Living Languages – a special report on language learning

Living Languages - a special report on language learning

I came across an article about language learning in the Guardian today which discusses the findings of a report on language learning [PDF] based on a two-year study carried out by the Guardian and the British Academy.

The report makes interesting reading, and looks at many aspects of language learning, such as language education, young people’s attitudes to language learning, language and social change, as well as many personal stories about how people learn and use languages.

Language, Language learning Leave a comment

Llap y dwndwr – the drink of prattle

Llap y dwndwr / Panad / Disgled

I discovered last night that an old Welsh expression for tea is llap y dwndwr [ɬap ə ˈdʊndʊr], which could be translated as meaning “the drink that makes one talkative” or “the drink of chatter”. It is also the name of a tune.

The word llap means soft and wet, and appears in the expression bwyd llap (soft and wet food), which can refer to soup (cawl) or rice pudding (bwdin reis).

The word dwndwr means noise; to make a noise; to bluster, prattle or babble; or to daunt, hector or bully. A related word is dwndrio = to babble or talk too much. It appears in the expressions cap y dwndwr = rattlepate (a frivolous, talkative person), and rhap y dwndwr = a gossip, or loud-mouthed person.

Other poetic/slang names for tea include dail y dwndwr (“the leaves of chatter”) and llysiau’r dwndwr (“the herbs of chatter”).

In colloquial Welsh tea is te [tɛ] and a cup of tea is panad or paned in North Wales – this comes from cwpaned o de (cup of tea), and it’s disgled (o de) in South Wales.

Does tea have any interesting names in other languages?

Source: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

English, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 8 Comments

Two wheels left here will be removed

Latin & Greek sign

If you’ve ever wonder how you would tell people not to park their bicycles in Latin and Ancient Greek, as I’m sure you have, the sign in the photo shows you.

The Latin, Duae rotae hic relictae perimentur, apparently means “two wheels [cycles] left/abandoned here will be removed”.

The Greek, Εηθαδε αηφθεητες δυοκυκλοι διαφθαρνσονται, apparently means “Two wheels taken here will be destroyed”, which isn’t quite what it’s supposed to mean.

As there were no bicycles in ancient Rome and Greece, there were no words in Latin of Ancient Greek for them, so the they are translated as “duae rotae / δυοκυκλοι” (two wheels/cycles). Are these good translations?

The sign was put up in Portugal Place in Cambridge, and some comments on it called it elitist. Not everybody in Cambridge knows Latin or Greek, it seems, as photos of the sign show a bike parked under it. Have you seen any modern signs like this in ‘dead’ languages?

Source: BBC News

English, Greek, Language, Latin 6 Comments

Multilingual conversations

A multilingual (French/Welsh/English) conversation

At the French conversation group I go to most weeks we usually stick to French most of the time, however when the leader of the group isn’t there or leaves early, as she did last week and the week before, we often switch to English and/or Welsh. Most members of the group speak Welsh, as well as English and French, so we quite often have trilingual conversations mixing all three languages in a wonderful way. I really enjoy such conversations, and it feels great being able to understand and use these languages in this way.

With other friends I may have one, two, or more languages in common, but it’s relatively unusual for a group people to have three or more languages in common, like in the French group.

Do you know groups of people with whom you can have multilingual conversations?

In how many different languages are your multilingual conversations?

English, French, Language, Welsh 3 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 3 Comments

Mardy

The word mardy came up in conversation last night, and the friends who mentioned it, who are from Yorkshire and Lancashire, said that it could mean annoying or weak. As I hadn’t heard it before, I thought I’d find out more about it.

According to Wiktionary means sulky or whinning, e.g. ‘She’s being a mardy girl’, or non-co-operative, bad tempered or terse. It is used in the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and a few other places in northern England, as well as in Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottingham and Derbyshire.

It is often combined with other words such as cow and bugger, and is sometimes shortened to mard, which appears in the phrase, ‘he’s got a mard on’ (he’s in a bad mood), which could also be ‘he’s in a mardy’.

It possibly comes from marred = to be perplexed or troubled; to be spoilt, cosseted, overly indulged, and a related expression is to mard = to cosset (a child).

Have you heard this word before?

Do you use it?

English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases 7 Comments

One Person One Language (OPOL)

An illustration of a bilingual family

This post is based largely on an article by Francois Grosjean: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual/201504/one-person-one-language-and-bilingual-children

One popular way to raise bilingual children is for each parent to speak only their native language with their children. For example the father will speak English and the mother will speak Spanish, and the children will acquire both languages. At first the children might mix the languages, but they will soon come to associate one language with each parent. There is also a belief that if the parents mix languages, e.g. the Spanish-speaking parent sometimes speaks English, and the English-speaking parent sometimes speaks Spanish, the children will get confused.

Problems with the OPOL approach
There are problems with the OPOL approach – children is likely get more exposure to one language then to the other, and one language is likely to become dominant. The children may come to prefer that language, especially if both parents speak it, and the children may be able to understand but not speak the non-dominant language. This is quite often the case with minority languages like Welsh and Irish.

It can also be difficult to stick to OPOL when other people are around who only speak one of the languages. For example, if a Spanish/English family is with Spanish-speaking friends, does the parent who only speaks English with the children stick to English, even though the friends might not understand, or do they switch to Spanish? Parents can find such situations stressful and might adapt their approach to context and be more flexible rather than sticking rigidly to OPOL.

Does the OPOL approach actually work?
There are have been a number of the OPOL approach, including a notable one of 2,000 families by Annick De Houwer, which found that children in a quarter of the families did not become bilingual, and that in families where parents mixed languages, as many children became bilingual as in OPOL families.

What is the OPOL approach based on?
Given the popularity of the OPOL approach, you might think that it’s based on sound foundations of research and testing. This is not the case. It has probably been around for a long time, but the first reference to it in modern linguistic literature is in a book from 1913 by Jules Ronjat, a French linguist with a German wife. In 1908, when his son was born, Ronjat asked his colleague, Maurice Grammont, for advice on raising his son bilingually. In a letter Grammont advised Ronjat to speak only French to his son, and for his wife to speak only German. Since then many other people have discussed the OPOL approach, and often cite a book by Grammont, Observations sur le langage des enfants (Observations on Children’s Language) which was supposedly published in 1902, however does not in fact exist, according to François Grosjean. So the OPOL approach is based on the opinion of Maurice Grammont, who published nothing on language acquisition, as expressed in a letter to his colleague Jules Ronjat.

Have you tried or are you trying the OPOL approach?
Did it work / is it working for you?
What problems have you had with it?

Links
Life as a Bilingual: The reality of living with two (or more) languages (by Francois Grosjean, and Aneta Pavlenko)
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual

Links to websites with information and advice about raising children bilingually
http://www.omniglot.com/links/bilingual.htm#kids

Articles about bilingualism
http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/index.htm#bc

English, French, German, Irish, Language, Language acquisition, Linguistics, Spanish, Welsh 5 Comments

Language, accents and tourism

Arrr! Avast me hearties! Authentic pirate gibberish spoken here

I came across an interesting article today about ways to attract tourists with regional accents and languages. It discuses moves to encourage the use of French in parts of Canada and Louisiana, and Irish in Ireland, as well as regional accents in Newfoundland and in Skane in southern Sweden. People from the regions are promoting their languages and accents to attract visitors looking for ‘authentic’ experiences.

I certainly like to hear different accents and languages in parts of the UK and other countries I visit. When I meet people in such places who come from elsewhere and don’t have a local accent or speak the local language, I am somewhat disappointed. Although their way of speaking will probably be interesting to me anyway, even if it isn’t local to that region.

My own accent could not be defined as ‘authentic’ to the area where I grew up – the north of Lancashire. Instead it’s a kind of non-region specific British accent with influences from various places I’ve lived.

Do you enjoy hearing different accents, dialects or languages when you travel? Are you disappointed if people don’t speak in the way you expected?

English, French, Irish, Language, Swedish, Travel Leave a comment

Language quiz

Language quiz image

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
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