The Babbel Blog

Learning and language

Russian stereotypes quiz

Posted on July 16, 2014 by

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russian stereotypes

To celebrate the release of Babbel‘s new Russian course we’ve compiled a quiz to test your knowledge of Russian stereotypes. We looked at what the numbers said, and we asked Larisa Bulanova from our Didactics department to give us an insider perspective on what Russians think.

So: is it true that Russians drink vodka like it’s going out of fashion? Is it actually that cold?  And if you go to Russia, should you watch out for bears?

Remember, they’re called stereotypes for a reason! Please don’t take them too seriously.

Test your knowledge of Russian stereotypes… click to begin the quiz.

 

 

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The link between dreaming and language learning

Posted on July 9, 2014 by

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dreaming and language learningEver wondered about the link between dreaming and language learning?

You’ve probably heard people talk about the moment when they started to dream in a foreign language. It’s often considered a sign of fluency. In the 1980s, Canadian psychologist Joseph De Koninck observed that students of French who spoke French in their dreams earlier made progress faster than other students.

But were they quicker because they dreamed, or did they dream because they were quicker?

(more…)

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Brazilian football language: English roots, native flowers

Posted on July 4, 2014 by

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Brazilian football language

With the World Cup in full swing, everybody is brushing up on their Brazilian football language and throwing around words like jogo bonito! and golaço!.

These words are part of every football fan’s vocabulary, testament to the vibrancy of Brazilian footballing culture and its impact on the world.

Yet we need only step back a century, to the birth of Brazilian football, and we have to acknowledge the influence of a small island nation that has only won one World Cup compared to Brazil’s five – England.

(more…)

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Quiz: Brazilian football sayings

Posted on June 6, 2014 by

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Brazilian football sayings

Are you a connoisseur of football formations? Can you differentiate between half-backs and wing-backs? Do you know how Hungary revolutionised tactics in the 1950s?

Us neither. 

Take our quiz to discover some colourful Brazilian football sayings – and dazzle your friends during the World Cup with your amazing street slang.

 

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How to memorise vocabulary: User tips

Posted on June 4, 2014 by

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How to memorise vocabulary

We asked you for your favourite ways to memorise vocabulary, and the tips were great. Some are old classics and some are slightly more off-the-wall. Which ones do you use, and what would you add? Tell us in the comments!

 

1. Exercise while saying the words – Joseph

This has been proven to be effective. A study in 2010 tested subjects who bicycled while learning vocabulary, and found “that simultaneous physical activity during vocabulary learning facilitates memorization of new items”.

(more…)

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7 Reasons Why We Love Listicles But They’re Killing Our Brains

Posted on May 22, 2014 by

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Listicles

 

We like lists because we don’t want to die.

- Umberto Eco, The Infinity of Lists

 

What’s a listicle? It’s an article written in the form of a list. You know, the ones you see with titles like ‘11 Things to Never Say to a Man Whose Head Has Been Sheared Off by a Sheet of Glass’ or ‘25 Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber’ (wait! come back!).

Depending on your taste they can make you laugh or simply confirm that humanity is a lost cause. Websites like Buzzfeed and Listverse grew famous for them, newspapers embraced them, and people, inevitably, started to hate them.

They are the purest textual expression of a distracted, modern mind. So it’s probably worth asking: what are they doing to our brains?
(more…)

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Why Italians talk with their hands (and Scandinavians don’t)

Posted on May 7, 2014 by

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Why Italians talk with their hands

Photo by Haraldo Ferrary / CC 2.0

 

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie

That’s amore…

 

Love. Fury. Passion. Italians are well known for expressing themselves through body language and hand gestures, as if the feelings bubbling up inside them can’t be expressed in mere words, but require an accusing finger, an appeal to the heavens, a shake of the fist.

Scandinavians, on the other hand, are not.

According to traditional stereotypes, our northern brethren are more reasoning and reserved. It’s not that they don’t feel extreme emotions – just that they are less inclined to express them physically.

Yes, these are cultural cliches, although few people would dispute that Italians talk with their hands to express themselves. But what if there is a biological imperative behind it? What if gestures actually help our brain develop? What if there is a link between how we use our hands and how we solve problems?

(more…)

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Guarding the gates of English

Posted on April 24, 2014 by

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Photo by Elias Gayles / CC 2.0

Students are anxious to learn it. Dictionaries try to define it. Media outlets develop extensive style guides for it. Governments try to control it.

What sounds like a new crack epidemic is, in fact, just a language: English.

We live in a world surrounded by many different types of English.  You can enjoy the weird and wonderful offerings of Urban Dictionary, smile when an Indian businessman asks you to prepone your meeting, or watch The Wire and realise you need subtitles.

But ‘proper English’ is still a desirable commodity – and big business. So who gets to decide what it is?

(more…)

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Why your native language determines how you learn a foreign language

Posted on April 3, 2014 by

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Why do most English native speakers find it easier to learn German than Polish? Why is Spanish not so hard if you can already speak French? And why are Turkish and Indonesian even more tricky for us?

The answer is obvious if you’ve ever heard of language families. These are groups of related languages ​​that descend from a common base language. Six of the languages we ​​offer are Germanic languages​​, namely English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, whereby the Scandinavian languages ​​are more similar still to each other. The second major language family on offer at Babbel are the Romance languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian, for example. The languages ​​within a language family have much in common. For example, time expressions sound similar in related languages. Moreover, close linguistic relationships are often also reflected in grammatical rules and concepts.

linguistic-families

What implications does this have for learning a foreign language and the courses offered by Babbel?

We generally create new courses for target languages in German and then adapt them for the other six languages ​​in which we offer courses. We ensure that translations and adaptations remain as close as possible to the target language. This means that as many related words and similar sentence structures as possible are used. It is commonly true that the more similar the language you already speak is to the language you are learning, the faster you will understand the rules and relationships. If you are learning a language that belongs to the same language family as your native tongue, you will often require fewer additional explanations than someone whose mother tongue belongs to a different language family.

How we tailor the Babbel courses to your native language

Here is an example: the distinction between the verbs “pouvoir ” and “savoir” is not as obvious to a German speaker learning French as to an Italian. This is because in Italian there is a correlation with “potere” and “sapere”, whereas both verbs translate to the same word in German, namely “können” (can / may). The explanations of when to use “pouvoir” (when something is allowed or possible) and when to use “savoir” (more “know, be acquainted with, be able”) are simply omitted in the French courses for Italian speakers. However, the individual verb forms “savoir ” and “pouvoir” must of course be practiced by all French learners alike.

savoir vs pouvoir

Conversely, we sometimes need to add explanations to the translations of the version for German speakers for other languages. For example, German speakers are accustomed to inflecting verbs: “ich bin, du bist, er/sie/es ist…” (“I am, you are, he/she/it is…”). Thus we do not specifically point out that there is a separate verb form for each personal pronoun when introducing “être” (to be) in the French course for German speakers. Swedish speakers, who use the same verb form for all personal pronouns – “jag är, du är, han/hon/den/det är…”, are given an additional explanation as follows:

 Swedish localization

Can you see the difference? Although German and French do not belong to the same language family, they are very similar in this respect. If you want to make learning easy, try some of our “true friends” courses! There you will find words and phrases in your target language that are probably already familiar to you from your native language. You want to avoid pitfalls? Then take a look at the latest “false friends” courses for Polish. They will help you to avoid mixing up terms that sound similar to words in your native language but mean something completely different.

Have fun learning languages!

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Vive la France! or further reasons why you should learn French

Posted on March 20, 2014 by

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At the occasion of the International Francophonie Day which is celebrated everywhere around the world today, we conducted a little research about the French language and found out some astonishing facts which we wanted to share with you.

French is one of the very few languages spoken all over the world, ranked the sixth most widely spoken language after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. There are currently over 220 million French speakers worldwide.

In Europe, the largest populations of French speakers are essentially to be found in Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. French is Europe’s second most widely spoken mother tongue, after German but ahead of English.

French is the second most widely learned foreign language in the world, together with English, it is taught as a foreign language in the education systems of most countries around the world. At Babbel it is one of the most demanded learning language among our learners, and it keeps growing, along with our French team, which will keep you posted with upcoming new French courses!

FrenchWeek_Eng

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