Showing posts with label Rosetta Stone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rosetta Stone. Show all posts

History and Hebrew in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, Israel

I feel fortunate to have had a multicultural upbringing, not only at home but also in my community. Believe it or not, growing up as a Spanish, Australian Jew was not that unusual in Miami, Florida, a city filled with Latinos of every color, religion, and ethnicity (my best friend is “Jewban”––Jewish/Cuban––and she’s not unusual either). After-school Hebrew class was just another fun, extracurricular activity, like soccer or dance, and Judaism for me was more an assortment of traditions than a religious belief system. When I was 13 and many of my friends were studying for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, I was out in LA studying scenes for auditions. I never really thought much about my Hebrew school days once I had officially moved out to LA until recently. I was reminded because I was planning a summer vacation to Israel and I always like to learn a little bit of the local language before I travel somewhere new (OK, and because I had what one might consider an unhealthy obsession with the Israeli TV show, Fauda). I ordered Rosetta Stone Hebrew and set a goal to practice every day until I left. I was instantly shocked at how easily the Hebrew I had learned to read so long ago came back to me. But these daily lessons shed light on the fact that for so many years I had been reading text with no comprehension. (This is normal for many American Hebrew school students as getting bar or bat mitzvahed only requires that you read the prayers, not speak the language.) For the first time in my life I felt a desire to discover more of this ancient language and my own Jewish heritage that it embodies.

As soon as I touched down in Tel Aviv I became obsessed with reading everything in sight. “Look,” I would shout out to my friends, “I can read that! I remember!” I’m sure I drove them all a bit mad, but it was thrilling to connect to the country in a way that I never expected I would. Each day brought new adventures and lessons. Israel is such a fantastic place to visit because it really has everything––it’s full of history and diverse cultures, but also has beaches, excellent restaurants, and wild nightlife. In Tel Aviv we loved visiting the old markets in Jaffa, making friends on the beach, and trying to tick off every restaurant from a long list of “must go-tos” from friends. Another day, we rented a car and drove to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. This body of water is so salty that no living creatures inhabit it. Visitors famously float to the surface when they bathe and cover their bodies with its mud for a skin treatment that would rival any Beverly Hills spa!

Learn Hebrew - Dead Sea, Israel

Learn Hebrew - Dead Sea

On our way back to Tel Aviv we stopped at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem for lunch, possibly one of the most captivating places I’ve ever visited. A war correspondent I know put it best when he described it to me as “…a den of intrigue, full of spies, diplomats and foreign correspondents.” That’s what it feels like when you’re there. The history of this hotel is legendary and worth reading about when you have the time. However, the current political situation between East and West Jerusalem is tense, to say the least, and residents of the city are both physically and emotionally divided by it. As an outsider it was easy for me to enjoy all the wonders Jerusalem had to offer, but the complex reality of daily life was always in the back of my mind.

My favorite part of the trip came two days later when we returned to Jerusalem with our tour guide, Avi, to visit the old part of the city. The Old City is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian, and Avi took us through all of them. It blew my mind to think that such a small physical area contains the holiest of sites for so many. I was grateful that Avi showed us all four quarters and taught us a bit about the history of each one of them. I left that evening eager to learn even more, but also saddened when I thought about how little we’ve evolved since those ancient days and how much intolerance still persists. It was then that Avi told me something I would never forget: the only way we humans can achieve progress in life is to break the shackles of the past that are holding us back. We must learn to forgive and find ways to move forward.

Learn Hebrew - Jerusalem

Visiting these cherished places of the past I learned more about who I am in the present and who I want to be in the future. I wasn’t aware of it before, but my Hebrew school in Miami shaped so much of who I am today and I’ve carried it’s lessons of tolerance, openness, curiosity, and (surprisingly) Hebrew with me ever since without even realizing it. Learning to read Hebrew once seemed like a pointless endeavor, but I now understand we were taught it because it carries knowledge that has been passed down to us, from one generation to the next, for over 3,000 years and with that comes a sense of duty. Life is always changing and nothing lasts for eternity, but if we all take a moment to reflect on the traditions and ideas that have stood the test of time, we may discover that we have more in common with one another than we thought.

A little more on the Hebrew language.

I decided to dive in to this history and quickly realized that the story of the evolution of the Hebrew language over the last 3,000 or so years is as long and complex as the story of its motherland. In a nutshell, Hebrew fell out of common usage around 135 CE when the Jewish diaspora spread out of Israel across Europe and other parts of the Middle East. The desire among this diaspora to return to their homeland started to gain popularity in the 19th century amidst growing anti-Semitism. The unimaginable horrors of World War II and the Holocaust turned desire into necessity. A common language was a critical step in order to create a national cohesive identity between the Arab/Mizrahi Jews and the Eastern European/Ashkenazi Jews and establishing the State of Israel. Thus began the Hebrew revival of the modern era, largely led by the newly arrived immigrants from across Eastern Europe. This was no easy feat. Having been utilized in little more than religious practices for centuries, a vast amount of modern vocabulary was lacking in the Hebrew lexicon. Oftentimes, these mostly native Yiddish speakers had no choice but to directly translate Yiddish words into Hebrew. The Yiddish influence on the language affected everything, from the grammatical structure of the sentences to the pronunciation, to the words themselves and the way they are used. Many Hebrew idioms for example come from Yiddish expressions that would have made little sense to non-Yiddish speakers, such as the Mizrahi’s who came from the Middle East.  For example, the Israeli greeting Ma nishma? (lit. ‘What is heard?’) is a calque or literal translation of the Yiddish Vos hert zikh?

What is Yiddish?

Yiddish is the language of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. It’s a ‘fusion language’ that is mainly Germanic, but also combines elements of Slavic, Semitic, and other languages. At its peak, in the years immediately preceding the Holocaust, there 11-13 million Yiddish speakers worldwide, making it the most widely spoken Jewish language. 85% of the approximately 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust were Yiddish speakers, which led to a massive decline in the use of the language. Today there are an estimated 1.5 million Yiddish speakers.

Some fun facts.

  • It is one of the 10 oldest languages still spoken today. Like Chinese or Farsi,  a native reader today could read ancient texts from 10th Century BCE about as easily as a 2018 New York Times bestseller.
  • The speed at which Hebrew became adopted is incredibly rare. The language went from 10 Hebrew speaking families in 1900, to 34,000 by 1916-1918, to roughly 9 million a century later!
  • Ancient Hebrew is a Semitic language, as is Arabic. Because the written language hasn’t changed, Israeli Arabs have an easier time learning to read and write. However, because the modern spoken language was adapted by European language speakers, Israelis of European descent find it easier to speak. For instance, Ancient Hebrew is a VSO Language: the verb comes first, a common feature of Semitic languages. Modern Hebrew is an SVO language, where the subject comes first, like in most European languages. Because Ancient texts do not have punctuation, the language was adapted to reflect the syntax of the revivalists. This site does a nice summary of the differences between Ancient and Modern Hebrew if you’d like to learn more.
  • Morphology: The way that words are formed and fit together is the same in biblical Hebrew and modern Hebrew. Though vocabulary has obviously expanded since ancient times, most of the new Hebrew words are created from the original Hebrew roots and placed into the templates, creating a new modern meaning related to the ancient root meaning. For example, the word for computer, מחשב (“machshev”). It come from the root letters חשב (ch-sh-v), with the meaning of “think.” So you could say that “machshev” literally means something like “Thinking device”.
  • Yiddish words used in English: glitchmavenmishmashtushklutz, bagel, schmooze, shtick, shvitz, schlep,
  • Hebrew words in English: golem (an artificial human being), Kosher (Root is in the Hebrew word for ‘right’)

Try Rosetta Stone Hebrew today.



Eastern Yiddish at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)

Hagege, Claude: On the Death and Life of Languages

Solomon BirnbaumGrammatik der jiddischen Sprache (4., erg. Aufl., Hamburg: Buske, 1984), p. 3.

Strazny, Philip: Encyclopedia of Linguistics, p. 541


Nathalia Ramos is a film and television actress. She has a degree in Political Science from the University of Southern California and works part-time as the Social Media Director at Berggruen Institute. She was born in Spain, speaks fluent Spanish, and is learning Vietnamese. 

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From New Delhi to New Haven: My Hindi Journey

New Delhi, India

After three plane rides, around 48 hours of cumulative travel, and some suspicious-looking curry on my flight, I finally stumbled into the Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport around noon. As I soaked in the heat and swatted away my first of the mosquitoes I would come to know all too well throughout my time in India, I was emotionally preparing myself. My heart pounded. I knew that right on the other side of the sliding glass doors over in the arrivals terminal my new bhai, mata-pita, and dadu-dadi (brother, parents, and grandparents) were eagerly waiting for me.

My name’s Luke, I’m 16 years old, and in that moment I was readying myself to spend two months in Madhya Pradesh, India, living with a host family through the State Department-funded National Security Language Initiative for Youth program. My new home fell in Indore, India, a “small city” of around two million, smack dab in the center of the country.

My journey with Rosetta Stone began around two months prior to departure, when I first learned I would be spending the summer abroad. Determined to wow my host family with all that I would learn before even arriving, I couldn’t wait to get started on my Hindi! For around eight weeks, I put in around half an hour of practice just about every day –– whether I was munching on cereal in the mornings or procrastinating on homework, I always had Rosetta Stone open! That’s the beauty of it… the work you put in really doesn’t feel like work at all!

Taj Mahal - Learn Hindi

It all paid off in the end. There was nothing quite like the moment I met my new family for the first time, the way my nerves vanished the moment my host mom met me with a smiley namaste! As they carted me through the city to the neighborhood I would soon call my second home, the entire clan beamed and applauded as they asked me questions and I responded… in Hindi!

It’s truly surreal to experience the type of progress that Rosetta Stone enables. It’s easy to lose sight of how much you’re learning sometimes, especially in the moments when you’re struggling over vocabulary or totally lost on a new grammar rule. But when you just go for it and speak, unwilling to let the potential of making mistakes (which is inevitable, trust me!) get in your way of trying, it’s amazing to see how much you’ve learned! Rosetta Stone gave me the confidence I needed to start speaking Hindi from the moment I walked through those airport doors and took on a new country and culture for the first time.

What I quickly found is that speaking the language enabled me to connect with my host community in a way that truly would not have been possible otherwise. My host mom explained to me that Indians infrequently see foreigners make an attempt to learn their language, and that it’s such a pleasant surprise to see travelers making an effort. It was a phenomenon that I experienced each day while abroad, from the smiles that lit up faces when I asked for directions in Hindi to the shopkeepers who beamed as I asked for prices in their first language. Those were the moments that made all my work worth it.

When I boarded my long-haul flight back to the States on August 18, I was sure that, at least for now, my Hindi journey had ended. I was wrong.

Flash forward three months … I’m landing in the tiny New Haven, Connecticut airport after almost a full day of travel. I’m exhausted as I load my suitcase into my Uber’s trunk and stumble into the backseat. Yet, as I climb in, my eyes are immediately drawn to an almost-missable figurine of the Hindu god Ganesh-ji on the man’s dashboard.

“Kya aapko Hindi aati hai?” [“Do you know Hindi?”] I asked.

The man is thrilled! He replies with an enthusiastic “Mujhe bilkul Hindi aati hai!” [“I absolutely know Hindi!”] and begins to ask me questions on everything from how I got started with the language to what I’m doing here in New Haven. What I originally anticipated to be just another typical Uber ride, with little interaction between driver and passenger, quickly turned into an opportunity not only for me to practice some Hindi, but also to engage with someone I likely wouldn’t have if language hadn’t brought us together!

As we pull up to my Best Western, the man helps me with my luggage and asks if he can shake my hand. He tells me that ever since immigrating to this country from Nepal over 30 years ago, no one outside of his Desi community had ever spoken to him in his mother tongue.

I originally wanted to learn another language because I wanted to explore the world. And I did! Hindi opened up a whole new country and culture for me to experience. Yet the greatest gift my Hindi journey gave me was a new way to interact with my own community.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to travel across the globe for language learning to be worth it. The most important connections that a new language brings may be far closer to home than you expect.

Luke Tyson is a student in Pennsylvania studying Hindi with Rosetta Stone. 

Want to start speaking Hindi? Take our demo now.

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Homesick for My Home Away from Home: Colombia

Cali, Colombia

I took the red-eye flight from LA and arrived in Cali early in the morning feeling rather exhausted and grumpy, as one would expect. My deliriousness instantly evaporated when I was greeted at the airport by an old friend bearing buñuelos (basically fried, doughy, cheesy corn balls––amazing, I know). He drove me to set every morning 5 years ago and still remembered my favorite Colombian treat! I couldn’t find the words to adequately express how touched I was. “Bienvenida de regreso a Colombia Nathalia. ¿Qué tal su vuelo? ¿Se siente cansada?” This is a formal way of saying, “Welcome back to Colombia. How was your flight? Are you tired?”

I first traveled to Colombia in 2013 to film a movie that shot in Bogotá. Always up for an adventure, I was thrilled at the opportunity to work and live somewhere new. Within days of arriving I had fallen in love with all Colombia had to offer––the lifestyle, the food, the music, but most of all, the people. Since then I have been back to Colombia many times and I feel a part of me is Colombian now––even my family in Spain tells me I speak Spanish with a Colombian accent! I’ve made many great friends over the years and a few weeks ago got to go back to celebrate the wedding of one of my dearest friends. It was another unforgettable experience in my home away from home.

In most other Spanish dialects, the tense of tú is used in conversation with most people, so it would sound like “¿Qué tal tu vuelo? ¿Estás cansada?” But Colombians generally are the most formal of the Spanish speakers and use usted for speaking to almost anyone, even a close friend or family member. Therefore, in Colombia you will find that most of the verbs are conjugated for usted. Conjugations can be one of the trickiest aspects of learning Spanish. In English we typically only conjugate verbs to identify singular vs. plural nouns (e.g. I sing, he sings, they sing). And these verbs remain the same regardless of the formality (i.e. We would address our best friend or our teacher in the form of “you”). To conjugate for usted in regular verbs, you drop the ending and add -a or -e, verus for you add -as or -es.

Here are two examples:

Usted habla/ hablas.

Usted come/tú comes.

As well as being very formal, Colombians tend to use less slang and fewer colloquialisms than spoken in other Spanish dialects, so I find them to be the easiest to understand. That’s not to say they don’t add their own uniquely Colombian touches––words like listo (used to imply something is understood, whereas in Spain I use it to mean ‘I am ready’) and chévere (when something is ‘cool’ or ‘good’) are as Colombian as buñuelos!


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Finally got my hands on some buñuelos. Yum!

Why is Colombian Spanish so formal?

I wanted to learn more about why Colombian Spanish is so formal, so I started to dig deeper. It is difficult to pin down the exact origins of the different Spanish dialects across the Americas, but the history can offer us clues. As I learned while writing my Mexico City blog, it is likely that the first colonizers of Mexico came from Andalusia, not Castile. The first conquistador to arrive, Hernán Cortés, was a rebel who led his own expedition and only sought support from the Spanish Empire after his colonization of the Aztecs. Colombia, on the other hand, was discovered by Alonso de Ojeda while on an official voyage commissioned by the Spanish Crown. These closer political and financial ties could explain why Colombian Spanish evolved to resemble its mother tongue more closely. Another likely explanation could be that the natives living in Colombia at the time of the Spanish conquest, most notably the Muiscas and the Taironas, did not utilize a writing system nor were they politically unified, unlike the Aztecs. The inextricable link between speaking and writing seems to be a clear indicator as to why the Aztecs’ Nahuatl language is so predominant in Mexican Spanish today, whereas Colombian Spanish is far less influenced by its native languages.

Shortly after freshening up at the hotel I went to meet the rest of the group also in town for the wedding at a local restaurant nearby. Having come from all around the world, we were all meeting for the first time. Of the 10 in our crew, there were people from Colombia, Venezuela, LA, New York, and England. Everyone had spent time living and studying abroad in countries spanning every continent. Amongst the 10 of us there were 9 languages spoken––some from birth and others learned later in life. We had an interesting conversation on the origins of language and names. For one, why was Colombia named after Columbus when he never actually stepped foot there? (I looked it up afterwards and there is not a specific reason as to why.) Someone else mentioned that he finds it funny how Americans from the USA refer to themselves as “American” when in fact Americans are people across all the Americas (named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci). It was a very international crew to say the least and we enjoyed sharing stories of our experiences and travels. Through our diversity we found commonality.

Another highlight of my trip was going to eat lunch at Crepes and Waffles with my new Colombian friend. Crepes and Waffles is a popular chain all across Colombia and in other countries in South America and Mexico. When I lived in Bogotá I would eat there often. What I didn’t know was that this massive chain (84 restaurants in Colombia alone) remains privately owned and was just recently granted B-Corp status, officially making it a social impact business. Their restaurants only hire women, predominantly single mothers, giving women in a male- dominated and religious society employment opportunities. They also make sustainability a priority, sending employees to rural areas and small-time farms who often don’t have access to larger markets and incorporating the ingredients they find there into their menu, rather than the other way around. It is incredibly inspiring to see that you can have a successful and profitable business that still does good for the world and it is no surprise that the birthplace of a restaurant like Crepes and Waffles would be in Colombia. The horror and brutality the country has experienced over the last few decades––its internal conflict has been one of the longest lasting in history and only recently came to a historic end––could explain why Colombians are some of the most politically aware and socially conscious people I have ever met.


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Women entrepreneurs are on the rise in Colombia.

All across Colombia you will meet people from all walks of life who will share personal stories of their experiences during the conflict, are prepared to answer even the most uninformed or cliché questions thoughtfully, never condescendingly, and are eager to show off their beautiful country and all it has to offer. They care deeply about their land, fighting to protect their small piece of the Amazon from big business and supporting campesinos (farmers) and minority communities. I had conversations with Colombians who were very concerned that one of the unintended impacts of the recent peace deal was that it now opens a path for special interests, generally illegal logging and large-scale cattle farmers, to take over path into jungle land that was previously FARC territory. For them, the well-being of their country and their land trumps ideology.

On my last day in Cali, once the festivities had passed and we all started to go our separate ways, I took a moment to myself. Sitting out on the balcony of my hotel room, I looked out at the view of this tropical paradise and wondered what it was that kept me coming back to this magical country. I thought about my friends, both old and new, and the beautiful memories I have had over the years. I realized that buñuelos and salsa music aside, what I love most about Colombia is Colombians themselves. They make me want to be a better person, give back to my community, and treat everyone with kindness and love. Colombians have figured out the magic recipe for making the most out of life––they live large, eat well, and dance all night, then wake up the following day greeting everyone they pass with a smile, thinking about the next problem to solve. They are eager to learn and share knowledge and always do whatever they can to leave their treasured little spot on Earth better than it was when they got there. We should all be a little more like Colombians.

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Through the Lens: Festival of the Dead across Japan

​Andrew Faulk, a photographer partnering with ​Rosetta Stone​, shares his images and thoughts from ​a journey to the ​Obon ​​​festival, where citizens of Japan honor their loved ones who've passed away.

​Incen​se on the grave.

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During Obon, the smell of senko incense fills Japanese houses and cemeteries. Throughout Obon holidays, relatives gather in homes and in cemeteries, praying for their ancestors' spirits to return. Here, recently lit incense fills a cemetery in Mitaka, one of Tokyo's wards.

Shimokitazawa Awa-Odori Festival ​lanterns.

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Shimokitazawa’s Ichibancho shopping district comes to life in mid-August with its Awa Odori festival. This image is a multiple-exposure of the festival's chochin lanterns (the lantern itself is an important part of Obon, calling ancestors back into our realm and then used again to lead the ancestors back to the grave).

Female Awa Odori dancer smiling.

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Awa Odori is a traditional dance festival made up of many groups of choreographed dancers. Here, a jovial young dancer claps to the beat of the taiko drums.

​Yukata being tied. 

Rosetta Stone Japanese

A girl helps her friend tie the bow of her yukata, the cotton dress worn throughout Japan in the summertime. With high temperatures and humidity, the traditional garb is one way to beat Japan's summertime heat.

Male Awa Odori dancer in street.

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Troupes of choreographed dancers and musicians dance through the streets, typically accompanied by taiko drums, shinobue flute, and the kane bell. Performers wear traditional obon dance costumes, and chant and sing as they parade through the streets. While the Awa Odori dance originated in the southern Tokushima Prefecture, many cities and neighborhoods throughout Japan have adopted the dancing tradition as part of the Obon celebrations. Here, a male dancer flows through Shimokitazawa's streets.

​Start speaking Japanese with total confidence. 

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5 Reasons Why You Should Learn French

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn French

Interested in learning a new language, but unsure about which one is best for you? With over 7,000 languages out there today, it can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you evaluate which language is right for you. Here are five reasons why you should consider learning French.

1. It's widely spoken outside of France.

While France is the country that most people might think of when it comes to the language, it’s actually spoken by about 60 countries around the world. That’s plenty of foreign destinations to practice your new language. Additionally, French is recognized as the official language by 29 countries. Those countries include Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo and Vanuatu.

2. The stunning travel locations are endless.

Learn French - Giverny

Claude Monet’s garden. Giverny, France.

With that many countries to choose from, your French travel itinerary is going to be a great one. If you need a few ideas to help get your bucket list started, here are some of our suggestions:

  • Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France
  • Stroll through the gorgeous streets of Old Québec and speak French with the locals.
  • Matterhorn (French: Mont Cervin) mountain in Switzerland

3. It's a career asset. 

It’s true, being able to speak a second language can be incredibly helpful when it comes to your professional life. Learning French can be an advantage for finding a job with many multinational companies that are using French as their working language. Recognize any of these French brands?
  • Louis Vuitton

  • Cartier

  • Evian

  • Garnier

  • Givenchy

4. In the mood for romance? 

If so, this could be the language for you. French is known as one of the most romantic languages in the world. We conducted a worldwide survey to identify the world’s most romantic language, and a whopping 60% said French. Additionally, 59% said that je t’aime was the most romantic way to say “I love you.” Time to brush up on that accent and set the mood for romance.

5. Further immerse yourself in French culture. 

While learning French, you can take advantage of immersing yourself in the unique culture that surrounds this language. Read famous novels in their original text. Listen to French podcasts/music or watch French movies/shows to further immerse yourself without having to travel abroad. Take a moment to admire famous masterpieces by French artists, or test your culinary skills with some classic French recipes.

Convinced? It’s easy to get started with Rosetta Stone.

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10 Greetings in French That Aren’t Bonjour

Even if you aren’t familiar with French, you probably know a few words that have fallen into common usage in English. In addition to tasty terms about food like hors-d’oeuvre and bon appétit, English speakers have also adopted chic, fiancé, and French concepts like déjà vu. Moreover, you’re likely to know one of the most common greetings in France—bonjour.

While you may be able to pronounce bonjour with passable success, you shouldn’t rely on this greeting for every situation. Bonjour means “good day” and is most often used from morning to dusk. Instead, you’ll want to choose a greeting that fits the context of the situation depending on the time of day or the company you’re keeping.

In addition to becoming a more confident speaker, there’s another really important reason to become familiar with more French greetings. In France, it’s considered rude not to say hello every time you enter a shop or when you first begin a conversation with a local.

Brush up on these ten French words or phrases that’ll get you beyond bonjour.

​1. Bonsoir 

If it’s not day, it’s night and that means you should switch from bonjour to bonsoir. Bonsoir means “good evening” and is typically used after 6 p.m. or dusk. You shouldn’t, however, confuse this word or use it interchangeably with the next greeting on the list.

​2. Bonne nuit 

Bonne nuit means “good night” but, despite the literal translation, most of the French don’t use it as a greeting at night. Bonne nuit is something you’d say before you go to bed to signal to others you are retiring.

3. Bon après-midi

This is “good afternoon” and while it’s used less often, bon apr​ès-midi can be a nice change of pace if you’ve gotten comfortable with bonjour. Be warned it’s typically not used at the beginning of a conversation. Many French speakers use bon apr​ès-midi when they are saying goodbye, akin to the way English speakers use “see you soon.”

4. Salut

There are pretty strict rules about when to use salut. This is an informal greeting and because it’s considered so casual, salut should only be used as a greeting between close friends.

5. Quoi de neuf?

This French phrase translates into “what’s up?” and can be used as an informal greeting. As you might suspect from its English equivalent, quoi de neuf is slang and should also be reserved for friends and family.

6. Allô?

Speak French - Allô

The French version of hello is infrequently used and only in very specific circumstances. You’ll most often hear the word when you pick up the phone or hear others talking on their cellphones. Allô is something the French will say to determine if someone is on the other end, but not a greeting they’d toss out in a face-to-face conversation.

7. Coucou?

If salut is informal, coucou takes it a step further. This is another casual greeting that translates loosely into the equivalent of “hey there!”. As you can imagine, French culture might consider shouting this down the street to be uncouth, so it’s slang reserved for specific situations.

7. ​Bienvenue

Bienvenue means welcome, and it implies that you are the host welcoming someone into your home or space. It might be something a concierge (another French word commonly used in English) says to welcome you to a hotel.

8. Enchanté

The phrase seems to embody the French culture, or at least the romanticized version of it. Enchanté is a warm embodiment of “nice to meet you” and translates as “enchanted” or “charmed.” It’s a response that expresses delight upon meeting someone new and can get your conversation started on the right foot.

10. Comment ​​allez-vous

Comment ​​allez-vous is the formal version of “How are you?” or “How is it going?” If you wanted to say the same thing informally, you could use the phrase Ça va? or “It goes?”.  Confusingly, Ça va can also be a response to “How is it going?” so, like most languages, context is king.

Learn more helpful French words and phrases with Rosetta Stone. Get your first lesson free when you download our Learn Languages app for iOS or Android.

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What You Can Learn with Just One Lesson of Rosetta Stone

At Rosetta Stone, our team focuses on improving the way people learn languages. Everyday, real-world situations are essential—so we’ve made a new intro lesson for English and Spanish. Created to be completed at your own pace, each of the 14 steps teaches you phrases and vocabulary that you can start using right away. Find out how to ask for directions, order food, greet new people, and more. Want to see what you can do with just this lesson? Travel blogger Kristen Kellogg put it to the test in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she ordered coffee, talked to neighbors, and made new friends—all in Latin American Spanish. 

Want to give it a whirl for yourself? It’s easy to try: just download our iOS app, select Spanish, and begin learning to speak like a local.

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From Novice to Speaker: My Vietnamese Journey

It’s another typical family dinner. I am sitting around a table of at least 10. Everyone is laughing, shouting, and exchanging jokes and stories over delicious food. But I may as well be eating alone. See, we are at my boyfriend Derek’s family home. Derek is Vietnamese, and while I will never turn down a meal that involves ​Vietnamese food, I can’t help but feel dispirited when everyone is speaking to one another in a language that I can’t understand. After one too many empty plates and missed jokes, I vowed to Derek that I would one day learn Vietnamese. Just a few weeks later, on my birthday, Derek surprised me with Rosetta Stone Vietnamese and told me to “put my money where my mouth is.” Challenge accepted. To this day I don’t think he ever expected what would come next, and to be honest, neither did I. 

Vietnamese food - Learn to speak Vietnamese

​Munching on some traditional Vietnamese fare. 

At the time I was in Liverpool, England, filming a show called “House of Anubis.” On set we have lots of breaks and I started filling in those moments with my ​Vietnamese lessons. I was instantly hooked. Thirty minutes a day turned into hours and I found myself looking forward to every spare moment I had just to get a few more lessons in. I loved how I could pop open the app whenever, wherever I was and start learning. If I was on set between takes and couldn’t make noise, I would do a reading or vocabulary lesson. When I was alone in my trailer between scenes, I would focus on my pronunciation. Derek came to visit again 6 weeks later and I hadn’t said a word about what I had been up to. I took him to a little Vietnamese restaurant I had started frequenting in Liverpool’s historic Chinatown. He nearly fell out of his chair when, out of the blue, I introduced him to my new friends and ordered our entire lunch . . . in Vietnamese! 

​"I loved how I could pop open the app whenever, wherever I was and start learning."

I kept my lessons up regularly over those next few months and by the time I came home I was speaking conversational Vietnamese. Not only was it so rewarding on a personal level to feel I had made such an accomplishment, but it was so exciting to go out, practice my new language, and surprise people. Looking at me, no one would expect that I would start blurting out Vietnamese, and that’s what made it so much fun. But this fun hobby I’d picked up became something life-changing when I went to Vietnam for my first time. I knew I wanted to go, there isn’t anywhere on earth I wouldn’t want to travel to, but I didn’t realize how much of an impact that trip would have on me and the person I am today. Being able to communicate with people in a foreign country in their own language turns a vacation into something so much more meaningful. It truly brings you out of being a tourist and suddenly you are a local. 

Speak Vietnamese

​With my boyfriend, Derek, during our trip to Vietnam. 

Derek and I managed to squeeze in time while I was on hiatus from “House of Anubis.” I flew from Liverpool, he flew from LA, and we met in Vietnam. I was excited to see Derek, thrilled to have some time off, but more than anything, I couldn’t wait to practice my Vietnamese in the motherland! I found myself wandering the streets of Saigon in search of the best bánh mì (a delicious Vietnamese baguette filled with pâté, deli meats, and pickled veggies) and drinking cà phê sữa đá with new friends at coffee shops in Hanoi. I even haggled my way down to a lower price for a painting I bought at Bến Thành Market! Me . . . haggling . . . in Vietnamese! I can’t even haggle back home in English!

Learn to Speak Vietnamese

​Biking with ​a tour guide in the Mekong Delta. 

But one experience shines above all the rest. I will never forget my trip to Cu-Chi tunnels, north of Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to by expats as Saigon). The Cu-Chi tunnels are a vast and highly sophisticated network of tunnels that the Viet Minh and later the Viet Cong built to infiltrate the South during the decades long wars. Today, the site is a popular tourist destination where visitors get the chance to walk through the tunnels and learn about what life was like for the millions of Northern soldiers during those long years. It’s a deeply emotional experience, especially for Americans, who have suffered their own traumas but have only been exposed to one side of this complex and brutal part in both American and Vietnamese history. When I was down in the tunnels, I no longer thought in terms of Northerner/Southerner, Vietnamese/American, or communist/capitalist. All I could think of was the horrors of war and the sacrifices people made to survive and fight for what they believe in.  

​"When I was down in the tunnels, I no longer thought in terms of Northerner/Southerner, Vietnamese/American, or communist/capitalist. All I could think of was the horrors of war and the sacrifices people made to survive and fight for what they believe in."

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We had a long bus ride to get to the tunnels and I passed the time by striking up a conversation with our tour guide. Between his broken English and my conversational Vietnamese, we were able to connect on a much deeper level. He told me the story of his experience during the war, how he dreamed of being a doctor but the war got in the way and he had to leave medical school and serve. After the war he tried to escape three times, but was sent back again and again. At that stage I only had a few days left of vacation and, to be honest, I had been dreading going back to work. I was homesick, I missed my family, and I really didn’t want to go back to cloudy England. When I talked to him I realized how ungrateful I had been acting. Here was this man who, for reasons completely out of his control, was unable to follow his dreams. And here I was, fulfilling my passion, and yet I was complaining about petty things like the weather. At that moment I swore I would never forget this conversation. And I haven’t.

Vietnamese man - Learn Vietnamese

​The Vietnamese man, whose story changed my life.

I still have his photo on my windowsill. It’s moved with me everywhere I have lived, from Liverpool, to Los Angeles, to New York, to Bogotá​, and every time I look at that photo, I am reminded of that conversation and that time in Vietnam. It makes me think of all the people around the world who I have come across and never spent the time to get to know, or never been able to communicate with. He will probably never know how much he meant to me, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to have spoken with this man and for my time spent in beautiful Vietnam. Language really is the ultimate connector. 

​Explore Vietnamese and start speaking like a local today with Rosetta Stone. 

The post From Novice to Speaker: My Vietnamese Journey appeared first on Rosetta Stone.

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Should English be the Official Language of the U.S.?

About half of the countries in the world have official languages. The official language of Germany, for instance, is German. The official language of Spain is Castilian Spanish. In Italy, the official language is Italian. So what’s the official language of America?

Is English the language of America?

Trick question. The United States has never had an official language. 32 states have made laws giving official status to English, but there is no such law on the federal level. And yet we’ve all heard the argument, This is America—speak English.

​While English might be the main language spoken in the U.S., it’s far from the only one. In fact, there are as many as 350 different languages spoken across the country. Unsurprisingly, the most commonly used language other than English is Spanish, followed by Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Arabic. 

"In fact, there are as many as 350 different languages spoken across the country."

Languages of America

Despite the wide variety of languages spoken across the country, most English speakers can’t speak anything but English. Only a fifth of American adults can speak a second language. It’s a surprisingly low fraction of the population compared to other countries—66% of adults across Europe can speak multiple languages.

​"The truth is there has never been one American language."

​So what’s the argument for pushing English as the one and only language Americans should use? It’s not the oldest language in the country—that would be one of the long list of indigenous languages, which more than 370,000 people still speak on a daily basis. And while it may be the most common language used across the nation, that could change over time. Not counting the millions of people who have learned Spanish by choice, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers across the country today. That number is expected to continue growing. And Spanish isn’t the only language on the rise—the number of Vietnamese speakers in America grew by almost 600% from 1980 to 2013.

​"Demanding that people speak English simply because, ​'this is America!​' doesn’t make much sense."

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The truth is there has never been one American language. Even in the country’s earliest beginnings as the Thirteen Colonies, colonists spoke English, Dutch, German, and French. Demanding that people speak English simply because, “this is America!” doesn’t make much sense. It would be more accurate to yell, “This is America! Speak one of 350 different language groups, many of which can be further broken down into a variety of dialects!”

English has always been the de facto primary language in the U.S., and that’s probably not going to change any time soon, so English-speakers have nothing to worry about. But in a nation of immigrants, it’s no surprise that you’re likely to hear a wide variety of vibrant languages when walking around. If you find yourself frustrated when you overhear a conversation you can’t understand, perhaps it’s time to try learning a new language. It might not be as hard as you think.

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A Foodie in Paris: What to Eat, Drink, and Do in the City of Light

When you think incredible food, you probably think Paris, and that’s for a good reason. Not only has the City of Light, or La Ville-Lumière,  given us foodie icons like Julia Child, it’s also the epicenter of cuisine and an incubator for some of the best chefs in the world. With a reverence for wine, an obsession with chocolate, and more Michelin-starred restaurants in a single block than any other corner of the world, you’ll find your stomach will give out long before you’ve whetted your appetite for all the foodie experiences Paris has to offer.

Because your time and your appetite is limited, here are your the Parisian experiences that should top your foodie bucket list.

Bastille - Speak French

​The Bastille in Paris.

Eat in Paris.

Palmiers or Escargots: Paris has the best patisseries in the world, but as any real Parisian will tell you, croissants are for tourists. Eat like a local by nibbling a palmier, named for their palm leaf shape and similar in texture to a croissant. Escargots are also popular with Parisians. These buns also have buttery, flaky layers, but are made with brioche dough and packed with raisins.

Coq Au Vin: This classic French stew is considered very provincial, but that’s part of its charm. Chicken is braised slowly, sometimes for days, in red wine and brandy with mushrooms, bacon, and onions. It became a cornerstone of Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and you’ll find most respectable bistros feature it lovingly on the menu.

Cheese: The French take their cheese very, very seriously and you should too. Start at a legitimate fromagerie like Paroles de Fromagers, where they’ll walk you through the right pairing. Or you can take a cheese tour and just eat your way through Paris until you find the perfect partner. The extra calories are worth it.

Speak with confidence​​.

Could you recommend a local restaurant?   

Pourriez-vous recommander un restaurant local?

​"The French take their cheese very, very seriously and you should, too."

Drink in Paris.

​Sip on a French 75, made famous in the 1920s. 

​Hot Chocolate: This is not your mom’s hot chocolate. Parisians sip this dark, rich brew called chocolat chaud like it’s liquid gold. Just one cup and you’ll be trading in your dessert one decadent sip at a time. Not sure where to start? Take a hot chocolate crawl that begins with Angelina, the cafe where Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn would sip Chocolate L’Africain piled high with chantilly cream.

French 75 or Sidecar: The City of Light is considered the birthplace of cocktails and sampling a few boozy French originals in the capable hands of a Parisian bartender is an enviable experience. Both the French 75 and the Sidecar were made famous in the 1920s by Harry’s New York Bar and an enterprising bartender who created a book that became the bible of boozy cocktails. You can still belly up to the bar at Harry’s and order a drink.

Wine: The only thing French are more serious about than cheese is wine. If you’re still discovering what you like and what goes well with certain types of cuisine, a wine tasting in the French countryside is definitely in order. Several good vineyards are within a few hours of Paris, including the fabled wineries of the Loire Valley.

​"The only thing French are more serious about than cheese is wine. If you’re still discovering what you like and what goes well with certain types of cuisine, a wine tasting in the French countryside is definitely in order."

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Do in Paris.

Have a picnic on the banks of the Seine.

Grab a blanket, a fresh-baked baguette, cheese, and a bottle of wine. Then picnic as the Parisians do by frolicking on the banks of the Seine as the sun sets. It’s an inexpensive way to soak in the delights of the city without the crowds.

Take a cooking class.

If it’s good enough for Julia Child, it’s good enough for you. Learn from the best by taking a class at a top culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu, established in 1895 and still winning awards more than 120 years later.

Speak with confidence.

What is your recommendation?   

Quelle est votre recommandation?

Stay in Paris.

While most parts of Paris have little cafes and bistros tucked into every nook and cranny, foodies will be delighted with the culinary scene over in the 11th ​arrondissement. This neighborhood straddles the banks of the Seine and was formerly home to the Bastille. It’s one of the most densely populated parts of the city, crammed with young urban dwellers who adore the trendy restaurants and bustling nightlife.

Talk of the town.

​Take a break to munch on a chocolate-filled crepe. 

​Eat a crepe off a street cart.

You’ve probably made a firm commitment to avoid being a tourist, but if you’re only in Paris once, you’ll be sad to have missed crepes from a street cart. Stroll down the cobblestone street by the Eiffel Tower, folded pastry in hand, and take in the wonder that is the City of Light. If you only live once, it’s best to do it in Paris.

Speak with confidence.

Excuse me, where could I find the best crepes?   

Excusez-moi, où est-ce que je peux trouver les meilleures crêpes?

Foodie like a local.

Don’t fall for the famous.

Some of the best food in Paris is the hardest to find. No one knows that better than David Lebovitz, the renowned American chef and baker who now calls the City of Light home. Against his better judgment, David grudgingly pronounced this unassuming Normande as the best apple tart in Paris. But don’t take his word for it. See what all the fuss is about and grab a bite for yourself at Philippe Teillet.

Start planning your trip to the City of Light and learn a few helpful French phrases today. ​ 

This content is intended only for responsible adults of legal drinking age. Rosetta Stone does not advocate or encourage the abuse of alcoholic beverages. Please drink responsibly and with moderation. Rosetta Stone does not have any affiliation with the aforementioned bars and restaurants.

The post A Foodie in Paris: What to Eat, Drink, and Do in the City of Light appeared first on Rosetta Stone.

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6 Famous Mistranslations and What We Can Learn From Them

Most language learners have tasted more than a little humble pie when trying to translate something from their native language. But these minor, very human mistakes can become international incidents when improperly handled by professional translators. Let’s take a look at a few mistranslations that have had far-reaching consequences and see what lessons these famous blunders have to offer language learners trying not to get lost in translation.

1. Jimmy Carter got a little too friendly with Poland.

On a 1977 New Year’s Eve visit to Warsaw, Jimmy Carter’s translator contributed to one of the most embarrassing moments in US diplomatic history. Carter had intended to convey friendly “desires for the future” but his translator ended up using a phrase that communicated sexual desire and went on to discuss “grasping for Poland’s private parts.” His translator, Steven Seymour, specialized in Russian and, as you can imagine, this was his first and last job translating Polish.

Translation tip: Jimmy Carter’s Polish kerfuffle is a good reminder that even when languages have related roots, it’s best not to assume you can wing it.

2. A mistranslation created the enduring idea of Martians.

In 1877, an Italian astronomer named Giovanni Schiaparelli noted he had seen what appeared to be canali, on Mars. This term, discovered some years later in his writing, was interpreted to mean canals and sent budding scientists scrambling to identify the life on Mars that could have created such canals. Unfortunately, the Italian word canali is just a general term to describe ​channels, which can be part of the natural terrain and not necessarily man-made. The idea of life on Mars, however, has long outlived the legend of this mistranslation.

Translation tip: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t expect that words spelled and pronounced similarly in another language will have the same meaning.

"The idea of life on Mars, however, has long outlived the legend of this mistranslation."

3. A premier’s choice of phrase turned the Cold War a little frostier.

Cold War - Famous Mistranslations

​A U.S. military sign at the Berlin Wall during the Cold War​, in English, Russian, French, and German. 

Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a rousing speech in 1956 about the merits of communism that unintentionally turned the temperature on the Cold War frigid. One of the phrases he used, a Russian idiom My vas pokhoronim, was translated to mean “we will bury you” and certainly sounded like a threat to the United States. It’s a common Russian saying and refers to the idea that something will endure or that you will survive to see the funeral. Delivered in Khrushchev’s blustering style, it went down in history as a misunderstanding that escalated the Cold War.

Translation tip: As many foreign speakers have learned the hard way, idioms don’t always translate well. The overall meaning in context of an idiom is usually more accurate than the individual words.

4. The word that cost $71 million.

When 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to the hospital in a coma in 1980, his family, who spoke Spanish, described him as intoxicado. While the interpreter translated this as “intoxicated” or drunk, the word refers to being poisoned or ingesting anything that has made you sick. Ramirez actually had bleeding in the brain but doctors wasted precious time trying to treat his symptoms as those of an overdose. The delay in his treatment resulted in Ramirez being a quadriplegic and his family sued and won a $71 million settlement.

Translation tip: If you’re not sure, it’s always useful to ask more questions or get a second opinion. Especially when translating during emergency situations.

"​While the interpreter translated this as “intoxicated” or drunk, the word refers to being poisoned or ingesting anything that has made you sick. Ramirez actually had bleeding in the brain but doctors wasted precious time trying to treat his symptoms as those of an overdose."

5. The ad campaign that did nothing.

HSBC bank had a famous slogan, Assume Nothing, that communicated their strategy about investment and worked well for English customers. Problems arose when they launched an ad campaign in 2009 and took their business to international markets. In many languages in Europe and across the world, there was no equivalent phrase and Assume Nothing was widely mistranslated as Do Nothing. HSBC ended up spending $10 million to reframe and rebrand their ad campaign with a slogan that worked in both national and international markets.

Translation tip: For some phrases or concepts in your native tongue, there just won’t be a catchy equivalent translation no matter how hard you try.

6. Mistranslations are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’ll get.

In the 1950s, an executive at the chocolate company Morozoff decided to bring Valentine’s Day to Japan. It had been a success in the States, but the executive had misunderstood that these chocolates were intended for women. Because of the company’s mistranslation and subsequent ad campaign, the Japanese thought women were supposed to give men chocolates instead. Happily for the candy companies, this became a tradition in Japan and to this day, women give chocolates to men on February 14th and a month later, men do the same for women.

Translation tip: The ability to understand and interpret native speakers comes from not only understanding the language but also the culture and history of a country.

​"Because of the company’s mistranslation and subsequent ad campaign, the Japanese thought women were supposed to give men chocolates instead. Happily for the candy companies, this became a tradition in Japan and to this day, women give chocolates to men on February 14th and a month later, men do the same for women."

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​Some extra pointers: 

DON’T trust the machines. There are subtleties of any language that won’t translate literally in Google and even modern-day artificial intelligence is not advanced enough to interpret nuance.

DON’T rely on a word-for-word translation. As you’ll quickly observe, word order and sentence structure are different depending on the language and can greatly alter the meaning. A word-for-word translation will be, at best, inaccurate and at worst, embarrassing.

DO mind your tone. While some slang words may be the most common usage of certain phrases, they may not be the most appropriate. Translating something relies not only on determining the best words to fit your meaning, but also figuring out the audience and setting.

DO pay attention to gender. And by that we mean gendered nouns. Many languages do have them and are governed by different rules depending on the language. While it’s a common mistake among foreign speakers, it’s still one you should avoid.

Don’t get lost in translation. Start your language learning journey with Rosetta Stone. Get your first lesson free when you download our Learn Languages app for iOS or Android.

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