The Global Language

English - the world's global language

One of the most beautiful things about the English language is its variety. Over several hundred years, English speakers have developed a bit of a reputation as linguistic magpies, pinching words and expressions from countless other languages. You may even recognise some of these words from your own mother tongue! As learners of English, you will enjoy discovering many of these borrowed words for yourselves. Some of them do have rather unexpected origins. So, here are nine so-called English words that make our language truly global...




Robot - drudgery (Czech)

This word originates from the Czech 'robota', translating as drudgery. This is another great way of saying a mundane or tedious task that robots can do for humans! Will robots ever be truly intelligent? A big question indeed!



Safari - journey (Swahili)

In its original language, Swahili, a 'safari' means any journey at all. In English, we reserve this term for a tour of the African Savannah, when tourists can photograph and observe wild animals. Safari parks are also common in the UK. You can go to drive amongst the monkeys and giraffes in the comfort of your own car.


Glitch - slip up (Yiddish and German)

This word is thought to have first been used in English by American astronauts around 1962, describing a spike in voltage in an electrical current. Etymologically, it is uncertain. Perhaps from the Yiddish 'glitshen' and the German 'glitschen', both meaning to slip or slide. You may recognise this in the context of computer glitches, or if there is a glitch in your weekend plans - how annoying!




Karaoke - empty orchestra (Japanese)

A fusion of 'kara' (empty in Japanese) and 'okesutora' (orchestra in Japanese) gives us everyone's favourite (or most hated) party activity. It is said that the Japanese drummer Daisukue Inoue played in coffee shops and used to asked be guests to record versions of his songs in order for them to sing along with them while at home. Inoue subsequently developed a machine to play his backing tracks for ¥100 a song, and leased out his machines to restaurants and hotels. This was the advent of the classic amateur performance of popular songs that we know and love (or hate) today.



C'est la vie - that's life (French)

A expression immortalised in student union bars and clubs across the UK, and beyond, thanks to the 90s classic C'est la vie by Irish pop group B*Witched (check that out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvjLgjtJKsc). Originally heard in France, said with a sigh after something had not gone quite to plan. The expression has retained its popularity in English, representing the sentiment of 'that's just the way life goes'.


Algebra - reunion, restoration (Latin, from Arabic 'al-jabr')

Ninth-century Persian mathematician Muhammed bin Mus al-Khawarizmi first used the term to describe the methods by which letters and other symbols are used to represent numbers and quantities in equations and formulae. As it happens, the romanized version was first used in English in reference to reuniting broken bones. Al-Khawarizmi's work was published in Latin in the twelfth century, and algebra has been around as a mathematical term in English ever since, striking fear into the hearts of countless schoolchildren!


Wanderlust - desire to travel (German)

A lovely blend of the German words 'wandern' and 'lust' (meaning to hike and desire). First used in English in the nineteenth century, it remains in popular usage today. If you were to use this term, you would be discussing a desire to travel along the open road, with the world as your oyster (being in a position to take the opportunities life has to offer).


Smorgasboard - sandwich table (Swedish)


In Sweden, a 'smörgåsbord' is a type of varied meal in which numerous dishes are put out for guests to enjoy whichever ones they like. English speakers borrowed this word as an alternative to a 'buffet'. Since then, the meaning of smorgasboard has developed to mean any situation in which there are a variety of choices presented. Decisions, decisions...


Yin and yang - balance of opposites (Chinese)

In Chinese 'yin' denotes negative, dark, calm, and feminine qualities. By contrast, 'yang' means positive, bright, fiery, and masculine. This is a prominent concept in Chinese philosophy, describing how seemingly opposing forces are interdependent and interconnected in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn. This is often represented by the famous yin and yang symbol which you may already recognise.




If this article has interested you, and you feel like you are ready to start your journey of exploring the world's global language, English, I would love to show you the way down that road. Book a free trial lesson, and let's see how far you can go!

MW

References

Rhodes, C. (2009). A certain je ne sais quoi. 1st ed. London: Michael O'Mara Books Limited.


March 13, 2020
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$27
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Mark Wood

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$27
USD/h
Flag
English
globe
United Kingdom
time
25
Speaks:
English
Native
,
French
C2
,
Spanish
A2
Hello! My name is Mark Wood and I am from Cheshire in North West England. I am a qualified TEFL instructor (240 hour course), with a specialism in teaching English one-to-one and online. I am also a qualified modern languages teacher in the UK (ages 11-18), and my total teaching experience is now 7 years. I have taught English in France to students from the age of 5, all the way up to adult learners! Having lived in France for 3 years, I know first hand the challenges and rewards that learning languages can bring. I have also taken up Spanish ab initio, and I am keen to expand my knowledge of different cultures and languages from around the world. Maybe you could teach me about where you come from and your own culture? I am a real lover of languages! I enjoy travelling, cooking, keeping fit and active, playing board games, and football (that's soccer for you American English speakers!), to name but a few of my hobbies and interests. My lessons will be customised to you. The content of our lessons will match your needs, whether that is English for business, general conversational English, speaking and listening practice, English for teachers, or even test preparation (TOEFL, IELTS). My lessons are based on the highly versatile and reputable Off2Class platform. I am very flexible and I am experienced enough to adapt my teaching to your requirements. I prefer to teach fun lessons in a relaxed atmosphere, using a multi syllabus format. This approach ensures a balance between speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, while also prioritising your own areas of interest covering a wide range of topics. You will have your own personalised syllabus to develop your English fluency. Before we start our lessons, I will email you an Off2Class placement test to determine your starting point, and to analyse your strengths and areas for development. It will be important to supplement your lesson time with extra activities to consolidate your learning. These homework activities will be essential for you to make the most out of your experience learning English. So whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced user of English, feel free to book a trial lesson to begin the next step of your English journey. See you soon!
Flag
English
globe
United Kingdom
time
25
Speaks:
English
Native
,
French
C2
,
Spanish
A2
Hello! My name is Mark Wood and I am from Cheshire in North West England. I am a qualified TEFL instructor (240 hour course), with a specialism in teaching English one-to-one and online. I am also a qualified modern languages teacher in the UK (ages 11-18), and my total teaching experience is now 7 years. I have taught English in France to students from the age of 5, all the way up to adult learners! Having lived in France for 3 years, I know first hand the challenges and rewards that learning languages can bring. I have also taken up Spanish ab initio, and I am keen to expand my knowledge of different cultures and languages from around the world. Maybe you could teach me about where you come from and your own culture? I am a real lover of languages! I enjoy travelling, cooking, keeping fit and active, playing board games, and football (that's soccer for you American English speakers!), to name but a few of my hobbies and interests. My lessons will be customised to you. The content of our lessons will match your needs, whether that is English for business, general conversational English, speaking and listening practice, English for teachers, or even test preparation (TOEFL, IELTS). My lessons are based on the highly versatile and reputable Off2Class platform. I am very flexible and I am experienced enough to adapt my teaching to your requirements. I prefer to teach fun lessons in a relaxed atmosphere, using a multi syllabus format. This approach ensures a balance between speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, while also prioritising your own areas of interest covering a wide range of topics. You will have your own personalised syllabus to develop your English fluency. Before we start our lessons, I will email you an Off2Class placement test to determine your starting point, and to analyse your strengths and areas for development. It will be important to supplement your lesson time with extra activities to consolidate your learning. These homework activities will be essential for you to make the most out of your experience learning English. So whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced user of English, feel free to book a trial lesson to begin the next step of your English journey. See you soon!
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