The nature of language
- Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money?
TED description: "What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future — 'It rain tomorrow,' instead of 'It will rain tomorrow' — correlate strongly with high savings rates."Can Your Language Influence Your Spending, Eating, and Smoking Habits? from the Atlantic largely supporting the claims as does the piece by David Berreby, Obese? Smoker? No Retirement Savings? Perhaps It's Because of the Language You Speak, while a post in LanguageLog, Keith Chen, Whorfian economist, expresses skepticism
- Phuc Tran: Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive
TED description: "Phuc Tran grew up caught between two languages with opposing cultural perspectives: the indicative reality of Vietnamese and the power to image endless possibilities with English. In this personal talk, Tran explains how both shaped his identity."
Language in society
- Jill Shargaa: Please, please, people. Let's put the 'awe' back in 'awesome'
TED description: "Which of the following is awesome: your lunch or the Great Pyramid of Giza? Comedian Jill Shargaa sounds a hilarious call for us to save the word "awesome" for things that truly inspire awe."
- Anne Curzan: What makes a word "real"?
TED description: "One could argue that slang words like ‘hangry,’ ‘defriend’ and ‘adorkable’ fill crucial meaning gaps in the English language, even if they don't appear in the dictionary. After all, who actually decides which words make it into those pages? Language historian Anne Curzan gives a charming look at the humans behind dictionaries, and the choices they make."
- The Racially Charged Meaning Behind The Word 'Thug'
NPR's Melissa Block speaks to John McWhorter, associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, about the use of the word "thug" to describe Baltimore rioters.
Speaking multiple languages
- Mia Nacamulli: The benefits of a bilingual brain
It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.
- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies
TED description: "Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one language over another — by listening to the humans around them and "taking statistics" on the sounds they need to know. Clever lab experiments (and brain scans) show how 6-month-old babies use sophisticated reasoning to understand their world."
- Tim Doner: Breaking the language barrier
Young polyglot talks about superficial view of language learning in the media; explains "method of loci" (memory palace) and experimenting with other methods; about language and culture
- Benny Lewis: Hacking language learning
Polyglot explains his method for language learning; about polyglots; emphasizes motivation
TED description: "'Some people just don't have the language learning gene.' To prove that this statement is patently untrue is Benny Lewis's life mission. A monoglot till after leaving university, Benny now runs the World's most popular language learning blog and is learning Egyptian Arabic which will be language number twelve, or maybe thirteen. But who's counting?"
On language learning
- Sid Efromovich: 5 techniques to speak any language
Polyglot explains his approaches to language learning. His first rule: make sure you make mistakes
- ShaoLan: Learn to read Chinese ... with ease!
For foreigners, learning to speak Chinese is a hard task. But learning to read the beautiful, often complex characters of the Chinese written language may be less difficult. ShaoLan walks through a simple lesson in recognizing the ideas behind the characters and their meaning — building from a few simple forms to more complex concepts. Call it Chineasy.Chineasy? Not Victor Mair (prominent Chinese language professor) on this approach (not a fan)
- Chris Lonsdale: How to learn any language in six months
How he became fluent in Chinese in 6 monthsVictor Mair is skeptical: Fluency in six months
- How I learned a language in 22 hours
Article from the Guardian by Joshua FoerIt's not easy and it takes time. Comments on Joshua Foer's article
English as a world language
- The speech accent archive
Fascinating archive of American English accents
- Suzanne Talhouk: Don't kill your language
TED description: "More and more, English is a global language; speaking it is perceived as a sign of being modern. But — what do we lose when we leave behind our mother tongues? Suzanne Talhouk makes an impassioned case to love your own language, and to cherish what it can express that no other language can. In Arabic with subtitles."
- Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English
TED description: "Jamila Lyiscott is a 'tri-tongued orator;' in her powerful spoken-word essay "Broken English," she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be 'articulate'."
- Patricia Ryan: Don't insist on English!
TED description: "In her talk, longtime English teacher Patricia Ryan asks a provocative question: Is the world's focus on English preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages? (For instance: what if Einstein had to pass the TOEFL?) It's a passionate defense of translating and sharing ideas."
- Jay Walker: The world's English mania
TED description: "Jay Walker explains why two billion people around the world are trying to learn English. He shares photos and spine-tingling audio of Chinese students rehearsing English, 'the world's second language', by the thousands."
- There Was No Committee
Article by Geoffrey Pullum (from the Lingua Franca blog) on the rise of English in education world-wide
TED talks on endangered languages
- Wade Davis: Dreams from endangered cultures
TED description: "With stunning photos and stories, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the world's indigenous cultures, which are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate."
- Mark Plotkin: What the people of the Amazon know that you don't
TED description: "'The greatest and most endangered species in the Amazon rainforest is not the jaguar or the harpy eagle,' says Mark Plotkin, 'It's the isolated and uncontacted tribes.' In an energetic and sobering talk, the ethnobotanist brings us into the world of the forest's indigenous tribes and the incredible medicinal plants that their shamans use to heal. He outlines the challenges and perils that are endangering them — and their wisdom — and urges us to protect this irreplaceable repository of knowledge."
Playing with language and identity
- Trevor Noah - Live at the Apollo - London
The South African comedian on his identity and the role of lanuguages
- Hetain Patel and Yuyu Rau: Who am I? Think again
TED description: "How do we decide who we are? Hetain Patel's surprising performance plays with identity, language and accent -- and challenges you to think deeper than surface appearances. A delightful meditation on self, with performer Yuyu Rau, and inspired by Bruce Lee."
On the nature of TED talks
- Terry Moore: Why is 'x' the unknown?
Why is 'x' the symbol for an unknown? In this short and funny talk, Terry Moore gives the surprising answer.
- The Sound of TED: A Case for Distaste
The case for being skeptical of TED talks