[T]his is what we were dealing with: We were located in two places, and between us there were three laptops and one stenography machine. We were working in two languages (English and American Sign Language, or ASL) and across three communication channels (voice, sign, and text). They were sitting at a rectangular table, all on the same side: first Hilaria, then Kate, then Lynn, then Rabin´. That made five of us, four of whom brought constraints to the situation, ranging from the permanent to the temporary: Lynn is deaf, Hilaria is a non-native speaker of English, Rabin´ is supposed to be silent and invisible, and I couldn’t see, because I had no video on my Skype.A factchecking session for "young sign languages" turns into an exploration on communication across barriers and needs of accessibility, language, and technology.
Learn how to read Sanskrit, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian, Classical Greek, Latin, Koine Greek, Gothic, Classical Armenian, Tocharian, Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Old French, Old Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Albanian in ten lessons apiece.
Please enjoy this smattering of Word of the Day sites and pages: OED (RSS), Wordsmith (RSS), Wordnik, The Free Dictionary (RSS), Merriam-Webster (RSS), WordThink (RSS), Urban Dictionary (RSS), Macmillan (RSS), NY Times Learning Network Blog (RSS), Scrabble, Wordsmyth (RSS), Easy Speak (Toastmasters), Wiktionary, Wiktionary "Foreign", OLDO (RSS: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, all in OLDO), Arabic (RSS), Japanese (RSS), Nahuatl, ASL, History, Geology, Theology (RSS), and Sesame Street (not daily, unfortunately).
The Global Language Online Support System (or GLOSS), produced by the Defense Language Institute in sunny Monterey, CA, offers over six thousand free lessons in 38 languages from Albanian to Uzbek, with particular emphasis on Chinese, Persian, Russian, Korean, and various types of Arabic. The lessons include both reading and listening components and are refreshingly based on real local materials (news articles, radio segments, etc.) rather than generic templates. [more inside]
The Hindi Urdu Flagship Program at the University of Texas, Austin has a number of freely available online resources on Hindi and Urdu, including vocabulary exercises for beginners, video interviews with native speakers discussing various aspects of their language, a Hindi-language podcast on various topics and the ways one can discuss them in Hindi, and several downloadable books in PDF format. [more inside]
At One Minute Languages you can learn greetings, talking about names, counting, and more in Catalan, Danish, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian.
Wordchamp lets you view foreign-language web pages with definitions in your language as mouseovers (registration-only). [more inside]
Mango is a new beta service offering free online language lessons. 11 languages available (each with 100 lessons). For English speakers there are lessons in French, German, Italian, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese and Pig Latin. For Polish and Spanish speakers, lessons in English.
Que would happen if, wenn Du open your Metafilter, finde eine message in esta lingua? No est Englando, no est Germano, no est Espano, no est keine known lingua - aber Du understande! Wat happen zo! Habe your computero eine virus catched? Habe Du sudden BSE gedeveloped? No, Du esse lezendo la neue europese lingua: de Europanto!
New analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- the past is ahead of them and the future behind. The morphologically-rich language, of which you can hear samples here, may also prove useful to computer scientists due to its unique ternary logic system.
Losing Languages. It's estimated that between one and four languages are lost every year, the result of the only remaining speakers dying off. Many have been actively surpressed in the past, such as the Mayan and Ryukyu languages - some of which are said to be further from Japanese than English is from German. Is it worth the effort to preserve languages? Are languages and culture intristically linked?
The Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture features everything from Acadiana to Zydeco. Two of the more interesting entries I've found are the Un-Cajun Committee and the unknown to me genre of Swamp Pop
Do Most Of You Yanks Really Understand What The Brits Here Are On About? Although the cultural mistranslations are probably more a question of tone and habits of irony and understatement, Jeremy Smith's online American·British British·American Dictionary, to be published next September, might be of some assistance. Although I still prefer Terry Gliedt's older but pithier United Kingdom English For The American Novice and even Scotsman Chris Rae's English-to-American Dictionary. Here's a little BBC quiz to test your skills. It seems that Canadians, Australians and [another cute quiz coming up!] New Zealanders are the only Metafilterians to completely capture all the varieties of English usage here. Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that non-U.S. users know much, much less about England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand et caetera than vice-versa? Does anyone else get the occasional feeling we're not exactly speaking the same language here?
Linguistic competency Do you speak Arabic or Farsi? If you meet certain other qualifications, you can now spy for the FBI, whose homepage takes more care than news reports did and specifically lists Pashto, spoken in Afghanistan, as one of the desired language proficiencies.