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Blogs by the Veritas team about language and linguistics, across many languages in and outside of Europe.

Let’s tweet all about it

By |August 5th, 2014|

Twitter first made its mark back in 2006 and quickly went from strength to strength allowing users to post messages in 140 characters. At first I remember there being a lot of jokes about how people used it to tell others about their daily lives, with tweets about breakfast choices, weather (of course!) as well as a way to spread news fast.

As a well-established tool for both businesses and personal use, Twitter lets everyone join in the conversation using hashtags, which allow posts to be grouped together. It is a good way for businesses to monitor what is being said […]

Colombian culture – a nation of football and diversity

By |July 1st, 2014|

Colombia is a nation enriched by Native American, Hispanic and African culture. Football plays a pivotal role as the country’s most popular sport, and is bound up in Colombian culture.

All those who are familiar with the game could not forget the likes of Carlos Valderrama, who graced the turf at France 98’ with his iconic style of play, and who could forget that afro?

In many ways, Colombia’s passion for football is a testament to the Colombian people, who are equally as colourful and imaginative as their beloved game. Whether you’re from the capital, Bogota, or the more remote regions of […]

Changing Languages

By |June 27th, 2014|

Changing Languages

A spelling test my daughter recently had in school, prompted me to look into the English language and its’ “idiosyncrasies”, as I like to call them. I have in the past, been called “pedantic” and even on occasion, “obsessive” when it comes to spelling and Grammar – I blame my Form 3 Primary School teacher, Mrs Jones. Mrs Jones made us re-write each word fifty times, if we dared to mis-spell any in our weekly spelling tests!!!

I’ve noticed that, although many people can speak English as their second / third / subsequent language (far better than I can speak […]

So what is linguistics?

By |June 24th, 2014|

When I tell people I studied English Language and Linguistics at university (bit of a mouthful, I know), most of the time people follow it up by asking what linguistics is.

It’s hard to explain sometimes because I’m unsure whether someone is genuinely interested in hearing a five minute spiel about my course, or whether they’re just being polite and making conversation. I do try and adjust what I’m saying but usually the simplest way of explaining it is by saying that linguistics is the science of language.

People don’t often match science and language as they are seen as two separate […]

Grandma’s Philosophy – The origins of some old English sayings

By |May 22nd, 2014|

I sometimes wonder where a number of modern-day phrases came from. My Grandmother was always saying something that didn’t quite make sense to my younger self.

“Stir with a knife – stir with strife” used to get a bemused look as a response from me. If a knife is all I had to hand, why not stir her cup of tea with it – it was clean! Apparently, it was deemed an indication of “downstairs origin” (being a member of the lower class) to stir one’s tea with anything other than a spoon; preferably a silver one. My Grandmother kept a […]

The Evolution of Language

By |May 22nd, 2014|

The Evolution of Language

Language, in its essence, is an ever-morphing creature. The language we speak today, has no doubt evolved over time.

We know that language may change as a result of social or political pressures. Invasion, colonisation, immigration or when a new invention comes along, a new noun is born to accurately describe the new ‘thing’. Ironically, in these situations the likelihood is that the name given to the ‘thing’ is likely to include or be derived from one of history’s oldest languages – Latin!

Language can also change very subtly whenever speakers come into contact with each other. No two individuals […]

French around the World

By |May 21st, 2014|

In 1536, the Aosta Valley (present day Italy) became the first authority to adopt the French language as an official language, surprisingly, even before the French state had made that step.

It is estimated that around 75% of the population speak the French language, which has continued a long tradition, particularly in Collège Saint-Bénin, since the beginning of the XVII century.

Linguistically, the French that is spoken in the Aosta Valley is peculiar in the sense that it borrows equally from both Franco-Provencal and Italian. This is in part due to the evolution of language in the region, and the corresponding contact […]


By |March 24th, 2014|

I had a really interesting discussion with my cousin, who lives in America, the other day.  (Granted it was by iMessage, but it was still a real-time discussion.)  It was all about the word ‘Roof’ and its plural.

We both thought that Rooves was the correct plural, but his daughter’s teacher said Roofs.  So he asked me about it (since I trained as an English teacher way back when).  I admit, I had to Google a bit and do a bit of digging.  Turns out, this is a very hotly debated topic!

For example, while the British-English Oxford English Dictionary states that […]

Linguistic unity or separation – the French language in Canada and France

By |February 18th, 2014|

Our clients have asked us to shed some light on some of the key reasons why Canada’s French and France’s French are considered as separate entities.

When Jacques Cartier planted the French flag in what is now Québec, in 1534, he expected there to be a rich history of cultural exchange to unfold.

The truth is that Québec has since gone onto form its own unique linguistic entity within Francophonie. Despite the fact that both areas use the same grammar, differences can be noted in rhythm, intonation and pronunciation.

There are expressions like ‘être en shape’ that are clearly borrowings made from the […]

The great language learning debate

By |February 5th, 2014|

Here at Veritas we’re disappointed to hear the news reported by the BBC yesterday that the Welsh Assembly intends to cut language learning cash by two thirds  for the National Centre for Languages (CILT) from April this year.

Recent reports state that the number of pupils applying for language degrees in Wales is already down by a third from 12,826 in 2005, to 8,601 in 2013. So it’s safe to say that this a worrying blow for the youngsters in Wales who are growing up in an ever competitive global market where language skills is of growing importance to succeeding in the workplace. 

With […]

New Year’s Resolutions? Or New Year’s Goals?

By |January 14th, 2014|


It’s January.  It’s a new year.  And so it’s time for the annual ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ lists.  Thing is, I don’t like resolutions – I prefer goals.  I think the language we use makes a big difference.

RESOLUTION:  a firm decision to do (or not to do) something; the quality of being determined or resolute

Making a resolution is simply making a decision.  You make your decision (to lose weight, for example) and you’re done.  You already feel like you’ve accomplished something, so where is the impetus to carry on?  You should just say, “I’ve decided to lose weight this year.”  “Great”, […]

Do you speak coffee?

By |December 16th, 2013|

Java.  Joe.  Brew.  Black gold.  Battery acid.

We have a lot of words for that highly popular hot, black, bean-based drink:  Coffee.

I was always a tea drinker, myself – even after coffee cafés began popping up in bookstores and replacing bars/pubs.  But I was increasingly feeling ‘left out’ of the social scene of the 2000s – the coffee house.  Comfy chairs, alternative music, a language of its own.  I even said to my husband just the other day, “Ya know, I think coffee places are the pubs of the 21st century.”  We no longer say, let’s meet for a drink.  We […]

Wôpanâôt8âôk – re-birth of a Native American language

By |November 20th, 2013|

Have you heard of Wôpanâôt8âôk?  Probably not, since it hasn’t been a ‘living’ language for over 150 years.  But that’s about to change…

What is Wôpanâôt8âôk?
Wôpanâôt8âôk is the native language of the Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) tribe of Native Americans who live in the area of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  It was once a very important language:

It was the first Native American language to develop and use an alphabetic writing system.
The first complete bible printed in the ‘New World’ was published in the Wampanoag language in 1663
The language enjoys the largest corpus […]

Translating Time from American to British English

By |October 16th, 2013|

I love working in an office that not only deals with people around the world, but includes people from around the world. Mainly because the chats we have over a coffee are always interesting and lively, and can sprout from a simple phrase or word used.

Case in point, the other day a couple staff were querying the use of “12:07 AM” in an American translation that involved translating time.  An American myself, who has lived here for over 13 years, this made perfect sense to me. But a debate over its correctness ensued. Surely, they said, it should be 00:07, […]

Rhythm, movement and language learning

By |October 15th, 2013|

I was reading an article on BBC news the other day, about this very interesting research on the way moving to a steady beat is closely linked to better language skills. We already suspected that music and language are somehow linked, but it seems that researchers are determined to further investigate the issue, now extending it to rhythmic motor activity.

According to a report published in the Journal of Neuroscience, practising music could improve other skills, particularly reading, as rhythm is an integral part of language. Indeed, a team of researchers tested the hypothesis by means of experimenting with […]

Think globally, speak locally – Local languages and EU policy

By |September 18th, 2013|

In my previous blog I discussed how local languages have been perceived in recent history and their relationship with national politics. With the development of the European Union, however, the political approach tended to bend towards a recognition of the role and the importance of local languages.

Globalisation, making habits and social behaviours more uniform among different societies, has provoked as a reaction a sense of alienation from people’s local identities. Postmodern sociologists and philosophers like Jean Baudrillard and Frederic Jameson assumed that in the era of late-capitalism people would seek in their past scraps of history that could be used […]

Think globally, speak locally – Local languages and recent history

By |September 16th, 2013|

The 21st century has seen an ambivalent approach towards languages, particularly concerning local languages. On one hand, globalisation forces people from different countries to find the most widespread common language to communicate, exchange products and information in the simplest way possible. Former colonial languages have been chosen for this task, or have rather imposed themselves thanks to the economic power they embodied. English, above all, has spread its seeds in most languages, as all the vocabulary related to internet and computers is usually adopted in their English original version into the other countries.

On the other hand, though, there is a […]

Linguistic fact of the week; ‘hunky-dory’

By |September 9th, 2013|

The phrase ‘hunky dory’ may have actually originated from Americans and Brits staying in Japan in the late 19th century.

The story goes that the principal street of Yokohama was Huncho-dori street, which literally means ‘main street’. Of course the main street is an easy way to recalibrate your sense of direction if you’ve lost your way in a city, so it’s thought that English-speakers may have begun to use Huncho-dori as a general term for everything going well (i.e. “everything will be fine once we get to Huncho-dori [main street].”)

What seems certain is that ‘hunky-dory’ was […]

Linguistic facts of the week – English

By |September 5th, 2013|

No word in the English language rhymes with month.
Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters ‘mt’.
The word set has more definitions than any other word in the English language.
Underground is the only word in the English language that begins and ends with the letters ‘und’.
The longest one-syllable word in the English language is screeched.
There are only four words in the English language which end in ‘-dous': tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

Are some languages spoken faster than others?

By |July 11th, 2013|

I am not sure if this goes for everyone, but do you ever find yourself thinking that some foreign langauges are spoken faster than others? I have been in contact with many foreign languages at a local level through travelling and living abroad and as we are increasingly becoming a multilingual and multicultural society, I often find myself asking this question.

It is understandable that there is some variation between individuals in their speech. We have all come across a plodder, who seems to purposely pronounce every word down to T. Then we get those who talk […]

Why is early bilingual immersion important for language learning?

By |June 24th, 2013|

During my time at school we were always pressured into learning other European languages as they were seen as vital for our future in the workplace. I was taught French from 9 years old and it was always enforced on us that employers see bilinguals and multilinguals as huge assets to their company and that language learning was a compulsory part of education.

Today, it’s a slightly different story, with major cuts in language departments from schools through to universities throughout the UK. It’s a great shame for language learning to be the first area to be affected by cutbacks in […]

Linguistic Horse Play – Horses in the History of the English Language

By |June 14th, 2013|

Horses And The History of The English Language
Ahead of Royal Ascot next week, it is time for a bit of a canter through the history of the English language and in particular to a number of proverbs and phrases in language which have an equestrian derivation. As a nation we have always had a close affinity to horses, from the days when they were our only mode of transport and a vital part of farming and food production to the present day where there are over four million horse riders in an industry that is worth over £2 billion.

The following are […]

Interesting linguistic events around the UK, June 2013

By |June 3rd, 2013|

The first days of June were greeted with much enthusiasm around the UK, as the weather has been our friend this time. Before you start packing for much-anticipated holidays, here is a selection of translation, interpreting and localisation related events to add to your CPD agenda:

• Saturday, 8 June – University of Westminster, London
Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter
Event arranged jointly by ITI and University of Westminster, with support from the national networks for translation and for interpreting

• Saturday, 8 June – Novotel London City South
Effective Intercultural Communication and ID AGM – Interpreting Division
Come and hear how […]

Popular idioms explained

By |May 10th, 2013|

Why are we ‘over the moon’ when we’re really happy?
The idiomatic phrase ‘Over the moon’ is a very old expression that dates right back to the seventeenth century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first example of this idiom is from 1718 and an extract from a play in which a character exclaims: ‘I shall jump over the Moon for Joy!’.
It was probably already a common expression when the nursery rhyme of around 1765 was first recorded: ‘High diddle, diddle, The Cat and the Fiddle, The Cow jumped over the Moon.’ (The ‘High’ was later altered to ‘Hey’.)

Why do we ‘bury the […]

The Telegraph’s quiz and other grammar challenges

By |April 26th, 2013|

Nevile Gwynne’s latest grammar quiz in The Telegraph instigated a remarkable debate, upsetting a lot of people who did not score as highly as they would expect. In fact, several readers have characterised Gwynne’s test ‘fiendishly difficult’, arguing that it is not necessary to know the category to which grammatical structure belong in order to use them properly.

The latter is often true, since most of the grammar choices individuals make in their mother tongue tend to be intuitive, also a product of years of language use. Nevertheless, this also implies that, at some point in their lives, they have explicitly […]