Archive for the Category: English

Differently polite

I discovered the other day that in Chinese families it is considered impolite to say the equivalents of please and thank you, as this is seen as distancing yourself from other members of the family, so within a family such words are apparently rarely used. Is this correct? Does it vary between families? Although I […]

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Also posted in Chinese, Language 8 Comments

српски (Serbian)

Last week I started learning Serbian (српски) in preparation for the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad in Serbia in October. Whenever I visit a country whose language I don’t already speak I learn at least the basics of their language, so I couldn’t go to Serbia without learning some Serbian. I’m using online materials, such […]

Also posted in Language, Language learning, Serbian 3 Comments

When is a language not a language?

One perennial problem in linguistics is how to decide whether a language is a language or dialect. In the fascinating book, Speak: A Short History of Languages, which I read recently, Tore Janson argues that a language can be considered a language when those who speak it decide that it is one, and they give […]

Also posted in Italian, Language, Latin, Linguistics 2 Comments

Brushing up languages

Last week in Scotland I tried to speak Scottish Gaelic as much as possible, and had a number of good conversations. At first though, I was adding quite a lot of Irish Gaelic into the mix, which works sometimes as the two languages are close, but not always. Last year I had a month between […]

Also posted in Irish, Language, Language learning, Scottish Gaelic 1 Comment

Waulking and Walking

My Gaelic Song course is going well and I’m really enjoying it. There are thirteen of us in the class – most are from Scotland or of Scottish origin, and there are also a few from other countries like the USA and Germany. Some speak Gaelic well, others know a bit, and those without any […]

Also posted in Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

I’m off to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye, later today to do a course in Scottish Gaelic song (Òrain Ghàidhlig) with Christine Primrose. This is the third time I’ve done the course with Christine, and the fourth time I’ve been to the college – last year I was there […]

Also posted in Language, Music, Scottish Gaelic Leave a comment

Cigire or Cigydd? Cross-language confusion

Last week in Ireland on the last night of the course each class played some tunes, did a sketch, sang songs, and/or did some other party piece. One of the Irish language classes did a sketch about a bunch of unruly school kids whose class was being visited by an inspector, played by Paul Kavanagh, […]

Also posted in Irish, Language, Welsh 5 Comments

Cruite, cláirseacha a chrythau

I discovered last week in Ireland that one word for the harp in Irish is cruit [krutʲ], which sounds similar to the Welsh word crwth [kruːθ], a type of bowed lyre that was once popular in Wales and in other parts of Europe, but which was largely displayed by the fiddle during the 18th century. […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Music, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh Leave a comment

Oideas Gael

I’m having a wonderful time in Gleann Cholm Cille learning to play the harp and speaking plenty of Irish. The course is going really well – we started with basic techniques, and have learnt a number of tunes, including some from the Bóroimhe / Brian Boru suite by Michael Rooney. I’ve videoed our teacher, Oisín […]

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Gleann Cholm Cille

Tomorrow I’m off to Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille in Donegal in the north west of Ireland to do a course in harp playing. This will be the tenth time I’ve been there, though the first time I’ve done the harp course. Normally I go for a summer school in Irish language and culture […]

Also posted in Irish, Language, Music, Travel 1 Comment