Category Archives: Did You Know Series

Did You Know #65: How Much Of The Amazon Rainforest Has Been Destroyed?

Scientists fear the Amazon Rainforest is closer to a tipping point where it will enter an irreversible cycle of collapse known as a dieback. Between 15 and 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been lost, and if the amount of cleared forest land reaches 25 percent, there won’t be enough trees cycling moisture through the rainforest. That will cause the rainforest to dry out and degrade into a savanna.

Did You Know #64: Nature Vs. Nurture

Rarely do psychologists consider the cause of some behavior as due solely to either “nature” (meaning, roughly, biology) or “nurture” (the environment). For the most part, psychologists will talk about some psychological feature (e.g., how extraverted someone is) as the product of the interaction of both nature and nurture across the lifespan. The idea of behavior being due exclusively to nature or nurture is, actually, something of a myth.

Did You Know #63: What Are Moonbows?

A moonbow is a rare natural atmospheric phenomena that occurs when the Moon’s light is reflected and refracted off water droplets in the air. Moonbows are much fainter than rainbows made by the sun and often appear to be white. This is due to the smaller amount of light reflected from the surface of the moon.

Did You Know #62: What Are The Hardest Languages To Learn?

“1. Mandarin Chinese

Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the writing system is extremely difficult for English speakers (and anyone else) accustomed to the Latin alphabet. In addition to the usual challenges that come with learning any language from scratch, people studying Mandarin must also memorize thousands of special characters, unlike anything seen in Latin-based languages.

But writing isn’t the only difficult part of learning Mandarin. The tonal nature of the language makes speaking it very hard as well. There are several Chinese dialects, including Cantonese — spoken primarily in southeastern China, as well as in Hong Kong and other parts of Southeast Asia — which have different written characters and pronunciations, and are also very difficult to learn. Mandarin Chinese (the most common dialect) has four tones, so one word can be pronounced four different ways, and each pronunciation has a different meaning. For instance, the word ma can mean “mother,” “horse,” “rough” or “scold” — depending on how you say it.

2. Arabic

Next on the list of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers is Arabic, which is also in the top five most spoken world languages. For starters, there are dozens of varieties of the Arabic language — generally classified by the region or country in which they’re spoken — that can be radically different from one another. So the first step is to choose which dialect you want to pursue, but that’s the easy part.

Arabic is another language with a non-Latin alphabet. Its 28 script letters are easier for English speakers to comprehend than the thousands of Chinese characters, but it’s still an adjustment to become familiar with a new writing system. The thing that makes reading and writing in Arabic particularly challenging for beginners is the exclusion of most vowels in words. Ths mks rdng th lngg vry dffclt. Arabic is also written from right to left instead of left to right, which takes some getting used to.

There are also characteristics of spoken Arabic that make it hard to learn. Some of the sounds used don’t exist in other languages or are simply unfamiliar to English speakers, including sounds made in the back of your throat. The grammar is challenging too; verbs tend to come before the subject, and you have to learn a dual form of words in addition to the singular and plural forms.

3. Polish

From this point forward, the hardest languages to learn get less difficult but are still quite challenging. Polish got the number three spot on our list.

Spelling and grammar are a couple of areas in which Polish can give English speakers a hard time. Words are loaded with consonants, which makes them difficult to spell and pronounce. For example, szczęście means “happiness” and bezwzględny means “ruthless.” Ruthless, indeed. In terms of grammar, there are seven cases: it’s like German on steroids.

On the bright side, Polish uses a Latin alphabet, so the letters are much more familiar to English speakers than those used in Chinese, Arabic and other non-Latin languages. In addition, being able to speak Polish as a second language puts you in a coveted group, considering Poland’s developing status as a major economy in Europe.

4. Russian

Ranking fourth on our list of hardest languages to learn, Russian uses a Cyrillic alphabet — made up of letters both familiar and unfamiliar to us. But speaker beware: some of the Cyrillic letters may look familiar but make a different sound than the Latin letter they resemble. For instance, “B” in the Cyrillic alphabet makes a “V” sound.

Grammatically, Russian is not as difficult as Polish but pretty darn close. Polish has seven cases, while Russian has six. Also, Russians omit the verb “to be” in the present tense, which can throw beginners for a loop when they try to form basic sentences. In Russian, “I am a student” would simply translate to “I student.” Like Polish, Russian uses a lot of consonants clustered together, which makes spelling and pronunciation a challenge.

Despite its difficulty, Russian might be worth the extra effort to learn. It’s an extremely politically and culturally relevant language, opening the door to numerous career and leisure opportunities.

5. Turkish

Here’s a new word for you: agglutinative. Turkish is an agglutinative language, which basically means prefixes and suffixes are attached to words to determine their meaning and indicate direction, rather than using separate prepositions. This results in extremely long verbs, like konuşmayı reddediyorlar (“they refuse to talk”).

Turkish also features a concept English speakers may find confusing: vowel harmony, where vowels are changed or endings with vowels are added to make a word flow more smoothly. A large number of unfamiliar vocabulary words, of Arabic origin, add to the difficulty of what we’d consider to be one of the hardest languages to learn.

The good news for Turkish learners is that there are relatively few grammar exceptions in comparison to other languages, spelling is straightforward to master, and it’s a cool way to explore a rare agglutinative language (linguistics nerds assemble!).

6. Danish

Which of these is not like the others? Yes, we have crowned Danish as the least hard of the hardest languages to learn. If you read our article on the easiest languages, you may remember that the Germanic languages from Scandinavia largely dominated that list. In fact, Norwegian and Swedish took the top two spots. And like those languages, Danish has relatively simple grammar concepts and shares plenty of cognates with English.

So why is Danish on this list of hardest languages to learn? Pronunciation. Words sound nothing like the way they are spelled, which can be quite off-putting for a beginner. For example, mit navn er (“my name is”) is pronounced “meet now’n air.” Mastering Danish pronunciation takes a good deal of practice, making it a significantly harder language to learn than its Germanic counterparts.”

Source: https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/6-hardest-languages-for-english-speakers-to-learn

Did You Know #61: What Is The Black Sun Spectacle In Denmark?

It is the most famous natural spectacle in Denmark. Hundreds of thousands of starlings (Common starling = Sturnus vulgaris) turn the sky black when they are circling around creating fascinating formations in the air before they land at dusk in an area covered with reeds.
The Black Sun, or ‘Sort Sol’ as the Danes it call it, occurs in southwestern Jutland in Denmark during autumn from August until the end of October, and in spring from the middle of March to the middle of April – when the starlings returning to the north make a stop at Wadden Sea National Park’s marshlands to rest and find food.

Did You Know #60: What Happens At The Taiwan Lantern Festival?

“The night of the first full moon of the lunar year is when the people of Taiwan, both young and old, venture out to celebrate the world-renowned Lantern Festival. Featuring everything from handheld children’s lanterns to huge floats bedecked in paper lights, this festival is one of the most popular events in the Taiwanese calendar, and it’s easy to see why.

The Lantern Festival in Taiwan is now a major tourist attraction thanks to the Taiwanese Tourism Bureau. Each year they organize a variety of events with many local companies sponsoring high-tech lanterns that are a far cry from the children’s lanterns of bygone days. But there’s more to this festival of light than floats with lasers on the streets of Taipei and Kaohsiung.

How it all Began
In 1990 the Tourism Bureau devised a plan to hold an event that would help celebrate local folklore. They decided to hold a major lantern festival to coincide with age-old customs such as the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival and the Yanshui Fireworks Festival.

The Original Traditions
The lunar calendar is extremely important in Taiwan so it should come as no surprise that the first full moon of the year is considered an auspicious time of the year. There are many traditions surrounding this special night but here are the most famous.

The small hillside town of Pingxi, is home to a breathtaking tradition that has made it a hugely popular tourist destination. Around the time of the first full moon sky lanterns are released to the heavens. These were once used as signals for villagers to let their families know they were safe and sound but now carry people’s wishes and hopes for the new year into the night sky.”

Source: https://www.google.com/amp/s/theculturetrip.com/asia/taiwan/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-taiwan-lantern-festival/%3famp=1

Did You Know #59: How Did Native Americans Get Their Name?

The America’s got their names from Amerigo Vespucci an early explorer of the Americas eastern shores. So after the Americas were called America the natives were at first called Indians by Columbus but after it was learned that the Americas were not India a very slow change began to occur in looking for a new, more proper name for the Native inhabitants. Aborigines and First Nations were both used extensively, especially in Canada. Around 1950 a few people in the US started using the term Native Americans and it has been gaining popularity ever since.