How to Learn a Language with Thousands of Helpers on Tumblr

Today's post comes from a language learner I've known for about a year. Maria is based in Newcastle and first talked to me during the 50 Calls Project. I love her enthusiasm and her awesome perspectives on language learning. Recently she contacted me to offer a guest post on language learning on Tumblr - I'm not a Tumblr user myself so I jumped at the chance.

Enjoy Maria's post!


Never heard of Tumblr?

The magical world of Tumblr might be new to you. In this case, here's a definition I saw on Yahoo Answers, where they describe Tumblr like this:

A place to "effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme's HTML.

So in essence, Tumblr another social media platform. But what separates this one from other social networks is that once you have an account, you can create numerous blogs and join a multitude of intriguing communities, from Doctor Who to interior design.

It's also different because in general on the website, people don't tend to know each other. You don't add your friends or family, but create a family of the people who share your interests! The example I'm going to talk about is, of course, the language learning community on Tumblr!

Start with a Tag


Sound confusing? It's really not. Anyone, any age, anywhere can join a community they like or search for whatever they like. My favourite tag is the 'polyglot' tag but I wouldn't dare call myself a polyglot at all! You don't even need to be fluent in another language. It's just a good bit of fun for people who are interested, while acting as a serious study aid - it certainly helped me get through my Spanish GCSE!

You don't even have to have an account to see the grand world of Tumblr. The website is easy to navigate and you learn more as you go on, building your page and gaining followers. Like Twitter, you can reblog (retweet) and like (favourite) different posts, adding your own comments too! You can directly 'ask' people questions and follow blogs. You can search for a tag to see all the posts under that tag, and that's where the community you want to join will be found!

For languages, you want to be looking at tags like #polyglot, #foreignlanguage, #langblr or of the language you want to see, for example #esperanto.

Tags Give You Everything

From playful jokes to help with confusing grammar from native speakers, the sky is the limit over on Tumblr. There are videos, text posts, photos, and links to other websites. You'll find a lot of relatable posts made by other people in the same position as you, which are bound make you laugh. I can't count the times I've read a post and in my head I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this person is me!'.

Here are a few good examples:

Supportive Community at the Touch of a Button

But Tumblr is not just for jokes. It can be a serious resource. Users post important grammar points, language tips and expert knowledge on any language.

On one occasion, I looked at a post that finally helped me grasp how to use the cases in Latin, and the next post along I picked up some Argentinian slang. You can directly message people and ask them about your own challenges too and they're more than happy to share their expertise. They might come asking you too.

The people in Tumblr's communities offer support if, for instance, you post about having a tricky patch in a language. Everyone is super friendly! And if you've hit a bit of a barrier recently with your learning, there is motivation left, right and centre on Tumblr. All it takes is a quick scroll down a tag and you see something new and it sparks off the relationship between you and your language again! You can find weekly challenges and search for a language exchange partner, creating global friendships while learning and teaching a language.

But what if I'm learning a really obscure language?

If there's a language, there's a tag. Someone somewhere is learning that language and is posting about it on Tumblr! You might find tips about your target language or resources you've never seen before. They come in heaps, seriously. I've seen list after list of free websites to help you learn French, or specific YouTube accounts for Portuguese. These people have spent their time searching so you don't have to! And it's all at the click of a button!

You can post in foreign languages yourself and ask for corrections, or communicate with people in the community in their language. The ways to stimulate learning are endless, and a lot of the time you're doing it subconsciously as you scroll down the page. There are thousands of people in the community from all corners of the world, and to think so few people know about this language learning gold mine!

If you want to have a peek at the magical language learning world on Tumblr, start with the #langblr tag and enjoy your journey down the rabbit hole..

Okay, as I was editing this post I got pumped up. Maria, I'm on Tumblr too now! Joining the masses! Getting into the community! Are you on Tumblr too? Leave your opinion in the comments and share your favourite Blogs and Tags with us!

My Language Bucket List: Shannon Kennedy from Eurolinguiste

There is little in life that can motivate you better than a good bucket list. Write down your aspirations, imagine those situations that get you excited and share if you dare!

In today's guest post, Shannon Kennedy from Eurolinguiste has taken the challenge of sharing her own language learning dreams.

A short while back, Kerstin shared a “language bucket list” post from Angel Armstead. I thought it was a fun idea (plus I’m a huge fan of lists), so I started planning something similar in the back of mind. As fate would have it, Kerstin got in touch with me and kindly asked me if I’d be willing to share my language wish list on Fluent. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to share my long-term language learning goals and I’m incredibly grateful to Kerstin for providing me with a platform for which to do just that!

My Background in Language Learning + My #1 Goal

In the grand scheme of things, I only have a few years of serious language learning under my belt. Like many, I dabbled with studying various languages in school, but it really wasn’t until I arrived at university that it became a passion for me. Now, I can’t imagine spending the bulk of my free time any other way.

In part, I feel as though I have to make up for lost time, because of my late start. At the same time, however, I also realize that language learning is a life-long venture. So why rush it? I have many years of study to look forward to over the years.

My late entrance into the game doesn’t imply that I haven’t always loved learning languages (I even recently found a paper from when I was about 14 years old that listed “linguist” as a possible career option). They’ve always played a part in my life, so much so, in fact, that I’ve always had this one particular language goal in mind.

As far back as I can remember, my primary language aspiration was to speak eight languages fluently (I’ll define what I mean by fluent below). When this idea first occurred to me, I had my eight languages picked out, but over time, this list has slowly started to change. There were languages that I studied in the past that I no longer find any interest in, while there are others that I started studying that I originally had no intention to learn.

It took me a while to get used to the possibility of changing my list (I’m stubborn like that), but now that it has, I’ve grown more interested in other options in terms of how and why I learn languages. There is so much more out there for me linguistically beyond my list of eight languages.

My Language Learning Wish List

I’ve had a general sort of bucket list or wish list tucked away on my site for some time, but I thought it would be pretty fun to create a language specific list. And Angel’s post on Fluent Language inspired me to do just that.

So here we go.

1. Pass the HSK Exam at a minimum of Level 4

I have both personal and professional goals surrounding the Mandarin language. To successfully achieve those goals, the HSK 4 is the minimum level I’d like to obtain. If I succeed in continuing past that, I’ll be absolutely elated. I really love learning Mandarin.

For those of you unfamiliar with the HSK Exam, it is a Chinese Proficiency Test issued by Hanban, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. It became the official national standardized test in 1992 and it serves as a certificate for language proficiency for higher education and professional purposes. Like CEFR, there are six HSK levels, and so, the two are often compared. There is some debate over whether or not the comparison is accurate, and I haven’t yet taken the HSK exam to have an opinion of my own. But, if the two are reasonably comparable, HSK 4 is said to be the equivalent of B2.

2. Travel to Croatia and not speak a word of English during the entire trip

I really, really want to go to Croatia but I haven’t yet had the opportunity. Between you and me, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this next year. My heart is really set on visiting Dubrovnik.

I’m often asked why I decided to learn Croatian, and in case you haven’t yet stumbled across my answer elsewhere, my grandfather (whom I’ve never had the opportunity to meet) was Croatian and I have other family who speak the same (or mutually intelligible) language(s). It has always been close to my heart and I’d love to travel there to reconnect with my roots.

I look forward to having a glass of vina (wine) while gazing out at the okean (ocean) after a day of exploring the old grad (city).

3. Read one of my favorite book series in every language that I speak

I’m really up for any of a couple different book series I enjoy (yes, I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy nerd) and I’ve already started to collect three of them in the different languages I speak. While I would normally read the series a second time in their original language, I want to challenge myself to re-read them in different languages. This means that I need to get my reading skills up to a high level in each of the languages that I speak (the books are rather dense).

4. Get up to a good enough level to read a ton of fantasy and science fiction books in their original languages

I read science fiction and fantasy in their original languages in both French and English, but I’d like to read books by Russian, Croatian, Italian, Chinese or Taiwanese, and German authors too. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to leave me a note in the comments below! As of today, I’m only familiar with English, American, and French science fiction and fantasy authors.

5. Speak eight languages at a high level. Minimum of B2, preferably C1 if possible

These languages are English, French, Croatian, Russian, and Mandarin, so far. I thought that German and Italian were going to be on the list because I already spent a decent amount of time learning them, but for the moment, I’ve kind of lost interest in both. I really hate to give up languages that I’ve already learnt, but I want to remain open to the possibility that there are two languages that I might just love more that deserve to be in that group of eight. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll fall back in love!

6. Go to China and study martial arts in Mandarin

For the past fifteen years I’ve studied a variety of martial arts on and off (mostly off). I’ve spent the most time with kickboxing and kung fu and it’s my favorite form of exercise. My current school makes a trip to the Shaolin Monastery every few years and I’d love to go along on one of the future trips.

7. Learn enough Japanese to play video games

This would be a reading only goal (most of the games I play don’t have spoken dialogue).

I am a fan of the Super Mario and the Zelda game series. I’d love to be able to play the games in their original languages (and I already own a few of them). I also think it would be fun to read Pocket Monsters and other Japanese comics.

I know that there are a lot of people that feel as though video games are a waste of time, but I’ve watched the English of the kids on the French side of my family flourish over the past few years just because they play games in English (both online as part of communities and standalone on their tablets/handhelds). Games are engaging enough that they (in my opinion) have proven themselves to be excellent language learning tools. I’m ready to try it out myself.

About the Author

My name is Shannon and I am the blogger/language lover/adventurer behind Eurolinguiste. I am a musician first, but an avid language learner at heart. I speak French and English fluently and I am currently working towards fluency in Mandarin and Croatian. You can learn more about me and my language learning strategies of at Eurolinguiste.

If you have a language wish list, feel free to share it in the comments below! You can either link back to a post of yours where you already wrote about it, or you can just write your wish list in the comments. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Find Shannon on FacebookInstagram or Youtube.

New Podcast - Episode 22: Travel and Tutor Hunting Tips

This episode features two core themes of discussion: travel and tutor tips.

"I buy everyone a little lollipop in my lessons"

(Lindsay's Teaching Secret)

Creative Language Learning Podcast

Firstly, we talked about all the ways language learning works when you travel. We also deviated to talk about historic language learning books!±

  • Should you study pronunciation first or just go all in with vocabulary? (hint: whatever you like)
  • When is it too late to learn? (hint: never)
  • What do you need to buy before you set off? (hint: nothing)

In the article discussion of this episode, we took apart the step-by-step process of finding a language tutor.

  • What do you have to look for?
  • Why are some of them expensive?
  • What kind of tutor should you try to work with?

Articles of the Week

Tips on working with a tutor from Judith Meyer

How much do you pay your language tutor? here on Fluent

Tips of the Week

This time, Lindsay chose her favourite tip and in line with her own productivity skills she chose Tip 3. Get organized, folks!

1) Download Quiz Up! and play the language sections

2) Read LOCAL lit, not just "Harry Potter in my target language"

3) Get organized with Evernote

Links and Resources from this Podcast

Great sites for you to find a tutor:

The Miraculous Benefits of Keeping a Language Notebook

Are you an electric language fiend, armed with Flashcard apps and podcasts? Or going it old-school with pen and paper?

In today’s article, I want to introduce you to some of the tricks I use to get the most out of my language learning routine without adding to my screen time.

language notebook

My absolute language learning essential is a notebook. Flashcards are great for vocabulary lists, but notebooks are for everything. The first thing I do with a new word is write it down in a notebook, maybe with an example and pronunciation note.

Why write on paper?

Working with a paper notebook can bring many excellent benefits to your language learning routine. It provides a refreshing break if you spend most of your time chained to a computer screen or mobile phone. Here are a few reasons that writing on paper can help you add vocabulary, improve your memory and create a better learning experience:

  • Filling a book is visible progress, a huge psychological benefit which is going to keep you motivated and coming back to your language time and time again.

  • As you add notes, you are filling pages of paper with clear signs of your work. It is unmistakably yours as it’s written in your personal style and handwriting. No matter if you are 5 or 50 pages into the adventure, there is nothing like the proud feeling of looking back over what you have already done. Popular apps take the same approach of course by adding skill trees and points scores, so the core message here is to work in a way that shows your progress.

  • Your thoughts become clearer in your own mind. The UK Handwriting Association features this great quote from a 17-year-old student on its website, illustrating the way in which a screen can actually make it harder to focus on what you are learning. He says:

The process of handwriting promotes clear thought and natural structure. Being so close to the page means that translation of thought has less opportunity for deviation.

When typing I find I compulsively re-read my work on the screen and the ability to edit is sometimes paralysing, Although computer work can allow for more complex structure, it is often too complex and has many complications for timed conditions.

  • The act of writing notes down by hand has been scientifically proven to aid memory many times over. When you write your notes by hand, you become better at remembering them. The conclusion of this study was that typing can help you score highly on tests very early (just think Duolingo), but hand writing retains the upper hand when it comes to adding new items to your long-term memory.
  • You are in charge of your learning experience. Writing allows you to start from zero and design your page in the way that aligns best with how your mind works.

Some note takers prefer mind maps and doodles, while others jot down information in a linear way. The pages you create will reflect your state of mind, and allow you to make your motions through the learning progress visible.

How to work with the notebook?

When you start learning languages, the notebook becomes more than just the place to note down the bare facts. You can use it for two core purposes:

1. Language Learning

Noting new vocabulary as and when you hear it, drawing memory aids, mapping out your memory palace even. Notebooks are also the right space to write down grammar rules and example sentences. On the pages of my own notebook, I see pronunciation notes and alphabet practice. Basically, anything.

For reviewing and testing yourself, there can be pages dedicated to vocabulary learning. My technique for such pages is the classic language learning approach of writing two vocabulary columns with a line down the middle. As I review the new words, I cover up one column and work through the list.

Here is an example of what this looks like in my current book:

The fabulous "draw a line in the middle" technique in action.

The fabulous "draw a line in the middle" technique in action.

It is easy to highlight words that I tend to forget, and even easier to add them to another list at a later stage so that my revision materials always stay fresh.

At the start of every new session, try looking through previous pages to review what you have learnt before. There is no need to memorize it word for word, but it will jog your memory and set up the ground today’s session can grow from.

2. Goal Setting and Productivity

Language learning is a big journey. For some learners it’s about growth and development, for others it’s a hobby or an aspiration. No matter what your goals and motivations are, you can gain a lot from journaling and noting them down in the notebook.

Consider adding interesting facts about places, drawing maps or pasting in tickets and mementos from your trips.

Again, writing by hand and focusing on the book in front of you aids clarity and minimises distraction. In a busy world full of overachievers, this is more important than ever.

How can you navigate the notebook?

One of the downsides of paper is that it doesn't have a search bar.

To aid yourself with a bookmark system, consider colour-coding areas like "grammar", "vocab" or "situations". Again, the beauty of your notebook is that this is your personal space. You’re no language learning robot, so work with what feels good to you.

The great thing about building your personal language learning system is that these categories can be unique to you and help you build the exact language course that you need (remember that this is one of the core principles in independent language learning).

My favourite bookmarks are sticky notes such as this very cute set from Busy B, but this isn't the only way. You can experiment with a notebook in sections, with highlighter pens or beautiful bookmarks.

Good Notebook Options

You can get paper from anywhere of course, but the best language learning notebooks are durable and built to handle a bit of use.

You will leaf through the pages a lot, so forget about spine or refill pads straight away. Go for a notebook that is bound like a real book and lasts you all year. Next, discard any paper that is too thin or delicate to take scribbles, highlighters and different kinds of pen. You never know when you'll want to write something down and all you'll have to reach for is your auntie's fountain pen.

The style of paper does not matter - go for squared, lined or blank and pick a paper size that gives you a little space to work with. The language learning notebook works best it doesn't fill up too quickly. My favourite options are the Moleskine A5 Lined Notebooks and the custom booklets from Bound.

Love the Freedom

The key to using notebooks in your language learning is that they allow for an amazing range of creative activities. In paper choice, organisation and pens, and even the content: This is YOUR space. I cannot tell you what to do, but only tell you what works for me.

If you want to become more effective and enjoy vocabulary learning, check out my book The Vocab Cookbook. This book will guide you through the process in detail and give you a step-by-step approach to learning vocab in an organised way.

Do you use a paper notebook? Is it part of your regular learning activities?

If yes, then I would be very interested to hear more about it (maybe even with a photo?) in the comments or over on Facebook.

Introducing Speak German like a Native - the Ultimate Pronunciation Course

Are you a German learner dreaming of that fluent conversation?

Then you know that it's not always as simple as learning all the words and putting them together in the right way.

It's often awkward and embarrassing to be faced with a native speaker, ready to talk. What if they laugh? What if you sound like an idiot?

You feel frustrated because just don't even know if you're saying the words correctly.

If you know that feeling in your German studies, then I have got fantastic news for you: Speak German like a Native is finally launching.

As an experienced German tutor, I know how you feel. I've observed this worry in my own students many times, and have created Speak German Like A Native to help you speak better German.

This course will teach you:

  • How to know instantly what German words should sound like
  • Exactly how to pronounce every word without a foreign accent
  • How to understand native speakers easily

It's not a textbook or a PDF, this one is the full package of over 20 detailed and straightforward videos. Plus: lots of fun marching music and other evidence that German can be taught with a sense of fun.

Here's a sample video for you to try out:

You are going to learn more in two hours working with these videos than you do in five hours of book study or even immersion, because my method combines clear explanations with straightforward examples.

Don't miss out on the Launch Offer

The course is going to open for a VIP sale until August 15th. The special offer price is $32 and will go up to the regular $39 price after Aug 15th.

Only the first 200 buyers will receive a free Udemy course coupon, giving you access to an excellent mobile app and global community of learners.

Click the “I Want This!” button above to purchase now and you will instantly receive full access to the full video course, along with an invitation to our Soundcloud group and regular tips and challenges by email.

This investment is 100% Risk Free and you’ve got 60 full days to claim a hassle-free refund if you are not satisfied with the course.

Can't wait to hear if you like the new course!

New Podcast: Episode 21 - Why Your Language Learning Goal Sucks and What to Do About It

In episode 21 of the podcast, I'm flying solo! This episode is a shorter version of our usual podcast. A snack size, so to say. I've been so busy creating, promoting and talking about Speak German like a Native that there was little time to do anything else.

But Wait! Here's What I Just Had to Tell You

language learning goals

You language learners and your goals.

You all say you're going to be efficient and effective and committed, and then I ask you what your goals are in the Summer Giveaway and 150 people say get fluent.

Me language learner and my goal!

When I was asked about my short-term language learning goal recently, I wasn't much better. In my language tag video on YouTube, I shared my short-term goal for Welsh..except I had no idea what my short-term goal is! I managed to say "I want to have a conversation", but is that really any better? I don't think so.

So in this podcast, I collected five great tips to help you and me become better goal setters in language learning. Listen to the episode to find out why your language learning goals suck and how to make better ones.

My Improved Goal for Welsh

My next short-term goal for learning Welsh is much clearer now. It is a mini one, nothing particularly large, and it doesn't follow all the rules outlined in the podcast. This is difficult stuff, yo, especially since I seem to have chosen a REALLY unpopular language to learn.

As such, the goal is this:

I will listen to episode 3 of Say Something in Welsh and write down all new vocab in my notebook by Saturday.

I'd love to hear your new and improved goals, especially if you're guilty of "my goal is fluency". Share them in the comments for feedback!

Three things you didn't know about speaking German

One of the most common ambitions that language learners share at all stages is that of speaking the language fluently. Fluency means a lot to you, and it pulls together aspects of confidence, expertise, speed and pronunciation.

Maybe you're dreaming of speaking German with ease and a perfect accent. No one will recognise you as Jonny Foreigner as you flirt your way through the trendy bars of Berlin.

If you're a German learner, I'll soon be ready to help you out with one of the five: sounding more like a native speaker. Behind the scenes of Fluent, I'm currently building my first German course, and this one will focus on making you sound very good indeed.

Curious about how I'll do it? Let's start with a few home truths:

1) The e is never silent in German

Even at the end of a word, you have to sound this out. Confusingly that sound is called a 'schwa', but don't worry, you don't have to 'schwa'-y as you produce the sound. In my course, I'll show you how to do it.

2) V and f and w are all fricatives

What the heck is a fricative? 

The Fricative Mouth Shape: Teeth touching lip slightly, air pushed through the space produces the sound.

The Fricative Mouth Shape: Teeth touching lip slightly, air pushed through the space produces the sound.

Well, it looks a bit like this:

Fricatives are all the sound that you make when pushing air through a constricted space. I know that sounds kinky, but it's more or less an "f" sound - sometimes they're harder and sometimes softer. In German, the most unusual fricative fact is the fact that we pronounce our w as one of these little things. Ever heard a German speak English in a heavy accent? You might notice them saying "ve are valking to the vall". This is what you want to reverse-engineer when you learn German. Crazy, right? I'll be teaching you more about it in my videos - good job you'll get to hear my demo along with the explanations!

3) Germans don't all roll the r

Some of us can't even do it at all. We make a sound that's much closer to the French's called an uvular fricative but you don't have to learn the whole phonetic language too. Just listen, try out how you can produce the sound and see if you can hear the difference in the practice words. Here's a video explaining how to do this in detail:

Of course Southern German dialects such as Franconian and Bavarian are known for their beautifully rolled r, so it isn't true to say that rolled r doesn't appear in German. But it helps to know that this is proof of our very strong regional dialects (you have to read about the Mosel one).

What do you struggle with in German?

Now you know that you're not alone if you find it difficult to say some German words, I would love to hear which ones cause you the biggest problems.

Leave me a comment here and tell me all about the trickiest German words!

I'm very excited about bringing you the course by the end of next month, and would love to keep you up to date. If you want to learn more about speaking German with confidence, just leave me your email address here and you will receive free tips to help you cut out that foreign accent.

The Best Fluent Shelfies of July (Plus: Giveaway Winner Announcement)

The Fluent Summer Giveaway has officially closed and wrapped up!

I love doing the prize draw and notifying all the giveaway winners myself because it makes me feel like a little language fairy who gets to brighten everyone's days. This year, the prizes went to a total of 20 winners. Congratulations, you guys!

The winners are:

Margaret Nokling, Kimberley Howes, Amy clarke, Lealu Elliott, Grzegorz Kalarus, Catrin James, Francesca Tuck, Angela Walker, Rachael jones, James Hewlett, Maureen Findley, Cathryn Bowen, Angel Armstead, Toulson Chris, Emily Clark, Jake Brown, Clare Woodman, Shannon Kennedy, Ian Fariel, Liane Mccreanor and Edwards Cheryl.

If you've not had an email from me in your inbox yet, get in touch to find out what you have won.

fluentshelfie Success

A shelfie is a picture of your bookshelf that you can share online. A bit like a selfie, but smarter!

If you have built up a sizeable collection of language books, this summer gives you an opportunity to show them off in the #fluentshelfie contest. The hashtag started out as a way to claim extra chances to win in the giveaway, but quickly gained popularity as posts from language lovers came in on Instagram and Twitter.

Showing off your langauge bookshelves is so much fun and allows you to participate in the big language learning community online. So if you haven't posted your #fluentshelfie yet, it's not too late.

Best #fluentshelfies of July

Check out the whole Shelfie gallery over on Instagram.

Here are some of my favourite Shelfies from July:

Thanks for the #fluentshelfie Posts, and please keep them coming! I love that this hashtag is picking up steam and can't wait to see what you're going to share in August.

If you have a shelfie picture that you'd like to contribute to the collection, post it on Instagram or Twitter with #fluentshelfie, or just leave a comment here and tell me the story of your bookshelf!

Language Linkfest: July 2015

What a month! Summer is always one of my favourite times of the year, and this year too the month of July did not disappoint.

I spent half of the month travelling through Europe, seeing my family and working from a little house in Sweden. The train tickets to make all this possible were a complete bargain, and you can read here how to buy the cheapest European tickets.

Now let's get into that summer mood and give you some good stuff to read, listen to and watch.

Best of Fluent Blog

Click on the picture to find out more about the Summer Giveaway and #fluentshelfie

Click on the picture to find out more about the Summer Giveaway and #fluentshelfie

  • I recorded a fun episode of the Creative Language Learning Podcast with Lindsay and she announced her really big news - listen here

  • I'm running the Big Summer Giveaway and admiring #fluentshelfie pictures from all around the world

This giveaway closes tomorrow, 31 July 2015, so if you want to be in with a chance to win a new prize then enter right now!

Best Language Articles

  • If you study online courses, you'll benefit from these 7 Tips for Being a Successful Online Student on Edudemic
  • Do you get nervous about the word polyglot? Got any idea what immersion really means? Well, Ron can help! Here are his explanations, all with a good dose of humour on the Language Surfer blog
  • Practice your German in a new way by reading my German language wedding report on my friend Verena's blog
  • And Lindsay Dow never disappoints either, she posted so many fantastic articles this month that it was hard to choose. I finally wanted to share this one with you, which is about how you can keep making progress even when you've reached an advanced language stage. Read it on Lindsay does Languages
  • And if you want to know more about progress, I also have a fab archive article for you here on Fluent which is all about how to establish a tracking routine
  • If you're English, here's a good reason to learn a language and get the heck out of here: Underwhelming Holiday Photos
  • The new issue of Parrot Time is out this weekend

Product of the Month

This goes to Say Something in Welsh, which I'm using to study Welsh right now. They also offer Spanish, Dutch, Cornish and Latin.

Do you have any links for the topics above that you'd like to add?

Please tell me about them in the comments!

Slower Travel: How to Buy Cheap European Train Tickets (Plus: Travel Itinerary from Germany to Sweden)


Back in January I showed you how Christian and I travel Europe in my article on train travel from the UK to Germany via Belgium. This time, let me share a trip I am taking as a solo traveller!

Vineyards and Scandi Forests

As I am writing this, I am sitting on a train to Stockholm Central, typing on my laptop. I am on day 2 of travelling by train and have come a long way from the South! My summer trip started out with a flight from Manchester to Cologne (best flight option currently by Germanwings) for a family event. But as I was preparing to book my normal return flight, a Facebook post caught my eye:

“Need someone to look after our cat while we travel. Would any of our friends be interested?"

This came from a friend who lives in Stockholm! A new cat to hang out with and accommodation in an apartment in Stockholm? I was excited, and after some planning we matched up the dates and I decided to make my summer trip home to Germany into a big train adventure.

Here’s how the trip breaks down:

Day 1: Travel by plane from Manchester to Cologne, then by train to Wittlich Hbf

Img ©Christian

Img ©Christian

The first destination in Germany is always the Mosel valley to me. I was there to visit my family, but don’t think that this wouldn’t be a beautiful place for you. The Mittelmosel can be reached by train to Wittlich Hbf with a bus connection to any of the small villages. It’s focused on winemaking, with lush green vineyards on the hills and a stunning river winding its way through the valley.

Language Tip: Hbf stands for Hauptbahnhof, the central station of any city.

The Mosel region is world famous for its wines and amazing scenery. Visit a local wine estate and enjoy a wine tasting with the original producers - guys who know what a vineyard, wine cellar and tractor look like. There are over 15 wineries in my home village alone, and of course I recommend Weingut Hammes (tell them I sent you!). The biggest wine festival of the region is called the Weinfest der Mittelmosel and takes place in Bernkastel/Kues in early September. If you are in town, don’t miss out on the parades, funfair, fireworks and the wine street.

The temperatures during my visit regularly reached 35 degrees, with nighttime temperatures around 20. Some of my favourite things to do include getting amazing gelato at Venezia, swimming outdoors and camping by the river.

Day 7: Travel from Wittlich to Hamburg, via Koblenz.

This is a 7 hour journey including one change and features the lovely rivers Mosel and Rhine as its backdrop up until Cologne. On the trip you will get to see German landscapes changing to the flat and the nautical. Hamburg makes a very beautiful overnight destination, as everything is close by and the city’s sights are within easy reach. It also allowed me time to catch up with a long-time-no-see school friend, Verena who is chief blogger at Hamburg von Innen. She has kindly put a few tips together for you so you can get the most out of Hamburg:

Start at the Landungsbrücken and get set for your day with a Fischbrötchen, the classic Northern German snack. While you're there, take the lift to the old Elbtunnel and cross the river to admire the new Elbphilarmonie building (set to complete in 2017). The views in this part of town are fabulous.
Walk through the Portugiesenviertel to the MichelHamburg's iconic church which offers the best views in town from its tower. On the way there, stop at Milch for an excellent coffee break. You shouldn't miss Jungfernstieg and Binnenalster, with a visit to Warnecke for some ice cream.
Take a stroll around the Speicherstadt and admire this UNESCO-listed cultural treasure. The best Hamburg-style food is Labskaus or Hamburger Pannfisch with an Alsterwasser (shandy).

My accommodation in Hamburg was a friendly little Airbnb apartment in Altona.

Day 8: Travel from Hamburg to Stockholm, via Copenhagen

There’s currently no direct train running between Hamburg and Stockholm, but the trip via Copenhagen is fun and adds little time in total. For this journey, I was on the tracks for 12 hours in total, with a 2 hour changeover. Hamburg to Denmark offers views of picturesque Friesland and a crossing of the Baltic Sea to get to the island of Fehmarn.

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The journey features a truly exciting extra: Your train drives ONTO A BOAT. I was absolutely amazed by this. The ScandLines crossing between Fehmarn, a German island in the Baltic Sea, and Roedby in Denmark takes 45 minutes and gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs. 

The Swedish part of the train journey is all trees and meadows and water, a wealth of things to look at. The SJ train was comfortable and fast, offered free wi-fi, plugs and a little bistro so that you couldn’t be more comfortable.

Here in Stockholm, I’m getting around using the T-Bana (the city metro). My city guide book recommends Skansen, the open air museum to take visitors back to Viking times. I’m also planning to give a little bit of time to a nice walk around Södermalm, the beautiful old town and the open air baths. Being self-employed and staying here as a house sitter has made it possible for me to combine working and discovering this new city and I am very much looking forward to my stay (and to hanging out with Moppet, the cat I’m looking after).

How to Purchase your Tickets

Although navigating the Deutsche Bahn website can take a little getting used to, its wealth of connection and saver fare data means it remains a must when you are planning Euro train travel. Journeys abroad are open for booking as long as they’re offered by or in partnership with Deutsche Bahn. Alternatively, try The Trainline Europe.

I decided to opt for a mobile ticket, meaning I had to download the DB Navigator app and log in. I was amazed at how well this worked, conveniently allowing me to access my tickets and timetables on my phone, research alternative routes and get platform information. Even on the trip from Copenhagen to Stockholm, the conductor accepted my foreign e-tickets without question. Deutsche Bahn offers the option of posting the train ticket to you in hard copy. Be aware that lost tickets will not be replaced if you take that option, and there’s a small extra charge for it.

I bougnt a BahnCard too, a special offer from Deutsche Bahn which gives you 25% off each journey you take. Since the full trip from Wittlich to Stockholm was booked and paid through the Deutsche Bahn website, I was able to make this journey for just €110. That’s an outstanding deal, especially since I realised that it includes a ferry!

Notes on Learning German, Swedish and Danish

Learning German? My native language? Oh yes! This trip took place so recently after I developed my new German pronunciation course that my ears were more attentive than ever. My parents and I watched the news and listened closely to make sure the pronunciation is real Hochdeutsch. And we spoke more Moselfränkisch to each other than ever. On the train trip to Koblenz, I got to listen to some Trier boys drink beer and speak dialect. Do any of these expressions make sense to you German learners? I love and understand them all:

  • Hal dau mol de Schniss weile!
  • Du komen am Sunndisch die Frimmen vorbéi.
  • Dau Flappes!
  • Eisch hann die Freck, haut kann eisch néist.

The prize for most languages during a train announcement goes to the Danes this time, who racked up Danish, Swedish, German and English on their leg of my journey. I didn’t really stop in Copenhagen for very long, skimming over the Danish language on my trip to Sweden.

Everyone I have spoken to in Stockholm so far speaks English at an incredibly high level. But once again, you can tell that the “they all speak English anyway” excuse just doesn’t fly. They may be able to speak English to me, but they don’t choose to. I am happily wandering around at the moment armed with this little beauty, a dictionary from 1975:

The way I use my dictionary to help me learn the language is so much fun to me. I carry it around everywhere and take time to look up words that I see come around again and again (på, och, uttlev) and translate written texts. The dictionary also contains a pronunciation guide, and once I feel like I’m ready to do it I’ll try out my new word on a Swedish person just to check I’m getting it right. Spoken Swedish is not making a lot of sense to me yet, which is to be expected on day 2 a 10 day visit. But every day, I'll be adding words and making memories.

And here’s a little closing note on the languages of this trip (no Norwegian included): 

If it’s got an ø (pronounced “gulp” or something like that), it must be Danish. If it’s got an å (pronounced “oh”), it must be Swedish.

I would love to hear from you! Have you ever been to Sweden? Have you travelled a long distance by train? Share your best train travel experiences with me in the comments.