Monthly Archives: September 2006

False friends

When learning a foreign language, you sometimes encounter false friends: words that sound like words in your native language, but which don’t mean the same thing. For example, the French word sensible means sensitive, not sensible. The French for sensible is prudent or sage. A Rathaus is not a home for German rats but a […]

Language, Language learning 15 Comments

Word of the day – etepetete

Here’s a nice German word I came across today: etepetete, which means fussy, finicky, pernickety. According to Wikipedia, this word is used mainly in northern Germany, particularly in Berlin. The equivalents in High German are eingebildet and geziert. This word comes from the French être, peut-être, meaning ‘to be, perhaps’. Example of usage Du bist […]

German, Language, Words and phrases 11 Comments

Name the language

Where might you see the following sign, and what does it mean? Clues: the sign needs to be rotated to see the writing the right way up (this is how it was sent to me). This alphabet is used to write quite a few of the languages spoken in South Asia In case you’re wondering […]

Language, Quiz questions 22 Comments

Once upon a time

Stories in English, particulary those for children, often start with ‘Once upon a time’ or something similar, such as ‘A long time ago in a land far away’. They usually end with ‘…and they lived happily ever after.’ or something similar. In Irish stories typically start with Fadó, fadó’ (a long, long time ago), Welsh […]

Language 26 Comments

Bál Mór Buí

Fadó, fadó bhí bál mór buí ann, ach ní raibh aon cairde aige… When I went to Ireland in June, I found quite an unusual way to use my Irish. On the last day of courses at Oideas Gael there is usually a kind of talent show, which typically involves classes and individuals singing, playing […]

Irish, Language 5 Comments

Lingua mortua sola lingua bona est?

There seem to be many arguments for and against learning classical languages, such as Latin and Ancient Greek, and other dead languages. Some people claim that learning these languages gives you a better understanding modern languages. Others claim that learning Latin gives you a good understanding of grammar and can make you more disciplined in […]

Language, Language learning, Latin 32 Comments

Poetry in many languages

I came across an very interesting website today, lyrikline, which features poetry in many different languages from Albanian to Welsh. It also has recordings of the poets reading their their poetry aloud, biographical information about the poets, details of their publications, plus translations of the poems into German, and, in some cases, English. The site […]

Language, Language learning Comments Off on Poetry in many languages


I’ve decided to put Russian on hold for now and have started learning Czech instead. My Czech friends have taught a few words and phrases, and I hope to acquire a much more knowledge of the language. I’m beginning my studies with the Pimsleur Czech course, which consists of 10 half-hour lessons. The small amount […]

Czech, Language, Language learning 14 Comments

Learning a language with films

I’ve had a request from Justin K, who would like to ask if you have any recommendations for films (movies) that are good for learning languages. Justin is currently studying Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), Arabic and Hindi. I’d also be interested in your suggestions. When I watch a film in a foreign language with subtitles, I […]

Language, Language learning 12 Comments

Name the writing system

Do you know what writing system this is and where you might see it? A few clues: this writing system does not currently appear on Omniglot (I’ll add it when I’ve found enough information about it). It was invented during the 1950s and is logo-syllabic, i.e. each symbol represents a syllable in the spoken language, […]

Language, Quiz questions 9 Comments
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