Archive for the ‘Spanish’ Category

Bilingual from before birth?

Posted on February 18th, 2010by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Research, Spanish | 1 Comment »

It’s often said that children pick up languages faster than adults, and the younger new languages are introduced, the quicker they learn. A new study now suggests that babies who hear two languages in the womb are already on the path to bilingualism.

The team of psychological scientists at the University of British Columbia in Canada found that language acquisition takes place even before birth, with babies picking up on languages in the womb. They found a correlation between a “sucking reflex” (which apparently shows stimulus or interest) and being spoken to in different languages.

On average, monolingual English babies gave more strong sucks per minute when hearing English, while bilingual babies gave the same number of sucks upon hearing both languages.

Realizing the bilingual babies could have shown equal interest in both languages simply because they didn’t know the difference, the researchers devised a second experiment to determine if the babies were able to tell the languages apart.

The infants heard sentences being spoken in one language until they lost interest. Then they either heard sentences spoken in the other language or sentences spoken in the same language, but by a different person.

The result found babies sucked more when they heard the language change, but not with a different person speaking the same language, suggesting they are able to tell the difference between two languages from early stages in life.

Werker said many bilingual parents are concerned that if they speak two languages, their children are going to be language-delayed or confused — but this research refutes that notion. (Source: Vancouver Sun)

I’ve always wanted to be bilingual and am now struggling as an adult to pick up Spanish. I guess with this news I can blame my lack of language skills on my parents for not speaking to me in anything other than English!

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?

More language maps

Posted on January 31st, 2010by Michelle
In English, Indigenous languages, Spanish, Technology | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been in Deep South of America for the past month, and it’s definitely been interesting to be surrounded by a range of southern accents. Some are so thick I can only nod and smile in response to comments!

It’s also been interesting to learn more about the many different languages people may not know are spoken in the US. Whilst Spanish is prevalent (even here in South Carolina, many miles from the Mexican border), a lot of minority languages are also spoken, including the many Native American tongues.

Whilst I’ll be looking at these further in future posts, for the moment I’d like to share this – a linguistic map of the states, showing indigenous languages, dialects and regional accents. You can also view maps of Canada, Asia, Europe and Africa. Incredible.

Happy New Year: Goals and Targets!

Posted on January 8th, 2010by Michelle
In Hints and Tips, Language acquisition, Spanish | 1 Comment »

Goal settingI hope everyone had very happy holidays, and welcome to 2010 at Language Museum!

Normally I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I think this year it’s time to make one that will benefit me not just this year but in years to come. Last year I started to learn Spanish, and this year I think it’s time to accelerate that learning.

So, I’m rededicating myself to the cause, and plan to improve both my language learning skills, and my knowledge of the language itself.
To this end, I’ve set myself some goals.

1) To attend Spanish classes at a beginner level.
2) Aim to move to beginner-intermediate level classes by the end of the year.
3) Outside of class, complete homework to the best of my ability.
4) Practice speaking the language at every opportunity.
5) Seek out opportunities to use Spanish – listening, speaking, reading and writing.
6) Learn to read basic texts – children’s books, short stories, newspaper articles.

Hopefully it will help to write down my goals, review and revise them throughout the year. Goal setting is a great way to measure your progress in learning a language, whether you do this individually or in conjunction with a teacher.

It’s also a good idea to have both short-term and long-term goals – for instance, one of my long-term goals is to read Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind in the original. To achieve this goal though, I have set myself the short and medium-term goals listed above. They are the steps I will take to get to the bigger goal.

What are your language learning goals? What is your long-term ambition?

Happy Christmas!

Posted on December 24th, 2009by Michelle
In Arabic, English, French, German, Hints and Tips, Italian, Japanese, Language acquisition, Mandarin, Portugese, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Santa and childYesterday I posted about Christmas songs in different languages, and now it’s time to wish you a very happy Christmas, again in a few different languages! So….

Miilaad Majiid (Arabic), Joyeux Noël (French), Frohe Weinachten (German), Buon Natale (Italian), Meri Kurisumasu (Japanese), Shèng dàn kuài lè (Mandarin), Feliz Natal (Portugese), Feliz Navidad (Spanish), and finally Merry Christmas (UK)!

Try this Omniglot page for more translations in more languages, including some audio recordings.

From all of us at Language Museum, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas. See you in the New Year!

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?

Is your language the most difficult?

Posted on December 19th, 2009by Michelle
In Chinese, English, Language acquisition, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Everyone seems to think their native language is more difficult than everyone else’s. But is it really?

People are fond of stating that English is a difficult language to learn, with all its many idiosyncrasies. Currently trying to wrap my head around Spanish, I’m starting to think it’s more difficult – for a start they use genders, which we don’t in English.

The idea of languages being ‘difficult’ to learn surely has more to do with perception than reality. For native English speakers, Chinese would seem difficult as it has many different tones, which are unfamiliar. The unfamiliar is often a source of bemusement and fear.

This article in The Economist explores the idea of languages being ‘difficult’ and concludes that Tuyuca, a language of the eastern Amazon, is the hardest:

It has a sound system with simple consonants and a few nasal vowels, so is not as hard to speak as Ubykh or !Xóõ. Like Turkish, it is heavily agglutinating, so that one word, hóabãsiriga means “I do not know how to write.” Like Kwaio, it has two words for “we”, inclusive and exclusive. The noun classes (genders) in Tuyuca’s language family (including close relatives) have been estimated at between 50 and 140. Some are rare, such as “bark that does not cling closely to a tree”, which can be extended to things such as baggy trousers, or wet plywood that has begun to peel apart.

Most fascinating is a feature that would make any journalist tremble. Tuyuca requires verb-endings on statements to show how the speaker knows something. Diga ape-wi means that “the boy played soccer (I know because I saw him)”, while diga ape-hiyi means “the boy played soccer (I assume)”. English can provide such information, but for Tuyuca that is an obligatory ending on the verb. Evidential languages force speakers to think hard about how they learned what they say they know.

What’s the most difficult language you’ve come across?

A whistling language

Posted on December 13th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Silbo Gomero, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Man whistling Silbo GomeroI’m coming to the end of my time here in the Canary Islands, and I thought it would be interesting to highlight one of the many interesting things about the islands – the language known as Silbo Gomero.

Silbo Gomero is unusual as it is a form of whistled Spanish. Silbo comes from the Spanish verb silbar meaning to whistle. Speakers are known as Silbadores.

Used on the island of La Gomera to communicate over long distances, it’s uncertain when and where the language originated. It’s known that Silbo was used when the Spanish conquered the island in the 15th Century, and experts think it may have originated in Africa.

The use of Silbo went into decline in the late 20th Century with the introduction of modern technologies – the telephone meant that whistling was no longer needed. However, the Canaries government saw the importance of the language and introduced it in to schools, meaning that today around 3,000 of the island’s 18,000 strong population can ‘speak’ Silbo.

It’s not just a case of whistling a tune though – the language has only four vowels and four consonants from which more than 4000 words can be expressed. Meaning is derived from tone and context, and the technique used to whistle is very important.

Wondering what Silbo sounds like? Watch this video on the island, narrated entirely in the whistling language (with Spanish subtitles).

Trying out languages – 37 of them!

Posted on December 11th, 2009by Michelle
In French, Language acquisition, Spanish | 2 Comments »

For many people, choosing which language to learn is a simple decision. It comes from necessity (business or moving to a country that speaks the language), or a particular interest.

But what if you’re interested in a lot of languages?

Well, you could emulate one man who has decided to try out 37 different languages to find the one that is “perfect” for him. Keith Brooks began his project in December 2008, and has so far covered 29 languages and is on to his 30th, Turkish.

The languages he is testing are pretty diverse – Romanian, Azeri and Xhosa along with more popular ones such as Spanish and French. His blog follows his learning progress and is a worthwhile read if you’re interested in any of the languages – he provides a lot of information about their history and usage along with personal impressions of what the language is like for him.

Watch this video and hear what Brooks has to say about the project, in his own words.

Subtitles aid language learning

Posted on December 10th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, German, Hints and Tips, Japanese, Language acquisition, Research, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Yesterday I posted about a language, Na’vi, that was created for a movie.

Invented languages aren’t the only ones you can learn from films though – they’re a great way to improve your skills in your chosen language, be it Spanish, German or Japanese.

There’s a huge range of movies out there in every genre, so there’s something to interest everyone – from big budget Hollywood blockbusters to Japanese anime flicks. Sometimes the accents are a problem though, or perhaps the words are too unfamiliar to completely follow the plot.

That’s where subtitles become useful. A new study has shown that second-language listening ability can be improved by watching movies with subtitles in the second language. The research, published in the online science journal PLoS One, shows that foreign subtitles can help with speech perception, whilst native language subtitles may hinder this. The written word appears to help the learner perceive the speech more accurately as they can draw on previous knowledge of similar words.

So, next time you’re watching a foreign language movie, why not try switching the subtitles?