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4 Interesting Ways to Practise Your Italian in Italy

Posted on March 17th, 2014by Melanie
In Italian, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

Practising what you’ve learned during your language lessons doesn’t need to be mundane or learned by rote. So when you’re visiting the exciting country of Italy, there are numerous ways you can test your language skills. Here are four suggestions to help you get started:

1.       Count and Climb the Spanish Steps   

untitled (2)While you’re out and about sightseeing, what better time to practise your Italian language skills? Numbers are always useful to know so, if you happen to be visiting Rome, how about visiting the Spanish Steps…all 136 of them, and count them on the climb upwards. The Spanish Steps (Scalinata) is the widest staircase in Europe and you can climb it from the base in Piazza di Spagna to reach the top at Piazza Trinita dei Monti where the impressive Trinita dei Monti church stands. Now you’ve used up all those calories, it’s time to reward yourself with some delicious food…!

2.       Eat Your Way Through An Authentic Italian Cookery Class

images0N1E0182You could practise saying fruit and vegetables in Italian by going to a local market, or you could learn meals by ordering them at a restaurant. But why not make things a bit more interesting? There are many cookery classes throughout Italy where you can learn how to cook authentic Italian dishes. Known for its pizza and pasta dishes, why not try a basic class in cooking some tasty pizza or pasta recipes for a more unusual and hands-on way to get genuine practice at speaking Italian.

3.       Enjoy an Italian Ice Cream

untitledYou’ve cooked some dinner, now have some dessert with some of Italy’s infamous gelato. You can practise saying the flavours as well as the multitude of colours that these delicious ice creams are available in. Most gelaterias will let you sample a couple of flavours then it’s decisions, decisions…cup (coppa) or cone (cono) and how many scoops? But that’s not all as then you’ll be asked “Panna?” which is freshly whipped cream on the top. So, when the tough decisions have been made (in Italian!) you can enjoy your hard earned ice cream!

4.       Do Some Window Shopping

ValentinowhitedressesAs well as their passion for food, Italians have a love of fashion. As you wander around the beautiful country you’ll definitely notice the Italians’ sharp style and fashionable flair. While you’re admiring their chic look, describe the different clothing you see, from the basic types of clothing (pantaloni, gonna, camicia) to their colours, lengths and materials. You could always treat yourself to some Italian finery while you’re at it!

 

There are so many things to see and do in Italy. What other interesting ways can you think of to practise your Italian speaking skills?

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Sleep and Study

Posted on February 25th, 2014by Melanie
In Education, Language acquisition, Research | Leave a Comment »

Did you go to bed with headphones on the night before an important test or exam when you were at school, listening to the revision notes over and over again? Or did you listen to a recording of your speech as you drifted off to sleep the night before an important presentation at work? It may have seemed a desperate attempt to get the knowledge to stay in your head at the time, but the notion of sleep aiding learning is actually true.

HeadphonesStudies showed that participants who had had a short sleep during the day were able to recall information more easily, and to a greater extent if the nap was taken nearer to the time of learning. A good night’s sleep before a day of testing also gives improved results showing that we subconsciously learn while we’re asleep and can transform this into usable knowledge during the day. But how is this possible?

Everything we’ve learned during the day is reinforced as we sleep due to the fact that the brain stays active. Even a quick snooze after learning something can result in a higher recollection of what we’ve just learned. Therefore, it’s not necessarily the amount of sleep we have, but the fact that we are able to have some sleep which gives our brain a chance to process the information.

file0001988663950So sleep equals enhanced learning. But how does that help you with your language lessons? Don’t worry, you haven’t got to download all of your lessons and listen to them while you’re trying to drift off to sleep, and you don’t need to recite the verbs and tenses repeatedly until you fall asleep. It is a good idea, however, to do some revision not long before you go to sleep, as you’re more likely to remember it in more detail when you wake up. And if you feel like you’re having a brain overload after one of your lessons, try a power nap to help lock the information in your mind.

Do you find that things seem clearer after you’ve had some sleep? Why not see for yourself if the theory works by testing yourself to see how much you can recall from your language lessons both before and after periods of sleep.

6 Famous Sights to See in the City of Paris!

Posted on February 12th, 2014by Melanie
In Culture, French, Speech | Leave a Comment »

What better way to put your French lessons to use than by visiting the beautiful city of Paris? There’s so much to see and do that you will be spoilt for choice, and we have put together a list of the top 6 attractions to help you make the most out of your trip.

file2531287236318 1. Eiffel Tower

As the most iconic feature in Paris, climbing the stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower should be top of your list of things to do! Towering 300 metres over the city, the spectacular view will reward you for your efforts. You can take some amazing photos to show your friends back home, and point out the places you’re going to visit during the rest of your trip.

 

 

paris_28447232. Champs-Élysées

This famous street in Paris is the perfect place to ‘people watch’ while you enjoy a drink in a café. You can see the historical buildings and architectural styles which line the street on either side, and it’s a paradise for shoppers. Buy a baguette (French bread) from a boulangerie (baker) and a cake from a pâtisserie (cake shop), wander around un grand magasin (a department store) and get some souvenirs in un magasin de souvenirs (a souvenir shop).

arc-de-triomphe-4_2883676

3. Arc de Triomphe

Standing at the end of the Champs-Élysées the Arc de Triomphe is a commemorative monument for fallen soldiers. Take the 234 steps to the top and enjoy the sights of the city, adding more photos to your holiday collection.

 

file0007220034954. Louvre Pyramid

For the more refined tourist, you don’t get much better than the art collection in the Louvre. This famous museum is home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, and is situated in the courtyard of the Louvre Palace. The Louvre Pyramid itself is a fantastic sight to see, let alone the artwork displayed beneath it.

 

sacre-coeur_211936715. Montmartre

If seeing modern artists at work is more your style then a trip to Montmartre won’t disappoint! The Place du Tertre is filled with artists and you can pick up some great souvenirs while you’re there. Talk to the locals and soak up the atmosphere of this lively neighbourhood. The Sacré-Coeur sits at the top of Montmartre and the gravestones of many artists can be seen in Montmartre Cemetery.

bone-texture-5_211489986. Catacombs

For a burial place with a difference, step underneath the city and walk along the network of tunnels, known as the Catacombs, to see the macabre displays of skeletal remains from about 6 million people. This famous burial site is both morbid and fascinating, and is sure to be a highlight of your trip!

 

Make the most of your French holiday by really immersing yourself into your surroundings and using your French lessons to their full potential. You’ll get much more out of your trip by speaking in French whenever you can, whether you’re ordering food, asking for information or chatting to a local about what it’s like to live in the exciting city of Paris.

What other attractions can you recommend while visiting Paris? Any particular restaurants, famous shows, landmarks or museums? What would you consider to be an unmissable part of a sightseeing trip in the French capital?

Language as a Fashion Accessory?

Posted on January 28th, 2014by Melanie
In Events, Language acquisition, Speech | Leave a Comment »

More and more nowadays people are stressing the importance of learning languages in order to benefit us socially and within business, to strengthen our country’s position within the global economy and to break down the communication barriers worldwide.

Aside from jobs within the banking industry dealing with international clients or linguistic careers, such as translators, what other careers can realistically benefit from a knowledge of languages? Sports personalities are increasingly stepping up to extol the virtues of having more than one language under their belt. Sporting events involve travelling to other countries so what better way to fully understand what’s happening around you in your working environment than by studying the relevant languages?

Photo by Peter Duhon

Photo by Peter Duhon

Another, more glamorous, career can await you in the field of fashion if you choose to study another language. Lately, the fashion industry has been hyping up the benefits of learning foreign languages in order to further your career within the industry. English is still the lingua franca of the fashion world so is learning other languages merely a fad? Are foreign languages a new fashion statement deemed necessary at the time but one that will soon change just as the styles change over the seasons? Although English is widely spoken amongst the fashion community, it is deemed more ‘polite’ to speak the language of the people you are dealing with.

The British Fashion Council has advocated the benefits of learning foreign languages as a way to promote UK based brands and designers worldwide. By focusing on languages, they believe that Britain’s standing within the fashion world will increase. Overseas supply chains mean that intra-company communication is vital whether it entails sales, stock, marketing or accounting. Take the company New Look, for example. The UK’s favourite high street shop is currently looking to expand its position within the European market as well as broaching the subject of launching in China. Speaking to collaborators in English alone will eventually get the job done, but speaking in the languages of the host countries will ensure a much quicker and more fluid transition. Conversely, the high street shops of H&M and Zara originate from abroad but are the second and third favourites for the UK.

Designers, PR representatives and administrators have stated that having a knowledge of foreign languages has given them flexibility within the fashion industry, making their jobs easier and themselves more adaptable to requirements. Many international brands actually look for language skills when they are recruiting and offer training to staff who are not fluent in the particular language required.

The fashion industry goes hand-in-hand with the media so being able to converse with photographers, journalists, editors, events’ hosts, designers and outlet owners is essential. Building relationships in any aspect of the fashion world is vital if you want to forward your career. As with all careers, working in fashion is competitive, so for those who want the edge over their competitors then learning foreign languages will ensure they stand out and have increased accessibility to opportunities.

So a foreign language is a fashion accessory you can’t do without! Get ahead with the latest language trends to make sure you stand out from the crowd!

The 3 Most Popular Events in Spain

Posted on January 27th, 2014by Melanie
In Culture, Events, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

The Spanish are known for their love of partying with fiestas, festivals and celebrations for pretty much every occasion. You can’t miss out on these spectacles when you’re travelling through Spain if you really want to get a feel of how the Spanish live. Whether you go to local events or the big national ones, you can fully immerse yourself into the atmosphere. While you’re there, learn the names for the events and phrases associated with them.

1. Semana Santa

Photo by Mataparda

Photo by Mataparda

Semana Santa is Holy Week celebrated at Easter and transforms each area with huge processions. Whilst somewhat intimidating when seen for the first time, this is a spectacle you won’t want to miss! The processions are led by the religious brotherhoods, also known as penitentes (penitent ones) dressed in robes, capes and cone shaped head gear. They may look sinister but their outfits have religious meaning as does every aspect of the ritual including massive floats carried by the participants. Join the crowds of onlookers for this spectacular scene!

2. La Tomatina

Photo by A.  www.viajar24h.com

Photo by A. www.viajar24h.com

Be prepared to get messy in this bizarre festival! A massive food fight takes place in the town of Bunol, Valencia, every year. Thousands of people flock to the town in order to take part in the event. A week of festivities includes a paella cooking contest, fireworks, music, dancing and parades. A greased wooden pole of two storeys high is topped with a ham and contestants try to reach the prize before the tomato fight begins. Invariably, the prized ham is never reached so the water cannons herald the start of the ensuing chaos! Large over ripe tomatoes are hurled everywhere and at everyone for an hour until the whole town is drenched in tomato pulp!

 

3. Carnival

2670107The Carnival in Spain is a raucous event of partying which includes drinking, dancing, beauty pageants, contests and masquerading from dusk until dawn. The wild event is held all over Spain but the most extravagant one takes place each year in Tenerife which runs a close second to the one in Rio de Janeiro. It is the biggest of the Carnival festivals in Europe and the main event is the crowning of the Queen of the Carnival chosen from girls parading in their flamboyant costumes. Make you make time during your travels to take part in the masquerades and dancing!

Have fun with the locals during your Spanish trip and practise your language skills while you’re partying! Take a refresher course before you leave to get the most out of your holiday. What festivals, fiestas and celebrations have you seen in Spain and which ones can you recommend to other travellers?

Foreign Language Learning in the UK is on the Up-and-Up!

Posted on January 16th, 2014by Melanie
In Speech | Leave a Comment »

file711280241883The UK may currently be behind the rest of Europe with our knowledge of foreign languages, but not for much longer!

Getting ready to put our bad reputation for languages, or lack of, behind us, primary school children throughout England will soon be learning foreign languages. It will be compulsory for children over 7 years old to learn another language. Schools throughout England are also being encouraged to offer more languages to their pupils. That’s the younger generation taken care of, but what about the rest of us?

Well, we’ve taken matters into our own hands as the learning revolution is in full swing. And with adult education being so easily accessible, then why not.

The Learning Revolution

We can learn anything we want to with subjects ranging from standard academic ones to business requirements to specialized fields to fun courses. The levels range from beginners’ courses to high level qualifications, with certifications including diplomas and degrees. It goes without saying that this learning revolution includes languages with the option to learn almost any language you can think of.

The traditional way to learn a new language is to attend classes in an educational institution. Whilst this is ideal for some, it’s not convenient for many of us. Many are put off of learning by associating it with the traditional ways, preferring informal classes with a few friends in a more relaxed setting. Many lessons can be taken at home or at the workplace, and tutors are happy to conduct intensive one-to-one classes or group sessions.

Why Learn a New Language?

Having the ability to speak other languages broadens people’s horizons, not just socially but within business. It increases confidence and our awareness of other people and other cultures.

Employment opportunities are soaring for those who can speak another language, resulting in businesses providing employees with help and incentives towards improving their language skills, including support with language tuition.

More and more people are in a position to travel with increasing numbers making the decision to live abroad. By learning the language of the relative country, even if just at a basic level, a huge difference will be made to the experience had there.

With the learning trend set to continue and with language courses on the increase, the UK will soon be giving our European comrades a run for their money in the linguistic stakes. 

What has motivated you to want to learn a new language? Do you prefer the idea of one-to-one lessons or would you be happier to learn within a group? Join in with the learning revolution and start your new language lessons!

 

 

Funny Felines to Teach Foreign Languages

Posted on December 29th, 2013by Melanie
In Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Cat-memeOur feline friends can help us to learn a foreign language according to some new linguistic research. Language trainers noticed the popularity of the humorous cat-meme across the Internet. Providing hours of entertainment, cute and amusing photos and videos of cats have become an online trend. There are even ‘superstar’ cats, such as Grumpy Cat, who now has 2.5 million Facebook fans.

The language researchers noticed a link between people being able to recall phrases seen in funny photos. After conducting memory tests, they noticed that the photos containing cats seemed to rank higher than all of the others when it came to people’s abilities to recall information. Combined with research from Japan which confirms that ‘cuteness’ enhances memory recall, along with further research that shows learning rates are higher when students are having fun, an idea popped into the linguists’ heads.

An app has now been created that pairs cute photos of cats with Spanish phrases and their English translations. Sticking to the Internet theme, the masterminds of this app crowdsourced the photos, listing the 1,000 words they wanted to use and asking for uploads of people’s funniest cat photos. With entire websites dedicated to the cat-meme, they weren’t short of replies.

The more impact a photo has and the less words it displays, the greater the influence it will have for learning potential. Simple, cute and funny – if only we’d known! What’s your favourite cat-meme and why does it stick out from the others? Do you think this idea has good potential for learning languages?

Festivities for Foreign Languages

Posted on December 15th, 2013by Melanie
In Culture, Events, Speech | Leave a Comment »

We’re always hearing about how Britain’s falling behind in the language stakes compared with our European neighbours; that we’re a nation lacking in motivation and conviction when it comes to learning new languages. The news keeps reminding us about how the younger generation are failing to step up in their language studies at school, and other media outlets remind us about how we´re missing out in the global job market due to our lack of lingual knowledge.

With so much pessimism around, what a good job there are events like the British Academy’s Language Festival to bolster the Brits back up! This month-long event is hosted as a celebration of language learning and as a way to encourage Brits to take up the language learning challenge in order to reduce our monolinguistic mentality.

All across the UK, schools, universities and policy makers have been getting together to highlight the benefits that foreign languages have, not just for us as individuals but for our nation as a whole. Novel ways have been used to promote languages to try and get people interested in what is otherwise often just considered to be too much hard work.

Innovative Events to Encourage Language Learning

One group commandeered the kitchen of a Pizza Express restaurant and held a fun workshop where pizza making lessons were given by an Italian.  A sixth form group held a tortilla making contest and described how they cooked them in Spanish. The staff from a rental company, which recently started to operate internationally, held a social event where they all took along an international dish, and it was a chance for the different nationalities working there to not only show off their cooking skills (for those who didn’t cheat and pop out to the local supermarket!) but to show off their cultures. In keeping with the food theme, a Bake Off-style competition of foreign foods was held where participants learned recipes in Spanish and French and their efforts were then judged by a panel. Another initiative collected short stories from across the age groups of people’s experiences with the languages they had learned and how they’d affected their lives. People who only spoke English stopped to listen to these stories and realised why learning another language mattered. A language project called Lift (Language: Inspiring Futures Together) has been launched by a sixth form college where students are hosting language road shows, visiting local schools to talk about the benefits of learning languages and supporting students who are currently studying them.

Place Blame or Boost Confidence?

It’s not just for the employment sector that the importance of learning foreign languages keeps being impressed upon us. There’s no doubt that Brits are missing out on linguistic employment opportunities across the UK as well as globally, but languages also open us up to new experiences and cultures, and speaking other languages boosts our self-confidence and makes us more adaptable.

Instead of blame being apportioned towards the educational sector or Brits being blamed for their lack of motivation, the aim of the British Academy’s Language Festival is to stimulate people’s interest in language learning and to encourage organizations to promote languages and cultures in engaging ways by launching social initiatives and supporting new partnerships. Businesses need to take more responsibility towards their staff and support them with language learning initiatives, and more support needs to be given to local communities.

Did you take part in the British Academy’s Language Festival? What events did you come across or get involved with? Now that you’ve been bitten by the language bug, it’s time for you to be proactive and put that enthusiasm to good use!

Good Times in Germany: Three Popular Activities to Take Part In

Posted on December 11th, 2013by Melanie
In Culture, Events, German | Leave a Comment »

Shopping, eating, drinking and sightseeing…these activities are enjoyed by most of us, but none do it in quite the same style as the Germans! Here are three recommend activities for you to try during your trip to Germany. You’ll see from some of the references that, whilst German and English both belong to the West Germanic family of languages, the words couldn’t be more different in the way they sound and how they are written. So, if you’re planning a trip to Germany, polish up on your pronunciation before you go!

1.      German Christmas Markets

If you’re lucky enough to visit Germany at the end of November to December, you’ll be able to get into the Christmas spirit by visiting a German Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt). Soak up the magical atmosphere of these traditional markets while you shop for genuine handcrafted items, drink mulled wine (glühwein), taste the baked apples and smell the hot chestnuts. Kids will enjoy the gingerbread biscuits, known as Lebkuchen, and marzipan sweets. Christmas markets are dotted around all over the country, from spectacular city markets to smaller, more romantic village markets.

Six Christmas markets are held in Cologne each year, including a floating Christmas market on the Rhine, and a vast market where hundreds of stalls line the brightly lit streets and Rhineland’s largest Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) is proudly displayed. The one held at Rudolfplatz, next to the medieval gate houses, holds a special Brothers Grimm street parade each year with giant costumed characters. Heinzelmannchen Gnomes are said to keep watch over the markets to make sure that everything offered there is genuine. So for traditional German handicrafts, good food and an amazing atmosphere, the German Christmas markets will take some beating!

2.      Beer Festivals 219

Now that you’ve done all that hard work of Christmas shopping you must be exhausted, so some light refreshment is just what you need! An ice-cold glass (and a very large one at that) of German beer (bier) will be waiting for you to gulp down in one of the many cosy taverns. With their popular beers being sold worldwide, Germans certainly knows how to drink it in style.

For a lively night out, visit the world’s most famous beer hall, Hofbräuhaus, in Munich where you’ll soak up the atmosphere as well as copious beers served in one litre glasses while listening to live music with about 4,500 other people! If one beer hall is just not enough to satisfy you, then the 14 halls at Oktoberfest surely will! Wash sausage and sauerkraut down with your Oktoberfest beer as you take part in the world’s largest fair.

3.      The Black Forest 22 June 2006</p><br />
<p>A village on the edge of the Black Forest

If something a little quieter is on your agenda, then the rolling hills of the Black Forest are for you. Schwarzwald is full of lush forests, tiny villages and valleys. Take in the scenery as you drive through or maybe hire a bike to blow the cobwebs away. One of the most popular tours is German Clock Road where you can delve into the history of the cuckoo clock (Kuckucksuhr). Or sample some German grapes along the Wine Route (weinstraße). Whatever you do though, don’t leave the area without trying some of its namesake, some delicious Black Forest gâteau! Bite into a gorgeous slice of chocolate, kirsch, cherries and cream to make your trip complete.

Are you ready to make all these activities a part of your life? Then get ready to make these German words part of your vocabulary! Have a good time with the locals by practising your German before you go.

What other must-see attractions can you recommend in Germany?

 

Fast Exchanges with Foreign Strangers

Posted on December 8th, 2013by Melanie
In Events, Language acquisition, Speech | Leave a Comment »

You’ve heard of speed dating, but what about speed speaking? ‘Language exchanges’ as they’re known, are the plutonic equivalent of speed dating when you get to hone your language skills. You find an event, you sit at a table, you talk to a complete stranger in their language for a few minutes then they talk to you in your language for the remaining few minutes, then…move sideways for your next quick conversation.

Everyone always says that the best way to really learn a language is to speak it but, outside of a classroom where you feel comfortable, confident and know what the subject matter is about, it’s not so easy. Not unless you are lucky enough to be able to jet off randomly to practise your skills abroad. Many of us are really shy when it comes to speaking foreign languages, for fear of getting it wrong and being ridiculed. And if you don’t have foreign friends or colleagues who you can ask for help, how are you supposed to practise?

Language ‘Blind Dates’

Language exchanges have become very popular in the UK. With so many people now visiting and staying in the UK, there is no shortage of foreigners wishing to hone their English languages skills. So in the same way, they will be happy to help you hone your language skills. Just like the classified ‘partner’ ads, you´ll find many advertising for conversation exchanges, usually arranging to meet in bars or cafés. Like a blind date of sorts, except that the only awkwardness is about how well you are, or are not, speaking their language. It may seem strange at first and you may only meet some people once, but an hour of conversation with a native speaker of the language you’re learning will boost your skills as well as your confidence more than you can imagine. If you’re lucky enough, you might meet a language partner who wants to meet up for regular conversation exchanges. An hour a week speaking with the same person means you’ll be able to progress much faster as you can cover new ground each time, and shyness won’t be an issue.

Conversation Exchange Events

Does an hour of speaking with a complete stranger in a foreign language seem too daunting? Check the newspapers and Internet websites for information about conversation language events. These events will specify the languages to be spoken, where and when the event is being held, the cost for attending and the time frame for each language exchange. Far from the conversation exchanges just mentioned, these events place an emphasis on being fast and being fun. With the drinks flowing, you get just a few minutes to speak to your partner in their language to practise your skills, and then it’s time for them to practise their English for a few minutes while they speak to you. With no time for shyness or awkward silences, it’s time to move on and you’re suddenly sitting opposite a new partner where your few minutes start again. Lively and fun, these events are a great way to get talking in your favourite foreign language!

Have you tried a conversation exchange? Was it a private meeting or an arranged event, and did you find it beneficial for practising your language skills? How did the conversation exchange help you to progress in your language lessons?