• About Tyler

    By Dint of Phrases: 12 Old Words That Survived Through Idioms

    by  • August 24, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments




    Arika Okrent talks about 12 English words that are only still in use due to idioms in this recent post for Mental Floss.  The full list of words, most (if not all) of either Old English or Old French origin, includes “eke,” “deserts,” “sleight,” “wend,” “dint,” “roughshod,” “fro,” “hue,” “kith,” “lurch,” “umbrage,” and “shrift.”  With respect to “sleight,” which is only used through the idiom “sleight of hand,” Okrent writes:   

    “‘Sleight of hand’ is one tricky phrase.  ’Sleight” is often miswritten as ‘slight’ and for good reason.  Not only does the expression convey an image of light, nimble fingers, which fits well with the smallness implied by ‘slight,’ but an alternate expression for the concept is ‘legerdemain,’ from the French léger de main,” literally, ‘light of hand.’  ’Sleight’ comes from a different source, a Middle English word meaning ‘cunning” or ‘trickery.’  It’s a wily little word that lives up to its name.”

    If you are taking a course with GLN, do you know of any words in the language you are studying that are primarily used in idioms?  Do you know of any English words that could be included Okrent’s list?    


    Inspiration through Tradition: Saki Mafundikwa Talks About African Writing and Graphic Design

    by  • August 15, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments


    Textile printed using the adinkra technique.

    In this conference video from TED.com, Saki Mafundikwa, founder of the Zimbabwe Institute of Digital Design, discusses the need of African graphic designers to rely more often on local tradition for inspiration in their design work.  Mafundikwa argues that instead of looking away from African heritage for ideas, native designers should learn to appreciate the creative output of their ancestors.  He cites ancient African alphabets above all, such as Adinkra symbols (from Ghana) and Nsibidi (southern Nigeria), as a significant example of what African designers are capable of accomplishing.



    Serbo-Croatian: Are the Linguistic Varieties Becoming More Distinct?

    by  • August 1, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments


    On occasion of Croatia’s new status as a European Union member state, Asya Pereltsvaig discusses the history of languages within the Balkan region in this article for GeoCurrents.  Focusing on the influence of dialects in shaping languages within the region, she also elaborates on how in most cases, ethnic and religious identity, rather than geographic boundaries, is the strongest factor in determining where a language is spoken.

    Another topic discussed by Pereltsvaig is the two national standards of language that developed in Croatia and Serbia.  Although both standards were developed using similar methods, she highlights certain areas where they do not overlap.  She writes:

    “The two national standards still differ in their pronunciations, vocabulary choices, and sentence structures.  For example, ‘the Croats followed a policy of purism in issues of vocabulary, while the Serbs were largely concerned with remaining true to the vernacular language (Greenberg, pg. 47).’”

    Contrasting with examples of Serbian vocabulary, she goes on to provide examples in standard Croatian that rely on “native” Croatian words:

    “Examples include the Slavic-derived zračna luka (literally ‘air harbor’) rather than aerodrome, munjovoz (literally ‘lightning vehicle’) instead of tramvaj ‘tram,’ osposoba instead of kvalifikacija ‘qualification,’ and so on.  Standard Croatian retained native names for calendar months, whereas standard Serbian uses the Gregorian januar, februar, mart, and so on. The Croats play nogomet (literally ‘foot-throwing’), while the Serbs play fudbal ‘soccer.’”

    Pereltsvaig concludes by questioning whether or not the Balkan trend towards standardization will continue, making the various languages less mutually understandable for the region’s inhabitants.  As an alternative scenario, she suggests that Croatia’s European Union membership may reverse this trend.

    Meet Meredith or “Meche,” Spanish Nearly Native Student

    by  • July 30, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments



    My name is Meredith, though when speaking Spanish, I find it more comfortable to go by “Meche,” a nickname I’ve had in Spanish classes for a long time.  I just completed my first class with GLN in Spanish Nearly Native with Fabi Perera.  I’m a lifelong Spanish learner, but it really began to solidify more than seven years ago when I did a year of volunteer service in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  I worked at a small clinic in the morning as the receptionist and at a school teaching English as a foreign language in the afternoons.

    While I lived there I was continually fascinated with how specific language is tied to environment and place.  This occurred to me during a sweltering hot December day when I had to demonstrate what exactly a “one-horse open sleigh” is and why exactly it is connected with the sound of bells.  There are about 6 different adjectives tied directly to water in Ecuador.  Agua vida, agua hervida, agua herbita, agua pura, aguas Guatemalas.  There are some fruits that will never have an English name for me.  The sweetness of a maduro cannot be contained in the word plantain.  And manestra just sounds so much more appetizing than stewed lentils.  There are two words for prayer rezar and orar.  There are also those English words that have crept into Spanish somehow, but sound so much cooler surrounded by other Spanish words, like full and chance.  And then there are words in Espangles like asfaltar (to pave) and parquear (to park).

    My class with GLN gave me a chance to rediscover the joy of these words and phrases.  Catiras for the blond girls in our class (also used for blond beers!), kuchi for something that is sweet and endearing.  I was pleased to learn that there is a South American version of The Onion and the satisfaction that my southwestern Ecuadorian accent is not an aberration, but merely Caribbean.

    My favorite thing about the class though was the enthusiasm all my classmates had just to be present and enjoy hearing and speaking Spanish.  Unlike any high school or college class I’ve ever taken, the students at GLN are under no obligation to be there, they simply want to be present.  Which brings me to my favorite Ecuadorianism of all:

    Question: ¿Comó esta usted? (How are you?)
    Response: Aqui. (Here.)

    It is how a good number of people respond when asked how they are.  “I’m here. Can’t you see?”  They are in the present moment, and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but mostly it means, I’m where I am right now, whether that is working, resting, laughing, crying, learning or teaching.

    Let’s not forget to be here.




    Pride of Poland: How Poland Rediscovered Its Cuisine

    by  • July 19, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments



    Anne Applebaum discusses the rediscovery of Poland’s national cuisine beginning in the early 1990s in this article for Foreign Policy.  Although during communism there existed expensive private restaurants that advertised unique menus, those offered by Poland’s more common state-run restaurants often lacked the flavor and diversity that reemerged in mainstream cuisine after the Cold War.  Addressing this variety in cuisine, Appelbaum writes:    

    “With political stability came national self-confidence, and with that came a revival of Polish cooking on a national scale.  Today, the most fashionable Warsaw and Krakow restaurants no longer serve bland foreign food with fancy names.  Instead, there are robust pork and duck dishes, red cabbage, and wild mushrooms.  They serve smalec, an old-fashioned peasant spread made of pork fat and eaten with rustic black bread.  Trout, venison, and wild boar, all historically part of Polish cuisine, have reappeared on menus too.” 

    Applebaum also discusses karczma, or roadside inns, which are among her family’s favorite locations for finding tasty meals.  Among the dishes that can be found at these inns are zurek, a soup made of sour bread stock, white sausage and vegetables; as well as a type of grilled pork filet served on a skewer.  

    If you are interested in learning more Polish cooking, Appelbaum published last year the cookbook From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food.

    Say What?: Language Website Forvo Allows Users to Listen to Over 1.9 Million Pronunciations

    by  • July 11, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments



    If you are looking to improve upon your pronunciation while studying a language, the free online pronunciation guide Forvo is a valuable resource to consider.  Choosing from over 300 languages (over 1.8 million words), users can also select from words according to numerous other categories.  If you are interested in hearing the pronunciation of sports-related words such as  sraithchomórtas (Irish for league) or čtyřhra (Czech for doubles), for example, you will be able to listen to a recorded pronunciation contributed by one of the website’s users.

    Other features included are the option to download audio pronunciations, user-created lists of words lacking an audio pronunciation, and the capability to rate the pronunciations recorded by other users.



    Latin of the Muslim World: The Role of Arabic in the Language Studies of Polyglot Timothy Doner

    by  • July 8, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    For many, learning even one language is considered a challenge.  Can you imagine trying to learn several?  How about before age 18?  In this interview with Lane Greene, author and editor of The Economist’s Johnson blog, 17-year-old polyglot Timothy Doner discusses his interest in linguistics and the reasons behind his decision-making when choosing a new...

    Read more →