Category: Other languages

Kafka

Carefully constructed: the language of Franz Kafka

A few months ago I took part in a discussion of Kafka on Melvyn Bragg’s radio programme In Our Time. One of the other participants asserted that Kafka’s style describes horrific events in the emotionally deadpan tone of a bureaucrat report. This struck me immediately as wrong in lots of ways. I didn’t disagree, because […]

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esperanto

Should I learn how to speak Esperanto?

What is Esperanto? Esperanto is a constructed language, invented by Jewish-Polish eye doctor Zamenhof in the late 19th century. The story behind the creation of this language is linked to Dr Zamenhof’s hometown. At a crossroads of wars in Europe, the town was split among German, Russian, Polish, and Jewish communities, that could not get […]

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Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so the French cul), to scatological and sexual verbs (doubtless you can spot what scheissen and ficken […]

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rain

Weather idioms: rain

There are plenty of idioms in English that mention the weather – it is, after all, a British stereotype that we can’t hold a conversation without addressing the weather (and, no, it’s not always raining). That national obsession has influenced expressions like it never rains but it pours (misfortunes tend to arrive all at the […]

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Tokyo

Japanese gendered speech

We’ve all heard that supposedly women are from Venus and men are from Mars but how different are their styles of communication and speech? Linguists propose that women and men speak differently, regardless of which language they speak. These differences are often called gendered speech. Unlike the grammatical genders which can be assigned to nouns, […]

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jasmine

Isra, Umar, and Yasmin: the meanings behind Arabic names

When asked which category of words to focus on for the May update of the online Arabic dictionary, we quickly decided: names! Let’s add scores of given names to the Arabic-English dictionary. Why, one might ask? After all, the English dictionary doesn’t list every Thomas, Richard, and Harriet as headwords; why do we list all […]

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sao paulo

Studying Portuguese in São Paulo

This post is available in English and Portuguese. Jump to Portuguese translation I never thought I’d stand on the top floor of a building in São Paulo to see buildings extending out in all directions. View of São Paulo from Edifício Copán In fact, I never thought I’d go to São Paulo! But a trip […]

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song map

Map: many songs for the Eurovision Song Contest

On 23 May, the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 will be taking place in Vienna, Austria – and celebrating the 60th time the competition has taken place. We’re celebrating by looking at translations of the word song in the languages of each country that is participating in this year’s contest – which includes, for the first […]

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