Tag Archives: utalk

Meet Darren: Not bad at really simple foreign phrases.

I’m delighted to introduce you my inspirational linguist friend, Darren, who is not bad at really simple foreign phrases 😉 I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey?
My language learning journey began at about 7 years old when my teacher at the time came back from holiday and decided to teach the class some Italian phrases. I found I was able to remember them after just reading them a couple of times and I thought it was very exotic. The big trigger was from the most unlikely of places, though: the Heinz Invaders Fan Club. Heinz released a range of spaceship-shaped pasta dishes in the early 1980s and started a fan club, which my parents let me join. I waited a few weeks for the promised goodies, only to be told that the club wouldn’t run due to lack of interest. However, Heinz did send me an Invaders pack, which contained, among other things, an Invaders secret language decoder. And that was it. I was hooked on the idea that I could read a language that no one else could, and I started looking for more secret codes everywhere I could. Unfortunately, this was in the days before the Internet, so I was limited to what I could find when the library van came around.
Real languages didn’t enter my life until I started secondary school. I started learning German at 11, then added French at 13. I found German easy but struggled with French so I never really enjoyed it. I passed both my GCSE exams and then didn’t think about languages until around 2005, when a friend asked me to help her study Latin terms for her nursing exam. I was able to break each term down so that she could link it to something in her life and remember it all easily and I again felt the rush of having this “secret knowledge” again. Luckily for me, there were a lot of Polish girls at work who couldn’t speak English, so I started helping them in exchange for them helping me learn Polish. In no time I was using basic phrases and even managed to get myself a Polish girlfriend (now my wife) though she personally didn’t have any desire to teach me Polish. I decided to take lessons and enrolled at Bristol University for a year. After the first term, I was able to help the more confused students and found that this basic form of teaching really agreed with me. After finishing Polish (the course was sadly discontinued at the end of that year), I trained to be an EFL teacher. Once I’d completed my courses, I started teaching at Bristol Language School. I only taught for a single term as we had two very small children at home and I didn’t want to miss anything, but it made me realise what I eventually wanted to do. After that, I started learning foreign phrases as many languages as I could get hold of: Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Hungarian, Greek…
2016 was the best year for me so far. I copy edited the 2nd edition of “Endangered Alphabets” by Tim Brookes, completed the Esperanto course on Duolingo, and discovered the Utalk Challenge – completing all 12 of my chosen languages. Let’s see what the rest of 2017 brings…

 

How does your family join your language learning journey?
My wife Aneta is fluent in four languages; English, Russian, German, and Polish, so we sometimes mess around, changing languages mid-sentence or testing each other on random words. Our oldest son, Robert, is autistic and has always been amazing with languages – he could read and write the English alphabet before he started nursery, could write basic Russian words, and could say “Hello”, count, and say handfuls of words in Spanish, Polish, Swahili and more. Sadly, he lost interest at around 4 and now will only speak in English. Alex, our youngest, speaks English and some Polish. He also loves to practise languages with me.


I see you teach languages. Could you tell us a little more about that?

I give free exchange lessons: English for any other language, and I also run Esperanto and Italian study groups once a week. It enables me to keep myself surrounded in languages.


Where can we find out more about your classes / teaching?

I prefer face-to-face lessons as it allows me to form a bond with my students/language partners that you don’t really get through Skype or other platforms, so I tend to only see people in Bath/Bristol. I can be contacted through email or Facebook for anyone that is interested in language exchange sessions, or those who need help with learning another language.

I’m sure our readers are really social, where can we connect with you on twitter, FB, Insta etc?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lingo78

Instagram: omnilinguist

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rosomakx

Nasza-Klasa: Darren Cameron

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!

My big fat Greek adventure

Greek inscription on an exhibit at the British Museum

This week we have a guest blog from Maik my hubby so here goes, his big fat Greek adventure.

Well, or it may also have been “Greek – An unexpected journey”. But let’s start right at the beginning. The beginning in this case was a family visit to the British Museum at the beginning of 2016. As a family we’re incredibly lucky to live near London, which means a day trip to amazing places such as the British Museum is no problem for us. Among the breathtaking range of artefacts from around the world and different eras, my personal favourites have always been the ones from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and it was in Room 78 containing classical inscriptions from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century AD that it all began. Being a polyglot family, of course my children expected Dad (me) to be able to understand each and every inscription – dads know everything of course! While I didn’t have too many problems with Latin (thanks to five years if learning it in school and a recent refresher with uTalk), I didn’t really know where to start with Greek. I decided then, that Greek would be one of the languages I wanted to learn this year.

Fast forward a few weeks into May to the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.I had not yet made any firm plans for learning Greek, as I had been working on Esperanto. However, as luck would have it the first talk I attended at the Gathering was about Greek, with the lovely Lilia Mouma from Mango Languages giving a talk on Greek history and language ranging from the Ancient to the Modern. This was also when I found out two more important bits of information: First, that the Polyglot Conference later in the year would take place in Thessaloniki, Greece; and second that Mango Languages where running a competition to learn Greek (the modern variety) for 20 weeks learning with their app and weekly 1:1 tutoring. Well, I entered the competition, and a short while later found an email in my inbox informing me that I had won! OK, so language learning resources for Greek were sorted.

I have to admit that Greek has been one of the more difficult languages for me. Learning the alphabet took a week or two, but internalising it well enough to be able to read semi-fluently or even write took many more weeks. However, it has been an immensely rewarding experience. What I liked most about the approach taken by Mango Languages was that it was quite different to my normal approach. For one thing, at least in the app, grammar is not explicitly taught, everything is taught in the context of a conversation. Secondly, sentences are spoken at full speed by native speakers rather than the slowed down conversations I have come to expect. Yes, this makes things more difficult to begin with, but with invaluable once I actually got to Greece as (unsurprisingly) real Greeks don’t exactly speak slowly! Of course, having the weekly support from top notch online tutor Vasiliki Baskos helped as well. Although my focus was on Modern Greek, as I had been given access to all of Mango’s language courses, my inquisitive nature led me to sneak a peek at their offering of Ancient and Koine Greek as well. I was pleasantly surprised that they use authentic texts from the very first lesson – the Iliad and the Greek New Testament respectively. I may well end up subscribing once I lose my free access. The range and quality of resources are a language lover’s dream come true … I was able practice my Greek at a restaurant in Germany.

The white tower at Thessaloniki

So,moving forward in my big fat Greek adventure, how well did it work? When I finally arrived in Greece for the Polyglot Conference at the end of October, I managed a basic conversation with the taxi driver who took me to the hotel, I ordered food at the restaurant in Greek and I bought bus tickets, water bottles etc. etc. in Greek. Road and shop signs actually made sense to me, adding to the sense of achievement. It was a special treat to be able to meet Lilia (again) and Vasiliki, my online tutor, in person for the first time. I absolutely loved Thessaloniki, and being able to speak and understand Greek definitely helped at lot. I must go back with the family sometime!

So how did my My big fat Greek adventure end? Coming full circle, back to the British Museum. Despite the Greek language having changed a lot from ancient to modern time, the alphabet has remained the same across thousands of years. So when our family returned to the British Museum for the spectacular exhibition “Sunken cities – Egypt’s lost worlds”, or course I just had to pay another visit to the Ancient Greek galleries. Given that inscriptions tend to contain a lot of names (Alexandros = Alexander the Great for instance), I could now work out a lot of what was written, and the children were suitably impressed. Result!

Are you planning to learn a new language in the new year? Let us know in the comments below.

Eurotalk Esperanto Challenge

If you follow us on twitter @LingotasticUK you may already know our whole family is taking part in the Eurotalk 10 day Esperanto challenge. We’re playing with the u talk app and practicing some simple phrases together. I’ve also got Tim Morley (@ClubEnrolment) regularly tweeting me in Esperanto which is a challenge. (Yes, google translate does some Esperanto but also brings up gibberish at times). The twitter auto translate has so far called it Haitian, Serbian, Croatian, Lithuanian…

If you’ve not used the uTalk app before, the contents page looks like this.
utalkefront

You can then choose whether to practice vocabulary or play a game.
utalkesgame

The games are simple multi choice to start with going up to speaking, recall and memory games.

utalkcontent

The u talk app is really useful for vocabulary words and short phrases but no mention of grammar rules etc to help structure conversation. When small children learn a language as a they are not taught grammar rules they simply play and imitate others. I was reading Gaston Dorren’s “Lingo” book. He talks about schools in the Isle of Man teaching children Manx. This celtic language has really complicated grammar rules so even adults learn it by imitating.

The u talk app is really easy to pick up and play for a few minutes and my kids know any language learning game guarantees them some screen time. They took part in the schools challenge a few months ago so easily can click into it. They love to play and are picking up some Esperanto whilst they’re at it.

The girls have quickly picked up the Esperanto numbers and understand the number logic. We now use some Esperanto around the dinner (tea) table. We will only respond to their request for water of they ask “Akvo, mi petas” Makes a change from asking for a cup of coffee in Mandarin! We love playing with languages (even if it is Northern vs Southern English)

Tim Morely sent me a link to his TED talk about the value teaching Esperanto as a second language at primary level so maybe even something I could teach at Lingotastic if I can find some children’s songs in Esperanto? I’m sure that will raise a few eyebrows among the parents! I’ll let you know.

Have you ever tried to learn Esperanto? How did you get on? Let us know in the comments box below.