Archive for July, 2010

English language blogs

Posted on July 31st, 2010by Michelle
In English, Grammar, Spelling, Words | Leave a Comment »

I think it’s a given that this blog loves languages. And being a lover of languages, I love reading blogs about languages.

Over at the Mental Floss blog, Miss Cellania has complied a list of some great blogs dedicated to the English language. I particularly enjoy blogs that point out the many mistakes people make (Apostrophe Abuse is a great example), but if you prefer to celebrate language instead, there’s a few links for you too.

Mental Floss invites you to share more blogs in the comments, and so do I!

Enid Blyton books get a makeover

Posted on July 27th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Words | Leave a Comment »

Classic children’s books by author Enid Blyton are getting a linguistic makeover to appeal to the new generation, according to a report at Whilst the publisher of the Famous Five series puts annual sales at over half a million, research has shown that parents are put off buying their children these books because of the ‘dated’ language.

Hodder said that the changes will affect the dialogue in the stories with the narrative left “largely untouched”. Publishing director Anne McNeil said: “Very subtle changes have been made to remove the barriers that stood between readers and the story.” In the original text, for example, Dick says: “She must be jolly lonely all by herself” which has been updated to read: “She must get lonely all by herself.” “Mother and father” become “mum and dad” and “school tunic” becomes ‘uniform’.” McNeil said that the changes were not intended to make the Famous Five books “modern” but to place them in a “timeless” age. She said: “We have not introduced any slang or colloquial language that would place the characters in today’s world.” (Source: The

Although this is not the first time the books have been updated, the move has still provoked anger from the public. Personally, I think the update is taking away some of the character of the books. I read them as a child in the eighties and nineties, and they were pleasant escapism – the language used did not affect my enjoyment of the story. What do you think?

New TV series on language

Posted on July 21st, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Words | Leave a Comment »

The Guardian (and I’m sure other news outlets) reported yesterday that Stephen Fry is to make a new TV series on languages. To be shown on the BBC2, Planet Word is a five-part series on language although apparently “it’s a bit of a secret”. Says Fry:

“Language is my real passion. So, I’m going to Beijing to interview the man who invented Pinyin, a phonetic version of the Chinese language. He’s 105 years old … if he dies on me I’m going to be so annoyed.” “I haven’t seen a good documentary about language, where it comes from, how we speak it, the variations of it, whether languages are dying, whether we are better at speaking than we were. There are so many questions.” (Source: The Guardian)

It will be interesting to see what he comes up with. Watch this space!

Keeping Latin Alive

Posted on July 19th, 2010by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Latin | Leave a Comment »

A while ago I posted about Latin and the short course run by the National Archives.

A reader kindly sent me this link to a page with “50 fun and educational websites keeping Latin alive”. Included are link to games and quizzes, texts to practice reading, Latin courses, dictionaries and lists, and religious sites.

Hopefully you’ll find the link useful if you’re learning Latin. Enjoy!

Milkman breaks language barrier

Posted on July 15th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Gujurati, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

This is a heart warming language story if ever I saw one – a milkman in Blackburn has learned Gujarati to communicate better with his customers.

The 69 year-old white, English-born John Mather (aka Jimmy) picked up the language from his customers whilst doing his rounds. This seems an especially hard task given that Gujarati is so different from English, with few non-Indians learning it.

Mr Mather is modest about his achievement though, saying:

“It was not very difficult to learn it,” he says. “I just remembered what they told me, kept it in my memory and repeated it when I saw them. I don’t know how long it took me to learn. I’ve known the language for about 30 years and once you pick up words you remember them.

“I’ve got a very good memory, once I’ve been somewhere I never forget it, it’s the same with language.”

“I think my Gujarati is alright,” he says. “It gets me by. I’ve made friends with it and that’s the most important thing. I’ve also had loads of wedding invitations (from the Asian community).

“I’ll keep going as long as I can and my Bengali’s not so bad so I’m having a go at that.” (Source: BBC News)

It seems Mr Mather can give a few tips to language learners: learn a language you will use regularly, talk to native speakers and make friends with the language!

Is Cockney dying out?

Posted on July 13th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, dialects, English | Leave a Comment »

My last post was about the boost that Scots is getting in schools, but at the opposite end of the country the Cockney dialect is in danger of dying out.

New research has shown that the dialect is becoming a victim of emigration (of native speakers to the Home Counties) and immigration (as multicultural London English takes over).

“In much of the East End of London, the cockney dialect that we hear now spoken by older people will have disappeared within a generation,” said researcher Paul Kerswill, who is a professor of sociolinguistics at Lancaster University.

“People in their 40s will be the last generation to speak it and it will be gone within 30 years.” (Source: Herald Sun)

Professor Kerswill’s research will be published next year. In the meantime, we could consider the question of whether the Cockney dialect is on a par with Scots – are both valuable to British culture and worth saving?

Boost for Scots

Posted on July 11th, 2010by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Scots | 1 Comment »

With the debate continuing over whether Scots is a language or a dialect, its use is being encouraged in Scottish schools.

A new website was launched for teachers to help them support children who speak Scots and encourage their learning, and it seems that in some schools, this is having a positive effect.

In the past three years, the growing use of Scots in one Scottish primary school has helped transform the education of children who are traditionally hard to engage.

Nearly 30% of children at Nethermains Primary School in Denny, near Falkirk, are on free school meals – a key indicator of poverty – twice the Scottish average.

Children from such backgrounds can often struggle at school because of the difficulties they are dealing with at home.

However, the introduction of Scots three years ago by headteacher Mary Connelly has seen a radical change in the attitudes of some pupils.

“At the time, the class was predominantly made up of boys and they were not engaging with reading at all,” she said. “We introduced Scots books and encouraged the use of Scots and a lot of these boys became hooked on reading.

“It is a language they speak at home and are comfortable with and to allow them to use it at school has sparked their enthusiasm and had a tremendous impact on their confidence.” (Source: Herald Scotland)

If Scots can be used to encourage children to read and in interested in school, this can’t be a bad thing. And perhaps their bilingualism will lead to multilingualism in the future.

Britain in language battle

Posted on July 6th, 2010by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition | 1 Comment »

Britain is trying to change the language rules for candidates seeking civil service jobs in the European Union, according to an article in the Telegraph.

Whilst currently candidates are expected to take admissions exams in a second language, Britain is seeking to have this changed so pre-selection tests can be taken in the first language.

With the declining number of students taking a foreign language at school, along with closures of university language departments, it is perhaps not a surprise that British candidates are put off by the second language requirement.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the EU has 23 official languages. Surely the focus should be on encouraging British people to learn the languages of our neighbours, rather than changing the rules to ensure they don’t need to?