Archive for the 'Language' Category

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?


Se·man·te·rei. Substantiv, f. Ablenkende Debatte über Wortbedeutungen in Sachdiskussionen

Se·man·te·rei. Substantiv, f. Ablenkende Debatte über Wortbedeutungen in Sachdiskussionen


Deb Roy: The birth of a word

Five years ago, when our son was born, we wanted to keep notes on his first bilingual, later trilingual, language acquisition. One idea was to do audio records, but the amount of data would have proven quickly to be unmanageable as well as life (read: work) getting into the way. In the end, we kept written notes about the first correct utterance of a word in a few dozen cases. Tonight, I came across at a TED talk by Deb Roy: The birth of a word. His presentation as well as the implementation and findings are nothing short of amazing.

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies


The way we speak now – the development of English

The way we speak now – the development of English


Japanese Writing System

It is an ironic fact, however, that while the Japanese developed a system of sound representation that was almost perfectly suited to their language, they ended up with one of the worst overall systems of writing ever created.

John DeFrancis (1989:138)

Nova Corp. Japan Bankrupt

It was on the horizon, one hour ago this made the news:

The company, which provides mostly English conversation courses, reportedly had liabilities of 43.9 billion yen and will be delisted from the Jasdaq Securities Exchange on Nov. 27. Nova had a 50% market share among foreign language schools in the financial year from April 2002 to March 2003, according to a government statistics cited on Nova’ s Web site.

After being in business since 1981, this is a major event for Japan’s English education market as NOVA was said to be the largest provider of language teaching services on the market. A Friend tells me that embassies are jumping in to help teachers who have been fired in the process and are now in financial distress. Several hundred thousand students are also probably never going to get their money back.

Who is going to fill the gap?

Crackdown On NOVA

I was so waiting for this:

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has decided that Nova Corp., the nation’s largest English-language school chain, violated the Specified Commercial Transaction Law and ordered it to partially suspend business.
Nova has about 450,000 students, more than 60 percent of the nation’s English-language school students.

If 60% of a country’s English-language school students are taking courses at one school and Japanese’ test takers average TOEFL score is 65, it begs the question in how far NOVA can be hold accountable for such low results. 😉

update: Alex Case compiled a list of reasons why good English teachers leave Japan.

Neology: wikifizieren

At work, I’ve started using an expression in 2005 when dealing with internal memos and information we enter in our knowledge database, a mediawiki installation: wikifizieren means just that, entering information into a wiki and using wiki formatting. I had to explain to my boss and colleagues what I meant, but I think it sounds reasonable. What do you think?

update: I found the term in Wikipedia (where else), the earliest entry is from 2004.

ETS Plans To Expand Network Capacity On The Chinese Mainland By 25,000 Seats

ETS plans to expand network capacity on the Chinese mainland by 25,000 seats. South Korea is by far not the only country with a lack of available TOEFL seats. ETS should also offer more test dates, but that’s up to them.


TOEFL Test and Score Data Summary for TOEFL ibt

ETS_TOEFL_logo Every year, ETS publishes data about its test forms, who took the test, where, how well did the candidates perform, etc., they also publish score results by country and native language. The data has been collected accurately, but of course they completely depend on the honesty of their customers. German test takers’ results from the beginning of the new TOEFL ibt test form in September 2005 up to December 2006 are as following:

reading listening speaking writing total
23 25 24 24 96

In Europe, test takes in Belgium (99), United Kingdom (97), Denmark (101), Finland (97), Norway (98), and the Netherlands (102) performed better, with Kosovo trailing behind the rest of Europe with an average total of 70 points, behind Italy with 71. The United Kingdom, a country with at least 85,67% native speakers, has a five points lower average total score than the Netherlands! It’s not that the Dutch education system and preparation for the test is superior, but the majority of foreigners in the UK who take the test don’t usually speak Dutch, which is closer to English than many other languages.

The test is aimed at foreigners, so usually English native speakers are not the target group, but in some cases Americans have to take the test, too. If you’re in Japan and want to enter a master’s course at a Japanese university, you could be asked to take the TOEFL in spite of being an English native speaker. Your chances to score high are good, but since it is not only an English test, but verifies your abilities to use English in an academic context, it is difficult for native speakers as well.

World-wide, the lowest total scores can be found in Qatar with and average of 54 total points, the highest is in the Netherlands with the afore-mentioned 102 points on average. US test takers are at 85 – yet far lower than United Kingdom. Sounds to me like test takers in the US underestimate the difficulty of the TOEFL. I’m in the US for some time already and this is an American test – what could possibly happen? Most probably the same reason as above with the UK applies, but there’s still a gap of 12 points.

The report also includes a list of all examinees by native language. English native speakers have a total score of 90 (!) on average, the highest are from Dutch native speakers (103), lowest are Fula-Peulh native speakers with 61. Native Japanese speakers are at 65, Korean native speakers at 72 points. An ETS contact explained on inquiry that there are certain groups of people who enter English as their native language, for example M?ori in New Zealand: Their native language is not in the ETS lists, but English is the official language in their native country. Another example are bi- and multilingually raised people.

Oh, the maximum number of points in TOEFL ibt is 120, take a look at the TOEFL ibt FAQ for further questions.

If you took the computer-based or paper-based TOEFL in the last two years, the TOEFL ibt/pbt/cbt comparison chart might be for you, too.

TOEFL ibt and the Common European Framework Reference for Languages

ETS_TOEFL_logo At last, the CEFR for TOEFL ibt scores is finally published. You can download the summary at ETS Europe’s website. With it, you can compare your TOEFL ibt score with the CEFR, a goal, that was long in the air and needed quite some time to be fully worked out. Never mind that the comparison levels for C2 for reading and A1 and A2 for speaking and writing don’t make much sense, the results for the levels between B1 and C1 are certainly useful for test takers.

Further reading: CEFR at the Council of Europe


besmirch means exactly what you think it means. Who would have thought that beschmieren entered the English language? News | Submarine accident sparks debate over Navy policy

eBay swallows Skype for $2.6 billion

That’s a lot of money. Skype has over 50 million users, but $2.6 billion is certainly 50 times more than they earn in revenues. I can see eBayers using eBaySkype to contact each other, but honestly, how well do you understand mictures like Denglish, Konglish, Engrish, Chinglish, Spanglish, Franglais, Indian English and other variations?

eBay to acquire Skype for $2.6 billion

My Linguistic Profile

I have it in cold print now: My command of the English language is slippery at best:

  • 55% General American English
  • 20% Yankee
  • 15% Dixie
  • 5% Midwestern
  • 5% Upper Midwestern

I’ve been taught RP in school, I lived in Michigan for a half year in 1995, I had to guess and improvise with two or three questions and I’m not a native speaker, so that might explain the strange result somewhat (Dixie??) … but check it out yourself:

Blogthings – Your Linguistic Profile