Monthly Archives: August 2006

Extreme polyglossia

There’s a lot of interesting discussion on the forum at about the extreme polyglot, Ziad Fazah, who lives in Brazil and speaks 58 languages. Some of those involved in the discussion are sceptical about the existence of this person, don’t believe that he speaks so many languages, or don’t think he could he learnt […]

Language, Language learning 20 Comments

Every little helps

In an interview I found the other day, Barry Farber, author of How to Learn Any Language, mentions how he learns a new Tibetan word or phrase from the Tibetan woman who works in a nearby local grocery store every time he goes there. He also hopes to use the same method to learn some […]

Language, Language learning 11 Comments

Babbling babies

There was an interesting piece in The Times yesterday about a new book, The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World by Charles Yang of the University of Pennsylvania, in which he argues that babies are born with templates for the grammatical structures of all languages in their brains, but gradually forget them as they become […]

Language, Language learning 2 Comments

The train has been replatformed

This week I’m on holiday and spending most of it with my parents in the wilds of Lancashire in the northwest of England. Yesterday, while waiting for a train, I heard an announcement about a different train being ‘replatformed’. This word caught my attention because it sounded quite strange, and even though I’d never heard […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments

Name the language

This week we have a question from David. Can you identify the following language and translate it into English? Note: to make this slightly more difficult, I’ve made a phonetic transcription of the sentence using the IPA. The language isn’t normally written like this. Clues: This a well-known proverb. The language is a constructed one […]

Language, Quiz questions 8 Comments

English is easy, isn’t it?!

One of the things I did this week was to research online English language tests. I also helped some Chinese friends with their English. Doing these things gave me insights into some of the peculiarities of English. For example, usage of small words like at, on, in, for, and phrasal verbs like get on, get […]

English, Language, Language learning 7 Comments

Foreign language music

Listening to songs in languages you’re studying, learning what they mean and how to sing them are great ways to practise various language skills. One of the first things that got me interested in Portuguese, Spanish, Irish and Scottish Gaelic was listening to songs in those languages. This also helps to sustain my interest in […]

Language, Language learning, Music 23 Comments

How long does it take to learn a language?

There is no definitive answer to the question posed by the title of this post. It all depends on the following factors, among other things: How much of the language do you want to learn? If you want to become proficient in all aspects of the language, then it’s going to take a lot longer […]

Language, Language learning 11 Comments

Word of the day – 嵐 (arashi)

嵐 (arashi), noun = storm Examples of usage 嵐が来そうです (arashi ga kisō desu) It looks as if a storm is going to come 嵐が治まりました (arashi ga osamarimashita) The storm abated 男たちは嵐の夜に出てきました (otokotachi wa arashi no yoru ni detekimashita The men went out on a stormy night This character is a compound of two characters: on […]

Japanese, Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments

The power of words

More or less every area of human activity involves a different range of specialised vocabulary, otherwise known as a linguistic register. Knowing the vocabulary associated with a particular activity isn’t essential, but without it you will probably find yourself using complex, convoluted descriptions, which can be frustrating. Once you learn the relevant words, you can […]

Language, Language learning 2 Comments
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