What is one of the most effective ways to learn a language (or anything for that matter)?
I tend to write a lot about concentrating on hard and intensive work in learning. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have some fun from time to time!
You can’t deny that every language has some funny or quirky words. Explaining them to your loved ones or friends might be a great way to strike up a conversation! And let’s be honest, when I say funny, I don’t mean just-spat-my-soda funny. The best you can get, in most of the situations is probably a faint smile.
And as with everything, you can definitely overdo it.
Among some of my friends, I am known as the “fun fact” guy. I try to throw in some fun facts, whenever I can. The problem is that they are rarely fun for others. Once, during a family dinner with my ex-girlfriend, her aunt asked me to “say something interesting since you learn so much”. I sat for a while before I said, “Well, there is this little-known fun fact that Hitler had only one testicle”.
The silence which ensued was deafening. The rest of the dinner was awkward, to say the least. So please do it at your own risk!
Here are three ways to entertain yourself and (hopefully) others while learning at the same time
1) Teach them some foul words
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us are attracted to anything labeled “taboo”.
Use these websites to learn some swear words which you can later pass on to others.
2) Teach them false friends in your target language
Not everybody likes swearing. It’s perfectly understandable. But you can’t deny that false friends are one of the most fun ways to learn vocabulary.
I’m sure you have your share of embarrassing stories involving such words. Saying “embarazada” (pregnant in Spanish) instead of “avergonzado” is definitely one of the things which come to my mind.
One of my favorite awkward situations ensued when I was visiting the Czech Republic about 3 years ago. I stopped a group of Czechs to ask them in Polish, “gdzie jest najbliższy sklep?” (where is the nearest shop). I figured out that Polish and Czech are so similar that it should be clear what I mean.
Little did I know! “Sklep” in Czech means “a basement”. Basically, I came across as a creep looking for a place to devote himself to God knows what. Fortunately, I didn’t have a mustache!
Here are some lists of false friends to get you started:
GENERAL LIST of false friends between English and other languages – Wiktionary
FALSE FRIENDS OF THE SLAVIST – Wikibooks
DUTCH – Heardutchhere.net
ESPERANTO – Wikibooks
FRENCH – FrenchCrazy.com
NORWEGIAN – Norwegianlanguage.info
POLISH – Wiktionary
RUSSIAN – Masterrussian.com
3. Teach them weird / funny-sounding words or phrases
My experience is that people love learning funny-words or peculiarities of different countries. Make a short list of them and start sharing it with your friends.
This is a good example of a quirky sound which falls into an “interesting” category.
Another good idea is to google “untranslatable (name of your target language) words”. Each language has a truckload of them.
They are not only fun to learn and memorable but also can expand your way of thinking.
What about different traditions or dishes typical of a given country?
For example, as the BBS explains, Kiviaq is a typical winter dish out of Greenland that is made from fermented seabirds
The delicacy is created by first preparing a seal skin: all the meat is removed and only a thick layer of fat remains. The skin is then sewn into a bag shape, which is stuffed with 300-500 little auk birds. Once full and airtight, the skin is sewn up and seal fat is smeared over all over the join, which acts as a repellent to flies. The seal skin is then left under a pile of rocks to ferment for a minimum of three months to a maximum of 18 months.
As you can see, it’s not that difficult to consolidate your knowledge by teaching and entertaining others. You are only limited by your own curiosity.
Feel free to add some funny or embarrassing stories which you have experienced during your language learning journey!