Friday, February 26, 2016

5 Ways Learning Languages Has Enriched Our Lives

It goes without saying that here at The Lingua File we love languages; we just can't talk enough about them! Why do we love them so much? There are plenty of reasons to learn languages: to improve your job prospects, your health (there are plenty of articles documenting the benefits), and even your love life, if you're into that sort of thing.

Today I thought I'd mention the ways I've enriched my life by learning languages. I imagine a lot of these reasons are the same as yours, but perhaps there are some you haven't thought of or haven't experienced yet.

1: Meeting New People

I can speak to plenty of other people in my own language. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of different types of people who speak English, but when you speak to people from other countries and cultures, you learn things that you couldn't from people from your own country. They offer unique perspectives and ways of thinking about things.

Just think of where language learning might take you.
2: Travelling

This is one of my favourite reasons for learning a language. Travelling is great! Seeing new places, trying new food, experiencing new cultures. However, it's much better when you speak the language. I've never really had any problems when I've travelled, but whenever I've spoken the language, I've had a richer experience and better conversations with the locals.

3: Work

In recent years, learning languages has become increasingly important in society. In the modern globalised world, having a second language is a huge plus, and companies, both small and large, appreciate staff who can speak more than just one language.

It goes without saying that if you work for a large multinational company, having foreign language skills is greatly appreciated. However, even if you don't, the skills you attain from learning a foreign language can be applied to a number of vocations. Learning languages can improve your lateral thinking and help you become a valued asset to any company.

4: Media

There's something incredibly enriching about watching a film, listening to music, or reading a book in the language it was originally created. Of course, when it comes to cinema or literature, there are incredible translators that can capture the original message of the work almost perfectly. However, there's something so much more rewarding about enjoying a work's nuances and cultural references in its original language, without any need for a middleman.

5: Romance

If men are from Mars and woman are from Venus, it's probably better that you learn Martian or Venusian, right? If you're looking for love, you'll have a much better chance if you can speak your partner's language. Nelson Mandela said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Of course, he wasn't really talking about romance, but the sentiment certainly applies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Languages in the News: February 2016

As we reach the end of the year's shortest month, we're going to look back at languages and language in the news across the world wide web.

End of the circumflex? Changes in French spelling cause uproar

At the start of the month, there was an interesting article on the BBC looking at spelling changes in the French language. The Académie française is no stranger to causing controversy with its often out of touch suggestions for protecting the French language. This time, however, it was a simple spelling reform that caused the trouble. While its spelling reforms were designed to make spelling easier, most of them, particularly those that removed the circumflex, were met with anger and outrage. You can read the story on the BBC, here.

Preserve rare languages to spread benefits of multilingualism, says expert

The Guardian had an intriguing article discussing rare languages that was certainly worth reading. Since multilingualism is scientifically proven to be beneficial, protecting the world's rare languages is key to ensuring that more multilingual people remain on the planet in order for everyone to benefit from multilingualism. You can read the article here.

You can see where people live, but not the languages they speak.
10 languages Google Translate lacks and where to find them

Google Translate is a controversial topic here at The Lingua File. While we hate it being used in place of real translation and as an excuse not to promote language learning or multilingualism, we do appreciate that it is incredibly impressive in terms of studying language and the immense amount of work that has gone into it.

Geektime had a fascinating article this month on the shortcomings of Google Translate's language choices, since it doesn't feature some of the world's most spoken languages. You can read the article here.

What Oregon city speaks the most languages?

There was a great article on that listed the US's most multilingual cities by state. This one is for the language lovers out there wholove statistics! You can read the article (and see the stats) here.

A Picture Of Language: The Fading Art Of Diagramming Sentences

Anyone who studied linguistics will be familiar with this practice. NPR covered the decline of sentence diagramming, where language is used to create a picture that almost looks like a subway map.

The article looks at the controversial linguistic method. Some educators swear by it, while others debunk it as complete nonsense that serves no purpose in terms of understanding language. Love it or hate it, you can read all about it here.

Were there any articles about language and languages during February that you think deserve a mention? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Things and Feelings: Adjectives in the English Language

In the English language, there are two groups of adjectives that can cause problems for learners: those that end with either -ed or -ing. If you're familiar with English, you're undoubtedly aware that the -ed suffix is also often used with past participles, while the -ing suffix is used with gerunds.

However, these suffixes can alter the meaning of adjectives, so let's have a look at each of these two groups in isolation.

Something boring has made this emoji bored.

When you see adjectives like amazing, boring, interesting, and relaxing, they are generally used to explain a situation, a thing, and ultimately the cause of these emotions. For example:

  • The show was amazing.
  • Long car journeys are boring.
  • Documentaries are interesting.
  • I find classical music relaxing.

When those same roots are combined with -ed to get amazed, bored, excited, and relaxed, they describe how people feel and often describe the result of the -ing adjectives. For example:
  • I was amazed by the show.
  • I was bored during the long car journey.
  • I am interested in documentaries.
  • I feel relaxed when I listen to classical music.

Remember that these -ing and -ed adjectives have corresponding verbs, e.g. to amaze, to bore, to interest, and to relax, which you can also use to transform sentences. For example:
  • The show amazes me.
  • Long car journeys bore me.
  • Documentaries interest me.
  • Classical music relaxes me.

Of course, with English being English, there are always exceptions. For example, scared exists, but the corresponding -ing adjective is scary, NOT scaring! There is also crazed but never crazing, only crazy.

Hopefully this post has made things a little clearer when it comes to how we form some of our adjectives in English!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day and the Etymology of Love

With Sunday being Valentine's Day, we thought we'd look at our 5 favourite love words, their etymology, and the words and languages they evolved from. Without further ado, here they are.


If you're familiar with the French language, you can probably guess where this word comes from. In Old French, the word was aorer, which came from the Late Latin adorare, which meant to worship. Without being blasphemous, if you adore someone, you basically do worship them.


While the origins of hug are unknown, it is known that it didn't originally mean the same as it does now. At the beginning of the 17th century it referred to a wrestling move, but later referred to squeezing someone with affection. In many English-speaking countries, "hugs" are often represented by the letter "O" in greeting cards.


A kiss was called a coss in Old English, and evolved into cuss in Middle English. As a verb, it was cyssan in Old English. Just like "hugs", "kisses" are often represented by the letter "X" in greeting cards and messages.


The most important word for Valentine's Day is love. Even though love is written identically as both a noun and a verb in modern English, in Old English the verb was lufian and the noun was lufu.


The story of romance is a fascinating one. The word originally comes from the Vulgar Latin term romanice, which was used to describe writings in Romance languages. This word became the noun romanz in Old French, which meant a "verse narrative".

The term became romance in Middle English around the start of the 14th century, when it described a vernacular story telling the tale of knights and heroes. Even though most of these stories were in French, there were still some in English. It wasn't until the mid-17th century that the word's meaning changed to mean "a love story".

As a verb, romance originally was the corresponding Old French verb romancier, which meant to "narrate in French".

What are your favourite Valentine's Day words? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Languages in the News: January 2016

Since we've already reached the end of January, today we're taking a look back at some of the best news stories and articles from the past month.

Can You Really Sum Up a Whole Year in One Word?

Unsurprisingly, our first bit of language news came in the form of a look back at 2015. This article from The Guardian looked at the terms from the English language that defined 2015. It's definitely recommended if you're interested in the ever-changing lexicon of the English language. You can read it here.

The 1967 Revolution That Allowed Swedes to Finally Call Each Other “You”

This article that was featured on Slate covered a fascinating language shift that made Swedish much more informal. If you're familiar with languages that have formal pronouns, you'll definitely want to read this article on the Swedish language. You can do so here.

Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

American public radio website NPR told us how foodies and our fondness for food are helping create new English words that describe our culinary obsessions, particularly in the United States. If you're interested in the latest food lingo, you can read NPR's article here.

Sorry, grammar nerds. The singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year.

This article from the Washington Post looks at how English grammar has changed, particularly in terms of personal pronouns. When there was increasing demand for a gender-neutral pronoun, the English language answered the call. If you'd like to learn more, you can read the article here.

How did the months get their names?

The Oxford Dictionary's blog started the year by looking at the months that define our years. As expected, they covered the etymology from January through December in a blog post that told us the roots of all the weird words we use to describe almost every lunar cycle of the year. If you're interested, you can read the post here.

Are there any other language articles you enjoyed in January? Please tell us and our readers about them in the comments below.