language and words in the news

Language and words in the news – 27 November, 2009

© Julien Tromeur / 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

Millions of children missing out on education because of language barriers.
A report says that millions of children are missing out on an education because their schools teach in a language they don’t understand.

India falling behind China in English.
There may now be more people speaking English in China than in India, despite widespread use of the language in the South Asian country, a study has reported.

BBC launches mobile English language courses in Bangladesh.

Language debate, daycares don’t mix.
Workers called for amendments to Quebec’s contentious Bill 101 language law, in order to limit access to English daycares to children of parents educated in English in Canada. The changes would funnel more immigrant children into French-language.

Welsh language protester is jailed.
A Welsh language campaigner has been jailed for a month for his part in a protest campaign against high street stores that fail to provide bilingual services.

Citizenship language scam exposed.
Immigrants who don’t understand English have been able to buy language certificates that give them the right to settle in Britain.

First languages first, then English.
‘Partial or fragmented multiple languages spoken in the community result in the children becoming master of none of these languages, including English’.

Language change and slang

Word to your mother: Slang from the mouths of babes.
After the two of us visited a museum one day, he said goodbye and added, “I’ll knock you up tonight.” Who knew that meant he would telephone?

Words for potent jerks.
‘As a writer, you’re always reaching for a more potent way to call somebody a jerk’.

Languages appear to take on lives of their own.
Adult English-speakers, studies show, on average speak about 15,000 words a day and about 370 million in a lifetime.

Nitpickers’ journal exposes degrees of grammatical ignorance.
Dr Bernard Lamb, who lectured on genetics at Imperial College London for 40 years and is the president of the QES, compares British and overseas undergraduates’ command of English.

Wikipedia editors who are quick to delete new or controversial postings. The two groups had been vying for control from early on in the site’s life, but the numbers suggest that the deletionists may have won.

Improve your English

Serial commas on the loose.
For what it’s worth, we agree with Mr. Hills. Unless you’re employed by an American newspaper or writing for publication in Canada, Australia, or the U.K., make the most of the serial comma.

Things people say that I hate

Strictly Come Dancing comes under fire for bad grammar.
‘Superfluous apostrophes SERIOUSLY irritate me, and I can’t believe the lovely people at the BBC can’t punctuate’.

Common Errors in English

8 Tips to help you master ‘affect’ and ‘effect’.
When it comes to noun forms, I bet on “effect,” because it is more common. But with the verb forms, I’ll wager on “affect,” because “chances are” I’ll be correct.

Top ten commonly confused words – with our compliments.
Of course, these are just a few of the hundreds of words in English that are easily confused because of similarities in sound and spelling.

Books, words, science and the history of language

iLingual: this clip shows how you can instantly speak another language through your iPhone.

Volunteers log off as Wikipedia ages. is the fifth-most-popular Web site in the world, with roughly 325 million monthly visitors. But unprecedented numbers of the millions of online volunteers who write, edit and police it are quitting.

‘I wasn’t sure if anyone would use it’.
The idea was to create a free encyclopedia on the internet, not written by experts (as was the case with Nupedia) but by members of the public.

Revised Google Book deal disappoints many.
Excluding foreign works from digital collection could hinder campus-based research, college librarians say.

USC professor creates an entire alien language for ‘Avatar’.
Frommer, a linguistics specialist, was brought in by “Avatar” writer-director James Cameron to create an entire functioning language for the tribe of 10-foot-tall blue aliens who inhabit Pandora.

Words, gestures are translated by same brain regions.
‘Our results fit a longstanding theory which says that the common ancestor of humans and apes communicated through meaningful gestures and, over time, the brain regions that processed gestures became adapted for using words.’

Abracadabra! I win!
The big point is that fabulous new research from real life scholars (psychologists nonetheless, and they’re almost like scientists) proves that women should use particular words when yelling at their husbands.

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Jonathan Cole

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