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.
So, we’re a week into the uTalk Challenge… Thank you to everyone who’s thrown themselves so enthusiastically into learning a new language this month – we’ve been really impressed with your commitment and fantastic scores.
You may remember that we EuroTalkers are also joining in, learning a variety of languages for lots of different reasons. And because we’re a competitive bunch, we’ve set up a scoreboard in the office – right now, Liz and Nat (both learning Welsh) are in the lead, but that could all change over the weekend…
Each week, we’ll be sharing a video update in which a few of us will share what we’ve been learning. For week 1, we’ve got Safia (learning Mandarin Chinese), Ioana (learning Argentinian Spanish) and Liz (learning Welsh). How did we do?
If you’d like to share your own progress, please drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or – even better – send us your own video, like this brilliant one from Patricia!
Good luck, enjoy and have a great weekend 🙂
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.
Everyone was blown away the other day when Liam Dutton managed to effortlessly pronounce the longest ever Welsh place name on live TV: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Anything he can do…
I don’t know about you, but here at the EuroTalk office we enjoy a healthy challenge, and this looked like just the sort of thing to get our teeth into! For all those of you who’ve seen our video… Okay, maybe it didn’t go exactly according to plan, and didn’t sound entirely as fluent as Liam Dutton’s version, not to mention that our varying collections of vaguely Welsh-sounding syllables probably didn’t mean anything at all in Welsh, let alone bore a resemblance to the actual meaning of the word, which is (take a breath): ‘Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave’.
Still, practice makes perfect, and this was just our first time. If anyone would like to try to do it better than us (which is probably not too much to ask), why not enter out competition to win a FREE Premium Welsh uTalk app. We’ll be picking the winner based on the creativity of the video, and your attempt to pronounce the word. To enter, tweet us @EuroTalk, post it on our Facebook page or email it to email@example.com by Friday 25th September.
So how should we have pronounced it?
To make it slightly easier, here’s a few pointers we used as to how to pronounce it:
1. It helps to break the word down into bite-sized chunks: Llan – fair – pwll – gwyn – gyll – go – ger – ych – wyrn – drob – wll – llan – ty – silio – go – go – goch
2. Some of the letters have different pronunciation in Welsh to how you would say them in English. For example:
- the ‘f’ in ‘fair’ is pronounced more like a ‘v’, to make ‘vire’
- the ‘y’ in ‘gwyn’ i pronounced more like an ‘i’, to make ‘gwin’
- the ‘w’ in ‘pwll’ is more of an ‘oo’, to make ‘pooll’ AND
- the ‘ll’ in ‘pwll’ is more of an aspirated l (keep the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth as you say ‘l’, then blow the air over the top and sides of your tongue)
- the ‘ch’ in ‘goch’ is the same as in the Scottish ‘loch’
Taking that all into account, you end up with something which to English speakers looks a bit more like this:
Chlan- vire- puchl- gwin- guchl- go- ger- uch- wirn- drob- uchl- chlan- ti- silio- go- go -goch
So now that you know it, why not have a go at recording it yourself?
No matter what language you’re learning, at some point you’ll probably come across idioms. These phrases, on the surface, seem to mean very little and yet, to native speakers, they roll easily off the tongue without a moment’s thought. In a recent post, we covered Chinese chengyu, idiomatic expressions that each have their own fascinating story. And English is full of strange idioms – ‘to have a chip on your shoulder’, for instance, or ‘to pull someone’s leg’. Very confusing if you’re not very familiar with the language.
Idioms are a tricky part of the language learning process, but well worth it if you can get a few under your belt… 😉 Being able to drop a few colloquial expressions into your speech in the right context will not only boost your confidence, but it’ll also impress whoever you’re talking to!
So here are just a few of our favourite idioms from around the world:
Aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen (German)
Literally: To make a mosquito out of an elephant
Meaning: To make a fuss out of nothing
Literally: The turtle is shrouded
Meaning: It’s foggy
猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru) (Japanese)
Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees
Meaning: Even experts get it wrong
Ar gefn ei geffyl gwyn (Welsh)
Literally: On the back of his white horse
Meaning: Full of mischief
Hak mir nisht kin chaynik (Yiddish)
Literally: Don’t chop my teakettle
Meaning: Stop annoying me
Literally: Dogs don’t breed cats
Meaning: Like father, like son
Literally: To put up a beer tent
Meaning: To get married
Aquí hay gato encerrado (Spanish)
Literally: there’s a trapped cat here
Meaning: there’s something odd going on
бурхан оршоо бутын чинээ сахал урга (Burkhan orshoo butin chinee sakhal urga) (Mongolian)
Literally: God bless you and may your moustache grow like brushwood
Meaning: Bless you (when someone sneezes)
Avere gli occhi foderati di prociutto (Italian)
Literally: To have one’s eyes lined with ham
Meaning: To be unable to see something that’s plainly obvious
Have you discovered any fun idioms in the language you’re learning? Let us know in the comments!