24 Mar 2014

Foreign slang

Slang, perhaps one of the hardest things to grasp as a language learner but once you've got it (and can use it correctly) its probably fair to say that you've earnt the right to call yourself bilingual.

However, this is no easy feat; as a Brit I could go from London to Newcastle and everywhere in between and probably not fully understand what everyone was saying to me. This also goes for other countries, regional variations can be quite problematic, for example the slang I learnt while in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France seemed rather strange to my Parisian friends.

To help you out along the way here are some examples and advice on when/where to use them.


As I have already said, English slang varies tremendously from city to city, so with that in mind here are some examples from the larger northern and southern cities.

  • London: aka Cockney rhyming slang. This phenomenon came about (as with a lot of slang) as a way to confuse the police and hide any illegal activity. The basic concept is to take an expression that rhymes with a word and use the expression instead of the word. 
         Some examples: 'alone' = Jack Jones, i.e "I've been on my Jack Jones all day" 
                                   'bar' = Ringo Starr, i.e "Let's go for a few Britneys* in the Ringo"
                                   'beers'* = Britney Spears (see above)
                                   'wrong' = Pete Tong, i.e "Its all gone Pete Tong"
                                   'winner' = Chicken dinner, i.e "Everyone's a chicken dinner"

Source: www.etsy.com
  • Newcastle: aka Geordie. Famous for their friendly attitudes, the night life and the infamously tricky accent, this is a place everyone should visit. While their slang doesn't rhyme it is still rather confusing.
         Some examples: 'propa' = very, really or significantly, i.e "that film was propa good"
                                  'Toon' = Newcastle, city centre or Newcastle FC, i.e "I'm going to Toon"
                                  'howay man' = no real translation, a general proclamation of encouragement or exhortation.
                                  'canny' = good, i.e "that's canny".
  • General slang. There are some older phrases that are still used all over such as 'summat' (something), 'berk' (a fool/idiot), 'mate' (friend) or 'bob' (used to be a shilling now used for money in general), but you will also find all of the slang that has come about with (American) popular culture such as 'selfie', 'twerk' or 'YOLO'.  


Just to be confusing in French as well as regional variations there are also two types of slang. There is the normal slang and then there is something called 'verlan'. 
  • General slang: As with most slang, there is no real pattern but if you are able to get the hang of some of these words, not only will it enrich your vocabulary but it will also help you integrate with the French, especially with the young people. 
         Some examples: 'un mec/type/gars' = a guy/man                    'le fric/thune/blé' = money
                                  'une nana' = a girl/woman                              'j'ai la dalle' = i'm starving
                                  'un pote' = a (male) friend                              'la tronche/gueule' = face 
                                  'un(e) gosse' = a kid                                      'tomber dans les pommes' = to faint
                                  'le bide' = stomach                                         'un flic/keuf' = policeman

Source: www.pinterest.com
  • Verlan: This is a type of "pig latin", if you will, that is still very much in use today. To 'verlan' a word you separate the syllables, reverse them and put the word back together. For example: noir -> renoi.
          Some examples: 'une meuf' = une femme                           'relou' = lourd
                                   'chelou' = louche                                      'une teuf' = une fête
                                   'cimer' = merci                                         'zarbi' = bizarre
                                   'ouf' = fou                                                'zyva' = vas-y


As with French and English, Spanish slang has a lot of regional variations and each Hispanic country has variations which is again potentially problematic for learners. So we'll start with the basics...
  • Spain:
                    'Una gozada' - applies to anything that is a pleasant experience, i.e: es una gozada verle jugar
                    'Guay' - cool, a catch-all adjective, i.e que zapatos guays
                    'Chungo/a' - dodgy, i.e es una tía chunga
                    'Una birra' - a beer (borrowed from Italian).
                    'Beber como una esponja' - to drink like a sponge/to drink a lot
                    'Una clavada' - a rip off

  • Mexico: 
                     'No hay bronca' - no problem
                     'Chela' - beer
                     '¿Qué onda?' - What's up (¿Que paso?)
                     'Chido' - cool
                     'lindo/a' - beautiful (spain = guapo/a)
                     'La poli' - the cops
  • Argentina:
                            'Mala leche' - bad luck 
                            'Chabón' - a guy/dude
                            'Langa' - a cool person
                            'Charlar' - To chat/have a conversation
                            'La cana' - the police
                            '¿Qué contás?' - What's up?

And just to prove how tricky all of this really can be....

If you want to start learning a second language or get some extra practice contact us and we will help you organise your stay. 

20 Mar 2014

Which language should you learn....part II

Last month we discussed the difficulty in choosing which language you should learn and offered you a helping hand with some facts about some of the most widely spoken languages.

Well, in case you still haven't made up your mind, here's part II with some more languages for you to think about.

العربية (Arabic)

Spoken in: It is the official language of the 22 countries that make up the Arab League, which stretches from Southwest Asia to Northwest Africa. While there are many, many dialects of Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic is used as the standard. 

Difficulty: Aside from the alphabet, speakers of Germanic or Romance languages may find the pronunciation, word order and the fact that it is written from right to left rather tricky. 

Did you know: Arabic has contributed many words to the English language such as: قطن [koton] - cotton, الكحول [alcoo’hool] - alcohol and سكر [succar] - sugar. Arabic is a Semitic language so will help you when learning Aramaic and Hebrew (like Natalie Portman!)


Spoken in: It is the official language of Italy and one of the four official languages in Switzerland. You will also find Italian speakers in Malta, Vatican State, Croatia, Slovenia and Croatia among others. 

Difficulty: As with Spanish, si legge come si escrive - it's read as it's written. Pronunciation is also relatively easy as all vowels are pronounced and the vocabulary is similar to other languages of latin origin - so thats great news!

Did you know: Italian is highly influential in other languages, on a cultural, linguistic, gastronomic and historical level. Have you ever eaten al fresco, ordered a pizza, spaghetti or a cappuccino? Have you found yourself in a fiasco or playing a piano solo in an orchestra? If the answer is yes, you've been influence by Italian!

日本語 (Japanese)

Spoken in: It is the official language of Japan, which has a population of over 125m people. On top of this there are around 2.5m Japanese speakers dotted around the world.

Difficulty: The most obvious challenge is learning the characters although if you only want to speak Japanese you can learn the Romanised script and its rather simple. Anglophones may have problems with the word order (subject, object, verb) so 'I watch TV' becomes 'I TV watch'.

Did you know: Japanese uses a vast amount of foreign loan words, so you'll hear lots of familiar sounds, for example bread = パン [pan] from the Portuguese 'pão'. 


Spoken in: Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Sao Tome, East Timor and The Republic of Guinea-Bissau

Difficulty: If you know Spanish, French or Italian then you will notice some similarities, while pronunciation may be tricky at times, mistakes generally don't change the meaning. 

Did you know: There are many loan words from Arabic, French and English, such as 'estudante', 'mapa' or 'problema'. Similarly, the English language has adopted some Portuguese words, for example, 'cobra', 'flamingo' and 'caipirinha'.

Polski (Polish)

Spoken in: It is the official language of Poland with a population of around 39m people. There are also large Polish speaking communities in the UK, Australia, Belarus, Canada and Germany among others.

Difficulty: It is admittedly one of the harder languages to learn due to its pronunciation, complex gender system and seven cases. Although consonants are more or less pronounced as they are in English.

Did you know: Polish has borrowed many English words in recent post-communist years, such as 'komputer' or 'skaner'. However, watch out for false friends, for example if you wanted to say 'ordinary dress'  avoid the literal translation as 'dres' means a tracksuit and 'ordynarny' means vulgar.

한국어/조선말 (Korean)

Spoken in: It is the official language of both the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), a combined total of around 73 million people. 

Difficulty: Korean is considered as one of the most difficult languages for Anglophones to become fluent in. This is due to word order, the honorifics system, vocabulary and verb endings. However, picking up the basics is generally easier than other Asian languages!

Did you know: Try to avoid the words for 'you' and 'my'. There are at least five equivalents to the word 'you' and all have restricted usage, whereas using the word 'my' comes across as 'self-centred', so you would be better off saying 'our house' or 'our country'. 

If you are interested in any of these languages or maybe one that hasn't been mentioned, get in touch and we can help you organise your stay and start you on your way to learning a new language!

18 Mar 2014

Learn Japanese in Japan

Can you think of anything better than combining Japan's fantastic landscapes, intricate culture and friendly locals with Japanese lessons? 

For a long time now English has been considered a 'global language', the one to learn. It can be argued that this is a result of globalisation, however there is another aspect of this phenomenon which is that economies and industries are rapidly expanding , in particular in Asia (as of 2012 Japan has the 3rd largest national economy in the world). This development has dramatically heightened the importance of languages such as Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. Here are some short summaries about our schools in Japan.

Summer Camp

Our summer camp in Japan is available for students aged 15 and over. The language school is located in the centre of Tokyo, providing the perfect location for meeting the locals and experiencing life in the bustling capital. This programme is available in July & August for durations of 3 to 7 weeks. Accommodation is provided with Japanese host families adding to the immersion experience. 

Besides the language lessons, the school offers a plethora of activities and excursions depending on which programme you choose. 
  • Programme 1: Mount Fuji & Nikko - 4 weeks in July
  • Programme 2: Kyoto - 3 weeks in August
  • Programme 3: Mount Fuji, Nikko & Kyoto - 7 weeks in July & August

Japanese in Tokyo

Our Japanese programme is available for students aged 16 and up. The school is in the heart of the city providing a vibrant atmosphere for your course and enabling you to meet the locals and other students. Accommodation is provided with friendly Japanese host families who are carefully selected and like to share their culture with international students. 

Course options: 
  • Japanese for beginners - 20 lessons per week, with the aim of facilitating communication, for a duration of 4 weeks. 
  • Intensive Japanese - 20 lessons per week for a minimum duration of 2 weeks with focus on linguistic and cultural knowledge. 
  • Conversation - 20 lessons per week, focussing on facilitating communication skills, for a minimum of two weeks. 

Outside of lesson time the school organises various activities to provide an insight into the Japanese culture and enable students to get to know one another. Example activities include: a tea ceremony, a sumo match, outings to kamakura and a photo shoot with a kimono.

Total Immersion in Japan

These individual immersion courses are perhaps the most efficient programmes that we offer. You have one to one lessons with your teacher in their home, and as you are living with your teacher you have constant contact with the target language. 

You have the choice of 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 hours of lessons per week and you have the luxury of designing the theme of your lessons with your teacher, so you are able to concentrate on the areas that want to work on. You also have the option of adding activities to your programme with the "Language & Activities" programme or the "Language & Culture" programme. 

If you are interested in any of our courses or have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us!

13 Mar 2014

4 Reasons to learn French

It is, next to Spanish, the most widely taught language in British schools, however many students aren't aware of the benefits of mastering this language. Many think of it as a difficult and confusing language and perhaps some even go as far as to call it unnecessary.

But, here at Easy Languages we care about your language skills, and as we know how important they are to your CV and future career, here are four reasons why you should be learning French.

  • Reason 1: The probability that the French will learn a foreign language is quite low

Recent studies show that 41% of younger French generations do not speak another language. Among adults (25-64 year olds), the figure is even lower. According to the statistics, only 28% of them speak a foreign language (That being said, we’re not much better). You would be lucky to find a Frenchman who could answer you in English and the same goes for Spanish – the likelihood of finding a Spanish speaking Frenchman is very low.

  • Reason 2: You don't want to end up like Joey...

No more explanation needed!

  • Reason 3: Learning French creates more opportunities for work and travel

You might think that with English you can travel all over the world, however there are an abundance of countries where French is spoken, and speaking their language will make things much easier.

In Europe we have France, Switzerland, Monaco and Belgium. In Africa there is Mali, Senegal and the Ivory Coast. Representing the exotic destinations we have Martinique, St Martin, the Comoros Islands and Haiti. Just to name a few destinations. 

The Telegraph recently declared French as the second most useful language in terms of graduate employment!

  • Reason 4: French is romantic (ok, this may be a silly reason but its worth taking note!)

French has been considered for years as one of the most romantic languages in the world (up until Irish overtook it). We can’t ignore the melodious French intonation and the soft rolling of their r’s creating a romantic tone. Even without all of this a meeting at the Eiffel Tower or Louvre would seal the deal.

So, unless your name is Ryan Gosling you might need to learn a few phrases:
  1. You have beautiful eyes - Tu as des beaux yeux
  2. Have we met before? - Est-ce que nous nous sommes déjà rencontrés?
  3. Do you come here often? - Est-ce que tu viens ici souvent?
  4. Can I buy you a drink? - Puis-je vous offrir à boire?

Curious to know more about our French courses around the world? Here’s a short list:

Juniors (Under 17yrs): Summer camp in Montpellier and Nice, French and surfing in Biarritz...
Students (16+ yrs): French in MontpellierLyonParis...
French courses in Canada
Adults: French in Bordeaux, GrenobleAix-en-Provence...

Original article: Damien Eck

10 Mar 2014

The Land of the Rising Sun

Spring officially starts in 10 days time, but it feels like its already here with the longer days, surprisingly warm weather here in Brussels and the clock change just around the corner. 

We're celebrating March and the start of spring with Japan as our new destination of the month. 

Often overlooked by westerners as a holiday destination, this exotic archipelago has so much to offer. You can experience the bustling city life in Tokyo or Yokohama, or if you prefer something slightly more tranquil try Kyoto, full of temples, shrines and castles, or of course the region of Osaka - both regions are also great places to see the famous cherry blossoms, which start to appear mid to late March.

Japan is not just geographically diverse but has a rich culture that is world renowned and a wonderfully intricate language, this is why we have chosen it for our destination of the month!


If you were still wondering, Japan is an island nation located in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, this archipelago is made up of over 6,000 islands, the four largest ones being: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu & Shikoku. These four islands are home to 97% of the country's population, and the capital, Tokyo, is found on Honshu.

Source: ramonlisa.wordpress.com
The characters that make up Japan's name literally mean 'sun origin', which is why the country is sometimes referred to as the 'Land of the rising sun', the red disc of Japan's flag also represents the sun.        


Japanese Macaques relaxing in hot springs
The Japanese culture has evolved greatly from its traditional origins. Their contemporary culture combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America. Traditional arts and practices include: Tea ceremonies, Geisha, Calligraphy, Origami, Martial arts and Ceramics among many other traditions. 

Japan's climate is temperate but varies a lot from north to south. The Pacific coast has a humid, subtropical climate with mild winters and humid summers. The average temperature in summer is 25°C. There are 9 forest ecoregions in Japan, from subtropical broad leaf forests to temperate coniferous forests in the colder, northern regions. There are also over 90,000 species of wildlife including the Japanese Macaque, perhaps one of the country's most iconic animals. 


Japanese cuisine usually involves taking a 'staple' food such as rice or noodles and adding it to dishes made from fish, vegetables or tofu etc to give it more flavour. Some typical Japanese dishes include: Sushi, Donburi, Kare Raisu (curry rice), Ramen, Yakitori, Miso soup and Tempura. There are many regional specialities that use the traditional ingredients and the Michelin guide has awarded Japanese cities more Michelin stars than the rest of the world combined. 

Other facts: 

  • Around 73% of Japan is forested, mountainous or unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. 
  • Karaoke (literally 'empty orchestra') is the most widely practised cultural activity in Japan. 
  • Japan has the longest overall life expectancy of any country: 83.5 years old for people born between 2010 and 2015.
  • The country is very advanced in science & technology - Japan possesses over half of the world's industrial robots. 
  • There are four different writing systems used: Romaji, Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji.
  • Coffee is extremely popular in Japan and they import around 85% of Jamaica's annual coffee production.

These are just a few of the reasons why Japan is our destination of the month, have a look at our Japanese courses to get you started! If you need any more convincing why not get in touch, our team will be happy to help! 

3 Mar 2014

Meet the newest members of Easy Languages

Easy Languages is not just an agency that organises language programmes abroad, we are a team of young people from all over the world: Spain, France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Japan, Poland, America and Brazil. 

For most of the new interns this is their first experience in the working world, but not with languages or travel, as with most of the Easy Languages team who have travelled to various destinations around the world. 

Here are the newest additions to our international team!

Kim Schutter

What do/did you study?
I currently study International tourism management at NHTV in Breda (The Netherlands). I hope to start with the minor Aviation in September.  

What is your role at Easy Languages?
I am an intern on the Dutch market. My main tasks are customer care and translation. I will also be researching the trends and development within the 'Language travel market'.

Where are you from?
I am from Amhem, a city in the middle east of The Netherlands. I moved to Breda (in the south) 3 years ago for my studies. 

Why did you choose Easy Languages?
I chose Easy Languages due to the young and international approach. After combining an internship with improving my English when I was 19, I would now like to motivate other students to do the same. 

Which Languages do you speak?
I speak English and Dutch. I also speak a little bit of Chinese and Swedish.

Which other language(s) would you like to learn and why?
In the short term I would like to improve my French skills while I am in Brussels. During my 4th year of studies I hope to continue with my Chinese, especially reading and writing which makes the language challenging but interesting. 

What would be your perfect holiday?
My perfect holiday would combine an interesting culture and local cuisine with meeting new people. I would like to visit Russia, Iceland and Japan

What has been your best experience abroad?
Due to my tourism studies I have been able to travel and live in countries such as the U.S.A., Brazil, Sweden and now Brussels. In Orlando, Florida I shared an apartment with 5 girls from France, South- Korea, China, Jamaica and Venezuela. Experiencing these completely different cultures means that living abroad never boring!

Rob Emons

What do/did you study?
I study international business and languages at the HAN university of applied sciences. 

What is your role at Easy Languages?
I work as an intern for the Dutch market

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in a small town called Beers, it is in the south of the Netherlands. The nearest city is Nijmegen

Why did you choose Easy Languages?
My university was already familiar with Easy Languages and they told me that they had good experiences with the company. That was very important to me, but also the services that Easy Languages offer really appealed to me, because the company is active in a international environment. The international background of the company fits with my interests and education and I'm confident that I will gain a lot of new skills during my stay at the company.

Which languages do you speak?
I speak Dutch, English and a bit of German and French

Which language(s) would you like to learn and why?
I would like to learn Italian. I have always been interested in this country, the food, culture, landscape, football and of course the language. It's always a good idea to learn another language but I would like to improve my French and German first. 

What would be your perfect holiday?
That's a hard question to answer, I like lots of different types of holidays and destinations. 
But I wouldn't want to spend my holiday on the beach. I would like to visit museums, the countryside, different cities etc., but sometimes it is nice to relax on the beach or at the pool. 

Some vital things I would like to have during my holiday are; 

1. A beautiful landscape
2. Good food
3. Beautiful weather 
4. A peaceful environment (not too many tourists)  

What has been your best experience abroad?
This is my first experience abroad within the scope of my education. It is hard to say which was my best experience abroad, because I have had a lot of good experiences abroad. 

But my best holiday for the landscape was probably the trip on a night train to the PyreneesI ate the best food in MallorcaSea fishing in Norway was the best activity I have ever done on a holiday. Visiting my grandpa at the Île de Noirmoutier were definitely the most peaceful holiday.

Elodie Bonnet

What do/did you study?
I studied general translation and literature (Spanish & English).

What is your role at Easy Languages?
I am an intern for the French speaking Belgian market

Where are you from?
Neufchâteau, France

Why did you choose Easy Languages?
I wanted to work in an office with an international atmosphere, where everybody is speaking different languages. 

Which languages do you speak?
French, English, Spanish and a little bit of Italian

Which other language(s) would you like to learn?
Dutch so that I can understand my Flemish friends when they speak in Dutch and so that I can practise with them :)

What would be your perfect holiday?
I would love to go to Chile, to discover the whole country and Easter Island

What has been your best experience abroad?
When I went travelling around Spain with my brother. We went to Zaragoza, Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia – amazing cities!

Morjane Tahri

What do/did you study?
I am in my second year of "communication management".

What is your role at Easy Languages?
I am an intern for the Dutch market. I work on social media, attend fairs, contact schools, write for the blog and translate.

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Belgium.

Why did you choose Easy Languages?
I've always wanted to study abroad and visit as many countries as possible. I applied to work at Easy Languages because it organizes those kinds of trips, and I wanted to see how it really works, and learn more about different possibilities at the same time.

Which languages do you speak?
French, Dutch, English and a little bit of Arabic. 

Which other language(s) would you like to learn and why?
Mandarin. Mandarin is getting more and more important, and is spoken by so many people.  It has a special, different alphabet, … and its difficult so I guess it is a big challenge. So I would like to learn it for different reasons, but I think it would be awesome to speak Mandarin!

What would be your perfect holiday?
Does a round the world trip count as a holiday? I think it depends on my mood, sometimes I just want the beach, sand, sea, sun and a refreshing drink, other times I want to take my backpack and explore new cities. 

What has been your best experience abroad?
I haven't travelled that much...yet! Although I will always remember the time I spent in a summer university in Morocco. I was able to see all the different cities in Morocco but the best was meeting new people. I had an incredible 2 weeks, in an amazing country with amazing people. 

David Montemayor Jiménez

What do/did you study?
I studied Business Administration.

What is your role at Easy Languages?
I am an intern for the Spanish market. 

Where are you from?
I am from Madrid, Spain. 

Why did you choose Easy Languages?
I chose Easy Languages because I like study abroad and exchange programmes and this company is one of the leaders in this market. 

Which languages do you speak?
I speak Spanish and English.

Which other language(s) would you like to learn and why?
I am learning French and I would also like to learn German because I think that it is an important business language. 

What would be your perfect holiday?
I love visiting different countries and getting to know new cultures

What has been your best experience abroad?
I spent a year in London - it was amazing! It is definitely one of the best cities in the world