Sunday, November 15, 2009

Language is Music by Susanna Zaraysky

Language is Music: Over 70 Fun & Easy Tips to Learn Foreign Languages by Susanna Zaraysky is a beneficial compliment to any language learning program. In it, Zaraysky provides tips that she used to assist her through the years while she learned to speak English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Serbo-Croatian.

She relates the learning of language to that of learning music. You have to tune your ear to hear the melodies of different languages in order to recreate them. Pay attention to the tempo, tone and emphasis within each syllable, just like you would to the notes in a song. Practice the language daily, just as you would practice playing an instrument daily. The new language is your instrument.

Immersion is the best way to learn a new language. Zaraysky recommends listening to music, watching TV, and viewing films in your target language. Listen to phrases again and again. Practice repeating them until you can mimic the intonation and pronunciation. Make vocabulary lists of new words. Practice translating. Create flashcards. Listen, watch, write.

When you start getting comfortable in the new language, try to converse with others in that language. Ideally, you would look for someone who is a native speaker in the target language, but any exchange is beneficial. Perhaps you could help someone learn English as you learn his language. Practice in person or online. Zaraysky provides numerous online resources and tips for local resources, throughout her book.

Make yourself perform daily tasks, such as balancing the checkbook, by using the target language. The more you make it a part of you and your routine, the more likely you are to remember it.

Language is Music is not going to guarantee that you memorize grammatical structures and vocabulary quickly for an upcoming test or exam. It's not a quick shortcut to make you the star of the class. It's designed for people who are seriously looking for a way to become more proficient in their foreign language studies.

Keep in mind that languages come easily to Zaraysky. Some people are gifted in that regard. Nevertheless, she has had to work hard to develop fluency and has found these techniques to work a better than the rote memorization found in traditional foreign language classes. Applying her techniques as a supplement to what you are already doing will allow you to use different parts of your brain and achieve greater success in your foreign language endeavors.

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Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps

Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps by Adam Selzer is a book that actually gave me the creeps. Not only is it full of ghost stories, primarily set in Chicago, but these are recorded by a self-proclaimed nonbeliever.

Adam Selzer is a skeptic who accidentally ended up doing ghost tours around Chicago, after he couldn't find a different "real" job and needed the money. While he is usually able to dispel ghost stories or explain away bizarre phenomena, such as orbs in photographs, he will admit to having a few of his own unexplained adventures in the supernatural realm. Some of these occurred when he was yet a child. Honestly, a scientifically-minded person who gets scared in certain situations is more likely to convince me of the plausibility of a ghostly encounter than someone who routinely finds spirits.

Adam Selzer is good at telling stories, a skill probably enhanced every time he goes out on the bus with his company Weird Chicago Tours, founded in 2006. He has published numerous other books and has a degree in English. He is well-versed in the history of numerous supposedly haunted locations, and has thoroughly researched any story he shares. He tries to scientifically explain away sightings, but will admit when he has no explanation. Particularly creepy is the story of a ghostly encounter with a former coworker who unexpectedly succumbed to an early demise after receiving bodiless threats from voices in the walls.

Locations covered throughout the book are notorious in the Windy City. Odin Tatu (now Old Town Tatu) is a former funeral parlor that is now a tattoo parlor. The Biograph Theatre, a.k.a. "Dillinger's Alley" is where John Dillinger met his demise. The St. Valentine's Day Massacre site and the Eastland disaster site can boast numerous tragic and simultaneous deaths. And of course, there is Hull House, and the stopping point for Lincoln's funeral train, amongst several others.

At the end of the book, Selzer provides information for wannabe ghost hunters about different kinds of equipment available. He also outlines a few rules for ghost hunters. Most importantly, remember to be skeptical enough to look for the scientific explanations of the weird, yet open-minded enough to be open to any possibilities. And don't be a jerk.

It is a thrilling read for anyone who is remotely interested in ghost hunting and/or ghost stories. I recommend reading it at night for full effect.

Visit Adam Selzer's websites at and

Purchase Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps: True Tales of an Accidental Ghost Hunter

Be the Star You Are! For Teens

Be the Star You Are! For Teens is the latest collection from teen empowerment expert and life success coach, Cynthia Brian. It is a collection of 74 stories designed to empower and inspire teens. At least half of the stories are penned by Brian herself. Others are written by other motivational speakers and writers, as well as several teenagers. It is endorsed by teen celebrities.

Each story is designed to demonstrate how to achieve a particular goal, be it achievement, communication, imagination, serendipity, volunteerism, etc. Following each installment is a page of exercises that can be done to achieve each goal, as well as an inspirational quote. It is extremely bubbly and happy, almost sugary sweet, which is designed to elicit a positive response in the reader.

The book is not meant to be read in one sitting. It should be attacked one concept at a time, then digested to allow for understanding and reflection. It may help for readers to maintain a journal while making their way through the book, so that they can chart their own successes and track what still needs to change.

Teenagers who want to find meaning in their lives are going to be more likely to pick up this book and read through it. Others aren't going to want to let anyone know that they are reading a self-help book. For these teens, casually place the book in a basket of reading material in the bathroom or other out-of-the-way place. In the utmost privacy, they may just page through it and pick up some tips here and there. Don't call attention to the reluctant teen reading it, as that will guarantee it is set aside and not touched again.

Parents, teachers, and other mentors to teenagers can read through the book to choose stories to share to elicit conversation with their own children or in groups. It could be used in clubs, sports, or youth groups as a conversation tool.

Adults can also find some benefits by reading through the entries. It is never too late to start making positive changes in your life.

Cynthia Brian is a motivational speaker who can be heard on the radio on a weekly basis. Proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit her charity Be the Star You Are! which promotes literacy in people of all ages.

Visit her website at and the charity at

Stay tuned for a Q&A with Cynthia Brian.

Purchase Be the Star You Are! for Teens: Simple Gifts for Living, Loving, Laughing, Learning, and Leading

Travel Writing by Peter Ferry

Travel Writing by Peter Ferry follows the author as narrator throughout a series of intertwined stories that seems to combine fact and fiction.

Pete Ferry is a high school English teacher. He seeks to demonstrate to his students the power of telling a good story. He tells them about his supposedly made-up experiences following a car accident he witnessed. The accident occurred when Lisa Kim drove into a pole and died. Pete had come across her as she came careening along beside him, obviously intoxicated. At one point, he was next to her at a stoplight and wanted to jump out and take her keys to prevent her from driving. Of course, he didn't, and the result was her death.

Pete is haunted by this and becomes obsessed, trying to track her down to find out who she was and why she was in her condition. Who would want to kill the beautiful Lisa Kim? And why did her friends at the funeral think he was her boyfriend?

At the same time, he alienates his girlfriend Lydia, who cannot handle his obsession. Their already tumultuous relationship strains even further, and Pete is forced into self-reflection when he ends up with a lot of alone time.

Interspersed in the story about Lisa Kim are scenes of Pete in his classroom. Students keep asking him questions about writing a story and are desperately trying to figure out if the story is true or not. Also sprinkled throughout the story are travel essays written by Ferry. Some illustrate his relationship with Lydia, while others are designed to be informative about the destinations.

Ferry further blurs the lines between fact and fiction by including his real-life biography and writing experiences into his character's bio. It's the perfect example of putting yourself into your own story.

Trying to figure out what is fact and what is fiction in this book can make your head spin. It's better to just take the information as it comes and try to enjoy each part. Or think of it as reading three different books simultaneously. The pages will turn quickly and your brain will definitely get some exercise.

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