Monthly Archives: October 2006

Which language to study?

If you’re trying to choose which language to learn, the following question, which is based on one I came across yesterday, might help you to decide: If you were offered a free trip to one of the countries where the languages you’re considering are spoken, which country would you choose? For me, choosing which language(s) […]

Language, Language learning 17 Comments

Language proficiency tests

I came across some useful online language proficiency tests today on the Transparent Language site. There are tests for Chinese (Romanized), Dutch, English, English (for Spanish Speakers), French, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese (Romanized), Latin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. The questions are all fill-in-the-blanks type and each test consists of two grammar sections, a […]

Irish, Language, Language learning 14 Comments

An Umbrian mystery

In the walls of the Palazzo Bucelli in Montepulciano, Italy, which was built in the 17th century and remodelled in the 18th century by the antiquarian Pietro Bucelli, there are a number of inscriptions. These inscriptions are generally thought to be in Etruscan or Latin, but they look more like Umbrian to me. Here is […]

Language, Writing 4 Comments

Context matters

This morning I’ve been chatting with a friend in Shanghai who asked me how to say various things in English, and about the meaning of various English words and phrases. In each case I had to ask about the context to be sure that I chose the appropriate meaning or translation. Some words have a […]

Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments


Today I came across an interesting article on Overlearning, via Polyglottery, which argues that it’s better to learn a relatively small amount thoroughly than to try to learn as much as possible of a language. The author’s main point is that some language learners don’t repeat words and phrases enough before moving on to the […]

Language, Language learning 5 Comments

How many of me?

I came across an interesting website that tells you how many people there are in the USA who share the same name as you. I looked up my name and discovered that there are 38,996 Simons, but only 1,800 Agers. The number of people in the States called Simon Ager is zero. According to another […]

Identity 13 Comments

Coptic lives!

Coptic, a descendent of the Egyptian language of the Pharaohs, is generally thought to have died out as an everyday language in the 17th century. Since then it’s been used only in the religous ceremonies of the Coptic Church in Egypt. However, according to the Daily Star Egypt, there are a couple of families who […]

Language 9 Comments

When words fail you

When you find yourself unable to recall a particular word, there are quite a few alternative filler words you can call on. In English these include thing, thingumy, thingumybob, thingamyjig, wotsit, doobree, doodad, and whatchamacallit. Few of these words have a standard form, so you can spell them how you like. Knowing the equivalents of […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 26 Comments


I came across an interesting report in the New York Times today in which they talk about the recent opening of The Museum of the Portuguese Language (Museu da Língua Portuguesa) in São Paulo, Brazil. The objective of the museum is to create a living representation of the Portuguese language, where visitors may be surprised […]

Chinese, Language, Portuguese, Words and phrases 11 Comments

Name the language

For this week’s quiz we have a song in a mystery language. Can you identify the language? If you can identify the singer as well, I’d be very impressed. Clues: this was originally a Hungarian song, which was translated in English, then into the language of this recording. The title of this song is also […]

Language, Quiz questions 12 Comments
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