Language and Culture Top Stories: 24 September

Language and Culture Top Stories: 24 September

Enjoy these eye-opening top stories from the world of language and culture over the past month. Including a talking duck.
September 21 2021

In the past month: more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, an earthquake near Acapulco shakes buildings in Mexico City 200 miles away, the Paralympics was pulsating, and the F1 and US Open Tennis got us on the edge of our seats.

But a few language and culture-related  stories really stood out for us by highlighting the incredible power of languages in the world.


Asian Superhero Film fights against racism (and gives us awesome action scenes)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – hit cinemas this September and racked up $71.4 million in 3 days in the American Box Office.

Marvel’s first ever Asian Superhero film stands out because, unlike past representations in films, it shines a positive light on Asian people and their cultures. As the BBC reports, author/socialist Dr Nancy Wang Yuen believes “We need an [Asian] superhero because of the history of Asians in Western cinema being villainous or servile.”

There’s fighting on screen, yes, but the film also punches back against the anti-Asian racism and xenophobia during COVID-19. We hope it will destroy prejudice and help give Asian people and Asian culture the positive attention they deserve.

The film is also inspired by Chinese folklore which tells us about the Chinese myths and legends that were believed among people in past Chinese communities. We get swept up in the action as we watch protagonist Xu Wenwu find 10 magical rings that give him infinite power...




Change to Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine name confuses literally everyone











If you’ve already had your COVID-19 vaccine… chances are it might’ve been the Pfizer vaccine. 

We’ve all called people or things by the wrong name. But this one is actually purposeful. As New York magazine reports, Pfizer has been given a brand new name in the US: “Comirnaty”. And it’s confusing everybody!


While it’s already difficult to spell... Many people are finding it almost impossible to pronounce: ​​”koe-mir-na-tee”. Try saying it now: any luck?

The US drug and food administration – FDA – tried to incorporate ‘COVID-19’, ‘mRNA’, ‘community’, and ‘immunity’ into the name. But like my lunch of pasta and chips earlier... perhaps they bit off more than they could chew.


It just shows that when naming something it makes sense to keep the language simple. Got a few baby names written down? Make sure one passes the “Comirnaty” test.


Language immersion helps immigrants re-learn their native tongue

We love to help people speak languages. But it caught our attention that some immigrants are forgetting how to speak their first language (this is called language attrition). Exclusively speaking a second language can wear away your grasp of your first language – leaving people unable to connect with their cultural and linguistic origin.

As the New Yorker points out, Jenny Liao moved to America and swapped Cantonese for English at a young age but now faces a language barrier with her parents: “I have so much to say [to my parents] but the Cantonese words are just out of reach, my tongue unable to retrieve them after being neglected in favor of English for so long.”

Jenny does the right thing and focuses on language immersion to help her re-gain proficiency in Cantonese. She:

  • Listens to Cantonese music on Spotify
  • Watches Cantonese films
  • Speaks with a Cantonese native speaker at her local bakery, 

Although Jenny lives in America, these avenues help her feel at home and take a step closer to reuniting with her parents.





Ducks can speak!? Australian musk duck imitates language like kids used to do.



Did you ever imitate your parents and repeat something they said... even if you had no idea what it meant? Or remember when you used to repeat back what your friend was saying just to annoy them? Just me?

Well, we noticed that ducks are doing exactly the same thing. Sort of.

As the Guardian reports: an Australian musk duck was heard saying “You bloody fool!”... while he was mating, no less. (Please don’t try this at home).

Like parrots, songbirds, and hummingbirds, these ducks become the latest animal to learn to speak through language imitation. In fact: human beings are also awesome at picking up new words and phrases by listening to them and imitating their sounds. Although perhaps repeat some polite language when you’re abroad...

Let this talking duck inspire your next language learning session! 


After more fascinating news and opinions? We scour the internet for the coolest, craziest, funniest and most eye-opening stories out there and tell you they really mean for us. Watch closely for Memrise’s next top stories piece to discover something new.

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