As if conjugating verbs wasn’t daunting enough, language lessons often come with a hefty price tag. But did you know there are a number of resources in Seattle where you can learn a new language for free? Below, we broke down a few to help you choose the one that best suits your experience level and learning style. If You’re Just Starting: The Library Flipping through language books may evoke flashbacks to freshman French class, but that’s not your only option at the library. Both the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System give cardholders free access to online learning system Mango, which offers lessons in 63 languages, including French, Spanish, Mandarin, Yiddish, and Urdu (there’s even a surprisingly robust lesson in Pirate). The lessons are interactive and self-paced, and they focus on learning through conversations and context, rather than dry grammar instruction. To use, simply log in through the library website using your card, then create a personal Mango account to track your progress through each course. For kids, the Seattle Public Library offers access to Muzzy, an online children’s program that offers instruction in 10 languages. The King County Library System’s kids’ program, meanwhile, is Little Pim. It offers a similar range of language options and, like Muzzy, focuses lessons around animated videos and vocabulary. Both library networks also host live world-language storytimes for little ones in Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese, Hindu, and Russian, among others. Check out each library’s events page for schedules. If You’re Ready to Perfect Your Accent: Language Groups Online programs are great for establishing a foundation, but the best way to hone your developing language skills is through real conversation. Luckily, there are several meet-ups and conversation circles around Seattle where you can interact in your language of choice. Practicing French speakers—and foodies—of any level will enjoy the French Conversation Table at Café Presse (1117 12th Ave.). Held every other Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the event is facilitated by Yasmina Mobarek, a native French speaker who has taught at the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University. The conversation is free and happens to coincide with Café Presse’s Vin Expresse—a “Paris-style” happy hour. So you can enjoy some pork confit and well-priced wine with your French chitchat. Chalk it up to research. Meanwhile, French, German, and Spanish speakers will find a dedicated group of conversationalists at Third Place Commons (17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park). According to director Constance Perenyi, the pace of these groups makes them best for more practiced, intermediate-level speakers, but they are very welcoming to newcomers. The German group generally meets on Monday evenings, French on Tuesdays, and Spanish on Thursdays, but it’s best to check the Third Place Books calendar as they do not always meet every week. Internet stalwart Meetup also lists a variety of active language groups in Seattle. The large Seattle Spanish Society hosts a fun, loose weekly Sunday-night meet-up at Barca (1510 11th Ave.) in Capitol Hill. The evening is open to advanced Spanish speakers and beginners alike. You can also find active Japanese, Italian, German, and Korean groups on the website. A few of the groups ask for a small annual membership contribution ($5–$15), but this might be voluntary or something you can wait to pay after you’ve gotten a feel for the group and made certain it’s a good fit. If You Just Want to Order Without Fear: Language Classes for Travelers If you’re thinking of learning a language for an upcoming trip to Europe, Rick Steves’ Travel Center (130 4th Ave. N, Edmonds) regularly schedules free 90-minute language classes along with its general travel curriculum. The lessons won’t make you fluent, but they can help you pick up a few key phrases in Czech, German, Swedish, Turkish, or Spanish so you can confidently order off a menu or ask for directions. Italian instructor Graz Palumbo-Perry is especially popular for her fun and engaging style; her two-part Beginning Italian for Travelers often fills up fast, so be sure to register early.Read More
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Barre workouts – a Pilates- and dance-influenced exercise regimen emphasizing subtle muscle movements mostly performed at a ballet bar – have arrived in Seattle. For athletes or regular folks who know they need more focused toning, or anyone looking to achieve a lithe and limber look rather than simply bulking up, hitting the barre after work can pay off. But be forewarned: it’s hard work. So what, exactly, does a barre workout involve? Each gym is lined with ballet bars, and exercisers can expect to employ rubber stretch bands, small rubber balls and a variety of small weights. After a series of warm-ups designed to elevate heart rates, classes travel through the body’s core muscle groups – arms, thighs, glutes, abdominals – and use an assortment of positions and training items to work each to exhaustion. Movements are subtle (think slight crunches, barely perceptible arm lifts and invisible hip thrusts) but produce a serious burn. Most barre facilities offer variations on the basic one-hour workout, changing the focus from core muscle groups to refining techniques. Aside from its basic 55-minute class, Pure Barre in the University District offers additional 75-minute classes that use the extra time to focus on abs, inner or outer thighs or the seat. It also offers an introductory series called “Breaking Down the Barre,” which instructs newbies on the basic movements so that, during a normal workout, they can switch from one exercise to the next with proper form. Bar Method just north of Belltown offers a more advanced workout for students who have completed at least 50 classes at its facilities, and whose instructors approve their participation. That way, core curriculum can be left to the newbies, and serious barre method fanatics can focus on tougher moves and stronger workouts. Barre3 on 12th Street prides itself on mixing ballet, yoga and Pilates throughout their course offerings, and even provides an online workout and stretching component to help practitioners maintain their fitness level from home. Finally, Cycling-focused gym FlyWheel Sports offers FlyBarre classes at basic and advanced levels as an adjunct to the club’s cycling workouts, utilizing the barre techniques as a great way to train core muscles and complement a cycling workout practice. No matter where you end up practicing your moves and toning your muscles, you’ll be assured a great – if sweaty – time.Read More
It’s a lovely idea, the thought of making homemade gifts for the holidays. Rather than fighting for parking and scrambling for bargains, one can be cozy at home, basking in the smell of cookies baking or soaps curing. The reality can sometimes be a little less lovely, when projects don’t go as planned. But there are some steps one can take to help make the process go as smoothly as possible. One: rely on the experts. An investment in a class might save money in the long run by helping keep pricey ingredients out of failed projects. Two: know where to go. Stock up on all the best ingredients and packaging to ensure the best possible results. Cookies and Confections A tin of cookies, cellophane bag of caramels, or box of homemade truffles can all be big hits during the holiday season. If anyone on the gift list is obsessed with macarons, the popular French sandwich cookie, Sur la Table schedules fairly regular classes on the topic. PCC Natural Market has a perennial favorite in its seasonal biscotti class, which comes complete with tips on packaging up the crisp dunkable cookies for gifts. Nuculinary has teamed up with Laurie Pfalzer of Pastry Craft to offer pastry classes that include holiday cookies. All of their schedules are regularly updated with new classes that might spark other gift ideas (like granola or preserves) so are worth checking out on a periodic basis. For gifts for the most serious of sweet teeth, one must turn to confections. Oh Chocolate! and Dawn’s Candy and Cake regularly schedule truffle classes. The “Chocolate Man” Bill Fredericks has been teaching classes around Seattle for years, and now has his own eponymous store in Lake Forest Park. In addition to truffle classes, he has classes on “Dipping with Intensity” (adults-only boozy treats), or pâte de fruits (fruit and/or wine gels). Theo Chocolate has added salted butter toffee and truffle-making to its line-up of classes, and Hot Cakes Molten Cakery offers instruction in creating caramel sauce and chews. As to baking and confection supplies, the bulk section of PCC Natural Markets is a great place to stock up on flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and spices. The Chocolate Man’s array of chocolate is dazzling. Pacific Food Importers (aka PFI)is also a good source for chocolate, selling big blocks of quality chocolate at respectable prices. Canning and Preserving Jars of jewel-like apple jelly or richly spiced pear butter also make beautiful homemade gifts. The cooking schools mentioned above – PCC Natural Markets and Sur la Table –also offer periodic canning classes. Seattle Can Can, aka Vic Phelps, schedules regular small classes in basic and intermediate canning at the HUB. The local farmers market is a top choice for the freshest and most flavorful fruit, but for those on a budget, the discerning and patient shopper can often find good quality at bargain prices at MacPherson’s Fruit Stand on Beacon Hill. World Spice Market near Pike Place Market is a solid choice for the freshest spices to flavor your fruit. Candles, Soaps and Other Herbal Creations Those options are all delicious, but as the holiday season is already full of food-based indulgence, one might want to steer clear of adding even more calories to the mix. Some other homemade options in that case would include candles, soap and herbal toiletries. Dandelion Botanicals schedules periodic classes in making herbal salves, lotions and lip balms, and also sells the herbal components and essential oils to help make them. Herban Wellness in Kirkland has fairly regular classes in creating those items, too, as well as bath scrubs & salts, facial masks and more, and owner Katya Difani will help you track down all the right ingredients to get started at home. Zenith Supplies on Roosevelt does not currently offer classes, but does have soap- and candle-making books and the supplies needed to get started. Package It All Up Making homemade gifts is a labor of love, so one shouldn’t undercut the effort with ho-hum packaging. Just the right jar, box, or bag can take that labor to the next level. For bags, ribbons, treat boxes and more, head to Packaging Specialties in south Seattle or Redmond. Zenith Supplies and Specialty Bottles have bottles, lip balm tins, salve jars and other toiletry containers. Hardwicks in the University District carries a fairly wide selection of canning jars year-round, including the elegant Weck jars.Read More
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