Archive for August, 2011

Words with no English equivalent

Posted on August 28th, 2011by Michelle
In English, Language acquisition, Words | 1 Comment »

I hope everyone is enjoying a great Bank Holiday weekend (we’ll ignore the weather). I found a blog post of 15 words with no English equivalent that I thought I’d share.

Here are my favourites from the list:

1. Zhaghzhagh (Persian)
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.

4. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
The Yiddish have scores of words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person.

15. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

You can see the full list here.

(Disclaimer: I have no idea if these are all real words, but they sound fun anyway!)

How far would you go to be perfect in your target language?

Posted on August 22nd, 2011by Michelle
In Korean, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

Most people feel that putting some effort into learning a new language is enough. The time spent attending class, doing homework, listening to podcasts and practicing speaking is sufficient for busy people with a lot of commitments.

Not so for one British teenager. Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones has undergone surgery on her tongue to achieve better Korean pronunciation. Apparently she had a condition called “ankyloglossia”, which made her “tongue-tied” and unable to produce certain sounds.

The condition, in which the frenulum(the bit that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is too short and/or too thick, sometimes resolves itself in early childhood, but this was not the case for Rhiannon. She has such a passion for Korean culture and language that her aim is to live there after graduation. She told the Daily Mail:

‘I’d been learning Korean for about two years, and my speaking level is now high, but I was really struggling with particular sounds.

‘It became apparent after a little while that I was having trouble with the Korean letter ‘L’, which is very frequent and comes from a slightly higher place in the mouth than the English ‘L’, and that my tongue was too short.

‘My pronunciation was very ‘foreign’, but now I can speak with a native Korean accent. The surgical procedure was my only option. It’s not like you can stretch your tongue otherwise. I just decided enough was enough.

‘For me it was an important thing, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and if I can’t do it perfectly, it really irritates me.

‘Some might say it’s extreme, but you could apply the same argument to plastic surgery.

‘That makes people feel more confident looks-wise, and this made me feel more confident language-wise. For me, it was like having a tooth pulled.’ (Source: Daily Mail)

Would you go this far to achieve perfection in your target language?

How to use an apostrophe

Posted on August 21st, 2011by Michelle
In Grammar, Hints and Tips | Leave a Comment »

Quite some time ago on this blog, I admitted to not being completely au fait with apostrophes.

Nothing much has changed in the intervening time, mostly because I don’t have the time to sit down and memorise the rules. I still have no problem with contractions (“it is”, “it’s”) but struggle sometimes with possession.

I have a feeling that this will change though, as I’ve discovered an excellent new resource. This comic from The Oatmeal is both handy and amusing – the best kind of reference tool! An example: “I saw two kittens riding a goat. Goats are great for transportation.” Very cute illustrations too. Take a look!

Extra funding for languages

Posted on August 15th, 2011by Michelle
In Education | Leave a Comment »

In a rare piece of good news for languages in the UK, a project to encourage more people to study languages at university has been awarded extra funding.

The Routes into Languages project has been allocated an extra £1.2 million by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), allowing it to continue until July 2012. The project organises sixth-form events and sends student ambassadors into schools with the aim of encouraging pupils to continue with modern languages after the age of 14. Led by the University of Southampton’s Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, the project is run by nine regional consortia universities across England.

Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of Hefce, said: “Languages are vital for the social and economic future of the country and graduates with language skills make a major contribution to the UK economy in an ever-changing global context.

“This additional funding demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting modern foreign languages and I hope that it will enable the Routes initiative to build on the many benefits it has brought for schools, colleges, universities and students.” (Source: Times Higher Education Supplement)

Why body language is so important

Posted on August 13th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture | Leave a Comment »

So, you’re at the pub and see an attractive man or woman that you’d like to get to know. Do you try a cheesy pick up line? Or a simple hello?
According to this new infographic, you use body language as it accounts for 55% of “our overall effective communication”. Intrigued? Take a look:

(From 100 Best Dating Sites via Daily Infographic)

Ridiculous travel terms

Posted on August 12th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

I love travelling. I’ve even been known to throw in some travel lingo when out with non-traveller friends to try and impress them. But I’m pretty sure I’d never use any of the ridiculous travel terms that MSN has compiled. Here’s the list:

- Bleisure travel
- Glamping and tramping
- Minimoon, weddingmoon, babymoon
- Staycation
- Flashpacking, gap-packing and brokepacking
- Daycation
- Haycation
- Mancation
- Gramping
- Traincation

You can probably guess what most of these are, but if not, take a look at the article. What’s the most ridiculous travel term you’ve heard?

Gower dialect to be recorded

Posted on August 7th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, dialects, Welsh | Leave a Comment »

The dialect of people living on the Gower Peninsula, Wales is set to be recorded in a dictionary.

The project has been earmarked for Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) through its landscape partnership programme, lead by Swansea Council. In addition to the dictionary, conservation work will take place and volunteers will be given IT skills training to create a website for a virtual visitors centre.

… the dictionary is a mixture of Welsh and English with specific names for plants and animals, not heard anywhere else in Wales.

Peculiarities of Gower dialect are thought to have developed due to its geography and were recorded in the mid 19th Century. (Source: BBC News)

Some examples of Gower dialect include “umman” for woman and “soul” for cheese or butter.

If successful, the HLF bid will encourage the local community to get actively involved in preserving their culture and heritage.

Bilingual celebrities

Posted on August 6th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

I always find it slightly disconcerting (but cool!) when I hear someone speak in a different language, when I’m used to hearing them speak English.

It’s especially odd when that person is a celebrity and you’d never have guessed they were fluent in a second language. So this feature from People magazine is really fun – videos of celebrities speaking in their second languages. Did you know Natalie Portman is fluent in Hebrew and French? I love the video of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he to me he looks like a Frenchman!

What’s really interesting though is that most of the celebrities learned their second language through immersion programmes whilst at school. They seem to have retained the language learned through adulthood (Bradley Cooper for example). So perhaps a period of immersion is good for your language skills long-term?