Our top five language stories this month: Why Google Translate rules, and why human translators shouldn’t feel threatened; a weight-loss company advertizes for Product Testing Associates, whose sole task is to eat more food — not the first time an employer has over-egged the job title pudding; there’s evidence that certain accents are less welcome than others in corporate boardrooms; India’s economic rise and linguistically mixed marriages mean that fewer young Indians speak the languages of their parents; and French citizens vote on new words for “buzz”, “chat”, and “newsletter.” Download MP3
When it comes to naming a street, you can go with the bland: Bella Vista Ave. Or not: Mugabe St. In the Palestinian city of Ramallah, some recently named streets celebrate “fallen matyrs”. Israel too, memorializes its “freedom fighters” from the early 20th century. Also, a conversation with the head of the world’s largest Bible translation organization. The group wants to translate the Bible into every language by 2025. Finally, language journalist Michael Erard declares why henceforth he will use only words that are locally grown and sustainably packaged. Download MP3
Two takes on the Irish language: one from Patrick’s dad, who was a schoolboy in the early years of Ireland’s independence, when studying Irish was an exercise in nation-building. Then, an interview with Manchan Magan who made a TV series about traveling around Ireland speaking only Irish. Next, we hear from Alexander McCall Smith: his latest offering in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is a children’s book in the Scots language. Finally, hip-hop artist Boomer Da Sharpshooter who grew up speaking English but now raps in Cambodia’s main language, Khmer. Download MP3
The Alhambra in Grenada, the crowning glory of Moorish Spain, has more than 10,000 prayers and poems in Arabic inscribed on its walls. We hear about an effort to catalog the inscriptions. Then it’s the second part of the BBC’s documentary on Yiddish. Reporter Dennis Marks takes us to New York, where the language is undergoing a modest revival: among Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, with a family who text message in transliterated Yiddish, and with a musician a novelist who are re-interpreting the old language of Eastern Europe’s shtetls for new generations. Download MP3
In the latest World in Words podcast: Eleven days after Haiti’s earthquake, the BBC began daily radio broadcasts in Haitian Creole. We hear how the broadcasts kept Haitians abreast of the news and put them in touch with loved ones. Also, the past, present and future of Yiddish. Once spoken by millions in Europe, it was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and through assimilation. Today it survives, and not only as the language that gave English klutz, kosher, kvetch and many other evocative expressions. Download MP3
Our top five language stories this month: why the disappearance of the Bo language is a big deal; the Olympics are being broadcast for the first time in, among other languages, Cree; when pandas move from the U.S. to China, do they have to learn a new language?; lawsuits concerning Arabic flashcards in hand baggage and speaking Spanish in English-only school; and the Pentagon’s latest attempts to equip soldiers with real-time speaking translator-bots.
Hundreds of language programs at public schools have become victims of shrinking budgets. Not Chinese. We visit an inner city high school where 400 students are learning Chinese. Also, don’t be fooled: the language of love is not universal, not unless you keep you mouth shut. That’s the view of an American woman who endlessly misunderstands the amorous words of her German-speaking lover. Plus, bodice-ripping our way out of the recession: romance novels are more popular than ever.Download MP3
As Obama enters the second year of his presidency, he’s dropped some expressions — “war on terror”, “Af-Pak”, even “Middle East”. His administration has invented a few too: “remotedly piloted aircraft” (drones) and “overseas contingency operations” (wars). Also, a special screening of Avatar in Ecuador for indigenous groups. What did these Shuar and Achuar speakers think of Avatar’s invented language, Na’vi? Finally, a new online satirical movie is all the rage in China. It features a Chinese double-entendre phrase aimed at avoiding government censorship. The movie also includes a fantastic “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” rant.
Our top five language stories this month: best and worst words of the year and the decade; Georgia launches a Russian language TV channel to counter the Kremlin’s message; new ventures and technologies give a boost to Arabic online; just how many cases, genders and moods it takes to make one Amazonian language the world’s most difficult; and the New York Police Department, now enforcing the law in nearly a hundred languages.Download MP3
A conversation with Adam Jacot de Boinod, a seeker of obscure but colorful English expressions. If you read his new book, “The Wonder of Whiffling”, you’ll know whether you prefer to muppet shuffle or dwile flunk. You’ll know if you are a pozzy-wallah. Some of expressions are brand new, others long gone. Also, the meaning of the word peace. Barack Obama was the latest figure to tweak its definition when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and made the argument for “just war”. Download MP3
Hebrew is most successful attempt ever at language revival. We find out why. Also, Malaysians are rioting after a court rules that a Catholic newspaper can use the word Allah. Then, two reports on alphabet letters: in Sweden, parents win the right to name their newborn Q; and in Turkey, using the Kurdish-associated letters Q, W or X can land you in jail. And, a two-nations-divided-by-one-language examination of the word grit.
We talk to the director and central figure in a PBS documentary about a Catholic church’s struggles with language. “Scenes From a Parish” follows the priests and parishioners of St Patrick’s in Lawrence, MA. The priests introduce more Spanish masses to cater to Lawrence’s predominantly Latino population. Some English-speaking parishioners are less than thrilled. Also, how do you say Neptune and Uranus in Hebrew? The answer used to be: Neptune and Uranus. Now the two planets have Hebrew names. Finally, a New Year’s Day hangover courtesy of the good people of Denmark
In the latest podcast, an audio archive of British World War One POWs recorded by a German linguist. That’s followed by the story of how British convenience store chain Spar is re-writing wine labels in Scottish, Liverpudlian and other UK dialects. Then, how English might have sounded had the Saxons won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Then, back to the the present day, as an ATM company uses cockney rhyming slang to dispense cash. Finally, American anglophiles on lorries, cricket bats and other linguistic oddities.
Our top five language stories this month: African languages get their versions of Windows; the government of Moldova changes the name of the country’s official language; South Korean birthing centers go multilingual; unfortunate foreign meanings of baby names and how you can protect yourself; and Na’vi, invented for the silver screen, hopes to emulate Klingon.