Language & Learning
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
Today is the 12th European Day of Languages. The action goes back to an initiative of the Council of Europe and celebrates the 24 official languages and over 60 language communities existing in the European Union.
That English is the most widely spoken foreign language in the EU, is no longer a secret. What other mother tongues and foreign languages are predominantly spoken in the EU, and what benefits they entail, is shown here. Feel free to share the love, just link back to the original post!
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
British kids usually learn French, Spanish or German at school. I loved learning German. So much so that I studied German to A-Level and then at university. I was finally able to read Schiller, Goethe and Brecht in the authors’ own words. So imagine my disappointment when I found the language actually spoken in Germany was somewhat… familiar. Double Whopper mit leckerem Bacon und Cheddar Cheese, bitte!
And yet something was not quite right. I kind of knew what was meant with these ‘Denglish’ words, so beloved of middle management and Detlef D! Soost. Yet their German equivalents seemed easier to understand. But why? It turns out such words are almost always pseudo-anglicisms, or Scheinanglizismen.
Put simply: they are bad translations. All Germans know Handy does not mean mobile phone in English (although fewer know that handy means praktisch). But did you know that if you ordered ‘country potatoes’ to go with said Double Whopper in the UK you would be met with a blank look? Because we call them potato wedges (Kartoffelecken). My jaw dropped (mir ist der Kiefer heruntergeklappt) when an English-speaking friend invited me to watch the football at a ‘public viewing’, because I assumed someone had died and he had no shame (public viewing = die Ausstellung eines aufgebahrten Leichnams).
It seems these ‘adopted’ words almost always have a different meaning in English. So let me help you out here. At the airshow do not, for example, declare your admiration for the aeroplane that just did a ‘looping’ (it did a loop-the-loop). Neither should you ask the IT guy to set up the ‘beamer’ for your PowerPoint presentation (ask for a projector), or invite someone to go on a ‘wellness’ weekend (call it a spa weekend). English speakers may chuckle (kichern) at signs in Germany for the ‘drive-in’ restaurant (our restaurants get driven through: drive-through restaurant).
People who claim to have worn a ‘smoking’ to a glitzy event (smoking = das Rauchen; der Smoking = tux, tuxedo or dinner jacket) and Kate Moss, I assure you, has never taken part in a ‘shooting’ or the police would probably have been involved (shooting = eine Schießerei); it is more likely she took part in a photo shoot. English speakers might well go to a gym but they would never go to a ‘fitness studio’. And remember, if you ask a DJ at a wedding party to play some ‘evergreens’, he will either think you are talking about Christmas trees (evergreen = immergrüne Pflanze) or a naff (schlecht br. umgs.) song by Westlife. Try asking for some golden oldies instead. On the subject of oldies: don’t ask to take the oldtimer for a spin (durch die Gegend fahren) because in English an old-timer means alter Hase. He would probably object. You might, however, suggest taking the classic, vintage or heritage car for a drive.
But do not suppose that only Germans make the faux-pas of borrowing words incorrectly. We Brits and our American cousins will try ordering a ‘Stein’ of beer at the Oktoberfest (when we mean Maßkrug) or a glass of ‘Hock’ if we would like a glass of wine from Hochheim am Main. You might even hear the air force talking about ‘strafing’ the enemy (when they mean aus der Luft unter Beschuss nehmen). So it’s all swings and roundabouts.
Some typical German mistakes in English are examined in the interactive English course here. Have a go and good luck!
Robert Compton has lived in Berlin since 2009 and works as a translator and proofreader.
Overcrowded resort beaches, bad food in hectic restaurants and seemingly “exotic” holiday destinations where the only native language is that of retired tourist groups… sound familiar? Welcome to mass tourism. Those undeterred by scenarios such as these will spend happy holiday on popular islands such as Mallorca or Sardinia or in cities such as Nice and Barcelona.
But not so fast: There are still a few little spots in Europe that – at least for the moment – haven’t yet been spoiled by mass tourism. You only have to look a little harder…
Vieux Boucau: This small village on the French Atlantic coast is familiar to but a few surfers and camping enthusiasts. White sand beaches bordered by vast dunes stretch for miles, while pine forests in the background give campers shade. Those with little taste for the hustle and bustle of nearby Biarritz get their money’s worth in this charming village, enjoying beautiful sunsets on the dunes.
Molise: Far from the flow of traffic, mountains, vineyards and stone villages are the backdrop to this idyllic region of Italy. 200 kilometers east of Rome, among beech forests, fields of wild herbs and clear mountain lakes, travelers encounter a special kind of holiday. The small spa town Termali is the gateway to the region. However lovers of unspoiled beaches will have made a true find with Petacciato.
Cuesta Maneli: The Costa de la Luz, Spain’s Atlantic coast in the gulf of Cádiz, hosts cavorting crowds of tourists from countries all over the world. But even here there’s an alternative: The insider tip is Cuesta Maneli. On the southwestern edge of the Doñana National park there is a kilometer-long, unspoiled sandy beach. Those looking to while away there can reach the remote coastal strip via a 1200 meter-long boardwalk through wild dunes.
Moose, red wooden houses and Pippi Longstocking: To date, most people associate Sweden with unspoiled, idyllic nature for the whole family. But even here it can be hard to find places unaffected by mass tourism. One of these areas is the province of Hälsingland. In a landscape of stony mountains, in the borderlands between northern and southern Sweden, nature lovers can immerse themselves in the wilderness. Marked paths and trails lead the way through dense forests full of lynx, bears, moose and wolves, along with countless lakes for swimming and fishing.
If you want to get your language skills in shape for vacation, Babbel.com is the place. You’ll find travel vocabulary for French, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Swedish, German, Dutch, Indonesian, Polish, Turkish and English and as iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 apps.
Überfüllte Hotelstrände, schlechtes Essen in vollen Restaurants und vermeintlich exotische Urlaubsziele, in der die eigene Muttersprache dank übergewichtiger Rentner dominiert: Willkommen im Massentourismus. Wen das nicht abschreckt, der verbringt auf den gängigen Urlaubsinseln, wie Mallorca, Sardinien und in Städten, wie Nizza und Bordeaux gerne seinen Urlaub. Doch – man soll es nicht glauben – es gibt auch noch Fleckchen in Europa, die (bisher) nicht von der Welle des Massentourismus überspült wurde. Man muss sie nur suchen…
Elche, rote Holzhäuser und Pippi Langstrumpf: Bis heute verbinden die meisten Menschen mit Schweden unberührte, idyllische Natur für die ganze Familie. Doch selbst hier ist es schwer, Orte zu finden, die nicht vom Massentourismus geprägt sind. Einer dieser Gegenden ist die Provinz Hälsingland. In steinig-bergiger Landschaft, dem Grenzland zwischen Nord- und Südschweden, können naturverbundene Urlauber in die tiefe Wildnis eintauchen. Auf markierten Wegen und Naturpfaden gelangt man durch tiefe Wälder voll von Luchsen, Bären, Elchen und Wölfen und unzählige Seen laden zum schwimmen und angeln ein.
Vieux Boucau: Das kleine Dorf an der französischen Atlantik-Küste gilt als Geheimtipp unter Surfern und Campern. Weißer Sandstrand erstreckt sich an kilometerweiten Dünen und im Hinterland spenden Pinienwälder Campern Schatten. Wer keine Lust auf den Trubel im nahgelegenen Biarritz hat, kommt in dem kleinen Dorf auf seine Kosten und genießt dort malerische Sonnenuntergänge in den Dünen.
Molise: Fernab der großen Verkehrsströme prägen Gebirge, Weinberge und steinerne Bergdörfer die idyllische Gegend Italiens. 200 Km östlich von Rom finden Reisende zwischen Buchenwäldern, Wildkräuterwiesen und klaren Bergseen ein Urlaubsziel der besonderen Art. Der kleine Badeort Termoli gilt als das Tor der Region. Freunde von einzigartigen Naturstränden hingegen werden in Petacciato Marina fündig.
Cuesta Maneli: An der Costa de la Luz, der spanischen Atlantikküste am Golf von Cádiz, tummeln sich im Sommer Scharen von Touristen aus vielen Ländern. Aber auch hier geht es anders: Der Geheimtipp heißt Cuesta Maneli. Am Südwestrand des Nationalparks Doñana liegt der kilometerlange, unberührte Sandstrand. Wer dort seine Ruhe finden will, erreicht den abgelegenen Küstenstreifen über einen 1200 Meter langen Holzsteg durch wilde Dünenlandschaft.
Wer sich vor dem Urlaub sprachlich fit machen will, wird bei babbel.com fündig. Reise-Vokabular gibt es für die Lernsprachen Englisch, Französisch, Spanisch, Italienisch, brasilianisches Portugiesisch, Schwedisch, Deutsch, Niederländisch, Indonesisch, Polnisch und Türkisch und als Apps für iOS, Android und Windows Phone 8.
Babbel CEO and co-founder Markus Witte is giving some insights into the motivations in acquiring PlaySay. Founded by Ryan Meinzer in 2008 PlaySay is ‘a language learning experience’, offering a unique, visionary and fun way to learn Spanish and English. The 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt finalist PlaySay Inc., which has its headquarters in San Francisco, has seen its app ranked #1 in the education category of the iTunes store in ten countries, including the USA.
We already saw several great news in the first few months of 2013: Babbel apps for new platforms, coming along with important awards and even a presentation of our Polish vocabulary trainer to German chancellor Angela Merkel and Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk.
Now we’re taking a step to increase our presence in the United States by acquiring the the language learning firm PlaySay. A very unusual step — most San Francisco start-ups are not bought by a German start-up.
In our case, we feel that combining PlaySay and Babbel makes a lot of sense. We’ve watched the success of PlaySay since we saw their pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco back in 2011. Since then, PlaySay was mentioned by some major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and others and had its app as a #1 in the education category of the US App store and 10 other countries.
The current PlaySay app will be continued for the time being. All users are invited to join Babbel as well to combine both learning experiences. The product teams are in discussions of providing an integrated product.
The acquisition of PlaySay is opening a number of opportunities in the US market, especially since we have Ryan Meinzer, the PlaySay CEO, by our side as an advisor and supporter. Babbel’s CTO Thomas Holl and I will be in San Francisco with Ryan in early April to lay the foundations of our presence in California.
Im Oktober 2012 hatten wir elf Babbel-Apps für Windows 8 Tablet und PC veröffentlicht, die seither mehr als 390.000 Mal installiert wurden. Damals hofften wir auf eine Fortsetzung der angenehmen Zusammenarbeit mit Microsoft, wussten aber noch nicht, ob und wie es konkret weitergehen würde. Denn alles steht und fällt mit der Resonanz der Anwender. Umso größer die Freude über den Erfolg der App, der uns veranlasste, die für Windows Phone 8 optimierte Version nachzulegen – die wir jetzt, sehr angemessen im Rahmen der CeBIT, erstmalig präsentieren konnten.
Es wird die Kanzlerin bestimmt freuen, das Lernen der polnischen Sprache zukünftig auch auf ihrem Windows Phone 8 fortsetzen zu können.
Die neuen Windows Phone 8 Apps gibt es momentan in elf Babbel-Sprachen im Windows Phone Store.
Hier schon mal ein paar visuelle Eindrücke der schicken App:
Gregory, one of our dearest colleagues and favourite Frenchmen, is from Annecy, a picturesque town in the French Alps. He is the face of French support. When he isn’t supporting, he can be found playing with mobile devices and spreading good vibes.
What are you doing at Babbel?
I started in May 2011 as a freelancer in support, and since March 2012 I have been working here full-time. I get to do more and more technical support, including testing and experimenting with new products, like new apps for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and also Windows 8 Tablets. Last but not least, I also translate into French, and do some recordings for YouTube videos.
Which languages do you use on a daily basis?
At Babbel I mainly use English and German since those are our working languages. Sometimes also French. And German I’m trying to push more and more. I feel most comfortable, of course, in my mother tongue. It’s just comforting to be able to say what you mean. La langue suit la pensée – only then the language follows your thoughts.
Can you tell us a little about your experience of learning German in Berlin?
When I first got here I could only speak a few words of German, could barely understand what was being said, and had problems explaining myself. Sure enough, I mostly got to know other French people, and in my work life as well. But the bosses were German and Swiss, and they forced – or let’s say encouraged – us to speak German. And ever since I’ve been with Babbel my German has improved considerably.
In the first few months I tried out language tandems a lot, which means I met German people who wanted to learn French. From what I experienced the results weren’t very successful, however, since many people had problems imagining how a foreign person learns German. Vice versa, a Frenchman is likely to have a hard time explaining exceptions in French grammar.
What advice can you give to language learners?
Surround yourself with people. I find it very helpful if others correct me. Also, I like watching German TV or films in German.
Is there a first German word or expression that particularly stuck to your mind?
It’s sort of strange, but yes. I was 14, 15 years old, and we read a German text at school. One sentence went like “Ich mache Yoga” (I do yoga), and the whole class was on the floor laughing. Nothing special about this sentence, but the pronunciation just cracked us up!
Which (other) languages would you like to know?
Russian, Spanish and Brasilian Portuguese.
The Babbel team proudly announces to have been rewarded with the “digita 2013″ in the category “private learning age 16+”. Katja and Regine received this important trophy on occasion of the education and media fair didacta in Cologne on Wednesday. The jury praised the “innovate and motivating” approach of the Babbel learning system which, in turn, motivates us to carry on and get better and better. Read the full statement here (in German, obviously) .
We admit that it feels great to get an award, and we did face some serious competition out there. But we are almost equally thrilled by this lovely video that was made by didacta, and that features two charming, bright young gentlemen who probably succeed better in explaining (again, in German) what Babbel is than most other people who have tried, including ourselves.
At this time of year, it’s really worth taking a closer look at what actually brings a couple together. It’s most likely a mixture of a number of things; physical attraction, personality, charm, interests, but successful communication is of utmost importance. To make a relationship work, its constituents must be able to understand one another. Everyone has his or her own way of expressing and conveying feelings, but how is this process complicated when these constituents don’t speak the same language? Couples in a bilingual relationship face a somewhat harder challenge than those in monolingual relationships. While everyone knows how to say ‘I love you’ in several languages, not everyone can express himself or herself well if and when a relationship turns sour.
The vocabulary lessons conjured up and developed at Babbel draw upon realistic dialogues inspired by everyday life. And part of modern life is undoubtedly ‘breaking up’; that moment when single life beckons once again. But how do you break up in a foreign language? How do you find the right words to make your soon-to-be ex-partner understand your reasons? We turned Saint Valentine on his head to help all you freedom fighters out. Enough Schmulz. Let’s learn something practical.
And for all those who are lucky in love, there’s tons of vocabulary and a veritable bundle of courses available on Babbel that teach you how to give compliments, express feelings, and keep the flame alive until the next Valentine’s Day arrives.
Quando si parla di “inglese”, non si intende sempre la stessa cosa. A volte tra l’inglese americano e quello britannico ci sono delle differenze grandi come l’Atlantico. In altri casi invece le differenze sono così piccole che è necessario guardare attentamente per riconoscerle. E altre volte ancora le somiglianze sono solo apparenti e portano a involontari momenti comici fuori programma. Con il nuovo corso “Inglese britannico e americano” Babbel porta un po’ di chiarezza in questa confusione linguistica e culturale tra Big Ben e Statua della Libertà.
Siamo tutti d’accordo che l’inglese da molto tempo si stia affermando come lingua franca mondiale. Senza avere un vero e proprio status ufficiale, l’inglese è la lingua d’uso comune del mondo degli affari, viene usata come lingua ufficiale in tante organizzazioni internazionali e spesso è la prima lingua straniera ad essere imparata. Ma cos’è di preciso il “vero” inglese? Mentre tanti giurano fedeltà all’inglese della Regina Elisabetta o all’inglese di Oxford, altri obiettano che ci sono molte più persone che parlano l’inglese americano e che quindi anche questo ha un peso importante.
Su questo punto alla fine si fatica ad essere d’accordo. Quello che però si può fare è esaminare attentamente le (piccole) differenze per cavarsela con queste due varianti dell’inglese. Per es. se si è in America e si vogliono mangiare le patatine si ordineranno delle “chips”, mentre in Inghilterra si dovranno ordinare delle “crisps”. La cosa buffa è che se si ordinano delle “chips” in Inghilterra si otterranno delle patatine fritte che a loro volta vengono chiamate “french fries” in America. Babbel pubblica il nuovo corso proprio per fare un po’ di chiarezza in questo campo di possibili gaffe e fraintendimenti. Con esercizi di scrittura, di pronuncia e di grammatica così come con excursus sulla lingua parlata, vengono trasmesse le differenze presenti in questo momento tra l’inglese britannico e quello americano.
Così come cambia costantemente il mondo in cui viviamo, anche la lingua è oggetto di un costante cambiamento. Quando la lingua inglese sbarcò in America nel 1620 con i primi coloni, trovò la libertà ottimale per svilupparsi ulteriormente. Con la scoperta di nuove piante (per es. l’Apocarya e l’Eucarya), nuovi animali (i crotali e i falangeriformi) e nuove particolarità geografiche (rive scoscese e spartiacque) un ampliamento e sviluppo dell’inglese tradizionale risultò improrogabile. Anche alcune parole provenienti dalle lingue indigene americane si fecero strada nella nuova lingua inglese (“mus” moose = alce, “mohkisson” moccasin = mocassino).
Durante l’Alto Medioevo l’Inghilterra fu sotto il dominio francese per circa 300 anni. In questo periodo molte parole francesi vennero introdotte nella lingua inglese. L’ortografia di molte di queste parole fu però semplificata dagli americani per permettere di capire sempre come venissero pronunciate tali parole. Per es. l’ortografia della parola “metro” e “teatro”, in inglese britannico è rimasta fedele al francese „metre” und „theatre”, mentre in inglese americano è stata semplificata in „meter” e „theater”. I puritani americani aspiravano a realizzare un inglese ancora migliore rispetto a quello parlato in Inghilterra. Uno di questi era Noah Webster che pubblicò la prima edizione del suo dizionario, che viene acquistato tuttora, nel 1828. Semplificò in molti punti l’ortografia per es. togliendo la “u” che non veniva pronunciata in parole come „flavour“ oder „colour” (anch’esse provenienti dal francese).
Con i nuovi occupanti anche la lingua si spostò sempre più verso ovest, là dove era ancora tutto selvaggio e intatto. Così nei piroscafi a ruote lungo il Mississipi, utilizzati come bische, nacquero nuove espressioni come „wild card“ (Joker) e „to pass the buck“ (passare la patata bollente). La progressiva esplorazione dell’Ovest da parte dei coloni mandò a monti i piani di Webster. Iniziò infatti a regnare una certa anarchia sia nel Paese che nella lingua. In altre parole: ci si iniziò a comportare in modo perfettamente squilibrato.
Naturalmente molte delle nuove parole non sbarcarono mai al di là dell‘Atlantico. Per es. mentre un amercano parla dei suoi „pants“ (pantaloni), un inglese indossa sempre i suoi „trousers“ (un inglese i „pants“ li porta infatti sotto ai „trousers“). Altre parole invece sono riuscite a fare il salto oltre mare ma cambiando completamente di significato. Per es. la parola britannica „football” (calcio), in America si riferisce a uno sport che si pratica con le mani! Per tutti quelli che amano piccole e grandi differenze tra le diverse varianti dell’inglese, il nuovo corso di Babbel è proprio quello che fa per voi.