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Monster Words

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Have you ever wondered what the longest word in English is? The short answer is
– there is no short answer. The main problem we have to deal with is what is your definition of ‘the longest word’. The easiest solution would be to look for technical terms such as ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis’ – a 45-letter word that refers to lung disease and is the longest English word that can be found in a major dictionary. 45 is not bad but can’t we find something longer? Well if you are asking there is always ‘Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl…isoleucine’ – the name of the world largest protein, which contains 189,819 letters and takes about three and a half hours to pronounce correctly. It sure is a monster word but is it a ‘real’ word at all? The problem with technical terms such as chemical names is that there is no limit to their length and that feels a little bit like cheating.

Maybe then we should continue our searches in the field of literature. The longest word used in William Shakespeare’s work – ‘Honorificabilitudinitatibus’ (27 letters) – appears in Love’s Labour’s Lost. While it is used by Shakespeare, it is actually a mediaeval Latin word that means ‘being in the state of being capable to receive honours’. It is also worth mentioning that ‘Honorificabilitudinitatibus’ is the longest word in the English language that contains alternating consonants and vowels. We can also find a few interesting examples in the literature of words that are coined to be the longest they can be, such as ‘Antipericatametaanaparcircumvolutiorectumgustpoops’ that appears in the title of a made-up book on the library shelves in François Rabelais’ pentalogy of novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, or the 100-letter word ‘Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnk-onnbronntonnerronntuonnthun’ used by James Joyce to describe a symbolic thunderclap which accompanied the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. While they are all fun and entertaining, the question reoccurs as to whether these made-up words should count at all. If they are not good enough for you, maybe the old ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ will do the trick – it is still one of the longest (28 letters and 12 syllables) non-coined and non-technical word in the English language.

What is your favourite English #LongestWord? What is your favourite #LongestWord in your native language? If you have some, please share them on our Facebook page!

(RM)

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Twist it!

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Tongue twisters are not only a fun exercise and a humorous word game but also can be a great way to improve your fluency and pronunciation. Although they are intentionally designed so as they are hard to articulate properly even by native speakers, and they naturally pose a challenge for foreigners, tongue twisters are a useful tool for learning a new language. Laughter caused by humorous mispronunciation can be helpful with overcoming language barriers and creating a positive learning environment. Moreover, tongue twisters are often used by actors and singers to warm up all aspects of their vocal instruments and, in addition to improving our speech control, they can serve as a useful tool for eliminating a stuttering problem by helping concentration and re-training our speech system. Such similar exercises were used by the Australian speech and language therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who was trying to help King George VI (Colin Firth) to overcome his speech problems in the movie ‘The King’s Speech’.

Tongue twisters are also an intriguing phenomenon from a translation point of view – as part of folklore they can be found in almost every language:

English

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Polish

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie,

i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie.

Finnish

Appilan pappilan apupapin papupata pankolla kiehuu ja kuohuu.

Pappilan paksuposki piski pisti paksun papukeiton poskeensa.

There is also the question: what are the world’s most difficult lounge twisters? Actually, MIT researchers from Boston are claiming that they have designed a phrase that is nearly impossible to be repeated quickly 10 times in the row. A unique combination of vowels and consonants can cause some problems with the human centre of speech. If you don’t believe me, just try saying this 10 times as fast as possible. Ready, Steady, Go:

Pad kid poured curd pulled cold.

What are your favourite tongue twisters? Share them with us on our Facebook page and, if you are brave enough, you can post a video with #tonguetwisterchallenge!

(RM)

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Learning a foreign language can be fun!

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Are you afraid of going abroad or cannot find a good job because of your poor knowledge of foreign languages? Don’t worry! You don’t have to spend hours with dictionaries, it is possible to learn them in much more creative way.

Listen to the radio and music. You can do it everywhere – in the house, car, train, even at work. At the beginning you may become a little discouraged but you can be sure that every day you will understand a little bit more.

Watch movies in the original, with foreign subtitles. For most people it is easier to read new words than to listen to them. Try to mix these two things – you will double your chances of understanding.

Change the menu language in your phone. You use your mobile many times a day so you will contact new words very often and will memorize them quickly.

Try to cook local dishes based on the original recipes. If you like cooking, this way will be perfect for you. For sure you will have to look for some words in a dictionary, but after some time it will not be necessary. And if you make a mistake, maybe you will discover something completely new?

Find new friends who speak the language you learn. In the era of social media it is not a problem. And in this way you can not only practice your language but also meet fantastic people, who knows – maybe even find love?

Don’t be ashamed of speaking! What is the most important – try to speak a foreign language always when you have opportunity to do so, even if you know that you are making mistakes. Nobody is perfect and the more often you try, the easier it will become for you.

(BB)

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Thanks from the mountain for reading this!

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Ponglish’ is a new hybrid language developed by Poles that are trying to speak English without having the knowledge of grammatical structures. A similar combination of English and French forms ‘Franglais’, Spanish and English develops into ‘Spanglish’, and Swedish and English combined forms ‘Swenglist’. This can result in comical sentences such as:

- Zwierzę Ci się – I will animal to you (to confide in someone);

- Wierzę Ci – I tower you (I believe you);

- Pierwsze koty za płoty – First cats behind fences

(The first pancake is always spoiled);

- Z góry dziękuję – Thanks from the mountain (Thanks in advance).

But is it a ‘real’ language at all?

In fact Ponglish (as well as Franglais, Spaglish, Swenglist etc.) can be classified as pidgin languages. The term ‘pidgin’ comes from the Chinese pronunciation of the English word ‘business’. A pidgin is nobody’s mother tongue; it is a simplified form of speech that has developed as a means of communication between two (or more) speakers without any common language. Usually pidgin languages are a blend of vocabulary that comes from one language and the grammatical structures of another. Such a language is limited in range and it often exists for one speech event. Many pidgins have been formed because of trade, colonialism, slavery etc. (for example when slaves from different tribes were trying to communicate among themselves while working together on plantations), but it seems that they are not relicts of the past – they can spontaneously develop in a modern cosmopolitan world.

What is even more interesting, while a pidgin language is not fully developed, it can become a creole language (which is a ‘complete’ language), when it is learned by the children of the next generation. So maybe, just maybe, we live in an era of the birth of new languages. Isn’t it exciting?

(RM)

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Words, words, words

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How did it happen that human language differentiated itself from animal sounds? Why doesn’t human speech consist of barks and sound like the trill of birds. Was it an invention of the human mind or rather a gift from the gods? The question about the origin of language is a riddle that still hasn’t been solved by linguists, but there are a few interesting theories out there:

1. Divine revelationthe Bible says that the first people (Adam and Eve) were created with an ability to talk and communicate. When the human race decided to disobey God by building the Tower of Babel that was meant to reach Heaven, he punished them by confusion of their languages. This may not be the most scientific answer but it actually is one of the earliest theories.

2. Bow-wow hypothesis – another possibility is that people

invented language by imitating the sounds of animals. The problem with this hypothesis is, however, that onomatopoeia is only a limited part of language. This theory does not explain modern languages that are complex and dynamic systems. Moreover, the sound of animals differs from language to language. For example, an English pigs ‘says’ “oink, oink”, and a Polish “chrum chrum”.

3. Yo-he-ho hypothesis – this theory says that language originated from the groans and grunts evoked by physical labour.

4. La-La hypothesis the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen suggested that before the invention of words people could have been communicating by melodies.

Of course all of these

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theories are just speculation but that should not stop us from looking for the right answer. Maybe we can find it by analysing fossils or maybe it is encoded deep in our psyche. What do you think?

(RM)

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