Stuck in Paris

I had a pleasant wander around Montreal yesterday morning, and a nice lunch in Vieux Montréal, then headed to the airport. It wasn’t very busy, so I got through security in no time, and didn’t have too long to wait for the plane.

On the flight from Montreal to Paris I was sitting between two Tunisians – a old guy who I think lives in Paris, and a young woman who recently moved to Montreal to study in a university there. We chatted a bit in French, and he occasionally switched to Tunisian Arabic. I watched the Shawshank Redemption and really enjoyed it. I’d heard good things about it before, but hadn’t seen it. We arrived in Paris CDG at 5am local time (11pm Montreal time), and I’m feeling very tired as I didn’t manage to sleep much on the plane.

Unfortunately my flight to Manchester, which should have left at 7:20am this morning has been cancelled due to the strike, so they’ve re-booked me on a flight that leaves at 6:20pm, so I’ve only got another 11 hours or so to wait. I could pop into Paris for the day, I suppose, but don’t really feel like it. I’ll just do some work on Omniglot, and read. There’s even a piano here that I could play a few tunes on – someone is currently playing a rather nice classical piece that I don’t recognise. Air France has generously given me two vouchers to buy food and drink up to the value of €24.

So I should be home by about 11pm tonight – only 11 hours late!

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Book hunting in Montreal

Yesterday I spent the morning hunting for interesting language books with Lindsay Dow, of Lindsay Does Languages, Benny Lewis, of Fluent in 3 months, Steve Kaufmann, of lingq, and Josh Koehn from California.

The first book shop we went to had a good selection of books in and about a wide variety of languages, including Old Irish, Middle Welsh, Breton and Sanskrit. I resisted buying anything as I have no spare space in my bag, and already have plenty of language-related books at home.

After wandering around Vieux Montréal for a while we had lunch in a nice café, then Lindsay and I went to meet Moti Lieberman of The Ling Space, where there are videos which explain and discuss linguistic and language-related topics in an accessible way. I hadn’t heard of this site before, but will definitely have a look at some of the videos. It sounds very interesting.

In the evening we met up with Kris Broholm of Actual Fluency, Oli Richards of I will teach you a language, and some local friends of theirs for dinner in a vegetarian place on Rue Saint-Denis.

I’m taking it easy this morning, and after lunch will head to the airport – my plane leaves at 16:45, and I’ll arrive in Manchester at 07:50 tomorrow morning, as long as my flight from Paris isn’t affected by the planned strike by Air France staff.

English, Language, Linguistics, Travel 1 Comment

Multilingual Montreal

Yesterday was the second and final day of the symposium. Although it was only two days, it felt like more as we packed a lot into those days. There were some very interesting talks, including one about raising children multilingually, one about being a polyglot in Latin America, and another about the linguistic diversity of one of the colleges here, were students and staff speak some 83 languages and dialects between them.

Those were the ones I went to. There was also talks about using social media and video to learn languages, living abroad, and introductions to Wolof, Spanish, Scottish Gaelic, Greek, Italian and Papiamento.

Dr Conner Quinn, a linguist at University of Southern Maine in Portland, gave a very interesting and useful talk about language and linguistics. He told us that in order to pronounce a language in a native-like way, you need to pay attention to its rhythm and melody (prosody), and start by trying to imitate this. Then when learning pronunciation, its best to learn combinations of sounds, especially when learning a tonal language like Mandarin or Vietnamese. For grammar you can memorise sentences which illustrate various grammatical structures. He also explained that language is basically about things, events, the relationships between them, and how they relate to the current conversation.

In the evening we gathered in Parc La Fontaine for a picnic, which was good fun. Today I’m meeting a few other polyglots and visiting some of the book shops that have lots of language-related books and courses.

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Polyglotting in Montreal

Yesterday was the first day of the North American Polyglot Symposium in Montreal. It’s taking place at Concordia University, which has two campuses – one downtown, and one quite a way out of town. I went to the out of town one by mistake, and walked a few miles to get there from the nearest Metro stop. When I got there I couldn’t any signs of the Symposium, and after wandering around for a while, I found someone to ask and they said it was probably at the other campus.

Fortunately as I was leaving a taxi was dropping someone off, so I jumped in and headed back into town. I arrived about 10 minutes before my presentation, the first of the day, was due to start. The presentation went well with some good discussion and quite a few people have told me that they found it interesting.

There were other presentations on various language-related topics yesterday, which were all quite interesting. One was in French, the rest were in English. The one in French was by a local guy with a strong Quebecois accent, which was a bit difficult to follow, but I was getting most of it by the end.

In the evening many of us trekked up Mont Royal, which has great views from the top. On the way down it rained quite heavily and people split up and wandered off in different groups. We eventually met up at a Spanish restaurant for tapas.

I met quite a few people I know from previous polyglot events, and plenty of new people, and I had conversations in English, French, Esperanto and Scottish Gaelic, and spoke bits of Russian, Portuguese, Japanese and Mandarin.

Chinese, English, Esperanto, French, Japanese, Language, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Travel Leave a comment


Tomorrow I’m off to Montreal for the North American Polyglot Symposium, which takes places on Saturday and Sunday (23/24) at Concordia University.

I’m giving a talk on the origins of language. This is a subject that we can only really speculate about, unless someone invents a time machine, so I’ll discuss the various theories that have been proposed.

This will be my first visit to Canada, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m also looking forward to catching up with my polyglot friends, and making some new ones.

Language, Travel 5 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

Are you sturggled?

You may think I have misspelled the title of this post, and in a way I have, but I did so deliberately. The other day when typing struggle I accidentally typed sturggle. I thought that it looked like an interesting word, and wondered what it might mean.

Apparently I’m not the first person to come up with this word – according to the Urban Dictionary, sturggle means:

To be afflicted with a debilitating hangover to the point where you cannot speak.

I’ve never been sturggled in this sense.

Do you have any other suggestions as to what sturggle might mean?

Have you accidentally come up with any other new words?

English, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment


I came across an interesting Scots word yesterday – pauchle [ˈp(j)ɑxl] – which I needed to look up, although from the context you can get an idea of its meaning:

They’re hoping that they can pauchle the party rule book in order to insist that Corbyn must gain the support of at least 51 of the party’s Westminster and EU parliamentary contingent in order to stand again in a leadership contest. [from Wee Ginger Dug]

According to my Scots dictionary it means:

Pauchle (1) noun
1. a bundle, small load (of goods); the personal belongings of someone in service and living away from home, (usually) kept in a trunk
2. a small bundle or parcel of something; a quantity of something; a small quantity of something taken by an employee from his employer, either furtively or as a perquisite*
3. a packet (of letters)
4. a swindle, a piece

Pauchle (1) verb
1. to be guilty of a minor dishonesty, cheat; rig (an election)
2. to steal, embezzle, pocket
3. to shuffle (playing cards)


Pauchle (2) verb
1. to move feebly but persistently, shuffle, hobble, struggle along (pauchle alang, awa, on)
2. to struggle, strive, expend effort and energy
3. to work ineffectually, bungle, potter

If you are in a pauchle, you are in a chaotic or disorganized state, or behind with your work.

It is probably of onomatopoeic origin.

See also:

So it looks like quite a useful word. Are there other words for a little something you take from your employer?

*A perquisite is “a benefit which one enjoys or is entitled to on account of one’s job or position” [source]

English, Language, Scots, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Heavy Plant Crossing

Heavy Plant Crossing Sign

If you saw this sign, what kind of plant(s) would you expect to be crossing?

In this context, plant refers to “a large, heavy machine or vehicle used in industry, for building roads, etc.” It can also mean “machines used in industry” or “a factory in which a particular product is made or power is produced” [source]

Apparently the first recorded use of plant for a factory dates from 1789 – this meaning developed from the idea of the factory being ‘planted’ [source]. Perhaps the meaning was extended to the machines used in factories, and to other large industrial machines.

Is plant used to refer to large machines only in the UK?

English, Language, 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 4 Comments
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