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Where Language Meets Food Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

There are lots of reasons to learn a new language. But one of the best, no doubt, is the excuse to stuff yourself silly.

Itchy Feet: Central Diet

If there’s one thing I love about language learning, it’s the food.


Well, think about it: when you learn a new language, what are the types of things you learn about first? There’s the home (house, garden, bed, sleep, family, etc), the human body (head, feet, hands, heart, sick, hurt, see, hear, etc), directions (which way to the library? Where’s central park? Etc), and then, of course, food (eat, cook, water, bread, eggs, sugar, juice, two beers please, etc). It’s one of the basic categories of vocabulary for any beginner, and that’s because if you expect to speak your new language in any sort of everyday capacity, you’re going to deal with food. You eat it at least three times a day, so you’re going to want to know how to get the kind you want, how to pay for it, and the right way to eat it, if that applies.

And that’s where things get delicious. Chowing down is a natural place to get speaking. Conversations are held over dinner tables, over a bottle of local wine, over last-minute snacks in the train station kiosk – breaking bread with another human being is a foolproof way to get the words flowing as fast as the drinks. It lowers those interpersonal barriers, allowing people to be more personal and chatty with one another (and it allows for my favorite trick: pretending to chew while my brain scrambles to think of the right words to say).

So food leads to language, but language leads to food, too. When you learn a language, you inevitably find yourself eating. Part of the fun of learning a new language is diving into a culture, and what’s a better cultural experience than giving it a literal taste? I love that learning a new language gives me an excuse to try out what the locals are eating. New vocabulary and seeking opportunities to speak with others leads me to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, local watering holes and the kitchens of parents and grandparents everywhere. I can unbuckle my belt, tie my bib and get to language learning!

Italian and French are the classic examples, but what are some lesser-known but just as tasty language / food combinations that you would recommend giving a try?


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About the Author:Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.

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