Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chitchat: Celebrating the World's Languages - Jude Isabella

Title: Chitchat: Celebrating the World's Languages
Author: Jude Isabella
Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 44 pages
Genre: Children's Nonfiction
Started: February 26, 2014
Finished: February 26, 2014

From the inside cover:

We humans chitchat away in 7000 world languages. But how did language come to be? Why can we speak, while cats and dogs can't? When, how, and where did our alphabets come from? Chitchat looks at languages - spoken, written, and signed - to find out where they came from and how they're changing.

Did you know...?

  • By the time we finish high school, we have a vocabulary of about 20 000 words. 
  • English speakers are big on yod-dropping - taking out the little "y" sound in words. So "news" becomes "noos", and "student" becomes "Stoodent." Why drop the "y"? We're lazy and take shortcuts. 
  • Words disappear because they are no longer used, and new words appear. For example, the new word "freegan" means a person who eats food that's been discarded. 
  • Like animals, languages can become extinct. There is only one remaining speaker of the Amurdag language of Australia. When he dies, so does the language.
Chitchat gives an overview of the world of languages and the languages of the world in one kid-friendly, eye-popping package. 

I'm a big language buff, so a kid's linguistics book (simple though it may be) really intrigued me. 

This book is a very basic introduction, covering the fundamentals plus some really fun information in a way that will appeal to kids. Each two-page spread covers a different topic, from how languages developed and what language families are, to how languages become extinct and how new words enter into our vernacular. There's cool little activities every few pages, like trying to identify the correct meaning of Japanese words based on the sounds alone, and even a description of how Cockney slang works (that was really enlightening). The illustrations are quirky and appealing, and help visualize key concepts. 

A really great read if you're a language teacher or just want something on the subject for your kids or students. It's pretty basic in terms of what it covers, but it might be a starting point for some kids for research or general interest. 

Thoughts on the cover:
I'm not crazy about the illustration style, but I can see how it's appealing to kids. I do like the multicultural aspect, but it would've been nice if there could have been a person of colour as one of the bigger figures on the bottom of the cover rather than tiny and upside down in the corner. 

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