If you count language learners and enthusiasts among those you’re planning to purchase gifts for I’ve got you covered. I’ve comprised a list of a few cool items that are sure to add some language learning sparkle to your friends’ and loved ones’ holiday bounty.
1. Dirty Everyday Slang Books
Looking for something special for the sailor in your life? Learn to cuss like a foreign pirate with this fun, fantastic little series of novelty dictionaries. The Dirty Everyday Slang titles compile a vast array of unsavory words with which to spice up your vocabulary.
I don’t necessarily suggest the use of many of these words in real-world application without a fair degree of cultural awareness, but they’re still good to know and fun to learn and – at least in the case of some of the less risque terms – could be useful for making your speech sound less robotic following a program like Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone, which regardless of any merits are very scripted and don’t always capture the feel of authentic conversation.
The Dirty Everyday Slang Books are available in the following languages: Greek, German, Spanish, Yiddish, Russian, Italian, American Sign Language, French, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Portuguese, Czech and Hungarian.
A companion workbook series also exists. I don’t think all languages are available, but I’ve linked the Spanish Workbook here as an example.
These books cost less than $9 USD and are also available in Kindle format.
2. The Pimsleur Approach
This item is a bit more pricey, but I think the returns are worth the cost. Pimsleur‘s audio-based language learning programs have been among the top language products for years and have amassed quite a reputation for themselves – in part due to their horrible advertising campaigns.
It took me a long time to warm up to Pimsleur. I worked through all three levels of Pimsleur’s Russian and still had a sour taste in my mouth. It was only a year later in retrospect and having tried so many other tools in the intervening months that I realized just how much I had actually learned – and more importantly retained – by using Pimsleur.
Readers who recall my first review of Pimsleur will remember that one of my biggest issues with the software is its price tag. Since then the price has dropped considerably with the release of their downloadable files, so while still not the cheapest option around it is less of a money sink than many of its competitors.
I came across this item the other day quite accidentally and instantly wanted it. Many of you may remember from your childhoods the little wooden alphabet block sets? Perhaps you have children of your own who own or owned a set when they were younger.
Here in the US we’ve been using alphabet blocks like these to help young children learn the fundamentals of English for ever, but did you know you can actually find these blocks in virtually all major world languages?
Well, maybe not all of them, but these ones anyway: Mandarin (includes stroke grid),
French, Spanish,Hebrew,Korean, Italian,American Sign Language (and braille),Japanese (hirigana only),German,Norwegian,Greek, Persian,Russian, Portuguese,Polish,Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Maori,Cherokee and even Ancient Egyptian Heiroglyphics!
A great gift, no doubt, for anyone with young children to shop for. But they don’t have to be just for kids. There are probably plenty of ways that you can use these blocks to create words and to familiarize yourself with foreign characters – especially those of languages like Japanese or Mandarin.
4. Multilingual Scanner Pen
Hand held scanning devices allow you to scan lines of text from a book, notebook or any other print source and instantly upload it to your computer or mobile device.
This cool gadget, however, is special. In addition to scanning work or documents in English; it can scan documents in as many as 238 different languages making it a useful tool for anyone in a professional setting that requires the transferal of data from a paper medium to an electronic medium also interested in saving time and space.
If you used this technology alongside an electronic translator of some kind, this would let you upload snippets from a foreign language book you’re reading and have it translated. Potentially faster – and more engaging – than leafing through a dictionary.
For fans of HBO‘s hit series A Game of Thrones (or fans of the books the show is based on) comes Living Language: Dothraki. Now you or your loved ones can learn a bit of one of the world’s most popular new fantasy conlangs.
Developed by linguist David J Peterson; Living Language: Dothraki is a really fun gift idea for fans of the series or anyone still hung up on the “roughness” of German. Dothraki is as harsh and bewildering as the steppe warriors who speak it as they gallop through the grasslands looting and pillaging enough to make Atilla wet himself.
Online subscriptions that include audio CDs and even a companion mobile app are also available here on Living Language’s site. The main book is also available at a reduced price here on Amazon, which I’ve included not only because I sincerely care about saving you money but also because I make a tiny (4%) commission if you buy through Amazon, and I’m saving up for the scanner pen!
**It also just went on sale.
7. Oxford Picture Dictionary
When I was working with the Literacy Volunteers of Eastern Connecticut we used to use these fantastic resources when teaching English. Unfortunately for some of us they are tailored mostly for those learning English, rather than another language, but they are still a potential resource and reference for any language learner to have.
The OPD is just that – a dictionary. Except that rather than being purely text the OPD features brilliant illustrations organized according to category. One page might feature a grocery store and then numerous arrows pointing to the various types of produce and offering a translation.
Because it is designed for those learning English, not the other way around, the OPD doesn’t offer much by way of pronunciation and if your new language features a writing system you are unfamiliar with it probably wouldn’t work.
But in general I still think it’s a worthwhile buy for learners with whom these will not pose issues. It also makes a great gift for anyone who teaches or tutors English to immigrants, in schools or as one side of a language exchange.
The Oxford English Dictionary is available in
Spanish, Mandarin,Arabic,Korean, Haitian Creole,Vietnamese, Japanese,Russian,French,Thai (European) Portuguese,Farsi, Urdu,Cambodian, Polish, and Brazilian Portuguese.
8. Parleremo’s Zazzle Store.
In this case I couldn’t just link to a single item – because there are thousands. Parleremo, the same site that I reviewed last month and a fantastic place for some free language learning, hosts a Zazzle shop with an incredible supply of stuff for just about everyone and every need.
From handbags to phone cases, t-shirts, postage, Christmas ornaments and more. You name it, Parleremo probably has it – and they probably have it featuring some pretty fun languages like Faroese.
I really can’t adequately do the site justice so you’re going to just have to check out Parleremo for yourself. It really is the pinnacle of polyglot swag.
9. Hanzi WallChart
If your gift plans this holiday season include someone who is learning Mandarin you won’t want to miss out on this. Hanzi WallChart, provided by the company Hanzi WallChart, features not unlike its name; as a chart that hangs on your wall and is covered in Hanzi.
Okay, but seriously. This chart features 1500 of the most common simplified Chinese characters on a very simple yet elegant format and could find a suitable home in the bedroom or office of any polyglot, linguist or educator.
Hanzi WallChart also provides a version of the that shows the traditional Chinese characters instead of simplified.
Another great resource for learners of all ages; Flashsticks are, as the name suggests, sticky flashcards that can be stuck to any surface. Each card is printed with a unique, commonly used word, translation, icon and phonetic key for pronunciation.
You can use them as flashcards, walk around your home or classroom sticking them to the objects they belong to or creating any number of fun language learning games that make learning a foreign tongue easy.
It also has a tablet or smartphone app that offers high quality audio to aid you with pronunciation.
Besides having a great product, Flashsticks, as a company, is devoted to making language learning accessible to all and maintains a vibrant social media following and is constantly posting language tips, tricks and new articles. Be sure to follow them on Google+ at +FlashSticks and Twitter at @Flashsticks
11. Tablets and eReaders
These are already some of the top selling holiday items, and have been for the last few years, but that doesn’t mean you’re quite ready to give in just yet, does it?
They’re quite a bit more expensive than the other gifts on this list (though the basic Kindle is now only $79) usually ranging from around $200 and moving upwards of $800 but the services they can render to a dedicated language learner are truly incalculable.
I cannot recommend enough the importance of mobile learning on today’s education playing field. With nearly every major language learning company now offering its services in either a mobile format in the form of an app or simply as online digital content – which can be reached via your new tablet’s browser – you’d be missing out if you didn’t take advantage of all that is currently offered and stayed abreast of that which is yet to come.
Check out this earlier post in which I cover the differences between Android and iOS platforms and how they uniquely impact language learners.
Lastly, taking up eBooks does not mean that you can’t still love and own print, as some seem to think.
Many of the items listed above are actually affiliate links. Rather than saying that after each piece I figured it made more sense to simply say it here. Affiliate links earn me a very small commission every time you buy an item (about 4%). The Federal Trade Commission requires me to disclose this information but I’d do it anyway as I strive always for transparency within LATG.
This in no way effects you. It doesn’t cost you extra. My commission is simply granted to me instead of Amazon.
So if you’re shopping for a language lover this holiday season – or any time of the year – keep this list in mind. Hopefully you’ve gained some ideas they’ll love or were swayed one way or the other on an item you were already considering.
Happy holidays and happy hunting!
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