On this week’s podcast, we begin with President Obama’s improving Spanish on display on Univision. Then we take a trip to a language school in Mexico to hear about changes in Spanish-language learning. Then it’s to France, where traditionalists are horrified at President Sarkozy’s gutter talk. Finally a conversation with author and wikipedian Andrew Lih on why foreign language wikipedias are so different from the English version. For more conversation with Andrew Lih check out Clark Boy’s technology podcast. Listen to this podcast in iTunes or here.
Monthly Archives: March 2009
You’ll hear in the latest podcast (#46) about Yiyun Li’s original idea for a title for her first novel, The Vagrants. In Chinese it is
贪生怕死 or, in pinyin, tān shēng pà sĭ. It means, literally: greedy for life, afraid of death. It suggests a craven, cowardly clinging to life. That’s a powerful thought but as a title it sounds more appropriate for a thrash metal band. For a determinedly English language novel, The Vagrants was a fine choice.
In Britain, the economic crisis may be worse than in the United States. Brits, though, are just about keeping their upper lip stiff with the help of a revived World War Two slogan. Also in the UK, an association of local officials wants to ban government jargon; under threat, some of these phrases seem lyrical and worth keeping, not unlike brutalist architecture. Finally, Yiyun Li, a Chinese-born novelist who writes, beautifully, in English. Her first novel, “The Vagrants” has just been published. Listen to the podcast in iTunes or here.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been circling the globe, hitting the reset button on America’s foreign relations. But then someone at the State Department tried – and failed – to translate “reset” into Russian. Russians know all a synonym of reset, thanks to the Matrix franchise. Now the Kremlin is urging more Americans to learn Russian. Also, middle class Pakistanis prefer English to Urdu. Plus, a new e-book on the historical roots and enduring appeal of spelling the Canadian English way. Now, just what is it about spelling that gets people so agitated? It’s only a matter of time till someone goes to war over this.