Story based language instruction?
May 20, 2012 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Do you know of any story based language instruction books? I have a vague memory from when I was a kid (late 70's/early 80's) of reading book that was the story of an american boy going to visit france. The book starts out in english, and adds french words to the story as the boy in the story encounters them. If I remember correctly, the last chapter is entirely in french.

Can't for the life of me remember much more than that, and my google skills are failing me. If this rings a bell, or you know of something similar, I have a young nephew who is currently interested in learning new languages, and I think this type of book would be fun for him.
posted by billyfleetwood to Education (8 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you're thinking of Djinn? It's a similar idea, but instead of being English->French it's easy French->more advanced French. It's from the right time period, anyway.
posted by theodolite at 5:29 PM on May 20, 2012

I'm not going to be able to come up with the French book, but...

Ecce Romani is a series of Latin textbooks aimed at junior high/high school students where every chapter is a story about this family. (Granted, we all hated the family and their stupid lives by the end. Mostly because we were bitter about the months of junior high where they were on their way to Rome and the carriage got stuck in a damn ditch and oh no! there would be robbers and inns are dangerous! It would have helped it if wasn't a story about rich people.)

That's not such a great suggestion for your nephew, but he might enjoy Mission Europe, which is kind of hard to explain. They were made as a radio series/podcasts where the premise was that you were playing some sort of computer game and you were (I think) the heroine who had to solve some mystery (and some of the mystery exists only in not knowing the language) with each episode having increasingly more complex language. They're kind of cheesy, but it's more tolerable if you don't speak the language.
posted by hoyland at 5:39 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sure it's not what you're thinking about, but it fits your description: Magical Marine Pixel Maritan. There were three volumes of it.

There was a different series of books called "Moetan", which were intended to help Japanese students learn English. The story, such as it was, is that there's a girl named Ink who shows up to help a high school guy named Nao learn English. Most of the comic is written in Japanese but we watch Ink teaching English to Nao, and of course we learn it ourselves.

Well, Maritan is a satirical take on Moetan. Maritan is a princess from the magical kingdom of Paris Island. She's currently working as a Marine Drill Instructor. Her current victims are Army-san, a doggy girl, and Jiei-tan, an exchange student from the Japanese self defense forces who wears glasses. There's also an officer, Navy-tan.

And the purpose of the series? It's to teach Japanese students how to swear like a Marine.

Each pair of pages in the book contains a multi-panel cartoon, all in Japanese, except for the final panel, where the dialogue is in English -- and is grossly obscene or otherwise offensive. The rest of what's there is a gloss on the English, explaining the keywords (e.g. "fuck") and telling what they mean and how they're used.

In the first book, most of the English phrases were taken from the movie "Full Metal Jacket". The other two books created their own, but they're no less rude.

I think the first one was intended to be all there would be, but it was a surprise hit, and spawned a couple of audio CDs plus some figurines. And it has a web page.

Someone seems to have taken tracks from the CD and coupled them with pictures from the comic, and posted them to youtube. Here's one.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:47 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Story based, but not with progressively replacing the language, for Latin is also the Cambridge Latin course. The main family's not quite as annoying as the one in 'Ecce' but the first book ends on kind of a downer, as might be expected of a Pompeiian family.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:54 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Learning mandarin this way probably isn't possible (tonal language, doesn't do well with just a text) but I've got to mention that old standby, the Practical Chinese Reader, with the adventures of the improbably-named Gubo and Palanka in Bejing as they study at...some university or other. And then in the later volumes, their friend Ding Yun visits them in Anonymous Western Nation. The illustrations are surprisingly pretty.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 PM on May 20, 2012

I took a one-year intensive Spanish course as an adult using the Destinos course. It's based on a soap-opera- / mystery-type story, where new clues are revealed in each episode and the detective has to travel all over Latin America & Spain. It was fun, and we could converse (simply) in Spanish before the year was over. (The course was conducted entirely in Spanish.) Your nephew might find it a little cheesy (it seems a little dated now--late 80s/early 90s, and it's telenovela-style), but it's pretty easy to get engrossed in the story (at least if he's high-school age or older), and it builds up vocabulary and grammar concepts steadily & logically.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 7:53 PM on May 20, 2012

Best answer: I know the book. The Avion My Uncle Flew

I don't think the last chapter was wholly in French, but I do remember it being a really great book and that I learned quite a few French words.
posted by samthemander at 8:40 PM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Awesome samthemander, that is the one. Awesome! According to reviews, it isn't the last chapter that's all in french, but there's a letter that he has to read that is written all in french. Out of print but used copies available on Amazon. Thanks!
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:12 PM on May 20, 2012

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