Languages in the press


Languages in the press

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Speaking in tongues: how to save modern languages?

22 February 2017 (THE)

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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".

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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'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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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...

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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.”

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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.

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'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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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'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.

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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.'

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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...

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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£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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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”).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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...

Interview with Marc Joss: football translator and interpreter (part 1)

7 December 2015 (The Language of Football)

Marc Joss is a London-based football translator and interpreter. He speaks Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and English.

Marc has been involved in a host of high-profile translation projects including Guillem Balagué’s Messi, Barça: The Official Illustrated History of FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography, as well as translating for the English version of Marca.com. He also works with Premier League clubs as an interpreter.

In the first of a two part interview, we talk to Marc about his translation work.

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School language learning decline tackled by universities

3 December 2015 (BBC News)

A new scheme to help reverse a sharp decline in foreign language learning in schools in Wales has been announced by four universities.

In June, a report found the number of children studying a language at GCSE fell by a third between 2005 and 2014.

Under the pilot project, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea undergraduates will be trained to coach school pupils on their language skills.

The scheme is funded by Welsh ministers' Global futures programme.

Prof Claire Gorrara from Cardiff University, the academic leading the project, said there was increasing evidence the drop in foreign language learning was limiting young people's educational, training and career opportunities.

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Are you ready for a global future?

3 December 2015 (Cambridge University Press)

There are many reasons why everyone should learn a language, even if you happen to have the distinct advantage of speaking a world language as your first. Yet in England too many people believe that English is enough. European survey data[1] show that 61% of English people speak no other language apart from English. This compares with an EU average of 56% who speak at least one other language in addition to their first language. The case for increasing language capability can be made on a number of grounds: for reasons of trade, international diplomacy and national security[2], as well as for extending our global influence as individuals and as a country through science, humanities and the arts. So why do so many young people seem unaware of the value of language learning? What should our young people be studying to equip them for the future? How should schools and universities prepare the next generations for professional life 2020 – 2030 and beyond

Bernardette Holmes is Principal Researcher for the Born Global Policy Research Project funded by the British Academy, Campaign Director for Speak to the Future and a Bye-Fellow of Downing College, University of Cambridge

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Gary Neville unveiled as Valencia head coach and says: Time has come for me to stand up

3 December2015 (The Telegraph)

An absolutely epic session finally comes to an end, with a clearly nervous Gary Neville acquitting himself well for more than an hour's worth of questioning.

The new manager was very respectful and deferential towards his new employees and insists he's not using the move as a springboard to one day taking the England or United job.

He also reveals he'll be learning Spanish straight away, but is struggling to find a tutor who'll get up at 6am to work with him.

Read more...

The new computer language is - Gaelic

2 December 2015 (The National)

Coputers can now speak Gaelic thanks to Ceitidh – the world’s first synthetic Scottish Gaelic language system.

The programme was created by Edinburgh speech synthesis company CereProc.

The firm specialises in creating natural and expressive-sounding voices, including those adapted to regional accents.

The company already offers three “Scottish English” voices and another in “Glasgow English”, with others in Catalan, Brazilian Portuguese and “Lancashire English”.

Now it aims to help visually-impaired Gaelic speakers and language learners with Ceitidh.

Available to download for free, it is hoped the programme will be used by schools, colleges, universities and public sector organisations to read documents, website and audio books.

Creators say the voice is also “especially useful” to people with dyslexia, visual impairment or other reading difficulties.

Read more...

Let's hear Scots language on BBC Alba, says former SNP leader

30 November 2015 (The Herald)

BBC Alba should extend its remit to make programmes in the Scots language, a former leader of the SNP has urged.

Gordon Wilson said having a Gaelic language channel but no broadcasting in Scots was a "cultural flaw".

In a submission to the BBC Trust, which is consulting on the future of the corporation, he said: "Gaelic is an important part of Scottish culture.

"Yet Scotland has another tradition in the Scots language still spoken in different forms throughout Scotland and used widely amongst the ordinary folk of Scotland.

"It dwarves that of Gaelic.

"Scots has been instrumental in enriching Scottish culture in poetry, prose and plays but does not enjoy the support it should from a national broadcaster."

Read more...

Related Links

Wee Ginger Dug: Does it suit the Tories (The National, 3 December 2015)

Warnings of blow to Gaelic TV

26 November 2015 (The Herald)

Campaigners have warned of a "major blow" to Gaelic television after George Osborne quietly axed UK Government funding.

The Chancellor did not renew a £1 million-a-year grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

[...] Two years ago the then Culture Secretary Maria Miller described the service as playing a "crucial role in the cultural and economic well-being of Scotland".

She also said that the Scottish Gaelic language was an "integral part of our incredibly diverse culture".

And she said that the sum provided the "funding certainty that the channel needs to continue bringing high-quality Gaelic language programmes to the small screen".

Read more...

Au pairing abroad did more for my language skills than studying

26 November 2015 (The Guardian)

Getting to know a host family is a great way to immerse yourself in a language, boost your confidence and expand your vocabulary.

Three students share their experiences.

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A healthy obsession

25 November 2015 (Post Primary Languages Initiative blog)

My name is Bláithín Macken Smith and I am eighteen years old. If you could see sixteen year old me it would be as if you were looking at two entirely different people. I suppose that could be true for a lot of people, but for me the reason behind my big transition was my study of languages.

Until my fourth year of school I utterly despised everything about school, every morning it was more difficult to drag myself out of bed, so much so that I very often didn’t. I was convinced that after my fourth year of school that was it. I was going to drop out. So desperately did I want to leave school and become a tattoo artist. I spent much of transition year on work experience in various parlours around Dublin. Many of my family members and teachers thought that the war was lost and that my mind was made up, and then something happened.

All through transition year I was given the opportunity to try subjects I had never tried before. Russian, Japanese, Latin and Spanish, which I had studied since first year but which I now saw the fun in. I took part in language aptitude tests and the DATS tests which showed my abilities in linguistic subjects. Unfortunately for me I didn’t listen to these signs until fifth year. When I finally discovered my love for languages the course of my life changed entirely.

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How Learning A New Language Changes Your Brain And Your Perception

24 November 2015 (Medical Daily)

Learning a foreign language opens us up to new experiences, work opportunities, and allows us to meet people we may never have otherwise. More than that, research has shown learning a language can also physically change brain structure and adjust perception.

When we learn a language, we create new neural pathways in our brain, which can lead to noticeable changes. The left hemisphere is generally believed to be the logical part of the brain and is where many of our language skills originate. However, a 2012 Swiss study observed that learning a foreign language later in life is associated with thickening of the cerebral cortex — a layer of neurons specifically responsible for memory, thought, consciousness and, of course, language. This increased thickness can lead to better memory and sharper thinking later in life.

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Gaelic is the talk of the town as the great and the good take the plaudits at the Scottish Gaelic Awards

21 November 2015 (Daily Record)

One of Scotland’s best-known collectors of folk tradition has been honoured for the contribution he has made to Gaelic language and heritage.

John MacInnes, who worked at the School of Scottish Studies over four decades, was named Best Contribution at the Daily Record and Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s annual Scottish Gaelic Awards on Wednesday evening.

MacInnes, who started collecting songs, stories and the folk tradition of the nation in the early 1950s, was praised for his “unparalleled contribution” in recording the spoken word, literature and music of Scotland.

“For his academic papers and his warmth and enthusiasm towards anyone interested in Gaelic, he deserves recognition,” said his citation.

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Miss Scotland Mhairi Fergusson jets off to bid for world beauty crown

21 November 2015 (Evening Times)

MISS Scotland 2015 Mhairi Fergusson has jetted off to China ahead of competing in the 65th Miss World 2015.

And learning some of the Chinese language and culture is one of the challenges she has set herself.

Miss World 2015 takes place in Sanya, China on December 19 and the fashion student at Glasgow Caledonian University is hoping to bring home the coveted crown.

Read more...

Opinion: My four-point manifesto for transforming language teaching in your school

21 November 2015 (TES)

Brits maybe notoriously monolingual, writes one leading educationalist, but that doesn't mean we should give up on teaching MFL
Anglophones are victims of our own success. English spread around the world on the back of British imperialism and economic clout, becoming the first, second or official language from Auckland to Athabasca and from Kolkata to Cape Town; and the business language from Beijing to Buenos Aires. Admittedly, the global language status of English was secured on the back of US co-ownership.

Brits are notoriously monolingual, but it is neither laziness nor arrogance. There just isn’t an urgent need to learn an additional language; and there are fewer opportunities. In Chomsky’s terms, it amounts to the “poverty of the stimulus”.

Learning environments tend to be monolingual. Pupils learning Spanish have little opportunity for immersion. Lessons take place in timetabled isolation – Iberian atolls in an Anglophone ocean. Spanish young people by contrast immerse themselves in English outside class – on the internet, in magazines and books, on radio and TV, through film.

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Subject choice is vital in improving children's life chances, researchers say

20 November 2015 (TESS)

The Scottish government’s drive to close the attainment gap will fail to boost the life chances of deprived children because many are not choosing the right subjects, research suggests.

The University of Edinburgh researchers call for academic subjects such as English, maths, sciences and languages to be compulsory for longer and for schools to give pupils better advice about the long-term implications of their decisions.

(Please note a TES/TESS subscription is required to access the online article in full).

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Speakers of more than one language twice as likely recover normal brain function after stroke, study finds

19 November 2015 (The Herald)

Stroke patients are more likely to regain their cognitive functions if they speak more than one language, new research has discovered.

A study of 608 stroke victims found 40.5 per cent of those who are multilingual had normal mental functions afterwards, compared to 19.6 per cent of patients who only speak one language.

The study was carried out by a team from Edinburgh University in conjunction with the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. The Indian city was chosen as the location for the study because its multi-cultural nature means many languages are commonly spoken, including English, Hindi and Urdu.

Of the participants, 255 only spoke one language while 353 were bilingual.

Read more...

Related Links

Speaking a second language aids stroke recovery (The Scotsman, 19 November 2015)

Bilingual people twice as likely to recover from a stroke (The Telegraph, 19 November 2015)

Bilingual skills enhance stroke recovery, study finds (BBC News, 20 November 2015)

Languages help stroke recovery, study says (University of Edinburgh, 20 November 2015)

Bilingualism May Help Stroke Patients Recover Faster- Finds Study (Health News Line, 23 November 2015)

'Will Brits ever bother with language learning?'

17 November 2015 (The Telegraph)

Do you have regrets from your school days?

I’m sure the answer is 'yes, of course'. What it may not be is 'oui, bien sûr', 'ja, natürlich' or 'sí, ciertamente', because despite a new survey from the British Council revealing that more than half of us in the UK regret losing languages learnt during our school days, the same study highlights that most of us have seen those skills vanish within just one year of finishing education.

So what’s the issue? With so many of us wishing that we’d not forgotten our ‘bonjours’ and ‘muy biens’, why are we not doing everything in our power to keep and improve those skills when we finish school?

Is it time to admit that, as a nation, we just cannot be bothered with language learning?

Read more...

Related Links

Adults regret not making the most of language study (The Irish Times, 18 November 2015)

Wembley: La Marseillaise as an act of defiance

16 November 2015 (BBC News)

England fans will be encouraged to join in the singing of La Marseillaise as a moment of solidarity during the match against France at Wembley on Tuesday. Could it be a powerful symbol of defiance, asks Finlo Rohrer.

On Tuesday, the FA will encourage the tens of thousands of England fans to join in the singing of La Marseillaise, displaying the words on the big screens (scroll to the end of the article to see the first verse and chorus). In a change of protocol, La Marseillaise will be played after God Save The Queen.

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'Now is surely the time to renew our commitment to the teaching and learning of French'

16 November 2015 (TES)

The emotional high of a Twitter response is the educational equivalent of the holiday romance, writes one languages teacher. Learning a language, on the other hand, is a commitment for life
Solidarity has come back into fashion, as both word and concept. But this time it's global, and it's happening right now, mostly on your Twitter timeline. There is no doubting the power and glory of #jesuischarlie, #ridewithme and #porteouverte, or the inspirational idealism of the Eiffel Tower peace symbol. But the euphoria they induce is sadly ephemeral.

Hashtags and icons come and go, wave after wave of them, like the atrocities to which they respond. At least #ridewithme and #porteouverte were grounded in practical action. But what we need is a more lasting engagement.

Now is surely the time to renew our commitment to the teaching and learning of French in our schools. France is our nearest neighbour but we have yet to meet the French halfway in terms of the effort we invest in mutual understanding. Just think for a moment of the countless compelling interviews we have listened to over the last few days, from French people of all ages and faiths, communicating in often impeccable, always expressive English. And we're not talking about buying a baguette or booking a hotel room, but the impressive ability to articulate a world view, virtually under siege, live on television and radio.

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Animator King Rollo Films planning first Gaelic series

16 November 2015 (BBC News)

Animation studio King Rollo Films plans to make its first Gaelic language television series. 

The makers of children's TV programmes Spot, Humf and Deer Little Forest previously announced plans to develop a new series from a base on Skye. 

It also emerged last month that it will hold free workshops for artists next month and in January as part of an effort to create a local workforce. Gaelic language college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI will host the training.

Read more...

Meet the Mandarin-speaking Chelsea wonderkid who's pledged his allegiance to Scotland: Ruben Sammut

16 November 2015 (The Herald)

Playing for Chelsea and being fluent in Mandarin, it's fair to say midfielder Ruben Sammut isn't your average young Scottish player.

But the exciting 18-year-old is determined to use playing for Scot Gemmill's Under-19 squad this week in Ireland as a launchpad to a long career for club and country, thanks to help from the likes of John Terry.

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Gary Keown: The sad truth of David Moyes' wasted opportunity in San Sebastian

12 November 2015 (The Herald)

David Moyes' failure to speak Spanish remains a sore point as Real Sociedad fans dissect his year in charge of their team.

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'More inspiring teachers' needed to tackle UK's language skills shortage

11 November 2015 (Cambridge News)

More inspiring teaching is needed to prevent Britain falling further behind in foreign language skills, a Cambridge linguist has claimed.

Last week Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett welcomed over 100 representatives from assorted Whitehall departments, including the MOD and GCHQ, to Murray Edwards College, for a debate on the future of the UK's language policy.

Speaking to the News after the conference she said improving language teaching in schools would have far-reaching benefits for the nation as a whole.

She said: "It was a very wide-ranging group of people, with a lot of civil servants coming together, which is very important."

"Language policy is not just about education, but what we were trying to shown is the lack of languages in the UK is such a problem for cases like diplomacy, conflict resolution and business."

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Jersey language to be taught in more schools

10 November 2015 (BBC News)

Jersey's native language, Jerriais, will be taught by a larger group of qualified language teachers in island schools from next year.

Education Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said it would be included in the new cultural programme.

Tony Scott Warren and Colin Ireson from L'Office du Jerriais are due to retire soon and will train the new teachers.

Mr Scott Warren said teaching the language to a wider group would help keep it alive.

A year ago Jerriais was listed among 33 European tongues most endangered in the UNESCO Languages in Danger project.

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Experts: pupils missing out on language skills because of lack of qualified staff

9 November 2015 (Herald)

Pupils are missing out on vital language learning because of a lack of qualified staff, experts have warned. Currently, teachers in Scottish schools need only one language to qualify as a modern languages teacher. However, under the Scottish Government 1+2 policy all pupils are now expected to learn two modern languages until the end of the third year of secondary school.

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Are Maths Geeks Better at Learning Languages?

9 November 2015 (Fluent in 3 Months)

Take a look at the following maths problem, and see if you can solve it:

  • x = 2
  • y = x + 3
  • x + y + z = 10

What does y equal? How about z?

Are you wondering where I’m going with this? Well, try the following language problem:

If…

  • ha llamado means “He has called”,
  • ha cantado means “He has sung”, and
  • hemos usado means “We have used”,

… then how do you think you say “We have sung”? What about “He has used”? “We have called”?

If you easily solved one of these problems, chances are you solved both of them. That’s because they can both be solved by deduction.

Deduction is the process of taking a set of known facts, such as that ha llamado means “He has called” and that ha cantado means “He has sung”, and reaching a conclusion, such as that ha must mean “He has”. Then you can use this conclusion to construct the new sentence, ha usado (“He has used”).

Similarly, if you know that x = 2 and y = x + 3, then you can deduce that y = 2 + 3, or 5. And if 2 + 5 + z = 10, then you can conclude that z must equal 3.

The similarity between maths and languages doesn’t end there though! It turns out they have a lot in common.

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Five ways to be a global student without doing a year abroad

9 November 2015 (The Guardian)

As a language student, I was lucky enough to have a year abroad as part of my degree. I spent it in Chile, and learned a lot more Spanish and real life skills than I ever would have done sat in a lecture hall.

But for some students, a year abroad isn’t an option. Either it’s not offered as part of their course, or a year is just too long to spend away from home.

For those who don’t want to miss out on the benefits of globetrotting while they study but can’t take a full year out, there are still many opportunities available that can offer an equally valuable international experience. Here are five suggestions.

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All talk ... five ways to use language skills to boost your career

9 November 2015 (The Guardian)

Resigned to a short sentence shoved at the bottom of CVs, downplaying language skills is a common mistake.

Whether you are completely fluent or stuttering over the subjunctive, you should be shouting about it to employers, says Lizzie Fane, founder of ThirdYearAbroad.com. “It shows an eagerness to learn to your employer and may even lead to you being able to travel abroad or work with clients who speak that language.”

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The council where one language isn't enough

6 November 2015 (TESS)

Glasgow to insist on 'dual linguist' specialists in its secondary schools.

Read the article on page 10 of the electronic version of TESS magazine.  Please note this is only available free online until 12 November 2015 after which a subscription will be required to access.

Read more...

Related Links

Enjoy the digital edition of TES for free (TES, 6 November 2015)

Councillors urged to back Stronger BBC Alba in Royal Charter

6 November 2015 (BBC News)

Showing more original, high quality programming on Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba would benefit Gaelic education, it has been suggested.

MG Alba, which operates in partnership with the BBC, has asked that a stronger BBC Alba should form part of the BBC's next Royal Charter.

Highland Council officers have urged councillors to support this call. The officials said more Gaelic programmes would support "significant growth" in Gaelic medium education.

Councillors on Highland Council's Gaelic implementation group will be asked to back MG Alba's position at a meeting on 12 November.

Read more...

FilmG hopes to boost entries with smartphone awards

5 November 2015 (BBC News)

The organisers of Gaelic short film competition FilmG hope to attract increased entries with new prizes rewarding the use of smartphones.

Prizes for best mobile short have been added to the youth and open categories of the annual contest.

Organisers said they hoped the new awards would help them to better engage with young Gaelic speakers.

The closing date for entries to all FilmG's categories is 16 December.

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Modern Languages teacher supply - House of Lords debate

4 November 2015 (Parliament TV)

Baroness Coussins asks what steps the UK Government intends to take to reverse the shortfall of modern language teachers in light of the proposal to make the EBacc compulsory in England. 

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Human languages could have evolved to suit natural habitats in which they were originally spoken, says study

4 November 2015 (The Independent)

Human languages may have evolved to suit the natural habitats in which they were originally spoken according to a study of the different sounds used in vocal communication around the world.

Languages that originated in the dense forests of tropical regions are more likely to use low-frequency sounds and vowels compared to languages that evolved in more open habitats where high-pitched sounds and consonants are more easily understood, scientists said.

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Speaking in tongues: the many benefits of bilingualism

4 November 2015 (The Conversation)

We live in a world of great linguistic diversity. More than half of the world’s population grows up with more than one language. There are, on the other hand, language communities that are monolingual, typically some parts of the English-speaking world.

In this case, bilingualism or multilingualism can be seen as an extraordinary situation – a source of admiration and worry at the same time. But there are communities where bilingualism or multilingualism are the norm – for example in regions of Africa. A Cameroonian, for example, could speak Limbum and Sari, both indigenous languages, plus Ewondo, a lingua franca, plus English or French, the official languages, plus Camfranglais, a further lingua franca used between anglophone and francophone Cameroonians.

On a smaller scale, we all know families where bilingualism or multilingualism are the norm, because the parents speak different languages or because the family uses a language different from that of the community around them.

How difficult is it for a child to grow up in such an environment? And what are bilingual children capable of? Well, they are capable of quite a lot, even at a very young age. They can understand and produce expressions in more than one language, they know who to address in which language, they are able to switch very fast from one language to the other.

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Gaelic speakers born overseas boost language in Scotland

4 November 2015 (The Scotsman)

The survival of Gaelic speaking in Scotland is being helped by a band of new speakers from Eastern Europe and Africa, it has emerged.

A second report on the 2011 Gaelic Census, released last week, has found a “notable” increase in speakers from new EU member states.

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Myth: young people have abandoned language learning

2 November 2015 (The Guardian)

Fact: applications to language degrees have plummeted – but students are finding novel ways to learn.

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Hatching little Chinese speakers at Britain's first bi-lingual Mandarin-English nursery

31 October 2015 (The Telegraph)

At just two-years-old Barclay can already say “hello”, “bubbles”, “wash hands” and several other words in Mandarin. Ursula, also two, can say “fish”, “horse” and “more food” and her Mandarin vocabulary already stretches to more than 50 words.

But this isn't Beijing or Shanghai, and neither are Barclay's or Ursula's parents Chinese. Both children are English and this is a day care centre housed in a Welsh Presbyterian chapel in the City of London.

Welcome to Hatching Dragons, Britain's first bilingual English-Mandarin nursery.

Here children like Barclay and Ursula are just as likely to sing a Chinese nursery rhyme as an English one. Numeracy games are played with Chinese characters as well as Roman numerals and lunch includes not just sandwiches, but spring rolls and fried rice.

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Edinburgh leading the way in pupils studying Mandarin

31 October 2015 (Edinburgh Evening News)

Thousands of children across the Capital are studying Mandarin – as schools here surge ahead of counterparts in the rest of Scotland.

New figures show 2576 youngsters were taking lessons in the language last year, with 29 city primary schools and 12 secondaries now providing dedicated tuition. And a further five high schools have expressed an interest in participating.

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Don't neglect the UK's indigenous languages

29 October 2015 (The Guardian)

Would you be surprised if I told you that, far from being a land of monoglots, there are ten indigenous languages spoken today in the British Isles? Yet we are very quick to tell ourselves that we're rubbish at languages. We are linguistically isolated monoglots, marooned on a cluster of islands on the edge of the Atlantic. If we were in the mix of mainland Europe, we tell ourselves, we'd be blethering away in at least two languages.

Except, as you read this, people the length of these islands are using indigenous languages other than English to communicate with friends, family, teachers, colleagues and public services. That they are in the minority doesn't meant that they don't exist. In fact, the numbers of primary school-age speakers are growing; almost a quarter of school pupils in Wales are educated through the medium of Welsh, Northern Ireland is home to 30 Irish-medium schools, Scotland's capital has just opened a new, dedicated Gaelic school due to increasing demand, and the Isle of Man has a Manx-medium school.

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9 reasons why you should learn a foreign language

29 October 2015 (The National Student)

Having knowledge of one or more foreign languages is increasingly beneficial in today’s society, says French language student Emily Maybanks.

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Tech’s ability to close language gaps deserves cautious support

28 October 2015 (New Scientist)

Machine translation and apps that try to ease language-learning are flourishing. But whether tech will save or kill off endangered tongues is hard to foresee.

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Do Britons really need to bother with foreign languages?

28 October 2015 (The Telegraph)

The British inability to even attempt to speak a foreign language smacks of arrogance, says Anthony Peregrine.

Read more...

Bella Caledonia launches Gaelic and Scots content

28 October 2015 (Commonspace)

THE Scottish new media website Bella Caledonia has announced that it will publish a new strand of work celebrating Gaelic and Scots language, and culture.

The content will be published in both English and Gaelic, and will explore the world of Scottish poetry, music and visual art.

Bella Caledonia editor Mike Small stated: "It's an outstanding group of people who are joining our editorial team - we are going to bring new richness and depth to Bella's cultural content and stand-up for Scottish culture.

"We have established a pool of contributors from up and down the country to create content and welcome input and submissions from others. It's time to take a far more pro-active and confident approach to defending and more importantly celebrating our cultural diversity."

Read more...

What if...? Learning beyond flag waving

26 October 2015 (TES)

School is an alternative reality. This thought is prompted by José Picardo's recent comment (in the TES magazine) that banning mobile devices from the classroom would be tantamount to 'forcing students to enter an alternative reality every morning'. Turns out it's already happening.

Step across the threshold of the school gates and you enter an artificial world with its own set of rules. This artifice takes as many different forms as there are institutions and head teachers, but can be encapsulated by the common phenomenon of 8-year-olds decked out in collar and tie and chanting 'good morning' in unison. Where else does that happen?

But perhaps the most artificial aspect of school is the most invisible: the exclusion of other languages and the construction of a fictional monoculture. This is not to say that schools only admit English-speaking children. Nor is it to say that they show no interest in other cultures: on the contrary, other cultures are a gift, the making of many an enrichment day and school trip, and integral to the Humanities and Arts in particular. In school, children learn about other cultures, as objects of curiosity and interest, dropping in and out in touristic fashion, falling foul of the myth of exoticism dismantled by Edward Said in Orientalism. They learn about other languages, in carefully circumscribed chunks of time, hygienically quarantined in tucked-away corners of the timetable.

Irrespective of the diversity within school communities, we act on a day-to-day basis as though we lived in a one-language world. Which is, when you think about it, an extraordinary act of self-deception, on a national scale. Teachers teach in English, children learn in English, and English is what they teach and learn about.

Yet when I step out of my door in London in the morning on the commute into work, English is relatively unlikely to be the first language I hear. Or even if it is, it is more often than not being used by someone whose first language is not English. Every day I am impressed by the ability of almost everyone to converse with me in my own language, however diversely accented. I am blessed to live in a multicultural society in a multicultural world.

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Ulster University language staff in Confucius Institute closure warning

23 October 2015 (BBC News)

Modern languages staff at Ulster University (UU) have warned its vice-chancellor that its Confucius Institute may have to close.

Opened in 2012, the institute aims to develop academic, economic and social ties with China.
The university's vice chancellor Prof Paddy Nixon has said the institute is not at risk.

UU decided to close its school of modern languages earlier this year as part of a response to budget cuts.

However, it said they would "continue to support the teaching of Chinese" in schools across Northern Ireland.

Read more...

No bad language from Gala pupils

23 October 2014 (The Southern Reporter)

A recent careers event highlighted the importance of language skills to Galashiels Academy pupils.

S3 pupils participated in the event held in the school on September 23.

It aimed to demonstrate the value of language skills for Scotland’s future workforce and to encourage pupils to consider the relevance of languages for their personal development as well as for further study and future career opportunities.

Read more...

Northumbria University the latest to draw back on language provision

22 October 2015 (THE)

Further fears have been raised that language courses in the UK are becoming the preserve of the most selective universities after Northumbria University became the latest institution to draw back from provision.

Following a “languages review”, Northumbria announced last month that its “BA French and Spanish will be closed, there will be no further recruitment to this programme”.

A spokesman for the university told Times Higher Education that the move was one of various changes “to the way we deliver language learning” in response to “a fall in demand across the sector over the past 10 years”. Nevertheless, he added, the university “remain[ed] committed to the teaching of foreign languages”, for example through joint programmes and as part of its international business management degree.

The decision to close the French and Spanish BA went ahead despite a petition by alumni and interventions from embassies and academics across the world. The students’ union also strongly criticised plans to “abolish our only standalone foreign language programme”, which had “average[d] above 95 per cent over the past five years in the National Student Survey”.

Read more...

The Gruffalo adapted for Scottish dialects

22 October 2015 (BBC Scotland)

One of the top selling children's books in the world has just been published in four Scots regional versions.

The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, has been made available in Doric, Dundonian, Orcadian and Shetlandic dialects.

See the video report from BBC Scotland's Mike Grundon.

Read more...

What languages mean to me

22 October 2015 (EuroTalk blog)

Interview with Alexandra Turner – translator, writer, editor.

Read more...

Understanding the Kremlin: it’s the words, stupid

22 October 2015 (The Guardian)

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin have both had their moments of mistranslation – and sadly, teaching of the Russian language is dwindling in the UK.

Read more...

Language class demands in NI can be met by FE colleges, says UU vice-chancellor

21 October 2015 (BBC News)

The vice chancellor of Ulster University (UU) has said demand for modern language learning in Northern Ireland can be met by further education colleges.

Professor Paddy Nixon was giving evidence to the Stormont Committee for Employment and Learning.

In September, UU said it would close its school of modern languages.

He said the university was "no longer funded to provide the degrees people might like."

Responding to a question from committee chair, UUP MLA Robin Swann, Prof Nixon said that FE colleges could teach languages at the level needed in Northern Ireland.

"The FE provision in languages is actually - particularly when it's about spoken languages as opposed to what a university should be doing, which is a different thing altogether - quite extensive."

"So there is an ability for the system in Northern Ireland to support language provision at the level we need it for business and industry."

Read more...

We must develop a tolerance gene to languages, including Gaelic

21 October 2015 (The Herald letters)

Letters in the Herald from readers in support of the Gaelic language policy and language learning.

Read more...

Related Links

So, who needs Gaelic? (The Herald letters, 19 October 2015)

Support for Gaelic early years

21 October 2015 (Scottish Government)

Children in Gaelic speaking communities will be helped to get the best start in life after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced £100,000 funding for 41 early years’ groups and organisations.

The money will support the running costs of the groups and provide employment opportunities for Gaelic speaking leaders so that children can develop their skills in the language.

The First Minister made the announcement in Skye as she delivered the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig lecture for the first time. She said:

“We want all of Scotland’s children to have the best start in life. That includes providing opportunities for children to learn and improve Gaelic in their early years. Our support for Gaelic medium education is encouraging and enabling more children to learn the language and has helped to slow the decline in our population of Gaelic speakers. I am determined to do all I can to support the future of the language in Scotland. Today’s announcement ensures that children will be able to take up Gaelic at the earliest possible age.”

Read more...

Related Links

First minister unveils £100,000 for Gaelic speaking children (Press and Journal, 22 October 2015)

Support for Gaelic early years (Stornoway Gazette, 26 October 2015) 

What's English for 'Lake Pub'? The art of subtitling The Returned, Spiral and The Killing

21 October 2015 (The Guardian)

The Returned is back, and language fans are gearing up for a new round of fights. Imports such as The Bridge, Spiral and Borgen mean we’re all familiar with keeping an eye on the subtitles. Even if we don’t speak Danish, we’ll inform people that “Forbrydelsen” means “The Crime”, not “The Killing”. And if we’re a bit more bilingual, we’ll happily grumble on about how they’ve left entire sections out.

Subtitler Victoria Ward smiles patiently. “People don’t appreciate the spatial constraints.” Subtitlers are limited to 37 characters per row on screen; viewers’ maximum reading speed is 18 characters per second. “You have to be quite brutal.” She works for Voice and Script International in London, who subtitle some of the biggest imports: Spiral, Borgen, The Bridge, Witnesses and The Returned. Ward describes their approach as “light touch”: viewers want to keep up with the action, without having to work too hard. She thinks about her audience – “Is it patronising to subtitle ‘bonjour’?” – and uses full sentences where possible, as they are easier to make sense of.

Read more...

How Learning 11 Languages Taught Me 11 Crucial Lessons

20 October 2015 (Babbel Magazine)

This article is a wake-up call for all those who dream of becoming multilingual: just do it! Luca Lampariello talks about where he finds the motivation for learning languages, and how he’s learned 11 so far.

Read more...

We need to make more of our children multilingual

19 October 2015 (The Telegraph)

Applies to England

In 2012, the Minister of Education announced that from September 2014 it would be compulsory for children aged 7 to 11 years to learn a foreign language.

This ambitious plan, a product of Michael Gove’s term in Office and endorsed by his successor as Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, was intended to close the gap between the British education system and school systems abroad, as well as the yawning gulf between state and independent schools in their language provision.

The rationale was, and is, self-evident, as Nicky Morgan explained:

"We want our young people to have the best possible start in life – that is why, as part of our plan for education, we want every child to learn a foreign language. It doesn’t just help them to understand different cultures and countries, it opens up the world."

Read more...

Scotland becomes first part of UK to recognise signing for deaf as official language

18 October 2015 (The Herald)

Campaigners have hailed new legislation which will recognise signing as an official language in Scotland as a step towards breaking the “brick ceiling” which the deaf community faces in everyday life.

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill, which is due to become law in the next few weeks, will see Scotland become the first part of the UK to recognise signing for the deaf as an official language.

It means the Scottish Government and public bodies will have a responsibility to promote the language and consider how services can be provided in British Sign Language (BSL).

Read more...

More people want to learn sign language than French or German

16 October 2015 (Daily Mirror)

More people want to learn sign language than French and German, a study shows today.

And a survey by the National Deaf Children’s Society shows two out of three adults think sign language is more impressive than speaking a foreign language.

One in four people in Britain say they want to learn sign language, which would total 12.7m adults.

The top three languages people would like to learn are Spanish (28%), British Sign Language (24%) and French (23%).

Read more...

Police launch plan for wider use of Gaelic language within service

15 October 2015 (The Herald)

Draft plans for greater use of the Gaelic language within the police service have been launched.

The plans are part of the Scottish Government's commitment to raise the status and profile of Gaelic, and create practical opportunities for learning and use of the language.

The draft plans from Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) were unveiled at the Royal National Mod in Oban, with the support of Bord Na Gaidhlig, with officers wearing uniforms bearing English and Gaelic forms of Police Scotland and a vehicle with the Gaelic version of the Police Scotland logo.

Read more...

Toni Giugliano: Speaking foreign language opens many doors

15 October 2015 (The Scotsman)

I was delighted to read in the News (October 13) that Edinburgh City Council is taking steps to implement the SNP government’s ambitious policy on modern languages.

Telephoning my mum has always been a source of entertainment for anyone within earshot. I start a sentence in Italian and sometimes finish it in English, switching from one to the other, reflexively and unconsciously. That’s how the bilingual mind works – you could spend the entire day thinking in one language and dream in the other. My bilingualism has profoundly shaped me and my politics – speaking two languages allows a deeper understanding of two cultures, two different ways of life and mentalities.

Read more...

Related Links

All pupils to learn two foreign languages by high school (Edinburgh Evening News, 13 October 2015)

All pupils to learn two foreign languages by high school

13 October 2015 (Edinburgh Evening News)

It's the pioneering programme aimed at making ­language learning as easy as un, deux, trois.

Every pupil in the Capital will receive lessons in at least two foreign languages by the time they leave primary school under radical plans aimed at helping them keep pace with peers across Europe.

City bosses have confirmed they want to introduce the new scheme, called 1+2, by the start of 2017 – three years ahead of a national deadline set for 2020.

Youngsters will be offered classes in core languages including French, Spanish and Mandarin, as well as Gaelic, Scots and “heritage” tongues such as Polish and Farsi.

The Edinburgh roll-out is part of a Scottish Government-led initiative which will see all children learn a second language from P1 and have experience of a third from P5 at the latest.

Parent leaders in the city have hailed the development and said it would help prepare youngsters for the modern world.

Read more...

New online resource for teaching the Scots language

10 October 2015 (The Falkirk Herald)

A new online resource featuring support materials and educational resources to help improve learning and teaching of Scots language was unveiled at this year’s Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow.

The new Scots Language hub sits within the languages section of the Education Scotland website and will feature educational resources including a short animated history of the Scots language as well as a range of materials to support learning and teaching of the mother tongue in primary education and the senior phase.

Read more...

Related Links

Education Scotland's Scots Language hub.

German could face 'extinction in schools', heads warn

7 October 2015 (The Telegraph)

Applies to England

German could face extinction in the classroom as renewed worries emerge over inconsistencies in grading following reforms that were meant to tackle the issue, leading head teachers have said.

The warning emerged as school leaders said they are even writing to admission offices at leading universities to let it be known that they no longer have confidence in the grading system, which is seeing some top students unable to achieve top grades.

They warned of a "crisis in modern foreign languages" - particularly German - as new figures show that inconsistencies in grading seemed to have become more pronounced than ever this year.

Read more...

MG Alba wants stronger BBC Alba in Royal Charter

7 October 2015 (BBC News)

More original, high quality programming on Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba should form part of the BBC's next Royal Charter, MG Alba has said.

Launched in September 2008, the channel now reaches on average more than 700,000 viewers per week in Scotland.

But MG Alba, which operates in partnership with the BBC, said 73% of what was shown was repeats.

Chairwoman Maggie Cunningham said the channel was "unique in its achievements" but lacked resources.

MG Alba said that on current funding only 1.7 hours of original output, including news, was possible per day.

It said this figure was "significantly short" of an ambition of three hours per day.

The organisation has called for a "stronger BBC Alba" and for the BBC to produce 10 hours of original programming per week for the channel for the next 10 years of the charter, in comparison to the current 4.4 hours currently developed.

Read more...

Related Links

‘Make BBC Alba part of Charter’ (Stornoway Gazette, 7 October 2015)

‘British students should jump at the chance to learn Mandarin', says Chinese School teacher

6 October 2015 (TES)

One of the stars of 'Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School' says schools should embrace the opportunity to teach the language as an essential 21st-century skill.

This is proving an exciting year for Chinese Mandarin teachers in this country. Despite education facing budget cuts, putting thousands of teaching posts at risks and threatening the quality of teaching and learning, chancellor George Osborne announced a £10 million investment towards helping schools to teach Mandarin, with the aim of getting an additional 5,000 students speaking the language by 2020.

It might be controversial to many British teachers, who teach core subjects and deliver the essential knowledge and skills, but it is certainly music to the ears of many Mandarin teachers, and to those who are about to train to teach the language in the UK.

Read more...

How much can you really learn while you're asleep?

6 October 2015 (The Guardian)

In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, a Polish boy, Reuben Rabinovitch, falls asleep next to a radio receiver. When he wakes up, he is able to recite the entire broadcast. He has no idea what any of it means, though – it’s all in English.

Countless articles today claim that you can actually learn music, hone your foreign language skills, or cram for tomorrow’s maths exam during sleep. And there is a whole industry trading on this idea. Subliminal message tapes, popularised by the self-help guru Tony Robbins, promise to help you stop smoking, lose weight, and even brush up your golf skills and find love – all the while catching some shut eye.

The big sell of “sleep learning” is seductive – how lovely it would be to be productive while we lie like lifeless lumps in bed. But is it actually based on any evidence?

Read more...

New school hub to drive modern foreign languages in South Wales

5 October 2015 (Wales Online)

Language teachers at a South Wales girls’ school have been asked to pass on their hints and tips as part of a new drive to raise take-up in French, German and Spanish.

Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, has been named “centre of excellence for modern foreign languages (MFL)” in the Central South Wales region.

It will see Bryn Hafren hosting teachers from schools in Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale – with an aim to raise standards and interest in subjects which have struggled to attract pupils in recent years.

Read more...

'More of us need to say 'nǐ hǎo' to Mandarin Chinese'

5 October 2015 (The Telegraph)

Languages are crucial for work and life in the global race, and Mandarin Chinese is one of the front-runners, says Vicky Gough.

At the end of last month, George Osborne vowed to invest £10 million in UK schools so that more pupils can learn Mandarin Chinese, just like his daughter, Liberty.

But should we really be encouraging more of our young people to say ‘nǐ hǎo’ (‘hello’) to Chinese? ‘Shì de’ (yes), we should!

The reality is that languages, in general, are crucial for work and life in the global race, and Mandarin Chinese is one of the frontrunners. Not only is it already spoken by more than a billion people worldwide, but China is recognised as the world’s second biggest economy with many expecting it to wrest the top spot from the US by 2050.

Read more...

Innocence and experience: Walking on the wild side

5 October 2015 (TES blog)

Language is all about the rules. You learn them, you stick to them. You become, thereby, a good citizen, linguistically speaking. Discipline and rigour. Result. But you also have to let go, just occasionally (maybe even quite often).

One problem facing language teachers is the sheer scale of the enterprise: it is tempting to assume there is no time for digression or divertissement. Grammar, vocab, pronunciation, more grammar, vocab… Which is when you choose madness – before it chooses you. This pro-active solution also allows you to preserve the element of the unexpected and continue surprising your pupils i.e. it keeps them awake. And you. So it turns out the opposite is true: however tight your time allocation, you cannot afford not to stray from the straight and narrow.

Read more...

Who needs Oxbridge? Meet the British students headed for Europe

3 October 2015 (The Guardian)

Hiroki Takano is not having a good day. “I lost my wallet, and then I realised I’d locked myself out of my apartment.” He sighs. Takano, 21, from Maidenhead in Berkshire, is at the end of his first week of lectures at university. But though this is the sort of thing that happens to freshers with alarming predictability, it’s a bit more complicated in his case. Takano isn’t in Leeds, or Manchester, or Durham, and he can’t just pop into the nearest branch of his bank. He’s in Copenhagen, roughly 600 miles from home.

Over the last fortnight, approximately half a million new undergraduates have embarked on student life at universities across the UK. 

[...] As tuition fees in the UK have risen, studying for a degree abroad has become an appealing alternative. So much so that, according to British Council research published earlier this year, up to a third of British students are considering overseas study.

Read more...

In conversation with William Mager from See Hear

2 October 2015 (BBC blog)

We spoke to See Hear series producer William Mager about his career at the BBC and his work producing the BBC's flagship magazine programme for the deaf community, now in its 35th series. The following interview was conducted with a British Sign Language interpreter and is published here in full.

Read more...

Schools ‘need to focus more on Gaelic skills’

2 October 2015 (The National)

Provision of Gaelic medium education is too slow to safeguard the language, according to the principal of Scotland’s Gaelic college.

Professor Boyd Robertson, who heads Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye, spoke out yesterday after the latest census data showed the number of people who have some ability to speak, understand or write the language had fallen to 87,100 in 2011.

The rates fell in every group for those aged 18 and over, with just small rises of 0.17 per cent amongst 3-4 year olds, 0.22 per cent for 5-11 year olds and 0.06 per cent for 12-17 year olds.

Read more...

Will international love help your language skills blossom?

2 October 2015 (The Guardian)

Dating a native can be useful when you’re learning a language, but it’s not a magic formula for fluency.

Read more...

Student's smart glove translates sign language into speech

1 October 2015 (ZDNet)

Student Hadeel Ayoub has invented a smart glove which converts sign language into text and speech.

Those with difficulties with spoken language or hearing can find communicating difficult. This problem may be intensified if others do not understand sign language, which replaces words with gestures. However, a student from Goldsmiths, University of London has decided to tackle the problem with a glove that converts these gestures into understandable text on a display or audible dialogue.

Read more...

Why Mandarin is Not the Future Language of Business

1 October 2015 (The Examiner)

For decades, Mandarin has been touted as the future language of business. China has the largest population in the world and has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth to become one of the global industry powerhouses. Around 955 million people are speakers of Mandarin which is more than 14.4% of the world’s population. These statistics support the claim that it will be the language of the future, but it’s not that simple. There are many factors that suggest that Spanish, not Mandarin, will become the ultimate business language.

Read more...

Nearly half of MFL teacher-training places are left unfilled, Ucas reveals

1 October 2015 (TES)

(Applies to England) Official figures on recruitment to teacher-training courses released this morning show drastic shortages in key subjects in the final days before training courses began.

The figures, published by university admissions body Ucas, paint a disastrous picture across a range of core subjects, and could make the growing recruitment crisis across England's teaching profession even worse in the years ahead.

For modern foreign languages, an English Baccalaureate subject, only 810 places had been filled – just 54 per cent of the 1,514 trainees needed according to the government’s teacher-supply model.

Read more...

Now you can read The Gruffalo in Doric, Dundonian, Orkney Scots and Shetland Scots

30 September 2015 (The National)

IT is a worldwide bestseller told in almost 60 languages.

Now Julia Donaldson’s family favourite The Gruffalo will be read in four more tongues as publishers release versions in four Scottish dialects.

Based on a Chinese folk tale, Donaldson’s tale of the mouse that thinks its way out of danger in the deep, dark wood was originally published in 1999 and has since sold 13 million copies in languages including Portuguese, Icelandic, Romanian, Afrikaans and Maori.

Illustrated by Axel Scheffler, it has also been adapted for the stage and screen as well as numerous spin-offs, including a sequel,The Gruffalo’s Child.

Now the author’s work will be republished once again in Doric, Dundonian, Orkney Scots and Shetland Scots.

Read more...

Why we should all be learning languages

30 September 2015 (The Scotsman)

We all remember the days of trying not to laugh when we looked up dirty words in the German dictionary to use at each other through out the rest of the school.

But is there any actual benefit to learning a foreign language in high school?

The answer is a resounding yes.

From economic, to cognitive development, Fhiona Fisher of Scotland’s National Centre for Languages believes there are numerous reasons to learn a second language.

Read more...

Census analysis reveals use of Gaelic at home

30 September 2015 (BBC News)

New analysis of Scotland's 2011 Census has given further insights into the use of Gaelic by families.

The latest results suggest 41% of Gaelic-speaking children aged five to 11 live in households where all the adults had some knowledge of Gaelic.

Also, 25,000 people aged three and over reported using the language at home.

Read more...

Degrees suffer as language courses surge

29 September 2015 (The Times)

Spoken language courses offered by universities to all undergraduates are in such demand that they have overtaken formal language degrees in popularity.

German, which has suffered a near collapse in schools, is among the chief beneficiaries.

Last year 7,937 students enrolled on non-specialist German courses at universities, up 20 per cent on 2013 and almost twice the number that studied it at A level.

(Please note this is a preview article, a subscription is required to view the full content).

Read more...

Don't rely on Google – invest in languages to grow your business

29 September 2015 (The Guardian)

It’s easy to feel intimidated by the prospect of selling in another language. According to research from the British Council, around three-quarters of British people don’t speak another language well enough to have a basic conversation, let alone sell a product or negotiate a deal. But it’s well worth getting over that language barrier. A recent report from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) found that the UK is losing out on an incredible £48bn a year in lost exports as a direct result of its lack of language skills.

Read more...

Students begin studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the UK’s first deaf performing arts degree course

29 September 2015 (All Media Scotland)

Eight new students who are all deaf or hard of hearing have begun their studies on the UK’s first performance degree programme for deaf actors at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The BA Performance in British Sign Language and English course has been designed specifically for deaf students who aspire to a career in the theatre industry.

Created in partnership with Solar Bear Theatre Company, this three-year degree programme is recognised as the only course of its kind currently on offer in the UK.

The Royal Conservatoire has been preparing for this new degree for almost four years, with many academic and administrative staff undertaking sign language courses, deaf awareness training and hosting short courses for deaf students in the performing arts.

Read more...

Only a change in the national mindset will save language learning

29 September 2015 (The Guardian)

Many people will have read the recent reports that fewer young people in this country are learning foreign languages. The numbers continue to fall at GCSE and A-level, and many schools are phasing out unpopular languages or ones that teaching staff have less expertise in.

This has affected university language departments, many of which have had to economise by merging or closing faculties. As a knock-on effect, it’s become increasingly difficult to appoint new language teachers because good linguists are in such short supply. This will, no doubt, provide state schools with a major challenge as English Baccalaureates (Ebaccs) – where the study of a language is required – are introduced. It’s a matter that the Department for Education (DfE) is looking into.

Read more...

Gaelic teachers to gather in Highlands

28 September 2015 ( The Scotsman)

A major conference for teachers working in Gaelic Medium Education kicks off in Aviemore this week.

More than 160 delegates are expected to attend An t-Alltan, the annual event led by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig.

The conference will be opened on Wednesday by Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages.

Read more...

New reforms threaten future of Japanese language study in England

25 September 2015 (Japan Times)

Teachers in England are concerned the study of Japanese in their country could be severely undermined in light of plans to scrap one of the most important exams in the subject.

From 2017, education firm Pearson is planning to scrap A and A-S levels in Japanese, due to new requirements that the exam be redeveloped, although discussions are still ongoing with the Department for Education to find a way to save the qualification.

Over 3,500 people have signed a petition calling for the exam to be retained, arguing that removing the only qualification in Japanese for 16- to 18-year-olds is likely to reduce the incentive for younger students to take up the language in the first place.

Read more...

Scot who launched Gaelic Twitter Day sees idea take off as he bids to boost language and help out nervous gaels

25 September 2015 (Daily Record)

Jamie Wallace got an unexpected response when he launched Gaelic Twitter Day last year and has seen his event nominated in the 2015 Gaelic Awards.

Read more...

Into Film Festival 2015

23 September 2015 (SecEd)

The annual Into Film Festival takes place from November 4 to 20, with a host of screenings, workshops and resources available for schools, including foreign language options.

This article previews the event.  For further information and to book tickets visit the Into Film Festival website.

Read more...

Scots 'have 421 words' for snow

23 September 2015 (BBC News)

Scotland has more than 400 words and expressions for snow, according to a project to compile a Scots thesaurus.

Academics have officially logged 421 terms - including "snaw" (snow), "sneesl" (to begin to rain or snow) and "skelf" (a large snowflake).

The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which is being published online.

The research team have also appealed for people to send in their own words.

You can hear a discussion about the study and some of the words being spoken on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' broadcast.  (Listen between 48:25 and 49:45 and 01:26:40-01:30:30. Available on iPlayer until 20 October 2015). 

Read more...

Related Links

Whiteout: new Scottish thesaurus has 421 words for snow (The Guardian, 23 September 2015)

Scots language found to have 421 words for snow (The Scotsman, 22 September 2015)

Mandarin lessons to get £10m boost, says Chancellor

22 September 2015 (BBC News)

Mandarin in English schools will get a £10m boost, and 5,000 more pupils will learn it by 2020, George Osborne has said on a visit to China.

The cash will be used to recruit and train teachers to teach the language to GCSE level, said the Chancellor in a speech to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Mr Osborne suggested Mandarin would be more "relevant" than traditional options like French or German.

He revealed his daughter, Liberty, was already learning China's main language.

Read more...

Related Links

Mandarin teaching in schools to receive £10m boost (TES, 23 September 2015)

Cocker spaniel learns basic Gaelic in 3 weeks

21 September 2015 (The Scotsman)

A cocker Spaniel has stunned members of a conversational Gaelic speaking class by mastering the necessary basics - for a dog - of the notoriously difficult-to-learn language in three weeks.

Four-year-old Ginger responds to “suidh” (sit) “fuirich” (stay) and “trobhad” (come here) and understands when his owner, retired Neil Smith, praises him with “cu math” - good boy.

Read more...

Applause as MSPs unanimously back bill promoting use of British Sign Language

18 September 2015 (The National)

Legislation to promote the use of British Sign Language (BSL) was unanimously backed by MSPs last night.

The passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill, brought forward by Labour MSP Mark Griffin, was greeted with cheers and applause by campaigners in the Scottish Parliament’s public gallery.

It will require Scottish ministers to develop a national plan for BSL and place an obligation on public-sector bodies to prepare and publish their own plans.

The aim is to increase awareness of BSL and its use in the delivery of services.

During a debate on the bill at Holyrood, Griffin cited statistics from the Scottish Council on Deafness showing that 77 per cent of BSL users who visited hospital could not easily communicate with NHS staff.

He said: “It is that sense of abandonment and isolation – whether it be in a healthcare situation, in a school or an education situation – that I hope the passing of this legislation will address.”

Languages minister Dr Alasdair Allan said the Scottish Government would set up a BSL group to advise on the content of the national plan.

Labour equality spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said the bill “will send a strong message to the deaf and deaf-blind community that we value them and we value their language”.

Read more...

Related Links

For more information on the Bill itself, visit the page about the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill on the Scottish Parliament's website and see Parliament TV coverage of the proceedings held in the Scottish Parliament on 17 September 2015.  You can also access the Official Report from the Meeting of the Parliament on 17 September 2015 in which the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill was discussed.

MSPs support bill to promote British Sign Language (The Herald, 17 September 2015)

The British Sign Language (BSL) (Scotland) Bill passed unanimously (The Edinburgh Reporter, 17 September 2015)

British Deaf Association applauds British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill (BDA, 17 September 2015)

Sign language given formal status in Scotland (Holyrood, 18 September 2015)

New BSL bill is a welcome sign of the times (The Herald, 18 September 2015)

Opening this year’s Royal National Mod

16 September 2015 (Stornoway Gazette)

This year’s Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail (The Royal National Mòd) will open with a sensational homecoming concert headlined by Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson. Scotland’s biggest Gaelic Cultural Festival, will return to Oban this autumn for the first time since 2009 and the nine day spectacular will take place from Friday, October 9, until Saturday the 17th.

Read more...

Related Links

Royal National Mod comes home to Oban (Press & Journal, 17 September 2015)

The 10 second languages UK employers most want their staff to speak

15 September 2015 (i100/The Independent)

French is the most useful language British employers look for on CVs, according to a recent study.

Adequate foreign language skills were one of the most highly rated concerns for employees looking to hire, the Confederation of British Industry study found.

Read more...

The Language of Modern Football

15 September 2015 (Sanako UK)

"In essence, being a football coach of a multi-national team of individuals requires as much ability to communicate as it requires actual coaching knowledge and experience. There is no point in
knowing what you want to say if you can’t get your point across."

Ian Burchnall, 32, is assistant manager at Viking FK and has been the same at Sarpsborg 08 in
the Norwegian top division. He has worked for Leeds United and Bradford City's academies
and, before moving to Norway, was head coach at Leeds University

Read this article in Sanako's autumn newsletter giving his views on how language skills provide a distinct advantage in the world of football.

Read more...

Gaelic plan 'could cost Aberdeenshire Council more than £300,000'

14 September 2015 (BBC News)

Implementing the Gaelic Language Plan could cost Aberdeenshire Council more than £300,000, councillors are to be told this week.

The Gaelic Language Act has the aim of securing it as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect with English.

It would cost more than £200,000 to make changes to road signs and introduce a bilingual logo.

Read more...

Related Links

Aberdeenshire taxpayers to fork out £300k for Gaelic plan (The Scotsman, 15 September 2015)

Taxpayers could foot the bill for six-figure Gaelic language plan (The Courier, 15 September 2015)

BBC presenter campaigns for UK schools to teach British Sign Language

11 September 2015 (Limping Chicken)

To mark the start of the new school year in September, British television presenter Angellica Bell is encouraging school children across the UK to learn British Sign Language.

The former children’s presenter has made a free educational video for national charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, to help raise deaf awareness in schools.

Read more...

Student Perspectives on Going International

10 September 2015 (Go International)

The UK Higher Education International Unit’s Go International programme and the British Council published a report today on student perspectives of the benefits of and barriers to spending time abroad as part of a UK undergraduate degree. The research aims to provide evidence for UK higher education institutions and policy makers who are developing and implementing initiatives to increase the number of UK-domiciled students accessing international opportunities.

See the key findings on the Go International website where you can also find a link to the full report.

Read more...

Related Links

Short-term overseas study ‘as valuable’ as year abroad (THE, 10  September 2015)

Dotaman: He's back ... a welcome return for a Gaelic legend

10 September 2015 (The National)

NOT who, what – Dotaman, meaning “spinning top”, was a long-running Gaelic kids TV programme featuring music, learning and puppets.

It was fronted by folk musician Donnie MacLeod, who, after about 400 episodes, became so synonymous with the show that audiences began to refer to him as “the Dotaman”.

Now, 30 years after grabbing his acoustic guitar for the first show, MacLeod’s contribution to Gaelic and children’s broadcasting will be celebrated in an anniversary show on BBC Alba.

Read more...

Help Refugees in 28 Languages Using This Crowdsourced Phrasebook

8 September 2015 (Good Magazine)

In German, it’s Ich will Ihnen helfen. In phonetic Arabic, of course, it sounds very different: Biddi sa'dak. In Dari, a Persian variant spoken in Afghanistan, it’s Mekhaayam shoma ra komak konam. In English: I want to help you.

That’s according a developing online phrasebook for refugees, being painstakingly put together by German volunteers. The volunteers met on a Facebook group for Germans who wanted to find a way to help with their country’s ongoing migrant crisis. So far, they’ve collected over 300 sentences in 28 languages, Urdu, Turkish, French, Icelandic, and dialects of Kurdish among them.

The easily accessible phrasebook—divided into three sections for general, medical and juridical needs—provides useful language for both refugees and those who want to help them. The entries themselves give a peek, at turns hopeful and disturbing, into the lives of the estimated 366,000 refugees who have crossed into Europe via the Mediterranean Sea this year.

Read more...

Why does Gaelic make people so angry?

8 September 2015 (BBC News)

What's it called - Cumbernauld? OK, but what does it mean? The standard definition comes from the Gaelic name "Comar nan Allt" - "the coming together of the waters".

A 32ft Andy Scott sculpture of a woman framed by arcs of water even brings the meaning to life every day for drivers on the M80.

Simple enough you might think, but how about putting the Gaelic on the signpost? Now that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Or should that be mermaids? Or indeed maighdeanan mhara? But why do people get so angry about Gaelic?

Read more...

Meet Scotland's first Scriever, Hamish MacDonald

7 September 2015 (PRI)

“I am delighted tae be offered the new an vitally important role as Scots Scriever wae the National Library o Scotland. I luik forwart tae workin wae communities throughoot Scotland in gie’in voice tae this vibrant language which, whether spoken or written, deserves tae be celebrated everywhere,” said MacDonald, in Scots of course.

“Scriever” is Scots for “writer.” MacDonald was appointed “Scriever” by the National Library of Scotland and he will spend the next two years as the ambassador of the Scots language.

“It’s really a creative writing post — stimulating existing writing in Scots, or to help new writing in Scots or spoken Scots; to help with storytelling, to look at some of the provenance of the language some of the contemporary uses of the language,” MacDonald says.

Read the article and listen to Hamish speaking about his background and new role.

Read more...

Related Links

Keeping Scots language strong (BBC World Service extract, 7 September 2015) Listen to Hamish Macdonald, the first Scots Scriever, reading his poem Nae Fizz Izzy in Scots.

Sprechen Sie power?

5 September 2015 (The Economist)

Once the language of Schiller and Goethe, then of Hitler, German is hip again.

Read more...

Four tests in three hours to check your official level of Spanish

4 September 2015 (El País)

As of September 2016, students of Spanish will be able to sit a single proficiency exam that aims to represent the many variants of the language, which is spoken around the world by more than half-a-billion people.

Modeled on the TOEFL and IELTS English exams, the International Spanish Language Evaluation Service (SIELE) is the brainchild of the Instituto Cervantes, the government-funded agency responsible for promoting Spanish around the world, and has been developed in conjunction with the University of Salamanca, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, along with Telefónica, which is responsible for the technological platform.

Read more...

Gary Elliot: The best way to support Gaelic is to learn it, and here's how to do it

3 September 2015 (CommonSpace)

CommonSpace columnist Gary Elliot says the best way to combat negativity around Gaelic is to learn it and cement its place in Scotland.

Read more...

Translation is a powerful teaching tool

3 September 2015 (THE)

Dale Salwak explains why he focuses on the people carrying out the translation process and their effects on the text we read.

Read more...

Ulster University to close school of modern languages

2 September 2015 (THE)

Ulster University has confirmed the closure of its school of modern languages while identifying another four subject areas for “rationalisation”.

[..] Robin Swann, an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the chair of its employment and learning committee, said that the closure of the modern languages department would be particularly damaging.

Read more...

Related Links

Minister slated as Ulster University forced to cut language school (Belfast Telegraph, 3 September 2015)

Exporter slams UU decision to close languages school (Belfast Telegraph, 9 September 2015)

Multicultural Edinburgh school records song with 25 languages

1 September 2015 (The Scotsman)

IT’S the city’s most multicultural school, with dozens of ­different languages spoken by its 300 pupils.

Now a new school song is set to celebrate the diversity of life at Dalry Primary School for the first time.

Read more...

English plus One

1 September 2015 (BBC Radio 4)

Stephen Fry celebrates bilinguals' life stories and discovers the bonuses of bilingualism in the final part of his Radio 4 series 'English Delight.'

Listen to the show from 02:20.  Available until 29 September 2015.

Read more...

Python overtakes French as the most popular ‘language’ taught in primary schools

1 September 2015 (Ocado Group)

(Applies to England) The programming language Python has overtaken French as the most popular language taught in primary schools, according to a new survey released today.

Six out of 10 parents want their primary school age children to learn the coding language over French. While 75% of primary school children said they would rather learn how to programme a robot than learn the modern foreign language.

Read more...

Magnifico! Italian language pupils are top of the class

31 August 2015 (Herald)

A pioneering project to teach primary pupils some of their lessons in Italian to boost language learning has had remarkable results. Seventeen pupils from the junior school of St Aloysius' College, in Glasgow, recorded A passes in their Intermediate 1 Italian language exams - qualifications which are normally sat by pupils in the third year of secondary.

Read more...

Watch Real Madrid star Gareth Bale conduct his first ever interview in Spanish

28 August 2015 (Wales Online)

The Welsh superstar has been at Real Madrid since 2013 and has almost mastered the native language, as he proves in his first ever Spanish interview.

Read more...

Reign & Gaels: Daily Record launches Gaelic awards nominations for night hosted by Cathy MacDonald

28 August 2015 (Daily Record)

Calling all Gaels – we’re looking for entries for the annual Gaelic Awards that recognise your contribution to Scottish life.

In its third year, we are proud to launch the 2015 campaign with sponsors Bòrd Na Gàidhlig. The awards celebrate dozens of ­individuals and community organisations who have made a huge difference to the Gaelic world and we are encouraging readers to nominate them.

Nominations can be made up to 25 September 2015.

Read more...

Orkney schools introduce Japanese to timetables

27 August 2015 (BBC News)

Two secondary schools in Orkney have some of the first in Scotland to introduce Japanese classes into their timetables.

There have been an increasing number of links built up between the islands and Japan in recent years, largely due to a shared interest in the potential of marine renewable energy.

Stromness Academy and Kirkwall Grammar pupils are now learning Japanese.

Read more...

New ‘scriever’ to push Scots ‘amang folk an toons athort Scotlan’

26 August 2015 (Financial Times)

This week the first “Scots scriever”, or writer, takes office as part of a drive by the Scottish National party to give the Scots language greater status in schools and cultural industries.

Read more...

Related Links

Creative Scotland pushing for revival of Scots language (The Irish Times, 27 August 2015)

Modern languages ‘sold short by REF’

26 August 2015 (THE)

Modern languages studies may have been harshly treated in the research excellence framework (REF) because it was assessed in the same subpanel as linguistics, academics have claimed.

With language departments already under pressure from declining student numbers, some scholars have complained that the structure of the panel used to judge their research has done little to help the subject area.

Under new arrangements adopted for the 2014 REF, modern languages research was included alongside linguistics in subpanel 28, rather than being assessed separately in seven smaller subject units, as in the 2008 research assessment exercise (RAE).

Read more...

The curious case of the French boy who failed AS-Level French

25 August 2015 (The Telegraph)

The day the A-level results came out, I was on a boat with several teenagers on Turkey’s ravishing Turquoise Coast. Some of the kids had done exceptionally well, while others were shellshocked, poor things. Managing those mixed emotions was a diplomatic minefield. Very hard to congratulate Child A – “Brilliant, Barney!” – while Child B is skulking miserably under a large beach towel. One of the boys on board was both embarrassed and baffled that he had got an E in AS French.

This wasn’t a case of a member of the Whatevvah generation moaning when he simply hadn’t done enough work. No, Jack’s rock-bottom French mark was startling because Jack’s mother is French and her son is fluent in the language. Jack (who got a A in maths, so he’s no slouch) speaks far better French than any of the adults on board the boat who got A in that subject at A-level, and is considerably better at French than his mate, Harry, who had managed a B.

“My mum doesn’t believe I got an E,” Jack said, indicating a stream of agitated texts from Maman back in the UK.

He admitted that he had not learned by rote the phrases and the topics you now need to pass AS French. Foolishly, he had assumed that being French meant he could pass French. Espèce d’idiot!

Off-hand, I find it hard to think of a better example of what’s wrong with our examination system.

Read more...

Reversing the modern language trend

24 August 2015 (SecEd)

With a focus on Mandarin, Dr Judith McClure discusses the need for local partnerships to inspire pupils to take up languages – an essential skill for the 21st century.

Read more...

Supporting language teachers

24 August 2015 (SecEd)

Scotland's National Centre for Languages works to develop and improve the learning and teaching of languages. Petra McLay describes some of the support on offer to teachers and schools.

Read more...

Bilingualism and the brain: How language shapes our ability to process information

24 August 2015 (Science Daily)

In an increasingly globalised world, there are many practical benefits to speaking two languages rather than one. Even in the US, which is largely monolingual, more than 20 percent of the population is now thought to speak a second language.

Read more...

Jon Bon Jovi sings Chinese love ballad

21 August 2015 (BBC)

Jon Bon Jovi is aiming to woo his Chinese fans by releasing a music video of him singing the most famous Chinese love ballad.

Set in a recording studio, it starts in soft focus as the soulful opening strains of The Moon Represents My Heart cue up.

The song popularised by Taiwanese superstar Teresa Teng in 1977, is sung from the perspective of a woman whose love is being questioned - her answer is that her love is as eternal as the moon.

Read more...

Outlander Gaelic coach saves rare Dalriada dialect

21 August 2015 (Scotsman)

THE man who taught the cast of Outlander to speak Gaelic has saved a rare dialect of the language from dying out - by teaching it to his own children.

Read more...

Related Links

Parents call for more teachers at Skye Gaelic school

21 August 2015 (BBC)

Parents of pupils at Scotland's first Gaelic school with an English medium unit have opposed what they see as a cut in teacher numbers.

Read more...

Related Links

700 sign petition as Skye school drops Gaelic teacher (The Times, 24 August 2015)

Call for retention of Gaelic teaching post rejected (BBC News, 27 August 2015)

Gemma Arterton on her French cinema debut in Madame Bovary update

20 August 2015 (BBC)

The daydream of many affluent Londoners is to trade the treadmill of city life for an idyllic existence in rural France.

It's a scenario that's brought to life in Gemma Bovery, a re-imagining of Gustave Flaubert's 19th Century classic Madame Bovary.

Gemma Arterton, who was born in Kent and who, until this production, did not speak a word of French, takes the title role of naive young Londoner Gemma who, with her older husband Charles, moves to Normandy, just a few miles from where Flaubert's book is set.

Read more...

GCSE results: figures show slump in foreign languages and rise in computing

20 August 2015 (The Guardian)

Fewer entries for GCSE French, German and Spanish, though grades for languages have improved.

Read more...

Related Links

Drop in take-up of foreign languages prompts concerns of UK's ability to trade globally (The Independent, 20 August 2015)

GCSE results: fall in numbers taking foreign languages 'a cause for concern' (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)

Why has there been a drop in students taking language GCSEs? Teachers' views (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)

GCSE results: Language entries drop for second year running (TES, 20 August 2015)

GCSE exam results: The top 10 best performing GCSEs of 2015 (The Independent, 20 August 2015) 'Other Modern Languages' in second place.

GCSE Results Day 2015 live: top grades drop for fourth year in a row following efforts to fight grade inflation (The Telegraph live blog, 20 August 2015) [..] 10.20 Figures from today reveal an overall drop in the number of entries to modern foreign language exams. 

GCSE results 2015: pass rate rises but A* grades dip (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)
[..]Modern languages French, Spanish and German all saw falling entries, with the numbers taking German this year dropping by nearly 10%. 
 
GCSE results remain stable but major concerns emerge over top grades in maths (TES, 20 August 2015) [..] The number of students taking language GCSEs fell for a -second consecutive year, despite the subjects being included in the government’s English Baccalaureate (Ebac) performance measure.

CBI responds to 2015 GCSE results (CBI, 20 August 2015) On languages, Ms. Hall said...

British Council comments on GCSE languages 2015 (British Council, 20 August 2015)

EBacc effect wearing off on GCSE languages (Alcantara Communications, 20 August 2015)

GCSE exam results for languages (UCML, 20 August 2015)

Speak to the Future calls for Head Teachers to implement the EBacc and support an outward-facing Britain with an outward-facing curriculum, which includes languages (Speak to the Future, 20 August 2015)

Language uptake may be blooming, but ‘all is not rosy’

20 August 2015 (TESS)

Recent improvements in uptake do not spell the end of the decline in language learning, the president of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching has warned.

Gillian Campbell-Thow told TESS this week that while there was a “need to be optimistic”, she did not believe “the magic wand has been waved and all is rosy in the garden”.

Figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on exam results day earlier this month revealed an increase in entries for most modern languages at Higher level, leading some to believe that the decline of recent years had been reversed. The number of students sitting the new or old Higher exam in French was almost 10 per cent more than last year at 4,572 compared with 4,157.

The increase in Spanish was even more significant, with entries rising 28 per cent from 1,880 last year to 2,413 this year. In German, the total increased from 1,006 in 2014 to 1,114. Pass rates were also up.

However, the number of Chinese language Higher entries dropped from 100 to 89. This was despite significant investment in this area and news that a further 21 Confucius Classrooms would be set up to teach Mandarin to primary pupils in Scotland, on top of the 14 that already exist. Funding for the extension of the programme will come from Hanban, a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education.

“I don’t think we are anywhere near addressing the decline in languages but it is a step in the right direction,” Ms Campbell-Thow said. While there was a mix of old and new Highers, “we don’t really have a firm grasp on how much impact the new qualifications are having on uptake,” she added.

Read more...

Would you pass a GCSE French exam?

20 August 2015 (The Guardian)

Test your vocabulary and grammar with the Guardian's quiz partially drawn from past GCSE papers.

Read more...

Racing to record Indigenous languages under attack from 'onslaught of English'

20 August 2015 (The Guardian)

Comprehensive documentation of several Indigenous Australian languages, some of which are highly endangered and at risk of extinction, has begun.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language is building a library of audio and video recordings, grammar lists and dictionaries for at least 10 languages.

Professor Jane Simpson from the Australian National University said Australia’s Indigenous languages remain “inherently fragile under the onslaught of English and government policies which make it hard to keep [them] going.”

A 2014 National Indigenous Languages Survey found that of 250 Indigenous languages only 120 are still spoken, with 13 of these considered “strong” – five fewer than when the survey was first conducted in 2005. Around 100 languages are described as “severely or critically endangered”.

Read more...

More migrants taking modern language GCSE in native tongue

20 August 2015 (The Telegraph)

The number of migrants taking foreign language GCSEs in their native tongue is expected to be on the rise as traditional languages see further declines.

Entries for those taking languages such as Urdu, Polish or Mandarin are expected to increase slightly to around 32,000 today based on a growing push by parents and schools wanting to boost pupils’ performance.

Those taking these foreign languages are three times as likely to get an A* than those who study the traditional foreign languages, like French and German.

The other modern languages category at GCSE regularly has the highest A* percentage for any of the 48 GCSE subject categories – 35.8 per cent in 2014 and it is likely to be just as high this year.
This may indicate they are taken by those for whom they are the mother tongue, experts have said.
Those with some of the biggest increases in pupils sitting GCSE exams will include Portuguese, Arabic and Persian.

However, French and German are expected to see drops, in line with a continued decrease in popularity in recent years. The number of pupils taken French and German this year is expected to drop by around 6 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. And Spanish is expected to see the first drop in entries in roughly two decades.

Read more...

New £7m Gaelic language school opens in Caol

19 August 2015 (BBC News)

The four-classroom building in Caol, near Fort William, has space available for future expansion if the school roll rises.

Its other facilities include a nursery class, a library, indoor gymnasium and multi use games area.

Highland Council hopes the school will become a Gaelic language hub for Lochaber.

Read more...

Charlie Swinbourne: How being able to sign helps you communicate in a foreign language

18 August 2015 (The Limping Chicken blog)

I’ve just returned from a two week holiday by the sea in France. My family enjoyed all the things about France you might expect – the sun, pretty villages, beaches, and food.

This was also our first holiday in a non-English speaking country since the children were born, and what struck me was how, when you try and communicate with a French person who knows no English, being able to sign makes a surprising difference.

On the last night of our holiday, we stayed in a French farmhouse where we were served a home-cooked French meal by a waiter who was a bit of a ringer for Gerard Depardieu and spoke only French. Despite the language barrier, using gesture and sign, we were able to have a full conversation.

Read more...

A-level results: 'We need a national campaign to reverse the decline of languages'

14 August 2015 (TES)

The number of students getting into university this year may have reached a record high with the lifting of the cap on numbers, but the A-level results paint a picture of stability.

This comes as no surprise: the grading is determined in part by Ofqual's comparable outcomes approach. This means that if a cohort is broadly similar in terms of GCSE results to those who took A-levels last year (which they often will be), the A-level grade distribution should look similar unless an exam board can produce very convincing evidence that the standard has risen or fallen.

[...] The ongoing decline in the numbers taking French and German also comes as no surprise. Despite the increase in Spanish, overall the uptake of modern languages is dire. Shortage of funding for sixth-form colleges is driving them to cut small subjects and modern languages are gradually falling by the wayside at A-level. Nothing less than a national campaign can reverse the situation.

Read more...

West Lothian teenagers take part in Chinese Bridge Summer Camp

13 August 2015 (Daily Record)

West Lothian teenagers have had the chance to learn about Chinese culture first hand during a visit this summer.

Ross Bertram, Katie Lumsden, Gemma Shearer, Shannon McManus of The James Young High School in Livingston and Thomas Hendry of Bathgate Academy jetted out to China to take part in a two-week language and culture immersion course with more than 80 other young people from across Scotland.

The Chinese Bridge Summer Camp ran from July 12 to 27 and welcomed young people from all over the UK. The programme offers young people the opportunity to immerse themselves in Chinese culture and sample it firsthand whilst also learning Mandarin.

Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS) worked with schools around Scotland to put forward Scottish pupils to take up this exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Read more...

My favourite A-level – and how it shaped my life

13 August 2015 (The Guardian)

Bidisha: I had fabulous, inspirational Spanish A-level teachers – I feel intense regret about having let my language skills lapse.

I have the same dream every week. I’m the age I am now, in my thirties. I’m at school, in school uniform. I’m late for Spanish A-level but the numbers above the classroom doors are blurred and I can’t find the right one.

This nightmare reflects the intense regret I feel about letting my language skills lapse.

Read more...

Too few students are doing languages, say firms

12 August 2015 (Irish Independent)

Many multinational and domestic companies have jobs they cannot fill because of a lack of candidates with the necessary language skills.

Fewer than half - 49pc - of this year's candidates took French, while those taking German stood at just 13.2pc. Meanwhile, only about 10pc of candidates sat Spanish, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

Ibec's head of education policy, Tony Donohoe, said that student interest in languages had declined when compared with a decade ago. He warned that it was "vital that we don't find ourselves at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to selling into global markets and attracting foreign investment".

Read more...

MacDonald named first Scots Scriever

12 August 2015 (The Bookseller)

Hamish MacDonald has been appointed as the first Scots Scriever.

The role, a two-year residency at the National Library of Scotland supported with funding from Creative Scotland, will involve producing original creative work in Scots, its variants and dialects, across any art-form, as well as raising awareness, appreciation and use of Scots across the country and amongst all parts of the population.

Read more...

Related Links

Scots: First national Scriever is appointed to promote language (The Herald, 13 August 2015)

Scots Scriever Appointed (Creative Scotland, 13 August 2015)

Hamish MacDonald appointed as first Scots scriever (BBC News, 13 August 2015)

Media Release: Hamish MacDonald appointed as Scots Scriever (All Media Scotland, 13 August 2015)

New official scriever gies it laldy ... and Scots a bit o fizz (The National, 14 August 2015)

Scots university link with China

11 August 2015 (Evening Times)

A SCOTS university is hoping to increase its involvement with China and its higher education institutions.

University of the West of Scotland has formed a partnership with Young Chinese Professionals Scotland which unites and promotes young Chinese in the living and working in the country.

The new agreement will also result in the university increasing its China-related research and cultural activities.

Read more...

Science A-levels cut in sixth form college cash squeeze

11 August 2015 (BBC News)

Sixth form colleges in England say they have had to cut the number of science and foreign language courses they offer, because of financial pressures.

[..] A-levels in modern languages have been cut in 28 colleges (over a third), while 17 (just under a quarter) reported cuts in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

Read more...

Welsh language 'should be taught in schools across Britain to increase appreciation of other cultures'

10 August 2015 (Wales Online)

Performance poet Benjamin Zephaniah says Welsh should be taught in schools across Britain to increase appreciation of other cultures.

Mr Zephaniah said people should have a greater awareness of the “different cultures and languages” that exist within the UK.

“Hindi, Chinese and French are taught [in schools], so why not Welsh? And why not Cornish? They’re part of our culture,” he said.

Read more...

Choosing your university course during Clearing: pick a passion

10 August 2015 (The Guardian)

“You must choose a subject you enjoy. You’re going to do it for at least three years and pay an awful lot of money for it,” says Tracey Griffin, head of sixth form at Bournemouth and Poole College, who has helped hundreds of young people choose what to study at university.

[...] Many UK universities now offer an optional year overseas (usually the third year) through the European Union’s student exchange programme, Erasmus. However this isn’t offered on all courses, so if you think you might be interested in a year abroad, it’s worth checking out which courses offer it before you start applying.

[...] Almost 80,000 undergraduates study languages at UK unis, and this year’s overall best five are Cambridge, Oxford, Leicester, Durham and Sussex. While all offer the likes of French and Spanish, you’ll need to hunt around if you’re keen to go beyond the mainstream.

Read more...

Language study bounces back after a decade of decline

10 August 2015 (The Herald)

A long-term decline in the number of pupils studying languages at Higher appears to have been reversed.

New figures show most modern languages have seen an increase in entries in 2015 after years where numbers have fallen.

Statistics from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show French has seen a 10 per cent increase with entries rising to 4,572.

Spanish continues a remarkable rise over the past decade with entries rising 28 per cent to 2413.

Read more...

The Scots language might not be the most beautiful in the world.. but its wonderful in its own unique way

9 August 2015 (Scotland Now)

Which language do you think is the most beautiful sounding in the world?

Are the flowing, romantic sounds of French among your favourites or maybe some passionate Italian tones?

The video clip above, made by language learning website Easy Languages, claims German is the most beautiful sounding in the world.

Okay, we admit the rough and readiness of the Scottish language might not be the easiest on everyone’s ears – but we love it anyway.

Read more...

Insight: Why Scots face a language barrier

8 August 2015 (The Scotsman)

Our children’s lack of foreign language skills cry out for a shake-up in education policy, and yet constant upheaval in our schools may be one of the problems, writes Dani Garavelli.

Read more...

Bilingual children 'lag behind in English', research shows

7 August 2015 (The Telegraph)

Bilingual children in their early years lag behind in English, a new study has found as it shows their vocabulary is stunted.

The study found that children under six years of age who learn a second language lag behind in their linguistic performance compared to their peers who only speak English. Their abilities were measured by showing children at three years of age images and asked them to name the objects in the pictures in English. The bilingual children were able to name fewer images than those who only spoke English.

However, the research by Bath University, showed that disadvantage fades away by the age of five and the improvement is more noticeable among children whose at least one parent is British.

Read more...

Britons 'nervous to speak foreign language when abroad'

6 August 2015 (BBC News)

A quarter of British holidaymakers feel nervous at the thought of having to speak the local language when they go abroad, a poll suggests.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults for the British Council found 40% were embarrassed by their language skills.

But nearly two-thirds (65%) thought it was important to learn a few local words or phrases before going abroad.

The poll comes as exam regulator Ofqual notes a decline this summer in A-level and GCSE entries for languages.

Read more...

Google Translate's new sign-reading feature takes on La Bamba – video

6 August 2015 (The Guardian)

The team at Google headquarters in California tests Google Translate’s new ‘sign-reading’ feature and shows how it quickly translates La Bamba into 27 languages simply by having the camera pointed at printed text.

Read more...

Double Dutch? Kevin Bridges gets laughs in translation as he switches languages at Amsterdam gig

5 August 2015 (Daily Record)

Funnyman Kevin Bridges has set his sights on becoming a bilingual stand-up after performing the first part of his recent Amsterdam gig in Dutch.

Read more...

Plans for new Gaelic school in Portree on Skye approved

5 August 2015 (BBC News)

Planning permission has been given for a new £8m Gaelic medium education primary school in Portree on Skye. [..] The new school is expected to open to pupils in 2017.

Read more...

Related Links

Plans for Skye's Gaelic primary get green light (The Herald, 4 August 2015)

A-levels and GCSEs: Tougher subjects on the rise as teens look to enter elite universities

5 August 2015 (The Telegraph)

(Applies to England) The number of pupils taking tough subjects at GCSE and A-levels, like maths and science, rose this summer as students regard them as “very good currency” to get into elite universities, the exams regulator has said.

[..] Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: “The increase in the number of students taking facilitating subjects at A-level is welcome news. These subjects are required more often than others for degree courses at our universities.

[..]“We are concerned that a further fall in the number of students studying foreign languages at GCSE is concerning – languages are vitally important to the UK if it is to be fully engaged with the world.”

Read more...

Results day for students

4 August 2015 (Scottish Government)

Students across Scotland achieved a record 156,000 Higher passes this year – up 5.5 per cent on 2014.

Results certificates have been sent to 142,862 candidates sitting a wide range of qualifications – including new Highers for the first year and Nationals for the second year; and existing Access, Intermediates, Highers and Advanced Highers.

Figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show attainment is again high this year, with Higher English passes up 17.7 per cent to 27,902, and Higher modern languages passes increasing by 15.2 per cent to 7,419.

Read more...

Related Links

Record numbers of Scottish students pass higher exams (The Independent, 4 August 2015)

Questions over higher Scottish exam pass rate (The Telegraph, 4 August 2015)

Record Highers pass rate triggers concerns about Scottish qualification (The Guardian, 4 August 2015)

When right is wrong: On the universal importance of translation

4 August 2015 (TES)

Translation is often dismissed by language teachers, particularly at school, as irrelevant, absurdly esoteric, an indulgence of academics. They prefer to focus on listening and speaking, which is somehow deemed more 'real'. But the practice of translation is what teaches us to know language intimately, and is one of the most efficient methods of learning the craft of writing. Translation requires us to read closely, to read repeatedly, to consider context but recognise specificity, to mull over alternative readings and weigh them in the balance, to exercise judgement, to discriminate and make informed decisions. It provides disciplined parameters for creative writing, and an invaluable principle of exclusion, rather than the no-holds-barred anything-goes randomness of 'free composition'.

Read more...

The man who speaks 32 languages - and counting

3 August 2015 (NewStatesman)

When Ioannis Ikonomou arrived in Brussels as an interpreter, the EU had 12 official languages. He learnt them all - then kept going.

Read more...

Is it a case of ‘the younger, the better’ for children learning a new language?

30 July 2015 (The Conversation)

There is a widespread belief that if only we could teach foreign languages very early, Britain could stop lagging behind its European counterparts in terms of language capability. But is the earlier the better when it comes to learning a new language?

There is a difference between children immersed in the new language they are learning, for example as immigrants in a new country, and children exposed to a foreign language in the classroom for a few hours a week at best.

Read more...

How ‘gaze shifting’ helps babies learn new languages

29 July 2015 (Free Press Journal)

University of Washington researchers have demonstrated for the first time that an early social behaviour called gaze shifting is linked to infants’ ability to learn new language sounds. According to the study, 10 months old babies