The end of the year always brings plenty of opportunities for celebrations.
However, alongside the champagne, parties, and catching up with old friends, it’s also a time for reflection. Did you achieve everything you’d wanted in the previous 12 months? Did you stick to your New Year’s resolutions as firmly as you’d intended? With everything that’s been going on, it’s easy to have overlooked a few things. So, for this final article of 2016, we’re going to go back and focus on some of the more positive things which have happened on italki.com over the past 12 months.
This year has actually been a great one for getting involved in a new language.
italki.com’s growing band of professional teachers and enthusiastic language learners have made the website a thriving hub for sharing ideas, tricks, philosophies, and pointers through the use of short and informative articles.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably clicked on one or two yourself, hoping to pick up a handy piece of grammar or some new vocabulary in your target language.
But what about all the articles you’ve missed?
Well, to finish the year we’re going to focus on some of the best articles submitted to italki.com from a variety of talented teachers. To be fair, there are too many great ones to pick from, but here are a few personal favorites.
Even if you’re not learning any of these languages, they still provide a fascinating insight into how some of the world’s most widely-spoken languages work - a feast of information for anyone who loves learning.
So, don’t be put-off if you’ve never studied, say, Russian in the past. Or if the thought of jumping into an article about Chinese fills you with dread. These articles are as equally suitable for inspiring a future language-learning journey as they are for improving your current second-language abilities.
So, let’s jump in and look at the some of the most-fascinating and illuminating language learning articles in 2016.
A crash-course in deciphering native Spanish
It would certainly be nice if every native speaker spoke with the clarity and exactness of our language teachers. However, that is rarely the case.
English and Spanish teacher Nikki J gets to the root of the matter in this article as she explains how the native habit of blending words together and missing out sounds completely often causes major headaches for language-learners.
This article also contains some great tips on overcoming language difficulties which should be useful to learners of any language.
Helping you make sense of Japanese word order
As a non-Japanese speaker, I’ve always considered it such a distinctive and beautiful language on purely aesthetic terms. However, I’ll admit I’d never considered how different the syntax might be from my native English - so this article from Yuri was a real eye-opener.
Yuri explains how the word-order of Japanese sentences differs greatly from what we would expect in English. Being suitable for complete novices (like myself) all the way up to those who’ve already started learning the language, it’s a great way to get a taste of the language or to improve your understanding of how Japanese-speakers prioritise certain concepts.
In fact, the sentence “I, today, on italki.com, alone, the article, read’ is the closest I’ve ever come to speaking Japanese.
How ‘text-speak’ in Mandarin uses numbers
Any English speaker under a certain age will be all-too familiar with the ‘text-speak; teenagers used to communicate in the early days of mobile phones - ‘C U L8R!’ (See you later!) and ‘GTG!’ (Got to go!) - being very common forms. But who knew Chinese-teenagers also employed their own slangy abbreviations as well?
In this article, Amy Lin explains how the homophonic nature of Chinese Mandarin means the language is perfect for conveying ‘secret coded messages’ with just strings of numerals. Who knew?
Check out this article to find out how 1314520 can be translated into ‘Forever, I love you’.
Moving your learning forward with some backwards slang
If learning a language wasn’t already difficult enough, sometimes the locals insist on making it that much harder.
This article on French slang - specifically the reversal of syllables to form a ‘backwards’ word - opened up a whole new understanding of how hard it is to get a truly fluent understanding of a language.
This form of slang, which actually dates back centuries, is called verlan - a phonetic reversal of l’envers (which means ‘reverse’ in English). Confused yet?
You won’t be after reading through this article. Mathieu offers a great explanation of how this works including examples of dialogue to get you started.
How to bring a tale to life
Sometimes an article focusing on one language can hold some universal truths and this one by English writer and traveller Mark Jones is a prime example.
Telling stories is a tricky task to master - setting the scene, adding detail and humour, knowing your audience - and in this article we get to hear about all of it.
In fact, whether you’re ‘spinning yarns’ in English or Swahili, this advice should keep you in good stead.
Why German has a word for almost everything
German is a compound language - meaning new words can be formed by ‘mashing together’ existing words. Sherin shows you how it is done!
In practice, this means that it is one of those languages which has the most unique ways of expressing sentiments and concepts which we all understand but would normally take a sentence or two to express in our own languages.
Take for example Der Kummerspeck - deriving from the words Kummer (misery) and Speck (bacon/fat) - means the type of comfort food we crave after an especially emotional end to a relationship.
I feel I could give another example, but I certainly don’t want to verschlimmbessern this introduction!
Food for thought - a feast of Italian idioms
Mention ‘Italy’ to someone and it’s not a surprise if the conversation turns to food. This is the country, of course, where pizza, pasta, and other delicious meals originated before spreading rapidly to every corner of the globe.
And unsurprisingly given Italians’ preoccupation with eating, the language is also infused with food-related idioms.
So, if you want to know what it means to ‘have ham over your eyes’ or to be ‘as full as an egg’, let italki.com teacher Cinzia enlighten you.
From storytelling to code numbers, it’s a big world of languages out there to know. Take a moment to appreciate italki articles for the exposure they bring learners around the world to the fascinating side of the languages they study. Better yet, look forward to the coming year of literary contributions from italki’s awesome teachers and all the learning ahead.