Archive for December, 2011

Heritage languages and technology

Posted on December 30th, 2011by Michelle
In Indigenous languages, Technology | Leave a Comment »

There’s been a lot written about endangered and indigenous languages, but I haven’t seen them referred to as “heritage” languages before, as they are in this interesting New York Times article.

The article describes N’Ko, the standardised writing system for Mande languages, which are mainly spoken in West African countries. Mande languages include Mandika, Marka and Jula. N’Ko was invented in the 1940’s to help native speakers read and write in their own language. This is particularly important as dominant languages like English are seen as the lingua franca of the world.

N’Ko is now available for people to use on their computer and mobile phone; Windows 8 apparently irons out the problems with the script from Windows 7, and it’s possible to download an app for phones and iPads. This could be the future of heritage languages – enabling them in new technologies to engage a younger audience. It’s also a literacy issue in Guinea, where the UN estimates only 39% of the adult population is literate.

For the full story, take a look at the New York Times article.

Google Translate updated

Posted on December 28th, 2011by Michelle
In Chinese, Japanese, Translation, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Google Translate recently got a fantastic new update: the ability to recognise handwriting!

Translate can now recognise written words in seven different languages, including English, Italian and German. This is great if you have an old-school pen pal who writes you letters rather than emails, or if you can’t quite figure out what the waiter wrote on your receipt.

Possibly the best part of this news though, is for Chinese and Japanese language learners, who can now use the app for characters that are not usually found on English keyboards. Perhaps it can also be used for checking that you are creating characters correctly when practicing your written language skills.

Can anyone think of other language learning uses for this new function?

(Source: Android Police)

Happy Christmas!

Posted on December 24th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Events | Leave a Comment »

In what’s becoming a tradition for this blog, below you will find one of my favourite Christmas songs (with lyrics so you can sing along!).

Merry Christmas from everyone at Language Museum!

The Isle of Man and Manx

Posted on December 22nd, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »

The writer of one of my favourite travel blogs recently visited the Isle of Man, and listed eight things you may not know about it (the first being that it exists).

It’s been established previously on this blog that the Isle of Man does in fact exist, and the language of the island is Manx. Unfortunately the last native speaker of the language, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974. The video below has audio of Ned speaking the language.

Revival of the language on the Isle of Man has been reasonably successful in recent years, with an immersion school and radio broadcasts, as well as being taught as a second language at all schools. It’s also recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Twelve Days of Christmas

Posted on December 21st, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Scots | Leave a Comment »

The Scots Language Centre has posted audio and a transcription of the Twelve Days of Christmas – in a Scots accent.

You can listen to The Twalve Days o Yuletide on their website – it’s sung by a group of Scottish Music students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Here’s the first few verses:.

On the first day o Yuletide my true love sent tae me:
A capercailzie.

On the second day o Yuletide my true love sent tae me:
Twa bubblyjocks
And a capercailzie.

On the third day o Yuletide my true love sent tae me:
Three clockin hens
Twa bubblyjocks
And a capercailzie.

On the fourth day o Yuletide my true love sent tae me:
Fower roastit dyeuks
Three clockin hens
Twa bubblyjocks
And a capercailzie.

Science of sarcasm

Posted on December 20th, 2011by Michelle
In Research, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

Scientists have found that the ability to detect sarcasm is a really useful skill.

Over the past 20 years, researchers have found that exposure to sarcasm increases creative problem solving; brains have to work harder to understand sarcasm, possibly increasing our mental abilities; and children understand and use sarcasm by the time they start attending playschool.

There’s also a geographic divide between those who find sarcasm funny and those who don’t.

A study that compared college students from upstate New York with students from near Memphis, Tennessee, found that the Northerners were more likely to suggest sarcastic jibes when asked to fill in the dialogue in a hypothetical conversation.

Northerners also were more likely to think sarcasm was funny: 56 percent of Northerners found sarcasm humorous while only 35 percent of Southerners did. The New Yorkers and male students from either location were more likely to describe themselves as sarcastic. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

For more fascinating insights into sarcasm, take a look at the full article from Smithsonian Magazine.

Dickens on the BBC

Posted on December 18th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Love Dickens? Then the BBC is running a season of shows just for you!

To celebrate the bicentenary of the author’s birth, ‘Dickens on the BBC’ is a series of documentary, drama, and discussion programmes on TV and radio. The season started with a reading from Claire Tomalin’s new biography Charles Dickens: A life on Radio 4 (you can hear it using the Listen again service).

An adaptation of Great Expectations, starring Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson will be shown over Christmas. Commissioning Arts Editor Mark Bell said:

Dickens on the BBC examines the many aspects of the author as performer, social commentator, observational journalist, husband, story-teller, Christmas cheerleader and contradictory family man, and the new adaptations of his novels show his work to be as vital as it ever was.” (Source: BBC)

What’s trendy on Twitter?

Posted on December 13th, 2011by Michelle
In English, Technology, Words | Leave a Comment »

Still think Twitter’s just people saying what they have for breakfast?

Not any more – the microblogging site’s users tweet about a diverse range of topics, as shown by the top hashtags of the year. Hashtags (#) are used to identify the topic of tweets and can be used to see all the tweets about that particular topic.

Top of this year’s list was #egypt, referring to the unrest in the country in the spring of 2011. This was followed by #tigerblood, referring to the actor Charlie Sheen.

Other top hashtags were:

I wonder what tags will trend next year?