The exterior of the Ancient Church of the East in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 27, 2023.

A newly launched news channel in Iraq tries to preserve the ancient Syriac language


Al-Iraqiya news recently started a Syriac-language broadcast in an attempt to preserve the ancient language, which derives from Aramaic, the original language of the Bible and Jesus. They are based in Baghdad. People at the network and in the Iraqi Christian community talk about what this means for them.

men in a row

Ukrainian band Antytila on the front lines

Alina Simone's daughter Zoe teaches her Russian-speaking grandfather some basic Chinese.

Russian-speaking New Yorker would rather her daughter learn Chinese

Performer Jacqueline Salamack (L) jokes with an audience member after a performance of "A Klingon Christmas Carol" in Chicago, December 20, 2012.

Why yes, I do speak Klingon

Barcelona soccer fans make their feelings known about Catalan independence, at a game on Wednesday Oct 18th 2017

The roots of Catalonia’s differences with the rest of Spain


Language versus dialect, or why we’re obsessed with Elena Ferrante


Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels have become global hits. They are rife with love and sex and the mob — and commentary about language. This week on the podcast we explore Italy’s linguistic history and the tensions between Italian dialects and the lingua franca.

Dancer Link Berthomieux says that when French people use the English word ‘black,’  “It’s a trendy way to say ‘noir.’”

Why the English word ‘black’ became the new ‘noir’ in France


Many French people favor the English word “black” over the local equivalent “noir.” Why? There’s a history behind it that dates back decades — in fact, two histories: the French version seeks to be color-blind while the American one recognizes race at every turn.

Girl sitting with other students look to side

Once, students were punished for speaking Spanish. Here, they are honored.


This isn’t the spelling bee that you watch on ESPN. This is Concurso nacional de Deletreo en Español, the National Spanish Spelling Bee.

Dutch-born author of Lingo Gaston Dorren. Dorren is pictured here in Turkey reading the German translation of book originally written in English: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. Dorren's first language is Limburgish.

In parts of Europe, speaking six languages is no big thing


Dutch-born writer Gaston Dorren grew up speaking two languages, fell in love in a third, and added a fourth, fifth and sixth along the way. His book about Europe’s many languages is called “Lingo.”

Sign in Beirut celebrating the hybrid Arabic/French/English that many Lebanese like to speak.

Three mother tongues in one


Many Lebanese speak a full-on mix of Arabic, French and English. Calling this linguistic melange a “mother tongue” started out as a joke, but now it’s become a part of Lebanon’s national identity — even if it means that sometimes people don’t understand what they are saying.