Colombian referendum. The people say “no” to peace

Colombian referendum

So last week I went to a talk at Canning House on the, then, upcoming Colombian peace referendum. For those of you living in London, and looking to immerse yourself in Spanish-Latino culture, I implore you to get involved! Situated on Belgrave Square, it is the cultural, political and social hub of all things Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese. It holds informed debates, contacts and comments on Latin American politics, economy and business. It’s super easy to get involved!

A quick recap for readers unfamiliar with Colombian current events: the referendum followed the historic breakthrough of the peace accord signed between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government after more than 60 years of violence. On Sunday the people of Colombia were asked to vote whether or not to support the peace deal – ¿Apoya usted el Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del conflicto y la Constitucción de una Paz Estable y Duradera? Many were surprised when the final vote came to 50.2% No, and 49.8% Yes, thus resulting in a narrow rejection of the peace deal.

Who in their right mind would vote “no” to peace you might think?

However, the Colombian people voting “no”, were in disagreement with the agreements and deals made within the peace accord, rather than to peace itself. Leading the discussion were a couple of heavy hitters; Juan David Gutierrez, former advisor to the Colombian Minister of Justice, and Vanessa Buschschluter (have a go at pronouncing that one!), Latin American and Caribbean Editor for BBC News Online. Gutierrez and Buschschluter implied that the referendum would most likely end in an acceptance of the FARC peace deal. However, it was made clear that reconciliation and forgiveness of FARC rebels, a main aspect of the agreement, would not be accepted by many Colombians. If the deal went ahead many FARC guerrillas, guilty of war crimes, would escape jail and be given demobilisation and rehabilitation support. The government would pay them a monthly stipend in return for all FARC guerrillas laying down their weapons for good. It is therefore perhaps not too surprising why the majority voted “no” to these agreements. For many, letting these rebels ‘get away’ with murder with little consequences, and financial help to start over, was one step too far.

Yet, it is still a pity that four years of discussions and peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government can, now, no longer be implemented. With no action plan in place for if this peace deal resulted in the rejection that it did, who knows what the future will be for Colombia.

If you want a bit more info check out this great discussion en español:

There are a couple of great events coming up, the highlight of which will be the talk on the American elections and their affect on Latin America, so stay tuned!

Can you really learn Spanish from Narcos?


So, if you haven’t been living under a rock the past few days you will have heard that the second season depicting the life and times of the most prolific drug lord of all time, Pablo Escobar, has just hit Netflix and it is an absolute cracker! I am talking, of course, about Narcos.

However, I am not here to give you a step by step review of the series as I don’t want to bore you. Highlight for me though; Señor Escobar casually burning $2 million to keep his daughter warm. If that isn’t the picture of a upstanding family man I don’t know what is. I am however going to assess whether I actually learned any Spanish from my 10 hour Netflix binge.

Firstly, I think we should give some much deserved credit to Wagna Moura who plays Pablo Escobar. The Brazilian actor did not even know how to speak Spanish before taking this role. Spending 6 months in Medellin learning to speak just for this role! Just shows, with the right motivation you can do it.

It is safe to say that I have mainly learned various bad words from the Medellin Cartel and spent the majority of my Sunday walking around saying “Malparido hijo de puta – a Pablo Escobar se le respecta” – now, despite making me feel like a badass, has watching and listening to this made me improve my Spanish? I would argue that yes it has. How can watching 10 hours of television that is mainly in Spanish not help you learn. I don’t care that it may not be the most PC of programs and that you may not be learning the textbook Spanish that you get from the classroom. However, this is genuine, authentic content, you are listening to natives speaking in their native tongue and they aren’t pretending to “order a coffee at a bar” or “ask their friends about homework”, as riveting as that may be.

Only by listening to natives speaking the language you are learning are you going to pick anything up. The accent, the mannerisms and the culture – why are you learning a language otherwise?

So, if you want a little motivation to get that Spanish homework done or you feel like you haven’t spoken or listened to Spanish in a while, give Narcos a try. You may be surprised by how much you pick up. Just make sure you don’t go around saying “malparido” no matter how much fun it is to say!

Here is the trailer for the new season:


And here is an interview with Wagna aka El Patron:

Make sure you sign up to Immerse App for more authentic content!

Funk your Spotify up with these French tunes


5 songs to listen to when learning French

French Spotify ImageWith the French popular music chart often saturated with American r&b and dance tracks and many artists in France writing their songs in English, it can be hard to find French language music of real quality, beyond what we might give the blanket term of ‘eurotrash’. However, in recent years the French hip hop scene has grown stronger than ever, and by digging a little deeper you discover there are some great things happening on the continent across all genres. Here are 5 French songs you should add to your Spotify if you are learning French.

Nekfeu – On Verra

French rapper and producer Nekfeu, already a member of successful hip hop groups 1995 and S-Crew, caused a big splash across la Manche with his debut solo album Feu picking up a Victoire (French equivalent of Brit Award) for best urban music album. The chilled-out vibes of On Verra recall Kid Cudi, while the lyrics about youth urban culture will also be familiar to anyone acquainted with US rappers like Mac Miller or Wiz Khalifa.

If you enjoy this check out Ma Dope, another good single from Nekfeu.

Fauve – Blizzard

The mysterious collective of musicians, videographers and graphic designers who call themselves Fauve emerged in 2010 via Youtube. Their unique combination of ambient indie instrumentals and confrontational hard-hitting vocals blur the lines between rap and spoken-word, poetry and conversation. Listen to Blizzard and it is easy to see why Fauve were offered recording contracts by nearly every major label in France (all refused, bien sur).


Fréro Delavega – Le chant des sirènes

Pop duo Fréro Delavega entered the public eye when they reached the quarter finals of France’s version of The Voice under the guidance of celebrity judge Mika. However, obviously unphased by their elimination, they released a chart topping debut album in 2014. Le chant des sirènes is a catchy summery acoustic tune, with a few electronic touches, though admittedly the syrupy vocals may not be for everyone.

Christine and the Queens – Paradis Perdus

Performing songs in a mixture of English and French, Christine and the Queens is the eccentric synth pop alter ego of Héloïse Letissier. The mellow Paradis Perdus cleverly samples the chorus from Kanye West’s Heartless, and if you’re a fan of artists like Sia or Emilíana Torrini this one could be for you.



Maitre Gims – Zombie

It would be an injustice to make a list of current French music and not include Maître Gims. A longtime member of the rap group Sexion Assaut, the rapper and singer has more recently achieved fame throughout Europe with two hit solo albums. He’s a great singer with a distinctively powerful voice and his songs have witty, intricate lyrics. Zombie is a personal favourite, but listen to Bella and J’me tire from his debut album as well.


I left him from this list as he will be familiar to most people learning French, but of course Stromae is also an amazing artist who spans countless genres. Be sure to check out his second album racine carrée.

Where are the foreign restaurants in London?

Peruvian food - Foreign Restaurants

Part of any language learning experience is Immersing yourself in the culture of the country. Food is hugely important in every culture and will help you gain more of an appreciation and understanding of that language you are learning. We realise that not everyone is going to jet off to South America, Spain or France, so here at Immerse we have put together a list of foreign restaurants in London that you HAVE to check out!

Peruvian food - Foreign Restaurants

Ready for a Peruvian taste explosion? Peruvian food is famous throughout South America and having been there and tried the national dish Guinea Pig myself, I can understand why! However, for those less adventurous, do not fear, Ceviche is on offer too. If you want to spice things up and get out of that comfort zone, head down to Mommi Raw Bar and Grill on Clapham High Street. The food will not disappoint and neither will their astonishing array of cocktails. You may be lucky enough to catch one of their secret happy hours – Pisco Sours galore! If you’re looking to really push the boat out, there is a special “Mommi and Movie” offer on…which does exactly what it says on the tin!

Check them out here!

Champs Elysee - French Food - Foreign Restaurants

London being France’s sixth largest city with 300,000 – 400,000 French men and women living here, you might say that is enough French immersion for you, however you can never get enough French cuisine! Have you been to Le Mercury in Islington? Super cheap (for London anyway) and one mouthful will make you feel like you are sitting out on the Avenue des Champs Elysées enjoying that classy Parisian life. The Magret de Canard comes highly recommended.

More info here!

Germany beer and food - foreign restaurants

On we move to Germany.  If you have been craving a Currywurst or Schweineschnitzel lately, we have found just the place for you; Bierschenke, based on Blomfield Street that has an array of classic German dishes that are sure to blow your mind. And what self respecting German restaurant would be complete without a fine selection of beer! Certainly not Bierschenke – get a pint of Bierschenke Weißbier, or if you are feeling particularly crazy go all out and order a stein!

Go on, you know you want to!

Argentinian Gauchos in the mountains - foreign restaurants

Last but not least, Argentina. Why, you ask? Well, because once you have had an Argentinian steak there is no going back. Having spent a year living in Argentina I am forever sceptical about Argentinian restaurants in London living up to their namesake, however Casa Malevo on Connaught Street did just that! Go for the Bife de Chorizo and never look back. Don’t get me started on that red wine!

That steak awaits you!

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more ways to Immerse yourself in language. Next week we talk about foreign film!







Five German rappers to listen to when learning German!


When attempting to master a foreign language, immersing yourself in the culture is the easiest way to both learn and build your fascination with the respective culture. One central part of recent pop culture in Germany is its rap and hip-hop music. There are whole music festivals solely dedicated to rap and hip-hop, such as Splash! Festival and hardly any popular radio station refrains from playing the music of the spoken word. Therefore we figured, giving you a little list of recommended German rap artists would help you further your immersion into German culture. So here we go:


Marten Laciny a.k.a Marteria is the German equivalent to Jared Leto, in that he has had success in almost anything he touched. He played for the German under 17 soccer national team, moved to New York to become a successful model and in the last few years practically revolutionized German rap. While his flow is not rapid by any means, his plays on words and lyrics in general are extraordinary. The vibrant metaphors in his songs that underline the great perspectives on many ideas he has, are well known gems of German popular music. Start off with his song “O.M.G.”, it is an absolute tune, enjoy the ride!

Absolute Beginner

I am almost certain that when you started reading this article you were surprised by the mere idea that there is such a thing as German rap. Let me surprise you even more, by telling you that its history goes back more than 20 years by now. One of the oldest German rap outfits now a juggernaut, is Absolute Beginner. Their 90s flow is, as almost all 90s flows, a bit slower, but the lyrics are more polished than many modern gangster rappers’ texts. Especially Jan Delays nasal tone will be something to remember, as he later in his career turned to singing, and not just anything but soul and funk. The best gateway to this trio is “Füchse” (German for foxes), which they featured Samy Deluxe on, another one of German raps evergreens.


Now let’s get a bit dirtier. Xatar is part of the relatively large Kurdish community in Germany. He spent a few years in prison for armed robbery and was even featured on German national news. He produced his first mix tape from behind bars and it surprisingly exploded on the German rap scene. Today he is one of the hottest new artists, to come up in the last few years. The other members of his “Alles oder nix“ label, most notably SSIO, are equally popular at the moment. Especially interesting is the way he talks about the Kurdish Pershmerga’s fight with ISIS, evoking the memory of Kurds being the sons of Salahuddin, and the opinions he voices about the German prison system. First of Xatar’s songs to listen to is the more light-hearted “Iz da”.


Do you like crossovers? Then you’ll love Casper. His voice sounds like Joe Cocker in a screamo band and his music is somewhere between hip-hop beats and his hardcore background. He regularly works with big names of German rock music, such as the Beatstakes Arnim Teutoburg-Weiß, or Tomtes Thees Uhlmann. If you are more into songs to make your heart heavy and think of your last love lost Casper is the German way to go. Try “So Perfekt”, which, in contrast to many of the other songs, an anthem to the end of something that is the beginning of new endeavours. It’ll remind you of your high school graduation, or the best times of your first relationship.


Nobody actually knows what K.I.Z. stands for. “Kanibalen in Zivil” (civilized canibals) or “Klösterschüler im Zölibat” (celibate cloister school boys) are just two of the acronym’s many translations. Not only their name sparks controversy, but their lyrics do even more. Set to DJ Crafts intense beats, they talk about being serial killers in mental asylums or their idea of a perfect post apocalyptic world. Their last release is more straightforward than their mostly ironic first albums, but incorporates current topics such as the migrant crisis. The rants some of their songs include are nothing short of awesome. Try their last single “Hurra die Welt geht unter” to start with. It features one of the great voices of modern German music, Henning May, and is a song for a Sunday morning on your sunny Berlin balcony. Check it out here and just imagine that Berlin balcony!


Bilingual Boredom and Urban Eavesdropping


Being bilingual is a pretty sweet deal. It is like having two houses when you are a child or having two parents who want to bribe you into liking them more than their counterpart, without the drama of divorce.

I am born and bred in London. The daughter of a Portuguese mother and English father and although it is not the most exciting mix I have ever heard it still garners sufficient attention to put me in the “exotic” brand of Brits. Despite the many benefits of which there are plenty, other aspects of being bilingual in an urban city quickly become boring and habitual. I hope some of the moments I have highlighted below might spark a ‘Hell yeah’ of solidarity from my fellow bilingual buds out there.

The funny thing about being bilingual or half something, half another is that you never quite seem to fit in no matter where you go. In Portugal, I am called undeniably ‘British’: the token ‘British cousin’, the ‘British expert’, the pale Londoner. In England, I am perpetually ‘foreign’ as my uni friends call me. “When did you come here?” has become my friendship group’s favourite joke; a question asked in pure innocence in early days of friendship at university prior to realizing I was born and raised in England. It has since become a ‘thing’.

Another question or conversation starter that I hear a lot is “Where are you from?”. This is fine and completely warranted, apart from the fact that people always seem to ask this when I am simply not in the mood to have conversation with them or when I am trying to be incognito. Apparently something about my face sends the signal “WARNING: not 100% British”.

A craze I have never quite understood is the whole swearing in a foreign language thing. Perhaps that is because I don’t swear much in any language. Either way, you can rest assured that as soon as someone finds out you can speak another language, the follow up will be “can you teach me how to swear in [insert language here]?” NO.

One of the most wonderful things about living in London as a bilingual is the myriad opportunities for connecting with other people. My favourite way to do this? Public transport. Public transport brings together all walks of life, classes, cultures and races in the sweaty, dingy, heavily-polluted air of the underground. I do not believe you can say you are true Londoner until you have stood armpit to face with a middle aged city banker questioning the meaning of life. My favourite thing to do on public transport though is to eavesdrop on the poor, unsuspecting Brazilian or Portuguese souls. Some magnificent snippets of dialogue I have heard recently include, but are not limited to:

Man 1: “She’s pretty hot. Should I get her number?” Man 2: “Maybe you should try to go for some eye contact first bro…Hmm actually she looks quite invested in that book. I’m not sure it is going to work out mate.” True.

Woman 1: “I told him. I told him this would happen but what did he do? He went ahead and did it anyway. NO AWARENESS FOR MY FEELINGS.” Woman 2: “Well you married him. Deal with it.” Damn. Cold as ice.

Woman 1: “That girl’s shoes are gorgeous.” Woman 2: “Which one?” Woman 1: “The one with the dark hair, standing up. The high heels with the bows. Should I ask–” Me: ‘Hi. They are from Pierre Hardy”. Shock. Woman 1: “You’re Portuguese?! I never would have guessed. You don’t look it at all! AT ALL!” Ok…

Girlfriend: “I am so hungover. This is it. I am never going out with you and your English friends again. Those guys are absolutely crazy. English people can really drink.” Boyfriend: “Look, no one forced that vodka on you.” Girlfriend: “Ummm… yes you and that guy Jasper did? Boyfriend: “Omg! Oh yeah. Jasper’s crazy. He’s from that place where they drink a lot you know? Up North?” Girlfriend: “Leeds?” Boyfriend: “No. No. The other one.” Girlfriend: “Man Chester?” Boyfriend: “Yes! That’s it. Man Chester. Crazy place. Crazy people.” I am dying here.

As much as being bilingual can get boring in terms of how people approach you or attempt to compliment you: “Yes, I could tell by your olive colouring that you weren’t fully English”…really? Because I am fairly sure I am just as pale as you are right now, the benefits definitely outweigh the boredom.

Not only do bilinguals have the advantage of understanding a whole other group of people that frequent our streets, but we also have the option of flipping between languages at the drop of a hat. I know this can be extremely jarring for mere mortals, but it can be the most gratifying thing to be able to express yourself in one language, when the other doesn’t quite cut it. With my family I admit I am particularly guilty of this. We frequently flip between English and Portuguese to the confusion of everyone around us. It all begins very innocently: “Queres sair a jantar esta noite?” “Sim, onde estavas a pensar?” “Jamie Oliver’s?” “Ah boa! I love that place. Do you think we need to book?” And so it goes. By the time we come to, we must have been straddling the two languages for a good five to ten minutes. It is just selfish really. Que situação!

This youtube sketch sums this up perfectly! 





Five movies you need to watch if you are learning German

Der_Schuh_des_Manitu - Foreign Movies

So you want to learn German, but are sick of all the grammar lessons and boring text examples? You’ve thought about watching German movies, but have no idea where to start? To give you a little hint as to what movies you should watch, I have prepared a little list of movies that will both help you learn German and understand German culture a bit more. Here we go:

Der Schuh des Manitu (2001)

You may ask: A movie in German will help me learn German, but what is a western comedy supposed to teach me about German culture? This classic comedy about an Apache chief, his Bavarian blood brother and gay twin is the highest grossing movie in German history. Abahachi, Winnetouch and Ranger, when faced with potentially fatal debt problems, hunt down an old treasure and stumble from one conundrum to the next. It is a mystery to me, why IMDB-users have given it such bad reviews, but it certainly is a great introduction into German humour. Its jokes have become running gags to many in Germany and its lead actors are still famous enough to advertise the original Haribo Gummybears. (If you don’t know what those are, go get yourself a bag of them and start learning about German culture through its candy!)

Der Untergang (2004)

Despite ending over 70 years ago, the Second World War is still present in German everyday life. From time to time there is a new case in court against a former SS-officer, or a part of a city has to be evacuated because construction workers dug up an old bomb that did not go off. In order to understand how Germans felt after the war ended this juggernaut of German cinematography is perfect. It shows the last few days of the “Third Reich” and tells the story of those stuck in a bunker in Berlin with Hitler himself. Bruno Ganz becomes the embodiment of Hitler’s complete insanity. There are many more German movies about the Second World War, most notably “Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter” and “Lore”, but this is the best movie to start your deep dive into the German perspective on WWII with.

Here is the trailer to whet your appetite:

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008)

Unbeknownst to many outside of Germany, and only a side note in everyday life: in the 60s and 70s Germany was stricken with terrorism. The Red Army Faction (“Rote Armee Fraktion” or “RAF”), lead by Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader kidnapped important German officials, robbed banks and tried to propagate an ultra-left wing agenda. This intense and fast-paced movie presents the complete story of these terrorists, from RAF’s inception up to the founders’ deaths. It is a fascinating time of German history and the movie hits upon many of the problems post-WWII Germany had. Many Nazis continued working in the German political system and in high ranks in companies. The RAF and the “68er” movement it grew out of were in opposition to these left overs from Nazi times. This movie is filled with highly praised German actors, which will serve you as a gateway to other German movies. Just look up Moritz Bleibtreu’s or Alexandra Maria Lara’s filmography and you will stumble upon some of German cinema’s other jewels.

Die Welle (2008)

Do you think the Third Reich could happen again? Think again! This movie is about a social experiment in a classroom that spirals out of control. One of Germany’s finest actors, Jürgen Vogel, tries to teach his class, that a social movement and belonging to a certain group can always find its way into conflict. The movie is “us against them” in form of a moving pictures. So if you are into questions of psychology and movies tackling issues such as these, this is one is going to be a great watch for you. If you’ve looked up Moritz Bleibtreu after watching “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” you may have come across “Das Experiment”, another great movie about a social experiment that spirals out of control.

Check out the trailer to this epic film here:

Das Leben der Anderen (2006)

Germany is very much defined by the two dictatorships it has experienced on its turf: one lead by Hitler, and one by the eastern German “Socialist Unity Party of Germany”. This movie goes deep into the workings of the GDR’s Secret Agency “Staatssicherheit”. It digs into the workings and individuals behind the agency’s sting operations. “Das Leben der Anderen” is a great counter point to all of the Second World War movies, in that it shows how not only the right, but the extreme left can end up in horrifying circumstances for the lives the states’ ‘subjects’. It is one of only a few German movies that won an Oscar.

These are my recommendations to kick start your German film watching! I am aware that it’s a lot of WWII stuff, but the best stories are, in my opinion, inspired by real life events. As prevalent as WWII still is in Germany it is moreover adequate to acquaint yourself with this topic as deeply as possible, in order to understand how the German mind works today. Hope you enjoy the movies, as well as learning German! It’s a very powerful language, that allows you to express exactly what your mind wants to convey to the world, so keep on learning!


By Jan-Hendrik Tepper

Immerse Sessions with Kirsten Winkler – Fair Languages

Fair languages

Welcome to the Immerse Sessions!

In the coming months we shall be interviewing various language blogs, film startups and basically anything we can get our hands on to help you all Immerse yourselves in the language you are learning. The whole process needs to be fun and that is what we shall be bringing you!

A few weeks ago I sent out a hopeful message into the twitter verse requesting an interview with Fair Languages and today we bring you an exclusive interview with Kirsten Winkler the founder and editor in chief.

Kirsten if you were to describe Fair Languages in a tweet what would you say? 

Barely hesitating she replies: “Fair Languages is a source for trends, tips, #resources and information for #language learners and teachers & tutors.” (yes the hashtags were added in by me for added effect) 

So do you speak any languages yourself? 

K – “Well I am German and I have been living in France for the past few years. I also speak English and I dabble with a bit of Spanish too. So a couple of languages, yes!” 

Feeling less than pleased with my own language abilities I comment that this is the case with most of the Germans that I know, putting us English monolinguals to shame.

Why do you think English speakers are so monolingual? 

K -“Put simply you guys can get away with it. English is spoken all over the world, it is so easy to get around with it, and so there is less incentive there to learn another language. Germany, like many other smaller countries such as Holland and Luxembourg already have English embedded in their school systems, they cannot get away from it. Added to this they are convinced (and they are right) that not many other people across the world are going to learn their language, so they are much more flexible both for personal and business reasons about learning new languages.” 

We then got to talking about the concept of “Mother-tongue plus two” which basically states that every EU citizen should speak two foreign languages plus their mother tongue. Is this not what being a European citizen should mean? We are part of such a linguistically diverse continent should we not engage ourselves in it to this degree?

What do you think about Britain exiting the EU? Will this affect language learning here in the UK? 

K – I think historically you have strong ties with the US as they are English speakers as well and you can travel to Australia and even move there. You can basically live internationally but within the Anglophone universe! I have met quite a few expats here in France – British expats, and you basically have these two groups, the ones that continue to Immerse themselves in the culture and the language and those who surround themselves with only British people and are apparently happy with that. So really it is a matter of desire, either you really want to embrace this new life and culture or you don’t. Britain exiting the EU or staying within it will not make a difference to that.”

I briefly retell my tale of living in Argentina (one, I am told, I tell all too often) and noticing how many people did either surround themselves with English speakers or went full native! The American-Spanish accents were the best. I have a fond memory of my American friend asking in her strong Californian accent where her “Waleta” (referring to her wallet) was!

It is easy to fall into this trap, making friends and working in your mother tongue is just so much easier. You find English speakers everywhere and when you are far from home in a completely new environment you will look for comfort wherever you can. However I cannot stress enough how much you need to resist that urge!

K – I mean it wouldn’t feel complete if I was living in France and just speaking to Germans all of the time, I would feel a little bit alien. I think you pick another country for a reason and you miss so much about actually living in that country and being surrounded by a new culture if you only speak your mother tongue.

I always tell people when they finish University or College that they should take the leap and go and live abroad. It is the time to enjoy yourself and make these experiences. You never know what you might find!” 

What are the best ways to Immerse yourself in the language both when you are in the country and when at home? 

K- “If you have the opportunity to move abroad that is of course great and you will pick up the language quickly but we are living in the 21st Century and technology has a lot of positive effects on language learning as well. You can connect with people via Skype and language exchange for to name but a few. I think even if you don’t have the chance to go abroad there are now new ways and enough opportunities to at least Immerse yourself in the virtual sphere and surround yourself with the language that you want to learn to about. It is not a deal breaker if you cannot leave your country” 

It’s an expensive option and not necessarily an essential one.

K – I mean you can develop an appetite for speaking with Argentinian people online and Immersing yourself in that way. Like I said, with the technologies available today, there are many ways to get involved. Online immersion can develop a certain sense of how it may be to be abroad

Do you think apps such as Duolingo and Busuu are really helping people learn languages? 

K – “I think apps such as Duolingo, Busuu and Babble can help you lay the groundwork and it allows you to see if you are at all interested in the language. You can obviously learn vocabulary quite well with apps such as Memrise and learn grammar with Busuu and Duolingo. I think the interesting part comes a little after that when you actually want to speak with a native speaker, I am not sure how helpful these apps are when it comes to actually speaking the language, as it is mainly passive knowledge that you are gaining from them. I think you are always going to need the synchronous element, actually speaking to someone is essential and adds a different layer and quality to your language ability.

Technology is getting better and better and sometime ago Google bought a startup called Wordlens where you basically have your smartphone camera and you hold it up to a sign say in Chinese and it instantly translates it. It will be coming out as a new google service at some point.” 

Check out how it works here!!

I may have lost my professional edge at this point becoming a little too enthusiastic  – “Wow that is awesome” – but bringing it back round I talk a little about Immerse and the benefits that our site offers and the progress that we are making (shameless plug) and ask:

Do you have a particular film or book that you have read or watched in a foreign language that helped you out? 

K – “I think when you are at the level of understanding film you are already quite advanced, so it most likely comes down to taste. I mean for myself and French. I remember I had a lot of lessons at school and a wide passive knowledge of the vocab, grammar and I could speak well, however when I turned the TV on in France I was extremely overwhelmed. I realised, wow, this is another step, another level in my French learning. 

The speed is so much faster and you have to react to this. It was frustrating but it was an experience nonetheless. As soon as you feel like you know enough words and grammar, start watching everything in that foreign language, even if it is just the news at first because they speak very clearly and they speak the language properly you can then make your way up to films and TV in whatever genre you are interested in. The key is patience, don’t expect to understand 90-95% of what is going on in a one and a half hour film as it is just so overwhelming” 

“Don’t expect too much and unnecessarily frustrate yourself” 

We say our goodbyes (virtually over Skype) and I am left feeling more enlightened about the language learning process and less frustrated with my terrible attempts at listening to Portuguese Radio. Do I, like my friend Eddie keeps banging on about, need to go and live in Rio de Janeiro to perfect my Portuguese? Maybe not – the technology is here for me to do that from home, however the lack of beaches and 40 degree heat may leave me less motivated…

Check out this article by Kirsten herself on the best ways to learn a language: Immerse yourself in language !


Les Revenants – France’s answer to Twin Peaks

If you’re looking for a new TV show to binge watch, and more specifically are learning French, you should check out Les Revenants (The Returned in English) right now. The premise is simple and intriguing: a remote French village in the mountains is left at a loss of how to respond when many of their dead return to their lives as if nothing has happened, bringing with them a host of secrets that begin to break the community apart. A refreshing departure from the usual zombie flick; the horror is subtle and the slowly unravelling mystery set in claustrophobic surroundings is reminiscent of classic series like Twin Peaks, with Mogwai providing a suitably eerie soundtrack. A second (and possibly final series) was finally released last autumn after a three year wait.

The Argentinian Blues


Suffering from the famous Post-Year-Abroad-Blues, here are a few things I miss from living in Argentina (or things I grudgingly had to get used to whether I liked it or not): It is not just about Immersing yourself in the language but in the culture as well!

  1. Kissing EVERYBODY

From a friend’s grandmother to your boss, from your landlord to the annoying neighbour with the barking dog next door, you kissed everyone you met. Just once on the cheek, not twice like in Spain. I actually really appreciated having a uniform way of greeting people, because it avoided all British embarrassment of “are we hugging/hand shaking/waving like an idiot/nodding formally at each other like a muppet?” Strange men were acceptable to avoid kissing, but otherwise, that’s just what you did.

  1. Everything Taking a Very-Long-Time to be Sorted Out

I wouldn’t say I ended up loving the South American inefficiency whilst I lived abroad, but it definitely made me chill out about getting things sorted out immediately, and it one hundred percent made me realise how lucky we are to live in England where a 5 minute delay is a legitimate excuse for complaint. In Buenos Aires I once spent 6 hours waiting in queues and travelling across the city to try and withdraw my month’s wages. I went to three different branches and all had run out of cash, so I had to borrow off friends over the 4 day weekend. Paying bills and sorting out accounts is something that we can easily do online at home, but not something which has stretched in its entirety to South America.

  1. Food Sharing

“Cuando hay, hay para todos. Cuando no hay, no hay para nadie”, as my landlady told me. If there was food on the table you could take it and didn’t have to ask. Table manners drummed into me from an early age found this difficult to swallow but I did my best to be Argentinian and just grab. Annoyingly it also meant that if you had brought biscuits into the staff room people automatically assumed they could have some too which was NOT the case. Chocolate digestives were impossible to come by in Argentina, and I wasn’t going to share my limited supply.

  1. Reggeaton

This music was and is a guilty pleasure, and I’m sure anyone who has spent any time living in a Spanish speaking country will agree with me. Nothing like a bit of Osmani Garcia to bring back memories of fernet-filled evenings, asados, nights in Ferona, Niceto, Crowbar…


  1. The Argentinian Asado

I should probably have put this at the top of the list. The quintessential Argentinian social gathering which involved the most delicious and tender red meat I think I will ever eat, cooked on the parilla, washed down with copious amounts of Malbec or Fernet, and burnt off with dancing solidly until 7am the next morning. Fantastic.

Check out this guy and his asado channel on youtube for more content!