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On Location Swedish – 29 Mar 2013

130329-ailieHej där! Well, this week the big excitement in Uppsala (and in other places too) was over some amazing sightings of the Norrsken, or Northern Lights, which lit up the sky with ribbons of amazing electric green – the photo is courtesy of my friend and very talented photographer James, who kindly let me use his photos, as they do the Lights a bit more justice than my camera could ever do! (He has more on Flickr, if you’re interested!) Seeing the Lights was an incredibly magical experience, and not something I was expecting to see in Uppsala given the number of people who had said I would have to go properly north – as in, Arctic Circle north – to see them.

Anyway, the linguistic subject for this week’s post is talking about the future in Swedish, because there are several ways of doing this and it wasn’t until I arrived in Sweden that I discovered that I had sort of been doing it wrongly, and sounding overly sure of things definitely happening when really, that was not how I wanted to sound. The first and most simple way of expressing the future is in using some kind of time marker with the present tense, e.g. “Imorgon åker jag till Stockholm”, literally “Tomorrow I go to Stockholm”, which sounds a little strange to English ears, but meaning “Tomorrow I’ll go to Stockholm”, or “Ikväll läser jag inte boken” (I’ll not read the book this evening).

The method I used far too much on arriving in Sweden was to use the modal verb “ska” followed by an infinitive, because of its similarity to the English “shall”. However, it more accurately equates to the English “will”, meaning that something is not only going to happen but it is decided upon and set in stone, no two ways about it, and so clearly much more definite in its use. For example, one might say “Jag ska åka till Stockholm på fredag” (I will travel to Stockholm on Friday) – and no snowstorms or delayed trains are going to stop me! A good comparison to demonstrate the use of ska comes in situations requiring real willpower; for example, “Nästa år ska jag göra den Stockholmska halvmaratonen” (“Next year I will do the Stockholm half marathon”) or “Nästa år gör jag den Stockholmska halvmaratonen” (“I’ll do the Stockholm half marathon next year (implied… or maybe the year after)”). So essentially, the trick is to be aware of using “ska” too much, as I did, and sounding like you are definitely very sure of a lot of things happening in the future, when really, your plans might well change.

“Komma att” plus an infinitive was really the way I should have been expressing my future ambitions, as it better expresses things which are essentially predictions; examples being “Det kommer att regna på tisdag” (It’s going to rain on Tuesday) or, “Jag kommer att vara jättetrött imorgon om jag inte lägger mig nu” (I’m going to be really tired tomorrow if I don’t go to bed now). As you can see, there is a lot less certainty involved, the actions can only really be expected to happen. And in fact, on that note, I probably will actually be very tired if I don’t go to bed now, all of this excitement over Norrskenen and Swedish future tenses is wearing my brain out! So, for now, godnatt och hej då!

On Location Italian – 28 Mar 2013

130328-nicoleBuongiorno a tutti and welcome once again to On Location Italian. Being a language student means that I have many friends from back home who, like me, are currently undertaking their year abroad in some great European city and I have spent the past week taking full advantage of this!

First stop was a trip to Bologna to stay with my friend who is studying there. Bologna is situated in the Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and is definitely worth a visit even for the food alone. The city is famous for its tortellini (a type of pasta usually filled with cheese, or sometimes meat) and is of course home to the world famous Bolognese sauce, known as ragù in Italy. The tagliatelle al ragù I tried whilst in Bologna is up there with one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had (this is a bold statement for someone brought up in an Italian household of food lovers). The city also has a great student atmosphere, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088,being the oldest existing university in the world. Whilst I was there my friend invited me to a student party. It was a good opportunity to practice some Italian and I managed to pick up a handy new expression: braccino corto. Braccio is the Italian word for “arm” and corto means “short”, however the colloquial expression is used to describe a person who is “tight fisted” or “stingy”.

For the second half of the week, it was the turn of my friends studying in Rome to visit me and we took a short trip to Milan, Italy’s second biggest city and one of the fashion capitals of the world. In addition to visiting the breath-taking Cathedral, we browsed around some of the city’s most prestigious shopping streets, visiting the shops of such major brands as Prada, Armani and Gucci. Amongst some incredible pieces of fashion, there was a rather distasteful dress with a very steep price tag to match. This made me think back to an expression used by a friend back in Verona:  chi ha i denti non ha il pane. This is an idiomatic expression meaning “to have the means but not the know-how” and was used by my friend to describe a person with lots of money but no taste.

This week has yet again demonstrated to me the vast number of incredible Italian cities and I am so glad my friends are enjoying living la vita bella (“the good life”) just as much as I am. I have you have enjoyed On Location Italian for this week and I will be back soon. A presto!

Lesson 09 – Coffee Break German

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In this latest episode of Coffee Break German we’ll be looking at how to cope with language difficulties and to explain that you don’t understand – that you’re just learning German! Coffee Break German comes to you from the Radio Lingua Network. In weekly episodes you’ll join native speaker Thomas who’ll be teaching learner Mark in gradual, structured lessons. The episodes also feature Kirsten, our Grammar Guru, and Julia, our Cultural Correspondent.

On Location German – 27 Mar 2013

130327-danielHallo zusammen! Hey, everyone!

As we approach the end of March, that means that Easter is nearly here! I have fond memories of when I was younger when my brothers and I used to paint hard-boiled eggs at Easter time. It turns out that this custom of boiling and painting Ostereier (“Easter eggs”) began in Germany! As well as the shared custom of the Ostereier, Germany shares the custom of der Osterhase (the Easter bunny) with us, too! I say share, but we take these customs from the Germans: apparently the first chocolate Easter bunny came from Germany too! (Schokolade (“chocolate”) being my favourite part of Easter, of course!)

Also, at this time of year we start to see the first signs of der Frühling (“Spring”). Blumen (“flowers”) start to come up and der Schnee (“the snow”) from Winter finally disappears. Apart from this year! Leider ist der Schnee noch nicht weggetaut! (“Unfortunately the snow hasn’t melted yet!”) Then again, coming from Scotland I’m used to the weather being less-than-Mediterranean. I can only hope that, come April/May, the weather will improve. I hope that the weather is better wherever you are and that you all have a fantastic Easter!

Frohe Ostern! Happy Easter!

Daniel.

Episode 307 – Q&A Spanish

In this week’s episode of Q&A Spanish we answer questions from listeners Kitty and Neil. Topics include the personal ‘a’ and the expression ‘a tenor de…”. As usual our experts JP and Nahyeli are on hand to answer these questions.

Use the player below to listen to this week’s episode:

If you have a question for our experts, you can get in touch with the Q&A Spanish team at the Q&A Spanish page. Remember that we welcome all questions, even if you’re just starting out with Spanish! Don’t forget too that you can leave us voicemail by clicking on the tab at the right of this page!

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On Location Spanish – 26 Mar 2013

130326-iain¡Hola y bienvenidos! Welcome to another installment of On Location Spanish, once again coming to you from Iain in the University town of Salamanca.

Salamanca has recently been doing its finest impression of the Scottish climate – over the past week, we have been experiencing all four seasons in one day, with a fair amount of rain and snow for good measure. This has been an excellent opportunity to push my weather vocabulary beyond the basics, adding new phrases such as:

hay un vendaval and hay lloviznas
“it’s blowing a gale” and “it’s drizzling”

Looking back on my preconceptions of living in Spain for a year, I certainly didn’t think I’d still be tramping about Salamanca wearing a ski jacket, jumper, a scarf and gloves mid-March, so therefore I’m hoping this weather is short-lived. In typical Spanish humour, my classmate Carlos introduced me to another phrase to describe something that is short-lived, hopefully like this changeable weather:

pasa como una nube de verano
“it passes by like a cloud in the summer sky”

Oh, what I would give for a cloudless blue sky right now… On perhaps a lighter note, the vibrant Irish community here in Salamanca made sure that the recent celebrations for el día de San Patricio (of course, “St. Patrick’s Day”) were well attended. The lights in the Plaza Mayor were turned green for the weekend in honour of the Irish patron saint, and I can confirm that a few pints of Guinness were consumed by both Spanish and Erasmus students alike.

As March passes, thoughts turn towards the Easter celebrations here in Spain – which I’m very much looking forward to. However, after Easter it’s just a few short weeks until my Erasmus exchange period is over, which is a frightening thought…

Bueno, ¡hasta la próxima!

On Location French – 25 Mar 2013

130325-roseBonjour tout le monde, it’s Rose here. I’m not long back from a few weeks’ holidays from school for les vacances d’hiver, the winter holidays. It feels like I’m always on holiday!

In the same theme as my last article, I decided to put my two weeks off school to good use and travel around the south of France, and cross the French/Spanish border to spend a few days in Barcelona. My first stop was Bordeaux, in the Aquitaine region. Here I tried some canelé pastries, a regional speciality. We also had the chance to sample some wine, Bordeaux being known as the best wine-making region in France. Being on a bit of a budget, on a fait du lèche-vitrine, we went window shopping, as Rue Sainte Catherine in Bordeaux is the longest shopping street in Europe, and quite a sight! From Bordeaux we took an overnight bus to Barcelona, the Catalonian capital. This was a bit of a shock to the system at first, after trying to reply to people in French in restaurants etc! I had a great time in Barcelona sightseeing around the Sagrada Familia church, the Picasso museum and a trip to Gaudi’s Parc Guell. We also found some fleamarkets and vintage shops and went to a mini music festival on Saturday night with some British bands. I then hopped back over the border to France for a few days in Toulouse. I was much more confident about my language abilities once I was back on French soil! I was able to meet up with fellow Radio Lingua blogger Scott and go for some cassoulet together. This is the regional dish of Toulouse, a sort of casserole filled with duck, pork and kidney beans. Maybe more suited to a cold winter’s night instead of a mild March day but it was nice to try. It was interesting to see other regions in France with different customs and traditions from Brittany. In Toulouse especially I picked up on the very different accent to that here in Brittany!

In contrast to the sunny south, we stepped off the train in St Brieuc to flurries of snow. Overnight it got much worse, meaning my first two days back after the holidays were written off as jours de neige – snow days, yes, in March! Luckily it was mostly la neige mouillée – slushy snow, with only a little bit of verglas – ice. Once I was back at school, my pupils happily told me stories about how they made des bonhommes de neige, snowmen, during their time off. Personally I preferred to stay at home in the warmth! I hope you enjoyed reading about my holidays, and à la prochaine!

Coffee Break French wins European Podcast Award!

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We’re delighted to announce that Coffee Break French has won Best Professional Podcast UK in this year’s European Podcast Awards. The shortlist of podcasts for each category was originally generated by listener votes, so we’d like to thank everyone who voted! A jury then considered each of the podcasts on the shortlist and Coffee Break French was voted Best Professional Podcast in the UK. Coffee Break Spanish came fifth in the rankings!

We’ve also just discovered that Coffee Break French was the runner-up in the European Professional Podcast category, coming in second place after Detektor.fm – congratulations to them and all other European and national winners!

Lesson 08 – Coffee Break German

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In this week’s episode of Coffee Break German we’ll be building on what we learned last week to help us talk about the town. We’ll learn some more complex directions and learn some aspects of German cases in our Grammar Guru section. Coffee Break German comes to you from the Radio Lingua Network. In weekly episodes you’ll join native speaker Thomas who’ll be teaching learner Mark in gradual, structured lessons. The episodes also feature Kirsten, our Grammar Guru, and Julia, our Cultural Correspondent.

French WOTD Review – 8 March 2013

Apologies for the delay with this episode! Mark has been a bit under the weather and we’ve only just managed to get it finalised.

As usual, 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 focusing on shopping vocabulary. Our words have been acheter – to buy, la taille – the size, le prix – the price, faire les courses – to do the shopping, and faire un échange, to make an exchange. Our listeners have been coming up with some interesting uses of these words and this review show highlights some of our favourites.

Follow us on Twitter | iTunes link

Spanish WOTD Review – 8 March 2013

Apologies for the delayed publication of this episode which is due to a technical problem we’ve had with the site over the past week.

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. Last week our theme was eating out in restaurants and as usual the Radio Lingua community has come up with some excellent examples of this week’s words: la cuenta, la carta, el postre, pedir and reservar.

Friend us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | iTunes link

Episode 306 – Q&A Spanish

In this week’s episode of Q&A Spanish we answer questions from listeners Kendal, Chris and Sue. Topics include how to cheer at sports games in Spanish, how to describe correctly stockings / tights / pantyhose (!) and how to talk about how long you’ve been doing something. As usual our experts JP and Nahyeli are on hand to answer these questions.

Use the player below to listen to this week’s episode:

If you have a question for our experts, you can get in touch with the Q&A Spanish team at the Q&A Spanish page. Remember that we welcome all questions, even if you’re just starting out with Spanish! Don’t forget too that you can leave us voicemail by clicking on the tab at the right of this page!

iTunes link | RSS feed

On Location Swedish – 15 Mar 2013

130315-ailieTja! Well, the past weekend it was, as promised, practically summer in Sweden. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration – but I’m pretty sure at some point over the weekend thermometers were definitely reaching that ultimate high of 6°C! Definitely shorts and t-shirt weather, I think you’ll agree. My best friend was returning from a short break in Berlin, where he’d been having a sort of ‘reunion’ with the other teaching assistants he met whilst doing a Comenius placement in France (Comenius being the equivalent of Erasmus except the EU aids language teaching placements instead of university places), and so we decided to make the most of the warm weather in Stockholm instead of heading straight back to Uppsala.

Whilst we were wandering around the up-market area of Östermalm, the conversation turned to the differences between all the education systems we had encountered in our lives. Something which quite starkly highlights the differences, we felt, is the ways in which pupils address their teachers; for example, in Sweden it is entirely normal to call teachers by their first name, something pretty much undreamt of in Britain and certainly in France. In Sweden, schooling is compulsory from the age of 7 (compared to 6 in France and 5 in Scotland), although children can be enrolled in a dagis or förskola (preschool or nursery) from as early as 1 year old. Like in the UK, Swedish schools operate on a two level system,  that is to say you find grundskola, which is the compulsory “primary” school between the ages of 7-16, with the vast majority of pupils electing to go on to gymnasium, the three-year “secondary” school. In a slight similarity with, for example, the French system, pupils at gymnasium will choose a program and orientation to follow, some more vocational, some more academic, to prepare them better for högskola (lit. “high school”, although the closest British equivalent is “college”), for university or for work.

During this discussion, my friend used a phrase he had read whilst doing external reading for his Swedish literature course, in which the author used the phrase “med utbildningen i ryggen”. This literally translates as “with the education in/on the back” – so you can imagine this produced a rather confused look on my face. What it actually equates to is “with a good education behind you” or “to have solid education ‘in the bag’”; which makes a bit more sense! And, slightly different to this, a Swedish friend later told me that in changing “ryggen” to “ryggmärgen” (lit. “spinal cord”), it would mean that you know all the things you’ve learnt “by heart”…and it got me to thinking, where on earth do languages take their inspiration from what parts of the body are associated with knowing these things? Hearts, spinal cords, backs… Who knows! And with that, I’m going to enjoy the fact that it still isn’t quite dark yet (it’s 17:00), so until next time, ha det så bra!

Lesson 07 – Coffee Break German

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It’s time for another episode of Coffee Break German and in this week’s episode we’re learning to get around the town using German. Coffee Break German comes to you from the Radio Lingua Network. In weekly episodes you’ll join native speaker Thomas who’ll be teaching learner Mark in gradual, structured lessons. The episodes also feature Kirsten, our Grammar Guru, and Julia, our Cultural Correspondent.

On Location Italian – 14 March 2013

130314-nicoleBuongiorno a tutti and welcome to On Location Italian! Now that we are into the month of March the cold, snowy days of winter are fading into the distance and leaving the way for some long awaited rays of sunshine and the clear blue skies of spring to take over. It therefore seemed the perfect season to visit the fattoria (“farm”) run by a friend that I have made here in Verona. So earlier in the week I took the short car journey ride with a group of friends to the beautiful fattoria just on the outskirts of Verona.

Now before I tell you about all the different animals I came across at the fattoria I have a slight confession. In contrast to all the controversy surrounding the horse meat scandal back home, here in Verona the eating of horse is perfectly acceptable and commonplace and you will struggle to find a restaurant that doesn’t sell cavallo (“horse”). I personally have never been able to bring myself to try a piece of Black Beauty himself. However, and this is where the guilty conscience starts to kick in, I have tried another popular Veronese dish of asino (“donkey”). You can therefore imagine my horror when I turned up at my friend’s fattoria only to discover that he had two donkeys. After making friends with these cute animals I think it is safe to say that whilst happy to embrace the Verona way of life including the cuisine, I will be sure to bypass the dishes containing asino in the future. Despite spending the majority of my time with the donkeys, the fattoria was also home to lots of polli (“chickens”), una capra (“a goat”), un maiale (“a pig”) and due oche (“two geese”). There was also a rooster, the Italian name for which I had to ask my friend. He told me “rooster” in Italian is gallo and shared an expression that his nonna (“gran”) used to tell him when he was growing up: andare a letto con le galline e svegliarsi col gallo, literally translated as “to go to bed with the hens and to wake up with the rooster” or in other words “early to bed, early to rise”.

It was nice seeing another side to Verona and with the good weather and longer nights ahead I hope to return to le colline (“the hills”) to visit my new found donkey friends. I hope you have all enjoyed On Location Italian for this week. A presto!

On Location German – 13 Mar 2013

130313-hollyHallo zusammen, it’s Holly here, back with another blog post. I’m still having a great time over here in Germany and I am constantly learning new words and phrases. A couple that I have learnt recently are überglücklich sein (to be on top of the world) and zu schön, um es in Worte zu fassen (too brilliant for words). I do, in fact, feel on top of the world just now and my year abroad really is too brilliant for words!

Was die Arbeit betrifft (as far as work is concerned) I really feel like I fit in now and I am getting the hang of everything. I run my own Scottish culture Arbeitsgemeinschaft or AG (study group or workshop) which is part of the curriculum at the Gymnasium where I teach. The children can choose from a variety of topics, giving them the opportunity to learn something new that is not in the normal school curriculum, without having to worry about grades.

In my last blog post I told you all that I was going to Berlin. It was amazing and one of the best aspects of this trip was that I didn’t have to pay a huge amount because of the different train tickets that I bought at the beginning of my stay here. Firstly, I bought a Semester ticket through the nearest university to me. This cost €215 per semester and gives me unlimited travel on Nahverkehr (the slower, local transport) in my Bundesland (state in Germany), Nordrhein-Westfalen. In Germany when you enroll at a university you automatically get this ticket as it is covered by your tuition fee. Secondly, I bought a Bahncard 50 which gets me 50% off of all trains in Germany and some in Switzerland and Austria. I would definitely recommend this to any of you who may be thinking of spending a longer period of time in Germany.

We managed to fit a lot into our long weekend away, including der Fernsehturm (The TV Tower), Das Brandenburger Tor (The Brandenburg Gate) and lots of Museen (museums). I also loved Die Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall) or “East Side Gallery”. I think that Berlin is a city that everybody should visit at some point in their life

Das reicht für heute – that’s all for today. I’ll be back again soon with more stories from my time in Germany. Bis bald!

On Location Spanish – 12 Mar 2013

¡Buenas a todo el mundo! and welcome to Grace’s On Location Spanish Update. So it appears we find ourselves in March and wondering where the time has gone, ¿verdad? (“am I right?”) As I embark on the homestretch of my busy year here in Valencia, me queda un montón por aprender (“I still have a lot to learn”) and with a busy social calendar for the city in upcoming months, I hope to keep you posted with my news and pictures from the celebrations.

With student huelgas (“strikes”) aplenty and preparations for Las Fallas in place, there is an air of restlessness about campus as we muddle through to our Easter holidays. With that in mind I’d like to tell you about a phrase I’ve heard that nicely expresses that “fed up” feeling:

¡Estoy hasta las narices de todo!
I’m sick and tired of everything.

Having initially translated the phrase ‘hasta las narices de’ as “up to the noses of”, I was reminded of the English expression of “being up to your eyeballs in” something. Checking in with my friend Daniel, madrileño (“Madrilenean”) by birth but lovingly-adopted by the British Isles, he assured me that this was basically correct and that the expression serves pretty well in most contexts where someone is feeling a bit under pressure or overwhelmed.

I hope you all have nothing to be sick and tired of, but if that is the case, you can take some consolation in being able to say it in Spanish. If you’re joining me next time for more On Location Spanish then I hope to tell you a little more about Las Fallas. Until then ¡Hasta la próxima!

Lesson 06 – Coffee Break German

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In this week’s episode of Coffee Break German we’re looking at numbers from zero to ten, and dealing with buying things in stores and cafés. Coffee Break Geramn In weekly episodes you’ll join native speaker Thomas who’ll be teaching learner Mark in gradual, structured lessons. The episodes also feature Kirsten, our Grammar Guru, and Julia, our Cultural Correspondent.

Episode 305 – Q&A Spanish

It’s time for a new episode of Q&A Spanish. In this episode JP and Nahyeli answer a question from Andrew about the vosotros form which he’s noticed in a novel he’s reading; there’s a question from listener Chris who wants to know the difference between recordar and acordarse de, both of which mean “to remember”; and finally Ross wants to know the difference between más bien and mejor. As usual JP and Nahyeli provide answers to these questions through their explanations and examples.

Use the player below to listen to this week’s episode:

If you have a question for our experts, you can get in touch with the Q&A Spanish team at the Q&A Spanish page. Remember that we welcome all questions, even if you’re just starting out with Spanish!

iTunes link | RSS feed

On Location Swedish – 1 Mar 2013

130301-ailieHej! Hur är läget? (“How’s it going?”) With March coming in now, we are finally starting to hope for a bit of snow melt and the return of some sunshine here in Uppsala, although I think it will still be a few weeks before we see much real improvement. I am assured that Sweden in Spring will be lovely, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of that!.  Anyway, this week I wanted write about the act of being polite in Swedish. When I first started learning Swedish I can remember being very surprised at the lack of the word for “please”, thinking it very forward thinking and Scandinavian, and also very difficult for a well-mannered Brit to get used to it! What I did not realise at that time is the myriad of ways Swedish has not only for generally being polite, but more specifically for expressing thanks. Also, I have found that varying the way you say “thank you” in Swedish does actually make you sound more Swedish, always helpful when you are trying to pass yourself off as a native!

So, starting with the basics: tack (thank you), can and should be said at just about any possible opportunity, and can be used in place of “please”, as in “En kaffe, tack” (“A coffee, please”). Building on this, you get to tack så mycket (thanks so much), and tackar (thanks), which I like to think of as “intermediate” in the saying thank you scale. So what’s “advanced” in that case? The ultra-fancy “tack ska du ha”, literally translating as “thanks shall you have”, or “thank you very much”, and which often ends up sounding something like “tack ska-oo-aa”.

But what does one reply to all these expressions of thanks? Well, it depends on the situation. “Varsågod” is most often used like “you’re welcome”, especially after being thanked for being something (as it can also be used as “here you go”). In response to thanks for doing something for someone – giving directions, helping someone with their luggage on the train, that sort of thing – the two most common phrases in my experience at least are “ingen fara” (“no worries”), and “det är lugnt” (“it’s no bother, it’s cool”).

One final note on politeness in Swedish, this one concerning mealtimes: the Swedish equivalent of “bon appétit” (although it is something you almost solely hear waiters and waitresses saying to restaurant customers), smaklig måltid. And I have to say, this is one of my favourite Swedish phrases – literally translated, it means “tasty mealtime!” So, until next time, hej då!