now!

I’m not sure how it’s been over a month since I blogged here but this I do know: it seems rather counterproductive that my “first post back” is about…Swedish???

Alas, I’m slowly making my way through the WordPress reader and am SO. FREAKING. EXCITED. to learn (via Ruth @ Talk Foreign to Me) that Duolingo is offering a course on Swedish now (along with Danish, Turkish, Dutch, and Irish, apparently).

I know my goal, first and foremost, is to get real good at Korean and French, but ever since I met some really fun Swedish-born Chinese girls that one summer in Beijing…I’ve been mesmerized by the language…

I think it’ll be really exciting getting to know a language I speak no word of…and I think the casual, illustrative exercises on Duolingo will be perfect for that.

All aboard the Swedophile train!

Idioms are hard.

The Atlantic recently published something that’s right up my alley: a foreign idiom quiz! Featuring examples from Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and many more.

Before the quiz, there was this quote from Jay Bhalla, author of an idiom book called I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, which I liked and was just like, you can say that again (idiom!? haha):

“It’s just fascinating that every culture has them,” Bhalla told me, notwithstanding the fact that idioms are “often the least logical way to communicate a thought.”

No Korean in the mix, but here are the Chinese and French questions:


↑ This took me a while to process, but then it came to me. Horse horse tiger tiger = 马马虎虎 (Mǎmǎhǔhǔ). This is one of those things that I know in speech and listening, but not in writing…definitely did not realize there was horse and tiger involved.

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“S’il vous plaît… dessine-moi un mouton!”

(Rough translation here)

Wow, this came out of nowhere. The video up there is the just released French trailer for the upcoming animated film The Little Prince, adapted from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s best-selling, much-adored book of the same title.

The Little Prince could be one of the most beautiful animated films of 2015,” proclaims this article in the Verge. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. Just from the 1:27 trailer (from which I understood approximately er, 55-60 percent?) it just feels…so magical. I didn’t even know there was a 1974 live-action version, but judging by its screen shots, I feel like at least visually, it doesn’t capture the unique sparkle and allure of the little prince…maybe I’ll give it a watch in the next few months.

Who knew animation would become so powerful? Thank you technology, and the passionate creative folk who are completely devoted to advancing this craft…

ANYWAY, sometime in the past year and a half, I finally finished reading the original story in French. I’d purchased the book and started reading for French class in high school…and alas, it’s taken over five years to finish. The margins are covered in translation notes, which just means plowing through it was quite taxing. So I should probably re-read that as well, before the new film comes out next October. I imagine it will only get more magical the second time around.