Foreign languages to become compulsory at KS2 in 2014

2014 is just around the corner and lots of us are coming up with New Year’s resolutions. With compulsory foreign languages being introduced into the primary level curriculum imminent, why not give your child a head start in the classroom with a language course designed specifically for kids?

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British pupils encouraged to learn Mandarin Chinese

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron has announced that British schoolchildren should abandon French, German and Spanish in favour of Mandarin Chinese. With 14.1% of the world speaking Mandarin, it is the world’s most popular language, and has made the British Council’s top five most important languages for Britain’s future economic prosperity.

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Could funny cats help you learn Spanish?

black cat

Photo taken by Andrea Lainé

You can barely visit YouTube these days without stumbling upon a funny cat video, and their immense popularity has been recognised time and time again in the global media. Now, one company has found that these cute critters might have a purpose other than making us laugh which could even help us improve our language skills.

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Happy Hannukah!

Hannukah is an eight day Jewish festival celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid army, enabling the Jewish people to resist the challenges to their traditional beliefs and way of life. In 2013, Hannukah takes place from 27th November – 5th December, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. The significance of the eight days stems from a miracle which allegedly took place around this time, whereby a single day’s worth of olive oil provided enough fuel for the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem to remain lit for eight days.

The hanukiah is the Hannukah menorah which is lit each night of Hannukah to celebrate the festival. There are nine candles, with one candle held higher than the other eight. Each night, the higher candle is used to light one on the first night, then two on the second night and so on, starting from the rightmost candle.

Hymns, prayer services and blessings are added to the schedule in the Jewish community during Hannukah, and blessings may be spoken before meals. In addition to this, there has been a lot of music written specifically for Hannukah. There is a strong focus on family activities throughout the Hannukah period, and Jewish families may gather to eat foods which have been cooked in olive oil to signify the miracle of the menorah in the Temple. Jam-filled doughnuts, fritters and latkes are just some of the foods eaten, and cheese is another food which features heavily throughout the festival.

Find out more about world festivals on the world events calendar>>

Saving Sami one rap at a time

The Sami language is spoken in Northern Norway and Finland by an ever-decreasing group of people – less than 20,000 people now speak the language, and numbers are only in decline as Norwegian and Finnish creep further and further up the Nordic region, and it may one day usurp Sami entirely.

However, Nils Rune Utsi is a man on a mission to reverse this downward trend in Sami speakers. In an attempt to boost interest in the language, he founded a rap group called Slincraze, rapping in Sami to make this language more relevant for younger generations and to stimulate interest with a view to making sure Sami stays in the consciousness of native speakers.

“I rap in Sami because it is my language and it feels so natural to me,” said Nils, “and of course I want to preserve the language in a way the youth can understand it… I feel it’s one of my duties to teach people to be proud to be a Sami.”

The concept is simple: if the Sami youth associate the language with something young, fresh and fun, they may feel more inclined to embrace the language themselves and want to keep the language alive. Of course, if Sami youngsters think about the language in a positive way, they will be more likely to ensure their own children learn Sami.

As is the case in so many parts of the world, the lesser-spoken languages are in danger of dying out at the hands of the dominant languages of the region. Lots of Sami children may well also speak Finnish and Norwegian, and may prefer to use these languages as a matter of prestige or to improve their chances in the job market.

There is a similar situation in Wales, where fewer children are learning to speak Welsh as English is regarded the language of prestige and global importance. There is a scene in the TV show Gavin and Stacey where Bryn, a man who has lived in Wales all his life, tells a group of Englishmen that ‘Nobody in Wales speaks Welsh’. Could we be seeing a similar situation arising in the future with Sami?

Take a look at one of Nils’ songs on YouTube:

If you were a speaker of an endangered language, how would you go about making it relevant and a desirable language to learn?

Find out more about Nils’ pledge to save Sami>>

Learn how to speak Sami>>

The new 24-hour working culture changing Norway

A growing number of entrepreneurs are changing the face of working culture in Norway. Designers, jewellery makers, IT specialists amongst others have been using Oslo’s first hub for specialist entrepreneurs. Called ‘Mesh’, people mingle in a communal kitchen, play table tennis and drink complimentary coffee whilst working on their own businesses and networking. ‘Our goal is to make innovators feel at home’ says one of the co-founders of this new enterprising idea.

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Languages and Business Forum – Berlin, Germany

Are you an international company, language school or trade association interested in connecting with the largest global conference on technology-supported learning and training for the corporate, education and public service sectors? You might be interested to learn that the first forum on business communication will be taking place on the 4th December 2013 in Berlin, Germany.

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Bonnes raisons d’apprendre le français – Think French

think-french-november-2013-coverWe’re not sure about the snails either (on the cover) but in November’s issue of the Think French online audio magazine you can find out why French gourmet snails are threatened with extinction. This article is featured alongside other intriguing articles covering haunted French castles, traditional French recipes (using snails!) and other features on French culture in this month’s issue. It is a really authentic way for intermediate and advanced learners to learn French vocabulary or improve on French language skills . You can also listen to each article by downloading the audio clips onto your computer, iPhone or other device.

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Crowdsourcing used for video game translation

The future of video game translation could lie in the power of the public in the form of language crowdsourcing.

The premise of crowdsourcing is simple: rather than enlisting the services of a professional translator to translate content in a game or computer program, the task is given to native speakers of that language who can pool their resources and expertise to complete the job much more cheaply.

Translating something as heavily scripted and content-heavy as a game is very costly and time-consuming, and if the translator isn’t a native speaker of the target language they may struggle to pick up on the nuances, wordplay and subtleties of language that the characters or narrators in the game may be using. This is why it’s so useful to draw on the rich linguistic knowledge of the speakers of the language to get the most natural, accurate translation.

Ackuna is one of the companies pioneering this type of game content translation, and it will work by allowing volunteers to perform the translation bit by bit to avoid making it too big a burden for any one translator. The volunteers are vetted by a translation system so that only the best translators are used to maintain the quality of the translation.

There is a distinct trend for hyper-realistic games at the moment, and with this comes an increase in more realistic, potentially colloquial scripts for the characters to keep it feeling relevant and authentic. Professional translators may be trained in translating business documents or more formal copy, so any slang or inventive uses of language will be more effectively translated.

This goes to show that you don’t need to be a language expert or a professional translator to be able to offer your assistance to translation projects. People of all ability levels could be able to help as part of a crowdsourcing project such as those run by companies like Ackuna, which just goes to show that learning languages is more important than ever.

Find out more about the Ackuna crowdsourcing game translation project here>>

Learn to speak another language here>>

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Français et les médias sociaux

The one problem, if there is one, with being a language expert is that everybody expects you to be flawless in your own execution of the language. Unfortunately this is something that official guardian of the French language Aurelie Filippetti found out recently after making a spelling mistake in a tweet, which was rapidly deleted and blamed on an aide. However, the really interesting issue here is the way the French, who are famously protective over their language, treat language use in social media.

For a nation very proud of their language, social media must seem like a real threat to the French. The 140 character limit poses a dilemma for the French, who are forced to pepper their tweets with abbreviations such as C (c’est) and koi (quoi), much like an English abbreviation might be U (you) or IDK (I don’t know).

On top of this, social media has brought with it a whole host of neologisms which must be forced into the French language, creating interesting Franglais hybrids. In France, you will be ‘followé’ by people wanting to read your tweets, borrowing from the social media-ese term ‘follower’. It is interesting that the accented é demonstrates the fact that the term has very much been claimed and adapted to conform to the French standard.

It is interesting to think about the way social media might interact with the way we learn other languages. If we spend some time reading the social media posts of those speaking our language of interest, we might find ourselves initially flummoxed by the slang and abbreviations found particularly on Twitter, but could it lead to a more native-like production of the language if we learn to use it in the playful, casual way used by native speakers?

As social media becomes more and more important in our everyday lives, how long will it be before ‘guardians’ of other languages admit defeat and allow the terms widely used by the popular social media platforms to be adopted verbatim? Or will these terms be resisted forever?

Find out more about the effect of social media on the French language here>>

Learn to speak French here>>

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