In an earlier post, I talked about the importance of learning a little bit of the local language before visiting another country. Not only is it the respectful thing to do, it also saves you from embarrassing misunderstandings or spending your entire holiday communicating through pointing and exaggerated mimes.
A few years ago, I visited Lithuania for a weekend. It was for a one-off sporting event and was therefore likely to be my first and last time in the country. I didn’t need to become fluent in Lithuanian, but thought I should make an effort (particularly given where I work!) so I spent a bit of time using Talk Now before I left, learning the words for ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘hotel’, and a few others. This allowed me to greet people, explain to taxi drivers where I wanted to go, and thank the staff in restaurants and shops in their own language. It wasn’t a lot, and there was still some pointing and gesturing required, but I felt better about myself and the locals seemed to appreciate my efforts.
I recently learned the story of how the idea for EuroTalk came about. One of our founders, Dick Howeson, was on a business trip in Hungary, waiting for a flight. He desperately needed to use the bathroom, but unfortunately, instead of pictures, the airport had used the words for ‘male’ and ‘female’ on the doors. This was a small problem for Dick, who didn’t speak any Hungarian, and had no way of knowing which was which. Unluckily, the airport wasn’t very busy at the time, and he had to wait twenty minutes for someone else to come along, so he could see which door they used.
At the time, a lot of people had been asking Dick for a language program specifically for business people, but his experience in Hungary made him realise that those travelling for work needed to start with the basics just like everyone else, rather than going straight to learning the words for ‘invoice’ or ‘contract’. That’s why EuroTalk software starts by teaching you the essential first words you need to get by – including ladies’ and gents’ toilet!
Our newest iPhone app, uTalk, is based on exactly the same thinking. It’s free to download and gives you 15 words in 25 languages (with lots more on the way). And not only that, it also contains all the EuroTalk games you know and love, plus some new ones, to help you remember them. If you decide you want to learn more, there are upgrades available to unlock loads more vocabulary.
So if you’re planning your summer holiday – or a business trip – now is the perfect time to download uTalk, and wherever you go, you’ll be prepared.
Learning a new language is a great experience: familiarising yourself with a new culture, discovering a new way to express yourself, and hopefully enabling yourself to order a beer in one more country. However, as a language-learner, you also need to be aware of the pitfalls that await you. The dreaded ‘false friends’ that lurk within every language, waiting to trip up the unsuspecting learner.
So what, you may ask, is a ‘false friend’? Well, would any non-Spanish speakers care to hazard a guess as to what decepción means? Bizarro? An éxito? Or even the verb pretender?
Ok, I’ll admit, one of the great things about learning Spanish is how often you can put an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ on an English word and get a Spanish one – dentista, artista, famoso, precioso… However, unfortunately for us English speakers, it doesn’t always work.
Rather than meaning deception, decepción is actually a disappointment; bizarro is not bizarre, but brave; un éxito is a success, not an exit; and pretender does not mean to pretend, but to try. It may be quite embarrassing to make a mistake like this, but resist the urge to describe yourself as embarazada – it actually means you’re pregnant!
German is just as bad. The Chef doesn’t cook (they’re the boss), someone brav may well be a coward (brav actually means nice/good), and, as many Brits have found out the hard way, asking for the Menü won’t get the waiter to bring you a list of available meals (they will probably bring you the day’s set meal). If you’re ordering food, also watch out for pepperoni – I’ve seen many a disappointed face when someone realises they’ve ordered a little green pepper instead of a salami pizza; and expect a funny look if you ask for a Rezept in a shop – this is a recipe not a receipt!
False friends, generally speaking, are words in another language that sound deceptively like a word in your language. Many a learner has found themself hazarding an (incorrect) guess as to the meaning of a word on the basis of its seeming familiarity, and sometimes when grasping for a word you can’t quite remember, you end up with something that sounds right, but unfortunately isn’t.
If you’re thinking of learning a new language though, please don’t be put off by these examples! False friends are just one of the many interesting things about learning a new language, even if they can occasionally lead to misunderstandings. There is definitely no need to be embarrassed about making a mistake, as that is the best way to learn, and most native speakers will find it funny, rather than annoying.
If anyone else has any weird or funny examples of false friends they’ve encountered when learning another language, please share them with us!
Today’s blog post is written by Konstantia Sotiropoulou, who’s been helping us to translate and record our Maths apps in Greek.
I bumped into the picture below a while ago and I thought this should be interesting. Undoubtedly, Greek is one of the richest languages in the world and is distinguished by an extensive vocabulary. In the past, the Guinness Book of Records ranked the Greek language as the richest in the world with 5 million words and 70 million word types!
Well, many of these words have been widely borrowed into other languages, including English. Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages, especially in the sciences and medicine. Mathematics, physics, astronomy, democracy, philosophy, athletics, theatre, rhetoric, baptism and hundreds of other words are Greek. Moreover, Greek words and word elements continue to be productive as a basis for coinages: anthropology, photography, telephony, isomer, biomechanics, cinematography, etc. and form, with Latin words, the foundation of international scientific and technical vocabulary, e.g. all words ending with –logy (“discourse”). Interestingly, an estimated 12% of the English vocabulary has Greek origin. Greek has contributed to English in several ways, including direct borrowings from Greek and indirectly through other languages (mainly Latin or French).
In a typical 80,000-word English dictionary, about 5% of the words are directly borrowed from Greek; this is about equivalent to the vocabulary of an educated speaker of English (for example, “phenomenon” is a Greek word and even obeys Greek grammar rules as the plural is “phenomena”). However, around 25% are borrowed indirectly. This is because there were many Greek words borrowed in Latin originally, which then filtered down into English because English borrowed so many words from Latin (for example, “elaiwa” in Greek evolved into the Latin “oliva”, which in turn became “olive” in English).
Greek and Latin are the predominant sources of the international scientific vocabulary. Greek is often used in coining very specialized technical or scientific words, however, so the percentage of words borrowed from Greek rises much higher when considering highly scientific vocabulary (for example, “oxytetracycline” is a medical term that has several Greek roots).
In education, an excellent way to build vocabulary is teaching students how to find roots in words. Since many words have their base in the Greek language, beginning with the roots from this ancient language is a good place to start. This list of English words with Greek origin will give students a basis for further exploration into the roots of the English language.
Now you that you have seen how many Greek words you know, I am going to teach you some more common ones like “kalimera” which means “good morning”, “Ya sou” which means “hi”, “Me lene” which means “my name is” and “efharisto” which means “thank you”. And if you are interested in learning more and discovering how many you already know, try EuroTalk’s uTalk Greek app.
And who am I to be talking about the Greek language? I am the Greek intern of EuroTalk, who translated and recorded into Greek their new Maths apps for young children. An interesting and fun experience for a young translator like me. I have to say that I really enjoyed working in this office, which gives you the sense of a family home. People here are calm and friendly, the kitchen is fully equipped with all kinds of snacks and during the day we get to listen to nice music while working! How amazing is that?
I started towards the end of January by translating the scripts of the app and soon after I recorded the first topics. I caught myself playing the app more than I needed to, as the games are really fun! I am sure young kids will truly enjoy it while learning basic Mathematics rules. And I know that my three-year-old niece, who will be playing the app in a few weeks, will at least have a constructive and educational first contact with technology!
So, whether you want to take up a new language or help your child have a nice start with Maths, you know that EuroTalk is here for you!
* There is an interesting video on YouTube that explains the History of English and the influence that it had from other languages!
We’re now a week and a half into the New Year, and it’s safe to say a lot of people will already have given up on the promises they made to themselves when the clock struck midnight on January 1st. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, learn a new skill or save money, here are our tips to help you stick with it.
1. Set yourself manageable goals. Instead of saying ‘I’m going to lose weight’, decide how much you want to lose in a set time frame, and reward yourself when you get there.
2. Focus – don’t try and do everything at once. Choose one or two changes you want to make to your life and concentrate on those.
4. Only set targets that you really care about. If it’s not important to you, it’s so much easier to lose interest. Think about why you’re doing it – if you can’t think of a reason, it’s probably not worth doing.
5. Tell friends and family what you want to achieve. It’ll be harder to give up if other people are keeping an eye on you.
6. If you do have a wobble, don’t use that as an excuse to give up. Put it down as a one-off and start again.
7. Take your time. You don’t have to achieve all your goals on the first day. If your goal is to exercise more, start by going for a run to see how you feel, before you rush out and spend lots of money on a gym membership.
If you didn’t set any New Year’s Resolutions this year, it’s not too late! If you want to make some changes in your life, you don’t have to wait for January 1st to roll around again. Why not make a start today?
Learning a language is often a popular New Year’s Resolution, so if you’ve decided 2013 is the year to brush up on your German, or start learning Japanese, have a look at our website to see how we can help you get started.
A recent poll has found that only one in ten British travellers learn any of the language before they visit another country. Some claimed this was because English is now so widely spoken, while others blamed shyness and a fear of saying the wrong thing.
I understand the second excuse much more than the first. Just because we can get away with speaking English doesn’t mean we should. Learning just a few words can make a huge difference, not only to those you’re speaking to but to your own holiday experience. And you don’t have to learn anything complicated. Five per cent of people surveyed said they just learnt the absolute basics, like hello, please, thank you, water and beer. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly greeting in someone’s native language, and they see you in a whole new way – as someone who respects their culture and has made an effort, however small. And that will come across in the way they treat you, making your time in the country a lot more fun. Not only that but you’ll feel pretty good about yourself – I remember several years ago on a school trip to Spain, a friend of mine ordered an ice cream in Spanish. An ice cream – it was as simple as that. But she was so proud of herself when the vendor understood her and she completed the purchase in a language not her own.
Benny Lewis, who’s known as the Irish polyglot, has spent nine years travelling in different countries, learning languages as he goes. Every few months he announces a new challenge, learns some vocabulary and then – he just goes to the country and starts talking. He doesn’t worry about making mistakes or getting his grammar slightly wrong.
Obviously we’re not all as brave as Benny. I’m certainly not. But there does come a point when you have to stop being scared and just take a risk. People are not going to point and laugh if you don’t pronounce something quite right. As a general rule they’ll be so pleased to hear you trying to speak their language that they won’t mind at all, and will probably go out of their way to help you get it right next time.
So let’s be brave! Next time you go on holiday try learning a few basics before you go, and see what a difference it makes…