A tour of the British Isles in accents

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English is Crazy

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Beautiful Face – Language Learning Online

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Heteronyms and other challenges of the English language

Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.

You think English is easy??I think a retired English teacher was bored…THIS IS GREAT!

Read all the way to the end……………..

This took a lot of work to put together!

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.. Continue reading

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Why are some adult foreign language learners more proficient than others? (Language Aptitude)

Past puberty our capacity to learn foreign languages decreases, but adults do not learn a second or additional language at the same pace. Many individual variations affect the outcomes, continue reading to find out which one seems to be the most influential one.


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A language with too many armies and navies?

JOHNSON has touched on Arabic and its variety quite a few times over the years, but we have never really addressed a critical question directly: what is “Arabic” today, and is it really even a single thing?

A short and simplified version of the story follows: the prophet Muhammad wrote (or received from Allah directly) the Koran in the seventh century. He then conquered nearly all of Arabia as a political and military leader. His successors—four “rightly guided” caliphs and then the Umayyad caliphs—spread Islam further still, until the Islamic world stretched from Spain to Pakistan. Arabic-speaking soldiers and administrators settled in all of these places, and their language gradually took root among local populations, who up until that point spoke languages from rustic Latin to Berber to Coptic to Persian.

That was almost 1400 years ago. The Arabic of the Koran remained a prestigious and nearly unchanging standard throughout the Islamic world. This is what most Arabs consider “Arabic”. But all spoken languages change, all the time, and the Arabic people actually used on the streets and in their homes, predictably enough, changed quite a lot in those 1400 years. Today, the Arab world is sometimes compared to medieval Europe, when classical Latin was still the only “real” language most people wrote and studied in—but “Latin” in the mouths of its speakers had become early French, Spanish, Portuguese and so on.  Today, we recognize that French and Portuguese are different languages—but Arabs are not often sure (and are sometimes at odds) about how to describe “Arabic” today. The plain fact is that a rural Moroccan and a rural Iraqi cannot have a conversation and reliably understand each other. An urban Algerian and an urban Jordanian would struggle to speak to each other, but would usually find ways to cope, with a heavy dose of formal standard Arabic used to smooth out misunderstandings. They will sometimes use well-known dialects, especially Egyptian (spread through television and radio), to fill in gaps.  Continue reading

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Learning A Foreign Language – 3 Mistakes To Avoid


Knowing a foreign language is useful and learning it can fun. I recall watching the comedy Mind Your Language when I was a kid and the class looked rather fun albeit chaotic at times.

I remember learning Spanish 15 years back so I could go over to Spain to learn how to play flamenco guitar. Fortunately, I found the language easy to learn, possibly because I was a fan of La Liga or Spanish soccer and so I was used to the accent and the pronunciation of certain words even though I did not know what they meant. Continue reading

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Phil’s Findings: How did Spanish become such a prominent language in U.S.?


Last week in this column, I explained that Spanish was now language number two in the U.S. In this article I will try to explain how it how it achieved that eminent position.  There are a lot of people speaking a language other than English in this country.

Spanish was spoken first in the West and Southwest of the U.S. due to the Spanish presence before the U.S. actually existed as a nation. The 21 missions built by Junipero Serra and his followers in California actually became communities. The California natives who lived there were actually the first to learn to speak Spanish.

Many people from Mexico moved north into the areas which became California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A number of them were originally from Spain. Cubans later moved by the thousands to Florida. Spanish is a main language in Miami. Continue reading

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3 Key Aspects of Learning a Foreign Language

3 keysLearning Swedish recently moved to the top of my language “to do” list. We’ll be spending some time in Stockholm in the fall and that’s excellent motivation for me. Besides, I’ve always loved the sound of Swedish, in the Bergman movies, and most recently watching the three Swedish movies based on Stieg Larsson’s popular novels, Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and its two sequels.

So, I signed up for one month to learn Swedish with an online language program. Besides getting a good grasp of Swedish basics, I again experienced the advantages of learning a new foreign language online.

For me, three key aspects drive my language learning: 1. motivation, 2. figuring out how the language works, and 3. building vocabulary.

These three aspects apply to all four language skills: reading, listening comprehension, writing, and speaking. The Swedish online course that I followed did a nice job with all four. Continue reading

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The Language Learning Formula – 10 Principles

The Language Learning Formula

Hello dear readers! Today I’ve put together 10 short principles that I use as a guide to help me learn languages effectively. It’s a short and easy read, and I think the advice given here can be of great use to many of you. Read and re-read these principles as often as you need; I’d even encourage you to copy and past them in a Word document and print them out and have them near your desk as a reference.

In fact, I’d love to extend this list with some of your best suggestions. So if you have any additional principles that you think would make a nice addition to this list and that you use as a guide in your language learning journey, I’d love to hear from you! Enjoy~ Continue reading

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Being Multilingual: You speak with an accent, I don’t

Being Multilingual: You speak with an accent, I don't Linguist Madalena Cruz-Ferreira discusses our perception of accents and how it can impact our judgement of others.

Accents are things that only other people have. They are, by extension, things that we don’t think we have.

This is why, if someone tells you that, “You speak with no accent,” you can be sure of two things: that you have received words of praise indeed; and that you speak with the same accent as that person. So the person is actually not only praising her own accent, she is also giving evidence that she has no idea she’s got one. Continue reading

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Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism

Learning a foreign language is more than just a boost to your CV or handy for travelling. It will make you smarter, more decisive and even better at English, says Anne Merritt.

Children learning foreign languages at a Grammar School in the 60'sChildren learning foreign languages at a Grammar School in the 60′s Photo: Getty Images

Physiological studies have found that speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the cognitive process. The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits.

Below are seven cognitive advantages to learning a foreign language. Many of these attributes are only apparent in people who speak multiple languages regularly – if you haven’t spoken a foreign tongue since your A levels, your brain might not be reaping these bilingual benefits. However, people who begin language study in their adult lives can still achieve the same levels of fluency as a young learner, and still reap the same mental benefits, too. Continue reading

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English May Have Retained Words From an Ice Age Language

By Elizabeth Norton, ScienceNOW

Map showing approximate regions where languages from the seven Eurasiatic language families are now spoken. Image: Pagel et al./PNAS

If you’ve ever cringed when your parents said “groovy,” you’ll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. The existence of these shared words, or cognates, has led some linguists to suggest that seemingly unrelated language families can be traced back to a common ancestor. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago.

“Historical linguists study language evolution using cognates the way biologists use genes,” explains Mark Pagel, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. For example, although about 50% of French and English words derive from a common ancestor (like “mere” and “mother,” for example), with English and German the rate is closer to 70%—indicating that while all three languages are related, English and German have a more recent common ancestor. In the same vein, while humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas have common genes, the fact that humans share almost 99% of their DNA with chimps suggests that these two primate lineages split apart more recently. Continue reading

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Evolution of Language Takes Unexpected Turn

By Brandon Keim

It’s widely thought that human language evolved in universally similar ways, following trajectories common across place and culture, and possibly reflecting common linguistic structures in our brains. But a massive, millennium-spanning analysis of humanity’s major language families suggests otherwise.

Instead, language seems to have evolved along varied, complicated paths, guided less by neurological settings than cultural circumstance. If our minds do shape the evolution of language, it’s likely at levels deeper and more nuanced than many researchers anticipated.

“It’s terribly important to understand human cognition, and how the human mind is put together,” said Michael Dunn, an evolutionary linguist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute and co-author of the new study, published April 14 in Nature. The findings “do not support simple ideas of the mind as a computer, with a language processor plugged in. They support much-more complex ideas of how language arises.” Continue reading

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Becoming ‘Asia Literate’: Learn Chinese, but Don’t Stop There

College and high school students in Kazakhstan learning Chinese.Theodore Kaye for The New York Times College and high school students in Kazakhstan learning Chinese.

BEIJING — While studying abroad at Peking University in Beijing, Andrew Stead didn’t expect to find a job at Burton, one of the top snow boarding brands in the world.

“In my spare time on exchange, I would go skateboarding around Beijing with friends, including one who worked at Burton. A few months later, I was offered a job at their Beijing office because of my interest in snowboarding and China,” said Mr. Stead, 23, who is majoring in engineering and finance and speaks solid Chinese. He plans to return to Beijing after he graduates soon from an Australian university.

Governments are increasingly recognizing the opportunities that exist for people like Mr. Stead who are able to marry technical skills or hobbies with “Asian literacy.” Also called “global competence,” it represents an understanding of other cultures and languages; but China isn’t the only nation in Asia and people should also be looking more broadly, to Japan, India and Indonesia, to name just three other places, according to some experts. Continue reading

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6 Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language (and Help Your Brain)

6 Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language (and Help Your Brain)English has been called the lingua franca of today’s world. “Hi,” “bye” and “thank you” are known around the world and English is part of the curriculum for young students. In France, a debate is underway about teaching courses in French universities in English; the proposal has generated quite an uproar out of fears that French could be marginalized in its own country.

Though English is used so widely, there are still many reasons for native speakers of English (among which I count myself) to learn a foreign language. If you’re looking for a summer project, learning a new language — even just the basics! — is one to consider. Continue reading

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The SECRET to Successfully Learning a Foreign Language

A man wearing sunglasses and smiling

top-secretToday I will divulge, exclusively to you, my dear readers, what I consider to be the best-kept secret of polyglots and incredibly successful language learners to learning a foreign language successfully. I hope this will clear some things up for you and help you in your study of foreign languages, and as always I would love to hear your opinion, thoughts, and reactions to this “secret.” Since a secret divulged is really not that much of a secret anymore, you are free (and in fact, welcome) to share this post with as many friends, strangers, and random people as you wish. Continue reading

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Let the wine flow and you’ll soon be fluent

After years of teaching in China, our reader got language learning down to a fine art.

‘In vino veritas’: tackling a foreign language is so much easier when chilled… Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

I wouldn’t try this secret at the library. Or in the school language laboratory. Read on, to learn it. I do my language learning at home – like, probably, most every other adult.

I recently raced through the World Word Exchange recorded language courses, in both Spanish and Chinese in the evenings (while teaching spoken English at a Chinese university in the capital of Shandong Province). I utilised my personal language lab – my laptop, of course. Continue reading

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Imitation is the key to learning languages

Did you know that if you mimic someone’s accent, you’ll be able to better understand what they say? As playwright George Bernhard Shaw once said: “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of  learning.”

That’s what psychologists at the UK’s University of Manchester and Holland’s Radboud University discovered in a study in 2010. The results showed that imitating the person you’re talking to helps your speech comprehension.

So for language learners, this means it’s best to practice your conversation skills with a native speaker.

Loving couple having fun on the beach

Imitation speeds up learning

In the 1970s, American psychologist Andrew N. Meltzoff identified so-called ‘social learning’, where people or animals observe and then copy their companions.

“Imitation accelerates learning and multiplies learning opportunities”, he noted. “It is faster than individual discovery and safer than learning by trial and error.”


Practice talking with a native speaker

So if you want to learn a new language, don’t just study books. You need to be able to hear and imitate a native. Worldwordexchange.com is a great place to do this.

Tell us what you think!

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TEDx Talks to make learning a new language easy

Everybody’s done it. You wake up one morning and decide, “I’m going to learn a new language.” But, as daunting as it may seem, learning a new language isn’t the herculean feat it’s cracked up to be.

Language learning isn’t all about drills, and grammar isn’t actually that boring. Once you get out of the classroom and start using your skills in the real world, it will come a lot easier. The key is to not be afraid of making mistakes or sounding silly.
Below, 5 TEDx talks to help you understand how we learn languages and tips to get you on your way to fluency in whatever you study, whether that’s Arabic or Zulu.

Hacking language learning: Benny Lewis at TEDxWarsaw
At TEDxWarsaw, polyglot extraordinaire Benny Lewis explains that it is never too late to learn a language, learning 9 languages from the age of 21 to prove his point. He propones just going out and speaking the language. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, that’s how you learn. Continue reading

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Learning second language depends on ability to learn patterns

Learning to understand and read a second language may be driven, at least in part, by your ability to pick up on statistical regularities, a new study has found.

Some research suggests that learning a second language draws on capacities that are language-specific, while other research suggests that it reflects a more general capacity for learning patterns.

According to psychological scientist and lead researcher Ram Frost of Hebrew University, the data from the new study clearly point to the latter. Continue reading

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The Rise of Spanish

Spanish has more native speakers than any language other than Mandarin. Yet its success could not have been foreseen

The Story of Spanish. By Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow. St Martin’s Press; 496 pages; $27.99. Buy from Amazon.com

THE Iberian peninsula was conquered and settled many times, but only one of those conquests was a long-term linguistic success. The languages of the Celts and the Iberians left little mark on Spain. The Phoenicians were no more successful, although they bequeathed a memorable nickname to posterity: I-shepan-ha, “land of hyraxes” (more familiar as Hispania). The Romans had better luck. Their soldiers’ and settlers’ vulgar Latin (always distinct from the written, classical kind) spread to the masses.

The overrunning of Spain by Germanic-speaking Goths failed to root out that rustic Latin. Nor did the long-term Muslim conquest of “al-Andalus”, beginning in 711 and continuing until the fall of Granada to Christian monarchs in 1492. Arabic gave many words to the local Castilian, but never replaced it. Nor was it ever obvious that Castilian would one day become Spanish. Of the kingdoms that reconquered Spain for Christianity, Castile was one of the least important. Neighbouring Asturias and Navarre were originally much bigger. But Castile’s place astride the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela helped it grow richer and more important, and after its merger with Léon it leapfrogged the others to lead the reconquest.

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5 Language Learning Myths Busted


dogWho says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well I’m sure that myth has been broken over and over. The same goes for learning languages. Here are 5 language learning myth busters!

You Can’t Learn a Language Online

The old method of learning a language involved a teacher leading a classroom in instructions. The Internet is proving to be a higher productive learning environment. You can take your time learning online with repetitive programs. You have access to instant feedback regarding your responses to different activities. You will learn faster by knowing immediately what you did wrong. The Internet provides a self-paced program for your learning needs.

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5 Incredible Ideas for learning Spanish

Learn Spanish Peru1 300x164 5 Incredible Ideas for learning SpanishAre you thinking of Spanish as a second language and keep postponing the idea day after day? You are not alone! Because so many people who genuinely love the idea but don’t know where to start. Some of them are looking for a private tutor, others think a formal class in an institute or at the community college are the easiest solution, and as well a large group of people who are seriously think that they can learn the language by their own.

1- State of Mind:
No matter which group you are in, you need to overcome any learning anxiety that comes with the idea of learning a second language! This is a problem that hinders the capabilities of potential Spanish learners. Overcoming this emotional state with the proper motivation is the first step to success.

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What’s the best way to teach languages?

How do students best pick up languages? Martin Williams talks to academics, teachers and multi-lingual speakers to find out about the science of learning a language

I love you in 311 languages. Image shot 01/2013. Exact date unknown.

I love you in 311 languages: how can teachers help their students learn languages and develop a passion for the subject? Photograph: Alamy

Alex Rawlings was a language teacher’s dream. He fell in love with languages when he was eight and learnt Greek, then German, then Dutch.

Now, an undergraduate at Oxford, he is the UK’s most multi-lingual student, speaking 11 languages. So what’s his secret?

“I remember seeing people on the beach in Greece when I was a kid and not being able to talk to them,” says Alex. “I thought it’d be nice to be able to talk to anyone in the world in their language. That has always stayed with me.”

Such enthusiasm is rare: a report by the British Academy this year found there was a growing deficit in foreign language skills. Increasingly, children are choosing not to study languages beyond the compulsory stage – and only 9% of pupils who take French GCSE progress with it to A-level.

“We’re failing to inspire people,” says Alex. “I had a mix of good and bad teachers – the most inspirational ones just focused on giving you the confidence to speak. Then I’d pursue it outside the classroom: I would watch films, find out new words and read things.”

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