On Location Swedish – 1 Feb 2013

130201-ailieHej allihopa! Och välkommen tillbaka! I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year, and have entered 2013 feel refreshed, revitalised and (hopefully!) with a resolution to learn some more Swedish! To ease back into January I thought it could be interesting to look at some Swedish stereotypes and phrases associated with them, as it was not until I returned home for Christmas that I realised just how well some of these stereotypes really fit reality (although not always, of course!).

So, what springs to mind when we think about our stereotypes of Swedish people? Tall, blonde, beautiful? This for the most part does actually seem to be pretty true – but then, I barely scrape a height of 5´3 (159cm in Euro-measures), so everyone seems tall to me (although I do have a couple of friends who I am pretty sure are at least twice my height). One of my flatmates taught me the phrase “en Svensson familj”, meaning a really stereotypical Swedish family, generally used to describe the family with the blonde kids, nice house, probably a summer cabin out in the countryside, and a Volvo. In fact, much the same stereotype as we seem to imagine! And the wee blonde children, sitting in their dagis (preschool), they are referred to as lintottar (lit. “flax tufts” because of the way their blonde hair resembles the fields of flax one finds around the Swedish countryside).

Another great Swedish stalwart is, of course, IKEA. And, with my best friend newly arrived in Uppsala from Scotland, where better to pay a visit to on a biogas bus through the snow! After stocking up on ljus (here, “candles”; but also “light”; the noun and adjective), and full of köttbullar, potatismos och lingonsylt (meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam), we could return home safe in the knowledge that Sweden really is just as “Swedish” as we felt it should be; cold (it was a balmy -2 today), environmentally-friendly, with IKEA furniture for all and impossibly tall people kindly helping me to reach things on high shelves, responding to my thanks with a shy, “ingen fara” (“no worries). Until next week,hej då!

On Location Italian – 31 Jan 2013

130131-nicoleBuongiorno a tutti and welcome back to On Location Italian. After having a great Christmas and New Year at home with all the family, I am ready to jump straight back into my life as an Erasmus student in Verona. Unfortunately my first week back was consumed by exams. Once they were done and dusted,  however, I had some free time to explore some more of the beautiful cities surrounding Verona. First stop, Vicenza. I was fortunate enough to have a friend from this elegant city. He pointed out the work of Andrea Palladio and his style of architecture known as Palladian, often characterised by the use of pillars, which was influenced by the formal classical styles of the temples of ancient Greece and Rome and which has had an influence on architecture in many other countries.

It was during this visit that my friend taught me a handy new expression. He asked me if I had una notte in bianco the night before my first exam. Literally, una notte in bianco means “a white night”, or as my friend explained to me, it can be translated in English as “a sleepless night”.

With exams finished, I was also able to start reading an Italian book Babbo Natale (“Father Christmas”) had left for me in my calza di Natale (“Christmas stocking”). I came across the phrase facciamo un brindisi which means “let’s toast”. During my first semester in Verona I heard the phrase fare un cin cin, meaning to make a toast so it was useful to learn that fare un brindisi is also used for the same purpose.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog post for this week and I will be back again soon with more On Location Italian. A presto!

Lesson 02 – Coffee Break German

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This is our second episode of Coffee Break German, our new German course for beginners. In weekly episodes you’ll join native speaker Thomas who’ll be teaching learner Mark in gradual, structured lessons. Our “Cultural Correspondent” Julia and our “Grammar Guru” Kirsten will also join us in each episode to share their knowledge and love of all things German.

On Location German – 30 Jan 2013

Hallo zusammen! After a couple of carefree weeks back home in not-so-sunny Scotland, I am now back in Germany. For some strange reason, ever since I got back I’ve been hearing the phrase sich Mühe geben a lot, so I decided to look it up. It turns out that it means “to make an effort”. At the school I work in, for example, a girl said, ‘ich habe mir so viele Mühe gegeben!’(“I made such an effort/I tried so hard!”) after receiving a disappointing grade.

We’re now two weeks into term, and I was invited to take part in a less-than-German tradition: Burns’ Night, in Bonn. A few friends from back home who are either here in Germany at the Universität (“University”) in Bonn or, like me, are here as Fremdsprachenassistenten (“foreign language assistants”), were also invited. Most of the group was made up of Germans and that’s how I came to learn the great phrase hau rein! (“Dig in!/Get stuck in!/Knock yourself out!”) The Germans told me that hau rein can be used both in the sense of “tuck in! (to your food)” and “get stuck in!”, which you could say to someone going on a night out, zum Beispiel (“for example”). As most of you might know, as well as the songs and poems said at a Burns’ Supper, the main component is the meal, which consists of haggis, which is simply ‘Haggis’, mit einem deutschen Akzent, natürlich, (“with a German accent, of course!”), neeps, or turnips, which is die Rübe in German and that staple of both German and British cuisine: Kartoffeln! (“potatoes”) After a few toasts, where ‘Prost’ is said instead of “cheers”, I also learned the importance of eye contact during a German toast…

Insgesamt (“all in all”), I have, as expected, become quickly re-acquainted with my new German lifestyle and look forward to letting you know more of my experiences next month!

Bis bald,


On Location Spanish – 29 Jan 2013

130130-iain¡Hola a todos! It’s Iain here from Salamanca, and it gives me great pleasure to welcome you back to On Location Spanish to follow my second term here on Erasmus exchange in Spain.

As I write this, I’m finally reaching the end of my exam period at the Universidad de Salamanca. It’s been a long, hard slog getting to grips with Spanish exams – now they’re almost over, I’m glad to be able to reflect on my improved Spanish and also look forward to a bit more spare time in the forthcoming semester to explore the country properly.

The University’s library was abuzz on the first day back after the holidays as we shared our stories of spending the holidays at home. Salamanca attracts students from all over Spain – as well as all over Europe through the Erasmus programme – and my course-mate Pedro told me of the celebrations in Badajoz, his home town near the Portuguese border. Of his mother’s cooking, he exclaimed:

“¡Me puse morado!”

Translated literally, this means “I turned myself purple”, however Pedro went on to explain that this was an idiomatic expression meaning “to stuff oneself with food”. Much like Christmas back home in Scotland, it’s a time of indulgence in Spain!

Elsewhere in Salamanca, everyone seems to be:

“buscando las gangas en las rebajas”

With all the shops selling off their excess winter stock, the main shopping street in Salamanca, Calle Toro, is filled with shoppers “hunting for bargains in the sales”. It’s certainly busier than I’ve ever seen it, which lends the Plaza Mayor and the surrounding streets, bars and cafes a bustling, busy atmosphere.

I’m about to head off into the thick of the shoppers to load up on stationery, notebooks and textbooks for my new classes in the forthcoming semester. I’m excited to get back into lectures, and wave these exams goodbye!

¡Hasta la próxima!

On Location French 28 Jan 2013

Salut tout le monde, et bonne année! It’s Rose here, and after enjoying a few weeks at home over the Christmas holidays, I’m back in France. I’ve quickly discovered that the month of January for French people means two things: la galette des rois, et les soldes. La galette des rois is a French tradition, to celebrate the Christian feast day of the Epiphany on the 6th January. French people celebrate by eating a cake called une galette des rois. The type of cake varies region to region; in Brittany it is made of puff pastry with a frangipane centre, and often an added dash of rum for some extra flavour. Inside the cake is a small figurine toy, une fève, and whoever finds the toy inside their slice of cake becomes ‘king’ or ‘queen’ for the day! From late December bakeries sell these cakes, with a wide variety of toys hidden inside. In recent years, they have become more commercialised, now including Disney Princess or Toy Story themed treasures, for example. When you buy a galette des rois they often come with paper crowns, to give to the person who finds la fève.

That’s les galettes des rois out the way. Les soldes, or the January sales, are another issue altogether, one which French people take very, very seriously if staff room chatter is anything to go by. It’s been the hot topic all week in school! Government stipulations mean that shops in France can only have so many ‘sale-days’ per year, and people look forward almost all year to the January sales. The sales run from around the 9th January to 5th February. They already have good reductions in most shops, but the teachers at school have told me il faut attendre, to wait a little longer, to get even better deals. However, I decided to brave the sales with a few friends at the weekend anyway. I thought I was a seasoned shopper but apparently not – il y avait trop de monde – it was too busy! We decided to leave and go for a coffee a measly hour into our highly anticipated shopping trip! Have you indulged in some sale shopping this month, or maybe tried a galette des rois? À la prochaine!

Episode 301 – Q&A Spanish

We’re delighted to announce that JP and Nahyeli are back with another series of Q&A Spanish. As usual, they’re answering listener questions and in this week’s show, Soumaya wants to know if it’s possible to say buenas tardes when you’re saying goodbye to someone. Normally buenas tardes would be seen as a “hello” equivalent in the evening, but it’s possible to use this phrase – and others – as a goodbye. Listener Rodney has a similar question about the word buenas used as a shortened greeting. JP and Nahyeli provide an insight into these alternative greetings. Listener Steve is asking about the word casi in the present tense. This is quite a peculiar usage in Spanish which seems to go against everything we’ve learned so far about tenses! As ever, our Spanish language experts will explain everything.

Use the player below to listen to this week’s episode:

If you have a question for our experts, you can get in touch with the Q&A Spanish team at the Q&A Spanish page. Remember that we welcome all questions, even if you’re just starting out with Spanish!

iTunes link | RSS feed

Introducing Q&A Spanish

If you’re a long-standing Coffee Break Spanish listener did you know that we also have another show for Spanish learners? In Q&A Spanish our resident Spanish language experts, JP and Nahyeli, answer questions from our listeners. This special introductory episode for Coffee Break Spanish listeners will explain how to access the Q&A Spanish course.

In order to access all Q&A Spanish lessons moving forward, you need to make sure that you’re subscribed to the Q&A Spanish feed: we’ll not be publishing the weekly episodes in the Coffee Break Spanish feed, so you must subscribe to the Q&A Spanish feed. Use the links below:

iTunes link | RSS feed

Lesson 01 – Coffee Break German

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Welcome to this first episode of Coffee Break German, our new German course for beginners. In weekly episodes you’ll join native speaker Thomas who’ll be teaching learner Mark in gradual, structured lessons. Our “Cultural Correspondent” Julia and our “Grammar Guru” Kirsten will also join us in each episode to share their knowledge and love of all things German.

Coffee Break German – Introductory Episode

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In this introductory episode, Mark and Thomas talk about what you can expect in the first ten lessons of the course which starts this Wednesday, the 23rd of January 2013. The lessons will introduce the basics of the language and by the end of the first group of ten lessons you’ll be able to communicate in basic German with confidence. Topics covered include introductions and greetings, talking about where you’re from, your family, dealing with numbers and paying for things, finding your way around the town and coping with language difficulties.

Meet the Coffee Break German team

We’re delighted to tell you more about the new course from the Radio Lingua Network. In Coffee Break German, you’ll be learning enough German to get by in a whole range of situations, for example if you’re travelling in a German-speaking country, or indeed if you just want to impress your friends or your relatives who perhaps speak German. In weekly lessons you’ll cover all the language that you need to know, and you’ll join learner Mark, being taught by native speaker Thomas.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 08.59.53Thanks Mark, und herzlich Willkommen! My name is Thomas – or in German, mein Name ist Thomas. You see, German is very easy! I come from the south of Germany, from a town in Bavaria called Kempten. As Mark already explained, in Coffee Break German we’re going to cover a range of topics, so, for example, you’ll be learning to order drinks in a café, check into a hotel, ask for directions and talk about yourself so you can make friends with native speakers. The most important thing is – am wichtigsten ist – that you should not think of Coffee Break German as simply a phrase book. Yes, you’ll be learning useful words and phrases, but we will talk about these words and phrases in each lesson and you will develop an understanding of the language and how it works. This way you’ll know what you need to say – and when you need to say it. I’m looking forward to helping you with your German in our weekly lessons together.

So, as Thomas explained, it’s not just a case of learning a series of phrases which we can use in particular situations, it’s more about understanding how the language works, so you’ll be learning to manipulate the language – you’ll be learning the patterns of the language – so then you can create your own phrases and cope in many different situations. To help you with this grammatical side of things, with the patterns of the language, each lesson will include a Grammar Guru segment. Here’s Kirsten, our Grammar Guru, to tell you a little more about her role in the Coffee Break German experience.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 08.59.43Hallo! Ich bin die Kirsten. My name is Kirsten and I’m the Coffee Break German Grammar Guru. I have to say, I’m a total grammar geek and I’m really looking forward to helping you get to grips with your German. Let’s imagine a language is like the human body. Grammar is like the skeleton – it’s what holds everything together, and without it, it would all just fall apart. Some people are a little bit scared of grammar: they think it’s just about learning lots of rules, but I like to think of these rules as patterns, and the more you get to know German, the more you’ll begin to recognise these patterns. You’re not going to have to spend ages going through these complicated grammar books. As Coffee Break German Grammar Guru, it’s my job to simplify everything for you and in each lesson I’ll be helping you get to grips with the particular patterns covered in that lesson. If you tune into my Grammar Guru sections, you’ll start to build up a really solid foundation for your German and all of these patterns will become second nature to you. I’m really looking forward to helping you with your German!

Now learning a language isn’t just about the language itself: there’s also the cultural side of things too, and German is the official language of not just Germany, but also Austria and Switzerland, and there are indeed many other parts of the world where German is spoken. To help you get to grips with these cultural aspects we’ve enlisted the services of Julia, our Cultural Correspondent, and we’ll be joined in each lesson by Julia, who will be bringing us some cultural tidbits from around the German-speaking world.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 08.57.59Hallo alle zusammen! Ich heisse Julia – my name is Julia, and it’s my job to bring you some cultural insights into the German-speaking parts of the world. In each episode I’ll spend just a couple of minutes explaining an aspect of culture: the traditions we have, the food we eat, some words we use, and some of the strange, little things that make us German speakers so lovable! I’m looking forward to joining you every week and I hope that you enjoy my Cultural Correspondent segments.

We hope that you really enjoy learning German with Coffee Break German. All the information about the course will be published at coffeebreakgerman.com, and you will be able to download our free audio lessons in iTunes. We also have a premium version of the course which includes lesson notes, transcripts, exercises and additional materials which will help you get to grips with your German more quickly. Full details about the premium course and the iPad version will be provided on launch date. We’re really looking forward to launching Coffee Break German. The course goes live on Wednesday 23rd January 2013.

Coffee Break German Update

cbg-master-1400We recently announced our forthcoming flagship German course, Coffee Break German and we are delighted to provide an update for you. Coffee Break German will launch on Wednesday 23rd January and in weekly episodes you can join the team and learn German in a structured way, building your language skills gradually with our lessons.

Coffee Break French and Spanish teacher Mark takes on the role of learner in this new series and is joined by native speaker Thomas. The lessons will focus on developing communicative language skills and will help you to get by in many situations commonly experienced while travelling in a German-speaking country. However, this is not an ‘audio phrase book’: you won’t simply be learning a series of phrases which you can try to remember at the appropriate moment. You will also be learning how the German language works so that you can manipulate the language and come up with your own phrases. Thomas will be joined by our resident “Grammar Guru” who will help you get to grips with the grammar of the language, and you’ll also learn about the culture of German speaking countries with our regular segments from our “Cultural Correspondent”.

We’ll be publishing an introductory episode on 16th January in which you’ll meet the whole team, and we’ll also announce details at this stage of the pricing structure of our support materials.

We’re very excited about the launch of Coffee Break German and we’re sure you’ll enjoy learning German with Mark, Thomas, the rest of the team, and a worldwide community of learners just like you! Bis bald (see you soon)!

Coffee Break Spanish Magazine – Episode 110

It’s time for the final lesson in this season of the Coffee Break Spanish Magazine. In this episode:

  • It’s a time for making New Year’s Resolutions and examining what we want to change about ourselves. This week Alba is asking the question, ¿cuál es tu peor hábito?;
  • Laura’s frase idiomática is an interesting one today: irse por los cerros de Úbeda. Find out what this means in this lesson;
  • and JP and Nahyeli answer a question from listener Rodney about an interesting use of the word que.