Monthly Archives: March 2013

Japanese Government to Encourage Foreigners to Learn Japanese

Japanese is one of the languages I study. While it is a difficult language to learn (in comparison to English), I find it an extremely rewarding one. I do like to watch “Cool Japan,” a program on NHK TV that introduces a group of foreigners to Japanese culture and language. Here’s an article about the effort by the Japanese Government to increase the number of foreigners who learn Japanese: Yomiuri Shimbun in japancrush.com, March 26, 2013

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has established a policy on strategy for diffusion of Japanese language education overseas.

A preliminary meeting is going to be held on March 26 by an advisory body of well-informed independent personalities to discuss further countermeasures and an interim report is supposed to be wrapped up by this summer. It’s likely that support to increase Japanese classes at overseas schools is going to be considered.

The government has already launched ‘Cool Japan’ to spread Japanese culture abroad such as anime or fashion. This policy is also part of this whole project.

The advisory body is going to be led by Kimura Tsutomu, a former president of Tokyo Institute of Technology. It consists of 10 people; specialists in Japanese language education, academic experts, workers in media and at business firms. Using examples from European countries that have already set up parastatal language schools overseas, the committee is going to discuss how to support Japanese language education abroad and improve the diffuse of it via foreign diplomatic missions.

The number of overseas subsidiaries of Japanese companies is 18,599 as of March in 2011 and had risen 1.5 times in the 9 years from 2002, which has brought a new significant issue: how to secure adequate local human resources with Japanese speaking abilities. Domestically, labour shortages, particularly in the nursing care industry have been a major issue mainly caused by an ageing population combined with the diminishing number of children. However, there have been many cases for nursing candidates guaranteed emmigration from Indonesia and so on according to the Economic Partnership Agreement to return to their own countries due to language deficiency.

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An Advocate for Overhauling Foreign Language Study in British Schools

The following are Tom Sherrington’s views on foreign language programs in British schools from The Guardian, March 21, 2013:

A question any headteacher should be able to answer is this: if you had a completely free choice, what would your school curriculum look like? I’ve explored this with different people and usually they have trouble fitting in all their ideas within the confines of a timetable. However, even with a completely free hand, I find that all too often language learning is regarded as a problem area. There are pockets of excellence but we’re not exactly taking the world by storm as a nation of linguists and, sadly, our current education system isn’t likely to change that any time soon. Why is this?

I think that there are a number of serious difficulties that need to be overcome.

Firstly, we simply don’t give it enough time in the curriculum relative to what is needed. A standard curriculum will set aside two hours a week, in line with DfE guidance. This just isn’t enough to build the level of retention needed to facilitate an interactive communicative approach and to break down students’ inhibitions with speaking. Sometimes schools offer two languages to able students but often this leads to them feeling mediocre in both languages instead of proficient in one.

Too often standard pedagogical approaches are limiting and formulaic. It is still too common for students to be given a diet of vocabulary-driven rote learning with a bit of grammar tacked on. Too often I’ve seen lessons in very good schools where students might learn a list of colours in isolation but could not say “the sky is blue”. Or they learn lists of rooms, clothes, hobbies or fruit but can’t put a related sentence together with any confidence. Furthermore, six months later, the earlier vocabulary has been forgotten.

Plus, popular culture is almost exclusively Anglo-centric, fuelling a complacent cultural-lingual apathy. Obviously this isn’t the fault of any teacher or any school – but it is the reality we operate in. A meagre two hours per week is no contest for the mighty cultural counter-weight that says “Who cares? Everyone speaks English anyway!” And, of course, Borgen has subtitles!

The system is permeated by a strong, self-fulfilling perception that languages are difficult and, therefore, only really appropriate for higher attainers. Fair enough, being blasted too soon with ‘nominative, dative and accusative,’ terms you don’t even use in English, is likely to be off-putting. However, in the right conditions, people of wide ranging ability ‘pick up’ languages all the time. This might be out of necessity or through immersion but it suggests that it can be done if done properly; it isn’t inherently more difficult to learn a language than maths.

Also, I believe, school leaders lack the will and/or the philosophical commitment required to address these issues. I’m sorry to say this but, for a lot of heads, language learning is not high on their list of priorities. If two hours matches the DfE model, where’s the issue? And in any case, where does the time from? There is a sense that this isn’t our problem and that if we’re churning out another generation of poor or mediocre linguists that is just how it is.

Government policy in this area – such as the with the ham-fisted introduction of the EBacc – is not backed up with any resources. Excellent languages teachers are in short supply and this is far worse at primary level than at secondary. So we have a chicken and egg situation: what comes first? More good languages teachers or more high quality language learners who might become teachers? Enabling policies that help to recruit EU teachers and to provide continued professional development to all MFL teachers are not forthcoming. Half the members of our MFL team are native speakers from Europe and China; one of our cleaners is also our Russian language assistant. The people are out there, but schools need help to recruit and train them.

All these difficulties can seem overwhelming, but instead of giving up, let’s push all of the obstacles aside for a moment. Can we imagine a version of British culture and British school life where all these issues are reversed? Where language learning is thriving; a real success story? Where multi-lingualism is an everyday part of the cultural experience of young people and adults? What would be different?

Firstly, languages would take up a lot more time in the curriculum. For example, in the five years since we’ve devoted four hours per week at KS3 to either French or German, we’ve seen a phenomenal impact: our year 9s are more confident speakers and all-round better linguists than our year 11s ever were before with GCSE results to match. Secondly, MFL lessons would always be characterised by interactive, immersive, communicative approaches where grammar and new vocabulary are seamlessly interwoven and students are empowered with the tools to explore the language by themselves. Finally, schools and the media, supported by politicians and businesses, would celebrate multilingualism to the extent that young people regarded monolingual life as a huge disadvantage and distinctly uncool, and would do all they could to avoid being left out.

If we are ever to reach this point, there is one basic requirement: simply the will to do it. We can dream of a concerted effort by businesses, politicians and the media to move us forwarded but realistically it will be headteachers and schools who will need to show what can be done. It’s in our hands.

Tom Sherrington is headteacher at King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford.

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In Support of Foreign Language Learning in Michigan Schools

The following is an editorial from hollandsentinel.com in support of foreign language learning in Michigan schools (March 21, 2013). We need more editorials such as this one:

Holland —
Michigan’s rigorous high school graduation standards are again under discussion in the Legislature, and this time one of the targets is the requirement of at least two years of a foreign language. The high school curriculum is definitely worth reviewing, but in a shrinking world where people of different countries are increasingly drawn together, we don’t need less language education, we need more.

HB 4102, sponsored by Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, would allow students to substitute computer science for either the existing foreign language or Algebra 2 requirement. The intent is to create more flexibility in course selection for students, especially those interested in vocational classes. However, we believe foreign language is an essential part of a well-rounded education and eliminating the language requirement would be a step backward for Michigan students.

As a matter of national competitiveness, America urgently needs more foreign-language speakers — in business, in government, in the military — to communicate with the rest of the world. And we need skills in languages beyond the Spanish and French typically taught in high school — in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and other tongues spoken by hundreds of millions of people. A company of any size in today’s global economy is an international business, buying, selling and collaborating overseas. Mastery of a foreign language is almost a golden ticket for employment. And that’s not to mention the benefits of cultural understanding or brain development that comes when a student learns another language.

While most Europeans take one and often two foreign language beginning in elementary school, the United States may be the only major country where someone can graduate from high school and college without ever studying another language. Which students do you think are better prepared to function in a globalized economy?

Plenty of people in the Holland area recognize the value of learning a foreign language at an early age. Spanish immersion programs in local schools have been extremely popular, and Zeeland Christian School is now pioneering a Chinese immersion program for young elementary students. Immersion, of course, is the efficient way to learn a language. Two years in high school isn’t going to give a student more than a taste of a language, but it’s an important taste, helping students qualify for college and opening them to potential new worlds of understanding. (And for the record, students can now satisfy the state’s foreign language requirement with elementary or middle school courses — they don’t have to wait for high school.)

Which gets us back to the bigger question of the state’s graduation requirements. First, contrary to what many people believe, they are flexible, and parents who take the time to work with school counselors can often work out a curriculum that’s better suited to their children. Second, the requirements are about giving students options and building a foundation for future learning, not providing specific skills for specific jobs. Most of us who took advanced algebra or physics in high school in a previous generation don’t use those skills in our jobs. However, advanced algebra and physics are essential if a student wants to pursue study and a career in science or technology. Similarly, learning a language in high school gives a student exposure to it and the chance to pursue it at a higher level. Letting a student slide through high school without taking challenging, advanced courses closes all kinds of doors for them. Not everyone will or should go to college, but we shouldn’t put a 14-year-old freshman on a path that forecloses the possibility of higher education.

We certainly welcome a thorough discussion of Michigan’s high school curriculum. We agree that students in vocational training programs should have options that integrate advanced math and science. However, we oppose any effort to water down the high school curriculum, and that includes any move to de-emphasize foreign language education.

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Problems Brewing in Foreign Language Exams in UK

Article by Hilary Douglas and Matthew Davis for express.co.uk, March 17, 2013:

Recent figures reveal the number of pupils sitting traditional foreign languages such as French and German has plummeted but there has been a surge in Polish GCSE students.

The Department for Education statistics show Polish is now the sixth most popular foreign language in schools, with 10 times as many pupils taking it as a decade ago. Yet those who sail through their Polish exams achieving the highest grades, often end up flunking their English GCSE.

The popularity of traditional foreign languages has declined at the same time as a rise in Polish ­GCSEs
Critics blame pressure from school league tables for creating a system where Polish children are congratulated for passing comparatively simple exams in their mother tongue while failing English.

Nearly all the 2,500 students who passed the Polish GCSE last year ended up with a lower grade in their English GCSE, or didn’t even sit the exam at all.

The popularity of traditional foreign languages has declined at the same time as a rise in Polish ­GCSEs.

In 2004, the last Labour government decided to end compulsory language study for children after the age of 14 and since 2006 there has been a 22 per cent fall in the numbers of teenagers taking a modern foreign language at GCSE.

In the past six years, the number taking French has fallen by 74,000 and 30,000 fewer are studying German. However, there has been a small rise in Italian and Spanish studies.

Gerard Batten, Ukip London MEP, said: “This reveals the utterly dishonest and politically correct manipulation of the education system to disguise that we’ve imported millions of people who cannot speak English, and the disastrous social consequences of that.

“Instead of insisting that they learn English to the exclusion of all else first, we are allowing them to take subjects that will not be of use to them in their careers or working life, unless of course it is intended those jobs will only require them to speak their native language.

“Mass immigration is distorting the structure of Britain and now we see it has had a direct effect on the education system.”

Christopher McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “Modern languages teaching is in a disastrous state in our maintained schools. By entering immigrant children for GCSEs in their mother tongue, such as Polish, the extent of the disaster is being disguised by schools.

“We need to ensure most of our youngsters can master the basics of at least one foreign language.

“As for Polish children who struggle with English and, indeed, English pupils who struggle with English, the answer lies with more ‘back to basics’ teaching of grammar, punctuation and spelling. The new National Curriculum is a step in the right direction.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “After years of ­decline the take-up of modern foreign languages is on the increase, with Spanish, German and French making up around 90 per cent of all languages being studied at GCSE.

“Many students choose to sit Polish GCSE to gain an extra qualification, but it is often taught at home rather than during school time. In fact, Polish is not even offered as a teacher training course in England.

“We have also made it compulsory for one of seven key foreign languages – French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish and ancient Greek and Latin – to be taught in primary schools from next year so children develop these crucial skills from an early age.”

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Translating Documents into Foreign Languages a Waste?

Mr. Pickles may have gotten himself into a pickle with his comments! British Conservative politician and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Mr. Pickles asserted that the translation of certain documents into other languages not only is a drain on the budget but is also a deterrent for immigrants to learn English. Here’s the full story from The Telegraph, March 16, 2013:

The Communities and Local Government secretary said translating documents was a “very expensive and poor use of taxpayers’ money”.

Mr Pickles told MPs in the House of Commons he was concerned that the costs were being driven by human rights and equality laws and actually served to divide communities rather than unite them.

Independent figures show that local authorities spend nearly £20million a year translating documents into a variety of different languages.

Mr Pickles issued a Written Ministerial Statement urging councils to stop spending the money on the translation services. The statement replaced existing guidance on translation services, issued by former Communities secretary Hazel Blears in December 2007.

Mr Pickles said: “Some local authorities translate a range of documents and other materials into languages spoken by their residents, and provide interpretation services.

“Whilst there may be rare occasions in which this is entirely necessary – for instance in emergency situations.

“I am concerned that such services are in many cases being provided unnecessarily because of a misinterpretation of equality or human rights legislation.”

In one case last year Crawley Borough Council spent more than £600 translating a 12-page glossy 12-page quarterly ‘Homelink lifestyle magazine’ into Urdu after a single resident complained they couldn’t read English.

In another, officials pointed out that Southwark Council offered full and free interpretation and translation of services into over 70 languages.

Mr Pickles said that some of these translation services had an “unintentional, adverse impact on integration by reducing the incentive for some migrant communities to learn English and are wasteful where many members of these communities already speak or understand English”.

Mr Pickles added while councils had to comply with the duties set out in equalities laws, this was not “a legal duty to translate documents into foreign languages”.

He said that a ban on automatically translating documents into foreign languages would also encourage migrants to learn English when they moved to the UK.

He added: “Stopping the automatic use of translation and interpretation services into foreign languages will provide further incentive for all migrant communities to learn English, which is the basis for an individual’s ability to progress in British society.

“It will promote cohesion and better community relations. And it will help councils make sensible savings, at a time when every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit left by the last administration.”

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Lafayette Parish Discusses Possible Foreign Language Immersion High School

Story by Marsha Sills for theadvocate.com, March 16, 2013:

LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Parish school system foreign language immersion students could have an option to continue their immersion studies beyond middle school, if discussions to create a “world language immersion school” become a reality.

A committee of educators, businessmen and legislators is exploring the potential for a foreign language immersion high school in Lafayette that would offer foreign language immersion learning to students living inside and outside the parish. The committee’s work was mandated by Act 851 authorized by the Legislature last year to explore the feasibility of an immersion language school in Lafayette.

“The task of the committee is to create a set of desired features of the high school: the ideal curriculum, optimum size, which facilities would work best, but we also have to wrestle with the practical realities of resources,” said Jordan Kellman, committee chairman and dean of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts.

The group had its first official meeting Friday, however, preliminary discussions have been ongoing in the past year, members said. Its report is due to the Senate and House Education Committees on March 31 and must include responses to issues such as location, structure, management, potential partnerships, curriculum. The report must include which languages will be offered, enrollment criteria, student enrollment size, faculty and staff needed, possibility of opening for 2014-15 school year and money needed to operate it.

Discussions Friday centered on the university being a partner in the school project with the parish school system operating and managing the school. A boarding school option —with housing available on the university campus — is also being considered to open enrollment to students outside the parish.

The project could be phased in at an existing location until a stand-alone facility could be built, said committee member Paula Carson, assistant president of institutional planning and effectiveness at ULL.

Carson said the university’s research park is an ideal location for a future school building.

The expense of starting up the project wasn’t fully discussed during Friday’s meeting.

Lafayette Parish Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said the school district spends about $624,000 annually to operate its Early College Academy, which opened in 2008 in partnership with South Louisiana Community College. The ECA students earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree and take all their classes on SLCC’s campus.

The foreign language immersion high school group discussed starting the school within an existing school, however, Billeaudeau encouraged the group to consider creating a “unique” space for students, which will help attract students.

Committee member Nicole Boudreaux, world language specialist for Lafayette Parish schools, said she thinks the school should offer classes in philosophy, ethics and even international law to build students’ “global competency.”

The curriculum should also be flexible to enable non-immersion students interested in foreign language studies to enroll and also provide course offerings to complement existing Lafayette Parish schools of choice programs, Boudreaux said.

Students in those existing schools of choice programs could attend the school part-time to take their relevant courses, Boudreaux said. For instance, students at Northside High’s Academy of Legal Studies could attend the school to take an international law or ethics course, she said.

Immersion students should also be allowed to learn more than one language, Boudreaux said.

The legislation sets French as the “primary language” and recommends Spanish and Mandarin Chinese as other languages. All three are part of existing foreign language immersion options in Lafayette Parish schools.

On Friday, suggestions of a fourth language included Louisiana tribal languages, Arabic, Farsi, or Portuguese.

The high school will give students an advantage to compete in the global economy, said Brent Pelloquin, whose four daughters all attend French immersion at Prairie Elementary.

“I would love for there to be a high school because I’ve seen the benefits of immersion from grades preschool through five,” he said.

The committee will hold its next meeting at noon March 22 at Le Centre International de Lafayette.

Committee members include Billy Stokes, executive director of the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning; Philippe Gustin, executive director of Le Centre International de Lafayette; Philippe Aldon, of the French consulate offices in New Orleans; two members of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, Amanda LaFleur and Nicole Boudreaux; Chuck Lein, designee of Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel; Sandra Billeaudeau, designee of Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper; Brent Pelloquin, of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce; state Reps. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, and Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas; state Sens. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, and Page Cortez, R-Lafayette; Terri Hammett, designee of Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White; Jordan Kellman, designee of ULL President Joseph Savoie; and Paula Carson, designee of Lafayette Economic Development Authority President Gregg Gothreaux.

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Quebec’s Foreign Language Police

The attempts by Quebec to safeguard the French language has become rather ridiculous. This is not the first time that countries tried to “protect” their languages from “foreign infiltration.” Over a century ago, German extremists complained about the “excessive” use of foreign words that had crept into daily vocabulary, and during WWI the British grew so suspicious of German spies in England that they banned the use of German words on restaurant menus (no more Frankfurters!) and closed German language newspapers. Don’t you think Quebec’s demands are a bit excessive?

Here’s the article written by a Daily Mail reporter for The Daily Mail online, March 13, 2013:

Fierce laws brought in to protect the French language in Quebec are under the spotlight after a recent spate of rulings – including a restaurant that was condemned for using the word ‘pasta’.

The Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise is the body responsible for ‘safeguarding’ the region’s French language, which is spoken by 94 per cent of people in the region.

But recent rulings have prompted ridicule from the English-speaking minority.
It follows a spate of draconian decisions, including:

A British themed restaurant being ordered to rename fish and chips as poisson frit et frites

Another restaurant being ordered to mask the word ‘redial’ on its telephones with tape

A third restaurant being ordered to remove the letters WC from the lavatory doors – despite the abbreviation’s popular use in France, and

A distribution company taken to court because it only provided English instructions for its Super Stretch Sleeve sex toy.

Many of the area’s French speakers are equally dismissive of the crackdown on foreign languages.

The backlash prompted OQLF president Louise Marchand to resign from her role, as Diane de Courcy, the Quebec minister for language, ordered a review of the latest incident where ‘pasta’ was deemed one of ‘too many’ foreign words used by an Italian restaurant.

English is a second language to one in three: More than 100 dialects are spoken by large numbers of people in the UK

Everyone was laughing at us! Beijing unleashes assault on ‘Chinglish’ after restaurant where soup was called ‘grim’ becomes tourist destination

‘It was a big crisis,’ admitted De Courcy. ‘We had 60 countries report on this issue, and we weren’t all very proud about it. But at the same time, this was also an opportunity.’

Quit: Louise Marchand, pictured presenting an African peacekeeping certificate, has stepped down from her role

She promised that the language office will be ‘re-structured’ following the latest embarrassment, and the body will be conducting an internal review in the face of negative media coverage.

But the aim of the OQLF will still be to protect the French language, which is seen as being under constant assault by English speakers across the rest of Canada.

The recent evidence suggests that the pro-French campaign has stepped up a gear in recent years but there has been no shortage of ridicule over the years – and not always because of OQLF.

Many people do support the bid to protect French, and it is not unheard of for members of the public to threaten taking organisations to court for not respecting the language.

In the Nineties, a pet shop owner was threatened with legal action because it had a parrot named Peekaboo that only repeated English phrases.

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