Grub’s Up!

One of the most daunting parts of any holiday abroad is approaching that restaurant counter. Your palms are clammy (despite having been rubbed on your jeans countless times), your heart beat races as you desperately try to remember the term for “pastie”.

Just a little bit of knowledge can take the fear out of this situation and leave you free to order anything until your appetite is satisfied and your thirst is quenched.

This vocabulary can also come up on exams as food and healthy lifestyle are very popular topics!

While food is a huge topic, we’ll focus primarily on restaurant etiquette in this section.

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My Table Is A Girl?

This can be quite confusing for everyone at the start. Unlike in English, many languages have a masculine and feminine form of nouns or adjectives. In this section, we’ll focus primarily on nouns.


In French, nouns are divided into masculine and feminine singular and masculine and feminine plural. So, how do you work out which is which?

Masculine nouns often have “le” in front of them.

Feminine nouns often have “la” in front of them.

HOWEVER, if the noun begins with a vowel or a “h”, the noun usually has “l’ ” (this is because a “h” is silent in French- don’t ask why…)

If a noun is plural (that is to say, there’s more than one of it- e.g, the shoes), it often has “les” in front of it, no matter what gender the noun is.

For example:

  • Le verre- The glass
  • La gomme- The rubber
  • L’hôtel- The hotel
  • Les enfants- The children

If you want to say “A…” you must use either un (for masculine nouns) or une (for feminine nouns).

For example:

  • Un chien- A dog
  • Une robe- A dress


Similar to French, Spanish nouns are divided into masculine and feminine singular or masculine and feminine plural.

A masculine noun usually has “el” in front of it. (It’s just “le” backwards, if that helps you remember.)

A feminine noun usually has “la” in front of it.

Plural nouns follow slightly different rules to French nouns.

If the noun is masculine plural, you use “los” before it.

If the noun is feminine plural, you use “las” before it.

For example:

  • El diccionario- The dictionary
  • La mujer- The woman
  • Los zapatos- The shoes
  • Las tijeras- The scissors

If you want to say “A…” in Spanish, you can use un (for masculine nouns) or una (for feminine nouns). You can use unos in front of masculine plural nouns to say “some”, and you can use unas for feminine plural nouns to say “some.”

For example:

  • Un bolígrafo- A pen
  • Una goma- A rubber
  • Unos lápices- Some pencils
  • Unas calculadoras- Some calculators.

The Dreaded “Hello!”

Picture the scene. How many times have you walked the school corridors or office block, drifting past the same spot countless times to see that one person. That one person who always has the coolest hair, the best grades, the funniest jokes. Haven’t you always wished you could be laughing at their in-jokes and be privy to all their secrets and disaster stories? And how many times have you looked back on those days and wondered what would have happened if you’d simply said “Hello,” instead of holding back because you thought they were “too cool for you”?

We’re all human. We all appreciate a little “Hello” every now and then, even if it’s from someone new (especially if it’s someone new!). Brightens up an otherwise dreary day, right? If you want to make friends and influence people, integrating into different cultures and lifestyles, you’ll get nowhere without these vital conversation starters. Much like a knight rescuing a princess in all the fairy tales, it’s a daunting task but one that’s very much worth your while in the end.

In French, the most common greeting is “Bonjour!” (bon- joo-err)  meaning “Hello!”. (You can’t go too wrong with that! : ) )


  • Bonsoir! (bon-swa-er)– Good evening!
  • Bonne nuit! (bon- new- ee) – Good night!
  • Ça va bien?  (Sah-vah- bee-en)–  Are you doing well?  [the cool thing about this one is that you can simply repeat the question back to them as the answer like so- “ça va bien,”- I am well. Nice, huh?)
  • Bienvenue! (bee-ah-ven- oo) Welcome!
  • Comment ça va? (com- on- sah-vah) – How are you?
  • Salut! (Sah-loo)– Hi!
  • Comment t’appelles-tu? (Com-on ta- pellz- too?)- What’s your name?
  • Je m’appelle… (Juh-mah-pell…) – My name is…
  • Enchanté (for men)
  • Enchantée (for women) (On- shon- tay)-  Nice to meet you.


  • à bientôt! (Ah bee-ahn- toe)See you soon!
  • à demain (ah duh-man)- See you tomorrow.
  • Bon après-midi! (bon-ah-pray-mee-dee)- Good afternoon!
  • Au revoir! (Aw- ray-vuhwa)- Goodbye!

In Spanish, the most common greeting is “¡Hola!” meaning “Hello!”

Here are a few more conversational phrases that will help kickstart your popularity (and impress your teachers!)


  • Buenas días! (boo-en- as- dee- as)- Good day!
  • Buenas tardes! (boo-en-as tar-dez)- Good afternoon/evening!
  • ¿Qué tal? (kay tahl) – How are you? (informal)
  • ¿Cómo estás?” (Com-oh- ess-tahs)- How are you? (formal)
  • Encantado (said by man) (En-can-tah-doh)
  • Encantada (said by woman) (En-can-tah-dah)- Pleased to meet you.
  • El gusto es mio (El goo-stoh- ess- mee-oh) – The pleasure is mine. (A polite answer to the above greeting)


  • ¡Adiós! (add-ee-os) – Goodbye!
  • ¡Hasta pronto! (has-tah- pr-on-toe)- See you soon!
  • ¡Hasta luego! (has-tah-loo-eh-go) – See you later!

Getting Started…

Another rainy day melted into the next, tiny pale fingers of sunlight pulling through curtains of dreary grey, only to be overshadowed by the never ceasing showers. Just another UK summer…

Except any student here knows there is more than meets the eye to a bedrenched June afternoon. When you look past the downpour and the pavements swiftly transforming into ponds, an even greater evil lurks. The end of term exams. *cue dramatic music*

Reams and reams of question papers, oral examinations and listening tapes- this is the reality of a language student. And the crippling fear, the fear that you cannot possibly encompass the knowledge of an entire language in a mere year or two, let alone trying to read the mind of an examiner, who will always have at least one tricky grammar structure or even worse, vague idiom, up their sleeve for your paper. A nightmare that many face every year.

And it doesn’t end there! Anyone who has spent any time soaking up the sun in a foreign country knows the fear and trepidation which grasps hold of you as you approach a cafe counter or try to ask for directions. Our world is getting smaller and smaller, and foreign language skills aren’t just an asset any more, they are an essential. Bilingualism and multilingualism (awfully large words that simply mean people who speak two or more languages fluently) have many benefits:

  • It’s easier to learn even more languages
  • It enhances your thinking processes
  • It allows you to mix better with locals and get a deeper insight into their culture
  • Multilingual companies often have a better competitive edge over monolingual companies
  • More than one language looks great on a CV or resume, and can even be a requirement for some jobs and courses.

“One language sets you on a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”– Frank Smith