I’m not generally much of a sports fan, and the less said about my sporting ability – or lack thereof – the better… but I do love a good tennis match. I’m a regular supporter of the British Davis Cup team (which is a lot more fun since they started winning; our humiliating weekend in Lithuania back in 2010 is, thankfully, a distant memory). I’m going to the US Open for the first time this autumn (squeal), and don’t even try booking me for any social engagements during Wimbledon fortnight – if anyone needs me then, I’ll be in front of the TV drinking Pimm’s, eating strawberries and cream and biting my nails every time Andy Murray’s on court.
Like any sport, tennis has its own unique language and growing up watching it on TV, I had to get fluent at an early age. Besides a frankly baffling scoring system (15, 30, 40, advantage… it makes no sense at all) the game features a good few terms that may not mean a lot to newcomers, and take a while to get used to. So as the French Open comes to a close and we look ahead to the grass court season, here’s a quick guide to Tennis-ese for the uninitiated:
Love: ironically this is not something you want in a tennis match, because ‘love’ means a score of zero points in a game (or games in a set). It’s generally assumed that this comes from the French word l’oeuf, which means ‘egg’ – the same shape as a zero.
Deuce: when the score reaches 40-40 in tennis (3 points each), one player must score two consecutive points in order to seal the game. If they only manage one, the score returns to deuce, and keeps doing so until someone wins the game. ‘Deuce’ could derive from deus, Old French for two, or from à deux de jeu (‘two points from the end of the game’)… and yet, ironically, in France 40-40 is referred to as quarante à the first time, then egalité after that.
Let: when a player serves, the ball must pass over the net and bounce in the service box diagonally opposite. If it goes into the net, or misses the service box, this is a fault; do two faults in a row and you forfeit the point. But if the ball touches the net and still lands in the correct service box, this is called ‘let’. Nobody seems quite sure why, although one possibility is that it’s a shortened version of the French word for ‘net’, filet. Or it could just be because if this happens when you serve, the umpire lets you try again as many times as you need to 😉
Bagel: depending which side of the net you’re on, this is either something to celebrate or a very, very Bad Thing. A bagel occurs when one player wins a set 6-0. If this happens twice in a match it’s a double bagel. I’ve also heard a set that’s been won 6-1 referred to as a breadstick. Who knew so many tennis terms were named for the shape of food?
And finally, a couple of tennis terms with less interesting linguistic origins:
Break and Hold: the players in a tennis match take it in turns to serve. If a player wins a game on their own serve, this is called ‘holding serve’ or just ‘a hold’. On the other hand, if they manage to win a game when their opponent’s serving, this is called a ‘break’, or ‘breaking their serve’. To win a set, a player must be ahead by at least two games, so a break often proves crucial. During a tiebreak, you can also get a ‘mini-break’, which is not, as one might suppose, a short holiday but just means you’ve won a point on your opponent’s serve.
Ace: a serve that goes in but is untouched by the opponent’s racquet, automatically winning the point for the server. John Isner currently holds the record for the most aces in a match, at 115, but then again, that was also the longest singles match ever played – 11 hours, 5 minutes – at Wimbledon 2010, so perhaps it’s not so surprising.
These are just a few examples of the weird and wonderful language of tennis. What’s your favourite tennis term? And – far more importantly – who will you be cheering for at Wimbledon this year?
So, you’ve decided to learn a language. Great! Now what?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have gone straight to the Internet in a fit of great enthusiasm, and bought yourself a language course – whether that’s in an app, on a CD or online. You might even have gone a step further and enrolled in a class.
But then the sun comes out, or the World Cup kicks off, or you decide to start reading the Game of Thrones books (only recommended if you have nothing else to do with your time for at least six months), and that passion for your new language starts to fade a little bit. Suddenly there are other things to do with your time, and although you definitely still want to be able to speak the language, you just don’t seem to have the time or enthusiasm to actually learn it.
And so that language course you bought, which promised so much, is forgotten and unused, and your dream of going travelling and fitting in like a local remains just that – a dream.
Can anyone else hear violins…?
It might sound obvious, but the thing about language courses, whether it’s EuroTalk, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo or any of the other multitude of programs out there, is that they’re only as useful as you allow them to be. I wish I could tell you that simply by downloading uTalk to your iPhone, the vocabulary will magically find its way into your brain while you’re sleeping, but it’s just not true (although if you want to try it, it’s available from the App Store).
Let’s look at this another way. You want to lose weight, so you join a gym. Logical. Maybe you even go along a few times after work. But then six months later you’re still not skinny, and on top of that you’re out of money and you probably feel pretty bad about yourself too. According to research by online accountants Crunch.co.uk, here in Britain we were wasting £37m a year on unused gym memberships in 2011. Just think what we could have been doing with that money. Or how fit we could all have got if we’d kept going to the gym.
The fact is, gyms don’t magically make you fit, or thin. (If it were as easy as that, I’d have joined one a long time ago.) They just provide the conditions you need to get yourself there. Even a personal trainer, whose job it is to help you, will only get so far if you’re not willing to meet them in the middle. And it’s the same with language software – if you don’t use it, it can’t help you. We’d all love a big red button that will get us instantly to where we want to be, but life isn’t like that.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Learning a language isn’t just about being able to speak that language. It’s also about the things you’ll discover along the way. You’ll learn to appreciate your own native tongue, understand the culture of the language you’re learning; you might even make a whole new group of friends. And personally, I think the satisfaction you feel the very first time you manage to speak to someone in another language, even if it’s just to say hello or thank you, is much greater than the pleasure you gain from becoming fluent. In the same way, reaching your target weight will feel amazing – but nothing will beat that first pound you lose.
So my advice is this – don’t buy language software, unless you’re going to use it. Because as the late Maya Angelou once said, ‘Nothing will work unless you do.’ And we don’t want your language app gathering virtual dust on your iPhone, until one day you realise you don’t need it any more and quietly delete it.
But if you do decide to invest in a course (hopefully EuroTalk!), and you follow through on that crazy plan you had one day to learn Russian, or Korean, or even Klingon, that’s great. I guarantee you won’t regret it – and it’ll definitely be less painful than going to the gym.
Sometimes one word is all you need… With the World Cup getting underway today, here’s how each national team says that all-important word, ‘goal’.
You can find this and lots more in our language learning app, uTalk – available to download and start learning right now from the App Store. So whether you’re watching the football at home or away, you’ll always be prepared.
(There are lots of non-football related words in there too, for those of us with other interests!)
Please do share the infographic with friends and tell us how you’ll be shouting ‘Goal!’ this World Cup 🙂
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Where else for this week’s ’10 reasons…’ post but Brazil? This huge, beautiful and unique country will be attracting tourists by the thousands over the coming weeks, so here are our top tips – whether you’re visiting for the football and have a bit of spare time, or you’re planning a holiday for later in the year.
1. Ilha Grande
A beautiful island off the coast of Rio, which can be reached by ferry (no cars allowed – there are no roads for them to drive on anyway). It’s a great place to see local wildlife, and also has a fascinating history, having been a pirates’ lair, a leper colony and a prison in its time.
With over 7,000km of coastline, it’s no surprise that Brazil has a lot of beaches. It would be impossible to name them all, but a couple of the most famous are Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, which is particularly well known for its New Year celebrations, attended by about three million people each year, and Praia do Cassino, near Rio Grande in the south of the country, which is thought to be the longest beach in the world at an incredible 245km.
With over 180 indigenous languages, Brazil is a language lover’s dream. Although most tourists should be able to get around with a smattering of basic Portuguese, if you’re heading off the beaten track, you may hear people speaking Tupí, Arawak, Carib, and Gê languages, among many others.
4. Let’s dance!
Brazil is probably best known for samba, the African-influenced music and dance style now popular across the world, and celebrated most famously at the annual Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. Samba is far more than just music; it’s a hugely important part of Brazilian culture, and you’d be hard pressed to visit the country without experiencing it (and why would you want to?). Capoeira is another well-known tradition, which combines dance, acrobatics and martial arts set to music. Someone once tried to teach me some capoeira moves at university. It did not go well – turns out it’s quite difficult, especially if you’re as uncoordinated as I am – but it’s great fun to watch.
5. Iguaçu Falls
Found on the border between Brazil and Argentina, the Iguaçu Falls (or Iguazu Falls if you’re in Argentina) are one of the region’s most famous natural landmarks. There are 275 waterfalls in total, along a 2.7km stretch of the Iguazu River. Be sure to see the Devil’s Throat, a U-shaped chasm right on the border between the two countries, and if you can, take a boat trip under the falls for the ultimate water ride.
6. Christ the Redeemer
Another world-famous landmark, and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the 124 feet high statue of Jesus Christ hit the headlines last week when travel blogger Lee Thompson was given permission to climb to the top to take a selfie. Towering over the city of Rio de Janeiro from the top of the Corcovado mountain, the monument is a must-see if you go to Brazil. Unlike Lee, you won’t be able to go inside the statue, but you can visit the chapel in the pedestal at its base and the views from the mountain are still amazing.
7. Sea Kayaking in Paraty
Staying in Rio, if you want to get away from the crowds, why not try a spot of sea kayaking in Paraty Bay? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, this is a great way to enjoy fantastic views of the town and mountains, relax on the beautiful sandy beaches and explore a mangrove forest on your way to the base of the Sugarloaf mountain.
The rainforest, not the website. Not an area to venture into unprepared, or alone, obviously, but great if you’re tired of the cities and want to get back to nature. Take a boat trip down the river, have a treetop adventure (there’s even a hotel), or try your hand at piranha fishing (not sure about that one, personally). The rainforest is full of wildlife, although many of the animals and birds will keep themselves to themselves, so if you do encounter any, it’s pretty exciting.
Being a huge country, Brazil has many, many types of food, from feijoada (a black bean stew with beef and sausage), to pastéis (deep fried parcels containing pretty much whatever you like – cheese, beef, cod, you name it), quindim (a custard dessert made from sugar, egg yolks and coconut) to bolinhos de chuva* (fried doughballs sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon). It’s safe to say that whatever your tastes, you’ll probably find something you like in Brazil.
* I’m tempted to go to Brazil right now for some of these.
Someone told me there’s a big football tournament happening in Brazil this month, so if you’re a fan, now might be a good time to visit. I don’t know about that, but I do know Brazil are a huge footballing nation. They’ve won the World Cup (that was it!) five times, more than any other nation, and will be hoping to make it six in a few weeks. If they can get past England, obviously…
If you are visiting Brazil, remember to learn some basic Brazilian Portuguese before you go – it’ll make everything a lot easier and much more fun. Take uTalk for iOS with you and you’ll never be lost for words!
I realise I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this huge country has to offer, so if you want to share any tips of your own, please do so in the comments.