language and words in the news

Language and words in the news – 11 December, 2009

© Ioannis Kounadeas / Fotolia.comThis post contains a weekly selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English and language change. Please contact us if you would like to submit a link for us to include.

Global English

Stark lessons in mother tongues.
Developing countries are unlikely to meet UN targets for improving education because of the widespread marginalisation of students’ first languages.

Oye, new Spanish grammar guidelines unveiled.
Can rules be imposed on a language spoken by 400 million people stretching from Madrid to Manila?

A very English affair.
Dinesh Kumar, a migrant from Vaishali district in Bihar, is an electrician in Delhi. Though making ends meet is a challenge, he is not willing to send his two children to a Hindi medium government school where education is free.

Disney English.
It would be a big win for Disney if they could own English language learning in the non-English speaking world. Any Disney English schools in areas where their presence might be controversial could be constructed like castles, with real moats!

Americans consume 100,000 words of information each day, study says.

Even in English, a language gap.
Could it really mean the same thing for him to say “I love you” in English if he spoke German?

Language change and slang

Mind your slanguage.
Young people are growing up with a new form of composite language … And those who use it are losing any sense of “appropriacy” – the important skill of turning it on and off in different situations.

Washington’s newest verb: ‘Salahi’
When Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the White House state dinner last month, they gave Washington — and perhaps the English language — a new verb.

Neologisms, new words for fun and profit.
While Mexico tries to outlaw signs with apostrophes, the apostrophe being unknown in Spanish, and the French from Paris to Quebec are so touchy about imported words corrupting their pure tongue, we Anglophones continue to borrow blithely.

Until recently, male décolletage was an androgynous fashion affectation limited mainly to sporadic appearances on European runways.

Improve your English

Grammar Tips: Lie or lay?
To start with, we need to understand the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs:

Spelling City: spelling test.

Learning English from Obama.
Pupils recite Mr. Obama’s speeches line by line, using a special check sheet to record progress.

Things people say that I hate

English style: Pimp my language?
Because, as the Fake Stylebook points out, “there are differences between “pass,” “enact,” “approve” and “adopt,” but remember: your readers don’t care.”

Books, words, science and the history of language

Physicists develop formula to calculate ‘literary footprint’.
But now scientists believe they have come up with a formula that can calculate the “literary footprint” of different writers. … uses the frequency with which authors use new words in their literature to find distinct patterns in authors’ written styles.

5 Fabulous new features Google unveiled today.
A new prototyped product allows not just search by voice, but near instant translation between English and Spanish in the cloud, via your mobile phone.

Google edges toward Rosetta Stone status.
For example, my ordinary search for “Taipei Museum of Fine Art” produced mostly English-language results. The translated results, though, featured Chinese Web sites with a different perspective.

Do audiences really care if aliens on the silver screen are speaking in well-formed sentences?

Top 10 metaphors of Stephen Colbert.
Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, is a master of metaphor. Or as he might prefer to call it, humaphor.

Boom! Hok! A monkey language is deciphered.
Campbell’s monkeys have a primitive form of syntax …This is likely to be a controversial claim because despite extensive efforts to teach chimpanzees language, the subjects showed little or no ability to combine the sounds they learned.

Language Video

Have you ever fancied a career as a language translator? Here’s an amusing clip, illustrating that translation is not as easy as it might seem.

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Jonathan Cole

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