This is great news for all those who cannot get enough of sweet, funny and hilarious cat pictures. According to Ed Cooke, founder of Cat Academy, linking information to vivid images of cats is an effective memory aid and learning tool. To find out if this method is the cat’s whiskers and can help you to improve your language skills visit:

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The role of translation in international communication is vital but often overlooked. As contributors who have more of a behind-the-scenes role it is easy to underestimate the impact of translators’ work and how difficult tasks such as the Philippines typhoon relief effort would be without them. The hands-on work of rescuers and doctors is, of course, essential and difficult and these volunteers rightly receive praise and recognition for their efforts. While linguists working for charities such as Translators without Borders aren’t physically on the front line, their role is equally vital. This is particularly true in the case of the Philippines where 2 official languages and 8 recognised regional languages are spoken – effective communication is required in numerous languages. Using a bank of Tagalog (or Filipino) and English speaking translators who also have knowledge of the country’s principal dialects, Translators without Borders were able to assist with the provision of aid in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. As the charity’s contributing linguists are spread across the globe, it was possible for their team to provide 24 hour assistance. Rebecca Petras, Program Director for Translators Without Borders describes the work of the charity immediately after Typhoon Haiyan hit:

“With the team assembled, the real work began on Friday, November 8. The initial activation came from UN OCHA via the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN). As a member of DHN, we work with a wide array of committed aid response organizations that help the major responders to quickly put together a picture of the situation, often using micro-mapping and big data to assist. Social media is mined for this work, and our initial role in this activation was to handle the non-English Tweets and public Facebook messages. Additionally we created a list of key terms – everything from ‘flood’ through ‘damaged’ and ‘injured’ to ‘dead’ – in Tagalog and Cebuano in order to help data miners sort through and prioritize the mountains of information being generated.

As the activation continued and responders on the ground gained a clearer picture of the devastation, we were called in by other partners to be ready to respond. One of our translators worked directly with Humanity Road, a DHN partner that educates the public before, during, and after a crisis. We are also a full member of the CDAC-Network (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities), which was created by major aid organizations, including UN OCHA, Save the Children, WorldVision, Internews, the International Federation of Red Cross, and Red Crescent Societies, to improve ‘Communications with Communities’ (or CwC). CwC is being recognized more and more as critical factor during a crisis. While it might seem obvious, it is not simple when all telecommunications are down, cell phone batteries die, and people speak an array of different languages. Through CDAC-N we are on call to assist with communications from aid workers to the affected populations as they work feverishly to get materials and information out. Finally, we are on call with UNHCR, which is the lead organization for refugees, to provide translations of more long term and longer format materials for refugees who will not have proper shelter for many months to come.”

To read more about Translator’s without Borders’ work, click the link below:

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There are many benefits to learning another language, foreign language learning has long been promoted in the UK regardless of the language in question. However, recent news from the British Council suggests that British people should be looking at a new approach to language learning. John Worne from the British Council has said that while traditional foreign language choices such as French, German and Spanish should not be disregarded, we should also be looking towards increased learning of languages such as Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. Higher levels of knowledge and practice of these languages could help to encourage and improve communication between Britain and the attractive economies which use them. The Council has compiled a list of the 10 most important languages for British people to learn, a range of economic, political, cultural and educational factors were analysed in order to define the languages which “will be of crucial importance for the UK’s prosperity, security and influence in the world over the next 20 years”. Mr Worne underlined the importance of promoting language learning in schools, saying that language skills should be given the same status as maths and sciences. The efforts of the British Council and other bodies encouraging the use of foreign languages are clearly paying off, the Department for Education in England has announced that there were 50,000 more entries to languages GCSEs this year, with French up 16%, German up 9% and Spanish up 26%. From next year it will also be compulsory for children to be taught a foreign language from the ages of seven to 14. However, the British Council are keen to point out that language learning is not only important as part of a child’s education, but also for adults. Mr Worne stated that it was important that language skills are functional, without needing to be fluent, he described the idea of being fluent in a language as being an inhibitor and that individuals should begin with a few select words and phrases.

Visit the British Council’s website to find out more about language learning in the UK:



Drumroll please…the Oxford Dictionary have announced the Word of the Year for 2013 and the winner is…SELFIE!


Pronunciation: /?s?lfi/
(also selfy)

noun (plural selfies)


  • a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary


early 21st century: from self + -ie

Although the word has already been incorporated into the online version of the dictionary, its popularity has increased rapidly over the past year, leading to its status of Word of the Year. The increase in the use of this word is illustrated in the diagram below:


It is thought that this neologism first appeared on an Australian online forum, its -ie ending is a popular feature in informal Australian English, which uses shortened spellings of certain words such as ‘tinnie’, ‘barbie’ and of course, ‘Aussie’. The latest developments of the word ‘selfie’ have led to users changing the first letter(s) of the word to give more detail about the content of their photographic self-portraits, for example, the ‘welfie’ (workout selfie), the ‘drelfie’ (drunk selfie) or reality ‘star’ Kim Kardashian’s now infamous ‘belfie’ (a photo of one’s backside).

Click the link to read the Oxford Dictionaries’ blog


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Do you know what ‘gambas’ are? Any idea how many languages are spoken across Europe?

Test your language knowledge with The Guardian’s latest quiz!

denglischLanguages change and borrow various terms from each other. German is no exception. Stemming from the same language family, English is an ideal source for adopting whole words into the German lexicon and creating hybrids.

For years now one English expression after the other has found its way into the everyday speech of Germans. So the next time you visit Germany you might come across advertising that offers hits for kids or yogurt with weekend feeling. On TV you can watch the Kiddie Contest, Adventure or History Specials and on the radio your can listen to Romantic Dreams or the Highlights of the week. Out and about you might see people who strengthen their bodies with Power Walking and Body Shaping, wearing Tops or Outdoor Jacken. You might end up taking the City Bus and do some Sightseeing, …, and should you get lost just head for an Infopoint.

To read more about Denglisch visit

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There is already a long list of reasons why learning a new language can be a great idea. Languages can help you to progress in your career, expand your cultural awareness and even, simply, make new friends! Now researchers at Edinburgh University and Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India, have provided us with another good reason to explore a new language: it can delay the onset of dementia. Scientists examined almost 650 dementia suffers and found that those who spoke two or more languages experienced a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia. The study showed that the advantage of bilingualism even extended to illiterate people.

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Mr bean

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the amount of free language learning material available online. There has been a move away from traditional learning techniques using verb drills and lengthy grammar explanations. A wide range of apps, games, quizzes and podcasts are now readily available to facilitate language learning in more engaging formats. These resources as well as online bilingual dictionaries mean that finding the correct translation or spelling of a certain word is often only a click away. This is great news for language learners who are short on time (or indeed, patience) but could such shortcuts make us lazy learners? Writing for the Guardian’s Case for language learning, Anna Codrea-Rado describes her experience with language technology in her attempt to learn German. Whilst she does refer to the positive sides of apps such as Duolingo (she can use it on the bus on her way to work), she also describes how she ‘cheated’ before her German class by using Google Translate to conjugate verbs (Click here for the full article). This highlights the reason why these resources can be both a help and a hindrance: with only 30 minutes to spare you will be able to find the correct answers for your homework, but will you remember those present tense verb endings if you only spend 5 minutes scribbling them down? Probably not. New technology has made language learning more accessible and in many cases more fun, allowing us to learn on the go and make the most of the time we spend studying. However, traditional methods are not to be sneered at, they may be less exciting but when the temptation to take shortcuts is removed, they can often be far more effective.

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quiz 28.10.2013Do you think you have solid language knowledge, then try this language quiz!

This quiz is currently available in 22 languages and all its illustrations have been drawn by Imre Szmodis, a Hungarian cartoonist.


Using the Latin names for many common minor medical conditions can make them sound rather more serious than they really are. Oxford dictionaries’ latest blog gives us a few examples of the correct medical terms for common conditions such as a runny nose or rumbling stomach:

Commonly known as: Official medical term Etymological notes:
runny nose rhinorrhea Greek rhino- (of the nose) and -rrhoia (flow)
dry mouth xerostomiath Greek xero-(dry) and stoma (mouth)
rumbling in the stomach borborygmus Greek (same sense)
pins and needles paeresthesia Greek para- (beside, beyond, irregular) and aisthesis (sensation)
earwax cerumen Latin cera (wax)
crying lachrymation Latin lachryma (tear)
hair standing on end; goosebumps horripilation Latin horrere (to stand on end) and pilus (hair)
scab eschar Latin eschara (scar or scab)
nosebleed epistaxis Greek,  epi (upon, in addition) and staxis (dripping)
“every four hours” QQH (quarta quaque hora) Latin (see quarter and hour)


Original blog:

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