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Meet the team: Jonathan

We are back!

In our last ‘Meet the team’ blog post we introduced you to the smiley Maria.

This time we introduce you to Jonathan, most commonly called Jo by all of us here at the busuu office. Jo is a Product Manager for English and is extremely interested in how people learn languages, and even writes a blog about it. This weekend he will be in Istanbul talking about online language learning at the TELT conference.

Jo also likes his sport; he cycles to the office every day and he can’t say no to a ping-pong challenge! Find out more about Jo in the interview below:

meet the team, busuu team, working with languages, learn a language

How long have you been with busuu?
Around 9 months.

Where are you from?
Bath, England.

How many languages do you speak and what are they?
English and Turkish, although I don’t practise my Turkish enough these days.

Have you experienced any funny misunderstandings when learning a new language or visiting a foreign country?
When I lived in Istanbul I learned how to say ‘How much does it cost?’ before being able to understand the answers, so after asking I would just hold out my hand and let them take out the correct money!

How would you describe working at busuu?
It’s a great place to work. All the people here are friendly and really do their jobs well. It’s good to think that people will learn more and more as we continue to improve the busuu experience.

For me, language learning means …
…creating a slightly different version of yourself! You can be a different person when you communicate in another language.

Did you like meeting Jo, our Product Manager for English? Tell us in the comments!

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Be inspired to learn by these multilingual women

International Women’s Day (8 March 2014) recognises the achievements of women worldwide. To celebrate, we want to highlight a few benefits of learning a language, supported by examples of female polyglots to inspire you!

women's day, inspirational women, international women's day

Reach more people, help create change

Speaking other languages means you can communicate with more people. You could help raise awareness of important topics in countries that speak a language different from your own.

Pakistani schoolgirl and girls’ rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai kept a blog for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. As well as Urdu and Pashto, she can speak English too, which has helped her reach a wider global audience as her profile has grown.

Other examples include Nobel Peace Prize winners Mother Teresa and Aung San Suu Kyi. Albanian missionary Mother Teresa also spoke English, Serbo-Croatian, Bengali and Hindi, and activist Aung San Suu Kyi speaks Burmese, English, French and Japanese.

Achieve greater success in your career

Learning a language can be a benefit in any profession. Thanks to the global nature of most industries and markets, any language skills you have could help you to get ahead.

British Sky Sports News presenter Kate Abdo is also fluent in Spanish, French and German. She has worked in exciting roles in Germany and interviewed sporting stars in their own language.

Columbian singer-songwriter Shakira speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, Arabic and Italian. Thanks to recording in both Spanish and English, she has won fans and enjoyed success worldwide.

Tap into your creativity and inspire others

Using your foreign language skills with other people – whether personally or professionally – will awaken their curiosity and get them interested in other cultures and languages too.

British author JK Rowling was a French teacher before becoming a writer. She used her language knowledge to help make up words in her Harry Potter books, captivating children everywhere.

Linguist Susanna Zaraysky, who was born in Russia, studied 11 languages and speaks 8 of them. She’s a book author, presenter, trainer and language blogger who inspires learners worldwide.

Who is your language-learning role model?

We hope our introduction to these female polyglots motivates you to keep learning on the busuu website.

Do you know of any other inspirational multilingual women? Who are your language role models, or do you try to inspire others yourself? Let us know in the comments!

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Watch foreign films to boost your language skills

The red carpet has already been rolled out this year for film festivals including the Golden Globes, the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. But have you ever thought about watching the foreign-language entries?

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Movies, TV shows and web series like busuu’s ‘London Central’ are useful for helping you improve your language skills. Here’s why they are a fun and (almost) effortless learning tool!

It’s an easy way to hear a different language

Films are excellent for listening to native speakers and how a language sounds. Imitate what you hear to help remember words – just think of all the phrases you know by heart from films in your own language!

Watching a movie that you’re already familiar with, dubbed in the language you’re learning, can also be useful. Because you know the story, you can more easily connect the plot with what’s being said.

You can use subtitles to help you

How many times have you wished for subtitles in real life when talking with a native speaker? The great thing about films is that you can easily turn them on to help you understand!

Whether you use them or not, and in which language, depends on your ability. You could start watching the film with subtitles and, once you’ve grasped the plot, simply turn them off and rely on your listening skills.

You’ll gain insight into a different culture

If you decide to watch a foreign film (rather than one from your own country that’s dubbed), you could discover fascinating, exciting and unusual movies that give you an insight into another way of life.

As well as improving your language skills, you’ll increase your cultural understanding and appreciation. They could also be a great talking point for when you practise with a native speaker.

Films are readily available in different languages

Nowadays, DVDs offer various languages for both soundtracks and subtitles. This means you can pick up a movie you already have at home and easily switch the options to the language you’re learning.

Many smaller, independent cinemas also show foreign films (although they probably have subtitles in your local language), and it’s easier than ever to rent movies online at a low cost from streaming services.

Learn English with ‘London Central’

At busuu, our education experts know watching films and TV shows in a foreign language can help you learn. That’s why we created ‘London Central’, an online series for learning English for beginners.

It’s the world’s first video course to include direct interaction with native English speakers. Find out more about ‘London Central or upgrade to Premium for immediate access to all 10 episodes.

What do you think about learning with movies?

Do you enjoy watching films to help you learn a foreign language? Can you recommend a movie in your own language? What tips do you have for other learners? Let us know in the comments!

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It’s carnival time! Celebrate and share a photo with busuu

At this time of year something out of the ordinary happens around the world…there’s mayhem and madness, people do weird and wonderful things, bring out their best costumes…and come together to celebrate carnival!

carnival around the world, photo competition, carnival

Win with our carnival photo competition…

Tell us how you do it, and to celebrate world festivals happening everywhere, you could win one of five 12-month Premium Memberships with busuu.

Do you wear feathers and samba? Do you wear coloured beads and catch doubloons? Maybe you wear a gown and masquerade?

Just upload your carnival photo onto our Facebook app by 21st March 2014, showing us what carnival means in your culture and why you love it.

Lots of ways to enter

It might be the excitement of setting up or dressing up. It could be the beat of the drums or the bass of the sound system. Or is it the faces of your friends lit up by lights or made up with face paints?

You can upload your picture onto our Facebook page or alternatively use Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #busuucarnival, share with your friends and get them to vote for your entry. The entries with the most votes will win!

Our competition opens 21st February and closes 21st March 2014. For full terms and conditions, click here.

Amazing carnival traditions from around the world

In the UK…it’s a celebration of diversity
We save our carnival for summer and it’s a celebration of London’s diversity. We love how London bursts with colour – there are murals everywhere…

In Spain…something fishy happens
Tenerife’s carnival is seen as second only to Rio’s. Thousands of people in costumes dance until the early hours right up until Ash Wednesday when there is the symbolic burial of the sardine or ‘entierro de la sardina’. And then there’s the Carnival Queen to crown – an event watched by thousands.

In Italy…it’s not just about Venice
The largest food fight in the country takes place in Ivrea, Northern Italy. The food of choice? Oranges. Thousands are thrown in the streets and are said to represent the stones thrown at the castle of a tyrant king who was overthrown by the people of the town. Held in February, it too celebrates the end of winter and a new beginning.

In Venice…it can be frightening
Baroque costumes and beautiful masks turn the city into a fairytale. But this year there was something a little different. Hundreds of zombies and zombie hunters marched through the streets!

In Germany…it’s ‘crazy days’
Every shopkeeper, policeman, barman; every virgin, prince and farmer (the last three are Cologne traditions!) are dressed up in crazy costume to celebrate the start of Lent.

In India…it’s paint from head to toe
The Holi festival says goodbye to winter and the triumph of good over evil in the most colourful way possible – every paint colour you can think of is thrown – and everyone and anyone is game.

In the US…it’s all purple, green and gold
Purple is justice. Green is faith. Gold is power. Huge floats line the streets and ‘krewes’ throw colourful beads and coins to the crowd. People dance, drink, picnic and party on the streets until midnight on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) before Lent begins.

In Brazil…you can be in the show
Salvador is Brazil’s favourite carnival. They say that ‘If you’re in Rio you are a spectator but if you are in Salvador you are in the show’.

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Let’s celebrate all languages

Language is such an important part of life. It shapes our interaction, our relationships and even the thoughts and feelings that we have as people. Different languages shape us in different ways, so imagine how boring the world would be without linguistic diversity.

language diversity, different languages, international mother language

International Mother Language Day

On 21 February 1952 a group of students were demonstrating for recognition of their mother tongue, Bangla, as a national language of what was then part of Pakistan. Tragically some of these students were killed during the demonstration. International Mother Language Day has been observed on this date every year since 1999, with the aim of promoting awareness of linguistic and cultural identity all over the world.

Awareness of traditions

According to UNESCO, encouraging people to celebrate their mother tongues will not just promote linguistic diversity, but will inspire solidarity between people based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

Help save dying languages

The name busuu comes from a language of the same name in Cameroon. With only eight living speakers of busuu, it’s really important that those people celebrate their language and try to pass it onto others before the language dies out. At busuu we made a video to help save the language we are named after.

Celebrate languages with busuu

Learning any language is a celebration of linguistic diversity. Here at busuu we offer 12 different languages and we believe people should learn new languages but also share and celebrate their own culture and heritage. With our massive online community you can connect with users from all over the world, speaking hundreds of different languages.

What’s your mother language? Is it the language you usually speak?