Frequently Asked Questions

Is the calendar appropriate for beginners?

The short answer is no. If you are brand new to French or Spanish, in all honesty, you will  probably quickly feel overwhelmed. The daily examples are real samples of contemporary spoken and written language. Obviously, the translations are very helpful, but for true beginners there is a lot of grammar and vocabulary to be mastered. Some familiarity with the target language is required to really take advantage of the material in the calendar. An intermediate level in the target language is probably the best bet.

At the same time, the calendar is highly recommended for users who have studied the language previously and who may feel rusty. This is a wonderful way to stir up those old memories and revive dormant language skills.


Are the 12 monthly themes in a particular order?

Not really. The themes are completely independent and can be studied in any order. That said, we have put the really most frequent themes at the front of the calendar.  For example, all three "essential 1" calendars  have the equivalent of the verbs  "to be" and "to have" at the beginning.


How were the themes selected?

The themes were selected according to two criteria. The first was statistical frequency based on scientific analyses of modern usage. We have a pretty good idea of what are the most commonly used components of a language according to what is called register or speech variety. For example, the most common verbs present in our calendars are "to be", "to have" and "to get" in English, "ser", "estar" and "hacer" in Spanish and "être" and "avoir" in French.

The second criterion used in selecting the themes was the degree of difficulty or complexity for learners. Each language has its known areas of difficulty that pose a challenge to newcomers. Certain theme pages therefore focus on these areas. The twelve themes are thus a wide overview of what is imporant and commonly used in the target language. This is why we have used the term "essential" in the title of the calendars. Simply put, these are subjects that one has to know inside out in the target language. 

In addition to the "Essential 1", there will be an "Essential 2" with twelve more themes. The combined 24 themes will provide a comprehensive coverage of the important components of the target language.


Is the calendar a course or a method?

Not at all -- pas du tout -- ni mucho menos.The calendar is not structured in a linear fashion and has no explanatory material. It is a supplemental tool that complements and enhances any course or method.  The calendar really shines as a tool for learning retention after the course is over. When the books and the computers are all closed, the calendar will still be open on the wall.


How are the daily examples organized on a page?

On most of the pages, the daily examples are organized in the following way. Going from left to right, the first two lines present examples of the informal spoken language. Then things tend to get more formal and more written or literary. The last line is devoted to the really formal language. This structure does not work for all the pages because some themes do not lend themselves to this kind of logical layout.


Are the themes and examples the same in the different languages?

Certain themes such as how to ask questions or the verb "to be"  appear in all the Essential 1 calendars. Other themes are unique to a language because they reflect certain difficulties and particularities.

The daily examples are totally different from one calendar to the next.


What is the recommended minimum age for users?

13-14 years.  But we have observed that children as young as 10 can use the calendars with the help of parents or tutors who are familiar with the language. The material of the calendar can be adapted for children of various ages or skill levels.


Why a Latin American Spanish edition?

The Latin American edition gives priority to the usage of the countries stretching from Mexico to Argentina and Chile. We felt that despite the fact that the European and Latin American varieties of Spanish are essentially the same language, certain differences were so great as to warrant separate calendars. For example, there are no daily examples with the "vosotros" verb forms that are common in Spain. At the same time, we have included examples of the "voseo" verb form found in much of South America and particularly in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Certain vocabulary items and cultural references are unique to Latin American Spanish.


How is the calendar useful for second or other language retention?

Language instructors know only too well that after the class is over students tend to lose their language skills unless there is constant practice. And, of course, many people confess they studied a language years ago and don't remember much.

The language calendars squarely address the issue of language retention by providing a visual memory aid in the form of a familiar reusable calendar. Although the daily examples are organized around the monthly theme, they cover a wide range of material that provides a comprehensive review of the entire language.


Any mistakes or typos in the Essential French 1 daily examples?

Please note the following corrections:
11-16 "La tour CN" instead of "La tour du CN" Note that "La tour du CN" is very common.


Any mistakes or typos in the Essential Spanish 1 daily examples?

Please note the following corrections:
10-18: "(ocho) pm" instead of "(ocho) 2 pm"
10-20: "Prado Sur" instead of "Prado Sud"
10-20: "México" instead of "Mexico"
12-06: "sensibilidad" instead of "sensilibidad"
12-09: "las personas" instead of "la personas"

Please note that all these typos have been corrected on the black and white pdf download files.


What about the 1990 French spelling reforms?

After much controversy, the 1990 French spelling reforms have been gaining traction and are being widely implemented. Starting with Essential French 2, all future calendars will use the new spelling. Note that the changes are not striking for the most part and that the traditional spelling is still considered valid and will remain so for the forseeable future.