SpeakTalkChat: Linking Language Enthusiasts and Learners

Today we have a guest post by Aodhán Ó Duagáin (Aidan Duggan) of www.SpeaktalkChat.com

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SpeakTalkChat is a language platform that allows users to link based on shared languages and shared interests. Our goal is to link us together based on shared interests to chat through our shared languages. Our philosophy is that much progress in our languages is achieved by language peers chatting together about the things in life that we have in common. It is our belief that shared interests are one of the things that provide the glue of our conversations.

Our philosophy drives our functionality which includes immediate/scheduled videochat, user search, internal messaging system and groups/forums/threads. STC is available on PC and mobile. We currently have 33 languages available at three levels of fluency (fluent, intermediate and beginner) and there are a 101 interests to choose from (you can choose as many as you like).

We are very interested in hearing people’s feedback about www.SpeakTalkChat.com. Feedback to date has been very positive especially in relation to our philosophy. However it is clear that we don’t do language learning in terms of grammar, exercise, games and so on. We feel there are other places to find these.

We decided to focus on what we feel is one of the core things to languages which is chatting with people with whom we have shared interests. We sometimes call STC a ‘social chatting media’ because of our focus on socialising and chatting together.

We have an interest in minority languages and you’ll see a number of these available in the profile section. You’ll also see that the site can be viewed entirely in English or Welsh or Irish. We hope to have the site available entirely in many other languages over the next while and as you can guess we’re always looking for interested translators.

We have a wide variety of interests to choose from. Some would come under hobbies like painting or gardening but we’ve also included ‘heavier’ interests like climate change and human rights. We’ve done this because we also hope that STC can be a platform for discussing some of these pressing issues.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this post and any feedback, comments or suggestions are very welcome.

Aodhán Ó Duagáin (Aidan Duggan)

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English, Language, Language learning 4 Comments

Dirks, Saxons and Messers

Dirk / sgian-dubh in sock

I discovered today that dolch is the German equivalent of dirk, the dagger that is worn in the sock in Scottish Highland dress (see photo). The dirk is known as a sgian dubh (black knife or secret knife) in Scottish Gaelic, and the word dirk, which first appeared in English as dork in the 17th century, possibly comes from the German word dolch (dagger) or dolk, which is found in Dutch, Danish and Swedish [source].

Another German word for knife is Messer, which comes from the Old High German mezzeres/mezzirahs/mezzisahs (knife), from the Proto-Germanic *matisahsą (knife), from *matiz (food) and *sahsą (knife, dagger). Messer is cognate with the Old Saxon metisahs/mezas (knife), the West Frisian mês, the Dutch mes (knife), and the Old English word meteseax (knife). [source].

The Old English word seax (knife, short sword, dagger), which appears in meteseax, shares the same root – the Proto-Indo-European *sek- (to cut) – with the Middle English sax (knife); the Danish and Swedish word sax (a pair of scissors), the Icelandic sax (a short heavy sword), and the Latin word secō (cut), as well as the English words Saxon and saw [source].

The English word mess (in the military sense of a dining hall or people who eat together) comes from a different root – from the Latin mittere (to put, place) via the Old French mets (food) [source].

Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Swedish, Words and phrases 9 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 6 Comments

Lucky and inspiring veins

I discovered yesterday that one way to say that someone is lucky in French is to say that they avoir de la veine (‘have of the vein’). I’m not sure why veins are associated with luck. Does anybody know.

Veine also means seam and inspiration.

Other expressions featuring veine and related words include:

- veiné = veined
- dans la même veine = in the same vein
- veine dramatique = dramatic inspiration
- veine poétique = poetic inspiration
- veine porte = portal vein
- veine poétique = poetic inspiration
- veine de cocu / veine de pendu = great deal of luck
- veine d’air = current of air
- veinard {n} = lucky beggar/dog
- veinard {adj} = fluky; jammy
- Sacré veinard ! = You jammy bugger!

Are there equivalents of veinard in other languages?

English, Etymology, French, Language, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Fantoosh puppets

I came across the interesting Scots word fantoosh [fan'tuʃ], which is defined by the Online Scots Dictionary as “flashy, ultra-fashionable”, whicle the Dictionary of the Scots Language gives a more detailed definition: “1. Over-dressed, over-ornamented; flashy, showy; ultra-fashionable; and 2. An over-dressed person”.

Related words include fantoosherie (fuss, pretentiousness, swank) and fantooshed (flashily dressed).

This word was apparently coined during the First World War and was influenced by the English dialect word fanty-sheeny (a marionette, showy, fanciful), which comes from the Italian fantoccino (puppet), or from the French fantoche (puppet), or maybe fantoosh comes directly from the French.

According to the Caledonian Mercury, fantoosh is more often used for women than, and is also used for other things, such as clothes, hats, wedding cakes, and it usually carries with it hints of criticism or disapproval.

Are there similar words in other languages?

English, Language, Scots, Words and phrases 4 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 14 Comments

The apple of one’s eye(ball)

The other day I came across the Dutch word oog [oːx], which means ‘spot; hole; period (of time); eye’ – I was looking for the equivalent of eye when I found it. Words like this with double o just appeal to me for some reason and I have to keep reminding myself that they the oo is not pronounced /uː/, as you might expect in English.

Other words in Dutch with double o include:

- ook = too, also, likewise, which always reminds me of how the librarian speaks in Terry Practhett’s Discworld stories (oook, eeek!)
- ooftboom = fruit tree
- ooi = ewe
- oom = uncle
- oor = handle; ear
- oord = place; spot
- oost = east

Eye-related words and expressions include:

- ogen = to look
- oogappel = eyeball (‘eye apple’)
- oogarts = ophtalmologist; oculist (‘eye doctor’)
- oog in oog = face to face (‘eye in eye’)
- in het oog krijgen = to perceive, to descry (‘to get in the eye’)
- in het oog springen = to catch the eye, to stand out (‘to spring/jump in the eye’)
- in het oog vallend = striking (‘falling in the eye’)
- met het oog op = considering (‘with the eye up/on’)
- uit het oog verliezen = to lose out of sight (‘to lose out of the eye’)

Source: bab.la Dictionary

Dutch, English, German, Language, Words and phrases 6 Comments

Suns, moons and sputniks

The Sun / Солнце

Earlier today I was thinking about how I might learn more Russian, and realised that I need to get to grips with the grammar – the verb conjugations, noun declensions and so on. Trying to memorise verb tables and noun declensions and other grammatical gubbins doesn’t appeal to me, so I thought about other ways I might approach this. I thought that one reason why I haven’t learnt these things very well so far, even though I’m halfway through the Russian course, is because I haven’t made a conscious effort to do so, and haven’t practised using them nearly enough. I think I need lots more examples of how they’re used then my course supplies, and need lots of practise using them.

I thought that one possible approach would be to choose a word or topic, then try and make sense of the Wikipedia page about it, with help from Google translate, which not only translates the text into English, but also has transliteration and text-to-speech functions, so I can listen and read the text. So today’s word is the sun, which in Russian is Солнце ['solntse]. I can only understand some of the words on the Russian page about the sun on Wikipedia, but one that stood out for me was спутники ['sputniki], which means satellites or moons and is familiar because it’s similar to the name of the the first artificial satellite, Спутник-1 (Sputnik-1), which was launched in 1957. I knew this name, but didn’t know what it meant, until now.

The word sputnik also means ‘fellow traveller’ or ‘travelling companion’ and was short for спутник Земли (sputnik zemlyi – ‘traveling companion of the Earth’). It comes from the Russian с (with, together) and пут (path, way), from the Old Church Slavonic poti, from the Proto-Indo-European root *pent- (to tread/go; path, road), according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. *pent- is also the root of the English word find and the Latin pōns/pontis (bridge).

I had no idea I’d find all that out when I started writing this post. I haven’t learned much Russian, but I have learned other things.

English, Etymology, Language, Language learning, Russian, Words and phrases 5 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 9 Comments

Language learning plans

At the beginning of 2013 I mentioned on this blog that I planned to continue studying Breton and Russian, and maybe have a go at Swedish or Norwegian. I hoped, though didn’t mention, that I would be able to converse reasonably well in Breton and Russian by now, but haven’t achieved that. I continued my studies of both languages throughout most of the year, with some breaks, especially towards the end of the year, but rarely had opportunities to speak either language with others, so my conversational abilities didn’t develop as much as my listening and reading skills.

This year I plan to concentrate on Dutch and Russian, while maintaining and improving my other languages. I know people who speak or who are learning Dutch, so have regular opportunities to speak the language. I hope to find some Russian speakers to speak Russian with as well.

What are you language learning plans for this year?

Dutch, English, Language, Language learning, Russian 5 Comments