Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

“Gruezi” and Other Swiss German Expressions

Saaner's Loch - Switzerland by Gamesforlanguage.comIn our previous post, we focused on the bilingualism of many Fribourgers. The German spoken in Fribourg is clearly of the Swiss German variety, with a few French expressions mixed in at times.

And while Swiss German is the generic label for the dialect, there are plenty of regional differences that a foreigner would only detect after a while.

When you're traveling in countries where you speak the language, you may notice that both formal and informal greetings often vary from region to region.

For example, when we were traveling in Northern Germany a couple years ago (see our post: From Utrecht to Hamburg: Dialects and Travel Tips in Northern German), we first couldn't make out the informal greeting we heard everywhere: “Moin.” We first thought it was an abbreviation of “Morgen,” as in “Guten Morgen” (Good morning), but it was clearly used all day.

Digging a little further, we found that while “morgen” may be one etymological explanation for “Moin,” another one could be the Dutch, Frisian, and Low German word “moi,” meaning “beautiful” or “good.”

This week we are exploring a few Swiss German expressions we encountered while skiing in the "Berner Oberland". (Above picture of "Saaner's Loch)

Grüezi” and a Swiss German Ear-Worm

To get a little taste of the Swiss German language, The Minstrels singerslisten to this YouTube Video of a popular song by a Swiss group, The Minstrels, from the late 60s.

It was the #1 song in Switzerland in 1969 for 10 weeks, made it to #3 in Germany, and sold over 1.5 million copies in 27 countries.

Even if you know some German, you'll have a hard time understanding the simple refrain. But listening to it a few times, you'll start distinguishing verbs, their grammatical modifications. You'll also pick up a few Swiss German idiosyncrasies.

Grüezi wohl Frau Stirnimaa: The Lyrics, Standard German, and Translation

Ja, grüezi wohl Frau Stirnimaa
Ja, grüß sie wohl, Frau Stirnimaa
(Hello there, Ms Stirnimaa)

Sagget sie, wie labbet sie, wie sind sie de so dra?
Sagen Sie, wie leben Sie, wie sind Sie denn so dran?
(Tell me, how's life, how's it going?)

Grüezi wohl Frau Stirnimaa
Sagget sie, wie labbet sie, wie gaht's denn ihre Ma?
Sagen Sie, wie leben Sie, wie geht es ihrem Mann?
(Tell me, how's life, how's your husband doing?)

Quick note: There is no standard written form of Swiss German. Letters and letter combinations are mostly attempts to express the way words sound.

And while you'll notice how the verb forms and endings are different from Standard German and hear how the “n” and “m” endings are dropped, we won't try to explain much more.

Just listen to the Swiss German language melody.

Swiss German in the Berner Oberland

Swiss Restaurant Terrace with guestsThis week the public schools in the canton of Bern have vacation, and besides a little French, we hear mostly Swiss German in the villages and on the mountain between Zweisimmen and Gstaad.

Even for us German speakers, some of the Swiss German we come across is a little hard to understand.

Briefly: In general, the dialects spoken in Switzerland (collectively called Swiss German) belong to the Alemannic variety of German.

Greetings: “Grüezi” vs. “Grüess eech”

Grüezi is arguably the most well-known Swiss German greeting. It's an abbreviation of “Gott grüez i” or literally in German: Gott grüß euch. (May God greet you.)

A variation of “Grüezi” is “Grüezi mitenand,” with “mitenand” (“miteinander” - together) making it clear that the greeting is for more than one person.

This greeting is used mainly in the Zurich area and in the east of Switzerland.

In the western part, around Bern and Basel, it's more common to hear “Grüss eech,” which also means literally: Gott grüß euch.

Indeed, here in the Berner Oberland, we've been hearing “Grüss eech” or “Grüess eech mitenand,” all over the place: when entering a restaurant, going into a shop, when sharing a gondola or chair lift with others. People even greet you as you're walking in the village.

In a restaurant: the verb “sein” - “sii” and “gsi” (or “gsy”)

Today, we ate on the terrace of a mountain restaurant. After greeting us “Grüess eech mitenand,” our waitress asked: “Was derfs sii?” - Was darf es sein? (Lit: What may it be? Meaning: What can I get you?)

When we finished our meal and she started to clear the table, she asked: “S isch guat gsi?” - Ist es gut gewesen? (Lit: Was it good? Meaning: How was the meal?)

Swiss German uses a shorter and older form of the verb “sein.” Instead of “sein,” it's “sii” and instead of “gewesen,” it's “gsi.”

Meal time: “Ä Guätä!”

It was a beautiful, sunny day and the terrace was A Guätä - Signcrowded. So, as is typical for many European countries, we shared our table with other restaurant guests.

We ordered “Röschti” (Rösti), which are fried potatoes prepared in a typical way in Switzerland. A meal of Röschti comes in all kinds of combinations: with a fried egg, with ham, with vegetables, etc.

Note also: The letter combination “st” (appearing anywhere in a word) is pronounced “sch.” The German word “ist” becomes “isch” (the -t is dropped)

We were served first, and when our meal arrived, our table neighbors wished us “Ä Guätä!” This is literally, “(Have) a good one!” and best translates to “Enjoy your meal!” The equivalent in Standard German would be: Guten Appetit! literally: Good appetite!

When we finished and were ready to leave, while our table neighbors received their meals, we wished them “Ä Guätä!”

Other useful words and phrases we heard

We often heard teenagers saying “Sali” or “Sali mitenand.” - Hallo, alle. - Hi everybody.
“Sali” is less formal than the greeting “Grüezi.” It comes from the French “salut” (hi/hey).

The French “Merci” (thank you) has been appropriated by Swiss German as well, and you hear it alone or also as “Merci vilmals” - Vielen Dank (Thanks a lot).

The German “Auf Wiedersehen” (Goodbye) has the Swiss German equivalent of “Uf widaluege,” and means the same, “luege” - sehen (to look).

Probably a leftover from the old telephone technology of bells, if you want to say “I'll call you,” you'd say “Ich lüt dir a.” This literally means: Ich leute dich an, or Ich leute bei dir an (I'll ring you.)

For more Swiss German expressions see also our previous posts Swiss German Language Lessons in Gstaad (1) and (2).

Don't Despair

If you're just learning German and are trying to understand Swiss German, don't despair. Even native Germans have a tough time understanding rapidly spoken Swiss German, even more so speaking it.

But as with any language or dialect you want to learn, there are many ways to do it.

Here are three iPhone apps that will help you: Gruezi Switzerland (free), Schweizerdeutsch Lernen ($0.99), and uTalk Classic Learn Swiss German ($9.99).

We have not tried any of these yet, so let us know what you think below.

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

European Travels 3: Dutch Canal Boating

Pénichette 1020FB layoutIf “fietsen” (bicyling) is a Dutch favorite, “bootjevaren” (boating), which includes “zeilen” (sailing), is certainly another.

With about one third of the Dutch mainland BELOW sea level and another one third very close to it, it's no wonder that the Dutch have a special relationship with water.

Yes, Italy has Venice, which has romantic canals but also more frequent flooding. Venice also needs to worry about its future as it is slowly sinking into the Adriatic Sea.

On the other hand, Amsterdam with its many “grachten” (canals) is a vibrant international city that has well adapted to the challenges and opportunities of the ever present water.(See also European Travels 1 and European Travels 2)

And, the canal network in the Netherlands is nothing but astounding. It's a great way to explore the country.

For the fun of it, we'll sprinkle in a few Dutch words. Because Dutch is a Germanic language just like English and German, you may find some cognates.

  • het land - the country, land
  • de stad - the city
  • de fiets - the bicycle
  • het water - the water
  • de gracht - the canal (in a city)
  • het kanaal - the canal (outside of a city)
  • de rivier - the river
  • de zee - the ocean, sea 

Dutch Canals and Rivers

Traveling by boat on a canal or river lets you experience the countryside in a different way Dutch windmill along canal - Gamesforlanguage.comthan driving through it. At 7 to 8 miles per hour, you can observe your surroundings in a leisurely way.

You'll notice the different designs of houses and various building methods, admire beautiful gardens, wonder what crops are growing in the fields, what type of cattle is grazing on the pastures.
Often the canals are higher than the adjacent pastures, as water is pumped continually from the lower lying fields into the canals.

While most pumps in the Netherlands are now electrically operated, there are still old windmills that are doing the job. We certainly observe more and more of the modern wind turbines every time we visit.

The ABC of Dutch Canal Travel

Operating a motor boat on Dutch canals is not really
difficult, although sometimes when in tight quarters, you have to keep calm and go slowly. 

You don't need a license. If you haven't sailed or operated a motor boat before, don't worry. The charter company will instruct you in how to handle the boat.

Obviously, prior boating experience helps, not only for operating a boat, but also for knowing a few basic facts:

  • Boats have no brakes
  • Boats are affected by wind and current
  • Boats have various electrical and plumbing systems
  • The forward/backward gear of boats is operated with a throttle
  • Larger boats respond more slowly to throttle and steering commands
  • A “bow thruster” greatly helps maneuvering in tight quarters
  • Locks” connect waterways with different water level elevations
  • The lower the boat, the more bridges you can pass (without their opening)

Our 2016 Charter Choice

For our previous three canal cruises in the Netherlands, we had chartered from different local charter companies. This time we selected Locaboat, a multinational charter with locations in France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, and the Netherlands.

Pénichette 1020FB layoutTheir location in Loosdrecht, just north of Utrecht and close to the Dutch family reunion we attended, as well as our good experience with them during a charter in France a few years earlier, made them an easy choice.

Péniche” is the French word for a barge. A “Pénichette©”, Locaboat's trademarked name for its motorboats, is therefore a small barge.

We selected a “Flying Bridge Pénichette© 1020FB, which had two cabins with toilets and showers, just right for our American friends and us.

The “Oude Rijn” (the old Rhine), as our mini barge was called, had inside and outside steering – perfect for either rainy or sunny weather – a bow thruster, and the two bicycles we had reserved.

With its 10.20 meter length (about 34 feet), it suited us fine.
The midship saloon and steering station provided a great view during any meal. The compact kitchen (galley) had a refrigerator, a two-burner stove and oven, and all the pots, pans, and dishes we needed.

I noticed several improvements since the last time we had chartered from Locaboat:

  • The bow thruster
  • Electric instead of pump toilets
  • No switch to change from inside to outside throttle operation
  • A spacious refrigerator working well either on motor or shore power
  • An easily operated diesel heater for the hydronic heating system

Dutch canal chartThrough the charter company we had ordered some basic supplies from the local grocery store, such as water, beer, etc. These arrived shortly after we boarded.

After reviewing our intended itinerary, (see map) learning about the boat's systems, and a quick test-outing into the canal with me backing into the slip, we started our trip.

It was late afternoon and we had to pass one lock and bridge before starting our round trip as shown on the chart.

  • de winkel - the shop
  • de boot - the boat
  • de sluis - the lock (on a waterway)
  • de brug - the bridge
  • het dorp - the village, town
  • het huis - the house
  • de tuin - the garden, yard
  • de boerderij - the farm

Locks

In a lock adjusting lines - Gamesforlanguage,comShortly after leaving the Marina, we encountered the Mijnden Sluis, the first of the few locks that we had to pass on our trip.

When approaching a lock, you'll know from the position of the gates (open or closed) and the red or green lights - whether you have to wait (red) and possibly tie up, or whether you can enter (green).

Once in the lock, your crew loops a couple of lines around the bollards and holds on to them. But they should NOT TIE UP.

As the lock gates are closed and the water level rises and falls, the crew adjusts the lines so the boat glides along the lock walls, protected by its fenders. (In this picture our friends are adjusting the lines in the biggest lock we encountered, behind a large commercial barge.)

As the lock gates open again, you motor out the other side to a different water level.

In the Dutch inland canals, such level differences are often only a foot or two.

(In French canals, we had encountered a level difference of 10 feet or more in many locks. Also, in an earlier blog post, we describe how the boat lift in Henrichenburg, Germanyovercomes a 42 feet level difference.)

Bridges

We had chartered a motor boat for the first time in the Netherlands, over 20 years ago in Utrecht. Our teenage sons loved it right away. At that time, a few of the bridges still had to be opened manually. The boys had to jump ashore, open the bridge, let us pass, close the bridge, and then hop on board again.

This time, we were told that we would not have to open any bridges ourselves on our trip.

The moving bridges we encountered, called “Beweegbare Bruggen,” and labeled “BB” on the chart, were operated as follows:

  • By an operator at the bridge or a person who monitored it remotely via cameras
  • By a push button, typically located on a piling before the bridge
  • By phone call to an operator or on an automated line

Many bridges opened as we approached, adding a yellow light to the red light before it turned green. Sometimes we called. (Telephone numbers were on a sign at the bridge. In addition, nearly all bridges had a telephone number listed in the boat manual or in the chart app on my tablet.)

More instructions were provided in the boat's handbook, but Ulrike's command of Dutch was clearly helpful for the third option.

under fixed bridgeThere are only very few bridges left where the operator collects a fee with a wooden shoe on a long pole. We passed only two.

In towns and cities, operating hours often consider morning and evening traffic rush hours. Commercial vessels always have priority over recreational boats and you learn to be patient.

Your chart tells you the passing height of each bridge. Our “Oude Rijn” was listed as 2.92 m. Passing under a 3.00 m bridge left only 8 cm or a little more than 3 inches – and when steering and sitting outside on top of the upper deck we certainly had to duck. (In the above picture there were only a few inches to spare...)

Mooring Sites

The waterway chart (as well as the Dutch app for my tablet I
had downloaded) not only shows all the locks and bridges, but also the marinas and mooring sites that one can tie up to. Some of the mooring sites in small towns are free.

At others, you can replenish your water or hook up your shore power (for a fee). We only did this a couple of times. 

However, you're not limited to the designated mooring sites. Especially in the countryside, you can just hammer in two steel spikes ashore and tie up your boat along the canal bank.

No Hurry

After passing through the Mijnden lock, we turned north and were immediately faced with our first challenge.

The bridge operator of the first moving bridge we were to pass in Loenen, informed us that the next bridge had mechanical problems and could not be opened. He thought it could be fixed in an hour or two and suggested we should just tie up. 

We did and explored the little town of Loenen, with its narrow cobble stone streets and its two picturesque bridges across the river Vecht. We also found a bakery and stocked up on fresh bread and pastries.

Bridge opening in LoenenThis short delay taught us again not to be in a hurry. Canal traveling has to be done leisurely.

Yes, we would not get very far this first day, but no matter. Waiting for bridges or locks to open is as much part of canal travel as finding a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner or a good mooring spot for the night.

Indeed, when the bridge operator told us that the problem was fixed, we continued north on the Vecht. (see picture above)

As it was soon going to get dark we made fast near the small town of Overmeer.

After a 10 minute walk we found a very pleasant restaurant for our first dinner ashore.

Returning a few hours later to our “Oude Rijn,” we were glad that we had not forgotten the flashlight to unlock the door.

We had a quiet and peaceful night and the next morning greeted us with sunshine and ducks and other birds in the water around us.

Sightseeing

The Netherlands is very densely populated country. In traveling
along the small rivers and canals, we passed through cities and towns, as well as commercial and industrial areas. But we also came through long stretches of farm land and pastures.

In addition to the many small towns and villages we came across and explored, the major cities on our itinerary were Amsterdam, Gouda, and Utrecht.

We've written a blog post about Amsterdam, as we stayed there before getting on the boat. But visiting Amsterdam by boat is even more fun.

You can easily get to the marina in the center of town from where you'll explore the city on foot. There are a few more marinas in the outskirts, but then you have to find a way to get into the city.

Gouda is a wonderful town with a stunning 15th-centuryGouda City Hall - Gamesforlanguage.com city hall (see picture) and a spacious market place, where during the spring and summer a traditional cheese market is held every week (Thursday mornings).

You can actually moor right in the center of town, but we chose to tie up and stay overnight on the Hollandsche IJssel, just south of the city.

When we came to Utrecht, it was not possible to go through the town with our Flying Bridge Pénichette, as the many arched bridges of the Vecht were too narrow and low for the “Oude Rijn.”

However, mooring in the “Singelgracht” close to the center of town, allows you to explore the city easily on foot.


Along the Vecht, there are many restaurants tourists and locals alike seemed to enjoy on a late summer day. 

The town has over 20 museums, ranging from the Aboriginal Art, to the National Military, the Railway, and the Waterline Museum Fort Vechten. 

This is often one of the major benefits of sightseeing from a boat: You can moor in or near the center of a town or city (where finding a parking space for your car may often be difficult).

  • het stadhuis - the city hall
  • het centrum - the center (of town)
  • de jachthaven - the marina
  • de buitenwijken - the outskirts (of town)
  • de marktplaats - the market
  • de kaas - the cheese
  • de Noordzee - the North Sea
  • de Oostzee - the Baltic Sea

The European Canal system

While we traveled mostly on small canals and riverscontainer barge on canal - Gamesforlanguage.com (such as the Vecht and IJssel), there were also a few stretches where we encountered commercial traffic.

When a large container-laden barge is heading towards you (as on this picture), you realize how important the waterways are still for the European economy.  You also do your best to keep out of  the way! 

Leaving Utrecht and before we could re-enter the
Vecht near Maarsen, we had to travel on the wide Amsterdam-Rhine Canal. This canal serves as an important commercial link between Amsterdam and the Rhine.

Indeed, barges can make it up and down the Rhine all the way to Basel, Switzerland, or via the Main river, the Main-Danube Canal, and the Danube to Budapest, Vienna, and the Black Sea.

No wonder, traffic is heavy and recreational boats like ours have to keep well out of the way.

The European canal system not only connects the North Sea with the Baltic Sea, but barges and boats (even sailboats with a lowered mast) can find their way into the Mediterranean Sea, via the Mosel and the Rhone.

Breukelen

Our last overnight stop before returning to our base was Breukelen. Breukelen, by the way, gave New York's Brooklyn its name.

We again were moored right in the center of town, behind a typical old-style bascule bridge and several restaurants. In one of them we ate dinner.

There we met the Dutch artist, Toos van Holstein, who was elected the Netherland's “Briljanten Kunstenaar 2016” (Dutch Brilliant Artist of 2016). She had just organized a special art event “25 Karaats Briljant” at the gallery Peter Leen, which is adjacent and connected to the excellent Thai Same Same restaurant.

Traveling on Dutch canals leaves you with many
impressions, memories and pictures, certainly more than we can relate here.

On our last evening we could again enjoy a spectacular sunset across the huge Dutch sky - a fitting end to our canal cruise.

If you're interested in trying canal boating yourself in the Netherlands or France and have more questions, drop us a line via contact and we'll be happy to help.

And for more photos from the trip see our picture gallery Canal Boating in the Netherlands.


Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

French Travel Memories 1 - Daniel in Paris

trip to ParisThe travel stories, which are the basis of our GamesforLanguage courses, use real street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc., many of which we visited ourselves.

In future blog posts, we'll provide additional details for each of the cities our young travelers visit in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. (You'll find our first German post by clicking on: German Travel Memories 1 – Michael in Frankfurt)

Daniel's first stop is in Paris, France's cosmopolitan capital.

We'll follow Daniel's discoveries in Paris. For those of you who have done or are doing our French 1 course: Daniel en France, this post provides some local color. Others may discover some new things about Paris and perhaps get inspired to dig deeper.

In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational language. The vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful terms.

Visiting Paris? To many of you, Paris doesn't need much of an introduction. Besides, there are plenty of sites that can fill in any gaps. We'll just mention a few quick facts and list some basic terms in French that will help you in your travels.

A FEW QUICK FACTS ABOUT PARIS

Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC by a Celtic people called Île de la Cité and Notere Damethe Parisii, who gave the city its name. They settled on Île de la Cité (see photo), an island in the middle of the Seine river and located on an important north-south trade axis.

(The well-known Cathédrale Notre-Dame, seen on the photo was later located there.)

In 52 BC, the Romans set up camp on the Île de la Cité and (temporarily) renamed the city Lutetia.

By the end of the 12th century, Paris had become the largest city in the western world, and the political and economic capital of France.

By the 17th century, Paris was an important center of finance, commerce, science, fashion, and the arts in Europe. It continues to play that role today.

It was interesting to read why Paris is called The City of Light (La Ville Lumière).

For one, Paris played an important role during the Age of Enlightenment, a philosophical movement that championed the concepts of reason, liberty, and the scientific method, seeking to illuminate man’s intellect.

For another, Paris and London were two of the early cities to adopt gas street lighting.

Since the late 19th century, Paris has also been known as Panam(e) (pronounced: [panam]) in French slang.

The city of Paris (also called the Commune or Department of Paris) now has a population of over 2.2 million people. The urban area of Paris is estimated to have a population of 10.5 million.

Île-de-France, also called “région parisienne” is one of the 18 regions of France. It includes Paris as well as 7 other administrative departments. The Île-de-France region has a population of over 12 million inhabitants.

la capitale - the capital
la ville - the city, town
la lumière – the light
Île de la Cité – an island in the Seine, within the city of Paris
la commune - the town, municipality
l'arrondissement – city district
le fleuve – the river (flows into the sea)
la rivière - the river (flows into a lake or another river)
l'aire urbaine (f) - the urban area
la banlieue – the suburbs (autonomous administrative entities outside of the city of Paris)
Île-de-France – one of the 18 regions of France

PARIS CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT

Daniel is a young student who learned some French at home and later studied it in school. However, this will be his first visit to France.

On his flight to Paris, Michael chats in French with the flight attendant and with the woman who's on the seat next to him.

He arrives at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, which is Europe's 2nd busiest airport in Europe, after London.

As Daniel goes through Passport Control, he continues to speak French. Responding to the standard questions, he has to explain why he is traveling to France and how long he will stay.

le vol - the flight
l'hôtesse de l'air/le steward - the flight attendant f/m
l'aéroport (m) - the airport
le contrôle des passeports - the Passport Control
Êtes-vous ici pour affaires? - Are you here on business?
affaires has multiple meaning: affairs, matters, business
Combien de temps? - How long?
un bon séjour - a good stay

PARIS NEIGHBORHOODS

Paris arrondissments mapParis is divided into 20 arrondissements, or administrative districts, arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral (snail shell) starting from the middle of the city, the first being on the Right bank (north bank) of the Seine, the 20th being on the outer edge. (Plan by ThePromenader http://www.paris-promenades.com
with numbers in map.)

Most of the districts have their particular brand of Parisian identity and atmosphere. A brief description of each arrondissement can be found HERE. You can click on the number of a particular district to see the streets, metro stops, monuments, etc.

RUE LA FAYETTE

Daniel's aunt and uncle live in the 9th arrondissement, on Rue La Fayette (which also continues through the 10th district). Rue La Fayette is two miles long and an important axis on Paris' Right Bank.

The 9th district is a lively and diverse residential area, with many boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Historically, the fashionable, the moneyed, and the artistic mingled there.

In the 9th you'll find the Paris Opera and the neighborhood of Pigalle, home of the cabaret Moulin Rouge. The painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec had his studio there, and Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh lived near Place Pigalle.

You'll also find the famous department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette in the 9th.

The Galeries Lafayette are a chain of upscale department stores. The famous flagship store on 40 Boulevard Haussmann had its early beginnings in 1893 with a small fashion shop located at the corner of rue La Fayette and rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin. The shop founders were two cousins from Alsace, Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn.

In the next couple of decades, Bader and Kahn added adjacent buildings, with the goal to transform the whole complex into something of a luxury bazaar.

The architect Ferdinand Chanut “called upon great artists from the École de Nancy to decorate this magnificent building in the style of Paris Art Nouveau. ... The dome, rising to a height of 43 metres, soon became the iconic symbol of Galeries Lafayette. Master glass-maker Jacques Gruber was responsible for designing the Neo-byzantine style stained glass windows.”

The store was inaugurated in 1912. You can read more HERE.

SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is an administrative quarter in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. This quarter has a large number of bookstores and publishing Place Saint-Germain-Des-Préshouses, and several famous cafés including Les Deux Magots (where Daniel has “un verre” with his aunt when he returns to Paris.)

As you can see on the image on the right, the number of the arrondissement is shown on all signs of streets and squares.

In the middle of the Twentieth century, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter was the center of the Paris Existentialist movement (associated especially with the writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir).

The church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Originally a Benedictine Abbey, it was founded in the 6th century AD.

Historically, Saint-Germain-des-Prés square was an important marketplace thanks to its annual fair.

The Foire Saint-Germain, which dates back to 1176, attracted merchants from all over Europe throughout the centuries. It lasted generally three to five weeks around Easter.

Today, there's a covered market on the square.

la place – the square
le marché – the market
la librairie – the bookstore
l'éditeur – the publisher
la maison d'édition – the publishing house
la foire – the fair, trade fair
un verre - the glass
prendre l'apéritif – to have an aperitif (pre-dinner drink)

RUE DE GRENELLE

Hotel Lutetia - ParisDaniel returns to Paris at the end of his trip and stays for a few days with his aunt Juliette, who lives on Rue de Grennelle, in the 6th arrondissement.

On his way to Rue de Grenelle, Daniel passes Hôtel Lutetia, located at 45 Boulevard Raspail (see picture). It was built in 1910 in the Art Nouveau style and was named after the early Roman town Lutetia.

The interiors of the hotel are in the somewhat later Art Deco style. During Nazi occupation of France, the hotel played an important role as a shelter for refugees.

Over the years, the hotel was visited by guests such as Picasso, Charles de Gaulle, James Joyce (who wrote part of his novel Ulysses here), Peggy Guggenheim, and Josefine Baker.

Rue de Grenelle is a funky street lined with stunning 17th and 18th century mansions, charming bars and restaurants, and interesting shops. Somewhat off the tourist route, rue de Grenelle is a great place for a stroll. Nearby, on Boulevard de Grenelle, you'll find one of Paris' best street markets (Wednesdays and Sundays). The Eiffel Tower is just a short walk away.

LE TROCADÉRO and LA TOUR EIFFEL

After dinner, Daniel and his aunt Juliette take an evening stroll to the Trocadero - ParisTrocadéro, a 20-minute walk away, and located in the 16th arrondissement.

A hill and esplanade with a magnificent view over the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, it's the site of Palais Chaillot, built for the 1937 Paris Expo. (For more info click HERE.)

Sloping down towards the Eiffel Tower are the Gardens of the Trocadéro, also built for the 1937 Paris Expo. The gardens are a beautiful open space with a large water basin called the Fountain of Warsaw, and lined with numerous statues and smaller fountains.

The Eiffel Tower (7th arr., on the Champ de Mars) was erected for the 1889 World's Fair on the centennial of the French Revolution.

The tower was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower (and also created, among other monuments, the metal structure of the Statue of Liberty). The Eiffel Tower continues to be the tallest structure in Paris at 324 meters (1,063 ft.). To get to the top, a visitor can take one of the 5 elevators, or walk up 1665 steps.

Every evening since 1985, the Eiffel Tower is lit up, and sparkles for five minutes at the beginning of each hour.

QUARTIER LATIN and DEUX MAGOTS

Les Deux Magots - ParisAfter visiting the Eiffel Tower, Daniel and his aunt Juliette walk over to the Latin Quarter (6th & 7th arr.) known for the Sorbonne and other educational institutions and lively student atmosphere.

Called “Latin” quarter because Latin was the language of learning in the Middle Ages, its winding streets are the home of quirky second-hand bookshops, and hip cafés and bars.

At the café Les Deux Magots, Daniel and his aunt enjoy a glass of wine to finish the evening. Located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, the café was a popular meeting place for intellectuals, writers, and artists.

Besides Beauvoir and Sartre, its patrons have included Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Albert Camus, Bertolt Brecht, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Julia Child, and others.

Since 1933, the Deux Magots literary prize has been awarded every year to a new French novel that is a little off-beat and non-conventional. The writer who received the prize in 2016 was Pierre Adrian for his novel La Piste Pasolini (published by Les Équateurs).

BOAT TOUR ON THE SEINE

Near the end of his visit, Daniel and his aunt take a river cruise on the Seine. It's his chance to see many of Paris' monuments one last time.Gamesforlanguage Facebook page

A boat tour on the Seine during a sunny day with the “Bateaux Parisiens,” “Bateaux Mouches,” or “Vedettes de Pont Neuf” is indeed a great way to enjoy many of the Paris sights. You'll glide under quite a few of the 37 bridges and learn about the Paris history.

(Click on the image of our Facebook page for our French Quick Game: Paris Quiz!)

A boat tour on the Seine also passes by the new buildings of the National Library.

France's national library dates back to the 14th century. First located at the Louvre Palace, the collection of book grew dramatically over the centuries and was moved again and again into more spacious housing.

The latest expansion, which included new construction, was initiated by President François Mitterrand. The 4 angular towers of the Mitterrand Library - which suggest four open books - were built on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 13th district and opened in 1996.

Controversial since its inception, the new facility had its share of design and construction problems as this article Books Under Glass: the Bibliotheque Nationale de France confirms.

A dinner cruise at night may not be the gourmet highlight of a Paris visit, but lets you experience why Paris is “la Ville Lumière.”

Daniel's travels in France take him also to Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. You'll read about these two cities in a future blog post.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

U.S. Presidents and Foreign Languages

Presidential electionFour years ago, we published a post titled Wonks, Foreign Languages and Presidential Politics.

In it we linked the NPR opinion article by Stephen M. Walt, the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In rereading our post and Professor Walt's full article, which had appeared in www.foreignpolicy.com on August 23, 2012 as The Top 10 Things that Would-Be Foreign-Policy Wonks Should study, we realize that Professor Walt was right in labeling “History” as #1.

In Professor Walt's words:

1. History. Trying to understand international affairs without history puzzle pieceknowing history is like trying to cook without knowing the difference between flour and flounder.

Not only does history provide the laboratory in which our basic theories must be tested, it shapes the narratives different peoples tell themselves about how they came to their present circumstances and how they regard their relationship to others.

How could one hope to understand the Middle East without knowing about the Ottoman Empire, the impact of colonialism, the role of Islam, the influence of European anti-Semitism and Zionism, or the part played by the Cold War?

Similarly, how could one grasp the current complexities in Asia without understanding the prior relations between these nations and the different ways that Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese, Pashtuns, Hindus, Muslims, and others understand and explain past events? 

But don’t just memorize a lot of names and dates: Seek out teachers who can help you think about the past in sophisticated ways.

Among other things, it’s useful to know how other societies see the past even if you don’t agree with their interpretation, so make sure you read histories written by citizens of other countries.

And if you’re studying in the United States, don’t just study 'Western Civilization.' The world is a lot bigger than that.

How could one argue with the above advice?

In the 2016 Presidential elections, U.S. voters will also decide whether knowing history and understanding the complexities of the modern world are important. Their choice may well affect many foreign countries and shape our future.

The Language Skills of U.S. Presidents

Wikipedia table: US Presidents' Language skillsIn reviewing this Wikipedia entry (see excerpt of Wiki table, left) and overview of the language skills of the U.S. Presidents, it becomes clear that the early U.S. Presidents from John Adams (#2) to John Quincy Adams (#6) had superior foreign language skills to most of their successors.

The indicated language skills in the Wikipedia table may not all be completely accurate. For example, by his own account, (as he wrote in an April 12, 1817 letter) Thomas Jefferson was able to read “Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, and English of course, with something of it's radix the Anglo-Saxon.”

Although he learned French as a student, he only acquired some fluency after spending time in France.

Thomas Jefferson and Spanish

Jefferson already recognized, however, that speaking Spanish Thomas Jefferson on 2 Dollar billwould be beneficial to U.S. politicians in the future. In 1785 he wrote in a letter to his nephew Peter Carr:

...Our future connection with Spain renders that [Spanish] the most necessary of the modern languages, after the French. When you become a public man, you may have occasion for it, and the circumstance of your possessing that language, may give you a preference over other candidates.”

In this excerpt from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation about Jefferson's French language quotes, you can also read how he changed his mind about his nephew Peter Carr learning Spanish instead of Italian.

1785 August 19. (Jefferson to Walker Maury). “My intention had been that he [Peter Carr] should learn French and Italian, of the modern languages. But the latter must be given up (for the present at least) and Spanish substituted in it’s place.”

Foreign Languages in recent Presidential Campaigns

Franklin Roosevelt stampIt has been 84 years since the U.S. elected a President who spoke another language than English fluently. Franklin Roosevelt was taught French and German from childhood on.

He even went to school briefly in Bad Nauheim, Germany - the town, in which I grew up. See my post: Where “Bad” does not mean bad...

(While Presidents Carter and George W. Bush speak some Spanish, Clinton some German, and Obama some Indonesian, they are certainly not fluent in those languages.)

Some of you may remember that John Kerry downplayed his knowledge of French in 2004.

President Obama got a lot of flak in 2008 when he regretted:

I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing ... It's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup, right?” (CBS News 7/11/2008)

In 2012, a candidate for the Republican nomination, Jon Huntsman, had been U.S. ambassador to China. He was attacked for speaking fluent Mandarin, called “China Jon” and “Manchurian candidate,” implying that voters should be suspicious of him.

And Mitt Romney quickly learned that speaking French was no advantage either.

Foreign Languages in the 2016 Presidential Campaign

Republicans' Candidates

Spanish was the one foreign language that acquired some prominence in the Republican primaries.

There are several YouTube videos ob Jeb Bush doing interviews in Spanish, showing that he is quite fluent in Spanish.

Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio (who grew up bilingual) would have beenCruz -Rubio debate  exchange the first U.S. President with a command of Spanish beyond a high-school level. (Senator Ted Cruz also speaks some Spanish.)

There was a somewhat funny exchange during one of the Republican debates when Marco Rubio stated that Ted Cruz did not speak Spanish, and Cruz challenged him in Spanish.

This February 14, 2016 article in The Washington Post, titled What that Cruz-Rubio ‘He doesn’t speak Spanish’ thing was about, provides an interesting perspective on this event and opens with the following:

There is a dark period in American history. It's one to which some Americans seem eager to return. It's one when people were barred, shamed or even punished for speaking languages other than English. That was especially true outside the home.

Speaking a foreign language or limited English was very widely believed to be an indicator of suspect national loyalty, limited intelligence or ability. Speaking a foreign language simply was not regarded as a useful skill.

The Republican Candidate, Donald Trump, doesn't speak (or read) a foreign language, which makes him somewhat of an exception in his family:

  • His mother, Maryanne, was reportedly from a village on the Isle of Lewis and spoke Scottish Gaelic as her first language.
  • His paternal grandparents were German-born, but it's unclear whether his father actually spoke German.
  • His first wife, Ivana, was Czech; his current wife, Melania is Slovenian and most of his children are multilingual.

Trump's Vice-President choice Mike Pence does not seem to speak another language, either.

Democrats' Candidates

Bernie Sanders does not speak any foreign languages, but he learned enough Spanish to confirm in one of his Spanish campaign ads that he “approves this message.”

A 2008 New York Times article indicates that Hillary Clinton does not speak any foreign languages. (Visiting over 90 countries doesn't do it; and whatever language courses she may have taken at Wellesley apparently had no lasting effect!)

Tim Kaine's Senate speech in SpanishThis leaves Tim Kaine, Clinton's choice for Vice President as the only remaining candidate in 2016 who speaks a second language.

He acquired his fluency in Spanish, while working and teaching in Honduras when he took a year off from his studies.

In 2013 Senator Tim Kaine made history by giving a speech in the Senate (see clip above) in support of immigration reform entirely in Spanish. It was an impressive performance by a politician who did not grow up bilingual, but learned Spanish as a young man.

It's not surprising that Spanish has risen in importance in the U.S.: The U.S. Census estimates the Hispanic population in 2014 as 55 million, or 17% of the nation's total population.

By 2060, the Hispanic population in the U.S. is projected to increase to 119 million or  nearly 29% of the total population. 

Will 2016 be the year when speaking Spanish as well as English will not be seen as a disadvantage for politicians?

The Importance of Foreign Languages

Professor Walt had listed “Foreign Languages” as #3. Here is his reasoning:

If you grew up outside the United States and are headed for college, you probably already speak more than one language.

If you're an American, alas, you probably don't. You should.

I know that everyone is learning English these days, but learning at least one foreign language provides a window into another culture that you can't get any other way, and also provides a sense of mastery and insight that is hard to achieve otherwise.

I'm not particularly good at languages, but I'd gladly trade my mediocre abilities in French and German for real fluency in one of them (or many others). Don't make my mistake: get to the language lab and acquire some real skills.”

I would just add, that if you want to speak fluently, but can't live for a while in the country where your target language is spoken, don't have a partner with whom to practice, or don't have access to a language lab, you have more options today: 

Join one of the local language groups, online language exchanges, immersion sites like fluentu, get a tutor on italki, etc. or practice on other similar online sites.

There is no way around it: To become fluent in a foreign language you have to start SPEAKING it.

Thomas Jefferson would certainly have agreed...

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

German Travel Memories 1 - Michael in Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt a.M.The travel stories, which are the basis of our GamesforLanguage courses, use real street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc., many of which we visited ourselves.

In future blog posts, we'll provide additional details for each of the cities our young travelers visit in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

That we chose Frankfurt for Michael's first stop in Germany was no accident: My husband Peter grew up in Bad Nauheim, a small town 20 miles north of Frankfurt. (Skyline of Frankfurt across the Main River at sunset) 

Ken Burns' PBS documentary reminded us recently that Franklin Roosevelt had attended school in Bad Nauheim for several weeks, while his father sought the water cure for his heart condition. (Read our post: Where “Bad” doesn't mean “bad” - Franklin Roosevelt in Germany...)

Visiting Frankfurt? Here's a short introduction to this lively, cosmopolitan German city. We'll also list a few basic terms in German that will help you in your travels.

We'll follow Michael's discoveries in Frankfurt, for those of you who have done or are doing our German 1 course: Michael in Deutschland.

In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational language. The vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful terms.

Quick Facts about Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main is located on an ancient ford (German: "Furt") on the Main River in the federal state of Hesse.

(There's also a Frankfurt an der Oder, a city that is located on the Oder River in the state of Brandenburg, at the Polish border.)

Frankfurt am Main is the 5th largest city in Germany. Its metropolitan area has a population of over 5 million. The city is an important financial center. Its stock exchange (Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse, FWB) ranks among the top 10 stock exchanges of the world. (Frankfurt with the twin towers of the "Deutsche Bank" below)

Frankfurt is also known for its trade fairs, which go back in history to the Middle Ages. The city hosts the world's largest book fair, which takes place annually in October. The first Frankfurt Book Fair was held in 1485. (For further reading)

der Fluss - the riverFrankfurt a.M. - Deutsch Bank Towers

das Bundesland - the federal state

die Grenze - the border

die Stadt - the city

der Großraum - the metropolitan area

die Bevölkerung - the population

das Finanzzentrum - the financial center

die Börse - the stock exchange

die Buchmesse - the book fair

Frankfurt Airport 

Michael is a young student who learned some German at home and later studied it in school. However, this will be his first visit to Germany.

On his flight to Frankfurt, Michael chats in German with the flight attendant and with the woman who sits next to him.

Frankfurt airport is the 4th busiest airport in Europe, after London, Paris, and Istanbul. With its 297 destinations in 104 countries (as of 2015), Frankfurt's airport may have the most international destinations in the world. (Further information)

As Michael goes through passport control, he continues to use his German. Responding to the standard immigration/passport control questions, he has to explain why he is traveling to Germany and how long he will stay. 

der Flug - the flightGerman passport control

der/die Flugbegleiter(in) - the flight attendant m/f

der Flughafen - the airport

die Passkontrolle - the Passport Control (did you notice the "Paßkontrolle" spelling on the picture? If you don't know, which one is correct or why, write as at contact, and we'll explain.)

Sind Sie geschäftlich hier? - Are you here on business?

Wie lange bleiben Sie? - How long are you staying?

Eine gute Zeit! - Have a good time!

Districts of Frankfurt

Frankfurt is divided into 46 districts. The financial center spreads across several districts in and near the inner city.

A little farther out, you'll find a number of residential areas that are still well-connected by subway and tram to the city center and its core, the historical quarter.

Leipziger Straße, where Michael's aunt and uncle live, is a charming street with bistros, shops, and apartments in the residential district called Bockenheim.

Not far from Leipziger Straße is one of the four campuses of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität with its lively student quarter.

(Aerial view of Frankfurt-Bockenheim below, right)

der Stadtteil - the (city) districtFrankfurt Bockenheim

die Innenstadt - the inner city

die Wohngegend - the residential area

die U-Bahn - the subway

das Universitätsgelände (der Campus) - the campus

das Studentenviertel - the student quarter

die Kneipe - the pub

das Geschäft - the shop

Der Römerberg

Michael's cousin Julia shows him around Frankfurt's historic quarter ("Altstadt").

Römerberg market place - Frankfurt a.M.They walk across the central market square, which is called "Römerberg," (see picture left with Justizia statue) literally translated as "Roman mountain." Curiously enough, the name may have nothing to do with early Roman settlement, which can be documented for the time between 75 and 260 A.D. (or if you prefer, C.E.)

Rather, there are various speculations about the origin of the name "Römerberg." One idea is that the name comes from the presence of Italian merchants that frequented the popular meeting place for fairs and markets during the Middle Ages.

Another is that the square was considered a focal point for celebrations during the Holy Roman Empire (a multi-ethnic empire, which lasted from the early Middle Ages to the early 19th century and included, among others, the Kingdoms of Germany, Bavaria, Burgundy, and Italy.) For more information click here.

Frankfurt was heavily bombed during World War II (1939-1945) and its historic city center was reduced to rubble. Most of Frankfurt was rapidly built up again, but without much attention paid to architectural style.

However, city planning took hold in the 60s and 70s and in the 1980s, some of the buildings in the historic city center were rebuilt in the old style. In 2010/11 a new effort was started, called the "Dom-Römer Projekt," to reconstruct another 35 buildings using old historical plans.

Reconstruction has included the timber-framed houses on the Römerberg, as well as the city hall, called "der Römer." The step-gabled house became Frankfurt's city hall in the 15th century and has been the seat of city government ever since.

(See picture below right of Frankfurt old town.)

der Berg - the mountain Frankfurt old town

die Römer - the Romans

der Römer - Frankfurt's city hall

das Rathaus - the city hall

das Mittelalter - the Middle Ages

die Altstadt - the history quarter

der Marktplatz - the market place

das Gebäude - the building

das Fachwerkhaus - the timber-framed house

der Weltkrieg - the world war

Die Zeil

During their walk through the historic center, his cousin Julia asks Michael if he wants to go to the Zeil with her to do some shopping. It's about a 10 minute walk from the Römerberg to get there.

Die Zeil is a well-known, busy shopping street in the center (Innenstadt) of Frankfurt. Its name dates back to the 14th century, when it referred to a specific row of houses. Over the centuries, the street was extented and became a boulevard of palaces, grand buildings in various architectural styles, fine restaurants, and numerous department stores. Many of these were not rebuilt after the second World War.

From 2004 to 2009, the Zeil underwent major renovations, and the Myzeil shopping arcade with its gigantic glass façade was added. It has eight floors and its architecture is stunning.

(See picture of MyZeil shopping arcade below, right)

die Zeile - the rowMyZeil - Frankfurt a.M.

die Einkaufsstraße - the shopping street

der Reiseführer - the travel guide

die Renovierung - the renovation

das Kaufhaus - the department store

die Architektur - the architecture

Das Frankfurter Goethe-Haus

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Germany's most famous writer, was born and grew up in Frankfurt am Main, then still an Imperial Free City of the Holy Roman Empire.

Goethe got his education from private tutors, with a special focus on languages (Latin, Greek, French, Italian, English, and Hebrew). He loved drawing, and read as much as he could of literature, history, and religion, in books that were in his father's library.

In 1765, at the age of 16, he (reluctantly) began his law studies, at the universities of Leipzig and Straßburg, finishing his law degree in Frankfurt in 1771. During his time as a student, he became close friends with other writers, fell in and out of love, and started writing passionate poetry himself. In 1772, he gave up his law career and left Frankfurt.

Goethe is probably best known for two works. One is his loosely autobiographical Sturm and Drang novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" (1774), which he wrote in the course of six weeks. Upon publication, the novel instantly made him world famous. People started dressing and acting like the young Werther. Unfortunately, it also led to some copycat suicides.

Goethe's other well-known work is the drama "Faust I" (published in 1806). This was a reworking of the old Faust legend - a scholar's pact with the devil - that had been popularized by Marlowe in his "Tragical History of Doctor Faustus" (1604).

The Goethe-Haus (see picture below, right) documents the writer's formative years in Frankfurt. (For further reading about Goethe, click on this Wiki entry

der Dichter - the poet, writerGoethe Haus - Frankfurt a. M.

die Kaiserstadt - the Imperial City

die Bildung/Ausbildung - the education

die Sprache - the language

die Bibliothek - the library

das Jurastudium - the law studies

das Gedicht - the poem

Sturm und Drang - Storm and Stress (early Romanticism)

Die Leiden des jungen Werther - The Sorrows of Young Werther

Michael spends a few more days in Frankfurt. Among the other sites he visits, these may also interest you:

Other Places to visit in Frankfurt

The Archäologische Garten: an archeological museum that includes remnants of ancient Roman settlement.

Frankfurt Cathedral: the city's main cathedral, constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries. Roman-German emperors were crowned here during the time of the Holy Roman Empire.

Haus Wertheim: a timber-framed house on the Römerberg that was undamaged during World War II.

The Alte Oper: the former opera house, built in 1880.

Michael's Next Stop

Heidelberg - GermanyFrom Frankfurt, Michael takes the train to Heidelberg. There he gets together with a friend he had met in Boston.

Register or log in again and continue with the German 1 course. When you reach the Heidelberg Scene you'll also learn the English translation of the town's name.

In Why did Mark Twain like Heidelberg? we further speculate about why Twain stayed in Heidelberg for three months in 1878.

Twain had a love-hate relationship with the German language and his The Awful German Language - an Appendix to his 1880 book, A Tramp Abroad, is a fun read for anyone learning German.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Peter & Ulrike Rettig

The Languages of Curious George – and Documentary

Margaret and Hans ReyWe recently joined the Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about the lives of the Curious George creators, Hans and Margret Rey.

Before settling in the US they had traveled to and lived in several different countries. 

The Rey's Curious George books have been translated into many languages after they were first published in the US in 1941. Curious George, the little mischievous monkey they created, had different names in other languages, but the images stayed the same.

Curious George's Other Names

Readers of this post may know Curious George by his other names, to just name a few:

French: “George le singe”

German: “Coco”

Italian: “Curioso come George”

Spanish: “Jorge, el Curioso”

Portuguese; “George, o Curioso”

Dutch: Nieuwsgierig Aapje

Danish: Peter Pedal

Swedish: Nicke Nyfiken

Finnish: Utelias Vili

Hungarian: Bajkeverö majom

I remember reading “George le singe” to my niece in Switzerland while learning French at the same time.

Margret and Hans Rey's Story

This Wikipedia excerpt summarizes the Rey's storyThe Journey that saved Curious George - Amazon

Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in Hamburg, Germany, as was his wife Margret. Hans' and Margret's fathers were German Jews; Margret's mother was not. The couple first met in Hamburg at Margret's sister's 16th birthday party.

They met again in Brazil, where Hans was working as a salesman of bathtubs and Margret had gone to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. They married in 1935 and moved to Paris in August of that year.[3]

They lived in Montmartre and fled Paris in June 1940 on self-made bicycles, carrying the Curious George manuscript with them.[4][5]

If you'd like to learn more about the Rey's wartime escape from Paris, the book by Louise Borden and Allan Drummond, The Journey that saved Curious George, tells the full story (see picture right) 

Our Connection to Curious George

When our children grew up, we read to them from several of the The Rey Center - Waterville Calley, NHCurious George books. They also watched some of the early animated Curious George films on TV.

We've now enjoyed for many years the programs organized by The Margaret and H.A. Rey Center at the Curious George Cottage, in Waterville Valley, NH. It's the place where we spend our summers hiking, swimming, playing tennis. During the winter months, we often come up to ski.

Just last week, we listened to the Center's 2016 Artist-in-Residence, Nicky Philips, as she explained her project for a musical about the Rey's lives.

While we never met Margret and Hans in Waterville Valley (Hans died in 1977 and Margret in 1996), we know many who did.

And when we received the kickstarter invitation from Ema Ryan Yamazaki, we did not hesitate.

The Documentary Project

The Curious George Documentary projectHere is Ema's description of her project as posted on the Center's website: (see also the link with video below)

Some of you may know that I’ve been making a documentary about the creators of Curious George, Hans and Margret Rey. Using animation, archival materials, and interviews, the documentary explores the extraordinary lives of the Reys, who fled the Nazis on bicycles with the first Curious George book in their possession.

The documentary also features Waterville Valley, a place the Reys made their summer home, as we learn about the Reys from Waterville residents who knew them, and their experience of watching the Reys create the Curious George books.

In making this documentary, I’ve made three trips to Waterville Valley, including a week of filming last summer as I interviewed those who knew the Reys, as well as the beautiful landscape of the valley. Out of all the places the Reys lived in, from Hamburg to Rio, to Paris, to New York, Waterville Valley is the only place I still very much felt their presence. I can understand why the Reys picked Waterville as a place to call home – it’s special, and I believe that comes through in the documentary I am making.

From Tuesday, July 26, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete the documentary. Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform where projects can connect with “backers” who support projects in return for rewards. We have 30 days to raise $175,000 – it’s an all-or-nothing deal, meaning if we don’t make our goal, we don’t receive any of the funds. So we need your help!

Join us on our journey in completing this documentary. Who the Reys were is why we have George today – and I’m determined to share their story. Check out our Kickstarter campaign, pick your reward (we have quite an array of offerings, from limited editing Curious George mugs to signed movie posters!), and help us spread the word through emails and social media. We are so close in making this film a reality, and are now turning to you to make that possible.

Kickstarter Link: biy.ly/CuriousGeorgeDoc

Ema Ryan Yamazaki Director/Producer/Editor

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/curiousgeorgedocumentary/

Twitter: twitter.com/CuriousGDoc

Instagram: instagram.com/curiousgeorgedoc/

The Rey's Languages

At last week's talk at the Rey Center, we learned from Nicky Philips that she had visited the Grummond Children's Literary Collection in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This Center had received the Rey's entire literary estate when Margret died in 1996.

As Nicky was researching details about Margret's and Hans' lives, she came across many letters they wrote to each other.

Both spoke German as their native language. Hans had worked in Buenos Aires as a salesman of bathtubs (and where he married Margaret) and spoke Portuguese. They both lived in Paris from 1935 to 1940 and were quite fluent in French.

Interestingly, Nicky found, when looking through the many boxes at the Grummond Center, that all of Margret's and Hans' correspondence with each other was in English.

Those who knew them in Waterville Valley don't recall ever hearing them talk to each other in German either. Maybe they abandoned their native language after having to flee their home country and then their second home in Paris from the Nazis as well? 

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

 

Posted on by Nina L. Ivanichvili

How Fluency in Foreign Languages and Cultures Enriches Your Life and Worldview

World - Gamesforlanguage.com"A different language is a different vision of life," said Federico Fellini. As our world becomes smaller and flatter and more people get exposed to foreign languages, the wisdom of this observation begins to sink in.

As you become more fluent in a foreign language you will learn to avoid the common misconception about translators and interpreters. Many U.S. companies often assume that any individual who speaks a foreign language is automatically a translator. But just because you grew up speaking Portuguese doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a good translator.

Translators vs Interpreters

There are two categories of foreign language experts. The interpreter’s job is to translate orally from one language to another everything that is said, preserving the tone and style of the original speech. Translators deal with written documents, taking into account various language and terminology issues and the context.

In other words, translators translate documents, and interpreters interpret speech.

There exist some language professionals who are great at both translating the written word and interpreting the spoken word. But more often than not, they are an exception, not a rule.

What Translators Do

Translator woman - Gamesforlanguage.comLanguage translation is a very specialized field. In addition to
being linguists, some translators are professionally qualified in specific technical disciplines, such as aerospace, biochemistry, hardware and software, electrical engineering, finance, law, mechanical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.

Some only translate patents and others concentrate only on translation of technical manuals, or only on translation of legal contracts. Most of the professional translators work only in a single language pair and in one direction (e.g., English to Chinese).

Because professional translation requires training and expertise, it has a high cost for failure. An article in the National Law Journal relates an instance where a large Italian bank was being sued as a loan guarantor. When the loan document was translated literally from Italian, it stated that the bank guaranteed the loan. However, the word "guarantee" has different meanings in Italian than it does in English, and a literal translation did not accurately convey the document's meaning. The court dismissed the case, deciding that an Italian "guarantee" was different than an English "guarantee" - and the bank was not responsible for the loan.

As you find out more about professional translators and interpreters, you will learn that it is a good sign if the translation company, whose services your company uses, provides professionally executed legal, corporate and technical translations and utilizes translators, who are certified by the American Translators Association and who translate only into their native language.

Where Interpreters Work

Interpreter with client - Gamesforlanguage.comThere are two types of foreign language interpreters: simultaneous and consecutive. Simultaneous interpreters facilitate conferences with a large number of attendees.
For small meetings, tradeshows, depositions and social events, companies need to hire consecutive interpreters.

As you begin to experience in a different culture, you will learn how easy it is to create a misunderstanding by viewing people from other cultures, as if they are similar to us.

Imagine that your company sends you to Japan for a technical meeting. The Japanese company’s representative comes to your hotel room and inquires if you have had your lunch. You tell him that you want to try some sushi. You feel great when he invites you to a restaurant, where a gracious waiter encourages you to try various kinds of sushi. A while later, you begin to feel ill at ease, when you realize that your host has just paid about $400.00 for your lunch.

Language and Culture

Incorrect assumptions about cultural similarities may cause us to misjudge people and situations. In our culture, smiles, for example, are associated with pleasant emotions and project friendliness. Some Asian cultures, on the other hand, use a smile as a mask when dealing with unpleasant situations.

As you continue to enhance your knowledge of a foreign language, your competence in the culture of the country whose language you are studying will also increase. And little by little you will be able to see and interpret any situation from two different viewpoints. And you will then understand what Federico Fellini meant when he said that a different language is a different vision of life.

Enjoy the beautiful journey as your growing fluency in another language and in another culture will continue to enrich your life and your worldview.

Bio: Nina L. Ivanichvili is CEO of All Language Alliance, Inc., a legal translation and interpreting company providing multilingual legal translations, certified translation services and deposition interpreting services in more than 100 foreign languages. You can contact her at 303-470-9555, at www.languagealliance.com, and follow her legal translation blog Translation for Lawyers.


Posted on by Peter Rettig

Bilingualism: 5 Things Adults Should Know

Polyglot - Gamesforlanguage.comAt the Polyglot Conference in New York City last October, not surprisingly, we met quite a few people who spoke more than one language. At lunch with a group of polyglots, the conversations flowed freely from English to French, German, Italian, and Spanish – and these were just the languages we speak or understand and could therefore somewhat judge the speakers' fluency in conversations.

A recent trip to Fribourg, Switzerland not only let us enjoy Swiss food specialties, but also had us marvel again at the ease with which many of those we met, seemed to move effortlessly between Swiss German, High German, and French.

In 2010, François Grosjean, Professor Emeritus of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, published a book "Bilingual: Life and Realitywith Harvard University Press. His website (both in French and English) has many interesting posts and links to related publications.

I especially found this article fascinating: Myths about Bilingualism, which appeared in Psychology Today in 2010, and Grosjean's Myth summary on his website, from which the first 5 points below are taken.

Of the many notions of bilingualism, these my six favorite ones:

1. Bilingualism is not rare.Rare - Gamesforlanguage.com

According to estimates Grosjean cites, more than half of the world's population speaks more than one language or dialect. While this may seem surprising, one should note that there are no official estimates due to the great variability and quality of data in many countries.

Also, such bilingual estimates include “dialects,” which increases the count of bilinguals substantially. Of course the distinction between a dialect and a language is not always clear either.

On the one hand, an American with a strong Texas drawl or a distinct Bostonian accent, even if he or she can also speak with a midwestern TV voice, is certainly not bilingual.

On the other hand, a Swiss German who has to learn standardized High German in kindergarten and school, may well be called bilingual.

Michael Erard, in a 2012 post Are We Really Monolingual? discusses the difficulty of having reliable data to answer such a question, but he also concludes: “Multilinguals may outnumber monolinguals, but it is not clear by how much.”

2. You CAN become bilingual as an adult.

We marvel about bilingual children and assume that you can only become bilingual if you learn a second (or third) language as a child. Clearly not so.

There are many adults who become bilingual as they move from one country to another. Henry Kissinger was 16 when he moved to the US, I was 26. My father-in-law was 47 when he immigrated to Canada.

Famous writers from Joseph Conrad (Russian-Polish) to Vladimir Nabokov (Russian) became known for their English prose, and there are many examples of writers who became successful even when writing in a language that was not their native one.

It is also true, however, that - unless you live in the country or in an environment where your target language is spoken - it will be quite difficult to become bilingual without intensive study and many conversations.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 3. You can be bilingual and still speak with an accent.

Henry Kissinger, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arianna Huffington all have retained a strong foreign accent when speaking English - to just name a few. But remember: They are certainly bilingual, but cannot (or don't want to) hide their accent.

Research shows that our ability to hear and produce sounds of another language declines in childhood. (See also: Beyond "Learning a Language like a Child".)  By the time we reach adolescence it becomes more and more difficult, although not impossible to acquire the particular accent of a new dialect or language.

(As for me, I took several “accent-reduction” lessons some years ago, as I wanted to get rid of my German “w,” a sure giveaway of many English-speaking Germans.)

4. A bilingual may know certain vocabulary groups better in one than in the other language.

I went to school in Germany before the advent of personal computers and the internet. When having conversations in German about such topics, I have some difficulty finding the German vocabulary. For one, German uses many English terms (e.g. einloggen = to log in); and secondly, certain German terms did not exist when I went to school (e.g. Festplatte = hard disk).

Similarly, when I later started to work in healthcare facility planning in the US, I did not know the German or French terminology of this field and could not explain it well to my relatives in Germany and Switzerland.

Furthermore, bilinguals may be able to understand, read, and speak two languages equally well, but often will be better in spelling one than the other.

5. Bilinguals are not “born” translators.Translator job - Gamesforlanguage.com

This fact is both related to #4 above – specialized domains use special vocabulary and expressions – and, as Grosjean writes “bilinguals use their languages in different situations, with different people, in different domains of life (this is called the complementarity principle).

Unless they learned their languages formally (in school for example), or have trained to be translators, they often do not have the translation equivalents in the other language.”

I know: My first work assignments in the US involved English to German translations of technical texts. I had no difficulties understanding the English terms, but finding the correct German translation without a good technical dictionary was often impossible.

6. Bilinguals need language practice and updates as well.

Language skills can increase or wither depending on how much you practice them. In this sense they are similar to many of our sport and physical activities: If you don't use them you lose them. Maybe even more so, as languages constantly adapt and change.

The German language underwent a major spelling reform in the early 90ties that I had to read up on while already living in the US.

The French-speaking world is currently in an uproar about over 2000 spelling changes, including “the end of the circumflex,” as proposed by the Académie Française. Although the changes are currently proposed as “options,” it will be interesting to see when or if they will take hold.

When the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) deleted two letters of the Spanish alphabet (“ch” and “ll”), together with a few accents and hyphens in 2010, there was an uproar on both the European and the Americas side of the Atlantic.

Among the four languages we cover, only Italy seems to have escaped any “official” language or spelling changes lately.

Being able to communicate in more than one language is for many a daily necessity and for others just a thrill and satisfying achievement.

It's not the purpose of this post to list the benefits of knowing more than one language, but rather to add to Francois Grosjean's “Myths of Bilingualism” a few more personal observations: Bilingualism comes in many variations and language/dialect combinations. 

Even as an adult, the choices for becoming bilingual are often made for you by external circumstances. But you can also embrace the opportunities you encounter, and most importantly: STAY bilingual by continuing to speak and practice. 

Postsscript: On March 12, 2016 The New York Times Sunday Review published this article by Katherine Kinzler: The Superior Skills of Bilinguals

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He is a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. You can follow him and his wife Ulrike on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

6 Swiss Specialties and Language Tidbits

Matterhorn - Gamesforlanguage.comWhen you think of Switzerland, what comes to mind? Probably, stunning mountains (such as the Matterhorn, left) and quaint villages. But surely you'll also imagine chocolate and fondue, and maybe Rösti and Geschnetzeltes.

Our recent visit gave us reason to look into the history of some of the Swiss specialties and – being language lovers – their language roots.

Swiss Chocolate

Chocolate came to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, first and foremost as a drink made from the cocoa bean. Linguists believe that the word "chocolate" originates from the Classical Nahuatl word xocolatl, and via Spanish, entered the English language. By the 17th century, chocolate was produced in Switzerland.

In the 1870s two Swiss "inventions" hugely increasedSwiss chocolate the popularity of chocolate. For one, the creation of milk chocolate (by the chocolatier Daniel Peter), improved the taste and appeal of chocolate.

For another, the invention of the conching machine (by the chocolate manufacturer Rodolphe Lindt), allowed chocolate to be processed into smooth, solid bars. Now chocolate became much more than just a drink.

Another interesting, but not surprising fact: More than half (54%) of the chocolate produced by Swiss chocolate Roger Federermanufacturers is consumed by the Swiss themselves.

(Being a great fan of Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, we loved his Lindt chocolate commercial, see clip.)

Rösti

Rösti (pronounced: rh-EUsch-ti, with a long, stressed "ööö" sound), is a flat round "pancake" made of coarsely grated raw potatoes, finely chopped onions and bacon pieces, fried in a pan. If you think of a variation of "hash browns" - you're on the right track.

It can be a main dish served with other vegetables, fried eggs, Rösti - Gamesforlanguage.comsausages, etc., or as a side dish with pork, beef, or veal such as “Geschnetzeltes” (see below).

The restaurant version often uses (partially) boiled potatoes for faster results and Rösti are best prepared in a heavy iron pan.

The German word "rösten" is related to English and means "to roast, grill." A synonym for the Swiss German word "Rösti" would be "gebratene Kartoffeln" or "Bratkartoffeln" (fried potatoes).

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, in French: émincé de veau zurichoise, is a dish of thinly sliced veal stewed in a mushroom demi-glace (a rich brown sauce). Not an old recipe - Zürcher Geschnetzeltes was first Zürcher Geschnetzeltesmentioned in a cookbook in 1947 - it has become a favorite for many (including us).

As you may have guessed, the word "Geschnetzeltes" (meat thinly sliced), is related to "Schnitzel" (cutlet, escalope), and both belong to the word family that includes "Papierschnitzel" (scrap of paper), "schnitzen" (to carve), "Schnitzer" (a carver), etc. By the way, "ein Schnitzer" also has the figurative meaning of "a blunder, boob, terrible faux pas."

You can find a recipe of "Züri Geschnätzlets" on Betty Bossi's website by clicking on the image above.

Riz Casimir

Another Swiss variation of "Geschnetzeltes" is "Riz Casimir." It combines the thinly sliced veal with banana and pineapple pieces in a spicy curry sauce served over Reis.Riz Casimir

The Swiss Radio and TV (SRF)  reports that Mövenpick Founder Ueli Prager first added the dish to the chain's menu in 1952. It soon became "ein Klassiker" on Swiss tables. (However, as the Wiki entry acknowledges, the recipe is quite likely based on Indian recipes of Kashmir dishes.)

You can get the original Mövenpick recipe by clicking on the SRF link above and then on "Rezept: Riz Casimir," or Betty Bossi's recipe by clicking on its image (right).

La Fondue (au fromage)

Probably the best-known dish of Switzerland is "fondue." The word is French and comes from the verb "fondre" meaning "to melt." Used as a noun, "fondue" is the feminine form of the past participle "fondu." (larousse.fr)

Fondue has a lengthy history in Switzerland. The recipe "Käss mit Wein zu kochen" (cheese cooked with wine) was first mentioned in a Zurich manuscript in 1699.

Cheese Fondue"La fondue" showed up in 18th century culinary literature as "oeufs brouillés au fromage fondu," scrambled eggs with melted cheese (as noted in the dictionary, Le petit Robert). The dish was particularly popular in the western French-speaking cantons, and there mostly among city dwellers who could afford the rich cheese.

Fondue, as we know it, dates back to around the middle of the 19th century and by 1875, it was named as a Swiss national dish. In the 1930s, the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) used the idea of a national dish for its own marketing purposes. That kind of promotion was continued after WWII.

Fondue was popularized in the US in the 1960s, helped by being showcased in the Swiss Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

The traditional fondue is served in a fondue pot (un caquelon), which is kept warm over a chafing dish (un réchaud). To make the fondue smooth, you add cornstarch to the cheese mixture as it heats. Each one of you gets a long thin fork for spearing chunks of bread (or sometimes potatoes), which you then dip into the cheese. Eating fondue is definitely a social event that also includes plenty of white vine.

Various traditions are observed: for example, if you drop your bread into the pot, you pay a round of wine, or a pot of hot tea.

Cheese Fondue Variations

Many of the Swiss cantons have their own version of fondue, using different combinations of cheeses. For those who want to try, this Epicurious post will give you the recipe for making a perfect traditional Swiss Fondue. Being frequent travelers to Fribourg, the two fondues we know best are the Fondue Fribourgeoise, and the Fondue Moitié-Moitié.

Fondue FribourgeoiseVacherin Fribourgoise

Fondue Fribourgeoise is prepared with 100% local Vacherin cheese. Vacherin from Fribourg is a medium firm cheese made from cow's milk (as the name implies). The cheese is melted in a few tablespoons of water over low heat. To our knowledge, this is the only cheese fondue that does not use wine. Often you dip pieces of potato instead of bread.

Fondue Moitié-Moitié

Gruyère cheeseMoitié-moitié (or half-half), as its name states, uses Gruyère and Vacherin cheese in equal parts. This fondue is made with white wine, (dry and high in acid) and for flavor a shot of kirsch is often added to the mixture. You eat it by dipping chunks of bread.

We are particularly fond of the town of Gruyère, which gave the cheese its name: Gruyère is also located in the canton of Fribourg and Peter and I were married there in a small chapel just below the fortified town. Gruyère

Both the little town and the castle are well worth a visit. The castle is one of the most famous in Switzerland and a heritage site of national significance.

Overlooking the valley from the castle you are transported back to medieval times. One can well imagine how the Counts of Gruyère would have enjoyed looking over the valley (see picture) and their dominion from their high perch.

La Raclette

Our foray into the world of melted (Swiss) cheese would not be complete without mentioning the "Raclette." The name is derived from the French "racler," meaning "to grate or scrape" and that clearly describes the method in which it is served: The melted cheese is scraped off the roasted/heated end of a large piece, most commonly half a wheel of cheese (as in this picture).

Raclette TraditionalThe Raclette Suisse site traces Raclette's origins to the 13th century. In the German-speaking cantons, convent writings mention "Bratchäs" (roasted cheese - note Swiss spelling of "Käse") already in 1291 as a nutritious food for mountain cow herders. 

Raclette cheese is made of raw milk and many variations exist. Only the "Raclette du Valais" is a protected brand under Swiss law. 

The traditional method melts the half-wheel of cheese, either right at an open fire place, or in restaurants, with an electric heater. The Raclette cook/server scrapes the melted cheese off unto each customer's plate. (see photo, courtesy of: Grcampbell-Wikipedia Commons)

The modern, self-serve version uses small pans in which to heat Raclette cheese pieces modern Raclette - Gamesforlanguage.comright at the table with a special gadget (as in this picture). In either case, "Gschwellti" - Swiss German for potatoes boiled in their skin -  are served with gherkins, pickled onions, and often preceded or accompanied by dried meat, such as "Bündnerfleisch" or "viande des Grisons" or "jambon cru."

A Raclette evening, during which the meal is served the traditional way to a large table, is a social event that can last for hours. As with cheese fondue, locals will warn you not to drink cold water. It doesn't mix well with the hot cheese. However, hot tea, a "Kirsch," "Poire," or "Framboise" come highly recommended.

Raclette and Fondue (whether the cheese or meat variety) always make for a lively, social dining experience. Even after the taste and smells of melted cheese have faded in your memory, you'll certainly remember the fun you had with your family and friends sharing such a meal in a warm an cozy mountain hut after a hard day of skiing, snowboarding, or hiking.

 Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are the founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are life-long language learners. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Posted on by Gabriele Monti

Five Italian Expressions That Will Puzzle You

Friends in a Coffee house - Gamesforlanguage.comIf you're learning Italian, you surely know that what you read in books is not enough. There are lots of expressions that you won't find in a dictionary, but that you'll learn on the street or hanging out with local people. Understanding and using these expression in your conversations means that you're actually improving. Moreover, your way of speaking will turn out to be really funny!

Here's a short list of strange expressions that Italians use, compiled for you by The Language Class.

Che FigataLeonardo di Caprio

"Che figata!" [keh fee-GAH-tah] is a very common expression. It was at first used by younger people, but today everyone says it. We can translate it with the English "What a cool thing!", but unfortunately it cannot be directly translated.

Therefore, you can use it in many different situations, as it expresses both amazement and admiration: If for example, you're amazed should someone tell you: "I've met Leonardo di Caprio in person!" or admire your best friend, if she tells you: "I've learnt to make tiramisu!" You could answer in both cases: "Che figata!"

Dai

"Dai!" [dahyee] is a commonly used expression as well. The pronunciation is actually similar to the English verb "die", but the meaning is absolutely far from that!

If we want to give it an English translation, we can simply choose "Come on!" and we can insert it, as Italians do, in almost each of our sentences! For example, if you suggest to a friend "Let's go to the beach!" and he or she answers "No, I really don't want to", your response will inevitably be "Dai!!!" Or you would use it even to encourage someone to do something that he or she does not want to do at all: "Another beer, dai!"

Don't forget that the expression can also be used as a way to stop someone from doing something! If your friend does not stop stealing your dessert, you just have to say a curt "Dai!"

Angry wolfIn Bocca al Lupo

"In bocca al lupo!" is an expression that demonstrates that the Italian language is very... creative! It literally means "into the mouth of the wolf" and is used to wish someone good luck by inviting him to be eaten by a wolf. (The English expression "Break a leg" has a similar meaning!)

The answer to this expression is "Crepi il lupo" and we must admit that at least this seems a bit more logical, as it means "The wolf shall die". When someone wishes you "In Bocca al Lupo!" you certainly don't answer with "Grazie", as this implies bad luck. You don't want to be thankful for being eaten by the wolf. 

Magari

"Magari!" [mah-GAHR-ee!] is the Italian corresponding to the English "I really wish!" or "Let's hope so". It is clear that we use this expression when we really wish something from the bottom of our heart - but not only.

In fact, in many cases we would use it with an ironic connotation. If your friend asks you "Would you ever marry an American billionaire?" you'd say "Magari!" meaning that of course you would, even if, in all likelihood, it will not happen!Gratitude

Meno Male

"Meno male!" [MEH-noh MAH-leh] literally means "less bad", but it is not used with this meaning. On the contrary, we can translate it with "Thank God!" and we use it when we actually feel blessed!

Did I really pass the test? "Meno male!" And, don't forget that you can also say "Grazie a dio!" which has the same meaning.

Mini Bio: Gabriele Monti studied Modern Languages at South Bank university in London, and he has been teaching languages ever since in many countries including Japan, Great Britain and France. Currently he loves to write about learning languages and travel.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage.com has no business relationship with The Language Class and Gabriele Monti other than publishing Gabriele's post. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for further details.

 

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