Tag: Language

Why do people say "pardon my French" when they swear in English?

I spend a lot of time in my car, commuting back and forth to work each day. To pass the time, I’ll listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Recently, when listening to a podcast, an English speaker swore and then quickly said “pardon my French.” By uttering these words, it seemed to soften her language, making... Read more »

Ways people respond to sneezes around the world

When I was younger, I thought people said “bless you” after someone sneezes because your heart momentarily stops with each “achoo.” I don’t know who told me that tale, but it stuck with me. And, it turns out it was wrong. The origin of bestowing a verbal blessing on someone after they sneeze can be traced... Read more »

Yes, Americans need to learn English before traveling to London

Whenever we visit new countries, we try to learn at least a few words to use in our daily interactions with the people we meet and encounter. Whether it’s “hello” when walking into a store, “pardon me” when moving past people on the sidewalk, or “thank you” when being served a meal, it always adds... Read more »

N.B.: I learned a bit of Latin thanks to my sons' school emails

Sometime earlier this year, I noticed that the bilingual emails sent out by administrators at my sons’ school included a bit of another language. But, it took a while for me to get it. Why? Because, it can be hard to spot a language when it shows up as two letters – N.B. Like many... Read more »

TGIF: The origins of the phrase and its use in countries around the world

The other day was one of those days when it was nearly impossible to get my two young sons out of bed and off to school. Before we walked out the door that morning, I said to my sons, “TGIF.” They replied to my quick comment with two tired, utterly blank stares. And, then it... Read more »

How many different ways can you say "you're welcome?"

When someone says “thank you” to me, my response is usually “you’re welcome.” It’s automatic. It’s learned. And, it’s something I hadn’t thought too much about – until I participated in an “ambassador” training for a volunteer position a few months ago. Our role as “ambassadors” was to welcome people from around the world to... Read more »

Being bilingual: Is it ever better to learn to speak one language over another?

My sons attend an international school where most of their classes are taught in French – except for English class. Easily, they spend most of their day hearing, speaking and learning in French – right in Chicago. But, at their school, French isn’t considered to be a second language. Rather, French and English are both viewed as first languages. Yes, even though... Read more »

What's up? Coucou, ça va? Qué tal? Informal greetings used around the world

It’s been more than two years since my sons started at their current school. I still remember being nervous about them learning the new routines, meeting new friends, and interacting with their new teachers. A “new” school is always chock full of everything and anything “new.” But, for me, my nervousness was at a higher than usual... Read more »

The language of love: Finding love in another language

For me, love has primarily been conveyed to me in English. Growing up, my parents only spoke English in our home. As a child, I enjoyed hearing my German opa and oma (grandpa and grandma) say “ich liebe dich” (I love you) to me and my siblings whenever we visited them in downstate Illinois. But, I... Read more »

The beauty of language: Saying so much in just a few words

The other day, after dropping of my kids at school, I switched from the High School Musical soundtrack to NPR – per my typical morning routine. As I stared out at the sea of red brake lights heading south on Lake Shore Drive my mind began to wander until a snippet of an interview with... Read more »