[Repost] If You’ve Never Used These English Idioms, You’re Probably Not a Native English Speaker (by Lana Winter Hébert)

If You’ve Never Used These English Idioms, You’re Probably Not a Native English Speaker

LEISURE LIFESTYLE OCTOBER 9 BY 

 Those of us who grew up with English as our first language have been exposed to idioms and idiomatic expressions for most of our lives. They may have confused us a little when we were children, but explanation and constant exposure not only increased our understanding of them, but likely drew them into our own vernacular. If you’re in the process of learning the English language, you may come across some of these and not be entirely sure what they mean. Here’s a list of 20 that you’re likely to come across fairly often:

1. A Chip on Your Shoulder

No, this doesn’t mean that you’ve dropped part of your snack. To have a chip on one’s shoulder implies that the person is carrying around some grudge or bad feelings about something that happened in the past… like having walked through the wreckage of a building, and ended up with a chip of that building stuck to them for years afterward.

2. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Like taking a HUGE bite of a sandwich that will fill your mouth up so much that you can’t move your jaw, this idiom implies that you’ve taken on more than you can handle successfully. An example would be agreeing to build ten websites in a week when normally you can only handle five.

3. You Can’t Take It With You

You can’t take anything with you when you die, so don’t bother hoarding your stuff or not using it except for “special occasions”. Live now, because all your stuff is going to be around long after you’re gone.

4. Everything But the Kitchen Sink

This implies that nearly everything has been packed/taken/removed. For instance, if someone said: “The thieves stole everything but the kitchen sink!” it meant that they took everything they could carry; it’s damned hard to remove a sink and carry it around.

5. “Over My Dead Body”

When the only way you’ll allow something to happen is if you’re no longer alive to stop it.

6. Tie the Knot

To get married. This is left over from the old tradition of handfasting, wherein the hands of the bride and groom would be tied together with a length of ribbon to symbolize that their lives were fastened together permanently.

7. Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Things aren’t always what they appear to be at first glance, so it’s a good idea to give something a chance, even if its outward appearance isn’t immediately attractive.

*The exception to this might be actual books that have hideous covers: those tend to be terrible all around, and in cases such as these, it’s best to contact the author or publisher and recommend a good graphic designer.

8. When Pigs Fly

This means “never”. Pigs aren’t about to sprout wings and take flight anytime soon, so if someone says to their kid that they can get a forehead tattoo when pigs fly, it’s not gonna happen.

9. A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

Basically: you are who you are. Just like a leopard can’t concentrate really hard and change the pattern on its skin, people can’t change who they really are at heart.

10. Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

To freely show and express all of your emotions, as though your heart were on the outside of your body.

11. Bite Your Tongue!

Stick your tongue between your teeth (gently), and then try to speak. You can’t say a word, can you? To bite one’s tongue means to stay quiet: literally to hold the tongue still so it can’t make a sound. This goes along with:

12. Put a Sock In It

The idea behind this is that if you stuffed a sock in your mouth, you’d be quiet… so if you tell someone to “put a sock in it”, you’re telling them to shut up.

13. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

If a couple of dogs had been fighting and are now sleeping peacefully, it’s best to just leave them alone. The idea behind this one is to avoid bringing up old arguments so they’ll just be argued about again.

14. Foam at the Mouth

To hiss and snarl in anger like a rabid dog (whose mouth would be foamy as he jumps around like crazy and tries to bite people).

15. A Slap on the Wrist

A very, very mild punishment. To be slapped on the wrist doesn’t hurt much, and isn’t a deterrent from misbehaving again.

16. You Are What You Eat

This is the idea that everything you eat influences your health and well-being. If you eat nothing but junk food, you’ll end up unhealthy and malnourished, so be sure to eat a well-balanced diet.

17. “It’s a Piece of Cake!”

…meaning that it’s incredibly easy. No-one has a difficult time eating a piece of cake, do they?

18. It Takes Two to Tango

A person can’t dance the tango alone, nor can they fight by themselves either. If an argument has occurred, there were two people involved, so two were responsible.

19. Head Over Heels

To be incredibly excited and joyful, particularly with regard to being in love. Imagine someone so happy that they do cartwheels down the street: like that.

20. An Arm and a Leg

When something is so ridiculously expensive that you might have to sell your own body parts in order to afford it, it’s said to cost “an arm and a leg”.

Featured photo credit: Opened book with letters flying out of it on bright background via Shutterstock

[Repost] On mother tongue, native speakers and other linguistic myths (by Pierre Fuentes)

On mother tongue, native speakers
and other linguistic myths

It is often said that real professional translators translate only into their ‘mother tongue’ because only ‘native speakers’ are fully competent in ‘their language’. I wish to question these linguistic myths.

What does ‘mother tongue’ mean?

The meaning of the expression ‘mother tongue’ is ambiguous.

Admittedly, the only language that monolingual speakers generally claim to know is that of their mother. They first learnt that language through interaction with their mother, at an early age.

But the world is diverse. Some people first learned their father’s tongue. Some did not have parents. Some were raised by people who spoke different languages.

Moreover, the expression ‘mother tongue’ poses an ideological problem, because some people imply that their mother tongue is the mother of their identity, as if, without it, they would not be ‘their true selves’.

Such a claim can bring people together, as in the case of the Irish slogan ‘ní tír gan teanga’ (no land without language).

But we must not forget that romantic slogans can also be used to discriminate towards the Other.

The Nazis, for instance, used mother tongue fascism to justify linguistic discrimination towards multilingual Jewish Germans. They claimed that these multilingual speakers were perverting the ‘mother tongue’ because they were not true ‘native’ German speakers.

I will let you reflect on what ‘perverting a tongue’ might mean and move onto my second question.

Who’s the ‘native speaker’?

One can only marvel at the term ‘native speaker’. This bizarre expression implies either that we were born speaking – a rare achievement – or that we were born into a language. My non-native instinct tells me we’ve got a metaphor on our hands.

Obviously, ‘native speaker’ does not imply that we are linguistically autonomous from birth. In fact, nothing much happens linguistically in the first year of our lives. Any parent of a young child will confirm this: what first happens with your newborn is communication.

When we use the term ‘native speaker’, we imply that a person has alegitimate competence in a given language.

But how do we make it legitimate? By being born with it, or by acquiring it? In other words, does native legitimacy come from innate or learned behaviour?

As sociolinguist Deborah Cameron recently pointed out, UK statistics suggest that the test for British citizenship applicants advantages native speakers of white European ancestry. So it would seem that there are different types of native speakers and that they are not all legitimate.

Interestingly, discourses that promote the ‘native speaker’ concept are often qualified with adjectives like ‘pure’, ‘perfect’, ‘authentic’ or ‘unique’.

Let’s take a look at translators

Some of us have developed a high level of oral or written comprehension in various languages, but cannot speak or write such languages as ‘correctly’ as ‘native speakers’ would. Some of us can even write languages that we cannot speak.

Sounds weird? Try speaking like Julius Caesar. While we can read him and write like him, no one really knows what this true native Latin speaker sounded like.

In any case, we don’t need to interact with living people to read or write a language – be it ancient or modern. These activities involve a different type of language use than, say, buying a pint for your mates on a Friday night.

Indeed, it has to do with how we use languages. Since we do not speak like we write, conversation plays a limited role in the work of most professional translators. Speaking like a true native is therefore far less important than having excellent writing skills.

The second mother tongue

Using the language of your mother on a daily basis does not make you a professional translator. And English has in common with many minority and endangered languages the fact that most of its speakers were not ‘born into it’.

While these ‘new speakers’ are often criticized by those who claim to be ‘natives’ – for their mistreat of language conventions, ie illegitimate use – some of these new speakers reach a level of competency that is so high that their new language becomes their language of habitual use – a fact that ITI’s Code of Professional Conduct takes into account.

Such competency allows them to claim certain legitimacy, at least in some areas of language use. They may not be able to have a laugh in that language at the pub on a Friday night, but they can translate medical reports that most ‘natives’ would simply not understand.

As a group of intellectuals commissioned by the EU once put it, some people are capable of adopting a ‘second mother tongue’. Language diversity is not about building walls between languages. It is about recognising the diversity of use human beings make of their tongues.

About the author:

Pierre Fuentes is a French translator and a registered architect who works mostly with texts in the fields of architecture, design, property and construction engineering. He suffers from lingophilia, having been severely exposed to English and Spanish and, to a lesser extent, to several other languages, including Galician, German and Irish.

[Repost] The Curious Case of the American Accent

The Curious Case of the American Accent

(Image credit: DrRandomFactor)

Hey youz! Whah do ‘Mericans have all different aks-ay-ents? It’s, like, totally confusing and somewhat bizzah, dontcha know.

TALK THIS WAY

An accent is “a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation.” That’s not to be confused with dialect, which is a specific form of a language that has its own unique lexicon (words), grammatical structures, and phonology (a fancy word for accent). So an accent can be a part of a dialect, but not vice versa. Because dialects can be traced to geographical regions, they give linguists important clues to the origin of accents. And discovering where accents came from can explain why an American says “ta-may-to” and a Brit says “ta-mah-toe,” or why Bostonians say “park the cah” and a Nebraskan says “park the car.”

BRITISH INVASIONS

The United States began as colonies of Great Britain, but the settlers didn’t trickle across the Atlantic at random. According to Brandeis University Professor David Hackett Fischer in his bookAlbion’s Seed, there are four primary American accents, which derive from the major migrations from England to the New World in the 17th and 18th centuries.

1. East Anglia to Massachusetts (1620-40). Puritans who fled to the New World to escape religious persecution were, by and large, from the eastern counties of England. To this day, in remote parts of East Anglia, there are rural folk who speak in what is sometimes referred to as the “Norfolk whine.” When they came to New England, that accent came along with them. You may recall the TV commercials where an old fellow says “Pepperidge Fahm remembers…” That’s the Norfolk whine.

2. South and West of England to Virginia (1642-75). Immigrants who settled in the colony of Virginia tended to be wealthy Cavaliers (that is, loyal to the King) who came to the New World to become planters. Many elements of their accent can still be heard in rural Virginia, such as their penchant for elongated vowels -stretching “you” into “yeew,” and shortened consonants- “ax” for ask, and “dis” and “dat” for this and that.

3. North Midlands to Pennsylvania and Delaware (1675-1725). In another flight to escape religious persecution, Quakers, largely from the middle and northern parts of England, also settled in the New World. Their speech patterns, characterized by shorter vowel sounds -a short “a” for dance, not the Yankee and East Anglican “dahnce,” or the South England and Virginia “day-ence”- formed the basis for the flat Midwestern American accent we hear today, which has since been adopted as the standard American “non-regional” accent spoken by most newscasters.

4. Borderlands to the Backcountry (1715-75). The so-called “Scotch-Irish” fled their poverty-stricken homeland of northern England and southern Scotland, first to northern Ireland and then to America’s mid-Atlantic coast. These new arrivals were considered uncultured and unruly and didn’t mix well with the established settlers, so most kept going to settle in the backcountry of the Appalachian Mountains. Their distinctive accent can still be heard in many Southern regions: “far” for fire, and “winder” for window. The Borderlands accent gave rise to the twangy “country” accent heard in the poorer parts of the South -as opposed to the more south-of-England “Southern gentleman” drawl heard in more affluent regions. Thank you Yosemite Sam for the former and Foghorn Leghorn for the latter.

THE HUDDLED MASSES

After achieving independence, the United States expanded westward and fresh waves of immigrants arrived in New York, New Orleans, and other port cities. The Northeast kept closer ties with Britain, which explains why Bostonians caught onto the English trend of broadening the “a” in bath, while the flatter pronunciation was used in most of the rest of the country.

WORLD TOUR

Just as it was with the English, immigrants from other countries tended to stick together when they got to America. Here’s a look at where they came from, where they ended up, and how the way they spoke then still affects the way people in the United States speak today.

* Germany. After England, Germany produced the largest wave of U.S. immigrants between the 1680s and the 1760s. Arriving first in Pennsylvania, the newcomers adopted the nasal tones of their Quaker neighbors who had come from England, then added their own clipped German speech patterns. The biggest German influence is the hard “r” found at the end of words -“river” vs. “rivah”- and is the feature that most distinguishes American speech from British. The trend spread as settlers moved into the Midwest and beyond.

*The Netherlands. When settlers from New England moved south to New York, there was already a sizable Dutch population. The mixture of the two groups formed the famous Brooklyn accent (think of Bugs Bunny), in which bird is often pronounced “boid,” these and those, “deez” and “doze,” and coffee, “caw-fee.” Unlike most other immigrant languages, which were abandoned for English within a generation or two, the Dutch language lingered in New York for three centuries. (Theodore Roosevelt grew up hearing his grandparents speak it at the dinner table as late as the 1860s.) While other immigrant groups have influenced the classic New York accent, it come primarily from original Dutch settlers.

* Russia and Poland. Arriving in New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Yiddish-speaking Jews from eastern Europe added many new words and humorous turns of phrase to English, including “I should live so long,” “I need it like I need a hole in the head!” and “What’s up?” Interestingly, although “New Yawk tawk” has become strongly associated with Jewish immigrants, Yiddish seems to have had little affect on the accent itself, which was adopted by the Irish, Italians, Chinese, and dozens of other ethnicities who live in New York. Actual spoken Yiddish -which is very clipped and Germanic- sounds very little like the New York accent.

* Scandinavia. Immigrants from northern Europe settled in the upper Midwest, and many aspects of their Old World accents persist to this day. Referred to as both the Minnesota accent and the Great Lakes accent, it is most notable for the overpronunciation of vowels, especially the long “o” sound, as in “dontcha know.” If you’ve seen the 1996 dark comedyFargo, that’s a good example of the Minnesota accent (although most native speakers claim that it’s a bit exaggerated in the film).

* France. Much of the French influence on the American accent ended up in Louisiana. Cajuns were originally French settlers who had moved down from Acadia in the eastern part of Canada. In 1765 the British took over, and loyal Acadians fled and resettled in New Orleans, still French territory. Cajun French is very old, dating from the 1600s. It might be understood by someone in Paris today, but only with some effort. The Cajun accent (like the food) has a very distinctive flavor -“un-Yon,” “ve-HIC-le,” and “gay-Ron-tee,” and “LOO-ziana.”

* Africa. The speech of slaves brought over from West Africa had a strong effect on American English. However, its exact origin is hard to trace. There are a number of West African languages, and slaves were intentionally separated from members of their own groups to make it difficult for them to conspire. That led to what are called pidgins -simple languages with few rules that were cobbled together from two or more languages. According to some theories, this was the origin of what is now called African American Vernacular English (AAVE). It has been called ebonics, but use of that term is controversial. Many linguists now believe that West African languages had little if any influence on AAVE, and that its origin can be traced to early Southern dialects brought over from England. Nevertheless, some of the cadence and lilt of the Southern accent -spoken by both blacks and whites- probably comes from African slaves. Some linguists believe this could be because black women served as nannies to white children, and those relationships helped blend the two speaking styles.

BARN IN THE USA

Not all accents were brought over from other countries. A few are as American as apple pie.

* In a small section of southern Utah, there is an accent in which “ar” sounds are transposed with “or” sounds. It’s uncertain how this way of speaking came about, but people who live in this region don’t say “born in a barn,” rather “barn in a born.”

* A relatively young accent, Valley Girl, or “Valspeak,” began in the 1980s. The most defining characteristic: Raising the intonation at the end of a sentence as if it were a question. Originating in the San Fernando Valley of southern California, Valspeak may be one of the most uniquely American accents. Some linguists speculate its roots may be traced to refugees from the Ozarks who moved to California during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.

HOMOGENIZATION

U.S. regional accents are in danger of being lost. Because of TV, movies, video games, and YouTube, kids learn less about speaking from their parents and their grandparents than they do from the likes of the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Pixar. Result: A young boy in Boston might pretend to “park the car,” and a teenage girl in Georgia might roll her eyes when her mother says “Y’all.” If this trends continues, then perhaps one day there will be just one American accent.

Cf. original: http://www.neatorama.com/2014/02/24/The-Curious-Case-of-the-American-Accent/#!yjsR7

[Repost] 10 things you should NEVER say during presentations

10 things you should NEVER say during presentations
October 24, 2012 on LinkedIn by Boris V

At our TNW Conferences we see a lot of presentations and I have given a fair share of presentations myself. I often see people making the same mistakes and cringe when I hear the same excuses or basic mistakes when people get on stage. The easiest way to lose an audience is to make a mistake in the first minute, and that is exactly where most mistakes are made. Here is my list of 10 things you shouldn’t say during presentations:

1: I’m very jet-lagged, tired, hungover
Not sure where this comes from but one in 5 presentations at any conference will start with an excuse. ‘They only invited me yesterday’, ‘I’m really tired from my trip’ or another lame excuse that the audience really doesn’t want to hear. We, the audience, just want to see you give it your best. If you feel like shit and can’t give it your best than maybe you should’ve cancelled. Take a pill, drink an espresso and kill it!

2: I’ll get back to that later
If you happen to stumble upon an audience that is eager to learn and interact you should always grab that chance and enjoy it. If someone has a question that you will address in a later slide just skip to it right away! If someone is brave enough to raise their hand and ask you a question you should compliment them and invite the rest of the audience to do the same. Don’t delay anything.

3: Can you hear me? Yes you can!
This is how a lot of people start their talk. They will tap a microphone three times, shout ‘can you all hear me in the back’ and then smile apologetic when it becomes clear that, yes, everybody can hear you but nobody raises their hands. It isn’t your responsibility to check the audio. There will be people for that. If you speak into the microphone and you get the impression just relax, count to three, and try again. If you still think the sound isn’t working just calmly walk to the edge of the stage and discreetly ask the moderator to check for you. Smile at the audience and look confident. Assume it all works until the opposite has been proven, then stay calm and wait for a fix.
4: I can’t see you because the lights are too bright
Yes, when you are on stage the lights are bright and hot and it will be difficult to see the audience. But they don’t have to know about all that. Just stare into the dark, smile often and act like you feel right at home on there. Feel free to walk into the audience if you want to see them up close. Don’t cover your eyes to see people but politely ask the lights people to turn on the lights in the room if you plan to count hands or ask the audience a question. Even better, talk to the lights people in advance so they are prepared when you are going to ask them.
5: Can you read this?
The common rule is to make the font size on your slides twice the size of the medium age of the audience. Yes, that means that if you expect the audience to be 40 on average you are stuck with a font size of 80 points. You won’t be able to fit a lot of text on the slide that way, which is a good thing, and brings us to the next point.
6: Let me read this out loud for you
Never ever ever ever in a million years add so much text on a slide that people will spend time reading it. And if you do, make damn sure you don’t read it out loud for them! The best way to lose your audiences attention is to add text to a slide. Here’s what will happen when you have more than 4 words on a slide; people will start reading it. And what happens when they read it? They will stop listening to you! Only use short titles on your presentations and memorize the texts you want them to read. Or, if you MUST include an awesome three sentences quote, announce that everybody should read the quote, then shut up for 6 seconds so they can actually read it.
7: Shut off your phone/laptop/tablet
Once upon a time you could ask an audience to shut off devices. That was a long time ago. Now people tweet the awesome quotes you produce or take notes on their iPads. Or they play solitaire or check Facebook. Times change. You can ask if people turn their phones to silent mode but apart from that you just have to make sure that your talk is so incredibly inspiring people will close their laptops because they don’t want to miss a second of it. Demanding their attention is just not going to work.
8: No need to write anything down or take photos, the presentation will be online later
It is really cool that you will upload your presentation later. But if it’s a good presentation it won’t contain too many words (see point 4) it won’t be of much use to them. For a lot of people writing something down is just an easy way to memorize something you’ve said. The act of writing down a sentence also embeds it in your brain and who knows, they might be really inspired and come up with something they’ve heard in between your lines that might change their business. Allow people to do whatever they want during your presentations.
9: Let me answer that question right away
Of course it is awesome if you answer a question right away, but you need to do something else first! Very often the question an audience member will be very clear to you but not to the rest of the audience. So please say “I’ll repeat that question first so everybody hears it and THEN I will answer it”. Make it a habit to repeat questions also because the extra time it takes to repeat it gives you extra time to think about an awesome answer.
10: I’ll keep it short
This is a promise nobody ever keeps. But a lot of presentations are started that way! The audience really doesn’t care if you keep it short or not. They’ve invested their time and just want to be informed and inspired. Tell them ’This presentation is going to change your life’ or ’This presentation is scheduled to take 30 minutes, but I’ll do it in 25 minutes so you can go out and have a coffee earlier than expected”. Now all you have to do is keep that promise, which brings me to the last point.
Bonus tip: What, I’m out of time? But I have 23 more slides!
If you come unprepared and need more time than you are allowed you’ve screwed up. You need to practice your presentation and make it fit within the allotted time-slot. Even better, end 5 minutes early and ask if anyone has questions, and if they don’t invite them for a coffee to talk one-on-one. Giving an audience 5 minutes back will earn their respect and gratitude. Taking an extra 5 will annoy and alienate them.
Conclusion: come prepared, be yourself and be professional. The audience will love you for being clear, serious and not wasting their time.
[Repost from a sharing by Rainylondon on fb]
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