Language acquisition

Language quiz image

I spent Christmas at my brother’s house and had a nice time. It was interesting to see how the language skills of my niece (4) and my nephew (1) are developing.

My niece speaks a lot, mainly in English, and sometimes in Russian (her mum is Russian), and is learning to read and write in English. She can recognise the letters, and with help can read and write words. When she writes some letters are back-to-front or otherwise not quite right. She hasn’t started learning to read and write Russian yet, I don’t think.

My nephew is at the one-word stage. He can say quite a few individual words in English, and sometimes puts them together into short sentences. He also understands Russian, but I haven’t heard say any words in Russian.

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).

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.

Improvements to Omniglot

A proofreader

Recently I’ve been making a lot of small improvements to Omniglot. An American gentleman from Michigan has very kindly been proofreading parts of my site, and sending me long lists of corrections and improvements. So far we’ve worked through the languages written with the Latin alphabet from A-J.

I’ve corrected errors, edited and improved language descriptions, re-done many alphabet charts, added links to the Excel spreadsheets I use to create the charts, and added sample texts and videos, if I can find them. The alphabet charts (and other images) scale to fit the size of the screen you’re using to view my site, and I try to make them legible even on small screens.

Many other people send me suggestions for corrections and improvements, and I welcome all your feedback. If you spot anything on Omniglot that needs correcting, changing or improving, do let me know.

By the way, the number of visitors to Omniglot has diminished somewhat recently. I don’t know why, but would be grateful if you could recommend to site to everyone you know who is interested in languages.

Back to Bangor

I finally returned to Bangor today after nearly 3 weeks away – I was only planning to be away for 3 days, but due to the slight mishap in London (a broken ankle), my plans changed a bit.

My mum has looked after me very well, and been doing the cooking, laundry, shopping, etc. I’ll have to find ways to do those things myself back in Bangor.

Last Friday I went to the hospital in Lancaster for a check up on my broken ankle. They put a new plaster cast on it and said that it’s healing well. I can even put a bit of weight on it.The plaster is due to come off at the end of May, and I’ve arranged for this to be done in Ysbyty Gwynedd (Bangor hospital).

I was planning to go to the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava at the end of May, but have reluctantly decided to cancel that trip. I doubt I’ll be ready for such an adventure as soon as the cast comes off, as it’s likely to take a month or so before I’m fully mobile again.

My rather overgrown garden

It’s a beautiful day here in Bangor, my apple tree is in bloom, and my garden went a bit wild while I was away (see photo). I’ll need help to tame it, I think.

It was great to hear some Welsh on the train on the way back – I’ve missed it.

A postcard view

Last night I went to an interesting talk about postcards at the local history society. Various people, including my mum, have collections of postcards of Silverdale and/or sent from Silverdale, and there was a project at Lancaster University to scan, transcribe and study the cards. There is also a book entitled Old Silverdale: The Loveliest Spot on Morecambe Bay which features postcards from Silverdale.

A postcard of Silverdale Shore (1911)

The talk focused on postcards that were sent from Silverdale between about 1900 and the 1930s. Looking at the kind of things people wrote on them, their handwriting, style of writing, punctuation and so on. Apparently some of the cards in the collection were written backwards, upside down or in a spiral to make it more difficult for postmen to read them. Some even used rebuses*.

When the postcards were sent there were a lot more postal deliveries – several every day – so it was possible to send a card in the morning, and to receive a reply the same day. They were used somewhat like text messages and other social media are today, and just like text messages, there was no standard way of writing them, so people wrote however they wanted. Short, incomplete sentences. Minimal punctuation. Abbreviations and accronyms, and some rather exsentrik spellin.

Certain people at the time were apparently concerned that postcards could bring the end of formal written language, and that people would start writing any old how. Similar concerns have been expressed about text messages, online chat and so on. This TED talk explains why such fears are not justified.

The speaker also mentioned that when people write postcards they tend to use more elaborate, flowery and even poetic words than they might normally do. They talk about ‘wooded glades’ and ‘fragrant breezes’, ‘delightful weather’, ‘glorious sunshine’, and such like.

Do you still send postcards? If not, do you remember when you last did?

Do you have a particular way of writing them?

It’s a long time since I sent a postcard – at least 10 years, I think, maybe longer.

* A rebus is a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters.

Still waiting

My operation didn’t take place yesterday, but it might just happen today. I’ve been through the pre-op checklist and talked to the surgeon and anesthetist. They said they will try to fit me in today, but cannot guarantee it. I’m feeling very tired, hungry and thirsty as I didn’t sleep well last night, and haven’t had anything to eat or drink since yesterday.

Everybody is very friendly and helpful here, but I wouldn’t recommend a stay in hospital, if you can avoid it.

Up North

The view from the window nearest me in Lancaster Royal Infirmary

After being discharged from St Mary’s Hospital yesterday, I took a taxi to Euston, with a Somali driver. I managed to get myself to the ticket hall and bought a ticket. Then asked for assistance to get to the train – I can’t put any weight on my broken ankle at the moment so have to hop everywhere with the crutches, which is tiring and tricky, especially up and down steps. Fortunately there was a train in the station and I only had to wait about 5 minutes before it left.

It was a direct train and took about three hours to get to Lancaster. I just sat, looked out of the window, dozed off a bit, and eavesdropped on the conversations around me. There was a family in front of me who were speaking in a mixture of English and maybe a language from India – I don’t know which one. Behind me were a Russian-sounding mother and son who spoke mainly in English, but the mother occasionally slipped into Russian.

My mum met me at Lancaster station and took me to the local hospital – Lancaster Royal Infirmary, which is just down the road from where I went to school. We waited for quite a while, saw various doctors and nurses, I had some more x-rays, then they decided to admit me rather than letting me go home and come back in a few days. We waited some more while they found me a bed.

This morning they told me that they won’t be able to operate on my ankle until tomorrow, so I’ve been taking it easy, doing a bit of work, listening to podcasts and snoozing. My mum came to visit this afternoon and brought me some grapes, awfully clichéd I know, but nice and tasty.

This hospital is a lot less multilingual than St Mary’s in London. So far the only language I’ve heard here is English, mainly with a Lancashire accent. I’ve found myself speaking with a bit of Lancashire accent as well. Even though I grew up in this area, I never had much of a local accent. However it sounds familiar and pleasant to my ears, and comes easily to my tongue.

Slight mishap

A photo of Regent's Park in London

Today I had a nice walk and lunch in Regent’s Park (see above), then went ice skating in Queensway (pictured below).

A photo of Queensway ice rink in London - the scene of my slight mishap

The skating went well for the first hour or so. Then I fell awkwardly and dislocated and fractured my ankle. The staff at the ice rink helped me off the ice and called an ambulance. It came quickly and took me to the nearby Sy Mary’s Hospital.

They have straightened the ankle and put a temporary cast on it, but I will need an operation to fix it properly. I just saw one of the orthopedic surgeons who recomended that I return to Bangor and have the operation there. They are arranging that now.

Everyone had been wonderfully helpful and nice, and I haven’t had to wait nearly as long as the last time I was in hospital. That time it was my wrist that I fractured while roller blading.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Bangor, and it won’t be an easy journey as my anke hurts a lot if I try to move it.

Homeward bound

Yesterday I had a good time in London with a Russian-speaking friend. We talked mainly in English with a sprinkling of Russian from time to time. In the morning we went to the Design Museum and saw a special exhibition about Moscow, which was interesting. Then had a wander around Holland Park, which is beautiful, especially at this time of year when lots of trees are in blossom (see below).

A photo of the Kyoto Garden (京都庭園) Holland Park in London

After lunch in Hammersmith we played mini golf in Acton Park, which was great fun. Neither of us were very good, but I did manage to get one hole in one. In the evening we went tango dancing, then watched a Russian film – an interesting re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story called Аленький цветочек (The Scarlet Flower). There were no subtitles, and my Russian isn’t yet good enough to understand much, so my friend translated for me. The Russian they use in the film is old-fashioned, and they speak in a very dramatic, almost operatic way, so it’s not easy to understand.

Сегодня я еду домой or I’m going home today (“Today I go/travel homeward”). The word домой [dɐˈmoj] is one I learnt and used quite a bit yesterday. It means home, homeward or to the house, and related words/forms include:

дом [dom] = house, home, family, household
дома [ˈdomə] = at home (genetive singular)
домашний [dɐˈmaʂnʲɪj] = home, household, house; private; domestic, family; home-made, homespun
домовой [dəmɐˈvoj] = house; a house spirit or sprite
домосед [dəmɐˈsʲet] = stay-at-home, homebody

Source: Wiktionary