Monthly Archives: May 2013

Visual addiction

There’s an interesting post by Idahosa Ness on learning languages orally over on Fluent in 3 Months today. It suggests that it is better to focus on listening and speaking until you have a good grasp of the pronunciation, rather than learning reading and writing at the same time. This can work even if you […]

Language, Language learning 6 Comments

10,000 hours

There’s a idea floating around that in order to become proficient in any skill you need to spend around 10,000 hours practicing it. This figure comes from a study undertaken by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, which found that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to […]

Language 6 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 4 Comments

Everything but the kitchen sink

The phrase ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ indicates many things or almost everything, as in ‘I took everything but the kitchen sink with me on holiday. The OED gives the earliest use of the phrase in writing as 1965. The kitchen sink part of the phrase apparently comes from army slang and appears in Partridge’s […]

English, French, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Coal biter

I learnt an interesting word in Old Norse recently: kol-bitr (“coal-biter”), which refers to an idle person who always sits by the fire. kol = coals, charcoal, and bitr = biting, snapping; cutting, sharp [source]. In Elder Futhark runes this is ᚲᛟᛚ᛫ᛒᛁᛏᚱ and in Younger Futhork runes it’s ᚴᚫᛚ᛫ᛓᛁᛐᚱ. A visitor to Omnglot asked me […]

English, Language, Old Norse, Words and phrases 1 Comment

It’s on the knitting needles

Yesterday I discovered that the Welsh idiom, ar y gweill, which can be translated as ‘in the pipeline’, ‘on the way’, ‘in hand’ or ‘underway’ literally means “on the knitting needles”. It’s the plural of gweillen (knitting needle). To knit is gwau or gweu, and a knitter is gwëwr, gweuwr or gwëydd. Here are some […]

English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken? By the way, this was recorded by a non-native speaker of this language. I couldn’t find any recordings of native speakers, probably because there are so few.

Language, Quiz questions 11 Comments

More on grammar

The importance of grammar in language learning is often played down in language courses and by people who blog about language learning. They claim that you can learn a language either without actively studying the grammar (whatever they mean by the word), or that you only need to glance at grammar books and explanations now […]

Language, Language learning 3 Comments

What do you mean by grammar?

A lot of discussions on how to learn languages mention grammar – whether it should be learnt overtly at all; whether it should be introduced gradually from the start, or only after one has a some knowledge of the new language, and so on. There are often asides about how English-speaking people, especially the younger […]

English, Language, Language learning 2 Comments


I came across the wonderful word bimble (/bɪmbəl/) yesterday for the first time and guessed it meant something like “to do something in a relaxed fashion”. The OED defines it as “To move at a leisurely pace, esp. on foot; to amble, wander.” and cites a book by R. McGowan & J. Hands called Don’t […]

English, Language, Words and phrases 4 Comments
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