Universities must make languages relevant

20101203-011635.jpgThe numbers of students studying languages degrees is at its lowest in a decade – universities must make their academic study more pertinent, argues Professor Katrin Kohl, vice-chair of the Faculty of Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

Learning a language is not only tough but may be dull unless it involves intellectual challenges, cultural attractions, and communicative rewards.

Find out more

 

Does English still borrow words from other languages?

www.poliglotti4.euEnglish language has “borrowed” words for centuries. But is it now lending more than it’s taking, asks Philip Durkin, deputy chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Knowledge of what is being borrowed, and from where, provides an invaluable insight into the international relations of the English language.Today English borrows words from other languages with a truly global reach. Some examples that the Oxford English Dictionary suggests entered English during the past 30 years include tarka dal, a creamy Indian lentil dish (1984, from Hindi), quinzhee, a type of snow shelter (1984, from Slave or another language of the Pacific Coast of North America), popiah, a type of Singaporean or Malaysian spring roll (1986, from Malay), izakaya, a type of Japanese cafe (1987), affogato, an Italian dessert made of ice cream and coffee (1992).

One obvious thing that these words have in common is that not all English speakers will know them.

Read more 

English as the language of Europe?

Image
In this guest post, Christiane Keilig from the British Council in Berlin shares her views on why just English isn’t enough.

Last Friday the German president, Joachim Gauck, proposed to make English the language of the EU.  I was surprised to hear it  – why did he say that? Just to appease the British and make sure they stay aboard the EU? Or to allay fears that Germany is becoming too powerful? It’s probably a bit of both. But, thinking about it, it does seem to make sense, because:

  • English is comparatively easy to learn (I had to learn Latin and Greek  as first foreign languages and I rejoiced in English)
  • It is already an established business language and dominates in certain areas, for instance IT and banking
  • It is the language spoken by big economies

Okay, but.

There are also other huge economies out there and I would argue that if you want to sell a product or a service to a foreign market, you need to speak their language and not just English.

Because a market, or rather, countries, are also about culture and I believe that you cannot truly understand a culture without speaking the language – language itself reveals a lot about a country’s mindset.

Also, business is not all. Especially in Europe and in times of crisis, it is important that we understand each other – we cannot afford to threaten a construct which, although fraught with bureaucracy, is also there to maintain peace. Personally, I sometimes think that aspect is sadly underrated.

Moreover, in times of globalisation and mobility, with families living and working far away from their home country, it’s also important their children can learn their mother tongue – it is a vital part of their identity and culture.  So it’s not just about learning the language of the country they’re now living in and then ‘just’ English.

Just to pick up on one of the areas of the project’s research: Education. The Language Rich Europe research clearly shows a tendency for English as the most widely chosen language to be learned at school – which could be seen to be endangering the diversity of languages.  It is important that especially at school other languages are taught with the same importance attached to them .

For instance, the school my son goes to offers English, French and Latin and you can choose the order in which you learn the languages. I convinced him to learn Latin first, as that gives him a good basis for grammar and all romanic languages. It would be a shame if opportunities like that would disappear.

At the conference on 5  March, Language Rich Europe’s experts will present recommendations for more language diversity in the areas of Education, Audiovisual Media and Press, Public services and Spaces, and Business. They will present the outcomes of the project’s research and will surely provide food for thought and discussions.

Why not join the debate? Do you think English should be the language of Europe?  Comment here or tweet @LanguageRich  to  let us know what you think!

New Multilingual Synopsis of the European Training Thesaurus

We have just heard about this exciting new tool for training professionals and wanted to share it with you. This article originally appeared in Europa news on languages.

New Multilingual Synopsis of the European Training Thesaurus – Are you a training professional? A new multilingual toolkit for you.

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) has recently published the new Multilingual Synopsis of the European Training Thesaurus for all those working in education, training and employment.

The publication, which is available online, is a selection of 1,207 terms and concepts which appear frequently in literature related to European vocational education and training. The tool, which is the basis for the complete online thesaurus CEDEFOP is currently preparing, allows for quick navigation by language, term and topic.

The terms/concepts cover several topics such as lifelong learning, vocational education and training policy, assessment and certification of learning outcomes, recognition of certificates and diplomas. Each term is presented in 11 languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Swedish.

To download the thesaurus, click here.