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.
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!
— Patricia Ochman (@speedbird_o) January 20, 2015
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!
As you may remember, I’ve been learning Icelandic for the January uTalk Challenge. It’s a totally new language for me, with different rules and pronunciation to other languages I’ve studied, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it.
There are a few sounds in Icelandic which I really love. One of them, which I’m going to (unflatteringly) call the ‘spitty’ sound, is the sound made by a double ‘L’, as in the word for car (‘bíll’). It’s incredibly satisfying to replicate, although I can’t really explain why – just find an Icelandic person and ask them to say the word for car, or get uTalk and hear our lovely voice artists say it, and you’ll see what I mean.
There are also a few sounds which have just tied my tongue into knots. Although a surprising amount of Icelandic seems vaguely intuitive for an English native speaker, occasionally I’ll come across a preposterously long word boasting a collection of ‘eð’s and ‘þorn’s (the two ‘th’ letters), and it’s really been a case of memorising the words at this stage. It took me absolutely ages to master ‘hjúkrunarfræðingur’ (rather less manageable than English’s nice and simple ‘nurse’) and ‘afgreiðslumaður’ (‘shop assistant’). However, on most topics there have been several items I can make an intelligent guess at, either because they have some connection to the English (‘hjarta’- heart, ‘kókoshneta’- coconut, ‘baunir’- peas, ‘bjór’- beer) or because Icelandic is wonderfully logical at times: it doesn’t take too much imagination to see that ‘á bak við tréð’ indicates ‘behind the tree’, and ‘Ég er með tannpínu’ means ‘ I have (lit. I am with) toothache’. So I have had it slightly easier than some of my colleagues, who have been battling with languages completely unconnected to English.
My technique has been to cram as much in as quickly as possible, launching into the Hard Game first and then going back to Practice to check on what I got wrong. I’ve left all the Recall sections until I’ve completed the other games in all the sections, and then I’ve gone back and used it as a test of how much I remember. I’ve also been pointing to people and things all weekend and saying the word in Icelandic, and getting anyone I’m with to repeat the words back to me. I’ve found this really useful because it makes you assume a certain amount of teacher-like responsibility, so if I’m not 100% sure on what I’ve told them I’ll go back and double-check it. Also, if they repeat back anything nonsensical I realise I’ve probably pronounced it terribly in the first place, and need to revise it. So thank you to everyone who’s put up with me spouting random Icelandic words at them recently! What I now plan to do is to leave the Icelandic for a week and then to come back to it towards the end of January and do all the Recall sections again, and see how much I remember (hopefully a lot).
I’ll leave you with my favourite word so far, which is ‘surfing’ – again, just another really satisfying sound: ‘brimbrettabrun’:
So you’ve heard about our January challenge. You haven’t?! Quick, you still have time, have a look here.
So I thought I’d give you my reasons for learning French, you know, in case you need some inspiration. The main reason is because I’ll be going to Paris for New Year (woop woop) and I am basically getting into ‘French mode’ by listening to French songs, eating croissants, and I even bought a chic beret.
As a kid, teenager and young adult I have been learning German and English, and although I think they are both brilliant languages, I have always felt that I want to have that nice, delicate French accent and sing along with Edith Piaf while putting on my winged eyeliner.
I’m expecting it to be quite similar to my native language, Romanian for numerous reasons among which are the facts that they are both romance languages and that for quite a long period of history, Romania looked up to the French politics, lifestyle and architecture so many words come from French language – really excited about it!
Come play with us, it’ll be fun! Choose a language and let us know!
Today we’ve got a guest post from Charlotte Donnelly, who’s taking part in the uTalk challenge this January, on why she chose to learn Slovak. Charlotte also has a fantastic blog of her own, all about her language adventures.
When I decided I wanted to do this challenge, I went through the uTalk app and looked at all of the languages that are on offer – but I didn’t spend a long time deciding. I’ve studied a few languages before, so I didn’t want to pick any of those; and there are some languages on the app that look really exciting, but I didn’t want to learn anything I wouldn’t be able to use soon, either.
So, why Slovak? Well, at the end of October I visited Bratislava for the first time with my friends and absolutely fell in love with the place, the people, the food… However, it was one of the few trips I’ve made where I knew nothing of the language. Obviously, a lot of people in Bratislava speak good English, but it felt a little odd to me, to not understand what was going on or to be able to explain myself.
Conveniently, I’m living in Vienna at the moment, so I’m lucky enough to have Bratislava (and the rest of Slovakia) more or less right on my doorstep – the capital is an hour away by train, so I can visit when I like. Plus, I’m excited to learn a Slavic language for the very first time! If this challenge ends up setting me off on a 2015 quest to learn Slovak, then so much the better – I’m really looking forward to it.
Who else is doing the challenge?
If you’d like to share your own reasons for choosing a particular language, we’d love to hear from you, so please drop us an email!
I initially thought about learning Welsh, as I was born in Wales, so I thought it’d be a nice way to re-connect with my roots. However, having been informed that Welsh wasn’t added to uTalk yet (although it will be soon!), I ended up changing my mind, and decided on Romanian for my language.
So why did I choose Romanian? Well, I have to say the main reason is that I can try out my newly learned phrases on our reception superstar, Ioana! Everyone in the EuroTalk office knows that I like learning random words and phrases in their language and trying them out. I always like to greet Ioana with ‘noroc’ (cheers) if we have a drink together, but I thought perhaps I could manage a little better than that and at least add some basic conversational phrases to my repertoire.
Plus, I’m hoping that I can make a trip to Romania in the not too distant future, and would definitely like to be able to get around without embarrassing myself too much.
How about you? Which language will you be learning this new year?