Getting to grips with Croatian

We planned a little escape to the sunshine after weeks and weeks of heavy rain and wind battering the south coast of England.  There were still flights free for Dubrovnik in Croatia and it was a destination we’d been meaning to visit for many summers… but had left it too late to get a flight.

We knew that February was an ‘interesting’ time of year to visit Croatia, but we figured it was on a level with Rome and it would definitely be warmer than the UK. Speaking to people over there, we found out that we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather in Dubrovnik this year with temperatures up to 18 degrees centigrade. We were extremely lucky to have sunshine every day, albeit with quite a breeze blowing.  Sitting outside having a coffee was a delight.

I always try to do a bit of language preparation before I leave, but had been inundated with work, so time was limited.

I did a last minute search of the iTunes store the day before I left on ‘Croatian’ and saw quite a few language learning apps come up. The first was WorldNomads Croatian Language Guide and I downloaded that as it was free. I took a quick look around it – and I don’t know if it was me – but I couldn’t get any audio with the app, which seemed quite pointless. There seems to be a video lesson and I pressed play, but got nothing at all in terms of sound, nor images.

Next I thought I would revert to my old favourite, Eurotalk apps, which I’ve used many times. I downloaded that for about £6.99 and it has served me well. It’s not extensive by any means, but gives me the phrases, and importantly, the pronunciation of the Croatian language which was completely new to me. I must admit I am a bit lost with it and it reminds me what it is like to be a totally new language learner.

I have not got past the ‘First Words’ section of the app and I am almost ashamed to say that I’ve not tried that much. Everyone we’ve met – from 16 year olds to 60 year olds – has an amazing grasp of the English language. I can see that from the TV channels – nothing is dubbed and everything is subtitled. I remember going to an international trade event, where someone from the Croatian Embassy was presenting and I think he said that 80% of the Croatian workforce has a working knowledge of English. If that is so, it is an amazing feat.

So back to my Croatian… I can’t tell if it sounds more like Italian, German or Russian to my untrained ear… I have started to recognise words by listening to Sochi Olympic coverage and Champions League commentary in Croatian. I will do some research on the origins of the Croatian language and get back to you!

In fact, the only words I can actually remember are ‘Hvala’ (the only thing helping me with that is ‘koala’), ‘molim’ (please) and ‘bok’ (hello). ‘Ra?un molim’ is ‘the bill please’. That is only one word a day… a pretty lame attempt for me.

Find out how to learn the Croatian language and get the Language Advantage>>

New Year, New Language!

earworms rapid russian language coursesIs one of your New Year’s resolutions to learn a new language in 2012? Or improve on a language that’s gone rusty? If you want to make serious progress this year, we’ve hand-picked the best language courses for you, so you can get learning right away! You can start as a beginner and work your way right up to advanced (OK, it might take you a bit longer than a year!). Make a start and make language learning a priority this year and get your language advantage!

  [Read more…]

Language Advantage Newsletter 2010 newsletter

December 2010 Newsletter Holiday Edition [Read more…]

Language Fun In The Sun!

learn a language for your summer holiday

The holiday season  is here again. If you are jetting off somewhere nice, you’ll get more from your time away if you learn a bit of the local language. We’ve selected the best and most innovative quick holiday language courses for beginners.   Heard of pay as you go?   This is learn as you go! [Read more…]

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The holiday season is here! Get more from your time away when you learn a bit of the local language.

We’ve selected the best and most innovative quick holiday courses for beginners, so that you can pick up the essentials before you head away – even if you’ve never studied a language before. Or just download a language course onto your ipod or mp3 player … and learn on the plane … on the beach … or at the bar! Don’t just speak English, get the holiday language advantage!

While you’re there:

There are lots of different language courses you can download onto your ipod or mp3 player and take away on holiday with you.

01 Michel Thomas

audible-michel-thomas-method-portugueseOne of our favourite download courses is the Michel Thomas Method, which is available in all your favourite holiday languages from Spanish to Portuguese.

languages: Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish

Learn a language on your iPod ® in the UK>>

02 Teach Yourself One-Day

audible-teach-yourself-one-day-spanishTeach Yourself cover lots of levels and lots of languages – but these short courses are a perfect way to get learning for your holiday.

languages: French, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish

Learn a language on your iPod ® in the UK>>

03 BBC Quickstart

audible-bbc-quickstart-frenchBBC Quickstart is for you if you are going away on a weekend or short European break and want to grasp the basics of the language, without having to master any complicated grammar or phrases.

languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish

Learn a language on your iPod ® in the UK>>

Before you go:

01 Teach Yourself One-Day

teach-yourself-polish-one-dayIf you’re a complete (and we mean complete) beginner, then these may be the courses that get you started with French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish in just one-day. Perfect for that holiday or weekend break. Much better than just speaking English.

languages: French, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish

method: audio cd, booklet, dvd (French, Spanish only)

read our Teach Yourself one-day Greek review!

more information and to buy  Teach Yourself one-day from our Teach Yourself shop [UK and Europe]>>

more information and to buy  Teach Yourself one-day from our Teach Yourself store [USA and Americas]>>

02 Pimsleur Quick & Simple

pimsleur-italian-quick-simpleEight quick and simple audio lessons from Pimsleur to give you a start in conversation in your new language.   It’s like learning a language when you were a kid – slowing building up key words and phrases.   Just do 30 minutes a day and you’ll see progress in no time at all.

languages: Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Greek (Modern), Hebrew, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish

method: audio cd

read our Pimsleur quick & simple Mandarin Chinese review!

more information and to buy  Pimsleur Quick & Simple [USA and Amercias]>>

03 Talk Now!

eurotalk-talk-now-dutchTalk Now! is the world’s bestselling language learning CD-ROM series for beginners, used by more than eight million people to date. It’s an ideal introduction to a new language for an absolute beginner and leaves you with the basic vocabulary to get by and the first building blocks of your new language. You can have fun learning through playing games and even record your voice to compare yourself to native speakers.   There is an amazing range of languages – perhaps the widest ever available – over 100!

languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Alsatian, American English, Amharic, Arabic, Arabic (Classical), Arabic (Modern Standard), Armenian, Assamese, Azeri, Basque, Bengali, Brazilian Portuguese, Breton, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cantonese Chinese, Catalan, Chichewa, Chuvash, Cornish, Corsican, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, Frisian, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujurati, Hausa, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Igbo, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jèrriais, Kannada, Khmer, Kirghiz, Korean, Kurdish, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Luganda, Luxembourgish, Macedonian, Malagasy, Malay, Malayalam, Maltese, Mandarin Chinese, Manx, Maori, Marathi, Mexican Spanish, Mongolian, Navajo, Nepali, Norwegian, Papiamentu, Pashto, Pidgin, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Romansh, Russian, Rwandan, Saami, Sardinian, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Sesotho, Setswana, Shona, Sindhi, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Swiss German, Tagalog, Tamazight, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Welsh, Xhosa, Yiddish, Yoruba, Zulu

media: cd-rom

platform: pc, mac

more information and to  buy  Talk Now! CD-ROM language software [UK and Europe]>>
more information and to  buy  Talk Now! CD-ROM language software [USA and Americas]>>

Not sure which language course to go for?   Contact us now for more advice!


teach-yourself-greek-one-dayAn independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks

The Teach Yourself One-day language series is great if you are off on holiday and don’t want to learn the full ins and outs of a language. It’s a 75-minute CD with a small vocabulary booklet for back up containing the 50 most needed words for your trip. With One-day Greek, the help of characters Liz and Andy and the vocab booklet, you can learn the basics of holiday lingo in just over an hour.

There are 10 sections on the CD and each of them has vital vocabulary lists which are also available in the booklet. I found that the CD would be especially useful for holiday-makers, as the series took me back to the days when learning how to ask for something in a shop was a chore and directions seemed so confusing.

When I first started the CD, as a complete beginner to Greek, I found it daunting. In the first section, Liz asked Andy about Greek words he already knew. This made me feel slightly apprehensive, as I had assumed the course would be for pure beginners and not beginners with a prior knowledge of the language. It turned out that the words he knew were only words he would have picked up from holidaying in Greece once – such as hello! Apart from this he was actually a pure beginner.

Towards the middle of the CD, Liz begins to introduce the sections with everyday role play situations. These are very fast and difficult to understand at first, but the good thing with this is that you can hear Greek at a proper speed and adjust to a real Greek accent. Liz then goes on to explain exactly what was said and how you would pronounce it. I found that I had to repeat the CD a number of times in order to hear the pronunciation and really take it in.

The format of the CD is effective, but some of the scripts seem to be forced and it was often hard to answer the questions as Andy’s answer was often said straight away. It is therefore a good idea to pause the CD once Liz has asked the question, think of the answer yourself, say it out loud and then check it against the answer that Andy gives on the CD.

At the end of the CD, there is a recap section going back over the whole course or the “one-day Greek challenge” (which sounds a lot more fun than recapping!). I found this a great way of actually discovering what I had learnt in Greek and what I had managed to remember. The challenge works in a way that makes it easy for you to skip back to the relevant section if you have forgetten any of the words. So you can keep revising and repeating the course until you can do the challenge standing on your head.

I found the vocabulary easier to remember by doing the series over a few hours rather than cramming it in to just one 75 minute session. For me to listen to Liz and Andy continuously for 75 minutes would have been a slight drag, but with breaks it is bearable and you can actually get the corny ‘gag’ that Andy has said out of your head!

This CD is a fab way of learning the local language and maybe even managing to socialise, having a conversation with the locals and jumping onto a bus and knowing what you have to say.

Bearing all this in mind, this CD is a fab way of learning the local language and maybe even managing to socialise by having a conversation with the locals and jumping onto a bus and knowing what you have to say. It is also excellent value for money as it only costs £6.99 in the UK.

The only thing left for me to do now is go holidaying in Greece and really put this learning CD to the test.


to buy Teach Yourself One-Day Greek [UK]>>
to buy Teach Yourself One-Day Greek [USA]>>
to find out more about Teach Yourself language courses>>

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teach-yourself-italian-grammarAn independent language books review by Andrea Martins

Whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced learner, the Teach Yourself language books are a must. I used the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar and Teach Yourself Italian Verbs books whilst studying for a GCSE * Italian course last year. Although we had a text book as the main learning tool for the course, I chose to buy these books as extra aids for my studies. Even if you are not taking classes, the Teach Yourself books’ purpose is to do exactly that – Teach Yourself.

There are over 300 titles in the Teach Yourself range and they are advertised as being extremely functional, simple and easy to use and cover languages from Afrikaans to Zulu. Most of the language courses have CDs or a cassette with them, but with the verb and grammar series, there are no cassettes; just you, your Teach Yourself book and your interest to learn.

It’s just you, your Teach Yourself book and your interest to learn …

There are 22 units of functional grammar in the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar book; functional in that each unit covers a basic communicative function such as ‘Ask someone else’s opinion’ or ‘Talk about events and actions in the past’. Each unit is laid out in a very clear and non-technical way. There is, however, a Grammar Appendix which lists any grammar points not explained in the book as well as a list of the common irregular verbs. The Index also lists specific grammar points.

Each unit begins with a brief synopsis of what the unit contains highlighting the particular language points covered. You are then introduced to a few examples. These are explained with some individual points being given additional coverage (this section is called Language Plus). A particularly useful section of each unit is ‘Language in Action’ which comprises of up to four exercises as revision based on what has been covered in the unit. Exercises include: fill the gap exercises, reading and writing exercises, translating and so on. I found this useful not only for grammar revision but also for communicative use as the exercises show you how to use the language and grammar in the context of everyday life.

But it’s not all verbs, grammar and verb endings. There are some pictures, postcards, maps, letters and written dialogues which all enhance the grammar being covered giving you examples from spoken and written language. I personally found it helpful to work through each unit only after I had completely learnt and understood the previous one. You do not have to have completed one unit to begin the next one, although I did feel that this helped me with my own greater understanding and fluency. You are given the choice of systematically working through each unit like I did or work at the grammar points that most interest you. It is entirely up to you.

One disadvantage of this book is that the pronunciation of the Italian is not explained as you might find in other language learning books. I feel that this could lead to confusion for the complete beginner.

It’s not all verbs, grammar and verb endings

The Teach Yourself Italian Verbs book is a great book for learning that aspect of language learning that we all love to hate…verb conjugations! You can consult this book about any verb as each one is presented in their full conjugation under each tense (including the conditional and subjunctive tenses). Not all the verbs in the Teach Yourself Italian Verbs are listed though. The book would be huge otherwise! Instead, 200 of the most commonly used verbs are presented in the verb tables and many more are catered for in the glossary at the back of the book. Here you can find the verb that you want and the glossary directs you to a verb in the book that behaves the same way as the one that you want to use.

Each of the 200 verbs are set out one to a page and at the bottom of each page is listed the basic uses of the verb with examples, and well known phrases and expressions using that verb. Whilst taking the GCSE course last year, I found this book really useful for learning verb endings and verb uses. Each verb is set out clearly and with some hard grafting and memorizing, you too will understand how the tenses are formed and use the formulae for each new verb that you come across in your language learning.

For the complete beginner or advanced learner using this book for revision, the first section of the book ‘What are verbs and how do they work’ clearly explains the formation and tenses of verbs together with their grammatical uses. It is a really useful book to use alongside the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar book.

The only disadvantage to this collection of books is that you do need a lot of self-discipline to use them and be determined to complete the units (especially those in the Grammar book). Depending on how self-motivated you are you may find it difficult to continue using these books on a regular basis. Unfortunately, grammar and verb conjugations of any language can be the crux for fluent language learning and therefore some attention does need to be made on these language points.

Grammar and verb conjugations can be the crux for fluent language learning.

I would also say that the language learner would have to have learnt some Italian in order to have a go at learning the verb conjugations in the Teach Yourself Italian Verbs book as many of the verbs are not looked at even at GCSE level. This could seem daunting for complete beginners. However, the Teach Yourself Italian Grammar book states that ‘you need no knowledge of grammar terminology to use it’ – an advantageous point as grammar can be a very complex and boring subject at any level and even for language enthusiasts!

As an independent learner myself, self-motivation is the key to using these books. It may be best to use these books in conjunction with your own tapes and a course book (if you are taking classes) in order to hear the correct pronunciation and get an all round Italian language learning experience. Grammar and verbs and the way they are used are essential to learning any language but cannot be used alone. The great thing about these particular Teach Yourself Italian books is that they give you the freedom to choose whatever grammar point or verb you want to learn allowing you greater flexibility in your learning.

So give these Teach Yourself language books a try…..and see how motivated and enthusiastic you really are!!!

to buy Teach Yourself Italian Verbs or Italian Grammar [UK]>>
to buy Teach Yourself Italian Verbs or Italian Grammar [USA]>>
to find out more about Teach Yourself language courses>>

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teach-yourself-italian-instantAn independent language course review by Lisa Zealey

The Teach Yourself ‘INSTANT’ language series from Hodder Arnold is a must if you’re off to another country for your holidays or work and have little time to study. The INSTANTS are a way to learn the ‘get-by’ essentials without being bogged down with heavy grammar and confusion.

I have studied Greek, Italian and German using this series and have found the results amazing.

I have studied Greek, Italian and German using this series and have found the results amazing.

The Teach Yourself Instants are available in eight popular languages (and four for learners of English from French, German, Italian and Spanish), but each one is made up of the same structure and designed to be completed in only 6 weeks with 35 minutes of study per day. The book is divided into six sections with an accompanying cassette. This way you can mimic the speakers to get the perfect pronunciation!

At the beginning of each chapter the week is divided into individual days with instructions telling you which exercises to do each day. You have a set day-by-day study programme to follow of just 35 minutes each day which really gets you into the discipline of learning your new language every day. You can cross out the exercises you have done and test your progress at the end of each week, so you really feel that you’re getting somewhere. The great thing about these is that they are flexible and you manage your own time – if you miss a day, do an hour the next day!

You have a set day-by-day study programme to follow of just 35 minutes each day which really gets you into the discipline of learning every day.

On the first day of each section there is a short dialogue between Tom and Kate who are travelling in the destination country. You can listen to it and read along with the English equivalent on the opposite page which is translated ‘literally’ into French-speak or German-speak, so it is easy to become familiar with the different word order. Then you have a list of all the new words of the week for you to read through and then test yourself on what you’ve learnt. There is one page per section called ‘GOOD NEWS GRAMMAR’ to cover the basic points of the week and a passage to learn by heart. Even though this is tricky it is really worth doing because it is great for your fluency.

Each week you are given questions to answer in your chosen language to give you added practice of writing. These packs contain only the most useful words and phrases and are an incredibly useful tool for any lover of travel. They have the added bonus of FLASH CARDS with the English on one side and your chosen language on the other so you can really see how much you know. I found these really helpful, especially if you are learning with a friend and you can test each other.

The first pack I tried was INSTANT GREEK before going on a beach holiday to Zante with a friend. When I managed to tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go, where to stop and ask how much it cost, I felt a real sense of achievement because it is nothing like the languages I am used to leaning. It is worth noting though that if you are learning a language like Greek or Japanese which has a totally different alphabet the real written form is not used. Instead the foreign words are written with English script so that you can just focus on the pronunciation. I didn’t find this a problem with Greek because all I wanted to do was get by in the country but a little knowledge of the script would have been useful to recognise the written form. However, just a basic knowledge of the language is a great way to start conversation with the locals!

When I managed to tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go, where to stop and to ask how much it cost, I felt a real sense of achievement.

Secondly, after finding the Greek so helpful I learnt INSTANT ITALIAN for a tourist holiday in Rome. I found my new found Italian extremely useful when I was lost with a friend late on the evening of our arrival, trying to find our hotel! It was also great for ordering meals and getting information about trains etc. The INSTANTS just make it simple.

I completed INSTANT GERMAN at the end of 2001 for a New Year’s party in Germany. I was with some friends who spoke a little English but a basic knowledge of German was essential to introduce myself, communicate with them and wish everyone a ‘Frohes Neues Jahr’ (Happy New Year).

One minor disadvantage that I found was the fact that each pack contains the same set of six chapters so, if you have completed one INSTANT course and then go on to try another, you are faced with the exact same scenarios. This has the problem of being a bit repetitive but at the same time I can easily see how the stories are carefully structured to contain all the useful vocabulary which is great to know in any language.

So go on, before you go on your next travels get the INSTANT language advantage and give it a go!

to buy Teach Yourself Instants [UK]>>
to buy Teach Yourself Instants [USA]>>
to find out more about Teach Yourself language courses>>

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Give a Language Gift Every Day!

How better to start off the New Year with a 2009 calendar in Spanish, French, German or Italian? You’ll be able to practise a little bit of language every day and you’ll be kept up-to-date about international holidays and events every day. Get organised and get the language advantage! [Read more…]