Saturday, April 27, 2013

Get It Right: Who And Whom

Knock knock!
Who's there?
To who?
It's to whom, actually...

There's truth in this terrible joke. Despite not being commonly used, "whom" is not only a word, but a word that should be used. More often than not, the word who is used in place of whom. Today we'll be explaining the correct (and therefore best) way to use these troublesome words.

Owls don't follow the rule either!

Who is a pronoun and the subject of a verb. 

E.g. "Who brought all the beers?"

We can't say it much simpler than that.


Whom is almost identical to who, with the main exception that it is the object of the verb.

E.g. "He brought all the beers for whom?"

If you recall all the word categories then this shouldn't pose a problem. If you can replace the word with "I", "he", "she", "we" or "they", then you should be using the word "who". If you can replace it with "me", "him", "her", "us" or "them", then "whom" should definitely be used.

Of course there are very few people who still observe the rule and even fewer who are bothered by its misuse. If you are losing sleep over it, now you know!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Language Learning Methods: Choral Drilling

Having already covered language immersion in our previous post on language learning methods, today we'll be covering a method that most will be very familiar with, choral drilling.

It's choral drilling.
The method is almost as old as time itself. Put simply, choral drilling involves repeating, almost ad nauseam, the words or phrases you are trying to learn. While most learners of English will remember having to repeat the conjugations of the verb to be, they can take solace in the fact that pretty much every learner has had to suffer through choral drilling at some point.

Rarely anyone's favourite activity, choral drilling methods have proven to be beneficial when it comes to learning conjugations and vocabulary. Nothing helps embed something into your memory like repeating it over and over and over and over...

When it comes to phrases, however, we wouldn't recommend choral drilling. It makes the learner inflexible and when you speak a language you can never expect the sentences to always be in the same order. Learning a language should be fun, don't make it a tedious endeavour by learning it the same way you'd learn the pledge of allegiance.

Use this method sparingly for new vocabulary, verbs and expressions. Just don't overdo it! There are so many better ways to learn languages.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Benjamin Lee Whorf!

Since today is the 116th birthday of Benjamin Lee Whorf (he's not actually 116 as he's dead), we thought we'd pay homage to one of the great linguists of the 20th century. If you can subtract 116 from 2013 you will know that Whorf was born in 1897. What that sum will not tell you is that he was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, where he also grew up.

Whorf was initially a fire prevention engineer, having graduated from MIT in 1918 with a degree in chemical engineering. It was his religious interests that first led him to studying linguistics. His analysis of Biblical texts eventually directed his focus towards the semantics and grammar of Biblical Hebrew.

Given that it borders the Atlantic, Whorf's hometown
of Winthrop, Massachusetts likely has a wharf.
Following his work with Biblical Hebrew, Whorf studied the Uto-Aztecan languages of Mexico and the Western United States. His work eventually culminated in applying for a grant to conduct a field study in Mexico, where he documented Nahuatl dialects.

After his time in Mexico, Whorf found himself heading to Yale and enrolling in a graduate programme. It was at Yale where he met Edward Sapir. Sapir would drastically change the way Whorf looked at linguistics. Eventually, they created the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, also known as the Whorf Hypothesis, which tells you who did most of the work!

The hypothesis of linguistic relativity, named in part as a pseudo-homage to Einstein's theory, explained that language affects the way you think and see the world around you. If this is true, which we like to think it is, then every language you don't know is limiting your ability to see the world around you! Get out there and learn some more!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

St. George's Day: The Languages of England

St. George was also the bad-ass who killed dragons.
As today is St. George's Day, we thought we'd honour England's patron saint with a look at the languages of England. It goes without saying that England is home to English, but before the Angles, Saxons and Jutes made their way to the British Isles, other languages were spoken across the land. Let's jump straight in...

Aside from being famed for pirates and their accent, the Cornish in fact have their own language. The Cornish language, also known as Kernowek or Kernewek in Cornish, has somewhere between 500 and 3,500 speakers. The language is related to Welsh and Breton and evolved from the native language of the British Isles, Brythonic.

Though classified as an extinct language, Cornish has seen a good level of revival in the UK, forcing UNESCO to reconsider its classification back in 2010. Cornish belongs to the Celtic language family along with Irish, Scots Gaelic, Scots and the next of our languages, Manx.

The Manx language, found principally and almost exclusively on the Isle of Man, actually lost its last native speaker in 1974, but thanks to the efforts of some great linguaphiles, it has been revived. It's now classified as a revived language, though we prefer the term zombie language. Manx now has between 100 and 1,800 speakers.

The Coonceil ny Gaelgey (Manx Gaelic Council), the regulatory body responsible for the Manx language, was set up no less than eleven years after the extinction of the language. It's clearly doing a good job!

St. George's Day is also the saint day of Catalonia, as well as UNESCO World Book and Copyright day. World Book Day in the UK was celebrated back in March.

As the English get vaguely patriotic today, remember that despite their reputation, they're more than a group of monolingual savages!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Etymological Voyage Through The Solar System: Part 2

Following the first part of our etymological voyage through the Solar System yesterday, we're continuing our trip through the remaining planets.


The fourth planet from the sun and our best hope for survival after we've destroyed our current planet. Mars is named after the Roman god of war and protector of agriculture. Though Mars was based on the Greek god Ares, the more popular Latin name would make its way throughout history as the name of the planet. In many Romance languages such as French, Italian, and Spanish, Tuesday is Mars' day.


The largest planet in the Solar System takes its name from the king of the Roman gods. Iuppiter, as the Romans would have us spell it, was in charge of all the other gods and a sky god. The Romans considered him the equivalent to the Greek god Zeus.

Jupiter and its Galilean moons.
Jupiter's Galilean Moons

Jupiter has four moons with interesting names. Though astronomers initally attempted to develop a nomenclature for the moons using Roman numerals by calling them Jupiter I, Jupiter II, Jupiter III, etc, they ended up preferring to name them all after lovers of the Greek god Zeus.

Europa was a woman who would later become the Queen of Crete, Callisto was a nymph and Io was priestess who fell in love with Zeus.
Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, which is larger than both the Moon and Mercury, was named for the son of King Tros who was transported to heaven by Jupiter having taken on the form of an eagle. Ganymede is the only of Zeus' lovers to have not been female.


Saturn, or Saturnus in Latin, has both a planet and a day named after him. Saturn was the god of the Capitol, and some even considered Jupiter to be the son of Saturn.


The unfortunately named Uranus was originally called George's Star, or the Latin name Georgium Sidus after the then king of England, King George III. Several other names were proposed including Neptune, Neptune George III and Neptune Great Britain which were all ignored in favour of naming the planet after the Greek god Οὐρανός (Ouranus), adopting the Latin form, Uranus. We bet you didn't know that the Greeks worshipped Uranus!

Neptune loved a good trident, not to be
confused with a fork, which has 4 tines.

Neptune's discoverer, Urbain le Verrier, wished to name the planet after himself. Janus, the two-faced Roman god who had the month of January named after him, and Oceanus, the personification of the World Ocean, a river that surrounded the entire world, were also considered. Both of these names were rejected in favour of the name Neptune, after the Roman god of the seas and brother to both Jupiter and Pluto.


Though no longer a planet, as much as we want it to be, Pluto is the last destination on our trip. Once the smallest planet, Pluto is now classified as a dwarf planet and is named after the Greek god of the underworld, Πλούτων (Ploutos). Pluto was sometimes Hades and sometimes used as a nicer version of Hades since the ancient Greeks weren't too fond of him.

If you're wondering about the very odd family ties amongst some of the gods, it should be noted that the Ancient Greeks and Romans would often share gods or even assume that Greek gods exerted their power over Greece whilst the Roman gods would exert their power over Rome.

Friday, April 19, 2013

An Etymological Voyage Through The Solar System: Part 1

If you remember our post on polytheism and the days of the week, then you know that our day-to-day lives are dominated by Latin, Greek and Norse mythology. The same can be said for the night sky.

The route of our linguistic trip.
Traditionally, the shining objects in the night sky were so bright and wondrous that the only thing they could be were deities. Thus several of the brightest objects, which also tend to be the closest, were named as gods, which has stuck with us to this day. Today and tomorrow we'll be travelling through the linguistic past and etymology of the Solar System and the gods who share their names. Let's start at the centre with...

The Sun

The name for the brightest star in our sky, at least during the day, came from the Old English Sunne via the Germanic Pagan god, Sól or Sunna. The Latin name for the sun, Sol, is where we get the name Solar System.


The first planet in our solar system is named for the Roman god of the same name. Though Mercurius, to use his Latin name, was the guide for souls on their way to the underworld, he also dabbled in being the god of financial gain, poetry, eloquence, luck, fortune and thievery. A real jack-of-all-trades. Just watch him whizzing around the night sky. He certainly keeps himself busy.

There's a reason Venus is the goddess of beauty.

The goddess of love and the brightest object in the night sky, Venus was the epitome of beauty and pretty much the most powerful sex symbol in human history. She also represented fertility and prosperity, which anyone who has children will tell you are complete opposites.


Our home planet, also known as Terra and Gaia. The word earth in reference to the soil and ground is lower case but should remain capitalised as Earth when referring to the planet, at least in English. Terra, the Latin name for the planet, gives us derivatives such as terrestrial, which most of us should be, and extraterrestrial for those not from earth, as in our short mate with the glowing finger, E.T.

The name Gaia refers to the Greek goddess of the Earth and is often used when referring to the planet as a spiritual living being. If you're thinking about leaving the office, growing your hair and making flower necklaces, get ready to start hearing your new friends call the planet Gaia.

The Moon

A moon is technically a natural satellite, something that orbits a planet but wasn't put up there by us. The Moon is the closest object to Earth and thus, follows the same rules on capitalisation as Earth. In lower case, moon should refer to a natural satellite, while upper case Moon should refer to our moon, or Luna, as she is also called.

The word moon came from moone, which has its roots in the Old English word mōna. Its Latin name, Luna, gives us, much like the Sun and the Earth, the adjective lunar. The less common Ancient Greek word selenic, another adjective, may also be used. Selenic comes from the Ancient Greek name for the Moon, Selene, or Σελήνη when using the Greek alphabet.

Tomorrow we'll pick up where we left off as it's time for a rest stop. We've covered almost 250,000,000 km and we need to use the bathroom. Next stop, Mars!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Equivalence: It's Just Not The Same

If you know a foreign language, then you've undoubtedly been prodded by a friend at some point to translate a phrase into the language. Much to everyone's annoyance, there is rarely a single correct answer to be given. When it comes to translation, equivalence is a hugely important element of the process.

Equivalence, put simply, is to what degree the translation replicates the qualities of the source language (SL) into the target language (TL). The translator's job is to ensure that the translation remains as faithful to the original as possible using any of the multiple ways to evaluate equivalence.

"Is someone talking about me in French?"
You could follow sense-for-sense translation and ensure that the meaning of an expression is maintained. In French, one can literally "speak of the wolf" (parle du loup), which is the equivalent of the English expression "speak of the devil". If you're learning French it would be useful to know the differences between the two expressions, but a word-for-word translation wouldn't retain the meaning of the phrase in the TL.

Translating literally, or word-for-word translation, though not often useful for professional translation, can serve a purpose, if not just for an explanation. However, word-for-word translation will often result in an unnatural sounding translation. Just as we would avoid replicating French syntax when translating into English, the same should be said of the reverse.

Equivalence goes far beyond sense-for-sense and word-for-word as in many parts of language there are the ideas of the strength of a word. The words big, large, huge, massive and enormous all share a similar meaning in terms of size, but it's vital that the translation conveys to what extent the ST conveyed the idea.

The same goes for emotional and cultural equivalence. At times, especially within literature, figurative expressions will require greater attention as the translator must put themselves within the mind of the writer and ensure that a reader in any language not only reads the same words, but also interprets the same sense to the same degree and exhibits the same emotional responses. Even the world's best translators will have to compromise every so often.

What are some of the most difficult linguistic compromises you've had to make when it came to equivalence? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Language Learning Methods: Immersion

In our first post in our series on language learning methods, we will be looking at immersion, the method in which students are taught entirely in the target language. This method comes highly recommended within the language learning community.

Being forced to speak, listen and interact only in the target language can certainly sound daunting at first. However, from personal experience we can vouch for the method of immersion, having both taught and been taught using this method. Though we do agree that immersion isn't for everyone.

Tony has clearly misunderstood "immersion".
Language immersion certainly has been shown to improve the level of students learning a foreign language, and most also display a higher level of confidence when it comes to speaking the language. Tests have shown that these students achieve higher scores in standardised tests when compared with students that have been taught using "traditional" methods.

While we could just sing the praises of the immersion method, it should be noted that some students will struggle with it and could actually learn less than they would using traditional methods. It is not advised for students who are scared to speak in the target language or are nervous about their language abilities. They may feel uncomfortable asking questions in the target language and even more uncomfortable reverting back to their mother tongue to ask for clarification, especially if it appears that all the other students are having no difficulty whatsoever.

It's important that teachers using the immersion method remain vigilant to spot students who are often silent in class. There are often two types of silent students: those who are unchallenged and have no problems learning languages, and those who are struggling but too shy or embarrassed to ask for help. Teachers need to find out which type of student they're dealing with, because if the their difficulties go unnoticed, language immersion will be all for nought.

Have you learned a foreign language through the immersion method, or used it to teach your students? We'd love to hear about your experiences and opinions on it in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Copyright or Copywrong? Protecting Authors or Halting Progress?

Is copyright law protecting authors, writers and creators or just merely hindering human creativity?

Copyright is supposed to protect those who create something from a loss of revenue by stopping people from copying their stuff. Charles Dickens was hugely supportive of his works being protected since many people in the US were circulating copies of his works and he wasn't getting paid a penny for it.

Ironically the icon for copyright is not subject to copyright.
Before the invention of the printing press, creating works was such a time-intensive and costly procedure that duplicating works was rarely an issue. Initially, people weren't even certain whether ideas could be owned. Eventually it was decided that they could, and thus copyright was born. This began in the UK with the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 which protected the copying of materials such as books (referred to in the act as bookes) and other printed materials. The works were only protected for a meagre two years at the time. In 1710 the Statute of Anne, the first real semblance to a copyright law in the world, extended this protection of works to a total of 14 years.

There are two sides to this argument. Copyright protects authors and their work. The downside to work being protected is that it inhibits other creative people from adapting their own versions of the work. If creative works were protected ad infinitum many classic Disney films would have never been made. It certainly wasn't Walt who came up with the ideas for Cinderella, Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast or even Sleeping Beauty, to name a few. The Disney corporation made most of its classics using ideas that had entered the public domain and were open to interpretation by anyone. Once Disney made their films, they then proceeded to copyright their versions of these "classic" stories and fairy tales.

Disney was certainly one of the biggest supporters of increasing the length of time that works were subject to copyright and with good reason. Walt died years ago, but the corporation still owns the rights to the works.

It's infuriating that Disney adapted works from the public domain and then pushed to have their own versions protected for as long as possible. Maybe we're just a little bitter that they're going to make more Star Wars films...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Portmanteaux: Get It Together

Sometimes a compound noun will work just fine. If this isn't the case, then a portmanteau may be the best option. When elements or parts of two or more words are combined into one word, the resulting word is a portmanteau. Coming from the French word for a type of suitcase, the portmanteau often features two compartments, just like its linguistic namesake.

Ironically, the word portmanteau in French is not used to refer to the linguistic melding of words to form new ones. Its current incarnation, porte-manteau, refers simply to a coat stand or coat hook.

If you're really adventurous you can always try out a sporf.
The spork is a portmanteau of spoon and fork. If you are lucky enough to have the time for it, brunch (breakfast plus lunch) is a great way to enjoy more food in the morning, but if you really want pancakes and cereal after six then brinner may be what you need. All these examples take the start of one word and combine it with the end of another.

The word moped, however, takes the start of its component words, motor and pedal, while motel combines motor and hotel, which blend around their shared /oʊt/ sounds.

If you are familiar with French or Spanish, then you will know the origins of au and al. In French, when à should be followed by le it instead changes to au, while in Spanish when a should be followed by el it changes to al. However, these words are different from our other examples since they are compulsory contractions due to the grammar rules of the two languages.

Recently we've heard some pretty good portmanteaux for male cosmetic products such as guyliner (eyeliner for guys) and manscara (mascara for men). With traditional gender roles clearly swapping over, perhaps it will soon be the woman who will be expected to be carrying her femidom (condom for females).

Know any other interesting portmanteaux? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Linguistic Prescription: Rules Were Made To Be Broken

When it comes to language are you the good cop or the bad cop? Do you go by the book or play fast and loose with the rules? Today we're looking at the points for and against linguistic prescription, the idea that one way of speaking or using a language is superior to all others.

Rules are there for a reason...

You don't want to end up in a courtroom
because of your relaxed writing style!
Much like taking someone home at the end of the night, there's no point in trying anything without both parties coming to an agreement. If you don't have any rules then communication can become almost impossible.

Linguistic prescription also helps when it comes to specific types of writing. Having an authority when it comes to journalistic, medical or legal style can be helpful in avoiding confusion and, in the case of all three examples, legal action.

When clarity is a necessity, having a standard form of language and maintaining a strict set of rules is not only beneficial but indispensable.

Rules were made to be broken...

If language was held to one set of rules then everything would become bland. We wouldn't have our favourite accents, new words or irregular grammatical structures. We saw that excessive degrees of linguistic prescription, such as Orwell's Newspeak, could be used to harm free speech, though an extreme example. To a lesser extent it would certainly hurt literature, theatre and cinema.

The English language lacks, to some degree, linguistic prescription as there is no official governing body. This does give rise to arguments between speakers of British English and speakers of American English but as long as it's friendly banter and not bloodshed, we can live with it.

Most of us follow the rules when it comes to formal situations like academic essays or speeches, but leave them aside the rest of the time, whether at the pub or writing emails to friends. How do you use or disregard linguistic prescription in your everyday life? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Conlangs: Making Your Own Language

If you're as nerdy about languages as us, you've probably thought about or even tried to make your own language. If you're as useless at it as we were, you have undoubtedly failed. We spoke briefly about Elvish and Simlish in previous posts, but now we're getting down to the nitty-gritty of making your own language.

But does it sound right?
Creating a language is not an easy task to undertake. The vocabulary of the average speaker of the English language is estimated to be between 35,000 and 75,000 words. Do you really want to single-handedly undertake the task of creating that many words for your new language?

Even if you have the time to create the lexicon for your new language, in order to make your conlang accessible you will have to ensure a certain degree of neutrality. If you want speakers of other languages to adopt your conlang you can't make all your words sound too much like English, for example.

After you've completed the arduous task of creating the lexicon, even with a simple nomenclature that would enable you to create a few roots and let other words be created from them, you'll still have to work on the grammar. If you're looking for clarity and making your language easy to learn, you should try to avoid irregular structures, which are pretty unavoidable in naturally-occurring languages. Take a long, hard look at your syntax. What may be simple for a native speaker of French, Spanish or Italian may not be so simple for a native speaker of Mandarin, Japanese or Korean.

You could even make "shorthand" your writing system.
If you have managed to tackle the lexicon and grammar, you still have the phonetics to think about. How will the language sound? You'll need to make sure that the phonemes in your language occur in almost every other language in the world, or at least as many as possible.

If you were to cross-reference every sound produced in every language, you'd probably find very few, if any, that were found in even 90% of modern-day languages.

What about the look of your language? All the world's languages don't share the same writing system, and some don't even have one. Do you want to use an alphabet, abjad, or abugida? A syllabary or logographic writing system? You'll have to create the simplest writing system to ensure that the written form of your language is easy to adopt.

If you've made it this far, we salute you. We gave up by the first step and decided that the pub was always the better option.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Naming Conventions: What's In A Name?

In the beginning there were no words. Eventually, the human race got sick of not knowing what anyone was thinking about and started to name things. The origins of language are sketchy at best and since there was no language prior to it the records are even worse.

When is a sheep not a sheep?
When it's an adorable wittle wamb!
As society grew and languages developed many things ended up acquiring names. Unfortunately for those naming them, such as stars in the sky and species on the earth, there are a lot of things that need names. This usually poses little to no problem when everybody speaks the same language; English people know that a sheep is a sheep and the French know that this is a mouton. However, when these two groups meet and discuss the animal, they will find that the English people will assume that mutton, though related to mouton, is what the French speaker is talking about.

The best way to avoid this problem is to decide upon a naming convention, a set of rules by which everyone agrees things will be named. We've already covered a few nomenclatures, such as Binomial Nomenclature used in biology and medicine and the language of medicine, but felt naming conventions were too important to leave to just the biologists!

Once people can agree on the best way to name things, everything becomes a little easier. Though, as any diplomat knows, getting people to agree on things can be very difficult.

Thankfully, linguists usually agree that dead languages such as Latin and Ancient Greek are great for naming stuff. Both of these languages currently have little to no political affiliations (with the exception of Latin in the Vatican) or modern-day usage.

Obviously, the use of Latin and Ancient Greek are particularly eurocentric and favour users of Indo-European languages, which unfortunately may mean that whilst a native French speaker probably finds it quite easy to guess at what certain Latin terms mean, a native Mandarin or Japanese speaker will have greater difficulty.

Until somebody creates a widely-adopted and linguistically neutral constructed language (or conlang), naming conventions will always have their place within the sciences and technology.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Clichés and Stereotypes: Hot Off The Press

You might be surprised to learn that the printing industry not only prints language for us to read, but is also to thank for originating terms in the English language. If it weren't for printers, we wouldn't refer to overused expressions as clichés and assumptions on the mannerisms of a group of people or way of doing things as stereotypes

Printing has come a long way since clichés and stereotypes.
A cliché is an expression or an idea that is so common and overused that we are all pretty much sick of it. The word, cliché, however, though obviously having its roots in the French language (the "é" tends to give it away), also has roots in the printing industry.

Cliché was an onomatopoeic word for the sound made by a stereotype, which was a metal plate made from movable type. Common combinations and expressions were often made into stereotypes in order to save time and money when printing rather than reorganising movable print. Cliché was the sound (at least in French) made by the molten metal when poured to make the stereotype.

In modern day usage, the word stereotype, referring to the presumed notions held in regards to certain things, originally was a synonym of cliché and was used interchangeably by those in the printing industry. Nowadays, obviously, they have distinct meanings and could hardly be considered synonyms.

It just goes to show that clichés and stereotypes are worth more than the paper they're printed on.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Orwell's Newspeak and Plain Language

Back in October, the 13th to be exact, we covered International Plain Language Day. 20th century British writer George Orwell was a huge supporter of the idea. He covered it in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, where he explained the nature of political prose as a method to conceal the truth and "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable".

A "censored" version of Orwell's
Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Orwell further explored the idea in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four with the concept of Newspeak. In the dystopian future of the novel, the ruling party (known as the Party) is in the process of creating a lexically and grammatically pure form of the English language, with a view to removing any terms that contradict their beliefs.

Within the novel, the aim of the Party is to have Newspeak replace Oldspeak, which refers to English language as it was being used at the time of the novel, the events of which unsurprisingly take place in the year 1984.

Newspeak aims to remove any doubt from the language by eliminating unnecessary synonyms and antonyms from the lexicon. In the fourth chapter of the novel, the English word bad is used as an example of an unnecessary antonym. The word ungood is said to be clearer and shares its lexical root with the already existing word good.

The maintaining of lexical roots within word groups is further clarified by better being an unnecessary superlative of good. Instead, plusgood is given as the alternative. By these rules, one can understand that plusungood could be used as the Newspeak for worse.

The concepts used in Newspeak are partly apparent in the plain language movement, albeit with significantly plusgood intentions. Though it just goes to show that the oversimplification of language can be applied to the same malevolent aims as using convoluted and deceptive language.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why You Can't Only Speak English

If you read yesterday's post... April Fools! Hopefully you didn't get too upset by it.

Pretty much everything we said was complete and utter bullshit. That said, we don't hate people who are monolingual either. However, the self-centred belief of some that their mother tongue should be learnt by everyone else to facilitate their laziness and inflated egos is something that disgusts and worries us. English is definitely not the only language you should know!

A while ago we gave you 10 reasons to learn a foreign language and we stick by them. Though learning languages should be its own reward, some do need more tangible benefits before they undertake the seemingly gargantuan task of gaining the coveted reward of bilingualism.

The world is more interesting with languages.
On a cultural level, learning languages is great for society. Excuse us whilst we get a bit lefty and liberal, but learning foreign languages can open your eyes to foreign cultures and give people an understanding of other ways of life.

Just as learning Spanish won't instantly make you love bullfighting, a working knowledge of the language and the culture can help you to understand why it's part of their culture. You don't have to agree with it, just be aware of it. You'll be surprised what you find out once you start.

You won't find your wardrobe full of black turtlenecks and berets just by learning French, either. Though your understanding of existentialism may improve, you probably won't start believing that life is a bleak, meaningless endeavour just as you master the passé composé. We can't make any promises when it comes to the subjunctive, though...

All we can really say when it comes to learning languages is that you should give it a try! The world is such a small, boring place with only one language!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why You Only Need To Speak English

We often promote multilingualism but really that's just for those who don't already speak English. Simply put, English is the number one language in the world and English-speaking countries are the best in the world.

If you're reading this, you clearly already speak English, and for that, kudos. English speakers often get a lot of flak for not speaking many languages but that's because they already speak the most important one.

In Europe, the UK and Ireland have the lowest levels of bilingualism, this is only because every other country in Europe learns English as a second language.

Put simply, the English speaking countries have all the coolest stuff. All the best music comes from the Anglophone world. The Beatles were from Liverpool, and with the exception of Michelle and the ridiculous German versions of their songs, are often considered the best band in the world.

Look at almost any list of the best films of all time. Most, if not all of them are in English. Sure, there are a few decent foreign films.

We'll give credit to the Greeks for some of their science all those years ago but in the modern age English is the centre of the scientific world. Even in the time of Isaac Newton, Latin was the principal language for science until they realised all the best scientists already spoke English.

Charles Darwin, though well travelled, was English. Alexander Graham Bell was Scottish and Thomas Edison was American. All English speakers and all pioneers. Even the great Nikolai Tesla, though born in what is now Croatia, was smart enough to leave and learn English. The World Wide Web was invented by Englishman Tim Berners-Lee, which is why you have "www" at the start of web pages. It's all in English.

Pretty much everything you could ever want is available in English, so why look further afield?