Katherine is one of our uTalk Challenge participants; she chose to learn Maltese in preparation for her holiday in the sunshine! Here she shares a few of her language adventures, and explains why she found knowing a little bit of the local lingo made the trip even more enjoyable.
Learning Maltese probably counts as one of the more pointless things you could do in life, as it is only spoken in two small islands, where everybody speaks very good English. But being in the position of having a week’s holiday booked in Malta for the last week of January, it seemed like the perfect thing to do for January’s uTalk challenge; after all, it is a language, and a very interesting-sounding one at that – it appears to be a mixture of Italian, English and Arabic. And what a great place to visit in January too, with the sun shining and temperatures in the high teens.
So here I am with my “gelat” (ice cream) in front of Mgarr in Gozo (the harbour where the little ferry arrives from Malta, just a couple of miles away), with some people talking on a “dghajsa” (boat) behind me, and the “xemx” (sun) shining brightly. And then with my husband at the “Tieqa Zerqa” (the Azure Window), which is one of the features shown in the final uTalk topic about the country. That section is great when you actually get to the country, as you can recognise places and know how they should be pronounced. In fact, having got the gist of how the combinations of letters are pronounced, it was great fun to be able to say the place names and street names and even read some notices, picking out the odd word or two.
It was on our outing to Gozo that I had my highlight of the week, language-wise. I was able to order some coffees, one black and one with milk and some local snacks (also featured in the Malta topic, so I knew they were the local delicacy)! I also asked for the bill and said goodbye etc; this all delighted the elderly lady serving us, in fact maybe we made her day! Not quite such success later that same day, when I came to use the phrase top of any uTalker’s list – “Zewg birer, jekk joghgbok” (2 beers please). I thought I had said it wrong, but it turned out the waiter was from Serbia!
So, even though it was not at all necessary to learn Maltese to visit Malta, it definitely enhanced my holiday to be able to do so a little bit. And what’s more, even though I suspected I had been learning the words and phrases just to amass the points and they wouldn’t stick, I found that they kept popping into my mind, so in fact they had stuck!
A great challenge, and I’m looking forward to next month’s new language!
In the spirit of ‘Linguists Anonymous’, I am Felicity Jones, 45, and I am mildly addicted to learning other languages. I speak French, German, Spanish, Italian and some Mandarin. I have used uTalk to learn some Danish, and my January challenge is Greek.
Even as a child I would listen under the bed cover to a transistor radio beaming in words I could not understand from across Europe when I was meant to be asleep, and tried to make sense of the country names on foreign stamps. I then had the deeply unusual benefit of inspirational language teachers at school. Now, I travel a lot for my work and for fun, and as I always need to know how to say I am vegetarian – in Korean gogi bego is the most effective way to be clear about that – I have an excuse to learn at least a few words. Being able to say ‘thank you’ or ‘good morning’ makes travelling much more human.
What would I say to someone thinking about learning another language? Stop thinking about it and get going! The longer you think about it, the bigger the mountain seems. And don’t be afraid to communicate right from the off, even if you can only say hello or thank you – that’s why I love uTalk as it’s not just flat lists of words; you have to think, hear, speak even with your first words. And the Recall is an evil but effective section, the most like real life you can get to by yourself.
The most inspiring approach I have ever seen is Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis. He uses ‘language hacks’ to accelerate confidence to SPEAK, an approach which transformed him from someone who thought they could not learn languages after school to fluency in seven languages and dabbling in more. Think like a child, open your ears, let yourself sound silly when you shape your mouth to make an unfamiliar sounds, ask someone how you say something in their language. Listen to the radio, read a children’s book, look at the signs in the airport and in shops, skype with native speakers and exchange your skills, go to a bar. Above all, speaking another language is only ever about connecting with someone else, with a different culture, a different way of being, however fleetingly and enjoying it. And if you have any doubt, apparently language learning stimulates the same part of the brain as other pleasurable activity!
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.
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:
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.)
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.
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!
This year in November I went for my first trip in the USA. I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in sunny Florida and it was wonderful! But the story I want to share with you starts earlier than that, on our way. After a 10 hour long flight spiced with excitement, plans and anticipation we landed at Miami Airport. We went through a few security checks and at the last one, there was a nice man who greeted me in good Romanian after checking my passport. When I asked how it is that he knows Romanian, he said he visited our country not too long ago and he made great friends and saw beautiful places.
The stress of the airport was immediately relieved when I heard the Romanian words, and even more because they came from a native English speaker, who learned a few expressions in a language that he probably won’t have much use for except delighting Romanian citizens with “Bună ziua” and “Ce mai faci?”
Once we settled into our flat, we went for a walk to discover the city. My boyfriend is a native Spanish speaker and we always comment when we hear someone speaking Spanish on the street here in London, so when the situation occurred we did the same. Then another time. And another time. It’s pretty accurate to say that we heard more Spanish than English in Miami.
I was surprised when I was addressed questions in Spanish from a shop keeper when I wanted to pay for the shopping – I understood from some of the words and gestures that she was asking me if I needed a bag so I proudly replied, “No, gracias!” I immediately got an adrenaline rush from this first time speaking Spanish with a stranger – amazing! It was probably an ordinary conversation for her, but for me it felt like a very important step in my language learning.
We drove further north to Orlando where we noticed that Spanish wasn’t as popular, but you’d still hear it here and there. If you are passionate about languages, I strongly recommend Walt Disney World’s Epcot park – around a big beautiful lake there are many different “countries” with specific food and people that speak local languages, as well as buildings and shops decorated by the specific styles. We went for a Mexican lunch in a Maya pyramid and we got nachos on the house, which was pretty great.
One of the reasons travelling is so amazing is that you find yourself in many different situations and you just have to play it by ear and that’s really fun and exciting. Next time you travel, give our uTalk app a try and you’ll be able to chat with locals as well. Maybe even get free nachos, who knows?
Travel around the UK a bit and you’ll find that tea is not just known as ‘tea’: so ubiquitous is it that there are plenty of regional and affectionate names for our favourite drink. A cuppa, a brew, a cup of char, a Rosy Lee (Cockney rhyming slang), a builder’s will all get you the same thing: a nice cup of steaming hot, milky tea. Lovely!
Tea is so important to us that it’s even filtered into our everyday language and is integral to some of our common idioms. Here are a few examples:
Not for all the tea in China!
You want me to do what?? Not for all the tea in China! Essentially meaning that you wouldn’t do something, no matter how good the reward.
It’s not my cup of tea.
Are you enjoying this programme? Not really- it’s not my cup of tea. Very simply, if something’s not your cup of tea, you don’t like it.
As useful as a chocolate teapot.
Fairly self-explanatory: not useful in the slightest.
Tea and sympathy
If someone’s upset, you might give them tea and sympathy (a nice strong cup of hot tea offering, of course, immeasurable comfort).
Oy! That tea leaf’s ‘alf-inched me wallet! In Cockney rhyming slang, a tea leaf is a thief! (And, in case you’re wondering, to half inch is to pinch.)
Can you think of anymore tea idioms? Lets us know on Twitter or Facebook.