The languages category features all of our blog posts relating to languages around the world. We post on topics and news about languages and people.

Mount Elbrus, The Caucasus region

10 Oldest Languages Still Spoken Today

Mount Elbrus, The Caucasus region, 10 oldest languages still spoken today
Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain in the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia. A region known for its linguistic diversity / Wikipedia

10 Oldest Languages in Use Today

It is almost impossible to judge how old one language is from another. The evolution of language is virtually similar to biological evolution; like evolution, changes to a language happen minutely over the course of generations. However, there is no clearly discernible difference between one language and the next language, from which a language derived.

Despite this, each of the ten languages listed are considerably ancient yet still spoken today. Each with an intriguing history that differentiates it from a multitude of others.

Those 10 Ancient Languages

Hebrew
The Hebrew language is an interesting case on this list: it fell out of common usage circa 400 CE. Yet it remained preserved as a liturgical language for Jews around the world. The rise of Zionism in the 19th and 20th centuries revived the language until it became the official language of Israel. Hebrew speakers can fully understand the Old Testament in its original writings.
Tamil
Spoken by circa 78 million people, Tamil is officially recognized as a language of India, Sri Lanka and Singapore. This classical language has survived the ages. Dating back to the third century BCE, and still in continuous use today.
Lithuanian
Lithuanian, like most European languages, is Indo-European in origin. This group divided up c.3500 BCE. The most fascinating feature of Lithuanian is that it retained the sounds and grammar of its Proto-Indo-European ancestor, unlike that of its cousins.
Farsi
Mainly spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Farsi is actually Persian, a direct descendant of Old Persian. Modern Persian first appeared circa 800 CE. Farsi speakers could quite easily read ancient texts in Persian with relative ease, more fluently than English speakers can read Shakespeare!

Ones you wouldn’t consider ancient

Icelandic
The Scandinavian language Icelandic is an Indo-European language from the North Germanic branch. This ancient language of the Norse peoples developed quite conservatively over the centuries. Amazingly, Icelanders can read their ancient sagas as if they were written yesterday.
Macedonian
This Slavic language belongs to the same family as Russian, Polish, Czech and Croatian. The Slavic language family is relatively young as far as languages are concerned and only split from Proto-Slavic, pre-ninth century CE.
Basque
The Basque language is a linguistic mystery. Spoken in regions that stretch across both France and Spain; it’s also unrelated to the Romance language family. The only explanation to explain it thus far, is that it existed long before the Romans arrived with the Latin they had spoken that subsequently developed into French and Spanish.
Finnish
The Finnish language is a member of the Finno-Ugric family which includes Estonian, Hungarian and several languages in minority groups across Siberia. Written down in the 16th century, its history is long. Interestingly, Finnish has many loanwords still in usage from Old Germanic and Gothic (those two languages do not exist today).
Georgian
Georgian is spoken in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, originating from the Caucasus region, the frontier between Europe and Asia. It’s part of the Kartvelian language family and unlike any other in the world. Although its alphabet is thought to be adapted from Aramaic.

Last but not least

Irish Gaelic
A minority of people in Ireland speak Irish (Gaeilge) today, but its history is long and artistic. A member of the Celtic branch of Indo-European languages, it existed long before the Germanic influences of Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Frisian landed on the British Isles. Scottish Gaelic and Manx derived from Irish Gaelic through migration. With the oldest vernacular of any language in Western Europe, the ancient Irish chose to write their manuscripts in Gaelic rather than the common Latin, at that time.
Graham O'Mahony, Blogger and Web Designer
Graham
Web Designer and Blogger
The STAR Team
Follow the conversation on Twitter logo @STARTranslation

Source: The Culture Trip

Robot Teachers, Language Tutors

Robot Teachers, Language Tutors

Robot Teachers, Language Tutors

Children Learn Languages with Robot Teachers

Across Europe, robots are helping young immigrant children learn new language skills necessary for social integration and education. It is tough for anyone to cope with moving to a new country and different culture, which is one of the reasons a team of robotics engineers decided to test out their robot teachers.

The youngsters are learning new language skills to help them enter the school system. Only four cities are taking part in the trial phase: Tilburg and Utrecht in the Netherlands; Bielefeld in Germany; Istanbul in Turkey. Lead by a consortium of roboticists and linguists from universities across Europe, the project is called L2TOR while a French company called Aldebaran Robotics build the new teachers.

A robot called NAO watches over the children and aids them in the lessons while the work on a tablet. Before each lesson begins, NAO explains to the kids what they will learn and then assists each child if they become struck by observing their body language.

“We want to help these children improve their language skills through one-to-one interaction with a robot, to help them catch up,” — Paul Vogt (L2TOR), Tilburg University, The Netherlands.

Other studies have shown that children learn best in a one-on-one environment rather than a classroom setting. But doing this with human teachers is highly prohibitive due to costs. The L2TOR project will not replace teachers rather, they will give each child a tangible three-dimensional presence to learn more effectively along a human teacher.

Infinite Patience

The NAO robots can repeat lessons over and over and take their time with each child; human teachers can become impatient and get bored. These psychological factors that affect humans cannot affect the robots.

“Sometimes the human teacher can get bored or angry by repeating things again and again,” — Amit Kumar Pandey, head of research and development at Aldebaran Robotics

But it’s not just the children that learn. On the tablets is a software system, CoWriter which helps children practice their writing skills. The robot can write on the tablet too, but if the robot makes a mistake the child can step in and teach the robot where it went wrong.

Is this the future of learning at school? Let us know what you think.

Source: New Scientist

Graham O'Mahony, Blogger and Web Designer
Graham
Web Designer and Blogger
The STAR Team
Follow the conversation on Twitter logo @STARTranslation

Great Scots! 421 Words for Snow

400 Words for Snow

How many words for snow do you know? It has been documented that the Inuits of Greenland, and parts of Alaska, have more than 50 words for snow, but recently we discovered that the Scots have 421 words for snow. You might think that northerly countries like Iceland or Greenland have more words for snow given their freezing temperatures, but the Scots reign supreme for more ways to describe the light, white stuff.

Academics at the University of Glasgow started a project to compile a thesaurus of Scots words. The Historical Thesaurus of Scots is the first of its kind and is being published online. The team of researchers has appealed to the public to send in their own words. They’re even accepting images to illustrate Scots words in all categories. Isn’t language funny!

Always About Weather

Weather and Sport were the first two categories to gain the most entries when the thesaurus was set-up. The game of marbles overtook football for the most synonyms — a staggering 369 words.

“Weather has been a vital part of people’s lives in Scotland for centuries. The number and variety of words in the language show how important it was for our ancestors to communicate about the weather, which could so easily affect their livelihoods.”

“You might expect sports like football and golf to loom large in the thesaurus, but it turns out that there are actually more words relating to marbles – which is an indication of how popular the game has been with generations of Scottish children”, states Dr Susan Rennie, lecturer in English and Scots language at the University of Glasgow.

Other elements of weather like clouds and mist have many entries in the thesaurus.

Some Scots words for Snow

  • snaw — snow
  • snawie — snowy
  • blin-drift — drifting snow
  • skovin — a large snowflake
  • flindrikin — a slight snow shower
  • flukra — snow falling in large flakes
  • spitters — small drops or flakes of wind-driven snow and rain

View all the words and images online at scotsthesaurus.org and follow them on Twitter @scotsthesaurus.

Watch the really cool video explaining snow on the BBC here.

The STAR Translation Team

Animal names into different languages

Most Popular Animal Names in Different Languages

Animal names in different languages

Animal Names in Different Languages

Are you learning a new language? Ever wondered what the most well-known animals are called in different languages!

We’ve put together a list of recognisable animal names from ant to whale, monkey to platypus and many more from English into Irish, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Polish.

Irish Animal Names

Learning the Irish names for animals may spark your interested in the endangered language. How many do you already know?

Download the high quality PDF to use at home, in your office, share with friends or, if you’re a teacher, place in the classroom — it may inspire!

Graham,
The STAR Team

Speech bubbles containing names of languages

Guess that language

Speech bubbles containing names of languages, Guess that language

Guess that language!

Have you ever found yourself trying to read a piece of text to figure out what language it is?

I do this quite a lot when browsing online and when I come across unidentified words: those that aren’t English or Portuguese (the ones I know!). Or, if I’m travelling, I try to read some words in any given language despite not knowing how to pronounce them. It’s kind of fun, well, for someone who’s really interested in languages.

It’s always good to have something to base your educated guesses on; I’ve gathered some phrases from well-known languages to help you revise. You know, for testing yourself. This way, you’ll be mastering the art of guess that language!

Arabic نحن ننتمي إلى منظمة عريقة ذات تاريخ طويل مكلل بالنجاح. بدءا من نش أتها قبل ما يزيد على 011 عام كم نع محلي للمنتجات
Chinese 我们是这家历史悠久、业绩辉煌的公司的一员。自 100 多年以前当地的一家小型金属产品制造商到如今收入
Estonian Selle autoga saate kaasa tasuta juhi 16 järjestikuseks tunniks. Sõidate professionaalse juhiga, kes tunneb kohalikke…
Filipino Kasama sa espesyal na presyong ito ang libreng proteksiyon ng Personal na Seguro para sa Aksidente.
Greek Με αυτό το αυτοκίνητο παίρνετε δωρεάν σοφέρ για 16 συνεχόμενες ώρες Θα ταξιδέψετε με επαγγελματία οδηγό που γνωρίζει
Hebrew חירה באפשרות זו תזין את הכתובת הרשומה שלך. הכתובת שתוזן אוטומטית תחליף את כתובות החיוב והמשלוח שהזנת
בעצמך
Hungarian Ehhez az autóhoz 16 órányi folyamatos sofőrszolgálat is jár. Helyismerettel rendelkező, profi sofőrrel utazhat.
Icelandic Með þessum bíl færðu flýtiafgreiðslu við innritun, sem þýðir að þú getur farið fram fyrir röðina og þannig sparað tíma.
Indonesian Kita adalah bagian dari sebuah organisasi yang memiliki sejarah panjang dan sukses. Sejak awal berdiri lebih dari
Japanese ユーザー名が既に使用中です。パスワードの確認入力がパスワードと一致しません。ユーザーの追加
Korean 사용자 이름이 이미 사용되고 있습니다. 암호가 필요합니다. 최소한 하나의 시스템 계정이 필요합니다.
Latvian šo automašīnu jūs saņemsit ātrās registrēšanās pakalpojumu — jums nebūs jāstāv rindā un varēsit būt starp
Lithuanian Su šiuo automobiliu nemokamai galėsite naudotis vairuotojo paslaugomis. Keliausite su profesionaliu vairuotoju…
Malay Maklumat berkenaan topik seperti:etika, keselamatan, kerahsiaan, diskriminasi, budaya syarikat dan
Mongolian Ялангуяа GPХ цувралын илрүүлэгч төхөөрөмж олборлолтын БҮХ нөхцөлд бусад ЯМАР ч илрүүлэгчээс илүү гүнд алтыг олдог
Polish To oznacza szczere postępowanie, zgodne z przepisami prawa oraz zasadami CLARCOR Zgłaszaj wszelkie podejrzenia złamania zasad
Russian При заказе этого автомобиля Вы бесплатно получаете дополнительную подушку сиденья
Tagalog
Parts of Indonesia
Estratehiya at Teknolohiya – Pangmatagalang Kaunlaran
Ukrainian При замовленні цього автомобіля Ви безкоштовно отримуєте дитяче крісло (для дітей від 9 місяців до

Graham,
The STAR Team

Irish Culture

Gaeltacht sees Irish in decline

Irish in decline in Gaeltacht

Irish in Decline, Gaeltacht

Irish is in swift decline and may become a secondary language in the Gaeltacht communities, a report states.

It was filed in a report on the 29th of May, that Irish will no longer be the primary language of any Gaeltacht community in ten years from now. Commissioned by the State agency Údarás na Gaeltachta and based on census figures from 2006 to 2011, the language has been declining faster than expected. And declining more rapidly than suggested in a similar report from 2007.

Findings

Confined to a mostly academic setting, those of classrooms … Irish is less spoken in social environments. The report which announces its findings by authors of the publications lacks any methods of preserving the language. This is now in dispute between Údarás na Gaeltachta and the authors. However, Údarás has agreed to file a second report for the recommendations on how to preserve Irish in the Gaeltacht communities.

The Figures

Despite all this, the research in the original report shows that of 155 electoral divisions within the Gaeltacht, only 21 are communities where Irish is spoken on a daily basis by 67% of its population. 67% is regarded as a tipping point for language survival among experts.

Rónán Ó Domhnaill, the Irish language commissioner has expressed his concerns over the declining use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. Ó Domhnaill commented, “currently, there is no requirement in the Languages Act, that the state should conduct its business through Irish, and that this needs to be looked at.”

The STAR Team

Source: RTÉ News

Language Lovers Nominations 2015

Language Lovers Nominations 2015

We’ve been nominated in the Top Language Lovers 2015 Awards

Language Lovers Nominations 2015, STAR on Twitter

It’s time to vote for your favourite language lovers nominations of 2015.

The guys at Lexiophiles, powered by bab.la have nominated our Twitter account under the category of Language Twitter account: tweeters who share content about languages. We’re thrilled to be nominated this year but we need your help to make it to the voting phase of the awards. (Language Lovers Nominations)

Nominate your Favourite Language Lover!

We’ll share the link when it’s time to vote (26th May to 14th June) for your Favourite Language Lover of 2015!

About Lexiophiles’ Top 100 Awards

The awards are brought to you by Lexiophiles with their yearly Top Language Lovers.

It was first established in 2008 to award the 100 best blogs for languages, but the competition has grown a lot and there are now five categories:

  • Language Learning Blogs
  • Language Professional Blogs
  • Language Facebook Pages
  • Language Twitter accounts
  • Language YouTube channels

The STAR Team

Difference between explicitly and implicitly

Do you trust explicitly or implicitly?

When to use explicitly or implicitly
Do you trust explicitly or implicitly? What’s the difference?

When to use explicitly or implicitly

Explicitly and implicitly are two words you may write in a letter or in an email to a dear friend, a confidant or a colleague at work, but some of us still get a little confused.

We either write trust explicitly or trust implicitly. What’s causing this confusion? Aren’t they both the same words!

The short answer is no; they’re not the same nor are they interchangeable.

The adverb, explicitly means, to be clear about something, leaving no room for question or doubt; to be clear in a detailed manner. While implicitly, another adverb, means to state something in a way that is not directly expressed. In other words, it is without question; it’s implied.

If you can substitute absolutely for implicitly then you’re on the right track.

Therefore, if you say that you trust her explicitly then you trust her without a doubt. It’s a final decision.

It’s common to say trust implicitly, as your trust is so strong that it goes without saying. There’s no need to be explicit about trust. You’re not trying to avoid any confusion by stating it directly.

We found this short and easy-to-understand comparison between the two.

Quick Recap

Explicitly (adv.)
to be clear about something; leaving no room for question or doubt; to be clear in a detailed manner
Implicitly (adv.)
to state something in a way that is not directly expressed

The STAR Team

 

Like English Trivia?

You might like to take our English SpellingQuiz for Superheros.

Fin out how good your English really is by checking how good you are with the most misspelled words in English. Give it a try now.

The Meaning of Easter

Meaning of Easter

Eggs-travagant!

Meaning of Easter and Its Origin

For all of us nowadays, Easter is about chocolate eggs, feasting with family and friends and relaxing over a long weekend. But the meaning of Easter and its word origins are over a millenium old.

It all started back in the 7th century AD with an English monk named Bede. He was quoted in his scriptures noting Ēosturmōnaþ, Old English for Month of Ēostre. That, translated in Bede’s time as Paschal month and was also an English month.

Easter, Ēostre and Ēastrun

In modern English, the term Easter, a cognate with modern German Ostern, developed from an Old English word that appears in the form Ēastrun, -on, or -an; but also as Ēastru, -o; and Ēastre or Ēostre. This month corresponds with April for which Bede was referred to it as “was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”.

“The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” — Bede

Etymology

Originally, the word denoted the Jewish festival of Passover, commemorating the story of the Exodus. In the 50s of the 1st century (150 – 160 AD), Paul, writing from Ephesus to the Christians in Corinth, applied the term to Christ, and it is unlikely that the Ephesian and Corinthian Christians were the first to hear Exodus 12 interpreted as speaking about the death of Jesus, not just about the Jewish Passover ritual! That’s when modern Christianity talks about the resurrection of Christ. And hence the fasting leading up until Easter time.

In most of the non-English speaking world, this feast is known by names derived from the Greek and Latin word, Πάσχα and Pashca, respectively. Pascha is derived from Aramaic: פסחא, a cognate to the Hebrew word, פֶּסַח (Pesach).

Now, where’s that chocolate egg of mine? It’s time to feast!

Graham,
The STAR Team

What’s the difference between specially and especially?

Better English, difference between specially and especially

Difference between specially and especially

Difference Between Specially and Especially in English

It’s probably not something you put much thought into, and just went with whatever sounded right to you. But there are subtle differences between both words.

Instead of just diving in and explaining these differences, let’s start with some sample sentences. Can you tell us if they’re correct or not?

  1. I don’t want to be treated especially.
  2. It’s difficult to learn a new language, especially when you’re older.
  3. The service at the hotel was specially good.
  4. His speech was written specially for this occasion.

Which ones would you like to change?

Warning: the answers are at the bottom!

The Explanations

Figured them out yet? If not, then perhaps the definition of each will help…

Both are adverbs; they are not interchangeable, although in some instances they can be reversed.

Specially
Used to mean for a particular purpose

Examples (of specially in use):

  • This shower gel is specially designed for people with sensitive skins.
  • This computer programme is specially for children with learning difficulties.
  • My father made this model aeroplane specially for me.
Especially
Used to mean above all or particularly
Often used before adjectives; meaning particularly

Examples (of especially in use):

  • These butterflies are particularly noticeable in April and May, especially in these meadows.
  • You’ll enjoy playing tennis at our local club, especially on weekdays when it’s not so busy.
  • The road between Cairo and Alexandria is especially dangerous at night.
  • It’s a bit nippy, but it’s not especially cold for this time of year.

Special — Especial

The adjective especial is rarely used today. It’s only use is confined to particular contexts where it collocates with nouns, e.g. especial interest, especial value. Especial is only used to emphasize the exceptional value or nature of what is is describing.

The other adjective special means important, or something that is different from the norm.

Examples (of special in use):

  • You’re a special person…
  • On special occasions…
  • In special situations…
  • She is a special adviser…
  • Special effects
  • Special offer!

The Answers

Feeling learned! Do you have your answers at the ready?

At the beginning, we asked you which sample sentences are correct and which ones aren’t…

  1. Incorrect: it’s specially NOT especially
  2. Correct: it’s especially
  3. Incorrect: it’s especially NOT specially
  4. Both: it’s correct to use both adverbs in that example, but it’s common to use especially!

The STAR Team

Examples of use from the BBC’s Learn English courses