Yes, believe it or not, it’s National Toast Day today. Which got us all thinking, how important can toast possibly be?
Turns out, if you look at the English language, it’s pretty important, as are all baked goods to the British mind. We pepper our conversation with references to bread, toast, cake and biscuits on a daily basis:
In this cold weather, you may have turned on the heating, so now you’re as warm as toast. Central heating really is the best thing since sliced bread. Going out in the cold again without a coat would be a really half-baked idea.
If you’re the breadwinner in the family, you’re the one bringing in the money. Your job’s your bread and butter. Maybe you’ve got several projects on the go at the same time, in which case you’ve got your fingers in many pies. Or maybe you’re from the Upper Crust, in which case you may not need to work at all, and will hopefully know which side your bread is buttered.
If someone’s brown bread (a bit of Cockney rhyming slang, by the way), then they’re dead – or, if used as a threat, about to be dead. You can also say they’re toast.
A simple task is as easy as pie or a piece of cake. If something sells fast it sells like hot cakes. The icing on the cake is a lovely, unexpected bonus to a project; the sarcastic alternative is taking the biscuit. When fortune spins the wheel of fate, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And if it goes badly for you, you might feel deflated, or as flat as a pancake.
It’s not just English speakers who love to talk about bread. The Polish equivalent of a ‘piece of cake’ is a bułka z masłem (bread roll with butter). In Spanish, someone living a life of luxury nació con el pan bajo el brazo (was born with bread under their arm). If you suspect someone of being up to no good, in Swedish you can suggest that inte ha rent mjöl i påsen (they don’t have clean flour in their bag) – and if you then need to seek revenge, you can demand in Italian that the person who’s wronged you rendere pan per focaccia (to give back bread for focaccia).
Well, that’s probably enough: we don’t want to over-egg the pudding, so time now for us to shut our cake holes. Let’s conclude by raising a toast (which – as all good Big Bang Theory fans know – is so called because of a historic tradition of putting spiced toast in drinks) to all our favourite baked goods… we hope this post has given you food for thought 🙂
Nat and Liz
My name is Darren, I’m from Bath, England, and my language journey really began about 10 years ago.
I had studied French and German at school but I didn’t really enjoy them. I didn’t realise how useful languages could be until a friend asked me to help her learn some Latin for her nursing exam. She gave me the list of things she needed to learn with a look of sheer terror on her face and I told her ways to easily remember each word. You could see the panic in her eyes fade as she realised she could remember everything after just a couple of hours.
Soon after, I started working with a lot of Polish girls. It was quite difficult because only one or two of them could speak English, so I decided to try to learn enough Polish to be able to say “Good morning”, “You need to do this…”, “Would you like a coffee?” and other essential phrases. My first few attempts at communication were hilarious! My pronunciation was terrible and led to smiles and giggles, but they were all really impressed that I even tried and my blushes soon turned to grins of pride. I started doing the same when other new people arrived and was soon spouting phrases in Polish, Hungarian, Latvian, Romanian, and Greek. The look of happy surprise as a nervous new employee is greeted in his or her own tongue is itself worth the effort of learning.
I try to study a different language every day of the week for about two hours. Now I have friends from all over the world and teach English as a Second Language so I am lucky enough to be able to practise different languages every day. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been able to help someone in the street when they have asked someone in broken English if they know where some place is, or in a shop when they don’t understand what is being said to them by a cashier. One time I was even asked to help translate for a friend who had been attacked and needed to talk to the police. Languages are now very important in my life and are my biggest passion.
One last thing: my original attempts at speaking Polish eventually led to me marrying the girl of my dreams. Just another reason to start your own language adventure!
Do you know how you got your surname?
It is regarded as a tradition for women to take their husband’s surnames when they get married in Britain. It’s also the tradition for men to always be Mr but women will be Miss until they’re married and become Mrs. So if Miss Young married Mr Smith, she would become Mrs Smith. A survey in 1994 showed that 94% of British women decided to take their husband’s surname when married. This ‘tradition’ is no longer as common today, with many women choosing to keep their own surname, or creating a double-barrelled surname.
In Poland many women choose to take their husband’s surname when they get married. However, they have masculine and feminine endings to their surnames. My surname – Koszykowska – like many Polish names ends in ‘ski’ for males or ‘ska’ for females; my dad follows this rule, as does one of my uncles, but the other uncle keeps its simple by using ‘ski’ for his family. It’s thought that originally Polish surnames ending in ‘ski’ or ‘cki’ came from the places where people lived; so if you lived in Wola you would become Wolski.
In Iceland the family name reflects the immediate father’s name or in some cases the mother’s. This is a more complex way of creating a surname compared to the British tradition. If Jón Einarsson had a son called André, André’s surname wouldn’t be Einarsson; instead it would be Jónsson. This is a combination of his father’s first name ‘Jóns’ (the s indicates that he is literally Jón’s son) and the Icelandic word ‘son’. If Jón had a daughter her surname would be Jónsdóttir, dóttir being the Icelandic word for daughter. In some cases they may use the father’s middle name, or their grandfather’s name.
In Spain it’s the norm for children to take the surname of the father and their mother’s maiden name to form one surname. For example if Alejandro López marries Daniela Rodriguez, their child Paula will take the father’s surname López as their second name and their mother’s Rodriguez as their third; Paula López Rodriguez. Then it gets slightly more confusing: if Paula marries she won’t change her surname; instead she will add it to her name. For example, she marries Álvaro Arroyo; her name will become ‘Paula López Rodrigues de Arroyo’. This continues when Paula has children, her mother’s surname will be dropped from their surnames to become ‘López Arroyo’.
Is there an interesting story behind your surname? Let us know!
We’re now into the third week of our uTalk Challenge! Over 350 people are taking part and over 40 languages have been chosen to learn! The most popular languages are some of the most spoken ones in the world like Polish, Spanish and Japanese.
Interestingly, we also have some endangered languages chosen. UNESCO publishes a list of the languages that are classed as endangered; there are five different levels, from Vulnerable (most children speak the language but only in restricted places) to Extinct (no one speaks the language anymore). Some of these surprised as me as Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish are all on the UNESCO list. Hawaiian is on the list as ‘critically endangered’, which is one level away from being extinct, due to the speakers of the language being the oldest generation of the family.
When it comes to our uTalk Challenge here are the four of the endangered languages that have been chosen:
There are around 660,000 speakers left of this language and although spoken in Europe it’s not classed as the Indo-European family of languages, potentially due to it being totally unique, with no similarities to any other languages. There are many theories on where the Basque language comes from, but none of these have conclusive evidence. One of our uTalk Challengers, Patricia, is learning Basque and quickly selected ‘garagardoa’ as her favourite word for beer in any language! Find out why in her video.
It is quite clear that Scottish Gaelic is spoken in some parts of Scotland, mainly in the Western Isles. It is one of the three languages in Scotland, with English and Scots also being spoken. Scots is also classed as an Endangered language, but on a lower level than Scottish Gaelic. There are around 60,000 people who speak Scottish Gaelic still. However, across many Scottish schools the introduction of Scottish Gaelic began in the 1980s, with it now being taught across primary and middle schools.
Welsh is Britain’s oldest language, dating back to around 4,000 years ago. Today there are 750,000 speakers; this is around 20% of the Welsh population. Welsh is most popular in the west of the country; however, there is evidence that more schools in Wales are now teaching the language. Within Wales there are two main dialects, North and South Walian. It is hard to establish where these two dialects cross over, as they both have different accents, vocabulary and grammar points. Liz and Nat from the EuroTalk office are learning Welsh for the challenge (in fact Nat’s already completed the app because she’s much better at languages than the rest of us!).
This is one of the six main languages in Senegal. Originally written with an Arabic alphabet, it was then standardised using the Latin alphabet. A lot of Wolof speakers use French loan words when speaking the language, which could be one of the reasons Wolof has become an endangered language. In certain urban areas of Senegal people use a mix of Arabic, French and Wolof but in Gambia they use English words as loan words instead.
Do you speak any endangered languages? Please let us know on Twitter or our Facebook page. Or if you’d like to learn an endangered language, you can find all of the above and more in our uTalk app.
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.
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.
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!
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.