October, 2011

Language cartoons

Tweet Here is a link with a series of cartoons about language.  Any one of them would go well on a teacher’s door…….   http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/plc/clpp/images/cartoons/cartoons.html  

Stereotypes in writing essays

Tweet Students often use stereotypes to support their ideas.  They will write, “Everyone thinks teenagers are lazy,” or “City people are rude,” or “People in Mississippi are prejudiced.” They do this without a second thought, and, of course, it is up to their teacher to make them think a second time.  Some stereotypes are so […]


Tweet I teach two types of classes:  students from varying international backgrounds, mostly children of immigrants, at Montclair State University; and international students who have one week to orient themselves before beginning their university studies at Stevens Institute of Technology; this year, they are mostly from China and Malaysia, with one student from Saudi Arabia, […]

Minimal pairs

Tweet One assignment for my mostly-Chinese ESL class was to transcribe the words of the song “Danny Boy” from a Youtube clip.  The results were fascinating both for the way they constructed meaning out of the sporadic hints they gleaned from the clip, and for the way they created words out of similar hints. One […]

Raising bilingual babies

Tweet Some of my friends are raising their children bilingual.  One couple of lives in Austria — the father is Austrian, the mother is Czech.  Another lives in Washington DC — the father is American, the mother is German.  The couples speak both languages at home, but they also take their children back to the […]

The Value of Multilingualism

Tweet This post is excerpted from an article which appeared on www.freshbusinessthinking.com.  The information was harvested in the UK — a similar study in the U.S. would be welcome.  Why wait for the studies though?  In our hunt for greater exports, this could be important: Cardiff University’s 2007 ‘Costing Babel’ research revealed that UK businesses miss […]

Saving Endangered Languages ….. a few last reasons

Tweet Here are a last few thoughts on the reasons to save endangered languages, the last of a series of posts. Languages are interesting.  Each language leads to a troves of knowledge about the human brain, human behavior, and human systems of governance. It also keeps us humble – languages discovered by colonialists were dismissed […]

Saving Endangered Languages … still more

Tweet Here are a few more reasons why we should make the effort to save endangered languages. Languages contain our history.  Take away Shakespeare, Pepys, Wordsworth, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neill, Stephen Sondheim, and a host of other poets, authors, and lyricists and much of English speaking culture becomes invisible. As the Irish seek […]

Saving Endangered Languages…. more

Tweet There is a current belief that perhaps consolidating into fewer language groups will grease the wheels of peace, progress, trade, and education, but I disagree.  Many of the reasons why have been summed up beautifully in the prolific author David Crystal’s book, Language Death. Anyone interested in the subject will find a thoughtful and […]

Saving Endangered Languages

Tweet A few thousand languages are endangered.  Should we care?  The next few posts will be on this subject. There is a certain pathos to the idea of a single speaker, master of a language nobody speaks anymore, living in a hut somewhere alone and unable to communicate.  In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond conjures […]