I recently came across this online – taken straight from a section of a Russian text book discussing the American slang term “son of a gun”:
Imagine if we really did talk like this! The third example in particular made me laugh out loud: “This is a really son of a gun job”. Huh?
One of my favourite webcomics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, recently updated with a brilliant strip relating to this particular annoyance.
To be honest, this one doesn’t particularly bother me. The key is in the difference between the nominative and objective cases for nouns in English – and in 99.9% of circumstances, words in either case have exactly the same form.
However, there is in fact a relatively easy way to know whether you should be using who or whom in any particular sentence:
If you can replace the person in question with “he/she”, use who. If you have to use “him/her”, use whom.
He went to Florida for the weekend: Who went to Florida for the weekend?
The bell tolls for him: For whom does the bell toll?
So there you go: who is to whom as he is to him. Replace the words in a sentence and see which one sounds right.
The Orlando Health institute in Florida has added another notch to its caring roster – by realising that drugs and surgery are not everything when it comes to looking after their patients; appropriate bedside manner plays a large part, too.
This doesn’t just mean having a smile on your face and treating your patients with a certain level of respect, however. Marisol Romany, the manager of Language Services and Cultural Development at the institute, has invented her own “cultural toolkit” to aid doctors and nurses in dealing appropriate care to patients of different cultural backgrounds.
From the article:
In African American families, elders provide information and advice.
Muslim Arabs prefer dying patients be faced east towards Mecca, their holy city.
Among Haitians, weight loss is seen as a sign of illness.
In 2009, Florida Hospital came up with its “Guide to Religion and Culture,” which was given to all hospital employees “to enhance the delivery of pre-eminent care to our diverse patient community.”
Both hospitals have also beefed up their language interpreter services to meet the needs of Central Florida’s increasingly diverse patient population.
As the region continues to attract residents from all over the country and the world, local health care providers and educators are searching for ways to better serve them.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest to develop and promote building culturally diverse patient services,” said Romany, who was hired five years ago to help the hospital manage its multicultural patient population.
This approach to patient care makes a lot of sense – both from a personal and a business perspective. I enjoy any story where America embraces its multicultural nature, rather than attempts to suppress it!
While I would not describe myself as a fan of the TV show LOST (or as the hardcore fans call themselves, “Losties”), I generally follow the old adage of “I’ve started, so I’ll finish”. Thus, thanks to my weird obsessive compulsive personality in this regard, I’ve been watching from around the middle of the second season without really enjoying the show – just eager for it to finish so I can have some kind of closure.
Don’t worry – there aren’t going to be any spoilers in this post. Just a quick note on the use of Latin in the show. In a recent episode (“Across the Sea – season 6, episode 15), to create the feeling that the events were taking place around 2,000 years ago, 2 characters spoke to each other in Latin. I won’t dwell on the fact that their accents were hideous, since we only have a rough idea of how native Latin speakers sounded (although I’ll say this much – it did not sound like an American listlessly reading Latin as though it was English) – but more on the way they segued from Latin to English with no kind of regard for continuity.
Literally, in the middle of a scene – in the middle of a conversation, in fact – the two characters go straight from speaking Latin to one another, complete with subtitles, to speaking fluent English. There’s no audio cue, no annotation, nothing. This confused me – I figured they were bilingual, even though the two languages obviously do not overlap as commonly spoken tongues.
Whilst this isn’t the first time Latin has been used in the show, it’s the first time it has been employed with such lazy and incoherent editing. The strange thing is, when I mentioned this to fellow LOST watchers, I seem to be the only one who noticed! Of course it is only a tiny detail.
With the season finale taking place last night, I can finally stop watching this silly show every week… thank God for that!
It’s commonly known that immersion learning is the best way to learn a new language from scratch. If you want to learn Spanish, head to a place where it’s spoken natively and you’ll find yourself picking it up much faster. With our Spanish neighbors to the south there are no shortages of places to learn Spanish in New York, but one locale that might not spring to mind immediately is the bullpen of the New York Mets.
Hisanori Takahashi, a Mets relief pitcher from Japan, has told the New York Times in a recent interview that even though he studied English in preparation for making the leap from his native country stateside to the MLB, it’s his proficiency in the Spanish language that is coming along the fastest. With fellow Japanese reliever Ryota Igarashi injured in recuperating in Florida, Takahashi finds himself in the bullpen with 6 other Spanish-speaking pitchers, and has been coerced to engage in something of a Spanish language immersion course.
Among his regular vocabulary are phrases such as buen trabajo (‘good work’), buena suerte (‘good luck’), and, his teammates being the good-natured jokers they are, cállate (‘shut up’).
Takahashi’s willingness to learn and overall sense of humor definitely appears to be endearing him to his new amigos!
In some ways the findings of this research seem strange, but in another way, it makes sense.
Children with hearing loss in one ear have lower speech-language scores than siblings with normal hearing, new research shows.
A team of scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recruited 74 children from the St. Louis region between the ages of 6 and 12 with one-sided hearing loss. Each child was compared to a sibling with normal hearing.
This allowed the researchers to take into account the possible effects of environmental and genetic factors on language skills.
The research showed that the siblings who were deaf in one ear had poorer oral language skills than their aurally fit siblings.
“The effect of hearing loss in one ear may be subtle”, says Judith E C Lieu MD, a a Washington University professor and ear, nose and throat specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “These children may shun large group situations because the noise overwhelms them, and they have a hard time understanding speech.”
Deafness in only one ear also affects a child’s ability to play team sports, since it’s much harder to locate the source of calls and other noises, and depending on which way they’re facing, they might not be able to hear some calls at all.
Estimates from the research conducted showed than as many as 1 in 50 school-aged children in the US have only partial hearing in one ear.
Here is an interesting article I read today: Dutch researcher Lotte Henrichs followed the linguistic development of 150 children between the ages of 3-6 for three years, and found that those whose parents addressed them as equal conversational partners were much faster to develop a foundation for ‘academic language’.
From the article:
Academic language is not an independent, new language, but is the language that teachers use and expect from the pupils. It enables children to understand instructions and to demonstrate their knowledge in an efficient manner. Academic language is characterised by difficult, abstract words and complex sentence structures. The language often contains a lot of clauses and conjunctions and due to the methods of argument and analysis it has a scientific appearance.
The research showed that the more children were encouraged to make an active contribution to a conversation, the more they leaned towards naturally using the characteristics of academic language that they had already picked up from school and other places.
So, don’t talk down to your young children – try to engage them in interesting, stimulating conversations and they will reap the benefits. Science has spoken!
I read an interesting article today about how Persian is a deceptively easy language to learn – far easier, in fact, than most western European languages that are the staple of many schools’ foreign language courses (e.g. French, Spanish, German etc.).
Check out the blog entry on pagef30.com for the full article, but here are the two main reasons why people think Persian is hard, or automatically dismiss it when considering what language they would like to learn:
- It uses the Arabic alphabet
- Persian speakers are not as numerous or as widely spread as users of more popular languages like Spanish or French
However, some of the details that make it easier than you’d think include:
- Verbs conjugate very easily, and are very regular in form – fewer irregularities mean much less to learn
- Nouns don’t require articles (the, the definite article, and a/an, the indefinite article)
- Nouns and pronouns also don’t require cases
- Adjectives are the same in form as adverbs – “you did good” is the same as “you did well”
- Persian is agglutinative – that is, longer, more complex words are formed by sticking together shorter words
So there you have it. Check out the full article for more detail. But if you’ve always wanted to pick up a Middle Eastern language but you’re worried of the difficulty curve, perhaps Persian is one to consider.
See how well you native English speakers can tackle this one – read it out loud and count how many times you have to go back and correct yourself!
When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose,and lose
And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone -
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.
This poem was written by Lord Cromer, and was published in the Spectator, August 9th, 1902. It just goes to show that in over 100 years, English spelling and pronunciation rules have not gotten any less challenging.
For speakers of mostly phonetic languages like Spanish or Russian, learning English is made even more difficult than it should be because of the myriad rules of pronunciation and spelling and the language’s penchant for going ahead and constantly breaking them.
There are plenty more poems on the Spelling Society page showing further examples of the ‘absurdity of English spelling’. One of my favourites is this verse by Faith M. Daltry, in which each line rhymes, but the final words each have a different spelling for the same sound.
There was a man named David Byrd
Whose courage rose when he was stirred;
Thus all his friends to him referred
As quite first class, not second or third.
Then one day David gave his word
To join a pal whose name was Ferd.
And though it all seems quite absurd,
Some dreadful thing must have occurred.
For nothing more was ever heard
Of David Byrd and his pal Ferd.
Now this is seriously cool. Google Goggles has been around for a little while for Android-powered cellphones. The basic concept is that instead of typing in your search terms, you take a photo of it using the phone’s built-in camera. Take a picture of the Washington Monument, and it’ll recognize it and bring up the relevant search results. Likewise, it will realize what you want to know when you snap a picture of the Mona Lisa, or a product logo, or even the cover of a book. Very, very clever.
The most recent update to Goggles has now given the application the ability to recognize text, which makes it an absolute must-have for any globetrotters. Don’t know what to order from a French menu? Need to translate a paragraph of German from a book? No problem – take a photo, and Google Translate does the rest.
At the moment it only works with Android 1.6 and higher, and only with selected languages using the Latin alphabet (specifically English, French, Italian, German and Spanish). However, Google are working on building in support for other alphabets, such as Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Cyrillic, Greek etc.
Absolutely amazing development from a universal translation perspective – viva technology!