Many of you may have heard the story that in the late 1700s German almost became the official language of the USA, missing out by only a single vote. Well I’m afraid it’s not really true. But, like many such myths, there is a grain of truth around which this story grew. Find out more below:
English (and German, for that matter) is under attack! Or so we are told constantly. The threat comes from text messages / the internet / young people / political correctness / foreigners / Americans …!
But this is nothing new. People have always feared that their language was on the brink of collapse. Past „threats“ have even included the printing press and Shakespeare.
Today, new scientific discoveries are almost always published in English. But in 1900 English was far from the dominant scientific language. The dominant language was German. So how did English rise into its current position?
The article below also includes a link to a podcast of the interview on which the article was based.
English is spoken as a first language by around 400 million people, making it the third largest language by native-speaker number after Mandarin and Spanish. But when you include non-native speakers, that number could be as high as 2 billion, making it by far the most widely spoken language in the world. What effect does it have on the language when the majority of the people speaking it are non-native? The video and article below examine this question.
After our post on German superstitions it’s time to have a look at some typical British cultural beliefs. Click on the link to the article below. When you have read it, you will no longer be surprised to see an Englishman panicking when he sees a single magpie (Elster), and starts wildly looking for more magpies, before giving up and reciting a poem while saluting the single bird.
Superstitions vary from culture to culture, with one group’s beliefs often seeming very strange to those not familiar with it. The article below presents some of the most common German superstitions from an outsiders‘ perspective. Have you experienced any strange superstitions from other cultures? Tell us in the comments below!
German has Sie and du, French has vous and tu, Spanish has usted and tú, and modern English has… you.
But this was not always the case. In the 15th century, you was used in a similar way to the German Sie. The equivalent of the German du was the English thou (and thee for dir), words that will be familiar to anyone who has read Shakespeare in the original English. So to say English has no Sie form is not totally correct – more historically accurate would be to say English has only a Sie form. See more below:
You might think that children who grow up with English have a big advantage. But it’s not all so easy. The irregular spelling system of the English language causes considerable problems for young minds, requiring abilities that most children don’t develop until they are pre-teens. In fact, English-speaking children typically need about three years to learn the basics of reading and writing, while children in most European countries needed a year or less.
What is the fastest and most fun way to learn a foreign language to a near native-speaker level? Many will say „A girlfriend/boyfriend who is a native speaker!“ But before you slip your English teacher your phone number, have a look at the article below…
This article from the Grammar Girl blog looks at the phenomenon of silent letters – did you know that more than half of the letters in the English alphabet are silent in at least some words? Why they are so common in English? Click the picture below to see more. There is also a podcast to accompany the article (top right of page).