Saturday, January 05, 2008

Food Language and Multicultural Groceries

I’m in the supermarket in the checkout line. I forget to put the separator between my items and the older gentleman ahead of me. I’m locked on to a copy of the Reader’s Digest promising me I can de-clutter my living space this year.

Next thing I know my groceries are being loaded into the older gentleman’s cart. “I think we have a problem here, he’s got my groceries.”

“Didn’t you use the separator?” the clerk asked disapprovingly. “No I guess not." The first time in 40 some years of shopping that it happened mind you. Meanwhile, my gracious benefactor is trying to leave. We both explain that there has been a mistake. He doesn’t understand.

The bagger asks “Spanish?” “I pipe in with “Is it Farsi?” “Armenian” he says as he is still trying to leave. The clerk puts out an SOS for Habib as I attempt to extract my stuff from his basket.

Habib never shows up but it is cool. I reclaim my turkey sausages and assorted other goodies. After much confusion and a good deal of gesturing the clerk refunds his money and I pay my own way with the reproachful eyes of my fellow customers.

Language matters here in Los Angeles. Communities form and dissolve based on who you are and how you say it. It is a blessing and sometimes a tribulation but language gives all of us an opportunity to reach beyond what we know and see. Unless you don’t speak the other person’s lingo.

It is never too late so here are a few resources to resurrect that dormant language class or learn something new.

The Arabic Language Podclass is just what is says it is, you have the opportunity to download mp3 that contain Arabic speakers and poetry. This seems to be designed for folks who might be taking an Arabic class or are trying to increase their vocabulary. There is also an Arabic Wiki Language area that you can use as a resource.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has oodles of tools, tutorials and mp3 files You can learn French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and you can download mp3 files to help you if you are just visiting. You can also follow BBC self-paced language instruction, for example Spanish or snag just enough to get you through a vacation.

I live in southern California. There are at least four Spanish language non-cable television stations, a bunch of radio stations and pound of publications. It is in my future best interest to re-activate my prior limited investment in my Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 classes. One way to do that is checking out Slow Spain Blog

There are far more resources but this will get you started. Bon Chance!


  1. Hi Gena,

    Thanks for mentioning the slow spain blog - we're actually doing a series at the moment of tips for language learners. Also as we've had a lot of interest about food, we've just started a dedicated blog at

    I really liked your food video and you can find a great recipe for French Onion soup at

    BTW I tried to subscribe to your podcast with the iTunes mac button but it doesn't seem to work - but I'm glad I've found you and happy that you've decided to be yourself
    Hasta pronto


  2. Thanks, us Yanks need all the help we can get.

    I'll look into the iTunes feed problems. For a while I gave up on trying to work it out but it is a new year and what the heck.

    Food from Spain you say, Yummy. I'll check it out.