Archive for May, 2012

Lovely English words

Posted on May 31st, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Words | Leave a Comment »

Over at the Guardian’s Mind Your Language blog, they’re asking: What is the loveliest word in the English language?

Some suggestions include:

Closer to a classical sense of phonetic beauty, it’s as smooth and chubby as a cherub. And finally (those Bs and Ls again) …

A word as sensuous as a single malt. I never did get to kiss the boy in the corduroys but, if I had, I’m sure it would have been as lovely as “balalaika”. (Source: Guardian)

Commenters have suggested various other words, including lugubrious, butterfly, mellifluous, and kerfuffle. What’s do you think?

Queen Victoria’s Journals

Posted on May 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Education, English | Leave a Comment »

Britain is currently celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The first monarch to reach this milestone is Queen Victoria.

To celebrate both queens, Queen Victoria’s journals have been released by the Royal Archives for public viewing. Previously they were only accessible to academics via the Archives; now digitised images are freely available on a specially designed website.

Over 43,000 pages of the Queen’s private thoughts are available, which include her marriage to Albert, births of her children and the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The diaries begin when Victoria was 13, and continue up until 10 days before her death.

It’s interesting to see both the Queen’s handwriting and that of her daughter, Princess Beatrice, who transcribed some of the diaries. There are also a number of illustrations of family and friends. Take a peek at Victorian English – a fascinating resource.

Scottish schools language overhaul

Posted on May 25th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

My last post was about a new study suggesting schools keep track of languages spoken by ethnic minority pupils.

Scottish schools may soon need to keep track of languages spoken by all pupils, with the news that the Minister for Learning said there should be an overhaul of language learning in schools. The Scottish Government is to investigate opportunities for all students to learn a second language from P1. Another suggestion was that starting to learn a third language should happen no later than P5.

Dr Allan said:

“The world is changing rapidly and radically and the Government has a duty to ensure that Scottish schools prepare young people so they can flourish and succeed in the globalised, multi-lingual world we now live in.

“One indisputable aspect of modern life is that more people travel widely for jobs and leisure and we must respond accordingly; we will not be as successful as a country and economy if we remain essentially a mono-lingual society.

“The Scottish Government is committed to radically improving the provision of modern languages in our schools. We see the Barcelona Agreement to the ‘1+2’ arrangement – learning two languages in addition to the mother tongue – as key to delivering this commitment. This is unique within the UK and will bring us more into line with other EU member states. (Source:

This is a different approach than that taken by the rest of the UK, which will be of great benefit to students if they are able to continue their progression throughout their schooling.

Linguistic minorities in English schools

Posted on May 21st, 2012by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

A new report says schools should keep track of languages spoken by ethnic minority pupils.

Researchers from London Metropolitan University looked into which linguistic minorities struggle in education in England, and found that in some areas the data kept was imprecise. Previous studies found that pupils with a second language did better than the national average at GCSE level; however the researchers found this was only the case in inner London.

The report says that given the growing “super-diversity” of England and the rest of the UK, crude ethnic categories in government data mask the finer detail and may be getting in the way of understanding minority communities’ relative achievements and needs.

“If we are to get any closer closer to understanding the role of language, bilingualism and multilingualism in children’s relative attainment we need better data and more fine-grained analysis,” the report states. (Source: BBC News)

Chinese dictionary – for restaurant

Posted on May 18th, 2012by Michelle
In Chinese, Culture, English, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Any idea what “hand shredded ass meat” is? Does it sound like a delicious restaurant meal?

If the answer’s no, then a new dictionary may be your new best friend. “Enjoy Culinary Delights: The English Translation of Chinese Menus” was originally created in 2006 with the “Beijing Speaks English” campaign. The book was modified in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and proved to be so successful that work has continued on it.

The dictionary does exactly what it says: instead of providing the potentially inaccurate machine translation of a dish, it will tell you exactly what it is. So “hand shredded ass meat” becomes “hand shredded donkey meat”. Over 2,000 translations are provided (although this does mean you will miss out on gems such as “Tofu made by woman with freckles”).

Some of the dishes kept their original names, which people familiar with Chinese food may understand: jiaozi, baozi, mantou, tofu or wonton.

Some more complicated dishes come with both Chinese pronunciations and explanations: “fotiaoqiang” (steamed abalone with shark’s fin and fish maw in broth); “youtiao” (deep-fried dough sticks); “lvdagunr” (glutinous rice rolls stuffed with red bean paste), and “aiwowo” (steamed rice cakes with sweet stuffing).

Chen Lin, a 90-year-old retired English professor from Beijing Foreign Language University, was the chief consultant for the book.
He told NBC News that about 20 other experts – like English teachers and professors, translators, expats who have lived in China for a long time, culinary experts and people from the media – helped develop the final version. (Source: NBC News)


English switch for Italian university

Posted on May 16th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Italian | Leave a Comment »

An Italian university has announced it will teach and assess its degree courses in English rather than Italian.

The change will be made from 2014 at the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading universities. The university, based in Milan, believes that it will be unable to compete on a global scale if it continues to use the Italian language.

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language,” says the university’s rector, Giovanni Azzone.

“Universities are in a more competitive world, if you want to stay with the other global universities – you have no other choice,” says Professor Azzone. (Source: BBC News)

The professor believes other Italian universities will follow suit, as English has become the language of higher education and international business.

What do you think? Should universities teach in their country’s language, or switch to English? What will this change mean for the Italian language?

History of the English language – from 1943

Posted on May 13th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

We’ve recently been hearing a lot about the English language – from David Crystal’s English in 100 words to the Open University’s history of English in 10 minutes.

But what did they think about the language back in 1943? A newly released film from the British Film Council’s Collection showcases the multiculturalism of English and describes its origins. You can view and download the film here.

Interestingly, the film originally included more focus on the Germanic aspects of the language – as it was wartime however, these were cut, citing “time constraints”.

Automatic email translation

Posted on May 12th, 2012by Michelle
In Spanish, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Do you use Gmail for your email? They’ve just updated their service to include automatic message translation, meaning that any emails you receive in a different language will automatically be translated to the language of your choice!

Google have included a number of different options for this – you can choose to have messages auto-translated, pick which messages are translated, and also turn off the translation option for certain languages. So if you want to test your Spanish language skills, turn off the translation option for the language and see how far you can get through the email!

More information on these options is available over at the Gmail blog.