Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

It’s amour

Posted on February 14th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Events, French, Italian, Japanese, Research, Spanish, Words | Leave a Comment »

love heartsIt’s that time of year again, when you can’t go near a shop, magazine, or website without seeing some combination of pink, red, and the word ‘Valentine’.

This year we have a little something extra: a survey of language experts has revealed that amour is the most romantic word in the world.

The French word for love beat amore, the Italian word for love, in a poll by London-based Today Translations. The survey also found that Italian was the most romantic language, followed by French, with Spanish and English tied in third place.

And the least romantic way to profess your love? In Japanese: watakushi-wa anata-wo ai shimasu. I suppose it does look a bit wordy!

What are your favourite romantic words?

Death of the Bo language

Posted on February 5th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Events, Hindi, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »

Boa Sr - Bo languageBig news yesterday with the announcement of the death of another language.

Boa Sr, the last person fluent in the Bo language of the Andaman Islands, died and took with her an ancient tribal language. The Andaman Islands are a union territory of India in the Bay of Bengal.

The Bo language was one of the ten Great Andamanese languages, and took its name from a now-extinct tribe. The languages are thought to date back to pre-Neolithic human settlement of south-east Asia. Many of the indigenous languages survived unchanged for years, before the modern world encroached on the tribes that spoke them.

Linguists now hope that they can preserve other tribal languages, after Boa Sr spent her last years unable to converse with anyone in her mother tongue. She sounds like an incredible woman – speaking Hindi and another local language as well as songs and stories in Bo. She lived through the 2004 tsunami, reportedly climbing a tree to escape the water.

“Her loss is not just the loss of the Great Andamanese community, it is a loss of several disciplines of studies put together, including anthropology, linguistics, history, psychology, and biology,” Narayan Choudhary, a linguist of Jawaharlal Nehru University who was part of an Andaman research team, wrote on his webpage. “To me, Boa Sr epitomised a totality of humanity in all its hues and with a richness that is not to be found anywhere else.” (Source: The Guardian)

Listen to a clip of the Bo language at the BBC website.

Christmassy language learning

Posted on December 23rd, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, English, Events, Hints and Tips, Language acquisition, Spanish, te reo Maori | Leave a Comment »

Christmas is pretty ubiquitous in the Western world, with Christmas songs being especially difficult to avoid.

Having spent the last few Christmases overseas, I’ve been interested to hear songs in different languages. For example, in New Zealand there are Maori versions of many traditional carols, such as Märie te pö (Silent Night). Another popular favourite is A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree (sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas).

In Spain, carols are called villancicos. As well as many songs that have been translated from English, traditional Spanish villancicos include Campana Sobre Campana. Another more modern popular song is Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano.

Songs are a great way to pick up new vocabulary, and this is a great way to get into the festive spirit as well as learning more about cultural aspects of your chosen language.

My favourite Christmas song is I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Wizzard. What’s yours?

You donut!

Posted on December 22nd, 2009by Michelle
In Events, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

Jelly DonutSo as we near the end of the year, there are a lot of awards and ‘top ten’ lists everywhere. We’ve already seen that the Word of the Year 2009 is either unfriend or Twitter depending on who you choose to believe, but more amusing (for me) is the recent announcement of the First Annual Jelly Donut Awards.

Never heard of them? Well, an American translation company has decided to award the donuts to the top 5 real translation and interpreting errors of the year. The name is in honour of John F. Kennedy’s pronouncement “Ich bin ein Berliner”, widely mistranslated as “I am a jelly donut”.

In first place, in a great example of being very careful about the words you choose, a high-level meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov became an international joke – all because of a button.

Look at the rest of the top 5 here.

Word of the Year: Twitter

Posted on December 3rd, 2009by Michelle
In English, Events, Words | 1 Comment »

Twitter birdThe end of the year is always a big time for awards – and the world of languages is no exception.

‘Unfriend’ was recently pronounced ‘Word of the Year 2009’ by the New Oxford American Dictionary, and now ‘Twitter’ has been named top by the Global Language Monitor (you may remember them from this post).

Twitter beat ‘Obama’ and ‘H1N1’ (the official name for swine flu), with ‘stimulus’ and ‘vampire’ rounding out the top 5.

Interestingly, the Global Language Moniter’s president commented on the wider implications of the word:

Mr. Payack guessed that “Twitter” took top billing in 2009 because of its effect on the way people communicate. “The impact that it’s having now is that spelling is changing,” he said. “It’s forcing people to think about what is a word, and how to present that word when you’re writing it down. Twitter will have an effect on language in years to come, if it remains as important as it is now.” (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Do you agree with Mr. Payack? Is Twittering affecting the way you use words?

Unfriend and other new words

Posted on November 20th, 2009by Michelle
In English, Events, Words | Leave a Comment »

Night of the Living Dead ZombiesFollowing my earlier post about the relative merits of unfriend or defriend, I thought it may be interesting to look at the other words on the shortlist for 2009 Word of the Year. Honestly, I’ve never heard of most of them, which means I’m either behind the times or they’ve made these up! Here are some of my favourites.

intexticateddistracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle

funemployedtaking advantage of one’s newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests

zombie banka financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support

I love the term ‘zombie bank’ for the imagery it invokes – imagine going in to your local branch to be confronted with zombie staff! Based on the criteria for WotY though, I think my winner has to be netbook. It’s not flashy and it’s not fashionable, but I think netbook may stand the test of time.

What’s your favourite word on the list?

To unfriend or defriend?

Posted on November 20th, 2009by Michelle
In English, Events, Words | 2 Comments »

I do love announcements of new words, especially when they cause a debate.

The New Oxford American Dictionary has pronounced ‘unfriend’ its 2009 Word of the Year. All well and good… except I, along with many others, thought the term was ‘defriend’.

The official definition: unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

Whilst I agree with the definition, I prefer ‘defriend’ – it rolls off the tongue better, don’t you think? And it sounds nicer – unfriend is short for unfriendly after all.

I’m not alone in preferring ‘defriend’ – New York Magazine agrees with me, and even went so far as to ask Facebook which term they prefer (they don’t mind).

Do you prefer to unfriend or defriend?

Happy Hangul Day!

Posted on October 9th, 2009by Michelle
In Alphabet, Culture, Events, Historic | 1 Comment »

HangulToday in South Korea is Hangul Day, or Korean Alphabet Day.

The day celebrates the invention and proclamation of hangul, the native Korean alphabet. The Koreans are the only people in the world to celebrate their alphabet, and are justifiably proud of it!

Hangul was devised by King Sejong the Great, and revealed in 1446. Previous to this, there was no written Korean alphabet, and the few elite that could write relied on modified Chinese characters.

Hangul Day has been commemorated on various days since, but October 9th was marked as the official national holiday in 1945, after the creation of the South Korean government. Although it no longer retains its status as a holiday, October 9th is still a national commemoration day in South Korea.

Originally consisting of 28 letters, modern Hangul now has 24, 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The letters are combined together into syllable blocks. Korean can be written in horizontal lines running from left to right, or in vertical columns running from top to bottom and right to left. The alphabet represents all the sounds of Korean and is reportedly easy to learn!

European Day of Languages 2009

Posted on September 26th, 2009by Michelle
In Arabic, Culture, English, Events, Hindi, Language acquisition, Mandarin | 1 Comment »

European Day of LanguagesFirst celebrated in 2001, the European Day of Languages has grown to encompass a whole week of events!

The first EDL was organised jointly by the Council of Europe and the European Union, who chose 26th September as the designated day. The aims of the day are:

To alert the general public to the importance of language learning
To promote linguistic and cultural diversity and increase intercultural understanding
To encourage lifelong learning

Watch Pedro Chavez from the European Commission talking about the day.

I recently posted about the proposed idea to adopt Latin as the official language of the European Union, but as I concluded then, the EU is committed to multilingualism, so it’s unlikely to happen. Europe is incredibly diverse, with around 225 indigenous languages as well as non-European languages such as Arabic, Hindi and Chinese.

So, get involved and become one of the many Europeans who are multilingual! Try here to find out what activities are happening near you – there are events all over Europe. And if you can’t make it to any of them, try some of these online activities.

A pirate’s life for ye?

Posted on September 19th, 2009by Michelle
In English, Events, French, German, Mandarin, Pirate, Swedish | Leave a Comment »

Talk_Like_a_Pirate_DayAhoy, me hearties! Shiver me timbers, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Created in 1995, Talk Like A Pirate Day (TLAPD) started between two friends, and went nationwide in America (and then international) after being promoted by syndicated humour columnist Dave Barry, in 2002. From an idea between friends, the day has grown into a huge ‘holiday’, celebrated by pirate (and fun) loving people all over the world.

So why celebrate? Well, first and foremost, it’s very amusing to try and talk in pirate all day! Not only will you be learning a new language (albeit of limited use), you can raise money for charity by doing so. Check out some of the events here and here. As a truly international day, you can also learn how to talk like a pirate in Swedish, German, French, and Mandarin Chinese.

Aarrr! Want to celebrate but got a problem with your pirate-speak? Check out the video below of the founders of TLAPD to learn some of the basics of pirate lingo. And if you need a bit of a hand translating more difficult phrases, set your Google to Pirate and search away! You can also try out the Facebook English (Pirate) option, but sadly you can’t do the same on Twitter yet.

A-pirating we go!