Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Going forward…

Posted on September 23rd, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Jargon | Leave a Comment »

Management speak seems to be slowly creeping in to everyday English.

One example is “going forward”, where we used to say “from now on”. Comedian David Mitchell is vehemently against this change, and you can hear his rant in the video below:

How to learn English infographic

Posted on September 9th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

This interesting infographic from Kaplan International looks at how non-native English speakers learn the language.

One of the things that grabs me from the infographic is the stat that 82% of people said that TV shows helped them learn English (with a focus on American sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother). This stat is reflected in anecdotal evidence from friends who have learned English – they all say they picked up a lot from watching TV!

It’s perhaps a little harder to find shows in your target language, but it seems like it’s worth the effort. If you enjoy the show you seem to get more language benefits from it!

English words borrowed from India

Posted on July 13th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Etymology, Words | Leave a Comment »

Have you ever heard of the Hobson-Jobson dictionary?

Colonel Henry Yule and AC Burnell began work on it in 1872. The dictionary started as a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India, and hasn’t been out of print since it was first published. It’s much more than a dictionary though:

“It’s a madly unruly and idiosyncratic work,” says poet Daljit Nagra.

“Not so much an orderly dictionary as a passionate memoir of colonial India. Rather like an eccentric Englishman in glossary form.”

Take the entry for the Indian word dam. The dictionary defines it as: “Originally an actual copper coin. Damri is a common enough expression for the infinitesimal in coin, and one has often heard a Briton in India say: ‘No, I won’t give a dumree!’ with but a vague notion what a damri meant.”

That is the etymology of dam. But Yule and Burnell have more to say.

“And this leads to the suggestion that a like expression, often heard from coarse talkers in England as well as in India, originated in the latter country, and that whatever profanity there may be in the animus, there is none in the etymology, when such an one blurts out ‘I don’t care a dam!’ in other words, ‘I don’t care a brass farthing!’” (Source: BBC News)

Some words we use that have Indian origins:

Avatar, cashmere, guru, loot

Gaelic words used in English

Posted on June 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Etymology, Irish | Leave a Comment »

Despite having met many Irish people, I’ve yet to visit the Republic of Ireland. It seems that some Irish words may have crept into my speech anyway!

The Oxford English Dictionary has been researching words with Gaelic origins; the research even featured on Countdown! David Cameron and friends might be interested to find that the word “Tory” actually derives from the Irish word “tóraidhe”.

According to OED lexicographer Katherine Connor Martin, the oldest borrowing from Irish into English is “mind”. This is from the Irish “mionn”, “an obsolete term for a type of ornament attested in Old English”.

The most recent imports from Irish to English are “craic”, “punt” and “fleadh”.

“There was a steady trickle of Irish loanwords into English from the 15th through 18th centuries, but this increased to a flood during the 1800s,” said Ms Connor Martin.

“Oddly enough, this apex of Irish imports in English coincided with a period of steep and decisive decline for the Irish language itself.

“The 19th century was also a period of mass emigration, during which Irish immigrants streamed to the rest of the UK and to North America, taking their distinctive vocabularies with them.” (Source: Irish Examiner)

British children behind in languages by age 3

Posted on June 23rd, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Following last week’s news that the primary school curriculum is to be changed to make a second language compulsory from age seven, a new study says British children are behind in languages by age three.

The study was completed by language experts, who revealed that English-speaking countries devote the least amount of time to foreign-language learning. Language learning in primary schools is voluntary in English-speaking countries including England, Australia and the US.

But the report also said: “There are greater challenges in implementing primary languages for policy makers in English-speaking countries than there are in the rest of the world.”

In English-speaking countries, it adds, “there is no one language which everyone wants to learn”.

It is also often argued in the UK that learning another language is unnecessary because English is the universal language of business. However, the report concludes: “The assumption that English speakers do not need to learn other languages because others are learning ours is damaging to our economy.”

The report does not come up with an optimum age for learning a foreign language but says an early start is essential. “Unless language learning starts early, it is argued, learners will be unable to take advantage of the natural capacity young children have to acquire language instinctively,” it says. (Source: The Independent)

When did you start learning languages? Do you wish you’d got a head start in primary school?

Languages compulsory from age seven

Posted on June 16th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Following the news that Scottish schools are considering overhauling the language curriculum, English primary schools are following suit.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, is expected to announce that learning a language will be compulsory from the age of seven for English children. In addition, there will be a “new focus” on spelling and grammar.

[Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg] welcomed the government’s ideas, saying: “I think it’s absolutely right. Children will get a love of languages if they start them young.”

Under Mr Gove’s plans, primary schools could offer lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek, as well as French, German and Spanish.
The Department for Education said that where English teaching was concerned, the aim was to ensure that pupils left primary school with high standards of literacy. (Source: BBC News)

The need for speed

Posted on June 12th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Words, Writing | Leave a Comment »

How fast can you go? Reading, I mean – how quickly can you scan those words?

I think I’m a pretty fast reader – I finished the final Harry Potter in about 10 hours – but according to this test, I’m ranked just above an “average college student”! At 512 words per minute, that apparently makes me 105% faster than the American national average. Which I suppose isn’t too shabby!

It’s not all about how fast you are though – comprehension matters. So in Spanish I’d probably be well below the national average. What about you?

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

British vs American slang

Posted on June 9th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Slang | Leave a Comment »

Do you know the meaning of the word “shawty”?

If not, you might want to watch this informative video in which Hugh Laurie is quizzed on some American slang by Ellen DeGeneres. He doesn’t do that well… but then neither does Ellen when asked about some British slang!

Lovely English words

Posted on May 31st, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Words | Leave a Comment »

Over at the Guardian’s Mind Your Language blog, they’re asking: What is the loveliest word in the English language?

Some suggestions include:

Closer to a classical sense of phonetic beauty, it’s as smooth and chubby as a cherub. And finally (those Bs and Ls again) …

A word as sensuous as a single malt. I never did get to kiss the boy in the corduroys but, if I had, I’m sure it would have been as lovely as “balalaika”. (Source: Guardian)

Commenters have suggested various other words, including lugubrious, butterfly, mellifluous, and kerfuffle. What’s do you think?

Queen Victoria’s Journals

Posted on May 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Education, English | Leave a Comment »

Britain is currently celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The first monarch to reach this milestone is Queen Victoria.

To celebrate both queens, Queen Victoria’s journals have been released by the Royal Archives for public viewing. Previously they were only accessible to academics via the Archives; now digitised images are freely available on a specially designed website.

Over 43,000 pages of the Queen’s private thoughts are available, which include her marriage to Albert, births of her children and the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The diaries begin when Victoria was 13, and continue up until 10 days before her death.

It’s interesting to see both the Queen’s handwriting and that of her daughter, Princess Beatrice, who transcribed some of the diaries. There are also a number of illustrations of family and friends. Take a peek at Victorian English – a fascinating resource.