Do people really speak Latin anymore?

aristotle3-latin_textYears ago, students in schools throughout North America took Latin classes on a regular basis, just as many of our children now take French or Spanish.  But is the language still spoken outside of the Catholic Church?

Pope Benedict XVI is so adamant about trying to revive the use of Latin, he regularly holds conversations in Latin and did you know, the only place in the world where an ATM machine offers Latin as a language selection is in Vatican City at the Vatican Bank?

The Vatican’s Latin Foundation is also regularly working on modern translations into Latin, updating its dictionary with words like “dishwasher” (escariorum lavatory) and “rush hour” (tempus maximae frequentiae).  Words are added on a regular basis and one look at the list will make you chuckle. (Most of it is in Italian and then translated to Latin, but there are several English words on the list as well.)

Should this ancient language be kept up?  Will we really need it in the future?

(Thanks to Mental Floss for the interesting information!)


Where do they speak that language?

Europe has always been a place where many languages are spoken.  Throughout the years, various dialects have disappeared from region to region, and the continent remains one of the most diverse spots on the planet when it comes to language.  I came across an interesting map that shows just who speaks what and where.


You can click on the picture above to enlarge it.  Many thanks to the interesting people at Dark Roasted Blend for this fascinating map.

Why would I want to wash my clothes in THAT?!


I was reading a blog this morning about the way products marketed throughout the world can have problems with translation, depending on the language.  For example, this little box of “Barf” above is actually a very popular detergent used in Iran.  To those of us who speak English, we wonder why anyone would call a cleaning product barf, but in Farsi (an Iranian language) the word barf actually translates as “snow”. Apparently, even though the company is aware that this has a negative translation into English, they have decided to keep the name the same.

Urban legends abound when referring to products and translations.  There are many items that have claims about their English translations (or translations into other languages), but many of these are just that….urban legends. To read more about this issue, you can visit this link.

Branding products can be tricky enough, but when language becomes an issue, there can be a whole new set of problems.  Urban legend or actual translation, words will always amuse us.


In Canada, we often hear people speaking French, and along with it comes a few scattered English words.  Maybe there is just no English translation for a word and so the English word is just inserted in regular speech. Is it Frenglish? Call it what you may, but it is just part of our world.  However, Italy is getting tired of its people using a combination of English and Italian, calling it Anglitaliano.

The Dante Alighieri Society asked people for examples of over-used foreign words and “il weekend” emerged as the worst offender.  Other commonly used words are “cool” and “lo stress”.  The society has asked that people stop abusing the beautiful Italian language by inserting English words, and many Italians seem to agree.  They feel that using English words is sometimes faster and often thought to be very chic, but many want to keep the language clean.

You can read more about this controversy here.

Do you think the English language is “clean”?

Learn a language

This week, we had a young woman ask about our audio books and whether we had anything in French.  We really haven’t been asked for French audio books before, even though there might be people in the community who would use them.  The reason behind her request was that she was reading French books and speaking French in her home, but that she hadn’t really spoken it much and was rusty on the sound of French.  Since she reads it well,  learning French is not what she was after, but rather just the sound of French to help improve her speech.  Of course, we do carry language cassettes and CD’s, but these are mainly for the beginner.  Aside from finding a french-speaking mentor in the community, is there anything else she could do?  Yes!

I didn’t know about it the other night, but there is a unique website that allows users to speak, write and even talk with other users live in the language they choose. It is called and it is free to sign up. Right now, they only support a few languages : English, French, German, Spanish, Hindi, Icelandic, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Mandarin Chinese, but they provide extensive lessons in each to help a user develop reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in the language of their choice.  There are little tests, live chats and even tutors to help out with any questions you might have.  They promote the fact they they are much more than just a self-study site, that there is lots of help and guidance here and you can still learn at your own pace.

This is a really fascinating concept and seems to be very user-powered. There are places you can post your lessons and have them “marked” or rated by other users as to their accuracy and relevance.  They even have flash cards to help you improve your vocabulary, with your “learning language” on the front of the card, and your “native language” on the back.

Even though we could order a French audio book in for our patron through interlibrary loan, I think I will suggest this site to her now (and keep it in mind for others in the future, as it looks like an interesting concept).  Do you think you could learn a language through self-study?

I don’t understand you!

Flag of Esperanto

“Mi ne komprenas vin” (I don’t understand you)

During an event like the Summer Olympics in Beijing, how do people from so many countries communicate when they don’t speak the same language?  There is an interesting concept that might solve a lot of the world’s communication problems at events such as the Olympics…a universal language called “Esperanto”.

Esperanto is the most widely used “constructed language” in the world.  A constructed language is one that is invented to help people communicate when they are from different nations and speak different languages.  It is an international language.

According to Wikipedia, there are 1000 native Esperanto language speakers in the world.

10 000 people can speak it fluently.

100 000 people  use it quite actively and communicate well.

1 000 000 people understand a large amount of the language passively.

10 000 000 people in the world have studied this language at some point in their lives.

The majority of the people who speak Esperanto learn it through self study.  There are actually many websites online such as Lernu where you can learn the language and “talk” with other people around the world who are interested in Esperanto.  There are also many websites devoted to the use of Esperanto such as:

Did you know that two Roman Catholic Popes have used Esperanto in their multilingual urbi et orbi blessings at Easter and Christmas each year since 1994?

You can visit the Wikipedia site for some great examples of the language  in audio form as well as visual examples.


Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Hola! The 5th of May is upon us once again, and for those in Mexico, it takes on a special meaning. Although not an official holiday, but more regional in nature, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. For the history of Cinco de Mayo, you can check out what Wikipedia has to say here.

As you might know, we now have our own Mexican themed store in Carleton Place. I’m not sure what they have planned for today, but it sure is funny how worldly our small town is becoming. And of course, for dinner, you can always pop out to Highway 7 for some Mexican food. Have a whole day of celebration!

We can also help to make the day more interesting by providing a little reading. Maybe you’d like to know a little history of Mexico, or find out where to visit. We have lots of travel books, as well as geographic and historical books to fill out your thirst for knowledge. And while you’re at it, we can also help you learn a few words if you are planning a visit! Just ask us at the front desk for our set of Spanish cassettes to learn on your own. If you’d just like to know a few short phrases, try this fun webpage which will translate common phrases into different languages.

Have a wonderful Cinco de Mayo!