DIY: Languages

DIY: Languages
Behind the Stacks header By Luis Marin
Recently at the tender age of 25, I bought my first car — a 1986 Nissan 720 Pickup; at first, the weeks shifted by as smooth as the five-speed transmission. I filled up the gas tank, checked the fluids, and checked the tires, weekly. Then, the bumps in the road appeared. I needed to change the oil, drain the cooling system, adjust the throttle cable, et cetera, and instead of paying a mechanic to do these minor procedures, I decided to roll up my sleeves, check out the repair and service manual (from the library), and do it myself. I saved money and improved my automotive knowledge simply by taking initiative and using the resources at hand.
Behind the Stacks

Luis Marin at the Fayetteville Public Library.

Our majestic cathedral of a library offers a myriad of materials on our native language, and patrons from toddlers to college students and beyond can practice our religion of English. In addition to the elementary picturebooks, the children’s library has shelves full of easy readers and chapter books, such as the popular Junie B Jones series by Barbara Park. Aside from these standard learning books, parents can check out parenting kits for reading development, including Hooked on Phonics for extra attention towards their child’s literacy.

For college students and life-long learners, the languages collection proffers a vast selection of entertaining, interesting, and informative books on the English language; the shelves contain books on style and rhetoric alongside grammar guides and tomes of dictionaries. Autodidacts seeking to improve their writing should consult the books on style and rhetoric – books like the perennial Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White and Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale. If you want to produce an efficacious effect with your writing, then perhaps you should affect the rhetoric of your words by applying the rules of any of the library’s various grammar guides, such as Clean, Well-lighted Sentences by Janis Bell and Essentials of English Grammar by L. Sue Baugh. And you can impress those around you on the public transit or at the coffee shop by holding up Barry Tarshis’ Grammar for Smart People.

English is now a global language and the dominate language of international business; however, English was not always so eminent. Library patrons can discover the intriguing history of our language through Bill Bryson’s humor-tinted sketch, The Mother Tongue, and through Melvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of English, which treats English as a biographical figure. Mario Pei produced a more sober treatment with The Story of the English Language without being dry. If you are interested in exploring the gospels of the English language through the stained-glass lens of linguistics or grammar, the library submits an array of materials for observation of the English faithful.

Students of English as a second or foreign language can check out a great variety of books, audiobooks, and DVDs at the library. The stacks provide not only resources for students of all levels from absolute beginners to advanced learners but also for teachers of English as a second language, or ESL. Learners of English can choose books, CDs, and DVDs that emphasize a different aspect of English: everyday grammar, advanced grammar, conversation skills, vocabulary, and even accent training – look for American Accent Training by Ann Cook. Teachers of ESL will want to seek the recently published ESL (ELL) Literacy Instruction by Lee Gunderson or Larry Ferlazzo’s The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide. The library also boasts an impressive selection for Spanish-speaking ESL students; books, such as Inglés en 100 Días and the complete series of Inglés Sin Barreras, which is a twelve volume series consisting of books, manuals, CDs, and DVDs, are excellent resources for Spanish speakers. The curators of the library’s ESL collection supply language autodidacts with great resources for both teachers and students of English.

If you are interested in learning the sensual language of French or speaking Spanish with the passion of a native, search the catalog under, “Spanish (or French) language — self-instruction,” where you will find many books with accompanying CDs, grammar guides, and much more. In addition to the Romance languages, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, the library has a lot of materials on Asian languages: Korean, Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai, and more. Once you have accomplished a proficient reading level, you can enjoy classics of literature or several non-fiction works in their own native language; you can read Don Quixote in Cervantes’ original Spanish or Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in Russian. The World Languages reading shelf contains a vast collection of books in Spanish, but it also has works in Dutch, French, German, Swedish, Arabic, and others. If you prefer a more interactive format, Mango is what you want; it is an online language-learning tool – accessible from the main library page – that offers courses on sixty-one languages or dialects of a language ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced.

With a do-it-yourself frame of mind, library patrons can enhance their English, teach or learn English as a second language, and learn a foreign language. Autodidacts only need two things: a desire to learn and the resources to learn. The Fayetteville Public Library has the resources covered; all that is required now is a spark of desire.


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