Tag Archives: shopping

Language learning is THE best way to make friends.

I originally wrote this blog two years ago as a guest post for FlashSticks. I’ve brought it up to date now. It’s exciting to see how my language learning has progressed in that time…

I’m starting to realise I may be a bit of language nerd. I’ve been thinking recently as to why people learn a language. I think for me the greatest reason is that it gives me the chance to make friends. I’m a really relational person and language learning is great for this. As Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language it goes to his heart”

As I walk my children in to school I often say good morning in about four languages to the other parents and children. dzień dobry, bună dimineața, jó reggelt, As- Salàmu ’Alaykum, доброе утро, dobrý deň, Guten Morgen, zăo sháng hăo !

At my children’s school, there are parents and children whose main languages are Polish, Hungarian, Mandarin, Russian, German, Romanian, Slovak, Urdu, Arabic, Ukrainian or French.

In September, my daughter returned to school, after the summer holidays. She had three children in her class who’d just arrived in the country and spoke no English. The children taught each other to say “good morning” in their own languages. I was really impressed by this mutual language teaching at age 7 and also the way the new children were welcomed into the class. I decided I could do this too, and learn to say at least good morning or simple greetings in these languages.

I started to chat to the new families and learned how to say good morning. I thought language learning would be a great way to get to know other families in the school. It’s been a fun journey. I’ve spoken the wrong language to people a few times and sometime pronounced so badly they did not know what I was saying! The Urdu and Arabic speaking mums automatically respond to me with “Wa ’Alaykum us Salam,” then realise it’s me speaking and look a bit confused or giggle! In time they’ve got used to it though!

On the whole people have been really pleased to teach me a few words of their language and laughed with me as I stumbled over the new expressions. It empowers them and builds their confidence as they are the experts in this area. Some of the mums are new to the country, learning English, and they like the fact that I take the time to talk with them and try to understand what they are saying. I, myself have struggled with communication in other languages, so I’m patient!

Cup of tea anyone?

I’ve discovered our local Big Issue seller is Romanian and she has taught me:

Hello Buna dimineata

Goodbye La revedere

I’ve been practicing and improving my Polish with the help of the staff at the local Polish Deli. Through spending time with them I’m getting to know them better especially those who only speak a little English. Other customers in the shop are noticing, too, and will speak to me in Polish if they see me on the High Street, which I love.

I’ve a few Thai girl friends so I always greet them with Sawatdee-kah.

We have Greek friends in church so I greet them with Καλημέρα Τι κάνεις: I’ve also discovered a few of my friends speak Afrikaans so I try my Dutch on them, which often works. In my daughter’s new school we have Spanish, Hungarian and Portuguese speakers, so I try to use these languages whenever I can.

I’ve met Russian, Swedish and Tagalog speaking parents at my local mums and toddlers group and am slowly learning words from them.

I’m enjoying building my own language skills and making friends, too. Do you have anyone you can get to know better by learning their language? I’d love to know how it goes!

Polishing your Polish whilst shopping

This month I’ve been learning Polish with uTalk. We’ve a brilliant Polish deli on our high street called Bierdronka. So my aim was to learn enough to manage a shopping trip. My hubby is German, so we were so pleased so find a local shop which sold fresh Brötchen, Aufschnitt, Kuchen, Sauerkraut and Kohlrabi. Since Poland joined the EU in 2004 there are lots of Polish people in the UK so a great chance practice Polish on your doorstep, before visiting this beautiful country for yourself.

I already had a few Polish friends so I already knew

dzień dobry – Good morning
cześć – Hi / goodbye
dziękuję – thank you

Simply though going into the shop for the last few months, I’d picked up

proszę – you’re welcome/ please
do widzenia – goodbye

So with these phrases already under my belt, in January I started learning Polish with uTalk to pick up a few more shopping phrases.

tak – yes
nie – no
Dziękuje bardzo – thank you very much
Nie rozumiem – I don’t understand
Poproszę kawę – I’d like a coffee please

Now I knew the phrase for „I’d like” phrase I could now say

Poproszę trzy plastry mortadela Three slices of mortadella please

This is my daughter’s favourite!

We had the staff in fits of giggles as we tried our Polish with them.

I now need a few more numbers!!!

jeden one
dwa two
trzy three
cztery four
pięć five
sześć six
siedem seven
osiem eight
dziewięć nine
dziesięć ten

Now I had these, I could try a few more phrases.

And finally some useful food vocab

chleb bread
mlecko milk
piwo beer
słodycze sweets
kawałek ciast piece of cake

I hope this is helpful to you. Are there any more Polish shopping phrases you would add?

So my challenge you is, find someone who speaks another language, learn a little and you’ll have some new friends!

Conchita Wurst and Döner to go

Last weekend we really enjoyed watching Eurovision. We were chatting to some friends and it led to a discussion on Eurovision entries and singing in your native language. Of the 40 entries to Eurovision only 10 were not in English and only 4 of those made it to the final.

I think this is part of a bigger picture of English creeping into other languages.
We were in Germany at Easter, in my husband’s home town. On a visit into town one day, I was shocked by the amount of English in everyday use in Germany. In a five hundred metre stretch of High Street I took these photos.

A few were simply importing English names and phrases such as…

A few more were English phrases with German added such as…

Most were a weird German/ English mix which make no sense at all in English. Maybe a new language called Denglish?


(You may need to click on the thumbnails to see the picture in full)

To be honest, as I speak both languages I did not notice some of these until I started looking! If you’ve noticed why I’ve included these pictures, let me know in the comments below!

On chatting to another German friend, I think the main reason is that English is “cool”. The younger generation like to be different to others so they use their own words, and marketing is quick to pick up on this.

David Bellos in his book “Is that a fish in your ear?” states that the purpose of language is not mutual understanding but forming a sense of community by excluding others who do not speak that language. Evidence of that is in regional dialects and the fact that some words have different meanings to different sub-cultures.

The English language has a long history of borrowing and incorporating words from other languages such as Latin, Saxon, French and many more.

Cultural fashions change. Two hundred years ago French was the language that influenced others. Who knows what it will be in fifty years time?

Languages often have their own culture attached to them. So with singing in Eurovision or even bringing across foreign words to your language, is something being lost or are languages enriched by this sharing? Let us know what you think in the comments below.