If you are a person who loves learning foreign languages, you’ve surely heard that thinking in the target language improves your chances of becoming fluent in it. This probably falls right in line with the things you learn, such as speaking, reading, writing, and listening. The only difference with thinking in a foreign language is that you control the thinking on your own.

‘Despite what many people think, thinking in a language is actually a skill. This is an intimate process that helps you translate the thoughts from a language you know to a language you are trying to learn, and what bigger liberty to express yourself than in your mind, when no one else is distracting or listening?’ – says Leo Gomez, content writer at the academic writing help service RushMyEssay.

Once you come to the point where you have some knowledge of a foreign language, it is time to work on this skill.

HERE ARE 7 SCIENCE-BASED METHODS TO THINKING IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE THAT WILL HELP YOU ACHIEVE THIS:

1. FOCUS ON FLUENCY, NOT ACCURACY

If you’ve studied the best ways to learn a language, you surely know of this strategy. Interestingly, the same actually applies to thinking in a foreign language, since the process actually intertwines expression and thought.

When you focus on accuracy over fluency, you are unable to express yourself, either inside or outside your head. At least not during the first levels of your foreign language learning. Grammar and vocabulary is extremely important and should definitely be learned, but when it comes to thinking inside your head, it is time to let this go.

The key to achieving language fluency through thinking in a foreign language is to get rid of the idea that it has to be perfect. Aiming towards perfection can lead to what experts call perfection paralysis, which can only cause frustration and decrease your motivation to learn.

2. VISUALIZE

Another common trick between thinking and speaking in a foreign language is visualization. In order to express your thoughts in a language different from the one you are using on daily basis, it is very helpful to actually visualize the things you are saying.

The brain is not created in a way that it can fully differentiate between imagined and real actions. One study has proven that the brain sends exactly the same impulses to a person’s legs when he is imagining running, as it does when the actual running process is happening.

As it turns out, our brain is set to treat visualization as similar to the real deal. This is why we use imagination to plan things and adjust our strategies, and why we should visualize learning a foreign language.

3. THINK DIRECTLY

Some experts say that, in order to learn a language, you need to think ONLY in that language. This is certainly not something you can achieve at the beginning phases of your language learning, but you should eventually start aiming toward such ‘direct thinking’.

When you translate everything you think, you may get stuck in between worlds, or lose the idea along the way. But, when you think directly in the target language, you can easily detect the gaps in your knowledge and wake those dormant vocabulary phrases and words you do not use when actually speaking the language.

4. IF IT DOES NOT WORK, TRANSLATE YOUR THOUGHTS

When you cannot think in the language directly, this seems like the obvious thing to do. And it actually is. If you haven’t arrived to the point where you can get visualize and actually think in the foreign language, you need to start with your own and turn that stream of words into a translation inside your brain.

You’ve probably heard of this strategy and most likely, you heard that it is a bad thing to do for your language learning. The previous strategy is definitely the most recommended when it comes to thinking in a foreign language, but we can all agree that you cannot just skip to thinking directly when learning a completely new language!

If you are a beginner, start translating your thoughts. Start by translating things that you read and see, until the point when you are ready to do the actual thing. Once you feel like you are ready, you can start working on your direct thinking.

5. WRITE IN A JOURNAL

Journaling is an excellent way to keep track of your thoughts, not only a way to take notes. Make a separate journal for your language thinking, and start a habit of writing down the things that you thought during the day.

This is basically another way to practice the skill. You may find it to be a bit slower, but you will be grateful for your journal keeping when you want to see the progress of your thoughts or glaze over the things you already considered.

In addition to this, writing in a journal is also advantageous in the sense that you can discuss your thoughts with others without being disrupted in the actual process. Your journal writing will be a daily monologue, but this does not mean that you cannot get feedback and corrections on your writing afterwards.

6. READ AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN

Reading is a step you shouldn’t miss when learning another language. When you read books in the target language, this will not only improve your vocabulary but also give you a sense of belonging in the author’s culture.

Obviously, reading someone else’s ideas and writing is not ‘direct thinking in a foreign language’, but the actual reading process has many more benefits than you think. When it comes to thinking in a foreign language, reading allows you to build ideas for further thinking, improve your vocabulary and fluency, and even create imaginary alternatives to those the author has chosen in his/her writing.

7. DESCRIBE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Cannot come up with ideas of WHAT to think about? Luckily, there is no rule as to what topic is best to think about in your mind, which gives you the liberty to improvise.

When you cannot think of anything to think about in a foreign language, start describing the things around you.

That’s it! You now know the seven key steps to learning how to think in a foreign language. Once you implement these into your daily routine, you will notice rapid and amazing changes in your language learning.

LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LITERALLY CHANGES THE WAY WE SEE THE WORLD, ACCORDING TO NEW RESEARCH. PANOS ATHANASOPOULOS, OF NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY, HAS FOUND THAT BILINGUAL SPEAKERS THINK DIFFERENTLY TO THOSE WHO ONLY USE ONE LANGUAGE.

And you don’t need to be fluent in the language to feel the effects — his research showed that it is language use, not proficiency, which makes the difference.

Working with both Japanese and English speakers, he looked at their language use and proficiency, along with the length of time they had been in the country, and matched this against how they perceived the colour blue.

Colour perception is an ideal way of testing bilingual concepts because there is a huge variation between where different languages place boundaries on the colour spectrum.

In Japanese, for example, there are additional basic terms for light blue (mizuiro) and dark blue (ao) which are not found in English.

Previous research has shown that people are more likely to rate two colours to be more similar if they belong to the same linguistic category.

“We found that people who only speak Japanese distinguished more between light and dark blue than English speakers,” said Dr Athanasopoulos, whose research is published in the current edition of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. “The degree to which Japanese-English bilinguals resembled either norm depended on which of their two languages they used more frequently.”

Most people tend to focus on how to do things such as order food or use public transport when they learn another language to help them get by, but this research has shown that there is a much deeper connection going on.

“As well as learning vocabulary and grammar you’re also unconsciously learning a whole new way of seeing the world,” said Dr Athanasopoulos. “There’s an inextricable link between language, culture and cognition.

“If you’re learning language in a classroom you are trying to achieve something specific, but when you’re immersed in the culture and speaking it, you’re thinking in a completely different way.”

He added that learning a second language gives businesses a unique insight into the people they are trading with, suggesting that EU relations could be dramatically improved if we all took the time to learn a little of each other’s language rather than relying on English as the lingua-franca.

“If anyone needs to be motivated to learn a new language they should consider the international factor,” he said. “The benefits you gain are not just being able to converse in their language — it also gives you a valuable insight into their culture and how they think, which gives you a distinct business advantage.

“It can also enable you to understand your own language better and gives you the opportunity to reflect on your own culture, added Dr Athanasopoulos, who speaks both Greek and English.

In 2021, the world is increasingly a global community. 13.5% (just under 43 million) of Americans speak Spanish as their first language. And, 16% (just under 53 million) of Americans speak a dialect of Chinese. Finally, with the transition of the traditional workplace to one where employees can work remotely, and clients can be across the world, foreign language learning is becoming an increasingly top priority for professionals living in the United States. In this article, we’ve selected the best techniques for learning foreign languages, leaving it up to you to pick which one you prefer.

WHY IS LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IMPORTANT?

There is demonstrable evidence that people have an infinite capacity for learning language, especially if the student starts young. Foreign language knowledge also impacts other areas of your life – such as academic achievement at the college level, provides increased employment opportunities and can prevent age-related cognitive disorders and losses.

According to the US Foreign Service Institute:

  • It takes 600-750 class hours (or, 36 weeks) of learning to obtain basic fluency in foreign languages classified in Categories I and II (languages more like English, such as Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, etc.)
  • It takes 1,100 class hours (44 weeks) of foreign language learning to obtain basic fluency in Category III languages (languages with alternative alphabets, or significant cultural differences from English, like Russian, Vietnamese, Finnish, Farsi, etc.)
  • And, it takes a staggering 2,200 hours (88 weeks) for native English speakers to learn basic fluency in a Category IV (languages that are very difficult for native English speakers to grasp, such as Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean)

You have decided to learn another language. Now what? Ask yourself: what do you want to achieve and by when? Our teachers found: “Language learning is best when broken down into manageable goals that are achievable over a few months. This is far more motivating and realistic.”

You might be feeling wildly optimistic when you start but aiming to be fluent is not necessarily the best idea. We generally recommend making these goals tangible and specific: “Why not set yourself a target of being able to read a newspaper article in the target language without having to look up any words in the dictionary?”

REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU ARE LEARNING

It might sound obvious, but recognising exactly why you want to learn a language is really important. Motivation is usually the first thing to go, especially among students who are teaching themselves. To keep the momentum going we suggest writing down 10 reasons why you are learning a language and sticking it to the front of the file you are using and turn to these in times of self-doubt.

THINK LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE IS BORING? THINK AGAIN – WITH THESE TECHNIQUES, YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS WHILE HAVING FUN!

HERE ARE SEVEN UNORTHODOX LANGUAGE LEARNING TIPS THAT MIGHT JUST CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN THE LANGUAGE LEARNING PROCESS:

Stage a Play
It doesn’t have to be a big production. Remember that the keyword to these tips is fun while learning. Stage a short play for a small audience you think would enjoy.

Of course, the other key point here is to stage a play in a completely different language, preferably the one you’re learning. Make use of the language while having fun in this simple activity.

Go on a Blind Date
One way to meet new people, have fun, and practice a new language all at once is through this unconventional tip.

Go on a blind date with a native speaker and try practising a few key phrases with them during your date. You can even go to a restaurant and try practising your basic phrases while ordering.

Cook a Foreign Dish
The important part of this exercise is to cook a dish in which instructions are written in another language. This not only boosts your vocabulary, but it also helps acquaint you with basic phrases and instructions.

To avoid any accidents, start out with minor dishes first. You don’t have to be able to cook a grand meal yet, just make sure you get the hang of the language.

Buy Comics
Like children’s books, comics are also fun and easy to read, and can also help you be more familiar with the language you’re learning.

Aside from this, interesting storylines and appealing images won’t make it look like a chore, but more of an engaging exercise that both appeals to your visual senses, and helps you learn faster and better.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of reading, learning the language overall will be much easier.

Explore Your Surroundings
This one is for people who are travelling to another country. To really test whether you’ve learnt the language right, head out of your cosy hotel room, and walk the streets.

Ask the locals about facts and places in the area where it might be good to stay and further immerse yourself in the culture. Just make sure you can find your way back later on.

Write Down Your Grocery List
Similar to learning to cook in your language of choice, writing down your grocery list is a simple and engaging way to incorporate the language in your daily life.

In fact, before getting on the recipe itself, you can start with the grocery list first. Build your vocabulary by identifying as many kitchen materials and foodstuff in a foreign language you know. You might be surprised by your progress.

Introduce Yourself
Try this out with a friend, or with a pen pal.

Practice communicating with others in a foreign language by making a full introduction using that language alone. Avoid code-switching to your native tongue, but try to sound as natural as possible in your introduction.

Don’t be too stiff. If you’re comfortable enough with the person whom you are sharing to, you can also ask for feedback on how well you used the language.

LEARNING DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO STAY IN SCHOOL, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO AN IMMERSIVE TOPIC LIKE LANGUAGE. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX AND ENGAGE IN ACTIVITIES THAT MIGHT SEEM A BIT DIFFERENT FROM CLASSROOM EXERCISES.

INCORPORATE THE LANGUAGE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN YOUR DAILY LIFE TO MAKE IT FEEL MORE NATURAL TO YOU.

AS YOU KNOW, THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS AN EVOLVING, EVER-CHANGING CONSTRUCT. THE WORDS WE SPEAK AND WRITE CAN CHANGE IN MEANING, BECOME FORGOTTEN, OR MORPH INTO SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT. THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT LANGUAGE, AND LINGUISTICS, IS SUCH A CHALLENGING DISCIPLINE.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the leading resources for English, officially added 840 words in September 2018. While not all the words are new in other cultures, or among those of us who use slang and abbreviated terms, they are certainly new to the dictionary. The words now have a status that they did not possess before.

This is important because slang often enters our lexicon but may never become so common that it enters the dictionary. The sheer number of words added this year indicates that English is rapidly growing. The broader scope of language, with digital access through social media sources like Twitter and Facebook, means an increased awareness and acceptance of terminology and vocabulary from all facets of our global society. Embrace the change, or be left behind.

Words like iftar, the end-of-day meal eaten by Muslims to break the fast during Ramadan, were added. So was gochujang, a Korean chili paste now beloved by many foodies. They also added guac, an abbreviation of guacamole. We are also fond of mise en place, a French term for setting out your ingredients before the start of the cooking process.

Here are some of the other words recently added, particularly those which are commonly used.

Adorbs – an abbreviation for adorable. “That video of the woman covered by kittens is positively adorbs!”

Bingeable – An adjective for the type of television show that you sit and watch multiple episodes of at one time. “If you’re looking for something bingeable, try that new thriller on Amazon.”

Biohacking – An unconventional biological method, such as gene splicing, used to better someone’s condition or lifestyle. “The clinic was able to add years of quality living to him through some experimental biohacking technique.”

Bougie – An abbreviation for the bourgeois, meaning someone who is preoccupied with wealth and status. “That guy she’s dating is a real bougie, isn’t he?”

Fave – An abbreviation of the word favorite. This is a slang term which has been in popular use since the 1930s! “He’s my absolute fave singer!”

Fintech – Technology and businesses serving the digital and online financial communities. “His new job in fintech keeps him very busy.”

Generation Z – Born in the 1990s or 2000s? You are Gen Z. “One of the nicest people I know identifies herself as Generation Z.”

GOAT – An acronym for Greatest of All Time. It specifically applies to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but is now used in any context. “When it comes to NFL quarterbacks, the discussion is closed. Tom Brady is the GOAT.”

Hangry – If you are irritable because you haven’t eaten, you’re hangry. “Don’t even try talking to him right now, he’s hangry.”

Hophead – This old, outdated noun meaning a drug addict is finding new life as a word meaning a beer enthusiast. “He’s such a hophead that he’s starting his own brewpub.”

Latinx – This is a gender-neutral word to identify someone of Latin American origin. “My co-worker is a Latinx.”

Mocktail – This is another word that I’ve heard for years. It refers to a drink which looks like a cocktail but contains no alcohol. “Give me the keys, and order me a mocktail. I’ll be the designated driver.”

Rando – A disparaging term for a random person who just appears without any introduction or apparent reason. “We were having a quiet drink at the bar when this rando showed up and tried to buy us a drink.”

TL; DR – An abbreviation for the phrase too long; didn’t read. “He sent me his blog for review, so I replied, TL; DR.”

And before you say that about this blog, we’ll end it here. Do you have any words that you think belong in a dictionary? Let us know!

Sometimes your position is so crucial that people will need to have someone to turn to in your absence. When that’s the case, it’s often best to keep things professional by telling people when you’ll return and who they can contact in your absence. But, if your situation is a bit less formal, you can also have some fun.

I’ll be out of the office until Monday, 24th July. If your message is urgent, please reach out to the lovely and talented Bob Smith at bob@domain.com.
If you have breaking news to share, contact Big News Journal’s hard-working managing editor, Ashley Jones, at ashley@domain.com.
Just make sure your news is juicy. Ashley has no time for your shenanigans!

If you’re going to a professional conference, odds are good that a lot of the colleagues who email you will be there, too. Conferences are a great place to ramp up your networking efforts, so let people know where they can find you.

Greetings! I’m out of the office 24-28 July attending the Epic Professional Conference. Are you there, too? You’ll find me walking the floors with a Starbuck’s coffee in my hand, comfy kicks on my sore feet, and a bag full of brochures and swag. (I hope someone’s giving away those light-up bouncy balls again this year. I burned mine out.)If you’re at the conference, I’d love to meet up to chat about your email marketing strategies.
Feel free to text me at (+44) 7754 225 889 so we can connect.

If you write, and you publish, then you’ve got content to promote. Why not use your out-of-office message to make anyone who reaches out to you aware of it?

Hello! Thanks for getting in touch. I’m out of the office until 5th August with limited access to email. But never fear! I’ve left you with some helpful
writing tips to read and share.

•             Improve your writing times
•             Give Writing Feedback That’s Constructive, Not Crushing
•             How to improve your writing skills

I look forward to connecting with you when I return.

While you’re away, your email is going to be handled by a bot. Everyone knows it, so you might as well acknowledge it in a fun automated email.

This is Jane’s bot. Jane is indisposed and unable to respond to your email. I’m replying to let you know that she will return to her desk on 1st August. It is her intent to attend to your request promptly at that time. Meanwhile, Jane leaves you with the following message. Please ponder its significance:
“I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.” —Jane

There’s really never a bad time to collect leads or subscribers. Your out of office email can be a handy tool for lead generation. When someone tries to connect with you, why not tell them how they can stay connected?

Hi, and thanks for writing! I’m out of the office with no access to email until 3rd August. If your request is urgent, you can contact helena@domain.com for assistance. Otherwise, I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible when I return. While you wait, why not subscribe to our fantastic newsletter? You’ll get actionable tips once per week geared toward helping you grow your online business. Join us here.

DO’S AND DON’TS FOR OUT OF OFFICE EMAILS

It’s okay to have some fun with your out-of-office message in most cases, but there are a few simple rules you should always follow to make sure that, ultimately, your message is both useful and professional.

  • Do check your company’s policy on out of office messages. If there’s no firm policy, it might be best to check in with your supervisor and have your message approved in advance.
  • Don’t reveal too much. Strangers, spammers, and maybe even scammers could potentially see your auto-reply. Keep that in mind before you tell all and sundry that your house is vacant.
  • Do know your audience. If you send more formal emails during your working hours, don’t create an informal out of office email for your downtime.
  • Don’t make typos. You don’t want to be blasting out the same spelling mistake or grammar error for a week, do you?
  • Do consider a message rule. If your email client will handle it, consider creating a message rule where your auto-reply goes out only on the second message from the same person. That way, you won’t be oversharing your status with spammers or colleagues who really don’t care that you’re away.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF PS?

PS stands for postscript. It comes from the Latin ‘postscriptum’, which literally means “written after.” A postscript is an additional thought added to letters (and sometimes other documents) that comes after it has been completed.

Here’s a tip: People wonder—does the PS come before or after the signature? Since a postscript is an addition that comes after a letter is completed, it should always follow the signature.
In the days of handwritten and typed letters, we often found ourselves remembering something we wanted to include only after we’d signed off. That’s where a PS came in handy. It’s also often used for effect to add a clever or funny afterthought. It can be added for emphasis, or even as an argumentative “So there!” It’s a tool still used in direct and email marketing, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

THE P.S. IS THE MOST CHARMING PART OF A LETTER. IT’S THE WINK YOU GIVE AS YOU WALK AWAY.

HOW TO PUNCTUATE AND FORMAT PS

Should PS be capitalized? How is it abbreviated; with (P.S.) or without (PS) periods? Should you use any trailing punctuation? Surprisingly, there are no hard and fast answers to these questions.

The Cambridge Dictionary suggests that PS is the proper format in British English.

PS Don’t forget to let the cat in before you go to bed.
The Cambridge Dictionary also says that P.S. (with periods after each letter) is the American English format. Indeed, you’ll often find it abbreviated as such in the US. But The Chicago Manual of Style favours PS, without the periods.

The verdict? Usage varies, and PS doesn’t factor into most style guides. The safest bet is to capitalize the P and S (use periods after each letter if that’s your preference), and leave out any trailing punctuation.

PS IN EMAIL

PS once saved us from having to edit or rewrite an entire letter just to include an important afterthought. But email allows us to go back and edit before sending. Technically, we could avoid the use of PS altogether in electronic communication. But should we?

Not really. PS is still useful for effect, and it’s a great way to get a specific point noticed. Although the Internet has made us a culture of skimmers rather than people who read things like email word-for-word, we tend to notice what’s at the beginning and end of a text. Can you think of a time when you didn’t read the PS in an email you cared enough about to open?

Including a PS has long been a direct mail marketing strategy. Statistics once showed that as many as 79 percent of people who opened a direct mail letter would read the PS first. Although times have changed, email marketers still swear by it as a way to reiterate a call to action, create FOMO, provide some sort of bonus information or offer, or even share a testimonial.

WORDS ON THE BRAIN: FROM 1 MILLION YEARS AGO?

All social animals communicate with each other, from bees and ants to whales and apes, but only humans have developed a language which is more than a set of prearranged signals.

Our speech even differs in a physical way from the communication of other animals. It comes from a cortical speech centre which does not respond instinctively, but organises sound and meaning on a rational basis. This section of the brain is unique to humans.

When and how the special talent of language developed is impossible to say. But it is generally assumed that its evolution must have been a long process.

Our ancestors were probably speaking a million years ago, but with a slower delivery, a smaller vocabulary and above all a simpler grammar than we are accustomed to.

ORIGINS OF LANGUAGE

The origins of human language will perhaps remain for ever obscure. By contrast the origin of individual languages has been the subject of very precise study over the past two centuries.

There are about 5000 languages spoken in the world today (a third of them in Africa), but scholars group them together into relatively few families – probably less than twenty. Languages are linked to each other by shared words or sounds or grammatical constructions. The theory is that the members of each linguistic group have descended from one language, a common ancestor. In many cases that original language is judged by the experts to have been spoken in surprisingly recent times – as little as a few thousand years ago.

LINGUISTIC GROUPS: FROM 3000 BC

The most widespread group of languages today is the Indo-European, spoken by half the world’s population. This entire group, ranging from Hindi and Persian to Norwegian and English, is believed to descend from the language of a tribe of nomads roaming the plains of eastern Europe and western Asia (in modern terms centring on the Ukraine) as recently as about 3000 BC.

From about 2000 BC people speaking Indo-European languages begin to spread through Europe, eventually reaching the Atlantic coast and the northern shores of the Mediterranean. They also penetrate far into Asia – occupying the Iranian plateau and much of India.

Another linguistic group, of significance in the early history of west Asia and still of great importance today, is the Semitic family of languages. These also are believed to derive from the language of just one tribal group, possibly nomads in southern Arabia.

By about 3000 BC Semitic languages are spoken over a large tract of desert territory from southern Arabia to the north of Syria. Several Semitic peoples play a prominent part in the early civilization of the region, from the Babylonians and Assyrians to the Hebrews and Phoenicians. And one Semitic language, Aramaic, becomes for a while the Lingua franca of the Middle East.

LANGUAGE AND RACE

A shared linguistic family does not imply any racial link, though in modern times this distinction has often been blurred. Within the Indo-European family, for example, there is a smaller Indo-Iranian group of languages, also known as Aryan, which are spoken from Persia to India. In keeping with a totally unfounded racist theory of the late 19th century, the Nazis chose the term Aryan to identify a blond master race. Blond or not, the Aryans are essentially a linguistic rather than a genetic family.

The same is true of the Semitic family, including two groups which have played a major part in human history – the Jews and the Arabs.

ENCLAVES OF LANGUAGE

On a Linguistic map of the world, most of the great language families occupy one distinct and self-contained territory. The two exceptions are the Indo-European and the Finno-Ugric groups.

In modern times the Indo-European languages have spread across the globe – to North and South America, Australia and New Zealand – as a result of European colonialism. But the intermingling of Indo-European and Finno-Ugric, forming a patchwork quilt across Europe, has come about for a different and earlier reason.

Finland, together with Estonia on the opposite shore of the Baltic, forms one isolated pocket of the Finno-Ugric group (the Finno part). Hungary is another (the Ugric element).

The cause of this wide separation is the great plateau of Europe which Finno-Ugric and Indo-European tribes have shared and fought over through the centuries. The ancestral language of the Finns, Estonians and Hungarians was once spoken in a compact region between the Baltic and the Ural mountains, until these people were scattered by Indo-European pressure.

LATIN AND GERMAN: FROM THE 5TH CENTURY

Over the course of history languages continually infiltrate each other, as words are spread by conquest, empire, trade, religion, technology or – in modern times – global entertainment.

A good surviving example of this process is the line in western Europe dividing the Romance languages (those deriving from a ‘Roman’ example) from the Germanic tongues. The Romance family includes Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian (the result of a successful Roman campaign in the 2nd century AD). The Germanic group is English, Dutch, Flemish, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic.

This linguistic division exactly reflects the influence of the Roman empire. Italy, France and the peninsula of Spain were sufficiently stable regions in the Roman world to retain the influence of Latin after the collapse of the empire. The Germanic areas east and north of the Rhine were never fully brought under Roman control (the exact linguistic dividing line survives in modern Belgium, with its population speaking French in the south and Flemish in the north).

England was safely within the empire for three centuries. But the Romanised Celts were not strong enough to resist the invading German tribes, the Angles and the Saxons. Their languages prevailed in the form of Anglo-Saxon.

Modern English occupies a middle position within the western European family of languages, with its vocabulary approximately half Germanic and half Romance in origin.

The reason is not Britannia’s relatively fragile position within the Roman empire. The cause is more recent, in the Norman conquest. After seizing northwest France and adopting the local language, the Normans arrive in England with French as an essential part of their cultural baggage. Several centuries of rule by Norman aristocrats and bureaucrats bring Latin words back into the language of England through the medium of medieval French.

LINGUISTIC EVOLUTION

The ongoing struggle between languages is a process very similar to evolution. A word, like a gene, will travel and prevail according to its usefulness. A word’s fitness to survive may derive from being attached to a desirable new invention or substance, or simply from being an amusing or useful concept.

‘Aspirin’, coined in 1899 by its German inventor from the opening letters of Acetylirte Spirsäure (acetylated spiraeic acid), immediately became an international word. In a less serious context ‘snob’, first given its present meaning in English in the mid-19th century, is now naturalized in a great many languages.

As with evolution, the development of language is an irresistible force – though traditionalists invariably attempt to build barriers against change. The useful word ‘hopefully’ (long available to Germans as hoffentlich, and meaning ‘it is to be hoped that’) has in recent years been steamrollered into the English language by the public against howls of protest from the purists.

On a grander scale, the French government from time to time legislates ineffectually against English words straying into French. These are the hybrids described as franglais. A good example of their impertinence is the enticing notice on a tweed jacket seen in a Parisian shop window: Très snob, presque cad (very snob, almost cad).

IMPERIAL TONGUES

The French neurosis about being tainted by English (though the intrusion is trivial compared to the overwhelming effect of Norman French on English in the past) is linked to a wider aspect of the evolutionary struggle between languages.

A major advance for any language is to become a Lingua franca. Almost invariably the result of power and prestige, this status is achieved by French after the heyday of France’s international influence under Louis XIV. In more recent times English – first through the British empire, but more significantly through American world dominance in the 20th century – has replaced French in this role.

English in the late 20th century is in the fortunate position of being the Lingua franca at an unusual moment. For the first time in history a global language is needed for practical purposes (by scientists, by airline pilots). Meanwhile a communication system is in place to spread some knowledge of the English language to a mass international audience through radio, television and the internet.

The imperial power underpinning American English as a Lingua franca is for the first time cultural and economic rather than military.

The pattern of history insists that English is not likely to be the world’s final Lingua franca. Others will come and go. It is also true to say that the predominance of English depends on its spread rather than the total number speaking it.

Chinese is spoken by more people than English (albeit in only one region of the world), and Chinese economic power lies in the future. But the complexity of Chinese perhaps makes it an unlikely rival candidate. One of the great advantages of English is that it is easy to speak at a simple level, though immensely complex in its idiom.

NEW LANGUAGES FROM OLD

Meanwhile the evolutionary processes go on. Already there are many varieties of English in use. The pidgin English flourishing in New Guinea is baffling to an outsider; originally devised as a practical business language, reduced to its simplest elements, it has evolved its own rich character. In the same way English-speaking communities in the West Indies or in India (not to mention America) have developed local words, phrases and constructions which give their own version of the language a special colour.

The astonishing proliferation of Indo-European languages from one tongue, just 5000 years ago, will not be repeated in our more interconnected world. But the tendency of language to evolve continues unchecked.

Aside from other important holiday to-do’s like taking a family Christmas photo and getting your shopping done, another significant item on your Christmas checklist is your annual Christmas card. This season, we’re here to help you get your Christmas cards signed, sealed and delivered. Our guide will help you create the perfect Season’s greetings for everyone on your list. The last thing you need to worry about is what to write in your Christmas cards!

WHAT TO WRITE IN A CHRISTMAS CARD?

= Start your Christmas card message with a Christmas greeting like “Happy Holidays!” or “Merry Christmas!”

= Write a personalized messaged based on your relationship with the recipient.

= For business Christmas cards, write Christmas messages that are cheerful yet appropriate.

= Write a few funny Christmas card lines if you know your card recipient is the type to enjoy a good laugh.

= Write a few religious sayings or Christmas bible verses for those recipients who celebrate their faith during the holiday season.

= Write Christmas card quotes to share the magic of the season.

= Don’t forget to sign your Christmas cards.

IN DETAIL: WHAT TO WRITE IN A CHRISTMAS CARD

It’s not always easy to put your feelings into words or sum up the memorable year that your family had. We have you covered with everything you need to know about what to write in a Christmas card to jump start your writing. Follow the steps below to create the perfect Christmas card sayings for your holiday greetings:

1. Start your Christmas card message with a Christmas greeting. The beginning of your message should include short and sweet greetings that serve as a festive way to address your card recipients. A Christmas wish can go a long way and is the perfect opening for your tailored greeting. Traditional sentiments include, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!”

2. Write a personalized message based on your relationship with the recipient. If you’re close with the card recipient, write a heartfelt message. This will show your card recipient just how much you’re thinking about them this holiday season. Use details specific to the person opening the card to personalize your Christmas card sentiments. Make comments about some big news, a special occasion coming up or a new addition to the family to go along with the rest of your greeting.

3. For business Christmas cards, use Christmas messages that are cheerful yet appropriate. Remember to use formal or professional titles when addressing your Christmas cards, especially when writing on behalf of your business.

4. Write a few funny Christmas card lines if you know your card recipient is the type to enjoy a few laughs.

5. Write a few religious sayings or Christmas bible verses for those recipients who celebrate their faith during the holiday season.

6. Use Christmas card quotes to share the magic of the season. Quotes are the perfect way to inspire your loved ones during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to use cheerful or jolly quotes that spread your festive spirit.

7. Don’t forget to sign your Christmas cards. Use a warm closing for close family and friends, use formal titles for those recipients’ you are not as close with and utilize a more professional closing for your business Christmas cards.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!