September 28, 2016

Interview with Babel Magazine

1. What is Babel Magazine, who writes it and who is your audience?

Babel magazine was set up by Lesley Jeffries and Dan McIntyre, two linguists at the University of Huddersfield. Lesley and Dan found it strange that the newsagent’s shelves had magazines for subjects such as history and geography, but nothing that covers linguistics. They knew that many people – not just linguistics professors! – are interested in all sorts of things to do with language, and decided that they ought to do something about it. Babel is a quarterly magazine for both linguists and those with a general interest in languages and linguistics, based on new research but interesting and accessible for all. (You can watch an animated take on the origins of Babel magazine here).
Each issue is written by many linguistic researchers from far and wide – this helps us make sure that we cover a wide range of topics, from the secret language of gay men in the 1950s, to the future of translation through new technology. But we also write Babel’s regular features ourselves – Lesley and Dan write the entries for our Linguistic Lexicon, and our editorial staff – Jane Lugea, Matt Evans and Hazel Price – put everything together and handle Language in the News.


2. How do you decide on the content? Do you receive letters from the readers? Do you consult specialists/academics? 

We have been very lucky – we have had a constant stream of contributions coming in from linguists around the world from ever since our first issue (which you can read for free). We are looking forward to publishing new articles that we have been sent on topics such as adverbs, the language of comedy and marketplace metaphors.
Sometimes we put a call out for specialists – for example, Twitter was very handy for assembling a team of contributors for our recent special issue on the pioneering linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. We also accept readers’ requests! Our regular Ask a Linguist feature addresses readers’ burning linguistic questions, and if readers suggest a topic, then we’ll try to find a linguist to write an article on it.

3. Can you tell us more about the Babel Young Writers Competition?

Our Young Writers’ Competition is our way of recognising the writing talents of young linguists. Each year, we run two categories – one for sixth form/college students, and one for undergraduates – and the winner of each is published in our November issue (as well as receiving a year’s free subscription to Babel).
The competition was inspired by an article we received out of the blue. We were stunned to find that the writer of this wonderful piece on British Sign Language was a seventeen year-old linguist, Kateryna Pavlyuk. This made us think that perhaps there were more great young writers on language out there, and so we set up the competition. So far our winners have looked at diverse topics: Konglish (a blend of Korean and English), the status of Arabic and English in Lebanon, and what spoonerisms (‘bunny rabbit’ / ‘runny babbit’) can tell us about how language works. We are currently carrying out the difficult task of picking our 2016 winners, which will be published in our next issue (No 17). Readers can read each of our previous winners on the Babel website.


4. Do you organise any events, such as meetings with researchers, linguists or writers?

Yes – at the moment, the highlight of the Babel calendar is our annual lecture. We set up the Babel Lecture in 2015 as a way to meet our readers, bring expert linguists’ thoughts to the public, and also as an excuse for a good night out!
Our first Babel lecturer was the accent and dialect coach Brendan Gunn, who gave a talk about the important role of linguistics in helping actors such as Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Robert De Niro to sound convincing in their parts. Then, in May this year, David Crystal lectured on intonation in English, drawing on anecdotes from his many years as a linguist to show how intonation plays such an important role in creating meaning. We are hoping to bag another big name for our 2017 lecture, so keep your eyes peeled!

5. The subscription is available both as a hard copy and as an e-magazine. Do your readers have a preference, or do they subscribe to both?  

We have found that most readers like to have the print editions – the majority take out either a print or print plus digital subscription. We suspect that this is because of the excellent job that our designer does. The magazine is colourful, and printed on glossy paper, so it’s nice to own the print copies. It’s also not so easy to put the digital pull-out poster on your wall!
To see what our print editions are like, readers can request a free copy of our sample issue by getting in touch at

6. What is Lingo Magazine? Do you have many young readers?

We set up Lingo magazine to cater more directly for younger readers. We had got a bit of experience at producing Babel, and knew that we had plenty of schools among our subscribers, so we thought we would set up something especially for younger readers, with more language puzzles and contributions from young language lovers.
Readers can find out more about Lingo at

7. What are your future plans? Do you have any projects you would like to work on?

We’d like to see the readership of Babel grow and expand. The magazine is a real labour of love, and we’ve had a lot of kind words from readers and other linguists, so we just want to make more!
We will be continuing to run the annual lectures and competitions, and will hopefully start to have more events where readers can hear linguists in person and tell us what they would like to see in the magazine.
There are now quite a few issues of Babel, so we are also looking forward to launching our new subsciptions and back issues in November. These will make it easier to catch up with particular back issues that catch your fancy, and to have access to the entire Babel back catalogue online.
Readers can follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest Babel news!

Thank you for your time, good luck with your future projects.

If you would like to subscribe Babel Magazine, you can do so here.
Interviewed by Bristol Language School.
September 21, 2016

Travelling Corner: 5 Ideas for Short-Distance Walks in Bristol (Part 1)

I am a keen walker and I always give my legs priority over any other form of transportation. However, it is not always possible to have enough time for a long walk (but there will be a follow-up post on long-distance walking ideas, too!). Below I have prepared my favourite smaller green spots where you can have a picnic/lunch, go for a short walk or sit on a bench and relax. It’s refreshing and energising.

Queen Square, Centre: a perfect location if you are in the city centre or near the train station.

Brandon Hill, Clifton: well-hidden behind high buildings, not far away from the museum and Park Street.


Suspension Bridge, Clifton Village: there are many routes to walk and admire the bridge, on the edge of Clifton Village.


Lover’s Walk, Redland: one of my favourite streets in Bristol, I could walk up and down the street all day long! Next to Redland train station, near Gloucester Road.

Kings Weston Park, Shirehampton: perfect picnic area and a very cosy café with tables inside & outside, walkable form Shirehampton train station, parking available, too.


Do you have any favourite small open areas in Bristol? Please share your favourites in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

September 14, 2016

Magazine Review: Kinfolk (The Travel Issue)

“Travel is a mentality as much as an action.” Nathan Williams & Georgia Frances King

As with every issue of Kinfolk, I read the Travel Issue from cover to cover, being inspired and uplifted on every single page. The recent issue opens a door to so many different ways of thinking about travel, from our experience as travellers, life between countries to professional life requiring international travels. It also shows the connectivity between different disciplines and travel, such as architecture, fashion, style, photography, culture and language.

Kinfolk Travel Issue 1

However, what struck my attention most was the article on modern travellers and social media tools. Sharing a destination on social media is almost the norm while travelling these days. But, should we really popularise all our favourite spots? Let some destinations remain quieter, unique and exquisite, not being known to “everybody”. (Adrienne Matei, Neither here nor there, p. 82-7)

I also learnt a new untranslatable word, dor:
Dor (Romanian): a nuanced hybrid at absence and nostalgia, dor conveys loneliness you embrace, rather than overcome (p. 26).

[All quotations and mentions come from Kinfolk, The Travel Issue, 2016.]

Written by Kinga Macalla

September 7, 2016

Language learning: Which exam should I take to prove my level?

When you are learning a language, sometimes you want to have something official to show for it, to demonstrate which level you have got up to according to recognised examination bodies.  This can be useful if you are applying for a place at a university, which often require proof of level in the language in which programmes will be taught, if you are applying for a job, if you want to emigrate to a country of acquire citizenship of a country, if you want to teach the language, to add to your CV for later, or just to give yourself the reassurance that you have reached a certain level.  But which exams should you take?  Here is a list of recognised exams and qualifications for a few of the languages we teach at Bristol Language School.

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One good place to start is looking at the list of European Language Certificates, or telc language tests, which are international standardised tests of ten languages, which offers over 70 tests, including general language and vocational examinations and tests for students. All telc language examinations correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) for listening, reading, speaking and writing. Your BLS teacher can also advise you on which exam to choose.

Arabic – In the UK, you can take a number of GCSEs and iGCSEs (International GCSEs) in Arabic, and the Cambridge International Examinations.  In Europe, you can take the telc in Arabic, or alternatively the European Arabic Language Test, which is based on Level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference (lower than the telc).  Internationally, there is the Arabic Language Proficiency Test.

French – FLE is the acronym for the Français langue étrangère or “French as a foreign language” test, which is intended for learners of French for cultural or tourism purposes. There is no single test but instead a variety of possible tests used to measure language proficiency of non-francophones in non-francophone countries.  If you wish to study at a French-speaking university, you can take the DELF/DALF, which gives a certificate of your level, and the TCF (Knowledge of French Test), which is required by universities.  There is also the DELF PRO for people wishing to work in French.  People who want to teach French will need to take a different diploma.  More information is available on the French Institute website.  The exams can be taken in Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Jersey, Manchester and York.  There is also the telc in French.

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German – The Zertifikat Deutsch is a test of general German proficiency. The Zertifikat Deutsch für den Beruf (Certificate in German for Professionals) is an internationally recognised examination which tests German language ability for business and professional purposes.  The DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang) is a language proficiency test required for entry to a German university. There is also a German telc.  The Goethe Institut will have all the information you need about German proficiency exams.

Italian – The Certificate of Italian as a Foreign Language (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera or CILS) is recognised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is often used to grant acceptance in any Italian university or higher education institution in Italy. There is also an Italian telc.  The Italian cultural institute in London can tell you more.

Japanese – In the UK you can do either GCSE, the International Baccalaureate qualification, a practical language test or the Japanese language proficiency test.  There is also an aptitude test in the Japanese writing system, kanji.  The Japan Foundation has more information.

Mandarin – The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is an official examination designed to assess the Chinese language proficiency of non-native speakers from beginners to advanced Level (divided in levels 1-6).  It consists of reading, writing, listening and comprehension.  The London Confucius Institute has more information.


Polish – In the UK, you can take GCSE & A-Level Polish or the Certificate in Polish as a Foreign Language (Polish: Egzaminy Certyfikatowe z Języka Polskiego jako Obcego), are standardised tests of Polish language proficiency for non-native Polish speakers that are currently available in CEFR levels B1-C2.  There is also a Polish telc.

Portuguese – The CAPLE (Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira or Centre for Evaluation of Portuguese as a Foreign Language) issues certificates of proficiency in European Portuguese as a Second language developed by the University of Lisbon.  The test is offered at CEFR levels A1 – C2.  It can be taken in London.  There is also a Portuguese telc.

Russian – The Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL) is a standardised test supervised by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science.  There is also a Russian telc. The Russian Language Centre has more information.

Spanish – The Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (English: Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language), or DELE, are official diplomas issued by the Spanish Instituto Cervantes to participants who have passed a standardised test indicating their European Spanish language proficiency. The exam can be taken at the Cervantes Institute in London.  There is also a Spanish telc.

Written by Suzannah Young