Review: Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners

Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners
Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners by Michael Erard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a keen learner of foreign languages and consider myself a polyglot with experience in about ten different tongues. This book focuses on the search for those rare people in our global society who take the study of languages to the extreme, accumulating masses and becoming masters of Babel. The story begins with the legend of Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a Bolognese cardinal who reached a zenith of 63 languages and used to regularly stun visitors to the Vatican with his linguistic prowess. The author of this book, Michael Erard, tells his journey of discovery and is constantly asking what it takes to be a multipolyglot. I found the book particularly inspiring and I think the advice therein is valuable to any budding linguist. I found the chapters and exploration of tehe brain a little dull but the meeting of various anonymous polyglots across the globe proved inspiring. Analysing little techniques and methods which can help us all improve our minds make this very much a self-help book and to give credit to these talented and unknown individuals is a handsome task. A definite book to read for anyone who is serious about languages.

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Review: The Language Wars: A History of Proper English

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English
The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About to embark, in September, on a Translation degree, I thought it a good idea to brush up on my rather lamentable English skills and thoroughly cast myself into the depths of this book. It is a worthy and interesting read in which the history of our language is explored. What gave rise to the way we speak in today’s world and what, indeed, will tomorrow’s English be? The author introduces a multitude of well-spun anecdotes from the most famous of our English language writers in addition to tales of those people who were, behind-the-scenes, most influential on the evolution of our tongue. I found the contrasts between UK English and international English most enthralling and equally the chapters on dialogue and accent were riveting. It is interesting to note how the future of our language will be shaped not by English English-speakers but by the vast hordes of foreign speakers of English. The language’s rise to international prominence means that many of the traditions and histories entailed in the book will be overlooked as we step towards future’s embrace. This book may be a bit mundane and high-brow to the average reader. I found it suitably challenging, intellectual and enlightening. A goodread good read.

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Review: Every Hand Revealed

Every Hand Revealed
Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gus Hansen is my favourite poker player and in this fascinating book which Gus has painstakingly put together for his fans, we get to see the genuine inside story of one of his big tournament wins. It is a blow by blow account of all the action and we get to see Gus’ poker decision-making at work. Very often, on TV, you see Gus playing wacky cards. He will call with just about any two cards and plays so,me really unplayable hands which the average person will just chuck away. We see in ‘Every Hand Revealed’ some of his mathematical reasoning behind doing this. He is constantly assessing and reassessing pot-odds and he argues with reason about why certain calls should be made and on occasion will make a laydown for the same reason. I found one of the most intriguing facts of the book to be just how many pots he picks up after betting aggressively and holding absolutely nothing. He relies on continuation betting and will raise almost anything preflop. I cannot understand how players do not stand up to Gus more in the live environment and simply dump him out as from reading this book, it can be seen that nine times out of ten you have better holdings than him. Gus Hansen is a poker enigma and this book is thoroughly readable and enjoyable. It is written in a hand for hand format and the various days of the tournament are split into chapters. I flew through the read and was thrilled to see Gus finally pick up the $1.5 million (Australian dollars) cash prize. I’ve read other poker books by hardened professionals and they too are valuable but I feel that Every Hand Revealed definitively displays a professional at work and at the top of his game. If you are into poker and Gus Hansen then this book is a must. Five out of five.

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