Monthly Archives: August 2006

Language fashions

There seem to be fashions in which languages people choose to learn and in which languages are in demand by employers. Some languages, notably French, German and Spanish, are perennial favorites, at least in English-speaking countries. Other languages may enjoy popularity for a while, then are displaced by different ones. In the UK there are […]

Language, Language learning 11 Comments

Modern hieroglyphs

The other day I came across some interesting-looking symbols that will be used to represent various sports at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They are modelled on Chinese Seal Script characters and were designed jointly by the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Arts and Design, Tsinghua University. Here are a […]

Writing 2 Comments

Language abilities

Continuing yesterday’s theme, sort of (not all posts on blog are completely random), my question for you today is at what stage can you claim that you ‘speak’ a language, are ‘fluent’ or ‘proficient’ in a language or ‘know’ a language? And when you make such claims, what do you mean by them? My English […]

Language, Language learning 14 Comments

Measuring your progress

When learning a language it’s sometimes helpful and useful to get an idea of how well you’re progressing. There are a number of ways to do this, including taking language proficiency tests, setting yourself a task to complete using only the language you’re learning, or seeing how much you understand when you listen to or […]

Language, Language learning 2 Comments


A teacher from Colorado, Steve Margolin, has come up with an interesting idea – water bottles with a hundred commonly-used phrases printed on them. The phrases are in Spanish, French or Italian with their English equivalents. He calls them “Bottles in Translation” – I coined an alternative name for them – phrasebottles. While travelling in […]

Language 1 Comment

Name that language

This week’s challenge is the identify the language below and to translate the phrase: Clues: this language is spoken in an Asian country and the phrase has something to do with transportation.

Language, Quiz questions 33 Comments

Word of the day – rompre

rompre /ʁɔ̃pʁ/ verb = to break (up/off/with) / séparer en deux parties, briser, mettre en pièces Examples of usage En tombant de cheval, il s’est rompu le cou. – he broke his leg neck falling off a horse rompre ses chaînes – to break one’s chains tu nous romps la tête avec ta musique – […]

French, Language, Words and phrases 6 Comments

More nyms

The nym family has many offspring, including exonym and endonym, as discussed yesterday. Here are a few more of their unruly brood: Homonyms These are words that are pronounced the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. For example: write (to inscribe), right (correct/opposite of left), rite (ritual) and wright (a maker); night […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 11 Comments

Exonyms and endonyms

Peking is an example of an exonym, a name given to a place or group of people by foreigners. Other exonyms for places in China include Canton, Amoy, Macau and China itself. The endonyms or autonyms (native names) for these places are 广州 (Guǎngzhōu in Mandarin, Gwóngjàu in Cantonese); 厦门 (Xiàmén), 澳門 (Ngoumún) and 中国 […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 10 Comments

The northern capital

The capital of the People’s Republic of China used to be known as Peking in English and many other languages. Since 1949 it’s been known as Beijing, which is often mispronounced: the J in jing is not pronounced /ʒ/ (/Z/) as in pleasure, but more like jing, as in jingle. Or if you want to […]

Chinese, Language, Words and phrases 18 Comments
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