Category Archives: Language-learning tips

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Boost your pronunciation – Part 1

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Pronunciation can be tricky!

It’s hard to know how to pronounce a sound, word or phrase in another language and we all worry about getting it wrong. Using the Voice Recording feature on busuu can help.

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Listening to yourself speak a foreign language will help you improve your accent and correct some of your mistakes. In the Voice Recording exercises you listen to sentences from a dialogue and then record the sentences yourself.

When you listen to the example, and when you listen back to your recording, focus on these things:

Phonemes - These are the individual sounds that make up words.

Word stress - Which parts of the words are stressed (spoken stronger or louder than the others)?

Intonation - How does your voice move up and down when you speak?

Keep trying until you are happy with your recording and then send to other busuu users!

Get started!

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Language is more than words – Part 1

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How embarrassing! The etiquette of meeting and greeting

We all love meeting people on busuu – conversing with people from different backgrounds and cultures whom you would never normally meet, all from the comfort of your living room. Best of all, there’s little chance of making any first-time-meeting faux-pas – just flip open a busuutalk or private message and get chatting!

But we don’t want you to just stay at home – we want you to get out there and practise your new-found language skills in the real world! Studies show that we have just 7 seconds to make a first impression, and that non-verbal communication has more of an effect on people than verbal. That’s why in this series we are looking at the theme ‘Language is more than words’ – when are words not enough?

Find out how the world greets others

Anthropologist Edward T. Hall defined our four levels of social interaction as being: intimate (distance of 6-18 inches), personal (distance of 1.5 to 4 feet), social (4 to 12 feet) and public (distance of 12 to 25 feet). At each distance, there are certain actions which are expected and certain which are inappropriate. But what happens when greeting etiquette from different cultures transcend different social distances?!

In international contexts, or places where there is little definition of greeting etiquette, greeting can be a social nightmare – in the UK, a handshake was always traditional, but cheek kisses have become more common, and these days some will even dive straight in for a hug!

Nod? Bow? Handshake? Kiss? Hug? Even where it’s clear there can be confusion. In France, the number of cheek kisses exchanged can vary from region to region – from 1 to a whopping 5! Context is also a defining factor. In Japan, a typical informal bow might be of around 15 degrees, whereas a formal one can be 30, and an apologetic bow would see a person dipping to 45 degrees! (Add in the duration and repetition of bows and we have even more variation!).

How do you greet people in your country? Does it vary across regions? Have you experienced any greeting faux-pas?! Leave a comment on our blog so that we can all learn to avoid the embarrassing situation pictured above!

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What’s October’s Language of the Month?

Did you take part in our Language of the Month in September, when we posted lots of fun, interesting facts about Russian on Facebook, Twitter and Google+? Find out what we talked about and read on to discover October’s language!

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Russian-language culture

There were lots of interesting discussions about Russian life. We asked about the shapka-ushanka hat and Alsu Zaynutdinova told us that she only used to see it when she was a child, so it’s not very popular nowadays.

Have you heard of the brilliant Russian cartoon, ‘Cheburashka and Crocodile Gena’? Reader Santos Andrade Evandro said that he would like it to be transmitted on TV in Brazil. Maybe it will happen, Santos!

Ask a native speaker

Did you have a question about Russian? Language expert Maria was available on Facebook for one hour to help fans with their queries. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Oula Akiki asked: “What is the best way to start learning Russian? What should we learn first?”
  • Maria told Michael Webb that reading, talking and writing every day are very important.
  • Lindsey Sampson wants to improve her listening skills. Maria recommended a useful book with short recorded dialogues.

How did Maria answer and what tips did she provide? Discover what she said on our special Facebook post!

Words and proverbs

Do you know what ‘Na vkus i cvet – tovarisha net‘ means? Vadim Davydov told us it’s a proverb that says everyone has different tastes and no two people are the same. Anush Nakhshikyan and Tanya Ivanchenko agreed – thanks everyone!

In our post on Facebook, did you spot the mistake the speaker makes? Mikael Marcondes de Oliveira told us about another common error when he explained that the English word ‘magazine’ sounds very similar to the Russian word for ‘shop’, which is ‘магазин’.

We also posted an interesting fact about ‘спасибо’, the Russian word for ‘thank you’. Fan Arsen Hayrapetya told us that, in the Armenian language, ‘thank you’ is very hard to pronounce and literally means ‘to wish that a person receives grace’.

Language of the Month in October

The next tongue that we will delve into is an official language in many countries, including the UK, USA and Australia. It’s possibly the most widely spoken language in the world, if you combine native and non-native speakers.

Have you guessed? That’s right, it’s English! This language has several variations, so we’ll explore some of the differences and talk about a few tricky grammar rules. Learn about English with busuu on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. See you soon!

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What’s our next Language of the Month?

Did you get involved with our Language of the Month in August? If so, you will have learned lots of fun facts about German on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Read the highlights here and then find out which language we’ll be exploring in September!

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Ask a native speaker

This month, native speaker Thomas was available on Facebook for one hour to answer any questions you had about the German language. Here are some of the best ones.

  • Madhu Bala asked: “Where can I find German books for beginners online?”
  • Lorena Gutierrez had an excellent grammar question about the German cases and how they affect der, die and das.
  • Julian MejiaI asked: “How can I make sure that, over time, I don’t forget all the languages I know?”

How did Thomas answer? Discover what he said on our special Facebook post!

Food word fun

Do you know what Sahne, Obers and Rahm have in common? They all mean ‘cream’ in different German-speaking countries, including Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

We also posted a picture of a mystery food item and our Facebook followers correctly identified it as a Lebkuchenherz (gingerbread heart). Fan Renate Buescher even told us their significance:

“The Lebkuchenherz can be found at any fair. The bigger the heart, the greater the affection of the giver. As children, we would beg to receive a Lebkuchenherz.” Thank you, Renate!

Famous buildings

Our photo of two well-known German landmarks was no match for busuu’s fans! They quickly recognised Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) and the city’s elegant railway bridge over the Rhine River.

Facebook follower Amandine Adelaïde shared some great facts about the cathedral – such as when it was built and its architecture style – and the Hohenzollern Bridge. Read what she said in French. Thanks, Amandine!

Language of the Month in September

Next month, we will be exploring a language from a country that’s known for its caviare, wooden dolls and a very special dance. Yes, we’ll be travelling through Russian and learning a new alphabet!

This Slavic language is widely spoken in 9 countries. With 144 million native speakers, it’s also Europe’s largest native language. Learn about Russian with busuu on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. До ск орой встречи!

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Develop good language-learning habits

The trick for successfully learning any language is to develop good habits from the start. At busuu, we want you to stay motivated and have fun while achieving your personal goals. Here are our top tips to help you reach them!

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Top language-learning habits

1. Listen as often as you can

Listening to native speakers is crucial for learning a language. You can easily do this even if you don’t live in the country of your target language, thanks to lots of useful online resources.

Try listening to TV shows, podcasts or videos like busuu’s ‘London Central’. Or go to our busuu Live Units for more fun videos to watch.

2. Practise with native speakers

The best tutors are native speakers themselves, so try to talk or interact with them as often as possible. With the busuu chat tool, you can do this from the comfort of your own home!

Speaking will help you to improve your pronunciation, but you can also better your fluency through writing. Complete a Writing exercise on busuu and our community’s native speakers will give you helpful, positive feedback.

3. Track your progress

Learning a new language is a challenge, so be persistent and you’ll reap the rewards. Study and practise regularly, and track your progress using My Goal on busuu.

By setting and achieving your own aims, you’ll feel motivated to carry on learning. It also means that you’ll be more likely to study a language consistently, for even faster results!

 

What good habits do you have?

It’s helpful to hear about other people’s good habits. What are your tips for staying motivated or learning faster? Do you have any funny stories about your experiences? Tell us in the comments!