What are easiest, and hardest languages, to speak, and then write?

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

If you’re an English speaker and wish to learn some other languages, where should you start? If it were me, lazy me, I’d probably go with the easiest choice.

According to Victor Mair, writing for the Language Log, I should learn to speak, but not write, Mandarin. He thinks it is the easiest to grasp. Contrast that with Sanskrit, or written Chinese, which he ranks as a little harder.

  • Mandarin (spoken)
  • Nepali
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • Sanskrit
  • Chinese (written)

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The biggest threat to your marriage? Your smartphone. So phubb it

Friday, 20 January, 2017

The biggest threat to your love life, or relationship? Your smartphone. That may not be such a surprise, given the dangers the device can potentially pose elsewhere in your day-to-day life. For example, I hope no one here engages in text messaging while driving.

So pronounced is the peril to martial matters though, a neologism has been created in its honour, phubbing. A portmanteau, or marriage – if you’ll excuse the pun – between the words phone and snubbing. I see instances of phubbing all to often.

Couples on buses, trains, or at restaurants staring, transfixed, into the screens of their phones. Almost oblivious to each other, it seems. I sometimes kid myself though, and imagine they’re engaging each other on some social media channel, as they sit there.

Most know what it’s like to be phubbed: You’re in the middle of a passionate screed only to realize that your partner’s attention is elsewhere. But you’ve probably also been a perpetrator, finding yourself drifting away from a conversation as you scroll through your Facebook feed.

And with some people glancing at their phone up to one hundred and fifty times a day, or once every six and a half minutes, no wonder some relationships are in disarray. The solution, to phubbing, though maybe not a strained love, is simple, if challenging.

It’s called abstinence. Put the phone away, and focus on your significant other. There is no alternative, or app that can help with something like that. It’s all about will-power, something else smartphones are eroding, and focusing on your desire for your partner instead.

Go to it. And when I said there was no app that could help, it immediately gave rise to an idea. A real idea. App developers, and venture capitalists, who wish to hear more, should have no hesitation in contacting me forthwith.

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Roman-era notes come to light on London construction site

Friday, 3 June, 2016

Hand written documents, that were composed nearly two thousand years ago, have been uncovered during construction work in London’s financial district. They are said to be the oldest hand written messages ever found in Britain.

So far 87 have been deciphered, including one addressed “in London, to Mogontius” and dated to AD 65-80, making it the earliest recorded reference to the city, which the Romans called Londinium. Another is dated January 8, AD 57 and is considered Britain’s earliest dated hand-written document.

I sure hope whoever wrote these notes wasn’t worried about their contents becoming public, even if that were to happen twenty centuries later.

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Emotional responses to corporate text messages

Tuesday, 26 April, 2016

Emotional responses to corporate text messages… have you ever been tempted to reply to the generic, blanket, text message that large companies send to their entire customer base? Timothy R. Dunn was. Especially amusing though are the responses generated by Dunn’s replies.

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Not too much, not too little, the best way to write emails

Tuesday, 16 February, 2016

Not too long, but too short either. Not too positive, but not too sugary-sweet either. A little negativity is OK, but, again, not too much. That’s part of the recipe for writing emails that are the most likely to solicit a reply, this according to research carried out by Boomerang, a company that specialises in electronic communication.

Boomerang found that emails that were slightly positive or slightly negative were most likely to get responses. Asking a couple of questions is good, but more than three starts working against you. “Flattery works, but excessive flattery doesn’t,” they wrote in a blog post about the findings. “We also don’t advise penning day-ruining screeds.”

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Sure you can Snapchat, but can you Snapchat like a teenager?

Thursday, 11 February, 2016

A BuzzFeed writer who isn’t au fait with Snapchat, the messaging app whose name is mentioned in conversation at least once every five minutes, by the under-twenty set?

Actually, that’s not quite the situation, Ben Rosen does snapchat, but when he saw his younger sister, Brooke, in action, he decided he needed to up his game, so asked her for some tips. And now, as a result of his research, we can all Snapchat Like The Teens:

We live in different states, so I rarely get a chance to hang out with her. That’s what made Thanksgiving so eye-opening. I would watch in awe as she flipped through her snaps, opening and responding to each one in less than a second with a quick selfie face. She answered all 40 of her friends’ snaps in under a minute. How was this even possible? Is she a freak of nature, or is this just how things are done when you’re young? I had to find out what I was missing. What do these “teens” know that I don’t? I decided to investigate further…

I’m not a user myself… I have enough social media channels to deal with as it is. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. For now, anyway.

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What to do when you’re two digits short of a phone number?

Thursday, 10 December, 2015

A certain someone, who you have no other way of reaching, has given you their phone number, but somehow you’ve lost the last two digits. How might you solve such a problem? By dialling every possible combination of the missing two numbers? I’m guessing you wouldn’t be the first person to do that, nor will you be the last. Needless to say, much persistence is required.

Features some possibly NSFW language.

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The path of misery is paved with social networks

Monday, 7 December, 2015

Social networks may make many of us feel miserable. All those sun-drenched photos of our friends living it up in some location we can only envy, causes us to think more about what others have, or appear to have, rather than what we need. People who decided to opt out of places such as Facebook, later reported feeling happier with their lives.

The results were incredibly revealing – after just 7 days 88% of the group that left Facebook said they felt “happy” as opposed to 81% in the group still using the site. They also felt less angry, less lonely, less depressed, more decisive, more enthusiastic, and enjoyed their lives more. Ditching Facebook also appeared to reduce stress levels by as much as 55%. They’re some pretty strong results…

Not to bash the world’s favourite social network, I do find it useful for keeping in contact with far-flung friends, although I realise there are other ways to achieve this, I wonder if stepping back from the expectations of, and the need to keep up with, one peers, whether online, or those we rub shoulders with, would result in a similar outcome?

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Tips for fine-tuning your use of misused English language words

Friday, 4 December, 2015

Are you shore the word you’re thinking of placing in a sentence is the correct choice? With so many English language words that almost look and sound the same, you could be forgiven making an error, except you might not.

Canadian-American psychologist and linguist, Steven Pinker, points out close to sixty words and phrases that are often misused, that include intern, hung, hone, ironic, and irregardless, being a word – though Pinker says it is a portmanteau – I cannot bring myself to utter, even though this is the third time I’ve used it on disassociated.

Since there is no definitive body governing the rules of the English language like there is for the French language, for example, matters of style and grammar have always remained relatively debatable. Pinker’s rules and preferences are no different, but the majority of the words and phrases he identifies are agreed upon and can help your writing and speaking.

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And you don’t call to say you’re breaking up with me anymore

Wednesday, 18 November, 2015

Is this outsourcing taken to an extreme, or are we really so hamstrung when it come to communicating with each other, that we need someone else to do our dirty work for us? I’m referring to a new service, called The Breakshop, that will inform your significant other, or more the point, soon to be former significant other, that you are taking your leave of them.

For a fee, your go-between will deliver the message by way of a phone call, email, or text message. I’m not sure if they offer a face-to-face option though. For their part, The Breakshop contends that some sort of communication that a relationship is over, is better than the silent treatment, which seems to be the norm. Granted, they may have a point there.

They also seem to suggest that their service is probably better suited to relationships of the hook-up variety, or short term flings. If your situation is long term, or you are married, you’ll need to do this by yourself. And so you should, if you’re indeed going down that path. Oh, and if not face-to-face, then at least verbally, in conversation. But I digress.

Breakups aren’t pretty, but not getting any kind of closure can be worse. If you’re the kind of person who’s in and out of casual relationships often, and you don’t have the time or the courage to break up with someone yourself, you can pay The Breakup Shop to at least give the other person that closure. That, Mackenzie said, is the audience they’re aiming for.

While the romantic in me is appalled, the entrepreneur sees opportunity. If robots are taking away more and more of our jobs, then offering a service like this seems to me to be taking an initiative. Initiative is in almost as short supply as communication, so this venture might be a good thing. I say might be, because now that’s the cynic in me speaking.

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