Learn a Language for Less – expires 31st January 2018

Our followers are pretty special to us and we want to give a little something back for all your support over the last year, so we’ve linked up with Routledge to offer you a 20% discount on language learning books and resources!

Routledge offers a range of learning materials such as frequency dictionaries, language course books and specialist linguistic research textbooks in a broad range of languages. Iain and I have both purchased a French fequency dictionary and beginners Spanish and Portuguese course books and have been really impressed with the quality and accessibility of the content.

 

The offer expires on 31st January, so click the link below to download your discount voucher – but don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram first!

https://www.routledge.com/collections/12633?utm_source=Routledge&utm_medium=cms&utm_campaign=171010495

Hope this helps you with all your linguistic new year’s resolutions for 2018 and Happy New Year from us both!

Vocabulary learning made easy

A polyglot friend (7 languages and counting) once told me that there is no point knowing the rules of Russian grammar inside out and theoretically how to ask for a loaf of bread if you don’t know the word for bread (хлеб). I found this reassuring as personally I don’t find grammar rules absorb as naturally for me as vocabulary!

If, like me, you are a fan of vocab lists and learning quirky new words and phrases in the language you’re learning then read on as I share some other learning approaches that, if applied appropriately, can really accelerate your learning and speed up your journey towards fluency.

Chunking & Collocations

This might sound like an anti-diet regime, but it actually makes language learning a lot lighter! The idea is that words rarely exist in isolation but co-exist in quite predictable patterns alongside other words, so if you learn the ‘chunks’ of words, you will sound much more fluent. Equally, it can be useful to learn a phrase such as ‘where are the toilets’ without knowing much of the grammar of the sentence, because certain elements of language are made up of fixed chunks.  Similarly to chunking, collocations are words that frequently appear next to each other and there is usually a fixed expression such as ‘a round of applause’ or ‘nooks and crannies’ or ‘to err on the side of caution’ where if one word were changed it might sound odd to a native speaker such as ‘to err on the side of care.’ You can see some good examples of collocations here: https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/collocations.htm

Cognates

As words that share a root or similar construction to lexical items in your first language. This makes them much easier to remember as they are so similar! This can be a good place to start when you are trying to get to grips with a new language and you will find some cognates cross many languages, such as ‘taxi.’

Frequency Dictionaries 

Sometimes the colossal task of learning all the vocabulary in one language can seem a bit like trying to gather all the grains of sand on a beach into your hands; the more you try to cram in the less likely it is to stay. And where do you start? I find using a trusted and reliable frequency dictionary is a good place to start, especially when you have mastered some of the basics as it gives you focus and you can rest assured in the knowledge that you are learning useful words you are likely to encounter in everyday situations because they are based on frequency in live usage across a range of settings. 

Iain and I use the Routledge frequency dictionary series for French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese and would highly recommend them as they are clearly laid out and very accessible for all levels of language learners from beginners to advanced. If you want a real challenge, you could even take a word a day from the book to learn to build up your vocabulary more consistently. We have teamed up with Routledge to offer Lingua Centra readers and subscribers a 20% discount on all frequency dictionaries in any language you might be learning – great for your language learning kit or to give as a gift for the language lovers in your life!

 

Post it notes

I’m a self confessed sucker for colourful things and am a visual, kinaesthetic learner, so find post it notes a great way of incorporating colour into my language learning! Think of ways you can use the colours to your advantage such as different colours for singular and plural versions or genders of nouns or topics. It is worth placing them strategically where you know you spend a bit of time each day in your home – for me this is the bathroom mirror so I can read them all through as I brush my teeth! 

Write, cover, repeat 

Probably the oldest method in the book and sometimes this works well for people. I find it useful to have a list of up to 20 words a week and read them through each day originally from the target language to English and then in reverse as I become more confident. At the end of the week make sure you test yourself or get others to test you.

Learning synonyms and gradations.

Sometimes we assume we have a concept or word all sussed out and so our learning slows and our language progress plateaus. Learning synonyms is an easy way to combat this and expand your vocabulary beyond your usual ‘safe phrases.’ Looking for alternative ways to express familiar concepts keeps your learning and speech in the language fresh and flexible. For example ‘good’ could instead be: great, wonderful, excellent, brilliant, fantastic, amazing. Or ‘hot’ might become: boiling, piping, scalding, roasting.

Hobby related jargon.

Being able to associate a word with an experience has been for me the most effective way at memorising a word or phrase. One of my hobbies is dining out and I once confused the French for pineapple with ‘pamplemousse’ (grapefruit) when ordering in a café on the Champs Elysée in Paris and I can’t stand the bitter taste of grapefruit so will never make that mistake again! Equally, if you have a hobby or a passion, why not watch tutorials on YouTube on your favourite subject as you will have something to relate it to and will be able to discuss your passions with native speakers much more easily.

Mnemonics.

This is when you associate a story with the word you want to learn to conjure up the word if you are finding it tricky to remember or recall. I was, until recently, very cynical about mnemonics as an effective way of memorising a word. That was until I created a mnemonic to remember the Portuguese word for ‘boyfriend’ (namorado) by thinking of Iain rescuing me from doing difficult sums on a computer, hence ‘no-more-add-o’ making it much easier to remember ‘namorado!’ 

Duolingo.

This is a free app that uses gamification as a language learning tool through repeated interval exposure to words and phrases so that you gradually come to recognise the word and internalise it. There is both written and spoken content so you have a chance to learn the sounds of words as well as the written form.

Using the vocabulary (writing and speaking).

For most of us, the main aim of learning a language is to communicate, so make sure you are using all the words you learn either by writing a letter, journal / diary or shopping list or slipping them into conversations you’re having with native speakers.

Good luck with your vocabulary acquisition – let us know how you get on in the comments below and keep us posted on your vocabulary successes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too!

Portuguese Fluent in 3 months – 1 month progress report

I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground in the last five weeks and have had a couple of opportunities to put my Portuguese to the test in conversations as well, which has been entertaining..!

This month I have added to my vocabulary by learning:

  • Time phrases
  • Numbers
  • More present tense verbs
  • Colours
  • Animals
  • Food
  • furniture
  • Introducing people
  • Basic phrases about my life such as where I live and work

I took a 30 minute italki lesion with a Portuguese teacher to try to practise a few phrases, ask about vocabulary and pick up some basic grammar. I had by ‘language stabilisers’ on by having tabs for wordreference and Google translate open. This really assisted with speedy translations to keep conversation flowing in Portuguese! We spoke probably 75% in English, but the teacher was great at correcting my pronunciation as I still have quite a way to go with some aspects such as vowel sounds and pronunciation of the consonant ‘s’.

Portuguese map puzzle
Portuguese is an official language in 10 countries

I was also chuffed to be able to have a short conversation with a colleague in the facilities cleaning team at work mostly in Portuguese as she is also in the early stages of learning English. We spoke about 80% in Portuguese and I managed to explain in very basic terms that I had just got engaged, which I was very happy with having been learning for such a short length of time!

My main reflections from the last month are:

  • Thank goodness I’m learning a romance language! So much of the vocabulary resembles French, which I speak fluently, and the grammar and syntax is typical of a romance language such as French with subject-verb-object word order it has made it much easier to pick up
  • Duolingo is great for vocabulary. Duolingo has without a doubt been my best tool in picking up Portuguese vocabulary so far as the mini modules are broken down into manageable chunks with frequent repetition and a range of tasks, so I am able to retain much more of the vocabulary than by using a simple list-based approach.
  • Italki is fantastic for time with teachers if you have specific questions. The 30 minute session I had with a teacher on italki was great and very focused. Before the lesson I specified that I wanted to focus on a few specific verbs and also pronunciation and the teacher was great at keeping us on track. She was also very patient and suggested some great resources for me a this A1 level I am currently speaking at.
  • Speaking is quite intimidating, but finding a patient native speaker to listen and iron out any errors in a positive way is essential. This is something I am now doing with a colleague at work who is in the facilities team and is not much further ahead in speaking English as it’s great to get to know her and also motivates me to keep on learning. I would definitely recommend finding a tandem language partner at a similar level to yourself as you can really empathise with where each other is at in the language learning journey.
  • Finding time for structured study is a bit more challenging. I work full time, so am struggling to squeeze more study time into each day. At the moment I am doing one Duolingo module on the way home from work and listening to one or two sections of the Teach Yourself Portuguese lessons. Occasionally in the evenings I am also writing key vocabulary on post-it notes and putting it round the flat so that I can see them while brushing my teeth or preparing dinner. 

I was on holiday last week, so my routine has slipped a bit, but to get on track my main targets for the month two are:

  1. Take another italki lesson
  2. Focus a bit more on understanding grammar
  3. Purchase an A1 – A2 study guide to support with grammar
  4. Try Memrise as another free platform for vocabulary learning
  5. Try to hold two more conversations predominantly in Portuguese at work and at Mundo Lingo
  6. Learn conjunctions and linking phrases to keep a conversation flowing
  7. Learn how to ask questions
  8. Practise my pronunciation through free online drills
  9. Learn vocabulary for countries, languages and nationalities
  10. Consolidate grammar in particular articles and gender agreements

Wish me luck for the next month..!

Are you learning a language or taking a fluent in three months challenge? Let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below or on our social media channels Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Fungarian Hungarian Frolics in Budapest

No romantic city break in Budapest is complete, in my humble opinion, without a foray into the almost unfathomable Hungarian language and so, on our recent trip, Iain and I booked a one hour introduction class with Miklos, Director of Fungarian (as seen on Channel 4 Travel Man).

Iain and I had high hopes for our hour with Miklos looking to master some essential Hungarian survival phrases and we were not disappointed. Miklos has been teaching English since the 1980s and in the last decade has been teaching Hungarian to enthusiastic language lovers through Fungarian and, more recently, is offering language and cultural tours of Budapest that link to the school curriculum for students through Ed Tours Hungary.

I admit I was very apprehensive attempting to speak what is considered by many as one of the most difficult languages to learn, but Miklos put us at ease, reminding us that ‘Budapest is an open air classroom’ and teaching us some of the basics to get by. 

During the hour we learnt that Hungarian:

  1. Is a Uralic language.
  2. Is a phonetic language.
  3. Does not have genders.
  4. Is agglutinative.
  5. Has 18 noun cases.
  6. Uses gemination, or consonant elongation with pairs of short and long vowels.
  7. Has vowel harmony with rules over which group of vowels can be used in the same word
  8. Always has stress on the first syllable
  9. Puts important information at the start of a sentence or phrase as in “English I am” so good for channeling your inner Yoda.
  10. Talks about people as having one eye, one ear, one hand and one leg. To hear something with ‘half an ear’ is to hear a rumour.

We quickly discovered that vowel length can be a bit of a minefield and that there are some ‘false friends’ that can cause some blushes / giggles when misused by the unsuspecting foreigner. We have it on Miklos’ good authority that the following words are always tricky for native English speakers:

  • Busz (English: bus) pronounced with a short vowel means “f**k”
  • “Pussy pussy” is used by some women when greeting each other to mean “kiss”
  • “Egeszsegedre!” (English: cheers!) can be transformed into “to your whole arse” if your vowels are out of place!

With all this fun, how much Hungarian did Iain and I actually manage to learn in an hour? Quite a good amount and I now feel I can confidently say the following key phrases below. Check out videos of us speaking some Hungarian on the Lingua Centra YouTube channel.

  1. Szia = hi!
  2. Jo Napot! = hello!
  3. Köszönöm = thank you
  4. Kösz = thanks
  5. Igen = yes
  6. Nem = no
  7. Út = road
  8. Utca = street
  9. Busz = bus
  10. Angol vagyok = I am English
  11. Skot vagyok = I am Scottish
  12. Clare vagyok = my name is Clare
  13. Magyar = Hungarian
  14. Hol van a mosdó = where is the toilet?
  15. Egészségére = cheers!
  16. Nem értem = I don’t understand
  17. Beszélsz angolul = do you speak English?

Both Iain and I really enjoyed our time with Miklos learning Hungarian outside the Great Synagogue in central Budapest and our only regret is that we didn’t have more time to spend getting to grips with those vowels!

We would highly recommend a Fungarian session to any language lovers visiting Budapest, so make sure you book your session today!

Keep in touch on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and share your Hungarian language experiences.

Learning Spanish – 2 weeks in

It’s been 9 years since I last attempted to start a new language; it was Russian and I had just started studying it at university. Only now, I have decided to pick up another language – Spanish.

When people ask me, “why Russian?”, I can never really answer. I think there was a little intrigue involved, but mostly I just revelled in choosing a slightly obscure and more-difficult-than-average language. This time, at least I can say “because Spanish is the 2nd most (natively) spoken language in the world”!

Spanish graffiti

The plan

So far, I have started myself off easily by choosing Duolingo as my main source of linguistic learning. I say easy because it’s fairly simple to fit 15 minutes’ worth of language into the working (and non-working) day.

However, I know, as a seasoned language-learner, that I’m going to have to ramp things up a bit a lot, if I want to progress at any real rate. Especially as I, like Clare, am going to try to keep to the “fluent in 3 months” challenge. No pressure!

So, progress so far…

2 weeks in

Duolingo logoWell, Duolingo tells me that I’m 32% fluent. Result! … Erm … not quite. I see what they mean, in that I’ve so far learnt basic grammar and vocabulary that may well recur 32% of the time in spoken and written Spanish, but I think I’ll take it with a pinch of salt!

My thoughts so far on learning Spanish in this way are:

  1. It’s handy to know French, as there are often comparable (and therefore memorable) similarities between words and sentence structure;
  2. Duolingo is awesome for working language-learning easily into your day;
  3. But it has quite a heavy focus (at least at this stage) on receptive language and multiple-choice questions – this means that I feel that I can often deduce the answer, rather than having to produce it;
  4. Having already learnt how to learn languages, I feel a real desire to do certain things, such as:
  • Learn pronouns (subject and object) and possessive pronouns
  • Learn verb conjugation in a more systematic way
  • Flash cards!! Both for grammar and for vocab. Clare, as always, is already ahead of me with this! 😉

This fortnight

I’ll be acting upon my urges by covering those 3 things. I’m really enjoying Duolingo, so I will continue with that, but it’s time to diversify…

16 simple language hacks to transform your daily routine into an immersion environment

  1. Change mobile phone and social media accounts into the target language – our phone is a portable language learning tool in our pocket, so make the most of it by switching it into the language you’re learning. The average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media everyday according to Social Media Today, so make the most of your minutes by learning common words such as ‘like / follow / share / comment’ and other useful vocabulary. 
  2. Change your computer’s language settings – as above, but only if you’re really confident navigating and finding things.  Especially take note of how to get to your language settings so that you can change it back!
  3. Set up a language lunch club – if time is short in the evenings and you can’t get to a event, why not bring the language social to you by setting up a language lunch club at your place of work or study? This is something I have done with British Sign Language and French in the last few years and I’ve made some great language buddies and friends along the way.
  4. Phrasemates – rather than go it alone, why not use a the Phrasemates app for iPhone and Android to get native speakers from around the world to help you translate words and phrases? The app also includes an extensive phrase dictionary that you can scour by searching keywords and is great for travelling when you need to communicate something urgent such as ‘I’m allergic to seafood.” Focusing on phrases, collocations and ‘chunking’ of vocabulary in this way is a really natural way to learn and if you help others out, you can get karma points too!
  5. Podcasts – another great way to make use of otherwise potentially useless time. Do you spend 30 minutes a day on a train or in a car? If so, download podcasts and spend that time immersed in a foreign language world of your own! Iain has some great tips on getting the most of podcasts in a recent blog post.
  6. Use Post-It notes our brains are wired to remember things by association and in context much more easily than when we see a list of words in a textbook out of everyday context. For basic nouns and phrases, it can be useful to put the word on the object to help it stick in your mind. I find it really helpful to allocate specific colours to different genders or types of words (e.g. masculine, feminine or neuter nouns or verbs and adjectives). After 1-2 weeks of regularly seeing the word associated with that object you won’t need the written cues anymore.

    Post It Notes Notice Board Sticky Notes Note
  7. Write to friends overseas – keep in touch with friends overseas by writing letters, postcards, emails or messages in the target language. If you don’t know any native speakers of the language, you can find pen pals online at Language Forever Exchange
  8. Learn with an online tutor from the comfort of your sofa – for a small fee you can spend an hour practising your languages with community teachers or learning with qualified teachers on sites like italki.  There is also the option to offer lessons for credit, so it can be a cost neutral way of learning. Sign up to italki via this link and get $10 credit from our referral link!
  9. Duolingo – this fun app has gamified language learning and will take you through various interactive exercises and introduce a range of vocabulary, grammar and phrases you’ll need for the language you’re learning. Great for short bursts of 10-15 minutes per day. They even have High Valyrian so you can find almost any language you’re passionate about!
  10. Get a frequency dictionary – Iain and I use the Routledge frequency dictionaries for French and Russian as find them well laid out and easy to use. This can be a good place to start when you feel you need to structure your vocabulary learning. I find up to 20 words per week is a good number to aim for so you don’t get overwhelmed but you can start to embed them into your active vocabulary. 
  11. Go to free Meet Up or Mundo Lingo socials – for the price of a drink, you can meet new people in your city and spend the night socialising with other speakers of the language you’re learning. It’s a really informal environment and great for language users at all levels. Read our Mundo Lingo blog post for a behind the scenes look at this language social that lets you meet the world on your doorstep.
  12. Listen to radio in another language – every morning while you’re getting ready or in the car on the way to work, have the radio on in the background so you can soak up the language as you get ready or drive.
  13. Sing along in another languagethis is useful whatever level you’ve reached; you could sing along to and learn children’s nursery rhymes, the national anthem or whatever song is at the top of the charts in the language you’re learning, depending on your level. Keep your learning fun and tailored to your music preferences. YouTube and Spotify have plenty of songs if you’re stuck for inspiration and are great resources for international music. YouTube often has lyrics to songs embedded in videos, which is really helpful.
  14. Read articles in the language, online or in printI find it useful to follow the key newspapers in the language I’m learning on social media so that the language regularly pops up in my feed. If you prefer to read in print you could always print online versions and read them. Alternatively, you could take out a subscription for a magazine or paper to be delivered to your door.
  15. Read books in the language – there are lots of language books on Amazon, at Grant and Cutler or even at your local Oxfam charity bookshop where you can often discover classic titles tucked away in the bookshelves. 
  16. Watch films on Netflix or Amazon Prime – many of us have access to hundreds of films and series on our TVs, but when was the last time you searched for the foreign language section? Take a look and discover some new series or films while soaking up the language.

Let us know which hacks you’re planning to use from our list and share your top tips for creating a language learning immersion environment with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Podcasts – for language learning on the go

What you need

  • Smartphone (or tablet)
  • Headphones
  • Internet access (not necessarily mobile data)

Step 1 – find and install an app

Any podcast app is likely to do the trick, but I’m going to recommend one that works well and probably does and has what you need. Either way, install an app of your choice.

I recommend Podcast Addict. It’s available on Android, and it’s free! Apple has its own ‘Apple Podcasts’ for iOS, so you could either that or search for an alternative on the App Store.

Step 2 – find something to listen to

You have a couple of options for your approach here and it may well depend on your language level.

Option 1: search for language learning podcasts, of which there are many. On Podcast Addict, you search for podcasts like this:

Podcast addict homepage
Click the ‘plus’ button in the top-right of the screen
Type of search
Choose ‘Search Engine’
Search for something
Search for something
Language learning results
Check out the results

Option 2: have an interest? Mine is technology; yours might be politics, travel, art, or anything else. I won’t guarantee it, but you’re pretty likely to find a podcast for any interest in any language.

So, search for podcasts relating to that interest in the target language. Podcast Addict makes this pretty easy. You can choose the languages that the search will return like this:

Filter by language
Tick ‘Filter language’ & click the ‘aA’ button.
Pick languages
Choose one or more languages, then press your back key
Enter your search terms
Enter your hobby or interest and go for it!

Step 3 – download and listen

You’re all set once you’ve followed the above steps, but I’ve put some (hopefully) helpful bits below about app settings for Podcast Addict.

Got a recommendation for a good podcast app? Let us know in the comments.

Extra info

Settings – downloading and deleting

Set up the Podcast Addict to download whenever is good for you.

Find settings
Settings are in the three-dot menu
Settings > download
From settings, click “Download”
Download settings
Change the download settings to suit you

Once you have set up your download settings, you may wish to setup the app to delete podcasts that you’ve listened to already, just to save space. Here’s how to do that:

Settings > Cleanup
Select “automatic cleanup” from the settings menu
Automatic cleanup
Change your automatic cleanup settings to suit you

Settings – WiFi vs. mobile data

Not everyone has unlimited data. If that’s you, you may wish to change your settings to download new podcasts and updates only when you’re connected to the almighty WiFi.

Network settings
Set you network settings to suit your data needs

 

Fluent in 3 months challenge – week 1 Portuguese progress report

The last time I picked up a new language was over 8 years ago so understandably it was a bit of a shock to the system after taking a degree in French and Russian and speaking them fluently, to find myself back to square one with Portuguese this week!

Read on for my highs, lows, and reflections for the week and let me know your thoughts in the comments if you have been down this road recently or have any general tips on Portuguese to share. Portuguese map puzzle

Portuguese is an official language in 10 countries

Why Portuguese? 

I visited Portugal quite a few times on holiday when I was younger and tried to learn a few key phrases such as ‘my name is…’ and ‘thank you’ but didn’t progress any further. I would also love to visit Brazil at some point in future, so I’m getting myself language ready for Carnival!

At my current place of work there is a Portuguese cleaner who I often speak with, but English isn’t her first language (and gesticulating can only get us so far) so I’m on a mission to be able to have an basic chat in Portuguese with her before the end of the first month.

What I’ve covered this week:

  • Basic vocabulary on people, food and animals using the Duolinguo app during my commute to work.
  • Introductions, asking questions and responding to questions, including learning more varied responses to ‘how are you? (tudo bem?)’, using the Rocket Languages website
  • Bedroom furniture vocabulary using Post-it notes around the room.
  • Subject pronouns (the person doing the verb) and differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese.  

    My learning resources from week 1

Highs:

  • Noticing the similarities between French and Portuguese vocabulary. Speaking another romance language has definitely helped me along with recognising vocabulary (even if pronouncing it is a bit trickier!)
  • Having a fresh start with a language as an adult learner. I’ve always had a passion for languages but when learning French and Russian as academic subjects a lot of my motivation became wrapped up in passing exams. As an independent hobbyist adult learner, I can really set the pace for my learning and focus on what I feel is most useful for me in my everyday life, which has been really refreshing.
  • Starting Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 months book and gaining lots of invaluable tips and approaches for purposeful and successful language learning.

Lows:

  • Feeling like I’m back at the bottom of the mountain with a long climb ahead to get to conversational level – although I’m very determined!
  • Finding time to focus on Portuguese as my ‘sprint language’, with Russian being my ‘marathon language’ of focus for this week.
  • Discovering the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese and being torn between which one to focus on speaking and writing. I have decided to focus on European Portuguese because I’m based in Europe, but am using a Teach Yourself Portuguese book, which features both alongside each other, so I aim to recognise both.

    Learning a language can feel like a roller coaster of highs and lows, jump on and enjoy the ride!

Mini Missions for weeks 2-4.

  • Find out what direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns are
  • Mastering conjugations of key verbs in present tense such as: to live, to work, to go, to have, to be, to like, to want, to do.
  • Learn numbers.
  • Learn time referents.
  • Continue with vocabulary learning of important everyday topics such as: the weather, clothes, shopping, cooking, hobbies.
  • Have conversation with the cleaner at my place of work in Portuguese.
  • Take a class on italki with a Portuguese tutor.

Keep an eye out for videos of me speaking my pidgin Portuguese coming soon to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram ..! Follow us to keep up with my language learning challenge and let me know how your learning is going in the comments below.

Meet the world on your doorstep

Flagged up and ready to mingle at Mundo Lingo London

Iain and I tried out a Mundo Lingo social for the first time last week and, after nearly 20 years of learning languages, found it a really dynamic and refreshing approach to get people talking. Read on for more information on the Mundo Lingo movement and our top tips for getting the most out of your time at an event!

What is Mundo Lingo?

Mundo Lingo has taken the language learning world by storm with over 54,000 likes on Facebook at the time of writing and events across 5 continents, so where did it all begin? Its origins can be traced back to Buenos Aires in 2011 and one British born language lover, Benji Moreira, who wanted to create a welcoming language and cultural exchange environment, and a chance to befriend the local Argentines.

It proved to be a huge success and, as the events attracted over 50 people per week, a flag system was introduced to allow participants to find their language-match without the direct help of the host. This format soon proved popular and in 2014 it was rolled out to new cities across the globe, including Cologne, London, Montreal and Melbourne. In 2017, at the time of writing, Mundo Lingo is established in 15 cities in 13 countries over 5 continents. Please read on or see the Mundo Lingo website for more information on the mission and mantra.

Why should you work Mundo Lingo Socials into your language learning routine?

Mundo Lingo London Managers Jim and Merlina welcome everyone with flags and a smile

I spoke with two really friendly Managers of Mundo Lingo London, Merlina and Jim, who speak 5 languages between them including Indonesian and Slovak. Benji Moreira asked Jim to set up the London Mundo Lingo when it first set up and both Managers recommend Mundo Lingo events to anyone who:

  • Has a desire to practise another language.
  • Is new to a city and wants to socialise and meet new people.
  • Has an interest in meeting people from other cultures.
  • Is visiting a city and wants to meet local people and get tips on best areas to visit.

“I am a firm believer that theory and practice = perfect. After a short stint possibly at a language course teaching the basics, grammar, alphabet, how to form basic sentences, it is more important to practise what you have learnt. This is where Mundo Lingo comes in, and many get the practice that they could be lacking from class.

I don’t believe in spending a lot of money with courses; motivation is your best friend. Even if you don’t live in the target country, always create an environment for yourself where you are exposed to the language or culture daily. Learning a language is a bit like the movie Shawshank Redemption, every little bit that you do daily counts.”
Serene, Mundo Lingo Manager Melbourne.

What we love about Mundo Lingo!

Mundo Lingo is a great platform to mingle with the world on your doorstep. In one evening, I chatted to someone from Russia, Latvia, Belgium, Turkey and France! People were very sociable, it was a really relaxed atmosphere and we stayed much later than planned as were having such a good time! We’ll definitely be back again and hope to meet some new people and make some new friends, so if you’re there come and say “hi”!

How is Mundo Lingo different to other language meet-up groups?

It’s clear to see that Mundo Lingo has a well-established, international reach and reputation, and is run in a very relaxed, freestyle way. Some things the organisers shared with me that I wasn’t aware of was that Mundo Lingo is a not for profit organisation but, due to the support of excellent staff and volunteers a session will never be cancelled, which is great for consistency and fitting in with our hectic London lifestyle!

When you arrive, you can expect to be met by friendly staff, poised and ready with a book of flag stickers, who have an incredible knowledge of vexillology and are able to put any newcomers at ease instantly. The format is completely freestyle, so you can grab a drink, arrange your stickers in order of strength of language somewhere on your person (i.e. native language at the top followed by other languages spoken). Other keen language enthusiasts will arrive and the fun of finding your preferred flags begins!

Top tips for getting the most out of Mundo Lingo – Organisers’ Insight.

Mundo Lingo Managers Merlina and Jim had great advice for any Mundo Lingo newbies:

“Come on your own, or avoid speaking with friends you come with, and keep an open mind, as every time is different. The one thing we can guarantee is that you will meet new people! Ideally try it more than once as there are always newcomers and the crowd can be different each time. It also helps to stay standing so it’s easier to mingle and move around to new conversations throughout the evening.”

Clare’s top tips:

  • Swat up on your flag knowledge, particularly for languages that are spoken in many countries such as Spanish, French, Arabic, as it will help you identify speakers of the same language.
  • We found lots of people keen to practise their English with us, so sometimes you may need to make a special effort to guide the conversation into the language you want to practise to get the most out of the event, but people were very open to this.
  • Someone short like me might be difficult for others to see the flags so maybe position them on your sleeves or sunglasses for better visibility! (photo of me with flags on sunglasses)

    Creative positioning of flags for shorter people like me!
  • Introducing yourself to new people can sometimes become repetitive, so it’s helpful to think of some interesting questions to ask people beyond the typical small talk, so maybe try a few of the ones below:
  1. What is your favourite thing about this city / country?
  2. Are there any differences between this city and your home town / country that surprised / shocked you?
  3. What hobbies do you have outside of work?
  4. What has been the most unusual place you’ve visited?
  5. Do you know of any other good places to practise the language in this city?
  6. Would you be interested in setting up a tandem language exchange to support each other learning?
  7. What have been the best resources or techniques you’ve used when learning a language?

Bring the Mundo Lingo magic to your town or city!

You can set up your own Mundo Lingo – find out more on the Mundo Lingo ‘Join Us’ webpages.

Tell us your Mundo Lingo experiences and how you get on in comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – good luck!

Holiday Survival Phrases

Have you ever been on holiday and desperately wanted to know how to communicate some basic needs and niceties, but didn’t know where to start with traditional phrase books often overloading you with complex phrases? Iain and I have visited a whole range of countries and needed to know a few key phrases in the local lingo to get by and make the most of our stay.

After a recent study by the British Council discovered that 45% of British tourists assume that people will speak with them in English, I think it’s safe to say that we need to up our game when it comes to using languages on holiday!

We can’t be fluent in every language under the sun, but I would always recommend learning the following ‘survival phrases’ in the language of any country you’re visiting as it will make your visit much smoother and might even get you out of a pickle or two

Please / thank you
Yes / No
Hello, my name is … Nice to meet you
Where are the toilets? Is the entrance / exit / hospital / pub?!
I’m lost.
How much is it?
A table for two please.
I need a doctor
Do you speak (language) ..?

Our Survival Phrase Success Stories:


I don’t speak Italian (yet!) and when Iain and I visited Rome a few years ago I used my pocket phrasebook Italian to ask ‘where is the entrance to the Colosseum’ (Dove entrata colosseo?) admittedly it wasn’t grammatically perfect, but the kind policeman I had asked really appreciated my efforts and answered me with the information I needed!

I don’t speak any German and when we visited Berlin I spent two days perfecting the phrase: ‘a table for two please’ (ein tisch fur zwei bitte) getting the accent and intonation just right and was so proud when I managed to use it in a restaurant: #languagewins !

What language essentials do you pack when travelling overseas? Please share your key survival phrases and success stories using them with us below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – we look forward to hearing from you!