Most people who know me will know that I have a fascination with foreign languages and collecting foreign words. I have, in fact, just tr...

An Adventure in Languages

Friday, August 12, 2016 BookBairn 15 Comments

Most people who know me will know that I have a fascination with foreign languages and collecting foreign words. I have, in fact, just treated myself to a little book 'Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words' by Ella Frances Sanders, which is full of brilliant words that just can't be translated directly into English. A favourite word I have just collected is:

Tsundoku (Japanese).
Illustration by Anjana Iyer
You'll understand that this sums me up quite nicely! My 'to be read' pile is becoming quite precarious on my bedside table.

Growing up I dabbled in learning many languages: Spanish, Italian, German but mostly French. I studied French at university and, as part of that, spent a year abroad, living and teaching (as an English Language Assistant in a High School) just outside Paris. It was pretty magical. I would love for BookBairn to grow up with foreign language skills and when better to start than right now? She is absorbing language at an alarming rate! 

I discovered a lovely series of books by Abigail Samoun with illustrations from Sarah Watts called 'An Adventure in Eight Languages'. There are six books in the series, each starring a different animal learning to say a key word or phrase in different languages: thank you, goodbye, please, hello, I love you and my name is. BookBairn has grasped a few of these words in English so I thought it would be fun to get a couple of the books and look at the words in different languages (maybe I will learn something too?!).

In 'How Penguin Says Please!' we take off for a trip around the world with Penguin and learn to say please in French, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese and Spanish (along with English). We see Penguin politely requesting ice cream from her sun loungers, buying fish in the Chinese market and drinking tea in India. Penguin is sweetly dressed in a blue dress and matching beret and flutters her eyelashes all around the globe. She is also accompanied by a little green frog (I hope he doesn't get spotted in France!) who peeks over her shoulder along the journey. BookBairn is pretty good at saying "peeees!" when she wants something, especially if that something is chocolate. 

In 'How Tiger Says Thank You!' Tiger learns good manners in the same eight languages. She says 'merci' for her balloon outside Notre Dame in Paris, buys Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls in the market and thanks her driver of the rickshaw in China. Tiger has a lovely smile and dressed in her purple spotty dress she enjoys the local culture and getting her photos snapped with her iguana buddy. Again, BookBairn says "ta!" when she has been given something, though often it's with a snatching action as she grabs whatever she is after.

In 'How Gator Says Good-Bye!' we travel with Alligator across the globe as he meets friends and departs for new destinations saying 'good-bye' in the same eight languages from the series. He waves to friends at the pyramids, and on the river Seine, and as he boards the bullet train in Japan. Alligator is adorable illustrated wearing a blue bow-tie and braces with cute buck-teeth. It's no wonder he has so many friends to wave good-bye to, he's so sweet! He has a little mouse buddy along with him for his adventures too! BookBairn has just started saying "bye bye" (having previously always favoured "ta ta") which always makes me feel so much better leaving her when she waves goodbye with a smile.

Each of the books is sweetly illustrated and very child-friendly with animals galore to spot. Sarah Watts has paid great attention to detail in her background illustrations by featuring landmarks and monuments from around the world, and grown-ups (or slightly older readers) will have great fun discussing these/figuring out where they are travelling. Each book starts in the airport or on the plane with the animals beginning their adventures and in a round trip ends back at the airport. All the books have an additional final page spread of a 'travel map' of the world with each of the animal's destinations starred and an adorable image of the main character wearing sunglasses flying their own plane! The structure of the books is appropriately repetitive for little ones and places the new words in the centre of the page. It also has in square brackets underneath the phonetic pronunciation of the phrases (which greatly helped me!).

These are a lovely introduction for very little ones to the idea that in different places around the world they use different languages and words to mean the same thing. Each picture is packed with detail that you could discuss why the main character is saying "thank you" or "please". They really are beautifully produced and well-thought-out books. And are great for little linguists!

I would love to read full-length picture books to BookBairn in foreign languages, particularly in French, and am looking for recommendations for good ones. I'd prefer not to just get translations of popular English books that have been translated and would rather find ones by native authors and illustrators so would love it if you could comment below or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook with your recommendations. Or snap a photo of a children's bookshop whilst abroad and tag us in it on Instagram. We aren't going abroad on out holidays this year (having take a career break to spend more time with BookBairn means some sacrifices) so would love to see your holiday finds!.

Merci, Spasibo, Shukran, Dhanyavaad, Xie Xie, Arigato and Gracias for reading!
Mummy and BookBairn x

*DISCLAIMER* We requested a selection from this series of books from the publisher and received these three books in response. All words and opinions are, as always, my own.
Click on the images below to find these books on 

*This post contains Affiliate links.



  1. Très bon! Grand-mère de la petite l'un des livres

  2. J'espère LivreBébé reçoit la chance de visiter Paris. Elle va adorer.

    1. Excellent use of google translate Papa! But you're right, she will. And I love the idea that she could be 'LivreBebe'! x

  3. Oh these look wonderful, what a great way to introduce children to different languages! Thanks for sharing with #ReadWithMe

  4. These look fabulous. Like you we're looking for French children's picture books to help develop our daughter's language skills.


    1. Let me know if you find any good ones! I want a whole collection! Thanks for reading. x

  5. These look great. We used to have a nice French picture book which i think was called A L'ecole. #readwithme

  6. Love love love this post �� introducing a different language to little ones is just brilliant and these books look like the perfect place to start. Thanks for sharing #readwithme

  7. They look like brilliant books.We love the very hungry caterpillar and have it in German, French and Spanish.
    We also have We're going on a bear hunt in German and French. Check out some of our Amazon links on for others we like.
    I've just been book buying in Germany. Pics on my Twitter feed :)
    Enjoy your multilingual adventures!

    1. Thanks Sarah! I'm now following you on Twitter so I will keep and eye out for your recommendations. Thanks for reading!

  8. These look great. Spent time in Germany myself so if you come across any nice little German books in your book travels, do let me know :) #readwithme