A Christmas tree decoration up close. Image from freeimages.com

Christmas Favourites : Perennial Linguaphile Picks for 2021

I’ve done a few Christmas gifts for language lovers posts in the past. Perhaps that’s more out of wishful thinking than anything else… After all, who doesn’t like making their pleas to Santa public?

But looking back, it’s a case of plus ça change. The same book series, the same piles of lovely stationery. Linguaphiles never really change. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Many of those old gift ideas are still going strong on a solid five stars. And some have since expanded to include new languages and features.

So what’s in Language Santa’s sack this year?

Dream Books

My top picks for Chrimbo books hasn’t changed much. In the absence of any fantabulous new grammar series or language courses, the set-collector in me is still captivated by a couple of ranges.

ROUTLEDGE GRAMMARS

Because honestly, you can’t beat them, can you? Many have seen updated editions recently, and a couple of new languages have come out in the Essential Grammar range (cue shrieks of excitement): Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian, and West Greenlandic. Music to the ears of anyone looking for more ‘off the beaten track’ language resources.

And I can barely contain my excitement that finally we’re getting an Icelandic Essential Grammar from Routledge. It’s due out on 21st December, just in time for Christmas. Oh my, it’s like they knew

This year also saw the addition of Intermediate Persian and Intermediate Korean to the Grammar and Workbook titles, too. Thanks, Santa Routledge.

SHORT STORIES IN…

These were an exciting addition to the language learning market when they appeared. There have been short stories collections for learners before, of course. Penguin have a great couple of titles in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

But what’s nice about these is that they’re written with key structures and high frequency vocabulary in mind. They’re also available in lots more languages, including some underserved ones like Icelandic and Turkish. What’s more, they all match. So, if you’re studying multiple languages, you’re getting similar input in both, and one isn’t being neglected over the other because of a resources mismatch.

It’s great to see that two more titles are in the pipeline for 2022: Irish Beginners and Japanese Intermediate. For our 2022 wish list, could I ask the Short Stories Santa for a Gaelic, Greek and Polish too?

TEACH YOURSELF TUTORS

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a bit of a TY fanboy. It’s a nostalgia thing – I love a bit of language learning vintage.

TY reinvigorated their range with the excellent Tutor series a couple of years back, and they’re still fresh and relevant. While there haven’t been any news ones added to the range yet (pretty please, Teach Yourself!), the fourteen titles there are already classics in polyglot circles, and again, represent a fair few languages without masses of material available for learners otherwise.

Verdict? Still solid stocking fillers (if you have quite large stockings).

Tech Toys

2020, was all about the VR. Most likely, the pandemic and rolling lockdowns had something to do with that. But VR has proven it’s not just a flash in the pan. Its user base is growing, and it’s still a fantastic immersion tool for language learning.

It wasn’t all rosy with tech, though. Two years previous, I was raving about a brilliant Chinese voice assistant crowdfunding for development on IndieGoGo. A friend of mine had even invested, and there was some really positive hype around it. Following it up to post this update, I was sad to learn that the project hit serious difficulties, leaving a lot of people disappointed. Still, with the language learning potential of general purpose voice assistants, competition was always going to stiff.

At least we still have VR. My tip for 2022? It’s still get an Oculus! Christmas is the best excuse.

Wear It With Pride

Finally, alternative items that weren’t on my radar over previous Christmas seasons include funky wearables. Maybe hiding behind this newfound sartorial daringness is the pandemic, and successive lockdowns where we all gradually felt less self-conscious about what we had on. But I really started to like more fab ‘n’ fun clothing over the past year, like these linguist t-shirts on Etsy. Amazon lists some fancy (and also quite bizarre ones) too.

I’m just sprucing up my wardrobe ready to step out at the 2022 round of polyglot events.

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