Books I’m currently using to learn French, Arabic and Russian

Today’s video covers my language plans for the upcoming semester, and I thought it would be useful to show what I’m using to learn at the moment.


Course books

Édito: Méthode de français (3e edition, C1) — Élodie Heu and Jean-Jacques Mabilat, Didier (just a very standard textbook)

Édito: Cahier d’activités (3e edition, C1) — Élodie Heu and Jean-Jacques Mabilat, Didier (just a very standard exercise book)

Personal books

Les 500 Exercises de Grammaire (C1) — Hachette (a super rigorous grammar series)

Schaum’s French Grammar (Sixth Edition) — McGraw Hill Education (another grammar book and an old favourite of mine)

Mot à Mot: New Advanced French Vocabulary — Paul Humberstone, Hodder Education (a really great vocabulary book for targeting specific issues)

New Advanced French Vocabulary — Horsfall (another vocab book that I acquired years ago; I find it it’s good to compare them, especially if I’m uncertain about usage/translation)

Les Prostiutées (Onze nouvelles) — Maupassant (the fiction book I’m currently reading)

Arabic (MSA)

Course books

Mastering Arabic 1 (Third Edition) — Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar, Palgrave Press (so far a really great and clear textbook)

Mastering Arabic 1 Activity Book (Second Edition) — Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar, Palgrave Press (a clear exercise book that compliments the textbook well)

Personal books

Read and Write Arabic Script — Mourad Diori, Teach Yourself (a reference book for the script, which again, I find very clear and easy to follow)

Get Started in Arabic: Absolute Beginner Course — Frances Altorfer and Mairi Smart (a fun and colourful non-scary textbook I’m using alongside as an introduction)


“Course books”

I’m sort of running my own course, so it’s not exactly the same, but currently:

Russian Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook — Michael Ransome and Marta Tomaszewski, Teach Yourself (the textbook I’m using as the basis for my weekly Russian “class” that I’m doing with my friend)

“Personal books”

Russian Grammar You Really Need To Know — Daphne West, Teach Yourself (мы main grammar reference book)

Рассказы Для Детей (Stories for Children) — М. Зощенко, Малыш (my main fiction resource for vocabulary)


Obviously there are many many online and free resources I’m using — this blog post is just a reference point for anyone curious about exactly what I’m using for classes and in personal study on a week-by-week basis.

I hope you’re having a very lovely week, and I wish you good luck with learning!


« i want to make a video, but i’m v insecure. any tips? »

This was a comment left today by one of my lovely Patrons on Patreon. Here are my thoughts:

Why do you want to make a video?

Do you think you have something to add that people would benefit from hearing or enjoy hearing? Do you want to practise how to present yourself and get more comfortable in speaking freely? Do you just want to try it for fun while talking about what you love? Whatever your reason, remember that to help to overcome insecurities.

Why are you insecure?

Is it because you don’t like how you look on camera? A good angle and lighting will sort that for you, I promise. Is it because you don’t like how you sound? No one does, but you will get used to it. Is it because you feel awkward? Don’t! Especially don’t say you feel awkward. Just pretend and it will come to you naturally. If it’s your first video, the chances are, it’s unlikely huge waves of an audience will come and find you. So relax, make some tea, and imagine you’re talking to a friend.

Make a plan

But not a script. Having bullet points helps you to feel like you have something to say, without it being artificial.

The power is in your hands

You can edit out anything you don’t want to be there. You can present yourself exactly as you feel comfortable. (You don’t have anything to worry about, Dom; you’re hilarious)

Focus on what an ideal channel for you would be

And then try to make it. For me, I love editing and languages, and so I wanted to try and experiment with the kind of content people were uploading about languages. I’m still trying to make exactly what I want, and I’m not there yet, but we’re definitely making progress. But thinking about the kind of channel that you would love to watch and trying to make that is definitely the best way to stay motivated.

No one likes their first video

Don’t try to think that your first video has to be perfect. I think of myself just making videos for me, and then I can unlist or make private the videos I dislike. My first “talking” video on my channel is awful, but it wasn’t my first vlog. No no, I started making videos some time in late 2011 or early 2012, with a terrible personality. They’re painful.

Good luck! You can do it! You don’t have to share it with anyone until you’re happy with what you’re making; I certainly didn’t.

All the best,

Ophelia x

Reflections on making weekly videos for the last six months

Hello friends. How are we? As ever, the neglect of this blog is highly regrettable, but I find putting energy into making videos far more fulfilling, and therefore, that remains my priority. Instead, you can be my mistress. I haven’t forgotten you, but I need a son and heir. But the lack of pressure means I can really be myself with you. Have I overextended the metaphor?

Almost certainly.

To continue with it: I’ve been married for six months! Which is to say, I have been making at least a video a week for the last six months! Yay! It’s astounding when I think about it, because the last six months have been incredibly incredibly difficult, especially the January—June period of this year. I went through an immense amount of family problems and related financial stress; I had a best friend ‘break up’ (Emma of Sarcastic Fish and I have spoken a lot about platonic break ups and how they’re often much harder than romantic ones) and also the worst of my depression. (I hate saying *my* depression; it’s very much not mine; it leaves nothing of me to even be able to own anything) Also I had university exams and I directed a play. It’s been a crazy time. And throughout it, making videos and learning languages have very much been my escapism.

I got a comment today, saying that they wanted to start making language videos, but didn’t know where to start. I’m not really sure it should be overthought; my first language video, entitled я говорю по-русски, is a terribly lit video, filmed on a web cam, without any edits, but was entirely designed for future me. In fact, all of my videos were until quite a while later, where I felt aware of people commenting on my mistakes.

It’s perhaps too easy to saying “don’t think; just do”, but I do believe just starting video making, and only keeping it up if you enjoy it is the best and most important thing to do. That’s why I’ve kept you as a mistress rather than taking two marriage partners; making videos and actually speaking is far more me.

YouTube is also a fickle platform; although I hit 100 subscribers in June, and then only three months later, the channel has grown tenfold to 1000 people who’ve clicked on that button, it’s not always reflected in views, comments, likes or Adsense. If making videos for the sole reason of having people watching them was my motivation, it would’ve been impossible for me to continue making them. Fun fact: I’ve been interested in video making for years. In fact, I’ve been uploading videos to YouTube on various accounts since 2011 or so — perhaps even 2010, and have been watching YouTube for even longer. I’ve been loving trying to improve both my editing skills but also how I come across on camera these last few months. Also the seemingly eternal online creator questions of how much do I share of myself? Which version of myself do I present?

The latter question might sound even a little creepy, but I think about the ‘Versions of Ophelia’ very often in real life. I am very aware of the impact that different people have on me. I’m a very extraverted person, but some people pull out almost sickening amounts of energy to the point that I imagine my energy is completely suffocating for other people, while others indulge my very, very cynical side and slightly evil sense of humour. I have a constant fear of actually being alone, and this combined with several manipulative relationships have led me to being someone who responds to people very acutely; so how exactly do I accommodate a YouTube audience? (even if it’s only of seventy people in some videos; the numbers aren’t really the question)

I guess that’s what I’m trying to work out. I’m trying to remember the cautionary tales of the likes of Lucy Moon or Dodie Clark when it comes to oversharing. I want to genuinely create, somehow, a supportive language learning community — I mean, one already exists, but I want to help it have a proper foothold in a “physical” space on the internet. I don’t know.

I started this off with saying not to overthink things.

I need to sleep.

This is a mess.

Goodnight, my mistress

Summer Language Goals — 3 month update

Let’s not faff around:

I have succeeded in:

  • Daily languages and daily videos in June
  • French:
    • refreshing grammar
    • read novels (Bonjour Tristesse and I read half of Candide and half of La Maîtresse de Brecht, so I think the plural counts)
    • trying out memrise (hated it)
  • Russian:
    • completing beginner babbel
    • getting into other resources (mainly the Russian Tutor book, Russlan 1 and 2 and a couple of others)
    • my handwriting did improve a bit
  • Swedish
    • my Teach Yourself books have been well used and I’ve refreshed my duolingo
  • Spanish
    • I did complete the Language Hacking Book and about half of Complete Teach Yourself Spanish, as well as taking bi-weekly lessons throughout June, and having a lot of speaking practice over the rest of the summer
  • Italian
    • … I started ladder Spanish and Italian, especially on duo lingo and in my notes, and that turned out to be the most productive thing for both languages
  • German
    • I did the majority of the Language Hacking Book, and have a reasonable grasp of the language, and I think I could pick it back up fairly easily if I wanted to (now is just not the time)
  • Arabic
    • YEEEEEEEEEES. (I’ll write a separate update post)


While I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to, especially with Spanish, Italian, German and Swedish, I set myself a lot of goals.

Most importantly, this has been such a lovely summer, and I am incredibly happy at the end of it.

Why you should cover sex ed in your target languages

So, I got home late last night and my flatmate had an electricity crisis (long story), so I was a bit preoccupied.

Yesterday was quite similar to the day before. More Russian, more of my French novel, more Italian/Spanish laddering and yet again more Arabic (I don’t want to move on until I know all the vocab from the first two lessons).

Today, I did some slightly more formal French study, looking at some vocabulary on la vie sexuelle*, as well as les beaux arts, like la littérature and le théâtre, because the reality is that they are up there in terms of the subjects I love discussing in French. Oh! I also had a super long French conversation with this adorable Italian man. He had a very strong Italian accent, pronouncing jusqu’à (“jus-ka”) as “juice-kwah” and conjugating “venir” as if it was une bouteille du vin, but I managed to understand his issues with his employees and helped him translate.

Naturally, my Russian studies continued. My Russian has improved a lot over this week, at least in terms of my comprehension. I know feel comfortable with words like нада, нечево, игра, я можно и я могу and so on, after hearing them often and in many different contexts. I haven’t progressed much in the Ruslan books, and I’m yet to finish Babbel, but I think I’ve had valuable listening and speaking practice over this last week.

*Fun story: when I was 15/16, I stayed with a French family for a month and my period came earlier than expected. I was unprepared. We were staying in the middle of no where; I had no wifi or phone signal, either to find a shop, or to find a dictionary for help. I looked up what the word “period” was in the dictionary — nothing. Then “menstruating” — nothing. “Hormones” — nothing. ” In the end, in front of the family, because the daughter got very confused, I said something to the effect of “every month, I have blood. It happened today. Help me.” Naturally, they were very sweet, thinking that I had started for the first time. Somewhat embarrassing, but hey, we all can learn from this. So here’s some “key” French vocab, and feel free to share your stories with me.

Period: les règles

Tampon: un tampon

Sanitary towel: une serviette (hygiénique)

Menstrual cup: une coupe menstruelle

Condom: un préservatif/une capote

Pregnancy test: un test de grossesse [what a terrible name]

Morning after pill: la pilule du lendemain

One-night stand: une aventure sans lendemain

STI: MST (une maladie sexuellement transmissible)

GUM clinic: les consultations génito-urinaire


So. Day two. I am super sleepy, so it will not be the most informative post ever.

The smaller stuff:

I got back into Duolingo today, doing quite a bit of French and Swedish (my poor Swedish; it’s a disaster currently) as well as continuing with my hablo español y quiero aprender italiano laddering, which has really helped.

I went back over the first and second lessons of, and redid the first lesson of the DK book. I also went back over the and lessons I did yesterday. Arabic is definitely my preferred language of the three at the moment, although I’m slightly intimidated by their alphabet (my TeachYourself© To Read and Write Arabic Script book should have been delivered by the time I return from Italy).


Я говорила по-русски час! It wasn’t perfect, or anywhere near fluent, and I struggled with vocabulary, but we did it! An hour’s conversation! We talked about learning multiple languages at once, with the benefits and disadvantages of that, as well as how cinema is both helpful and disheartening when learning. All in all, a pretty exciting development.

A la mañana,


안녕하세요 // नमस्ते // السلام عليكم

Hey pals, I hope you’re having a lovely weekend.

I’ve decided it’s long overdue for me to get back into blogging; it wasn’t really possible while I was making daily videos, but now I’m making only one a week (although I’m trying to really increase their quality to things I’m incredibly proud of) I think it would be a good idea to get into the habit of blogging again. I mean, I love writing plays, and I talk too much as it is, so why not spill over into here?

Not sure why I’m trying to justify it. Probably because I need a kick up the arse to keep at it. I think previously, because no one was reading, I ended up not holding myself accountable.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, I want to start logging my language work every day, at least until the end of August.

Le français

I had several conversations in French today, two with native Italian speakers, and one with a native Russian speaker. I’m not used to using the vous form, so I should really try to improve that.

Русский язык

I have to speak Russian all the time at the moment, and I intend on working through more of Ruslan for A2 and also refreshing my Babbel vocab tonight. I shall update here if it is successful or not.

Edit: I ended up completing the Duolingo ‘Phrases’ chapter and starting on ‘Plurals’.


I also have had a few conversations in Italian this week and today, albeit struggling with conjugations and plurals, taking a bit of a “Spench” (Spanish and French) approach.


I had a very brief conversation with a waitress I’d met the other day, establishing that we had reserved a table and how many people there were.

Edit: I added some pages to my jotter, as I’m trying to ladder Spanish and Italian, but I have a very visual memory so just writing out a list isn’t going to help me much, but hopefully this will (colour to be added soon).

Key Verbs: Español–Italiano

Useful Words: Español–Italiano


I STARTED TODAY. I did the first lesson. I am so excited. I cannot convey. Imagine Wallace with all the Cheddar the world can give.

Edit: I also did Lesson one from the DK 15 Minute Arabic. مرحبا، اسمي أوفيليا (hello, my name is Ophelia) and I did a second lesson from


I ALSO RESTARTED Korean today, doing the first lesson. I used to be obsessed with Kpop (before Gangnam Style, may I add).

हिन्दी भाषा

I ALSO STARTED TODAY. I am very very very excited. I don’t plan to dedicate much time to Hindi, but I wanted to give myself the option, and do an introduction lesson.

I’ve been choosing between taking up Korean or Hindi as a fun language, and I’m still no further in deciding. I love both of their scripts, and am fascinated by the history of their countries. I’ve decided to commit to French, Russian and Arabic as my major languages for next year (I’ll talk about that properly in a later post/video), but a fun dabble language would be good. I should learn some Icelandic before going to the polyglot conference, however.

I hope you’re having a very lovely week, and I will be writing again tomorrow.

Ophelia Vert