May 2021

What Color Is Your Paragraph?

2021-05-20T11:56:38-04:00By |Articles|

Meet the award-winning narrator of the America’s Bilingual Century audiobook, who does more than just deliver the spoken text. Sean Pratt has narrated more than a thousand audiobooks, including Steve’s America’s Bilingual Century. You would think that a professional audiobook narrator sees words on the page that they’re reading from. Sean Pratt, who’s won six awards from AudioFile magazine and snagged two Audi Awards nominations, does see them, of course. But there amidst the black type, he spies something else that the rest of us don’t. “I look for the [...]

How a Dad Used Language to Up His Empathy

2021-05-26T10:04:43-04:00By |Articles|

When Robert Shaw’s daughter, Felicity, was five years old, he would occasionally reach for the Duolingo app rather than a picture book for bedtime reading. He’d do a short beginner’s lesson with Felicity and her younger brother, usually in Spanish or French. As Robert points out, “When you learn things right before you sleep, you retain them better.” So why not a few words in a different language? But it was words in the English language that Felicity often found challenging when she started reading in earnest, at age six. Both Robert and his wife, La [...]

Who’s That Heavenly Voice in Chapter 47?

2021-05-20T14:06:48-04:00By |Articles|

She’s a singer, songwriter, TED Talker, Twitch Partner. She’s performed at Carnegie Hall, been featured in an Ariana Grande music video, and acted in several films. She studied violin and piano before she was 5 and learned Flamenco dancing—in Spain—when she was 5. Oh, and she started her YouTube channel then, too. But for the editorial team of Steve’s book, America’s Bilingual Century, the most knock-it-out-of-the-park achievement of this 20-year-old California-born phenom is that’s she’s fluent in both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. For the final chapter of the audiobook version of Steve’s book, hers is the [...]

August 2018

Jackie Kennedy’s Prowess as a Polygot

2021-05-20T11:58:44-04:00By |Articles|

When President John F. Kennedy traveled to West Berlin on June 26, 1963, he wanted to assure the people there—who were literally walled off from the eastern portion of their city by Communist Russia—that Americans stood with them. Ever the classicist, Kennedy drew from the ancient Romans’ statement of Civis Romanus sum “I am a citizen of Rome.” He wanted to convey that same spirit, but in German:Ich bin ein Berliner. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy speaks—in Spanish—to leaders of the 2506 Cuban Invasion Brigade at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, where she delivered her speech—in [...]

“Talking Leaves” The Cherokee Syllabary of Sequoyah

2019-12-17T14:03:05-05:00By |Articles|

Editor’s note: Be sure to listen to our podcast on saving the Cherokee language—Episode 30 of America the Bilingual, “A New Generation of Cherokee Speakers Rises.” When is an alphabet not an alphabet? When it is the syllabary of the Cherokee language. A Cherokee named Sequoyah invented it in 1821. He had seen non-Native soldiers reading from what he called “talking leaves”—words on paper—and was determined to find a way for the Cherokee to do the same. Sequoyah (ca. 1776 – ca. 1843) was used to making tools for his work as both a blacksmith and [...]

February 2018

‘On the Other Side of the Curtain’: Jean Kwok’s Bestselling Novels Reveal What It Means to Live in Other Languages

2021-05-20T11:58:30-04:00By |Articles|

Since her debut novel, Girl in Translation (which was translated into 16 languages), Jean Kwok has earned the coveted status of international bestselling author. Her newest work, Searching for Sylvie Lee, is a Today Show Book Club pick and earned Jean another spot on the New York Times bestseller list. It comes with a list of encomiums as long as a kite string: O Magazine, Buzzfeed, the Washington Post, CNN, Time, Newsweek, and more. Language plays a key role in all of Jean’s fiction, and together with reading, it has been central to Jean’s own [...]

January 2018

Our Towns: A book, a journey, and an often-surprising view of multicultural America

2020-01-15T17:30:12-05:00By |Articles|

To talk of bilingualism in America is to speak about more than just language. Our not-so-secret wish at America the Bilingual is that aspiring to be bilingual will inspire an appreciation for those who have come to this country from elsewhere, and with other languages. They are following the lodestar that has long shaped America’s history. They’ve come to make their lives here, raise their families, help build—literally and otherwise—their communities. Yet if you rely on just national news to know how we’re all getting along with one another in our communities, you might conclude [...]

Can Bicycles Make Us Bilingual?

2020-01-15T17:28:52-05:00By |Articles|

YES, say four researchers from universities in China, Thailand and Italy. More precisely, the study they conducted on Chinese university students in the throes of learning beginner-level English showed that the students who studied while pedaling stationary bikes did significantly better than their counterparts who studied while merely stationary, sitting at their desks. Wheel of linguistic fortune What’s more, the researchers reported, “effects were present even when tested after a month.” Along the lines of the adage about how you never forget how to ride a bike once you learn, the “bicycling bilinguals” of the study [...]

Other Tongue: Writers Who Write in a Language Not Their Own

2020-01-15T17:36:10-05:00By |Articles|

Most writers will tell you that it's challenging enough to write well in their native language, let alone attempting it in another. Yet a number of well-known authors have done just that, in many cases writing not only well but brilliantly, in a language that was not their first. There's a name for these writers: exophonic. The word derives from Greek–exo in Greek means "outside"; phonic means "voice." The University of Warwick in the United Kingdom even offers a course on it, called "Exophony, or Writing Beyond the Mother Tongue." One for the Russian road Vladimir Nabokov [...]

’Tis the season to speak German: Thank Deutsche for some of our best-loved Christmas carols

2020-01-06T10:13:25-05:00By |Articles|

If you celebrate Christmas, come December, you might begin to experience what the Germans call Vorfreude: joyful anticipation. Vor roughly translates to “before” or “in front,” and freude, to “pleasure” or “joy.” Even for those of us not lucky enough to speak German, we know how to sing it—after a fashion—at Christmastime, in joyful anticipation of December 25. Some of the best-known Christmas carols have their origins in German. Here are four that you may know. A Christmas tree on the Potsdamer Platz (Sony Center) in Berlin, Germany. (Wikimedia Commons) [...]

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