December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas | Joyeux Noël | Fröhliche Weihnachten | Feliz Navidad | Veselé Vánoce | Wesołych Świąt

As the year is officially coming to an end, many of us will reflect back on the past twelve months and make plans for the upcoming year. Do you already have a list of New Year’s resolutions? Will you want to learn a new language or improve your skills in 2017?


I definitely want to maintain my language skills in Czech and improve my French. I’m trying to implement this rule to have a 5-minute activity with each language every day (similar to these ideas). Do I want to learn a new language? That would be very exciting, I’m thinking of Russian, but will let you know more once some progress has been made.

As for the blog, I’m planning to research interesting subjects and write inspiring articles (ambitious, I know!). I’ll look for some beautiful scenery to take photos and videos of. I’d also like to invite inspiring professionals to share their wisdom and knowledge on our blog. Would you find that interesting? What would you like to read more about?

As the festive time is approaching, myself and my colleagues would like to wish our readers a very Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad,  Veselé Vánoce or Wesołych Świąt. We hope that you enjoy your festive break!


Written by Kinga Macalla

December 14, 2016

Travelling Corner: My 5 Best of CRETE

“The truth is that the Cretans are the Scots of Greece; they have lived through countless crises to emerge always just as truly themselves – indomitable friends or deadly enemies” Lawrence Durrell writes in The Greek Islands. Alexandra Fiada in the Xenophobe’s Guide to the Greeks points out that ‘[t]he Greeks come second only to the Japanese as far as cleanliness is concerned. Home scrubbing is a point of honour.” What a mixture… You feel exactly that while being in Crete; everything is perfectly in order yet so chaotic: it’s sunny, yet so windy, it’s modern, yet so old fashioned, and the list goes on. But still, my trip to Crete was amazing. Below you’ll find my 5 best of Crete.


Elafonisi Beach

Paradise beach. One of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. It has a shallow sea shore (safe for children) and a deep part, too. The colours are spectacular, from light blue lagoon to turquoise green and deep dark blue. It has a flat, sandy beach with pink sand. You can easily spend hours in the sea, relaxing and admiring its pure beauty.


Charming town. The old Venetian harbour is beautiful; you can walk amongst colourful houses surrounded by the sea and the old port which is several kilometres long. I enjoyed wondering the small streets, visiting museums and churches, having a few stops for coffee and a sweet or savoury Cretan delicacy. Even though it was low season, the town was quite crowded, particularly in the cafes and restaurants. The supervised parking experience was quite interesting; they took our keys and re-parked our car in our absence, then delivered it to the exit when we were back. Scary, but convenient!


Grammero Camping

Seaside camping with private access to the beach. Sounds amazing? Yes, it truly was. The campsite is not far away from Paleochora and is situated just on the beach. It is a relatively small site, clean with plenty of shady pitches. The internet connection is excellent. Be aware that the mountainous wind can be quite strong at night, so fasten your tent well. It’s amazing to be able to see the sun rise or set, or go for a jog or swim whenever you fancy!



The taste, the colour, the price! Yes, food in Crete is delicious: olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh bread, olive oil, honey, oranges, oregano… do we actually need anything more? It’s a feast in its pure form; it’s simple, tasty and pleasant. You can buy kilogrammes of tomatoes and create the most scrumptious stew. It’s best to find a local fruit & veg shop or a side-road stall and buy fresh, ready-to-eat food; I would avoid bigger shops or hyper-markets. If eating in a restaurant or café it’s good to choose one that many Cretans eat in (for better prices and food) and if you hesitate, the waiter will quickly give you some recommendations. Then when you nod, he’ll take it as a ‘yes’ and disappear to bring the most delicious meal!



Have you ever met a Greek who wasn’t nice to you? I haven’t. Cretans are the same; they’re kind, smiling, positive people who enjoy life to the full. They may drive a bit too fast at times and serve you a Cretan salad with a fag in their mouth… But still, I love them and love their hedonistic approach to life, it’s refreshing.


Have you been to Crete? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

December 7, 2016

On Languages: Dutch

The Dutch language is a West-Germanic language (others in this family include English, Frisian, German and Luxembourgish) and its use goes back to the fifth century. Modern Dutch (Nederlands) is spoken by about 23 million people as a first language in the European Union —including most of the Netherlands and Flanders in the north of Belgium – and by another 5 million as a second language.  The Dutch Empire took the language around the world from the 17th to mid-20th centuries.  It is the native language of the majority of the population of Suriname, and also holds official status in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. There are Dutch-speaking minorities in France, Germany and Indonesia and up to half a million native speakers are spread across the United States, Canada and Australia.


There are several regional variations in spoken Dutch, the most significant of which is Flemish (in Belgium), which is spoken by around ten million people. Standard Dutch (Standaardnederlands or Algemeen Nederlands) is used for public and official purposes, including in schools and universities. A wide variety of local dialects are used in informal situations.

Most Dutch vocabulary is Germanic but also has loans words from Romance languages like French (and Latin).  It has more of these than German but fewer than English.  Because of contact between the Netherlands and Belgium and English-speaking countries throughout history, there are a lot of words in English that are of Dutch origin, especially names for everyday things like fruit and vegetables or colours.  This can make it easier for English speakers to remember Dutch vocabulary because a lot of it is familiar to them.  Some examples of English words of Dutch origin are ‘cookie’, ‘coleslaw’, ‘luck’, ‘mannequin’ or ‘Santa Klaus’.

Read more about the Dutch language on the BBC website and a comprehensive history of the language on the Dutch literature digital library.

How the language works

Dutch spelling is phonetic so you can tell how a word is pronounced by looking at it, and you can spell words easily if you listen to them!  Some sounds are a bit tricky for English speakers to pronounce, especially vowel sounds, but get easier with practice.  Examples are the ‘g’ sound, which is a bit like ‘ch’ in ‘loch’ and ‘ui’, which is a bit like ‘owe’ but not quite!  Learn more about the Dutch alphabet, spelling and pronunciation here.

Dutch grammar is similar to both English and German grammar.  Like English, it is simpler than German grammar, especially as it does not really use cases.  Features shared with German include three genders and a similar word order, such as putting the verb at the end of the sentence.  Learning how to speak Dutch is thought to be easier than learning German for English people because of its simpler grammatical rules.  I wouldn’t go as far as some people do who say that Dutch is the easiest language for English speakers to learn, though.  I think that can also be a potential pitfall because the languages are similar but are not identical, so it can be tempting to use English grammar in Dutch but that doesn’t work!  Also, the supposed simplicity of Dutch is deceptive: there are two articles for three genders (‘het’ for neuter and ‘de’ for masculine and feminine nouns (but you still have to know whether the thing you are talking about is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’)), and there are a few exceptions to rules that you learn.  Also, academic and literary Dutch has a very high register and is quite stylised.

Why learn Dutch?

There are practical incentives for people from the UK to learn to speak Dutch.  The Netherlands is a major trading partner of the UK and there are Dutch and Dutch-speaking businesses in the UK.   The Department for International Trade (DIT), that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy, is based in Belgium.  Belgium is the UK’s sixth-largest export market, worth £10 billion a year. The UK is Belgium’s fourth-largest export market with two-way trade worth in the region of £22 billion.  Learning the language can also help you on your travels.  Nearly a million Brits go on holiday to the visit our Netherlands every year and Brussels is reachable from the UK by train (the Eurostar).  For fans of cycling, canals, tulips, chocolate, windmills, beer, and European history, the Netherlands and Belgium are great places to visit.  Dutch and Belgian writers and film-makers also produce some hard-hitting work.

Where can I learn Dutch?

There are many ways you can learn Dutch.  If you want to learn the traditional way, you will find a long list of Dutch textbooks at the European Bookshop.  You can choose from monolingual (Dutch only) or bilingual (Dutch and English) books.  If you like to learn online, you can start with this introductory class on FutureLearn.  There are also lots of free YouTube videos that explain the finer points of the language.  If it’s vocabulary (woordenschat, literally ‘word treasure/riches’) you’re after, Taalklas (language class) is an online series that helps you learn Dutch vocab through videos and exercises.  They also have YouTube videos.  You can also stock up on lexicon using this free online dictionary.  If you prefer classes, some language schools offer Dutch classes.  Lastly, why not look for a language partner, perhaps through the ‘Nederlanders in BristolFacebook page?

Veel plezier! Have fun!

Written by Suzannah Young