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

How to Say Hello in French

When you can’t find the words to say, translation* functions like those embedded into Rosetta Stone French lessons can be invaluable. Instead of relying on Google Translate, engage the long press gesture on images to get translations for French words so you can remove roadblocks and get back to your lesson. Sometimes though, you’ll need to get more context than French to English translations can offer, especially when it comes to the proper customs for French greetings.

In the French language, manners and courtesy are vitally important. The fact that the word etiquette is from French is probably not a coincidence. The simple matter of saying hello in French is not always as simple as it seems. Here are tips for ten different ways to greet someone in French, from the more formal welcomes among strangers to the camaraderie of close friends.

Bonjour is your bread-and-butter French greeting

The French word bonjour (bon-ʒʊr or bon-zhoor for those of us who don’t speak linguist) is as close as you’ll get to a universal phrase that means hello. It’s appropriate to use in any setting, but because it translates to “good day,” it’s customary to employ it as a greeting in the morning and afternoon.

Salute your friends with salut

Another French word for hello, salut (sa-lʊ or sah-loo), sounds like the English words for salute for a reason. It’s a casual, quick way to greet friends but be careful to leave off the “t” sound at the end to sound like a local.

Allô is hello for the telephone

You’ll be startled to hear the French use a word that sounds remarkably like hello as you pass them on the street, chatting away into cell phones. Allô is a version of “hi”, but it’s specifically used to answer the telephone so don’t just pop it into your everyday lexicon.

Ça va is your casual go-to greeting

A cursory translation of the French phrase Ça va might leave you puzzled, but that’s why context is essential. This uber casual greeting means “Does it go?” but it’s the English equivalent of “how’s it going?” and is typically reserved for situations where slang won’t get any side eye.

Keep it formal with bienvenue

Sometimes you need to observe the formalities, and for those occasions, bienvenue (bjeɪ-venʊ or beu-venoo) will do very nicely. It’s a welcome that you might hear on your way into a shop and that you’ll be expected to reply the same in return before engaging in conversation.

Coucou is as cute as it sounds

This French greeting mimics the sound of a cuckoo bird, and it’s something parents greet children with or close friends might use affectionately. Coucou is not, however, something you can drop into a chat with your boss, or a stranger without earning some strange looks.

Use wesh with caution

When eavesdropping on casual exchanges, you might hear someone say wesh bien or some variation, coupled with the words from the popular French slang Verlan. Proceed with caution imitating this colorful turn of phrase as it means ‘sup and is regulated to certain urban circles. The word wesh itself is borrowed from Arabic and mimics a casual greeting in that language.

Rebonjour is hello on repeat

If you meet someone and then soon after run into them again, you’d use the phrase rebonjour. Unlike some other French greetings which can be puzzling, rebonjour literally means what it sounds like— hello again.

Express surprise with tiens

The French word tiens is a form of the verb tenir, which means to hold, but you’ll also find it dropped into conversations as the equivalent of “there you are!” It expresses surprise and pleasure at sighting a friend across a cafe or welcoming someone into a room.

La bise is hello in French body language

Last, but not least, is the French custom of saying hello without saying a word. La bise is the infamous French air kiss, where you approach close enough to brush cheeks. Depending on where you are in France, this greeting may take the form of two kisses or three, but beware coupling it with a hearty hug. The French are much more likely to extend a firm handshake or la bise than reach for an embrace.

Say bonjour to learning French with Rosetta Stone.

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Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

Speaking two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee ©2019 The New York Times

Begin your own journey to bilingualism with Rosetta Stone.

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How to Say Hello in German

Put “hello” into any translation engine like Google and, if you ask it for German, you’re bound to get something that sounds remarkably like English. It’s the German word hallo, and despite some differences in pronunciation, it’s used much the same way as the English “hello.” What Google translate won’t tell you is that hallo is just one German greeting out of many and there are significant regional differences that govern which form of greeting you should use.

There’s nothing wrong with relying on German to English translations, especially if you’re a beginning language learner. In fact, Rosetta Stone embeds a translation feature into German lessons that uses the long press gesture to decipher an unfamiliar word. It’s a fantastic tool to help you get unstuck and back to learning the German language. However, translations won’t tell you that in Germany, it’s considered common courtesy to greet everyone you encounter, from the taxi driver to the waiter to a shopkeeper. Or that handshakes are the preferred method of interaction rather than the infamously European air kisses.

To learn these nuances of the German culture, you’ll need to study German words in the context of the situations in which you’d use them. We’ve listed ten different ways to extend a hearty German greeting, accompanied by tips about audience, setting, and pronunciation that will help you sound like a local.

To learn these nuances of the German culture, you’ll need to study German words in the context of the situations in which you’d use them. We’ve listed ten different ways to extend a hearty German greeting, accompanied by tips about audience, setting, and pronunciation that will help you sound like a local.

Guten Tag is your German formal go-to

As long as the sun is still shining, guten Tag (good day) is the way to go for settings that might involve strangers or acquaintances. You can also pivot to guten Morgen (good morning) before noon or guten abend (good evening) from dusk until bedtime.

You guessed it. Hallo is German for hello

In the German language, you’ll discover many words that sound quite similar to their English counterparts and hallo is one of them. It’s German for “hello” and while it’s not slang, it’s still considered somewhat informal and is reserved for casual settings.

Germany uses hi, too

This word sounds the same in many languages and is a universal way to extend a welcome. Just as is true in English, hi is even more informal than hallo and should only be used with a crowd you’re comfy with.

Open your casual convo with alles klar

Say alles klar to yourself out loud, and you’ll get a close approximation of its meaning. It translates literally to “all’s clear,” and as a conversation starter, it’s used in the same context as “what’s up?” so keep it tucked in your pocket for people you’re familiar with.

Grüß Gott or grüß dich? It’s regional

The German language can have significant regional differences and phrases embraced in one section of the country might be considered unusual in others. Grüß Gott is uttered widely in Bavaria as a respectful greeting. You’re more likely to encounter grüß dich? (hello, there!), a variation of the same address, in Southern Germany.

Northern Germany prefers moin or moin moin!

We’ve covered what they say down south, but what about in Northern Germany? In areas around Hamburg, you’re likely to hear moin, a version of hello left over from low German or the Frisian language. Occasionally, you’ll also notice it gets doubled up as moin moin, which is pretty adorable in the mouth of a gruff German speaker.

Get efficient with the German greeting servus

Germans are nothing if not practical, so it makes sense that they’d double up and use the same word for both hello and goodbye. Often, that greeting is servus or “at your service,” and it’s an adaptable word you can use in most settings across Bavaria and Austria.

Wie geht es Ihnen? is your formal convo starter with a caveat

If you require a more formal opening for a business setting, you can use Wie geht es Ihnen. But be warned that unlike other cultures, it’s not common to ask people how they are in passing, so save this phrase and its casual counterpart, wie geht’s, for starting a more in-depth conversation.

Use Germany’s jo! with caution

Jo is pretty much what it sounds like—the German version of yo. As you might expect, you shouldn’t throw this out there even in casual conversations. It’s something the younger crowd might say to grab someone’s attention, but it’s certainly not in keeping with the manners most Germans expect.

Na is hard to explain. It’s a German thing.

An excellent example of how the infamous German desire for efficiency permeates the culture is the usage of the word na. When offered as a greeting, na can be quick way to say “Hi, how are you?” but be aware that it’s usually not a phrase for a first conversation. More often, it will be used as a way to catch up with someone whom you haven’t talked to in a while. It’s an interesting example of the German preference for “cutting to the chase.” Na is also, however, used in lots of other contexts and you’ll find your German lessons devote significant time to unraveling the linguistic mysteries of this two-letter word.

Say hallo to learning German with Rosetta Stone.

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What All Those Numbers and Letters on Your Boarding Pass Really Mean

You check in and print it out 24 hours before boarding your flight, or maybe you download it to your phone. Either way, your boarding pass is a key item that allows you entry onto your flight. It serves as an identity document, a security pass, an information booth, and a key to your passageway. But what do all those seemingly random characters and symbols on your pass actually mean? Here, we dive in, with a little help from travel company Boxever and the Huffington Post.

Bar code

One of the most recognizable things on your boarding pass is the bar code. The magnetic strip, called BCBP, or bar-coded boarding pass, often appears on the bottom right side of your boarding pass, but there’s no hard and fast rule about its placement. The bar code itself is 2D, and must meet the standards of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline trade group that sets criteria for consistency across the airlines and countries. The bar code is often scanned at the gate and helps speed up the boarding process. The scanner also records the information, so gate agents and the crew on the plane can easily tell how many people have boarded, what seats are taken, and how many bags have been checked.

Your unique identifier

There’s a six-digit alphanumeric code that appears on your boarding pass. That’s your PNR, or Passenger Name Reference, otherwise known as your record locator or reservation code. This randomly generated sequence is what you need to type in to retrieve your boarding pass, and is what identifies you as a unique passenger—you know, in case there’s someone else with your exact first and last name on your flight. Among other things, this PNR holds information about your meal preferences or special requests. It’s one of the main reasons you shouldn’t throw away your boarding pass in a public trash can, as someone may be able to pull your information using your reservation number or bar code.

Flight code and number

Look for two uppercase letters, followed by a four-digit number. The letters are the airline code, or the numbers universally recognized to represent the name of the airline in shorthand. Some are obvious—AA is American Airlines, for example—but others are not, like JetBlue, which is B6. The flight number is determined by the airline, using a complex algorithm that takes into account past and current airline flight numbers, as well as things like other airlines with similar sounding numbers scheduled to fly through the same airspace at the same time. This helps avoid potential confusion with pilots and air traffic control.

A floating letter

You may notice a letter on your boarding pass that’s distinct from all the others—a lonely “B” hanging out by itself, for instance. That letter may be the most classist part of your ticket (aside from your seat assignment). The stray letter may appear next to your seat assignment, flight number, or even just adjacent to the date and time of your flight. Different letters mean different things to different airlines, but generally, the letter marks your airline status, aka, your likelihood of getting an upgrade based on your loyalty status and what seat you booked. An “A” or “F” mean first-class treatment, while a “B” often means you’re more likely to get upgraded than if you have a “Q” or a “Y” on your ticket—the latter two are typically the cheapest economy fares.

Other airlines

Note the line on your boarding pass that says “operated by,” which tells you what you may have missed during the booking process: that your flight is actually not being flown by the airline you thought you were traveling with. Often, airlines sell tickets on their sites for flights operated by partner airlines, sometimes known as codeshare flights, or subsidiary ones on regional jets that they own but don’t operate. American Eagle is one example, as it’s owned by American Airlines but operated by a different company with distinct rules and structuring.

Security codes

There’s no way to know with certainty whether you’re getting frisked by security at the airport, but if there’s an “SSSS” on the bottom of your boarding pass, odds are you will. This code marks you as a higher security risk, or “Secondary Security Screening Selection,” which means you’ve been pre-selected for additional security screening. (“Secure Flight is a risk-based passenger pre-screening program that enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers before they arrive at the airport by matching their names against trusted traveler lists and watchlists,” the TSA told Business Insider.) While the criteria for how one gets on the list isn’t clear, it includes people who appear on the No Fly List and the Do Not Board List put out by the U.S. government’s Terrorist Screening Center and the Centers for Disease Control, respectively.

Stopover

You’ll see an S/O on your boarding pass if you have a stopover or layover, and “SPTC” if you have a stopover that lasts longer than a few hours, in which case the airline may even put you up in a hotel.

Prepare for your next trip with a new language.

By Allison Hope © 2019 Condé Nast Traveler

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10 Ways to Say Hello in Spanish

As some of the most frequently used phrases in any language, greetings are one of the first things taught in language lessons. Many of these Spanish words, such as hola in Spanish, can be quickly gleaned from Google translate. Rosetta Stone even embeds a translation feature in Spanish lessons that can help you quickly decipher Spanish to English when you get stuck. While this convenient tool ensures beginners don’t get lost in translation, it’s also vital to get beyond translating to really understanding and speaking the Spanish language with confidence.

One of the things that can make Spanish greetings seem less straightforward is that the language relies heavily upon formal and informal verb conjugations as well as gendered nouns. This grammatical structure makes it essential that you understand both context and audience when greeting someone and it’s the reason why Google translate just won’t cut it if you want to learn to say it like a local.

Here are ten common greetings in Spanish along with guidance about how, when, and with whom to use them so you can avoid gaffes and strike up a conversation.

Hola is the Spanish hello everyone knows

Even folks who don’t speak much (or any) Spanish know the word hola, which is the universal hello that works in any situation. Many people, however, do not understand how to pronounce this Spanish hello properly. In Spanish, the “h” is silent, so hola is pronounced “oh-la.”

It may mean “good day,” but buenos días is for the morning

This is one of those quirks of the Spanish language you won’t learn from simply translating Spanish to English phrases. The time of day dictates which greeting to use and, contrary to the inclusion of the word días (day), you shouldn’t use buenos días in the afternoon. It’s a greeting generally reserved for use before noon.

¿Quihubo? is the casual “How are you?”

Across Spain, you’ll hear this question used as a greeting. ¿Quihubo? translates to “what’s up” and is used in much the same was as its English counterpart. You’ll find friends and family employ this Spanish phrase in welcome or in passing.

Check your watch before using buenas noches

Another facet of Spanish culture is that dinner is often eaten late and the use of buenas noches (good night) is usually reserved for the hours after 9pm. Before then, you should use buenas tardes (good afternoon) if it’s after noon or even early evening. Unlike other languages such as English and French, good night is commonly used in Spanish as a greeting, not just to signal it’s bedtime.

Extend a warm Spanish welcome with bienvenidos

The Spanish phrase for welcome, bienvenidos, mirrors its counterpart in French and is used in much the same way to welcome a guest to your home, shop, event, or restaurant. While it’s used in a formal manner, bienvenidos is still filled with the gracious hospitality of the Spanish people. You’ll hear it in various forms depending on the number of people and gender of the audience, including bienvenidas, bienvenido, and bienvenida.

¿Qué tal? or ¿Qué pasa? are casual conversation starters

Each of these informal questions are used to open chats with friends or family, and while they are considered casual, they aren’t slang. Qué tal translates into “what such” but is the equivalent of the English “what’s up” while qué pasa means “what’s passed” or “what’s happening.”

When in doubt use ¿cómo está usted?

¿Cómo está usted?, usually phrased as a question, is the more formal “how are you?” and should be used in situations with strangers or acquaintances. Don’t confuse it though with ¿Cómo estás?, the informal version of this Spanish greeting for people you’re more familiar with.

Muy buenos or muy buenas gets the job done

If you’re just not sure exactly what time of day it is, you can fall back on the more general muy buenos in the morning and muy buenas in the afternoon. While it might translate to “very good,” it’s actually a catch-all,shortened greeting that communicates the sentiment of buenos días or buenas tardes.

Avoid oye or ey

These two Spanish slang words are just what they sound like— the English equivalent to “hey” or “hey, there.” As you might anticipate, this would be a greeting you’d use only with pretty intimate friends or family members and not something you’d be shouting down the street at a stranger. Using this with the right audience is vital to avoid coming off as rude.

To kiss or not to kiss in Spanish

You might notice the air kiss that is quintessential among the French occurs frequently in Spanish cafes or on the street, but it’s a greeting usually extended between family or close friends. Instead, you’re more likely to be welcomed with a handshake than a hug when meeting a Spanish native speaker. When in doubt, take your cues from the environment and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Say hola to learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone.

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How to Say Hello in Russian

For beginning language learners, it may be tempting to use translation engines to figure out how to say “hello” in Russian. However, when you use tools like Google translate, you may quickly find the Russian word for “hello,” but the real meaning of the language and the cultural nuances of Russian greetings often get lost in translation.

That’s why Rosetta Stone takes a two-pronged approach to the problem. Features embedded in our lessons allow you to easily translate a word using the long press gesture. At the same time, greetings, vocabulary, and other helpful phrases are presented in the context of the situations in which they occur, so learners feel confident they’ll always know what to say.

This immersive strategy is essential when learning a language like Russian because the devil is definitely in the details. For instance, no translation engine will tell you that Russians generally frown upon touching when greeting a stranger or acquaintance, including avoiding the very European practice of air kisses. These cultural cues are things you can only pick up by getting beyond translations and studying the Russian language and people.

Here are ten of the most common ways to extend a hello in Russian, ranging from formal to informal and everything in between.

Zdravstvujtye (Здравствуйте) is your go-to Russian greeting

It’s always nice to have a universal greeting tucked into your pocket, one you can take out in any situation. Zdravstvujtye, which translates to “be healthy, be well” is up to the task. Because the Russian language also uses the rolling of Rs, English speakers may find the pronunciation (zdrah-stvooy-tee) a bit tricky at first. You can also use a shortened version of this greeting, zdravstvuj, in less formal settings.

Greet friends and family with privyet (Привет)

In Russia, authority figures and elders are carefully extended courtesy in public life, including formality of address. As such, you should never use privyet (pree-vyet), the Russian version of “hi” or ”hey, there” with anyone but intimate friends or family members.

Алло (allo) is a Russian hello for the telephone

Similar to other languages, Russians do have a particular word they use exclusively for answering the phone, and it does sound remarkably like the versions of aлло (allo) you’ll find in France or Germany as well as its English equivalent.

Be prepared for an earful with kak dyela (Как дела)

One of the particulars of Russian culture is that the phrase kak dyela (kahk-dee-lah), which means “how are you,” isn’t used in passing as a greeting. When you employ this Russian phrase, expect to be regaled with a thorough response and a recounting of recent events.

Observe the time of day with dobriy utro (Доброе утро)

Dobroye utro (dohb-rah-ee oo-truh) translates to “good morning” in Russian, and as you might expect, there are variations on this greeting depending on the time of day. Dobroye dyen (Добрый день) is “good afternoon” and after darkness falls, you can start saying dobriy vyecher (Добрый вечер) or “good evening.”

Don’t get confused with the casual greeting privetik (приветик)

This greeting sounds an awful like privyet, and it would be easy to confuse the two Russian words. Privetik, however, is a cute, extremely casual greeting used by young women in Russia that probably shouldn’t be tossed around by the average traveler.

Use s priezdom (С приездом!) with caution

The Russian version of welcome, s priezdom, is used sparingly by locals and doesn’t have the same applications as its English counterpart. You may, however, hear it extended by shopkeepers or as a formal greeting used in an official capacity to extend welcome.

Khellou (xэллоу) is for Russian/English speakers who are showing off

If this Russian slang greeting sounds a little too close to English, that’s intentional. You might end up conversing with a Russian who knows how to speak English, and they might use khellou as a shorthand for trying to impress others with their language skills.

Take your leave with dobroy noci (доброй ночи)

A strict translation of dobroy noci is “good night,” but it isn’t intended to be used interchangeably with “good evening.” In Russian, you’d use this phrase or spokojnoj nochi to take your leave or to signal it’s bedtime, not as a greeting.

Dratuti (Дратути) is for the Russian internet generation

You’ll find dratuti in memes or chat rooms online to express “hello,” but it’s usually reserved for online venues and as a way to signal to other Russians that you’re internet savvy. You’ll find several of these kinds of expressions in Russian,where the usage of the word implies a more subtle syntax you won’t get from the literal meaning.

Say Zdravstvujtye to learning Russian with Rosetta Stone.

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Ben Learns Portuguese: Episode 2

Hey everyone! This week, I dove into Unit 2: Greetings and Introductions. I learned a lot about food, a little about friends and family, and a few things about food. Just kidding

Unit 2 taught me a lot of foundational language that builds on what I learned in Unit 1. Now I can talk about meu pai, minha irmã e minha mãe, and introduce you to meus amigos.

The weird thing I noticed about possessives in Portuguese is the conjugation of meu/minha. Turns out, you conjugate the Portuguese word for “my,” based on the object to which you’re referring!

Thanks for tuning in, but I need to go back to minha cozinha, porque eu estou cozinhando.

Be back soon.
-Benjamin

Begin your own Brazilian Portuguese adventure.

Benjamin Papac is an actor, storyteller, and language lover. He stars in Greenhouse Academy (Netflix) and currently studies Brazilian Portuguese.

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Ben Learns Portuguese: Episode 1

Hey everyone! I’m excited to launch my blog “Ben Learns Languages.” I’m going to share my journey with you as I become multilingual by using the Rosetta Stone app.

First up, I’m learning Portuguese! I’m starting in Unit 1, which is all about the basics. I’m essentially as fluent as a toddler. I can ask what things are, and identify cats, dogs, adults, and children, which is great! It’s all about baby steps.

The biggest challenge so far is the range of sounds in Portuguese. It’s completely different from other languages I know. Right now, I swing from sounding Spanish to Italian to American. I pride myself on my pronunciation skills, so it’s been very humbling.

But I still have that rush I always get when I start to unlock a new language! I’ll post every couple of weeks as I make progress. Hopefully, I’ll be posting in Portuguese before too long!

Be back soon.
-Benjamin

Start your own Portuguese adventure today.

Benjamin Papac is an actor, storyteller, and language lover. He stars in Greenhouse Academy (Netflix) and currently studies Brazilian Portuguese.

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Travel Longer, Cheaper and Better: Hostels for Beginners


What comes to mind when you hear the world “hostel?” A gaggle of 20-somethings on a weeklong bender? Smelly hippie-types barefoot hiking around the world? A movie series that managed to combine enough torture and grunge to scar a generation?

What if I told you that for the majority of the last five years I’ve traveled all over the world, and in that time stayed at some of the most incredible places … that just happened to be hostels? That I’ve met dear friends and adventurous companions, all while paying a fraction of what a hotel would charge? Hostels aren’t what you think, at least, not anymore. While every hostel is different, I’ve stayed in over 100 across six continents and feel comfortable offering some general observations.

What You’ll Find in Today’s Hostels

In the most general terms, a hostel is just like a hotel, except you usually have to share a bathroom. For the lowest room rates, you’ll also share a room. Additionally, most hostels have a kitchen and a lounge. The most common dorm, or shared room, has 4 beds, usually in the form of two bunk beds. Most hostels will have rooms with more beds that are cheaper per night, and rooms with fewer beds for slightly more money per night. Only hostels in the most touristy areas will have rooms with a dozen beds or more.

The more people in a room, the lower the rates, but it’s just by a few dollars a night. Unless your budget is very tight, a smaller room will generally be quieter and worth the small premium. Most hostels also have private rooms, which are their most expensive rooms, but still usually cheaper than a hotel. These can be good for couples, families, or even just an individual looking for a quiet night’s sleep. In addition to the bed, sheets and a pillow, you’ll nearly always have a locker to hold your bags or valuables. Just like a hotel, almost every hostel locks their doors at night, and has keys, cards or codes required to access both the hostel and your room.

Some hostels have “en-suite” rooms, as in there’s a bathroom attached to the room, like you’d find in a hotel, just shared with the people staying in that room. Personally, I’m not a big fan. Usually that means you’re all fighting for that one bathroom all at the same time. Plus, if someone creates an odorous mess (I’m talking about a deluge of Axe body spray, obviously), then the whole room will smell like that too.

Very, very rarely is there an upper age limit at a hostel. At 40 I’m almost never the oldest, although the average age is younger. Almost all, however, have a lower age limit. Travelers under 18 usually can’t say in dorm rooms. Nearly every hostel will have women-only dorms available, though the majority of rooms are coed.

How To Find And Book A Good Hostel

Just like hotels, hostels have review and booking websites to help you find where to stay. Hostelworld andHostelz are two of the big ones. These feature reviews from recent travelers, lists of amenities, and most importantly, pictures.

The pictures tell a story, directly and indirectly. Sure, you get to see what the hostel looks like, in a best-case “we’re having photographs taken today” fashion, but they’ll also give you an idea what the hostel is about. Is every photo a bunch of people drinking? Party hostel. Are there lots of photos of people reading or playing board games? Probably chill and relaxed. These sometimes go beyond the description and inform you what staying there will be like.

Since you’ll likely be sharing the space, be extra aware of your person and your belongings. For example, don’t eat chips at 1 a.m. Don’t leave your durian or Limburger or lutefisk sandwich on your bed. Also, and this is a personal pet peeve, don’t use plastic bags in your luggage. The loudest sound in the universe is someone packing their belongings into plastic bags at 5 a.m.

But my biggest advice? Say hello and introduce yourself. Most people in hostels are traveling alone. Break the tension with a smile and a handshake. After all, you’ll be living with these folks for a night or more. Who knows, you might even make a new friend. I sure have. As an inveterate introvert and part-time misanthrope, no one was more surprised than I to find that most travelers are good people. Many are amazing and well worth meeting.

Hostels are not perfect, and like hotels will vary considerably region to region. There is an adjustment, of course, needed to sleep next to strangers. But for that adjustment and lack of perfection, you’ll be able to travel longer and cheaper. Especially if you’re considering slumming in a cheap, possibly questionable hotel instead. I’ve stayed in bad hotels and bad hostels, and the latter is far easier to take when it costs a fraction of what a cheap hotel costs.

Oh, and the Wi-Fi is almost always free. Can’t say that about hotels.

Geoffrey Morrison is a freelance writer/photographer covering tech and travel. He’s the editor-at-large for Wirecutter and you can also find his work at CNET. He’s the author of the best-selling sci-fi novel “Undersea,” and you can follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

©️ 2019 The New York Times

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Trying out Seek & Speak in France

Paris is a city that never fails to sweep me off my feet. Walking down the grand boulevards and hidden alleys I am consistently astonished by the beauty that surrounds me. Every meal is cause for celebration, an event that demands my full attention and appreciation. Even the sounds are delightful, as I find no language more pleasing to listen to than French. It is a language I wish I could speak. Although I spent some time studying it in school and abroad, it was a goal I never felt able to achieve.

The first time I visited Paris was in 2009. It was the summer after I graduated high school and my friends and I had organized a Euro trip. (If I still lived in Australia this would be my “gap year,” the year between when you finish high school and start college or uni, as the Aussies say, which many spend traveling abroad. But, unfortunately in America we only get the summer.) I was in Paris for nearly a month and took French lessons four times a week. I naïvely thought that because I spoke Spanish, French would be a breeze. I imagined I’d be chatting with new friends over café au lait (coffee and milk) and croissants in the local pâtisserie (bakery) within a matter of days. I was rudely awakened by the discovery that my fluency of Spanish was of little help with vocabulary and, even worse, it was a hindrance when it came to speaking. Like a bad habit, I would repeatedly pronounce the French words as though they were Spanish. I just couldn’t get the French diction to stick. I had hoped to gain a new language that trip, but gained little more than a few pounds instead.

Nathalia Ramos with friend | Seek & Speak

I have been back to Paris several times since but, after the first attempt, was too embarrassed to give learning French another try. Instead I would spend my days getting lost in the different arrondissements (districts) of the city, appreciating each one for its unique charm. The 1st arrondissement is full of grandeur and prestige. It is there you can visit the world-renowned Louvre Museum, shop the world’s’ most iconic designer brands on Rue Saint-Honoré and wave to the president from outside the gates of the Élysée Palace. Just a few blocks from there you’ll find yourself in the eighth arrondissement on the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous avenues of the world. The 1st and the 8th arrondissements border one another because the city is laid out like a snail shell, starting with the 1st arr. in the center and circling around from there until you reach the Périphérique Blvd. that separates the city from the suburbs. Symmetry was a primary design feature for the architects of the city when it was designed in the 1800s. Most astonishing perhaps is the impeccable planning behind the Axe Historique, a single line through the city on which some of the city’s most important monuments lie. Heading down in the opposite direction there’s a little island in the middle of the Seine in the 4th arr where Notre Dame is. One of the most charming neighborhoods, Les Marais, is also in the 4th arr. I could spend the whole day there, strolling along the cobblestone streets, in and out of the local boutique shops and trying all the international cuisines from street food vendors along the way. Then, if I’m in the mood for a drink after a long day of exploring, I’d head to any of the hip bars that fill the Latin Quarter (6th arr.).

Over the years, I’ve managed to get to know Paris fairly well, so during this last visit just a few weeks ago, I finally decided I was ready to give French another try. Conveniently, Rosetta Stone had just launched Seek and Speak, which is a learning game that I could play on the app.

The app would give me a challenge. For example: “Find 5 vegetables you’d like to cook with” or “Find 5 things that you would use to bake a cake.” As I went about my day I would search for those items. When I found one, I would take a picture of it and the app would give me the name of the item in French. I spent a whole morning in the farmers market in Les Marais running around looking for these items. In just an hour I had learned how to ask for items, how to properly pronounce each ingredient, and had enough food to make a full meal for my friends—if only I knew how to cook as well! I had fun playing, but the best part about Seek and Speak for me was that I could be learning while I was out and about. I was picking up useful words each day and I didn’t have to be sitting in a classroom. Little by little, I got more comfortable with the language because I wasn’t overthinking it. I was experiencing it.

Nathalia Ramos in Paris

While I have not yet lived out my fantasy of chatting with new friends over croissants at the local pâtisserie, I feel more confident and excited speaking French. When I first tried to learn it 10 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the challenges and disillusioned that I wasn’t performing as well as I expected. But I’ve discovered that I don’t need to strive for perfection every time. Making an effort to learn what you can of the local language when you’re in a foreign country opens the door for a much more meaningful visit, and I’ve found the joy in the journey. Being able to interact with language while I am out doing normal activities boosted my confidence and reminded me why we learn languages to begin with—to be part of a community.

Learn French with Rosetta Stone today.

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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