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 5 Comments

Mysterious abbreviations (MABs)

Recently I’ve noticed the abbreviation MSM appearing in some of the articles I read online. When I first saw it I guessed it had something to do with Microsoft – maybe Microsoft Media, or something like that. Eventually I worked out that it stood for mainstream media.

According to Wiktionary, MSM can also stand for mirror, signal, maneuver – something you are often told when learning to drive, at least in the UK. In the USA you can be awarded an MSM (Meritorious Service Medal), and it also stands for Modern Standard Mandarin.

The Acronym Finder gives a number of other things that MSM stands for, such as Miami Sound Machine, Mechanically Separated Meat, and Magnetic Shape Memory.

When I go to my dentist she uses the abbreviation NAD when checking my teeth. I guessed it stood for No Apparent Damage or something similar.

The Acronym Finder gives the following possibilities: No Apparent Distress, No Abnormality Detected or No Active Disease.

According to The Free Dictionary, NAD could mean No Appreciable Disease, No Abnormality Discovered, Nothing Abnormal Detected, or No Abnormalities Detected.

Does anybody know what NAD actually means in a dental context?

Are there any abbreviations or acronyms that you leave you stumped?

English, Language 2 Comments

Nature service

Yesterday I went to see the ankle specialist at the local hospital,. He said that my ankle has healed well and just needs a bit of physiotherapy. I can start to wean myself off the orthopedic boot, using it less and less each day, and crutches as well. I didn’t wear the boot yesterday afternoon, and tried to get around a bit without the crutches. This worked okay, but when I went out last night to a gig, I wore the boot and took the crutches.

Today I went back to the hospital for some physiotherapy, without the boot, but with the crutches. The physiotherapist gave me some exercises to do, and said that I should try to move my ankle as much as possible. Within a few weeks I probably won’t need to crutches anymore, and in a few months my ankle should be back to normal. I’ll do all the exercises dilligently, and devise others as well, as I want to be fully mobile as soon as possible.

The physiotherapist suggested that I sit with my ankle raised for 20 minutes each hour. I plan to use this time to study languages, practise music, or read. At the moment I’m studying Russian, Swedish and Romanian, mainly on Duolinguo, while keeping my other languages, especially the Celtic ones, ticking over.

The word physiotherapy comes from physio, from Ancient Greek φύσις (phúsis – nature) and therapy, from New Latin therapia (therapy), from Ancient Greek θεραπεία (therapeía – service, medical treatment), from θεραπεύω (therapeúō – I serve, treat medically).

English, Etymology, General, Greek, Language, Latin, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Words and phrases 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 2 Comments

Calabooses, digging and beds

A photo of a Calaboose

I came across the word calaboose in a book I read recently and as I couldn’t work out its meaning from the context I had to look it up. I also like the sound of it, so thought I’d write about it.

A calaboose is an informal American term for a prison or jail. It comes from the Spanish calabozo (dungeon), according to the Collins English Dictionary.

Calabozo possibly comes from the Late Latin *calafodium, from fodiō (I dig, bury), which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰod- (plot, patch of ground) from *bʰedʰ- (to pierce, dig).

This is also the root of the English word bed, via the Proto-Germanic badją (lair, grave, bed), the Welsh word bedd (grave), via the Proto-Celtic *bedo- (grave, ditch), and related words in other, mainly Germanic, languages.

English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Writing Systems of the World Comparison Chart

Today we have a guest post by Matt Baker

I remember the day when, as a child, I first discovered a writing system other than English. I was flipping through an encylopedia (this was the 1980’s, pre-Google) and noticed that, at the beginning of the “A” section, there was a little chart that showed the English letter equivalent in both Hebrew and Greek. I was fascinated by this and immediately tried to make my own chart showing all 26 letters in the other two languages. Like many English speakers who have never learned another language, I assumed that all foreign writing systems would have 26 letters that perfectly corresponded to the English ones. Obviously, this was not the case and I quickly discovered this when I tried to make my chart. Frustrated and confused, I gave up.

Well, it has been over 30 years since that day, and now that I have a little more education and life experience under my belt, I decided to complete the task. But this time, I included 45 different writing systems (or alternatives). Of course, the correlations do not match perfectly and I’ve had to divide the systems into different types (abjads, alphabets, abugidas, etc.) but the result is pretty cool. My goal in making this chart was not to provide a technical, comprehensive guide to each individual writing system but rather to demonstrate the beauty and variety of the world’s writing systems (hence, please note that the indicated pronunciations are approximate and that in some cases, certain additional characters may be missing).

The chart is finished (except for some final checks from those who know each system) and I’m currently raising funds on Kickstarter to get it printed. If you’re interested, please take a look at the project page. There you’ll find a full list of the writing systems included.

A preview of the writing system chart

English, Language, Writing 1 Comment

Working like a horse

Working like a horse

The other day I learnt an interesting Russian idiom (via Duolingo) – Работать как лошадь [rɐˈbotətʲ kak ˈloʂətʲ], which means literally “to work like a horse”, and is used to indicate that you are working hard. For example, Сегодня я работаю как лошадь (Today I am working like a horse).

You can also work like an ox in Russian: работать как вол.

The English equivalent is to work like a dog, as in the Beatles song, A Hard Day’s Night. Are there other English idioms with a similar meaning?

In French you can also work like a dog, or travailler comme un chien.

In Hebrew you work like a donkey: לעבוד כמו חמור (la’avod kmo khamor).

In Italian you work like a mule: Lavorare come un mulo.

What about in other languages?

Personally I prefer to work like a cat.

Source: WordReference.Com

English, Hebrew, Idioms, Italian, Language, Russian, Words and phrases 1 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 6 Comments

Flutes and buckles

Six weeks ago today I had a slight mishap while ice skating in London, and managed to dislocate and fracture my ankle – both the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (calf bone).

The word tibia comes from the Latin tībia (shin bone, leg). It originally referred to a stalk, or reed pipe, and came to mean shin bone as flutes were originally made with shin bones. It is possibly connected to the Ancient Greek word σίφων (síphōn – siphon, tube) [source].

The word fibula comes from the Latin fībula (clasp, buckle, brooch), from fī(gō) (to fasten), and -bula (a suffix denoting instrument, vessel, place, or person) [source].

My bones should be healed by now – it usually takes about six weeks. I went to the local hospital a few weeks ago for a check-up. They x-rayed my ankle, took off the plaster cast, gave me a special orthopedic boot. They said that my ankle is healing well. I’ll be going back there in just over a week. In the meantime, I’ve started to experiment with putting more weight on my injured leg, using just one crutch, or walking without the crutches. I can does this quite well, though still need the crutches for stairs and steps.

I’ve adapted as best I can to having reduced mobility. It’s frustrating not being able to walk four or five miles a day, as I usually do, but I hope to be able to do that again soon. Some things, like grocery shopping, are difficult, so I order stuff online and had it delivered. I’ve noticed that many places are not very accessible, and that simple things like doors can be tricky to manage on crutches, especially if they have strong springs.

English, Etymology, General, Greek, Language, Latin 3 Comments

Chinese learning tools

This is a guest post by Dimitrios Polychronopoulos

When I first started studying Chinese, in Taiwan, back in 1993, I started with the Mandarin phonetic alphabet and traditional characters. Primarily I used bopomofo to learn how to read, in the same way a Taiwanese child learns growing up on the island. Then just more than two years later, I left the island and found my progress in Chinese was mostly from books published the simplified characters. My tutors were from Beijing and Shanghai and I started learning the simplified characters.

Now more than twenty years have passed, and I’ve maintained my intermediate level of Chinese with a variety of tools. Back in 2015 I discovered LingQ and became a big fan and in 2016 I started my own website, Yozzi, to encourage myself to blog in different languages where I’d reached at least an upper intermediate level. The idea was for me to publish one article a week in each of my eight strongest languages. While I have been reasonably consistent at bringing new content to the site, so far I only have two articles up in Chinese. One of the greatest challenges is that when it comes to getting guest blogs on the site, I often have people saying they are interested in submitting, but they never get around to sending in their articles. The same thing happens with guest interviews. Several of the interviews have yet to be returned by the candidates who expressed their interest. One such interview is out there with a Chinese person who lives in Norway, but he hasn’t turned it in yet.

In this case could it be that Chinese is such an inconvenient language to write in? One of my Taiwanese friends who moved abroad says any time she has to write in Chinese, she always keeps putting it off, because even for her it is inconvenient. If a native Chinese speaker feels this way, no wonder as a non-native speaker, I myself have the fewest posts in Chinese up on Yozzi than any of the eight languages. I hope to change this in the long run. If there are any Chinese people who want to talk about their experiences in different countries, cross-culture experience and language-learning experience? I’d love to interview you for my site in Chinese. Please let me know

As for new ways to make progress in Chinese, in 2017 FlipWord has come along. I’ve been using FlipWord for nearly two months now. It’s been a lot of fun challenging my Chinese level. Anytime I want to read an article on line in English, I will open it up in my Chrome browser and let FlipWord replace English words with Chinese words. It will also quiz me as well from time to time on my syntax.

After United Airlines sent me an apology and an update about their changes after the terrible incident on board with the injuries of the passenger Dr. David Dao, I froze the letter in time with Chinese character changes, and published it on BeBee. With this letter, you can see an example of what FlipWord looks like if your settings are on ‘advanced’ for learning Chinese.

Regarding FlipWord, it feels good to see the new words and expressions I learn as I use it. It often happens that a word pops up in a context where I think I already know the word, but it presents me with a different option, for example to earn money I would normally think of “赚钱” Zhuànqián but FlipWord suggests 挣 ‘Zhēng’.

With FlipWord I find myself actively thinking about how I would express the same thing with my intermediate Chinese. There are many ways to express the same thing in a language. Language has nuances and shades. With FlipWord I’m beginning to understand nuances more than I expected to, with each new character that pops up. It also helps with syntax, as quizzes pop up and it asks me to construct my own sentences by putting characters in the right order. Another thing is that I never realised how bad my Chinese syntax was until FlipWord. At this point, my main question is how my learnings from FlipWord will become activated next time I find myself engaging in conversation among a group of native Chinese speakers. It’s the joy of the never ending tale and development of a lifelong language learner.

Chinese, English, Language, Language learning Leave a comment
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