How to say you in French

How to say you in French

If you’re a beginner French student, you’ve probably encountered the phrases “Parlez-vous francais?” or “Comment t-appelles tu?” But have you ever wondered why the French have two different ways of saying you?

In English, the personal pronoun you is the same no matter who you’re talking to. In French, both tu and vous mean “you.” What’s the difference and how can you know when it’s appropriate to use tu vs. vous? Read more

Arabic subject pronouns

Arabic subject pronouns

Subject pronouns, also called personal pronouns, are one of the first things you learn in a beginners Arabic language course. While the name is off-putting, as most grammar terminology is, these parts of speech are pretty straightforward and easy to use.

Subject pronouns take the action of the verb and help you avoid calling everyone by their proper names. While most people think of Arabic as a difficult language to learn, mastering the personal pronouns in Arabic is probably one of the easiest tasks you will take on. So what are you waiting for? Read more

Cool words in Dutch

Cool words in Dutch

The Dutch are pretty cool people. They love their art, freedom, fried-food and flowers. Although the landscape in the Netherlands may be pretty flat, the locals have made the best of it with windmills, farming and the ubiquitous bicycle path, the most popular form of local transport. Cities like Amsterdam and Maastricht are brimming with cultural activities, particularly during Carnival time in Limburg, while the Hague boasts the International Court and Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe.

Even their Belgian cousins, the Flemish, have a few tricks up their sleeve with chocolate that’s literally to die for and world famous beers brewed by non-other than the region’s religious community. With such a vibrant and dynamic culture you’d expect nothing less from the local tongue. Once you get to know your first few words in Dutch, you’ll find the language does not disappoint! Read more

Describing things in a second language

Describing things

One of the first things you learn when you start studying a language is how to describe things. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying English, French or Swahili, all beginner level learners are introduced to the basic words they need to describe people, places, feelings and events.

Nonetheless, in everyday life we don’t often have conversations in which we directly describe our clothing, the objects in a room or the people in our extended family. So why is it that description is such an important skill to learn? More importantly, what are some strategies beginner and intermediate level learners can use to get better at describing things and progress in their language learning? Read more

The difference between connaître and savoir

Difference between connaitre and savoir

For a lot of French learners, the difference between ‘connaître’ and ‘savoir’ is difficult to discern. That’s because in English, both words mean ‘to know.’ However in French, they are used to talk about knowing two different kinds of things.

While this might seem outlandish, it’s actually pretty common for languages like French and English not to have a 1:1 correspondence for all words. Fortunately for us humans, we store concepts and labels separately in the brain. That means learning the French way to say ‘to know’ doesn’t have to be difficult. We just need to understand the difference in meaning between ‘connaître’ and ‘savoir’ and then re-map each verb to the correct ‘to know.’ Read more

The importance of grammar

Importance of grammar

Let’s face it, grammar has a bad reputation. When we hear grammar, we think complex language (e.g. English present-perfect, past-participle), verb conjugation tables, and repetitive drills. But this isn’t what grammar is all about.

While there is no debating the importance of grammar in language, there is certainly much to be said about its role in language learning. After all, it doesn’t help to know the rule’s name if you can’t actually use it in fluent speech.
Read more

Communicative language learning

Communicative language learning

As a language teacher, you probably know that communicative language teaching (CLT) is the approach of choice these days. If you’re a learner, chances are you’ve experienced this method, particularly if you study in the European Union or North America. So what is the communicative approach and how did it come to dominate current thinking about language learning?

Understanding Communicative Language Teaching

Researchers know that achieving real language fluency is about more than just memorizing grammar rules. Language is a tool for communication. It’s a living thing and it can’t necessarily be studied in the same way as mathematics or history. In order to learn a language, you need not only to be able to reproduce it, but to use it in creative ways.

Communicative language teaching describes an approach which prioritizes your ability to communicate, both effectively and efficiently, in the language you are learning. You engage in more productive language exercises than passive language study. Read more

Hypochondriac meaning, fun with etymology

Hypochondriac meaning, fun with etymology

Do you also know someone who rushes to the doctor’s office every other week, convinced that they have some life threatening illness? When we call someone a ‘hypochondriac’ today, we usually mean that they inaccurately imagine conditions of the body or mind, despite the absence of real ones. However, the Greeks originally used the term ‘Hypochondria’ to refer to real conditions, albeit not always physically palpable ones.

Where does the word come from?

The word ‘hypochondria’ literally points to the soft part of the body below the ribs: Hypo – (“under”) and Khondros (“cartilage”, of the breastbone). It reflects the ancient belief that the viscera of the hypochondria were the seat of melancholy and the source of the vapors that caused such feelings. Read more

Arabic words in English

Arabic words in English

So many of the English words, phrases and expressions we use today come from other languages. That’s because languages are living things and over the years they have borrowed extensively from each other as they came into contact through trade, politics and learning.

When the Arabs first rose to world power in the seventh century, their influence could be felt from Asia Minor to Europe and as a result the Arabic language loaned many words to neighboring tongues, including English.

As we trace back the origin of Arabic words, we’ll find that pronunciation and meaning has sometimes shifted, but there are always interesting stories behind the changes, not to mention a few etymological mysteries still waiting to be solved.  Read more

American English slang and idioms

American English slang and idioms

Neither slang nor idioms are easy to look-up in the dictionary but they are both crucial features of spoken English that anyone traveling abroad to the US is likely to encounter. So aside from understanding more of what those Yanks are saying, why should you learn them?

Speaking can often be quite an intimidating experience and incorporating informal and colloquial language helps to reduce both the level of formality and consequent stress involved in holding a conversation. Also, they will make you sound like a societal insider which can be very helpful in certain situations, such as if you’re trying to make small talk in a bar or make new friends at a social gathering. Read more