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143 English Words That Are Actually Spanish

Thanks to the popularity of Mexican cuisine north of the border (around the world, actually), there are plenty of Spanish words that English speakers knowingly adopt in day-to-day use: taco, tortilla and quesadilla are pretty standard imports. But you may be surprised to learn that hundreds more Spanish words are...

Let’s Bust Some Myths About Fluency

For all you fluent English speakers out there, don't you think it's interesting that the Kronecker pairing on the homology and cohomology of a space should be thought of as an analogue (in fact it is a generalization) of integrating a differential n-form along an n-dimensional submanifold? This excerpt is from a lecture on algebraic...

How to Answer the Phone in Different Languages

Saying “Hello?” when answering the phone is pretty much an automatic reflex, but why *that* word and not another, and why do so many languages use some version of “hello” as a telephone greeting? If you think that people simply decided to answer the phone the same way they greeted each other in person, you've...

Why I Choose to Learn Minority Languages

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. This quotation from the late Nelson Mandela perfectly expresses my motivations to focus on learning minority languages. We take it for granted that a few super languages dominate...

My New Year's Resolution: Learn Two More Languages

A brand new year brings fresh ideas and a new release of impetus. Whether it's saving up for the trip of a lifetime, finally unpacking those boxes and arranging the spare room, or having a proper crack at Italian, there is no better time than the first of January to decide what 2015 will hold in store for you. I’ve decided...

Meet the Super Polyglot Brothers!

Just as training with a partner can make it easier to get through your gym routine, studying a language with a partner can make language learning much easier too. And if your language partner knows more than you, or starts making more progress, well, that certainly sets the blood racing! A healthy rivalry is always...

10 Steps to Swedify Yourself

In addition to learning Swedish, following these ten steps will get you well on your way to being mistaken for a resident of Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö. Ett (one): start interjecting vocal sounds like mmmm, a questioning ååååh? or a surprised oy-doh! into normal conversations. Två (two): eat jam on your...

Why Age is No Barrier to Learning a Language

Dear reader, are you in the prime of your teenage years? Or are you twenty, fit and raring to go? Is your life laid out before you like a majestic Persian rug? Good for you. Now shoo. That’s it, skedaddle. Vamoose. Go and read something else. Ah, that’s better. Now they’ve all cleared out, we can talk about...

How to Travel without a Guidebook

Language is a crucial resource for travelers, a key that unlocks doors to worlds you could not have imagined. I began traveling through Central and South America with only a basic command of Spanish, and learned much of what I know through conversation...

My Favorite Italian Words

I’ve written about my favorite German words and my favorite Spanish words, two languages with which I am fairly well acquainted. My experience of Italian is nothing like as rich as of German or Spanish - I have never lived in the country, I have never walked in their shoes. But I have visited...

The World’s Favourite Words

Babbel is running a competition called ‘My Favourite Word’ where users are invited to send in a video about their favourite word in a foreign language. It got me thinking. How do people fall in love with a word? Often it’s a very arbitrary decision. They say you can’t choose who you love...

The Art of Making a Fool of Yourself

When I first landed in Berlin, Germany, I didn’t speak a word of German. Or rather, I spoke about six. I arrived with a short vocabulary list my teenage cousin had given me, notes from his high school German class, which included such helpful phrases as “Sumpfmonster” (“swamp monster”) and “Zombie-Angriffen” (“zombie attacks”)...

Going Undercover: Donning the Disguise of Language

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate a group of people to learn more about how they see the world, gain access to incredible first-hand stories, make lasting friendships, and seamlessly immerse yourself into a vibrant, stimulating atmosphere...

Día de los Muertos: Phantoms of the Cultural Subconscious

The Day of the Dead, El Día de los Muertos, is about airing grief colorfully, creatively, exuberantly; the living honoring the dead with lovingly decorated graves and shrines...

Boogeymen from Around the World

Every country has a long, rich tradition of invoking supernatural threats in order to keep kids in line. Maybe parents save it for a last resort, but when they can't get their kids to behave there is a certain terrifying monster who can. He has many names and...

A Flâneur in Paris: How I Discovered a Secret City Hiding in Plain Sight

The idea of the “flâneur” is peculiarly French – though it may appear scattered throughout several other cultures as well. Deriving from the French verb, “flâner”, meaning “to stroll” or “to saunter”, a “flâneur” is, simply put, “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”...

Does Learning a Foreign Language Actually Pay Off?

For a more well-rounded take on how knowing a foreign language can pay off, we asked our friend Rob, who carved himself a lucrative niche thanks to his language skills. He’s had a rewarding and exciting career specifically because he knows multiple languages...

7 Reasons Why Every American Should Learn Spanish

Do you want to improve your job prospects, increase your chances of finding love and immerse yourself in another culture without leaving your hometown? Look no further than the Spanish language! It’s America’s second most spoken, and most widely taught, non-English language. It’s also the country’s fastest growing language – period...

How I Learned to Love the French Language

When I started learning French as a freshman in high school, I remember experiencing a deep sense of inadequacy, an abundance of self-doubt, and a general feeling of oafishness.This lasted for about six months, causing me to question my intelligence, my worthiness, and my reasons for being there in the first place...

How the Rosetta Stone Cracked The Hieroglyphic Code

In today’s world, where businesses are international and broadcasts are multilingual, lots and lots of text needs to be translated every day, the bulk of it by non-digital professionals. So what does any of this have to do with the Rosetta Stone? Patience. There’s a story here, but to start we have to flashback – way back – all the way back to Egypt circa 500 B.C. ...

You Can’t Say That in English! Untranslatable Words from Around the World

By some estimates the English language has more than a million words. It’s impossible to nail down an exact figure, but it’s generally agreed that no other language has nearly as many. It’s not like any of us *use* all one million words, but still – you would think that English must have a word for everything, right? No way. Not even close. There are over 6,000 languages spoken on Earth...

139 Old Norse Words that Invaded the English Language

The Old Norse noun víking meant an overseas expedition, and a vikingr was someone who went on one of these expeditions. In the popular imagination, the Vikings were essentially pirates from the fjords of Denmark and Norway who descended on medieval England like a bloodthirsty frat party; they raped, pillaged, murdered, razed villages and then sailed back across the North Sea with the loot. But the truth is far more nuanced...

How to Eat Like an Italian

The first meal you ever eat in Italy is an adventure. I had just arrived in Florence with my friend Tom, armed only with a phrasebook and plenty of self-confidence. We strolled along the Arno river and took selfies in front of the Ponte Vecchio. As the last rays of the sun gleamed off il Duomo, we spotted a quiet restaurant overlooking the river. This was the moment we had been waiting for. Our first meal in Italy...

My Favorite Spanish Words

When I left university I felt like I was bursting through a set of saloon swing doors, arms loaded with qualifications about to hold up the professional world until they handed over the job of my dreams. I think many graduates feel like this, and this misplaced confidence compounds the disappointment when...

Why People Learn Languages

There are as many different answers to this question as there are language learners. So Babbel decided to conduct a survey to start narrowing it down a bit. Over 5,000 Babbel users in six countries took part – in France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, and the USA. They were asked about their...

The Polyglot Game

Polyglots Matthew & Erika turn their multilingual skills into a game. Just how quickly and easily can these polyglots switch from one language to another? They both use their language skills every day in their work at Babbel. But our resident polyglots...

5 Quotes to Inspire Any Language Learner

Are you desperate to learn a language, or already taking on the challenge, but find it difficult to stay motivated? When your ultimate goal, language fluency, seems months or years away motivation becomes the most important factor during the long haul. So here are five inspiring quotes to remind you that learning a foreign language is totally worth...

Public Viewings, Wellness and Shootings: How to Not Speak Denglish

British kids usually learn French, Spanish or German at school. I loved learning German. So much so that I studied German to A-Level (entspricht etwa Abitur) and then at university. I was finally able to read Schiller, Goethe and Brecht in the authors’ own words. So imagine my disappointment when I found the language actually spoken in Germany was somewhat… familiar. Double Whopper mit leckerem Bacon und Cheddar Cheese...

The Pigeon Without Wings, and other Brazilian Soccer Expressions

It’s undeniable that Brazil is “o País do Futebol” (the country of football), but not everyone may be aware that Brazilians also have their own “língua do futebol”. I consulted Pedro, our resident carioca da gema, to learn about his favorite Brazilian-Portuguese football expressions...

How to Name Animals in German

The German language has a pretty special ability: nouns, verbs, prepositions and adjectives can be stuck together like lego bricks to create new words that describe new things. With German you can invent a name for just about anything. Call it the language’s lego brick-like quality, or Legosteineigenschaft (see what I just did there?)...

My Favorite German Words

As I settled into the barber’s chair and once again attempted to allay my long-held fear of a man with a sharp implement in his hand and questionable politics, I readied my mind. I had been coming to this barber ever since my follicles first demanded it...

5 Ways that Speaking a Language is Like Playing Music

Erika can’t really say where she’s from. Not because she doesn’t know (she was born in Soriano nel Cimino, Italy) but because her family history is one of such incessant wanderlust that there are actually too many places she could claim as home (the last three generations of her family have lived on four different continents)...

25 American Movies with Hilarious Foreign Titles

There seem to be several strategies when translating the name of a film into another language, and none of them work perfectly. You can go for a literal word-for-word translation, try to describe the film in the title, guess what the name might be based on the poster, or make up something completely new. Famous examples of bad translations include...

Top 10 Tips to Learn A Language by Matthew the Polyglot

Matthew Youlden speaks nine languages fluently and understands more than a dozen more. We work in the same office in Berlin, so I constantly hear him using his skills, switching from language to language like a chameleon changing colors. In fact, for the longest time I didn’t even know he was British...