Friday, March 1, 2019

A Foreign Language -To Be or Not to Be?

It's not a secret that learning a foreign language can benefit our health, work, studies, and personal life. Numerous studies, including studies from the US and Sweden, have found that a passion for learning new languages sustains brain health and brain development.  For instance, Swedish neuroscientists used MRI scans to prove that learning another language increases the size of the brain, which in turn improves the ability to focus, problem-solve, analyze, and make decisions. Learning a foreign language  strengthens our brain just like a fitness exercise strengthens our muscles. And just like muscles-the more we work at it the stronger our brain becomes.  But why should we pay attention to this issue? Should we ignore our own native language and culture in order to learn a new one?

1. Learning Languages Supports Career Advancement

Learning any foreign language, whether it is English, or any other language, can improve career prospects since our world is becoming more and more diverse and digital. Researchers have found that people who speak two or three foreign languages are better at focusing on key information. Because of that, they are more efficient at multitasking and completing jobs on time without much supervision. The memory of bilingual learners is sharper, and their communication and creative skills are likely more advanced compared to monolingual people.

Bilingual employees are also considered to be a valuable asset for a majority of businesses since they can work with customers in different languages. Bilinguals build up customers confidence and they can level up the company’ online presence by translating and distributing the content to a broader global audience. So we can draw the conclusion that sufficient knowledge of a second or a third language is a huge plus in everyone's business portfolio.

But should we forget about our native language while learning a new language? I would say, no we should not. In the contrary, our native language can help us to learn a new language much faster, if learning is done correctly. In my practice of teaching English to my EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students I use text books, songs, fables, folk tales, and other materials that are written in both languages simultaneously ( the English Language and the native language of my students ).

This parallel model of teaching languages makes a huge difference in my student's lives as they feel respect and appreciation to both languages, and they become sufficiently ready to the demands of the global economy. Not to mention some fun that kids experience during our lessons regardless of their age and nationality.

In the early 2002, during my employment with the World Bank (Washington DC) where I worked as an Educational Consultant and HR Coordinator, I focused on the same idea of tolerance and appreciation of art, traditions, languages, and culture of people of different nationalities.

Recently, I was invited to participate in the series of the citywide cultural events that aim to honor the diverse population of Brooklyn ( NY). Starting in the Spring of 2019  I'll coordinate and develop a couple of  programs that underline the importance of sport (soccer, tennis, ping-pong, yoga), music, and language education among Russian, Georgian, Belorussian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and Italian speaking communities of that borough.

2. Learning Languages Makes it Easy to Study and Travel Abroad

Understanding foreign cultures and languages is “a must-have” skill in today's global economy. Travel, study, and making a business abroad is made more pleasant and easier when you immerse yourself in the language and the culture of a country that you are visiting, working at or relocating to.  Studying a new language also creates a more positive attitude and less prejudice toward people who are different, and therefore it enforces peaceful communication, trade, and relationships.

3. Learning Languages Delivers Fantastic Health Benefits  

Scientists say that studying another language has fantastic health benefits as it prevents the brain from damage and diseases which are associated with urban stress, pollution, traumas or human aging.  According to statistics  and data on global public health,   the earliest age of people that can be prone to Alzheimer’s disease is around the age of 30 years old.  So the earlier we start exercising our brains the better our health will be in the future.

What are the ways of learning new languages faster?

There is a variety of fun ways of learning (and teaching) a new language. They include: basic reading and translation, watching a movie with subtitles, listening to the songs, taking an online course, visiting a foreign country or speaking with your language partner. I, for example, recommend watching movies and using interlinear methods and books to learn the English Language.

As I mentioned it earlier, I use interlinear methods in my own teaching practices with my EFL students. For instance, one of the books my students love called: Learn Russian with Short Stories: Interlinear Russian to English (Learn Russian with Interlinear Stories for Beginners and Advanced Readers).Each book contains a few familiar stories that are written in two languages. The new vocabulary grows very fast and our discussions after reading these books are always engaging and fun.

If you have a child and you want to give him or her a chance to study a new language, you should consider playful language apps or learning the language using your child's favorite toy with multiple small parts like Charlotte Dollhouse.Through playing with such toys kids memorize new vocabulary with ease.
Remember though, that digital resources or casual conversation are not the only ways of learning a foreign language. It is always beneficial to have the guidance of a real language teacher who can navigate you or your child through some complications of new learning. The method that you'll choose has to communicate with your soul, it should speak to your mind and it should be enjoyable and meaningful.

In my following articles I'll write about learning new languages with TV shows and foreign films, so stay tuned, if you like. But for now take a look at one of the fun episodes of the TV show called "Friends" that all language teachers love. I choose one with the English subtitles, but feel no pressure about reading them, just enjoy the show!

Thursday, January 3, 2019


Florence In New York - Trade Show in FD 

For the first time in the history, Italian city Florence crossed the boundaries and brought its most hidden treasures and crafts to showcase in New York. Held in one of the most significant districts of New York City  (Financial District - Maiden Lane), the Florence in New York Trade Show attracted a large number of local buyers, tourists, art, fashion, food and wine professionals, media journalists, and other visitors. 


From Madeira To New York 

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say “Madeira”? 
My imagination suggests the following: beautiful landscapes, football, guitar, romantic getaways, tasty grapes, delicious wine, and traditions. Belonging to Portugal, the isolated island of Madeira is located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 900 km south-west of Lisbon. 


Manchester United - From the Past to The Present  

I started my lesson today as usual, by asking my EFL students about the preferred books they have read over the weekend. As I expected, only half of my class read a book and the other half was busy with something else. I have mostly boys in my class, and it seems difficult for their families to keep boys reading. I felt I wanted to change that. 


Fitness For Teachers 

Since the weather in New York has drastically changed, my fellow New Yorkers are likely to dwell in the warm and welcoming places to survive the chilling winds and the upcoming snow. 
Some of them are departing to Florida and Texas, but most of my friends, my students, and I are staying in New York, regardless of the harsh climate and some challenges it will bring. During the winter playing sports outside of the gyms or sport arenas will be nearly impossible. 

So here I will share some of the places I recommend you to join to stay motivated, toned, and happy, as I would do it too. 


Changing the World Through Chocolate

Katrina Markoff, the owner and the creative force behind the Vosges Chocolate is taking chocolate and woman social entrepreneurship to the next level.  
Katrina graduated from the Vanderbilt University with degrees in Psychology and Chemistry in 1995, and right after her graduation, Markoff left the country to pursue her dream of culinary arts in Paris. She studied for one year at Le Cordon Bleu and graduated with Le Grand Diploma in Cuisine and Pastry as well as degrees in Basic and Advanced Oenology.  

Thalassa - Dining with Style 

An elegant restaurant, Thalassa specializes in modern Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. It is located on 179 Franklin Street in TriBeCa, and was widely acclaimed in newspapers, magazines and in the news. Zagat rated Thalassa as one of the best restaurants in NYC and the New York Times  described Thalassa in one of its articles: ‘With exposed brick, Thalassa has the feel of an elegant townhouse. Blue and white do appear in the color scheme, though subtly, through lighting and materials, so that you don't feel that you are walking into a cliché’. 


A Taste of Greece in New York 

'A moderate consumption of wine induces merriment, candor, and optimism ' Plato. 
I wouldn’t call a “Taste of Greece “ event - a wine tasting event, but instead, I would call it a taste of Greek Culture event. Lovers of all things Greek, delicious wine, and authentic food, music and dance gathered in New York Wednesday night for the inaugural Taste of Greece event, at City Winery NYC in Manhattan’s Hudson Square. A crowd of Media and Trade professionals was surrounded by posters with Plato’s quotes, delightful sounds of the traditional Syrtaki, that was played live on stage by Irini Haridou, Nikos Plios and their music band from Athens, Greece. 
                                               ClICK HERE TO READ MORE ....

My Sunday Promenade 

Another extraordinary moment happened while I visited an exhibition of Ilana Goor, that is held at Donna Karan's Urban Zen Center, Stephan Weiss Studio, located at 711 Greenwich Street, New York City.
The spirit or royalty was spread in the showroom. I was humbled by the majesty of the exposition and left to guess how Ilana was able to capture the power of human emotions, feelings, and thoughts and to transform them into bronze so gracefully! The fluidity of her sculptures is unbelievable and almost surreal. 
For a moment I thought that if a woman can transform metal into such grace and fluidity, other people can change, transform, and beautify their deeds, destiny and human nature too. 

'Can I take a few pictures'- I asked Ilana, since she was there at the moment
‘Why not’ responded Ilana 
'Well, I am not certain what is your policy' I continued
Ilana looked into my eyes thoughtfully and attentively, and after a pause concluded with a smile:
‘My policy is- “WELCOME”.
                                                       CLICK HERE TO READ MORE....

My Weekend at Barnard 

Despite the harsh weather and the winter storm that recently hit New York, my weekend was filled with interesting discoveries that were both educative and inspiring. 
While attending the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College, I met with talented movie directors and international guests who came to the NYC from all over the world to share their love of art, music and movie making. As Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College noticed: “Over the course of this engaging weekend we will share with you the stories of women who are willing to advocate for themselves and others, and working to make our world a better place.” I should admit that the films and the conversation that followed were quite inspiring and informative. 

Katy Perry - Meditation and Music 

It does not surprise us that Katy Perry is now into Meditation while still practicing yoga. Meditation and Music are twin sisters and often when you play, sing or even move, you are meditating on joyful thoughts, positive images, goals, reflecting on some daily events, enjoying your discoveries, while letting everything else go. Katy was introduced to Meditation by her now ex-husband Russell Brand, a follower of Hinduism. Apparently, the experience was not as successful for Katy at the time, and she confessed in one of her interviews: “I come from a very non-accepting family, but I’m very accepting. Russell is into Hinduism, and I’m not (really) involved in it.”  CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ....

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Over the last decade I’ve read a handful of books on education, family and children’s health, yoga, small business and marketing development. And those are very interesting topics. But when it comes to reading on my own, I love to read something that provides a bit of an escape, like learning new languages, or meeting people through the lenses of a talented writer, or even connecting to inspiring people on social media. Reading helps me to define who I am and it helps me to define what good I can do for myself and others. It helps me escape negativity and injustice in the world, it creates new realities where I'd love to dwell. 

Some Senior entrepreneurs say: “As soon as you’ll find and define your mission - your reality will change, and your business will jump start”. It is true to some degree but for me the process of gradually creating new virtues, developing my small enterprise, and focusing on real people I am dealing with, makes more sense. At this point reading books and developing my enterprise is a form of a protest or a search for more meaning in life, it is a major force in creating my own world I like to focus on and live in.  

But what is my enterprise, you may ask? Is it about some extra income? Some power? Some freedom? Is it about helping others? Yes, all that, plus the ability to fulfill and define the subtle virtues, like being a leader, being empathetic and compassionate, humane, creative or even generous and altruistic. How many of us are deprived of exercising these virtues in our real worlds simply because we are assigned to follow the rules, to comply with the company’ policies that didn’t fully provide for personal grows? 

In her recent book “ The Art Of Gathering - How We Meet and Why It Matters” Priya Parker shares her experience in meeting with people through different gatherings around the world. Meeting people at conferences and courtrooms, at flash-mob parties and Arab - Israeli summer camps she emphasized the human-centered approach to businesses and gatherings that helps people create more meaningful and memorable experiences in life, play, and work. Priya’s  workshop that I recently attended in New York was simple, yet it was invigorating and though-provoking. Priya was able to form a group of strangers into a group of “coworkers” that were not afraid of sharing their opinions, voicing  their dreams and hopes, or asking a question. Trained in the field of a conflict resolution at M.I.T. Priya is trying to balance unbalanceable like: corporate power and personal individuality, leadership and bureaucracy, intimate and group mentality, and more.  “We are the World, We are the People” - the lyrics of a famous song drilled through my mind while I was participating in her event. How close or distant we are from each other is up to us to decide, but concluding from Priya’s workshop the only one rule or a ‘mission’ applies - we should learn to listen to each other with more compassion and less selfishness. 

But what about my own business mission you may ask? 
I feel that it is echoing Priya's beliefs in many parts. I enjoy making small but meaningful steps that might promise big changes in people's lives. For instance I promote healthy habits by teaching my students to sit up straight during my writing lessons. It might improve their spine and over-all wellbeing in the future. What if together with their families we challenge the administration of local schools to change kids’s schedule to 9:00AM-2:00 PM, so that kids can have more time for naps, plays, and after-school sports? What if I'll go to the gym more often and ecourage my kids to do the same? 

What if I’ll hire a mother of five and let her come to work according to her own schedule while helping her define her own mission in life? Would it help her and her family to strive? How about quitting to work with some other moms who deliberately chose to be abusive or super selfish? Will it help them to try a new approach? 

What if I'll tackle on global issues and talk more about sustainable entrepreneurship and cultural diversity while developing more digital and video content? Will it help me and other people connect on a different level? 
What if I’ll bring my programs and lessons to some distant and most controversial neighborhoods or public libraries and start working with those who can’t  fully afford coming to my own office in Manhattan? Will it be influential enough to take some kids off the streets?  

I guess it all sounds like a New Year resolution, so be it. The list can go on and on, and the goals can be different from day to day, depending on my understanding of the people who' put their trust in me and people whose lives I have' touched..

Saturday, November 24, 2018


Since the weather in New York has drastically changed, my fellow New Yorkers are likely to dwell in the warm and welcoming places to survive the chilling winds and the upcoming snow. 
Some of them are departing to Florida and Texas, but most of my friends, my students, and I are staying in New York, regardless of the harsh climate and some challenges it will bring. 

During the winter playing sports outside of the gyms or sport arenas will be nearly impossible. So here I will share some of the places I recommend you to join to stay motivated, toned, and happy, as I would do it too. 

I wish I could go to Russia last summer for FIFA 2018 and visit my home town Sochi where the new sport complex  called 'Fisht' mesmerized everyone by its beauty, and most importantly by its sustainable design. According to the EU Observer  “by the time the FIFA 2018 tournament kicked off on 14 June, the twelve stadiums had undergone a standards certification process for sustainable buildings. It includes the Luzhniki and Spartak Stadiums in Moscow”.

What are these guidelines for greener and sustainable stadiums? For instance energy conservation at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow is achieved through modern heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Using LED-based lamps instead of incandescent lights saved a significant amount of electricity. Water-saving technology at the stadium allowed hundreds of thousands of liters to be saved during a match at full operational capacity. Large number of trees were preserved during the reconstruction, while even more greenery was also added.

You might be surprised to know that the MetLife Stadium in New Jorsey follows similar green technologies in order to compile with the world' standards for environmentally friendly sport industry.

The Yankee Stadium is not included on the list of the greener sport fields but still, it attracts a millions of people across the Globe. The Yankee stadium is hard to describe as it becomes a legend that connects many New Yorkers and world's sport fans by default. 

For more than eight decades Yankee Stadium was the home for most of the greatest baseball players of the century. 
The Yankees played their last game of the season on September 2008, and in April 2009 the new Yankee Stadium opened its doors across the east 161 street in Bronx. 

There are other famous stadiums like Levi’s Stadium  The Old Trafford stadium, or Wembley stadium that would be great to tour. But so far I am visiting the MetLife and the Yankee Stadiums in about two weeks to have a closer look from the inside. 

These two stadiums considered to be the most visited and the most convenient stadiums in the USA. Needless to say that local NY and NJ sports, football and fitness youth organizations found them helpful and welcoming throughout the last several decades. The positive impact of these venues, the tribute they pay to the variety of sports like football and baseball are broadly respected.  Stay tuned as I will share my visiting experiences in my next articles! 

The photo credit: Luzniki Stadium,  Fisht Stadium, MetLife Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Old Trafford Stadium.  

Monday, October 29, 2018


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say “Madeira”? 

My imagination suggests the following: beautiful landscapes, football, guitar, romantic getaways, tasty grapes, delicious wine, and traditions. Belonging to Portugal, the isolated island of Madeira is located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 900 km south-west of Lisbon. According to the history of the Island: ”it is difficult to verify the exact date of discovery of that Island and the nationality of the discoverer. The island appears on the 1399 Dulcet Map, and in the 1351 Medici Atlas, as well as in other nautical documents dating from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries”. With an area of approximately 735 Km2, the Island of Madeira is the largest and most important of the archipelago, which includes Madeira and Porto Santo Islands. 

Last year the Wine Institute of Madeira (Funchal /Portugal), The Justino’s Madeira winemakers and other traders organized one of a kind, fantastic wine tasting event in New York city, that rocked the reality of many attendees, who were invited to participate and enjoy the culture, wine, and food. 

According to the company’s website: “ "Justino’s Madeira Wines, S.A." was formed as a limited company in 1953, although it had been in existence since 1870 in Madeira as a private family company when it was known as "Justino Henriques". This makes it one of the oldest producers and exporters of Madeira Wine, internationally known for the quality of its wines.

The event in New York was held on June 8th, 2017, in one of the intimate, relatively small, but nevertheless, very popular neighborhood restaurant called “Rouge Tomate Chelsea ”, located at 126 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011. The atmosphere of the event was very sophisticated, not very crowded, nor busy or too loud. Soft music in the background supported the multilingual participants, who looked relaxed, happy and involved. The collection of the wine included wines from different vintages from Justino’s Madeira of 1997, 1996, 1995, to earliest vintages. Thanks for the generosity of the organizers as there were samples of collectible wines with earlier vintages (Justino’s Madeira of 1940-1960s) that are usually not sold to the public.  

I am not a professional wine expert. I guess a true wine expert that called a sommelier could share some more notes about differences between vintages. But I can tell from my ( writer’s point of view ) that the Justino Broadbent Madeira Colheita 1996 wine was superior in all the dimensions that are usually graded: The wine had a dark amber color, and it had a delicately sweet taste and smell, with the hint of the caramelized orange peels, honey, nutmeg,  a toasty hazelnut, almonds, and dried figs. Fully developed with medium alcohol, it had a very long finish. Fabulous! 
According to the producer’s statistics, Justino’s Madeira Colheita 1996 received a Sommelier Wine Silver Award ( 2016/UK). 
The collectible Justino's Madeira wines of the earliest vintages that I was also offered to try, left a spectacular, rich aftertaste and unforgettable memories. 
In case you are interested in purchasing the Madeira wines, you can contact the company directly or click here for more information.   

Speaking of pairing the wine with food - the options were various. But for my taste, I liked to pair sweet Madeira wine with chocolate or honey desserts, including fruits like figs and dates, but less with cream, cheese, meat, or butter. 

Needless to say, since I’ve visited the tasting event, I keep a bottle of quality Madeira wine in my refrigerator, mostly for cooking.  During the event, we exchanged some of the yummy recipes that other ladies shared with me. However, as they advised, I have never tried to cook the chicken or a beef meat, marinated in Madeira wine, as I prefer a “plant-based” diet. But I tried to bake a lamb and duck meat with fruits and veggies, marinated in Madeira wine, and a honey cake with apricots and Madeira wine, and all dishes taste fantastic! I wish you could try a bite someday too. 

Sincere gratitudes to all organizers who made this event, tasting, and learning possible!

Monday, October 22, 2018


I started my lesson today as usual, by asking my EFL students about the preferred books they have read over the weekend. 
As I expected, only half of my class read a book and the other half was busy with something else. I have mostly boys in my class, and it seems difficult for their families to keep boys reading. There are so many other fun activities like football, swimming, tennis, and chess classes that are running throughout our neighborhood.  Somehow, reading books or completing writing assignments is not popular among most elementary and middle school students in New York. 
I felt I wanted to change that. 
At the corner of my class, I spotted my new student (Aimar) who just came to the country a few months ago after a devastating life at the refugee camp. He seemed lonely, sad, and disengaged. I knew that watching the war and destruction of his hometown, leaving his own country and arriving in the USA was not a happy occasion for him, nor for his family. I thought to myself: “What can I do to change the adverse circumstances into favorable conditions for him? “

I pulled out the book that I found in the local library, set down on the comfortable chair, and start reading a story about one of the most famous football clubs called:  “Manchester United”. As the story unfolds we learned that 'Manchester United' was formed in 1878 by railway workers of the Newton Heath, and that it successfully competed in the English Soccer League in 1892. Unfortunately, the club ran into financial difficulties and in 1901 it was on the brink of bankruptcy until the miracle happened...

As legend has it, and as it is written in the book: " the team's captain Henry Stafford organized a fundraising event -four days bazaar, and he sent his favorite dog around the crowd with a collection box around his neck. But the dog run away and ended up on the doorstep of a local wealthy businessman named John Davis. Davis had a beautiful daughter who immediately took the dog to her house. Davis offered to buy the dog from Henry and paid about $1000  as an investment to the club. The club was saved and John Davis was appointed the chairman and the owner of the club."

After this introduction, we started to talk about miracles that happen in our lives.  Everyone, including myself, shared at least one example.  Then, to my big surprise, as soon as I start reading about the best football players of our time, Aimar asked me a question in the English Language: 
“Do you watch football?"
“Yes," I said, "My father was a big football fan,  and he watched football by hours. I like watching it too. Do you like watching or playing it?”- I asked Aimar in return. 
“ Yes",  he replied in his soft and very shy voice, and he smiled for the first time in three months. 

Then, suddenly, the discussion broke down the silence in my class,  and my boys started to share their own experiences in playing the game, talking about their favorite players and their favorite coaches.  I did not want to stop them, I actually enjoyed the outbreak and the emotions I saw on my student's faces. I felt pleased that reading this book encouraged my class to cooperate and that it helped them to pour out their emotions. For some reason, I felt happy about the moments we shared during the class. It was an enriching and meaningful experience for each and everyone, including Aimar. 

I kept reading the book until the class was over. At the end of the class, Aimar came to me and asked if he can take this book home. It was the first time in his three months of stay in the USA when Aimar had actually asked for a book. 
I knew, at this very moment, that Aimar had found his ground and that this book, our discussion, and the new friends he made during my lesson completely turned some of his adverse circumstances into something positive, favorable and life fulfilling. 

"Mission accomplished", I thought to myself, but suddenly I heard:
 "Can we read this book again sometime soon, please?
"Sure, I will be happy to do this again, as there are more to tell and more to learn"- I said quietly, and I meant it.