‘Two beers, please’ is perhaps one of the most useful phrases you can learn at the start of your language-learning journey (and, incidentally, one of the first items you learn with uTalk Essentials). You’ve made it to the country, you’ve struggled with buses from the airport and fought with taxi drivers over the fare. Now you’ve dumped your luggage and definitely deserve a nice, cool, refreshing beer, so into the pub you go.
There’s just one problem.
If you go into a pub in the UK and ask for a beer, there will be a follow-up question: Is that ale or lager?
The correct answer, by the way, is always ale. Ale, ale, ale, especially if you want to discover a little bit of Northern European culture. We do have lagers here too, of course, but ale is the more traditional drink, available in an enormous range of tastes and colours, served in short, squat pints (or tankards, if you’re lucky), as opposed to the tall spindly glasses that lager generally comes in.
But what is the difference, and why do you need to know about it?
Well, they’re two very different drinks. Very different! Lager is fizzy, cold and has a light flavour, whereas ale is flat and heavy (in fact, in Aberdeenshire, instead of ordering a pint of ale you order a pint of ‘heavy’) and definitely not as cold as lager. Ale drinkers rarely switch to lager and vice versa.
Why choose ale?
The great thing about ale is that there are thousands and thousands of different types, and any good pub will have at least four different ones on tap at any time (if they have fewer than that, just walk out and go somewhere else). You can usually ask to try one before committing to a full pint, as tastes can vary rather wildly in ale, from super-hoppy bitter numbers (again, ‘a pint of bitter’ will get you a pint of ale, if you want to experiment with English colloquialisms), to sweet, chocolatey types and light, refreshing ‘session’ ales. Depending on the region (and Kent, Norfolk and Cornwall are but three UK regions with a strong ale tradition), you might start to spot certain recognisable tendencies, or again you might find a brewery you like and be forever wedded to their creations. For me, anything by Skinners or Sharp’s wins hands-down over anything else on offer.
Still confused? We found this handy infographic by popchartlab that breaks it all down…
Got any thoughts on the different types of beer available in different countries? Do you have a preference for ale or lager? Let us know!
Learning a language is one thing… but what happens when that language changes depending where in the country you happen to be standing? That’s the subject of today’s blog post from Kelly – if you’ve encountered any of these regional confusions, we’d love to hear about them!
When is a roll a cake?
Before you break out your finest John Shuttleworth impression in fear of pudding before main, there is actually a very good answer to this.
Because unless you’ve never ventured further than your local shops and the thought of travelling to the next borough, town or neighbourhood fills you with a sense of dread, you’ve probably noticed that local words for things vary.
We don’t necessarily mean profound things like finding yourself receiving a chocolate biscuit when you asked for a custard cream (no complaint there really but still, confusing), but honestly, there is a minefield of potential outrage and disappointment out there if you’re not sure what you’re asking for.
Be careful where you ask for a ride, for example.
Back to our conundrum.
Escaping the Smoke
When I left that there London many years ago from the pigeon-infested Victoria Coach Station on a one-way journey to Yorkshire, I’m pretty sure in my possession was a copy of Kerrang, a selection of confectionary, and a bread roll containing cheese and pickle.
Somewhere along the M1 that innocent-sounding sandwich was eaten, but had it remained intact, a magical thing would have happened to it. For on the journey North, it would have transformed from a roll, to a batch, to a cob, perhaps to a scuffler (I forget the exact National Express route…) before finally settling on being a breadcake.
In Britain, even wheat-based products have identity crises.
How do you say…
English is a diverse language for both native and non-native speakers alike, but think how much more embarrassing it is for a native speaker not being able to order something in their own country in their own tongue. We normally reserve such ridicule for when we travel abroad unprepared, in the arrogant but not-so-naive knowledge that English is spoken everywhere. But on our own doorstep, a quick weekend away can mean an unwanted education in local colloquial vocabulary.
Perhaps it would be easier to stick to the tourist move of pointing at the menu and blinking mutely.
Another area of confusion could be the names for mealtimes. There is a fond memory of a misunderstanding over tea and dinner time. An offer of tea to a friend was met with an expectation of milk, sugar, and possibly biscuits, but when the option presented was tuna and sweetcorn, it was rapidly declined. With a horrified expression that said, ‘who are you people? What are you doing to the sanctity of the cup of tea???’, a friendship was on the brink. Because breakfast, lunch and dinner can also be breakfast, dinner and tea, depending where you are in our humble isle. (The tuna and sweetcorn was for a jacket potato, in case you were wondering).
And another thing…!
While we’re on our home-away-from-home soapbox, can we take this opportunity to complain about the options available for a ‘pattie’ in your local fish and chip shop? Because again, depending on where you go, this could be fish, potato, fish and potato, potato in a mixture resembling bubble and squeak… There are probably more variations too, and one place we really don’t want to be confused is our chippy. Next you’ll be debating if the perfect side is mushy peas, curry sauce or gravy, and it’s all too delicate a subject for us to deal with without serious, in depth thought. To quote Hot Pie, “you cannot give up on the gravy.”
See? Now look what’s happened. We’re hungry and we want pie. But when is a pie not a pie?
That’s it. Time for a pub lunch.
Back in March, over 1,100 primary school children from around the UK joined our annual competition, the Junior Language Challenge, learning Italian online. Over the next three months, they scored points in the language games, and then in June the top scorers from each region of the country progressed to the second round.
Not wanting to make it too easy, for their next challenge we asked them to learn the notoriously tricky language of Japanese. Impossible, you might say – how can you expect children under 11 to learn such a difficult language?
As we discovered this week, it’s not impossible at all. Over the last ten days, we’ve been travelling around the country for the regional semi-finals, and have been seriously impressed with what we’ve seen. All the children had clearly worked really hard, and we had several very tense contests in the race to grab a place in the final. There were some familiar faces, and some first-time competitors, and everyone gave it their all. So on behalf of EuroTalk, thank you to all the teachers, parents and most importantly, the children for joining in so enthusiastically.
The competition also raised nearly £6,000 for a brilliant organisation called onebillion, who create apps to teach children in developing countries basic maths and reading, giving them valuable learning opportunities that we often take for granted here in the UK. onebillion were recently featured by BBC Click, and their report gives you a taster of the fantastic work they’re doing in Malawi.
But what about our finalists? They’re not finished yet. For their third and final language, they’ll be learning the African language of Somali, ready for the grand final in London next month, where they’ll compete for the title of Junior Language Challenge Champion 2014, and a family holiday to Africa.
We hope that everyone who’s taken part in the JLC this year, whether you’re continuing on to the final or not, really enjoyed it. Now you know that you can learn any language, even difficult ones, the sky’s the limit!
And to our finalists… see you next month 🙂
A quick quiz question for you: what language is spoken in France?
Like many other European countries, the French once spoke a wide range of regional languages and dialects. However, during the Third Republic, the French government made French the only official language, and outlawed use of regional languages such as Breton and Occitan in schools and institutions. The underlying idea of creating national and linguistic unity may have been well-intentioned, but as a result, most of these regional languages are now endangered.
Nowadays, Occitan is spoken by around 1.33% of the population (in the Occitania region in Southern France), whilst Breton is spoken in Brittany by around 0.61% of the population. These languages are recognised by the government, but not considered official languages, and therefore given minimal support and opportunity for use.
The situation is a little more encouraging in Spain, where Basque, Catalan, Valencian and Galician are recognised as co-official regional languages, and a thriving community of native speakers exists in each of these regions.
This rather cool map shows how the areas over which each of these languages is/was spoken has changed over the last 1,000 years.
Over time, due to globalisation, mass media and government drives for national unity, the national languages in Spain, France and many other countries have established dominance and pushed smaller regional languages onto the sidelines. However, there are still communities of native speakers of each of these languages, and many people are passionate about passing on the language and culture of their region to the next generation.
Regional languages are often closely tied to the culture and identity of a region: the Catalonians I know are proud Catalan speakers, and often much of an area’s history, literature, music and so on is written in the regional language. These languages may be small, but they are certainly worth learning and preserving!
In fact, we have produced our Maths, age 3-5 and 4-6 apps in both Basque and Catalan, and uTalk is currently available in Galician, Basque and Catalan. And for anyone interested in regional French languages, why not learn a few phrases for free in Occitan, Breton, Alsatian or Provencal?