Lindsay Does Languages

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Is Emoji a Language?

I love emojis. I know, they may be a little bit Marmite. You love ‘em or you hate ‘em. And I used to hate them. Mainly because I didn’t know how people were getting this weird collection of images that went far beyond a smiley in their messages. Then I found the emoji keyboard and my life changed forever. Ok, so I’m exaggerating slightly but you get the idea. Then I introduced the emoji keyboard to my mum and now we sometimes just communicate through emoji if we text. My sister is in America at the moment, and when she was sat waiting in the airport, I was keeping her entertained with a little game of ‘Guess The Movie From The Emojis’. Patent pending. If you have a friend and too much time on your hands then it’s a surprisingly easy game to play.

Recently, I read a couple of articles that argued (both for and against) the idea of emoji being a language in its own right. I found this really interesting and wanted to throw the discussion out there to you. What do you think? Is emoji a language? Take a look at the video and let me know your thoughts on emojis in the comments either here or on YouTube!

Things I’ve Learnt About Arabic So Far

One thing I love about blogging is that it gives me the chance to document my progress as it happens. That’s exactly what I want to do with this post. My Language Script Challenge has begun and this week I’m starting my forth script (Thai!). I’m on track, Jack. And I’m making up new expressions like there’s no mañana. Along the way, I’m learning little nuggets of language joy that I just can’t help but share with you! I figured the best way to do this would be language by language so let’s start today with Arabic.

What I already knew

It only seems fair that I start with what I already knew before beginning to learn the Arabic script. I knew that Arabic is an alphabet but didn’t know how many letters it has. I knew that Arabic was always written joined up, or in cursive. I knew that Arabic is written from right to left. This makes me wonder, historically, were there more right handed people in places where writing left to right happened and more left handed people in places where writing is right to left? I’m thinking for, what I believe the technical term to be, smudging avoidance. I don’t know the answer to that one.

It’s not just Arabic

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
So, before I even wrote the list of scripts I wanted to learn, I knew that the Arabic script is used to write other languages than Arabic. The one that jumps to mind is Urdu. Mainly because my library had a sale and I have Teach Yourself Urdu on my shelf. I can’t resist. I’ve also taught people from the Middle East before who spoke an array of languages that used the Arabic script. Anyway, in doing a little research, which I think of as a rather important side note to this whole challenge, I have to be honest that I’ve been amazed by the quantity of languages that are written in the Arabic script. I also learnt that it’s the forth most used writing system in the world (after Latin, Chinese, and Devangari). That is a little bit amazing to say the least.

Surprising similarities with the Latin alphabet

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
Not long before getting started with learning the Arabic script, I was putting together this video when I found out that Arabic, and Hebrew, have their roots in the same alphabet as the Latin alphabet. I didn’t think much of this at first. Arabic has always looked like one of the hardest scripts to read to me and I couldn’t see ANY similarities so figured this same alphabet thing must go waaay back. Which it does. But it also turns out that although we may not see much similarity between the Arabic and Latin script, the order of letters does bear some resemblance. There’s even more similarities in the order of sounds between Arabic and Hebrew – but that’s another blog post.

A significant lack of vowels

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
Ok, not strictly true, but when it comes to the Arabic alphabet, there’s only three vowels included. Arabic has what’s called short vowels, which are added above and below consonant letters. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that these short vowels aren’t often added in everyday writing. (Ds dis mn Arbk invntd txt spk?) I find this absolutely amazing. It reminds me of that study that says that no mteatr waht oerdr lteerts are in, if the frsit and lsat are trhee we can raed waht’s bieng siad. Phew, typing that way is hard. But looking back, I can read it. There must be some of the same science applicable to reading Arabic, I guess?

Little dots change a lot

Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog On its own, it means nothing in Arabic other than a smiley face with no eyes, but just by adding a dot here…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog We get ‘b’. Let’s move it on top and add a friend…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog Now we have ‘t’. But because three is the magic number…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to ‘th’.

Dots did that! Dots changed the letter, the sound, and, in a bigger context, the word. This is making learning the alphabet a lot more enjoyable than I imagined. These shapes are also next to each other in the alphabet, so it’s easy to group letters and learn it chunk by chunk. Isn’t chunk a gross word? Chun…blurrrrgh.

Stop in the name of the glottal stop

Glottal stop is one of my favourite language term names. Another is interrobang?! Arabic has its very own glottal stop called hamza or, if you’ll allow me one more shot at my shaky Arabic writing practise in this post…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog hamza Which when written with other letters looks like this…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog hamza
If you’d like an English example of a glottal stop, try saying the words ‘water’, ‘bottle’, or ‘butter’. Whether or not a glottal stop is in the middle – in our examples on the ‘t/tt’ – depends on accents and dialects. One of the reasons I love glottal stops so much is because where I live we do this ALL THE TIME. Just can’t enough of that glottal stop stuff. Even the word ‘glottal’ has a glottal stop. Geniously named.

I can read it joined up! (ish)

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
I am by no means a pro. Or even a semi-pro. And probably not even a semi-semi-pro. But, I CAN read (mostly single) words and say them out loud at this stage. This is something I’m so proud of. A few weeks ago, Arabic text was a complete mystery to me, and now, albeit very limited, I can make some sort of sense of it. This is exactly why I decided to do this Language Script Challenge – to open up my mind and read and understand things that have always been out of my reach.

I think my experience so far with Arabic has highlighted to me the purpose of this challenge and inspired me to keep going. It’s definitely not something that will be left behind. I do hope to engage more with the script – who knows, maybe I’ll even go on to learn Arabic at some point! Spoiler alert: I can see myself ending every one of these posts about every script with that line.

Also, just to mention – This post is merely the thoughts of someone in the early stages of learning the Arabic script. I’ve done my best to make the information in this post as accurate as possible. However, if you’re after more info on Arabic from someone in the know, check out this guest post by Donovan Nagel. His blog is right here too.

Do you speak Arabic? What fascinates you about the script and the language? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Guest Post: Learning Nahuatl

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be featured on The Polyglotist, a language learning blog by Siskia, a Mexican language lover. I was absolutely delighted when she offered up a guest post on her experiences learning a rarer language, Nahuatl. Being really interested in the idea of focusing some attention of some lesser studied languages myself once my formal study is over, I found this post a darn good read. I hope you do too! Over to you Sis…

I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading Lindsay’s blog, it’s because you must like languages. So tell me, what are you thinking of studying this year? Spanish? French? Mandarin? Japanese?

How about Hawaiian? Yiddish? Welsh? Ainu? Telugu? Hausa? I hear Euskara’s hot property these days…

Believe it or not, as rare as these languages may sound to you, they’re all very much worth your time and consideration if you’re learning languages for the pleasure of understanding (or attempting to understand) foreign cultures. But wait! Instead of explaining why they’re so and so, I’d rather tell you a little about my own experience learning one, and why I think that learning a “rare language” is something everyone should try at least once.

In 2014, I decided to learn Nahuatl. Excluding Spanish, this is the most widely spoken of 67 (!!!) languages spoken in my native Mexico, and it’s gone through a remarkable revival period in the last few decades, in spite of having essentially gone underground while and after Mexico was under Spanish rule. Even nowadays, it’s spoken or known by over one million people between the US, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador! That’s six zeroes for you!
Nahuatl Mexican language Lindsay Does Languages blog
I decided to study this language for two reasons: first, my best friend speaks it quite decently and hearing him speak it sparked my interest. Second, I found it somewhat embarrassing that I didn’t know even the tiniest bit of a language that was considered the Latin of the Americas because of its huge influence and reach. You, dear reader, are probably using Nahuatlisms without even knowing so every time you open a chocolate bar (from xocolatl), or eat a tomato (from tomatl) or an avocado (from ahuacatl).

Now, if this is such an important language, finding where and how to study it should be a breeze, right?

Actually… not really. Latin of the Americas or not, Nahuatl remains a minority language and unlike most mayor languages it has no regulating body, so finding everything necessary for studying this language came as the result of exhaustive investigative work (an activity also known as “asking everyone AND their mother too”). As a matter of fact, this was a very enjoyable side-effect of my learning project. I expected to run into a wall while gathering learning resources, but asking around got me a lot of interesting information, opened lots of doors and made me at least one new friend!
books Nahuatl Mexican language Lindsay Does Languages blog

Putting aside the hunting of textbooks, dictionaries, schools and such resources, I must admit that learning rare languages isn’t for everyone (particularly if it’s your second or third tongue). Not only is it hard to find learning resources, but encountering communities of people that speak it near your own location is oftentimes more of a chore than learning the language itself. It also doesn’t score you many “cool points” at parties to speak languages nobody knows of lest they consult Wikipedia on their smartphone. It requires a study strategy, a good deal of commitment, patience, and understanding of the fact that more often than not you’re going to be studying in a utterly analog fashion (no Duolingo for Maori yet!).

One, if not the biggest, of the rewards I reaped by studying Nahuatl for a year was a better understanding of my own culture. I realized that my everyday is soaked in a culture built by Mexico’s forefathers, and found new respect and love for this country (which sadly, is always hurting some way or another, but that’s a topic for another blog). In a way, learning Nahuatl was like taking a long, contemplative look inside my own house after I’d been travelling for what felt like forever. It was really an enriching experience for me, which is why I’d love for everyone to pick one minor language that’s always made them curious and start learning it. Don’t say “It would be so cool to learn…”, just go out, learn it! Somewhere in this broad world of ours, someone really appreciates your effort and interest in their (small, yet awesome) culture.
Nahuatl Mexican language Lindsay Does Languages blog
Not all countries have minor or rare languages, and I’m most definitely not saying you should learn them just because they’re part of your country’s identity or because they’re endangered and must be saved! (cue superhero theme), but because they’re just as interesting as any other language and carry with them the satisfaction of learning something unique, of knowing something not many do. Don’t be discouraged because you can’t find a course or textbook in the language you want to teach—use Google, go around bookshops, ask. But most importantly, have fun (and let me know if you are)!

If you’re interested, check out these websites aimed at the preservation and study of rare, endangered or minority languages—there are tons like these if you know where to look, but they’re a good start.
Foreign Service Institute
Alliance for Endangered Languages

Be sure to visit Siskia’s blog, The Polyglotist for more interesting posts like this one. Do you have any experience learning Nahuatl or another rarer studied language? Which language takes your fancy? I’d love to know in the comments!

9 Reasons to Learn Hebrew

A long time ago (as in 2014! Say what?!) I received a lovely email from Ahikam, a Hebrew speaker, giving me 9 Reasons to Learn Hebrew, à la this video. So, I’ve finally got around to putting it together. And I couldn’t be more happy to present to you the first co-written 9 Reasons video! Thanks, Ahikam!

This morning I had three men in the kitchen playing around with buzzy things behind the coffee machine. Turns out the switch saying “Washing Machine” turned the kettle on and off. Logical. It’s not as exciting as that may sound, and I’m sure the technical term is working, not playing, but either way they cut off my power. Yikes. I had to rerecord bits of lost footage (the “reason number” bits – you can tell, I’m sure!) but thankfully everything fell back into place. So it’s a bit of a miracle I’m managing to get this online today. Proof that good stuff can happen even if all you can do is sit and twiddle your thumbs on your extended lunch break. Also, sidenote, one of the men spoke Spanish! Yay!

This video has actually fallen at a really nice time because, as you may remember, the current World Cinema Club film we’ll be discussing at the end of the month is in Hebrew. Not only that, but I’m also currently learning the Hebrew alphabet as part of my Language Script Challenge. Be sure to check both of those out.

Do you speak Hebrew? What do you love about the language? I’d love to know in the comments!

World Cinema Club: February Selection

February is soon upon us! Already! This means that it’s time for me to announce February’s selection for World Cinema Club. I try and make the films I pick as seasonal as possible, and with Valentine’s Day (a holiday invented by greetings card companies or not – I’ll let you decide) around the corner, I got to thinking about romantic films and if I could think of one in a foreign language that would work for World Cinema Club. In the end, I settled for a…perhaps non-conventional romance, but I think still a romance nonetheless.
Bad Education La Mala Educación Pedro Almodovar Spanish Foreign Film World Cinema Club Lindsay Does Languages blog
Bad Education. Or La Mala Educación en español. This film really is a classic and holds a place in my heart because I actually wrote about it for my A level Spanish coursework. That said, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I’m excited to watch it again after all these years.

Have you seen Bad Education? Find a copy this February and we’ll discuss it at the end of the month. There’s A LOT that can be talked about with this one! Also, if you have any films that you’d like to see discussed as part of World Cinema Club, let me know in the comments. I’m always open to ideas!

Guest Post: Crash-Course in Argentine Spanish

Today, we have a guest post from Paul, of Language Trainers all about Argentine Spanish. I know I enjoyed reading this one and I’m sure you will too! I leave you in Paul’s hands…

Argentina: it’s the land of Eva Peron, juicy steak, red wine, and . . . an extremely unusual Spanish dialect! Those who have watched Argentine movies without subtitles will know what I’m talking about: when you’re used to the Spanish that’s spoken in Spain or Mexico, Argentine Spanish can seem like a completely different language. Indeed, Argentine Spanish been subject to several linguistic influences, such as immigration from Italy and borrowed words from indigenous languages like Guarani and Quechua. As a result, Argentine Spanish is distinct from other Spanish dialects in almost every domain — in its vocabulary, its pronunciation, and even its grammar.

If you’re taking a trip to Argentina, or just want to know more about the linguistically rich Argentine dialect, read on! You’ll learn what words to use, what sounds to make, and what verbs to conjugate — you’ll be sounding like a true Argentine in no time!
The Obelisco on Avenida 9 de Julio Argentine Spanish Lindsay Does Languages blog

Grammar: Ditch “Tú”, Enter “Vos”

One of the most striking features of Argentine Spanish is that it completely forgoes the pronoun tú. That’s right: the ever-popular second-person singular pronoun is simply absent. Instead, Argentines use vos, which carries the exact same meaning as tú. But ojo: vos has nothing to do with vosotros, which is used primarily in Spain. Okay — so Argentines say vos instead of tú. But the fun doesn’t end there! Forget what you learned in Spanish class, because vos comes with its own completely different set of present tense conjugations and commands.

“Even more conjugations?” you ask, exasperated. “Doesn’t Spanish already have enough different verb endings?” But don’t give up! The rules for vos forms are simple — here’s how it works. For present-tense vos forms, there are three steps. Let’s use the verb tener as an example…

1. Take the “r” off of the infinitive (tene)

2. Tack on an “s” at the end (tenes)

3. Place the accent on the final syllable (tenés)

And you’re done! So tener ends up being tenés, venir becomes venís, hablar becomes hablás, and so forth. Pretty easy, huh? And as an added bonus, there’s only one exception: the present tense vos form of ser is sos.

Now that you’re an expert on conjugating present-tense vos forms, let’s take a look at commands. This is even easier than present-tense vos conjugations — there’s only two easy steps. Again, let’s use tener as an example:

1. Take the “r” off of the infinitive — sound familiar? (tene)

2. Place the accent on the final syllable (tené)

So, a speaker of Argentine Spanish might issue the following commands: tené cuidado, venite acá, or prepará la cena.
Buenos Aires' famous Teatro Colon Argentine Spanish Lindsay Does Languages blog

Vocabulary: Learning Lunfardo

The vocabulary Argentine Spanish differs from that of other countries in two important ways — in the names of everyday objects (not so fun) and in the use of a distinctly Argentine slang called lunfardo (very fun). I’ll teach you a little bit about both of these.

First, the nitty-gritty: if you’re in Argentina, you’ll find yourself having to un-learn a lot of what you’ve been taught, because everyday items simply have different names. To give you a head start, here’s a list of some of the more common differences:

+ Cars aren’t coches or carros, they’re autos

+ Corn isn’t maíz, it’s choclo

+ Pens aren’t bolígrafos, they’re lapiceras

+ Suitcases aren’t maletas, they’re valijas

+ Tee shirts aren’t camisetas, they’re remeras

. . . and the list goes on and on. But don’t worry: spend a few weeks in Argentina, and you’ll be well on your way to using the correct terminology.

Now onto the fun part: lunfardo. Lunfardo is a class of distinctly Argentine slang that developed in Buenos Aires’ lower-class neighbourhoods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since then, its use has become widespread, and it’s been immortalised in several popular tango songs.

The best way to learn lunfardo is to stroll the streets of Buenos Aires, but for starters, I’ll give you a list of some of the most popular words:

+ when your plans fall apart, it’s a quilombo (which literally means “brothel”)

+ pickpockets and muggers are chorros (and watch out for motorcycle-riding

+ when you’re feeling lazy, you’ve got lots of fiaca

+ young men are pibes, and women are minas
The San Telmo Feria Argentine Spanish Lindsay Does Languages blog

Finishing Touches: the Accent

You’ve got the grammar and the vocabulary down, and now there’s just one more thing left for you to perfect: the accent. This is an important step, but luckily, it’s a pretty easy one. In most dialects of Spanish, the letters y and ll stand for a vocalic “y” sound (as in “young”). But in Argentine Spanish, they’re consonants — they sound like “sh” (as in “sheep”). So the pronoun ella isn’t pronounced like “eya”, but rather “esha”. Likewise, “yo” sounds like “sho”.

You’ve now successfully learned the basics of the Argentine accent! Celebrate with a glass of Malbec. To get a little more practice with the Argentine dialect, try listening to some Argentine music (tango, anyone?) or reading some books written by Argentine authors. Not sure where to start? There are plenty of reviews over on the Language Trainer site! And if you’re really confident in your Argentine Spanish abilities, try your hand at a listening test — it’s harder than you think!

Whether you like to dance the tango or stay home and eat dulce de leche by the spoonful, Argentina has plenty to offer everyone. Learning the dialect takes some getting used to, but if you spend time with Argentines, you’ll pick it up fast. Readers — what are your experiences with the Argentine dialect? What are your favorite words in lunfardo? Leave a comment!
Image sources: Image 1, Image 2 (Paul, Language Trainers), Image 3.

Language Script Challenge: Getting Started.

Way back when I decided to commit to the Language Script Challenge, I had no plan, no real vision as to how I was going to do it. As you may have sensed, this week is all about positive goal setting and doing stuff to get stuff done. Change the word ‘stuff’ to your preferred profanity if desired.

One of my real goals for this year is the Language Script Challenge, which I’m discussing in today’s video. I’ve now put together a rough schedule for the challenge, which looks a little like this… 2015 language script challenge study schedule lindsay does languages blog
Of course, this is definitely subject to change and although I have already planned for an empty September, October, and December due to my final university exams and Christmas, I’m pretty open to the idea of swapping things around and fitting the challenge around my life when necessary. Flexibility is good. So is yoga. …and breathe.

I’ve decided to upload monthly update videos on the challenge as well as regular social media bits and bobs especially on Instagram, so be sure to come and say hey to find out what’s going on in the in between times. Speaking of Instagram, are you joining in with #IGLC? Just take a picture of one thing each day inspired by the topic for each day (which you can see in the sidebar!) and find a new word in a language you’re learning. Have a little looksee here for more info. Fun times! As for today, enjoy my first video of 2015!

What are your language plans for 2015? Also, what do you think to this style of video? It’s a little different to before as I now have somewhere to sit and chat to you! I’ll still be doing some green screen (white background and little pictures!) videos but I think this format works for this sort of update video. What do you think though? Let me know in the comments! Your feedback is really valued.

Setting Successful New Year’s Resolutions

Cue Rocky music. Cue freeze frame fist in the air jumping photo. Cue acing your New Year’s resolutions. After last week’s post about my new year’s resolutions, I want to share today what I’ll be trying out to help me to achieve them. Up for setting successful new year’s resolutions? Let’s do this!

Be Realistic

realistic goals setting new years resolutions lindsay does languages blog
Ok, here’s the deal. It’s super easy to just see a blank page and have your new year’s resolutions (let’s call them NYRs from now on – it’s just too darn long to type!) turn into your bucket list. A week into 2015, the whole year seems like a heck of a long time. But it’s not your whole life. Don’t let yourself get carried away with the idea of squeezing everything you want in life into one year. Of course, that dream trip/house/wedding/car/skydive is a fantastic goal. But does it look like you’ll get all of them done this year? Reel it in a focus. FYI: I’m totally guilty of this one.

From a language learning perspective, saying “I want to learn a new language” isn’t really a great NYR. Define “learn”. Define “a new language”. Something along the lines of “I want to be able to have a basic conversation in a language I currently know nothing about” or “I want to be able to read everyday signs in a language similar to one I already know” is much more defined – and therefore achievable. You could even go one step further and say exactly which language.

Another thing whilst we’re on the topic of realisticness. (Word of the Year 2015. Coined here first.) This is a great time to make a change in your life, but how big of a change can you really afford to make right now? Financially or otherwise. You will achieve something, it will be awesome, but if you vision too high, you might be disappointed. Nobody wants that.

Use Language

bonjour setting new years resolutions lindsay does languages blog
Biased? Moi? What I mean by this point is that NYRs should use positive language. This means future tense – not conditional. Even my examples in the last point are a tad weak. “I want to be able to have a basic conversation in a language I currently know nothing about” and “I want to be able to read everyday signs in a language similar to one I already know”? Let’s get rid of that word “want”. Time for something your grandma always told you: I wants don’t get. Remember that one? Ok, so not entirely used in it’s intended purpose here but it gets the message across!

Meaning our new and improved NYRs are….drum roll please…

“I will be able to have a basic conversation in a language I currently know nothing about”
“I will be able to read everyday signs in a language similar to one I already know”

Inspiring, no?

How 2

how 2 how for now setting new years resolutions lindsay does languages blog
Brit 90s children’s TV reference there. That’s how for now. Anyway, now we know that we will be able to have a basic conversation in a language we currently know nothing about or we will be able to read everyday signs in a language similar to one we already know (Yes! We will! Go us!) we need to figure out how the heck we’re going to actually do it.
Be it mini goals, forward planning, a diary, find yourself a way in which you can achieve your NYRs. I’m not going to bombard you here, this bit’s up to you. YEAH!

What I’m Doing

As you know, I have my NYRs, which I set using the advice above. But what else am I doing to actually achieve them?

Stick ‘em up!

desk corkboard setting new years resolutions lindsay does languages blog
Right now, I have no printer as it has decided to break during the process of moving. Thanks, printer. But as soon as a new printer graces my office with its presence I’ll be getting my glossy photo paper at the ready to put my NYRs on my cork board right next to the screen so I see them ALL THE TIME. I once went to this networking event and this lady was telling us how she stuck a cheque for £50,000 in her shower and by the end of the year she got her £50,000 cheque. I didn’t ask how soggy the shower cheque was by the time she got her wish. Whether or not she was telling the truth or just after some money towards the £50,000 from the networking group I don’t know. Either way, when networking you’ll meet some odd folk. Also, I’m putting my NYRs on the cork board…and maybe a 50k cheque.


lush bath bubbles setting new years resolutions lindsay does languages blog
I’ve never been one for huge rewards. I’m a little bit thrifty in fact and not really a fan of rewarding myself with masses of money or chocolate. It just makes me feel poor or fat the morning after. What kind of a reward is that? Or flowers for that matter. I don’t get flowers. Not as in I don’t receive them, as in I don’t understand them. It’s a gift that dies. Boo.

Anyway, I prefer to reward myself with a cup of fancy flowering tea and a read of a book about a language I’m NOT learning. OMG! Rebel without a cause! Or a bath and maybe something from Lush thrown into it to fizz and bubble and put glitter on my face. Ok, ok, so that costs money. Whatever. Point is, regular reviews of progress, and rewards are in order.

Get it right

i will do it right setting new years resolutions lindsay does languages blog
Balance is key…unless you’re trying to fling an elephant into the air using a huge see-saw, in which case, balance is most definitely not key, and, well, you’re going to need more elephants.

Back to our NYR situation where balance is key. I’ll adjust my daily schedule to fit with my NYR plans – but at the same time, I won’t go loco (or loca for the Spanish perfectionists among us) when I miss a day. It happens. Life happens. And sometimes it’ll get in the way of our magnificently balanced plan and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sail on.

How are you doing with your NYRs so far? Do you have your own tips on success with them? Share them in the comments!

82 British TV Shows to Help with Your English

One thing English students always ask me is if I can recommend any TV shows to them to help support their studies. Well, I can! So without further ado, here are 82 pretty awesome British TV shows to help develop your English language skills. Not only that, but I’ve included some shows that are culturally relevant and referenced and chatted about in every day life. There’s lots of exposure to accents, slang, and other colloquialisms that will help to boost your English whilst finding your new favourite series.

I’ve tried to group the shows into rough categories to help you decide if it’s something you’d be interested in. If it’s something I personally enjoy then I’ve commented about it but if it’s one I’ve never really watched but still felt relevant, I’ve just listed the name. Enjoy!

Stuff You’ll Probably Know

Let’s get these out of the way first.

Doctor Who
Downton Abbey

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.


Stuff that tickles me

Peep Show

My absolute favourite TV show of all time. Peep Show is pure comedy genius following the lives of Mark and Jeremy, who despite their differences have a pretty firm friendship. It’s filmed from their points of view and you also hear their thoughts, which makes for a different style of comedy.

The Inbetweeners

Like a teenage Peep Show. Absolutely loaded with slang and every word for genitalia you could possibly imagine.

The IT Crowd

Working in the basement, the IT department, including Richard Ayoade, are often neglected but used to it. If you’re unsure, start with series 2 episode 1…

Fresh Meat

If you like The Inbetweeners, pretend that this is Simon having gone to university.

The Mighty Boosh

Just absolutely bizzare.

The Office

I’m so late to the game on The Office, and I’m even watching the American version first (now!) but I’m really enjoying checking back to the British version.

The Royale Family

Because it’s never been so funny to watch people watching TV.

That Peter Kay Thing

Peter Kay will make you laugh out loud. This one’s also a good insight to the north of England too.

Phoenix Nights

After That Peter Kay Thing, Peter Kay went on to make Phoenix Nights, which is just as brilliant.

Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere

Another one of Peter Kay’s creations.

Black Books

Follows a drunken book shop owner (an Irish man – another accent! Yay!) and his new assistant, Bill Bailey. Pretty funny.


Considered the predecessor to Shaun of the Dead, this is Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s earliest collaboration.


Ricky Gervais led Derek has been criticised for its portrayal of disability but I think it’s still a worthy mention.


I feel like a lot of shows have come off the back of The Inbetweeners. Drifters is kind of like a female version and features actresses from the first Inbetweeners movie.

Friday Night Dinner

Another Inbetweeners star is in this one. Friday Night Dinner follows a Jewish family, and their quirky neighbour, around their Friday night dinner tradition.

Man Down

I haven’t seen the whole lot of Man Down but it also features Greg Davies from…yes…The Inbetweeners. The intro to the show is great.

Phone Shop

Phone Shop is highly underrated. I love the characters in this one.

Current Affairs Stuff

Russell Howard’s Good News

This show will make you laugh. That’s pretty much all I need to say.

Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe

If you can cope with Brooker’s pessimistic slant then you might find this one quite enjoyable.

Have I Got News For You

This show has been going for YEARS. I remember watching this when I was younger and it still exists! A pretty timeless format.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Very similar to Have I Got News For You but about music.

8 Out of 10 Cats

Hosted by Jimmy Carr, this statistics based quiz panel show is generally quite funny.

Big Fat Quiz of The Year

Towards the end of December, we get this show on Channel 4 and it normally draws a worthwhile team of comedians discussing the highs and lows of the year that has just passed.

The Last Leg

I saw this show live! Created for the Paralympics in London in 2012, The Last Leg discusses goings on of the previous week with an open attitude to disability. There’s also an Australian presenter to help with your variety of accent understanding!

Classic Comedy

There’s a channel in the UK called Gold, and I’m pretty sure this is their regular schedule. Just these shows repeated every day. That gives you an idea as to how popular they are.

Dad’s Army
Faulty Towers
Last Of The Summer Wine
Red Dwarf
Only Fools and Horses
Birds of a Feather
The Vicar of Dibley
Absolutely Fabulous
Father Ted



Teenagers with too much pocket money spend their days getting drugged up and then almost knocked up. I’ve never understood this one.

Black Mirror

I’ve already mentioned Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe. Well this is created by the same guy! Also it’s pretty darn creepy. Definitely worth watching.


British people love soaps, and although I don’t watch any personally, I can understand most references to soaps in everyday life. For example, people may talk about the Rover’s Return or the Queen Vic – both pubs in two of the most popular soaps. Worth watching a bit because they’re also interesting for accents.

Coronation Street

Fake Reality

This is a relatively new genre and also useful for listening to different accents.

Made in Chelsea

Personally, the only one of this genre I watch. A bit of a guilty pleasure. Don’t tell anyone.

The Only Way Is Essex
Geordie Shore
Desperate Scousewives

Stuff People Reference

Time Team

A classic show hosted by Tony Robinson, also in Blackadder, where folks travel the country digging stuff up.

Antique’s Roadshow

This one has been around for a looong time. Fancy antiques people go to various spots in Britain and locals bring things from their attic to be priced up. Sounds as good as Time Team when you write it down, doesn’t it?

Blue Peter

Every Brit at some point in their life will have watched Blue Peter. And probably made something from a toilet roll tube, hosted a bring and buy sale, or wished they were a presenter on this show.

The Great British Bake Off

This show gets bigger and bigger every year at the moment. Last year, it was all about #justiceforian after #dirtydiana took his baked alaska out of the #fridge. Ok, I made the last hashtag up. Whilst people were fighting across the world, those hashtags were trending on Twitter and making headlines in 2014. What can I say? Us Brits are pretty into this show.

Embarrassing Bodies

If you have an embarrassing body problem, and you’re too embarrassed to go to your doctor, where do you go? Well, a doctor on TV who will broadcast your problem to millions of viewers, logically.

Supersize vs Superskinny

This show has the same doctor presenter as Embarrassing Bodies, Dr Christian, and gives an overweight person and an underweight person each other’s diet. You’d think after watching one you’d seen it all but people seem to love this show!


Stephen Fry is a national treasure. QI has Stephen Fry in it. That’s all you need to know.

Any nature show narrated by David Attenborough ever

Another national treasure. Also he speaks very clearly – a good one for learners new to listening to extended passages. Although, there may be the odd biology word thrown in that you probably won’t need in daily life. Just enjoy his voice.

Top Gear

The presenters of Top Gear are always getting in trouble, and despite their international drives being cringeworthingly staged at times, it is worth watching from time to time.


Normally watched by pensioners and students, Countdown is possibly the most useful British TV show for English learners – check it out and see what I mean…

How To Look Good Naked

People love Gok Wan, who in this show boosts ladies confidence enough for them to get naked by the end of each hour long episode. When you put it like that….well, I don’t know what to think.

The Jeremy Kyle Show

Sigh. Brits aren’t all like the guests on this show. I promise. Please, remember this. Still, it’s referenced a lot in popular culture so worth a mention on the list.

Location, Location, Location

We seem to love watching people buy houses. That’s essentially what this show is.

Grand Designs

Apparently there’s a Grand Designs drinking game. It gets better – the presenter recently admitted he created an episode to get people playing said drinking game as drunk as possible, although Channel 4 denies this is true.


Jamie Oliver

This man is the reason we no longer have turkey twizzlers in school canteens. What’s a turkey twizzler? Well, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much turkey involved. He’s done some good for this country and most people love him for it.

River Cottage

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has one of the best names of all time. That alone is reason enough to watch River Cottage.

Heston Blumenthal

Another chef with an amazing name, Heston Blumenthal makes things you could never dream of making in your own kitchen, often involving liquid nitrogen. He even has a range of foods sold in Waitrose, a fancy British supermarket. Lapsang souchong tea smoked salmon, anyone?

Game Shows

Deal or no Deal

You probably have your own version of this show in your country? Here in Britain, it’s hosted by Noel Edmunds who has created a weird cult surrounding the show – for example, calling the audience ‘pilgrims’…very odd.


People lose their minds over this show. I’ve not yet figured out why…

The Chase

Ditto Pointless. I think they’re also on competing time slots. Fun fact: the presenter recently performed in my local pantomime. What’s a pantomime? Hmm…that’s another blog post in itself.

Come Dine With Me

Always on some channel somewhere. Always with at least one crazy contestant. Always with a brilliantly sarcastic narrator saying it like it is.

University Challenge

In this show two teams from different universities compete to win…something. In fact, I don’t even know if there’s a prize.


If you know lots about a very specific topic, you like spotlights, and big black chairs, then this could be just the show you’re looking for.


The X Factor

Undeniably huge. The show we have to thank for One Direction. Yay.

I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!

An amazing title for a show you would have thought had run its course. Celebrities get sent to Australia to eat kangaroo penises and get bitten by spiders.

Big Brother

In my opinion, past its best since moving from Channel 4 to Channel 5, Big Brother has been pretty influential on this country. Most notably, Jade Goody. Jade was a much loved contestant back in 2003 who sadly died of cervical cancer in 2009. Her public battle with cancer did a lot to encourage more women to get Pap tests, which can only be a good thing.

Strictly Come Dancing

I just don’t get this show. But other people do. So it’s only fair to list it here.

The Apprentice

Lord Alan Sugar has hit the nail on the head here because people love watching people that think they’re better than they are get told “you’re fired!”. Mwah hah hah.


This is a relatively new show to Channel 4, which is basically people watching TV. I’ve never watched it for fear of it becoming ridiculously addictive.

Coach Trip

This show sends a group of people on a coach trip around Europe and they gradually vote each couple off until there’s just one left. Think Big Brother on a bus.

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

This one caused a lot of controversy but it shows an interesting side to a British community that often get a bad name. Worth watching once or twice.

Chit chat

Alan Carr Chatty Man

Alan Carr is from near me. Not many famous people are. So it’s quite exciting.

The Graham Norton Show

I was probably far too young to watch but I loved Graham Norton back in the day on channel 4. Now he’s on BBC and although I don’t watch much myself, I’m sure he’s just as funny.

The Jonathan Ross Show

Yeah, I’m detecting a slight lack of imagination with these titles too…

Piers Morgan’s Life Stories

Piers Morgan gets celebrities on to discuss their…life stories. Surprise! Thinking about it, this show might be good for practising past tenses…

And I think that’s about it. Phew. What a list! I’m sure if you’re looking to get some listening practise for British English then there’ll be something here worth a look. So pop the kettle on, grab yourself a custard cream or two, and enjoy!

What’s your favourite British TV show? Is it on the list? Let me know in the comments!

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! There’s something about January and all it’s murky Northern Hemisphere weather (g’day you lucky Aussies) that somehow inspires people to take up stuff, give up stuff, lose weight, and exercise. Some of us hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions, understandably so, our ambitions tend to outweigh our efforts, whilst others embrace it year after year as a chance to start anew.

Personally, I’ve never been a massive new year’s resolution setter. If stuff needs changing, I aim to do so throughout the year, be it March, July, or October. However, what with moving ‘n’ all (yes, I’ll stop going on about it soon) December saw life getting turned all upside down and higgledy piggledy and January is actually a welcome blank space (potentially full of lonely Starbucks lovers – geddit?). This means that this year, I’ll actually be setting some new year’s resolutions for myself, which I wanted to share with you today. Because you know, sharing is caring. Plus it helps to achieve what you want to achieve if you tell someone you’re going to achieve it. Achieve. P.S best start to what should be a motivational blog post ever. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing the positive tips I’m going to try and follow to achieve said new year’s resolutions next week. Watch this upbeat space.

Ok then, let’s perk things up a bit! Because there’s nothing a Bamboo pad and Photoshop can’t prettify, I made my list using just that. Here it is…

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Do you have any new year’s resolutions? If you want to, share them in the comments and we can encourage each other!