Articles on Language

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It will get easier. Shrug via PathDoc/shutterstock

Learning to speak English? Making yourself understood isn’t all about the accent

Being able to communicate effectively in a foreign language is a challenge faced by many of us. If you’re a newcomer to a country, conveying a message in a language that is not your mother tongue is often…
Andreas Scheuer, secretary general of the German party considering proposals for make migrants speak German at home and in public. Sven Hoppe/EPA

Bid to force immigrants to speak German in their homes won’t help integration

A proposal in Germany to make all migrants speak German in public and at home has ignited a heated debate about immigration and language. The proposals come from the German Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU…
Most media outlets lined up behind the ‘coalition of the willing’ last time around. This time seems no different. The US Army

When governments go to war, the Fourth Estate goes AWOL

A year after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a postmortem of the media coverage of the so-called “Iraq war”. The conference included academics, journalists…
Sprechen sie Deutsch? German tongue by johnyf33/Shutterstock

Get your tongue around German to master speaking English

It has become commonplace to hear that English is now a sort of “global” language, or lingua franca. Although this might be partly true, is it right to draw the conclusion that native speakers of English…
The term ‘medieval’ is being used by politicians to denote others who do not observe modern ‘civilised’ rules and to whom these rules also do not apply. Flickr/Nuno Martins

‘Medieval’ makes a comeback in modern politics: what’s going on?

According to Hansard, in the parliament of John Howard’s first term of government the adjective “medieval” was used eight times. In the following term, however, it cropped up 46 times. What happened? Why…
Wilting away? rosipaw

Latin is dead? Long live Latin!

A little item buried on the inside pages of newspapers recently caused a small stir. Latin plant names, it was claimed, were “in danger of dying out”, following a decision by the International Botanical…
Barack Obama’s speech to announce a strategy to destroy Islamic State had a familiar ring to it because it followed the script of the past half-century. EPA/Saul Loeb/pool

My fellow Americans: the familiar sound of American belligerence

A few years back, an honours student in linguistics at Macquarie University did a small study of American presidential oratory. The student chose four speeches, in which four different American presidents…
One thing’s clear, there’s a whole lot of duckspeak afoot. Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography/Flickr

Will Self, George Orwell and … what’s he newspeaking about?

Writer Will Self grabbed headlines earlier this week by referring to George Orwell as the “Supreme Mediocrity”. He wrote: The curious thing is that while during the post-war period we’ve had many political…
Why is the language we use to describe gender non-conformists such as Andrej Pejic so important? CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK

Trans, transgender, cisgender: we are what we name ourselves

Transgender and gender non-conforming lives are becoming increasingly visible. Debate about the lives and legitimacy of trans people is being conducted in the most mainstream of media outlets: Time magazine…

On the delight of fashion words

While sometimes I teem with opinions jostling to be exercised over the page, at other times I’m drawn into meditation, where my engagement with the happenings, and the actual materiality, of fashion loosens…

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