Culture hidden in vocabularies — June 8, 2018

Culture hidden in vocabularies

Every language belongs to a certain culture. This is an indisputable fact which we can notice studying a new language. Sometimes we may feel surprised by the number of words the mother tongues use in different countries to name apparently the same concept.

A common example which shows the situation when the language mirrors the culture is the one of Inuits. They are the native inhabitants of the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Researchers have studied the language of this ethnic group and have discovered that their vocabulary is distinguished from others by the use of terms meaning “snow”. In fact, Inuits keep the notion of snow straight in their minds and name it in plentiful ways. As they live where the snow doesn’t lack, they are used to it and they notice the differences between its kinds, its way of melting, and other phenomena related to it. The research on the language has shown that the Inuit glossary contains more than 400 expressions while English, and other languages, presents a significantly lower number.

The way snow is comprehended by some cultures illustrates how languages work, which means how they adapt to the reality they belong to. Every culture has its own view of the world and it can be easily seen in language. The point is that if a society meets something on the everyday basis, it gives the concept many names making a distinction between its multiple sorts. At the same time, if the same notion doesn’t occur or is a rarity in other societies, the names for it are few. That is why, Hawaiians have 65 terms for fishing nets, 108 for sweet potato, 42 for sugarcane and 47 for bananas. Similarly, Scots describes rainy weather, Somalis camels and the Baniwa tribe living in Brazil uses 29 words to name ants.

As we have seen, languages are inherent to cultures. By studying a new language, you assume a new perspective and you get to know things you were unaware of. Obviously, more the culture is distant from yours, more surprises wait for you.

snow

By Kaja Brąz

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Many different Englishes — March 23, 2018

Many different Englishes

Nowadays, more and more people speak English. All over the world, children, teenagers, and adults study it doing their best to master it. However, which English do we know? Which one are we familiar with? Are we aware of the multitude of Englishes existing here, there, and everywhere? We are about to find out!

foto Kaja

All of us, sooner or later, discover that there isn’t only one English. When you encounter a sentence which seems incorrect or a word with a wrong spelling, do not take for granted you are right. Depending on the place you live or the teacher you have, the English you speak may differ from the one your friend speaks. Why does it happen? The English language is not unique. Actually, it presents many varieties. Among all of them, the most common are British and American English. While probably you study standard British, the majority of native speakers are American. Let’s take a closer look on some particular examples.

Grammar

Sometimes, the English grammar may be tricky. As you have probably noticed, the past simple and past participle forms of some verbs may be double. For instance, the verbs such as burn, dream, lean, learn, smell, spell, spill may end in -ed (burned, dreamed, …) or -t (burnt, dreamt, …). While British English accepts both forms, American English prefers the -ed ending. Then, there is the use of the tenses. The Britons are more disposed to choose Present Perfect than Americans who will rather substitute it with Past Simple, as we can see in the two following sentences:

Have you finished studying yet? (BrE)

Did you finish studying yet? (AmE)

Vocabulary

It is not only English grammar that can make you feel confused. Some words in BrE and AmE share the same meaning, even if their forms do not have anything in common. Let’s take a look at the table below:

 

British English American English
aubergine eggplant
chemist’s drugstore
chips French fries
courgette zucchini
football soccer
queue line
trainers sneakers
underground subway

Spelling

The most common spelling differences occur in words which end in -re (eg. centre, theatre) in BrE and in -er in AmE (eg. center, theater). There are numerous cases of words in which the ending in -our (eg. behaviour, flavour) in the British version of the language looses ‘u’ in the American one (eg. behavior, flavor).

English is a language spoken by a staggering number of users. It is supposed to be universal, as different nations speak it in order to talk about politics, business, and so on. It is obvious that encountering a sentence looking suspicious makes you wonder. If you are a novice, having doubts is pretty natural. What is more, it is highly positive. It makes you ponder and discover that apart from the form you know, there is another way to express yourself!

 

By Kaja Brąz

How to learn and retain new vocabulary — July 14, 2017

How to learn and retain new vocabulary

Is your difficulty learning new vocabulary? Do you find it difficult to remember and use new words you learn during your English lessons?

Whatever is your age or level, here is a simple and effective tool and yet too often overlooked by most….it’s the vocabulary notebook! No, not your grammar notebook, no not your notebook where you take notes of what is covered during your lesson.

It’s a special kind of notebook. It’s basically a phone book, whether paper or electronic it’s up to you, where you record the new words you come across during your lesson. But be careful…don’t simply translate the new word into your native language.

Take a step further. For example make good use of a monolingual dictionary (some are even free to download via app stores.) Firstly, try to understand what part of speech is the new word. Is it a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition and do on? Once you’ve done that, think of a synonym or write the synonym provided by the monolingual dictionary.

Secondly, think of objects and prepositions that can collocate, go with, that new word. Let’s make an example, you come across this sentence: she’s always whining about the weather. First you look up the word whine and you find out it’s a verb which means to complain. Then you find out that one preposition it collocates with is about. Now you are ready to record this word to your vocabulary notebook.

Last but not least, carry this notebook with you and review the words as often as possible.

note

By Brian Lewis (English Teacher)

Do you know any verbs that collocate with body parts? — November 7, 2016

Do you know any verbs that collocate with body parts?

There are plenty of things we can do with our bodies!

Do you know any verbs that collocate with body parts?

Here’s a small, but helpful list of the most common ones:

Open/close your eyes

Risultati immagini per open your eyes

Turn your head

Risultati immagini per Turn your head

Nod your head

Risultati immagini per Nod your head

Stretch your arms

Risultati immagini per Stretch your arms

Fold your arms

Risultati immagini per fold your arms

Cross your legs

Risultati immagini per cross your legs

Clench your fist

Risultati immagini per Clench your fist

Grind your teeth

Risultati immagini per Grind your teeth

 

If you want to know a little more about body collocations and idioms do not hesitate to contact us!