What's the Word? January Edition

What's the Word? January Edition

This month, learn how to diss your ex in Spanish, Shakira-style, and read about what English sounds like to speakers of other languages (spoiler: it sounds weird)!
January 28 2023 Culture around the world news

Is it too late to say Happy New Year?! We can’t believe we’re heading into February already, but what a start to 2023 it’s been so far. Avatar 2 became one of the highest-grossing films of all time (Na’vi language course, anyone? 👀). Bookshops braced themselves for the release of that Prince Harry memoir Spare, which will be available in 17 languages with some rather brutally-translated titles (see: Brazilian Portuguese). The Australian Open kicked off the year’s sporting calendar and Andy Murray had us reminiscing about his Wimbledon wins, playing the longest match of his career. Even just thinking about playing tennis for 5hrs45 is enough to warrant a lie down. In music, Miley Cyrus broke just about every record in existence with her empowering new single ‘Flowers’ - the perfect Galentine’s Day anthem, in our opinion.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get stuck into this month’s knockout language and culture-related stories that have caught our eye!

Shakira breaks the internet 🎧

It’s been a great month for The Queen of Latin Pop, Shakira, who released a fiery new track dissing her ex, Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué, this month. Packed with attitude, emotion, and Spanish slang, Out of Your League smashed YouTube records with over 63 million views in its first 24 hours, making it the most-watched Latin song in that time period. You’ll already know how much we advocate learning a language through music, so obviously we had to jump on this track and release a Shakira ft. Memrise language lesson! We took the music video, extracted all of the vocabulary and packaged it up into a Memrise lesson that would make La Loba (The She-wolf) proud! And it turns out the lesson is the perfect opportunity to learn how to stand your ground in Spanish, in any context, with phrases like ¡hazme caso! (listen to me!) and no vuelvo contigo (I won’t get back with you). Try the lesson here!

The language(s) of love 💘

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s, Galentine’s or Palentine’s Day this year, it’s hard to avoid seeing pink hearts and teddy bears everywhere in February. On the topic of love, The New York Times is running a cool study this year to find out about people’s languages of love. And no, this isn’t about the popular concept of ‘love languages’ (ours is Words of Affirmation, obviously), but they’re inviting couples in multilingual relationships to share stories of how they communicate affection.

Not celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? No sweat. Spangler Candy, home of the iconic ‘Sweethearts’ candies added a new set of messages under the theme of ‘words of encouragement’ in February last year. This included friendly phrases like ‘way to go’ and ‘high five’ alongside the classics like ‘be mine’. So whether your connection is romantic or platonic, you can still show your appreciation and love for someone special in your life! And if all of this talk of Valentine’s Day makes you feel a bit queasy, there’s even something for the cynics among us: several different zoos across the world are allowing people to name a cockroach after their ex this February…

TikTok trends 📱

Ever wondered how your native language sounds to speakers of other languages? Maybe not, but this viral video on Tiktok might give us the answer! Platform user @languagesimp  posted a video which has regained popularity this month, in which he speaks ‘English’ in the way that he imagines it sounds to non-speakers. It has to be seen to be understood, but as with every Tiktok, the most entertaining part is the comments section, and this video was no exception. Lots of people said that it sounded like Simlish - the gobbledygook that Sims speak in the game franchise - while others said it sounded like what they hear when someone tries to explain a card game and they just zone out. We’ve all been there.

Another Tiktok moment we’ve been enjoying this month is the #karaokechallenge trend of friends challenging each other to sing along to popular songs on camera, without looking at the lyrics. The results are hilarious, and we feel comforted by the fact that nobody really knows the lyrics to certain songs. Like, what are the Scissor Sisters actually saying in the chorus of I Don’t Feel Like Dancing for example? Does anyone really know? Give this challenge a try with a simple song in the language you’re learning!

What we're watching 📺

We’ve already binge-watched our way through Season 3 of Emily in Paris and practiced our best 'Salut, mon amour' for Vday with our brand-new lesson based on the series. As ever, there are a whole host of foreign-language TV shows coming out in 2023 which will help boost your language skills. Learning a language through TV shows is a form of language immersion because it surrounds you with your target language. Shows help you pick up vocab naturally, often including colloquial language which helps you speak like the locals, and they also familiarize you with cultural differences, etiquette and registers of language.

In a big win for minority languages this year, there’s even a Welsh-language drama called Dal y Mellt (Catch the Lightning) coming to Netflix in April - there’s truly something for every learner!


And that’s all for this edition of What’s the Word? Every month we round up some of the coolest things that are happening around the world and share them with you in the hope they’ll quench your language and general knowledge-seeking thirst just a little bit. Catch you next time!