5 Language Learning Tips for 2014

Happy 2014! It’s that time of year when lots of people are thinking about seriously tackling a language again.

I was referred by a friend to this YouTube video: 5 techniques to speak any language, by polyglot Sid Efromovich.

Lists like this always feel a bit arbitrary to me, because while they’re almost always good recommendations, you’re always leaving some good stuff out for the sake of brevity or sticking to that succinct number.

Here are Sid’s 5 tips, …

Steam Setup: Simplified and Traditional

Here’s one for my British friends:

Steam Setup: Simplified vs. Traditional

Via Micah.…

Reasons for (and against) Code-Switching

NPR has a blog called code switch now, and recently published an article called Five Reasons Why People Code-Switch. I recommend you read it in full if you’re at all interested in the linguistic phenomenon of code-switching, but for the purposes of this blog post I’ll some up the five reasons listed:

switch.jpg

Photo by ROCPHOTO.CO.UK on Flickr

  1. A certain language feels more appropriate in a “primal” state

  2. To fit in to a certain linguistic environment

  3. To be treated

Spot the Difference between these Identical Phrases

One of our star teachers at AllSet Learning recently shared this with me:

大学里有两种人不谈恋爱:一种是谁都看不上,另一种是谁都看不上。

大学里有两种人最容易被甩:一种人不知道什么叫做爱,一种人不知道什么叫做爱。

这些人都是原先喜欢一个人,后来喜欢一个人。

网友评论:壮哉我大中文!!外国人绝对看不懂~!

This is definitely a tricky one, and you’re not likely to be able to appreciate it if you’re not at least the intermediate level. So forgive me for not providing pinyin and translations for everything.

Like many jokes, this joke relies on ambiguity. Understanding the different sentences requires some understanding of semantic ambiguity, syntactic ambiguity, and lexical ambiguity.

Here’s what’s going on:…

Speaking a Foreign Language without Translating

Friends of mine have asked me many times: can you really speak Chinese without translating it first in your head? And when I answer yes, the follow-up question is: but how can you get to that point? I have to translate everything!

There’s both an implied lie and a rather direct lie in that follow-up question.

“But how can you get to that point?”

The problem is that it’s not a “point.” There’s no instant when you can suddenly stop …

On Reducing TMD Syntactic Ambiguity

TMD

One of our teachers at AllSet Learning introduced a hilarious Chinese article to me on the grammatical usage of the phrase 他妈的 (often abbreviated as “TMD”). The most appropriate translation of 他妈的 in English is usually “fucking” (in the emphatic sense), so if that offends you, stop reading now.

The origin of this article is unclear to me, but it dates back to at least 2009 (here’s a copy). Anyway, I found the article both funny and instructional, so …

Reclaiming the Word “VCR”

I’ve already admitted before that I watch the Chinese dating show 非诚勿扰. Well, I’m still watching it, and the cultural and linguistic observations are starting to pile up. Today, though, I just wanted to mention one of the ones that strikes me as particularly odd.

VCR

Photo by Matthew Mittelstadt

In the program, as each male contestant is introduced, several video clips are shown. These videos reveal more about the man’s career and outlook on life, about his attitudes toward …

Orlando Kelm on Language Power Struggles

To follow up my recent massive post on Language Power Struggles, I’d like to highlight the responses of Dr. Orlando Kelm, a professor of linguistics, teacher of many years, and learner of multiple languages. Dr. Kelm’s experience is largely with Portuguese and Spanish, but he’s also studied Japanese and Chinese, among other languages.

Dr. Kelm’s three main points were:

  1. Chinese perception of use of English: There is something interesting about Chinese adoption of Putonghua as a lingua franca,

2, 3, 4

I like the building numbers at 映巷创意工场:

2 3 4

If you don’t recognize the numbers, check my number character variants post. They are: (2), (3), (4).


Building #4 is where Xindanwei is. This Friday at 4pm I’m giving a talk there called Language Power Struggles in Shanghai. Feel free to stop in! I’ll post notes on it here later.…

Creative English with Chinese Characteristics

Just in case you missed these English language Chinese coinages, here’s a sample:

Smilence 笑而不语

vi. When you are expecting some answers from your Chinese audience, you may just get a mysterious smile and their silence only.

动词 当你期望从中国听众那里获得一些回答的时候,你只得到了神秘的微笑和他们的沉默。

The rest of the list is here, but here’s a taste of what you’ll find:

  • Democrazy
  • Togayther
  • Freedamn
  • Shitizen
  • Divoice
  • Animale
  • Amerryca
  • Innernet
  • Yakshit
  • Departyment
  • Suihide
  • Don’train
  • Corpspend
  • Jokarlist
  • Vegeteal
  • Sexretary
  • Canclensor
  • Carass
  • Harmany

Smilence is definitely the best …

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