Friday, July 29, 2016

Languages in the News: July 2016

July has been quite a month for language news. Today we thought we'd look at some of the best language related stories from this month. Let's get straight to it!

Right at the start of the month, Forbes posted an interesting article on Facebook on how it shows posts in the user's language. A fascinating read, you can read the full article here.

The Conversation explored the massive benefits of learning another language, particularly in terms of happiness. You can check out their article on the secrets of happiness through language learning here.

Calgary, Canada, the area that originally was
and still is the home of the Tsuut'ína Nation.
Meanwhile, in the UK, The Guardian was looking at how cathedrals around the UK were teaching Latin and it was far more popular than expected. Feel free to look at the article here.

Canadian media was looking at the languages of the Tsuut'ina Nation, and how native speakers of the language were targeting youth in order to promote the language. Read the article here.

On FiveThirtyEight, there was an interesting article on emojis and how companies are looking at the best ways to merge language and emoji. Check out the article on making your messages more interesting here.

Towards the end of the month, we were back with The Guardian looking at the Stroop Test and how to try out your own psychological testing at home. If you feel like testing your friends and family with language-related psychological testing, check out the article here.

That's our news for this month! If you have any stories we missed, feel free to share them in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Metathesis: Mixing Up Sounds

Not just an overpriced pizza chain.
Some words just always seem to get mixed up. I've always struggled to say "dominoes"; it always comes out as "donimoes", with the "m" and "n" getting swapped about. When this happens, it is known as metathesis (which is hardly the easiest word to say, anyway) and refers to when the sounds (phonemes) or syllables in a word are swapped about, in particular in speech.

There are various types of metathesis, depending on the proximity of the swap. When sounds are side-by-side, this is known as adjacent metathesis; when they're not, it's nonadjacent metathesis. Certain words in English are actually a result of metathesis.

Ever wonder why we say "three" but then "thirteen" and not "threeteen"? This is because of metathesis. The same is true as for why the cardinal number is "three" but the ordinal number is "third". Imagine if it was "threed"!

If you're familiar with Scrabble's 2-letter word list, you've probably seen "ax". This word is both an alternate spelling of "axe" and the pre-metathesis version of the word "ask". Originally, the word was always "ax", but due to metathesis, it became "ask".

You might have also heard "ax" in vernacular versions of English. This is because in those dialects, the sounds never really changed. Certain sounds are more likely to produce metathesis, such as nasal sounds (like in my "dominoes" example).

As you may have guessed, metathesis is not an English word, nor is it unique to English. Metathesis affects pretty much every language. If you're learning French, you might be familiar with verlan, the common slang that reverses the syllables in words. In fact, the word verlan comes from a metathesis of the French for "the inverse" (l'envers); literally the inverse of inverse!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Namibia

It's been a while since we've done a profile on an African country, so today we thought we'd explore the linguistic diversity of Namibia, a large country in southern Africa.

The Official Language

Namibia is home to quite a few languages, but only one of them has official status: English. However, although it is the official language, it is only the native language of about 130,000 of the over 2 million people living in Namibia. Although it's rarely spoken at home, it is widely used in education and broadcasting.

Before Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990, German and Afrikaans also had official status in the area, but the new government decided to just stick with English. In any case, both languages are still widely spoken in the country. There are over 200,000 native speakers of Afrikaans in Namibia, as well as over 7,000 native German speakers.

Other Languages

At any rate, we're much more interested in Namibia's many indigenous languages. The most spoken indigenous languages in Namibia belong to the Oshiwambo (or Ovambo) dialect cluster. They include the Ndonga standardized dialect, which is the native language of about 700,000 Namibians. There's also Kwanyama, a standardized dialect which is used by over 580,000 Namibians, and the Kwambi dialect, which is the native language of 30,000 people. Namibia is also home to 200 speakers of the Mbalanhu language.

The Namib Desert in NamibRand Nature Reserve.
Another big language is Khoekhoe. You may have heard of it before under the name "Hottentot", which was used by Dutch settlers. However, the term is no longer used because it is considered to be derogatory, as it was created as an imitation of what the Dutch thought the language sounded like. In any case, Khoekhoe is the native language of approximately 200,000 people, while the closely related Haiǁom language is spoken by about 16,000 Namibians.

Many of Namibia's indigenous languages belong to the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The most spoken Bantu languages in Namibia include Kwangali with over 150,000 native speakers, Herero with over 60,000, and Kuhane and Lozi, which are both used by over 20,000 people. Other Bantu languages with fewer speakers include Zemba, Diriku, Fwe, Mbukushu, Yeyi, Tswana, and Mashi.

There are also two members of the Khoe language group used in Namibia: Naro and Khwe. There are about 4,000 native Khwe speakers in Namibia, as well as around 2,000 Naro speakers.

We're also quite fascinated by languages like Northwestern !Kung, which is famous for its clicks and boasts over 50,000 native speakers. It is closely related to Juǀʼhoan and Ekoka Kung!, other members of the !Kung dialect continuum, with about 25,000 and 9,000 native speakers respectively.

Last but not least, there's Xóõ, which is used by about 500 Namibians. It is particularly interesting to linguists because it has so many phonemes, perhaps the most of any language in the world! Linguists disagree as to exactly how many it has, but it could have anywhere between 58 and 87 consonants, not to mention 20 to 31 vowels and at least two tones!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Language of Pokémon

Pokémon has been dominating the news recently. Older readers probably remember the phenomenon surrounding the franchise in the late '90s with the TV show, trading card game, and first generation of video games that got tonnes of people obsessed with catching them all. Now, after years of steady global popularity, it looks like the franchise has struck gold with the "Pokémon GO" app.

Now I'd like to look at some of the interesting linguistic features of Pokémon. Firstly, the name:

Pokémon, portmanteau

For those not familiar with the franchise, it's Japanese. However, the name isn't really Japanese, it's a portmanteau of English words that Japanese borrowed. In Japanese, the franchise is called "Poketto Monsutā" from the English "Pocket Monster". The Japanese was then shortened and merged to make "Pokémon".

Taking Pokémon around the world

Aside from the stories, the battling, and trading, the fact that Pokémon went global gave rise to some very interesting translations. Today I'd like to look at some of the best Pokémon from the first generation (also featured in Pokémon GO), and some of the most interesting translations used.

Scyther

Scyther is a bug/flying type Pokémon, and looks like a praying mantis with scythe-like blades for arms. In Japanese it was called strike, but the French name is awesome! It combines the French for insect (insecte) and the gardening tool pruning shears (sécateur), to make "Insecateur".

Alakazam

Alakazam has an amazing name, since it's the third of three evolutions, the first and second being "Abra" and "Kadabra"... get it? Abra, Kadabra, Alakazam.

Gyarados

Almost everywhere in the world, this Pokémon is a portmanteau of two monsters from Japanese monster movies, Gyaos and Rodan. However, for the French translation, they decided to go with Léviator, from Leviathan. Pretty cool, right?

Arcanine

The fire-type dog is a portmanteau of arcane and canine in English. However, in Japanese it is actually called Windie, due to its speed. Clearly that wouldn't have sounded right and needed to be changed.

Gengar

The name of this ghost-type Pokémon in Japanese was taken from the German word doppelgänger. In most countries, it goes by Gengar. However, the French translation went above and beyond when they combined the words for ectoplasm and plasma to call it Ectoplasma.

Dragonite

The dragon-type Pokémon has a cool name in both French and German. In French, it combines the Latin word for "dragon" and the French for "colossal", giving the name Dracolosse. I reckon German wins this localisation battle with Dragoran, from the words for "dragon" and the verb "to riot", randalieren.

Blastoise

In English, this water-type Pokémon's name is a portmanteau of "blast" and "tortoise". Everywhere but France kept it the same, with France opting for a portmanteau of the French for "turtle" and "tank", to give Tortank.

Charizard

The most popular of the original 150 Pokémon. This dragon-like fire/flying-type Pokémon is not only awesome in appearance, but its name in most localised languages is awesome. Of course, English is a combination of "char" and "lizard". In French it's Dracofeu, from "dragon" in Latin and "fire" in French. German wins this round with a combination of "ember", "dragon", and "rocket", giving us Glurak. Regardless, you probably want this Pokémon in your team.

Now get out there and catch them all!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Quick Guide to U.S. Political Terminology

While the upcoming U.S. presidential election has been covered by news outlets around the world for months now, it's likely to get quite a bit more attention over the next two weeks. This week, the focus will be on the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where Donald Trump will officially be named the Republican Party's nominee. The following week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Democratic National Convention will take place, and Hillary Clinton will officially be named the Democratic Party's nominee.

Given the U.S.'s status as a world leader, it's natural that the elections would be covered by foreign media. However, I've often found that people (both Americans and foreigners) aren't always clear on some of the country's most common political terminology, so today I'd like to cover a few key terms.

The first thing to know about the U.S. political system is that there are two main political parties. The oldest of the two is the Democratic Party. We'll avoid getting into the extremely complicated histories of the parties, but suffice it to say that currently, the Democratic Party is known as a left-wing or liberal party, since it advocates modern liberalism, which supports government spending on social programs and promotes social and economic equality.

Strangely enough, the other main political party, the Republican Party, is often is referred to as the Grand Old Party or GOP, despite actually being younger than its counterpart. It is known as a right-wing or conservative party, since it advocates for American conservatism, which focuses on fiscal conservatism (reduced government spending) and social conservatism (supporting so-called "traditional values", such as opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion), among other things.
"The Third-Term Panic", a political cartoon by Thomas Nast from an 1874 edition of
Harper's Weekly, which marks one of the first uses of the Republican elephant.
In this cartoon, the Democratic Party is represented by a fox.
Since the late 1800s, the Democratic Party's unofficial symbol has been a donkey, while the Republican Party's has been an elephant. The two parties are also closely associated with different colors. Since the 2000 presidential election, blue has been linked to the Democratic Party, and red has been linked to the Republican Party. When you hear about "blue states" or "red states", it's a reference to a state where the majority of voters align with that particular party.

That said, there are other political parties in the United States, but they've never gotten enough of the vote to be considered a major influence on U.S. politics. However, given the fact that both major candidates are quite polarizing and widely disliked this year, there is a chance that a third party candidate may get a more significant portion of the vote.

This year, the only third-party candidate who will be on the ballot in all 50 states is Gary Johnson, the candidate for the Libertarian Party. You could perhaps think of it as a mixture of the two main parties: it is socially liberal since it supports same-sex marriage rights and other issues, yet it is also fiscally conservative, since its primary goal is to reduce the size of the U.S. government.

We hope this helped you make more sense of the U.S. political system! If you feel we left out any other important terms, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Albania

Last Monday we discussed the fascinating languages of Mongolia, which include Mongolian, Kazakh, and Uyghur. This week we'll be focusing on Albania, a small country in Southeast Europe.

The Official Language

Himara, a region of Albania located along the Ionian Sea.
You might have have guessed that the sole official language of Albania is Albanian. However, you might not be aware that Albanian is an independent branch of the Indo-European language family.

Over 98% of Albanians speak Albanian as a native language, although they are often divided into two different dialect groups: Tosk and Gheg. Standard Albanian is based on the Tosk dialect, which is spoken by over 1.5 million Albanians, primarily in the south. Gheg, on the other hand, is used by about 1.2 million Albanians, and is more common in the north. While there are distinctions between the two dialects, they are mutually intelligible.

Other Languages

The most spoken minority language in Albania is Greek, the official language of neighboring Greece. There are approximately 15,000 native Greek speakers in Albania, primarily in the southernmost areas of the country. However, instead of speaking Standard Modern Greek, most use a southern Greek dialect which retains archaic terms that are no longer used by most Greek speakers.

Ethnologue lists four other native languages that are spoken in Albania. Three of the four have about 4,000 native speakers: Macedonian, Vlax Romani, and Aromanian. Macedonian is a Slavic language that is so closely related to Bulgarian that it may even be a dialect. Vlax Romani, on the other hand, is the most spoken Romani language in the world, while Aromanian is a Romance language closely related to Romanian. Finally, there's Serbian, which is the native language of less than 100 Albanians.

It's also worth mentioning that Albania is well-known for being a polyglot nation, since most Albanians speak at least two languages! The three most popular foreign languages are Italian, Greek, and English. Italian is more widely used by older generations since Albania used to be an Italian protectorate, while English is becoming increasingly popular with younger generations.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Bad Translation Is Bad for Business

I was reading an article on the BBC today about how Iranian state media isn't happy about some English-language clothing and claims it to be offensive. If you're interested in the story, you can find the article here. This got me thinking about some of the awful English I've seen on clothes around the world.

Whenever I find myself outside of the UK or English-speaking countries, I can't help but giggle to myself when I see someone wearing clothing with terrible or poorly translated English on it. If you'd like to amuse yourself with nonsense English, a quick internet search will reveal plenty of brilliant nonsense that people unknowingly sport on their t-shirts as they leave the house. One of my personal favourites is "The pig is full of many many cats", whatever that's supposed to mean.

This phenomenon extends far beyond clothing, though. There are also examples of bad English tattoos, which are far more unfortunate than a dodgy translation on a t-shirt (and a lot more painful to get rid of). The internet is a also great resource for finding them, including (but not limited to): "I'm awsome", "beliefe in dreams", and "What didn't killed me, made me stronger".

These examples are unfortunate for some, but not really a problem. However, bad translation has become a problem in South Korea, where the government has had to set up a task force dealing with horrendous menu translations. Food experts and language experts are helping create better restaurant translations in English, Chinese, and Japanese. There's another good article from the BBC about it here.

If you're buying or making a cheap t-shirt, you probably don't care about hiring a professional to translate or proofread it before it goes into production. If you're getting a tattoo on a drunken night out, you're probably beyond the point of thinking twice about the spelling, grammar, and punctuation that's going to be put permanently on your body.

Good translations can sell good products.
What really gets me, when it comes to restaurants, hotels, and plenty of other businesses, is how little some seem to care about their translations. I've seen so many horrendous restaurant menus (in some very good restaurants, too) that could have been translated perfectly, but weren't.

Maybe it's to save some money. Maybe there's someone at your restaurant who's pretty good at a foreign language, so why don't you get them to translate your menu? That's a huge mistake! Restaurant menus, in terms of words, are generally quite short and simple for a professional translator.

These kinds of documents are a piece of cake for a qualified professional native translator, especially one who lives or has lived in your country, is familiar with the cuisine, and will create a better and tastier-sounding menu than Google Translate or a staff member who's okay when it comes to chatting to foreign customers.

The same goes for all documentation across all businesses. When someone visits your business, whether in person or online, you don't want a poor translation representing you. In a busy market, customers will stop at places where they know what they're getting, not places where they're confused as to what's on offer. Is it really worth running that risk with nonsensical translations?

I certainly don't think so, and I'm fairly certain our fellow language lovers will agree with me. To deliver a proper message in a foreign language, you need a real translator!

What are some of the worst translations you've ever seen? Did it put you off doing business with them? Tell us about your terrible or hilarious experiences in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What's the Difference Between a Translator and an Interpreter?

One of the most misunderstood things about the translation industry is the fact that translators and interpreters do two very different things. Obviously the two are connected since they both involve converting information from one language to another, but the mechanics behind both are quite different.

When meeting new people, conversations often revolve around what people do for a living. One thing I've noticed about being a translator is the fact that I have to spend much more time explaining my job than other people do, because most people simply don't know what a translator does. However, they think they do, which always leads to interesting conversations.

Quite often when I mention that I'm a translator, the person I'm talking to will launch into an explanation of how their company hires "translators" for meetings with foreign clients, or how their school has a "translator" for communicating with students who don't speak English. Naturally, this puts me in the slightly awkward position of having to explain that those "translators" are actually interpreters, who do something quite different from what I do.

So what is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

Translators are people who translate written content from one language to another. For example, clients send me things like blog posts, articles, and documents in Spanish. I then sit at my computer and work on converting the information they contain from Spanish into English. There's generally no rush, so I have plenty of time to consult dictionaries and other linguistic resources, as well as contemplate whether or not what I've written sounds natural. I can go back and change a word or phrase as many times as I like, or even rewrite entire sections upon uncovering new information that helps explain something I've already translated.

Interpreters, on the other hand, are people who interpret speech from one language to another. In most cases (unless they're providing their services over the phone), interpreters work wherever the multilingual conversation they're interpreting is being held. For example, you'll find medical interpreters working alongside doctors in hospitals, military interpreters working alongside military units in war zones, and court interpreters working alongside lawyers and judges in courtrooms.

While translators have plenty of time to sit and ponder their word choice, interpreters are expected to communicate ideas between languages almost immediately. If they're lucky, they'll receive some information regarding the topics of discussion in advance so that they can look up key terms that might come in handy. However, much of interpreting comes down to paraphrasing what is being said, since the key is to convey the message in a timely manner. On the other hand, since translation is written, much more emphasis is placed on how individual words and phrases are translated.

We love cats, in case you hadn't noticed.
As you can see, translators focus on written language, while interpreters focus on spoken language. Although both professions require good knowledge of at least two languages and share some techniques and resources, they also involve very different skills. There are undoubtedly some people out there who are both translators and interpreters, but they're quite rare.

For my part, I love translating, but found simultaneous interpreting to be completely overwhelming when I tried it out in a class session as part of my translation degree. Having to listen to speech in one language, convert it into English in my head, and then say it out loud, all at the same time, made me feel like my head was going to explode. I'm much happier sticking to the written word, just as I'm sure there are interpreters out there who are quite happy they never have to deal with written translations.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Mongolia

Last Wednesday we looked at the languages of Lithuania, a small country bordering the Baltic Sea. This week, we're focusing on Mongolia, a much larger country sandwiched between Russia and China.

The Official Language

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia.
You might have guessed that the sole official language of Mongolia is Mongolian, which is spoken by about 95% of the country's population. However, you might not be aware that Mongolian doesn't belong to widely known language families like the Sino-Tibetan, Turkic, or Slavic languages. Instead, it is the most widely used language in the Mongolic language family.

Mongolia's second and fourth most spoken languages also belong to the Mongolic family. Many linguists consider them to be distinct languages, but others disagree and state that they are dialects of Mongolian. In any case, over 150,000 Mongolians speak Oirat, primarily in the western areas of the country. Buryat, on the other hand, is spoken by about 45,000 people in northern Mongolia.

Other Languages

As you may have noticed, we skipped over Mongolia's third most spoken native language, which is Kazakh. While Mongolia doesn't border Kazakhstan, they're only separated by about 22 miles of land, so it makes sense that the Turkic language is spoken by over 100,000 Mongolians.

Mongolia is also home to about 35,000 native speakers of Mandarin Chinese, the world's most spoken native language. There are also about 27,000 native speakers of Tuvan, a fascinating Turkic language with influences from Mongolian, Tibetan and Russian, which happens to be the native language of about 4,000 Mongolians.

Last but not least, Mongolia is home to about 1,000 native speakers of Uyghur and Evenki. Uyghur is a Turkic language that is primarily spoken in northwest China, while Evenki is an endangered member of the little-known Tungusic language family.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ashamed of an Accent: Linguistic Insecurity

Languages are as varied and interesting as the people who speak them. Every language has plenty of different accents, and depending on the culture or place where languages are spoken, some are considered more "correct" or "standard".

This must mean that some dialects, accents, and ways of speaking a language are considered to be inferior. The idea that a certain way of speaking is considered inferior can lead to something known as linguistic insecurity.

Linguistic insecurity is when a speaker adjusts the way they use their language due to feeling anxious (either consciously or subconsciously) about the way they use their language. This can manifest in a number of ways, depending on which elements of language are considered to be non-standard.

One way to alleviate this anxiety is to shift registers. Speakers with linguistic insecurity sometimes will speak in a higher register than they would normally, often by using a formal register. This can also lead to hypercorrection. This is when the speaker, in an attempt to correct their language, applies a "rule" where they don't really have to.

As a speaker of Geordie (the dialect of Northern English spoken around Tyneside), I have been guilty of hypercorrection. For example, in my dialect, I would usually pronounce the end of the word "master" like the letter "a" in "hat". However, when adopting a more standard dialect, I have found myself altering the pronunciation in the word "pizza" and correcting the "a" to the sound of "er" and pronouncing it like "pizzer".

So who does linguistic insecurity affect? As you can imagine, it tends to be those who speak a variant of the language which is considered to not be the standard. Studies have shown that those of lower socioeconomic classes also tend to be more susceptible to linguistic insecurity, but not the very lowest classes. The lower middle classes tend to exhibit high levels of linguistic insecurity.

Linguistic insecurity isn't an issue if you're toiling in the fields.
So why the lower middle classes? It is thought that since the lower middle classes are stuck between the lower and upper classes, they are exposed to the speech patterns of the lower classes, but also consider the attitudes and speech patterns of the upper classes to be correct. Studies tend to show that the second tier of socioeconomic classes (especially those who aspire to be a member of the top tier) show greater levels of linguistic insecurity.

Studies also show that linguistic insecurity affects more women than men. Of course, linguistic insecurity is a very personal thing, too. I personally love the varied nature of languages and can sometimes be very stubborn and refuse to bow to linguistic prescriptivism when it comes to how I talk. However, some days, like most people, I just want to fit in and find myself speaking in a way that would probably embarrass my friends back home!

Do you use a non-standard dialect of your language? Have you ever felt anxious about the way you speak? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Lithuania

In our last two country profiles, we learned a bit about the languages spoken in Armenia and Panama. Today we're going to check out the linguistic landscape of Lithuania, a small European country bordering the Baltic Sea.

The Official Language

The Curonian Spit, which features sand dunes that separate
the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon.
It should come as no surprise that Lithuania's one and only official language is Lithuanian. However, you might not know that Lithuanian is a member of the Baltic language family, and is thought to be the most conservative living Indo-European language since it has retained many linguistics features that other languages have dropped throughout history.

Lithuania is home to approximately 2.8 million native speakers of Lithuanian, which equals the vast majority of the country's population. That said, several other languages are also spoken in Lithuania.

Other Languages

The country's second most spoken language is Samogitian, which is spoken by about 500,000 Lithuanians. However, it's one of those tricky linguistic varieties that some linguists call a dialect and others call a language. Either way, Samogitian is closely related to Lithuanian, though there are considerable differences in terms of characteristics such as verb conjugations.

Several Slavic languages are also spoken by large groups of Lithuanians. First, there's Russian, which is the native language of over 200,000 Lithuanians, in addition to being used as a second language by over 2.4 million others. Polish is also popular, with over 160,000 native speakers and more than 450,000 non-native speakers. In addition, there are over 7,000 native speakers of Belarusian and over 5,000 native Ukrainian speakers in Lithuania.

Finally, Lithuania is home to small numbers of speakers of three more languages: Baltic Romani, Karaim, and Yiddish. There are about 1,300 native speakers of Baltic Romani, a group of Romani dialects spoken in the Baltic states, while the number of Yiddish speakers is unknown. Last but not least, there are thought to be about 75 native speakers of Karaim, an endangered Turkic language that was heavily influenced by the Hebrew language.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Harvard Sentences: Making Every Phoneme Count

Have you ever gone to a concert and heard the sound engineer say "one two, one two"? If you're wondering why this is, it's because the word "two" is characterised by the silibant (hissing) sound. This allows them to test low and high frequency sounds and adjust the levels accordingly.

While this works for a concert and the audio levels for music, since the focus is on pitch variances and the overall mixing of the song, when it comes to communication, the simple "one two, one two" won't work. In this case, you should consider using Harvard Sentences.

Harvard Sentences are sentences that make use of common English phonemes in the same frequency that they tend to appear in normal sentences, thus making them representative of the language. It won't surprise you to know that they were developed at Harvard, either!

During the Second World War, scholars were working tirelessly on the intelligibility of radio communications. During this time, understanding radio messages was of the utmost importance. From this research, the representative Harvard Sentences were created (as well as the NATO Alphabet).

To test the quality of radio communications, researchers at Harvard developed a list of representative sentences. These sample phrases were later published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in their list of Recommended Practices for Speech Quality Measurements.

The published list includes 720 different Harvard Sentences, arranged into 72 lists of 10 (you can find the lists here). These sentences are still used today to test a variety of different technologies, from walkie-talkies and radios to mobile phones and Voice over IP, like Skype.

These sentences have helped develop plenty of communication technologies since the mid-1960s and continue to be used today, despite many of them sounding a bit silly!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Languages in the News: June 2016

This past month has been full of interesting language news stories related to everything from the Brexit to the resurrection of the Hawaiian language, so today we're going to look back at a few of our favorites.

English Loses Currency as Europe's Lingua Franca After Brexit Vote; Brexit may threaten the many minority languages of Britain

Unless you've been avoiding the internet for the past week, you're undoubtedly aware of the fact that the UK voted to leave the European Union last Thursday. There have been thousands of articles on the vote's many economic and political implications, as well as several looking at how the so-called Brexit may affect language usage within the EU. We even provided our own analysis in our last post.

This article from The Wall Street Journal looked at how the EU is already making moves to focus on communicating in German and French, and discusses how it may make things more complicated for many smaller EU countries that primarily use English as a means of communication with other EU member states. In addition, Quartz published this piece on how the Brexit may negatively affect Britain's minority languages, such as Cornish and Welsh.

A view of the Pacific Ocean from Maui, Hawaii.
How does 'Hamilton,' the non stop, hip-hop Broadway sensation tap rap's master rhymes to blur musical lines?

One of our favorite articles this month was this fascinating piece from The Wall Street Journal that looks at how the Broadway hit Hamilton's complex rhyming lyrics work, complete with samples from the soundtrack and other musical influences.

How Hawaiian Came Back From the Dead

This in-depth piece by Slate looks at how immersion programs at public schools have helped save the Hawaiian language from being replaced by English.

Preserving Native American languages by teaching the youngest students

Finally, we loved reading this piece by EdSource, which discusses how Head Start preschool programs are helping to preserve Native American languages by finding native speakers to teach the youngest members of tribes about their languages and cultures.