Recent press reports have talked about new research, claiming to show that people retain knowledge of foreign languages learnt many years ago, even if they do not use the language actively. Those reports were triggered by announcements by the researchers, for example at: york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2022/research/knowledge-of-foreign-languages-lasts-a-lifetime https://theconversation.com/modern-language-gcses-continue-to-fall-in-popularity-but-new-research-shows-language-knowledge-will-last-you-a-lifetime-187820 In this post, I give a bit more detail on…… Continue reading How long does knowledge of foreign languages last?
In an earlier post, I discussed possible reasons for how my 4-year-old granddaughter pronounces the name of a TV cartoon character called Cat Noir. Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds – Language Miscellany Having recently watched a few episodes with my grandsons (her cousins), I now realise where she gets the pronunciation from. The…… Continue reading More on cat noir
Here is a tip to help you learn to pronounce the main national Romance languages more correctly. These Romance languages all pronounce the letters <c> and <g> in two different ways, depending on the vowel that follows them. In these languages, these letters are pronounced as [c] and [g] if they are followed by a…… Continue reading Romance languages: pronouncing C and G
It’s a hot day so I’ve opened my window. A wasp just came in, and I guided it cautiously outside using the book that was nearest to hand (Japanese for Busy People). That set me wondering what verb best describes what I had just done. The verb that immediately came to mind was usher: I…… Continue reading Do ushers ush or do they usher?
Thanks to my former colleague Alan Fisk. He has kindly allowed me to post this article he wrote for a magazine in about 1993. In the streets of the city of Luxembourg, all the signs and public notices are in French. Buy a newspaper, and it will be mainly in German. Here and there, messages…… Continue reading Luxembourg’s submerged language comes to the surface
I’ve spent much of the last 28 years writing or editing documents for a readership that includes many readers who didn’t learn English from birth. In this post, I give some tips on writing more clearly to help readers with English as a second language. General advice on writing plain English is not enough to…… Continue reading Writing English to help second-language readers
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision describes itself as the primary global standard setter for bank regulation. It is based in Basel, Switzerland. When I first started work, the usual English name for the Committee contained the spelling Basle, rather than the German spelling Basel. Pronunciation Oddly, though, although the English spelling contains an <s>,…… Continue reading Is the Committee in Basel or Basle?
What is the title of this post? Is it a short story by Jose Luis Borges? Well, as you may have worked out, it’s about computer keyboards. qwerty is not a word but the first 6 characters on an English keyboard. Keyboards for different languages have a different set of 6 characters first. When I…… Continue reading Qwerty, Azerty, Qwertz
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that UK retailer Tesco mis-translated chocolate powder into Czech. Tesco had translated it as čokoládový prašek (‘chocolate powder’) but the official Czech version of the EU Cocoa and Chocolate Products Directive uses čokoláda v prašku (‘chocolate in powder‘). The Czech authorities prosecuted Tesco and after…… Continue reading Translation and food packaging
My granddaughter has just turned 4 and has recently become very keen on a cartoon character called cat noir. She pronounces noir as a two-syllable word, with a vowel [ə] inserted after the [n]: [nə.waː]. In contrast, many speakers of British English—including her 6-year-old sister—pronounce this word as a single syllable: either [nwa] or with…… Continue reading Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds