travel

I'm Going On a Trip! Starring CultureGrams and Transparent Language Online

I'm going to France next month, for the first time ever! I'm very excited. To prepare for my trip, I'm going to pay a visit to one of Oakland Public Library's friendliest databases, CultureGrams.

Want to come too? Grab your library card and let's go!

We'll start here: Articles and Databases. Now scroll down with me. Come on, I wanna see you scrrooooooolll. All the way down to Country Information, where you'll see the link for CultureGrams.

At this point, you'll need to enter your library card number and pin. (If you have trouble during this step, call any OPL location during open hours--we'll help!)

And here we are:

I'll choose World Edition, and search for France.

Hey, cool! I can learn a lot here. But first, let's get practical. I want to know how far my money will go in the land of sidewalk espressos and Mona Lisas. I'll click on Currency Converter, in the bottom right corner, and type in $100 because I am all about the benjamins:

73 euros! Woo!

Now, let me get spooky. In France, they speak French. I don't speak any French. This is the first time in my life I will visit a non-English-speaking country, and I'm a little nervous about it. I'm a little reassured when I click on the Language link and see that English is the most common second language in France:

But really, what I need to do at this point is return to the Articles and Databases page, find the link for Transparent Language Online under Language Learning, create my free account, and learn a little of the language of love for myself. I can even download their mobile app to my iPhone for overseas language support.

(I did mention all this is free for OPL cardholders, right? No? It is. YES WAY.)

Now, I'm a children's librarian, which means I'll be using my trip as a teaching opportunity for the kids at my branch. When they gather round my computer, I'll click over to the Kids Edition of CultureGrams.

Pretty glad I did that, otherwise I might have placed my hands in my lap during a meal while in France, enraging my dining companions and causing a Bush-in-Tokyo-scale international incident.

Inevitably, while I am showing the children at my library the delights of France, one of them will remember with a start that she has a country report due tomorrow, on Kazakhstan.

Did you know that Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world? Did you know that the nomads of Kazakhstan used to live in yurts that they made themselves out of wood and sheeps' wool? Did you know that Ms. Murglesnort, the child's teacher, requires her students to prepare and bring for the class an authentic dish from their chosen country?

At that moment, the child's mother appears, and says they have to leave RIGHT NOW if they're going to scale all that fish. They don't have internet access at home, so I'll download a PDF of the Kazakhstan page and print it out for them. I'll also email it to mom so she can pull it up later on her smartphone.

So, that's CultureGrams! Not a bad place to spend a few rainy hours planning your dream trip, doing your child's homework, or just exploring the world. Don't miss the fantastic photo gallery for a true slice-of-life glimpse of any country you choose. 

Bon voyage!