Tag Archives: Podcast

At the New York Public Library: From Ainu to Zaza

We all know that languages are dying at an alarming rate.

What can we do about it? People have been trying to save languages for decades, usually without success. But recently, there have been some hopeful signs.

Bringing back a language is a massive challenge where the odds are stacked against you.

The language revitalization movement, however, is growing up. Activists have identified the approaches that may work. They share solutions among themselves and make fewer mistakes.

Nina Porzucki and I explored these questions at a recording of The World in Words, in front of a live audience at the New York Public Library.

Patrick and Nina at the New York Public Library (Photo: Isis Madrid)

Patrick and Nina at the New York Public Library (Photo: Isis Madrid)

We heard from various guests, in person and on tape, about Ainu, Shinnecock, Mustang, Irish, Garifuna, Hawaiian and, yes, Zaza. Plus, there was a singalong and a dodgy joke or two.

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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

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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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Who says humor doesn’t translate?


Nina P. put together this episode.

Happy New Year all of you swell World in Words listeners! May your upcoming new year be full of fun — wait, make that multilingual hilarity.

To help kick things off The World in Words leaves you with one of our favorite interviews from the archives with the multilingual comedian, Samir Khullar AKA Sugar Sammy. He grew up in Quebec speaking Punjabi, Hindi, French and English and he now does stand-up in all four languages. Patrick Cox sat down with him back in 2013.

Sugar Sammy

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:37 Listen for the answer to last week’s “name that accent” quiz

1:18 Gad Elmaleh, French stand-up comedian dabbles in English

2:18 The multilingual, multitalented comic, Eddie Izzard

4:14 Meet Samir Khullar AKA Sugar Sammy

5:47 How Sugar Sammy first started his comedy career at school

6:35 Why Sugar Sammy decided to do a bilingual comedy show

7:09 Bridging Anglophone and Francophone culture

9:26 Did Sugar Sammy’s ethnicity make it easier for him to poke fun at both Anglophone and Francophone cultures?

11:00 How does speaking different languages affect the comedy? Does funny translate?

14:00 National Endowment of the Humanities funding credit and the “name that accent” quiz for next week.

MUSIC

“Re Bop” by Marie et les Garçons

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What’s proper English? In South Korea, it starts with sounding American

The reporting for this podcast is by Jason Strother. He lives in Seoul.

Sometimes speaking English isn’t enough. Sometimes it has to be the right kind of English.

When Eve Coffey first applied for English teaching positions in South Korea last year, the job hunt didn’t get off to a good start. The 23-year old was talking online from her home in Ireland with a Korean recruiter who she says seemed puzzled by her nationality.

An English-language class in South Korea. (Photo: Jason Strother)

An English-language class in South Korea. (Photo: Jason Strother)

“He asked where am I and I said, ‘I’m in Ireland.’ He said, ‘Oh, Irish people speak English?’ I said, ‘Yes, Irish people speak English,’” Coffey recalls in this week’s World in Words podcast.

The conversation took a turn for the worse when she turned away from the computer to say something to her mother in a mix of Irish and her natural brogue. Coffey says the man lost it.

Irish ESL teacher Eve Coffey was taken aback when a South Korean recruiter told her she wasn't an English speaker. “You’re not an English speaker!” she recalls the recruiter shouting. “You’re never going to get a job in Korea. You don’t speak English!”

Coffey says the man told her that he would add her name to a teacher “blacklist,” but that proved to be a hallow threat. She quickly found a job via another recruiter and now teaches ESL to middle and high school students in the city of Jinju.

Irish ESL teacher Eve Coffey (Photo: Jason Strother)

Irish ESL teacher Eve Coffey (Photo: Jason Strother)

Native speakers such as Coffey are in high demand in South Korea, where learning English borders on a national obsession. Some 20,000 foreign ESL instructors work in the country’s public school system as well as in private tutoring academies called hagwons.

Local law allows only citizens from seven English speaking countries to teach: Canada, the US, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Ireland. But some teachers who aren’t from North America say schools won’t hire instructors with their accents and some say their bosses even ask them to fake an American accent in the classroom.

Many South Koreans prefer the American accent over others because of their country’s historical and cultural ties with the United States, says Jasper Kim, who lectures at Seoul’s Ewha Women’s University.

He says this preference fulfills an academic objective, too.

“I think for many South Koreans, having the American accent means it’s the right path,” Kim says. “So the American accent is to get their children to where they want them to be, in essence the Ivy League.”

Anything else, Kim adds, “wouldn’t make sense” to these ambitious Korean parents.

Some tutoring schools specifically advertise that they teach North American English, such as the Sweet English Language Institute in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district.

For Kim Geon-young, his English instruction comes from North America teachers. He says he plans to do an MBA in the US. That’s why he wants to become more familiar with what he calls the “American accent.”

“I know there’s a difference between American and British English,” Kim says. But after being told that there are many regional accents in the US, the student admitts that he wasn’t aware of those differences.

The institute’s curriculum is based on what some phonetic textbooks refer to as Standard American English, says director Kevin Kang, who has a background in speech pathology. But he believes that the type of accent a student learns doesn’t really matter, despite what some Koreans think — consistent pronunciation is more important.

“It doesn’t need to be an American accent, or a British accent or even an Australian accent,” Kang says. “Once the learner sticks to one certain language, that will improve their sound a lot.”

Kang says one English sound that Koreans can’t seem to get right is the difference between an R and L. This causes some confusion when saying words like “read” and “lead,” or, famously, “rice” and “lice.”

To help students improve their North American accents, Kang’s school is developing a smartphone app called Sound Fit. Displaying an animated mouth on the screen, the program shows how the user should shape their lips and tongue to form vowels and consonants. It also compares the student’s pronunciation of English sounds to that of a native speaker.

Some other teachers in Korea do not agree with the Sweet English Language Institute’s approach to language learning.

“Students need to hear a range of accents”, says Eve Coffey, the Irish ESL teacher in Jinju. “It would be very rare that they’re actually going to hear a particular “ideal” accent”

Coffey adds that after a year of teaching in Korea, her students have gotten used to her voice.

So much so, she says, that one has even started to sound a little Irish when he speaks English.


PODCAST CONTENTS

00:00 A quiz for Nina Porzuki: a song and its singer’s accent.

03:24 South Korea’s pecking order of English accents.

04:21 “Irish people speak English?”

08:50 Jason passes the “L” test.

10:30 Are American accents still #1 in South Korea?

13:00 Are the most valued English teachers white Americans?

16:45 “Everyone take out your homework now.”

17:50 There are many Korean dialects too.

19:02 And then there’s North Korean version of the language.

MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE

“Dramamine” by Podington Bear

“Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues

“Bad Scene” by Podington Bear

“Cathaedrabysmal” by Unsettling Scores

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Signing with a Philly accent

Nina P. put together this episode.

Cheesesteaks, Peanut Chews, Tastykakes, oh yeah, the Liberty Bell — there’s so much to love about Philadelphia, but one of the best things about the city of Brotherly Love is the accent. We’re not talking about spoken English — we’re talking about American Sign Language. This week on the podcast we learn about the Philadelphia accent in ASL.

What is an accent in ASL? ASL speaker and researcher Jami Fisher explains it all. Fisher, along with University of Pennsylvania linguistic professor Meredith Tamminga, is working on a study to document and explain this “weird,” as Fisher calls it, way of signing. (For the hearing impaired or those who cannot access audio immediately, there’s a full transcript here.)

Also on the podcast, we hear from the actors of the Broadway musical, “Spring Awakening.” This production features eight deaf actors. John Hockenberry from our friends at The Takeaway got the chance to interview some of the actors.

PODCAST CONTENTS:

0:00 Sean Monahan doing the Philly accent. He does a series of PhillyTawk videos on YouTube.

1:18 Murph (Nick Kroll) of Pawnsylvania

1:39 Meet Jami Fisher, ASL Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania. She is studying the Philadelphia ASL accent

2:54 What is an accent in ASL?

3:56 Why does Philadelphia have an accent in ASL?

4:29 Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet found the first deaf school in Hartford, CT in 1817

5:35 Pennsylvania School for the deaf is founded in 1820

6:27 Theory about the Philadelphia signs

7:54 Theories as to why the ASL Philly accent may be disappearing

9:31 Jami Fisher recruited her father to help interview deaf participants in the study

10:31 What are some similar sign language accent studies around the world?

11:07 Growing up “CODA” (child of deaf adults)

12:16 The story of Jami’s parents learned to sign

13:55 Broadway actor Daniel Durant on speaking American Sign Language

15:37 John Hockenberry, the host of The Takeaway interviews some of the cast members of the current ASL Broadway production of “Spring Awakening”

Music heard in this episode:

“Peas Corps” and “Bad Scene” by Podington Bear

Music from the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening

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A tale of two linguists and the conflict that separates them

Shaina Shealy reported this one in Israel and Gaza. She and I had a great conversation about it in the podcast.

The windows of Arik Sadan’s classroom at Hebrew University in Jerusalem look over the Silwan Valley, a sloping desert dotted with tall, white, rectangular Palestinian houses. Inside his classroom, most students are Jewish. Sadan teaches them Arabic.

Sadan wrote a book, “The Subjunctive Mood,” tracing Arabic linguistic thought from pre-Islamic Arabia to the 19th century, which earned him the title of the world expert in Arabic’s subjunctive tense. His native tongue is Hebrew and he can talk about Arabic grammatical thought — specifically, his philosophies behind ancient linguistic decision-making — for 15 minutes straight. “When you look at the structure,” he says, “you can see a logic of thinking that’s common across borders.”

Arik Sadan (L) and Sobhi Bahloul (R). Photos: Shaina Shealy

Arik Sadan (L) and Sobhi Bahloul (R). Photos: Shaina Shealy

Beyond Israel’s southwest border, Sobhi Bahloul also wrote a book: Kitaba Wa’Ti-ibrya. It was published in seven parts (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Hebrew; Hebrew Writing I and II; and Hebrew Editing I and II) and adds up to Gaza’s Hebrew language curriculum. Bahloul trained all of the twelve Hebrew teachers in the Gaza Strip.

Sobhi Bahloul is Palestinian, 53 years old and has been speaking Hebrew for over half of his life. After graduating from Tel Aviv University with a MA in Hebrew Language in 2002, he became Hamas’s go-to guy for all things related to Hebrew. He teaches at universities, consults with businessmen and translates documents for Gazans in Israeli hospitals and prisons.

“Hebrew is the language of an enemy,” Bahloul says. But he also believes Hebrew can bring Gazans closer to Israeli culture by helping them understand customs and daily life.Sobhi Bahloul and his Hebrew students in Gaza City.Bahloul and Sadan’s deep understanding of a language that is not only foreign but potentially adversarial brings them uncommonly close to other cultures. Both men are so passionate about language that they teach everyone who expresses interest — including soldiers, informants and militants. But they are driven by a belief that language’s unifying power outweighs its other uses.

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:00 Learning the language of your enemy

01:53 Music: “Habib Galbi” by A-WA. More about these three singing sisters here.

02:33 Israeli linguist Arik Sadan, an authority on the Arabic subjunctive.

Linguist Arik Sadan05:15 Jews are turning their backs on a language that used to be central to their culture: “The Jewish heritage– a great percentage of it– is Arabic.”

07:30 The way Arabic is taught in the Israeli army: “Know thy enemy, in order for you to stop the next explosion. You tend to forget that it’s a language.”

9:10 Sadan’s sad joke: “I only wish that the Hebrew people and the Arab people would be a bit as close as the languages are.”

11:20 But is he in the Mossad?

12:45 Searching for Arik Sadan’s Palestinian counterpart.

13:20 Sobhi Bahloul has trained all twleve of Gaza’s Hebrew teachers and developed Gaza’s Hebrew curriculum.

14:42 “If you understand each other, it’s good.”

16:35 Bahloul’s students don’t learn about Passover, but he wants them to learn other cultural references.

17:45 Learning Hebrew to survive in an Israeli prison.

19:40 Bahloul breaks the ice with Israeli soldiers.

21:14 Have Arik Sadan and Sobhi Bahloul ever met?

23:30 Gaza’s Hebrew students’ Facebook friends in Israel.

24:08 Learning Hebrew in order to understand the labels on cosmetic products.

27:10 Music: Eich Efshar by Jane Bordeaux

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Faking the Funk: Singing in another accent

Nina P. did this pod. She had me on to chat, Marco too. He flunked the quiz. I flunked the quiz. We all flunked the quiz.

Contents:

00:00 Our listeners are the smartest. Thank you.

2:53 The World’s host, Marco Werman gets quizzed and talks Soul Train

9:55 Linguist Bill Beeman on singing in foreign languages – It’s all about the vowels!

13:51 Linguist Jane Setter sings like Tammie Wynette

15:47 Alesha Dixon controversy

19:31 Cliff Richard, the British Elvis

21:20 Ethnomusicologist Langston Wilkins and the influence of the African American voice

23:20 How can a Canadian artist who sings with a Jamaican Patois be authentic?

24:00 “Blaccent” and the problem with Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea (Photo: Daniel Gregory)

Iggy Azalea (Photo: Daniel Gregory)


28:20 The difference between Iggy Azalea and Mick Jagger

32:00 Goodbye for now. Patrick takes us out with a song

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