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World Language Learning: Language & Languages

A guide to resources at the Boston Public Library and online that can help you learn another language.

Evolution of Language

Harvard professor, Steven Pinker, explores how language evolved, whether there is such a thing as an innate universal grammar, and why language is so important to the development of human society.

Ted Talks

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), is a series of conferences run by a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting "ideas worth spreading."  Over 1900 TED talk videos are freely available online. Presenters include top innovators in science, technology, and culture. In the TED talk below, Dr. Patricia Kuhl explains how babies acquire language. Access additional TED talks on language here.

Searching the Library Catalog

Some search terms to use when checking the catalog are listed below. Results can be filtered by location, format, audience, and more.

Browse by Library of Congress Classification Number

Use Library of Congress classification numbers to find materials on language and language learning.

  • P1-1091 - Philology. Linguistics.
    P1-85 - General
  • P101-410 - Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar
    P118-118.75 - Language Acquisition
  • P121-149 - Science of Language (Linguistics)

Library of Congress Class P - Language and Literature

World Languages

​Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a "comprehensive work cataloging all of the world's known living languages." It covers over 7,000 languages, providing information such as:

  • Population
  • Location
  • Language Status
  • Classification
  • Dialects
  • Typology
  • Language Use
  • Language Development
  • Writing

How-to Guides & Resources for Second-Language Learners & Teachers

There are many different approaches to learning a second language and many helpful online resources. The resources listed below contain a variety of tips and strategies for language learning, and include sites by some well-known polyglots who share their experience and knowledge.

Language learning memoirs are an excellent complement to more traditional resources.  They describe the author's personal experiences learning the target language, often explore the customs and culture of the people who speak it, and/or delve into the science of second language learning. Featured titles are listed below.

You can find articles about language, language learning, and teaching languages in these databases. If you would like to get some extra reading and comprehension practice in your target language as you research, try limiting your search to articles in that language.