Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners

I don’t count myself as a hyperpolyglot(!), but I can definitely agree that the key to successful language learning is simply finding a way to enjoy the process.  Judging from the book review in The Economist, this seems to be part of the message of Michael Erard’s new book, Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners.

from the review: “Hyperpolyglots may begin with talent, but they aren’t geniuses. They simply enjoy tasks that are drudgery to normal people. The talent and enjoyment drive a virtuous cycle that pushes them to feats others simply shake their heads at, admiration mixed with no small amount of incomprehension.”

If you’re an active language learner, are you on an upward spiral, or are you stuck in the language-learning doldrums?  What kinds of things do you enjoy doing that other people might think of as ‘drudgery’?

[*After reading the review, I submitted a suggestion to my local library and they’ve already agreed to order the book.  I honestly can’t say it often enough: I love the Edmonton Public Library!  (update Jan 16/2012:  the book is now in the epl database]

Le départ de Stéphane Guillon: one of my French teachers got fired…

The other day I made a list of French podcasts that I have on my ipod, but it appears that Stéphane Guillon’s two year stint on France Inter has come to a close.  Pity!  In making a statement on the situation, Radio France boss Jean-Luc Hees declared that “L’humour ne doit pas être confisqué par de petits tyrans.” and gave Guillon the boot.

I’ll leave politics to the pundits, but it really has been fun listening to his morning slots.  One favourite that comes to mind was his recap of the Clearstream Affair, comparing the whole scenario to a TV series that you never really want to come to an end “and I never missed an episode”(see video below).

Something about his humour reminded me of old Monty Python sketches that were off-colour enough that you couldn’t share with some of your friends, yet you still couldn’t deny some the comedic genius in the delivery.

With his flair, gift for story-telling and spot-on impersonations of so many different French speaking styles, these skits are a superb language learning resource– my only wish was that I could read his speaking notes!  If someone ever puts together a DVD + Book box-set of Mr. Guillon’s time at France Inter, I will definitely pick up a copy!

video link: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc2bsy_al-pacino-et-la-croisiere-s-amuse_fun

DELF listening practice: French Podcasts

If you’re looking for French podcasts to throw on your ipod, try a few of these.   I have a number of different podcasts all organized into a smart playlist on my ipod– it all sort of flows together like a multilingual radio station….   Of special note is the United Nations podcast– if you need to follow up with something, often times you’ll find a transcript of their stories at the UN Radio site.

France Inter – L’humeur de Stéphane Guillon
[edit] **Guillon was fired by the station, so the audio archive is gone, but you can still watch lots of his videos here.

Un livre sous le bras [itunes link]
Radio des Nations Unies en français [itunes link]
RTL :  Z comme Zemmour  [itunes link]
RTL : Les livres ont la parole [itunes link

Why not simply browse the podcast directory?

Don’t forget that  you can click on the “Change Country” link at the bottom of the podcast page in itunes—if you select France then why not try out some random ‘picks’ from categories that appeal to you?     If sports is your thing in English, then you should definitely be looking to French sportscasters as an *ideal* learning resource.