Paul McCartney’s music video for his latest single My Valentine features actors Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman using sign language to convey the lyrics of the song.
It has been widely reported that there are some errors in the sign language used, most notably, that both actors use the sign for ‘tampon’ rather than ‘appear,’ and ‘enemy’ instead of ‘Valentine.’ Whilst in British Sign Language, the sign is for ‘tampon,’ it’s important to note that the actors are using American Sign Language, for which the signs for some words differ slightly. Therefore, the sign they used to signify ‘appear’ is correct. There are actually two ASL signs for the word ‘appear;’ one means ‘to show up’ and the other is ‘to seem.’ Natalie Portman used the correct sign.
It’s a shame that Johnny Depp remained expressionless throughout the video, as all sign language relies on facial expressions to bring the language to life. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see sign language brought to the spotlight!
You can view a Johnny Depp solo video, a Natalie Portman solo video, AND the video featuring both actors on Paul McCartney’s YouTube channel.
Travel magazine Wanderlust recently published an article entitled 10 Most Ridiculous Travel Fashion Items. I was amazed to see on it a Phrasebook T-Shirt.
The idea behind this is, using international airport style graphics, the wearer can simply point to what they want with no need to interact with the locals. I think it might just be the laziest invention ever! It’s no longer available to buy, however, so anyone thinking of getting it is out of luck…
I was just listening to a 60 Minutes podcast and there was a really interesting story about a woman who has been studying the same group of African elephants for almost two decades. American scientist Andrea Turkalo has been studying their behaviour, and focusing particularly on the way they communicate. She can now identify not only what different sounds mean (including greetings, sadness, anger, and all clear), but can even tell the animals apart by their voices. Turkalo’s long years of research are leading towards a greater understanding of elephant behaviour and social interactions, and even towards a dictionary of sorts, so other people can also understand the communication between the animals.
One of the big steps that lead to a lot more understanding was realising that a lot of the noises that elephants make are actually subsonic – so low that humans can’t hear them. These low frequencies are used to communicate and locate other elephants to a range of over 2km. When researchers realised that these sounds existed, they began speeding up their recordings so the sounds became audible, and also examined wave forms on screen.
The range of different ‘expressions’ that elephants use is huge, and the research is fascinating.
For more information, read the transcript, or listen to the podcast (episode released 04 July, ‘The Secret Language of Elephants’ starts around 14:00).
I just read a great story about a deaf couple who are raising their hearing son to communicate in both English and American Sign Language (ASL). Both parents have very limited hearing, but their 1-year-old son is just starting to speak English. They can’t hear when he talks to them, and they communicate mostly with hand signals and touch, although as he gets older they will spend more time speaking and signing at the same time.
Usually a child will grow up speaking the same language as its parents, so it’s interesting to see what happens when there is another element introduced, where the child is raised to speak a language that his or her parents do not speak as fluently or easily. The parents have admitted that it will be a challenge, but they will have lots of outside help.
Full story: York Daily Record.
I’ve been listening to Italians speak to each other for the last couple of days and I love the ups and downs of the language that are the result of putting the stress on specific syllables in the word. In fact, if you don’t put the stress on the correct part of the word, some people may not understand you at all, even if you do get the actual word right. Most of the time, the stress is on the second to last syllable of the word, even with long words, e.g. cappuccino, panino. There’s also a lot of ‘r’ rolling, which may be hard for some people to get used to. It may be especially difficult for speakers of some Asian languages, which don’t really have ‘r’ sounds in the first place.
I think the best way to make yourself understood is to try to sound as much like a stereotypical Italian as possible. You may think it’s silly, or even offensive, but if you spend some time listening to Italians speak to each other, you will see that they are as expressive as they appear in films and on TV. It may mean making your voice go up and down more often than you’re used to, and speaking with your hands (Italians do this a lot), but it will help. Let your voice and hands go a little, and see if you can pronounce this beautiful language like an enthusiastic native!
A quick search for visualisation and success brings up nearly four million results about how to improve your life just by visualising yourself doing something successfully. It’s a common topic in self-help seminars, but using this method can also help in your language learning.
You don’t need to be sitting in the lotus position with your eyes closed for this to work, either. You can use visualisation to imagine yourself having an upcoming conversation, or successfully getting through a day speaking only your target language.
The more long-term visualisations are things like imagining yourself speaking a new language fluently, conversing on your favourite specialist subjects with ease. I prefer the more day-to-day stuff.
Sometimes if I’m waiting in a queue to buy something, I will imagine what the clerk is likely to say to me, and what I will reply. Going through a conversation like this will bring up necessary vocabulary (which will make it easier for you to find the words when you do actually need them), and running through the sentence structures in your head beforehand will make your speech more fluent. Think of it as your practice run before the real thing.
Even if you aren’t living in a place where you can practice in daily life, you can use a similar method. Run through everyday conversations in your head, like giving directions to a taxi driver, or buying a newspaper. This will help you to think in your target language, and familiarise you with the vocabulary.
What goes on in your head? Is any of it in the language you’re learning?
Image: Torley from Flickr Creative Commons. Click the link for some inspiration!
It may be a last resort to some people, but hand gestures and miming go a long way towards getting your point across. Looking like a bit of a fool for a few seconds may save you a lot of time spent searching for vocabulary. And you may not even look so silly; many people are ‘hand talkers’ and use gestures to go along with everyday speech.
Especially when you’re a beginner, and in a foreign country, gesturing and pointing can be a great help when you don’t know specific vocabulary. I did have a friend who had to mime some unfortunate bodily functions at a hospital once, but hopefully your experience won’t be as traumatic. If you’re lucky, the person you’re trying to communicate with will provide you with the vocabulary you need (“ah…tomato!”) once they finally understand your meaning.
If you need any other impetus to start moving your hands, this study has shown that gestures, languages and symbols are all processed in the same regions of the brain, and it may be a carry-over from before humans had speech. So, waving your arms around could be considered more valid than speaking. Just remember that some gestures aren’t always polite!
It makes sense that if a language learner has a negative attitude towards their new language, they probably won’t be as successful as they could be. But what happens when the language you are learning has extremely negative connotations within your own community?
For many Indians living in KwaZulu-Natal, Afrikaans is the ‘language of the oppressor’, and the principal of an Indian school has gone as far as to say that the language is irrelevant for his pupils, and is petitioning for it to be removed as a language option. He says a lot of his students do very poorly at the language, and they will never use it in their daily lives.
On the other side of the argument, another principal says that his school makes a point of being positive about the language, not referring to ‘the oppressor’, and his students do very well with the language. (Full article from Times LIVE.)
My own grandmother was unhappy about me learning Japanese as a high school student, because of her association of the language with World War II. I didn’t have these associations, so I was quite happy to learn the language (and was successful during the semester I studied it).
Can we affect our language success by changing our attitude towards the language itself? I think it’s a definite possibility!
We’ve all had that experience where we know we know a word, but we just can’t recall it.
An American study set out to reproduce this phenomenon to see if there was any difference between monolingual and bilingual speakers’ chances of having a ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ moment.
It has already been documented that people who only speak one language have fewer instances of words on the tips of their tongues, but researchers wanted to know if it was because people are sounding out words in their heads (and bilinguals have around twice as many words in their heads as monolinguals).
To study this, the researchers asked participants to name dozens of different objects (often with rarely-used names, like metronome and gyroscope), and counted the number of tip-of-the-tongue experiences (but only for those instances where the participant actually knew the word). They found that monolingual participants had fewer occurrences, but that English-Spanish speakers had around the same number of tip-of-the-tongue moments as English-ASL (American Sign Language) speakers.
This led the researchers to believe that we’re not sounding things out in our heads at all (as ASL does not have sounds), but looking through a catalogue of rarely-used words.
Full article: New Scientist.
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