Language

Catch the Pidgin at the BBC: Digital Flight of Fancy?

Delighted to see that the BBC has started a Pidgin Digital service for West African audiences. I’ve long been fascinated by the notion of pidgin (or a pidgin language). For some of course, it’s a betrayal of “pure” language learning and standards. Fundamentally, however, pidgin is a popular and simple way for people to communicate...

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The power of positive language

What if there was an easy trick to be more persuasive and more positive, just by changing your mindset and the way you phrase sentences? English speakers have the option to voice both a positive statement and a negative statement that convey the same meaning. For instance, “come to the restaurant on time” and “do not come to the restaurant late” both deliver similar messages; however, the connotation behind the former is much less negative.

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Unicode Jewels: Ogham Alphabet Made Personal

I’ve just had a super new ring made for me by Irish designer Breda Haugh. It’s in sterling silver with a single pink sapphire stone set around Ogham symbols. Wikipedia tells us that Ogham is “an Early Medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language (in the so-called “orthodox” inscriptions, 1st to 6th centuries AD), and...

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An Cód: Craicing the Code in Irish

It’s often assumed that computing coding lessons are always taught in English because most (though not all) programming languages use English language syntax. Not so. Take this great example of learning to code in Irish (Gaeilge), part of the Hour of Code initiative in 2016, thanks to computer science professor Kevin Scannell (@kscanne), from Saint Louis...

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A Cute Irish Accent

Irish accents, dontcha love ’em? In this case I’m talking about Irish language (Gaeilge) orthography, specifically the Irish language equivalent of the acute accent, the fada or síneadh fada. A letter in the Financial Times newspaper points out how the presence or absence of the a fada results in different words. Brendan Cahill corrects the newspaper  for its...

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Kudos and Comhghairdeas* to Duolingo’s Irish Language Volunteers

The Irish President (Uachtarán Na hEireann) Michael D. Higgins (Micheál D Ó hUigínn) (@PresidentIRL) has publicly recognized seven volunteers for their work in building up the Irish language (Gaeilge) version of the crowd-sourced, language-learning social app Duolingo (@duolingo). This is first time I’ve read about a head of state doing something like this in the language space, although volunteerism is something...

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The Secret Language of … Elephants

The Elephant Listening Project is putting elephant sounds together with behavior to create an elephant language dictionary. CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” just ran a segment (video also available) on the central African forest elephants. The segment profiles Andrea Turkalo’s two decades of observing these elephants, and categorizing their sounds and actions. Many of the sounds are...

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Striking a blow for idioms

A book on “novel”-sounding idioms in ten languages will save you the trouble of learning the languages yourself, according to Jag Bhalla, the author of I’m not Hanging Noodles on your Ears and other Intriguing Idioms from around the World, a collection of 1,200 idioms from National Geographic Books, illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Julia...

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Sand calligraphy

Feast your eyes on these pretty symbols. No, they don’t necessarily fit together into a meaning message, but who can complain when looking at beautiful calligraphy on a gorgeous beach with the light hitting the symbols “just right”? (The characters in this piece take their inspiration mainly from the Adinkra symbols of the Akan people...

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