How to Have Better Conversations

Talking with others about certain issues can be challenging for you or the other person. You may leave such conversations feeling awkward or worse, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Social interaction and language researcher Elizabeth Stokoe, along with colleagues, looked into what we should say and how when talking with others. They have some tips to ensure that your conversations don’t go off the rails.

Do use: some (instead of any)
“Anything else I can do for you?” Sounds like a perfectly reasonable question, doesn’t it? But John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson, conversation analysts at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at how doctors use the words “any” and “some” in their final interactions with patients. They found that “Is there something else I can do for you today?” elicited a better response than “Is there anything else?”

“Any” tends to meet with negative responses. Think about meetings you’ve been in – what’s the usual response to “Any questions?” A barrage of engaging ideas or awkward silence? It’s too open-ended; too many possibilities abound. Of course, if you don’t want people to ask you anything, then stick to “Any questions?”

What to say Try not to use “any” if you genuinely want feedback or to open up debate. “What do you think about X?” might be a more specific way of encouraging someone to talk.

Read more.

I Swear This is Good for You


An explicative can do way more than just add spice to your sentence, it can improve your life. Emma Byrne argues in her new book that swearing is a social good and we should be happy about it. In the book, Swearing Is Good For You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, she shows the benefits of a little foul language while adventuring through life.

What’s really neat is that chimpanzees also swear and use the word for dirty in “creative” ways.

Children follow a similar pattern.

Soon after they are toilet trained, their more outwardly violent behaviour, such as hitting or throwing massive temper tantrums, will often start to diminish, replaced by potty language, Byrne explains.

“That switch to something that is linguistically powerful rather than physically harmful is a huge advantage to us as a society.”

Read more (and listen).

Google to Catalog Languages

The Endangered Languages Project is a new initiative run by Google to catalog languages that are threatened because of globalization. As nice as it is that the people on the planet are finding more languages in common, we still need to encourage people to embrace languages that aren’t as popular.

“We have so many languages which are in danger of dying, and though there has been work done by linguists to document these languages, there are nowhere near enough linguists to do that,” said Anthony Aristar, professor of linguistics and co-director of the Institute for Language Information and Technology at Eastern Michigan University, which helped create the site.

“It’s not just a matter of documenting the languages, it’s also a matter of revitalizing them if we possibly can.”

As part of the effort to revive dying languages, the website will use video, audio and social media tools to connect speakers with each other and with those who want to learn their language.

Read more.

Open Source Translation from Lingro

Boing Boing has a post on Lingro, which is a new tool that makes any word on a webpage clickable and translatable. It can also help you learn a langauge!

Find out more about Lingro.

“It works with English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Polish (with more on the way) and if you find a missing word, you can add a definition.

“Our goal is to make the coolest language learning tools, build community, and build open content dictionaries that anyone (even our competitors) can use in their projects (licensed under the FDL and Creative Commons licenses).”

Nativetext Translates RSS Feeds

Nativetext is a great idea for spreading information across languages. THey have a novel “hight-tech” solution to all this needed translating. “Using a new kind of distributed supercomputing, foreign language translation is performed by a network of humans around the world, not machines.”

It’s not fully operational yet, but I can’t until it is.

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