You’ve probably heard of the famous TED talks. Well, TED have created a playlist of talks that have been given on various aspects of language.
I particularly like Patricia Ryan’s talk, titled ‘Don’t insist on English!’. It’s all about how the focus on English may halt the spread of ideas in other languages. As we know, different languages express thoughts and feelings in different ways, and this diversity is an integral part of the incredible amount of different cultures we have in the world.
Some learners even report that they think and feel differently in their second language, compared to their native language. I experienced this when learning Spanish – it made me feel almost like a different person! I wonder what people taking Spanish classes in Philadelphia think?
Researchers have for the first time documented Hawaiian Sign Language (HSL).
There is written evidence dating back to the 1800s showing the language existed but it is now spoken by only around 40 islanders. In the 1940s it began to be phased out in favour of American Sign Language (ASL).
Work to preserve the language is urgent as many of the speakers are now over 80. Researchers are working on a long term study, which aims to produce a dictionary and videotaped data. They also hope to revitalise the language, which is distinct from ASL but shares some signs.
Take a look at the video below to see a demonstration of HSL and how it compares to ASL.
An interesting article in Slate explores whether we still need email signatures.
The author argues that signatures are a hangover from writing letters, and have no place in the modern world.
But in 2013, when bots outnumber benefactors by a wide margin, the continued and consistent use of antiquated signoffs in email is impossible to justify. At this stage of the game, we should be able to interact with one another in ways that reflect the precise manner of communication being employed, rather than harkening back to old standbys popular during the age of the Pony Express. (Source: Slate)
At work I’m generally prone to using ‘regards’ or ‘kind regards’ as an email signoff. Personal emails to friends take the authors preferred form, with no greeting or signoff. What do you think?
Speaking two or more languages is a great thing. But it doesn’t mean you have the ability to translate between them accurately – as we’ve seen this month, some words in other languages don’t have an English equivalent, for example.
Mental Floss has some examples from new book Found in Translation to show just how wrong translation can go if not done accurately. My favourite is (of course) about chocolate:
7. Chocolates for him
In the 50s, when chocolate companies began encouraging people to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan, a mistranslation from one company gave people the idea that it was customary for women to give chocolate to men on the holiday. And that’s what they do to this day. On February 14, the women of Japan shower their men with chocolate hearts and truffles, and on March 14 the men return the favor. An all around win for the chocolate companies! (Mental Floss)
Have you ever accidentally mistranslated a word or phrase – preferably to hilarious, rather than tragic effect? If you can’t speak a second language, why not try Arabic classes in Washington – it’s better to make mistakes in class than in real life!
Have you ever felt really lazy, so lazy you can’t be bothered to do anything, go anywhere? Well, that feeling has a word – viitsima.
But only in Estonian. A former student at the Royal College of Art in London amassed words from other languages we don’t have in English. The Taiwanese design student collected words from her international cohort to display in an infographic.
Lin’s exercise yields weird moments of recognition: Even if the word doesn’t exist in English, the feeling is vaguely familiar. “People are able to understand the emotion even though they don’t have a word for it,” she said, adding that appropriated words such as schadenfreude make it clear we can feel what we can’t express in one word. (Source: Globe and Mail)
A new study analysing tweets has found that Napa, California is the happiest city in the US.
Researchers found that tweets originating in the city had more happy words than other places, including beauty, hope and food. Coming in last is Beaumont, Texas, whose tweeters apparently swear a lot.
The happiest state is Hawaii with Louisiana coming in last place.
The new study used a list of 10,000 words rated on a 10-point scale as happy, sad or neutral to score tweets from 2011 that carried geographic tags. The researchers threw out neutral words (such as “the,” “of” and “and”) and looked at how often the happy and sad words showed up in different cities and states, lead researcher Lewis Mitchell says.
Words such as “hate,” “terrorist,” “earthquake” and “greed” were high on the sad list, he says. Happy words included “happy,” “reunion,” “lol” (laughing out loud) and nature terms, which helps explain how tweets from Maine, which mentioned lots of “forests” and “rivers,” came in only second to those from Hawaii on the happy list.
Other relatively happy states included Nevada, Utah and Vermont. After Louisiana, the least happy states were Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia. (Source: USA Today)
Today is Valentine’s Day, and whilst you contemplate whether to pay full-price for candy today or wait until it’s discounted, why not also think about some obscure punctuation marks?
The one that is particularly relevant today is the Love Point, which looks a little like two question marks facing each other. Proposed in 1966 by French author (of course) Herve Bazin, it’s meant to be used after words of affection.