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Blog Profile / Johnson


URL :http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson
Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:393
Posts / Week:2.2
Archived Since:April 18, 2011

Blog Post Archive

Why so little Chinese in English?

How to kowtow ON TWITTER, a friend asked " Twenty years from now, how many Chinese words will be common parlance in English?" I replied that we've already had 35 years since Deng Xiaoping began opening China's economy, resulting in its stratospheric rise—but almost no recent Chinese borrowings in English. Show More Summary

Book review

READERS who missed it may be interested to check out this week's review of Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau's "Story of Spanish". In other home notes, Johnson has been nominated as a Top Language Professional Blog, and bab.la is hosting a vote for number one. Show More Summary

The performing black folks next door

INTERNET memes rarely hit and then provoke counter-reaction this fast. First, watch this video, whether or not you know the context. Now, the context. Three women had been missing in Cleveland for a decade. The man here, Charles Ramsey, rescued them after hearing a cry for help from a front door in his neighborhood. Show More Summary

Johnson becomes a column once again

IT HAS been just a bit over three years since our 1990s-era Johnson column in the newspaper was revived as this blog. Johnson's format is now about to change again—to become, once more, a column. This time it will be hosted online, on our sister blog Prospero, which covers cultural matters. Show More Summary

Shrug like a Frenchman and frown like a Russian

TIMOTHY DONER looks like an ordinary American teenager. Medium-height and slight, he arrives in a grey T-shirt and jeans. As he is being miked for his interview, our producer asks him a standard question to get him talking, so that she can check his voice levels: "What did you have for lunch?" He hasn't yet eaten today, having only gotten out of bed. Show More Summary

Mottakelse to New York

WHEN using any kind of translation helper—dictionary, Babel Fish or Google Translate—remember that if you don't know the target language, you should always have a native speaker take a look at the final product. Otherwise, your results might be as flamboyantly incompetent as those in this shop window, which I passed not long ago in midtown Manhattan. Show More Summary

One state, many worlds, now what?

THE music video “Ek Sur”, more popularly known as “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara”, was released on India’s Independence Day in 1988. It was a small contribution to the country’s herculean post-independence task of building a unified national identity. Show More Summary

A language with too many armies and navies?

JOHNSON has touched on Arabic and its variety quite a few times over the years, but we have never really addressed a critical question directly: what is "Arabic" today, and is it really even a single thing? A short and simplified version...Show More Summary

Review: Babbel and Duolingo

JUST twenty years ago, a language student removed from live practice or in-person classes had to rely on books or cassette tapes. Those were tough times: learners needed exceptional motivation, and got little feedback on their progress. Show More Summary

Crazy long words

THE Wall Street Journal last week had a sweet article about non-Nordic Europeans learning languages like Norwegian and Finnish, the better to be able to sing along with their favorite Nordic metal bands: "It's quite a well-known phenomenon that students in Italy study Norwegian because they're interested in metal," Ms. Show More Summary

Growing pains

LANGUAGE learners must resign themselves to making very public, very silly mistakes sooner or later. It’s an occupational hazard. Regular readers will remember that I’ve begun dipping my feet in Dutch. After a few weeks, I can now get my most basic wants and needs across with little trouble. Show More Summary

Why so little Chinese in English?

ON TWITTER, a friend asked " Twenty years from now, how many Chinese words will be common parlance in English?" I replied that we've already had 35 years since Deng Xiaoping began opening China's economy, resulting in its stratospheric rise—but almost no recent Chinese borrowings in English. Show More Summary

More perplexing Portuguese

THANKS to all those who commented on my post about foreigners' most common misunderstandings in Brazil, which generated some media interest here. A few pointed out that several of my observations would hold equally well elsewhere inShow More Summary

Schibboleth

STORIES say that during the second world war, Dutch soldiers used the name of the seaside resort Scheveningen as a shibboleth to identify German soldiers in their midst. German soldiers would pronounce the first three letters "sch" as "sh", following German sound rules. Show More Summary

Book review

READERS who might otherwise have missed might be interested to check out this week's review of Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau's "Story of Spanish". In other home notes, Johnson has been nominated by bab.la as a Top Language Professional Blog, and is hosting a vote for number one. Show More Summary

Lexical facts

SEVERAL years ago we mentioned TestYourVocab.com here on the blog. Not long ago, the site reached its two millionth test result, and so the researchers have put together some data: Most adult native test-takers range from 20,000–35,000...Show More Summary

Portuguese for the perplexed

Inspired by a popular guide to Understanding the British, I've put together a few entries in a Foreigners' Guide to Understanding Brazilians. Portuguese speakers and Brazilianists are invited to add more in the comments. Hat tip to Brazil-based...Show More Summary

Of nations, peoples, countries and mínzú

DID Joe Biden insult China? The American vice-president has a habit of sticking his foot into his mouth, and in this case, the recent graduation speech he gave at the University of Pennsylvania inspired a viral rant by a "disappointed" Chinese student at Penn, Zhang Tianpu. Show More Summary

English atop the Eurovision pile, yet again

LAST Saturday saw Denmark win the Eurovision Song Contest, the country's third win in the contest's history. A prototypically apple-cheeked blonde (pictured) took the trophy for her country, but she did so with the rather un-Danish name of Emmelie de Forest and the equally un-Danish title, "Only Teardrops". Show More Summary

Setting the record straight

IT IS rare that Johnson is compelled to respond to comments. But my last post, about the fun parallels in the hybrid development of English and Dravidian languages, seems to have stirred the passions of our readers. Many of them commented, dismissing the post as (at best) misguided and (at worst) a piece of neocolonial rubbish. Show More Summary

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