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How to Learn a Song in a Language You Don’t Know (And Why It’s the Best Thing You Can Do)

I love meeting new people, but I am the worst at remembering names. I don’t even know the name of my next door neighbour even though I see him every morning and I’ve asked him over ten times... At this party recently I met a girl named “Leyla.” I found myself singing Eric Clapton’s song in my head. Show More Summary

It's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman! The Art and Science of Mixture Descriptions

Capturing the essence of a movie is tricky work, especially when you’ve only got a few minutes to pitch your idea in front of a high-powered executive. It’s Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman! Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate! These...Show More Summary

Whore or horde?

Several people have written to ask whether phonetic analysis can settle a Canadian political controversy, described in a November 19 CBC News article "Sask. MP Tom Lukiwski denies callng female politician a 'whore'": Saskatchewan Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski has denied that he referred to a female politician as a "whore" — and interim party leader […]

Corporate PR, correspondents on location

From last summer's pilot episode of What The Fox, put together by a group of Penn undergrads: Episode 2 came out last week — my favorite part, I think, is the correspondent enacted by Dale Stewart:

Pocket to Kindle: How to Instantly Transfer Web Articles to Your Kindle (in One Click)

When it comes to advanced language learning, reading is king. And what is a better device to read on than an Amazon Kindle ebook reader? The Kindle doesn’t have to mean reading books. I’m currently learning German (and Chinese) and I don’t always want to read German novels. Show More Summary

Verbing Weirds Language, but in a Good Way

We often think of parts of speech as immutable properties of words, but in some cases noun-ness and verb-ness are more like hair colors: you can switch them up without altering any core meanings. Consider the noun “a blanket” and the...Show More Summary

New Mandarin words: "p?" (part) and "l?s?" ("loser")

There is a lively March 25, 2015 lecture about the First Emperor of the Qin (260-210 BC), the ruler who unified China by force and bequeathed the name of his dynasty to China for all time. The lecture, with the title "Qín sh?huáng zài y?nmán shénme? ?????????" ("What was the First Emperor of the Qin […]

K-pop English

[This is a guest post by Alex Baumans] I've been following the Kpop scene for a bit, and I noticed that there is a special flavour of English being used on websites and the like. This is different from the English being used in the songs themselves, which is also worthy of study. In the […]

Learning a New Language: Secrets of Language Learning Pros

What’s the best way to learn a new language? A really good way to approach language hacking is to look at how other people learn - especially how successful language learners pick up a new language and approach the challenges of language...Show More Summary

The shawm and its eastern cousins

I have long been intrigued by the Chinese instrument called su?nà ?? (double-reeded horn).  Because of the sound and shape of the name, and the fact that the characters used to write it both have mouth radicals, indicating that they are being used to convey pronunciation rather than meaning, I have always suspected that su?nà […]

Sauce or Gravy? The Secret, Fervent Debate at the Heart of the Italian American Spaghetti Dinner.

“The Italians of my parents’ generation are held together by the notion of the family,” wrote Martin Scorsese in his introduction to Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook. “That is why the pasta sauce is so sacred to the Italian family.” See, now right away we have a problem. Show More Summary

"Lobsters": a perplexing stop motion film

Matt Anderson called my attention to a short (15:49), enigmatic 1959 Chinese film: My initial reactions to this film were mostly in the form of puzzles and mysteries: 1. If this is a Chinese film, why are all the actors portrayed as Caucasian, but still speaking Mandarin? 2. In the film there is some […]

Transcendent Tonality

Since both consist of carefully managed and skillfully manipulated sound, music and language blend into each other.  This is most evident in song, of course, where language and tonality exist simultaneously.  But sometimes the human voice is treated as an instrument, and language recedes into the background.  On the other hand, something else human that […]

5 Unexpected Perks of Speaking Another Language

Why do you want to learn another language? Seriously, why? Maybe you want to sharpen your mind, or expand upon your job prospects. Perhaps you’re yet to meet that special someone and want to give yourself an edge in the competitive world of dating! Alternatively, you could be culturally motivated. Show More Summary

French Pronunciation Guide: How to Sound More Like a Native French Speaker

When you start learning French, the pronunciation can seem really tricky. This is especially the case as it has a lot of sounds that aren’t found in English. French is different to English. But it’s certainly not harder. Think of all...Show More Summary

English in Chinese: over?, out?, ?low?, ?out?

Note from Gábor Ugray: I just came across a hugely exciting conversation on Twitter, about English words mixed in with Chinese / adopted into Chinese speech – as seen in the subject line. There’s no easy way to extract conversations from Twitter, but it’s all in Liz Carter's feed today: The character that occurs four […]

How to Become a Lifelong Learner

When I say “education”, what does it make you think of? Kids? Classrooms? Teachers? Examinations? It’s strange when you think about how we approach education in the Western world. You’re expected to spend much of your childhood in the classroom. Show More Summary

Gun oil

In "The Stress and Structure of Modified Noun  Phrases in English" (Sag & Szabolsci, Eds., Lexical Matters, 1992), Richard Sproat and I discussed the semantic ambiguity or vagueness of English noun compounds: We now turn to N0 compounds where a paraphrase links the two words in the compound with a predicate not implicit in either one. […]

America’s Next Top Model Gave Us Plenty of Models, But Its Lasting Legacy Will Be Its Lexicon

Wednesday saw some sad surprise Tyramail: Cycle 22 of America’s Next Top Model will be the show’s last. The show has given the modeling world several new faces, but it’s given the world at large something even greater—a few very fun coinages. Show More Summary

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