Fanagalo, the Language of South Africa’s Mines, Gets the Shaft

For at least the past century, miners in South Africa have spoken a unique language all their own, called Fanagalo. The mines were multicultural places where workers from different regions needed to learn to communicate with each other quickly. Fanagalo is a pidgin, not really a full-fledged language, that was based on Zulu and was easy for everyone to learn.  It has about 2,000 words. Approximately 75% of them are Zulu, and the rest are a mix of English, Portuguese and other African languages like Xhosa.

According to Monocle Magazine, it is the only known pidgin that is based on a non-colonial language.

However, the communication barriers that existed before are not nearly as much of a problem now, and the next generation of miners feels that Fanagalo has outlived its usefulness. According to South African news site iol.co.za, the National Union of Mineworkers is requesting that the language be phased out  due to safety concerns, though some older miners would still prefer to use it. Read more

Welsh Town Tries to Protect Language

The Welsh community of Abergele has a long history that stretches back to the days of the Roman Empire, when it was an old trading town. However, residents are afraid that the community will lose its character under a new development plan, which calls for 855 new homes to be built over the next 10 years.

According to the North Wales Weekly News, the Conwy County Council’s Local Development Plan (LDP) calls for the new houses to built in 6 sites across the community. Many local residents believe that’s too many, saying the proposal leaves too little green spaces and natural areas and would turn the region into a suburb of nearby Chester. Read more

Bilingual? Why Not Go for Three?

Learning a new language is kind of like shopping at a sale where everything is “buy one, get one half-off.” At least, that’s what the results of a new study from the University of Haifa reveals. Once you’ve got a second language down, picking up a third language is much easier. There’s also evidence that becoming bilingual might improve your proficiency in your native language, as well.

The researchers figured that people who were already fluent in two languages would have an easier time learning a third language. To test this, they looked at a group of Israeli 6th graders who were studying English. Some of the 6th graders had been speaking Hebrew since birth and were learning English as a second language. Others were native Russian speakers who were fluent in Hebrew and were learning English as a third language. The students were tested for proficiency in all three languages and for intelligence. Read more

Greek Translator

Last Christmas, I was at Luton Airport waiting for my flight for Paris…but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute. Great! No planes flying to Paris for a week, so at this point, I had 2 choices: I could resign myself and spend the holiday by myself in England or I could try to make it.

On a 24th of December, you can imagine that it seemed like an impossible mission, you aren’t wrong; it was such a challenge to get to France. Everything was fully booked or amazingly expensive, so I decided to jump into a bus going to London and improvise from there!

On board, I met 2 really funny Greek guys who were trying to make it to Paris too. We were supposed to be on the same plane but same as me, they were stuck in Luton with no Plan B. I have to admit that their English was hard to understand…I wish a Greek Translator would have been traveling with us!

In case you find yourself in the same situation as me one day, don’t wait and call us, we will connect you in less than 60 seconds with a real Greek translator!

For those who wonder if I did make it to Paris this day and had the chance to share a good dinner with my family on Christmas Eve…just drop me a line in the comments section below and I will be more than happy to tell you the rest of my story 🙂

Bilingual Toddlers Better at Paying Attention

It’s definitely easier for young children and toddlers to learn a second language than it is for adults. And many scientific studies have hinted that learning a second language offers cognitive benefits, too.

A new study described in Science Daily shows that starting a second language as early as possible also helps toddlers focus on screening out distractions when asked to perform simple tasks.

The study looked at 63 toddlers, some of whom had parents who spoke English only, and others whose bilingual parents spoke both English and French at home. The goal was to see how well the toddlers had been able to build up a vocabulary in each language, as well as to see if switching back and forth from English and French had any impact on cognitive development. Read more

Fighting for the Scots Language in School

Just in time for Robert Burn’s birthday, a group of more than 80 academics and language activists released an open letter to Michael Russell, the Scottish Education Secretary, calling for increased, compulsory study of the Scots language and Scots literature in Scottish schools.

The letter, excerpted here in The Herald, requests that the study of Scots be made mandatory in school and that Scots literature be included in exams. It also requests that a Scots language department be created within the Scottish Education Quality and Improvement Agency.

The letter also sternly upbraids the Scottish Government for not doing more to promote the language, saying

“Successive Scottish ministers and education policy makers have said Scotland’s language and literature are important to learning and teaching in this country. But each administration has failed to invest adequately in training and resources to ensure this engagement actually takes place. The result is that Scotland has a teaching profession often ill-equipped to teach Scotland’s young people about their own country’s language and literature.”

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