Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Urban Language Adventures: Summer in the City

Ellen Jovin, Writer, Words & Worlds of New York

In New York—said to be the second most multilingual city in the world after London—language students have an astonishing array of linguistic resources to help them learn outside of school.

Over the past four years I have studied a number of languages important to New York’s past and present. As part of that undertaking, I wandered the city looking for places to practice whatever I happened to be studying. I ended up in Bay Ridge for Arabic, Astoria for Greek, Little Brazil (in Manhattan) for Portuguese, practically everywhere for Spanish, and three different Chinatowns—in Manhattan, Flushing, and Sunset Park—for Mandarin.

I describe some New York neighborhoods on my language-learning website, but there are many more.  Walking around a different neighborhood is a fantastic, low-budget way to get to know your city better while experiencing new language opportunities. You can browse in stores selling unfamiliar products from other parts of the world, chat with local salespeople, or simply order a beverage in a neighborhood café or tea house surrounded by the sounds of another tongue.

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for Arabic
I love museums for children. Children who go to museums are more likely to become adults who go to museums. Plus there is air-conditioning! The DiMenna Children’s History Museum, the nation’s only history museum for kids, is housed within the New-York Historical Society. Or you can visit the Museum of Chinese in America or El Museo del Barrio, where children under 12 get in free.

Websites listing New York City goings-on include NYCgo.com and SocialEyesNYC. Festivals, parades, fairs, and other kid-friendly events frequently have a cultural focus and can serve as excellent sources of language opportunities.

At the New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan Branch are mountains of language-learning materials. These include foreign-language movies, which you can check out for free. Local library branches around town often have surprising stores of foreign-language books, depending on the surrounding neighborhood’s interests and needs.

New York is also home to dozens of specialized language bookstores. Among the many options are Chung Hwa and W J Bookstore for Chinese, and Rizzoli and Idlewild for Spanish.

When it is too hot outside to budge, online options can keep you connected to a global language community. FlashcardExchange.com offers a gigantic collection of flashcards, created by people all over the world for dozens of languages. Visitors can try out existing cards or, alternatively, create and post their own. Forvo collects pronunciations of words recorded by native speakers of languages globally, while Digital Dialects has cute language-learning games for about 60 languages.

I wish everyone a happy and multilingual New York summer!

1 comment:

  1. Ellen-Thank you so much for including us on your New York City "goings on" list! And Angela, thank you for posting.