Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Chinese dictionary – for restaurant

Posted on May 18th, 2012by Michelle
In Chinese, Culture, English, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Any idea what “hand shredded ass meat” is? Does it sound like a delicious restaurant meal?

If the answer’s no, then a new dictionary may be your new best friend. “Enjoy Culinary Delights: The English Translation of Chinese Menus” was originally created in 2006 with the “Beijing Speaks English” campaign. The book was modified in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and proved to be so successful that work has continued on it.

The dictionary does exactly what it says: instead of providing the potentially inaccurate machine translation of a dish, it will tell you exactly what it is. So “hand shredded ass meat” becomes “hand shredded donkey meat”. Over 2,000 translations are provided (although this does mean you will miss out on gems such as “Tofu made by woman with freckles”).

Some of the dishes kept their original names, which people familiar with Chinese food may understand: jiaozi, baozi, mantou, tofu or wonton.

Some more complicated dishes come with both Chinese pronunciations and explanations: “fotiaoqiang” (steamed abalone with shark’s fin and fish maw in broth); “youtiao” (deep-fried dough sticks); “lvdagunr” (glutinous rice rolls stuffed with red bean paste), and “aiwowo” (steamed rice cakes with sweet stuffing).

Chen Lin, a 90-year-old retired English professor from Beijing Foreign Language University, was the chief consultant for the book.
He told NBC News that about 20 other experts – like English teachers and professors, translators, expats who have lived in China for a long time, culinary experts and people from the media – helped develop the final version. (Source: NBC News)


English switch for Italian university

Posted on May 16th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Italian | Leave a Comment »

An Italian university has announced it will teach and assess its degree courses in English rather than Italian.

The change will be made from 2014 at the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading universities. The university, based in Milan, believes that it will be unable to compete on a global scale if it continues to use the Italian language.

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language,” says the university’s rector, Giovanni Azzone.

“Universities are in a more competitive world, if you want to stay with the other global universities – you have no other choice,” says Professor Azzone. (Source: BBC News)

The professor believes other Italian universities will follow suit, as English has become the language of higher education and international business.

What do you think? Should universities teach in their country’s language, or switch to English? What will this change mean for the Italian language?

History of the English language – from 1943

Posted on May 13th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

We’ve recently been hearing a lot about the English language – from David Crystal’s English in 100 words to the Open University’s history of English in 10 minutes.

But what did they think about the language back in 1943? A newly released film from the British Film Council’s Collection showcases the multiculturalism of English and describes its origins. You can view and download the film here.

Interestingly, the film originally included more focus on the Germanic aspects of the language – as it was wartime however, these were cut, citing “time constraints”.

David Crystal’s English in 100 Words

Posted on April 20th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Etymology | 1 Comment »

Last October, I highlighted the linguist David Crystal’s new book, The Story of English in 100 Words.

It appears the book has just come out in America, as Crystal has given a fairly lengthy interview to NPR. You can listen to the interview and read some extracts over at NPR’s website. My favourite extract is this, about the origins of ‘OK’.

On the origins of ‘OK’

“One of the reasons why I love it is because of the point that Roger has made, and that is that it has had so many guesses for its origins. I stopped counting at 50.

“I think we do now know where OK comes from. There was a great American lexicographer called Allen Walker Read, who many years ago did a huge study and found out that the word ‘OK’ first appeared in the 1830s … in a newspaper in Boston. Because at the time, there was a vogue for inventing humorous abbreviations using initial letters.

“And OK came, at that point in time, from ‘oll korrect,’ … O-L-L for ‘all,’ and K-O-R-R-E-C-T for ‘correct.’ Now, there were dozens of other abbreviations in the Boston newspaper at the time, and most of them had disappeared. But this one didn’t. OK stayed. And the reason is it had a completely fresh boost of life the following year, when it began to be used as a slogan in the U.S. elections in 1840.”

Loose or lose?

Posted on April 14th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Words | Leave a Comment »

In English there are many words that look similar but have different meanings. Brought and bought for example, or lose and loose.

A single letter marks the difference in meaning in each of these four words. Let’s look at lose and loose, as I’ve recently seen a lot of examples of misuse of these words. In particular people seem to write loose when they really mean lose.

Loose is an adjective, and means not tight or constricted; free. Examples include “my shoes feel really loose today” and “the dog got loose”. When someone tells you to “loosen up”, they mean for you to relax, chill out.

Lose, however, means to be without something through theft, accident, etc. Examples include “I lost my wallet” and “I lost my job”. When someone tells you to “get lost”, they mean for you to go away!

There’s an easy way to remember the difference – just think that “lose has lost the extra o”!

Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation

Posted on March 21st, 2012by Michelle
In Accents, Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

We all remember the horror of stumbling over Shakespeare’s texts in school English classes, but what do the plays sound like when not spoken aloud by embarrassed teenagers?

The British Library has released a CD featuring scenes and speeches from Shakespeare’s work as he would have heard them. The selection of speeches includes Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” and Henry V’s “Once more unto the breach, dear friends”, with scenes featured from Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth and Othello.

The recording reveals new ways of looking at Shakespeare’s work, with lines that were meant to rhyme actually rhyming and puns that don’t work in modern English revealed. You can listen to some clips from the recording here. People have said the accents sound Cornish, do you agree?

Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation CD is available from the British Library shop.

Being British

Posted on February 22nd, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

I’m sure this has been around for a while, but I’ve only just seen it. I’m especially guilty of using “I’m was a bit disappointed..” when I’m really annoyed! Us Brits are too polite for our own good sometimes…

Dickens dictionary

Posted on February 19th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Events | Leave a Comment »

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth (7th February 1812), with lots of events, films and new books about the man released to celebrate it.

One of the new books is The Dickens Dictionary by John Sutherland. Subtitled “An A-Z of England’s Greatest Novelist”, the book is written by a recently retired Professor from the University of London.

Martin Chilton from The Telegraph wrote about a few things he learned from the book, all of which are very interesting:

There are more than 16,000 characters in the works of Dickens.

Considering he wrote upwards of 20 novels and short stories, this is an amazing number!

The word umbrella is mentioned 55 times in Martin Chuzzlewit.

Dickens suffered from nightmares following a visit to London Zoo as a boy. It was the horror of seeing snakes eating birds and guinea-pigs.

What’s your favourite Dickens fact?

The death of trading slang

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

There’s not much sympathy to be had for banks or the people that work in them at the moment.

But language lovers will spare a thought for the loss of the lingua franca of the trading floor. Described as a mix of “Cockney rhyming slang, market banter and expressions picked up from horse racing bookmakers”, the slang is in danger of dying out because of the switch to electronic trading.

The language used by traders evolved because they spoke in person or over the telephone – it’s apparently not quite the same asking your computer screen for some “Bill and Ben” (Japanese yen). Other factors also come into play:

Many traders nowadays are recruited as university graduates with top marks from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and M.I.T., whereas 30 years ago aspiring youngsters with few, if any, academic qualifications often started as back office clerks and worked their way up to the trading floor.

Young London lads blessed with quick wits, common sense and ability to juggle numbers were often prized above those with academic laurels and went on to make fortunes as City traders.

“They were the ‘barrow boys’ coming off the market stalls. It was more working class and with that came the language of the street,” said one trader, who used to work alongside some dealers who also owned fruit and vegetable and flower stalls.

“In the early days of dealing rooms it was the City institutions and especially the British banks where you heard it. Now dealing rooms might be a bit more international and slang is dying off a bit.” (Source: Reuters)

English is a positive language

Posted on January 31st, 2012by Michelle
In English, Research | Leave a Comment »

Reading or watching the news may make it hard to believe, but new research shows that English is biased towards being positive.

Researchers from the University of Vermont gathered billions of words from sources including Google Books and looked at the top 5,000 words from each source. They found that happier words cropped up more frequently.

Why is this? “It’s not to say that everything is fine and happy,” Dodds says. “It’s just that language is social.”

In contrast to traditional economic theory, which suggests people are inherently and rationally selfish, a wave of new social science and neuroscience data shows something quite different: that we are a pro-social storytelling species. As language emerged and evolved over the last million years, positive words, it seems, have been more widely and deeply engrained into our communications than negative ones.

“If you want to remain in a social contract with other people, you can’t be a…,” well, Dodds here used a word that is rather too negative to be fit to print — which makes the point. (Source: Science Daily)

I wonder what other languages are as ‘happy’ as English?