How to Learn a New Language

Learn a New LanguageMaybe one of your new year’s resolutions is to learn a new language, or to re-learn a language you took in school but can’t speak anymore. We’ve listed the three main options for language learning below, but we’d love to hear your specific suggestions in the comments! Have you learned a new language just for fun, or to further your career? What are your best tips, ladies?

  1. Traditional language programs (e.g., Rosetta Stone): You can choose from 25 languages to learn with Rosetta Stone, including Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and more. Check out a free demo here (after picking a language). You can see the prices here; for example, right now a one-year online subscription is $199, while a two-year subscription is $209, and an instant download of Levels 1-5 is $209. (It looks like these are temporary discounts, by the way.) According to Rosetta Stone’s FAQ page, “It will take about 40-50 hours to complete the content in each level.” Here’s a review from The Economist from a few years ago and one from PC Mag.
    Others: Pimsleur, Fluenz, Speed Learning Languages, Babbel 
  2. Free language tools (e.g., Duolingo): With Duolingo you can choose from 15 languages, including French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and surprisingly, Esperanto. This video (autoplay YouTube) explains that the program — which is free, with no ads — teaches you to read, write, listen, and speak through “bite-size skills that look like games.” You can use Duolingo on your computer or get the app, which has versions for iPhone, Android, and Windows phones. The company also offers online language certification for $20. Here’s a PC Mag review and an Economist review.
    Others: Foreign Service Institute public domain language courses, Internet Polyglot
  3. Online tutors/language partners: Many, many options exist in this category, including Verbalplanet ($22 for 45 minutes), Verbling (varies; teachers set their own prices), Live Lingua ($9.99/hour and up), LingQ ($0-39/month), and Lang-8 (free). Here are some tips on finding and using an online tutor.

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Tips on Fine Jewelry Care

Tips on Fine Jewelry Care | CorporetteWhat are the best ways to care for fine jewelry like sterling silver, gold, and platinum, as well as diamonds, pearls, and other gemstones? In the past we’ve talked a lot about jewelry, including jewelry storage, how to start a jewelry collection for work, and how to buy pearls — but we haven’t looked at jewelry care in detail. Kate talked to some experts and did some research — enjoy! Also possibly of interest: Nordstrom has a ton of fine jewelry marked 30-60% off today. 

In general, it’s smart to follow these tips for all of your fine jewelry:

  • After wearing your jewelry, gently wipe it off with a 100%-cotton cloth.
  • Remove jewelry before gardening, cleaning, doing home repairs or other physical work, playing sports, getting into a hot tub or pool, showering/bathing, or swimming in salt water.
  • Put on makeup, lotion, perfume, and hair products before putting on your jewelry. Avoid letting jewelry come into contact with soap or sweat.
  • Protect your jewelry by storing it in individual boxes or soft bags, and don’t keep it in your car, near windows or heat vents, or in direct sunlight. In general, keep jewelry out of extreme temperatures.
  • Don’t use a polishing cloth on a piece of jewelry with a matte or oxidized finish.
  • If you clean your jewelry near a sink, close the drain!
  • Ask your insurance agency what’s covered in your homeowner’s or renter’s policy — you may want to buy additional insurance coverage. (Here’s a great NYT article on point as well.)

Here are some tips that are specific to certain kinds of jewelry:

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Where to Find Fair Trade and Ethically-Sourced Clothing

Ethical Shopping | CorporetteIn our first post in our ethical shopping series, we rounded up several clothing brands made in the United States, mostly startups and small and/or independent labels. In part two, we shared a list of mainstream, more widely available workwear brands that sell clothing made in North America or Europe. Today we’re looking at clothing that’s fair trade certified, as well as clothing not officially considered fair trade but produced more responsibly or ethically than the average brand.

Of course, when a brand makes admirable claims like those, we as shoppers must simply take their word for it — but I would rather give my business to a company that explicitly details their (supposed) commitment to ethical labor practices and fair trade than to one who doesn’t say a word about its products’ origins or production. (Pictured: Brooks Brothers Wool Stretch Small Windowpane Circle Skirt, $168.)

Fair trade certification is more complicated than you might think; there’s more than one certifying organization, and each has a slightly different definition of the term “fair trade.” It’s also possible that we may not be doing as much good as we think by buying these products. Ndongo Sylla, a former Fairtrade International employee (who has a PhD in developmental economics), wrote a book last year called The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich (excerpt here in The Guardian). In The Economist’s book review, the reviewer called it “an arduous read” but wrote, “It is hard to dispute [Sylla’s] conclusion that, so far, the fair-trade labelling movement has been more about easing consciences in rich countries than making serious inroads into poverty in the developing world.” (Sigh.)

That said, here are several brands that engage in fair trade:

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Workwear Made in the USA

Made in USA Workwear | Corporette

Big thanks to Kate for our next post on ethical shopping: workwear brands made in the United States, Canada, and Europe! Readers, how important is ethical shopping to you? Do you have any favorite workwear brands that are made in North America or Europe? – Kat

We introduced our ongoing series of posts on ethical shopping with a roundup of several brands that are made in the United States, mostly small and/or independent labels, and startups — like Dobbin, Bailey44, and Zady. Today we’re sharing a list of bigger, mainstream brands for workwear — names you’re more likely to recognize — whose clothing is entirely, mostly, or partially made in North America or Europe. (As several readers correctly pointed out, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on ethically-produced clothing.) And here’s our guide to fair trade and ethically-sourced clothing.

Looking at a company’s website, it can often be difficult or impossible to find out where the clothing is made, so we hope this list will be helpful and save you some time as you shop for workwear that’s ethically produced and easily accessible to the average shopper. (Pictured: Karen Kane A-Line Jersey Dress, available at Nordstrom for $89.)

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How to Cool Down in a Hot Office

Staying cool in a hot office -- seersucker dressSo you’ve switched from a freezing office to an office that’s too hot — and going sleeveless at work may not be an option. How can you stay cool and comfortable at work? Reader C wonders…

I’ve read a lot of your posts, and in my old office lived by your advice regarding staying warm in a freezing-cold office. However, my new building has the opposite problem. Much of the time, especially now as we approach summer, my area of the building is very warm. As in, I-wish-our-dress-code-permitted-swimsuits warm (we are unfortunately business casual with an emphasis on the casual, but sleeveless isn’t allowed). Some women, including higher-ups, wear sleeveless anyways. I’ve done this a few times, but feel awkward when I have to talking to our VPs (I do this fairly regularly) although nobody has ever said anything about my clothes. Any advice?

We feel for you, Reader C! It’s been about a year since we talked about how to look professional when it’s hot or professional clothes for summer; we’ve also answered readers’ questions about “comfortable casual” workwear in a heat wave and staying cool when the heat is blasting in the winter. More recently, we’ve talked about summer makeup and summer hairlightweight pants and lightweight blazers, and pantyhose in the summer.

To help Reader C, we’ve collected some helpful tips from Corporette readers on hot weather/hot offices — and added some of our own. We hope they’ll help you stay cool (well, cool-er, at least), even if you don’t go sleeveless.

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Should You Say No to Sports at Work?

sports-at-workYour office is planning an athletic event, and you want to stay far, far away. Even if you’re worried about feeling awkward, should you go anyway to take advantage of the networking opportunities? How can you say NO to work-related sporting events, like golf and tennis outings, and what are you missing out on if you do? Reader B wonders…

Your recent post about dressing for summer events led me to an older post about how to dress as a golf newbie… and boy, the comments struck a chord with me. Or maybe a nerve. I’d love to see a post, and more discussion, on how to deal with outings of all types — particularly when they’re for expensive and time-consuming sports that you don’t play and don’t want to pick up.

A lesson (or even a few lessons) are absolutely NOT enough to get me through a golf scramble. Can I swing and miss 18 times while joking gracefully? Can I pull off an outright refusal? Is it a bad idea to drive the beer cart (this always sounds like it should come with a costume), or just show up for drinks/dinner afterwards? And what do I do after 17 miserable holes, when my division manager is standing at the 18th with his arms folded to judge my golf game?

For reference, I’m in engineering, not law, with 15+ years of experience.

Interesting question, Reader B! In the past, Kat has recommended participating in athletic work events, even if you don’t think your skills are so hot, but we thought we’d get another opinion as well. We talked to Women on Course founder Donna Hoffman (who also advised us on our recent post on proper golf wear) to get her take on this situation. “Golf is so much more than getting the ball in the hole,” she says. “There are so many more benefits” — including the camaraderie, and the opportunity to build relationships.

Here’s what Hoffman recommends for Reader B:

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