November 29, 2014 | Persian
Language Loot, ACTFL
Sure enough, there were books as far as the eye could see.
A week has now passed since my return from ACTFL, the annual U.S. language conference for teachers of foreign languages. It was well worth the trip to San Antonio, Texas, even though most people there seemed perplexed (since I am not a teacher of foreign languages) about what the heck I was doing there.
I attended a few of the many dozens of talks, but spent most of my weekend on the expo floor, looking for interesting materials one could use for self-study. Major languages such as French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic dominated the conference, but there were a number of expo booths stocked with books on lesser-studied languages as well.
Teachers Arrive at the ACTFL Expo
Go Into the Light!
Early in the expo, I saw a booth for Cemanahuac Spanish School in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I stopped to look. Nearly twenty years ago I had spent a week studying there!
Dr. Harriet Guerrero of Cemanahuac
I told this to the school’s Harriet Guerrero, who sat down at her laptop and within less than 10 seconds had found me in her database. She scanned my file, which showed that at the time I had been 29 and a writer in New York. Something about this really got me: that my past could be plugged into so fast from a database on an expo floor in Texas.
Then she flipped to the housing page and noted, “It’s empty. Where did you stay?” Usually Cemanahuac students stay with local families to get a Spanish immersion experience, but my grandmother lived in Cuernavaca for the entire 31 years her life overlapped with mine, and that study trip had been made to a large extent in order to visit her.
When I told Harriet that, she asked, “Who was your grandmother?”
“Estelle Jovin,” I told her.
“I knew Estelle!” she said.
Harriet’s husband was there as well. She introduced me to him, and I realized he too had known my grandmother. She had died years ago, but was still alive in my head and the heads of strangers I encountered at random, or rather, with as much randomness as there ever really is in life.
Anyway, it was a strangely personal ACTFL moment for me.
Now, back to books.
During the expo, I visited the Routledge booth about eight times. I hope I wasn’t too annoying; I might have been, since I am not a large school district or university purchasing scads of books. Routledge is from my point of view a publishing god of language-learning. Many obsessive language learners seem to share this perspective.
The Magnificent Routledge Booth
I Want This
Routledge titles often send me straight to Google. I knew the word Khoesan, but I couldn’t remember what it was. According to Wikipedia, that Bible of Lazy Researchers which I have now consulted, these are “the languages of Africa that have click consonants but do not belong to other language families.” Munda languages, which I had never heard of at all, are spoken in India and Bangladesh.
Routledge on the Khoesan Languages
Routledge’s book on Tai-Kadai languages covers this “language family of highly tonal languages found in southern China and Southeast Asia” (Wikipedia), which includes Thai and Lao. And what language learner wouldn’t drool over the Routledge two-volume Compendium of the World’s Languages? Holy cannoli!
The World’s Languages!
This Makes Me Want to Study Welsh
German Grammar from Routledge
I love the title Latin for the Illiterati (below left). That’s me, where Latin is concerned. The Russian grammar and workbook (2013) in the picture looks yummy, too. The Routledge Swahili book below right is truly exciting. I know plenty of people looking for Swahili resources, and this one is hot off the presses! It is possible I might have brought this one home with me.
I Really Want to Study Latin
Brand New Swahili!
One thing I have learned in the past year, mostly through online language communities, is how much global variety there really is in English. For example, a nonnative speaker will ask a question about a grammatical point in English in the Facebook Polyglots group, at which point an American will answer definitely that you can’t say whatever it is they asked about that way, and then three other people from other parts of the English-speaking world will hop on and say, “Oh yes you can!” Routlege has a journal to look at Asian Englishes — cool! And they also have one for world languages (below right), which I am annoyed that I neglected to look inside of while in the throes of compulsive photographing.
This Routledge Journal Sounds Fascinating!
So Does This One!
Routledge’s book design is fabulous. Beautiful and simple. Clean. Seductive.
Greek! Swedish! Latvian!
I was happy to be able to see Yale University Press’s products live. They have beautiful, expensive-looking books. I am not too familiar with their publications, as many seem to be more appropriate for university study than autodidacts, but they had some fun stuff on display. Their French in Action series, which I haven’t used myself, is actually kind of famous.
Yale University Press Booth
A Famous French Series
Yale had a Chinese writing workbook (below left) and a book devoted entirely to Russian verbs of motion (below right). Also of interest to me were their books on spoken Arabic and a giant book on Persian whose existence I had not previously been aware of. The latter is probably too textbooky for my tastes, but it may appeal to others; I know language addicts/autodidacts who adore textbooks.
Pretty Yale Book on Chinese Characters
A Book Just on Russian Verbs of Motion!
Speaking Skills in Standard Arabic
I Didn’t Know About This Yale Title
Now for Georgetown. Georgetown University Press sent me into a near frenzy with a series of large black books devoted to languages including Dari, Tajiki, Uzbek, and Pashto. Dari and Tajiki, as I have mentioned previously in this blog, are dialects of Persian; Dari is spoken in Afghanistan, while Tajiki is spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. I had never seen any of these books before, and they were thick and rich with information. I was also attracted to the nice big Urdu book below! Georgetown has quite a bit of material on lesser-studied languages, which makes hanging out with their products special and inspiring.
How Cool Is This? Dari, from Georgetown
This Got My Heart Racing
Another Big and Tempting Book!
On Urdu, Which I Want to Study
I am drawn to dictionaries on specific dialects of Arabic. Do I use them yet? No! But it doesn’t mean I don’t admire them. Georgetown tempted me with these two, one on Iraqi and one on Moroccan Arabic. I see from the Georgetown website that they have dictionaries for other dialects as well.
Iraqi Arabic from Georgetown
Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic!
It cracked me up that Georgetown had a book dedicated just to numbers in Arabic. How…necessary. The Hindi book below is one I have been eyeing since late last year, when I first heard it would be coming out.
A Book Just on Arabic Numbers!
I spent most of two days on the floor of the expo. In between, I rested in my hotel room, high in the San Antonio sky. The room offered quite a view of the city. During breaks I enjoyed seeing costumed mariachi dancers roaming around. They were participating in an event that was being held alongside ACTFL and they seemed to be everywhere, easily distinguished by their outfits from the more sober ACTFL crowd.
View from My Hyatt Room at Night
While at the expo, I learned that there is a Turkish bookstore in New Jersey called Ant! This is good to know for down the road, in case I study Turkish, which is highly likely. I loved the store’s marketing strategy: the way to many language lovers’ hearts is through their stomachs!
Turkish from Ant Bookstore, New Jersey
Temptation of Turkish Delight
The Japanese company Kinokuniya, which has a giant store in New York City near Bryant Park, had a substantial booth at the expo displaying products such as these Japanese books for expats and cute kana playing cards.
Kinokuniya Bookstore: Japanese for Expats
Kana Playing Cards
Publisher Cheng & Tsui was there, too, offering among other things the book on kanji shown below left. I have never used it, but I liked its colorful cover. Another publisher, Kodansha, had a beefy kanji dictionary, shown below right.
This Book Cover Is Soothing
A Kanji Dictionary from Kodansha
One of my favorite personalities of the conference was Peter Sokolowski, a knowledgeable and passionate lexicographer from Merriam-Webster.
He loves talking words. I love talking to people who love talking words. Follow him on Twitter if you want more words in your life.
Lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, a Total Word Geek!
I learned from my chat with Peter that “peevers” is a word applied to peevish grammarians who cling to outdated and/or inaccurate prescriptions about language use.
Peevers! I promptly typed it into my phone for future reference.
And my phone promptly autocorrected “peevers” to “perverse.”
I loved the booths for the National African Language Resource Center (NALRC) and the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CelCAR), just two of more than a dozen language resource centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education. They had gobs of nifty brochures (which I wish I had taken some of) on all kinds of languages I know nothing about. You can find the brochure content for free on the NALRC and CelCAR websites.
I believe the books immediately below are mostly or entirely published by NALRC. Among CelCAR’s products are the cool Georgetown book series in black that included Dari, Pashto, and Uzbek, already discussed above.
Setswana, Igbo, Wolof, Oh My!
Sesotho, Shona, Amharic, and More
I also visited Barron’s booth, where I discovered this cute little Arabic phrasebook (below left), now in my possession. They have tons of books on major languages, some of which are shown below right.
A Wee Arabic Book from Barron’s
Italian and French Materials from Barron’s
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Olivia and Hill Press booth. This company, founded years ago by Dr. Jacqueline Morton (below left) sells books explaining the English grammar that grammarless native English speakers need in order to understand their foreign-language texts. She is very funny and quite a wit. I am a little afraid of her.
Jacqueline Morton, Founder of Olivia and Hill Press
English Grammar for Chinese, Arabic, Latin
I returned home laden with books. It was a great trip to Language-Learning Land. Next year’s ACTFL Conference, in case you’re interested, is in San Diego. I may be there!