Check out our speakers for The Language Event in Penang on 16-17 December 2023:

Learning C# vs. Learning Human Languages: Is the process really THAT similar?

Jared Gimbel

Many polyglots have heard “language is like math” or “language is like programming” too many times to count, but when a seasoned polyglot tries to learn their first computer language…what should they expect?

Come along on an adventure in which Gimbel describes his C# journey, which he started after five years of teaching foreign languages, compared with his adventures with languages like Yiddish, Hebrew, Swedish, Slovak, Spanish and Hungarian. What sort of conventional wisdom is best suited for both fields, and what rules are best applied only in the realm of computers or human languages? What is comfortable about the world of computer languages that learning human languages can never live up to, and vice versa? Can either one of them be truly said to be harder?

Along the way Gimbel will describe his sticking points he encountered while programming his first game, which he started working on with virtually no knowledge of any coding language. How similar are those issue to those he encountered not only with his own languages, but his own language students? How are teaching C# and teaching a language similar and different from one another? And how can one use even basic knowledge of how computer languages function to boost their polyglot dreams?

Are you afraid of Newspeak?

Marta Melnyk

Good, ungood or doubleplusungood? What is Newspeak anyway? English writer, George Orwell describes Newspeak as a language that has simplified grammar and restricted vocabulary; it is designed to diminish the range of thoughts, to limit personal identity, self-expression, and free will. It is a language of a dystopian world. Or is it? In my speech, I will talk about the background of Newspeak. I will try to answer some questions, for example: While language development is a natural process, what about language simplification? Is it natural or artificial? Is there a danger in this process? I will also show the principles of Newspeak according to George Orwell and compare them to the real-life examples.

Nonverbal Mastery: Navigating Gestures Across Borders

Kendal Knetemann

Discover the hidden power of nonverbal communication in this informative training session! Learn how much of our communication is actually nonverbal and how it can differ between cultures. Delve into the fascinating world of body language and gain insight into the different gestures that hold different meanings in different cultures. From making the first best impression to decoding the nonverbal cues of others, this training is a must-attend for anyone looking to enhance their communication skills and better understand the people around them. Get ready to unlock the secrets of nonverbal communication and elevate your interactions to a whole new level!

Forgotten Multilingual Eastern Europe

Anthony Fekete

Discovering lost cultures and understanding current events through old books from 1500 to 1950. I have been building up a Polyglot Library with books in over 180 languages and dialects. One of my main areas of interest and exploration for books has been Eastern Europe where I have worked for 30 years. What we see today as a collection of countries each with a national language was much more culturally fluid 150 years ago. Hungarians, Romanians, Germans, Ukrainians, Sorbs, Jews all lived happily together and often spoke each other’s languages. My talk will describe, through examples of old books, this fascinating mingling of cultures: Bulgarians and Greeks in Moldavia, Turks and Albanians writing in Greek letters, Romanian books from Lviv, a Slovenian dialect written like Hungarian. Also we will look at how the first Serbian printing presses cooperated with Romanians and Venetians, Russian books printed in Poland and Yiddish books from Lithuania, Romania and the Soviet Union. Nostalgia for a real polyglot world. I will also look at how nationalism has replaced multiculturalism and how this has caused tensions with minority language groups today. This will also be illustrated by books and documents from my library.

Haketia: History, Ideology and Status of the Language of North African Sephardim

Carlos Yebra Lopez

In this presentation, I will carry out a diachronic examination of Ḥaketía (also spelled Ḥakitía, Ḥaquetía, or Jaquetía), the vernacular ethnolect used by the Sephardic Jews of North Africa. After a brief diatopic introduction, I will discuss the migration waves, settlement and demography and diaspora of its community of speakers. Emphasis will be placed on the distinction between the period up to 1860, on the one hand, and the re-Hispanicization period from 1860 to the present, on the other. Within the latter, I will focus on the relationship between the positive valuation of Spanish as a language of prestige amongst the Sephardic Jews of Morocco and the converse pejoration of Haketia as a supposed form of corrupted Spanish. Lastly, I will discuss the revitalization of Haketia in the 21st century.

Lewis to Liger Atlantel: A Journey Through Celtic Languages

Charlotte Donnelly & Emily Martyn

No man is an island, and no language is either. (Even though they might be spoken on one!) Place names in the Celtic languages of the British Isles offer a unique insight into the geography and history that shaped the culture of these places over thousands of years. Starting off in the location of the Language Event itself, we’ll uncover the secrets revealed by the Gaelic names of some significant places in Scotland, followed by a look over the five other living Celtic languages: Manx, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. Not only will we cover what these languages are, where they’re spoken and the culture they’re a part of, we’ll also share how to learn one (or all six!). As well as the answers to these questions, you’ll learn a couple of words and phrases and enjoy an interactive Q&A session too.

Please Excuse My French

Chase Emery Davis

A presentation on the pronunciation of French. Exploring the language’s impact on English but more importantly how different it is in every single way in both usage and pronunciation. Practical example will be given as this presentation will expose the main physical differences between the French and English “Mouth”. This will also allow us to underline how this has changed all facets of our languages including music and more specifically, singing. Examples of singing will also be given live during the presentation.

We will go on to explore how something as simple as pronunciation and mouth position has shaped an entire populations culture and social behaviour and the profound impact it has had on shaping France’s world image. To demonstrate this movies and video clips will be used to illustrate these cultural transformations over time.

Finally, we will conclude by diving into the roots of French and explaining how and why it’s pronunciation differentiates so drastically from it’s sister romance languages and what ancient unexpected links it shares with the Germanic languages. Lines will also be drawn between French and its various dialects, dialects which connect France to Wales in particular, which of course is called “Pays de Galles” in French and explaining why that is.

GÀILIG LATHARN - a revised take on the Gaelic of SW Caithness

Àdhamh Ó Broin

The last time Àdhamh appeared at the ELE, he gave a highly personal and very well-received account of the salient features of the Gaelic of Latheron Parish, Caithness, the speech of his mother’s people.

Final -adh /əɣ/ as heard in most of the rest of the Scottish Highlands appeared to be a hyper-occurring feature of the Gaelic of Scotland’s very far north-east, making it distinct from all of its near Sutherland neighbours.

However, on examination of new evidence in a hitherto forgotten linguistic report from the 1950s where this peculiar feature appears to be absent, questions suddenly arise, changing the manner in which your speaker now looks at one of Gaeldom’s lost dialects:

· Was final /əɣ/ merely the idiolect of the only properly surveyed first language Latheron Parish speaker not picked up on by the scholars who questionnaired him? · Did he in fact acquire the sound from a non-local parent who had somehow not been noted as such? · Or did he have a near neighbour, perhaps from Ross-shire or Skye who crusaded against the normally occurring final /u/ of the far north, causing him to hyper-correct this form out of existence? · When all of this is considered, does it spell death for Àdhamh’s previous theory of a dialect isolate?

To get to the bottom of the mystery, we must mix Gaelic linguistics with genealogical research, the result being a brand new talk on the above topic followed by the delivery of a short, little-known piece of folklore and the only extant mouth music from the region in the newly extrapolated and otherwise entirely moribund Gaelic dialect of Latheron Parish.

Building a language brand, one coffee break at a time

Mark Pentleton

Coffee Break Languages started life as a passion project for languages teacher Mark Pentleton. Launched as a podcast in 2006, Coffee Break Spanish aimed to help Spanish beginners learn the language through the (then) new medium of podcasting. Speed forward 17 years and Mark has gone on to build one of the most well-known language brands in the world, with millions of learners using the Coffee Break podcasts, online courses and books to learn a new language from scratch or to build on existing skills, one coffee break at a time. Having just added Gaelic, the 9th language in the Coffee Break range, Mark will share the story of how the language brand developed, how choices are made about which languages to tackle next, the highs and lows of building a business, and he’ll provide actionable tips on how you can build your own business around language learning.

Learn Polish and Ukrainian in the United Kingdom!

Timothy Douglas

The United Kingdom is a wonderful country to learn a diverse variety of languages! My city, Lancaster, is not the largest in the country, but you can find speakers of over 30 languages there! This makes Lancaster a delicious, varied language buffet! One particular passion of mine are the Slavic languages. I have learned Russian, Polish, Czech and more recently Ukrainian. On a European level, they are less widely learned than Romance and Germanic language, although 1/3 of Europe speaks Slavic languages, but the positive reaction of Slavic people when you speak their languages makes it all worthwhile! Hence, the EU expansion in 2004 and the resulting arrival of many Poles in particular was wonderfully refreshing for me! The tragic events in Ukraine stimulated me to start learning Ukrainian; as language learners, one way we can make a contribution is by using our skills to learn Ukrainian to help refugees at this difficult time to translate documents (as a volunteer for the non-governmental organization Respond Crisis Translation and others), to make new arrivals feel at home and to show respect and appreciation for their culture. In this talk, I will tell my personal story about my adventures with Slavic languages in general and Polish and Ukrainian in particular, and how knowledge of these languages has built bridges with Poles and Ukrainians, both in the UK and their home countries, in both my personal and professional life.

Attitudes and Intelligibility as language maintenance factors.

Martin Di Maggio

This presentation explores attitudes and intelligibility as language maintenance factors; particularly the role of fuse-lect features, loan words and the impact they have on 1) language status, and 2) intelligibility. I will use Arberesh – my heritage language – as a case study, looking at differing features of fuse-lect and borrowing with Sicilian lexicon and how negative attitudes towards these features of contact language impact on maintenance possibilities. If we were to measure the intelligibility of proposed language maintenance or standardisation texts which erase Sicilian influence and import the exogenous related standardised Albanian alongside attitudes toward the language presented in them what would that tell us about the mechanisms of language maintenance and what are the alternatives?

Neuroscience, Language Learning and Multilingualism

Thomas Bak

A discussion between Richard Simcott and Thomas Bak about language life and what things impact on us directly as individuals and also as communities.

Discussion on Women in the World of Scots

Special Guest

Let's Keep it Real!: Tried & Tested Strategies to Bring Real-Life Into The Language Classroom with Authentic Visual Imagery & Realia

Mourad Diouri

Let’s Keep it Real!: Tried & Tested Strategies to Bring Real-Life Into The Language Classroom with Authentic Visual Imagery & Realia We live in a world, where we became predominantly visual communicators (and teachers) and where the wise Henrik Ibsen said: “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.” This is equally true for Arabic learners and teachers who are submerged in visual imagery such as images, videos, emojis, etc. Visual aids have proven to be a popular teaching aid, allowing teachers and students ample opportunities to express their creativity in creating teacher- and student-generated resources. This workshop aims to explore the impact and benefits of visual learning from both a practitioner and student’s perspective. The workshop will cover: – How visual aids can be utilised effectively to maximise the teaching of productive and receptive language skills, vocab-building, grammar understanding, pronunciation and culture awareness, particularly relevant to the Arabic learner. • the potential possibilities and educational value of visual imagery, digital photography, virtual realia and visual-rich technologies available. • To put a call to aspiring and experienced teachers to tap into the power and impact of this relatively poorly understood and utilised field but mostly taken-for-granted and overlooked area that could positively impact teacher’s practice and learner engagement. • To put a case forward to teachers to rethink their material development rationale and how to shift away from static and un-engaging text-based content/curricula to visually-rich and image-enhanced resource design. The workshop will also introduce some tried-and-tested ideas that are innovative, practical and easy to implement within and outside the classroom

Chavacano: History, Structure, Ideology and Status of the Spanish-based “Creole” of the Philippines

Carlos Yebra López

In this presentation, I will offer a panoramic view of Chavacano (also spelled Chabacano), traditionally conceptualised by scholars as the common name used for creole linguistic varieties with Spanish as the lexifier and Philippine languages as the adstrates. After a brief overview explaining the what, why, where and when of Chavacano, I will discuss the history of the language and its formation, its grammatical structure, the colonial, postcolonial and neocolonial ideologies surrounding it, and its current status. First, I will distinguish between the early emergence of Chavacano (1565-1718), its middle history (1718-1821) and its late history (1821 to present). Second, I will analyse its verb-subject-object structure, how to form the past, present and future tenses, and textual as well as audiovisual samples, with a focus on its similarities and differences vis-à-vis Spanish, as well as the influence of indigenous and endangered languages (e.g. Nahuatl). Third, I will discuss the colonial implications of the positive valuation of Spanish as a language of prestige, on the one hand, and the converse pejoration of Chavacano as a supposed form of corrupted Spanish, on the other. Lastly, I will examine the current vigour of Chavacano locally (in the Philippines) and globally, reviewing a number of online and offline revitalisation efforts.

A Comparison of Malay Dialects Spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand

Brian Loo

The Malay language is spoken by over 200 million speakers across a huge area of Southeast Asia. From Southern Myanmar, down the Malay Peninsula to Singapore, from the south and east of Sumatera stretching across the Riau Archipelago to the Natuna Islands and coastal regions of Borneo, a huge range of Malay dialects exist. There are also creolised forms of Malay spoken far to the east: in Sulawesi, the Moluccas and various parts of Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia, besides transplanted varieties that have spread as far as Sri Lanka and even South Africa. Varieties of Malay form the basis of the official languages of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei as well as the national language of Singapore. This presentation will focus on phonological and grammatical features of the various lesser-known Malay dialects spoken between Southern Myanmar and the Riau Islands and from Sumatera across the South China Sea to the west coast of Borneo.

Penang Hokkien

Timothy Tye

Penang Hokkien is a language spoken by over a million people on the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. It is similar to Medan Hokkien. Both trace their roots to Chinese refugees who fled Zhangzhou in Fujian Province in the late 17th century. The language is also closely related to the Hokkien spoken in Singapore and Klang, whose ancestors were likewise refugees but from Quanzhou in Fujian Province. Penang Hokkien existed as a spoken language until 2013, when a homegrown writing system was finally created for it. In this presentation, I want to share the history of Penang Hokkien, culminating with the effort to create an effective and easy-to-learn writing system for the language.

The Endangerment of The Kristang Language

Sara Frederica Santa Maria

Bahaso Cino Pondok : An Insight into the Peranakan Dialect of Minang

Alexander The

Ever heard of Nasi Padang? The ubiqutuous selection of dish owes its name to the capital city of the West Sumatra province in Indonesia, home to the matriarchal Minang ethnic group that speaks the Minang language, one of the closest relative of Malay. The language is mainly spoken in Western Sumatra and nearby region in Indonesia, yet a substantial Minang speaking population also exists in the Negeri Sembilan state in Malaysia due to migration. In this presentation, we will dwelve further into an oft-forgotten dialect of Minang, the Pondok or Peranakan Minang which is commonly spoken by ethnic Chinese in West Sumatra that have adopted the language of their new homeland over centuries. The Pondok dialect not only incorporates loanwords from other languages such as Hokkien and Dutch, but also created new words that are not used by other Minang speakers. Join the presentation and learn more not only about the language, but also socio-historical aspects of the community and the wider Ranah Minang.

Why do you sound Malaysian? Pronunciation, intonation, and stress in Malaysian Mandarin

Steven Neoh

Introduction to Northern Malay

Wan Amirul

Prepare to embark on a linguistic journey through the enchanting realm of the Northern Malay dialect group, as we celebrate Penang’s role as the vibrant host city for this edition of The Language Event. Northern Malay, or natively known as “Loghat Utara” or “Pelet Utara” is widely spoken across states like Perlis, Kedah, Penang, and parts of Perak. Not to mention, this dialect transcends international borders, stretching all the way to Thailand’s Satun Province and even touching Kawthaung in southern Myanmar. Prepare to unravel its secrets as we delve into the dialect’s origins, its vast reach, and its fascinating nuances. The spotlight will shine on pronunciation rules, granting you the power to pass off as a local. In addition, basic phrases and sample sentences will also be the key focus areas of this presentation. But the exploration doesn’t stop there. We’ll unveil the subtle differences that distinguish various dialects within this linguistic family. Moreover, we’ll dive into the art of “oversimplification” – where everyday terms in Standard Malay take on a whole new life in the Northern dialect. To enrich your experience, we’ll draw comparisons, revealing the subtle differences between this dialect group, Standard Malay and the colloquial Kuala Lumpur dialect. This crash course isn’t just about learning words; it’s about embracing the essence of communication that shapes communities. Join us as we bridge cultures and languages, with Penang as our backdrop and the Northern Malay dialect as our guide. Your linguistic adventure begins here.

Terminologies in Baba Traditional Wedding

Chai Cheng (Cedric) Tan

The Baba Nyonya community emerged due to the acculturation of the early Chinese immigrants with the local customs and practices. To maintain their Chinese tradition in this new land of opportunity, the community continued to practice quaint Chinese customs and rites including amassing proper artefacts and accessories related to the wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony is the epitome of the Baba Nyonya culture till 1930s before the World Depression reduced the wealth of many families. Added with the Anglicization of the committee, younger generation started to abandon this rite of passage for simpler Western style ceremony.
The Baba traditional wedding is now a rarely seen event today and is facing extinction as many experts related to this event have passed away. Coupled with the high cost involved and rarity of a number of artefacts, the wedding can be economically daunting to young couples to consider this wedding as an option when they tie the knot. Along with the know-how about the processes attached to each segment of the wedding, the Baba patois terminologies heavily utilized in this event face similar threat of disappearance. Some efforts have been taken to archive the wedding procedures but unfortunately were written in English. This presentation transports the audience into the realm of the Baba traditional wedding with photos attached to each procedure, setup, artefacts and costumes. Where possible, the Baba patois terminologies will be used with a note on the origin of the words attached. It is through this skillful utilization of original and local languages that the community was able to maintain their Chinese rites despite the loss of their ability to converse in their original Chinese dialect.

Native Australian Languages

Liam Williams Price

Native Australian languages are as varied as the vast continent. Come and learn about native language practitioners and language reclamation efforts. You’ll also get to experience an introductory lesson to Warlpiri, a language from Central Australia.