Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Evolving English at the British Library

Posted on November 12th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Events | 2 Comments »

A new exhibition at the British Library raises the question of how we ought to use the English language, according to this review in the Telegraph.

Opening today, the exhibition is titled Evolving English, and runs until 3rd April 2011. Among the 130 exhibition pieces are “everday texts” alongside ‘star items’ such as a BBC Broadcast English publication from 1929. The 1,000 year old sole manuscript of Beowulf is also included.

Associated events include a performance of Beowulf by Benjamin Bagby and a discussion of the future of English. The website includes a fun quiz to test knowledge of the “origins, evolution and oddities of the English language”.

You can read the Evolving English Curator’s Blog here. The exhibition is free, and well worth a visit.

New Oxford Dictionary of English entries

Posted on August 23rd, 2010by Michelle
In English, Events, Slang, Words | Leave a Comment »

The third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English has announced new entries, including the word “vuvuzela”.

Released on August 19th, the dictionary contains 2,000 new words and 200 new phrases, including “on the naughty step”. “Vuvuzela” made an impact during the recent World Cup – it is a horn instrument blown by football fans – because of the controversy surrounding the noise it makes.

Oxford University Press uses a constantly updated “word bank” to ensure the dictionary is up to date – the first edition published in 1998 included “alcopop” and “eye candy” while the second edition additions included “Ruby Murrary” (rhyming slang for a curry) and “chav”. Other entries for this edition include “microblogging” – the posting of short entries on a blog and “staycation” – a holiday in your own country.
Climate change and the financial crisis also impacted on the dictionary – with the introduction of “toxic debt” and “carbon capture”.

The aim of the dictionary is to reflect current trends in the usage of English words. What words would you add?

(Source: BBC News)

Why Qwerty?

Posted on August 11th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Events, Technology | 1 Comment »

A new series of Fry’s English Delight starts on BBC Radio 4 tonight, with the first episode looking at the origins of the Qwerty keyboard.

Fry asks how we became so reliant on this odd layout of letters, and wonders what impact Qwerty has had on languages.

But did Sholes really doctor the configuration of letters to slow the typist. Would an inventor really hobble his own brainchild?

If so, argues Fry, then the Qwerty keyboard and its inventor could be accused of “conspiracy to pervert the course of language and to limit the speed of creativity and language input, endangering billions with repetitive strain injury”.

Qwerty can be seen, he argues, as “a deliberate spanner in the works of language, metaphorically and technologically”. (Source: BBC News)

You can listen to Fry’s conclusions on Radio 4 at 2130 BST or afterwards using BBC iPlayer.

Live translation event

Posted on June 9th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Events, French, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

Over at the LanguageHat blog I saw a post about a live translation event taking place as part of the London Review Bookshop’s World Literature Weekend.

The challenge has been set by the francophone novelist Alain Mabanckou – two translators will offer up their translation of his short text, and then discuss and debate the differences with the author and each other. The idea is to bring out aspects of the text that aren’t normally paid attention to as well as paying attention to the process of translation itself.

Audience members will receive a copy of the French text as well as the two English translations to help them follow along.

The event is being held at the British Museum in London on Saturday 19th June. Definitely looks well worth attending!

Internet language revolution is here!

Posted on May 18th, 2010by Michelle
In Arabic, English, Events, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Last November I posted about the internet regulator Icann approving the use of different alphabets, ending the dominance of Latin-based alphabets such as English. The new web addresses were expected in 2010, and at the start of May the new domains became available for use!

Previously web addresses could be written partly in different scripts, but the ‘country code’ (e.g. had to be written in a Latin script. The change means that the entire address can be written in, for example, Arabic, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates the first to do so.

Unfortunately, not all computer users will be able to use the new domain names immediately as they may not have the correct fonts installed.

“You may see a mangled string of letters and numbers, and perhaps some percent signs or a couple of “xn--”s mixed into the address bar,” said Mr Davies. “Or it may not work at all.”…

“Computers never come with the complete set of fonts that will allow it to show every possible IDN [internationalised domain names] in the world.

“Often this is fixed by downloading additional language packs for the missing languages, or specifically finding and installing fonts that support the wanted languages.” (Source: BBC News)

The country codes:
Egypt: مصر (Egypt)
Saudi Arabia: السعودية (AlSaudiah)
United Arab Emirates: امارات (Emarat)

Source: Icann

Croatian teen changes languages

Posted on April 14th, 2010by Michelle
In Events, German | Leave a Comment »

A Croatian girl has woken up from a coma speaking fluent German.

Having only recently started learning the language, the 13 year old was not fluent before the coma, according to her parents. She is now also unable to speak Croatian.

Psychiatric expert Dr Mijo Milas added: “In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle, we prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation – its just that we haven’t found it yet.

“There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages – sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt – at the moment though any speculation would remain just that – speculation – so it’s better to continue tests until we actually know something.” (Source: Telegraph)

If the story had appeared a couple of weeks ago, I would have assumed it was an April Fool’s joke. I can’t find any follow up stories on this though – I wonder if the girl has regained her native Croatian?

French Language Day

Posted on March 19th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Events, French, UN Language Days | Leave a Comment »

FrenchOn February 21st I posted about International Mother Language Day, and mentioned that the UN was also launching a new initiative called UN Language Days.

Well, today is the first of those days, with the French language being celebrated.

“French, as a working language of the UN and one that is spoken on all continents, plays an important role in spreading the message of the United Nations in the world,” said Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Public Information (DPI) and Coordinator for Multilingualism at the UN. (Source: UN)

Here are a few facts about French to help get you started with your celebration:

    Around 75 million people speak French as their mother tongue
    Apart from the UN, French is used as an official working language in many organisations – including Amnesty International, the International Olympic Committee, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the International Criminal Court
    There are 16 vowels in French

Commonwealth Day

Posted on March 8th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Events, Hindi | Leave a Comment »

Commonwealth FlagToday is Commonwealth Day, so a good time to take a look at the languages of the Commonwealth I think!

Once known as Empire Day, Commonwealth Day celebrates the 54 countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations. Most member countries are former British colonies, and so speak English as either a first or second language. About 30% of the world’s population live in the Commonwealth – that’s over 2 BILLION people.

Canada, Singapore, Australia and South Africa are some examples of Commonwealth countries which have developed their own version of English, whilst still preferring British spellings.

Brunei – Behasa Melayu; India – Hindi (official); Tonga – Tongan; Seychelles – Seselwa Creole and Malta – Maltese are examples of some other Commonwealth countries and their languages. India alone has hundreds of languages, although Hindi and English are the two official ones.

The Commonwealth Games are due to be held later this year in New Delhi, India, so I’m sure revisit the languages of the Commonwealth then!

Read the Commonwealth message from Her Majesty The Queen here.

International Mother Language Day 2010

Posted on February 21st, 2010by Michelle
In Arabic, Chinese, English, Events, French, Russian, Spanish | 1 Comment »

Today is International Mother Language Day, designated as such by UNESCO in 1999 and first celebrated in 2000. Observed yearly by UNESCO member states, the day aims to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The day has its origins in Language Movement Day, which was first commemorated in Bangladesh in 1952. Each year has a theme, with this year being the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Previous themes have included International Year of Languages (2008) and Linguistic Diversity (2002).

This year, in conjunction with International Mother Language Day, the UN will launch a new initiative called UN Language Days. These seek to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, two of the aims of Mother Language Day. It also aims to promote equal use of all six of the UN’s official working languages – Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic – through six new observance days.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova noted in her message for the Day:

“Languages are the best vehicles of mutual understanding and tolerance. Respect for all languages is a key factor for ensuring peaceful coexistence, without exclusion, of societies and all of their members,” she said. (Source: UN)

Olympic-size language issues

Posted on February 16th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Events, French, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Winter OlympicsI’ve been having a lot of fun staying up late and watching the Winter Olympics coverage, especially as I used to live in beautiful Vancouver.

Away from curious events such as skeleton, however, controversy is brewing over the bilingual nature of the Games. Canada is officially bilingual, with one in four of the population identifying French as their mother tongue. In British Columbia though, where the Games are being held, there is a much lower rate of French spoken and scepticism about the country’s policy of two official languages.

Olympic organisers have made a huge effort to ensure the bilingualism of the Games, with bilingual signs in the Olympic zone, translation of official events including news conferences, and recruitment of French-speaking volunteers.

Yet all those efforts failed to avert controversy, as many residents of French-speaking Quebec – and the federal Cabinet minister with the language portfolio – complained that the opening ceremony had too little French content for a country where it’s the mother tongue of about 23 percent of the population.

“I was disappointed there wasn’t as much French as we were expecting, as we were told that there was going to be,” Heritage Minister James Moore told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.

Harsher criticism came from the president of the Montreal-based Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, which advocates for Francophone rights.

“It was really pitiful,” Mario Beaulieu said. “It shows that official bilingualism in Canada is a farce. It’s only stated in theory to calm linguistic tides in Quebec, but the reality is it doesn’t work.” (Source: Washington Post)

The Olympics is a huge event, attracting people from all over the globe. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) retains French as one of its operating languages (the movement was founded by a Frenchman) despite the language becoming less globally dominant. It’s a shame that the focus is on a negative aspect of the Games, rather than what’s really important – the crazy sports!