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
It's one of my favourite episodes of the year - the live clips are in, so you can experience the Polyglot Gathering in 2017 with the Creative Language Learning Podcast as we bring you interviews, impressions and fun from the conference floor.
Here's just a hint of what's inside:
- Wonderful best wishes to you awesome listeners in German, Indonesian, Esperanto, Portuguese, Slovak, Korean, and more!
- Slovakia Travel Tips and insights into their unlikely national sport
- Fiel's call to arms -- how to bring more love into language learning
- The special vocabulary and handy rule 15 of Esperanto grammar
- What Gareth Popkins taught us about polyglotism...and what it has to do with your love life
With listening ears, ask questions. - Fiel Sahir
Come to an International Polyglot Event
If our episode inspired you to come and participate in a Polyglot event, check out the 2 big international conferences on the calendar:
- Langfest in Montréal, Canada -- get 25% discount when you enter promo code KERSTIN
- Polyglot Conerence in Reykjavík, Iceland
"Polyglot" is nothing to be scared of - not anymore!
If this conference has shown me anything, it's that this community called "polyglots" is ever evolving and slowly becoming an ever more supportive, familial group. It's great to see what people of all ages and backgrounds contribute...and of course it feels so fun when you're back home and suddenly realize your phone keyboard now has a Swedish dictionary installed.
To learn more about smaller events near you, check out 8 Life-Changing Language Learning Events Around the Globe here on the blog.
When you travel to a location as outstanding as the Mosel valley, it would be a shame to forget your camera. I recently headed home to spend a week preparing for the Fluent German Retreat, and on my trip I collected a few top tips to share with you.
The following sites are not to be missed and can be visited in a day or two. But wie alles an der Mosel, it pays to take your time and slow down to find a relaxed pace.
Top 5 Photo Spots in the Mosel Valley
1) Porta Nigra, Trier
Where would Trier locals be without their beloved Porta? This old Roman city gate stands proudly on the West End of Trier. It may not impress you with its beauty at the start, but this location is unmissable as the city's Wahrzeichen - our flagship building. This is where Germany's oldest city meets for coffee.
The inside of the Porta Nigra is fascinating, and during the summer you can take guided tours with a Roman centurion.
Eiscafé Calchera, just a few steps away from the Porta, is the city's finest address for Italian ice cream.
2) Straußwirtschaft im Weingut
Straußwirtschaften are the traditional German cousins of microbreweries, run in the wineries of wine country and open only a few months per year. Let yourself be spoilt with local foods and fresh wines right from the cellar. It might be true that we export all the good stuff.
You can find them in every village and know them by a bunch of ribbons, stray or branches (the Strauß) displayed on the outside the house.
3) Altstadt Bernkastel-Kues
Bernkastel-Kues is an absolute Mosel classic, visited for centuries by everyone from convalescent kings to US Army staff looking for a relaxing weekend. This town has everything you could want from a German photo spot: a castle ruin high up in the hills, a traditional market square second to none other, and a romantic bridge across the river to boot.
Bernkastel is bustling, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable for visitors at any age. It's most incredible during the Weinfest der Mittelmosel, crowned with stunning fireworks that reflect in the river on a warm September night.
At most German wine, beer or shooting festivals, you are in the presence of local royalty. In the Mosel valley for example, young ladies (usually between 17 and 25) represent their villages, towns and even the whole winemaking region. This job is coveted, and can even lead to a career travelling the world to represent German wine.
So obvious that it's nearly forgotten, the Mosel river is an absolutely breathtaking sight. Winding its way through ancient slate hills, lined by vineyards, it looks every bit as wonderful as it sounds. The Mosel valley has something beautiful on offer around every bend. Sometimes your eye will be drawn to an old castle, vines on a steep slope or a boat peacefully making its way down the river bends. The Mosel is a unique experience - drive or hike up one of the hills and you'll be spellbound.
Look out for the word Moselschleife in a guidebook, and do not let fear of a steep vineyard put you off. My favourite locations are the Brauneberg and the hills above Kröv and Minheim.
Where To Find Out More
This post covers just a few of the beautiful locations in the Mosel valley, and obviously there are hundreds more spots to discover. For example, I love the Josefinenhöhe in Veldenz,
This place is popular with travellers all around the world, yet undiscovered by the big tourist hordes, so prepare to discover your own private trail.
Are You Ready to Speak German?
If you want to experience these wonderful places and speak German with the people that live there, you are invited to discover the Fluent German Courses. These courses offer easy, straightforward explanations and examples to get you talking as fast as you can.
What is it that makes me so happy about language learning?
It's not just about showing that the human brain is capable of miraculous feats. It's also about using language as a lmetaphor for understanding other people.
When Fluent reader Christine McKenna contacted me by email with her story, I was drawn to it immediately. She speaks of language changing her perspective, and tells a story of how incredible it is to dive in and let your studies lead you to a new life. Christine is a yoga teacher living in the US, and has been studying languages for more than a decade.
Her language choices are Tibetan, Sanskrit and French. Intrigued? Then read on to find out how she connected to those languages.
If you're curious about diving into the languages mentioned in this post, you can download a little bonus page full of great resources from Christine and me. Click the button to get our recommendations.
It Started With Tibetan Monks
Before my current life as a yoga teacher, I was a software developer for 23 years.
In middle age, I developed an interest in broadening my horizons to something beyond full-time engagement with technology. I encountered Tibetan monks who had come to perform rituals at the Sackler Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC. They explained that they lived in India as refugees.
This was late 2001 and they were doing a healing ritual for Americans after the 9/11 attacks. Impressed by their generosity. These people lived as refugees, yet were concerned for us!
Exploring further, I met a translator and teacher of Tibetan philosophy who said there were linguistic and cultural nuances that were difficult or impossible to communicate in English. Drawn to find out more about this phenomenon, I began to study Tibetan language.
After a few starting pains (there are many dialects and variants), I found my solid grounding in literary Tibetan. Later I went to India and lived in a Tibetan refugee community. I took courses, helped out with various tasks (teaching technical skills, editing English translations), and developed my spoken Tibetan. After about eight months, I traveled to Nepal, to live in Tibetan communities and study.
My most engaging learning occurred while listening to conversations in public places. In Tibetan communities in India and Nepal, Tibetan conversations would flow freely as I visited teahouses and other public places. I was listening for cultural assumptions and how the language was being used. Listening was easier for me than constructing sentences of my own, so this helped move my skills along.
After I had learned a certain amount, I decided to take my next steps in conversation and scholarship. I returned to the US and a move to the East Coast gave me the opportunity to study Tibetan and Sanskrit at the University of Virginia.
Next Steps: Sanskrit and French
As part of my History of Asian Religions degree, I found myself adding more languages, too. I took up Sanskrit to better understand literary Tibetan.
While exploring history and availability of Tibetan-language manuscripts, I realized considerable research had been published in French! The French have a long history of Oriental studies - you need only visit the Website of Bibliothèque nationale de France and enter tibetain in the search to find out more. So after a while, I became persuaded I should study French to be the best and most responsible researcher for the history of Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhism.
In the university environment, I was typically more than twice the age of the next-oldest student in my classes. This was not a problem; I never felt out-of-place. I seemed to have fewer social distractions, knew exactly what I wanted from each class and remained very focused. Contrary to stereotype, I was often more comfortable with technology than some of my classmates. I seemed to be the only one in my French class to prefer an electronic dictionary to the traditional printed versions.
Language and Culture
In the Tibetan community, I encountered a philosophy and culture in which compassion is emphasized.
This shows itself in the language in wonderful ways: Verb tense and aspect differ significantly from English, in ways I hadn't imagined. Initially, I would ask a bilingual Tibetan, "How would I say [something or other] in Tibetan?" and they would respond "You wouldn't."
Puzzling, but I finally understood that the world-view is significantly different and the language corresponds to that. Also some distinctions have historically not arisen; Tibetans have black hair, and there are traditionally only two words for hair color, black and what they were calling “blonde”. I was informed that my dark-brown locks are blonde for their purposes.
To immerse oneself in traditional Tibetan writings is to immerse oneself in a culture that values kindness and compassion over material concerns that pervade English language. This is not to say all Tibetans are saints or that I have not encounter Tibetans behaving badly. However, I find the mainstream culture inspiring. The centers of learning have long been monasteries; the head of government until very recently was also a spiritual leader--the Dalai Lama, said to embody compassion. Meditative practices are part of the culture.
To immerse oneself in traditional Tibetan literature, and much of their modern media is, typically, an effective way to pause and creatively re-direct thoughts based on Western cultural biases.
Everyday Language Immersion
There is much more I’d like to learn about these languages and the cultures they express! Right now I type most of my notes in Tibetan and Sanskrit; I would like to spend more time on hand-writing and calligraphy.
I often choose to immerse in language, sometimes simply crossing the border and spending time with French Canadians, or with Tibetan refugees in the U.S. or abroad. I may spend a day at home watching videos and reading books in a particular language, and I find that fluency develops - or resurfaces - and I lose some cultural baggage. Languages make me better at taking a new perspective.
Currently, I need to stay close to home, with little opportunity to travel. However, spending a day totally immersed in French or Tibetan - videos, reading, writing, even thinking in a chosen language - feels like a vacation because I make a mental shift. I also have occasional access to a Tibetan language conversation partner, or can video chat with one of my French Canadian friends.
Start Learning Tibetan and Sanskrit
Have you studied any of these ancient Asian languages? What is your experience with the compassionate world view of Tibetan culture?
If this story has made you curious to try out the languages for yourself, don't forget that you can get Christine's recommendations as a bonus to this post right here.
Learning a Language In-Country
Learning a language where it is spoken is one of the Top 5 wishes on every learner's bucket list. In this episode, we explore stories and tips about language learning - including Lindsay's travels to Costa Rica, and what Kerstin's English was like on day 1 in England.
- What's different between home learning and in-country learning?
- The risk and benefit of having a "home library" for language learning
- How can you build your in-country vocabulary?
- Why having no choice is the single best thing you can do for your language skills
- The three types of in-country learning: Short Stay, Mid-Stay and Complete Life Change
- How to rank and assess your language level on the "Kerstin Cable Breakfast Food Scale"
- German learners! Kerstin is inviting you to come to Germany and speak for a week at the Fluent German Retreat
- Exactly what to do when people correct you as you speak another language
- What does it mean when you start to dream and think in another language?
Listen here or download from itunes
Plus: Bonus Secret
We started off the show comparing a few Duolingo notes, and finally find out what happens when you finish a Duolingo skill tree.
Links and Resources from this Show
- Becoming Fluent book by Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts
- Creative Language Learning Podcast Episode 32 - the one about habit building
- Learn German in Germany with Kerstin at the Fluent German Retreat
- Lindsay's "Learning x in x" Series on Youtube
- Derren Brown
- David Blaine's interview
- Paul McKenna - stage hypnotist and self help guy
- Flashsticks - they're awesome
Please Support Our Sponsor
Episode 44 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast is kindly sponsored by our friends at Flashsticks. Check out their new app Flash Academy. It's a language playground offering you light lessons, games and quizzes. Go check it out for free at Flash Sticks and get 10% off everything at the site with code KERSTIN10.
Dear Fluent Reader,
I'm so excited about what I'm about to reveal to you, but first of all let me take a second to honour you as a reader of this blog.
For the last four years, I've spent over 1000 hours teaching the German language to learners all around the world.
I have had the privilege of writing this blog for you guys, recording the Creative Language Learning Podcast and connecting with incredible language learners. You were here when I quit my job, wrote my first book, published new courses. Pretty cool.
But you know what? We've never yet had the chance to meet in Germany.
A Bold New Step For German Learners
Here's what's happening: Fluent Language is going to be hosting the first ever Fluent German Retreat in October!
I am so excited about this - the event is where I'll be showing you live how you can switch into "Deutschmodus", make 10x the progress of a usual week and have an unforgettable experience.
This is the most daring teaching step I've ever taken, and I'd love for you to be part of it.
Of course I'm also hoping that it will be just the beginning, with more languages, events and retreats to follow.
Why a Retreat?
If you're a dedicated language learner, you probably spend dozens of hour staring at books and screens. I know what that feels like.
It is undeniable:
Every language learner reaches the point where they are sick and tired of repeating the same activities. The point where it's time to bring your language skills to life. You're lusting for a new experience, a language immersion that can offer that coveted German breakthrough.
You can take language courses. But as you already know, simply learning in a classroom isn't enough. It also isn't what I dreamt of offering you, because I have been dying to show you how awesome my Germany is.
With the Fluent German Retreat, you can sign up for an unforgettable week of language immersion right in the heart of German wine country.
This experience is about taking a break from your usual life, switching gears and entering your own German mode. I'll be leading the experience, building up your speaking skills, supporting you with my years of experience and knowledge.
Discover Germany's Hottest Destination
Our amazing location, the Mosel valley, deserves its own moment of attention on our blog, considering it must be one of Germany's most thrilling landscapes. It's truly special, and it's also my own home which I cannot wait to share with you.
Allow me to tell you more about what makes this place the best location for you to learn German:
- This region is hot in traveller circles right now. It was #34 on The New York Times's list of 52 Places to Go in 2016. Imagine telling your friends about how you learnt German on a wild stretch of German river, sipping the wine that was grown there..
- This is fairytale Germany! You'll get lost in the charming Gassen of Bernkastel, chat to winemakers at a wine tasting and disccover ancient Roman amphitheatres and city gates in Trier - all in your target language.
- The city of Luxembourg - a Unesco heritage city and polyglot paradise speaking 3 official languages - is only 20 minutes away.
- If you're the active type, I'll have some amazing hiking trails to recommend to you. And if you not, you'll love kicking back on a relaxing boat tour.
- The Mosel has been renowned for the quality of its wines for thousands of years. It is wine heaven. And we've all heard that language learner's wisdom about speaking more easily with a glass of wine in your hand.
Ready to hear how you can join us on the Retreat and have that German breakthrough?
You Are Invited To This German Experience
- Are you a German learner ready for a week of immersion, fun and relaxation?
- Does the prospect of speaking German for 5 days make you feel energised and excited?
- Do you want to start speaking to native Germans and boost your speaking skill by 50%?
If you said yes to these questions, then it's your perfect time to join the Fluent German Retreat.
There are only five places available, and at the current time the applications have opened and are coming in. So if you're interested and would like to secure your spot, make sure you complete the no obligation RSVP form quickly to avoid disappointment.
It's so exciting to have put this event together and to open it up for your applications. Let's meet each other in Germany!
This episode brings you the best mindset tips for learning a language for your next trip - even if you're completely busy and scared of talking to native speakers.
In this episode you'll hear
- Awesome listener feedback, including my top tip for what to do when people keep asking you to perform and "say something in" your target language
- Is it rude not to know the language of the country you are visiting?
- How I didn't do prep for my Iceland trip in the ideal way - and why a phrasebook would've been better
- What's different when you are learning languages for travel, and not "for life"
- What we learnt from reading the word "pizza" in lots of languages
- What to do immediately after you return home
Where Are YOU Travelling To Next?
Links Mentioned In This Episode
- HelloTalk - Language Exchange App, where you can find speakers of any language at all
- Kerstin's First Vlog in Welsh
- Lonely Planet Phrasebooks
- Langenscheidt Phrasebooks
- Lindsay's Learning X in X Video Series
- Delicious Lavtian Cili Pica
- Helga's shrine to Arnold on Hey Arnold
- Calendars of Longing - a new postcard every week, these are so beautiful
- Snapchat - everyone's on there now. I am fluentlanguage and Lindsay is ldlanguages. No more #kerstinyouold
In this show, we shared and read out some reviews. We love hearing from you guys and want you to know just how much your words are appreciated.
I don't want to keep you guys for too long with a long "housekeeping" section in our show, so if you've been feeling it's hard to listen to the feedback section, please let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
Your feedback is extremely important to the show. It gives us inspiration, topics, ideas, and it makes us happy.
You can help our show by going on itunes and leaving us a review yourself - we do read them all.
I've got a guest post that took me down memory lane today, back to my old job which had me travelling to Kazakhstan on a regular basis. The country became one of my favourite travel destinations. Kazakhstan is exciting, lively, full of nomadic promise, and delightfully different from my own country.
Guest writer Marta is Polish, and recently spent a few nomadic weeks in the country. I was so excited when she agreed to tell us her story!
Off to Kazakstan!
Crossing a busy four-lane road in an unmarked place with bags of groceries for a mere £10, my mind woke up — I’m in Kazakhstan. One of these “weird” countries that I could always find on the map (being the 9th largest country in the world it’s pretty hard to miss…), but whose mention did not conjure any images in my head. Well, at least not up until one famous comedy film. Borat certainly raised awareness about the existence of this vast land, but at the same time permanently stained the popular opinion about it.
A pack of 20 cigarettes costs the same as a taxi ride here: 60p. Yes, less than a pound. (*Ed.: 60p is roughly $1 US)
Last time I was in a bar I paid around £3.50 for five beers. If those are the prices of typical “luxury” goods, imagine how cheap food here is.
Here's how I got on on the language front:
Russian is one of the languages that annoys me. As a native Polish speaker I always expected myself to just “pick up” Russian with a mild amount of effort, but, to tell you the truth, I never had motivation to put even this mild amount of effort into learning Russian.
Due to the history of the last 70 years the language is still demonised among my family members who lived during the USSR, and even among my peers. I saw no reason to study Russian. I also managed to convince myself that I was incapable of memorising the Cyrillic alphabet. Buying into my own fairytale has made it much harder for me to learn it: like a self-fulfilling prophecy, or a bad teacher who stifles students’ interest in a subject due to a lack of talent.
Why am I talking about Russian though if I’m in Kazakhstan, is there not a language called Kazakh? Well… Kazakh has a status of a “state” language here and even though it’s spoken by the majority of the population (over 60%), the de-facto official language of wider communication here is Russian. This means that most Kazakhs are bilingual, especially in cities, and the 30% large Russian minority has no reason to learn Kazakh.
All road signs are bilingual and most shops or cafes have notices and menus in both Russian and Kazakh (sometimes also in English). Government employees are required to speak Kazakh and you do hear it a lot on the streets.
However, Russian remains a lingua franca and hearing a shelyeldyk (foreigner) speaking Kazakh provokes a very surprised and enthusiastic reaction, probably similar to the feeling I experience when a foreigner knows even two words of Polish.
If I had to choose whether to learn Russian or Kazakh, I would have definitely tried to learn some Kazakh during my stay. However, because my mother tongue belongs to the same language family as Russian, for survival purposes that was my chosen language of communication. Although you’ll decide for yourself to what extent you can call my speaking attempts communication.
Embracing the "Imbecile"
Originally the Kazakhs are descendants of nomadic Mongol tribes. This fitted quite nicely with the purpose of my visit to Kazakhstan which was to practice a modern nomadic lifestyle — not so much sleeping in yurts, but combining remote work with travelling.
I was planning to do what I mostly do at home, with occasional sightseeing ventures and excursions. I say all this only to provide myself with an excuse for not having learned more Kazakh or Russian while there, otherwise who would be writing for the LinguaLift blog and helping the students? I realise it’s a bit of a lousy excuse.
The point here is that even without learning anything formally I still had to communicate with people and, get things done.
In the process you will abandon timidity and that sense of shame a lot of us have when we speak a foreign language imperfectly and come across as simpletons, imbeciles or simply ignorant foreigners.
The Magic Word in Russian
A word that became my favourite and one that my Russian speaking friend teased me about was the word можно, mozhna. It means “one can”, “it is possible” which is exactly the same as Polish word można pronounced almost identically. It became my keyword and a magic spell to accomplish the impossible, like buying salads on the market or anything requiring communication really.
How To Use можно
- Say Можно and point at things.
Very handy if you purchased a membership to a gym in Almaty (like I did) and want to ask whether you can use a piece of equipment which someone turned into a shelf for their phone.
- Say Можно with gestures.
A door is closed and you want to get into a building? Give the guard a questioning look and make a forward motion towards the doors. You’ll be sure to find out when the answer is no.
- Use Можно + noun.
If you were clever enough to look up a required noun before jumping straight into talking attempts (not like me then!). In comparison with option 1, this gives you endless opportunities, such as buying 300 grams of салат из моркови с чесноком for 60p.
If you realise you know nothing in the local language try to find an equivalent key word. Combined with gestures and pointing it will work wonders.
The Polish connection
Because of the degree of similarity between Polish and Russian, sometimes I forgot I didn’t actually speak the language. I don’t think I have to remind you that passive understanding and creative verbal production are two different things.
When we travelled to Kyrgyzstan for two nights (for the necessary re-entry to Kazakhstan to prolong the tourist visa) we booked a room in a guesthouse. We arrived late and the only people on the site were two elderly builders who clearly had no idea that anyone was meant to appear so late in the evening.
I opened my mouth and... no words came out.
I realised I didn’t know the word for room, book, reserved, email, message or anything that would explain the connection between the guesthouse and us two standing in their unfinished front yard!
Thankfully it wasn’t too hard for the men to figure that two foreigners with backpacks at a late hour out of the tourist season could only be looking for a room. And sure enough when they said the word комната I exclaimed да! with relief.
Polish and Russian are quite similar, but really not to the point of mutual intelligibility. Yet, I have a feeling that identifying yourself as a fellow Slav can produce a warmer attitude and potentially lower prices.
Knowing I was Polish, the instructor in my gym tried to convince me to be more chatty, a very optimistic reaction to me saying that I understood him only немного (“a little bit”).
The taxi driver in Cholpon-Ata in Kyrgyzstan having heard I was from Польша (Poland) simply started to refer to me as Польша.
*Польша, все нормально? (Everything ok, Poland?) were his last words to me when we were leaving the cab.
Mixing Languages: A Fluency Trick
Preserving endangered languages, buying locally grown vegetables — I am all for supporting anything and everything local. However, there were moments in Kazakhstan where linguistic globalisation provided me with some much-needed vocabulary.
On the way back from Kyrgyzstan we had to catch a marshrutka (mini bus) in Bishkek. We didn’t have enough som (Kyrgyz currency) left, but we figured since the bus goes to Kazakhstan the driver would also accept Kazakh tenge.
The key was to ask.
Fearlessly I approached the driver with two sets of notes in my hands and while vawing them in front of him I asked “mozhna mix?”. After a 3 second thoughtful calculation of the amounts he said slowly: mozhna. Success!
The lesson here is to figure out the words that can be present in the other person's reality. Regardless of where in the world you are, you will find some piece of shared reality with the locals.
все нормально - That's all good
Travelling opens our eyes to our own ignorance. Tweet this now!
I confirmed that Russian and Polish are similar, I’m less shy than I thought, and that it’s possible to communicate even with a very limited amount of vocabulary if you keep your ears and mind open. It has also evoked a desire to actually master Russian (since I work at LinguaLift, I'll be trying our own course.
Maybe next time I will be less of a walking circus of pointing and gesturing. все возможно!
Do you have any stories from a Russian speaking country?
How far did you get with немного, "spaseeba" and можно yourself?
Marta Krzemińska is a language coach and blogger at LinguaLift - she's an aspiring nomad and a speaker of Toki Pona.