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Language Activity


This introduction is designed for you to gain an appreciation that language is an essential element of culture.  Answer the following questions to the best of your ability on a separate sheet of paper.  Every answer must be paraphrased into your own words.  Please do not plagiarize. 

ACTIVITY 1: Britspeak: Same Language, Different Dialects
Sometimes misunderstandings occur because words have multiple meanings, and meanings can change over time due to the dynamic nature of language.  English has an extensive vocabulary, and words used in Great Britain may have alternate meanings than in other English-speaking countries.
Go to the Britspeak Page (

Translate the following British sentences into American English by changing the underlined words (note that you can scroll to the bottom of the page to select different lists of words):

1) The homely lad went up the lift and into his lounge to have some bubble and squeak, aubergine, and biscuits for afters.
2) The berk was over the moon when the crumpet said she'd go with him to his flat until he realized she had a bun in the oven.

ACTIVITY 2: E Pluribus Unum?  Living in a Multilingual Society
The United States, with just under 300 million people, is a multilingual nation with an increasing number of international languages spoken within its borders.  There are literally millions of people in the United States who wish to keep the nation unified through a common language.
Go to US English, Inc. ( read the Official English section. Use the tabs under Official English to answer the following questions:

1) What does it mean to have an official language?                                                                                                                    

2) Explain the difference between an official language and “English Only.”             

3) When did Georgia pass legislation for English as the official language? How many other states have passes similar legislation?

4) Which state has the most languages spoken in it? How many languages are spoken in the USA?

5) Do you agree with the goals of US English, Inc.?  Explain.



ACTIVITY 3: The Great Esperanto Experiment
Esperanto is a language that was developed in 1887 by Ludwik Zamenhof with the specific intent of creating an international second language. In 1905, Zamenhof published his Fundamento de Esperanto, which lays down the basic principles of the language's structure and formation.  Esperanto is probably the most successful of the artificial international languages. The number of Esperanto speakers is estimated at more than 2 million. The Universala Esperanto-Asocio (founded in 1908) has members in 83 countries, and there are 50 national Esperanto associations that use Esperanto. More than 30,000 books have been published in Esperanto. (Britannica)
Go to the Travel Language ( Page and scroll to the bottom.

Select English for the language you speak, and Esperanto for the language you want to learn.  Select Basic Words and translate the following into Esperanto:
1) What is your name? and How are you?                                                     

2)Now select Shopping/Dining and translate the following into Esperanto: Do you accept credit cards? and Cheers!

3)Now, experiment and have some fun on your own.                                         

4) Do you ever envision a future with one universal language?  Why or why not?

ACTIVITY 4: African Language Diversity It is estimated that more than 800 languages are spoken in Africa; however, they belong to comparatively few language families. Some 50 African languages have more than half a million speakers each, but many others are spoken by relatively few people.

Go to (              

1) What are the four main African Language Families? Which other Language Families can be found on the African continent (use your notes!)?             2)  Which language family is the most diverse [contains the greatest number of branches and branch subdivisions]?                                                                          

3) Which is the simplest [contains the least number of branches and branch subdivisions]?                                                                                                                                                     


Now go to ( and read about the ethnic diversity in Nigeria.                                                                                                                        

1) What is Nigeria’s official language? Why?                                                                                                                             

2) Why are most Nigerians becoming trilingual? What three languages do they speak?                                                                                                                                                    

3) Why is Africa’s lingual diversity posing a threat to national unity (use your brain…)?