Hallo! It’s Holly here in Münster and I’m pleased to be back with another blog post about my life as a language assistant in Germany. Well, the change in seasons here in North-West Germany is pretty drastic! A few weeks ago it was 22 degrees and now, as I am writing this, it is -3 degrees at night! The shops are already replacing the popular autumn window displays with Christmas ones.
I have discovered the German Kirmes (fun fair) and since being in Germany I have visited no fewer than five of them and absolutely love the atmosphere! My German vocabulary previously didn’t stretch to funfair rides, but I’m now familiar with das Riesenrad (Ferris wheel) and Die Achterbahn (rollercoaster). When you go to the Kirmes you are greeted with the smells coming from the different food stalls: my favourite treat has to be Schoko-Erdbeeren (strawberries on skewers, covered in chocolate) which are always sold at German fun fairs, and seem to be very popular with the locals too!
When I was at one of the Kirmes I bought a drink and I was introduced to another very important aspect of living in Germany. It seems that when you buy certain drinks you are charged a deposit for the bottle – this depost is called Das Pfand. The price advertised on the bottle itself on the shop shelf does not include the Pfand, so an extra amount is added when you go to pay at the till. After drinking the juice you can then go back to the shop and return the bottle, allowing you to reclaim your Pfand. This took a bit of getting used to at the beginning, so it’s worth pointing it out! I have also noticed that many locals will finish bottles of juice and then, rather than putting them in the bin, they sit them next to bins so that homeless people can then collect them and thereby reclaim the Pfand.
I hope these snippets of information I’m learning as I spend my first few weeks here in Germany are also useful to our readers!
Hola a todo el mundoand welcome to this week’s On Location Spanish update from Grace. In addition to exploiting all of the beach time that I can during what has been an uncharacteristically long summer here in Valencia, I’m pleased to report that I have been studying hard and making some headway with my Spanish! Between learning whom I may tutear(“address familiarly” in the tú form) and exploring the city on Valenbici (Valencia’s bike-hire service), I’m starting to feel a bit less like a visitor. But don’t let all this talk of exploring and days at the beach fool you. It’s all go here in Spain!
Pun-intended, I wanted to tell you about a couple of different ways I’ve came across the verb ir (“to go”) throughout this week. I stumbled upon the first phrase while reading an article in El País in which the author writes about a particularly poor month for Spanish farmers:
en lo que va de mes so far this month
Although initially flummoxed by this little phrase, a quick browse around some Internet forums soon led me to the definition, and now I couldn’t be without it! Change mes for any other period of time (octubre (“October”), año (“year”), década (“decade”) etc.) and you have a neat way of updating someone on what has been happening. For me, the phrase most comes in handy over a midweek coffee with friends where I can now confidently recount details of my riveting social life:
En lo que va de semana he estado en la biblioteca tres veces. I’ve been at the library 3 times so far this week.
For its second appearance this week, the verb ir has arisen in an even more idiomatic context. In a sensitive lecture about Spain’s economy and man’s desire to keep up-to-date with modern technology at all costs, my lecturer got a real laugh with the following saying:
¿Dónde va Vicente? Donde va la gente.
After the lecture I caught up with my friend Paula to ask her what this meant. With my basic level of Spanish in mind, she explained that the expression describes a person que se deja influir por la mayoría (“who is influenced by the majority”). Conducting some further research of my own, it wasn’t long before I came across the English expression “monkey see, monkey do”, which I think might be the best equivalent for this Spanish idiom. If nothing else, I think this saying is a bit of fun. After all, what is an insult between friends?
With ir in mind, I better go back to my studying. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog and I will be sure to keep you updated with all of the best phrases that I come across in weeks to come. Join me again soon for more On Location Spanish. Adiós.
Bonjour tout le monde and welcome to the second instalment of my On Location French blog!
I have had a very eventful past couple of weeks, culminating in a short hop over the border to northern Spain for my business school’s annual week-end d’intégration, which is a fun-filled “integration weekend” of various activities with the aim that all new students, French or foreign, may become more acquainted with each other.
This week, however, I’d like to tell you about a brilliant experience I had one evening at my business school. I had seen on a noticeboard that the Bureau des Arts (“the Arts Association”) were setting up after-school classes and meetings for different activities, such as hip-hop dancing, painting and singing. The one which grabbed my eye, however, was un bœuf – a jam session. As someone who loves the guitar and has played in rock bands before, I knew that this was definitely the event for me!
Upon arrival, I was first met with the sound of sweet music being made and secondly with the sight of around a dozen French students all crammed into a rather small cupboard-style room, complete with desguitares électriques, des basses, une batterie, un clavier et plusieurs micros (“electric guitars, bass guitars, a drum set, a keyboard and several mics”). Immediately, the ringleader of the group spoke to me:
– Tu sais jouer de la guitare? (“Can you play guitar?”)
– Oui, j’en joue depuis dix ans maintenant! (“Yes, I’ve been playing for ten years now!”)
– Vraiment?! Tiens alors! (“Really?! Here you go then!”)
at which point I was handed an electric guitar and instructed to start off a new jam! I did, and for the remainder of the session I had a great time playing and swapping instruments. I also learned a cool phrase: Je kiffe le son! – “I’m diggin’ the sound!”
I often think that music has the unique ability to act as a unifier of people and furthermore, as was particularly evident in this case, as a common language which is implicitly understood by everyone – my French may not be perfect and their English most certainly wasn’t either, but for a brief moment, we were all fluent in the same language.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog and I’ll be back again soon with more On Location French. À très bientôt!
We’ve been publishing a daily word on Facebook and Twitter and each day we’ve asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers to post a comment using the word of the day, thereby practising their language skills. This week we’ve focused on the topic of travel and we’ve shared the following words and phrases with our community: voyager, le voyage, le passeport, les bagages and en avion.
We’re delighted to report that both Coffee Break French and Coffee Break Spanish have been nominated in the European Podcast Awards in the Professional Podcast category. The voting period lasts until January and we’d like to ask our community of language learners around the world to cast their vote for our podcasts.
After clicking on the links, click the Vote button and then award us the number of stars you think we deserve. (Hopefully five…!) You can vote for both podcasts if you would like to! Don’t forget to click on the Vote and win button!
We’ve been publishing a daily word on Facebook and Twitter and each day we’ve asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers to post a comment using the word of the day, thereby practising their language skills. This week we’ve been talking about travel and as usual the Radio Lingua community has come up with some excellent examples of this week’s words: viajar, el viaje, el pasaporte, el equipaje and en avión.
Hej allihopa! (“Hello everyone”!) Uppsala finally had some lovely autumn sunshine this weekend, which resulted in some lovely walks around the city, and hours spent exploring the Botanical Gardens in all their autumnal glory with some friends. When it’s so lovely outside you can really understand why spending time outdoors is such a big part of Swedish life! But with the weather closing in again, I thought it would be interesting to talk about another Swedish tradition, an example of which is taking place this weekend here in Uppsala – the gasque (or gask depending on which nation you are part of). The nations are like student unions, except instead of having one for all students as is the case back home, here in Uppsala there are 13, which originally had the purpose of being a ‘home from home’ for students from all over Sweden, and so take the names of different areas. Often Swedish students will choose to join the nation of their home area, but this is not always the case, and international students are entirely free to choose. I’m a member of Värmlands nation, for example, despite having yet to visit Värmland itself.
However, back to the gasques. These are formal, sit-down, three course dinners organised by the nations, and have quite an etiquette to follow. Gasques always have a dress code, stated as either kavaj (“blazer”), meaning men should have a suit and women a dress or skirt and blouse, or högtidsdräkt (“evening dress”), in which men are required to wear tails, national costume or uniform, and women evening dresses. Certain rules must also be followed throughout the evening. No-one may start eating before the first song has been sung. It seems that Swedes really like singing, but no-one may start singing spontaneously at a gasque, for all songs are led by the sånganförare from the nation’s sångbok or songbook). When a toast is made you first toast your dinner partner, the person on your other side, and then the person facing you before drinking and repeating the procedure; and it is frowned upon to eat or drink during the entertainment provided during the evening (usually the nation’s choir singing and perhaps performances by a spex grupp (variety or sketch group). Despite the etiquette, gasques are both a great way to meet people, thanks to random seating plans, and a lot of fun. I don’t think I really expected to be standing on my chair with a hat made out of my napkin on my head singing in Swedish, as we did in the first gasque I attended! Sweden is definitely a very forward looking country, but I’m really learning to love its traditions, and attending a gasque, or even a sittning (“dinner party”), is definitely one of my favourites and something everyone should experience if they get the chance – which I definitely hope you do! Vi ses!
Buongiorno a tutti! Welcome to On Location Italy. This week I am going to tell you about my first experience with the Italian railway system. My week began on a high when I finally found a flat that I liked in Verona. However, I had to wait at least a week before I could move in and so I decided to take the opportunity to visit some relatives in a beautiful little hilltop town from which many Scots-Italians originate called Barga in Tuscany.
Barga is further south than Verona, closer to central Italy and to get there I had to get four different trains. Unfortunately, my first time time using the Italian trains didn’t start off great. When I arrived at the train station, there was no sight of my first train. I asked the woman beside me if the train was in ritardo (“late”) to which she replied it was soppresso. I soon discovered that this meant that the train was cancelled. My journey back to Verona wasn’t much better. There was a sciopero (“strike”) in Tuscany and so the trains there were running late or delayed. This meant that I missed my coincidenza (“connection train”) to Verona. According to one of my new Italian friends scioperi (“strikes”) are quite common in Italy so I guess it’s something that I might need to look out for this year.
In spite of the less than smooth journey, I safely made it to Barga and back. And I must say, I would happily do the journey all over again to spend another weekend in the stunning medieval town with my family. It’s also just as well I had the opportunity to get to grips with the Italian trains since on my return I discovered that my flat is not as equipped as I first expected. My estate agent explained that there is a difference between arredato and corredato. The first is where my flat is furnished with things like a bed, wardrobe, table and chairs. The latter, however, would be if my flat was fully kitted out, for example with pots and pans, cutlery and other day to day things. Since my flat is only arredato it looks like I’ll have to take the train to the nearest Ikea after all.
I hope you have all enjoyed reading my blog and I will be back with more On Location Italian soon. A presto.
Grüße aus Deutschland! (“Greetings from Germany!”) My name is Daniel and I’ve been living in Germany for almost two months now. This year, I am working as a Fremdsprachenassistent (“foreign languages assistant”) in a Realschule (one of the types of secondary schools, where pupils are usually between 10 and 16 years old). In the short time I have been here, I have already learned a lot about the German language and culture.
There are, as you would expect, many cultural differences between Germany and Scotland. In this blog post, I would like to speak about two differences in particular. Now, we all know the stereotypes of Germans liking their Bier (“beer”), but one thing I wasn’t expecting was the way in which drinks are ordered over here. I have realised that we, in the U.K, are a rather impatient nation. When we order a drink in a bar or restaurant at home, we expect it to come almost sofort (“straight away”). But in Germany, as any true German knows;
Ein gut gezapftes Bier braucht seine Zeit
A well poured beer needs time.
So if you order a beer and the person working behind the bar pours a little into the pint glass before proceeding to play darts, you can be sure that they are not being rude. It is just genuinely believed that beer should take its time.
After my visit to the pub, I passed many traffic lights on my way home. This is when I realised that Germans also have a more patient attitude towards pedestrian crossings than we do.
Fußgänger warten an Ampel auch wenn weit und breit kein Auto zu sehen ist.
Pedestrians wait at traffic lights, even if there’s no car in sight.
These are two of the first differences I noticed when I got to Germany and they both make me think that Germans are more patient than we Brits. Perhaps even more safety conscious.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first blog post and I look forward to writing the next one! Bis bald! (“See you soon!”)
Upon my arrival in Salamanca, I decided to bite the bullet and get some last-minute Spanish tuition. My reasoning was two-fold: primarily, I’d be able to brush up on my Spanish before diving headlong into class; and secondly, I’d meet other Erasmus students grappling with this wonderful, popular language.
Hola. Me gustaría matricularme en los cursos intensivos de español para los estudiantes Erasmus.
(Hi. I’d like to enrol for the intensive Spanish classes for Erasmus students.)
The woman looked at me over her glasses – I got the sense she had been subjected to this phrase in a number of broken, twisted Spanish accents over the last couple of days. She requested my passport and my acceptance letter in order to bring up my profile on the University system. There was a tense moment of silence, punctuated only by the sporadic battering of a keyboard and the click of a mouse. After a few moments, I began to get nervous.
Lo siento – no tengo su información aquí. Quizás usted esté perdido en la sistema.
(I’m sorry – I don’t have your information here. Perhaps you are lost in the system.)
She didn’t have my details and I was lost in the system. Great – a leitmotif of my time in this new culture so far.
“¿Perdón?” I stammered, using a remarkably versatile phrase, heavily relied on since my arrival in Salamanca a few days previously. I realised that the chances of my details miraculously appearing on her screen were so slim that only divine intervention would solve the problem for me, and given that I could see the city’s breathtaking sandstone Cathedral out the office window, the idea didn’t seem too far-fetched.
Alas, after a few more attempts – si, Iain es mi nombre (“yes, Iain is my name”); si, estoy seguro de que tengo una plaza en la universidad (“yes, I’m sure I have a place in the university”) – I left the office frustrated, and not yet matriculated. I did the only decent thing and pitched up at a café to drown my sorrows in one of Spain’s delicious thick hot chocolates. I was informed to return after the siesta with my additional documents and eventually the problem was solved.
I’m consoling myself with the thought that while things at the University aren’t quite going to plan, at least Salamanca is already exceeding my expectations. It is buzzing with the ferias (“festivals”), and the architecture is truly stunning: particular highlights include the Plaza Mayor, the aforementioned Cathedrals and the Casa de las Conchas, a University building with a facade of sculpted sandstone shells. I also realise that I am rapidly falling for the Spanish way of life: the food, the people and the drink combine to make Salamanca the polar opposite of the coastal tourist resorts which so many seem to associate with Spain.
I’m looking forward to spending my year here in Salamanca – my new home, and indeed, my new Spanish classroom.
Bonjour tout le monde! Moi, c’est Rose, et je suis très contente d’écrire mon premier article! After months of planning and anticipation, I’m finally in France. I’ve been in Saint Brieuc for almost a week now, wandering the cobbled streets and pretty thatched cottages with delight. But before I start describing how I’ve settled in – how did I get here?
After two flights I arrived in Rennes airport with almost 30kg over two suitcases and a bit grumpy from a 5am start. Basically, ready for bed! First though I had to get a bus into the city centre then take a train to Saint Brieuc. Not too bad, you may think. Imagine my face when the bus driver explained I’d have to get off at Place de la République and take two métro lines over to la gare (“the station”). Luckily a man saw me scouring the plan outside the métro station and took pity on me. Dragging my cases over to the lifts for me, he pointed out which lines to take to reach the train station.
Once I got to the train station, I realised the three hours between my flight arrival and the 14.30 train to Saint Brieuc had disappeared. As I walked to the ticket machines I had barely half an hour to spare. Buying my ticket, I had to know if I wanted a billet simple (“a single/one-way ticket”), or a billet de retour (“a return/round-trip”). Be aware that return tickets are often much better value. Train prices in France also vary on peak and off-peak travel times, or la période normale and la période de pointe.
So I had my ticket and now had to navigate my way through the busy station to find la bonne voie – the right platform. This was made so much more difficult by my cases – I was cursing myself for taking my bulky winter coat and that last pair of boots!
Finally I made it to the right platform but before I could get on the train, I had to composter mon billet (“validate my ticket”). You do this by scanning your ticket through a yellow machine as you get on the train. Once it has been validated it will click and you’re free to get on. Or, in my case, throw your luggage onto the train with literally two minutes to spare. I dread to think what I looked like to the other passengers but I didn’t care – my journey to Saint Brieuc was almost over!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog post this week. À bientôt!
Hej! This first On Location Swedish post comes to you from the beautiful university town of Uppsala, a little north of Stockholm, where I’ve been living and studying as an Erasmus student for about a month now. Over these past few weeks I’ve met a huge range of people, from my three Swedish flatmates who have been very good at putting up with my (improving!) Swedish, to other international students from all over the world. But today I want to talk about a Swedish custom which, given the way most university timetables seem to go here, is a hugely popular pastime with all students in Uppsala – fika.
Fika is just about untranslatable in one single English word; in it’s essence it means “taking a break from what you’re doing, going for coffee/tea/something soft, maybe having a little bite to eat, chatting a bit” – and can last anywhere between 20 minutes and five hours, at any time of day (or night!). “But that just sounds like asking someone to go for coffee,” I hear you cry. Well, yes, maybe – unless you’re Swedish. A Swedish friend here told me that it is always better to say Ska vi ha en fika? (Shall we have a ‘fika’?) to a Swede than Ska vi ta en kaffe? (“Shall we go for a coffee?”); the reason being that the latter has a habit of bringing on huge bouts of nervousness in Swedes stemming from questions about where to go, what to talk about, am I going to be entertaining enough for them, is this person actually asking me on a date…
Fika however, is just the right amount – nothing scary, just friendly conversation in your favourite coffee house; which, if it’s anything like my current favourite here in Uppsala, will be small, cosy, and serve excellent kanelbullar (cinnamon buns), which are such a big thing here in Sweden! There is even kanelbullar dag or “Cinnamon Bun Day” dedicated especially to eating them – moms! (yummy)! But for now, I have a fika appointment with two of my flatmates, so until next time, hej då!
Buongiorno a tutti! I have arrived safe and sound in the beautiful city of Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliette and my new home for the next year while I study at Verona University. I have only been here for two days and I have already met so many other Erasmus students, seen so many lovely sights and tasted so much great Italian food: so far so good.
I have even found myself a great flatmate but one slight issue is that I have yet to find a flat. At the moment I am staying in a cute little B&B just off Verona’s main piazza, Piazza Brá. For my first On Location blog post I thought it would be appropriate to tell you all about my experiences as I attempt to find my feet and actually get a place to live. Back in Scotland I have lived in the same house with my parents all my life so even just going flat viewing and having conversations about rent and such things as electricity bills is new to me. However, in Italy I have had to get to grasps with the vocabulary quickly to keep up with the estate agents.
Since I don’t want to have to travel to the nearest Ikea to purchase beds, wardrobes, cupboards etc, I soon learned to scan through the flat advertisements for the word arredato – “furnished”. I also learned about spese condominiale. These are fees that are additional to your ordinary bills that everyone living in the building must pay, ie. they refer to the costs of the common areas such as the stairs or the elevator.Considering I am no expert on renting property I have not found the experience to be too daunting. This is mainly thanks to all the vivacious, friendly Italians I have so far come across who are more than happy to point me in the right direction whilst I scour the streets of Verona for a suitable flat. I hope you have enjoyed my blog for this week and I will be back soon with more On Location Italian. A presto!
Hello, my name is Holly, I am 19 and this year I will be spending a year in Münster, Germany. I am working as a Fremdsprachenassistentin (English foreign language assistant) in a Gymnasium (grammar school) in Dülmen which is near Münster and I have been here for three weeks now.
When I first arrived I had great expectations of the German transport system, in particular Deutsche Bahn which is the main train company here in Germany. We have all heard the stereotypes of Germany being a very punctual country. However I soon realised that even the best systems are not always perfect. When I walked up to Gleis 14 (platform 14), I saw that my train had eine Verspätung (a delay). It turned out not to be a huge problem as this one-off delay gave me the opportunity to try and find some delicious, traditional German food. I definitely recommend Currywurst (sliced pork sausage covered in tomato sauce and curry powder). I also managed to buy a Bahn Card 50 which is a popular rail card that gets a 50% discount on train tickets all over Germany and in parts of Switzerland and Austria.
Another thing that I noticed at the train station was the use of zwo instead of zwei for the number two. Zwo is used, for example, at train stations when making announcements about numbers of platforms and train times, as zwei can often be confused with drei (three).
So far I am really enjoying my time here in this beautiful country and I feel I have already learned a lot about the language and culture. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.
Buenas tardes a todos and welcome to this week’s On Location Spanish update. I’m Grace and I’ll be keeping you posted throughout my Erasmus year in the fast-paced city of Valencia, on Spain’s eastern coast. At the end of my first week here, I’m definitely still feeling like a bit of a novata (a “novice” or a “newbie”). But thankfully I am making new Spanish friends, and I haven’t yet been the subject of any novatadas (“practical jokes” normally played on a new person).
As a new student to the Universitat de Valencia, I am encouraged to participate in a number of welcome activities. Ranging from visits to the city’s Oceonográfico (Europe’s largest Sea Life exhibition) to casual getting to know you sessions over a glass of vino tinto (“red wine”), there is so much the city has to offer. Sadly as a law student facing deadlines and grappling with a language barrier, I’m forced to choose only a select few.
On that note, this week I’d like to tell you about the advice given to me by my friend Iranzu, since she’s of a levelheaded sort. Her advice to me was simple. If I could choose only one activity, it had to be the Paella and Salsa Dancing nights organised by the Erasmus Society, promising me that:
¡Cada año se superan! They get better every year!
If you’re like me, at times you might find yourself at a loss with reflexive verbs in Spanish. But thanks to this succinct little phrase, I’m finding the whole ordeal a lot more approachable. Consider that the words se superan quite literally mean “they better themselves”, and the whole verb becomes easier to apply in different contexts. For example, if you’d like to congratulate a friend on a winning Paella, you can use the tú form (“you”) of the verb superarse to say:
Una vez más, te has superado a tí mismo. Once again, you’ve outdone yourself.
I hope you’ve found this week’s blog interesting. While you’re getting to grips with the verb superarse, I’ll continue to try and keep up with these fast-talking Spaniards! I hope you can join me again soon for more On Location Spanish. ¡Hasta luego!
Bonjour tout le monde! My name is Scott and I’d like to welcome you to my first On Location blog post, coming to you from the sunny climes of Toulouse in the south of France.
I arrived here around two weeks ago and although I would say that I am still very much finding my feet, I am really enjoying my new life. While I don’t feel homesick, I have admittedly been suffering from a little dépaysement, or “disorientation”, due to the sudden change of culture and scenery. But the weather is warm, the food is great, the city has a great buzz and I have made friends with a lot of fellow Erasmus students, so I’m sure I’ll have a good time!
In my first few days here, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a rooftop soirée for the opening of a trendy new sushi restaurant in town. France, and particularly southern France, is known for its love of la gastronomie– the culture of good food – and while it’s very true that the French produce some wonderful local dishes, their love of all things food allows them to accept and embrace all sorts of regional specialities from around the world. One of my French friends told me it was going to be a very chic affair and that at these types of parties, il faut se mettre sur son 31 – “you must wear your best clothes” or “you must be dressed to the nines”. Indeed, for les Toulousains (the residents of Toulouse), this idiomatic expression also serves as quite an amusing pun, since the city is located in the 31st département, or region, of France. On my friend’s advice, I attended the event en smoking (in my tuxedo) and joined in la dégustation (the sampling) of the various dishes offered. The opening proved to be a great success and everyone had a great evening!
Even in my first couple of weeks here, I have seen that Toulouse has a lot to offer and I am excited about the prospect of discovering it all and sharing my discoveries with you. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog and I’ll be back soon with more On Location French. À très bientôt!
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