August 30th, 2010

Sano - Post Zanbatou Zanza

Teaching English/Italian

Hello, community!

I have a challenge I was hoping I could get some guidance with.

I am an American teaching English in Japan. I have American-flavored International English. I should be receiving a natively-speaking Japanese adult male private student with intermediate business English soon who will have six months to prepare for a two-year stint for his company in Italy, possibly Firenze. I also have Spanish, but not Italian (though I've travelled there, so I have some of the phrasebook variety and a small historical phonology project including Italian from my days as a linguistics student). He has no Italian at all.

I, obviously, can't teach him everything, and his English is sufficient that there's no need to worry about his being able to muddle through, and I'm not qualified to give instruction in Italian. His office language will be English, but there aparently aren't too many of his compatriots in Italy (his information) and his life outside the office will be in Italian. He is primarily concerned with reading comprehension.

I generally teach my intermediate and higher level students prefixes, roots and suffixes when vocabulary is a concern as I find they pack an appropriate punch and my students can begin to associate with new/unknown lexical items in a similar way to how they deal with the same situation with kanji in Japanese--it's an oportunity to build a bridge for the coping techniques they already have and my more avid students will spread the love pretty quickly on their own to other literacies, for those who don't do it themselves at least I've created a foothold to drag in some other info...

Anyway! What I would really appreciate is LOTS of examples of cognates between Italian and English so I can try to introduce how to parse some Italian in a similar context to the English root system, as I lack the Italian vocabulary and my Internet access for research is limited to my cellphone for the time being (I have been recently transfered to a new school and getting connectivity takes some time...)

Also, any other ideas/suggestions...


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moose, transparent
  • avva

looking for a detailed history of English phonetics/syntax

My question is directed at people knowledgeable about English historical linguistics.

Many years ago, my mind was blown by reading Otto Jespersen's Modern English Grammar On Historical Principles. I read/skimmed mainly Part I: Phonetics, where Jespersen slowly, fascinatingly and painstakingly goes over the phonetical changes that occurred in English since the Middle English time (or before - I don't remember), including the Great Vowel Shift as well as changes that came after it. He doesn't just list the principal changes, he discusses at length when they occurred, approximately, what they were caused by, when this is known, and what were the exceptions to them. He gives many examples of words that underwent the changes or exceptions that didn't, and for the latter he discusses the reason why (that was one of the most interesting aspects of the book - realizing that sound changes are not always as completely universal in a language as I'd naively thought).

I want to find this book again, read it, own it, etc. It's out of print and pretty expensive to obtain, volume by volume, from second-hand sources. But before I even do that, I'd like to understand if I should really be looking for a different book instead. After all, Jespersen wrote something like 100 to 70 years ago. Perhaps many of his explanations are considered outdated by now; perhaps there have been much better books of this kind. I wouldn't know - I'm not a linguist and my interest in this is amateur. If you know anything about how well his work stood the test of time, or about newer books of this kind I might be interested in, would you please let me know? I'd like to emphasize though that I'm not simply looking for, say, a concise one-volume "History of the English Language", of which there are dozens, many doubtless excellent. I looked at a few and their phonetics sections mainly listed the important sound changes that occurred, with a few examples. They lacked the obsessive "deep-dive" into many examples, exceptions, discussions of sources and methodology, etc. that I remember loving in Jespersen.

Thanks a lot in advance!
treasure bowl! 聚寶盆

parallel translation helper tool

mentalguy, a friend of mine, made this tool for me a while ago, and it just occurred to me that other people might find it useful.

Duizhao (named after the Chinese word for placing things side by side for comparison, 對照) is a parallel translation helper and HTML generator. It gives three windows to enter text into, and it outputs a nicely formatted HTML version using tables.

It is ideal for things like song lyrics and poetry with lots of line breaks, but it's good for all kinds of parallel translation. It's especially good for translating between languages where one language takes more space to write than the other, like Chinese to English, but I think it would help with any language.

The nice thing about this approach is that you can make sure that a line or paragraph is always right next to what it's a translation of. It isn't dependent on how wide or narrow the person viewing your webpage has set their browser window. It takes away all the work of doing the tables by hand. I also find it useful just for writing the translation, because I can quickly glance between the source and my translation.

Here is an example with just two sections filled out:
This is an example sentence.這是一句例話。

And here is a longer example with three sections (original is liner notes and lyrics from Cold Fairyland's Bride in Legend, translation is mine):
依兰依兰想起村里从前嫁出去的姑娘,从未有哪个回来探亲的,心里疑惑,再问阿妈,阿妈就沉默不答了。Yīlán Yīlán xiǎngqǐ cūnlǐ cóngqián jià chū qù de gūniáng, cóngwèi yǒu nǎ gè huílái tànqīn de, xīn lǐ yíhuò, zài wèn Amā, Amā jiù chénmò bú dá le.This recalled to Ylang-ylang the previous maidens of the village who had gone out to marry. They had never come back home for a visit. Her heart full of doubts, she asked Ama again, but Ama became silent and didn't answer.
栽一棵通波亚在依兰依兰出嫁的地方zāi yī kē tōngbōyà zài Yīlán Yīlán chū jià de dìfāngplant a welwitschia in the place where Ylang-Ylang leaves to marry
让它代替姑娘留在家乡ràng tā dàitì gūniáng liú zài jiāxiānglet it stand for the maiden and remain in her homeland
栽一棵无忧花在依兰依兰出嫁的地方zāi yī kē wúyōuhuā zài Yīlán Yīlán chū jià de dìfāngplant an ashoka tree in the place where Ylang-Ylang leaves to marry
让它驱散姑娘的无尽悲伤ràng tā qū sàn gūniáng de wújìn bēishānglet it dissolve the maiden's unending sorrow

If you experiment with changing the size of your window, you should see that no matter what size you make the window, the translations stay lined up. :)

Anyway I hope this is useful to some of you. I find it very useful for posting translations on chinesesongs and Flip Song Words, my erratic translation blog. (Hey, might as well get my own plug in.)
waterhouse rose
  • amles80

(no subject)

Hello, bonjour à tous!

I need a little help. My grandmother likes to read in French, but she isn't fluent, and sometimes she asks me if I know the meaning of a word. The problem is, my French is not that much better.... Now she asked me if I know what un maton is. I looked it up but it isn't in my dictionary, so I was wondering if anyone here can help?