Meet our French and Greek/Latin tutor – Elizabeth Rollison

Hello! My name is Elizabeth Rollison, and I’m a senior GLAM major and French minor. I’ve been taking French since I was in middle school, and have taken both Greek and Latin at Reed. Learning a new language – especially a dead language – is an exciting process, but one that can also feel overwhelming and confusing at times. If you’re looking for a helping hand, feel free to come visit me at drop-in hours or reach out to schedule an individual tutoring appointment!

Pain and Growth and Growing Pains in La vita bugiardi degli adulti

Lately I listen almost exclusively to Massive Attack. This is partly because they’re a great band and I love their music, but I’d be lying if it wasn’t also largely out of a burning desire to embody some of the coolness radiated by Giovanna, also known as Giovà or Giannina, the brooding and complex heroine of La vita bugiardi degli adulti (The Lying Lives of Adults), a recent Netflix interpretation of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name.

Giordana Marengo as Giovanna in La vita bugiardi degli adulti on Netflix
Continue reading “Pain and Growth and Growing Pains in La vita bugiardi degli adulti”

Terrace House: Your Next Binge

A classic Terrace House scene: group dinner.

Interested in improving your Japanese and watching reality tv at the same time? Terrace House has you covered. Beginning in 2012, the Terrace House series quickly gained international attention for its ‘calm and relaxed atmosphere’–uncommon on most reality tv show franchises. It’s even been described as a “reality show for people who hate reality shows”

Continue reading “Terrace House: Your Next Binge”

Learn Yiddish Online

Yiddish, a historically Jewish language, is closely related to German. It’s often said that Yiddish vocabulary is about 80% German words, 10% Slavic, and 10% Hebrew. Both were developed during the Middle Ages in central Europe, and many German speakers today can understand the language.

Yiddish uses the Hebrew alphabet, and writes from right to left. Start out by learning the Yiddish Alphabet at the YIVO institute’s webpage. YIVO also offers other resources online.

Yiddish Dictionary Online – Although the website is a bit counterintuitive, this is one of the most comprehensive Yiddish dictionaries available online. Many other dictionary websites use the data from this website with their own is a bit silly but is a great way to start learning the language. The lessons use short, animated videos. The benefit to these is that they are completely in Yiddish, and use context rather than translation to help you learn.

Yiddish Biz is a more traditional way to learn the language. Made up of a series of English-Yiddish videos, the site progresses from single words and short phrases, many of which involve English cognates, to more complex sentences.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of Yiddish, be sure to look at some of the cultural resources. The Yiddish Book Center website offers digital collections of books in Yiddish, as well as a number of other resources. The Yiddish Daily Forward is a cultural and news journal with many articles in English and Yiddish.

Last but not least, here’s a Yiddish pop song, “Dona Dona,” written in the 1940s and sung by Nehama Hendel in 1965…





Try Learning Estonian!

Estonian is the official language of Estonia, and is spoken by about 1 million people. It is a Uralic, Finnic language, but borrows many words from German and Russian, so the vocabulary might not be as daunting as it would seem if you’ve studied or speak other Indo-European languages. There are many dialects, but the two main groupings are the northern dialects, associated with the city of Tallinn (left), and the southern dialects, associated with Tartu (right). Standard Estonian is based on the one in Tallinn, so that’s probably what you’ll find in most language programs for it.

If you want to give it a try, the Estonian government started a language program called Keeleklik where you can take courses for free in Estonian. Aside from that, one of my favorite ways to practice language is watching cartoons.

On Youtube, you can find many Estonian cartoons from the 1970s made by Tallinn Film Studio, or Tallinnfilm, such as this one. These are fun to watch, and the Estonian is simple and slow, so you can try and keep up!

There’s also loecsen, which has lessons on basic phrases for traveling to Estonia, along with other languages you might want to learn.



LanguageTool is a web-based grammar tool, useful for correcting texts in many languages or for checking your spelling. 

LanguageTool supports a large number of languages, including many not offered at Reed. These include: Asturian, Belarusian, Breton, Catalan, Dutch, Esperanto, French, Galician, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Perrsian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Chinese (Simplified), Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Ukranian.

LanguageTool is much more powerful than its competitors BonPatron and Reverso, allowing 20,000 characters (about 2,500 words). It also allows for correction of different dialects/regions, e.g., Swiss and Austrian German, or Brazilian vs Portugal Portuguese.

Grammatical explanations are only in the language, for example French or German. LanguageTool also has a useful Google Chrome extension and a Google Docs add-on, which allow the user to correct text while typing online or in a Doc, as well as an add-on for Microsoft Word.

How are the LangLabbies keeping up with their language skills?


• I like to add a French news app on my phone to practice French in my downtime. Big carriers like LeMonde or Le Figaro offer about half their articles free, or you can look for your preferred newspaper.

• On that note, I like to set my phone language to French. My Facebook account is set in French, too. It helps switch my brain into French mode outside the classroom, and also taught me some new vocab.


• I like listening to Podcasts in German while cooking or driving. Some of my favorites are “Fest & Flauschig,” or “Lage der Nation.”

• German newspaper apps, like the Süddeutsche Zeitung or Spiegel,will push notifications of headlines to your phone, which gives you a number of one-sentence comprehension challenges throughout the day. I like to try to look up any words I don’t know in the headline, and make sure that I know exactly what it means.


• My biggest thing is reading! Reading in your foreign language is a great way to see subconscious improvement in your own writing, stylistically and grammatically. Especially when I’m not in a French or German class, I’ll make sure my ‘fun’ reading is a novel in one of those languages. The library also has great databases of free online French and German literature on their website!

• When I see an advertisement with a tag-line, or a sign somewhere, I’ll practice translating it into either French or German, and then I’ll look up the way that company self-translated the same advertisement and compare! This has led me down some funny and interesting roads looking at cultural intersections.


• I will never be convinced that Harry Potter is not the best way to start reading a foreign language. Right now I am in chapter 2 of The Sorcerer’s Stone in Japanese, or “ハリー・ポッターと賢者の石.”

• Watching movies in a foreign language is great, but I think it is even more helpful to watch foreign language TV shows. You get used to the ways character speak and benefit from listening to their accents for many hours.

• Also, downloading flashcards on my phone and having vocab sets that I can flip through while wasting time on my phone is great.


• My favorite way to keep up with/learn new vocabulary is listening to music in the target language! I find that learning the lyrics and the melody help me to understand words in new contexts and in a way that I know I’ll remember. 

• Writing and practicing flashcards is also my go-to classic, especially for Mandarin because of that extra writing practice!

Taxi (DVD available at the IMC)

The famous Iranian director Jafar Panahi is currently on house arrest in Tehran and forbidden from making movies. So he plants a hidden camera in his car (you will spend the entire movie wondering if his passengers are actors or not!) as he drives around Tehran posing as a taxi driver. The pseudo-documentary he creates is as much an act of defiance against the censoring of the state, as it is a piece of art. Panahi portrays the insouciant and the devout, the young and the old, the smuggler and the moralist who somehow manage to poke fun at the overbearing Iranian regime and speak out although they are being silenced.

Hindi [Beginning Resources]

Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language given the status of being the official language of India, although other dialects may be more prevalent than Hindi in several areas. It currently has over 540 million speakers, with 425 million native speakers. Hindi is written using the Devanagari writing script, in which fourteen characters are vowels and thirty-three are consonants. There are several dialects of Hindi, including Khadiboli, Haryanvi, Braj Bhasha, Kannauji, Bundeli, Bagheli, Awadhi, and Chhattisgarhi.

Resources [For Beginning Students]:

Learn Hindi with HindiPod.comThis YouTube channel is based off of a separate website ( , but it has tons of really helpful videos.

Omniglot WebsiteThis website contains a brief overview of Hindi, including the writing script, and also has several links to other resources.


Kanopy: free access to award-winning films

I’m a senior at Reed, and I have one recommendation for you during your time here — visit This is really one of the hidden secrets of Reed that will change your life when you find out about it. I didn’t discover Kanopy until this year and I am sad to have missed so many opportunities to watch films in foreign languages for free. Kanopy offers films in 28 languages and almost all films have English subtitles available. This is one of the best features and sets Kanopy apart from most other streaming sites.

To use Kanopy on or off campus, just add Reed College as your institution. Next, you can customize Kanopy by creating an account, which allows you to access features like creating playlists. Or you can just watch the films without logging in.

We are privileged that all members of the Reed community have free access through the institutional subscription. Kanopy is only available through libraries and academic universities. Check it out today and you’ll see a hugely diverse collection of award-winning films! The first Arabic movie I watched on Kanopy turned out to be one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Take a look, or log onto the site to find your next favorite movie!

Tickling Giants: Uniting Egypt Through Laughter in Tumultuous Times

This documentary follows the rise and fall of Egyptian talk show host Bassam Youssef, the Jon Stewart of Egypt. But where Jon Stewart has 2 million views per episode, Youssef typically has 30 million. The film depicts the consequences of political comedy in a country where retribution is swift and harsh for any journalist who criticizes the government. When free speech is not a guarantee, people need space to laugh and relieve their fears. Youssef becomes a necessary and beloved outlet for an entire country of people under repressive rule. He faces threats, protests and lawsuits in his quest to keep comedy alive in Egypt. This movie is funny, emotional and informational about recent Egyptian politics since the 2011 revolution.