In the past couple of Word Bites posts, we have gone over some of the most difficult (more rather, misleading) British place names to pronounce, and how those names originated, and some ideas why the pronunciation changed to strongly deviate from what is written. But today, let's explore some of the typical patterns in some … Continue reading The silent “w” in some British place names
I remember a song by a French singer Jean-Louis Aubert titled "Milliers, Millions, Milliards", translated as "Thousands, Millions, Billions" in English. While a rather catchy song in its melody and lyrics, the title alone sort of hides a little linguistic curiosity. Let's explore another example, using a different language branch. In German, "million" is, well, … Continue reading Word Bites — Des milliers, des millions, des milliards
It sounds ungrammatical, yet seemingly so intuitive to say. Even so, this word has attracted much controversy about its use in the twentieth century, in definition, usage, and the like. While it has been recognised as a dictionary entry decades ago, it still shows up as a spelling error in some text editors, including the … Continue reading Word Bites — Why does the word “irregardless” exist?
The Arabic abjad has its influences throughout many parts of the world. From the Urdu script for, well, Urdu, and Persian script for Farsi, to the Jawi script for Bahasa Melayu, there are many letters added to the 28 original letters of Arabic from these respective languages. However, these scripts will not be the focus … Continue reading The writing system that resembles Arabic, but is not
When starting off in learning languages, learners would tend to take two different starter paths -- learning the greetings, and learning the profanities. Today we are talking about the former, one which has a rather interesting history. While I have dabbled here and there in German before coming to Germany to study, I realised down … Continue reading Word Bites — From servitude to greeting, the story of “Servus”
For a long time now, I have been wondering, how did people back then learn Mandarin Chinese characters? Today, we have the convenience of learning new characters by just looking at the hànyǔ pīnyīn, which is the official romanisation system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, and is also used in teaching Mandarin Chinese … Continue reading Learning Mandarin Chinese characters… with more Mandarin Chinese characters
Some months ago, I tried my hand at learning the Maori language, made more accessible through the release of learning applications developed in New Zealand, as well as the addition of Maori to several language learning applications we discussed, particularly Memrise. However, other than Memrise, there is another application which I am rather fond of, … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Drops
Previously, we have covered three of the British place names which do not seem to follow any pronunciation rule at all. This week, we are back with another installation of three place names to dissect -- their etymology, possible evolution pattern, and what this place actually is. You might also want to keep a score … Continue reading Word Bites — More notorious British place names to pronounce
As we have covered before in the segment on the demonym "Soton" to refer to people in Southampton, there are many weird and interesting demonyms around the world. So today, we will take a look at an interesting etymology behind yet another demonym, this time, used to refer to residents residing in the Netherlands. Sometimes, … Continue reading Word Bites — Why are people of the Netherlands called Dutch?
Some British places are famous for their significance, like say, Brighton, or Manchester, or Greenwich. Other British places, however, are a bit more notorious for their wacky pronunciations, as with what is often regarded as the most difficult to pronounce British place name, Frome in Somerset, England. Among its ranks come Woolfardisworthy in Devon, and … Continue reading Word Bites — Beaulieu, Woolfardisworthy, and other wacky British place names
While browsing the various realms of the Internet for things about languages I find interesting, this one caught my attention: Interpret it for yourself, but its supposed intended message was to notify the motorist that the Maccas' at Yass opened at 6am. So what is Yass exactly? It turned out that Yass is a town … Continue reading Languages of Australia — Burragorang (Ngunawal – Gundungurra)
When thinking about languages to learn, I often ponder about what I wanted to achieve from the journey, and what I wanted to use the language for. Languages are designed to communicate -- verbally or in print and writing, relying on the utterances or graphemes transmitted by the sender or speaker, to be decoded by … Continue reading The biggest mistake I make when learning languages
This continuation of the Languages of Taiwan series introduces yet another critically endangered language, one at a rather precarious position. Traditionally considered as a subgroup of the Tsou people, the Lha'alua or Saaroa people received official recognition from the government of Taiwan, becoming the 15th recognised indigenous people in Taiwan. Numbering around 400 today, the … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Saaroa (Lha’alua)
The next language we are going to cover is a critically endangered one, one with less than 200 speakers, among a people group numbering less than 1000 individuals. Not to be confused with the Tao, the Thao, also known as Sao or Ngan, is an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting the Sun Moon Lake region in … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Thao (Thau a lalawa, Sao)
Making up around 1-2% of Taiwan's indigenous population, the Saisiyat people numbered 6743 in 2020. Among them, around 2000 were native speakers of the Saisiyat language, according to the Council of Indigenous Peoples Taiwan in 2015. The UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger has classified this language as "severely endangered", with many of … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Saisiyat (Saisiat)
This language was formerly spoken in the northeastern regions of Taiwan, but today, the language is no longer used there. Currently spoken in Eastern Taiwan, in Hualien, Yilan, and Taitung counties, it has experienced a continual state of decline in use. With many Kavalan speaking other languages like Amis, Mandarin, Japanese, and Taiwanese Hokkien, it … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Kavalan (Kvalan, Kebalan, Kbalan)
In the previous posts in this series, we have explored some of the more special aspects of each Formosan language (and Yami), from sounds, to words and grammar features. This language we are exploring here has a special grammatical system, and is hypothesised to have diverged from the Proto-Austronesian language extremely early. This language is … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Rukai (Drekay)
Among the Austronesian languages, linguists have suggested that this language is among the most divergent, that reconstruction efforts for Proto-Austronesian, a hypothesised ancestor of the Austronesian languages, often leaves out this language. Spoken by the sixth largest indigenous people group in Taiwan, the Puyuma language has hundreds to thousands of speakers, although most of these … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Puyuma (Pinuyumayan, Peinan, Beinan)
Described by the West as "The Land of the Rising Sun", the country of Japan is known to us English speakers as, well, Japan. In Japanese, this name is written as the kanji 日本, but carry two commonly used pronunciations, "Nihon" and "Nippon". We see and hear both forms across Japanese media and maybe some … Continue reading Word Bites — Is Japan “Nihon” or “Nippon”? Or both?
In some videos, movies, or films, you may have heard some characters or people use the phrase "this here (something)" or "that there (something)", probably to portray a more country or old-style atmosphere. However, occasionally, I have heard instances where phrases like this are spoken in perhaps some places in America. So this got me … Continue reading Word Bites — Why do some people say “this here” instead of “this”?
When I first set out to learn Mongolian, I expected the sound system and alphabets to be more straightforward than some other languages like say, Tibetan. With this, came this expectation of sort of a one-to-one relationship between letter and sound. However, in reality, I realised some letters were not quite pronounced the way I … Continue reading Trying to understand a Mongolian phonology rule
There are odd etymologies in various languages, and here, I want to present one of them. One that is rather commonly used, identified, and known by all. That is the word "horse". Understandably, given that English is a Germanic language, we would expect to see a rather similar sounding translation for this word. Right? Well, … Continue reading Word Bites — From Ross to Pferd
You may have encountered this meme, as vintage as it may be, now lurking in the depths of internet history and being dug up from time to time. A simple misspelt sign appearing in 2008, this has come to spread far and wide. But this is not a one-off event. Signs reading "Yard sard" or … Continue reading Word Bites — “Yard Sard” or “Yale Sale”
On this day, five years ago, I started this site to compile some of my most memorable things I encountered in my language learning journeys, reflections, and some of the most interesting things about languages around the world. I have seen how my writing style changed, hopefully giving a more reflective take on some posts, … Continue reading The Language Closet — 5 Years On
Ok. No, it is not what you are probably thinking. Hentaigana has nothing to do with perverted stuff so stereotypical in popular culture. This hentai we are talking about here pertains to this thing called 変体, or variant forms, and that hentaigana, or 変体仮名, basically means the historical variants of the currently used hiragana script. … Continue reading Writing Japanese — H-hentaigana?
If you have learnt Japanese, you most likely have been introduced to how it is spoken in Tokyo, or to a lesser extent, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, or any Kansai variant. However, there are some kana sounds that may or may not sound different based on the prefecture you are in. These four, づ, ず, じ, … Continue reading Speaking Japanese — The Four Kana (Yotsugana)
In 1934, a curious word entry appeared in the D-section of the second edition of the New International Dictionary, published by G. and C. Merriam Company, what is now part of Merriam-Webster. The word was defined as a synonym for density, used in the contexts of physics and chemistry. However, this word was completely removed … Continue reading Word Bites — Dord?
I am pretty sure you know how the alphabet song goes, from any language that uses some form of the Latin alphabet. Something that always intrigues me is why the alphabet, the English one at least, is ordered this way, and not any other sequence. Was it because the ABC song only sounds appropriate when … Continue reading The mystery of our alphabetical order
As scheduled, here is my translation of what I wrote, under the guidance of my Japanese language tutor, for the script used in the Japanese Speech Contest submission entry! I included the original Japanese text at the top, followed by the English translation, to make referrals to the original script a bit easier. シンガポールの消滅危機言語の復興ークリスタン語 Language … Continue reading Japanese Speech Contest 2020/21 (日本語スピーチコンテスト 2020/21) — The translation
今週の投稿は少し異なる。去年の12月に英国日本語教育学会の日本語スピーチコンテストに参加することに決めた。決勝大会に選考されなかったが、この経験で書き方や話し方など色々なを身につけたと思う。それでは、書いた台本をこのサイトでシェアしたい。自己紹介や形式的な表現などの切ったところがあるが、内容としてたいてい保たれる。英語の翻訳は水曜日に出せる。 This week's post will be a little different. Last December, I decided to take part in the Japanese Speech Contest held by the British Association for Teaching Japanese. While I was not shortlisted for the finals day, I think that through this experience, I learnt a lot of stuff, from writing to speaking and … Continue reading Japanese Speech Contest 2020/21 (日本語スピーチコンテスト 2020/21) — The script
Disclaimer: This post describes an ongoing project to modernise the Nsibidi script, which as of writing, is not the finalised form. The accuracy of information is true as of 29 July 2020, so several things would have changed in the project by the time of this post. We will update this post when more information … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Neo-Nsibidi’s “kana”
Disclaimer: This post describes an ongoing project to modernise the Nsibidi script, which as of writing, is not the finalised form. The accuracy of information is true as of 29 July 2020, so several things would have changed in the project by the time of this post. We will update this post when more information … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Modernising Nsibidi
If you have used social media as part of your language learning processes, or you are in language learning interest groups, you might have encountered various challenges that try to push you to speak or write in your target language. This includes the Lingua Franca Challenge, the 30-Day Record Yourself Challenge, and the 30 Day … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — The Language Learning Challenges
Teach Yourself has a diverse set of language courses for various learners of various proficiencies, from the Get Started series for absolute beginners to the Enjoy series for learners who want to perfect their various skills in their target language. Last year, we covered the main series of Teach Yourself language coursebooks, the Complete series, … Continue reading 👏🏻Method 👏🏻 Review — Teach Yourself Enjoy Language Series
This language is so diverse, the dozens of dialects linguists seem to pick up are organised into geographical zones or other classification methods, making it a dialect cluster of rather immense proportions compared to the languages covered previously. Spoken by the Paiwan people, also known as Paywan, Kacalisian, or 排灣 (Hanyu Pinyin: pái wān), this … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Paiwan (Vinuculjan, Pinayuanan)
Moving down the list of Formosan languages in Taiwan, we have the other member of the Atayalic branch, Seediq. Spoken in the mountains of Central and Eastern Taiwan by the Seediq and Taroko, this language is predominantly found in the counties of Hualien and Nantou. However, the number of native speakers prove concerning, although we … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Seediq (Kari Sediq, Kari Seediq, Kari Seejiq)
Like Teach Yourself, Routledge is also another powerhouse of language coursebooks, primarily through the Colloquial Series of Multimedia Language Courses, containing courses for at least 40-50 languages. Audio is available through CDs, or through external downloads. Alongside these courses, Routledge also has several Grammar series, and courses focused on the grammar side of things compared … Continue reading 👏🏻Method 👏🏻 Review — Routledge’s Colloquial Series
It has been 10 years since I started learning Arabic, but never quite got to writing a full-length reflection on this journey thus far. I feel that it is time to share my experiences on the learning process, and the various challenges I encountered along the way. December 2009. I had only just completed my … Continue reading A Journey in Arabic (MSA)
In this review, we will take a look at the various publications in the language learning industry, particularly the self-instruction book giant Teach Yourself. From languages to quantum mechanics, Teach Yourself has an extremely wide spread of subjects, but this being a language learning site, we will be reviewing the Complete, Get Talking, Get Started, … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Teach Yourself Complete Series
Does mathematics transcend all languages? Mathematical equations seem to be able to communicate quantities, derivations, theorems and proofs across a large number of people, which may make it seem that mathematics is generally universally intelligible. The logic it contains is sort of homologous to what we see in language. The concepts of negation, comparison and … Continue reading Mathematics in language — Transcendental algebra
Using the Latin alphabet to write some languages brings a lot of challenges, since 26 letters may not always be enough to capture all the sounds in a language. Tones, nasal vowels, some consonants may be omitted, or have to adopt clunky digraphs like "gb", "ngg", and "ndl". This is true for many languages in … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Ńdébé
Igbo, a language spoken by at least 45 million people mainly in Nigeria, has tried adopting several writing systems throughout its linguistic history. From Nsibidi to Ndebe, Igbo has experimented, or is currently experimenting with these systems, but what we know is that Igbo is now predominantly written in the Latin alphabet. A couple of … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Nwagụ Aneke Script
"No, you are an apple" "I am a horse" Most people who use Duolingo in their language learning journeys probably have encountered sentences like this, and wondered, how does this even make sense, or how does this even help me? Duolingo is one of the most widely-used applications that aid in learning foreign languages, released … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Duolingo
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a remarkable novel in many ways, from setting the scene of perpetual war, illustrations of a totalitarian state with extensive government over-reach and surveillance, to the extreme restrictions on freedom of thought. Many real-world parallels have been drawn from this novel, and its relevance persists to this day. Personally, this … Continue reading Controlled Languages — Newspeak
Sierra Leone, like many places in West Africa, is diverse. It contains at least 15 spoken languages, plus English, but more commonly spoken as a form of creole known as Krio. While Krio is spoken by the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, in the southern region of the country, exists a regional lingua franca, spoken … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Mende Kikakui
When I started out writing my experiences on this site back in 2016, I did not expect it to grow over time to have the reach it has today. Readers from all over the world, from Armenia to Zambia, and many places I wish to visit over time. Firstly, I would like to thank you … Continue reading The Language Closet Turns 4!
23 letters. 1011-word glossary. Some short manuscripts. This is among what remains of the legacy of St. Hildegard of Bingen OSB, one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, and the creation of this language she called Lingua Ignota. If confirmed, it could mean that Lingua Ignota is the oldest constructed language in human history, … Continue reading Lingua Ignota — The Earliest Known Constructed Language?
In the 1880s, syllabic blocks of text recorded the languages of Ho-Chunk, Fox and several more languages. Derived from the Latin alphabet, this writing system strongly resembled Latin texts. But yet, no digitisation of this writing system was ever made, and what is revealed online is only an approximation, usually using a cursive Latin script. … Continue reading Writing in North America — Great Lakes Algonquian Syllabics (GLAS)
I remember being asked about why I had this passion for learning languages, and I kinda regretted not giving a complete answer, or a well-thought response, and having watched this enthusiast’s story, I think it’s about time I write about it. Having spent a considerable portion of my early childhood in the French province of … Continue reading Language and my Personal Experiences
This writing system is unlike those discussed previously. It did not arise in the 19th century, under the legacy of Sequoyah on the writing systems of North America. In fact, its writing system arose after the language was officially declared extinct in 2005, following the passing of Lucille Roubedeaux, the last native speaker of the … Continue reading Writing in North America — Osage Script
In 1827, an English-Canadian missionary and linguist set foot onto Rice Lake, Ontario. By the turn of the 20th century, virtually all Cree speakers were literate in a new writing system. From the Nunavut Inuktitut languages in the north to Ojibwe and Cree in eastern Canada, this writing system certainly has made its mark, and … Continue reading Writing in North America — Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics
Previously, we have covered the various writing systems in Africa, to much interest, as not many are aware about the scripts used in the continent. From Ge'ez to Nsibidi, we have discussed the features and successes of these writing systems. This series of posts have certainly shown that writing systems in Africa are not just … Continue reading Writing in North America
Indonesia is amazingly diverse. Hundreds of languages and cultures span the archipelago from Sumatra to the western half of New Guinea, encompassing more than 17 thousand islands. While Bahasa Indonesia is the most widely spoken language, by 80% of the entire country's population, many other Austronesian languages are spoken too, and more than 270 languages … Continue reading The language with four-cornered letters — Bugis (ᨅᨔ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ) and the Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ) script
In November 2017, I announced a hiatus, amidst working on my series about Japanese kanji. Two and a half years later, I have decided to return. What happened during this time? A radio silence lasting a couple of years broken by a sudden post, a profile update, a growing urge to return to writing, and … Continue reading On Returning
Having studied Japanese for three years as of the time of writing, I decided to delve deeper into the depths of the Japanese kanji. This little exploration would take up a few posts due to the extensive system behind this script, but anyway, some time in the first century CE, the Japanese people had encountered Chinese … Continue reading Exploring Deeper into Japanese
During my language learning journeys and escapades, I have encountered special sounds, special words and special ways to express ideas and concepts. These languages are mostly unique in this regard, but I will be showing you five of the most interesting languages I have learnt so far in this journey. 5. Mongolian Mongolian is the … Continue reading 5 of the Most Interesting Languages I have Learnt so far
Previously, you have read on the simplest yet most ambiguous conlang you have come across so far. Now, we bring you what could be the most difficult but least ambiguous conlang to have ever existed. This is Ithkuil, a language constructed by John Quijada, designed to express deeper levels of human cognition briefly yet overtly and … Continue reading Hypothetical Representation of a Language — Ithkuil
We read and speak the languages we know as they are today, but undoubtedly, some of us have wondered how the same languages were spoken in the past. No, not during our grandparents' generation, nor Shakespeare's era, but way back, at least a thousand years into the past, the time of the legendary sagas of … Continue reading Back in Time — Old Languages
The languages of north-east Asia are mainly split into a few families -- the Sino-Tibetan, Mongolic and Japonic. Of course there are language isolates scattered around the region, such as Ainu, but there is this language isolate which is heavily concentrated on the Korean Peninsula. Efforts to classify this language under a huge Altaic language … Continue reading On Learning Korean
When people talk about featural writing systems, almost all the time, the Hangeul writing system pops up. Its simple 40 letters (19 consonant and 21 vowel sounds) organised into syllable blocks form what is now the simplest writing system so far. Promulgated by Sejong the Great in the mid 15th-century, Hangeul has since been ingrained … Continue reading Writing in Africa – A Korean-like Script?
Now that we're back to introducing writing systems of Africa, this one takes us to the southern region of the African continent, intended to represent kiSwahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba, and to a limited extent, Lingala. Invented in 1978, this script appears to be a robotic mess of lines, an alphabet which is organised into syllabic blocks. … Continue reading Writing in Africa – Mandombe
So it's been about a couple weeks since I started learning Tamil, and I thought that it would be nice to share my first steps in language learning. My focus here would thus be the sounds and script used in Tamil. Tamil is among the longest-surviving classical languages in the world, with literature dating back … Continue reading Speaking “Indian”–My First Impression of Tamil
Solomana Kante, a Guinean writer and an inventor of a writing system, but most importantly, a man who was determined to change the beliefs that Africans were a cultureless people. The Manding languages lacked an indigenous writing system at that time. And so, after a night of deep meditation, Kante went on to create an … Continue reading Writing in Africa – I say N’ko (ߒߞߏ)
Our next writing system takes us to the West African country of Liberia and Sierra Leone, in which lie some 120,000 native speakers of this Mande language called Vai. A tonal language of 12 vowels (of which 5 are nasal) and 31 consonants, using a syllabary to represent the sounds of this language surely is … Continue reading Writing in Africa – The Vai Syllabary (ꕙꔤ)
In the late 1980s, two Guinean teenage brothers, Ibrahima and Abdoulaye Barry, devised a new alphabet to represent their Fulani language, spoken by about 24 million people in the Sahel Region in Western Africa. Using the first four letters of this new alphabet, they named it Adlam. Producing handwritten copies of books using the Adlam … Continue reading Writing in Africa – The Adlam Alphabet
Africa, a continent of thousands of ethnic groups, the most among all continents. Alongside these ethnic groups lie the linguistic diversity, rivaled only by the language diversity of Papua New Guinea. Many of these languages are still vulnerable to endangerment and extinction, and many of these also lack a written form to document their language. … Continue reading Writing in Africa
Writing has existed for millennia, recording human history, heritage and knowledge over time. Many scripts have been invented, some stayed, some continued to be used, and some have yet to be deciphered. Now let's see some of the most fascinating scripts humans have come up with! 1. Ersu Shaba Ersu Shaba is a script used … Continue reading 5 of the Most Interesting Writing Systems