Symphony of Science

This wonderful video is not just a joy to ponder…

It also shows perfectly, by engineering natural speech into song, how rhythmic English is, and how speakers of English in the UK, US and Down Under will stress the content words and separate what they say into phrases. This is something that my students from other parts of the world will generally not do. They generally use syllable-timing, or giving every syllable the same weight. Stress timing by contrast makes us blend the sounds in the unstressed parts, so when we speak fast it’s like switching into high gear, and we leave those who don’t use our stress timing behind. Because we’re so used to them, those stress patterns are key to how we understand each other, and failing to use them causes intelligibility problems in the UK, US and Down Under. Sure, we can attune our ears to other accents, and we need to, because English is our lingua franca. But it is a hurdle to take.

Rap uses syllable timing rather than stress-timing: Stressing every syllable in its own right makes it easier to write a rhythmic poem. Standard English rhythms by contrast are very different, if you’ll just listen…

Sign language

If I could start all over again, could be 18 and just choosing a career, I would become an interpreter for the deaf. I’ve already presented an interpreter in this blog, and here are two performances I recently stumbled upon:

1. Final exam performance in a college level sign language class:

2. Mayor Bloomberg updates New Yorkers on the City’s response to Hurricane Sandy, and is completely upstaged by his interpreter!