Cab Calloway’s “Hepster Dictionary,” A 1939 Glossary of the Lingo (the “Jive”) of the Harlem Renaissance

≡ Category: History, Language Lessons, Life, Music |3 Comments

The lists are in. By overwhelming consensus, the buzzword of 2014 was “vape.” Apparently, that’s the verb that enables you to smoke an e-cig. Left to its own devices, my computer will still autocorrect 2014’s biggest word to “cape,” but that could change.
Hopefully not.
Hopefully, 2015 will yield a buzzword more piquant than “vape.

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The Making of the Famous Jive Talk Scenes from Airplane!

≡ Category: Comedy, Film, Language Lessons |3 Comments

Like films by the Marx brothers, Airplane! creates a feeling of giddy, exuberant anarchy by hurling a non-stop barrage of jokes at you. It is the sort of movie that viewers risk hyperventilating from laughing so much. Yet among the all gags and one-liners — “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

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Watch Classic Seinfeld Scenes Dubbed in …. Yiddish

≡ Category: Language Lessons, Television |Leave a Comment

You may never have heard much Yiddish, but we can’t call it a dead language. The tongue of the Ashkenazi Jews, one referred to in the 19th and part of the 20th century as simply “Jewish,” certainly did, however, have a near-death experience.

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Let’s Learn Japanese: Two Classic Video Series to Get You Started in the Language

≡ Category: Language Lessons |Leave a Comment

Say the name “Yan-san” to anyone who’s studied Japanese in the last thirty years, and you’ll probably get a reaction of delighted recognition. It means that, inside or outside the classroom, they studied with Let’s Learn Japanese, a series of educational videos produced by the Japan Foundation.

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“Tsundoku,” the Japanese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the English Language

≡ Category: History, Language Lessons, Writing |11 Comments

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There are some words out there that are brilliantly evocative and at the same time impossible to fully translate. Yiddish has the word shlimazl, which basically means a perpetually unlucky person. German has the word Backpfeifengesicht, which roughly means a face that is badly in need of a fist.

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Study 40+ Languages with Free Lessons from the U.S. Foreign Service Institute

≡ Category: Language Lessons |3 Comments

I spent this afternoon chatting with a travel writer about how we first allowed ourselves to start learning foreign languages. That notion may sound a bit odd, especially to those of you living in countries where everyone grows up trilingual.

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Now You Can Learn to Speak Klingon with Rosetta Stone

≡ Category: Language Lessons |4 Comments

For only $269, you can learn to speak Klingon with Rosetta Stone.
Our big collection of Free Language Lessons offers tutorials in Bambara, Bulgarian, Icelandic, Yiddish and more. But Klingon? That, sadly, you can only get at Rosetta Stone.

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Play the Great Language Game: It’s Fun and Free

≡ Category: Language Lessons |1 Comment

Are you ready to play The Great Language Game? This online game “challenges you to distinguish between some eighty or so languages [see a list here] based on their sound alone. In each game you’re allowed three mistakes, which are kept for you to study at the end.

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Learn Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Classical Greek & Other Ancient Languages in 10 Lessons

≡ Category: Books, Language Lessons |8 Comments

I receive weekly reminders of my linguistic ignorance whenever I read anything by authors fluent in Latin.

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The International Children’s Digital Library Offers Free eBooks for Kids in Over 40 Languages

≡ Category: Books, Education, English Language, K-12, Language Lessons |3 Comments

For all of the free literature and essays available online, a surprisingly small amount is geared toward children. Even less is aimed at children who speak foreign languages.
The International Children’s Digital Library offers children ages 3-13 free access to the best available children’s literature in more than 40 languages.

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