language | Connecticut Public Radio


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The Book Show gang joins Faith live with recommendations in all categories. And we’ll take your calls! What’re you reading? What’ve you recently read and loved? Are you a librarian? A teacher? Are you part of a book club? Call us!




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Today you will meet two poets and one novelist, all women, all fascinating, all appearing around here in the next three days. 

Hartford Public Schools have signed an agreement with federal education authorities to improve supports and services for students who are English Language Learners.  

A complaint was filed with U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2007 on behalf of Somali-Bantu, Liberian and Spanish-speaking students in the Hartford Public Schools.   

"Students did not have appropriate amounts of supports, accommodations and services so they could understand what was being asked of them."

Hartford Public Schools have signed an agreement with federal education authorities to improve supports and services for students who are English Language Learners.  

A complaint was filed with U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2007 on behalf of Somali-Bantu, Liberian and Spanish-speaking students in the Hartford Public Schools.   

"Students did not have appropriate amounts of supports, accommodations and services so they could understand what was being asked of them."

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Most language experts agree that English has more words than almost any other language, although it's difficult to pin down how many words any particular language contains.

The Oxford English Dictionary has entries for roughly 600,000 words, but it also doesn't contain lots of commonly used words. So you could attempt to master English vocabulary and not have time to master anything else.

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What is it about other people’s language that moves some of us to anxiety or even rage? For centuries, sticklers the world over have donned the cloak of authority to control the way people use words. Now this sensational new book strikes back to defend the fascinating, real-life diversity of this most basic human faculty.

Illustration by J. Holt / Flickr Creative Commons

WNPR has an experimental radio project and we want you to get involved. The idea is simple - we provide a theme, you call our hotline and tell a story. 

The theme: a work-related haiku!

On July 22, Colin McEnroe is doing a show all about the haiku, and we want you to write one inspired by the work YOU do. Call up our voicemail number and leave us a message with your haiku: 860-580-9677.

Haiku is unrhymed, syllabic poetry - three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.

Chion Wolf

It's been a noisy week in Lake Profanity. The Speaker of the House told the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate to "go eff himself." Twice.

Glamour magazine ran, on its cover, the s-word with one letter asterisked out -- a practice writer Steve Rushin refers to as "obscene hangman."  And the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a police officer cannot arrest you simply for giving him the finger.

Today, two guests who chronicle shifts in spoken and written English will discuss new words and usages arising in 2012 and doubtless slipping over to 2013.

But first, allow me to mention a few of my own linguistic beefs. Have you noticed how everything is curated these days? We need to stop and have a conversation about what is and isn't the work of a curator.

Jonathan McNicol photo

The linguist John McWhorter joins us to talk about his book What Language Is (And What It Isn't, and What It Could Be). From Standard English to Black English; obscure tongues only spoken by a few thousand people in the world to the big ones like Mandarin—What Language Is celebrates the history and curiosities of languages around the world and smashes our assumptions about "correct" grammar. Plus, a look at the career con man and serial impostor Clark Rockefeller, who wasn't, ya know, actually a Rockefeller at all.

Gwydion M. Williams

If I told you that England is in the midst of a translation crisis, you'd probably assume it had something to do with the Olympics. Not so much.

The British court system recently awarded a contract to one company, Applied Language Solutions, for all the legally mandated interpreting work that goes on in court. The problem is that ALS has proved to be repeatedly inadequate. It sends interpreters who are not up to the job...or they don't show up at all, halting the proceedings and costing the government thousands of pounds.

Jonathan McNicol photo

When you hear other people talk, how much does the language they use shape your opinion of them? Robert Lane Greene, international correspondent for The Economist, says that the way we look down our noses at ‘poor’ grammar, the way we hold up myths like the bloody origins of the word shibboleth, the hegemonic way we look at languages themselves makes what we hear in other people’s words nothing less than the politics of identity. His book is You Are What You Speak.

Samuel Amadon, the Hartford Poet

Jul 18, 2012
Chion Wolf

Samuel Amadon is a poet who grew up just outside of Hartford. He left for college, and grad school, but kept finding himself coming back to the capital city. Now he teaches in South Carolina, and has recently published “The Hartford Book” – a collection of gritty poems he wrote about his time living in and around Hartford.

Cultural Competency for Kids

Jun 27, 2012
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Students are learning math and reading, but do they know how to get along with others around the world?

It’s called “cultural competence” - a facility with different languages, an understanding of climate and geography, and familiarity with global financial markets. And according to the Connecticut World Affairs Council, it’s what our students lack.  A “global context.”

Those who share this view say covering science, technology, engineering, and math - is great, but it isn’t enough.

Chion Wolf

In the audio: Experts discuss the future of FCC regulation of TV and radio for indencent content.

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Today is our Summer Poetry Show, so let's begin with a poem. This is one of my favorites, a relatively obscure Pablo Neruda poem called "Let's Wait."

Other days still to come
are rising like bread
or waiting like chairs or a
pharmacopeia, or merchandise:
a factory of days in the making:
artisans of the soul
are building and weighing and
days bitter or precious
that will knock at your door in due time
to award you an orange
or murder you in cold blood where you stand.


May 30, 2012
Ecstatic Mark, Flickr Creative Commons

Puns are terrible, right? But then why do we love Groucho? When Mrs. Teasdale tells him: "This is a gala day for you," he says: "Well, a gal a day is enough for me." He also tells her:
"You can leave in a taxi If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff. "

These are puns, right? But instead of being agonizing they're part of the Rosetta Stone for the greatest manic American comedy.

Chion Wolf

Yesterday, Wolfie and I walked the Wallace Stevens route with our friend the Hartford film-maker Helder Mira and intern Andrew Kufta. We started at the first marker.

The Life Of Languages

Oct 12, 2011
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There are a lot of made-up languages with big fans. You may have heard of Na'vi from the movie Avatar, or Elvish from Lord of the Rings. Among fans, many of these languages have found a home on the web, where they continue to be developed and studied.

At the same time, thousands of real languages around the world are facing extinction.

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Today on the Nose we'll run through a grab-bag of topics, starting with the the search for meaning in Red Sox Nation following the collapse of the crimson hose.

Doctors may want to think carefully about the language they use when talking with parents about a child’s weight.  A new study by Yale University researchers finds that certain words reinforce negative stigma and may undermine important discussions about health.

The Art Of Last Words

Aug 31, 2011
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JECO Photo / Creative Commons

New London's Board of Education has been getting attention recently for adopting a policy that will require all students beginning in 2015 to know English before they can graduate. As WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the requirement reaches beyond the school district’s large student immigrant population.

A little more than half of New London tenth graders are proficient in reading and writing. Some point to the school district's diverse population as a reason.  Almost thirty countries are represented in the student body.

The Humanities

Apr 27, 2011
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Jim Leach says the humanities “expand understanding of human nature and the human condition.” 

Leach is a former congressman and champion collegiate wrestler.  Both of these life skills come in handy as he navigates federal funding in his role as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

Leach is touring all 50 states to talk about the role the humanities play in our daily lives.  He was recently in Connecticut, and came to our Hartford studios.

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Here is what we propose to talk about on The Nose today - Bewlidering office jargon.

The semiotics of button-down collars. Why anyone should care about the upcoming royal wedding. The possibly overstated report of a gay caveman ...

Blue for Oceans

Feb 18, 2011
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First among all poetic virtues, according to Ezra Pound, is the heart's tone. In the poems of this debut collection, the tone of the poet's heart sounds clearly.

Set within an American family in the second half of the twentieth century, the poems move from California to New England, from boyhood to ailing parents, from a long marriage to love's dissolutions, from childbirth to children leaving home.

Guardians Of Being

Jan 27, 2011

This wonderfully unique collaboration brings together two masters of their fields, joining original words by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle with delightful illustrations by Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the acclaimed comic strip MUTTS. Every heartwarming page provokes thought, insight, and smiling reverence for all beings and each moment.

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You could argue that one of the big breaks in the history of knowledge is happening right now, as we move from being storers of knowledge to being adept searchers for what is stored.

There's a basic shift in the notion of what education is. Most of us moved through an education pipeline in which existed some vague notion that you were better off loading a lot of stuff into your head. It would help you think. It would give you points of reference. You should know a lot of things.