Bang tidy! – Using Twitter to learn a foreign language

The Chamber Of Secrets

Twitter – your charm to open the the chamber of “language” secrets!


Why I learn English ūüôā

For me learning another language was never an easy thing, it seems that I just don’t have the natural talent some people have (I just¬†realized¬†that this really sounds like I’m adopting my posts to Harry Potter books :-)). But there are a few reasons why I keep on trying it:

  • Curiosity: I’m¬†absolutely¬†curious, and learning to read and speak another language opens you a lot of “secret doors”.
  • Impatience: ¬†I just can’t wait till someone else translated something for me.¬†

On the road with Twitter

There are some simple and obvious reasons why Twitter is a perfect tool to enrich your learning of a foreign language:

  • You can follow native speakers, no matter if you are a student or a teacher. I always compare Twitter with walk on a crowded street: You can go along with the crowd and listen – or stop and talk to people wherever you want. Watching my Twitter-stream makes me feel¬†being¬†back in London, isn’t that great? Like on a real street you should be polite and avoid shouting at each other – except you like the big stage ūüėČ You should be aware of that the “echo” of your tweets can last a lot longer then a spoken word!
  • You can follow a foreign news-channel: A constant source of text and multimedia in the language you want to learn. You have a wide range, from yellow press to the respectable daily newspapers. Another advantage: You can avoid eating “lasagne” even before the scandal reaches the German news!
  • And for me the most important thing: You’ll learn something about the language that no textbook can teach you.

I think the reasons why I like to use Twitter for improving my English are simple:

  • It is¬†completely¬†free!
  • I can learn, have fun whenever I choose it’s the right time – and mostly my friends are involved!
  • 140¬†characters is a good length for a quick lesson, isn’t it?

Let me explain this with two personal examples!


A little bit of “hanky panky”

I was on a conference in Prague, and like often I was listening carefully and try to understand – I can’t remember in which context the phrase “willy nilly” came up but I asked what this means. After a¬†lively¬†explanation¬†my friend Dughall asked his Twitter-friends for¬†similar¬†expressions – and I had a language lesson I’ll never forget! You can find the whole range of answers here. What I¬†kept¬†in mind:

  • willy nilly
  • hokum pokum
  • wishy washy
  • and of course: hanky panky

And the list of these expressions in English language seems to be endless!

It was very interesting to see what different¬†explanations¬†people give me to describe the phrase “hanky panky”: There was a range from “having a little bit of fun” till something that sounds like near to sexual¬†offence! ¬†I have forgotten tons of¬†vocabulary¬†already – ¬†but you can be sure I won’t forget this one!


You’re “bang tidy”!

The other occasion happened just a few days ago, as my Twitter-friend Rachel (@rly1981)¬†posted¬†this tweet¬†just¬†before Valentine’s day :

You may laugh but try to see this from a foreign-perspective! I asked myself: Is this a serious question? Is there irony in there? And what the hell does “bang tidy” mean? The only meaning of “tidy” I learnt at school is in the sense of “tidy up your room”. I asked my search engine and it prompted me to this site:

When male calls a female bang tidy, it means that they find them very attractive and worthy enough to have sexual relations with.
“That bird is bang tidy” (Urban dictionary)

Imagine a 6 year old giving a card with a meaning like this to a teacher could course a little bit of trouble – at least in the schools I have been in ūüôā

It turned out that she has a quite different understanding of the term “bang tidy”:

As I said above – that’s something a normal textbook can’t teach you! And I’ll be¬†careful¬†about how I use this term in public, but one’s for sure: Rachel – you are bang tidy ūüėÄ


You can help others!

It’s always a nice feeling if tweeting is not a one-way-road and you’re able to help someone else. And it can be funny too!

What are you’re experiences using twitter for learning foreign languages?

Do you know about schools using Twitter for their MFL lessons?

If you like this post, tweet or leave a comment in a foreign language of your choice – and let me know ūüôā

Thanks Rachel (@rlj1981) and Keven (@kevbartle) for your permission to post your tweets and Dughall for the very interesting English-lesson!

Nights to remember – TeachMeet BETT 2013 and BETT Show

The last week was incredible rich of events and experiences I will think of for a long time. I was in London to visit the BETT Show and to participate the MirandaNet sessions and the TeachMeet BETT 2013, both located at the Show.

To make it really short, I totally agree with Dughall and his BETTophobia-Post¬†– for me this visit is totally about the people and not the show (anymore). During all the days in the new ExCel exhibition center I had the feeling that I am not the audience they are¬†addressing. It seems to me that the focus is not about teachers anymore but about IT-managers and sellers from foreign educational¬†departments. Sometimes it’s really a bit surprising how fast the expressions in their faces changed when you “reveal” where you are and where you come from.

But the good point is: This is a very good opportunity to meet a different kind of persons.

Matt Pearson speaking about Twitter and other CPD tools during a MirandaNet-session
Matt Pearson speaking about Twitter and other CPD tools during a MirandaNet-session

One of them are the sessions run by MirandaNet. They¬†attract¬†usually an unique mixture of people interested in education, from teachers to researchers, from educational consultants to representative of firms active in education.¬†¬†Although the room was hard to find at the North Gallery (I think only rare people¬†realized¬†that there is a gallery at all…) the room was filled all the time. You can find all the presentations and the curated materials at the homepage. I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time there and meet lot of twitter-friends first time in real life.

TeachMeet BETT 2013
TeachMeet BETT 2013

The other¬†occasion¬†is the TeachMeet that takes place on Friday evening after the show. During the last year I had the opportunity to watch and participate two TeachMeets over Twitter and livestream. The main idea is that teachers share their best-practice examples in 7-minute or 2-minute-nano-presentations to inspire other teachers, so that everybody gets involved. Usually there are more speakers then time allows and they get picked by a “fruit machine”.

TeachMeet during BETT is a bit special – as I had to realize. When I signed up for speaking I had the two events in mind with around 30 people participating. As we entered the room and there was enough place for around 250 people I gasped – I really¬†didn’t’ expect this! When the event started I get more and more excited, every time the “fruit machine” picked up a name – and it happened exactly what I was afraid of: I entered about 100 prize draws at show without winning anything and then my name gets picked by this machine.

What happened then? Well, you can make you’re own judgement: You can find my little prezi about “How to make your own low-cost high-speed videos”¬†here and from 33:12 in the first Youtube-video. After speaking I felt big relief and could start concentrating to all the other brilliant speakers and participants.


During the whole time an amazing team of artists created the “Wall of fame” by caricaturing the speakers live during their presentations. So I felt very¬†honored¬†to find myself next to¬†Ian Pratt (@sciencelabman),¬†Bev Evans (@bevevans22) and¬†Peter Yeomans (@ethinking)!

Wall of fame
Wall of fame

I will not make many words about it, as it is hard to express this in a few sentences, but I’d like to thank John and Christina – who made my stay in London possible – and Theo and Jan who made sure that I won’t forget these days. A few little impressions from these amazing days:

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