3 Minute Languages

questions & answers

My courses are available on many platforms all over the world and I often get questions asked about some of the content. I thought I would gather the questions in one place so that everybody can benefit from them no matter where you use my course.

Do you think that if I type chat to my Spanish friends through WhatsApp it will help me to carry on learning?

Yes, any form of practice is useful for building your proficiency. Typing and speaking will build different areas of your memory.

When you type in Spanish (or write it in any way), you have more time to think about how to say what you want to say. This builds your mastery of the smaller details of the language as well as building a subconscious database in your brain of things to say.

By speaking, it builds the reflex part of your brain and helps to ensure that you become quicker at forming sentences, although you will inevitably make more mistakes when speaking as you will when writing. Don't panic, however; this is perfectly normal!

How do you ask in French, "What do you think of this place?"

What do you think of this place?
Que pensez-vous de cet endroit?

I cover all of the components in this question in later courses of 3 Minute French.

Que =What

pensez-vous = do you think

de = of

cet endroit = this place

Can you explain the difference in pronunciation between IE and EI in German?

When you have the letters E and I together in German, it depends which order they are in as to how you pronounce them.

IE = "ee"

die = "dee"
sie = "zee"
Wien = "veen"

EI = You pronounce it like the English word "eye"

mein = "mine"
klein = "kline"
frei = "fry"

Can we say, ''tutto qui è assolutamente straordinario'' or ''tutto in il ristorante è fantastico'' in Italian?

Yes, you can say:

tutto qui è assolutamente straordinario
everything here is absolutely extraordinary

In your second sentence, however, the words "in" and "il" combine to form "nel", so you would say:

tutto nel ristorante è fantastico
everything in the restaurant is fantastic

Please recommend some easy French books for beginners

Depending on what level you're at in French, there are some good books called "Dual-Language Books" where you have stories in French on one side, and the English translation on the other in case you need it.

You'll find that as you start to read in French, it will be incredibly frustrating at first as you'll need your dictionary a lot. However, if you try and do a few minutes every day, you will eventually notice you need your dictionary less and less.

I remember the first book I read in French was Harry Potter about fourteen years ago. It took my a whole week just to read the first page and I got incredibly annoyed at myself. However, a few chapters in, I noticed I was reading freely and without the need for a dictionary at all.

Another good thing to read is newspapers and magazines in French on topics you're interested in. You will find the short articles much more motivating to read. If you use the "News" feature on Google and set the language to French, you will find an endless supply of articles.

Can you explain the difference between "ist es" and "es ist" in German, please?

The phrase "es ist" means "it is" and the phrase "ist es" means "is it".

Es ist gut
It is good

Ist es gut?
Is it good?

However, if you put something at the start of a sentence, for example "für mich", you must change "es ist" to "ist es".

Es ist gut
It is good

Für mich ist es gut
I think it is good

Does German follow the same sentence construction as English? Can I simply replace every English word with the German equivalent and build correct sentences?

German has a very similar sentence construction to English but there are certain occasions where you won't be able to replace words like for like. However, whenever this occurs, I explain in the course how you should change it in German.

If you do translate word for word, however, you will, for the most part, be understood.

Do we always have to translate "you" as "vous" in French? I've seen "tu" in some places, when do we use that?

Thank you for your question. I've only used "vous" throughout this course, as I wanted to focus mainly on the structure rather than incorporating too many extra details.

In French, you can use "vous" or "tu" when talking to "you", but it depends on whom you're talking to.

VOUS = this means "you" when you're talking to somebody you don't know too well, or a group of people
TU = this means "you" when you're talking to one person whom you know quite well

In this structure, the infinitive carriers for "vous" change slightly if you use "tu".

are you going = “allez-vous” or “vas-tu
do you want = “voulez-vous” or “veux-tu
must you = “devez-vous” or “dois-tu
can you = “pouvez-vous” or “peux-tu

So, if you’re talking to somebody you know quite well, you can use the “tu” versions of the infinitive carriers. If, however, you used “vous” with a person you know well, it wouldn’t make too much difference; you wouldn’t be offending them!

PS - In old English, we used to have "thou" and "you". We used "thou" in the same way as the French use "tu". So, if you look at any old literature such as Shakespeare, you will see "thou" when the characters know each other well, and "you" when they want to remain a little more formal.

What is the name for all the accents in French?

Here are the names of the accents in French:

  1. the cédille Ç
  2. the accent aigu é
  3. the accent circonflexe â, ê, î, ô, û,
  4. the accent grave à, è, ù
  5. and the accent tréma ë, ï, ü.
The last one isn't used too much in French.

As I understand it, German word order is very different from English, yet so far in te course, the word order of German matches English. Are the phrases we have learnt just exceptions or is the word order always the same in these two languages?

German word order isn't as different from English as you might think. There are a few areas where words are moved around but this is also the same as in English, we just don't really notice it as native speakers. In this course, the words and phrases you have learnt so far do follow the same word order rules as English, so don't worry yet. Whenever I introduce a new phrase that alters the word order of the German sentence, I will explain it and give you ample opportunity to practise this (just like with the "es ist" -- "ist es" alteration).

There are many rules in English that dictate how we structure sentences. In English, for example, if you put certain phrases such as "I don't know" or "Can you tell me" in front of a question, it sends the verb to the end, and this is the same in German.

E.g.

Where is the beach?
Wo is der Strand?

I don't know where the beach is.
Ich weiss nicht wo der Strand ist.

Can you tell me where the beach is?
Können Sie mir sagen wo der Strand ist?

(In the above examples, the words "is" and "ist" get sent to the end.)

There are a few rules that exist in German that don’t exist in English, and vice versa, and this makes the same sentence in both languages look slightly different in structure. However, unfortunately, there is no one easy rule to help you learn these. We will tackle them throughout the 3 Minute German courses, but if you would like a list of all the differences in structure, there is a German grammar book called “Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage” that looks at every structure in detail.

How do you say "bad" in French?

The word for "bad" in French is "mauvais".

C'est mauvais
It's bad

Ce n'est pas mauvais ici
It isn't bad here

Is the letter R pronounced like a /gh/ or a /kh/ in French?

I'm afraid I'm not really sure what the sounds /gh/ or /kh/ are, but the R in French is generally classed as a "guttural R", which is pronounced more at the back of the throat. There are tiny changes in the pronunciation depending on whether the letter R appears at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of a word. These differences in pronunciation are so minor, I wouldn't worry about them.

However, fortunately for us language learners, there are a lot of regional accents in France as well as various accents in other Francophone countries. These accents have a wide range of R pronunciations ranging from the guttural R to an alveolar trill (which is similar to the Spanish rolled R). This means that you shouldn't worry too much about pronouncing the R in a particular way; find a way that is comfortable and easy for you to produce and stick with that; you will be understood better than if you try to pronounce the R in a way that is difficult for you.

When should we use "bon" and when should we use "bien" in French?

The word "bon" is an adjective used to mean "good" when describing nouns (food, drink, places etc).

On the other hand, "bien" is an adverb used to mean either "well" or "fine" when describing an action.

Le livre est bon
The book is good

L'auteur écrit bien
The author writes well

How do we say "is it" in French?

In French, you can make any utterance into a question simple by raising your voice at the end.

So, "c'est bon" can mean both "it's good" and "is it good?" depending on how you say it.

C'est bon
It's good

C'est bon?
Is it good?
(just raise your voice a little at the end to make it sound like a question)

Alternatively, there is another word you can use for "is it". You will be learning it in a later course so don't worry if you forget it, but it's "est-ce que c'est". It's a little long but it's pronounced "esker-say"

For example:

Est-ce que c'est bon?
Is it good?

Est-ce que c'est pour moi?
Is it for me?

Est-ce que c'est ici?
Is it here?

So, either just use "c'est" and raise your voice at the end, or use "est-ce que c'est".

I was talking to a Spanish man and I tried to use "para mí" at the beginning of a sentence. I said, "para mí es para mí" to say "I think it is for me" but the person I was talking to said that is wrong and that I was actually saying, "for me it is for me".  Why?

Yes, the phrase "para mí" means "I think" in the sense of giving you're opinion about something, so you can use it to mean "I think" or "in my opinion". If you can replace "I think" with "in my opinion" and it still makes sense, then you can use "para mí".

For example:

I think it's good (in my opinion, it's good)
Para mí, es bueno

I think it's fantastic (in my opinion, it's fantastic)
Para mí, es fantástico

However, look at the sentence below:

I think María is here (you can't say "in my opinion, María is here" as it isn't an opinion, therefore you can't say "para mí" here)

The other way to say "I think", in those sorts of situations is "pienso que". You can use this in the sentence you gave:

I think it's for me
Pienso que es para mí

I hope this helps. I didn't include the "pienso que" in the introductory course as I have found it gets a little confusing giving too many options in one go. However, I hope it's a bit clearer now. The best thing to do is to try and think of as many sentences as you can with "I think" in them and see if you can replace the "I think" with "in my opinion". If you can, and it still makes sense, then you can use "para mí", if not, you can use "pienso que".

How would I say, "May I take some pictures of you?" in German? I'm meeting two professors from Germany tomorrow and would like a picture with them without sounding rude!

You could say to them:

"Können wir ein foto zusammen machen?"
"Can we have a photo together?"

Here's the pronunciation:

"Kerr-nen veer eyn foh-toh tsoo-zah-men mah-ken"

If you'd like to hear it pronounced, copy and paste the phrase into Google Translate and then click the little button of a speaker on the German side; you'll then hear it spoken.

And there's no reason as to why it should seem rude to them if you ask for a photo. You could start by saying, "Hallo, wie geht es Ihnen?" which means "Hello, how are you?" beforehand, just for extra politeness.

Do we say "pour moi" or "je pense" in French to say "I think"?

You can say either to give your opinion on something.

"Pour moi..."
"Je pense que..."
"Je crois que..."

They can all be used to say what you think about something. I only used "pour moi" in this course as I had already introduced it to mean "for me". You will find "je pense que" and "je crois que" in later lessons.

Is there any difference in German between "für mich" and "ich denke" to mean "I think"?

Yes, there is a slight difference between the two phrases "ich denke" and "für mich" in German.

Ich denke

This phrase can mean "I think" in any sense. For example:

Ich denke, es ist gut
I think it's good

Ich denke Paul ist hier
I think Paul is here

So, it can be used to give your opinion on something or to say what you believe is true.

Für mich

This phrase, on the other hand, only means "I think" in the sense of giving your opinion on something.

So, you can say: Für mich ist es gut - I think it's good

But if you say: Für mich ist Paul hier - this doesn't mean "I think Paul's here" it simply means "Paul is here for me".

This is because the sentence, "I think Paul is here", you're not giving your opinion; you're giving a statement that you believe to be true. It doesn't mean, therefore, "In my opinion, Paul is here".

PS - If in doubt, use "ich denke". You will meet it in a later course anyway, I only used "für mich" because I had already introduced it in this course. You can only use "für mich" to mean "I think" if you actually mean "in my opinion"

Sometimes when I type sentences into Google Translate, I get words that are different to the ones you've taught me. Why is this?

Google translate is good for translating single words but can sometimes go wrong when translating sentences.

There's another good website called www.wordreference.com which is an online dictionary. Simply select the language you want and it'll give you all the possibilities of the word you're looking for, along with many examples of it in use. I used it a lot when I was at university and found it extremely useful. 

Additionally, you may often find that there is more than one way to say something in a foreign language. For example, there is more than one way to say "delicious" in Italian; you can say "delizioso" or "squisito".

How do you say "hello" in French, and how do you say "you"?

In French, the way you say "hello" changes depending on the time of day. I go into further details in the full course "3 Minute French - Course 1", but here's a quick explanation:

Bonjour - hello (morning and early afternoon)
Bonsoir - hello/good evening  (late afternoon and evening)

Additionally, there are numerous words for "you" depending on what you want to say and whom you're speaking to. However, I'm guessing you might want the word for "you" so you can say "for you".

Pour vous = for you (talking to somebody you don't know or more than one person)
Pour toi = for you (talking to a friend or somebody you know quite well)