When I moved to...

When I moved to ROME

Why did you decide to move?

Back in 2006, I went on my first overseas trip. With a friend, I left Australia and for three weeks we travelled around Italy and France. After that trip I came back home to Melbourne with a new found desire to finally get serious about learning Italian.

Since all of my dad’s side of the family is Italian and I was named after my ‘nonno’ (grandfather), I felt like I owed it to myself to learn the language. I was drawn to Italian from a very early age, but my dad never spoke it at home because he spoke a dialect.

The idea both terrified and excited me. But, with the support of my family, I quit my job and moved to Rome in 2010 and thus began my new life and adventure.

For the next four years following my first trip to Italy, I took learning Italian seriously. By the fourth year I was going to Italian class three times a week, had a private tutor, and watched every single film at the Melbourne Italian Film Festival. I lived and breathed Italian. You could say I was mildly obsessed.

I knew that if I wanted to take my Italian to the next level, I’d have to move to Italy. What a horrible idea, right? The idea both terrified and excited me. But, with the support of my family, I quit my job and moved to Rome in 2010 and thus began my new life and adventure.

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How much Italian did you speak before you moved to Rome?

Before moving to Rome my level of Italian was at B1. Within two years I completed my C1 exam. I owe this to the fact that I worked in an Italian company, continued to go to Italian class, and had mostly Italian friends who were ever to willing to teach me colloquialisms and correct me along the way.

One day I messaged a friend telling her I’d be five minutes late. Her response was “Michele, sei troppo inglese!” (‘Michele, you’re too English!’).

It didn’t take me long to pick up on the different Italian accents, either. Some were easier to understand than others. Most of my Italian friends are from Naples and the surrounding area which is known for having a very distinct dialect. Even Italians from up north have difficulty understanding them. I found it funny that films set in Naples are always subtitled in Italian cinemas so the rest of the country can understand!

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Was there any culture clash?

I wouldn’t say I experienced severe culture clash, I just learned to take a new perspective on life. Italians, or should I say, Romans in particular do everything ‘con calma’ (‘with calm’). Arriving late is normal. This is such a non-issue for Italian. While I hate being late, I stopped stressing when one day I messaged a friend telling her I’d be five minutes late. Her response was “Michele, sei troppo inglese!” (‘Michele, you’re too English!’).

How did you imagine life in Rome before you arrived?

I didn’t have any expectations. The only thing I was worried about was finding a job in my field, which is IT. It took three months, which according to Italians is very quick. I put it down to a bit of luck and the fact that my employer liked the fact that I had international experience.

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What was the most difficult about moving to Rome?

There’s not much to complain about when living in Rome. It’s always sunny, I used to walk past the Colosseum on the way to work each day,  and just being surrounded by centuries of history is mindblowing. Especially for an Aussie!

I remember a colleague asking to take the day off work so he could go to the post office!

Organising my permesso di soggiorno (permission to stay document) was a nightmare. I was redirected multiple times and waited in ridiculously long queues, then waited weeks for my card to arrive which I had to go and pick up.

Going to the post office was another dreaded excursion. I remember a colleague asking to take the day off work so he could go to the post office!

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Any suggestions for people thinking about moving abroad?

Follow your heart and your gut. I just knew that moving to Italy was something I had to do and everything would work out.

As for the language, you don’t necessarily need to know the local language before, but it definitely helps the process of settling in. I recommend reaching an A2 level before moving.

To be a successful, you have to be passionate and motivated. If learning a language doesn’t excite you, then the whole process will be harder. Make sure you get your daily fix. Listen to the radio, watch movies with subtitles, and stick to Italian even when others respond in English.


the-intrepid-guide-09-e1500890069816.jpgMichele from The Intrepid Guide is a travel and language blogger. She lives by the motto “The more we travel, the more we learn.” With her blog, Michele shares her passion for bringing language and travel together through with her destinations guide, language learning tools, and travel phrase cheat sheets, and more! Follow her on social media as she shares fascinating and little-known linguistic and cultural facts.

Check out her Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, too!

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out our 20 Italian Survival Phrases!

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The joy of languages

20 Portuguese Survival Phrases

Portugal is the home of port, peri-peri, and delicious cream tarts. It’s also somewhere many of us go to enjoy sunshine, beaches, amazing cities, and a seductive way of life.

It’s always good manners to learn some of the local language before going to a new country, so Memrise is here to help, along with our exclusive Native Speaker videos!

So next time before you get on the plane, have a go at learning these fun Portuguese phrases, and of course check out more in our official Memrise Portuguese course!

1. Que maravilha! / How wonderful!

“Maravilha” is a great word in Portuguese! Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where they also speak Portuguese, is commonly called “a cidade maravilhosa”, which roughly translates as “the wonderful city”.

2. Vamos lá! / Let’s go

With so many world-class sights and cities in Portugal, such as beautiful Porto in the north, the sunny Algarve in the south, and Lisbon, the country’s capital in the centre, you’ll want to go everywhere! Vamos lá!

3. Sinto muito / I’m sorry

Just in case you find yourself in a sticky situation while you’re in Portugal. Miscommunications and misunderstandings sometimes happen! Here’s how to apologise in Portuguese.

4. O meu nome é…

One of the greatest joys of travelling is the people you meet. Here’s how you’d introduce yourself while in Portugal or any Portuguese speaking country:

5. Estás com sede? / Are you thirsty?

Remember to keep hydrated in the hot temperatures! And look out for your friends too. If you wanted to change this to “I’m thirsty”, you’d just say “estou com sede”.

6. Pode dar-nos a ementa por favor? / Can we have the menu please?

Portugal benefits from being on the Atlantic coast but retaining a Mediterranean feel. That means gorgeous food is going to be served, from delicious fish to beautiful salads.

7. Bom dia / Good morning

Did you know that Portugal is the only country in mainland Europe to share the same timezone as the UK?

8. Estou feliz / I’m happy

Although actually, studies suggest that Portugal may in fact be amongst the least happiest countries in Europe!

9. Gosto de laranjas / I like oranges

Did you know that Portuguese merchants might have been the first to introduce oranges to Europe?

10. Há um multibanco? / Is there an ATM?

Portugal uses the Euro, like most of the rest of the EU. Generally, Portugal has quite a low cost of living compared with the rest of Europe.

11. O que é aquilo? / What’s that?

If you’re in Lisbon, why not take a trip down to the Mercado da Ribeira? This famous indoor market is full of different foods, fruit, vegetables, arts and crafts. Find out what everything is with this super useful phrase!

12. Tem namorada? / Does he/she have a girlfriend?

Did you know that the Portuguese are the least likely nation to get married in Europe?

13. É alérgico a frutos secos / He’s allergic to nuts

If you’re travelling with an allergy, this is one of those need-to-know phrases that could save your life! No Brazil nuts for you 🇧🇷

14. Que horas são? / What time is it?

One of the main differences between Portugal and Spain is that in Portugal, restaurants open much earlier, at times that will seem much more “normal” to the rest of Europe! Expect lunch to be around midday, and dinner to be served from about 7pm.

15. Viva! / Hurray!

There are many local and national festivals in Portugal the whole year round. Like in all Catholic countries, the biggest of these is the Semana Santa (Holy Week) which takes place around Easter.

16. Onde é o hospital? / Where is the hospital?

Portugal is served by the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, which is a publicly funded health service similar to the NHS in the UK. EU visitors can use their European Health Insurance Cards to receive treatment while on holiday. Non-EU tourists should look into getting health insurance.

17. Já chega / That’s enough

This phrase literally means “already arrives”!

18. Onde é a estação de comboios? / Where’s the train station?

Portugal doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the world for its train service, but that may not be entirely fair. Portugal now has high speed trains connecting the capital Lisbon with Faro in the south and Porto in the north in just 3 hours.

19. Estamos perdidos / We’re lost

Lisbon has a comprehensive and relatively inexpensive public transportation system, meaning everywhere should be within fairly easy reach. Don’t forget to check out its iconic yellow trams, which run on line 28. If you’ve ever been to Budapest in Hungary, you may recognise these!

20. Pode falar mais devagar, por favor?

Many people mistake European Portuguese for Russian when they hear it, because of its many ‘sh’ sounds and dark vowels. Brazilian Portuguese sounds completely different, however, with its musical tones. Note that some Brazilians may struggle to understand European Portuguese, while people in Portugal generally understand Brazilians much better.

Want to learn some more Portuguese before your next holiday in Portugal? Check out Memrise!

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Bilingualism Around The World

Wales: Britain’s Hidden Corner of Bilingualism

Tucked away in the corner of the UK, one of the world’s most monolingual countries, you’ll find a beacon of bilingualism for the rest of the world: Wales. Out of the four home nations that make up the United Kingdom, Wales has led the way in its efforts to revive and promote the Welsh language, and has set a precedent for other countries all over the world. What makes this more impressive, is that it has managed to do so while living side-by-side with global giant English.

But only fifty years ago, it looked like the Welsh language was dying out. It was only spoken in remote, rural regions by mainly older speakers. But since 1999, when learning Welsh was made compulsory in schools up to the age of 16, things have started to change.

“I can’t go five meters out my door without knowing that Welsh is around me.”

Laura Simons grew up in Swansea, Wales’s second and famously English speaking city. Yet she still felt a connection with the language, and went on to become a Welsh and Foreign Language teacher: “Where I live has a Welsh street name. Every road sign that we see is in both languages. We have the option of Welsh language TV, and of course by law every official document that we receive has got to be bilingual. I can’t go five meters out my door without knowing that Welsh is around me.”

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(C) Henry Spooner

Nowadays, Wales is unimaginable without the Welsh language, but its official status was hard won. The 1960s saw the formation of the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg), in reaction to the alarming drop in Welsh proficiency from 50% of the population at the start of the 20th Century to below 20% by the mid-20th Century.

The Welsh Language Society organised protests around the country against English-only road signs, TV stations and schools, and slowly won concessions. In 1967 the Welsh Language Act granted the right to give evidence in court in Welsh for the first time. The Welsh-language BBC Radio Cymru was first founded a decade later.

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In 1979, when UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced she was discarding her election promise to establish a Welsh language TV station, a wave of civil disobedience followed. People refused to pay their TV licenses, climbed television masts, and even invaded TV studios. The Welsh language station S4C was founded in 1982.

“It just feels strange to be forced to justify speaking your own language, and be asked whether it’s useful, or even a ‘complete’ language.”

Yet problems around the status of the Welsh language still arise today, particularly with its perception amongst English speakers in the rest of the UK. In 2015, 24-year-old Welsh footballer Aaron Ramsey found himself the victim of a torrent of abuse for tweeting in Welsh, which left feelings sore on both sides of the border.

Native Welsh speaker Dan Owen, who now lives in London, says that he occasionally gets “challenged” on speaking Welsh: “It just feels strange to be forced to justify speaking your own language, and be asked whether it’s useful, or even a ‘complete’ language.”

Welsh speakers often code-switch, dropping English words or phrases into their Welsh where it feels natural to do so. Occasionally, detractors seize on this as proof that Welsh is not a real language that exists separately from English.

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(C) Alan Fryer

But Laura points out that linguistic influence goes both ways: “My grandma is not a Welsh speaker but will use the word ‘learn’ instead of ‘teach’, because ‘dysgu’ in Welsh means both things. It’s part of the dialect here in Swansea that comes from the old use of Welsh.”

Unless they can be sure, most people probably would still use English to address someone they didn’t know. Dan once tried to buy a ticket on a train in Welsh, but the conductor’s response made him instantly switch back to English. But there are those who would love to practise the language more, with some wear badges asking people to speak Welsh to them.

“My whole family speaks Welsh. My community speaks it. The schools that my kids go to speak it. My kids could go on to primary, high school and even study their degrees all in Welsh. My husband and I have spent most of our working lives speaking Welsh!”

It turns out that speaking Welsh may have some unexpected, positive consequences. Catrin James, a languages teacher from Carmarthen, noticed when she applied for her daughter’s new passport in Welsh that it arrived much earlier than when she’d previously done the form in English. Dan was once attended to instantly by selecting the Welsh option when calling British Gas, rather spending hours in the queue with other English speaking customers.

Welsh has managed to appeal even to those who did not grow up speaking it natively. Apart from a dip in 2011, censuses show an upwards trend in Welsh proficiency, which suggest that far from dying, the language is thriving.

That seems to be Catrin’s experience: “My whole family speaks Welsh. My community speaks it. The schools that my kids go to speak it. My kids could go on to primary, high school and even study their degrees all in Welsh. My husband and I have spent most of our working lives speaking Welsh! There are also a number of people in my social circle who have learned Welsh who are from places like Ireland, France, and London.

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Some of Welsh’s successful appeal might be down to the Eisteddfod festival. This annual celebration of Welsh poetry, literature and language attracts huge crowds every year. And by stressing its inclusivity and encouraging non-Welsh speakers to attend too, it has become one of Europe’s greatest minority language events.

Catrin believes that “helps open the door for people to say ‘Actually, a lot of people speak Welsh, so maybe it is worth me learning it!’”

In the 1950s, extinction looked all but inevitable for the Welsh language. But in 2050 fortunes have changed, and the devolved government has now set itself the ambitious target of having a million Welsh speakers.

“Teachers can show vocabulary which is very similar in Welsh, Spanish and French, so the children are able to make the connection. For example: chanter, cantar, canu (to sing).”

By building on the success of making Welsh compulsory in schools, Laura believes that MFL and Welsh as a second language departments could even be working together towards making Wales a “bilingual plus one” country. That is, a country that is bilingual in English and Welsh, and also proficient in a further foreign language.

She wants to see primary schools focus on using Welsh to give the pupils the confidence, understanding and skills of learning a foreign language, so that they can be equally applied when learning a foreign language. She points out that knowing Welsh can also be a huge advantage for learning other languages: “Teachers can show vocabulary which is very similar in Welsh, Spanish and French, so the children are able to make the connection. For example: chanter, cantar, canu (to sing).”

Catrin agrees that “It’s much easier to teach tu and vous in French, as that system exists in Welsh (ti and chi). You can draw on the parallels.”

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Welsh speakers in Patagonia, circa 1900

Dan even had language assistants at school who only spoke Spanish or Welsh, knowing little to no English. They came from the fascinating community of Welsh speakers in Patagonia, Argentina, whose unanglicised retention of the language proved crucial when it came to reviving Welsh in the 20th Century.

So despite its reputation for monolingualism, it turns out that not only can the UK do bilingualism, but in parts it can even do so extremely well! So next time you’re in the country, don’t forget to pay Cymru a visit!


bVdID8LUAlex is Memrise’s Language Learner in Residence. He spends his time working with the Language Research Team, making fun videos about languages, and contributing to the Memrise blog. He tweets @rawlangs_alex.

In his free time he enjoys cooking, watching films, and walking his dog. He also writes books, like this one.

Interested in writing for us? Contact us here!

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When I moved to...

When I moved to the USA

Originally, moving to the United States was not something I planned. I was 10 when my father told my family that we were going to have to move to the U.S., which I wasn’t very happy about. It was a big move, especially because I only had a minimal knowledge in English. But considering that I now have stayed in the U.S. for 10 years, I think it’s safe to say that I was able to face the challenges that came with living abroad.

First impressions—and culture shock

As expected, I went through a culture shock. At first, I started noticing how different things were, one of the examples being grocery stores. Everything—from shopping carts to the size of eggplants—was way bigger than in Japan, which I found amusing.

“In Japan, there is a saying that translates to “The customer is God,” and workers and receptionists treat customers with extensive (and sometimes excess) care and politeness. However, in the U.S., customers and workers seem to have equal status.”

However, I started becoming frustrated about how different things were in the U.S. compared to Japan. One example is the difference in customer service. In Japan, there is a saying that translates to “The customer is God,” and workers and receptionists treat customers with extensive (and sometimes excess) care and politeness. However, in the U.S., customers and workers seem to have equal status, more or less.

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I was particularly shocked by this difference, but over the years, I’ve learned to observe both the positives and negatives of different cultural aspects, which can be quite interesting. This is one of the reasons I enjoy exploring about other countries!

Language barrier

I immediately felt the language barrier, as I had limited vocabulary in English. Keeping myself on track with schoolwork required great effort. At home, my parents helped me with homework, sometimes spending an hour on a single worksheet.

“I started picking up phrases and body gestures—which made me realize that people in the U.S. tend to use gestures more so than in Japan—and these helped me communicate with people around my age.”

Socially, the language barrier posed a great difficulty in fitting in with others in my age group. I just didn’t know what to talk about with them. People around me at school seemed to be talking about TV shows, but how could one talk about TV shows if one didn’t understand the language in the first place?

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Nevertheless, I joined my siblings in watching the Disney Channel, which turned out to be a great help. I still had trouble processing what the characters were saying, but I started picking up phrases and body gestures—which made me realize that people in the U.S. tend to use gestures more so than in Japan—and these helped me communicate with people around my age. Yes, it did still take a while to get past the stage where I felt overwhelmed, but the comical atmosphere of the shows made the transition easier.

What I learned about language learning

I now feel comfortable using English, and even though I have a slight accent, many of my friends say that I speak English like a native. I’ve also been engaged in language learning, starting French in high school and picking up Swedish in university.

I’m sure that everyone has a different learning style, but I seem to have found what works for me. Learning about different language and culture requires a different mindset than, say, studying algebra or biology. I like putting myself in a “baby/little child” mindset.

“I would take in what others around me are doing, and I would imitate and try to do things their way. When in doubt, I try my best to ask questions.”

Having a mindset of a baby or a little child is helpful for two reasons: they are curious, and they aren’t afraid of making mistakes. When learning a first language, what we did was take in all that we could of the language that was spoken around us, and practice, practice, practice. We may have pointed at a grown dog and said “puppy,” but that error didn’t discourage us from learning. When we didn’t know what a certain thing was called, we might point to it and cue someone to chime in with a word so that we could repeat it and practice.

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That’s the mindset that helps me learn new languages. The same goes for learning about a new culture. I would take in what others around me are doing, and I would imitate and try to do things their way. When in doubt, I try my best to ask questions—I need to continue working on that, though.

Moving has shaped who I am now

I do get homesick from time to time. Even though I’ve been visiting Japan every other year, there are times when I miss my friends and relatives and how the air there feels like.

However, living in the U.S. in a completely different environment from home has been eye-opening, as cliché as it may sound. It piqued my interest in foreign language and culture, which led me to participate in a summer program in France offered through my university, and now, I am even considering spending a semester in Sweden. Spending a good chunk of time abroad comes with its challenges, but I feel ready to take on it.

One of the greatest thing about moving abroad is the people you meet. I’ve discovered so many great friends and gems that you can only discover after living in a foreign country.”

Also, one of the greatest thing about moving abroad is the people you meet. I’ve discovered so many great friends and gems that you can only discover after living in a foreign country for a while. I’m not sure if I consider the U.S. a “foreign” country anymore; it’s no longer a huge landmass that spreads itself on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a place where my friends—and even myself sometimes—call home.

If I could tell anything to my little 10-year old self—afraid to move to a completely different environment—I would tell him that moving has been the most influential thing I have experienced. I am grateful that my parents provided me with this opportunity. Sure, it can be daunting, but looking at my current self and how I’ve managed to get by, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

And if I could do it, anyone can!


 

France Study AbroadYuto Iwaizumi is an undergraduate studying Linguistics and French at the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. He is interested in studying languages, and speaks Japanese, English, French, and some Swedish. He wishes to work in an educational or international setting after graduation.

When he is not studying languages, Yuto enjoys cooking, reading, and when money permits, traveling.

For those who speak or are learning Japanese: to keep up with his Japanese, he started a blog where you can learn more about his experience of going to a university in the U.S.

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Interested in contributing to our “When I moved to…” series? Get in touch here!

 

The joy of languages

20 Italian Survival Phrases

Art, good food, the sea… it’s no mystery why every year millions of us choose to make Italy our summer holiday destination.

If you’re heading to Italy this year, don’t forget that not only Italian is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, but it’s also loads of fun to speak!

We’ve compiled a list of 20 phrases that will serve you well on your next trip to Italy, using our exclusive Native Speaker Videos from the Membus tour. Remember to check out Memrise for more!

Andiamo! Let’s go 💪

1. Che meraviglia! / How amazing!

In Italy you’re going to be seeing gorgeous buildings, ancient sites, breathtaking vistas and beautiful sunsets. This phrase will be useful for describing all of them!

2. Buongiorno / Good morning

If you find yourself in a quaint Italian village, it’s only polite to say good morning to people, even if you don’t know them!

3. Il caffè è delizioso / The coffee is delicious

Italians are serious about their coffee. They drink cappuccinos in the morning, and espressos after a meal. Don’t get them mixed up! Just smile, and compliment the taste of one of Italy’s proudest creations.

4. È molto buono / It’s very good

Compliments are important in Italy, so store this one up safe and use it whenever you can! You can use it for food, the weather, people’s clothes, ideas… literally anything!

5. Capisci? / Got it?

Who said watching US gangster films wasn’t educational? You may recognise this one from the big screen. But it’s super important, so learn it. Capisci?

6. Mamma mia! / OMG!

Use this extremely useful Italian phrase to respond to anything vaguely alarming or startling that may happen while you’re away. It literally means “my mother”.

7. Sei un genio / You’re a genius

Remember what we said about compliments being important? Learn your Italian phrases well enough and you may hear people saying this to you!

8. Sono arrabbiato perché ho fame / I’m angry because I’m hungry

Food is an essential part of Italian life. If you find that getting hungry has an impact on your mood (hangry?), use this phrase to explain yourself. Everyone will understand!

9. Siamo dipendenti dallo zucchero / We’re addicted to sugar

Ever felt embarrassed about having to ask for even more sugar with your coffee? Just explain to your waiter that it’s not him, it’s you!

10. Ovviamente parlo inglese / Of course I speak English

The word “ovviamente” is one of those really fun Italian words that rolls straight off the tongue. Why not add it to the front of “parlo inglese” to sound really impressive? And also to rescue yourself if people are speaking too much Italian and you don’t understand 😅

11. Piacere di conoscerti / Nice to meet you

It’s very easy to meet people in Italy who will quickly become your best friends. So learn this phrase and use it whenever you get chatting with someone new.

12. Devo comprare un ombrello / I have to buy an umbrella

Hopefully you won’t really have to use this on your next trip to Italy, but after all you never know…

13. Il cliente ha sempre ragione / The customer is always right

If you find yourself having problems with service while you’re in Italy, feel free to use this one to remind your waiter who’s paying the bill!

14. Puoi ripeterlo per favore? / Can repeat that please?

Having trouble following what people are saying?? This phrase will come in handy. Your other alternative is just to study the gestures. Very closely. They mean much more than you think…

15. Mi piacerebbe, ma devo alzarmi presto domani / I’d love to, but I have to get up early tomorrow

Italians love socialising and going out, and sometimes it can be hard not to join them. This is a great excuse to get yourself to bed if you need to get up early. That is, if you can say no!

16. Per quale squadra tifi? / What team do you support?

Football is a way of life in Italy. And talking about football is also one of those international languages that almost everyone, everywhere can understand. Kick off a conversation with one of Italians’ greatest passions with this useful phrase.

17. La fortuna del principiante / Beginner’s luck

If you find yourself watching sport with Italians whose team lose, here’s one way of consoling them. If they can be consoled at all!

18. È acqua passata / Water under the bridge

Here’s another way to reassure your Italian friends that the world didn’t end that day their team lost the match.

19. Così è la vita / That’s life

In a country where anything can go on strike at any time, for any reason, and for any duration, this is a phrase that you may find yourself using more than you’d think! That’s life… in Italy!

20. Morto un Papa, se ne fa un altro / There are plenty more fish in the sea

This phrase literally means “One Pope dies, we’ll make another”.

Want to brush up your Italian before you head off on your next trip to Italy? Check out Memrise!

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Memrise News & Events

How Trump and Brexit changed the languages people learn

The languages people learn gives us insight into the countries they want to visit and even live in. So did the political events of the last year affect people’s plans?

To find out, we analysed learning data from many millions of people from all over the world before and after each Political event.

Brexit Britain looks to Asia

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In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, British people shifted dramatically away from learning European to learning Asian languages: new French learners were down by 25% relative to the month before, while there was an immense growth of English learners learning Japanese (+119%), Korean (+166%)  and Chinese (+116%).

100K people in the UK started learning these languages on Memrise in the 30 days after Brexit alone.

International learners look away from Brexit Britain

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Even as Britain looks away from Europe… much of the rest of the world seems to be looking away from Britain:

Polish people choosing British English dropped 25%, suggesting that fewer Poles may see moving to the UK as a possibility if Britain leaves the EU. However the change isn’t limited to EU countries:  Arabic speakers choosing to learn British English dropped 35% and – perhaps a little painfully for the British given their new-found enthusiasm for learning Chinese – Chinese speakers learning British English dropped by 23%.

So it seems that British people took the Brexit news by preparing to make friendships further afield, looking beyond the EU to Asia. However, some other countries responded by being rather less interested in talking to the British now Britain looks set to leave the EU and perhaps looks less viable as a country to emigrate to.

Mexican nationals lose interest in the Trump’s USA

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In the month after Donald Trump’s election as US President, Mexican Spanish speakers choosing to learn English dropped 23%, suggesting they may be changing their plans and deciding not to visit or move to the USA.

Conversely, perhaps as a show of defiance from anti-Trump quarters, English speakers in the US wanting to learn Mexican Spanish jumped 54%!

So while Mexicans appear to be feeling rebuffed by the new US President, and losing their interest in learning English, the English speakers of the US are reaching out the hand of friendship by starting to learn to communicate with their Spanish-speaking neighbours.  

Have these insights inspired you to think about learning a new language? Check out Memrise!

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When I moved to...

When we moved to… FRANCE

Why did you decide to move to France?

In 2014, we quit our jobs and took a year off to travel the world. But when we returned to London, we realised we had fallen out of love with city life. The noise, the pollution, the unrelenting rush of movement felt so suffocating. We decided to change our lives.

We trialled a six-month stay in France and loved it. We loved the outdoors, the Pyrenees and the Alps, the great weather, wonderful food, slower pace of life and the opportunity to learn what is probably the most beautiful language in the world.

In the past we’ve been somewhat haughty about expats who move to a country and don’t learn the language, but now we can see how tempting that would be if we had a community of English speakers in the village.

After spending some time back in England sorting out our finances, we made the move more permanent this year.

Kia tries to fit in with the locals

What has been the most difficult thing about the move so far?

Our social circle has completely shrunk. We live in a tiny village where no one speaks English and our French is limited so there is only so far conversations can go. We are learning French but it will be a long time before we can have truly meaningful conversations.

One must be able to discern the difference between saint, sein, sain, seing, ceins, ceint, sang, sans, cent when spoken. Needless to say, we’re not quite there yet!

In the past we’ve been somewhat haughty about expats who move to a country and don’t learn the language, but now we can see how tempting that would be if we had a community of English speakers in the village. As it stands, we have no choice!

Is there anything interesting about how local people speak?

Our local baker always says “voilà” when she brandishes our freshly made patisseries. It’s one of those things you see in whimsical vignettes of France but suspect never happen in real life – but they do!

On a separate note, the French must have an excellent ear for nuance. Their language has a multitude of silent letters and homophones (or near homophones), so one must be able to discern the difference between saint, sein, sain, seing, ceins, ceint, sang, sans, cent when spoken. Needless to say, we’re not quite there yet!

Fresh patisseries at a quarter of London prices

Any positive surprises?

Only that country life is better than we expected. I (Kia) am a born and bred Londoner and was deeply invested in city life. It was a part of my self-image (independent, sociable, ambitious) and I never thought I’d settle somewhere other than a vibrant city.

Peter is from Norfolk so is a country boy at heart. It’s surprised us both how well I’ve taken to country life. If anything, I love it more than he does!

What do you miss the most about the UK/London?

On a general scale, we miss our friends and family. France and the UK are relatively close though, so we don’t have to miss big events like weddings and major birthdays.

Remember that you can always come home. If you adjust your thinking from ‘let’s move forever’ to ‘let’s try it for a year’, it suddenly becomes less scary.

On a smaller scale, we miss London’s year-round calendar of interesting events. For example, there was a screening of mountaineering movie Touching the Void set to a live orchestra at the Barbican in June. That would have been amazing. And we’re still trying to work out where we can see Wonder Woman!

Peter buys fresh veg from the man from Moncontour

Any suggestions for people moving abroad (language wise and in general)?

First, remember that you can always come home. So many people would love to live in a foreign country but are daunted by the magnitude of the move. If you adjust your thinking from ‘let’s move forever’ to ‘let’s try it for a year’, it suddenly becomes less scary.

Language learning isn’t hard, but it is long.

Second, don’t give up on the local language. One of the best pieces of advice we’ve read is that language learning isn’t hard but it is long. Lots of people attempt to learn a language and give up when they don’t get very far, claiming that it’s ‘too hard’. Learning a new vocabulary isn’t inherently difficult (you’ve done it all your life!) but it is a long journey to fluency. Bear that in mind and you’ll feel less frustrated by your lack of progress.

Good luck!


Kia and Peter in their tiny French villageKia and Peter run Atlas & Boots, an outdoor travel blog covering thrilling activities in far-flung places, be it swimming with whales in Tonga or trekking volcanoes in Vanuatu. Between them, they have travelled to over 70 countries, most recently completing a year-long trip across the South Pacific and South America.

They moved from the UK to France this year for better access to the outdoors and a slower pace of life. Follow their adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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