Learning languages through jokes… (Aprendir una lengua mediante chistes…)

September 18, 2010 1 comment

… can be really entertaining! If you are learning Spanish, read on…

Hoy en el clase de espanol hemos hablado sobre estereotipos en el mundo espanol.  Y he leido un chiste sobre los argentinos (estereotipo = egoista):

Nino: Papa papa, cuando sere adulto, quiero llegar a ser como tu!

Papa: Porque?

Nino: Porque quiero tener un nino como yo.


And now, fellow Spanish learners, tell me if you want to google for more jokes to read… 😀 (For me, I went to look up more about stereotypes of Spanish speaking people, and I found some here)

And yes, this is how we learn Spanish in my school.  Please check out where I learn Spanish here. 😀

*Disclaimer: Please – we are all mature audiences here.  If you read this joke and get offended in some way, please don’t be.  This kind of jokes are not meant to discredit people; I think after reading this we can all have a good laugh about the stereotypes about our own country and reflect if we behave too extremely in some ways too. 😀

My idea is simple.  If I go headhunting, I will become the best and I will do it for 10 years.H
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Top English-German False Friends (Guest Post by bab.la)

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Before we begin, let me introduce bab.la – bab.la is a language portal created by a group of language lovers. Their content is too exciting for me to summarize it within 3 sentences. But – 1. you can learn many languages there via games and quizzes. 2. They have a blog Lexophiles, and they rank top language blogs in the world annually. 3. You can get professional translation services there.  Prices are calculated online.

Anyway, it’s going to be hard to stop extolling them – please check them out here.

Btw, this is the first guest post on my blog. Thanks a lot to Asia Rolewicz for the contribution! 😀

Post about English-German false friends starts here:

Whether you’re an English native speaker and learn German or a German person who learns English – it’s the tricky words that make the difference. They are called false friends because their sound or spelling suggests that they mean something similar (or the same) in the other language whereas, in fact, they don’t. This phenomenon is particularly common between English and German as they both belong to the same language family. That is why it is so important to be able to rely on a good English-German dictionary – one that not only gives you a dry translation but also provides you with additional useful information such as category, grammar, style & word formation and is also complemented by context and sample sentences. Using a good dictionary might save your face and will help you avoid making embarrassing mistakes, such as asking for “wages” (der Lohn) when you actually meant “a loan” (ein Darlehen).

Below you can find some other typical instances of most frequent English-German false friends. Clicking on a word will allow you to see all its definitions including all additional information, pronunciation and sample sentences.

aktuell: current | actual: tatsächlich Brief: letter | brief: kurz Chef: boss | chef: Koch, Köchin Direktion: top management | direction: Richtung eventuell: possible | eventually: schließlich Fabrik: factory, plant | fabric: Stoff Fahrt: journey, drive | fart: Furz Gift: poison | gift: Geschenk Handy: mobile (UK), cell (US) | handy: praktisch, nützlich Kaution: deposit, bail |
caution: Vorsicht, Warnung Lohn: wages | loan: Kredit, Darlehen, Anleihe Messe (Ausstellung): fair, exhibition | mess: Chaos, Unordnung, Durcheinander Parole: slogan, motto | parole: Bewährung Provision: commission | provision: Versorgung, Vorkehrung, Bereitstellung | Unternehmer: entrepreneur, employer | undertaker: Leichenbestatter, Bestattungsinstitut

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Watching foreign language movies…

September 4, 2010 Leave a comment

… is of course a wonderful way of learning the foreign language.

However, while learning a foreign language, we tend to tell ourselves – but I can’t understand half of what is being said, or I am afraid I cannot understand what is being said. And so, we watch them with English subtitles.  I think this is not effective in learning a foreign language because you tend to religiously read the English words instead of trying to hear what is being said at all. It becomes more like reading and watching a scene play at the same time.

To benefit more, I recommend watching the movie with the subtitles of the foreign language.  If you are watching a Spanish movie and you can read Spanish reasonably, consider watching it with the subtitles.  If you don’t understand parts of what is being said, and parts of what is being read, don’t worry.  You will discover how you will understand the plot through observing what people are actually doing in the movie, and you will still be able to appreciate it well.

One suggestion: if you are travelling in the country that speaks the foreign language you are learning, consider doing this: buy a few DVDs from the Blockbuster’s (DVD shop) of that country – and voila!  You’ve just bought something that is difficult to find in your home country, something that can help you learn the language faster, and of course, probably a good movie too!

Hope this tip is useful~

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Colloquial German – the “eierlegende Wollmilchsau”

September 1, 2010 1 comment

Here is another way to impress Germans with your knowledge of their language:

Learn how to say “eierlegende Wollmillsau”, and use it in your daily conversation with them.

You can just mix this word with English and you will have demonstrated your competency in German because –

First: this is an 8 syllable expression.  It’s not easy to say it clearly.

Second: this is an extremely colloquial saying.  Non-Germans who only learned Hochdeutsch are not supposed to know this.

Third: there is a deep concept behind this word.  Knowing this word means you know German culture.

So what does eierlegende Wollmilchsau mean?  Word for word translation: egg-laying wool-milk sow.

It’s a German fantasy animal that can provide everything that a useful animal should – eggs, wool, milk, offspring and eventually meat.  I call it the “German engineeered animal” because in other languages they probably couldn’t express the ‘5 in 1’ wish so vividly using just 8 syllables.  I totally won’t be surprised if there is some laboratory in Germany where someone is really trying to invent this animal still…

As you can probably guess by now, this expression is used if you want to say that someone is a perfectionist.  Here are some sample expressions:

“Oh I know German (businessmen / researchers / engineers).  They are just always looking for eierlegende Wollmilchsaus wherever they go.”

“My boss wants me to be an eierlegende Wollmilchsau.  I am already laying eggs and providing wool, but still it is not enough. N0w he wants milk too…”

“Our company is developing a new strategy: to create the eierlegende Wollmilchsau.  Cheap, quick, and good at the same time.  Probably can’t do it, but oh well…”

Thanks to Toby for reminding me about this word.  Lol.

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Hindi is like Japanese

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

When an Indian speaks Englsih and retain their accent, they tend to say say “Vaat iis diss?” instead of “What is this?”.  We all know that.

Meanwhile, the Japanese says “Wa-te is-se di-su?”  We all know that too.

So how can someone say Hindi is like Japanese?

You see – the Hindi alphabet works using the same concept as Japanese: One character represents one sound – and the languages are written exactly like how they sound.  If you can pronounce every character in Hindi, you should be able to learn the sound of Japanese pretty easily.

Let me show you more by romanzing Hindi sounds – let’s see how many sounds there are in Hindi that starts with ‘k’ and let’s look at those in Japanese:

Hindi: ke ka ki kee ku kri ke kae ko kaw

Japanese: ka ki ku ke ko

Basically, what you need to learn to pronounce in Japanese is a subset of what there is in Hindi.  But of course, a Hindi speaker may get uncomfortable with how there are so few vowels in Japanese and start to accidentally add in the rest of the Indian sounds into Japanese.

Come, let’s just watch a video of an Indian lady speaking good Japanese.  She’s really good (come on – it’s a speech competition in Japanese), but yes, you can hear the sounds of the Indian vowels coming out (e.g. somewhere between the 23rd and 25th second: onaaji instead of onaji).

Nothing wrong with that, but I just wanted to illustrate some observations to you.  The nature of the Hindi language is also probably why the Hindi speaking person has their own accents in English – they lengthen or shorten their vowels based on a different intuition compared to the American or British speaker.

[Ok caveat – I don’t know if the lady speaks Hindi natively, but many Indian languages follow a concept similar enough, and Hindi is more or less the common Indian language.  Was trying to illustrate my point~]

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The importance of ‘rice’ in the Chinese language

August 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Do you know how important the word ‘rice’ is in Chinese?

It’s so important there’re two words for it: one to describe it in its raw state (米 – mi3), and one to describe it in its cooked state: (饭 – fan4).

And it’s so important that you form idioms with it: “生米煮成熟饭” (sheng1 mi3 zhu3 cheng2 shu2 fan4)

This means that you have changed raw rice into cooked rice – this idiom  is used to describe an irreversible process.

Usually it is used to indirectly describe the situation of a girl being pregnant before she is married.  (Can you believe the Chinese use the analogy of cooking rice to describe that lol!)

And that’s not all – there are many other words to describe the other forms of rice -> 粥,炊 , 糜 etc.

I’ll leave you to figure out what these mean.

Hmm… so why did I write this post?

Because in my other blog I talked about “The Rise (rice) of Asia”.

Hope you liked it!

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How to impress native speakers of the foreign language you’re learning

August 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Imagine you found yourself to be in these scenarios.  I’d say you’d be pretty amazed if:

  • You are a Chinese in Mainland China.  You see a Caucasian, and suddenly he asks you for directions in clear Mandarin.
  • You are a Vietnamese student in London, having dinner at a nearby fast food joint.  An African starts to speak Vietnamese to you fluently in the same restaurant you’re eating in.
  • You are a German backpacking in Korea. A random Asian guy you meet in the hostel says a long sentence in German such as, “Achso, du bist aus Deutschland.  Also vor 3 Jahren war ich auch Student da!”

So how can we amaze foreigners who travel to our country with our knowledge of their language?

Honestly, most of the time when you actually discover that someone is a foreigner who speaks the foreign language you are learning, it’s by asking this really simple question: “Where are you from?”

My suggestion is: When you find out someone is from the ‘target’ country that speaks your foreign language, say this in the foreign language you are learning: “Wow!!  You’re from Country X?  Actually now I’m in the process of learning *English*.  What are you doing here?”

Here’s an example in German, Spanish, and Mandarin for your consideration:

“Achso!  Du bist aus Deutschland?  Im Moment lerne ich Deutsch.  So, was machst du hier heute eigentlich?”

“De verdad, eres de Espana?  Ahora estoy aprendido espanol!  Pues, que haces hoy aqui?”


You may not be able to speak any more of the lanugage, but your mastery of this sentence will demonstrate your effort.  You can caveat next by saying “Ok, that’s all I know in your language… maybe you can teach me more!”

But at the very least, you’ve probably made a new friend. 😀

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