Category Archives: The San Francisco Connection

What Learning Vietnamese Can Teach You about San Francisco

My trip to Vietnam in December of 2017 is now booked, kicking into high gear my motivation to learn Vietnamese.  With just three short months left to learn this completely new language, I find the task to be a bit daunting.  Unlike Spanish or French or Greek, Vietnamese is completely unconnected to anything I know.   I dive in and try several different language programs and on-line applications.   However, I think my favorite part about learning a new language is what it teaches me about how it connects to San Francisco.  Learning Vietnamese has given me an opportunity to learn and connect more with the vibrant Vietnamese community living in my beautiful city by the Bay.

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Branka the Brilliant Croatian Tutor’s Travel Advice

Finding a Croatian tutor was a challenge.  Unlike more popular languages like Spanish, French or Mandarin, there are no language schools for Croatian in San Francisco.   There is no Alliance Française de San Francisco or Casa Hispana were lessons and tutors abound.  Rosetta Stone and Duolingo do not have a Croatian course.  I look through all of the Meet Ups and cannot find one for Croatian Language Lovers.   Finally, I stumble on a website, UniversityTutor.com.  I fill out a questionnaire, enter my contact information and wait.  In less than two days, I am contacted by Branka.

Branka and I speak on the phone and she agrees to tutor me once a week.  She also graciously agrees to come to my office.  At the first meeting, she arrives early.  Branka is smartly dressed in a rose colored twin set and pearls, her dark hair cut short and stylish.  I soon realize that Branka is brilliant.  Each lesson is a mini cultural lesson filled with wonderful advice and tips for my upcoming trip to Croatia.  Her zest for life and her fiery spirit make me feel like I have found a kindred spirit.  Each lesson, I make notes for my upcoming trip.  I have put together a list of her advice.  Here are Branka’s top nine travel tips for a visit to Croatia.

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Croatian Line Dancing on Valentine’s Day

“Please don’t make me go, please don’t make me go.”  It is Valentine’s Day.   I have on a bright red blouse to match the red purse my husband Frank gave me this morning.  My eight year old son is in the back seat of our Mazda.  We are arriving at the Croatian Cultural Center on Onondaga Avenue just at the corner of Alemany Boulevard in San Francisco.

This neighborhood is old San Francisco.  It is a neighborhood filled with small, compact, single family homes.  The living rooms perch on top of the garages, peering out at the street through their wide windows.  The driveways divide up the street inefficiently, not leaving enough room for street parking between the dipped curbs.  The colors of the house looks like a crayon box on Easter, pastel blue, peach and pink.  An outlier has painted one house bright blue like the dome roofs of Santorini.  This neighborhood remains untouched by San Francisco’s tech explosion.  There are no throngs of twenty somethings, beer gardens, overpriced lattes or fishbowl condos.  In this untouched corner lies the heart of San Francisco’s Croatian culture. Today is the Tamburitza Festival at the Croatian Cultural Center.

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How Learning a New Language Can Set Your Theme for 2016

Every year, I make New Year’s resolutions.  Resolutions to exercise more, pay off my debt, watch what I eat and save more money.  I know some people who make resolutions and some who do  not.  But at the end of the day, don’t these resolutions end up sounding pretty generic? They are more like declarations of values versus something new and exciting.  Last year’s resolutions blur into the previous year’s.

So instead of making resolutions, why not pick a Theme for the year.  Project Based Learning is all the rage now in early education.  PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.  Cool.  Here’s how you pick your 2016 Theme PBL style.   Pick a country where they do not speak your language, pick a language and plan a trip.  There you go, you have a theme.  For me, my theme for 2016 is half Croatian/ half Vietnamese.  Kinda sounds like a San Francisco food truck.  The plan is Croatia in June and then Vietnam next year.

So now that you have a theme, here are all the fun things that you can spend your year doing.

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