Detailed Review of Rosetta Stone Tell Me More (aka Rosetta Stone Advanced)

Full Review and Screenshots of Rosetta Stone Tell Me More/Advanced

Full Review and Screenshots of Rosetta Stone Tell Me More/Advanced

Here's the thing. My French is not as good as it used to be. Last week, I met the very interesting Zahid Hussain, a local author and entrepreneur. Turns out Zahid speaks not only German, Urdu and English. He also went to school in France and his French is outstanding! Since I hadn't spoken French for over a year, I was excited to practice and started a conversation with him. And within a few minutes, I was pretty embarrassed. Zahid took no nonsense, and I forgot quite a few words. No excuse! Time to get back to studying!

My French Study Buddy: Rosetta Stone Advanced

Even though I had already been playing around with the new Rosetta Stone Advanced system for the Creative Language Learning Podcast, I admit that I hadn't really taken the time to study French with it. I know what it's like with language learning: You have to MAKE time. Knowing that I wanted to really push my French to a higher level, I've now started scheduling regular sessions to work with Rosetta.

Rosetta Stone Tell Me More

The system I work with is called Tell Me More and based on software developed by a company acquired by Rosetta Stone in 2013. Unlike a lot of the traditional models of buying Rosetta Stone as DVDs in box sets, this one gives you straight online access and bases your level on a very thorough 20 minute assessment.

I'm not someone who has spent a lot of time studying languages online and usually prefer live classes for the challenge and community sense of studying in a group with others. Of course I've done a bit of work with Duolingo and Memrise, but neither of them really captured me. Rosetta Stone was different right from the start. The thing I noticed immediately is how much less playful and inviting the user environment looks. The message this system sends is "You're a serious language learner", and we aren't here to mess about.

What's Different about Rosetta Stone Advanced?

The sheer volume and size of the content really stood out. There is so much to be studied and Rosetta Stone Advanced doesn’t look like it will get boring any time soon. After the first assessment, I felt confident very quickly and enjoyed playing around with the system.

There are grammar explanations and backgrounds where needed and the library of reference material in this version of Rosetta Stone is solid. In terms of how you learn, imagine lots of immersive practical exercises from translations to conversations (yes, with a computer...but it works!). The system features culture topics to keep you entertained. Any word can be clicked and looked up. And in all that, Rosetta Stone Advanced still sticks with the classic Rosetta Stone approach of avoiding the use of your native language by breaking the lessons down into manageable steps.

Here's what makes the system great:

  • Extremely thorough and comprehensive language content, covering different topics and a large vocabulary
  • Reliable starting assessment which leads to good prompts that suit your language level
  • Vast range of exercises covering all four core language skills (if you've read my book Fluency Made Achievable you'll know that I think those are the foundation behind fluency in any language)
  • Focus on comprehensible input and an immersive environment

There Are Disadvantages to Rosetta Stone Too

Of course, no language learning software can be perfect. Even though this system impressed me a lot more than any other computer-based class I've seen, there are things to be pointed out.

Example of the speech recognition in Rosetta Stone

Example of the speech recognition in Rosetta Stone

Not every exercise is as easy to complete as I would like it to be, and I admit that some of them drove me straight up the wall. For example, the pronunciation trainer needed me not just to repeat a word, but to repeat it very closely to the demo audio so that I could pass the lesson. The whole way Rosetta Stone's interface is laid out makes you want to complete lessons with a perfect score, so this has the potential to get irritating. The system also sticks with the same type of exercise for a long time, and that resulted in my attention wandering more than it should have. I mean, who wants to pronounce 94 unconnected words in a row?!

The other thing I noticed is that Rosetta Stone Advanced doesn't feel quite ready for 2014. I am a busy person with an iPhone, so I’d like to see a daily checklist, a scheduler or daily timed activities. There is an iPad app that looks sophisticated, but the Tell Me More access doesn't cover it so I cannot talk about it in this review.

In short, a few Rosetta stone disadvantages are:

  • The exercises can get pretty boring
  • It doesn't feel as technologically advanced as I would like it to be
  • It is a computer and lacks what a human language partner can offer you
  • The topic selection is very wide, but not current, not regularly updated or necessarily relevant to what YOU are interested in

My Verdict on Rosetta Stone Advanced for French

Overall, here are my final thoughts on the system. Language learning with Rosetta Stone Advanced is not too difficult for me, because I really appreciated the grammar explanations. I am mostly this one for reviewing a language that I have already learnt. As a brand new learner, I would actually really enjoy how much the system lets me try, play with and achieve. I believe it is definitely possible to advance a level with this software.

What stands out the most for me is just how much this is a system for "serious" language learners. It's not cute and engaging like Duolingo, it's not a game. This is a learning environment that's been well thought out and designed to help you spend several hundred hours studying your language. Altogether, I know that Rosetta Stone Advanced is priced at the high end of all language course ranges, and it certainly lived up to its value promise better than I had thought. BUT the speech recognition the system uses still doesn't deliver as much as even 20 minutes of talking to a real person can give you. That's a value for money score of 3/5.

The course quality is solid, and the assessments at the start and throughout are a good motivator. I do want to deduct some points though for the system being less fun than language learning can be, so there's an entertainment score of 2/5.

Finally, there's the most important score of all.

Does this work?

Well. Rosetta Stone Advanced is not the most up-to-date software when it comes to the real life examples, but at least for the French version I used I felt the vocabulary relevant and the grammar backgrounds useful. The biggest problem is really the low entertainment value, because it doesn't make you look forward to coming back to the system many times.

For someone who is committed and proficient at working with a computer, Rosetta Stone will provide great results. I do think this system is going to work in making you more familiar and confident at your language. The drawback is that you won't be applying it in real life, so, final verdict:

I would recommend Rosetta Stone Advanced as a very thorough computer-based language learning system for self-guided study, BUT I’d recommend regular contact with a real tutor too.

What Else Am I Doing to Improve my French?

Ce qu'un araignée peut faire..

Ce qu'un araignée peut faire..

In addition to switching the language on my iPhone Spider-Man game to French, I have also started reading the headlines at Le Figaro on a daily basis. The website offers a good selection of videos, from cinema reviews to the weather forecast. I do wish that there was a great French podcast to catch up with. I am also a subscriber of the Journal en Français Facile podcast from RFI. Do you have any other tips on how I can bring my French back to life?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop. All the links in this article are affiliate links, that means they cost you nothing but support Fluent. They're for the Euro version of Rosetta Stone, but it is available all over the world. You should also know that Rosetta Stone kindly allowed me to use this software for a free trial but had no input over my review.

Four Big Lessons from the Language Show in London

"Beautiful Russian woman"

"Beautiful Russian woman"

The Language Show is the UK's biggest and only language-focused trade show, held in London and attracting thousands of language lovers. So far I've been resisting the call of Europe's great Polyglot Conferences so far (more about those later) but for this one I made my way down to big London to see the latest trends, technologies and products out there in language learning.

The Language Show is free to attend, runs over three days and features a huge amount of workshops, cultural performances and taster language lessons to try out. It's held at the London Olympia, an absolutely huge trade centre and beautiful Art Deco building too. I visited the trade show floor on Saturday 18 October, and here's what struck me the most:

Lifelong Learners Still Overlooked

Here in the UK, the most common setting for language learning is definitely school. And since this year has seen new UK legislation passed that introduces languages to kids in primary schools, the biggest focus of the exhibition was definitely on teachers and primary school teachers. The vast majority of stalls were aimed at teachers in the school system, and it was REALLY SAD to see so little representation of us lifelong learners. We are forced to think outside the box all of the time, but the offer of books and materials available is still so focused on school that language learning feels like a classroom skill, not a life skill.

Society is also becoming more innovative when it comes to showing what kind of job opportunities are open to language lovers. Translating, interpreting and teaching were represented everywhere, but other companies weren't all that present. The biggest I saw were the army with their handsome spy recruiters and SC Johnson, as well as several London-based agencies.

Politices are Powerful

Some goodies from the EU, Deutsche Bahn and the Goethe Institut

Some goodies from the EU, Deutsche Bahn and the Goethe Institut

One big thing that I learnt from this exhibition is how extremely powerful the government legislation really is when it comes to this cause. When government decides to put money behind language teaching for children, and not for adults in Further Education or just in no formal education environment, then the industry follows. Lifelong learners stay invisible, and stay scared of trying out a language as a cool hobby. We have so much further to go.

Without the European Union, there would be so much less diversity and investment in languages here in the UK. The EU exhibition stands were not only huge and absolutely covered in amazing information about every country and its official languages, but they also provide a huge opportunity for employment to anyone who can speak another language.

Languages are a Space of Innovation!

I innovated my badge because everyone kept asking me which "Key stage" I'm at. Key stage life!

I innovated my badge because everyone kept asking me which "Key stage" I'm at. Key stage life!

I met so many small, independent publishing houses and companies developing not just new technologies, but fun products and ideas. Big shout out to Flashsticks, a company that I am always supporting for their cute and simple little pre-printed vocab post-its. They filmed a short interview with me, so look out for that on the Flashsticks blog very soon.

Some great products included big maps of languages for your personal grammar paradise, new Flashsticks box sets and super cute publications in over 20 languages from the EU.

Language and Travel are Forever Linked

I loved seeing amazing displays from embassies and tourist offices around Europe, and from Germany in particular there were promotions of Deutsche Bahn and the youth hostels. I really enjoyed a German workbook published by the cologne youth hostels with maps, role play ideas and other exercises. Watch out for that, German students!

(The companies mentioned did not pay me to write any of this. I'll accept donations though.)

Polyglot Conferences and Language Shows

This year, I missed attending two great "polyglot" conferences because I couldn't get over my personal dislike of the word polyglot (see here) and the arrogance that too many YouTube polyglots display at times. I felt that the environment was masculine and dominated by one-upmanship, and it didn't make me want to be in a place where people discuss how many languages they can possibly add by next Tuesday. The Language Show seemed a lot less intimidating to me, as a space where I can walk around at my own pace and just check out what's on offer for me as a language teacher, blogger and student.

I was excited to meet up with three great bloggers from the UK: Compassionate Language Learner J, my podcasting buddy Lindsay and German blogger Angelika. Lindsay was just back from the "Polyglot Gathering" in Novi Sad and had lots of good things to say about it, which was fab, and actually reassured me that these types of events do end up a lot friendlier than you think. I LOVED meeting the three other bloggers and talking about our mission of being non-male language writers and promoters on the internet.

Here is a tiny tiny video of Lindsay and Angelika, which I filmed with Hyperlapse and then saved at a mega speed. You can see their amazing smiles :D

Here's my conclusion:

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do no matter where you are based is to get out of your little life box and meet some people. Being in a room full of people who all share your "thing" is a great feeling -- very energising and motivating.

We all have one thing in common: A shared belief that language learning is a major DO in this world, and we have to get out and share that!

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

How Flashcards Helped Me Get Back To Language Learning

You guys might remember a recent post from Angel Armstead, our resident Japanese language and video game buff! Today, Angel is sharing a bit more about how she uses flashcards to get back into the action.

Something as simple as flashcards have helped me get back on my way into language learning. I still have a very busy schedule. I'm working on creating my own coffee business. I want to complete a novel and I've decided to create my own video game. That doesn't even add in the miscellaneous stuff I do such as piano practice or other emergencies that steal time from me.

I use these Kanji Flashcards every day.

I use these Kanji Flashcards every day.

So How Did It Help?

For the most obvious reasons is that they can be taken anywhere. I can take a break from writing and look at my few vocab words or Kanji characters. It's the convenience behind using flashcards anytime and anywhere that made it easy for me to continue to learn Kanji characters and new vocab. When I had stopped language learning altogether because of lack of time I could have used them then. It wasn't until I decided to stop procrastinating that I realized I could do some language learning in a simpler way.

The big thing about flashcards is that they really help me with is the Kanji characters. It's good for vocab too. But all through college I didn't feel like I could learn the Japanese writing system. With the flashcards I feel like I have really memorized certain characters. When I see them in other written works I still remember what the character stands for and other ways to use the same character.

Why Point Out Something That Most People Already Know?

A lot of people I know don't think something simple as flashcards can help much with anything. But in my experience, flashcards are such a great fall guy! Even when you're too busy to listen to a lesson or meet with a teacher, you still have a minute or two to spare for a few words that day. That's all it takes to keep going, after all. A lot of people don't realize how something so simple can help out so much.

Recommended places for Kanji Cards

If you're interested in grabbing your own Kanji card sets, here are my own recommendations: I went to two separate places for kanji cards. One was, but the cards I typically use the most are the ones I got from Their cards do make it obvious which meaning is Japanese and which is the original Chinese meaning. The Japanese meaning will be in hiragana and the Chinese in katakana. They also have kana flashcards. Typically learners of Japanese learn the kana first. It's even more important if you're going the flashcard route. The meanings on kanji flashcards will be in kana.

New Podcast: Episode 8 -- Lindsay and Kerstin Do Languages

In Episode 8, my guest is Lindsay Dow, a really enthusiastic and cool independent language teacher from the UK. Lindsay is well-known for her great Youtube videos about all aspects of language learning, and she was also a winner in the Sensational Fluent Giveaway.

“No one learns a language because they want their life to stay the same.”

The show doesn't follow the usual interview format, instead Lindsay came on as a co-host and talked about her favourite blogs and articles, as well as her own story of language learning. She also helped me select the Tip of the Week.

Some of the highlights:

  • How music and lyrics from Sheffield can teach you great English
  • Which Asian language was a total eye-opener for Lindsay
  • Why travelling is the greatest motivation for language learning
  • How to stop getting bored by the language you’re learning (hint: Celebrity crushes help!)
  • Our exclusive permission to you: Learn AS MANY LANGUAGES AS YOU LIKE

Language Learning Tip of The Week

Set yourself some goals and challenges, write them down and try your best to achieve them. For example, making a language video, writing a blog article in another language or reviewing 50 items on Memrise could be a goal.

It's important to make sure that you do go easy on yourself if you don't hit the goal. It doesn't make you a failure, so make sure you know how to do better next time and move on!

Our Tool and Blog Recommendations for the Week

Language Book Recommendations

And Here are the Other Sites and Tools we Mentioned

As always, you can check out the podcast on Stitcher, or head over to itunes.

Beautiful Gallery Images from my Multilingual Forest Surprise

Sometimes we don't have to look very far at all to discover a multilingual gem right on our doorstep. On Sunday, I took a trip to Beacon Fell, a beautiful forest and hill in the Forest of Bowland, for an autumn walk. I love it when the leaves turn yellow and orange and the last of the sun wants our attention.

The Forest is celebrating its 50th anniversary as an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" this year (it really is beautiful), and they currently have a little art exhibition right in the forest to celebrate. I got a little lost looking for the first stone of Geraldine Pilgrim's "Beauty", but when I finally found it I was excited to see that I got a special treat. The word "Beauty" is etched into stepping stones in the forest floor in various languages, placed along a trail that leads you into the forest to a special area of contemplation.

Here is a glimpse of the exhibition. You can catch it until 9 November if you are visiting Northern England.

I would love to hear about special places that you have found in your own area.

Where can you find international signs, exhibitions or other multilingual beauty?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

Bookmark This! The 73 Best Language Blogs To Help You Learn Any Language

You may remember that back in July, Fluent hosted a rather sensational giveaway featuring prizes from Italki, Rosetta Stone and more friends of the Fluent blog. The giveaway was amazing, with more than 500 of you entering to win a prize! What you might not remember is that during the entry form I also asked you about your favourite language learning blogs. These blogs have now been counted and used to create the first ever Fluent list of awesome blogs to learn languages.

the best language blogs

Altogether, we counted over 250 votes so check out this great list of blogs and let me know which one is your favourite in the comments. I had a lot of fun checking out all these blogs and hope you'll discover some amazing new ones. Do share and bookmark this article and make it a resource for when you need motivation, or a laugh, or just a new place to find inspiration online!

The categories included are any language, German, French, English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Irish, Russian, and Norwegian.

Blogs for Learning Any Language

1) Fluent in 3 Months

Benny Lewis remains the heavyweight in language learning blogs, with his established and award-winning platform right at the top at 58 votes. Congrats, Benny!

2) Fluent Language

Okay, this could have been totally biased but I'm proud anyway because 47 of you love the Fluent blog! My dedication to helping you learn any language with my articles and books is unwaivering. You can find all my articles with a quick search in the archive.

3) Italki

Surprise entry! The italki blog came in at number three, scooping up 30 votes. The site is huge and offers something for any learner, so go check it out.

4) the Polyglot Dream

Italian Luca Lampariello lives by the belief that you cannot be taught a language, you have to learn it. His blog bagged a respectable 10 votes.

5) r/languagelearning

Reddit! How can I describe it? The internet's busiest message board? An amazing online community? Whatever it is, once you join Reddit you'll be amazed at how much knowledge and discussion there is about any topic under the sun. The Language Learning subreddit is a place to give and find advice with a global community.

6) I Will Teach You a Language

You will? Bring it! Olly Richards is behind this fabulous promise and shares his own language learning journey as well as all he learns along the way.

7) Fluent Forever

Gabriel Wyner (an interviewee in Fluency Made Achievable) speaks five languages, sings arias and has a book published. Phew!

8) Speaking Fluently

This website is another big polyglot name's blog. Richard Simcott makes videos in all kinds of languages, co-organises the annual Polyglot Gathering and learns, and learns, and learns.

9) Mezzofanti Guild

The Mezzofanti Guild is a group blog full of motivation, interesting observations and posts from some truly smart people. This blog's been around a while and I recommend you check out their considerable archive!

10) Lindsay Does Languages

Look out for Episode 8 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast to get to know more about Lindsay, a total Youtube and blogging and online POWERHOUSE of the languages.

And here is the rest of the chart for learning and thinking about any language:

11) Rawlangs by Alex Rawlings

12) Words and Worlds of New York by Ellen Jovin

13) for pretty much any language

14) Actual Fluency by Chris Broholm

15) Interpals, the international pen pal exchange

16) Languages Around the Globe

17) Memrise

18) The Linguist - The Blog of Steve Kaufmann

19) How To Languages

20) Language Surfer

21) Lingholic by Sam Gendreau

The Best German Learning Blogs

1) Your Daily German

This amazingly approachable and detailed grammar blog bagged a whole five votes from the Fluent German learning gang and I can completely see why. It's einfach super.

2) Deutsche Welle

Get news, courses, podcasts, anything from Germany's biggest international broadcaster. Not a blog, but just an AMAZING resource.

And with one vote each:

3) Learn Out Live!

4) Deutsch für Euch on Youtube

5) Get Germanized on Youtube

6) Mr Antrim -- You guessed it, on Youtube!

7) Aprender Alemão for Portuguese speakers

The Best French Learning Blogs

All of these came in at an equal amount of votes, so I'm going straight to the list:

1) Talk in French

2) Le Point du FLE - a great resource for teachers

3) Oui, c'est ça!

The Best English Learning Blogs

Equal votes for each.

1) Cork English Teacher on Facebook

2) English Baby, not just for babies

3) ESL Teaching tales, a really interesting teacher's perspective

4) Happy English Blog

5) Grammarly

The Best Chinese Learning Blogs

Equal votes for each.

1) Chinesisch Trainer, a blog for Germans wanting to learn Chinese.

2) Chineasy

3) Hacking Chinese

4) Shiny Chinese

5) Yoyo Chinese

6) Dig Mandarin

The Best Japanese Learning Blogs

1) All Japanese All The Time

With four votes, this Japanese blog was the most popular among the blogs for learning a single language. I love the tagline: "You don't learn a language. You get used to it."

2) Tofugu

3) JLPT Boot Camp

The Best Korean Learning Blogs

1) Talk to Me in Korean

A runaway winner with five votes! This site is SERIOUS about Korean.

2) Sydney to Seoul

The Best Arabic Learning Blogs

Again, equal votes for each.

1) The Arabic Student

2) Learn Arabic with Maha on Youtube

The Best Dutch Learning Blog

Uncontested, tee hee!

Dutch Word of the Day

The Best Italian Learning Blog

The Iceberg Project

The Best Spanish Learning Blogs

1) El Español Sin Misterios

This Mexican blog for Spanish learners got the most votes, and it's all in Spanish and full of interesting facts so you can really immerse yourself.

And the Runners-Up, with one vote each:

2) XKCD in Spanish

3) Lightspeed Spanish

4) El Blog de Español

5) Reflecciones

The Best Irish Learning Blog

Bitesize Irish Gaelic

The Best Russian Learning Blog


The Best Norwegian Life Blog

Life in Norway

Wow, thank you all so much for entering the giveaway and voting for your favourite blogs. The list above is amazing, such a great resource for learners of any language. What's your favourite? Have you found something new in this list? Anything to add? Don't forget to comment and tell me what you think.

PS: The next giveaway is coming up in time for Christmas, so make sure you don't miss out by signing up to the Fluent Newsletter today.

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

First Fluent Meetup in London: Come Join Us on 18 October


Come along and meet Kerstin, chat about languages and the ones you're currently learning over a nice cup of tea (or a G and T) in London.

Kerstin will be there along with some special guests to answer all your language learning questions, give encouragement and chat about blogging and language teaching!

We will be meeting up at the Language Show Live venue, which is the Olympia in London and making our way to a nearby pub to hang out.

Nearest tube station: Kensington (Olympia)

The event is FREE but please let us know you're coming via Facebook

New Podcast! Lost in Translation, the 80/20 Rule and French Grammar

Woo hoo, it's time for a new podcast episode!

Learn more about the Fluent French course

Learn more about the Fluent French course

In episode 7, I have some great stories for you. Some inspiring, some thoughtful. We start with our news article of the week, the story of Eleven Years Lost in Translation as shared by Reprieve UK on Medium. And then there's a full interview, this time I'm being interviewed by John Colley from the Online Learning Podcast. It was a great conversation, we talked about Wales and vocabulary and my French Grammar course!

Now on Stitcher

If you're using Stitcher, you can now find the Creative Language Learning Podcast on there too. Help us out by giving it some stars! Here's an easy link to Stitcher's website.

Introducing First Results and Happy Readers

In the journey of creating something individual and unique, sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees. For me, the most recent months have at times felt like this. I wrote The Vocab Cookbook and reviewed and updated all of Fluency Made Achievable, created the resources for the online Combo pack and so much more.

After the first month of my books being published, I'm excited to let you know that I have counted over 50 happy readers already. And here is PROOF that people are making real progress.

The new readers have been:

  • Trying out exciting memorization techniques like memory palaces - just check out Richard Gilzean's story, for example
  • Organising their learning routines better through the Three Week Plan in Fluency Made Achievable
  • Testing their own core skills profiles
  • Inspired to make their own vocab learning recipes inspired by my interview with Oli Antosch in The Vocab Cookbook
  • Started a whole new Flashcard library - on paper, not on Anki!

You Can Try Before You Buy

I am over the moon today and so proud to be giving you an exclusive first ever sample of the official Fluency Made Achievable AUDIOBOOK! The intro and conclusion are read in my own voice, with the bulk of the book coming to you read by a fabulous voice artist (another Kirsten!) hand selected by me.

Here is a round-up of where you can get yourself a copy of the new Fluent guides.


language learning books

I am selling the best packages on my own website, featuring three file formats for all e-readers as well as worksheets and bonuses. Read them on your iPad, Kindle, Nook, kobo or desktop screen. There is a format for each one.

The UK Store has Fluency Made Achievable* and The Vocab Cookbook*.

The US Store has Fluency Made Achievable and The Vocab Cookbook.

If you're located somewhere else, simply search your amazon store for "Kerstin Hammes".

On Audible

Yes indeed, Fluency Made Achievable is now available on Audible, a great marketplace for audiobooks for any kinds of readers. I'm right next to Michel Thomas!

New subscribers to Audible can even listen to the full audiobook for free as part of their free trial.

First Book Reviews:

I am reading your book and loving it, loving it! You’re the only one I’ve read that discussions the four core skills, offers assessments and a plan! (Judi Martindale)

I have devoured your books and I really enjoyed them. (Marco Nieri)

You can read lots more reviews on Amazon too! Have you checked the books out yet?

*these links are affiliate links which help me keep going

No Lessons Required: How An American Girl Learnt a New Language (Hint: It's Called "British")

Hey everyone, today's I'm very excited to welcome a second guest post from Alice Morell. She writes about the world of music over at, and you can also find her on Twitter. But today, Alice is on Fluent to share her own foreign language experience, which might be a little different from what you'd imagine.

Over to Alice..

I'd spent a fair share of my free time over my teenage years studying the English culture, being especially engrossed in its literature and the romanticism of the Victorian Era. What can I say—though I quite love literature and many other forms of art and expression, this particular time and place has always been outstandingly magical to me. While this gave me some introduction to what I was about to experience, the reality of it was to completely blow me away. As I got off the plane at one of the busiest airports in the world, London Heathrow Airport, my head swam with images of Big Ben and the Palace Gardens, imagining what it would be like to have memories of being in those places. Little did I know it was going to be the differences in our use of English that would be the most surprising memories I’d make, and the thing that let me know that though we shared a language, I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

As I stood in the baggage claim with the other students from my class, listen to them talk excitedly about what they wanted to see and do first in England, I had a conversation that encompassed my first bit of culture shock.  A man had just gotten off the same plane, and we had been chatting amicably about our trips.  Things had seemed relatively normal until his suitcase came by. Scooping it up off the conveyor belt, he waved to me and said “Well! Was great meeting you, now I'm off to knock up my girlfriend!”

As you might imagine, this set us all laughing among ourselves, and even our teacher had to laugh. “He means he's going to go visit her, 'knocking up' just means to knock at their door to wake them. Now get your minds out of the gutter!”

Asking For The "Non-Swimming" Baths

The next thing I encountered about the oddities of language involved the word 'chips'; this one, however, was thankfully quite a bit less embarrassing.  I had envisioned having Fish and Chips while here in London, a decidedly simple but popular food, and a classic staple of Britishness.  Little did I know I was going to wind up with a plate of deep-fried fish and French fries!  They call potato chips “crisps” there, and that's what I was actually after.  But the fries weren't unwelcome. Come on, I was raised in the U.S.

Fish and Fries

Fish and Fries

We had arrived in the middle of the summer, and on a particular hot day were asked if “us birds would like to go the bath”.  After a momentary shocked laugh at their forwardness, we once again were alerted that the language caught us “baths” in England are American swimming pools, and “birds” are young women like we ourselves were.  That one I actually thought made a lot of sense, it being close to our “chicks”.

I also got a disapproving look from a severe older waitress at a restaurant when I asked if they had biscuits, apparently they agree with mothers at home that cookies aren't breakfast food.  They don't have anything like what we call biscuits at home. 

In England, if you ask for biscuits, this is what you’ll get.

In England, if you ask for biscuits, this is what you’ll get.

After having breakfast I asked one of our new British mates (which means friend rather than partner) where the bathroom was, and he directed me to the bog, but not before he gave me some grief about how they didn't have bathtubs in a restaurant restroom, just closets (Which is what we typically think of as a standard bathroom, with just a toilet).  I in turn told him that in America we were civilized and used toilets, rather than still going out to to a swamp or a wardrobe to do our business.  So much confusion was just trying to relieve myself! 

The other point of confusion in conversation had to do with our education, where colleges in the UK is applied to a type of institution similar to our high schools.  When I started talking about the Theater Conservatory at our college back home, they seemed quite confused about our theater classes being held in a greenhouse, as that is what the word “conservatory” means there.  I had to explain that we use the term to describe places that teach music, among other things like drama.

A “conservatory” in Great Britain.

A “conservatory” in Great Britain.

It was a great experience, and I made some wonderful friends while I was there.  While I occasionally talk about how awe-inspiring the tourist sites were, it's the laughs and fun that was had just trying to figure out what we were trying to say to each other that will forever stick in my memory and be what I tell the funniest stories about. 


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And if you're into more articles about the quirks of British vs American English, I strongly recommend you check out the separated by a common language blog by Lynne Murphy.