Archive for June, 2012

Guardian Books podcast: Minority languages literature

Posted on June 30th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Are you learning a minority language?

Even if you’re not, this is a great podcast to listen to, and pick up some tips on new books to read.

Claire Armitstead speaks to Clive Boutle, of publisher Francis Boutle, about his Lesser Used Languages of Europe series, and discusses the pleasures and problems of bringing out anthologies of Galician, Breton, Norman, Manx and Cornish writing. She also talks to Paul Gubbins, co-editor of the Esperanto magazine Monato, about the benefits of a truly international language.

Finally, as the inaugural bilingual Dinefwr Literature Festival opens, Sarah Crown asks National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke about the challenges of representing a country with a substantial literary tradition in two different languages. (Source: Guardian)

Gaelic words used in English

Posted on June 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Etymology, Irish | Leave a Comment »

Despite having met many Irish people, I’ve yet to visit the Republic of Ireland. It seems that some Irish words may have crept into my speech anyway!

The Oxford English Dictionary has been researching words with Gaelic origins; the research even featured on Countdown! David Cameron and friends might be interested to find that the word “Tory” actually derives from the Irish word “tóraidhe”.

According to OED lexicographer Katherine Connor Martin, the oldest borrowing from Irish into English is “mind”. This is from the Irish “mionn”, “an obsolete term for a type of ornament attested in Old English”.

The most recent imports from Irish to English are “craic”, “punt” and “fleadh”.

“There was a steady trickle of Irish loanwords into English from the 15th through 18th centuries, but this increased to a flood during the 1800s,” said Ms Connor Martin.

“Oddly enough, this apex of Irish imports in English coincided with a period of steep and decisive decline for the Irish language itself.

“The 19th century was also a period of mass emigration, during which Irish immigrants streamed to the rest of the UK and to North America, taking their distinctive vocabularies with them.” (Source: Irish Examiner)

Australia’s linguistic diversity

Posted on June 24th, 2012by Michelle
In Indigenous languages, Research | Leave a Comment »

Data from last year’s census has been revealed, showing Australia’s linguistic diversity.

Just over 20% of households across Australia report speaking more than one language at home, with the most commonly reported languages being Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese and Greek. In major cities Melbourne and Sydney, this rises to over 30%, with some areas of Sydney at 85%.

Indigenous languages are also represented in the data, with Warlpiri spoken in 2500 dwellings, Djambarrpuyngu in 3000, and Pitjantjarjara in 4000. English-based creoles spoken in a number of communities are also reported, with Kriol spoken in 6800 dwellings.

All this means that around 1 in 5 people in Australia speak another language. I wonder what the comparable data is for the UK?

(Source: Fully (sic) )

British children behind in languages by age 3

Posted on June 23rd, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Following last week’s news that the primary school curriculum is to be changed to make a second language compulsory from age seven, a new study says British children are behind in languages by age three.

The study was completed by language experts, who revealed that English-speaking countries devote the least amount of time to foreign-language learning. Language learning in primary schools is voluntary in English-speaking countries including England, Australia and the US.

But the report also said: “There are greater challenges in implementing primary languages for policy makers in English-speaking countries than there are in the rest of the world.”

In English-speaking countries, it adds, “there is no one language which everyone wants to learn”.

It is also often argued in the UK that learning another language is unnecessary because English is the universal language of business. However, the report concludes: “The assumption that English speakers do not need to learn other languages because others are learning ours is damaging to our economy.”

The report does not come up with an optimum age for learning a foreign language but says an early start is essential. “Unless language learning starts early, it is argued, learners will be unable to take advantage of the natural capacity young children have to acquire language instinctively,” it says. (Source: The Independent)

When did you start learning languages? Do you wish you’d got a head start in primary school?

Languages compulsory from age seven

Posted on June 16th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Following the news that Scottish schools are considering overhauling the language curriculum, English primary schools are following suit.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, is expected to announce that learning a language will be compulsory from the age of seven for English children. In addition, there will be a “new focus” on spelling and grammar.

[Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg] welcomed the government’s ideas, saying: “I think it’s absolutely right. Children will get a love of languages if they start them young.”

Under Mr Gove’s plans, primary schools could offer lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek, as well as French, German and Spanish.
The Department for Education said that where English teaching was concerned, the aim was to ensure that pupils left primary school with high standards of literacy. (Source: BBC News)

The need for speed

Posted on June 12th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Words, Writing | Leave a Comment »

How fast can you go? Reading, I mean – how quickly can you scan those words?

I think I’m a pretty fast reader – I finished the final Harry Potter in about 10 hours – but according to this test, I’m ranked just above an “average college student”! At 512 words per minute, that apparently makes me 105% faster than the American national average. Which I suppose isn’t too shabby!

It’s not all about how fast you are though – comprehension matters. So in Spanish I’d probably be well below the national average. What about you?

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

British vs American slang

Posted on June 9th, 2012by Michelle
In English, Slang | Leave a Comment »

Do you know the meaning of the word “shawty”?

If not, you might want to watch this informative video in which Hugh Laurie is quizzed on some American slang by Ellen DeGeneres. He doesn’t do that well… but then neither does Ellen when asked about some British slang!

Less-spoken languages

Posted on June 8th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »

Think you know your languages?

Try this BBC quiz and see how you get on! I scored a dismal 2 out of 7, despite all the time I spend reading and writing about languages. I obviously need to pay more attention!