Monthly Archives: July 2006


A portmanteau is a large travelling bag or suitcase with two compartments. The word comes from the Middle French porter (to carry) and manteau (mantle). In modern French the word means coat rack. A portmanteau word or portmanteau is one that fuses several grammatical inflections, or one that combines parts of two or more words. […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Does this sound familiar?

This week’s challenge is to identify the language in this audio sample. A few clues: this language is spoken mainly in one country and is not related to any of the languages spoken in the neighbouring countries. The verbs in this language have hundreds of forms.

Language, Quiz questions 14 Comments

I think I’ll pass on the parsing

As children few of us know any grammatical terminology, yet we’re still able to speak grammatically. In school we might be taught the ‘grammar’ of our own language. Traditionally, in English-speaking countries at least, this has consisted mainly of parsing sentences – an exercise that involves labelling the parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc). […]

Language, Language learning 12 Comments

Word of the day – gwlyb

gwlyb /’gulIb/, adjective = wet, dank, sloppy, liquid gwlyb, ansoddair = gwleb, yn cynnwys hylif, llaith, wedi gwlychu, yn bwrw glaw This is a lovely Welsh word that looks impossible to pronounce to non-Welsh speakers. It actually sounds something like goo-lib – both w and y are vowels in Welsh. Related words gwlypach, comparative – […]

Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Language guessing

Whenever I hear an unfamiliar language, I try to guess which language it is, or least which language family it belongs to. I base my guesses not just on the language itself – the sounds, intontation and any words I recognise – but also on the appearance of the people speaking it, and the way […]

Language 6 Comments

The lure of the unknown

Learning a language related to your mother tongue is generally less difficult than learning one that’s distantly related or completely unrelated. However, getting to grips with a language that’s very different to the ones you already know can be very interesting and exciting. Such languages can seem strange and exotic, and other people may be […]

Language, Language learning 26 Comments

Language cross-training

The other day I come across the interesting idea of language cross-training (I don’t remember where though, unfortunately). The writer suggested that when learning a language, it can sometimes be beneficial to have a break to learn a bit of another language. The aim isn’t necessarily to become fluent in the second language, but the […]

Language, Language learning 8 Comments

What language is this?

Here’s another challenge for you – can you identify the following language and/or translate this phrase into English? kalunáa baw sai pa̖a dàek Some clues: this is a real language and is normally written with its own unique alphabet. The accent marks indicate tones. The phrase is something you might say in a restaurant.

Language, Quiz questions 11 Comments

What would you like to see on this blog?

This blog has been online for nearly four months, which is apparently the average life of a website, and I’ve been wondering whether you have any ideas or suggestions for what you’d like to see here. I haven’t run out of ideas myself, but thought asking you would be a good plan. If any of […]

General 11 Comments

Pueblo Inglés

Yesterday one of my colleagues sent me a link to the Pueblo Inglés, or English Village, which sounds like is a very interesting idea. The English Village is a small, remote hamlet called Valdelavilla in the province of Soria, about four hours north of Madrid. Spanish people can go there to practice and improve their […]

English, Language, Language learning 12 Comments
%d bloggers like this: