Several years ago…in 2017 our family took a Disney Star Wars cruise and it was an amazing experience. First, a couple of photos…
and today in honor of Star Wars day and remembering fun times, I’ve created a LEGO model to commemorate the event…
Speaking & Entertainment
We recently visited Disney for a week. Near the end of our trip our 6 year old daughter Brielle got very sick with a stomach ache. It cuminated in throwing up in the park near the Dumbo ride. Disney went into action. Immediately she was surrounded by a wall of Disney employees creating a feeling of privacy including an EMT with a stretcher. (Some of Mickey’s doctor friends!)
They tested her blood sugar level and found she was not running a temp. After seeing she was OK to go on, we were escorted to a nearby gift shop where they gave our family whatever drinks we wanted. Then our guest guide asked Brielle about her favorite princess. She then took us past the 40 minute wait line to the front to get a moment of time with Arielle, the Little Mermaid including a photo and autograph.
As we left the park, we stopped in a shop where another Disney employee noticed Brielle didn’t look like she was well. When he found out she had been sick he watched us to see what she liked in the store. Once he knew, he brought the $30 stuffed animal up to the counter and gave it to her at no charge. He said that they want everyone to have a good time and felt sorry that she was feeling sick…get well soon.
The following day Brielle was still not well enough to go to the park…but we had reservations for dinner at Cinderella’s castle. Not to be missed, we timed it right to gave her Tylenol, Pepto Bismal, etc…and were able to squeeze out a 3 hour window where she felt well enough to go, see all the princesses, and enjoy part of the evening.
We’re telling this story not to complain at all about our experience…but to celebrate the fact that Disney gets it. We talked to several “cast members” at Disney and heard no negative stories about working there.
So what lesson did we learn? We’re always going to have a sick kid when we’re at Disney. : ) Seriously, the Disney employees are empowered to make guest experiences great. How can you empower your employees to make smart decisions that make customers happy?
A special moment for me at Disney World was visiting Mickey Mouse at the Town Square theater where you can go backstage to see Mickey preparing to be onstage as a magician. I was given the special opportunity to perform some magic for Mickey! I did one of my favorite illusions where I multiply my money…Something that really doesn’t happen often at DisneyWorld. : )
Mickey watched intently and then he was so surprised that he stepped back in disbelief! It was an amazing moment and so fun to be able to provide a bit of magic to someone who has made magic happen for many millions of people.
Conan O’Brien once told a joke about a 94-year-old great-great grandmother that had become the oldest person in the world to earn a Masters degree. He said “She plans to continue her education. Everyone is excited for the 94 year old, except her student loan officer.” Seriously, you are never too old to learn something new…even a new language.
Learning a foreign language will make you feel like a kid again. It’s something new that will expand your horizons. You’ll be able to communicate with people you never could before, understand things you couldn’t, keep your brain active, and you may have a desire to travel to new places to test out your abilities.
In Europe many people speak three languages. Here in the U.S (and Minnesota)…not so much. It’s a shame. Maybe us Minnesotans would speak more languages if, for example, they spoke a different language in Wisconsin. Possibly, we’d like to speak with those people that are so nearby…unless they support the wrong football team. What if they spoke another language in Iowa? Well, most Minnesotans try not to talk with them either. So I guess that’s not a reason to learn another language. Moving on…
An ad for the language learning system called Rosetta Stone starts like this “What’s the fastest way to learn a language? ACT LIKE A BABY.” They identify three characteristics that make language-learning a success for kids that we can emulate as adults. (1) Learning starts in a immersion environment free from translation and explanations of grammar. (2) Learning accelerates through constant feedback. (3) Learning happens through play. They conclude with “A slow smile sneaks across the learner’s face after just a few screens. It’s a smile of recognition, as though the brain suddenly recalls what is was like to learn language as a child, athough it realizes, ‘Aha! I’ve done this before.'”
TIPS FOR LEARNING
Here are a few tips for learning a foreign language.
Don’t be Afraid to Try
My young daughter Arianna told me “We have to crap for Brielle.” “What?” I asked. Again she said, “We have to crap for Brielle.” I tried for clarification “Honey, What word are you saying?” “Crap for Brielle!” Then she applauded!…and I understood. Sometimes we know the words but still don’t communicate clearly. Kids are not afraid to try.
I’ve had my issues with learning French. One time I was the only American at the dinner table with a French family. At the time I knew enough French to get myself in trouble. I had my own rules for French. For example, I found that long English words are often the same in French but thay are pronounced differently. For example, “helicopter” is pronounced “hel-A-kop-tare” in French. Also, words that end in “ive” in English often end in “if” in French. For example, “massive” is “massif” in French. One older gentleman at the table was a baker and he was trying to explain something to me about the bread…that it was natural or something. So I said to him “C’est du pain, sans preservatif.”…thinking I was saying “It’s bread without any preservatives”. The entire table broke into laughter. What I really said in French was “It’s bread without condoms.” True, but not exactly what I had in mind.
Another time I had learned the words “par se que” (because) and “mai” (but) in the same day. After eating a huge dinner, I was offered more food. I thought that if I ate another bite I would explode like the man in Monty Python, so I said “C’est tres bon parse que c’est trop.” or “It’s very good BECAUSE it is too much.” I got them mixed up. Oops.
I could have let these incidents stop me from trying. Kids are much more patient in this regard because they make mistakes all the time. Learning is often a process of making mistakes and then changing what we know. In fact, making the mistake helps you remember to not make it again…or so we hope.
Talk With Kids
Not only is it easier to learn a foreign language like a child learns, but learning a foreign language is easier if you talk WITH children that speak that language natively. So you can put yourself in a situation where kids speak another language and might with you. For most Americans this might occur on a mission trip, or while volunteering in an immersion school. Here’s why it could help:
1. Kids speak slower and with simpler words and phrases.
2. It is not as intimidating to try speaking to kids as it is adults.
3. Kids are not afraid to continue speaking to you even when you don’t have a clue what they are saying.
4. Kids may not understand English and therefore you are forced to speak it for any understanding.
I remember one time I was talking to a kid in French to see how he would respond. He didn’t have a clue what I was saying. After listening and nodding in agreement for a few minutes, he said he needed to go… “I’ll talk to you later!”
Get Some Rest
Learning another language can be tiring. In fact, researchers have found that sleep boosts your ability to learn language. So…if someone ever catches you taking a nap just say “I’m trying to learn a foreign language!” Personally, I’d say adequate sleep boosts your ability to do anything well. You when you need a rest and get frustrated, take one…and pick up where you left off later. Repetition and trying lots of different ways to achieve the end is key.
While traveling alone in the Czech Republic, I had a strong desire to be understood. I would ask in Czech “Mluvíte anglicky?” (“Do you speak English?”) The common answer was “no”. The other person would ask in German (their second language) “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” I’d reply “No” and then ask “Parlez vous Francais?” (as French is my second language). They would laugh at me as if to say “Yeah right, I’m going to speak French.” When I got tired of trying to understand Czech or German menus and saying “Nerozumím” (“I don’t understand”), I’d hit an Italian restaurant. Spaghetti and pizza are recognizable in any language…and it provided me a well deserved rest.
LANGUAGE LEARNING RESOURCES
There are many resources available for learning a language. Try any and all of them for greater success.
Lots of language resources come from England…and so learning from them can be complex. Once I was trying to learn Czech from a CD. The English made no sense. It went like this: “And now for some general queries. You’re in a large hypermarket and you want to know where the trolleys are.” What? I needed to translate the British English into English. “And now for some general questions. You’re in a large grocery store and want to know where the carts are.”
Listen to internet radio in your foreign language on Pandora.
French in 10 Minutes a Day Great book with stickers you can place on things in your house.
Phrase books can be helpful but I’ve found phrase books sometimes send you in the wrong direction. For example, one French phrase book must have been designed for wealthy travelers. It teaches you things like “Can you have my shirts cleaned and pressed?” I need phrases like “Could you remove the rat from the bathroom?” In another case, the book said I should call the waiter “Garçon!”. That didn’t work for me when I called over the distinguished waiter who was 30 years my elder by calling him literally “Boy!”.
French Language Map – Summary guide with phrases.
DVDs and Other Media
Turn on the alternate language track to watch your favorite movie in French or Spanish.
YouTube has some excellent resources including lots of kids videos of nursery rhymes and songs.
Muzzy – Great for young kids…a cartoon immersion series from the BBC. If you purchase this online, you actually get all 5 languages! (French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English)
Rosetta Stone – A great immersion system for learning a foreign language.
Mango Languages – Found at many libraries.
BBC Languages – Online help.
French in Action – The “French in Action” series is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn French language and culture. The characters in this series are very true to French life. It is an immersion course…so all you hear is French (no English) just like if you were in France. By associating movies clips, a story, and pictures to the words you see and hear, it helps you to learn visually so that you are more likely to remember the words and phrases.
There are many different packages including workbooks, textbooks, DVDs (52 episodes), etc. available from Annenberg Media that funded production of the series.
The complete French in Action DVD set is $450 through the Annenberg site, but you may be able to get it used on eBay for cheaper. You can also access the videos via the Annenberg website for free. Warning: You may find complete DVD sets available at highly reduced prices through http://completeseries.tv/french.htm or http://www.dvdhunters.com. DO NOT order from these companies! They are illegal bootleg copies of poor quality and it is impossible to reach their customer service via e-mail, chat, or phone so you are not even guaranteed the product will arrive.
Take a beginning class at a local community/cultural center or college. For example, our local Alliance Française offers classes in French.
Some Online French Help from About.com
After spending 6 months of my life in France in and among the real people and culture, I put together the following ideas to help you in hosting a French-themed party here in the US.
French theme decorations might be the color of the flag of France: Red, White, and Blue. Get a big map of France map of France and posters of various places in France. The Eiffel Tower and the Arch of Triumph are always welcome.
In Paris you’ll find the performing arts such as magicians, jugglers, etc. Hire Tim Cimbura to entertain you with strolling magic or a complete show at your party and he’ll even include some French in the act getting your party-goers involved in the fun. This is a great way to really make your party unique.
Lots of movies on DVD have French language tracks. Pick one and watch it with French language and English subtitles. Some French themed American movies that are funny are: French Kiss, Madeline, and most recently Ratatouille.
MEDIA – DVDs and MUSIC
Play some traditional French accordion music in the background. Watch the incredible French countryside from the air with Visions of France. Get the tour with Samantha Brown in Passport to France. Learn the French language a bit.
Have fun ordering some real French reading material from Amazon.com in France. They will ship it to you! (Note: You need to be able to read French.)
WHAT TO WEAR
You can get a little corny with the outfits. A beret is always important. The French wear a lot of black and leather compared to Americans. Try a T-shirt or baseball cap to show l’espirit de France.
Crepes (like thin pancakes) are a fun and versatile French food. You can buy them pre-made and heat them up or make your own. They can be made sweet with bananas, Nutella, strawberries, jelly, etc. or salty with ham, swiss cheese, etc. like a sandwich. The whole meal can be crepes.
Crepe Recipe – 7 crepes ready in 15 minutes
Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 egg, 2 cups milk
Combine ingredients in mixing bowl. Heat a large skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan. Lift the pan and turn it by rotating your wrist spreading a PAPER THIN amount of batter in the pan. Flip the crepe when it starts to bubble. When crepe is finished cooking, remove and repeat this process with the remaining batter.
Popular French Foods
Other French Food Ideas
In the Minneapolis area, here are some food places and restaurants to try for ideas:
Since I’ve traveled to Europe and France many times…and spent at least 6 months there in my life, many people ask me for travel advice. Well, here it is!
If you’ve never taken a flight over to Europe, it takes about 7 hours to get there. I always take the chance to stand up as much as possible before getting on the plane. To help deal with jet lag, try to sleep as much as possible on the way over. Bring an inflatable neck pillow if it will help. You’ll need the sleep when you arrive. Also, drink lots of water or juices (apple, orange, or cranberry). Avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol. The first day in Europe I try to stay out in the bright sun and remain active so I adjust to the time faster. It might be a good time to rent a bike or go jogging in the afternoon.
On to Paris
All the standard sites are interesting: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), a walk down the Champs-Elysees, The Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. If you don’t have time to go up the Eiffel Tower, climb the stairs up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. It’s an excellent view of Paris, the traffic, AND the Eiffel Tower…a good place for photos. Go through the tunnel to get there…don’t dodge the traffic and lose!
Take the metro (subway) everywhere. Once you learn how it works, it’s easy. The lines are designated by the destination at the END OF THE LINE. Hop on and get out where you need to. All the major attractions have stops. Now (July 2008), there is another option…rental bikes called Velib. They are everywhere in the city and make for a popular form of transportation. Take a leisurely boat ride up the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame.
I just love to walk around neighborhoods, watch people in real life, or visit a small cafe. Most French people are very kind if you are considerate of them. They love to hear their own language…and if you make an effort to speak they will appreciate it. They may chuckle and answer back in English, but keep trying…it’s the thought that counts.
See a movie in French…maybe one you’ve already seen in America. Often, American movies will be showing. Make sure it’s “double” (dubbed) and not with “Sous-titres” (sub-titles) It’s kind of fun to see American actors speaking French. If it’s “version original”, then it’s in the original English…boring.
You can tell Americans because they often wear tennis shoes. French like darker colors in general.
Spend time in bookstores looking at the French books that people read. I especially like to look at children’s books, because they are easier to understand. It’s fun to see what kids read and learn with while they are growing up in France.
Often you can see some free street juggling or entertainment by the Centre George Pompidou. There’s an excellent street magician named Bebel who performs card tricks in the evening in the Latin Quarter (although it helps to understand French since he talks fast).
Food and Drink
France is known for excellent food. I love their breads and bakery items. They also have an incredible selection of cheese and yogurts. There’s nothing like it in the U.S. I don’t know why we can’t get it right.
Any bakery or “boulangerie” will have pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) or pain aux raisins (a kind of a raisin danish). Both are excellent for breakfast with coffee, orange juice, water, or hot chocolate.
For lunch try buying a “sandwich au thon” (tuna sandwich), otherwise known as a Nicois. This is French “fast food”. It usually has tuna, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs on a good baguette. Orangina or a carbonated limonade are good beverages. French sodas aren’t as sweet as Coke. Road side stands sell good “frites” or French fries. Go shopping in a grocery store and try a yogurt. In France, yogurt is not a “diet” food.
French dinners can be a long event. Prepare to spend time, relax, and enjoy the experience of multiple courses. See if they have a “prix fixe” (fixed price) menu for the evening. This usually contains a good salad, entree, and dessert. Be surprised with something new and exciting.
The French have frequent and unannounced strikes. I’ve been stranded without a train or bus to the airport a couple times. It’s nice to travel to the airport the night before and just stay there. Then you’re assured that you’ll make your flight as long as you wake up for it. Last time I was there, the Charles DeGaulle airport terminal 1 (Roissy) has small and cheap pods (rooms) with showers called “Cocoon Rest Inn”. I had a hard time finding any info about it on the internet so I’m not sure if it’s still there.
It’s easier to adjust to the time on the way back but you’ll be very tired the first couple of days. You’ll easily wake up early in the morning. Make sure you don’t drive when you’re tired!
Before or after you go, celebrate with a French themed party. Also, you’ll want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the language.
Have a great trip.