French For Cats

To start out our exploration of books useful for introducing young people to world languages, let’s take a look at two little books that are sure to spark an interest in French:  French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need and Advanced French for Exceptional Cats: Sophisticated French for a Cat as Smart as Yours by Henry Beard (and John Boswell) and illustrated by Gary Zamchick. Both books are written in English and French with a lighthearted humor that is sure to warm the hearts of cat lovers and language lovers alike.

Both are little books, only roughly four by six inches, but they pack a big dose of laughs. Just to be clear, there is a bit of “potty” (well, litterbox) humor and referenced to being neutered, so the reader range is probably mature middle grade to young adult.

The illustrations are pen and ink cartoons with watercolor, in keeping with the light tone of the books.

Example of text:

What I do
Ce Que Je Fais

I meow
Je miaule

I purr
Je ronronne

I sleep
Je dors

If you own cats, you know about that last one. 🙂

French for Cats works as a fun introduction to vocabulary for beginners and a brush up for more advanced speakers. Advanced French for Exceptional Cats even has a mini-session in grammar.

To get you in the mood, here is a video of another French cat, Henrí. Although the humor of the video is more subtle than the books, it still makes me laugh out loud. Look for videos like this one to hear French being spoken.

Although the first editions were printed in the 1990’s, the books were bestsellers and were reprinted, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a copy.

French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need by Henry Beard, John Boswell and illustrated by Gary Zamchick

Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Villard; 1 edition (October 8, 1991)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 067940676X
ISBN-13: 978-0679406761

Advanced French for Exceptional Cats:  Sophisticated French for a Cat as Smart as Yours by Henry Beard and illustrated by Gary Zamchick

Publisher: Villard; First Edition 2nd edition (October 27, 1992)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0679417648
ISBN-13: 978-0679417644

Books for Exploring World Languages

Today we’re revealing a new logo and a whole new world of books to explore here at Wrapped in Foil.

Why study world languages? The reasons and benefits for picking up a bilingual book, or a book written in another world language, are many.

1. It’s good for your brain

Neurobiologists are beginning to uncover a wealth of different benefits for studying a second languages. Young children who are bilingual show an enhanced ability to concentrate, which may have to do with increased development of the working memory. In older adults, learning a second language may stave off the onset of dementia. Scientists have even found that adults who have learned a second language have denser gray matter; their brains are changed structurally.

2. Early exposure is beneficial to learning a language

Evidence is mounting that the earlier a child is exposed to second language, the more likely he or she will be able to become fluent in that language.

3. Studying languages is a graduation requirement

Many colleges require that potential students to have studied at least two and up to four years of languages in high school.

How does a student decide which language to study if they have had little exposure, if they never heard or seen any other languages besides their home language? Other than taking the same classes as their friends, it may be difficult for a student to decide which one fits his or her needs and personality best. Exposure to a variety of bilingual books may help students figure out where their interests lie and concentrate their studies more effectively.

4. Employers value bilingual employees, as well as those who are knowledgeable of other cultures.

Being able to communicate effectively with customers from a diversity of backgrounds is a valuable ability in many of fields of work.

5. Opens up opportunities for travel and working in other countries.

Let’s face it, knowing a second language can lead to a variety of opportunities. The first step to opening that door may be a simple as opening a book!

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Where to find out more about the benefits to the brain:
Learning languages ‘boosts brain’ from the BBC
The Bilingual Brain
Second Language Translates Into Clearer Thinking

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Ferdinandus Taurus: Introducing Languages

Isn’t it amazing sometimes how coincidences can point your thoughts in a new direction?

Many teenagers in our neighborhood are starting high school this week. They all needed to pick a language to study for the next few years. How do they do it if they have never heard or seen any other languages? How do they decide which one fits their needs and personalities best without prior exposure?

Then I met a lovely young lady who speaks several languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. She studied to all these languages from a very young age. She has had many unique opportunities because of her language abilities.

Finally, all those high school students are now thinking about standardized tests, like the SAT. Part of these tests assess a student’s vocabulary. What better way to build vocabulary than to learn about languages such as Latin and Greek (and many others) that have contributed to English over the years.

Taken together, through these experiences I was reminded of the importance of introducing children to foreign languages throughout childhood. What is the best way to do this? One great way is to pick up children’s books written in different languages. For the next few weeks I plan highlight some examples of the kind of book that introduce languages and at the same time appeal to children.

Ferdinandus Taurus by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Roberto Lawson, and translated by Elizabeth Hadas is a wonderful classic that could be used to acquaint children with Latin.

The advantages of using a children’s picture book is that the story is familiar, and even if it isn’t, you can glean much of the plot from the illustrations. The vocabulary is amazingly useful, too, even though it is a simple story. For example:

sedeo, to sit – root of such English words as sedentary and sessile

mater, mother – leads to maternal and matronly

apis, bee – scientific name for bee, such as Apis mellifera, the honey bee, as well as the root of the word apiary

Do you need to know Latin to share this with your children/students? There is an “Index Verborum” of all the words used in the text. It might be hard to figure out things like verb tenses without at least some Latin background, but remember that the idea is to let them see and hear the language, to get some idea of what it is all about.

With the wonders of YouTube, you can even have an expert read it.

Cool!

Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: David R Godine (October 1, 2000)
Language: Latin
ISBN-10: 1567921272
ISBN-13: 978-1567921274

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.

Asterix the Gaul

Time for another humorous series of books that have been entertaining (and secretly educating) people for decades. 

I was first introduced Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo in my high school Latin class many years ago. The text had been translated from the original French into Latin. Does that sound dry? A book about Gauls from Roman times written in Latin? Wrong! My classmates and I loved the spunky cartoon characters so much, we would spend hours trying to figure out what each was saying. I’m sure all my success in Latin is due to the foresight of our teacher to provide us with Asterix books.

Several years ago, I stumbled on an English version. It turns out that there is a whole series featuring Asterix and Orion publishers has been re-releasing the books. I immediately bought several for my then elementary-school-age son. He loved them, too. In fact he went in costume as Asterix the Gaul on Halloween, and was bitterly disappointed when everyone thought he was a Viking.

What’s to love:

  • Incredibly clever word play and side-splitting puns
  • A humorous overview of history and geography during Roman times
  • Sly references to classics, films and famous pieces of artwork

What a few parents may not love:

  • Cartoon violence in the form of fighting

Most of the violence is the direct result of the conflict between the Gauls and the Romans, which is historically appropriate. To me, it seems so over-the-top slapstick that it is not objectionable, but I did want to mention it for those that are sensitive to such things.

You can get somewhat of a feel for the flavor in the film version. (The books are better. They don’t have the dated feel.)

Although listed as for ages 9-12, the Asterix books are really for all ages. Our local library files them in young adult or sometimes in graphic books. If your child is learning a language or you want to brush up on the language you took in high school, you might consider the French or Latin versions as well.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: Orion (September 1, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0752866052
ISBN-13: 978-0752866055

Asterix the Gaul is the first in the series.

A selection from the Asterix series in English

A selection from the Asterix series in French

A selection from The Asterix series in Latin