10 TED Talks About Language and Communication

Last Updated September 3, 2018

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED is a brand that organizes conferences and events attended by millions of people. During their events, experts from different fields deliver speeches known as TED talks, that later are posted for free under a slogan “Ideas worth spreading”. Many people around the world find TED talks  inspiring and motivational. So we thought we’d share with you the most interesting talks about language, words, and communication.

1. Beautiful new words that describe obscure emotions by John Koenig

The speaker focuses on how we define words and how the words define us.

“A word is real if you want it to be real”

2. Don’t insist on English! By Patricia Ryan

An experienced English teacher tries to convince the audience that translation of ideas is the best we can do for the modern world.

“I love it that we have a global language. We need one today more than ever. But I am against using it as a barrier”

3. The enchanting music of sign language by Christine Sun Kim

Artist Christine Sun Kim was born deaf. Later in life, she discovered some similarities between American Sign Language and music. In her speech, she wants to show you that sound is not limited to ears – it can be felt and experienced as an idea.

 “I watch how people behave and respond to sound. You people are like my loudspeakers and my amplifier”

4. Ingenuity and elegance in ancient African alphabets by Saki Mafundikwa

As a graphic designer from Zimbabwe, Saki Mafundikwa tracks back the many forms of communication in Africa and inspires young African designers to draw inspirations from the symbolism and elegance of their heritage.

“Designers in Africa struggle with all forms of design they are more apt to look outward for influence and inspiration”

5. How language transformed humanity by Mark Pagel

How was the human language developed? Why was the human language developed? Mark Pagel has an interesting theory suggesting that language is a piece of “social technology”.

“Languages are the genes talking, getting things that they want”

6. Don’t kill your language by Suzanne Talhouk

Suzanne Talhouk tries to convince us that we should cherish our native languages.

“It’s about memories connected to those phrases”

7. Go ahead, make up new words! by Erin McKean

Listen to this TEDtalk by a lexicographer Erin McKean to find out 6 ways to make new words in English. And then – do so!

“Every language is just a group of people who agree to understand each other”

8. What makes a word “real”? by Anne Curzan

After making up some new words, as Erin McKean suggested, listen to Anne Curzan who will tell you, who decides which words are “real” and which are not.

“Dictionaries are fantastic resources, but they are human and they are not timeless”

9.  Txtng is killing language. JK!!! by John McWhorter

How many times have you heard that texting is harmful to language? John McWhorter analyzes texting not only linguistically, but also culturally.

“(With writing) you can do things with language that are much less likely if you’re just talking”

10. A word game to communicate in every language by Ajit Narayanan

What if you knew a way to communicate in every language? Try Ajit Narayanan’s way.

“I think that (a language) is the loveliest thing that our brains have invented”

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