Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NYC for Foodies

By Julie, Lisa and Lorena


Toastie  8.5/10:  “Where everyone feels like a New Yorker.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★
1.       Curb appeal: Outdoor seating available. Eye catching Logo.
2.      Ambience: A well-lit open space with a great music selection.
3.      Noise level: The main seating area is in the back near the take-out counter and salad chopping station. It’s a bit too noisy.

Food ★★★★
1.       Variety: Endless NY-style sandwich options as well as salads, pizza and smoothies.
2.      Cost: You will be paying a bit more than your local sandwich shop.  Toasties uses high quality ingredients.
3.      Taste: Fresh bread and big tasty portions.

Service ★★★★
1.       Service: Everything is made to your liking; so, it’s worth the wait.
2.      Cleanliness: The tables were all clean when we arrived. Everyone was wearing gloves and hair nets. The bathroom could have been cleaner.
3.      Friendliness: Attentive and friendly staff.

Hi-New-York Student:  I recently had lunch at Toasties. I arrived with a group of friends at 11:15. It was quick and easy to order at the counter. Try and arrive early if possible, the line grew very fast.  I found the seating area inside the restaurant to be a bit loud.  I would recommend Toasties. I had the Classic American.

Hi-New-York Student:  BEST CHICKEN TERIYAKI SANDWHICH!!!! Toasties is a wonderful place if you are trying to grab a quick and delicious meal on your lunch break. It’s a bit loud; so, don’t take someone there on a date.

Europa Café  7/10:  “Cafeteria-style setting with restaurant-style taste.”

Atmosphere ★★★
1.       Curb appeal: A very convenient location, but there isn’t much curb appeal.
2.      Ambience: Average decoration with a lively feel.
3.      Noise level: There are many different service counters; so, there is a lot of noise.

Food ★★★★
1.       Variety: Countless options for lunch as well as desserts.
2.      Cost: Reasonably priced, especially the salads.
3.      Taste: We had a variety of items. The meals all were satisfactory.
   
Service ★★★★
1.       Service: No wait time, and all the dishes came out right away. You order and wait for your food to be brought to your table.
2.      Cleanliness: Clean and tidy. Unfortunately, the bathroom was a mess, and there was no toilet paper.
3.      Friendliness: Extremely polite and informative service.

Hi-New-York Student:  I would not typically order a pizza from a café in New York; yet, I am very glad I did. The margherita personal sized pizza was delicious with the perfect cheese to sauce ratio. The seats are set up like a cafeteria. You won’t be sitting at your own table here. This is not a very relaxing place to dine.

Hi-New-York Teacher:  I usually build my own salads at these types of establishments. As you may know, that can get expense. I was very satisfied with the amount of ingredients I added and how inexpensive the salad was. Everything was vibrant and fresh.

Russ & Daughters (Shop)  8.5/10:  “Culture in every bite.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★
1.  Curb appeal: The windows really showcased what was inside.
2.  Ambience: Old fashioned decorations and counters. Very close quarters, hard to move around. There is no seating at this location. Grab and Go.
3.  Noise level: There was a lot of commotion at lunch time, making it hard to hear the people taking our orders from behind the counter.

Food ★★★★
1.  Variety:  This is a specialty establishment with plenty of options when it comes to bagels, cream cheese and salmon.
2.  Cost: Smoked fish of this high quality is worth the extra money.
3.  Taste: Unbelievably delicious.

Service ★★★★
1.  Service: Russ and Daughters food is made to order. Expect to wait.
2.  Cleanliness: Everything appeared to be well taken care of and clean.
3.  Friendliness: Attentive and friendly staff.

Hi-New-York Student:  Best Bagel EVER! I was surprised to see they had so many types of cream cheese. This time, I chose the plain cream cheese, but next time, I would like to give the goat cheese spread a try. Russ and Daughters is in a fantastic location, just a few minutes’ walk from the F train.

Hi-New-York Student:  This was my first time trying Jewish cuisine, and I was so impressed. I do wish they had seating at this location. I ended up eating outside on a bench. I highly suggest ordering an everything bagel with the Irish salmon, plain cream cheese and a small side of their famous egg salad. It might be the best I have ever had.

Chipotle  8.5/10:  “Put a little spice in your life.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★
1.  Curb appeal: Very basic store front, not very inviting.
2.  Ambience: Chipotle has plenty of tables and bar tops. The walls are decorated with very interesting artwork. It’s close to the MoMA.
3.  Noise level: This is a very big location. Even during the lunch rush, you can eat in peace.

 Food ★★★★★
1.  Variety:  Mexican buffet with a decent number of options. You can order burritos, tacos, rice bowls or salads.
2.  Cost: Very affordable.
3.  Taste:  100% customizable taste.  

Service ★★★★
1.  Service:  A lengthy line was forming, which made the man behind the counter rush. It was hard to hear him.
2.  Cleanliness: Extremely clean and organized.
3.  Friendliness: Although rushed, the lady at the check-out counter was very polite.

Hi-New-York Student:  I really enjoyed building my own burrito; it’s not something I have ever done. I loved my burrito, but I was surprised that the chicken was spicy. I wish there were two options for chicken. I would have liked a fountain drink with my order. Unfortunately, the machine was out of order.

Hi-New-York Student:  I ordered the 3 soft flour tacos option. They should have put less toppings on my chicken tacos; it was hard to eat. I don’t like eating tacos with a fork and knife. The chicken was spicy, but I still really enjoyed my meal.  The ordering process was rushed; therefore, my tacos came out messy. Not the best review, but I would 100% go back.

Juniors  7.5/10:  “The essential Brooklyn diner.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★
1.  Curb appeal: The location is under construction outside; so, it’s very dusty and not inviting.
2.  Ambience: Old fashioned dinner with lots of old photographs for decoration. Junior’s is a wonderful place to take the family.
3.  Noise level:  No complaints. Even with outside construction, there was no noise pollution.

Food ★★★★
1.  Variety:  Plenty of traditional diner food, not many healthy options. 
2.  Cost: A little over priced for lunch. $15 minim on most meals.
3.  Taste:  Free pickles, Cole slaw and beets upon arrival. Simple yet tasty.

Service ★★★★
1.  Service:  There was no wait, and this restaurant is very large. The waiter did take a few minutes to come and greet us.
2.  Cleanliness: Even though this location is old, it was clean and tidy.
3.  Friendliness: The server wasn’t very helpful, and he forgot to add toppings to two dishes.

Hi-New-York Teacher:  I do wish this restaurant had a few more healthy and vegetarian options. I particularly loved the free cole slaw and beets. The bathrooms were clean, but they were located in the back and upstairs. The food was average. I am not sure I would come back.

Hi-New-York Student:  I would come back here once a week just to have another taste of their amazing and enormous hot dogs. I think it was as big as my arm! The french fries were also very delicious. The menu was not very descriptive; so, I wasn’t sure what I was getting.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand (Coney Island)  8.5/10:  “Home of the best hot dogs on planet earth.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★★
1.  Curb appeal: You can’t miss this place - big red and yellows signs with a full view of the kitchen. You should read the menu before you even go inside.
2.  Ambience: Nathan’s made you feel like summer. It’s fun and has a lot of energy. The seating is outside, which is wonderful for people watching.
3.  Noise level:  The ambience was so great we didn’t notice the noise. 

Food ★★★★★
1.  Variety:  It’s worth a visit for the hot dogs. The cheese fries are another reason to visit Nathan’s.
2.  Cost: The portions of fries could have been larger for the price. 
3.  Taste:  This location has been open since 1916, and they know how to make the best hot dogs in New York!

Service ★★★★
1.  Service:  With at least 30 registers and countless employees working, there was no wait. The people at the registers were very effective at keeping the lines moving.
2.  Cleanliness: Very clean and tidy even outside.
3.  Friendliness: Everyone, even the man making the hotdogs, had a smile on his face.

Hi-New-York Student:  I tend to think of myself as a hot dog connoisseur. Nathan’s hot dogs made the cut. I wish I had ordered two; they are rather small. It was very nice to be able to enjoy my meal outside. This place is great!

Hi-New-York Student:  I don’t usually order hot dogs when I see them on a menu, but I couldn’t resist. This is the home of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. I had to see what all the hype was about.

Bread & Butter 9/10:  “Where variety is a specialty.  It’s not just bread & butter.”

Atmosphere  ★★★
1.  Curb appeal: The building next door was under construction, and the windows were covered; so, you couldn’t see inside. We weren’t sure what we were walking into.
2.  Ambience: This is a grab and go eatery. There is no seating on location. There are so many options, and the place seemed cluttered.  
3.  Noise level:  There was no issue with noise.

Food ★★★★★
1.  Variety:  There is something for everyone here. From a hot and cold buffet with over 50 options to salads, sandwiches, sushi and more.
2.  Cost: Great prices for the amazing quality of the food.
3.  Taste:  We opted for the hot and cold buffet. Everything was fresh and extremely enjoyable. Most meals had an oriental flavor to them.

Service ★★★
1.  Service:  We helped ourselves; so, we did not interact with a server.
2.  Cleanliness: This place was immaculate. A woman was continually making sure the buffet area was clean and organized.
3.  Friendliness: The couple at the register was helpful and friendly.

Hi-New-York Student:  There are a lot of options at Bread & Butter. Take your time to walk around and check everything out.  I had a mixed of hot and cold items in my container. The sweet corn and blueberries mix at the bottom of my container was an accident. I recommend taking your lunch onto the ferry for Brooklyn.

Hi-New-York Student:  I was a little overwhelmed when I walked in. I had never been to a place with so many options. It was unfortunate that there was nowhere to sit. The one problem with a place like this is that there is a lot of plastic waste. I wish they had cardboard containers. I would recommend the cold salad with nuts and tilapia. Everything here is so fresh.

Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill  8.5/10:  “Where New Yorkers come to eat pizza.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★★
1.  Curb appeal: Great curb appeal with many of the daily specials listed outside.
2.  Ambience: This place is lively and with bright purple decor. It was nice to watch the football game while dining for a change.
3.  Noise level: There weren’t many people dining inside, and we were far from the kitchen.  The music was low, making it a wonderful place for conversation.

Food ★★★★★
1.  Variety:  A pizza for everyone, from plain to one with the works. 4 options at the unlimited soup bar and plenty of healthy options.
2.  Cost: Affordable lunch specials.
3.  Taste: Delicious! Delicious! Delicious.

Service ★★★★
1.  Service:  You can order at your table with an ipad, but it isn’t easy. We opted for a server. She might have been new; she wasn’t very kind or helpful.
2.  Cleanliness: They must have just opened for the day because it still had the floor cleaner smell. Thankfully. pizza smells better than a cleaner smell.
3.  Friendliness: The host welcomed us with a smile and quickly took us to our table.

Hi-New-York Student: Uno’s has a delightful lunch special. You can get a berry and goat cheese salad or a salad of your choice with unlimited bowls of soup for under $11. All the soups were fantastic. I don’t know which I liked better - the pesto or the tomato soup.

Hi-New-York Student:  I love pizza, and New York makes it the best. The kid’s personal pizza from Uno’s is my favorite. It’s the perfect size and tastes so good.

Five Guys   9/10:  “Burger game on point.”

Atmosphere  ★★★★
1.   Curb appeal:  The bright red color of the Five Guys signs makes it easy to notice on busy 49th street.  
2.  Ambience: This location is small with plenty of seating. People come here to burgers and not for the ambience.
3.  Noise level: Since this place is small, the noise from the kitchen flows throughout the dinning space.

Food ★★★★
1.  Variety:  Burgers, Burgers and more burgers. There are more than 20 topping options and two flavors of fries. Not a place to come for a healthy lunch.
2.  Cost: Affordable.
3.  Taste: Juicy, perfectly cooked burgers and fries.

Service ★★★★
1.  Service:  The lady at the counter seemed rushed, and she wasn’t that polite. The men and women at the pick-up counter were a lot more helpful.
2.  Cleanliness:  This place was very clean - nothing on the floor or counters.
3.  Friendliness: Not the friendliest of employees. We took our food to go.

Hi-New-York Student:  I’m a hot dog girl. I can not give you a review on the hamburgers, but my friends seemed very pleased.  You can even get toppings on your hot dogs.  I stuck with ketchup. That’s all they need. I really liked the cut of the french fries, not too big not too small. Try the Cajun for something different.

Hi-New-York Student:  A burger lover’s paradise. A simple cheese burger is all you need. It was nice to snack on peanuts waiting for my order. We did not eat in Five Guys but went across the street and ate at a park. It was a great picnic.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Can 9 Weeks in NYC Achieve?

Two Swiss children, 8 and 6 years old, came to New York with their parents in the spring with no formal English instruction prior to their visit. By the end of their 9 weeks with us, they were confidently communicating in English.

The Teacher’s Perspective

Both are very intelligent children, and after they got going, they seemed to just soak up the language. Both of them started the session unable to hold a basic conversation in English and finished the session being able to understand a wide range of conversational points, including the future and past tenses. And that's with me speaking English at a normal conversational speed with some repetition.

At first, the children were nervous, and their confidence level in the language was not high, leading them to sometimes get discouraged and/or frustrated. However, towards weeks 4-6, we saw the children do a complete switch in their approach to English, with them initiating the conversations, picking up words with relative ease and being able to express themselves clearly.  If they didn't understand something, they would ask questions to prompt understanding. One of the biggest achievements for these two was probably overcoming their fear of speaking English with me!

It's hard to pinpoint where they've improved the most. They picked up vocabulary at an amazing rate. It was a slower process at first, but towards the end of the program, they were using words that I had taught them only two days before. They have covered in 9 weeks what would take an adult a year to learn.  


The Mother’s Perspective

Since the children came with a very basic knowledge of English, I did not know what to expect for them. After 9 weeks in the program, we are very happy to see them communicating and understanding what is being said, especially our older child. She loves to show us that she can speak the language, and it’s great to watch her. Our son too has made tremendous progress. He’s younger; so, he does not write and relies on his sister to speak, but he understands better.

There were endless possibilities here with the Hi-New-York team, each day something new. I feel as if the children know NY better than the parents! They love the museums, especially the ones with modern equipment, computers and interactive stations for children.

We enjoyed New York as a family too.  Going to the beach with children is always a great experience, especially in a big city like NY. The children always have a great time playing in the sand and swimming. We went to Fire Island, just one hour away from the city, and we all really enjoyed it. Central Park is another great place. Our children love picnics. Unlike in restaurants, where they have to stay seated for several hours, as soon as they have finished eating, they can play and run around. They really love that, and it’s so easy in NY since you can buy food everywhere. Just grab and go and eat in the park!

We will miss the variety of food and cuisines that New York has to offer and its accessibility. Hell’s Kitchen was great for us.  We loved walking on 8th Avenue and selecting the type of restaurant and food we wanted; the options are just limitless. Just the idea that we can get ice cream 24/7 from the shop downstairs is also amazing. Back home, our choices are much more limited, or we have to plan ahead.

The Children’s Perspective

A: I like the parks, candy stores and museums.  But New York is dirty!

N: The parks and toy stores.  I don’t like shopping!  

Friday, March 03, 2017

My New York City Experience


This piece was written by Manuel, one of our interns.


Expectations


Before coming  to New York this year, we were in Miami several times. I thought New York  would be a  city like any other, with big cars, people spending most of their time on the phone, and expensive restaurants.

I also had my reservations about the internship my mother had organized for me. I thought that this internship would be something that I wouldn’t like, something that would make me feel more insecure.  I couldn’t have even imagined how  different it would be.

First Impressions


The first thing that I noticed as  I was arriving  was the landing track, which was basically in the water.  I couldn’t believe it! The next interesting thing that I noticed were the buildings. They were so tall. I had never seen something like that, even in Miami.

On the first day with Hi-New-York, while I was going up on  the elevator with my family, I was so nervous that I couldn't even move.  While I was waiting with my two brothers, I noticed that the place didn’t look so bad. After waiting for five minutes, my teacher came, and I realized that it would be ok.  She seemed nice and fun.


Lasting Impressions


I passed the whole day with her,  her assistant and the kids. The same night, I felt much better and relieved that everything I thought was wrong. The days started to pass, and each one was better than the last one.  I think that the best day of all was when we went to the Transit Museum and met someone from the past who told us about being on an elevated train during a blizzard.  It was so interesting and fun. 

Now that my internship is coming to an end, I realize that the biggest difference between Buenos Aires and New York is the people.  The level of focus that they showed in every activity is incredible. It doesn’t matter if it is only a simple activity.  They do it the best they can to prove to themselves that they can do it well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Oh, What a Beautiful Season!

Fall in NYC! 


To me, fall is the best time to be in New York City-- summer’s stifling heat and is like a jungle. Like the blinding green of a jungle, certain things stand out-- skyscrapers, monuments, museums, etc.-- which every visitor should experience. Yet just as a jungle teems with life hidden from anyone lacking the knowledge to find it, NYC has many hidden gems that the average tourist never gets to experience. At Hi-New-York, we structure our programs to include the biggest tourist highlights and those special places only native New Yorkers know about, along with everything in between.
humidity is replaced by a pleasant cool air, and the changing leaves add streaks of color to our concrete jungle. As the most diverse (over 800 languages are spoken in the five boroughs) and exciting city in the country, NYC really

Life in Every Corner

           
During our visit to the Natural History Museum, we studied the similarities and differences between humans and our mammalian relatives. This was the perfect way to learn vocabulary like thumb, knee, fur, etc. The students were especially awed by the herd of elephants that marches through the African mammals section and the massive mountain gorillas.  The sight of the gorillas led one student to remark, “They look like we do!”  Mission accomplished.

At the Aquarium, students got to see the fish made famous by the movie Finding Nemo up close and personal, along with penguins, otters and octopuses, to name just a few of the sea critters that call the aquarium home. However, the sea lion show was by far the biggest hit for our students. Their jaws were on the floor the whole time watching their incredible acrobatic stunts.

The highlight of the Bronx Zoo was a 4-D movie with vibrating seats and mist that fell on the audience from the ceiling. It’s not surprising that this was the favorite part of the zoo for the students, but the animals were not far behind! Their favorite were the mountain gorillas, many of whom were right up against the glass of their enclosure, including a mother and baby.

Tasty Treats!

At an edible garden in NYC, students helped staff members prepare a soup with many of the ingredients straight from the garden and then got to taste it! They had a great time as assistant chefs, learning about the importance of eating healthy, fresh food and enjoying the garden on a sunny, beautiful fall day-- all while practicing their English!

Although the soup was tasty, the most delicious day we had this fall was a tour of a chocolate factory. An expert chocolate maker guided us through every step of the process, from drying and shelling the cacao beans to liquefying the pure chocolate to the process of adding specialty flavors. Although the students found the tour interesting, their favorite part was the many chocolate samples they got along the way, including some tasty chocolate soda!


Leafy greens were for the tasting on a rooftop farm overlooking the East River.  The students learned about what crops the farm grows, who the customers are, and some challenges of farming in the middle of the biggest city in the country. All this while enjoying breathtaking views of Manhattan.

From All Walks of Life


Our students had the privilege of walking through the exclusive Harvard Club in Midtown Manhattan this fall. The Clubhouse, which has been in use since 1894, was one of the first buildings to be named a New York City landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From the rooftop restaurant to the hotel rooms for members to the halls and rooms with mounted moose heads and such, I am afraid it was a bit intimidating for some :-)

Louis Armstrong’s house in Queens and the tenements on the Lower East Side were also places we explored. Through music, food and personal stories, we learned about and celebrated the diversity of the people who have made NYC their homes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Romance Novelist in the Making!

The story below was written by our teen student Mariana who was inspired by the romantic possibilities in New York City.

A New York Love Story


I graduated from high school with my two best friends.  We wanted to go to college in New York.  Amanda was the smart and realistic girl in the group, Camille was the funny and shy girl, and I, Gabriella, was the romantic and passionate one. We wanted to have a lot of fun, meet some guys and make our dreams come true in New York. We loved New York and wanted to be a part of this busy city. We bought a loft near Downtown because NYU is there.  We were there to study business, art and education.

It was our first day at NYU.  It is a big campus with many people, and the buildings are quite spread out.I am the only one who takes business.  The three of us have different classes. Amanda is in education and Camille in art. The teachers are so good, but I was nervous.

“Are you okay?” asked the guy next to me with a smile.
“Yes, I am okay,” I answered.
“I am Jason,” he said giving me his hand.
“I am Gabriella.” I took his hand and smiled.
“So.. what are you doing in business?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked confused.
“ You seem like a drama student,” he answered.
“What?!” I started to laugh.
“Is everything okay?” asked the teacher.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Are you coming to the welcome party?” he asked.
“Maybe with my friends,” I said.
“See you there,” he said with a smile.

I ran to the education building.  Camille was just getting out.

“We have to go to the education party!” I said very excitedly.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I met a guy,” I answered.
“Really? Me too!” she said.
We went to the art building and found Amanda drawing something in her notebook.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“Yes” I answered.

We went home to choose our outfits. I chose a blue shirt, white shorts and high heels. Camille chose a pink dress with flats, and Amanda didn’t want to go.
The party was at the auditorium.  It was very big and full. Camille and I were very shy, but then a girl invited us to dance with her group. A few hours later, Amanda decided to come, and we danced some more.

“Camille,” said Jason heading over to my friend.
“Don’t you remember me?” I asked, very confused.
“I’m sorry, but no,” he answered.
“I am from business,” I said.
“I am in education, sorry,” he said and continued to talk to Camille.
“Amanda,” I called my other friend.
“Yes?” she answered.
“I think I am crazy,” I said.
“Why?” she asked.
“I swear I met a guy today, and he is talking to Camille,” I said.
“Where?” she asked.
“There,” I pointed.
Amanda took off her glasses, and started to clean them.
“Gabriella,” she said.
“Yes?” I asked.
“I met the same guy,” she answered.
“No way!” I started to laugh.
“What are you laughing at?” she asked.  She was very angry.
“This is very funny,” I answered.
We went to find something to drink, and Jason came to us.
“Amanda” he said.

Amanda was drinking coca-cola, and when she saw him, she threw the coca-cola all over  Jason’s shirt.
“Are you crazy?!” he asked.
I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe.
“You flirted with my best friends!” she answered, very angry.
“No, I didn’t,” he answered, very confused.
“You’re a liar,” she said.
“Bro, that coca-cola goes with your eyes,” said a guy exactly like Jason.  He was laughing very hard like me.
“Shut up,” said the other guy.
“Amanda, they’re twins!” I said.
“No, we are triplets,” answered another one.
“He is Henry, the one with the coca-cola is James, and I am Jason,” he said.
Amanda was so embarrassed, Camille was very confused, and I was laughing very hard
“Do you want to go?” asked Jason.
“Yes,” I said.

We went out to the soccer field, and we lay down on the grass.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you about my brothers,” he said.
“It’s okay.  It was funny,” I said with a smile.
“Do you want to go out with me sometime?” he asked.
“Yes, but I have a question,” I said.
“What?” he asked.
“How do I know it’s you and not one of your brothers?” I asked.
He started to laugh.
“Because I have a scar near my eyebrow,” he said.

Two days later, he invited me to Coney Island, and we went to the beach and ate ice cream. We rode all the rollercoasters, he won a teddy bear for me, and we kissed at the top of the ferris wheel.  Amanda went on a date with James to the Brooklyn Bridge.  They drew Manhattan in their notebooks. Camille went to Brooklyn by boat with Henry, and they ate macaroons.

Going to New York was the best thing that ever happened to us.  We found the love of our lives, and our dreams came true.  A few years later, Amanda’s drawings were exhibited in the Whitney Museum, Camille became a great teacher at NYU, and I was working on Wall Street.






Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Hey There Summer!

It's a Small World After All


As the voices of nations and groups rejecting "outsiders" grow louder all around us, the young students who come together to learn English on the Upper East Side only know that they like to play with each other.  To the Jewish girl from Berlin, a Muslim boy from Istanbul and a Catholic boy from Modena, there are no lines they shouldn't cross.  They fish (one even caught something - finally!) together, they play hang man together, and they whiz through the hall of mirrors together.  We can only wonder at the beauty of the friendships formed and hope that each of them keeps some of these memories with them into adulthood.


Glorious Food (and Drink)!


There have been many firsts for our teen students during the past few weeks.  The first soup dumplings and lycees in Chinatown.  The first bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon on the Lower East Side.  The first ginger ale and cherry soda - again on the Lower East Side.  The first Nathan's hot dog on Coney Island.  The first American pizza slice in Brooklyn. 

And then there are the old favorites.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Oreos. Donuts.  Yum yum!

So Very Different from Home


We always find it interesting to discuss the similarities and differences between cities.  When compared to Tokyo and Moscow, the people are more diverse in NYC, but the subways/metros and buildings feel about the same. When compared to Villadolid, everything is different.  The buildings are taller, the streets are wider, and there is much more diversity in the people and food in NYC.  Maria, Keiko and Dimitry, however, prefer home.  NYC is a great place to visit, but...


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Learning by Living: A Personal View

Learning English as a kid

Over my lifetime, I have experienced the challenges of learning a foreign language both personally and as an observer.  At eight years old, I was a Korean immigrant in a “sink or swim” language situation: with no prior English language instruction, I was enrolled in a New York public school. Scary and frustrating? You bet. I had been a very good student back in Seoul; in New York, I found myself failing my courses and lashing out in tears at my parents for ruining my life. But at the end of six months, I’d reached full fluency and productivity, able to negotiate all my classes as well as the all-important social world.

Learning Japanese as a young adult

Fast forward 10 years, and I am in college studying Japanese.  I had kept up my Korean thanks to my mother’s efforts, and I found Japanese to be relatively easy.  The grammatical structure, usage patterns and some of the Chinese character-based words were the same between the two languages. So, I had great grades.  However, when I landed in Tokyo during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I couldn’t understand much and probably had that panic-stricken look that many of the Hi-London and Hi-New-York students have upon arrival at our centers.  I made watching Japanese soap operas a part of my study plan that summer and made fast progress in mastering every-day Japanese.

Years later, I had my children in Tokyo and placed them in the local day care center at 4 (the older child) and 9 (the younger child) months with the children of store keepers and company employees who worked in the area as I myself went back to work.  I watched in fascination as they not only picked up Japanese but knew when to speak it to whom. They switched naturally between Japanese and English, with my son adopting the female speech patterns of his caregivers!

Learning French as a mature adult

We left Japan a few years later for London.  In London, we continued our experimentation with our own children and put them into the French school system at the ages of 4 and 2.  My son, at age four, conquered French between September and Christmas by constantly listening, talking, and trying the words out. Monique, at two, took a different approach.  She didn’t speak at all at first, but when she opened her mouth three month later, she was fluent.

You might envy my immersion in English at age eight; I was jealous of how naturally my much younger children picked up their new language – while I was re-visiting my own rusty high school French.  After numerous class hours and living partially in French for almost 20 years, I can understand most conversations but still make mistakes in delivery.



Starting young is a must!

We all know that the younger you start, the easier it is to learn a foreign language. Eight seems to be a bit of a magic number; after that age, even fluent speakers generally seem to retain their native accent. Young children, with their ever- changing brains, are building synapses as they play with friends, interact with the world around them, watch television, and listen to their teachers.  When they are surrounded by new experiences in a foreign country, language acquisition becomes just part of the deal.

We’re learning more about the human brain every day, and scientists tell us that our internal networks are changing and synapses rebuilding every time we learn new skills. Young or old, we can work at reshaping our brains and keeping them flexible. Youth helps, of course, but so does immersive experiential learning.  Sitting in a classroom, doing grammatical exercise in workbooks, listening to language tapes – these tools have their place.  But to really learn a language, to internalize it, get those synapses re-routed and connected, there is no substitute for experiential learning – learning by doing, by throwing yourself into a world where you are hearing and seeing that language all around you. Where you are forced to use the language to negotiate your everyday life. Where you want to learn the language because you want to participate, to connect, to have conversations with your new friends, and to live fully in the world around you.


At Horizon International through Hi-New-York and Hi-London, we are focused on making sure that everyone in your family – old or young, with brains putting up new wiring or re-routing some (ahem!) vintage synapses – benefits from challenging, fun, and immersive learning experiences.