J’ai backé mon car dans la driveway

acadieman.com_-_bd_skirt
Chiac is an Acadian French dialect spoken in New Brunswick, Canada. It is grammatically French, but it liberally sprinkles its sentences with English words. Emma Jacobs recently became kind of obsessed with Chiac. She kept returning to New Brunswick to hear more of the dialect. And that’s what we hear: musicians, artists, writers and regular folk who speak Chiac every day. And, of course, the superhero depicted above.

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:30 A spin of the radio dial in Moncton, New Brunswick.

1:00 Canada is chock-full of language policies, at provincial, territory and city level.

2:35 Chiac is not Franglais.

In France, stop signs read "Stop."  In Quebec, they read "Arrêt.” In New Brunswick, both words appear on stop signs.  (Photo: Emma Jacobs)

In France, stop signs read “Stop.” In Quebec, they read “Arrêt.” In New Brunswick, both words appear on stop signs. (Photo: Emma Jacobs)

3:25 “Je prends un large double Americano our sortir.”

5:20 Should a public-service movie about teenage bullying in Moncton include dialogue in Chiac?

6:50 Is Chiac “bad French”?

7:50 The “Stop” sign in New Brunswick.

9:00 Some Acadian history: why Moncton sits on a linguistic border.

10:30 Language rights protests of the 1960s

13:30 Musician Gabriel Malenfant struggled at school to learn academic French.

15:31 Dano LeBlanc and a friend dream up “Acadieman.”

17:00 Singer Caroline Savoie wonders why she was subtitled by French TV.

Caroline Savoie performing in Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick. (Photo: Caroline Savoie)

Caroline Savoie performing in Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick. (Photo: Caroline Savoie)

19:25 How much Chiac is too much Chiac?

19:35 Novelist France Daigle uses formal French in her narration but her character often speak in Chiac.

23:13 Politician Bernard Richard: “We have a saying: ‘We learn French but we catch English.'”

27:25 “Ah papa, j’ai entendue il y a un nouveau jeu qui saute. Puis, il y a pretty awesome.”

MUSIC HEARD IN THE PODCAST

00:00 Podington Bear: Dramamine

13:48 Radio Radio: Guess What?

15:03 1755: C.B. Buddie

17:52 Lisa LeBlanc: J’pas un Cowboy

18:48 Lisa Leblanc: Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde

25:16 Radio Radio: Cliché Hot

29:36 Lisa LeBlanc: Kraft Dinner

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Speak Irish to me

The Irish language, like its people, has suffered greatly.

It has been used and abused by many: British colonialists, by the Catholic Church, and by Irish revolutionaries. The first two discouraged its use, associating it with poverty and primitive wildness. The latter co-opted the language as its primary symbol of nationhood and struggle against oppression.

When Ireland finally gained a degree of independence in 1922, its government brought Irish back into the schoolrooms.

Dublin Street Sign with names in both English and Irish. (Photo: Doug McKnight)

Dublin Street Sign with names in both English and Irish. (Photo: Doug McKnight)

This podcast episode talks to three people who studied Irish in the years since independence: Patrick’s father who was taught Irish “by the nuns” in the 1930s and 40s; linguist Jim McCloskey, who fell in love with the language in the 1970s when he went on language summer schools in Ireland’s Irish-speaking regions; and Iarla O’Halloran, who spoke Irish at home, then forgot much of it at school, only to pick it up again in the less formal settings of pubs and clubs of his college years.

“I was surprised by how much of it was actually stored within me, how much of came out when I wasn’t nervous to speak it,” says O’Halloran.

An Irish nationalist poster from 1913.

“There were expressions that I picked up [from Irish speakers] that I found hilarious. They’ll all sexual … .Just hearing how the lads from Connemara, when they would see a good-looking woman on the street, how they would describe it. … It was hearing laddish banter that made me realize that the language could be a bit more than I thought it was.”

We also hear from a research project at UC-Santa Cruz that is documenting Irish pronunciation with the help of ultrasound imagery.

Podcast Contents

0:10 My father learned Irish in a new nation.

1:42 “There was an enormous psychological resistance to learning the language”

2:20 The beginnings of Irish.

4:10 The crucial initial moment in the decline of Irish.

5:20 How the Catholic Church helped the colonial government drive the language to the fringes of society.

6:30 “A generation has to come to believe that their language is a burden.”

8:10 The Gaelic revival.

9:50 Jim McCloskey summers in a Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking region.

13:10 Iarla O’Halloran grew up initially speaking Irish.

14:35 “There was an ideological aspect” to the Irish language curriculum in schools.

16:30 Iarla discovers idiomatic, scatalogical Irish. (Irish has a ton of wonderful expressions.)

Galt Barber playing his fiddle at his SAnta Cruz, CA,  home. (Photo: Doug McKnight)

Galt Barber playing his fiddle at his SAnta Cruz, CA, home. (Photo: Doug McKnight)

17:45 The support of the diaspora.

18:05 The Barber family, an American family of distant Irish ancestry speaks Irish at home.

19:00 Jaye Padgett explains the consonant pronunciation project that he’s working on with colleagues at UC-Santa Cruz and University College, Dublin.

Linguist Jaye Padgett wearing the head frame used to stabilize an ultrasound camera. Padgett and colleagues at UC-Santa Cruz and University College Dublin are documenting Irish consonant formation. (Photo: Doug McKnight)

Linguist Jaye Padgett wearing the head frame used to stabilize an ultrasound camera. Padgett and colleagues at UC-Santa Cruz and University College Dublin are documenting Irish consonant formation. (Photo: Doug McKnight)

21:50 Language purists message to the new urban Irish: don’t mess with the language.

22:50 A new perspective: the role of Irish in the global context of the loss of linguistic diversity.

27:10 Patrick’s father’s regrets.

Music heard in the podcast

0:00 “Dramamine” by Podington Bear

6:00 “Interference” by Hugo Paquette

11:05 “Coinleach Glas an Fhómhair” by Róisín Elsafty

14:52 “The Mussels” by Osvaldo Cibils

20:42 “Calm” by Alexander Boyes

24:00 Stiofán Ó Fearaíl sings an Irish language version of the Aviici song, “Wake Me Up” The video features students at the Coláiste Lurga in Indreabhán, County Galway.

A big thanks to Jim McCloskey and Doug McKnight for their help with this podcast.

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Is bilingual better?

In this week’s World in Words podcast, we consider the so-called bilingual advantage.

The benefits of speaking two languages were barely researched until the 1960s. Now, hardly a month goes by without the publication of a new inquiry into the bilingual brain. One of the most influential of these studies found that bilinguals were more adept at staving off memory loss and other effects of the ageing brain. Researchers have also found other evidence of cognitive improvements among speakers of more than one language.

There has been pushback from scholars who don’t trust the methodology of these studies, or have been unable to reproduce the results, resulting in a nasty academic standoff.

Bilingual ticket (Michael Gumtau via Flickr)

Bilingual ticket (Michael Gumtau via Flickr)

There is also the occasional study that claims that speaking more than one language may actually be a disadvantage.

So in the podcast, we checked out some opinion, both informed and uninformed. We also report from a couple of bilingual frontlines: places where there is both support for and resistance to bilingualism in their communities.

Podcast Contents

0:00 In Dunstable, UK, a long-time resident views the influx of bilingual immigrants as an economic threat to monolingual locals.

4:30 Ari Daniel tells Patrick about the connection between what’s going on in the womb of a pregnant woman and the Australian soap opera, “Neighbours.”

6:00 What happens when you repeatedly play a soundfile that says “Tatata tatatata tatata” in the presence of a pregnant mother in her third trimester.

8:45 “By the time a baby is born, they are not an inexperienced listener.”

9:30 A study out of Vancouver, BC, seeks to discover whether babies at birth can differentiate between languages.

11:10 The parents realize “their babies’ interest in the world around them and is interested in learning from the first moments in life.” Read more about the Ari Daniel’s reporting on in utero language acquisition studies here.

12:10 Should Patrick award himself a gold star because he is raising his daughter to be bilingual? Does she have a bilingual edge?

13:25 Patrick and Nina talk bilingualism across continents and 11 time zones.

15:00 Patrick talks about the trilingual schools of Friesland in the Netherlands.

16:15 Nina notices the Hawaiian language all over Hawaii, but how many fluent speakers are there?

18:15 Patrick is a celebrity in Friesland.

19:00 Nina is mesmerized by the ocean. Will she ever come back?

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The death of Spanish death in one American family

Bradley Campbell goes home to Dallas, Oregon, to find out why his Honduran-born father decided to “kill” Spanish a couple of years before Bradley was born.

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:25 “Does your dad speak another language?”

01:30 US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro’s relationship with the Spanish language.

2:00 Bradley Campbell’s dad “killed” Spanish

3:25 “Rrrrrr”

4:50 The first time Bradley’s dad was called a beaner.

5:30 1923, the year Hortensia Maria was born.

7:20 Dad and Uncle George always spoke English to each other.

8:30 A restaurant stop in Colorado.

10:20 Some background on Bradley’s hometown, Dallas, Oregon.

12:05 Dad doesn’t feel like he’s fluent in Spanish.

13:40 Spanglish rears its head.

14:15 In the US military Dad meets a guy from Mexico.

15:25 Bradley still holds a grudge.

17:00 Spanish springs back to life.

18:02 A phone call to Abuelita.

19:52 Bradley tells Nina and Patrick about his visiting his Dad’s home in Chile.

22:23 The person delivering this week’s credit for the National Endowment for the Humanities is a pretty well-known guy. Recognize the voice? Let us know at Facebook or Twitter.

MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE

“Dramamine” by Podington Bear

“The Dead of Winter” by Will Bangs

“I’m So Glad That You Exist” by Will Bangs

“Alguien” by Cucu Diamantes

Please write a review of The World in Words on iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks!

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Stand-up comedian Gad Elmaleh leaves fame, fortune and…French behind

Nina P. put together this episode.

In comedy, timing is everything.

And the timing was perfect for Moroccan-French comedian Gad Elmaleh to come by the studio recently to star in our wordy, nerdy podcast, The World in Words.

Oh my Gad! How do you say that in French? | The World on YouTube

Moroccan-French Comedian Gad Elmaleh (Photo: Caroline Lessire)

Moroccan-French Comedian Gad Elmaleh (Photo: Caroline Lessire)


In France, he’s huge, performing in arenas for thousands of fans. Elmaleh describes his style as a combination of physical and observational comedy. He’s often been compared to Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, he played the voice of Seinfeld’s character in “Bee Movie”

But Gad Elmaleh recently left fame, fortune, and French behind to pursue a stand-up career in the US in English for literally a fistful of dollars.

His new show, “Oh My Gad” opens in New York City this January.

It’s the culmination of a dream that he spoke about last year with Seinfeld in the web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

“My dream is to be able one day to go on stage in English in a comedy club here and to do my thing in English.”

Elmaleh was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and grew up speaking a mixture of French, Arabic and Hebrew. He’s done stand-up sets in all three languages. However taking his act on the road to the US and doing a set in English has been hard work, says Elmaleh. He studies the English language and pronunciation for two hours every morning. He has been documenting this English language journey and recently put out the short film: “10 Minutes in America.” In the film, he gets advice from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman.

Sarah Silverman warned him that mere translation wouldn’t work. “You have to start over,” she tells him in the film. “It’s not just translating — you have to craft a joke. You are going to need some years.”

It took getting on stage and bombing for Elmaleh to heed Silverman’s advice.

“In the beginning when I got here in the US I said, ‘You know what? I have a great show. It’s 90 minutes in French that killed every night. I’m going to translate that.”

And that’s what he did. He worked with his English teachers to translate his jokes.

“I immediately realized that that was not at all what I needed to do,” says Elmaleh.

All the jokes that had killed with a French audience didn’t make sense to Americans.

“For example, I had many jokes about when you go to the restaurant the air conditioning is freezing and the first thing they do is bring you a glass with ice water. So French people were laughing a lot and then I did this at a comedy club in English and Americans were like, ‘Yeah, well we do that.’”

His material has since morphed into observations about his move to New York City and observations about American culture and the trials of learning English.

And doing this new material in English has been unexpectedly liberating, he says. He is more free and daring in English than in French.

“It’s stressful, it’s hard but it’s also liberating,” explains Elmaleh. “With English it’s not that I have nothing to lose but I take a little risk — I like it.”

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:00 Gad Elmaleh explains his English dream to Jerry Seinfeld

1:22 Gad receives advice from Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman

3:09 Gad figures out that translating comedy from French to English isn’t as easy as merely translating jokes

4:03 English lessons

5:00 Gad, born in Casablanca, Morocco speaks four languages

6:00 English is exhausting

6:29 The first joke that Gad ever told in English

7:51 Feeling like a different comedian in English versus French

8:56 Gad is “blown out of the water”

9:11 The cliché about Texas is not true (For more about Texas clichés check out the World in Words episode: “Talking Texas in Iran”)

9:31 Nina critiques Gad’s NYC cab driver joke

10:26 PC, PDA…what does it all mean?!

12:50 Gad isn’t as balanced and together as you may think

14:00 Gad jokes about restaurants in America: Are you still working on that?

15:00 Gad’s thoughts on being alone and starting all over again

19:00 Answer to last week’s NEH accent quiz

MUSIC

“Bad Scene” by Podington Bear

“Little French Song” by Carla Bruni

Please write a review of The World in Words on iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks!

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The Shinnecock tribe of Long Island is trying to raise its language from the dead


Alina Simone and I put together this episode.

PODCAST CONTENTS

0:20: “We live on Long Island, which is very removed from what people think of as Native America.” Tina Tarrant and her daughter Tohanash (pictured above).

1:10: “The hardest thing is to feel like you don’t know your own culture.”

1:40: This is first of several podcasts we’ll be doing in 2016 about people trying to keep speaking or bring back their languages. We’re planning to bring you stories from Kenya, Japan, the Netherlands, Canada and China, as well as several stories from the United States.

2:00 Is it always worth saving a language?

4:21 Alina Simone visits the Wuneechanunk Shinnecock Preschool in Southampton, NY.

12:28 Two unrelated events: the American Dialect Society names the singular “they” its word of the year; David Bowie dies, age 69.

13:45 How those two events are linked.

14:05 Bowie’s “they” adrogyny.

15:13 “I can switch accents within seconds of meeting somebody”

16:10 Bowie’s 2002 interviews with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and with John Wilson on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.

17:13 “The words started appearing out of nowhere, and I just couldn’t control them.”

18:41 “It’s the lack of years left that weighs far heavier on me than the age that I am.”

20:03: Please write us a review at iTunes. Thanks!

20:20 Guess the accent. Post your answer at our Facebook page, or tweet us.

20:58 Lavinia Greenlaw reads “Listening to Bowie”.

MUSIC HEARD IN THE PODCAST

00:02 “Dramamine” by Podington Bear

11:33 “Februum” by Alexander Boyes

14:32 “Starman” by David Bowie

15:44 “Always Crashing in the Same Car” by David Bowie

17:40 “Heathen” by David Bowie

19:21 “Fashion” by David Bowie

20:03 “Dramamine” by Podington Bear

Listen above or on iTunes. Please write a review of The World in Words wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks!

The World in Words is also at PRI and on Facebook .

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The pleasures of an unsolved mystery

In this World in Words podcast, we pry open (but not too wide) a mystery or two. Strange to listen to it now: we recorded it a month before David Bowie’s death.

PODCAST CONTENTS

0:10 Nina Porzucki and Pien Huang tell their mysterious day stories. Both involve monks living in the mountains.

3:02 Me on the pleasures of incomprehension. It’s all down to DH Lawrence and David Bowie.

5:49 Cartoon Queen Carol Hills on how her Twitter followers help her curate foreign-language cartoons. If you like cartoons and satire, you absolutely must follow Carol on Twitter.

7:10 At the of Carol’s obsession list right now is Japanese manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, who died on November 30.

9:05 Mizuki’s English translator Zack Davisson on how Mizuki saved Japan’s supernatural culture.

10:37 Mizuki’s influence in Japan is akin to Disney’s in the US. “If you removed him from the equation, you would actually have a different Japan.”

12:27 The many mysteries of the “Codex Seraphinianus” by Luigi Serafini, a encylopedia of a fantasy world, written in an imagined script. (Nina is working on an entire podcast episode on this!).

17:53 “China Online” by Veronique Michel demystifies (though not completely) Chinese wordplay and netspeak.

20:01 “Lingo: a Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe” by Gaston Dorren is a funny and opinionated whistle-stop around Europe’s languages, large and small.

21:55 “Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness” by Jennifer Tseng, a novel about a librarian living on an island who harbors an infatuation for a high school student. I’m not letting on what happens, except to say there’s plenty of exploration of the mysteries of love and friendship. By the book’s end, though, mysteries they remain. Quite right too.

MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE

“Dramamine” by Podington Bear

“Blackstar” by David Bowie

“The Resolution of Mr Clouds” by Alexander Boyes

“Life on Mars?” David Bowie

Please write a review of The World in Words on iTunes or Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks!

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