Megan works in Babbel’s Public Relations team. Here, she looks at some of the complexities of filler and interjection words in a foreign language, and why immersion in real dialogue is essential to the language learning journey.
Some of English’s smallest words are currently making the largest headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. While Radio 4 listeners are up in arms over the overuse of ‘so’ on UK live radio and America waits in anticipation for the book release of the proclaimed University of Sydney linguist, Nick Enfield, “How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conservation”, Babbel takes a closer look at the little words that are captivating our attention.
Filler and interjection words are almost always absent from traditional language curriculums, and yet they’re crucial in every language. Knowing when to use ‘umm’, ‘er’, and ‘yippee’ – each carrying different shades of meaning – bridges the gap between bumbling tourist and cunning linguist.
“To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”
– Bernard Baruch, American financier and philanthropist.
Dear reader, are you in the prime of your teenage years? Or are you twenty, fit and raring to go? Is your life laid out before you like a majestic Persian rug?
Good for you. Now shoo. That’s it, skedaddle. Vamoose. Go and read something else.
Ah, that’s better. Now they’ve all cleared out, we can talk about a somewhat delicate subject: whether it’s possible to learn a new language when you’re a bit older. Can you keep all that new vocabulary in your head? Can you learn new grammar structures? Is it too late to start? (more…)
Ever wondered about the link between dreaming and language learning?
You’ve probably heard people talk about the moment when they started to dream in a foreign language. It’s often considered a sign of fluency. In the 1980s, Canadian psychologist Joseph De Koninck observed that students of French who spoke French in their dreams earlier made progress faster than other students.
But were they quicker because they dreamed, or did they dream because they were quicker?
We like lists because we don’t want to die.
– Umberto Eco, The Infinity of Lists
What’s a listicle? It’s an article written in the form of a list. You know, the ones you see with titles like ‘11 Things to Never Say to a Man Whose Head Has Been Sheared Off by a Sheet of Glass’ or ‘25 Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber’ (wait! come back!).
Depending on your taste they can make you laugh or simply confirm that humanity is a lost cause. Websites like Buzzfeed and Listverse grew famous for them, newspapers embraced them, and people, inevitably, started to hate them.
They are the purest textual expression of a distracted, modern mind. So it’s probably worth asking: what are they doing to our brains?
Photo by Haraldo Ferrary / CC 2.0
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
Love. Fury. Passion. Italians are well known for expressing themselves through body language and hand gestures, as if the feelings bubbling up inside them can’t be expressed in mere words, but require an accusing finger, an appeal to the heavens, a shake of the fist.
Scandinavians, on the other hand, are not.
According to traditional stereotypes, our northern brethren are more reasoning and reserved. It’s not that they don’t feel extreme emotions – just that they are less inclined to express them physically.
Yes, these are cultural cliches, although few people would dispute that Italians talk with their hands to express themselves. But what if there is a biological imperative behind it? What if gestures actually help our brain develop? What if there is a link between how we use our hands and how we solve problems?