Frank and Ernest by Thaves 12/28/21

Brain Remapping
Lingua Franca

Zippy the Pinhead by Bill Griffith 3/29/22

Traditional Saying: The beauty of man lies in the eloquence of his tongue.


Why learning languages is as important as ever Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair) Living / Culture September 1, 2017

CC BY 2.0 The LEAF Project -- Studying Spanish

One writer claims it's pointless now that English is so widely spoken. I beg to differ.

Simon Jenkins thinks learning foreign languages is pointless. In an article for The Guardian published last week, he argues that there are more efficient ways to learn a language if required for work, such as an immersion lab, instead of “sitting in a schoolroom for an hour a week for years – the perfect way not to learn a language, but to forget one.” He says that language classes appeal to the education system because they are “easy to test, quantify, and regiment”; and that English has become a lingua franca for the world. (Presumably he studied Latin in order to make that reference.) In other words, leave the hard work to everyone else.

Reactions have been fierce and emotional. The newspaper published a list of letters from various language experts, pointing out the fallacies and gaps in Jenkins’ stance. As someone who has dedicated years of my life to studying languages (I speak four fluently and have studied others), I had a strong reaction as well. It got me thinking about why I believe so strongly in the importance of language study, how it has benefitted me, and why I will insist on my children learning languages to the best of their ability.

I’d argue that language IS education. It is a portal through which a student can travel to discover exactly what Jenkins says is being destroyed by the ubiquity of computers in the classroom – “the wonders of the scientific world, the glories and horrors of Europe’s history, the human drama of literature, the full mystery of the global environment, [and] the life skills of speaking, listening, debating, personal presentation and confidence.” I cannot think of a single subject that does a better job at bringing together all these facets than learning another language.

You learn so much more than grammar and vocabulary. It leads automatically to discussions about culture, history, art, humor, logic, geography, environmental issues, and food, all of which lead to a better understanding of an entire nation of people. It makes foreign people more knowable and less intimidating.

This moves into my next point, which is that KNOWING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE PUTS ONE AT A TREMENDOUS ADVANTAGE, BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY. Knowing a language is a sign of respect for another culture, and the speaker, in turn, will be respected. Indeed, one commenter on Jenkins’ article agrees:

Those who believe in English as a lingua franca should try negotiating a deal in English with foreigners who can fall back on their own language to discuss details among themselves while you look on in uncomprehending silence.”

It makes me think of an awful time when my family and I found ourselves homeless in Recife, a rough city in northeastern Brazil. While staying in a cramped hotel room, I frantically searched rental ads, looking for an apartment to stay. If I didn’t speak Portuguese, I would have been limited to English tourist websites, which featured only short-term rentals and were astronomically priced. Instead, I was able to make inquiries about local rentals, getting us out of a stressful and unviable situation fairly quickly.

LANGUAGE ADDS UNRIVALLED DEPTH TO TRAVEL EXPERIENCES. I think of it as a key that opens unexpected doors. While living in Sardinia, I acquired a tight-knit group of girlfriends with whom I still communicate fourteen years later – in Italian, of course. If I hadn’t learned the language, we wouldn’t have gotten to know each other. It wouldn’t have led to the trips, the meals, the jokes, the beach days, the parties, the countless shared memories that we cherish to this day. Instead, I might have a collection of pictures of standing in front of famous Sardinian landmarks – but where’s the fun in that? As Dr. Thomas Bak replied to The Guardian:

“If all you want from Germany is a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate, you won’t need any German. But to understand German history, culture and people, do business with them and learn from them, you’ll be better off learning at least a bit of their language.”

© K Martinko -- The next generation: My son wanders the streets of Florence with one of
my old Sardinian schoolmates, a friendship made possible through the acquisition of language.

Tied to the travel theme, learning a local language is a counterpoint to the environmentally destructive industrial-style tourism that's creating such distress in Europe this summer. IT SAYS, "I CARE ENOUGH ABOUT YOUR HOME AND YOUR PEOPLE TO INVEST TIME IN LEARNING HOW TO COMMUNICATE." It is the very essence of slow tourism, requiring a major personal investment, which is the direction in which our travel plans should be moving. Jenkins says there’s a problem with learning languages, but I believe the problem lies in the method of teaching, not the fact that it's taught. In Canada, where I live, it's common for students to spend years in mandatory French classes and have little to show for it. My mother, a former core French high school teacher, complained about the French immersion students who showed up in her grade 12 class without being able to converse properly. COMPARE THAT TO THE FOREIGN STUDENTS I'VE MET FROM EUROPE AND ASIA WHO SPEAK MULTIPLE LANGUAGES COMFORTABLY BY THEIR TEEN YEARS; CLEARLY, OUR TEACHING SYSTEM IS FLAWED.

We need to figure out how to normalize multilingualism, how to get kids and teachers alike excited about it, how to inspire and immerse. IF THERE’S ONE THING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT STUDYING LANGUAGES, IT HELPS TO FALL IN LOVE. WHETHER IT’S FALLING IN LOVE WITH A WHOLE CULTURE, CUISINE, MUSIC, A GEOGRAPHICAL REGION, OR AN INDIVIDUAL, IT HELPS TO FEEL A DEEP AFFINITY TO A LANGUAGE. That passion will pull you through the darkest grammar funks.

Does Jenkins even speak another language himself? Somehow I suspect not, because fluency is one of those things that, unless you’ve experienced it, you cannot understand the pleasure that goes along with it. Nobody who has ever mastered another language would ever want to undo that experience; it’s like wishing away the skill of playing an instrument.

Studying and speaking foreign languages has enriched my life tremendously, which is why I will encourage my kids to soak up as many as they can throughout their lives. It can only make the world a better place.


Base Vocabulary from Fluent Forever

Your Base Vocabulary: Your first 625 words

This is a new, improved version of an older list of 400 words. In my own studies, I’ve found that having an extra couple hundred words in the beginning makes everything a lot easier; you feel more comfortable with spelling and pronunciation, you recognize many more words in your textbook, and you can start delving into grammar while feeling like a bad-ass. Nice.


7 cultural concepts we don't have in the U.S.

Bear Left!

K-Marx the Spot not reachable

Bear Left! Link library

Which Left-Wing Spanish Newspapers are Online in Spain? Since the demise of a few left-wing Spanish newspapers in recent years there aren’t that many Spanish newspapers with a left-wing liberal focus left online. But, if you’re interested in how left-wing Spanish newspaper write about the news, these are the main three to look at.
Público My favorite Spanish newspaper, Público was a well-selling left-wing Spanish newspaper that ceased publication in February 2012 when the owners couldn’t raise enough money to keep it going. They did, however, manage to keep the online newspaper publishing and, so far, it seems to be doing well. I like it as it’s well-written, is updated often, and includes lots of photos and videos.
      Covers news all over Europe.
El Periódico Being based in Catalunya, El Periódico publishes two editions every day – in Spanish and in Catalan – as well as has an excellent website for readers of the Spanish language. It’s classified as center-left and progressive in its views.
El Mundo progressive according to Guardian

Guardian Guide to European News Le Monde France's best-selling quality daily. an impressive web operation. Centre-left outlook.

Süddeutsche Zeitung Major Munich-based paper. Broadly liberal.

Ekathimerini Greece's best English-language daily, distributed with the International Herald Tribune in Greece and Cyprus.

Moscow Times respected English-language daily... half in Cyrillic.

EUobserver An internet-only daily news service covering EU affairs, plus regular reviews of the European press covering EU-related news. Not really daily.
EuroNews Internet arm of the multilingual 24-hour TV news channel. Live video streaming and text reports, expanding on a limited number of stories and features. Easy to switch to editions in Spanish, Russian, German, French and Greek.

Der Standard Austria. Liberal daily in German. Extensive breaking news and generous coverage of international events. Looks fun.

la Libre Belgique (In French.) Brussels-based daily newspaper.

Phileleftheros (In Greek.) Independent, liberal daily.

Denmark Calling Weekly English broadcast, covering news, current affairs and business. Daily paper in Danish, founded in 1884. Extensive web coverage.

Helsingin Sanomat [Finland] Finland's biggest and most well-known newspaper. Domestic, business, financial and foreign news in English.

Libération (In French.) Quality daily, left of le Monde.
Le Nouvel Observateur Left-of-centre news weekly, with an impressive rolling news operation. (In French.)

10 bonnes raisons d'apprendre le latin Avec la réforme du collège 2016, le latin et le grec disparaissent comme disciplines à part entière. Mais que vont y perdre les élèves? Revue de détail.

Il n'était pas question, pour Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, de laisser les collégiens français continuer d'apprendre le latin, qui n'était pourtant plus qu'une option. Une «option facultative», comme on disait au ministère, car le ministère aime à re'der. Dans un élan de civisme, elle le réduisit à l'état d'EPI, comprenez enseignement pratique interdisciplinaire. Par exemple, le professeur de latin et le professeur d'arts plastiques pourraient élaborer un cours sur les temples de Rome.

C'est plus attrayant («attractif», dit le ministère) que les verbes déponents et l'ablatif absolu. Sur huit EPI proposés (environnement, corps, santé et bien-être…), un collégien doit faire au moins six EPI dans sa scolarité, à raison de deux par an, ou trois dans le meilleur des cas. Un EPI doit déboucher sur une réalisation pratique: une expo, un temple en carton, un blog, une affiche (sur tablette, le plus souvent, vu l'emprise de Microsoft sur la Rue de Grenelle).

Mme Vallaud-Belkacem, qui a «fait du latin», et connaît les vertus de cet apprentissage, a déclaré: «Il ne s'agit pas de supprimer un droit ou une possibilité pour quelques-uns. Il s'agit de le généraliser.» À la bonne heure. 'c, commençons par le supprimer, et faisons plutôt des ateliers sympas, d'une heure par semaine en moyenne, soit douze heures. Et même pas obligatoirement: «Si et seulement si le collège décide de leur consacrer une partie de sa marge horaire professeurs», dit le ministère. (Il est question de pouvoir faire plusieurs EPI avec latin, mais à prendre sur les heures de français. Détail amusant : il n'y a pas d'EPI en sixième, où l'Antiquité est justement au programme d'histoire. Ça leur fera les pieds, aux petits.)

Devant le tollé suscité par cette décision, pourtant noble et généreuse, Mme Vallaud-Belkacem a fait machine arrière: elle a rétabli un enseignement du latin de «spécialisation»: une heure hebdomadaire en cinquième, deux en quatrième et troisième. Option optionnelle, libre et facultative. (Si le latin est si formateur, s'il «tire les élèves vers le haut» - on n'a d'ailleurs jamais vu latiniste partir faire le djihad -, pourquoi ne pas l'imposer à tous, à tous les âges?) Voilà où nous en sommes.

Frankfurter Rundschau (In German.) Leftist Frankfurt-based daily.
Tageszeitung In German. Left-wing daily based in Berlin.
Greens looks like fun.

Tageblatt [Luxembourg] French-language daily, historically left wing. looks good.

Russia Journal Rolling news and analysis in English. Impressive.
Gazeta a popular independent internet news service.
Pravda Online paper, far removed from the former Communist Party mouthpiece of the same name. Claims to be independent and self-financing.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung [Switzerland] Zurich daily with a small English section covering Swiss and international current affairs.
Tages-Anzeiger (German) ?

Kyiv Post [Ukraine] Independent daily newspaper and breaking news service in English. Recommended.
The Day Ukrainian daily in English, Ukrainian and Russian.

The Spanish Media Are the Worst in Europe. These Upstarts Are Trying to Change That.

A broad range of leftist media projects committed to democracy and transparency have flourished in recent years.

? “The great problem of the Spanish press is the truth,” a Peruvian colleague once told Alfonso Armada, a former El País reporter who currently works for the conservative newspaper ABC. Armada can’t help but agree. “The press routinely twists the facts to fit the venue’s ideology,” he says. “The media themselves have helped spread the notion that there are no indisputable facts, just partial views of reality.

As a result, what has taken root is the idea that, just like politicians, all media outlets lie.” An increasing number of Spaniards these days are thirsty for political news—but they '’t trust their journalists to deliver honest reporting. Journalism is the second-least-respected profession, right behind being a judge. And according to the latest Reuters Digital News Report, the Spanish media have the lowest credibility in Europe.

New parties like Podemos (“We Can”), Ciudadanos (“Citizens”), and broad progressive citizens’ platforms are challenging the longstanding two-party dominance by the conservative Partido Popular (PP) and the center-left Socialist Party (PSOE).

In regional elections this May, the two big parties lost more than 3 million votes. And in the local elections, also held in May, Barcelona and Madrid elected leftist women mayors who couldn’t be further from the political class. The political crisis—as well as the growing public mistrust of the media—mounted in the wake of the Great Recession, and both have spurred significant change in Spain’s public sphere.

? But this apparent variety of options is deceptive. The vast majority of the market is in the hands of some ten media conglomerates. The PRISA group, which publishes El País and its global editions in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, owns a stable of magazines, TV and radio networks, production companies, and, until last year, a massive publishing arm reaching across the Americas. The Vocento group holds 14 dailies, including the national ABC. The Planeta group, the world’s largest Spanish-language publisher, has a major stake in television and owns the conservative paper La Razón. While many of the conglomerates started out as family businesses, they are now controlled by transnational corporations or a handful of powerful financial institutions.

? What’s left of slimmed-down newsrooms subsist on an army of underpaid freelancers and interns. “The difference between the highest- and lowest-paid employees at the traditional papers is outrageous,” says young journalist Berta del Río. At major online papers today, she says, freelancers are paid between $35 and $45 for a piece of reporting, photography included. “Some '’t pay anything at all. If they do, it’s 90 days later.” Moreover, she says, journalists are expected to produce six or seven stories per week, all while keeping up with social media. This leaves little time for research or fact checking.

The conglomerates’ debt problem has directly curbed reporter freedom, says veteran journalist Guillem Martínez, who writes for El País in Catalonia. “Since the 2008 crisis, the banks have converted the media’s debt into company shares,” he says. “They have become the owners and exercise their role in 19th-century style.” Sometimes this means stories are suppressed.

Efforts like Civio’s confront a political class that’s not ready to give up control. Determined to clip the media’s wings, the PP government has used its absolute majority in Parliament to pass the controversial new Citizen Security Law, known colloquially in Spain as the ley mordaza (“gag law”). The law, which took effect on July 1, not only limits citizens’ right to protest—in person or in writing, in print or online—but also curbs the media’s ability to cover those protests.

Despite government hostility and the economic crisis, a broad range of new, leftist media projects committed to democracy, transparency, and ethics have flourished over the past few years. Many of the new progressive outlets trace their origins to the newspaper Público. Founded in 2007, Público presented perhaps the first real challenge to El País’s hegemony over left-of-center media. The paper made a name for itself by breaking the taboo on airing the monarchy’s dirty laundry and harshly criticizing a deficit-reduction amendment to Spain’s Constitution meant to appease international markets.

But in 2012, Público was gutted by its corporate owner, which shut down the paper’s print edition and decimated its newsroom. Público’s disappearance “worried many of us,” says Miguel Urbán, who before joining the European Parliament for Podemos sat on the editorial board of the leftist magazine Viento Sur. “It was the first daily in a long time with a leftist editorial line—a gap left orphaned when El País aban'ed it.”

But what could have been a disaster served instead as a wake-up call. As the print edition disappeared and 85 percent of the staff lost their jobs, a number of Público’s editors went on to found innovative, independent media projects that were determined to sidestep corporate blackmail and shareholder strangleholds. Leading the pack is, an online paper launched three years ago by Público’s founding editor, Ignacio Escolar. has quickly become one of the country’s most-read originally digital news venues, second only to El Confidencial, which was founded 14 years ago. And, remarkably, it’s turning a profit. Unlike other online newspapers, has nearly 12,000 paying subscribers, who for a little over $5 a month receive early access to content. It still relies on ads as its main source of income. (Committed to transparency, the paper publishes a yearly summary of its accounts.)

“Ignacio has 'e what few others have been able to,” says Berta del Río, a former Público reporter. “He’s built a strong management team that he can delegate to. His editors run a tight ship, leaving him time to be the paper’s public face on radio and television. He’s really thought this through, no doubt with help from his father.” Escolar is the son of journalist Arsenio Escolar, who runs the free paper 20 Minutos, the second-most-read newspaper in the country. is only one of a large number of progressive startups that are rejuvenating Spain’s media landscape. In 2013 two other former Público editors launched InfoLibre, which specializes in investigative reporting and runs only a handful of stories per day. Associated with Mediapart, a French online news site, it subsists solely on subscription fees.

“We maintain that information comes at a price,” says InfoLibre director Manuel Rico. “And there are only two options: either the readers pay, or the large corporations will.” “The staggering loss of politicians’ and journalists’ credibility has been lethal,” Rico’s fellow director Jesús Maraña said in a speech this summer. “We try to win it back, day by day, by showing that it is possible to practice rigorous journalism without depending on other interests than those of the readers.”

Older generations of journalists are pushing for change as well. In January 2015, fourteen experienced reporters from major papers used their own money and crowdfunding to launch Contexto magazine ( Led by Miguel Mora, a former El País correspondent in Paris who quit his job in protest over a round of layoffs, Contexto pledges to deliver first-hand, on-the-ground reporting, and looks to cultivate long-form journalism in a Spanish media landscape that overwhelmingly publishes op-eds and short news items.

Like Público in its heyday, these new venues have risen to prominence with major scoops—often related to political corruption—and a willingness to break taboos while opening up their opinion pages to vigorous debate. In October, defied the courts by publishing leaked personal e-mails of Miguel Blesa, a bank executive who had provided politicians with lavish private expense accounts. InfoLibre ran a series of stories this summer that showed how the PP, PSOE, and United Left (the latter a political coalition helmed by the Spanish Communist Party) had received millions of euros from the same bank.

But securing a space for the left in print and online journalism isn’t enough, says Urbán, the European Parliament member for Podemos. The indispensable medium to reach the majority of the population, he says, is television. “Here the left still has a lot to learn and a lot of terrain to conquer. Spanish television offers no space designed to satisfy citizens’ right to information as a public service. Not even on the public channels, which are crudely controlled by the government.”

Still, on this front there is movement, too. Contratiempo, a radio show run by a historians’ collective, arose from “the need to address the past from a space outside of the academy,” says founding member Noelia Adánez. Adánez also collaborates on La Tuerka, one of a number of online television shows created by the academics and activists who would later go on to found Podemos. It features in-depth interviews and sophisticated political panel discussions.

For parties such as Podemos and the citizens’ platforms that now govern the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, an independent progressive media is a key part of strengthening democracy. This means liberating the media from their corporate and political straitjackets.

Recalling that the Spanish Constitution protects citizens’ right to truthful information, Podemos has included media reform in its program. But good will and new regulations will not be enough, says Trinidad Deiros. Journalists will have to change the way they operate. This cultural shift will take time. “A lot of work remains to be 'e,” she says, “for example concerning the press’s traditional machismo. The glass ceiling has yet to be broken.”

Berta del Río agrees. “Journalism and politics are men’s worlds in which women are just trying to survive,” she says. And journalists will have to change the way elected officials operate, too. Unlike in the United States or Britain, says Deiros, Spanish politicians “would never stand for a journalist asking the same question forty times until it’s answered.” “But that’s our own fault,” she says. “We journalists have been too docile. Then again, our awful working conditions obviously '’t encourage us to rebel.”

DMOZ DMOZ is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a passionate, global community of volunteer editors. It was historically known as the Open Directory Project (ODP).

DMOZ provides the means for the Internet to organize itself. As the Internet grows, so do the number of net-citizens. These citizens can each organize a small portion of the web and present it back to the rest of the population, culling out bad content and adding just the best content.

DMOZ was founded in the spirit of the Open Source movement, and is the only major directory that is 100% free. There is not, nor will there ever be, a cost to submit a site to the directory, and/or to use the directory's data. Its data is made available for free to anyone who agrees to comply with our free use license.

Compared to other languages, what does Arabic lack? As weird as it may sound, modern standard arabic does not have a single native speaker. It is the only Arabic language with standardise orthography and grammar. Yet no Arab speaks it as a primary language. We can all understand it. It is the language of news broadcasts and children's animated series. But you would be laughed at if you went to local bakery to get a loaf of bread speaking only MSA. You will get the bread alright, but would also give the baker something to talk about the rest of his day.

This problem is a cause for many others. Thats why you cannot get reliable content on the internet in Arabic. It is why Arabs, in general, ''t read.

Is English vastly easier to learn than Arabic?

This is purely anecdotal, but I find Arabic harder by orders of magnitude. My first language is Vietnamese, which is vastly different from both English and Arabic, so hopefully the comparison is reasonably fair.

With English, I could become decently conversant with less than two years of passive effort (made to take classes in school; didn't actually enjoy them) and a couple more to nail the SAT Verbal/Writing. I started learning Arabic last year, loved it to bits, spent some time on it every day, stayed in Morocco for 1.5 month this summer, and still my essays are atrocious (i.e. they sound like they are written by a clueless first grader, without the cuteness). Granted that I started learning English at a younger age, but the drive and motivation to learn Arabic are much greater.

There are a million reasons why Arabic is so hard -- I personally love this article here Why learning Arabic is so hard.

A language geek, I have dabbled in many languages (mostly Indo-European and East Asian), and Arabic was the first to really stump me. The journey has been really, really fun though. I've loved the challenge so far.

I'm Trying To Learn Arabic... Why's it taking so long? When I walked into Arabic class last week, Karam, my teacher, cheerily asked me how I was doing. I said, "Tamaam, hamdulillah," which means, "Fine, thanks be to God." But I was lying. I'd just spent a full day at work and was sitting down at a desk for two hours of mind-bending grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. I knew it would be a long night.

I am not one of those people who dreads the thought of learning a foreign language. While everyone else was partying in high school, I was learning the Spanish past subjunctive and loving it. I studied German, French, and Portuguese in college. I speak decent Russian and have taught myself some half-decent rudimentary Japanese. Languages are usually fun. But Arabic is really killing me.

I'm one of a growing wave of people trying to come to grips with Arabic, a language long neglected by Americans in the years before Sept. 11. Since then, the CIA and the military have tried to recruit Arab-American "heritage speakers." The federal government has spent tons of money, both teaching Arabic to spies and soldiers at its specialized schools and encouraging university students to study it.

College enrollment in Arabic classes doubled between 1998 and 2002, with much of the increase coming in a patriotic spike after the World Trade Center attacks. As a foreign-affairs writer, I thought it would be good to give it a shot.

But these patriotic students are probably finding, as I am, that learning Arabic is complicated. The first challenge, the script, is a tough one. But it is by no means the biggest. Arabic has an alphabet, so it's easier than, say, Chinese, which has a set of thousands of characters. There are just 28 letters, and it does not take long to get used to writing and reading right-to-left. (Though it still feels odd to open my book from what seems like the back.)

Most of the letters have four different forms, depending on whether they stand alone or come at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Even then, so far so good. But in Arabic, as in Hebrew, people ''t include most vowels when writing. Maktab, or "office," is just written mktb. Vowels are included as little marks above and below in beginning textbooks, but you soon have to get used to doing without them. Whn y knw th lngg wll ths s nt tht hrd. But when you're struggling with comprehension to begin with, it's pretty formidable.

Then there are the sounds those letters represent. I do not recommend chewing gum in Arabic class, because a host of noises articulated in the back of the throat makes it likely that the gum will end up in your lungs. Arabic has one "h" akin to ours, and another that has been described as the sound you would make trying to blow out a candle with air from your throat. That's not to be confused with another sound, the fricative kh familiar to German-speakers as the sound in "Bach." There's also 'ayn, a "voiced pharyngeal fricative," which is like the first sound in the hip-hop "a'ight." Unwritten in Roman-alphabet transliterations, it's actually a consonant that begins many common words and names, including "Arab," "Iraq," and "Arafat."

The sounds are tough, but the words are tougher. An English-speaking student learning a European language will run across many familiar-looking words, but English-speaking Arabic students are not so lucky. Merav, an Israeli classmate, should have a leg up on us: Arabic and Hebrew both use a nifty, three-letter root system for word building. The three-letter root represents a general area of meaning, and different prefixes, vowel additions, and suffixes can make it into a person engaged in that activity, the place where it goes on, the general concept, and so on. Most famous is slm, which generally means "peace." Salaam is the noun for "peace," Islam is "surrender," and a Muslim is "one who surrenders." (In Hebrew, this can be seen in shalom.) Ktb functions similarly for writing: Kitaab is "book," kaatib is "writer," maktaba is "library."

What should I know about Russia? [Quora]

1) Russia is the largest country in the world, in terms of land area. In fact, Russia is even bigger than Pluto!!

2) Russia is currently the ninth most populous country, with around 146 million people.

3) Moscow is the capital and largest city. However, St Petersburg (the second largest city) is considered to be the cultural capital, while Novosibirsk is called by some as the 'capital of Siberia'.

4) Oh, and that reminds me: there's a difference between Siberia and Serbia. Siberia is the Asiatic part of Russia. Serbia is a country. Some people seem to get confused about this.

5) Lake Baikal is Russia's largest lake, and is also the world's deepest.

6) The Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's longest railway line: connecting from Moscow to Vladivostok and stretching over 9200 kms.

7) European and Asiatic Russia (and hence Europe and Asia) are separated by the Ural Mountains.

8) The Russian people are very varied, with over 180 different ethnic groups. However, ethnic Russians make up the majority of the population. Some of these ethnic groups are also genetically Asian.

9) Russians ''t smile much at strangers, as it seems weird and even suspicious to some. Foreigners might find this intimidating, and some even think Russians are rude. However, this is only on the outside, and its more of a cultural aspect than anything else. Once a Russian opens up and becomes friendly with you, they will be a loyal and caring friend.

10) Russia has produced some very famous people. Does the names Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Tchaikovsky, Mendeleev, Gargarin, and Putin sound familiar?

11) Russia (then a part of the USSR) put the first man and woman into space.

12) Caviar and the Bolshoi Ballet are iconic symbols of Russia.

13) Building up on number 12, Russia has a rich and wonderful culture, and its cities and scenery are beautiful.

14) Russia hasn't always been this big. In the past, most of Russia was located in Europe.

15) And last but not least: Russia is a wonderful country!!

Should I learn French or German first? Not sure if you are purely talking about language learning or the benefits associated with each of these languages. If you compare the number of speakers in the workd for each languages, French wins hands down on many levels.

This is where you can speak German: (in black and dark red)

And this is where you can speak French

German is mostly concentrated in Central Europe and a few other places where some German dialects are spoken (like in some parts of Brazil... but good luck to find the couple of people who can actually speak that instead of Portugese)

Total that's about 100M speaker and it includes 80M Germans in Germany and Germans living abroad (Germans are like the Australians of Europe: really great travelers) French is spoken in 57 countries (Francophonie) which equates roughly to 250M people who can understand and speak French or a French dialect.

29 countries and 11 dependencies have French as an official language.

A countless number of international organisations use French as an official language (African Union, numbers of international sport federations, Olympic committees, Etc.)

Go on holiday in some paradise island and you're better off with English and French than English and German.

Foreign Language Expertise Alexander Arguelles.
PolyLiteracy Polyliteracy is a scholarly discipline. It embodies a quest to develop an encyclopedic mind and to philosophically understand the nature of your own consciousness through the passionate, in-depth, and respectful study of as many different languages as possible, focusing both upon their diachronic evolution as actual entities and upon the intellectual heritage they have left in the form of great texts.

As an academic discipline, Polyliteracy is the direct descendent and heir of Comparative Philology. However, whereas Comparative Philology had a tendency to focus inwards upon the origins of the Indo-European family in a nationalistic sense, Polyliteracy faces outwards towards expanding the individual scholar’s horizons by imparting the ability to read classic texts of Great Books in the tongues of other civilizations.

Alexander Arguelles videos

Spanish French Italian German video A Arguelles. re multilingualism. Proposes autodidactic method.

Polyglot Alex Rawlings on BBC Breakfast video

Alex Rawlings - How to learn and maintain multiple foreign languages how to be a polyglot. 1. Learn the language. 2. Speak the language. 3. Keep speaking the language.

Luca Lampariello On How To Master Any Language interview with Anthony Metivier the memory guy.

Just forget it! The secret of learning new words video Luca Lampariello

Mezzofanti Guild Language learning.
Everything you thought you knew about language fluency is wrong and here's why Chunking

Glossika Fluency: We deliver it by building muscle memory through sound patterns

Nahuatl known historically as Aztec, is a language or group of languages of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Varieties of Nahuatl are spoken by an estimated 1.5 million Nahua peoples, most of whom live in central Mexico. All Nahuan languages are indigenous to Mesoamerica.

Nahuatl has been spoken in central Mexico since at least the seventh century CE. It was the language of the Aztecs who dominated what is now central Mexico during the Late Postclassic period of Mesoamerican history. During the centuries preceding the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Aztecs had expanded to incorporate a large part of central Mexico, and its influence caused the variety of Nahuatl spoken by the residents of Tenochtitlan to become a prestige language in Mesoamerica.

At the conquest, with the introduction of the Latin alphabet, Nahuatl also became a literary language, and many chronicles, grammars, works of poetry, administrative documents and codices were written in it during the 16th and 17th centuries. This early literary language based on the Tenochtitlan variety has been labeled Classical Nahuatl, and is among the most studied and best-documented languages of America

Today, Nahuan languages are spoken in scattered communities, mostly in rural areas throughout central Mexico and along the coastline. There are considerable differences among varieties, and some are mutually unintelligible. Huasteca Nahuatl, with over one million speakers, is the most-spoken variety. They have all been subject to varying degrees of influence from Spanish. No modern Nahuan languages are identical to Classical Nahuatl, but those spoken in and around the Valley of Mexico are generally more closely related to it than those on the periphery.[9] Under Mexico's Ley General de Derechos Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas ("General Law on the Linguistic Rights of Indigenous Peoples") promulgated in 2003, Nahuatl and the other 63 indigenous languages of Mexico are recognized as lenguas nacionales ("national languages") in the regions where they are spoken, enjoying the same status as Spanish within their region

Many words from Nahuatl have been borrowed into Spanish, and since diffused into hundreds of other languages. Most of these loanwords denote things indigenous to central Mexico which the Spanish heard mentioned for the first time by their Nahuatl names. English words of Nahuatl origin include "avocado", "chayote", "chili", "chocolate", "atlatl", "coyote", "peyote", "axolotl" and "tomato"

Useful phrases in Nahuatl

How To Speak Nahuatl -- basic words--video

Palabras Básicas en NÁHUATL- Pronunciación Figurada. video en espanol

NAHUATL - NOMBRES 100% MEXICANOS elegant video in Spanish and English


Aprendiendo Náhuatl - Compilación de clases interview of Nahuatl speaker en espanol.

Aprendiendo Nahuatl news story en espanol de Nahuatl.

The Language Geek

Free Language Education Sites

How to Use a Foreign Language Dictionary focused on French

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Frequency lists/German 500 most
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Lang.Geek: Russian

The alternative to learning a language

THE ASSIMIL METHOD A single principle in the world: the intuitive assimilation

How did you learn to speak? In fact, you do not know yourself. You listened, understood gradually your parents and, gradually, having assimilated the meaning of sounds, then words, then words of associations, you've launched and have started to make sounds, words, sentences. It is obvious this process qu'Assimil apply mutatis mutandis, of course, intelligence adolescent or adult.

You will assimilate into two phases: the passive phase Initially, you get to know directly with the language studied. This immersion is daily and demands 20 to 30 minutes of attention per day. You listen, read and understand through translation. You repeat the sentences aloud to form your pronunciation with the help of phonetic transcription or better records. During this phase, you should not get out of this passive part in attempting to form your own sentences. Just let yourself soak in the target language.

All seven lessons, lesson carefully reviewed certain points the previous six lessons and grammar structure acquired during the week. Your attendance is the guarantee of your success. The first two weeks are crucial, the rest will follow naturally. The active phase The active phase is initiated when the liabilities acquired is considered sufficient, usually towards the fiftieth lesson. It runs in parallel with your daily passive study: You accept the first lesson, then the second and so on, on a one lesson active and a passive daily lesson. This active phase is simply to hide the text of the target language and to restore it orally - in writing if desired - from the French text placed opposite. Your results will surprise you. In this second phase, you find that you formulate phrases easily; you are encouraged to continue and go well without problem until the end of your study. The final level achieved thanks to a course "Without penalty" is that of everyday conversation. You then have a good command of grammar and a large vocabulary (average 2000 words). It is commonly accepted that an adult control and commonly used about 1500 words. Composition of a method The method consists of a learning book containing on average 100 lessons. Go to a sample lesson. The records accompanying each method contain, for most languages, all the dialogues of the lessons and exercises from the book. By professional speakers, they are a great help to your study. Now available in mp3 recordings are nomads to extend your learning anytime and freely.

Words are not accidental September 12, 2016.. For many terms certain sounds are preferred or avoided, even in non-related languages

The textbooks of linguistics obviously need to be rewritten. So far went linguists believe sounds are mostly linked in words at random with meanings.

book2 - Learn languages online for free with 100 audio (mp3) files! Free language lessons in over 50 languages

The Linguist Method

"Language is power" -Steve Kaufmann

Memrise Science under each of the three principles, click on "Learn more"

Have you ever wondered “Why learn a foreign language?” LANGUAGES HELP YOU CONNECT WITH A CULTURE--language and culture are intertwined. By studying a language you gain a deeper understandings of a culture and it’s people. words which ''t exist in my language, make friends all over the world, have the pleasure of cursing in other languages...

YOU HAVE A LOVE FOR LANGUAGES AND AN URGE TO STUDY THEM--For a lot of you, your studies are motivated by a deep love for learning languages. You just enjoy the whole process of studying and learning how other people communicate... Life is too short to speak one language.


STUDYING A LANGUAGE HELPS YOU CONNECT WITH FAMILY AND RELATIVES--Some of you have a pretty diverse background! And naturally, with family members or ancestors from all over the world, the desire to know where you come from can create a strong impulse to study their language. It’s a great way to better understand your cultural roots.

LANGUAGE LEARNING HELPS YOU MAKE FRIENDS--The best way to learn to speak a language is to just speak the language and naturally you need native speakers to help with that. Learning a language and meeting people who speak that language are two things that go hand-in-hand.

LANGUAGES MAKE TRAVELING THE WORLD AND LIVING ABROAD MORE PLEASURABLE--Exploring the world and it’s cultures is the whole reason I study languages in the first place.

STUDYING LANGUAGES CAN EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN--Besides the many benefits listed in that post, such as being better at math, improved test scores, improved studying skills and increased creativity, studies at the University of Edinburgh show that studying languages improves the “elasticity” of your brain and keeps it young!

LANGUAGES HELP YOU EXPLORE YOUR HOBBIES AND HAVE FUN--For many of you, studying new languages helps you dive even deeper into your hobbies and interests.


LANGUAGES HELP YOU BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL PERSON OF MYSTERY--I think this was my favourite category of answers. Apparently we have a lot of burgeoning international spies in our midsts! A surprising number of you looked at languages as a way of hiding or gathering information from the people around you.

I had my own experiences blending into the local environment in Egypt so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Whether you want to blend in like a local, or you want to know what the native speakers are saying without their knowledge, studying a language can help you enhance your covert skills.

Fluent in 3 Months blog & forum

Lernu! lernu! is a multilingual website that provides free courses and information on the international language Esperanto. With lernu!, you can learn Esperanto easily and free of charge. Esperanto is a living language useful for easy communication.

MemRise Learning made joyful. We make learning languages and vocab so full of joy and life, you’ll laugh out loud.

Indus script The Indus Script is the writing system developed by the Indus Valley Civilization and it is the earliest form of writing known in the Indian subcontinent. The origin of this script is poorly understood: this writing system remains undeciphered, there is no agreement on the language it represents, no bilingual texts have been found thus far and its connection with Indian writing systems proper is uncertain. This is the main reason why the Indus Valley Civilization is one of the least known of the important early civilizations of antiquity.

Anki SRS

Anki Web a free companion to the computer version of Anki. AnkiWeb can be used to review online when you ''t have access to your home computer, and can be used to keep your cards synchronized across multiple machines.

Vis-Ed Review These are vocabulary study cards for French, German, Spanish (generally, choose the bilingual Spanish-English edition rather than the classical Spanish edition), Greek (both classical and biblical), Hebrew (biblical), Italian, Latin, and Russian. Each, very inexpensive set includes about 1,000 flash cards (1 1/2"x 3 1/2" each) and a study guide containing simple instructions and a mini-dictionary, all packaged in a sturdy box. Extra helps, such as the principal parts of irregular verbs, are shown on the cards. Many words (in the Spanish set reviewed) have related forms that appear as nouns, verbs, and adjectives, so all are shown on the cards. For instance, the noun "el calor" (heat) has an adjectival form—"caluroso/a" which is also on the card. The foreign language is printed in black on one side, and the English equivalent is printed on the reverse in green. Use these cards to review and expand vocabulary for any of the above languages.

Vis-Ed Study Card Sets

How to Learn 30 Languages

Hand Gestures in Different Countries

Arepo Books offers books in Latin and other foreign languages such as German, French and Italian. We bring rare and out of print books back at reasonable prices.

Language skills change how your brain works The languages you speak — even the ones you may have heard when you were just an infant — have a lasting effect on how your brain processes information, researchers find.

Say what? 11 untranslatable words from other cultures [Infographic]

British, The Very Best Of the difference between American and British colloquialisms
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Rosetta Stone Language Learning

Video: The Rosetta Stone documentary

After watching this, your brain will not be the same | Lara Boyd, TEDxVancouver recent discoveries about the brain.

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Fluent Forever - Anki


99 strange collective animal names

Whether it's a shrewdness of apes or a zeal of zebras, lots of animals have bizarre names when they cluster into crowds.

A parliament of burrowing owls in Florida. (Photo: Tania Thomson/Shutterstock)

A conspiracy of ring-tailed lemurs. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images)

An ostentation of Indian peacocks. (Photo: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

Brain Remapping From Learning a New Language

Interest spurred by movie Arrival - link to my ingo

How Learning a New Language Changes Your Brain - At Any Age

Researchers from Penn State University in the US have found that learning a language will change the structure of your brain and make the network that pulls it all together more efficient - and the improvements can be experienced at any age.

Every time you learn something new, you’re strengthening your brain. Just like physical exercise strengthens your various muscles, tissues and organs, the more you exercise specific areas in the brain, the stronger and more connected those areas will become.

The Penn State team decided to observe the brain activity of native English-speakers as they went through the process of learning Chinese - specifically, Mandarin - vocabulary. They gathered 39 volunteers of varying ages and scanned their brains over a six-week period as half of them took part in language lessons and the other half acted as control subjects. The participants were put through two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, one before the experiment began and then another one after six weeks, and the team observed the physical changes that had occurred.

The team found that, compared to the group that didn’t participate in the language lessons, the group that did had undergone several structural and functional changes in their brains. First off, their brain networks had become better integrated, which means they're more flexible and allows for faster and more efficient learning. They also found that those who excelled in the language lessons had more integrated networks than the brains of those who struggled, even before the experiment had begun, suggesting that they habitually sought out new things to learn and exercise their brains with.

The way the researchers determined the level of connectivity and efficiency of their participants’ brain networks was by analysing the strength and direction of the connections between specific regions of the brain that become active in learning. The stronger these connections - or edges - are between one area to the next, the faster and more efficiently they can work together as a whole network.

The team also found that the language-learning participants ended up with increased density in their grey matter and that their white matter tissue had been strengthened. Grey matter is a type of neural tissue that encompasses various regions in the brain associated with muscle control, memory formation, emotions, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, and it’s white matter’s job to connect these grey matter regions together in the brain’s cerebrum, sort of like a train line for your brain.

"The evidence reviewed so far portrays a picture that is highly consistent with structural neuroplasticity observed for other domains,” the team concludes in the Journal of Neurolinguistics. “Second language experience-induced brain changes, including increased grey matter (GM) density and white matter (WM) integrity, can be found in children, young adults, and the elderly; can occur rapidly with short-term language learning or training; and are sensitive to age, age of acquisition, proficiency or performance level, language-specific characteristics, and individual differences."

The researchers are now working on figuring out how to teach language in new, very different ways to maximise these functional and structural changes in the brain, including the use of 3D virtual environments.

"A very interesting finding is that, contrary to previous studies, the brain is much more plastic than we thought,” said lead researcher and professor of psychology, linguistics and information sciences and technology, Ping Li, in a press release. "We can still see anatomical changes in the brain [in the elderly], which is very encouraging news for ageing."

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter, NYTimes

Importance of Language – Why Learning a Second Language is Important, Trinity U, DC

What Happens in the Brain When You learn a Language?, Corp Training 5-6-19

In recent times, more people are learning new languages than ever before. The uptake of multilingualism has been the focus of so many in an unprecedented way. This could be attributed greatly to globalization where the world has turned into a ‘global village’ thanks to advancements in communication and transport.

However, did you also know that learning a new language can, figuratively, open your mind and create more opportunities for you? What exactly happens to your brain when you’re in the process of learning a foreign language? Well, the brain literally expands.

Your Brain Expands

Learning a second language can cause your brain to grow in size. This was discovered by scientists from Lund University in Sweden after months of practical research. The researchers analyzed the brain sizes of Swedish Armed Forces recruits before and after they underwent language training. At the Armed Forces Academy, recruits learn foreign languages like Arabic and Russian at a highly accelerated pace. In the academy, unlike typical language schools, language classes last from morning till evening every single day, including weekends.

For comparison purposes, the scientists took MRI scans of medical students at a local university. As Medicine is a highly technical course, learning is as rigorous, if not more demanding, as the language classes in the Armed Forces Academy. After 3 months, MRI scans of both groups were taken and surprise, the brain sizes of the medical students remained constant. For the military recruits, scans showed growth in several parts of their brains including the hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

Roles of the Hippocampus and Cerebral Cortex

Both the hippocampus and cerebral cortex are heavily involved in language learning processes. The hippocampus primarily serves as a link between incoming words and related items stored in the brain. The cerebral cortex, however, plays a more prominent role in learning a new language. This is achieved through the Broca’s and Wernicke’s Areas. The former is involved in the production of oral speech while the latter deals with the interpretation of oral and written speech.

Language Comprehension Is Faster in Children


Benefits of Multilingualism

Preliminary research indicates that being multilingual improves one’s memory, communication, and multitasking skills. People speaking two or more languages are also said to be more cognitively creative and more aware of their environment. Finally, some studies show that mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia tend to occur much later in people who speak more than one language.

What happens in the brain when you learn a language?, The Guardian

Learning a foreign language can increase the size of your brain.

Looking at functional MRI brain scans can also tell us what parts of the brain are active during a specific learning task. For example, we can see why adult native speakers of a language like Japanese cannot easily hear the difference between the English “r” and “l” sounds (making it difficult for them to distinguish “river” and “liver” for example). Unlike English, Japanese does not distinguish between “r” and “l” as distinct sounds. Instead, a single sound unit (known as a phoneme) represents both sounds.

When presented with English words containing either of these sounds, brain imaging studies show that only a single region of a Japanese speaker’s brain is activated, whereas in English speakers, two different areas of activation show up, one for each unique sound.

For Japanese speakers, learning to hear and produce the differences between the two phonemes in English requires a rewiring of certain elements of the brain’s circuitry. What can be done? How can we learn these distinctions?

Early language studies based on brain research have shown that Japanese speakers can learn to hear and produce the difference in “r” and “l” by using a software program that greatly exaggerates the aspects of each sound that make it different from the other.

When the sounds were modified and extended by the software, participants were more easily able to hear the difference between the sounds. In one study, after only three 20-minute sessions (just a single hour’s worth), the volunteers learned to successfully distinguish the sounds, even when the sounds were presented as part of normal speech.

This sort of research might eventually lead to advances in the use of technology for second-language learning.

Brain imaging research may eventually help us tailor language learning methods to our cognitive abilities, telling us whether we learn best from formal instruction that highlights rules, immersing ourselves in the sounds of a language, or perhaps one followed by the other.

However we learn, this recent brain-based research provides good news. We know that people who speak more than one language fluently have better memories and are more cognitively creative and mentally flexible than monolinguals. Canadian studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease and the onset of dementia are diagnosed later for bilinguals than for monolinguals, meaning that knowing a second language can help us to stay cognitively healthy well into our later years.

Even more encouraging is that bilingual benefits still hold for those of us who do not learn our second languages as children.

How Learning A Language Benefits Your Brain, Babbel Magazine 6-2017

Growing The Brain

Tuning Out Distractions - better focus

Delaying Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia

BBC - Future - The amazing fertility of the older mind, 28 August 2017

It’s never too late to learn – if you go about it in the right way.

If you ever fear that you are already too old to learn a new skill, remember Priscilla Sitienei, a midwife from Ndalat in rural Kenya. Having grown up without free primary school education, she had never learnt to read or write. As she approached her twilight years, however, she wanted to note down her experiences and knowledge to pass down to the next generation. And so, she started to attend lessons at the local school – along with six of her great-great-grandchildren. She was 90 at the time.

We are often told that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – that the grizzled adult brain simply can’t absorb as much information as an impressionable young child’s. Many people would assume that you simply couldn’t pick up a complex skill like reading or writing, at the age of 90, after a lifetime of being illiterate.

The latest studies from psychology and neuroscience show that these extraordinary achievements need not be the exception. Although you may face some extra difficulties at 30, 50 – or 90 – your brain still has an astonishing ability to learn and master many new skills, whatever your age. And the effort to master a new discipline may be more than repaid in maintaining and enhancing your overall cognitive health.

Wax tablets

The prevailing, pessimistic, view of the ageing mind can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks. In his treatise De Memoria et Reminiscentia, Aristotle compared human memory to a wax tablet. At birth, the wax is hot and pliable, but as it cools it becomes too tough and brittle to form distinct impressions – and our memory suffers as a result.

Yet a closer look at the data paints a somewhat rosier picture. Analysing the census records of immigrants, Ellen Bialystok at York University in Toronto showed that the immigrants fluency appeared to decline very gradually with the age at arrival, rather than a drop off a cliff predicted by a critical period. And that may have been partly due to the fact that the children simply had more opportunities to master the language, with the support of schools and their classmates. Or perhaps children are simply less inhibited and aren’t so scared about making mistakes.


Hemon’s profound mastery of expression should have been near impossible if language acquisition had to fall within a critical period for us to achieve true fluency. But his sheer determination and the urgency of the situation fuelled his power to learn.

Amazing progress is still possible in many different fields, and adults may find that they can make up for some of the deficits with their greater capacity for analysis, self-reflection – and discipline.

The scientific literature is now dotted with case studies of older adults performing amazing mnemonic feats, including a septuagenarian who learnt to recite all 10,565 lines of John Milton’s Paradise Lost for public performance. Such extended neuroplasticity also seems to be reflected in more recent studies of the brain’s anatomy, revealing that the adult brain is far more fertile than expected, and more than capable of sprouting the connections necessary for profound learning.

Keeping in shape seems to be particularly important for maintaining that plasticity, as exercise helps to release a flood of neurotransmitters and hormones that are known to promote the growth of new brain cells and synapses.

Through a string of recent experiments, Dayna Touron at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has shown that older adults (60 and over) frequently underestimate the power of their own memories, leading to some bad habits that fail to make the best use of their minds.

In one (deliberately tedious) study, Touron’s participants had to compare a reference table of word pairings (like ‘dog’ and ‘table’) with a second list, and then identify which words had not appeared in the original table. The word pairings were not difficult to learn, and by the end most people – of all ages – would have been able recite them. But the older adults – aged 60 and over – were more reluctant to rely on their memory, preferring instead to laboriously cross-reference the two tables, even though it took significantly more time. For some reason, they weren’t confident that they had learnt the pairs accurately – and so took the more cautious, but time-consuming, strategy.

Eventually, that lack of confidence may become a self-fulfilling prophecy – as your memory skills slowly decline through lack of use. On the plus side, she has found that simply giving the older adults feedback on their performance – and underlining the accuracy of their memory – can encourage them to rely more on their recall. “I think it does offer an optimistic picture,” she says.

Break through those psychological barriers to learning, and you may soon see some widespread and profound benefits, including a sharper mind overall. As evidence, Touron points to research by Denise Park at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Park first divided her 200 participants into groups and assigned them to a programme of different activities for 15 hours a week for three months. Some were offered the opportunity to learn new skills – quilting, digital photography, or both – that would challenge their long-term memory and attention as they followed complex instructions. Others were given more passive tasks, such as listening to classical music or completing crossword puzzles, or social activities – such as field trips to local sites of interest. At the beginning and the end of the three months, Parks also gave the participants a memory test.

Of all the participants, only the subjects learning the quilting or the photography enjoyed a significant improvement – with 76% of the photographers showing a higher score at the second memory test, for instance. A later brain scan found that this seemed to be reflected in lasting changes to circuits in the medial frontal, lateral temporal, and parietal cortex - areas associated with attention and concentration. Overall, the more active pastime of learning a new skill led to the more efficient brain activity you might observe in a younger brain, while the passive activities like listening to music brought no changes. Crucially, these benefits were long-lasting, lingering for more than a year after the participants had completed their course.

Although the specific activities that Park chose – photography or quilting – may not appeal to everyone, she suspects the same benefits could emerge from many other hobbies. The essential point is to choose something that is unfamiliar, and which requires prolonged and active mental engagement as you cultivate a new set of behaviours. “it’s important that the task is novel and that it challenges you personally,” Park says. If you are a pianist, you might find greater benefits from learning a language say, than attempting to pick up the organ; if you are a painter, you might take up a sport like tennis.

So why not give it a go yourself and attempt to stretch your mind beyond its comfort zone? As Priscilla Sitienei – the 90-year-old Kenyan great-great-grandmother – put it: “Education has no age limit.”

Exploring cross-linguistic vocabulary effects on brain structures using voxel-based morphometry, Europe PMC 2007 Jul 1

Given that there are neural markers for the acquisition of a non-verbal skill, we review evidence of neural markers for the acquisition of vocabulary. Acquiring vocabulary is critical to learning one’s native language and to learning other languages. Acquisition requires the ability to link an object concept (meaning) to sound. Is there a region sensitive to vocabulary knowledge? For monolingual English speakers, increased vocabulary knowledge correlates with increased grey matter density in a region of the parietal cortex that is well-located to mediate an association between meaning and sound (the posterior supramarginal gyrus). Further this region also shows sensitivity to acquiring a second language. Relative to monolingual English speakers, Italian-English bilinguals show increased grey matter density in the same region.

Differences as well as commonalities might exist in the neural markers for vocabulary where lexical distinctions are also signalled by tone. Relative to monolingual English, Chinese multilingual speakers, like European multilinguals, show increased grey matter density in the parietal region observed previously. However, irrespective of ethnicity, Chinese speakers (both Asian and European) also show highly significant increased grey matter density in two right hemisphere regions (the superior temporal gyrus and the inferior frontal gyrus). They also show increased grey matter density in two left hemisphere regions (middle temporal and superior temporal gyrus). Such increases may reflect additional resources required to process tonal distinctions for lexical purposes or to store tonal differences in order to distinguish lexical items. We conclude with a discussion of future lines of enquiry.

An important question in neurolinguistics is the extent to which the universal ability to acquire language alters neuroanatomy as a function of the type and number of languages acquired. Understanding such changes will help identify the structures and networks involved in acquisition. In order to address this question we need a technique that can identify adaptive changes if they exist in an unbiased and objective manner. In order to undertake the exploration, we need reasons to believe that experience-dependent changes exist in other domains. Next, we need to sharpen our question. We focus on a fundamental aspect of language acquisition – the acquisition of vocabulary. We ask if there are neural markers for the acquisition of vocabulary and whether there are cross-linguistic differences in these markers. Our review paper follows this structure of enquiry.

Study: Mastering a new language can promote neural flexibility and increase learning speed, SharpBrains 7 Sep 2016


For English speakers these include the umlauted vowels ö and ü. Fortunately, there is a very effective method you can use for arriving at these sounds. To pronounce the ö-sound, say “ay” as in day (or as in the German word See). While continuing to make this sound, tightly round your lips.

How do you pronounce O with an umlaut in Swedish?

How to say ÅÄÖ (Swedish Umlauts)

oa two sounds for long A with circle on top.

ah, as in loch, for short A with circle on top.

A with umlaut over is a as in bat.

O with umlaut over. Uh as in tub.

Lingua Franca

Lingua Franca, Wikipedia

Six Official languages of the United Nations Colby Glass, MLIS