Archive for the Category: English

Why Weihnachten?

Have you every wondered where the German word for Christmas, Weihnachten, comes from? I have, as it is so different from words for Christmas in other European languages. So I decided to investigate. Weihnachten comes from the Middle High German wīhenahten ‎(Christmas), from a dative plural ze den wīhen nahten ‎(in the holy nights). The […]

Also posted in Etymology, German, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Sorry, we’re out of smiles

Translation: – A baguette please. – With this? – ? – With a plant please – With this? – With a surfboard please – With this? – With a smile please – Sorry. I don’t have any more of them. The phrase avec ceci ? literally means “with this?”, but I suspect in this context […]

Also posted in French, Language 1 Comment

That’s enough!

The Russian word всё (vsjo) [fsʲo] is a useful one that can mean various things depending on the context: everything, still, always, all the time, nevertheless. Here are some examples: – Вот и всё; Это всё = that’s all – Мне всё равно = it’s all the same to me – Я всё равно пойду […]

Also posted in Language, Russian, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Ditties, dictation and digits

A ditty is a short, simple song, like the ones I write. It comes from the Old French dite (composition), from the Latin dictatum (something dictated), from dictare (to dictate), a frequentative of dicere (to say, speak), which is related to dicare (to proclaim, dedicate), from the Proto-Indo-European root *deik- (to point out). Some English […]

Also posted in Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Large vocabulary? Do you know how to use it?

A lot of language learning approaches I’ve read and heard about focus on learning as much vocabulary as possible, and not worrying too much about grammar, at least at first. For example you might focus on learning the most commonly-used phrases and words, and on using them at every opportunity. Later on you might learn […]

Also posted in Language, Language learning, Russian, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Stuckies, pleeps and doos

I came across some interesting Scots words in a TED talk today which I hadn’t heard before – stuckies, pleeps and doos. What do you think they mean? Clue: they’re types of bird. In the talk the presenter, a native speaker of Scots, explains how he was told from his first day at school that […]

Also posted in Language, Scots, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Teaching school

In novels and articles written by Americans I’ve come across the construction to teach school, as in “I teach school” or “He teaches school”, which sounds strange and wrong to my British ears. In the UK we would say something like “I teach in a school” or just “I’m a teacher” or “I work as […]

Also posted in Language 10 Comments

A Guide to Paisa Spanish

This is guest post written by Connor Grooms, who learned Spanish to a B1 conversational level in a month and made the film, “Spanish in a Month: A Documentary About Language Learning” about it. A few months ago, I learned Spanish to a B1 conversational level in a month while living in Medellín, Colombia. If […]

Also posted in Language, Language learning, Spanish 1 Comment

Polyglot Pathways

If you’re a polyglot who learns languages for fun, you might choose languages from a particular family or region, or languages that have contributed to your mother tongue. Or you might choose ones that are completely unrelated to one another in order to challenge yourself. These are possible pathways a polyglot might pursue. Another possible […]

Also posted in Language, Language learning 3 Comments

French and potatoes

I came across an interesting phrase in Scottish Gaelic today: Ith do bhuntàta beag mus dig na Frangaich!, which means “eat your small potatoes before the French come!” and it is apparently said to children picking at their food to encourage them to eat up [source]. Are there similar phrases in other languages, perhaps used […]

Also posted in Idioms, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 8 Comments
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