When my daughter was working on a class project about her family tree, she came to me with questions about our national heritage. I told her what my mother had told me, that our family came from an Irish and British background. The project brought back a lot of warm memories, so I decided to mail in a DNA heritage test to get a more complete look. The results shocked me. Yes, I came from Irish and British stock, but I also was almost a third French! I was so excited to learn more about myself by delving into my newfound cultural heritage (plus now I had an excuse to drink all that Bordeaux!)
I planned a trip to the South of France, but with all the excitement of picking hotels and museums, I forgot one major thing -- I didn't speak a word of French! I wanted to learn the language, if not fluently at least enough to enjoy the trip. My wife suggested we try Babbel, an online language learning tool with courses for all skill levels and ages.
I was worried at first that I was too old to pick up a new language without private instruction. You can't teach old dogs new tricks! as my mother would say. But Babbel's approach to the language made it easy even for someone like me who was never top of the class. Their bite-sized courses make it easy to sneak in 15 minutes of concentration a day, instead of spending long periods of time looking at a textbook. Their conversational style focuses on dialogue and phrases people actually use every day. This made learning common phrases a lot easier and was even helpful for making travel plans.
My wife and I enjoyed the Babbel lessons so much that we started incorporating French into our routine. One night a week we would only speak in French, while cooking French cuisine (Julia Child would be proud!), listening to Edith Piaf and, of course, having a glass of Bordeaux. Because Babbel has courses for all ages, my daughter even learned alongside us, and would help us cook on French night (nothing is cuter than an 8-year-old in a beret and apron!). The best part is we were able to start these French-only nights after just a few weeks. I learned more than I ever did in school, because Babbel's unique approach is more effective than traditional teaching methods, giving users a whole semester's worth of proficiency in just three weeks. Plus, Babbel only costs $7 a month, which means five months of lessons costs as much as one bottle of wine!
The experience had a huge impact on my family, bringing us closer together than ever before. Plus, learning a new language helped keep my brain sharp; I even noticed I had more energy, and was more engaged in the world around me. Knowing the language made the trip so special, and we can hardly wait to go back. The vineyards were breathtaking, and when we got lost I was easily able to ask for directions with my new command of the language. It was like a second honeymoon for my wife and I, and I owe its success to Babbel.
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