February 2019
Thoughts on Understanding the Unknown

Image: The Wonderful Unknown by Amy Winkle https://www.amyvanwinkle.com

In recent communications with some lovely folk from South Korea, I was called to focus on their cultural personality in relation to my own. I was intrigued by the open-hearted, expressive language they used and the emotion which they showed when referring to our shared vision and new potential partnership. It was genuinely moving. However, any ideas of getting down to the nitty-gritty, of discussing concrete plans, negotiations and contracts were elusive. I just couldn’t pin anybody down to anything.

So, I sought council from friends in the know. One of them, a South African, living in the UK, highly versed in the language of international business and negotiation, exclaimed that the Brits just want to get down to brass tacks as quickly as possible; they can be unemotional, in fact, downright cold but straight up, honest. In contrast, for many other cultures and especially Asian cultures, relationship comes first, the business relationship is as, if not more, important than the deal.

It was really helpful to have this new knowledge, to understand where my eastern friends were coming from, and to respect and open up to their way of thinking. Not that the British way is wrong either; ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’, or as they say in China, ‘All the eight fairies show their own ways to get over the sea.’

Wouldn’t it be good if people could dwell a bit longer in their state of uncertainty, rather than giving in to that knee jerk reaction, “Shit! I don’t know this, I don’t understand this, it’s different, it’s alien. I don’t know how to deal with it, so it must be bad, as it’s now causing me discomfort!” Blah blah blah!  We’ve all been there. But wouldn’t it be a good move to stop and understand what this uncertainty is about, to peer closely, without judgment into the face of what is alien?

Take Brexit for example, (I’d add a screaming with laughter emoji right now but I haven’t worked out how to use emojis on my desk-top). The big wave that began the leave campaign was triggered by economic depression of course. There are naturally many reasons for this, but let’s look at one of those knee jerk reactions created by the discomfort, the fear of unemployment, “The Polish are taking our jobs!” Ok, painful as it may be, ask why? Is it because they work harder and are more skilled, and many British people don’t want the jobs that the Poles are prepared to take on?  At this point I can hear fear and outrage as the British ego rises up in angry self-defence. So, face the fear and stay with it it for a little longer. Why do the Poles do it better?  What happened to British society for it to lose its pride and work ethic? http://britishworkethic.blogspot.com Blogger Charlie Keeble has some interesting ideas on this subject.

Look to the root and cause of the problem. We cannot resolve if we’re in denial.

As the paths of our world become more trodden and more familiar we have to adapt accordingly.
The old guard tends to close its doors and turn it’s back on change and this is a natural human response to fear of the new and unknown.  Let’s hope this is the last stand of the old guard before it falls and becomes defunct.

Words and Phrases

Folk– people old English word

The nitty-gritty – an expression meaningthe practical details of a situation

To seek council (sought council) – to get advice

To be versed in – to know the subject well

To get down to brass tacks – this is an idiom from the 19thcentury it means to look at the hard facts. (A tack is a small nail used in upholstery, they would be hidden away under  the fine fabric.)

Downright – (adverb) to an extreme degree, utterly, totally

Straight up – truthful, honest

There are many ways to skin a cat– there are many ways to get things done or achieve something. It’s uncertain where this horrible expression comes from. They say it comes from a time when cat fur was used in ladies fashion!

A knee jerk reaction – An instinctive, gut reaction, before thinking something through

The old guard – the original or long-standing members of a group, regarded as unwilling to accept change or new ideas.

Defunct – No longer of use or in working order

September 2018

The Language of Change

A new season brings transformation. September, in particular, always feels pertinent; the beginning of the academic year, back to work after the summer ease. It’s often time to start anew, or start a new something. This September 2018 there is, apparently, universal change happening. If you speak to astrologists, they’ll tell you that now is a time of, “Alchemical Transformation Through Death and Resurrection”! (Kaypacha, Pele Report September 2018).https://newparadigmastrology.com/signup/

So, if you have been sowing the seeds to transform your life you will soon be a reaping what you have sown!


Here’s some Autumnal vocab for you:

As the life begins to fade from the plants and trees the colours transform from lush vivid greens to fiery orange, rust red and golden ochre.

 The smell of damp earth and smoky bonfires infuses the air.

 There is a softening to the heat of the sun and crisp freshness to the morning air.

 Squirrels scurry about with intense purpose making ready their winter stores.

 Last Sunday we picked blackberries and made a blackberry and apple crumble.

To scurry–  (verb)to move about quickly
To make ready– (phrasal verb) to prepare
A softening– (adjective and a noun) to become less intense or less harsh
To soften – (verb)Her voice softened when she saw how upset he was.
A crumble–  (noun)traditional English dessert made with flour, butter, sugar and fruit
Crisp – (adjective) Fresh, dry, brittle. Crisp– (noun) potato chip
To crumble– (verb) to break down into small pieces

And here’s a bit of transformation vocab!:

I need to start anew.
I have to start afresh.
Out with the old, in with the new.
She felt a change coming on.
Upheaval – a big change

August 2018

Language Immersion: The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language

Why is a language Immersion course the most effective way to learn a foreign language?

Firstly, if your brain is denied access to the mother tongue, then it it more likely to use the same neural pathways with the foreign language as it would have done with the mother tongue in its need to understand and communicate. If you create a necessity, we are more likely to put in the effort. So, when you go on an immersion course in a foreign country, surrounded only by people speaking the foreign language, you are creating the optimum learning conditions for your brain.

Secondly, if you input and repeat new and relevant vocabulary and grammatical structures for, on average, six hours a day for at least five days, your brain will have most certainly taken on board or stored this new information.

Thirdly, if you spend the rest of your time during those five or more days, practising what you have learnt, whilst going about daily rituals, such as: eating meals, going to shops or cafes, asking for information, sharing with people some information about yourself, then this new information, this new learning will imprint even more profoundly on your brain.

Most English children, who have been studying French in school, two hours per week, for at least two years, will still barely be able to put a few sentences together. Let’s say you take an evening class or even an online class and in your free time you practice your new sentences as much as you can. If you were suddenly put on the spot in a real life situation, it would still be very difficult to use those sentences in natural conversation. Your brain needs to be able to access the memory of a time when you were actually speaking those sentences over and over again in natural conversation.

This is why you need the intense injection of one, preferably two weeks’ full language immersion. Five days’ immersion on a course such as our Dialogue UK, equates to 60 hours. A six month course of two hours per week equates to 52 hours. I’ll bet you are more more fluent at the end of the five days that you are after the six months! The wonderful thing about a course like Dialogue UK is that you are also taken out of the daily stress of your everyday life. You are fed delicious food, you stay in lovely accommodation, make great new contacts and have the mental space to reflect and learn. It’s well worth your time.

N.B Having said all these wonderful things about an immersion course, it would soon become worthless if you do not continue to practise what you have learned.

Just 15 minutes a day of practice and then as much regular input as you can, such as: radio, films and having some kind of conversation practice, then you’re on your way!

Online language learning systems such as Anglo-Link http://www.anglo-link.com/are also a great way of keeping up the practice. Also check out what Steve Kaufmann of LingQ http://www.lingq.com/has to say about language immersion https://youtu.be/Qc5PJh9tEUo

June 2018

English Language and the Beautiful Game

Whilst our brows are dripping with World Cup Fever, I thought it fitting to turn our thoughts to English language and the ‘beautiful game’.

OK… in other words; the World Cup is here, let’s talk about the English language and football!

It’s common knowledge with professional footballers and managers that English or broken English is the international language. According to a FIFA new rule, all their referees have to pass a test of written and spoken English. That ensures that all five officials at a given match can communicate with each other.

Luckily, the necessary vocabulary during a game is quite simple:

goal, pass, score, offside, corner, throw-in, goal kick, red and yellow card, foul, hand-ball, tackle, penalty and the important ‘sorry’!

Any other words or expressions spoken between sides during a match tend to be of the rude or slang variety and could potentially get a player in trouble with the ref (referee)!

On the club level however, when there are always multiple nationalities in any team, the communication issue is a lot more complex and extremely important. Imagine a situation when, mid-match, the coach passes on important instructions to the players via a substitute but the substitute looks blank “que?” “Could you repeat one more time please?”

For the most part, it is the language of the country of the club which is spoken.

Wolves defender Ronald Zubar has gone, within 12 months, from speaking no English to translating for his fellow French speaking team mates.

For him it’s essential to be able to communicate on the pitch. He has also encouraged his other Francophone team mates to learn English as it is essential for team bonding that the whole team can communicate in one language.

Spain’s La Liga, passionate patriots, are notorious for criticizing its foreign players for not being fluent in Spanish.

Welshman, Gareth Bale, currently playing for Real Madrid, has been the target for much criticism. Apparently, Bale pronunces “hola” with an “H” sound.  An article in the football paper ‘Sport’ last year said, “He doesn’t put the effort in to learn Castellano … his process of adaptation has failed catastrophically.”

Perhaps a touch harsh for the player who has scored 67 goals in 144 games for Real Madrid!


Indeed, Bale, himself said in an interview in 2015 that he felt completely settled in the side and conversed freely in English with Luca Modric, Toni Kroos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Álvaro Arbeloa, as well as all of the medical team and his manager at the time, Rafa Benítez. In his own defence however as to why his Spanish wasn’t up to scratch, he said that most of his fellow players wanted to practice their English with him.

Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba was caught by TV cameras shouting “learn to speak Spanish, idiot!” at Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic during the clásico in December. What Alba hadn’t realised was that Kovacic speaks Spanish with relative ease, alongside German, English, Italian and his native Croatian.

Here’s a cute clip of Senor David Beckham on his departure from Real Madrid, “tu hablas español David?”


What about Belgium, the dual language nation? Sources say the players speak neither Dutch nor French but English in the changing room, to avoid favouritism of one language over another.

Manchester City’s playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is a Dutch-speaker from Ghent in the Flemish region, while Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard is a French-speaker from the Walloon region. And of course their manager Roberto Martinez is Spanish!

The team also speak English on the pitch, much to the surprise of the UK press during their game with England on the 28th.

All of this confusion makes the language of gesture very important whilst on the field.
These gesture are most commonly adopted by players while talking to refs during a match:

  • Hands together means “dive”—as in, “I didn’t tackle him. He took a dive.”
  • Holding both hands in the air also says “that was not a foul”
  • A finger pointed at the eye tells the ref to “keep your eyes open.”
  • Arm straight in the air as if holding a card – “he deserves a booking”.

    FIFA referees of course also have distinct body signals and whistle blows for each foul.