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Talk the Talk

Posted on August 17th, 2013by Melanie
In Pronunciation, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

Talk the talkThe art of a good conversation is knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it. That’s not always easy as people often mean one thing but say another, try to discuss subjects they´re not fully clued up about, blurt things out in a tactless manner, speak too quickly for others to understand or go off at tangents. All of these things can lead to confusion, disgruntled feelings and mixed messages, which makes having a good conversation in a foreign language even more challenging!

Trying to find the right words and expressions in your own language can be hard enough, but scratching around in a foreign vocabulary to make yourself understood in the way you intended to be is even harder. Confidence is the key; that mixed with a bit of patience and persistence. Be confident that you are speaking the right words in the right way and you´ll carry your conversation off without anyone realising that it involved a little guesswork or that you were unsure of yourself. Don´t worry about the thought of being ridiculed if you get something wrong; on the contrary, people will admire you more for trying. And don´t give up if you can´t think of how to say something straight away, just take some time until it becomes clear in your mind and you´ll find that, after that, the words will flow easily so that you can carry on with the conversation.

No matter what level of lingual ability you´re at, everyone has the same angst when learning and speaking a new language, so be persistent with your studies and be brave at your approach, and you´ll soon find that you´re enjoying a very good conversation!

Discovering Hidden Depths

Posted on August 14th, 2013by Melanie
In Language acquisition, Spanish, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Scuba 3As a child, Peter had loved scuba diving and spent as much time as he could in the water looking at the colourful scenery beneath him and learning to spot different types of coral, fish and other marine life.

After many happy holidays abroad, and now an adult, he´d decided to take his hobby a step further and become a diving instructor. He´d lived and worked in Greece for a couple of years, initially training with a diving school for his PADI instructor certification, and then to gain experience at earning a living as an instructor. It was invaluable for the amount of knowledge he´d learned, not only about the fascinating underwater life but also how to be a guide. The work taught him how to deal with different people and how to adapt the dives to different levels of capabilities.

A couple of years later, he put this knowledge to good use when an unexpected move took him to Spain and he joined a renowned dive centre. Dealing with locals as well as tourists, Peter gradually picked up the language and this helped greatly with the training classes and put people at ease straight away. He relished the dive excursions where they explored the colourful reefs, abundant with rich and diverse marine life. He enjoyed wreck dives, making underwater discoveries, watching the inquisitive fish and sometimes even feeding them, with great opportunities for underwater photography shots. The spectacular undersea scenery never failed to amaze him.

Unfortunately, Peter had had to return to the UK to deal with unforeseen family matters but still went diving whenever he could and planned to go back to Spain eventually to continue with his dream job and lifestyle. To make sure he didn´t waste a moment of his time, he had enrolled in Spanish lessons to keep the language active in his mind as he intended to carry on exactly where he left off on his return to Spain. With more pressing matters to hand in the meantime, he contented himself with his memories of the magical underwater world of the Mediterranean.

Let the Music Begin!

Posted on August 11th, 2013by Melanie
In Events, Italian, Words | Leave a Comment »

Concert 2Martin was ready to pack up and set off again. As part of a band crew, he travelled a lot, staying away from home for long periods of time and touring to different destinations; and he loved it!

Martin had been working in this profession for twenty years and never tired of it. Travelling with different bands and crews made each job exciting and challenging. The hours were long and he was used to living out of a suitcase but the buzz of the concerts at the end of each night which reflected on all of the crew´s hard work was fantastic.

Travelling to different locations was the added bonus and, between sets, he would explore each city with other crew members and take in the atmosphere and sights around him. He´d travelled on tour to cities like Milan, Berlin, Seville, Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam and Prague, and many more besides. Each tour took his job to new cities and he looked forward to whenever he´d get a chance to get to know the areas.

Of all the places he´d travelled to, his favourite country was Italy. Each city was so different with diverse landscapes and a fascinating culture. The locals were always friendly and welcoming, and he had a particular fondness for Italian food! His freelance work usually took him on European tours so, more often than not, he´d be pretty sure to end up in an Italian city at some point. He´d picked up lots of words and phrases on the way and had even taken up Italian language lessons back home. Although his work schedule was very irregular, his language course was flexible enough to cater for this and he was able to continue his studies from where he had left off the previous time without having to skip chunks of lessons.

For now, it was back to work and the hard graft of the behind the scenes crew. Soon the stage would be set, the lights would go up and the crowd would go wild!

Going Back to Our Roots

Posted on August 7th, 2013by Melanie
In English, German, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Germanic languageHave you ever considered the origins of languages? How did they start, where did they begin, how have they changed and been influenced over the years?

Our modern day European languages belong to the Germanic family of languages which originated in Europe and include about 60 languages and dialects all originating from Proto-Germanic, which was spoken in Iron Age northern Europe. As the Germanic tribes moved southwards from northern Europe, different variations of Germanic sprang up.

Three main groups occurred: the West Germanic languages, North Germanic and East Germanic languages. The North Germanic branch consists of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, amongst others. The East Germanic languages are now extinct. The West Germanic languages, however, are the most widely spoken of the Germanic family of languages and include the two most popular ones of English and German as well as other major languages, including Dutch and Afrikaans.

The English and German languages of today occurred due to shifts in speech patterns resulting from influences such as the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons which led to the demise of Old English grammar and the start of Middle English in the 12th century, and to the High German consonant shift which resulted in Upper German, Low Saxon and Central German strains.

Our languages are still evolving today with the integration of popular foreign words and phrases from other languages. Languages are intriguing, from their concept, to their development, their usage and their ever-changing form. So be intrigued: get back to your linguistic roots and learn a new language from the Germanic family tree!

Reunited At Last

Posted on August 4th, 2013by Melanie
In English, German, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Hugging 3Chris had spent a few years in his late teens and early twenties living in Germany, in the army barracks where he served. After his tour had ended, he moved back to the UK with his German wife to start a family. They had a beautiful baby boy called Sam and life in the UK was good for a while.

But, as sometimes happens, life changed course and Chris and his wife sadly decided to end their marriage. She moved back to Germany with their young son while Chris stayed in the UK. His ex-wife soon remarried and started a new family, and gradually it wasn’t just the distance which kept Chris apart from his son as she cut all forms of communication with him.

Years later, having never given up searching, Chris found his son again. Now a teenager, he still lived in Germany but with his girlfriend rather than his mother. Sam spoke good English but, having lived in Germany for so long, often lapsed into German without thinking. Chris still remembered bits of German but his memory of the language was vague since his army days. As an effort to show willing and an understanding for Sam´s life so far in Germany, Chris enrolled in a German language course to refresh his memory and to make quick progress so that he could speak to his son properly.

A year later, they are still catching up and getting to know each other, albeit by speaking in an amusing form of Denglish! The separation of time and distance may have been long, but the bond between father and son has been mended in no time at all.

Getting Rid of Guesswork!

Posted on July 31st, 2013by Melanie
In Language acquisition, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

SpeakingShrugging shoulders, huffing and puffing, and flashing eyes – these are sure signs of an irritable mood. A harsh tone of voice, sharp hand movements and a reddening face can convey anger and aggressiveness. Slumped shoulders with watery eyes and a downturned mouth are signs of being very upset. A head thrown back with a happy expression and eyes creased at the corners shows happiness and laughter. Body language is one way we use to communicate but speaking to each other will give a much clearer message of what we mean.

Having said that, speaking to each other might not be quite as easy as we´d like! Have you ever been on holiday or in a similar situation where you´re trying to ‘speak’ to a person from another nationality despite only knowing a few words, if any at all, of their language. You end up enacting a form of charades to try and explain what you mean which can be as hysterical as it can be exasperating when you can´t get your point across. One way to make sure you´re really understood is to simply learn their language!

And it really is simple with the wide choice of language classes available and the modern methods used. Language learning can be done at home with the aid of online courses, with a tutor in a place to suit you and at a time to fit in with your schedule, in a one-to-one situation or in a group environment if you prefer. Original teaching methods make learning languages fun and easy to reach fluency. So make your message clear by mastering a new language!

The Dawning of a New Era

Posted on July 28th, 2013by Melanie
In Events, Historic, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Prince GeorgeThis week welcomed the arrival of the baby Prince George, the future king of Britain! Born on Monday 22nd July in the same private wing of St Mary´s Hospital as his dad, Prince William, and his uncle, Prince Harry, baby George Alexander Louis has emerged as the third in line to the throne.

Proud parents, Kate and William, looked happy and relaxed as they introduced their son to the eagerly awaiting media and crowds. These young royals, a modern day couple, took a break from tradition and announced their son´s name just a day after the duchess left the hospital. Historically, the naming process has always been much longer with Prince William´s name being announced after a week, and his father´s name, Prince Charles, taking a whole month to be announced. The Queen´s visit to see her great-grandson was also the first time in over a century that a reigning monarch has met a grand-grandchild who has been born in succession to the throne.

So what does the future hold for Prince George and for the people? A new era for the Royal Family has begun and with it a new era has dawned for the next generation of the general population. Times have changed and, like his parents, Prince George will need to show that he can keep up with them and build good relations with both British people and people throughout the world. One way to do this would be to learn the languages of neighbouring countries just as his great-grandparents have done – the Queen and Duke of Windsor speak fluent French – and in the same way that royals from other countries learn foreign languages.

We live in a cosmopolitan world and the key to a successful future is communication. Be a part of that success and open the doors to endless possibilities by learning new languages!

Unravelling the Secrets of a Society

Posted on July 24th, 2013by Melanie
In Demotic, Hieroglyphics, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Rosetta StoneSpoken by those who constructed the magnificent pyramids, the craftsmen who carved and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the creators of the monumental temples we can still see in Egypt today, Ancient Egyptian is one of the oldest spoken languages which survives today in Coptic, the language spoken by Christian Egyptians.

This ancient language was beautifully written using hieroglyphs which are pictures of animals, people and objects. There are over 700 hieroglyphs (meaning ‘sacred carving’) and they all represent consonants, there are no vowels! They can be written across the page or from top to bottom and the secret to reading them is to follow the direction that the animals, people or objects are facing.

But how did we come to understand the meaning of hieroglyphic writing? It was thanks to the discovery of a special rock in the town of Rosetta, Egypt, by a soldier in 1799. This black basalt slab, now known as the Rosetta Stone, had the same piece of writing carved in it three times in different languages: hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek. A determined French Egyptologist, Jean Francois Champollion, finally translated it in 1822 by discovering that the hieroglyphs spelling ‘Ptolemy’ (Ptolemy V was a ruler of Egypt) were enclosed in a cartouche which he then compared with the Greek writing on the Rosetta Stone, and was eventually able to translate the rest of the writing. This amazing translation has given us the ability to read an ancient language and subsequently understand how an ancient civilisation lived.

Do you have an interest in ancient languages? Or perhaps you´re curious about the history of our more modern day languages? As with the French Egyptologist who had knowledge of the Greek language, you too could open up new opportunities and possibilities by speaking another language. If the modern era of communication is higher on your agenda, then why not improve your linguistic capabilities by learning a new language today!

The Perfect Opportunity

Posted on July 21st, 2013by Melanie
In Events, Language acquisition, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Working abroad 2Jodie was single, living in rented accommodation and had itchy feet. She worked for a travel company and spent her days planning and booking holidays for the customers while wishing she was travelling to those destinations herself. So she jumped at the chance when the company offered her a position abroad.

A mixture of nerves and excitement filled her during the first week as she learned the ropes. Her duties were to meet and greet guests at the airport and hotels, and to sell tour tickets on the beach. This was better than a desk job any day! In the evenings, she had to complete reviews of the hotels and tours in order to ensure that the company only offered its customers accommodation and entertainment that came within its expected standards. Having a nosey around the plush hotels and experiencing the tours each day in exchange for writing a report seemed a very fair swop to Jodie. Selling the tour tickets was a lot easier than she had expected. People were already relaxed on the beach and happy to talk about what they wanted to do on their holidays, and those eager to get out of the hot sun and see the sights were more than happy to part with their money in exchange for a tour!

Eventually the season finished and Jodie had to move back to the UK. She went back to her old job with the same company but with a confidence and vigour that she didn´t have before. Feeling refreshed and more knowledgeable about the tourist resorts, she put everything into finding her customers the best holidays she could that would make them want to return again and again. And they wouldn´t be the only ones to return; Jodie had already put her name down for a placement abroad the following year! With her annual plan firmly in mind, she enrolled in some language lessons to give herself a bit of a head start the next time she travelled. This role was definitely suited to her and she was determined to make the most of this perfect opportunity.

If you´ve got itchy feet like Jodie, or feel that you´re stuck in a rut, do something about it and turn your life around. Learning languages literally opens up a whole world of opportunities, so grab yours now!

Is Anybody Out There?

Posted on July 17th, 2013by Melanie
In Culture, Historic, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Golden RecordAre we alone in the universe? Who knows; but it would be naive of us to think so. And what would happen if we discovered we´re not alone? If we ever did encounter an alien species, the first stumbling block to overcome would be communication. We´d have to find a way to understand each other’s languages.

Two unmanned probes were launched by NASA over 30 years ago: Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were sent to investigate the larger planets of Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Saturn, beaming back images and data for us to analyse. They continued travelling further and Voyager 1 is now 10.5 billion miles away from Earth and Voyager 2 is 8.6 billion miles away. The mission has been successful so far…with one odd occurrence a few years ago.

Despite no previous disruptions, on 22nd April 2010, Voyage 2 suddenly started transmitting odd messages. The usual data streams which had been consistent for three decades were suddenly being transmitted in an unknown data format. The scientists at NASA´s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were unable to fathom out their meaning or the reason for this unexplained change as all of the other systems on the probe seemed to be functioning correctly. Hartwig Hausdorf, a German academic, concluded that alien life forms had taken over the probe in an attempt to make contact with us. Seem too far-fetched? Maybe not…

The space probes were never just intended for exploration. Both of them were fitted with a Golden Record, a phonograph record containing sounds and images of life on Earth in 55 languages, intended as greetings for extraterrestrial life forms or for humans in the future. So maybe the possibility of making contact with alien life isn´t such a stretch of the imagination after all. Whether you´re hoping for a future exchange of dialogue with an extraterrestrial, planning on striking up a conversation with a resident alien of the human kind, or simply interested in the challenge of learning a new language that´s alien to you, get out of your comfort zone and take a leap into the unknown!