Learning Napulitano in 90 Days

This week marks the end of my 90 day challenge to learn enough Neapolitan to hold a conversation with a native speaker and make a video. I had already done a previous 90 day challenge to learn Sicilian so I was excited to find another tutor who could teach me Neapolitan on skype.

There were very little resources and we had to create our own verb lists from scratch. However, my knowledge of Italian meant that I was able to learn to speak quite quickly with very few resources.

I also learned how to write in Neapolitan and you can read another blog post I wrote here in both Neapolitan and English about a family event with my little niece (an aspiring polyglot!).

I plan to continue my studies in both Neapolitan and Sicilian and I will be giving a presentation about the regional languages at LangFest language festival in Montreal in August. If you can come, be sure to enter the discount code MAUREEN for 25% off the price.

Here is my video speaking in Napulitano after learning for 90 days.

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Italki Diversity Language Challenge for July

Today I will begin the Italki Diversity Language Challenge for the whole month of July. The idea of this challenge is to join other learners in learning small languages.  Italki will donate all profits from our first hour of this new language to Wikitongues.org, an organization dedicated to documenting and preserving all the languages in the world.


Italki List of Languages for the Diversity Challenge.

I couldn’t decide whether to just learn one new language or have taster lessons in several languages that I have not studied before. I decided to opt for the multilingual option along with two of my friends. I have chosen 11 languages and I will take one lesson in each of those languages during the challenge. At the end of the challenge, I will make a video where I will try to say some phrases I learned in all those 11 languages. It will be a fun project to have a taster in various languages and also for a good cause!

I chose various languages from different parts of the world. Some are completely different to any I currently know. My list is as follows:

  • Croatian  – I am going to Croatia in September so it was an obvious choice
  • Lithuanian  – My grandfather spoke this language and it’s the only one of the 11 where I know some basic phrases.
  • Yoruba  – I did a one day challenge in Wolof and that is the only African language I have studied so far. You can see my video after that challenge here with English subtitles.
  • Urdu  – we have an Urdu community where I live, I might get to use it that way
  • Blackfoot  – I am very interested in Native American languages
  • Faroese  – So close to Scotland and hope to visit
  • Azeri  – A region I am keen to visit but haven’t had the opportunity yet
  • Georgian  – Same reason as Azeri
  • Welsh  – I live only 70 miles from the Welsh border
  • Latvian – I have been to Latvia before and intend to visit again, next time with some basic knowledge of the language
  • Fuzhounese  – My regular Mandarin tutor teaches this! I’m sure she will give me a great lesson!
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First Communion Weekend (written in Neapolitan/English)

As part of my summer project to learn some Neapolitan, I decided to write a short blog post about a recent family event in both Neapolitan and English.


‘A semmana passata, sò ghiuta a Scozia pe ‘a primma cummunione ‘e nepotema. E’ stato n’evento speciale pecche a bona parte d’a famiglia abbita luntàno da essa e accussì non stamme ‘nzième spisso.  IMG_4564

Sò arrivata ‘a notte primma e mi sò rimmasta ‘nt’all’albergo. ‘O juorno aroppo simme juti a chiesa pe ‘a ceremmònia. ‘A ceremmònia ha accumminciato a ll’undici. Aroppo ‘a ceremmònia, tutta ‘a famiglia è ghiuta ‘o ristorante e avimme mangiato ‘o pranzo ‘nzième.

Nepotema tene na passione p’e lengue straniere e aggio avuto parlà cu essa in spagnolo e cinese.

E’ stato ‘n juorno speciale pe ‘a famiglia nuostra e nepotema era assaje bella cu suja vesta jànca longa.



Last week, I went to Scotland for my niece’s first communion. It was a special event because the majority of the family live far away from her and therefore we are not together often. IMG_4524

I arrived the night before and I stayed in the hotel. The day after we went to the church for the ceremony. The ceremony began at 11 o’clock. After the ceremony, all the family went to the restaurant and we ate lunch together.

My niece has a passion for foreign languages and I had to speak to her in Spanish and Chinese.

It was a special day for our family and my niece was very beautiful in her long white dress.

Posted in Languages, Napulitano | 7 Comments

Cornish Language Weekend in Cornwall


Cornwall is marked in red on the map

Last weekend I spent four days in the beautiful county of Cornwall for a holiday and also to attend the annual Cornish Language Weekend.

IMG_3935I flew from the north of England down to Newquay, Cornwall as I didn’t fancy a 6 or 7 hour drive and so the flight was a very quick 40 minutes and then I picked up a hire car from the airport. My first two nights were spent in the picturesque village of St Agnes where I stayed in a 400-year-old hotel full of character. I was planning to use St. Agnes as a base while I drove around Cornwall in the hire car so I didn’t expect there to be much to see in the village. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I popped outside for a stroll. Firstly, the walk to the beach is gorgeous. You pass a row of delightful 18th century cottages that used to be occupied by ship captains. The street is called “Stippy Stappy Lane” which I thought was a strange sounding name.


18th Century Houses on Stippy Stappy Lane

Apparently it is thought this was old Cornish dialect referring to the steep steps that take you to the bottom of this stunning little street. Elsewhere in the village there is an old church with tiny, cute wooden doors on the side and the remains of one of Cornwall’s old industries, a 19th century tin mine. Tin mining was a very important industry in this part of Cornwall and it goes back hundreds of years. There are many old tin mines around the landscape in this part of Cornwall and they have been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeological sitesThe whole of Cornwall is steeped in history. The red dots on this map represent archaeological sites to visit.  I would like to have been able to visit many of them but I was restricted for time. I managed to visit the villages of St. Teath and Tintagel in North Cornwall where I visited a medieval church and castle. In the church at St Teath, they have a list of all their vicars on the wall going back to the 13th century!


St Michael’s Mount

One place in Cornwall I had always wanted to visit was St.Michael’s Mount which is a small island with a population of about 35 people and lies off the south coast.  It is similar to Mont St Michel off the north coast of France although it is smaller. The island has been occupied for more than 1000 years and it is estimated that a monastery was here around the 8th-11th centuries.

On the very south coast of Cornwall I visited the small villages of Paul and Mousehole. Here, allegedly, was where the last native speaker of the Cornish language lived. Her name was Dolly Penreath and she died in the year 1777. I managed to visit her grave. Linguists visited Cornwall from Wales and London in the 17th and 18th centuries to start trying to record what was left of this dying language.


Dolly’s gravestone with Cornish written at the bottom

Cornwall is a Celtic language, close to Breton and Welsh and was once the main language in Cornwall. During the Middle Ages, English started to creep into Cornwall from the north until the last Cornish speakers could only be found in the very south. There are several reasons for the decline in Cornish. For example, from the Middle Ages, trade at the ports with people from English speaking areas increased the need for the English language and the aristocracy started using English rather than Cornish names. Cornish was beginning to be seen as a language of the poor people.  In the year 1549, the Act of Uniformity outlawed all languages except English from church services. Many Cornish people protested about this as they said many people in Cornwall could not understand English. Several thousand Cornish protesters were massacred by King Edward VI’s army. The Cornish language religious institution of Glasney College was destroyed in the year 1548. Many plays in Cornish were written and performed at Glasney. The subsequent spread of English into the religious lives of the Cornish people is seen as one of the main factors in the demise of the Cornish language.


St Teath 13th Century Church

The claim that Dolly Penreath was the last native speaker has been disputed for several reasons. For example,  in 1776 a local fisherman named William Bodinar, sent this letter in Cornish and English to the antiquarian Daines Barrington, who had visited Cornwall searching for Cornish speakers. The letter states that around five people in the village were still speakers of Cornish at that time. Bodinar outlived Dolly by some twelve years. There are other examples of speakers who lived in the 19th century too. However, the true revival of the language started in the early 20th century when Henry Jenner published a book called “Handbook of the Cornish Language”. Other publications followed throughout the 20th century and the modern revival began.


Book Stall at the Cornish Language Weekend


Cornish Language Class

Today, there are many books to buy in Cornish as well as many ‘classics’ that have been translated into Cornish. A large selection is available to buy online here. There are Cornish language classes held throughout Cornwall as well as a distance learning course.  I completed the first few lessons on the distance learning course before attending the Cornish Language Weekend in Newquay.


Troyl – Cornish Traditional Dancing at the Cornish Language Weekend

The event is held every year and they cater for complete beginners right up to advanced levels. You can now even sit official exams in Cornish. As well as Cornish lessons, the Cornish Language Weekend included other activities such as an afternoon walk with commentary in Cornish and English, a ‘troyl’ (traditional Cornish dancing) and Cornish singing. The price for attending the weekend was very reasonable. If you would like to find out more about the Cornish weekend, please click here.



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Unexpected Language Challenge – Slovak

I have booked to attend the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia at the end of May. The organisers have announced a 50 day challenge between now and the event to learn Slovak. Participants in this challenge will have to do a short presentation on a topic of their choice for 1-2 minutes at the Gathering and then answer some simple questions. Polyglot prizes will be awarded by the judges.

So, I have decided to join and I think it will be fun. Firstly, I hate going to countries where I can’t speak the language. The British have a very bad reputation of being monolingual and expecting foreigners just to speak English. The slang name is a “Brit Abroad” with the following meaning according to Urban Dictionary “An individual from the UK who travels to foreign countries with no intention of integrating with the culture there. Instead, they hunt down a full English breakfast, followed by a bar to watch football, 10 pints of Carling and a Sunday roast. Never attempts any of the language and is constantly ridiculed by locals who know they can’t understand one word they are saying. They sit on the beach in uncomfortable temperatures, wear no sun cream, a white handkerchief on their head and sit down to dinner resembling a lobster that’s been caught on the job. Such an individual can be mostly found in Spain in any location prefaced by ‘Costa’, the Algarve and various other areas that have been downgraded in order to make these people feel more at home.” I’d say that was a pretty accurate description and typical holiday resorts in the Mediterranean have a lot of these people, so when I travel to the Spanish coast or anywhere similar, the locals are shocked that I speak fluent Spanish. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I never like to travel without even knowing small amounts of the local language so I wanted to learn some Slovak anyway, so why not take part in the challenge too?

My main method of learning will be with practice on Skype with native speakers on Italki. This is the way I learn best and I support the “speak from day one” method. I will also be using this website which has lots of content for various levels of Slovak. In addition to that, I have found a verb conjugator website and at the start of a new language, I like to learn the present tense of the most common verbs so that I can start speaking sentences straight away. I am also going to have a look for any YouTube lessons as I learn well from video lessons too. I need to focus much more on speaking rather than writing because the end task is all spoken.

For the rest of the summer I will be doing a mini project on Napoletano to help support my presentation about minority languages in Italy that I will be doing at LangFest in August. Then I will be learning some Croatian for my Croatia trip at the end of the summer.

There is still time to book tickets for the Polyglot Gathering if you are interested.

If you’d like to know more about Bratislava, there is a lot of information on this website.


Picture courtesy of the Visit Bratislava site until I can replace it with my own after my trip .

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Language Plans & Events for this year

As it’s January, I have been setting my targets and planning my language learning and travels for the year.

Language Studies


At my Gaelic college in the Isle of Skye

Now to April – I am working on Egyptian Arabic as a 90 day challenge with an aim to being able to have a 15 minute conversation on video at the end. I have a very good tutor called Sumayyah who I found on the Verbling website. UPDATE: I finished the challenge. It was very difficult, but here is my Day 90 video.

Feb to June – I have registered for a Scottish Gaelic course again with the college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in the Isle of Skye. This means the next four months will be tough.


I was on TV at LangFest in Montreal last year

End of March to end of June  – Special 90 Day Project  – I have found a Skype tutor to teach me Napoletano (Neapolitan dialect). I have decided to do this to improve my knowledge before my presentation about minority languages in Italy at LangFest in Montreal in August.

July to Sept  – For the summer, I will do a new 90 day language challenge in a Slavic language (either Slovak or Croatian).

I still maintain my better languages through Skype conversations without needing to do much studying (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, French and Sicilian). I am also continuing with Chinese and German lessons on skype because I have been studying those languages for over a year now.

Language Related Travel Plans

April – I will be attending a weekend course for Cornish in Cornwall, England. Cornish is a Celtic language that was revived in the last century after it became extinct in the early 1800s (dates disputed!). Cornwall is a beautiful part of the country and I will be hiring a car for a couple of days and travelling around the region. I plan to visit the church where the last Cornish service was held in 1678. If you are interested in learning Cornish by distance (the price is very cheap!) you can find out more by clicking here.

May  – I will be attending the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia.


Alghero, Sardinia

June  – I will be going to Alghero, Sardinia where they speak both Italian and Alguerés (a variant of Catalan). Last time I was there, I was able to practise both languages.

August  – I will be at LangFest in Montreal where I will give a presentation about the minority languages in Italy as well as a short lesson in Sicilian.

September – I will be visiting Croatia and Montenegro which is why I want to learn some Croatian before my trip.

October  – I will be attending the Polyglot Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. I hope I can see the Northern Lights again like I did on my last trip to Iceland.


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My Trip to China & learning Chinese

Last year, I was the winner of an online language challenge where you learn a language for 90 days and then make a 15 minute video speaking in that language with a native speaker. The prize for the winner is a free return flight to the country of their target language. As I was learning Chinese for this challenge, my prize was a free return flight to China!

I had already briefly visited the south of China on a one day excursion from Hong Kong but back then I could only speak a few phrases in Chinese and I really lacked confidence. When I returned to China for my prize winning trip after completing the challenge, I was able to speak a lot more Chinese than my last visit and I had much more confidence. I was able to get by in restaurants (this was important because I am vegetarian), in shops and at tourist sites. I even managed to use my Chinese to buy clothes, discuss sizes, colours, trying them on and as it was close to Christmas, I bought all of my Christmas presents for my family in China. I had a lot of fun choosing unique gifts that I wouldn’t find at home.

img_9051My hotel was in a hutong (alley) area of Beijing. It’s quite a central location and within walking distance of the Forbidden City and the main shopping street. The hutong streets are very narrow and old. There are quite a few shops in the hutongs as well as a few cafes and hairdressers. My hotel was within a traditional old building in the hutong and was decorated in traditional Chinese style. The service from staff was excellent and I enjoyed being able to stay somewhere so unique.

I was in Beijing for just under a week. I booked several guided tours before I left home. I had always wanted to see the Great Wall. It has been on my wishlist for many years. My first full day included a visit to both the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. First, we went to the tombs and we were able to go inside and see the red coffins and thrones from the Emperor. img_9458The surrounding countryside is very pretty and from Ming Tombs you can see other tombs up in the mountains which aren’t open to the public. After lunch at a restaurant near the Great Wall, it was time to make our way up to the Wall for some free time to walk along it. The busiest part of the wall is Badaling as that is the nearest part to Beijing. I chose to go to Mutianyu because it was a quieter part of the Wall. I think I made the right choice because while I was on the Wall, I was able to get lots of photos without any other people in them! The walk up to the Wall is tough if you are not very fit. In fact, just walking from the car park up to the cable car is tough because it’s up quite a steep hill. It was certainly worth it though!

Over the next few days I visited the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, the zoo to see the pandas and the Olympic Stadium. 15085664_676891065813826_5336481132796604197_nI would recommend taking a small group 5 hour walking tour of the Forbidden City as there is so much to see in there and most bus excursions only have 1 or 2 hours at the Forbidden City which is nowhere near enough. The Summer Palace was very interesting too with a beautiful setting on a lake.

img_0020The Chinese people really appreciated me speaking their language and I received lots of compliments even though my Chinese is still quite basic as I was only learning for 90 days. However, I am glad I was able to do everything I needed in China and I enjoyed the challenge and my trip so much that I am continuing with my Chinese studies and my 8-year-old niece is now keen to follow in my footsteps.

This is my video below showing various places during my trip :

To read about my Chinese challenge with a link to my Day 90 video with a native speaker, click here.


Posted in Language Challenges, Languages, Mandarin Chinese, Travel | 1 Comment