You know about vocabulary lists, flashcards and pronunciation guides, but sometimes there’s more at stake than just knowing the language. In this article, you’ll learn about the hidden ingredient you need for avoiding misunderstandings (even offence!) worldwide.Read more
Learn French with a bilingual podcast interview! In this article, you’ll learn what it takes to learn French so you can speak to any local in the language - plus there is an interview on the Fluent Show which is half in French and half in English. C’est trop bon! 🇫🇷Read more
¡Oye! Spanish learner!
If you want to sound cool and know more about where the most typical slang expressions in your target language come from, today's article is going to give you a language boost that you can take straight to Mexico. Check out these 32 slang expressions, beautifully explained by guest poster Raúl Jiménez.Read more
There's chanting in the stands, sunshine in the streets and everyone is dusting off the Mannschaft jerseys: Euro 2016, this year's biggest football tournament has finally started!
Party With German Friends
If you're learning the German language, you already know how important the sport is to Germans. There are over 6.5 million football club members in Germany, but during Euro 2016 those numbers pale into insignificance. You're safe to say that at least half of the Germans you'll meet are going to take an interest in this tournament.
By the way: As a Welsh learner, I've already picked up a few new words by learning the Welsh national anthem. Never say sportsball isn't for learning.
So Why Miss Out On Euro 2016 Fun?
No matter who you are supporting, no matter if you even care about who wins, the excitement is going to be unavoidable in the coming weeks. The following tips are guaranteed to help you feel at home in any Fanmeile or public viewing zone (those are what the Germans call their big screen areas)
1) Don't Bet On The Favourites
Germans are a risk-averse bunch. The classic British tradition of supporting the underdog is puzzling to many of them. Why go for anything but the most promising option? So if you want to get with the German mentality as a football supporter, reserve a soft spot for the most likely tournament winners.
For Euro 2016, the strongest football teams are Spain, Italy, Poland, the reigning world champions Germany and host nation France.
But don't go out and place a bet on them to win. Bet shops and betting agencies in sports are less commonplace in Germany as Germans prefer wise investments to anything as risky as gambling.
2) Get The Grillparty Started
Football World Cup and European Cup tournaments take place in the summer - perfect timing for millions of Germans to open up Balkonien (balconia - a German word for "holidaying at home") and invite their friends round for a BBQ and viewing party.
For the best German Grillparty, you need a venue (garden, allotment, balcony, public BBQ area), a TV to watch the match, some meat (despite the vegan trend, Germans tend to be non-veggie), salad and veggies, and a good supply of drinks. No need for spicy sauces - German foods are rarely hot and spicy.
3) Be A Fachsimpler
Fachsimpeln (playing the expert) is a hobby no one can resist entirely, and watching sports among friends is no exception. When you're among your friends and everyone is playing armchair pundits, listen out for some of the following words to help you keep up:
- Der Anstoß - kick off
- Die Schwalbe - dive (when a player feigns injury)
- Der Stürmer - striker
- Der Verteidiger - defense player
- Das Mittelfeld - mid-field
- Der Elfmeter - penalty
- Der Eckball - corner
- Der Freistoß - free kick
- Das Foul - foul
- Verlängerung (in der Verlängerung) - extra time
- Ich bin für Deutschland. - I'm supporting Germany
- Wie steht es? - what's the score?
- Der Pokal - cup (in a sporting context)
By the way, you can practice these sentences and learn a lot more about how Germans talk in my German pronunciation course.
4) Be About The Team, Not The Player
Back in the early 2000s, German football wasn't quite as successful as it's looking today. Our teams were made up of good players, but the team spirit was lost. In recent years, German football has undergone a transformation and brought in a new focus on the whole team.
The official song, motto and hashtag for the German football team in Euro 2016? Jeder für Jeden (or #jederfuerjeden) - everyone for everyone. This team is not about running around behind a super famous striker. They're hoping to bring home sporting glory together.
5) Learn Some Football Quotes
Football coaches and football players are people who are often asked for their opinions, and every now and then produce a piece of wisdom second to none. You can find many quotes attributed to German coaches on this Spiegel.de page. From Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten, to nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel, you won't need to be fluent in German to join in with your football-crazy friends this summer.
Or if you want to hang out and watch football with me for the night, all you really need is a passionate supply of these lines. Let's be honest, even shouting "Mesuuuuut!" at strategic moments will be wonderful.
Who Are You Supporting?
Football tournaments are an awesome way for people to get together and have a bit of fun (that's valid for the incredibly underfunded womens' sports too, by the way).
Are you joining in this summer? What's your favourite football quote?
Let me know in the comments below!
One of the most wonderful things about learning a foreign language is to get to know the country behind that language. What is beyond the flashcards? What makes that place? It's awesome to dive into history and geography, cook a few recipes (like Shannon from Eurolinguiste) and of course discover what they watch and listen to.
If you're a regular listener of the Creative Language Learning Podcast, you may have already noticed that there is a new German language TV show on the block. Deutschland 83 is a spy drama set in one of my favourite periods of German history: the 1980s, right in the cold war. You can catch it on iTunes, on Amazon, or currently on Channel 4 in the UK.
German History: Spies, Terror and Economic Miracles
So here's the world at the time of Deutschland 83: Germany lost a world war and then the Eastern part of the country was made into a Socialist republic. The West started a kick-ass economy that went so well it became known for its Wirtschaftswunder, the economic miracle of the 1950s. In the 1960s, youth rebellion and peace movement shook our society, and Western Germany even struggled with its own terrorist group, the Red Army Faction. All the while, the Eastern part of Germany was locked away behind a wall and involved in the hottest army race of the 20th century: the Cold War.
Plenty going on at the time of Deutschland 83 then! The show's premise places a young Eastern German soldier into the West, where he's given a new identity and a bunch of adventurous spy tasks. It shows society in the West and East, the big fear of atom bombs laying waste to all of Europe, and a few hilarious scenes where a confused bunch of high-level spies stare at a floppy disc, wondering what it does.
Discover Germany's Answer to David Bowie
One of the unmissable things about Deutschland 83 is its awesome soundtrack. Let me introduce you to its theme song "Major Tom", Germany's synth driven response to the wonderful David Bowie. I've prepared a lyric sheet for German learners which you can download below.
Major Tom, written by Peter Schilling, was inspired by Bowie's song "Space Oddity", which tells the story of an astronaut abandoning his mission, decoupling from base and going off to live in space. In Germany, the song became a huge hit and one of the flagship sounds of Neue Deutsche Welle, the biggest 1980s pop music trend which also included Nena and her famous song "99 Luftballons". In fact, if you pay attention in episode one of Deutschland 83, you'll hear the song playing in the background at a party in East Germany (where playing Western music would have been an offence!).
Germans have never stopped loving Major Tom, and today there is no good beerfest without everyone shouting völlig schwerelos (completely weightless) and waving their hands about.
Bonus: Major Tom in French
Major Tom's fame was all over Europe in the 80s, so if you're a French learner you can use the same song for study. Here's the cover by Belgian synthmeister Plastic Bertrand (of Ça plane pour moi fame) will make sure that you don't miss out.
If you're listening to this song and can't shake the feeling that you know it from somewhere, it might be because Deutschland 83 is not the first show to feature Major Tom. If you're a fan of AMC's "Breaking Bad", you might remember the Gale Boetticher version - are those Thai subtitles?
Share Your Playlist
I'd love to hear from you about your own favourite 1980s tunes. Do you love pop music like Major Tom? Tell me about your playlist in the comments.
If you love the sound of Major Tom, don't forget to download your free Vocab & Lyric Sheet.
You can also check out this article to get a step-by-step guide to using music for language learning.
Back in 1957, eight million astounded Brits gathered around their television sets to learn about a magnificient cultural spectacle. The popular BBC programme Panorama was showing exclusive footage of the epic Spaghetti Harvest in Switzerland. They had been enjoying tinned spaghetti from the greengrocer's shelves and relished learning more about how this exotic dish was made.
In fact, the BBC has a long history of bringing us groundbreaking news like that. Just think of their discovery that penguins can fly!
What the What?
Okay, by now you may find yourself wondering if I've gone completely crazy and let me assure you I'm not quite there yet! These fascinating news stories are part of the worldwide tradition of playing pranks on April Fools' Day, the world's joke day. To celebrate this crazy tradition, I thought I could either tell you that Fluent is turning into a Chemistry blog (HAH!) or make myself useful by counting down my favourite linguistic jokes. So here we are:
The Top 5 April Fools' Jokes for Language Lovers
1. German Grammar Reform coming up
On 1 April 2015, Deutsche Welle's German Teaching blog reported groundbreaking news. They announced a radical simplification of the German language's grammar. In the new system, the genders of different words would follow strictly logical rules - anything feminine is feminine, anything masculine is masculine, and all the other stuff is neuter. They also announced that the conjugated verb will no longer confuse you by jumping to the end of sub-clauses. And best of all, the four cases would be reduced to just three. Who the heck needs a Genitiv anyway?
2. New Zealand has a new official language
The most significant claim to fame of New Zealand has been its recent role as the site of Tolkien's fabled land of Middle Earth. In a radical move, the country has now accepted its key role in fantasy and changed its official language to Elvish.
Here's a video where you can check out how beautiful the new weather reports in Elvish sound.
3. Netflix admits that English is a foreign language
In 2013, video service Netflix finally admitted that English is not the easy world language it's renowned to be. In a revolutionary move, they introduced the category Movies that are in English but still need subtitles, which features facets of the English language that you might have missed out on so far. How about learning Irish Traveller English or just Scottish?
4. Learn a new language: Dog Barking Online Course
If you have always wondered what it is that your dog really wants, now you finally have the means to open the door to communicating with them. Groupon is offering an exclusive 6-week course that will get you fluent and conversing with native dogs in their own language.
5. English. It's the only language you need.
And finally, here is a post from my friend Alex Gentry that I bet a lot of you will relate to ;)
Russian is the MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE ON EARTH! I can't take it anymore! It's too much for my poor little brain to handle. Also Hindi! I am tired of Hindi because everyone in India DEFINITELY speaks English anyway, so why need that? Why can't they just translate Bollywood movies into ENGLISH??? Also what's the use of Indonesian? Why can't I learn a USEFUL language like Chinese or Spanish? Also I'm going to stop with Portuguese and German and Spanish and even Chinese because as I know from experience, EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH ANYWAY! So I'm not going to learn anymore languages and I'm going to forget them all! I want to be a monolingual English speaker again! And these foreigners! They can leave me alone unless they SPEAK ENGLISH! WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE JUST SPEAK IN ENGLISH????? IT WOULD MAKE THINGS SOOOOOO MUCH EASIER FOR ME, RIGHT???? Like learning a foreign language, that doesn't benefit me in any way. I just want to be stupid and ignorant of the rest of the world again besides AREN'T FOREIGN LANGUAGES LIKE IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN???? TWO LANGUAGES IN ONE HEAD??? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?????? From now on the only language I will ever speak again is English, because this post is just the most serious post ever that it completely reflects exactly how I feel about learning foreign languages. Or maybe I might have just wrote this to shock people and make them wonder if something was wrong with me. Or maybe this might just be a March Fool's joke. No! Wait! That's the wrong month! March is over! You know.... Oh wait......:-P
Oh, and did you know that Germans will let you get away with pranks on April 2 and 3 too?
Today I have a guest post for you here on Fluent, hopefully giving you insights into language learning through musics in a wholly new way. What if you didn't just watch "Let it Go from Frozen in 25 Languages" on YouTube. How about learning about how different languages use grammar to all express a common theme?
It’s a question we’ve all thought about at least once -- if you woke up one morning and discovered that you were suddenly of the opposite sex, what would you do? Incidentally, this rhetorical situation has so thoroughly plagued pop singers around the world that they’ve been prompted to write songs about it! Indeed, there are popular songs titled “If I Were A Boy” in at least four languages -- English, Spanish, French, and German.
Unsurprisingly, the hypothetical male versions of the women who sing these catchy pop songs have different goals -- where Beyoncé is focused on doing right by her woman (“I’d stand up for her”), French songstress Diane Tell is more concerned with material goods (“Je t'offrirais de beaux bijoux” / I’d offer her beautiful jewels). And German group Fräulein Wunder has a slightly less glamorous set of goals, such as peeing with no hands (“Und nur zum Spaß freihändig pissen” / And piss with no hands for fun).
But regardless of whether their fantasies involve romance, riches, or going to the bathroom, these ladies all share one thing in common: their music gives us a great reason to practice the subjunctive. Yes, that’s right: an unintended side effect of these gender-bending tunes is that they give us learners a perfect chance to see the second conditional in action. So without further ado, let’s deconstruct the rich grammar lessons underlying the Spanish, French, and German versions of “If I Were a Boy”.
Spanish: Si Yo Fuera un Chico by Beyoncé
Beyoncé’s original English-language song “If I Were A Boy” was so popular that she translated and re-recorded a version en español for her Spanish-speaking fans. Since then, it’s been a hit in Latin America and Spain, as well as among students trying to learn the second conditional in Spanish. Let’s take a look at what Beyoncé would do if she were a boy.
Si yo fuera un chico / If I were a boy
Sé que podría saber / I know that I would be able to know
Comprender mucho mejor / How to better understand
Lo que es amar a una mujer / What it means to love a woman
Poignant, Beyoncé! But even more than being a sweet sentiment, these lyrics give us a great chance to learn the subjunctive in Spanish. Note that she uses the past subjunctive of “ser” (to be) -- fuera -- to indicate that the situation is hypothetical, or at least very unlikely. And later, she uses the conditional form of “poder” (to be able to) -- podría -- to indicate something that she would do if circumstances were different.
Who knew that Beyoncé was not only a queen of American pop music, but also a professor of Spanish? To find out what else Beyoncé would do if she were a boy, as well as to hear some more examples of second conditionals in Spanish, listen on here.
French: Si J’étais Un Homme
Diane Tell is a French-Canadian singer who is arguably the one who started it all: in 1981, she became well-known throughout Canada and Europe when she released “Si j'étais un homme”, a solid three decades before Beyoncé’s version. Though Diane is a little more keen on material goods than Beyoncé (she goes on to write about expensive jewels, perfumes, and flowers), the message is the same: she would be very romantic if she were a man. In fact, at the end of the song, she proclaims:
Ah ! si j'etais un homme / Oh! If I were a boy
Je serais romantique… / I would be romantic…
And thus we encounter another great chance to brush up on our second conditionals. In French, like English, the second conditional is used to describe impossible or improbable situations. Here, it’s formed by taking the imperfect first-person tense of “être” (to be) -- ètais -- to express that the situation is not real. Then, like in Spanish, the conditional form of “être” -- serais -- indicates the same sentiment that “would” expresses in English.
To hear the rest of Mlle. Tell’s imaginative ideas, hear the full song here.
German: Wenn ich ein Junge wär
The spunky ladies of German band Fräulein Wunder do away with the sweet, romantic notions in the Spanish and French versions of the song, and instead zero in on the really important topics: Playboy, beer, and Kampfsport machen (combat sports). But despite the fact that their version of “If I Were Boy” is decidedly more vulgar than the others (making it a great song for learning German swear words), a G-rated grammar lesson can still be found within the profanity.
Wenn ich ein Junge wär / If I were a boy
Ich würd mit meinen Kumpels raufen / I would scuffle with my buddies
Ich würd mein’ nackten Hintern zeigen / I would show my bare butt
Amongst the fighting and flashing, some grammatical rules emerge: the subjunctive II is formed by adding an umlaut to the imperfect form of the verb -- so “war” becomes wär. This indicates that the situation described isn’t real. Then, the conditional: like English, German uses an entire word -- würd -- to express the sentiment of “would”; likewise, the verb that follows is in infinitive (uninflected) form, as we see with raufen and zeigen.
Some of Fräulein Wunder’s lyrics were too explicit for me to write about here, so prepare yourself, and listen to their entire song by clicking on this link (warning: parental advisory!).
Learning Grammar Through Music
As these ladies’ songs have shown us, music is a great way to enjoy yourself while picking up important grammar points. Given that songs are often written in common, colloquial language, they’re also great for learning phrases and sayings that you wouldn’t learn in class. For more foreign-language music ideas for language learners, check out these extensive suggestions. And don’t forget to sing along -- that way, you’ll be getting in some speaking practice as well! (Though, please -- be mindful of your surroundings when singing along to “Wenn ich ein Junge wär”.) Happy listening!
In today's beautiful and fun guest post, travel writer Matt Lindley is introducing "Idioms of the World", a collection of illustrations for idioms around the world. Idioms are a fun way to think about how other groups of people see the world, and they're always part of what keeps us entertained when diving into another language.
Matt is a language lover and digital content creator based in London. When he isn't at his laptop, Matt enjoys learning Polish, riding his bike and listening to experimental music. You can follow him on Twitter: @MattELindley. His illustrations were commissioned for Hotel Club.
What's in a Bunch of Words?
The idea for Idioms of the World really came about from two observations: The first was realising how interesting the topic of language and culture was. A chat with a friend about the foreign words that have been incorporated into the English language left me wondering:
Did we adopt the French word café because we associate France with good food and drink?
Did we incorporate the Spanish word siesta into our language because we associate Spain with chilled out afternoons?
The second observation, from my days as an EFL teacher, was realising how much students enjoyed learning idioms. This is what they always wanted to do, even when there were far more pressing things to learn first.
The appeal of foreign idioms comes from the fact that they are not the same the world over. The girl who's "a sandwich short of a picnic" in the UK will have "a spider on the ceiling" in France and "little monkeys in the attic" in Portugal.
I've always found idioms fascinating because they reveal unique aspects of the culture using them. Idioms tell us what matters to a nation, as could be the case with the German phrase "to live like a maggot in bacon", which means "to live the life of luxury".
Gems of Fun in Language Learning
A primary reason for learning a foreign language is to learn more about a culture. So it makes sense that idioms should be fun to learn and easy to remember, as they are literally bursting with culture.
For this piece, I asked artist and illustrator Marcus Oakley to draw ten of his favourite idioms from around the world. I hope they show the world in its linguistic glory and highlight how odd these little phrases are, which we sometimes use in our everyday speech without even realising.
I'd love it if you could share some of your favourite idioms in the comments. There really are more than you can shake a stick at.