Keith Brooks is the man behind Pardon My Norwegian, a site dedicated to “everything cool from Norway from the eyes of a Kentuckian”. Prior to “marrying” the Norwegian language, Keith sampled a number of a potential languages in a project called 37 Languages. His “speed dating” or “taste testing” approach to choosing just the right “significant linguistic other” got picked up by PRI’s The World in 2009 (“Blogging the Love of Language“), and Keith was asked back again in 2010 to report on which language he finally chose to settle down with (“A Language Speed-Dater Gets Serious“). In our interview, Keith: 1) Shares his favorite tips and tools for learning Norwegian online, 2) Confirms that contrary to what many may expect, it is indeed possible to learn Norwegian even in Louisville, Kentucky, and 3) Compares Norwegian with other Scandinavian tongues: ”Danish sounds like Swedish, but is written like Norwegian. Swedish sounds like Norwegian, but is closer to Danish. And then Norwegian, in my opinion, is the best one of them all!”
While being able to understand, speak, read, and write world languages is usually the primary focus of language learners, we musn’t forget the importance of non-verbal communication cues like hand gestures. Even with impeccable pronunciation and perfect grammar, you may inadvertently offend someone using “false friend” gestures from your home culture that have wildly different connotations abroad: 1) In Japan, for example, I saw the shock on a British friend’s face when he first saw Japanese students pose for a picture. Many young Japanese think it’s cute to use backwards peace signs, unaware that it means “f*ck you” to people from the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand! 2) In Bangladesh, I made a serious gaff when trying to congratulate my team for a job well done: I didn’t know at the time that in that part of the world, a thumbs up means “up yours”, not “great job” as it does in the U.S. To avoid making a fool of yourself like I tend to do so well, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the following infographic that details many of the most common hand gestures around the world.
I’ve already written many tens of thousands of words about how to learn Japanese using modern online tools, so it’s time to let someone else share their point of view on the subject. In this guest post, Saravanaa Vijay from Lang-8 (which happens to be one of my favorite online language learning tools!) discusses the advantages and disadvantages of learning languages online, and why Lang-8 should part of any language learner’s online arsenal.
The latest episode of Freakonomics Radio really caught the attention of this language nerd. Titled “Is Learning a Foreign Language Worth It?“, the episode looks at the economic benefits and opportunity costs of learning a foreign language. At first glance (or rather, first listen), the economists they interview seem to make a pretty strong case against teaching foreign languages in U.S. schools. Fortunately, the economic arguments against language learning are based on two major false assumptions…
I am equal parts sadness and gratitude as I write this post. My friend Joe “Ninja” Northup (or “Sai” as my band of martial arts crazies knew him) passed away yesterday after battling brain cancer for six years. Though I have known him for over 15 years, I am truly grateful that we were able to deepen our friendship these past two years. The proximity helped (I moved down to Los Angeles in August 2012), but more than geography, it was his psychology that drew me near. Despite facing one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer (Oligoastrocytoma) and round after round of chemotherapy, he committed himself to living as long, lovingly, and completely as possible. Ask anyone who knows him and they will confirm that he succeeded on all counts.