Languages in the press


Languages in the press

Bilingual people process maths differently depending on the language

18 September 2017 (The Independent)

People who speak more than one language fluently will process maths differently when they switch between languages, a new study has found.

Intuition enables the brain to recognise numbers up to four. However, when calculating mathematical problems, we depend on language.

This fact led researchers at the University of Luxembourg to explore just how the arithmetic skills are affected when bilingual people use different languages.

The study’s authors recruited students for whom Luxembourgish was their mother tongue and had carried on studying in Belgium and were therefore fluent in both German and French.

In two distinct tasks, participants were asked to solve a mixture of simple and complex maths problems in both languages.

While they were able to solve the simple tasks with equal proficiency, they took longer to calculate the complex task in French and made more errors than they did when doing the identical task in German.

Read more...

Related Links

The bilingual brain calculates differently depending on the language used (Science Daily, 14 September 2017)

Former Carnoustie High pupils in dream China scholarship trip

16 September 2017 (The Courier)

For most young university freshers, leaving the nest for the first time is a daunting experience. But two former Carnoustie High pupils have taken a bigger leap than most by flying half way around the world as part of a prestigious scholarship programme.

[...] The pair are two of only 22 young people from across Scotland to be awarded a full scholarship to study Mandarin at Tianjin Foreign Studies University for the 2017/18 academic session.

They both studied the language at the school’s Confucius Classroom Hub - one of only 34 in Scotland - and were active members of the Mandarin Club.

The pair successfully interviewed for the programme after initially attending a 17-day language immersion course in Tianjin last year, organised by the university’s Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS).

Read more...

The e-Sgoil is ‘a reason to come back to teaching’

15 September 2017 (TESS)

A project that allows lessons to be beamed into Scottish classrooms has been described as “one of the best things” happening in Scottish education by a former education director who has conducted an independent review of the scheme.

The e-Sgoil – or e-school – based in the Western Isles became a reality at the beginning of 2016-17 to help tackle the teacher shortage, particularly in Gaelic, and to give secondary pupils in remote and rural schools a wider range of subjects.

Access the full article in TESS online, 15 September 2017 (subscription may be required).

Read more...

Three ways schools need to change their approach to boost MFL

11 September 2017 (TES)

Applies to England

MFL entries at A level are still falling, but there is hope on the horizon if schools seize the initiative, says this assistant headteacher.

It seems to have become a scheduled event in the modern languages’ calendar to lament the ever-depressing fate of uptake of the subject at A level. Reformed specifications have made the gap between GCSE and A level even wider, fuelling the notion that A-level languages are for native speakers only. 

Yet more depressing: A-level MFL provision has almost disappeared in the North East, accounting for only 3% of all entries. University language departments are on the brink of closure and revised visa requirements for EU nationals could result in further exacerbation of an already difficult recruitment market. The death knell of routine A-level MFL provision in all schools is deafening. 

And yet – whisper it softly – the stars of a more illustrious future for modern languages may be coming into alignment. The reformed specifications are a vast improvement on their predecessors, with film, literature, history and politics at their core, making for exciting and engaging courses. 

Read more...

Weird and wonderful poster art of Gaelic's FilmG

9 September 2017 (BBC)

Gaelic short film competition FilmG is this year celebrating the running of its 10th contest. To help mark the anniversary, organisers held an exhibition of the competition's colourful posters at Tramway, an arts space in Glasgow.

The posters were created by Steven McKenzie, senior designer at Cànan Graphics Studio on Skye. The posters are designed to reflect each year's theme. Previously these have included "strì" meaning endeavour/conflict and "cliù" meaning prestige, fame or reputation. The theme chosen for the 10th FilmG is "fìrinn" meaning truth.

Read more...

British Sign Language alphabet: How an intricate system of gestures gave a voice to millions

7 September 2017 (The Independent)

As Britain’s pupils return to school for the start of the new academic year, Google marks the occasion with a new Doodle paying tribute to British Sign Language (BSL).

BSL is a vital tool that has enabled generations of young deaf and speech-impaired students in the UK to communicate with their teachers and classmates, ensuring their disability does not have a negative impact on their opportunities in the classroom.

But how was BSL first conceived and how has it developed?

Read more...

10 of the best language with activity holidays around the world

5 September 2017 (The Guardian)

Spanish and tango? German and skiing? Or even Japanese and manga? Learn a language in the native country and add some extracurricular fun with these holiday courses that offer a skill or some culture, too.

Read more...

How to improve children’s language awareness at primary school

4 September 2017 (The Conversation)

Young children have a lot to fit into each school day. So making the best use of the little time allocated to learning a foreign language is paramount. In England, state primary schools have been required to offer children aged seven to 11 a foreign language since 2014. This seems to chime with the common assumption, supported by research, that the earlier we start learning a foreign language, the better we will eventually be able to speak it.

Yet the situation is quite different when learners have just a few hours’ exposure each week. In these circumstances – unlike full immersion in a second language – younger is not necessarily better. Large-scale classroom-based research in Spain has shown that after the same number of lessons, students who began learning after age 18 achieved greater success in English than students who started at age eight, 11 or 14.

A likely reason for the different effects of starting age in different learning environments is the type of learning mechanism in operation. Primarily, young children learn implicitly – without effort or awareness. By contrast, adolescents and adults can learn explicitly, with the intention to learn and with conscious effort. Implicit learning only works well if there is ample exposure to language input, while explicit learning can work even with little language input. So having just a few hours a week of language lessons at a young age doesn’t meant a child will learn that language successfully.

Read more...

Scots language 'helps pupils in English exams'

2 September 2017 (The Herald)

The teaching of the Scots language is having a positive impact on the attainment of pupils in English qualifications, according to a new report.

Research shows teachers believe the language can particularly help disengaged pupils and those who are not high academic achievers.

The findings comes in a report from curriculum body Education Scotland which explores the use of Scots in primary and secondary schools.

Read more...

Related Links

Scots Language in Curriculum for Excellence (30 August 2017, Education Scotland)

How relevant is Gaelic to modern Scotland today?

2 September 2017 (The Press and Journal)

Chan eil aon chànan gu leòr.

How many readers can understand this sentiment or indeed recognise the Gaelic phrase which aptly translates as one language is never enough?

Sadly, or depending in the light in which one views Gaelic, it would seem one language in Scotland is indeed enough with just 1.1% of the population speaking Gaelic.

It is no secret that Gaelic has been in decline for many years despite road signs in the Highlands and islands and even in the north-east including the Gaelic place name.

Classed as an indigenous language, it is believed Gaelic was brought to Scotland around the fourth or fifth century by settlers from Ireland, reaching its peak in 1018.

Some historians pinpoint its decline to the reign of King Malcom Canmore, although his brother re-introduced the language when he inherited the throne.

History aside, how relevant is Gaelic to modern Scotland today on both a social and economic level?

Read more...

Here’s how Outlander Sam Heughan is doing his bit to save an award-winning museum in the Scottish Highlands

1 September 2017 (Scottish Sun)

Outlander stars are doing their bit to save an award-winning museum in the Scottish Highlands.

The Gairloch Herittage Museum – dubbed “one of the best in Scotland” by the National Trust – will lose its home next year.

And telly hunk Sam Heughan is getting behind a crowdfunding campaign to raise the final £60,000 needed for its proposed new location.

Fans of the hit time travel show now have the chance to get their hands on some coveted Outlander goodies.

Some of the prizes up for grabs include a limited number of Gaelic dictionaries signed by Sam and the Outlander cast.

Fans can also win Gaelic lessons with Adhamh O’Broin, who is the Gaelic consultant on the show.

Adhamh said: “Not many people are aware but Gairloch and Wester Ross have played an integral part to the creation of the TV series, Outlander.

“We use the Wester Ross Gaelic dialect throughout the series and I often called upon Gairloch man, the late Roddy Mackenzie, for advice when we were on set.

“Roddy, who was also heavily involved in the Gairloch Heritage Museum, helped us by providing accurate translations and local sayings to ensure we were portraying the language as authentically as possible.”

Read more...

Russian ambassador confronts Sturgeon over Scottish curriculum

30 August 2017 (The Courier)

Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK, expressed his disappointment to Nicola Sturgeon over the Scottish Qualifications Authority dropping the language from the curriculum.

In a letter, which has been published under freedom of information laws, Mr Yakovenko called on Ms Sturgeon to intervene.

The correspondence also revealed the FM has declined invitations to official Russian functions in Edinburgh and London on four occasions since June 2016.

Mr Yakovenko, who was previously deputy minister of foreign affairs, said: “The cancellation of the exams seriously affected the resources available for cultural and business links, for people-to-people contacts and the personal development of individuals.”

He added: “I believe there may be ways for the Scottish Government to have the above decisions revisited, and I would hugely appreciate your attention to the matter.”

However, he did highlight Dundee Russian School for its valuable work in teaching children and adults the language, which is the fifth most prevalent in the world.

The First Minster left it to her deputy John Swinney to reply, which he did about two months after the original letter was sent in December 2016.

Mr Swinney, who is also Education Secretary, said: “The decision to remove courses was made entirely on practical grounds, reflecting difficulties in maintaining standards in subjects experiencing consistently low uptake.”

He added: “I would assure you that SQA’s decision bore no reflection on the relative merit or value of Russian language or literature – which are considerable.”

Mr Swinney said Scots could learn the language through modern languages for work purposes units and the Language for Life and Work Award.

Read more...

Gaelic ‘bear hunting’ kids are internet sensations

30 August 2017 (The Scotsman)

A group of primary school children from the east end of Glasgow have become internet sensations after their Gaelic musical version of ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ went viral on YouTube. Views of the film, which features youngsters from Caledonia Primary enacting the story in their school grounds in Baillieston, have climbed to nearly 2.2 million.

The film, made with the help of the Grounds for Learning charity, is just under five minutes long and shows the pupils from P1 and 2 ‘hunting’ for a bear. Dressed in oilskins and wellies, they go splashing through the mud and creeping through concrete tunnels, while they sing the words to Tha Sinn a’ Dol a Shireadh Mathan, a Gaelic version of the kids classic story by Michael Rosen.

Read more...

Six ways to build a supportive, language-rich EAL community

28 August 2017 (TES)

Supporting EAL students is personal to this assistant headteacher. Here she gives her six tips to ensure these students – and their families – get the right assistance.

Read more...

Six ways to build a supportive, language-rich EAL community

28 August 2017 (TES)

Supporting EAL students is personal to this assistant headteacher. Here she gives her six tips to ensure these students – and their families – get the right assistance.

Read more...

Thought for the Day - Learn a language

28 August 2017 (BBC)

The Reverend Nick Baines shares his 'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 about the importance of children learning languages. The broadcast is available on iPlayer until 27 September. (Please note registration is required to access).

Read more...

Ignore the panic. There’s little point learning languages at school

25 August 2017 (The Guardian)

Education policy is like defence policy. It is always fighting the last war but one. Predictable woe has greeted the plummeting number of pupils studying modern languages, which have fallen by roughly 10% in a year and German by one-third since 2010. Only Chinese and Arabic look reasonably healthy – I wonder if this might be because rising numbers of Chinese and Arabic-speakers are studying?

Read more...

Related Links

Why learn German? (The Times Literary Supplement, 27 August 2017)

Just speaking English won’t get us very far in the world  (The Guardian, 28 August 2017)

The Importance Of Young People Studying Languages  (Huffington Post, 29 August 2017)

Learn languages at school – and expand your horizons (The Guardian, 3 September 2017)

Why asking struggling pupils to take a language GCSE early is a winner

25 August 2017 (TES)

How do you encourage lower-ability students to stick with learning a new language? By offering them the chance to take the subject at GCSE … a whole two years early. The results speak for themselves, says Eva Vicente.

Learning languages didn’t come easy to Jack when he first joined secondary school. Ordinarily, he would have dropped the subject when he was choosing which GCSEs to study at key stage 4. So imagine his delight that he’d already notched up a Spanish GCSE by the end of Year 9, two years before his more proficient friends would have the opportunity to do the same.

His impressive achievement was made possible by the unconventional system we have implemented at Rushcliffe School, which allows struggling pupils the chance to study for their Spanish GCSE in Years 8 and 9. Asking teenagers to sit what is supposed to be one of the hardest GCSE subjects two years early may seem a little crazy – even more so when you consider the pupils in question are the ones who are struggling the most with the subject – but there is method in our madness.

Britain is at the back of the queue in terms of language skills. Why? Because children here don’t study languages as early, as often or for as long as those in other countries. Despite endless changes in policy, the UK simply does not invest in language learning.

But at Rushcliffe we don’t buy into the idea that learning a language is only for a handful of very academic students who are able to leap over the education system’s barriers – delayed exposure to learning languages and limited timetable allocation. We decided to turn things around and commit to ensuring that as many students as possible get a language qualification, without it impacting on their GCSE choices at key stage 4. So how does it work?

Read more...

Just what “global Britain” needs—a crisis in language learning

24 August 2017 (Prospect Magazine)

Ever since 2004, when the Labour government gave schools the freedom to make languages optional, education ministers have awaited GCSE and A level entry figures with the trepidation of candidates who know they have messed up their French oral. Numbers for foreign languages GCSEs have dropped by a whopping 44 per cent and numbers for French and German A levels have declined by more than a third over the past 13 years.

This year’s crop of A level exam figures have been greeted with relief by government and exam boards alike. “Steady” and “stable” have been the preferred adjectives. But GCSE numbers published on Thursday show another huge decline which appears to wipe out earlier increases linked to some of Michael Gove’s reforms.

The headline statistics here are troubling indeed. Numbers for French are down 10 per cent on last year, and for German 13 per cent, making this year’s figures the lowest yet. But even this does not do justice to the true extent of the crisis in language learning, which runs through all parts of the education system. To appreciate the full scale of the problem, you have to dig deeper into the numbers. As we approach Brexit and the readjustment of the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world, we would do well to take this seriously.

Read more...

Related Links

Anne McElvoy: ‘Open Britain’ needs to have more masters of language (Evening Standard, 19 August 2017)

Number of language GCSEs plummets as academics warn students are relying on Google Translate

24 August 2017 (The Telegraph)

The number of students taking modern foreign languages has plummeted because British children are have become reliant on English translations and tools like “Google Translate,” academics have warned.

Figures published on Thursday by the Joint Qualifications Council (JCQ) show that the number of entries for modern foreign languages has fallen by more than 7 per cent per cent overall, with the number of French exams falling by a tenth and German by 13.2 per cent.

Similar declines were recorded in last week's A-level results, whilst the number of British students taking languages has almost halved over the last two decades.

Read more...

Hundreds of languages are spoken in the UK, but this isn’t always reflected in the classroom

21 August 2017 (The Conversation)

More than 300 different languages are now spoken in British schools. And in England, over 20% of primary school children use English as an additional language.

This equates to over 900,000 children for whom English is not their first language. These children might have been born in another country, their parents might speak another language to them at home, or they might just know a few words of another language because their grandparents immigrated to England a long time ago. But just like any other pupil, they attend schools across the country, speak (or learn to speak) in English and participate in the national curriculum. Yet the fact these children also bring with them a rich understanding of another language and culture can often go unnoticed.

Bilingualism is something we usually celebrate in adults yet not always in the classroom, where English is usually prioritised. This is despite the fact that many communities in Britain, speak more than one language.

In the 2011 British Census, for example, 4.2m people reported having a main language other than English. And just over half of all Europeans claim to speak at least one other language in addition to their mother tongue.

Research shows that some children never have the opportunity to use their home language at school. And in some cases, their teachers might not even know they speak another language.

In the absence of school or community support, these children can sometimes end up losing their home languages. This is something that may be particularly true in highly monolingual areas which experience less immigration.

The problem then is that these areas – where English is the only language spoken – become even more monolingual. All while other areas of the country grow and celebrate their linguistic diversity.

Read more...

Funding for Gaelic Centre

17 August 2017 (Scottish Government)

A Gaelic music, culture and heritage centre planned in South Uist has been awarded £1 million funding.

The £7 million Cnoc Soilleir project will receive the investment from the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Capital Plan and is expected to create around 40 jobs.

Cnoc Soilleir will support the growth of Ceòlas Uibhist community-led activity around Gaelic language learning, music and dance, as well as the Lews Castle College UHI music programmes. Additional creative industry courses will be provided to enable further growth in student numbers.

Established in 1996, Ceòlas Uibhist has grown from a week-long music and dance school to become one of Scotland’s leading Gaelic culture, heritage and arts organisations.

Read more...

A-level results 2017: Decline in entries for arts and languages 'makes mockery of social mobility claims'

17 August 2017 (TES)

Heads' union warns of the consequences of a drop in entries for creative subjects and languages, as the number of students sitting music plummets by 9.4 per cent.

A decline in A-level entries for music, drama, French and German is "making a mockery of the government's claim to be promoting social mobility", a heads' union has said.

The Association of School and College Leaders said that schools are having to cut courses in these subjects because the relatively small number of candidates signing up to them means they are no longer financially viable.

The number of A-level entries in England dropped by 1.2 per cent in French compared with last year, 4.2 per cent in German, 4 per cent in drama and by 9.4 per cent in music, according to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications.

The ASCL said schools cutting back on these subjects was a reflection of "severe budget pressures" on post-16 education, which has experienced a real-terms cut since 2010.

Given the 42 per cent drop in AS-level entries after they were "decoupled" from A levels, ASCL said it was concerned about a narrowing of the curriculum, which was "reducing student choice".

Read more...

A-level results show first rise in top grades in six years

17 August 2017 (The Guardian)

The proportion of top marks awarded at A-level has risen overall for the first time in six years and boys did better than girls at gaining A and A* grades.

The published national results of 2017’s exams show that in the bulk of subjects the proportion of A and A* grades awarded went up to 26.3%, a rise of half a percentage point compared with 2016.

[..] As expected, there were sizeable increases in the top grades awarded to students taking modern foreign languages, with A and A*s rising by 2.5% in Spanish and 1.8% in German and 1.7% in French – after years of complaints that the exams were graded too harshly.

The improved performance came after the exam regulator in England, Ofqual, adjusted the proportion of top grades awarded to candidates, following research showing that native speakers taking the subjects had skewed the results.

Read more...

New hub for e-Sgoil virtual Gaelic school opened in North Uist

17 August 2017 (Holyrood)

A new satellite hub for the online distance learning Gaelic school e-Sgoil has been opened in the former Carinish School building in North Uist by Education Secretary John Swinney.

The virtual Gaelic school was launched just over a year ago by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Gaelic language board, to provide connectivity between schools in the Western Isles and beyond, and to offer improved subject access and learning opportunities for Gaelic-medium secondaries and teachers across the country.

Read more...

Number of top grades awarded in language A-levels increases amid decline in students taking French and German

17 August 2017 (The Telegraph)

Changes to A-level language subjects to prevent non-native speakers from being penalised has led to a surge in top grades, figures published today suggest.

The proportion of A grades awarded in French, German and Spanish entries increased this year, after the exams regulator Ofqual asked exam boards to lower the grade boundaries.

Publication of the new guidance has seen the number of A grades awarded in French rise to 39 per cent, up from 37.3 per cent, whilst top grades in German has risen by 1.8 per cent.

The changes, outlined in a letter circulated among headteachers by Ofqual earlier this summer, said: "We have recently published research on the effect of native speakers in A-level French, German and Spanish.

"The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that the proportion of native speakers taking these qualifications may have increased in recent years, as the overall entry has declined.

"Informed by this research, we believe there is a case for making a small upward adjustment to the predictions used to set grade A, and we will implement this for the summer 2017 A-levels."

The changes, outlined in a letter circulated among headteachers by Ofqual earlier this summer, said: "We have recently published research on the effect of native speakers in A-level French, German and Spanish.

"The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that the proportion of native speakers taking these qualifications may have increased in recent years, as the overall entry has declined.

"Informed by this research, we believe there is a case for making a small upward adjustment to the predictions used to set grade A, and we will implement this for the summer 2017 A-levels."

However, the increase in top grades has been overshadowed by continuing drop-off in students taking up in traditionally popular modern languages, with the exception of Spanish, which saw entries increase by 1.7 per cent.

International languages are also gaining in popularity, including Arabic, Chinese and Italian.

Read more...

Related Links

A-Level and AS results published by JCQ (UCML, 17 August 2017) Overall, results show that entries for both Spanish and Other languages continue to grow (with an increase of 1.7 and 2% on last year's figures respectively). Article links to comprehensive data for all languages.

How Exercise Could Help You Learn a New Language

16 August 2017 (New York Times)

Learning a second language as an adult is difficult. But the process may be eased if you exercise while learning.

A new study reports that working out during a language class amplifies people’s ability to memorize, retain and understand new vocabulary. The findings provide more evidence that to engage our minds, we should move our bodies.

In recent years, a wealth of studies in both animals and people have shown that we learn differently if we also exercise. Lab rodents given access to running wheels create and maintain memories better than animals that are sedentary, for instance. And students consistently perform better on academic tests if they participate in some kind of physical activity during the school day.

Many scientists suspect that exercise alters the biology of the brain in ways that make it more malleable and receptive to new information, a process that scientists refer to as plasticity.

But many questions have remained unanswered about movement and learning, including whether exercise is most beneficial before, during or after instruction and how much and what types of exercise might be best.

So for the new study, which was published recently in PLOS One, researchers in China and Italy decided to home in on language learning and the adult brain.

Read more...

Scotland enjoys tourism boost thanks to interest in Gaelic

15 August 2017 (The Scotsman)

Proposals have been put forward to investigate Gaelic links with historic properties as use of the language has seen a surge in visitor interest.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has launched a consultation for its Draft Gaelic Language Plan 2018-2023.

Under its proposals are a number of strategies aimed at increasing its use and discovering links with the properties in its care.

Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: “We have developed an ambitious plan, which will help to illustrate the place of Gaelic within Scottish culture, while increasing resources for Gaelic speakers and learners.

“We want this consultation to reach as many people as possible so we can ensure that the final plan is robust and representative. We very much look forward to reviewing the feedback.”

The use of Gaelic in the hit TV series Outlander has sparked increased interest amongst visitors to Scotland and historic sites linked to the show are continuing to see significant rises in tourist numbers.

Read more...

Foreign languages set for less ‘harsh grading’

11 August 2017 (TES)

Move set to encourage take-up of subjects and create more language teachers.

The number of top grades awarded in modern foreign language A levels is likely to increase this summer, after a change brought in by Ofqual to help non-native speakers.

Exam boards have been asked to increase the proportion of students expected to achieve a grade A and above by one percentage point for French, German and Spanish A levels.

The exam regulator decided to intervene after carrying out research that showed native speakers were far more likely to achieve A* or A grades than non-native speakers.

If the ability of this year’s cohort is consistent with previous years, the uplift will be applied to the three A-level subjects.

However, relatively few candidates look set to benefit: a Tes analysis of last year’s A-level results suggests that an adjustment last summer would have resulted in around 200 extra A and A* grades being awarded.

The move from Ofqual has been widely welcomed across the sector, but headteacher organisations argue that it should not be the last word in solving what they see as a long-standing problem.

Read more...

Gaelic school planned for Edinburgh as demand soars

11 August 2017 (The Times)

A dedicated Gaelic school could open in Edinburgh to cope with rising pupil numbers and soaring demand.

Edinburgh city council expects there to be more pupils than places at James Gillespie’s High School, where Gaelic education is currently provided, as soon as 2021.

The number of new pupils starting this month at Taobh na Pàirce primary, Edinburgh’s only Gaelic primary school, has also been far higher than anticipated.

Read more...

Languages under pressure after fall in pupils taking German and French

9 August 2017 (The Herald)

THE number of pupils choosing key modern languages has fallen sharply.

Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show the number of entries for Higher French dropped from 4,581 in 2016 to 3,918 this year.

The figures for German have also fallen, with entries declining from 1,019 to 890 year-on-year.

However, the increasing popularity of Spanish has continued, with entries rising from 2,600 last year to 2,809.

Entries at the lower National 5 level for French and German have also fallen.

Read more...

Related Links

'Disappointing' decline in pupils sitting Gaelic qualifications (The Herald, 10 August 2017)

Top marks for pupil who attended three Glasgow schools

9 August 2017 (Evening Times)

One student has defied the odds to become one of Glasgow’s top achievers while attending not one but three city schools. 

Valentina Kanife moved to Glasgow from her home country of Italy in September 2015. When the 16-year-old joined the S4 class in St Margaret Mary’s in Castlemilk, she could not speak any English. Soon after starting the school, it became apparent that Valentina had a skill for languages and began working towards gaining her National 4’s. 

Staff at St Margaret Mary’s staff organised for Valentina to attend Holyrood Secondary for Higher Italian and Kings Park Secondary for Higher ESOL, while being taught Higher Spanish and National 5 maths at her own school. With the help of a bus pass, the teenager travelled between the three schools, sometimes on the same day. After a year of handwork, Valentia managed to gain all three Highers and a National 5 Maths qualifications, all within two years of being in Glasgow.

Read more...

Bilingual babies can distinguish between languages before they are two, study reveals

9 August 2017 (The Independent)

Ever dreamed of raising a bilingual baby?

It might be easier than you think, as a new study reveals that babies can differentiate between words from different languages at just 20 months old.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences determined infants’ propensity to monitor and control language through a series of experiments.

24 French-English children were shown pairs of photographs of familiar objects and listened to sentences in both a single language (“Find the dog!”) and a mixture of two languages (“Find the chien!”).

In a second test, they heard language switches that crossed sentences, named code switches, which are regularly spoken by children in bilingual households i.e. “That one looks fun! Le Chien!”

Through eye-tracking measures, the researchers were able to determine the infants’ cognitive efforts, in other words, how hard their brains were working to understand what was in the photographs being shown to them.

When they heard the language switches, their pupils dilated, proving immediate comprehension.

Read more...

Scottish MSPs warn of narrow curriculum as uptake of creative subjects declines

8 August 2017 (The Guardian)

The number of Scottish school pupils and students taking modern languages, social sciences and arts has fallen, prompting warnings from opposition parties over the dangers of a narrowing curriculum.

Official data showed the number of exam passes at Higher, a near equivalent to English A-levels, across Scotland’s schools and colleges held steady at 77%, falling very slightly by 0.2%.

But Labour and the Conservatives expressed concern that the Scottish curriculum was narrowing after the Scottish Qualifications Authority figures showed the numbers sitting modern languages at Higher fell by 6% overall, with history down by nearly 4% and geography by 2.6%.

Read more...

No more music, Spanish or engineering: parents angry at cuts to GCSEs

8 August 2017 (The Guardian)

(Applies to England) Come through the main doors at Gateacre school in Liverpool, into an atrium with furniture in bright colours; on your right there’s a drama studio. On the door someone has put up a notice: “More than 9,994 students studying at Russell Group universities since 2012 have an A-level in drama and theatre.”

Gateacre still offers A-levels and GCSEs in drama and other creative subjects, despite having had to make some tough decisions about the curriculum. But across England, secondary pupils are finding themselves with fewer and fewer subject options, and teachers in the arts are feeling the pressure.

The government’s Ebacc accountability measure, which judges secondary schools according to the proportion of pupils gaining good GCSE grades in English, maths, sciences, a language and geography or history, has taken the brunt of the blame. Researchers from the University of Sussex who interviewed 650 state school teachers found two-thirds felt the Ebacc was responsible for fewer students taking GCSE music in their schools, for instance.

Read more...

The Future of French in the EU and Beyond

7 August 2017 (Language Magazine)

While the 2016 UK European Union (EU) Membership Referendum launched the current public conversation on the status of English in the EU, it has been—just as much, if not more—a conversation on the future of French within the EU.

In order to understand the significance of this conversation about language, and languages, it is necessary to begin with the significance of multilingualism as a core value of the EU, which has implemented and supported plurilingualism, often referred to as “mother tongue plus two,” as a pragmatic educational objective.

In alignment with this core value of multilingualism, Europe accounts for more than half (53.9%) of the global language-services sector, which is valued at USD 38.2 billion per year, and the French Hewlett-Packard’s Application and Content Localization group (HPPACG) is the third-largest language-services provider in the world.

From the original four official languages of the European Community, the number has grown to 24, with English, French, and German (in alphabetical order) the informal de facto working/procedural languages, and the French government has long been an active advocate for the use of French.

But as the UK prepares to leave the EU, leaving no member nation with English registered as its official language, the role of English within the EU has been questioned, with suggestions made that French and German should be the sole working/procedural languages.

Read more...

Pupils who learn in second language ‘catch up on listening skills within a year'

7 August 2017 (TES)

Seven- and eight-year-olds from immigrant families make faster progress than their native-speaking peers, research shows.

Primary pupils who learn in a language other than the one they speak at home start out with poorer listening and reading skills, but “catch up” with native-speaking peers within one school year, researchers have found.

In a paper in the British Educational Research Journal, researchers from Ghent University in Belgium also looked at how pupils' listening and reading comprehension was affected by the proportion of their classmates who spoke a different language at home.

They found that classes with a greater proportion of non-native-speaking students achieved lower than average results at the start of the year, but by the end of the year this link had "disappeared".

Read more...

British Sign Language will count as 'foreign language' for university applicants

7 August 2017 (TES)

A leading university has announced plans to recognise British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications in its entry requirements.

University College London (UCL) said that in future, BSL will be considered as meeting the institution's modern foreign language (MFL) requirement.

The university is the only UK institution that requires all of its UK undergraduates to hold at least a C grade at GCSE in another language or to sign up for courses as part of their degree.

It has now announced that it will recognise sign language as part of the requirement, saying it hopes the decision will increase awareness and access to the language.

Read more...

Slump in foreign language students sparks fear for UK competitiveness

5 August 2017 (The Herald)

FRESH concerns have been raised that not enough youngsters are learning foreign languages, as figures show a slump in applications to study the subject at university.

The numbers of applications for degree courses linked to European languages have fallen by almost a quarter in the past five years, while the numbers for other language courses have dropped by almost a fifth, according to an analysis by the Press Association. At the same time, there has been a decline in the numbers studying languages traditionally offered by schools, such as French and German, to GCSE and A-level.

The analysis indicates Spanish has grown in popularity in recent times along with other courses, such as Arabic and Chinese.

The British Council, which specialises in international cultural relations, warned that if the UK is to remain globally competitive in the wake of Brexit it needs more young people to be learning languages.

Read more...

Glasgow's elderly combat dementia symptoms with fun foreign language classes

4 August 2017 (Glasgow Live)

A Glasgow based organisation is blazing a trail in the battle against dementia faced by Glasgow’s elderly population.

Lingo Flamingo, based in Govan, is the world’s first non-profit organisation that provides outreach foreign language classes tailored to older adults.

It is currently launching a drive for more students, enlisting the use of their pink flamingo mascot to help spread the word to places across Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Their 10 week foreign language workshops are provided in German, Italian, Spanish and French and take place in care homes, sheltered accommodation and day centres across the city.

Read more...

Language immersion in Australian schools

4 August 2017 (ABC News)

Video report from ABC News on South Australia's Department for Education and Child Development's (DECD) language immersion programmes in schools.

The news story highlights that in just six months students at two schools have immersed themselves in the French and Chinese language.

See the video online on the DECD Facebook page, or read an earlier published news item 'Adelaide schools finding success with bilingual classes in French and Chinese' on the policy (ABC, 23 June 2017).

Read more...

Shy holiday Britons 'point at menus' to avoid foreign words

4 August 2017 (BBC)

Over half of Britons who holiday abroad say they have pointed at a restaurant menu to avoid having to pronounce non-English words, a survey suggests.

And almost half said they were embarrassed at not being able to speak the local language while away.

But 80% of more than 1,700 people questioned for the British Council felt it was important to learn some phrases.

"Trying out a few words is the perfect way to get started," said Vicky Gough, British Council schools advisor.

The Populus survey found 37% of British holidaymakers always tried to speak a few words in the local language but 29% said they were too scared to try.

It also found that 36% felt guilty at asking locals to speak English, while:
  • 56% resorted to pointing at menus
  • 45% relied on the assumption that all locals would speak English
  • 42% spoke English more slowly and loudly
  • 15% even tried speaking English in a foreign accent
A minority (15%) admitted to being so unwilling to try pronouncing words from other languages that they would only eat in British or fast food restaurants while overseas, rather than sampling local cuisine.

A similar number said they preferred staying in self-contained resorts to avoid local culture.

Read more...

Parents 'key' to securing future of Gaelic in Scotland

3 August 2017 (BBC)

The future of Gaelic in Scotland could be down to parents - even if they do not speak the language themselves, according to researchers.

The University of Strathclyde said increased use of a language at home was a "first step" in its use in wider society.

Researchers surveyed 236 parents and children on the Isle of Lewis and on Sardinia.

The study included speakers and non-speakers of Gaelic and Sardinian.

Three quarters of respondents felt speaking a minority language was equally important to speaking their national tongue.

Dr Fraser Lauchlan, of the University of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences and Health, said: "Previous research from more than two decades ago found that there was almost a level of embarrassment about speaking such languages and they were discouraged for many years.

"It is only in recent times that there has been a re-emergence of the importance placed on these languages - possibly because of a better understanding of the benefits that being bilingual can bring, but also because of their promotion at national or regional level by governments, including the specific introduction of legislation."

He suggested parents could encourage their children to read and to watch TV programmes in a minority language, which may even lead to them learning it themselves.

Read more...

Related Links

Parents may hold the key to securing the future of Gaelic (The National, 3 August 2017)

Parents' encouragement could keep Gaelic alive (Press and Journal, 3 August 2017)

Future of Gaelic lies with non-speakers, study finds (The Herald, 4 August 2017)

These are the languages employers want most - and how much it could add to your salary

2 August 2017 (Birmingham Mail / The Mirror)

A new study has found the most lucrative foreign languages for British workers to learn.

Apparently, Japanese and the Chinese languages offer average salaries of more than £31,000 for those who can speak them.

Adzuna compiled the study to mark the anniversary of the Brexit vote.

And researchers uncovered the languages most in demand by UK employers, alongside how much they are willing to pay for them.

A growing interest in non-European languages was revealed, with Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and Russian all featuring in the UK's top 10 most wanted languages, according to the Mirror.

Read more...

UK students ‘may be barred from Erasmus after Brexit’

1 August 2017 (THE)

Erasmus, the world's largest student exchange scheme, is celebrating its 30th birthday.

With more than three million participants since 1987, it is one of the best known and most successful policies of the European Union. 

Now including adult learners, vocational students and those on work placements, in addition to university students, it has created an “Erasmus generation”, having been responsible for more than a million babies born from couples who met as part of the scheme.

About 16,000 UK students now spend a semester or a year abroad as part of Erasmus every year. France, Spain and Germany remain the most popular destinations for these students, reflecting the traditional emphasis on students taking modern language or combination degrees. However, many universities across continental Europe now offer modules in English, which has helped to increase the number of UK students able to participate who do not have prior language skills. As students strive to add distinctiveness to their CVs, the number of UK participants has increased.

In addition, the UK is one of the most popular destinations for European students, with these study placements becoming part of Britain's cultural and educational ‘soft power’ by creating thousands of de-facto UK alumni across Europe.

However, while the House of Commons Education Committee believes that “continued membership of Erasmus+ would be the best outcome for the UK”, its future participation was not mentioned in the government’s recent White Paper.  The government has only committed itself to considering future participation.

The question therefore is “can the UK continue to be part of it post-Brexit?”

Since Erasmus is a programme of the European Union and established by EU law, the initial answer is no.

However, as with everything else, all depends on the exit agreement between the UK and EU before the UK leaves in March 2019. It may be that the UK continues to be a part of the scheme up to the end of the current programme (2014-2020) with future involvement subject to a separate agreement.

Read more...

‘Worrying’ fall in pupils taking foreign languages

31 July 2017 (The Scotsman)

Scotland has seen a “worry-
ing” fall in the number of pupils studying languages, it has emerged.

There are now fears that the next generation will not be equipped to deal with the demands of the global 
economy.

There has been a dramatic fall in the number of 
youngsters sitting French and German, although more are learning Spanish.

Opposition parties called on the SNP to focus on the “day job” of running schools. But ministers insist there has been a rise in the number of pupils gaining languages qualification at Higher level.

There were more than 56,000 pupils taking modern languages at Standard Grade level a decade ago. By last year, under the new exam system, this had fallen to just over 23,000 – a 59 per cent decline.

Labour’s shadow education minister Daniel Johnson said: “Learning a foreign language is such a valuable skill for 
Scotland’s next generation.

“Whether for travel, employment or just breaking down barriers between people from different countries, a new 
language can open up the world to a young person.

“It is therefore incredibly worrying to see such a huge decline in the number of pupils sitting modern language courses. The SNP talks about connecting Scotland with the world, but that can only happen if people are equipped with the 
languages they need. In the 21st century, the workforce is becoming more global and economic growth here in Scotland depends on interaction with our European neighbours.

“We need to reduce as many barriers to economic growth as possible, and these figures show how important it is for SNP ministers to get back to the day job of improving 
standards in our schools.”

Read more...

Related Links

Dramatic decline in number of pupils learning foreign languages (The Times, 31 July 2017)

Scots pupils saying ‘Non’ to languages (Sunday Post, 30 July 2017)

Survey shows long-term impacts of language travel

27 July 2017 (The Pie)

When asked what helped them improve their language skill the most, 90% of respondents to global language provider Sprachcaffe’s Language Learning Sustainability Project said it was face-to-face interaction with other people.

Over half said they are more confident speaking the language thanks to the experience of learning abroad while 20% said it helped them travel more and 13% said it contributed to a change in their work life.

“Our product [study travel] is unique because it’s learning and travel. When it comes to language learning you can do it online quick and easy but if you want something more valuable you have language learning trips,” said Pauline Pitte, the study’s co-author.

Taken over six months in 2016, the survey attracted former students from all over the world who had been on a language course abroad within the last five to 10 years. The project aims to show the long-term impacts of language learning abroad, said Pitte.

“We don’t want to make this about online versus in-class learning, we just wanted to explore the package students get when they go on language exchanges. Is it efficient for everyone?”.

Read more...

Bonnyrigg school establishes links with China

21 July 2017 (Midlothian Advertiser)

It’s been a very busy time for Hawthornden Primary School.

Following their successful school show ‘Hairspray’, Hawthornden pupils have excelled themselves again by performing at the launch of the Confucius Primary Hub.

The audience was entertained by P7s performing a Dragon Dance, a Fan Dance and Looking for a Friend. P6s performed a colours song in Mandarin. P3 pupils, who attend Mandarin classes at the Children’s University at Queen Margaret, amazed everyone by reading and translating a Mandarin story. Chinese colleagues praised their accents and pronunciation.

S4 Lasswade High School pupils also performed a dance to show primary pupils how Mandarin can be continued in high school.

Read more...

Why schools need to speak the same language on EAL support

21 July 2017 (TESS)

Across the globe, being bilingual is the norm. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population can speak at least two languages. Yet in the UK, primarily as a result of the dominance of English in the world, a child that converses in more than one tongue is still viewed as being “different”, particularly within education.

This is despite the number of bilingual pupils in our schools increasing. Over 1 in 5 (1.25 million) of our pupils are recorded as having English as an additional language (EAL), according to 2016 government figures.

Have schools adapted to this? Not enough, in my view. For example, EAL pupils tend to be seen as a homogenous group, a remnant of that view of bilingualism as being a deviation from the norm, not the standard. But they are nothing of the sort.

The definition of EAL used by the Department for Education is if a child is exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be one other than English (1). This definition covers pupils who may have recently arrived in the country, as well as families that have been here for many generations.

Each EAL pupil will also vary in their level of proficiency in their mother tongue, as well as in English, across the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Quite simply, teachers are not being prepared well enough to support EAL students’ range of needs. Many newly qualified teachers, in particular, cite low levels of preparedness for meeting the needs of this group (2).

Sure, there are success stories. The attainment of EAL pupils is often cited as a key narrative in attainment improvements in England. This is certainly worthy of praise, with schools and communities deserving recognition for their hard work in this area. However, attainment of EAL pupils is extremely variable across regions and cities outside of London and its surrounding areas.

In addition, recent research (3) has shown that attainment varies considerably by the language spoken by pupils, with Japanese speakers being the highest-performing and Czech speakers the lowest.

So what can schools do to effectively support their EAL pupils and ensure they attain high standards?

Read the full article in TESS online, 21 July 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Related Links

TES talks to...Madeleine Arnot (TES, 28 July 2017) - Migrant children are lumped together in the ‘English as additional language’ category, with no systemic understanding of their unique cultural and social needs. It’s about time we had a joined-up education strategy, the academic tells Simon Creasey.

Calls to boost Gaelic language with Unesco status

20 July 2017 (The Scotsman)

A campaign to boost Gaelic language and its cultural heritage is seeking Unesco status.

A parliamentary committee is leading the call for UNESCO to award special status to the language.

Currently around 60,000 people speak the language, with numbers drastically decreasing. In the 2011 census, 1.1% of the population stated that they could speak the language.

However, the chairwoman of the cross party committee on Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament, Kate Forbes believes that securing a special UNESCO status would help preserve historical traditions and ensure they are kept alive for future generations.

Read more...

Young Brits to make German connections

19 July 2017 (UK Government)

More British youngsters will be able to learn about German language and culture after a new agreement was made between the Foreign Secretary and the German Foreign Minister.

Boris Johnson and Sigmar Gabriel have signed off on a doubling of funding for UK-German Connection (UKGC), which means an increase in the number of places available on the scheme.

The funding increase, to around £230,000 and matched by the German government, will expand the scheme’s work in bringing together children and teachers in both countries to learn about each other’s language, history, and culture.

Read more...

Le Petit Prince is printed for first time in Scots

18 July 2017 (The National)

Another classic literary tale has been given the Scots treatment as Le Petit Prince becomes The Wee Prince.

Language specialist Dr Susan Rennie of Glasgow University, author of ABC: a Scots Alphabet, has brought the classic to life in Scots for the first time.

Originally published in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s timeless tale is believed to have sold 150 million copies worldwide, read by around 400 million readers and officially translated more than 320 times.

The book, released last week, reveals the life of the enigmatic Wee Prince, including the secrets of his dowff an dowie life, his fondness for sundouns and his love for a wondrous bonnie. The poignancy of the original remains, with its message that the things that really matter in life – the muckle maitters – are takkin guid tent of your hame planet, and cultivating the deep ties of friendship and love.

Read more...

Scots Emojis

18 July 2017 (Scottish Sun)

A language expert has come up with a Scots meaning for almost every emoji you can think of.

Dr Michael Dempster put together the incredible list spanning around 200 mobile emoticons.

Read more...

Babies can distinguish between familiar and foreign languages while still in the womb

18 July 2017 (Daily Mail)

Fetuses can distinguish between someone speaking to them in English and Japanese one month before they are born, researchers have found.

Fetuses can hear things in the womb, including speech - although it's muffled.

But they can still perceive the rhythm of a language, and the study suggests that fetuses discriminate between different types of language based on rhythmic patterns.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center, has implications for fetal research in other fields, says the lead author.

'Research suggests that human language development may start really early - a few days after birth,' said Dr Utako Minai, associate professor of linguistics and the team leader on the study.

'Babies a few days old have been shown to be sensitive to the rhythmic differences between languages.

'Previous studies have demonstrated this by measuring changes in babies' behavior; for example, by measuring whether babies change the rate of sucking on a pacifier when the speech changes from one language to a different language with different rhythmic properties.

'This early discrimination led us to wonder when children's sensitivity to the rhythmic properties of language emerges, including whether it may in fact emerge before birth.

Read more...

Government to spend £10m recruiting 600 foreign teachers to fill maths, physics and languages roles

15 July 2017 (The Independent)

The government is to spend up to £10m recruiting foreign teachers to fill shortages in maths, physics and languages roles.

The multi-million pound sum, to be funded by the taxpayer, will be spent on finding and training 600 new teachers, potentially equating to a cost of more than £16,000 per teacher.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) have published a tender outlining plans to recruit the teachers over three years, with the first intake beginning in September 2018.

Last week it was revealed that a quarter of teachers who qualified since 2011 have left the job.

Read more...

Ambulance service reveals Gaelic language plan

14 July 2017 (The Oban Times)

The Scottish Ambulance Service has published a Gaelic language plan for the next five years.

The plan, which is a statutory requirement for public bodies in Scotland under the Gaelic Language Scotland Act 2005, sets out how the service will harness and enhance language skills within the organisation.

A key part of the plan is to conduct an audit to establish how many staff members have Gaelic language skills and where the demand for these skills is greatest. This will help to inform training and ensure staff members with language skills are utilised effectively.

Read more...

The Welshest word on the planet – and nine other phrasebook essentials

12 July 2017 (The Guardian)

Hŵre! The Welsh government has said it wants to increase the number of Welsh speakers to a million by 2050. The plans irritated some anti-Welsh detractors, who seem to believe the language is only spoken when English people walk into a Welsh pub. With our help, you, too, can scare monoglots in your area! Here are some Welsh words and phrases (with pronunciation) that you might find useful.

Read more...

Poorer children are being left behind when it comes to learning languages

10 July 2017 (The Conversation)

The British have a reputation (rightly or wrongly) for struggling to learn foreign languages. A recent survey showed, for example, that 62% of the population can’t speak any other language apart from English.

Part of the issue is that language learning in schools faces huge challenges. GCSE uptake remains stuck at around 50% and the number of students taking an A-level in a language has declined by about a third since 1996. And the latest Language Trends Survey, which looks at uptake of language learning in England, makes for worrying reading.

Read more...

Speaking with Smaller Tongues

7 July 2017 (BBC Radio 4)

Penzance-born Rory McGrath writes and performs a Cornish song at the SUNS International Festival - a multilingual alternative to the Eurovision song contest, where English is banned.

Rory talks with fellow performers, and to academics, about how the internet and the spread of English as a lingua franca is threatening to smother small languages. The United Nations predicts that 90% of Europe's 200 minority languages will have ceased to exist by the end of the 21st century.

Read more...

A traffic-light system to drive pupils towards learning Chinese

7 July 2017 (TESS)

Forgive me if I get straight to the point, but I know time is sparse for teachers and this message is important. There are five key reasons that every child should learn Mandarin Chinese. And they are as follows:
  1. China is one of the world’s oldest and richest cultures, with more than 5,000 years of history and the world’s longest continuous writing system. Learning Mandarin Chinese will open the door to a wealth of literature, poetry and art and gives students a unique insight into a fascinating culture.
  2. China is also the most populous nation in the world and Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more than one billion people. In many countries, Mandarin Chinese is becoming the most popular foreign language and it is likely to become Asia’s future lingua franca. Speaking Mandarin will create opportunities for work and travel throughout Asia – and beyond.
  3. Almost a quarter of internet usage is conducted in Chinese, while China’s economy is the second largest in the world. Proficiency in Mandarin Chinese is hugely beneficial for a career in business or the diplomatic service, and it is now one of the priority languages for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  4. Learning Mandarin Chinese is mentally stimulating and challenging; research has shown that while English speakers only use the left temporal lobe, speakers of Mandarin use both left and right. One advantage of this increased brain activity is that Mandarin speakers are more likely to have perfect pitch. In addition, learning to write characters can help with motor skills and visual recognition.
  5. The unique challenges of learning Chinese engage and motivate learners who might not be your “typical linguists”: mathematicians enjoy the logicality of the language; artistic children may enjoy “drawing” characters; musical children can distinguish and recall the tones more easily; children who struggle with dyslexia find relief in not having to learn another set of spelling and phonology rules.
That’s all very well, you might claim, but the school timetable is crowded and integrating a new subject area would take up that time we don’t have.

To counter this line of argument, I offer you a traffic light of options to ensure every child in your school can learn Mandarin.

Read the full article in TESS online, 7 July 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Murray faces his toughest interview yet!

6 July 2017 (BBC Sport)

Andy Murray faces his toughest interview yet as children get the chance to quiz the British number one.

How will Andy respond to the first question: "How many languages do you speak?"

Read more...

An open letter to my student peers: why you need to rethink languages

5 July 2017 (TES)

Language learning in school suffers from negative attitudes, cultural issues and an approach to teaching that is too guarded and not ambitious enough, says this Year 12 student.

Read more...

Why we should learn German - John le Carré

2 July 2017 (Observer)

To help make the European debate decent and civilised, it is now more important than ever to value the skills of the linguist.

Read more...

16 Glaswegian phrases translated into Spanish just in time for your summer holiday

2 July 2017 (Glasgow Live)

Whether it be a quiet family holiday to Santa Ponsa or on the randan with your pals in Magaluf, Spain is the most popular destination for Glaswegians to go to looking to escape the dreich weather and soak up some summer sun.

And to help shave off those extra Euros on the taxi fare, become best pals with the local bar staff or to give you a helping hand if you're looking for a lumber, we've come up with a list of Spanish phrases to do the trick.

Read more...

Teachers in Wales 'worried' about future of foreign languages

2 July 2017 (BBC)

Teachers in Wales are "extremely worried" about the future of foreign languages in the country, according to a British Council survey.

It found more than a third of Welsh schools now have less than 10% of Year 10 pupils studying a modern foreign language.

British Council Wales said prospects remained "extremely challenging".

The Welsh Government said its action plan to improve take-up of languages was already under way.

Other findings of the survey included:
  • 44% of schools have fewer than five pupils studying a foreign language at AS level
  • 61% of schools have fewer than five foreign language pupils at A-level
  • 64% of modern foreign language departments have just one or two full-time teachers, with one third depend on non-British EU nationals for their staff
Between 2002 and 2016, the number of pupils studying a foreign language to GCSE level has fallen by 48% to 6,891 pupils last year.

At A-level, numbers have fallen by 44% since 2001.

The report said the outlook for foreign languages looked "even more fragile in the context of financial pressures on schools and the potential impact of leaving the European Union".

Read more...

Initiative means apprentices to learn Gaelic on job

1 July 2017 (The National)

Apprenticeships are to be delivered in Gaelic as part of measures to support the language.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) plans to deliver existing Foundation and Modern Apprenticeships in Gaelic where there is a recognised need — with Health and Social Care and Childcare as well as the Creative Industries identified as areas of demand.

Other measures that are part of SDS’s new Gaelic Language Plan include: working with partners to develop resources including up-to-date Gaelic labour market information; using Gaelic staff resources to expand services in schools delivered through the medium of Gaelic; developing web resources; and promoting Gaelic careers.

Read more...

Harry Potter to become a Scots speaker in new book

28 June 2017 (The Scotsman)

As the literary world celebrates the 20th anniversay of Harry Potter first hitting the bookstands, a new version of the first book is to be published in Scots language. ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane’ will become the 80th translation of the global phenonenon, telling the introduction to the world of JK Rowling’s wizard hero.

Read more...

Modern languages: four reforms to reclaim the future of our discipline

26 June 2017 (THE)

Recent measures taken at a number of UK universities – including cutbacks on modern languages staffing, redundancies and in some cases the closure of courses – show the unprecedented pressures that UK universities are facing (and the serious implications these pressures have for an already embattled modern languages community).

Modern languages disciplines can exercise some control over their future, if they are prepared to be pro-active, to countenance radical reform of their programmes, to rethink their relationships with other disciplines and to engage in a creative reimagining of the place of languages in a globalised world.

Below we offer some suggestions that, if they do not represent a water-tight, universally applicable solution, may at least initiate the sort of conversation across our community that is urgently required.

Read more...

Glasgow promoted as the 'heart of Gaelic Scotland' as city prepares to host Mod

23 June 2017 (Evening Times)

Glasgow is being promoted as "the heart of Gaelic Scotland" as the city prepares to host the Royal National Mod.

Pupils from the city's schools launched the grand unveiling of a new logo for the event, which will be held in the city in 2019 and is a celebration of the ancient language in music and song.

It is the first time the Mod has been hosted in Glasgow in 29 years.

Read more...

Understanding the amazing complexity of sign language

21 June 2017 (The Conversation)

Most people are familiar with sign language, the system that deaf people use to communicate. What fewer may know is that there are many different sign languages around the world, just as there are many different spoken languages.

So how does the grammar of sign language work?

Unlike in spoken languages, in which grammar is expressed through sound-based signifiers for tense, aspect, mood and syntax (the way we organise individual words), sign languages use hand movements, sign order as well as body and facial cues to create grammar. This is called non-manual activity.

To find out whether these cues are comprehensible to signers and non-signers of a country, my team of deaf and hearing linguists and translators conducted two studies. The results, which will be published in July, demonstrate the incredible complexity of sign language.

Read more...

MFL teacher challenge looms

21 June 2017 (Sec Ed)

The recruitment of more suitably qualified languages teachers is “likely to become more critical” because of the need to increase up-take at GCSE.

The annual Languages Trends report warns that schools are finding it “challenging” to recruit language teachers who are able to offer two languages to GCSE and A level standard.

The report states: “This difficulty most affects lower-attaining schools and those working in more disadvantaged circumstances.” Language GCSEs form part of the EBacc and Progress 8 accountability measures and as such schools are incentivised to increase uptake.

However, recruitment has proved challenging for some schools, including for language positions.

Recent research by the NFER has shown that schools are seeing particularly high leaving rates for teachers of maths, science and languages. The recruitment target for trainee language teachers was also missed this year, according to Department for Education figures published in November.

Meanwhile, figures released by Ofqual this week (see story above) show that entries for GCSE languages this year are down on 2016. This includes:

French (Down from 135,200 to 121,800).
German (Down from 48,000 to 42,050).
Spanish (Down from 88,150 to 85,500).
Other MFL (Down from 33,900 to 33,000).

However, the Languages Trends report, which is published by the British Council, says that 38 per cent of state schools plan to increase language GCSE entries year-on-year.

Read more...

New earpiece translates foreign languages as you have a conversation

20 June 2017 (The Independent)

A new device that delivers foreign language translations directly to your ear almost instantly has just gone on sale.

The Translate One2One has been hailed as a real-world equivalent of the Babel fish, the famous fictional creature from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s powered by IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, and takes between three and five seconds to complete a translation and play it to you.

It currently works across English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese.

However, both people in a conversation need to be wearing one.

Lingmo International, the company behind it, claims the Translate One2One is clever enough to avoid common translation stumbling blocks.

Read more...

New film inspired by soldiers who used Gaelic to escape Nazis

19 June 2017 (BBC)

The true story of a trio of Gaelic-speaking soldiers who used their native tongue to "bamboozle" the Germans has inspired a new feature film.

Pte William Kemp, Cpl Sandy MacDonald, and L/Cpl James Wilson escaped their captors after convincing them they were from the Soviet Union.

Now film producers have used the tale as a premise for new World War Two drama In the Darkest Hour.

Read more...

Related Links

Story of Gaelic speaking soldiers who escaped Nazis will be film (The Scotsman, 18 June 2017)

Why just speaking English isn’t going to cut it anymore

15 June 2017 (The Conversation)

Britain is facing an uncertain future and an uneasy relationship with Europe after Brexit and the latest general election. Among other things, a key determiner of the success of Brexit will be the UK’s ability to conduct negotiations without language barriers. But the country’s woeful inability to learn languages, and the decline in foreign language learning among school and university students across Britain, does not bode well.

Of course, Welsh, Gaelic, Irish and Cornish are already spoken in some parts of the UK. And while it’s great to see many of these minority languages experiencing something of a revival over recent years, when it comes to life after Brexit it’s languages from further afield that will likely be most useful to Brits.

Many people in the UK may well ask “why we need languages” when “everyone in Europe speaks English anyway”. Indeed, all Brexit negotiations will be conducted in English. But given that the UK’s lack of foreign language skill is estimated to cost the nation up to £48 billion a year, this isn’t something that can just be ignored. Especially considering this figure is unlikely to decrease in post-Brexit Britain.

Read more...

More school pupils to benefit from Bangor University language mentors

13 June 2017 (Daily Post)

More school students across North Wales will be able to take part in a successful Modern Languages Mentoring programme thanks to a further Welsh Government investment of £140,000 for the third year of the project.

Launched in 2015, the Modern Foreign Languages Student Mentoring project places undergraduates from Bangor, Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea universities into local schools to mentor pupils and encourage them to consider modern foreign languages when choosing their GCSE options.

The mentoring project is part of the Welsh Government’s Global Futures plan, which aims to improve and promote the take-up of modern foreign languages in schools in Wales.

Over the last two years the mentoring scheme has had a significant impact on partner schools, who have reported an increase in pupils choosing languages at GCSE as well as improved motivation to continue learning languages and to consider university.

The Welsh Government is now extending the project to include a new digital platform to increase its reach to schools and pupils who have not been able to engage with the project due to geographical location.

Read more...

Language alters our experience of time

13 June 2017 (The Conversation)

It turns out, Hollywood got it half right. In the film Arrival, Amy Adams plays linguist Louise Banks who is trying to decipher an alien language. She discovers the way the aliens talk about time gives them the power to see into the future – so as Banks learns their language, she also begins to see through time. As one character in the movie says: “Learning a foreign language rewires your brain.”

My new study – which I worked on with linguist Emanuel Bylund – shows that bilinguals do indeed think about time differently, depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events. But unlike Hollywood, bilinguals sadly can’t see into the future. However, this study does show that learning a new way to talk about time really does rewire the brain. Our findings are the first psycho-physical evidence of cognitive flexibility in bilinguals.

Read more...

Top tips for kids learning a foreign language in Glasgow

13 June 2017 (Glasgow Live)

It's no secret that Glaswegians, and Brits, are guilty of being reluctant to speak foreign languages.

However Glasgow City Council, along with many other local authorities, are under increasing pressure to make foreign language learning one of their top priorities in education - particularly at primary level.

And it appears they have good reason to do so.

Studies show that children who study a language from as young as three years old possess better critical thinking skills and score higher in maths and problem solving.

It can also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers in later years.

Of course, leaning a language takes time and dedication.

But according to Rose McGinty, principal teacher at Glasgow's first Spanish immersion camp for children, Oso Spanish, there are plenty of ways to make language learning effective and great fun.

Why Learning A New Language Is Always A Good Career Move

8 June 2017 (Huffington Post)

In a global economy, simply telling your potential employer that you have what it takes to get the job done doesn’t cut it anymore. Hiring managers at top firms weigh in many factors – some of which might be out of your control. In trying to land that dream job, you may find yourself outmaneuvered by a well-connected candidate or, in many cases, simply pitted against more accomplished peers.

In spite of tough competition, there’s a way for you to stand out: master a foreign language.

In a recent report by the New American Economy, the number of U.S. companies looking for bilingual workers has more than doubled in the last five years. The demand for foreign language proficiency is now at 630,000, a huge jump from 240,000 open positions for candidates with bilingual abilities in 2010. This trend will only continue despite the recent misguided shifts towards nationalism in the US and abroad.

In the past, the majority of listings involved hospitality and customer-service industries. Much has changed over time. Today, the fastest growing categories for bilingual positions now includes financial managers, industrial engineers and editors. We currently have presidents of investment firms, tech giants, and manufacturing companies taking our language courses. They see the value in gaining at least a basic level of understanding in a foreign language. The benefits of language training however are not only for high level executives. Over the years, it has become more evident that bilingual employees have an edge, no matter where they are in the skills-spectrum.

Read more...

Are Chinese-English bilingual schools the future of primary education?

7 June 2017 (The Telegraph)

There are just two classrooms at Kensington Wade, a shiny new independent prep school opening in west London in September, and at a glance, they look the same. Colourful charts cover the walls, storybooks line the shelves, the odd toy lies around. Peer a little closer, however, and a certain difference becomes clear.

“There isn’t a word of English in here,” the headmistress, Jo Wallace, says as we pause in one of them. It’s true – the charts contain only Chinese symbols, the books are in Mandarin, and laid out are traditional oriental fans, scrolls and artwork. Even the school’s world map, which might normally have Europe at the centre of the picture, instead shows gives Asia and the Pacific the limelight.

“That’s what we mean by this being totally immersive learning,” Wallace says, “the children will switch as soon as they’re in here, and that’s how they’ll begin to think in two ways.”

Read more...

Super-Brainy Translation Tools Mean Language Barriers Are Falling Fast

6 June 2017 (NBC)

Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, the dream of speaking to anyone regardless of language is closer to reality than ever.

Scientists say there are more than 6,900 languages in the world, and anyone who’s traveled abroad knows how hard it can be to get even simple points across in a foreign tongue.

Breaking down language barriers has long been a dream of science fiction — “Star Trek” had its Universal Translator to help the Enterprise crew understand exotic alien speech, and C3PO from “Star Wars” knew more than 6 million forms of communication from across the galaxy.

Now, thanks to advances in real-time translation software, the dream of speaking to anyone regardless of language is closer to reality than ever. Experts say human translators won’t be out of work anytime soon — they’re vital for legal proceedings, diplomatic discussions, and scenarios when exact word choice and tone are necessary — but new inexpensive digital tools allow people to speak easily in situations where communication once seemed impossible.

With software from the Austrian-based tech company iTranslate and a compatible set of wireless earphones, you can now have nearly 40 languages translated directly into your ear. But the tool doesn’t help users understand everything they’d hear on a crowded street yet. Currently, it’s focused on letting people speak with someone else using connected smartphones tethered to iTranslate-enabled earphones. It can facilitate basic transactions and everyday small talk between people who until recently couldn’t exchange a word.

Read more...

Mandarin success in Scottish schools

6 June 2017 (Spectrum Sino)

Recently-launched efforts to teach Mandarin in Scottish schools have been hailed for the interest they have created amongst children to learn more about Chinese culture, history and language.

Schools across the country have celebrated the opening of their Confucius classroom hubs.

Read more...

Related Links

Mother Language Dictates Reading Strategy

4 June 2017 (Language Magazine)

The way bilingual people read is conditioned by the languages they speak, according to researchers at Spain’s Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL), who found that the languages spoken by bilingual people (when they learned to read in two languages at the same time) affect their reading strategies and even the cognitive foundations that form the basis for the capacity to read.

“Monolingual speakers of transparent [phonetic] languages—where letters are pronounced the same independently of the word they are included in, such as Basque or Spanish—have a greater tendency to use analytical reading strategies, where they read words in parts,” according to Marie Lallier, one of the authors of the article, “Cross-Linguistic Transfer in Bilinguals Reading in Two Alphabetic Orthographies: The grain size accommodation hypothesis,” published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

On the other hand, speakers of opaque languages, where the sounds of letters differ depending on the word (for example English or French) are more likely to use a global reading strategy. In other words, they tend to read whole words to understand their meaning.

Researchers also observed that bilingual people who learned to read two languages at the same time do not read the same way as monolingual speakers; rather, they follow a different pattern which had not previously been described—a contamination effect takes place between the two reading strategies in speakers of two languages. Therefore, a person learning to read in Spanish and in English will have a greater tendency toward a global strategy, even when reading in Spanish, than a monolingual Spanish speaker.

Read more...

Not speaking another language stops almost five MILLION adults from going abroad

2 June 2017 (Daily Express)

Almost two thirds of Britons admit that they wish they were better at languages as it would allow them to become more deeply immersed in other cultures.

An international study from booking site Hostelworld, questioned more than 8,000 people in six countries about how their language skills impact on travel plans.

The research reveals that one in 10 UK adults (10 per cent) - the equivalent of 4.7 million adults - are put-off traveling because of language barriers, which particularly affects the younger generation (18-24s) where it rises to 15 per cent.

Read more...

Israeli woman invents new typeface combining Arabic and Hebrew to promote co-existence

2 June 2017 (The Independent)

Typography designer Liron Lavi Turkenich creates 638 character alphabet which can be read by speakers of both languages.

Read more...

In an age of Brexit and closing borders we need to embrace multilingualism

2 June 2017 (The Independent)

Being able to speak to people in their own tongue instantly breaks down hostility and broadens the mind. But in the age of Brexit, the acquisition of other languages has become a political act. Andy Martin wonders was there ever a Big Bang moment when we all understood each other?

Read more...

Robot priest unveiled in Germany to mark 500 years since Reformation

30 May 2017 (The Guardian)

Five hundred years after revolutionary printing presses spread news of Martin Luther’s radical call for church reform across Europe, technology is again challenging religious tradition in the small German town of Wittenberg.

A robot priest that delivers blessings in five languages and beams light from its hands has been unveiled as part of an exhibition to mark the anniversary of the start of the Reformation, a Europe-wide religious, political and cultural upheaval sparked when Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door in the town.

Half a millennium later, the robot, called BlessU-2, is intended to trigger debate about the future of the church and the potential of artificial intelligence.

The item includes a short video demonstration in German.

Read more...

Which languages Americans learn and why

26 May 2017 (BBC News)

John Kerry joked about Americans learning Russian, but global politics do influence languages studied.

Read more...

Which language would ease our way in the post-Brexit world?

24 May 2017 (The Guardian)

We Brits are pretty settled in our role as monoglots. Our default tactic of “speak English slowly and loudly so others can understand you” served us well enough – and then Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, put the boot in by claiming recently that “English is losing importance.”

Is this really the case? Experts are divided.

Read more...

Belfast council unveils policy to promote Irish and Ulster-Scots

23 May 2017 (Belfast Telegraph)

Belfast City Council is to transform how it treats minority languages, with a major promotion of both Irish and Ulster-Scots.
 
In a new policy, which was revealed on Tuesday, May 22 as a public consultation was launched into the proposals, the council will create micro-sites on its website in the languages, as well as responding to correspondence in both.

Read more...

Meet the linguists: the new French government is packing some pretty intimidating skills

22 May 2017 (The Conversation)

One of the most striking features of the recent French presidential elections and the subsequent nomination of a new prime minister and his cabinet has been the attention paid by the French media to the linguistic competences of the nation’s politicians.

Read more...

Alarm raised over modern language cuts at Manchester University

20 May 2017 (Guardian)

Planned staffing cuts that will hit modern languages teaching and research at Britain’s largest university should be scrapped, a group of senior academics have warned in a letter to the Guardian. The plan to shed as many as 35 jobs from the University of Manchester’s school of arts – a third of its strength – would do harm to the UK in the long run, they said.

Read more...

The first map of Gaelic speakers in Scotland

18 May 2017 (The Scotsman)

Produced by Edinburgh map company Bartholomew’s, the map contains information distilled from the first census, in 1881, that counted Gaelic speakers in Scotland.

The article follows the trend of Gaelic speakers in Scotland thereafter and includes links to Gaelic phrases for beginners.

Read more...

Vast majority of young people think there should be a GCSE in sign language

15 May 2017 (TES)

Deaf charity finds that 97 per cent of 8-25 year-olds think sign language should be taught in schools. Almost all deaf young people think British Sign Language (BSL) should be taught in schools, according to a new survey. The National Deaf Children’s Society surveyed more than 2,000 deaf and hearing people, aged between eight and 25 and living across the UK, for its Right to Sign report. The charity found 97 per cent of young people thought that the language should be taught and 92 per cent thought it should be offered as a GCSE.

Read more...

Want a job in tech? Learn another language

15 May 2017 (Tech World)

When I ask the question ‘what’s the golden ticket to getting a job here’ to any of the major tech giants – the answer is universal. Being multilingual is the key. Partly for obvious reasons – but also because multilingual candidates bring a lot more to the table than fluency in languages.

Let’s dissect the obvious reason first. Currently two thirds of the world’s population speak two or more languages; this represents over 3.5 billion people.

Tech companies are fundamentally global, spanning every country, culture and race. Their customer base is worldwide and therefore they need to recruit people that can communicate with more than one target audience. In an increasingly competitive and international jobs market, European languages such as Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian and German are increasingly valuable to employers, while fluency in languages relating to emerging markets such as Mandarin and Russian are like pure gold.

Read more...

Brits are terrible tourists who don’t learn languages, don’t talk to strangers, and don’t respect other cultures

13 May 2017 (Metro)

Brits haven’t got the best reputation as tourists. We’re loud, we drink, we’re awful at languages, and we have a history of starting fights at football matches. But now we have some proof, as a recent survey found that almost half of British tourists choose not to respect a country’s culture when they visit.

Read more...

Graduate jobs: top 12 degree subjects for getting a job

12 May 2017 (The Telegraph)

Competition for graduate jobs has never been more fierce. With tuition fees and living costs representing financial sacrifices for many, students reasonably demand degree courses that offer them the best value for money in today's tough jobs market.

Languages feature in the list of the top 12 degree subjects.

Read more...

Leaving Certificate language students ‘learning off’ exam answers

11 May 2017 (Irish Examiner)

(Relates to Ireland) In a series of reports on student performance in language exams last June, chief examiners say students must learn how to adapt, instead of using learned-off answers.

The issues were most acute in the 2016 Leaving Certificate exams in Spanish, French, and Italian.

There are many positive aspects, particularly about the competencies of more able students of the six languages, which also included German, Japanese, and Russian.

But in oral exams, which are worth between 20% and 25% of marks in language subjects, a common concern is that students have prepared answers.

The Spanish Leaving Certificate examiner reported, for example, that a number of students had been taught in a “rote-learning” manner that prevented the natural flow of conversation.

“Many candidates had prepared a range of topics in the general conversation, but, when gently disengaged from rote-learned topics, found it difficult to communicate effectively in the target language,” the reports said.

The reports are published today by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), whose chief examiner in Leaving Certificate French said most students were well-prepared for the orals and had a high degree of proficiency and fluency.

However, at the other end of the scale, some of the 25,758 students examined in the subject had difficulty answering even simple questions.

Read more...

Consul General Pan Xinchun Visits Fettes College

9 May 2017 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China)

On 4 May, Consul General Pan Xinchun paid a visit to Fettes College where he delivered a speech to the students and had a cordial meeting with the headmaster Michael Spens.

In his speech, Mr. Pan spoke highly of the Fettes College for its outstanding achievements in education. He indicated that well-educated students with global vision need knowledge about China. As the second largest economy, China has made huge contributions to the global development. He introduced the close links between China and Scotland by giving examples of people's daily life. Mr. Pan said, the demand in other countries for Mandarin speakers is increasing as China's cooperation with the rest of the world is deepening with a growing number of people learning Chinese language and culture. In Scotland alone, nearly 30,000 students from primary and secondary schools are learning. He encouraged the students to work hard and gain more understanding about China so as to build a bridge of friendship and cooperation between China and Scotland.

Read more...

Pupil's sign language address to Scottish Parliament

9 May 2017 (BBC)

A profoundly deaf Falkirk High School pupil has delivered the Scottish Parliament's Time for Reflection in sign language.

Jemma Skelding, 12, is the youngest person to deliver the address, which is the parliament's first item of business of the week in the chamber.

Miss Skelding said she was pleased be at Holyrood ahead of next week's Deaf Awareness Week.

She told MSPs her parents and an older sister were also deaf.

Miss Skelding shared her experiences of using sign language in the address, which was translated by Mary McDevitt.

She said she grew up using sign language at home and thought everyone could use it, until she attended her first nursery.

Miss Skelding said that her next nursery taught everyone sign language half a day a week.

She said: "This was a really happy time for me.

"I was with my friends and I just felt like everyone else, we played together and we laughed a lot, we even had special sign names for each other."

Miss Skelding said things changed in P3, and by the following year she was "unhappy and felt very lonely."

Read more...

Brexit leads to surge in Brits wanting to learn new language, data finds

8 May 2017 (The Independent)

The British public’s appetite for learning foreign languages has increased significantly after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, according to newly released data.

Languages app Lingvist says it has seen a 91 per cent increase in UK users since the EU referendum last June, having compared its user base during the nine months before the vote to its user base in the nine months after the vote.

The popularity of English-Spanish courses has grown by 427 per cent, according to the data, with English-French courses experiencing a 342 per cent increase in popularity amongst British users.

“With Brexit around the corner, the growing concerns around how the UK will be able to bridge the language skills gap have been brought to the fore,” said Lingvist co-founder and COO Ott Jalakas.

“Government statistics show that the UK is already losing £50bn a year due to poor language skills with an over-reliance on one language affecting business turnover, profitability and expansion to new markets.

“Our data shows that the UK is on the right path to bridge the language learning gap.”

Read more...

Brexit: English language 'losing importance' - EU's Juncker

5 May 2017 (BBC)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told a conference in Italy on the EU that "English is losing importance in Europe".

Amid tensions with the UK over looming Brexit negotiations, he said he was delivering his speech in French.

"Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election," he said, explaining his choice of language.

[..] Before the UK joined in 1973, French was the main language of EU business.

Read more...

More sign language classes are to be held in Moffat due to demand

4 May 2017 (DNG24)

Resident Fiona Stewart, who is herself deaf, will lead the four sessions, starting on the evening of Wednesday May 17 and also running the 24 and 31 and June 7.

It comes after she hosted a successful initial introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) course earlier this year, attended by 50 people.

It was initiated by Catherine Jackson, whose children wanted to learn BSL.

She said: “The class was so popular that we ended up running two groups, both over four sessions. And there’s still a waiting list and requests for us to run more.”

Read more...

Prince George has learnt to count in Spanish

3 May 2017 (The Telegraph)

Prince George can already count to ten in Spanish, the Duchess of Cambridge has disclosed, as she lifts the lid on their idyllic rural Good Life in Norfolk.

The Duchess said Prince George, who is not yet four, and Princess Charlotte, two, are both learning a second language, with the future king already cleverly picking it up.

Read more...

Bilingual speakers experience time differently to people who only speak one language, study finds

3 May 2017 (The Independent)

For those who can only speak one language, people who have the ability to speak multiple are often a source of fascination. What language do they think in? Can they switch mid-way through? Do they only dream in one language or both?

It turns out, these questions are not without merit as people who can speak two languages actually experience time in a different way.

A study from Lancaster University and Stockholm University, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that people who are bilingual think about time differently depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events.

Linguists Professor Panos Athanasopoulos and Professor Emanuel Bylund explained that bilinguals often go back and forth being their languages both consciously and unconsciously.

Additionally, different languages often refer to time differently. For example, Swedish and English speakers refer to physical distances: ‘Taking a short break’ while Spanish speakers refer to physical quantities and volume: ‘Taking a small break’.

Read more...

Pupils with poor English get lost in translation

28 April 2017 (TES)

Thousands of children in Scotland who have English as an additional language are missing out on the funding and support they need, warns one charity chief.

Recent figures speak of more than 1 million English as an additional language (EAL) pupils in mainstream UK education today. For Scotland alone, the 2016 Census mentions 39,000. These figures are so considerable that it’s hard to understand why education authorities in Scotland, England and Wales do not acknowledge the presence of children and young people who require English language support.

There is no government ring-fenced budget for EAL; neither are there clear recommendations for using available funds. In fact, there is much confusion surrounding EAL. This has to be addressed before more pupils leave school feeling that they have underachieved due to language issues.

Problems start the moment schools have to identify who is and isn’t EAL. Since September 2016, the Department for Education has expected all schools in England and Wales to assess the language development of all children identified as EAL. This was a great step forward – only the DfE has not yet provided a clear, uniform EAL assessment framework that schools can use.

An experienced language teacher can assess a child’s level of English after conducting an oral interview and doing some writing exercises, but not every school has such a teacher. A positive development is that the Cambridge-based Bell Foundation has commissioned a research and development team at King’s College, London to prepare an EAL assessment toolkit, which recently became available on its website. It will take some time and effort to learn how to use the kit, but it’s a very comprehensive assessment.

For Scotland, the situation is quite different. The government does not ask for a level assessment for EAL; in fact, EAL departments confirm that schools do not have to identify EAL pupils. Instead, it is left to the parents to say if their child speaks English as an additional language.

Each parent of a schoolchild in Scotland is given a form to complete, which asks the ethnic group of the child and which language is his or her mother tongue.

This can lead to confusion, as parents will state that the child’s first language is, for example, Polish if the child uses this language at home and spoke it first as a baby; however, this child may also be fully proficient in English and not require any support at all.

On the other hand, a parent may state that their child’s first language is English, implying that the child is fluent – but that parent may be misjudging the child’s competency.

Read more...

Campaign seeks to double share of UK students studying abroad

25 April 2017 (THE)

A campaign aimed at doubling the proportion of UK students who spend time abroad during their degree has been launched by Universities UK International.

The new target forms the second phase of the organisation’s UK Strategy for Outward Mobility, which since 2013 has aimed to increase the share of students who have an international experience. However, the strategy has not previously set a figure.

Just 6.6 per cent of full-time undergraduates in the UK undertook international placements during their degree in 2014. The campaign seeks to increase this figure to 13.2 per cent by 2020 in order to “create a new generation of global graduates and a higher education culture in which international opportunities are an aspiration for all students”.

Read more...

Launch of British Sign Language (BSL) Bookbug session in Fife

25 April 2017 (Fife Today)

Bookbug – a free story, song and rhyme session for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their families is set to launch Fife’s debut British Sign Language friendly group at Kirkcaldy Libraries next month.

All deaf parents with hearing children, hearing parents with deaf children and deaf parents with deaf children are invited to book a place.

Depending on uptake, the hope is to continue these specialised sessions on a monthly basis.

The event, on May 15 at 10.30am, is part of Bookbug Week 2017, which takes place between May 15-21 in celebration of ‘Bookbug’s Big Giggle’. This fun and playful theme will inspire children and adults alike to feel good by sharing songs and rhymes.

Read more...

Learn a language to delay dementia

23 April 2017 (The Sunday Times)

Learning a second language can delay the onset of some kinds of dementia by six years, according to new research.

Even five hours a week of learning can build up a “cognitive reserve” counteracting the effects of brain disease and boosting function in all age groups.

Thomas Bak, a neuroscientist at Edinburgh University, found that people benefited by attempting a second language even if they were far from fluent.

Read more...

Setting grade standards in A level modern foreign languages

21 April 2017 (UK Government)

Ofqual has today (21 April 2017) announced that it will take action this summer to ensure standards are set appropriately in A level French, German and Spanish.

The decision stems from new research, published by the regulator today, which suggests that awarding should take into account the fact that native language speakers take these subjects. The adjustment to grade standards will be decided in early summer. If the ability of the cohorts is similar to previous years we would anticipate small increases in the proportion of students getting top grades in each subject this August.

Read more...

Related Links

A-level language grades skewed by results of native speakers - study (The Guardian, 21 April 2017)

A-level language grades skewed by results of native speakers – study

21 April 2017 (The Guardian)

For years the British stereotype of Germans has been that they get the best of everything, from sun-loungers to football trophies – and now it seems they have been achieving the best A-level grades.

Research published by the exam regulator Ofqual has found that German-speaking children in the UK have been sitting A-level exams in their native language – and winning a disproportionate amount of A and A* grades on offer.

The Ofqual research estimated that about 17% of the students taking German A-levels in Britain may be native speakers, and gained about half of the top A* grades on offer – making it harder for non-native speakers sitting the exam.

The new research is good news for pupils taking this summer’s A-levels, with Ofqual suggesting it could increase the number of top grades it hands out, to ensure a level playing field between grades awarded in modern foreign languages and other subjects.

“If the ability of the cohorts is similar to previous years we would anticipate small increases in the proportion of students getting top grades in each subject this August,” Ofqual said in a statement.

The researchers found similar results in French and Spanish, with native speakers gaining higher than average GCSE scores. In Spanish, native speakers are almost 10 times more likely to achieve a grade A or A* than non-native speakers. Native-speaking Germans are 28 times more likely to achieve a grade A, and 11 times more likely to get an A*.

The research comes after complaints from leading schools that modern foreign languages are graded less generously than other subjects. But until now there has been no effort to account for native speakers as exam candidates.

Read more...

All Junior Cert pupils to study a foreign language under new plan

19 April 2017 (News Talk)

(Applies to Ireland) All pupils will study a foreign language for their Junior Cert by 2021 under ambitious new plans being announced by the Education Minister.

The strategy also aims to increase the number of Leaving Cert students studying a foreign language by 10%.

Chinese will be introduced as a Leaving Cert subject for the first time, while so-called 'heritage languages' such as Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese will get a proper curriculum.

Speaking to Pat Kenny, Minister Richard Bruton explained: "We are going to have to, post-Brexit, realise that one of the common weaknesses of English speaking countries - that we disregard foreign languages - has to be addressed in Ireland.

"We need now to trade in the growth areas - and many of those speak Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. Those are the languages that we need to learn to continue to trade successfully."

On the subject of Eastern European languages, he observed: "We now have many Lithuanians and Polish here, and we can develop those languages.

"We also need to use programmes like Erasmus - we want to increase our participation there by 50%. Clearly it has to become more immersed in the language.

"At the moment if you look at Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, French dominates. French is a lovely language, but we need to recognise that we need to diversify into other languages."

Read more...

China visit a Scottish first for brass band

14 April 2017 (Guide and Gazette)

Carnoustie High School Brass Band will play in the People’s Republic of China following a concert they performed earlier this year in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow.

The concert was for the Confucius Institute for Scotland who were so impressed by their standard of playing that they set in motion a plan to have the youngsters visit China in a cultural exchange.

The institute contacted Donald Currie, headteacher at Carnoustie High School, and requested the band make the trip next year.

Carnoustie High is the Confucius Hub for Angus and the Confucius classrooms are hubs based in schools and serving the local community.

The hub concept promotes joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture.

Read more...

If Theresa May really wants to make Brexit a success, why is her Government making it so hard to learn a language?

13 April 2017 (The Independent)

I can still remember a conversation I had as a teenager about GCSE subject. I had the choice between doing Spanish or Geography. My late father was unequivocal: do Spanish because you have no idea how many doors another language will open for you. Three decades later I am still thankful for heeding his advice, given just how much of an influence it has had on my career and my personal life.

The Conservative Party political broadcast this week, and its 2017 local election campaign, talk about us becoming a new "Global Britain". But this Government is simultaneously failing to address the problem to achieving that ambition – that so many British people cannot speak a second language.

Boris Johnson enjoyed travelling the world to promote London at any opportunity when he was Mayor. But while Boris speaks very good French, as did Tony Blair, these politicians are hardly representative of the rest of the country. Our inability to speak other languages is an international joke which ranks as embarrassing as our perpetual failure to progress in international football tournaments. Three quarters of adults surveyed by YouGov back in 2013 admitted they were unable to hold a conversation in another major foreign language.

Read more...

Related Links

This is the best way to prepare kids for Brexit (The Independent, 15 April 2017)

Learning a second language isn’t just good for your brain—it’s good for democracy, too

13 April 2017 (Quartz Media)

We live in narrow-minded times, wherein insularity and nationalism are pervasive in public discourse. If you’re among the many people looking for ways to take political action, one of the most effective things you can do is devote yourself to learning a new foreign language.

Learning a new language is a way to foster community and understanding between people of all political persuasions and nationalities. This can act both as a potent corrective force to any tendencies of narrow-mindedness we may be harboring, and as a form of political resistance. It’s a concrete action that all of us can take to move the needle toward a more just and open-minded mentality.

To understand why this is the case, it’s useful to consider all the ways in which learning a language helps steel us against the prevailing small-mindedness of our times.

Learning a language helps you understand your own culture better.

Though we speak our own language all the time, we don’t tend to notice how it works until we learn another one. Until then, we lack the necessary perspective: As the German poet Goethe said, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

Read more...

Polish ambassador calls for Polish to be taught in Scottish schools

12 April 2017 (Press and Journal)

The Polish ambassador has called for his country’s language to be taught in Scottish schools.

Arkady Rzegocki said he had raised the issue with ministers since taking up his post last year.

He also told the Press and Journal that schools in Poland have “much more knowledge” about Britain and Scotland than their counterparts here.

Mr Rzegocki, who visited Scotland two weeks ago, said: “From my perspective it’s a really great opportunity and great chance because we need more information about Poland and about central Europe generally in British schools, in Scottish schools.

“And also the Polish language should be learned as a foreign language.”

He added: “This lack of knowledge is a real barrier from my perspective, a real barrier to better economical cooperation.

“It’s fair to say we have much, much more knowledge about Britain, about Scotland in Polish schools, in Poland, so we have to make it more equal.”

He also said he is trying to encourage more Polish people to visit Scotland and vice versa.

And he highlighted Polish Heritage Day next month, which he described as an opportunity for British and Polish people to learn more about each other’s history and customs.

Read more...

Related Links

Polish language advocates lament lack of classes (The Times, 14 April 2017)

Blantyre primary school children celebrate the language and culture of Spain

12 April 2017 (Daily Record)

St Joseph’s Primary School in Blantyre embraced the Scottish Government’s approach to modern languages learning by celebrating the language and culture of Spain last week.

During a dedicated Spanish week of events aimed at developing learners’ use of the Spanish language pupils learned about the Spanish culture and Spanish-speaking countries worldwide.

Learners participated in a range of stimulating experiences and opportunities which supported them in their journey towards Global Citizenship by enabling them to deepen and extend their knowledge and understanding of Spanish cities, food, music, dance, architecture, sport, famous people, festivals, film and media.

Read more...

Half of young adults in the UK do not feel European, poll reveals

11 April 2017 (The Guardian)

Only half of the UK’s young adults see themselves as having a European identity and one in five do not identify as being British, a survey has found.

The poll also found that exposure to different nationalities among 18- to 30-year-olds in the UK was low, with just 13% ever having worked abroad and just one in three proficient enough to speak Spanish, French or any other foreign language at a “simple” level.

According to the study, commissioned by thinktank Demos and supported by the British Council as part of the Next Generation research series, young people were also less well travelled than reports on student gap years would imply.

Read more...

Prepare British children for life after Brexit – teach them another language

10 April 2017 (The Conversation)

The formal negotiations to untangle the UK from the intricacies of the European Union are now well underway. And it is clear that looking forward, Britain’s new relationship with the EU will necessitate conducting trade and political communications in a new dynamic – one which is unlikely to be done in the medium of English.

When the UK leaves the EU there will be no member state remaining where English is the lead official language. “Ah”, you say, “what about Ireland, they speak English there”. Yes they do, but in Ireland, Irish Gaelic is considered the first official language.

So to trade with the EU, the UK will need high-level negotiators fluent in German, French and Spanish, which it currently does not have.

Additionally, leaving the EU will result in a restriction of immigrants from across EU member states. The need for visas will drastically reduce the number of workers who can come to the UK to fill jobs British people are either unwilling or unable to do.

And recognising this gap, the Foreign and Common Wealth office and the Ministry of Defence have opened in-house training centres to provide lessons in up to 80 different languages for their staff.

Read more...

Gaelic Enrichment Course for GLE & GME Teachers

7 April 2017 (Ceòlas)

Ceòlas will be running teacher training courses again this year, in July during the Summer School (2--7/7; Dalabrog) and the symposium (23-27/7; Ìochdar).

Six different levels will run, making this course suitable for teachers who are beginners up to fluent who wish to learn Gaelic as it is used within the community. Teachers really enjoy this course, many of whom have not 'experienced' a Gaelic community before.

See the attached flyer or visit the website for more information.

Read more...

Why Britain's monolingualism could be costly for the nation

5 April 2017 (World Economic Forum)

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it has a huge number of considerations to ensure its economy prospers. One, which is perhaps overlooked, is Britain’s language policy and how important this is as an economic resource. A strategic language policy and the cultivation of language experts in post-Brexit Britain are essential if it wants to connect with fresh markets overseas.

This has long been a feature of international diplomacy – stretching back long before globalisation as we know it. All the big powers of the Old World depended on understanding other people’s languages to trade across cultures. A “modern” solution was found in Babylonia, an ancient commercial metropolitan hub in the Near East, where a polyglot community of traders came together from the Mediterranean, Persia and Turkey, and beyond.

There are accounts of King Hammurabi deftly exploiting his city’s growing cultural mix as a resource in the 1790s BC. He used bilingual foreign traders as cross-cultural brokers. With their language skills, they played a key role in facilitating long-range trade with distant markets.

One of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy now is a skills shortage. Although funding is promised to support technical skills training, UK business also requires professionals with language skills to achieve sales in fresh markets. These experts will need to speak the languages of trading partners and understand the cultures of new overseas contacts to negotiate and seal deals. Investment in this crucial soft skill is needed.

Read more...

Dingwall Academy's pioneering sign language work hailed at Holyrood

2 April 2017 (Ross-shire Journal)

Dingwall Academy’s leadership in promoting British Sign Language (BSL) has been applauded by the Scottish Parliament – after the school was highly praised by Strathpeffer-based MSP, Maree Todd.

She used the recent debate on the consultation on the Draft BSL National Plan to highlight the initiative of Dingwall Academy’s unit. During her speech, she used BSL to welcome former Dingwall Academy pupil, Caitlin Bogan, who was watching the debate from the viewing gallery.

The MSP later said: “We should all be proud of what is being done in the Highlands. Dingwall Academy is one of the few schools to deliver a BSL unit – all students in first year, including my son Gregor this year, take BSL classes as a taster along with other languages, including French, Gaelic and German.

Read more...

How London's Goethe-Institut is fighting for foreign languages amidst Brexit

29 March 2017 (Deutsche Welle)

What does Brexit mean for language-learning and cultural exchange in the UK? The head of London's Goethe-Institut told DW that the impact is already being felt - but she remains optimistic for the future.

Read more...

Bad language: why being bilingual makes swearing easier

27 March 2017 (The Guardian)

Many bilinguals report “feeling less” in their second language; it does not bear the same emotional weight as your native language. Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary, which is precisely what I was experiencing with my ease of swearing and talking about sensitive topics in English. The scientific term for this is reduced emotional resonance of language. It is a fairly well-established phenomenon, but many specific questions still remain unanswered. For example, what exactly makes one’s second language less emotional? How does this affect different immigrant communities? My research project aims to address these questions by looking into the reasons and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language.

Read more...

Edinburgh primary leads way with Japanese lessons pilot

27 March 2017 (Edinburgh Evening News)

They already love manga, Pokemon and Nintendo and now schoolchildren in the Capital have been given the chance to learn about the language behind some of their favourite pastimes.

Liberton Primary School has become a language trailblazer thanks to a new scheme designed to introduce youngsters to Japanese from an early age.

The Japanese for Young Learners project has seen two P5 classes give the language a go, as well as learning about the history and culture of the far eastern country.

While Liberton already teaches a number of other languages – such as French, German, Spanish and Mandarin – it is the first Edinburgh primary school in many years to add Japanese to its offering.

Read more...

Tongue twisting: What Brexit means for minority languages

24 March 2017 (The New European)

In what could be a perfect metaphor for the chaos unleashed by Brexit, the future of the British Isles’ minority languages has been thrown into doubt by the decision to leave the EU. And, says Maurice Smith, that uncertainty could have profound cultural and economic implications

From street signs, to television stations, schools, music and literature, the British Isles is a linguistically diverse archipelago, home to various native languages, whose fortunes have always fluctuated through the centuries.

But with Brexit has come a new threat, to menace them all. The situation is politically acute in Ireland, where promotion of Irish Gaelic education is a key element of the peace agreement in the North, and has particularly strong overtones as a result. At Stormont, in recent months, the two main parties – Democratic Unionists (DUP) and Sinn Fein – have been at loggerheads over the latter’s demand that Irish becomes the devolved government’s second official language.

There may be a less abrasive political dimension in Scotland and Wales, but Scots Gaelic and Welsh have nevertheless become increasingly important in terms of preservation, education and broadcasting investment. But as Scotland moves towards another referendum on independence, we can expect more abrasion on this issue.

The politics of language funding is the politics of national diversity, and Brexit, and agitation for a vote on Scottish independence, are bringing such differences into sharp relief.

These minority languages, and others such as Cornish, have all benefited from UK and devolved government support. But that has been underpinned by their status as recognised minority languages within the EU. The fear is that Brexit will lead to less support, and especially less money, for education, promotion and cultural support.

Read more...

British business will need its foreign language speakers

22 March 2017 (FT)

Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29, but much of UK business has no idea what Brexit will mean for them. During discussions in the past few weeks, I have heard of financial services companies applying for licences in EU countries in case they need to move some of their operations there. But most businesses are watching and waiting to assess what comes out of the negotiations.

There is one thing many companies are sure of: they cannot manage without their EU staff. It is not just the numbers of EU nationals working in many industries. Some companies are also desperate to hold on to the languages those citizens speak.

Read more...

Learn another language and keep your brain fit

20 March 2017 (Irish Times)

Most people in this part of the world have a smattering of French or Spanish which comes in useful when ordering dinner on holiday, but because much of the developed world speaks English there is less incentive for us to really try to become fluent, as it is generally accepted that wherever we may find ourselves someone will understand what we are trying to say.

However, if research is to be believed, learning a new language has huge benefits and not just for social reasons either. A new study from Scotland involving elderly participants revealed that those who began learning a completely new language had far better mental responses than those who were engaging in other learning activities.

Read more...

Young Scots whae hae

20 March 2017 (The Southern Reporter)

Galashiels Academy played host to the annual Eildon West Primary Schools Celebration of Scots Language and Culture, held on Friday, March 3.

All primary schools, from Tweedbank to Heriot, were represented. Medals, presented by Alistair Christie, vice-president of the Galashiels Burns Club, were awarded for Scots writing and recitation of Scots poetry.

Read more...

How to revive a 500-year-old dying language

19 March 2017 (BBC)

Until two years ago, university student Kevin Martens Wong had never even heard of his ancestral tongue, let alone spoken it.

The Singaporean linguist was researching endangered languages when he stumbled upon Kristang in a book. As he dug deeper, he realised it was the language of his maternal grandparents.

Mr Wong had heard smatterings of Kristang while growing up. But his grandparents were hardly fluent. His mother couldn't speak Kristang at all.

"As a child I had learnt Mandarin and English in school, and my parents speak in English to me. So I never really recognised that side of my heritage," says Mr Wong, who is half Chinese and half Portuguese Eurasian.

Kristang is the language of the Portuguese Eurasians, a minority group descended from Portuguese settlers who arrived in the region in the 16th Century and married locals.

A unique creole of Portuguese and Malay, with elements of Chinese languages such as Mandarin and Hokkien, it was spoken by at least 2,000 people across the Malayan archipelago at its peak in the 19th Century.

But today there may be as little as 50 fluent speakers left, according to researchers' estimates.

Read more...

Learning a language should be compulsory in schools, says report

16 March 2017 (BBC News)

(Applies to Northern Ireland) Learning a foreign language should be made compulsory in primary schools here, a new report has said.

In Northern Ireland, learning a second language is not a statutory part of the primary school curriculum.

In England and Scotland, by contrast, primary school pupils are expected to learn a foreign language.

The review of primary languages in Northern Ireland has been carried out by researchers from Stranmillis University College. The authors surveyed language learning at over 100 schools.

They found that Spanish and French were most popular in schools where languages were taught. Some pupils also learned German or Mandarin.

However, not all primary schools taught an additional language.

This led the authors to conclude that there was "a lack of equity in provision for children" across the country.

Read more...

Brain Fitness - Learn a New Language

15 March 2017 (Huffington Post)

Research has shown that it’s important to “exercise” your brain and language learning is one of the most effective and practical ways to do this. Speaking and learning a foreign language gives your brain a good workout, keeps your mind sharp, and defends your brain against aging.

Surprisingly, being bilingual wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Some educators and scientists thought that learning a foreign language, especially from a young age, had a negative effect on brain development and caused confusion. They also claimed being bilingual would hinder academic performance. We now know that exactly the opposite is true. Science now shows that learning a second language helps strengthen the brain.

Read more...

Related Links

Learning a second language can add years to your life (Lee's Summit Journal, 14 March 2017)

Should pupils have to learn sign language?

15 March 2017 (BBC News)

"When I meet hearing children who can sign, I feel happy and confident," says Emmanuel, seven.

"I want to teach everyone British sign language - the whole world."

Faiza, 11, says: "If children learnt more sign, it would mean I'd try to play with them more. Communication would be easier.

"If my hearing friends didn't sign, I would feel lonely and sad."

For these deaf children at Blanche Nevile School in north London, helping hearing peers learn British sign language (BSL) is a chance to break down barriers and make new friends.
Their school shares a site with Highgate Primary School, and the schools work in partnership so that deaf and hearing children can learn alongside each other.

While BSL was recognised as a language in its own right 14 years ago, it is not included in the national curriculum in England.

Now, an online petition set up by Wayne Barrow, who grew up with deaf parents, is aiming to change that.

Read more...

Related Links

Should hearing children learn sign language? (BBC News, 15 March 2017) - meet school pupils learning to sign and learning alongside deaf children (video report)

Sign language costs 'too high' for some families
(BBC News, 15 March 2017)

Watch as MP uses British Sign Language in the House of Commons (Daily Mirror, 16 March 2017)

MP Dawn Butler praised for using sign language in Commons (BBC News, 16 March 2017)

Teachers ‘ill-prepared’ for primary language strategy

14 March 2017 (The Herald)

Teachers have warned an ambitious strategy to expand language learning in Scottish primary schools lacks direction.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said training for school staff was variable and had led to lower confidence levels in some areas.

The criticism centres on the Scottish Government’s flagship 1+2 languages policy under which primary pupils are to be taught at least two modern languages in addition to their mother tongue, starting in the first year of schooling and adding a second foreign language no later than P5.

The government has argued primaries should incorporate as large a pool of languages as possible, including Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu and Polish.

However, critics say schools and teacher training universities need a much smaller group of languages to focus on to ensure continuity of study and expertise among staff.

In a letter to councils, Andrea Bradley, EIS assistant secretary for education, said information from primary teachers had identified training that was not of a consistently appropriate standard.

She said members had highlighted a “lack of direction” as to which languages would be taught at which stage as well as “variable quality of teachers’ experience of training course delivery”.

She also said there was “inconsistency” in the duration of training courses and therefore inconsistency in “outcomes for our members in terms of their levels of confidence to teach foreign languages”.

She added: “The EIS therefore calls upon all local authorities to work with Scottish Government to address the issues that are raised here, with a view to ensuring coherence of approach and adequate resourcing in order that the worthy aims of the policy can be met.”

The concerns were echoed by Gillian Campbell-Thow, chairwoman of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching.

Read more...

Related Links

SALT's response to EIS (SALT, 15 March 2017)

13 words we borrowed from Arabic

11 March 2017 (The Independent)

Arabic is one of the five most spoken languages in the world, with some 400 million users.

It's also one of the most ancient, varied and beautifully scripted languages in existence.

Its influence on Spanish since the time of the Moors is well known, but what's less well known is how many commonly used English words were actually taken from Arabic.

Read more...

Emotional celebration of Perth Polish Saturday School's 10th year in the Fair City

10 March 2017 (Daily Record)

A school in Perth has been hailed for keeping Polish children and those with connections to the eastern European community in touch with their history and culture.

The Perth Polish Saturday School celebrated its 10th anniversary and a special ‘Jubilee’ reception was held at North Inch Community Campus on March 4.

On Saturdays the school based at St John’s Academy teaches Polish history, geography, culture and language from 10.30am to 1.30pm.

Many children from Polish families have been born in the Fair City and the school provides them with a link to their family’s origins.

They learn nursery rhymes, songs and poems which keep their culture alive, as well as mastering the notoriously difficult Polish spellings and grammar.

Read more...

Languages and IT staff are ‘leaving and won’t return’

10 March 2017 (TESS)

Brexit will “impoverish” pupils’ education by driving away staff, removing opportunities to study abroad and diminishing language teaching, independent schools are warning.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), told TESS that teachers of modern languages and IT were leaving the UK “and not coming back”.

Mr Edward predicted that the departures would mount steadily in the next three to four years and have a “big impact” on Scottish schools.

The full article can be accessed via TESS online, 10 March 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Cash-strapped schools axing classes and cutting back on trips, headteachers say

10 March 2017 (The Independent)

Schools are being forced to scrap GCSE and A-level courses, increase class sizes and cut back on trips and after-school clubs as a result of a funding crisis, headteachers have warned.

Design and technology, languages and arts are among the subjects being dropped as schools struggle to deal with severe budget pressures, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In a new report, based on a poll of more than 1,000 members, the union warned that pressure to cut costs is having an impact on all areas of school life.

Interim general secretary Malcolm Trobe said school leaders are being forced to make “impossible choices”.

The Government has argued that school funding is at its highest ever level.

Read more...

Related Links

Warning over schools axing courses amid funding crisis (ITV News, 10 March 2017) - Of the language course cuts, German in particular is suffering.

Pupils celebrate success at multilingual poetry competition

9 March 2017 (Renfrewshire 24)

Six bilingual pupils from Renfrewshire have scooped up awards at a national poetry competition for their creative writing talents.

Of the 14 awards up for grabs through the ‘Mother Tongue Other Tongue’ competition run by SCILT – Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, six were awarded to pupils from St John Ogilvie Primary School, St James Primary School and Castlehead High School, who had written poetry in their native tongue in order to share their “other voices”.

Renfrewshire EAL (English as an additional language) teachers helped support bilingual pupils to create a collection of poems written in languages such as; Polish, Hungarian, Chinese, Punjabi, Catalan, Arabic, Greek, Filipino, Korean and Dutch.

Read more...

Glasgow says ‘fáilte’ to a new Gaelic primary school

9 March 2017 (The Herald)

Soaring demand for Gaelic education in Scotland’s largest city has led to the need for a third primary school.

Glasgow City Council is recommending a formal consultation on a new school because the two existing primaries are already full with demand expected to grow.

The increasing numbers of primary pupils in Gaelic Medium Education (GME) also means there is a need to ensure enough places are available at secondary.

Read more...

Related Links

Call for third Gaelic school in Glasgow (BBC News, 10 March 2017)

Glasgow needs new Gaelic school amid growing demand (The Scotsman, 10 March 2017)

QS world university rankings 2017: modern languages

8 March 2017 (The Guardian)

The top 50 universities in the world for modern languages, as ranked by higher education data specialists QS.

Read more...

From busuu to Babble, language-learning startups adapt to thrive

7 March 2017 (The Guardian)

Language learning is big business. Each year, students coming to study English in the UK contribute £2bn to the economy. It’s also a market suited to the flexibility of mobile learning and, sure enough, language learning apps are seeking to fill the gaps – more than 350 are listed on the Apple App Store alone.

But language tech isn’t an easy space in which to succeed. Rapid changes in technology have meant that its startups have had to adapt to survive, as Bernhard Niesner, co-founder of busuu, can attest.

Originally from Austria, Niesner had always loved languages: he learned Spanish and travelled in Latin America before undertaking an MBA at the IE Business School in Madrid. There he met Adrian Hilti, originally from Switzerland. It was 2008, Facebook was expanding rapidly, and the two wondered if they could combine technology and learning a language with social media.

So busuu, named after a Cameroonian language, was born, teaching users with interactive courses coupled with a social network of native speakers.

Read more...

Dumbarton Academy get to grips with business and language

6 March 2017 (Dumbarton Reporter)

Pupils from Dumbarton Academy had the opportunity to learn the language of business at a recent school event.

Third year students heard from a range of local business leaders who view language skills as key to the growth and success of their company.

The event demonstrated the relevance of these skills in a work context and aimed to encourage pupils to continue with their language studies into the senior phase of their secondary education, and beyond school.

Cara Brown, subject leader for Modern Languages at Dumbarton Academy, said: “The event was a success, emphasised by the positive feedback given by pupils. The presentations delivered by the range of speakers were well received by everyone involved and really engaged the learners who discovered the value of language skills for employment and for life beyond school.”

One of the pupils added: “I enjoyed hearing different peoples’ stories and learning about what they had been able to do through learning another language. I was surprised to find out how many ways languages can be useful.”

Read more...

Singapore student inspired by the pipes teaches himself Gaelic

6 March 2017 (BBC)

A student from Singapore has taught himself Gaelic after being inspired by learning to play the pipes.

Chi-Yan Lew has now travelled to study a term at Glasgow University and is making good use of his new language.

See the video report on the BBC website.

Read more...

Bòrd na Gàidhlig consultation on Scotland's National Gaelic Language Plan

3 March 2017 (Holyrood)

Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the public body with responsibility for Scottish Gaelic, published the draft National Gaelic Language Plan 2017-2022 for public consultation two weeks ago. Its purpose, explains Bòrd na Gàidhlig chief executive Shona MacLennan, is to lay out the policy for Gaelic which will further strengthen the language, at both local and national levels, for the next five years.

Read more...

Taking the leid: Scots needs more promotion at a national level

3 March 2017 (Holyrood)

Across Scotland, 30 per cent of the population identified themselves as Scots speakers in the 2011 census, and in Aberdeenshire the figure was almost half, 49 per cent, yet there is no public body equivalent to Bòrd na Gàidhlig responsible for the promotion of Scots at a national level. Scots tends to feature as part of culture studies, through Burns poetry or folk music, but not so much promoted as a living daily language.

Read more...

Dearth of Foreign Office expertise on Russia

3 March 2017 (The Times)

(Extract from letters to the Editor) Sir, The Foreign Office’s shortage of competent Russian-language speakers affects its ability to interact not just with Russia but across a much wider region where Russian remains the lingua franca A more serious related problem is the lack of knowledge of Russian political culture and statecraft at mid and senior levels. The Foreign Office currently has no policy makers who have served in Russia. Not surprisingly, this deficiency is impacting the UK’s ability to read Russian intentions and respond to them.

Read more...

Linguanomics: What Is the Market Potential of Multilingualism?

2 March 2017 (THE)

Linguistic diversity is a good thing, and individuals, institutions and societies can benefit from investing in language learning. This is the conviction from which Gabrielle Hogan-Brun starts and the conclusion she reaches. Evidence for this proposition is not difficult to find, and Linguanomics provides a wealth of examples from aviation safety to Mark Zuckerberg via Marco Polo.

Aviation accidents demonstrate the benefits of language learning ex negativo. When the last recorded words of a Chinese pilot are “What does ‘pull up’ mean?”, one may conclude that a fatal incident could have been avoided if the pilot had had better English. Conversely, Polo did well as a trader and traveller, and his fluency in four languages surely helped; the same with Zuckerberg, who may be hoping that his Chinese language skills will smooth Facebook’s entry into the Chinese market.

Linguanomics is full of anecdotes such as these, and they all go to show that language skills are useful and may even be highly profitable. Hogan-Brun is on a mission to convince her readers that they should be more alert to the market potential of language learning. Given the neglect of languages in much of the English-speaking world, this is a laudable aim, and Linguanomics succeeds as a piece of punditry.

Read more...

Younger is not always better when it comes to learning a second language

27 February 2017 (The Conversation)

It’s often thought that it is better to start learning a second language at a young age. But research shows that this is not necessarily true. In fact, the best age to start learning a second language can vary significantly, depending on how the language is being learned.

The belief that younger children are better language learners is based on the observation that children learn to speak their first language with remarkable skill at a very early age.

Before they can add two small numbers or tie their own shoelaces, most children develop a fluency in their first language that is the envy of adult language learners.

Read more...

Lazy monolinguals will hurt your business: The compelling case for bringing language learning into the workplace

27 February 2017 (CityA.M.)

The UK’S future relationship with Europe is far from certain. With many of Brexit’s economic consequences still panning out, it is a good time to reflect on how the UK can maintain a global trading edge after its exit from the EU.

In this respect, post-Brexit UK companies would do well to embrace foreign languages as a matter of urgency in order to cement the creation of effective cultural and business relationships with prospective EU and non-EU trading partners.

While English is undoubtedly one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and largely used as the lingua franca in corporate diplomacy, I believe that a lack of intercultural and language competence on the UK’s part could jeopardise the future global standing and prosperity of its businesses.

As former German Chancellor Willy Brandt put it over 40 years ago: “if I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen”. Indeed, multilingual businesses are proven to benefit from richer interactions between partners, employees, suppliers and customers as well as increased sales and return on investment. It also offers a significant edge on the competition by enabling a wider customer and client base.

Read more...

Maurice Smith: Brexit threatens Gaelic as a living language

25 February 2017 (The Herald)

There is a hoary myth going round about a wilful Scottish Government wasting taxpayers’ money on the flagrant imposition of bilingual signs at every Scottish road and railway station, presumably as part of a dark conspiracy to make us all speak Gaelic and unwittingly vote en masse for independence.

It is one of many misunderstandings, and occasional slurs, perpetuated by some who resent any money being spent on Gaelic.

Read more...

Ian Cowley: Language is a cultural treasure we must covet

25 February 2017 (The Scotsman)

The level at which the languages of Scotland – with the exception of English – have been ignored and often despised in recent years is something that has always surprised and saddened me. 

The reaction by some to MSP Christina McKelvie’s use of the word ‘thae’ in Holyrood during the recent Article 50 debate shows that prejudice and ignorance still surround the use of Scots in daily life.

Language is a cultural treasure and some might say the maximum expression of who we are and where we’re from.

Read more...

What it's like to study a modern languages degree

23 February 2017 (Times Higher Education)

Are modern language degrees becoming obsolete? Absolutely not, say these four modern languages students.

Read more...

Do we need modern language graduates in a globalised world?

23 February 2017 (THE)

Six academics offer their views on the state of language learning in a populist climate.

Read more...

Five funny times British football stars attempted to speak in foreign languages following a transfer abroad

22 February 2017 (The Mirror)

The Premier League receives a whole host of talent from many different countries every year.

Massive stars from France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Chile, Belgium, Uruguay, Portugal and South Korea have all, at one time or another, played in the English top tier.

But how many of England's biggest stars can we say have made the leap to play abroad? A handful or so?

Naturally one of the biggest obstacles for footballers moving abroad is the language barrier, something which Wayne Rooney may have to conquer should his potential move to China go through next week.

In the video, we've taken a look at the five funniest times English stars made the brave choice to ply their trade in another country... and speak the language.

Read more...

Speaking in tongues: how to save modern languages?

22 February 2017 (THE)

Matthew Reisz reflects on the role of universities in overcoming monolingualism.

Read more...

Time to listen to teens on language learning

21 February 2017 (Scholastic blog)

For far too long it seems that media columns have been filled with reports of declining interest of British teenagers in modern foreign languages (MFL).

Take the figures published last summer. The number of children studying French to A-level has fallen by around 50 per cent in eight years to fewer than 10,000. Only around 3,800 youngsters took German. There was also a fall in those studying Spanish, which had previously bucked the anti-languages drift.

The government replied that it has been encouraging pupils to take languages, mainly through the English Baccalaureate – the wrap-around qualification which requires pupils to sit a range of certain GCSEs including a language.

But the problems don’t end there. More university language departments are facing closure if student recruitment continues to decline, and the key problem facing language courses is the drop in the number of students sitting the relevant A-levels that are required for entry. And there is a shortage of MFL teachers.

This ought to worry us – even more so as we head towards Brexit. It has been estimated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages that our failure to communicate in anything other than English costs Britain up to £50 billion a year in lost trade. Declining numbers of MFL students have led to calls for a joined up strategy where the full contribution of languages to the economy and society is realised, with the National Association of Head Teachers particularly vocal.

Read more...

Cappuccino with extra Italian? Pop-up classes bring a buzz to adult learning

21 February 2017 (The Guardian)

It’s a rainy February evening in a Costa coffee shop in East Putney, south-west London. The shop is closed to the public but a group of men and women are gathered there, drinking coffee and practising Italian phrases with teacher Alessandro Fantauzzo. Two are here for work reasons, others to build their language confidence for holidays.

In the past, they might have gone to a night class at a local adult education college. But over the past decade, funding for courses that don’t lead to a formal qualification has been slashed. Since 2010, the adult learning budget has been cut by about 40%, meaning the days when adults could learn flower arranging, languages or guitar at their local college in the evenings – for a subsidised fee or even free – are long gone.

It was this that gave former teacher and social entrepreneur Jason Elsom the idea of offering night classes in coffee shops. Approached by the coffee chain Costa to help develop its charitable foundation, which aims to extend education opportunities, he suggested it offer space in its shops for tutors and their students.

Read more...

Absolutely Fabulous 25th anniversary: watch a clip from the show in six different languages

20 February 2017 (The Independent)

Edina and Patsy remain fabulous in every language.

Absolutely Fabulous is now coming up to its 25th anniversary, with the BBC Worldwide Showcase commemorating the occasion by releasing a clip which cuts together a scene in six different European languages: English, Italian, German, Spanish, Czech, and French.

It's all part of an effort to celebrate its expansive global success, which last year saw the release of the pair's own feature film debut in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie; launching stars Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders on their escape to the French Riviera after an incident at a fashion launch party sends Kate Moss tumbling into the Thames.

Read more...

Brian Wilson: Crunch time now for BBC Alba, a Scottish success story

20 February 2017 (The Scotsman)

The Gaelic TV channel reaches far beyond those who speak the language, and can get even better if it is given proper support says Brian Wilson.

Issues surrounding the BBC Charter and its implications for broadcasting are likely to gain a high profile in the coming weeks. It would be a pity if, in the political melee, a quiet Scottish success story was overlooked – BBC Alba.

Although its raison d’etre is as a Gaelic broadcaster, BBC Alba reaches 700,000 viewers each week. It accounts for half the commissions in Scotland from independent production companies. It offers a steady stream of quality programmes which would not otherwise be made, mainly on Scottish subjects.

By any standard of media accounting, BBC Alba has achieved all this on a shoestring budget. It broadcasts for seven hours daily but only 1.9 are filled with original content, including news and live sport. The rest consists of repeats, delving deep not only into BBC Alba’s own modest archive but the entire previous output of Gaelic television.

Some of these, it must be said, are very good. The BBC Gaelic department has a history of producing current affairs programmes in particular where quality was in inverse proportion to quantity. However, there are limits to how often viewers in any language should be asked to endure fascinating throw-backs to the 1970s and 1980s.

The current funding review is a crunch point for BBC Alba. It will either survive at its present level or extend its repertoire and role. There is a particular need, from a language perspective, for more children’s programmes and also a more consistent standard of popular entertainment. The channel’s supporters are sensibly realistic in their demands, which may give them a better chance of being listened to.

Read more...

Related Links

BBC Launching Scotland Channel With $37.4M Budget (Deadline, 22 February 2017)

Language Rights Need to be at the Center of Global Policy

20 February 2017 (Diplomatic Courier)

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether. When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression — valuable resources for ensuring a better future — are also lost.

More than 50 percent of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are likely to die out within a few generations, and 96 percent of these languages are spoken by a mere 4 percent of the world’s population. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given pride of place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

Cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, the promotion of education for all and the development of knowledge societies are central to UNESCO’s work. But they are not possible without broad and international commitment to promoting multilingualism and linguistic diversity, including the preservation of endangered languages.

While the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has signed an agreement with the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) to measure global citizenship and sustainable development education, the persistent marginalization of mother languages worldwide is threatening Goal 4 of the UN for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Agenda 2030 includes seven targets in Goal 4 that aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

The seventh target – Goal 4.7 – obliges the international community to ensure that in the next 15 years “all learners (would) acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”.

UNESCO relates global citizenship to the empowerment of learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world.

But the chances that Goal 4.7 would be achieved are rather bleak unless adequate steps are taken urgently. The reason can be deduced from some important data released by the UNESCO on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day, celebrated annually on February 21.

Read more...

Chinese New Year comes home to roost for students

14 February 2017 (Falkirk Herald)

Pupils from all over the Falkirk area gathered at Larbert High School for a double celebration with a far Eastern flavour. The youngsters, including pupils from Graeme High School and Ladeside Primary School, marked Chinese New Year and also acknowledged Larbert High’s new status as a Falkirk Council Confucius Hub with song and dance performances, Chinese cuisine and art displays during the event.

Read more...

Midlothian foreign language students settle in

12 February 2017 (Midlothian Advertiser)

Following the success of the French Modern Language Assistant (MLAs) last year, Midlothian has been lucky enough to employ six MLAs again this year.

They are working across all 32 primary schools, assisting with the implementation of the 1+2 initiative which means that French is being taught in all our primary schools from P1 to P7. Staff have already seen an increase in the confidence and language skills of teachers as well as enthusiasm and progress from pupils!

The MLAs completed a diary of their first impressions and experiences, excerpts of which are below.

Read more...

Agenda: So much to be gained from young people learning modern languages

12 February 2017 (Sunday Herald)

Does language learning have a place in the Scottish curriculum? Yes. Are modern languages and their teachers under pressure in secondary schools? Yes. Has there been a better opportunity for promoting language learning in our schools ? No.

Language learning has a vital place in Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) on a learner journey from 3-18 but in a manner that does not see it as the preserve of the secondary school.

It has always baffled me that traditionally in Scotland, given its place in Europe, we started language learning so late in a child’s development.

The earlier we expose children to learning languages, the better their chance is of seeing this as something that is just part of their culture.

From a child development point of view, there’s much research to confirm that children are more receptive educationally and emotionally to language learning from an early age.

They soak it up and acquire language skills at a great pace. We know that bilingualism not only helps the cognitive development of the child but also that children who are in bilingual education such as Gaelic Medium Education also attain and achieve at least as well as, in many cases better, than their monoglot peers. They are fluent in two languages and are learning a third by the age of 11. In addition, there is another plus to early exposure to acquiring additional languages; most parents like it, understand it and support schools that promote it.

The Scottish Government-led 1+2 languages programme is a long-term policy commitment started in 2011 due to run until 2021, aimed at making it normal for all children and young people in Scotland to learn languages from primary one.

Read more...

Doric could be taught in all north-east schools

11 February 2017 (The Press and Journal)

Aberdeenshire Council has unveiled ambitious plans to start teaching youngsters the Doric dialect.

The local authority has drawn-up proposals to give primary and secondary pupils lessons in the “valued language”.

Councillors will be asked next week to back the scheme aimed at promoting the Doric and north-east culture across the region.

Traditionally spoken by residents of Aberdeenshire, the dialect – one of many across Scotland – is identified as the native tongue in many rural and fishing communities.

Read more...

Related Links

Doric could be good fit for pupils in Aberdeenshire (STV News, 16 February 2017)

Statutory guidance on Gaelic Education published

10 February 2017 (TESS)

Statutory guidance on Gaelic education has been published, spelling out the process that will allow parents under law to request a Gaelic unit for their child. Another key document has also been published: the public consultation on the National Gaelic Language Plan 2017–2022 runs until 6 May.

Read the full item in TESS online, 10 February 2017, under the 'A week in primary' section (subscription required).

Read more...

English rugby referees learning French - Wayne Barnes

7 February 2017 (BBC)

English rugby referees are taking French lessons in order to improve their communication skills during games, says top official Wayne Barnes.

There has been criticism by players of some Six Nations referees only being able to speak in English.

However, Barnes, 37, says RFU officials "want to be better communicators".

"We are not just training and reviewing, we are actually doing some French lessons as a group," he told the BBC Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

One of the world's leading referees, Barnes has been taking charge of international matches since 2006.

And while he argues that speaking a range of languages fluently is unfeasible for a referee, he feels steps can be taken to improve communication.

Read more...

Regulations are unintentionally killing the French exchange and our students will be all the poorer for it

6 February 2017 (TES)

Not long ago, schools would send many, many students on exchange trips to France but new red tape makes this unfeasible, writes one leading headteacher.

It’s funny how often laws or regulations collide. Perhaps the most famous absurdity can be found in Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch 22: airmen couldn’t be discharged from the American army in the Second World War unless proven mad. Yet to seek discharge was the only sane thing to do in an insane conflict.

This is, of course, the law of unintended consequences. A great example is this country's shortage of doctors. Many among the refugees arriving in the UK are qualified doctors but, as refugees, they’re forbidden to work.

Another example is a regulation now hitting schools, creating what I’d describe as another unintended consequence – unintended because, if it was spotted, then it’s crazy.

Ever more stringent safeguarding requirements, recently reinforced in the latest version of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), make it all but impossible for schoolchildren on a language exchange to stay with host families in, say, France, Germany or Spain.

According to Annexe E of KCSIE, “such arrangements could amount to ‘private fostering’ under the Children Act 1989 or the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, or both”.

Thus, if a school makes an arrangement with, for example, its opposite number in France, so that the English children stay with French families and vice versa, they’re setting up “private fostering”. Because the school is a regulated activity provider, all adults in the host home must have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

In the heyday of language exchanges, schools might have sent 50 or more children to France or Germany. Calculate the DBS checks required for the return visit, estimating two adults over 18 in every house (not necessarily parents): 100-plus. I guess they’d be free, being for volunteers, but the cost in office time of that paper-chase is colossal – as well as dragging parents in for their identity checks and the like.

Even if we can navigate that bureaucratic labyrinth, what about the parent who feels that such a check is intrusive or just plain wrong? If they stand on principle and refuse to be checked, they cannot host a child from the exchange school.

This regulation is surely the death knell for such activities as language exchanges. Even with all parents in both schools willing to be checked, sheer administrative workload makes the task impracticable in a busy school.

Read more...

Why Brexit won't spell the end for our European exchange programme

6 February 2017 (The Telegraph)

It was at the end of February last year, that myself and my fellow languages students found out where we would be spending our third year abroad.  Most of us had chosen to study at various universities across Europe with the help of Erasmus, the European Union’s university study programme that has benefited hundreds of thousands of young people both in Britain and on the continent over the past 30 years. 

Little did we know then that four months later, the British public would vote to leave the European Union, and as the 23 June loomed, it dawned on us how Brexit might impact our studies abroad.  Will leaving the EU mean that Britain will also leave the Erasmus programme?  Many of us were expecting our elaborate year abroad plans to suddenly become scuppered, but in short, the answer is no, and eight months later, Britain’s involvement in the Erasmus scheme remains unchanged.

However, one can’t help but wonder how much longer Britain’s involvement in Erasmus will last.  With Article 50 set to be triggered no later than the end of March and the Prime Minister announcing our exit from the Single Market, will the EU continue to consider us part of a scheme that is so dependent on the free movement of people?

Read more...

Related Links

A student's plea to Brexit negotiators: keep the Erasmus scheme (The Guardian, 7 February 2017)

Gaelic pupils outperforming their peers in literacy skills

4 February 2017 (The Herald)

Primary pupils taught in Gaelic are outperforming children in mainstream Scottish schools, according to new figures.

Scottish Government statistics show pupils in Gaelic primary schools are doing better at reading, writing, listening and talking at nearly every stage of primary.

Gaelic medium education - where pupils are taught most or all of their lessons in Gaelic as well as studying English - is increasingly popular in Scotland with more than 3,500 children taught in 2014.

Read more...

Why multilingualism is good for economic growth

3 February 2017 (The Conversation)

'If your strategy is to trade only with people that speak English that’s going to be a poor strategy.'

Top US economist Larry Summers recently tweeted this in relation to America’s focus on its so-called special relationship with the UK. And he’s right. The economic impact on the US – or any other country – that closes off its trade barriers with countries that are different to it would be enormous.

Language matters on a large-scale national level and at the level of smaller businesses.

Read more...

The made-up language with just one speaker

3 February 2017 (BBC)

When it comes to learning languages, it's often thought the Swedes are rather good at it, the Dutch brilliant, and the British, rather poor. Student, Melissa May, who is from southern England, is perhaps the exception that proves the rule. Not content with mastering many languages including German, French and Spanish, she decided to invent a completely new one, with its own unique script. It is called Skénavánns. She told James Menendez about it.

Read more...

Promoting Gaelic language

30 January 2017 (Stornoway Gazette)

The Gaelic language is to be promoted through one of the world’s most popular websites thanks to a new role based at the National Library of Scotland.

Dr Susan Ross, who learned Gaelic as a teenager and has since gained a doctorate in Gaelic studies, has been appointed the world’s first Gaelic Wikipedian.

The year-long post will see her working with the Gaelic community across Scotland to improve and create resources on Uicipeid, the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia.

Read more...

Rescuing and reviving the curriculum is not enough to restore modern foreign languages to their rightful position

28 January 2017 (TES)

It's not enough to grandstand the fact that languages have been introduced at primary school and leave it at that, writes this veteran journalist.

I can remember my first German lesson at school only too clearly.

The first two phrases that I was taught were "Mutti bleibt zu hause" and "Vater geht zu arbeit". For the uninitiated, that means "mother stays at home" and "father goes to work". 

Apart from giving a rather forlorn view of the state of society in the early 1960's, it also shows how mind-bogglingly dreary were the German textbooks of the day.

Read more...

Choice of subjects is ‘not narrowing under CfE’

27 January 2017 (TESS)

Education directors have dismissed fears that pupils’ subject choices are narrowing under Curriculum for Excellence, insisting they have “far greater” choice than in the past.

MSPs have raised concerns that many pupils are only taking six subjects in S4 under new national qualifications, whereas eight would have been typical under the previous system.

Terry Lanagan, executive officer for education directors’ body ADES, said it was a mistake to look at S4 in isolation, since the “senior phase” was built around pupils accruing qualifications over a three-year period.

The former West Dunbartonshire education director also highlighted that schools could take more flexible approaches, such as joining forces to offer certain subjects or bringing in college lecturers to work with pupils. Greater priority was now given to so-called vocational qualifications, he added.

[..] Figures published in December show the numbers of secondary teachers by main subject taught from 2008-16. TESS examined subjects with more than 500 teachers in 2016 and found that French, computing and home economics are under extreme pressure.

The article can be read in full in TESS online, issue 27 January 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Lanarkshire school is bringing Gaelic language and culture into centre of Scotland

24 January 2017 (Daily Record)

Lanarkshire may not be known as a hotbed of Gaelic but a little school are doing their best to reintroduce the language to the wider community.

Gartcosh Primary have been nominated for the Gaelic Education Award at this year’s Scottish Education Awards.

Rachel Neilly is one of four teachers at the village primary who has done the Gaelic Learning in Primary Schools course and teaches the language to primaries five to seven.

All children from primary two upwards learn German but the upper three classes have Gaelic as a third language.

They also learn about the culture in the Highlands and islands as part of their studies.

Read more...

Language learning aids attention, study says

19 January 2017 (Knowridge Science Report)

Mental agility can be boosted by even a short period of learning a language, a study suggests.

Tests carried out on students of all ages suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention, after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that these benefits could be maintained with regular practice.

A team from the University assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

Researchers tracked people’s attention levels with a series of listening tests including the ability to concentrate on certain sounds and switch the attention to filter relevant information.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course – but not involving learning a new language – and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.

This improvement was found for all ages, from 18 to 78 years, which researchers say demonstrates the benefits of language learning also in later life.

Read more...

Cuts forcing schools to axe language and science exams

19 January 2017 (The Herald)

Schools are having to cut the number of subjects they offer to pupils as a direct result of cuts, teachers’ leaders have warned.

An education union said current budgetary pressures meant courses such as extra languages and sciences could not run unless at least ten pupils were interested.

The concerns were raised at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee which is examining the roll-out of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) reforms.

Read more...

Skye shinty player raps way to Gaelic film shortlist

19 January 2017 (BBC News)

A Skye shinty player's comedy rap has helped to get a video on the shortlist of Gaelic short film competition FilmG.

Ally MacLeod performs in Girls, Strì and Macaroni, a short film made by Iain Wilson from Staffin on Skye.

The video is among entries in the running for best mobile short and best comedy. Mr MacLeod has also been shortlisted for the best performance award.

The full list of shortlisted films can be found on the FilmG website.

Read more...

Brexit prompts academics to consider future for modern languages

18 January 2017 (THE)

How can linguists make the case for their subject in a new and seemingly hostile climate of political populism?

That was the theme of a workshop organised by the University Council for Modern Languages and held in London on 6 January.

Since the Brexit vote, said Silke Mentchen, senior language teaching officer at the University of Cambridge, she had felt like “a bargaining chip”, waiting for details of the status of the many European Union nationals working in British universities.

Partly in order to “combat [her] own feelings of powerlessness”, she had carried out a survey with Andrea Klaus of the University of Warwick “documenting the benefits to students of a year abroad”, which are often supported by EU funding under the Erasmus+ programme. Respondents described such years as “the highlight of my time at university” and even “one of the most defining features of my life to date”.

Read more...

Britons 'should learn Polish, Punjabi and Urdu to boost social cohesion'

18 January 2017 (The Guardian)

The government is being urged to create more opportunities for British people to learn languages such as Polish, Urdu and Punjabi as a means of improving social cohesion in local communities.

Recent inquiries looking into obstacles to social integration in the UK have highlighted the importance of immigrants learning English to enable them to integrate and engage fully in society.

Now Cambridge professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett is calling for British people to be encouraged to learn community languages, particularly in areas where there are high numbers of residents who speak these languages, to build on social cohesion.

Ayres-Bennett, who is a professor of French philology and linguistics and is a lead investigator in a major project looking at multilingualism, said rather than putting the onus solely on newcomers, social integration should be seen as a two-way street.

“Considering the issue from the point of view of language learning, we rightly expect immigrants to learn English but, as a nation, we often don’t see the need ourselves to learn another language, and consider it to be something difficult and only for the intellectual elite.

“I would like to see more opportunities for British people to learn some of the community languages of the UK, such as Polish, Punjabi and Urdu, particularly in areas where there are high numbers of those speakers, so that there is some mutual effort in understanding the others’ language and culture.”

Read more...

Babies remember their birth language - scientists

18 January 2017 (BBC News)

Babies build knowledge about the language they hear even in the first few months of life, research shows.

If you move countries and forget your birth language, you retain this hidden ability, according to a study.

Dutch-speaking adults adopted from South Korea exceeded expectations at Korean pronunciation when retrained after losing their birth language.

Scientists say parents should talk to babies as much as possible in early life.

Dr Jiyoun Choi of Hanyang University in Seoul led the research.

The study is the first to show that the early experience of adopted children in their birth language gives them an advantage decades later even if they think it is forgotten, she said.

''This finding indicates that useful language knowledge is laid down in [the] very early months of life, which can be retained without further input of the language and revealed via re-learning,'' she told BBC News.

Read more...

Related Links

Adoptees advantaged by birth language memory (Science Daily, 18 January 2017)

Why making languages non-compulsory at GCSE is a step backwards

17 January 2017 (The Telegraph)

I am nervous as I take my seat in front of the Head of Languages; it is GCSE choices evening and the school gym has been transformed, criss-crossed by rows of tables and chairs with eager parents and their offspring gathered around harried-looking teachers.

“I'd like to do Triple Language,” I say, “French, Spanish and Italian.”

She regards me over the top of her sheet full of names, in front of her.

“Oh no, I don't think so. You could do Spanish, maybe, but you'll find three too difficult.”

Seven years later and I am on the brink of successfully completing my undergraduate degree in, you guessed it, languages. And whilst I look back on that exchange now with a certain degree of victorious pride, I still can't help but wonder what prompted her to turn a perfectly capable student away from her course.

In this performance-obsessed climate where a pupil's grades are often put before their education, it is unsurprising that even some of the best teachers find themselves advising students against courses which are deemed too challenging. But we must do away with the notion that languages are an elite subject if we are to improve the dire situation in which we now find ourselves.

Read more...

Italian is under assault from rising number of Anglicisms, sloppy use of verbs and shrinking vocabulary, guardians of the language warn

17 January 2017 (The Telegraph)

The Italian language is under assault from a growing tide of English words, the abandoning of verb tenses and a shrinking vocabulary, and could be driven to extinction altogether, the head of the country’s most illustrious language institute has warned.

The language of Dante and Petrarch is becoming vulgarised and made more simplistic as young people dispense with the subjunctive and future tenses and sprinkle their day-to-day language with Anglicisms, even where there are perfectly adequate Italian alternatives, according to the Accademia della Crusca, an academy that guards the purity of Italian, said.

“There’s been a big increase in the number of foreign words and expressions and the trend will continue, above all with English words,” said Prof Claudio Marazzini, the president of the academy, which was founded in Florence in 1582. “We are heading towards a more meagre Italian.”

Thousands of words are at risk of extinction through not being used anymore in daily discourse, he said. They include “accolito” (acolyte, henchman), “maliardo” (bewitching), “tremebondo” (tremulous, trembling), “zufolare” (to whistle), and “abbindolare” (to be taken for a ride, to be led by the nose).

Read more...

Language exchange trips ‘killed’ off by safeguarding worries and costs

16 January 2017 (Schools Week)

Schools trying to organise language exchange trips face increasing hurdles including costs, visas and “unclear” government guidance on safeguarding, according to speakers at a Westminster education forum held today in London.

The “dull” content of modern foreign languages lessons, which one delegate said was “intellectually insulting” to pupils, was being made worse by a decline in exchange trips that would otherwise bring vocabulary to life.

Mike Buchanan, chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference for independent schools (HMC), told teachers and policy makers that “the bureaucracy and hurdles in the way of exchange visits is killing them”.

Buchanan, who is also headteacher of Ashford school in Kent, said the desire among teachers to organise trips “had not diminished” but guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) – Keeping Children Safe in Education – updated in September last year was “less clear” on the issue of foreign exchange trips than previously and placed an onus on schools to carry out vetting and barring checks on host families in England.

“The impact is that schools are less inclined to engage in exchanges and trips.”

Read more...

Meet the world’s first Gaelic rapper

15 January 2017 (The Herald)

You might expect renowned bagpiper, guitarist and traditional Gaelic singer Griogair Labhruidh to be appearing at the upcoming Celtic Connections Festival. Instead, he's at home in Ballachulish working on a very different type of project – the world’s first Gaelic hip hop record.

“Well, first hip hop record in the Gaelic tradition, anyway,” says the highlander, who raps under the pseudonym Eólas – meaning ‘knowledge’.

Read more...

Watch brilliant archive footage as Gary Lineker meets Mark Hughes to talk Stoke

13 January 2017 (The Sentinel)

BBC's new football programme The Premier League Show sent Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker to Stoke to catch up with his old teammate Mark Hughes.

The pair had played together under Terry Venables at Barcelona, with Hughes admitting he wished he had bought into the culture.

Read more...

School languages fear as teacher numbers plummet

13 January 2017 (The Herald)

The number of language teachers in Scottish secondary schools has fallen by more than two hundred since 2010, according to new figures.

Official statistics from the Scottish Government show there were 1,635 language teachers in 2010 compared to just 1,402 in 2016 - a decline of 15 per cent.

The decline comes at a time when there are significant fears over the future of languages with a long-term fall in the number of pupils sitting exams such as French, German and Italian - although Spanish is still proving popular.

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who asked for the figures, called on ministers to explain the falling number.

He said: “It’s extremely disappointing to see such a dramatic fall in the number of secondary school language teachers since 2010.

“Language teaching in schools have been highlighted as a government priority yet the government’s own figures show there are fewer teachers than before, setting language students up for failure.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about getting pupils learning languages then they need to ensure every school has the resources to provide a quality language education.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Association of Language Teaching (SALT) blamed changes to the curriculum for the “hugely concerning” fall.

Read more...

How Mandarin can unlock our children's potential in an increasingly connected world

10 January 2017 (The Telegraph)

With over one billion speakers worldwide, the global significance of Mandarin Chinese cannot be denied. But with the continued growth of English as a lingua franca of business, travel and international relations, do we really need more young people in the UK to learn it?

The reality is that, at a time when the UK is repositioning itself on the world stage, young people across the UK need to have the knowledge and skills to unlock their potential in an increasingly connected world - and to my mind at least, there are few abilities more valuable than speaking Mandarin Chinese.

The good news is that parents across the UK seem to think so too. Research released last week as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme highlighted that those with children aged under 18 see Mandarin Chinese as the ‘most beneficial’ non-European language for their children's future – followed by Arabic and Japanese. As well as 51 per cent of those surveyed believing that speaking Mandarin would boost their children's career prospects, 56 per cent saw it as a skill that would open their children's minds to an ‘exciting and dynamic culture’.

Read more...

People can protect themselves against dementia if they can speak another language

10 January 2017 (The Mirror)

Being able to speak another language protects against dementia and other age-related decline in brain power, a new study found.

People who are bilingual are better at saving brain power and less prone to be distracted as their brains get wired.

So they use less of the brain than those who speak just one language.

And they rely less on the frontal areas of the brain which are vulnerable to ageing explaining why the brains of bilinguals are better equipped at staving off the signs of cognitive ageing or dementia.

Professor Ana In s Ansaldo at the University of Montreal compared the functional brain connections in monolingual and bilingual elderly people.

Read more...

Being bilingual makes people's brains more efficient and could combat cognitive ageing, study finds

10 January 2017 (The Independent)

Scientists have found that the benefits of being bilingual stretch much further than those commonly associated with being fluent in two languages - it could also help a person’s brain in later life.

New research from the Université de Montréal shows that people who are bilingual are able to save brain power, which in turn could help with the effects of cognitive ageing.

The study, led by Dr Ana Inés Ansaldo at the university’s geriatric research centre, found that bilingualism can make the brain more efficient and economical in the way that it carries out certain tasks.

Read more...

How to learn a language this year: ‘Will a virtual teacher work for me?'

7 January 2017 (The Guardian)

Italian, for me, has always been the one that got away. At school, French and Latin came easily, but for some reason I chose German as my third language. After getting into university to study French and Italian, I decided I’d rather lie around reading novels for three years and switched to English. In my 20s, I signed up for an evening class, but it was full and I was bumped into Spanish. Though it’s far more useful – the second-most widely spoken language in the world – Spanish just wasn’t the same.

Read more...

How to save MFL? Paint a brighter global future…

6 January 2017 (TES)

As students flee modern foreign languages in droves, Alistair McConville says that we should stop talking about the earning potential of subjects and instead appeal to pupils’ youthful sense of social empathy – especially at a time of political upheaval around the world.

The full article can be accessed on TES online, 6 January 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Parents think Mandarin is most useful language for children, survey says

5 January 2017 (BT)

Mandarin Chinese is the most useful non-European language for children to learn, UK parents believe.

It will boost their child's career prospects, according to 51%of parents, while 56% felt it would open their children's minds to an "exciting and dynamic" culture.

Arabic and Japanese, which both picked by 14% of parents, were the other key non-European languages.

The figures were gained after 1,138 UK adults with children aged under 18 were questioned in a Populus survey commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP).

French, Spanish and German were the top choices overall for young people in the UK to learn after being picked by 57%, 54% and 40% of parents respectively.

Read more...

Meet The Refugees Taking On The UK’s Language Skills Deficit

1 January 2017 (Huffington Post)

What do a dentist, a human rights lawyer and a maths teacher have in common?

Certainly, they’re all qualified professionals. What you might not guess - blog title aside - is that they have all sought, and found, refuge in the UK in the last few years. They fled from Syria, Sudan and North Korea respectively. None of them have (yet) been able to practise their professions here, but that hasn’t stopped them helping the Brits in need of their skills. They all now work for a new tech for good startup, through which they share their native language and culture - online and in person - with people in the UK.

The startup is called Chatterbox. By training and employing refugees ​as language tutors, the venture catalyses refugee integration into the UK labour market whilst tackling the country’s language skills deficit.

Read more...

Related Links

Want to learn Arabic, Korean or Swahili? Refugee language tutors can help (Thomson Reuters Foundation, 16 January 2017)

Boxing champ Chris Eubank thinks he'd be a hit at Burns supper

1 January 2017 (Daily Record)

The eccentric boxing champ revealed he would love to study the Scots language and loves Rabbie Burns' poems.

Read more...

Eilidh’s next year of study is full of Eastern Promise

1 January 2017 (Milngavie Herald)

Eilidh McConnell, a sixth year pupil at Douglas Academy in Milngavie, has won a scholarship to study and work in China next year.

Eilidh, who will defer her University place for a year, competed with other Scottish pupils and was interviewed in Strathclyde University for the place. The opportunity is offered by the Confucious Institute of Scotland which seeks to promote Chinese language and culture in Scotland.

Read more...

Police Scotland officers to be encouraged to speak more Gaelic under new five-year plan

30 December 2016 (The National)

Police officers are to take crime reports in Gaelic as part of new efforts to use the minority language.

Police Scotland already puts Poileas Alba branding on uniforms, vehicles and signage in the Highlands and Islands. Now officers all over the country will be encouraged to speak Gaelic on the beat and over the phone as part of a new five-year plan.

From 2017, the force’s logo will be rendered bilingual as standard across the country and in all official material, “demonstrating equal respect for Gaelic and English”.

Senior officers will also help would-be learners pick up the tongue to help create “a sustainable future” for Gaelic and integrate it within policing. Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie said the strategy has been developed in response to a public consultation.

Read more...

Related Links

Police fight crime armed with their latest weapon . . . Gaelic (The Herald, 30 December 2016)

Local pupils wanting to study Gaelic might not be taken by Glasgow City Council bosses warn

19 December 2016 (Clydebank Post)

Pupils from West Dunbartonshire wanting to study Gaelic may no longer be taken by Glasgow City Council, education bosses have said.

At the education services committee last week, Laura Mason, chief education officer, said Glasgow Gaelic School currently takes their 18 pupils doing their medium language study.

But she said: “We don’t know until we start enrolling in January if parents demand Gaelic education. There is a strong possibility Glasgow City Council will say they’re full.

Read more...

Uist Gaelic culture project Cnoc Soilleir secures funds

16 December 2016 (BBC News)

A project to establish a centre for Gaelic music, dance and cultural heritage in Uist in the Western Isles has secured £1m in funding.

Cnoc Soilleir is a partnership project between Ceòlas Uibhist and Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway, Lewis. The education and arts centre could create more than 40 jobs.

The £1m funding has been allocated from the Scottish government's 2016-17 Gaelic capital fund.

Read more...

Glasgow Gaelic School performs Christmas pantomime

16 December 2016 (BBC News)

A traditional Christmas panto would be nothing without the familiar catchphrases. But what do they sound like in Gaelic? BBC Scotland's very own fairy godmother, Aileen Clarke, has been to find out.

Read more...

Learning a second language still matters

10 December 2016 (Times Higher Education)

The Brexit vote sent shock waves through the UK’s modern languages community.

Already shaken by the closure of modern languages departments at the universities of Ulster and Northumbria, a continuing downward trend in undergraduate enrolments, and the loss of Higher Education Funding Council for England funding for the Routes Into Languages programme, the vote seemed to many to be symptomatic of a lack of understanding of the value of languages both nationally and internationally.

Part of the problem derives from the widespread misconception that speaking English is enough and that monolingualism is the norm.

Read more...

Chris Pratt Impresses Jennifer Lawrence With His German-Speaking Skills

9 December 2016 (Glamour)

Chris Pratt is truly a renaissance man. In addition to being a highly successful actor and a loving father, this 37-year-old is also a master of the French braid, a magician, and apparently a polyglot as well. That last skill is something Pratt decided to showcase during a press tour for his upcoming film Passengers.

Read more...

The best places to study for a degree in Europe

8 December 2016 (The Guardian)

Studying abroad is a fun way to grow up. You travel. You meet new people. You get out of your comfort zone. It shows you’re willing to get out, leave your home town, and go see the world. 

As it stands, some European countries enable Brits to study without paying tuition fees or incurring anywhere near as much debt as they would in the UK. Living costs can also be cheap. Many learn a new language and experience a different teaching style. Some stay on and find jobs. Others fall in love and life takes a different direction altogether. Whatever comes of it, studying in Europe is worth considering. Here’s a roundup of our top destinations.

Read more...

In or out of the EU, UK businesses can’t afford to reject language learning

6 December 2016 (CEO)

Brexit has raised many questions over the future competitive trading position of Britain in Europe. While the economic impact of the political upheaval still plays out, it is a good time to pause and reflect on the fact that for a long time, UK companies have put themselves at a disadvantage in Europe; perhaps without even realising it. That disadvantage comes from a lack of language skills.

While it’s fair to say that English is the lingua franca of many corporations, it is also true that global companies can enjoy richer, more productive interactions with customers, suppliers, overseas colleagues and partners when they are able to operate within different cultures in different languages.

And while enhancing and improving business relationships is a universally useful endeavor, it would be a mistake to think that language skills in business are a matter of mere social niceties. In fact, they have significant material impact on the bottom line. Mark Herbert at the British Council summed it up nicely when he cited the estimated, “tens of billions in missed trade and business opportunities every year” resulting from the UK’s shortage of language skills.

Read more...

A map showing how many foreign languages children study at school in different European countries

3 December 2016 (The Independent)

Learning foreign languages is key to getting ahead. The UK used to be much better teaching languages in schools, but in recent years we've been outdone by our fellow Europeans.

Recently data from Eurostat was transformed into a map by linguist and cartographer Jakub Marian.

Based on their most recent data from 2013, it shows what European countries teach foreign languages to their young populations.

Read more...

Ofsted annual report: Primary emphasis on spelling and grammar risks narrowing the curriculum

1 December 2016 (TES)

Report also warns that secondary heads do not realise that the primary curriculum has changed and still think that pupils' progress is measured in levels
The emphasis on reading, writing, spelling and grammar at primary school risks narrowing the curriculum, today's Ofsted annual report states.

This means that subjects such as science and modern foreign languages can suffer as a result.

The report says: “The underlying importance of literacy means that reading, writing, spelling and grammar remain of the utmost importance in the primary curriculum.

“However, this clear emphasis, which has been embraced successfully by the vast majority of primary schools, can create a risk that the curriculum becomes narrowed.”

Evidence from inspections shows that science and foreign languages end up suffering, because not enough time is available for in-depth study, the report stated.

Foreign languages were particularly affected. None of the primary schools inspected this year spent more than two hours a week on language study. The majority – more than two thirds – spent less than an hour on foreign languages.

Read more...

Arabic? Polish? Dutch? Your views on the languages schools should teach

1 December 2016 (The Guardian)

What languages should we teach children in schools, and why? The question came to the fore on Monday after the Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, called on Theresa May to introduce Polish classes in British schools.

With 831,000 Poles living in Britain – they make up the largest immigrant group in the UK – introducing the language certainly could help communities feel more integrated.

Traditionally in secondary schools in the UK, the most widely taught languages have been French, Spanish and German, according to data from the British Council in collected from 2013 to 2014. In 2010 the government also decided to train 1,000 Mandarin teachers to work in secondary schools in England thanks to China’s increasing influence on the global economy.

How should we select languages for the curriculum? Should we choose those that are spoken the most in Britain? What languages have been most helpful to you? We asked our readers these questions and this is what they said.

Read more...

Banning children using Scots language ‘damages education’

1 December 2016 (The Scotsman)

To tell a child that the Scots language is corrupt is potentially damaging and hold back educational attainment, the Scots Scriever has said.

Hamish MacDonald, who has a residency at the National Library of Scotland to promote the Scots language, was speaking at the launch of the Wee Windaes website, which tracks the language across the centuries to its current day use.

MacDonald said: “Any practitioner in Scots say that bairns struggling in the classroom will shine when given the opportunity to express themselves in Scots. “To tell a child that their Scots language is slang or corrupt is potentially damaging, a falsehood and a bar to educational progress.”

MacDonald, appointed in 2015 by Creative Scotland, created the website with the library’s Learning Team to raise awareness of Scots.

Read more...

Which languages should be taught in schools and why?

29 November 2016 (The Guardian)

The Polish prime minister Beata Szydło has called on Theresa May to introduce Polish classes for children in English schools.

It raises interesting questions about what languages we teach in schools and why. Szydło also called for more support for the 831,000 Poles living in Britain. Introducing the language could help communities feel more integrated.

In the past language choices have been for different reasons. In 2010 the government decided to train 1,000 Mandarin teachers to work in secondary schools in England due to China’s increasing influence on the global economy. Those in favour of the move said the next generation would need to understand Chinese culture and use its language.

Which languages do you think children should learn and why? Should an emphasis be put on how useful that language may be in the future? Or should the decision be made based on the needs of the local community?

Which languages have been most or least helpful to you? Which one did you enjoy learning and why? Did you grow up speaking another language at home? How would you have felt if your fellow pupils had studied it in school? Share your views with us.

Read more...

Related Links

The importance of Polish lessons in a post-Brexit world (The Guardian, 29 November 2016)

The ten greatest shortcomings of modern language provision in England

29 November 2016 (TES)

Being an MFL teacher has never been as challenging as in this day and age. Ironically so, considering that this is a time in human history in which mastering foreign languages is not only desirable, but truly essential for business, politics and education.

In today’s globalised society, foreign language learning ought be aligned with the most recent acquisitions in neuroscience and be given more prominence in school curricula, whilst teachers ought to be given more trust, space and opportunities to grow professionally and stay motivated. Instead, the status quo the current MFL teaching landscape is one of work overload, stress, low self-efficacy and demotivation – thousands of teachers whose professional efficacy and health are undermined by a plethora of prescriptive pedagogic obligations which do not chime with research nor with common sense and are a source of daily professional and persona frustration for many.

The rationale for this article is the same that has motivated me to publish my teaching resources on the TES platform, write my blog ‘The Language Gym’ and co-author ‘The Language Teacher Toolkit’ with legendary blogger and educator Steve Smith, i.e.: to attempt to address the deficits which have been undermining the effectiveness of MFL provision in England for decades and which the government has constantly failed to address.

These are, in my opinion, the top-ten reasons why MFL provision in England is still largely defective.

Read more...

Media Release: Two weeks to go! Last chance to enter this year’s FilmG competition

29 November 2016 (All Media Scotland)

The closing date for entries in FilmG 2017 is fast approaching. However, if anyone is yet to complete their film there are still two weeks left, before the competition closes on Wednesday 14 December.

Whether it be a comedy, drama, documentary or even a music video, one of the simplest ways to make a short film, is to use mobile technology.

The FilmG team are hopeful that the increasing availability of technology along with a broader range of prizes than ever before will see a record number of entries this year.

The theme for this year’s FilmG competition is ‘Strì’ meaning to strive or endeavour. All films must be in Scottish Gaelic and can be up to five minutes long for youth category entrants or up to eight minutes in length for open category entrants.

Read more...

Media Release: Confucius Classroom launches in Moray

29 November 2016 (All Media Scotland)

A facility dedicated to promoting closer cultural links between school pupils in Moray and their counterparts in China was formally opened today.

The Confucius Classroom is part of a growing network of hubs – currently standing at more than 20 – being set up across Scotland to help promote Chinese language and culture in schools.

The Moray hub is based at Elgin Academy and will be resourced for children and young people from across the area to study all aspects of Chinese life.

It will also serve as a base for two teachers from China who will work closely with a total of 14 local secondary and primary schools during the current session.

The teaching posts are funded by Scotland’s National Centre for Languages at Strathclyde University where the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools is based.

Opportunities will also exist for teachers from Moray schools to undertake exchange visits to China, while pupils will also be able to take part in language immersion courses in Chinese schools.

Read more...

Metro Deaf School to make history with Chinese sign language

27 November 2016 (Star Tribune)

St. Cloud State University and the Metro Deaf School in St. Paul have joined forces to include deaf and hard-of-hearing students in a first-of-its-kind cross-cultural exchange. The Metro Deaf School has opened a “Confucius classroom” for students to learn Chinese sign language, history and culture.

Read more...

Venetians push for their dialect to be recognised as a language ahead of referendum on autonomy from Rome

25 November 2016 (The Telegraph)

Once a formidable trading power in the Mediterranean and beyond, Venice is seeking to regain some of its long-lost autonomy by having its distinctive dialect recognised as an official language. 

[...] On Tuesday the regional government of Veneto, which encompasses Venice, will debate a motion to make the Venetian dialect an official language, giving it similar status to that of German in the Italian mountain province of South Tyrol. 

The motion has been put forward by four towns in the region, which say the dialect – known locally as “Veneta” – should have equal weight with Italian. They want Venetian to be taught in schools, used in government offices and to appear on road signs, as German does in South Tyrol.

Read more...

Seven Gaelic phrases and sayings for the absolute beginner

25 November 2016 (The Scotsman)

There is nothing like learning a new language to exercise your mind and impress your friends. 

Gaelic may have become a political hot potato but picking up a few key phrases will connect you to a language spoken in Scotland for more than 1,000 years.

Little over one per cent of Scotland’s population now speaks Gaelic with highest rates found in the Western Isles. Numbers of young people learning the minority language are on the rise while the proportion of the older population with a knowledge of Gaelic starts to fall.

Here are seven easy Gaelic phrases and sayings - with phonetic transcription - to try out for size.Some may come in particularly handy over the festive season.

Read more...

Experiencing a Gaelic welcome when visiting Scotland

25 November 2016 (Stornoway Gazette)

A new Welcome Scheme which recognises the special efforts made by tourism businesses to provide for visitors with an interest in Gaelic heritage was launched at the Highland Tourism Conference in Inverness this week.

Scotland’s Experiencing Gaelic is a newly-developed Welcome Scheme and was launched by John Thurso, Chairman of VisitScotland.

VisitScotland is working in partnership with The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to deliver this year’s conference. More than 180 delegates had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on the topics of Slow Adventure Tourism, VisitScotland’s iKnow Scotland Programme, Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Business Gateway support and Marine Tourism.

Recent research show that over half the visitors to Scotland are interested in learning more about the Gaelic language, heritage, culture and traditions.

VisitScotland has developed the Experiencing Gaelic scheme to recognise those businesses that excel in meeting the expectations of visitors who are interested in learning more about this native language, including all accommodation sectors, cafes, restaurants and visitor attractions.

The Experiencing Gaelic scheme is not just about speaking Gaelic but it encourages businesses to spend time researching their local area, providing translations and offering links to local Gaelic heritage centres and places of interest.

Read more...

Google's AI just created its own universal 'language'

23 November 2016 (Wired)

Google has previously taught its artificial intelligence to play games, and it's even capable of creating its own encryption. Now, its language translation tool has used machine learning to create a 'language' all of its own.

In September, the search giant turned on its Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system to help it automatically improve how it translates languages. The machine learning system analyses and makes sense of languages by looking at entire sentences – rather than individual phrases or words.

Following several months of testing, the researchers behind the AI have seen it be able to blindly translate languages even if it's never studied one of the languages involved in the translation. "An example of this would be translations between Korean and Japanese where Korean⇄Japanese examples were not shown to the system," the Mike Schuster, from Google Brain wrote in a blogpost.

The team said the system was able to make "reasonable" translations of the languages it had not been taught to translate. In one instance, a research paper published alongside the blog, says the AI was taught Portuguese→English and English→Spanish. It was then able to make translations between Portuguese→Spanish.

Read more...

Special musical gift delights guests at Celtic and FC Barcelona's pre-game lunch

23 November 2016 (FC Barcelona)

Before today’s game between Celtic and Barça, the directors of the two clubs enjoyed a lunch organised by UEFA in a restaurant close to the hotel where the Catalans are staying.

FCB was represented at the event by vice-president Manel Arroyo, the commissioner for Espai Barça Jordi Moix and directors Silvio Elías, Pau Vilanova and Xavier Vilajoana.

And there was an unexpected surprise for them before the meal was served, when the choir from Dalmarnock Primary School performed the Barça anthem!

See the video on the FC Barcelona website.

Read more...

Highland tourism chiefs reveal new scheme to recognise Gaelic heritage efforts

23 November 2016 (Press and Journal)

A new scheme which recognises the special efforts made by tourism businesses to provide for visitors with an interest in Gaelic heritage was launched yesterday.

VisitScotland’s Experiencing Gaelic is a newly-developed initiative and was unveiled by John Thurso, chairman of VisitScotland, at the Highland Tourism Conference in Inverness.

Recent research shows that more than half the visitors to Scotland are interested in learning more about the Gaelic language, and also our Gaelic heritage, culture and traditions.

Read more...

The top 100 universities in the world for employability revealed

21 November 2016 (The Independent)

Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, King’s College London and the University of Manchester all ranked highly in terms of graduate employability.

[..] Taking into consideration opinions from 2,500 recruitment managers from international companies in 20 countries around the world, researchers named “professional experience” as the most important factor when predicting a graduate’s employability.

A high degree of specialism, and proficiency in at least two foreign languages were also hailed as important skills favoured by recruiters.

Responding to the results, Vicky Gough, a spokesperson for the British Council, said: “Despite languages being valued by employers the world over – as this latest ranking shows – the UK is currently facing a shortfall in these vital skills."

Read more...

Making teaching more conversational could help tackle languages crisis

18 November 2016 (TES)

Foreign language teachers should teach more commonly used words and conversational subject matter to engage pupils in their subjects, a report published today recommends.

The Teaching Schools Council argues that such changes would help more students persist in studying foreign languages, which the research described as being in “crisis” beyond GCSE.

The council's Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review report points out that fewer than half of pupils take a GCSE in a language. It recommends that the "vast majority of young people" should study a modern foreign language up to age 16 and take a GCSE in it.

The report, designed to provide advice for secondary school languages teachers, suggests some language teaching uses vocabulary that is too specialised because it sticks with set themes, such as "free-time activities" and the "environment".

Read more...

Rapping up Mandarin

18 November 2016 (TESS)

If you want to get an insight into what your YouTube-fixated, viral-hungry students are looking at online this year, you won’t go far wrong if you spend some time with a few Asian hip hop artists. Be it the viral thrust and wry wit of Indonesia’s Rich Chigga, the America-breaking ferocity of South Korea’s Keith Ape or China’s hottest new hip hop property, Higher Brothers, this is one of the year’s most dominant, and credible, trending genres.

This rise of Asian hip hop comes at a fortuitous time for London teacher Adam Moorman. While his approach to teaching Mandarin to key stage 5 students at Fortismere School in North London was not inspired by his students’ preoccupation with the new stars of rap, it certainly feeds into it: he’s getting his class to rap in Mandarin themselves.

“It’s much easier than you think,” Moorman says. “Mandarin is a monosyllabic language with a much more limited range of sounds than English. If you discount tones, there are around 400 syllables in Mandarin, compared with more than 8,000 in English. So it’s a lot harder to come up with rhymes in English than in Mandarin.”

Students are asked to create raps as preparation for their speaking exam. Guided on content by the key topics in the qualification (pollution, for example) and on complexity by the exam marking criteria, they write, practise and then perform the raps, which are recorded. Moorman explains that rap is a useful tool to get students talking for a number of reasons. First, he says that Mandarin is an inherently musical language, so it lends itself to the genre. Second, learning a language requires repetition, and keeping that engaging is tough – writing and performing a rap gives students a compelling reason to go over sentences again and again. Third, the nature of rap means that dexterity of vocabulary is rewarded – so there is an incentive to learn more phrases and be innovative with them.

“Many teachers find that, as students move through KS4-5, they become frustrated by the difficulty of constructing longer passages of speech,” Moorman explains. “Some of the fun, freshness and simplicity of language-learning at KS3 disappears.

“This approach tackles that by combining rhythm, rhymes and repetition in an enjoyable and memorable way that shifts the focus from painstaking book-based learning, but achieves the rewards of independent research, drafting and practising.”

The full article can be accessed in TESS online, 18 November 2016 (subscription required).

Read more...

The carefully worded welcome

18 November 2016 (TESS)

Imagine being the leader of a local authority and being told that you suddenly need to deal with an influx of 100,000 men, women and children into your city, and that most of them will not be able to speak the local language.

Now imagine you are in charge of education provision in that city and you need to integrate a large number of these children into your education system. What would you do? How would you best meet the needs of these children while continuing to maintain a high standard of education for the children currently in your schools?

This was the challenge facing Berlin City Council last year. In Britain, we looked on as refugees fleeing Syria and other war-ravaged countries arrived in Germany to open arms, yet we never fully gained an insight into how they were integrated into German society.

Last summer, I travelled to Berlin as part of an Erasmus+ scheme to find out. There I met Gudrun Schreier, whose job it is to oversee the integration of thousands of refugee children into the city’s education system.

How Schreier and her team approached their task should be of interest to schools everywhere – it is a task many of us will soon have to undertake, too.

Schreier was guided by the overall approach of the council. The underlying principle it adopted was Sprache als Schlüssel zur Integration (language as the key to integration). In a school setting, this took the form of Willkommensklassen (welcome classes).

Willkommensklassen are special classes within a school, made up purely of nonnative speaking children who initially have little or no knowledge of German. They are situated within mainstream schools, with language acquisition being their principal function.

The goal of the Willkommensklassen is that within six to 12 months, 90 per cent of the children will have obtained a high enough standard of German to be able to transfer to a Regelklasse (mainstream class).

The full article can be accessed in TESS online, 18 November 2016 (subscription required).

Read more...

Capable linguists put off by ‘ridiculous’ grade boundary

18 November 2016 (TESS)

Grade boundaries set at “ridiculous” levels are driving pupils away from languages and leaving talented linguists with lower results than they deserve, it has been claimed.

Languages teachers fear their subjects – which are already suffering from falling numbers – will be sidelined further as they gain a reputation among pupils as “hard” options that could put their university places at risk.

Of the 30 most popular Highers, German and French set the bar highest for an A grade (78 per cent and 77 per cent, respectively); Spanish is also above most subjects, with 73 per cent required for an A.

Gillian Campbell-Thow, chair of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching (Salt), said: “Learners who were expecting to get an A, having had high marks all year, were of course disappointed. For some, it impacted on their access to further and higher education.”

As TESS has reported, the situation for modern languages has already been described as “near critical” this year because of a decrease in pupils taking the subjects at S4.

Ms Campbell-Thow said that, at Higher, “we are now seeing learners opting for subjects where they feel they are more likely to get an A”.

Languages teachers are also reportedly narrowing their focus. Ms Campbell-Thow said that one Salt member “felt she had to take out a lot of the creative content…in favour of teaching to a test, which flies in the face of Curriculum for Excellence”.

She added: “We don’t want to find ourselves teaching to an exam, using rote learning and effectively putting a ceiling on skills development and language acquisition, but the worry of letting down learners and parents…has left our practitioners feeling both vulnerable and under pressure.”

The full article can be accessed on TESS online, 18 November 2016 (subscription required).

Read more...

Sign language degree opens opportunities

17 November 2016 (Edinburgh News)

A chronic UK-wide shortage of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters led Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to launch Scotland’s first BSL degree course in 2012 to equip students with the skills they require for a career in translation and interpretation.

The first cohort graduated in June with many going straight into jobs as a result of the high demand for BSL interpreters.

Many interpreters are self employed, working freelance and using agencies to source work within the deaf community. Others go into salaried employment, as Sam Rojas, 21, did with North East Sensory Services (NESS) in Aberdeen after graduating from Heriot-Watt.

Read more...

Too few UK students are studying overseas, and it’s a problem

17 November 2016 (THE)

This week is the British Council’s International Education Week, which promotes the benefits of international learning and cultural exchange.

The UK is a global hub for international students with more than 400,000 studying here last year. Yet British students travelling outside the UK to study is relatively rare, and this is a problem. Just 1.3 per cent of UK students travelled abroad to study or go on work placement in 2014-15.

For graduates to find jobs and succeed in today’s post-Brexit world, they need international and cross-cultural knowledge. It is also critical for the UK’s competitiveness in international markets that the next generation entering the workplace understands how to compete globally.

Employers expect graduates to appreciate cultural diversity, universal business language and be familiar with globalisation. However, in terms of having a global mindset, nearly a quarter of employers (24 per cent) have rated graduates as weak in this area.

Read more...

'Now More Than Ever’ - Why The UK Needs To Make More Time For Language Learning In The Run Up To Brexit

17 November 2016 (Huffington Post)

'Language skills matter now more than ever’ - that is the resounding message coming from the British Council’s latest piece of research on language learning in the post-Brexit landscape. But with language uptake low in schools - and the majority of us admitting our own linguistic skills are rusty at best - what can be done to make sure languages get the recognition they deserve as the UK prepares to leave the EU?

Well the good news is that the majority of us recognise the vital role that languages have to play in the current climate. Out of the 2,000 UK adults surveyed by Populus in our new poll for International Education Week, 63 per cent saw the ability to speak other languages as being essential if the country is to remain “outward looking”. 61 per cent said they were more vital than ever if the UK is to remain “open for business” in light of the result of the EU referendum.

Read more...

Outlander coach wins at Scottish Gaelic Awards

17 November 2016 (Daily Record)

Outlander's Gaelic consultant Àdhamh Ó Broin has been honoured at The Scottish Gaelic Awards.

The Gaelic consultant scooped the International Award for his work as a Gaelic language coach on the popular TV series, which has showcased the language to an audience of millions.

Gaelic in the STARZ original series Outlander, now in its third season, is considered integral to the authenticity of the show and its characters

In his role, Àdhamh teaches the actors to deliver complex Gaelic-language scenes despite having no previous spoken ability.

Read more...

Grab opportunities in this Century of Asia

16 November 2016 (The Scotsman)

Scotland’s people have, historically, been our greatest asset, making a significant impact both within the UK and abroad. The impact made overseas by Scots has been remarkable given our small population.

The Scottish Government’s own strategy incorporates “the Four Is” s as highest priorities, beginning with “Investing in our people and infrastructure in a sustainable way”. But are we doing enough to unlock the true potential of Scotland and embrace the opportunities that arise, even in a post-Brexit environment?

A critical factor for Scotland will be the ability of its companies and institutions to engage effectively with many new markets. The majority of these sit in Asia and require a special knowledge of practices and customs to ensure success. Since most companies in Scotland are SMEs this means that they need to wake up to the need to create market entry strategies and produce the right products and services to attract both investors and customers or clients.

[..] Learning starts at an early age. The Scotland China Education Network (SCEN) was founded in 2006 by Dr Judith McClure to bring together individuals, national agencies and associations keen to promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture in Scottish schools.

Read more...

Definitive guide to ancient Norn language discovered

16 November 2016 (BBC News)

The definitive text on the ancient Norn language and its link with modern Scots has been reprinted using the original pages and covers.

Norn was largely spoken by people in the north of Scotland until the mid 18th Century.

Uncollated and unbound sheets of the text, first printed over 80 years ago, were discovered in a Kirkwall warehouse.

The Orkney Norn explains the link between the ancient language of Norn and modern Scots as BBC Scotland's David Delday explains.

Read more...

News Exclusive: The Arsenal Double Club

14 November 2016 (Arsenal Football Club)

With a total of seven languages in his armoury, Petr Cech is by far the most lingual member of Arsenal’s squad, now that Mikel Arteta, conversant in nine tongues, has left the club. Earlier this year, Steve Eadon, Languages coordinator for the Arsenal Double Club, interviewed Cech about his experience with languages.

“Before I do these interviews, I have a little time with the players off camera,” explains Steve, who has also interviewed Hector Bellerin and Gabriel on the same subject. “I asked Petr how many of these languages he is actually fluent in. He said that he was fluent in all of them. So we tested him and, needless to say, he was telling the truth!”

Cech voluntarily learned Spanish and Portuguese when he arrived at Chelsea due to the proliferation of Spanish and Portuguese speaking players in the Blues’ defence. Cech revealed earlier this year that he uses three different languages to communicate with the Arsenal defence.

Read more...

New survey examines impact of Gaelic media on learning

14 November 2016 (BBC News)

The influence of Gaelic media on learning of the language is being examined.

The Big Gaelic Survey has been commissioned by the language's development body, Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The study of media, such as BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, has three questionnaires. They are aimed at Gaelic speakers, Gaelic learners and people who are interested in learning Gaelic in the future.

Read more...

It’s all in the wording: ‘Arrival’ raises profile of linguists, making them almost cool

11 November 2016 (Washington Post)

The extraterrestrial “heptapods” at the center of the new sci-fi thriller “Arrival” aren’t the only strange, poorly understood creatures in the film. The other aliens, it turns out, are linguists, represented by Amy Adams’s Dr. Louise Banks, an academic field researcher who is recruited by U.S. military intelligence to help communicate with a race of seven-legged E.T.s that have descended on Earth, with intentions unclear, from another world.

“A lot of people don’t know what linguists do, or even that we exist, apart from some idea that we just translate lots of languages,” says Jessica Coon, an associate professor of linguistics who consulted on the film and provided a loose model for Louise. Coon unsuccessfully lobbied the filmmakers to change a line describing Louise, arguing that it misrepresents what linguists do: “You’re at the top of everyone’s list,” Forest Whitaker’s Army colonel says to Louise, “when it comes to translations.”

Read more...

Language assistants risk being lost in translation

11 November 2016 (TESS)

Most schools still do not have access to a modern language assistant, new figures show, amid fears that the scheme will wither away if a key source of funding is stopped.

Native speakers of foreign languages have long come to Scotland to work in schools and help teachers to bring those subjects to life. But as local authorities cut budgets, their numbers fell as low as 72 by 2013-14.

Figures obtained by TESS show that the provisional number of modern language assistants (MLAs) has risen to 146 this year, including 23 in independent schools.

The data from British Council Scotland – which arranges for MLAs to work in the country – show increased numbers in all five languages that are part of the scheme: French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish.

But there is still some way to go to match the 278 MLAs that were working in schools in 2005-06 – the highest number since existing records began in 2003.

The picture also varies markedly around the country: 18 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have no MLAs, while Edinburgh has the most with 25, and even a small council like Angus has as many as 19.

Lucy Young, head of education at British Council Scotland, said that councils often used funding from the Scottish government’s 1+2 languages programme to recruit MLAs at an annual cost of about £10,000 per assistant.

Under the programme – being rolled out in all primary schools – pupils are expected to have knowledge of two languages other than their own by the time they reach secondary.

But this key funding is due to be stopped in 2020 – putting schools’ access to MLAs at risk.

Read the full article on TESS online, 11 November 2016 (subscription required).

Read more...

How human brains do language: One system, two channels

8 November 2016 (Science Daily)

Currently there is a debate as to what role sign language has played in language evolution, and whether the structure of sign language share similarities with spoken language. New research shows that our brain detects some deep similarities between speech and sign language.

Read more...

Pupils enjoy Gaelic careers day at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

7 November 2016 (Skye Times)

Thirty five Gaelic learners and speakers from Portree and Plockton Secondary Schools attended a Careers Day at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

The event was formally opened by Mr John Norman Macleod, Vice Principal/Director of Academic Studies at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye.

The annual event ‘SIUTHAD!’– GO ON!’ is aimed at both Gaelic Learners and Fluent speakers. ‘SIUTHAD!’ showcases a range of Gaelic related careers and encourages young people to continue with their Gaelic studies.

‘SIUTHAD’!’ is a partnership between The Highland Council, Skills Development Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and is organised by the Council’s Gaelic Team, Skills Development Scotland(SDS) and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Read more...

Scottish Gaelic Awards 2016: Full list of nominees who made the shortlist

7 November 2016 (Daily Record)

The finalists have been announced for this year’s Scottish Gaelic Awards with just over a week to go until the big event.

The awards pay tribute to all aspects of Gaelic culture, education and language, highlighting the excellent work done in maintaining its growth and heritage.

The winners will be revealed on Wednesday, November 16 at Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel.

One of the finalists in the Learner Award is radio show Beag air Bheag, aired weekly on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.

The programme’s title means “little by little” and it introduces Gaelic learners to the language at an accessible pace.

Read more...

First Chinese classroom to open for Moray school pupils

4 November 2016 (Press and Journal)

School pupils in Moray will be transported from the north-east to the Far East with the opening of the region’s first Chinese classroom.

The Confucius base is scheduled to open at Elgin Academy at the end of the month with language and culture lessons for students. Two Chinese-speaking teachers will be based in the classroom, but will take lessons at five other secondary schools and eight primary schools in the region.

The initiative will also open up the opportunity for pupils and staff to take part in courses in the Asian country.

Read more...

By the numbers: the decline of specialist subjects

4 November 2016 (TESS)

Although archaeology is going to be withdrawn as an A-level option, there are other subjects that attract far fewer students.

[..] In Scotland, the lowest number of entries for a subject at Higher was for Gaelic as a foreign language, with 84, while 92 students took Urdu.

The full list of lowest entry A Levels / Highers is available in TESS online, 4 November 2016 (subscription required).

Read more...

Closed borders will lead only to closed minds

4 November 2016 (TESS)

It’s been just over four months since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and we still know very little about how Brexit will affect life in the UK. That is, of course, largely because it will be another few months until the process of the UK’s departure formally starts, and so, really, nothing has actually changed.

That is not to say it won’t, of course.

[..] And as Scotland’s modern language teachers prepare to come together for the Scottish Association of Language Teachers annual conference this week, its chair, Gillian Campbell-Thow, told me that Brexit would “either be a force for great change in the respect that it will give us a massive opportunity to further enhance the need for young people who are culturally aware and can communicate on many levels; or it will be another nail in the coffin to language learning as real life opportunities to work and live in other countries may not be as easy or accessible as they once were.”

Read the full article in TESS online, 4 November 2016 (subscription required).

Read more...

Lords debate on Brexit impact for HE funding and research

3 November 2016 (They Work For You)

The motion was raised in the House of Lords on 3 November 2016 that the House takes note of the potential impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union on funding for universities and scientific research.

During the debate, Baroness Garden of Frognal raised the importance of increasing and improving the UK's ability to communicate with the world in languages other than English following withdrawal from the EU.

The full debate can be accessed online.

Read more...

Interactive map reveals the cost of mastering the world’s top 20 languages

3 November 2016 (Daily Mail)

Whether it’s the winter weather or the global political flux that has set your wanderlust in motion, it’s hard to resist the idea of one day living overseas.

Indeed some 323,000 Brits left the UK for foreign climes last year, but if you’re tempted to pack up and book a ticket, it’s worth considering the cost and time it takes to learn a new language, because it's more than you think.

An interactive map of the world's top 20 languages has revealed that Mandarin is the most expensive language to learn, averaging £66,035 to become fluent. Francophiles will be delighted to discover that French is the easiest language to grasp - taking just 550 hours and £14,000 to learn.

Read more...

Raising a Trilingual Child

2 November 2016 (Wall Street Journal)

Raising a bilingual child is a goal for many parents. For others, it is just the first step.

Stefano Striuli, an IT executive in Atlanta, speaks to his daughters, Letizia, 10, and Maite (Mah-ee-tay), 7, in his native Italian. The girls speak to their mother, Pilar Guzman, in her native Spanish. The girls switch into English when speaking to each other at home, and they are learning French at school. When the whole family is together, they speak mostly Italian, or English when in public.

There are many reasons for encouraging children to learn a third or fourth language. Parents from two different countries often want to create a home for their children where both native languages are spoken. A bilingual family temporarily living overseas might want to encourage children to become fluent in the local language.

To work, a trilingual household needs rules, and rules must be enforced. Mr. Striuli says if his daughters get confused and use English at home, he ignores them—“but not in a rude way”—until he hears Italian.

“They know that Daddy equals Italian and Mommy equals Spanish,” he says.

The right time to commit to introducing a second or third language to a child is at birth. Parents need to create an environment where children are comfortable speaking, says Annick De Houwer, professor of language acquisition and multilingualism at the Universitat Erfurt in Erfurt, Germany.

Read more...

Why Your Spanish Is Stagnating...And What To Do About It!

31 October 2016 (Huffington Post)

Do you remember your first few weeks learning Spanish?

It was lots of fun, right?

You’d learn some new words, a few useful expressions, and you’d be able to use them in simple conversations right away!

It was an amazing feeling... “At this rate, I’ll speak fluent Spanish in no time!”

Except it didn’t quite work out like that.

Somewhere along the line, your progress slowed...

Learning Spanish stopped being fun, and feelings of frustration started to creep in. You think: “Maybe I’m just not cut out to learn Spanish!”

Well, if you can relate to any of this, there’s something important I want you to know:

It’s completely normal!

Here’s why...

Read more...

Take a haiku, add Gaelic - and welcome to the 'gaiku'

30 October 2016 (The Scotsman)

It is one of the world’s oldest forms of poetry, honed down the centuries with not a word or syllable left to waste. Now haiku, the major form of Japanese verse, is set to take the Gaelic world by storm with the forthcoming publication of The Little Book of Gaiku – believed to be the first full-length volume of Gaelic poems composed as haikus.

Read more...

A-levels choice 'reduced by funding squeeze'

27 October 2016 (BBC News)

Funding pressures mean pupils at sixth-form colleges in England must choose from an increasingly narrow range of A-level subjects, a study has found.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association's annual survey suggests two-thirds of colleges have had to drop courses.

[..] Over a third of colleges (39%) have dropped courses in modern foreign languages...

Read more...

Gaelic awards judges say that the standard is so high that their task is even more difficult

26 October 2016 (Daily Record)

Entrants from across the country and across the generations and will be rewarded for their work promoting Gaelic culture and language.

Judges at this year’s Scottish Gaelic Awards have admitted they face a tough task.

Entrants of all ages delighted the panel with their high standards – but made the task of choosing the best a difficult one, according to chairman Cathy MacDonald.

The broadcaster said: “Once again, there is an excellent standard spanning the generations.

“The awards seek to reward all aspects of Scottish Gaelic culture and language, highlighting some of the excellent work undertaken to maintain its growth and heritage.

"It’s encouraging to see how much they’ve grown, attracting younger Gaelic speakers.

“They create an opportunity for those unsung heroes whom we otherwise wouldn’t have heard of and whose contribution deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated publicly.”

Read more...

Parlez-vous Brexit? EU negotiator wants Brits to talk French

21 October 2016 (Reuters)

The European Union's lead Brexit negotiator would like British and EU officials to work in French rather than English during the divorce talks, an EU official familiar with Brussels' Brexit task force told Reuters on Friday.

After the report caused waves during British Prime Minister Theresa May's first EU summit in Brussels, Michel Barnier took to Twitter to deny - in English - having expressed such a view. However, he noted that language rules would be agreed by negotiators only once May launches the formal Brexit process next year.

The source told Reuters that people working with the former French foreign minister understood he would prefer his native tongue. "Barnier wants French to be the working language in Brexit negotiations with Britain," the EU official said.

Read more...

'It's a crying shame': teachers on scrapped A-level subjects

21 October 2016 (The Guardian)

There has been an outcry this week over minority A-levels that are being cut from the curriculum, with news that archeology and history of art will no longer be offered to sixth-form students.

Suzanne O’Farrell, Curriculum and assessment specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders discussed modern languages.

O’Farrell fell in love with languages at school. She studied French and German at A-level, then at degree level and went on to teach modern languages in schools for 28 years. This year her son started his A-levels but there was no longer an option to study either French or German. Now she’s trying to teach him herself.

Read more...

Europe's first ever bilingual Chinese-English school to open in London

19 October 2016 (The Independent)

The first school in Europe to teach all its students in both English and Chinese is to open in London next year.

Founders of Kensington Wade, a dual language independent prep school, say children as young as one will be taught in Chinese, and all those who attend the school will leave fluent.

Provisions for the school’s opening come amid renewed emphasis from the British government on the importance of teaching Chinese as a second language, in order to prepare future generations for the global market.

Read more...

Seniors pass on their Gaelic skills to learners

19 October 2016 (Stornoway Gazette)

A series of films to help teach Gaelic to children learning it in primary school outwith Gaelic Medium Education has been launched. 

The films star, and were made by, senior school pupils who have come through Gaelic Medium Education and are now passing on their language skills to youngsters who are just beginning to learn it. 

The films, made with the support of media professionals, form part of the Go! Gaelic programme, a comprehensive online resource developed by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig.

Read more...

Plan now to avoid post-Brexit languages crisis, say MPs

17 October 2016 (BBC News)

The government must plan now to avoid a post-Brexit languages crisis, say a cross-party group of MPs and peers.

Trade talks after leaving the EU will need more UK officials with language skills, say the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages. There is already a languages skills shortage but currently the UK can rely on other EU nationals "to plug the gap", say the group.

Ministers say their reforms are already boosting language learning in schools.

Read more...

Royal National Mod warning that Gaelic faces battle for survival in modern world

15 October 2016 (The Herald)

Gaelic is facing a fight for its survival and every Scot needs to play a part to ensure that it continues to receive much-needed support, it has been warned.

Opening the Royal National Mod last night, the head of the Gaelic media service warned that one of Scotland’s cultural “jewels” is at serious risk of being lost forever unless it is given greater support.

Maggie Cunningham, chairwoman of MG Alba, the Gaelic Media Service, made an emotive speech about the future of the tongue which, despite receiving millions of pounds of public funding, has continued to decline.

Read more...

My French PE lesson

13 October 2016 (TES)

I have the privilege to work with one of the best PE teachers I know. Her name is Charlotte and we’ve been sharing not only the same office this year, but the same ideas, sometimes, and the same passion for teaching.

[..] But the event I have enjoyed the most was sports week, at the end of the summer term. It was a great chance for me to familiarise myself with one of the new methods in teaching a foreign language: Content and Language Integrated Learning. Shortly- CLIL.

Read more...

Students are going into schools in Wales to address the alarming drop in people learning languages

12 October 2016 (Wales Online)

Learning a modern foreign language helps you make friends and get jobs, teenagers in Welsh secondary schools are being told by students.

Undergraduates are being brought in to tackle a huge drop in numbers learning languages like French, German and Spanish.

Between 2002 and 2015 numbers of pupils taking at least one modern foreign language at GCSE fell by 44%.

Entries for French are now less than half (47%) of what they were in 2002 and German entries are only about a third (36%) of those recorded in 2002.

Now a student mentoring scheme, funded by the Welsh Government to stem the fall, has increased the schools it works in from 28 to 44 in its second year.

Read more...

Speaking a second language changes how you see the world

12 October 2016 (The Week)

There are two versions of the writer Lauren Collins. There is the English-speaking Lauren, who, presumably, is the Lauren primarily responsible for writing her (wonderful) new memoir, When in French. And then there is the French-speaking Lauren, the one tasked with navigating a marriage and a life in a second language. In her new book, she tells the story of falling in love with a Frenchman, marrying him, and relocating with him to Switzerland; a passage toward the end depicts one of the sillier but still salient differences between the two Laurens...

Read more...

Gaelic wikipedia being developed with help of experts

11 October 2016 (The Scotsman)

The ancient Gaelic language of Scotland is being supported by one of the modern world’s most popular websites in an ambitious initiative to develop it online.

A Gaelic speaker is being recruited to work with groups all across Scotland to develop Uicipeid, the Gaelic Wikipedia.

It is a partnership between the National Library of Scotland and Wikimedia UK, the charity that supports and promotes the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. It aims to improve knowledge, understanding and use of Gaelic for current and future users. The initiative is being supported with funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the agency responsible for promoting Gaelic language throughout Scotland and internationally, and Wikimedia UK.

Read more...

Related Links

Search begins for a Gaelic Wikipedian (BBC News, 12 October 2016)

Gaelic gets new lease of life online (Press and Journal, 12 October 2016)

Brexit: Scheme extended to encourage foreign language take up

8 October 2016 (BBC News)

Addressing a serious decline in the number of Welsh pupils learning foreign languages is "urgent" following the Brexit vote, an academic has warned.

There were 700 A-level language entries in 2015 compared with 1,152 in 2009.

A scheme, which sees university students mentoring secondary school pupils, is being extended after making a "clear impact" on class numbers.

Professor Claire Gorrara said the scheme was more important than ever after the Brexit vote.

The Cardiff University professor, who leads the project, said it had led to improvements to the 28 schools involved in the pilot across Wales.

Read more...

Can Duolingo's chatbot teach you a foreign language?

7 October 2016 (The Guardian)

Chatbots suck. We all know it. If you want to get something done with a computer, it turns out, there are better ways to do it than laboriously type out conversational sentences to be read by a programme with a shaky grasp of the language and a gratingly affected sense of humour.

So I’m as surprised as anyone that for the past week, I’ve started every morning with a 10 minute conversation with a chatbot. In French.

The bot is the creation of Pittsburgh-based language-learning startup Duolingo, and it’s the first major change for the company’s app since it launched four years ago. In that time, the service has gained 150 million users, and stuck stubbornly to the top of the educational app charts on every platform it’s available on.

If you haven’t used Duolingo, the premise is simple: five to 20 minutes of interactive training a day is enough to learn a language.

Read more...

Makar Jackie Kay reveals plan for road trip to inspire writing talent

6 October 2016 (The Herald)

A tour of Scotland's islands, a plan for an epic poem and a project to put the languages of Scotland into verse are all part of the plans of Scotland's national poet, or Makar, Jackie Kay.

Ms Kay, who was appointed as the third Makar in March, is to embark on Ferlie Leed, a poetic tour of the Highlands and Islands, with a series of events in the more far-flung spaces of Scotland, beginning in Dunoon and moving on to North Uist, Stornoway and Shetland.

Ferlie Leed, a Scots expression which Ms Kay said has translated to 'wondrous talk', said she wants to visit as much of the country as she can in her five year term as Makar.

Read more...

Related Links

National Poetry Day (STV News, 6 October 2016) See Jackie Kay and one of last year's MTOT winners, Keren Mingole, talk about poetry in their lives (the programme is available on iPlayer until 13/09/16 - watch from 28:50).

How a deaf teenager from Congo found her voice in poetry

6 October 2016 (STV News)

For most of her life, it seemed as though Keren Mingole would never have a place to call home.

Forced to escape war-torn country of DR Congo, the 16-year-old has been brought up in Scotland from a very early age. Not only faced with the difficulty of communicating with strangers, Keren also had to learn British Sign Language.

[..] In 2015, an opportunity arose for Keren to explore and draw from her difficult experiences as a child through a multilingual poetry contest.

The Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition explores cultural identity, and allows pupils from P1-S6 to enter creative pieces of work and celebrate the many different languages used in schools throughout the UK.

Pupils from across Scotland are currently participating in the multi-cultural competition, which is officially endorsed by Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Scottish Makar Jackie Kay is also the official patron.

Keren won the 2015 Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition with her poem 'Who am I?' - a composition of her journey from her native home to her current home, Scotland.

Read more...

Related Links

National Poetry Day (STV News, 6 October 2016) See Jackie Kay and one of last year's MTOT winners, Keren Mingole, talk about poetry in their lives (the programme is available on iPlayer until 13/09/16 - watch from 28:50).

Inverclyde Academy pupils’ modern languages day is a winner

6 October 2016 (Greenock Telegraph)

Inverclyde Academy youngsters explored other cultures as part of a day celebrating modern languages.

Third year pupils also served up coffee and cakes to their guests, who included language ambassadors from Strathclyde University and Mandarin speakers.

Principal teacher Sarah Bell invited along experts in British Sign Language, as she widened out the European day of languages.

Read more...

Wigtown's winning Scots language poem recited

6 October 2016 (BBC News)

An American poet wins this year's Scots language category at Wigtown Book Festival.

Renita Boyle wrote "Sloe Jen" using the analogy of picking autumnal sloe berries as an analogy for heartbreak and mourning a lost love.

Listen to the recital of the winning poem on the BBC website.

Read more...

Infants pay more attention to native language cues: study

6 October 2016 (Free Press Journal)

Nearly from the moment of birth, human beings possess the capacity to distinguish between speakers of their native language and other language, reports IANS. Thus, they pay more attention to native language cues in deciding where to place their focus as well as adopt to the native speakers’ cultural behaviour, a study has found.

“The study reveals the great importance of cultural and linguistic similarity in how infants choose to direct their attention,” said Hanna Marno from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

The findings show how infants and young children are tuned to quickly acquire the knowledge of their society and adapt to their cultural environment, Marno added. In the study, the researchers determined to know whether young babies would selectively pay attention to different speakers in their environment, even when they do not understand the meaning of the words.

Read more...

Top private schools help launch national training centre for languages teachers

4 October 2016 (TES)

Private schools will help form a new national teacher-training centre for linguists in a bid to stop the crisis in modern foreign language skills in the UK.

The government-backed scheme, which will be based in Sheffield, aims to bring together schools from across the state and independent sector to train language teachers.

It will coordinate the training of student teachers in some of the best languages departments across the country.

It follows widespread concern from the government and education professionals about the decline in the number of students choosing to study languages.

Mike Buchanan, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), said: “This is not only culturally impoverishing, but likely to put UK pupils at a major disadvantage in a global marketplace in which 75 per cent of people do not speak English.

“The reasons for this are complex but include the difficulty of achieving a top grade compared with other subjects, leading to less take up, smaller departments and fewer teachers.”

Speaking to 300 independent headteachers at their annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, Mr Buchanan said that the scheme was the first national project of its kind.

Read more...

Harsh grading blamed for decline in students sitting modern foreign languages

4 October 2016 (AOL)

Harsh grading is resulting in a decline in the number of students sitting modern foreign languages, with native speakers performing less well than those whose mother tongue is English, it has been claimed.

Independent school headteachers said students sitting Spanish, French and German from GCSE through to A-level had been marked more heavily for the last decade, compared with other subjects.

Members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) said poor exam results were "sapping (students') confidence", while entries in A-level Spanish, German and French are all down on the previous year, by 2.7%, 4.2% and 6.4%, respectively.

James Priory, headteacher at Portsmouth Grammar School, said: "We have seen unpredictable language results this year. A number of students predicted B grades, for instance, have received grades below expectation, with the result that they are no longer set on studying languages at university.

Read more...

I fell in love with a Frenchman – but didn’t speak the language

2 October 2016 (The Guardian)

Author Lauren Collins explains how she and her French husband translated their feelings without resorting to Franglais.

Read more...

Wee Ginger Dug maps Scotland entirely in Gaelic

1 October 2016 (The National)

Going out and about this weekend?

How about a trip to Grianaig, Ros Saidhe or Achadh an t-Seagail – all places included in a new all-Gaelic map of Scotland.

The project, by The National columnist and blogger Paul Kavanagh, better known as the Wee Ginger Dug, replaces the standard English-language place names normally seen on maps with terms drawn from a number of specialist maps, studies and documents.

Read more...

Urban Scots may not be spoken in 50 years time

30 September 2016 (The National)

‘Urban’ Scots may no longer be spoken in 50 years’ time – but independence could save the language, according to a study.

According to the report, schoolchildren “aren’t familiar” with commonly used terms including bampot, glaikit and stooshie and changes to pronunciation will see the hard “r” sound after vowels disappear from “working-class” speech, with the letter “l” left off the end of words.

The claims are based on analysis of Scots used in Glasgow by an academic from York University and a dialect coach who has worked with a number of Hollywood actors.

In the findings, the pair also claim the picture could be “very different” – but only if “a second independence referendum were to go in favour of Scotland’s separation from the UK”.

Read more...

Related Links

It's the end of the frog and toad for regional slang, says report (The Guardian, 29 September 2016)

Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory translated into Scots

29 September 2016 (The Herald)

An author has translated Roald Dahl's iconic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - into Scots.

Novelist Matthew Fitt translated the children's classic because there are too few books for young Scots to read in their own language.

Scots is a West Germanic dialect spoken in Scotland.

It was the language of the medieval Scottish court, spoken by Mary Queen of Scots and James VI.

Now there are 1.6 million speakers of Scots.

Although Roald Dahl's works have been translated into 58 different languages worldwide, this will be the first time the book has been available in Scots.

Read more...

Related Links

Roald Dahl gets 'mair serious' Scots translation (The Guardian, 29 September 2016)

Charlie and the chocolate factory to be translated into Scots (The Scotsman, 3 October 2016)

The world's quirkiest phrases

29 September 2016 (BBC)

To celebrate International Translation Day, we asked translators from across the globe to tell us their favourite expressions. Here are 11 of the most surprising.

Read more...

Scotland strengthens links with China: top Scottish legislator

29 September 2016 (Xinhua)

The links between Scotland and the Chinese side are going from strength to strength in parliamentary, economic, cultural, and educational sectors, said a top Scottish legislator Wednesday evening.

Addressing the reception to celebrate the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China at the Chinese Consulate-General in Edinburgh, Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh reviewed the exchange of visits of top-level officials from both sides, the Chinese language mania in Scotland, the Chinese students studying in Scotland, as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Read more...

Kenneth Baker: ‘We need design, art, music and drama in the heart of a new baccalaureate. The current EBacc doesn’t work’

28 September 2016 (TES)

21st-century pupils need a core of academic subjects supplemented by technical and creative skills, argues the former Conservative education secretary.

The current English Baccalaureate (EBacc) will not fulfil the Prime Minister’s vision for social mobility and will not equip our children with the skills they need in the 21st-century economy. There is a correlation between affluence and academic success. I wish it were not so but wishful thinking will not solve the problems of deprivation and nor will the EBacc.

The current EBacc includes a narrow set of academic GCSEs – two English, maths, two sciences (with computer science not included), a modern foreign language and a humanity (either history or geography). Seven subjects, with many schools doing a third science bringing the total to eight. On average, students are entered for 8.1 GCSEs leaving very limited space for anything other than this narrow academic diet. Ironically, students with low attainment – the very group likely to be disengaged by a purely academic curriculum – are typically entered for 6.9 exams, so the narrow EBacc would become their entire focus. What works for children in the most privileged schools will not work for everyone.

[..] Today I am publishing a proposal for a new Baccalaureate, which consists of English, maths, two sciences (one of which could be computer science), a humanity (history or geography or a foreign language), a technical subject, such as design and technology or a BTEC, and a creative option such as a GCSE in art, design, music, dance or drama.

So a foreign language would no longer be a compulsory GCSE subject, enabling those who want to study a language to continue, but not forcing hundreds of thousands of others to do so.

Read more...

Dundonians should be proud of their ‘rich and beautiful’ dialect, says Scots language expert

27 September 2016 (The Courier)

Eighteen months after schools were urged to increase the use of the Scots language as part of a wider drive to improve literacy, a BBC Radio documentary, compiled by Newport-based broadcaster and Scots language expert Billy Kay, is highlighting the efforts to promote the use of Scots in Dundee. Michael Alexander reports.

Read more...

UK voted worst country in Europe at learning other languages as world video dictionary launched

26 September 2016 (The Independent)

The UK is the worst country in Europe at learning other languages new data suggests.

As part of a vote organised for European Day of Languages, Britain was revealed to be the most monolingual country in the continent.

More than one in three (35%) chose Britain as the worst in Europe for communicating in any other language apart from their mother tongue. French citizens came second in the vote with 22 per cent, followed by Italy with eight per cent.

Read more...

The top 9 languages for the highest-paid jobs in Britain

26 September 2016 (The Independent)

Learning a second language can be extremely lucrative for your career opportunities.

And after jobs search engine Adzuna analysed over 1 million live job postings on its website, it found out that some languages are more likely to get you a higher paid job than others in Britain, when employers advertised for jobs looking for someone who was at least bi-lingual.

Considering the UK voted to leave the European Union — dubbed a Brexit — and the nation does not know what that would entail for the jobs market, Adzuna's cofounder pointed out that having a second language could become even more sought-after, especially if businesses look to relocate overseas.

Read more...

National Museum of Languages to boost British multilingualism

26 September 2016 (The Herald)

Britain's first ever National Museum of Languages will soon be coming to high streets across Britain, as part of efforts to make the country multilingual.

The new pop-up museum will have a physical presence in regional centres as well as a major batch of online learning resources.

The project is part of the new MEITS (Multilingualism - Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies) project based at the University of Cambridge, and funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Regional centres will be based in shops in high streets in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Cambridge and Nottingham.

Further centres are being planned elsewhere.

Read more...

BBC Alba future in balance warns operator

25 September 2016 (The Scotsman)

Scotland could lose its dedicated Gaelic channel and see a decline in the use of the language unless BBC Alba wins a better financial deal, its operator has warned.

MG Alba says the future of the station has been left in the balance by the BBC’s new royal charter because it does not spell out specific guarantees on future funding.

Read more...

Latin should be taught in every state primary school, says leading academic

22 September 2016 (The Independent)

Latin and Classics should be taught in every primary school and not limited to the middle and upper classes, a leading academic has said.

Professor Dennis Hayes, an expert from the University of Derby and Chair of the College of Education Research Committee, has warned that Latin and ancient Greek along with modern languages are in danger of becoming “the preserve of public schools”.

Read more...

Brainy Everton striker Romelu Lukaku speaks five languages at cosmopolitan Blues

22 September 2016 (Liverpool Echo)

The Premier League is more cosmopolitan than ever before - and Everton have the top flight's most multi-lingual player.

A study based on which teams speak the most languages, puts the Blues in mid-table but in Romelu Lukaku they have a player who sits top of the pile.

Lukaku, 23, speaks Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English and also understands German.

Read more...

Students undervalue study and work abroad, report argues

21 September 2016 (The Pie News)

Many students who have access to international experiences during higher education don’t realise their value until after they have graduated, according to a recent survey. Study abroad, overseas internships, language courses and intercultural exchanges are all overlooked by students during their studies, it found.

Read more...

We must be proud of the rise of Gaelic education

16 September 2016 (TESS)

Three decades ago, 24 children enrolled in experimental Gaelic schooling. Now thousands of children are learning the language and exploring the culture.

This has been a milestone year for Gaelic learning. The Education (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced Gaelic-medium education (GME) provisions, assuring a national entitlement at primary-school level. New GME schools opened in Glasgow and Fort William, with building works underway in Portree, adding to three existing Gaelic schools across Scotland, and complementing departments in primary and secondary schools. And, recently, Scotland’s first director of Gaelic education, Mona Wilson, was appointed.

Read the full article in TESS online, 16 September 2016, pages 20-21 (subscription required).

Read more...

Joe Hart ready to embrace Italian culture at Torino after loan move from Manchester City

16 September 2016 (Sky Sports)

Joe Hart says he is ready to embrace the Italian culture after moving to Torino on a season-long loan from Manchester City.

[..] Hart has emphasised the importance of getting to grips with a new culture, and even opened Friday's press conference by speaking in Italian.

"I don't speak very good Italian (yet). I think that's obvious but I am doing my best to learn and buy into the culture because this really is a beautiful part of the world," said Hart.

Read more...

Ralph Fiennes on why he learnt Russian in two months for a role

15 September 2016 (Radio 4 in Four)

Listen to Ralph Fiennes talking about his most challenging role yet - learning Russian in two months to star alongside a Russian cast for the film Two Women.

Read more...

How morality changes in a foreign language

14 September 2016 (Scientific American)

What defines who we are? Our habits? Our aesthetic tastes? Our memories? If pressed, I would answer that if there is any part of me that sits at my core, that is an essential part of who I am, then surely it must be my moral center, my deep-seated sense of right and wrong.

And yet, like many other people who speak more than one language, I often have the sense that I’m a slightly different person in each of my languages—more assertive in English, more relaxed in French, more sentimental in Czech. Is it possible that, along with these differences, my moral compass also points in somewhat different directions depending on the language I’m using at the time?

Psychologists who study moral judgments have become very interested in this question. Several recent studies have focused on how people think about ethics in a non-native language—as might take place, for example, among a group of delegates at the United Nations using a lingua franca to hash out a resolution. The findings suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they do indeed respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their native tongue.

Read more...

'It helped me grow up': students on why the Erasmus scheme must stay

14 September 2016 (The Guardian)

There are fears over the future of the Erasmus, a £112m EU exchange programme that allows students to spend time elsewhere in Europe as part of their degree. It’s believed that Brexit could put the scheme under threat and David Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the EU, is being urged to protect it.

Here, six people talk about their experiences of the programme.

Read more...

Trees in Gaelic life

14 September 2016 (The Herald)

A new Gaelic place-name map is being developed to help rediscover the lost woods and wildlife of the Highlands.

It is appropriate as Scottish Gaelic is written with just 18 letters, each of which is named after a tree or shrub.

Now conservation charity Trees for Life, will promote the cultural importance of Scotland’s native woodland heritage, as part of its overall Rewilding the Highlands project, which involves the planting of more than 50,000 trees.

Read more...

Languages: GCE A-level

12 September 2016 (Hansard / They Work For You)

Question put to the Secretary of State for Education in the Commons asking 'what plans she has to encourage more young people to take A-level language subjects.'

Read more...

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning

7 September 2016 (Scientific American)

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

Read more...

Channel 4 to launch UK's first sign language-only TV ad

6 September 2016 (The Guardian)

Channel 4 is to air what is believed to be the first TV ad ever to use sign language as part of a campaign to promote diversity as it kicks off coverage of the Rio Paralympic Games.

The 30-second ad, which will not initially air with subtitles, leaving most viewers unable to understand the commercial, is one of three created by chocolate maker Mars to promote its Maltesers brand and champion diversity.

Mars was the winner of a competition held by Channel 4, called Superhumans Wanted, offering £1m in free TV ad space to the ad agency, advertiser, organisation or production company submitting the strongest campaign featuring disability and disabled talent.

Read more...

Scottish Parliament marks Gaelic Mòd’s 125th anniversary

4 September 2016 (Stornoway Gazette)

A motion at the Scottish Parliament has congratulated An Comunn Gàidhealach – who organise and run the annual Royal National Mòd – on its 125th anniversary.

Kate Forbes MSP, who previously competed whilst a high school pupil in Dingwall, said she was pleased the Parliament was recognising “the important role the organisation has played in the study of Gaelic literature, history, music and art”.

Read more...

Children turn Roald Dahl classics into Scots language

30 August 2016 (Glasgow Live)

Children aged five to 12 joined Dr Susan Rennie, author of The Guid Freendly Giant – the BFG in Scots - at The Mitchell Library to create their very own Scots dictionary.

Read more...

Private schools uneasy over A-level languages grades, despite rise in top performers

30 August 2016 (TES)

Some schools say they are still struggling to make sense of their pupils’ grades in this year’s modern foreign languages A levels, despite reforms designed to improve the accuracy of grading, leading independent schools have warned.

Reforms introduced by exams regulator Ofqual this year have resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of A* grades awarded in French, German and Spanish, after years of complaints from schools that excessively harsh grading was deterring pupils from studying languages.

This year, the proportion of students receiving A* grades rose by 0.7 percentage points in French, 1.3 percentage points in German and 0.3 percentage points in Spanish.

But research for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and the Independent Schools' Modern Languages Association (ISMLA) found some schools still did not believe pupils’ grades in the subjects were a fair reflection of their ability.

They said that pupils who had performed well throughout the year were scoring lower-than-expected grades while lower-performing pupils did well.

Read more...

Fresh drive for Chinese investment in Ayrshire

29 August 2016 (Carrick Today)

The drive to bring fresh investment and new jobs to South Ayrshire has been taken to an international audience from China.

South Ayrshire Council has hosted a delegation from Shanghai, in a visit which marks growing links between Scottish and Chinese cultures.

Chinese visitors currently contribute more than £100 million to the Scottish economy, with more than £530 million of goods shipped from Scotland to China in exports. China itself is the world’s largest goods exporter, reaching out to markets across the world.

[..] South Ayrshire Council has been actively working with the Confucius hub, jointly funded by the Scottish Government and Hanban Confucius Institute Headquarters, to promote Chinese language and culture in our secondary schools.

Read more...

Director of Martin Sheen Movie Filmed in Spanish and English Says Bilingual Actors Are "the Future of Filmmaking"

26 August 2016 (The Hollywood Reporter)

There are an estimated 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the U.S. — more than anywhere else except Mexico — and one American film director is tackling the demographic in a unique way: hiring only bilingual actors and shooting every scene twice, once in English and once in Spanish.

The result, says Julio Quintana, director of The Vessel, starring Martin Sheen, is a more authentic experience for Spanish-speaking audiences who may be used to seeing movies with English dialogue later dubbed into Spanish.

"This is potentially the future of filmmaking," says Quintana. "The days of actors speaking English with bad Spanish accents is over."

Read more...

Every language matters

26 August 2016 (TES)

We need to spread the word about our subject's worth.

If ever we needed to extend our world view and encourage young people to value languages, that time is now. The message that every language is important is more relevant than ever, whether that is learning a new language or developing one that you speak at home.

Read the full article in TES online, 26 August 2016, pages 44-45 - the piece also includes some resource suggestions. (Subscription required).

Read more...

Could you pass a French GCSE exam? – quiz

25 August 2016 (The Guardian)

How good is your French vocab? Super? Or affreux? Test your skills with these questions from real GCSE exam papers.

Read more...

GCSE results: Computing entries rocket 76 per cent as languages and creative subjects plummet

25 August 2016 (TES)

The number of pupils taking GCSEs in computing rose by 76 per cent this year, in the wake of the government’s decision to count it towards the crucial Progress 8 accountability measure.

[..] Meanwhile, languages entries are declining despite the government’s decision to include modern foreign languages in the EBacc performance measure. Entries in Spanish rose slightly but those in French fell by 8.1 per cent.

Read more...

Related Links

GCSE results day 2016: Girls' grades predicted to be 'a long way ahead' of boys (The Independent, 25 August 2016)

GCSEs 2016 - a user's guide (BBC News, 25 August 2016)

What subjects did students do best and worst in on GCSE Results Day? (The Telegraph, 25 August 2016)

GCSE results: Why have grades dropped? (TES, 25 August 2016) - item contains graphic on languages decline.

GCSE results 2016: German (Schools Week, 25 August 2016) - German GCSE results for 2016 compared to previous years.

More than two thirds of Britons reveal being BILINGUAL makes you more attractive

25 August 2016 (The Express)

Nine out of ten people confess they would learn a second language in the pursuit of love.

[..] In a recent survey of more than 3,000 people, language learning app Babbel found being bilingual makes you more attractive.

Read more...

Ambitious virtual Gaelic school wins £700,000 boost

24 August 2016 (The Scotsman)

A scheme aimed to widen the availability of subject choices for teenagers in the Western Isles is to benefit from a massive funding boost.

Gaelic virtual school the e-Sgoil, announced by Gaelic agency Bòrd na Gàidhlig in March, will be based in Stornoway and initially focus on Highers, Advanced Highers and supporting teachers in training.

e-Sgoil will allow secondary pupils across the Western Isles to access more curriculum subjects through online classes.

It will be developed thanks to £550,000 in Scottish Government funding and £150,000 from Bord na Gaidhlig.

Read more...

National columnist Rab Wilson’s new role a big boost for Scots language

24 August 2016 (The National)

The National’s own Scots language columnist and respected poet Rab Wilson has been appointed the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum’s scriever in residence.

The new writer in residence at the birthplace of Scotia’s bard in Alloway was previously Robert Burns Writing Fellow in Scots for Dumfries and Galloway and is a weel kent figure on the Burns scene.

An award-winning poet, Rab has produced many collections of poetry, chiefly written in the Scots language.

Read more...

Raising Bilingual Children: The Pros, The Cons, The Myths

22 August 2016 (The Early Hour)

Do bilingual children have delayed language development? Is it better to become fluent in one language first? What does bilingualism actually mean? We speak to a linguist, and to parents raising their children bilingually…

Read more...

Scotland’s unending battle

21 August 2016 (The News on Sunday)

Hidden behind Edinburgh’s picturesque and dreamy scenery is the Scots’ struggle to bring the indigenous Gaelic language back to life.

Read more...

Related Links

MSP calls for councils to be able to opt out of controversial Gaelic plans (Press and Journal, 20 August 2016)

The Scots Tongue

20 August 2016 (BBC Radio Scotland)

Listen to the BBC Radio Scotland series exploring the history of the Scottish language.

Read more...

Right to Rome? The debate over Latin on the curriculum

19 August 2016 (The Guardian)

Hysteria followed Whitehall dropping Latin abbreviations from its website, but in schools the battleground is the link between the dead language and class.

Read more...

Foreign languages A-level slump blamed on cuts

18 August 2016 (BBC News)

A sharp decline in entries to modern foreign language A-levels has been blamed by head teachers on severe funding pressures.

Entries to A-levels in French have dropped by 6.4% from last year, in German by 4.2% and in Spanish by 2.7%.

Malcolm Trobe of the ASCL heads' union said schools and colleges were finding it hard to run courses with small pupil numbers, due to funding shortages.

The government replied that it had been encouraging pupils to take languages.

This is mainly through the English Baccalaureate - the wrap-around qualification which requires pupils to sit a range of certain GCSES including a language.

Read more...

Related Links

A level results 2016: Which subjects did students do the best and worst in? (The Telegraph, 18 August 2016) - despite a decline in numbers taking foreign languages, more than a third of students taking German and French achieved an A or A* this year.

A-level results: Squeezed budgets cutting AS-level choice and language entries, heads warn (TES, 18 August 2016)

Pupils shun English and physics A-levels as numbers with highest grades fall (The Guardian, 19 August 2016) [..] But it was the steep decline in entries for French, down by 6.5% on the year, as well as German and Spanish, that set off alarm bells over the poor state of language teaching and take-up in Britain’s schools.

A-level results show that standards remain high, but languages are a cause for concern (The Independent, 18 August 2016)

Number of pupils taking languages at record low (The Times, 19 August 2016)

ALL Statement on A Level results 2016 (ALL, 18 August 2016)

British Academy responds to A-Level results (British Academy, 18 August 2016)

University language departments 'at risk' as recruitment slumps (THE, 19 August 2016)

Ministers consider Polish language exams for Scottish schools

18 August 2016 (The Herald)

Polish could be taught in Scottish schools as part of moves to make EU nationals feel more welcome in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

The Scottish Government said it would consider introducing Polish language qualifications during a debate on the impact of Britain's decision to leave the EU held in Edinburgh.

Education Secretary John Swinney said he would “look very carefully” at giving Polish a place on the curriculum alongside subjects such as French and German - an idea proposed by a member of the audience.

Read more...

Aberdeen's Gaelic scheme gets backing

18 August 2016 (Evening Express)

A plan to promote Gaelic in Aberdeen has been approved by councillors – despite claims there is little tradition of the language in the city.

Councillors voted 32 to 9 in favour of approving a revised Gaelic Language Plan for 2016-21 under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.

Read more...

Calls to axe SNP’s flagship Baccalaureate after snub by pupils

15 August 2016 (The Scotsman)

John Swinney is being urged to ditch the SNP’s flagship Scottish Baccalaureate qualification after it emerged that ­only 103 pupils achieved the award this year.

The qualification was introduced seven years ago with the aim of raising the profile of sciences and languages in schools.

But it has suffered from a lack of interest among pupils more focussed on Highers, which are traditionally seen as the route to university and employment.

Labour now say it should be replaced with a new Scottish Graduation Certificate for the senior phase of secondary school, which would involve vocational courses, work experience, voluntary work and traditional exams.

Read more...

Related Links

Fresh call for scrapping of unpopular Scottish Baccalaureate (The Herald, 15 August 2016)

Brazilians Speak Portuguese, but the Olympics Must Use French

9 August 2016 (NY Times)

Rio de Janeiro - Michaëlle Jean, secretary general of the International Organization of la Francophonie, spent a recent morning at the sultry Lagoa Olympic venue, where the world’s most exciting rowing was taking place. She was not so interested in what was happening on the water.

“You will notice that the commentators are not speaking French,” she said, indignantly. “In the venue, none of the signs are in French.”

Monitoring the use of French at the Olympics is a frustrating and quixotic job, particularly when the Games are being held in a non-French-speaking country preoccupied with non-French-related matters like street crime, economic chaos and how to cram thousands of excitable spectators into the beach volleyball venue. But Rule 23 of the Olympic charter states that the Games have two official languages, and Ms. Jean’s organization, which represents 80 Francophone countries, is determined to make sure nobody forgets that one of them is French (the other is English).

Read more...

Related Links

Is English the Lingua Franca of International Sports? (Transparent Language blog, 10 August 2016)

Why being bilingual works wonders for your brain

7 August 2016 (The Guardian)

In a cafe in south London, two construction workers are engaged in cheerful banter, tossing words back and forth. Their cutlery dances during more emphatic gesticulations and they occasionally break off into loud guffaws. They are discussing a woman, that much is clear, but the details are lost on me. It’s a shame, because their conversation sounds fun and interesting, especially to a nosy person like me. But I don’t speak their language.

Out of curiosity, I interrupt them to ask what language they are speaking. They both switch easily to English, explaining that they are South Africans and had been speaking Xhosa. In Johannesburg, where they are from, most people speak at least five languages, says one of them, Theo Morris. For example, Morris’s mother’s tongue is Sotho, his father’s is Zulu; he learned Xhosa and Ndebele from his friends and neighbours and English and Afrikaans at school. “I went to Germany before I came here, so I also speak German,” he adds.

Was it easy to learn so many languages? “Yes, it’s normal,” he laughs.

He’s right. Around the world, more than half of people – estimates vary from 60-75% – speak at least two languages. Many countries have more than one official national language – South Africa has 11. People are increasingly expected to speak, read and write at least one of a handful of “super” languages, such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish or Arabic, as well. So to be monolingual, as many native English speakers are, is to be in the minority and perhaps to be missing out.

Read more...

New body on land ownership must have a Gaelic speaker

6 August 2016 (The Herald)

The powerful body established to address the dominance of Scottish landowners who own huge tracts of the country will include a Gaelic speaker among a six-strong panel.

The new Scottish Land Commission will be tasked with transforming land ownership across the country following concerns that fewer than 500 people, some anonymous, own more than half of Scotland’s land.

Set up in the wake the Land Reform Act, ministers are now seeking applications for candidates to sit on the robust new board that could resurrect the most controversial land reform proposal, to impose an upper limit of the amount of land anyone person can own in Scotland.

Read more...

Learn Portuguese for Rio, Britons urged

5 August 2016 (BBC News)

Britons "should give Portuguese a go" as the Olympics get under way in Rio de Janeiro, urges the British Council.

Almost two in five of 2,000 UK adults surveyed for the charity did not know Portuguese was the official language of host country Brazil.

More than one in 10 said the language was "Brazilian", while one in five thought it was Spanish.

Portuguese is not widely taught in UK schools but will be crucial to future trade deals, says the British Council.

Previous research by the UK's international cultural and educational organisation identified Portuguese as the sixth most important language "for the UK's prosperity, security and influence in the world over the next 20 years".

That report called for a wider range of languages to be taught in schools, based on analysis of global economic, political and educational factors.

Read more...

Related Links

Learning Portuguese: An Olympic Hurdle Too Far for Britons? (Huffington Post, 5 August 2016)

Don't leave languages behind when Britain leaves the EU

5 August 2016 (TESS)

We'd be unwise to neglect European MFL post-Brexit. Heather Martin explains why.

Read the full article in TESS online, 5 August 2016, pages 36-37 (subscription required).

Read more...

Festival shows are too English-language dominated, says venue chief

4 August 2016 (The Herald)

The owner and director of one of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's biggest venues has lamented the domination of the English language at the festival.

Robert McDowell, who with his family bought the former Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies building in 2011, establishing the 650-room academic building as a major arts venue and now key Fringe site, said that the festival has too many shows, including stand up comedy, staged in English.

He says the lack of foreign language shows is bad for the festival's vaunted internationalism.

Read more...

The small but wonderful world of puppet theatre - Le Petit Monde

4 August 2016 (Creative Scotland)

Le Petit Monde is a puppet theatre company based in Edinburgh, creating shows that introduce young children and their families to the French language and culture through authentic French-speaking puppets.

We spoke to Artistic Director Tania Czajka about developing her practice and her latest creation - The Wonderful World of Lapin - which appears as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe next week.

Read more...

Welsh language target of one million speakers by 2050

1 August 2016 (BBC Wales)

A drive to almost double the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050 has been unveiled by the first minister at the National Eisteddfod.

Carwyn Jones stressed the workplace, family, schools and the planning process as the key areas for action.

Alun Davies, minister for the Welsh language, admitted it was a "deliberately ambitious" target.

But Plaid Cymru's Sian Gwenllian called the announcement "another superficial stunt".

The 2011 census reported a drop in the number of Welsh speakers from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000, about one in five of the population.

Traditional Welsh-speaking communities have been said to be under threat from young people moving away to find work and new housing developments attracting incomers who do not speak the language.

Ministers who launched the consultation at the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, on Monday cited a growing demand for Welsh-medium education as a reason to be positive.

Read more...

What keeps me awake at night: 'Inadequate provision of modern foreign languages in primary schools'

31 July 2016 (TES)

Teaching and learning languages needs to be taken seriously, says one French teacher.

Did foreign language teaching become a statutory part of the primary curriculum back in 2014, or was that just my imagination?

Because, as we reach the end of another school year, I find myself thoroughly disappointed – and here’s why.

Having learned no more French than she did at nursery, my 10-year-old daughter has tried to use her role within the school council to campaign for better French lessons at her school, not just because she is passionate about learning languages, but because all her friends are, too.

“We only get 15 minutes,” they exclaim.

I know that, of course, for many primary schools, language teaching becoming compulsory at key stage 1 and 2 means nothing more than business as usual and many children are benefitting from well structured, fun and engaging lessons.

However, I also know that I am not the only one to be experiencing exasperation at the inadequate and quite often inaccurate provision of modern foreign languages in UK primary schools.

Read more...

More money needed to keep the conversation flowing

29 July 2016 (TESS)

Experts say extra funding is vital if the government's 1+2 foreign languages programme is to succeed.

Read the full article in TESS online, 29 July 2016, pages 8-9 (subscription required).

Read more...

Boosting foreign language GCSE entries is not the way to improve our country’s language skills – but there is a better way, insists David Harbourne

27 July 2016 (Schools Week)

The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, wants 90% of 16-year-olds to take a foreign language GCSE.

In a recent House of Commons debate on the EBacc, he said this is necessary because “some 77% of employers say that they need more employees with foreign languages”. I take the figure with a pinch of salt, because this would mean over 3.8 million employers are clamouring for better language skills – frankly, I don’t believe it.

Nevertheless, I am instinctively in favour of languages for all. I did French O-level at school and scraped a pass. I learned French properly when I had the chance to live and work in Paris, and became a convert to the cause.

However, I’m emphatically not in favour of Nick Gibb’s crude target.

Read more...

For children with autism, multiple languages may be a boon

25 July 2016 (Spectrum)

Pediatricians, educators and speech therapists have long advised multilingual families to speak one language — the predominant one where they live — to children with autism or other developmental delays. The reasoning is simple: These children often struggle to learn language, so they’re better off focusing on a single one.

However, there are no data to support this notion. In fact, a handful of studies show that children with autism can learn two languages as well as they learn one, and might even thrive in multilingual environments.

Read more...

Related Links

Guten Tag! Why foreign languages have a place in autism education (Network Autism, 6 June 2016)

Latin revival: cathedral courses find new fans of 'dead language'

4 July 2016 (The Guardian)

The introduction of Latin classes in some of England’s finest cathedrals has tapped into an unexpected enthusiasm for resuscitating a subject that many have considered to be “dead as dead can be”.

At least half a dozen cathedrals have run short courses in Latin this year, with participants aged 12 to over 80.

Read more...

Can you solve it? The EU interpreter puzzle

4 July 2016 (The Guardian)

Among the potential casualties of last month’s Brexit vote are the jobs of many British interpreters in Brussels.

In their honour, today’s polyglot puzzle...

Read more...

Why Foreign Language is essential to the STEM Fields

3 July 2016 (LinkedIn Pulse)

Being a French teacher by day and an Experimental Vehicle Team moderator by night, or at least during the other hours when I am not ensconced in all things French, has given me some unique insights into the value foreign language and STEM proficiency.

Years ago when the US Department of Education began talking about the importance of STEM in the classroom it was due, in a large part, to a lack of students pursuing STEM degrees and careers after high school, as well as a serious lack of certified educators who could adequately teach them. There is still a significant shortage of American students going into the STEM fields today, despite its prevalence in everything from education journals to Pinterest. While some may see the focus on STEM as merely another educational fad, there is a real need for candidates to fill this fast growing and under employed job niche in today’s business world, especially if we want to stay competitive in the global economy.

For one week this summer I saw first-hand the importance of foreign languages in the STEM fields as I, along with my students and fellow moderator, Mark, spent our days in a paddock and race track in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London England.

Read more...

'What does the referendum – and the attitudes it unleashed – say about the value attached to foreign languages?'

2 July 2016 (TES)

Modern foreign languages must be championed – not just by linguists, but by school leaders. Now, more than ever, we need the values of respect that mutual understanding cultivates, this leading educator says.

Put aside the elation/despair (delete as applicable) provoked on a personal level by the referendum result. Let’s take stock, as professionals.

How do we “actively promote” fundamental British values in the context of a more divided polity, where fairness and respect matter more – but evidently counted for less – in the manner of the debate and its aftermath?

The unravelling of Britain’s European engagement offers endless opportunities for teachers of economics and government and politics. Sociologists and geographers, too, will want to get their teeth into the divisions that the referendum has exposed in the British body politic.

Spare a thought, though, for modern foreign languages. What does the referendum and, more importantly the attitudes it articulated and unleashed, say about the value attached to foreign languages?

Read more...

Gaelic soap goes down darker road in bid for viewers

2 July 2016 (The Scotsman)

The driving force behind Scotland’s Gaelic drama series has vowed to take it in a “darker” direction in a bid to get it onto the UK network and screened overseas.

Christopher Young, who has been making Bannan on the Isle of Skye, has revealed it is to head into “noir territory” in the hope of securing a spot on BBC2 or BBC4.

Read more...

Study uses patterns of resting-state brain waves to identify quick language learners

1 July 2016 (News Medical)

Ever wonder why some people seem to learn new languages faster? The secret might lie in the brain activity they generate while relaxing.

New findings by scientists at the University of Washington demonstrate that a five-minute measurement of resting-state brain activity predicted how quickly adults picked up a second language. The study, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is the first to use patterns of resting-state brain waves to determine subsequent language learning rate.

Read more...

Roald Dahl classic BFG is translated into Scots for festival

30 June 2016 (The National)

One of the tallest tales in children’s fiction has undergone a big change as it is told in Scots for the first time.

Language expert Dr Susan Rennie, of Glasgow University, has translated Roald Dahl’s much-loved novel The BFG as part of a year-long celebration of the author’s work.

Titled The GFG – Guid Freendly Giant – the book remains faithful to the original plot, with much of the action taking place in London as orphan Sophie teams up with the titular hero to save the public from human-eating giants.

Read more...

Wife cake and evil water: The perils of auto-translation

28 June 2016 (BBC News)

Imagine a far flung land where you can catch a ride from the Jackie Chan bus stop to a restaurant called Translate Server Error, and enjoy a hearty feast of children sandwiches and wife cake all washed down with some evil water.

If such a rich lunch gets stuck in your gnashers, you'll be pleased to know there are plenty of Methodists on hand to remove your teeth.

And if by this point you've had enough of the bus, fly home in style on a wide-boiled aircraft. But whatever you do, please remember that when you land at the airport, eating the carpet is strictly prohibited.

No, I haven't gone mad. These are all real-world examples of howlers by auto-translation software.

Joking aside, poor translations can have big implications for firms who run the risk of offending customers and losing business, or at least looking very amateurish.

Read more...

English will not be an official EU language after Brexit, says senior MEP

27 June 2016 (Politico)

Danuta Hübner, the head of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO), warned Monday that English will not be one of the European Union’s official languages after Britain leaves the EU.

English is one of the EU’s 24 official languages because the UK identified it as its own official language, Hübner said. But as soon as Britain completes the process to leave the EU, English could lose its status.

“We have a regulation … where every EU country has the right to notify one official language,” Hübner said. “The Irish have notified Gaelic, and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you have only the UK notifying English.”

“If we don’t have the UK, we don’t have English,” Hübner said.

[..] The Commission has already started using French and German more often in its external communications, as a symbolic move after Britain voted to leave the EU last Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read more...

Scotland leading the world in sign language provision

27 June 2016 (The Herald)

Scotland is setting the agenda for sign language provision internationally thanks to new graduates from the country's first degree course on the subject.

More than a dozen new sign language interpreters have become the first to qualify after completing an MA in British Sign Language (BSL) at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Read more...

Scientists create 'app' that teaches computers to understand Gaelic

25 June 2016 (The Herald)

Scots scientists have create an app-style programme that teaches computers to understand Gaelic.

It is hoped the move will help to secure the future of the language has been announced.

The device helps computers understand Gaelic text and can be used in a range of functions such as voice recognition and online translation, as well as grammar and spell checks.

Read more...

Related Links

New app teaches computers to ‘speak’ Scots Gaelic (The Scotsman, 25 June 2016)

Hold your tongues: why language learners fear a vote for Brexit

21 June 2016 (The Guardian)

Leaving the EU could lead to an irreversible decline in foreign language learning, with Britain paying a high economic and cultural price.

Read more...

Let languages shout out your business benefits

20 June 2016 (The Guardian)

English may dominate but businesses are finding that minority languages can give brands a competitive edge.

Irial Mac Murchú knows how a minority language can help to win business: the former journalist’s television production company has grown from a one-man show in 1993 to become the largest in Ireland, employing the equivalent of 50 full-time staff.

Read more...

Angelina Jolie's six children speak seven languages, actress reveals

17 June 2016 (Telegraph)

Any parent will know that each of their children is unique. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's brood seem to have taken that to a new level, with six children each learning a different language. In lessons that will surely benefit their future holidays, the Jolie-Pitt children can speak Khmer, Vietnamese, German, Russian, French, Arabic and sign language, the actress revealed. In a programme for Radio 4's Woman's Hour, which she guest-edited, Jolie spoke of how her children had adapted to their lives travelling around the world.

Read more...

How to…support new EAL learners

17 June 2016 (TESS)

Teachers are dealing with increasing numbers of new arrivals to the UK, so here's a guide to ensure every learner with English as an additional language can succeed.

Read the full article in TESS online, 17 June 2016, page 32-33 (subscription required).

Read more...

Brexit would damage education, teachers say

17 June 2016 (TESS)

A majority of teachers and other education professionals fear that Scottish education will be damaged if the UK leaves the European Union, an exclusive TESS poll suggests.

The poll highlights fears over languages, exchange trips and loss of key foreign staff.

Read the full article online in TESS, 17 June 2016, page 6-7 (subscription required).

Read more...

Related Links

Why making a swift Brexit isn’t best for children's futures (TES, 17 June 2016) Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, and former schools minister, Jim Knight, explain why they're not surprised that the majority of teachers want to remain in Europe, echoing the benefits and opportunities for language learners to be supported by native speaking language assistants.

Comic take on French language lessons

16 June 2016 (BBC News)

Children at a Glasgow primary school have been using comics to help them learn French.

Artist Rossie Stone, who is dyslexic, decided to try a different approach to picking up another language and designed the comic strips to be educational and fun.

The move has been popular with teachers and pupils with the project now being rolled out in five schools across Scotland.

BBC Scotland's Catriona Renton has gone back to school to report from Glasgow.

See the video report on the BBC website.

Read more...

Native speakers ‘put rest at disadvantage' in languages exams

10 June 2016 (The Telegraph)

Native speakers of foreign languages could be putting others at a disadvantage when taking A-levels, it has emerged, as the exams regulator launched an investigation into the issue.

It is understood that a larger number of pupils who speak French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian as their native language are taking A-levels in those subjects.

Some claim this is leaving those who study them as a second language at a disadvantage.

And now Ofqual has requested details on the number of native speakers who are taking this subjects, the Times Educational Supplement reported.

In a letter to schools, Ofqual said it would use the information to determine “whether any action needs to be taken”.

Read more...

French flavour to BBC Euro 2016 anthem

6 June 2016 (BBC News)

The BBC has revealed its theme song for Euro 2016, which begins on Friday in France.

It is a cover of an Edith Piaf classic La Foule - which means The Crowd, and 21 year old jazz and soul singer Izzy Bizu was chosen to sing it.

See the video report on the BBC website.

Read more...

How the British military became a champion for language learning

6 June 2016 (The Conversation)

When an army deploys in a foreign country, there are clear advantages if the soldiers are able to speak the local language or dialect. But what if your recruits are no good at other languages? In the UK, where language learning in schools and universities is facing a real crisis, the British army began to see this as a serious problem.

In a new report on the value of languages, my colleagues and I showcased how a new language policy instituted last year within the British Army, was triggered by a growing appreciation of the risks of language shortages for national security.

Following the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military sought to implement language skills training as a core competence. Speakers of other languages are encouraged to take examinations to register their language skills, whether they are language learners or speakers of heritage or community languages.

The UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Centre for Language and Culture also offers training to NATO standards across the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Core languages taught are Arabic, Dari, Farsi, French, Russian, Spanish and English as a foreign language. Cultural training that provides regional knowledge and cross-cultural skills is still embryonic, but developing fast.

Read more...

Brussels, tá mé ag teacht

4 June 2016 (Irish Times)

More than four decades after Ireland joined what was then the European Economic Community the country is about to reach another milestone in its membership of the European Union.

In the coming months Ireland is to ramp up the number of Irish speakers working at the organisation, as Irish is due to become a fully fledged official working language by 2022.

Read more...

‘How will we fare in post-Brexit trade negotiations if no one has studied MFL?’

2 June 2016 (TES)

There are few things so depressing about the current schools system as the precipitous decline in languages, writes this veteran education journalist.

If one thing that has saddened me over the past couple of weeks, it is that modern foreign languages has been the first core subject to be axed by a major exam board.

For at least two decades I have campaigned, cajoled and done what I can to persuade the powers that be to do more to promote languages in schools.

Read more...

Schools say au revoir to languages, while universities proclaim Guten Tag

31 May 2016 (The Guardian)

Universities are offering languages such as French and German from scratch to counteract the decline of modern foreign languages at A-level.

Read more...

Schools Modern Languages Question in the House of Lords

24 May 2016 (They Work for You)

Question put by Baroness Coussins in the House of Lords to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the announcement by OCR that they are to discontinue GCSE and A-level examinations in French, German and Spanish.

See the transcript of the debate on the website.

Read more...

'Urgent action' needed over decline in language learning, Cambridge University warns

24 May 2016 (TES)

The University of Cambridge is calling for a major rethink of the government’s approach to language learning, arguing that it should not be the responsibility of the Department for Education alone.

A report from the university, published today, says the UK is struggling with a “skills deficit” on foreign languages that has “wide-reaching economic, political and military effects”. The university is calling for “urgent action” from the whole of government to tackle the issue.

The publication follows TES' report last week that the OCR exam board, which is owned by the university, was to stop providing GCSEs and A levels in French, Spanish and German.

Read more...

Police Scotland mobilises first Polish officers

24 May 2016 (The Herald)

Two Polish police officers have joined Scotland's national force in a pioneering move to tackle criminality in the country's biggest migrant community.

The men have been seconded for six months as a pilot scheme that may be expanded in the future as EU law enforcement agencies tighten co-operation.

Senior officers at Police Scotland say the two officers have already helped on crucial inquiries involving Poles as perpetrators, victims or witnesses of crimes.

Chief Superintendent Paul Main said: "They are here to advise us and to help us on criminal and other inquiries. "They don't have the power to arrest anybody or question anybody so they are always with Scottish officers.

"But they can assist us with understanding cultural and linguistic issues and connecting with law enforcement in Poland to deal with everything from organised crime to domestic abuse."

[..] However, Poles would also like to see Scottish police raise their knowledge of migrant communities, including learning the language.

Read more...

Languages: centuries of colonialism have made us lazy

23 May 2016 (Telegraph)

With the EU referendum only a month away, Europe is the hottest topic for debate in media and social circles. Don’t worry though, I am not about to start pontificating and debating the whys and wherefores of being in or out. Instead, I’m going to focus on one key issue that has been lost in the wider political debate and will remain constant and crucial whatever the outcome; that is the issue of language learning and why it is so important that as a nation we break the curse of centuries of monolingualism.

Read more...

‘The British disease of not trusting “foreign” has infected students deciding against taking languages’

22 May 2016 (TES)

The collapse of MFL uptake will not be solved by any reconfiguring of the education system. It’s a way more ingrained problem than that, writes one leading headteacher.

Read more...

University guide 2017: league table for modern languages & linguistics

23 May 2016 (The Guardian)

Use the Guardian's 2017 league table of modern languages and linguistics taught at UK universities to help with course choices.

A link to the guide can also be found on the Beyond School area of the SCILT website under the Language courses, UK universities section.

Read more...

Can Facebook data tell us how European Scotland is?

20 May 2016 (STV)

Will Britain stay in Europe or leave?

I couldn't say but what I can be sure of is that this will dominate discussions from political journalists and many others from different sections of society.

A large part of the debate is centred on freedom of movement within Europe.

The European Union is a melting pot, a mixture of cultures, languages and peoples from various different backgrounds. To some, this is positive and to others a threat to the job markets in each member state.

Personally, I love it. On my walk from the station to the office, I pick up a number of different languages. As culturally diverse journeys go, from the New Town to Leith is like strolling through New York City.

So, just how diverse is Scotland?

Read more...

Science and languages 'marginalised in primary schools'

19 May 2016 (BBC News)

Applies to England

Pupils are leaving primary school unprepared for the rigours of science and foreign languages at secondary level, Ofsted's chief inspector says. Sir Michael Wilshaw said the focus on the "three Rs" had pushed other compulsory subjects "to the margins of the curriculum" in primary schools.

Read more...

The truth about Dementia

17 May 2016 (BBC News)

Angela Rippon investigates the disease that took her mother's life and is now starting to affect her friends. She undergoes a series of tests to discover if she has any early signs of the disease and makes the difficult decision about whether to take a genetic test that could predict her future risk. Along the way, Angela finds out some of the surprising ways people can help to protect themselves. She discovers why getting a good night's sleep could help prevent Alzheimer's and how learning a new language might be more effective than any current drug treatment. Angela also visits a number of people who are living with the disease, including Bob, the husband of one of her oldest friends. She meets families that carry a gene for early-onset Alzheimer's and discovers how they could be the best hope of finding a cure for this devastating disease.

Available to watch until 11 June 2016.

Read more...

Benefits of Bilingualism - Part Two

17 May 2016 (BBC World Service)

More than half the world speaks more than one language. New research is showing that being multilingual has some surprising advantages – it can help us keep healthier longer. Gaia Vince finds out how knowing many languages can protect our brains over our lifespan, and even stave off the appearance of some diseases, including dementia.

Read more...

How Spanish is the only foreign language growing in popularity in English schools

16 May 2016 (Telegraph)

Spanish lessons are booming in schools across England despite the general decline of modern foreign languages taught in classes.

While children learning French or German has dramatically declined from the previous two decades, pupils learning Spanish at GCSE level has increased from 29,000 to 85,000 between 1995 and 2015.

Students taking Spanish A-level has also risen from 4,095 in 1996 to 7,608 in 2015, according to a recent House of Commons Library research paper on language teaching in English schools written by Robert Long and Paul Bolton.

Read more...

5 reasons learning a language provides a confidence boost for kids and adults

16 May 2016 (One Third Stories)

Lots of us suffer from shyness and it can really stand in our way if we don’t take control of it. But have you ever thought about how learning a language could help you to get over it? We’ve put together a list of the reasons why learning a language can really help both children and adults to overcome their timidity!

Read more...

Eurovision contestants should have the courage to sing in their own languages

15 May 2016 (Independent)

Apart from being pointedly political, Jamala’s [winning] full-throttle blast against Russian colonialism was – inevitably these days – delivered for the most part in English. So, in fact, was Russia’s own entry, "You are the only one". Ditto Estonia, Croatia and virtually everyone else, except for the Austrian contestant who bravely risked singing in French.

It is easy to see why almost all the contestants taking part in Eurovision these days prefer to sing in English rather than their own tongue. They fear they won’t win unless everyone gets the message. [...] Still, one cannot help feel a certain melancholy about this trend. It is a sad day when even the French feel they have to sing in English.

Read more...

The unsteady future of the multilingual city

12 May 2016 (Citylab)

When you arrive by air in Dublin, you might think from all the Irish signs in the airport that you’ve landed in a bilingual city: not just a city in an officially bilingual country, but a city where you might hear some Irish.

In fact, Irish isn’t very visible nor audible there, despite its protected status. Nonetheless, Dublin is being transformed into a more linguistically diverse place by immigrants from Poland, Romania, China, and elsewhere. In 2010, a full 11 percent of Dubliners reported speaking languages other than Irish or English at home—but none of these appear on signs at the airport.

From observations such as these, what can be said about the vitality of any city’s multilingualism?

Read more...

Watch Humza Yousaf take the Scottish Parliament oath in Urdu

12 May 2016 (BT)

Holyrood’s MSPs have been sworn in for the fifth session of the Scottish Parliament.

Several MSPs made their oaths in other languages as well as English, including Gaelic, Doric and Scots.

SNP MSP for Glasgow Pollok Humza Yousaf was the final member to be sworn in and he also took the oath in Urdu, reflecting his Pakistani heritage.

Read more...

Schadenfreude and déjà-vu: Reasons to learn languages 2

12 May 2016 (TES)

So you’ve told them what the point is. And why it matters. Then some bright spark who thinks adults have made rather a mess of things says: ‘But wouldn’t it be more sensible if we all spoke the same language?’ Prompting someone else to chime in: ‘Yeah, why didn’t the people who invented language just stick with one?’

Once again, this is a gift. Not least to the biblically minded: never will there be a better opportunity to rehearse the story of Babel, and to reinforce the point that yes, had we humans been a better-behaved bunch, and not cheeked our teachers so much in our infancy, then no, maybe the nightmarish multiplicity of languages would not have been visited upon us as some kind of torturous punishment. Which is how some youngsters with a penchant for melodrama like to perceive it.

More fruitfully, there is the chance to reflect on how language works. To dispatch any notion of a benevolent deity bestowing a fully-fledged fully-functioning language upon the world (even the Book of Genesis has Adam doing the job in a rather tentative, experimental way), and to consider instead the way language evolves organically alongside the humans who use it.

Read more...

Film producer aims to raise questions about language in the classroom

11 May 2016 (The Herald)

There are 72 indigenous languages spoken in Zambia. In the classroom, however, pupils are taught in none of them. As a new Scottish film, The Colours of the Alphabet, reveals, English is the language of education in the country.

Current estimates suggest that nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population lack access to education in their own language. It is a problem that is increasingly felt in Scotland too as the country becomes increasingly multicultural.

In Zambia, the film’s Scottish producer Nick Higgins points out, teaching in English is something of a colonial hangover. It also is a result of an impoverished education system that can’t afford to produce material in indigenous languages. But he hopes the film will also raise questions about our own attitudes towards language in schools in Scotland and beyond.

Read more...

Some people really DO have a flair for languages: Brain patterns predict how quickly someone will learn a foreign tongue

11 May 2016 (Daily Mail)

For some, picking up a foreign language almost comes as second nature while others stumble over the jumble of unfamiliar words and phrases.

A study has revealed the secret that may lie behind these differences in the ability to learn a new language - the rhythm of electrical activity in their brain.

Scientists at the University of Washington found people who were better at acquiring a second language had higher activity in key parts of their brain when resting than those who struggled.

Read more...

Benefits of Bilingualism - Part One

9 May 2016 (BBC World Service)

In this first episode on the BBC World Service Discovery channel, Gaia Vince explores the research that shows the benefits of bilingualism, focusing on learning languages in childhood.

In the second episode of the series, to be broadcast on 16 May, she will explore the benefits of being bilingual in older people.

Listen to the first episode now on the BBC website.

Read more...

"The Art of Music - Ooh La La La"

6 May 2016 (TESS)

Some 1,000 children gathered in Perth for a musical event celebrating an imaginative approach to the national 1+2 primary school languages policy.

"The Art of Music Ooh La La La" brought P5-7s to the city's concert hall to sing French songs inspired by famous paintings.

Read the full item in TESS online 6 May 2016 edition, page 8, 'A week in primary' section (subscription required).

Read more...

Related Links

Singing days get a French twist in 2016 (Perth & Kinross Council, April 2016)

How Scotland Works - Project Trust

5 May 2016 (BBC)

If you missed the programme, How Scotland Works, screened on BBC2 on 3 May 2016, you can catch up with the show on iPlayer and see the global charity, Project Trust, welcoming candidates applying for an overseas volunteering placement to the isle of Coll (view from 30 minutes in)

The programme is available on iPlayer until 2 June 2016.

Read more...

From autism to Chinese, a headset to help you with your language

4 May 2016 (New Scientist)

Learning a tonal language like Chinese is notoriously difficult – it’s easy to end up calling your mother a horse. But soon there could be a wearable headset that can help.

The system was created for people with autism who want help with social interactions, but it could be adapted to help with speech or anxiety problems – or even language learning, says LouAnne Boyd at the University of California at Irvine, part of the team that designed it.

Read more...

On her first birthday, Princess Charlotte already knows much about language

2 May 2016 (The Conversation)

Princess Charlotte, the youngest member of the British Royal Family, is turning one. While there will be plenty of focus from sections of the mainstream UK media on the official pictures released by the palace, much has been going on behind the scenes. Many infants say their first word around the time of their first birthday and for most people, this is when language learning really starts. But by the time Charlotte says her first word, she actually already knows a lot about language.

In fact, for hearing children, language acquisition starts in the womb. During the third trimester, the foetus can hear, and it is the mother’s voice that they hear best. Not surprisingly, then, newborns prefer their mother’s voice over other female voices, but not their father’s voice over other male voices. Sorry, dads.

But newborns' preferences are not just about different voices. Newborns also prefer their native language over other languages. For example, two-day-old infants born to English-speaking mothers prefer listening to strangers who speak English than to strangers who speak Spanish, and vice versa. Newborns also recognise stories that were read to them in the womb and can distinguish vowel sounds that exist in their native language from those that don’t. Even the melody of newborns' cries is influenced by their native language.

Read more...

Deaf awareness week

2 May 2016 (ITV)

ITV and Coronation Street have been working with ITV SignPost to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week. Sign language will feature in scenes in the Rovers, bought to life by signing actors Emma Wilding and Haylie Jones on Friday 6 May. Throughout the week, Emmerdale and ITV's Daytime will also be featuring sign-language on their shows.

Read more...

Choice of English song as French anthem for Euro 2016 'concerning'

2 May 2016 (The Guardian)

A French minister has described the choice of a song in English as the official anthem for French supporters at Euro 2016 as “incomprehensible”.

[..] “Euro 2016 will be a great festival of sport which is taking place in France and will therefore project the image of our country abroad – and our language too. It is therefore incomprehensible that the anthem of the French national team should be in English,” Vallini said.

[..] Vallini also bemoaned the fact that France’s entry in this year’s Eurovision song contest, J’ai Cherché by Amir, features a chorus largely in English.

A video and lyrics for the French Eurovision entry is contained within the news article.

Read more...

The key to learning a new skill? Wanting it badly enough

30 April 2016 (The Guardian)

Hyperpolyglot, linguist and language ambassador, Matthew Youlden, shares his motivational tips for learning languages and more.

Read more...

Sign into Elderbank

29 April 2016 (BBC, The L.A.B Scotland)

In this video to highlight national deaf awareness week, pupils from Elderbank Primary school share their signing skills and offer top tips about deaf awareness.

Read more...

By the numbers: Modern languages

29 April 2016 (TESS)

TESS infographic on modern languages uptake in England and Scotland comparing 2012-13 and 2014-15 academic sessions.

Access the article in TESS online, 29 April 2016, page 11. (Subscription required).

Read more...

Age no barrier to learning a new language, say Edinburgh University experts

28 April 2016 (The Herald)

Learning another language boosts brain power, no matter how old you are, according to new research.

Tests carried out on students suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that the benefits for mental agility could be maintained with regular practice.

Edinburgh University researchers assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course but not involving learning a new language and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.

Read more...

Ojalá and Adiós: Reasons to learn languages

28 April 2016 (TES)

'Why bother?', they ask. 'Everyone speaks English anyway.' Or worse still: 'What's the point? I'm never going to go to France/Germany/Spain/Argentina.'

There isn't a language teacher in the land who hasn't been confronted with these truculent questions, usually at some critical transitional moment when whichever child it is has started taking too much notice of his or her parents (or possibly Jeremy Paxman). Younger children tend to be more open-minded and inclusive.

It's a gift actually: an open door to serious discussion. And the great thing is, there are so many compelling answers.

Read more...

Identity 2016: Why I stopped mispronouncing my Igbo name

27 April 2016 (BBC News Magazine)

In Nigeria, the language spoken by one of the largest ethnic groups, the Igbo, is in danger of dying out - which is odd because the population is growing. In the past this didn't worry the BBC's Nkem Ifejika, who is himself Igbo but never learned the language. Here he explains why he has changed his mind.

Read more...

Nicky Morgan: How we are reversing Labour’s failure to teach modern languages in Britain

22 April 2016 (Conservative Home)

As Education Secretary, and as a Conservative, I am passionate about making sure every child can access a great education. We have more pupils than ever before in good or outstanding schools, but I want to go further and make sure that every single child can fulfil their potential.

 That commitment includes making sure that children study a range of core subjects, including foreign languages. The ability to speak and understand a foreign language isn’t just a skill that is valued by employers: it helps pupils understand different cultures and countries, broadening horizons and preparing them to succeed in an increasingly globalised world.

After all, one of Britain’s strengths is its rich and diverse society. Ensuring young people have the opportunity to study the widest range of languages is integral to that. I want every child to have that chance – regardless of their background, gender or race.

Read more...

To speak in tongues - Gaelic is making a comeback

22 April 2016 (The Economist)

Travellers at the airport in Inverness navigate a revolving door adorned with posters urging them to teach their children Gaelic. “Being bilingual is magic! Bilingual children find it easier to learn a third language,” claims one which depicts a cherubic toddler waving a magic wand over a rabbit in a hat. “Give your child a flying start—learn Gaelic,” says another.

The posters are part of a larger effort in Scotland to preserve its Celtic language, which was disappearing at a precipitous rate until recently. In 1755 almost a quarter of Scotland’s people spoke Gaelic. A new education law in 1872 forbade the language in classrooms, and children caught speaking it got the belt. Another statute in 1918 required authorities to “make adequate provision for Gaelic,” but by 1981 only 1.6% of people in Scotland spoke it. Many of them were older folk or clustered in the Highlands and islands. Their slim ranks thinned by 21% in the ten years from 1981 and by 11% in the one after that.

Now, however, Gaelic is fighting back. The proportion of Scots who speak it barely dipped between 2001 and 2011, when the most recent census was finished. And more than before are under the age of 20.

Read more...

Brian’s ‘staunin ma lane’ as a Chinese poem interpreter

21 April 2016 (Southern Reporter)

Borders language expert Brian Holton is launching his 16th book this evening in Melrose – unveiling a collection of Chinese poetry translated into Scots.

Staunin Ma Lane is a fairly unique specimen, in that the author translates classic Chinese poems into not only English, but also Scots as well.

In fact, Brian is listed in Wikipedia as “the only currently-publishing Chinese-Scots translator in the world”.

“One of my aims is to show Chinese poetry is not necessarily as serious as people might expect,” he says. “There are a good range of voices to be heard.”

It turns out that there are social similarities between Chinese poets of the eighth century and Scots of today, and their poems can bring to light an affinity with alcohol, loneliness and philosophical meandering.

Read more...

STEM is missing an important subject: languages

19 April 2016 (Transparent Language)

US policymakers and administrators have long touted better STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) as a way to bridge achievement gaps and spark innovation.

The pressure is coming all the way from the top; the Obama administration aims to increase the number of students receiving undergraduate degrees in STEM fields by 1 million over a 10-year period, claiming “science and innovation are key components of a strong American economy and that increasing opportunities for young Americans to gain STEM skills can both create jobs and enhance our national competitiveness.” We don’t disagree.

But STEM should not be promoted at the expense of other subjects, particularly foreign languages.

Language itself is already the subject of much STEM research. The federal government has funded research projects in computational linguistics, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and translation, among other fields. These projects have been funded by numerous STEM organizations, from the National Science Foundation to the National Institutes of Health. This research has brought us revolutionary new developments in machine translation and localization, both of which are crucial in making research, news, media, and beyond accessible worldwide. Innovative technologies have also significantly improved the way languages are taught and learned, allowing students to learn languages faster and retain them longer.

None of this seems entirely essential until you understand how much America’s STEM industries depend on language.

Read more...

Key Gaelic celebration to light up your Twitter

18 April 2016 (The National)

Outlander star Gilbert Macmillan and an American digital radio station have been lined up to support the fledgling Gaelic Twitter Day on Thursday.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon, comedian Sanjeev Kohli, singer Michele McManus and the Scottish Football Association are all supporters of the day which is gaining interest from across the globe.

Launched in 2014, Gaelic Twitter Day or Là na #Gàidhlig has this year attracted attention from a digital radio station in Baltimore which is to run an exclusive show from midnight BST on April 21 and will include messages from celebrities like Macmillan. It will be broadcast by Guth nan Gàidheal, a radio project by the American Gaelic Association, An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach (ACGA).

Following the success of the previous two years, it is also intended to expand Gaelic Twitter Day into other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Read more...

How to...link with primary as a secondary MFL teacher

15 April 2016 (TESS)

Teaching younger pupils may seem daunting at first, but it is both affirmative and fun.

See the full article in TESS online, 15 April 2016, page 38-39 (subscription required).

Read more...

SNP: cuts to language skills are 'fatally undermining' UK's defences

12 April 2016 (The Herald)

Cuts to language skills are "fatally undermining" Britain's defences , the SNP has claimed.

New figures have revealed that there are now fewer than 500 "military linguists" in UK armed forces and as few as 15 specialists in Russian and 23 in German.

The Ministry of Defence insists it has far more soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians with one level of language skill or another and could quickly train up more if needed.

But the SNP's Douglas Chapman said declining numbers of military linguists "pointed to a long-standing neglect of the MoD’s most basic tasks in assuring the Defence of the Realm".

Read more...

Outlander helping to promote Gaelic and Scots

9 April 2016 (The National)

It's been heralded as a feminist version of Game of Thrones and derided by critics as having a plot with more holes than a pair of well-worn socks. But now Outlander, the cult Highland costume drama, is being credited with fuelling a growing interest in both Gaelic and Scots languages.

Voice coach Carol Ann Crawford, who has helped Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan perfect their accents, claims that the American-British TV series, which has an international audience of millions, could be just the thing to get the languages known by a wider audience.

Crawford said that the drama, which will return to our screens for a highly-anticipated second season on Sunday, is helping keep old Scots words alive and as well as creating a new growing awareness among an international audience.

Read more...

Jeremy Paxman attacks French as 'useless' - but French speakers fight back

9 April 2016 (The Independent)

French speakers have reacted to BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman’s attack of their language as “useless” and his claims that learning French is “positively bad for you”.

In a column for the Financial Times, the University Challenge host dismissed the global relevance of France and the French language as “long past”.

According to Mr Paxman, learning French instead of English, especially in Francophone countries such as Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, sets people back in the modern world.

“English is the language of science, technology, travel, entertainment and sport. To be a citizen of the world it is the one language that you must have,” he wrote.

And the 65-year-old former Newsnight host ridiculed the “middle-class English” who believe people should learn French simply because it is “good for you”.

His words have riled those who still see reason to learn French, which is spoken by more than 200 million people around the world and is an official language of the United Nations.

Read more...

A poetry competition has showcased the language skills of primary pupils who speak English as a second language

8 April 2016 (TESS)

Entries to Mother Tongue Other Tongue were submitted in 36 languages.

(Read the item in TESS online, page 8, under the 'a week in primary' feature - subscription required)

Read more...

Could targeting linguistic talent boost staff diversity?

8 April 2016 (TESS)

A school of education is hoping to boost the number of minority ethnic student teachers on its courses by favouring applicants who speak another language.

As of this year, the University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education will take additional languages into account in its selection process, particularly community or heritage languages such as Urdu or Polish.

(Read the full article in TESS online, pages 8-9 - subscription required).

Read more...

Bilingual children ARE smarter: Babies who grow up listening to two languages have better problem-solving skills even before they can talk

5 April 2016 (Daily Mail)

Learning a second language when you are young has long been known to boost brainpower.

Now researchers have found that the brains of babies exposed to two languages benefit from this extra boost even before they can utter a word.

Scientists claim that just growing up in a home or environment where they are listening to more than one language being spoken could improve a child's problem solving skills and memory.

Read more...

Related Links

What being bilingual does to your brain (The Independent, 5 April 2016)

Robots teach Germany's refugees a foreign language

2 April 2016 (Deutsche-Welle)

Fancy learning a new language from a robot? As Europe struggles to integrate the largest influx of refugees since the end of WWII, scientists have designed a robot that can interact with children learning German.

Read more...

Bale: “I’m very comfortable at Madrid”

1 April 2016 (El País)

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale met with the media ahead of Saturday’s clásico with Barcelona at the Camp Nou. The Welsh international, who joined Madrid in 2014, says he is adapting well to his side’s style of play and life in Spain.

“I feel a greater sense of involvement with the country, with the language, with Madrid. I feel very comfortable at Real Madrid, I have a contract until 2019 and hope to win as much silverware as possible,” the former Tottenham Hotspur player told reporters in an interview at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground.

Read more...

Stonehouse Primary and Nursery launch Scots language book

31 March 2016 (Daily Record)

Stonehouse Primary and Nursery pupils have created and published their own booked called A Daunner Roon Stonehoose.

The book was written in Scots to celebrate the history and continued use of the Scots dialect.

Published by Whitewater Publishing with the support of publisher, Mary Thomson, every child in the nursery and school have contributed to the poems and stories in the book.

Each piece in the book describes life in Stonehouse, from playing in the park to going to school to popping out to the Post Office!

Read more...

Pupils explore life of the poets

29 March 2016 (Southern Reporter)

The Abbotsford Trust and Burgh Primary School, 
Galashiels have been working on a project exploring Sir Walter Scott’s famous home.

Primary 6 pupils have recently visited Abbotsford to try out three different sessions from the Abbotsford Schools Programme.

Pupils explored the historic house and wrote poems based on the treasures that Sir Walter Scott collected, and met Mrs Oakley, a visitor from Scott’s day with lots of weird and wonderful traditional tales to share.

They also discovered Sir Walter’s life and work in the visitor centre exhibition and created drawings of the house and its grotesque clay gargoyles.

Pupils then used what they discovered and learned back in the classroom to create a timeline of Scott’s life, where they also investigated differences between life then and now using a range of primary sources.

Pupils also created interactive games, thought about planning and budgeting for a visit too Abbotsford, identified French vocabulary to describe some of the artefacts in the house and wrote their own evaluation reports reflecting on their visits.

Read more...

How Linguisticator and 'memory palaces' can teach you a new language in weeks

29 March 2016 (Cambridge News)

Learning a new language is not an easy business, but a Cambridge start-up believes it can have you babbling away in another tongue in a matter of weeks by employing medieval memory techniques.

Linguisticator provides online courses which teach people the principles of 'memory palaces', a system developed in the Middle Ages by monks to store information from books, which were often in short supply. It then applies these techniques to language acquisition.

Read more...

Stem and languages specialists 'more likely to go to top universities'

29 March 2016 (TES)

A level students focusing on science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects or languages are more likely to go to Russell Group institutions, according to research.

And the study finds that students who specialised in "applied" or "expressive" subjects – such as accounting, law, music and performing arts – were more likely to go on to study at less prestigious newer universities.

Read more...

Scottish island authority explores teaching Japanese in primary schools

25 March 2016 (TESS)

Orkney has already started trial projects on Japanese culture and language in its two secondaries, Kirkwall Grammar and Stromness Academy with plans now to extend provision to its primaries.

Read the item in TESS, page 8, under 'A week in primary'. (Subscription required).

Read more...

Gaelic book publisher aims to go global as interest in language grows

24 March 2016 (Press and Journal)

Hebridean book publisher Acair is targeting new markets after seeing increased interest in its Gaelic language titles from all over the world.

The not-for-profit business aims to tap into the growing popularity of Gaelic in countries including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, manager Agnes Rennie said yesterday.

“We believe there could be more demand for our books out there,” she said, adding that interest in Scotland and its history in general was also driving the clamour for Acair’s titles.

Read more...

Learning English is child's play, thanks to Paisley teacher Ruth

22 March 2016 (Paisley Daily Express)

More than 500 children from all over the world are being helped to speak English fluently by a remarkable council project.

Young people, many from Eastern Europe and some newly-arrived refugees from Syria, are getting to grips with the tongue as it is spoken in Scotland, thanks to Renfrewshire Council’s English as an Additional Language Service.

And not only that – they are also being encouraged to keep in touch with their own native language through literature.

Supporting the primary-age children in the scheme is teacher Ruth Cunningham, who herself speaks fluent Spanish.

As revealed in the Paisley Daily Express, three of Ms Cunningham’s pupils – variously from Norway, Hungary and Lithuania – recently had great success in a poetry competition organised by Scotland’s National Centre for Languages. (Also see the attached, related article courtesy of the Paisley Daily Express).

Read more...

President Obama: Daughter Malia's Spanish 'Is Much Better Than Mine'

21 March 2016 (ABC News)

President Barack Obama may be the leader of the free world, but he's relying on his daughter Malia as his personal interpreter during his historic trip to Cuba.

Malia was captured translating Spanish for her father on Sunday night in a photo that's since gone viral.

"You know, her Spanish is much better than mine," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' David Muir. "And I'm hoping that she has a chance to get entirely fluent."

[..] Obama said not taking the time to learn Spanish remains one of his big regrets, though he said "my accent is pretty good."

Listen to the interview on ABC News.

Read more...

Why learn Scotland’s fourth language - British Sign Language?

21 March 2016 (Third Force News)

Scottish cultural mix of the country’s three languages, Scots, English and Gaelic, means that from the craic of the east coast to the patter of towns in the central belt, traditional idioms and turns of phrase that would trip the foreign tongue are never far off. However questions about Scotland’s fourth official language are often greeted with puzzled looks or a bemused radio silence; what fourth language? British Sign Language (BSL) follows its own syntax and grammatical structures that varies from English and is the manual language of the Scottish deaf community, a unique linguistic-cultural group numbering around 6,500 people.

Read more...

3,500 more language teachers needed for EBacc to work

20 March 2016 (Schools Week)

Nearly 3,500 extra language teachers must be found to meet the government’s demand that modern foreign languages are included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), an almost 40 per cent increase on the number first announced by data experts.

Every pupil who started year 7 last September is now expected to study English, maths, science, history or geography and a modern foreign language (MFL) until they are 16.

The government wants 90 per cent of pupils to sit these subjects. Currently, just 39 per cent do.

Last June, Schools Week revealed nearly 2,500 “missing” language teachers were needed to meet the government’s EBacc manifesto pledge.

The revised figure of 3,500 more staff was released by research body Education Datalab last Friday. It also revealed that an extra 15,000 classrooms are needed to cope with the bulge of pupils entering schools in the coming years.

Read more...

£1m for Gaelic broadcasting

20 March 2016 (Scottish Government)

Gaelic broadcaster MG ALBA will receive an additional £1m investment this year.

Minister for Scotland’s Languages Alasdair Allan announced the media service will receive the funding following the UK Government’s plan to withdraw all funding to Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland.

MG ALBA is a public body that works in partnership with BBC Scotland to produce BBC Alba. Since moving to Freeview in 2011, the channel viewing figure have increased significantly.

Read more...

Related Links

Gaelic TV saved in Scotland (The Herald, 20 March 2016)

Gaelic broadcaster gets £1m Scottish government funding (BBC, 21 March 2016)

More backing for Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland (Brechin Advertiser, 21 March 2016)

Study abroad: The world is your classroom

19 March 2016 (The Telegraph)

It’s cheaper, yes; but British students are finding other, more surprising benefits in studying abroad.

After thumbing through countless prospectuses, working out predicted A-levels and totting up the price of university, British students are picking up their passports and searching farther afield for an education.

Since 2010, there has been an explosion in English-taught degree programmes in continental Europe. Of the top 1,000 universities in the world offering 36,500 English-taught programmes, 75 per cent are outside Britain.

Read more...

Gaelic Virtual School for Scotland

18 March 2016 (Stornoway Gazette)

Bòrd na Gàidhlig today announced funding to support the creation of a Gaelic virtual school for Scotland, E-Sgoil.

The announcement was made by the Cathraiche of Bòrd na Gàidhlig at the National Gaelic Language Plan 2017-2022 Seminar in Edinburgh to open discussions on the creation of the 3rd National Plan for Gaelic.

E-Sgoil will look to design and develop an online learning environment that will provide connectivity initially, between all secondary schools throughout the Western Isles and beyond.

It will provide greater quality of subject access, vocational choices and learning opportunities across Gaelic medium secondary schools nationally.

Read more...

Go and work abroad – it could have career benefits you never imagined

17 March 2016 (The Guardian)

I had a lot of good times working abroad – teaching English in Germany and working on summer camps in France and Spain – but I didn’t realise that I was also building valuable skills for my career.

Employers really value those with international experience. Katie Bateman, a careers advisor at the University of Gloucestershire, says it can set you apart from a crowd of other applicants. “Graduates can learn another language and prove just how adaptable they are by embracing change and learning to adjust to a different culture,” she says.

Read more...

The curriculum vs employability skills?

16 March 2016 (SecEd)

The curriculum is hampering schools’ efforts to improve and develop the employability skills of their young people, argues Phil Crompton.

Everyone spends at least 11 years at school. That’s a long time. So surely it is not unreasonable to expect young people emerging from the education system to be ready to make a positive contribution to the working world?

I am not talking about examination results. They are just one indicator of someone’s capacity to be a great employee, or even an employer. I am talking about the skills that actually matter in the workplace.

Shouldn’t pupils in our schools be given the chance to develop skills in communicating with confidence, working in teams, bouncing back from failure, being polite, and organising themselves. And once they have developed the skills fully shouldn’t some recognition be available? Employers certainly think so. And so do I.

[..] At my three schools, we recognise the existing curriculum isn’t going away and that exams have to be passed, but we are working with local businesses to breathe life into some of the duller parts of the curriculum and to equip our pupils for working life.

Science classes are advising a housing company on how to promote their new eco-homes, German and French students are producing foreign language leaflets for visitors to a local hotel, computing students have worked with an IT firm to create mobile phone apps, A level students have been practising Spanish conversation at a city tapas bar, and a professional actress has worked with a drama class.

Read more...

Tongue-tied: Britain has forgotten how to speak to its European neighbours

15 March 2016 (The Conversation)

The decline in the number of students of modern languages from GCSE to degree level is an annual lament. Only 10,328 pupils in the UK took French at A Level in 2015 and although Spanish enjoyed a rise in entries at A Level of 14%, German continued its steady decline.

As Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, noted last year, the study of French and German at A Level has declined by more than 50% since 1999.

Similar patterns can be observed at GCSE where entries for French, for example, declined by 40% between 2005 and 2015. The rise in interest in Arabic and Portuguese has not offset the overall trend towards the marginalisation of language learning in Britain’s secondary schools, and most notably those in the state sector.

Read more...

Australian Ariel Killick is on a mission to restore Gaelic to its former prominence

14 March 2016 (The National)

Sometimes it takes an outsider to help people appreciate the beauty around them.

Ariel Killick may be originally from Australia but she is making waves in schools and communities across Scotland in the promotion of Gaelic, which she believes is still in a precarious state, despite relatively recent state support to promote the language.

A performer with a passion, she has been described as being on a one-woman mission to prevent Gaelic being treated like a “cultural dung-heap”.

But while she is passionate she hasn’t lost her sense of humour and uses contemporary arts such as graffiti, rap and street theatre to spread the word, while also drawing from Scotland’s ancient storytelling traditions.

There is a chance to see her in action in Edinburgh on Saturday, when she brings Adventures of the Gaelic Tree Alphabet to the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Aimed at youngsters aged seven and upwards, the thought-provoking workshop is also an interactive, fun, forest adventure with Scotland’s native trees, and references the Highland Clearances, the decline of Gaelic and environmental issues.

An award-winning multi-art-form performer, Killick’s upcoming bilingual workshop is just one of the ways she promotes the use of Gaelic.

Read more...

The Sardinian professor fighting to save Gaelic – and all Europe’s minority tongues

13 March 2016 (The Guardian)

It is an impending extinction that will change the world and how people communicate: within 20 years, half of all the planet’s languages will be dead.

Experts agree that nothing can stop it happening but one academic is trying her hardest to slow it down, to help preserve what may be part of a golden ticket for our brains. Professor Antonella Sorace – a Sardinian who was discouraged from learning her own dying language in favour of “proper” Italian – is one of a growing number who believe learning a second language has enormous untapped benefits for the human brain. This is true not only for young children but also for adults and people at risk from dementia, where research consistently shows that learning a new language could delay the onset of the disease for four to five years – a better result than with any medication to date.

It is those benefits of bilingualism that should encourage us to preserve and protect Britain’s minority languages – Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Irish, Cornish and Ulster Scots, she says.

“All minority languages are declining,” said Sorace, professor of developmental linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. “If a language is not learned by children then that language is bound to die. There are big forces out there that help to speed this process along. Eventually Gaelic will die, Welsh and Sardinian will die. Many of these are languages that are still relatively healthy; others are being actively suppressed or stigmatised.

“We are trying to contribute to slowing that decline. We know linguistic diversity is important because it makes us human. We lose that and we lose an essential part of what it means to be human.”

Read more...

A history of Scottish insults

10 March 2016 (The Scotsman)

There is something unique about the Scottish tongue when it comes to insults. It’s aggressive without effort, with a few simple phrases able to send someone on their way.

The Scots language was the country’s original tongue, dating back 1,400 years ago.

During the Middle Ages the language developed and grew apart from its sister tongue in England, until a distinct Scots language had evolved.

We take a look at some very Scottish insults.

Read more...

How do you say @ in other languages?

7 March 2016 (BBC Worldwide)

Talking about the “at” sign is much more interesting if you’re not speaking English.

The Wikipedia entry for @ lists names for it in over 50 other languages, many of which are colourful interpretations of its shape – and which, in true online style, often involve animal analogies.

Armenians call it ishnik, meaning a “puppy” (curled up on the floor, I assume). Chinese terms include xiao laoshu in Taiwan, meaning “little mouse” and quan ei on the mainland, meaning “circled A”. Danes, meanwhile, prefer snabela (an “elephant’s trunk A”).

Read more...

The more languages we speak, the merrier we all are

7 March 2016 (The Telegraph)

Believe it or not, the world is multilingual. It is estimated that at least half of the world’s population, over 3 billion people, use more than one language in everyday life. According to the European Commission, 54 per cent of European citizens are bilingual. Even Britain, considered one of the most “monolingual” countries, is not doing too badly with 39 per cent.

Scientists have only recently started to study humans’ ability to acquire multiple languages. One of the most fascinating questions addressed in this research is how our brain deals with having two or more languages, and what are the implications for cognitive development.

Read more...

Making Themselves Heard: Chinese Sign Language & Deaf China Online

7 March 2016 (What's on Weibo)

February 21st marked the United Nations International Mother Language Day, so-named for its recognition of mother tongues across the world. It was also the day that sign language interpreter and performer Xiaoshu Alice Hu (Austria/China) called attention to the inclusion of sign languages, Chinese Sign Language in particular, in the celebration of international mother languages.

Hu, who speaks Chinese, Austrian and English sign language, posted a picture of herself holding a sign, saying: “Please don’t ignore our Deaf’s Mother Language-Chinese Sign Language!” with the hashtag #中国手语 (ChineseSignLanguage).

Spoken Chinese is commonly perceived as one of the world’s hardest languages to master. Aside from the hours spent deciphering thousands of characters, learners are also confronted with four subtly differing tones that are at first almost indistinguishable to the foreign ear. In day-to-day conversation, a perfect combination of light inflexions and stresses on each syllable can make-or-break a sentence from native fluency into complete nonsense.

With this in mind, it is rare to find discussions on what it is like to master Chinese without hearing the sounds and tones that so famously characterise it, yet for the Chinese Deaf community, this is a daily means of communication.

Read more...

A history of the Edinburgh accent

4 March 2016 (The Scotsman)

Edinburgh is a city of contrasts and differences, and that extends to the dialect of its residents. Just as the Old and New Towns radically differ in style, so do the accents and vocabularies of the city’s residents.

Accents and dialect are actually very different. An accent is how you sound when you talk - dialect is the words you use.

The most contemporary people quoted on the Edinburgh dialect is authors like Irving Welsh and Ian Rankin.

The Edinburgh dialect is the longest standing dialects, and one of the six versions of Scots. The region of the Edinburgh dialect also extends to Fife and the Lothians, stopping at Falkirk, where there is a noticeable change in words, from using “bairn” and “yin” on the east coast, to “wains” and “wan” on the west.

Read more...

Gobbledygook: Web page set up to celebrate Scots language leaves experts baffled with words such as 'feckfupairt'

4 March 2016 (Daily Record)

A Scottish Government web page set up to celebrate the Scots language had to be edited after experts branded some of the words gobbledygook .

The site quoted baffling expressions like “wirhameowerdaeinsan” in a bid to encourage more people to embrace the historical dialect, still used by 1.5 million people today.

But a string of experts were left baffled when presented with phrases like, “Scots us aaaroon us in wirhameowerdaeinsan, it is a furthie, feckfupairt o Scottish culture the day”.

Michael Hance, the director of the Scots Language Centre, said some phrases were made up of correct words jumbled together while others were completely unidentifiable.

He said: “It’s clearly not been edited correctly as some words don’t mean anything at all. Something has clearly got lost in translation somewhere along the line.

“It would appear that who was commissioned to write it didn’t have the chance to check it before it went online.

“It’s unfortunate because it’s likely that people went on the site and thought, because they couldn’t make sense of some words, that they didn’t have a proper grasp of Scots.”

Read more...

Related Links

Scots language website is no richt (Deadline News, 4 March 2016)

How to…teach a trilingual primary curriculum

4 March 2016 (TES)

Blending English, Thai and Mandarin Chinese into a seamless experience.

(Read the full article on pages 44-45 of TES online - subscription required).

Read more...

Televerde Selects Glasgow, Scotland for European Headquarters and Contact Center Location

3 March 2016 (Virtual Strategy )

Televerde, the global sales and marketing solutions provider, announces today it has selected Glasgow, Scotland as the location for its European headquarters and contact center.

[..] Over the course of the next 12-24 months, Televerde will hire up to 170 employees, including approximately 130 multilingual contact center agents. The Glasgow contact center will include language capabilities in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian and Eastern European languages. Glasgow was specifically chosen as Televerde’s European launching pad based on its ability to serve the company’s customers with its multilingual talent, geographic proximity between the U.S. and continental Europe and through a high-performance partnership with Scottish Development International.

Read more...

A theory on how soccer players communicate in the age of highly multilingual clubs

1 March 2016 (Fusion)

During this season’s Champions League group stage, a photo circulated online of Italian club AS Roma’s “Player Languages” sheet. The list denoted the languages in which each player was comfortable giving an interview. And though most players are conversational in more languages than the ones they are comfortable using in media settings, I was surprised by both the polyglotism of some players, and the lack of overlap in many cases.

Midfielder Miralem Pjanic, for example, was born in Bosnia, spent most of his childhood and teenage years in Luxembourg, and has played professionally in France and Italy. His listed languages were Bosnian, English, French, Italian, and German. He’s also fluent in Luxembourgish, though that could be arguably classified as a dialect of German. Salih Uçan, in contrast, only listed Turkish, a language none of his teammates listed.

This got me thinking. Big European clubs tend to hire players from all over the globe, and it is certainly a common occurrence that there is no lingua franca, no common language between everyone on the field, or on the bench. So how do they communicate? There must be some common way of understanding each other.

Read more...

Gaelic school plans for Skye take major step forward

1 March 2016 (The Scotsman)

An £8.7million contract for a new Gaelic Primary School on the Isle of Skye has been awarded.

Robertson Construction will carry out the work on the building in the village of Portree, with completion expected late 2017.

Skye Councillor Drew Millar announced the contract at the first meeting of a new Highland Council area committee dealing solely with issues on the island.

Completion of the project would see the local authority deliver two standaline Gaelic Primary School in Portree and Fort William within two years of each other.

Councillors added that they would complement Scotland’s other Gaelic schools in Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Read more...

Speaking just one language may improve insight and judgement

29 February 2016 (The Telegraph)

The benefits of bilingualism are well known, but a new study suggests people who speak just one language may have better judgement and insight.

Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin found that monolinguists were far better at assessing their own performance than those who spoke two languages.

The researchers said they were surprised by their findings as bilingual people often outperform monolinguists in mental tests.

Read more...

Row breaks out in Edinburgh over Gaelic school plan

29 February 2016 (BBC News)

A row has broken out over a plan for a change to Gaelic education in Edinburgh.

Some children who leave the city's Gaelic school this year may not be going to the secondary school they had expected to go to.

Their parents are angry, and have claimed that the move could undermine Gaelic education in the capital.

The plan will be discussed by the City of Edinburgh Council at a meeting on Tuesday.

Children who attend Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pairce, the Gaelic primary school that opened in 2013, have been able to continue their education in Gaelic at James Gillespie's High School in previous years.

However, parents were told recently that their children would not be automatically entitled to a place there because of the increasing size of the overall school roll.

Instead children who do not live within Gillespie's normal catchment area will be offered a place at Tynecastle High School, which also has Gaelic facilities. Critics claim the Gaelic facilities there are inferior to Gillespie's.

Read more...

Related Links

Leading churchman attacks council over "crisis" in Gaelic provision (The Herald, 29 February 2016)

Church leader slams Gaelic axe plans (The Scotsman, 29 February 2016)

Council in Edinburgh Gaelic school pupils U-turn (BBC News, 2 March 2016)

Berlin’s Museum Tours in Arabic Forge a Bridge to Refugees

28 February 2016 (New York Times)

BERLIN — The Pergamon Museum is home to the famous Ishtar Gate, a monument of blue and white tile decorated with golden lions and daisies that was once the entrance to ancient Babylon. When Kamal Alramadhani, a 25-year-old Iraqi economics student, saw it for the first time this month, “I got goose bumps,” he said, pointing to his arm.

“It’s from Iraq,” he added quietly, through an Arabic translator. “My country.” A native of Mosul, Mr. Alramadhani studied economics at the University of Baghdad and came to Germany in October, part of a wave of asylum seekers that is stirring opposition here but also leading the government to look for ways to help the migrants adjust.

That afternoon, Mr. Alramadhani and about 30 others — some of them teenagers who had walked much of the way from Syria — were visiting the museum for the first time, on a free Arabic-language tour. It is part of a new and growing state-financed program to introduce the refugees to Germany’s cultural heritage — even, of course, when some of that heritage comes from the Middle East.

Read more...

‘Sign language should be added to the national curriculum’

27 February 2016 (Eastern Daily Press)

Applies to England

We have seen a little surge in the past 20 years of hearing people wanting to learn British Sign Language, either to head down in the professional career track of deaf relations such as interpreting or communication support workers or just for casual use to communicate with a deaf friend.

Read more...

Deaf school offers French signing as foreign language

26 February 2016 (TESS)

A school for deaf children has become the first in the country to offer pupils the chance to learn to sign in another language. The step was taken in order to fulfil the government's ambition that every child should learn two languages in primary.

The idea that there is only one international sign language is a widely-held misconception, says Enrique Canton, who is teaching French sign language to pupils at the Hamilton School for the Deaf in South Lanarkshire. Just as there are many spoken languages, each country has its own sign language, he explains, adding, 'Thereafter, there are regional variations, just in the same way that hearing people have regional or local accents.'

Mr Canton, who is deaf, was raised in France and, following a short spell living in Spain, moved to Scotland 15 years ago after meeting a 'Scottish lass.' He knows sign language in French, Spanish and British as well as international sign language.

(Read the full article on pages 8-9 of TESS digital online - subscription required).

Read more...

The struggle to revive the 'faltering' Baccalaureate

26 February 2016 (TESS)

The government is drawing up urgent proposals to save the Scottish Baccalaureate as interest in the flagship qualification spirals downwards, TESS can reveal.

It aims to publish plans within weeks after a review into the decline of the Baccalaureate. The qualification, available in science, social sciences, expressive arts and languages, was designed to encourage the type of independent learning demanded in universities.

(Read the full article on pages 6-7 of TESS online - subscription required).

Read more...

Let’s talk about wider cultural dialogue

25 February 2016 (THE)

In the very near future, the Arts and Humanities Research Council will announce the large projects that it will finance over the next four years as part of its Open World Research Initiative.

The scheme seeks to provide “a new and exciting vision for languages research in response to the challenges and opportunities presented by a globalized research environment”. While the individual projects will no doubt be excellent, they will also address a range of broader issues at the heart of the study of modern languages today.

In common with any other subject, modern languages needs to articulate a strong sense of what it stands for (especially considering the national decline in its provision) and why it is important. Equally, in an age that is increasingly defined as post-national and mobile, all research and teaching must confront the reality of globalisation. If one works on a European culture – and I write as an Italianist – then one has, more and more, to explain its relevance in global terms.

Read more...

House of Lords debate on increasing understanding of the Middle East

23 February 2016 (They Work For You)

See comments from Baroness Coussins on the teaching of Arabic during the Lords' debate on increasing understanding of the Middle East.

Read more...

Deutschland 83 opens the floodgate for a German TV renaissance

23 February 2016 (The Guardian)

The success of the cold-war thriller outside its home country has inspired Amazon, Netflix and Sky to commission German-language shows.

Read more...

Bairns enjoy access to Chinese culture

23 February 2016 (Shetland News)

A HUB providing access to the teaching of Chinese language and culture for pupils throughout Shetland was officially launched in Sandwick on Tuesday.

The event was attended by representatives of the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS), along with councillors, staff and pupils from ten schools throughout the islands.

There were also short performances by the Chongqing Sichuan Opera House – which also gave a free show at Mareel on Monday night – and young fiddle and accordion players from the South Mainland.

The creation of a Confucius hub in Shetland, one of 16 across Scotland and funding by the Scottish and Chinese governments, will provide resources and support to allow young people the opportunity to learn more about Chinese language and culture.

Since October, Ying Zhang has been teaching Mandarin Chinese to pupils at Sandwick and other primary and secondary schools in Shetland. Lessons include language skills as well as broader aspects of Chinese culture, such as food and music.

Ms Zhang also offers language workshops for school staff and provides a link to her home school, Tianjin 102 High School, in the Tianjin municipality in north east China.

Read more...

Related Links

Interview on Radio Shetland (BBC Radio Shetland, 22 February 2016) - Fan Lin (CISS) talks about performances by the Chongqing Sichuan Opera House taking place in Shetland (listen to the interview from 24 minutes into the show)

Gaelic war of words - Is Gaelic teaching in Scottish schools a waste of resources?

23 February 2016 (The Courier)

The passing of a new law at the Scottish Parliament has reignited debate about the costs of preserving Gaelic language and culture. The Education (Scotland) Bill means that every school now has to assess the need for Gaelic education if asked. But in these times of austerity budget cuts, is that a good use of resources? Michael Alexander investigates.

Read more...

Related Links

Without our own words, we Gaels are silenced (The Herald, letters, 24 February 2016)

‘Teachers should do more to ensure that the benefits of EU membership are understood by our students’

22 February 2016 (TES)

Teachers are, in the majority, internationalists and understand the benefits of collaboration across different countries, writes a leading educationist.

Read more...

Viewing languages as a luxury? Nuts to that!

19 February 2016 (TESS)

In 1995 I boarded an Aberdeen train for a marathon journey to the picturesque French town of Le Puy-en-Velay, where I was to spend a year as an English language assistant.

I'd done six years of French at school and another two at university. Now I was ready to throw myself into the land of Gainsbourg, Camus, Piaf, Truffant, Depardieu and (my main cultural reference point) Astérix. Or was I?

As the latest of several trains trundled past Bourgogne vineyards, I headed to the buffet car. I had a craving for peanuts.

Only I didn't know the French word for peanuts...

(see the Editorial, page 5 of TESS digital for the full article - TES subscription required).

Read more...

Related Links

Let’s be clear on foreign languages (TESS online, page 15) - subscription required to access.

Google Translate to add 13 new languages including Gaelic

18 February 2016 (The Scotsman)

Google has confirmed that Gaelic will be among 13 new languages to be added to its translation site.

Considered the world’s most advanced open translation site, Google Translate will now offer 103 languages for translation.

The other 12 new languages are Shona, Sindhi, Pashto, Corsican, Frisian, Amharic, Kurmanji Kurdish, Luxembourgish, Samoan, Hawaiian, Kyrgyz and Xhosa

Read more...

Related Links

Gaelic becomes latest language added to Google Translate (The Herald, 18 February 2016)

Gaelic among 13 new languages added to Google Translate (Scotland Now / Daily Record, 18 February 2016)

Google recognises Gaelic for first time… You can now translate anything into Scots language (Press and Journal, 18 February 2016)

Google Translate adds Gaelic to list of supported languages (STV News, 18 February 2016)

Google goes Gaelic (Island News & Advertiser, 18 February 2016)

Scots Gaelic one of 13 new languages on Google Translate (The National, 19 February 2016)

MSP welcomes Gaelic addition to Goggle Translate (Stornoway Gazette, 19 February 2016)

‘Giving it bifters’ in German? Augsburg offer translation tips to Liverpool fans

17 February 2016 (The Guardian)

Liverpool’s Europa League last-32 opponents Augsburg have offered visiting fans a “scouse/German” translation guide to help their trip go smoothly.

As the clubs prepare to meet in the first leg of their tie on Thursday, Augsburg tweeted “a little something to help our @LFC friends out & about in Augsburg, and perhaps even #Klopp back at home.”

Among the translations on offer are: “Mi head’s chocka / Ich kann nicht klar denken” and “Givin it bifters / Dein Bestes geben”.

Read more...

Gaelic 'should be preserved' to benefit the brain

15 February 2016 (The Herald)

Languages on the brink of dying out should be preserved in light of evidence that shows juggling different tongues is good for the brain, claims a British expert.

Professor Antonella Sorace, founder of the Bilingualism Matters Centre at the University of Edinburgh, is investigating the potential benefits of studying minority languages such as Sardinian and Scottish Gaelic.

Previous research has already shown that being multilingual can improve thinking and learning ability, and may reduce mental decline with age.

Read more...

Language barriers may be consigned to history by earpiece gadget

13 February 2016 (The Independent)

"Language barrier" may be a phrase lost in translation to the next generation.

By 2025, when someone speaks to you in a foreign language, an earpiece will be able instantly to translate their words into your native language, Hillary Clinton’s former innovation advisor Alec Ross has written in The Wall Street Journal.

[...] The earpieces won’t necessarily spell the end of foreign language learning, however.

“I can't imagine a time when we don't value the ability to communicate in languages other than our own”, Mr Ross told The Independent. “But I can't help but think that this will have some kind of impact for the future of foreign language learning. Exactly what, I don't know.”

Read more...

Teacher shortage means pupils miss out on foreign languages

11 February 2016 (Press and Journal)

A teacher shortage at an Aberdeen secondary school means some of its pupils are missing out on modern languages.

First, second and third year pupils at Kincorth Academy are not being given language lessons, such as French of Spanish, due to staffing difficulties.

The school is also lacking a teacher for home economics.

Head teacher Grahame Whyte told a meeting of Kincorth and Leggart Community Council that about 15 staff had left before the 2016/17 academic year.

Read more...

Outplay speaks to students about the advantages of learning a second language

11 February 2016 (Outplay Entertainment)

As the largest independent games company in Scotland, Outplay Entertainment reaches an audience of millions of players worldwide through popular games such as Crafty Candy and Alien Creeps TD. Although the company works with international partners and serves gamers from all over the world, we recognise the importance of supporting our local communities.

Recently, we have been focusing on motivating students to consider learning a second language in order to help boost their future career prospects. It can be challenging to encourage pupils to pick up another language, but in an industry that is globally active, there is a strong advantage for those who can.

Aside from the obvious advantage of being able to speak in a different language, there are many more benefits that are not always apparent when you are confronted with your first French lesson in school.

This is where we come in. Unbeknownst to many, languages and regional awareness are essential to the success of a modern games company. We have a multinational staff working in a variety of roles – from French artists to Italian developers. Being able to produce fully localized games is a critical part of our business. Games and gamer culture form a massive part of most kids’ lives these days. As such, we have an immediate connection to the interest of young people and can reach out to them on that level.

Please note, if any schools are interested in a visit from the company, please contact SCILT.

Read more...

Poor language skills and strategies contributing to UK record trade deficit

10 February 2016 (ATC)

Britain's poor language skills and strategies are contributing to the record £125 billion UK trade deficit, according to the Association of Translation Companies.

Commenting on the figures released by the Office for National Statistics, Geoffrey Bowden, General Secretary for the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) comments: “As an organisation whose members are focused on helping UK companies from all sectors maximise international trade opportunities, we are concerned to see a reduction in the value of UK exports for December 2015.

“Recent research shows that poor language skills are costing the UK economy £48 billion a year in lost export sales and that organisations which have made the conscious decision to invest in professional language services achieve a far higher export to turnover ratio."

Read more...

Why native English speakers fail to be understood in English – and lose out in global business

10 February 2016 (The Conversation)

Language skills are often trumpeted as a cornerstone of social integration, allowing citizens to participate fully in their host communities. British prime minister David Cameron recently announced a £20m fund for English language lessons to tackle radicalisation in the UK, for example. Similarly, US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has called for assimilation and English-speaking in the US.

But with transnational mobility and trade a defining feature of our times, what of Cameron’s or Trump’s own supporters and their ability to speak English within a wider international community?

Native English speakers are infamously unable to speak languages other than their own. As well as being a professional handicap, this has been shown to hinder exporters and hurt trade.

And now ironically, there is mounting evidence that in international business, native English speakers are failing to integrate as a result of their shortcomings when it comes to tailoring their English for this context. When it comes to English – the international language not only for business but also higher education and cross-border collaboration – research shows that, far from being able to rest on their laurels, native speakers are not masters of the world’s global language.

Read more...

Mind your language! Teacher takes on Government over cuts to foreign language budget

10 February 2016 (Cambridge News)

A petition launched by a Cambridgeshire teacher to save the provision of languages teaching in schools is closing in on its target of 10,000 signatures.

Language teacher Jane Driver is calling on the Government not to cut funding for the Routes into Languages (RiL) organisation, which is due to stop in July.

Ms Driver, of Godmanchester, has said it is vital RiL continues to be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and her petition has now been signed by 7,500 people.

She said: "Unlike other organisations, they [RiL] work together with schools and teachers to develop collaborative projects aimed at promoting language-learning at GCSE and beyond.

"The ability to speak another language is a skill that is in high-demand by UK businesses, who are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit UK residents with foreign language skills.

"We have a shortage of linguists – businesses are desperate for people with languages. It's not the right time for the government not to re-fund this project."

Read more...

Entire class learns sign language to communicate with deaf classmate

8 February 2016 (The Independent)

An entire class of pupils in Bosnia are being taught sign language so they can communicate with a deaf classmate.

Teacher Sanela Ljumanovic decided to help the children in her class at Sarajevo's Osman Nakas primary school learn to sign, after noticing six-year-old Zejd Coralic had become isolated from his peers.

It comes after Bosnia adopted laws in 2003 that meant children with disabilities should be fully integrated into the classroom.

Read more...

The best age to learn a second language

8 February 2016 (The Independent)

If you want to learn a foreign language, should you begin before a certain age in order to fully master it? Popular opinion holds that young children find it easier than adults because childhood is a “critical period” for language learning.

It has been difficult to prove this, but new research published by my colleagues and me, using brainscans and innovative statistical methods, does indeed suggest that our capacity to learn a language diminishes gradually over our lives.

Read more...

Eddie Izzard will make you laugh in four languages

8 February 2016 (PRI / The World in Words)

Eddie Izzard has often joked about language from the silliness of Latin to why English speakers are so stubbornly monolingual. However, in late ‘90’s, Eddie decided that it wasn’t enough to joke about language; he wanted to joke in other languages. So in 1997 he took the stage and did his first set in France in French. It wasn't funny, he admits, but it was the start of a career goal to do stand-up in as many languages as possible. Eventually he did feel funny (and fluent) in French. Now, nearly two decades after that first French show, he has toured in not only French but German and Spanish. He intends to learn Russian and Arabic next.

The World in Words sat down with Izzard to find out why he’s decided to take his humor around the globe and how he’s managed to learn all these languages. (Warning: Parts of this podcast are definitely NSFW.).

Read more...

North-east councillors assert commitment to Doric… and Mandarin

5 February 2016 (The Press and Journal)

Aberdeenshire councillors have cemented their commitment to both the region’s native dialect – and a far Eastern tongue.

Both Doric and the Chinese language of Mandarin have been earmarked as priorities in Aberdeenshire’s schools.

Councillors were given an update on the implementation of the “one and two languages initiative” across Aberdeenshire Council’s schools at yesterday’s education, learning and leisure committee.

The progress of the scheme – which ensures that youngster learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue – was hailed by councillors.

Read more...

Not the oignon: fury as France changes 2,000 spellings and ditches circumflex

5 February 2016 (Guardian)

French linguistic purists have voiced online anger at the loss of one of their favourite accents – the pointy little circumflex hat (ˆ) that sits on top of certain vowels.

A change in the spelling of some 2,000 French words will come into effect in new primary school textbooks being released for the start of the school year in September, the education ministry and publishers have announced.

The circumflex accent will become optional for many words, as will other spelling changes that have purists rubbing their eyes – such as onion, which can now be spelled “ognon” as well as the traditional “oignon”.

The changes, which have caused uproar on French Twitter, were first approved by the prestigious guardians of the French language, the Académie Française, in 1990.

Read more...

Foreign languages: how to memorise vocabulary

5 February 2016 (The Telegraph)

When trying to learn a foreign language, most of us have the same complaint: “I’m just not good at memorising.” Learning new vocabulary can be daunting, especially for busy adults whose minds are already occupied with work, family, and other responsibilities.

A comfort? Linguists say that to “get by” in a language, such as directing a taxi or asking for a phone number, it takes a vocabulary of about 120 basic words. It’s a manageable goal, and a firm foundation for beginners. Here are eight tips for getting there.

Read more...

Steady currents? Overseas student flows and the UK

4 February 2016 (THE)

More can be done in the UK to encourage study abroad, but the anglophone world may continue to attract the lion’s share, says David Willetts.

Read more...

Matthew Fitt: Pairlament should mirror aw oor three languages

4 February 2016 (The National)

"Let our three-voiced country sing in a new world..."

Bauld hopefu words scrievit by the makar Iain Crichton Smith, in a poem that opened the Scottish Pairlament on July 1st 1999.

In the first verse he urged us aw tae sing in oor English, oor Gaelic and oor Scots and the last wis sung by the woman that cam tae symbolise the history and promise o that day.

When Sheena Wellington sae memorably hanselled the new Scotland wi Burns’ anthem o social justice A Man’s A Man, the language that partially endit roon aboot three hunner year o London rule wis Scots.

Fast forrit tae Holyrood 2016. Look for Scots in the Scottish Pairlament Buildin. If ye find ony, gie me a shout.

Read more...

A guide to Scottish rhyming slang

2 February 2016 (The Scotsman)

People all over the world have heard of Cockney rhyming slang, but did you know there is a Scottish version?

Slowly making its way into colloquial speech, a book has already been published and even academic research has been carried out into this way of speaking.

What makes it more unique is that Scottish rhyming slang is based on pronunciation, and not written language.

Read more...

Jhumpa Lahiri: ‘I am, in Italian, a tougher, freer writer’

31 January 2015 (Guardian)

The author’s new book, written in Italian and accompanied by English translation, is the result of an infatuation with Italy that began with her first visit in 1994. Here, the Pulitzer winner recounts her journey towards fluency, and answers the Guardian's Q&A

Read more...

Ditch boring old textbooks and bring languages to life

29 January 2016 (TESS)

Children aren't happy just learning the days of the week - give them the vocabulary for topics that excite them.

(page 39, TESS online - subscription required to access).

Read more...

Och aye: School kids get a lesson in traditional Scottish language from writer Hamish MacDonald

25 January 2016 (Daily Record)

The newly appointed ’Scots Scriever’ visited Kirktonholme Primary school to teach the language.

Hamish MacDonald gave a talk to pupils at the school last week as part of a Scots learning focus during the month of January.

Hamish is the first Scots Scriever - and is the appointed national writer of Scots Language.

Hamish recited his own poems and others that the children had been studying in class and discussed their meanings and sounds.

Children were given a chance to hear ‘The Gruffalo’s Wean,” a book originally written in English but now translated into Scots, as well as a Scots book from the 1500s about an owl.

Read more...

Alternative Burns Night in Glasgow

25 January 2016 (BBC News)

Burns Night traditionally celebrates Scottish music and culture - but an alternative Burns Night in Glasgow offers a platform for one of the country's newest and most eclectic bands.
E karika Djal was set up more than a year ago in Glasgow's Govanhill area to celebrate the city's Roma community.

Members speak - and sing - in five languages.

Arts correspondent Pauline McLean reports.

Read more...

The long adieu: how Britain gave up learning French

22 January 2016 (The Guardian)

Is it important that more people speak English? Only this week, David Cameron launched a new scheme encouraging more Muslim women to learn the language, one argument being that the inability of many to do so weakens their voice , and in doing so strengthens radicalisation.

[...] I'm much more worried about the number of people learning the other historic language of England; the language used at the first parliament, spoken at Runnymede in 1215, a language that still features in much of our legal system and which, until 1858, was the only one on British passports: French.

Read more...

Half of schools make big cuts to courses under CfE

22 January 2016 (TESS)

Almost half of Scottish secondaries have significantly narrowed their curriculum at S4, offering just six courses instead of the eight that was typical before the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, according to figures released today.

Subjects disadvantaged by the new curriculum include languages, business studies, computing, some of the creative and aesthetic subjects, the sciences and social subjects.

See page 6-7 of TESS digital for the full article.  (TES subscription required).

Read more...

New team sought to keep Gaelic “up-to-date”

21 January 2016 (Press and Journal)

Gaelic quango Bòrd na Gàidhlig plans to spend up to £130,000 recruiting a team to keep the historic language “up-to-date”.

The body is offering a contract for a group to help ensure there is “consistency” in Gaelic terminology, grammar and linguistics.

The successful bidder would also provide an administration service and a “framework” to an existing steering group, with the aim of earning “popular legitimacy through engagement with the language community and through the marriage of popular, scientific and political interests”.

Initiatives to promote the language as part of the Gaelic Language Act have been criticised in recent months, including plans to re-brand emergency service vehicles.

However, supporters insist efforts must be made to protect the Gaelic from being consigned to history.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig is responsible for promoting the language, increasing the number of speakers and advising Scottish ministers.

Read more...

Why Facebook has become so important to the sign language community

21 January 2016 (BBC News)

Sign language users once had to meet at local deaf clubs to have conversations and share their views. Now, video on social media means things have changed, says deaf journalist Charlie Swinbourne.

Read more...

MP George Eustice wants Cornish language taught to GCSE

20 January 2016 (BBC News)

A Cornwall MP is campaigning to reinstate the Cornish language as a GCSE exam.

It was scrapped in 1996 because not enough pupils were taking it.

But Camborne and Redruth Tory George Eustice, who admitted he did not know any Cornish, said the time was right to bring it back.

Cornish is recognised as minority language by the EU and Cornwall Council is encouraging staff to use it when welcoming visitors.

Read more...

Eight Reasons Why You Should Really Learn a Language

20 January 2016 (Huffington Post)

So you have always had the intention to learn a foreign language but never quite got around to doing it? Well, you know what they say; it is never too late to start something new! Here are 8 impressive reasons as to why mastering a foreign language really would change your life...

Read more...

A Second Language Looks Fabulous on Your Brain

19 January 2016 (Chief Learning Officer blog)

French was always a beautiful language to me.

I took it for a few years in high school from a teacher whose name eludes me now but who had a way of emphasizing syllables with her fingers. The class had a few cut-ups, and no small share of each class period was spent attending to or ignoring their antics. Still, after all the quizzes, conversations and examinations, all I've left today is, well, an appreciation for the language.

A second attempt at learning a new language came about 10 years later. Except for the first few minutes of the very first class, the instructor spoke only in Spanish and the class — a mix of undergraduates, high-achieving high school students and me — were encouraged to only speak in Spanish, too.

I was out of my element, to say the least. If the intensive course could be compared to a group workout class, it was high-impact Zumba, and I was the latecomer with no more cardio experience than a few Jumping Jacks.

As strenuous as learning a new language felt, however, the mental workout had more value than I realized. I wasn’t just broadening my worldview; I was helping my brain in powerful ways.

Read more...

Related Links

Learning a second language may depend on the strength of brain's connections (Medical Xpress, 19 January 2016)

Ambulance crews to get Gaelic lessons

18 January 2016 (The Herald)

Scottish Ambulance Service staff will be given lessons in Gaelic as part of the government’s push to boost the language. The service has proposed to introduce measures between now and 2020 that will include “Gaelic awareness and Gaelic language skills training”.

But the idea has been attacked by critics who believe that Gaelic lessons will take staff away from helping patients.

Read more...

Related Links

Gaelic logo plan for ambulance service (The Express, 17 January 2016)

Paramedics could be forced to learn Gaelic, under new Scottish Ambulance Service plans (Press and Journal, 18 January 2016)

White Hot Employer Demand For MBAs Who Speak Multiple Languages

17 January 2016 (Business Because)

Ask anyone working at a business school what makes it unique and you’ll get a spiel about global diversity. Yet companies are desperate for graduates who have honed multiple languages and cultural norms.

“Languages are always good for us,” says Julia McDonald, head of talent acquisition for EMEA at Infosys. English is the company’s common language, “but our clients often want people that can speak their local language,” Julia says.

Mark Davies, employer relations manager at London’s Imperial College Business School, says there is growing demand for multilingual European language speakers at companies including BP, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and GSK, which have operations in emerging markets.

André Alcalde, an executive at Lojas Renner, Brazil’s largest fast-fashion retailer, speaks English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

“In a business world that is more internationally-connected,” says the HULT MBA student, “it is mandatory when building an executive career to be able to deal with different cultures.”

Nearly two-thirds of businesses in the UK want to recruit staff with foreign language skills. A survey by the business lobby group the CBI and education company Pearson found European languages are the most sought after: French (50%); German (49%); and Spanish (44%).

Read more...

Parents can help, but children take a DIY approach to learning language

17 January 2016 (The Conversation)

Parents can help children develop their language. But when it comes to building the linguistic structure that undergirds the language, new research shows that children would rather do it themselves.

Perhaps one of the oldest debates in the cognitive sciences centres on whether children have an inborn faculty of language. This faculty makes it possible for children to learn the language of their community.

Evidence for its existence comes from the richness of the system that language users come to have as compared to the finite set of sentences that any one learner is exposed to.

Read more...

From Creole to Scots, all our tongues need preserving, says top linguist

16 January 2016 (The National)

Few people know more about the power and influence of minority languages than linguist Hector Poullet, an expert on the Creole tongue of the Caribbean.

The softly-spoken 75-year-old is a source on Creole in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe. You could say he wrote the book on the language, co-authoring one of the world’s first Creole dictionaries and helping to introduce it into the school curriculum.

This week, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland launched a free online resource for children. Gifting Every Child includes Scots songs and Gaelic lullabies, providing an introduction to the traditional arts for the classroom or family home.

“All of the world’s languages are like a kaleidoscope – every single one of them is multiform and each one must be protected,” Poullet says.

Read more...

Exclusive: language GCSEs at risk of being too easy and too dull, universities warn

15 January 2016 (TES)

New language GCSEs are at risk of being seen as too easy and too dull, universities have said, dubbing one draft exam question about grocery shopping as “Year 7 material”.

The reformed exams, which will be taught to Year 10 students from September, are being brought in as part of a government bid to make GCSEs more “rigorous”.

However, the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML), which represents departments at more than 100 universities, has written to exams watchdog Ofqual to warn that draft GCSE papers from exam boards suggest that they “may not be fully embracing the spirit of radical change proposed”.

Jocelyn Wyburd, chair of UCML and director of the University of Cambridge Language Centre, told TES: “Pupils complain that languages are boring and irrelevant, and the new GCSE is supposed to make them interesting. But I’ve heard from schools that are very worried that they won’t.”

She was particularly concerned about a French GCSE foundation paper. “The question was in English and it said, “You’re going to the shops, so write yourself a list of the items of fruit you’ve got to buy’,” she said. “Even for a foundation paper at GCSE, that’s ridiculous. It’s Year 7 material.”

Read more...

Does the rise of English mean losing knowledge?

14 January 2016 (BBC News)

Are we "losing knowledge" because of the growing dominance of English as the language of higher education and research?

Attend any international academic conference and the discussion is likely to be conducted in English. For anyone wanting to share research, English has become the medium for study, writing and teaching.

That might make it easier for people speaking different languages to collaborate. But is there something else being lost? Is non-English research being marginalised?

A campaign among German academics says science benefits from being approached through different languages.

Read more...

What comes first? Practitioners in Glasgow City Council’s EAL service share their experiences of supporting learners who are new to English

14 January 2016 (Teaching Scotland (Issue 62))

See the article in the latest edition of Teaching Scotland magazine (page 32/33) where EAL teachers in Glasgow share how they're supporting incoming migrants to the city.

Read more...

Official - Exams in 'soft' subjects really are easier: Board admits pupils are unfairly marked down in courses such as maths as they discuss overhaul of the grading system

13 January 2016 (Daily Mail)

School pupils studying rigorous subjects like foreign languages and maths at GCSE and A-level are being unfairly marked down with lower exam grades than those taking ‘softer’ subjects, the exams regulator has admitted.

Ofqual is now discussing a complete overhaul of the exam grading system to ensure pupils taking ‘tough’ academic subjects are not losing out when they start applying to university.

For the first time, the regulator’s chiefs have conceded that it is harder to get top grades in maths, science and modern foreign languages than it is in so-called ‘soft’ subjects like art.

Read more...

Scottish curriculum narrows and attainment drops under new regime

12 January 2016 (TESS)

The number of qualifications being pursued by Scottish pupils – particularly those of lower ability – has dropped sharply since the new curriculum and qualifications were introduced, as has attainment, new research shows.

The situation for modern languages was “near critical” because of the drop in pupils enrolling for these subjects in S4, according to Dr Jim Scott from the University of Dundee.

Read more...

How many kisses do you want?

12 January 2016 (BBC News)

"Hello, nice to meet you..." and then what? Handshake, one kiss, two kisses, three kisses, four kisses...

British comedian Paul Taylor's video about how difficult it is for him to greet people in his adopted country, France, has gone viral.

We asked a variety of people at the BBC World Service how they greet each other in their countries... and this is what we found out.

See the video on the BBC website.

Read more...

'Pay for foreign exchange trips rather than a week in Majorca,' top headteacher tells parents

11 January 2016 (TES)

Parents should consider sending their child on a school foreign exchange rather than spending money on a week in Majorca, a headteacher has suggested.

Young people are likely to learn more on a cultural break in a city such as Madrid or Barcelona than they are sitting on a beach, according to Caroline Jordan, headmistress of Headington School in Oxford and the new president of the Girls' Schools Association.

Setting up a foreign exchange for students did not have to be expensive, Ms Jordan said.

"It's trying to convince the parents that that's good use of their finances as opposed to a foreign holiday to Majorca, where they may well be in a Spanish environment but they're less likely to be experiencing Spanish as they would be if they were in somewhere like Madrid or Barcelona on exchange," she said.

"Exchange is very important and we know that languages is a real area of concern in this country. The government is doing quite a lot about this by trying to encourage all children to take a language through the English Baccalaureate."

Figures show that last year, there was a drop in language GCSE entries, with French down 6.2 per cent on 2014, German down 9.8 per cent and Spanish down 2.4 per cent.

As well as ensuring that children learned a foreign language, Ms Jordan added that it was important that modern teenagers were given the opportunity to consider studying at a university overseas, arguing that it could be beneficial to them later on.

Read more...

Scotland's National newspaper publishes edition written partly in Scots language

7 January 2016 (The Independent)

The independence-supporting National newspaper in Scotland has published an edition written partly in the Scots language.

Its front-page headline in Thursday’s edition was about the current internal strife of the Labour party.

“Stairhead rammy: Labour faw apairt efter Blairites get their jotters”, it said, roughly translated as “Neighbours at war: Labour fall apart after Blairites are sacked”.

“We’ve went aw Scots,” the paper announced.

The National’s strapline is normally “the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland”, but this was changed to a “gallus” - a bold or self-confident - Scotland.

Other headlines included: “Angry Salmond: Sae whaur’s awoor richt-wingers when we need thaim.”

Scots is a catch-all term for several different local dialects and is regarded as one of Scotland’s three native languages, including English and Scottish Gaelic.

Read more...

Arsenal’s Petr Cech proves his brilliance with defensive organisation in three different languages

31 December 2015 (Metro / Daily Mail)

Arsenal star Petr Cech has revealed the secret behind his successful marshaling of the Gunners back line.

The 33-year-old speaks to his defenders in three different languages to make sure that he can get his message across during matches.

Having only conceded 18 goals this season, the north London side have the fourth most miserly defence in the Premier League. This may part of the reason why.

‘I speak to the full-backs (Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal) in Spanish, to (Laurent) Koscielny in French and to Per (Mertesacker) in English because for him it is the same as me,’ said Cech according to the Daily Mail.

Read more...

Learn a language in 2016, Britons are urged

30 December 2015 (BBC)

As the New Year beckons, the British Council is calling on people in the UK to make learning a foreign language their resolution for 2016. The campaign is being backed by actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb.

Read more...

The teenagers who teach languages at primary

18 December 2015 (TESS)

Senior pupils with a passion for languages are delivering lessons at schools in Edinburgh, providing welcome support to class teachers.

Please note a TES/TESS subscription is required to access the online article in full.

Read more...

Research claims new Gaelic speakers are 'developing a Glasgow accent'

22 December 2015 (Herald)

Scotland's biggest city accounts for the largest number of Gaelic speakers outside the Western Isles – and now, it seems, Glasgow's gaels are adapting the language to their local accent.

Read more...

Media Release: MG ALBA announces new strategy to ‘transform’ Gaelic media impact

18 December 2015 (All Media Scotland)

MG ALBA today published a five-year strategic plan aimed at transforming the contribution of Gaelic media.

Key objectives of the plan include initiatives to effect a major step change in the involvement of young people in Gaelic media and to develop a wider range of learning platforms.

Partnerships with other Gaelic organisations are central to the new strategic plan.

Maggie Cunningham, chair of MG ALBA, said it laid the foundations for a new era in Gaelic media.

Read more...

A quarter of pupils taking A-level languages are privately educated, ISC figures show

17 December 2015 (TES)

Independent school pupils make up a quarter of all entries for A-levels in French, German and Spanish, new figures show.

In 2015, a total of just 10,328 pupils studied French at A-level across the UK, with 2,572 (24.9 per cent) attending independent schools, according to an analysis of exam board statistics published by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) today.

Both Spanish and German also had low entry numbers, with independent school pupils providing a quarter of both. Nationally, only 14 per cent of all A-level students are educated in independent schools.

At GCSE, where the ISC says 5 per cent of all students are independently educated, more than 60 per cent of all entries for Classics are from independent schools.

The news comes amid what many believe is a crisis in modern foreign languages at A-level. Experts have warned that up to 40 per cent of university departments could close over the next decade because of lack of demand and competition between institutions.

Read more...

Do you speak Star Wars?

16 December 2015 (The Conversation)

Unless you are C3-PO, fluent in more than six million forms of communication, you may not understand every Star Wars language. I’m not talking about the languages spoken in the saga such as Shyriiwook, Huttese, Bocce or even Binary (beep beep doop!), but the languages into which the Star Wars films have been translated.

Take the title of the saga, for example. Whereas in most languages the translation has kept the words “war” and “stars” (La guerre des étoiles in French, Krieg der Sterne in German, and Guerre stellari in Italian, for example) the Spanish translation refers to the war of the galaxies (La guerra de las galaxias).

Read more...

'Get students to create a buzz': how to show the impact of eTwinning

15 December 2015 (The Guardian)

More than 341,000 teachers from across Europe have registered on www.eTwinning.net, a programme which enables schools to collaborate internationally using a safe, virtual environment.

Managed in the UK by the British Council, the initiative has grown in size and impact since it launched 10 years ago, with benefits including improved academic achievement for students – especially around communication, language and ICT skills – and increased motivation for staff and students alike.

But timetables are under pressure and accountability is intense, so proving the benefits of the approach in the classroom is of the utmost importance.

As international education co-ordinator, Andrée Jordan, says: “We know that international collaboration leads to improvement of motivation, learning and inspiration, but it’s so hard to prove – and people need proof.”

Here’s how some of the UK’s most successful “eTwinners” have evaluated and communicated the impact of their projects.

Read more...

Gary Neville reveals his biggest frustration since becoming Valencia boss

14 December 2015 (Goal)

Gary Neville claims his biggest challenge at Valencia is to learn Spanish and admits he is frustrated by his words getting lost in translation during team talks.

The former Manchester United defender has taken over the Spanish club until the end of the season but suffered a 2-0 defeat to Lyon in his first match in charge before following it up with a 1-1 draw at Eibar on Sunday.

Neville admits his inability to speak fluent Spanish is a problem and has revealed that he is speaking to players in small groups, rather than as a full squad.

"It's obvious that I need to learn the language as quickly as possible - that is the biggest challenge,” Neville told Sky Sports.

Read more...

British astronaut Tim Peake is tested on his Russian skills (video)

13 December 2015 (BBC)

British astronaut Tim Peake has spent six years training for his mission to the International Space Station which blasts off on Tuesday 15 December.

He's said that the hardest bit was learning Russian - the language is needed to operate the Soyuz rocket and the Russian parts of the ISS.

We tested Tim's vocabulary and pronunciation with the help of two BBC Russian staff, Famil Ismailov and Anya Dorodeyko.

Read more...

Study abroad interest ‘tied to cultural experiences at school’

12 December 2015 (THE)

Students who had an opportunity to learn a foreign language more likely to want to study abroad, research reveals.

Read more...

Govan dementia language project launched

12 December 2015 (BBC)

A new scheme is being launched which helps elderly and vulnerable adults battle dementia by learning foreign languages.

Lingo Flamingo was founded by Robbie Norval who was inspired by his grandmother, who had dementia.

Research has indicated that speaking several languages can delay the onset of dementia, as well as other forms of brain ageing and mental illness. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to help launch the project.

Read more...

Edinburgh student's Gaelic love song to be played live at New York Christmas after Alexander McCall Smith Prize win

11 December 2015 (The Herald)

A talented Scots student will hear a love song he composed played live at a Christmas concert in New York after winning a prestigious music prize.

James Hind, 21, landed the trip to the Big Apple after impressing expert judges of the Alexander McCall Smith Prize For Composition with his Gaelic piece, written for voice, fiddle, cello, flute, clarsach and guitar.

He will now hear his work performed by professionals in both Manhattan and New Jersey at the annual Pipes of Christmas concert produced by the Clan Currie Society, and also hopes to use his first visit to the USA to check out the city’s renowned jazz haunts.

Best-selling novelist and medical law expert Professor Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency stories and founder of his own Really Terrible Orchestra, awards the £500 prize annually for a composition by an undergraduate music student at Edinburgh Napier University.

Read more...

What should we teach our kids?

8 December 2015 (BBC)

What will the world economy look like 30 years from now? And how should we be preparing British schoolchildren today to find employment in it? Robert Peston travels to four cutting edge schools that claim to provide the way forwards for secondary education.

Should the focus be on languages and cultural knowhow for an increasingly globalised world? Should we be striving to create more of the engineers and programmers that so many employers are crying out for? Or - with the unstoppable march of the robots gobbling up ever more human jobs - should we be preparing kids with the social skills to be future entrepreneurs, employing their own personal fleets of automatons? Or is a traditional academic education the answer.

Robert Peston tries to get answers to perhaps the most important question all parents must ask from economists, scientists and teachers - and argues that what matters may not be the detail of the curriculum but the way children are taught to learn.

Listen to the programme which was broadcast on 8 December at 20:00 on BBC Radio 4.

Read more...

‘Will Gary Neville's appointment at Valencia trigger a renaissance in Spanish learning in our schools? Here’s hoping...’

7 December 2015 (TES)

The uptake of modern foreign languages in schools has long been influenced by sportspeople launching themselves into foreign leagues, writes on MFL teacher.

Footballers and football managers have probably done more for the dissemination of Spanish than anyone since the conquistadors.

I love it when an Englishman is offered – and accepts – a job abroad. It causes such a flurry of excitement. Justified, yet somehow comically disproportionate, admiration, shot through with just a hint of incredulity. It seems to take us by surprise every time. He'll never stick it out, of course, the bar-flies say down the pub. He'll miss the pies too much.

Read more...

Posted in: