March 29, 2017

Interview with Babel Babies

1. What is Babel Babies, who created it and where are you based?

Babel Babies provides multilingual, multisensory music sessions suitable from birth. We explore songs and stories from around the world with our multilingual mascot, Croc Monsieur. We believe it is never too early or too late for parents and children to learn languages together.

Babel Babies started in Cheltenham nearly six years ago when two sleep-deprived mamans, Cate and Ruth said to each other, “Know Twinkle Twinkle in any other languages? I’m so bored of singing it in English!”. As qualified teachers and linguists, they began to introduce new songs and stories in different languages to their children and the idea for Babel Babies was born. In 2012, a mutual friend introduced them to Dominique, fellow linguist and mum, who was based in nearby Bristol. Together, they set up Babel Babies as a limited company and set off on their language revolution. Our sessions currently run in Bristol, Cheltenham and Manchester, but we are looking to expand to new locations in the near future. The world is our oyster!

Babel Babies Singing mums for web

2. What languages do you use in your baby sessions? When is it best for the little ones to start attending the classes? When do children start reacting and singing in foreign languages?

Our sessions are multilingual and we hope to ignite a passion for learning new languages with parents and children alike. We cover French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Arabic and Japanese, but that’s by no means an exclusive list. We are always striving to expand our repertoire and include new songs in different languages. We believe that teaching children about other languages and cultures really broadens their horizons and gives them an understanding of the world around them. They have the capacity to learn several languages simultaneously (the majority of children in the world speak two or three languages!) so why not make the most of their incredible abilities?

Babel Babies is suitable from birth. Language learning begins even before birth, and babies recognise their mother tongue when they are born. They are able to hear any sound in any language for most of their first year, and start to tune into the language they hear most after about ten months. If you expose babies to foreign languages and sounds in their first year, they will have a lifelong positive relationship with learning languages as well as a permanent neural map of the languages they were exposed to.

The children react right from the start of Babel Babies. We have had tiny babies, only a few weeks old, stop screaming when they hear a certain song on the CD and older children sing along to “Old MacDonald” in Italian before they know it in English. If you join us at Babel Babies, who knows what your child’s first word may be? It could be hello or thank you in one of the many languages we cover, or even a Japanese croak from our frog song!

3. How do you choose songs in foreign languages? Do you consult native speakers regarding your choices? Do you follow specific websites or watch YouTube videos?

We cover a range of languages between us at Babel Babies and have a great variety of songs as a result. Some are well-known English songs that we have translated, some are traditional songs that our network of friends and family from different countries have taught us, and some we have created ourselves. All of our songs are proof-checked and approved by native speakers and translators and we learn from our own database of recordings and reference materials.

4. Do you speak any foreign languages? How do you to learn to sing in different languages?

Bien sûr! All of our Babel Babies teachers are linguists and it would be a very hard job to do if you didn’t speak any other languages. I studied French, German and Italian at A-Level and went on to study French and Italian at Exeter University. Whilst I was working for a translation agency I was also required to learn Arabic, which I really enjoyed. I have lived in Italy and Switzerland and would love to live abroad again at some point in my life. I am passionate about languages and am always trying to improve and learn new ones. I am lucky enough to have friends and family all over the world and love squeezing in trips to visit them and practice my languages whenever I can.

You don’t have to be a linguist to come along to Babel Babies. We love to encourage complete beginners to come along and try our sessions. The wonderful thing about Babel Babies is that the adults can learn alongside the children. Through music and repetition, the songs very quickly become familiar and it’s wonderful when parents and children can sing languages together.

Babel Babies Peepo for web

5. What are the most challenging and the most rewarding elements to running classes with babies and toddlers?

The children are wonderfully unpredictable at Babel Babies, that’s half of the fun of it all. Being greeted by a room full of eager little faces saying “Ciao” can be one of the most wonderful feelings. From a baby smiling and giggling as you sing, to a toddler repeating the words you teach, I definitely think I have one of the best jobs in the world.

6. What are your future plans? Do you have any projects you would like to work on?

Babel Babies is set to expand this year. We want to share our little language revolution and have Babel Babies sessions running across the country. We want everyone to “Sing languages together, learn languages together and love languages together!”

If you would like to find out more about Babel Babies, or join us for a session in your area, please visit for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Great, thank you, we will follow your language revolution eagerly!

March 22, 2017

Travelling Corner: How to have a PERFECT weekend away

I recently travelled to Brecon Beacons in Wales for the weekend, as I wanted to slow down, think through certain aspects of my life and re-charge my batteries. Do you sometimes feel that you need to change your surroundings and just go away for a couple of days? I have the same feeling, especially if I work super hard and my enthusiasm is exchanged for tiredness. Then I need a perfect weekend away. But how should I plan it and where should I spend it? Let me share with you some of my secrets…

perfect weekend away

LOCATION It’s good to choose a location that’s beautiful, not too far away (up to a 2-hour drive away) and is not too commercial

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HOUSE Rent a cosy, nicely decorated, but not too big, house or cottage, maybe with a fireplace. Take some candles with you, they will make every evening magical

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GET READY Finish off all important work commitments before heading away, unurgent duties signpost for completion upon your return

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INTERNET DETOX Yes, unplug from all social media and don’t check emails every two seconds, live the real life for a couple of days. If you need to send an email or post something, do it and then unplug. Trust me, it is so liberating.

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ACTIVE If you lead an active lifestyle, be active, go jogging, hiking, swimming, surfing… whatever relaxes you and makes you happy

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READ Take a paper, books and magazines, your favourite unfinished novel or that magazine you’ve mean wanting to read for a while

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COOK Plan your meals and make them special, devote more time to cooking & eating, have your partner, friends and children involved in preparations and enjoy this time together. Don’t rush through your meal times, let the dinner last for a couple of hours while you chat about summer holiday plans or a newly published novel by your favourite author

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BED TIME Try to go to bed a little bit early and wake up early to prepare a delicious breakfast or to have an early morning walk

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How do you plan your perfect weekend away? Do you have any tips? Please share in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

March 15, 2017

Book Review: My Reading Companions to Prague

Prague is a fascinating city. It’s beautiful and magic, but full of paradoxes. Reading about Prague is like discovering some secret spot that was once internationally recognised for its intellect, mystery, architecture and culture. Let me take you on this reading journey to discover Prague once again.

book review-Reading Companions to Prague 1Pocket Rough Guide. Prague.

I’m in love with these pocket guides. They’re super practical (size-wise too!), yet with many photographs, maps and useful details. You can follow their ‘Best of…’ sections or read district by district. The best part is that you have cafe and restaurant recommendations linked with a particular part of the city. I must say it’s very useful!

Magic Prague by Angelo Maria Ripellino

A classic. One of the most important books on Prague was written by Angelo Maria Ripellino, an Italian Slavist. It’s not an easy read, but it’s truly fascinating to uncover the mystery of Prague with Ripellino. The author has an amazing knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of the city, without forgetting its legends and mystery. After all, it is Magic Prague.

Prague Pictures. Portraits of a City. by John Benville

Prague Pictures by John Benville is a selection of 6 essays capturing the magic of the city: from recent years and the Cold War period to historical and scientific times (I only need mention two astronomers: Kepler and Brahe who worked together in Prague). It’s a fascinating read, as Benville presents his selective pictures of “this mysterious, jumbled, fantastical, absurd city on the Vltava.” (p. 9)

Prague. A Traveller’s Literary Companion. Ed. by Paul Wilson

“A city is like a person: if we don’t establish a genuine relationship with it, it remains a name, an external form that soon fades from our minds. To create this relationship, we must be able to observe the city and understand its peculiar personality, its ‘self,’ its spirit, its identity, the circumstances of its life as they evolved through space and time.” (Ivan Klíma, “The Spirit of Prague”, p. 212)

What are your favourite reading companions to Prague? Please let me know in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

March 8, 2017

Career Advice: Am I a Potential Translator?

If you speak foreign languages (or if you are studying foreign languages), you might consider a career in translation.  This blog post outlines what it takes to become a translator and helps you decide whether this type of career is suited to your skills and personality.  It gives you tips on how to train to be a translator and how to start out as a freelance or in-house translator.

career advice-am i translation for me

What is translation?

Translation is the process of converting a text in one language to a text with the same meaning in another language.  As a translator you may translate short texts such as articles or leaflets or longer texts like reports, instruction manuals or novels.  Translators usually specialise in one (or more) area(s) of translation, such as literary, legal or technical translation, as they need to have developed knowledge of the field and specialist vocabulary to be able to translate accurately and authentically.

What is a career in translation like?

Working as a translator can require you to meet short deadlines and work with lots of different clients on various different projects.  Many translators work freelance for a number of clients.  To be a successful freelance translator you will have to promote yourself as well, perhaps through social media or a website.  You might need an accountant to help you manage your finances and complete your tax return.  Freelance translators either charge by the word or by the hour.  It is good to charge the going rate for your work as charging too high will put clients off and charging too low will expose you to accusations of unfair competition.  You can look on the ProZ website for an idea of average rates.  It is also possible to be an in-house translator for a company or work for a translation agency who take on translation tasks for other businesses or organisations.  Even as a freelance translator you may have face-to-face contact with your clients so it is important to have good people skills as well as good writing skills!  You can read more about working as a translator on the National Careers Service website.  There are tips on becoming a freelance translator on the ITI website.

Is a career in translation for me?

To be a successful translator you need to know your native language very well and speak at least one foreign language fluently.  It is good to have had experience of the life and culture in the country (countries) where they speak the language you are translating from (and into) as well.  You will also need to have an eye for detail and accuracy but also flair and creativity, as you will be crafting texts that are not only accurate but also readable and enjoyable.  You will need to be able to work under pressure sometimes and keep to deadlines.  You will need to be organised so as to keep track of your projects and clients.  Translation can be a solitary career, so bear this in mind – but it doesn’t have to be: instead of (or as well as) being a freelance translator, you can work in an office with other translators.  Even if you are self-employed there are forums you can join, such as the ones offered by ProZ or translatorscafé and it is likely that you will collaborate online on translation projects with other translators.  It is important to be confident with computers as not only will you be using them to write your translations and communicate with your clients, translators increasingly make use of Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools like Trados or Smartling that facilitate and speed up the task of translating.  For example, CAT tools can store your past translations so you can insert the same translation of the same phrase, keep terminology lists for you and allow you to dictate translation instead of typing it.

To find out whether translation could be for you, try translating every day and see how you feel.  Try to attend a workshop on starting out as a translator where you could speak to qualified translators about their work.  These may be offered by the Institute for Translation and Interpreting (ITI) or perhaps your local university.  If you know any translators, ask them what they like and dislike about their work.

How can I train to be a translator?

Translation courses are usually offered by universities and can be at BA, MA, Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma level.  To work as a translator, you should usually have a degree and will probably need a postgraduate qualification in translation, but you can also develop your skills through practice.  Many universities offer BA courses in translation studies that give you an idea of what the translation profession is like and some practical training, such as this one at Cardiff University or this one at Swansea University.  There are a number of MA translation courses in the South West, such as the MA in Translation at UWE, the MA in Translation at the University of Bristol (and a specific MA in Chinese-English translation), the MA in Translation at Cardiff University, two different MAs at Swansea University, the MA Translation at the University of Exeter or several different MAs at the University of Bath.   If you are not in the South West, you can look here for a comprehensive list of translation courses in the UK.

If you wish to take the Institute of Linguistics Diploma in Translation (DipTrans IoLET), you can train via distance learning with a tutor who communicates with you via email and phone (e.g. at Birmingham or City University London) or with some private teachers.  There is a list of institutions offering training for the DipTrans on the IoLET website.  You can get tips on studying for and passing the exam online, such as this post.  There is usually a cost for doing a translation course, for which you can take out a loan if you wish.  You could see taking the course as an investment.

If you wish to specialise in a certain type of translation (e.g. technical translation, legal translation, medical translation), it can be helpful to have a qualification in that field as well, or working experience in the field.

How do I find work in translation?

You can apply to work for a translation agency or advertise yourself as a freelance translator to potential clients by contacting them directly or through social media.  You could attend translation industry events to network with other translators.  You could also attend non-translation industry events to introduce yourself as a translator to prospective clients.  If you have had other jobs in the past, your former employers may be interested in giving you translation work.  You can also volunteer to gain experience and make a name for yourself.  Many NGOs are looking for volunteer translators.  There are also specific volunteer translation platforms, such as Translators without Borders and Trommons.  More tips are available on these blogs.

Do I need to join a professional association?

In the UK, there are two main bodies translators can become members of, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL).  Qualified membership of these bodies (MITI and MCIL) is seen as proof of a certain level of professionalism.  This is because members commit to maintaining their skills through continuous professional development (CPD) and reviews by their peers.  It is not compulsory to be a member to practise as a translator, though.  There is an assessment fee and an annual fee for membership of these bodies.  There are also other categories of membership which do not require the same level of CPD commitment but give you access to a community of translators, materials and events.  You can find a lot of tips and testimonials on the journey to becoming a qualified member of these two organisations online, such as “My journey to becoming a Qualified Member of the ITI”, “Joining the ITI as a Qualified Member (MITI) – how was it for me?”, “6 Top Tips for Translators to Achieve Chartered Linguist (Translator) Status”, “Becoming a Qualified Member of the ITI” and so on.  To help you decide which exam to take, you can read blogs by translators who have already done it, such as this one or this one.

Good luck!

We hope this has helped you make up your mind as to whether translation could be a career for you.  Good luck!

Written by Suzannah Young

March 1, 2017

Career Advice: Am I a Potential Language Teacher?

If you love languages or have enjoyed learning a foreign language, you might want to share that enthusiasm and enjoyment with others by training to be a language teacher. You can teach languages at a variety of levels.  You can teach primary or secondary school children, university students or business employees. You can also teach adults who want to learn for fun.  Learning languages broadens learners’ horizons, fosters their tolerance and improves their communication skills.  Language skills also stand learners in good stead when they are applying for higher education or jobs. Globalisation has made learning languages more useful today than it has ever been.  You can help people be a part of that through teaching languages.

career advice is langugae teaching for me

What is teaching languages like as a career?

Language teachers help students learn to converse, read, write and even study in a new language. As well as teaching students about the structure of language (grammar, vocabulary), language teachers may teach students about culture and society in the countries where the language(s) they teach are spoken. They may teach whole courses in a different language. They will use a variety of (often self-produced) teaching resources, various teaching methods and may teach small or large groups.  Language teachers often set up or supervise foreign language clubs and other language-related extra-curricular activities such as trips abroad. They may also have to do admin work.

Teaching methods include group work, discussions, audio-visual materials, role-play and games. Teachers enable students to use language in real-life situations like using public transport, eating at a restaurant, making friends and giving their opinion on a topic. Teachers need to help students get the balance right between ‘fluency’ (the ability to make yourself understood, perhaps with some mistakes) and ‘accuracy’ (using correct grammar, expressions or vocabulary). The most popular languages taught in UK schools are Welsh (in Wales), French, German and Spanish, but others are taught too, depending on the school. These include Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Italian, Mandarin, Panjabi, Russian and Urdu.

Depending on which type of educational establishment you work in, as a language teacher you could have a full-time job with contact hours throughout the day or you could teach during the evening.  You would mainly find evening work if you teach at an adult-learning centre or private language school.  Language teachers earn relatively competitive salaries.  Teachers in UK state schools are paid according to their qualifications, experience and responsibilities.  Some teachers supplement their income by teaching privately, marking exams or writing textbooks. They can be employed by a school or work freelance for different schools or businesses.

Outside contact time (teaching in lessons), teachers have lesson preparation time, time for marking pupils’ and students’ work and time for assessing and evaluating their performance through designing tests and writing reports on their progress.  This includes meeting pupils’ parents at parents evenings.

Is teaching languages a career for me?

Teaching languages can be a demanding job but it can also be rewarding.  It is good for people who like personal interaction in their careers.  It can also be flexible, depending on the type of teaching establishment.  You may get the opportunity to teach in other countries.  You could even teach languages online, such as here.

School teachers in the UK teach every weekday for 39 weeks of the year.  Because of the amount of marking required, secondary school teaching has quite long hours and marking can take up some of teachers’ holiday time or evenings and weekends.  Language teachers who work in private schools or at a language agency have variable hours and can decide their own schedule.  Depending on whether they work in a school or privately, teachers may teach in classrooms, in their homes or in cafes or community centres.

While language teachers must have language and teaching skills and certification to prove that, they may also need certain personality traits.  Patience, creativity and ICT skills help produce a productive learning environment for language learners.  Enthusiasm, energy and confidence can make lessons interesting for learners.  Organisational and communication skills can make the job easier.  Of course, it is also good to enjoy sharing knowledge and have an interest in language and culture in general as well as in the specific language you are teaching.

At work, you will be required to conform to school regulations and performance objectives, as well as national curriculum and examination requirements.  You may have to deal with challenging behaviour from students.  As a general rule, you need the authority to direct a group of people.  Teaching adults can be demanding but teaching children is generally more stressful.  You will need to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if you will be working with children or vulnerable adults.  You may also need to keep track of your finances if you are a freelance teacher.

How do I train to be a language teacher?

If you want to teach languages, you are usually required either to be a native speaker of the language you want to teach or to have a degree in it.  This is because you need to be competent in the language as well as having teaching skills.  You can also prepare to be a language teacher by spending time in countries that speak the language you wish to teach. You could do this by working, volunteering, studying or traveling in a country.  Doing teacher training on the job or working with groups of people can help develop your teaching skills.  Some employment and skills fairs have information about training to teach.

In the UK, if you want to teach languages in state schools, you usually have to gain Qualified Teacher Status through initial teacher training.  There are a few ways to do this.  One way is to do a degree and then do a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). Courses are usually one-year full-time and two years part-time.  You could get a bursary or scholarship to do this.  After their PGCE, newly qualified teachers must complete three terms of teaching, usually within one school year.  Some PGCE courses are available as flexible learning.  For example, you could do distance learning with some teaching practice and campus study.  The other way of qualifying is to train in a school after your degree instead of doing a PGCE.  These employment-based routes, where you earn a salary, include School Direct, school-centred initial teacher training and Teach First.

If you don’t have a language degree, or need to refresh your knowledge, you could complete a subject knowledge enhancement course before you start your teacher training.  Once you have started teaching, you will also do continuous professional development training throughout your career.

How do I get a job as a language teacher?

Private language agencies and schools are the biggest employers of language teachers.  You can check local schools listings and contact them directly to see if they have any vacancies.  State school vacancies are also advertised by local authorities and in the local and national press, including The Guardian and The Times Educational Supplement.  They are also available online, such as on and other job sites. There are also job boards, such as eTeach.

Where can I find out more?

More information on becoming a language teacher is available from the DfE Get into Teaching website, the Association for Language Learning, UCAS Teacher Training, Careers Wales, My Job Search and PlanIt Plus.  This blog follows a graduate who decided to retrain as a language teacher and talks about the experience of being a language teacher.  It may help you decide whether you should do the same.

Good luck!

Written by Suzannah Young