German clothing and perfume producer Joop! has tried and failed to trademark a punctuation mark. The company attempted to claim the exclamation mark as their own, and were denied by the European Court of First Instance. The ruling claimed that people would not automatically associate the punctuation mark with the company. The company tried to register the symbol both on its own and in a box, and applications were declined both times.
I’m not sure what I would think about having to worry about copyright rules when using a single symbol, so I’m quite happy to hear that punctuational freedom continues!
Source: EU court rejects “!” as JOOP! trademark – CNBC.com
I’ve talked about a few different approaches to learning languages, and not all of them are for everyone. An interesting article on BootsnAll outlines ten different ways to go about learning a new language, and you may not have considered all of them.
One that caught my attention was to speak only your target language for a whole day. It may not be for everyone, especially true beginners, but if you have been learning for a little while, give it a go!
Just for one day, instead of walking around talking in your own language, why not make yourself say everything in a foreign language whether you know how to say it or not. Sometimes it can be embarrassing to speak in a foreign language out loud if you’re not really confident about it, so talk to yourself when nobody’s around.
Just go about your day-to-day business whilst thinking or saying what you’re doing in your chosen language. Think of yourself as a narrator narrating what you are doing. Think a sentence through in your head and try to work out what it would be in that language and if you don’t know something, then go and look it up. If you don’t want to look like a weirdo, you don’t need to talk out loud, just think it in your head.
Source: BootsnAll Travel.
I’ve spent the last two years working and travelling in Asia, and speaking a mixture of the local language and English to varying levels of success. I’m now on a long-overdue visit home, and it’s the first time I have been in an English-speaking country in a long time. I was eased into it as I had a very long journey comprising four different flights and five different cities, and it wasn’t until the fourth city that the flight crew stopped speaking Chinese (Mandarin to Hong Kong, and then Cantonese after that).
It took me a little while to stop the automatic pleasantries popping into my head in Chinese, and for a few days I kept thinking of ways to try to communicate my needs in other languages. While it’s a bit of a relief to be able to speak plainly and be understood by strangers, it’s also quite encouraging to realise that I do manage to function in my adopted country.
Does anyone else experience a slight delay in language adjustment? Maybe it’s another result of jet lag.
I’m currently in a situation where I speak a dialect to a moderate level, but the main language to a lower level (Cantonese and Mandarin, respectively). I understand more Mandarin than I would otherwise, because some words and structures are very similar. But listening comprehension doesn’t always mean oral proficiency, and it can be difficult to reproduce the unfamiliar words, especially in tonal languages. I know that the pronunciation is different, but I don’t often know how it’s different. I haven’t come across too many false friends yet (where a foreign word is similar to a word in your native language, but it means a totally different thing), but I’m sure they will arise.
One way to bridge the gap is to try the word in your own language, and sometimes the native speaker will understand you. My Cantonese-speaking friend has had mixed success with this method in Mandarin-speaking cities, but it seems to work for quite a few food items, which is the important thing!
Do you speak two languages that have similarities (e.g. Spanish and Italian)? I’d love to hear any suggestions you have for successful communication in both.
What is your motivation to learn a language? For some people, it helps to have a concrete goal like successfully understanding a favourite book in its original language. Some people choose a famous novel or poem or writer to use as their inspiration for continuing their language study. As good as translators can be these days, they can never capture exactly the original feeling that the author intended, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to read and understand the majority of an original piece of writing.
Whether you are learning a language for business or personal reasons, it can be really helpful to have a target like this, especially when it is a book or piece of prose you know you will enjoy. Of course, for professional reasons you may wish to read material related to your own industry, but the comprehension of this is also rewarding.
If you are new to a language, start with achievable goals, like reading children’s stories, newspaper articles, or simple short stories. Using a Dostoyevsky epic in its original Russian as your first goal might be a bit ambitious, but you could always use it as a long-term aim. Also bear in mind that reading classical stories in outdated languages might not help you with your conversational vocabulary.
Some websites and publishers also provide side-by-side translations of books and texts, so you can refer to the translated text whenever you come across something you don’t understand. Remember that to understand something, you don’t have to know every single word. Even native speakers stumble on vocabulary sometimes. Look words up when you need to, but don’t let difficult words interrupt your enjoyment of reading.
I came across an interesting discussion thread about people’s ‘books they’d learn a language for’, which includes suggestions about great books in contributors’ own languages. Which books do you want to read in their original forms, and which would you recommend to learners of your language? Have you achieved any of your language goals?
In a time of international trade and travel, you’d think that language learning was on the increase. It is proving to be the opposite at universities, with fewer and fewer students choosing to do pure language degrees. Experts blame the 2004 withdrawal of mandatory languages at secondary schools, and the promised increase of language learning in primary schools has been slow to take effect.
From the full article at guardian.co.uk:
Applications to language degrees are drying up and those that are left are increasingly dominated by private school pupils, Steve Smith, who is also vice-chancellor of Exeter University, said.
Universities are dropping pure language degrees to do “language and culture” alternatives, with less time dedicated to developing fluency and mastering speaking skills. The government has commissioned a major review into languages in universities, which is due to report this month.
Smith told the Guardian: “I think there are two prongs to the problem. One is the sheer decline. The second is that language teaching is becoming increasingly an activity of the independent sector. Getting those balances right is quite difficult.
“I think the trend will be much more towards teaching modern languages in the context of the societies in which the languages are actually spoken. In other words, you might do Italian, but you might do it as part of a degree about its literature and culture. In the single honours languages, the declines at the moment are really quite significant.
Good news for Japanese language learners: the Japanese government has sponsored a website that allows transcription of any podcast recorded in Japanese. Podcastle produces automated transcription of Japanese podcasts into Kanji, and from there, users of the site can correct and modify as necessary.
I’ve already discussed how useful podcasts and radio shows can be for language learning, especially when teamed with transcripts to refer to or read over before or after listening. Using a lot of audio for learning will help to improve your listening, pronunciation, and speaking fluency.
By all accounts, the transcriptions aren’t perfect, but that’s to be expected. As technology gets more accurate, and as the site gains more users, transcripts will become much more accurate. As it stands, they might be better for intermediate and advanced learners of the language, but it is still a worthwhile effort.
For more information and a review of the service, go to Street-Smart Language Learning™.
It seems like it’s human nature to try to find the easiest and fastest way to do things, and this is especially true for things we find difficult or don’t understand. Language learning seems to be one of the things that people are constantly trying to find a shortcut for. Are there quick fixes and magic solutions?
There are many websites that claim that it is possible for people to learn a foreign language easily and quickly, and you can get it done simply by being asleep. One website even tells this fantastic story, of a student who achieved great success using their methods:
In Budapest, Hungary, a student wanted to learn English quickly enough to win a BBC contest. Using the sleep-learning method , he memorized one thousand and twenty-six English words in six weeks and won first prize!
Sounds easy, right? Well, an EFL teacher thought he would ask some people who had tried similar methods. Not only did he find out that there was a lot more work involved than just listening to audio while you sleep, but that the students who had tried it didn’t feel like they were learning about grammar and sentence structures. They did report that they became more familiar with speech sounds of English, and improved their pronunciation, though. The teacher also proposed that doing about 15 minutes of study right before sleeping, and right after waking up (as was instructed in the sleep learning courses) could be beneficial to all students. Read his full post here.
Has anyone else had experience of learning or enhancing their learning by listening to things while they sleep?
Two teachers of the Welsh language have taken it upon themselves to provide an online Welsh language learning service, free of charge to anyone wishing to learn the language. Their passion for the language and wish to use natural, spoken Welsh to teach others has resulted in an mp3-based learning system available at SaySomethingInWelsh.com. The creators have been so generous with their time that they have made the language course free for all users, and are busy supporting a new international Welsh language community.
A FREE internet course in Welsh has stunned its creators, with more than 3,500 learners registering from locations as far afield as Timbuktu and New Zealand.
SaySomethingInWelsh.com – which emphasises the spoken word – was set up by teachers Iestyn ap Dafydd and Aran Jones because of their frustration with more conventional courses.
The site has been inundated with plaudits from people across the world who decided to sign up for what they see as a more user- friendly way of learning the language.
Available in MP3 files which can be downloaded and played at any convenient time, it claims to get rid of time wasted on reading and writing in order to help people learn to speak and understand Welsh far more quickly than is possible with traditional methods.
Iestyn and Aran describe themselves as “serial language learners” who wanted to make sure that cutting edge approaches were available in Welsh.
“I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been trying to learn one language or another,” said Aran, who lives in Pwllheli and is chief executive of the Welsh language communities group Cymuned.
The course is free because it is possible to distribute electronic files for very close to zero cost.
“We realised early on that the work involved in putting the course together, the writing and recording, was something we were happy to do as volunteers just to make sure that this kind of material is available in Welsh,” said Iestyn of Maesycymmer, near Caer- philly.
“It costs us virtually nothing to distribute the course, so we thought it would be a boost to Welsh learners, and to the language itself, if we offered it for free.”
Full article from WalesOnline.