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Fear and Loathing in Linguistics: 5 Videos About Language

"buy this new thing, suckers"

With the right language, Keynotes could still get interesting.

Learning languages seems to be a very popular topic with book writers and advertisers (remember to check out my language school commercial post) – but fortunately, many people have recently taken to producing videos about language. “Fortunately” – because for a visual and impatient learner like me, a good video and a good presentation can often make learning much more interesting. If you’re keen to discover some of the most exciting language videos available on the intertubes, meet me after the jump.

1. Authors @ Google: Steven Pinker

I am currently reading Pinker’s “Stuff of Thought,” and the video below is a short introduction to several topics mentioned in this brilliant book. It’s long, but amazingly, you don’t get bored even though the topic is dense and academic – Pinker has this amazing ability to make everything sound and look interesting, simple and worth knowing. The “cursing” episode has been my students’ favourite for many years!


2. BBC Series: Fry’s Planet Word

There are five episodes in this brilliant, witty cycle. Written and presented by Stephen Fry, “Planet Word” takes you across the world, into the distant past and near future – to discover how language is used, misused and re-invented. Amazing at times, but a bit long-winded sometimes, too (the final episode seems to lack the energy and freshness delivered by previous ones).


3. TVO Parents: Language and Learning

The programme is short, but very informative for people who want to start learning a language. Again, not too many practical tips – but lots of solid arguments.


4. Tim Ferriss: Smash fear, learn anything

One of my favourite speakers and one of my favourite topics. Tim Ferriss is a passionate language learner, and strange mistakes (some of which he mentions in this presentation) don’t discourage him. Watch this whenever your fear of learning something new strikes back.


5. Stephen Fry (again) on language “clarity”

This is a brilliant and surprising piece of animation, based on Fry’s own reading of his book. The philosophy behing this short extract is simple: there is no real “right” and “wrong” language, and the joy of using it creatively is more important than insisting on correctness and adherence to rules. Too right.


Let me know your favourites!

What have I missed? Hit the “comment” button and share your favourite language videos.


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