Free, online resources for learning Romanian

May 13, 2012

Sarah Eaton, blog, Sarah Elaine EatonIf you’re looking to learn Romanian, here are some free, downloadable resources that may be helpful:

Romanian Reference Grammar (1989) – by Christina N. Hoffman, published by the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute. – This guide is 109 pages and is written in English. Great resource for native English speakers wanting to learn Romanian. Available from: http://fsi-language-courses.org/Courses/Romanian/FSI%20-%20Romanian%20Reference%20Grammar%20-%20Student%20Text.pdf

Romanian Grammar – (n.d.) – Unknown author. – This is a highly detailed and technical grammar manual, spanning 183 pages. Available from: http://www.seelrc.org:8080/grammar/pdf/stand_alone_romanian.pdf

Forvo – Romanian – Online site to help with pronunciation. See: http://www.forvo.com/languages/ro/

Quizlet – A site to make your own flash cards in Romanian. See: http://quizlet.com/5937063/romanian-phrases-flash-cards/#

Note: These resources were originally shared by Paul Widergren on the FLTEACH listserv.

Do you know of other free online resources to learn Romanian? If so, please leave a comment.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


My 2012 resolution project: A year of inspired insights

January 1, 2012

Sarah Eaton - blog imageI rarely make New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because I think we tend to set vague goals that are impossible to achieve. “Lose weight”.

OK, so you don’t eat for a day and don’t drink anything for 12 hours. You step on the scale the next day and you’re down half a kilo. New Year’s Resolution achieved.

Now pass the chocolate.

Really, what’s the point of that?

SMART goals

The purpose of making a resolution is to keep it, and effectively make some sort of positive change in your life. Experts tell us that resolutions should follow the “SMART” formula:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • be set within a Time frame.

A new year’s resolution gone wrong: A year of taking vitamins…

Even then, there are no guarantees it will work out how you plan. The last time I made a resolution that I actually kept was over a decade ago. My resolution was not just to eat healthier, but to be vegetarian from January 1 to December 24 of the following year, allowing myself to end the resolution by eating Christmas turkey the next year.

No red meat and no poultry. No beef, no pork, no lamb, no chicken, no turkey. Any kind of flesh that came from a land animal was out. I figured that fish was OK and since I was raised in the maritimes, that keeping in one source of animal protein that I knew how to cook wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I did it.

I didn’t eat any red meat or poultry for an entire year. When I started, I had no vegetarian recipes in my repertoire and I had never purposefully eaten vegetarian food in my life. That year, I ate a lot of canned tuna, peanut butter and tofu.

And beans. We can’t forget the beans. Supper that year included beans on toast at least twice a week.

By the time my annual physical rolled around and we had some blood tests done, we found out that my iron levels at a level so unacceptably low that the doctor went off on an animated and emphatic rant about not knowing how I could even possibly get out of bed and function on any meaningful level. I was a bit tired, I had to admit. Listening to the rant made me more tired.

The rant led to lectures on nutrition and being told to take a daily cocktail of iron, vitamin C and B12. That effectively turned my year of vegetarianism into a year of taking vitamins. The iron levels were at non-doctor-ranting level about the time I got to eat my turkey dinner, which promptly made me ill and gave me terrible indigestion that lasted about 3 days.

That was 1994.

No more beans on toast for dinner

Since then, there have been no more resolutions. I try to avoid beans on toast for dinner now, too.

But recently I thought to myself, well maybe it is time to revisit this whole idea of a New Year’s Resolution. What if a resolution was not about doing something just for the sake of doing it? Or just to be able to claim victory at the end of the year to say “Yay! I did it!” and quietly ask yourself inside, “Now why did I do that, really?”

Those of us who are really stubborn and headstrong are more likely to keep our resolutions, I think. But then I wonder, what the point was to achieve whatever it was, except to prove that you could do it? That you were stubborn enough to do it. To what end?

All good experiments start with a question

This led to more questions, which eventually led to the decision to try an experiment that would ultimately result in me breaking my 18-year habit of not making any New Year’s Resolutions. As with all worthy experiments, this one starts with a question or two:

What if a New Year’s resolution wasn’t about achieving some personal goal, but rather, what if it was a resolution to share the best of ourselves with others, on a consistent basis? What if the resolution was about others and not about us? What would happen then?

18 years… A teacher all grown up

Interestingly, the last new year’s resolution I made, in 1994, was the first year of my teaching career. This year marks my 18th year of teaching. That’s a turning point in life, isn’t it? When you turn 18, you’re considered an adult. If that’s true, I’ve just passed a milestone of a professional birthday. I guess I’m a real, grown up teacher now.

We have a limited number of Christmas turkeys to eat in our lifetime. The older we get, the fewer turkeys we have left to enjoy. Few of us know for sure how many turkeys we have left. Now that I’ve passed a milestone “professional birthday” and before I run out of turkeys, I figure that there is no better time to start reflecting on what’s been amazing about this career so far, and share the best of those insights with you.

2012: A Year of Inspired Insights

Sarah Eaton (photo credit: Todd Maki) - Calgary, CanadaSo, my resolution for 2012 is to share my deepest insights and inspirations about teaching, leadership, literacy, language learning, technology and everything that I’m most passionate with you on a weekly basis. I’m calling the experiment: A Year of Inspired Insights.

Here’s the method:

Once a week, I’ll post an Inspired Insight. It might be something I’ve learned though my professional practice, something I’m reading or something that I have personally experience that has changed or transformed my work in some way. These will not be hollow platitudes or little cute little inspirational sayings that I’ve read somewhere along the way. They will be reflections, insights and challenges from my own experience; things that have made me think in new ways or have challenged me to re-think how I do things and why. The sharing will come in the form of professional experience, true stories from my own career and deep reflections about what professional practice means.

I’ll post once a week and I’ll number each post. For example, this week I’ll post “Inspired Insight #1”. I’ll do this weekly throughout the year and allow two weeks off (holidays, illness or just allowing myself to be UN-inspired every now and again). With two possible breaks, by the end of the year, with any luck we’ll have 50 Inspired Insights for 2012.

You are part of this experiment

The point is to share these insights with you and to go on this journey together, having your comments and reflections as part of the process.

I wonder if a project that involved sharing the best of who you are as a professional would have a positive impact on others? What would happen if a resolution was about creating something that others could take part in and use as a departure point for personal reflection and conversation… possibly even their own growth?

What do you think? Interested in joining me on a journey of inspiration for a year?

Related posts: Insight #1 – There is a silver lining in every ambulance

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


How learning Spanish changed my life: A personal story

April 26, 2010

A few days ago I was sorting through some old documents. I came across this piece that I wrote for the students of a Spanish class I was teaching at Mount Royal University a few years ago. It explains the positive effect learning a second language had on me, acting as an anchor and source of inspiration at one of the most stressful points in my early adulthood. Here’s the story I shared with my students:

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As I look around our classroom, I see tired faces, drained by too many exams, work schedules that are too hectic and lives that may not give enough time for fun, rest and relaxation. As we draw closer to the end of the semester, the crunch is on to cover material, plow through assignments, and study for finals. The focus shifts from the process of learning and discovering, to the need to reach the finish line in whatever way spells success for each of us.

I wanted to take a few minutes to share a story with you. I know you are busy people with busy lives, so if  this isn’t a good time, set this story aside and come back to it later.

The story takes place in 1992 in Madrid, Spain, where I was studying in a summer immersion program for international students. I had taken one year of Spanish in 1991-92 at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, where I graduated that May with my B.A. in English. The winter semester had been hell on wheels.

I was hit by a car the night before classes were scheduled to start in January.

My boyfriend of a year and a half, who was with me at the time of the accident, broke up with me a month later, saying that when he saw me get hit he really couldn’t have cared if I lived or died. He moved out the next day. I lost a job because I couldn’t get to work while I was recovering and I wondered how the heck I was going to pay the rent and buy food. I missed a few weeks of classes. My grades were sliding and I was panicking.

When I made it back to classes in February, I was sitting in Spanish class one day and the instructor brought some forms to class. If anyone wanted the chance to go and study Spanish language and culture, we could fill out a form to apply for a beca or grant, compliments of the Spanish Embassy. I thought, “Yeah, man, anything to get the heck out of here for a while!” I filled out the form.

I more or less forgot about it, as I was trying to put my life back together through the rest of the semester. One day in May, just before graduation, I got a letter from the Spanish embassy. Of course, I couldn’t read very much of it, but I guessed that it wasn’t a rejection letter, because it wasn’t just one sheet of paper. (Ever notice how letters telling you that you didn’t get something are only ever one page long?) There was a whole bunch of stuff in the envelope. So, I took it to school the next day and asked my Spanish professor to tell me what it said. “You got it!” She said. “You’re going to Spain!”

The beca covered tuition, books, residence and food. I didn’t have the money for the plane ticket, so I sold everything I had, worked some extra hours at one of the jobs I still had and gathered the money to go. A week after graduation, I was in Madrid.

There were a few hundred students in the program, from all over the world. The Spanish embassy gave away a limited number of scholarships each year to different countries. I later found out that I was one of two Canadians selected that year. We were placed in classes according to level. After studying Spanish for one full year, and making it out with a decent grade, despite the challenges of the second semester, I was not prepared for the experience. There were 18 different levels of classes. My placement test determined that I would be in level 17 – the second lowest of all the classes.

My classmates were from Europe and the Middle East. The other girls in my residence were from all over the world. The only language we had in common was Spanish. We found that if we wanted to make friends we had a choice: only associate with other people who spoke our first language (in my case, English) or try to make friends in Spanish. The result was a linguistic hodgepodge – people ended up communicating however they could, in whatever language they could. We communicated what we could in Spanish and helped translate for each other in whatever language we could… English, some Danish, some French, some Arabic… whatever we had as a group to help each other understand and bridge our linguistic and cultural gaps.

Two of the people who ended up in our circle of friends were Salim and Imad, both from Jordan. Salim was in my class and Imad was in the class of one of my Danish friends who was much more fluent in Spanish. We toured the city, went for coffees, studies and did all the normal social things that students do.

It was July of 1992. In the scope of world events, the Gulf War was still fresh in everyone’s mind. I remember the day that they announced the war. As I watched TV, I thought, “But… there wasn’t supposed to be a war in my lifetime…. World War II was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Isn’t that what our parents fought for?” But the Gulf War happened and I was pinned to CNN through most of it, just like everybody else.

One day near the end of our program, after a few weeks of gaining language skills and solidifying friendships with the people who had come together in our social circle, I summoned the courage to ask Salim about the button he wore every day on his lapel. It was a photo button of Saddam Hussein’s face.

I was curious about why anybody would wear a button of Saddam Hussein. After all, the guy was a maniac! But Salim wasn’t a maniac…. I just didn’t get it. When I asked him about it, he said, “He’s my hero. He helped our people.”

From there, the conversation took off, in broken Spanish, as we discovered each other’s point of view, the perceptions we had gained from the media, and our stereotypes about each other’s part of the world. The conversation took place on the steps of the Muslim students’ residence. The Muslim students were segregated to accommodate their dietary needs and to provide for quiet at regulated prayer times. The males lived on one side and the females on the other. Foreign students were not allowed in the residence, so if we wanted to visit, we did so on the steps of the building. Some nights there would be students out there with guitars, singing. Other times, there were groups of students chatting and studying. That night, a small group of us talked about war, terrorism, our heroes and our opinions, stereotypes and attitudes.

Through the course of that conversation I found out that the reason none of the Jordanian girls had made friends with me was because they thought I was promiscuous. That summer, there was a drought in Spain and the thermometer hit 40 degrees Centigrade. I was melting. I wore Bermuda shorts and sleeveless T-shirts and sandals to class (not even “skinny straps”, just sleeveless.) In their minds, I showed too much skin and I was shameless. They were comfortable in their head-to-toe covering and did not want to associate with someone who “dressed like a prostitute”. Needless to say, few of them had experienced the harsh, cold climate I was used to, and nor did they seem to understand that I was struggling in the heat.

I learned a lot that night… about the Gulf War and what it meant to these people who had become my friends, about how other people perceived me and the culture that I come from and about what it means to be human. By the end of the night, none of us had actually changed our opinions, but we did learn a lot about each other and about ourselves, as we gained perspective, listened and shared.

I tell people that trip changed my life. After returning home, I decided to return to university to study Spanish, which my family didn’t really “get”, to say the least. But what changed my life wasn’t the verbs that I learned to conjugate (even though I do love verbs!). It wasn’t the grammar that I crammed into my brain so I could pass my final. It was the connection I was able to make with other human beings because I was able to communicate with them, even if was broken and jumbled and not very fluent.

I’ve lost touch with most of the people from that course, but I’m still in touch with a few of them. Last year, Lene, one of the Danish girls, came to Calgary to visit me. It was great to re-connect. All of us send and receive holiday cards, letters, e-mails and even the occasional phone calls with friends all over the world.

Since September 11, those that us who have remained in touch have re-affirmed our friendships with each other on a more regular basis. E-mail has certainly made it easier to stay in touch. Over the past few weeks, we have shared our thoughts on the new War that has erupted. Like the Gulf War, it seems to be the Middle East and North America that are the two big players. We watch what goes on and chat over the net about it.

But the e-mails are not just about the war. We talk about our lives, our jobs, our friends and family and other regular, everyday things. We talk about the ordinary stuff that makes up our lives. And the only thing that brought us together was a language course in Spain. My Arabic friends still don’t speak any English and I still don’t speak any Arabic. I suspect that’s the way it will always be. Spanish is still the only language that we all have in common. Our friendships have evolved and strengthened over the years. We wonder if we will ever meet in person again. Nobody knows the answer.  In the meantime, we enjoy the friendships that we have come to mean a great deal to us despite – or maybe because of  – language barriers, cultural and religious differences and half a globe separating us.

In the long run, it’s not about the verbs, the grammar or the vocabulary. Those are just the things you have to learn to pass the tests. The tests are little milestones you have to pass along the journey of this course. And within the context of the course, they are both your challenges and your markers of success. Your job is to rise to the challenge each time, even though you’re tired and getting burnt out. In the bigger picture though, the course is just a little milestone along your course of study. Your studies extend beyond the classroom, to the world and the individuals you meet along the way who are studying, just like you and me.

It is unlikely that any of you will have a story just like this to tell. Perhaps this course is the end of your Spanish language journey. But I know that you will have your own stories to tell, about things that would not have had the opportunity to experience, if you hadn’t made the decision to be a student. As our finish line looms ahead, let’s remember that in the bigger picture, this course is just one more milestone on the big journey.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


How to Market Your Language Program – Idea #3 – Set reasonable goals

March 7, 2010

Use the SMART approach to reach marketing goals for your language or literacy program:

Specific – For many language and literacy programs increasing enrollments is a general goal. Make it specific by knowing how many students you have had in the past 3-5 years. If you do not know how many students you had enrolled in your courses over the past year (or 2 or 5), now is the time to find out. This is the kind of information you want at your fingertips so that when you are conversing with colleagues and business associates, you can mention both your current enrollment and your plans to increase it. From there you can set a specific target for increasing your enrollments.

Measurable – A Generally a 10% to 20% growth rate per year is an attainable goal for increasing student enrollments, providing there are no market crashes or other circumstances outside your control that could affect this growth. So, if you currently had 200 students, you could set your goal to 220 or 240 students.

Attainable – If you set the bar too high, you won’t be able to reach your goal. I have found that many “higher ups” in educational institutions insist on goals that are not easily attainable. One university language program director told me that the institution’s V.P. had imposed a goal of 300% increase in ESL enrollments in one academic year, or the program would shut down. Setting this kind of goal sends people (especially program staff) off into a panic. You can set goals, high and still keep them attainable. They key is motivation. In order for goals to be reached, people must believe they can be reached. Your staff have to be motivated to reach the bar you set for them. Ask yourself if the goals you have set motivate your staff to try and reach them. If the answer is yes, your goal is attainable.

Realistic – A realistic goal is one you can reach within a given time frame. If there were currently 10 students registered in your program, it would be unlikely that you could raise that to 1000 students in one year. Generally, the smaller your program, the more capacity for growth you have. It would not be unreasonable to expect a 100% increase in enrollment in one year if your program had only 10 students. However, if you are already at 200+ students per year, you will need to set a realistic goal for growth through your marketing program.

Imagine saying to your colleague, “Last year, we had 150 students. Our strategic marketing plan includes a 10% growth rate. We are expecting to reach 165 students enrolled before the end of the year.” Doesn’t that sound good? Well, that could be you talking in your next business encounter, providing you have your figures straight. That 10-second elevator speech is powerful, clear and conveys strong leadership.

Timely – Set a time frame for figuring out your goals. This can be by calendar year, academic year, semester or month. The time frame itself is less important than your consistency in using it as a measuring tool. For educational programs, yearly goals are common.

For the first year, set modest goals for your marketing program. Let your entire administrative team and teaching staff know what the program’s goals are. An example might be, “Did you know that last year we had 200 students enrolled in our program? It is our goal to increase that number by 20% this year. We’re going for a total enrollment of 240 students and two extra classes. Ask us how you can help!”

This post is adapted from an excerpt from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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