Archive for Second language

"Chinese light"

In the comments to "The ethnopolitics of National Language in China" (7/2/18), "Uyghur basketball player" (6/24/18), and other posts, there has been a vigorous debate on the relationship between national language on the one hand and local and "minority" / ethnic languages on the other hand.

In the course of the debate, many interesting political, linguistic, and cultural issues have been raised, but in the last paragraph of his latest comment, Bathrobe said something that really caught my attention:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Your English is not bad

Thought-provoking observations by a native speaker:

"Racism in Hong Kong: why ‘your English is very good’ is not a compliment, it’s actually very insulting:  An Australian of Chinese descent reveals why she is offended every time she is praised for her excellent English-language skills", by Charmaine Chan, SCMP Magazine (5/19/18)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (67)

#nobullshit bank

Comments (33)

Native fluency

The hundred or so scholars at the conference on narrative factuality I'm attending here in Freiburg, Germany come from all over Europe and North America, plus a few other countries.  All proceedings are in English, and every single person here, both young and old, speaks English like a native (except for one person who came to Europe from China as an adult, another individual who has lived in Israel her whole life, and a professor from Francophone Switzerland — the latter three all in their sixties and seventies, and all three speaking English quite well, though not like a native).  No matter what types of literature or philosophy we're discussing, it's all done in English, except for names, titles, and technical terms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)

Beyond fluff

Comments (36)

Difficult languages and easy languages

People often ask me questions like these:

What's the easiest / hardest language you ever learned?

Isn't Chinese really difficult?

Which is harder, Chinese or Japanese?  Sanskrit or German?

Without a moment's hesitation, I always reply that Mandarin is the easiest spoken language I have learned and that Chinese is the most difficult written language I have learned.  I learned to speak Mandarin fluently within about a year, but I've been studying written Chinese for half a century and it's still an enormous challenge.  I'm sure that I'll never master it even if I live to be as old as Zhou Youguang.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (151)

Why learn Cantonese and one way to do it

Anne Henochowicz, who for years was a mainstay at China Digital Times, and whom I have often cited on Language Log, has decided to branch out from Mandarin and tackle another important Sinitic language, Cantonese.

Check out her new blog:  "I'm Learning Cantonese:  Teaching Myself a Second Chinese Language".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Trevor Noah reflects on language and identity

In my introductory undergraduate course on English words, and in most undergraduate introductory courses on linguistics, students are invited to reflect on language and identity—how the way you speak communicates information about who you are—which they are typically very interested in. This isn't my beat, professionally speaking, but as a linguist I have a duty to help my students think through some of these issues (and, if they get interested, point them in the right direction to get really educated). To get started, I often play this one-minute clip of a Meshach Taylor Fresh Air interview from 1990, which is usually a good starting point for some discussion.

But Fresh Air (yes I'm a Terry Gross fangirl) also recently ran an interview with the biracial South African host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, which contained this ten-minute motherlode of a reflection on multilingualism, language choice, racism, acceptable targets of mimicry, vocabulary size, Trump's communicative abilities, resentment of accented speech… whew. I'm just going to leave it here for your edification and enjoyment. Maybe one of our more sociolinguistically expert Language Loggers will provide some more detailed commentary later. For my part — well, I just invite you to think about what kind of 500-word essay you'd write for a Ling 101 class with this 10-minute clip as your prompt.

To hear the whole interview, or read the transcript, visit the NPR Fresh Air page.

Comments (2)

Englishes in action in the Sinosphere

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes has made several daring in-person investigations of China's military bases built on artificially expanded reefs and other features in contested waters far to the south of its southernmost provinces.  He describes his latest venture in this extraordinarily well researched and presented article:  "Flying close to Beijing's new South China Sea islands" (12/14/15)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)