Fun to learn Chinese, Chinese sayings and idioms

One of the most fascinating aspects to study abroad in China is to explore the mystery of Chinese cultures alone with your Chinese learning. Sometime it could be different to say learn Mandarin and study Chinese. While the former is more referred to the language, the later can sometime also relate to Chinese cultural understanding. For language like Chinese, you can be sure how much the language and its cultural background are intermingled. With more than 5,000 years of uninterrupted civilization, the language has been evolving alone the history.
When you come to the learning phrases, sayings and idioms, it is always interesting. There are many proverbs, Chuyus, or Chinese idioms; you can understand them only in their historical context. So what you learn is not only the language itself, you are engaged into the culture that the language resides as well. The Chinese culture understanding hence will be the context for Chinese learning. The deeper you could grasp the culture, the easier your Chinese study could be.

As we know from our own mother tongue, for many cases, behind words, phrases, idioms, and sayings, there are stories and histories. Some of them are universal, which means you can understand them easily as the ideas are shared by many culture, like the saying “kill two birds with one stone” is understood in both English and Chinese. While others are more exclusive to particular cultures, as the Achilles’ heel means one’s weakness in English does not have any equivalent in Chinese.

To make Chinese learning more interesting and keep you inspired to learn Mandarin. Now let’s take some more examples and say how similar or different some of these Chinese and English sayings are.

Almost identical

Some sayings in Chinese can literally translated to English and the meanings do not change. For example, 火上浇油, Huo3 Shang4 Jiao1 You2 is exactly the same expression “add the fuel to the flame” in English; 隔墙有耳, or Ge2 Qiang2 You3 Er3, can be almost translated word by word to “Walls have ears”; while in Chinese to say 百闻不如一见, Bai3 Wen2 bu4 Ru2 Yi2 Jian4, literally translate as hundreds hearings is not good as one seeing is what to say ”seeing is believing”.

Similar in idea but you need cultural and historical understanding
There are sayings and idioms in Chinese and English express the same idea but you need certain background to appreciate them. “to teach fish how to swim” has its Chinese equivalent idiom班门弄斧, Ban1 Meng2 Nong4 Fu3, meaning showing off how to use axe in carpentry in front of the master Luban, the legendary ancestor of Chinese carpentry. There is the similar idea of forcing people to make their mind by eliminate any possible ways to retreat in both Chinese and English context but with slight different narration. “burn one’s boats” in English, saying that in order to let his soldiers to fight decisively, Julius Caesar burned all the boats in case they thought they can flee by water. Similarly in China, the idiom is 破釜沉舟, Po4Fu2Chen2Zhou1, it was a historical account that the household warlord named Xiang YU, after led his army crossing the river for a tough fight, he commanded all boats to be sunk and all cooking tools to be broken so that his army would not have any other thoughts but fought for the victory.

Exclusive to Chinese context

Sometime for your Chinese learning, you just could not get your heart around some words, phrases and sayings if you don’t know the cultural background. The Chinese idiom东施效颦Dong1 Shi1 Xiao4 Pin2 is to describe a blind imitation with awkward effects. Actually it was parable told by Chuangtzu, one of Chinese most famous Taoist philosophers. There was a beautiful lady whose name was Xishi, she was so charming that ever when she was sick, people appreciate her elegance. There was a day, she got heartache, she was so painful that she clutched her chest and was heavily frowned when walking in the village. Despite this people still praised her and had pity on her. While there was this average-looking young girl, whose name was Dongshi. (“Xi” refers to the direction of the west while “Dong” refers to the opposite direction of the east) She admired Xishi so much that she imitated everything Xishi did. After seeing the sicken Xishi acted so weak, she herself even imitated Xishi’s sickness and walked around in the village. Instead of liking her, all villagers despised her did not like her imitation.

In Chinese to say 逼上梁山,Bi1 Shang4 Liang2 Shan1, or force someone to go to the Mountain of Liangshan, is actually suggesting if you push somebody so hard, one could revolts. In a household Chinese novel, Liangshan was referred to a place where crowds of rebel assembled. Once good folks, they were forced to rebel against the government because various reason and all came to Liangshan and lived as rebels.

Just like there are many English words from Christianity like Adman’s apple, go the extra mile etc. When study Mandarin, you will find many phrases are from Buddhism, Taoism and you can be sure many from Confucianism. 五体投地, Wu3 Ti2 Tuo2 Di4, was a ritual in Buddhism to show your respect by prostrating yourself on the ground. Wu Ti, or five parts of your body, refers to your hands, feet and your head. Now in Chinese language usage, it is to express great admiration and respect.

Words, phrases, sayings like these are abound in Chinese. The more you learn, the more you will realize in your Chinese learning that they are both interesting and inspirational. Like many of those Chengyus, or Chinese idioms, many have their origin in Chinese parables, and they are trying to communicate wisdom and values in Chinese culture.

Hence, if you REALLY want to learn Mandarin and understand Chinese culture, you might carefully choose your Chinese study program, especially if you are thinking of study abroad in China. It will be a wise to make a decision after you figure out your needs, what the Chinese learning should cover then you can choose appropriate options accordingly.

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Tips for Learning Greek

Whether you are planning a vacation to Greece, traveling on business, or simply looking for an interesting challenge, learning Greek is an exciting and rewarding experience.

For travelers vacationing in Greece, learning even a few phrases is worthwhile. The attempt (however halting) to speak Greek is always appreciated, and having some understanding will enhance your enjoyment of your travel experience. Likewise, business travelers with some command of the language are at an advantage and earn increased respect from their business associates.

There are many opportunities for instruction for those who wish to learn Greek. Instructional methods vary according to personal preference and time constraints, and anyone who wants to learn will be able to find a course which best suits their needs.

For beginners who want to learn Greek on their own, at their own pace, a good option would be to purchase an audio book or CD-ROM learning course. These programs allow learners to work at their own pace, either at home or even while traveling. A variety of fun and entertaining sources are available which focus on listening to native speakers, vocabulary building, and learning common words and phrases. CD-ROM courses often include coaching on pronunciation, allowing users to record themselves and compare their pronunciation with that of a native speaker. CD ROM courses also incorporate colorful graphics and interesting cultural facts into their programs. Audio books and CDs can be purchased either online or at most bookstores.

As an alternative to purchasing an audio book or CD-ROM course in Greek, a number of online courses are also available. Users pay a registration fee based on the type of program they are seeking and then work at their own pace. Some courses are suitable for both adults and children, and they offer everything from basic instruction for beginners to more advanced tutoring for students taking a comprehensive course in modern Greek. Exploring several different options is wise in searching for an online program, as different courses encompass different objectives.

Those who prefer a more personal method of learning have several options, as well. Students looking for a one-on-one experience may find a tutor who will be able to provide personal attention, as well as an opportunity to listen to a fluent speaker of Greek. Local universities which offer programs in modern Greek often provide a listing of capable students who are willing to provide instruction for a small fee. Local Greek communities are also a good source for locating a tutor; Greek-speaking community members may offer tutoring for their non-fluent neighbors.

Taking a class in modern Greek is an especially rewarding way to learn the language. Community colleges and other local sources frequently offer evening language classes for adults, and this can be a fun way to learn Greek while meeting new people and socializing. This setting is also useful for practice in speaking with others.
Again, flourishing Greek communities may offer classes to people in their area as a way to promote their culture; this is an excellent opportunity to practice Greek with native speakers.

Of course, the most intensive way to learn the language and become fluent is to live for a time in Greece, whether for study, business, or an extended visit. While it can be daunting at first to immerse oneself in a foreign culture and foreign language, almost anyone will quickly learn enough of the language to get by. Those who are dedicated to mastering the language will find that spending time in Greece, surrounded by the language and customs of the country, is a wonderful way to become fluent and to connect with the people and their culture.

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Best Ways to Learn How to Speak Chinese

Learning how to speak Chinese is a challenging and rewarding thing to do. As well as learning about a new culture and opening the possibility of travel and making friends, you will also improve your career prospects. There is no doubting the advantages of learning how to speak Chinese; but in what ways can we study it?

Before choosing a method you need to consider your own temperament and commitment to study, as well as thinking about your goals.

Do you want to become fluent? Do you want to learn the basics? Do you want to use Chinese for business, or is it for travel? Depending on your goals and what you are using the language for, you can tailor what you study so you do not waste your time. There are specific books and courses for business people for example, so you do not waste time learning about how to ask the nearest way to the shops!

Also you need identify the amount of time you can commit to study. If you are someone who can be motivated and committed without much help you can try and learn from a book. If you have free time to travel you may be able to enrol in a local class.

Most people need some kind of guidance and help along the way – the advantage of having a tutor is that you can ask for advice on specific problems you are having. You cannot change what is written in a book or what is recorded on a CD but if you have a tutor, you can ask them about a specific phrase you need to address an issue that you cannot find an answer too. You have someone to motivate you and make sure you are on track. You will have more of a schedule for study, which helps when you have a busy life.

You can also consider the cost of each of the methods listed here. Hiring a tutor may cost more than buying a CD, but you have to ask yourself if you would be able to learn more quickly and effectively compared to a CD. Learning how to speak Chinese is a different experience for everyone. Have a good think about what you want to achieve, compared to the time, effort and money you have.

Ways to Learn to Speak Chinese:


There are plenty of books on learning how to speak Chinese. They can be from basic level to advanced. There are books that also teach you how to read basic Chinese and how to start writing it. There are of course dictionaries that are always useful no matter what course you choose to embark on. Dictionaries are always useful in helping you with your Chinese language translation.

The advantages of using books to study is that they are cheap and affordable. You can get good language books for a reasonable price and you can dip into them whenever you want. Books are compact and can be carried around, and studied at work, on the train, on holiday and so on.

The disadvantage of just using books to study is that you may have a narrow viewpoint. If you choose to only buy one book, then the chances of it being able to provide you with all the knowledge you need is slim. You will need to spend more money of a selection of books to cover a broad viewpoint and it can become overwhelming studying a selection of books by yourself.

Books are also not interactive. A book will not know if you have studied it or not; it is completely up to your own initiative to use it. Sometimes, if you hit a difficult point it takes a lot of motivation to carry on with studies; there is no one there to clarify things.

Using books to learn how to speak Chinese means that you cannot hear how words are supposed to be spoken. This means that you may miss the subtle changes in tone and pronunciation.

There is no doubting that books will have their place in studying Chinese, but may have the most effectiveness if combined with another learning source.


If you are lucky enough to live in an area with Chinese language schools or regular schools that offer Chinese lessons you may be able to enrol in and attend classes.

The advantage is that you will have a live teacher. You will have someone to speak Chinese to you and to explain things as you go along. This makes learning Chinese easier and more effective you can also practise the language with your classmates and have the opportunity to practise your language skills in a public arena.

The disadvantage of learning in a classroom environment is that it may be inflexible to your personal life. If you have a job or a family, you may find it hard to fit attending class around this. If you have children you may need to find a babysitter for a few hours. You will need to find transport to get to classes and the times that the classes start may not be suitable for you.

Don’t forget that it is also a weekly commitment, and missing even one class can leave you behind the other students.

When you are learning with other people you also have to share the teachers attention and if you class is large then you may not get all the help you want.


Chinese language audio tapes have been the classic way of learning how to speak the language. Some people thrive with them, some people cannot learn from them.

The advantage of CDs/Tapes is that they are affordable and can be incorporated into your day-to-day life, you can listen in the car, or when you are falling asleep. You can hear how words are supposed to be pronounced and go over sections again easily.

The disadvantage of learning from tapes and CDs is that they can be dated. Some of the CDs can be decades old and the language has evolved, sometimes because of slang, making the version you are learning old fashioned.

Learning from CDs also means that you are learning how to speak Chinese and respond in a fixed way. For example, the CD may teach you how to respond if some says, “How are you?” But what if someone asks you the question but it is phrased differently? Do you still answer in the same way or do you need to adapt your answer? The audio will only teach you one way to respond to questions; it does not teach you how to converse and deal with all the changes in conversational speech.


There are many TV or Video series that will teach you a language. Some of these are run by the big TV companies (such as the BBC in the UK which has a series that teach languages).

The advantage is that you get to hear the speech and see the worlds as they are said. It helps you pronounce words and recognize them. Videos are often more interesting to watch than say reading a book.

The disadvantage is that these are harder to get hold of as it is not the most popular method of learning. A lot of these videos are old and have a somewhat dated look to them. If you are learning from tape and not a DVD it can be hard to rewind and go over small sections that you need to practise. Also be careful that you are not being distracted by the images.


There are many types of language software discs. The Rosetta Stone and Linguaphone are good examples.

The advantage of these are that they are interactive. You learn in sections and then you are tested to make sure you have got the answers correct. The software can mark you and let you know if you are right or wrong.

The disadvantage is that you must have a computer. You can only use the software if you are on the computer – this means you cannot study away from it. Even if you have a laptop you will need to have a power source.

Even though you are given answers to the tests you may not be given an explanation, which doesn’t help you if you have a persistent problem with say, sentence structure.


If you are lucky enough to have friend that know how to speak Chinese, or perhaps you have befriended some exchange students that are happy to share language skills with you.

The advantage of this is that you get human interaction; you can learn to speak Chinese in a conversational style and be corrected immediately.
The disadvantage is that not everyone has a friend with these language skills. Also, if you are relying on a friend it is not always possible to organise definite learning times – other people have busy lives too and you may find yourself getting distracted in classes or not having as many sessions as you wish.

If you are working with a language student then remember you need to spend half of the time teaching them your language too not just the other way around.

Learn Mandarin Online

Online Chinese schools now offer you the convenience to learn Mandarin online. It is now an extremely popular way to learn Chinese. There are hundreds of providers, so choosing a professional service is a must. Mando Mandarin ( is the ideal place to look if you want to choose a online provider who creates customized course plans that ensures you reach your goal, and live 1-on-1 tutoring.

The advantage of online learning is that you are learning at any time you want. You can enrol at any point of the year then fit the studies around your own schedule. A good provider will give you a tutor who you can personally address for any problems you are having, meaning that you will have one to one attention to deal with specific issues. Online providers will often give you the paper materials you need too (like course work and books) so you are able to study these when you are not at your computer.

The disadvantage to online learning is that you will need access to the Internet so you need to consider the investment of a computer if you do not have one.

No matter what method you choose, the most important thing is that it is an interesting way to learn and something that you can stick to. Learning a language can be easy and fun if you have the right kind of guidance. The rewards of learning a new language are myriad.

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Traveling to and Around Barcelona

The cosmopolitan city of Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya which is situated in the North Eastern corner of Spain. It is a coastal city situated on the Mediterranean sea and it enjoys a pleasant warm climate all year round which helps to keep the 4 kilometers of beach busy, the largest city beach in Europe. Being the capital of Catalunya, Catalan is widely spoken as it is the official language of Barcelona, but speakers of Spanish have no need to worry as both are spoken and understood by practically everyone.

For the traveler who wishes to fly to Barcelona it has never been easier, as the city is served by two major airports, Barcelona Girona Airport (also called Girona Costa Brava Airport) in the North, which is approximately 103 kilometers from the city and Barcelona International airport, 13 kilometers from the city centre. Both airports are served by an excellent bus shuttle service and travel times are 40 minutes from the international airport and around 1 hour and 10 minutes from Girona Airport, there is a train service from the International airport that takes you to the very heart of the city and that runs every 30 minutes and it takes only 15 minutes, unfortunately if you wish to travel by train from Girona you will first have to go to the city station in Girona which will actually lengthen your journey time. Of course, the other option is taxi, which is much more convenient, especially if traveling with a lot of luggage, but it can also be on the pricey side, especially if traveling from Girona, where you can expect to pay in the region of 120 euros for a one way trip. My advice would be to travel by bus from Girona and train or taxi from the International airport.

Once in Barcelona the easiest, quickest and safest way to get around the city is the excellent metro system, revamped and improved before the olympics, that were held in the city in 1992. You can purchase tickets that allow you unlimited travel throughout the city very cheaply. If you prefer to stay above ground there are many open top bus services that follow regular site seeing routes. These are excellent as all the operators run circular routes meaning that the next bus is never more than forty minutes away, they are a bit more expensive than using the metro but you will be able to top up your tan whilst traveling around the city. You can purchase a one, two or three day tickets that offer a jump on jump off service allowing you to be as spontaneous or as organized as you want with regards to visiting the cites many attractions.

If you are considering driving, the uninitiated should expect to have nothing short of minor heart or panic attacks on a regular basis as the city streets are extremely busy with traffic that seems to travel at frighteningly quick speeds when the flow allows (city traffic jams are a regular occurrence) and the average barca driver has no, or at least, very little patience with dithering tourists as a constant barrage of horns gives the city the characteristic backdrop of sound, often associated with major Spanish cities.

Whichever way you decide to travel to and around Barcelona, this beautiful and bustling city will always leave you wanting to come back to visit again and again.

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The International Phonetic Alphabet – An Introduction

This is the first of a series of six related articles on the International Phonetic Alphabet (or IPA). In this article you are introduced to the fundamental purpose of the IPA, some basic terminology of “phonology” (the study of uttered sounds), and to some conventions of notation that should be mastered before you go any further into the subject.

Origin of the IPA. Over 120 years ago, in Paris, several linguists started developing the “International Phonetic Alphabet” to express the different sounds of human speech without relying on the phonetic conventions of any one specific language. Today the IPA contains 107 symbols in its alphabet, plus 56 other diacritics and prosody marks. A “diacritic” is an addition to a letter that indicates more precisely how it should be pronounced. Common examples are the acute and grave accents in French, or the hacek in several Eastern European languages. A prosody mark tells you where a word should be stressed, or alternatively what the rhythmic phrasing should be.

Symbols in the IPA. Most of the IPA’s symbols come from the Latin, Greek or Cyrillic alphabets, and are familiar. A few are morphs of such letters, while others are likely to be totally new to you. To see all the IPA characters exactly, you need to use a “Unicode” typeset. This article can not reproduce this, but by following a link in the author’s resource section you can go to pages that show the IPA tables using the correct fonts.

You can’t tell, a priori, how a given IPA symbol should be pronounced. You just have to study the tables. For example, the English representation of a sound as “sh” only makes sense if you already know English. Even so, a plain “s” in English can sound like a soft “sh” on occasion (as in “fusion” or “leisure”). The letter “s” also can spell the sound of a snake hissing (“this”) or a fly buzzing (“is”). In the IPA, the “sh” sound in “push” is represented as a long vertical line with a curve to the right at the top, and a curve to the left at the bottom, as if someone had taken the “s” and pulled the center apart to make it straight. The “sh” sound as in “fusion” or “leisure” is shown as a “z” with an oversized comma hanging down from the bottom right, making it look a little like a “3” with a flat top.

The many symbols and markings in the IPA are used to describe the sounds created when a person uses the lips, teeth, tongue, palate, nose, throat, vocal chords and lungs – even other parts of the body — to communicate. Each letter uniquely describes a specific sound. The sound “ch” (English spelling), for example, may be written a number of different ways around the world, but the IPA depicts it as [c]. The hard “c” in English is [k] and the soft “c” is [s]. Since “c” is pronounced with a “ch” sound in many languages, the experts agreed to give it this sound in the IPA.

Distinguish Noises from Concepts. In phonetics, a “phoneme” is really the ideal or concept of a sound. It is what the brain causes you to think you said. This is often not the same as the sound that actually comes out of the mouth. That is called a “phone” (Greek for “sound”). In notation, the concept or ideal for the sound – the theoretical sound, if you will – is represented between slashes, thus: /c/. This is the “ch” phoneme mentioned earlier. The sound a person really makes – the “phone” — is put in brackets, thus: [c]. This is the “ch” as pronounced. If you want to talk about the symbol “c” in IPA-speak, specifying its appearance in writing rather than as a phone or a phoneme, it is represented thus: . Try to keep these usages straight, as they really do help avoid confusion later. For example, the is a liquid consonant at the end of the word “ball.” As a phoneme, it is the /l/. In Japan, the phone might be [r], since /l/ and /r/ are said to be the same phoneme in the native Japanese brain. Likewise, the English-speaking brain finds several phonemes in Chinese (of the family /dz/ and it variations) to be indistinguishable, and pronounces them all [dz] like the “ds” in “fads.”

In the next article, we’ll cover “allophones” and “diphthongs.” Later, we’ll look at the vocal tract and how it relates to individual IPA symbols.

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Learn To Speak German Quickly – As Easy As Going For A Swim

Wham! Bam! Just like that I wanted to learn German quickly and easily, and I needed to find a way. I had a 2-step strategy to do so. It’s called the “Dip and Dive”. The “Dip” step was to sign up for a beginner German class at the Goethe Institute in my area. The “Dive” step was to study German for 2 months at a Goethe Institute in Germany. If you are going to live in a German-speaking country you need the “Dip and Dive” strategy to ensure success in becoming proficient in German.

The Dip – When going for a swim, most of us first dip our toes in the water to check the temperature in order to get our psyche ready to dive in. This Dip is based on a similar principle. It refers to getting your psyche and brain ready before you leave, by learning about the German language and culture, through a language class or an online course. To get the most out of the Dip, you should find a good online German course that allows you to be fully immersed in the German language. One of the principal benefits to learn to speak German online is that it is convenient, and enables you to learn German anywhere and anytime. Once you have acquired solid intermediate German language skills and you have a sufficient knowledge of the country’s culture, this will lessen the culture shock and better prepare you to learn, study, or work abroad in any German-speaking country.

The Dive – When we dive into the water we are completely submerged and there is nothing we can do but enjoy the water and the moment. Likewise, when you are living and studying in Germany, you will get the most enjoyment and fulfillment if, and only if, you try to immerse yourself in all things German as much as you can. By learning through immersion, you will have an opportunity to maximize your acquisition of German. To get the most out of the Dive you need to do the following:

“Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
· Your Residence – Keep in mind that living away from home is expensive, thus, you should try to find accommodations that are within your budget. If possible, try to find a German home that offers accommodations to foreign students through the language school or various agencies or services online that specialize in this. You want to be cut off, as much as possible, from anyone who speaks English because the temptation to speak English will override your willingness to speak German, and your German will either stagnate or get worse. The bottom line is that you want to put yourself in the best possible area to live with and interact with German-speaking natives.

“Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.” ~ Hugh Allen
· Your Social Life – You need to seize the opportunities to make German friends to improve your ability to learn German fluently. Living with German-speaking natives can provide you with constant interaction to learn German quickly and is a great way to network and establish meaningful relationships. You will also have plenty of opportunities to speak German and build upon your German vocabulary during your day-to-day activities. By observing, you will learn by example the cultural norms and etiquette. By listening, you will improve both your comprehension and your pronunciation and ability to utilize the colloquialisms.

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” ~ Scott Hamilton
· Your Attitude – Having a positive attitude can make or break your Dive. You are abroad to not only learn German but to experience the culture and people as well. So despite your neurosis or shyness or various excuses, you have to keep your spirits up. Be brave and don’t worry about making mistakes, it is part of the process when learning a language, more so while living in Europe. Remember, the “Dip and Dive” if done properly, as mentioned, will make the transition much smoother and less of a shock to the system to acclimatize to and enjoy the learning experiences, while in Germany.

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Learn To Speak French Fluently – And Get Out Of The Rat Race

For those of us who find ourselves spinning so fast that our life seems but a blur, we need to STOP and think about where we are and where we are heading. For those of us whose days blend into each other so much so that we can’t distinguish one day from the next, we need to STOP and think about why each day of our life is the same. For those of us who find it difficult to do the things we always wanted or said we would do and never do them, we need to STOP and think about why we say things we want to do but never do them. For those of us who are so afraid to take the first step off the Island to change for the better, we need to STOP and ask ourselves, what are we afraid of? As the renowned American poet Maya Angelou says, “Life loves the liver of it.” Are you a ‘Liver’ of Life? You can use a unique thing such as learning to speak French fluently to enrich your life because it will expose you to experiences you would not have otherwise.

Robert Byrne states that, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” We seem to live purposeless lives in our modern world. Life is about change. The ‘liver’ of life embraces change and remembers that we all have only one life to live and that time waits for no one. We all know this but so many of us live like prisoners trapped in our own quicksand of excuses and regrets. You have to realize that the answer to change is you. You can change your life and your world. Why couldn’t you learn French and have that as a small purpose to take you onwards and upwards towards change. And why not learn how to speak French online instead of going to a language school? Remember that you must live in the present moment and live each step, big or small, difficult or easy, painful or joyful, and gradually you will discover that you can achieve great things such as the ability to learn French fluently. Even if you find a means to learn French the easy way or attempt to learn French quickly at an immersion school in France, you will have to do the work. One step at a time you can get off your Island. Change is as subtle as learning to speak French.

Why learn to speak French fluently? It can be the catalyst that can accelerate the rate of change in so many aspects of your life by opening the doors to other cultures, peoples and lifestyles. When we are in a different environment we feel more alive and aware of ourselves especially when being exposed to another culture. What a refreshing change it would be to experience and discover the French countryside, the wine regions of Bordeaux, the cafés on the French Riviera, the landscapes of Provence or the white-sanded beaches of Martinique. Think of the many amazing French-speaking countries and cultures that are waiting for you to explore to lose yourself or reclaim yourself.

As William Lyon Phelps wisely states, “The fear of life is the favorite disease of the 20th century”, I think this ‘disease’ is prevalent in the 21st century. This article is just a whim, a ‘message in the bottle’ for those of you who are willing to take the courageous leap into the ocean of life to wake up to life and feel the waves against your skin and taste the salt water on your tongue. Yes, change can be as elementary as learning a language such as French. Ultimately it boils down to you. You have to take charge and decide to take the first step and the many steps that follow towards self-fulfillment and a sense of purpose. Stop making excuses and start tomorrow. Now is the time to become a ‘liver’ of life. Now is the time to learn French fast to get off your island and join the rest of the world.

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Spanish Proverbs – How A Native Would Say It

Spanish proverbs came about just like any other proverb. Leaders, rulers, and writers would write catchy phrases about good judgement decisions widely accepted as common sense. They wrote simple and trendy phrases so they could easily be remembered. Here are some of the most common proverbs in Spanish.

A juventud ociosa, vejez trabajosa.

(To leisurely youth, laborious old age.) “Enjoy it while you’re young.” may be another translation. This means that when you age, you aren’t as agile in the future to do what you once could. Any elderly person will testify to that.

Acabándose el dinero, se termina la amistad.

(Running out of money, the friendship ends.) Find out who your real friends are. Basically a lot of people only like you because of what you have to offer them. (Escape from loneliness, you give them money, you’re good company, cars, a job) Very few people love you for who you are unconditionally.

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente.

(Shrimp that sleeps, is taken by the current.) You snooze you lose. Sometimes when you put things off too much, the opportunity vanishes.

El diablo sabe más por viejo que por diablo.

(The Devil knows more because he’s old than because he’s the Devil.) With age comes experience. The more you live the more you learn. You learn something new every day. All of these are close to the meaning of the proverb. Most people that are wiser are so because they’ve been around longer, not because of a gift of wisdom.

En boca del mentiroso, lo cierto se hace dudoso.
(In the mouth of the liar, the certain becomes doubtful.) Don’t cry wolf. If you lie once, people might have a hard time believing you if you tell the truth.

Gato escaldo del agua fría huye.
(A scalded cat from cold water runs.) When people learn lessons through experience they think they know all aspects and angles of the lesson. Some people have seen a homeless person use money for handouts so they assume that all homeless will buy drugs. Just like the cat learned that hot water burns so now it thinks that all water will burn.

La mejor palabra es la que no se dice.
(The best word is the one that is not said.) Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all. If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. That’s the idea.

Más vale poco y bueno que mucho y malo.
(It is worth more little and good than much and bad.) Something’s better than nothing. You might not have a lot, but too much could be a bad thing. Too much of a good thing is bad. Moderation in all things. These are all translations for this proverb.

Mejor solo que mal acompañado.
(Better alone than poorly accompanied.) It’s better to walk alone than with bad company. You’d never want to be around someone who makes you miserable. You’d probably rather be by yourself.

Poco a poco se anda lejos.
(Little by little one goes far.) By an inch it’s a cinch, by a yard it’s hard. The race of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A journey begins with a single step. Take your tasks little by little. You’ll see that those little improvements and accomplishments add up quickly.

If you want our complete list of Spanish proverbs go to

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Review of Top Ways to Learn Spanish and Why You Should Do It

Today, Spanish is spoken by more than 400 million people worldwide. It now ranks 3rd, right behind English and Mandarin in terms of its global usage. Apart from its impressive global expansion it’s also makes a hit in the US.

The vast border to the south of the United States explains why it has become so popular over the years. Within the Americas it has becoming the second official language of the business community.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re probably you eager to find out about the learning process.

If you reside within the U.S you might want to start the learning process in St-Paul, Minnesota, which is the home of the Rojah Spanish Language social community network. The organization offers their helping hand to individuals who are thinking of traveling to a Spanish speaking country.

It is very important for you to take time and outline your action plan when it comes to learning Spanish. Take into consideration the amount of time (hours) that you can dedicate to learning Spanish on a daily or weekly basis . You should be conservative in your time estimates, it is always best to go ahead of schedule than to fall behind.

Avoid distraction and postponing when it comes to learning Spanish, pick the time lines and stick to them. Keep in mind that the more you try to apply what you learned, the faster your long-term memory will store the information. With enough practice, you will be able to pull out those phrases and words you’ve memorized, to the surprise of everyone, anytime, anywhere!

For best results you should find a study partner who can correct your pronunciation in a supportive way, if you prefer to study alone then practice by pronouncing the word out loud and be critical to your speech in the beginning because badly pronounced words will get stuck in your long-term memory and might become a habit.

Being able to better communicate with your Spanish co-workers or learning it as a gift to you Latin partner, any purpose is good to learn Spanish, keep your eyes on the ball while you’re practicing, it will help you achieve the goal faster.

Try to learn mexican spanish it’s also considered a lot of fun .

Shop around for the best method to learn Spanish, it will determine how quickly and easily you will learn the language and with the least amount of frustration. Put a lot of emphasis on the reason for learning the language. If you choose to learn more Spanish in order to pass the AP Spanish Language examination it will take you considerably more time and effort than learning it to have fun on a date with a Spanish speaker.

If you choose it for AP purposes, you are looking at long and tedious hours of studying. As for the second choice all you might need is a Spanish Language booklet, comfortable recliner and some classical music.

The best way to learn Spanish is the one that you prefer, you can use a variety of different tools such as: books, tapes and CDs, self-learning applications or even studying online. The choice is yours but it needs to be suited to your individual needs and abilities. It is of a paramount importance that you research these different techniques and methods. Find the most suitable one and stick to it, it will bring you sweet victory in no time.

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Seven ways French is easier than English

Native English speakers are notoriously poor at learning other languages because by comparison other languages are notoriously more difficult than English. Well, not quite. Some years ago I learned Swahili (the national language of Tanzania), which I found to be embarrassingly easy.

True, few native English speakers are ever likely to want to learn Swahili, but rather German, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and some other European language. Admittedly, in many ways these are more difficult than English. However, by zeroing in on their difficulties, we can lose sight of the numerous aspects where they are in fact easier than English.

I live in Brussels, Belgium. One of the national languages here is French (the others are Dutch and German). I speak French fluently. I won’t say that it was easy to learn. However, I have discovered at least seven ways in which French has English beat hands down.

Actually, this shouldn’t really be so surprising. I would wager that every language, including those as far removed from English as Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Malayan, etc., have aspects about them that are simpler and more logical than in English.

But to make the point, let’s stay with European languages, and notably French.

You may be asking yourself: How can French possibly be easier than English? After all, isn’t French afflicted with genders (masculine and feminine), which English isn’t? Doesn’t it have more conjugated forms than English? More than one way of saying “you” (tu, vous)? Three was of saying “the” (le, la, les)? And a spelling system whose complexity virtually defies imagination (even worse than English)?

All true–and all too obvious. However, if we look at aspects of the language not so obvious, we make some remarkable discoveries. For French, here are seven of them (there are others).

1. No tonic accent

Most people, and certainly those who have yet to master another language, are largely unaware of how seriously difficult their own native language could be to a foreigner. As a native Anglophone, you probably find that English is quite easy to pronounce. But the fact is, French is even easier.

What! With its nasalization, trilled “r” and other difficult sounds? Yes, and I can prove it!

First, it is important to understand that no sounds, in any language, are inherently difficult to pronounce. If they were, they wouldn’t exist because the native speakers never would have accepted them into their language in the first place.

Learning foreign sounds is never easy; French speakers learning English have a terrible time with the “th” sound in words such as “the”, “they”, “through”, “throw”, etc. Because there is no equivalent sound in French, they have great difficulty in mastering it. But it certainly isn’t impossible. Just as it may be difficult, but certainly not impossible, for you to master unfamiliar sounds in French.

Where French pronunciation has an undeniable advantage over English (and most other European languages) is its virtual lack of a “tonic accent”.

Tonic accent simply means that certain syllables in words are given more stress than are others. For example, “difficult” is pronounced “dif-fi-cult”; the first syllable carries the tonic accent. It could just as easily be pronounced dif-fi-cult”, which is what the Spanish prefer (dif-fí-cil). Or even “dif-fi-cult”.

Technically, the tonic accent does exist in French, but it is very hard to hear it. For example, in English we say “un-i-ver-si-ty”. In French, this is “un-i-ver-si-té”, with no apparent stress anywhere (except perhaps very lightly on the last syllable). Likewise with “rest-au-rant”, which in French is “rest-au-rant”. And so on. Thus, you never have to guess where the tonic accent should go, so you can never make a mistake.

As a native Anglophone, you have grown up with the tonic accent, so you might not immediately recognize what a relief this is. However, if you have had any dealings with foreigners speaking English, you know that if they put the tonic accent on the wrong syllable, you might not understand the word at all. By foreigners, I don’t necessarily mean non-native English speakers. If you are British, try conversing with an American or Australian, and you are likely to have the same problem. And vice versa.

I once had a British friend in Brussels. All the native Francophones agreed that he had great mastery of French grammar and vocabulary. The problem was, when he spoke no one understood what he was saying. He simply couldn’t let go of the tonic accent. As a result, the Francophones could hardly grasp a word he said.

2. Gallic Impersonality

A. Use of “on”

For Anglophones, imbued with the idea that French is a very personal language (the so-called “’language of love”), few things are more surprising than the frequent use of the very impersonal “on” (pronounced ohn). By contrast, Francophones learning English are surprised to discover that English has no equivalent of “on”, so they have to search all over the place for substitutes.

Actually, this is not entirely true. English does have an equivalent: “one”. But it is seldom used. The Queen uses it: “One has considered the matter carefully” rather than “I have considered the matter carefully”. Moralists use it: “One should not kill”, “One should be ready to fight for one’s country”, etc. University professors speaking about arcane subjects use it: “One can clearly see this in the fossil record.” In almost all other circumstances, it is studiously avoided.

French uses “on” without the slightest embarrassment. In fact, using it avoids a lot of embarrassment. Familiar habits and patterns of thought are often hard to break, so at the beginning you may find using “on” rather strange, especially in sentences such as “On s’aime beaucoup” (we love each other very much). However, you will not be able to deny its usefulness.

For example, a key problem in English is avoiding “genderism”. English as a language does not have genders, but English speakers do. And they are very aware of it. This is the explanation for the very odd use of the plural pronoun “they” as if it were a singular.
Example: If someone studies hard, they will succeed.

Why do we make this apparently illogical switch from the singular pronoun “someone” and the singular verb “studies” to the plural pronoun “they’? Because otherwise, it would be necessary to say “he will succeed”. However, the sentence clearly is not directed only to males. Alternatively, it would have been necessary to say “he or she will succeed”, or “he/she will succeed”, which are cumbersome. French has no such problem. “Si on étudie bien, on réussira”.

B. Use of possessive adjectives

Here is another example of how Gallic impersonality avoids genderism. Consider the sentence: “Everyone who studies hard will see their effort rapidly rewarded.” In French, this is: “Chacun qui étudie bien verra son effort rapidement récompensé.“

In English, although we start the sentence with a singular subject and verb, we finish it with a plural possessive adjective (“their”). In French, the sentence remains singular all the way through, as it logically should. This is because “son effort” can mean either “his effort” or “her effort”.

“Son” is indeed classified as a “masculine” possessive. However, in French the term “masculine” has nothing to do with the nature of “chacun”, but only with the nature of “effort”, which is a “masculine” noun. The sentence could just as easily have been written: “Chacun qui étudie bien verra sa dépense d’effort rapidement récompensée“. Now the possessive adjective “sa“ is “feminine”, which again has nothing to do with the nature of “chacun”, but only with the nature of “dépense”, which is a “feminine” noun.

The inherently impersonal nature of French grammar automatically precludes a lot of “political incorrectness”, whereas in English we can achieve this only through some rather illogical and inelegant grammatical contortions.

3. Use of infinitives

A major problem most foreigners face in English is the correct use of infinitives. As a native speaker, you probably never realized that infinitives could be a problem. After all, an infinitive is just an infinitive.

Well, not quite. English infinitives in fact are very unusual compared to French infinitives and those of most other European languages. This is because French infinitives are unified, while English infinitives are separable. For example:

1. French: manger

2. English: to eat

The English infinitive can be used with both parts (“to eat”), which grammarians call the “complete infinitive”, or only the second part (“eat”), which grammarians call the “incomplete infinitive”.

The problem is, in many cases this is not optional, but required. For example: “I need to eat something” (complete infinitive), but “I must eat something” (incomplete infinitive). So what’s the difference? Why in the first example is the “to” necessary and in the second not only isn’t it necessary, using it would be incorrect?

In French this problem never arises. “J’ai besoin de manger quelque chose” and “Je dois manger quelque chose”. Simple, isn’t it. Just imagine if French worked like English. You would constantly be making choices about which form of the infinitive to use—and in many cases you would be wrong.

4. Use of definite articles

Use of the definite article (“the”) in English presents pretty much the same problem as use of the infinitive (see above). In other words, you constantly have to be making choices about when to use it and when not to use it. French is much simpler.

Really! Doesn’t French have three definitive articles (le, la, les) compared to only one in English?

Absolutely! But the problem is not deciding which definite article to use. Rather, it is deciding whether or not to use any definitive article at all.

In French, you retain the definite article much more frequently than you do in English. Thus, you have considerably fewer decisions to make, and therefore considerably fewer opportunities to make mistakes.


1. “I like cats” (cats in general)

2. “I like the cats” (specific cats, not necessarily all cats)

In French, both statements are rendered “J’aime les chats”, so no decision about whether or not to use the definite article. You distinguish their meanings via the context in which they are used.

5. No distinction between “a” and “one”

The words “a” and “one” are the equivalent of “un” in French. Fundamentally, these two words mean the same thing; however, “one” is more precise, so it adds emphasis. For example:

 I have eaten in a Japanese restaurant
(at least one, perhaps more)

 I have eaten in one Japanese restaurant
(only one, no more)

Both of these sentences are rendered in French as “J’ai mangé dans un restaurant japonais.” As with the definite article, you distinguish the meaning from the context, or by purposely adding intensifying words such as “ne . . . . que” or “seulement une fois”.

 Je n’ai mangé qu’une fois dans un restaurant japonais.

 J’ai mangé seulement une fois dans un restaurant japonais.

Many Francophones speaking English frequently make the mistake of saying ”I have eaten in one Japanese restaurant” when they really mean ”I have eaten in a Japanese restaurant”. As an Anglophone speaking French, you will never make this mistake, because it is simply not possible!

6. Simple and progressive (continuous) tenses

English makes frequent use of progressive (continuous) verb tenses, whilst French almost never does.

The progressive tenses are formed by two verbs: the helper (auxiliary) “to be” and the “present participle” (-ing form) of the other one.
Examples: she is eating / elle mange; we are talking / nous parlons; they are running / ils courrent.

English uses progressive tenses to distinguish between the general time period when an action takes place and the exact moment that the action takes place. French generally does not make this distinction, but rather leaves the interpretation to context.

In English, if you say “I eat” when you mean “I am eating”, or say “I am eating” when you mean “I eat”, you are committing a serious error. Although progressive tenses technically exist in French, you can largely ignore them. In short, no such error is possible!

7. Converting verbs into nouns

Because of its fondness for progressive verb tenses, English has a characteristic way of converting verbs into nouns, i.e. using a verb as the subject or the object of a sentence.

In French, and many other languages, you simply use the infinitive: Marcher est bon pour la santé. You can do the same thing in English: To walk is good for health. However, the preferred form is: Walking is good for health. To Anglophone ears, “walking” is more dynamic than “to walk”, i.e. it seems to give a better picture of what is happening.

This may very well be the case—in English. But there is no such distinction in French.

The grammatical term for the -ing form of a verb when used as a noun is “gerund”. The “gérondif” also exists in French, i.e. “marchant”, but it is virtually never used to replace an infinitive. So you have no choice. The correct form is “marcher”, because it is the only form. Simple, isn’t it?

Halt! Enough!

Do you feel that that all this talk about the “simplicities” of French is beginning to look like camouflage for its manifest difficulties? To a certain extent, you are right. However, the purpose here is not to hide French’s difficulties. But to minimize them by highlighting those aspects of French that are not so difficult—and are in fact really quite easy.

By rejoicing in French’s simplicities rather than focusing on its complexities, learning the language can be made more rapid and more enjoyable than you might have expected. The same is true of other languages.

I don’t mean that by focusing on the simplicities, learning languages will suddenly become easy. Learning a language is never easy, French or otherwise. But it can certainly be made rather less difficult.

Philip Yaffe is a former writer with The Wall Street Journal and international marketing communication consultant. He now teaches courses in persuasive communication in Brussels, Belgium. Because his clients use English as a second or third language, his approach to writing and public speaking is somewhat different from other communication coaches. He is the author of In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing and Speaking (Almost) like a Professional, available from the publisher ( and Amazon ( Contact:,

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