Why everyone should learn 1,000 words in another language

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Academics believe that with 1,000 high-frequency words you should be able to understand about 72 per cent of a written text, so it’s an important first hurdle in breaking through communication barriers internationally

Brits have a reputation for being poor linguists, so a group of UK institutions, including the British Council, launched a campaign last week to encourage everyone – not just the elites – to learn at least 1,000 words in another language. Readmore about the campaign. 

 

The five cities with the most developed language policies according to LRE data are in ranked order Vienna, Barcelona, London, Milan and Krakow.

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Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. This week we highlight Language Rich Europe findings in public services and spaces:

Language policies and strategies at city level were explored, as well as the number of languages in which public services are offered. In addition, city representatives reported
the actual languages available in both written and oral communication in education, emergency, health, social, legal, transport, immigration, and tourism services, as well as theatre programmes.
■ Sixty-three cities in total were surveyed, the basic criteria for selection being that in each country a capital city, the second largest city, and a city/town with a regional language presence were chosen. According to our researchers’ reports, all the cities combined provide services in 140 languages other than the national language.
■ Around one-third of the cities surveyed have a widely practised institutionalised strategy for promoting multilingualism, and half of the cities surveyed report that the offer of multilingual services is widely practised. Only ten cities out of the 63 cities surveyed do not provide multilingual services. Twenty-three cities make it policy to include language skills  in the job descriptions of their staff, and 18 provide widespread language training for staff. The five cities with the most developed policies according to the data are in ranked order Vienna, Barcelona, London, Milan and Kraków.
■ The most multilingual provision is in tourism, immigration and integration, legal services (oral communication) and transport services (written communication). Health services are also commonly offered in a number of languages. The lowest levels of multilingual services are in the cultural sector (theatre) and political debates/decision making.  Education services also do not rank as high as one might expect, given the large number of students (and their parents) attending schools across Europe who are not fluent in the official language of the country where they are educated.
■ Seventeen cities offer most of the above services in more than four languages, while 23 offer them in three or four languages. The cities which report offering the most oral communication services in the most languages are in ranked order London, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Madrid, Valencia, Zurich, Milan, Belfast, Barcelona and Lugano.
■ A lower number of cities responded as positively for written communication services, with only six reporting that most services are offered in more than four languages and 27 in three or four languages. This might suggest that cities place less emphasis on providing documents in multiple languages than in providing on-the-spot oral interpreting and mediation.
■ English is by far the most widely offered language other than the national language for oral and written services in all cities surveyed, followed in ranked order by German, Russian, French and Spanish. Chinese and Arabic also emerge as high priority and are offered by a number of cities. Welsh, Catalan and Basque are used widely in public services in the regions in which they are spoken. The outcomes for the most frequently reported languages in public services are very similar to those obtained for languages of newspapers.
■ We can infer that there are basically three types of target groups for oral and written communication services in public services and spaces: a) international travellers, business people and tourists b) immigrant groups, and c) speakers and readers of R/M languages.
■ In most city websites, English is the main language next to the national language. German and French are also quite common across our sample of cities. Some second largest cities have more multilingual websites than the capital city in the same national context. For instance, while Rome offers information only in Italian and English, industrial Milan offers information in eight different languages next to Italian. The same phenomenon is observed in Poland for Kraków versus Warsaw. In the regional cities surveyed, English is again the most common language used on city websites next to the national languages.

Does the city you live in take a positive attitude to languages? You can share good practice examples by uploading them here.

Key Findings: Languages in audiovisual media and press

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism and that goes beyond the education sector. You can browse all of the national/ regional profiles but in this post we focus on Languages in audiovisual media and press.

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  • To explore the diversity of languages in the media, we asked our researchers to record the languages offered during one week on national radio and television according to the bestselling newspapers in the cities surveyed. Most participating countries/regions offer some radio and television broadcasting in languages other than the national language. Catalonia provides television broadcasting in a rich variety of foreign, R/M, and immigrant languages. Hungary and Italy provide radio broadcasting in more than ten languages.
  • In terms of dubbing and subtitling, LRE findings are comparable to earlier studies, with around half of the countries/regions commonly using dubbing practices, while  the other half commonly provide subtitles. The countries/regions where both television and cinema are dubbed are Austria, Catalonia, Hungary, Italy, Northern Ireland, Poland and Spain. The countries/regions where subtitles are used on both television and cinema are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, England, Estonia, Friesland, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Switzerland and Wales. Other countries/regions have a hybrid approach where programmes are subtitled in one medium and dubbed in the other.
  • Regarding the availability of newspapers at the largest kiosks and train stations in our surveyed cities in each country/region, all researchers went into the kiosks and train stations and listed the available different newspapers in different languages, following the methodology of linguistic landscaping, to provide a snapshot at a given place and time.
  • Overall, newspapers in English were the most common, followed by German, and, at a distance, by French, Russian and Italian. Arabic and Turkish newspapers also figured prominently.
  • Recognition of sign languages, and the availability of sign languages for important media events was also investigated. Sign languages are officially recognised/promoted in all countries/regions with the exception of Basque Country, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Poland. People who are deaf can always make use of sign languages in official interactions with authorities in half of the countries/regions surveyed. Facilities for sign languages on television at important media events are always available in Estonia and regularly available in another nine countries/regions. However, in Italy, Poland and Romania researchers report that these facilities are not available.

Key Findings: Languages in further and higher education

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. You can browse all of the national/ regional profiles or simply focus on further and higher education by reading on:

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  • New/primary data was collected directly from the largest 69 Vocational and Education Training (VET) centres in our 67 participating cities: the national language is quite well supported, with 30 out of the 69 VET institutions surveyed offering a wide variety of support programmes in the national language, ranging from basic communication to advanced skills. Twenty-four institutions offer a limited variety of programmes, while 15 of the institutions surveyed offer no support.
  • Sixty-two of the 69 VET institutions surveyed offer foreignlanguages, with 15 reporting that more than four languagesare taught, 22 offering three to four languages, and 25 one to two languages. Forty-one institutions offer a wide variety of programmes, from basic language skills to advanced, while 18 offer basic language skills only. Twenty-six institutions align their programmes with the CEFR.
  • Twenty-five VET institutions offer R/M languages, with 13 fully covering the costs. The countries/regions offering R/M language courses in all three of the VET institutions surveyed are Basque Country, Catalonia, Hungary, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Immigrant languages are only offered in four of the institutions surveyed – one each in Austria, England, Italy and Wales.
  • As expected, English, French, German and Spanish are prominent among foreign languages, with Russian offered as an R/M language in some countries/regions and a foreign language in others. Arabic is also offered in a number of VET institutions. The main offer for R/M languages is from countries/regions where there is more than one official language.
  • New/primary data was gathered on 65 general/public universities across countries/regions. As is to be expected, all of the targeted European universities in our sample cities provide instruction in the national language because in most cases it is the main language of their student population and it is the official state language. However, in the majority of universities surveyed other languages can also be used.
  • The international mobility of students and staff, and the desire to attract a global and diverse student body, appear to be making English the second language of many European universities. Many textbooks are also being written in English.
  • A very high number of universities offer language courses to non-language students, as recommended by the European institutions. The offer is wide, with 31 universities (almost half) giving students the choice of more than four languages. Only eight universities from our sample do not offer non-language students the opportunity to learn other languages. The actual take-up of these courses was beyond the scope of the research.
  • Almost all universities make special efforts to attract  international students. Half also report conscious efforts to attract students with an immigrant background at home.
  • Student mobility is supported financially by European universities but only ten of the universities surveyed make mobility programmes compulsory for language students.

International Conference on Endangered Languages in Europe

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (CIDLeS) invites scholars working on endangered languages in Europe and on Language Documentation to attend the International Conference on Endangered Languages in Europe. The conference will be held on October 17-18th, 2013 at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (CIDLeS), Minde, Portugal.

The conference aims to:

  • Provide an interdisciplinary forum in which scholars from Language Documentation, Language Technology and others working on European endangered languages can exchange ideas and techniques on language documentation, archiving, and revitalisation;
  • Include further discussion and research into linguistic diversity in Europe;
  • Reflect on language policy issues.

The second day of the Conference will have two special panels: one focusing on the endangered languages in the Iberian Peninsula and a round table, dedicated to the theme “new speakers of minority/endangered languages”.

The Conference will include a socio-cultural program related to the theme “Endangered Languages in Europe” with the aim of promoting intercultural exchange and reinforcing the relationship between linguists and language communities. On 19 October 2013 there will be a “Language Fair”, in which members of endangered language communities in Europe will present their languages and cultures through book displays, and cultural events (music, theatre, movies, exhibitions, etc.). On the evenings of 18 and 19 October there will be an Endangered Languages Music Festival.

Plenary speakers

  • Ulrike Mosel (University of Kiel)
  • Mandana Seyfeddinipur (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)
  • Sebastian Drude (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen)
  • Fernando Ramallo (University of Vigo)

Scientific committee

  • Annette Endruschat (University of Regensburg)
  • Michael Cysouw (University of Marburg)
  • Frank Seifart (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig)
  • Wolfgang Schulze (University of Munich)
  • Xosé Afonso Pérez Álvarez (University of Lisbon)
  • Lachlan Mackenzie  (ILTEC, Lisbon)
  • Johannes Helmbrecht (University of Regensburg)
  • Peter-Arnold Mumm (University of Munich)
  • Nikolaus Himmelmann (University of Cologne)
  • Geoffrey Haig (University of Bamberg)

Organizing committee

  • Vera Ferreira
  • Peter Bouda
  • Francisco Vicente
  • Rita Pedro
  • António Lopes
  • Ingrid Scholz
  • Paulo Vicente

For more information please contact ele2013@cidles.eu and visit the following websites:

www.cidles.eu/events/conference-ele-2013

www.cidles.eu/events/conference-ele-2013/language-fair