Tag: Languages

Chinatown Face-off: Mandarin vs. Cantonese

Until recently, Cantonese dominated the conversation in Chinatowns around North America. Now “Mandarin is pushing into Chinatown’s heart,” writes Kirk Semple. He writes:

The change can be heard in the neighborhood’s lively restaurants and solemn church services, in parks, street markets and language schools. It has been accelerated by Chinese-American parents, including many who speak Cantonese at home, as they press their children to learn Mandarin for the advantages it could bring as China’s influence grows in the world.

The Economist: Americanisms to Avoid

Here’s an entertaining tidbit from The Economist’s style guide, advising writers for the venerable British weekly on a few American-style variations of the English language that are best left unused. A sample:

Make a deep study or even a study in depth, but not an in-depth study. On-site inspections are allowed, but not in-flight entertainment. Throw stones, not rocks, unless they are of slate, which can also mean abuse (as a verb) but does not, in Britain, mean predict, schedule or nominate. Regular is not a synonym for ordinary or normal: Mussolini brought in the regular train, All-Bran the regular man; it is quite normal to be without either. Hikes are walks, not increases. Vegetables, not teenagers, should be fresh. Only the speechless are dumb, the well-dressed smart and the insane mad. Scenarios are best kept for the theatre, postures for the gym, parameters for the parabola.

And some people think there are no cultural differences to speak of between Americans and their trans-Atlantic neighbors—or should I say neighbours? (Via Gadling)

New Addition to the Travel Lexicon: ‘Hyperforeignism’

Per Kottke, it’s “the mispronunciation of words borrowed from foreign languages…but it’s actually a sort of an over-pronunciation, so correct that’s it circle [sic] back around to incorrect again.” So for instance, instead of mispronouncing “prix fixe” as “pricks ficks” you might go with “pree fee”—when the correct version is actually something closer to “pree ficks.”

Turn Up the Tunes, Break Out Your Phrasebooks

Elyse Franko wonders: Is the United States at the beginning of a linguistic musical revolution?

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50 Things Being Killed Off by the Internet

The Telegraph compiles a funny list. Among the species-at-risk: geographical knowledge, and the mystery of foreign languages. Matthew Moore writes: “Sites like Babelfish offer instant, good-enough translations of dozens of languages—but kill their beauty and rhythm.” (Via Outside the Beltway)

Living Among Incompatibles

Torii in Japan Photo by tiseb via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

Why Japan has the best mind Pico Iyer has encountered in a lifetime of traveling

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Gay Travel Book in Translation Trouble

Long-time Frommers writer Michael Luongo’s “Gay Travels in the Muslim World” has become the first gay-focused English language book to be translated into Arabic. The only catch? Every instance of the word “gay” has been translated to read “pervert.” Luongo had planned a Middle Eastern promotional tour, but, as he told Page Six, “this has thrown a wrench into the plans. Imagine standing in front of a crowd declaring yourself a pervert. So far I have avoided real fatwas, though I’ve been told the Taliban produced a Web site condemning the book. But with this new title, who knows?” (Via The Book Bench)

Hawaiian for Travelers: It’s About the Vowels

Hawaiian for Travelers: It’s About the Vowels Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Aloha and mahalo. Those will get you out of the gate in Hawaii, though it’s also handy to get a good grasp on mauka —inland—and makai —towards the sea, just in case you find yourself getting directions from locals.

A few more words might make their way into your vocabulary, especially when it comes to food—there’s poke and poi and ahi and ono. I learned how to say no problem or thanks—a’ole pilikia—from a park ranger and I can read Hawaiian out loud with a halting conviction, but there’s no way I understand it. I still stumble over directions and streets signs—Hi’ilawe and Ali’i and Ala Wai and Kapiolani and Kalakaua—they all start to run together in this haole’s mind. We were going where, now?

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Shrinking Planet Headline of the Day: ‘Facebook Swahili Version Launched’

Facebook is now available in roughly 50 languages, and Swahili was the second African language to get its own version of the social networking site, the BBC reports.

English Hits the One-Million-Word Mark

And the milestone word? Web 2.0. The Global Language Monitor, an online agency that tracks English word use, made its official announcement yesterday, and noted that the new addition was “indicative of the age.” You can debate the methodology that they used in determining the million-word threshold (as plenty of commenters on the story I linked to have) but, as someone whose traveling life is totally wrapped up in—and made possible by—the web, I’d certainly agree with that second point.

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Mixed Signals: When A-OK is not Okay

Osh, Kyrgysztan REUTERS/Viktor Korotayev

On the intersection of place, politics and culture

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American Regionalisms Redux

We know that loads of you take notice of regional speak as you do your state-to-state wandering. So you’ll definitely want to know about this. But even if you don’t normally listen up for regionalisms and English is your first language, you’re still not off the hook when it comes to Frank Bures’ recommendation that travelers tote along a dictionary on trips.

No, thanks to several decades of work by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there’s a nearly-complete multivolume dictionary that will help you understand what’s going on when you get invited to a “pitch-in” in Indiana or which “scrimptions” you should save down South.

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Eight Books You Shouldn’t Travel Without

Eight Books You Shouldn’t Travel Without iStockPhoto

Build bigger back muscles! Get more out of every trip! Quasi-Luddite Frank Bures explains.

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What We Loved This Week: Twitter, Portland’s Cheap Eats, ‘Before Sunrise’ and More

Our contributors share a favorite travel-related experience from the past seven days:

Valerie Conners
Trip-planning via Twitter and the fabulous tweeps following @worldhum. I’m heading to Buenos Aires in April and have been posting questions out to our twitterverse of followers, looking for tips on sights, food, estancia tours and more—the response has been so warm and incredibly helpful. What an amazing resource. Some great ideas have crossed my path and are making their way into my itinerary.

Eva Holland
I watched one of my favorite travel movies, “Before Sunrise,” again for the first time in a couple of years and was thrilled to find that none of the crazy, spontaneous magic of Jesse and Celine’s one night in Vienna had worn off. Here’s a classic sequence:

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Morning Links: A Wordy Map of St. Petersburg, the Joy of L.A. Traffic and More

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Heard on the Tokyo Street: ‘Yes, We Can’

They loved him in Canada last week for buying maple leaf cookies, but in Japan, they’re hanging on Barack Obama’s every word. It seems the President’s speeches have kicked off the latest language-learning trend among English-crazy Japanese. In the country’s ubiquitous English schools, teachers are urging students to memorize Obama’s speeches line by line, with a passion to match. Reports the Wall Street Journal: “‘The Speeches of Barack Obama,’ a best-selling book that comes with a CD and a glossary for phrases like ‘spin master’ and ‘stop-gap measures,’ sold 480,000 copies in Japan in three months.” I think that qualifies as a trend.

Funny, I haven’t tried this approach in my long struggle to learn Mandarin. Hu Jintao’s speeches somehow lack equivalent ... charisma.

Morning Links: Holidays in Banda Aceh, ‘Slavery Theme Park’ and More

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Regional American Words: Is That a Pork Steak in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Regional American Words: Is That a Pork Steak in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me? Photo by procsilas via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by procsilas via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Pop? Soda? Coke?

Hoagie? Grinder? Sub?

These questions are about as basic as it gets when it comes to American regionalisms—yet who doesn’t want to duke it out in defense of their hometown heroes (or grinders)? Just watch what happens in the comments sections (hopefully it happens) when I declare the answers to be soda and sub. (Please, if you disagree, just don’t hurl your hoagie at me.) If you’ve ever discussed either one of those, then you’re going to want to meet Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, hosts of A Way With Words. The public radio show is “Car Talk for language,” says Barrett. “People call us about their questions and peeves and just observations about language, things they’ve always wanted to know or things they heard on television last night, and we help them get to the bottom of it.” Adds Barnette: “We talk just about everything having to do with language. That means grammar, punctuation, slang, regionalisms, word origins and usage. A lot of times we’ll get couples who have had an ongoing [word] fight for years ... or there’s a dispute in somebody’s office. They call us and we make our pronouncements.”

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Morning Links: God and Jerry Springer in Italy, a Tourist in Falluja and More

Morning Links: God and Jerry Springer in Italy, a Tourist in Falluja and More Photo of U.S.-Mexico border by Allen Ormond, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of U.S.-Mexico border by Allen Ormond, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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What We Loved This Week: Flip Video, Language Lessons, Pandora and More

Our contributors share a favorite travel-related experience from the past seven days.

Michael Yessis
I love this response to the news that Birmingham will do away with apostrophes on street signs: “If you don’t have apostrophes, is there any point in full stops, or semi-colons, or question marks? Is there any point in punctuation at all?” Indeed.

Sophia Dembling
I already love my Flip Video camera, a gift from Santahubby. And I love the Hocking Hills region of Ohio. Now I learn that the Hocking Hills Tourism Association is lending Flip Ultra cameras to visitors staying at an association member property, no cost. Double shot of love! (Triple, if you count Santahubby.)

Eva Holland
This might sound crazy considering the array of not-available-elsewhere experiences that New York City offers, but what I loved most about my first full week here was having access to Pandora again. The site, which helps listeners discover more music similar to their old favorites, cut off all non-U.S. users awhile back. Yesterday, I plugged in “Etta James,” and have been enjoying Candi Staton ever since:

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