Chatterbug is a new way to help you master language skills through adaptive courses that respond to the way you learn, and one-on-one video sessions with native speakers from around the world. Sun, 16 Dec 2018 16:12:08 +0000 Sun, 16 Dec 2018 16:12:08 +0000 Jekyll v3.5.2 10 Funny Spanish Expressions You Should Know <p>When you think about them, expressions and idioms in any language are often funny and sometimes bizarre, but in your own language, you’ll be used to them and probably not give them much thought. In foreign languages, however, it can be great fun to know what day to day expressions mean and it is also a great way to remember them. Literally translating sentences often produces hilarious (if sometimes slightly confusing) results, and the Spanish language can be a very colourful one.</p> <p>Here are some examples of some funny Spanish expressions for you to drop into conversations to impress the natives with how savvy you are or at least probably make them smile!</p> <h2 id="ponte-las-pilas">Ponte las pilas</h2> <p>Red bull gives you wings, or so the ad goes. Others get their energy from lots of coffee or a morning workout. In many countries, a whole generation watched the Duracell Bunny doing it by having (allegedly) the best, most long-lasting batteries out there. Probably, but not certainly, etymologically unrelated to this is the expression that tells you to “put your batteries in” meaning you should pull your socks up and get crackin’! Maybe in a few years there will be some renewable energy option…</p> <p><img src="" alt="Pilas puestas" /></p> <h2 id="por-si-las-moscas">Por si las moscas</h2> <p>What can be more random than the flight path of a fly? Well, for those of you that are as well prepared as a boy scout with their Swiss army knife and all the badges you can think of, this is an expression you can use to say “just in case”.</p> <p>“Why have you got that (insert possibly bizarre and unexpected piece of gear and/or contingency plan)?”</p> <p>“¡Por si las moscas!”</p> <p><img src="" alt="Por si las moscas" /></p> <h2 id="buena-onda">Buena onda</h2> <p>Think chillaxing, hammocks, the beach and some soft reggae music in the background. Maybe sipping a caipirinha, or whatever rocks your boat. Imagine it. How do you feel? Not bad, eh? <em>Buena onda</em> is an expression that is used in Latin America to convey this warm feeling that you can have or this cool, warm, hippiesque vibe that some people give off. Head down to the beach and catch some waves! Or just relax by a pool. Good vibes, brah…</p> <p><img src="" alt="Llama-buena-onda" /></p> <h2 id="ahogarse-en-un-vaso-de-agua">Ahogarse en un vaso de agua</h2> <p>Whereas English speaking people can sometimes make mountains out of molehills, Spanish speakers are more dramatic. When they make a big deal and work up a fuss about a problem that most people would find a bit ridiculous, they get treated accordingly! The funny Spanish expression in this case illustrates this very well - <em>ahogarse en un vaso de agua</em> - to drown in a glass of water! Even worse than drowning in the bathtub - on a cruise.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Ahogarse en un vaso de agua" /></p> <h2 id="tomar-el-pelo">Tomar el pelo</h2> <p>You might do it in a playful way, or you might do it in a more serious way. If you “take someone’s hair”, you might pull their leg a bit, as it were, or you might be taking them for a ride. What’s certain is that you are deceiving them in some way or at least making fun of them, not shaving their head! Or you might go to the hairdresser’s and get charged a lot of money for a not-so-flattering haircut!</p> <p><img src="" alt="Tomar el pelo" /></p> <h2 id="ser-un-hueso-duro-de-roer">Ser un hueso duro de roer</h2> <p>Picture this nightmare scenario. You are a dog, and you’ve got a fairly delicious bit of bone in front of you. Ok, a steak would be better but a bone isn’t bad! But there’s something a bit strange about this bone that makes it difficult for you to gnaw on! Maybe it’s too big, maybe it’s too hard. In any case, you ain’t gettin’ any! This expression is kind of similar to being a “tough cookie” in English but it can used to refer to anything that is tough. Could be a person, could be a subject at school, could be a problem that you are trying to tackle.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Como una cabra" /></p> <h2 id="tener-mala-leche">Tener mala leche</h2> <p>This is a very popular Spanish expression that can actually mean a variety of things depending on when and where it is used. It can be used to talk about someone that is bad tempered, or someone that is unlucky (which might lead to them being bad tempered!). It can also mean to be mean! If you ever see or hear this being used, pay close attention to the context to get an accurate impression of what is being talked about and whether it is a temporary or permanent state of affairs. One thing should be clear though: having bad milk can’t be a good thing!</p> <p><img src="" alt="Mala leche" /></p> <h2 id="a-otro-perro-con-ese-hueso">A otro perro con ese hueso</h2> <p>Another dog-themed expression for the animal lovers out there, this one shows a huge amount of disdain for someone when you simply don’t believe what they are saying. The expression literally translates to “give that bone to another dog” and reeks of contempt. Imagine if a dog could talk and said such a thing to you. How would that make you feel?</p> <p><img src="" alt="A otro perro con ese hueso" /></p> <h2 id="estar-como-una-cabra">Estar como una cabra</h2> <p>Spanish speaking people seem to think that goats are barmy for some reason. They’ll eat almost anything and prance around, sometimes on sheer cliff faces… maybe they’ve got a point!</p> <p>“To be like a goat” is equivalent to the English <em>mad as a hatter</em>, which could lead to the question as to why hatters are meant to be mad…But that would be another story.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Como una cabra" /></p> <h2 id="ojos-que-no-ven-corazón-que-no-siente">Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente</h2> <p>With the permission of French, and possibly Italian, Spanish is arguably the language of love and passion. It’s no surprise then, that there are many funny Spanish expressions that have to do with love and various sorts of heartache. <em>Ojos que no ven corazón que no siente</em> is an appeal to the healing powers of time and distance when a relationship has gone sour or when it is not to be. It is also an ode to turning a blind eye to something for the sake of love and a way of saying that in some cases it is simply better to not know certain things.</p> <p>As a bonus, its more optimistic counterpart <em>el roce hace el cariño</em>, loosely translates as “rubbing brings fondness” which is kind of like saying that close contact breeds affection.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Ojos que no ven.." /></p> <p>We quite enjoy having a bit of a giggle playing with words here at Chatterbug HQ, and we collect them on our <a href="" target="_blank">Instagram</a> page so that you can enjoy them as well!</p> <p>Whereas <a href="">funny German words</a> and expressions are often quite (somehow) logical in the way that they are built, Spanish ones can be a little more random, at least at first glance, but no less fun. Go on, give them a try!</p> Thu, 13 Dec 2018 13:00:00 +0000 language-fun Language Learning in 2030. Game Over for Humans? <p>My name is Inda. I’m a language educator and a passionate language learner. I have been learning languages since… well I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t learning a language. I have taught German, English, and Spanish as foreign languages in traditional schools, language schools, and online schools and I have seen, again and again, the problem of trying to artificially constrain the pace of an entire group. A little over 2 years ago, because of a student, I entered a field I would never have considered as a trained teacher: software development. I now work for a language learning platform called Chatterbug, based in Berlin and San Francisco.</p> <p>At Chatterbug, I lead our curriculum team, made up of linguists and educators, and work in close collaboration with our engineering team. Working in this melting pot of linguists, coders and teachers is a fantastic experience, because what we usually discover in those meetings is that our engineers don’t know what tools we need to teach better, and our curriculum team doesn’t yet know what tools are even possible to make our job easier. Remember when Henry Ford said: if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses”. So me and my team were always telling our engineers “gives us faster horses”, and they were like “well, there is other thing we could try, it is called a car…” So we came up with this system of making feature requests: we as educators describe our problem, and what we want to achieve in pedagogical terms, and they are able to design a tool that solves our problem. I am going to tell you about what I have learned about the potential of technology in education while working at Chatterbug.</p> <p>Let me start by asking you a question:</p> <p>How much of what you learned for school tests can you still remember?</p> <h2 id="the-status-quo">The Status Quo</h2> <p>The school systems most of us grew up with group students together, usually by age, sometimes by ability, and the aim of the teacher is to maintain the same pace for the whole group. So what usually happens in language classrooms is that the teacher gives a lecture, we practice, we go home and we do some homework. The next class, we do more of the same. After a few weeks, we write a test. But what is the grade for? What are we testing? Is it a matter of who the better student is? Is it to motivate students? Are tests supposed to be the students’ objectives?</p> <p><img src="" alt="First German lesson" /></p> <p>This is what really happens: on a test, maybe I get 75 percent, maybe you get 90 percent, and someone else gets 95 percent. Even though the test identified gaps in our knowledge - I didn’t know 25 percent of the material - the whole class will then move on to the next, more advanced topic that’s going to build on those gaps. Curriculum developers plan their curriculum assuming students will have mastered the material before they move on. No wonder studies confirm that students who struggle with something now will typically continue to struggle with related topics in the future!</p> <p>Sam Khan, creator of Khan Academy (a platform that provides free educational content) has this great analogy, which shows just how absurd this is. Imagine if we did other things in our life the way we teach now in schools.</p> <p>Take building a home for example. Imagine we bring in the contractor and say:</p> <p>“We have two weeks to build the foundations of the house. Do your best”.</p> <p>So they do what they can. Maybe it rains. Maybe some of the supplies don’t show up. And two weeks later, the inspector comes, looks around, and the conversation goes something like this:</p> <p>“OK, the concrete is still wet right over there, that part is not quite up to code… I’ll give it 80 percent.”</p> <p>“Great! That’s a C. Let’s build that first floor!”</p> <p>Same thing happens for the first floor too. Two weeks for the contractors to do what they can. The inspector then shows up and gives it 75 percent. Good job. Keep going and do the second and third floors and all of a sudden, while working on the third floor, the whole structure collapses.</p> <p>Going back to education, people might say it was a bad contractor, or maybe we needed better or more frequent inspections?</p> <h3 id="the-problem-with-tests">The Problem With Tests</h3> <p>I think standardized tests have a place. The problem with tests in education is that instead of being there to measure objectives and meet educational standards, they are used as a tool to accomplish learning. And scores or grades are punishments or rewards. Mistakes are never framed as missing pieces on the way to mastery, but rather as a failure. Tests with poor design strategies aren’t even good at reflecting competences. Can we really assume that students who score high in math are good at processing information and reasoning abstractly? According to <a href="" target="_blank">research</a>, high standardized scores have little correlation with memory, attention and processing speed. High test scores often simply mean a student excels memorization and multiple choice test taking.</p> <p>So what’s the alternative? For most of my career, I’ve been trying to find an alternative.</p> <h2 id="the-future-of-language-education">The Future of Language Education</h2> <p>Before I tell you more about Chatterbug, I would like to come to my actual question.</p> <p>‘Language teaching in 2030: Is it going to be game over for humans?’.</p> <p>I think this is an important question to ask because there’s never been more potential and opportunity than now to be innovating in language learning, and to be thinking about which parts of the current classroom model will survive, and which will fade into history over the next decade. In large part, this is due to the ten years of non-stop science-fiction-come-true we’ve enjoyed, from AI in Silicon Valley that can beat the best human players of Go! all the way to <a href="">AI news anchors</a> that are hard to tell apart from real people.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Xinhua&#39;s first English <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AI</a> anchor makes debut at the World Internet Conference that opens in Wuzhen, China Wednesday <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; China Xinhua News (@XHNews) <a href="">November 7, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Arthur Clark, a British sci-fi writer once said <em>“Any teacher who can be replaced by a machine should be.”</em> Seeing the video above, you start questioning the position of the teacher altogether. This observation continues to be much-repeated, especially in debates concerning the ongoing digitization of education. But what human beings are really good at - as opposed to machines - is creating social connections, thinking critically, bonding, feeling empathy, communicating. Unfortunately, teachers can’t make good use of this because they are too busy handing out and correcting tests, too busy delivering information in front of the classroom, too busy trying to constrain the pace of each student to match the group.</p> <h3 id="evolving-content-delivery-channels">Evolving Content Delivery Channels</h3> <p>It’s just a matter of time until lectures delivered in person are replaced by videos. It seems unlikely, given the benefits of videos (such as transcriptions, and the ability to replay, rewind and pause), that teachers standing at the front of a classroom will be the preferred mode of delivering content even 10 years from now. You already see this transition taking place with the rising popularity of video-only online educational platforms such as <a href="" target="_blank">Khan Academy</a> or <a href="" target="_blank">Udemy</a> and the popularity of video-recorded courses from traditional universities, such as <a href="" target="_blank">Stanford</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Cambridge</a>.</p> <p>Vocabulary tests, long considered a staple of every language class, are being taken over by software. Instead of identical tests for everybody, these applications are already able to make predictions about when a student is going to forget a word, and optimize their revision schedule for each individual based on past performance.</p> <p>Most importantly, I would argue that we can reduce teachers’ workload if we understand that they can no longer be in control of the student’s learning journey now that information is at everyone’s fingertips. Instead, we need intelligent systems to adapt and personalize the journey according to the student’s needs, pace and overall goals and interests.</p> <h3 id="separating-the-wheat-from-the-chaff">Separating the Wheat From the Chaff</h3> <p>Research skills are now more important than ever. This makes me wonder why our academic systems keep delivering so much information in the era of Google, YouTube and Wikipedia, instead of teaching our students to distinguish reliable sources from unreliable ones, instead of teaching them how to research, innovate, and creatively approach problem-solving tasks?</p> <p>Internet services and artificial intelligence are creating a wealth of opportunities resulting in personalized learning no longer being a utopian concept because the ingredients to do it well are increasingly readily available to us all. This is the reason I’m so excited to be working in this space at this moment in time.</p> <h2 id="learning-from-the-past">Learning From the Past</h2> <p>I would now like to revisit the educational philosophy that was proposed back in the late 1960s by Benjamin Bloom: <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Mastery Learning</em></a>. The idea of learning to mastery is to make sure students reach a high level of understanding and are able to apply their learning in different contexts. In order to achieve this, we need to be flexible in everything except the outcome - achieving mastery. The <em>when</em> and <em>how long</em> are variables that will always vary from student to student.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Mastery Venn diagram" /></p> <p>This model has been one of the most studied methods over the past 50 years. Students of science, probability, and social studies yielded especially consistent and positive results, and yet, despite the growing body of empirical evidence in its favour, many mastery programs in schools have since been replaced by more traditional forms of instruction.</p> <p>Fair enough, back in the 60s or even 15 years ago, mastery programs where every student follows their own course of learning required a high, almost unrealistic level of commitment and flexibility from the teacher to manage the classroom.</p> <p>This is where the flipped classroom method comes in. We turn classrooms into places to practice and to apply, instead of a place to attend lectures. A flipped classroom reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves hands-on activities into the classroom. And this is what inspired us at Chatterbug.</p> <h2 id="chatterbug">Chatterbug</h2> <p>At Chatterbug, the power of our product is that with a combination of engineering resources and language experts, we have managed to entirely flip the classroom. Everybody on the team is using our product, on the path to learning their second, third or in some cases, seventh language, and we are all contributing to create better tools to learn.</p> <p>And it’s quite simple.</p> <p>We are best known for our online live lessons. Students practice with a native speaker in different scenarios such as ordering food or a mock job interview. We invest a huge amount of research and development time into creating the content to guide students through these conversational lessons. This is not only because we believe that speaking is essential, but also because speaking can be the scariest aspect of a language learning journey. So we provide content to spark meaningful interactions between students and tutors and we believe our tutors form the pillar of our students’ experience, because after all, who would want to learn a language to speak with a machine?</p> <p><img src="" alt="Como te llamas" /></p> <p>The other part of the system aims to teach you vocabulary with our self-study tools. This is the outside of the classroom part of the system. We use spaced repetition to ensure you won’t forget the words you want to learn. You learn to achieve mastery, not to pass tests (in fact, we don’t do tests!) using the algorithms I mentioned before to schedule your revision plans.</p> <p>To learn grammar, we introduce the rules in simple and friendly language followed by targeted exercises. We leave it up to you if you want to read the explanation of the rule, as we know some people learn grammar best by deduction. Our grammar exercises use a system of randomized quiz questions, which intelligently adapts to student responses, so that they see a different set of questions with each attempt until they master a certain grammar topic.</p> <p>The advantage of learning in your own time is not only the increased flexibility - more aligned with our busy modern schedules - but also that it has the nice side-effect that it allows you to pick the times when you are most productive, most concentrated or most motivated to learn. I recently discovered I perform best at my French lessons in the late morning, so I try not to schedule classes in the afternoon anymore. After 6pm I’m not particularly focused and I bored my poor tutor to death.</p> <p>Choosing the right time to learn can have a great impact on your progress!</p> <p><img src="" alt="inda learns better in the morning" /> <small><em>Me and my French tutor in a morning lesson (left) and a late afternoon lesson (right).</em></small></p> <h3 id="the-chatterbug-movement">The Chatterbug Movement</h3> <p>By using Chatterbug, you are exposed to new content as you progress through our curriculum, and this happens naturally and incrementally depending on your own progress. Our curriculum follows the <a href="" target="_blank">CEFR standards</a>.</p> <p>The most important thing is that the lesson time is reserved for practicing and consolidating the material you have learned. This way, class activities are more engaging, more fun, and ultimately, more productive.</p> <p>We built Chatterbug like this because we believe this is how learning should be. We envision a system that is flexible, intelligent and entirely personalized to your learning style. But there’s still a lot of work to be done!</p> <p>I believe Chatterbug is part of a movement that aims to achieve a world where technology does what tech does best: provide flexible, intelligent, self-paced systems to challenge every student in the right time, and the right amount outside the classrooms.</p> <p>Teachers are still there, doing what they do best: having meaningful interactions with their students, providing feedback and guidance on metacognition skills (“learning to learn”), coordinating peer-tutoring and collaborative learning projects, mentoring oral language interventions, and teaching very important career skills like time management, leadership and communication skills such as assertiveness, so important in our daily work-life.</p> <p>I believe our education system should and will go in the direction of increased collaboration between education experts and technologists. It’s clear that systems built by one or the other group alone, do not provide engaging or effective solutions.</p> <p>To revolutionize education, we should increase efforts to use machines to humanize the classroom. If we manage to flip classrooms in schools, teachers will always have plenty to do. If not, their jobs will probably become more and more dispensable or what is even worse, teachers will increasingly be burdened with work that could be automated.</p> <p>I am not arguing that by incorporating a great deal of intelligent tools, education should become a mechanical system; it is about people. We can all remember a handful of teachers that inspired, mentored, stimulated, provoked or otherwise connected us with their subjects. Some of us even ended up picking careers purely because of these experiences. This is what education is about.</p> <p>Technology is here to take care of the work it can do better, and not because we want to ultimately replace teachers, as Arthur C. Clarke envisioned. Tech frees up teachers to have more of the student-teacher interactions that humans do uniquely well: the conversations that spark lifelong passions.</p> Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:00:00 +0000 chatterbug How Can You Tell You Are Fluent in a Foreign Language? <p>Some people appear to have a knack for languages, an innate ability that makes them seem like linguistic superheroes that are able to effortlessly switch back and forth from one to another without batting an eye.</p> <p>But what does it mean to be fluent in a language? Are there different degrees of fluency? As language learners, how can we tell if someone is fluent? More importantly, how can we tell when, after blood, sweat, and tears (ok, hopefully not, but after a fair amount of effort in any case) WE have reached fluency in our target language? Here, we’ll consider what language fluency means and then suggest some ways of testing out how fluent we actually are so that we know when we can say that we have conquered a language and are not merely at a false summit on our way to the top.</p> <h2 id="what-does-being-fluent-actually-mean">What does being fluent actually mean?</h2> <p>The first thing that we could ask ourselves if we are looking to answer the questions above is what we understand by “being fluent”. An almost dictionary-like definition of being fluent might be that you are fluent when your speaking ability allows you to talk freely, that you don’t have to stop and think and don’t hesitate when constructing sentences and that your speech, well, <em>flows</em>. But this is, of course, something that is completely subjective.</p> <h3 id="native-fluency">Native fluency</h3> <p>At the highest level, native fluency is considered the gold standard of fluency. But even among native speakers in any language, there are different degrees of fluency; some people just have a way with words! Some people just really like to talk a lot whereas there are people that are shy, or simply don’t quite enjoy the sound of their own voices so much as others. Are they any less fluent?</p> <p>Another factor that plays a role is what the conversation is about. If it is something specific, with specific vocabulary, even educated native speakers that are unfamiliar with it will struggle to follow what is being talked about. If you don’t think that is the case, try attending a second or third year law or even a medicine lecture at any university (except if you are a lawyer or a doctor) and see how much you understand!</p> <p>Another feature of native fluency could be that, when exhibited, the listener does not have any clues that the speaker speaks any other language except the one that they are speaking in. This refers to enunciation and intonation. Finally, being fluent and being eloquent are obviously different things. Take tongue twisters. These often senseless but fun phrases are something that a non-native speaker can potentially say even better than a native speaker. It’s just a matter of practice!</p> <p><img src="" alt="German tongue twister" /></p> <h3 id="conversational-fluency">Conversational fluency</h3> <p>The next level of fluency is often taken to be so-called conversational fluency, achieved when a speaker can hold his or her own in a conversation more or less regardless of the topic. Again, however, this is subjective.</p> <p>Much like how even native speakers might have trouble talking about things that are outside their field of expertise, so will non-native speakers when comfronted by them. On the other hand, it is also possible that a conversational non-native speaker might know more of the jargon related to certain specific things and therefore be able to talk about them at greater length than a native speaker!</p> <p>Often, however, conversational fluency achieved by non-native speakers will come with some telltale sign. An accent that can sometimes be very thick, an odd way of constructing sentences, difficulty in writing or unusual gaps in their vocabulary as a consequence of not having grown up with the language are usually what sets the two kinds apart.</p> <h2 id="communicating-and-speaking-a-language-well-are-not-the-same-thing">Communicating and speaking a language well are not the same thing</h2> <p>If you’re in Germany and you speak to the locals in something that is mostly German, but not quite, and they understand you and respond in German, and you can hold a conversation like this that goes back and forth… does that mean you’re fluent?</p> <p>Well, yes and no.</p> <p>From the definition above it is fluency, the problem is that you might not be fluent in German, but rather in Denglisch, that mishmash language that is spoken in as many ways as there are people that speak it. Other examples of mixes like this are Spanglish (English-Spanish), Portunhol (Portuguese-Spanish) and Franglais (French-English).</p> <p>All of the above sometimes do the trick in terms of communication and if they are heard by someone who does not speak the target language, they might even believe that the speaker is fluent in an actual language and not just making it up. But even if native speakers of the target language can understand you, they would usually not judge you to be fluent.</p> <h3 id="the-formal-description">The formal description</h3> <p>If you are studying a language, you might have heard of the Common European Framework of Reference for language levels (CEFR). This is replacing the old “beginner”, “intermediate” and “advanced/fluent” way of <a href="">talking about language learning</a> levels with something much more precise.</p> <p>Interestingly, it distinguishes between a conversational and a fluent levels as B2 and C1 onwards respectively with C2 being deemed to be a “near native” level. So if you are taking formal exams or learning with Chatterbug, you can probably start saying that you are fluent in a language at around about the B2 level.</p> <h2 id="signs-that-you-are-fluent">Signs that you are fluent</h2> <p>Some people don’t like exams much however. It is also sometimes the case that people study for exams, pass them, and then begin to forget what they studied, so having someone tell you that they are B2 in Spanish could mean that they can communicate fairly competently, but if they haven’t practiced in years that need not be the case.</p> <p>Languages are very much a case of “use it or lose it”!</p> <h3 id="youve-got-banter-and-people-get-your-jokes">You’ve got banter and people get your jokes</h3> <p>Two rather tough tests of fluency are humour and particularly playful humour in a group setting and banter. Again, banter and cracking jokes are not everyone’s cup of tea, but for the many that do enjoy these things, being able to do them in a foreign language and amongst a group of natives in THEIR language is a huge sign of fluency. Being able to think on your feet and be witty is often hard enough in your own language, so if you can do it in a foreign language, you can and should be proud of yourself. In fact, just being able to follow a conversation in a group of natives, particularly after they’ve had a couple of beers, is already quite a feat and a sign of fluency!</p> <p><img src="" alt="Bunny tries to tell a joke but is not understood" /></p> <h3 id="you-can-talk-about-things-youre-not-used-to-talking-about">You can talk about things you’re not used to talking about</h3> <p>It can be quite easy to look and even feel more fluent than you actually are if you are talking about topics that you know a lot about and that you are used to. Because you’re going to be saying some things over and over again (like what you do, where you’re from, a couple of anecdotes relating to your life story and how you got to where you are), people might think that you are fluent, even if you are not. If what you want is to fool people, by all means, stay within that particular comfort zone! On the other hand, if you want to really become fluent, you need to go into uncharted waters. Probe more into what THEY do. Their life stories, their field of expertise, anything that you’re not used to talking about. Not only will it help you improve your language skills, you’ll probably have more interesting conversations as well!</p> <h3 id="unhelpful-strangers-understand-you">Unhelpful strangers understand you</h3> <p>Since fluency is a matter of communication, a good way to gauge how fluent you are in a language is to talk to people you don’t know in that language and seeing if they understand you and if you understand them. The reason for this is that people get used to each other and their mannerisms, so if you have local friends that you speak Denglisch, Spanglish, Franglais or whatever with and they understand pretty much everything you say it might simply be that they are used to you. Strangers on the other hand don’t have that knowledge of you to guide them, so it’s all down to how good you are at the language.</p> <p>A great way to find out, a litmus test if you will, is any local bureaucracy. If you’re in Germany, pop into your local Finanzamt and ask them about something. If they understand you and you understand them, congratulations. You can start thinking of yourself as fluent.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Bunny enjoying views from mountain peak" /></p> <p>Conquering a language “mountain”, or even just seeing its peak after putting in some work, is not only a great feeling but also has many <a href="">benefits</a>. If you’re working on it, keep at it, it’s worth it! If you haven’t begun yet don’t worry; it’s never too late! You can start by looking at our free <a href="">German</a> or <a href="">Spanish</a> materials (French coming soon!). What are you waiting for? Enjoy the climb - and the views at the top.</p> Mon, 03 Dec 2018 10:00:00 +0000 language-fun Listening to Podcasts to Learn Spanish <p>Podcasts have come a long way since the term was coined in 2004 by joining up the words “iPod” and “broadcast”. Besides listening to them on your iPod or mp3 player, you can now download or stream them on your computer, tablet and phone, and, in fact, not that many people download them onto iPods or other mp3 players anymore!</p> <p>They are usually available straight from their home pages or the home pages of the organisations that produce them. If you have a Mac, iPad, iPhone or iPod, you can also get them from iTunes or on a range of apps such as <a href="" target="_blank">Castbox</a> or <a href="" target="_blank">Radiopublic</a> that are also available if you have an Android phone or tablet or you are listening straight from your PC. <a href="" target="_blank">Spotify</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Audible</a> have also offered some podcasts for a while now.</p> <p>Besides keeping up with the latest on just about anything or simply as entertainment, podcasts are also a fantastic tool for learning languages, including Spanish, because of the great deal of choice available for all levels. But it is precisely this abundance that can make it hard to know which ones to listen to. To save you some of the trial and error involved when looking for one that matches your level and interests, here’s a selection of podcasts to help you learn Spanish that we’ve listened to here at Chatterbug.</p> <h2 id="coffee-break-spanish"><a href="" target="_blank">Coffee Break Spanish</a></h2> <p>An oldie but goodie, first airing in 2008 (10 years ago!), Coffee Break Spanish is part of the Radiolingua language learning courses. Their free versions are almost complete standalone courses, with extra premium features that you can subscribe to if you choose to do so, and a great complement to any Spanish course.</p> <p>Listen in on a mellow Scottish language teacher, Mark, guiding student Kara on her language learning journey for the first season and just chatting with Carmen in more advanced seasons. Coffee Break Spanish is great for learning and getting used to standard Spanish as it is spoken in Spain, with bitesize episodes that last for 10 to 15 minutes. Coffee break Spanish is present cross platform on just about all of the apps where podcasts can be found. They also have some visual content on Youtube if that’s more to your liking!</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <h2 id="learn-spanish-in-your--car"><a href="" target="_blank">Learn Spanish in Your Car</a></h2> <p>Staying with a “classic”, this time focusing more on a generic Latin American Spanish, this course does exactly what it says on the tin, and is designed to take you from beginner to intermediate without the need of a textbook or other materials while you drive to and from work or school on your daily commute. You could, of course also try listening to it elsewhere, but the method is based on getting you to do a lot of repetition out loud, making it ideal if you are driving on your own.</p> <p>The 163 episodes of varying length are a great addition to any Spanish learning routine, particularly for beginners, and since difficulty is gradually ratched up, it is appropriate for learners who are not complete beginners as well; it is just a matter of finding the right spot where to start off from in that case. If you want to use Spotify for more than listening to music, this is a great place to start!</p> <h2 id="podcasts-for-intermediate-and-advanced-learners">Podcasts for intermediate and advanced learners</h2> <p>If you were to just regularly listen to the two courses above, particularly if it were to be as a complement to other input, you would end up with a fairly solid command of basic Spanish. Time to take it up a notch! The following are some more advanced podcasts that are not designed as courses, but rather as input in paced language to help you to rev up your learning and quickly improve your Spanish language skills.</p> <h3 id="nómadas"><a href="" target="_blank">Nómadas</a></h3> <p>Nómadas (nomads in Spanish) presents itself as an “audio adventure that invites you to explore some of the most interesting corners of the planet”. Produced by RTVE, Spanish national public radio, this is an ongoing show that is like a travel documentary lasting around half an hour where every episode visits one or two countries or cities. It is like travel diary that is read out loud by Spanish voices. Because of the very descriptive nature that this kind of format requires, it uses a fairly rich vocabulary along with sound effects, but the speed used is relaxingly slow, particularly when compared to what is usually associated with Spanish. This makes it a great resource for both intermediate and advanced learners.</p> <h3 id="españolistos"><a href="" target="_blank">Españolistos</a></h3> <p>The result of a love story between a Gringo and a Colombiana, Españolistos was started to fill that gap in podcasts that help you to learn Spanish that are for intermediate to advanced learners. This podcast is done by Nate and Andrea and provides an American’s inside perspective on what it is like to learn Spanish. It comes with some helpful tips and tricks within episodes that are varied and entertaining and have a relaxed, informal feel to them. Bear in mind that the Spanish spoken here is mostly of the Colombian variety, since that is where Andrea is from. However, since some of the episodes are interviews with other native and non native speakers, you do get to hear some other kinds of Spanish as well. With a website accompanies the podcast containing some text articles in it as well, Españolistios is a great resource to add into any Spanish language learning mix to help you towards your goal of fluency.</p> <h3 id="radio-ambulante"><a href="" target="_blank">Radio Ambulante</a></h3> <p>If you are planning a trip along the Gringo Trail or elsewhere in Latin America, where you want to impress the locals with the breadth and depth of your Spanish, or you are just looking to considerably expand your vocabulary while listening to interesting place-specific stories from the Spanish speaking New World, then this podcast is for you. Radio ambulante is a panamerican show with speakers from various different countries where Spanish is spoken. This is a great way to get used to the distinctive melodies that <a href="">Latin American Spanish</a> has that make it different from European Spanish by listening to high quality stories that are like newspaper long-reads. Perfect for advanced learners to develop and maintain high quality vocabulary and the expression of complex thoughts.</p> <h3 id="boletín-radio-nacional-de-españa"><a href="" target="_blank">Boletín Radio Nacional de España</a></h3> <p>Last to make our list and suitable if you are a an intermediate to advanced learner, you could do much worse than getting some of your daily news from the RNE news podcast. This is essentially a recording of all of the daily news newscasts. This is a full on, in terms of speed, Spanish language broadcast, so expect it to be challenging. The Spanish you will hear on it is standard Spanish as spoken in central and northern Spain although if you choose to listen to a regional channel, you might hear soft regional accent that could be stronger in some interviews. If you want to learn about Spanish current events and politics along with the language itself, this is the podcast for you!</p> <p><img src=" podcasts/shane-monocle-beach-workout.png" alt="Working out listening to a spanish podcast" /></p> <p>Practice is the key to success in everything, and this is also the case when learning Spanish. But you shouldn’t just focus on reading about about <a href="">grammar</a> and doing exercises or memorising words using flashcards. No matter where you are or what you are doing, be it that early morning commute to work or a beach workout at sunset, podcasts are a great alternative to other forms of <a href="">media</a> input for you to mix things up a bit. Cleaning the house, doing the dishes, on a stroll, shopping for groceries or walking the dog are all also good times but… No time like the present!</p> Mon, 26 Nov 2018 13:00:00 +0000 learning-spanish Spanish from Spain vs Latin American Spanish <p>Due to its vast geographical reach and large number of native speakers, Spanish, like English, has diverged in many different ways as it has come under a variety of influences. These influences are sometimes the result of Spanish or “proto-Spanish” moving into an area where other languages were previously spoken and adopting some local words; sometimes the result of other languages moving into areas where Spanish is spoken; and sometimes due to relative isolation between different Spanish speaking regions and different trends among them.</p> <p>Even though there are some traits that the various flavours of Spanish have in common, particularly within the usual, very broad categories of Spanish from Spain and Latin American Spanish, the language as a whole has differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary that make its different varieties distinctive. This post will first quickly look at the origins of the language before moving on to examining the varieties of modern Spanish within both the Old and the New worlds and some of their defining features.</p> <h2 id="the-origins-of-the-spanish-language">The origins of the Spanish language</h2> <p>The Spanish language originated in the South Western corner of Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula, where present day Spain and Portugal are located. The Iberian languages of the Iberian peoples, identified by the Greeks first and the Romans later as they explored the Iberian Peninsula, were the first known <em>paleo-hispanic</em> languages spoken in the area. When the Romans took control of what they called Hispania after first invading in the 3rd Century BC, they imposed their language, and by the time they left around 700 years later, all of the original Iberian languages except for Basque in the North had been replaced by various forms of Vulgar Latin. The various forms of Vulgar Latin, also known as Common Latin, were the bastardised local versions of Latin resulting from it mixing with local languages and would become the backbone of modern Spanish, much like <a href="">modern English is mostly derived from Germanic languages</a>.</p> <p>The successive invasive waves of Germanic tribes that overran the Western Roman Empire also influenced the languages spoken in the Iberian peninsula to a certain degree, but the next major mark on the way the peoples living there spoke was left by the Moors, North African Arabic speaking peoples, who crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 711 A.D. and occupied and ruled a large part of modern day Spain and Portugal until the 15th Century.</p> <h3 id="first-major-external-influences">First major external influences</h3> <p>Under Islamic rule in Iberia, which lasted around 9 centuries in the South of Spain, most people adopted some form of Arabic as their main language, and the Vulgar Latin dialects were confined to the very north of the Peninsula along with Basque. During the <em>Reconquista</em>, as the various Christian Kingdoms pushed south and brought their dialects with them, these mixed with the Arabic and Mozarabic dialects that had been previously been spoken by the locals. The largest of these invading kingdoms was Castile (Castilla) where the Vulgar Latin dialect had begun to change to Castilian, Castellano, which is another name for what is known to most of the world as simply Spanish.</p> <p>Arabic also influenced the other Iberian languages that were offshoots of Vulgar Latin, but due to Castille’s predominant role in the “reconquest” of Islamic Spain, its rise in influence within Iberia, and its deeper push into lands that were under Muslim rule for longer, Castilian Spanish (Spanish) received and incorporated the greatest influx of Arabic words. In fact, about a 10th of words in modern Spanish are of Arabic origin.</p> <p>Examples of this in any Spanish dictionary range all the way from A to Z and include <em>almohada</em> (al-makhada, pillow), <em>alquiler</em> (Al kira’, rent), <em>barrio</em> (barri, neighbourhood), <em>bellota</em> (belluta, acorn), <em>hasta</em> (hatta, until)…the list is long and encompasses things from all walks of life.</p> <h3 id="modern-spanish-and-expansion">Modern Spanish and expansion</h3> <p>In 1492, on the very same year that the “reconquest” of the Iberian Peninsula was complete with the fall of Granada to the Castilians (that had united with Aragon after the marriage of Isabella of Castile and Fernando of Aragon to create what would eventually become Spain), Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas.</p> <p>This would be the beginning of the spread of Castellano to the New World and the root of what today is known as Latin America. Because of this event, and those that followed, modern Spanish is now a richer and more varied language with many dialects. It is also the second most spoken language in the world, in terms of native speakers, with an estimated 480 million of them (second only to Mandarin).</p> <h2 id="differentiating-features">Differentiating features</h2> <p>Differences between the different kinds of Spanish can be found in pronunciation, common grammatical forms and vocabulary. Whereas vocabulary can often be much more place-specific, the others are more widely spread.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Drama LLama Argentina en Barcelona" /></p> <h3 id="pronunciation">Pronunciation</h3> <p>The easiest differences between the various kinds of Spanish to hear are those in pronunciation. These fall into 3 main categories, although there are others as well.</p> <h3 id="distinción-seseo-and-ceceo">Distinción, Seseo and Ceceo</h3> <p>A major differentiation amongst different Spanish dialects is the way that the sounds represented by the letters S, C and Z are said and whether they pronounced /s/ (like the s in sensible) or /θ/ (like the th in thought). Some dialects make a distinction among them, usually assigning the /s/ sound to the letter S and /θ/ to Z and where C is followed by either E or I (ce, ci). This is known as “distinción” (distinction) and is a defining trait of European Spanish, from the centre and north of Spain, that is not present in Latin America. Other dialects assign the above phonemes the exact same sound. Where this is the /s/ sound, this is known as <em>seseo</em>. Where it is the /θ/ sound, it is known as <em>ceceo</em>.</p> <h3 id="yeísmo">Yeísmo</h3> <p>Another phoneme that presents a distinction for some Spanish speakers and not for others, is the one that is represented by the “ll” (/ʎ/) and the “y” (/ʝ/) sounds. This leads to a difference in the standard pronunciation of calló and cayó. In many dialects, however, there is a tendency to pronounce them both in almost the same way, usually as variants of (/ʝ/) known as <em>Yeismo</em>.</p> <h3 id="aspiration-of-the-s">Aspiration of the “S”</h3> <p>The aspiration of the letter S (and also sometimes of the letter Z in dialects also affected by <em>seseo</em> that don’t make the distinction) before consonants and at the end of words is another dialectical trait. Where this takes place, words like <em>basta</em> (enough) and <em>sabes</em> become something sounding like <em>“bahta”</em> and <em>“sabeh”</em>, with the S aspired to the point that it is not heard.</p> <h3 id="grammatical-variations">Grammatical variations</h3> <p>The most obvious grammatical differences between the various different flavours of Spanish are to be found in the choice of the 2nd person personal pronouns (you singular and you plural) and the conjugation of verbs in these instances. Spanish, like French and also like German makes the distinction between a formal and an informal “you”, both in the singular and in the plural - in some of its varieties at least. But unlike French or German, there is no universally formal or informal way of addressing people. Instead, this varies from place to place depending on the dialect spoken. This can sometimes lead to some minor confusion with some people appearing to be more formal in their way of addressing others than they actually intend to be.</p> <h2 id="old-world-vs-new-world-spanish">“Old world” vs “New world” Spanish</h2> <p>When thinking about the different kinds of Spanish, many people fall into the trap of only thinking about “European” Spanish, as in the Spanish spoken in Spain, and “Latin American” Spanish, as in the Spanish spoken in Latin America. Lately, and given the huge size of the Spanish speaking population of the United States (second only to Mexico’s), some have begun to consider a third kind of Spanish; “American Spanish”.</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <p>Given the huge geographical span of “Latin American Spanish”, ranging from Mexico all the way to Patagonia, the assumption that there is “one” Latin American Spanish is obviously a misconception, albeit one that is understandable. Nevertheless, there are certain traits that are common to all forms of Spanish spoken in the New World. But even the comparatively much smaller, both in terms of geography and population, Spanish from Spain, is far from being the single block that some believe it to be.</p> <h3 id="spanish-from-spain">Spanish from Spain</h3> <p>Spanish from Spain can be broadly divided into Northern, Central, Southern and Canarian variants. Continental European Spanish uses the personal pronouns <em>tu</em> and <em>vosotros</em> in the second person singular and plural respectively as the informal ways of saying “you” and makes the distinction between formal and informal, with the formal versions being <em>usted</em> and <em>ustedes</em>. This, of course, is also noticeable in the way that verbs in the second person are conjugated and in their imperative forms.</p> <p>In northern and central varieties, there is a tendency towards <em>distinción</em>, whereas Southern dialects often tend to exhibit either <em>seseo</em> or <em>ceceo</em> in Andalucia. Canarian variants are closer in terms of pronunciation to their Latin American cousins and usually use mostly <em>seseo</em>.</p> <p>Southern and Canarian dialects also have a marked tendency towards aspiration of the S and reduction (that is the dropping some vowel sounds and sometimes whole syllables) and have a whole set of slang that can be hard to understand for people from other regions.</p> <p>Because of its wider diffusion within Spain due to the influential role of Madrid in broadcasting both of television and radio, the central and northern varieties of Spanish are considered to be “standard” Spanish, with the Spanish dialect spoken in and around the town of Valladolid, deemed by some as the “purest” form of Spanish within Spain (we won’t go into that particular debate here though!).</p> <h2 id="latin-american-spanish">Latin American Spanish</h2> <p>Due to its enormous size, it is no surprise that there are many variations within the Spanish in Latin America.</p> <p>The one common feature that they all share is the use of <em>seseo</em> which makes for easier learning, in terms of speaking, but harder in terms of writing. This is because there are fewer sounds to say, but precisely because of this, there are also no spoken clues about how words are written.</p> <p>In Latin American Spanish, <em>seseo</em> can make spelling troublesome for some people. Take, for example, <em>hicimos</em> (we did). Since <em>seseo</em> doesn’t differentiate the sound, someone who has never seen this word but learned some form of Latin American Spanish is just as likely to spell it <em>“hizimos”</em> or <em>“hisimos”</em> and not realise their mistake until it has been pointed out to them.</p> <p><em>Yeismo</em> is another aspect that is often present in various ways in many forms of Latin American Spanish, and one that is gaining ground. Argentina and Uruguay have their own version of <em>yeismo</em> with the letters <em>y</em>, <em>ll</em> and even <em>j</em> being widely pronounced <em>[ʃ]</em> (like the sh in the word shell).</p> <p>In its more widespread form elsewhere, both <em>ll</em> and <em>y</em> are pronounced the same, somewhere between them, approximately as a <em>[ʝ̞]</em> which tends to lean towards a <em>y</em> sound. This is the case all along Chile, up along most of the coast of Peru, Ecuador, most of Colombia and Venezuela and up Central America and Mexico. It is less common in Bolivia, Paraguay where the distinction between the different letters is clear, and in some inland parts of Colombia although in the case of the latter, this is quickly changing and <em>yeismo</em> is gaining ground. A similar situation of change is also taking place in Spain, where the difference is being lost as well as <em>yeismo</em> becomes more and more dominant.</p> <p>Aspiration of the S is also a widespread phenomenon in Latin American Spanish, but one that is particularly common and noticeable in Caribbean dialects spoken in Central America, the Caribbean Venezuela and the Northern <em>Costeño</em> Colombian, but also common elsewhere.</p> <p>In terms of grammar, a general distinctive feature of Latin American Spanish is the exclusive use of <em>ustedes</em> as the personal pronoun in the second person plural. Whereas in Spanish from Spain this is considered to be the formal version of “you”, in Latin America such a distinction is not made. This means that whenever speaking in the second person plural, anyone from Spanish speaking Latin America will conjugate verbs in a way that sounds formal to Spanish people, or that they might mistake for the third person plural if it is out of context.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Voseando" /></p> <p>In its singular form, the personal pronoun in the second person sometimes serves as a major marker to be able to easily tell whereabouts in Latin America a speaker is from. In Argentina and Uruguay, for example, <em>Rioplatense</em> Spanish is spoken using the dialectical variant called <em>voseo</em> which involves the use of the pronoun <em>vos</em> and a unique way of conjugating that goes with it. In this way, what in Spain is <em>tú tienes</em> becomes <em>vos tenés</em> with voseo. Similarly, <em>tú eres</em> becomes <em>vos sos</em>.</p> <p>Although it is most widely used in Argentina and Uruguay, where it is the standard form, along with Paraguay and some parts of lowland Bolivia,<em>voseo</em> is also a feature in some other parts of Latin America with minor some use in Chilean Spanish and quite frequent use in some other places such as parts of Colombia (most noticeably in Antioquia and the Coffee Axis and Valle del Cauca), Ecuador and in Central America.</p> <p>In other parts of Latin America (outside of the strongest <em>voseo</em> regions), <em>vos</em> sometimes coexists with other personal pronouns, namely <em>usted</em>, which can be both formal and informal in nature depending on the place (unlike Spain where <em>usted</em> is always formal), and <em>tú</em>. In most cases, conjugation of the verb follows the form of the pronoun.</p> <p>The reason for these many forms is that in the past there were three pronouns and three different ways of conjugating verbs. These were <em>tú</em>, <em>vos</em> and <em>vuestra merced</em>. <em>Tú</em> and <em>vuestra merced</em> (which would eventually become <em>usted</em>), where less formal, and <em>vos</em> reserved for people with authority. In Spain, <em>vos</em> eventually disappeared and <em>usted</em> became formal. In Latin America, however, <em>tú</em>, <em>vos</em> and <em>usted</em> remained and began coexisting in different ways.</p> <p>Long story short, when in doubt, if you want to be polite, it is safest to use the <em>usted</em> form. If you happen to be somewhere where the <em>vos</em> is the preferred form, or people think you are being too formal and would rather you use <em>tú</em>, they will most likely let you know soon enough, but the first impression you will have made is that you are courteous!</p> <p>The last major difference between the various Latin American Spanish variations is in the use of vocabulary. On the one hand, in specific regions, Spanish has adopted words that were there before. This leads to words like <em>polola/o, pololeo</em> (girlfriend/boyfriend / to fool around romantically in Chile, from Mapuche), <em>arrarray</em> and <em>achachay</em> (to be very hot and cold in Ecuador, drawn from Quichua), <em>popote, aguacate</em> (drinking straw and avocado in Mexico, although this latter one was exported elsewhere as well, from Náhuatl), and many many others like <em>cancha, pucho</em> and <em>guano</em> from Quechua.</p> <p>On the other hand, the same word can mean completely different things in different places. Regardless of the type of Spanish chosen to learn, other varieties will always contain some elements that are unfamiliar. Don’t worry though, this is also something that happens to natives. In fact, one of the most common sentences when people from different people meet and get talking is often <em>“¿Así le dicen ustedes?”</em> (This is what you call this?).</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <p>As exemplified above, something that makes Spanish interesting is that there can be multiple meanings for the same word and many different ways to say the same thing. For the most part, however, most educated speakers know about many of these and are forgiving with mistakes, so as a learner you shouldn’t have many problems. If you use the wrong one in the wrong place, the most likely response will be a broad smile or a laugh, as has been known to happen when someone speaking Spanish from Spain is looking for a bus stop in Argentina (hint, in South America, particularly in Argentina, try to use <em>tomar</em> to say get, catch or take).</p> <p>For more examples of what Spanish sounds like around the world, be sure to check out our selection of <a href="">Spanish speaking media</a> learning resources.</p> Wed, 21 Nov 2018 13:00:00 +0000 learning-spanish Greetings in German <p>To go beyond ‘hallo’, ‘guten Tag, guten Morgen guten Abend’ and so on, it is interesting to know what the way some German speakers will greet you can reveal. Here are some ways that German speakers greet each other in a more informal context and what they tell you about the people using them. You can then use them yourself to ‘declare’ things in an implicit way!</p> <h2 id="moin">Moin</h2> <p>Moin is the way people from the North of Germany, famously Hamburg but also elsewhere in Northern Germany greet each other during the day, usually in the morning. You can, if you want, even emphasize it by saying it twice - ‘moin, moin!’- but this will probably give you away as a foreigner. Germans get to the point. One ‘moin’ is usually enough. Say this when in Bavaria or Austria and you are effectively saying that you are from Northern Germany, you live there, or you have learned German there. Or you can just use moin because it’s fun.</p> <p>Go on, try it!</p> <h2 id="servus">Servus</h2> <p>Servus is the ‘moin of the South’. It is a common, polite way of greeting people in the South of Germany and Austria, and the way you will often be greeted if you walk into a shop. Originally a whole sentence in latin that has been boiled down to a single word that loosely means ‘at your service’, its modern usage has lost this servile connotation and is now simply a greeting among young and old alike.</p> <p>Servus, Leute!</p> <h2 id="grüß-gott">Grüß Gott</h2> <p>Grüß Gott is a more formal and old fashioned cousin of Servus. To people in Northern Germany, it translates to ‘greet god’, and threatening as that may sound to some, it is actually an extremely polite greeting that is common among older people, particularly in more rural areas of Austria and German speaking Switzerland. This is because it originally was ‘Grüß dich Gott’, which in the Catholic South meant something along the lines of ‘God bless you’ (grüßen used to also mean bless).</p> <p>If you’re ever hiking in the Alps and you come across some older locals, Grüß Gott is a safe thing to say!</p> <h2 id="grüß-dich">Grüß dich</h2> <p>Literally ‘greet you’, this is a fairly universal, informal way of greeting people who are either on friendly terms with you, but usually not quite your friends or at least not close friends, and who are open to being your friends. It is also common among middle aged people and might be experiencing a slow faze out so it is not as common as it once was.</p> <p>Use it to surprise your German friends!</p> <h2 id="naaaaaaa">Na(aaaaaa)?</h2> <p>Finally, the king (or queen) of greetings among young people is the word ‘Na’. ‘Na’ doesn’t actually mean anything but it is simply a way of saying hello. If the person “naing” you is in a good mood or maybe a close friend you haven’t seen in a while, they might extend ‘a’ sound a bit. If you would like to say that something is not quite right, you might reply to a ‘na’ with a rueful ‘naja…’ before going on to explain what’s wrong. The person initiating the “naing” usually makes a longer “na” as well. Think of it as being similar to ‘’sup?’ or, if you’re British, “alright?”.</p> <p>So. Naaaa?</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink=";utm_medium=loading" data-instgrm-version="12" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:16px;"> <a href=";utm_medium=loading" style=" background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;" target="_blank"> <div style=" display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div></div></div><div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div><div style="display:block; height:50px; margin:0 auto 12px; width:50px;"><svg width="50px" height="50px" viewBox="0 0 60 60" version="1.1" xmlns="" xmlns:xlink=""><g stroke="none" stroke-width="1" fill="none" fill-rule="evenodd"><g transform="translate(-511.000000, -20.000000)" fill="#000000"><g><path d="M556.869,30.41 C554.814,30.41 553.148,32.076 553.148,34.131 C553.148,36.186 554.814,37.852 556.869,37.852 C558.924,37.852 560.59,36.186 560.59,34.131 C560.59,32.076 558.924,30.41 556.869,30.41 M541,60.657 C535.114,60.657 530.342,55.887 530.342,50 C530.342,44.114 535.114,39.342 541,39.342 C546.887,39.342 551.658,44.114 551.658,50 C551.658,55.887 546.887,60.657 541,60.657 M541,33.886 C532.1,33.886 524.886,41.1 524.886,50 C524.886,58.899 532.1,66.113 541,66.113 C549.9,66.113 557.115,58.899 557.115,50 C557.115,41.1 549.9,33.886 541,33.886 M565.378,62.101 C565.244,65.022 564.756,66.606 564.346,67.663 C563.803,69.06 563.154,70.057 562.106,71.106 C561.058,72.155 560.06,72.803 558.662,73.347 C557.607,73.757 556.021,74.244 553.102,74.378 C549.944,74.521 548.997,74.552 541,74.552 C533.003,74.552 532.056,74.521 528.898,74.378 C525.979,74.244 524.393,73.757 523.338,73.347 C521.94,72.803 520.942,72.155 519.894,71.106 C518.846,70.057 518.197,69.06 517.654,67.663 C517.244,66.606 516.755,65.022 516.623,62.101 C516.479,58.943 516.448,57.996 516.448,50 C516.448,42.003 516.479,41.056 516.623,37.899 C516.755,34.978 517.244,33.391 517.654,32.338 C518.197,30.938 518.846,29.942 519.894,28.894 C520.942,27.846 521.94,27.196 523.338,26.654 C524.393,26.244 525.979,25.756 528.898,25.623 C532.057,25.479 533.004,25.448 541,25.448 C548.997,25.448 549.943,25.479 553.102,25.623 C556.021,25.756 557.607,26.244 558.662,26.654 C560.06,27.196 561.058,27.846 562.106,28.894 C563.154,29.942 563.803,30.938 564.346,32.338 C564.756,33.391 565.244,34.978 565.378,37.899 C565.522,41.056 565.552,42.003 565.552,50 C565.552,57.996 565.522,58.943 565.378,62.101 M570.82,37.631 C570.674,34.438 570.167,32.258 569.425,30.349 C568.659,28.377 567.633,26.702 565.965,25.035 C564.297,23.368 562.623,22.342 560.652,21.575 C558.743,20.834 556.562,20.326 553.369,20.18 C550.169,20.033 549.148,20 541,20 C532.853,20 531.831,20.033 528.631,20.18 C525.438,20.326 523.257,20.834 521.349,21.575 C519.376,22.342 517.703,23.368 516.035,25.035 C514.368,26.702 513.342,28.377 512.574,30.349 C511.834,32.258 511.326,34.438 511.181,37.631 C511.035,40.831 511,41.851 511,50 C511,58.147 511.035,59.17 511.181,62.369 C511.326,65.562 511.834,67.743 512.574,69.651 C513.342,71.625 514.368,73.296 516.035,74.965 C517.703,76.634 519.376,77.658 521.349,78.425 C523.257,79.167 525.438,79.673 528.631,79.82 C531.831,79.965 532.853,80.001 541,80.001 C549.148,80.001 550.169,79.965 553.369,79.82 C556.562,79.673 558.743,79.167 560.652,78.425 C562.623,77.658 564.297,76.634 565.965,74.965 C567.633,73.296 568.659,71.625 569.425,69.651 C570.167,67.743 570.674,65.562 570.82,62.369 C570.966,59.17 571,58.147 571,50 C571,41.851 570.966,40.831 570.82,37.631"></path></g></g></g></svg></div><div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style=" color:#3897f0; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div></a> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href=";utm_medium=loading" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">🇩🇪 The best thing about this German greeting is that you can reply by simply repeating it - a bit like how British people just say &#39;alright?&#39; to each other, without actually answering the question 🤔😁 . By saying &#39;na?&#39; you&#39;re actually implying &#39;na, wie geht&#39;s&#39; (&#39;well, how&#39;s it going?&#39;)</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href=";utm_medium=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> Chatterbug</a> ( on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2018-09-17T09:17:23+00:00">Sep 17, 2018 at 2:17am PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async="" src="//"></script> <p>Check out some more greetings in our German language <a href="">grammar learning resources</a> and some more fun German and Spanish words on our <a href="">Instagram</a> page.</p> Tue, 13 Nov 2018 09:00:00 +0000 learning-german Learning German by listening to the radio. <p>We’ve all done it. We have all learned a language just by listening to it. The thing is, that we usually do it when we are babies or young children, although research says that it can be done at least until you hit puberty. After that, it becomes much harder, and for most people infeasible, to learn a language using the “baby method”.</p> <p>When you are a baby, the way that you learn a language is by being fully immersed in it and constantly (or very often) hearing it spoken around you. This leads the young and very malleable brain to create associations between different sounds and meanings that are eventually established enough that they can be reproduced. At that point, the first easy words are said, and this is quickly followed by more complex, if still short, sentences that at first might not even be completely grammatically correct- you’re learning how to talk!</p> <h2 id="language-learning-strategies">Language learning strategies</h2> <p>The fact that the highest standard in a language is deemed to be that of a “native” or “near native”, depending on whether the language in question is the first acquired and strongest (L1 in linguistic jargon) or a second, still very fluent one (so-called L2), points to the fact that the “baby system” is the best way to learn a language.</p> <p>For adults, however, this is not really an option because of physiological differences on the one hand, and social conventions on the other - adults are usually expected to be able to communicate with other adults because they can, as long as there is a common language; it is often costly or not socially acceptable to refuse to speak English to a German when you still can’t speak any German just because you want to learn. Imagine refusing to do business because you don’t speak your customer’s language!</p> <p><img src="" alt="Bad-business" /></p> <p>Nevertheless, trying to replicate the baby method as closely as you can, within reason, is a good strategy for learning a language because it results in you getting a certain intuitive grasp of it that makes you seem more fluent than you actually are. This is can only be achieved by providing your brain with as much input as you can. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense; the more that you are able to understand without thinking about it, just by hearing it, the more capacity that you are left with to process information at higher levels of meaning and content, and the more “brain power” you have left that can be put to work making sentences.</p> <p>Because of this, listening to people talking and also, to a lesser extent, listening to people singing, is a great way to improve comprehension and even build up some vocabulary. This is particularly important for languages with a slightly different grammatical structure to what we are used to as English speakers, such as German.</p> <p>But let’s face it, going around trying to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations might not be the best of ideas. There are many reasons for this: for one, it is plain rude and possibly creepy, and could even end up with a punch in the face or a slap. Even in cases that don’t end up quite as badly, it could also prove difficult as people often speak using dialects, slang or inside jokes that a language student might not understand or even be aware of. It might be that the conversation that they are eavesdropping on is not Standard German at all. It could also be the case that the speakers might not be natives so it might be a linguistic travesty. This strategy has many potential shortcomings!</p> <h2 id="know-what-you-listen-to-listen-to-the-radio">Know what you listen to, listen to the radio</h2> <p>An easy way to get around the problems caused by many of the above issues is to do something very simple: listen to the radio! German is spoken by around 100 million people in countries that are highly developed and it has a rich literary tradition and a proud history. There are also many, MANY radio stations that are German speaking. Within Germany, the tax levied on every household in the land following the Rundfunkfinanzierungsstaatsvertrag (one of those <a href="">pesky long German words</a> meaning radio broadcasting financing contract), means that there is a lot of financing available for radio and television stations and this leads to there being very many public radio stations that produce a lot of content. Austria and Switzerland also have their own public and private radio stations and so do many of the numerous German speaking communities scattered around the world.</p> <p>In the age of the internet, when radio programmes can be streamed live and are often also available on an on-demand basis or as podcasts, it has never been easier to listen to German speaking radio. It is also interesting to note that many “radio” stations now also offer video content through their web pages and apps.</p> <p>The following are some German speaking radio stations that you can find online that might be helpful, or fun, or both, in your German language learning journey. The selection is organised by the accent or set of accents that you are most likely to hear if you listen to them, but bearing in mind that standard German, Hochdeutsch, is your target language. Listen to these on your commute, when doing housework, on a rainy Sunday afternoon…and watch your German improve! Enjoy!</p> <p><img src="" alt="MrMonocle-does-housework" /></p> <h2 id="from-germany">From Germany</h2> <p>As the largest country and the centre (sorry Austria and Switzerland) of the German speaking world, we begin our list with radio stations and broadcasters that are based in Germany.</p> <h3 id="deutsche-welle">Deutsche Welle</h3> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Datei:Deutsche Welle Logo.svg" src="//" width="100%" height="100%" srcset="// 1.5x, // 2x" data-file-width="743" data-file-height="200" /></a></p> <p>The first in this selection is Deutsche Welle (German Wave), a German public broadcaster that is aimed at projecting Germany to the outside world by broadcasting TV and radio in 30 languages. Deutsche Welle does not actually broadcast in radio format in German, but it does produce podcasts about various things that can be downloaded. These include an authentic treasure trove for beginners of German because one of DWs stated missions is to provide worldwide access to the German language.</p> <p>Because of this, it offers standalone courses in the form of stories that can be listened to that are a great complement to any language learning programme catering to levels ranging from absolute beginners to intermediate and upper intermediate learners. These are <a href="" target="_blank">organised by level</a> and have made this list due to the solid grounding that they can contribute to in terms of getting strong listening comprehension skills.</p> <h3 id="ard-radio">ARD radio</h3> <p><a href="" target="_BLANK"><img alt="File:ARD logo.svg" src="" width="100%" height="100%" srcset=" 1.5x, 2x" data-file-width="100%" data-file-height="100%" /></a></p> <p>The ARD is also not a radio station in itself, but rather an umbrella organisation or consortium of public national and regional radio (and television) stations. It is a great way for learners to practice and improve their listening comprehension skills, but anyone that tunes in to any of the <a href="" target="_BLANK">ARD stations</a> must already have a fairly solid command of at least the basics of the language in order to be able to follow what is being talked about.</p> <p>A good idea to get the most out of it when beginning is to listen to the news after glancing at the headlines of an English language newspaper. Seeing the most important international news of the day will effectively serve as sign posts within your mind that will pull your attention, and your understanding, back to what is being said if you are struggling and your mind starts to wander. If you want to push yourself a bit more once you are an advanced learner, the ARD network is also a great source of Schlager, the arguably corny, but catchy and very useful from a language learner’s perspective, German pop and classic songs. Try one of the Schlagerwelt stations!</p> <h3 id="deutschlandradio">Deutschlandradio</h3> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="File:Deutschlandradio Logo 2017.svg" src="" width="100%" height="100%" srcset=" 1.5x, 2x" data-file-width="238" data-file-height="34" /></a></p> <p>Completing the list of listening comprehension practice resources (radio stations) from Germany, Deutschlandradio is a German national public radio station with four different channels that is co-owned by ARD and ZDF (Germany’s other public television channel).</p> <p>Deutschlandradio is made up of Deutschlandfunk, mostly devoted to the news and information in general, Deutschland Kultur, which offers content about culture including radio plays and documentaries, Dokumente und Debatten, which broadcasts parliamentary debates and special events, and Deutschlandfunk Nova, formerly known as DRadio Wissen, which targets a relatively younger audience with a wide range of content presented in an accessible way that makes it ideal for language learners.</p> <p>Whereas Deutschlandfunk is another good option that is good to build general vocabulary by listening to the news for intermediate to advanced learners and Deutschland Kultur has some interesting programmes, Dokumente und Debatten can get a bit too dense for the average non native speaker.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Deutschlandfunk Nova</a>, however, is an excellent resource for expanding both general and topic specific vocabulary. It is mostly a talk-only station and produces interesting programmes and podcasts about many different topics, providing advanced students of German with the exposure to vocabulary that they would usually not get in everyday conversations. Because it targets a relatively younger audience, it manages to avoid becoming a drag and feels like listening in on conversations that are taking place between knowledgeable friends, or lively University tutorials or seminars about a wide range of subjects. A favourite for more advanced learners.</p> <h2 id="from-austria-and-switzerland">From Austria and Switzerland.</h2> <p>Austria and the German speaking part of Switzerland also have plenty of radio stations, but unless you live or intend to live in these two countries, or you are a very advanced learner looking for a challenge, you might find listening to some of these a little too difficult, even if they are not broadcasting in any local dialect, but merely have a strong accent.</p> <h3 id="austria">Austria</h3> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="File:ORF logo.svg" src="" width="100%" height="100%" srcset=" 1.5x, 2x" data-file-width="709" data-file-height="303" /></a></p> <p>Radio in Austria has an unusual history in that until 1995, public radio, the <a href="" target="_blank">ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk)</a> had a monopoly on radio broadcasting in Austria, and it was not until 2001 that commercial radio stations were allowed to broadcast at the national level. The ORF remains the most important radio station in Austria and compared with other countries the offer is still rather small. Most broadcasting is done in standard German with an Austrian accent that might throw off many people that are not used to it, depending on how strong it is.</p> <p>Besides the accent being a bit challenging, Austrian radio stations are oten not as good as German ones for learning German because they tend to play a lot of music and have a relatively limited offer of spoken content. Nevertheless, no list of German speaking radio stations could be complete without mentioning Austrian ones!</p> <h3 id="switzerland">Switzerland</h3> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="File:Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen.png" src="" width="100%" height="100%" data-file-width="350" data-file-height="91" /></a></p> <p>The problem with Swiss radio, from the perspective of a German language learner, is that they don’t always broadcast in the same language, German that is. They sometimes broadcast in HochDeutsch with a very strong local accent and they sometimes have programmes in Schweizerdeutsch. This makes it kind of hit and miss, and if you happen to tune in, it might take you a couple of minutes to be able to determine IF the language they are speaking is standard German or not (the accent can be that strong, yes).</p> <p>If you do decide to give it a try, Radio 4 (SRF 4) is probably your best option. It is the most talk centered station in the Swiss German speaking public radio landscape, and one where Hochdeutsch is often spoken, with only a mild Swiss touch.</p> <p>If you are feeling more adventurous, try SRF 1 or SRF 3. These two often feature presenters with a much stronger Swiss accent. If they are speaking Hochdeutsch, it can happen that their accent is sometimes so strong that even very advanced learners are going to find it challenging to follow. Don’t despair though. Many Germans from Germany, particularly from the north, would feel exactly the same! To give you some perspective, it can be kind of like someone from the United States trying to understand a strong Glasgow accent.</p> <h2 id="potluck">Potluck</h2> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" width="215" height="149" /></a></p> <p>Finally, if you want to be surprised by the accent greeting you across the airwaves (or down the dsl cable) in German, you can try <a href="" target="_blank">SBS radio German</a></p> <p>SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) radio is an Australian radio station that was thought up for people living in Australia with different linguistic backgrounds that are not English-speaking. Their German language section offers an antipodean perspective of the world in German and could be thought of as a kind of potluck affair in terms of the accents that you are likely to hear spoken. This is because the presenters and topics are drawn from the whole of the German speaking world. In terms of the topics, there are often feature reports that revolve around other German communities outside of Germany in places where German is very much a minority language but where communities that speak it exist, such as Namibia, Argentina, the United States - or Australia, of course.</p> <p>From the perspective of a language learner, SBS is a great way to “keep you on your feet”, since you might be listening to someone with a strong Swiss accent one minute and someone that is originally from Hamburg the next.</p> <p>The above are some handpicked radio stations and resources to help you to improve your listening comprehension and develop your vocabulary in German. Bear in mind that except for Deutsche Welle’s course, these are real life radio stations and not designed with learners in mind. If you want a gentler introduction, you could do much worse than to work your way up to them after starting out in our <a href="">media section</a>. Listening comprehension does kind of follow the old adage of publicity though, and just like “any publicity is good publicity”, so is “any practice good practice”. Keep at it!</p> Tue, 06 Nov 2018 09:00:00 +0000 learning-german My Chattertips: Getting the most out of Chatterbug <p>When it comes to learning a new language it all depends on our commitment. As a student, you can have all the resources in the world and heaps of motivation to begin, but it’s not until you start to take action and invest your time and effort on it that you get to see some actual results. So, how can you make the most out of the resources that are available to you on Chatterbug?</p> <p>If you’ve already started studying with Chatterbug you may have noticed the type of exercises that you can use to study every day, besides the Live Lessons, of course. But what makes the exercises so important? Isn’t practising in real life situations what really matters?</p> <p>Well, here is the thing: you can only practice after you have acquired a minimum amount of knowledge to work with. Once you know a bit, practice helps you internalize it and most importantly, to not forget it. This is why you really need to have a self- study strategy and some tricks up your sleeve to keep you going in order to learn a new language. Here are some tips and advice drawn from my experience as a tutor AND as a language student to get the most out of Chatterbug and to make your language learning experience a success.</p> <h2 id="set-up-a-goal">Set up a goal</h2> <p>Use the tool Chatterbug provides you with in order to set up a goal. This tool tells you how long you should spend doing self-study every day to reach your goal and it also tracks your progress for you. It may sometimes feel like it’s just a tool that is there to tell you to do some “homework” every day, but the tracking feature is a key to motivation.</p> <p>If you’re anything like me, you will agree that It feels really good every time you check and you see that you’re closer to the level you want to achieve, and even better when you notice yourself in a situation where you can use the language you’re learning thanks to knowledge that you didn’t have before.</p> <p>Besides the goal you set up on Chatterbug, you have to remember the most important thing behind it: why do you want to learn this foreign language? Do you want to find a new job? Do you want to <a href="">study</a> in a country where it is spoken? Is it a new hobby? Is it because of love? There are many possible reasons and only you can decide what that reason is and use it every day to help you stay motivated and enthusiastic about your language learning. Choose it wisely and you’ll be proud of what you can achieve!</p> <h2 id="writing-is-powerful">Writing is powerful</h2> <p>Chatterbug has a space for you to practice writing. Even though the exercises come with a minimum of phrases to complete them, there’s no need to be shy, you can always write more! I know, most people struggle with writing exercises and in fact, this is due to a lack of practice and also because it is always much easier to listen, read, and take in the language you’re learning rather than to try to construct sentences yourself.</p> <p>Compared to other language skills, writing requires more effort on your side, particularly if your current routine doesn’t involve interactions with natives of the language you are trying to learn. Even so, not everything about writing is difficult. One of the advantages you have is that compared to speaking, for example, it gives you more time to think about what you really want to express and even to look up any words that you might not know.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Authoring great works" /></p> <p>At this point, I imagine you might also be wondering: “But what about the errors? Who is going to correct me?” Well, thanks to the internet, you have the opportunity to share your writing and any doubts you might have with several online communities and also with the Chatterbug Team. Also, another easy solution is to use a translation tool to check how accurate what you just wrote is. Use this sparingly though!</p> <h2 id="you-snooze-you-lose">You snooze, you lose</h2> <p>It is no secret that unfortunately there is no magic potion to help us memorize all the new words, pronunciations and grammatical rules that come with a new language. That’s the reason why constantly reviewing and reinforcing what you are learning is so important in the process of language acquisition.</p> <p>We have all experienced how memory works. You study for a final exam and a couple of months later you cannot even remember what it was about. Something similar often happens with languages as well. How many of you have said or heard the following sentence: “I studied French at school, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember that much anymore”. This doesn’t mean we all have poor memory, it just means that often, if we don’t regularly practice and review what we have learned, what we learn won’t stay in our long-term memory.</p> <p>Even though you complete your time of daily self- study and you may practice often, all this information needs to pass from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. The only way to do that is through repetition or like I mentioned before: a review. If you go to the activities section on Chatterbug, you’ll find the cards with the content that you’re struggling with, the option to review cards from specific lessons, and more. This will help you to commit things to memory and also to test yourself a bit about what you’ve learned before.</p> <h2 id="chatterbug-live-lessons-are-great">Chatterbug Live Lessons are great!</h2> <p>Learning a new language will always include the great and interesting incentive of being able to meet a whole new group of people by interacting with native speakers of the language we are learning who we weren’t able to have conversations with before. Nevertheless, during the learning process, when we aren’t fluent yet, it is not always easy to find the right person that can help us to practice that wants to help us as much as we want to learn.</p> <p><img src="" alt="live lesson with Otto" /></p> <p>Moreover, most everyday conversations are not that long and useful since you might not know the person well yet or simply because you end up speaking in English or another common language (not the target one) in order to make the conversation faster and easier.</p> <p>I would like to strongly recommend that you make sure to take full advantage of Chatterbug’s tutors and the Live Lessons offered if you are learning a language with Chatterbug, be it <a href="">German</a> or <a href="">Spanish</a>. You won’t run out of ideas to talk about and in those 45 minutes and I can assure you that you’re going to practice the language with someone that is keen to help you with your learning progress.</p> <p>Have fun learning a new language!</p> Fri, 02 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 chatterbug Lost in translation? Ways to say buddy in Spanish <p>The tricky thing about Spanish is that it quite often happens that speakers from different places use words in ways that make absolutely no sense to Spanish speakers from other places. The same word means different things in different places and this can often lead to confusion.</p> <p>Pal, mate, dude, friend… These are all ways that English speaking people express similar things, with some dominating in some parts of the English speaking world, but all of them being understandable everywhere.</p> <p>“Listen, mate, you really should…”</p> <p>“I know, buddy, thank you.”</p> <p>“No worries, dude!”</p> <p>The above might be said by three different people from London, New York and Sydney respectively, or they might have been used by the same person from Dublin over the course of a single day. There really is no way to tell.</p> <p>In Spanish, however, the little word you use to let someone know you are addressing them varies from country to country and gives away where a speaker comes from even if he says nothing else. Let’s go over some of these using some Spanish speaking countries as examples.</p> <h2 id="spain-tíoa">Spain: Tío/a</h2> <p>You might be forgiven for thinking that Spanish people are all related, one large family with lots of uncles and aunts. ‘Tío’ and ‘tía’ (uncle and aunt) are the words that you will most commonly hear in Spain to mean ‘mate’ or ‘dude’ with the distinction that they vary according to gender. You might also hear someone talking about ‘un primo’, literally a cousin, but be careful with this one as well. If it’s not ACTUALLY a cousin, the meaning of this is something that might be translated as ‘a gullible fool’.</p> <h2 id="argentina-and-uruguay-boludoa">Argentina and Uruguay: Boludo/a</h2> <p>Argentinians and Uruguayans, it seems, are a ballsy bunch. Two of the words you are going to hear most often in these two countries are ‘boludo’ and its female equivalent ‘boluda’. This word literally means ‘ballsy’ and depending on the tone and the relationship between the people in the conversation it can be used to mean a variety of things, but amongst friends it’s like calling each other buddy. Watch the tone though, since it can also be used to mean ‘idiot’. A variation of this is ‘pelotudo/a’. The main difference is that with ‘boludo/a’ you might think of tennis balls or billiards - ‘pelotudo/a’ is more about basketballs and inflatable beach balls. You might also hear an affectionate contraction in the form of ‘bolu’, and derived terms like ‘boludez’ (something silly) or ‘boludear’ (to mess around).</p> <h2 id="chile-weóna">Chile: Weón/a</h2> <p>Where Argentinians and Uruguayans are ‘ballsy’, Chileans are ‘eggy’. Their word is ‘weón/a’, a contraction of ‘huevón/a’. No prizes for guessing where that comes from!</p> <h2 id="mexico-güey-and-morra">Mexico: Güey and Morra</h2> <p>Although it might seem to be following the same reasoning (if that’s what we’re going to call it) from the two above when Mexicans call each other ‘güey’ or ‘wey’ they are actually not referring to ‘guevos’ (huevos/ eggs) but rather to an ox (buey). This usually only applies to men though, with its female equivalent being ‘morra’ which might be very loosely translated as ‘snouty’ as in having a big snout. Spanish can be a very colourful language.</p> <h2 id="venezuela-colombia-and-ecuador-pana-and-parce">Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador: Pana and parce</h2> <p>Other examples of different words that mean similar things can be found in Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Both Venezuelans and Ecuadorians commonly use the word ‘pana’ both for men and for women, which in Spain means corduroy. This is obviously not the origin of the term, which is something that is debated. Some say it comes from of the English word ‘partner’, whereas others believe its roots are in the indigenous word ‘panaca’, meaning family. Jury’s still out on that one!</p> <p>Geographically between them, Colombians know and understand ‘pana’, but usually prefer to use ‘parcero/a’, commonly shortened to ‘parce’. This last term is an old fashioned word for ‘partner’, which interestingly enough is also used by Brazilians in Portuguese (parceiro) in the way that it is by Colombians. But that is another story…</p> <p><img src="ío.png" alt="" /></p> <p>These are just some of the more common ways of saying ‘buddy’, but there are many more. Also, and this can’t be stressed enough, the tone in which these are said makes the difference between them trying to convey something that is friendly from something that is closer to being an insult.</p> <p>Have you travelled around the Spanish speaking world and heard others? <a href="" target="_blank">Let us know which</a>! For more examples of how Spanish sounds in various places around the world, check out our Spanish <a href="">media collection</a>.</p> Fri, 26 Oct 2018 13:00:00 +0000 learning-spanish Is German really that difficult to learn? <p>German and English are both members of the West Germanic branch of languages, within the Germanic branch, which is in turn part of the Indo-European family of languages. Even though this means that they are quite close in linguistic terms, German has a bit of a reputation as a hard nut to crack in terms of new languages to learn among English speakers. Mark Twain famously hated “The Awful German Language” and Oscar Wilde is said to have quipped that “life is too short to learn German”. They were obviously frustrated learners and did no good for the reputation of the language! And when confronted with the task of learning a new language, it is sometimes really easy to let yourself be swayed by its reputation.</p> <p>The truth, however, is that it is really not as difficult as many make it out to be. For English speakers, it is definitely something that can be conquered in the mid-term. We won’t lie to you however: it does have its challenging aspects.</p> <p>The short answer to the question of whether a language is difficult to learn is that it depends. It depends on the language and on the learner. Let’s dive into a few of the aspects of standard German in terms of vocabulary, grammar and culture, and how each of these contributes to making it an easy, or not so easy, language for English speakers to learn.</p> <h2 id="vocabulary---you-probably-already-know-more-than-you-think">Vocabulary - you probably already know more than you think.</h2> <p>Languages are made up of their words, their vocabulary. When talking about German, the good news here for English speakers is that because the two languages have a common “ancestor” language, there are many words that are extremely similar. In fact, although English words come from Latin, French and Greek as well, around 80% of the most commonly used English words are cognates of German words and around 40% of all English words are similar to their German equivalents. This is usually because they come from old West Germanic languages, from which modern German dialects also evolved and which served as the base for modern Standard German.</p> <p>Examples of English-German cognates include the words for the different days of the week, months of the year, some seasons, some relatives and many others. In writing, cognates are sometimes “camouflaged” but with a little bit of practice and when you know what to look for, they are recognisable. For example, it helps to know that most infinitive forms of regular verbs end in -en and that nouns are capitalised. In practice, this means that many English speakers will soon understand a large part of everyday German words, particularly if they see them written down.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Willkommen" /></p> <p>Take the following words: Januar, Februar, Montag, Freitag, Hund, Schiff, Brot, Bohne, gehen, Bäcker, Bier, Nacke, Nase, Gott, Onkel, Winter, laden, and Wurm. You probably understood some of them, and if you know how the different combinations of letters are pronounced, you can probably take a shrewd guess at many others (January, February, Monday, Friday, dog (hound), ship, bread, bean, go (to go), baker, beer, neck, nose, God, uncle, winter, load (verb) and worm). This is just a short list pulled off the top of this writer’s head of words that are essentially the same word in both languages!</p> <p>In more specialised realms, however, such as science for example, meanings are often less obvious. Even so, words are often the same with the only difference that English often uses Latin or Greek terms. For example, the word <em>Sauerstoff</em> appears to be completely alien at first, but it is actually a literal translation of oxygen which has its origins in Greek and could be loosely translated as “acid forming thing”.</p> <p>In many cases though, even where words are etymologically similar, they can come across as being intimidating. This can be because they are written using many, many consonants, or because of the tendency that German seems to have to take what in English would be short sentences and make them into a single, sometimes apparently ridiculously long, compound word.</p> <h3 id="those-pesky-long-german-words--compounds">Those pesky long German words- compounds.</h3> <p>In linguistics, a compound is a word that is made up of two or more words that are stuck together (or to be more technical for the nerds out there, a lexeme made up of two or more stems). German is notorious for using compound words. Some are quite short and relatively simple such as <em>Flugzeug</em>, made up of <em>Flug</em> (flight) and <em>Zeug</em> (stuff), giving us “flightstuff” or, as we say in English, aeroplane!</p> <p>Others that are made up of several words are more complicated though, and sometimes a huge mouthful to say. Take, for example, <em>Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz</em>, made up of <em>Bundes</em> (Federal), <em>Ausbildung</em> (training or education), <em>Förderung</em> (promotion of) and <em>Gesetz</em> (law). Put them all together and you get the “Federal law for the promotion of education and training” (a government backed half grant half loan <a href="">for students</a>). Like many things in German though, Germans themselves are more practical about its everyday use and don’t actually say this very often, but rather opt to shorten it to <em>BaFöG</em>.</p> <p>Another example of this German style linguistic pragmatism is <em>Wohnungsgemeinschaft</em>. This is just made up of two words, <em>Wohnung</em> (apartment) and <em>Gemeinschaft</em> (community or association) and is a rather poetic way of calling a shared flat. Again, Germans usually just refer to this using the initial letters of its comprising words and we are left with a <em>WG</em> (veh-gheh). Staying with the theme of flat hunting, if you ever have to look for a room or particularly an apartment or a house, one of the <em>Bewerbungsunterlagen</em> (<em>Bewerbung</em>, application and <em>Unterlagen</em>, documents; application documents) you will have to hand your potential landlord is the <em>Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung</em> that is, the <em>Miet(e)</em> (rent), <em>Schulden</em> (debt), <em>Freiheit</em> (freedom), <em>Bescheinigung</em> (certificate); the certificate of rent paid or CRP in English. Now you know!</p> <p><img src="" alt="Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung" /></p> <h3 id="its-all-relative--and-it-could-be-worse">It’s all relative- and it could be worse!</h3> <p>As we have seen, where you encounter a new word that is long enough to be a sentence, you can take a minute and see if you recognise any of its constituent parts to get an idea of what it means. Even if you have never seen it before, you will often be able to make an educated guess about it! And remember, because of the way that vocabulary is often formed by joining terms together into one, German words often don’t translate into English as single words but rather as short sentences. Takes some getting used to!</p> <p>Still, although some German words seem to be very long, there are other languages that do this as well but are much, much harder. Take Welsh for example and try saying the name of this village in North Wales: <em>Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch</em> (!). German suddenly doesn’t look quite so intimidating anymore, does it?</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> <h3 id="its-said-like-its-written">It’s said like it’s written.</h3> <p>And some more good news: German follows regular patterns in terms of how sounds are written and this makes it quite easy for beginners to have a fairly good go at speaking right away, even if they might stutter when faced with some of the longer words. Compared to other Germanic languages, such as Danish, Dutch and yes, English, this is one of the things that makes German a more approachable language for adult learners.</p> <p>As for the longer compounds, even Germans might hesitate when faced with one of the beasts, so they are usually not used in the everyday language that most people encounter most of the time.</p> <p>Unless you are a lawyer, that is. Fancy chatting about the <em>Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz</em>, anyone?</p> <h2 id="the-thorn-in-everyones-side-grammar">The thorn in everyone’s side: Grammar.</h2> <p>A language’s grammar is the system that it uses and the structure that it follows; it’s how languages are built and how they work. If you had to describe a language, grammar would make up the “bulk” that description. It is what determines how the different parts are put together and how the language as a whole works.</p> <p>Some parts of <a href="">German grammar</a> are particularly tricky for English speakers to get to grips with, but German grammar is actually arguably easier to learn than English grammar because it follows set rules that are laid down by the three regional authorities, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (with small differences among them), whereas English is often more chaotic. What makes German grammar hard for English speakers is not really that it is complex, but rather that some parts of it are simply different to what we are used to.</p> <h3 id="noun-gender-and-cases">Noun gender and cases</h3> <p>For many people that begin learning German, declension is arguably the hardest bit of the language to master and one of the most important differences between speaking some German and speaking German well. Declension is a very useful trait in a language because it allows for meaning to be conveyed using sentences in which the order of the words is much more flexible. It achieves this by marking the properties of the “actors” within a sentence, such as their gender and number, as well as their relationship with one another, often by merely modifying the endings of words. The starting point of declension in German around which the system is built is the noun.</p> <p>German <a href="">nouns are gendered</a>. This means that objects are assigned a grammatical gender: feminine, masculine or neuter. This gender does not necessarily have any relation to what the noun actually means, of course, since it is the word and not the thing that is gendered. For example, the sun and the moon have no gender in English, since they are inanimate things, but in German the sun is a “she” and the moon is a “he”. In Spanish and French however, that is the other way around. When learning new nouns in German, it is a good idea to learn them along with their gender - you are going to need it later!</p> <p>The good news is that like most things German, there are rules, and there are often certain clues regarding the gender of many nouns. The bad news is that there are quite a few of these!</p> <p>A non-comprehensive account of these is that male people and animals, instruments or things that do things, days, months and seasons and weather elements as well as rivers that are not German are usually masculine; female people and animals, most German rivers (notable exceptions here are der Rhein and der Main), flowers, trees and groups of people or things tend to be feminine; and finally, most inanimate objects, metals, verb infinitives turned into nouns, diminutives and for some bizarre reason human as well as many animal babies are usually neuter words. There are also certain endings of words that are often clues as to their gender.</p> <p>Gendering nouns is quite a common thing in many other Western European languages such as French or Spanish. However, something that often causes problems for learners of German, that is not an issue for other Western European, non-germanic languages, is the case system.</p> <p><img src="" alt="wie-geht-es-dir" /></p> <p>German has 4 cases: nominative, accusative, genitive and dative. That is one more than English, where we don’t have the dative case. To add a little bit of confusion, when talking about English we usually name cases differently. In English, the nominative case is often called subjective (she/he), the accusative case is called objective (her/him) and the genitive case is called possessive (hers/his). Another difference with English is that we don’t use the case system as much (at least in modern English) even for the cases that we have. In English, we only change some pronouns following the case system whereas as German also modifies nouns and adjectives and uses cases to describe possession and assign indirect objects (genitive and dative respectively). Again, this follows rules and there are tables and mnemonics that you can use to try to internalise these, but the best way to learn is often by doing. This is one of the more challenging aspects of learning German and takes a little bit of time and practice until it becomes something instinctive. All the same, if you compare it with some other languages, it is a walk in the park. Take Russian for example, with its 6 cases, or if you want something really challenging take a gander at Hungarian and its 18 cases!</p> <h3 id="verb-position-and-separable-verbs---tricky-but-rhythmic">Verb position and separable verbs - tricky but rhythmic.</h3> <p>Something else that is distinctive about German grammar is the positioning of its verbs and that they often split. There are also a couple of general rules of thumb here. If a <a href="">sentence is simple</a> (ie it contains only one clause) and a statement, the verb will usually appear in the second position; if it is simple and a yes/no question, it will go in the first position. In a subordinate clause, however, the verb will always be at the end, and if there is a modal verb involved, this will take the very last spot. Because of this, it might be the case that you find yourself waiting for the verb to know what someone is talking about and that by the time you reach this you have almost forgotten what the rest of the sentence was! On the other hand, it gives German a certain rhythmic quality and makes it quite easy to know how to structure your sentences.</p> <p>A trickier thing is what Germans call <a href="">trennbare verben , separable verbs</a>. These are verbs that, in their infinitive form have a prefix attached to them that splits away when they are conjugated. What makes them tricky is that the prefix is then usually dropped somewhere after the verb, usually, again, at the end of a sentence. These kind of verbs are similar to English phrasal verbs, which are also tough for people that learn English as a second language, but a little bit harder because the space between their parts is usually much more, so it is easy to forget to complete them.</p> <h2 id="cultural-aspects">Cultural aspects</h2> <p>Every language is inextricably linked to the culture or cultures where it is spoken. When considering how difficult a language is to learn, it is therefore important to think about the cultural side. For those that go to Germany on their holidays, or those that have moved there, there are various things about trying to use German with natives in the German speaking world that you should be aware of. German speakers have a tendency to get to the point that can be perceived by many native English speakers as anything from blunt to downright rude. When trying to learn their language, this can be a positive or a negative thing depending on how you decide to take it. Being cut off and corrected when you got a letter at the end of a word wrong, or merely mumbled it to not make an easy mistake, can be great to avoid developing bad habits but it can also be intimidating. The learner has to make a conscious effort for it to be the former rather than the latter. Mistakes are good, they are a way to learn, possibly the best way to learn, but unless they are caught and addressed they are useless and stay as mistake.</p> <p>On the other hand, although there are plenty of German native speakers, particularly younger ones and particularly in the more cosmopolitan cities, that speak flawless English, the level of penetration that English has in German speaking society is not as high as in other places such as the Scandinavian countries or the Netherlands for example. Besides a rich literary tradition in German, foreign films and tv shows, including everything produced by Hollywood are all translated and dubbed into German as well, providing a great source of input. All of this combined means that it is easier to fully immerse yourself in the German language and culture in order to learn it quickly if you move to a German speaking country than it is to, say, attempt to learn Danish in Denmark, where it seems that everyone, even the elderly, speak fluent English and where English language TV and films are ubiquitous.</p> <h2 id="it-all-boils-down-to-how-much-you-want-it">It all boils down to how much you want it</h2> <p><img src="" alt="language-targets" /></p> <p>Regardless of how similar or different any language is to your own native language, at the end of the day what makes the difference between your learning a new language or not is your motivation. How well and how quickly you learn German ultimately depends on how hard you work at it much more than how difficult the language actually is. For English speakers, German is not that hard in some ways. Many words are obviously similar and many others are related in a way that you learn to work out in time. Those fearsome compound words are actually not that hard to break down if you’re not afraid of them and you can even make up some of your own! The trickiest aspects of German which are in its grammar, gendered nouns, the case system, verb placement and separable verbs all follow rules that, even if there are a fair number of them, can be learnt. And if you make mistakes and want to be corrected by natives as you learn, all you have to do is ask, and believe you me, they will not shy away from it!</p> <p>Learning German takes some work, and you will not become fluent from one day to the next. And it is exactly because of this that it is a satisfying experience and it has many <a href="">benefits</a> besides the obvious ones if you happen to live or simply be in a German speaking country.</p> <p>This is a marathon, not a sprint. BUT, having said that…Ever heard of the runner’s high?</p> Mon, 22 Oct 2018 09:00:00 +0000 learning-german