The weather. Ugh, yeah I know, the weather. Possibly the most common thing we all like to complain about and also a (stereo?) typical topic of small talk. In every language course I have ever taken, words and phrases describing weather phenomena are among the first I learned. Speakers of languages all around the world love talking about it and with the UN climate report released recently, I cannot imagine us stopping any time soon. However, we don’t all talk about the weather in the same way.
In the misty mountains of the Canary island La Gomera (next to Tenerife) sounds the whistle of a particularly curious bird: humans. On this island, farmers have been communicating by whistling melodies to one another for as long as they can remember.
When facing unexpected world changes, as in the case of the current pandemic, the language system adapts to the challenge to express a new reality. How? By forging new words! Let’s find out how this happens by looking at one of the most powerful engines we can count on: our brain.
With online group classes, self-paced mobile apps and dedicated Youtube channels, learning a new language never seemed easier. The opportunities seem endless—perhaps even overwhelmingly so. Although, learning a new language is more than just learning new words for the same things. Sometimes, there are also new meanings to be learned.
Dr. Zeynep Azar was a PhD student at the Radboud University. She defended her thesis entitled ‘Effect of Language contact on speech and gesture: The case of Turkish-Dutch bilinguals’ on September 28 2020.