Stories from the frontiers of language

Interesting couple of stories in the New Scientist this week. I was particularly interested in the second, which reveals “An American mother will say: ‘Look Billy, a truck. It’s shiny and has wheels.’ The focus is on the object… By contrast, Japanese mothers stress context saying things like, ‘I push the truck to you and you push it to me. When you throw it at the wall, the wall says ‘ouch’… To Westerners it seems obvious that babies learn nouns more easily. But while this is the case in the West, studies show that Korean and Chinese children pick up verbs – which relate objects to each other – more easily.”

I hate them already

Not sure how many I know, but by the sounds of them, I hate Generation Y. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know a few, and they are annoying.
I suspect American Gen Yers are more tolerable than our ones, though, since they’re into volunteering and other laudable pastimes. Our lot seem to be in it for themselves.
But how do they afford it? In my day, bankruptcy and not having anywhere to live were the inevitable outcome of quitting jobs or not having jobs in the first place. I’d have liked to have found jobs that paid me so much for the three months I was working that I could swan off to Venezuela or wherever and not find myself sleeping on the streets when I got back and incapable of getting another job after such a career break. But maybe that’s my choice of career for you.
I must be getting old.

The rain in Spain…

…s caused mainly by people speaking Spanish. It seems to be a language geared up mainly for spitting on people. Rolling the ‘r’s, the velar frictive ‘j’, the lisping ‘z’s: what the hell’s going on here? Oh well, at least the vocabulary and grammar seem relatively simple in comparison to certain languages I could mention.
Incidentally, a good site for examing just how different languages can (and could) be is the Primer in SF Xenolinguistics. Yes, I know it’s about science fiction languages, but it makes some good points about actual languages, too.

It’s all Spanish to me

So how did my experiment in language learning work out? I didn’t quite manage to complete my Instant Greek book, since I ran out of time, but overall, it was pretty good. I could understand what was going on in specific scenarios pretty well – anything outside of the book’s scope was still gibberish – and I could actually speak to people and get them to understand me. All in all, feeling quite chuffed about my linguistic adventures.
The Greeks seem quite happy when you give Greek a go, although since they all seem to speak English, I did begin to feel as though I’d wasted six weeks on a language only spoken in one country, but c’est la vie.
Anyway, my plan continues. This morning, Instant Spanish arrived. The scenarios and dialogue are almost exactly identical, except in Spanish of course, right down to the names of the characters: Tom and Kate Walker. The only noticeable difference so far? They meet Mr Iglesias, rather than Mr Onassis, in the first story.

Mobile phone insurance

Mobile phone insurance. Have a think about it. What’s the point? You’ve been on a contract for a year, someone steals your phone: what happens next? You get a new phone free on another contract somewhere else. Or you buy a pay as you go phone.
How about stolen airtime? What if the thieves make calls with your phones? Check your small print. I’ve been investigating and very few insurers cover airtime theft (aka “airtime abuse”). One covers airtime abuse only after you’ve reported the theft to your network provider: the phrase “as useless as a chocolate teapot” occurs to me.
I’m still checking Carphone Warehouse out, which claims to insure up to £1,000 or airtime theft; the CPP Group does similarly but only for theft of airtime during the 12 hours before you report the theft to the provider, the police and the CPP group. I’ll let you know if anyone turns out to be more helpful.

Back at last

Well, I’m back. After the hot, sunny weather of Kefallonia, it’s a shock to come back to the grey skies and rain of the British summer. Where’s the sunshine gone? Who knows? Maybe it’s migrated south. Anyway, over the next couple of days I’ll fill you in on everything that’s happened since I went away.