Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘New Year’

8
Feb

The Year of the Monkey

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The period before Chinese New Year is one of the biggest annual migrations of people, all going home to their families to celebrate together. This is for the New Years Eve dinner, also known as the reunion dinner, normally done at home rather than in a restaurant. A variety of dishes are served at the reunion dinner, these usually include fish and dumplings, which signify prosperity. It also includes lettuce, shallots, celery, duck and Chicken – each of these represent a different attribute.

The Chinese Zodiac has a different animal representing a year on a 12-year cycle. Meaning that the year of the Monkey hasn’t happened since 2004 and won’t happen again until 2028. The monkey is the 9th animal in the Zodiac and each animal is said to have different attributes. If you were born in the year of the Monkey, you’re thought to be sociable and innovative. Every zodiac sign has lucky numbers, colours, flowers and even directions. Next year the year of the Rooster will be celebrated.

 

 

Chinese New Year is celebrated with the colour red, which is seen as a sign of good fortune. Red envelopes/packets with money in,  called Ang Pow are given on Chinese New Years and are a sign of future success. It is also seen as favourable to give an even amount of money rather than an odd amount. These are very different to Pak Kum, which are white envelopes given at sad occasions like funerals.

There are many taboos, which surround the New Year, these are things that shouldn’t be done on the first day of the year.

  • Washing your hair – this shouldn’t be done, as it’s a sign of washing away good fortune.
  • Taking medicine – if you take medicine on the first day this means you will be sick for the whole year.
  • Wearing black or white – these are mourning colours.

Do you have or know of any Chinese New Year traditions? Let us know!

 

31
Dec

4 reasons to learn a language this New Year

I don’t know about you, but I love New Year’s Eve. Not because of all the parties (twelve months ago I saw in the new year at home with a cup of tea, because I’m that cool), but because it’s a great time to set some new goals.

Of course, you can set goals any time, but there’s something special about the fresh start that comes with a new year. It’s like the first page of a brand new notebook; any previous failed attempts or mistakes are erased and you can start over with a clear target in mind.

Happy New Year!

Yesterday the British Council, supported by actor Larry Lamb, launched a #LearnALanguage campaign, which aims to get Brits learning a language in 2016.

And over 200 people will be doing just that with our free uTalk challenge, which starts tomorrow – learning everything from French to Wolof (there’s still time to join, by the way…).

But why should you learn a language this new year? Here are my top 4 reasons:

New friends

Everyone likes making new friends, and it’s a lot easier to do that if you speak the same language. Sometimes all it can take is one word to break the ice, so even if all you know is ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ or ‘where is the toilet?’ – hey, it’s a start. (And if you can speak a bit of Xhosa or Korean, it’s a great way to show off at parties and instantly become the coolest person in the room.)

New opportunities

The New Year is a time for new opportunities… and learning a language brings you so many. Travel the world. Get a new job. Meet the love of your life. As Larry Lamb says in this video, his enjoyment of languages directly led to his 40-year career as an actor – who knows where it could take you?

It’s good for your brain

A not so nice side effect of the New Year celebrations is the reminder that we’re a year older and time is passing far too terrifyingly quickly. So let’s grab the chance to help out our poor ageing brains; research has shown that bilingual people have better memories and are more successful at multitasking, and speaking a second language can delay the onset of dementia.

It’s fun

And sometimes, that’s the only reason you need. Discovering a new language and culture is one of the most fascinating and rewarding things you can do, and there really is nothing like the buzz you get the first time you have a conversation with someone – however basic – and the two of you understand each other.

So, which language will you learn in 2016?

Happy New Year everyone!

Liz

 

23
Dec

#uTalkChallenge 2016: which language will you learn?

The uTalk Challenge is almost here!

From January 1st, start a new language for free, and learn as much as you can with our uTalk app by January 31st.

The uTalk challenge is open to everyone and totally free, so if you’d like to join in, you can find more details and sign up to the challenge here: eurotalk.com/utalkchallenge

With 130 languages to choose from (we’ve just added Greenlandic and Indian English to the app, so there’s now even more choice!), there’s something for everyone – and we’re certainly covering a variety of languages here in the EuroTalk office, where competition is bound to be fierce…

Safia – Mandarin Chinese

My mum and little sister despair at my lack of ability to speak any Mandarin so it’s probably about time to rectify the situation. And then they can’t gang up on me anymore when we play Mahjong!

Alex – Turkish

My best friend and her twin sister at uni are Turkish Cypriot, and they always speak Turkish between the two of them when they’re with us, so I want to be able to understand who or what they’re talking about.

Competition at EuroTalk

Nat – Welsh

I always intended to move to Wales one day so thought I should learn a bit of the language – plus I’m interested to see how much my (limited) Cornish will help with Welsh!

Ioana – Argentinian Spanish

I want to be able to chat with the lovely non-English speaking relatives of my boyfriend, and also to unexpectedly add Spanish words to our daily conversations.

Adi – Arabic

I lived in Dubai for six years, and I hardly know any Arabic, so it’s high time.

Adi and Ioana face off

Liz – Welsh

No particular reason, if I’m honest; I just fancy a challenge! I think trying to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch whet my appetite…

Steve – Scots Gaelic

Scotland is one of my favourite places in the UK and I’d like to learn a Celtic language which is still spoken there.

Simon – Polish

It’s the second most common language spoken in the UK. It’s very different from anything I’ve learnt before, and would be interested to try and pick up a few words and sentences and then try and see if I can hear them in real life!

Getting competitive

Brett – Arabic

I have been to the UAE on a couple of occasions this year. I am going again next year to meet some schools who need a solution to help get their English-speaking students to speak Arabic. If I’m trying to help them, then I should really learn it too.

Pablo – Romanian

My girlfriend is from Romania. I’ll try to be able to say something else other than her name and ‘da’.

Which language will you learn?

PS No EuroTalkers were harmed in the making of this blog post.

 

9
Dec

The uTalk Challenge 2016: New Year, New Language

Quit smoking. Learn Welsh. Finally finish writing that book – and actually let someone read it. Learn Thai. Spend more time sailing. Learn Mandarin. Walk the street map of London. Learn Turkish. Achieve a freestanding handstand and a scorpion/needle stretch (whatever that is). Learn Argentinian Spanish.

These are just a few of the New Year’s resolutions we’ve been setting ourselves in the EuroTalk office, having just realised 2016 has crept up on us and is suddenly, terrifyingly close. And you may have noticed a bit of a language theme…

Introducing the uTalk challenge 2016 – learn a language for free this New Year

That’s because this January, we’ll be taking on the uTalk challenge 2016, using our uTalk app to learn as much as we can of our chosen language before 31st January. Last year Nat stormed to victory in our first uTalk challenge, completing the app in Icelandic before most of us had even mastered ‘hello’… but we’re hoping for a closer contest this time around. And failing that, our back-up plan is to steal her iPad.

uTalk challenge

How to join the uTalk challenge

But we don’t want to do it alone! So if you’re an iOS user*, and you’d like to finally start learning that language you’ve been talking about for ages, now’s your chance. And even better, the uTalk challenge is completely FREE. All you need to do is sign up at eurotalk.com/utalkchallenge, and on January 1st we’ll send you over a code to unlock the Essentials upgrade (worth £7.99) for your chosen language. Then it’s over to you…

We’ll check in with you each week by email to see how you’re doing and update the online leaderboard, so you can see how your score compares to everyone else’s. AND if you complete the Essentials by the end of January, we’ll give you another language to learn in February, and so on. So if you’re really determined, you could learn 12 new languages in 2016. Now that’s a pretty cool New Year’s resolution.

*Unfortunately the uTalk app is only available on iOS, we’re really sorry! But we don’t want anyone to miss out, so if you’re not an iOS-er and you’d like to take part, drop us an email to challenge@eurotalk.com and we’ll see if we can work out an alternative for you.

Spread the word

Challenges are a lot more fun if you’ve got company, so please help us spread the word to friends and family using the link eurotalk.com/utalkchallenge and on social media, using #uTalkChallenge. And for regular video updates from the EuroTalk team, in which we’ll attempt to demonstrate how much we’ve learnt, come and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Some of last year’s uTalk Challengers (who we hope will join us again this year!)…

Ingrid, learning Serbian

I’ve really enjoyed doing the challenge. Serbian is a language I’ve wanted to get to grips with for a long time for quite a bizarre reason (it involves a love of the Eurovision Song Contest!) but I haven’t really known where to start.

Patricia, learning Icelandic

The uTalk app is a whole lot of fun, filled with useful words and phrases. I particularly enjoyed repeating the words and phrases after the native speakers and then hearing my own voice. What a great tool to gain confidence and improve pronunciation!

Jacqui, learning Croatian

After a month, I’ve made great progress. I haven’t earned maximum points (I’m on just over 4000), but I have managed to learn a lot more than I thought I would, even waking up some mornings with various phrases springing to mind!

And here’s how the EuroTalkers got on…

So… who’s up for the challenge?

30
Jan

The uTalk language challenge – how did you do?

The uTalk language challenge for January comes to an end on Saturday, and we’ve loved hearing about everyone’s progress! Check back here next week to see how we all got on here in the office (trust me, you won’t want to miss that), but in the meantime, we asked a few of our most enthusiastic competitors to tell us how they got on.uTalk - learn a language

Has anyone else taken part in the uTalk challenge? Did you enjoy it, and most importantly will you be continuing with your new language? We’d love to hear from you, so please share in the comments :) And if you missed it this month, it’s never too late to start – uTalk is available from the App Store, and you can start learning your first essential words completely free.

Don’t miss our February photo challenge, which kicks off on Sunday!

Now over to our uTalkers :)

Ingrid, learning Serbian

I’ve really enjoyed doing the challenge. Serbian is a language I’ve wanted to get to grips with for a long time for quite a bizarre reason (it involves a love of the Eurovision Song Contest!) but I haven’t really known where to start.

The app’s been great, although I’d recommend using it on an iPad rather than an iPhone if you can. Oh, and the range of languages available is amazing!

It’s been slow-going – well it’s a tricky language! – I tried to do some in my lunch-break and on my commute but it was generally too noisy to concentrate. I have a trip to Belgrade planned for early April and it would be so nice to communicate on even the most basic level in their own language, so I’ll definitely be keeping it up.

Patricia, learning Icelandic

My name’s Patricia and I’m from Montreal, Canada. I’m the happy owner of a wonderful Icelandic horse, Léttfeti. I’ve been riding Icelandic horses for four years and I’ve been to Iceland. And I absolutely love Björk :) I took up the uTalk challenge so I could begin to learn more about the Icelandic Horse breed, about Icelandic riding and about Iceland in general. I hope to go back there soon.

The uTalk app is a whole lot of fun, filled with useful words and phrases. I particularly enjoyed repeating the words and phrases after the native speakers and then hearing my own voice. What a great tool to gain confidence and improve pronunciation! I also really liked the Iceland module, which contained many words and phrases pertaining to things that are specific to Iceland.

The app is very visually pleasing. It works offline, which is great for learning on planes, subways and other areas without internet. This app can also be used as an offline dictionary, which I find particularly useful. Thank you for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to the next Challenge!

Alex, learning Romanian

I found it really fun learning some basic Romanian, especially because I’ve been able to greet Ioana each day saying ‘Buna Ziua’, and trying out a few random words on her. I found the speaking and recall games the most useful as you can check you actually know the words, rather than passively recognising them. The memory game, on the other hand, is the bane of my life as I always manage to forget where one thing is and miss the full score. Overall, I’ve found uTalk really fun and easy to use at the gym while I’m on the bikes or during my lunchbreak.

Jacqui, learning Croatian

I first discovered EuroTalk when my children were involved in the Junior Language Challenge in 2010, and, as a language graduate, was very impressed with how easy it was to master the basics. Since then, I have never quite prioritised the time to learn a new language myself, so when I heard about this month’s challenge for adults, it was just a matter of picking which one to try.

Why Croatian? It’s a country I quite fancy visiting, and as I’ve never attempted a Slavic language before, it seemed like a worthy contender for the challenge. Come 1st January, it soon became clear to me that Slavic languages do not have much immediately in common with either Romance or Germanic ones, and it often felt more like a string of tongue-twisters with some different accented letters to add into the mix for good measure. Daunting, yes, but I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I discovered that standing in the middle of the room and declaiming the words in theatrical fashion was quite effective!

After a month, I’ve made great progress. I haven’t earned maximum points (I’m on just over 4000), but I have managed to learn a lot more than I thought I would, even waking up some mornings with various phrases springing to mind! This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without something like the uTalk app. The approach of listening and repeating with a few simple games just works at this level of language acquisition.

The good news for me is that I’ve now booked a short break to Croatia in the summer – make mine a ‘čaša šampanjca, molim vas’.

Katherine, learning Czech

I chose to learn Czech as it was a completely new language to me, and I will be visiting there later in the year, so it will be fun to try out a few phrases!

I have found the app quite addictive – as soon as I’ve got a good score in one topic I want to get started on another one! The games really help you to learn quickly, and although I can’t pretend to remember every word, it will be easy to brush it up again later. So, a great challenge, and good fun!