Great Language Game Tests Your Ear For Foreign Languages

Welcome sign - foreign language game
Flickr, Sanctu

Any seasoned world traveler can tell the difference between Italian and Russian, but how about Tamil and Punjabi? Estonian vs. Slovenian? Do you even know where they speak Hausa?

Test your ear for foreign languages with the Great Language Game, compiled from audio samples of 80 languages (just a drop in the bucket compared to the six or seven thousand spoken in the world!) and presented as a multiple-choice quiz. Each correct answer gets you 50 points, the highest so far is 8600 points. The samples were collected from SBS Australia and Voices of America by Australian data scientist Lars Yencken. The easiest language is French, while the hardest to guess is Shona, a Bantu language native to Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Test your language skills at GreatLanguageGame.com

Booze Around The World: How To Say ‘Binge Drinking’ In French, Plus 7 Other Useful Expressions

Lauren Randolph, Flickr

Every country has its drinking culture. In some places there is little or no alcohol, and in some there is too much. And sometimes, one culture adopts the habits of another. This is especially clear in France, where binge drinking has become such a common occurrence that the French General Commission of Terminology and Neology — the organization responsible for promoting the French language and protecting it from the influx of too many foreign words and phrases — had to come up with a specific French expression. “Beuverie express” became the official term, and according to Le Monde, in order to reach it you must consume four to five glasses in less than two hours.

Like it or not, alcohol certainly plays a role in travel, whether it’s drinking a beachside cocktail or exploring a traditional brewery in Brussels. Hopefully your travel drinking plans are a little more moderate, and if so, here’s a list of useful drinking-related expressions in 7 different cultures.

1. Marié ou pendu à la fin de l’annéeA French expression, “Married or hung by the end of the year” is said to the person who gets the last drop from the wine bottle.

2. Beber como una esponja – Spanish for “to drink like a sponge,” in other words, someone that likes their cocktails.3. Flat out like a lizard drinking – Australian for someone who’s very busy, with or without drinks.

4. 干杯 “Ganbei” – The Chinese version of “cheers.”

5. Ram phan tramVietnamese for “bottom’s up,” literally meaning “100%.”

6. May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint! - An Irish toast. Be sure to follow it up with ‘Sláinte!’ (pronounced ‘slawn-cha’) which means “health.”

7. Mabuhay – If you’re cheersing in the Philippines, follow up a toast in Tagalog with this word which means “to live” or “long life.”

Our friends at AOL Travel are celebrating Booze Week this week, with stories about the intersection of drinks and travel.

Australia floods leave tourist industry in peril

Brisbane, brisbane, Australia, australia
The terrible floods in Queensland, Australia, have destroyed thousands of homes, done billions of dollars of damage, and have left at least a dozen people dead. Queensland is a major coal exporter, and with the rising waters hampering shipments and flooding mines, world coal prices have risen. A major consumer of Queensland coal are Asian steel mills, which are already feeling the pinch. This has led to a rise in steel prices. That’s a double dose of bad news for the economic recovery.

Another Queensland industry has also been hard hit–tourism. The tourists have fled along with the residents, but it’s the long-term effects that are more harmful. If rising coal and steel prices hurt the economic recovery, that’s bound to hurt the tourism industry pretty much everywhere. Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, is the center for Australia’s Gold Coast, a major draw for Australia’s $32 billion tourist industry. Floods are damaging popular beaches and will require costly repairs. Coastal and riverside hotels and shops are being destroyed. The Brisbane Times reports that toxic materials washed into the sea could have an effect on delicate coral reefs and fish populations. With snorkeling and scuba diving such popular activities on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, this could do long-term damage to tourism.

Meanwhile, airlines are worried about how this will affect them. Virgin Blue has already seen its shares drop by 3.4 percent today because investors fear there will be a drop in bookings. Qantas shares also dipped slightly. Airlines are issuing fee waivers for passengers who want to change their flights to, from, or through Brisbane.

It looks like Queensland residents will suffer from the flood long after the waters recede.

[Photo of Brisbane sunset courtesy user t i m m a y via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Australian customs pushes foreigners on porn

Tourists and business travelers are getting annoyed with the Australian government. Hey, nobody likes airport security and customs employees in any country, but this time, the Aussies have just gone too far. In an attempt to pacify fundamentalist Christians in the country, the authorities decided to target porn.

And hilarity ensued.

According to TechEye, “[S]ince that would not go down well with your average Aussie, they decided only to scare the hell out of foreigners coming into the country.”

Basically, porn is only bad if it’s carried by foreigners. Australian-carried skin flicks are good to go. There’s no indication of whether the fundamentalists weighed in on this. But, it’s safe to assume that it really is the foreigners that make porn bad, not the locals.

So, how can you get busted for toting the collected works of Seka down under? First, you’re asked to ‘fess up on the landing cards. And, they want to know how you’re bringing your nightlife substitute porn into the country: computer, camera or phone. The risks associated with lying are high, TechEye notes: “The risk for a tourist was that if a border patrol sniffed their computer and found boobies they could be deported, or fined on the spot.”This is pretty much where the hilarity kicks in:

According to the Australian Sex Party spokesman Robbie Swan, one case involved a couple on their honeymoon, who thought they had to declare naked iPhone pictures of themselves after reading the incoming passenger card.

This does sound like a pretty awesome fmylife submission … especially because the couple was forced to show the photo while in line with other people.

Unsurprisingly, the government realizes it may need to change the rules, at least because the average foreigner probably doesn’t know how “pornography” is defined under Australian law. So, they either need to show their material to someone in a face-to-face situation or rely on the ol’ Justice Potter Stewart standard, which has served the United States so well … “I know it when I see it.

[Via The Awl, photo by lucyfrench123 via Flickr]

Aussies find frozen plane in Antarctica

We all complain about flight delays, but nothing tops the one that’s been waiting close to 100 years to be discovered. An Australian research team just discovered what’s left of the first plane ever to fly to Antarctica. It hit the ground in 1912 … and has been waiting ever since. The discovery wasn’t an accident. The guys from the Mawson’s Huts Foundation have been looking for it for the last three summers. In a sign that 2010 is going to kick ass for these folks, they found some metal pieces of the plane on New Year’s Day.

According to USA Today, Tony Stewart, a member of the team, wrote on his blog, “The biggest news of the day is that we’ve found the air tractor, or at least parts of it!”

Early last century, Australian explorer Douglas Mawson took the helm of two expeditions to Antarctica. On the first of the two, he brought a Vickers plane with him, but the wings were damaged in a crash before the team set out for Antarctica. Thought it would never take flight, Mawson hoped to use it as a motorized sled of sorts. The engine couldn’t handle the temperature extremes, though, so Mawson left it behind.

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