September 27, 2017

Interview with Polish & English Singer Katy Carr

Even though you only lived in Poland for the first few years of your life, this experience has obviously had a great impact on you. Do you think of yourself as Polish?

🙂 I am very proud to have Polish blood and so pleased that my Polish heritage has become a huge inspiration for my music and creativity. Poland and Polish people worldwide are my inspiration and I never want to be separated from them for such a long period ever again. I loved writing my albums Paszport and Polonia and I look forward to more Polish inspired musical projects.



In what ways, do you think this dual identity has enriched you? Are there any disadvantages?

🙂 I love being British and Polish and I see only happiness from being enriched by two nations. I have two sets of heritage to draw upon for my musical creativity and this only adds not only to the richness of my own life experience but also to my audiences. Sharing the wealth of knowledge and the friendship between Great Britain and Poland is my huge passion. I look forward to meeting many more people through my music in the forthcoming years.


You sing in both languages, but do you use Polish in your everyday life? Is it difficult to maintain it?

🙂 I love speaking in the Polish language. It is a beautiful yet very difficult language to master with 7 cases and many declensions. I still have a lot to learn! I speak to the Polish Veterans of WWII and the Siberian Survivors in Polish but also to the younger Polish generations who have either just arrived in the UK or who are making their lives here. I am fascinated by how strong and resilient the Polish community is and this only adds to my fascination and love of the Polish language and her history.
Listen to my song Wojtek for the two languages in harmony together 🙂 Official music video for Wojtek (the Soldier Bear) by Katy Carr – YouTube


Where did the idea of singing in Polish come from? Does it help you reconnect with your heritage?
🙂 I started my rediscovery of Poland through writing a song called Kommander’s Car about the infamous escape of Kazik Piechowski, Polish boy scout from Auschwitz on June 20th 1942. When I wrote my song, I was desperate to make links with my Polish heritage but it was very difficult to make a connection. It is only through my music that I came to gain access to the Polish People and Poland that I know today. I owe everything to my music and songs that helped me carve a route to discover and share the rich and diverse history of Poland which is a wonderful and glorious nation.
Listen to Kommander’s Car: 
20th June 1942 – 20th June 2017 marks Kazik’s 75th Anniversary of his escape.


You tour both in the UK and in Poland. Do you notice a difference between the audiences? Do you have a preference? 😉
🙂 I love performing to all audiences worldwide. Recently I have visited the countries that gave refuge to the exiled Polish community after WWII. Poland was the only Allied nation to fall behind the Iron Curtain. Poles in these circumstances were not given access to Poland and were known as ‘Aliens’ – exempt from ever entering Poland again – mainly because Poland had been given over to Totalitarian Communist Rule after the Yalta Conference meeting of Hitler, Stalin and Churchill in February 1945- known as the Western Betrayal of Poland. The outcomes of the conference were kept secret but it meant many hundreds of thousands of Allied Polish military troops were left without homes after WWII. I named my recent album after the brave people of Polonia – the Latin name for Poland and dedicated it to friendship between Polish pianist and composer (later President of Poland 1919) Ignacy Paderewski and Sir Edward Elgar – the English composer who wrote a Symphonic Prelude called ‘Polonia’ dedicated to raising money for the Poles who were without a country in 1915. (Poland was erased off the map of Europe between 1795 and 1918).


We are very impressed with your knowledge of Polish history! Would you say that being away from your country of origin has actually made you more patriotic and interested in the nation’s past?
🙂 History does matter as learning about it can hopefully help future generations learn from the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately history does repeat itself and we as human beings on this little water planet continue to engage in wars and gross cruelty and suffering today which in my opinion is completely unacceptable especially during the 21st Century, which is supposed to be the age of Light. I weep at the idea that children and families are starving from hunger everyday or who are enslaved in cruelty across the planet. I would say that learning about Poland’s past has encouraged me to make connections with other communities and nations to help people worldwide raise their confidence and realise their dreams. My dream is to make people happy through my music and I hope I continue to do so for many years to come.
Interviewed by Alicja Zajdel & Bristol Language School


September 20, 2017

Easy Ways to Improve Your Reading Skills in a Foreign Language

Reading is a key skill to develop when you are learning a new language.  Reading in another language makes us comfortable with the words and grammar used in that language.  Seeing words written down helps us remember them.  You can improve your reading and understanding skills – and your writing and speaking skills if you emulate what you read – by reading regularly in your new language.  There are also ways to make your reading more effective.  We will explore a few of these in this blog post.

Quality or Quantity?

If you read for pleasure and you read often, this is known as ‘extensive reading’. You read a lot and want to enjoy the story.  Usually people read for pleasure in their mother tongue, and this reading is radically different from the reading exercises found in foreign language textbooks.  In a textbook, you read short texts, often extracts from a longer text, and you study them in depth to try and understand every word.  This is ‘intensive reading’.  Both extensive and intensive reading are useful and help you address different areas of language learning.  But reading newspapers, novels, magazine articles, recipes – anything you can get your hands on – helps you familiarise yourself with the natural way of writing in that language and will improve your fluency in the language.  This is different from what you get in a textbook.

Don’t panic!

In our mother tongue, we use “micro-skills” to help us read, such as skim reading to get the gist of a passage, scanning through a long document to find specific information, reading quickly if it is for enjoyment or reading every word slowly and carefully when reading an important document.  Studies show that we abandon most of these reading skills we have developed in our mother tongue when reading in a foreign language, and focus on trying to understand every word.  This means that when we come across unknown words, we get frustrated because we don’t understand.

Instead, we should use the same skills we have gained in our first language – and not be afraid of not understanding every word.  There are times when you don’t know a word in a text you are reading in your mother tongue, but you don’t let it spoil your enjoyment of the text as a whole – you just move on.  If it is important to the general understanding of the text, you might look it up, or you might try to work out the meaning from the context.  These same skills can be used when reading in a new language.  The important skill is reading the text as a whole and not stopping to focus on something difficult unless it is absolutely necessary – because you can only get an understanding of text as a whole when you have read the whole thing!  You will also want to read more and learn more if you enjoy reading as an activity – otherwise you won’t want to do it.  Not understanding a word now does not mean you will never understand it, so just accept that you do not know it now and move on.

Working it out

There are ways to work out the meaning of a word you are stuck on, or you can look it up later.  Here are a few different ways of dealing with a word you don’t know:

  • See if the word looks in any way familiar. It may be a cognate with a word in your language and so you can work out the meaning.
  • Read the sentence several times. Using the context of the sentence and the wider context of the story, try to guess the meaning of the word.
  • Make a note of the word and check its meaning later.
  • Sometimes, you might find a verb that you recognise but not know the meaning of the specific conjugation (e.g. hablar, hablarán, hablase in Spanish). If you can still understand the gist of the sentence, it is ok to carry on reading and look the conjugation up later.
  • Sometimes, there will be words that keep coming up. If they are essential to your understanding then it is ok to look them up, but if you do this very frequently it will interrupt the flow of your reading.


 Stick to what you know

If you are learning to read in another language, it can be helpful to read things that you are already familiar with in your own language.  You can read children’s books or novels you have read before and know the story of.  If you are interested in reading news articles, there are some websites that have the same article in several language versions (such as Café Babel) – so you can read your native language version first and then read the same thing in your new language.  This means you can work out things you don’t immediately recognise in the new language because you already know what the article is about.  This will help you develop your understanding and improve your vocabulary.


There are many websites that list newspapers in other languages, specially selected for learners of that language.  You can find these by searching.  You can also find some foreign language newspapers in your local library.  Finding novels and short stories online might be more difficult, but you can borrow these from most libraries or buy them from bookshops or online booksellers.

Happy reading! Bonne lecture! Buona lettura! Veel leesplezier! Qué disfrutéis de la lectura! Miłej lektury! Wir wünschen Ihnen eine gute Lektüre!

Written by Suzannah Young

September 13, 2017

Book review: A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker

“Children are born to become bilinguals and multilinguals.” Colin Baker

This is a bible for any parent, teacher or professional dealing with bilingualism. The book is organised in a question-answer style and also contains some recommendations on further reading. There is no straightforward answer to some of the questions posed; however, the author explains his reasoning and carefully provides advice on the unanswerable questions. Personally, I like the fact that the children’s interests are always put first in this book, and this approach to bilingualism is more relaxed, less strict and gives some room for your child’s own language needs. The guide is divided into 7 sections: Family Questions, Language Development Questions, Questions about Problems, Reading and Writing Questions, Education Questions, Concluding Questions and Glossary. I wouldn’t want to provide any answers here, as I think everybody will look into different topics or queries within the book, but below you will find some examples of the most important questions (in my humble opinion!):

What are the advantages of my child becoming bilingual?

What is the ‘one person – one language’ (OPOL) approach? Is it effective?

How important is it that the child’s two languages are practised and supported outside the home?

What are the most important factors in raising a bilingual child?

Will my child become equally fluent in two languages?

What are the disadvantages of my child becoming bilingual?

My child refuses to use one of his/her languages. What should I do?

How should I help my child to read and write in both languages?

Should my child go to a bilingual school?

What should I look out for in choosing a school for my bilingual child?

Is bilingualism a natural right for any individual?

Overall, I highly recommend A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker. If you’re a bilingual parent, what books or guides would you recommend? Please share your recommendations in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

September 6, 2017

Learning a Language: Learn German with BLS online & FREE!

As you remember, we introduced a new series of blog posts (see Spanish & French) where we teach you some useful phrases in different languages. Sounds amazing? And it’s GERMAN today!

Are you planning your ski holiday in Switzerland or Austria? Do you travel frequently to Berlin? Do you dream of exploring German-speaking Namibia in Africa? If so, we would like you to taste & learn some essential German first. Below you’ll find a list of useful phrases in German (greetings, polite phrases, closed question words, numerals and simple questions & sentences). We also video recorded Victoria, our German tutor, to help you with reading, pronunciation and accent (also available on YouTube). We hope you enjoy this series and that you’ll come and learn German with us! Good luck!

Which language would like you like to learn next? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla