Time magazine has published an interview with the author of new book Babel No More, Michael Erard. This book is an intriguing read for language students, and fans of linguistics, as it delves into how to approach learning a new language, and how some people are able to learn a language quickly, whilst others are not. The main focus of the book is people who are able to speak more than one language (polyglots) and people who are able to communicate in many languages (hyperglots.) The interview is available here.
You can also read the first couple of chapters free on Amazon!
A father and daughter from Gwynedd, North Wales, are refusing to pay their parking fines as the tickets were not written in Welsh. Noel Jones and his daughter Bethan were issued with the £65 tickets after parking in the car park of a village community hall in Penrhyndeudraeth. The private car park is primarily for the use of customers, and resident drivers have been issued with bilingual notices regarding the parking enforcements for the past two years.
67% of locals use Welsh as their primary language, however both Noel and Bethan Jones are fluent in English. The pair feel that the tickets are not in line with council policy as they are not written in both English and Welsh, and therefore they should not have to pay.
The ticket was issued by a private firm, FlashPark, which is based in London. A spokesman for FlashPark has said that the tickets will be reissued in Welsh.
Language cards are now being used to communicate with tourists who find themselves in difficulty when climbing mountains in Austria. More than half of all mountain rescue operations in Carinthia, in the south of Austria, are for tourists who do not speak any German or English.
The A6 size cards hold questions pertaining to any injuries the patient might have, and help the mountain rescue teams communicate how the patient might be safely rescued. It is hoped that the climbers will point to their answers in their own language.
Other popular tourist regions in Austria are also looking to start using the cards.
It’s that time of year when the Oscars are announced. Recently I wrote about using world cinema as a tool for language learning and development. As some of my favourite films have won the Best Foreign Film award, (Czech film Kolya won in 1996, and Argentinian film El Secreto De Sus Ojos took the title in 2009) I will paying particular attention to the nominees this year.
This years’ ceremony takes place on February 26th, and the shortlisted films are due to be announced next Tuesday. This Wednesday, nine films were chosen to be on the long list out of 63 entries. The following titles, at the time of writing, are currently in the running for Best Foreign Film 2012.
Pina (German, various)
Monsieur Lazhar (French)
A Separation (Persian) This just won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, and so is tipped to win the Oscar as well.
Omar Killed Me (French)
In Darkness (Polish/Ukrainian)
Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Seediq/Japanese)
As a student of Spanish, none particularly appeal to me from a learning point of view. Having said this, I find it’s always good fun to test your aural skills whilst watching films which feature more than one language. If you close your eyes so you can’t see which character is speaking, can you distinguish from two different languages if you speak neither of them? I had trouble with this when watching Kolya, as both Czech, Russian and Slovak are spoken throughout the film. Therefore, personally, I would be most interested to see In Darkness and Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale. The latter features Seediq, an aboriginal language spoken in Taiwan.
Do the Foreign Film awards inspire you to watch other films?
If any readers have seen any films listed here, please let us know!
In honour of the 125th anniversary of the language, students in Stoke-on-Trent have started a campaign to promote Esperanto as the second language of choice.
Esperanto is a language which was devised in 1887 by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof. It is considered to be an easy language to learn, as the grammar has no irregular verbs, and people in almost every country have learned to communicate using it. An estimated 2 million people speak the language worldwide, with almost 1000 of those in the UK.
But why are students in Stoke-on-Trent so interested in Esperanto? Well, the headquarters of the language association is based in the village of Barlaston, just outside Stoke-on-Trent. The offices are based on the campus of Wedgwood Memorial College, which has been teaching courses in Esperanto since 1960. The library there holds over 13,000 books in the language.
Stoke-on-Trent has a road named after the founder of the language, Zamenhof Grove, and there is also an Esperanto pub, The Green Star. It’s even host to the 4 day Esperanto Summer Festival.
More information can be found here.
New research from British scientists at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology shows that infants can recognise their mother’s voice, rather than the words, in any language; demonstrating that tone is key to voice recognition.
Researchers studied 84 babies aged between 14 and 18 months and conducted two studies – one in English and the other in Greek. None of the babies had prior exposure to the Greek language.
Research leader Dr Merideth Gattis explained, “in this research we aimed to investigate the contribution of prosodic cues, or tone of voice, to infants’ understanding of mental states. Tone of voice is a really useful signal to what someone is thinking. We used the words ‘whoops’ and ‘there’ accompanied by relative vocal inflections in two languages and got exactly the same results – whether in English or Greek, which none of the children understood.
This study showed us that children can judge the intentions of other people based on tone of voice alone. The acoustic features of speech accompanying actions allow infants to identify intention in perceptually similar actions. They are able to use prosodic cues as a guide to how to act on the world, demonstrated by their tendency to copy intentional actions more than accidental actions.”
Source: Cardiff University News Centre
Latvia is set to hold a referendum on February 19th, to decide whether Russian should officially be the country’s second national language. Currently, 44% of the population are Russian speakers, however, 16% of the population are ethnic Russians, who do not hold Latvian citizenship thus are not eligible to vote.* According to Latvian law, more than half of Latvian voters must vote in favour for the proposition to pass.
The proposal does not have the backing of President Andris Berzins. “Granting the Russian language the status of the second state language is the denial of Latvia as a national state and it contradicts the basics of the Satversmes (Constitution),” he said. Parliament rejected the bill in December, after a petition signed by 187,000 citizens was forwarded to the Government by the Dzimtā valoda (Mother Tongue) organisation.
Latvia most recently regained independence from Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2004, Government reforms introduced restrictions on the use of the Russian language in schools.
*Figures sourced from New Europe Online
Francophiles and French language students, here’s your opportunity to immerse yourself in all things French. The France Show will be exhibiting at Earls Court, London, from 13-15th January.
There will be food, wine, entertainment, and a chance to win a trip to France so you can practise your French!
Tickets are £10 in advance, and £13 on the door. There’s also a two tickets for £13 deal here.
I came across this on Tumblr recently. Although the point being made with regards to English is interesting, it bothered me more that pronounced is spelled incorrectly. Twice!