Monthly Archives: August 2016

5 common words that have different origins

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How international is English? Over the centuries the English language has assimilated words and phrases from a variety of other languages.

Here are 5 common words that have different origins.

Veranda/Verandah: A sheltered gallery or terrace attached to a house or some other building. The word began to appear in the English language early in the 18th century. In Hindi, the word varanda has a similar meaning. This is not the source of the word, however, as it is thought to derive from the Portuguese word varanda meaning a balcony.

Kudos: An ancient Greek word that means “glory” or “reknown”. In ancient Greek culture, glory was found on the battlefield, much like every other civilization. When a solider was refused his earned due, or kudos, it was considered a very serious insult. One of the most famous examples of kudos is in the Iliad when Agamemnon takes the maiden Briseis from the soldier Achilles as a gift of honor- kudos earned from his glory in battle.

Glitch: A word for “slip up”, glitch is believed to be a conglomeration of two words, both that meant to slip or slide, around 1962: “glitshen” (Yiddish) and “glitschen” (German). It was first used in English by American astronauts when there was a spike in an electrical current, and then broadened to other technical mishaps. (Image: GLITCH – Designing Imperfection.)

Assassin: The origins of this Arabic word date back to the ninth century, when an Islamic sect was led to overthrow the Suni Muslims.  Yemeni Shiite Hasan-I Sabbah was the founder of the group and set about his mission by targeting the enemies’ leaders. The group was given the name Hashshashin, meaning hashish-eaters, and was converted into English in 1603 as “assassin”.

Déjà vu: “I’m having déjà vu” has somehow secretly slipped into English to solely describe an inexplicable instance that may have never actually happened.

“Already seen,” is the English translation of the French phrase with which we associate that weird feeling of reliving the same past experience. In France you’ll hear this word on a daily basis, because it’s used to express “having re-seen” a person, place or things, not in another life or dimension. In other words, it’s a factual encounter.

The French do believe in the weird phenomenon, but have a different way of spelling it (with a hyphen), déjà-vu. There is no difference in pronunciation though, which is why context is always key!

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7 free ways to meet your #VocabGoals

#VocabGoals

#VocabGoals

What is your vocabulary score on this fun test? I got 3560/4000 on my first try!

Learning new words is a great way to improve your English. We come across new words every day and can easily add them to our repertoire. In case you are wondering, here is the meaning of repertoire!

Here are 7 free ways you can meet your #VocabGoals and get a better vocabulary score than mine!

Read. A lot. There is just no substitute for reading as an excellent way of acquiring new words. Underline any new words you come across while reading, unless it’s a book from the library! Guess what they could mean by reading the text and thinking of the context in which they have been used. Now see the dictionary. How off were you? Not much? Very good! Now note down the meaning of the word in your personal word journal.

Listen to podcasts. Don’t have time to read? Podcasts are your new BFF! What’s great about them is you can subscribe to the ones you like and can listen when you please; driving your car, riding the metro or even cooking! Do remember to write the new words you learn in your word journal. Don’t worry about finding podcasts, there are tons to good ones.

Download a vocab app. Learn on the go using any of the thousands of vocabulary apps which you can download on your phone. Try out activities, play games, rank on leader-boards. Learning was never this fun!

Play word games. Can you complete the daily crossword in less than 20 minutes? What about Pictionary? Word games are a great way to make things fun and challenge yourself. Once you are confident playing on your own, try some multi-player games. For now here are some good ones you can start with.

Use social media. Join an English language learning Facebook page like the British Council’s English in India page or the LearnEnglish British Council page.  These pages post a number of words, vocabulary learning tips and games every day. You can also participate in contests, interact with other learners and ask questions. Learn, with a little help from your (social media) friends!

Set a vocab goal. Nothing like a goal to work towards and motivate yourself. Set yourself a target to learn a certain number of words every week. How many weeks in a row can you learn 21 new words, three for each day of the week? Post your words of the day on your Facebook page to keep count. This way you can also share what you are learning with your friends. And don’t forget to reward yourself once you achieve your #VocabGoals.

Use new words. Practice makes perfect. Use the new words from your word journal while you are writing or speaking. Think of if they had the desired effect on your reader or listener. Did they make your communication better? Use them again, this time with more accuracy and confidence! Now they are part of your repertoire. See what I did there?

So, what are your waiting for? Go get your #VocabGoals!

Post by – Shivangi Gupta, Head Business Development English (Customers) India, English

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Multiple perspectives on multilingualism

Seventeen of the scheduled languages are featured on Indian rupee banknotes

India boasts one of the largest number of languages for any country on earth, with 22 languages awarded official status and referred to as ‘scheduled languages’. English is termed an ‘associate official language’. Depending on how they are counted (and who is doing the counting) there are as many as 6600 other languages spoken and used across the country – some by very small percentages of the population which can still equate to large numbers in a country of 1.2 billion people.

The British Council is well-known for its work relating to the English language, including working with teachers to improve the way that it is taught within education systems. Our position is to support the development of English as a skill alongside the development of learners’ mother tongues and other national languages. To this end, we actively support research into multilingualism and English as a medium of instruction in order to facilitate a shared understanding of what works in practice and where there are significant challenges. This has been realised in several ways in India, including by hosting a roundtable event on multilingualism in 2014, hosting the Language and Development Conference in Delhi in 2015 on the theme of multilingualism and development and most recently through a partnership on a research project initiated by the University of Cambridge and the University of Reading in the UK.

This project, Multilingualism and multiliteracy: raising learning outcomes in challenging contexts in primary schools across India was recently launched through a consultation event at British Council Delhi. Alongside the team from the two UK universities, led by Professor Ianthi Tsimpli and including Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller and Professor Theodoros Marinis, co-investigators from key institutions in India, Dr Survana Alladi from Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences and Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay from the English and Foreign Languages University Hyderabad, and representatives of other partner organisations also attended. This breadth of representation from different sectors, cultures and organisations led to a rich discussion on the issues surrounding multilingualism in India and the impact that this can have on learning.

These questions will continue to be explored through the research study, focusing on young learners in Bihar, Hyderabad and Delhi. In particular, the project seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge around how different mediums of instruction can impact on literacy, numeracy and higher level cognitive skills. The study will also examine the extent to which geographic and socioeconomic factors affect development in these areas. Furthermore, the research project includes a strong focus on capacity building for all involved – including a network of research assistants and PhD students – and seeks to drive impact through a range of dissemination events and channels as the research gets underway. The project will run from 2016–2020.

Watch this space for further updates.

Back row (from left to right): Rajarshi Singh, Pratham; Prof Ganesh Devy (People’s Linguistic Survey of India); Prof Minati Panda (Jawaharlal Nehru University); Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay (EFL-U); Prof Ianthi Tsimpli (Univ of Cambridge); Prof Jeanine Treffers-Daller.  Front row (from left to right): Prof Theo Marinis; Prof Ajit Mohanty (retired from JNU); Prof Rama Mathew (Delhi University)

Back row (from left to right): Rajarshi Singh, Pratham; Prof Ganesh Devy (People’s Linguistic Survey of India); Prof Minati Panda (Jawaharlal Nehru University); Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay (EFL-U); Prof Ianthi Tsimpli (Univ of Cambridge); Prof Jeanine Treffers-Daller.
Front row (from left to right): Prof Theo Marinis; Prof Ajit Mohanty (retired from JNU); Prof Rama Mathew (Delhi University)
Also present but not pictured: Dr Vasanta Duggirala (retired from Osmania University, Hyderabad); Dr Dhir Jhingran (Language and Learning Foundation); Dr Suvarna Alladi (Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences), Debanjan Chakrabarti and Amy Lightfoot (British Council India).

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