Half-assing language identification

I don’t speak Russian. But there are a few sounds when I overhear conversations that tip me off the speaker is speaking Russian- like “pozhu” and “byeh”- actually a lot of the “soft” vowels in Russian. This is just from observation; I have no background in phonetics or Slavic language study or anything like that, so I may be totally wrong.

This is also the way I recognize Korean. If it sounds a little like Japanese, but I don’t recognize any of the words or grammar, it’s Korean. I’m still working on a “half-ass standard” for distinguishing between Chinese dialects. My friend says “if it sounds like someone nagging you or cursing you out, it’s Cantonese.”


A book about micro-lending and its inventor and strongest proponent, Professor Muhammad Yunus.

What I don’t understand is, Yunus describes an insanely huge organization, with hundreds of member programs, hundreds of thousands of borrowers, and billions of dollars. The Grameen family of foundations is immense and it would not be an exaggeration to say it could easily form it’s own economy. So why do we not hear about it here in the US? Where are the huge numbers of books about Grameen?

Yunus has an amazing blend of progressive ideas and capitalistic pragmatism.
He calls for free information
stripping down of government charity programs, in favor of private socially-conscious companies, which do not need funding because they are profitable. No protectionism. No borders between countries.

He doesn’t believe in handouts, to Grameen nor to its borrowers. Everyone pays their own way. This is not because he doesn’t believe in charity- Grameen borrowers have the skills they need to survive already, and are much more productive if helped to help themselves, rather than simply given a handout. Grameen simply gives people credit, not even free money, and the people lift themselves out of poverty.

What? It might work in Bangladesh, but it would never work here you say? Bollocks! In reaction to this very charge, Yunus helped start a similar project in Arkansas under Governor Clinton.

I can’t summarise all of his points in a blog entry, so I urge anyone and everyone to read this book. It is not an exaggeration to say that the ideas in this book and in Grameen are changing the world and have the potential to eliminate all poverty and hunger.

One of the notions I really like is that of collective credit- Grameen borrowers have tiny payments, very often, so that it is easier to make the payments. But they also borrow in groups, so a single loan is awarded to a single borrower, but only if they are already in a borrowing group. In order to get their first loan, a group must have five members. The only way to get more loans is to pay off the first one. And so, the initial borrower has an obligation to the other group members. Collective credit.

Links and notes:

  • info on the Grameen family of Trusts and companies
  • Grameen Foundation
  • There’s a book called “The Grameen Reader”- actually just type “Grameen” into Amazon and you’ll see a huge number of books on it.
  • Give Us Credit by Alex Counts
  • There is a PBS documentary on Grameen called “To Our Credit”
  • activist Sam Daley-Harris started a thing called Responsibility for Ending Starvation Using Legislation (RESULTS)
  • Polli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) in Bangladesh makes loans to micro-credit programs
  • In Malaysia, there is a program called “Project Ikhtiar”
  • In the Phillipines, there is a project called “Ahon Sa Hirop” and another called “Project Dungganon”… see also the “Landless People’s Fund of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD)”
  • Micro-lending programs in India, China, Nepal, Vietnam
  • Poland: Fundusz Mikro
  • Finland: Eko-Osuusraha
  • Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF)
  • Good Faith Fund, Arkansas
  • Full Circle Fund
  • Women’s Self-Employment Fund
  • Most of these can be found on the Grameen site, but just a quick list of some of the porjects:
    • Grameen Fisheries Foundation- Nimgachi Project

    • Grameen Check/Flannel is the name of a hand-made cloth created by Grameen borrowers
    • Grameen Uddog (Initiatives) – weaving industry that provides a buyer for the creators of Grameen Check
    • Grameen Shamogree (Products) – finished products are sold by this arm at profit, using the cloth produced by the Grameen Uddog project
    • GrameenPhone – for profit cell phone provider which acts as a cheap supplier of-

    • GrameenTelecom – the village phones nonprofit. Loans people phones to start businesses based on renting out their cell phone
    • Grameen Shakti (Energy) – Grameen’s own power utility to power the phones!
    • Grameen Cybernet – ISP for profit, following the phone model above, and
    • Grameen Communications – Internet to schools nonprofit, using Cybernet as a provider
    • There is also a Grameen health program and a Grameen Securities Management Company