Friday, September 22, 2006

It's all Japanese to me

I've had the interesting experience lately of being in many of my customers' shoes. That is, of understanding very little of a language I'm trying to learn. A little background: my 6 year old homeschooled son, NJ, has developed a passion for all things Japanese. He loves Japanese anime movies, Japanese art, and particularly Japanese language, both written and spoken. So we have plunged into learning some Japanese. Since he isn't reading in English (or German) yet, this means I need to do most of the legwork and basically learn alongside him. He has infected the whole family with his passion and we all know a lot more now than we did a few months ago. Even our two-year-old loves to say Konichiwa (hello) on the telephone. :)

Of course being the book maven that I am, one of my first steps has been to search out books! But I don't speak Japanese and since the alphabet is different, I don't even have a chance when trying to decide on a book. Luckily, we have good friends who are able to help a bit and who have pointed us in the right direction. I realize how many of my customers must feel who are shopping for German books but whose German is not sufficient to help them make a decision. I now know how it is! I do feel for you!

So I'm going to try and do more book reviews and more translations to help the beginners. And if anyone has any tips on learning Japanese, we'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A personal favorite

ML (2.5 years old) has found an old book of NJ's and begs to read it over and over at bedtime. The book is Klopf an and is one of the original books I ordered for NJ sight unseen when he was a baby, way back before Alphabet Garten was created.

This book has earned its keep over the past 6 years. It's a good-sized boardbook and the right side of every other page spread is a door - all one color with a door handle. The child is asked "Mal sehen, wer da wohnt. Wir klopfen einfach an" and encouraged to knock on the door page. All this knocking is a big hit with babies and toddlers! Open the "door" and the next page shows a scene from a room with lots to talk about. One time it's a family of rabbits eating dinner at the table, another time it's a little boy in his room. Each room leads to the next. ML learned his colors from this book and still loves to count the little bears and rabbits. The very last page takes you outside again to see the moon.

Not a whole lot of text but lots of great drawings and things to talk about.

Einfach süß...

Klopf an

Incorporating German Culture and Customs

I like to read books with my children that initiate discussions on German culture. The Lesemaus books do a great job of this in a very natural way. My favorite right now is Ich hab einen Freund, der ist Bäcker. This book transports me back to my student days in München and hot bread and pretzels from the neighborhood Müller Brot. Bakeries in Germany are ubiquitious and there's just nothing like them in the U.S.! This book has a picture of a bakery case and reading about the Streuselschnecken and Brötchen takes me back. My mouth waters and I wonder for a second if I've finished my German assignment for Frau Rischer! Will those college nightmares ever cease?!

Anyway, my two-year-old loves the images of kneading fresh bread dough and grinding oats into oatmeal and his big brother loves the thought of buying his own Pausenbrot. Come to think of it, we need to go make Brezen!

Some other great choices for German culture are:
Wir entdecken das Hotel
Welches Tier war das hier? (We love the hedgehog and dung beetle!)
Märchen, Fabeln, Sagen - Set of 8 Pixi Books - how can you discuss German culture and leave out fairy tales?
Conni am Strand I get such a kick out of the hairy middle-aged lifeguard in this book!