Taiwanese teachers to teach Chinese to military in Honduras

Monday, October 31, 2011

From here in Spanish today:

Volunteer teachers from Taiwan arrived in Tegucigalpa today to start Chinese language training to soldiers in Honduras, according to an official source.

"I have received some teachers from Taiwan that are going to teach us Mandarin", said Porfirio Moreno, the director of the Centre of Languages at the Armed Forces of Honduras to reporters.

He said that the arrival of the teachers is made possible thanks to an agreement between the military attache of the Embassy of Taiwan in Tegucigalpa and representatives of the Armed Forces of Honduras. He explained that the Taiwanese teachers would stay in the country for two years, during which the government of Honduras would provide food, lodging and transportation.

"The Mandarin language has a bright future and for that we have officers who serve as interpreters to the work team from mainland China which is constructing the hydroelectric project Patuca III in Honduras", he said...The agreement between the government of Honduras and Sinohydro states that major works for the dam would be completed in October 2013, and it would go into commercial operation in 2014. The new hydroelectric dam will generate 104 megavolts, produced by two Kaplan turbines of 52 megawatts each.


German language increasingly popular in Europe (South and East Europe in particular)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

From here today in German:

The German language is experiencing a renaissance in Europe. After years of stagnating numbers the Goethe-Institut is showing a dramatically increased interest in the German language among young people in South and East Europe...the greatest increase is that in the Goethe-Instituts in Madrid and Barcelona, with up to 70% more than a year before, but also in Ireland and Hungary there is an increase of 10% and 30% in the number of students. In Greece German is becoming more popular, with every second high school student choosing it as their second foreign language. Ten years ago this was only one in five.


Visualizing the size of asteroid 2005 YU55

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2005 YU55 will be making its closest approach to Earth in just ten days, and excitement is really beginning to build about this event - basically a free flyby except that the entire Earth gets to fly by it instead of just a probe. As I often do, I would like to give an idea of exactly how big this asteroid is. It's about 400 metres in diameter, and round. So let's take an image of a fictional asteroid...and put a bus on it.

Going with the bus is because it's far too large to be able to properly visualize a human on the surface - a human ends up being something in between one and two pixels in length.

Now, exactly how are observations going to take place? A page here from NASA goes into great detail:


Note in particular its slow rotation (18 hours). Refinements to what we know of its orbit will continue to be made in the days leading up to the flyby as at closest approach it will be moving quite fast.

Also quite interesting is that while 2005 YU55 will fly by us at 0.85 lunar distances, it will fly by the moon itself at a somewhat closer 0.62 lunar distances; if we had people on the moon at present they would be able to contribute to our observations of the asteroid as well.


Chinese language more and more popular in Lithuania

Friday, October 28, 2011

The other day Lyzazel left a comment on a previous post about Chinese language in Norway that deserves its own post. So here it is verbatim:

Just today I read in a local Lithuanian online newspaper that the airlines are soon going to open a new direct flight from Beijing to Vilnius. Some 10,000 Chinese tourists are going to come to Vilnius because of this. Only one guide in Lithuania can give tours in Chinese so the article says that Chinese-speaking guides are going to be in high demand.

Moreover, the Article also mentions that the number of Chinese language and culture (Sinology) students group in Vilnius University has quadrupled in numbers from 12 students every second year to two groups of 12 students every year.

Source: http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/ruosiamasi-kinu-antpludziui-rengiami-gidai-darbui-kinu-kalba.d?id=50977831


Asteroid 2005 YU55 is almost here!

At long last, we're finally going to have a close encounter with the quite large (400 metres in diameter) asteroid 2005 YU55. I mentioned it here and here before, but now we only have a week and a bit left to wait. Space.com's article on the asteroid is quite exciting to read.

With an asteroid this large and a miss distance less than that from the Earth to the moon, this asteroid encounter is basically a flyby for free, but with all the available instruments from Earth turned on it instead of the resources of a single probe. Last year when it passed by at a distance a bit more than five times the Earth to the moon, it looked like this:

So what kind of resolution are we looking to end up with? Well:

"Goldstone will begin observations on Nov. 4 and Arecibo on Nov. 8. Goldstone hopes to get 2- meter resolution from the resulting shape model – which is quite remarkable and comparable, or better than, what would be expected from spacecraft flyby imaging," Yeomans told SPACE.com.

Finally, how large is the surface area of this asteroid? As I often note with irritation, nobody seems to want to give the approximate surface area for asteroids, leaving us without an idea of what it would be like to stand on the surface. 2005 YU55 has a diameter of 400 metres, meaning that the surface area is around 500,000 m2, or half a square kilometre. That's a bit more than Vatican City. Or with a circumference of 1.2 km it would take about 20 minutes to 'walk' around back to the point where you started.

Observations begin Nov. 4 (radio observations), and continue a few days past Nov. 8!


The first Afrikaans - Dutch dictionary released (a few months ago)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Something else I found from a few months back (May 2011) while doing a search through the archives of Beeld:

Why is there a need for such a bilingual dictionary? First, because the two languages have so much in common, but not everyone is aware of where and when they share similarities and this needs to be shown again.

Secondly because Afrikaans and Dutch differ from each other in many ways, and users from both languages don't always know where these differences are. These differences take place in words and idioms, but also in use. For example, the word "kar" in Afrikaans is very neutral, but in Dutch it is a very informal term.

There are now so many translations between Dutch and Afrikaans that translators have a need for such a dictionary.


Percentage of Afrikaans speakers in three South African universities

An article here from a few months back gives some quick numbers to anyone curious:

North-West University (NWU) is now dethroning the University of Pretoria as the "largest Afrikaans university in the country". The latter has 16,400 Afrikaans-speaking students against NWU's 15,300...51% of its student body speaks Afrikaans while that for Tuks (UP) is just 36%. In Stellenbosch, the (previously) oldest Afrikaans university, 48% is Afrikaans.


German students in Brazil at the Goethe-Institut increasing by 10% per year

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

From here in Portuguese:

The interest in learning German has been motivated by a number of factors, among them the requirements imposed by the labour market. Knowing a second language like English and Spanish in many cases is not enough, and young people are motivated to seek fluency in other languages.


According to the director of the Goethe-Institut, the demand for learning German is growing significantly. The institute recorded an increase of 10% in the number of students each year, an average that has been maintained for the past four years.

Interestingly, four years and a bit ago is about when Germany pulled itself out of the economic doldrums.


French nationality applicants must demonstrate proficiency in French from 2012

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From here in French about a week ago:

From the 1st of January 2012, future naturalized French citizens must demonstrate proficiency in the language to obtain citizenship. The two decrees regarding this say that: "All applicants must possess a knowledge of the French language, characterized by an understanding of the key points of the language necessary for carrying out everyday life and everyday life situations, as well as the ability to discuss simply and coherently on topics of personal interest".

The level will not be evaluated any longer in an interview. Applicants for French citizenship must show a degree "at or above the required level", namely the level of compulsory schooling (level B1), and an oral proficiency of the language. For those without a degree, they will have to have a "certificate" delivered by "authorities recognized by the state as being able to import "French language integration"". The list of these agencies is available on the website for the Office français de l'immigration et de l'intégration (OFII).

Since 2003, more than 100,000 people have obtained French nationality each year. According to the business daily Les Echos, citing an estimate from the Ministry of the Interior, "there are around a million foreigners in the country that do not speak French."


Instituto Cervantes: Spanish now second-most spoken language by number of native speakers

Monday, October 24, 2011

From an article here in Spanish, one that mentions something I wrote about a short while ago: that the future of Spanish is very closely tied up with its progress in the US and Brazil, but also very much to do with Mexico and whether it can ever straighten itself out.

Spanish is the official language of 21 countries. In others, such as the United States, it is showing an unstoppable rise, while often being maligned and undervalued. Spanish is now the world's second-most spoken language by native speakers, only behind Chinese and ahead of English. More than 450 million speak Spanish, a number that will increase: in 2030, 7.5% of the world will speak Spanish (note: 450 million now represents 6.4%), and in 2050 the United States will have become the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. All these figures come from the report "El español, un lengua viva" developed last year by the Instituto Cervantes. The report is optimistic about the strength of the language and argues that now "in the moment where global society requires one to be in contact with the most diverse parts of the planet, all data confirm that it is one of the three or four large languages that channel international relations." Its prestige, says the report, will only grow.

Then a paragraph or two about how Spanish was always looked down on as the "Latin of the poor" and had little prestige compared to other Romance languages for a number of centuries...

In addition to the 21 countries where it is the official language, there are two others, the United States and Brazil, where this language has a growing importance.

Remaining issues for Spanish: Europe, where its importance in universities and the business world is still well behind English, French and German, and the internet, where its use is only 7% compared to English at 70%.

What? Spanish at 7% and English at 70%? Impossible - there are about 2 billion internet users in the world and a quarter of them are Chinese. Let's take a closer look at the report itself:


Hm...weird. The report itself doesn't mention any 70% number for English on the internet. The closest thing to it is a chart at the end showing the number of indexed pages per language from 1998 to 2007 where English was once at 75%, but quickly fell to 60% the next year (1999) and to 45% in 2007. Interestingly, the chart shows this during the same time period:

Spanish went from 2.53% to 3.8%
French went from 2.81% to 4.41%
The "rest" went from 13.44% to 36.54%. For some reason this "rest" is never broken down into its constituent parts even though Romanian receives its own section, going from 0.15% to 0.28%.

Some parts of the report are quite good though; I may summarize it in more detail in the near future.


Quick comparison of German and Afrikaans

Sunday, October 23, 2011

For the sake of anyone who wants a really quick comparison of German and Afrikaans I made the following video today:

It's the first ten clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it serves a purpose in showing the two languages side by side but as a translation of another language there is no emphasis on finding cognates between the two. It would be quite easy to take two translations like this and tailor them to create as many cognates as possible, such as replacing the German Religion with Gottesdienst for Afrikaans godsdiens.

Audio from the Afrikaans and German New Testament might have been a better source too, since the phrases there tend to be terser (just take a look at the lengthy articles 2 and 7 for comparison) and the translations more exact, with lots of repetition too. Matthew 5 for example:

1Da er aber das Volk sah, ging er auf einen Berg und setzte sich; und seine Jünger traten zu ihm,En toe Hy die skare sien, het Hy op die berg geklim; en nadat Hy gaan sit het, het sy dissipels na Hom gekom;
2Und er tat seinen Mund auf, lehrte sie und sprach:en Hy het sy mond geopen en hulle geleer en gesê:
3Selig sind, die da geistlich arm sind; denn das Himmelreich ist ihr.Salig is die wat arm van gees is, want aan hulle behoort die koninkryk van die hemele.
4Selig sind, die da Leid tragen; denn sie sollen getröstet werden.Salig is die wat treur, want hulle sal vertroos word.
5Selig sind die Sanftmütigen; denn sie werden das Erdreich besitzen.Salig is die sagmoediges, want hulle sal die aarde beërwe.
6Selig sind, die da hungert und dürstet nach der Gerechtigkeit; denn sie sollen satt werden.Salig is die wat honger en dors na die geregtigheid, want hulle sal versadig word.
7Selig sind die Barmherzigen; denn sie werden Barmherzigkeit erlangen.Salig is die barmhartiges, want aan hulle sal barmhartigheid bewys word.
8Selig sind, die reines Herzens sind; denn sie werden Gott schauen.Salig is die wat rein van hart is, want hulle sal God sien.
9Selig sind die Friedfertigen; denn sie werden Gottes Kinder heißen.Salig is die vredemakers, want hulle sal kinders van God genoem word.


Chinese language more and more popular in Norway

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I think this is the school...
This article from regional NRK news is shy on numbers but references a general trend towards choosing Chinese as a second foreign language after English. It's based in Trondheim and features Sverresborg Secondary School students. In that school this is the third year that Chinese has been an option, and students have to choose a second language after English, usually French, German, Spanish, and also Chinese. The article is kind of random and not exactly the kind of style I enjoy reading through and writing about, but it's a fairly interesting snapshot of increased Chinese interest in a local area in a country quite far from China.

Some interviews with the students, skipping that...right after an interview with one we have "he is one of about 200 Norwegian secondary that have chosen Chinese as their second foreign language, and there are more and more according to the foreign language centre in Halden. Students from every city have in three years taken the bus to Sverresborg Secondary School to learn Chinese, but now the school is able to fill classes with its own students. This is why there are only 10th graders from other schools that travel to Sverresborg to learn the language this year. "We are very pleasantly surprised that so many are interested in learning Chinese. We see an increase from year to year", says Rector Bernt Aune."

After that unsatisfying article I think I'll try to find some clear nationwide information to show exactly how much interest there is in Chinese there compared to X number of years ago.


Praising Rwanda's abolition of the death penalty

Friday, October 21, 2011

One more small article on Rwanda today while we're at it, here in Portuguese:

The co-president of the Association of Parliaments of the European Union and African Countries, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Louis Michel, said on Friday in Kigali that African countries should follow the example of Rwanda which abolished the death penalty in July 2007.

"The abolition of the death penalty (for Rwanda) contributed in a certain way to the reconciliation and justice in the country", he said.

Current capital punishment usage in Africa looks like this:

(red = used as legal punishment, orange = abolished in practice, blue = abolished for all crimes)

The most recent country to abolish it is Gabon in 2011.


Foreign Policy on Rwanda's quest to become Africa's Singapore

This article from Foreign Policy two days ago on Rwanda's quest to become something akin to Africa's Singapore is a very interesting read. There is a linguistic dimension too that the article doesn't get into: Rwanda has recently made English one of its official languages, in addition to the existing Kinyarwanda and French. Having both English and French as official languages makes sense given where it is located - French Africa is just to the west, and a number of countries with English as an official language to the east.

Size is also an advantage here: while an inefficient government is inefficient in even a small state, an efficient government that works well in a small state can still be rendered inefficient by a large and unwieldy geography.


Young university students think manned missions go well out into space

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Read about it here. It seems that a vast majority of university students (and certainly the general public as well) think that we are going out much farther into space on manned missions than we actually are. No surprise about the complacency most seem to feel about exploring it, since if we believe we are already progressing on the manned exploration front there's no reason to want a change.

One point I disagree with the writer on: there are some situations where simple technological progress has made things much easier in spite of less being spent per capita on space, such as the recent ARTEMIS mission that was sent to the moon for free thanks to some amazing orbital calculations.


Alice in Wonderland now available in new and improved Latin

This is news from the Auxlang mailing list today: Alice in Wonderland, previously available in Latin, has been re-released in Latin. Why has it been released again?


Hōc in librō offertur lēctōrī nova ēditiō fābulae "Alicia in Terrā Mīrābilī" in Latīnum annō 1964ō ā Clive Harcourt Carruthers conversae.
In this book we present a new edition of Clive Harcourt Carruthers' 1964 translation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Latin.

Differt ā prīmā ēditiōne duābus praecipuīs rēbus:
It differs from Carruthers' original text chiefly in two ways:

cum quod discrīmen nunc servātur inter "i" litteram vōcālem et "j" litteram vim cōnsonantis habentem,
a regular distinction between the vowel "i" and the consonant "j" has been made,

tum quod omnēs vōcālēs longae sunt līneolīs superscrīptīs ōrnātae.
and long vowels are marked with macrons consistently throughout.

Omnium vōcālium longitūdinēs dīligenter exquīsītae sunt,
All vowels have been carefully investigated,

etiam in syllabīs positiōne longīs.
including the vowels in syllables long by position.

In pauciōribus syllabīs, quārum vōcālium longitūdinēs aut nunc incertae sunt,
In a few isolated cases where the classical vowel lengths are in dispute,

aut manifestē etiam antīquīs temporibus vacillābant, vōcālēs sine līneolīs scrīptae sunt.
or where usage evidently vacillated, the vowels have been left unmarked.

Glōssārium Latīnō-Anglicum in ultimō librō magnopere auctum est.
The Latin-English glossary at the end has been greatly enlarged.

Praeter ferē vīgintī Neolatīna vocābula locūtiōnēsque, ut in prīmā ēditiōne,
Instead of treating only a few Neo-Latin words and phrases peculiar to this book,

hoc novum glōssārium etiam complectitur plūs ducenta vocābula antīqua tīrōnibus inūsitātiōria.the extended glossary now also covers over two hundred less common classical words.

Spērāmus fore ut glōssāriō auctō multō plūrēs lēctōrēs
It is our hope that this will enable a much larger group of our readers

sine aliōrum lexicōrum ūsū ex hōc librō magnam capiant voluptatem.to enjoy Carruthers' translation without having to resort to external dictionaries.


Link roundup for 18 October 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Most of these are about space:


The most notable news this week in space is certainly this, the launching of Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic flights will launch from. Test flights are still ongoing, but soon the tickets to space (for a few minutes) at $200,000 a piece will become a reality.

This article on Russian and European interest in underground caverns on the moon is a good reminder that nobody besides the US is actually looking at sending a manned mission to Mars, and even the US doesn't plan to do anything manned and Mars-related until the mid-2030s with a flyby mission to the planet. Meanwhile the moon could begin to be colonized by other countries by even the next decade.

This article is just on a police campaign in Toronto to increase community awareness, but the location is interesting: the Centro de Língua Portuguesa –Instituto Camões in Toronto. Looks like this is one way that the centre makes a bit of money.

According to this, Good Housekeeping in South Africa now publishes in Afrikaans. The cover of the next issue looks like this:

Dawn and Vesta: now we know a little bit more about the fascinating south pole. It turns out that there are actually two impact basins, one perhaps a billion years older than the other. This image shows their location:

Also a nice reminder of how much we can see of Vesta compared to before arrival:

And finally this short interview (6 minutes long) on what we have learned about brown dwarf stars over the past few weeks - it seems that they can actually form at masses below 13 times Jupiter's mass, which was thought to be the lower limit for the deuterium-burning reaction they exhibit.


How to learn any language forum thread on the second most useful language after English

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This forum thread started a few days ago has a lot of interesting discussion on the second most useful language after English (whichever it is), future potential, and by what criteria one judges this. The thread is of course focused on 'objective' criteria - pretty much anything but personal interest and one's personal situation with family, friends, etc.

The three languages most voted on are Spanish, French and Chinese. If I could pick all three I would have gone with those three too. A short explanation of the strengths and weaknesses for each of the three, plus what may make or break their future standing, are as follows:

Spanish: very broad, shallow strength. Spoken in a huge number of countries; only a few of these have an economy of a size worth mentioning. What will make or break Spanish's future as an influential language (not in any specific order): the economy of Mexico and how it resolves its drug war, its status in the United States, and its status in South America, namely whether many or most Brazilians end up with a functional fluency in the language.

French: a combination of a great amount of centralized strength (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, etc.) and a lot of unknown potential in sub-Saharan Africa. What will make or break French's future as an influential language is the latter area, the one area where it is seeing phenomenal growth (7 million or so extra speakers a year). By 2050 there should be about a half billion extra people in that area, and what role French plays + the economic prosperity and overall well-being of the region is crucial.

Chinese: almost entirely centralized strength, besides the large diaspora. The future of the Chinese language rests almost entirely on a single country, and a single government. In the forum thread nway (our friendly neighborhood poster here as well) argues for Chinese as the most influential second language, and in the (near) future this could certainly be the case. It will require one thing though: the wowing of the rest of Asia. Chinese cannot simply be the language that you want to learn to make a buck in trading or what have you, it has to have a certain appeal that English holds at the moment - the promise of a better life, career fulfillment, access to knowledge you can't get anywhere else, access to an intelligent and refined culture. China is still seen in many Asian countries as a producer of cheap goods. Tons of high-speed rail, an expanding space program, investments in alternative energy etc. are beginning to change that.

One other point made (on page 5 or so I think) is also very good: that the relevance of a language other than English depends a lot on the usefulness or uselessness of English in the region. German for example has a fairly low level of influence as a language simply because it is so easy to find good English speakers there - learning German by non-Germans is done by people that really like the country or the language, not people that just want to get by. On the other hand Russian, Chinese etc. are spoken in places where it is often quite hard to find anyone that speaks English, and they have an extra use in their own countries that languages like German/Norwegian/Danish/etc. have a hard time with.

The best part of the thread though is this:


(and the first page, but I think there was a problem with image hosting there)

It's chart after chart comparing the influence of certain languages and their various economic benchmarks in much greater detail than I have ever done. They go by:

2050 population
Film industries by monetary value
Projected GDP growth
Global cities
Life expectancy per GDP per capita
Student achievement
Nominal GDP
Busiest airports
Busiest container ports
Top universities
Business and wealth

...and a few others.


October 17 to 21 is the week of the Italian language

Monday, October 17, 2011

If you do a search for lingua italiana on Google News in Italian now you'll see a lot of articles on the week of the Italian language in various locations throughout the world. The theme for this year is quite easy: 150 years since Italian unification. Some examples of the events taking place:

This article on events in Montreal - mostly films, some talks.

This article on events in Bratislava (Slovakia) - the main event here seems to be a concert by Cecilia Bartoli.

This one on Georgia - two lectures, a dramatic reading, a film and an exhibition. Mostly in Tbilisi.

This one is by far the most detailed, with a short explanation of what will be taking place in each city mentioned. While detailed, it's obviously not the complete list as it doesn't have any of the cities from the above articles.


Brazil's promotion of Portuguese in the Middle East to begin in Beirut

Sunday, October 16, 2011

From here in Portuguese.
Brazil is promoting the teaching of Portuguese language and culture in the Middle East. The Brazil-Lebanon Cultural Centre, opened in late April in Beirut, went into operation today. The first Portuguese class already has 100 students enrolled. 
The institute is linked to the Brazilian embassy in Lebanon and is the first of its type in the region. According to the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Brazil, the intent is to make it a centre of teacher training and the development of instructional materials for teaching Portuguese to people in the Middle East. 
The Centre will also take care of applications for the CELPE BRAS Portuguese language test.
The Centre will work in the neighborhood of Achrafieh in Beirut, in a building of traditional Lebanese 19th-century architecture that the Brazilian government has leased.


Equatorial Guinea makes Portuguese its third official language

Saturday, October 15, 2011

From here:

The National Assembly of Equatorial Guinea approved Portuguese as the third official language of the country, a necessary step for the government to join the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. The bill was approved by 99 of 100 deputies, the lone exception being Plácido Micó, the secretary general and deputy of the party Convergency for Social Democracy (Convergência para a Social-Democracia, CPSD). Nseng Esono said to deputies that the bill to recognize Portuguese as an official language was "a political decision that is justified by the cultural and strategic ties that Equatorial Guinea has with Portuguese language countries."

If you're getting the feeling that you've heard something like this before, it's because there's been a bit of confusion over the past few years over whether Portuguese is already the official language of the country or not. It seems that the CPLP hasn't really recognized Equatorial Guinea as a Portuguese language country yet, and...well, Wikipedia has a good rundown of the issue.


Results of Page F30 reader poll on Serbia and Kosovo, now another poll

Friday, October 14, 2011

The poll on the right ended a full month ago and it's high time to take it down with the results in a post for posterity. The poll was on Serbia and Kosovo, and went as follows:

  • The Serbian-majority part of Kosovo should be ceded to Serbia, and the rest recognized as independent. 34 (41%)
  • Serbia should have to recognize Kosovo before it can begin EU negotiations. 19 (23%)
  • All of Kosovo should remain a part of Serbia. 19 (23%)
  • Kosovo did well to declare independence when it did. 16 (19%)
  • All or part of Kosovo should join Albania. 14 (17%)
  • Kosovo should be independent but their timing / preparation on declaring independence was shoddy. 7 (8%)
  • Other 4 (4%)

Votes so far: 82
Poll closed

It's fairly divided, except for the opinion on the Serbian-speaking part of Kosovo that has been in the news so much recently - many think that part should be ceded to Serbia, probably in exchange for Serbia recognizing the rest of Kosovo as an independent state.

I have put up a new poll now, and it's in Frenkisch. Part of the reason for putting it there is to see how well people understand it so I won't explain what it is. Regular readers will probably be able to puzzle it out (it's not that hard) but I'm curious how many random visitors will click on it, and thus the results will not be as important as the number of people that end up voting after the week or two or three is over. For reference, easy polls here can get over 300 votes while trickier issues like the Kosovo one (and another one before on Romania and Moldova) are usually under 100.


New Frenkisch grammar released. Also my thoughts on IALs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Big news: David Parke has released the second edition of the grammar for Frenkisch, the pan-Germanic constructed language that I like the best. Germanic languages are often divided right down the middle between West and North and that makes it hard to find common vocabulary, but doing what Frenkisch does by 1) looking up the common origin of Germanic words and 2) using French and Russian as source languages as well seems to make choosing vocabulary that much easier.

The most important part of the new version of the grammar is probably that it clearly shows how to use the subjunctive, something that was barely touched on in the last one. I'm also pleased to see that the -wis ending (like English -wise) for adverbs is optional as I preferred, which lets you use adjectives as adverbs by default (very Germanic) but you can tack on -wis when you want to make it clear that this is an adverb and not an adjective.

The grammar can be found here, or I can send it to anyone who doesn't want to join Yahoo! to get it.

With this I can get back to the big Frenkisch translation I was making last year, one that I won't announce until it's done (and it's going to take a while so be prepared to wait for the announcement).

Also, I had a commenter on one of my YouTube videos asking what my current opinion is of IALs, namely which I support. The answer is this:

Each IAL marks out for itself a certain amount of linguistic and imaginary territory, and within these areas one can find one or more 'competitors' or rival projects. For example, Esperanto and Ido share a lot of territory (they resemble European languages but have strict endings and derivation), while Interlingua, Mondial and Occidental do as well. I would like to see the most optimal projects be the most prominent in their respective spheres, meaning that:

- For the Esperanto - Ido sphere, I believe Ido would be a better flagship project. If Ido's and Esperanto's population base suddenly switched one day, I very much doubt that Esperanto would be much more than another kind of Volapük, a language looked on fondly but not one that many seriously promote in the place of the larger.

- For the Interlingua - Mondial - Occidental sphere, I see Mondial as the best candidate. Occidental comes next, and Interlingua is certainly the worst. I simply can't promote a language that is even harder to read and write than Spanish, in spite of its other advantages. Mondial is a language with a similar feel but one that I can promote in countries like Korea and Japan.

- In the pan-Germanic sphere, Frenkisch is my favourite by far. Other projects here tend to be very underdeveloped which also makes the decision easy.

- In the pan-Slavic sphere I like Slovianski, but again there isn't much in terms of competition. Slovio doesn't seem like it would really appeal to Slavic speakers.

- After this are languages that have carved out their own niches. Lingwa de planeta is a fairly popular worldlang with a Novial-like grammar, Sambahsa is extremely impressive and appeals to Proto-Indo-European fans, and Dnghu would be great if they produced more content.

At the end of the day, only one language needs to take off in the public imagination for an IAL to succeed, and I can't claim to know which one would. However, many of the languages that have already achieved a certain amount of exposure (Esperanto and Interlingua in particular) in there sphere give us an idea of how non-IAL advocates view them.

Besides Mondial, I am most curious to see what non-IAL advocates think of Frenkisch as a pan-Germanic language really hasn't even been seriously promoted before. In addition, note that Interlingua is particularly popular in countries where people speak a Germanic language. Is it because of:

- national character? Are Germans, Scandivanians etc. simply interested in the idea of a pan-language? If so then it bodes well for Frenkisch.

- not speaking a Romance language an an L1? Perhaps Interlingua is especially popular because Romance language speakers find it to be unnatural with its non-Romance grammar and lack of conjugation, grammatical gender, etc. If this is true (the uncanny valley) then it does not bode well for Frenkisch in a place that would feel queasy at a language that looks so much like one's mother tongue.

In any case, my strategy and preferences have not changed much over the past few years, besides having found a pan-Romance naturalistic language that I can support 100% (Mondial) and a pan-Germanic language that I really like (Frenkisch). Most other worthy projects also have my support, just not my spare time.


Link roundup for 11 October 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sharing links, closing open tabs, etc. as is often the case.


The first article is this one on titanium deposits on the moon. We've known about titanium on the moon for a long time but apparently the fact that some parts are composed of 10% titanium is new. Titanium is common on Earth and so mining it to bring it back here would never happen, but as it is an extremely useful metal it's good to know for future colonization that there is so much there. In comparison, titanium on Earth only reaches up to about 1% abundance.

Google Alerts sent this link my way today, a guest article by the creator of a site called visual latin. The teacher seems to speak Latin with a pronunciation between reconstructed Roman and Ecclesiastic (plus an English accent). I prefer the videos found here, but a popular language should have all types of teachers promoting it and so the more the better.

Visual Latin | Sentences from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.

There are at least two films in Afrikaans coming out next year, called Semi-Soet and Pretville. This year the movie Skoonheid was quite popular.

New online Norwegian course here: made by the University of Trondheim, it's 3-gender bokmål with a lot of background on Trondheim itself. I don't have a great deal of time to check it out but for a language that promotes itself as badly as Norwegian does it's certainly a welcome site and a good one to bookmark.

Esperanto: someone has been banned from an English forum for people in Switzerland in a thread about Esperanto.

Brown dwarfs: add another 30 to 40 to the total. These were discovered in NGC 1333, some 1,000 light years away. Still waiting to see the brown dwarf(s) that should lie within just a few light years of us, very hopefully (and very possibly) under 4.3 LY, the distance to Alpha Centauri.


Bloomberg's language rankings are a bit rough

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I noticed an article here in Portuguese today saying that Portuguese is the sixth most useful language in business. The rankings were actually published last month but I didn't notice them at the time.

According to them, the most useful languages after English are: Chinese, then French, followed by Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Korean, Turkish. Sounds about right, but the method they used seems a bit rough and ready:

To create the list, Bloomberg Rankings identified the 25 languages with the greatest number of native speakers, then narrowed the list to the 11 official languages of G20 countries, excluding those that designated English.

...that's it? It looks like they just took the languages of G20 countries and added up the GDP.

That article also featured the following (not sure if this came from Bloomberg or elsewhere):

French is spoken by 68 million people worldwide and the official language of 27 nations. Arabic, which is spoken by 221 million people, is the official language in 23 nations, according to Bloomberg.

68 million worldwide? Off by over a factor of three, and that's only including French speakers that are literate too. In 2010 French was at about 220 million, and has an estimated growth of 7 million speakers per year.


When French looks easy

Monday, October 10, 2011

I have a fairly old French textbook where I live that I like quite a bit - it's called Read, Write, Speak French by Mendor Brunetti and begins not with French but with an explanation of English grammar in order to familiarize the student with grammar itself, since many are unfamiliar with grammar in English and are not sure what to make of a textbook that tells them how to form the gerund, or past participle, or infinitive, etc.

Near the end of the book there are a lot of reading samples, and the first one is particularly interesting as it was written with English cognates in mind. This is a good example of French at its easiest for an English speaker.

(let me know if there are typos)


Robert est étudiant à l'Université de Paris. Il est laborieux, sérieux et intelligent, et il désire apprendre la langue française parfaitement. Il veut apprendre à lire, à écrire, à comprendre, et à parler français comme un Parisien -- chose infiniment difficile! Il est évident que pour accomplir ceci, il est absolument nécessaire de travailler continuellement et sérieusement tous les jours; il est nécessaire d'étudier et d'étudier laborieusement; il faut toujours préparer toutes les tâches imposées par les professeurs; puisque les professeurs ne parlent jamais anglais et qu'ils parlent toujours français, il faut faire constamment attention pour absorber une langue harmonieuse mais une langue qui est aussi extrêmement délicate et variable. Il faut faire toujours attention aux règles d'une grammaire logique mais compliquée, et aux nombreuses exceptions; il faut consacrer des heures aux terminaisons caractéristiques des conjugaisons et aux terminaisons des verbes réguliers et irréguliers; il faut observer toujours l'orthographe variable des adjectifs, l'emploi des prépositions après les verbes; l'emploi du présent, de l'imparfait, et surtout du subjunctif, etc. Mais la question importante pour les Américains, c'est toujours la prononciation qui est extrêmement difficile et assez irrégulière. Il y a un autre problème sérieux pour les étudiants américains. Ils ont, malheureusement, une connaissance très imparfaite et superficielle de la grammaire anglaise -- un sujet très négligé dans les écoles américaines -- et c'est un désastre pour les étudiants, sérieux qui désirent bien apprendre une langue étrangère, surtout le français.

Mais retournons à Robert. Il est très laborieux; il étudie, il lit, il écrit; il prépare les leçons et il cherche toutes les occasions de parler français. Dans les rues, sur les boulevards, dans les cafés, au théâtre, à l'opéra, il écoute les femmes, les hommes, les acteurs, les chanteurs, et il parle français même aux chiens et aux chats qu'il rencontre dans les rues. Quand il fait une promenade dans le parc, il écoute attentivement les enfants. Si les enfants parlent, il parle; s'ils crient, il crie; s'ils chantent, il chante; s'ils dansent, il danse; s'ils gesticulent, il gesticule; et si les enfants pleurent, il pleure aussi -- en français, naturellement!

Il n'est pas encore Parisien! Mais attendez, attendez, mes amis, attendez! Rome n'a pas été bâtie en un jour!


Rome starts its first Chinese classes in public schools

Sunday, October 09, 2011

From here in Italian a few days ago:

The first Chinese language courses for public school children have arrived in Rome...the Chinese taught to children uses the 'giocolingua' (linguistic playing) method using a gradual learning using games, songs and short audiovisual methods.

Unfortunately no real numbers in this article or any of the others mentioning this either.


Bulgaria's snazzy new railway

SETimes (one of my favourite newspapers) has a photo essay here showing some of the improvements being made to the southeastern corridor of Bulgaria's railway. Improving this stretch of rail from Plovdiv to Svilengrad is about much more than just upgrading some rail in a relatively small country, since this is a part that makes its way into Turkey, and from there into all of Asia:

View Larger Map

Images 9 and 11 are probably my favourite, showing some of the (very) upgraded stations before and after renovation.


A bit on Proxima Centauri in Frenkisch

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Ick ha schriven alsnejts in Frenkisch in 2011, ond in de forig wik saj ick dat de spraik nou ha meir worden in de wordbouk. Allso schryv ick en stuck in Frenkisch, tou probire de gefeul af Frenkisch mid somme and'rings, ferbett'rings ond toufeugings.


Dimensionen af de sonn, Alpha Centauri A,
Alpha Centauri B ond Proxima Centauri
Proxima Centauri, euk benemm'd V645 Centauri oder Alpha Centauri C, is mid en afstand af 4,2 liechtjairen de naixt sterr tou onser sonn. Ets nam komm fon de latyn word proxima ('de naixt') ond Centauri (de genitiv af latyn Centaurus, de kentaur*). De supplement 'V645 Centauri' folg de benemmingregel af ferand'rend sterren ond betud allso, dat ett is de 645. ferand'rend sterr, fonden in de sterrbild Centaurus.

Ett is eidoch nejt seker, of Proxima Centauri geheur tou Alpha Centauri oder nejt. Ets aktuell afstand tou de dobbelsterrsystem Alpha Centauri A ond B is 0,2 liechtjairen.

Trots ets naijheid tou de erd is ets sejbar liechtheid einig 11,05m. Dat is honderdmail minder als de swackest sterren dat man kann seje mid de euges.


Some guy: French shouldn't just be the language of the elite

Friday, October 07, 2011

From a video here that showed up in my mailbox today about the forum mondial de la langue française to be held in Quebec from 2 to 6 July 2012.

I don't say some guy to be brusque, but because I don't know who this is. Does anybody know?


Toronto gets its first Instituto Camoes Portuguese Language Centre

From here in Portuguese a few days ago:

The Portuguese Language Centre (Cetro de Língua Portuguesa, CLP) in Toronto, promoted by the Instituto Camões (IC) along with a Luso-Canadian society, now has its first students that will be studying in the coming year. The news agency Lusa wasn't able to obtain information on the total number of students, given that "it has just opened registration for children and youth". The centre is located west of downtown at 800 Landsdowne Avenue, and is still under construction and will begin teaching the Portuguese language in the beginning of 2012.

Now let's see exactly what the area around 800 Landsdowne looks like:

View Larger Map


Afrikaans book, Brazilian Portuguese text and audio, etc. (link roundup)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Another few interesting links to share today to reduce the number of open tabs I have.

This site is one I was told about in a comment a week or so back; it has speeches from the Brazilian president with matching audio.

Two days ago Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Society wrote about the Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress in Nantes (France), where the Dawn team went over what they have learned about Vesta so far. Dawn has just started its new orbit (HMO, high mapping orbit) and so we are just beginning to see the surface at about eight times the detail we saw it at before. She mentions how inconclusive they are about Vesta's surface features and how they were created, because we still really have no idea. After HMO will come one more orbit, again about four times closer than the last.

This article was a bit of sad news to me, but you'd never know it from the article itself. Remember the three missions the ESA was looking at, out of which only two were to be chosen? Well, the one I really wanted to see get approval was not chosen. The two they chose were a solar probe and a telescope to map galaxies and learn about dark matter, but the planet-hunting PLATO was the one that didn't get selected. Read about the mission that didn't get selected here. As I often mention, the only way we are going to completely change our view of the universe is by discovering other worlds like ours, and the more the better.

Finally an article here about a book in Afrikaans that has sold over 27,000 copies in two weeks.

Looks like you can make a living writing in Afrikaans too.


Language in Thought and Action: 50 cents

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Today I came across the second edition (1963, 1964)) of a book called Language in Thought and Action, which I bought for a total of 50 cents. One quick read through the book and I knew I wanted it, and upon returning home it turns out that the book is (justifiably) fairly popular as well with over a million copies sold over the decades.

The whole thing reads like a very long, educated blog post (that's a compliment to its readability). One quick example:

Making Things Happen

The most interesting and perhaps least understood relationship between words and the world is that between words and future events. When we say, for example, "Come here!" we are not describing the extensional world about us, nor are we merely expressing our feelings; we are trying to make something happen. What we call "commands," "pleas," "requests," and "orders" are the simplest ways we have of making things happen by means of words.

There are, however, more roundabout ways. When we say, for example, "Our candidate is a great American," we are of course making an enthusiastic purr about him, but we may also be influencing other people to vote for him. Again, when we say, "Our war against the enemy is God's war. God wills that we must triumph," we are saying something which, though unverifiable, may influence others to help in the prosecution of the war. Or if we merely state as a fact, "Milk contains vitamins," we may be influencing others to buy milk.


The "One Word, One Meaning" Fallacy

Everyone, of course, who has ever given any thought to the meanings of words has noticed that they are always shifting and changing in meaning. Usually, people regard this as a misfortune, because it "leads to sloppy thinking" and "mental confusion." To remedy this condition, they are likely to suggest that we should all agree on "one meaning" for each word and use it only with that meaning...such an impasse is avoided when we start with a new premise altogether -- one of the premises upon which modern linguistic thought is based: namely, that no word has exactly the same meaning twice."..we can take, for example, a word of "simple" meaning, like "kettle." But when John says "kettle," its intensional meanings to him are the common characteristics of all the kettles John remembers. When Peter says "kettle," however, its intensional meanings to him are the common characteristics of all the kettles he remembers. No matter how small or how negligible the differences may be between John's "kettle" and Peter's "kettle," there is some difference.

Wikiquote has a number of citations from the book as well.


Estate de Latin: un article de Slate

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hodie un Google Alert venavi a mi Gmail con un article de Slate describante un Estate de Latin fate in le States Uniate. Lectante le article yo pensavi ancor del posibilitá de un lingua come Mondial funcionar come un ponte entre le monde ancian i le monde de ora.

Fa algo menses (o anos), yo pensavi sur le posibilitá de crear un texte in un IAL, un texte por aprendar le IAL, i dopo un ano, Latin. Le studiante aprendaria Mondial (por exemple), i dopo aprendaria Latin usante Mondial. In cil blog yo creavi algo leciones in Occidental por monstrar come il funciona. Cil page sur agectives, cilo sur le nominativ, etc. Non pensa que yo ha abandonate le idea; yo ha simplemente chanjate linguas, i ora travalia i plana por le futuro.


Denarius (la) beats Denarius (en)

In one of those rare instances where the Latin Wikipedia has an article on the same subject more detailed than the English version, the Latin version of Denarius (the currency) featured on the main page this month weighs in at 15,000 bytes while the English version is 10,000.


One in five people from the Midi-Pyrenees speaks Occitan, 74% support its preservation

Monday, October 03, 2011

From here in French a few days ago:

About one in five people from the Midi-Pyrenees is able to talk in Occitan, according to a study published Thursday, showing the paradox of a regional language that is in decline but to which the inhabitants show a strong attachment. 14% of the population speaks Occitan well enough to have a simple conversation and 4% have a good proficiency, according to the survey condicted at the end of 2010 among 5000 people. One out of every two people has at least a nation of the language.

62% of those who speak or know something of Occitan say that they speak it less and less often. Among those 60+ years of age, 40% speak it perfectly. Among those between 15 and 29 years of age, only 3% do. Occitan is being transmitted less and less through the family. However, 74% of those interviewed say they are in favour of its preservation.

Occitan is the language that looks most like a Western European IAL (Mondial, Occidental, etc.), and its straightforward nature may be why I like it in particular compared to most other regional Romance languages I see. I suppose I would count as another one of the people that knows a bit of it / about it, supports its preservation, and can't speak it nor has any plans to learn it in the near future.


People's Daily Online adds (South) Korean, now its eighth language

Sunday, October 02, 2011

From here in Korean:

People's Daily Online, the official newspaper of China's Communist Party, has begun a Korean version of its site. Up to now it has had the languages English, Japanese, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and North Korean (조선어).

What's unfortunate about this is that the languages are not synchronized like one finds with Euronews or Setimes, so for anyone who is interested in the difference between South and North Korean it won't be possible to just put two articles side by side to quickly scan for differences and similarities.

See the North Korean site here and South Korean one here.

The two are really just differing standards of more or less the same language, kind of like German vs. Austrian German, and looking at the North Korean version it isn't even be obvious that this is a North Korean version until a few sentences in. This title for example:

통전부,화교판공실 등 기관에서 련합으로 국경초대회

The only difference is the word 련합 (alliance, coalition), which is 연합 in South Korea.

Spoken North vs. South Korean of course is very different, to the extent that North Korean escapees have to undergo quite a bit of training to sound like South Koreans before they can live there inconspicuously. Also a lot of training on bank machines, internet in the South, and everything else one needs to learn in order to not stand out.


Audio New Testament now in Bislama

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I mentioned a few weeks back that there is exciting news soon to come for Latin: the entire New Testament will soon be recorded and put online for free in Latin, a very big step in the revival of Latin as a spoken language. There is some other good news for rare languages though: Bislama has also recently been added. Bislama is an English creole spoken in Vanuatu, very similar to Tok Pisin, and also my favourite English creole. It's like a slightly terser version of Tok Pisin with a tad of French influence, and extremely hard to find good material for. Even now for example the Bislama Wikipedia has just 381 articles, and finding text with matching audio...is pretty much impossible. The best course material I've been able to find for free has been a Peace Corps textbook that I printed out a few years ago. The Bible also happens to be the longest book published in the entire language, and with matching audio the language has turned from one that is nearly impossible to learn to fluency online into one that is now doable. Still a very limited subject area, but nevertheless much, much easier to learn than before.

This link for example leads to Matthew chapter 5 - click on the play button to hear the matching audio and enjoy listening to and reading Bislama at the same time for what is probably your first time.

Other languages I like in particular that were added this time around: Kazakh and Uyghur. Kazakh I'm particularly pleased about.

Latin is supposed to come out this month (October), so stay tuned!


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