Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

Learn a new language !

10 2009

Languages being a big subject of interest for U&L, I will try, every now and then, to convince my readers to learn a new one. This is definitely not going to be an easy task  as I can hear many of you objecting :

1- I’m never going to make it !

2- It’s way too difficult !

3- I will sound silly and people will make fun of me.

4- I am not even good at my own language, how could I learn a new one ?

But these are all wrong reasons. And this is what I would reply to each point :

1- You’ll never know if you don’t give it a try.

2- No it’s not. You can learn at your own pace. If you really have the will to learn, you’ll manage. It’s all a question of motivation.

3- This is a source of progress : chances are, if you look silly once, you won’t ever make the same mistake again !

4- Being good at grammar in your own language could certainly help but who knows, you might find that the grammar of another language is more suited to your way of thinking ?

And here are some of the many advantages of learning a new language :

– it opens your mind, you can form new thoughts, create new associations.

– travelling abroad will feel completely different if you know the language of your country of destination. You will be able to integrate, understand what is going on, share views with natives and realise that a lot of things you took for granted at home are different. Instead of complaining about things being different, you will try to adapt and therefore become much more flexible.

– Multilinguistic jokes are great fun, especially words meaning one thing in your native language and a completely different one in the language you are learning. Here is an example :

“ku” in Norwegian means “cow” but “cul” pronounced exactly the same way means “ass” in French.

“pute” means “pillow” in Norwegian, while it means “prostitute” in French.

The more languages you learn, the more cross-cultural jokes you’ll master. OK, I’ll grant you that you may at times look weird, grinning to yourselft at a cross-language word association you’ve made; My advice : don’t even try to explain why you are smiling, you’ll confuse people who will start wondering about your sanity.

–  I hope you are convinced to learn a new language by now, if not, I’ll try a more dramatic approach : it can save your life !

Do you have examples of words meaning one thing in a language and something else in another ? Please leave a comment and share !


  1. LonnaB on the 10th of November 2009 @ 20:49

    Will it count if I simply brush up on my French? Great post, Armelle.

  2. Armelle Europe on the 10th of November 2009 @ 21:04

    LonnaB : Of course it will count ! Anything towards trying to open your mind to a new language and culture counts !
    One of my favourite quotations is : “Un grand voyage commence toujours pas un petit pas” or in English “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” :)

  3. Jeff West on the 19th of January 2010 @ 06:11

    I have found some sources that are really great learning tools.
    1) The Pimsleur Language Company — I have found that their conversational and gradual development make an incredibly good way to build a strong start in any language. I have tested the Brazilian Portuguese and Swedish.
    2) Google has a free translator that can help.
    3) You can get news links from the country that you want to learn about and try to read or work through a document daily.
    4) You can also listen to on-line radio from the country you’re interested in.

  4. Armelle Europe on the 19th of January 2010 @ 18:24

    Jeff : Thank you for sharing your language learning tips !

    1) I have never tried the Pimsleur method but a friend of mine has used it for French and said it was very well structured. But I seem to remember that it did cost quite a bit too.

    Someone has also mentioned the Lingq online site as being great but I haven’t had the time to check it yet.

    I have been using the Hugo “… in 3 months” collection quite a lot (the packages consisted of a book and 4 tapes) and found it to be a solid start in the languages I’ve tried.

    2) Google Translate is a tool I use a lot, really great for the most common languages but limited for others : I tried to use if for Ukrainian when I was looking for Ukrainian ukulele players but it only translated a word in 10, so not so much help there. And, as any machine translation software, it does mistranslate quite a bit too, sometimes giving rather funny results.

    3)That’s a good idea, very useful to build up your vocabulary in a language. I use that a lot.

    4)Online radio is great as is online TV !

  5. 3 Questions Interview: Armelle Europe (Uke & Langauge) | Play Ukulele By Ear on the 24th of June 2014 @ 20:26

    […] guitar which makes it easier to hear what is being said. (More about language learning here : ) With the uke it is more or less the same but you have to add an extra dimension : transferring […]

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A place for language lovers where I’m trying to demonstrate how fun it is to learn other languages and how much of a culture you understand through its language.
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