Someone’s first language tends to cause consistent errors when they speak a second language. I’ve always found it interesting see what types of error people make in speaking (or writing) English they have learnt as a foreign language. Those errors can be useful pointers to the features of the speaker’s first language. Spotting those errors…… Continue reading How German speakers pronounce English
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?
Some Danes often make errors in inflecting English verbs, even though the same people speak English very fluently and, in almost every other respect, very accurately. Their error is that they don’t add the suffix -s in the 3rd person singular of the present tense. For example, they might say she give instead of she…… Continue reading A difficulty for Danes learning English
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
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
I’ve written before about the University of Westminster’s online diagnostic quiz for Norwegian, Swedish and Hungarian. Test your languages online – Language Miscellany I’ve now tried their quiz for some of the other languages. Here are my results for all the ones I took. The results are marked out of 50. German and French For…… Continue reading Test your languages online (2)
If you hear a language you do not speak, it is hard to work out where one word ends and the next one begins. So finding the boundaries between words in continuous speech is a pre-requisite for acquiring your native language and for learning another language. A recent experiment found, for the first time, that…… Continue reading Dogs learn to spot word boundaries like babies do
The University of Westminster runs language courses in about 20 languages. In fact I did 3 of their evening courses in the mid 90s. For some languages they have a brief online diagnostic quiz. This tests how much you know so you can enrol at the right level. The quiz contains 50 questions, in a…… Continue reading Test your languages online
One of my school German teachers, Bob Tyler, used to say that the best all round test of someone’s language knowledge is a dictation. He was right. Your listening needs to be good enough to understand what was read to you (though admittedly in our school settings delivered at a slow pace, and by a…… Continue reading Dictation in language learning
I’ve sometimes heard people describe Russian as a difficult language for native English speakers. It is, indeed, a little more difficult for such learners than languages related more closely to English, such as other Germanic languages or the Romance languages. On the other hand, it is probably less difficult for them than completely unrelated languages.…… Continue reading Is Russian difficult for English speakers?