basically science

language tips from toons

Learning a new language can be tough, and learning how to get comfortable using that language is even harder! After you learn how to properly pluralize toilet paper, you still have to gear yourself up to ask a stranger where the bathroom is. Most of my relatives speak English as a second language, and it didn’t take me long to realize that Looney Tunes teaches you everything you need to know about being comfortable using a newly-learned language. So here it goes, Advice from the Toons:

Porky Says : Don’t Panic — If you can’t say it one way, say it another.

Porky the Pig is known for his stutter, but he compensates by replacing words that are hard for him to say with words that are easier. It’s a simple technique, but an effective one. Often times, new language learners get so focused on saying one word properly that they don’t just try to complete their thought in a new way.

For example: If you want to find the library, but don’t know the right word for library or don’t feel comfortable saying it, try asking where you can get or borrow a book.

Sylvester Says : Over Pronounce — Don’t be afraid to over do it.

Sylvester the Cat is known for his spitty, overly pronounced word usage. The truth is, most languages involve an emphasis that doesn’t come naturally to most new learners. So whether it’s rolling an R, distinguishing between a B and V, or pronouncing a sound that you’ve never had to make before — just over-do it. People will understand!

For example: Where I grew up, it’s common for people to drop the H from words that start with an H. Like “heat” instead of “eat”. But since you wouldn’t want someone to EAT THE PIE that you just asked them to HEAT, it’s important to over emphasize the sound you know you struggle with.

Bugs Says : Get Visual — Use props and body language.

Bugs Bunny is known for references that his demographic most certainly does not understand, and using words incorrectly. Instead of fretting over the incorrect word choice, though, Bugs just points to things around him, pulls out handy reference items, and uses body language to make sure the point gets across. New language learners often forget to use the world around them as a tool!

For example: If you want to know if a dish on a menu is spicy, but don’t know how to ask– point at the menu and then make the universal gesture for “I just ate something hot!”. (You know, wave your hand in front of your open mouth and bulge your eyes out a bit.)

Tweety Says : Repeat — Repeat, repeat, and then say it again

Tweety speaks Birdy as a first language, so when he speaks in English, he often has to repeat what he said. Sometimes in different ways! Many new language learners feel embarrassed when someone asks them to repeat something — but remember that quite often, they just didn’t hear you, or maybe didn’t understand that particular phrasing. Try asking the question in a way that repeats your questions as much as possible.

For example: If you need directions to the supermarket say the equivalent of, “Can you help me find my way? I’m trying to get directions to the supermarket. If I go left, will I arrive at the supermarket?” rather than just “How do I get to the supermarket?”

Daffy Says : Get Loud — Mumbling is for Natives.

Daffy has a lisp, but it doesn’t stop people from understanding him because he speaks loudly and clearly. If you’re patient with your speech, assertive in your delivery, and loud enough in volume, you have much greater odds of being understood. Many new language learners mumble because they’re afraid of making a mistake, but the safest bet is to speak loud enough for people to hear you.

For example: If you’re looking at your feet and mumbling when you ask where the bathroom is, people will probably rely on your body language to fill in the blanks that they didn’t hear. They’ll assume they’re talking about your shoes, and you will get very confusing advice!

PepΓ© Says : Be Proud of your Multilingual Abilities — Language is a beautiful gift.

PepΓ© is French, and isn’t trying to hide it. If he doesn’t know the word in English, he says it in French. If he can say it best in French, then he does and explains why. Language is about communication, and communication is a two-way street. People are open to learning more about your language if your language gets the point across better.

For example: The French phrase “je ne sais quoi” has been nearly fully adapted into English because it’s simply the best way to say it.


In summary– don’t be so hard on yourself, and take it easy.

That’s all, folks!


This is an old-old-post, one of my first 100.Β  I’m reviving it this way because I’m having a little difficulty figuring out how to turn drafts or private posts live without publicizing them everywhere.

How many languages do you speak? What are your tried and true tips?


  1. I think you an uncheck the boxes under the “sharing” feature, you can keep it from publicizing that post. Also, you can change the post date (by the publish button) and that might keep it from going out to other services if you back date it far enough – not sure on that one though.

    Either way, this was a cute post and had lots of good info. πŸ™‚ I still have one of your old (taken down) posts in my drafts that I was going to reblog a few years ago, too, lol.



  2. Only the one.

    If I haven’t someday I’ll tell you the whole embarrassing story about driving in Quebec.

    Short story- sometimes French makes me panic.

    How many languages do you speak?


  3. I loved this!!! I shared it with a friend who is an English as a second launge teacher. I thought these were awesome tips that would help encourage middle school students!

    I speak English and Spanish. Spanish used to be my first language but it feels like I use it less and less… I’m sad to say I’m losing it a bit.


  4. There are all kinds of ways to learn a language, but the best thing is to go ahead and use what you know as much as you can. Dutch is my native language, I then learned Papiamento on the street and that was followed by English that started on the street and continued in high school. I also speak Spanish and German, but lack the grammar and vocabulary to be fluent. The best advice I can give is to not be afraid to make mistakes, people will correct you, but do so in an attempt to help. Great topic.


  5. Actually I speak more than a handful of languages, write 2 less than I speaks and read 3 more than I speaks – but still other people not always understand me… πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€


  6. This is genius! Funny and genuinely good advice at the same timeπŸ˜‚

    I’m not fluent but I learnt French at school and studied Spanish later at night classes so I can get by with both.

    I think it’s important to attempt to learn the local language wherever you go so I always make sure I have a phrase book and dictionary and give it my best shotπŸ˜‰

    I’m definitely better at reading than speaking though so even though I know the vocabulary I can be thrown by the delivery when I get a reply😁


  7. I have been working on my Spanish skills now for the last year. I can understand a lot of what I read or hear, but am too chicken about my accent to try saying anything more than gracias or hasta luego. I listen to bilingual radio and podcasts on my commute and was told recently by one of the instructors at work that I may benefit from listening to English lessons for Spanish speakers for a slightly more advanced level on perfecting basic skills.


  8. I speak 3/4 of one language fluently. 70% of that is made up of useful words likes the ones I’ve typed so far smattered with uselessness like aglet and legerdemain.


  9. I absolutely love this. I had to laugh at your description of Bugs’ language ability, since if you’re from anywhere near NY, he sounds like the perfect linguist πŸ™‚


  10. I speak a little French and a little Spanish. Years ago in Paris trying to find a nearby swimming pool I asked for le bain pour nager (the bath for swimming) because I couldn’t remember the word for swimming pool (la piscine). It worked πŸ™‚


  11. I spent 5 years stumbling in French, entertaining many French speakers. I never thought of Loony Toons, though.

    I did frequently think of the old Steve Martin routine — ‘the first thing you do when you go to France is put on a French accent.’ It really did help. Except with verbs. Verbs are very annoying words. Add a “ment” to any English noun and you have the french equivalent …

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a fantastic post. I saw myself in quite a few toons – I’m definitely a mumbler when it comes to speaking anything other than English. I lack confidence in my skills big-time, even though I had years of practice once upon a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s actually the phrase “Mumbling’s for natives” that inspired this post. I’m not sure who told it to me originally, or if I thought of it, but it settled in enough to come out like a Rule of Life. πŸ˜€ Language is always much easier to understand if it can be heard. πŸ™‚

      Thank you for reading, Kay.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m brushing up on my Spanish, and it’s funny how much I remember that I thought I’d forgotten (high school was a long time ago). Even then, though, I mumbled it – partly I lacked confidence, but also I didn’t want to be a know-it-all. Now, I just lack confidence. And I don’t have anyone to practice with.

        My kids are mumblers, though, and it drives me crazy.


  13. I like the revival ad kind of want to share if I can with other English Language Learning teachers. May I?
    As to languages, English American style and a bit of German and even less Welsh. And attempt at Latin and Spanish but sadly they could not stay, nor could Old English Anglo-Saxon. Just not used enough though I recognize bits.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love the post and it reminds me very strongly of when my son was learning to talk. He was a great communicator even when his verbal skills were low, and he used most of these tips.

    Personally I speak enough German to hold a conversation with a non English speaker, a little French and a smattering of random words in Swedish, Portuguese, and Welsh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kids always remember the stuff we forget. πŸ˜€ You’re versatile with languages– that is awesome!

      I saw my letter to you yesterday. I keep telling myself I need to mail it out, but it’s in a pile from prison and I’m just not ready to go through the pile yet. πŸ˜€ But its there, and you’re thought of fondly, often, every time I see it. ❀


      1. When you are ready, I will enjoy reading it.

        And thank you, my random words really are very random. I try to learn SOMETHING in the native language everywhere I go so ended up with lesson one of the Swedish linguaphone course stuck in my brain. Plus ‘without meat’ in Hungarian. And ‘animal food’ in Norwegian. Very random.

        I live in Wales so know things like Police and Slow and Welcome to Wales!


  15. I’ve never learnt a second language, but I can say hello, goodbye, please and thank you in several. I was once asked how long I’ve been living in Australia…LOL I was born here. In Australia, a lot of us tend to be lazy speakers and speak what is called Strine (lazy for Australian) For instance:
    “Emma chissit” = How much is it?
    “Carmen Seamy” = Come and see me.
    “Egg Nishna” = Air conditioner
    “Garbler Mince” = A couple of minutes.
    “Gunga Din” as in, “Oy Gunga Din, the door slokt. ” = I can’t get in, the door is locked
    There’s a heap more, but I’ll let you check them out your self πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My tip – Anger makes the brain pathways clear. I’m not good in any language other than english, but I used to speak a little Spanish from always working with Spanish speakers, and when I moved to India, whenever I wouldn’t know a word in Malayalam I would substitute it with a Spanish word because it was non-english in my brain. Now after trying to learn Malayalam, I can no longer talk Spanish, and when I try I substitute all the words I can’t remember in Spanish come out in Malayalam – cause it’s the non english word. Anyways, in the same way, when you get angry in your native tongue and suddenly say all kinds of the meanest things that you didn’t think was possible for you to say allowed, I found that with both languages, whichever one I was using the most at the time, if I got angry about something, somehow all of those neurological pathways in my brain would open up and I could yell perfectly all the words that when I was in a good mood would struggle to remember. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it AMAZING what the brain knows? We have a treasure trove in us at all times and we maybe don’t even have access to it because we don’t know the magic key. What a bizarre and wonderful truth. πŸ˜€


    1. Because they’re so old and it’s so messy. I just want them to reappear in the archives. Silently like the bizarre old posts that they are. πŸ˜€


  17. I learnt French at school and so remember a bit of it. I know some Latin, because of singing church music. I know a little Italian because of musical terms. I can read knitting and crocheting patterns, which are written in code. I can understand some mathematical equations.

    However, the languages I truly speak are English, love and music. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you speak so many pieces of languages where they intersect with the things you love. That’s beautiful. I’d say you were quite fluent in love, chica, and that’s awesome. ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Well who on earth would have thought you could get tips on how to speak from toons. Loved reading this, so insightful. Also inspiring. If you can get tips from toons, what else can you get tips from? The world has many dimensions, that’s what.

    Liked by 2 people


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