Subscribe: PRI's The World: The World in Words from PRI/BBC/WGBH
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
arabic  english  language  languages  patrick cox  patrick  people  podcast  trump  week podcast  week  word  words  world 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: PRI's The World: The World in Words from PRI/BBC/WGBH

The World in Words

The World in Words is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them. What happens to the brain on bilingualism? Does it matter that so many languages are dying out? Should we fear the rise of global English? Is the United States losing its li


Could Neanderthals talk?

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:00:00 -0500

Humans are the only creatures on Earth that can choke on their own food. Yes, that’s right. Because we have funky plumbing. There’s a crucial split in our throats – one path that leads to the esophagus and the stomach, and another that leads to our larynx, or voice box. Why would humans have evolved such potentially fatal architecture? Some experts say the reason is speech, suggesting speech might pre-date Homo sapiens, going back to Neanderthals, or even Homo erectus, our likely ancestors from millions of years ago. This is all theoretical of course. There are no million-year-old recordings. But some of these ideas are gaining steam. This week on the podcast, reporter Ari Daniel from our partner program NOVA explores several theories about where language comes from.

Media Files:

The rules of bilingual love

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 15:30:00 -0500

He wrote to her mainly in Swedish, and she replied in Finnish. The correspondence of "Finlandia" composer Jean Sibelius and his wife Aino is funny and touching. And their letters are a goldmine for the study of code-switching.

Aino and Jean Sibelius flanking a letter written by Jean to Aino. 

Wikimedia Commons/Patrick Cox

Media Files:

Ivanka, meet Stalin

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 15:30:00 -0500

In which we hear from another Ivanka, another Stalin and another Lenin. Ivanka's brush with fame came thanks to Donald Trump's carelessness on Twitter. But Stalin and Lenin were purposely given their names, by parents in the Indian state of Kerala. Do they have a date with destiny?

Lenin Lal is a local politician in the Indian state of Kerala. 

Sauli Pillay

Media Files:

Losing your accent

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 18:30:00 -0500

English is spoken with countless accents by both native and non-native speakers. But a hierarchy persists: there are 'good accents and 'bad' ones. So whether you're from Thailand or Tennessee, you may want to get rid of your accent. We hear from a few such people, and from someone who has no interest in changing his accent.

This is a flyer in New York City offering accent-reduction classes. 

Martin Snoer Raaschou

Media Files:

The words of 2017

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 12:15:00 -0500

What are the words and images that best describe this past year? And why do some people think "whom" is obsolete? We talk with Buzzfeed's copy chief Emmy Favilla and Cartoon Queen Carol Hills who monitors political cartoons from around the world.

Media Files:

My voice is my passport – verify me

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:00:00 -0500

Remember the 1990’s flick Sneakers with Robert Redford? Robert Redford’s character leads a group of hackers on a mission to steal a decoder from the NSA. And there’s a part in the film when Redford needs to bypass security to sneak into a building. Only problem, the security is a voice activated; at least in 1992 that might’ve been a problem. Today, if José Sotelo has anything to do with it, Redford’s crew need not worry about imitating a voice.. Sotelo co-founded a start-up called Lyrebird that can synthesize your voice with as little as one minute of recording. This week on the podcast: computers speak. We talk about the original chat bot “ELIZA” who created as a therapy bot and , yes, was named after Eliza Doolittle. We look into the history of speech synthesis from brazen heads of the medieval times to the animated tones of the Voder, the electronic attempt to replicate speech. And best of all Patrick Cox has his voice synthesized. Plus, we fret about the ethical implications of it all. How will this technology further erode our notion of truth? Are we entering a black mirror moment?

What if robots could sound like your mother or your father or even your 13-year-old self? Those days are not too far off.

Albert Gea/Reuters

Media Files:

Welcome to the American family

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 15:30:00 -0500

US politicians have been using the word, 'assimilation' for more than a century. How has it evolved? What does it mean in Trump's America? And how is 'assimilation' understood differently in other countries like France? Nina enlists Rupa Shenoy, host of PRI's Otherhood podcast to try to figure it out, while Patrick seeks to banish the word, 'ex-pat.'

Media Files:

Speaking Yiddish to the dead

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 16:00:00 -0500

In 2000, American poet Jennifer Kronovet began taking Yiddish classes for just one reason: to translate Yiddish poetry into English.

A 1923 studio portrait of the In zikh ("Introspectivist") poetry group.  Celia Dropkin is surrounded by (clockwise from bottom left): Jacob Stodolsky, Aaron Glanz-Leyeles, B. Alquit, Mikhl Likht, N. B. Minkoff, Jacob Glatstein.

Courtesy of Yiddishkayt

Media Files:

Bash the Fash

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:45:00 -0400

"Antifa." The buzzword of the summer, especially after Charlottesville. Reporter Lidia Jean Kott explores how "antifa" came into being in 1930s Germany-- and how it was resurrected in 21st century America. WARNING: this episode has explicit language and content.

A drawing, called "Resist," of David-Jon, an antifa activist from Portland, Oregon. 

Kiaha Rasmussen

Media Files:

Dubbing with benefits

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 02:30:00 -0400

Dubbed TV and movies suck, right? Those odd-sounding voices and that lamely-synchronized dialogue? In Germany, it's not like that. Dubbing it a highly evolved craft, with actors who specialize in voiceover and writers who genuinely improve the dialogue. The pod goes to Berlin to find out why Germans are so good at (and so addicted to) dubbing.

Nadine Heidenreich, left, and Viktor Neumann are German voice actors who dub the characters Rosita Espinosa and Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead. They're pictured here at EuroSync studios in Berlin.

Marcus Posimski

Media Files:

How to speak like an aliebn

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 13:00:00 -0400

When Twitter comedian Jonny Sun began to write his book, "everyone's a aliebn when ur a aliebn too," he had to write down the rules of the cutesy grammar of the language he invented.

An excerpt from Jomny Sun's book, "everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too," is shown. 

Harper Collins

Media Files:

Who are the People?

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 15:15:00 -0400

Germans do not agree what the word 'Volk' means. Does it denote ethnic Germans or people who live in Germany? The Nazis racialized 'Volk' and its derivatives. Now Germany's New Right are reviving some of these terms.

A supporter of the anti-Muslim group PEGIDA in Dresden, Germany.

Patrick Cox/PRI

Media Files:

Deciphering the Lingo of Pro-Trump Trolls

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:00:00 -0400

In the run up to the presidential election Cristina López kept coming across language on the internet that she didn’t quite understand; words and phrases like “meme magic,” and “red-pilled” and “nimble navigator.” These expressions kept popping up in Reddit and 4chan on Trump supporter message boards. “It felt like I was looking in to a group and I didn’t understand the group joke,” said Cristina. But understanding the group joke is Cristina’s job. She works for a non-profit called Media Matters For America, a left leaning non-profit that monitors the conservative media for misinformation. Since the election Cristina and her colleagues have spent many hours lurking on these message boards deciphering the words and memes of what she calls the #MAGA troll dialect. This week on the podcast Cristina Lopez explains some of the dialect.

"Remember all I'm offering is the truth" - The Matrix


Media Files:

Zappa for Germans

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:30:00 -0400

Who was Frank Zappa? Virtuoso guitarist? Modernist composer? Smutty lyricist? Anti-censorship activist? All of the above....and in much more the former East Germany. There his banned records fetched small fortunes among rebellious young men who dreamed of freedom. We spend 30 minutes in the company of one such man who now runs a Zappa-themed festival. We also hear from an American translator who explains Zappa's obscure lyrics to German fans, line by line.

Bad Doberan, Germany is the home of Zappanale, an annual summer festival inspired by the life and work of Frank Zappa.

Patrick Cox/PRI

Media Files:

To Catch a Fortune Cookie Thief

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:15:00 -0400

This week on the podcast producer Lidia Jean Kott cracks open a case of fortune cookie theft. "Some men dream of fortunes. Others dream of cookies." This is a real fortune cookie fortune. A prescient fortune it would turn out for Yong Sik Lee. Lee invented the fully automatic fortune cookie machine and built a business on his invention. He sold fortune cookie machines and fortunes to companies all over the US. It was a good business, until one day somebody stole it all from him. Lidia Jean gets to the bottom of a theft that forever changed the life of Lee. She also gets explores the eternal question: Why are fortune cookie fortunes never really fortunes? And where do fortune cookies come from anyway? Hint: It's not China.

How did fortunes become a staple at Chinese restaurants in the US?  

Megan Swan/Museum of Food and Drink 


Media Files:

Grandmothers have the best curse words

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:30:00 -0400

This week on The World in Words we talk about swear words from around the world and the bad words our grandmothers teach us. We hear from swearologist Stephen Dodson and author Marilyn Chin. Plus, Nina Porzucki interviews her grandmother about the meaning of a Polish word.

Media Files:

'Dialect' versus 'language,' what's the big deal?!

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 15:30:00 -0400

This week on the podcast we step gingerly into scalding waters to explore the question: What is the difference between a language and dialect? Linguists hate to define it. “As a linguist I will not engage in trying to define language and trying to define dialect and I’m not alone in that,” said linguist Bojan Belić. He’s certainly not alone. We reached out to linguists and language experts and were met with sigh after sigh. There are many rubrics that people cite as indicators of a dialect versus a language. Take mutual intelligibility. Two varieties of speech that are mutually intelligible surely must be dialects. But what happens when they’re not? Then there’s the old cliché, coined apparently by a Yiddish scholar, “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.” Is language and dialect purely politics? This week we discuss two places where these labels might make you scratch your head: Scandinavia and the Balkans.

Media Files:

Vladimir Trump

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 16:00:00 -0400

Many Russians perceive Donald Trump as an American version of Vladimir Putin. It's partly based on Trump's bombastic rhetoric, but also on how his speeches and tweets are translated into Russian.

A protester holds up a sign at an anti-Trump demonstration in Washington, DC.

Susan Melkisethian

Media Files:

Straight Outta Siberia

Wed, 24 May 2017 14:45:00 -0400

Linguist Edward Vajda went to Siberia with a hunch. He returned with evidence linking a remote Siberian language with Navajo.

Linguist Edward Vajda with a Ket woman in her home village in Siberia, Russia. 

Courtesy of Edward Vajda

Media Files:

In Moldova, speaking the wrong language once had serious consequences

Tue, 09 May 2017 12:30:00 -0400

This week, The World in Words podcast visits the Moldova Authentic Restaurant in Newton, Massachusetts. Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki talk with restaurant owners Artur and Sandra Andronic about their mother tongue. Also, what happens if you put a group of monolingual speakers of different languages on a deserted island? Linguist Derek Bickerton was determined to find out.

Moldovan Flag

Nicolas Raymond

Media Files:

The words that divide Indian-Americans

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:15:00 -0400

Sonia Paul grew up California, the child of immigrants from India and the Philippines. No wonder she's fascinated by the heated debates among Indian-Americans over how school textbooks characterize Hinduism and caste.

A protest in Sacramento, California. 

Sonia Paul

Media Files:

Elena Ferrante & Italy's Linguistic Past

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:15:00 -0400

Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels have become a global hit. Their plot is rife with love and sex and the mob AND language. This week on the podcast we explore Italy's linguistic history and the tensions between Italian dialects like Neapolitan and the lingua franca. BONUS: Patrick Cox will sing for you in his best Italian accent.

Book Jacket from "My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante

Europa Editions

Media Files:

How Christianese became a thing

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 15:45:00 -0400

Have you attended any “Matthew parties” lately? Or ever felt “too blessed to be stressed, too anointed to be disappointed”? If the answer is yes, you speak Christianese, a "religiolect" that linguists have recently started tracking.

Screenshot from a parody video made by Christian singer Micah Tyler.


Media Files:

Arabic's Jewish dialect

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:45:00 -0400

The Arab world used to be home to hundreds of thousands of Jews who spoke their own variants of Arabic. Today, Judeo-Arabic survives only in exile. We hear stories of language and exodus from three Judeo-Arabic speakers now living in Montreal. Plus, novelist Louie Cronin on satirizing linguistics.

Elsie Solomon, Gladys Kattan and Lisette Shashoua at Lisette's home in Montreal. 

Alina Simone

Media Files:

'Black' is a French word too

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 14:00:00 -0500

Many French people favor the English word 'black' over the local equivalent 'noir.' Why? There's a history behind it that dates back decades— in fact, two histories: the French version seeks to be colorblind while the American one recognizes race at every turn.

Dancer Link Berthomieux says that when French people use the English word "black," "It’s a trendy way to say 'noir.'"




Lea Dasenka

Media Files:

An Iraqi writer in America

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 12:30:00 -0500

Mosul-born Anoud first came to the US when Obama was president. Now she doesn’t dare leave the country. Written in English, her satirical fiction targets ISIS, the international community and even refugees.

Iraqi fiction writer Anoud recently moved to New York. 

Patrick Cox

Media Files:

A Kenyan language rises again

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 15:15:00 -0500

Ekegusii is spoken by about two million Kenyans but has been losing ground to Swahili and English. Now it is taught in some schools, thanks to local language activists assisted by American linguists.

Kenyan language activist Kennedy Bosire has co-edited an online dictionary of his mother tongue, Ekegusii, also know as Kisii. 

Marco Werman

Media Files:

Translating Trump

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:00:00 -0500

Trump hotels, Trump wine, Trump golf courses, Trump steaks – we've heard a LOT about how Trump has made millions from his name. In English the word "trump" connotes a certain grandiosity but how does his name translate into other languages? And more importantly what do the translations say about how Trump is viewed in other countries, in other people's minds? This week on the podcast translating Trump. We’ll look at Trump’s name in three different languages: American Sign Language, Mandarin, and Russian. And we enlist the expertise of several Davids and one Jami: Chinese linguist David Moser, The Washington Post's Moscow Bureau Chief David Filipov, Princeton Professor of French language and literature David Bellos, and American Sign Language Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania, Jami Fisher.

Media Files:

The first cousin of English

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 15:15:00 -0500

Are the 300,000+ Dutch people who speak Frisian stubborn? Maybe...and maybe that's not a bad thing. We head to the Netherlands to hear from artists, writers, politicians and kids at a trilingual school.

Students Andries Jacobi, Nienke Kooi and Fardau de Vries attend a trilingual (Dutch, Frisian, English) public school in Koudum in the Dutch province of Friesland.   

Patrick Cox

Media Files:

What the Cuck?

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:00:00 -0500

WARNING: This podcast has explicit language and sexual content. This has been an election season of words: “bigly” or is it “big league,” “basket of deplorables” and you can’t forget “nasty.” But one word has recently caught a lot of people's attention: cuck. It’s a slur being used by white nationalists and white supremacists, the so-called "alt-right,” people like Richard Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute. The deceptively generic sounding organization espouses white nationalist ideology. During their conference held in Washington DC right after the US election, Spencer made headlines by using the phrase “Hail Trump” in his speech. In the same speech he also used the word “cuck.” But long before white nationalist grabbed hold of cuck, the word, which has roots in the ancient insult “cuckold” took some interesting turns in its modern usage. On the podcast this week we focus on the word "cuck." What does it mean? Who uses it? And how did it become the slur of choice for white nationalists? We'll hear from and linguist Michael Adams, sex columnist Dan Savage, and white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Media Files:

The global rise of Swahili

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 11:15:00 -0500

Hakuna Matata. You may recognize this phrase. You may even find yourself humming the earworm-provoking song of the same title from Disney's the Lion King. "It means no worries" goes the lyric. But Disney fails to mention that "Hakuna matata" means "no worries" in Swahili. Swahili – known as Kiswahili in East Africa – has its roots in a small tribal Bantu language spoken along one strip of Africa's eastern coastline. But these days, it's spread across the African continent. Today its spoken by more than 100 million people. More people speak Swahili than Korean or Italian.This week reporter Daniel A. Gross investigates how Swahili became a prominent language on the African continent and increasingly around the globe.

Ujamaa Bookstore in Washington, DC. "Ujamaa" is a Swahili word that means extended family, brotherhood, and socialism. It is also one of the seven principles of the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa.  

Rachel Strohm

Media Files:

The Standing Rock Sioux's other fight

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 13:00:00 -0500

Standing Rock is more than a social movement for clean water rights. It's also where the Lakota language is re-inventing itself.

A Standing Rock Sioux tribal member at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota. A new generation of Standing Rock Sioux are studying the Lakota language. 

Patrick Cox


Media Files:

'I'm Arab but I don't speak Arabic'

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 12:45:00 -0500

The language you would expect to hear in the United Arab Emirates is Arabic. Yet in a place like Dubai, English is the language on the streets, cafés and malls. Many Emiratis struggle in their own mother tongue. When oil was discovered in this mainly desert nation in the late 1950s, money and rapid development followed. An outside workforce poured into the country and a lot of them spoke English. So they communicated in English. At the same time, leaders in the UAE started to view English as the language of future. English entered the schools and classrooms. Slowly English became the lingua franca in the UAE. Arabic, meanwhile, slipped. This week on the podcast, reporter Shirin Jaafari heads to the UAE where she investigates what happened to Arabic in this Arab nation.

A teacher and her students at an advanced Arabic class at a private school in Dubai.

Shirin Jaafari

Media Files:

How do you say 'cancer' in Mixtec?

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 13:30:00 -0500

Folks from Salinas, California like to remind you that their valley is the “Salad Bowl of the World.” Not that you can forget. When you drive around town, everywhere you look there’s fields growing lettuce, strawberries, and broccoli. A growing number of the farm workers picking the broccoli and lettuce from those fields speak neither English nor Spanish but several Native Mexican languages like Mixtec, Triqui, Zapotec. How are these farmworkers navigating life in California speaking their languages? Turns out, it's not so easy. This week on the podcast we visit Natividad Hospital in the town of Salinas on California’s Central Coast. This hospital, surrounded by fields, serves many of the farm workers in the valley. Four of the most commonly spoken languages at the hospital are Native Mexican languages. For years doctors and staff at Natividad struggled to communicate with their indigenous language speaking patients. And finding qualified indigenous language interpreters proved to be difficult. Then hospital officials realized finding indigenous language interpreters was as easy as visiting their own waiting rooms. Many bilingual and trilingual farm workers were already informally interpreting for their family members and friends. What if they trained these folks to become qualified medical interpreters? In the podcast we’ll meet some of Natividad’s indigenous language interpreters. We’ll also head 250 miles south of Salinas to Oxnard, California where a new community radio station is broadcasting in some of these Native Mexican languages.

Israel Jesus speaks and interprets in Spanish, English and Triqui. He learned Triqui while living with his grandparents in Oaxaca before coming to the United States.

Nina Porzucki

Media Files:

Should we learn in two languages?

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 14:00:00 -0400

We know much more about bilingualism than we did 18 years ago when Californians voted to ban bilingual education. What does the research tell us? And will it effect Californians' upcoming re-vote on the issue?

Kimberly Medina, 19, votes during the U.S. presidential primary election at Gates Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, on  June 7, 2016. Californians will vote Nov. 8 on a ballot measure that seeks to overturn a ban on bilingual education. 

Marco Anzuoni/Reuters

Media Files:

Speak perfectly or don't speak at all

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 18:00:00 -0400

The Keres language, spoken by the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico, is dying. When younger tribal members tried to revive it, they were blocked by elders fearful that spiritual essence of the language would be lost.

Laguna tribal members Jenni Monet and her grandmother June Sarracino. 

Jenni Monet

Media Files:

A language preserved in song

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 16:45:00 -0400

A group of anarchist Christians known as the Doukhobors emigrated to Canada in the early 1900s after becoming outcasts in Russian society. Their descendants don't use the old Doukhobor-Russian dialect, except for when they sing.

A Doukhobor festival in Castlegar, British Columbia, is shown here. For hundreds of years, the Doukhobors' oral cultural has been preserved in song and prayer.

Alina Simone

Media Files:

What US city is fully bilingual? Not Miami!

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 19:00:00 -0400

Miami, the Magic City is bilingual in practice, but not in theory, says one linguist. During the 1960's Miami was an example of bilingual education; the place where educators around the world went to see how bilingual ed was done. Somehow that got lost along the way. Today Miami-Dade County, the sprawling bureaucracy that surrounds the City of Miami, is about 70 percent Latinx, yet, most kids in public schools only get about an hour of Spanish education, not really enough to be proficient in a language. This week on the podcast, guest host Maria Murriel heads down to her hometown to explore how Miamians, including herself, feel about Spanish in Miami.

A La Carreta restaurant, a popular Cuban cuisine franchise in the Miami area.

Phillip Pessar/Flickr CC

Media Files:

Maisam learns Dutch

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:45:00 -0400

What is it like to learn a second language when you can't read and write in your first one? That's the challenge for this Afghan teenage refugee now going to school in Belgium.

Maisam Hosseini and his teacher An Somers. He attends a special language program for students new to Belgium.

Jeb Sharp

Media Files:

How the Miami Tribe got its language back

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 14:15:00 -0400

What happens when the last native speaker of a language has died? Is that language 'dead' or just 'sleeping'? And can it be woken up again?

Myaamia Chief Doug Lankford (right), linguist David Costa (center), and Myaamia Center director Daryl Baldwin (left), watching a traditional Stomp Dance in Oxford, Ohio.

Carol Zall

Media Files:

Toppling the Tower of Babel

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:45:00 -0400

When Netflix launched their talk show "Chelsea" this past May, they promised to deliver it three times a week in more than 20 languages. To do that, they had to invent a whole new translation process. We're in this interesting moment in media. The internet has made communicating with others across the globe easy and instant. But despite all the chatter about the global rise of English, the Tower of Babel still stands. The world remains multilingual, and not always translated. But more than a century ago, filmmakers thought they had found the key to tumbling the Tower of Babel. Directors like Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith felt that silent film was the perfect medium to bring the world together, unite us all, be our “visual Esperanto.” And then sound came and wrecked everything. This week on the podcast we go back to the silent film era and examine what happened when sound entered the picture. We also get a peek into Netflix’s solution to translating Chelsea at a rapid rate and ensuring that the show is still funny in 20 languages.

Media Files:

Sing to me in Vietnamese

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 14:30:00 -0400

A Vietnamese-American stays in touch with her cultural roots through language and song. But which language besides English will she pass on to her own children? Vietnamese or...Spanish?

Lily Bui and her Vietnamese-born mother who arrived in the United States as a refugee in the 1980s. 

Courtesy of Lily Bui

Media Files:

Sorry we killed off your language

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 15:45:00 -0400

The Canadian government eliminated many indigenous languages by sending children to church-run boarding schools. But the government has apologized and pledged to help bring back those languages. In British Columbia, the Ktunaxa language is making a modest comeback.

Anne Jimmie grew up speaking Ktunaxa, only to lose much of the language when she was removed from her family and placed in a boarding school. In 2006, the Canadian government compensated Jimmie and about 80,000 other First Nations people as part of a class action settlement.

Alina Simone

Media Files:

So, what are your pronouns?

Mon, 08 Aug 2016 11:00:00 -0400

What pronouns do you use? Have you ever been asked? Do you ask others their pronouns? This week on the podcast, we hand over the reins to our talented summer intern Paulus van Horne to share a very personal story about pronouns. In the spring of 2016, Paulus came out as non-binary at college, asking friends and teachers to use the gender neutral pronouns they/them their. This summer at The World, Paulus came out for the first time at a workplace. This is their story.

Media Files:

The Last Native Speakers of Hawaiian

Thu, 28 Jul 2016 16:00:00 -0400

Hawaiian is often offered up as a language revitalization success story, a model for other endangered languages to follow. But language revitalization isn’t so simple. While activists are reviving the Hawaiian language, opening up pre-schools, teaching thousands of second language learners there was and still is a small group of native speakers who have never lost the language, a group of native Hawaiians from the island of Niihau. This week The World in Words takes a trip to the Hawaiian Islands to meet some of Hawaii’s last native speakers. How have they managed to hold onto the language? What struggles do they face going forward? Is the variation of Hawaiian that the Niihau speak different from the language spoken by the activists leading the Hawaiian revitalization movement?

Keao NeSmith sitting in the cinderblock pavilion where Niihau parents marched in protest after pulling their children out of the local public school. Niihau elders taught their kids in these pavilions while they worked to get their own charter school going.

Nina Porzucki

Media Files:

Arabic as Americans hear it

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 14:15:00 -0400

This just in: Arabic is not a violent ideology. It is a language that a handful of Americans are learning and loving.

First and second grade Arabic class in New York.

Frances Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo

Media Files:

Live show: From Ainu to Zaza

Wed, 29 Jun 2016 16:00:00 -0400

Nina, Patrick and friends record this episode in front of a live audience at the New York Public Library. They discuss the rewards and challenges of language revitalization, complete with singalongs and a few dodgy jokes.

Third-grader Haveo Maka'imoku with her brother. Haveo learns entirely in Hawaiian at a school in Hilo, Hawaii. At home, she speaks Hawaiian with mother, who attended one of the first Hawaiian language pre-schools founded in the 1980s.

Nina Porzucki

Media Files:

Deciphering the world's strangest encyclopedia

Wed, 08 Jun 2016 15:15:00 -0400

In the late 1970s the writer Alberto Manguel was working in Milan for an Italian publisher that had taken to publishing hidden or little-known manuscripts found in secret libraries. One day the publishing house received a package that contained a strange manuscript written in incomprehensible script. There was no note with the manuscript. No sign of who sent it or where it came from. This manuscript was more than strange, it was as if the publishing house had been gifted the encyclopedia of an alien planet with diagrams of everything on that planet from microbes to fantastical beasts to unusual vehicles and houses, the elements of a completely unknown civilization, all described in a strange swirly script. A note soon followed from the author of the text, Luigi Serafini. This week on The World in Words podcast, a mystery of encyclopedic proportions.

An image from the Codex Seraphinianus, a mysterious encyclopedia first published in the 1980s.

Luigi Serafini/ Rizzoli

Media Files:

Who in Japan speaks Ainu?

Thu, 26 May 2016 15:15:00 -0400

Japan's indigenous Ainu language is a mystery. Russian-born Anna Bugaeva is one of several non-Ainu linguists who have become semi-fluent in the language. They are on a mission to document Ainu, and figure out where it came from, before it disappears.

Ainu artisan Maki Sekine and her Japanese husband Kenji. Though he is not Ainu, Kenji Sekine has learned the language and now teaches it to Ainu and non-Ainu students.

Patrick Cox

Media Files:

Languages real and unreal

Thu, 05 May 2016 16:00:00 -0400

Dutch-born writer Gaston Dorren grew up speaking two languages, fell in love in a third, and added a fourth and fifth along the way. OK, he's obsessed with languages but in much of Europe multilingualism is common. Also, who owns Klingon?

Dutch-born author of Lingo, Gaston Dorren. Dorren is pictured here in a typically multilingual moment. He is in Turkey reading the German translation of book originally written in English: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. Dorren's first language is Limburgish.

Marleen Bekker

Media Files: