Saturday, 25 September 2010

Talking Tom.

I've just discovered Talking Tom. I have it on my android phone and it has been available for ipad and iphone,too, for a while.

It's free to download (via Android market or itunes) and there is a pro version with more features if you really want them.

All you have to do is talk into the phone and the cat repeats what you have said in a cartoon style voice.
The beauty of Talking Tom is that you can record the dialogue, save it, and either email it or post it to youtube.

It is similar to Voki and xtranormal and is quite like a cheap(er) version of crazytalk, too, and I'm a huge fan of all three of those.

I can see the kids I teach loving it. I just don't want to let them loose with my new phone.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

What's the most difficult language?

There are over 6000 languages spoken around the world but, according to my year 8 students, "English is the most difficult language to learn".

If that is the case, why do they find French and German so difficult?

They also think that all foreigners can speak fluent English, so it can't be that difficult, can it?

So what makes a language difficult?

I suppose it is all relative and depends on how you define "difficult".

If your first language was Ukrainian then learning Russian would be less of a trial than a mandarin speaker learning Russian.

Similarly, a native Swedish speaker would find learning Norwegian much easier than a native English speaker would.

As an English speaker and teacher of languages, I think the most difficult languages to learn would probably those which don't use "our" alphabet, have different grammatical rules and have few or no cognates. Examples of these would be Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic.

It also depends on how you define "learning".

Learning to write a language is much harder than learning to speak it.
I learned some Japanese a few years ago from a book and a CD. Even though I can remember a few basic phrases and numbers, I never learned to write it, except in Romaji.

Successful language learning can depend on how good your teacher is, too.

However, I've discovered that the most difficult language in the world has to be Sentinelese.

It really exists. It is spoken on North and South Sentinel Islands in the Bay of Bengal by about 200 people.

So why is it so difficult? Nobody knows.


Mainly because going to the islands is illegal and anyone attempting to visit is killed by the locals.

And we complain about severe grading...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Are dying languages worth saving?

The BBC news website featured this story today about a conference at Trinity College, Carmarthen at which ways of saving dying languages are to discussed. (Thanks to Clare for the link)

To be honest, I'm in two minds about this question.
Can we really stop languages from dying out?

A language is a living entity.
It evolves.
The English we speak today is not the English of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens or even Groucho.

Some languages become more popular, others less so.
Sometimes languages die.

Take latin. Nobody speaks latin anymore.
There are many great reasons to study latin but it must have died out for a reason.

It is a terrible shame when occasionally we hear that a language has died out but language is just a way of communicating.

Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?
I'd love to know what you think.

Quantum ille canis est in fenestra?