Archive for December, 2010

Learning a second language – students speak

Posted on December 29th, 2010by Michelle
In Education, Hints and Tips | Leave a Comment »

Sometimes learning a second language can be a lonely experience. Plenty of time spent with learning materials and doing homework outside of class can make it feel like you’re not connecting with others.

The video below offers a chance to hear what your fellow language learners think about studying a second language. The students in the video answer questions like “what is the most difficult part about learning a language?” and “do you have any fears when learning a second language?”

Do you agree with their opinions?

Happy Christmas everybody!

Posted on December 24th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Events | Leave a Comment »

Merry Christmas from everyone at Language Museum!

Hope everyone has a warm and fun Christmas, however you celebrate it. Here’s how to wish people all over the world a happy Christmas… Can you say it in your target language?

Afrikaans: Geseënde Kersfees
Albanian: Gezur Krislinjden
Arabic: Milad Majid
Basque: Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
Bulgarian: Tchestita Koleda
Chinese (Cantonese): Gun Tso Sun Tan’Gung Haw Sun
Chinese (Mandarin): Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish: Glædelig Jul
Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Finnish: Hyvaa joulua
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christouyenna!
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew: Mo’adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese: Kurisumasu Omedeto
Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Norwegian: God Jul
Polish: Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Feliz Natal
Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul
Thai: Souksan wan Christmas
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Vietnamese: Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

And here’s a little treat from me (my favourite Christmas song!)

Word of Mouth radio series

Posted on December 22nd, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Since we’re nearly at Christmas and hopefully lots of readers will be getting a nice long holiday, I thought I’d draw your attention to a new series of radio shows on languages.

On BBC Radio 4 over the next couple of weeks the series, titled Word of Mouth, will explore “the world of words and the ways in which we use them”. The first programme was about the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library, and was broadcast last night but is repeated on the 27th December. One of the guests on the show will be David Crystal, who I posted about yesterday as one of the Guardian’s Heroes of the Year.

Michael Rosen, the presenter of the series, also has an accompanying article on the BBC News site. It aims to give a brief history of the English language. An excerpt from the article:

Slowly, another international language emerged, spoken by diplomats, scientists, artists, business people and many more. Benefiting from the legacy of the British Empire, and the rise in influence of the most powerful member of that Empire – the USA – English (or kinds of English) is being spoken all over the globe.

In truth, they speak what the linguist David Crystal calls “Englishes”, though some ways of talking are what have been called “creoles”, “pidgins” and “patois”. I was watching an Austrian pop music channel recently and the comments and ads were in an Anglo-German Creole whose core was German, but which was full of “go to it”, “cool”, “be there” and the like.

Most of this has gone on without direction from governments. The technologies of telephones, radio, TV, records, CDs, mobile phones and the internet have enabled most people in the world to get access to each other’s language in a matter of moments.

Through these channels, millions of young people across the world have grown to like the sounds produced by English-speaking bands. Sub-titled films from Hollywood have given millions of non-English speakers the chance to imitate James Cagney, Marilyn Monroe, Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford.

Language champion

Posted on December 21st, 2010by Michelle
In English, Words | Leave a Comment »

Last month I posted about the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library. Now a linguist who’s lead consultant to the project has been proclaimed one of the Guardian’s “Heroes of 2010”.

David Crystal is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor and author of well, a lot of books on language (including the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language). He’s also a champion of endangered languages, not just the English language as in the sub-heading of the article.

In the piece Michael Rosen writes:

People are sure that txtng is bad. “Is it?” asks Crystal. Millions who weren’t writing anything are now writing and inventing new ways of writing, he says. QED, not bad. Good.

Crystal summarises his position more clearly in a blog post:

It is the role of schools to prepare children for the linguistic demands that society places upon them. This means being competent in Standard English as well as in the nonstandard varieties that form a part of their lives and which they will frequently encounter outside their home environment in modern English literature, in interactions with people from other parts of the English-speaking world, and especially on the internet. They have to know when to spell and punctuate according to educated norms, and when it is permissible not do so. In a word, they have to know how to manage the language – or to be masters of it (as Humpty Dumpty says to Alice in Through the Looking Glass). And, one day, to be champions of it – all of it.

I guess that puts Emma Thompson in her place then!

Misery and chaos

Posted on December 19th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Words | Leave a Comment »

It’s something Britons have become too familiar this winter – headlines screaming “transport chaos” and “travel misery”. Why are chaos and misery so popular with the nation’s journalists?

The Independent’s Errors and Omissions page may have the answer:

The trouble is that “chaos” is a short word, and short words tend to elbow their way into headlines. So “chaos” has become a mere code for difficulties on the roads. One odd thing is that “chaos” happens only on the roads. Disruption of rail and air travel produces not “chaos” but “misery”.

I suppose we see this a lot in newspapers – a bold and short statement makes for an eye-catching headline after all. It seems to be straying into cliche now though, so congratulations to the reporter who wrote a story in the Independent that omitted both chaos and misery. Impressive.

Here is his opening sentence: “Britain is gritting its teeth and its roads today in anticipation of the return of Arctic conditions, with heavy snow and ice-storms likely to bring wide-scale disruption.” He has made up his own word-play on “gritting”. He knows what “anticipation” means – not expecting something, but taking action about it. And he has called disruption disruption, not chaos.

Should Indians learn English?

Posted on December 13th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

English is sometimes described as the world’s first global lingua franca, spoken by an estimated 370 million people as their native language and many more as a second language.

But in a country which has 22 constitutionally recognised languages, how important is it for the population to learn English? That is the question debated by schools across India.

..the debaters portray English as either the smouldering dog-end of colonialism or the passport to economic growth, as evidenced by the IT and service industry explosion.

But there are unexpected angles.

One team highlights the need for English to liberate Dalits – the Indian underclasses, formerly “untouchables” who can use English to vault over the social barriers of the officially banned caste system.

The pressure on rural teachers not equipped to teach English to a sufficient standard is highlighted.

The disastrous attempt to enforce Hindi as the national language of India in 1965 is cited as a reason why English could be the language of Indian unity. (Source: BBC)

There are many angles to this debate, and we could see it repeated around the globe as English continues to spread.

Database of endangered languages launched

Posted on December 11th, 2010by Michelle
In Indigenous languages, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Researchers have compiled an open database of the world’s endangered languages.

Developed by the World Oral Literature Project, based at the University of Cambridge, it is hoped that the database will allow crowdsourcing of information from around the globe. From the press release:

It includes records for 3,524 world languages, from those deemed “vulnerable”, to those that, like Latin, remain well understood but are effectively moribund or extinct.

Researchers hope that the pilot database will enable them to “crowd-source” information from all over the world about both the languages themselves and the stories, songs, myths, folklore and other traditions that they convey.

Users can search by the number of speakers, level of endangerment, region or country. In the United Kingdom, the site lists 21 disappearing languages, ranging from the relatively well known, like Scots and Welsh, to obscure forms such as Old Kentish Sign Language.
Where possible, the research team has also included links to online resources and recordings so that users can find out more. Their hope is that by making an early version of the database open to all, more people will come forward with information and references to recordings that they have missed.

Dr Mark Turin, Director of the World Oral Literature Project, said: “We want this database to be a dynamic and open resource, taking advantage of online technology to create a collaborative record that people will want to contribute to.”

UK-specific languages in the database include Panamanian Creole English (also known as Quashie Talk), Manx and Old Kentish sign language, a forerunner of British Sign Language. This seems like a great way to compile existing information on endangered languages, allowing for them to be better studied and hopefully revived by communities.

Stephen Fry tries Irish

Posted on December 8th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Gaelic | Leave a Comment »

Stephen Fry has filmed a cameo for the popular Irish soap Ros na Rún – in an Irish speaking part.

According to the Independent, Fry said:

“I’m doing a documentary on languages and this is the heartland of Irish-speaking Ireland — we’re just having conversations about the language and how it goes forward and whether the young generation are picking it up and the rest of it.

“I will be playing a bewildered tourist on ‘Ros na Run’. The great thing is, because I’m a tourist, I don’t have to speak it very well, just make an effort”.

Around 350,000 people in Ireland say they speak Irish regularly (according to the 1996 census) – the attention that Fry will bring to the language will surely be a boost to its popularity.