Guten Tag von München!

Hello there, I’m Larissa Arnold and I’m very excited to say that I will be posting a couple of articles every month all the way from Munich, Germany. If you haven’t already guessed from my name, I’m sisters with another blogger here on Blog Transparent – Constanze Arnold. Here’s a little bit about myself:


Oktoberfest 2013, I’m wearing a traditional Bavarian dress called a “Dirndl”. Own photo.

I am half German, half English. I grew up in England but spent many summers in Bavaria. When I was little I always fantasized about living in Germany, and when I was 18 I moved to Germany to train in professional dance. After a year I left the course, but, as I had fallen in love with Munich I decided to stay and study to be a Gymnastik Lehrerin (sport and dance teacher).


I could always understand German as a child, but I had problems speaking it. After my first year living here my German improved hugely and I’m happy to say that apart from one or two mistakes (nobody’s perfect!) I am now fluent. I believe that the easiest way to learn a language is when you live in the country and have to speak it every day.

Apart from my Ausbildung (education/course) I also teach aerobics and wirbelsäulengymnastik (literally translates to “spine gymnastics” and I haven’t found an English word yet that sums up exactly what it is – the nearest I’ve got to is “back strengthening class”) three days a week at a physiotherapy clinic. I live with my boyfriend and zwei Kaninchen (two rabbits): Amelie and Hector in Munich and I travel back to England around three times a year to catch up with friends and family.

I’ve been living in München for over 2 years now and I am so happy that I can share the culture and events that happen here with you! If you have any questions about myself or Munich then feel free to leave me a comment below.

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

(Until the next time!)






Provincial Nativity Characters: Les Santons!

Image courtesy of Chansons de Noël

Image courtesy of Chansons de Noël

La crèche (the nativity scene) is pretty common this time of year, but in the southeastern part of France in Provence, they go a little further. Le bébé Jésus, Marie, Joseph, les Rois mages, les ânes, et les anges sont tous là (Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, the donkeys, and the angels are all there), but you can also find les boulangers, les bergers, les jardinières, et les porteurs d’eau (bakers, shepherds, gardeners, and water carriers) all ready to welcome the newborn king. These little figurines are called les santons (from the provençal dialect word for little saint). In the traditional crèche provençale, there are 55 personnages (characters).

It is believed that the santon tradition started around the Mediterranean (with Naples as a possible starting point) in the 13th century when small figurines were sold and traded. This practice continued in France, and in 1803, les artisans (the craftsmen) introduced a Nativity Fair in Marseille. It was such a success that the fair continues to this day. These craftsmen devote a lot of time and attention to their work, and you can see pride in every little piece. More than just un artisan, there is even a word for a person who makes santons: un santonnier.



It’s worth noting that santons were also a way of preserving religion. After the French Revolution, (connaissez-vous l’année de la Révolution Française?) many churches closed and outdoor nativity scenes were banned, so some families began recreating the scenes in their own private homes.

Before, the figurines were made of bois (wood), cire (wax) et même mie de pain (and even the soft part of bread), but today, les santons sont faits de terre cuite (the figurines are made of clay) and are available in 2 distinct styles. There is the santon d’argile (clay figurine) which is modeled and hand painted and are between 1″ and 6″ tall. The second less common (et plus cher [and more expensive]) type is le santon habillé (dressed figurine). These are wearing cloth costumes and sometimes come with small accessories. These are generally bigger than the santon d’argile and measure between 6″ and 18″. Check out the two pictures below to compare.

Images courtesy of Santons Provence and Santons Dilandro.

Images courtesy of Santons Provence and Santons Dilandro.

All throughout Provence in December, you can find fantastic displays of santon villages. In Avignon,  the main foyer in the hôtel de ville (city hall) is filled with a huge fictitious city with over 500 santons. I was able to see this 2 years in a row, and it really is pretty fantastic. There’s so much detail, and wanting to see it all takes a lot of time, mais ça vaut la peine (but it’s worth it)! You can also find a santon museum in Marseille, and there’s also the world’s biggest santon display at la Crèche de Grignan. If you’re ever in the south of France in December and are looking for a local Christmas gift for some friends at home, stop by any Marché de Noël and pick yourself up some santons!


Listening Comprehension

For a bit more of a personal touch, I asked a few questions about les santons to my friend Maud. Below, you will see the questions, and you can listen to her answers. Please note that question 4 has 2 recordings. After listening to her answers, feel free to do the listening comprehension questions that you can download below. If you would like to read along while Maud is speaking, you can download a pdf of the transcript here.


1. What can you tell me about santons? Do you know its origins?

2. How long has your family been collecting them? How many do you have? Where do you buy them?

3. How does your family display your santons?

4. Do you have a favorite santon in your collection?



Now that you’ve heard the responses, see how well you understood. Download the listening comprehension check here!


All about Christmas – Must Know Japanese Vocabulary

Hi everyone,

Christmas is already coming up next week. Are you ready for Christmas? This might be the busiest time of the year for some of you, getting your presents ready for everyone, shipping them out to friends & family, also perhaps, getting your house ready to welcome some guests?  I know I am pretty busy around this time of the year, and heavy traffic does not help at all outside. I guess everyone is going through the same thing at the same time!

In today’s blog, I would like to introduce you to Must Know Japanese Vocabulary related to Christmas. Read on!


Photo from kevin dooley


Christmas – クリスマス (Kurisumasu)

Santa – サンタ (Santa)

Mr. Santa – サンタさん (Santa-san)

Wreath – リース (ri-su)

Christmas Wreath – クリスマス リース (Kurisumasu ri-su)

Christmas Carol – クリスマス キャロル (Kurisumasu kyaroru)

Present – プレゼント (Puresento)

Christmas Tree – クリスマス ツリー (Kurisumasu tsuri-)

Ornament – オーナメント (O-namento)

Decoration – かざり (飾り) (Kazari)

To decorate – かざる (飾る) (Kazaru)

To decorate ornaments – オーナメントを飾る(オーナメントをかざる)-(Ornament o Kazaru)

Rain Deer – トナカイ (Tonakai)

Candle – ろうそく (Rousoku)

Bell -ベル  (beru)

Holiday – きゅうじつ(休日)(Kyu-jitsu)

Party – パーティー(Pa-ti-)

Christmas Party – クリスマス パーティ (Kurisumasu Pa-ti-)

Frosty – しおのおりた、(霜の降りた)とても寒い (とてもさむい) (Shimono orita) (Totemo samui)

Snowman – ゆきだるま (雪だるま)(Yukidaruma)

Snow – ゆき (雪)(Yuki)

Merry – ようきな (陽気な) (Yo-kina)

Family – かぞく (家族)(Kazoku)

Greeting – あいさつ (挨拶)(Aisatsu)

Family Gathering – かぞくのあつまり (家族の集まり)(Kazokuno atsumari)

Christmas Dinner – クリスマスのゆうしょく (クリスマスの夕食)(kurisumasu no yu-shoku)

Christmas Lights – クリスマスの明かり(ライト)(Kurisumasu no akari (raito))

Christmas Recital – クリスマス リサイタル (Kurisumasu risaital)


photo from kevin dooley

You probably noticed that there are many words that use Katakana. This is because these words are originally foreign words (English etc) that we adapted in Japanese culture. Many of the foreign words (almost 99%) are expressed in Katakana in Japanese.

For that matter, I am sure these words are easy to memorize in Japanese. You just have to pronounce them in Japanese way! :)  Most of the time, people would know what you are trying to say by trying to pronounce these words slowly even though you don’t pronounce them exactly as what’s mentioned in transliteration above.




Adverbs in Spanish: How?

Image via Free Clipart

Hi there!

Today we’re going to learn the mood adverbs, los adverbios de modo. They show how something is done. Let’s start!

01. Así

It means basically “like this”, “like that”.

Lo haré así como me recomendaste.
No me mires así.

But it can have some other meanings and fixed expressions:

Era un coche así de grande. (showing size)
¡Así te parta un rayo! (showing a wish, or a threat)
No lo contará, así lo maten. (even if)
Así no más se puso a gritar conmigo. (just like that)
Tengo que viajar urgente así que no podré cenar contigo esta noche.
¿Cómo estás? — Así, así. (So-so.)

02. Adverbs ending in -mente

We use the feminine form of adjectives to form adverbs ending in -mente (something like the -ly form in English). Remember that we keep the accent in the adverb form. Some examples:

hábil (skilful) – hábilmente (skilfully)
cortés (gentle) – cortésmente (gently)
verdadera (true) – verdaderamente (truly)
simple (simple) – simplemente (simply)

Some comparative and superlative forms also form adverbs with -mente.

mayor – mayormente
pésimo – pésimamente
rapidísimo – rápidísimamente

When there are two adverbs in a sentence only the last one keeps the -mente suffix.

Hay que punirlos dura y ejemplarmente.
Hablabla dulce, franca y pausadamente.

Adverbs with -mente can be replaced by prepositional expressions with con + abstract noun.

con atención – atenciosamente
con cariño – cariñosamente

There are several mood adverbial expressions (these are so useful for your spoken Spanish!)

Nos sirvió a galope. (con rapidez)
Los visita a menudo. (frecuentemente)
Sólo venden al por mayor. (en grandes cuantidades)
Sólo venden al por menor. (en pequeñas cuantidades)
Salió a la francesa. (sin avisar, bruscamente)
Hizo la tarea en un santiamén. (rápidamente)
No lo sé de memoria.
Echó a reírse sin más ni más. (sin razón)
Te lo haré de muy buena gana. (con mucho gusto)
Lo hizo de mala gana / a regañadientes. (sin ganas)
Vive a lo grande. (muy bien)
Maneja a lo loco. (muy imprudentemente)

There are some adjetives that become adverbs and they don’t have the -mente suffix.

No hables alto.
Habla bajo, por favor.
Golpea fuerte.
Trabaja duro.
La estamos pasando negras. (muy mal).

Nos vemos prontito.

Want more free resources to learn Spanish? Check out the other goodies we offer to help make your language learning efforts a daily habit.


The New Born Baby

L’arrivo di un bebè è sempre una gioia, sia per i neo-genitori che per parenti e amici (the arrival of a baby is always a moment of joy, both for the new parents and for friends and relatives).
In Italy it’s a common practice to announce the birth of a baby by hanging a big ribbon on your door with the name of the baby embroidered on it: un fiocco rosa per annunciare la nascita di una bambina, e un fiocco azzurro per quella di un bambino (a pink ribbon to announce the birth of a baby girl, and a blue ribbon for a baby boy).

un fiocco rosa per annunciare la nascita di una bambina, e un fiocco azzurro per quella di un bambino (image CC)

Today we are going to look at some of the vocabulary that we use for the arrival of a new born baby:

la gravidanza = the pregnancy

aspettare un bambino = to be pregnant/to be expecting a child (literally: to expect a child)

essere in dolce attesa = to be pregnant (literally: to be in sweet awaiting)

la futura mamma = the soon to be mother

il futuro papà = the soon to be father

il bebè = the baby. (we use this French word bebè when the baby’s gender isn’t known, e.g. before its birth)

il parto = the delivery, from the verb partorire = to give birth

la nascita = the birth, from the verb nascere = to be born

il lieto evento = the birth (literally: the joyful event)

dare alla luce = to give birth (literally: to give to the light)

è nato Bruno = Bruno has been/was born

è nata Laura = Laura has been/was born

è arrivata la cicogna = the stork has arrived (i.e. the baby has arrived)

Admit it, we’re lost! (image CC)

… and now for a few sentences that you can use to congratulate the new parents:

I più cari auguri a Bruno/Laura ed ai suoi splendidi genitori = best wishes to Bruno/Laura and to his/her wonderful parents

La nascita di Bruno/Laura ci riempie il cuore di gioia = the birth of Bruno/Laura fills our heart with joy

Benvenuto/a tra noi! Che la vita ti sorrida sempre = Welcome amongst us! May life always smile upon you

Mille felicitazioni e tanti auguri di serenità e bene per il piccolo Bruno/ la piccola Laura = Many congratulations and wishes of peace and wellbeing for little Bruno/Laura

Il Signore benedica il frutto del vostro amore = God bless the fruit of your love

La felicità radiosa di questo giorno e la sua luce accompagnino vostro figlio per tutta la vita = That the shining happiness of this day and its light may accompany your child for the rest of his/her life

Auguri a mamma e papà e benvenuti nel club degli insonni! Vi siamo vicini! Con affetto e simpatia = Best wishes to mum and dad and welcome to the sleepless club! We feel for you! With love and sympathy