You have decided to learn another language. Now what? Ask yourself: what do you want to achieve and by when? Our teachers found: “Language learning is best when broken down into manageable goals that are achievable over a few months. This is far more motivating and realistic.”

You might be feeling wildly optimistic when you start but aiming to be fluent is not necessarily the best idea. We generally recommend making these goals tangible and specific: “Why not set yourself a target of being able to read a newspaper article in the target language without having to look up any words in the dictionary?”

REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU ARE LEARNING

It might sound obvious, but recognising exactly why you want to learn a language is really important. Motivation is usually the first thing to go, especially among students who are teaching themselves. To keep the momentum going we suggest writing down 10 reasons why you are learning a language and sticking it to the front of the file you are using and turn to these in times of self-doubt.

THINK LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE IS BORING? THINK AGAIN – WITH THESE TECHNIQUES, YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS WHILE HAVING FUN!

HERE ARE SEVEN UNORTHODOX LANGUAGE LEARNING TIPS THAT MIGHT JUST CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN THE LANGUAGE LEARNING PROCESS:

Stage a Play
It doesn’t have to be a big production. Remember that the keyword to these tips is fun while learning. Stage a short play for a small audience you think would enjoy.

Of course, the other key point here is to stage a play in a completely different language, preferably the one you’re learning. Make use of the language while having fun in this simple activity.

Go on a Blind Date
One way to meet new people, have fun, and practice a new language all at once is through this unconventional tip.

Go on a blind date with a native speaker and try practising a few key phrases with them during your date. You can even go to a restaurant and try practising your basic phrases while ordering.

Cook a Foreign Dish
The important part of this exercise is to cook a dish in which instructions are written in another language. This not only boosts your vocabulary, but it also helps acquaint you with basic phrases and instructions.

To avoid any accidents, start out with minor dishes first. You don’t have to be able to cook a grand meal yet, just make sure you get the hang of the language.

Buy Comics
Like children’s books, comics are also fun and easy to read, and can also help you be more familiar with the language you’re learning.

Aside from this, interesting storylines and appealing images won’t make it look like a chore, but more of an engaging exercise that both appeals to your visual senses, and helps you learn faster and better.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of reading, learning the language overall will be much easier.

Explore Your Surroundings
This one is for people who are travelling to another country. To really test whether you’ve learnt the language right, head out of your cosy hotel room, and walk the streets.

Ask the locals about facts and places in the area where it might be good to stay and further immerse yourself in the culture. Just make sure you can find your way back later on.

Write Down Your Grocery List
Similar to learning to cook in your language of choice, writing down your grocery list is a simple and engaging way to incorporate the language in your daily life.

In fact, before getting on the recipe itself, you can start with the grocery list first. Build your vocabulary by identifying as many kitchen materials and foodstuff in a foreign language you know. You might be surprised by your progress.

Introduce Yourself
Try this out with a friend, or with a pen pal.

Practice communicating with others in a foreign language by making a full introduction using that language alone. Avoid code-switching to your native tongue, but try to sound as natural as possible in your introduction.

Don’t be too stiff. If you’re comfortable enough with the person whom you are sharing to, you can also ask for feedback on how well you used the language.

LEARNING DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO STAY IN SCHOOL, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO AN IMMERSIVE TOPIC LIKE LANGUAGE. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX AND ENGAGE IN ACTIVITIES THAT MIGHT SEEM A BIT DIFFERENT FROM CLASSROOM EXERCISES.

INCORPORATE THE LANGUAGE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN YOUR DAILY LIFE TO MAKE IT FEEL MORE NATURAL TO YOU.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF PS?

PS stands for postscript. It comes from the Latin ‘postscriptum’, which literally means “written after.” A postscript is an additional thought added to letters (and sometimes other documents) that comes after it has been completed.

Here’s a tip: People wonder—does the PS come before or after the signature? Since a postscript is an addition that comes after a letter is completed, it should always follow the signature.
In the days of handwritten and typed letters, we often found ourselves remembering something we wanted to include only after we’d signed off. That’s where a PS came in handy. It’s also often used for effect to add a clever or funny afterthought. It can be added for emphasis, or even as an argumentative “So there!” It’s a tool still used in direct and email marketing, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

THE P.S. IS THE MOST CHARMING PART OF A LETTER. IT’S THE WINK YOU GIVE AS YOU WALK AWAY.

HOW TO PUNCTUATE AND FORMAT PS

Should PS be capitalized? How is it abbreviated; with (P.S.) or without (PS) periods? Should you use any trailing punctuation? Surprisingly, there are no hard and fast answers to these questions.

The Cambridge Dictionary suggests that PS is the proper format in British English.

PS Don’t forget to let the cat in before you go to bed.
The Cambridge Dictionary also says that P.S. (with periods after each letter) is the American English format. Indeed, you’ll often find it abbreviated as such in the US. But The Chicago Manual of Style favours PS, without the periods.

The verdict? Usage varies, and PS doesn’t factor into most style guides. The safest bet is to capitalize the P and S (use periods after each letter if that’s your preference), and leave out any trailing punctuation.

PS IN EMAIL

PS once saved us from having to edit or rewrite an entire letter just to include an important afterthought. But email allows us to go back and edit before sending. Technically, we could avoid the use of PS altogether in electronic communication. But should we?

Not really. PS is still useful for effect, and it’s a great way to get a specific point noticed. Although the Internet has made us a culture of skimmers rather than people who read things like email word-for-word, we tend to notice what’s at the beginning and end of a text. Can you think of a time when you didn’t read the PS in an email you cared enough about to open?

Including a PS has long been a direct mail marketing strategy. Statistics once showed that as many as 79 percent of people who opened a direct mail letter would read the PS first. Although times have changed, email marketers still swear by it as a way to reiterate a call to action, create FOMO, provide some sort of bonus information or offer, or even share a testimonial.

WORDS ON THE BRAIN: FROM 1 MILLION YEARS AGO?

All social animals communicate with each other, from bees and ants to whales and apes, but only humans have developed a language which is more than a set of prearranged signals.

Our speech even differs in a physical way from the communication of other animals. It comes from a cortical speech centre which does not respond instinctively, but organises sound and meaning on a rational basis. This section of the brain is unique to humans.

When and how the special talent of language developed is impossible to say. But it is generally assumed that its evolution must have been a long process.

Our ancestors were probably speaking a million years ago, but with a slower delivery, a smaller vocabulary and above all a simpler grammar than we are accustomed to.

ORIGINS OF LANGUAGE

The origins of human language will perhaps remain for ever obscure. By contrast the origin of individual languages has been the subject of very precise study over the past two centuries.

There are about 5000 languages spoken in the world today (a third of them in Africa), but scholars group them together into relatively few families – probably less than twenty. Languages are linked to each other by shared words or sounds or grammatical constructions. The theory is that the members of each linguistic group have descended from one language, a common ancestor. In many cases that original language is judged by the experts to have been spoken in surprisingly recent times – as little as a few thousand years ago.

LINGUISTIC GROUPS: FROM 3000 BC

The most widespread group of languages today is the Indo-European, spoken by half the world’s population. This entire group, ranging from Hindi and Persian to Norwegian and English, is believed to descend from the language of a tribe of nomads roaming the plains of eastern Europe and western Asia (in modern terms centring on the Ukraine) as recently as about 3000 BC.

From about 2000 BC people speaking Indo-European languages begin to spread through Europe, eventually reaching the Atlantic coast and the northern shores of the Mediterranean. They also penetrate far into Asia – occupying the Iranian plateau and much of India.

Another linguistic group, of significance in the early history of west Asia and still of great importance today, is the Semitic family of languages. These also are believed to derive from the language of just one tribal group, possibly nomads in southern Arabia.

By about 3000 BC Semitic languages are spoken over a large tract of desert territory from southern Arabia to the north of Syria. Several Semitic peoples play a prominent part in the early civilization of the region, from the Babylonians and Assyrians to the Hebrews and Phoenicians. And one Semitic language, Aramaic, becomes for a while the Lingua franca of the Middle East.

LANGUAGE AND RACE

A shared linguistic family does not imply any racial link, though in modern times this distinction has often been blurred. Within the Indo-European family, for example, there is a smaller Indo-Iranian group of languages, also known as Aryan, which are spoken from Persia to India. In keeping with a totally unfounded racist theory of the late 19th century, the Nazis chose the term Aryan to identify a blond master race. Blond or not, the Aryans are essentially a linguistic rather than a genetic family.

The same is true of the Semitic family, including two groups which have played a major part in human history – the Jews and the Arabs.

ENCLAVES OF LANGUAGE

On a Linguistic map of the world, most of the great language families occupy one distinct and self-contained territory. The two exceptions are the Indo-European and the Finno-Ugric groups.

In modern times the Indo-European languages have spread across the globe – to North and South America, Australia and New Zealand – as a result of European colonialism. But the intermingling of Indo-European and Finno-Ugric, forming a patchwork quilt across Europe, has come about for a different and earlier reason.

Finland, together with Estonia on the opposite shore of the Baltic, forms one isolated pocket of the Finno-Ugric group (the Finno part). Hungary is another (the Ugric element).

The cause of this wide separation is the great plateau of Europe which Finno-Ugric and Indo-European tribes have shared and fought over through the centuries. The ancestral language of the Finns, Estonians and Hungarians was once spoken in a compact region between the Baltic and the Ural mountains, until these people were scattered by Indo-European pressure.

LATIN AND GERMAN: FROM THE 5TH CENTURY

Over the course of history languages continually infiltrate each other, as words are spread by conquest, empire, trade, religion, technology or – in modern times – global entertainment.

A good surviving example of this process is the line in western Europe dividing the Romance languages (those deriving from a ‘Roman’ example) from the Germanic tongues. The Romance family includes Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian (the result of a successful Roman campaign in the 2nd century AD). The Germanic group is English, Dutch, Flemish, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic.

This linguistic division exactly reflects the influence of the Roman empire. Italy, France and the peninsula of Spain were sufficiently stable regions in the Roman world to retain the influence of Latin after the collapse of the empire. The Germanic areas east and north of the Rhine were never fully brought under Roman control (the exact linguistic dividing line survives in modern Belgium, with its population speaking French in the south and Flemish in the north).

England was safely within the empire for three centuries. But the Romanised Celts were not strong enough to resist the invading German tribes, the Angles and the Saxons. Their languages prevailed in the form of Anglo-Saxon.

Modern English occupies a middle position within the western European family of languages, with its vocabulary approximately half Germanic and half Romance in origin.

The reason is not Britannia’s relatively fragile position within the Roman empire. The cause is more recent, in the Norman conquest. After seizing northwest France and adopting the local language, the Normans arrive in England with French as an essential part of their cultural baggage. Several centuries of rule by Norman aristocrats and bureaucrats bring Latin words back into the language of England through the medium of medieval French.

LINGUISTIC EVOLUTION

The ongoing struggle between languages is a process very similar to evolution. A word, like a gene, will travel and prevail according to its usefulness. A word’s fitness to survive may derive from being attached to a desirable new invention or substance, or simply from being an amusing or useful concept.

‘Aspirin’, coined in 1899 by its German inventor from the opening letters of Acetylirte Spirsäure (acetylated spiraeic acid), immediately became an international word. In a less serious context ‘snob’, first given its present meaning in English in the mid-19th century, is now naturalized in a great many languages.

As with evolution, the development of language is an irresistible force – though traditionalists invariably attempt to build barriers against change. The useful word ‘hopefully’ (long available to Germans as hoffentlich, and meaning ‘it is to be hoped that’) has in recent years been steamrollered into the English language by the public against howls of protest from the purists.

On a grander scale, the French government from time to time legislates ineffectually against English words straying into French. These are the hybrids described as franglais. A good example of their impertinence is the enticing notice on a tweed jacket seen in a Parisian shop window: Très snob, presque cad (very snob, almost cad).

IMPERIAL TONGUES

The French neurosis about being tainted by English (though the intrusion is trivial compared to the overwhelming effect of Norman French on English in the past) is linked to a wider aspect of the evolutionary struggle between languages.

A major advance for any language is to become a Lingua franca. Almost invariably the result of power and prestige, this status is achieved by French after the heyday of France’s international influence under Louis XIV. In more recent times English – first through the British empire, but more significantly through American world dominance in the 20th century – has replaced French in this role.

English in the late 20th century is in the fortunate position of being the Lingua franca at an unusual moment. For the first time in history a global language is needed for practical purposes (by scientists, by airline pilots). Meanwhile a communication system is in place to spread some knowledge of the English language to a mass international audience through radio, television and the internet.

The imperial power underpinning American English as a Lingua franca is for the first time cultural and economic rather than military.

The pattern of history insists that English is not likely to be the world’s final Lingua franca. Others will come and go. It is also true to say that the predominance of English depends on its spread rather than the total number speaking it.

Chinese is spoken by more people than English (albeit in only one region of the world), and Chinese economic power lies in the future. But the complexity of Chinese perhaps makes it an unlikely rival candidate. One of the great advantages of English is that it is easy to speak at a simple level, though immensely complex in its idiom.

NEW LANGUAGES FROM OLD

Meanwhile the evolutionary processes go on. Already there are many varieties of English in use. The pidgin English flourishing in New Guinea is baffling to an outsider; originally devised as a practical business language, reduced to its simplest elements, it has evolved its own rich character. In the same way English-speaking communities in the West Indies or in India (not to mention America) have developed local words, phrases and constructions which give their own version of the language a special colour.

The astonishing proliferation of Indo-European languages from one tongue, just 5000 years ago, will not be repeated in our more interconnected world. But the tendency of language to evolve continues unchecked.

It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of food on the development of modern languages.

The word for the cereal we eat in the morning is derived from Ceres – the Greek goddess of agriculture – while dinner originates from ‘disner’ in Old French, which in turn stems from the Gallo-Romance ‘desjunare’, meaning ‘to break one’s fast’.

Food has also infiltrated many aspects of modern communication, with a multitude of common phrases and sayings derived from foods.

Even the word ‘food’ itself can be used to describe something that provides mental nourishment or stimulus – ‘food for thought’.

Here are three of the most common examples of foods used in English.

SALT

Salt is a term of praise if a man is considered ‘worth his salt’ or is judged to be ‘the salt of the earth’.

In medieval times, an inferior guest at a banquet, seated at the bottom end of the table, was described as being ‘below the salt’.

Today, a person’s salary is based on the Latin word ‘salarium’, which comes from the allowance given to a Roman soldier to buy his salt.

EGG

Egg derives from the Old Norse word ‘eggja’ – and there are many modern phrases that relate to eggs.

You can ‘egg someone on’, for instance, or get ‘egg on your face’ when embarrassed by something you have done.

‘A good egg’ refers to a person who is good to the core, while ‘a bad egg’ refers to someone who may appear normal, but who is no good on the inside. The latter stems from cracking an egg open only to find out is has gone off.

CHEESE

A secondary meaning of cheese comes from the Persian Anglophile phrase ‘the chiz’, meaning a thing that is good.

The word itself has been used as a noun to describe something wealthy or top-rate since the turn of the 19th century, possibly due to the custom of American retailers to display overlarge wheels of cheese as a publicity stunt.

‘The big cheese’ refers to the best of the best, while the word cheese is also used frequently when talking about money and wealth. ‘He’s got a lot of cheese’, is a good example, as is ‘I need to make some cheese’.

Cheddar, as in the type of cheese, is often used in the same way. Fans of Hip Hop and rap music will be familiar with this.

UNCOVER THE HIDDEN MEANING

Upon hearing food phrases in everyday conversation, you could be mistaken for thinking they are a load of nonsense. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always a hidden meaning behind food phrases.

Here are some other favourite food phrases in use today and the meaning behind them.

‘It’s all gravy’ (It’s all good)
‘Cool as a cucumber’ (Super, totally cool)
‘Chew the fat’ (To engage in frivolous conversation)
‘That’s the way the cookie crumbles / Don’t cry over spilt milk’ (Stuff happens)
‘Piece of cake’ (Easy)
‘Butter someone/something up’ (To flatter)
‘Spill the beans’ (Give away a secret)
‘Use your noodle’ (Use your brain)
‘Go bananas’ (Go crazy)
‘Bring home the bacon’ (Earn money)
‘A bun in the oven’ (Pregnant)
‘Wake up and smell the coffee’ (Reality check)
‘The best thing since sliced bread’ (It’s a big deal)

FOOD IS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE

But food phrases are not just found in English. Most languages around the world use food to convey meaning.

No country is the same, however, as a culture’s preoccupations traditionally have a big influence of the way language is used.

In France, for example, the passion for eating and discussing food has flavoured French in a number of tasty and unusual ways, with some expressions entirely unique to different regions or generations.

Here are some of the best examples in French today.

‘Appuyez sur le champignon!’ meaning ‘press on the mushroom!’ (Step on the gas!)
‘Avoir la banane’ meaning ‘having a banana’ (To have a big smile)
‘C’est pas la fin des haricots’ meaning ‘it’s not the end of the string beans’ (It’s not the end of the world)
‘Va te faire cuire un oeuf’ meaning ‘go cook yourself an egg’ (Go to hell)
‘Il fait tout un fromage de rien du tout’ meaning ‘making a cheese out of it’ (Overly dramatic)

Italy, which is championed around the world for its fine cuisine and delicious dishes, is also home to some unique food phrases.

Below are some great examples in Italian.

‘Conosco i miei polli’ meaning ‘I know my chicken’ (I know what I’m talking about)
‘Sei come il prezzemolo’ meaning ‘you are like parsley’ (You pop up everywhere)
‘Non fare il salame’ meaning ‘don’t act like salami’ (Don’t be a ham, you idiot)
‘Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco’ meaning ‘not all donuts come out with a hole’ (Things don’t always turn out as expected)
‘Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca’ meaning ‘you can’t have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife’ (You can’t have your cake and eat it too)

CROSSING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER

There are also a number of instances where food phrases are used in more than one language to convey the same meaning.

Here are three of the most familiar phrases with cross-language implications.

LA CRÈME DE LA CRÈME

‘La crème de la crème’ meaning ‘the cream of creams’ has found its way across the Channel from French to English.

The phrase refers to the best of the best or the elite. It also occasionally expressed as ‘the cream of the crop’.

WHAT A PICKLE

‘What a pickle’, which is used to describe a tricky or difficult situation, is a food phrase that has made the switch from English to French.

In France it is ‘quel cornichon’ but carries exactly the same meaning. It is also sparingly used as an insult or a put-down.

WORTH HIS SALT

‘Worth his salt’ is a food phrase that has found its way into many languages around the world. It is most commonly used when referring to someone who is good or competent at their job or a specific task.

The phrase can often be heard in French (digne de ce nom), Italian (degno di questo nome) and Spanish (que se precie).

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

So it’s clear to see the impact that food has had on the development of modern languages around the world.

But language is constantly evolving and it will continue to do so – in terms of where we are at present, we are only on the starter.
The main course and dessert are still to come, and food, once again, will play an important role in this development, as people come up with fresh, innovative and unique ways of expressing themselves.

SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT SONGS THAT MAKE THEM SUCH EFFECTIVE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING TOOLS?

It works. There is considerable scientific evidence that demonstrates how music can help second language learners acquire grammar and vocabulary and improve spelling. Then there is the so-called “Mozart Effect”, the concept that listening to classic musical boosts the performance of mental tasks like learning.

Everyday language and colloquial speech. Songs and music almost always contain a lot of useful vocabulary, phrases and expressions. And since the intended audience is native speakers, songs and music include up-to-date language and colloquialisms. The language used in songs is casual and actually usable if you pick the right music.

Get familiar with the sound of English. Listening to songs will also allow you to focus on your pronunciation and understanding of the English language’s rhythm, tone and beat.

Get English stuck inside your head. Many of the words and sound patterns within a song are repetitive and this makes it easier for them to stick in your mind. You probably already know this. Music has an uncanny ability to get stuck in our heads. Tunes and lyrics will often infiltrate our thoughts and play over and over in our minds. All of which will help you to learn English through songs as you easily memorize vocabulary and phrases. In fact, after a short period of time, you will find it almost impossible to forget them.

Songs are emotional. Our relationship with music is deep, powerful and hugely rewarding. It is a key that unlocks our emotions, influences our moods and enhances our mental and physical well-being. When something is emotional, then, of course, it is also easier to remember.

Music is an easy habit. One reason people find language learning difficult is they don’t have an extra minute in the day to devote to their studies. But when you’re learning English through songs, you don’t need to set aside too much time because you can take the music with you wherever you go. You can have English songs playing in the car, the kitchen and the shower. And by picking the music you like, you can listen to the same material over and over again, without becoming bored.

Music teaches you English culture. Music gives you insight into the English-speaking culture and how English-speaking people think and feel. Familiarity with popular songs and artists gives you something to talk about with your English-speaking friends.

7,099 LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN TODAY.

That number is constantly in flux because we’re learning more about the world’s languages every day. And beyond that, the languages themselves are in flux. They’re living and dynamic, spoken by communities whose lives are shaped by our rapidly changing world. This is a fragile time: Roughly a third of languages are now endangered, often with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. Meanwhile, just 23 languages account for more than half the world’s population.

86% OF PEOPLE USE ASIAN OR EUROPEAN LANGUAGES

Most languages are densely concentrated in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. But how many people actually speak them? The vast majority of us use Asian or European languages, which may not be surprising given the sheer population of certain areas as well as colonial expansion in recent centuries. By contrast, Pacific languages – which account for 18.5% of the world’s languages – are spoken by so few people that the region barely even registers.

Pacific languages, along with North and South American, have just 1,000 speakers each on average. But together, they represent more than a third of our world’s languages. These tiny communities may not have a loud voice on the global stage, but they hold much of our shared linguistic heritage.

SOME COUNTRIES HAVE HUNDREDS OF LANGUAGES

Languages are spread unequally throughout the world. That trend is clear whether we’re looking at whole regions or individual countries.

More than twice the number of languages spoken across Europe can be found in Papua New Guinea alone.