Autumn colours of Shinjuku

Picture Postcards from Tokyo

Being part of a company working with languages every day really helps stoke the desire to travel. I have just returned from another trip to Tokyo, my third time in as many years. If you have followed some of my previous articles you may be forgiven for thinking I am developing something of an affinity for the place. It’s true, I think if I could, I would relocate there in heartbeat. Read more

All I want for Christmas

It’s the 25th of November today and in exactly 1 month, it will be Christmas! I can’t believe that this year went so quick… You get caught up in your daily routine and often birthdays, weddings or celebrations come quicker than you first thought. I realise that I have 30 days to buy the presents for my family, to be honest with you guys, I’m stressing out!! Because we live in a society of consumption, people already have what they want and it’s become harder each year to find original and unique gifts to offer. I regret these times when putting an orange underneath the Christmas tree used to make kids happy! Now they are all about PlayStation, Apple devices, designer clothes or fancy bags. (Same with adults really)

So today, I took my mission very seriously and surfed the web for a couple of hours looking for some unusual ideas. Because if you are an avid reader of this blog, you must be interested in travels and languages, I found the top 10 Christmas gifts especially for you guys.

1. A Language course

Very useful if you plan of moving to another country next year.

2. Lonely Planet ‘s “Best in Travel 2011”

Best guide ever, I remember I bought one when I went to Australia.

3. Lessons in foreign cooking

Be the next Chinese/French or Italian Chef 🙂

4. A Trailfinders gift card

Helping you out with the cost of your flight or hotel.

5. A pocket translator

Always handy to translate some easy sentences like a menu, directions or features.

6. Downloadable language learning tools for your iPod

For all of you guys sleeping, eating and breathing Apple!

7. A Travel journal

Record your amazing adventures and experiences.

8. A Charity donation in your name

It’s good to do something for others.

9. A Dictionary/book of verb tables

Not very exciting but indispensable to your survival abroad.

10. A TEFL course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

Become a teacher and hopefully get a visa downunder.

Which one are you going to ask to Santa Claus? And why?

11 Foreign Phrases to Stop Using Right Now

Some English speakers love peppering their speech with foreign phrases. We think it sounds sophisticated. But here are 11 foreign words and phrases that don’t go over quite as well in their home languages. Let’s all agree to stop using them now.

Phrases to Avoid in French

Bon Appétit! 

According to the Daily Mail, [you can’t really trust this poor excuse for a paper] language learning app Babbel has identified this innocuous-sounding phrase as one of the most common gaffes made by Brits abroad: “It literally invites diners to ‘a good digestion’, suggesting that they are so hungry that they are willing to jump at any food offered.”

There is, however, some controversy about this. A 2007 New York Times article, for example, quotes a French etiquette teacher who says,  “In France, ‘Bon appétit’ is not proper.” But an article in the Guardian a year later found that most Parisian locals had no problem with “Bon Appetit.” Ironically, the few people who did think it rude were English speakers.

So, perhaps the key here is to know your audience. [Our in house French natives say there’s nothing with it]

Garçon for Waiter 

Did you know garçon actually means boy? You might think you sound suave when you address your French waiter this way. But really, you sound like a jerk. Don’t be a jerk. Use “monsieur” instead.


If you’re visiting France, don’t expect the French to express dismay by exclaiming “Sacrebleu!” Unless, of course, you have a Tardis and you’ve time-traveled back to the 19th century.  And if you use it, expect to get some odd looks at best.


Watch out for this one if you’re American.  While we tend to use it as a fancy word for “main dish” or “main course”, in France it means an appetizer.

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Yeah, yeah, it’s the French-language chorus of a famous sexy pop song. But it’s not likely to win you any friends in France, and it almost certainly won’t win you any bedmates.  It might win you a slap across the face, though . . .   Read more