This week in languages October 27, 2017

by on October 27, 2017



Popular language learning application Duolingo will soon be launching their new course for Mandarin Chinese! Get notified when it’s out here.

Over in Spain, the restive region of Catalonia might soon see the takeover of their public broadcasters and prime institutions of Catalan culture and language, Catalunya Radio and TV3, in a bid by the central government to quell pro-independence sentiment, reports New York Times. Catalan was a language banned during the Franco dictatorship in Spain in the 1930s, making many issues related to Catalonian independence a sensitive one.
☞ Read more about the linguistics diversity of Spain in this Dialogue piece.

What varieties of English do you expect to learn at the British Council in Singapore? In a new series of 2-hour, informal classes warmly named ‘Coffee Morning’, The British Council is working to “help expatriates make sense of ‘Singlish’, and to pick up a thing or two about Singapore—the way the locals know it.” Through interactive activities, expats from about 19 different countries sit down to learn about Singapore’s colloquial English, cultural heritage, and urban landscape, reports Business Insider.

Last month, 70 words from Indian English made it into the hallowed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary, reports Times of India. Many of the terms reflect complex cultural practices and familial kinship through honourifics such as anna (or annan), meaning ‘elder brother’ in Telugu and Tamil—but also the name of a former monetary unit in India and Pakistan—and abba, meaning ‘father’ in Urdu. Prior to the latest addition, the OED had an estimated 900 words from Indian English.

Commentaries and Features

Plain language—or language devoid of unnecessary, complex jargon—is often considered to be “dumbed-down” or insulting to readers’ intelligence. But in reality, argues Hoa Loranger in this piece for the Neilson Normal Group, plain language benefits consumers and professionals alike.

“Language is the vehicle that drives our culture. It’s what makes us us. But people became so ashamed of their identity that if we weren’t creating new speakers today, the culture and the language would go away.” Meet Jesse DesRosier, a Blackfoot language instructor at Cuts Wood school that offers its students full immersion in the Blackfoot language and Native Sign language (used in common among native American tribes) alongside English, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. DesRosier is working to safeguard and raise awareness about the direct relationship between indigenous languages and Native American cultures.

Mahlzeit! What are some words in a language that reveal a country’s work ethic? Joseph Pearson explores a couple of German words used in the professional domain and finds that Germans—in spite of their industrious efficiency—are pretty laid back in terms of work culture, compared to the rest of Europe, in a piece for the BBC. Have an Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung? No questions asked. Now go get that Feierabendbier.

In the age of a US governed by Trump and following a series of fascist events in Charlottesville, Lidia Jean Kott explores the story and etymology of Antifa, a 1980s term derived from the German Antifaschismus during a time when neo-Nazis and the far right movement was resurgent. Listen to the podcast here!

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