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!

  • COVID-19 has resulted in schools shut all across the world. Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom.
  • As a result, education has changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.
  • Research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and take less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay.

While countries are at different points in their COVID-19 infection rates, worldwide there are currently more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries affected by school closures due to the pandemic. In Denmark, children up to the age of 11 are returning to nurseries and schools after initially closing on 12 March, but in South Korea students are responding to roll calls from their teachers online.

With this sudden shift away from the classroom in many parts of the globe, some are wondering whether the adoption of online learning will continue to persist post-pandemic, and how such a shift would impact the worldwide education market.

Even before COVID-19, there was already high growth and adoption in education technology, with global edtech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019 and the overall market for online education projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025. Whether it is language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF LEARNING?

While some believe that the unplanned and rapid move to online learning – with no training, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation – will result in a poor user experience that is unconducive to sustained growth, others believe that a new hybrid model of education will emerge, with significant benefits. “I believe that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education,“ says Wang Tao, Vice President of Tencent Cloud and Vice President of Tencent Education.

There have already been successful transitions amongst many universities. For example, Zhejiang University managed to get more than 5,000 courses online just two weeks into the transition using “DingTalk ZJU”. The Imperial College London started offering a course on the science of coronavirus, which is now the most enrolled class launched in 2020 on Coursera.

Many are already touting the benefits: Dr Amjad, a Professor at The University of Jordan who has been using Lark to teach his students says, “It has changed the way of teaching. It enables me to reach out to my students more efficiently and effectively through chat groups, video meetings, voting and also document sharing, especially during this pandemic. My students also find it is easier to communicate on Lark. I will stick to Lark even after coronavirus, I believe traditional offline learning and e-learning can go hand by hand.”

It’s grammatically incorrect and sounds awkward to native English speakers. The word “news” is one of those words that sounds plural (meaning there’s more than one) but is actually singular (there’s only one). It’s called a mass noun and is usually used with a singular verb.

In English, most nouns add “-s” or “-es” to the end of the word to make it plural; cat becomes cats, house becomes houses. Sometimes, the entire word changes in the plural: mouse becomes mice, goose becomes geese. Some words can be plural or singular, depending on the context— moose is one example that can be one animal or a whole herd.

So, back to your question. “News” is like the word “scissors” or “trousers”. It’s generally understood that although it sounds plural, it’s actually singular. These kinds of nouns are called ‘plurale tantum‘.

(Plurale tantum is a noun that appears only in the plural and doesn’t ordinarily have a singular form (for example, jeans, pyjamas, tweezers, shears, and scissors). Also known as a lexical plural. Plural: pluralia tantum. Jeans, scissors, trousers and glasses are great examples of plural tantum nouns in the English language.
There is, of course, the opposite as well. Singular tantum, a noun that appears only in the singular form, such as dirt, is known as singulare tantum.)

In order to use the article/adjective “a”, you’d need to change the way you phrase it.

“I’ve got a bit of good news.”

“I have a lot of good news.”

Otherwise, the correct way to say it is, “I have good news.”

It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of food on the development of modern languages.

The word for the cereal we eat in the morning is derived from Ceres – the Greek goddess of agriculture – while dinner originates from ‘disner’ in Old French, which in turn stems from the Gallo-Romance ‘desjunare’, meaning ‘to break one’s fast’.

Food has also infiltrated many aspects of modern communication, with a multitude of common phrases and sayings derived from foods.

Even the word ‘food’ itself can be used to describe something that provides mental nourishment or stimulus – ‘food for thought’.

Here are three of the most common examples of foods used in English.

SALT

Salt is a term of praise if a man is considered ‘worth his salt’ or is judged to be ‘the salt of the earth’.

In medieval times, an inferior guest at a banquet, seated at the bottom end of the table, was described as being ‘below the salt’.

Today, a person’s salary is based on the Latin word ‘salarium’, which comes from the allowance given to a Roman soldier to buy his salt.

EGG

Egg derives from the Old Norse word ‘eggja’ – and there are many modern phrases that relate to eggs.

You can ‘egg someone on’, for instance, or get ‘egg on your face’ when embarrassed by something you have done.

‘A good egg’ refers to a person who is good to the core, while ‘a bad egg’ refers to someone who may appear normal, but who is no good on the inside. The latter stems from cracking an egg open only to find out is has gone off.

CHEESE

A secondary meaning of cheese comes from the Persian Anglophile phrase ‘the chiz’, meaning a thing that is good.

The word itself has been used as a noun to describe something wealthy or top-rate since the turn of the 19th century, possibly due to the custom of American retailers to display overlarge wheels of cheese as a publicity stunt.

‘The big cheese’ refers to the best of the best, while the word cheese is also used frequently when talking about money and wealth. ‘He’s got a lot of cheese’, is a good example, as is ‘I need to make some cheese’.

Cheddar, as in the type of cheese, is often used in the same way. Fans of Hip Hop and rap music will be familiar with this.

UNCOVER THE HIDDEN MEANING

Upon hearing food phrases in everyday conversation, you could be mistaken for thinking they are a load of nonsense. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always a hidden meaning behind food phrases.

Here are some other favourite food phrases in use today and the meaning behind them.

‘It’s all gravy’ (It’s all good)
‘Cool as a cucumber’ (Super, totally cool)
‘Chew the fat’ (To engage in frivolous conversation)
‘That’s the way the cookie crumbles / Don’t cry over spilt milk’ (Stuff happens)
‘Piece of cake’ (Easy)
‘Butter someone/something up’ (To flatter)
‘Spill the beans’ (Give away a secret)
‘Use your noodle’ (Use your brain)
‘Go bananas’ (Go crazy)
‘Bring home the bacon’ (Earn money)
‘A bun in the oven’ (Pregnant)
‘Wake up and smell the coffee’ (Reality check)
‘The best thing since sliced bread’ (It’s a big deal)

FOOD IS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE

But food phrases are not just found in English. Most languages around the world use food to convey meaning.

No country is the same, however, as a culture’s preoccupations traditionally have a big influence of the way language is used.

In France, for example, the passion for eating and discussing food has flavoured French in a number of tasty and unusual ways, with some expressions entirely unique to different regions or generations.

Here are some of the best examples in French today.

‘Appuyez sur le champignon!’ meaning ‘press on the mushroom!’ (Step on the gas!)
‘Avoir la banane’ meaning ‘having a banana’ (To have a big smile)
‘C’est pas la fin des haricots’ meaning ‘it’s not the end of the string beans’ (It’s not the end of the world)
‘Va te faire cuire un oeuf’ meaning ‘go cook yourself an egg’ (Go to hell)
‘Il fait tout un fromage de rien du tout’ meaning ‘making a cheese out of it’ (Overly dramatic)

Italy, which is championed around the world for its fine cuisine and delicious dishes, is also home to some unique food phrases.

Below are some great examples in Italian.

‘Conosco i miei polli’ meaning ‘I know my chicken’ (I know what I’m talking about)
‘Sei come il prezzemolo’ meaning ‘you are like parsley’ (You pop up everywhere)
‘Non fare il salame’ meaning ‘don’t act like salami’ (Don’t be a ham, you idiot)
‘Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco’ meaning ‘not all donuts come out with a hole’ (Things don’t always turn out as expected)
‘Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca’ meaning ‘you can’t have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife’ (You can’t have your cake and eat it too)

CROSSING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER

There are also a number of instances where food phrases are used in more than one language to convey the same meaning.

Here are three of the most familiar phrases with cross-language implications.

LA CRÈME DE LA CRÈME

‘La crème de la crème’ meaning ‘the cream of creams’ has found its way across the Channel from French to English.

The phrase refers to the best of the best or the elite. It also occasionally expressed as ‘the cream of the crop’.

WHAT A PICKLE

‘What a pickle’, which is used to describe a tricky or difficult situation, is a food phrase that has made the switch from English to French.

In France it is ‘quel cornichon’ but carries exactly the same meaning. It is also sparingly used as an insult or a put-down.

WORTH HIS SALT

‘Worth his salt’ is a food phrase that has found its way into many languages around the world. It is most commonly used when referring to someone who is good or competent at their job or a specific task.

The phrase can often be heard in French (digne de ce nom), Italian (degno di questo nome) and Spanish (que se precie).

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

So it’s clear to see the impact that food has had on the development of modern languages around the world.

But language is constantly evolving and it will continue to do so – in terms of where we are at present, we are only on the starter.
The main course and dessert are still to come, and food, once again, will play an important role in this development, as people come up with fresh, innovative and unique ways of expressing themselves.

If you are learning a foreign language, have you considered sitting an official exam?

An official certificate is a mark of quality and shows that you have achieved a certain level in the language you are learning. This means that universities and employers can be confident in your ability.

Exam preparation courses and official certificates are hugely popular among learners of English. For example, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL and the Cambridge certificates (FCE, CPE, CAE, etc) are seen as an important professional step and are highly sought-after by employers. You can find out more about the variety of English certificates on offer here.

If you want to study at a foreign university, you will almost certainly have to provide official documentation to show that your language skills meet local requirements. Typically, there will be a single, officially acknowledged exam for this purpose in each country.

An official certificate is an investment for your future and can give you the motivation to study and really tighten up your language skills. We offer a wide variety of exam preparation courses and a number of our partner schools are official examination centres.

The French Ministry of Education awards two diplomas for learners of French: the Diplôme d’Etudes de Langue Française (DELF) and the Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF). The DELF recognises basic and intermediate level French (A1 to B2 on the CEFR), the DALF is the continuation for advanced French.

A successfully-completed DALF qualification exempts you from having to sit language entrance exams if you wish to study at a French university.

The Goethe-Zertifikat (often just called Das Zertifikat) is the most widely-acknowledged German language certificate. It is awarded in six levels corresponding to the CEFR. A Zertfikat B2 will satisfy the language entry requirements for German university courses.

The exams are administered by the Goethe Institute, which is the not-for-profit body in charge of promoting German language and culture internationally.

The top-level German exams are legendarily tough and passing one of these will give you a huge advantage when applying for jobs in the German-speaking world. From January 2012, the Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom will become the new Kaiser of the German language exams, replacing the existing Goethe Certificate C2-level examinations: ZOP, Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom the Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom (GDS).

The Certificazione di Italiano come lingua straniera is issued by the Foreigners University of Siena and is recognised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rather like the French and German certificates, a CILS Due (B2) qualification will meet the language requirements of Italian universities.

Six exams are available, from A1 to C2 on the CEFR, but the most common are the B1, B2, C1 and C2, which correspond to the CILS Uno, Due, Tre and Quattro qualifications.

The exams traditionally take place each June and December and can be taken at centres around the world.

The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi exams have been attempted well over 100,000,000 times and counting. The exams are divided into writing and speaking sections and are offered at regular intervals throughout the year, all over the world. After a reshaping at the end of 2009, the six levels of qualification now on offer now roughly approximate the CEFR levels.

The HSK is known all over China and universities will generally accept a level 3 (intermediate) exam for entry to courses taught in Chinese.

Issued by the Russian Ministry of Education, the TEOU (elementary level 1), TBOU (elementary level 2) and TRKI (4 levels ranging from intermediate to advanced Russian – B1 to C2 on the CEFR) are widely recognised in the Russian-speaking world.

The TBOU is the level required to attain Russian citizenship by naturalisation, the TRKI level 1 will get you into a Russian university, albeit with compulsory further language study until you can pass the TRKI level 2.

The exams are sometimes referred to as TORFL (Test of Russian as a Foreign Language) and can be taken three times a year at universities across Russia and Europe.

The Instituto Cervantes in partnership with the University of Salamanca and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain offers the world-renowned DELE qualifications. For EU students, a DELE B2 certificate exempts you from having to sit language entrance exams at Spanish universities.

Six certificates, ranging from A1 to C2 on the CEFR, are available and the exam can be taken at official centres around the world.

SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT SONGS THAT MAKE THEM SUCH EFFECTIVE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING TOOLS?

It works. There is considerable scientific evidence that demonstrates how music can help second language learners acquire grammar and vocabulary and improve spelling. Then there is the so-called “Mozart Effect”, the concept that listening to classic musical boosts the performance of mental tasks like learning.

Everyday language and colloquial speech. Songs and music almost always contain a lot of useful vocabulary, phrases and expressions. And since the intended audience is native speakers, songs and music include up-to-date language and colloquialisms. The language used in songs is casual and actually usable if you pick the right music.

Get familiar with the sound of English. Listening to songs will also allow you to focus on your pronunciation and understanding of the English language’s rhythm, tone and beat.

Get English stuck inside your head. Many of the words and sound patterns within a song are repetitive and this makes it easier for them to stick in your mind. You probably already know this. Music has an uncanny ability to get stuck in our heads. Tunes and lyrics will often infiltrate our thoughts and play over and over in our minds. All of which will help you to learn English through songs as you easily memorize vocabulary and phrases. In fact, after a short period of time, you will find it almost impossible to forget them.

Songs are emotional. Our relationship with music is deep, powerful and hugely rewarding. It is a key that unlocks our emotions, influences our moods and enhances our mental and physical well-being. When something is emotional, then, of course, it is also easier to remember.

Music is an easy habit. One reason people find language learning difficult is they don’t have an extra minute in the day to devote to their studies. But when you’re learning English through songs, you don’t need to set aside too much time because you can take the music with you wherever you go. You can have English songs playing in the car, the kitchen and the shower. And by picking the music you like, you can listen to the same material over and over again, without becoming bored.

Music teaches you English culture. Music gives you insight into the English-speaking culture and how English-speaking people think and feel. Familiarity with popular songs and artists gives you something to talk about with your English-speaking friends.

7,099 LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN TODAY.

That number is constantly in flux because we’re learning more about the world’s languages every day. And beyond that, the languages themselves are in flux. They’re living and dynamic, spoken by communities whose lives are shaped by our rapidly changing world. This is a fragile time: Roughly a third of languages are now endangered, often with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. Meanwhile, just 23 languages account for more than half the world’s population.

86% OF PEOPLE USE ASIAN OR EUROPEAN LANGUAGES

Most languages are densely concentrated in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. But how many people actually speak them? The vast majority of us use Asian or European languages, which may not be surprising given the sheer population of certain areas as well as colonial expansion in recent centuries. By contrast, Pacific languages – which account for 18.5% of the world’s languages – are spoken by so few people that the region barely even registers.

Pacific languages, along with North and South American, have just 1,000 speakers each on average. But together, they represent more than a third of our world’s languages. These tiny communities may not have a loud voice on the global stage, but they hold much of our shared linguistic heritage.

SOME COUNTRIES HAVE HUNDREDS OF LANGUAGES

Languages are spread unequally throughout the world. That trend is clear whether we’re looking at whole regions or individual countries.

More than twice the number of languages spoken across Europe can be found in Papua New Guinea alone.

The most successful essays are well planned. Essays that go off the point with lots of extra detail will get poor marks.

STICK TO THE QUESTION

Underline key words in the essay title so you really understand the question being asked. It’s not about writing all you know about a topic.

Words like ‘discuss’, ‘compare and contrast’, ‘evaluate’, ‘account for’ are used as ways to direct your answer; make sure you know what they mean.

Other questions may start with ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘why’ or ‘when’.

WRITE A PLAN

Brainstorm your ideas on the essay topic to get started. Spider diagrams are good for this.

Plan the structure of the essay by numbering each of your ideas in order of importance. At this stage, you may wish to leave some of them out or develop others by breaking them into sub points. Redo your original spider diagram as necessary.

You may have to present your argument for the essay under broad themes like ‘economic’, ‘social’, ‘political’ or ‘religious’ reasons. Make sure you understand which theme suits each of your points, then group your all points on the same theme in order of importance into a separate paragraph.

WRITING THE ESSAY

1. INTRODUCTION

Your essay must have an introduction. State the main points you will discuss in order to support your answer to the question set in the title of the essay.

2. DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR ARGUMENT

After the introduction, add further paragraphs to build your argument, make the most important points first. Remember the way these points are ordered makes your argument clearer to the reader.

Start a new paragraph for each new important point and any linked points that relate to the question. You may include quotations from other historians and refer to primary sources (such as you can find on this website) to support a particular point.

Make sure your essay makes chronological sense. Try to present any factual points in date order.

Avoid telling the story of what happened. If you refer to an important historical event, you must make a point or comment about it. This will stop your essay from becoming a simple narrative and it shows you are trying to analyse events rather than just describe them.

Aim for five to seven paragraphs, depending on the essay and level, of course, you are following.

3. CONCLUSION

Sum up the main points and briefly restate your argument.

RE-READ YOUR WORK, CHECK FOR SPELLING ERRORS, AND REDRAFT IF NECESSARY.