Today is leap day, the extra day we get every four years. It’s also traditionally the day that women get to propose to men!
If you’re not quite at that stage with your sweetie, perhaps you could instead try some of the most romantic lines from literature on him, aided by this handy interactive guide from Stylist magazine. A few of my favourites, can you guess which books they’re from?
“It has made me better loving you … it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and to be angry that I did not have them. Theoretically, I was satisfied. I flattered myself that I had limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid sterile hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I really am satisfied, because I can’t think of anything better.”
“He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.”
“I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one. My reason for life.”
Steven Pinker is a well-known linguist (amongst other things), with specializations in visual cognition and psycholinguistics. He’s also very good at making complex ideas seem very understandable and engaging, which is why I love this video illustrating a talk he gave to the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in the UK).
In it, Pinker “shows us how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meanings”. Take a look and let me know what you think.
Update: I can’t seem to embed the video here, so this link will take you to it.
A new hub for endangered languages has been set up on the Internet.
Described as an “ark”, the site features eight “talking dictionaries” featuring dying languages from around the world. The dictionaries feature photos of cultural objects, written words and audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing words and sentences in their language. Some languages are being written down for the first time.
Alfred “Bud” Lane, one of the last fluent speakers of a Native American language called Siletz Dee-in from Oregon, said: “The talking dictionary is and will be one of the best resources we have in our struggle to keep Siletz alive.”
Other dictionaries feature Matukar Panau, an Oceanic language from Papua New Guinea which has only 600 speakers. Before the Enduring Voices team began studying it three years ago, the language had never been recorded or written. The Matukar Panau dictionary contains 3045 entries, 3035 audio files, and 67 images.
Even though they had never experienced the internet, the Matukar Panau community asked for their language to be placed on the web. They finally saw and heard their language online when computers arrived in their village last year. (Source: National Geographic)
Other dictionaries are now in production, including a ninth for Celtic tongues.
Whilst visiting the states last month, I discovered there’s a lot of things Americans don’t understand about the British (one being the difference between England, Britain and the UK). But there’s also a lot the British don’t understand about Americans.
BBC America has compiled a list of five American expressions Brits don’t understand. Here are my two favourite, with descriptions:
Oh what? Snap? Snap what? What ARE you on about? And what purpose does this expression serve? Are you saying it to commend a smart-ass for their witty quip, or pat them on the head condescendingly for trying? Is it one of those phrases that started out as a high fiving “oh you got SERVED” and has now ended up meaning an eye-rolling “nice try, Seinfeld”? It’s just that we’d probably be quite good at saying it, if it turned out to be the latter. Eye-rolling is a British specialty, after all.
I only found out about this the other day, but it’s a good one. It seems that our two great nations have different understandings of the same word. Suppose you have friends coming over to stay, and they send a text message when they’re just around the corner, just to be sure you’re ready for them: “Hi! We’ll be there momentarily!” In America, this means “we’ll be there in a moment,” but in the UK, it means “we’ll be there FOR a moment.”
I understand both of these expressions – perhaps my love of American television is to blame? What British expressions do Americans find difficult to interpret?
A new study has revealed that pygmy goats have accents.
Their accent is based on the group or “crèche” they were brought up in, rather than genetics, as was previously thought. Researchers from the University of London believe that the goats are displaying the first signs of evolutionary development in language. As goat kids age, their calls become similar to other goat kids in their crèche.
“We found the pitch of the call slightly different,” said Dr. Alan McElligott of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London.
Though you may need a trained ear to tell the difference.
“I’m sure that if a goat listened to a person, they probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Boston accent and a New York accent,” Dr. McElligott quipped. (Source: WBUR)
The next stage of development is imitation, and scientists believe that one day animals may be able to develop complex language like humans. Listen to the goat calls over at the WBUR website.
One of the most often heard excuses for not learning a new language is “I’m too old”.
It’s generally accepted that children are ‘better’ at learning new languages than adults. A new study challenges this idea though, showing that adults are better than children at acquiring a new language skill. The issue may be social convention – it’s easier to correct a child when they say something wrong than it is an adult.
The researchers devised a test giving 8 year olds, 12 year olds and adults a new, made-up language rule to learn. The rule stated that verbs were pronounced and spelled differently depending on whether they referred to an inanimate or animate object.
“The adults were consistently better in everything we measured,” says Ferman. When asked to apply the rule to new words, the 8-year-olds performed no better than chance, while most 12-year-olds and adults scored over 90 per cent. Adults fared best, and have great potential for learning new languages implicitly, says Ferman. Unlike the younger children, most adults and 12-year-olds worked out the way the rule worked – and once they did, their scores soared. This shows that explicit learning is also crucial, says Ferman. (Source: New Scientist)
So, your ability to learn a new language is there – now there’s no excuse not to!
Little bit behind this on this, since the Super Bowl happened last weekend, but at least we’ll all be prepared with some trivia for next year!
Over at the Boston Globe, Erin McKean has investigated why the Super Bowl is called the “Super” rather than the “Totally Awesome Game that Lots of People Watch” (I know, that’s not very catchy). Apparently it was originally called something different:
The Super Bowl originally had a more prosaic name: The first two games were officially called the “AFL-NFL Championship Game,” with “Super Bowl” becoming official with the third game in 1968. (The Roman numerals didn’t show up until the fifth Super Bowl game, in 1970.) The name “Super Bowl” is credited to Lamar Hunt, the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and the founder of the American Football League, who said he took the name from his daughter’s Wham-O Super Ball toy. (The word bowl used for football games most likely comes from the bowl-shaped Yale Bowl stadium.) (Source: Boston Globe)
So now you know: the Super Bowl was named after a toy!
The website Lifehacker is a fantastic place to go for tips on all sorts of things to make running your life easier.
Recently a writer posted about using movies to learn Spanish. This is his method:
First, watch the movie a couple times with the English subtitles. Don’t memorize the subtitles but watch it enough times so that you know the plot and can get into the movie. After a while, leave the subtitles on for comfort but start trying to follow the target language, only looking down to the subtitles every now and then. After you’re relatively comfortable with the plot of the movie, as if you could watch it with the sound off and still get a basic idea of what’s going on, switch to subtitles in your target language.
Spend a lot of time watching this movie with the subtitles in your target language. Watch it a billion times. A billion trillion times. Watch it with your language buddies with whom you should be in regular contact and practicing with anyway. Watch it until you can pretty much say the lines along with the actors, even if you have to read along with the subtitles. Watch it until you say to yourself “Man, I don’t even need subtitles!” Turn the subtitles off. You should now be able to watch the movie and understand it without subtitles and for the most part, understand exactly what they are saying. Watch it again with your language buddies (if they want to watch the movie again for the trillionth time) so they can tell you what some of the idioms really mean, and clarify any cultural context or references, etc. Watch it until you know the lines, just like you know the lines to Toy Story or Cool Runnings (both movies I know by heart). (Source: Lifehacker)
Over the course of all this movie watching, you’ll pick up a ton of language skills, including being able to understand native speakers when they talk at their usual speed (not slowed down for learners). You’ll also have picked up lots of vocabulary, including slang terms. Another benefit: Impressing your friends with all the world cinema you’ve been watching lately!
To start you off, here are some of my favourite German language movies:
Good Bye Lenin!
Run Lola Run
What are your favourite movies?