Languages in the press

Languages in the press

Korean language speakers should take pride in Konglish – it’s another wonderful example of linguistic diversity

14 June 2019 (The Conversation)

Konglish is the term used to describe the variety of English unique to Korea. It is just one of many varieties of the English language that exists far beyond the borders of so-called “inner circle” Englishes – those spoken in countries such as Britain and the US, for example. As such, Konglish is sometimes met with hostility – even by Koreans themselves – and some regard it as synonymous with errors and failed attempts to learn “proper” English. Examples of additional Englishes beyond the inner circle can be found in India, Ghana and Singapore.

Largely on the basis that Konglish does not match up with the grammar and vocabulary that characterises the standard variety of inner circle English, it is hugely frowned upon by some. But why should it be?

Difference does not mean errors, as once a variety of language has taken hold within a society, then it has – for all intents and purposes – become legitimate. Even within the inner circle of British English, some Britons still roll their eyes at so-called Americanisms, such as “have you been menued yet?” (for the uninitiated, to be given your menu).

Call it what you like, but it’s just a different way of using the same language. But if we assert that all varieties of a language must conform to a singular model, then it is easy to indeed label those that don’t as somehow incorrect. This may be arguable from a societal point of view – but never from a linguistic one.


Britain´s Brexit hangover cure: Start learning languages

9 June 2019 (Shout Out UK)

Britain has a terrible attitude towards learning languages, and consequently, we are one of the least likely countries in Europe to be able to speak another foreign language; following only Hungary and Italy. In 2015, 9 per cent of 15-year-olds in the UK were competent in another language, compared with 42 per cent of Europeans.

Unsurprisingly, languages are not on Westminster´s agenda. However, if we want to better understand ourselves and our culture, a new language-based education system can be the policy to provide the modernizing cultural shift Britain requires.

The benefits of learning a second language are huge. Cognitive studies reveal a link between learning a language and fighting off the onset of dementia. For Brits, it will improve our employability and boost economic growth. Estimates say that the UK loses £50bn a year over its poor language skills: Put that on the side of a bus.

Yet, it is more than just about economics. It is about attitudes and what sort of country we want to be. Our poor language skills facilitate the worst types of Britishness. It is the fuel to our engine of superiority. The vote to leave the EU was a break from the anxieties that Britishness comes with, and it is no surprise that the other two European countries with the worst language skills are plagued by far-right populists.

However, it is important to be aware that language is bound to privilege. For many, learning another language is a form of elitism, reserved only for the few, and to impose language learning insensitively would be dangerous. Crucially, it is an agenda that needs the support of time, and protection from the threat of a new government legislating differently. We must be aware that to work, the policy will require a deep cultural change in Britain.


University Guide 2020: Modern languages and linguistics

7 June 2019 (The Guardian)

Find out more about studying modern languages from around the world and their literatures, as well as linguistics.


Teachers are now students thanks to Glasgow's modern language boost

6 June 2019 (Evening Times)

Only one Glasgow secondary languages teacher is not a multi-linguist as a new report reveals the success of language learning in city schools.

A Glasgow-wide push for the Scottish Government's 1+2 language scheme - where pupils learn two additional modern languages - has meant teachers are also students again.

And now teachers are trained in everything from British Sign Language (BSL) to Latin while language teachers are adding third languages to their skill set.

Gillian Campbell-Thow, Glasgow City Council's Quality Improvement Officer in Languages and Gaelic, said: "One of the things we are really committed to is ensuring that pupils get a good experience in that first additional language so we start in primary one and take the language right through to S3 - whether that's learning French as part of the Holyrood learning community or Italian in St Mungo's learning community.

"Our teachers have been really open and committed to taking on the challenge of learning a new language."


Is Scotland's school subject squeeze damaging pupils?

2 June 2019 (The Herald)

[...] Figures from the Reform Scotland think tank show a majority of schools now only offer six subjects in the fourth year of secondary school. Others schools, with a different interpretation of the curriculum, are still offering eight or nine, although this usually means choosing subjects earlier than CfE envisaged.

[...] With English and mathematics seen as essential, the narrowing means particular subjects are now in decline in S4. Research by Professor Jim Scott, from Dundee University, identified these as German, French, art, drama, music, computing studies and some sciences.


What doing journalism in a foreign language taught me about human nature

1 June 2019 (The Independent)

I have been in a committed relationship with the English language for almost 20 years. It all began in primary school, with clips of Muzzy (the animated character created by the BBC in 1986 to teach children English as a second language), the Winnie the Witch books, and group renditions of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” (an international hit if there ever was one).

Two decades later, English is the tool with which I earn my keep as a journalist. It’s the language I speak when I go home to my partner. It’s the pillar of so many aspects of my life, from the most fundamental to the most trivial. I read in English. I write in English. I argue in English. I dream in English. I discipline my dog in English. All this to say: the English language is the most useful gift I have ever been given, and I can barely believe there was a time when I didn’t speak a word of it. It has also taught me a valuable lesson about perfectionism.


Scotland's National Centre for Languages reviews where we are with Gaelic language learning in Scotland

31 May 2019 (GTCS)

Learning languages can have cognitive benefits for learners of all ages

Research by Bilingualism Matters at the University of Edinburgh explains that children exposed to different languages have a better awareness of other people’s perspectives; tend to be better than monolinguals at multitasking; are often more precocious readers; and generally find it easier to learn other languages. More recent research suggests that learning another language may have benefits in later life, delaying the onset of dementia symptoms and slowing cognitive aging.

Given the benefits of pluri-lingualism, demand for Gaelic Medium Education (GME) is increasing.  Glasgow Gaelic School opened in 2006 with only 33 pupils.  Now it has 343.  Education Scotland Parentzone (see states that:
“Gaelic Medium Education is available in 14 out of 32 Scottish local authorities … It is available in about 60 primary schools and their associated secondaries, including dedicated Gaelic Medium schools. An increasing number of early learning and childcare centres, secondary schools and further education centres also provide learning through the medium of Gaelic.”


Outlander's Scottish words and expressions explained

31 May 2019 (Screen Rant)

The Outlander series brings the world of 18th Century Scotland to life with startling accuracy... and that includes much of the language spoken, barely translated out of the Gaelic and Scottish slang. We're here to help fans learn the names, terms, and expressions they'll need to know.


It is never too late to learn a language according to ESRC research

30 May 2019 (ESRC)

The ability to learn a language does not decline with age, according to new research. 

A study by the University of York, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), has found that older people with healthy brains are as skilled as teenagers in picking up foreign or unfamiliar words.
The research led by Sven Mattys shows that even individuals in their 80s do not lose this knack acquired in infancy. The discovery could be a key, he says, to improving quality of life and well-being among the UK's ageing population.

"What we've shown is it's never too late to learn," adds Professor Mattys, from the Department of Psychology. 

"Being exposed to entirely new languages or words would allow older people to stay engaged with life.

"Creating these opportunities would reduce age-related isolation. As a consequence, this could delay the onset of dementia.

"Spending time abroad, watching films or listening to foreign language radio are ways of exposing people to new words and keeping their minds young."

The York study is the first of its kind to test the impact of ageing on this language-learning ability.


ScotRail launches sign language app to help deaf customers

30 May 2019 (The Herald)

Train operator ScotRail is introducing a new British Sign Language (BSL) app to help deaf customers communicate with staff.

In what is being described as a first for the UK rail industry, the app directly connects someone travelling on their trains or at the platform to an interpreter through a video call.

The interpreter will then pass on the query to a member of staff and sign the answer back.

ScotRail access and inclusion manager, Andrew Marshall-Roberts, said: “We’re committed to making the railway open and accessible for all, and teaming up with InterpreterNow to launch this new app is just one of the ways we’re doing that.

“Customers using British Sign Language as their main form of communication can now have the confidence to travel by rail, knowing our people can help with any query they have in a simple, straightforward way.”

The app, which launches on Thursday, uses the InterpreterNow service and is open to “any part of their journey” – from information to disruption times to queries at stations or ticket offices.


‘It was a no-brainer’: but does a degree from abroad really make a difference?

28 May 2019 (The Guardian)

Adam Hussain was about to go to university in 2013 when tuition fees in the UK nearly trebled to £9,000. With additional loans for living costs, he realised he would incur debts of £40,000. So when he saw a television report about an exodus of UK students to the Netherlands, Hussain decided to attend an open day at Maastricht University, where annual fees were €2,000 (then about £1,700). That year more than 1,000 British freshers started university in the Netherlands.

“I already wanted to live abroad; when the higher fees came in it was a no-brainer,” says Hussain, 24, who attended an east London comprehensive.

He chose a degree in European studies and said Maastricht was a truly amazing and enriching experience. “It has had such an impact on the way I want to live my life. And my education cost a fraction of what it would have in the UK.”

But with Brexit on the horizon, the number of students going abroad has plummeted. Maastricht University, one of the biggest recruiters from the UK, says applications dropped a quarter this year, with only 132 students joining last autumn. It expects a further fall because of Brexit uncertainty.

And a British Council survey in 2017 found that the proportion of students considering studying abroad had dropped from 34% in 2015 to 18%. While the Brexit vote was mainly blamed, “this might also be due to existing barriers to uptake such as the fall in the value of sterling and perhaps increased safety concerns,” says a British Council spokeswoman.

The UK government recently said it would increase fees for EU students studying in Britain, while UK students in the EU are likely to have to pay the high tuition fee charged to international students. This has led to calls for UK student loans to be made portable so young people can use them to study abroad.

The president of Maastricht University, Martin Paul, says that as the outcome of Brexit remains uncertain, “the way in which this impacts tuition fees for prospective British students is still unknown. Much of this depends on future agreements between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), says that if, after Brexit, EU students studying in Britain no longer have access to UK government student loans of £9,000 a year, the spare loan pot should be used to encourage UK students to study abroad.

But is it true that study abroad makes students more international in their thinking and more attractive to employers? Yes, says Hussain, who returned to London after graduation to work for a finance company, then taught English in China, before returning to Maastricht for a £2,000 master’s degree in public policy analysis. He graduates this year and says that, while his study abroad has fuelled his enthusiasm for working across the globe, it also had drawbacks.

“Some companies really are looking for people who have experienced international environments,” he says. “In that way my degree enhanced my employability.” Other employers, he says, may be more reluctant to take on a graduate from a university they do not know.


I regret not learning my mum’s first language. Britain needs those ties

27 May 2019 (The Guardian)

Journalist and author, Christina Patterson, writes when I was a child, the fashion was to ‘fit in’. But in the face of Little Englanders, we need cultural richness more than ever.

When I was a child, we had a ritual at the end of every meal. Tack för maten, we would each intone, as we licked our cutlery and placed it on our plates. Varsågod, my mother would say, as she slammed down the fruit bowl. My mother hated cooking, so she couldn’t actually claim that it had been a pleasure, or that we were very welcome, as the phrase implies. The important thing was that we had thanked her for the food, as instructed, and in the language instructed. Her children might be irritating, but at least they were reasonably polite.

I can’t sing in Yoruba, of course. I can barely sing in English, and a few years ago I had the excruciating experience of having to sing Swedish folk songs at regular intervals through an evening meal. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the sheets of paper next to the plates. I was in Sweden with my mother. My aunt had invited the neighbours round for dinner. Between courses, there was a custom my mother had forgotten to mention. Let’s just say that it doesn’t improve the taste of the food to sing in a language you can’t speak.

When my parents met, on a hill in Heidelberg, they didn’t speak each other’s language. The love letters they wrote, after they parted, were in German. The telegram my father sent was in English. “Will you marry me?” it said. Her telegram back was also in English: “Yes!”

My mother learned English. My father learned Swedish. Soon, she was fluent in English, German and Italian as well as Swedish, very good at French, and with a basic command of Thai (they lived in Bangkok for a while). My father, who had a first in classics at Cambridge, soon spoke fluent Swedish, German and Italian, and some basic Thai. They were all set, clearly, to produce a family of internationalists, perhaps in the mould of the Cleggs. Except that they didn’t. We all grew up monoglot in Guildford.


London children learning their mother tongue

26 May 2019 (BBC)

Over 300 languages are spoken in London, with some more widely spoken than others.

But an increasing number of parents are choosing for their children to learn their mother tongues, be it Cantonese, Urdu, Polish or in the case of a new cultural centre in south London, Yoruba.


A voice for Scotland or an irrelevance of history?: Why Gaelic interest is on the rise in Fife…

21 May 2019 (The Courier)

Michael Alexander hears about efforts to promote the Gaelic language in Fife. 

[..] According to the last major census of Scotland in 2011, only 57,375 people (1.1% of the Scottish population) speak Gaelic including just 0.3% of Dundee’s population (474 people out of 148,000) with some of its lowest use recorded in Angus and Fife where just 0.7% of residents were familiar with the language.

But more than 1500 years after the ancient language of the Scots first entered Argyll via the Gaels, more than 900 years after it reached its zenith as the language spoken the length and breadth of the country, and almost 300 years after the routing of the Jacobites at Culloden made the Scots tongue illegal before the Highland Clearances almost wiped it out completely, are centuries of Gaelic decline finally being halted?

Debate about the relevance of Gaelic in the modern world has reignited in Fife – formerly the Pictish kingdom of Fib – after figures revealed that one in every 30 speakers of Scottish Gaelic is now living in the Kingdom.

Fife Council’s Gaelic development officer Kirsty Strachan highlighted the statistic while outlining the region’s Gaelic Language Plan to councillors.


Belfast school has no language pupils at GCSE or A-level as interest slides across Northern Ireland

21 May 2019 (Belfast Telegraph)

A north Belfast school has revealed that it currently has no students studying languages at A-level or GCSE.

It comes as a new report published today shows that the number of pupils learning a modern language here continues to plummet.

The British Council's first Language Trends Northern Ireland report surveyed over 300 primary and post-primary schools.

It found that Spanish is now the language most frequently taught in local schools, followed by French and Irish.

In the eight-year period from 2010, GCSE entries in Northern Ireland dropped by 19% with significant falls in both French (41%) and German (18%), while Spanish rose by 16%.

The results were similar at A-level with the number of students taking French declining by 40% while German fell by 29%.

A number of primary and post-primary schools are now offering more diverse languages such as Mandarin and Arabic, which are recognised as crucial to the UK's long-term competitiveness, especially as the country plans to leave the EU.

Many respondents said they believed languages were no longer valued here and the rest of the UK.

Other barriers cited for the decline included the perceived level of difficulty of languages at GCSE and A-level.


UK Foreign Policy in a Shifting World Order (International Relations Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

21 May 2019 (They Work For You)

Baroness Coussins speaking in the Lords on the importance of a cross-government strategy on languages, backed up by committed leadership, transparent accountability and resourcing—one which acknowledges the importance of languages and linguists for the success and resilience of the UK’s future in the world. 


Related Links

Language learning: turning a crisis into an opportunity (The British Academy, Spring 2019)

Why arts? Arts degrees still have the single biggest intake of students

21 May 2019 (Irish Times)

“Arts and humanities cover a broad range of disciplines including, for example, classics, languages, the performing arts, literature, history, art, geography, music and philosophy,” says Dr Mel Farrell, director of the Irish Humanities Alliance. “It helps us to better understand the human condition and our shared human history and culture. Graduates in these disciplines play their part by contributing to a society which is culturally rich and globally-facing.”

Prof Victor Lazzarini, dean of arts at Maynooth University, points out that arts degrees give students a huge amount of choice. “At Maynooth, you can go for scientific-focused subjects such as maths, psychology or computer science, or you can choose more scholarly subjects such as classics and early Irish. Some subjects, such as music or media studies, have a very vocational direction. Arts degrees, unlike areas such as medicine, don’t tie you to a particular route.”

Prof Lazzarini says there is something for everyone in an arts degree, including students who prefer STEM subjects.

[..] Languages are a key part of modern arts degrees, and graduates with a European language – particularly where it is coupled with business or ICT skills – will find themselves in high demand.


Beware ‘lazy typecasting’ of working-class pupils

20 May 2019 (TES)

The row over languages availability reveals the false assumptions made about pupils in poorer areas, says Gordon Cairns.

Earlier this month, the press reported that schools in some areas were less likely to offer modern languages due to the socioeconomic environment. Statistics showed that pupils in prosperous districts were more than twice as likely to sit a foreign language exam compared with those in more economically challenged neighbourhoods. However, these figures referred to England and contrasted affluent Kensington in London with Middlesbrough in the deprived North East.

Despite similar headlines in Scotland, the story is not the same. Looking at middle-class Jordanhill and working-class Drumchapel, there is no gap in the uptake of modern languages due to deprivation in Glasgow. So why were journalists so keen to report the comments of modern languages lecturer and author Francisco Valdera-Gil to the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee without doing a basic fact check?

I think the remarks, which Valdera-Gil has since apologised for, were seized upon in part because the story buys into an underlying snobbery about poverty and foreign languages that has existed in Scottish culture, probably since the industrial revolution. You hear it from those working in Castlemilk, jokingly referring to the housing scheme as “Chateaulait”, the irony in the contrast of the melodious French and the harsh reality. Modern languages teachers in all of Glasgow's outlying schemes must be sick of hearing, “Would you not be better trying to teach them English?”

Despite welcome progress in tackling racial and sexual stereotyping, there is still a lazy typecast of working-class lives being narrow and lacking culture, and so when someone from the Scottish Council of Deans of Education backs this up, then, of course, it will be latched on to. As if anyone from one of Glasgow’s housing schemes would have aspirations to travel, work for a company with foreign contacts or simply have an affinity for a different culture, so why bother teaching them another language?

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Student mentors help pupils say ‘si’ to GCSE languages

18 May 2019 (The Guardian)

It is a question arguably more fiendish than mastering the French subjunctive or the thousands of characters in Mandarin. How can schools halt – and even reverse – the swift decline of languages at GCSE and beyond?

Now a pilot project may have found the answer. A report published today finds that numbers of pupils choosing to take a foreign language can be dramatically increased by mentoring from undergraduates who have chosen to specialise in the subject at university.

Independent analysis of a government-funded pilot in 10 Sheffield secondary schools found that more than half of participating pupils said they would take a language GCSE as a result of mentoring by undergraduates. The study showed that the programme also boosted take-up among pupils who were not mentored: GCSE entries this year for languages across schools in the Sheffield pilot are up 43% on 2018.


Applications to train as language teachers up by a fifth

17 May 2019 (TES)

The number of applications from people wishing to train as language teachers has risen by 22 per cent in a year, according to the latest data. 

Applications for Spanish teacher training were up 21 per cent this April compared to the same time last year, from 1,400 to 1,700, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

And applications for French teacher training rose by 14 per cent, from 1,610 to 1,840, while German teacher training applications rose by 16 per cent from 770 to 890. The number of people wanting to become trainee Mandarin teachers also rose – from 120 to 320.

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New sign language manual launched – complete with dialect words

14 May 2019 (The Shetland Times)

A new manual to help children and adults with communication difficulties has been launched for the isles.

“Signalong” is a key word-signing system, based on British Sign Language, in which adapted signs are used alongside speech to support communication.

This new manual has been developed to provide an image bank of over 250 signs, many of which have a Shetland flavour, including new signs for puffin, ferry, knitting, fiddle and Up-Helly-A’.

The manual has been developed by Signalong tutor Susie Fox, an additional support needs (ASN) teacher at Bell’s Brae Primary School in Lerwick, who has worked closely with the national communications charity.


First as journal publishes university research in Scots

9 May 2019 (The National)

Aberdeen University has achieved a first in modern academia by submitting scientific research in the Scots language.

The move was praised by The National’s Scots columnist Alistair Heather, pictured, who said the university is leading the “Scot-language renaissance”.


Could refugees help to solve the post Brexit language skills deficit?

8 May 2019 (Forbes)

Brexit unquestionably demands that Britain builds its linguistic prowess in order to maintain present levels of international trade and cooperation. As an island of monoglots, losing the wealth of language skills and cultural knowledge currently possessed by our EU citizens as they predictably abandon or avoid our country in future is likely to make us poorer in both monetary and non-monetary terms.

Recruiters already predict that finding candidates with the language skills necessary to conduct business with the EU, our largest trading partner, will be more difficult after Brexit. Britain's dire lack of European language skills is so acute that the government was recently unable to accurately translate its own Brexit proposal into German.


Teachers ‘lack understanding’ of the benefits of learning languages

8 May 2019 (TES)

It is a 'myth' that British people are just bad at languages and that MFL subjects are more difficult, MSPs are told.


Can you learn a language playing video games? What the research says

8 May 2019 (The Conversation)

Online gaming has become a concern for some parents in the past few years and there are worries children might become addicted, with negative effects on their socialisation. This has led some parents to think of creative ways to reduce gaming, including rationing the time children spend online.


EIS calls for two-year qualifications to be introduced for fourth year pupils to ease subject choices concern

2 May 2019 (The Courier)

Scotland’s largest teaching union has called for a major shakeup of classrooms by introducing two-year qualifications for S4 pupils in a bid to increase subject choice in schools.


Traditional masculinity may keep English-speaking men from studying new languages

29 April 2019 (The Conversation)

For decades, more women have been entering male-dominated educational fieldsand careers. The proportion of men in female-dominated areas, on the other hand, has remained mostly unchanged. Now, gender gaps in female-dominated undergraduate majors—like foreign language—are larger than gender gaps in biology, math or the physical sciences. Foreign language proficiency is a useful skill that can lead to job opportunities and potential cognitive benefits.


Children great Gaelic Visual Art exhibition in East Ayrshire

28 April 2019 (Cumnock Chronicle)

The Dick Institute is delighted to present Gaelic Visual Art: Project Exhibition, an exhibition by pupils from East Ayrshire’s Gaelic language provision primary school ‘Sgoil na coille nuaidhe’, translated as ‘New Beginnings School’ which will be on display from Friday 24 May until Saturday 22 June in the Young People’s Gallery.

Guided by visual artist and Gaelic speaker Eòghann MacColl, the pupils have been responding to themes from the exhibitions Michael Morpurgo, A Lifetime in Stories and Karl Blossfeldt, Artforms in Nature to create their own new artwork featuring video, large-scale charcoal works and illustrations.

Now in its second year, this unique creative learning project aims to promote the use of Gaelic and the development of Gaelic language skills utilising visual arts and culture, and is supported by Bòrd Na Gaidhlig and Creative Scotland.


Former SNP MSP: English not a 'proper language' of Scotland

28 April 2019 (The Herald)

The leader of a new ‘“inclusive” campaign group for independence has told most Scottish voters they do not speak a “proper language”. 

Dave Thompson, chair of Voices for Scotland, risked insulting electors by suggesting at the SNP conference that only Gaelic and Scots had true standing.

Mr Thompson, who was a Highlands & Islands MSP from 2007 to 2013, used the two languages to introduce himself to delegates at the start of Sunday’s session in Edinburgh.

He then said: “Apologies to those who do not have the two proper languages of Scotland."


Related Links

Former Highlands MSP suggests English not a ‘proper’ language of Scotland (The Press and Journal, 28 April 2019)

New competition launched in Moray to find master of Doric poetry

25 April 2019 (Press and Journal)

A new competition has been launched to challenge people on their knowledge of Doric.

Adults and secondary school pupils are being encouraged to write in their native Doric tongue for a poetry competition to be run at a Moray traditional music festival.

The Keith Traditional Music and Song Festival is held every year in June, with two other poetry competitions aimed at primary kids and families already in existence there.

However, this year will see the creation of the Aultgowrie trophy, given to the best writer of Doric verses aged 12 and above.


Rabbie's Tours reports record start to year with a boost from far afield

25 April 2019 (The Herald)

Small group tour specialist Rabbie’s has reported record sales and a rise in overseas visitors in the opening three months of the year, with Canadian, Australian and US customer numbers up significantly.

The Edinburgh-based operator also said there is a growing interest from Chinese visitors, and a number of dedicated Mandarin-speaking tours have also been “exceptionally popular”.


Narrowing of curriculum 'putting education of generation of pupils at risk'

24 April 2019 (The Herald)

A generation of pupils are at risk of having their education compromised because the number of subjects they can study is reducing, academics have warned.

The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) has created the “unintended consequence” of students being able to sit fewer exams, MSPs were told, with approximately half of Scottish schools only allowing six subjects at S4 level.

[..] Mr Scott identified five areas where the Scottish education is struggling: modern languages, ICT, arts, technologies, and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects.


Evolution of the world's second-largest language family began 6,000 years ago

24 April 2019 (News Week)

Some 1.5 billion people across the world speak one of the Sino-Tibetan languages, a family of languages linguists believe originated in Asia almost 6,000 years ago. 

The Sino-Tibetan family is made up of more than 400 languages and dialects, including Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese.


Facebook's flood of languages leaves it struggling to monitor content

23 April 2019 (Reuters UK)

Facebook Inc’s struggles with hate speech and other types of problematic content are being hampered by the company’s inability to keep up with a flood of new languages as mobile phones bring social media to every corner of the globe.

The company offers its 2.3 billion users features such as menus and prompts in 111 different languages, deemed to be officially supported. Reuters has found another 31 widely spoken languages on Facebook that do not have official support.

Detailed rules known as “community standards,” which bar users from posting offensive material including hate speech and celebrations of violence, were translated in only 41 languages out of the 111 supported as of early March, Reuters found.

Facebook’s 15,000-strong content moderation workforce speaks about 50 tongues, though the company said it hires professional translators when needed. Automated tools for identifying hate speech work in about 30.

The language deficit complicates Facebook’s battle to rein in harmful content and the damage it can cause, including to the company itself. Countries including Australia, Singapore and the UK are now threatening harsh new regulations, punishable by steep fines or jail time for executives, if it fails to promptly remove objectionable posts.


LEARN A LINGO All kids will have to study a foreign language GCSE in a bid to boost Britain’s bilingual skills post-Brexit

18 April 2019 (The Sun)

All schools will be ordered to sign their pupils up for foreign language GCSEs from September - and will be marked down if they don’t, The Sun can reveal.

In a bid to boost Britain’s bilingual skills Schools Minister Nick Gibb has set a target of getting three in four of all pupils studying and taking a foreign language GCSE by 2022.

Currently just under half of kids in England and Wales sit a foreign language GCSE.

But from September all secondary school starters will be expected to study one and take the exam.

And to get the numbers up schools will be assessed on the proportion of pupils studying foreign languages.

As well as being held to account by Ofsted inspections, schools will also be judged on their foreign languages take-up in league performance tables.


Sky Views: When Brits speak in foreign languages don't reply in English

14 April 2019 (Sky News)

An appeal to anyone outside an English-speaking country: when a Brit visits and attempts to talk in your language please don't reply in ours just because you can.

It's demoralising and actually - unless we're floundering and need help - rather rude.

I've lost count of the number of times I've bucked up the courage to attempt a bit of French in a French-speaking nation only to have the person I'm addressing shoot back in English.

I imagine most times the other person is simply trying to be polite, rather than get in a bit of English-language practice at my expense, but at least give me a chance.


English language usage and politicians’ prowess

14 April 2019 (The Guardian)

Terence McSweeney explains why English is often used internationally, Steve Callaghan says politicians need to invest in modern language teaching across all sectors, Philip Stewart recalls a teacher exchange scheme shunned by Thatcher, Anke Neibig explains why fewer students are taking up languages, and Paul Tattam on how the media can help.


Brexit risks unravelling the ties that bind us to the world

12 April 2019 (TESS)

Young people will lose out if leaving the EU leads to a slow, inexorable deterioration in international connections, writes Henry Hepburn.

Thirty years ago next month, I was one of several dozen pale, freckly young Scots who boarded a bus outside our school in Aberdeen; 24 hours later, we were in Paris. The journey can’t have been comfortable, but all I remember is the excitement and anticipation.

I was 13, had never been outside the UK before, and loved our four days in Paris: the camaraderie of adventurers abroad; the unintelligible trill of a foreign language in its natural habitat; the jutting beauty of picture-book landmarks come to life.

If it weren’t for that trip, I might never have taken French to the end of S6. That year, our studies were bolstered by a language assistant whose name I can’t now recall (Amandine? Manon? Aurélie?). An easy coolness set her apart from our stressed-out teachers. Her presence opened my eyes to the possibilities of studying a language.

Without meeting her, I don’t know if I’d have gone on to study French at the University of Glasgow, a decision that led to my spending a year as an English-language assistant at a lycée in Le Puy-en-Velay, amid Auvergne’s join-the-dots extinct volcanoes. That year gave me a more international outlook and established friendships around the world that have lasted the 23 years since. But my thirst to see and understand the world traces back further, to those few days in Paris as a wide-eyed 13-year-old.


Why don’t pupils want to study languages in the UK?

11 April 2019 (AHRC)

After a BBC report showed drops of up to 50% in the take-up of GCSE language courses since 2013, researchers from the AHRC-funded Open World Research Initiative Creative Multilingualism project ask: Why don’t pupils want to study languages and what can we do about it?

Professor Suzanne Graham and Dr Linda Fisher are researchers on Creative Multilingualism’s 7th strand, Language Learning, which is investigating the impact of using creative teaching materials and methodologies on pupils’ motivation and achievement.

Evidence showing that language learning is at an all-time low in UK secondary schools continues to mount up. Last month, having surveyed more than 2000 secondary schools, the BBC reported that in some areas in England entries to German and French exams have fallen by as much as 30 to 50% since 2013. The pattern is similar in all four UK countries: in Wales entries are down 29%, in Northern Ireland it’s 40%, with Scotland reporting a 19% fall for its equivalent qualifications. Rises in entries for Spanish and Mandarin, while welcome, are not enough to offset the overall drop in numbers.

Not only are fewer pupils choosing to study a language, but languages departments across the regions are limiting the range of languages they offer, mainly because if they haven’t got the uptake they can’t afford the staffing. Naturally, the impact of this continuing decline in numbers is likely to be felt further up the education chain, as even fewer budding linguists come forward to complete A-levels and languages degrees.

This gloomy picture of pupils rejecting languages as soon as they have the chance shores up the narrative that the British don’t or can’t do languages. In a 2015 British Council survey 62% of Britons said they can’t speak any other language apart from English.

It is important to recognise, however, that this narrative of deficit and deficiency is not a phenomenon solely located in the UK, but rather is an Anglophone world problem. 


Lord Agnew will take MFL teacher visa suggestion to Home Office

10 April 2019 (TES)

A schools minister will “take back” to the Home Office a recommendation that French, German and Spanish teachers should be given higher priority for visas.

The news comes amid concerns about the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and a Tes analysis which showed that England will need an extra 47,000 secondary teachers by 2024.

Tes has been running a campaign, #LetThemTeach, which is calling for the government to add the entire teaching profession to the shortage occupation list, which would make it easier for teachers outside the EU to get visas to teach in the UK.


German overtakes French as the language most sought-after by employers

10 April 2019 (The Independent)

German has overtaken French as the language most sought-after by employers, amid fears that companies face a shortfall of linguists, new research suggests.

Jobs site Indeed said vacancies specifying German language skills increased by more than a tenth over the past three years, compared with only a slight rise in demand for French speakers.

Chinese is now the third most popular language for companies seeking to recruit, the study indicated.


Listen to David Beckham ‘speak’ nine different languages to end malaria

9 April 2019 (The Metro)

David Beckham has ‘spoken’ in nine different language calling for an end to the killer disease malaria.

The former football star is given the voices of men and women from around the world – including malaria survivors and doctors fighting the disease. The ‘Malaria Must Die, So Millions Can Live’ campaign invites people to contribute their own voice to help end one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases.

According to the World Health Organisation, there were 219,000,000 cases of the disease in 2017.

Of those, 435,000 died – including one child every two minutes. In the short film, Beckham begins by speaking in English before appearing to converse fluently in Spanish, Kinyarwanda, Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Kiswahili and Yoruba.

Using AI video synthesis technology, producers created a 3D model of the father-of-four which they re-animated with the voices of eight others.


UK schools are turning to foreign governments to fund languages

9 April 2019 (The Guardian)

Some primaries would be unable to afford specialist language teaching without the money they receive from overseas schemes.

In Holly class, Matilda, aged six, calls the register. “Ciao, Tyler,” she says. “Presente,” he replies. “Ciao, Arthur,” she says next. “Ciao, Maestra Matilda,” he says. The class collapses into giggles: Matilda is taking the register as part of today’s Italian lesson. Her teacher, Stefania Cellini, helps the children count aloud to check everyone is there. Even though these year 1 pupils are only five or six, they easily count to 28 in Italian. “You are all bravissimi,” Cellini says.

Today, Cellini – the pupils call her Maestra Stefania – is teaching Holly class the names of common objects used in the classroom. She calls children to come to the front in turn to pick out objects from her pencil case without looking. “Apri l’astuccio e cerca la matita,” she tells Joshie. He rummages about and pulls out a pencil. The class applaud and Joshie smiles proudly.

Cellini is one of 70 Italian teachers paid by the Italian government to work in UK schools and promote the language. The scheme provides 112 primaries and 27 secondaries with an Italian teacher – for free.

Sadly, this level of language tuition is rare.


Why the future of French is African

8 April 2019 (BBC)

French President Emmanuel Macron has described Africa as "the continent of the future", but it may also save his country's language from the decline it is experiencing elsewhere in the world, writes Jennifer O'Mahony.

When Dakar rises each morning, the first port of call is the boulangerie for a baguette.

While chatting away on phone services provided by Orange, a hungry resident of the Senegalese capital might stop to get cash at local franchises of Société Générale or BNP Paribas, or visit a supermarket: there are Auchan, Carrefour and Casino to choose from.

On the surface, France retains a tight grip on its former colonies: major French telecoms companies, banks and retail giants are ubiquitous in countries such as Senegal, and its political influence remains significant.

And as a result of that colonial history, French remains the official language of Senegal, as well as 19 other countries across Africa.

But when that same Senegalese baguette-hunter is speaking, he might say he is going to the "essencerie" (petrol station) or "dibiterie" (restaurant serving meat), something more interesting is going on.

Africa is changing that most sacred of French cows: its language.


She loves you… sí, oui, ja: how pop went multilingual

6 April 2018 (The Guardian)

Pop stars once had to sing in English to win global fame. Now Spanish and other languages are taking over.

As Leonard Cohen sang: “We are ugly but we have the music.” He referred – rather harshly – to himself and Janis Joplin, but some might apply it more widely to the British and Americans.

“Rock and pop are American and English, and we understood that immediately,” French rocker Little Bob said recently, at home near the old bell tower in Le Havre that called dockers to work each grey dawn. Everyone knows English is the lingua franca of pop music. Less widely acknowleged is that the gyre is turning, that other languages, especially Spanish, are eroding the hegemony of pop and other genres.


Sofia Reyes: Meet Mexico's multilingual pop sensation

4 April 2019 (BBC)

"Trilingual empowerment anthem" isn't the sort of phrase that gets bandied about at record label marketing meetings; but that's exactly what Sofia Reyes has on her hands with her new single, RIP.

A vibrant, infectious slice of Latin pop, the song is a collaboration between the Mexican singer, Brazilian artist Anitta and Albanian-British pop star Rita Ora.

Each flits between Spanish, English and Portuguese as they sing about shedding unwanted emotional baggage, before teaming up for the addictive "bim-bari-bom-bom" hook (so it's actually quadrilingual, if you count gibberish).

Reyes' lyrical style evolved naturally from the way she speaks to her friends at home, where Spanish and English are largely interchangeable.

"Growing up in Mexico, we have a lot of American culture," she explains.

"So even though Spanish is my first language, at school English was very important, and we listened to English music all the time. So I wanted to sing in both."


Sorry, on ne comprend pas

4 April 2019 (Chatham House)

The BBC’s 1990s TV news satire The Day Today is still a favourite among Westminster insiders. In one celebrated sketch, political correspondent Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan is humiliated for implausibly claiming to have spoken to the German finance minister in German. It would not work in reverse. A German audience would – rightly – assume that any German journalist would speak excellent English and probably another language or two. 


‘Postcode lottery’ warnings as most Scottish schools only offering six subjects in S4

2 April 2019 (The Scotsman)

Most schools in Scotland are only offering six subjects in fourth year of school as teacher shortages and lack of leadership take their toll, a formal survey undertaken by MSPs has revealed.

There are even warnings of a “postcode lottery” from schools themselves, along with fears that the “progression” of youngsters may be thwarted in many subject areas, with languages among those which are likely to suffer.


Related Links

Lack of teachers ‘limiting’ school subject choices (The Herald, 3 April 2019)

From the archive: language learning as Britain joins the Common Market, 1973

31 March 2019 (The Guardian)

As Britain edged towards joining the Common Market in 1973 (Brentrance?), Marcelle Bernstein examined the rise in language learning among business people, students and potential tourists (‘Nation speaks unto nation, but in what language?’, 23 April 1972).


Parents of autistic children often face a tough linguistic choice – but bilingualism can be of huge benefit

29 March 2019 (The Conversation)

Bilingual or multilingual families have difficult choices to make if their child is diagnosed with autism. While it is certainly possible to be bilingual if you are autistic, many parents are advised that one language may be easier or more realistic than two. That is despite our research group finding that bilingualism has no negative effect on autistic traits, or in fact on any developmental disorder.

On the contrary bilingualism may be beneficial for autistic children, giving them more opportunities to socialise, more access to their cultural identity and, crucially, the chance to communicate with members of their wider family. In fact, our research suggests that parents of autistic children who are raised in a bilingual home overwhelmingly aspire for their children to grow up speaking two languages.


Chinese lessons for Loch Ness tour guides in Scotland

27 March 2019 (Express)

Nessie tour guides are being taught Mandarin to help them deal with the soaring number of monster-hunters from China.

Some 15 companies from across the Highlands have signed up for a pilot programme to give staff one-to-one lessons from tutors in the Far East. And among the businesses taking part is cruise boat operator Loch Ness by Jacobite. The project is part of the Instant Mandarin programme which has been backed by local tourism bosses.


More than NINE out of 10 Brits don’t know more than two words of British Sign Language

27 March 2019 (FE News)

There are 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK, yet new research has revealed that a staggering 94% of Brits admit that they do not know more than two words of British Sign Language (BSL).

The research, conducted by adult-education college, City Lit,reveals that over a quarter of Brits (27%) feel embarrassed that they can’t communicate with people with hearing loss, with 59% calling for sign language to be made part of the National Curriculum.

It is estimated that there are at least 24,000 people* across the UK who use BSL as their primary language. Yet some 61% of Brits feel that those who are deaf or suffering with hearing loss are marginalised from society because not enough people know how to communicate with them.

The research suggests that one common area of day-to-day life where people with hearing loss might experience marginalisation is in the workplace, with only one in five saying their employer has measures in place to help people communicate with deaf colleagues. Research by the NHS has shown that almost three quarters of deaf people (74%) felt that their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss, and over two thirds (68%) have felt isolated at work.

While 50% of people admit they don’t know any sign language, 60% would like to learn to communicate better with people with hearing loss.


Related Links

‘People get judged’ – meet Britain’s only deaf full-time football coach (The Guardian, 26 March 2019) Ben Lampert, who works with Brentford and England’s deaf team, wants a place for deaf players and coaches in the professional game.

Scotland would be biggest loser from abolition of Erasmus scheme after Brexit

24 March 2019 (The Herald)

A 30-year-old student exchange programme that faces the axe after Brexit disproportionately benefits students from Scottish universities, according to new figures. 

More students north of the Border choose to study and train in the EU through the Erasmus scheme than in nine other areas of the UK.

The Erasmus programme, which was set up in 1987, allows students to study or acquire skills in another EU country.

The Prime Minister’s Chequers agreement promised to “explore participation” in the scheme, but it was not mentioned in the political declaration on the future relationship with the EU that May negotiated.


Revealed: Prince William Can Speak Five Foreign Languages

24 March 2019 (The Cheat Sheet)

Albeit not a requirement, learning a foreign language is common in the royal family. Even Prince George and Princess Charlotte are already on their way to becoming bilingual — and they have quite the built-in tutor. Prince William is one of the most impressive linguists in the royal family and allegedly knows at least five foreign languages (some of which he is fluent in!). 

Just like his children, Prince William started learning a foreign language at a young age — partly because his father wanted him to be fluent in Welsh before becoming the Prince of Wales. But while some members of the royal family know one or two languages, the Duke of Cambridge has them beat with five (and possibly more). What languages does Prince William speak?  


Doric rules for Matthew during BCHS visit

23 March 2019 (Grampian Online)

Top Scottish author, translator and Scots language champion Matthew Fitt made a marvellous return visit to Moray secondary schools as part of their World Book Day celebrations.

During his two day tour of Moray, March 4-5 Matthew visited five secondary schools (Buckie, Keith, Milne's, Elgin Academy and Forres) and led seven sessions of book talks and Scots language writing workshops with pupils.

His book talks involved him telling pupils about his work as an author and translator of books into Scots. 


Erasmus gave me an opportunity I would never otherwise have had

22 March 2019 (The Guardian)

Joining the tremendously long list of downsides to the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union is the possible loss of the Erasmus programme, an exchange scheme that has given more than 3 million students the chance to study in 37 countries since 1987. Of course, there are many other exchange schemes across the world, but the majority require the student to have several thousand pounds spare for tuition, accommodation and so on.

Losing Erasmus is another devastating blow for the social mobility of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Not only are they about to lose the freedom to live and work in the EU, they have also lost incredible opportunities to immerse themselves in another culture and build invaluable skills, which research has proven sets them up for the world of work much better than their peers who don’t undertake Erasmus placements.


Travels have made me ashamed of being monolingual British

22 March 2019 (The Herald)

After two weeks in South America conversing with a wide range of fellow European travellers, I’ve never been more sheepish when answering the question, “Where do you live?”

The saving grace was my Scottish accent. To a one, all my conversational companions pointed out – kindly, to buck me up – that Scotland had not voted for Brexit.

At a tango class in Buenos Aires my Portuguese dance partner gave quite the impassioned lecture on independence. He could not comprehend leaving the EU.


Major study of Scots vocabulary being launched by University of Aberdeen

21 March 2019 (BBC)

A major new linguistic survey of the Scots vocabulary is being launched, in a bid to help preserve the language.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen will lead what they describe as the first comprehensive appraisal of the language to be conducted since the 1950s.

It will cover Scots as well as what is known as Ulster-Scots.

The project - said to be a "huge undertaking" - is expected to take many years to complete.


Highland tourism businesses embark on innovative programme to cater for Mandarin speaking visitors

20 March 2019 (Press and Journal)

Tourism businesses from across the Highlands are returning to the classroom to improve communication with an increasing number of Chinese visitors.

In total, 15 companies from across the Highlands have signed up to the online pilot teaching course to help their organisations to capitalise on the influx of visitors to the area.

The Instant Mandarin online teaching programme has been supported by some of China’s best known educational establishments and provides one-to-one tuition for users via its online resource.

Kevin Diao, Instant Mandarin’s founder, said: “We are looking forward to working closely with Scottish businesses to help them to easily learn and understand more about the world’s most widely spoken language.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring some of the world’s most qualified Mandarin teachers directly into the homes and workplaces of those who engage with Chinese tourists on a daily basis, improving both the visitor experience and ultimately business performance with one of the world’s fastest-growing consumer markets.”


Bawbag, bam and hee-haw added to Oxford English dictionary

20 March 2019 (The National)

From arts to science, from culture to food and drink, Scotland has made an indelible mark on the world.

Scottish languages, too, have contributed to our unique cultural heritage.

And now the charm of the Scots language is being brought to a wider audience as the Oxford English Dictionary adds an array of words to its latest edition.

A range of Scots words, including bawbag, bampot and hee-haw, are being added to the principle historical dictionary of the English language.

Among some of the other words in the latest update are fantoosh (an adjective used to portray someone who is flashy, stylish, fashionable and exotic, often used disparagingly, implying ostentation or pretentiousness); bide-in or bidie-in (a person who lives with his or her partner in a non-marital relationship); baffies (meaning slippers, bealach, meaning mountain pass, bosie, used to describe a person’s bosom or a cuddle, hug) and coorie (often used alongside down or in and meaning to crouch, stoop or keep low or to snuggle or nestle).


Children who live in bilingual environment show better attention control

20 March 2019 (Devdiscourse)

According to a recent study, children who live in homes where two languages are spoken have shown better attention control than kids in a monolingual family. Infants who sense more than one language show better attention control than the infants who hear only one language. This proved that exposure to a bilingual environment can be a significant factor in the early development of attention in infancy says the study published in the journal Developmental Science.

"By studying infants, a population that does not yet speak any language, we discovered that the real difference between monolingual and bilingual individuals later in life is not in the language itself, but rather, in the attention system used to focus on language. "This study tells us that from the very earliest stage of development, the networks that are the basis for developing attention are forming differently in infants who are being raised in a bilingual environment. Why is that important? It's because attention is the basis for all cognition," said Ellen Bialystok, co-author of the study.


Why French Will Remain The "Other" Global Language

20 March 2019 (World Crunch)

According to the projections of The International Organization of La Francophone, the language of Molière will retain its status in the next half-century thanks to the demographic growth of Africa.

Molière would be happy. Fifty years from now, French will be spoken by 477 to 747 million people around the world, according to estimates from the annual report of The International Organization of La Francophonie (OFI), published this month. The forecast is a major jump from the 300 million French speakers today, thanks to the growing population of the African continent, who make up two-thirds of the planet's francophones.

French would thus remain behind English as the second truly global language in the world — spoken on four continents (North America, Europe, Africa, Oceania) — if one takes into account that Chinese is primarily spoken in one country, and that Spanish is practiced on two continents, and that many different languages are spoken within the Arabic federations. Today, French is the sole official language in 14 countries and co-official language in 17 other countries. Its status as the dominant language in education, public administration, media, or trade in some 50 countries provides a significant advantage to businesses within Francophone countries, since they have an advantage over their competitors faced with a language barrier.


Pupils who learn lessons in Gaelic come top of the class

20 March 2019 (The Herald)

An ever-present amongst the top schools in Scotland over the past few years has been the Glasgow Gaelic School.

This year is no exception with the school coming top for council-run state schools in Glasgow and tenth overall after 68 per cent of school-leavers secured five or more Highers.

Although located to the west of the city centre, the school is unusual because its catchment area covers the whole of Glasgow and all lessons are taught through the medium of Gaelic.

When the secondary opened in 2006 it only had 33 pupils, but there are now 343 and numbers are growing.

Donalda McComb, the school’s headteacher, said the bilingual nature of the education on offer helped boost attainment and provided a special atmosphere.


Authors lined up for first Soutar Festival

19 March 2019 (Daily Record)

A stellar line-up of best-selling authors has been announced for a new literary festival in Perth.

Authors Alex Gray, Bernard MacLaverty, Ajay Close and Douglas Skelton will all be part of the line-up for the inaugural Soutar Festival of Words next month.

The weekend-long festival will celebrate Scots language, Gaelic and contemporary Scottish culture at a number of venues across the city, such as AK Bell Library, Perth Museum and Art Gallery and St John’s Kirk.

Running from Friday, April 26 until Sunday, April 28, over 20 events will be held, including poetry slam, children’s events, music and a chance to try out creative writing.


The Future Of Language Learning Is Coming Soon From Volangua

19 March 2019 (PR Underground)

Announcing the launch of Volangua. Created by a collective of professionals from the language education sector, with a mission to make learning a language accessible to everyone, Volangua aims to change the way people access and participate in language courses. 

Volangua is a comparison site at its core, built by professionals from the foreign language industry. It uses advanced refine options and reviews to present objective information on its schools and the ability to book directly from its site.

Volangua will offer direct access to language schools for students around the world. The platform automates the booking process and makes the search and process of enrolling students easier.

Francisco Santos Founder of Volangua said, “Comparison websites are helping millions of people to travel, buy insurance or find their next home, but no one offers comparisons for language course using our tech, despite the popularity of learning a new language. We want to make learning a new language accessible to everyone. We want to bring tech to learning a language, that’s where Volangua sees an opportunity, to connect users with schools and course suited to their needs.”


Erasmus scheme in chaos as UK students left in limbo

19 March 2019 (The Guardian)

The 17,000 students about to do a year abroad face huge uncertainty over funding and accommodation

For Alice Watkins, a Manchester University student, a year in Paris, then Madrid, as part of her degree was a dream. Now, with the turmoil of Brexit, she is preparing to arrive in France this summer with nowhere to live and no idea whether the money will still be there to support her.

“It’s horrible not knowing,” Watkins says. “We’ve been told to take at least £1,200 of our own cash to cover us for the first six weeks, and that we can’t realistically sort any accommodation before we arrive. Turning up abroad with nowhere to live is a big stress.”

Last Wednesday the European parliament voted to guarantee funding for UK students already studying abroad on the Erasmus+ student exchange programme, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. It also promised to continue supporting European students already in the UK on the scheme.

But uncertainty hangs over the 17,000 British students who had planned to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from this September. A technical note, published by the government at the end of January, failed to guarantee any funding for the scheme if Britain leaves the EU with no deal.

Watkins, like many language students, regards a period living and studying in Europe as a crucial part of her degree in French and Spanish. “We are people who plan to live and work abroad in the future. We were too young to vote in the referendum and we are the ones whose future is being affected. It’s all such a mess,” she says.


Brexit has made me afraid of speaking my native language in the UK

15 March 2019 (Metro)

When I first came to the UK in 2005, I was shocked to see so many people of different backgrounds living together peacefully.

On the first day, when my uncle picked me up at Stratford station, I was crying because I was so overwhelmed. Before I came here, I had never seen a black person or a woman wearing a headscarf. Suddenly, I wasn’t different anymore – I could walk down the street and nobody harassed me.

During my first days in the country, I went into a shop and was greeted with ‘How are you my darling?’. I felt like I was in heaven.


‘We spoke English to set ourselves apart’: how I rediscovered my mother tongue

14 March 2019 (The Guardian)

While I was growing up in Nigeria, my parents deliberately never spoke their native Igbo language to us. But later it became an essential part of me.

[..] None of us children spoke Igbo, our local language. Unlike the majority of their contemporaries in our hometown, my parents had chosen to speak only English to their children. Guests in our home adjusted to the fact that we were an English-speaking household, with varying degrees of success. Our helps were also encouraged to speak English. Many arrived from their remote villages unable to utter a single word of the foreign tongue, but as the weeks rolled by, they soon began to string complete sentences together with less contortion of their faces. My parents also spoke to each other in English – never mind that they had grown up speaking Igbo with their families. On the rare occasion my father and mother spoke Igbo to each other, it was a clear sign that they were conducting a conversation in which the children were not supposed to participate.


Why learning another language is still a sign of privilege

13 March 2019 (The Conversation)

There is a class divide in language education in England. Young people from working-class backgrounds in socially deprived areas are far less likely to choose, or have the opportunity, to study languages at secondary school, than their more affluent peers.

Foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium – recent BBC analysis shows a drop of between 30% and 50% of students taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England.

But this is not a new claim. Researchers started to highlight a class divide emerging just after the Labour Party changed languages from being compulsory to optional at GCSE in 2007. Once languages no longer needed to feature on league tables, many schools dramatically reduced the number of students sitting language exams.

The Language Trends 2015 report found direct correlations between socioeconomic disadvantage and restricted access to languages. It was found that the schools in the most socially deprived areas excluded 17% of pupils from language study in key stage three (11-14 years-old) and 44% of pupils at key stage four (14-16 years-old).

Recent findings suggest things haven’t improved – 76% of students in selective schools sat a GCSE in a language compared with only 38% in sponsored academies. There is also a geographical divide appearing, with young people living in London and the south-east more likely to take a language at GCSE. All other areas in England have recorded a decline – and the north-east has been the worst affected.


Brexit: Why Scotland faces a slow decline

13 March 2019 (The Scotsman)

Brexit will not be a cliff but a long decline, with a steady trickling away of energy and vibrancy from Scotland, a country with closer cultural ties to Europe than you might think, writes Alistair Heather.

[..] More than genetics, more than common names bind us to our European neighbours. The very words in our mouths indicate our shared past and common present. The Scots language has common words in the Scandinavian language – such as ‘bairn’ for child and ‘braw’ for good – and in Ireland, our near European neighbour, Ulster Scots retains some vibrancy. Our own Scots Gaelic started life as the Ulster dialect of Irish, the shared languages evidence of endless Hiberno-Scottish relations. 

[..] There are many tens of thousands of new Scots who are absolutely European, and no vote will change that. The Polish, Baltic state, Romanian migrants and their children, many Scottish born, who make up chunks of our population are and will remain European. Their next generation will likely be at least bilingual, with one modern European language as a mother tongue. Much as the great Irish migrations have redoubled the connections between Scotland and Ireland, so too will the legacy of the more recent eastern European migrations culturally tether future Scots to those countries.

This is not an article in defence of the EU. This is an article in favour of open borders, of knowledge sharing, and of cooperation.


Modern languages and Gaelic hit by narrowing curriculum

12 March 2019 (Press and Journal)

A reduction in the range of subjects studied by secondary pupils has led to fewer children studying science and languages including Gaelic, it has been claimed.

Parents and teachers suggested the narrowing of the curriculum at S4 was a “catastrophe”, which harmed attainment and resulted in pupils making subject choices “too soon”, reducing the range of their education.

Submissions made to Holyrood’s Education Committee criticised a new three-year senior phase that has resulted in many schools cutting subject choices from eight to either six or seven.

Scotland’s national Gaelic centre Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye blamed narrowing of the secondary school curriculum for the language’s “severe” decline.


‘How learning a foreign language changed my life‘

12 March 2019 (Hanahan Herald)

The number of teenagers learning foreign languages in UK secondary schools has dropped by 45% since the turn of the millennium.

The reaction to the research was mixed. Why learn a foreign language when English is spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, some people wondered.

Others questioned the need for a second language when translation technology is advancing so quickly.

But many speakers of foreign languages extolled the benefits. Four native English speakers tell how making the effort to learn a second language is important – and how it changed their life.


Playwright says Scotland has ‘lost the Gaelic language war’

10 March 2019 (The Scotsman)

The Glasgow-born author of a play connecting the Scottish and Quebecois independence referendums has praised the French Canadian province for “hanging on to” its language as a symbol of the independence movement.

Linda McLean, who co-wrote Premiere Neige/First Snow with Davey Anderson and Quebecois playwright Philippe Ducros, said Scotland had “lost the language war” two centuries ago and it was “kind of great” that Canadian Francophones, who are more likely to support Quebec becoming an independent state, have kept their language.

The bilingual play, which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival last year in a project linking the National Theatre of Scotland and Quebec theatre groups Theater PÀP and Hotel-Motel, is currently showing for the first time in Montreal.

“In Scotland we lost the language war 200 years ago,” she said. “There’s still a lot of people concerned with how quickly Gaelic is disappearing. I know that my great-grandparents spoke Gaelic before they came to Glasgow and within a generation it was gone, apart from the odd word passed down. But I was struck by just how strong is the identification with language in Quebec independence."


Making the case for multilingualism – a timely reminder

9 March 2019 (The Spectator)

English as the world’s lingua franca isn’t going anywhere. Why, then, should we Anglophones bother to learn another language? What’s in it for us? And what, more seriously, are the implications if we decide not to bother?

Digging deeply into these questions, Marek Kohn’s book asks what it actually means to have some mastery of another language (is that the same as being ‘fluent’, or being able to ‘speak’ another language?), and looks at language acquisition, at how the language we happen to speak can alter perception, whether there are cognitive benefits to multiple language use, and what roles the state can play in determining how languages are valued or stigmatised.


'Brexit means we can't ignore the decline of MFL'

9 March 2019 (TES)

A skill deficit that costs the UK economy an estimated 3.5 per cent of GDP.

A knowledge vacuum that 74 per cent of business leaders identify as a major barrier to career success for graduates in today’s world of work.

You may assume that I am talking about science, technology, engineering or maths – subjects which occupy so many headlines, especially where opportunities for girls and young women are concerned.

But, no.

These stats relate to foreign languages, an area that rarely attracts comment and stands pretty low on the national educational agenda at the moment.

And yet, Britain is in danger of sleepwalking into an employability crisis, as many educators continue to turn a deaf ear to the research and the warning signs highlighting a comparative skills gap for our graduates that will materially harm their employment prospects in the coming years. We are in danger of nurturing a generation of global consumers who are incapable of flourishing as global citizens, earners and opinion-formers.


Bearsden pensioners keep dementia at bay with language lessons

7 March 2019 (Evening Times)

These ladies may be ­enjoying their golden years after decades of working and raising families but, they’re proving it’s never too late to learn a new language.

The women at Meallmore’s Antonine House care home has teamed up with Glasgow-based social enterprise Lingo Flamingo, who visit once a week to provide interactive French classes.

It comes after research showed speaking multiple languages can delay the onset of dementia by up to five years.

Staff at the home say the classes also help to improve residents’ cognitive ability, communication skills and well-being, as well as build their confidence.


The importance of using Scots language in the classroom

7 March 2019 (TES)

Scots speakers must be encouraged by teachers to use and celebrate the much-neglected language, says Bruce Eunson.

The 2011 census reported that over 1.5 million people in Scotland speak Scots language. If we were to say that roughly a third of adults speak Scots, could we also say that a third of Scotland’s children and young people speak Scots?

That might be going too far. Scots is a minority language and one that many believe is dying out. We would be able to measure that more accurately if the 2001 census or the 1991 (or any previous census ever recorded) had asked all adults living in Scotland if they could speak, read, write and understand Scots. The 2011 census asked the question for the first time because Scots language has for so long been seen as either something of the past, or as a dialect of English, or as being simply “wrong” or “bad” or “slang” – or many other derogatory terms that led to Scots being marginalised from both education and wider society.

If you work in a school, do a third of the weans or bairns there speak Scots? Think beyond the classroom. Because Scots has suffered so many years of low status, neglect and of being undervalued, there are a huge number of children and young people who are using Scots in the playground with their friends, at the front gate of the school with their mam or their grandad in the morning and afternoon – but who do not bring that wealth of vocabulary and creativity with them into the classroom.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).


Sixth forms drop languages A-levels due to 'inadequate' funding

6 March 2019 (The Guardian)

Half of sixth forms in schools and colleges have been forced to drop A-levels in modern languages as a result of “totally inadequate” funding of post-16 education, according to research.

French, Spanish and German have been hardest hit – 57% of sixth form leaders who took part in a survey said German courses had been axed, 38% have dropped Spanish, 35% had ditched French and 15%, Italian.

The poll by the Sixth Form Colleges Association comes as concerns rise about dwindling language skills in schools, but school and college leaders say funding cuts and cost increases in post-16 provision make it impossible to put on courses for small numbers of students.


Related Links

A-level courses 'cut in sixth-form funding squeeze' (BBC, 6 March 2019)

Should learning a second language be a priority for pupils? (Kent Online, 6 March 2019) - video report asking the question to shoppers in Maidstone.

Argyll and Bute Council’s Gaelic gathering a success

5 March 2019 (Buteman)

The second Argyll Gaelic Gathering took place at Corran Halls in Oban on Saturday (March 2).

More than 60 delegates enjoyed a packed full day, with a call to increase the pace of Gaelic language development delivered by keynote speaker John Swinney MSP, the Deputy First Minister.

The theme was picked up by policy and practice experts who included Shona MacLennan for Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Dr Gillian Munro for Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

The value of Gaelic to Scotland’s heritage and its economy was discussed by Ruairidh Graham from Historic Environment Scotland and Rachel MacKenzie from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The importance of keeping Gaelic of continued appeal to young people was ably demonstrated by Dòmhnaill Morris of Spòrs Gàidhlig and Arthur Cormack from Feisan nan Ghaidheal, and not least by young advocates of the language themselves – musicians and broadcasters Kim Carnie and Iain Smith.

Councillor Robin Currie, policy lead for Gaelic, said: “It was great to see academics, professionals, learners and ordinary members of the community get together to share our passion and commitment for increasing the use of Gaelic both in our communities and in the fields of tourism and heritage.

“Argyll and Bute Council was pleased to see the variety of good ideas and hope to build on them going forward.”


How British Sign Language developed its own dialects

5 March 2019 (The Conversation)

There are many different ways of speaking English in the UK, with people using different regional dialects in different parts of the country. For example, some people would say “give it me” while others might say “give it to me”. There is also variation in the names given to everyday items like bread roll. Even when the same vocabulary is used, there are differences in accent – in how words are pronounced. For example, some people pronounce “foot” and “cut” so that they rhyme, while others do not.

What is perhaps much less well known is that the majority sign language of the UK’s deaf community, British Sign Language (BSL), also varies from one part of the country to another – it is clear that BSL has dialects. We do not know if BSL has regional accents (systematic differences in the pronunciation of the same signs) but research has found that deaf people from different parts of the UK use distinct regional signs for the same meanings (like the variation in words meaning “bread roll” in English mentioned above).

Many people mistakenly assume that sign language is some kind of universal form of communication. In fact, there are over 100 different sign languages in the world today. Like all natural sign languages, BSL was not invented by any single individual, but developed spontaneously.

BSL began to emerge centuries ago when deaf people gathered together to form communities across the country. As it developed separately from English, BSL has vocabulary and grammar that is different. For example, a single sign can be used to mean “I haven’t seen you in ages”. The order of signs in a question such as “what’s your name?” may be unlike typical English order too, with the question sign meaning “what” coming at the end of the sentence.


MPs and Peers in urgent call for a National Recovery Programme to revolutionise language skills in the UK

4 March 2019 (British Council)

Britain’s dwindling language skills are a disaster for the country and must be recovered through concerted action led by the government and supported by us all, a group of MPs and Peers warns today. 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages National Recovery Programme for Languages makes an economic, international relations and security case for a renewed focus on language learning in Britain.

It argues that languages are not just an issue for schools, but that their educational and cultural value means that businesses, government and higher education institutions must all play a part.  

It highlights:

  • The UK loses 3.5 per cent of GDP in lost business opportunities due to our poor language skills; SMEs who deploy languages report 43 per cent higher export/turnover ratios.
  • That homegrown language skills are vital to national security, diplomacy and international relations
  • Young people need languages to become culturally agile, ready for the mobile and inter-connected jobs of the future.


No habla español? How Netflix could transform the way we learn languages

2 March 2019 (The Observer)

Amid concern over the fall in pupils studying foreign languages, a new online tool has turned the streaming service into a classroom.

For years people around the world have learned English by watching Hollywood movies and costume dramas on the BBC. Now British monoglots have one less excuse for not returning the favour: a new online tool that turns the streaming service Netflix into a sofa-based language lab.

Language Learning With Netflix (LLN), a tool that allows viewers to watch foreign language shows with subtitles both in the original language and English, and pauses automatically to allow the learner to absorb what they have just heard, has been downloaded by tens of thousands of people since its launch in December.

Amid growing concern over the falling number of pupils taking foreign languages in secondary schools, some linguists have hailed LLN as a dynamic way of harnessing the educational potential of Netflix, which has programmes in 26 languages in 190 countries, and aims to have 100 non-English language series in production by this year.


Brexit Britain cannot afford to be laissez-faire about its languages crisis

1 March 2019 (The Guardian)

National myths play a central role in the story of a country, and the UK is no exception. Over the centuries, we Britons have come to believe that we are naturally proficient – exceptional, even – in certain pursuits. These include engineering, literature, the classics, pop music, geography and football. As the country that gave the world Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Beatles, and the beautiful game, perhaps we have a point. To be British, we understand, is to excel in these areas, and this tacit understanding powers us on to ever greater achievements.

But it is instructive, when thinking about the UK and Britishness and what might lie in store for us in the future, to consider the pursuits about which we do not feel so confident. Of these, by far the most significant – and the most worrying – is other languages.

At some point in our history, we seem to have accepted the idea that we do not need to learn languages and that we are not very good at them anyway. This is curious, given that we are an island nation that needs to trade to survive.

[...] This simply cannot go on. With Brexit just around the corner, it is critical we start to value languages and wake up to the enormous advantages multilingualism can bring.


'How can we rejuvenate languages learning in Britain?'

1 March 2019 (TES)

Get the basics of recruitment, retention and training right - then build a genuine love of learning languages, writes Geoff Barton.

This week’s dispiriting news about the decline in young people choosing to study French and German at GCSE is also a sad reflection of what is wrong with the government’s approach to education policy in general.

To recap: a BBC analysis shows that foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling most. And this analysis shows drops of between 30 and 50 per cent since 2013 in those taking GCSE language courses in the worst-affected areas in England.

My take on these stark findings is that when we examine why this is happening we encounter some familiar themes.

The first of these is teacher supply. The most recent initial teacher training census shows us that the government has failed to hit the target for recruiting trainee modern foreign languages teachers for the past five years in succession.

The second is lack of funding. In an education system which is struggling to make ends meet, the most vulnerable subjects are those with smaller classes – and inevitably this often means languages.

And the third is the idea that accountability measures are a magic wand. The government’s solution to the languages crisis is to make languages part of the EBacc and set a target for a 90 per cent uptake by 2025.

In reality, the percentage of pupils entering EBacc is stuck stubbornly at around 38 per cent. The latest DfE statistics tell us: “Of those pupils who entered four out of the five EBacc components, the majority (83.8 per cent) were missing the languages component in 2018.”

So, the crisis in modern foreign languages is a microcosm of the wider problems with education policy. Not enough money, not enough teachers, and an over-reliance on the blunt instrument of accountability.

Of course, a lot of people will say that the mistake with languages was made back in 2003 when the then Labour government decided they should no longer be compulsory after the age of 14. And there will be plenty of people out there who think the answer is to make them mandatory at key stage 4 once again.

But I don’t subscribe to that view. I think we need to move away from the mindset that making people do things is the answer to problems and instead take a more productive view about how we would really solve this crisis.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).


Scotland census under fire for sidelining foreign languages

28 February 2019 (The Scotsman)

The growing number of multilingual speakers in Scotland are being sidelined by the country’s census which portrays a “monolingual English-only speaking country”, experts have warned.

There are now calls for the changes to the next national census in 2021, to better reflect the “linguistic diversity” of the country. Think tank Reform Scotland says the current system “conveys a negative attitude to languages.”

MSPs will today vote on the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood, but there are calls for a more suitable question about the languages spoken in Scotland.

Reform Scotland Research Director Alison Payne said: “We do not know precisely how extensively other languages are spoken in Scottish households, because sufficient data does not exist to tell us this due to the flawed nature of the census question.

“We can fix this relatively simply, by asking a better question, and indeed a question which does not suggest speaking a language other than English is a bad thing.

“A minor change will give us more accurate and better data which can help inform government strategy to encourage more people to speak more languages.”


How your language reflects the senses you use

27 February 2019 (BBC)

Which do you find easier to describe: the colour of grass, or its smell? The answer may depend on where you are from – and, more specifically, which language you grew up speaking.

Humans are often characterised as visual beings. If you are a native English speaker, you may intuitively agree. After all, English has a rich vocabulary for colours and geometric shapes, but few words for smells. However, a recent global study suggests that whether we mainly experience the world by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling varies hugely across cultures. And this preference is reflected in our language.


Language learning: German and French drop by half in UK schools

27 February 2019 (BBC News)

Foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling the most.

BBC analysis shows drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the numbers taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England.

A separate survey of secondaries suggests a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options.

In England, ministers say they are taking steps to reverse the decline.

The BBC attempted to contact every one of the almost 4,000 mainstream secondary schools in the UK, and more than half - 2,048 - responded.

Of the schools which responded, most said the perception of languages as a difficult subject was the main reason behind a drop in the number of pupils studying for exams.


Related Links

Language learning: French and German 'squeezed out' in Scottish schools (BBC, 27 February 2019)

Foreign languages 'squeezed out' of schools in Wales (BBC, 27 February 2019)

French, German or Spanish offered by fewer NI schools (BBC, 27 February 2019)

'Why I travel miles to study German' (BBC, 27 February 2019)

'How learning a foreign language changed my life' (BBC, 27 February 2019)

Lesley Riddoch: Don’t be like little England: Why Scots need to embrace foreign languages (The National, 28 February 2019) Subscription required

The Today Programme (BBC iPlayer, 27 February 2019)
Sections on language learning at 35:55, 1:49:18 and 2:54:22

The Nine (BBC Scotland, 27 February 2019)
Watch from 34:38

National academies urge Government to develop national languages strategy (British Academy, 28 February 2019)

Is the spread of Gaelic inexorable?

27 February 2019 (The Courier)

Language is a tool, an implement. Used in a certain way you might even describe it as a weapon. It can shape the way you think, perhaps without you realising it is doing so.

It is a fictional example, but if you are unconvinced try reading George Orwell’s magnificent Nineteen Eighty-Four, which depicts a state imposing language control to remove even the vocabulary required to express dissension.

The terms you use are important.

Consider, then, the spread of Gaelic names on road and rail station signs, and police car decalcomanias, throughout Scotland.

This is in line with the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, passed by the then-named Scottish Executive (now the Scottish Government), under the First Ministership of Labour’s Jack McConnell.

Might it be possible that the use of Gaelic, from this kernel, could grow to become widespread?


'How learning a foreign language changed my life'

27 February 2019 (BBC News)

The number of teenagers learning foreign languages in UK secondary schools has dropped by 45% since the turn of the millennium, BBC analysis has found [...] But many speakers of foreign languages extolled the benefits. Four native English speakers tell the BBC how making the effort to learn a second language is important - and how it changed their life.


The power of language: we translate our thoughts into words, but words also affect the way we think

26 February 2019 (The Conversation)

Have you ever worried in your student years or later in life that time may be starting to run out to achieve your goals? If so, would it be easier conveying this feeling to others if there was a word meaning just that? In German, there is. That feeling of panic associated with one’s opportunities appearing to run out is called Torschlusspanik.

German has a rich collection of such terms, made up of often two, three or more words connected to form a superword or compound word. Compound words are particularly powerful because they are (much) more than the sum of their parts. Torschlusspanik, for instance, is literally made of “gate”-“closing”-“panic”.

This begs the question of what happens when words don’t readily translate from one language to another.

[...] But then, this begs another, bigger question: Do people who have words that simply do not translate in another language have access to different concepts? 


The powerful statement you probably missed from Meghan Markle's Morocco visit

24 February 2019 (Stylist)

One of the more cringeworthy aspects of bumping into other Brits abroad is our collective failure to speak the local language.

Research by the British Council confirms that our poor language skills are more than just a stereotype. A massive 62% of Brits can’t speak another language, compared to the 56% European Union average who speak at least one foreign language.

But Meghan Markle is not about to follow the poorly-formed habits of her adopted homeland.

On a visit to a girls’ boarding school in Morocco this weekend, the Duchess of Sussex was clearly at ease speaking to pupils in French; one of the main languages of the Islamic kingdom, alongside Arabic and Berber.


Language has become a tool for social exclusion

21 February 2019 (The Conversation)

Within a week of the Salzburg Global Seminar’s Statement for a Multilingual Worldlaunching in February 2018, the document – which calls for policies and practices that support multilingualism – had received 1.5m social media impressions.

The statement opens with some striking facts, including that “all 193 UN member states and most people are multilingual”. It also points out that 7,097 languages are currently spoken across the world but 2,464 of these are endangered. Just 23 languages dominate among these 7,097, and are spoken by over half of the world’s population.

As these statistics show, the soundtrack of our lives and the visual landscapes of our cities are multilingual. Languages, in their plurality, enrich our experience of the world and our creative potential. Multilingualism opens up new ways of being and of doing, it connects us with others and provides a window into the diversity of our societies. And yet, despite the more positive statistics above, we are currently witnessing a deep divide.


HERE OUI GO Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers speaks fluent Spanish and French to stunned students at Strathclyde Uni event

20 February 2019 (Scottish Sun)

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers wowed students during a foreign language event - by talking fluently in Spanish and French.

Rodgers, 46, told students and schoolkids at the Q&A at Strathclyde University in Glasgow that learning foreign lingos was vital for his role as Hoops gaffer.

And he impressed with his skills in Spanish and French as he chatted away with uni boffins in the lecture theatre.

One attendee told The Scottish Sun: “Brendan really inspired students with his talk. That was the aim and that’s what he achieved.

“The event was all about the importance of communication - and foreign languages - for him in his job.

“He answered one question in Spanish from an audience member, which was good and spoke a bit of French at the beginning as well.

“The evening was very good. He emphasised the need to speak a foreign language. The feedback from students was very positive.

“It was very interesting, and not just about football. It was very kind for him to give up his time.”

The Northern Irishman was the very first speaker at the Living Languages event hosted by Senior Language Teaching Fellow Cedric Moreau on Monday night.

Kids from St John Ogilvie High School in Hamilton and Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow were also invited to hear his chat about his love of linguistics.


Scots dialect brought to life in sign language

20 February 2019 (BBC)

Actor Connor Bryson brings to life the Scots dialect in sign language.

The 24 year old advised the cast of the BBC comedy 'Two Doors Down', teaching the actors to speak in sign language but with a Glaswegian accent.

He said: "There are different signs for different regions in the UK. Glasgow is more like the people in Glasgow, more expansive, more emotional."


How does switching between languages impact your body?

18 February 2019 (Euronews)

UAE-based researchers are exploring how switching between languages affects the body and brain.

PhD student Blanco-Elorrieta uses a neuro-imaging technique called Magnetoencephalography to measure how much brain power is exerted when test subjects change between languages.

The areas of the brain predominantly used in language expression are the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex.

Blanco-Elorrieta discovered that when the group naturally alternated between Arabic and English both brain areas showed almost no signs of activity. However, if they were instructed to translate from one language to the other, both cortexes became highly engaged.

The researcher performed tests over two years with about 20 native bilingual speakers.

According to Blanco-Elorrieta, the findings reveal that the brain perceives a specific translation task as ‘harder’ than when the subject instinctively switches language.


Six Italian words or phrases we definitely need in Scottish football

18 February 2019 (Football Scotland)

There’s nothing as creative as the Scottish language. The Inuit people may have 50 words for snow, but we’ve got at least 30 words for drunk and the most varied use of swear words you’ll find anywhere in the world.

[..] For all the creative language you’re likely to hear on the terraces though, there are some things we just don’t have a word or phrase to easily describe, and that’s where we could learn something from the Italians.

Everyone knows trequartista and catenaccio, and we already have a word for a nutmeg, even if the Italian coda di vacca or “cow’s tail” is much more pleasing. Unless you’re Alex Cleland being mugged off by Alessandro Del Piero, that is.

Here are some phrases which would vastly improve the Scottish football lexicon.


Doric at the centre of new documentary made by Aberdeen University

18 February 2019 (Press and Journal)

North-east Scots, usually known as ‘the Doric’ or ‘Toonser’ has been the subject of a new documentary, made by the University of Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Institute.

The video explores the past, present and future of the Mither Tongue, and is filmed and produced by Mearns-based production firm Pict Digital and Alistair Heather of the Elphinstone Institute.

Doric poets Jo Gilbert and Sheena Blackhall share their experiences working in the language at both local and national levels, and the everyday difficulties of using Doric, from knowing when to switch from a Scots to an English voice, to trying to decide what usage is ‘authentic’.

Banff Academy’s Dr Jamie Fairbairn and recent graduate Robert Legge discuss their successes at introducing the new SQA Scots Language Award to the curriculum, and the positive ramifications of their efforts.

The narration is provided by Simon Gall, a public engagement officer at the Elphinstone Institute. Although a regular speaker of Doric Scots at home, it was the first time he had engaged with it professionally.

Mr Gall said “Fan I’m spikin wi ma faimily, I aye eese ma Doric but I dinna really tak it oot the hoose. Narratin this film has been braw as its teen me oot o ma comfort zone; somethin I wis needin. As Doric grows in status, mair fowk’ll tak their Doric oot o the hoose an back in tae work, an intae mair formal situations.”


City’s first Doric poetry slam to take place

16 February 2019 (The Press and Journal)

A new event to promote Doric among younger audiences has been launched. Jo Gilbert, 43, will host the first ever Doric Poetry Slam next month, and hopes the event will attract people from all backgrounds.

The competition will be judged by a panel of local creatives, including writer Shane Strachan, spoken word artist Mae Diansangu, Aberdeen University Literature Society’s Rebecca Clark and Scots Language advocate Alistair Heather.

Each entrant will prepare three poems either in or influenced by Doric – in a bid to make the slam inclusive to all, whether performers are familiar with Doric or not.

Ms Gilbert, herself a writer, said “I’m half-toonser, half-teuchter. When I’m writing, sometimes the words just come out in Doric. I love bringing a north-east voice to slams and poetry nights all over Scotland and it’s always well received.

“I wanted for the competition to have a younger feel to it. Part of writing in Doric for me is to keep the language alive. Most Doric writing is archaic and twee, so I began writing about more contemporary subjects."


A plan for study exchange is essential for ‘Global Britain’

15 February 2019 (THE)

Paul James Cardwell considers the alternatives to staying outside the Erasmus+ programme if the UK has no national student mobility strategy.

The panic button is being hit in terms of what a no deal Brexit means for the Erasmus programme. With only weeks to go until the UK leaves the European Union and with no strategy to replace the scheme, future UK students will be shut out of one of the longest running and most successful transnational education schemes in existence.

Most people I have come across in higher education see Erasmus as a good thing and do not need to be convinced of its benefits. It is a great chance for students to get a new experience somewhere different, pick up or improve a foreign language and maybe add a skill to their CV while expanding their job interview talking points. 

But, when those of us in the higher education sector argue the benefits of Erasmus to the wider public, some misconceptions usually come up.

The most common is to challenge why the UK needs to be in the whole architecture of the EU just to swap students with European universities. The simple answer is that it doesn’t. Other European countries participate fully as programme countries (such as Turkey and – this week – Serbia) and Erasmus+ (as it is now known) has taken the scheme to a global level that allows exchanges beyond Europe. 

But – and it is a big but – only EU members get a say in the key decision-making and the budget. Being outside that makes having any kind of influence more difficult.

There is nothing stopping UK universities from having exchanges with European partners. After all, this is how the UK does exchanges with non-European countries in the Americas, Asia and Australasia. But students would have to rely on other sources of funding, perhaps from their universities, which are hard to come by for those that need the most help – and study destinations further afield mean increased travel costs and complex paperwork, including visas.

As universities face uncertain finances post-Brexit, they are unlikely to be able to step in to the place that Erasmus funding occupies. What is more, non-standard exchange contracts come with a lot of red tape. The beauty of Erasmus is that it makes things much easier by working to a standard form. European partners might still be willing to continue relationships, particularly long-standing ones, but they would also need sources of financing for students to come to the UK.

(Note - registration required to read full article).


The language of conversation impacts on the 'synchronization' of our brains

14 February 2019 (Science Daily)

Experts from the Basque research centre BCBL have shown for the first time that the way in which the activity of two brains is connected depends on whether the dialogue takes place in the native language or in a foreign language.

As two people speak, their brains begin to work simultaneously, synchronizing and establishing a unique bond. This is what in neuroscience is called brain synchronization.

New research by the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) in San Sebastián and published in Cortex magazine confirms that this phenomenon depends on the language we use to communicate.

The study, carried out with the collaboration of several international institutions such as the University of Toronto (Canada) and the Nebrija University of Madrid, has allowed scientists to analyze how brain wave synchrony occurs in different linguistic contexts.

Thus, experts have found for the first time that the way in which the activity of two brains becomes synchronized or similar depends on the language used in the conversation.


In pictures: FilmG Awards winners

12 February 2019 (BBC)

A short film about domestic violence has won two top prizes at the 2019 FilmG Awards.

Sòlas won its creator Lana Pheutan the best drama accolade and Lewis-based actor Mairi MacLennan the prize of best performance.

Held annually since 2008, FilmG is a Gaelic-language short film competition.

[..] The theme for 2019 entries was "In the Blink of an Eye", and the full list of winners can be found on FilmG's website.


Brendan Rodgers hopes to pass Spanish lesson against Valencia

9 February 2019 (The Herald)

Brendan Rodgers remains something of a footballing linguist. The Celtic manager is learning French and he is already fluent in Spanish. It’s a handy string to the bow in these multi-cultural times.

“A lot of them [overseas] are surprised because normally us British people are a bit insular that way,” said Rodgers of his ability to turn his hand to another language.

“Young Maryan [Shved], the player we signed from Ukraine was a great example of what language can do. He didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak Ukranian but we could speak Spanish because he had two years at Sevilla.

“If I could do two things in the world I’d speak every language and I would play every musical instrument. Why? It’s the ability to communicate. As you grow older you understand communication is so important."


Bhasha Language Festival shouts loud about city's cultures

9 February 2019 (The National)

Bengali, Gaelic, Arabic and more will be heard as minority communities raise their voices in a day-long celebration of languages.

Bhasha: the Glasgow Language Festival will bring together poetry, song, drama, short films and academic expertise at the Mitchell Library today.

The event is organised by the Bangladesh Association Glasgow (BAG), which calls it “our gift” to the city.

Speakers from Zimbabwe and China are amongst those set to celebrate the rich mix of languages – including British Sign Language – in Scotland’s biggest city.

Saif Khan of BAG said: “There are experiences you have in your own language that probably will never be able to be translated or vocalised in another. But we can still share and find communality.”


More British children are learning Mandarin Chinese – but an increase in qualified teachers is urgently needed

8 February 2019 (The Conversation)

Mandarin Chinese is seen as being of increasing strategic importance, and in recent years there’s been a growing number of students taking up the language in schools across the UK.

There were more than 3,500 GCSE entries for Mandarin Chinese in 2018. But it’s not just China’s global dominance that makes Mandarin an appealing alternative to learning a European language. For students, it’s exciting and opens up a window into other cultures and ways of thinking.

Take the character for home and family 家 – which is a pig under a roof – many students are keen to find out why. New learners of the language are also always pleased to discover that verbs don’t change – so no having to remember different endings off by heart – and there are no tenses in Mandarin Chinese.

The learning of Chinese is taking off globally, so there are many new and innovative resources for students. China is also keen to welcome guests and school students have been able to benefit from in-country learning – supported financially by Chinese host institutions during their stay. Many come back home and realise the opportunities to work in China or with Chinese companies in their future will be huge.


Fitting in: why Polish immigrant children say ‘aye’ to the Glasgow vibe

8 February 2019 (The Conversation)

All of us have a range of speech styles, altering how we talk to fit different situations. The adjustments we make can be barely noticeable: you might tell a work colleague that you’re going “swimming” after work, and then later tell your friends that you’ve just been “swimmin’”. But even tiny, subconscious adjustments have a real social effect, playing a part in building social relationships and constructing identity.

This is something that linguists study and describe and gather evidence about, but it’s not something that only academics understand – it’s something we all notice, experience and talk about. I explore this particular skill in episode two of my podcast, Accentricity, which brings together what academics know about style-shifting with how we all experience it in everyday life.

Sociolinguistic research has built up a picture of how people alter their speech, or “style-shift”. However, most of the research we have is on people using their first language; we know less about style-shifting in a new language. Do learners pick up style-shifting behaviour even as they are picking up the sounds and structures of their new language?


Gaelic support service to inspire Scots to speak the language

8 February 2019 (The Scotsman)

Young people will be able to access a range of support services provided in Gaelic as part of a new initiative.

The project, launched by Young Scot, will offer advice online about topics including financial management, puberty and internet safety. It aims to help inspire more young people in Scotland to speak the language.


Student exchanges in no-deal Brexit threat

6 February 2019 (BBC)

Universities are warning the Erasmus study abroad scheme will have no more funding for UK students in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It would mean that 17,000 UK students would not study in European universities as planned next year.

The UK government had previously indicated it wanted to continue taking part in the exchange scheme.

But Universities UK says new advice last week suggested no further support would be available in a no-deal Brexit.

The universities organisation says, as a "matter of urgency", the UK government must "reconsider its decision" so that financial backing will be assured for students in the exchange scheme.

Universities UK is launching a campaign calling on the government to commit to funding study-abroad placements for 2019-20 and beyond, even if there is no deal on Brexit.


New Perth festival celebrates language and our landscape

5 February 2019 (Daily Record)

A new literary festival is to be staged in Perth this year.

Celebrating the beauty of the Scots language and contemporary Scottish culture, the Soutar Festival of Words will be held in April.

Named after the celebrated Perth bard William Soutar, the festival is being organised by Culture Perth and Kinross.

The festival will take place at a number of different venues and outdoor locations across Perth from Friday, April 26 until Sunday, April 28.

Over 20 events will take place over the three-day festival, with highlights including author talks, a poetry slam, an open mic session, traditional Scottish music and opportunities for local people to take a step into the world of creative writing.


How Arsenal are teaching young fans to learn new languages

3 February 2019 (BBC Sport)

BBC Sport finds out how Arsenal's Double Club Languages programme uses football to help school children learn new languages, with a little help from Spanish manager Unai Emery.


Babies who hear two languages at home have a better ability to concentrate

3 February 2019 (

The advantages of growing up in a bilingual home can start as early as six months of age, according to new research.

The study led by York University’s Faculty of Health found infants who are exposed to more than one language show better ‘attentional control’ [ability to concentrate] than infants who are exposed to only one language.

Researchers said this means that exposure to bilingual environments should be considered a significant factor in the early development of attention in infancy and could set the stage for lifelong cognitive benefits.


Scots firms cash in on tourism boom that is full of eastern promise

2 February 2019 (The Herald)

From ensuring hot water and boiled rice is served at mealtimes to scrapping creamy dishes from the menu – the subtle nuances of Chinese customs, tastes and superstitions is now vital for Scottish businesses hoping to cash in on a Far East tourism boom.

Now hospitality, tourism and retail businesses across Scotland are set to receive priceless help in grasping the cultural challenges presented by soaring numbers of Chinese visitors, in the hope that the nation can capture a lucrative and growing new tourism market.

[...] As well as establishing a significant presence on Chinese social media channels, the Edinburgh initiative has offered hotels, restaurants and retailers tips on culture – such as paying particular respect towards the senior travellers in a Chinese party and providing complimentary toothbrushes in bedrooms.

Similar initiatives, including restaurant menu cards written in Mandarin, are planned for Glasgow.


Falkirk teacher creates new Scots resource for bestselling children’s book

1 February 2019 (Falkirk Herald)

A Falkirk teacher has created a new Scots classroom resource based on a popular children’s book.

Kirsty Crommie (39), from Reddingmuirhead has written teaching notes to accompany ‘Diary o a Wimpy Wean’, a Scots version of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid bestseller, which has been translated into Scots by writer and poet Thomas Clark.

The project came about after Kirsty read the book and enjoyed it so much that she made contact with the author to discuss the possibility of creating some teaching resources to go along with it for schools across Scotland to use.


Does studying abroad help academic achievement?

31 January 2019 (European Journal of Higher Education)

Studying abroad as part of a degree has become commonplace for many students in European and other developed countries. Universities actively promote opportunities as part of internationalization strategies.

Whilst research has looked into the ‘abroad’ aspect of study abroad, there is less literature on the ‘study’ aspect, and in particular, the effects that the period has on academic achievement. This article provides evidence that studying abroad has a beneficial effect on overall academic achievement.

The article compares the final degree grades of students at Sheffield Law School (UK) who participated in a year studying abroad, with those who did not. Interviews with students across the period deepen the qualitative dimension to the research by exploring how students felt about their academic experience. Whilst few students opt to go abroad for the purposes of improving grades, most feel that the additional confidence and maturity, alongside deeper knowledge of their subject and a break in the pattern of their studies, contributes to their higher achievement.

Read the full article online.


Why are children so good at learning languages?

31 January 2019 (Horizon Magazine)

When it comes to learning languages small children beat machines hands down, even though they are exposed to only a fraction of the vocabulary fed into algorithms. So what exactly makes them so good?

In 2003, an influential study showed that children from rich families were exposed to around 30 million more words before the age of three than children from poor families - a difference that put children from lower-income families at an educational disadvantage even before they’d started school.

But being bombarded by a large volume of words does not necessarily lead to rich and natural language use. Let’s take speech recognition software as an example. Scientists have been working on creating machines that can learn language through exposure to enormous datasets, but Siri and Google Assistant are still no match for a toddler.

‘If you look at some of the algorithms … they use ten times more data than a child has accessible until they are four years old,’ said Dr Sho Tsuji, a psycholinguist at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France.

So what’s the secret? The key, experts think, is precisely that a baby does not learn in isolation, nor in only one way. Learning to speak is an interactive, social process with inputs and reinforcements coming from many sources.

Dr Tsuji is investigating how social cues such as eye contact and smiling are linked to language acquisition as part of a project called SCIL.


Gestures help students learn new words in different languages, study finds

30 January 2019 (Phys Org)

Students' comprehension of words in a foreign language improves if teachers pair each word with a gesture – even if the gesture is arbitrary and does not represent a word's actual meaning, researchers at the University of Illinois found.

Any gestures are helpful in foreign-language instruction as long as they cannot be confused with other to-be-learned words and if the number of new words presented to students at one time is limited, said U. of I. educational psychology professor Kiel Christianson, one of the co-authors of the study.

The aim of the study was to compare participants' comprehension of vocabulary words in Mandarin when they were taught new words paired with iconic or arbitrary gestures and without gestures.


Cameron calls on Westminster to sign UNESCO convention

28 January 2019 (Oban Times)

The Highlands and Islands MSP, who also sits as vice convenor of the Cross Party Group on Gaelic, made the call on the same day that Bòrd na Gàidhlig hosted an event in the Scottish Parliament to mark 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

In March 2018, the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed to the motion that ‘the parliament notes the terms and purposes of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Culture Heritage, which was adopted by UNESCO in 2003, and calls on the UK Government to ratify it’.

Donald Cameron has written to the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Jeremy Wright QC MP, to urge him to look again at the convention and has asked him, if the UK does decide to ratify it, whether the UK Government will lobby for the inclusion of Gaelic language and culture on the list.


Scots is a language and not ‘slang’ – Alistair Heather

29 January 2019 (The Scotsman)

A new study of Glasgow Scots finds that child immigrants learn how to speak it, but also pick up on the idea that some view Scots as ‘slang’ and therefore not appropriate for certain situations, writes Alistair Heather, who says it’s time to “breenge intae 2019 wi a bit mair smeddum whan it comes tae the Scots language”.

Being told to “speak proper”, having your language mocked on national TV and derided as incomprehensible across the UK and the world. This is the typical fate of the speaker of Glasgow Scots, the Glaswegian dialect of the Scots language. These prejudices have contributed to a complex pattern of ‘code-switching’ in which a speaker might use Scots with friends, but move along a language continuum towards Scottish Standard English when in a classroom, a job interview or talking on the phone.

You could imagine newcomers to the city and country struggling to navigate this linguistic quicksand. ‘Yes’ and ‘aye’ are commonly used in the city, but pinning down precisely where, when and how to use one over the other would be a tricky lesson to teach, let alone assimilate into practise. Yet according to a recent study by Dr Sadie Ryan of Glasgow University, young migrants to the city are adopting not only elements of the Scots language, but are quickly learning how to code-switch like native speakers based on their audience.


Sign languages are fully-fledged, natural languages with their own dialects – they need protecting

28 January 2019 (The Conversation)

We most often think of indigenous languages in the context of colonisation – languages used by people who originally inhabited regions that were later colonised. These are the languages that the UN had in mind when it stated a deep concern about the vast number of endangered indigenous languages. And rightly so. More than 2,400 of the about 7,000 languages used around the world today are endangered and most of these are indigenous languages in the above sense.

It’s welcome, then, that 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, along with the awareness raising this will bring, as indigenous communities who speak these languages are often marginalised and disadvantaged. But there are other communities who speak indigenous languages that may still not receive much attention: deaf communities around the world who use sign languages.


How our Scotland-Canada collab is celebrating indigenous languages

27 January 2019 (The National)

This week, Glasgow will get a little taste of Canada’s indigenous renaissance when four of the country’s most inspiring indigenous cultural leaders rock up during Celtic Connections to exchange ideas, dialogue and practice with some exceptional Scottish Gaelic talent.

This indigenous creators exchange marks the launch of Indigenous Contemporary Scene – a two-year creative enquiry in both Scotland and Canada, opening up space for artist-led responses to the 2019 Unesco International Year of Indigenous Languages and giving artists space and time to interrogate how Scotland and Canada’s shared colonial histories manifest within contemporary creative practice.


MSP urges young Gaelic speakers to pass on language to next gen

24 January 2019 (The Herald)

Young Gaelic speakers have a duty to pass on the language to the next generation, according to SNP MSP Kate Forbes.

Ms Forbes made the comments ahead of delivering the first annual address in memory of John Macleod, the former president of An Comunn Gaidhealach - the Highland Association.

She will deliver her lecture in Gaelic at the University of Edinburgh later on Thursday.

The organisation was set up in 1891 to help support and promote the Scottish Gaelic language, culture and history at local, national and international level.


Related Links

Young Scots have a duty to protect Gaelic, says SNP MSP (The Scotsman, 24 January 2019)

Hotel staff told ‘learn the language and provide Pot Noodles’ to welcome Chinese tourists

22 January 2019 (The Metro)

Hotel staff in the Scottish Highlands could learn Mandarin and provide chopsticks and noodles in rooms to make Chinese tourists feel welcome, a travel expert has said.

Visiting the scenic region is becoming increasingly popular among middle class tourists in China but cultural nuances are not often catered for.

Monica Lee-Macpherson, chairwoman of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Moray Chinese Association, said making a few changes would benefit the tourism industry and it starts with B&B owners.

Ms Lee-Macpherson, a Chinese-Scot who organises tours of stunning Highlands beauty spots, said restaurants could include more imagery in their menus and rooms should have an option of twin-beds, which are more popular with Chinese visitors, to make tourists feel more ‘at home’.

Approximately 62,000 Chinese visitors travelled to Scotland in 2017, an increase of 51 per cent from 2016, spending a total of £44 million, according to VisitScotland.


Asterix's latest quest: To help Scottish primary pupils learn French

22 January 2019 (The Herald)

The struggles of cartoon character Asterix the Gaul against the might of the Roman empire will be taught in Scottish primary schools under the latest curriculum shake-up.

A unique collaboration between Glasgow University academics and teachers has paved the way for the French version of the 2013 graphic book Asterix and the Picts to be used in primary schools as a language resource.

The move is part of a wider initiative between the university and curriculum body Education Scotland to produce a range of new online teaching materials based on academic research.

A total of 12 resources have been created for pupils in primary and the first three years of secondary school, including the history of the Vikings in Scotland, political songs and poems and medieval history.

In addition, Polish films will also be used as a language resource while pupils can learn about the hundreds of Scots words used to describe snow.


Related Links

University of Glasgow research used to create new resources for primary and secondary pupils (University of Glasgow, 21 January 2019)

The University of Glasgow and Education Scotland officially launched a range of online teaching resources from academic research tailored to the needs of Scottish pupils.

A total of 12 resources using University research have been specially created by teachers for the Curriculum for Excellence to use in Broad General Education, which covers nursery to S3.

The resources, based on the latest scholarship in Arts and Humanities at the University, cover a diverse range of topics from French comics to archaeology, political songs to medieval history, Polish films to Scots language.

Broad General Education @ The University of Glasgow (Education Scotland, January 2019)

This project is a partnership between the University of Glasgow and Education Scotland. It brings together academic staff from the University with education practitioners in schools to create resources which are suitable for use in the Broad General Education. The resources are located in a number of curricular areas such as Social Studies, Modern Languages, RME and Technologies. This project is funded by the University of Glasgow's ArtsLab.

Astérix chez les Pictes (Education Scotland, February 2018)

Using comics to teach French.

After Brexit, disadvantaged children will be sent abroad to boost their languages

18 January 2019 (iNews)

Thousands of disadvantaged pupils will go on foreign exchange trips in a bid to build character and boost the take up of languages post-Brexit, the Education Secretary has said.

Damian Hinds will call on heads in some of the country’s poorest areas to apply for grants to take secondary students to countries across the globe to open their eyes to different cultures.

Speaking exclusively to i, Mr Hinds said there were a range of benefits from taking part in such trips beyond giving children “positive life experiences”.

“Experiencing somebody else’s culture, somebody else’s town will help broaden people’s minds,” the Cabinet member said. “But it will also help to develop their languages – there is clearly a benefit to studying overseas.”

Mr Hinds also said the move would help to develop a more “globally-minded” UK post-Brexit.


Exclusive: Two in five sixth formers considering uni abroad

15 January 2019 (TES)

Nearly two in five sixth formers are actively considering studying a first degree abroad, new data suggests. 

However, although 37 per cent of pupils apparently view an overseas university as a serious option, the research also suggests that uncertainty over the impact of Brexit could have a detrimental effect. 

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the students questioned said that Brexit is making them less likely to consider studying overseas.

Unifrog – a website to help pupils select courses – interviewed 1,519 sixth-formers online between 1 September and 20 December 2018. 


Chinese New Year celebration planned for Edinburgh

14 January 2019 (BBC)

Edinburgh is to host Scotland's largest ever Chinese New Year celebration.

A concert at the Usher Hall and a giant lantern at Edinburgh Zoo are among the events that have been planned.

The celebrations will take place next month, welcoming the Zodiac Year of the Pig.


England’s schools face staffing crisis as EU teachers stay at home

12 January 2019 (The Guardian)

The number of teachers from the EU wanting to work in England has slumped in the past year, with fears that Brexit will exacerbate staff shortages and hit language learning.

Teachers from EU countries applying for the right to work in English schools fell by a quarter in a single year, according to official data. There were 3,525 people from member states awarded qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2017-18, which allows them to work in most state and special schools. A 25% fall on the previous year, it included a 17% drop in applicants from Spain, an 18% drop from Greece and a 33% drop from Poland.

The fall comes after repeated warnings of a staffing shortage. Last summer the Education Policy Institute said that teaching shortages would become severe, with bigger classes and falling expertise as a result.


We can’t let modern languages go kaputt. Vive la Résistance!

11 January 2019 ( TES)

The sad truth is that modern languages in UK schools are in near-terminal decline - and, with Brexit looming, we need to halt the death spiral, writes Ed Dorrell

I have a friend who, when asked “parlez-vous français?”, always replies, quick as a flash, “une petit poi”. I have another friend who, when people arrive at his tiny flat, always remarks, rather grandly, “welcome to my pomme de terre”.

To have one acquaintance whose favourite gag is a bad French vegetable-based pun may be regarded as a misfortune, to have two, however, probably looks like carelessness.

And that, if you’ll forgive the segue, leads me to the subject of this article: this country’s relationship, or lack thereof, with foreign languages. It is a sad truth that languages in our schools are in near-terminal decline.


Exclusive: The schools reversing the languages decline

11 January 2019 (TES)

Applies to England

Making language lessons fun, staging foreign film nights with exotic food laid on, and focusing on high-value language and transferrable structures to make it easier for pupils to have conversations in the language they are learning.

These are just some of the ways in which a minority of schools have managed to go against the grain and boost the uptake of languages GCSEs.

At the end of last year, the Department for Education admitted that the government was “struggling hugely” with the decline in GCSE languages. 

And figures from the British Council show that nationally the proportion of GCSE candidates taking at least one language has dropped to 46 per cent (down from 76 per cent in 2002). This has been put down to budget cuts, lack of quality teachers and attitudes surrounding Brexit, among other factors.

But Tes research has identified at least 37 schools that have boosted uptake by 50 percentage points between 2013 and 2017, according to the latest available figures.


Skye website translated into Mandarin for Chinese visitor boom

10 January 2019 (The Scotsman)

A website about Skye has been translated into Mandarin in a bid to encourage people from China to visit the island.

The site features the animated Donald from Skye character, who gives recommendations of what to see and do in the area.

It has now been translated into Mandarin to help the growing number of Chinese people visiting Skye and to encourage further visitors to the island.

Donald from Skye said: “I love telling people from all over the world about the beautiful Isle of Skye, so to be able to tell people in China what Skye has to offer is brilliant.

“My aim is to make Scotland accessible to everyone, wherever they’re from, and now anyone who visits can see all the information on Skye in English or Mandarin.

“I hope this is the start of many translations of the website, allowing potential visitors to see the numerous sights and attractions they could see on Skye.

“Whether they need help booking accommodation, finding activities to do, details on where to park or where to eat, I’m the man to ask.

“I can’t wait to welcome new friends from China and all over the world to Scotland and to Skye.”


First ever Doric film festival to shine a light on north-east language

7 January 2019 (Press and Journal)

Entries have opened for a first-ever Doric film festival, designed to showcase the north-east’s cultural heritage to as wide an audience as possible.

Organisers are hoping to receive hundreds of entries ahead of a red carpet screening of the best submissions in June.

The competition is open to children of all ages, students, community groups and individuals and has been backed by organisations including Aberdeenshire Council and Robert Gordon University.

And as part of the festivities, training sessions on topics ranging from pre-production to storyboarding and editing will be held across the region over the coming months.

The initiative has been thought up by Scots language podcast, Scots Radio, which started up in 2013.

Director Frieda Morrison said: “The Gaelic Film Festival has been enjoying success for eleven years and there’s ample media support for film creativity in English.

“So Scots Radio wishes to encourage and shine a light on story-telling in Scots – and in this first instance, on north-east Scots or Doric.”


University of Hull's language degrees suspension 'damaging'

5 January 2019 (BBC)

A university's decision to suspend student recruitment onto some of its language courses has been described as a "damaging retrograde move".

Nearly 200 academics across the UK have signed an open letter criticising the University of Hull.

Last month the university said it was reviewing its 2019 modern languages programmes except for Chinese.

In the letter, the University Council for Modern Languages (UCML) urged management to "reinstate recruitment".

The University of Hull has been approached for a comment.

The letter, which was written by the UCML and posted on Facebook, included signatures by senior academics from the Russell Group of leading universities.

In it, the UCML expressed "grave concern" over the university's decision.

"We consider this to be a retrograde move that damages not only the reputation and standing of the University of Hull but is indicative of a broader devaluing of modern languages in the UK at the current time.

"Languages at Hull has been in the vanguard of modern languages research from the 1960s onwards, leading in the area of languages and cultural studies."

It went on to say that the university's "withdrawal of support" for languages was "out of step with overwhelming evidence on the need for the University sector - regionally and nationally - to help close the UK's 'language deficit'".


'Why total immersion is the best way to teach languages'

3 January 2019 (TES)

Teaching MFL through total immersion shows students that language is a ‘living thing’, says this French teacher.

I don’t think my students really believed me when I told them, “We will only be speaking French on this trip.”

It was not until our guides for the week – both native French speakers – introduced themselves on the first morning that reality began to sink in; the students looked at one another in shock.

But they quickly grew in confidence, and by the second afternoon in Normandy, they were making comments such as, “I understand more French than I ever realised."

Running a total immersion trip for 14- to 16-year olds might sound daunting, but research suggests that the more of a target language you can use, the better for your students.

A study by Margaret Bruck et al in Canada in 1977 showed that English-speaking children taught in an immersive French environment functioned extremely well in their second language. The implications of these studies led to the successful implementation of many language immersion programmes in Canada and around the world.

However, in the UK some 58 per cent of state schools set aside fewer than two and a half hours per week for languages at key stage 3, according to the British Council. And at my school, Year 10 students have just three 35-minute lessons per week. That makes it a real challenge to build immersion into MFL teaching.

But I believe it is worth the effort. Young people need to understand that language is a living thing, not just another subject to get a grade in.

Immersion introduces students to a language in context, so that they view it as a component of an entire culture, rather than something static in a textbook. It also helps to build confidence – one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language.

But how do you make immersion work in practice?


Scotland sets out its stall to woo Chinese tourists

2 January 2019 (ECNS)

On a brisk winter morning, a young Chinese couple stroll through Edinburgh Castle, taking in the history of this iconic attraction in the Scottish capital.

Xie Zhuoqun and Meng Hongfei are two of a growing number of Chinese who are visiting the popular landmark.

Xie, 32, from Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, said her attention was drawn to Edinburgh when she came across a random Sina Weibo social media post about Hogmanay-the Scottish celebration marking the Western New Year.

"I was mesmerized by the city's atmosphere, the fireworks over the castle, the torch processions on the Royal Mile, and the street parties everywhere. From that point onward, I knew I wanted to see Edinburgh in person, and here we are," she said.

Revenue from Chinese visitors has risen by almost 350 percent in a decade, according to the tourism agency VisitScotland.

To help reap the benefits from the rise in visitor numbers from China, destinations across Scotland are stepping up efforts to welcome these tourists.

Chinese-language signs and posters are dotted around popular tourist spots in Edinburgh, where busloads of visitors explore and enjoy the sights.

Scottish businesses, such as the jewelry brand Hamilton and Inches and luxury fashion accessories label Strathberry, have hired Mandarin-speaking personnel and social media professionals to cater to the growing number of Chinese visitors.


'Victor Hugo becomes a sex god in my mind' – how to get better at French

1 January 2019 (The Guardian)

Worried that she is speaking French like Joey Essex speaks English, Emma Beddington fights back with classes, podcasts and cartoons about mustard-loving aliens resuscitating literary giants.

I used to think I was pretty great at French: I could handle a subjunctive and disdained the myriad mangled pronunciations of “millefeuille” on Masterchef. I lived in French-speaking Brussels for 12 years and have a French husband who still tolerates me misgendering the dishwasher after 24 years. My inflated sense of my abilities was bolstered over the years by compliments from surprised French people. Admittedly, the bar is pitifully low for Brits speaking a foreign language: like Samuel Johnson’s dog walking on its hind legs, it’s not done well but people are surprised it’s done at all.

In recent years, however, I have let things slide. My French has become trashy: it’s the language of reality and cooking shows (my staple French televisual diet) and easy chat with indulgent friends. I fear I speak French like Joey Essex speaks English, and since we moved back to the UK this year things have got worse. My only French conversation here is with my husband and it runs a well-worn course: who should empty the bin; why we have no money; which of our teenage sons hates us more. When I try to express something complex, I get stuck mid-sentence, unable to express my thoughts clearly. Words that used to be there, waiting to be used, are awol and I have developed a horrible habit of just saying them in English. My husband understands, so who cares?

But I care. I can’t bear to lose my French; it’s part of who I am. I even wrote a book about it, for God’s sake. I want to speak the language of Molière, if not like Molière then at least like a reasonably articulate adult. So I resolve to not just stop the rot but reverse it. This will involve a multi-pronged approach: online lessons plus conversation classes, supplemented by a diet of French podcasts and reading, including my third attempt at Les Misérables.

Au boulot – to work!


Down's syndrome no bar to bilingualism, study suggests

21 December 2018 (BBC)

Raising children with Down's syndrome bilingually does not put them at a disadvantage, despite concerns it leads to language delays, a study says.

The small-scale research by Bangor University compared the development of children with Down's syndrome who speak Welsh and English and those living in English-only homes.

Its initial conclusions suggested their English skills were at a similar level.

Researchers said the research may be relevant to other languages too.


Doric grows in popularity as language classes set to expand at Aberdeen University

20 December 2018 (Press and Journal)

Following the success of a scheme launched earlier this year, a second set of classes in North-East Scots – commonly known as Doric or Toonser – will begin next month.

Their arrival will coincide with the launch of the United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages.

A similar class run in the autumn was a sell-out success, attracting participants from as far afield as Australia, France and Luxembourg.

From next year, two classes – beginner and advanced – will be held to satisfy demand.

The beginners course will be aimed at newcomers to the north-east, who want to learn more about the language and use it with confidence.

It is also aimed at locals, who might never have been encouraged to use the language, but want to re-engage with it.

The class will be led by Jackie Ross, a renowned Doric storyteller and member of the Grampian Association of Storytellers.


Brexit ‘will leave Scotland short of foreign language teachers’

14 December 2018 (TESS)

The leader of the organisation that represents Scottish independent schools has issued a warning about the impact of Brexit on the education sector.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, suggested that schools specifically should be worried about the end of freedom of movement.

“Only 14 EU teachers applied for General Teaching Council for Scotland registration up until 30 June 2018 – down from 128 in 2015, 159 in 2016 and 186 in 2017. There are already significantly fewer language teachers in Scotland than in 2008. There were 722 French teachers last year in the state sector, compared with 1,070 in 2008.

“Over the same period, the number of German teachers has almost halved, to 100 (the number of Spanish teachers has increased from 64 to 107).

“At the very least, EU withdrawal poses a real challenge for the Scottish government’s admirable 1+2 modern language ambitions.”

(Note - subscription required to read full article).


Power of the Scots language in traditional Angus song celebrated in new BBC Radio Scotland documentary

11 December 2018 (The Courier)

Ahead of his latest BBC Radio Scotland programme Sangsters, Newport-based broadcaster Billy Kay tells Michael Alexander why Scots song – including Tayside classics – is a national treasure.

As a founder member of the award-winning Scots folksong group Malinky, and a graduate of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University, Arbroath-raised musician, lecturer and author Steve Byrne is no stranger to traditional music and culture.

But in a new BBC Radio Scotland radio programme Sangsters which celebrates the power of the Scots language through its most beautiful songs, Steve admits that some lyrics well up his emotions more than others.

[..] Sangsters, a two-part programme which airs on December 19 and 26 respectively, celebrates the emotive power and beauty of Scots song in the company of some of the country’s finest traditional singers, who also discuss the importance they place on speaking Scots both for their performance and interpretation of the songs.


Teaching primary foreign languages in multilingual classrooms

10 December 2018 (EAL Journal)

The EAL Journal blog publishes plain language summaries of EAL-related Master’s and doctoral research. In this post Katy Finch, doctoral researcher in the Division of Human Communication at the University of Manchester presents a summary of her Master’s dissertation on teachers’ experiences teaching modern foreign languages to linguistically diverse classes. 


Gaelic speakers must step up their efforts

8 December 2018 (The Press and Journal)

The first female MSP to make a plenary address in the Scottish Parliament chamber in Gaelic has warned the language’s future will only be secured for the next generation if all speakers step up their efforts.

Kate Forbes MSP believes that more Gaelic speakers should be using the language “loudly and noticeably” in the public square.

Delivering the prestigious Oraid an t-Sabhail lecture last night at Scotland’s national centre for Gaelic language, culture and the arts, Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, she follows in the footsteps of four serving Scottish First Ministers (Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond, Jack McConnell and the late Donald Dewar).

Ms Forbes said: “Great progress has been made in the last few decades to secure the future of Gaelic, but we need to go further and faster.


Gaelic education: is it effective?

6 December 2018 (Holyrood)

“Teachers in Gaelic medium are exceptional because they have to instil this language that will be new to most pupils,” Donalda McComb, headteacher of Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu in Glasgow, tells Holyrood.

“The experience [the children have] had in the nursery, a Gaelic nursery, will help give a baseline, but they’ll still go through processes for language learning where a lot of it is understanding before they’re actually speaking it.”

In Gaelic-medium education, children are fully immersed, taught solely through Gaelic, in primary one and two. English literacy is then introduced during primary three or four, with elements of Gaelic and English taught throughout the rest of the primary years.

Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (SGG) is currently the biggest provider of Gaelic-medium education (GME) in Scotland and the only end-to-end Gaelic school delivering nursery, primary and secondary education through the medium of Gaelic. McComb has more than 30 years’ experience in Gaelic-medium teaching, which began in Glasgow and Inverness in 1985 with 24 pupils, and now sees around 5,600 children being educated in Gaelic in 13 local authority areas.

In that time, the profile of the pupils has changed significantly, from most being the children of Gaelic speakers to now a majority of children coming from non-Gaelic-speaking households.

This in itself presents challenges. At one end, some children arrive at school having been exposed to Gaelic at home and been through croileagan (Gaelic toddler group) and sgoil àraich (nursery), while others have not heard a word of Gaelic before they start.

This year, SGG is piloting two separate classes, one for children with a background in Gaelic and another for those with no Gaelic. The school has also brought in play-based learning in primary one, because the school was finding that some children “weren’t ready for that more formal side of things”.

This is already used in Bun-Sgoil Taobh na Pàirce in Edinburgh. Anne MacPhail, headteacher there, says the play-based approach works well because it means the teachers have opportunities to take small groups of children, work with them and encourage them to “become confident in trying Gaelic”.

Gaelic-medium education is considered a success story and the benefits of it, and its encouragement of bilingual competency in general, have been well publicised. Research shows it provides improved cognitive development and pupils going through GME perform at least as well, if not better, in English than their monolingual peers. Academically, for example, Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu has the highest attainment in the city, with around half of sixth years achieving five or more Highers.

There are plans to expand GME as part of a drive to secure the future of the language. The Scottish Government’s Gaelic language plan aims to double the intake into GME primary to 800 and increase the range of subjects taught in Gaelic at secondary, while expansion of GME has been among Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s key priorities in successive national Gaelic language plans.

But there are serious challenges. Firstly, in achieving the aim of Gaelic-medium education creating a new generation of Gaelic speakers – with much of the focus of discourse around GME levels of attainment in general, particularly in English, rather than on levels of attainment in Gaelic – and secondly, the needs that go with the planned expansion, given a serious shortage of Gaelic teachers and other resources to meet existing and future demand.


How to nurture speakers of ‘difficult’ languages

4 December 2018 (Financial Times)

The UK Foreign Office has made a big effort to improve diplomats’ language skills, only to see it undone by staff rotations and expulsions.

After re-opening its in-house language school, the Foreign Office says 55 per cent of diplomats who need languages for their roles now have them, up from 39 per cent in 2015. The level in Mandarin is almost 70 per cent, but, according to a parliamentary report last week, there are problems with Russian and Arabic.

About two-thirds of the British diplomats expelled by Moscow after the alleged Russian attack in Salisbury this year were Russian speakers. Only 30 per cent of UK diplomats who need Arabic for their jobs can manage in the language, although the number was 49 per cent as recently as December last year. The reason for the fall is that Arabic-speaking diplomats had been rotated to other posts.

The problem is not confined to the diplomatic service or to the UK. Foreign language skills in English-speaking countries are dire. Fewer than one-third of 16-year-olds in England achieve a decent grade in a foreign language. Fewer than a quarter of US school students study another language.

Employers, whether governments or companies, need to nurture, and work out how to manage, staff who speak foreign languages, particularly languages that English speakers find difficult. And ambitious would-be diplomats and international businesspeople need to think about which languages to concentrate on.


Runrig honoured for services to Gaelic at Scots Trad Music Awards

1 December 2018 (The Scotsman)

Rock group Runrig have been honoured for their services to the Gaelic language at Scotland’s annual traditional music Oscars – months after bowing out from playing live. The band, who appeared for the final time before 45,000 fans in Stirling in August, were formed in the Isle of Skye in 1973.

[...] Simon Thoumire, founder of the "Na Trads," said: “Runrig forged the way for so many other bands. They showed how Gaelic could be used in many different ways and wasn’t just something that was spoken in living rooms or used at ceilidhs. They also showed that Gaelic songs could be performed in stadiums and taken around the world." 


North-east professor wants to save Scots language from fading into history

30 November 2018 (The Press and Journal)

With 1.6 million speakers in Scotland, and more in Ulster, Scots is one of the largest minority languages in Europe.

But Professor of Linguistics and Scottish Language at Aberdeen University, Robert McColl Millar, is worried there has been a drastic decrease in its usage over the last 60 years as society has transformed and various traditional industries have declined.

He believes that much of our understanding of the use of the language is based on surveys conducted more than 60 years ago.

And the professor believes it is “essential” that a better understanding of the way Scots words are used is ascertained, in order to determine the best way to preserve the language.


Only one third of British Foreign Office diplomats based in Arab countries speak Arabic, new study reveals

28 November 2018 (Daily Mail)

Only a third of British diplomats stationed in Arab countries can speak Arabic, a new study has revealed.

By comparison, 64 per cent of American diplomats in the region can speak the language. 

The figures are to be included in a review of UK Middle East policy by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).

James Sorene, its CEO, said: 'To do diplomacy properly, you have to speak the language. 

'To protect our interests and boost our influence, we need to raise our game and send our diplomats back to the classroom.'

'The figures show how far behind we are compared to the United States and other Western countries,' he added.

In response to the study, the Foreign Office said that Britain already has the finest diplomatic service in the world, but added: 'We continue to reinvigorate and expand both in terms of people and places. 

'That includes the biggest expansion of Britain's diplomatic network for a generation, broadening the talent pool we tap into for our ambassadors and a massive boost in language training.'

Arabic is the world's fifth most-spoken native language and is projected to grow as the population in the region rises.

In 2015, the British Council ranked Arabic second in a list of languages important to Britain, ahead of French, Mandarin and German. Only Spanish was deemed more important.

The shortage comes despite the Foreign Office identifying Arabic as a priority language, and setting a target of 80 per cent of speaking posts being staffed by qualified officers by 2020.


Virtual virtues

23 November 2018 (TESS)

Through remotely taught lessons, e-Sgoil gives pupils in often isolated communities a wider choice of subjects while also providing much-needed flexibility for teachers. And in a time of squeezed budgets and recruitment challenges, the model is increasingly finding favour beyond its Western Isles base, reports Emma Seith.

Mairi MacKay is a secondary teacher with a more comfortable working environment than most. There is no long walk down endless corridors to get to the toilets. And while jeans would be frowned upon in most Scottish schools, she is wearing a pair today because, by and large, her pupils will only ever see her from the waist up.

MacKay, who teaches from her living room in Perth using a laptop, delivers Gaelic lessons to learners in Argyll and Bute, Highland and the Western Isles with the aid of videoconferencing software. She is employed by the Western Isles e-Sgoil, which launched in 2016 and which recently inspired the Welsh government to start beaming lessons into its own schools. To meet her pupils in person would take MacKay the best part of a working day by road and sea.

The ambition of e-Sgoil is to provide equal access to courses and subjects for pupils, irrespective of whether they are able to attend the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, which has more than 1,000 pupils, or Castlebay Community School on the island of Barra, with its secondary roll of just 65.

It came into being because the council was struggling to deliver on its goal that all pupils should have access to six secondary subjects through the medium of Gaelic. However, the potential of the virtual-teaching model at a time of staff shortages had long been recognised, and the Scottish government invested £550,000 in the project.

Now, e-Sgoil headteacher Angus Maclennan – who was a depute head at the Nicolson Institute before taking up his current post in 2016 – says the virtual school has a steady presence in eight of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, and has been used in 13.

The initiative has also spurred on other authorities to establish similar initiatives. 


Literature quality linked to foreign language ability in young people

22 November 2018 (University of Oxford /

Reading complex and engaging texts is key to inspiring young learners' interest in Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) and potentially improving how the subject is taught in UK secondary schools, according to new Oxford University research.

The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and conducted by researchers at Oxford's Department of Education in collaboration with peers from the universities of Reading and Southampton, suggests that the current curriculum is too simplistic and 'dry' for some students.

Teenagers were found to prefer and enjoy reading more complex and engaging material that challenged them. Based on these findings, the team feel that adding more varied texts into the school MFL curriculum could significantly improve the teaching of the subject, potentially motivating student interest in general.

The research was motivated by a desire to address some of the persistent challenges facing MFL teaching in the UK, such as low student motivation, poor achievement and low uptake of the subject at GCSE level and beyond. This lack of interest is of particular concern in the context of Brexit, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that some students believe they no longer need to learn foreign languages 'because we are leaving the EU."

Dr. Robert Woore, Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics at Oxford's Department of Education, and lead author on the study, said: "Our study shows that it is possible to raise expectations concerning the kinds of texts that beginner learners of French are able to access. We believe that including such texts in the Year 7 curriculum can be beneficial for students' linguistic and motivational development. They need not be restricted to a sole diet of the shorter, simpler and more predictable texts that are traditionally used with this age group."


Related Links

FLEUR foreign language education: Unlocking reading (pdcinmfl, 22 November 2018) Professional Development Consortium in MFL final research document and conference presentation on the ‘FLEUR’ reading research project. This investigated different ways of teaching reading to beginner learners of French in Year 7. 

K-pop and Latin: Why the time is now for foreign language hits

21 November 2018 (BBC)

At a time of Brexit and divisive world politics, something has happened with the UK chart.

While other European countries and America have traditionally been more open to music in languages other than their own, the British charts have been fairly resistant to anything not in English.

Until now.

Following the 2017 global success of Despacito there seems to have been - with a little help from Justin Bieber - a sea change.

Since then Little Mix, Cardi B and DJ Snake are just some of the acts to have charted with music either partially, or entirely, in Spanish.

And it's not only Latin stars, but K-pop artists who are jumping in on the act too - with boyband BTS sweeping awards shows, achieving two number one albums on the US Billboard chart, and selling out London's O2 last month.

Since then Dua Lipa has collaborated with South Korean supergroup Blackpink, and the Black Eyed Peas have joined forces with K-pop's self-proclaimed "baddest female", CL.

So why have the British begun to embrace music in foreign languages?


Ofqual won't make science and MFL A-levels easier

21 November 2018 (TES)

Ofqual has decided against adjusting grading standards in A-level science and languages to make them more lenient, after it judged there was not a “compelling case” to do so.

The exams watchdog said there was “not a uniformly compelling case to adjust grading standards” in physics, chemistry, biology, French, German and Spanish.

However, it acknowledged that the “perceived grading severity” in these subjects “undermines confidence”, and said it would work with exam boards to make sure they “do not become statistically more severely graded in the future”.

To achieve this, the regulator is proposing a new lock to stop the subjects being graded more harshly over time.

Ofqual has been looking at “inter-subject comparability” – whether some subjects are harder than others and, if so, whether a better alignment should be achieved – since 2015.

Last year it ruled out trying to align grade standards across the full range of GCSE and A-level subjects because it said it would be too challenging.

However, a small adjustment was made to French, German and Spanish A levels in 2017 to account for the impact of native speakers, and the watchdog has been looking at whether further changes are needed for A-level science and languages – subjects that are often seen as more severely graded.

Announcing its findings today, Ofqual said: “After analysing an extensive base of statistical evidence and contextual data, and having considered a wide range of other evidence, including detailed representations from the subject communities, we have concluded that there is not a uniformly compelling case to adjust grading standards in these subjects.”

But it added: “We recognise stakeholders have concerns about the impact that the perception of grading severity may be having on take-up of these subjects; and, in particular, acknowledge their concerns over the falling numbers studying modern foreign languages.

“Although we did not conclude that changing grading standards for the qualifications is justified, we will consider with exam boards how we should act to avoid the potential for these subjects to become statistically more difficult in the future.”


Related Links

Response to Ofqual Announcement on A-level Severe Grading (ALL, 21 November 2018)

‘Languages change, but please let us not lose oor Scots’

20 November 2018 (The Scotsman)

Languages evolve over time, but we must act to stop the disappearance of Scots from our tongues, says Robert Millar, Professor of Linguistics and Scottish Language at Aberdeen University.

Here, Professor Millar looks at shifts in Scots words and phrases over time and how we can safeguard the language for the next generation.


Possible learning benefits of Scots language probed

20 November 2018 (BBC)

The possibility that learning in Scots helps school pupils "excel across the curriculum" is being investigated.

Banff Academy has teamed up with the University of Aberdeen in a bid to assess the potential educational benefits of dialects such as Doric.

The project will specifically examine if studying towards a Scots Language Award - a national qualification - has an impact on attainment.

The university's Elphinstone Institute is behind the research.

The project - funded by a grant from the British Education Research Association - is being led by the university's Claire Needler and humanities teacher Dr Jamie Fairbairn.

Dr Fairbairn said: "Since we introduced the Scots Language Award in 2014 it has been enthusiastically received by many of our pupils.

"Many of our students come from Doric-speaking families and have grown up using the Scots language, however, many have never had an opportunity to write in it or to use it in a more academic way.

"For some, it has had a quite transformative effect. They can see that this is a subject in which they can really shine and, particularly for those who may have struggled in some other areas, it can boost their self-esteem which in turn has an impact on their wider achievement in school.

"Doric is a wonderfully expressive dialect in which to write and the pupils have really engaged with it."


Deaf boy's amazing reaction to Makaton bedtime story

19 November 2018 (BBC)

A deaf boy has an amazing response to Rob Delaney's CBeebies Bedtime Story using Makaton sign language.

Mum Laura McCartney says her son Tom, who has complex medical needs, was "enthralled" to see a story told "in his language".

Six-year-old Tom waves his arms and stands up in his chair in excitement as he watches comedian Rob on TV.


Related Links

Deaf boy reacts to Cbeebies sign language story (BBC, 19 November 2018)

Moves to improve the lives of deaf people in Glasgow revealed

16 November 2018 (Glasgow Live)

Moves to break down barriers for deaf people across Glasgow have been revealed.

City chiefs have agreed plans to improve the lives of British Sign Language (BSL) users by making education, leisure, health and democratic services more accessible

It’s all in response to the Scottish Government’s ‘national plan’ to make Scotland the best place for deaf and blind people to live, work and visit.

Glasgow City Council has developed its strategy after talks with its own service leaders and BSL users.


Outlander: the Scottish phrases used on the show – and what they mean

16 November 2018 (i News)

Many words of both the Gaelic and Scots language have made it into Outlander – the part-historical, part-fantastical TV show that has won a dedicated following in recent years, and is based on the popular series of novels.

Here’s the meaning of some of the most commonly used words in the TV drama.


Finn Russell, Scotland stand-off, on Racing 92, life in Paris and learning French

15 November 2018 (The Scotsman)

Finn Russell admits he hasn’t visited the Louvre or been up the Eiffel Tower yet but he has thrown himself into one aspect of Parisian culture – eating out.

“I thought about cooking, but I thought, as I am by myself, by the time I go out and buy all the bits I need I might as well just go out and eat – it costs like 18 euros and, if I buy it in and don’t use it, then it’s a waste,” said the Scotland stand-off as he gave the media an entertaining update on his big-money move from Glasgow Warriors to Racing 92.

The 26-year-old, who will win his 39th Scotland cap against South Africa tomorrow, has made an instant impact in the French capital, impressing in the No 10 pale blue and white hooped jersey, and says he has loved immersing himself in a new culture and learning a new language, even though that remains a work in progress.


BBC newsreader 'speaks' languages he can’t

14 November 2018 (BBC)

BBC newsreader Matthew Amroliwala only speaks English, but by using artificial intelligence software he suddenly appears to be speaking Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi.

The technique uses software that replaces an original face with a computer-generated face of another.

Amroliwala was asked to read a script in BBC Click’s film studio and the same phrases were also read by speakers of other languages.

The software, created by London based start-up Synthesia, then mapped and manipulated Amroliwala’s lips to mouth the different languages.


Lost in translation: leaders speaking other languages

8 November 2018 (The Telegraph)

As Jeremy Hunt addressed a Parisian audience in French we take a look at polygot politicians past and present.


40% more MFL teacher trainees needed for 2020

5 November 2018 (TES)

An extra 641 teacher trainees in modern foreign languages are needed to start work in schools by 2020, according to government forecasts.

But this is among “challenging targets” for teacher recruitment which the government will yet again fail to meet, training providers have said.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that the number of MFL trainees for postgraduate initial teacher training needed for 2019-20 is 2,241 – compared to 1,600 this year – in order to provide sufficient numbers of newly qualified teachers for the autumn of 2020.

This represents a 40 per cent increase in postgraduate ITT places for MFL compared to 2018-19.

But James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the government had already failed for the last five years to meet recruitment targets for secondary schools and said this was another target which was unlikely to be met.


Queen Elizabeth II Can Speak This Foreign Language After Learning It Privately

5 November 2018 (International Business Times)

Queen Elizabeth II can speak at least one foreign language fluently after getting a private education by governess Marion Crawford.

Harriet Mallinson, a journalist for Express, revealed that Her Majesty can speak French fluently. French is regarded as the official language in 29 countries. But the Queen has used her knowledge in the language during her visits to France and Canada.

In 2014, the Queen went to Paris for a state visit and met with former President Francois Hollande. The two discussed the weather in French. During her fifth French State Visit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, the monarch also gave an address in both English and French. A year later, the Queen spoke with a schoolgirl from Dagenham in French.

But Mallinson noted that the most impressive instance was when the Queen went to Quebec in Canada and gave a speech in French for a straight 10 minutes. French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis commented on the Queen’s French-speaking videos.

“Her reading skills were excellent – both pronunciation and rhythm were very good, but you could feel she was quite tense,” she said.

In related news, the Queen isn’t the only royal that can speak French fluently. Prince Charles and the Queen’s three other children can all speak the language.


Related Links

Prince Harry greets audience in 6 languages (CNN, 31 October 2018)

EAL parents 'can't engage with school life'

1 November 2018 (TES)

More than half of teachers worry that parents whose native language is not English are missing out on critical elements of their children’s education, a survey shows.

Nearly seven out of 10 teachers said they were concerned parents couldn’t help with homework, and 51 per cent worried whether they could identify if their children had learning difficulties.

More than half (56 per cent) of teachers surveyed said they feared parents with English as an additional language (EAL) could not fully engage with school life.


UK to recruit 1,000 more diplomatic staff to maintain international clout after Brexit

31 October 2018 (The Indepedent)

Jeremy Hunt will vow to recruit 1,000 more diplomatic staff and boost their language skills, as he fights warnings that Brexit will weaken Britain’s international clout.

In a major speech, the foreign secretary will promise “the biggest expansion of Britain’s diplomatic network for a generation”, opening new embassies in Africa and South East Asia.

There will also be a doubling of diplomats who speak the local language to 1,000, Mr Hunt will say – and an increase in the number of languages the Foreign Office teaches, from 50 to 70.


Related Links

Jeremy Hunt to cast net wider to recruit top diplomats (The Guardian, 31 October 2018)

Glasgow's Gaelic heritage forms part of Celtic Connections festival

30 October 2018 (Glasgowist)

Glasgow’s Gaelic heritage is celebrated every year as part of the Celtic Connections festival. This year, there was also the Glaschu festival in August, with Gaelic poetry in Queens Park and a Ceilidh on Glasgow Green. Every year, the city is filled with the spirit of Scots Gaelic heritage, as tourists and Glaswegians unite for a celebration of Scottish tradition.

With song and dance at the heart of Gaelic culture, it is no wonder that it continues to fascinate the world. Recent books and television series have prompted a surge in interest in the Gaelic language, while Betfair hosts a slot game called Gaelic Luck. The University of Glasgow has been teaching Gaelic to undergrads for 50 years, and a recent literary festival and ad hoc lessons in Gaelic have responded to a surge in interest.


The 100 greatest foreign-language films

30 October 2018 (BBC)

BBC Culture polled 209 critics in 43 countries to find the best in world cinema.

We felt it was time to direct the spotlight away from Hollywood and celebrate the best cinema from around the world. We asked critics to vote for their favourite movies made primarily in a language other than English. The result is BBC Culture’s 100 greatest foreign-language films.


Harry greets NZ audience in six Pacific languages

30 October 2018 (BBC)

Prince Harry has delighted a gathering of Auckland's local Pasifika community, hosted by New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, by greeting them in six languages.

The royal opened his speech by saying greetings in Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Niuean, Cook Islands Maori and Maori.


What is the best age to learn a language?

26 October 2018 (BBC)

When it comes to learning a foreign language, we tend to think that children are the most adept. But that may not be the case – and there are added benefits to starting as an adult.

It’s a busy autumn morning at the Spanish Nursery, a bilingual nursery school in north London. Parents help their toddlers out of cycling helmets and jackets. Teachers greet the children with a cuddle and a chirpy “Buenos dias!”. In the playground, a little girl asks for her hair to be bunched up into a “coleta” (Spanish for ‘pigtail’), then rolls a ball and shouts “Catch!” in English.

“At this age, children don’t learn a language – they acquire it,” says the school’s director Carmen Rampersad. It seems to sum up the enviable effortlessness of the little polyglots around her. For many of the children, Spanish is a third or even fourth language. Mother tongues include Croatian, Hebrew, Korean and Dutch.

Compare this to the struggle of the average adult in a language class, and it would be easy to conclude that it’s best to start young.

But science offers a much more complex view of how our relationship with languages evolves over a lifetime – and there is much to encourage late beginners.


Gaelic is the talk of the town for Scottish tourists

25 October 2018 (Press and Journal)

Gaelic could add more than £82 million per year to tourism, Visit Scotland revealed yesterday.

Cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, Fiona Hyslop officially launched The Gaelic Tourism Strategy for Scotland 2018-2023 at The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh alongside Lord Thurso, chairman of VisitScotland and Shona Niclllinnein, chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The five-year plan is aimed at boosting the use of Gaelic in the tourism industry and using the language as a “unique selling point” to market to visitors.

The strategy will focus on using the language in everyday use with tourists, and developing the major benefits to businesses that come from the culture and arts associated with Gaeldom.

It will see the introduction of Gaelic ambassadors in every area of Scotland, and “Gaelic spoken here” badges for businesses, in a bid to promote the language to visitors.


Scottish Gaelic Awards 2018: The fantastic finalists are revealed

24 October 2018 (Daily Record)

The finalists have been announced for this year’s Daily Record and Bòrd na Gàidhlig Scottish Gaelic Awards.

The awards pay tribute to all aspects of Gaelic culture, education and language.

And the winners will be revealed on Wednesday, November 14, in Glasgow.


Calls for Scots children to be taught Chinese and Urdu

24 October 2018 (The Scotsman)

A new study suggests more pupils could learn Chinese and Urdu as part of a shake up in learning foreign languages.

The independent think tank, Reform Scotland, has published a report calling for a fresh approach to be taken towards the education of languages in Scottish schools.

The report indicates a practical model of learning should be introduced to help adapt to changing demand.

The number of Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) entries in “traditionally taught” languages has decreased over the last 20 years, with entries for higher grade French down by 18.2% and entries for German at the same level reduced by 58.4%.

In contrast, entries for higher Spanish exams increased by 219.8% increased over the same period, while Chinese entries have increased by 17.8% in the past two years.

Reform Scotland argue this highlights a changing global economy, with Asia seen as a growing economic market.

The report also calls for an end to distinctions between “community” and “modern” languages so that learning reflects the increasing number of communities in Scotland speaking languages such as Polish, Arabic and Urdu.

Reform Scotland Director Chris Deerin said: “If we want to see genuine growth in language skills in Scotland, rather than just paying lip service to the idea, we need to rethink our approach.

“There is a danger the languages currently on offer within the education system are not keeping up with Scottish or global society.

“We need to think much more freely - as many other countries do - about how best to equip ourselves to thrive in the modern global economy. Brexit, the shift of power from West to East, and Scotland’s pressing need to secure greater economic growth, all demand fresh ideas.”


‘Teaching linguistics improves language skills’

19 October 2018 (TES)

How much do your students know about linguistics? Probably not much, because linguistics (the scientific study of language) is conspicuously absent from the modern foreign language syllabus in schools. This is a shame, because linguistics has much to offer students.

(Note - registration required to read full article).


How language assistants can make a difference in your school

17 October 2018 (TES)

At Dane Royd Junior and Infant School, we’ve been employing modern language assistants (MLA) – mainly European and Chinese language assistants for over 15 years. We also lead training and support for schools within the local authority who employ language assistants.

Our MLAs have been key in boosting not only our teaching of modern foreign languages but also the teaching of global citizenship and British Values. We’ve seen our pupils’ understanding of their cultural heritage and place in the world grow by being able to compare and contrast their experiences and beliefs through their frequent interactions with an MLA.

In supporting other schools, I’ve seen the wealth of activities that MLAs can contribute which enable schools to deepen their language teaching, as well as dramatically improve language skills among pupils. Here are a few of the most effective activities to try in your school.


I woke up unable to speak English

17 October 2018 (BBC)

Hannah Jenkins speaks English in the morning and German in the afternoon. It's not a routine she chose to adopt - but something her brain requires her to do. It all started with a cycling accident.

Her partner Andrew Wilde was halfway up a mountain in the US state of Montana when he received a baffling text from Hannah.

He understood only two words - "dog" and "hospital" - but knew instinctively something was wrong.

The text was in German, a language Hannah had grown up with, but Andrew didn't really understand. They only ever communicated in English.


The problem with German

17 October 2018 (The Linguist)

Does the portrayal of Germans by the UK press stop pupils wanting to study the language, asks Heike Krüsemann.

Working as a secondary school German teacher for over two decades, I became more and more aware of how difficult British students seemed to find learning languages. This was playing out against the background of declining language uptake nationally, which has affected German the most. Currently, fewer than half of all 16-year-olds take a language GCSE. The number studying German has fallen by more than a third since 2010, while German A-level entries have dropped by three-quarters since 1997 to just 3,000. Experts now hold that German as a school subject is “headed for extinction”.

What my students heard about German, Germans and Germany often did not square with what they experienced in lessons, or through travel and contact with German people. This made me wonder whether motivation to learn German, including uptake at school, was related to public discourses around German. This question became a research focus of my PhD. The ’school’ part of my study involved just over 500 learners, their German teachers and head teachers from four English secondary schools; the ‘public’ part consisted of a large number of articles about German, Germans and Germany from a range of UK national newspapers.


Youth committee to lead Mod into the future

16 October 2018 (Press and Journal)

A youth committee is working with An Comunn Gàidhealach to shape the Mods of the future.

The group was set up this year giving a nod to The National Year of the Young Person – and so far has set its sights on modernising the way in which the historic organisation communicates with the public to secure its future.

The committee of three – Shannon MacLean, 21, Padruig Morrison, 22 and Katie MacInnes 18 – is supported by 25-year-old Alison Bruce who is also employed by An Comunn Gàidhealach.

Miss MacLean, from Mull, said: “Being on the committee has been very interesting. Our main goal is to get more young people to come to the mod and get them involved in local mods around the country.

“This is my third mod in Dunoon, and it is certainly the competitions that have helped me, as a non-native speaker, take the language seriously.

“My job is to make sure it survives for a long time yet.”


Related Links

Top Gaelic learner blooms at the Mòd (The Scotsman, 17 October 2018)

Bilingual pupils outperform native English

15 October 2018 (The Times)

Pupils who speak English fluently as a second language do better than native speakers throughout their whole time at school, according to a study.

The researchers found that bilingual children performed better than their monolingual classmates — and the national average — at the ages of five, seven, eleven and in GCSEs. Teenagers speaking English as a foreign language pulled ahead of native speakers in GCSEs for the first time this summer.


Celebration of Gaelic begins in Dunoon

14 October 2018 (Argyllshire Advertiser)

It’s Mòd time again, and the Gaelic party is well and truly up and running in Dunoon.

Storm Callum and well-publicised road closure problems at the Rest and be Thankful were never going to prevent Gaels from all over Scotland and beyond from enjoying themselves.

Friday saw the the Royal National Mòd (Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail) get into full swing with an energetic night of live music and celebrations, as Scotland’s biggest Gaelic cultural festival arrived in the Argyll town.

The Mòd is set to bring thousands of people to Dunoon as visitors and competitors until Saturday October 20.


Gaelic Ambassador of the Year announced at Royal National Mod

13 October 2018 (BBC)

A 22-year-old singer from Skye has been named Gaelic Ambassador of the Year, as the Royal National Mod gets under way.

Eilidh Cormack, from Portree, said she was "absolutely delighted".

The Gaelic cultural festival began in Dunoon on Friday night, with a special celebration honouring Scotland's Year of Young People.

Over the next eight days there will be more than 200 competitions and events in Highland dancing, sport, literature, drama, Gaelic music and song.


Why you can never truly understand another country without learning its language

11 October 2018 (The Telegraph)

The first thing I asked for on getting ashore in Spain was a glass of red wine. I had never been to the country before and could speak not a sentence of the language, so I pieced together the request from a dictionary.

The woman behind the bar was nonplussed, since each word I’d used and the whole sentence were erroneous. So she served the next customer while I stewed in confusion. Then she explained to me that she’d done this in order to attend to me without hurry. The funny thing was that I didn’t know any of the words she used to me, yet I understood.

(Note, subscription required to read full article).


How studying languages got Callum a job at Cardiff City

10 October 2018 (BBC)

There has been a further drop in the number of students from Wales taking language courses at university, according to admissions service Ucas.

The numbers starting foreign language courses was down by a third on the same time last year, in latest figures.

Cardiff University has been working with schools to encourage more pupils to take up subjects such as French.

Helping them is former student Callum Davies, now a player liaison officer at Cardiff City FC. He learnt modern foreign languages at school and spent a year in the south of France as part of the Erasmus programme while doing his degree course at Cardiff University.

He works helping French-speaking players and their families settle in the city.


Related Links

French and German language students from Wales fall again (BBC, 10 October 2018)

Edinburgh Council to open new Gaelic schools by 2024

10 October 2018 (The Scotsman)

The city council will press ahead with proposals to open new primary and secondary Gaelic schools despite a “problematic” shortage of teachers who speak the language.

The authority hopes to open a new primary school in 2023 where pupils are taught through the medium of Gaelic - while a secondary school could follow by 2024. A host of short-term improvements will also be taken forward.

The council is facing a growing demand for Gaelic education but council officers admit that at the Bun-Sgoil Taobh na Pairce primary school, “as the school has grown, the recruitment of sufficient Gaelic-speaking teachers has proven to be problematic.”

Conservative education spokesman, Cllr Callum Laidlaw, said: “Clearly, there’s a demand for it in Edinburgh for primary expansion. There’s a problem with the citywide catchment area for the current primary school with transport, which is provided by the council. If we move forward with any expansion of primary GME, I would like to see that geographic problem tackled by building it in the south west of the city.

“As it stands, the plan demonstrates ambition rather than reality. There’s a significant recruitment challenge the council has to address first before it moves forward. We need to focus on delivering the six priority high schools in the Wave 4 funding before we commit to the GME secondary school.”

The primary school in Bonnington now has 20 Gaelic-speaking teachers. At James Gillespie’s High School, the city’s Gaelic Medium Education (GME) secondary school, a recruitment drive has helped fill vacancies – but fewer lessons than expected have been taught in Gaelic.


BTS and K-pop: How to be the perfect fan

9 October 2018 (BBC)

They're the Beatles for the 21st Century, a global pop sensation that generates mania and devotion in equal measure, and they've sold out London's O2 Arena.

BTS, the South Korean seven-member boyband and pin-up stars of the K-pop genre, are performing in the UK for two nights only.

And their fans, who call themselves the Army, are over the Moon. We headed for the queues to find out what makes the perfect K-pop fan.

[..] Fans talk about how regularly listening to BTS, who mostly sing in Korean, has meant they are inadvertently learning Korean.

"You quite quickly become engrossed in Korean culture," says 24-year-old Najma Akther, from Scunthorpe.


Related Links

K-pop - BTS (BBC, 11 October 2018)

Agenda: Youth will be to the fore with Gaelic at the Mod

8 October 2018 (The Herald)

When cult Gaelic rock group Runrig signed off at their final concerts at Stirling some weeks ago their popularity with fans of all ages was abundantly evident. Forty years earlier these young Gaelic speakers launched their band and captured the lasting interest of many in their language and the challenging history of their people.

The group instilled new confidence and self-esteem among young Gaels and in communities in other countries. Runrig’s appearance coincided with renewed interest in Gaelic language revival and their music complemented and supported education and other cultural initiatives that have grown since.

Gaelic music’s international success reflects natural talent and continuing cultural confidence from the Runrig phenomenon of the 1970s. All involved in the promotion and revitalisation of Gaelic are acutely aware that the future of the language and culture depend on the interest and enthusiasm young people take in it.


Petition to make BSL first language for deaf children in Wales

5 October 2018 (BBC)

A petition for British Sign Language (BSL) to be recognised as the first language of many deaf children in Wales has been submitted.

Deffo! Cymru, a forum for young deaf people in Wales, wants the Welsh Government to widen access to education and services in BSL.

The petition gathered 1,162 signatures and the National Assembly's petitions committee has recommended changes.

The committee's report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

One of the report's recommendations is the development of a national charter for the delivery of services, including education, to deaf children, young people and their families.


Gaelic centre plan has backing of Inverness public

4 October 2018 (Inverness Courier)

A survey has shown that there is significant public support for a new Gaelic cultural centre in Inverness.

The research, which was carried out by the Alba Heritage Trust with the aim of establishing the level of interest in a project celebrating Gaelic heritage, was met with “overwhelming” backing from members of the public.

Alba Heritage Trust director Alastair Forbes says the reaction has from businesses and individuals across the board has been significant.

“We are delighted to have had so many responses to the survey,” he said.

“The reaction from the public and private sectors and from members of the community for the establishment of a Gaelic cultural centre has been extremely positive which has given us great confidence in moving forward with the project.”


Pas de 'fake news' – too many English words rile French defenders

4 October 2018 (The Guardian)

Defenders of the French language are calling on their compatriots to stop using the English term “fake news”, recommending instead that they refer to “information fallacieuse”.

The Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language (CELF) also proffered a newly coined expression, “infox”, for those who find “information fallacieuse” a bit of a mouthful.

“The Anglo-Saxon expression ‘fake news’, which refers to a range of behaviours contributing to the misinformation of the public, has rapidly prospered in French,” the commission lamented. “This is an occasion to draw on the resources of the language to find French equivalents.”

The encroachment of English expressions is a regular topic of debate in France, where young people, in particular, often sprinkle their conversations with English turns of phrase.


New language hub which helps dementia sufferers to open on Glasgow’s south side

3 October 2018 (Glasgow Live)

A new language hub which will help empower older adults living with dementia in Glasgow has opened on the south side of the city.

Lingo Flamingo, based on Deanston Drive in the Shawlands area, will be offering a selection of immersive foreign language courses for all ages.

And all profits from the classes will be used to fund dementia-friendly classes in care homes across Glasgow and beyond.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid gets bairn again with first ever Scots translation

29 September 2018 (Daily Record)

Teen classic Diary of a Wimpy Kid is to get a braw makeover - being translated into Scots for the first time.

Jeff Kinney’s best-selling book series has been given a Caledonian re-vamp by Itchy Coo, the Scots language imprint for children at Black & White Publishing,

The first book in the series is “Diary o’ a Wimpy Wean”, re-worked by Scots writer Thomas Clark.

In the translation, twelve-year-old hero, Greg Hefley, tells the reader all about his life in modern Scots patter.


John Edward: Languages skills essential for global citizens

29 September 2018 (The Scotsman)

Scotland’s independent schools maintain a track record of academic excellence, and this has continued in 2018 with another set of outstanding exam results, which is only strengthened by individual and collective success in sports, art, music and other community endeavours.

With upwards of 30,000 pupils across Scotland, these schools, represented by The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), strive to deliver the best level of service to their pupils and parents.

Independent schools aim to prepare their pupils for further and higher education, their chosen career and their place as global citizens. As an education sector that can design and implement a bespoke school curriculum, we are seeing modern languages continue as a popular and desired subject of choice within schools.

Nelson Mandela said: ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart.” This is a powerful reminder that we can’t just rely on English when wanting to build relationships and trust with people from other countries.

From this year’s recent exam results, we can see that languages are topping the league tables with the highest pass rates within independent schools. A total of 68 per cent of pupils who studied foreign languages achieved a Higher grade A.

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, showed that 72 per cent of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 72 per cent of those studying German, 69 per cent of those studying French and 63 per cent studying Spanish also achieved an A.

This demonstrates that independent schools in Scotland are supporting foreign languages as vital skills that children and young people will undoubtedly require in the future. Languages now, as a subject choice, are being held in the same regard as STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in independent school curriculums and elsewhere.


How the English Failed to Stamp Out the Scots Language

28 September 2018 (Atlas Obscura)

Over the past few decades, as efforts to save endangered languages have become governmental policy in the Netherlands (Frisian), Slovakia (Rusyn) and New Zealand (Maori), among many others, Scotland is in an unusual situation. A language known as Scottish Gaelic has become the figurehead for minority languages in Scotland. This is sensible; it is a very old and very distinctive language (it has three distinct rsounds!), and in 2011 the national census determined that fewer than 60,000 people speak it, making it a worthy target for preservation.

But there is another minority language in Scotland, one that is commonly dismissed. It’s called Scots, and it’s sometimes referred to as a joke, a weirdly spelled and -accented local variety of English. 


‘The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it’

25 September 2018 (Irish Times)

Learning a new language can seem like a mammoth challenge, but for those who are really intent on developing fluency, nothing beats full immersion by moving to the country where it is spoken day-to-day. Ahead of European Day of Languages on September 26th, readers living around the world share their experiences of the frustration and joy of learning a new tongue.


‘The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it’

25 September 2018 (The Irish Times)

Learning a new language can seem like a mammoth challenge, but for those who are really intent on developing fluency, nothing beats full immersion by moving to the country where it is spoken day-to-day. Ahead of European Day of Languages on September 26th, readers living around the world share their experiences of the frustration and joy of learning a new tongue.


Learn another European language – and give two fingers to Brexit Britain

21 September 2018 (The Guardian)

For someone who occasionally seems unsure whether their wife is Japanese or Chinese, Jeremy Hunt seems to speak pretty good Japanese.

Unless bits of it were Chinese, obviously. Given the way things have gone lately for Theresa May’s government we probably shouldn’t rule anything out, but let’s just assume the Tokyo audience he addressed in their native tongue this week wasn’t just being polite and that he did actually deliver the whole speech in the correct language.

Whatever you think of Hunt’s politics generally, there was something endearing about the sight of a foreign secretary actually trying to speak some foreign, at a time when much of Britain seems belligerently convinced that if the world doesn’t understand us then we should just shout louder at them. Foreign languages have been in decline in British schools for years, especially at A-level; German in particular is so unpopular now, with a 45% drop in entries since 2010, that some schools will be seriously debating dropping it from the timetable. Languages have become seen as subjects in which it’s too hard to excel, partly because native speakers tend to scoop the A* awards and push the bar higher for everyone else, which makes them too much of a risk for kids intent on getting the grades for university.

Lately there has been some tinkering with grade boundaries to encourage uptake. But while mathematicians and scientists have gone to great lengths to popularise subjects once seen as geeky or intimidatingly difficult, there has been no concerted push behind French or Spanish.

And if we’re honest, Britain’s solid international reputation for being rubbish at languages isn’t just down to the kids. How many of us slogged through years of irregular verbs and asking the way to the station, only to be reduced in middle age to fumbled holiday conversations in shops and frantic pointing?

But watching Hunt reminded me of something I’ve been wondering for a while, which is whether the prospect of leaving Europe will finally make learning a language feel less like a slog and more like a thrillingly subversive act; one great defiant two fingers to everything Brexit Britain stands for.

Languages are lovely things to learn in their own right, of course, if you’re so minded; living, breathing entities that weave in and out of each other, exchanging sounds and words and ideas. But they’re also one of the purest forms of soft power. Speaking to someone in their own tongue is a disarming act, a gesture of empathy and respect. If you’re not actually very good at it then in some ways all the better; at least it’s obvious you’re making an effort, which is why typing furiously into Google Translate doesn’t quite have the same effect.


Exclusive: Hopes of languages revival snuffed out

19 September 2018 (TES)

A teaching union has questioned official figures showing that GCSE entries in modern foreign languages have increased for the first time in five years.

A “glimmer of hope” was offered to linguists on results day last month when it was revealed that there had been a 0.4 per cent increase in entries this year.

But the Association of School and College Leaders says this was probably due to some schools switching from iGCSEs (which no longer count in school performance tables) to the new reformed GCSE qualifications.

The ASCL says the number of iGCSE entries in England fell significantly, and that the statistics change when iGCSE and GCSE entries are combined.

Overall, the number of German entries fell by 3.5 per cent since last year, for example, and did not rise by 2 per cent as exam board GCSE entry figures show.

Similarly, the increase in Spanish entries was just 1.7 per cent when you include the drop in iGCSE entries, says the ASCL, and not the 4.4 per cent publicised this summer.

Lastly, the number of French candidates fell by 5.9 per cent, rather than the 2.9 per cent shown in just GCSE figures.


Scottish Parliament publishes new Gaelic promotion plan

19 September 2018 (Daily Mail)

A new five-year plan for promoting Gaelic has been unveiled by the Scottish Parliament.

The proposals set out how the language will be supported between 2018 and 2022 within Holyrood.

They include providing awareness training to all front-of-house staff, showing it as much respect as English as well as creating a space where the Gaelic business community can raise issues with representatives.


Related Links

Parliament publishes new 5-year Gaelic plan (Holyrood, 20 September 2018)

Castles light up in celebration of Gaelic and Scots (The Scotsman, 19 September 2018)

Scottish Parliament publishes new Gaelic promotion plan (Evening Express, 19 September 2018)

What’s on in October – Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2018

18 September 2018 (Edinburgh Reporter)

The 5th Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival takes place from 4-20 October 2018.

Festival Opens With First Ever Basque Film Screened At Edinburgh Filmhouse.

The 2018 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival presents a total of 15 feature films and 7 short films in Spanish from 4-20 October in Edinburgh (Filmhouse), Stirling (MacRobert Arts Centre) and Glasgow (Film Theatre).

[..] Many of the films are suitable for all ages and in addition there will be a special screening of Nur And The Dragon Temple for schools at 10am on Wednesday 3rd October. There will also be workshops which will explore Spanish language, cinema and youth taking place in schools throughout Scotland.


Gaelic talent provide new video game's soundtrack

18 September 2018 (BBC)

Gaelic musicians, including an 82-year-old Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame inductee, have provided the soundtrack to a new video game.

The Bard's Tale IV Barrows Deep is a follow up to the 1980s game Bard's Tale.

Its soundtrack features celebrated piper and Gaelic singer Rona Lightfoot, and Peigi Barker, 16, who was the voice of Young Merida in Disney film Brave.

Simple Minds bass player Ged Grimes composed and produced the music.

Dundee-born Grimes was responsible for bringing together the Gaelic musicians.

The soundtrack features more than 30 songs. Among those singing on the tracks is a 40-member Gaelic choir.


Translation apps on the One Show

18 September 2018 (BBC)

Digital translation apps were put to the test by the One Show on Tuesday 18 September, but guest Michael Palin expressed the view that there was no substitute for trying to speak the language on your travels. The programme is available on iPlayer until 18 October 2018 (NB - registration required. View from 13:54).


Agenda: Let’s raise a toast to a decade of BBC Alba

17 September 2018 (The Herald)

In a world dominated by media the importance of broadcasting cannot be overemphasised in efforts to revive lesser used languages and so the 10th anniversary of the establishment of BBC Alba – launched on September 19, 2008 – is cause for celebration for all committed to the survival and advancement of the Gaelic language. That it was set up under the aegis of the BBC was a crucial achievement especially in the context of that year’s global financial crisis and the inevitable questions around the licence fee, charter renewal and the like. Therefore, to have our Scottish Gaelic channel on the first screen of the BBC iPlayer – located between the Parliament channel and S4C (the Welsh language channel) – remains a source of pleasure to language activists.

Indeed the creation of a dedicated Gaelic channel is now acknowledged as one of the key cultural developments of the new millennium in Scotland (cf National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee V & A) and crucially complements Gaelic-medium education; and arguably, in terms of impact, more significant than the Gaelic Language Act (2005).


Youngsters wow crowds at Highland festival finale

17 September 2018 (Press and Journal)

A thousand young people took to the stage to sing an inspiration Gaelic song during a celebration of young musicians in Inverness on Saturday.

They brought the Blas Festival to a stunning close in front of a packed audience at the Northern meeting park.

Their performance came at the end of a day of outstanding music and song that featured some of the biggest names in Scottish traditional music.

Gathered together for the festival showcase Oran Mor – which means Great (or Big) Song – were young musicians from Feisean and various youth initiatives from across Scotland including the Highland Council Youth Music Groups, the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music and City of Inverness Youth Pipe Band.


A Bilingual Brain Solves Problems Faster

12 September 2018 (Newsy)

Language allows us to share thoughts and feelings with somebody else. It's our cultural glue. Otherwise, we'd live in a world of babel. But there's much more to language, including elements that affect the structure and functioning of the brain. 

While the first words spoken may have been 250,000 years ago, now more than half of the people around the world – estimates vary from 60 to 75 percent – speak at least two languages. 

Eighty percent of primary and secondary students in 24 European countries are learning a foreign language, usually English. Across the United States the number is closer to 20 percent, but this varies by state. In New Jersey, 51 percent of students have a second language course included as part of the school day.

Learning those languages impacts our noggins. Brain scans show that people who speak more than one language have more gray matter in their anterior cingulate cortex, the area linked to everything from learning to social behavior to resolving conflicts. 


EAL: Working with new arrivals

12 September 2018 (SecEd)

This September, many secondary schools will have new arrivals from abroad who have English as an additional language. Continuing our series on EAL, Dr Ruth Wilson gives some practical advice for you and your schools in meeting the needs of this diverse group of learners

New arrivals with English as an additional language (EAL) are a very diverse group. Their language proficiency can range from “new to English” to “fluent”. The young person can arrive at any age and with widely different socio-economic and educational backgrounds. Some students may come from an advantaged context with a high standard of education; others may have had little or interrupted schooling or experienced traumatic events. A new arrival could for example be a refugee from a war-torn country or a child of a German banker working in the City of London.

Data show that, on average, pupils arriving late into the English school system do less well in external exams than their first language English peers, and that the older the pupils are when they arrive the less likely they are to achieve good results in year 11 (Hutchinson, 2018).

This article gives some practical advice for you and your schools in meeting the needs of EAL learners who are newly arrived from abroad. 


Dunoon gears up for Royal National Mòd

12 September 2018 (Oban Times)

Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail (The Royal National Mòd) will return to Dunoon next month (Friday 12 October – Saturday 20 October) for the eighth time – with a very special focus on Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018.

The nine-day spectacular of Gaelic music, arts and sport will take place in Dunoon for the first time since 2012, with a host of initiatives aimed at encouraging more young people to get involved already under way.

Throughout the year, Dunoon schools have welcomed tutors from FèisSgoil to help them prepare for Mòd competitions, as part of An Comunn Gàidhealach’s Mòd Academy initiative, which aims to help youngsters learn and develop their musical and Gaelic skills.

Local drama workshops for Dunoon’s youngsters were hosted in recent months in a bid to inspire more children to get involved with Gaelic drama, with a group set to perform at this year’s festival; and organisers have been working closely with the Camanachd Association to arrange a junior shinty Mòd Cup match before the annual senior match.

This year also saw the establishment of the first ever Young Person’s Committee, supported by the Year of Young People 2018 Event Fund, which has allowed young Gaels the opportunity to get involved in the Mòd planning process, and to have their say on what they would like to see.


Bilingual Brain: Here's what happens when you flip between languages

10 September 2018 (Newsweek)

A study has shed light on the brain mechanisms which allow bilingual people to switch effortlessly from one language to another.

Neurolinguistics researchers already believe parts of the brain in charge of decision-making, the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, light up when we toggle between languages. Now, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents a potential new piece to the puzzle.

Esti Blanco-Elorrieta, graduate student at the NYU neurolinguistics lab, told Newsweek, “The process of switching languages entails [minimally] disengaging from the language that was being used until that point, and engaging in a new language. This study showed that it is turning off the previous language, and not ‘turning on’ a new language, that is effortful.”

And while those who swap between languages may make it seem easy, it is in fact “a remarkably complicated process that involves the successful coordination of two independent language systems,” he explained.

Article includes a video of polyglot, Alex Rawlings, providing 10 tips for learning a new language.


Lithuanian and Korean to be taught in Irish schools

10 September 2018 (Irish Times)

Lithuanian and Korean will be taught from this week as part of a drive to diversify the number of languages on the curriculum in Irish schools.

Lithuanian will be a short course for junior cycle in schools in Dublin and Monaghan where there is the highest concentration of the country’s natives in Ireland.

According to the last census in 2016, 36,683 Lithuanians live in Ireland. However, the Lithuanian embassy estimates the real figure is twice that if the number of children of immigrants are taken into account.

The course is for a minimum of 100 hours over two years. Some 43 applicants were received from teachers of the language.

The introduction of Lithuanian into Irish school is part of the foreign languages strategy which identifies the need to support immigrant communities to maintain their own languages.

It was introduced last year as part of a 10-year strategy to prepare Ireland for Brexit through a series of steps such as potential bonus Central Applications Office (CAO) points for studying foreign languages.

The Korean language, the 17th most spoken language in the world, is being introduced as a module for transition year. Trade between South Korea and Ireland reached €1.8 billion in 2015.

The language will be introduced into four schools in Dublin.

French accounts for more than half of all language sits in the Leaving Certificate, followed by German (13 per cent), Spanish (11 per cent) and Italian (1 per cent).

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the teaching and learning of foreign languages is a priority in the post-Brexit world.


Artist’s nature dictionary captures how Scots once described our landscape

9 September 2018 (The Herald)

No-one wants to hear the sound of a splorroch but a huam is another matter, at least if you had lived in Scotland 100 years ago or more.

Long forgotten words to describe the countryside have been uncovered and included in a new dictionary of words compiled during academic’s research in the Cairngorms. 

Dictionary author Amanda Thomson said: “These words reveal so much about our history, natural history, and our changing ways of life - they are indicative of the depth, richness and variety of the Scots language and its unique relationship to nature and the Scottish landscapes of Lowlands, Highlands and islands.”


Related Links

Why Scots words like ‘splorrach’ can’t be allowed to die (The Scotsman, 12 September 2018)

‘Mither tongue’ Doric is given official status

8 September 2018 (The Times)

For decades it faced ridicule and was forbidden in schools, but now one of the native tongues of northeast Scotland has effectively been recognised as an official language. Doric, a dialect spoken from Montrose in Angus to Nairn in the Highlands, will be acknowledged alongside English and Gaelic.

As part of its commitment to the “mither tongue” Aberdeen city council this week published its cultural strategy in the language of the author Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

The document, Culture Aiberdeen, states: “In the last couple o year there’s been a lowp in the nummer of boorachs formed bi artists an performers."


Languages in the Lords

6 September 2018 (They Work For You)

Baroness Coussins, co-chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages, calls for language skills to be prioritised in careers advice in schools in today's Lords' debate.

In contributing to the debate she highlighted the specific need for careers education and advice to convey the enormous and increasing value of language skills to school leavers and graduates as they make their career choices. Stating this advice must also start early enough for school students to have the opportunity to choose one or more foreign languages among their GCSE options. 

She went on to stress that it is often wrongly assumed that studying foreign languages is just for the brightest students, and that they can be beneficial for anyone, at whatever level. Foreign language skills are in use in practically every sector in the economy, with higher than average demand in the financial services, IT and telecommunications, passenger transport, fashion and design and hotel and catering industries. They are in use at all levels in the workforce, not just senior management. In fact, the greatest skills gaps are among administrative and clerical staff, and those working at elementary grades. All that is before we even mention the need for languages and linguists in diplomacy, defence and security.


Still Game director creates new Gaelic sketch show

6 September 2018 (BBC)

A new Gaelic language sketch show created by Still Game director Michael Hines has been announced as part of BBC Alba's autumn season.

Func will feature new acting and writing talent.


Trust me, I'm a doctor

5 September 2018 (BBC)

In last night's episode of the BBC2 series 'Trust me, I'm a doctor', Michael Mosley found out how learning a new language can stave off dementia.

The programme is available online until 4 October 2018. 


Fifth dedicated Gaelic school officially opened

4 September 2018 (Holyrood)

A new Gaelic primary - the fifth school dedicated to the language in Scotland – has been officially opened in Skye.

Bun-Sgoil Ghàidhlig Phort Rìgh in Portree is the third Gaelic medium school in the Highland Council area.

It opened to its 133 primary and 47 nursery pupils in April this year, with Education Secretary John Swinney attending a special opening ceremony on Monday.

He said: “It is a pleasure to be involved in supporting Highland Council to realise their vision for the Gaelic language. 

“We are seeing growing demand from parents for access to Gaelic medium education across the country which clearly demonstrates that the Scottish Government’s commitments to supporting the language are a having a positive result. 

“I commend Highland Council for their actions and look forward to working with them on future projects.”

Gaelic medium education is available in 14 out of 32 Scottish local authorities to all children and young people.


Consternation over suggested French grammar change

4 September 2018 (BBC)

The suggestion by a pair of Belgian teachers to drop a rule of grammar drilled into every French speaker at an early age has led to some amusement and consternation in France.

The teachers say rules for past participles that follow the verb avoir (to have) should be simplified.

The change would save some 80 hours of teaching time, they argue.

It has been endorsed by the linguistic authorities of Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region and Brussels.

Currently, the rule is that the past participle of a verb does not agree with the direct object of a sentence if it comes after it, but it does when the object comes before the participle.

So for instance, in the sentence j'ai mangé des frites (I ate chips), mangé remains the same. But in the sentence les frites que j'ai mangées (the chips that I have eaten), the participle agrees with the word chips, which is feminine and plural.

The two teachers, Arnaud Hoedt et Jérôme Piron, argue the rule is overly complicated and inconsistent, and that the participle should remain unchanged regardless of the position of the object in the sentence if used with the verb to have.


Cognitive science is changing language learning

3 September 2018 (School Education Gateway)

In this article, Professor Jon Andoni Duñabeitia from the Universidad Nebrija in Madrid, Spain, talks about inclusive and scientifically validated approaches to language learning.

While my one-and-a-half-year-old son, who is growing up in a Basque-Spanish bilingual environment, shows a surprising ability to process things in either language, his mother still struggles with English when we go abroad, and his Spanish-speaking grandmother devotes considerable time and effort to learning Basque in a classroom environment. Obviously, the process of native language acquisition for toddlers, which naturally occurs at a very early age, is markedly different from the process of language acquisition for a multilingual older adult enrolled in a formal learning programme.

One could easily draw up an endless list of language learning scenarios between these two extremes – and cognitive scientists are working hard to uncover the role played by their respective factors.


Study of Portuguese and Spanish explodes as China expands role in Latin America

2 September 2018 (The Guardian)

Thousands more Chinese students are taking up Latin American languages with an eye to improved employability.

When Zhang Fangming started learning Portuguese, it was with an eye to becoming a top Chinese diplomat in Brazil.

For Sun Jianglin, a Portuguese degree was about landing a job, but also a deeper knowledge of Brazilian music. “Bossa nova!” the 19-year-old undergraduate cooed. “I really like this kind-of-close-to-jazz music!”

The pair – who also go by the names Rodrigo and Antonia – are part of a new generation of Chinese students hoping a mastery of Latin America’s languages coupled with their country’s expanding role in the region will prove a recipe for success.


British students are too focussed on getting top grades to go on years abroad, university body says as figures show UK behind Europe and US

1 September 2018 (The Telegraph)

he number of undergraduates at UK universities going on years abroad is lagging behind other countries, a report has warned, amid concerns that British students are more focused on getting top grades than gaining life experience.

A report released by Universities UK (UUK), a body which represents 136 British universities, shows that just 6.6 per cent of British students go on ‘year abroad’ programmes during their degrees, compared to 28 per cent of German students, 16 per cent of students in the United States and 20 per cent of Australians.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, suggested that UK students may be too focussed on their grades and securing jobs to go on a year abroad while they are studying, and while students worry about their grades, employers in the UK may actually value the soft skills more.

“At a time of political and economic uncertainty in the UK, it is understandable that students are seeking stability by focusing on their studies and getting a foot on the career ladder as soon as possible,” Ms Stern said.

“However, sacrificing opportunities to study abroad means that UK students are actually missing opportunities to enhance their careers: we know that graduates who have studied abroad are 24 per cent less likely to be unemployed than those who haven’t,” she told The Sunday Telegraph.


Brexit prompts surge in Brits signing up to learn languages online

30 August 2018 (Sky News)

Some Britons unhappy with the UK's decision to leave the European Union have opted for an unusual form of protest - learning a new language.

In the days leading up to Article 50 being triggered on March 29, 2017, a leading language-learning app reports that it saw a 24% increase in new user sign-ups in the UK.

The CEO of Duolingo, which has 300 million users, told Sky News that the company noticed a spike in sign-ups at the time and saw its users commenting online that they had been motivated by Brexit.


Caution over drop in numbers sitting language exams

30 August 2018 (SecEd)

Another fall in the number of pupils taking French and German exams does not reflect an overall decline in the health of languages in Scottish classrooms, according to a leading linguist.

French National 5 entries fell by about 10 per cent on last year, while at Higher the level was 17.5 per cent below 2016. German Higher entries were down 20 per cent on two years ago.

Spanish and Mandarin have made modest rises overall.

However, Fhiona Mackay, director of SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, said it was misleading to focus on this criterion alone because primary schools were “normalising” languages from P1 in a way that is widening exposure hugely.

“The French figures were disappointing, no doubt about it. But to say languages are disappearing from our schools is very far off the mark and really unfair on our teachers.

“Of course I would like to see more youngsters choosing languages because I fundamentally believe that is a good thing. But it needs to be voluntary – so we need to evaluate the barriers and do more to remove them.” 


Narrowing of secondary options hits Gaelic

30 August 2018 (TES)

A leading light in Gaelic-medium education is calling for the Scottish government to investigate the impact of the narrowing of the curriculum in senior secondary.

He says teenagers are being “lost to the language” and that the teacher supply pipeline is “in danger of drying up” as a result.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).


Related Links

Call for the right to be taught in Gaelic (TES, 31 August 2018) Subscription required to read full article.

Where next for Gaelic as it gains ground in education? (TES, 31 August 2018) Subscription required to read full article.

WYSE survey shows rise of mixed travel

28 August 2018 (The Pie News)

Young travellers are increasingly combining leisure and study in their holidays, a survey of the youth, student and educational travel market conducted by WYSE Travel Federation revealed.

[..] “More than 20% of the young travellers who responded to the New Horizons IV Survey in 2017 were mixing holiday with language learning. This is up from 14% in our 2012 survey.”


Gaelic archive of songs and stories unlocked for first time

27 August 2018 (The Scotsman)

Their songs and stories speak of a different time.

Now an audio archive which documents the traditions of crofters, farm workers and fishermen - in English and Gaelic and some Scots - has opened up to the public for the first time.

More than 40 audio files are being published online by Glasgow University as it works to make traditional Gaelic speech more accessible to speakers and learners of the language.


Gaelic Language plan brings forward a host of new volunteers

28 August 2018 (Press and Journal)

Gaelic speakers, and those with an interest in the language, are being invited to showcase bespoke tours for visitors at sites including Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban, Arnol Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis and Urquhart Castle, near Inverness, to promote the historic origins of the language and its place in Scotland’s rich history.

The Gaelic volunteer programme is part of the organisation’s five-year Gaelic Language Plan.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Gaelic is a distinct and unique part of Scotland’s history and culture which attracts visitors from all over the world, contributing significantly to Scotland’s economy.


Related Links

Historic sites to offer bespoke Gaelic tours (The Herald, 28 August 2018)

Talking up Gaelic at historic sites (Stornoway Gazette, 27 August 2018)

Historic sites to offer bespoke Gaelic tours

28 August 2018 (The Herald)

It was once a language which had been pushed to the margins, spoken only in isolated communities and far-flung outposts.

But now Gaelic is undergoing something of a renaissance in Scotland with a fresh interest apparent in the country's songs, signposts and schools.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).


Among D.C. United players, a new team-building drill: Spanish lessons

23 August 2018 (Washington Post)

After practice and lunch Wednesday, most D.C. United players headed home for the day. Others had meetings or media obligations.

For three players and two assistant coaches, the next stop was a windowless, cinder-block room around the corner and down the hallway from the locker room.

Each carried a textbook and, upon entering, grabbed a work sheet from a table in front of a screen and whiteboard in the middle of the room and settled at makeshift desks.

“Hola, David,” instructor Katherin Rodriguez said to her first arrival, David Ousted.

The Danish goalkeeper responded in kind.

Class was in session.


Chinese tourists flock to North Yorkshire chippy

23 August 2018 (BBC)

A fish and chip shop in North Yorkshire has translated its menu for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers to cope with an influx of Chinese tourists.

Scotts Fish and Chips near York has seen coachloads of visitors wanting to try the traditional dish.

The passion for the chippy has been put down to the fish and chips Chinese president Xi Jinping shared with then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015.

Manager Roxy Vasai said more than 100 Chinese tourists were visiting a week.


Foreign language speakers to be hired for classrooms

22 August 2018 (Irish Times)

(Applies to Ireland) Dozens of native speakers of foreign languages are to be hired to work in school classrooms to help boost the teaching of languages.

These “foreign language assistants” will be provided to schools to support the teaching and learning of languages such as Spanish, German, French and Italian.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has announced a 25 per cent increase in the number of these assistants, bringing the total number available to schools from this September to 140.

He said the move would help ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead such as Brexit and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries.


GCSE results: Language entries rise for first time since 2013

23 August 2018 (TES)

GCSE entries for modern foreign languages have increased for the first time in five years.

The small increase will give linguists hope that modern foreign languages (MFL) have turned the corner after four consecutive years of decline.

Today’s GCSE results show that total MFL entries across the UK rose from 298,066 in 2017 to 299,172 this year – a 0.4 per cent increase.

The increase is more impressive against the backdrop of a 2.7 per cent decline in the 16-year-old population – the age at which most pupils sit their GCSEs.

However, the overall increase in MFL entries masked varying fortunes for different subjects.

French, which continues to be the most popular language subject by a distance, saw its entries decline from 130,509 in 2017 to 126,750 this year – a 2.9 per cent fall.

German entries rose from 43,649 in 2017 to 44,535 this year – an increase of 2 per cent. This was in marked contrast to A-level German, for which entries plummeted by 16.5 per cent this year.

In Spanish, GCSE entries rose by 4.4 per cent from 91,040 in 2017 to 95,080 this year.

Chinese – which is now the third biggest language subject at A-level – saw its GCSE entries rise.

GCSE entries in Mandarin increased by 7.5 per cent from 4,104 in 2017 to 4,410 this year. The subject is now the fifth most popular GCSE language, after Italian.

While total MFL entries rose in 2018, they have a long way to go to regain the ground that has been lost in recent years.


Outlander is boosting a renaissance of the Scots language – here’s how

20 August 2018 (The Conversation)

Pithy Scots brogue and throwaway insults punctuate Outlander, the phenomenally successful TV series that explores the final great Jacobite uprising of 1745 – the rebellion against King George II led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. Like 18th-century period dress or columns of troops, the Scots language is colourfully employed to lend authenticity to the drama.

The Scots spoken in Outlander may not be the language spoken today in Scotland, but rather a stage-Scots – essentially English dressed in tartan and cockade – yet it is still to be cheered. In fact, the presence of Scots in Outlander is a sign of how far an historically repressed language has come in just a few decades.

Full article written in Scots is also available.


Learning German is just the job for savvy millennials

18 August 2018 (The Guardian)

Learning European languages may no longer have much cachet among schoolchildren, but for millennials eyeing the job market, German appears to be more attractive than ever. Growing numbers of young adults aged between 18 and 30 in Britain are learning the language of Friedrich Schiller, Christa Wolf and Thomas Mann, according to the Goethe-Institut, with more than 3,000 people signing up for courses run by the cultural institution.


Dawn and Meg are on course for fabulous French lessons

17 August 2018 (The Courier)

A French language summer school has ensured that two Fife primary school teachers are fired up to teach their eager pupils le français. 

As pupils across Courier Country head back to school this week, one Fife primary school will be saying “Bienvenue” to the new academic year. Teachers Dawn Allan and Meg Allan (no relation) spent a week in France on a highly sought-after immersion language course, with the aim of enhancing their French lessons at Leuchars Primary School.

Dawn takes up the story: “Meg and I completed a 10-week French evening course at Bell Baxter High School in Cupar two years ago and that was when we first heard about the possibility of attending immersion courses in France or Spain, organised by Le Français en Ecosse,” she says.


The benefits of language learning

17 August 2018 (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Listen to Antonella Sorace from Bilingualism Matters talking to Stephen Nolan about the multiple benefits of language learning on BBC Radio 5 Live. (Listen from 1:54). Broadcast is available until 15 September 2018.


Steep year-on-year drop in languages entries

17 August 2018 (TESS)

French causes particular concern, but ‘more pupils than ever learning languages’ in Scotland


Evening classes in Doric as Scots writing revival blossoms

16 August 2018 (The Herald)

Fancy learning a spot of Doric? Furry boots? Aiberdeen Varsity.

It's better known for its schools of medicine, law or international relations. But now one of Scotland's ancient seats of learning has launched evening classes in a language many of its scholars have derided: north-east Scots.

Aberdeen University's Elphinstone Institute has devised 10-week workshops in Doric, to help both locals and newcomers to the region learn to speak - and more importantly - write in the mither leid.


Compulsory language education should be reintroduced, says Brighton College head

16 August 2018 (ITV)

A headmaster has called for the reintroduction of compulsory language classes in schools to prevent what he called the “worrying insularity” of society getting worse.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, said the “sorry decline” in the number of students studying languages is “damaging on so many levels” and that the Government needs a plan to reverse the problem.

His comments came as several of his students at the independent school in East Sussex achieved top marks in a range of languages at A-level, including Mandarin.

Experts have raised concerns because the number of students studying languages at state schools has dropped, and recent Press Association analysis of Ucas data revealed the number of applications for foreign language degrees plummeted in the last decade.

More students took A-level Chinese than German this year, according to data from the Joint Council for Qualifications released on Thursday, sparking fears that the European language is heading for extinction.

Mr Cairns said: “The sorry decline in numbers studying languages is damaging on so many levels but must be of particular concern to a Government that espouses a vision of Britain as open for business with the world.

“Compulsory language education needs to be reintroduced, with a national strategy emulating the success of those in the Netherlands or Scandinavia. Otherwise, the worrying insularity in our society will only deepen.

“Contrary to what seems to be happening nationally with pupils choosing not to study languages any more, we have seen a real interest in pursuing languages.

“Pupils can study French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Russian and Mandarin here. Back in 2006, we introduced Mandarin for our pupils from the age of four and the culture of language learning and its benefits are instilled early.”


A-levels: proportion of students in England getting C or above falls

16 August 2018 (The Guardian)

The proportion of students in England gaining C grades or above in A-levels fell back this year, driven by a relatively weaker performance among girls, as schools and students continue to grapple with the introduction of new, more intensive exams.

[..] Modern languages continued their baleful downward trend, with nearly 8% fewer entries in French, German and Spanish. More A-level students took Chinese this year than German.


The lessons Gaelic schools can teach us about learning

15 August 2018 (The National)

[..] Gaelic medium education succeeds in producing new generations of fluent Gaelic speakers because, as its name suggests, it makes use of the Gaelic language to teach other subjects. Kids don’t sit in classes where they are taught Gaelic in the same way that French or other foreign languages are taught in schools.

The difference in the fluency level that is achieved is stark. I was taught Gaelic the old-fashioned way, and am the proud possessor of a Gaelic Learner’s O Grade and a Gaelic Learner’s Higher. I was taught Gaelic in much the same way kids in modern Scottish schools are taught French or German, in a dedicated class, a couple of hours a week. The result is that although I can puzzle out a written text in the language and have a reasonably sized Gaelic vocabulary, I struggle to follow a Gaelic conversation and can’t express myself orally.


Applications for languages degrees plummet, figures show

15 August 2018 (The Herald)

The number of applications for foreign language degrees has plummeted in the last decade, figures show.

Applications for both European and non-European language degree courses have fallen, according to an analysis of Ucas data carried out by the Press Association.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).


Related Links

Number of students interested in studying foreign languages drops (The National, 15 August 2018)

Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet – podcast

13 August 2018 (The Guardian)

No language in history has dominated the world quite like English does today. Is there any point in resisting?

Listen to the podcast or read the text version online.


Scottish youth to explore the way of the dragon...

13 August 2018 (4barsrest)

Carnoustie High School Band will head east this September to become the first youth brass band to tour China.

The remarkable opportunity came following a performance at the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow in 2016 for the renowned Confucius Institute for Scotland.

Such was the success that it led to the school's head teacher Donald Currie being contacted to set the ball rolling on the ambitious initiative — and now, after almost two years of research and fundraising the band will fly out on 7th September for 15 unforgettable days of music and cultural learning.

Confucius Hubs are based in schools and seek to make links with local communities throughout Scotland — with Carnoustie serving the Angus area. It promotes the joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture.

The band will fly out from Glasgow, and after a short stop in Dubai will carry on to China where they will enjoy seven days in Tianjin and seven more in Beijing before their return.

While in Tianjin, the band members will be learning Mandarin, as well as performing three concerts. They will also visit Chinese families and schools, enabling the young musicians to experience Chinese culture first hand with a chance to learn Gongfu (Chinese martial arts), Tai Chi, and the ancient arts of calligraphy and mask painting.


Agenda: It's time to take an interest in cool Germania

11 August 2018 (The Herald)

Sometimes it seems there’s a perception that Germany is somehow ... well, boring. Apparently news stories about Germany, even in the Herald, get far fewer views than average ones. But why should Germany be such a journalistic turn-off for readers?

[...] Wherever one stands on Brexit, leaving the EU means that Germany is going to become more important to the UK and to Scotland, not less. Yet fewer and fewer people are learning German. (Which is odd, since, contrary to the widespread myth, it’s a relatively easy language to learn.)


Scotland experiencing 'mass movement' of parents seeking Gaelic schools

10 August 2018 (The Herald)

Scotland is experiencing a “mass movement” of parents who want their children to be educated in Gaelic, creating increasing demand for more specialist schools to be built.

Allan MacDonald, chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the public body responsible for Gaelic, said there had been a “significant” boost in the number of families interested in Gaelic education in towns and cities.

He said the language was experiencing a “shift in emphasis” away from its heartlands and towards the Central Belt as populations continue to plummet in Scotland’s most rural areas.

He added: “The numbers are growing in the cities and the bigger towns all the time. And that contrasts quite significantly with the economic situation – not just in the Western Isles, but in other areas of the Highlands as well.”

t comes as a series of commitments aimed at boosting the strength of Gaelic were unveiled at a milestone meeting of public bodies chaired by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

This includes plans to publish the first ever Gaelic tourism strategy this autumn to help bring visitors into contact with the language.

Officials also want to increase the number of school subjects which can be taught in Gaelic.


Related Links

Perth summit pledges action to accelerate use of Gaelic language (The Courier, 10th August 2018)

Thousands more pupils to learn Mandarin ahead of Brexit

7 August 2018 (TES)

An expanding academy chain plans to teach Mandarin to thousands of pupils across its schools, to prepare them for life in post-Brexit Britain.

The Co-op Academies Trust will offer Mandarin Chinese to more than 10,000 students.

The trust, which runs schools in Greater Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent, is working with the Swire Chinese Language Foundation, which supports the training of specialist Mandarin Chinese teachers.

(Subscription required to read full article)


SQA: Scottish education exam results 2018

7 August 2018 (Relocate Magazine)

Scottish exam results are in - and more than 2/3rds of independent school pupils sitting exams achieved a Higher grade A in foreign languages, including Mandarin. 

Although the number of entries for Highers and the proportion of students who received a pass mark has fallen slightly, data from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) reveals that 68% of pupils studying foreign languages have achieved a Higher grade A.

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, shows that 72% of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 72% of those studying German, 69% of those studying French and 63% studying Spanish also achieved an A.


Related Links

Language exam entries are falling, but pourquoi? (TESS, 17 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read article.

Review call after fall in pupils studying languages and science (The Herald, 10 August 2018)

John Swinney urged to review school subject choice after figures show collapse in modern languages (The Telegraph, 9 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read full article.

Two-thirds fewer Scottish S4 pupils passing French exams under new curriculum (The Telegraph, 8 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read full article.

Attainment Statistics (August) 2018 (SQA, 7 August 2018)

Death of the phrase book and rise of smartphone translation apps leads to holiday faux pas, British Council say

7 August 2018 (The Telegraph)

It was once considered a staple of any holiday packing list, on a par with sunscreen, a pack of cards and flip-flops.

But the phrasebook is now becoming a thing of a past, with its demise hastened by the rise of smartphone translation apps, according to research conducted by the British Council.

Google translate and other apps are increasingly popular among the younger generation, who have complained that inaccurate translations are leading to embarrassing faux pas.

Over 60 per cent of 16 to 34 year-olds said they have used their smartphones and apps to help understand the local language, with just 39 per cent opting for a phrasebook.  

A poll of a poll of 2,000 adults, commissioned by the British Council, found that relying on technology brings its own perils, with more than one in five of this age group reporting that an inaccurate translation on their phone has led to misunderstandings while on holiday.  


Americans are losing out because so few speak a second language

6 August 2018 (San Francisco Chronicle)

The United States may be the single most powerful nation in the world militarily, and remains a global economic giant, but we have seen repeatedly that our influence is limited. In part, we are constrained by our inadequate understanding of other nations and peoples, and by our inability to communicate effectively with them.

It is therefore disturbing, and evidence of a dangerous myopia, that we continue to neglect training and education in languages other than English.

In 1979, I was a member of the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, which found that “Americans’ incompetence in foreign languages is nothing short of scandalous.” Last year, nearly 40 years later, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a similar report, “America’s Languages,” and its findings were eerily similar: “[T]he dominance of English, to the exclusion of other languages, has also had adverse and often unforeseen consequences at home and abroad — in business and diplomacy, in civic life, and in the exchange of ideas.”

Much has changed in the decades between these two reports, including the continuing spread of English globally. Today, English is an official language of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court, and NATO, as well as the unofficial language of international business.

What has not changed, however, is that English alone — an education in English to the exclusion of other languages — remains insufficient to meeting our needs in a global world.

In times of great national security challenges, such as those we face today, as well as in times of great opportunity, such as the opening of new international markets, we find ourselves scrambling for people who can speak, write, and think in languages other than English. In those moments, we search high and low for people who can communicate in Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, Pashto — and especially for people who understand the idioms and nuances that characterize true communication in any culture.

Because it is difficult to find such people immediately, we are at a disadvantage. Language acquisition is a marathon, not a sprint. By the time we educate and train the experts we need to help us address a particular language gap, we are often too late. The crisis has shifted. Others have captured the new market.

As a matter of public policy, this is a terribly inefficient way to operate.


Government to Improve Foreign Language Teaching in Schools

3 August 2018 (Good Morning Britain)

The government has announced plans to improve teaching to boost the number of students opting to take foreign languages at GCSE level. Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, believes that learning an extra language is good for young people for traveling and opens more opportunities within the workplace. 

See the video interview broadcast on Good Morning Britain.


Being bilingual or playing a musical instrument may improve brain function

2 August 2018 (Medical News Bulletin)

Canadian researchers determined whether learning a second language or learning to play a musical instrument can improve brain function.

When it comes to remembering items on a list or phone numbers, previous research has shown that musicians and individuals who are bilingual have a better working memory.  To investigate why this is the case, a team of Canadian researchers conducted functional brain imaging scans on 41 young adults (ages 19-35) to see how various regions of the brain were activated during the completion of spatial and non-spatial memory tasks.

The results of this study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, indicated that participants who were bilingual, and in particular, those who played a musical instrument, were better able to locate and identify sounds. In addition, these two experiences seemed to shape which neural networks were used to complete working memory tasks.


Deaf boy’s campaign for new GCSE in sign language takes step forward

2 August 2018 (ITV)

A GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) could be introduced in this parliament after the government backed down on a decision to delay it.

Deaf schoolboy Daniel Jillings, 12, is campaigning for the new exam in time for his GCSEs, and his family launched a legal challenge to get one instated as quickly as possible.

The Department for Education had previously said no new GCSEs would be introduced in this parliament, but following submissions from the family’s lawyers it said it may consider making an “exception”.

Daniel’s family’s lawyers argue the lack of a GCSE in BSL may be “discriminatory and unlawful”.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said on Wednesday: “We will consider any proposals put forward for a GCSE in British Sign Language.

“As we have made clear previously, any new GCSE would need to meet the rigorous standards set by both the Department and Ofqual.

“If these expectations are met and a British Sign Language GCSE is ready to be introduced, we will then consider whether to make an exception to our general rule that there should be no new GCSEs in this parliament.”


School where refugees are the teachers

1 August 2018 (BBC)

Teaching his native Arabic to students online has been a game changer for Syrian refugee Sami as he makes a fresh start in the UK.

The Aleppo University engineering graduate says that working for an online language learning platform in London has helped him find his feet and motivation as he begins life anew.

The tutors at the start-up firm Chatterbox are all refugees and their work helps them to integrate and adapt to their new surroundings.

"I think language is building bridges between people, because the language is not only in the language itself, the speaking or the words, it's also the culture," said the 35-year-old refugee, who arrived in the UK about two years ago.

The school is the brainchild of Mursal Hedayat, who came up with the idea during a trip to refugee camps in Calais in the summer of 2016.


Can £27m a year bring a language back from near death?

1 August 2018 (BBC)

The feeling of walking barefoot across a beach in summer and the sun-warmed sand chafing my toes takes me the length of this sentence to describe. My great-great-grandfather, Angus Morrison, would have used one word: driùchcainn. 

That’s because, born and bred on the fringes of Western Europe, on Lewis, in the archipelago of the Outer Hebrides, his mother tongue was Scottish Gaelic.

It’s the ancient Celtic language heard by TV audiences tuning into the Highlands time-travelling saga Outlander.

In real life, working together crofting, fishing, weaving or cutting peat for fires, my ancestors spoke in Gaelic. It was spoken at home, sung at parties, used at church. But education in Angus’s day was strictly in English. As late as the 1970s, children were sometimes punished for speaking Gaelic at school.

Raised alongside Atlantic surf and storms, he became a sailor. Then, in the mid-nineteenth century, moved to Glasgow, and settled there working as a ship’s rigger. Among the principles he instilled in the family was the importance of education. But he did not pass on his cradle tongue.

My family story illustrates what linguistics experts call intergenerational breakdown. In 2018, along with about half of the world’s estimated 6,000 languages, Scottish Gaelic is considered at risk of dying out.


Middle class parents use harder GCSEs like Mandarin as a 'signalling device', says Education Secretary

31 July 2018 (The Telegraph)

Middle class parents are using “harder” GCSEs like Mandarin to signal that their children are high achieving, the Education Secretary has said.  

Damian Hinds said it is not just an “attainment gap” that separates rich and poor students, but also a gulf in expectations and knowledge about the system.  

“For middle class parents there is an awareness that there are harder and easier subjects,” he said. “As parents we encourage their children to do the harder ones - whether that's Maths, History or these days Mandarin - because we know they can be a signalling device to universities and employers. 


Language courses at risk amid staff shortage

30 July 2018 (The Times)

Head teachers may have to cut language courses in schools as a staffing shortage worsens.

With weeks to go until lectures begin, some modern language courses for teachers at leading universities are half empty. There is already a widespread recruitment crisis in the profession.

At the University of the West of Scotland only 11 of 20 places for one-year postgraduate teacher training courses in modern languages in secondary schools had been filled by mid-July.


K-pop drives boom in Korean language lessons

11 July 2018 (BBC)

Korean is rapidly growing in popularity, in a language-learning boom driven by the popularity of the country's pop stars.

A desire to learn the lyrics of K-Pop hits like Gangnam Style has boosted the Korean language's popularity explode in countries like the US, Canada, Thailand and Malaysia.

A report by the Modern Language Association shows that Korean uptake in US universities rose by almost 14% between 2013 and 2016, while overall language enrolment was in decline.

The latest statistics show 14,000 students are learning Korean in the US, compared to only 163 two decades earlier.

The language learning website Duolingo launched a Korean course last year because of rising demand. It quickly attracted more than 200,000 pupils.


App reveals Scots phrases foreigners struggle with the most

7 July 2018 (Daily Record)

Scots phrases may make perfect sense to us, but they can leave some folk scratching their heads.

Babbel, the language learning app, looked at some everyday Scottish patter and how they can confuse different nationalities.


Family to challenge lack of GCSE in sign language

6 July 2018 (TES)

A 12-year-old deaf boy is at the heart of a planned legal battle to challenge the government’s "discriminatory" decision to delay the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL).

Daniel Jillings, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, uses BSL as his first language and is concerned that there will be no qualification in place related to signing when he takes his exams in a few years’ time.


Can you raise an autistic child to be bilingual – and should you try?

5 July 2018 (The Conversation)

Diagnosed with autism and delayed language development, five-year-old Jose lives with his bilingual English-Spanish family in the UK. In addition to all the important decisions that a family with an autistic child has to take, Jose’s parents must also consider what languages to teach him and how. They would like Jose to learn English so he can make friends and do well at school. But they also value Spanish – the native language of Jose’s mother.

The family’s tricky situation was described in a study from 2013, and illustrates a problem that affects many families around the world. But is it possible to raise a child with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders to be bilingual? And, if so, does it help or hinder the autistic experience? Let’s take a look at the evidence.


World Cup 2018: How do Belgian footballers speak to each other?

2 July 2018 (BBC)

Language is an essential part of playing football. Coaches give instructions to players and teammates talk to each other on the pitch.

How, one may wonder, does Belgium's multilingual team communicate?

Sources say the players speak neither Dutch nor French but English in the changing room, to avoid the perception of favouring one language over another.

They also speak English on the pitch, much to the surprise of many in the UK press during their game with England on Thursday night.

A majority of Belgians are Dutch-speakers who live in the Flemish north. Most of the rest speak French, and there is a small German-speaking community.

This divide can be seen in the mother tongues of the Belgian national team's star players.

Manchester City's playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is a Dutch-speaker from Ghent in the Flemish region, while Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard is a French-speaker from the Walloon region.


Salve! Latin lessons offered to Aberdeen school kids

30 June 2018 (Press and Journal)

Aberdeen primary pupils may be greeting friends with ‘salve’ rather than ‘fit like’ next term after headteachers were offered the chance to boost Latin in their schools.

The Classical Association of Scotland said a similar campaign in Glasgow had led to 10 schools starting to teach the Roman language.

Now they have written to city council chiefs offering financial assistance to help with training that will enable Latin lessons to take place in city schools.

Learning other languages has proven benefits and the association believes Latin can help with understanding other European tongues.


Why Brits aren’t interested in studying abroad

28 June 2018 (Study International)

To many people, studying abroad sounds like a dream. Spending a few months or years in a far-off country to gain a qualification while at the same time, learning a foreign language or soaking up the culture is an aspiration many, young and old, wish they could fulfill.

Apparently, this select group of people does not include the Brits.

While hundreds of thousands continue to travel the world to enrol at a British university, the same can’t be said for the outward mobility trends seen among British students.


Manchester’s Language Army

28 June 2018 (CIOL)

Set in the culturally diverse Crumpsall/Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, Abraham Moss Community School is one of very few schools in northwest England to operate a formal programme that identifies bilingual pupils and offers them basic training in the skills required to act as language mediators within the school environment. 

More that 60 languages are spoken at Abraham Moss, which began the programme five years ago with a group of just eight pupils in Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16). Since then it has blossomed into an impressive ‘language army’ – nearly 40-strong – of ‘young interpreters’ aged 12-16, who cover languages as diverse as Arabic, Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Pashtun, Polish, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.


Glasgow University hears its first Gaelic graduation speech in 567 years

28 June 2018 (The Herald)

Glasgow University has heard its first graduation speech in Gaelic in its 567-year history.

The ancient seat awarded a former moderator of the Church of Scotland with an honorary degree partly because of his commitment to the Celtic tongue.

And the Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison accepted with an oration partly in Gaelic.


Never mind the Brexiteurs: why it’s time to learn French

28 June 2018 (The Guardian)

English children are increasingly unwilling to learn the language of Molière and MC Solaar, according to the British Council, which reports that within a few years Spanish will overtake it as the most-studied foreign language. At A-level, takeup has already fallen to 8,300, from 21,300 in 1997, while Spanish has climbed to 7,600.

Laziness seems to have a lot to do with it. As Vicky Gough, a schools adviser at the British Council, put it, “There is a perception of Spanish being easier to pick up than other languages, which may account in part for its popularity.” Which, one might say, confirms another perception: that the kids of today want everything handed to them on a plate, from chauffeur service to and from school, to first-class university degrees.


'Brexit is the reason': Less than half of English teens learn a foreign language

27 June 2018 (Euronews)

Less than half of English pupils choose to learn a modern foreign language at school, a new report has found.

The proportion of English students sitting foreign language exams at the end of their compulsory education — at age 16 — stood at 47% in 2017, the British Council revealed in its Language Trends survey released on Wednesday.

In 2002, that figure stood at 76%.


Spanish exam entries on track to surpass French in English schools

27 June 2018 (The Guardian)

Spanish is expected to overtake French as the main foreign language studied in classrooms in England in the next few years, and experts say German could face extinction from school timetables.

A report by the British Council says that although the study of languages continues to decline, Spanish is bucking the trend, with entries up in both GCSEs and A-levels.


Language lesson gap means poorest miss out, says report

27 June 2018 (BBC)

Children from poorer backgrounds in England are increasingly likely to miss out on learning a foreign language, suggests a report.

Some teachers blame new tougher GCSEs for putting lower ability pupils off language learning.

There is also a perception that languages are less important since the vote to leave the European Union, says the British Council study.

The government says its reforms are boosting modern languages in schools.

The Language Trends Survey has published an annual report since 2002 when more than three-quarters of pupils (76%) took a modern language GCSE.

By 2011, only 40% of pupils took a language at GCSE.

The subject has recovered in recent years - in 2016 almost half of 16-year-olds took a language GCSE - but this figure fell to 47% last year.

There has been a similar long-term decline at A-level.


Swimming lessons in Gaelic a first for Scotland

26 June 2018 (BBC)

Swimming lessons have been offered in Gaelic for the first time in Scotland.

More than 30 young Gaelic speakers have signed up for the classes at the High Life Highland-run Lochaber Leisure Centre in Fort William.

Eilidh Mcarthur, a student teacher working at the pool, suggested the idea after she found out that 11 of the site's staff were Gaelic speakers.


How many words do you need to speak a language?

24 June 2018 (BBC)

Learning a new language can be tricky, but how many words do you need to know before you can actually get by in a foreign tongue?

That was the question posed to BBC Radio 4's More or Less programme by one frustrated listener. Despite learning German for three years, and practising nearly every day, they still couldn't seem to retain more than 500 words.

"I was hoping," they wrote, "you could give me a shortcut, by working out how many words we actually use on a regular basis."

To work out how many words you need to know to be able to speak a second language we decided to look into how many words we know in our first language, in our case English.


Yell pupils pick up French language awards

20 June 2018 (Shetland News)

TEN pupils at Mid Yell Junior High School received prizes on Monday (18 June) as part of a celebration of the teaching and use of French in Scottish schools.

The S2 students, winners of this year's Concours de la francophonie competition, received their prizes during a special award ceremony at the school in the presence of education attaché of the French Embassy in the UK Thomas Chaurin and Shetland Gas Plant facilities management co-ordinator Jenny Wink, who was also representing sponsor Total E&P UK.

The VIP visit came after the Yell bairns were unable to attend the official award ceremony in Edinburgh in March.

With the majority of children now learning French from P1 in Scotland, la francophonie is said to be thriving.


Crisis as Scots businesses struggle to hire Mandarin speakers amid Chinese tourist boom

17 June 2018 (Daily Record)

Shop owners in Scotland’s busiest tourist traps are struggling to hire Mandarin speakers to cope with a spike in Chinese customers.

Retail outlets, hotels and restaurants are advertising in shop windows as well as online to try to attract staff with specialised language skills.

Balmoral Cashmere in Edinburgh have put out a call for applicants in a street-front display. Last week saw the first direct flight from China to Scotland. 

Official figures show 41,000 Chinese visitors are coming to the country every year.

Highlands hotelier Willie Cameron said: “The Chinese are also buying into hotels and investing so there is business tourism too. “I struggled to get a Mandarin-speaking receptionist. There aren’t very many Mandarin speakers in Drumnadrochit but the websites for all my hotels are translated into Mandarin.” 

Visits from Chinese tourists are worth an estimated £36 million to the Scottish economy, with the average spend per day exceeding £70. Chinese visitors spend about £900 per visit across 12 nights. 

Dr Nathan Woolley, director of the Confucius Institute at Glasgow University, said there is an increasing interest from students and business workers to study Mandarin to augment their skills.


e-Sgoil wins top praise from Swinney

15 June 2018 (We love Stornoway)

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP has praised Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s e-Sgoil project in a review document of its first year which has been circulated to all schools in Scotland.

Mr Swinney said “e-Sgoil makes use of our national education intranet, GLOW and it is effectively using this to bring teachers and learners together no matter their location. I would like to congratulate those involved at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for their vision, energy and commitment in bringing this project forward in such a short period of time.

“In concluding I would like to commend this report to you and hope you are encouraged by the success set out in the following pages.”

e-Sgoil is offering National 5 and Higher Gaelic (Learners) provision on-line to Local Authorities.

e-Sgoil e have identified the following periods for the delivery of National 5 and Higher Gaelic (Learners):

  • Mon - 08.50 to 09.40 and 09.40 to 10.30 
  • Wed - 13.35 to 14.45 
  • Thurs - 13.55 to 14.45 and 11.45 to 15.35 
  • Fri - 12.25 to 13.15

Any learners wishing to access these courses can do so using Glow, Office 365 and Vscene. 

e-Sgoil also has capacity to deliver weekly Gaelic Learner classes for any schools requiring support with the 1+2 agenda.

If your school or authority is interested in exploring these options contact or phone 01851 822850.


China to create cultural heritage centres in universities

15 June 2018 (THE)

The Chinese government has announced plans to establish 100 “cultural heritage” centres at universities throughout the country that will run academic programmes and conduct scientific research in a bid to promote traditional Chinese culture.

The ministry of education said that it will “build about 100 excellent Chinese traditional cultural heritage sites” in universities and colleges nationwide by 2020, including 50 this year, and support institutions to “focus on ethnic folk music, ethnic folk arts” and folk dances, dramas and operas.


Bilinguals use inter-language transfer to deal with dyslexia

13 June 2018 (Eurekalert)

Dyslexic children learning both a language that is pronounced as written -like Spanish- and a second language in which the same letter can have several sounds -such as English- are less affected by this alteration when reading or writing in the latter language. The authors of the Basque research centre BCBL warn that this is less a cure than a reduction of some of the symptoms.

Dyslexia or dsxyliea? Anyone without reading disorders could read the first word without any problem. But if read by someone who suffers from this alteration, he or she will see something similar to the second word.  

Dyslexia is a deficit of reading ability that hinders learning and affects between 3 and 10% of the population. Its transmission is partly genetic, and its diagnosis is made in children of between 8 and 9, although the symptoms appear before. So far, the only way to combat this disorder has been through early treatments adapted to the patient's age and symptoms. 

Now, however, research developed by the University of Bangor (Wales) and the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) of San Sebastian has shown that some combinations of bilingualism, transmitted from very early ages, contribute to reducing its symptoms.  

The main goal here was to verify if bilingualism acquired by children who learn to read in English and Welsh at the same time could benefit those suffering from dyslexia assessed in the English language. "And the answer is yes," as bluntly stated by Marie Lallier, a BCBL scientist and one of the authors of the study, published in Scientific Studies of Reading.


Glasgow social enterprise tackling dementia through language learning

11 June 2018 (Glasgow Live)

A Glasgow social enterprise is tackling dementia through language learning.

Govan-based Lingo Flamingo teaches second languages to over 600 elderly people in care homes throughout the country, predominantly in Glasgow.

The social enterprise, founded by Robbie Norval, is the world's first not-for-profit organisation to provide bespoke language classes to older adults.  

Lingo Flamingo's work is based on research from the University of Edinburgh which shows language learning in older age can have a significant positive impact in terms of curbing the effects of dementia.


Gaelic manuscripts join Unesco Memory of the World Register

9 June 2018 (The National)

The United Nations has paid Scotland’s Gaelic tongue a huge compliment by adding some of the earliest manuscripts in the language to the Unesco Memory of the World Register.

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) announced yesterday that its renowned collection of early Gaelic manuscripts will go on the register – which aims to preserve the world’s most important documents.

The Gaelic collection will join the likes of the Domesday Book, Magna Carta, the Churchill archives and Scotland’s own Declaration of Arbroath on the register.


Should we take a more 'German' approach to MFL?

8 June 2018 (TES)

Applies to England

If you’re a modern foreign languages (MFL) teacher, you’re probably already familiar with the horror stories about your subject: more and more schools are cutting MFL at GCSE and A level, while fewer students are expressing interest in learning them.

Despite plans to increase the teaching of Mandarin in schools, European languages have sustained some heavy losses, German faring the worst with a 38 per cent fall in GCSE student entries since 2010.

Meanwhile, the German school system is efficient at producing confident English speakers, with an EU study claiming that 56 per cent of Germans can speak English "well enough to have a conversation", and it is rare to meet a recent high school graduate from Germany without near-fluent English skills.

So, why the gaping divide?


150 hours to learn Mandarin – and teach it

7 June 2018 (TES)

Hundreds of primary school teachers will have the chance to learn and teach new languages within seven months, under a scheme being expanded after a successful trial.

The distance-learning programme - the first of its kind in the UK – sees primary teachers study either French, Spanish, German or Mandarin and develop the skills to teach the language in the primary classroom at the same time.

After a pilot involving 54 teachers from 49 Scottish schools across nine local authorities in 2017-18, next year the scheme will be available throughout Scotland. Welsh and Northern Irish schools are also expected to sign up.

Teachers taking part will spend about five hours a week from October to June - around 150 hours in total - but they will start teaching the languages to pupils before completing the course.

The scheme, run by The Open University and SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, will be launched in Edinburgh today.


The Bilingual Advantage in the Global Workplace

7 June 2018 (Language Magazine)

For the last 30 years, the world economy has been more global and multicultural than ever before. In any given country, foreign-based companies operate every day, while overseas branches of the same companies are often present in various countries. The job market is consequently more global, multilingual, and multicultural in nature, and the workforce of the future will need to be more linguistically and culturally heterogeneous.

In that context, bilingual and bicultural individuals, even with limited knowledge of one or more languages and their attendant cultures, have a clear advantage, since more and more jobs will require experience in international and cross-cultural areas.

On the other hand, we also know that half of the world’s population speaks two or more languages and there are many places where bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm, for example in regions of Africa.2 So, will half the world then benefit from the new job opportunities created by a more global job market? Not exactly. 

Being bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate are not equivalent skills, and being bilingual is not the only condition to be hired for any job. It does not replace a solid further education, but it is becoming obvious that linguistic and cultural fluency enhances one’s “human capital” (the measure of the economic value of a person’s skill set). More and more, at equal technical skills, a bilingual individual will be chosen over a monolingual person.


Britain must address its linguaphobia now to survive post-Brexit

7 June 2018 (The Conversation)

In addition to securing the UK’s departure from the EU, the June 2016 Brexit referendum exposed deep-seated prejudice against speakers of languages other than English. Politicians and pundits, including former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, fuelled xenophobic rhetoric by claiming that “in many parts of England you don’t hear English spoken any more”. Meanwhile the media has reported that people are being harassed or attacked on public transport, in shops or on the streets of British towns for “not speaking English”.

Though the EU itself has no plans to use English any less in meetings and documents, Britain cannot rely on this fact to justify its own monolingualism. Speaking other languages and working with other cultures is a global fact and, post-Brexit, Britain will need to work with countries all over the world more than ever.

The troubling presence of linguaphobia is just one legacy of the referendum campaign, but like so many other forms of prejudice, it is nothing new. Linguaphobia is a concept that first developed in the 1950s to identify a form of monolingualism that shows itself in a hostility towards learning other languages. For leading modern linguistics expert Charles Forsdick, post-referendum, this has translated itself into “an ideological phenomenon that judges national belonging in terms of the exclusive use of the English language”.

Yet as Forsdick and others assert, this “ideological monolingualism” is a deeply flawed perception of the history of languages in the UK. It distorts the past and present of multilingualism in the UK, and ill equips the population to face the brave new world of trade and cultural diplomacy it will need to master.


Supporting your EAL learners

6 June 2018 (SecEd)

In a new series focused on supporting pupils with English as an additional language, Nic Kidston and Katherine Solomon discuss how schools can learn more about who their EAL learners are and how they can be empowered and supported to fulfil their potential

This article, the first in a series of articles on supporting EAL learners that will appear in the coming year, examines the recent research report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), with the Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy – entitled Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language.

The series will provide insights into, and best practice on, how to support individual learners through a whole school approach.


More and more British children are learning Chinese – but there are problems with the teaching

6 June 2018 (The Conversation)

A drop in the number of secondary school students learning languages in UK schools is fuelling concerns about the country’s global competitiveness, particularly after Brexit. Discussions among both politicians and the media centre on the worry that the UK is being held back globally by its poor language skills. The UK economy loses roughly £50bn a year due to a lack of language skills in the workforce.

British Council and British Academy reports all critique modern foreign language (MFL) teaching in the UK. They also express concern about the lack of learning in state schools compared to independent schools and the widening gap between disadvantaged children and an internationally mobile elite. It is well acknowledged that there is a need to move beyond relying on English as a lingua franca.

In line with this, Chinese, an emerging key world business language – and widely predicted to be key to UK business post-Brexit – has become a foreign language option for some UK students in recent decades. Teaching is beginning to thrive across schools and universities as a principle modern foreign language.

Unsurprisingly, private schools – recognising the language as a new source of cultural capital – were the first to offer the new subject. But some newly established schools, especially particularly poor and disrupted schools in the state sector, have also shown interest in featuring Chinese in the school curriculum. They have been able to do so due to the Confucius Institute programme and the related Confucius Classroom programme initiated by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) in 2004.  

The Confucius Classroom program partners with UK secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials. The costs of such programmes are shared between Hanban and the host institutions (the UK colleges, universities, schools or school districts). By adopting Chinese as one of the taught languages in the curriculum, disadvantaged British schools hoped to indicate to parents that they provided something special and ambitious.


The rise of translation and the death of foreign language learning

5 June 2018 (BBC Radio 3)

Professor Nicola McLelland and Vicky Gough of the British Councl to examine why, in UK schools and universities, the number of students learning a second language is collapsing - whilst the number of languages spoken in Britain is rising and translated fiction is becoming more available and popular. (Listen to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast from 33:30).


Radio Edutalk: Gillian Campbell-Thow on ‘Language Learning in Scottish Education’

5 June 2018 (Radio Edutalk)

Listen to Gillian Campbell-Thow talk about ‘Language Learning in Scottish Education’ broadcast on Radio Edutalk on 5 June 2018.


Can you learn a language with an app? What the research says

5 June 2018 (The Conversation)

Language learning apps are very popular in app stores worldwide – and are said to be revolutionising language learning. These apps offer opportunities to practise grammar and can be a very rewarding way to learn vocabulary. But there has been discussion about just how effective such apps can be – particularly when it comes to other skills such as writing and speaking.

Among the most popular language learning apps are Duolingo and busuu. Research has mainly found positive results on the use of both Duolingo and busuu. But most of this research concentrates on studies with learners who are also signed up to language courses – learners are using the apps for extra practice – so the results don’t provide a good snapshot of language learning through apps.

My recently published research study of 4,095 busuu users aimed to find out more about who uses these apps, how they use them, and what they think of app-based learning. Ultimately, I wanted to find out if users can actually learn a language with an app.


Erasmus+ exchange programme set to open to all countries in 2021

31 May 2018 (THE)

The European Union’s next student exchange programme is set to be opened to any country in the world, paving the way for UK universities and students to take part in Erasmus+ post-Brexit.

In its proposal for the Erasmus+ programme for the period 2021-27, published on 30 May, the European Commission said that countries outside the EU and the European Economic Area would be able to participate fully as long as they do not have a “decisional power” on the programme and agree to a “fair balance” of contributions and benefits.


Exclusive: National tests to be offered in Gaelic

30 May 2018 (TES)

Literacy and numeracy assessments to be offered to Scottish Gaelic schools from August after government investment.


University guide 2019: league table for modern languages & linguistics

30 May 2018 (Guardian)

Find out more about studying modern languages from around the world and their literatures, as well as linguistics.


Why using a foreign language could improve your work

29 May 2018 (BBC)

I recently spent four months working at the BBC in London, and English always sounded far smarter in my head than when it came out of my mouth. I often forgot words, made grammatical slips, and missed the usual precision of my native Spanish. It felt like trying to eat soup with a fork. As I write this, I have a dictionary open in front of me because I have learned to mistrust my ideas about what some words mean.

But there is a silver lining for those who are working in languages other than their native one. Research has recently shown that people who can speak a foreign language are likely to be more analytical. Other studies have suggested that people who are bilingual make decisions in different ways from those with one language.

It suggests that as well as giving you an extra string to your bow in terms of where you can work and who you can work with, a foreign language also makes you a different kind of worker. But the real question is – does it make you a better worker?


Foreign postings help us become more self-aware

29 May 2018 (Financial Times)

I have lived in four countries: South Africa, where I grew up, the US, where I was a teenage exchange student, Greece, where I learnt how to be a journalist, and the UK or, more specifically, London, where I have now spent the majority of my life.

Each of those places changed me, but did they make me more self-aware? Did they give me a better understanding of my values and how they interacted with the culture surrounding me? And does that make me a better, more insightful employee than colleagues who stayed in the same place?


British 'linguaphobia' has deepened since Brexit vote, say experts

28 May 2018 (The Guardian)

Britain faces further isolation after Brexit if it doesn’t adjust its citizens’ attitude towards learning foreign languages, a panel of experts has warned, with Britons becoming increasingly “linguaphobic” in the wake of the EU referendum.

Speaking at the Hay literary festival on Friday, a panel including Cardiff University professor Claire Gorrara and linguist Teresa Tinsley, said that Britons had too long relied on a false belief that English was the world’s lingua franca. Only 6% of the global population are native English speakers, with 75% of the world unable to speak English at all. But three-quarters of UK residents can only speak English.

“That English is somehow the norm is a complete misapprehension of the facts, but this notion that everyone is speaking English is persistent and believed by many in the UK,” said Gorrara, warning that economic opportunities and bridge-building with the rest of the world was at risk after Brexit if Britons did not become less “linguaphobic” and learn more languages. 


'No barriers to stop you' - deaf referee aims to inspire [video]

27 May 2018 (BBC )

Category six referee Jason Taylor will become the Scottish Football Association’s first representative at the Deaf Champions League finals, which takes place in Milan from 28 May – 2 June.

Having started refereeing in 2005, Jason hopes to inspire other deaf people to "realise there are no barriers to stop you from doing what you want to do".

From Dunfermline, he says his refereeing idol is Hugh Dallas.


Scots-Gaelic railway map uncovers meaning of station names

23 May 2018 (Scotsman)

Railway stations can tell you a lot about a country, from its economic development to its population centres. But their names also provide an insight into how language and its meaning evolves over time, from describing little more than fields to vanished religious centres.


Related Links

'Chocolatine' vs 'pain au chocolat': French pastry war spills over into parliament

24 May 2018 (The Local)

The age-old French war over what to call France's famous chocolate-filled pastry treat - known to most as a "pain au chocolat" - has reached French parliament, where a group of MPs are fighting to have the the rival term "chocolatine" officially recognised.


Can English remain the 'world's favourite' language?

23 May 2018 (BBC News)

English is spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, but do the development of translation technology and "hybrid" languages threaten its status?


'You're getting on my biscuits': can you translate these world idioms? – quiz

21 May 2018 (Guardian)

With the 2018 Man Booker International prize winner to be announced on 22 May, nominated translators share their favourite sayings that don’t easily translate to English. Can you decipher the correct meanings?


Why teachers shouldn’t be afraid of other languages being spoken in the classroom

21 May 2018 (The Conversation)

More than 20% of all primary school and 16% of secondary school children in the UK speak languages other than English. And there are now more than 360 languages spoken in British classrooms.

But more often than not, in mainstream schools in the UK, the “home languages” of children can be sidelined at best, and prohibited at worst. English is the language of the classroom – this is despite the fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that children from linguistic minorities should not be “denied the right” to use their own languages.

In my recent research, I found there was often a lot of fear associated with the use of “home” languages among the typically white, monolingual demographic of the teaching profession.


Learning music or another language makes your brain more efficient, researchers find

17 May 2018 (The Independent)

If you’ve taken the time to learn music or to speak another language, you’ve also trained your brain into being more efficient, according to a new study.

Researchers at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute found that musicians and people who are bilingual utilised fewer brain resources when completing a working memory task.

According to the study, published in the journal, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, people with either a musical or bilingual background activated different brain networks and showed less brain activity while completing a task than people who only spoke one language or didn’t have formal music training.

Of the findings, Dr Claude Alain, one of the paper’s authors who works as a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and a professor at the University of Toronto's Institute of Medical Science, said: “These findings show that musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. "Our results also demonstrated that a person's experiences, whether it's learning how to play a musical instrument or another language, can shape how the brain functions and which networks are used."


A tongue-lashing over teacher shortage as Gaelic plan agreed

16 May 2018 (The Scotsman)

Parents and pupils at Edinburgh’s only Gaelic high school have demanded action to address a teacher shortage and to stand up for children facing discrimination. The calls came as the city council yesterday agreed its Gaelic Language Plan for 2018-22.

It was revealed the authority only has one Gaelic teacher in employment for Gaelic medium education (GME) at James Gillespie’s High School where pupils are taught primarily through the medium of Gaelic. Speaking at a meeting of the council’s corporate policy and strategy committee, which unanimously agreed the plan, parent Marion Thompson raised worries about protection for GME pupils.


Related Links

Edinburgh Council agrees new Gaelic Language Plan (The Scotsman, 15 May 2018)

UK's first sign language poetry slam

15 May 2018 (BBC)

Deaf poets fight it out in the UK's first ever poetry slam for users of sign language. Watch the video.


Public consultation on list of Gaelic shellfish names

8 May 2018 (BBC)

A public consultation on recommended Gaelic names for the most common shellfish in Scotland's seas has been launched.

Scottish Natural Heritage has published a list of 85 marine mollusc names, Gaelic terms for parts of the animals and for different seashell shapes.

The meanings of many of the names have also been explained in English.

The recommendations have been produced by a team from Scottish Natural Heritage and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Gaelic-speaking environmental educator Roddy Maclean has been leading the project.

He interviewed 14 older Gaelic speakers, mostly from the Western Isles, to obtain guidance on the names they use for marine mollusc species.

Mr Maclean said: "There was a general agreement on the names for the most common species.

"But there were some species where people had different terms, or none at all. This challenged us to make a choice and also provide names for species with no recorded Gaelic form."

Some of the suggested names and terms include:

Mollusc - Moileasg
Seashell - Slige mhara
Filter feeder - Sìoltachair
Shellfish harvested by moonlight - Maorach-èalaidh


Aberdeen primary school announces official launch of Mandarin language hub

7 May 2018 (Evening Express)

An Aberdeen primary school has announced its new hub for promoting the teaching of Mandarin.

Danestone School launched its Confucius Classroom, which will be a central location for all Aberdeen-based primary schools teaching the language to pupils.

It aims to boost skills in children in line with Scotland’s 1+2 languages policy, which allows every child the opportunity to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue by 2020.

The hub concept promotes joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture. The launch event included children singing in Mandarin, and a mixture of Scottish music and dance.


Number of Scottish pupils passing foreign language exams has halved in 10 years

6 May 2018 (Daily Record)

The number of Scottish pupils passing foreign language exams has halved over 10 years.

The total at all levels has plunged from 60,176 in 2007 to just 28,503 in 2017.

The fall has been most severe in basic qualifications, raising concerns the figures could get worse in coming years as youngsters lack foundation skills. 

Opposition politicians and business leaders have voiced fears that Scotland’s ability to compete as a global economy could be at risk.


Even when the likes of Macron foul up, multilingual politicians get it right

6 May 2018 (The Guardian)

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, never ceases to surprise his audience, especially when he speaks in English. While some of his compatriots were shocked that he should address the US Congress in its native tongue, it pleased a large number of French people who appreciated how he engaged directly in version originale.

A few days later, however, when President Macron thanked the Australian prime minister’s wife, Lucy Turnbull, for being “delicious” – conjuring up images of cannibalism and Hannibal Lecter – some commentators suddenly thought of Macron as creepy. It was hours before somebody thought to tell the Australians that the word “délicieuse” actually means delightful.

Speaking a foreign language is a minefield for anyone who ventures there but also a source of constant wonder, joy and fun. The rewards are manifold and it is even thought to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The smartest leaders either know many languages or understand the power of words enough to play with them to their advantage. Perhaps Macron used the word “delicious” on purpose; perhaps, even, the secret behind the strangely warm rapport between Macron, Trump and their wives is built on such deliciously faux amis? 

The fact is that multilinguists rule the world. That Angela Merkel is trilingual (she speaks German, Russian and English) should be no surprise. If David Cameron had not been a monoglot, maybe Britain would not have found itself in a Brexit nightmare. Just a thought.


Critical window for learning a language

1 May 2018 (BBC)

There is a critical cut-off age for learning a language fluently, according to research.

If you want to have native-like knowledge of English grammar, for example, you should ideally start before age 10, say the researchers.

People remain highly skilled learners until 17 or 18, when ability tails off.

The findings, in the journal Cognition, come from an online grammar test taken by nearly 670,000 people of different ages and nationalities.

The grammar quiz was posted on Facebook to get enough people to take part.

Questions tested if participants could determine whether a sentence written in English, such as: "Yesterday John wanted to won the race," was grammatically correct.

Users were asked their age and how long they had been learning English, and in what setting - had they moved to an English-speaking country, for example?

About 246,000 of the people who took the test had grown up speaking only English, while the rest were bi- or multilingual.

The most common native languages (excluding English) were Finnish, Turkish, German, Russian and Hungarian.

Most of the people who completed the quiz were in their 20s and 30s. The youngest age was about 10 and the oldest late 70s.

When the researchers analysed the data using a computer model, the best explanation for the findings was that grammar-learning was strongest in childhood, persists into teenage years and then drops at adulthood.


Yell school joins Chinese culture programme

1 May 2018 (Shetland News)

The Chinese ambassador to the UK was in Yell on Tuesday (1 May) to launch Shetland's second Confucius Classroom Hub.

Mid Yell Junior High School is now part of the Confucius programme, which aims to teach Scottish youngsters about Chinese culture and Mandarin language, after Sandwick Junior High School joined in 2016.

Ambassador Liu Xiaoming and his wife Hu Pinghua visited Yell alongside minister-counselor for education Wang Yongli and representatives of the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools.

They met councillors and staff from Shetland Islands Council, as well as Mid Yell pupils who entertained the guests with traditional Shetland music and songs - as well as Chinese songs and dance.


Related Links

Good Evening Shetland (BBC Shetland, 1 May 2018) Listen to the news item about the new Confucius Hub from 00:48 onwards.

Confucius Classroom Hub launched at Mid Yell JHS (Shetland Islands Council, 1 May 2018)

#IsMiseGàidhlig spreads throughout the World

1 May 2018 (BBC)

A twitter hashtag #IsMiseGàidhlig took the Scottish internet by storm last week as members of the Gaelic community, fluent speakers and learners alike gave their positive experiences of Scotland’s oldest native language in response to negative stories in the press.

Thug an taga-hais #IsMiseGàidhlig os làimh Twitter na h-Alba an t-seachdain seo nuair a bha buill de choimhearsnachd na Gàidhlig, fileantaich agus luchd-ionnsachaidh le chèile, a’ sgaoileadh sgeulachdan togarrach mun a’ chànan mar fhreagairt air droch sgeulachdan anns na meadhanan.


Arabic to be taught to Syrian refugee children in Scotland

28 April 2018 (The Scotsman)

E-Sgoil is now being expanded to teach a range of subjects to pupils all over Scotland after initially being created in response to teacher recruitment problems in the Western Isles. 

And Angus MacLennan, head teacher of e-Sgoil, said there were now plans to recruit a teacher to offer Arabic lessons. 

The move is in response to an anticipated demand from pupils.

[..] E-Sgoil is also hoping to recruit online tutors to teach Mandarin in response to a demand from pupils in the Western Isles. 


Gaelic TV channel secures £5.2m of new content

27 April 2018 (The Herald)

A series of international deals has secured programmes worth £5.2 million for Scotland's Gaelic language channel.

Gaelic media service MG Alba said it had agreed the additional content for BBC Alba through deals led by its supplier companies.

(subscription required to read full article)


New report calls on Wales to sell its language and culture to the world

26 April 2018 (Nation Cymru)

Wales should do much more to raise awareness of the Welsh language and its own culture in order to differentiate the country from the rest of the UK.

That is one of the recommendations of a new report from British Council Wales published today.

The report says Wales should better use the appeal of its ‘soft power’, its culture, education and sport sectors, to gain more recognition and influence on the world stage.

“We feel there is much that could be done with the language outside of Wales, effectively using it as a way to both raise interest in Wales and differentiate it from the rest of the UK,” the report says.

“As such, we recommend Wales make greater efforts to share the language with international audiences, incorporating it in tourism promotion campaigns.”


Tories attack language teaching ‘failures’

26 April 2018 (The Times)

The number of pupils taking Higher French and German has fallen as interest in Italian and Chinese rises.

The number of pupils studying any Higher modern languages fell 6.2 per cent between 2016 and last year. Pupils studying Higher French fell by 14 per cent to 3,918 and German was down 13 per cent from 1,020 to 89. The number of students taking Higher Spanish hit 2,809, up 8 per cent on 2016; Italian rose 21 per cent to 264; Chinese languages grew in popularity by 16 per cent to 129; and Urdu rose by 13 per cent to 104. Those learning Gaelic at Higher level fell by 18 per cent, to 69.

(Subscription required to read full article).


New funding of £2.5m for next phase of Gaelic dictionary

24 April 2018 (BBC)

Funding of £2.5m has been put in place for the next phase of the development of the first comprehensive Gaelic dictionary.

Faclair na Gàidhlig aims to document the history, development and use of every single word in the language.

It would be far more detailed than any dictionary available in bookshops.

The production is being made possible through a collaboration between several universities and the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

The latest funding announced by the Scottish government will be managed by the Scottish Funding Council.

The new dictionary is a long-term project and would be the equivalent of the multi-volume resources available for English and Scots.

It could take 30 years to produce and is likely to have around 100,000 entries.

The universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig are involved in the project, which has the support of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the national public body with responsibility for Gaelic.


Glasgow set for third Gaelic school in Government language drive

24 April 2018 (The Scotsman)

John Swinney has announced that a third Gaelic school is to open in Glasgow as part of the Scottish Government’s drive to increase the number of speakers of the language. 

The new school will provide Gaelic medium education (GME) and is expected to open in the Cartvale area of the city.

Nearly 900 pupils are enrolled in Glasgow’s two existing GME schools at Glendale and Berkeley Street – both of which are now at capacity. The plans for the new school were announced during a Holyrood debate on the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23.


Here's when it gets more difficult to learn a new language, according to science

23 April 2018 (Business Insider)

Perhaps you've toyed with the idea of learning a second or third language. But as an adult, is learning a new language too monumental of a task to undertake?

Let's look at what we know about language development. Early childhood — infancy until age 5 — is a particularly sensitive period when children's brains are primed to learn language.

According to Thomas Bak, Ph.D., a neuroscientist from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, children first learn sounds, and then acquire the basic rules of grammar. Then comes vocabulary, which continues to accumulate throughout life. (Microbiome, microagression, net neutrality, safe space, and Seussian are just a few of the 1000 new words that Merriam-Webster added in 2017.)

From birth through puberty , children learn language rapidly and efficiently due to their natural brain plasticity and cognitive flexibility. After puberty, however, language acquisition becomes progressively more difficult, and our ability to learn new languages steadily declines.

There's some individual variability in the age of this decline, Bak says, due to natural ability. But a slight decline does occur in all people at some point, whether it be in their 20s or 30s.

Nienke Meulman, who has published research on age and grammar acquisition effects on the brain, says the adage,"'The later, the harder' is definitely true, but there is no clear cut-off age." Even for late learners it is possible to become proficient in a second language, Meulman says.


Irvine brothers wine and dine with First Minister in China

20 April 2018 (Irvine Times)

Two Irvine brothers have hosted a dinner with Nicola Sturgeon in China after winning a year-long scholarship in the Far East.

Twins Owen and Robin Wilson wined and dined the First Minster last week during her current visit to China.

The brothers, who are 18, flew out to Beijing last year after both winning a place on the coveted Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS) Scholarship Programme which, in partnership with Strathclyde University, sees 23 students picked to live in China and attend Tianjin Foreign Studies University for a full academic year.


Spain is the most popular choice for students planning to study abroad

18 April 2018 (THE)

Spain is the number one destination for international students planning to study abroad, according to a survey conducted by GoEuro.

More than 5,700 students from 10 countries were surveyed by the travel platform, of which 18 per cent picked Spain as their top choice. The UK came in at a close second (16 per cent).

As well as Spain being the overall top choice, it was also selected by British students as their top choice, with more than a fifth (21 per cent) choosing the Mediterranean country. France (16 per cent), Germany (12 per cent), the Netherlands (10 per cent) and Italy (9 per cent) also proved to be popular choices for students from the UK.


Glasgow hotel to teach staff 10 new languages so they can welcome international guests

16 April 2018 (Glasgow Live)

A city centre hotel is extending a warm welcome to guests from all over the world - and in 10 different languages too.

Apex City of Glasgow’s concierge and reception staff are learning key phrases from 10 of the most commonly spoken languages among the hotel’s guests.

The move is part of a #WarmerWelcome project rolled out across Apex hotels, the Bath Street branch included.

Staff will be learning a how to speak in German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese and Danish.


£8.7million Gaelic School opens in Portree

16 April 2018 (Press and Journal)

Pupils from Portree will today attend different primary schools for the first time as a new Gaelic School opens its doors.

The school becomes the fifth dedicated Gaelic specific school across Scotland – and the third in the Highland region – to offer pupils the opportunity to be educated in the form of Gaelic medium education.

The construction phase of the £8.7million project began in September 2016 and concluded this month as parents and friends of the school will gather at the end of this week to celebrate the schools opening with a family ceilidh.


Related Links

New beginnings as Gaelic school opens in Portree (West Highland Free Press, 19 April 2018)

Row over £10m Gaelic school opening on Isle of Skye (The Scotsman, 20 April 2018)

Isle of Skye's Gaelic-only school 'will divide community' (The Herald, 21 April 2018)

How Netflix’s increasing use of foreign language content is helping to fight xenophobia

14 April 2018 (The Independent)

Netflix’s increasing use of foreign languages is building a global community where English isn’t king.

And it’s about time, as we need every tool we have to fight rising xenophobia.

Narcos may have kicked off this trend, but it goes way beyond just reading the subtitles. An audience of 104 million Netflix subscribers are devouring content in Spanish, German and Arabic. 

Nielsen released viewer numbers on two original Netflix programmes that debuted the same week: the sci-fi movie Cloverfield Paradox drew in 5 million viewers in the first week, and Altered Carbon, a television series based on an English book, brought in 2.5 million viewers. In both instances, leads spoke a language other than English throughout its run time. Chinese actor Zhang Ziyi plays an engineer in Cloverfield, and all her lines are recited in Chinese. Mexican actor Martha Higareda’s dialogue in Altered Carbon is primarily English, delivered with a hint of accent. However, she frequently reverts to her native Spanish in the series, as do the actors who play her family members. Co-star Waleed Zuaiter, who plays her partner, also speaks Arabic in key scenes.

The streaming service is producing popular programming depicting foreign and first-generation English-speaking actors, each communicating in their native tongue. The English speakers simply respond without skipping a beat. The implication is that they understand one another and choose the language they’re most comfortable responding in.


Scots language under threat from American English, Alexander McCall Smith warns

13 April 2018 (The Times)

The future of the Scots language is being put under threat by the unstoppable march of American English, Alexander McCall Smith has claimed.

The best-selling author fears that the enthusiastic adoption of US phrases means traditional words such as sleekit scunnered and shoogly are in danger of being lost forever.

McCall Smith’s works have been translated into more than 40 languages but he is concerned that Scots, and other tongues and dialects, are being undermined by the establishment of US English as a global lingua franca.

Subscription required to access full article


Call for Gaelic to be included on Duolingo

13 April 2018 (Stornoway Gazette)

Western Isles Alasdair Allan is calling for Scottish Gaelic to be added to Duolingo, the world’s most popular online language learning service. 

Duolingo’s 200 million worldwide users can choose to learn minority languages Welsh and Irish as well as fictional languages from Star Trek and Game of Thrones for free on the app, however there are no Scottish languages currently on offer.


Agenda: Our politicians should be doing more for Gaelic

7 April 2018 (The Herald)

Followers of social media and Scottish print media would be forgiven for thinking that there is widespread hostility toward Gaelic in Scotland. Yet, this does not appear to be the case. In 2012, for example, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey indicated that 76 per cent of respondents felt that Gaelic was either very or fairly important to Scottish heritage, and only four per cent felt it was not at all important.


Pupils' French connection on language learning day

5 April 2018 (Dumbarton Reporter)

Budding linguists at St Mary’s Primary School in Alexandria celebrated their language skills with a French learning day.

Pupils were put into mixed groups of P1-3 and P4-7 and spent the day taking part in various activities including games, STEM tasks and letting their creative sides loose with some art.

The children also welcomed their parents into school for an afternoon to involve them in the fun and to show off their newly-acquired language skills.


The time it takes to learn a new language depends on what you want to do with it

3 April 2018 (The Conversation)

If you go by the ads for some language learning apps, you can “have a conversation in a new language in three weeks”.

But the experience of most Australians when trying to learn a new language is more likely to resemble that of our prime minister who, a few years ago, wrote:

Learning any language at school is…difficult because there simply aren’t enough hours in the school calendar for most students to achieve any real facility – as many Australians have discovered when they tried out their schoolboy or schoolgirl French on their first visit to Paris!

The time it takes to learn a language depends on what you mean by “learning a language”. If your definition is being able to order a “café au lait” or ask for directions to “les toilettes, s’il vous plait” on your next trip to Paris, three weeks is perfectly realistic.

But if you need to study using another language, perform your job with it and negotiate all your relationships through that language – the answer changes dramatically. You’ll be looking at six years and more, where more may well mean never.

Language proficiency is therefore best thought of as the ability to do things with words. The things a tourist needs to do with words are vastly different from the things a migrant needs to do.


The English language is the world’s Achilles heel

3 April 2018 (The Conversation)

English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.

But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of English, and their first (or “native”) language can change what they believe is being said.

When someone uses their second language, they seem to operate slightly differently than when they function in their native language. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “foreign language effect”. Research from our group has shown that native speakers of Chinese, for example, tended to take more risks in a gambling game when they received positive feedback in their native language (wins), when compared to negative feedback (losses). But this trend disappeared – that is, they became less impulsive – when the same positive feedback was given to them in English. It was as if they are more rational in their second language.

While reduced impulsiveness when dealing in a second language can be seen as a positive thing, the picture is potentially much darker when it comes to human interactions. In a second language, research has found that speakers are also likely to be less emotional and show less empathy and consideration for the emotional state of others.

For instance, we showed that Chinese-English bilinguals exposed to negative words in English unconsciously filtered out the mental impact of these words. And Polish-English bilinguals who are normally affected by sad statements in their native Polish appeared to be much less disturbed by the same statements in English.

In another recent study by our group, we found that second language use can even affect one’s inclination to believe the truth. Especially when conversations touch on culture and intimate beliefs.
Since second language speakers of English are a huge majority in the world today, native English speakers will frequently interact with non-native speakers in English, more so than any other language. And in an exchange between a native and a foreign speaker, the research suggests that the foreign speaker is more likely to be emotionally detached and can even show different moral judgements.

And there is more. While English provides a phenomenal opportunity for global communication, its prominence means that native speakers of English have low awareness of language diversity. This is a problem because there is good evidence that differences between languages go hand-in-hand with differences in conceptualisation of the world and even perception of it.


Graeme High pupil wins multilingual poetry award

2 April 2018 (Falkirk Herald)

The multilingual talents of budding poets from Graeme High and Moray Primary were celebrated in the 2018 Mother Tongue Other Tongue awards. 

Graeme High pupil Danai Nikitea was crowned the winner of the Mother Tongue category during a prestigious ceremony at University of Strathclyde on March 17. 

While Kole Murray from Moray Primary and Harely Ewen and Simi Singh, both from Graeme High, were Highly Commended in the Other Tongue category. 

These students used their language skills to create and share poetry for the ceremony.


Scottish Education Awards 2018 - Finalists announced!

29 March 2018 (Daily Record)

Following an editorial campaign running in the Daily Record, the finalists for this year's Scottish Education Awards have been announced.

Finalists will attend the prestigious awards ceremony at Glasgow's Doubletree by Hilton Glasgow Central on June 6th, where each of the fifteen winners will be announced.

Details of all the finalists can be found in the Daily Record news article online.

Congratulations and good luck to the schools shortlisted in the language-related categories!


Related Links

Falkirk district schools aiming for top marks at Education Awards (Falkirk Herald, 16 April 2018)

Campaign to make state school pupils Latin lovers

29 March 2018 (The Herald)

A drive has been launched to revive a classical education in state schools across Scotland.

Leading classics organisations have joined forces to promote the study of Latin and the history and culture of Ancient Rome and Greece.

Once a fundamental pillar of education, Latin has declined dramatically since the 1970s and now very few state schools offer it.

In 2013, just 218 candidates sat Latin at Higher compared to 243 the previous year. Only 48 pupils took Latin as an Advanced Higher.

In order to lead a revival the UK charity Classics for All, which provides grant funding to schools, opened a Scottish hub in September last year. 

Alex Imrie, an academic from Edinburgh University and the charity’s Scotland representative, said the hub was seeking to introduce a Latin module aimed at primary school pupils.  

It also wants to revise and update existing qualifications in Classical Studies for secondary school pupils and to work with university departments to reintroduce the subject as a specialism within postgraduate teaching qualifications. 

He said: “We’re approaching councils across Scotland to try and get them on board to try and reintroduce classics into the curriculum. 

“We are enjoying a lot of enthusiasm with the people we are speaking to, but it is early days and we need to get more momentum and spread the word even further.  

“There are academic benefits with improvements to English and other areas of the curriculum and it is long overdue that we break the myth that classics is only for the elite or only for those who go to independent schools.”


MSP to give Holyrood address in Gaelic to raise language profile

29 March 2018 (The Scotsman)

An MSP is seeking to raise the profile of Gaelic by delivering an entire speech in the language at Holyrood. 

Kate Forbes will become just the second female MSP, and the first in the current Scottish Parliament chamber, to deliver a whole contribution in Gaelic during a plenary debate. 

Ms Forbes, who chairs Holyrood’s cross-party group on the language, will speak as MSPs consider a motion on Scotland’s support for the (Unesco) convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. 


North-East language board set up to promote Doric

28 March 2018 (BBC)

A new body to promote Doric and the North-East Scots language is being launched in Aberdeen.

The North-East Scots Language Board aims to promote the language with the goal of making it more visible in everyday life, including Doric signage.

The body will be made up of representatives from Aberdeen's two universities and north east councils.

As well as the Doric, the board aims to promote other local dialects from the north east of Scotland.

A Scots language course is also being launched at the University of Aberdeen.


Bilingual benefits: why two tongues are better than one

27 March 2018 (Irish Times)

Ireland is speaking more languages than ever before with Polish, French, Romanian, Lithuanian and Spanish all echoing through our family homes.

For years, there was a belief that bilingual children lagged behind academically and intellectually.

More recent studies, however, comprehensively show this is untrue: switching between two or more languages gives the brain a dexterousness and improves our attention, planning, memory and problem-solving skills.

Evidence shows bilingual children score better across a range of cognitive tests than their monolingual classmates.

In an Irish context, speakers of a second language have an advantage in a jobs market that places significant value on both their linguistic and cognitive skills. And bilingual children who sit minority language subjects in the Leaving Cert consistently get top grades.

In spite of the clear benefits, many newcomer parents have concerns about bilingualism.  

Dr Francesca La Morgia is assistant professor in clinical speech and language studies at Trinity College Dublin and the founder and director of an organisation called Mother Tongues, which supports parents in passing on their native language.


The state secondary school where the only language taught is Mandarin

22 March 2018 (TES)

In a school serving one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh, Mandarin is the only language on offer. 

Learning Mandarin has tended to be an opportunity only available to a minority of Scottish pupils, often in private schools.

But in a school serving one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh, Mandarin is currently the only language on offer.

In October, when Castlebrae Community High's only modern languages teacher left for maternity leave, it struggled to replace her – but then the school received some external investment to teach Mandarin.

This enables it to share a teacher with several other schools in the city. The subject is taught in the first and second year. Next year, some pupils hope to continue it in their third year, with the aim of achieving a national qualification in the language.

In October, 12 pupils will head to Beijing to experience Chinese language and culture for themselves.


Is this the best time in history to learn languages?

BBC (21 March 2018)

Hillary Yip is a 13-year-old student from Hong Kong. She’s also an ambitious app developer and CEO.

Designed by a kid, for kids, her smartphone app, Minor Mynas, connects children from around the world for a specific purpose: to learn each other’s mother tongue.

Yip epitomises the globalised, digitally connected teen of today’s youngest generation, which has grown up through the unique conditions the 21st Century – technology that connects people all over the world, an increasingly culturally diverse global population, and the rise of personalised educational apps and games.

Could these factors combine to create the most multilingual generation yet?

The youngest generation is growing up in a time in history that provides a lot of opportunity. Cultural diversity is increasing globally, especially due to increasing levels of international migration, says professor Steven Vertovec, managing director of the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. He points to the latest UN World Migration Report, which found that 258 million people live in a country other than their country of birth — an increase of 49% since 2000. “Hence more people, from more diverse backgrounds, are coming into contact with each other in cities around the world,” he says. “This is set to continue, again globally.”

This increased migration, especially in cities, brings people with a wide variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds into close contact. Could a more multicultural world lead to a more multilingual generation?


The benefits of learning a new language

20 March 2018 (Blasting News)

It is one of the universal truths: being bilingual or polyglot can only be considered as something positive.

We have the ability to travel constantly to another country, to interact with people with whom otherwise we could not communicate, to really understand another culture and to immerse ourselves in it. We live in an increasingly globalized world and when we are aware of the positive side of knowing a new #Language, we realize the doors of a different culture are open and it can teach us a different way of viewing the world.


Listening to foreign language while you sleep can help you learn it, study finds

20 March 2018 (The Independent)

Are you struggling to pick up a second language? Well, you’re not alone because as part of a vote organised for European Day of Languages, Britain was previously revealed to be the most monolingual country in the continent.

But with so few hours in the day, how are we ever meant to find the time to learn another lingo?

Well the answer, it seems, could be to do it while you sleep. According to research by the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg listening to recordings of new words while you sleep could actually help you learn them.


English-speaking Macron campaigns for French to be global language

20 March 2018 (The Telegraph)

Emmanuel Macron launched an international drive to promote French as a “world language” on Tuesday, urging Francophone countries to resist the temptation to turn to English.

“France today should be proud of being one country among others that learns, speaks and writes in French,” he told the Académie Française, an august body of luminaries that has struggled for decades to turn back the relentless tide of English expressions flooding into French. “French should become the language that creates tomorrow’s world.”

However, French commentators were quick to point out that the 40-year-old president, a fluent English-speaker, is himself fond of using English expressions.

“France is back” and “start-up nation” have become catch-phrases associated with him.


Related Links

Listen to Ludovica Serratrice from the University of Reading on BBC Radio Berkshire (from 1 hr 47 mins) talking about President Macron's bid to boost the French language. (Recording available until 20 April 2018).

Scots language initiative hopes to celebrate our unique tongue

20 March 2018 (The National)

A new push is to begin to strengthen the status of Scots as two language bodies form a new advocacy partnership.

The Scots Leid Board and the North-East Scots Language Board (NESLB) will launch their initiative at Aberdeen University on March 28, promising to be an “apolitical” voice for the promotion and protection of the medium.

It also aims to encourage its use in broadcasting and increase the provision of Scots-language education to the same level as Gaelic for youngsters aged three to 18.


15 Years On, The Time For A BSL Act Is Now

19 March 2018 (Huffington Post)

Sunday 18th March marked the 15th anniversary since British Sign Language (BSL) was given official recognition as a language under the last Labour government. This date, which fell within British Sign Language Week, was an occasion to celebrate with great pride, as it gave deaf people the basic recognition they deserve.

I was truly honoured to become the first ever Member of Parliament to ask a question in the House of Commons using BSL, during the week of last year’s anniversary. I have a level two qualification in BSL having learnt it many years ago so that I could communicate with a work colleague, and as Ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club this is an issue which is very close to my heart.

It is estimated that there are about nine million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This includes an estimated 151,000 BSL users, 87,000 of whom are deaf. BSL is a beautiful, unique language and deaf and hard of hearing people deserve the right to communicate and live their lives using their preferred language.

Despite the importance of celebrating this anniversary, we must recognise there is still some way to go until BSL is equal under the law. I am firmly of the belief that the only way to give the deaf community the equality and recognition they deserve is to bring a BSL Act before Parliament.


Plans submitted for multi-million pound Gaelic cultural centre on Uist

20 March 2018 (Press and Journal)

The £7 million Cnoc Soilleir Project is a joint venture between Lews Castle College UHI and Ceolas Gaelic, the arts and heritage organisation in Daliburgh, South Uist.

It will receive investment from the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Capital Plan and is expected to create 40 jobs.

The area is recognised as a key community for the revitalisation of the Gaelic language in Scotland and Cnoc Soilleir has a significant role in leading this development.


SCEN Digital Map

18 March 2018 (SCEN)

After the work of the Mapping Chinese Working Group, driven by SCEN and the Confucius Institute for Scotland, SCEN has created a Digital Map of schools, colleges and universities in Scotland involved in the teaching and learning of Chinese and about China. The principal aim is to encourage more sharing and collaboration.


‘Inequity for students’ as secondary subject options narrow

16 March 2018 (TESS)

Fewer subjects studied at some Scottish schools means some pupils are losing out, says study. New analysis of schools’ curricular offerings has found that, as pupils enter the crucial senior years of secondary, the range of courses they can take is shrinking.


Six reasons why everyone should learn Español

12 March 2018 (The Independent)

We've read the arguments for learning French, but let's be honest: Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, or any other language with growing global importance would be a better choice.

Spanish may be the best choice of all for a second language, which is why its popularity in schools is soaring worldwide.

In honour of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some reasons why you should estudiar.


Sweden's Finns fear minority language rights are under threat

13 March 2018 (The Guardian)

As rising immigration increasingly puts Scandinavia’s reputation for tolerance to the test, Sweden’s largest national minority fears its language rights are threatened and children will grow up with little or no knowledge of their mother tongue.

Finnish-speaking Swedes, known as Sweden Finns (sverigefinnar), make up more than 7% of the country’s 10 million-strong population and are entitled to Finnish lessons in school since Sweden reversed an earlier postwar approach of forced assimilation.

But complaints that minority language policies are not being respected are mounting. Reports for the Swedish government in the past 12 months point to failures with respect to Sweden Finns in particular, but paint “a dark picture” of the situation for national minority languages in Sweden as a whole.


Ten years of “Me gusta” – Facebook celebrates a decade in Spanish

8 March 2018 (El País)

Facebook is celebrating its 10th year in Spanish, buoyed by having broken the barrier of two billion active monthly users. The language was the first choice for translation of the site, and after English continues to be the most popular on the social network, being used by 290 million people. Around 80 million people use Facebook in European Spanish, which is officially called Castilian by the site.


Calls for Doric to have same status as English and Gaelic

6 March 2018 (Scotsman)

Doric is to be promoted and protected on a new scale in Scotland with a body now set up in Aberdeen to secure the same status for North-East Scots as English and Gaelic. The North-East Scots Language Board is being led by academics, key figures and institutions in the region to normalise the use of the language in civic life, media, business and education.


Launch a British Sign Language GCSE, MPs urge

6 March 2018 (BBC News)

British Sign Language should be turned into a GCSE that is taught in schools, MPs were told. The appeal came as a petition calling for British Sign Language to be made part of the national curriculum attracted more than 32,500 signatures. It also follows the success of Oscar winning film The Silent Child, starring profoundly deaf Maisie Sly, aged six.


Oscars 2018: Ex-Hollyoaks star uses sign language in acceptance speech

5 March 2018 (BBC)

A film starring a six-year-old deaf British girl and made by two former Hollyoaks stars has won an Oscar.

The Silent Child, which tells the story of a girl who struggles to communicate, was named best live action short film.

It stars Maisie Sly, aged six, from Swindon, and Rachel Shenton, who played Mitzeee Minniver in the Channel 4 soap.

Shenton also wrote it and used sign language in her acceptance speech. It was directed by Chris Overton - AKA Hollyoaks cage fighter Liam McAllister.

"I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I would sign this speech," Shenton said while accepting the statuette at Sunday's ceremony in Hollywood.


Translators are the vanguard of literary change: we need better recognition

1 March 2018 (Guardian)

In 2017, working with the Society of Authors and with support from the British Council, I established the TA first translation prize, using my €25,000 (£22,000) winnings from another award, the International Dublin literary award. Its aim was to highlight the work of translators new to the profession, and of the editors who work with them.


Have we reached peak English in the world?

27 February 2018 (Guardian)

One of Britain’s greatest strengths is set to diminish as China asserts itself on the world stage.


Icelandic language battles threat of 'digital extinction'

26 February 2018 (Guardian)

Unlike most languages, when Icelandic needs a new word it rarely imports one. Instead, enthusiasts coin a new term rooted in the tongue’s ancient Norse past: a neologism that looks, sounds and behaves like Icelandic. [...]

But as old, pure and inventive as it may be, as much as it is key to Icelanders’ sense of national and cultural identity, Icelandic is spoken today by barely 340,000 people - and Siri and Alexa are not among them. In an age of Facebook, YouTube and Netflix, smartphones, voice recognition and digital personal assistants, the language of the Icelandic sagas – written on calfskin between AD1200 and 1300 – is sinking in an ocean of English.


The Winter Olympics reminds us of the value of learning a second language

22 February 2018 (The Conversation)

Big-ticket sporting events are an opportunity for countries to showcase their cultures. TV broadcasts show stories about the cultural, historical and social aspects of the host country – which, for this year’s Winter Olympics, is South Korea. We hear other languages at global sporting events, too. Almost 80 million people speak Korean; it’s the world’s 13th-most-widely spoken language.


United Nations International Mother Language Day 21st February

21 February 2018 (Speak to the future)

Today, across the world, we are celebrating our languages and cultures. International Mother Language Day is an annual observance which was introduced by UNESCO in 1999.

In a world that is constantly in flux, our languages and cultures matter more and more, giving us a sense of identity and confidence. The more we share our languages and cultures, the more we develop a sense of community and a wider and deeper understanding of one another. With each new language and culture that we encounter, we broaden our world view, become culturally curious and keener to learn new ways of thinking. We could say that by sharing our languages and cultures, we become more aware of what it is to be human.


Related Links

Secondary schools consider dropping languages due to teacher shortages

20 February 2018 (Irish Times)

Applies to Ireland

Some secondary schools are considering dropping languages such as French, Spanish and German due to a “crisis” in the supply of teachers, according to school managers. The Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools will tell an Oireachtas committee that “the integrity of student tuition time is being seriously undermined” due to staff shortages across key subjects.


Macron's French language crusade bolsters imperialism – Congo novelist

19 February 2018 (Guardian)

Alain Mabanckou, the acclaimed Congolese writer, has rejected Emmanuel Macron’s project to boost French speaking worldwide, calling instead for a complete overhaul of the club of French-speaking countries known as la Francophonie, which he said had become an instrument of French imperialism propping up African dictators.


The article that changed my view…of how bilingualism can improve society

17 February 2018 (The Guardian)

Guardian supporter Emilio Battaglia explains how an opinion piece by Tobias Jones clarified his view of bilingualism’s power to build bridges:

As someone who has dedicated so much of his life to the study and exploration of languages, Tobias Jones’s article 'The joys and benefits of bilingualism' immediately caught my eye. The Guardian is not a paper I know well but it is quite popular in Toronto, and becoming increasingly so. And this piece, written with a huge amount of research and an openness of spirit, seems to sum up so much of what the publication stands for. It made me gain a better understanding of how bilingualism can effect positive change, but it also sparked my appreciation of the Guardian’s journalism more widely.


Council’s plan aims to ensure language thrives in 21st century and beyond

16 February 2018 (The Falkirk Herald)

To some its a dead language of the past while others see it as a vital part of Scotland’s heritage. Whatever your feelings, no one can deny the Scottish Government is keeping it firmly front and centre in the national consciousness, making it a legal requirement for all local authorities in the country to create a plan outlining how they will support and increase Gaelic language culture in their area. 

At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive committee on Tuesday members gave their backing to the local authority’s draft Gaelic Language Plan. 

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “It’s very important our young people learn about our local history and our local heritage. Gaelic is not just a North of Scotland or Western Isles language – it was used in the Central Lowlands as well. There is an increase in interest in the Gaelic and it’s not just about language. It’s the whole culture as well and it’s something we should encourage where we can.”


Edinburgh Zoo hosts Scotland's biggest celebration of Chinese New Year

15 February 2018 (Herald)

The Giant Lanterns of China at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo is set to host Scotland’s biggest celebration of Chinese New Year, which begins on Friday, February 16 to welcome the Year of the Dog featuring traditional performers and street food native to China.


There must be easier fads to follow than teaching Mandarin

15 February 2018 (Guardian)

The Foreign Service Institute of the US state department says it takes a native English speaker roughly 2,200 hours to become proficient in Mandarin. To learn Spanish – or French, or any number of other nontonal languages that use the Roman alphabet – the FSI estimates it takes roughly 600 hours. I may be wrong about this, and am happy to be proved so, but my hunch is that my children will never be proficient in Mandarin, in spite of the New York public school system’s vague belief to the contrary.


Our Story: Chinese New Year in Perth

13 February 2018 (BBC Radio Sotland)

BBC Radio Scotland recorded a radio programme called Our Story: Chinese New Year in Perth. This tells the story of the Chinese Community in Perth. As part of the programme the BBC visited Kinross High School to record pupils being taught Mandarin, preparing a Chinese dance performance and discussing their summer Bridge camp experience.


Thinking in a second language hinders imagination, study finds

12 February 2018 (Independent)

As anyone who’s ever learned a foreign language will know, thinking in anything other than your mother tongue requires a lot of effort. But according to a new study, doing so actually drains the brain of some of its ability to conjure up mental imagery.


£500,000 funding boost for Gaelic media firm behind BBC Alba

10 February 2018 (The Herald)

THE media company which provides services in Gaelic across Scotland has awarded £500,000 from the Gaelic Capital Fund. 

MG ALBA said it would use the investment to redevelop the Seaforth Road Studio in Stornoway to provide improved facilities for programming, which will be used to increase training in creative digital media, learning, arts and cultural heritage.

Funding will enable MG ALBA, which operates BBC Alba in partnership with the BBC, to develop a training programme for young people with an interest in working in the media.


Students to learn more foreign languages under post-Brexit plan

7 February 2018 (Irish Times)

Applies to Ireland

More students will be encouraged to learn foreign languages and study abroad under a plan to build closer links with Europe following Brexit. The Government’s action plan for education acknowledges that Ireland needs to prepare for a changed dynamic in the EU following the UK’s departure and the rising importance of non-English speaking countries globally.

Teaching languages: Some tips and a call to action!

7 February 2018 (SecEd)

Language education is under pressure at a time when language learning could not be more important for the next generation.


How young is too young to start learning another language?

2 February 2018 (Financial Times)

For the past few months, my three-year-old daughter has spent an hour every week learning a foreign language. She taps along the corridor to a small room in a local school, where she and a handful of three- and four-year-olds spend the next hour dancing to “La Vaca Lola”, a song about a Spanish cow, creating finger puppets to voice what they like and don’t like (me gusta, no me gusta) and shouting out which animals are big (grande) or small (pequeño).

Why ‘The Sunday Times’ guide to ‘How to be Spanish’ missed the mark

31 January 2018 (El País)

An article written by the paper’s chief travel writer has raised the ire of Spaniards online, but left English Edition editor Simon Hunter somewhat conflicted.


Related Links

Study into how language delays onset of dementia

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Workshops offering older adults lessons in foreign languages to help delay the effects of dementia are being studied by researchers.

Social enterprise Lingo Flamingo was set up in Govan in Glasgow in 2015.

Dr Thomas Bak, from the University of Edinburgh, said the research he was involved in was seeking "measurable effects" from the language classes.

Dr Bak has previously studied the benefits of intensive Gaelic lessons at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college on Skye.


Weather forecasts to include “regional slang”

31 January 2018 (The Herald)

We are the nation which has more words for rain than the Eskimos have for snow.

From a yillen to a lashin, from a murr to a haar, Scots know how to describe every possible way to get drookit. 

Now, at long last, the Met Office has decided to tell us just how wet we will be in wur ain leid.

Britain’s forecaster has formally announced that it will use what it rather controversially calls “regional slang” in its broadcasts.

It says even people using standard English across the UK have a huge variety of terms for the weather they are experiencing. Crucially, the experts at the Met Office think these words could be more accurate than scientific terms they prefer as they perform in front of their isobars.


Children to learn sign language through Welsh

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Applies to Wales

A new project has been launched which aims to teach sign language to young children through the medium of Welsh. 

The scheme, run by Mudiad Meithrin and funded by Bangor University, is the first to teach British Sign Language (BSL) through Welsh rather than English.

It will introduce one word per week in Welsh and BSL which will be shown to as many as 12,500 children under four.


Brainwaves: Dr Thomas Bak

28 January 2018 (BBC Radio Sotland)

Should we offer language classes on the NHS? Could bilingualism be more beneficial than medication when it comes to a strong, healthy brain and is monolingualism making us ill? In this Brainwaves, Pennie Latin meets the man behind those bold ideas, Dr Thomas Bak.

Available until 2 March 2018


Only by speaking European languages will Britain rebuild the bridges burned by Brexit

26 January 2018 (Times)

We take it for granted that public figures from the rest of Europe can speak flawless English, as Emmanuel Macron did in his interview on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday. We expect the presidents and prime ministers of France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Sweden or Norway to be able to conduct their politics and diplomacy with us in English. And yet we are impressed when a British political leader reciprocates.

Subscription required to read this article.


Kirk consults on Gaelic Plan

23 January 2018 (Stornoway Gazette)

A comprehensive survey on the use of Gaelic within the Church of Scotland is being launched. 

The Kirk’s Gaelic Group is laying the groundwork for a new plan that will look at how the language is currently being used in ministry. The audit will help determine how Gaelic-led ministry could be supported in future. 

It will include a questionnaire for ministers, including student ministers, probationers and ordained local ministers, that is designed to build a complete picture of Gaelic ministry within the church today. 


British children aren’t learning foreign languages after the Brexit vote

22 January 2018 (Metro)

Britain is facing huge problems after the Brexit vote because not enough children are learning other languages, the British Council has warned. 

The council claims the lack of language skills is holding back international trade performance by nearly £50 billion each year and worries there could be a gulf once the UK leaves the EU. 

Schools advisor Vicky Gough said: ‘At a time when the UK is preparing to leave the European Union, I think it’s worrying that we’re facing a language deficit. And I think without tackling that, we stand to lose out both economically, but also culturally. So I think it’s really important that we have a push for the value of languages.’


The joys and benefits of bilingualism

21 January 2018 (The Guardian)

More than half the world’s population is now bilingual. Now thought to encourage flexibility of mind and empathy, bilingualism is also transforming societies.


Glasgow pensioners learn Spanish to prevent dementia

16 January 2018 (Glasgow Live)

Pensioners in Glasgow are being given language lessons in a bid to prevent the early onset of dementia.

Over 60s at Bield’s Coxton Gardens development in Glasgow, have been boosting their memory skills thanks to the weekly Spanish classes put on by one of the care assistants.

Mariana Popa, care assistant at Coxton Gardens, said: “I was looking into some activities that we could organise for our tenants here in Glasgow as part of my personal development framework, and was keen to break away from the stereotypical notion that all older people want to play games such as bingo and dominoes."


Related Links

Bield residents say ‘¡Adios a Dementia!’ (Scottish Housing News, 16 January 2018)

Gaelic language something to embrace: Readers' Letters

16 January 2018 (The Courier)

I was motivated to write in to your letters page following a number of negative comments featured recently relating to the Gaelic language. While I can appreciate individuals’ concerns, I have to say that my own experience within the past year has been very different.

Since travelling around Scotland and taking an interest in local history and culture, I have become aware of the opportunities to learn more about Scots Gaelic. There are many myths that are perpetuated around the money spent on promoting and supporting Gaelic without thinking of the social, cultural and economic benefits to all.


‘The future’s still Mandarin’ despite lack of interest

12 January 2018 (TESS)

Undeterred by a low uptake, campaigners vow to keep pushing the language in Scotland

Subscription required to access full article.


Brexit risks 'major disaster' for biggest exchange programme in the world

12 January 2018 (TESS)

Brexit will cause a “major disaster” for schools and colleges if it removes access to the biggest student exchange programme in the world, politicians have heard. The potential loss of the long-running Erasmus+ scheme would not only deny thousands of young people potentially life-changing opportunities in other countries, but could also harm teachers’ professional development, according to experts.


Dundee lecturer warns of ‘major disaster’ if Brexit kills off Erasmus programme

11 January 2018 (The Courier)

The loss of a European student exchange programme would be a “major disaster” for language teaching in Scottish schools, says a Dundee lecturer.

The Erasmus+ scheme allows young Scots to study for part of their degree elsewhere in the Europe, but its future is uncertain after Brexit.

Marion Spöring, a languages lecturer at Dundee University said the programme is vital in training Scotland’s teachers and improving education standards.


Language skills for industry

8 January 2018 (Parliament Live)

Watch Baroness Coussins speech in Lords debate on need for MFL skills in the UK Government's Industrial Strategy.


Iran bans English from being taught in primary schools

8 January 2018 (BBC News)

Iran has banned teaching the English language in primary schools, calling the subject a "cultural invasion". The education ministry "envisages strengthening Persian language skills and Iranian Islamic culture of pupils at the primary school stage", its secretary told state media.


Secret Teacher: subjects like art are being sidelined – but they matter

6 January 2018 (Guardian)

In trying to improve outcomes in a limited range of subjects, we may struggle to realise the potential of those whose strengths lie elsewhere.

The 3 languages children should start learning now for a better future

2 January 2018 (The Independent)

Which language should you encourage your child to learn to benefit them a decade down the line?

Historically, the answer has often been Spanish, given the number of countries around the world that speak it and the close proximity of the country to the UK. But recent research disagrees, preferring French, German and Mandarin.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research and Opinion, in partnership with Heathrow Airport, surveyed 2,001 parents with children under the age of 18, alongside an additional survey of more than 500 business leaders across the UK.


Learning a language is resolution for one in five Brits, survey says

29 December 2017 (BBC)

Learning a language will be a new year's resolution for about one in five Britons in 2018, a survey suggests.

About one in three said they intend to learn at least some key phrases. Spanish was the most popular language among 2,109 UK adults questioned by Populus for the British Council.

"If we are to remain globally competitive post-Brexit, we need more people who can speak languages," said British Council schools advisor, Vicky Gough.


Related Links

Learning new language popular resolution for 2018, says survey (The Herald, 28 December 2017)

New Celtic signing Marvin Compper might speak SIX languages but insists his talking in Scotland will be done on the pitch

21 December 2017 (Daily Record)

Marvin Compper speaks six languages. Now the new Celtic defender hopes to speak the language of football in Glasgow.

Compper signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the Scottish Premiership champions.

The international reeled off his impressive linguistic skills which include speaking German, French, Italian and English fluently with a touch of Dutch and Russian thrown in for good measure. However he insisted that he much prefers to do all his talking on the pitch.

Compper said: “I speak four languages fluently and one if I was to spend a week in Holland I would also speak that fluently.

“I also speak a bit of Russian so it is five-and-a-half. I am half-French half-German, so I speak those languages and I did English at school and developed it from there watching television shows and then my team mates.


Gaelic row over Scotland’s hygge campaign

14 December 2017 (Scotsman)

It was meant to sum up that feeling of being all cosy, warm and settled indoors as the cold and the dark lurk outside. But the Gaelic word picked by VisitScotland to promote its’s own version of Danish hygge - a way of life characterised by candlelight, warm glows and logs on the fire - appears to have ruined the moment for some.


Related Links

VisitScotland campaign sparks war of words that’s far from cosy (The Herald, 16 December 2017)

#ToYouFromTes: Why schools need to speak the same language on EAL support

11 December 2017 (TES)

Despite one in five pupils now speaking English as an additional language, Sameena Choudry says schools are still not doing enough to support EAL pupils. She sets out seven steps to put that right.

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

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

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


‘Languages After Brexit’, edited by Michael Kelly

11 December 2017 (Financial Times)

If managers in decent-sized UK companies need someone who speaks German, Finnish or Polish, all they need to do is send a group email or wander through the office and ask. More than four decades of EU membership have made British employers lazy about languages: freedom of movement has brought hundreds of thousands of European workers to the UK, and their languages have come with them. What will happen if fewer of them arrive, and more go home, as is already happening?


Text in mither tongue — we help develop the first Scots-speaking smartphone keyboard

8 December 2017 (The National)

TEXTS in a fankle because your phone disnae ken whit yer oan aboot? Dinnae fash, the world’s first Scots-speaking predictive text keyboard is here — and The National helped developers build it. Techies at Microsoft subsidiary SwiftKey used material from this newspaper to teach their programme how to recognise, autocorrect and autopredict in Scotland’s ither national language. The system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt to the user’s writing style and is capable of running between both Scots and English at once.


High school move paves way for city's first secondary dedicated to Gaelic

8 December 2017 (The Herald)

Plans to move a Gaelic school in Edinburgh will pave the way for the city's first high school dedicated to the language, if demand grows.

Edinburgh City Council is consulting on plans to move its existing Gaelic medium education (GME) provision from James Gillespie's High School in Marchmont to Drummond Community High School in Bellevue. The informal consultation is to begin in the new year after reports that projections for James Gillespie's suggest it will have issues accommodating pupil intake in the future.

The council said transfer of GME provision to Drummond Community High School means it could become a dedicated Gaelic secondary in several years' time.


Duolingo Rolls Out New Language-Learning Podcast

8 December 2017 (Language Magazine)

The language-learning app, Duolingo has decided to add NPR style podcasts to their arsenal of tools to get people speaking. 

The company, which is typically known for gamifying language in their app, has launched Duolingo Spanish Podcast, aimed at English speakers who are seeking to learn Spanish. The first podcast is available here and is about reporter Rodrigo Soberanes meeting his childhood soccer hero. Soberanes is a seasoned journalist, and his and host Martina Castro’s banter is not only easy to understand for intermediate Spanish speakers, but is also interesting and engaging.


Map: How the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers has changed since 1891

8 December 2017 (The Scotsman)

The prevalence of Scottish Gaelic speakers has waned dramatically in the last 100 years. The language was once widely spoken across much of the Highlands and western regions of Scotland but now only around 1 in 100 Scots can speak it.

This video from UK Languages Mapping charts the decline in the language from 1891-2011 using census date.


James Eglinton: Why Gaelic speakers talk about God in English

7 December 2017 (The Scotsman)

At present, the Gaelic language is both blossoming and vulnerable. The number of young and new Gaelic speakers is increasing, although this upturn is overshadowed by the declining number of elderly speakers.

In its commitment to grow the number of fluent speakers, the Scottish Government continues to support Gaelic in education and the media. In 2017, Gaelic is doing fairly well as a language of education, media and entertainment: it is heard in news broadcasts, spoken in classrooms across the country, and enjoyed by children in the form of cartoons like Peppa and Charlie is Lola. 

Against this backdrop the Scottish Bible Society has unveiled a new translation of the New Testament in modern Scottish Gaelic.


Glasgow home to largest number of Gaelic speakers outwith highlands and islands

7 December 2017 (GlasgowLive)

A public consultation has been launched on Glasgow City Council's draft Gaelic language plan for the next few years. Views are being sought for the 2018 - 2022 proposals, designed to ensure a sustainable future for the language in Scotland's biggest city and recognise its contribution to the history of the local area. Glasgow City Council currently operates three Gaelic nurseries, two primary schools and one secondary school. There are more than 1,000 young people aged from three to 18 years in Gaelic Medium Education in the city and, in response to demand, the council is currently in discussions about the creation of another school.


Plan for more school pupils to study foreign languages

4 December 2017 (The Irish Times)

An ambitious Government strategy aims to dramatically increase the number of students taking two foreign languages in the State exams despite an acute shortage of qualified teachers for these subjects.

The 10-year foreign language strategy seeks to prepare Ireland for Brexit through a series of steps such as potential bonus Central Applications Office (CAO) points for studying foreign languages, boosting the availability of languages in schools and the introduction of Chinese to the curriculum.


Related Links

Ireland seeks five-fold rise in students studying languages (THE, 12 December 2017)

Scottish pupils release Gaelic Christmas song to highlight its importance in North Lanarkshire

2 December 2017 (The National)

A new Christmas song is highlighting the importance of Gaelic in North Lanarkshire.

’S e Nollaig a th’ ann! (It’s Christmas!) was recorded by Làn Chomais, a rock band made up of pupils from Greenfaulds High School in Cumbernauld, with the backing of almost 1000 young voices from the area.

Gaelic teacher Kevin Rodgers mentored the young musicians and helped them make their first recording, and was supported by North Lanarkshire Council and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Rodgers said: “At Greenfaulds High School, we have been searching for a way to make the North Lanarkshire community more aware of the fact that Gaelic is alive and well in our area.”


French the new lingua franca of the world – vraiment?

2 December 2017 (Guardian)

Are we turning into a French-speaking planet? That was the surprising possibility raised by president Emmanuel Macron on a recent visit to Burkina Faso. “French will be the first language of Africa,” he said, plausibly, before adding, “perhaps the world.” Ah, oui? C’est vrai?


Oh là là! The appeal of international picturebooks

1 December 2017 (TES)

Picturebooks enable language learning using a familiar, non-intimidating format that is accessible across all reading levels.

Subscription required to access article


Canadian students celebrate St Andrew’s Day by translating Scots words

30 October 2017 (Scotsman)

To celebrate St Andrew’s Day, the British High Commission in Ottawa asked students to translate some Scots words. The hilarious video shows the students havering as they struggle with the lingo.


Google’s translation headphones: you can order a meal but they won’t help you understand the culture

28 November 2017 (The Conversation)

Language learning will be vital for the future of the UK economy in a post Brexit world. This is in part why employers are desperately looking for graduates with language skills – and, more importantly, intercultural awareness and empathy.

According to a CBI Pearson Education Survey 58% of employers are dissatisfied with school leavers’ language skills. The survey also found that 55% of employers would like to see improvements in students’ intercultural awareness.

Similarly, the British Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Survey of International Trade states that a large majority of non-exporters cite language and cultural factors as barriers to success.


Glasgow factory workers learn sign language to communicate with deaf colleagues

29 November 2017 (Evening Times)

A group of city factory workers have been learning sign language to allow them to communicate with their deaf colleagues.

Window factory staff at RSBi, the manufacturing arm of City Building, are being taught British Sign Language as part of a new national scheme to boost opportunities for deaf people.

The Scottish Government scheme, the first of its kind, aims to make Scotland the most inclusive place for BSL users to work, live and visit.

Royal Strathclyde Blind Industry got involved by enlisting the help of non-hearing BSL approved employee Mark McGowan to teach classes at its window factory in Queenslie.

The lessons have been running since October and the firm says they have increased day-to-day communication among workmates creating a more happy and confident team.


Number of British students studying abroad plummets, report finds

29 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

The number of British students studying abroad has plummeted, a British Council report has found.

A reluctance to leave family and friends and a lack of foreign language skills have dampened the desire of UK students to venture overseas, according to a survey of more than 1,000 undergraduates.

Just 18 per cent were interested in some form of overseas study, down from 34 per cent in 2015.

The report by education organisation the British Council said living costs abroad and tuition fees were the biggest turn-off for more than half of those who said they did not want to study abroad. This was followed by difficulty leaving loved ones, being happy in their life in the UK and a lack of confidence in foreign languages.


Related Links

Video: Ten Gaelic phrases you can use every day

28 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

On November 30, the Scottish Parliament will be hosting a number of Gaelic pop-up facilities to help you brush up on your conversational Gaelic.

A pop-up stall in the main hall will be erected charged to give you a crash course in the native Scottish language in five minutes. Challenge accepted. Then there’s a free one-hour tour of the Parliament for Gaelic speakers and learners, followed by a beginner’s level Gaelic speaking class in the Parliament’s Chat Room.

[...]We’ve picked ten everyday, run-of-the-mill phrases to test your mettle as a warm-up to Thursday’s activities at the Parliament.


Study abroad is invaluable – students deserve clarity on Erasmus

27 November 2017 (The Guardian)

As a hopeless optimist, I am finding it difficult to adjust to the growing possibility of a no-deal Brexit. For universities – as for many other sectors of the economy and society – there is a huge amount at stake. While the rhetoric on both sides in relation to higher education and research has been very positive, the frequently expressed mutual desire to maintain co-operation will be more difficult to achieve in the absence of an agreement on our future relationship with the EU.

Based on the public comments of ministers, including the prime minister, and of our European counterparts, a deal would almost certainly secure the UK’s continued participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus + until the end of the current programmes. It could also pave the way for the UK to participate in future programmes under association agreements. Without a deal, however, we could find ourselves reliving the experience of our Swiss colleagues, who were shut out of these programmes overnight in 2014.

For students planning to study abroad, this continued uncertainty is a growing problem. This autumn, students starting at UK universities for whom a third year abroad is a compulsory element of their programmes arrived on campus not knowing how that year abroad would be organised. Universities could not tell them with any certainty whether the UK will still be eligible to participate in the Erasmus + scheme – and the same was true for our European counterparts whose students might be planning to come to the UK.


Languages graduates are now the least employable in Britain, new figures show

24 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

Languages graduates are now the least employable in Britain, new figures show. 

Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that recent graduates who have studied languages have an employment rate of 84 per cent, the lowest of any degree subject, and their average annual salary has fallen by more than £5,000 in four years. 

The figure has fallen from 87 per cent in 2013, the last time the data, was released, and puts the discipline below arts, humanities and social sciences in terms of employment rates. 

Entries to university for modern languages have declined sharply in recent years, as fewer students take the subjects at GCSE and A-Level. 


Five languages Brexit Britons should learn

24 November 2017 (Financial Times)

On trips to the Netherlands, I always ponder how long it would take me, a competent Afrikaans speaker, to learn Dutch. Not long, I think, but it would probably be fruitless. English is widely and fluently spoken in the Netherlands; I imagine my initial halting Dutch would be met with amusement.

So I was surprised to see that a recent British Council report of the top 10 languages young Britons should learn put Dutch in seventh place. The top-10 table was based on a study of the UK’s export and tourism markets, emerging high-growth economies, diplomatic and security priorities and job and educational opportunities.


'Sexist' inclusive writing row riles France

23 November 2017 (BBC News)

The French, as is well known, are obsessed by one thing - language. The latest topic to consume a nation of lexicologists is "inclusive writing". This is the attempt to erase all trace of sexism in a language where gender is a central feature - French nouns are either masculine or feminine, dictating all adjectives and some verbal forms (a point that is sometimes made painfully clear to foreigners who happen to get those wrong).

Why teaching in English may not be such a good idea

22 November 2017 (THE)

Research suggests that students learn better in their native tongue, and English fails to prepare international students for a job after graduation.


English as a second language? Schools need to stop treating it as an obstacle to success

21 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

When columnist Andrew Pierce tweeted earlier this year that 1.3 million children “do not speak English as a first language, underlining strain immigration puts on schools”  he understandably caused something of a social media stir.

Alongside some tweets of support, others were quick to point out that not having English as a mother tongue need not correlate to a student’s ability to learn in their second, or third language. Even the author JK Rowling, a former teacher herself, joined the argument to point out that “second and third languages can be fluent”.   

With over 300 languages spoken in classrooms across the UK, and many schools in big towns and cities such as London and Birmingham, it is understandable that many will wonder how schools will be able to cater to all pupils and students equally.    

However, as an educator who has taught in international schools across Europe, I strongly believe that such language issues needn’t be a problem. In fact, if embraced they can stand to benefit all students, and by extension aid in supporting better understanding in areas with culturally diverse populations.    


The degrees that make you rich... and the ones that don't

17 November 2017 (BBC news)

Why study languages? According to research undertaken by Institute for Fiscal Studies, when ranking subjects according to how much graduates earn five years after graduation, languages come out in the top ten — ahead of both business and law.


Don’t trip over the obstacles left by Brexit

17 November 2017 (TESS)

Building partnerships with schools overseas may seem like a less attractive prospect after the UK exits the European Union, but the benefits to pupils make these continental forays worth fighting for.

Subscription required to access this article


Brexit blamed as language assistant numbers dive

17 November 2017 (TESS)

The number of modern-language assistants (MLAs) in Scotland has almost halved in a year, amid fears that Brexit has deterred European students from working in the UK.

Subscription required to access this article.


UK risks mass exodus of EU academics post-Brexit, finds report

Guardian (14 November 2017)

The potential risk to UK universities from post-Brexit academic flight has been laid bare in a report that reveals there are regions where up to half of academic staff in some departments are EU nationals.

The British Academy report warns that economics and modern language departments will be particularly badly hit if European academics leave the UK, with more than a third of staff in each discipline currently from EU member states.


Related Links

Brexit risks to social sciences and humanities highlighted (THE, 14 November 2017)

University explores benefits of speaking Gaelic in business

14 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

A university is to discuss whether speaking one of Scotland’s mother tongues could offer an advantage to businesses. 

International business expert Seonaidh MacDonald will talk about his experiences of using Gaelic in a global business context at a lunchtime seminar offered by the University of the Highlands and Islands.


Actors taking sign language to the stage

13 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

A group of actors from the UK’s only degree course for deaf performers are taking their show on the road for the first time this week, with the hope that it will challenge public perceptions. 

The production, which blends British Sign Language (BSL) with spoken English, will be performed by students from the Glasgow-based Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The group of ten actors are all studying Performance in British Sign Language and English, a three-year degree course which is the only one of its kind in the UK.


The Scottish Gaelic Awards are a night to celebrate the surge in Gaelic speakers

13 November 2017 (Daily Record)

The Scottish Gaelic Awards bring together the very best in learning, achievement and development and celebrate the great work being done by Gaels in every corner of Scotland.

From inner cities to the Western Isles, traditional language and culture is being developed and promoted by amazing people from every walk of life.


Study abroad: ‘I like being part of an international community’

10 November 2017 (The Guardian)

Kate Pemberton, 24, spent a semester of her undergraduate anthropology and international relations degree at the University of Copenhagen. She loved it – so when it came to choosing a master’s, the city was her first choice.

[...] Pemberton feels the experience of studying abroad has given her valuable skills. “I’ve been learning Danish, which isn’t the most useful language, but I think any language is a bonus on your CV,” she says. “Plus, employers want what moving abroad and living in a different country gives you – you become more adaptable and can survive in stressful situations. It makes you more resilient and you open yourself up to more opportunities.”


First book in Harry Potter series translated into Scots

10 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

The first book in the Harry Potter series has been translated into Scots. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane marks the 20th anniversary of the first publication of the boy wizard’s adventures. 

The first book in the series introduces Harry as he discovers that he is a wizard and leaves his family to go to Hogwarts and study magic. 

Matthew Fitt, who translated the novel, said: “I wanted tae dae this for a lang time but kent I wanted tae get it richt. I’m that honoured tae be the Scots translator o this warld-famous Harry Potter buik and chuffed tae ma bitts that Scots speakers, baith young and no sae young, can noo read the novel again, this time in oor gallus braw Mither Tongue.”


A love of languages stops them becoming lost in translation

10 November 2017 (TES)

The recent Scottish Association for Language Teaching conference proved the sector has the staff to enable it to flourish

The language I work and live in, day to day, is not my first language. It is a language I learned in school. I first started learning English aged 10 – in the first year attending my local secondary school in rural Germany – and I fell in love with it immediately.

It is therefore no surprise that the learning of modern languages in school – or any foreign language, for that matter – is something close to my heart. Learning English – and later Latin and French – opened up a new world to me and gave me opportunities I never would have had otherwise. It also shaped how I see and engage with the world.

So it was my pleasure to attend and speak at the annual conference of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching (SALT) last weekend in Glasgow, which this year was titled “Still here”.


Language graduates targeted by Glasgow marketing firm

9 November 2017 (The Herald)

Glasgow-based Pursuit Marketing has announced its creation of 75 jobs, citing a “surge” in demand for its services from the technology sector, writes Ian McConnell.

The telemarketing and digital marketing services business, which was founded six years ago, said about 30 of the new positions were English-speaking roles.

Pursuit Marketing, which currently employs more than 80 people, added that it was also seeking “bilingual and native speakers fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and key Nordic languages”.


National award for modern language GCSE scheme

8 November 2017 (BBC)

A mentoring project which has doubled the uptake of modern languages at GCSE in some areas has won a UK-wide award.

The modern foreign language (MFL) scheme trains students from Welsh universities to talk to pupils about the benefits of studying languages.

Cardiff University, which led the work, was awarded the Threlford Cup by the Chartered Institute of Linguists.


The dos and don'ts of writing a personal statement for languages

8 November 2017 (The Guardian)

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein may have made a good case for studying languages when he said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” But be warned: if you quote him in your personal statement, you may test the admission tutor’s patience.

Students often start by quoting someone famous, says Mike Nicholson, director of admissions at the University of Bath, who thinks it’s a “waste of space” and “just demonstrates that you can copy and paste”. Hilary Potter, a teaching fellow at the University of Leeds, adds that quotes “don’t tell us anything about the student”.

Whether you’re interested in French, Spanish, Arabic or Japanese, your first step will be to impress admissions tutors and convince them you deserve a place on their course. A strong, cliche-free personal statement is a must, but what else should you include? And what mistakes should you avoid?


How the Guardian helped me to teach a foreign language

8 November 2017 (The Guardian)

Trevor Stevens notes that your editorial (4 November) lamenting Britain’s lack of competence in foreign languages “was devoid of solutions to this problem” (Letters, 7 November).

In the 1990s, however, one section of the Guardian contained a weekly feature article in a European language which, as a linguist and secondary school teacher, I regularly used as a stimulus for spoken and comprehension work with examination classes.

Another simple technique to promote engagement with foreign languages is for news media to be encouraged to broadcast more subtitled interviews, so that listeners can hear the original Catalan, Chinese, German etc. Vorsprung durch Brexit vielleicht?


French schoolteachers push for 'gender neutral' grammar in row with language purists

8 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

French grammar is sexist, according to hundreds of French teachers who insist they will no longer mark alternatives to male-dominated rules as wrong.

The call from 314 French teachers placed them on collision course with the Académie Française, the hallowed guardians of the French language, which has warned that moves to make French more gender-neutral is placing it in "mortal peril".


The Guardian view on languages and the British: Brexit and an Anglosphere prison

3 November 2017 (The Guardian)

The language (or languages) spoken in a society help to define its identity. That is as true of Britain as of every other nation. Most countries, like Britain, have one or sometimes more official languages. To become British, for instance, a person must prove knowledge of English. Equivalent provisions exist in almost all other countries.

Language rules can be positive or negative in effect. In linguistically polarised Belgium, the rival tongues are a permanent source of tension. In others, they are a source of vibrancy; Catalonia’s renewed sense of itself, for example, is grounded in the distinctness of its language and by a history of discrimination against it. Elsewhere, the issues are more tangled. Sinn Féin’s current demands for Irish language parity in Northern Ireland are holding up the restoration of devolved government there. They do not reflect widespread Irish speaking (only 6% of Northern Irish people speak Irish) so much as a determination not to be defined, through the language spoken by unionists, as British.

Modern Britain has a decent tradition of nurturing minority languages. But Britons have long been getting more parochial about speaking foreign ones. Three-quarters of UK residents can’t hold a conversation in any language other than English. This linguistic monoculture would be even more hegemonic if it were not for bilingual migrants. It reflects many things, but the decline in language teaching is one of the most important. GCSE entries in most foreign languages tend to fall each year. A long decline in the numbers with language qualifications has translated into a loss of those able to teach them.


Dundee Dialect is ‘as good as second language’, say researchers

3 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

To those from outside Dundee, the bakery order “twa pehs, a plehn bridie an’ an inyin in an’ a” (Two pies, a plain bridie and an onion one as well) might be mistaken for a foreign language. Now, international research shows that the human brain treats the distinctive Dundonian brogue - and regional dialects in Britain and abroad - in exactly the same way as a second language.

The study at Abertay University in Dundee, and by researchers in Germany, suggests that while people from the city who converse in dialect may not be regarded generally as bilingual, cognitively there is little difference.


Edinburgh school pupils experience ‘Day of the Dead’

3 November 2017 (Edinburgh Reporter)

Liberton High School students visited Mexican restaurant El Toro Loco to learn about Mexican culture.

Mexican restaurant El Toro Loco, located in Edinburgh’s Greater Grassmarket, hosted an exclusive, tailor-made Day of the Dead event for Modern Language pupils of Liberton High School on Thursday 2nd November.


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. 


Dual language police van hits the road in Dumfries and Galloway

1 November 2017 (BBC)

The first new police vehicle carrying the logo in both English and Gaelic has hit the road in Dumfries and Galloway. Police Scotland introduced the new branding earlier this year.

The change is being made as part of the force's commitment to its five-year Gaelic Language Plan.
It said it was keen to ensure that Gaelic-speaking communities across the country were "well served and ably represented" by the national police service.


Will learning a language abroad for a year make you fluent?

27 October 2017 (The Guardian)

There’s no right way to learn a new language; some people prefer poring over books, while others go for apps or traditional lessons with a tutor. Immersing yourself is a surefire way to accelerate the process, though, and a year abroad is an opportunity to do just that. Which is not to say that it’ll be easy. The road to fluency is long and likely to be littered with confusing – and often embarrassing – moments. Here’s a quick guide to help you get there.


Sign language users in Scotland 'to gain new rights'

24 October 2017 (BBC)

The Scottish government is expected to announce plans to integrate the use of British Sign Language (BSL) into every element of daily and public life.

It will reveal its national plan for people with hearing loss later.

Measures expected to be in the plan include moves to remove barriers which prevent deaf people becoming teachers.

It is also likely to address "fair and equal access" to employment opportunities, including apprenticeships and internships.

Minister Mark McDonald is to visit the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, which offers the UK's only degree course for deaf performers.

He will then outline the details of the national plan to the Scottish Parliament.


‘Sing songs to learn Gaelic’, say education experts

23 October 2017 (Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig)

A second language can be learned more easily when it is taught through music, was the message given out at the Royal National Mod in Lochaber earlier this month.

Jackie Mullen, a consultant trainer for the Go! Gaelic programme being run by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann, has seen first hand how effective music is as a learning tool. The Go! Gaelic programme includes a comprehensive programme of online resources that are used in primary schools across the country to teach some Gaelic to children who are in English Medium Education.

Visit the website or see the attached press release for more information.


'I fell in love with these words, and despite my efforts to move on and let go of the past, Gaelic would not let me do it'

22 October 2017 (The Herald)

“Dad, I’m going to tell it to you straight,” I said at the dinner table, aged 17 and ready to jump into the big wide world. My parents put down their cutlery in preparation for whatever was to come. “I’m not going to do Celtic Studies,” I blurted out, and I remember their faces still, choking on their sprouts in their efforts to hide their amusement.

Celtic Studies was my father’s all-consuming passion, and 16 years after his early retirement from Edinburgh University, it still is. We have no family connections to the Highlands and Islands – growing up in a house in Glasgow full of French, English and Italian (and a smattering of Arabic), my father took an interest in the Gaelic he heard about him in the trams and streets and classrooms of the city.


Alcohol can help foreign language skills, study finds

19 October 2017 (The Independent)

Isn’t it amazing how despite not having studied German since you got a B in your GCSE many moons ago, when you’ve had a few drinks and you bump into a few Germans on a night out, you're suddenly fluent?

Erstaunlich, oder?

Well according to a new study, this isn’t just all in your head - bilingual people actually are better at speaking foreign languages after a drink or two.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King’s College London studied 50 native German speakers who were studying at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands and had recently learned to read, write and speak the local language, Dutch.

Participants were then given either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink and asked to have a conversation in Dutch for a few minutes.

How much alcohol they were given depended on body weight, but it was equivalent to just under a pint (460ml) of five per cent beer, for a 70kg male.

Their conversations were recorded and their foreign language skills rated by native Dutch speakers, who didn’t know which participants had consumed alcohol.

The researchers found that those who were slightly intoxicated had better pronunciation than their sober colleagues.


Could instant translation technology revolutionise world HE?

17 October 2017 (THE)

Language is often cited as one of the main obstacles to universities’ internationalisation efforts, blamed for everything from the low number of UK students studying abroad to Japan’s lagging behind on numbers of foreign academics and internationally co-authored publications.

So could new technology allow students and academics to transcend language barriers – and therefore transform international higher education?

Earlier this month Google launched Pixel Buds – a new set of wireless earbud headphones that deliver real-time translation between 40 different languages using Google Translate on a Pixel smartphone.

Bragi’s Dash Pro earbuds deliver the same feature using the iTranslate app on an iPhone.

Colin Mitchell, learning technologist at Leeds Beckett University, said that the technology has the potential to benefit scholars and students.


Oor Wullie gets a new life as Uilleam Againne

17 October 2017 (Press and Journal)

Stories about one of the most popular Scottish characters of all time have now been translated into Gaelic.

The Oor Wullie – or Uilleam Againne – book is being launched today at the Royal National Mod in Fort William.

The book, described as a “huge piece of work” was a labour of love for Dr Domnhnall Uilleam Stiubhart of the University of the Highlands and Islands who is based at the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, on Skye and colleague, Mairi Kidd.

The young rascal, who has immortalised catchphrases such as Jings, Crivvens and Help ma Boab, and is always getting into mischief, set his translators quite a challenge – especially with the speech bubbles that come out of his mouth.

Dr Stiubhart said: “Every speech bubble had to be changed and made as simple as possible so that a child could read them. We felt that all the young Gaelic speakers were missing out by not having stories such as these in their language.

“My two sons, Alasdair who is 10 and Seumas, seven, just love Oor Wullie, so we thought it would be great to do a book on him that youngsters can start reading by themselves. Lots of adults love the Oor Wullie adventures too, so it can really be for everyone.”


Call for Gaelic language czar for Scotland

16 October 2017 (The Herald)

A Gaelic tsar would ensure Scotland’s mother tongue flourishes in the classroom in the wake of a controversial failed bid to create a new Gaelic primary school, an academic has claimed.

Professor Rob Dunbar, chair of Celtic languages at Edinburgh University, said the current mechanism to force councils and other bodies to promote the language was too weak.

It comes after a bid by parents for Gaelic primary school education was rejected by East Renfrewshire Council despite new laws designed to encourage the spread of the language.


Gaelic study sees decline in its heartland of the Outer Hebrides

12 October 2017 (The Herald)

The long-term future of the Gaelic language in the Outer Hebrides is under threat, according to a leading academic.

The warning came after new figures showed a decline in pupils studying Gaelic in parts of the Western Isles.

Once regarded as the traditional stronghold of the language, numbers sitting Gaelic exams in the third and fourth year of secondary school have fallen from 78 to just 24 in the past decade.

The decline mirrors a drop across Scotland with a nine per cent fall in entries for all Gaelic exams in 2017 including National 5 and Higher.

Professor Rob Dunbar, chair of Celtic languages at Edinburgh University, said he was concerned for the future of the language.


Related Links

Sharp drop in island learners raises fears for future of Gaelic (The Times, 12 October 2017)

Global Britain needs more linguists if we are to succeed after Brexit

12 October 2017 (The Telegraph)

Ours is a trading nation, connected to countries in every continent by shared history, shared values and, on occasion, shared language.

We are a country that thrives in making its way in the world. Once we leave the European Union we will, once again, be free to forge mutually beneficial relationships with peoples all over the globe.

Drawing on the genius of the great economists of our Union’s history, this Kingdom will once again be at the forefront of global free trade. Once again, it will fall to Britain and her close allies to make the Smith, Mill and Ricardo’s moral and economic case for markets, free trade and comparative advantage.

Key to our success in this endeavour is the preparedness of the next generation to compete and sell their wares in a global economy. In an ever more technical world, it is important that pupils leave school with the knowledge that will best prepare them for the demands of life in 21st century Britain.


Pupils losing out as schools prepare for GCSE early, says Ofsted

11 October 2017 (TES)

It is unnecessary to shorten key stage 3 to make more time for GCSEs, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Ofsted, has said.

An investigation by the schools watchdog has found that schools are often shortening KS3, which means “some pupils never study history, geography or a language after the age of 12 or 13”.

The intensity of exam preparation is getting in the way of pupils receiving the subject knowledge they need, the watchdog has said.


Strathclyde University says ‘arrivederci’ to joint honours degrees in Italian

9 October 2017 (The Herald)

A university has downgraded the teaching of Italian sparking wider fears for the study of the country’s language and culture in Scotland.

Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, will no longer offer students the opportunity to study joint honours degrees in Italian.

Instead, the language will be taught at a more basic level in only the first and second years of a four year degree course.

The move brings to an end a long tradition at Strathclyde where students could combine subjects as diverse as architecture, engineering, law and politics with Italian to degree level.


The week ahead: The Mod

9 October 2017 (The Herald)

Behold Alba, the peculiar country. One of Scotland’s peculiarities is the way that people get their drathais in a twist about language.

And when we say language we mean Gaelic. Only last week, announcements that Gaelic would appear on road signs in Edinburgh and efforts made to revive the language in Tayside gave rise to frothing of the mouth and gnashing of the teeth therein from the usual suspects.

Odd thing: a desire to kill a language. Fair enough, it has declined on its own, as it were, submerged in a larger culture that for a while outlawed it. But it isn’t dead yet, and the urge to kick it when it is down is a strange aspect of the Scottish character, one with which we are familiar in its wider context of national self-loathing.


Gender neutral version of French sparks backlash

7 October 2017 (The Independent)

A new gender-neutral version of the French language has caused anger among purists.

A member of the prestigious Académie Française has hit back at the adaption, which looks to reduce the masculine domination of grammatical gender. 

The French Academy is France’s 400-year-old voice of authority on language and its sole British member, Sir Michael Edwards, has deemed the gender neutral words “gibberish”.

As reported by The Times, the French government department responsible for equal rights said the masculine ending was a form of sexual tyranny.


GCSE modern languages scheme 'doubles uptake' in some areas

7 October 2017 (BBC)

A scheme to encourage more pupils in Wales to take modern languages at GCSE has reported "significant" success.

More than a third of Welsh schools now have less than 10% of Year 10 pupils studying a foreign language.

But the Welsh Government-funded modern foreign languages (MFL) mentoring project said it had seen uptake double in some schools.

The scheme trains students from Welsh universities to talk to pupils about the benefits of studying languages.


Inside the UK’s first bilingual English and Chinese primary school

7 October 2017 (Financial Times)

As a girl growing up in an English-speaking household in Singapore, Prema Gurunathan grudgingly studied Mandarin. Now a mother in west London, she is taking no chances with her own son.

When he turned one Ms Gurunathan insisted their household in Hammersmith speak Mandarin for half of each week. She recruited an au pair from east Asia (she prefers not to say exactly where, for fear of tipping off the competition). And last month, she and her husband enrolled the three-and-a-half year-old at Kensington Wade in London, Britain’s first primary school to offer full Mandarin immersion for its pupils.

“It’s intellectual, it’s cultural and it’s ‘future-proofing’, if you will,” said Ms Gurunathan, a self-confessed “tiger mom” and policy wonk, explaining her school choice. “And it’s fun.”


Gaelic school rejected after council shuns parents' bid

7 October 2017 (The Herald)

A bid by parents for Gaelic primary school education has been rejected despite new laws which were supposed to encourage the spread of the language.

A group of 49 families from East Renfrewshire contacted the council asking them to explore the possibility of a Gaelic primary unit or school in the area.

However, East Renfrewshire Council sent letters to all those involved warning families children would no longer be able to attend their local catchment area school if a Gaelic facility was set up.

“Instead, your child would attend another establishment in a location yet to be decided,” the letter said.

The council also highlighted the importance of parents learning Gaelic stating: “It is considered that it is crucial prospective parents ... who are not already Gaelic speakers are committed to learning Gaelic.”


Google's new headphones translate foreign languages in real time

5 October 2017 (The Independent)

Google has built a pair of headphones that can translate foreign languages in real time.

The Pixel Buds are like a real-world equivalent of the Babel fish, the famous fictional creature from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

They both translate and enable you to speak in foreign languages, and worked incredibly impressively in a demo at Google’s launch event this week, enabling an English speaker to hold a smooth conversation with a Swedish speaker.


'Post-Brexit, we need language more than ever. Why is the government ignoring the decline of MFL in our schools?'

4 October 2017 (TES)

'Instead of focusing on narrowing the curriculum with the Ebacc, the government needs to focus increasing MFL knowledge in schools – it will be crucial in a post-Brexit Britain'.

A press release landed in my inbox earlier this week warning of a looming languages deficit in the UK, post-Brexit.

According to its figures, 61 per cent of Brits speak no other language than English – a proportion, it's speculated that will rise as EU nationals and British linguists leave the country for jobs abroad, taking their skills with them. At the same time, English will decline as a global language – it's already been replaced by Chinese, Hindi and Spanish, which all have more native speakers.

Languages float my boat. I was a first-generation child born in the UK, of immigrant parents, who started school with no English. This was in the days before teaching assistants, EAL and other interventions. I don’t actually recall how, or when, I learned English but it didn’t take long. "Just get on with it" was the approach. I think they called it immersion.

The press release turned out to be promoting a language-learning app but setting that to one side, it raised some important questions.

Are we bad at languages in this country because of the quality of teaching and teacher shortages? Or is it because we’re ambivalent about others and their culture?

As we hurtle towards March 2019, it is one of many issues ministers need to address. As we face the reality of leaving the EU, languages are just one aspect of the deficits in our education system. And, so far, there has been little evidence of any joined-up thinking between government rhetoric and domestic practicalities.


Edinburgh Council publish Gaelic language plan ahead of consultation

2 October 2017 (The Scotsman)

Edinburgh Council have released their Gaelic language plan to support and promote the language and culture ahead of consultation. The plan aims to promote a city that develops and supports more fluent and  confident Gaelic speakers as well as promoting thriving Gaelic communities and cultures.

The ‘Draft Gaelic Language Plan’ was published by the City of Edinburgh Council today and is open for consultation until December 15. It is part of the Council’s commitment to work in partnership with Gaelic communities, organisations who deliver Gaelic services, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Scottish Government to support the language and culture.


Related Links

Gaelic learning to be expanded in Edinburgh (The Herald, 2 October 2017)

Early Bilingualism Helps With Learning Languages Later in Life, Study Shows

2 October 2017 (Education Week)

Bilingual people may be better equipped to learn new languages than those who only speak one language, according to a study published in the academic journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

The research points to a distinct language-learning benefit for people who grow up bilingual or learn another language at an early age.

A team of researchers paired 13 bilingual college students who grew up in the United States with Mandarin-speaking parents, and learned both English and Mandarin at an early age, against a group of 16 monolingual college students, who spoke only English.

The researchers studied Mandarin-English bilinguals because both of these languages differ structurally from the new language being learned.


Short-term study abroad ‘better for building teamwork skills’

2 October 2017 (THE)

Students who go abroad as part of their degree for a short period of time develop better teamwork skills than those who go overseas for a year, while other areas of development are unaffected by the duration of international study, according to a survey of alumni [...] A longer period of studying abroad had a “significantly positive effect” on the development of 11 of the 15 skills surveyed, including language skills, self-awareness, intercultural skills and confidence.


Only bampots will girn about BBC’s poetic delight

1 October 2017 (The Guardian)

It won’t be long now before BBC Scotland is assailed by the sentinels of right thinking over the content of Thursday’s morning radio news show. What on earth was the national broadcaster thinking of? To mark National Poetry Day the station asked its new poet-in-residence, Stuart A Paterson, to read a poem he had written for the occasion.

It is called Here’s the Weather, an appropriate topic at this time of the year, as the seasons prepare to turn one last time and Scotland looks at its best in copper and gold.

Paterson’s poem is written mainly in the Scots tongue and so we were treated to a joyous cascade of words and images half-remembered from a childhood untroubled by the conventions of the classroom. “Forfochen” and “scunnert” were in there, as well as “girn” and “haiver”. And I was delighted to see one of my favourites, “molocate”, which, roughly translated, can mean to interact with someone or something with a degree of physical belligerence. I was also hoping to see the word “chib” in there, one of my other favourites; perhaps the next time.


Related Links

Here's the Weather by Stuart A Paterson (BBC Scotland, 28 September 2017)

One Hundred Years of Russian: but what next?

1 October 2017 (Cable Magazine)

As the study of Russian in Scotland passes a notable milestone, Jenny Carr of the Scottish-Russia Forum casts an eye across the educational landscape and asks whether we should be doing more to enhance our knowledge of the Russian language and culture. The University of Glasgow celebrates the centenary of Russian studies at the university this year. Celebrations began in September with a conference and other events at the university, and will continue throughout the semester.


Virtual Gaelic school commended for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development

29 September 2017 (Holyrood Magazine)

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s virtual Gaelic school has been praised in an independent evaluation for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development.

A report of the e-Sgoil’s virtual school’s first year commended the council’s leadership team for its desire to help other local authorities and said the “energy and commitment” of those involved in the project had been “most impressive”.

The independent report by former Highland Council director of education Bruce Robertson and Martin Finnigan of consultants Caledonian Economics was presented to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services earlier this week.

It also praised the use of e-Sgoil for professional development in education and suggested the e-Sgoil approach could be rolled out across Scotland.


Appeal launched to collect poetry in endangered languages

28 September 2017 (Guardian)

Marking the UK’s National Poetry Day, an international call for readers to submit poems that could be lost to future generations has gone out.


The languages that let you say more with less

28 September 2017 (Washington Post)

Twitter's decision this week to test 280-character tweets is a nod to a fundamental linguistic truth: Some written languages are more concise than others. The social media company's engineers noticed that people writing tweets in English were far more likely to hit the 140-character limit than people writing in, say, Japanese. “This is because in languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French,” the company wrote in announcing the change.


Science plus arts — the best of both worlds

26 September 2017 (Times)

The STEM revolution sweeping schools has boosted the popularity of science subjects at university. However, what if scientifically gifted teens are not ready to give up history, English and the arts? Universities are increasingly offering broader-based degrees based on US-style liberal arts courses. These hybrid STEAM (STEM plus arts) degrees enable students to combine a wide range of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences courses, according to what they are interested in. They also provide the opportunity to learn a language and study abroad for a year.

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An t-Alltan conference

22 September 2017 (Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig)

Teachers involved in Gaelic Medium Education from all over the country will be gathering in Aviemore next week for the annual An t-Alltan conference.

Organised by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Naiseanta na Gaidhlig, based in Stornoway, this will be the ninth year of An t-Alltan and the number of attendees has been growing every year.

It is taking place in the Macdonald Aviemore Conference Centre, on September 27 and 28.

Around 200 teachers from the early years sector through to high school are expected to attend and the keynote speech will be delivered by Joan Mackay, assistant director at Education Scotland, on the theme of ‘developing the young workforce’ and ‘what kind of leaders we need to be’.

There will be nearly 30 workshops held across the two days and 18 exhibitors.

See the full press release attached for more information.
photos from An t-Alltan conference

Glasgow named one of the top cities in the world to learn about Chinese language and culture

20 September 2017 (Glasgow Live)

Glasgow is officially home to a world leader in the teaching of Chinese language and culture.

The Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools (CISS) has been appointed a Model Confucius Institute by the global headquarters, Hanban.

The centre, based at the University of Strathclyde, is one of only 40 facilities out of 500 across the globe to be given the status.

Bosses have also announced the institute, which is open to people from all over the country, is set for a move to a new HQ at the university's Ramshorn Theatre.

The Grade A-Listed building is being given a £2 million refurbishment - which includes a substantial investment by Hanban - to develop it as a publicly-accessible hub for learning and cultural exchange.

The new premises will have the capacity to host performances, conferences and exhibitions.

A plaque marking the new status of the institute was unveiled at a conference attended by Scottish Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Liu Xiaoming, China’s Ambassador to the UK, was also a keynote speaker at the event, held to mark the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “As a leading international university, we are extremely proud of our academic links around the globe and our diverse student and staff community.

“This prestigious accolade for our Confucius Institute reflects the important role it plays in improving understanding of Chinese language and culture across Scotland, and we congratulate everyone involved on their fantastic achievement.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Institute’s move to its new headquarters on campus will enable even more schools, businesses and community groups to benefit from increased educational and economic opportunities, with a further 10 Confucius Classroom Hubs being announced today.”


Related Links

China bolsters Confucius Institute culture scheme in Scotland (The Times, 20 September 2017)

Confucius Hub opens at Braehead Primary (Stirling Council, 21 September 2017)

Council to spend £160,000 teaching staff to speak Gaelic

20 September 2017 (The Herald)

A council plans to spend £160,000 teaching its staff to speak Gaelic.

Perth and Kinross aims to reverse the decline which has left just 1,287 locals speaking the language.

The local authority has revealed proposals for a £160,000 Gaelic Language Plan to be rolled out over the next five years.


Police Scotland rolls out dual English-Gaelic Logo

19 September 2017 (Fife Today)

Police Scotland has today (Tuesday, September 19) introduced its dual language logo featuring both English and Gaelic.

The branding, which carries both Police Scotland and Poileas Alba, will be introduced on the service’s website and intranet.

It will also be carried on signage, stationery and vehicles, and will be introduced on these items as they are replaced on reaching the end of their serviceable life.

The changes are being made as part of the force’s commitment to implementing its Gaelic Language Plan, which sets out the service’s pledge to creating a sustainable future for the language in Scotland by integrating it within Police Scotland’s services and corporate identity.


Bilingual people process maths differently depending on the language

18 September 2017 (The Independent)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Related Links

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

Former Carnoustie High pupils in dream China scholarship trip

16 September 2017 (The Courier)

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

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

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

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


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

15 September 2017 (TESS)

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

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

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


Three ways schools need to change their approach to boost MFL

11 September 2017 (TES)

Applies to England

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

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

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

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


Weird and wonderful poster art of Gaelic's FilmG

9 September 2017 (BBC)

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

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


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

7 September 2017 (The Independent)

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

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

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


10 of the best language with activity holidays around the world

5 September 2017 (The Guardian)

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


How to improve children’s language awareness at primary school

4 September 2017 (The Conversation)

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

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

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