Friday, January 31, 2014

Languages In The News: January 2014

As we sluggishly approach the end of January, we hope you have managed to keep your resolutions. Today we'll be having a look at the top language news stories from the first month of the new year.

On the last day of the year NPR was clearly thinking about its resolutions for 2014. They put together an argument for why twerk and selfie are words that need to go.

The Guardian challenged spoken language with its fascinating look at prescriptivism in British dialects. Without asking, we later got the opposing opinion from across the pond from Techcrunch.

Of course, the beginning of the new year is always full of retrospectives on the previous year. The BBC was no exception, looking at the 20 most overused words of 2013 on New Year's Day.

It certainly seemed that on both sides of the pond, twerk and selfie were the most popular words of the year, as well as the most likely to be condemned to lexical hell.

Our favourite academic blog, Language Log also looked back at 2013 and the word "because" in its new, somewhat disgusting usage.

The Oxford University Press blog mixed music with language and showed us a number of instruments that took their names from their creators. Sadly, there was never a Mr. Piano or Mrs. Guitar, but there were a few interesting ones that we had no idea were named after a person.

Edutopia cleared the muddy waters of academic language with 8 strategies for teaching academic language.

The video game website Eurogamer had a story on a devoted group of translators who translated an entire game for free since there was no English version available.

NPR's codeswitch blog posted a riveting look at dying languages and the eventualities when their last monolingual native speaker dies, while the main site brought together science, music, and language in a story on a pill that could help you attain perfect pitch and language learning skills. Codeswitch was back in the latter half of the month with a look at Puerto Ricans living on the US mainland, revealing that not as many of them speak Spanish at home as one might think.

Slate gave us an interesting anthropological and etymological piece on the origins of Jewish surnames, plus a piece on translation and some of the more difficult terms to translate from The Metamorphosis.

Montreal Gazette had a divisive opinion piece on the ongoing debate of why English speakers should be speaking French in Quebec.


It seems that for every colour there's an etymology.
By the middle of the month, we came across something quite amazing: a Buzzfeed article that wasn't a list peppered with GIFs! Not that we hate images of cute cats and reaffirming that we were born in the 80s, but it's always nice to see real articles there too, such as the one on the Spanish translation used for the Obamacare website. This wasn't long-lived as later in the month, Buzzfeed was back with a list, this time the 37 worst translated movie titles ever. Though it only includes Spanish language titles, it was nice to mindlessly muse over the translation decisions and why they were made.


Sarah Hashim-Wallace of the LA Times provided us with a piece in which she tested how useful the Google Translate app was on a trip to Tokyo. It may have received 4 out of 5 stars from one reviewer but the results in the field paint a very different picture.

Towards the end of the month an opinion piece from The New York Times appeared on translation as a performing art. We were drawn in by Antony Shugaar's piece and hope you will be too. To end the month, Gizmodo had a wonderful piece on the etymology of colours, plus a video with the Oscar-nominated song from Disney's Frozen in 25 languages was doing the rounds and we loved it! Here it is for your viewing pleasure:


Did we miss any of your favourite language articles? Tell us about them in the comments below.