Today is World Book Day in the UK. The original World Book Day, held on April 23rd, is a UNESCO initiative to promote reading. Our local version is a charity event specifically to get kids reading. Each child in full time education is given a £1 book voucher. In recent years, a selection of 8 books has been made available for this event. This year’s selection can be found here. If nothing there takes your child’s fancy, the voucher can also be used as £1 off any full priced book at participating bookshops.
Some schools encourage children to dress up as their favourite character from a book. Which character from a kid’s book would you dress up as, if given the chance? My favourite was always Matilda (Roald Dahl)!
Blog readers will know that I’m a big fan of using foreign films as a language learning tool, and as a student of Spanish, I will be going to see No this weekend (it doesn’t hurt that it has Gael Garcia Bernal in, either!) Here’s the trailer:
A few blogs ago, I shared the story of the Icelandic teenager, Blaer Bjarkardottir, who wasn’t allowed to use her own name, as it wasn’t on the list of Government approved girls names. The list ensures that names fit in with Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules. Blaer and her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, decided to oppose the ruling and it was overturned! The Icelandic Government will not be appealing the courts’ decision, so Blaer will officially be Blaer, instead of Stulka (Girl) from now on.
Blaer’s name is actually pronounced as bly-r, as it is written Blær. A handy guide to Icelandic pronunciation can be found here, for those of you interested. There are 32 letters in the Icelandic alphabet, so this guide is very useful!
Dmitry Golubovskiy, the CEO of Esquire Russia, has posted a video of himself pronouncing the longest word in the world, on Youtube. The video is over 3 hours long! The word, which has 189,819 letters, is the chemical name for the largest known protein, titin.
In fact, comparing the longest words in each language is not as easy as you may think. It actually depends on a number of factors. If you count scientific and medical words, as shown here, place names or compound words, then the letter count obviously has the capacity to be longer.
In the Oxford English dictionary, the longest word is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which is a medical term meaning a type of lung disease. The longest non technical word is antidisestablishmentarianism.
Danish has the longest, non technical nor compounded word; at 51 letters long – Speciallægepraksisplanlægningsstabiliseringsperiode.
Agglutinative languages, such as Turkish, Tagalog, and Hungarian, can in theory have words of infinite length!
If you know of any words which are longer, let us know in the comments!
It’s World Italian Language Week and my friend Giovanna, who is from Parma, was telling me how difficult it is for her to understand the difference and pronounce the words “thirty” and “forty” in English.
I’ve never given this a second thought, other than that certain languages have sounds which we don’t use in English. It’s true that English has sounds that other languages don’t use. It probably doesn’t help Giovanna that in London, some of us Londoners pronounce “th” as “f” (e.g. “toof” rather than “tooth”).
It will certainly make me more aware of my pronunciation, that’s for sure!
The Scottish dialect Cromartyfisherfolk has become extinct after the last known speaker, Bobby Hogg, died recently.
Cromarty, named after the fishing village in the Highlands, was a traditional fisherman’s dialect, and was recorded in a booklet compiled of words and phrases by the online archive of the Highland Council in 2009.
Older words such as “thee,” “thine,” and “thou” are characteristic of the dialect, as is the use of the letter “h,” which is used differently to how we know it in English. The word “herring” then becomes “‘erring” and “ears” becomes “hears.”
Bobby Hogg and his brother Gordon, who died last year, were the last two fluent speakers of Cromarty, but certain words and phrases are still in occasional use in the area. You can listen to recordings of the brothers speaking on the Am Baile website. The site also has the aforementioned compilation of words and phrases, which includes phrases such as thee’re no talkin’ licht meaning ‘you are quite right,’ and at now kucka – a friendly greeting.
This week, children across England will be participating in mandatory reading checks. The Year One children, (ages five and six) have been learning to read using the phonics system. The tests are to measure how well the pupils are learning to read using the sounds of each letter and putting them together to form words.
The test will take between 5-10 minutes, and will ask pupils to read 20 real words and 20 made up words, such as ‘terg’ and ‘spron’.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Association of Head Teachers and the National Union of Teachers issued a joint statement, saying:
“The use of made-up words will confuse children for whom English is a second language and those with special educational needs as well as frustrating those who can read already. There are already enormous pressures on teachers to teach to the test, so how long will it be before children are being taught to read made-up words?”
The Government’s phonics-only approach to teaching reading is controversial. Most teachers advocate a balanced mix of methods, including flash cards and the ‘look and say’ method, because not every child learns the same way or at the same speed.
The British Library has released the first ever audio CD of clips of Shakespeare plays spoken in the original pronunciation. The recording includes some of Shakespeare’s best known speeches, such as the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet’s To Be Or Not To Be, and the Friends, Romans, countrymen… monologue from Julius Caesar.
The “new” pronunciation makes lines which were meant to rhyme actually rhyme, and demonstrates the importance of pronunciation in communications.
You can listen to some of the clips here. I think the accents used sound like a cross between Yorkshire and West Country styles. What do you think?
If you are further interested, the British Library will be holding an event with actors from the recordings. Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation – Live! will be held on Friday 4th May. Tickets are available here and are priced £7.50 / £5.
I’ve posted in the past about using foreign language films as a fun way to learn languages. For Londoners and visitors to London, March is a great time to catch up on world cinema, with several foreign film festivals.
First up is Kinoteka, the annual Polish Film Festival, which runs from 8th to 22nd March. This is also running, on a smaller scale, in Belfast and Edinburgh.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the festival, a host of events are planned. Last night (11th March) was the gala preview of this years’ Oscar nominated film, In Darkness, ahead of the UK release on Friday 16th March. There is also a series of Kinoteka Retrospective screenings at the Polish Cultural Institute.
Tickets for the festival are available for all budgets. As well as free screenings, Riverside Studios are running special ticket deals for Kinoteka screenings. More information and full programme is available here.
Later on this month is the 14th annual London Asian Film Festival, Tongues on Fire. This runs from 16th to 24th March.
Hindi language film Michael is one of the launch highlights of this popular festival. This film is showing at the BFI on 16th March, and tickets are available here. The last night of the festival will be celebrated with an awards ceremony at BAFTA. Tickets are available for £100 – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I always enjoy visiting Engrish Funny for some translation laughs. This image, from sister site Failbook, presents some interesting cultural differences.
In English, the π symbol (meaning the number) is of course pronounced as “pi,” thus making the phrase on the t-shirt amusing to English speakers. However, the Greek letter π is “p,” with the pronunciation the same. It’s also pronounced as “p” in French, Spanish, Lithuanian, Slovak, Bulgarian and Portuguese. It seems that English is the odd one out in the way we pronounce it.
Do you know of any other languages that pronounce π “pi”?