Archive for April, 2010

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!

Unlocking languages through maths

Posted on April 27th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Hieroglyphics, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Pict symbolsResearchers at the University of Essex in England have unlocked the secrets of ancient symbols – using mathematics.

Through statistical analysis, they found that the symbols on Pictish inscriptions in stone were likely to represent a written language, according to this article.

The team devised a new method of analysing the symbols by comparing them to known texts from the history, and whilst they still do not know what the writing means, they suspect the stones are memorials for the dead. The Picts were a Scottish Iron Age society dating from the fourth to the ninth centuries AD.

The research could help unlock other scripts, and perhaps even animal communication.

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)


Posted on April 17th, 2010by Michelle
In Icelandic, Pronunciation, Words | 1 Comment »

VolcanoThe title of this post is not a bunch of random letters strung together. It is currently the source of many people’s woes (or extra holiday days, depending on how you look at it).

So it may be best to find out how to pronounce Eyjafjallajoekull, rather than just referring to it as “that volcano in Iceland” (or, perhaps more accurately “that glacier with the volcano erupting underneath…. in Iceland”). You may also impress your friends with the knowledge. Here’s the BBC’s guide:

Eyjafjallajökull (or Eyafallajökull) is pronounced AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl (-uh) , that is -ay as in day, -fy as in few, -oe as in French coeur, -uu as in boot, the -tl as in atlas. The (-uh) is “a” as in ago.

Nope, still can’t say it.

Also worth knowing: Eyjafjallajoekull is Icelandic for “Eyja-fjalla glacier” or “island-mountain glacier”.

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?

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!”

Scrabble rule change

Posted on April 7th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Language acquisition, Spanish, Swedish, Words | 1 Comment »

Scrabble tilesHot news for all Scrabble lovers: the makers have announced they are changing the rules to include proper nouns.

Proper nouns include place names, brand names and people’s names, all of which will count under the new rules. The game with the new rules will be available from July, and the makers hope the change will encourage more younger players.

A spokeswoman for the company said the use of proper nouns would “add a new dimension” to Scrabble and “introduce an element of popular culture into the game”.

She said: “This is one of a number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved.” (Source: BBC News)

Scrabble is a great way of increasing and practicing your vocabulary when learning a new language. It’s available in 29 different language versions including English, Spanish and Swedish. The use of proper nouns may encourage players to soak up some culture along with their language.

What do you think about the Scrabble rule changes? Are you a purist, determined to stick to the original rules? Or will you embrace the use of proper nouns when going for the maximum word score?