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On Location Swedish – 30 Nov 2012

121130-ailieHej! This weekend a friend and I decided to take a day trip away from Uppsala and Stockholm, and head over west, to Karlstad in the Värmland region (you may remember me saying I am a member of Värmlands nation, and so felt it would be appropriate to go and see the region I associate myself with here in Uppsala!) Despite some less than lovely weather, I really liked Karlstad, and it was whilst walking along the water that is such a feature of the town that my inspiration for this week’s article came from. Do you ever have those days or weeks when, after never having heard a word before, suddenly you see it all around you? Well, for me, that is what happened this week, with the verb bryr, and more specifically, its reflexive form bryr sig.

Bryr sig translates into English as “to mind” or “to care about” – “to bother oneself over” to use an English reflexive example. I had heard it most often used in the phrase “Vem bryr sig?”, meaning “Who cares?”, which you can imagine gets fairly regular usage in everyday speech. However, the example from Karlstad was rather more emphatic – we came across it on a warning sign next to the water telling us, “Vi bryr oss om dig!” (“We care about you!”), and not to go in the water because of the strong currents. I found this rather a nice touch – at home I feel it would have simply read “Warning”, but here in Sweden the approach seems to be more, “We care about you, please don’t do this and make us worry about you”, which seems to me to be a rather nice touch.

One last phrase to sign off with for today, because I feel it’s something we all need a little bit of as we head towards the time for Christmas shopping, exams, and deadlines – “bry dig inte om det!” (“Don’t worry about it!”) Until next time, hej då!

On Location Italian – 29 Nov 2012

121129-nicoleBuongiorno a tutti and welcome once again to On Location Italian. It’s Nicole here back with another post brought to you all the way from the romantic city of Verona. As always, it has been a very busy couple of days, the highlight of which was a trip to Rome. They say Rome was not built in a day and, speaking from experience, it definitely cannot be seen in a day. However, spending the weekend there gave me an idea of just how beautiful Italy’s capital truly is. It has also fueled a desire in me to return before the end of my year-long Italian adventure.

With plans in the pipeline to also visit other Italian cities such as Milan, Florence and Venice, I began thinking of the differences in the Italian language across the country. There are many different dialects used throughout the country and my Italian teacher here explained to me that until the 1950s, the various regional languages were the main means of communication. In addition to the unification of Italy, Italian became the common national language mainly thanks to the development of the television. Hearing about the regional languages led me to think back to when I first arrived in Verona. I often spoke of my babbo, a typically Tuscan word meaning “Dad”. I soon discovered that whilst babbo is commonly used in Tuscany, the rest of Italy say papá. I guess it gave the game away that my ancestors originate from Tuscany! After looking into it, it seems that babbo can also be used in some parts of Italy to call someone stupid. Another Tuscan expression is garbare (“to like”) although Tuscans also use the widespread piacere (“to like”).

I’m looking forward to travelling from region to region and picking up some more regional words and phrases. But before I seek out the map to plan my next excursion, I want to leave you with a couple of expressions I have learned this week. The first is sbarcare il lunario. Sbarcare by itself means “to unload” or “to land” but the expression as a whole can be translated as “to make ends meet”. The second expression is avere le mani bucate. To have mani bucate is to be someone that cannot hold onto money. In other words, it means to be a “big spender” or as they say in English, a “spendthrift”. Quite fitting really since if I want to travel around Italy I really can’t get away with having mani bucate.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my blog for this week and I will be back shortly with more On Location Italian. A presto!

On Location German – 28 Nov 2012

121121-hollyHallo! Daniel here again for another ‘On Location German’ blog post. This week I’ve been having some problems mit meinem Fahrrad (“with my bicycle”). Das Fahrrad (“the bicycle”) is an indispensable mode of transport for me since I arrived in Germany: I went from cycling maybe once a year at home to a minimum of thirty minutes every day here! Bikes are used a lot more in general here in Germany, particularly in cities like Münster with high student populations. They also fit in with the German stereotype of being umweltfreundlich! (“environmentally friendly”) So, after walking mein kaputtes Fahrrad (“my broken bike”) to the Hauptbahnhof (“main train station”), I was told by the man at the Radstation (“bike garage/station”) there that there was a problem with die Gänge (“the gears”), but that it was easily fixable. Lots of large train stations have a Radstation, where you can store your bike, have it repaired u.s.w. (“und so weiter” = “etc.”)

A phrase which contains the word ‘Gänge’, is in die Gänge kommen (“to hurry/get on with it/shake a leg”), which is exactly what I had to do when I realised I had to be at work in fifteen minutes! Luckily, I had mein repariertes Fahrrad (“my repaired bike”) and made it to work just in time. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that die Pünktlichkeit (“punctuality”) is of the utmost importance to most Germans!

So, after a turbulent day of getting my bike broken, getting it fixed and almost being late for work, there is one thing I have learned above all else: sei pünktlich! (“be on time!)

Until next time! Bis bald!

On Location Spanish – 27 Nov 2012

121127-iain¡Hola a todos! It’s Iain here in Salamanca and I’m back with another On Location Spanish blog post.

The Gran Vía is one of Salamanca’s main roads, and it is surrounded on all sides by bars, cafés and student flats, so it’s a common meeting point for the intercambios de lengua (“language exchanges”) that my flatmates and I do to improve our Spanish. Even in mid-November, it’s possible to sit outside, and nothing quite beats a pincho (“nibble”; a small portion of tapas) and a caña (a small beer) in the autumn sun.

Instead of the usual light-hearted conversation, however, things have been a bit more serious recently. To protest against the recortes (“budget cuts”), many Spaniards took to the streets to echo similar protests across the EU, and all the newspapers were filled with reports, opinion and pictures of the day.

Called La Huelga General (“the general strike”) or 14N (to reflect the 14th of November date for the strike), several public services were disrupted. For example, if my University had been open on the day of the strike, I would have had to walk instead of taking my usual bus. The budget cuts clearly strike a chord with Spaniards and they have become a large part of Spanish popular culture – barely a day goes by without them being referenced in the press or the television noticias (“news bulletins”). I think it will be interesting to see how they shape and alter this culture going forward.

As November marches on, Salamanca is gearing up for Christmas. I popped in to El Corte Inglés (Spain’s beloved department store, similar to the UK’s John Lewis or France’s Galeries Lafayette) the other day, and the place is already full of Christmas gifts, music and decorations. On the street, churrerías (churros vendors) are popping up to sell their hot piped, fried donuts to cold passers-by. My Spanish friends say that Christmas celebrations have only just started in Salamanca – I’ll keep you all posted in my next update.

¡Hasta pronto!

On Location French – 26 Nov 2012

121126-roseBonjour tout le monde! It’s Rose here writing from St Brieuc.

As I’ve been on holiday from school for a couple of weeks, I’m just back from visiting a friend in Paris. We had a great long weekend visiting art galleries, vintage shopping and drinking lots of chocolat viennois, the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tried!

I thought this week I would write about the verb falloir – ‘to be necessary to,’ as I’ve been coming across it everywhere. At school back home, I mainly learned to conjugate this verb into the present tense – ‘il faut que’ meaning ‘it is necessary to/that…’ After just a short while in France I’ve noticed that French people use this verb in a variety of ways in day-to-day situations. I came across it most recently when going for breakfast at a bakery in Paris with my friend. As we queued up on a busy Saturday morning, the woman behind the counter asked us, ‘Bonjour, vous savez déjà tout ce qu’il vous faudra?’ This translates loosely as ‘Good morning, do you know everything you want already?’ However, it literally means ‘do you already know what will be necessary to you?’ It seems a bit more complicated for me as a learner using falloir in this way, but it seemed very natural to the lady in the bakery!

Another example comes from a meeting with my landlady where I had to give her some photocopies of my birth certificate, passport and work contract. Once I had done so, she said ‘Bon, on a tout ce qu’il faut’ – ‘Good, now we have everything we need.’

Many of my pupils also use it to tell me things like, ‘C’est l’heure, il faut qu’on y aille’ – ‘our hour’s lesson is up, we need to go.’ I’m still not used to not having school bells at the end of every lesson here and regularly keep them a few minutes late! I used to be a bit put off using falloir in sentences due to the need for subjunctives, which can be a bit tricky. Subjunctives are used in sentences with doubt or uncertainty, which ironically is quite confusing in itself. Since hearing French people use falloir and the subjunctive in some set expressions, however, I’ve realised that it’s really not as difficult as it seems at first. I’m now much more confident using falloir – I hope some of my examples here help you to try it out too! Il faut que j’y aille moi aussi maintenant! I need to be off too, so à la prochaine!

Coffee Break Spanish Magazine Episode 106

This week’s Coffee Break Spanish Magazine episode is now available. Join the team and improve your Spanish! In this edition:

  • Alba has an interesting question for some women on the streets of Barcelona. She asks ¿qué puedes aprender de un hombre si hablas con su madre? – what can you learn about a man if you speak to his mother?;
  • Learn to avoid difficult questions with Laura’s frase idiomática, hacerse el sueco;
  • and JP and Nahyeli help listener Ana answer the door in Spanish.

On Location Swedish – 23 Nov 2012

121123-ailieHej allihopa! It’s been quite an eventful week up here in the North – I had a friend visiting during his October break from his teaching post in France, with the results being that we got frozen walking around an Uppsala shrouded in freezing fog, seeing ‘Skyfall’ (reading the Swedish subtitles and marking the differences between the English being spoken and the Swedish translation, of course), and missing the last train back from Stockholm and luckily managing to sleep on the floor of a friend of a friend! So this weekend you can imagine I am quite looking forward to being able to “ta det lugnt” (“take it easy”).

This week’s article focuses on something many learners of Swedish, myself included, often find confusing: the difference between Swedish’s two words for “good”, bra and god. God is most frequently used as an adjective, meaning good, kind, nice, or tasty. Being an adjective, it agrees with the noun it describes, giving us three variants; for example, “en god vän” (“a good friend”), “ett gott vin” (“a good wine”), and “(tre) goda vänner” (“three good friends”). It is most often found in set phrases – such as “God dag/morgon/natt” (“good day/morning/night”) – and when referring to food: “god mat” is used to mean food which tastes good, as opposed to “bra mat”, implying that it is healthy. So, to compliment somebody on a meal they have given you, saying “Maten är jättegott!” (“The food is delicious!”) rather than implying it is simply very healthy.

Bra, on the other hand, is most often used as an adverb, although it can be found as an adjective too, meaning well and good. It can be heard almost daily in phrases such as “Vad bra!” (“That’s good!”), “Det är bra så” (“That’s enough”, “that’ll do”), and of course, in asking someone if they are feeling alright (“Mår du bra?”). Luckily for Swedish learners, bra does not change its form to agree with the subject and in most cases can be used in place of god if you are unsure which to use – although do expect some strange looks if you start saying “bra natt” to Swedes by way of saying goodbye at night! Otherwise, it is generally acceptable to use – for example, you would say “Han spelar bra” to say “He plays well”, or “Hon ser bra ut” to mean “She’s good looking”.

Hope this has cleared up some questions you might have had about the differences here – it was definitely something I made mistakes with all the time when I first started learning Swedish! Until next week – ha det bra!

On Location Italian – 22 Nov 2012

121122-nicoleBuongiorno a tutti and Welcome to On Location Italian with Nicole, here in Verona. Now that we are into the month of November, the days of catching a bus to Lago di Garda (“Lake Garda”) to enjoy the last of the sunshine seem to be far behind us. That isn’t to say there aren’t still plenty of things to do and see during the crisp days of autumn here in Verona. The city is filled with beautiful buildings and discovering all that it has to offer has proven to be quite the treat!

For this week’s instalment of my blog, I wanted to share with you all one of my favourite places in Verona- Castelvecchio (“old castle”). Castelvecchio is a 14th Century castle that sits on the banks of il fiume Adige (the river Adige). On the first Sunday of every month, admission to the tourist attractions costs just one euro. Some friends and I therefore decided to take this opportunity to further explore the castle that I had so far admired only from the outside. And I must say, the inside did not disappoint! In addition to housing a Museum, the Museo Civico, Castelvecchio offers a wonderful view of the Adige river and one which was particularly stunning in the nebbia (“fog”) of that November evening.

Whilst enjoying the sights of Castelvecchio, one of my friends, a fellow Erasmus student, asked me: “Hai nostalgia di casa?”. “Avere nostalgia di casa” is the English equivalent of “to feel homesick”. Of course I miss my family and friends back home and I cannot wait to see them all again when I am home for Christmas but for now I am very much enjoying my new life here. And whilst there are moments when I feel homesick, I only have to look around to truly appreciate how lucky I am to be here.

It was also during our conversation that my friend taught me a new expression. Contorcersi dalle risate which can be translated in English as “to curl up with laughter”. A similar expression that can be used is ridere a crepapelle, which is the equivalent of the English “to bend over with laughter”.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my blog for this week and I will be back soon with more On Location Italian. A presto!

On Location German – 21 Nov 2012

121121-hollyHallo! It’s Holly here again with another update from Germany. I am really getting into the swing of things here.

One thing that I have definitely noticed is that if you want to be like a German in Münster, you need to get a bike. There are separate red paths which are designated for cyclists, and I can tell you from experience that the locals are not happy if you walk on these red paths. All over Münster you will hear the constant ringing of bells from bikes as this is the bike capital of Germany. There is said to be more bikes in this city than people!

However, it isn’t just the sound of cyclists’ bells that you can hear in this beautiful city, as wherever you go in Münster you are bound to be near a church. There is a famous saying in Münster:

Entweder es regnet oder es läuten die Glocken. Und wenn beides zusammen fällt, dann ist Sonntag.
Either it rains or the church bells ring. And if both occur at the same time, it’s Sunday.”

This is referring to the fact that Münster is known for its church bells ringing, and indeed for its rainy weather!

Another thing that I have come across whilst being here is Schwarzfahren. This is the term used when a person travels without a ticket on öffentliches Verkehrsmittel (public transport). So, in Germany if you don’t have a gültige Fahrkarte (valid ticket) you will get a €40 fine.

I am still having an amazing time here and learning a lot of things about every day German culture. Maybe you will also come across these things if you ever pay a visit to Germany.

Bis bald!

On Location Spanish – 20 Nov 2012

121120-graceBuenas a todos and welcome to Grace’s On Location Spanish update. Being that I am somewhat of a fair-skinned Scot, I am pleased to report that this week in Valencia we’ve had some wind and, would you believe it, some rain. Perhaps in an ideal world none of us would ever have to change out of our summer wardrobe, but on the upside I now have an excuse to go shopping for winter clothes on Valencia’s Calle Colón, which is well served by its public transport and fantastic for retail therapy.

Being around international students, what I have come to realise is that around these parts, the odd language mistake really can’t be avoided. With this in mind I’d like to tell you about a phrase I was told over the past week when things just weren’t going quite right. As we studied for the impending doom that was our first Economics exam, an exasperated Belén admitted to me:

Estoy pez en mates.
I don’t know the first thing about maths.

Having once before heard the expression “estoy como pez en el agua” (“I’m in my element”) I was briefly filled with hope for Spain’s economy, but worried that I was alone in my poor maths skills. With the help of my friend Antonio I got to the bottom of the correct meaning and learned that mates can be changed for other fields of expertise, giving you a nice way of expressing how rubbish you are at something. After all, many of us out there that have a grandmother who can’t use her mobile phone:

Mi abuela está pez en tecnología.
My gran is no good with technology.

On a brighter note, I was also fortunate enough this week to come across an alternative to the pedestrian “todo va bien” (“everything’s going well”). On asking my friend Monica about her exam, I was encouraged to see a grin on her face, but a little perplexed by her response:

Como una balsa de aceite.
It went swimmingly.

As this idiomatic little phrase literally means “like a pool of oil” in English, its sentiments were initially lost on me. Now that I know what it means, I hope to use it to describe the rest of my exams!

Until next time, I hope your Spanish is coming along swimmingly and that you have enjoyed this week’s blog. I’ll keep you posted on all my silly mistakes and little victories. Join me again soon for more On Location Spanish. ¡Hasta Pronto!

Coffee Break Spanish Magazine Episode 105

The Coffee Break Spanish team is back with a new episode of the Magazine. In this edition:

  • Alba asks passers-by in the streets of Barcelona, ¿De qué pasarías horas hablando?;
  • Laura teaches us the expression se me ha ido el santo al cielo, meaning “I completely lost track of the time”;
  • and JP and Nahyeli answer listener Emily’s question about using the subjunctive when talking about the recent past.

On Location French – 19 Nov 2012

121119-scottBonjour tout le monde! It’s Scott here and I’d like to welcome you to the third instalment of my On Location French blog!

Since I last spoke to you, I have once again been very busy, both studying and also taking every opportunity to indulge in various aspects of la culture toulousaine (“the Toulouse culture”). This week, I’d like to share with you my first experience of a very important aspect of this culture: le rugby!

Toulouse is a city which holds the sport of rugby in the highest regard and which is very proud and passionate when it comes to supporting the local team. Rugby is an extremely important facet of the city’s character, every bit as important as the renowned local food and wine, the River Garonne which flows through the heart of Toulouse, and even the red-brick architecture found on many buildings throughout the city which has led to Toulouse being christened “la Ville Rose” – “the Pink City”. Indeed, as one of my French friends told me: “Le rugby n’est pas qu’un sport; c’est un mode de vie.” (“Rugby isn’t just a sport; it’s a way of life.”).

I was fortunate enough to obtain tickets to attend my very first rugby match in France, supporting Toulouse against their fiercest rivals, Toulon. For both teams it was a particularly important match, as they were first and second in the league and the winner of the match would secure the top spot.

I arrived with my friends at le Stade Toulousain, the local stadium, and we were “blown away” – nous avons été “époustouflés” – by the huge roars from the crowd; these people really were passionate! The referee whistled for le coup d’envoi (“kick-off”) and the match got underway.

I soon found myself getting right into the spirit of things and joined in with the locals in their most favourite chant: “TOULOUSAIN, TOULOUSAIN, TOULOUSAIN…”! As the match progressed, the action start getting a little violent, and at one point some players got into a scuffle. Much to my bewilderment, the crowd seemed delighted at this but my friend told me a wonderful French saying which explained it all:

– “Le rugby est comme la dinde: sans marrons, il devient vulgaire.

This phrase features an amusing pun in the word “marron“, which can mean both a “chestnut” and a “punch”. And so, it might be translated thus

– “Watching rugby is like eating turkey: without punches/chestnuts, it becomes dull.”

In the end, our support seemed to have paid off as Toulouse scored numerous tries (“essais“), conversions (“transformations“) and penalties (“pénalités“) and produced a stunning victory of 32-9, propelling them to the top of the league. I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I will definitely be attending more matches to come!

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s blog and I’ll be back again soon with more On Location French. À la prochaine fois!

On Location Swedish – 9 Nov 2012

121109-ailieHejsan! It’s Ailie here and I’m delighted to be back with another On Location Swedish blog post. We’re into November now and things are getting pretty chilly up here – my flatmate tells me to expect our first proper snowfall this weekend! This first weekend in November still remains quite important here in Sweden, as it is when Alla helgons dag (All Saints’ Day) is celebrated, and many people take time off work to spend with their family, perhaps even maintaining the tradition of placing candles on family gravestones. Uppsala City is also in fact having a light festival, starting from Alla helgons dag, with light installations being placed throughout the town, along the river, and in the parks. It’s really helping to brighten up the place now that the long winter nights have started!

This week’s post spawns from a debate in my Swedish class over whether it should be legal or not to make sprit (spirits) at home. One of my classmates, in arguing against it, said “Det kan förgiftas dig” (“It can poison you”) – a valid point, you would probably agree. However, another friend sat there with a look on her face as if she was wondering what on earth that had to do with anything… The reason being that the verb “att gifta” means “to get married”, and so she had thought the argument implied was that drinking home-made spirits could lead you to an unwanted marriage! Whilst one could say that both end up in less than happy circumstances, it is an important distinction to make. In certain cases, context is everything; the word “gift” can either mean “married”, if used as an adjective (as in, “Jag är gift”, “I’m married”) or “poison”, if used as a noun – although as a noun the word would be accompanied by the article “ett”, giving us either “ett gift” (a poison) or “giftet” (the poison). This is one case where forgetting the article, or using it where you did not mean to, can really affect the meaning of a sentence, and can lead to some very confused faces. Thinking about it, we did find it interesting that Swedes use this same word for love and death – I am beginning to wonder if my language studies are starting to provide me more with lessons on life than on grammar!

But for now, the sun is beginning to set (it is not even 15:30, it’s going to be a long winter), so until next time, vi ses!

On Location Italian – 8 Nov 2012

121108-nicoleBuongiorno a tutti and Welcome to On Location Italian! It’s Nicole here writing from Verona, and this week marks my 6th week living la dolce vita (“the sweet life”) here in Italy. In addition to enjoying a vibrant social life, I am now getting stuck into life as a student at La Facoltà di Giurisprudenza (“the Faculty of Law”) at the University of Verona. Although challenging at times, I am definitely noticing an improvement in my ability to keep up with the Professors whilst they speak of the Italian law at a rather fast pace.
That said, I must admit that my favourite part of the day here is lunch time. One of the benefits of attending the University is being able to eat at la mensa (“the canteen”). The menu consists of a primo piatto (literally translated as “first plate” or “first course”) with a choice between soup, rice or pasta all served with bread; secondo piatto (“second course”) where they serve up some type of deliciously cooked meat or large salad; contorni (“side dishes”) such as potatoes, chips or vegetables; dessert and a drink. And with a tessera (the word for a card, almost like a membership card that allows you to use various services at the University) this can all be yours for a mere 4 euros. It’s little wonder I eat here almost every day!

Eating at la mensa with the Italian students also provides an additional opportunity for me to improve my Italian. For example, yesterday as I tucked into what is fast becoming one of my favourite dishes, cotoletta alla Milanese (veal cutlet covered in breadcumbs), I chatted away with my Italian friends. During our conversation, my friend spoke of feeling like a ruota di scorta when her coinquilina (“flatmate”) had her boyfriend staying for the weekend. Ruota is the Italian word for “wheel” and di scorta is translated as “spare”. Ruota di scorta therefore translates in English as “spare wheel”, similar to the expression we use for feeling like a “third wheel” or “gooseberry”. She said that you can also use the phrase terzo incomodo in this context.

I think the quality of the food served at la mensa reflects the Italians’ love of food and the way in which they eat – they usually have big meals but with no snacking in between. They also take big breaks for lunch, giving themselves time to enjoy their meals, for example the shops are closed for lunch from 12:30 until 15:30. It really is la dolce vita and a way of life I can get used to!! I hope you have enjoyed On Location Italian and I will be back soon! A presto!!

On Location German – 7 Nov 2012

121107-danielHello everyone! It’s Daniel here in Germany and the last couple of weeks have been rather eventful: as well as a week of work, as per usual, I took two trips to other parts of Germany during my Herbstferien (autumn holidays). Five days in Stuttgart and Tübingen in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg as well as a weekend in Leipzig in the east have taught me that there is a lot more to the German language than the Hochdeutsch (standard German) that you learn at school or university!

While exploring the university town of Tübingen, I came across many examples of Schwäbisch (Swabian), which is a dialect of German spoken in the city of Stuttgart and most of the south of Baden- Württemberg, as well as some far western parts of Bavaria. The couple I stayed with showed me a bench in the town, which had one of the most intriguing words I have ever seen written above it;

“Dohoggeddiadiaemmerdohogged”

Standard German translation; da sitzen die, die immer da sitzen. (There sit those who always sit there.) Clearly the Swabians are even fonder of long words than the Germans! While in the South, I also enjoyed some Spätzle mit Sauerkraut und Speck. (A Swabian dish made of small, gnocchi-like pasta with sour cabbage and bacon.) Yummm!

After the long journey back to the north-west, I decided to take a four hour train to the East to visit a friend in Leipzig. From his German housemates I learned the Sächsisch (the dialect of Saxony) phrase, ‘käs’ dich!’, which is the Sächsisch way of saying, ‘beeile dich!’ (Hurry up!). My first reaction was of surprise, as I thought to myself, “Cheese yourself?” I was relieved to hear that although ‘Käse’ is the German word for cheese, it doesn’t mean cheese in this sense!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed getting a taste of some eastern and southern accents and look forward to learning even more about them! Until next time! Bis bald, Daniel.

On Location Spanish – 6 Nov 2012

121106-iainBuenos días and a very warm welcome to another On Location Spanish post from studious Salamanca. It’s Iain here, and much like Grace I’ve been slowly getting to grips with a brand new culture, a brand new University and, clearly, a brand new language.

A few weeks have passed since my stumbling introduction to my life in Spain, and much like my fellow novatos (“freshers” or “freshmen”) I’m proud to say that I’m really beginning to find my feet here. Classes are well under way and despite the nasty surprise of some lectures lasting until 10 o’clock at night, everything is running smoothly!
Many of my classes here at the USAL are Business and Economics based subjects and, understandably, the lecturers are drawing heavily on the current events which dominate the Spanish newsstands. These have been relayed across the world, and it is interesting, as a business student, to live through economic history as it is being written.

My lecturer today was talking to us about jobs, and finding employment. Out of interest, he asked if any of his students had a job. Tellingly, very few put their hands up. One student cautiously raised his hand, and replied with an interesting phrase:

Estoy en plantilla de un Hotel
“I work in a hotel”

I jotted this down in my workbook, simply as I had never heard this expression before. Checking the phrase up in the dictionary, it does seem to be quite interesting – una plantilla translates literally as “an insole of a shoe”. In terms of employment, I’ve learned we can use the phrase estar en plantilla to signify being “on the payroll” of a business or organisation.

Outside of the classroom, Salamanca continues to worm its way into my affections, with its diverse mix of culture and student nightlife. If, like me, Salamanca had barely registered on your radar in comparison to the tourist traps of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville, I really would recommend a visit. The summer sun is slowly turning to crisp, clear autumnal days, yet the cooler weather isn’t putting anyone off – the place is as vibrant as ever!

I hope you’re enjoying our updates and we’ll keep them coming!

¡Hasta la proxima!

On Location French – 5 Nov 2012

121105-roseBonjour tout le monde! I’ve been in France for just over a month now and I’m settling in so well. The first few days were a flurry of bank appointments, visiting my school and getting lots of legalities out of the way. Now that most of the paperwork is completed, I can concentrate on the next step – making friends!

I’m staying in a foyer des jeunes travailleurs – accommodation for young workers, similar to student halls. This has been great for meeting people, although I quickly realised I had to adapt my university-appropriate French – really, no one speaks like that here! I’ve found there’s still quite a formal level of French between young people here who don’t know each other, though. When meeting someone, they greet each other with bonjour during the day or bonsoir in the evening. Only once you’ve met someone a few times will they switch to salut – more like “hi” in English.

People almost always use the tu form of verbs with friends rather than the more formal vous. With some teachers, for example, we used vous at first, then most told me:

on peut se tutoyer
we can use ‘tu’ with each other

As for goodbyes, there are various ways to end a conversation. In shops or with teachers, I’ve been saying au revoir or bonne journée – “goodbye”, or “have a nice day”. Young French people mostly say à bientôt, “see you later”. If you know you’re going to see the person again very soon, or at least the same day, say à toute à l’heure, “see you soon”. There’s also à tout de suite (literally, “until immediately”) if you’re going away for say five minutes, similar to “see you in a few”. If you’ve made a good impression on someone and you want to meet up again, French people might say on peut s’ajouter sur Facebook/on peut échanger des numéros. This means “let’s add each other on Facebook” or “let’s swap phone numbers”. I hope this helps you when you need to find the right greetings to use with your French-speaking friends!

On Location Swedish – 2 Nov 2012

121102-ailieHello! It’s Ailie here in Uppsala and this week’s post is inspired by a conversation I had with a Swedish friend who actually lives on the other side of Sweden, in Gothenburg, whilst he was helping me go over some work for my Swedish classes. He was telling me that it is sometimes quite easy to tell when I write in Swedish that it isn’t my first language (although it is getting better), because – he finds at least – Swedish has a more concise vocabulary in comparison with English and so I quite often resort to using quite old-fashioned words in Swedish in order to try and find the meaning I am aiming for. This got me thinking about the differences between Swedish and English vocabulary, and it was this thinking that led me to what I find a quite interesting exception to the rule – translating the verb ‘to think’ into Swedish.

In English, ‘to think’ can mean many different things and we normally pick up the correct meaning from context. However in Swedish there are at least three different verbs, all of which have a slightly different connotation: att tro, att tänka, and att tycka. Att tro has elements of both belief and uncertainty, and it is what I most often use, especially for example to answer questions in class with “Jag tror så…” (“I think/believe so…”). With it, it is not as if you are declaring something to be certain, merely only as far as you are aware. Att tänka however is more concrete and concerned with the actual mental activity of thinking or imagining, and as such is the verb used for phrases like “Vad tänker du på?” (“What are you thinking about?”); “Tänk efter en gång till!” (“Think again!”); and “Det får en att tänka efter” (“It makes you think”).

Att tycka is somewhere in between and I have found generally used with opinions, as in “Jag tycker vi ska gå ut” (“I think we should go out”, a phrase often used when discussing plans for a Friday night in Uppsala). However, we also find the construction “att tycka om” in Swedish, which can be considered a separate verb, meaning “to like”, and which can be used with just about anything: “Jag tycker om kaffe/Sverige/du” (“I like coffee/Sweden/you”). You can probably see by now that knowing the differences between these verbs can be quite important – I have come pretty close before to telling people that I believe (tror) in coffee instead of saying I like it (tycker om)!

So for now:
jag tror det räcker med tänkande på tänkande för idag!
I think that is enough thinking about thinking for today!

Tills nästa gång, hej då! (“Until the next time, bye!”)

On Location Italian – 1 Nov 2012

121101-nicoleBoungiorno a tutti and welcome again to my On Location Italian blog. This is Nicole writing from Verona, Italy. I have been here for just over a month now and I am really starting to get settled in well. I have met so many other Erasmus students, and I’ve also made good friends with other Italians in my law class. I am also fortunate to have four lovely Italian students living across from me and spend much of my free time socialising with them.

This week I wanted to tell you about an experience I had as I enjoyed a spritz with my new Italian friends. The spritz is a type of aperitif (or aperitivo) commonly enjoyed in northern Italy, particularly in the Veneto region. It consists of Prosecco wine, a dash of a bitter liqueur such as Aperol or Campari and some sparkling mineral water. It is also usually served with a small dish of nibbles such as crisps or nuts. It doesn’t matter the time of day, you will always see someone drinking a spritz outside a bar or café here in Verona. As my friends and I sat around a table outside a café enjoying our spritz, we began discussing German films that we knew. During our conversation one of the girls used the term non so un cavolo. I of course knew that so comes from the verb sapere (“to know”) but it was the use of the word cavolo that struck me. Cavolo usually means a cabbage in Italian but she explained to me that in this case the expression could be translated as “I don’t know a thing”. The conversation proved to be particularly useful as I learned another handy expression. Non me ne importa niente. Importa comes from the verb importare meaning “to import”, or as I understood here “to matter”, with the expression being translated as “I couldn’t care less!”. Both these expressions used amongst my young Italian friends seem to me to be quite colloquial and informal, and perhaps not ones to be used in a more formal situation.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post for this week and I will be back soon with some more On Location Italian. A presto!