WORDS WITHOUT TRANSLATIONS IN OTHER LANGUAGES

In this article we’re going to look at 6 words that defy a simple one-word translation. This is often because of the peculiarities of the culture, the climate, the traditions or habits that are then reflected in the language.  

Hygge

This Danish term is all about finding cosiness indoors through a warm fire, blankets, comfortable (IKEA!) furniture, warm comfortable clothing, hot drinks and hot food, and the feeling that all that gives us. In English you’d say I love feeling warm and cosy on cold winter days. It’s closely related to the climate and way of life in Denmark. Let’s bring hygge into our lives!

Flygskam

Staying with our Scandanavian friends, it’s origins are in Flyg (flight) and Skam (shame), and describes “The Guilt of Air Travel”, which is ironic since Sweden is a country where people travel 7 times more than the world average! Sweden’s very own climate activist, Greta Thunberg,  may also be to blame for the popularity of this neologism.

Schadenfreude

This German word is used in English; by intellectuals obviously. There’s no English word for this term which means “to gain pleasure from another person’s misfortunes.” It could be a person you know who is more successful than you, and you dream of something going wrong in their life! Is it only Germans that get these feelings?

Ikigai

Moving away from Northern Europe we find the interesting Japanese word Ikigai. It’s usually translated as your ‘reason for being’, or raison d’être. ‘Iki’ in Japanese means ‘life,’ and ‘gai’ describes value or worth. Therefore, your ikigai is your life purpose and what brings you joy and inspires you to get out of bed every day. What’s your Ikigai? Have you found it yet?

Trasnochar

This Spanish verb could be translated in English as stay up all night, or in informal English, pull an allnighter, but no single verb exists to express this. Does it have something to do with bars and discoteques being open all night? In my younger days in Barcelona I certainly enjoyed trasnochando.

Cherrypick

One of my most favourite words in English, which means to choose only the best of something and discard the rest, but also, to only pick the ideas that support your argument and ignore the others in a study, report, etc. Ask any politician about the secrets of cherrypicking. And, yes, you can pick cherries in England, but if you do, only choose the ripest, reddist, most delicious ones!

The fact that one language can express something in one word that another language needs two or more to say the same thing can lead to speakers of that language to think that their language is superior in some way.

However,  every language has words like these, and if you like one enough, then you can import it into your language directly as a loan word.  English does this a lot. And if yours doesn’t, well, C’est la vie!

What other examples do you know?

For an extensive list of untranslatable words from English to Spanish and visa-versa, check out my new book, coming soon!

EUROVISION – We’re back! But why now?

How Spain and the UK turned things around

The UK and Spain have been the butt of the Eurovision jokes for quite a few years now, and most people had given up hope of either country ever bouncing back again, but as the votes came in with 10s and 12s, the feeling of “Is this really happening?” started changing to “This really is happening!”

In the end, with Russia banned, Ukraine won with The folk-rap act, Kalush Orchestraas as the European audience decided to vote in support of a country at war. I’m sure both Sam Ryder and Chanel were disappointed, but understood the final result: UK: 2nd, Spain: 3rd.

How did the UK turn things around from 0 to 466 points? It finally puts to bed the belief that voters don’t vote for certain countries, as both Russia and Israel have won in recent years.

Can we learn anything from this year’s results and apply it to business, language learning or life goals?

Firstly, with the erroneous belief behind them, they decided to take the competition seriously (attitude), something that they hadn’t done for about 30 years.

Secondly, they chose a singer with a great voice (Sam Ryder) with a huge vocal range who had 12.1 million followers on Tictoc. Sam’s cover versions impressed their original singers. Alicia Keys was so impressed, she sang a duet with him (Talent).

Thirdly, they picked a quality song written by professional songwriters (with its octave jump in the chorus), influenced by classic British artists such as Queen, Elton John and David Bowie with someone who could perform it well (Quality).

Fourthly, the set was designed to convey the meaning of the song, with “space and stars” as the theme. Not spectacular, but a lot of thought was put into it all the same (Image).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, a marketing team devised a plan to promote the song around Europe in the months preceding the contest. Songs tend to grow on you, and if you’ve already heard the song a lot of times, you’re more likely to vote for it, unless it’s rubbish!! (Promotion).

Both the UK and Spain showed that when you spend the time planning something carefully and work hard to implement it with a positive attitude, your results are going to improve dramatically. Let’s see what happens next year.

Eurovision is back. What are your thoughts?

JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY?

Our Western Weekend Culture

There are so many songs with a negative message about Mondays, and I’m sure that reflects how many people feel about it, especially as the West’s week revolves around reaching the weekend and having Friday off as well if possible.

The Bangles were pretty clear that

It’s just another manic Monday (Woah, woah)

I wish it was Sunday (Woah, woah)

‘Cause that’s my fun day (Woah, woah, woah, woah)

My “I don’t have to run day” (Woah, woah)

It’s just another manic Monday

And Bob Geldof from the Boomtown Rats told us about a schoolgirl that took her dislike for Mondays a little too far …

(Tell me why)
I don’t like Mondays
(Tell me why)
I don’t like Mondays
I wanna shoot the whole day down

But then luckily, the Mamas and Papas sang to us in a more positive light,

Monday, Monday (bah-da bah-da-da-da)
So good to me (bah-da bah-da-da-da)
Monday mornin’, it was all I hoped it would be

Sadly, the singer changed his mind quite radically in verse two

Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday mornin’ you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday, Monday, how could you leave and not take me

It seems that his romantic partner left him and didn’t want him to go with her.

By the third verse Monday has become a psychological trigger that brings back the traumatic memories of being abandoned by his lover

Every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
But whenever Monday comes, you can find me cryin’ all of the time

Not everyone needs to associate Mondays with a traumatic or unpleasant day. In fact, in the UK, Monday is the second day of the week, as it is in Portugal, known as Segunda- Feira. However, it doesn’t seem to have changed people’s attitudes to it!

I’d love to say that I love Mondays as it is the start of a week of opportunites, but I’ll keep that unpopular opinion to myself. It is also the first day of the rest of your life!

The question is, do you want your life to be two enjoyable days a week or seven? And, how can you change that without winning the lottery?

The answer is:

Bah da bah da da da…

THREE QUICK TRICKS TO GET YOUR CHILDREN TO SPEAK TO YOU IN YOUR LANGUAGE when they don’t or won’t.

(BILINGUAL FAMILIES)

There is one really frustrating experience for parents who are trying to raise their children in their native language while living in a country that doesn’t speak it;  their children answer them in the local language rather than their own one.

The first TWO KEY STRATEGIES for raising a child in your language are

1)OPOL. One Parent, One Language. That is, you only speak your language to your child, and the other parent speaks their native language. This is important and establishes one single clear channel of communication. It’s simple and effective. And simple and effective is a good thing for children.

2) IL2U. ONE LANGUGAGE TO YOU. The goal is that your children only speak your language back to you. This is the most common issue. Many parents manage the first OPOL strategy correctly, but then they ‘let’ their children answer them in the local language.

There are two main reasons why this happens.

  1. The child hasn’t received enough exposure to your language and the local language is the one that comes to mind first.
  2. The main reason though is that you have ‘let’ your child answer you or speak to you in the local language, perhaps thinking that this is ‘normal’, and your children will eventually speak to you in your language. Sadly, this hardly ever happens without some serious intervention!  See my article on how this happens and some of the ways you can nip it in the bud.

If you’re in this situation, and haven’t been able to turn it around, I have THREE QUICK TIPS that will at least make your children speak their language to you, even if they don’t want to!!! It revolves around scripted language. So, let’s dive in and see how it works.

1.NURSERY (Children’s) RHYMES for PRE-READERS

If your child isn’t old enough to read yet, you may have started reading to them in your language. If not, START RIGHT NOW!  

With nursery rhymes, children love them and they’re easy to learn and repeat. Once you’ve repeated one of them a million times (at the child’s request), they will know them by heart anyway. The trick now is to get them to ‘sing’ them with you. So, say, “OK, together! Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon…”

Once they are repeating it with you, you can say, “So, what did the cow do?” and use questions and answers using the songs and rhymes. This may spark a moment which triggers your language. You can even coax them gently: “Hey, let’s speak in OUR language when we’re doing this. Can you do that for mummy? Don’t push it, but be perseverant.

2. STARTING TO READ

Something that never occurred to me was that parents weren’t teaching their children to read in their language. In fact, not teaching your child to read is the norm! Despite what you might believe, learning to read in your language, won’t tire them out or confuse them. They are much more resilient and intelligent than you think. For some easy tips on how I taught my son to read in English, see Marc’s Blog on this website.

By getting them to start reading out loud, they are speaking the language. If your language is a phonetic one, you can use the ‘phonic method’ of pronouncing the syllables and saying the words. In English I combined the phonic with the ‘whole word’ approach for irregular words. Read up on it and get some books in your language appropriate for their age and start reading together.

3. READING TOGETHER

Once the child is reading in your language, a whole world of possibilities opens up for you. This means reading stories, poems, plays, prayers (where relevant) and rhymes, as well as learning and singing songs. Children love singing until they are told be adults that they can’t sing properly. 99% of people have the potential to sing in tune, so encourage it.

This can lead on to Karaoke. In most major languages, you’ll find karaoke versions of all major songs. Take advantage of it. Music adds an extra dimension to your language.

SUMMING IT UP

Even if your children never speak back to you in your language, ALWAYS speak to them in your language. The worst case scenario is that they will be passive bilinguals, and the language will be there to revive later in life.

The most important thing is to nurture a love for reading and if possible, for music and especially singing in your language. I won’t deal with writing here, but that is also great.

These techniques are great whether your child speaks to you in your language or not but is especially important if you don’t. If you haven’t done so, try it out, and let me know how it goes.

If you have very young babies, immerse them in the language, speak to them all the time and only let them speak to you in your language. This is how it works. Make it a daily habit.

I look forward to hearing your comments.

ADVANTAGE FRIDAY: PHRASE OF THE WEEK

We’re not out of the woods yet.

We’ve been living with the Covid 19 pandemic now for two years, and in recent weeks, with the majority no longer wearing masks and far more events taking place in a face-to-face mode, you could be forgiven for thinking that Covid is over.

You could say “it’s not over till it’s over”, especially if you sang in a band called Starship, but I want to focus on another similar phrase which sums up the situation nicely.  

I thought I was somehow immune to picking up illnesses, but apparently not; I’ve caught Covid, but only with cold symptoms. Maybe being triple vaxxed helped.

Like many people I let my guard down last weekend and this may have been the consequence. So, even if you think it’s over, take note, because it seems we’re not out of the woods yet.

Find more phrases like this and their Spanish translations in my next book.

Coming soon…

TALK/XERRADA A L’ESCOLA OFICIAL D’IDIOMES RUBÍ

THE SECRETS OF LEARNING A LANGUAGE according to Polyglots

It was a pleasure to give the talk on THE SECRETS OF LEARNING A LANGUAGE at the EOI in Rubí on Wednesday 27th April. I’d like to thank Lucia Bonet for organizing and coordinating the talk so efficiently, and all the students and teachers from the school for their warm reception and being so receptive and interactive.

Gràcies a tots i totes per l’interès i la càlida acollida. Fins la propera! I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

Polyglots and successful language learners are notoriously good at learning languages and in an equal measure bad at really expressing how they do it.

 I summed it all up in 5 points along with a couple of bizarre secrets, quotes and stories in Catalan with slides in English!

I’d like to publish the main points of my speech here, but as you can see in the title, they’re “secrets”!

If you’d like to book me for a talk on a variety of topics related to language learning, bilingualism or improving your voice in English, please get in touch! Posa´t en contacte.

MISTAKES NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS WISH THEY HADN’T MADE

THINGS I WISH I KNEW    V  THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN

As a learner of English, you’ve studied a lot and depending on your teacher you started studying I wish at Low or High Intermediate level.

You learned that:

I wish + past simple is for things you wish for now or in the future,

I wish I knew more about saving money.

(Ojalá supiera más sobre como ahorrar dinero.)

and

I wish + Past Perfect is for things you wished for in the past that didn’t happen.

I wish I’d (had) known more about saving Money when I was twenty.

(Ojalá hubiera sabido más sobre como ahorrar dinero cuando tenia 20 años.)

However, it seems that native speakers are breaking the rules again. On some grammar forums, the suggestion is that the trend may be coming from the United States. Oh no!!

Here is an example from Frances Bridges, writing in Forbes Magazine in 2017. The title should read “10 things I wish I’d known…”

10 Things I wish I knew when I was 20

https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2017/11/21/10-things-i-wish-i-knew-when-i-was-20/

That being said, there is so much I wish I knew when I was 20 that I know now that would have saved me time, money and often a great deal of pain.

It’s in the past so, it should be I wish I’d known…”

 If I were to write a list to myself at 20 of what I should understand as soon as possible, this is what I would write. I hope you find it helpful, and that your learn from some of my mistakes.

This is in the past so it should be “what I should have understood…”

It seems to be a lazy and sloppy way of avoiding longer phrases, which isn’t really acceptable if you are writing in a reputable publication.

This theme of “Things I wish I knew when I was (age).” has now become a fixed phrase with wrong grammar, and you can find it in LinkedIn articles and all over the Internet.

At least some authors such as Robin Sharma and Linda Green have got it right.

Who started it all? Was it perhaps an English pop star called Rod Stewart? Probably not. Songs often use words and phrases that break grammar rules so that they fit the melody or just sound better.

Here are two examples with “I wish I knew…” used wrongly in songs. If you also want to use it like this, please be aware that in a Cambridge examination it will be marked as wrong!

Rod Stewart – Ooh La La

I wish that I knew what I know now  (I wish that I’d known what I know now)
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

Songwriters: Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood

Ooh La La lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

The Revivalists – Wish I Knew You

I wish I knew you when I was young   (I wish I’d known you when I was young)
We could’ve got so high
Now we’re here it’s been so long
Two strangers in the bright lights

Songwriters: Andrew Campanelli / David Shaw / Edward Williams / George Gekas / Michael Daniel Girardot / Robert Ingraham / Zachary Feinberg

Wish I Knew You lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

GIVING A TALK TO YOURSELF AT A CONFERENCE

SPEAKING AT THE ONLINE POLYGOT GATHERING CONFERENCE 2O22

Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend the annual Polyglot Gathering conference and enjoyed both practising languages and helping other attendees improve their Catalan and English.

Between a session on the Klingon language (more and more popular in this part of the Galaxy), and finding out more about the memorising techniques of a national Belgian memory contest champion, I gave a talk on Artificial Bilingualism (In Spanish with slides in English), that is, raising your children in a language that isn’t your native one. I’ve interviewed many families in Spain who have managed to bring up their children speaking English even though Spanish or Catalan is their native language. If you have a high enough level in English, you could do it too.

Disconcerting

What can be a little disconcerting is giving a talk when you can’t see the audience! In the usual format at this conference, the speaker gives a talk and then answers questions at the end that are written on the screen. It’s the second time I’ve done this, so it wasn’t as bizarre as last year, but you can get the feeling that you are speaking to yourself! I was relieved to find out that I wasn’t alone as I got plenty of questions at the end and found popele in other chatrooms later on who had seen my speech .

The Polygot Gathering is at a live venue in Poland from the 1st-6th June, which I’m unable to attend. Hopefully, from now on, more talks will be held in a face to face format to provide that human feeling again. However, we’ve seen that an online format opens up a talk or workshop to people all over the world.

Contact me for the courses and talks that I give.

MISTAKES NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS WISH THEY HADN’T MADE

THINGS I WISH I KNEW    V

 THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN

As a learner of English, you’ve studied a lot and depending on your teacher you started studying I wish at Low or High Intermediate level.

You learned that:

I wish + past simple is for things you wish for now or in the future,

I wish I knew more about saving money.

(Ojalá supiera más sobre como ahorrar dinero.)

and

I wish + Past Perfect is for things you wished for in the past that didn’t happen.

I wish I’d (had) known more about saving Money when I was twenty.

(Ojalá hubiera sabido más sobre como ahorrar dinero cuando tenia 20 años.)

However, it seems that native speakers are breaking the rules again. On some grammar forums, the suggestion is that the trend may be coming from the United States. Oh no!!

Here is an example from Frances Bridges, writing in Forbes Magazine in 2017. The title should read “10 things I wish I’d known…”

10 Things I wish I knew when I was 20

https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2017/11/21/10-things-i-wish-i-knew-when-i-was-20/

That being said, there is so much I wish I knew when I was 20 that I know now that would have saved me time, money and often a great deal of pain.

It’s in the past so, it should be I wish I’d known…”

 If I were to write a list to myself at 20 of what I should understand as soon as possible, this is what I would write. I hope you find it helpful, and that your learn from some of my mistakes.

This is in the past so it should be “what I should have understood…”

It seems to be a lazy and sloppy way of avoiding longer phrases, which isn’t really acceptable if you are writing in a reputable publication.

This theme of “Things I wish I knew when I was (age).” has now become a fixed phrase with wrong grammar, and you can find it in LinkedIn articles and all over the Internet.

At least some authors such as Robin Sharma and Linda Green have got it right.

Who started it all? Was it perhaps an English pop star called Rod Stewart? Probably not. Songs often use words and phrases that break grammar rules so that they fit the melody or just sound better.

Here are two examples with “I wish I knew…” used wrongly in songs. If you also want to use it like this, please be aware that in a Cambridge examination it will be marked as wrong!

Rod Stewart – Ooh La La

I wish that I knew what I know now  (I wish that I’d known what I know now)
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

Songwriters: Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood

Ooh La La lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

The Revivalists – Wish I Knew You

I wish I knew you when I was young   (I wish I’d known you when I was young)
We could’ve got so high
Now we’re here it’s been so long
Two strangers in the bright lights

Songwriters: Andrew Campanelli / David Shaw / Edward Williams / George Gekas / Michael Daniel Girardot / Robert Ingraham / Zachary Feinberg

Wish I Knew You lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

THE POLYGLOT GATHERING 2022

ONLINE and LIVE

Yes, according to their website, The Polyglot Gathering is an informal event which takes places once a year and brings together polyglots (people who speak several languages) and language enthusiasts from all over the world.

https://www.polyglotgathering.com/2022/online/registration/

For the third year running, due to the pandemic, the conference will be online (28th April- 1st May) but also at a live venue in Poland (1st-6th June).

Whereas many foreign language students reach intermediate level in 10 years and then spend most of their lives maintaining it, polyglots give themselves about 2 to 3 years to reach an advanced level in a language, before moving on to the next one!! 

As most polyglots will tell you, they are not especially gifted at languages (yes it’s true), but it is their enthusiasm, motivation and the amount of time that they dedicate to learning new languages that makes the difference, as well as special techniques that anyone can learn and use.

This year I will be giving a talk on ARTIFICIAL BILINGUALISM, that is, raising a child by non- native speakers, which is sure to interest many of the attendees. In case you missed the blatant advertising of the two versions of my book on this topic previously, here they are again. For sale now at an extremely competitive price on Amazon Kindle in ebook or paperbook formats.