Monthly Archives: August 2012

Foreign Languages and Brand Name Products Don’t Always Translate Well

I really laughed this morning when I saw this article in The Huffington Post. Guess businesses better hire skilled foreign language personnel before touting their products abroad! Enjoy:

Any company pushing overseas struggles with new demands and cultures. But the most annoying obstacle may be that pesky language barrier. Just ask the American Dairy Association.

When the ADA attempted to expand its successful “Got Milk?” campaign into Mexico, it instead accidentally asked “Are You Lactating?” Oddly enough, Spanish speakers did not feel compelled to buy more milk.

For similar reasons, Ford’s Pinto failed to break into the Brazilian market. Brazilians just weren’t lining up at the local Ford dealership to buy a car with a name that translates to “male genitals” in Brazilian slang. Not a good look, guys. Not a good look.

For a full list of bloopers, see

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Welsh Conservatives Urge Foreign Language Study from Age Seven

Article from BBC News Wales, August 9, 2012:

Currently it is compulsory in Wales for pupils to begin studying a language at 11 but they can stop at the age of 14.

The number of GCSE entries for French has halved since 1999, while entries for German have dropped by 60%.

The Welsh government said it is considering a “focused review” of the curriculum.

The teaching of foreign languages would be part of that, a spokesperson said.

Tory education spokesperson Angela Burns said: “We want to inspire a love of languages.”

The Conservatives have announced a consultation to support their campaign to create a “trilingual” nation, citing evidence to suggest that foreign language skills help improve literacy in English and Welsh.

“We need to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills they need to pursue a successful career and to help make Wales a more prosperous nation”

Angela Burns AM
Conservative, education
The party is also consulting on the languages which could be offered in addition to the most popular options of French, German and Spanish.

“Welsh school leavers are regrettably trailing their European counterparts in foreign language skills and the gap is growing,” said Ms Burns.

“In an increasingly competitive economy, we need to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills they need to pursue a successful career and to help make Wales a more prosperous nation.

“Considerable evidence shows that the younger a child is when they are exposed to foreign languages, the greater their capacity for language learning.

“In Wales, we start teaching foreign languages at 11 – far later than many EU nations, where learning foreign languages in primary school is the norm.

Lucy Douglas, head of modern languages at Rhyl High School, Denbighshire, said they found that work-orientated National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) proved popular with sixth-form pupils.

“We’re competing against European countries and all the Spanish-speaking countries and French-speaking countries of the world,” she said.

“If our pupils don’t have that modern foreign language they can’t compete with anyone else in the world applying for the same job.”

David Jones, business development manager at Wolfstone Translation in Swansea, told BBC Radio Wales that youngsters learning a foreign language would find it a good “brain-training” exercise.

He said it would also boost their job prospects, particularly in sectors trading with the fastest-growing nations.

“Brazilian Portuguese is a rising language along with Mandarin – any child who was to become fluent in either of those languages I’m pretty sure would never be unemployed,” he said.

Supporting the idea of making language lessons compulsory at the age of seven, Mr Jones added: “You can’t expect a seven-year-old to make a choice based on their career prospects 15 to 20 years down the line.

“If we have children learning [foreign languages] from the age of seven we should be aware that even then we are four years behind some parts of Europe.”

‘Compulsory language’
UK Education Secretary Michael Gove has called for foreign languages to be taught from the age of five, proposing to make it compulsory from the age of seven in England.

The House of Lords EU committee has also called for compulsory foreign language lessons in primary and secondary schools, saying the UK’s attitude to languages had prevented its students from studying in Europe.

A Welsh government spokesperson said it has put in place guidance to support those schools who teach foreign languages to seven to 11-year-olds and encourages other schools, if able, to incorporate a modern foreign language (MFL) into the curriculum.

“The Welsh government is, however, currently actively considering a focused review of the curriculum, along with assessment arrangements and MFL is part of those considerations,” the spokesperson added.

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Foreign Languages in Delaware Schools

Article written by Andrew Staub in, August 8, 2012:

As Delaware embarks upon an ambitious plan to enroll nearly 8,000 students in language-immersion programs by 2020, the teachers tasked with guiding them in their bilingual studies started by considering a simple question Tuesday.

If a Martian landed on Earth, how would they describe a circus to him?

Part of a four-day professional institute for about a dozen visiting teachers from Spain and China, the exercise aimed to prompt a discussion of how language proficiency grows over time, said Lynn Fulton-Archer, an education specialist for the World Language Immersion program.

While some teachers could use only one word to describe a circus, others could build upon that with an adjective or a full sentence. It’s illustrative of the progression state education officials would love to see from the more than 340 kindergartener who will dive into foreign languages this year, spending half their school day being taught in Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.

The four immersion programs, spread among three schools across the state, have already proved a popular draw, with interested students quickly outnumbering the available slots at some schools.

The classes will focus on building language proficiency rather than grammar. Students will learn academic content through Spanish or Chinese as well as English, and classes will have a teacher for each language, according to the Department of Education.

As students reach first grade, the hope is they could put together limited sentences in their second language, Fulton-Archer said.

“Their listening level may be a little higher,” she said.

But before the students can start, the visiting teachers had their day in the classroom. The institute, held at the William C. Lewis Dual Language Elementary School was intended provide the visiting teachers with an overview of the World Language Immersion program and introduce them to the Delaware education curriculum, Fulton-Archer said.

With Gov. Jack Markell putting in a $1.9 million annual investment, the DOE wants language immersion to reach 10 programs next year and 20 programs by 2015. Five years after that, the goal is to have 8,000 K-8 students in immersion programs.


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Foreign Language as a Political Football

Here’s a recent example of how politics and foreign languages can be explosive combinations:

Article by David M. Herszenhorn in The New York Times, July 6, 2012:

The Ukrainian Parliament refused on Friday to accept the resignation of its leader and instead adjourned for the summer, leaving uncertain the fate of a contentious bill that would allow local and regional governments to grant official status to Russian and other languages, in addition to Ukrainian.

Volodymyr M. Lytvyn, the chairman of Parliament, has refused to sign the bill, effectively blocking it from reaching President Viktor F. Yanukovich, who could sign it into law. Instead, Mr. Lytvyn submitted his resignation, challenging the Party of Regions, which holds the majority, to choose a new chairman who would let the bill go forward.

The measure was adopted Tuesday in a move by the Party of Regions that was so unexpected that Mr. Lytvyn was not even present for the vote.

Debate over the language bill has been so emotionally charged that it led to a brawl in Parliament in May. Hundreds of people demonstrated against the adoption of the bill this week, leading to violent clashes with riot police officers.

Another big protest was expected on Friday, but it was essentially called off once it became clear that Parliament would adjourn without replacing Mr. Lytvyn or letting the bill go forward.

Vadim Kolesnichenko, a member of the Party of Regions faction in Parliament, who comes from the largely Russian-speaking Crimea region, said the majority refused to consider Mr. Lytvyn’s resignation to prevent the chairman from scoring political points.

“Mr. Lytvun is interested in his election and his own personal future,” said Mr. Kolesnichenko, a co-author of the language bill. “It’s a political spectacle for his own public relations.”

Mr. Lytvyn, in a television interview, urged conciliation. “We have to do something so that there are no winners or losers,” he said. “Otherwise, Ukraine will lose.”

Under the country’s Constitution, Ukrainian is the only official language. But Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is home to millions of native Russian speakers, particularly in the eastern and southern parts of the country, where support for Mr. Yanukovich is strong.

Critics of the bill say that if it passed it would undermine Ukrainian’s status and that Mr. Yanukovich and his supporters are trying to use the issue to shore up support ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October. They say the governing party is trying to distract voters from Ukraine’s economic problems and from criticism over rising authoritarianism, including widespread condemnation in Europe over the jailing of Mr. Yanukovich’s rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister.

Supporters say the bill protects the rights of speakers of Russian and other languages should they make up 10 percent or more of the local population.

In his interview on Friday on the Rada television station, Mr. Lytvyn said that Parliament had committed “immense violations” in approving the bill and he urged that a working group be created to find a compromise. The group would include language experts and representatives from each of the different factions in Parliament.

He said that the bill was not given the proper number of readings, nor were amendments properly considered. “That is why it cannot be sent to the president,” Mr. Lytvyn said. “The question lies not in my signature. There are huge violations, which cannot be left as they are.”

Mikhail Chechetko, deputy chairman of the Party of Regions, denied that the bill had been passed by deceptive means and once again declared that his party had bested its opponents.

“We simply intellectually, inventively, creatively outplayed them,” Mr. Chechetko said in a telephone interview. “We didn’t give them the chance to create fights and scandals while this law was being passed.” He added, “In any country, the victorious party receives what? The right to realize its program. The party of losers? The right to criticism. These are the ABCs of politics.”

Mykola V. Tomenko, the deputy chairman of Parliament, who had also offered to resign, said Friday that he had asked the prosecutor general to conduct a criminal investigation of how the language bill was approved.

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Australian Universities See Increase in Foreign Language Study

Article written by Bernard Lane for The Australian, August 1, 2012:

The most dramatic increase at the University of Melbourne has been in Spanish (up 539 per cent across three years) while Chinese was the star performer at the University of Western Australia this year for beginners (111 per cent up on last year).

UWA’s new undergraduate degrees began this year whereas Melbourne’s students have been required to take “breadth” subjects outside their home faculty since 2008.

Both institutions give bonus entry points to students with a Year 12 language.

“The Melbourne model seems to show that the non-take-up of languages in many institutions may not be a matter of student demand, but of structural impediments,” said Anya Woods, project manager with the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities.

Easily crowded out by timetabling and the rigid course structures of professional degrees, languages are promoted as breadth subjects in the liberal arts-style curriculums of Melbourne and UWA.

Last month ex-Treasury chief Ken Henry, in charge of the Asian century white paper, said Melbourne and UWA represented “pockets of (language) success” and cited the changes they had made to degree structures.

Dr Woods said the figures were encouraging but it was a little early to declare curriculum reform the solution.

“We need to know whether the increases in first-year enrolments are retained into the (higher) levels where linguistic and cultural proficiency bring significant value to individual students and the community,” she said.

UWA arts dean Krishna Sen said enrolments were well up in both beginners and advanced classes but she was planning a study of the high attrition rates suffered by Asian languages.

“While the Melbourne-UWA model solves the problem of getting students in, it does not address the issue of teaching difficult Asian languages within the current levels of base funding for languages,” she said.

Sam Rutter, an honours student at Melbourne, has an interest in literary translation and is tackling Spanish at a level that probably would not have been possible when he began in 2006.

Back then, Melbourne still relied on teachers from La Trobe.

Mr Rutter took off overseas in 2008, studying in Chile, and returned the following year to Melbourne — and to a Spanish program on the up and up.

“It’s definitely a lot more organised; more options, fantastic teachers,” he said.

In the beginners’ stream, Melbourne started the year with 360 students. Melbourne’s arts dean Mark Considine said the advent of breadth subjects was one reason for the rise of languages.

According to his latest figures, undergraduate numbers for Spanish in 2010 were up 539 per cent on 2007, while Chinese and Japanese enrolments rose by 84 per cent across the same period.

The number of students taking Chinese as a breadth subject — students from outside the arts faculty — rose by 147 per cent.

For Japanese, this increase was 174 per cent.

Across all languages, enrolments of students from arts have grown by 20 per cent compared with an increase of 162 per cent for students from other faculties.

In the beginners stream this year at UWA, the big increases included Chinese (374 students, up 111 per cent on last year), German (289, 95 per cent) and Japanese (478, 77 per cent).

Indonesian, in decline nationally during the past decade, enjoyed a 70 per cent increase to reach 82 students.

UWA had to cut off first-year enrolments in Japanese and Korean because demand was so great.

French remains most popular with 700 beginners this year, up 52 per cent on last year. Italian has 392 beginners compared with 223 last year.

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