Chris Bryant, a British Foreign Office minister, told members of Parliament that the French language has outlived its usefulness in Britain and that Britons should learn more important languages like Chinese and Arabic. Oops! Bryant’s comments were not only insulting to Britain’s neighbors, the French, but also harmful in general for the promotion of foreign language learning. Doesn’t he realize that some former French colonies also use French as their language? That’s like saying that German should be replaced by Chinese and Arabic just because more people speak those languages than they do German. What will happen if one day someone says that English should not be learned as a foreign language because other languages are more useful to learn? Every language is important and should have a right to be learned, no matter what! Follow this link to view a video of Bryant’s comments in Parliament:
Monthly Archives: June 2010
Budget cuts forced one New Jersey school district to eliminate their foreign language teachers and replace them with computer language programs from Rosetta Stone. It’s good that the system didn’t simply eliminate foreign language learning altogether but teachers are needed to reinforce what the students learn from the computer programs.
The full story can be found at http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/06/computer_programs_replace_fore.html
In time for the Soccer World Cup in South Africa, one of England’s most famous soccer teams, Arsenal (London), is trying to use soccer to encourage students to learn foreign languages. According to its website (Arsenal.com), the team “uses football (British term for soccer) and Arsenal related resources to raise interest and attainment levels in school subjects [like foreign languages] in the classroom which is followed by football coaching sessions.” On June 22 more than 250 students from the United Kingdom of German, French, Spanish and Portuguese backgrounds, took part in the filming of a multi-lingual music video. I doubt if American sports like baseball would ever consider a similar plan even though they have players from Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean. Maybe the upcoming Olympic games will renew interest in foreign languages here?
Anyways, here’s the article from http://www.arsenal.com/news/community-news/arsenal-double-club-on-song-for-world-cup:
To celebrate nations uniting for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, over 250 UK students of German, French, Spanish and Portuguese descended on Emirates Stadium on 22 June to take part in the filming of a multi-lingual music video. The song ‘Get the ball rolling’ will be performed and sung by students who are all participants of the Arsenal Double Club – a multi award-winning project founded by Arsenal that combines learning with football.
The Arsenal Double Club education initiative has its roots in the ‘double’ winning season of 1998 when Arsenal in the Community piloted a scheme which fused football with learning. The Arsenal Double Club uses football and Arsenal related resources to raise interest and attainment levels in school subjects in the classroom which is followed by football coaching sessions. The scheme has gone from strength to strength for over a decade and incorporates a wide variety of subjects including modern foreign languages.
Head of Arsenal in the Community, Alan Sefton said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring young people together and celebrate this year’s tournament and encourage their language learning through football which is the aim of the Arsenal Double Club.”
‘Get the ball rolling’ has been written by the Berlin musician Mark Scheibe as an anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and is a flagship event of the ‘Think German’ campaign: a year long celebration of the German language and culture spearheaded by the German Embassy, Goethe-Institut London, UKGerman Connection and DAAD. The song contains verses in all the Double Club languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The five traditional languages of the South African national anthem are also represented in the song.
The song will be available on the Goethe-Institut London’s website http://www.goethe.de/london from June 11th to coincide with the launch of the tournament.
Since the Double Club’s launch, the inspirational project has been hugely successful. Having won the 2008
European Award for Languages, the Double Club will also receive a special prize this June from CILT for its outstanding contribution to language learning. The project has also been adopted by the French, Spanish and Portuguese cultural institutes. With the numbers of pupils taking part rising to almost 5000 students across the country, many other clubs, including Chelsea Football Club have also developed their own Double Clubs. Students from the Chelsea, Fulham and Ipswich programmes also taking part in this event.
With the Olympic games fast approaching, the success of the multi-lingual Double Club project provides schools and the wider languages community with extra impetus to bring sport and languages closer together and make a high profile, concerted push for the promotion of language learning over the years to come.
Here’s an interesting article from ABC News Science Online (written by Anna Salleh) about the importance of bilingualism in preventing the decline and extinction of languages:
Dr Jorge Mira of the University of Santiago de Compostela and colleagues report their mathematical model of language competition on the pre-press website arXiv.org.
There are about 6,000 different languages in the world, but just a handful, including English, dominate.
Some mathematical models have shown how dominating languages can lead to the decline and extinction of less popular languages.
Such models seem to explain, for example, the crushing of Scottish, Gaelic and Welsh by English.
But Dr Mira and colleagues say this is not necessarily so.
They say earlier mathematical models did not account for bilingualism, which allows two languages to co-evolve.
In their mathematical model, Dr Mira and colleagues found that two languages can co-exist if they are sufficiently similar and there is a stable group of bilingual speakers.
“[The results] suggest that the competition between two languages does not inevitably lead to the extinction of one of them,” say the researchers.
Australian linguist, Professor Nicholas Evans, from the Australian National University in Canberra agrees that bilingualism is key to the survival of non-dominant languages.
But he does not agree with Dr Mira and colleagues’ conclusion that languages have to be necessarily similar to coexist.
He points to the coexistence of Latin in Hungary until the 1880s, despite Latin and Hungarian being far from similar.
Professor Evans says a language is more likely to survive when it has a “specialised domain of use”. In Hungary, for example, Latin was used as the language of officials.
“It’s important to have a clear context in which the choice of language is determined,” says Professor Evans, author of the book Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us.
Professor Evans also points out the continued coexistence of English and Indian languages and of Yiddish and German.
He says while Yiddish and German are similar in some respects they are conceptually quite different.
“Yiddish is a vehicle is of Hebrew culture, German is a vehicle of Christian culture,” Professor Evans said.
He says their survival relies on the importance of these languages to specific communities.
Professor Evans cites French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure’s view that language is always pulled in different directions.
“A language exists to enable us to communicate with as many people as possible, but also to tell us who we are,” he said.
“That’s why at the same time English is spreading, it’s getting more and more local varieties than ever.”
Professor Evans says there is a harmful “ideology” that speaking just one language is the norm.
“The biggest impediment to the survival of small languages is the monolingual culture,” he said.
Professor Evans says because large languages dominate the world economically, the speakers of those languages can afford to be monolingual, but he says monolingualism is a “historical aberration”.
“If you go back to Shakespeare’s time English-speakers were famous multilingual people,” he said.
Professor Evans says hunter-gatherers typically involve 100 to 300 people speaking a language, marrying outside the group, drawing their spouse from another language and having parents and grandparents that speak different languages.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has given millions of dollars to a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to work on a special language translation program to help create a software that can “transcribe, translate and distill large volumes of speech and text in multiple languages.” When the program is complete, it is supposed to help American analysts “recognize critical information in foreign languages.” Sounds like a good idea to me. The full story can be found at http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2010/06/23/More-funding-for-language-project/UPI-43591277317390/
That’s exactly what Washington Post Education Columist Jay Matthews wrote in his column on April 22, 2010. How could anyone make such a claim? Especially someone who writes an education column in a prestigious and widely-read national newspaper ! Shame on you. That’s exactly the kind of attitude that fuels the fire for the elimination of foreign language programs in public schools and universities. At my school I learn nine different subjects at a time — three of which are foreign languages by choice. Not only do I learn how to communicate verbally with other people in foreign countries but I also have the opportunity to learn about their history and culture. I consider myself to be well-rounded in that way. I guess Mr. Matthews and others who agree with his attitude toward languages want to continue the idea of the “Ugly” (and ignorant) American. Maybe people who look down on language learning should stop and think for a minute about its use for all different subjects — science and math included. Shouldn’t scientists and mathematicians know a different language to be able to communicate with colleagues abroad and read about significant scientific findings in journals (past and present) that are in a language other than English? Or, perhaps are the only journals worth reading ones written in English? Think about that, Mr. Matthews!
Jay Matthews’ perspective can be found through this link: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/04/why_waste_time_on_a_foreign_la.html
An elementary school in Centreville, Virginia, is offering a dual or two-way immersion program in Spanish and English. Check out the link to this interesting story from Voice of America, June 16, 2010: http://www1.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/English-and-Spanish-Speakers-Learn-Together-and-From-Each-Other-96510464.html
Two years ago President Obama admitted to people gathered for a Dayton, Ohio, town hall meeting to hear him speak about the importance of teaching foreign languages in schools that he was embarrassed that he had never learned a foreign language. He told the audience that while Americans need to learn more languages, immigrants living in the US also need to learn English. The short article is available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-502443_162-4254480-502443.html
It seems that U.S. agencies are finally beginning to understand the importance of Americans learning how to speak another foreign language??!! What took them so long to realize that our schools are deficient in that area? Well, at least they may take some action sooner rather than later. I certainly hope so but wouldn’t count on it. Maybe we should start writing our elective officials to encourage change?
Here’s an article from June 12, 2010, by Puneet Kollipara from The Hill
Senators are exploring ways to improve U.S. agencies’ ability to understand and translate foreign languages, as experts and government reports express continuing concerns that the foreign-language deficiencies may undermine national security.
A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee will hear from experts on the subject and government officials at a hearing on Thursday. The subcommittee will explore deficiencies in federal foreign language capabilities and ways to improve them, according to the office of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the subcommittee chairman.
“Changing threats to U.S. national security as well as the increasing globalization of the U.S. economy have greatly increased federal agencies’ needs for personnel proficient in foreign languages,” the senator’s office said in a release.
The concerns come on the heels of two Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports from 2009 that found that some U.S. agencies were ill-equipped in foreign-language translation. The hearing will be one of many in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which highlighted a shortage of foreign-language expertise in the government.
One GAO report found that the Defense Department lacked a strategic plan for addressing language skills. Meanwhile, the other found that 31 percent of State Department officials in language-heavy posts were not qualified for their positions in 2009, up two points from 29 percent in 2005.
Numerous other government reports and audits since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have also suggested similar problems. Some government agencies, such as the FBI, have had sizable translation backlogs, which means many pieces of foreign-language intelligence have gone unreviewed.
Experts and officials say that agencies have made varying levels of progress in bolstering their language capabilities in the last decade. But they add that there is no single quick fix and that the problem runs deep, with a lack of interagency coordination and not enough emphasis on foreign languages in U.S. education.
Adding to the problem are a lack of coordination among agencies, the frequent switch in emphasis to other languages, and a continually increasing volume of data that intelligence and national security agencies must handle.
“Federal strategies are a lost cause, because you’re always playing catch-up,” said James Carafano, a national security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “The strategy is either acquiring contracting services or educating people. It takes a lot of time to build up capacity in any of those.”
And experts have repeatedly cautioned that until the U.S. education system shores up in foreign languages, the government may continue falling behind.
“The U.S. education system … simply has not made the investment in language required to provide the government with an adequate pool of linguistic expertise from which to recruit to meet its needs,” Richard Brecht, executive director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Languages at the University of Maryland, said in written testimony at a 2004 House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Brecht, who will testify at Thursday’s hearing, said in a phone interview that this problem has occurred in part because of lack of national investment in foreign-language education in schools.
He also said that despite the Defense Department’s recent efforts to invest in foreign-language instruction at the university level, there’s not enough instruction going on at the elementary and secondary levels. That means the field of qualified linguists is smaller and the government ends up using more resources for training.
Carafano said that government linguists also often lack full cultural awareness, a skill they need so they can put what they’re translating into context.
Unbelievable! I missed this article that appeared last year that reported on Washington state universities and community colleges that slashed their foreign language programs and requirements — all for the sake of saving money. Aren’t there better ways to save money like eliminating unnecessary administrative positions? The article below is from The Seattle Times (March 9, 2009) :
By Nick Perry
Seattle Times higher-education reporter
Foreign-language study is taking a big hit this year at the state’s community colleges and universities, as those institutions scramble to save money in the face of state budget cuts.
The University of Washington, thanks to a change in its language requirement, plans to reduce the number of seats offered in first-year Spanish, Italian and French by up to 2,500 this fall. And, beginning in spring, Seattle Central Community College will no longer offer a full second year of Spanish study. Institutions across the state are considering similar cuts.
“It’s amazing to me, given that there’s so much more emphasis on Americans becoming more globally aware,” said Marisa Tubbs, a Seattle Central student who helped organize a protest Thursday against course cuts. “We’re already lacking in languages. In Europe, kids are bi- or trilingual by the age of 10. It’s very unfortunate.”
Tubbs, who hopes to transfer to the UW next fall and complete a minor in Spanish, said she plans to commute to Bellevue Community College in the spring quarter, after Seattle Central eliminated an early-morning Spanish class she’d planned on taking.
Ron Hamberg, Seattle Central’s vice president for instruction, said the college has cut classes that weren’t attracting many students, with the intent of doing the least amount of damage.
He said that transfer students should still be able to major in a foreign language, even if it means picking up extra classes once those students are enrolled at a four-year school.
In total, Seattle Central is dropping about 4 percent of its classes this spring but could cut more come fall, with budget reductions potentially reaching $2.3 million over the next two years, according to a campus e-mail sent Thursday by President Mildred Ollée.
Rosemary Feal, executive director of the New York-based Modern Language Association, said language instructors are often part-time or adjunct — and therefore easier to lay off in tough times.
Nationwide, she said, tenure-track job openings in languages have been dropping while demand from students remains high, especially in languages such as Arabic and Chinese.
Studying a foreign language can reap benefits that range from broadening an individual’s way of thinking to helping businesses sell more goods abroad, proponents say. But languages tend to be more expensive to teach than many other courses because they require more interaction. At the UW, for instance, first-year language classes are limited to 22 students.
The UW cuts were made possible by a significant policy change. Beginning next fall, students who have completed three years of foreign-language study in high school will be deemed to have satisfied the university’s undergraduate-language requirement.
Previously, students had to pass a proficiency test, which required many to take a quarter or two of language classes at the UW. ”We are hoping this will encourage more high-school students to take a third year of language while they are there,” said Bob Stacey, the UW’s divisional dean of arts and humanities.
Stacey said the policy change was in the works before the anticipated state budget cuts were announced. The UW had planned to use the estimated savings of $1 million each year to shore up other language offerings. Now, the cuts are just part of a broad range of reductions being made at the university.
The UW is facing a cut in state funding of up to 20 percent over the next two years.
The university is making the language cuts with the intent of preserving the breadth of offerings, Stacey said. Students will still be able to choose from some 55 languages — everything from ancient Sanskrit to Uighur (pronounced wee-gore), a language spoken in northwest China.
Continued expertise in rare languages is vital for national security, he said.