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Turn of phrase in language: origin and differences

Turn of phrase in language: origin and differences

Turn of phrase and idioms: let’s start with a definition

A turn of phrase, or an idiom, is an expression which is proper to each language. Most of the time, you hear them in your native language and it feels natural because this is actually a way to express yourself.

Some similarities and equivalent idioms exist between different languages. You’ve certainly heard the English idiom “it’s a piece of cake” for something very easy — well you’d say, in a literal way, that it’s a child’s play in German or Spanish, but you’d have a literal translation in French. read more

Duolingo vs Memrise vs VocApp, what is the best language learning app

Duolingo vs Memrise vs VocApp, what is the best language learning app

You are a language lover? You are looking for educational apps for adults? Or you want to learn new languages but you are hesitant? You don’t know which application or website to choose for learning new languages? In this article, we will give you information about the three best applications for learning languages. In fact, we are going to present to you the advantages and disadvantages of Duolingo, Memrise and VocApp. We are not going to compare like Memrise vs Duolingo as a battle between both apps. No, our goal is to let you know the characteristics of those three language learning applications to make a choice according to: read more

Ultimate Erasmus+ Guide – Everything you should know before your Erasmus adventure!

Ultimate Erasmus+ Guide – Everything you should know before your Erasmus adventure!

You’ve heard about Erasmus+ but you’ve never experienced it before? Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme that offers the opportunity to study, train and gain experience abroad. Students from all over the world shared in a video their experience of a lifetime and wrote a must-read guide before taking part in the Erasmus+ journey. Discover France, Germany, Finland and other dream EU-destinations and live your story too!

I Planning your Erasmus

Everybody wants some changes in their lives: to change the living or study place, go abroad, explore new cultures, meet new people, and make new friends. If you feel the urgency to do something different, Erasmus can be a great solution. However, just like with any kind of new experience it needs thorough thinking and detailed planning. The very important thing is to be ready mentally and emotionally: to be open to new challenges, changes, diversity, and a new culture; to forget about any stereotypes about the country you are going to visit; and be friendly to the new environment. If you are done with mental preparation, you can start thinking about the host country, host university or company, all paper-work, money related issues, and finding the apartment. read more

Differences between American English and British English

Differences between American English and British English

Although the United States and the United Kingdom share the same language, many differences can be found in the vocabulary, the grammar or the pronunciation. On top of that, both countries have very different cultures, which can be found in the food, their history, the sports they play, or even the TV shows they usually watch.

In contrast, it’s true that they both share the mile system, but it is actually the only measurement system that they have in common! In short, it can be said that the two countries are divided by a common language! All of these points will be developed in this article (among many others), so if you’re interested to discover all the differences, they will be listed below!

Grammar in British and American English: what are the differences?

First things first, the basis of any language is grammar. You can’t begin to learn a language unless you know its alphabet and the basis of its grammar, as you generally build your sentences with verbs if you don’t want to speak like a robot!

Among all the differences, I’ll start with the irregular verbs. Yes, if you want to learn English or if you’re already struggling with irregular verbs, be aware that there are plenty of differences. For example, the widely used verb “get” is also irregular. You would say get, got, gotten in American English whereas you’d say get, got, got in British English. You can note that British English uses the past participle more often! You can also find differences in endings just like in the verbs “burn”, “learn”, or “dream”. In the past tense, you would add -ed in American English but a -t in British English.

You can find other spelling differences below, with a short explanation followed with examples:

-“ou” (UK) vs. “o” (US): “colour” vs. “color” / “favourite” vs. “favorite”. The difference is that the American version gets closer to the way it is actually pronounced than the British one.

-re (UK) vs. -er (US): such as “theatre” or “theater”. The reason behind this difference is because British people have borrowed and adopted many French words, while keeping the French spelling. On the contrary, American English decided to make the word American and reversed the two final letters. Same reason for the following.

-nce (UK) vs. -nse (US): “licence” or “license”. For the noun, the British spelling will get into line with the French spelling. But the verb is “to license” in both English. Careful, this isn’t always the case! You have “defence” in British English but “defense” in American English!

You can also differentiate many verbs ending in -ise (UK) vs. -ize (US). Example: “organise” (UK) or “organize” (US).

Mum or Mom? Both are commonly used in British and American English respectively, but the first spelling “mum” can also refer to a flower.

Last but not least, the grammar section! Should you double the L between two vowels? Well, if you’re a British or you want to learn British English, then you should! You’d write “travelling”, “traveller”, “travelled”. Americans would only use one L though!

Careful: some exceptions exist and don’t double the L in “appealing”, “devilish”, “loyalist”, or “travelogue”.

Now, to express possession in English, you can find “have” VS. “have got”. In Britain, people tend to say “I’ve got” while an American will simply say “I have”. Both mean the same but the grammar differs slightly.

Finally, British people use A LOT of question tags, both in oral conversations and dialogs. It’s just natural for them to add “don’t you?”, “hasn’t it?” or “aren’t you” at the end of their sentences, even though they are not always asking a question. With “isn’t it” for instance, you could hear “The weather is so nice today, isn’t it?”. In America though, they tend to say “right?”, just like “The weather is so nice today, right?”.

Vocabulary and spelling in English: British vs. American

Until now, the differences listed above wouldn’t have caused any problem for a Brit or an American to understand you. They would have just noticed on which side of the ocean you’re standing! But it comes to different words, they might feel a bit destabilised. Many people would understand what you mean, especially because they know which differences exist now between the two languages. However, if you talk to a young child or an elderly person who doesn’t know the differences, for them, it might sound like you’re speaking a different language.

Let me give you an example. You have “garbage” in American English but “rubbish” in British English. Both mean the same, but an American would never say “rubbish” and vice-versa. You have SO many differences with simple words just like these. To be able to know and distinguish all of them, you’d have to live in these countries for some months. For now, you can find some of them in the following table:

AMERICAN ENGLISH

BRITISH ENGLISH

Faucet Tap
Cotton candy Candy floss
Stroller Pushchair
Cart Trolley
Front desk Reception
(French)  fries Chips (French fries for thinner ones)
Chips Crisps
Apartment Flat
Elevator Lift
Closet

Wardrobe

Finally, you also have “subway” vs. “tube”/”underground” which express “metro”. In this case, people will understand what you’re talking about, although the tube can only refer to the London underground. So even within the UK, the different regions will use different words to express the same thing. Talking about regions, different pronunciations and accents can be found at the national level, but the main difference is found between the two countries.

The accent: do you speak like a British or like an American?

The American pronunciation follows the “General American English” whereas the “Received Pronunciation” is followed by the British English people. The major differences of pronunciation are obviously found in consonants and vowels. You’ll be able to notice them once you’ve watched enough episodes of your favourite Anglophone series on Netflix! It is actually the best option to learn if you don’t have the opportunity to go and stay in an English-speaking country! So keep your ears wide open!

What is the most striking is the -t pronunciation. It is almost a [d] in American English when placed between two vowels. But in British English, it remains a -t sound. Example for the word “twitter”: TwiTTe: (UK) vs TwiDeR (US).

In addition, the final -r in American English is pronounced, but not in British English. For example, the word “car”, you can hear a “caR” (US) or a “ca:” (UK). Also, when placed between a vowel and a consonant, the British -r isn’t pronounced either. You’d say “tu:n” for “turn” to a British.

The two diphthongs /oʊ/ or /əʊ/ also differentiates the two languages. As the phonetic spelling indicates, Americans rather pronounce the “o” contrary to the “e” for the Brits. For the word “close”, you’d say “clOse” in American but “clOEse” in a British accent.

The units of measure in British and American English

You may be quite at a loss when it comes to units of measurements and conversions, as both countries do not use the International System of Units (SI). The US uses the customary units while the U.K uses Imperial units. Actually, it is quite hard to remember them all, except if you learn them by heart. Here is a list summarising the ones you should know:

  • 1. The temperature outside: Fahrenheit (US) vs Celcius (UK)
  • 2. To measure your ingredients while cooking: cup (US) vs. grams/liters (UK)
  • 3.To measure liquids like petrol(UK)/gasoline(US): US gallon vs. Imperial gallon

But for distances (miles, yards, inches, feet), volumes (cubic foot, cubic yard), weight (LBS) and for areas (square inch, square mile etc): it’s the same and thank god for that!

To finish a bit more lightly: the two countries culture

The two countries’ history at the time of the colonial period

The US was a British colony before they gained their independence from the UK in 1776. Since, they’ve been building their own society and laws, to become one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Westminster vs. Washington: the political structures read more

Gaming terms: how gamers became the creators of a new language

Gaming terms: how gamers became the creators of a new language

Compared to any other kind of art, video games are relatively new. They were born in the 1950s thanks to the experiments of some engineers, but a long time was needed before they could become what they are nowadays. Sure enough, in the last 10 to 15 years, they became a very appreciated typology of entertainment and more and more people started to play with them. Online communities were created to share progress and advice between gamers and the creation and the development of a certain kind of products, entirely based on the competition between players, gave an additional boost to the growth of a language that people use in relation to their favourite software. The gaming terms became the perfect way to communicate in this kind of field.

AFK”, “rage quit”, “crafting” are only some of the terms that gamers regularly use in order to communicate fastly. What’s interesting about this kind of language is that it was created by the gamers themselves, in some cases by taking some words and adapting them to a new context, in others they made up these words through contractions and acronyms.

#1 English as the lingua franca for video games

Being English the lingua franca of everything concerning information technology, it is also the lingua franca of video games and internet. This kind of language started to become very popular in the last five to six years and it spread at an incredibly fast rate. Nowadays, every keen gamer in the world uses it to have an easy way to communicate with other gamers. An English-speaking internet helped this spread, but the players of other countries tried to develop some sort of “amatorial localisation”. Being an Italian, I can say that, while nouns are simply taken as loans, Italian gamers take the English verbs used in this context and adapt them to the morphological structure of the Italian language. For example, the verb to spawn becomes spawnare.

During the years, video games became an important phenomenon in the field of entertainment, so much that many tournaments and conventions are organised every year. In this context too this kind of language is used above the official one. In fact, it is important to say that these terms invented by gamers themselves are not often used by video game development houses. It is a way of speaking related to the internet world and to its inhabitants.

#2 Terms formation through shortening

Some of these terms are incredibly clever. Let’s take the example of inting. As the Urban Dictionary defines it, “it stands for “INTentional feeding” and it is used in videogames (mainly League of Legends). Most possibly started from the League of Legends banned toxic streamer tyler1 because of his ”INT list” where he was writing down players who were playing bad, intentionally feed, intentionally ruin the game and so on”. Basically, it refers to somebody who intentionally gets himself or herself killed by the enemy, so to upset the allies. We can detect two interesting features about this term: first and foremost, it was probably invented in an extremely particular context, in which a streamer of a particular video game did something particular to overcome a problem. Secondly, we can see that this is shortening. Gamers contracted the term in order to let it be fast enough to be used in a rapid context such as the one of online gaming. The term fragging went through the same process: it is the shortening of the expression fragmentation grenade but, in this case, it was not invented in the context of gaming, because it had already been used in war-related conversations. Here, we can see how gamers brought particular terms from other contexts to the one within their competence, applying it to video games which are closely related to the one from which they took said term, probably Call of Duty and others. A similar situation can be found in the term aggro. This term refers to the moment when your avatar gets close enough to an enemy, so that said enemy focuses on you. Aggro is possibly another shortening and it comes from aggression. Another interesting contraction is the one of gank. Even if it is a term that was already used in other contexts with other meanings, in the case of video games it comes from gang kill and it refers to “when a group of people kill a single opponent in an MMORPG”.

#3 Terms related to specific video games

Some other terms come from one game and then spread to others, more or less like inting. The next cases, though, are about terms which, even if related to a particular game, were already used in other contexts. Carting, for example, is a term related to the game Monster Hunter and it refers to when a player loses a battle against a monster without dying yet. In that case, a group of characters resembling cats and called Palicos bring the player outside the arena carrying him or her on a cart. This term was already used in other informal contexts, though, some of which are not very elegant. No, I’m not saying which ones. Go check on the Urban Dictionary. Same thing happens with the term crafting, which refers to everything related to manufacture, basically, but in the video games, context is extremely related to the term Minecraft. Here you can see the avatar of the gamer.

Minecraft is also related to another word, griefer, which refers to someone “who goes into Minecraft servers for the purpose of destroying structures that took hours to build, which usually requires you to rebuild from scratch”. Even in this case, the term spread so much that it started to be attributed to other games too, accompanied by a generalisation of the definition. A griefer became “someone, usually in an online game, who intentionally, and usually repeatedly, attempts to degrade others’ experience or torment them”. Both these definitions come from the Urban Dictionary. The term overpowered has probably had the same faith, starting from an external context and then used in gaming, in particular in relation to Role-playing games and First Person Shooters.

#4 Acronyms

Another linguistics feature somewhat used in gaming context is the creation of acronyms. One of the most used is certainly AFK, which means

Away From Keyboard read more

Is Serbo-Croatian still a thing?

Is Serbo-Croatian still a thing?

Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro. 4 countries of Western Balkans and their language chaos

Speaking about Serbo-Croatian or asking if the same language is in use in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro is a good way to start a discussion among people from those countries. Opinions on this are different and due to the region’s complicated past, this topic may lead to a real argument. The good news is that no matter if you do Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian or Montenegrinian course, it will help you on your travels through all of the four above mentioned countries! Some words and phrases are good to know whether you decide to go partying in Belgrade, explore Croatian islands, sunbathe on Montenegrin beaches, or try some tasty food in Sarajevo. Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins understand each other almost perfectly. However, there are some differences between how they speak in each country. Let’s see what they are!

A brief history of the language

Before starting to explain the differences between languages, maybe it is worth explaining where all the similarities come from. Well, the first thing that you should know about this European region is that countries’ borders were often changing throughout history and they kept changing even in the 21st century. Serbs, Montenegrins, Croats and Bosniaks differ in religion and were historically often part of different cultural circles, but in some parts of their history, they have lived side by side under foreign overlords. In the area of today’s Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, different south Slavic dialects were spoken. In the 19th century, Croatian and Serbian writers and philologists started the process of standardization of their respective languages. Croatian and Serbian standard languages were both based on the same eastern Herzegovinian dialect (Shtokavian) and therefore very similar to each other, although with some small differences.

In 1945 Yugoslavia was established as a federation of 6 federal republics, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia (today North Macedonia). Serbo-Croatian was an official language and two versions of languages were accepted, the eastern (Serbian) one and

the western (Croatian) read more

5 reasons why learning German is not as complicated as many people think

5 reasons why learning German is not as complicated as many people think

Goethe. Schiller. Kant. Brecht. – German is the language of poets and thinkers. The West Germanic language is therefore also known to be difficult and complicated. If you google “learn German” you can even read articles and blog posts that list reasons why it is impossible to learn German. We want to stand up to them: As with all languages, there are heavy and light components in German. Yes, German grammar is not the easiest. But is German hard to learn? Definitely no! There are enough reasons why German is not as complicated as many people think and actually easy to learn. We have summarized 5 of them to take away your fear of learning German.

#1 Germans hardly use tenses

Present Perfect Progressive or Simple Past Perfect? Going to Future or Will Future? There are so many tenses in English that even native speakers cannot master them all. In German language you have it easy here: In 99 % of all cases you can use Simple Past when talking about the past. It is also common to use the present tense even when you are talking about the future. For example: No matter whether you want to go to the cinema now, today or tomorrow, in German you always say it in the identical tense: “Ich gehe jetzt/heute/morgen ins Kino”.

#2 German works like an ad-on system

What is the world’s largest toy production company? You know the answer for sure! Nearly everyone played with the colored stones as a child. Correct, it’s LEGO. But what few people know is that the modular system we are familiar with is also applicable to the German language. Because in German a lot of nouns are made up of other words that are simply added together. These new words are then called “Kompositum”. There is no rule that says how many words can be combined with each other. Here is an example to help you understand it better:

German  Translation  
Haus house
Haus + Tür = Haustür house + door = entry door
Haus + Tür + Schlüssel = Haustürschlüssel house + door + key = latchkey

You can go on like this forever. Simple, right? A little fun fact in passing: There is a German word that has 80 letters:

“Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft”.

Believe it or not, it exists. But don’t worry, no normal German in the world can read or say this German word, let alone use it.

#3 You say what you read

While in English or French you have to learn not only how to write words, but also how to pronounce them, you don’t have this difficulty when learning German. You will also notice that many of the words you learn will look familiar to you, because German and English have the same linguistic roots. Whether “Generation”, “Hunger”, “Ball” or “Material” you surely know all these words from English, only that you pronounce them in German exactly the way you read them. That makes learning German much easier.

#4 The word “Bitte” helps you in many different situations

If you want to learn German, the ultimate tip for beginners is: Learn the word “Bitte”. Because this little word with only five letters can be used in many different situations. Here are a few examples:

  • Bitte. = You are welcome.
  • Bitte. = Please.
  • Bitte. = Go ahead.
  • Bitte. = Here you go.
  • Bitte? = Pardon?

#5 Der, die or das? – If you’re insecure, use “die”

“Der”, “die” or “das Blume” (= flower)? The correct answer is: “die Blume”. In German, every noun also has a companion, the “Artikel”. This is probably what most people who learn German are afraid of. When do I use which article? The best thing is to learn the “Artikel” while learning vocabulary. But if you forget which is the right one, just use

“die” read more

How to improve your language skills?

How to improve your language skills?

Everyone knows that when we finish secondary school even if we have learnt various languages, we feel bad at French, Spanish, German, Italian or another language. Here, you will find some advice to know how to get fluent in languages and how to memorise vocabulary.

Language bases

As it was previously mentioned, admittedly we are not good at languages leaving high school, for all that we are not starting from scratch. A lot of parameters are taken into account to get fluent in languages. As we can notice in classes, we have to practice the 5 language skills which include written and oral comprehension, written and oral expression and culture awareness. Usually, oral expression is the least practised language skill whereas it is fundamental to improve language skills.

Even if you cannot speak in a foreign language, you have acquired some bases: you know how to form a sentence (syntax), how to conjugate a verb (at least the first person in present simple: I + verb in present simple and the third person in present simple: he/she + verb in present simple). You also know vocabulary words and perhaps set phrases which means that you know how to pronounce words and to read in this language. Being aware of all those things is at least a start! Thanks to this awareness, you can read the language and by reading, you can discover new vocabulary and become familiar with this language, written comprehension is a fundamental language skill!

Oral comprehension permits you to better understand the pronunciation of letters and words and it also allows you to accustom your ear. It is repeating different tasks that will help you learn more and more about speaking the language.

Written expression is good training for sentence constructions, for memorising vocabulary, etc. and then putting it in practice by the oral way. Also, improving skills in written expression permits you to visualise the written form and then to pronounce the word better.

If we try to conclude, we can say that language bases are alphabet and pronunciation awareness (phonology), phrase constructions (syntax) by way of conjugation, so generally both are included in grammar, the acquisition of vocabulary by reading for example, what also shows the importance of the written form. To resume, these 5 language skills need to be worked to improve your language skills and to get fluent in languages because, this way, you will know how to write, understand (written and oral forms) and speak languages. It is not an easy task but as we know – “no pain no gain”!

Improve your written and oral comprehension

To improve your written comprehension, it is no secret that you must read. To start, it is easier to read picture books or small articles like blog posts before trying to read press articles. Then, when you are more accustomed, you can try to read literature. It is a good way to deeply improve your language and culture awareness. When you reach the level and when you know both of them: the language and the culture, we can say that you are fluent in this language and you mastered it.

To improve your oral comprehension, there exist different options that we can expose by steps of difficulty. The first one is listening to music searching for the lyrics to understand them. It can be a good idea to nicely start to accustom your ear (and to be aware of another cultural element). The second step is watching short videos like podcasts about what you like or what topic you want to learn about. This training will really help you improve your oral comprehension skill and you will also learn a lot of vocabulary and the one which is useful for you. The next step is watching series in OV (from cartoon series with short episodes to television series with long episodes) and progressively trying to watch whole movies. Obviously, subtitles are helpful, you can use them in your mother tongue to understand all the sentences or you can choose to put them in the studied language to also work on your written comprehension. The last step is to watch some TV shows and listen to radio broadcasts. As you can see, in both cases (written and oral comprehension), the final stage includes culture. De facto, you have to focus on the first 4 language skills and then the fifth one, culture awareness, will be memorised automatically.

If we try to summarise what training you have to follow to improve your language skills in an ascending difficulty order for the written comprehension, it is:

  • read picture books (comics, children’s books…)
  • read blog articles
  • read articles
  • read press magazine
  • read literature

For the oral comprehension:

  • listen to music searching for the lyrics
  • watch podcasts
  • watch short series in original version with subtitles
  • watch series with longer episodes in original version with subtitles
  • watch movies in original version subtitled and then only in original version
  • watch TV shows and listen to radio broadcasts
  • read more

    Best movies for learning Turkish

    Best movies for learning Turkish

    Learn a language by watching movies

    The first reason is that you can be familiar with daily conversations. As you all know, all movies are for native speakers and the language that they use reflect daily language. Watching movies is one of the best ways to learn a language. Because you can understand their daily conservations and pronunciation. Secondly, listening is one of the most important key elements in learning a language. Listening can help to memorize foreign words and phrases easily. Additionally, even if you do not understand the meaning of words in a movie, you can easily understand or guess because of the visuality of cinema.

    Watching foreign movies can help you to learn a language if you do it in the right way:

  • Focus: You need to watch carefully to understand the plot of the movie. Foreign movies can be tricky if you are a beginner of that language so you can stop it when you do not understand an idiom or phrase to catch.
  • Repetition: You can watch the movie more than once to understand everything.
  • Do not look at the dictionary we can understand your hesitation about fast learning but the truth is that a dictionary cannot help you when you are trying to concentrate on the movie.
  • Do not read all the subtitles all the time. Try to understand on your own!
  • read more

    The differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese

    The differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese

    You can learn a lot about a language by its country’s history and culture. So, if one of your goals is to learn Portuguese, the history of Brazil and the history of Portugal are very important in order to understand not only the Portuguese language but also the main differences between both variants.

    Origin of the European Portuguese

    The European Portuguese origin comes from the vulgar Latin. The language was first introduced by the roman who occupied the Iberian Peninsula. We can call Portuguese a neolatin language, since it is one of the modern languages that originated from the vulgar Latin. The Portuguese language suffered modifications with the invasion of the Germans and later the Arabs, although their language was never established in total. In the XV century, the peninsula was reconquered from the Arabs and after that different dialects emerged from the contact of the Arabic and Latin.

    Although the language wasn’t established in total, the Arabic occupation in Portugal was crucial to shape the Portuguese language, given that there are more than one thousand words in Portuguese that have Arabic roots. Which is also why Arabs can learn Portuguese more easily! Here are some examples of those words:

    English

    Portuguese

    Arabic

    sugar açúcar السكر (asukkar)
    alcohol álcool الكحول (al-kuhul)
    neighborhood bairro حي (hayu)
    hanger cabide الكابد (al-kabid)
    pillow almofada المخدة (al-mohada)
    tile azulejo الزليج (azulejo)
    saffron açafrão الزعفران (azafran)

    Origin of the Brazilian Portuguese

    Portugal occupied Brazil in 1500 and the Portuguese language took root, while the indigenous languages started to disappear slowly. But their existence was crucial for the Portuguese spoken in Brazil nowadays. The

    Brazilian Portuguese is influenced by the indigenous languages, along with the African language read more