Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Teenage speak

Posted on April 30th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Research, Slang, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Interesting article in the Telegraph with a sub-heading boldly stating that teenagers are creating “a secret language to stop adults knowing what they are up to”.

Reading the rest of the text, it’s hard to grasp what all the fuss is about – surely teenagers have been creating new slang to communicate for a very long time? The only new aspect is the use of social networking sites.

Lisa Whittaker, a postgraduate student at the University of Stirling, who studied teens aged 16-18 on Bebo in Scotland, said the slang had been created to keep their activities private, and cited the example of one young girl who was sacked after bosses found pictures of her drinking on the website.

“Young people often distort the languages they use by making the pages difficult for those unfamiliar with the distortions and colloquialisms.,” she said.

“The language used on Bebo seems to go beyond abbreviations that are commonly used in text messaging, such as removing all the vowels.

“This is not just bad spelling, which would suggest literacy issues, but a deliberate attempt to creatively misspell words.

I guess at least this research puts to rest fears that the internet and texting are producing bad spellers – they’re just being creative!

Election word clouds

Posted on April 23rd, 2010by Michelle
In Technology, Words | Leave a Comment »

It may have escaped your attention, but there’s an election coming up in the next couple of weeks. Amongst other things, this means that the Great British Public is subjected to endless coverage of politicians. There’s probably not much we like less.

There’s a different way of distilling and taking in all those speeches, remarks and comments though: word clouds. Why read whole policies when you can reduce the party manifestos down to a few key buzz words?

In word clouds, phrases differ in size depending on their usage. So ‘people’ figures prominently across all three parties, ‘new’ is big in Labour’s cloud, nearly matched by the Conservatives ‘government’ and overshadowed by the Liberal Democrat’s ‘liberal’.

The word clouds were created on and can be seen here and below. I wonder if there’s any way to use word clouds for language learning?

Labour word cloud Liberal Democrat word cloud Conservative word cloud

Texting changes Canadians

Posted on April 21st, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Invented languages, Slang, Technology, Words | Leave a Comment »

TextingBack in 2004, I was lucky enough to spend a year in Canada. At one point I was amazed to find that some of my Canadian friends didn’t know their mobile phones had a text messaging function.

Apparently that’s changed, and dramatically – the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association will announce this week that Canadians sent 35.3 billion texts in 2009, or around 122 million per day.

All this texting has given rise to a new set of words employing the suffix ‘ting’, including ‘drexting’ (drinking and texting) and ‘chexting’ (cheating on your partner via text). The most famous (or infamous perhaps) is ‘sexting’ – sending X-rated images, messages and video via your phone – partly due to one famous golfer.

These words are most likely fads and will die out as texting become less of a novelty. It’s good to know that they still have meaning, though:

Maria Bakardjieva, who studies the socio-cultural aspects of technology, says the implications of this trend cut both ways.

“We’re stronger and richer with every new medium that allows us to connect to others,” says Bakardjieva, a professor of communication and culture at the University of Calgary. “But with texting, we’re also brutalizing written language in order to communicate. Still, it demonstrates that humans can fill any message with meaning and utility, no matter how lean.” (Source: Vancouver Sun)

Audio sharing on RhinoSpike

Posted on April 9th, 2010by Michelle
In Hints and Tips, Language acquisition, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

rhinospike_howto3I came across a new site that looks useful and thought I’d share. Called RhinoSpike, the site offers users the chance to record audio in their native language and upload it for others, but also request recordings in a wide variety of languages.

It can be difficult to find interesting audio content in the language you are studying, and RhinoSpike offers a solution to this – you can request the speaker to record any text you wish, from your favourite book to a conversation (probably best to make sure the book’s not too long though!).

The best thing about the site is it’s free. All the content is contributed by users of the site and the community is encouraged – if you contribute recordings you will move up the queue for the recordings you request. As the site says, “Give and you shall receive!”

Top 10 internet languages

Posted on March 28th, 2010by Michelle
In Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Research, Russian, Spanish, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Graph of Top 10 languagesThe internet is a great resource for language learning, but only if you can find the information you need.

Good news for English speakers and language learners as English is the language most used by internet users. According to research by Internet World Stats, English is the language used by almost 30% of users. This is quite closely followed by Chinese and then Spanish. Japanese, French, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Russian and Korean round out the top 10.

Keeping this in mind, try out this game to see if you can guess the world’s top 20 most spoken languages. I think the number one will surprise you!

YouTube subtitling

Posted on March 13th, 2010by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Closed captioning (subtitles) have recently been introduced to some videos on YouTube, which could potentially be a great language learning resource. The service is in beta mode at the moment – and apparently it needs a lot of work. From

Engadget first spotted how weird Apple’s iPad launch video got when the feature was activated — sometimes the text is so different from what’s being said that you wonder if Google is just having a laugh. “A high-res color display” becomes “a high risk going to split,” and when one of the designers says he doesn’t have to change himself to use the iPad, the captions make it sound like he very clearly does. If you were relying on these captions, it would be a very different commercial.

The captioning is machine-generated, so it seems the software has a ways to go before this becomes a reliable means of translation!


Posted on February 11th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Language acquisition, Technology | Leave a Comment »

In my last post, I talked about language exchanges, and mentioned using the internet to ‘exchange’ languages with native speakers.

Serendipitously, I’ve just heard of a relatively new way of connecting with people all over the world. ChatRoulette is a website that is a mix of game and social interaction site. Users log on, and their website and microphone are activated. You are then presented with random strangers from around the globe, and you can either choose to chat to them, or skip to the next person. On the flip side, they can also choose whether to chat to you or not!

With around 10,000 worldwide users so far, ChatRoulette can’t yet rival Skype for connections. The randomness also means you may see some things you are not quite prepared for (see Wired’s piece for more info!). So, no guarantees on improving your language abilities, but most users say that the thing they most enjoy is talking to someone they otherwise never would.

Have you used ChatRoulette? What have your experiences been?

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.

The SarcMarc

Posted on January 25th, 2010by Michelle
In Hieroglyphics, punctuation, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Bass clefAh, just what I’ve always wanted – a punctuation mark for sarcasm!

Yep, those of you who have mastered the art can now make it totally clear when you’re being sarcastic in writing. The invention of American company Sarcasm, Inc. (interesting, since arguably the British are masters of the sarcastic comment), the SarcMarc can be downloaded for US$1.99 and is available for Windows, Mac and Blackberry products.

Want to know how to spot when you’ve been sarc’ed? Look out for something like an upside-down bass clef (see the picture above).

Talking robot

Posted on January 21st, 2010by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Technology | Leave a Comment »

TalkingRoboFor lots of people learning a new language, practicing speaking and listening is the hardest part. Finding someone to interact with, who understands your level and can help you improve, is difficult. You may make new friends in a class, but they may not be available when you want to practice.

A new robot may soon be able to help you out. TalkingRoBo features speech recognition and can understand natural language when you speak to it. In addition, it can suggest topics to talk about (thus skipping the awkward question: “What do you talk to a robot about?”) and recognise different faces so a number of different users can practice.

The robot apparently also comes in different forms, so if you would prefer chatting to a panda named Antony, your wish can come true.

Sadly no release date yet for TalkingRoBo, but it looks like a tool worth waiting for.