Multilingualism


Multilingualism

Why limited resource models are of limited use, particularly when it comes to languages

14 November 2017 (University of Edinburgh)

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of travel restrictions, Vienna become a favourite destination for Eastern Europeans keen to buy hitherto unavailable Western goods. My West German friend Wilhelm recalled a conversation with an East German colleague while looking at the frantic markets. “Poor Viennese”, said the East German, “those Eastern Europeans will buy everything and leave them with nothing”. “Lucky Viennese”, answered Wilhelm, “they are doing the business of their lifetime”. Obviously, their comments reflected different economic reality under which they grew up, but they illustrate rather well the general contrast between “limited resource” and “added value” models.

Limited resource models are so seductively simple and intuitively compelling, that they tend to be applied implicitly, without much critical reflection (let alone empirical evidence) to a wide range of economic, social and political debates (e.g. immigration). Their major weakness is that, unlike the added value models, they do not take into account interactions between individual components and the capacity of well-functioning systems to adapt and re-configure. People buying goods are not just depleting a storehouse, they stimulate the production of new goods and development of better products. Immigrants do not just take away existing jobs; by stimulating economic growth, they can in fact create new ones.

When I first met Dina Mehmedbegovic in European Commission Multilingualism Panel in Brussels in September 2016, we were stunned to discover how much our two disciplines, education and cognitive science, have in common in terms of implicit assumptions made in respect to language learning and use. In our first joint publication, in May 2017, we explored the idea of a “healthy linguistic diet” (1), from primary school education to cognitive ageing and dementia prevention (2). In the second one, published this week, we examine systematically three important implicit assumptions underlying current controversies around multilingualism (3).

The first one is the above-mentioned limited resources model, well illustrated by the recent “Guardian” debate about the merits and disadvantages of learning foreign languages (4). One of the most commonly used arguments against teaching foreign languages at schools is that they prevent pupils from learning “more useful” subjects, such as maths (limited resources). No mention is usually made how learning languages can in fact improve the performance in other subjects (added value). These arguments continue across the lifespan: a new social enterprise Lingo Flamingo has a lot of work convincing professional carers that teaching languages to dementia patients is not dangerous and can even improve their cognitive abilities.

The second assumption is the “myth of the mother tongue”, the idea that the “normal” state of human brain, mind and society is to have one clearly defined “mother tongue”; other language can be learned, but are only secondary. Census questions like those used in the UK, allowing each individual to name only one “home language”, perpetrate this misconception. The third one is the belief that the only worthwhile aim of language learning is to reach a “native-like” proficiency. Although the drive to reach high proficiency is well meant, ultimately such attitude prevents people from appreciating multiple benefits of language learning.

As we demonstrate, there is hardly any evidence in favour of these assumptions, either in education or in cognitive and brain sciences; in fact, most of current research contradicts them. However, as we discuss in the paper, these assumptions are closely connected to political ideologies, dictating what is considered to be “normal” for individuals and states. We argue that such underlying, often implicit, beliefs can exert a profound influence on our thinking. Participants, whose performance we are examining as well as the researchers who analyse and interpret the data are human beings, deeply rooted in their languages, cultures, societies and values. We cannot study human performance in isolation from human beliefs and attitudes which influence it. Social and cognitive sciences and humanities are usually treated separately and there is remarkably little exchange of ideas between them. But we believe that we have much to learn from each other. As proposed by the added value models, a synthesis is more than the sum of its parts. The path is long, but we hope to have taken a step in the right direction.

Thomas H Bak, University of Edinburgh, Strand Leader of Strand 6 (Cognition, health & wellbeing) of the AHRC Project, “Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies” (MEITS). Co-Director, Bilingualism Matters (Bilingualism in later life, healthy ageing & dementia).

(1) Healthy Linguistic Diet (MEITS blog, June 2017) 

(2) Healthy Linguistic Diet: The value of linguistic diversity and language learning across the lifespan (Languages, Society and Policy, May2017)

(3) European Journal of Language Policy

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

Bilingual toddlers have incredible advantage over other children, finds study

2 November 2017 (The Independent)

Bilingual children have an advantage over others who speak only one language, a study has shown. 

Children aged four and younger who speak two languages or are learning a second have more rapid improvements in inhibitory control, a study by the University of Oregon has said. 

Inhibitory control is the ability to stop a hasty reflexive response in behaviour or decision-making and use higher control to react in a more adaptive way. 

Read more...

Speaking with Smaller Tongues

7 July 2017 (BBC Radio 4)

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

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

Read more...

New Content Announcement for Language Show Scotland 2017!

10 February 2017 (Language Show Live)

Language Show Live, 10-11 March at the SEC, Glasgow

Europe’s largest event dedicated to language teaching and learning is just 1 month away and the teaching seminar, TEFL forum and language class line ups have all been announced and are now live online! Every seminar at this free-to-attend event is fully CPD accredited and packed full of exclusive content. Head online today to claim your free ticket and enjoy all the content that Europe’s premier language event has to offer.

Remember: Alongside our trademark seminar, workshop and panel session line ups we also have our fantastic cultural piazza stage, free language taster classes, over 80 exhibitor and much, much more!
Language Show Live Scotland logo

Read more...

Many Languages, One World - 2017 student essay contest

7 February 2017 (Many Languages One World)

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), in collaboration with ELS Educational Services, Inc., (ELS) invites students, 18 years and older, who are enrolled in a full-time course of study at a college or university, to participate in the Many Languages, One World Essay Contest.

The essay should discuss global citizenship and cultural understanding, and the role that multilingual ability can play in fostering these and must be written in one of the six official languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish).

Visit the Many Languages, One World website for more information about the competition and how to enter. Submission deadline is 16 March 2017.

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...

Heriot-Watt Multilingual Debate 2017

12 December 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event showcasing the interpreting skills of undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The 2017 Debates will take place on Wednesday 22 March with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. There are two Debates; one in the morning, one in the afternoon.

The Multilingual Debates are open to schools, colleges and universities and aim to stimulate interest and dialogue among young people in the international politics and social issues of the modern world whilst also setting language acquisition in a realistic context.

The topics for the 2017 Debates have just been announced and can be viewed on the YouTube video.

Visit the Heriot-Watt website for further information.

Read more...

Scots Makar, Jackie Kay, supports MTOT

4 November 2016 (SCILT)

We are delighted to have Jackie Kay, the national laureate, as patron for this year's Mother Tongue Other Tongue multilingual poetry competition for schools in Scotland.

Hear Jackie's message supporting the aims and values of the competition in the video on our MTOT webpage.

Read more...

Raising a Trilingual Child

2 November 2016 (Wall Street Journal)

Raising a bilingual child is a goal for many parents. For others, it is just the first step.

Stefano Striuli, an IT executive in Atlanta, speaks to his daughters, Letizia, 10, and Maite (Mah-ee-tay), 7, in his native Italian. The girls speak to their mother, Pilar Guzman, in her native Spanish. The girls switch into English when speaking to each other at home, and they are learning French at school. When the whole family is together, they speak mostly Italian, or English when in public.

There are many reasons for encouraging children to learn a third or fourth language. Parents from two different countries often want to create a home for their children where both native languages are spoken. A bilingual family temporarily living overseas might want to encourage children to become fluent in the local language.

To work, a trilingual household needs rules, and rules must be enforced. Mr. Striuli says if his daughters get confused and use English at home, he ignores them—“but not in a rude way”—until he hears Italian.

“They know that Daddy equals Italian and Mommy equals Spanish,” he says.

The right time to commit to introducing a second or third language to a child is at birth. Parents need to create an environment where children are comfortable speaking, says Annick De Houwer, professor of language acquisition and multilingualism at the Universitat Erfurt in Erfurt, Germany.

Read more...

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).

UK voted worst country in Europe at learning other languages as world video dictionary launched

26 September 2016 (The Independent)

The UK is the worst country in Europe at learning other languages new data suggests.

As part of a vote organised for European Day of Languages, Britain was revealed to be the most monolingual country in the continent.

More than one in three (35%) chose Britain as the worst in Europe for communicating in any other language apart from their mother tongue. French citizens came second in the vote with 22 per cent, followed by Italy with eight per cent.

Read more...

Antonella Sorace: Why language learning matters (now more than ever)

26 September 2016 (University of Edinburgh blog)

There is no better way to celebrate the European Day of Languages than reminding people how good it is to have more than one language in the brain. Multilingualism is a very good investment both for individuals and for societies, but this is not obvious in Scotland and the UK more generally, because of the ‘privileged monolingualism’ of English native speakers. The common perception that “everyone speaks English” makes foreign languages seem irrelevant and leads to lack of incentives to learn languages. Language skills in the UK are falling just as the need for them is growing. According to one estimate, lack of language skills costs the UK economy £48 billion a year.

Read more...

Multilingualism: Empowering individuals, transforming societies

26 September 2016 (MEITS)

MEITS is a major interdisciplinary research project funded under the AHRC Open World Research Initiative. Linguistic competence in more than one language – being multilingual – sits at the heart of the study of modern languages and literatures, distinguishing it from cognate disciplines. Through six interlocking research strands we investigate how the insights gained from stepping outside a single language, culture and mode of thought are vital to individuals and societies.

Read more...

National Museum of Languages to boost British multilingualism

26 September 2016 (The Herald)

Britain's first ever National Museum of Languages will soon be coming to high streets across Britain, as part of efforts to make the country multilingual.

The new pop-up museum will have a physical presence in regional centres as well as a major batch of online learning resources.

The project is part of the new MEITS (Multilingualism - Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies) project based at the University of Cambridge, and funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Regional centres will be based in shops in high streets in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Cambridge and Nottingham.

Further centres are being planned elsewhere.

Read more...

European Day of Languages - ideas and blog

23 September 2016 (SCILT)

The European Day of Languages takes place on Monday 26th September and we're delighted that so many schools around the country are celebrating this year. If you need any last minute inspiration for your class there are lots of ideas and links on the SCILT EDL webpage.

Let us know how you celebrate we will feature you in our EDL 2016 blog. If you include some colourful photos your article could even appear in our next newsletter!

Read more...

Why being bilingual works wonders for your brain

7 August 2016 (The Guardian)

In a cafe in south London, two construction workers are engaged in cheerful banter, tossing words back and forth. Their cutlery dances during more emphatic gesticulations and they occasionally break off into loud guffaws. They are discussing a woman, that much is clear, but the details are lost on me. It’s a shame, because their conversation sounds fun and interesting, especially to a nosy person like me. But I don’t speak their language.

Out of curiosity, I interrupt them to ask what language they are speaking. They both switch easily to English, explaining that they are South Africans and had been speaking Xhosa. In Johannesburg, where they are from, most people speak at least five languages, says one of them, Theo Morris. For example, Morris’s mother’s tongue is Sotho, his father’s is Zulu; he learned Xhosa and Ndebele from his friends and neighbours and English and Afrikaans at school. “I went to Germany before I came here, so I also speak German,” he adds.

Was it easy to learn so many languages? “Yes, it’s normal,” he laughs.

He’s right. Around the world, more than half of people – estimates vary from 60-75% – speak at least two languages. Many countries have more than one official national language – South Africa has 11. People are increasingly expected to speak, read and write at least one of a handful of “super” languages, such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish or Arabic, as well. So to be monolingual, as many native English speakers are, is to be in the minority and perhaps to be missing out.

Read more...

MOOC: Multilingual Learning for a Globalised World

3 June 2016 (Future Learn)

This free 3-week online course, commencing 13 June 2016, will explore multilingual education and how it can impact and improve education and even wider society.

Our languages are an essential part of who we are as human beings. They are instruments of communication and are often a source of dignity and of human pride. Our life experiences and views of the world are bound up in our languages.

In week 3 you can hear about the Mother Tongue Other Tongue multilingual poetry competition, where school pupils are invited to express themselves either in the language they speak at home or in one they are learning at school, and which will be run again in Scotland by SCILT in the new term.

For more information about the course and to enrol, visit the Future Learn website.

Read more...

The unsteady future of the multilingual city

12 May 2016 (Citylab)

When you arrive by air in Dublin, you might think from all the Irish signs in the airport that you’ve landed in a bilingual city: not just a city in an officially bilingual country, but a city where you might hear some Irish.

In fact, Irish isn’t very visible nor audible there, despite its protected status. Nonetheless, Dublin is being transformed into a more linguistically diverse place by immigrants from Poland, Romania, China, and elsewhere. In 2010, a full 11 percent of Dubliners reported speaking languages other than Irish or English at home—but none of these appear on signs at the airport.

From observations such as these, what can be said about the vitality of any city’s multilingualism?

Read more...

Young poets’ multilingual talents celebrated

22 March 2016 (SCILT)

The multilingual talents of budding young poets from across Scotland were celebrated at a prestigious award ceremony in Glasgow.

Primary and secondary students from Aberdeenshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, West Lothian and George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh used their language skills to create and share poetry for this year’s Mother Tongue Other Tongue multilingual poetry competition. Winners received their prizes on the main Piazza stage at the SECC on Saturday 12 March 2016 as part of the wider Languages Show Live Scotland event. Their work is published in an anthology.

Mother Tongue Other Tongue is an exciting project which celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity through creative writing and showcases the many languages used by children and young people across Scotland, in school and at home. The competition is organised by SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, based at University of Strathclyde. This year over 400 pupils from across Scotland took part in the competition.

Ruth Cunningham, EAL teacher from Renfrewshire, said of the competition: “Being part of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue project has been a privilege. I have heard the ‘other voices’ of my bilingual pupils, witnessed them careful craft their poems, laugh about the differences in language and, above all, feel valued and respected for their ability to speak with another voice. This event has opened my eyes to the importance of supporting children to continue to learn in their mother tongue and of engaging with my pupils’ voices, in whatever language that may be.”

One of the young competitors commented: “I had a great time writing the poem and getting my prize was exciting. It makes me more eager to learn and write in different languages.”

Fhiona Fisher, Director of SCILT, added: “Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a celebration of the many languages that are spoken and learned by children and young people across Scotland. The collection of their poems weaves a rich tapestry of voices that honours cultural diversity and pays testament to the wealth of Scotland’s many languages and cultures. We were delighted to see such a high calibre of entries this year, submitted in 36 different languages. Our congratulations go to the winners and to all who took part in the competition.”

Mother Tongue invites children who do not speak English as a first language to share a lullaby, poem, rap or song from their mother tongue and to write about why this piece is important to them. Other Tongue encourages children learning another language in school to use that language creatively with an original poem, rap or song in that other tongue. Prizes are awarded in both categories.

Mother Tongue Other Tongue supports the Scottish Government initiative, “Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 approach” by allowing pupils to apply their language learning in a creative way. The competition provides children who do not have English as their first language with an opportunity to celebrate their mother tongue. This year saw over 150 entries submitted from primary and secondary pupils across the country. The competition was supported by the University Council for Modern Languages Scotland and creative writer Juliette Lee. Prizes were presented at the ceremony by actor Atta Yaqub and Juliette Lee.

Full details of the winners and further information on the competition can be found on the SCILT website.

Read more...

Cambridge to explore benefits of multilingualism with new AHRC research project

22 March 2016 (University of Cambridge)

The University of Cambridge is to launch a major new research project to study the benefits of multilingualism to individuals and society, and transform attitudes to languages in the UK, as part of the AHRC’s Open World Research Initiative.

At a time when more than half the world’s population speaks more than one language in their daily lives, and almost one in five UK primary school pupils have a first language other than English, what does it really mean to be multilingual, and what are the opportunities and challenges of multilingualism for individuals and society?

These questions are amongst those to be answered by a new research project at the University of Cambridge, thanks to an unprecedented £4million grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project, called Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Society, aims to not only understand people’s experiences of speaking more than one language, but also to change attitudes towards multilingualism and multiculturalism throughout society and amongst key policy-makers.

Read more...

The more languages we speak, the merrier we all are

7 March 2016 (The Telegraph)

Believe it or not, the world is multilingual. It is estimated that at least half of the world’s population, over 3 billion people, use more than one language in everyday life. According to the European Commission, 54 per cent of European citizens are bilingual. Even Britain, considered one of the most “monolingual” countries, is not doing too badly with 39 per cent.

Scientists have only recently started to study humans’ ability to acquire multiple languages. One of the most fascinating questions addressed in this research is how our brain deals with having two or more languages, and what are the implications for cognitive development.

Read more...

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...

A theory on how soccer players communicate in the age of highly multilingual clubs

1 March 2016 (Fusion)

During this season’s Champions League group stage, a photo circulated online of Italian club AS Roma’s “Player Languages” sheet. The list denoted the languages in which each player was comfortable giving an interview. And though most players are conversational in more languages than the ones they are comfortable using in media settings, I was surprised by both the polyglotism of some players, and the lack of overlap in many cases.

Midfielder Miralem Pjanic, for example, was born in Bosnia, spent most of his childhood and teenage years in Luxembourg, and has played professionally in France and Italy. His listed languages were Bosnian, English, French, Italian, and German. He’s also fluent in Luxembourgish, though that could be arguably classified as a dialect of German. Salih Uçan, in contrast, only listed Turkish, a language none of his teammates listed.

This got me thinking. Big European clubs tend to hire players from all over the globe, and it is certainly a common occurrence that there is no lingua franca, no common language between everyone on the field, or on the bench. So how do they communicate? There must be some common way of understanding each other.

Read more...

Multilingual Debate 2016

19 January 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event that showcases the interpreting skills of undergraduate students on our Languages (Interpreting and Translating) degree programme, as well as the developing professional skills of postgraduate students on our MSc Interpreting and Translating programmes. The event takes the form of a formal debate with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. The teams deliver their views in their various native languages (French, German, Spanish, English, Arabic, Chinese, British Sign Language (BSL)).

The audience is mainly made up of pupils coming from Scottish and English secondary schools, but also university undergraduate students considering entering the interpreting profession, as well as government and local authority representatives. The audiences participated in the debate by listening to the arguments, putting questions to the speakers in the languages represented and voting on the motion.

The Multilingual Debate 2016 takes place on Wednesday 23 March at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus.

To find out more about the debate topics and how to sign up to attend a session, see the video presentations in Arabic, BSL, Chinese, English, French and Spanish on the Heriot-Watt website.

Read more...

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...

Language teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms

19 November 2015 (European Commission)

Growing numbers of schoolchildren in the European Union have a mother tongue other than the main language of instruction used in school. Migrant children bring a multitude of languages and language skills to the classroom. This is a potential asset to the individual, schools and society at large. Linguistic diversity raises the issue of how schools can make best use of this potential.

The Commission has worked together with the EU countries to identify successful strategies for language learning in multilingual settings and to facilitate the sharing of good practices in the field. The results of this collaboration and of a comprehensive literature review on the topic, have resulted in a report entitled Language teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms.

You can access the report on the European Commission Multilingual Classrooms website.

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...

EDL 2015: Ideas to celebrate in your school

28 August 2015 (SCILT)

This year SCILT's European Day of Languages packs have been more popular than ever! We are now officially out of stock, having sent materials to over 70 schools and posting out more than twice as many packs as last year.

However, there are still lots of ways to celebrate EDL in your school and SCILT has put together great ideas to support you in your celebrations. We have grouped them into primary and secondary ideas and provided a suggested timeframe for each activity.

Visit our EDL 2015 webpage to download our suggestions and to find many more ideas and resources.

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...

Speak like Tarzan, don't be embarrassed and aim to make 200 mistakes a day: Irish polyglot reveals how ANYONE can learn a language in just three months

3 June 2015 (Daily Mail)

Britons and Americans do not have the world's best reputation for learning foreign languages.
But apparently we all have the ability to learn multiple lingos, at least according to Irish polyglot Benny Lewis.

The global traveller believes he can help people become fluent in just three months, and has written a book outlining how.

Read more...

How to learn 30 languages

29 May 2015 (BBC)

Out on a sunny Berlin balcony, Tim Keeley and Daniel Krasa are firing words like bullets at each other. First German, then Hindi, Nepali, Polish, Croatian, Mandarin and Thai – they’ve barely spoken one language before the conversation seamlessly melds into another. Together, they pass through about 20 different languages or so in total.

Back inside, I find small groups exchanging tongue twisters. Others are gathering in threes, preparing for a rapid-fire game that involves interpreting two different languages simultaneously. It looks like the perfect recipe for a headache, but they are nonchalant. “It’s quite a common situation for us,” a woman called Alisa tells me.

Read more...

Multilingual families: 'Even our dog uses three languages'

13 March 2015 (The Guardian)

No matter what your family’s heritage, parenting has a common lexicon: brush your teeth, look up from that screen or stop bashing your brother can be found in most family phrasebooks.

But what if the language you were born with differs from the one your kids use daily at school, or if you and your partner each have different native languages?

Today almost one in five children in UK primary schools now has a mother tongue other than English. According to Professor Antonella Sorace, director of the Bilingualism Matters centre at Edinburgh University, the demand for information and advice on how to navigate the challenges of bilingual parenting is now “enormous”.

Read more...

Boxer Amir Khan throws his weight behind Mother Tongue multilingual poetry project

31 January 2015 (Manchester Evening News)

Bolton boxer Amir Khan has thrown his weight behind a multilingual poetry project.

The champion boxer filmed a special video for the launch of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The national competition, which launches on Monday February 2, aims to encourage children who don’t speak English at home to celebrate their mother tongue - while giving native-English speakers the chance to learn a second language.

Amir said: “Speaking another language, some people might feel shy about it but they shouldn’t – they should have confidence and be able to talk about what other languages they speak."

*SCILT have been piloting Mother Tongue, Other Tongue in Scotland in session 2014-15 with Glasgow schools. Find out more on our Mother Tongue, Other Tongue page.  

Read more...

Related Links

Amir's video along with more information and images from the competition can be found on the MTOT pages of Manchester Metropolitan University's website.

How will we speak in 100 years?

20 January 2015 (Mail Online)

Sci-fi visions of the future may focus on soaring skylines and flying cars, but the world in 100 years may not only look different, but sound different too.

While there are more than 6,000 languages spoken globally at present, less than 600 are likely to endure in 2115, and they could be simplified versions of what we recognise today, one linguist has claimed.

He told MailOnline that the advent of technologically-advanced translating tools will not be enough to save the diversity of Earth’s languages either.

Read more...

Related Links

What the World Will Speak in 2115 (The Wall Street Journal, 2 January 2015)

Foreign languages in higher demand at city estate agents

27 November 2014 (City AM)

A London estate agent is having to place foreign languages near the top of its skills requirements as the capital continues to attract talent from the struggling Eurozone.

Estate agent Greene & Co said today that one quarter of its residential clients now came from overseas. To meet demand, they need staff to speak a host of different languages – 13 per cent of the firm’s staff are fluent in a foreign language.

In Kentish Town, Greene & Co have boosted the number of agents fluent in French as buyers from across the channel flock to the area because of two French schools.

Read more...

Why I decided to learn languages (14 and counting)

20 November 2014 (British Council Voices)

Alex Rawlings, who won a competition to find Britiain’s most multi-lingual student in 2011, explains why learning foreign languages is so rewarding, and how his school helped set him on this path.

Read more...

The school with 42 languages in the playground

5 May 2014 (BBC News)

With immigration a big topic in the European and local elections, BBC News local government correspondent Mike Sergeant visits a school in north-west London, where there are 42 languages spoken in the playground. Byron Court in Brent is one of the most diverse schools in the UK. The playground at lunchtime is an extraordinary mix of vibrant London life.

Children from Iraq, the Philippines, Somalia, India, Nepal, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia, to name but a few, mingle happily and play together.

Read more...

Can Learning a New Language Boost Your Creativity?

20 March 2014 (Huffington Post)

I became fascinated with the question of what relationship exists, if any, between foreign language ability and creativity after reading Earnest Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises this past summer. The novel takes its readers on a trilingual adventure from the cafés of Paris to the bullfighting rings of Pamplona. Hemmingway himself spoke both French and Spanish, in addition to his native English, and though his exact ability in each is a matter for debate, it is clear from clips like this one that he was at least fully bilingual.

Read more...

Multilingual Families Project

18 March 2014 (Linguanet)

Multilingual Families is an international project for multilingual families, immigrant families as well as parents, teachers, children and stakeholders involved in bringing up children multilingually. It is a European Union funded education project that will support and inform immigrant or multilingual parents how and why to raise their children multilingually in an informal setting. The project will also produce resources.

Multilingual Families is currently looking for interested parties to join the project reference group to help evaluate the resources. Follow the project reference group link to join.

Visit the website for more information on Multilingual Families.

Read more...

How schools are breaking down the language barrier for EAL students

5 March 2014 (The Guardian)

The number of students who speak foreign languages at home has risen by 20% in five years. Nick Morrison explores the integration and teaching strategies being used in schools.

Read more...

Related Links

Translating maths in a multicultural school community (The Guardian, 5 March 2014) English is the second language at Sacred Heart primary school, but specially designed learning programmes and an inclusive environment enable students to thrive.

Students with English as a second language 'outperform native speakers' in GCSEs (The Independent, 5 March 2014) Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, said students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) scored better grades in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) than native speakers.

Free ebook – “Promoting Plurilingualism – majority language in multilingual settings”

28 January 2014 (ECML)

A free downloadable ebook from ECML which provides tools for majority language teachers focused on recognising, supporting and promoting plurilingualism. Registration is required.

Read more...

Joining the global conversation

15 November 2013 (TES)

Multilingual education is not just good for job prospects - it can also make young people better learners across the curriculum. But those who miss out may be left at a great disadvantage, even if they are native English speakers. William Stewart reports.

Read more...

Speak three languages? Then you must be a Londoner

24 October 2013 (London Evening Standard)

In a country often slated for its monolingualism, London is emerging as a hub not only of suave bilinguals, switching between French and English in South Ken cafés, but a new polyglot breed: the capital’s trilinguals.

Read more...

English should be Brussels' official language, Flemish minister says

23 October 2013 (EurActiv)

If Brussels aspires to be an international city, it should make English its official language, the Flemish minister for education Pascal Smet has told EurActiv. “For the next twenty years, English will dominate as a global language. It is the language of the political world, of the diplomatic world, the tourism sector,” Smet told EurActiv on the margins of the launch of a project to boost multilingual education in the Belgian and EU capital.

The Flemish minister of education spoke at the launch of the so-called Marnix Plan for a multilingual Brussels, a bottom-up project to promote language learning in the Belgian capital, giving priority to French, Dutch and English.

Read more...

I caught the language bug late but remain happily infected

18 October 2013 (The Telegraph)

This former soldier once hated learning languages – but ended up working as a translator in Brazil.

Read more...

Celebrating Multilingualism

24 September 2013 (Language Rich Europe)

This Thursday September 26 we will have the opportunity to celebrate the importance of language learning during The European Day of Languages.  But what is it all about? Multilingualism is an essential tool that allows people to achieve their full potential in both their professional and private lives. Learning a new language is also an experience of sharing other people´s culture and points of view. EUNIC and its members recognize the value of multilingualism and act concretely on local level throughout the year. On occasion of The European Day of Languages, a range of events are organized by EUNIC clusters around the world.

Read more...

Natural born linguists: what drives multi-language speakers?

5 September 2013 (The Guardian)

Get out there and chat to native speakers if you want to learn a language, a group of multilingual speakers tell Martin Williams.

Read more...

Key Findings: Languages in audiovisual media and press

2 September 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism and that goes beyond the education sector. You can browse all of the national/ regional profiles but in this post we focus on Languages in audiovisual media and press.

Read more...

What does research show about the benefits of language learning?

1 September 2013 (Observatoire européen du plurilinguisme)

In this age of accountability in education, policymakers and administrators, as well as parents, are increasingly demanding to know what research studies show regarding the benefits of language learning. This document, published by the American Council on the teaching of Foreign Languages, will identify some of the major correlation studies that highlight how language learners benefit from their experiences.

Read more...

Key Findings: Languages in further and higher education

19 August 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. You can browse all of the national/ regional profiles or simply focus on further and higher education by reading on.

Read more...

Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism

19 June 2013 (The Telegraph)

Learning a foreign language is more than just a boost to your CV or handy for travelling. It will make you smarter, more decisive and even better at English, says Anne Merritt.

Read more...

Languages in Europe: We can't afford to rely just on a lingua franca

29 April 2013 (British Council)

Our Language Rich Europe research shows, among other things, that there’s a tendency that English is beoming the most widely chosen language at schools in Europe. That’s not much of a surprise as English has established itself as the lingua franca across Europe, with 51% of EU citizens speaking it as their first or second language. In comparison, German comes second with a total of 27% of EU citizens speaking it. English is also the language predominantly used on the web and for business.

According to an estimate by META (Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance), 2000 languages worldwide will not survive in the globalised digitised world in a business and academic context. What does that mean for Europe? I have recently attended the Closing Conference of Language Rich Europe - so here are some thoughts...

Read more...

English and Linguistic Imperialism – Time to move on?

22 April 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

'Linguistic imperialism: still alive and kicking?’ was the topic of a British Council Signature Event at the recent IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Liverpool. Robert Phillipson, the author of the 1992 book Linguistic Imperialism, stated in his opening comments that ‘English opens doors for some but closes it for many.’ The concern that local languages are often neglected in preference for English was one shared by many attending the session, although Sarah Ogbay (University of Asmara, Eritrea) counteracted that ‘what we usually see is that people want to learn English because it opens the door’ to opportunities rather than it being forced upon them.

Read more...

US teen speaks 23 languages – video

9 April 2013 (The Guardian)

Timothy Doner, a 16-year-old from New York, shows off his ability to speak 23 different languages. He has taught himself a range of languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Swahili and Chinese. Doner is now what linguists call a hyperpolyglot.

Read more...

Call for Multilingualism Good Practice case studies

9 April 2013 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Language Rich Europe invites you to submit your European good practice case study for sharing via the official project website.  The LRE team will then review and publish your case study on the project website if it fulfils basic criteria.

We believe that a positive attitude towards multilingualism is important for a prosperous and stable Europe. The ability to communicate in other languages is essential if Europeans are to develop a broader international outlook and enhance their employment prospects. Good language policies and practices can create a positive framework within which successful language learning can take place. Sharing good practice case studies via this tool can also help us reach this goal.

Visit the website for more information and to fill in the submission form.

Read more...

The multilingual dividend

13 March 2013 (Financial Times)

A few years ago, when Antonella Sorace visited the European Central Bank in Frankfurt to talk about her research into bilingualism, she was astonished to find the bank’s multinational staff worrying about what should have been one of their families’ principal assets. “They had all kinds of doubts about the benefits of multilingualism for their children; they worried that their children weren’t learning to read or write properly – in any language,” she says. “I found it very instructive.”

Read more...

Research says dire foreign language skills are contributing to UK market failure

14 February 2013 (British Academy)

The UK's continuing market failure in language learning is highlighted today in a comprehensive British Academy review, Languages: the State of the Nation. Drawing on new research – including a survey of UK employers and labour market intelligence to identify the language skills demanded by employers – it concludes that while there is a plentiful supply of multilingual skills within UK society, more needs to be done to tap this supply, and to ensure our education system is equipped to support the UK's aspirations for growth and global influence.

Read more...

Olympic Games 2012: Legacy — Motion to Take Note

25 January 2013 (They Work For You)

Baroness Coussins raises the question in the Lords as to whether we took seriously enough the commitment to deliver a multilingual Games, and consequently whether we have short-changed ourselves on this aspect of the Olympic legacy.

Visit the website to read the full transcript.

Read more...

Language Rich Europe in the Netherlands – Multilingualism in Business and Education

11 November 2012 (Language Rich Europe blog)

As part of the Language Rich Europe project, we are holding workshops across Europe to discuss the findings and plan the next steps. In this blog post, Lorcan Murray, an intern at British Council Netherlands, writes about the workshop held in Utrecht in November.

Read more...

Language Rich Europe – Is everyone talking about multilingualism? And if so what are we learning and doing?

27 November 2012 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Next week 3-4 December, the Language Rich Europe partners and stakeholders conference will be taking place in London at the British Academy.

It will bring together some 150 high level professionals from 24 different countries and regions in Europe as well as the Project’s consortium of over 30 partner institutions. A lot of those participating have already been contributing heavily to the initial research stage and been running workshops in their own countries as part of the development and consultation process and are now actively building a network of 1200 policy makers and practitioners engaged in multilingualism across Europe.

Read more...

Related Links

Language Rich Europe hits the headlines! (Language Rich Europe blog, 28 November 2012)

Bring Your Voice to Our Upcoming LRE International Conference (Language Rich Europe blog, 28 November 2012)
The room may be full for our upcoming high-level debate, but we want you to take part! We will not only be live tweeting the highlights of the event from the British Academy in London, we are opening up the debate floor to your questions and views via twitter during the Multilingualism and Society session.

Foreign language skills 'cost Scottish businesses'

27 November 2012 (BBC News)

A widespread lack of language skills could be damaging Scotland's ability to trade abroad, a report has suggested.  The British Council study warned there was a tendency among Scottish firms to limit their export markets to English-speaking countries.

Read more...

Related Links

Fears raised for overseas trade as young Scots shy away from studying foreign languages (The Scotsman, 27 November 2012)
A crisis in foreign language teaching across Scottish education is damaging overseas trade, the British Council warns today.

Analysis: Speaking the lingo goes to prove that it’s not only travel that broadens the mind (The Scotsman, 27 November 2012)

Leaders: Greater language skills key to breaking trade barriers (The Scotsman, 27 November 2012)

Crisis in study of languages a risk to trade (The Herald, 27 November 2012)
A lack of foreign language skills is limiting the ability of Scottish companies to tap into lucrative overseas export markets, according to a new report.

Kaye asks why Scots are so bad at learning foreign languages (Call Kaye, BBC Radio Scotland, 27 November 2012) - programme available until 3 December 2012.

Trade danger of language teaching cuts (Scottish Daily Express, 27 November 2012)

Language cuts 'will hit Scottish economy' (Morning Star, 27 November 2012)

Language Rich Europe - Scotland (British Council, 2012)

GCU and OU partnership provides free language lessons for staff

20 November 2012 (Open University)

In a unique partnership arrangement with the Open University (OU), Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have provided their postgraduate students and their staff with the opportunity to study an OU language module in French, German, Spanish or Chinese. 82 GCU students and staff began beginners’ language modules in October, and more will sign up for higher level language modules starting in February. The face-to-face element of the OU tuition programme is being delivered on GCU’s Glasgow campus at times that fit with GCU’s timetable.

Glasgow Caledonian University places importance on the fact that language competence enhances employability and international mobility and values the Open University’s proven track record in language teaching.

Read more...

The Coaches: part four

20 November 2012 (Twitter - UEFA on YouTube)

UEFA.com speaks to the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Gérard Houllier, Arsène Wenger and Roy Hodgson about how they handle multilingual squads.

Read more...

Teaching in multicultural classrooms: tips, challenges and opportunities

7 November 2012 (The Guardian Teacher Network)

What does a range of nationalities in class bring to the teaching and learning experience? A collection of teachers give us a glimpse into their multicultural classrooms.

Read more...

The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual

31 October 2012 (The Dana Foundation)

Today, more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. In addition to facilitating cross-cultural communication, this trend also positively affects cognitive abilities. Researchers have shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain, thanks to its developed ability to inhibit one language while using another.

Read more...

Latest News

View all news

My World of Work resources for language learners More...

CLPL for primary teachers in 2018 More...

Gaining international experience and learning new languages enhances careers More...

St Thomas Aquinas Secondary new 1+2 Case Study: language uptake into the senior phase More...