Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.

Languages in the press

Struggling to learn a language? 6 tips on how pop songs can help

30 June 2022 (The Conversation)

Traditional approaches to adult language teaching often use resources such as textbooks and generic learning materials that are less than inspiring for learners. New research shows using popular song, as well as films and TV series, for language learning can help connect with people’s interests and motivate them. Based on this research, we have developed six tips for using popular songs to learn a language.


Children learn sign language to support classmate

28 June 2022 (BBC)

Primary 2 pupils at Omagh Integrated Primary School have learned sign language this year.

They were keen to learn the new skill to support their classmate Callum.

They have also inspired their local neighbourhood police and other emergency services to learn the new skill.


New web series travels across the country to assess influence of Ulster-Scots on our language

27 June 2022 (Belfast Telegraph)

A new online series is exploring Ulster-Scots words and phrases and their influence on modern-day language.

In A Word In Yer Lug, broadcaster Jane Veitch and native Ulster-Scots speaker Liam Logan travelled throughout Northern Ireland to discuss the words used in our everyday vocabulary (and some that aren’t... yet).

“Most people use Ulster-Scots words every day, but they don’t necessarily recognise or understand them,” said Liam.

“Did you ever ‘footer’ with anything? That’s Ulster-Scots, but it’s got its roots in medieval French. The Scots had a great connection with the French back in the medieval times.

“All the Scottish people used to go to France for education, and all the rest of it. They brought that back from France and then they sent it over to us here in Ulster.”

With 20 short episodes, the web series is the ideal introduction to Ulster-Scots, showing the richness of the language.


George Orwell's Animal Farm to be translated into Scots

20 June 2022 (BBC)

George Orwell's classic novel Animal Farm is to be translated into Scots.

The book is one of nine titles to be published in the Scots language, with funding from the Scots Language Resource Network.

It has already been translated into Gaelic but this is the first time it will be able to be read in Scots.

Edinburgh publisher Luath Press said it believed Mr Orwell would have been pleased with the development for his work.

The publisher said: "We are very confident that Thomas Clark will create a superb rendering of the book in Scots, and that Orwell himself would have approved, given his comments on Scottish linguistic culture."

Orwell wrote his best-known work, 1984, while living on a farmhouse in Barnhill on the Island of Jura.


Sign language 999 BSL service launched for deaf people

18 June 2022 (BBC)

A new service has launched to allow people to make 999 calls using British Sign Language (BSL) for the first time.

The new service, 999 BSL, will allow deaf people to make emergency calls using an app or website, connecting callers with a BSL interpreter.

It is free to use and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ofcom announced telephone and broadband companies must carry the service last June, estimating it would save two lives a year.

The system, which launched on Friday, is the first time a 999 emergency service will be available in British Sign Language, though a similar process exists for the NHS 111 number.

People who use the service will be put through to a BSL interpreter, who will then relay the conversation to a 999 operator.


Times Education Commission calls for schooling reset

15 June 2022 (The Times)

Politicians and education experts from across the spectrum have welcomed the final report of The Times Education Commission and said it made a case for change.

[..] The main recommendation of the year-long commission includes the introduction of a British Baccalaureate, an equally rigorous but broader qualification than A-levels including both academic and vocational routes or a combination of the two.

Pupils would take six subjects and the qualification would be based on the International Baccalaureate, an A-level alternative offered mainly in private schools, but customised for the UK. It could be adopted to replace the Highers qualification in Scotland as well as A-levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Related Links

APPG Modern Languages response on Twitter (15 June 2022)

Meet the Arabic teacher who is passionate about languages and introducing her culture to NI

31 May 2022 (Belfast Live)

When Rym Akhonzada first moved to Northern Ireland from Tunisia just over 20 years ago, she had the advantage of a good education and a strong grasp of languages.

Fluent in Arabic, French, and English and a bit of Italian, the mother-of-three went on to establish the Interlingua School of Languages in Lisburn.

The school offers language classes for those with either a professional or leisure interest in foreign languages.

Soon, schools across Northern Ireland were also kicking off their new terms in Arabic.


Spending on NHS interpreters up by 20 per cent in five years

19 May 2022 (Herald)

Spending on interpreter and translation services by the NHS in Scotland rose by more than 20 per cent in the five years leading up to the pandemic, new research shows.


Google Translate learns 24 new languages

11 May 2022 (Google)

For years, Google Translate has helped break down language barriers and connect communities all over the world. And we want to make this possible for even more people — especially those whose languages aren’t represented in most technology. So today we’ve added 24 languages to Translate, now supporting a total of 133 used around the globe.


10 benefits of bilingualism, according to science

10 May 2022 (Big Think)

Bilingual people are incredibly attractive. If you don’t agree with me, I’m afraid you’re in the minority. Being able to speak two or more languages comes with a whole host of benefits (not least for your love life). A great and growing body of research has focused on the psychological, economic, and health benefits of being bilingual. Speaking many languages improves a host of cognitive functions, across all stages of life, and it affects our emotional and social attitudes, as well. The scientific world is starting to take seriously the life-changing advantages to speaking multiple languages.

That’s great, but what benefits are we talking about exactly? What specific advantages would learning French or Spanish give you?


Just what languages are spoken in the UK? (It's more than English)

8 May 2022 (The Travel)

If one goes to the United Kingdom - what language can one expect people to speak? The easy answer is of course English - and naturally, everyone speaks English there. But there are actually many languages in the British Isles. For the purposes of this article, we will include the British Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands - even though technically they are not part of the UK.


Rose Ayling-Ellis to sign CBeebies Bedtime Story

7 May 2022 (BBC)

Actress and Strictly Come Dancing champion Rose Ayling-Ellis is to become the first celebrity to sign a CBeebies bedtime story this Sunday.

Ayling-Ellis, 27, who has been deaf since birth, will tell the tale Can Bears Ski? in British Sign Language (BSL), to mark Deaf Awareness Week.

The story of a young bear draws on the author's own experience to show how it feels to be deaf in a hearing world.

Ayling-Ellis said she hoped it would inspire children to learn to sign.


How to boost MFL entries at GCSE and A level

6 May 2022 (TES)

Why are so many students choosing to drop modern foreign languages (MFL) at GCSE and A level?

It's a problem that Emma Marsden, a professor of foreign language education at the University of York, is determined to analyse, and ultimately, help to resolve. 

The work has been ongoing for six years. In 2016, Marsden and a colleague, Dr Rachel Hawkes, contributed towards the MFL Pedagogy Review, which resulted in 15 recommendations to boost the quality of MFL in key stages 3 and 4, and the number of students opting to study languages throughout their time in school. 

To ensure that these recommendations were achievable and effective in schools, in 2018, the Department of Education established the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP), with Marsden and Hawkes as co-directors working with Dr Rowena Kasprowicz and Professor Suzanne Graham from the University of Reading, and Robert Woore from the University of Oxford, along with 18 specialist teachers and a network of 45 schools. 

They had the task of ensuring that teachers were supported in understanding and delivering some of the pedagogical recommendations of the review. 

Here, Marsden discusses NCELP's work, and what teachers can to do within their own classrooms to deliver quality MFL lessons and improve uptake. 

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


West Lothian students show they have gift of the gab in language comp

5 May 2022 (Daily Record)

Three high school students from Linlithgow Academy were declared West Lothian’s ‘Languagenut champions’ - awarded by a national language learning resource company.

The language education company, Languagenut, ran the competition regionally in both Glasgow and West Lothian throughout the month of March.

The Languagenut resource is accessible to students via an app or website, and supports young people in learning a modern language.


Parents more influential over MFL success than teachers

3 May 2022 (TES)

A study of 1,300 Year 8 pupils has revealed that parents' beliefs are a bigger influence on children's views of themselves as language learners than are teacher opinions.

Parents are twice as likely as teachers to influence pupils' success in modern foreign languages (MFL), according to research by the University of Cambridge published today.

The Cambridge researchers say their findings show that measures to reverse the national decline in language learning at GCSE and A level should target families rather than just children.

Professor Linda Fisher, from the university's Faculty of Education, said: "Students' personal commitment to languages is determined by their experiences, their beliefs and their emotional response to speaking or using them. Slightly surprisingly, the people who feed into that most appear to be their parents."

"This can be a positive or negative influence, depending on the parents' own views. Its importance underlines the fact that if we want more young people to learn languages, we need to pay attention to wider social and cultural attitudes to languages beyond the classroom. Waning interest in these subjects is a public communication challenge; it's not just about what happens in schools."


Taking TikTok by storm with the Scots language

1 May 2022 (BBC)

Poet Len Pennie has amassed millions of views and hundreds of thousands of followers for her Scots language videos on social media.

The 22-year-old linguistics student began posting a Scots word of the day on TikTok and Twitter in an attempt to stave off boredom during lockdown in 2020.

Some of her most popular videos - which have been a particular hit with American women - feature her poetry, such as The Hurcheon and Little Girls.

When comments first started coming in, she found that they were largely positive.

"At first there was a lovely range of people - people who knew Scots and people who didn't - and it felt nice to be a part of something," she said.

"It's no longer a boys club. It's not just Burns texts being passed about, there's a lot of women involved now too."

Len said she was surprised when she learned that the vast majority of her audience were women from America.

"I thought: 'That's great, because they're engaging in the culture' - but I wish I could engage the Scottish audience more."


‘They can really fly’: how to teach a refugee child

27 April 2022 (The Guardian)

Children arriving from war-torn countries such as Ukraine often thrive in their new school and go on to be successful. How do teachers do it?

"Children pick up whether someone cares about them even if they don’t speak the language,” says Kulvarn Atwal, a headteacher in east London. Atwal, who has plenty of experience of welcoming children who are refugees from conflict, is preparing for the arrival of new pupils from Ukraine.

Children connect with each other much faster than adults do, he says. “Sometimes we look at children through the eyes of adults, but they don’t see what adults see. They haven’t developed discriminatory biases so they just dive straight in.”

As the summer term begins, many schools are preparing to welcome children who have fled Ukraine after the Russian invasion. For some schools, particularly in rural areas, it could be their first experience of teaching refugees.

Atwal has told his local council he will take “as many Ukrainian children as possible”, to Uphall primary, his school in Ilford, where 60 languages are spoken, to make use of the school’s experience. He says he also wanted “to send an important message to our children that we are doing something”.

For children who arrive speaking no English, often after traumatic experiences, starting a new school in a new country is daunting. But they typically go on to thrive. The education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, himself arrived aged nine from Iraq speaking no English. How do teachers manage to help such children to adapt and make progress?


How language assistants can transform MFL teaching

27 April 2022 (TES/British Council)

Language assistants can be a critical tool for unlocking the joy of language learning in the classroom.

The benefits of learning a language at school are vast.  

Of 2,000 UK adults surveyed for a study commissioned by the British Council in November 2020, 73 per cent cited how much easier it made international travel, 70 per cent said it boosted the ability to appreciate and understand different cultures, and 72 per cent said it could broaden career opportunities, too. In fact, people with a second language have a salary up to 7 per cent higher than their colleagues that don't. 

And the benefits of learning a language go beyond the practical. Research also shows that learning a language can improve concentration and alertness, it can make us more empathetic, and far more creative and eloquent in our native tongue.

All of which is perhaps why nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of those adults surveyed by YouGov wished they had continued with the foreign language skills they first developed in school.

For teachers, though, the reality is that trying to inspire and motivate students to study modern languages in the classroom can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.


British Sign Language Bill set to clear final stage before becoming law

27 April 2022 (Mirage News)

The British Sign Language Bill, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Rosie Cooper MP last year and backed by the government, will receive its third reading in the House of Lords today before it passes into law following Royal Assent.

The BSL Act will recognise BSL as a language of England, Wales and Scotland in its own right. It is also supported by a duty on the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to regularly report on what each relevant government department has done to promote or facilitate the use of British Sign Language in its communications with the public.


Barcelona’s pro-mother tongue project that inverts the classic rule of migration

20 April 2022 (The Guardian)

Every immigrant knows that the key to integration is learning the language of their new country. For many the language they brought with them is simply a relic of their former life.

In Barcelona, a project is turning that on its head with the philosophy that no one arrives in a host country empty-handed. They may not yet have a job or much of an education, they may even be staying illegally, but they have a language – often more than one.

Since 2020, the Prollema (pro-llengua materna, or pro-mother tongue) project has been helping those from north and west Africa gain confidence by helping them teach their mother tongue, the Berber – or Amazigh – languages, as well as Darija, Fula and Wolof.


BSL: Newsround launches signed weekday bulletins

19 April 2022 (BBC)

Newsround's weekday bulletin is now accessible for people who use British Sign Language (BSL).

The programme will be fully signed, with an in-vision interpreter, each weekday starting from Tuesday 19 April.

It will be available to watch on the Newsround website from lunchtime every Monday to Friday, and will be remain online to watch at a time that suits you or your school.


‘Ukrainian has become a symbol’: interest in language spikes amid Russia invasion

8 April 2022 (The Guardian)

Long denounced as a peasant dialect, Ukrainian is experiencing a surge of interest among those who once felt speaking Russian ‘was enough’.

“I want to speak with Ukrainians in Ukrainian to celebrate their culture, their liberty and the incredible courage with which they are now standing up in their own defense in the face of indescribable and unprovoked brutality,” he said.

Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, rooted in the idea that a uniquely Ukrainian identity does not exist, has only increased global interest in the Ukrainian language. Suppressed and denounced as a peasant dialect by the Russian and Soviet empires, Ukrainian is a distinct language from Russian, with a degree of similarity somewhat akin to that between Italian and Portuguese.

The language learning app Duolingo reported a 577% increase in the number of global users studying Ukrainian and a 2,677% increase in Poland, which has welcomed more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees. In Ukraine, where native Russian speakers have increasingly embraced Ukrainian since the 2014 revolution, a new Ukrainian conversation club received close to 1,000 sign-ups in just three days.


Disney and Taylor Swift lyrics used to increase Latin appeal

7 April 2022 (BBC)

Latin teaching in many schools is based on 1950s models and a fresh approach would attract more state-educated pupils, according to a new guide from the University of Cambridge.

Disney and Taylor Swift are referenced in a handbook for teachers as examples of how to engage pupils.

Cambridge academic Steven Hunt says Latin is not only for the "lucky ones in the few schools which provide it".

A scheme rolling out in September aims to help more state schools teach Latin.

Mr Hunt, the guide's author, who has been teaching Latin for 35 years and trains new teachers, believes students should be taught to speak in Latin as well as learning written grammar and vocabulary.

He told the BBC that Latin should be structured in the same way as modern foreign languages - based on the four skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing,

But he said his handbook was not a criticism of teachers, who "work very hard under difficult circumstances".

"The examination system at GCSE tends to force teachers to use quite traditional approaches - much teaching to the test - rather than exploring other approaches which might be more engaging, contain more variety, and reflect what we know of how young people learn languages," he said.


Lost in translation: is research into species being missed because of a language barrier?

4 April 2022 (The Guardian)

More focus on non-English language reports would be good for conservation and help close the gap between global north and south, argue researchers.

“It’s not that I’m a bad scientist,” she says. “It’s just because of the language.”


Teach UK students about China to tackle knowledge ‘deficit’, say experts

31 March 2022 (The Guardian)

Experts have called for additional government funding to build “China competency” in the UK education system in the face of “a severe national deficit” in China literacy and Mandarin speakers.

Despite the growing importance of China in the world, research by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) concluded the UK lacks sufficient knowledge and understanding of China to “make sensible decisions”.

The report cited the government’s decision to remove Huawei from UK networks in light of perceived security risks, which was estimated to cost BT £500m, “a cost that arguably could have been avoided if there had been greater understanding and awareness of China within the UK government”.

According to Hepi, the number of Chinese studies students has not increased in the past 25 years and there has been a decline in the number of Chinese studies departments in UK universities offering single-honours undergraduate degrees, down a third from 13 to nine between 2019 and 2020.

In schools, modern China is “largely absent” from curricula and most pupils will not engage with China at all during their studies. There has been some progress in the study of Mandarin in schools, but the qualifications are “problematic”, the Hepi report says, and numbers are small.


‘You’ve got friends’: Birmingham school scheme aims to ease refugee trauma

27 March 2022 (The Guardian)

A pioneering programme hopes to support children newly arrived in the UK until they can integrate into classrooms.

Many of the pupils who arrive in Gemma Patel’s classroom at Birmingham’s City academy don’t speak.

“When students first come to us, they often don’t talk, they don’t communicate,” she said during a break from teaching a lesson on verbs. “It’s not because they can’t, but because they haven’t necessarily felt able to before.”

She is the assistant head of Core Hello, a pioneering programme set up by the Core Education Trust in September 2021 for newly arrived refugee and migrant children who need extra support settling in to school life in the UK.

Over 12 weeks, pupils are taught basic survival language skills, taken on trips into the city centre to help with cultural acclimatisation, and are given support for any trauma they may have experienced, before returning to mainstream school.

The trust has taken on a number of pupils who came to the UK after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year, and said it was open to hosting Ukrainian refugees.

“It’s not just language that’s the barrier, it’s dealing with everything that they’ve gone through. Just moving and resettling is very traumatic for young people, let alone maybe coming from a country which is unsettled or has experienced war,” said Rekha Shell-Macleod, the head of school at City academy. “But we’ve found with Core Hello, in a short period of time they make the progress that in a normal school setting may take a year or two.”


Talking a good game: Big dreams of national side for Gaelic speakers

26 March 2022 (The Times)

It was in Canada and New Zealand that Calum Ferguson was inspired to create a national football team to represent the Scottish Gaels.

The 27-year-old striker, who has been close friends with Ryan Christie since their childhood in Inverness, is now on a mission to forge opportunities for Gaelic speakers at all levels of the game in this country, having witnessed how other nations seek to cherish and maintain minority languages and cultures.

Ferguson’s first awakening came in the Canadian Premier League, where he spent a season with Winnipeg-based Valour FC. One of their rivals was Halifax Wanderers in Nova Scotia, who make a major play on connecting with the Scottish and Gaelic roots in the community. Their motto is in Gaelic and translates as: “our harbour, our home, our soul.”

Ferguson, a former Albion Rovers player who studied and spoke Gaelic all the way through school but fell out of using it when he went full-time with Inverness Caley Thistle, was immediately taken with the approach.


Alton Towers: Theme park staff to be trained in Makaton

26 March 2022 (BBC)

Staff at Alton Towers theme park are being trained to use signs to better communicate with guests.

From Friday, workers at the Staffordshire attraction were being trained to use basic skills and phrases in Makaton to aid accessibility.

Over 100,000 children and adults use Makaton symbols and signs, either as their main method of communication, or as a way to support speech.

Staff said they felt the training was "really important".

Alton Towers Resort said equipping frontline teams with these skills will help guests feel more included in experiences at the park, particularly young guests visiting CBeebies Land and the CBeebies Hotel.


House of Lords marks first live use of sign language interpretation

25 March 2022 (Irish News)

The House of Lords has seen the first live use of British Sign Language interpretation as peers backed a Bill giving the language legal recognition across Britain.

Lord McFall of Alcluith, the Speaker in the House of Lords, marked this moment for BSL interpretation in the upper chamber, and also used the BSL sign for ‘thank you’ in the chamber.

Peers also heard that the Government has started drawing up plans for a GCSE in the language, with more likely to be revealed about the proposals later this year.

Before peers started the second reading debate of the British Sign Language Bill, which would give BSL legal recognition in England, Wales and Scotland, Lord McFall said: “I would like to point out that a British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on

“I am delighted to mark this first occasion of the live use of BSL interpretation in the House of Lords.”


More than one million learners for Duolingo's Gaelic course

24 March 2022 (The Herald)

More than a million people have taken on a Scottish Gaelic course on the language-learning app Duolingo. 

A total of 1.12m people have started learning the language with the help of the popular app which first launched its Gaelic course on St Andrew's Day in 2019. 

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


How to learn a foreign language as an adult: the definitive guide

21 March 2022 (The Times)

On a global scale, it’s monolingualism — only speaking one language — and not multilingualism that is a rarity. Most people in the world learn more than one language. They may speak a local or tribal language with their families, be educated in the country’s official language and conduct business in yet another.

In the EU about two-thirds of working age adults speak more than one language. However, just under two in three Britons are unable to hold a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


How easy is it to work in a foreign language?

21 March 2022 (The Times)

German is tricky but full of satisfying drama, writes Oliver Moody, the Times’s Berlin correspondent.

There is an old joke about a Briton, a Frenchman and a German who go for a walk one day in the countryside. “Ah,” says the Briton, “a butterfly! What a wonderful word. Just the sound of it conjures up the image of this tiny fragile creature fluttering from flower to flower.”

“Mais non,” says the Frenchman, “our French word papillon is clearly superior. Such music, such gentleness.” The German looks aggrieved. “And vot,” he says, “is wronk with Schmetterling?”

I never found it terribly funny. Largely, I think, because of old war films, German has a certain reputation in Britain for sounding, as the comedian Dylan Moran once put it, like typewriters eating tin foil being chucked down a flight of stairs. This is not entirely fair. In my ears German is, if not exactly mellifluous, then certainly satisfying and dramatic. What actually is wrong with Schmetterling?


Sharp rise in tourists interested in exploring the Gaelic language

21 March 2022 (The Herald)

When it comes to Scottish tourism, castles, lochs, wildlife and whisky are usually touted as the main attractions.

But over the last few years interest has been growing in a different aspect of the country’s culture – the Gaelic language.

VisitScotland has seen a 72 per cent rise in website visitors seeking out Gaelic content over the last four years, with a particular peak during the 2020 lockdown.

And now the language is being viewed as an important part of the sector’s future as it looks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This week sees the country celebrate the first ever World Gaelic Week (Seachdain na Gàidhlig), with VisitScotland using the event to highlight the significant role the language plays in tourism and events.


Birmingham teen sign language teacher stars in animated class

15 March 2022 (BBC)

A teenager who helped thousands of people learn British Sign Language (BSL) during the first Covid-19 lockdown is being turned into an animated character in new lessons.

Tyrese Dibba, who has Charge Syndrome, created a series of BSL videos which were watched by more than 80,000 people.

His character will be the head teacher of charity Sense's Sign School.

Tyrese said he loved to be able to continue his work.

For his work during the pandemic, Tyrese received a Points of Light award from the prime minister and the Stephen Sutton Inspiration Award at the Pride of Birmingham Awards 2021.

"Deaf people shouldn't be excluded," he said.

"You should be able to chat to everyone, regardless of disability."


Joy Dunlop and Calum Maclean 'blown away' by BBC SpeakGaelic response as round two launches

14 March 2022 (The National)

After reaching half a million people since its launch last year, Scotland’s biggest Gaelic initiative is back for round two.

SpeakGaelic launched in 2021 with a multiplatform campaign to teach Scots Gaelic, with podcasts, a BBC Alba programme, social media posts and online resources at learners’ disposal.

The first instalment of the project was aimed at total beginners and those with little knowledge of Gaelic.

Now, SpeakGaelic has returned for season two and it’s aiming to build on the success of the first rollout.

Speaking to The National, BBC Alba’s SpeakGaelic presenter Joy Dunlop said the team were “blown away” by the response to the initiative.

Dunlop said: “We were all blown away by the response to SpeakGaelic. There have been over half a million people reached since its launch. And you could definitely feel that, particularly on social media that folk got really involved.

“This is a new way to learn Gaelic... There's a website, programming and podcasts, resources. And I think it's time for Gaelic learners to try something new.

“We've had some wonderful courses in the past. But it definitely felt like there was an appetite out there to get involved particularly after a lockdown and with the success of Duolingo. So many people had been doing a wee bit anyway on their phone and it was the next step for them.

“People really jumped in there and embraced every part of it and it was really lovely to see.”


Martin Compston on learning Gaelic and using his native Scottish accent on TV

11 March 2022 (Herald)

Martin Compston has revealed he is learning Gaelic for an upcoming BBC documentary project. Speaking to ITV's Lorraine, the actor also said he thinks using his native Scottish accent helps make his characters appear more charming. The star, originally from Greenock, is best known for playing the role of Detective Inspector Steve Arnott, who is English, in BBC drama Line Of Duty.


Oban parents saved almost 2,000 dumped Gaelic books

10 March 2022 (BBC News)

Parents managed to save almost 2,000 Gaelic books - some of the them brand new - before the skip they were found dumped in was removed, it has emerged. Earlier this week, Argyll and Bute Council said it was investigating why the books were thrown out near an education building in Oban.


Gaelic books dumped in skip in Oban prompts probe

8 March 2022 (BBC)

A large number of Gaelic language books have been found dumped in a skip in Oban.

Argyll and Bute Council is investigating why the books were thrown out near a building used by its education department.

Some of the books, which included children's literature and educational material, were new and still in their wrapping.


Alistair Heather: This census is our chance to make Scots language count

3 March 2022 (The Courier)

It’s census season! And I for one couldnae be happier.

I dinnae think I’ve every actually filled ane o these before.

In 2011 I was out the country, and in 2001 I was but a callow youth, so the census task would have been Mammy Heather’s job. So it’s a thrill to finally participate.

And I actually had a totty wee role in putting this census thegither.

In a previous job, I worked to promote Scots language and culture north of the Tay.

I was called into meetings in Aberdeen with the group charged with putting together the language part of the census.

There were perhaps a dozen of us.

The census folk all came up fae the central belt, and brought in myself (at the time I was working for Aberdeen University) and several others interested in the Scots language.

They had nae idea of the culture, language, tensions around Scots, the nuances of different dialects, none of that.

None of them were Scots speakers. But they were really curious, and open to learning.


Teaching in a Chinese bilingual school: a guide

1 March 2022 (TES)

Co-teachers, a Chinese curriculum, different pedagogies – teaching in a bilingual school in China can be a steep learning curve but very rewarding, too, as these teachers explain.


Paisley primary celebrates different pupils' cultures as part of poetry project

26 February 2022 (Daily Record)

Youngsters at a Paisley Primary school have been celebrating the many different cultures of pupils by taking part in a top poetry competition which celebrates different languages from across the globe.

Three pupils from West Primary were selected for the final of the Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition, which encourages children to share their experiences of their families culture and traditions in their families.

Sabina Rodrigues De La Rosa, Tanazzal Shah and Sabihah Tubasem were picked by judges for their poems written about their home countries which the school used to help teach their classmates about the variety of cultures within the school.


How to pronounce and spell ‘Kyiv’, and why it matters

25 February 2022 (The Guardian)

Kiev or Kyiv?

As Russian forces menace the Ukrainian capital and thousands flee, the very least onlookers around the world can do is learn how to say the name of the city under siege.

The short answer is simple: Ukrainians call their capital “Kyiv” (kee-yiv), the spelling, a transliteration of the Ukrainian Київ. The Russian version is “Kiev” (kee-yev).

The latter, based on transliteration from the Russian cyrillic Киев, became the internationally accepted name through the Soviet period and into the first years of this century, its recognisability enhanced perhaps by the eponymous chicken dish that became popular in the west in the 1970s.

But it is now associated with the Russification of Ukraine, and in recent years more and more publications, governments, airports and geographical dictionaries have switched the spelling to the Ukrainian variant.

“When I meet someone new, I like to pronounce their name the way they want it pronounced in their language, which is why I think it’s right to pronounce it ‘Kyiv’ as close to the Ukrainian as possible,” said Andrii Smytsniuk, Ukrainian language teacher at Cambridge University.

“Many Ukrainians see this as a sign of respect for their language and identity.”


Investment in Languages Education Could Return Double for UK Economy

22 February 2022 (RAND Corporation)

A new study from the University of Cambridge and the not-for-profit research institute RAND Europe, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, shows that investing in languages education in the UK will return more than the investment cost, even under conservative assumptions.

By quantifying the wider economic benefits to the UK economy of extending languages education in schools, researchers found that the benefit-to-cost ratios for increasing Arabic, Mandarin, French or Spanish education are estimated to be at least 2:1, meaning that spending £1 could return about £2.

Researchers used a macroeconomic model to examine UK economic performance between now and 2050 if more pupils aged between 11 and 16 — Key Stage 3 (KS3) and Key Stage 4 (KS4) — learned to speak one of four different languages so they could later use it effectively in business. The modelling was based on the Government's successful Mandarin Excellence Programme, in which extra hours are devoted to language learning without affecting other EBacc subjects and lessons are fast-paced and engaging.


Speaking in mother tongues shows heritage is a class act

15 February 2022 (Irish Times)

Roll call sounds different in fourth class at Mother of Divine Grace National School in Finglas. Here, students are more likely to respond to their name with a variety of languages such as “thi ni” (Thai) or “tutaj” (Polish) than the traditional “anseo”. Encouraging students to use their heritage language during roll call is just one way teacher Phil McCarthy promotes linguistic diversity in his classroom.

“The Thai answer is really popular because you have to hold the sound at the end. They’re all screaming that every morning,” says McCarthy.

“This is a school with diverse student population. I think there’s about 13 languages spoken in my class this year; it’s a very language-rich environment.”

McCarthy says his initial teacher training did not prepare him for teaching in a multilingual classroom.


Bòrd na Gàidhlig provides new resource for career in Gaelic teaching

8 February 2022 (The Herald)

At this time of year, we often think about changing careers so you may find Bòrd na Gàidhlig's new resource useful if you are considering a new career in teaching through the medium of Gaelic.

Following on from the commitments in the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23 to recruit, retain and educate Gaelic teachers and to advertise Gaelic teaching as a career, Bòrd na Gàidhlig has created a new resource called a padlet. The padlet complements the existing General Teaching Council for Scotland's leaflet ‘So you want to teach in Gaelic?’.


By the numbers: languages uptake in Scotland

4 February 2022 (TES)

The Scottish government's policy is that children should start learning their first additional language when they start school in P1 and then start learning another language from P5. The government says "language learning is an entitlement for all from P1 to S3".

This is known as the 1+2 languages policy, since the expectation is that pupils will learn two languages, as well as their mother tongue.

But to what extent is this long-established policy - which the government originally pledged to fully implement by the beginning of this school year (August 2021) - a reality in Scottish schools?

To mark Languages Week Scotland 2022, we take a look at the data.


Covid: Learning abroad in pandemic invaluable, say students

2 February 2022 (BBC)

For Elin Griffiths, 22, studying in France and Spain during the pandemic under the EU's Erasmus programme was "challenging" but invaluable.

The UK left that scheme following Brexit.

A £65m Welsh government education exchange programme called Taith is launching on Wednesday, which aims to provide similar opportunities.

Elin, a Cardiff University modern languages student, moved to Paris in October 2020 to work in a school. That was a week before a second national lockdown was announced in France.

Those restrictions stayed in place for six months, which meant bars and restaurants were closed.

She said: "It was challenging to move abroad in a pandemic, but I had so many opportunities that maybe I wouldn't have had if life was normal."

In her second placement, in Spain, she worked for Sevilla Football Club for three months.

The student, from Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey, said there were a number of benefits to working abroad.

She said: "It's inevitable if you're immersed in a different society your language skills are going to improve, your academic skills are going to improve.

"But at the same time there are so many personal advantages as well."


Aberdeen MRI scanner speaks in Doric dialect to comfort patients

28 January 2022 (BBC)

Patients having MRI scans in Aberdeen can now hear the instructions in the north east Scotland dialect of Doric.

The University of Aberdeen's MRI scanner has undergone a £1.2m upgrade, including new software which offers multiple language options.

It is hoped hearing instructions in a familiar language will help patients feel more relaxed in what is a potentially stressful situation.

Experts think it could also help those with dementia.


Mary Queen of Scots letter in French to be sold

28 January 2022 (BBC)

A letter written in French from Mary Queen of Scots almost 600 years ago is up for sale.

The queen sent it from Carlisle Castle two months after her escape from Lochleven Castle in Perthshire in 1568, where she had been imprisoned for nearly a year.

The document, which could fetch up to £18,000, is an appeal from her to the French ambassador in England.


LINDSAY BRUCE: Feeling a wee bit peely wally? You’re talking my language

25 January 2022 (The Courier)

After 20 years south of the border I’m finally a resident of Scotland again and I was woefully unprepared for the boorie of emotions I’d experience hearing the weel kent expressions of my childhood.

Like this week, a friend looked her (knackered and white as a sheet) child up and down before declaring them peely-wally.

‘Pale’ or ‘a bit tired looking’ would have done. But neither hold quite the same descriptive power as a good old peely-wally.

It’s like a lingual gift passed down through the generations.

I mean, are you even loved if you haven’t been awarded the Scots’ for sickly looking?

I’m quite certain If ever I went missing as a child that’s how my granny would have described me to the polis.

Words, phrases and how we pronounce them trigger emotions.

In the same way chip-shop fare always takes me back to over-chlorinated Friday nights at Motherwell baths, followed by contraband vinegary fritters with my Papa, familiar expressions in the Scots language can transport me to the past.


Robert Burns was advised by a friend not to write in Scottish verse because London readers wouldn't understand it

17 January 2022 (Daily Mail)

His poetry popularised the Scots language, introducing the world to auld lang syne, sleekit beasties and cutty sarks. 

But Robert Burns was advised not to write in Scots by a friend who thought it would limit his audience, according to new research.

A project by academics at the University of Glasgow's Centre for Robert Burns Studies looked at letters to and from Scotland's national bard.

The team looked at some 800 letters written by Burns and around 300 to 400 letters from his friends and admirers - and have put together both sides of the letter correspondence where available.

They found that, in 1787, Dr John Moore advised the poet not to write in Scots, warning that London readers would not connect with it, though Burns ignored his suggestion.

Instead, evidence suggests he may even have written more verses in Scots after getting the advice. 


Chinese dialects in decline as government enforces Mandarin

16 January 2022 (The Guardian)

Two years ago, Qi Jiayao visited his mother’s hometown of Shaoxing in eastern China. When he tried to speak to his cousin’s children in the local dialect, Qi was surprised. “None of them was able to,” recalls the 38-year-old linguist, who now teaches Mandarin in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

The decline in local dialects among the younger generation has become more apparent in recent years as China’s president, Xi Jinping, has sought to strengthen a uniform Chinese identity. Mandarin is now being spoken by more than 80% of China’s population, up from 70% a decade ago. Last month, China’s state council vowed to increase the figure to 85% within the next four years.

But the popularisation of a standard national language is often at the expense of regional languages, including dialects of the Han majority and ethnic languages such as Mongolian and Uyghur. In Inner Mongolia, for example, local regulations in 2016 allowed ethnic schools to use their own language for teaching. This policy was aimed at developing students’ linguistic skills and cultivating bilingualism. But four years later it was reversed to favour Mandarin, a move that sparked protests from the ethnic population.


Plan for pupils to learn 1,700 words for language GCSEs gets go-ahead

14 January 2022 (The Guardian)

The government is to push ahead with changes to languages teaching in schools that will result in pupils in England memorising lists of 1,700 words to pass GCSEs in Spanish, French or German.

The decision by the Department for Education (DfE) comes despite opposition from language associations, teaching unions and headteachers at state and independent schools, as well as concerns it could cause an exodus of languages teachers from the profession.

Simon Hyde, the general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of independent schools, said his members feared the narrow focus on grammar and vocabulary would put pupils off studying modern foreign languages (MFL).

“This model will not give students the confidence in their language, both at examination level and as a life skill, to take forward into further studies, careers and personal endeavours,” Hyde said.


‘He said I was gorgeous but I didn’t know what that meant’; Couples who fell in love without the same language

13 January 2022 (iNews)

The surprising highs of getting lost in translation with someone you feel chemistry with, and why interlinguistic couples sometimes end up investing more in their romance.

When Veronique Mertes met Dave, he told her she was “gorgeous” and she responded, “what does ‘gorgeous’ mean?”.

Veronique was a German-speaking Belgian and Dave was English and they didn’t speak the same language, but when they met 19 years ago while travelling in Nicaragua, they fell in love. She spoke school-level English, and Dave spoke no German. “Our communication was very limited, we could only have basic conversations,” says Veronique, a hypnotherapist.

“We didn’t have smartphones, so I couldn’t look up words he was saying. Our conversations lasted many, many hours longer than normal conversations, because it was hard to find the words.” Yet Veronique had a gut feeling about Dave. “I enjoyed being around him, even though I didn’t understand half the jokes. He had to explain them.”


Pick the habit: the best podcasts to get you into a new hobby

11 January 2022 (The Guardian)

Want to learn a language, start gardening, read more, or get into meditation for the new year? There’s a podcast for that …

Coffee Break Languages

Radio Lingua was among the first to recognise the potential of podcasts for language learning, launching Coffee Break Spanish in 2006. Now the network has a huge range of free materials for learners at every level – and not just Spanish but also French, German, Italian, Chinese, Swedish and English.


Strictly winner Rose Ayling-Ellis calls for official recognition of British Sign Language

11 January 2022 (Yahoo News)

Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis has called for British Sign Language (BSL) to be given "official" status in the UK.

The EastEnders actor, who won the series with partner Giovanni Pernice and was the dance show’s first deaf contestant, has said sign language is not currently recognised as an official language which presents a “big problem” for the deaf community.

According to the British Deaf Associal BSL was recognised as an “official” language by the UK Government on 18th March 2003, but it does not yet have any legal status unlike the Welsh, Gaelic and Cornish languages which do have legal protection.

Scotland is the only country in the UK to have given legal recognition to sign language.


I perform songs in sign language alongside famous artists

2 January 2022 (The Metro)

Looking out at thousands of people, I took a deep breath.

I was centre-stage at Ronan Keating’s 1999 Wembley concert at the age of 16, and so vulnerable.

Even though the bright spotlight was on me, I could read each and every face in the audience while they waited in anticipation. Suddenly, I saw them clapping, cheering, talking and singing but I couldn’t hear a thing because I’m deaf.

My eyes glanced to the foot of the stage at the interpreter, who cued me in when the music started. I unleashed all my frustrations, passion and my soul into a powerful visual signed performance of When You Say Nothing At All.


People flocked to language apps during the pandemic – but how much can they actually teach you?

31 December 2021 (The Guardian)

In March 2020, as the Covid pandemic took hold, the language learning app Duolingo reported double its usual number of sign-ups. Stuck inside under lockdown orders, people had time on their hands and were looking for ways to occupy it.

It wasn’t long before I joined its 500 million users in an attempt to recapture the feeling of learning Portuguese during three months spent in Brazil several years ago: that heady thrill of realising I had conveyed the meaning I meant to, the strange alchemy of suddenly understanding what people around me were saying. Could an app give me that?

Ninety days, hundreds of new words and plenty of lessons, “crowns” and “streaks” later, it didn’t feel like it. Was the app teaching me anything at all?

Entering 2022 with renewed enthusiasm to learn the language, I decided to see what the experts say.


Scottish Gaelic supporters are trying to reverse the rapid decline of the language

27 December 2021 (Eminetra/FT)

When John Finlayson was growing, almost everyone in his community on Skye was fluent in Gaelic. Despite decades of official support for what was once the dominant language in most of Scotland’s highlands and islands, Finlayson is now the only neighbour of the island family’s croft that speaks it. 


'My friends are learning to sign with me'

17 December 2021 (BBC)

Strictly Come Dancing's Rose Ayling-Ellis has helped shine the spotlight on sign language users like Phoebe.

The first-year pupil at a school in Gourock, Inverclyde, is profoundly deaf and, like Rose, is learning to dance.

Phoebe's teacher says Strictly has increased interest in the school's deaf unit and that Rose has been a great deaf role model.

The signing club also involves Phoebe's friends, who have come along to learn British Sign Language (BSL) so they can all chat together.


Language GCSEs: Under 100 'to take French, German in Wales by 2030'

9 December 2021 (BBC)

Schools in Wales could have fewer than 100 French and German GCSE entries by 2030, a report has found.

The Language Trends Wales report, which reviews foreign language teaching, called for a national strategy on languages amid a drop in GCSE entries.

The report found GCSE entries for French and German had almost halved between 2015 and 2021.

The Welsh government said the new curriculum would help expand international language teaching.

Entries for GCSE French and German declined by 11% and 12% in the past year alone, and while GCSE Spanish saw a noticeable increase over the period, numbers have "see-sawed" recently, the report said.


Can you say Squid Game in Korean? TV show fuels demand for east Asian language learning

4 December 2021 (The Guardian)

Whether it’s down to Squid Game or kawaii culture, fascination with Korea and Japan is fuelling a boom in learning east Asian languages. Japanese is the fastest growing language to be learned in the UK this year on the online platform Duolingo, and Korean is the fourth fastest.

Most of the interest is driven by cultural issues, the firm said in its 2021 Duolingo language report, which will be published tomorrow and analyses how the 20 million downloads of its platform are used.

Established elements of Japanese popular culture, such as Pokémon and video games, have been joined by a global surge in the popularity of anime such as Dragon Ball and My Hero Academia.

Duolingo said that 26% of language learners had been influenced by key cultural moments, such as the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020, and by TV shows such as Squid Game, which saw a 76% rise in Korean learners after it launched in September. A third of learners said they had chosen to watch a film or TV programme in another language.

Globally, Japanese overtook Italian to become the fifth most popular language in 2021.


Related Links

2021 Duolingo Language Report (Duolingo, 6 December 2021)

SNP conference: British Sign Language qualification needed

27 November 2021 (The National)

A qualification for British Sign Language (BSL) should be introduced into the Scottish curriculum, SNP delegates agreed.

More children should be taught BSL in primary and secondary schools as well as promoting the job as a BSL interpreter as a career pathway could help plug the current gaps.

Brian Ferguson, South Lanarkshire councillor, was the first deaf BSL user elected to a council in Scotland.

He told delegates, through BSL, that despite there being an estimated 6000 deaf BSL users in Scotland who need interpreting services, there are only around 50 to 60 interpreters.

This means there is one interpreter for every 109 deaf BSL users.


Across the globe, the diversity of language overlaps with that of the natural world

25 November 2021 (Geographical)

An overlap between populations of grizzly bears and Indigenous groups points to a wider phenomenon known as 'biocultural diversity'.

When scientists started to work in the dense pine forests of British Columbia to analyse the DNA of grizzly bears, they discovered three distinct, genetically different groups. The bears were spread across an area of 23,500 square kilometres – land that falls within the territories of the Nuxalk, Haílzaqv, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Gitga’at, and Wuikinuxv Indigenous nations, groups associated with three Indigenous language families. This latter fact proved to be hugely significant.

According to Lauren Henson, a researcher at the Rainforest Conservation Foundation, who co-led the study, none of the geographical divides that you might think would explain the formation of three different bear groups – water barriers, terrain ruggedness, ice or snow – turned out to have any real relevance. Instead, ‘the genetic groups of grizzly bears actually corresponded to the spatial locations of Indigenous language families.’ She believes that this is the first time that a species’ genetic co-occurrence with human language has been documented. The research indicates that both bears and people maintain familial links to territories that have been passed down through generations. It suggests a parallel in the resources used by both bears and people, but also a cultural equivalency between the two.


GCSEs: Heads and exam boards reject 'risky' MFL reforms

25 November 2021 (TES)

A group of nine influential education organisations, including headteachers' unions and three exam boards, have united to call on the government to rethink its reforms of GCSE modern foreign languages.

The group - which has issued a joint statement calling on the government to rethink the "risky" plans today - includes the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) as well as three exam boards (AQA, Pearson Edexcel and WJEC Eduqas).

Language associations such as the Association for Language Learning, the Independent Schools Modern Languages Association and the National Association of Language Advisers) have also called for revisions to the proposals.

In March, the government launched new draft subject content to make French, German and Spanish GCSEs “more accessible and motivating for students”.

Proposals included “streamlining” course content so that students would only be tested on what they have been taught, with pupils “expected to know” up to 1,700 different words in the language.

In April, during an online panel discussion of the changes hosted by AQA, experts warned that the changes could leave pupils being able to "talk about almost nothing".


Speaking multiple languages: The benefits of a bilingual brain

23 November 2021 (France 24)

60% of the world's population is considered bilingual. According to scientists, these are people who use two or more languages regularly in their daily lives, even if the level is not perfect. FRANCE 24's Health Editor Julia Sieger explains the benefits of a bilingual brain.


Orkney author Harry Josephine Giles calls for all Scotland's languages to be equally valued in our literature

20 November 2021 (The Herald)

The teachers who first taught me about Orkney language literature were themselves taught not to use it in school, sometimes through physical punishment. That was the case across Scotland for many folk who spoke dialects of Scots, from Buchan to Bathgate, and it's a familiar story of language suppression. Children who speak in ways not thought proper by power are made to feel uncertain of their own tongues.

As well as disconnecting us from our own history and literature, suppressing language can push many people out of education altogether. That Orcadian poems, stories and possibilities were still passed on to me as a child at school in the 90s was something language activists fought for, and I'll never stop being grateful for their work. Writers and community organisers kept the language alive, through work by authors like CM Costie and Robert Rendall, often forgotten in favour of their more famous Anglophone peers, and through dozens of other local publications.


The Mither Tongue: Scots language expert Billy Kay publishes audio version of acclaimed book

18 November 2021 (The Courier)

It has been described as essential reading for generations of Scots and Ulster Scots concerned with their identity.

A book that celebrates the Scots contribution to world literature through figures like Burns and RL Stevenson.

Now, 22 years after Scots: The Mither Tongue, was described as one of the best 100 Scottish books ever written, Newport-based author and Scots language expert Billy Kay has produced an audio version of his classic book.

Billy reveals that over many years people have have asked him why he had not recorded an audio version of this classic book.

Knowing what a huge undertaking it would be, he always cited time and other commitments as the main reasons.

The Covid-19 lockdown changed everything, however, so he finally decided to commit himself to making the historic recording.

“It’s historic, yes, because it will be the first time that iconic passages from the great Scots literary tradition have been recorded and made available in the one place,“ says Billy.


French dictionary accused of ‘wokeism’ over gender-inclusive pronoun

17 November 2021 (The Guardian)

A French reference dictionary has defended its official recognition of a gender-inclusive pronoun, after traditionalists pounced on what they called the latest incursion of US-inspired “wokeism”.

While the everyday use of “iel” – a neologism combining the French words for he and she (“il” and “elle”) – remains largely anecdotal for now, critics deem it a linguistic affront that needs to be banned.

The education minister denounced the move by the Petit Robert dictionary, supporting a lawmaker’s demand that French-language guardians at the Académie Française weigh in.

“Inclusive writing is not the future of the French language,” Jean-Michel Blanquer tweeted. “Our students, who are consolidating their basic knowledge, cannot have that as a reference,” he added.


Where have all the translators gone?

14 November 2021 (The Guardian)

Amid soaring appetite for non-English-language shows and a growing global streaming market, it ought to be a golden time for subtitle translators.

The popularity of shows such as the Korean megahit Squid Game, which attracted 111 million viewers in its first 28 days to become Netflix’s most watched series ever, the Spanish series Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) and the French drama Lupin have proved that subtitles are no block to pulling in huge global audiences. Last year Netflix reported that foreign language titles were up by more than 50% on 2019.

But despite their crucial and highly skilled role, acting as conduits between the action on screen and millions of viewers around the world, the translators who painstakingly write the streamers’ subtitles – some of whom may be paid as little as $1 (75p) per minute of programme time – do not appear to have seen the rewards filtering down to them.

So bad is the status quo that after two years in the industry, freelance translator and copywriter Anne Wanders would discourage others from going into it at all.

“It’s so sad that if anyone would ask me: ‘Oh, I saw this job listing, should I try to become a subtitle translator?’ I would have to tell them: ‘No you shouldn’t. It’s not worth your time,’” said the 40-year-old from Dortmund, Germany.

Wanders, who translates English into German for streaming vendors, including one of the world’s largest subtitling companies, enjoys the job, which she finds both creative and challenging. But the pay, which she says can work out at below minimum wage, makes it unsustainable as a single source of income.


From four-year-old to 90, age is no barrier to learning a second language

13 November 2021 (The Irish News)

From four-year-old to 90, age is no barrier to learning a second language.

That's according to South Eastern Regional College (SERC), which says it is never too late, or early, to pick up a new language.

The college's language students' range in age from Alec Thompson (4), a pupil at Bangor Central Integrated Primary School, to David McShane (90) from Helen's Bay - both of whom are enjoying learning French.

Mr McShane has progressed from basic French to an advanced level speaker (level 4) after attending the college for several years.

"A second language is a social skill and I have found it does help when you get older," he said.

"If you don't use it, you can quickly lose the vocabulary and the feel for the language.

"I think it is so important for children to learn a second language from a young age and the younger they start, the better."


Tool use and language skills are linked in the brain – and practising one improves the other

11 November 2021 (The Conversation)

Language has traditionally been considered a complex skill which mobilises brain networks specifically dedicated to linguistic processing. But in recent years, neuroscience research has returned to this idea and offered new insights.

Notably, studies have suggested that areas of the brain which control certain language functions, such as processing the meaning of words, are also involved in the control of fine motor skills.

Syntax, the ability to correctly structure words into a sentence, is one of the most important features of language. While evidence had yet to link syntax skills specifically with motor control in the brain, research published in 2019 revealed a correlation between having good syntactic ability and being skilled at using tools.

With this in mind, our international research team was interested to know whether the use of tools engages parts of the brain similar to those mobilised when we’re thinking about the construction of sentences.


Indigenous languages project urges Cop26 leaders to rethink ties to the land

3 November 2021 (The Guardian)

Western leaders at the Cop26 climate summit have been urged to embrace a far more holistic view of humanity’s place in the natural world by an art project celebrating indigenous minority languages.

The Living Language Land project has identified 25 words from minority languages and dialects around the world – including Native American Lakota, Murui, a native language of Colombian and Peru, and Scots Gaelic – that highlight each culture’s ties to their land.

Those words, streamed online with films and indigenous visual art, include a Namibian bushman’s word for magical journey; one from the Philippines to denote a forest within a forest and an indigenous Chilean word for the tangible and intangible parts of life.

They have released 26 recordings to match the number given to this summit, Cop26, including one of wind blowing near the Halley research station on the Brunt ice shelf on Antarctica, the world’s only continent without permanent inhabitants. Four come from the UK, with Welsh, Doric, the Scots language as spoken in the north-east of Scotland, and Northumbrian coastal speech joining Scots Gaelic.


How teacher collaboration can boost climate education

1 November 2021 (TES)

In this podcast coinciding with COP26, experts explain the importance of sharing best practice on climate change teaching.

Today's young people are more engaged and passionate than ever about saving the environment. In March 2019, it was estimated that 1.6 million young people across 125 countries participated in climate protests, and a new global survey led by the University of Bath reveals that environmental fears are "profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people".

Many school students are currently avidly reading announcements from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Whether it’s from the news, social media or the latest David Attenborough documentary, young people are constantly being exposed to the impact of climate change. And, as the authors of the global survey suggest, it's vital that we counteract young people's anxieties and harness their enthusiasm by giving them information on how they can connect more strongly with nature, contribute to greener choices at an individual level and join forces with like-minded communities and groups.

Yet climate change and sustainability can be challenging subjects to bring into the classroom. For this latest podcast, Tes spoke with two environmental and sustainability education experts, who explained why collaboration and an outward-looking approach to teaching these subjects are key.


Why mixing languages can improve students’ academic performance

26 October 2021 (The Conversation)

Multilingual skills that allow people to switch from one language to another or mix languages are often considered more as a problem rather than an asset.

Thus, there is no surprise that these multilingual speakers are often condemned using pejorative terms like bahasa gado-gado (“mixed-up language”) in Indonesia for mixing Indonesian language and English in a conversation.

Much research has documented the use of similar pejorative terms elsewhere. This includes bahasa rojak (salad language) in Malaysia, amulumala (verbal salad) in Nigeria, and tuti futi (broken-up) in the Panjabi-speaking community in India.

There are also more neutral-sounding terms like Singlish (Singapore), Japlish (Japan), Franglais (France/Canada), Taglish (the Philippines) and Hinglish (India) to label those who mix multiple languages.

Some argue that such multilingual practices reflect one’s inability to think in a structured and systematic way.

Formal education systems share a similar view, looking at them as a hindrance to students’ academic success as they are believed to delay the process of learning school subjects.

However, many studies have proven otherwise.

Contrary to popular opinion, this research shows multilingual practices do not have any adverse effect on students’ academic achievement. Adopting a multilingual approach in classrooms has proven to be important in increasing students’ academic performance and even closing the achievement gap between students living in cities and those in villages.

It has also been reported that multilingual students’ academic progress, particularly in reading and maths, are two to three times greater than that of their monolingual counterparts.

There are at least three main reasons why multilingual skills give students an academic edge.


The world's most unusual languages

19 October 2021 (Daily Mail)

There are many languages throughout the world that have survived only in the tiniest of pockets.

There is a language in Nepal that doesn't have a word for green, a language on two Pacific islands invented by the mutineers of HMS Bounty in the late 18th century, a language in the U.S spoken fluently by just six people and one in Mexico that calls a radio 'a thing that stands there singing'.

These and many more are explored in fascinating new book The Atlas of Unusual Languages by Zoran Nikolic (Collins). Here we pick out some of the book's most intriguing revelations, from Mexico to North Carolina and from Nepal to New Zealand.


Teach children Polish and Arabic to reflect ‘modern Britain’, schools minister says

18 October 2021 (iNews)

The teaching of foreign languages in schools should be more reflective of “modern Britain”, with greater numbers of pupils learning languages such as Arabic and Polish, the schools minister has said.

Robin Walker said he wanted to expand the “breadth” of languages being offered in England’s schools.

Mr Walker, who was appointed schools minister in last month’s reshuffle, made the comments after a visit to Cardinal Hume Catholic School in Gateshead – one of the “hubs” which the Government is using to roll out new methods for teaching languages.

He told i England had an opportunity to “drive up the capability of people to engage with language teaching”, and that there was scope for teaching more languages beyond the traditional big three of French, Spanish and German.

“One of the things we should be looking at is that actually the UK has a lot of people who speak multiple languages,” Mr Walker said.

“It was interesting looking at the figures from the language school we visited… not only were they entering lots of students in French and Spanish, but they were also entering smaller numbers in Polish, in Arabic, in GCSEs in home second languages.

“One of the things I’m interested in exploring is how we can make modern foreign languages reflect modern Britain a little bit more, and reflect the breadth of languages that we have in our communities, but also our aspirations around the world.”


Leading awarding organisation announces British Sign Language for beginners’ course

11 October 2021 (FE News)

Signature (@SignatureDeaf) the UK’s leading awarding organisation in deaf communication qualifications have today announced a new online course – British Sign Language (BSL) for beginners.

BSL for beginners is a comprehensive online course developed alongside language experts and Deaf teachers to provide communication skills and knowledge. Signature have drawn on 40 years of experience enabling hundreds of thousands of learners to complete a British Sign Language qualification.

The 2-hour immersive learning course introduces you to deaf people who share their personal experiences, and teach BSL through a range of informal clips, receptive practice, short quizzes, and vocabulary.


'Urgent' action needed to reverse decline in pupils studying languages

7 October 2021 (BBC)

More than 70 Irish teachers and speakers have warned of a "critical decline" in pupils studying Irish and other languages in schools.

They are calling for the Department of Education (DE) to recommend that all pupils should study a language at GCSE.

It is currently not compulsory.

Signatories to the open letter from the Irish language body, Gael Linn, said "urgent and decisive action" was needed to reverse a decline in pupils studying languages.

A survey carried out by the BBC in 2019 found that more than a third of schools in Northern Ireland had stopped offering French, German or Spanish at GCSE in the previous five years.

Separate exam figures also showed the number of pupils taking modern languages at GCSE had fallen by more than 40% in the past 15 years.

A more recent study from the British Council said that teaching children modern languages at primary school "all but collapsed" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A scheme to teach primary pupils additional languages was scrapped by DE due to financial cuts in 2015.


Pas de souci! The French war on saying ‘no worries’

5 October 2021 (The Conversation)

The quirks of the French language are an eternal puzzle for many foreign learners. But what students often don’t know is that they are also the matter of heated debates and controversies within France itself.

The evolution of the language and the variety of linguistic practices throughout society in France are commented upon with passion in the press, and governed by the famous Académie Française – the semi-official authority on the French language whose members, known as “immortals”, issue decrees on how it should be used.

Among the phenomena to which purists take much exception, probably none is more contentious than the now highly frequent use of “pas de souci!”, an expression mirroring the English “no problem!” or “no worries!”

The noun souci normally means worry, care or concern, but “pas de souci!” can be used in all sorts of contexts, including as an equivalent of English “all right” or even “you’re welcome”, to signify that the speaker has taken note of the other’s statement or expressed intention.

For instance, if I am sitting in a café and order a coffee, the waiter may answer “pas de souci!” to acknowledge my order. There is of course no concern or no worry at stake here.

Some, including the Académie Française, say this expression is a mistake; the immortals have ruled that it is a phrase heard “too often”, when the speaker could instead simply say “oui”.


'Some people find it very unusual that I speak Gaelic'

4 October 2021 (BBC)

Gaelic speakers of African and Caribbean descent have shared their experiences of the language in a new BBC Alba documentary.

Glaswegian student and musician Cass Ezeji says some people she meets think it is unusual she is fluent in Gaelic and also has African heritage. Her paternal grandfather is Nigerian.

Growing up, Cass went to the Glasgow Gaelic School, Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu, which teaches at both primary and secondary school levels.

Cass' parents, who do not speak Gaelic, chose the school because they thought she would get a good education there.

But Cass says she felt "a little lost" in immersive Gaelic-medium education, and among peers whose families were from the Highlands and Islands - the Western Isles are Gaelic's "heartland".

She says she argued with her mum about having to go to the school, and even felt angry about it.

The 27-year-old says: "The impression I had when I left school was that I didn't feel part of the Gaelic world.

"I didn't see myself represented in the culture so there was something of a disconnect."

But she says she has since gained an appreciation of her education and describes herself as an Afro-Gael.


Why learning a new language is good for the whole family

28 September 2021 (National Geographic)

Scientists have long known that learning a new language is good for a child’s brain development. By rearranging and creating new connections in the brain, language learning can help kids focus more easily and resist distractions, deal better with tasks that require switching from one activity to another, and perform better in school.

Learning a new language has benefits for an adult’s brain, too—plus new research suggests that it’s not as difficult as experts previously thought for adults to pick up a new language. And immersing yourself in a new language as a family might just be one of the most effective—and easiest—ways to learn a new language. 

“You’re constantly communicating with your family at home already,” says Christine Jernigan, author of Family Language Learning: Learn Another Language, Raise Bilingual Children. “All you have to do is switch to your new language and you have built-in conversation partners to practice with whenever you want—no commute or classroom needed.”

So learning a new language together? Tons of brain benefits—and maybe getting them even faster. Here are some ideas for making learning a new language your family’s newest favourite activity.


Bosses hunt for Brits who can speak different languages in hiring sprees

28 September 2021 (Scottish Sun)

Employers have revealed the top skills they’re looking for in job applicants – with the ability to speak foreign languages high on the list.

A study of 200 employers and those involved in the hiring of staff claimed it’s “never been harder” to find candidates with the desired skill set.

Other sought-after abilities include leadership, emotional intelligence, and social media savviness.

Employers said they spend an average of nearly £54,000 a year searching for the right people to fill roles through recruitment companies.

While finding staff with the right skill set is one of the biggest challenges for businesses, according to 78% of those polled.

The research, commissioned by free language learning company Drops, also found 57% of companies look for people who can speak a different language.


Scots Language Awards: Iona Fyfe among winners announced in Dundee ceremony

26 September 2021 (The National)

Scottish celebrities, artists, and speakers gathered in Dundee for the Scots Language Awards on Saturday.

The audience attended Broughty Ferry’s Gardyne Theatre for the first time since before lockdown.

They were treated to interviews with the winners of 13 awards, and writer, broadcaster and National columnist Alistair Heather hosted the evening.

Poet and social media star Len Pennie introduced live performances from Victoria McNulty, Anna Stewart, Cameron Nixon, Alison Miller, and Ellie Beaton. Public voting on the nominees was open from September 6 to 19 with a record number of votes cast.

The awards recognise the heroic efforts and work of the people and organisations who all champion Scots’ unique culture, music and words.

Cabinet Secretary for Scotland’s Languages Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “These awards demonstrate that Scots is a vital part of this country’s cultural identity, and it is crucial we encourage and nurture the creativity of those who speak the language.”


Stranded British teenager opens up world of Disney to deaf people

25 September 2021 (The Times)

Stranded thousands of miles from her school during lockdown, Mariella Satow decided to learn sign language when her GCSEs were cancelled.

Not satisfied with that challenge, she used money from dog walking to create a signing app that allows deaf children to enjoy Disney films.

Parents say it has transformed their children’s lives and Mariella, 17, is hoping to see her invention take off around the world. She is working on a similar product for Netflix, with several approaches from Silicon Valley start-ups.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


Could whistling shed light on the origins of speech?

25 September 2021 (The Guardian)

Whistled languages exist on every inhabited continent – now some scientists think similar dialects could have preceded the spoken word.

For centuries, shepherds from the small village of Aas in the French Pyrenees led their sheep and cattle up to mountain pastures for the summer months. To ease the solitude, they would communicate with each other or with the village below in a whistled form of the local Gascon dialect, transmitting and receiving information accurately over distances of up to 10 kilometres.

They “spoke” in simple phrases – “What’s the time?”, “Come and eat,”, “Bring the sheep home” – but each word and syllable was articulated as in speech. Outsiders often mistook the whistling for simple signalling (“I’m over here!”), and the irony, says linguist and bioacoustician Julien Meyer of Grenoble Alpes University in France, is that the world of academia only realised its oversight around the middle of the 20th century, just as the whistled language of Aas was dying on the lips of its last speakers.

Around 80 whistled languages have been reported around the world to date, of which roughly half have been recorded or studied, and Meyer says there are likely to be others that are either extant but unrecorded or that went extinct before any outsider logged them. 


A-level pupils should be required to study humanities subject, maths and foreign language, report suggests

23 September 2021 (The Independent)

A-level pupils should be required to study a humanities subject, mathematics and a foreign language to tackle a decline in humanities enrolments at universities, a report suggests.

The report, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute, argues that requiring maths as an A-level subject would improve the numerical abilities of humanities graduates and boost their employment prospects.

Dr Gabriel Roberts, an English teacher at a London secondary school and the report’s author, argues that the number of humanities students may rise if studying a humanities subject at university was made compulsory.

“Requiring pupils to continue a foreign language until the end of school might stem the decline in applicants for Modern Languages courses at university and lessen the social exclusivity of Classics and Modern Languages courses at leading universities,” he said.

Mandating foreign languages may also stem the long-term shortage of linguistic skills identified by employers, Dr Roberts said, a move that would benefit students following the “loss of international links likely to result from Brexit.”


Sign language could be taught to Glasgow's councillors

22 September 2021 (Glasgow Times)

British Sign Language (BSL) classes should be available to members of Glasgow City Council according to councillors who are campaigning to support those with hearing impairments.

The importance of sign language has been in the spotlight over the past year, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon having a BSL interpreter for all her briefings during the Covid pandemic.

As it stands there are just 50 BSL interpreters for the whole of Scotland, and while the council is committed to providing training for workers in key sectors, it was not clear if councillors could be provided with help learning to sign.

Earlier this week members of the general purposes committee asked if councillors and council staff could have the opportunity to attend a BSL class to help them communicate more effectively with their constituents. 


5 ways immigrant parents support children’s home language learning

20 September 2021 (The Conversation)

It is important to preserve and develop a child’s home language for their cultural, linguistic and social development. Research shows that English plays a dominant role in schools and society at large, while children’s diverse home languages are often marginalized. Languages other than English are often not welcomed or encouraged in classrooms.

Marginalizing languages beyond English in school has negative effects on children and classroom cultures by creating environments that suggest the daily language practices of children whose families speak languages other than English aren’t “good enough.” Unsurprisingly, if children feel unwelcome or disrespected in the classroom, this can adversely affect their learning engagement and academic achievement.


On-line videos give virtual taste of the islands' Gaelic culture

20 September 2021 (Stornoway Gazette)

A new collection of short videos that encourages visitors to experience and explore the Gaelic culture of the Outer Hebrides is now available online.

The six videos – produced for Outer Hebrides Tourism with the support of VisitScotland, CaMac and Bord na Gàidhlig – were developed in collaboration with local communities and community groups, and take viewers on a virtual journey through the islands, from the land raiders of Vatersay to the crofters of Ness.

The Gazette’s sister paper, The Scotsman, will be running features on Gaelic culture that link to the themes in the videos in their online edition this month.In each video, one or more islanders are interviewed in Gaelic, about a different aspect of island culture and their own personal connection with the language. Those with little or no Gaelic can follow the English subtitles.


Revamped Inverness Castle to celebrate Gaelic culture in setting ‘to rival Edinburgh Tattoo’

16 September 2021 (Press and Journal)

One of Scotland’s first Gaelic gardens will be created at Inverness Castle.

The garden is part of a plan to showcase Gaelic language and culture in the ambitious castle redevelopment.

Members of the Highland Council Gaelic committee warmly welcomed the proposals at today’s meeting.

Chairman Allan Henderson said: “It’s an impressive project and I can certainly see when the next Mod comes to Inverness, the massed choirs up there on the esplanade in an area to rival the Edinburgh Festival Tattoo any time.”

You’d be forgiven for wondering what makes a garden Gaelic.

High Life Highland, which is leading the project for the council, say the plants chosen have stories that link back to Gaelic medicines, religion and traditions.

Gaelic phrases and alphabet will be set into the stone, helping to tell the story of the ancient culture.

Elsewhere, a ‘seanchaidh’ (traditional Gaelic storyteller) will welcome visitors to the castle and allow them to discover stories from all over Highland.


The Guardian University Guide 2022: Modern Languages & Linguistics

11 September 2021 (The Guardian)

Find a course at one of the top universities in the country. The Guardian's league tables rank them all subject-by-subject, as well as by student satisfaction, staff numbers, spending and career prospects. Select Modern Languages & Linguistics from the subject dropdown box for current rankings.


How Language Classes Are Moving Past the Gender Binary

1 September 2021 (New York Times)

Languages that contain only “he” and “she” pronouns pose problems for communicating about gender identity. Here’s how some language teachers are helping.

Tal Janner-Klausner teaches Hebrew. There is nothing unusual about that, but the language presents a frustration that Mx. Janner-Klausner, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns in English, feels compelled to discuss with their students.

Hebrew, as well as French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and other languages, uses binary pronouns, which means that gender identities outside of he/she and male/female don’t exist in any formal capacity.

In Hebrew, even the word “they” is gendered. In French, “ils” refers to a group of men or a mixed-gender group, and “elles” refers to a group of all females. All nouns in gendered languages — including people — are categorized as either masculine or feminine, and any adjectives associated with these words must reflect that gender.

That presents a problem for students who are gender-nonconforming, and, of course, for the speakers of the language in general. Is it possible for learners of a gendered language to refer to themselves and others when their identities are not represented?


Bilingual people with language loss due to stroke can pose a treatment challenge

31 August 2021 (The Conversation)

New research shows that computational modeling can predict how bilingual stroke patients will respond to language treatment – and that could help clinicians identify which language to focus treatment on and increase chances for improvement in both.

Aphasia is a speech and language disorder often caused by stroke. Bilingual people with aphasia typically experience difficulty retrieving words in both of their languages. While language therapy can help them improve their ability to communicate, it’s not often clear to clinicians which language to target in treatment.


New fund will encourage island communities to increase use of Gaelic

23 August 2021 (Press and Journal)

A new fund is giving island communities a financial incentive to speak Gaelic more and help save the language.

The Gaelic Community Fund is being piloted in the Highlands, the Western Isles and Argyll and Bute.

It aims to encourage innovative ways to increase use of the language in its heartland.

Set up by Community Land Scotland (CLS), with support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, it is mainly targeting community-owned areas.


Global Britain needs to improve its language learning

17 August 2021 (Financial Times)

In a classroom this summer at Azbuka, a London bilingual primary school of which I am a governor, the children switched easily between English and Russian as they designed colourful posters in the two languages to help learn about coronavirus, climate change and mental health. Not all have a Russian parent, including my son, who attended its Saturday complementary school some years ago. But their ability to absorb languages and cultures in a creative and engaging way is impressive and provides a lesson for Britain’s global ambitions. 


The lessons from Ireland that could help save Gaelic in Scotland

15 August 2021 (The Scotsman)

Anna Nic Dhonncha is at work at a florists in Carraroe, County Galway, where folk drift in and out of the shop, exchanging the polite chat of the day in Irish.

Irish is the language of Anna’s home, her school life, her working life – and also her future.

Anna, 18, said: “I was brought up with Irish with my mum, my dad and my grandparents. I was schooled in Irish, everything in this community is done in Irish. In the shop we speak it. If you go to the library, it is spoken there. For me as a young person, it’s a big thing to have Irish and people want to learn it.

"I want to do primary school teaching – that it the dream. I want to pass it down to children, and then one day to my own family too.”


This major web browser is first to be available in Scots language

10 August 2021 (The National)

A global browser has become the first major software available in the Scots language.

Users will now be able to select the new language option in Mozilla Firefox thanks to an Edinburgh-based company.

The project, led by localization provider Rubric, seeks to promote the language and will be available for users from August 10.

Recognition of the Scots language has grown recently in Scottish schools, parliament, and on social media. However, speakers have had limited options for software in their own language.

Rubric hopes that this new language option will change that by allowing learners and fluent speakers to browse the web in Scots.


Related Links

New internet browser written in Scots language (The Scotsman, 11 August 2021)

Firefox’s Scots web browser is perfect for Windaes (and Macs) (The Times, 12 August 2021)

Latin to be introduced at 40 state secondaries in England

31 July 2021 (The Guardian)

Latin is to be taught at state schools across England in an effort to counter the subject’s reputation as one that is “elitist” and largely taught at private schools.

A £4m Department for Education (DfE) scheme will initially be rolled out across 40 schools as part of a four-year pilot programme for 11- to 16-year-olds starting in September 2022.

According to a British Council survey, Latin is taught at key stage three in less than 3% of state schools, compared with 49% of independent schools.

The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “We know Latin has a reputation as an elitist subject which is only reserved for the privileged few. But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to put an end to that divide.”

He added that there should be “no difference in what pupils learn at state schools and independent schools”, adding: “Which is why we have a relentless focus on raising school standards and ensuring all pupils study a broad, ambitious curriculum.”

Latin, Williamson said, can help students with learning other languages and other subjects such as maths and English.


Coronation Street's Gemma wows fans with her impressive use of sign language

30 July 2021 (Daily Star)

Corrie fans on Twitter were impressed with actress Dolly-Rose Campbell, who plays Gemma Winter on the soap, for being able to learn British Sign Language for her role during a sensitive storyline on deafness.


Police carry out ‘language audit’ in drive to encourage Gaelic speakers

12 July 2021 (The Times)

For decades police chiefs have recruited Highlanders and Islanders, often Gaels, to keep order in Scotland’s cities, but now they are trying to find out how many are left in their ranks.

Police Scotland have carried out a Gaelic audit to calculate how many officers and staff speak the language — and how many it, ideally, would need to do so.


Social media duo set to front Gaelic language initiative

11 July 2021 (Grampian Online)

BBC presenters and social media stars Joy Dunlop and Calum Maclean are to lead SpeakGaelic, a new language learning initiative aiming to transform take up of the language.

SpeakGaelic’s exciting and ambitious new Gaelic learning resources will provide a comprehensive framework for Gaelic language learning across TV, iPlayer, BBC Sounds, web, face-to-face classes, YouTube and other social media to attract and inspire learners and speakers.


GCS-Si: Spanish to become most popular language in British classrooms within five years

8 July 2021 (The Telegraph)

Spanish will become the most popular language in British classrooms by 2026, figures suggest.

It took over from French as the most popular A-level language in 2019 and is now set to become the modern language of choice for GCSEs in the next five years.

Spanish has soared in popularity in recent years, while uptake of both French and German has seen a sharp decline.

“For the first time since records began, Spanish attracted over 100,000 entries, almost double the 2005 statistic,” the British Council’s annual language trends report said.

“If current trends continue, it is likely that Spanish will be the most popular GCSE language by 2026.”


Millions of pupils in England had no language teaching in lockdowns – survey

8 July 2021 (The Guardian)

Millions of children did not receive any language tuition during lockdowns in England, the British Council has said.

The council’s annual survey of English primary and secondary schools found that more than half of primary school pupils and 40% of those at secondaries did not do any language learning during the first national lockdown. And in January and February’s lockdown, 20% of all pupils had no language education.

This will inevitably affect take-up at GCSE and A-level. The report shows that the government will fail to meet its target of three-quarters of pupils taking a modern language GCSE by 2022, if current trends continue.


Related Links

Most primaries stopped teaching languages in lockdown (TES, 8 July 2021) - note, subscription required to access full article

Gaelic in crisis: A year on from report claiming the language ‘could collapse in a decade’, what has changed?

2 July 2021 (Press and Journal)

Today marks one year since a study was published warning that Gaelic was at risk of collapse within a decade.

The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community was compiled by researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Language Sciences Institute and Soillse, a multi-institutional research collaboration.

It was said to be the most comprehensive social survey on the state of Gaelic communities ever conducted.

The findings seemed to set alarm bells ringing. But 12 months on, what has changed?

According to the report’s author Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, not a whole lot.

Mr Ó Giollagáin, professor of Gaelic research at UHI, believes there is still an impasse between Gaelic bodies and island communities over language decision-making.

He said there is need for “root and branch reform” and that new thinking and alternative views on a way forward should be considered.

‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community’ was published on July 2 last year.

Researchers studied the use of the language in the Western Isles, in Staffin in Skye and in Tiree. In these areas, Gaelic speakers could total just 11,000, most of them over 50.

The report warned Gaelic will collapse as a viable community language within a decade unless a radical new approach is taken to revitalise it.

Campaigners say Gaelic-speaking communities have been ignored and marginalised by policy makers and called for more local decision-making.


What next for Gaelic – new parliament, new start?

25 June 2021 (Bella Caledonia)

This week has seen a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the future direction of Gaelic policy, on a backbench motion tabled by Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles), with significant cross-party support. According to Allan, ‘The next parliamentary term will be important in securing the status and vitality of the Gaelic language. The SNP outlined the most ambitious commitments for Gaelic in the history of the Scottish Parliament in our 2021 election manifesto.’ To what extent is this true, and what kinds of progress in Gaelic development can we hope to see in the next few years?


Thirty-five jobs at Loganair saved from the axe after upskilling initiative

14 June 2021 (Glasgow Times)

Jobs at a Scottish airline have been saved from the axe thanks to a new training course.

Thirty-five cabin crew members at Loganair, who are based at Glasgow Airport, were at risk of redundancy. Through Unite the union and Scottish Union Learning, the stewards negotiated with the company to use the Covid Response Fund to mitigate compulsory redundancies and provide them with opportunities to upskill. This included courses on British Sign Language, Autism Awareness and Spanish delivered by City of Glasgow College.

Loganair have now signed no compulsory redundancy agreements which has given workers job security.


Lilian Thuram: Amid England-Scotland debate, France legend and anti-racism campaigner has say on taking knee - and much more

13 June 2021 (The Scotsman)

It can feel as if there are two Lilian Thurams. 

One is the iconic French footballer. A defender who, across a stellar career that took him from Monaco to Parma, Juventus and finally Barcelona, became his country’s most capped player, and the cornerstone of the World Cup triumph in 1998 and the European Championships two years later.

The other Thuram is the devoted and passionate rights campaigner that the 49-year-old has become since his playing days ended. A man who established a Foundation For Education Against Racism, and has turned to the written word, with his first book, My Black Stars, now translated into English.

Yet, Thuram – inspired to write it because slaves were the only people of his skin colour he was told about in school, not scientists, explorers, philosophers and the so many more black pioneers that he has chronicled – doesn’t have to think twice when asked about the legacy he hopes for.

“It isn’t difficult,” he said, speaking after the book’s launch hosted by Scotland s National Centre for Languages/University of Strathclyde this week. “I’m extremely proud of winning the World Cup, and all that I did in my career. But at the end of the day being a footballer was my job. Fighting for equality is my life, though, what makes me proudest, and how I would like to be remembered.”


What makes someone bilingual? There’s no easy answer

9 June 2021 (The Conversation)

It’s estimated that half the world’s population is bilingual, and two-thirds of the world’s children grow up in an environment where several languages intersect. But while bilingualism is common, its definitions are varied. They are often based on people’s experiences or feelings about language – what they convey and what they represent.

The question also divides linguists. While some emphasise cultural integration as the most important factor, others say that only an individual with equivalent mastery of both languages can truly be considered bilingual.

In 1930, linguist Leonard Bloomfield defined bilingualism as the complete control of two languages, as if each were a mother tongue. This is an idealised vision of a perfect, balanced bilingualism, assuming equivalent written and oral skills in both languages. According to this definition, a bilingual speaker is the sum of two monolinguals. However, this type of bilingualism is extremely rare, and in reality, bilingual people have varied language profiles. Each is unique in their relationship to language.

There are other theories of bilingualism. The Canadian linguist William F Mackey defines it as the alternating use of two or more languages, while Swiss scholar François Grosjean argues that people who are bilingual use two or more languages in their everyday activities. Vivian Cook, from the UK, defines a bilingual person as a multi-skilled individual who develops language skills consistent with the context of acquisition and use of the second language. Thus, an individual may be considered bilingual even if he or she has only a partial command of the second language.

Where does that leave us? Today, a working definition of bilingualism would correspond to the regular and alternating use of at least two languages by an individual – a category that applies to several million speakers.


Knowledge of medicinal plants at risk as languages die out

8 June 2021 (The Guardian)

Knowledge of medicinal plants is at risk of disappearing as human languages become extinct, a new study has warned.

Indigenous languages contain vast amounts of knowledge about ecosystem services provided by the natural world around them. However, more than 30% of the 7,400 languages on the planet are expected to disappear by the end of the century, according to the UN.

The impact of language extinction on loss of ecological knowledge is often overlooked, said the study’s lead researcher, Dr Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, a biologist from the University of Zurich. “Much of the focus looks at biodiversity extinction, but there is a whole other picture out there which is the loss of cultural diversity,” he said.

His team looked at 12,000 medicinal plant services associated with 230 indigenous languages in three regions with high levels of linguistic and biological diversity – North America, north-west Amazonia and New Guinea. They found that 73% of medicinal knowledge in North America was only found in one language; 91% in north-west Amazonia; and 84% in New Guinea. If the languages became extinct, the medicinal expertise associated with them probably would too. Researchers expect their findings from these regions to be similar in other parts of the world.

“The loss of language will have more critical repercussion to the extinction of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants than the loss of the plants themselves,” said Cámara-Leret.


Ofsted: 9 barriers facing languages teaching

7 June 2021 (TES)

A review into modern languages teaching in England's schools has today been published by schools inspectorate Ofsted.

It identifies the “pressured position” of languages in English schools and states that “there are many barriers that still need to be overcome for languages to flourish”.


France plots an EU presidency en français, s’il vous plaît

7 June 2021 (Politico)

Meetings in French. Notes in French. Debates in French. More French classes for EU civil servants.

Forget Euro English. Forget Globish. France is determined to make 2022 the year of the French language. 

Ah, je m’excuse : l’année de la langue française

Seven months before taking over the EU’s rotating Council presidency, the French government is mulling plans to revive the declining use and visibility of la langue de Molière

The French government is earmarking money to offer more French classes to EU civil servants. Officials are contemplating hosting French-language debates featuring the country’s crème de la crème.

And then there are the meetings. 

During the country’s presidency, French diplomats said all key meetings of the Council of the EU will be conducted in French (with translations available). Notes and minutes will be French-first. Even preparatory meetings will be conducted in French. 

If a letter arrives from the European Commission in English, it will go unanswered — Le français est nécessaire.


Can digital learning be a good thing? How e-Sgoil is creating success stories across Scotland

6 June 2021 (Press and Journal)

Emily Crawford had never met her teacher when she won a UK-wide mandarin speaking competition.

She proved the value of digital learning when she took first place at the British Council Mandarin Speaking Competition in May, outperforming students who had more experience with the language and more traditional instruction.

Emily started her language journey through e-Sgoil, the Stornoway-based digital learning school that connects students to learning opportunities they can’t get where they live.

The school was founded to connect schools spread across the Western Isles. Now it connects students and teachers around the world.

When schools were closed during lockdowns, digital learning dominated conversations about education. At e-Sgoil, leaders, teachers and students hope to prove digital learning can be a positive experience.


How many languages can Novak Djokovic speak?

5 June 2021 (Essentially Sports)

Most of the sporting personalities in Europe are accustomed to multiple languages. Coming to tennis, all the top, well-established players are familiar with a number of languages. Especially, when it comes to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the Serb speaks 11 different languages and one can easily term him a ‘polyglot’.

One of the most interesting qualities of Novak Djokovic is his desire to learn a few sentences, well enough to converse with locals belonging to that particular region. For instance, when the 34-year-old player travels to various tournament destinations on Tour, he has a will to pick up a few local lines, such are his liking for languages.


School trips to UK from EU could halve as Brexit hits cultural exchanges

4 June 2021 (The Guardian)

French and German educational trip organisers bringing as many as 750,000 school pupils to the UK every year have warned that tougher post-Brexit entry requirements are likely to cut the number of young Europeans visiting Britain by half.

“We’ve already seen a big fall-off in interest,” said Edward Hisbergues, the sales manager of a leading French operator, PG Trips. “My business was 90% UK, 10% Ireland; now it’s all about Ireland. Schools are inquiring about visits to the Netherlands or Malta.”

The British government has rejected requests from organisers to exempt children taking part in short organised educational trips from new passport and visa measures due to come into effect on 1 October, saying they are needed to strengthen Britain’s borders.

The organisers said many thousands of UK host families, language schools, hotels and other businesses around the country, and especially in cities such as Canterbury that specialise in the educational market, risked suffering a significant economic impact.

They also said the new border restrictions could inflict broader and longer-term damage to Britain’s relations with Europe.

School trips “foster intercultural understanding and reduce prejudice”, wrote the German federation of leading school trip organisers, whose members run 7,000 trips a year to the UK representing more than 1.5m overnight stays.

“They forge lifelong connections with the UK, increase tolerance for people, cultures and different ways of living and thinking, and help the acquisition of language skills in the internationally most important language.”

Hisbergues said school trips abroad “really open eyes. They can inspire kids and change the course of young lives.”


Gaelic campaigners accuse SNP of 'sidelining' crisis facing language

31 May 2021 (The Herald)

Gaelic campaigners have accused the SNP Government of "sidelining" the crisis facing the language as they called for urgent talks over its future.

In an open letter, new campaign group Guth nan Siarach said speakers are "effectively excluded from the decision-making processes for our native language in its own place". 

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Catching up with the rest of the world: The foreign languages revolution in Scottish schools

30 May 2021 (Press and Journal)

Scottish schools are undergoing a revolution in foreign language learning in an attempt to reverse generations of neglect.

After years of being derided as ‘lazy’ linguists abroad, there are plans to produce a multilingual workforce.

Few school systems demand less foreign language learning from their children than those in the UK.

This is not helped by having a native language that is the ‘lingua franca’ of the world.

But a Scottish Government policy is setting out to change all that.

Under the 1+2 Languages initiative, pupils will learn their own language (L1) plus two others (L2 and L3).

The L2 will be taught from Primary 1, and the L3 from Primary 5 to 7. There will be compulsory teaching of at least one foreign language until S3.

Education bosses will fully implement the “ambitious” policy for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Based on the last Scottish Government survey in 2019, 88% of primary schools – approximately 1,760 schools – were delivering the full L2 entitlement.

This already represents significant progress. Anyone in their 30s who went to a Scottish state school won’t have studied foreign languages until secondary school.

The Scottish Government has spent more than £45million since 2013 on increasing foreign language learning in schools.

Teachers are currently being provided with training and support in readiness for the changes.


The trials of teaching a ‘new’ script in a virtual world

24 May 2021 (THE)

Imagine you’re 18 years old and you’re just beginning to learn how to read and write in a language you’ve never heard or spoken before. Not only that, but you have to learn it remotely, sitting online in front of a machine with a keyboard that, most likely, doesn’t have the letters of the language you’re about to learn. You’d be forgiven for asking yourself why you’re learning this language. And why you’re learning these strange-looking scripts.

This is likely the current situation of many students who are willing to learn a non-Roman language with a completely different script and great heritage, such as Arabic, Chinese or Hebrew.

But there are many other challenges that will arise during the learning process, particularly when doing so online. First, students face scripts that are inherently different from Roman languages. In the case of Arabic and Hebrew, students have to write from right to left. Written Chinese, as a logo syllabic script, contains different components and needs to follow certain stroke orders to write each character appropriately. 

When choosing a tech tool to incorporate in a language classroom, teachers need to examine the tool closely because many technological tools are Roman-languages oriented.


5 ways to teach global citizenship and collaboration

24 May 2021 (TES)

With global citizenship more important than ever, here are some ideas for international collaboration between schools.

Whether students were locked down in London or Lagos, millions of young people around the world experienced what it was like to have their learning disrupted and now understand, to some degree, what it means not to have free movement or access.

“The pandemic has created a unique window of insight into the global challenges that we all face,” says Carl McCarthy, executive headteacher at GLF Schools multi-academy trust.

And this is something he’s tried to delve into with his students, noticing the disparity in provision that some young people face nationally, as well as globally. But he has also been celebrating the staggering kindness, innovation and teamwork we’ve witnessed, and he has been harnessing the technology that brings together citizens in opposite corners of the world.

“In this new, post-Brexit, global-facing context, we have the opportunity for our students to build knowledge and understanding together with fellow students from around the world – all who have been facing similar challenges at the same time and all who have seen similar strengths in human spirit and the triumph of science and technology to offer solutions to some of the greatest problems that we have collectively faced,” says McCarthy.


Why English-speakers should not give up on foreign languages

22 May 2021 (The Economist)

Aston University in Birmingham is closing the department that teaches languages and translation. The University of Sheffield stands accused of sending its language students on dumbed-down courses to save money. Fewer pupils at British schools are taking foreign-language exams (a drop in French, the most popular choice, accounts for most of the decline). A hasty analysis might see this trend as a nationalist, populist, post-Brexit mindset at work. But it has been gathering for a long time, not just in Britain but in America, and not just in the Brexit and Trump eras, but well before them.

The tragic attack on America of September 11th 2001 had one positive consequence. Many Americans realised how entangled their lives were with those of people around the world, and saw that they often did not understand their counterparts’ hopes and fears. Some patriotically applied to join the diplomatic and intelligence services; a few swotty types resolved to learn foreign languages. The number of students studying Arabic at university soared (albeit from a very low base). But the country’s attention has since wandered. 

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SNP's Karen Adam makes history as first MSP to take oath in sign language

13 May 2021 (The Herald)

Karen Adam MSP has made history as the first parliamentarian to take the oath in British Sign Language (BSL).

The SNP politician won the Banffshire and Buchan Coast seat in the North East of Scotland in last week's Scottish Parliament election with 14,920 votes. 

She was previously a councillor in the Mid-Formartine ward of Aberdeenshire where she was elected in 2017 and is a passionate advocate for BSL.

[..] In all, the Scottish Parliament will hear 23 oaths and affirmations in different dialects and languages other than English.


From London to Beijing on the old Silk Road – a photo essay

13 May 2021 (The Guardian)

Taken on a 25,000-mile trip across 16 countries, these images capture cities, landscapes and people along the trading route – and the pre-Covid freedom of cross-border travel.

The article includes links to The Silk Road: A Living History, an open-air photography exhibition by Christopher Wilton-Steer and presented by the Aga Khan Foundation, which is open at Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, until 16 June 2021, with talks and online exhibits for those unable to attend.


Ofsted plan to hit 90% MFL target is 'unrealistic'

6 May 2021 (TES)

School leaders say primaries and secondaries working more closely on languages won't be enough to meet EBacc target.

Headteachers’ leaders have warned that schools cannot be expected to meet the government English Baccalaureate (EBacc) targets without more language teachers coming into the system.

Ofsted has suggested that getting primary and secondary schools to work together more closely on languages could help to meet the government targets of having 90 per cent of students studying the subjects needed for the EBacc by 2025.

However, the Association of School and College Leaders has said that Ofsted’s idea is unrealistic and warned that achieving the Department for Education’s target will be impossible because of a lack of language teachers in the system.

Ofsted has been producing a series of reports looking in depth at subject teaching following a series of inspections carried out before the Covid pandemic.

In its most recent blog on the teaching of foreign languages, inspectors said that they did not see much evidence of a joined-up approach to language teaching between key stage 2 and key stage 3.

It is suggested that more focus on progression between primary and secondary schools would support the government's EBacc target for 2025 of having 90 per cent of students studying for the qualifications needed.

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In Short, Europe: Happy Together review – a union uplifted by humour

4 May 2021 (The Guardian)

In the wake of Brexit, there’s a defiant note in the overarching theme – Happy Together – of this year’s survey of European shorts, brought to us by EUNIC London, an umbrella organisation for EU cultural institutions, and pulled together by London-based curator Shira MacLeod.

The In Short, Europe short film festival, takes place online from 7-16 May. 


Scotland's main political parties back Fife girl's call for free BSL tuition

4 May 2021 (Planet Radio)

We can reveal every main political party in Scotland is backing a Fife girl's campaign for free sign language tuition.

Niamdh Braid's calls for extra funding to allow every deaf child to get support from the age of 5 have been heard.

The 12-year-old, who taught herself BSL, hopes it'll ensure no other youngster goes without.

I'm really excited that my campaign's been taken on as it means deaf children have the opportunity to learn BSL and it makes communication a lot easier for them," she said.

The Glenrothes schoolgirl started her push for change two years ago, shortly after her rendition of Lewis Capaldi's Someone You Loved caught the popstar's attention.

Niamdh later met with the singer at an event backstage, and performed a sign language duet alongside him.

The SNP pledged to provide additional funding for councils to roll out free tuition in its manifesto, with Scottish Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens following suit.

Mum Sam believes it's a vital step forward for many families.


Free Gaelic lessons for Glasgow City Council staff

3 May 2021 (BBC)

Fèisean nan Gàidheal has developed a course for Glasgow City Council staff as part of the authority's aim to develop Gaelic in the city.

The Gaelic arts organization is working with the council after many staff indicated that they would like to learn the language.

The online lessons for adults will be available over nine weeks and the course will start on the 4th of May.


United Nations youth ambassador accolade for Carnoustie’s Alexandra on Chinese Language Day

29 April 2021 (The Courier)

An Angus student has been named among a select band of youth ambassadors in a United Nations celebration of the Chinese language.

Alexandra McCombie, from Carnoustie received the honour during the organisation’s Chinese Language Day celebrating one of the six official languages of the UN.

The seven recipients received the accolade during a live video ceremony from Geneva.

Alexandra, together with brothers Robin and Owen Wilson of Irvine and Elgin’s Brodie Lawrence were nominated for a short film project they completed.

The work, Spring Memories, explored their experiences whilst studying Mandarin and Chinese culture for a year in China in 2017.

The four initially met in 2016 whilst attending a short summer immersion school in Tianjin and Beijing.


Stornoway Primary School Boy Wins Gaelic Award Four Years After Arriving From Syria

26 April 2021 (Stornoway Gazette)

A Stornoway Primary School Pupil, whose family moved to Lewis from war-torn Syria, has gone viral this week after receiving an award for the progress he has made in learning Gaelic.

Ten year old Abdullah Al Nakeeb moved to Stornoway from Homs, four years ago. Now in Primary Six, Abdullah has a good grasp of the local language.

The Al Nakeeb family said: “We are really proud of Abdullah, he loves going to school here and Gaelic has become one of his favourite subjects.

"Addullah always works really hard and it is nice to see him get praise for all his efforts.

“We never expected our son to learn the language but since moving here he has managed to pick up Gaelic very quickly.

"His younger brother Majd has also got a good grasp of the language and received a certificate for his progress in December.

“Hopefully Abdullah’s brothers will continue to follow in his footsteps, it would be great to have them all speaking a new language.”


The case for diving into another language

21 April 2021 (Financial Times)

I’m a rootless cosmopolitan, so we’re moving the family to Spain for a year. The kids are up for it. Growing up with anglophone parents in Paris, they speak French and English, and once you know one Romance language, learning another is a cinch. “Lexical similarity” is the measure of overlap between word sets of different languages; the lexical similarity between French and Spanish is about 0.75 (where 1 means identical).

I want the children to have such good Spanish that they can say everything, understand everything, have deep friendships and be fully themselves in the language for life. That’s what matters, not perfect grammar.


A Linguistic Guide to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

21 April 2021 (Wired)

Invading my own country has been one of the most surreal experiences of playing Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, and the variety of languages included in the game makes it one of the most thought-provoking.

Assassin’s Creed is an award-winning historical action game series known for putting players in the middle of transformative events in history. Valhalla is set during the Viking invasions of Britain, during which the main character, Eivor, and their brother Sigurd embark on a quest to conquer a new land. They travel by boat from their native country Norway to a place that is home to new Viking settlers, eager to forge their own legacy of glory. This gave me an outsider's perspective of my own country, eavesdropping on everyday conversations in busy settlements and deciphering the origin of war cries on mountainsides.

I was interested in the variety of languages and dialects used in the game—which takes place in Norway, England, and beyond. Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft put an impressive amount of effort into accurately representing the languages included. A variety of specialists and translators were brought on board by Ubisoft to bring the game world to life.


SNP announce plans to explore creation of recognised Gaelic-speaking area

14 April 2021 (The Herald)

The SNP has announced plans to secure the future of Gaelic by investing in education and exploring the creation of a recognised Gaelic-speaking area. 

The party said it will work to ensure Gaelic flourishes throughout Scotland as well as in its traditional heartlands if it is re-elected in May.

It also said it would "review the functions and structures" of Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG), the quango responsible for promoting the language. 

BnG has been the focus of criticism over its performance. 

The SNP said it would look into creating a recognised "Gàidhealtachd" to raise levels of language competence and encourage the provision of more services in Gaelic.

The Gaidhealtachd is the area of Scotland where people speak Gaelic and usually refers to the Highlands and islands. 


One in five students say bad A-level advice led to lack of degree choice – poll

25 March 2021 (The Guardian)

One in five students at university say they were unable to study degree subjects that interested them because they didn’t receive good advice from their school on which A-levels and GCSEs to pick, a poll shows.

The students had been unable to study degrees such as medicine, dentistry, maths, economics and languages because these courses require specific qualifications.

Two in five of the 27,000 first- and second-year students at UK universities, including those from overseas, polled by the University and College Admissions Service (Ucas) said they would have made different choices if they had received better careers advice.


Six Nations 2021: France v Scotland - What do you know about Scotland's French connections?

25 March 2021 (BBC)

Scotland tackle France on Friday aiming to put an end to their 22-year wait for success in Paris.

The hosts need a thumping victory to clinch the Six Nations title, while Scotland can earn a best-ever second-place finish if they can pull-off an eight-point winning margin.

Over the years, Scotland's players and Townsend have enjoyed an eventful relationship with France, but how much do you know about their French connections?

Test your knowledge with our quiz.


Gaelic Scotland: Ancient speakers named the landscape depending on its usefulness

18 March 2021 (The Herald)

The importance of nature and Scotland's environment to its ancient Gaelic-speaking people has been revealed in a new report. 

Gaelic writer and broadcaster Roddy Maclean (Ruairidh MacIlleathain) examined placenames in the landscape, folklore, stories, poems and songs.

He found a wealth of evidence left behind about the ways in which the natural world was useful and valuable, such as clean air, fertile soils and timber; as well as recreation and spiritual benefits.

His analysis shows that nature was fundamental to the earliest people and subsequent generations who lived and thrived in Scotland.

Report author, Roddy Maclean, said: “My research highlights the strong, abiding presence of nature in the Gaelic language and culture in Scotland.

"While we’re currently re-learning how important nature is in our modern way of life, the benefits were well known by our ancestors – as can be seen in the original Gaelic names and stories that have endured in the world around us.

“The Gaels knew that we’re all connected to the natural world, and that human life depends on nature for survival – something that’s as true today as it was back then.”


Obituary: Jacqueline Munro-Lafon, doyenne of the French community in Scotland

17 March 2021 (The Herald)

Jacqueline Munro-Lafon was the doyenne of the French community in Scotland, an iconic and much-loved figure. On February 13 she died peacefully in Glasgow, in the presence of her son and daughter-in-law, a fortnight after her hundredth birthday.

Jacqueline Lafon was born in 1921, in Paris like four generations of her family before. Her father was a wine merchant, and the family lived in the Latin Quarter, that alluring fusion of bourgeois elegance, intellectual enquiry, and student buzz. After leaving school, she undertook a journalism degree, her life seemingly mapped out. The Second World War was to change everything.


The health of UK language study is lost in translation

9 March 2021 (THE)

Grim statistics on single-honours enrolments bely an explosion in joint-honours provision, says Katherine Astbury.

Languages are in decline in UK secondary schools. This is well known and barely counts as news these days. It started well before the Covid pandemic and Brexit piled on additional pressures.

This has had a knock-on effect on universities. The University of Hull is the latest in a growing list of institutions to announce the closure of language degrees. A Times Higher Education article last week with the alarming headline “Languages decline see numbers drop to zero at UK universities” added to a long line of pieces heralding impending doom.

But the figures initially quoted for the universities of Warwick, Southampton and Newcastle baffled colleagues at all three institutions because they bore no relation to the reality on the ground. Why then did the article – and the Ucas figures it was based on – suggest that acceptances had shrunk by so much?  

The answer lies in a shift in student applications away from single-honours degrees and towards combining specialist language learning and a non-language subject. The figures took no account of the fact that students are now much more likely to study two or three languages alongside another discipline than to focus on one language alone.

Of course that term “alone” is itself misleading. Even a single-honours degree will involve the study of the linguistics, literature, film, politics, art and culture of the countries where that language is spoken. 

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French senior citizens link up with language students in lockdown

7 March 2021 (The Guardian)

After spending a third of his placement in France stuck in lockdown, modern languages student Elliot Bellman was worried that his conversation skills might suffer. But his weekly chats with Mme Tolu, a Parisian care home resident in her 80s, have helped keep his fluency up to scratch.

“During the pandemic it’s difficult to travel and have those normal experiences, going out and talking to new people,” said Bellman, 20, a third year student at the University of Warwick. “So this allows me to keep talking to someone in French. And Mme Tolu doesn’t have any family around her any more, so I feel like I am helping somewhat with the loneliness. It’s mutually beneficial.”

He is one of 107 students across the world who have been matched with a senior citizen in France as part of the ShareAmi scheme, which aims to combat the isolation felt by many older people during France’s strict lockdowns while helping language students unable to travel abroad to develop their skills.


Singer wins campaign to persuade Spotify to recognise Scots language for first time

5 March 2021 (The Scotsman)

An award-winning singer has claimed victory in her campaign to persuade music industry giants Spotify to recognise Scots as a language.

Iona Fyfe, from Huntly, in Aberdeenshire, has persuaded Spotify to create a Scots listing after writing an open letter to the company in December which was widely shared on social media.

She noticed Scots was the only minority language in Britain to be omitted by the streaming giant’s site, which had listings for Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Manx, Cornish and Welsh.

The case was raised in the Scottish Parliament by SNP MSP Clare Adamson who wrote to Spotify boss Daniel Ek to press for a change.

The 23-year-old also tackled a Spotify editor, Laura Ohls, on the issue when she attended a virtual music industry convention last month.

Ohls later wrote to Fyfe to tell her that Scots had been added to the platform – just days before she was due to release a new single, The Wild Geese, today.

Spotify told her: “We can’t thank you enough for flagging to us and thank you for your patience in us getting this addressed.”

In her open letter, the former Scots Singer of the Year, said: “Scots is not a technical tool or feature, it is a recognised language in which people speak and sing in. A language that people release music in.”


Related Links

Iona Fyfe: Singer in Spotify Scots success (The Herald, 5 March 2021)

How Scottish Gaelic is helping protect Scotland’s seas

5 March 2021 (The Conversation)

Regulations brought in following the UK’s departure from the EU have delayed the export of live shellfish to Europe, causing entire lorry loads of lobsters and langoustines to expire in Scotland’s ports.

Fishing is a relatively small part of the UK’s economy, but fishing rights dominated much of the Brexit negotiations with the European Union. And with the UK free of the EU’s environmental protections, fishing is once more a battleground for competing ideas in marine conservation.

While these debates nearly always concern numbers – catch quotas, stock levels, prices and tariffs – focusing on these quantifiable aspects alone can lead us to overlook the values that keep people fishing in the first place.

Our research on inshore fishing in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides – a sparsely populated island chain off the west coast – took us from boats to processing plants and archives, revealing a commitment to sustainability that’s rooted in more than just legislation. We found that nurturing the culture and language of these islands is as important as protecting wildlife to preserve a thriving marine environment for generations to come.

Around 75% of fishermen in the Outer Hebrides are Gaelic speakers, far higher than the 61% of speakers for the islands’ population as a whole. Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language – related to, but quite distinct from Irish Gaelic – once spoken across much of Scotland, yet now primarily confined to its westernmost isles. The language declined over the 20th century and now has around 60,000 speakers.

Fishermen’s daily use of the language at work helps pass it on to the next generation, as young people become immersed in Scottish Gaelic while out on the boats and in the processing plants where the catch is landed.


PM should learn Welsh language to save the UK, says linguistics professor

4 March 2021 (Nation Cymru)

A linguistics professor has suggested that the Prime Minister should learn the Welsh language to help prevent the UK from breaking up.

Professor Emeritus Peter Trudgill wrote in the New European that it would demonstrate a “strong desire” to “remain in a union with Wales”.

He said that the UK should follow the example of the multi-lingual nation of Switzerland, where the government has a policy of getting everyone to learn at least one of the country’s other national languages, and suggested that teaching the Welsh language in all British schools could help with that aim.

The professor, who has previously taken aim at what he has described as “horribly ignorant” comments about the Welsh language, says in the federal republic learning other national languages is viewed as a “very important factor for maintaining the cohesion of the Swiss nation.” Switzerland’s national languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansch.

The professor describes Welsh as “one of the world’s biggest languages” and asks “why shouldn’t English people learn” it just as the “Germanophone Swiss learn Italian.”

Professor Trudgill said: “What better way would there be for English supporters of a cohesive United Kingdom, such as the prime minister and his cabinet, to show how strong their desire is to remain in a union with Wales and Scotland than by learning Welsh or Gaelic themselves?”


David Leask: Not being from Glasgow or Edinburgh gives me broader perspective

27 February 2021 (The Herald)

For a man whose career has been spent working with words – in Russian, Spanish and Italian as well as in English – it’s no surprise that terms such as ‘deracinated’ flow freely from David Leask’s lips. A university-trained linguist who worked initially as a news translator before moving into a career at the sharp end of Scottish journalism, the 52-year-old is using the word (it means to be uprooted) to describe a childhood which saw him “brought up all over the place,” as he puts it. “I’ve moved around in my life endlessly,” he says, “to such an extent that I don’t really feel at home anywhere”.


Inspirational man from Grantham raises awareness for hearing loss and sign language

27 February 2021 (Grantham Journal)

A man who is profoundly deaf has been using social media to raise awareness of hearing loss and sign language.

Paul Woolmer, from Grantham, has been profoundly deaf since birth, and recently sparked awareness of British Sign Language (BSL) in the local community when he posted a video of himself signing the alphabet in the Grantham and Rural Areas Covid-19 Effort (GRACE) Facebook group.

The video received over 200 likes in less than 48 hours, with many commenters expressing their interest in learning more.


‘SQA has been dumbing down languages exams for years’

25 February 2021 (TES)

In 2017, I looked back on my 46 years of modern languages teaching. Despite fond memories, I felt unease. I sensed a disconnect between pupils’ competences and Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results. I have met Higher pupils whose A grade left them floundering and unable to create spontaneous, simple German.

Three years’ research answered the question: have German teaching and testing – which I used as an exemplifier for modern languages – failed Scottish pupils? 

The SQA decision at the end of January to ditch the talking element of Advanced Higher shows that they continue to fail Scottish pupils and confirms my research findings.


Coronaangst ridden? Overzoomed? Covid inspires 1,200 new German words

23 February 2021 (The Guardian)

From coronamüde (tired of Covid-19) to Coronafrisur (corona hairstyle), a German project is documenting the huge number of new words coined in the last year as the language races to keep up with lives radically changed by the pandemic.

The list, compiled by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language, an organisation that documents German language in the past and present, already comprises more than 1,200 new German words – many more than the 200 seen in an average year.

It includes feelings many can relate to, such as overzoomed (stressed by too many video calls), Coronaangst (when you have anxiety about the virus) and Impfneid (envy of those who have been vaccinated).

Other new words reveal the often strange reality of life under restrictions: Kuschelkontakt (cuddle contact) for the specific person you meet for cuddles and Abstandsbier (distance beer) for when you drink with friends at a safe distance.

The small team of three at the Leibniz institute collect words that are used in the press, on social media and the wider internet and monitor them. Those that are used most often will later make it into the dictionary.

Dr Christine Möhrs, who works at the institute and compiles the words, said the project tells the story of life during the pandemic.


Thousands of UK language students left in limbo as Brexit hits travel plans

23 February 2021 (The Guardian)

Thousands of UK students hoping to spend the year abroad are caught in limbo after facing major disruption to their travel plans due to post-Brexit red tape and costs, in respect of which universities say they received inadequate guidance from the government.

Coordinators of academic years abroad who spoke to the Guardian said there had been limited information from the Foreign Office ahead of Brexit on the onerous requirements that the shift in their status would incur in EU countries.

Current advice differs according to the consulate and often conflicts with information from local embassies, with the result that many students have had to cancel or postpone placements, the academics said.

“I don’t think anybody was fully aware of the extent of the entanglement of the UK with the EU. Like any sector – the same goes for fishing, transport and logistics – the university sector is grappling with the complexities of the situation that weren’t known until it happened,” said Claire Gorrara, dean of research and innovation at Cardiff University and chair of the University Council of Modern Languages.

As of 1 January 2021, students arriving in EU countries must submit large amounts of paperwork to obtain visas for their stay, with requirements differing by country. Students must also demonstrate that they can afford their stay in some countries, including proof of more than €6,000 (£5,194) in their bank account in Austria, Italy and Portugal, or of an income of €700-€800 a month in Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

Nigel Harkness, a pro-vice-chancellor and French professor at Newcastle University, said academics and students were unable to prepare for these changes before 1 January. “Most EU countries weren’t in a position to confirm what their own arrangements were because we hadn’t confirmed them on our side, so this has created extra bureaucracy, and it’s been frustrating. We’ve all been developing policy and processes on the hoof.”

Despite the new rules coming into force nearly two months ago, academics said many students were still stuck in the UK awaiting further instructions or attempting to decipher conflicting information. Some students who remained in EU countries over Christmas to avoid Brexit complications have been told they must return to the UK to apply for their visas.


Fears language degrees at risk as Erasmus replacement focuses on UK trade agenda

19 February 2021 (The Guardian)

The dramatic fall in students taking language degrees in the UK could accelerate if the government fails to fund the year abroad in Europe after next year, universities are warning.

Students of modern languages have to spend their third year studying or working abroad in order to pass their degree, and academics say this is the main attraction of many courses. Now, with the UK no longer taking part in the EU Erasmus scheme, there are fears for the future of the traditional European year abroad and for many language courses, with 2020 admissions already down 38% on 10 years ago.

About 15,000 British students a year, across all subjects, used Erasmus to travel to universities in Europe for three to 12 months during their degree. But the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, said earlier this month that Erasmus did not offer “value for money” for taxpayers.

Instead, the government’s replacement programme, the £110m Turing scheme, has a new emphasis on “worldwide” rather than European travel, to countries such as Australia or the US. It is only a one-year commitment, running from September 2021 to August 2022, which leaves a big question mark over placements starting next autumn – when those now in their first year of a language course will be due to set off abroad.

Prof Adam Watt, head of modern languages and cultures at the University of Exeter, a member of the Russell group, says: “If I’m an 18-year-old signing up to do a language degree now, I want to know I’ll have a guaranteed place on a year abroad in two years’ time with financial support. But we can’t make that promise. We can’t confirm there is definitely a scheme in place.”

Language degrees have taken a battering, with numbers of modern language undergraduates more than halving between 2008-9 and 2017-18, and universities fear the current uncertainty could cause even more serious damage. According to the admissions service, Ucas, 3,830 students were accepted on to modern language degrees in 2020, down 38% from 6,165 in 2010. At least nine modern languages departments have closed in the past decade.


Arabic, Roma and Spanish on offer as Bhasha Glasgow Language Festival events revealed

18 February 2021 (Glasgow Evening Times)

From learning a few words to communicate with Roma neighbours to finding out more about British Sign Language - the Bhasha Glasgow language festival has lots to offer lockdown learners.

Now in its third year, the event takes place online from February 21 to 27.

A celebration of the city’s many languages and the people who speak them, this year’s festival is being hosted by the Thriving Places Govanhill initiative.

The week is jam packed with free daily activities that will explore Glasgow’s linguistic heritage and the vital role of its multilingual citizens, including quizzes, interactive language sessions, talks, and a radio show.


Scottish island launches search for new Gaelic song to help prevent language from dying out

14 February 2021 (The Scotsman)

The Isle of Gigha, off the west coast of Kintyre, wants to commission a new song that can also be learned by non-Gaelic speakers who currently live there.


Keeping up the Chinese New Year tradition in the north of Scotland

6 February 2021 (Press and Journal)

Celebrations for Chinese New Year would normally see flamboyant parades across the north and north-east.

But with the streets empty, will the Spring Festival still be marked by the Scottish Chinese community?

The beat of the drums and a shimmering burst of colour, as a fiery red dragon weaves its way through the streets.

A resplendent lion rears up on its hind legs, yellow tassels shaking in time to the music.

People line the pavements to take in the spectacle, which reaches a frenzied firework finale.

Chinese New Year is celebrated around the globe, and is also referred to as the Spring Festival in line with the traditional Chinese calendar.

It marks the end of winter and the beginning of the spring season, and is one of the most important holidays in China.

It is a time of hope, of new beginnings – with family coming together at a reunion dinner after giving their house a thorough clean, in a bid to sweep away any ill fortune and make way for good luck.

China may be thousands of miles away, but there is a vibrant Scottish Chinese community.

From Inverness to Aberdeen, we could normally look forward to learning more about another culture with colourful parades and shows.

Just as Covid-19 called a halt to Hogmanay, it also means that these very public displays of celebration have been impacted around the globe.

But that does not mean to say that February 12 will pass by unmarked, for there is no forgetting traditions which span back centuries.

Your life spoke to those who have still found a way to celebrate the occasion, and discovered what Chinese New Year is really about.


AR sign language book for children leads UK’s immersive tech boom

1 February 2021 (Design Week)

The first Augmented Reality (AR) British Sign Language (BSL) book for children and a virtual stage-building platform have joined the government’s tech innovation scheme Digital Catapult.


Shettleston, Gartnavel, Auchenshuggle - the Gaelic influences on Glasgow place names

31 January 2021 (Glasgow Evening Times)

Gaelic was once a significant local language in Glasgow and its environs and there is still evidence of its influence today.

Often, some of the earliest evidence of the language spoken in a particular area can be found in its place names - take Shettleston, for example, or Baile Nighean Seadna (Seadna’s daughter’s farm), linking the area to a Gaelic-speaking woman of around 1170, or Gartnavel and Auchenshuggle - the Gaelic word ‘gart’ means farm, while ‘auch’ comes from achadh meaning ‘field’ or ‘farm’. 


Dundee Scots: ‘We have to make sure the language keeps going otherwise the Dundee essence will pass away’

31 January 2021 (The Courier)

Michael Alexander speaks tae twa weel-kent faces fae Dundee’s cultural scene – Alistair Heather and Sheena Wellington – who have launched free online sessions helping participants develop their understanding of Dundee’s Scots language.

For Dundee born and bred traditional singer Sheena Wellington, the Scots language has always been an important part of life.

Coming from a family of weavers, the 76-year old former Blackness Primary and Harris Academy pupil was brought up in a Dundee Scots speaking household.

Yet despite being surrounded by her Dundee Scots speaking father, grannies and aunts at home, she vividly remembers being discouraged from speaking her mither tongue in school.


Speaking removed from modern languages qualifications

29 January 2021 (TESS)

Modern languages teachers have hit out at Scotland’s exam body over its decision not to assess students' ability to speak the language they are learning as part of the Advanced Higher qualification this year.

In the most recent guidance produced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, published last week, modern languages teachers have been told that, at Advanced Higher level, they are to base their teacher-estimated grades on reading, translation, listening and writing, but not on their students' ability to speak the language.

Modern languages teachers who spoke to Tes Scotland described the move as a “dumbing down” of the qualification, arguing that the key skill for a linguist to acquire is the ability to communicate. 


Welsh language centre partners with Duolingo in million speaker goal

24 January 2021 (The Guardian)

An online language course created five years ago following a letter published in the Guardian is to be used to help reach a government target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Duolingo launched its Welsh language course in January 2016 and so far more than 1.5 million people around the world have been taught through it.

Now Duolingo and the National Centre for Learning Welsh have announced they will work together to help the Welsh government reach its 1 million target.

The Welsh government minister Eluned Morgan, whose portfolio includes the Welsh language, welcomed the partnership, saying: “We’ve set a goal of a million Welsh speakers by 2050, around a third of Wales’ current population, and in recent years we’ve seen a surge in demand for Welsh in early years and school-age learning.”


Chinese New Year 2021: when is the celebration, what is this year’s Zodiac animal - and traditions explained

15 January 2021 (The Scotsman)

While Christmas and New Year may seem like a distant memory, the Chinese New Year is still to come.

The biggest event on the calendar in China, Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of the new Lunar calendar.

Learn about the event in the explainer video.


Four tips for learning language through film and TV

14 January 2021 (The Conversation)

Films and TV shows can be great tools to help you become a more competent speaker of another language. By captivating your attention and arousing your curiosity, these formats can instil a positive attitude towards learning. They can also help you be a more active participant and keep you motivated to spend more time on language-related tasks.

There are a host of wonderful and gripping series and films available at our fingertips, from Netflix’s Spanish drama La Casa de Papel (Money Heist, which is the streaming site’s most watched non-English language show) to film classics like Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita or last year’s Oscar winner, the Korean film Parasite.

Learning a language this way, however, is easier said than done. I’m sure many of us have made it to the end of a gripping Scandi noir without actually learning much. So here are four tips to help you make the most of language learning through TV and film.


World of Languages

14 January 2021 (Stride Magazine)

Sheena Bell, professional development officer at SCILT, explores the many ways in which Learning for Sustainability makes a great context for modern language learning.

“Learning other languages enables children and young people to make connections with different people and their cultures and to play a fuller part as global citizens.”

As this quote from the Scottish Government’s Modern Languages Principles and Practice document clearly shows, Modern Languages classrooms are uniquely positioned to incorporate Learning for Sustainability into their teaching and learning. Learning a language in school is not simply about learning vocabulary and grammatical structures; it offers a window into other cultures, traditions, ways of life and ways of thinking. Every day, pupils in our classes are being made aware in a very real way of their interconnectedness with the wider world, both socially and environmentally. The Modern Languages curriculum, particularly within the Senior Phase, already includes topics such as equality, social justice, environmental issues and gender – as Modern Languages teachers we are very often already teaching around Learning for Sustainability without even realising it!

(Note - The full article includes links to associated professional learning and classroom resources.)


Home learning in Scotland: How to access the new BBC resources for lockdown learners on offer

11 January 2021 (The Scotsman)

BBC Scotland has launched a variety of programmes and resources for school pupils across Scotland as the country begins home school learning today.

The broadcaster is offering TV programmes on BBC Scotland from 10 am this morning for primary and secondary school pupils across the country.

The educational programmes will be on week days and will last till around 11.30 am- 12 pm most days.

As well as a catch-up service for missed programmes, there will also be ‘Stories in Scots’ available via the BBC Scotland website and via BBC Sounds.


Why are we learning languages in a closed world?

6 January 2021 (BBC)

Language learning spiked during lockdowns, commercial providers say. But when no-one can travel, and the job market looks unstable, why have people turned toward language now?

When the UK’s second lockdown hit in November, I was learning to decipher a Luwian curse.

Luwian, a language spoken and written in ancient Turkey some 3,000 years ago, may not seem like the most obvious choice for a new hobby. It survives mainly in the form of enigmatic symbols carved into scattered rock monuments. But spending a couple of hours a week cracking this code, under the guidance of a Luwian expert, turned out to be an almost magical form of stress relief. I’d signed up to the course shortly before the lockdown, and after each session, I felt that ­my mind had been cut loose from endless pandemic-related worries, and was free to roam and discover – if only for an evening.

As obscure as Luwian may be, my urge to explore a foreign language was right on trend in 2020. During the first lockdown in March, user numbers for language-learning apps including Duolingo, Memrise and Rosetta Stone rocketed, according to data from the companies. Duolingo reported a 300% jump in new users. The numbers generally eased over the summer, but saw another bump during the second lockdown. While Spanish, French and German were popular choices, Brits also tried out a wide range of other languages. The uptake of Welsh and Hindi soared, for example, with learners citing brain stimulation, cultural interest and family ties as motivating factors. Cultural curiosity also boosted the popularity of Japanese.

Of all the pursuits people have adopted amid the pandemic – making sourdough, working on screenplays – learning a language may seem like an odd choice. After all, the world is effectively closed, with much of international travel off limits. And even for those hoping that language learning could improve their career prospects, the job market remains unstable, with some in no position to change careers. But turning to language may be able to uniquely connect us to something many have longed to feel again.


Brexit: Boris Johnson's decision to quit Erasmus betrays lie that Britain is leaving EU, not Europe

30 December 2020 (The Scotsman)

There is an old Czech proverb which says that you live a new life for every language you speak. It was coined in a country where even minority languages are widely spoken, but its relevance is universal.

My family, like so many others, has its own stories of how language opened doors and made possible fantastic journeys into new countries and new cultures.

It began with my aunt, the daughter of a shipyard machinist, who had a natural aptitude for languages from a young age. Her skill and interest was encouraged as much as possible in 1960s Port Glasgow, but it was only when she enrolled at the old Langside College that others realised her potential.

Within a few years, she found herself working as a translator in Geneva for the United Nations. In time, she returned home to start a family, but the friendships she forged in Switzerland nearly half a century ago remain strong, and her love of languages was passed on.

Her daughter read French and German at Oxford, and recently graduated with a first class honours degree. That, of course, was simply a nice bonus. The greatest achievement was spending time living and learning abroad, and discovering the very best beer gardens the banks of the Rhine have to offer.


The Big Read: From Gaelic-only housing to second homes, the fight to save a language

26 December 2020 (The Herald)

Gaelic is in crisis. As a community language, it could die out within a decade.

That was the stark conclusion of a book-length study published in the summer.

But momentum is building to reverse this decline, and those at the top are open to radical proposals.

Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes told The Herald she would support the idea of housing developments reserved for Gaelic speakers.

She fears parts of the Highlands and islands could become retirement villages or ghost towns amid a rise in second homes.


Bonjour Europe: Britons are turning to learning languages like never before

26 December 2020 (The Guardian)

With our exit from the European Union just days away, we should be saying a very firm and British goodbye. Yet for many in the UK, it seems that on the eve of departure it is more a case of au revoir.

The number of people learning a language in Britain has risen twice as fast as the rest of the world in the last year, according to online learning platform Duolingo, and one of the fastest growing groups is those learning French.

Thousands more are learning Spanish, German, Italian, or other EU languages – with some of them hoping to improve their language skills to a level where they qualify for citizenship of a European country.

Maxine Brown, a 27-year-old second year economics student, has been learning Danish for the last six months with the intention of moving to Denmark to pursue a postgraduate degree and work in environmental projects.

“I’m interested in the resource side of economics and Denmark is really leading the way,” she said. “So I started learning Danish in May. Very quickly I was able to start reading newspapers and I joined online forums to really immerse myself and started listening to the radio to pick up the tones and the sounds.”

Since British citizens will no longer have the right to live and work in EU countries after 31 December, Brown will need to pay tuition fees in full and needs a residence permit which requires a grasp of Danish.


Covid: Students and retirees form long-distance friendships

10 December 2020 (BBC)

Millie Jacoby met her new "French grandma" for the first time last week via video call.

The 21-year-old British student signed up to a scheme pairing language students with elderly French people, some of whom have been left isolated by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I thought it would be a great way to improve my language skills and get to know somebody who was possibly lonely," Millie said.

"My French grandma, as we call them, is in a retirement home and might not be having too much social interaction because of the pandemic so I thought it was the perfect time to do something like this."

Despite the 70-year age gap between the Warwick University student and the senior citizen living near Paris, they instantly hit it off.

"She was just so lovely from the first few sentences," Millie told the BBC.


Duolingo Gaelic app deemed a huge success worldwide

1 December 2020 (The Herald)

More than 560,000 people around the world have signed up to learn Gaelic - nearly ten times the official number of native speakers. 

Bosses at language learning app Duolingo hailed their Scottish Gaelic course a 'huge success', following a surge in popularity - despite only launching last year. 

Around a third of learners on the site are from Scotland, with another third from the US, and the remainder from around the world, including 8 per cent from Canada. 

It comes after Scottish campaign groups issued stark warnings over the decline of the language - claiming for first time in history there is a danger it could become extinct.


Spikkin Scots: Listen to the different dialects of Scotland with our interactive map

25 November 2020 (Press and Journal)

With voices changing every 20 miles, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how many dialects come under the Scots language umbrella.

But a rough count suggests lucky number 13, divided up as Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, Black Isle, Moray, Aberdeenshire, South Northern (South Kincardineshire and Northern Angus), North-East Central, East Central, West Central, South Central, Boarders and Ulster (yep, Scots made it over the water to Ireland too with Irish Gaelic).

Inverness and the Outer Hebrides may seem curiously absent from this list. But as these regions were predominantly Gaelic speaking areas, the Scots language didn’t take hold with the same intensity, meaning there’s no specific Scots dialect recorded for these regions – though we have included them on the map here for comparison.

The article also includes links to other features in the Spikkin Scots series.


North Berwick High School teacher Suzanne Ritchie wins 'German Teacher of the Year' award from German Embassy

24 November 2020 (East Lothian Courier)

A teacher at North Berwick High School has been named ‘German Teacher of the Year’ by the German Embassy in London.

Suzanne Ritchie was presented with the award in recognition of her “outstanding dedication to and tireless support of the teaching of the German language”.

Miss Ritchie, a former pupil at Musselburgh Grammar School, lived and worked abroad for several years after university.

Her work mainly consisted of translating for the football organisation FIFA in Zurich in Switzerland.

In 2006, she decided to retrain as a teacher and joined North Berwick High School the following year.

She was encouraged to enter the competition by Ann Robertson, who leads East Lothian Council’s 1+2 languages development programme.


Fèis Rois launches new songwriting project for young Gaels passionate about the environment

18 November 2020 (The Herald)

Young Gaelic speakers who have a passion for the environment and a talent for songwriting could have their chance to shine, thanks to a new songwriting project launched by Highland arts organisation, Fèis Rois. 

The competition, which is open to applicants until November, Monday 23, is calling on budding Gaelic songwriters from secondary schools across the Highlands to come up with new Gaelic material, connected to the environment and Scotland's landscape. 

Fèis Rois, an arts organisation based in Dingwall, Ross-shire, has collaborated with NatureScot to launch 'Caithream na Cruinne', aimed at emerging Gaelic songwriters who take their inspiration from nature and the current environmental challenges. 


4 quick and easy ways to make language learning fun

14 November 2020 (TES)

Why can't a student have a three-eyed cat at home? After all, if it makes language learning fun and engaging it should be welcomed, says this teacher.

It really doesn’t matter where I get my hair cut, or what remains of it at least.

As a French and Spanish teacher, the response is inevitable as soon as the stylist asks what I do. “Ooh, I’m jealous. I did French at school and I wish I’d kept it up, but I wasn’t interested when I was younger.”

At this point, I imagine many language teacher colleagues across the globe are nodding their head, all too familiar with having to justify their subject’s place in the curriculum to students and, occasionally, even to school administrators.

In a world where a rapidly growing number of people use English as a second language and where translation technology is progressing, justifying the need for language learning to unmotivated learners is increasingly difficult.

Yet as practitioners, we know second language acquisition is beneficial to the learner in so many ways. Research has shown motivation may be the second most important factor in successful language acquisition after aptitude.

So, what can we do to motivate our learners during the short time we have with them, and leave them with positive experiences in language learning?

(Note - Subscription required to access full article).


Edinburgh considers sites for Gaelic-language school

7 November 2020 (The Times)

Plans to create a dedicated Gaelic secondary school in Edinburgh have been boosted by a surge of interest from parents keen for their children to become immersed in the language.

Councillors have begun a consultation on where the facility should be located after committing to turning the project into a reality.

The Glasgow Gaelic School regularly outperforms every other secondary in the city, with half of sixth-years achieving five or more Highers. It is hoped that a new minority language school in the capital would mirror its success.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


GCSEs 2021: MFL 'one-off' speaking tests allowed

5 November 2020 (TES)

Teachers will have the choice to assess their students’ spoken language skills during normal classroom activities or as individual, one-off assessments for modern foreign language GCSEs next year.

This is according to new requirements published by Ofqual today in response to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


4 top tips for using Scots language in the classroom

30 October 2020 (TES)

Student Len Pennie – better known online as Miss Punny Pennie – has become an internet star with videos that share a Scots language word of the day. One of her most popular videos, in which she recites her poem I'm No Havin' Children (see below), has been viewed nearly 250,000 times on Twitter.

Here are her four top tips for using Scots in school.

(Subscription required to access full article).


Language GCSEs biased against poor pupils, say teachers

29 October 2020 (TES)

The majority of language teachers believe GCSE exams are biased against poorer students, children in care and those with special needs, research reveals.

Being asked to describe the disadvantages of a skiing holiday or to describe family members are among examples highlighted by the National Association of Language Advisers (NALA), which has published its research in a report today.

The research, which investigated the past two years of languages GCSE papers, particularly speaking and writing test questions, found that questions about holidays, family relationships, descriptions of a student’s house, restaurant visits and live events were “potentially problematic for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils”.

And the NALA now recommends that languages GCSE and curriculum should be reviewed carefully “to ensure that no particular group of students is disadvantaged”.

NALA president Jenny Carpenter said: “One of the things we found was that there were a number of contexts that were beyond the experience of some students. The obvious example of this was the question which asked what are the advantages and disadvantages of a skiing holiday.

“Not only are you asking some pupils to invent an answer, but you’re asking them to express it in a foreign language as well. It’s a double whammy in a sense.”


New drive to bring Arabic into Scottish schools

27 October 2020 (TES)

A new initiative aims to bring the teaching of Arabic into both primary and secondary schools in Scotland.

This week the Scottish primaries involved in a new programme offering an insight into Arabic language and culture will receive boxes of Arabic artefacts, such as books, scarves, musical instruments and tea sets.

Scottish schools are open but movement in and out of buildings remains restricted as a result of Covid-19. Scilt, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, has, however, found a way to bring the wider world to pupils at a time when their ability to travel is also much reduced.

The centre, based at the University of Strathclyde, is offering an insight into Arabic language and culture in 15 primary and secondary schools around Scotland. The courses include online lessons from native-speaking teachers of Arabic in the UK and link-ups with native Arabic speakers overseas.

The centre was keen to make the experience tangible, hence the delivery of the boxes.

Scilt director Fhiona Mackay says: “It’s really important that we encourage diversity in language learning. That’s what the 1+2 approach to language learning [in Scotland] should be all about – particularly language three should be an opportunity to explore languages that otherwise children would not be exposed to. It is absolutely right that they should have the chance to experience a language that does not have the same script or alphabet as Latin or Germanic-based languages.

“We also wanted to make sure that children were getting a view of the Arabic world that was not about war, terrorism or refugees. We wanted them to see there is something quite wonderful about this ancient civilisation and help them relate that back to their own experience in Scotland.”

The courses offer learners the chance to explore the secular culture of Arabic nations and to receive a grounding in the Arabic language, which is a first language in more than 20 countries and the fifth most widely spoken in the world.


Learning in Gaelic helps improve English

26 October 2020 (The Herald)

It is the secret to learning good English – go to a Gaelic school.

Research has shown that learning in a minority language makes you better at speaking a global one.

Scientists have long known that being bilingual in two major languages – such as Spanish and French or German and Russian – helps develop cognitive abilities.

A study led by Heriot-Watt associate professor Maria Garraffa has now compared the English of monolingual children with those who were immersed in Gaelic Medium Education (GME).

Ms Garraffa, a native Italian, and her team found the GME youngsters outperformed those taught in English – in English.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Ms Garraffa said: “The research revealed that speaking Gaelic does not affect the ability to speak well in English and that being bilingual actually improves competency. We found bilingual pupils are better in complex language in English and also have better concentration, as reported in other studies on bilingualism.

“We clearly proved the positive effects of bilingualism are not contingent upon learning a global, widely spoken language, like French or Spanish, but are also true when it comes to a small heritage language like Gaelic.”


£10m Mandarin scheme set for expansion despite teacher recruitment struggles

24 October 2020 (Schools Week)

A £10 million programme to improve children’s fluency in Mandarin is set to be extended.

The government-funded Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) was launched in 2016 to get “at least 5,000 young people on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020” and train “at least 100 new qualified Chinese teachers by the end of the programme”.

When the programme, run by University College London’s Institute of Education (IOE) and the British Council, started there were 1,000 pupils across England learning Mandarin.

The IOE said the 5,000-pupil target had been exceeded by the last academic year.

The contract has been extended to this year, with about 7,000 pupils now taking part in 75 schools nationally.

But in contrast, 69 teachers have achieved qualified status on the UCL IOE Chinese Language PGCE – 31 shy of the target.

An IOE spokesperson said by summer next year, 83 IOE PGCE graduates will have finished their courses, adding that “in collaboration with other providers a grand total of more than 100 newly qualified teachers of Chinese will have been trained since 2016”.

A spokesperson for the Association for Language Learning praised the MEP for its success, but said it wanted “to see the funding of such projects extended to other languages to allow everyone access to learning a language”.


Gaelic language expected to die out in a decade, but can it be saved?

23 October 2020 (Channel 5 News)

Scottish Gaelic is a language which is set to die out in the next decade. The University of the Highlands and Islands says only 11,000 people can speak it, most over the age of 50. So how can it be saved?

See the Channel 5 video report on YouTube.


Scottish pupils among top performers in new Pisa test

22 October 2020 (TES)

Recent Pisa results have brought bad news for Scotland but a new test suggests students are being well equipped to deal with globalisation.

Scottish pupils are among the most likely in the developed world to understand and appreciate the perspective of others, demonstrate some of the most positive attitudes towards immigrants, and score highly on a test that assesses the ability to evaluate information and analyse multiple perspectives.

Students from 27 countries and economies, including Scotland, took part in Pisa’s 2018 assessment of global competence, which included a test focusing on three areas: the ability to evaluate information, formulate arguments and explain issues and situations; to identify and analyse multiple perspectives; and to evaluate actions and consequences.

[..] Dr Tarek Mostafa, the policy analyst in the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills who was in charge of the global competence report, told Tes Scotland: “The main takeaway messages from the report are: students in Scotland have very positive attitudes towards immigrants and when it comes to respect for people from other cultures. In addition to this, they perform well on the global competence cognitive test and Scotland is among the three top-ranking countries on the test.”

[..] “For the other indices, students report values close to the OECD average,” he added.

Scottish pupils were also among the least likely to speak several languages: 64.5 per cent of Scottish pupils said they did not learn foreign languages at school, which was around five times the OECD average of 11.7 per cent.  

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


How a Gaelic education brings bilingual benefits

21 October 2020 (TES)

Being educated in Gaelic – even if you don’t speak it outside school – delivers the benefits of bilingualism, study shows.

Gaelic is not my first or second language – I’m from Italy originally and my second language is English – but for the past 10 years I have been researching the effects of learning Gaelic, a language that is not dominant in the community in Scotland.

Why? Because I wanted to know if the positive effects on the brain of bilingualism, as shown in past research, are apparent even if the language is a minority language and one that is only spoken – by some pupils – in school.

Crucially, we have found that they are.

We have now finalised the first study on cognition and language abilities in secondary school students attending Gaelic medium education. In this first piece of research, just published, we found significant benefits of speaking Gaelic alongside a global language such as English.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


The Glasgow teacher who has led Gaelic education surge

18 October 2020 (The Herald)

The head teacher who has overseen a surge in demand for Gaelic Medium Education in Glasgow has said her own childhood experience of English-only lessons as a native speaker fuelled efforts to improve access to the language in schools.

Donalda McComb will now say “Beannach Leibh” to teaching after 34 years and heading up the city’s first joint campus, which combines a nursery, primary and secondary that was ranked ninth best performing high in this year’s league tables.

Glasgow is home to the largest number of Gaelic speakers outwith the Highlands and Islands, a mix of native speakers who move for university or jobs and those coming through Gaelic medium education (GME) or learning independently. 


Virtual Mod is certain to be a highlight of the Gaelic year

9 October 2020 (The Herald)

It’s the highlight of the Gaelic year and the community has come together to make sure the Mod will still take place – albeit in virtual form.

In common with all other major cultural events, the annual Mod has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but although this has resulted in a dramatic change to the format there has been a positive outcome, according to James Graham, Chief Executive of An Comunn Gàidhealach.

The decision to cancel the week long physical event was taken in May but the organisers, aware of the huge impact this would have on the Mod community, agreed to create an online version to fill the void in October.

While Mr Graham admits it was a daunting task, the switch has resulted in many more entries from across the world.

“We have had a lot of interest from people who would not necessarily got over to the Mod because of the travel costs,” he said. “But one of the positives this year was that they could actually take part by recording from where they were.”


How does being bilingual affect your brain? It depends on how you use language

6 October 2020 (The Conversation)

Depending on what you read, speaking more than one language may or may not make you smarter. These mixed messages are understandably confusing, and they’re due to the fact that nothing is quite as simple as it’s typically portrayed when it comes to neuroscience.

We can’t give a simple “yes” or “no” to the question of whether being bilingual benefits your brain. Instead, it is becoming increasingly evident that whether and how your brain adapts to using multiple languages depends on what they are and how you use them.

Research suggests that as you learn or regularly use a second language, it becomes constantly “active” alongside your native language in your brain. To enable communication, your brain has to select one language and inhibit the other.

This process takes effort and the brain adapts to do this more effectively. It is altered both structurally (through changes in the size or shape of specific regions, and the integrity of white matter pathways that connect them) and functionally (through changes how much specific regions are used).

These adaptations usually occur in brain regions and pathways that are also used for other cognitive processes known as “executive functions”. These include things like working memory and attentional control (for example, the ability to ignore competing, irrelevant information and focus on a target).

Researchers measure these cognitive processes with specifically designed tasks. One example of such tests is the flanker task, in which participants have to indicate the direction of a specific arrow that is surrounded by other arrows that face in the same or opposite direction. Being bilingual can potentially improve performance on tasks like these, typically in either faster reaction times or higher accuracy.


Edinburgh Napier is third university in Scotland to cut their foreign language programme

5 October 2020 (Edinburgh Evening News)

Deeming their language courses as “economically unsustainable”, Napier will terminate the teaching of French, Spanish and German from the beginning of the next academic year.

The announcement comes amid warnings of an “intellectual Brexit” in higher education and a drastic cut in income to higher education institutions due to the Covid-19 pandemic..

The changes will see Napier follow in the footsteps of fellow Edinburgh-based University, Heriot Watt, who are to launch an external review of their language programmes, despite their Scotland-leading position in translation. Meanwhile, Dundee University announced it will drop its German programmes.


Class acts: three lockdown teaching stars discuss being back in school

3 October 2020 (The Guardian)

Staff who made headlines for their dedication during closures talk about the joy of reuniting with pupils and the impact of more restrictions.

[..] When James Innes, AKA the “Joe Wicks for French”, made the decision to share videos of his French lessons online over lockdown, he had no idea that he would return to his school a YouTube sensation.


'Teachers key to development of Gaelic language in Scotland' claim as new three-year plan unveiled

2 October 2020 (Ross-shire Journal)

The vital role of teachers in the promotion of the Gaelic language in Scotland is acknowledged in a new three-year plan.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland) has launched its revised Gaelic Language Plan.

The plan sets out four key commitments:

  • To raise awareness of Gaelic as a language and to support its use through integrated communications.
  • To support the development of learning and teaching in Gaelic throughout Scotland.
  • To encourage growth of the Gaelic language both within GTC Scotland and externally.
  • To promote and support teacher professional development in the Gaelic language.

It complements the National Gaelic Language Plan which aims to promote the language and culture in Scotland. It outlines the need to explore new routes to promote, recruit, educate and retain the Gaelic education workforce and review existing routes into the profession.

And it acknowledges the role GTC Scotland has to play in addressing these challenges.


Related Links

New plan to promote Gaelic revealed (The Northern Times, 3 October 2020)


Misneachd: Gaelic campaign group launches radical manifesto ahead of Holyrood election

30 September 2020 (The Herald)

A Gaelic campaign group has published a new manifesto urging Scotland’s political parties to embrace radical measures to reverse the decline of the language.

Misneachd is calling for controls on second homes and consideration of Gaelic-speaking housing developments alongside a raft of other proposals.

It said a new government-backed target should aim for all those living in the Western Isles to be able to speak at least some Gaelic.


Alive and kicking: From Billy Connolly to Robert Burns – author Robin Crawford says the Scots tongue is alive & well

30 September 2020 (The Scottish Sun)

Author Robin Crawford has charted 1,000 uniquely Scots words that have been used from the era of Robert Burns to the modern world of Twitter.

The 56-year-old, from Auchtermuchty, Fife, wanted to record both old and new language that is still in everyday use for his new book Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers.

And he also set out to highlight the different regional phrases used around Scotland.

He said: “Many people use the word ‘rovies’ for slippers whereas in Fife I would say ‘baffies’. But every  region,  in fact probably every family, has their own words. That’s what helps make Scots so vibrant.

“We may all be Jock Tamson’s Bairns but we don’t necessarily speak the same words.”

Robin also believes  the phrases of The Big Yin are just as important as the verse of The Bard.


Why it’s great Scotland is bucking the trend on learning languages

26 September 2020 (The National)

In a report entitled Breaking the Language Barrier, published by Reform Scotland in October 2018, it is noted that the UK Government estimates poor language skills cost the economy £48 billion annually, equivalent to 3.5% of GDP. While Anglophone countries often dismiss other languages, Scotland is demonstrating an appetite to turn the tide.

The flagship for change is the Scottish Government’s 1+2 policy, launched in 2012, providing children with the opportunity to learn a first additional language from primary one and a second from primary five. Seven years later, the 1+2 generation is now starting secondary school.

There are already encouraging signs at Higher level, where, according to recent research by Dr Hannah Doughty on trends over a seven-year period, languages as a whole enjoy a higher percentage uptake than biology or physics.

Further encouragement comes from Holyrood. Ivan McKee, the Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, recently stated that: “It is essential we inspire young people to learn languages, to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to take full advantage of opportunities in our fast-changing world.”

Crucial here is that McKee mentions “skills”. Languages are not simply about the ability to move between tongues, mechanically expressing information and ideas. Arguably the greatest benefit from the study of languages lies not in their mastery, but in other skills acquired on the journey.


Don't take away the one thing that will guarantee a thriving global Britain

16 September 2020 (The Telegraph)

Language learning always seems to be the first casualty of budget cuts in education. Nothing could be more short-sighted.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


Bilingualism: why boosting the rights of minority language speakers could help save Gaelic in Scotland

15 September 2020 (The Conversation)

In recent months there has been talk of a “Gaelic crisis” in Scotland, based on a study that predicts Gaelic may be disappearing across the country. I do not speak Gaelic, but I have spent five years researching bilingualism, and as a German native speaker who has lived in Scotland for over a decade, I am intimately familiar with what it means to communicate in a second language.

When we talk about bilingualism, we often assume that people are equally fluent in both languages and use them equally often. The reality is that some bilinguals may be more proficient in one language than the other and, while some will use both languages equally often, others will use one language more frequently than the other.

The question of how frequently a bilingual person uses a particular language brings us back to the decline in the number of of active Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Despite the ubiquity of bilingual English-Gaelic road signs and the historic presence of the Scots language, Scotland has remained mostly monolingually English. This in itself is not surprising. Just seeing a language pictured does little to help us learn it; we need to actively use a language to accomplish this and, perhaps more importantly, continue to use it.


Oh fit fine! University set to launch its first Doric course

13 September 2020 (The Scotsman)

Doric, a form of North East Scots that is spoken by 49 per cent of people in Aberdeenshire, will now be taught to undergraduates at Aberdeen University with the course counting towards a student’s degree.

The history of Doric is due to be taught on the course, as well as linguistics, vocabulary and its context in a European setting, with many words and phrases linking Doric with Scandinavian languages, said Dr Thomas McKean, director of Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute which researches and protects the North East’s distinct cultural heritage.

He said: “It’s about building a parity of esteem of the language so that it is thought of in equal terms with other European languages."


In Quarantine, Kids Pick Up Parents’ Mother Tongues

10 September 2020 (New York Times)

A few days into the lockdown here in London, I noticed a surprising side-effect of the pandemic: My 3-year-old son was speaking more German.

German is my mother tongue, and I have used it with him since he was born, but because everyone around us speaks English, including my British husband, we settled into a pattern typical of mixed families. I spoke to my son in German, and he replied in English. Then Covid-19 reshuffled our linguistic deck. As all of us quarantined at home, my son embraced German with unprecedented enthusiasm. Now, almost six months on, it has become his preferred language. In a complete reversal, he even replies to my husband in German.


Success of language teacher SCITT must now 'go viral'

9 September 2020 (TES)

The Department for Education has made a bold pledge as to the percentage of children it wants to be taking the 16+ EBacc, including a foreign language GCSE, within the next five years: 75 per cent by 2022, and 90 per cent by 2025.

However, achieving this will only be possible if there are teachers available to deliver high-quality language lessons.

Indeed, around a third of state schools and a quarter of independent schools report recruitment difficulties, and a proportion says that retention is also a problem.

These difficulties are only likely to be exacerbated by the announcement earlier this month that EU nationals will no longer be eligible for home fee status and student loans from 2021.

This will impact further on teacher supply in languages given that teachers from the EU constitute over a third of MFL teachers in UK secondary schools – and some of them are considering leaving Britain in the wake of Brexit.

However, there is a ray of hope for those concerned about the decline of languages in schools. The government-sponsored National Modern Languages School Centred Initial Teacher Training (NML SCITT) scheme which, as Tes reports today, is having the positive impact that was hoped when it was first envisioned.


UK accused of failing to promote minority languages

8 September 2020 (The Guardian)

The UK has failed to uphold its treaty obligations to promote the minority languages of Cornish, Irish and Ulster Scots, a council of European ministers has found.

A report by the Council of Europe, a civil and legal rights body, has accused the UK of failing to support indigenous minority languages in schools, the media, public life and in government, despite signing the European charter on regional or minority languages.


Boost your job prospects or do what you love? How to pick the right uni subject

5 September 2020 (The Guardian)

For many students, working out what to study at university is guided by whether they want a route directly to a job, or to keep their options open. But sometimes it’s not easy to decide between the two.

This was Morgan McArthur’s experience. She’s now a 21-year-old languages student at the University of Sheffield – but she nearly became a dentist. 


Bilingual education in Wales: despite lockdown difficulties, parents should persevere

3 September 2020 (The Conversation)

Bilingualism can result in changes in the brains of children, potentially offering increased problem-solving skills. Pupils who are competent in two or more languages may have academic advantages over monolingual children.

In Wales, children have the opportunity to become bilingual by attending Welsh-medium primary and secondary schools, where the sole or main language of instruction is Welsh.

However, parents who do not speak Welsh but send their children to be educated in the language have reported finding home schooling challenging during the lockdown. Some may even be considering moving their children to English schools in order to be better able to support them at home – perhaps because of fears of future lockdowns or quarantines.

Nevertheless, where they can, parents should keep the faith. The benefits of a bilingual education are huge, and turning their backs on Welsh-medium education might be detrimental to increasing the number of young Welsh speakers.

[..] Increasing numbers of parents around the world are giving their children access to education not only in two languages but in three or more languages. Where a minority language exists in the community, trilingual education is gaining in popularity. Pupils receive their education in the minority language and the majority language of the region as well as taking lessons in a foreign language.

One example is the Basque country, where pupils receive their education in Euskara (the Basque language) and Castilian (Spanish) and also learn English as a foreign language.


Coronavirus: Covid-19 cuts short students' year abroad studying

24 August 2020 (BBC)

Swapping Port Talbot for Paris was a big deal for Maia Evans. It was the first time she'd left home and the reason she chose to study French.

So you can imagine the 21-year-old's frustration when she had to abruptly leave her class, leave her adopted French family and leave France altogether when coronavirus took hold.

"I was loving it," recalled Maia. "The children were great, my family was lovely and my French was improving massively. Then France shut down overnight."

When Maia bid au revoir to Aberavon Beach she was excited to immerse herself in French culture - not just living with different people for the first time, but people who spoke another language.

It was going to be more Seine and Sacre-Coeur than the steelworks and Swansea Bay of home for Maia and she enjoyed every second in Paris' bustling suburbs.


GCSEs 2020: French and Spanish revival continues

20 August 2020 (TES)

New figures show more pupils were entered for GCSE French and Spanish this year than in 2019.

Combined GCSE entries for the main modern languages have risen again this year, with Spanish seeing the biggest increase.

Tables published this morning by Ofqual show that there were 3 per cent more pupils entering either French, Spanish or German in 2020 in England than in the exams of 2019.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


How technology kept Scotland's Gaelic-speaking community connected during lockdown

19 August 2020 (The Herald)

With lockdown cutting us off physically from the communities around us, technology has been a vital tool for keeping connected.

This was particularly true for Scotland’s Gaelic-speaking community, with some pioneering young people using online methods to keep the language alive - and its community of speakers connected.

Calum Ferguson, 25, and Donnie Forbes, 23, decided to team up to combine their passion for Gaelic with a love of football. During lockdown, they created YouTube videos that challenged youngsters to practice football tricks while speaking Gaelic phrases.

“If I film myself passing a ball while saying the phrase ‘pass the ball’ in Gaelic, kids eventually put two and two together and learn the language that way,” explains Donnie. “People are seeing us deliver the action, say the action at the same time- that helps the language click.”

“People learn languages in different ways,” adds Calum. “Some will learn by sitting down and reading a textbook, some by speaking it, but others might find that visual learning is best. What we feel is important is giving as many resources as you can to people, to offer plenty of opportunities to speak the language.”


Kirk on a mission to save Gaelic by spreading the word

11 August 2020 (The Times)

The battle to save Gaelic from extinction is taking divine inspiration from the Church of Scotland, which has vowed to promote the language in its services and sermons.

Research published last week suggested that Gaelic would struggle to survive beyond the current decade without urgent preservation measures.

In response the Kirk has produced a guide which will encourage people to speak, preach, read and write in Gaelic during worship and Bible study.


Turn on the TV to boost your lockdown language learning

10 August 2020 (SW Londoner)

Watching more TV could be the key to language learning for the two-thirds of the UK population unable to speak anything but English.

Two British polyglots who between them speak more than 65 languages, agreed that popular culture was key to learning a language.

Alex Rawlings, 28, a journalist and documentary filmmaker from Ham, said: “Language learning shouldn’t be: ‘I’m learning French because I want to learn all the irregular verbs’, it should be ‘I’m learning French because I want to understand this amazing detective series better and if I don’t speak French I’m going to miss out on it’.

“That’s essentially how English is learnt in other countries – it’s very deeply embedded in popular culture, so people take it for granted that they’re going to learn English.”

Richard Simcott, 43, the languages director for the Social Element who grew up in Chester, said: “Children from Scandinavia particularly learn very very quickly that people don’t speak their language, and they have TV in English, their films tend to be in English with subtitles.

“When they go to school they don’t start with ‘hello, my name is’, they go straight into literature.”

Neither Mr Rawlings nor Mr Simcott live in the UK anymore – Mr Rawlings has been living in Barcelona since 2018, and Mr Simcott calls North Macedonia home.

Mr Rawlings, who currently speaks 15 languages, was crowned the UK’s most multilingual student in 2012, after starting to teach himself languages at the age of 14 (although he was speaking Greek with his mother by age 8).

He said: “I really can’t imagine my life without speaking languages.

“When you speak multiple languages you can go anywhere in the world, you have all sorts of opportunities, you have a very different feeling about foreign places… they become less foreign, because you understand what’s going on.”


Revealed: A levels with teacher grades odds-on to stay

10 August 2020 (TES)

New analysis has produced a list of A-level subjects where the grades that teachers have assessed are least likely to be changed.

On Friday Tes revealed that teacher assessed grades will not be used as part of the final grade calculation where GCSE and A-level subjects in a school have more than more 15 entries, with statistical modelling used instead.

By contrast, in subjects with no more than five entries in a school, pupils will be awarded their teacher-assessed grades, as statistical modelling would be inaccurate with such a small cohort. 

Now in a blog by Philip Nye for FFT Education Datalab, A-level subjects with the greatest share of entries coming from schools or colleges with five or fewer entries has been estimated. 

"There are three subjects – German, Latin and music – where we estimate that over half of the total number of entries come from establishments with five or fewer entries," Mr Nye said.


Heriot-Watt’s search for £9m cuts puts university’s languages department at risk

6 August 2020 (The Times)

A Scottish university is reviewing the future of its entire foreign languages department as it looks at how to cut its wage bill by £9 million over two years.

Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, widely seen as Scotland’s centre of excellence for translation studies, has commissioned an external review into French, German, Spanish and Chinese classes.


Fall in Welsh-capable teachers risks missing language target, report warns

6 August 2020 (The Guardian)

A “striking” decline in the number of newly qualified teachers able to teach in Welsh could undermine the country’s ambition to have a million speakers of the language in 30 years’ time, a report warns.

The Welsh language commissioner, Aled Roberts, expressed concern about the trend and called for the devolved government to take urgent action to reverse the fall.

Three years ago ministers in Wales launched a plan to almost double the number of Welsh speakers by 2050, with a key plank of the strategy being a steady increase the number of professionals teaching through the language.


Will the UK ever love foreign-language pop?

5 August 2020 (The Guardian)

Three summers ago, Despacito’s lilting Spanish lyrics dominated the UK charts, but since then nearly all pop hits have been in English. Is it just a language barrier – or a sign of a narrow culture?

In 2017, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s huge No 1 summer hit Despacito seemed to herald a new age where the domination of the English language in western pop was eroding. Global streaming has since allowed for the overwhelming popularity of slick K-pop titans BTS, the doleful flamenco flourishes of Spanish artist Rosalía and the multilingual Nigerian superstar Burna Boy among others, suggesting that, at last, non-English-language hits are moving beyond novelties such as The Ketchup Song and Dragostea Din Tei.

But three summers on from Despacito, the UK remains dominated by English-language pop. Latin music hasn’t had nearly the same impact here as in the US, and Christine and the Queens’ “Ne me cherche pas, je ne suis plus la, baby” was a very rare burst of French on British radio, via Gone, her hit song with Charli XCX last year.


Gaelic language in 'crisis' in island heartlands

2 July 2020 (BBC)

Gaelic-speaking island communities could vanish within 10 years unless language policies are changed dramatically, according to a new study.

Researchers said daily use of Gaelic was too low in its remaining native island areas to sustain it as a community language in the future.

They have called for a shift away from institutional policies to more community-based efforts.

The study surveyed Gaelic communities in the Western Isles, Skye and Tiree.

The Scottish government said Gaelic was a vital part of Scotland's cultural identity and it was interested in the proposals set out in the new study.


The Big Interview: Meet the Moray man helping to keep dying languages alive across the world

29 June 2020 (Press and Journal)

From the age of 10 Finlay Macleod was fascinated with languages – how they are formed, how they are spoken and what they represent.

Today dozens of tongues across the world continue to be spoken due to the work the linguist has done to help keep them alive.

For weeks at a time the Western Isles native, who runs the Moray Language Centre from his home in Portessie near Buckie, travels to the US and Canada to work with indigenous groups to teach techniques about sustaining one of the most sacred parts of their culture.

Some have blossomed again from being spoken by as few as 10 people in remote locations, while others have grown from hundreds to communities of thousands that have spanned entire regions.

The projects the 65-year-old runs with the worldwide Indigenous Language Institute are on top of the work he does to grow Gaelic in Scotland through nursery classes and immersive experiences – a move he says is in opposition to the UK school curriculum for leaning new tongues remaining rooted in centuries-old traditions.


Surge in online Gaelic learners during coronavirus lockdown

24 June 2020 (The Herald)

It seemed to be on a one-way road to extinction but now signs of a revival are emerging.

The number of people looking to take online lessons in Gaelic has surged to a record high since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, new data shows.

MG ALBA, the Gaelic media service, said that over 114,000 unique users accessed the LearnGaelic website between March 23 and June 2.


Furloughed Eurostar staff become French teachers

24 June 2020 (BBC)

Eurostar staff furloughed during the lockdown are helping London schools with online French lessons.

Rail staff not currently working, including train drivers, have volunteered to help pupils learning at home online.

Only a limited number of Eurostar's services to France and Belgium are running - and about 30 staff have been helping with French lessons.


‘I just need a connection’: the refugees teaching languages across borders

17 June 2020 (The Guardian)

A unique platform lets teachers from Venezuela to Syria to Burundi earn a living teaching their language online.

Louisa Waugh and Ghaith Alhallak have met for language lessons in seven countries. “We counted it up the other day,” says Waugh, recalling the list of places from which she has video-called Alhallak: Britain, Mali, Senegal and Greece. Alhallak has answered from Lebanon, France and Italy, where he is now studying for a master’s degree in political science at the University of Padua.

“You just need a connection,” he says.

The 770 students and 64 teachers at NaTakallam - “we speak” in Arabic – conduct their lessons entirely online, allowing refugees to speak to students who might not otherwise have contact with displaced people. The service also circumvents restrictions on work for refugees and asylum seekers in their new countries of residence, which means they can earn money.

“I really see it as solving two problems,” says one of NaTakallam’s founders, Aline Sara. “Refugees need access to an income, but with no work permit they’re often stuck in limbo. Yet they have innate talents within them in the form of their language, their story and culture, while so many people want flexible language practice,” she says. “There’s an idea that people always want to train and help refugees, but really they can help us.”


UK language students prepare for virtual year abroad in their bedrooms

13 June 2020 (The Guardian)

What is a virtual year abroad – and is there any point in it? That is the question Reece Jack, of Troon, South Ayrshire, is asking, along with thousands of other languages students whose year abroad has been cancelled or is in doubt.

Jack, a second-year student of business and French at Strathclyde University, thinks the idea of shared “virtual year abroad” resources across universities, being offered as a partial replacement for the real experience, is “delusional”. “Students will not pick up a natural fluency staying in the UK – the most anti-learning-a-language country there is,” he says.

His plans to start university in Dijon in September, for him the highlight of his course, have been thrown into doubt. With no guarantee this can happen, he is considering suspending his degree for a year.

“It is a huge frustration,” he says. “A lot of us chose to study a language because of the year abroad.”


Language learning needs to be protected from becoming a casualty of coronavirus

12 June 2020 (iNews)

With travel limited and schools closed, our ability to speak to the world is under threat.

When learning a new language, you begin with the words you would normally need every day: words for meeting people, going to cafés and restaurants, asking for the way to the station. Now – in a world where a summer holiday, let alone living abroad, feels like a fading possibility – that rule seems ironic.

While terms like self-isolation and social distancing have become basic vocabulary in English, those classic foreign phrases have evoked a strange sort of wanderlust, tainted by a festering frustration.

With millions of pupils now staying at home until September at the earliest – language degrees and lessons could be among the most disrupted – and foreign travel affected for the foreseeable future, it is vital our ability to talk to the world does not turn into another casualty of coronavirus.


Language GCSE entries up but a mixed picture at A level

11 June 2020 (TES)

Provisional data on GCSE entries in 2020 released today reveals a rise in the number of pupils studying for a modern foreign language at GCSE.

Overall, language entries increased by 2 per cent, from 268,955 to 275,000. Entries for Spanish and German rose by 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively, while French entries remained stable.


Coronavirus: French teacher's Hebridean lockdown

9 June 2020 (BBC)

A French language assistant who remained in the Western Isles during the coronavirus lockdown has been praised for the unique contribution she has made to young people's education.

Mathilde Forgerit arrived in Lewis last August for what was her first experience of teaching French abroad.

During the pandemic she has been able to use the islands' digital learning facilities to deliver classes to young people in other parts of Scotland too.

She said that despite being far from her family, the kindness of islanders stopped her from feeling isolated.

[..] Mathilde returned home to France last week, but the comhairle said she had left behind a positive language learning legacy across island schools.

Senior education officer Mary Clare Ferguson said: "She proved to be such an asset and a natural teacher.

"The pupils loved working with her and gained so much insight from a young person about her life in France, her culture and language. She really motivated them to improve their language skills."


There is a monument in Georgia with instructions in 8 languages on how to re-build a post-apocalyptic society

3 June 2020 (Time Out)

Seems like the world might need this right now.

They're called the Georgia Guidestones and they actually look like the Ten Commandments. The five 16-feet-tall granite walls overlook a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia, supporting a 25,000-pound capstone. But what's even more astonishing than their massiveness (four of the five slabs weigh more than 20 tons each!) is what is inscribed on the rock: carved on the polished granite are directions in eight different languages instructing the survivors of a supposed apocalypse on how to properly rebuild society.


Genes And Musical Ability Both Affect How People Hear Tonal Languages

27 May 2020 (Forbes)

In some languages, the meaning of each word is not only conveyed by the order of its syllables, but also by the pitch. Tonal languages such as Cantonese, Mandarin or Yoruba are difficult to learn for people who are used to non-tonal languages like English. They require you to be able to pick up on subtle pitch differences, and new research suggests that your ability to do so may be genetic. However, they also noted that genetics only played a small role. Whether or not someone had taken music lessons was more likely to affect how well they hear lexical tones.


Gary Lineker: Learning a language is one of the most important things you can do – in Spain once I really ballsed it up

27 May 2020 (The Sun)

Want to get a real sense of Spanish? Then learn from a footie legend who picked up the lingo while playing for one of the country’s top teams.

Sports pundit Gary Lineker is among a host of famous faces who have signed up to teach kids on CBBC show Celebrity Supply Teacher.

[..] Gary will be livening up the classroom by helping little ones learn Spanish through football.

The ex-England striker learned the language when he transferred from Everton to Barcelona in 1986. He also attempted to master Japanese during two seasons at League club Nagoya Grampus Eight.


New Website Harnesses The Power Of Music And Drama To Teach Welsh And Spanish

27 May 2020 (Wales 247)

Primary school teachers and parents can now harness music and drama to help children learn Welsh and Spanish by using a new, free to use website. 

The website includes more than 30 activities, such as simple drama games and songs in three languages.

Everything needed to lead children through the activities is provided, including full instructions, demonstration videos, downloadable sheet music, lyrics, audio files and suggestions for extension and reflection.


'Visual poetry': taking physical languages beyond the Deaf community

10 May 2020 (The Guardian)

Addressing the camera, Ryan Pendley’s arms swipe the air, his hands fly with ferocity and pent-up frustration, his fingers crawl up his neck and clasp over his mouth. The subtitle explains, “like struggling to breathe”, but you hardly need the translation. What we’re watching looks like sign language, mime and dance rolled into one. It’s actually visual vernacular, or VV, an art form little known beyond the Deaf community (Deaf, with a capital D, refers to a distinctive culture as opposed to a solely audiological condition). And it’s part of a new film Here/Not Here by director Bim Ajadi, that finds connections between three seemingly disparate physical languages: krump dance, football and British Sign Language (BSL).


Thousands sign up for Birmingham teen's BSL lessons

6 May 2020 (BBC)

A 15-year-old has created a series of videos teaching British Sign Language (BSL) during lockdown.

Tyrese Dibba, who has Charge Syndrome, and is deaf and partially sighted, released the videos with charity Sense in a bid to tackle isolation among people with disabilities.

The Birmingham student said more people learning BSL would "help the deaf community feel part of wider society".

More than 7,000 people have signed up for the free classes.


How generations are joining forces to give the Scots language its proper place

26 April 2020 (The National)

The Scots language is the source of many of the first words we hear. Bairn. Greet. Bonnie. For many of us it is the language of those we love most, those who raised us, who taught us about the world. The tongue of couthy grannies, freenly neebors, loving parents. It’s the language of funny rhymes an sangs like Ally Bally Bee an the Three Craws.

For a huge number of us it is the language of childhood but for almost as many it is not the language of adulthood. When we go to school, Scots switches to English. Scots has its place in the playground but not in maths or chemistry. So we store away so many great words – shoogle, bahookie, fankle, haver – that mean so much to us but that we seldom get to use.

Scots is the language of 1.5 million of us, about 30% of the population. In entire chunks of the country – the Borders, Shetland, the north-east – it is the everyday language of the clear majority. But there are many more areas of Scotland, particularly urban areas, where Scots is strictly socially policed. And across the nation as a whole, Scots remains almost entirely absent from classrooms, from publicly funded media and from the business of government.


Life on the inside: 10 educational activities to make the best of lockdown

18 April 2020 (Largs and Millport News)

People in the UK are spending more time at home than ever before during the coronavirus lockdown. While this may mean less activity outdoors, it can also be the perfect opportunity to learn something new.

Here are 10 educational activities to try during lockdown:

1. Learn a language

Learning a language can be time-consuming, and with plenty of unfilled hours, understanding an extra vocabulary may be a useful skill to acquire. Though it always looks good in a CV, learning a language could also enable you to work abroad, or to socialise with locals while travelling overseas.


Coronavirus: Homeschooling in a language you don't speak

18 April 2020 (BBC)

Until a few weeks ago, non-Welsh speaking parents who had chosen Welsh-medium education assumed their children would spend about 30 hours a week immersed in the language - at school. Now attempting to "home school" in a language they don't speak, they face an extra layer of challenge.

In Cardiff, for example, about 63% of pupils in Welsh-medium schools come from homes where no Welsh is spoken. On top of anxiety about coronavirus and general concern about education, some parents are worried their children's Welsh language skills will suffer.


Test your knowledge of Scots with our words and phrases quiz

17 April 2020 (Edinburgh Evening News)

Even if you don’t hail from this country, chances are you’ll be aware of some Scots words – the success of shows such as Outlander and films like Trainspotting, Brave, and Sunshine on Leith to name but a few have brought the language to even greater prominence.

This quiz, comprising 25 questions, asks you to define several words or phrases commonly used in Scotland.


Kelly Clarkson drops new single, ‘I Dare You,’ with duets in five languages

16 April 2020 (Variety)

Kelly Clarkson dropped her new single “I Dare You” – along with duets of the song performed with five different singers in their native languages. The bundle sees Clarkson joined by Zaz (“Appelle Ton Amour” – French Version), Faouzia (“كنتحداك” – Arabic Version), Blas Cantó (“Te Reto A Amar” – Spanish Version), Glasperlenspiel (“Trau Dich” – German Version) and Maya Buskila (“בוא נראה” – Hebrew Version).

Clarkson will also share a world premiere performance music video for “I Dare You” on an episode of “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” singing virtually with her global duet partners.

[...] “This is my favorite/hardest project that I’ve ever worked on” explained Clarkson. “It has always been a dream of mine, as I grew up singing in different languages, to find that perfect song, with the perfect message, to connect us all globally and then record that song with several other artists around the world in their native languages."


50 Scottish slang words translated: funniest and best sayings and slang phrases from Scotland - and what they mean in English

15 April 2020 (The Scotsman)

Though English is the first language in Scotland, Scots and Gaelic have both played a vital part in shaping everyday language often used by citizens of Scotland up and down the country.

From everyday turns of phrase to cutting insults, Scottish slang is capable of being both poetic and humorous.

Here’s a starter glossary of essentials for anyone new to Scotland or anyone looking to reacquaint themselves with Caledonian colloquialisms.


The many languages missing from the internet

15 April 2020 (BBC)

English and a handful of other languages dominate the internet, but this is leaving indigenous cultures without a voice online. Now they are fighting to get their own languages on the web.

Imagine your favourite social media platform does not let you post in English. Now think of a keyboard that won’t allow you to type in your own words. You would have two options: either switch to another language or remain digitally silent. This is the reality for most people that speak indigenous languages and dialects.

There are nearly 7,000 languages and dialects in the world, yet only 7% are reflected in published online material, according to Whose knowledge?, a campaign that aims to make visible the knowledge of marginalised communities online.

While Facebook supports up to 111 languages, making it the most multilingual online platform, a survey published by Unesco in 2008 found that 98% of the internet’s web pages are published in just 12 languages, and more than half of them are in English. This reduces linguistic diversity online to a handful of tongues, making it harder for those that speak one of the excluded languages of the internet.


More Gaelic TV from BBC Alba to help pupils in lockdown

14 April 2020 (The National)

Gaelic broadcasting bosses are to show more children’s content to support young speakers while schools are off.

Extra programmes on science, maths and other curriculum mainstays will be shown on BBC Alba from today.

The Gaelic-medium channel already runs children’s shows from 5pm-7pm every day. Additional content will also be available on the BBC iPlayer.

It is hoped that “children won’t even realise they are learning and developing their skills” when watching the tailored material.

Margaret Mary Murray, head of service at BBC Alba, said: “We hope these fabulous learning programmes will offer useful support to teachers, parents and carers and fun learning opportunities for children.”


Number of Gaelic learners outstrips entire population of Highlands and Islands

13 April 2020 (The Scotsman)

Around 300,000 people are now learning Scottish Gaelic on the free Duolingo app with the course launched just over five months ago.

The number of Gaelic learners using the app now outstrips the entire population of the Highland and Western Isles council areas, where a total of around 265,000 people live.


Coronavirus: ‘Pupils need live online teaching’

13 April 2020 (TESS)

Scotland’s e-Sgoil – based in the Western Isles – has revealed its plans to deliver a national timetable of live lessons that will be streamed online in a bid to support teachers and pupils in the wake of the UK wide school closures, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to Tes Scotland the e-Sgoil – which has four years’ experience in beaming lessons into schools across the country – said it was hoping to partner with online learning platform Scholar in order to deliver live national qualification lessons in a wide range of subjects, as well as offering some lessons aimed at primary pupils.

Scholar – a partnership between Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and education directors’ association Ades – runs online courses in a range of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher subjects, providing pupils with learning materials and assessments.

Meanwhile e-Sgoil – which was set up to ensure equal access to courses and subjects for pupils irrespective of where they live – has a team of teachers on its books who have experience of delivering remote lessons in real time in everything from Higher physics, to primary Gaelic. This year it has had a presence in 15 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The plan is to start streaming the lessons incrementally, beginning with maths and languages – thanks to Scotland's National Centre for Languages (Scilt), and Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools.

Together the languages bodies and e-Sgoil plan to offer taster courses in Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Gaelic and Mandarin suitable for primary and secondary pupils, as well as delivering national qualification courses in French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Gaelic.


Coronavirus: top tips on how to learn a language in lockdown

5 April 2020 (The Herald)

Here is some secret good news. Even with planes grounded, borders closing and a deadly virus stalking the planet you can take an exciting journey that will take you right under the skin of other nations and cultures. And from the comfort of your own home. How? By learning another language. 

To be fair, thousands of people in lockdown have figured this out. A lot are dusting down old textbooks or downloading the phone app Duolingo. But can you really learn to speak "foreign" without leaving your house? Can your children? Can you or your family refresh or improve existing skills.

The short answer is yes – thanks to the internet and its incredible resources, especially teachers using Skype, Zoom or other video links.


Coronavirus: How can parents help with home schooling?

2 April 2020 (BBC)

Schools are likely to be closed until August in a bid to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

Teachers have provided learning packs and online activities for students and many parents will want to help.

So what should parents be doing?

Education correspondent Jamie McIvor posed some common questions to a number of experts in Scottish education to get a sense of what they would advise.

None of this advice is statutory and there will be a range of different opinions. Parents with specific concerns should speak to their child's school, most practically via e-mail.


Outlander: 10 Best Gaelic Phrases To Use In Everyday Life

30 March 2020 (Screen Rant)

Outlander is peppered with Scots Gaelic phrases, and these are the best to add to your everyday vocabulary.


Love Island winners Paige and Finn share hilarious language barrier argument

30 March 2020 (Daily Record)

Paige told her Milton Keynes man 'Naw, it's a piece, like a sandwich' as she educated him on the intricacies of the Scots language while the pair remain on lockdown in West Lothian.


Coronavirus: Taking small steps into online learning

28 March 2020 (TES)

The huge amount of 'free' apps and online learning offers can feel overwhelming. Here are seven simple steps to follow.


BTS want to teach you Korean while self-isolating

25 March 2020 (Esquire Middle East)

South Korean superstars BTS have said they will be holding language learning sessions to “make it easy and fun for global fans who have difficulty enjoying BTS’s music due to the language barrier.”

The announcement could not have come at a better time, as millions shelter at home in self-isolation. 

Each episode (which will be available in 30 languages) will focus on specific Korean grammar and expressions. Each lesson plan was developed with help from the Korean Language Content Institute and the Department of Korean Education at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. 


How to keep your kids educated and entertained during lockdown

25 March 2020 (Wired)

We've collected together the best products and resources to keep your children educated, entertained and exercised without having to leave the house.

Article includes offers for a range of subjects, including languages.


How to homeschool your kids with free apps and videos

24 March 2020 (STV)

As schools close due to coronavirus, here's some handy resources for educating children at home.

[..] Natasha and Kelly-Ann will host British Sign Language workshops every day from 1pm live on Facebook and YouTube. Search for Natasha Lamb.


WATCH: How can you home school your children effectively during the coronavirus crisis?

24 March 2020 (East Anglian Daily Times)

With schools closed to all but the children of key workers and the vulnerable, one educator has released a handy guide of how to home school successfully. Watch the video online.

[..] Rosetta Stone is offering children free language classes for three month, while British Sign is offering British Sign Language (BSL) classes online for just £3 for students or those struggling financially during the coronavirus crisis.


BBC sets out plan to inform, educate and entertain during unprecedented times

20 March 2020 (BBC)

Today the BBC is setting out how it will ensure it keeps the nation informed, educated, and entertained in unprecedented times.

Director-General Tony Hall says: "We all know these are challenging times for each and every one of us. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a special role to play at this time of national need.

"We need to pull together to get through this. That’s why the BBC will be using all of its resources - channels, stations and output - to help keep the nation informed, educated and entertained. We are making a series of changes to our output to achieve that.

"We will continue to deliver all the essential news and information - with special programming and content.

"We also will do everything from using our airwaves for exercise classes for older people, religious services, recipes and advice on food for older people and low-income families, and should schools close, education programming for different age groups. We will also be launching a whole new iPlayer experience for children. And of course there will be entertainment - with the ambition of giving people some escapism and hopefully the odd smile.

"Clearly there will be disruption to our output along the way, but we will do our very best.

"It will take time to emerge from the challenges we all face, but the BBC will be there for the public all the way through this."


Interested in learning Scotland's mother tongue? Then choose Gaelic Duolingo

20 March 2020 (The Herald)

The decision by the world’s most popular language learning platform to offer courses in Gaelic has sparked renewed interest in the ancient tongue.

Gaelic Duolingo only launched last November but around 120,000 people have signed up to it - more than the 58,000 speakers of the language in Scotland.

It has also had a positive effect on other Gaelic language providers such as Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye and LearnGaelic, a free online companion for beginners, intermediates and advanced learners. LearnGaelic editor Eilidh Lewsey believes it shows people are interested in reconnecting with their heritage.


The surnames which seem to indicate nationality

19 March 2020 (The New European)

Peter Trudgill on the sometimes confusing way in which surnames seem to indicate nationality.

People with the surname Inglis are usually Scottish. That might seem rather strange, because the name is the Scots-language word for ‘English’ – and why would Scottish people have been called Inglis? But actually of course there would be no point in calling someone from England ‘English’ unless they lived in another country, such as Scotland, where being English was unusual and therefore something which distinguished them from everybody else. People called Inglis are typically Scots who have a distant ancestor who came from England.

This same type of pattern can be seen across Europe. Domenico Tedesco is the Italian manager of the Spartak Moscow football team. Since tedesco is the Italian word for ‘German’, we can assume he had an ancestor who moved to an Italian-speaking area from some German-speaking location.


How a brilliant 18th century linguist linked the Celtic languages

13 March 2020 (The Conversation)

The Scottish Gaelic language is experiencing a new surge of interest in Scotland and further afield. A Gaelic course launched on language learning app Duolingo in November 2019 has attracted 232,000 active learners in just four months, meaning there are just over four times more learners than there are Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Education in Gaelic is also experiencing high demand and expanding both within and beyond the language’s stronghold in the Western Isles.

Though once the primary spoken language in the majority of Scotland, Gaelic is a language that has been on retreat for several centuries. The current wave of initiatives to promote the language are to be welcomed, but this is not the first time that people have sought to make the language more accessible to others.


Gaelic theatre company Theatre Gu Leor tackle loss of land and language in new show Maim

9 March 2020 (The Scotsman)

One of the great strengths of Gaelic culture in Scotland is that it cares not at all for the traditional distinctions between art forms; in the Gaelic-speaking world, music, song and theatre tend to appear as aspects of the same mighty storytelling tradition. 

[..] “Maim is a Gaelic word that means panic, terror, consternation or alarm,” explains Muireann Kelly, after a week of rehearsals at the National Theatre of Scotland’s Glasgow base, “and there’s no doubt that we want this show to confront some huge and frightening issues we all face now. It’s about the continuing decline of native Gaelic language and culture in the islands, despite more people learning the language in the central belt of Scotland; and it’s also about the threat posed to traditional Hebridean and West Highland landscapes by climate change, as the sea rises into the machair.

[..] The only way you can really protect a language and culture is make new things out of it, to make it part of the present and future as well as the past; and that’s what we try to do.

[..] See Maim in Glasgow, Edinburgh and on tour to Inverness, Aberdeen, Oban and across the islands until 28 March.


Quitting EU Erasmus scheme would 'blow a hole' in UK economy

8 March 2020 (The Guardian)

Quitting the EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme would “blow a hole” in the UK’s economy, taking away income of £243m a year and depriving 17,000 British young people of valuable work experience, according to a group of education and business leaders.

The group, including further education colleges and universities, is calling for the British government to make clear that continued Erasmus membership is a high priority in its talks with the EU.

Britain’s membership of the EU-wide exchange scheme known as Erasmus+ is to expire at the end of this year, alongside membership of the EU. The government’s negotiating outline offered scant hope of continued full membership, saying only that it “will consider options for participation in elements of Erasmus+ on a time-limited basis, provided the terms are in the UK’s interests”.

Universities UK International (UUKI), the umbrella group representing higher education providers, said membership of Erasmus gave a bonus to the British economy worth £243m a year, after subtracting membership costs from the £420m generated by EU students visiting the UK under the programme.


Should all children learn sign language?

7 March 2020 (BBC)

A teenager and her brother are leading a campaign to make sign language part of the school curriculum.

Doctors said Christian would never be able to communicate because of brain damage sustained at birth. But his sister, Jade, learned sign language just so she could teach him. Now they have a large following on social media, where they sign along to popular songs to teach others.

Jade also started a petition to make sign language lessons a part of the primary school curriculum - she has had over 100,000 signatures.

Some schools, like the James Wolfe Schools in east London already teach sign language, but would it be possible to roll out on a nationwide scale?


Plan to preserve Gaelic language links in Clackmannanshire

4 March 2020 (Alloa Advertiser)

Proposals to secure the status of the Gaelic language in the Wee County will go before elected members tomorrow.

Councillors will hear about the progress so far in implementing the Gaelic Language Act in the area, and are set to agree proposals going forward. The council's corporate logo is already bilingual and key high-profile signage is being updated to demonstrate equal respect for both Gaelic and English, locally.

There are currently limited services to enable Gaelic speakers to engage with the council; however, plans are to further develop opportunities by offering a translation service for attendance at public meetings or when speaking to services.


Related Links

Language plan approved: 'Suas leis a' Ghàidhlig' in Clacks (Alloa Advertiser, 6 March)

Exclusive: DfE funds undergrad MFL GCSE volunteer force

28 February 2020 (TES)

The Department for Education has backed a deployment of specially trained undergraduate MFL mentors in secondary schools designed to boost the number of pupils studying languages at GCSE.

The Language Horizons Mentoring Scheme, which is led by Cardiff University's School of Modern Languages, has been awarded a £430,000 grant from the DfE and involves degree students are working with Year 8 and 9 students either through face-to-face or digital sessions.

[..] During a recent pilot in ten schools in South Yorkshire, 53 per cent of students who took part went on to choose a modern foreign language at GCSE, and most said it "changed the way they think about languages in relation to their future lives" say scheme organisers.

(Subscription required to access full article)


Gaelic-English book sent to Moray primary schools

28 February 2020 (The Northern Scot)

A children's book written in a mixture of English and Gaelic has been sent to primary schools in Moray.

Bheat an Sù (The Zoo Vet) was sent to schools all across Scotland. It's the first bilingual book from the educational publisher Twinkl, which creates books and online resources used across the world.

The book provides an accessible and inclusive route into Gaelic for all learners, regardless of their background or previous experience of the language. The book has been designed to help schools deliver the Scottish Government's Languages 1+2 policy, where all pupils have the opportunity to learn one other language from primary one and a second from primary five.


Being bilingual at any age is an advantage because of how it changes the brain

27 February 2020 (i News)

Here’s a moral dilemma: a train is speeding towards five people. You’re standing next to a large man wearing a heavy backpack. If you push this man on to the tracks below, he will die, but he and his heavy backpack will stop the train, thus saving the five workmen. Do you push him?

You might rationally know it makes sense to kill one person to save five others, but it’s an emotionally horrible choice to make. Scientists have found that someone who speaks two languages is more likely to make a utilitarian, less emotional choice when asked this moral dilemma in their second language. A bilingual person will probably kill one to save five.

This is one of the most interesting findings in The Bilingual Brain, a new book by neuropsychologist Albert Costa. All humans make choices based on some element of emotion – perhaps a fear of loss, fear of risk, or a sense of morality. The decision you make will depend on the way it has been phrased to you, which words have been used that will trigger different emotions. Costa’s research shows that if you make a decision in your second language, it is more likely to be more rational than emotive.


Skye's the limit at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - a unique Gaelic-only college set in a stunning island location

24 February 2020 (The Herald)

As global interest in Gaelic grows, students from across the world are travelling to Skye to study at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

Situated in the stunningly beautiful peninsula of Sleat in the south end of the island, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a unique Gaelic-only environment and the only college of its kind offering further and higher education through the medium of the language.

The college offers a range of provision from beginners’ courses to a PhD, with the flexibility of studying part-time or full-time, on campus or via distance learning. At a crucial time in the survival of the language, graduates have helped create a Gaelic speaking workforce that now holds key posts across a wide range of sectors in Scotland.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is one of the key partners in fulfilling the government’s objectives in the National Gaelic Plan, which aims to increase the number of people speaking the language and accelerate the growth of Gaelic.

Many people are keen to learn more about the language because of its rich culture and the college provides a wide range of short courses in Gaelic language, song and traditional music. Ceilidhs, workshops, conversation circles and music sessions all create an encouraging atmosphere that bring together students from 30 countries across five continents. 


Cuts to teacher subject advisers could explain declining exam results

23 February 2020 (Brinkwire)

Cuts to subject specialists, advisers and teacher support networks may be the cause of falling exam results, according to a new report.

An analysis of the falling exam pass rates, published on Thursday evening by the Scottish Government, also cites an growing gap in attainment between the richest and poorest pupils in the country.

Bridging that gap, as well as improving education standards, has long been a key priority for the Scottish Government, which critics now argue they have failed on.

Last night, trade unions and experts spoke out about the contents of the report which had been commissioned by Education Secretary John Swinney last year.

[..] The number of teachers who are specialists in their fields has also declined in the past decade, which has been cited by trade union chiefs as part of the decline in standards.

Figures obtained by the Herald in 2018 show that between 2008 and 2018, the number of subject specialists in secondary schools in Scotland had fallen by 11 per cent overall, with some areas seeing as much as a 44% fall in numbers.

The number of English teachers had fallen by 20% in the decade up to 2018, while the number of French teachers had plummeted by 32%.

German teachers fell by 44%, maths teachers by 15% and general science teachers had declined by 11%.


Using more than one language matters now more than ever

22 February 2020 (The Big Issue)

Conflict is all too common when intolerant eavesdroppers hear foreign languages being spoken, says Marek Kohn. But multilingualism is here to stay.

Anja McCloskey was on a bus to Hove when her phone rang. It was her mother, calling from Germany. They chatted in German for a few minutes. When the conversation ended, a man turned round to her and said, “Excuse me, but we speak English in this country.”

Anja was shocked – it’s not the sort of thing people expect to hear in Brighton and Hove, a city that enjoys a reputation for openness and produced a 68.6 per cent Remain vote in the Brexit referendum. She didn’t come up with a rejoinder at the time, and she won’t need to now. Facing uncertainty about her status in this country after Brexit, she went to live in Hamburg. We – whoever we may be these days – are left with the question: what do you say to that?


Can computer translators ever beat speaking a foreign tongue?

21 February 2020 (BBC)

Put crottin de chèvre into Google Translate, and you'll be told it means goat dung.

So if it appeared on a menu, you might pass. Alas, you would be ruling out a delicious cheese made of goat's milk that is often served as a starter in France.

Such misunderstandings are why Google admits that its free tool, used by about 500 million people, is not intended to replace human translators.

Tourists might accept a few misunderstandings because the technology is cheap and convenient. But when the stakes are higher, perhaps in business, law or medicine, these services often fall short.

"Using Google Translate can lead to some serious errors, especially when words have multiple meanings, which is often the case in fields such as law or engineering," says Samantha Langley, a former lawyer who is now a court-approved French-to-English legal translator based in Meribel, France.

That is not to say professional translators do not use computer assisted translation (CAT) tools. More sophisticated applications can help them take the donkey work out of repetitive translations.

CATs are even used as part of modern language degree courses these days. So how good are they?


Secondaries failing to deliver ‘right’ to languages

20 February 2020 (TESS)

The Scottish government has been accused of a "dereliction of duty" as new figures show almost a third of Scottish secondaries are failing to teach their pupils a modern language for the first three years of high school – even though Scottish government policy is that children should be learning two foreign languages from upper primary onwards.

A new survey of Scottish councils has revealed that 30 per cent of secondaries are not delivering a second language consistently from S1 to S3.

Scottish government policy states that “language learning is an entitlement for all from P1 to S3”, with the government committed to delivering its 1+2 languages policy by August 2021. This means that pupils should learn two foreign languages – one from P1 and the second from P5 – as well as their mother tongue.

However, the research shows that many secondaries are struggling to deliver even one foreign language for the first three years of high school, let alone two.

These new figures come at a time when there is real concern over the uptake of languages at qualification level in Scottish secondaries, with Higher French entries last year 27 per cent down on entries in 2012 and German Higher entries down 30 per cent over the same period.

Spanish entries at Higher have, on the other hand, almost doubled but this increase has not compensated for the decreases seen in French and German.

The Languages Strategic Implementation Group set up in 2013 to lead the practical implementation of the 1+2 language learning policy has expressed concern that the term “entitlement” – as in the entitlement to learn a language up to S3 – is too vague and could be being “misinterpreted” by schools as “optional and not a right of the child”.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


Ferry passengers to be treated to special performances

20 February 2020 (The Press and Journal)

Passengers on CalMac ferries will be treated to a performance which celebrates the waters surrounding the Western Isles and the people who travel on them.

With the help of local communities and world class artists, Ferry Tales will bring a musical tale, told using English, Gaelic, and sign language, to three of Scotland’s major ferry routes.

Travellers from Oban to Craignure, Ullapool to Stornoway and Wemyss Bay to Rothesay will all have the chance to enjoy the show. Ferry Tales will feature songs by Scottish folk singer Josie Duncan, who is originally from Lewis and known for songs in Gaelic, Scots and English.


More Evidence that Bilingualism Delays Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

19 February 2020 (Language Magazine)

These results contribute to the growing body of evidence showing that bilinguals are more resilient in dealing with neurodegeneration than monolinguals.

A new study published in Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders provides new evidence that bilingualism can delay symptoms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Led by famed researcher of the effects of bilingualism, Ellen Bialystok, with other psychology researchers from Canada’s York University, distinguished research professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, the study is believed to be the first to investigate conversion times from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease in monolingual and bilingual patients. Although bilingualism delays the onset of symptoms, Bialystok says, once diagnosed, the decline to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease is much faster in bilingual people than in monolingual people because the disease is probably more developed even through the symptoms are less apparent.


Edinburgh's fight for Gaelic school immortalised in new book

19 February 2020 (The Scotsman)

It was a fight that deeply divided language activists and their opponents and rumbled on in the Capital for 14 long years.

Now the campaign to have a dedicated Gaelic primary school in the Capital has been turned into a new book.

Ever since 2013 the city has had its first Gaelic medium education (GME) school at Bun-Sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, a formerly mothballed primary school in Bonnington.

Previously the Gaelic “school” had been simply a unit within Tollcross Primary.

Às na Freumhan, “From the Grassroots”, by Gaelic language expert Tim Armstrong tells the story of the sometimes bitter debate which raged around the subject of Gaelic medium education in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and the fight to get agreement for Taobh na Pàirce to be built.


Gaelic education detractors 'like bad 1970s comedians'

19 February 2020 (TES)

Critics of Gaelic-medium education are so out of touch they are like embarrassing 1970s comedians, the Scottish Parliament has heard.

And Gaelic's "very existence is at stake" so debate around the language must be depoliticised, according to a Tory MSP, whose comments were in marked contrast to recent pronouncements from his party.

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles), said: "Thirty years ago, I remember hearing a prominent Scot – one who should have known better – offering the opinion on the radio that he was 'grateful' that his Gaelic-speaking parents had never spoken Gaelic to him when he was growing up in case that had 'held him back'.

"Let me be clear: the idea that Gaelic or any form of bilingualism might hold children back is a view that I thought had been long relegated to the same embarrassing corner as the views that were expressed by comedians on Saturday night TV around the year 1975."

Dr Allan was speaking – in Gaelic – to a motion calling on MSPs to welcome the decision by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) to enrol Primary 1 pupils into Gaelic-medium education (GME) as the default choice.

His motion also noted that the percentage of children entering GME in the Western Isles has steadily increased over the past decade, and commended the council's "progressive step to consolidate the national language in its heartland communities".

Dr Allan, a former junior education minister, added that "there is an overwhelming consensus among academics and researchers in support of the cognitive benefits of bilingual education". He highlighted a 2010 University of Edinburgh study showing that GME pupils, on a whole, were by Primary 5 outperforming their English-medium education peers in English reading.


Radical Gaelic campaign group reveals plans to stand raft of local election candidates

17 February 2020 (Brinkwire)

A radical Gaelic campaign group that argues the language has been subjected to an “ongoing process of cultural genocide over many centuries” has revealed plans to field a raft of local election candidates as part of efforts to revive it.

Misneachd – which translates as confidence or courage – says all adults in the Western Isles and other Gaelic heartlands should have the right to six months’ free, full-time tuition in the language in islands-based “immersion centres”.

This would take the form of a paid sabbatical for those in work.

It also wants to phase out English-medium education in the islands and limit the number of second homes.


Welsh language education scheme rolls out across Wales

17 February 2020 (BBC)

A scheme to help preschool children learn Welsh more quickly is being rolled out across the country.

Croesi'r Bont, or Crossing the Bridge, has been developed by Mudiad Meithrin, which runs most Welsh-medium early years provision.

The focus is on ensuring staff at playgroups and primary school teachers use the same language patterns.

The aim is to ease the transition into Welsh-medium education for children whose families do not speak Welsh.

Mudiad Meithrin is taking a key role in the Welsh Government's aim of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.


Mandarin dream: The UK pupils vying for a trip to Beijing

17 February 2020 (BBC)

Pupils from across the UK headed to London for the national final of a Mandarin speaking competition.

At stake is an all-expenses-paid trip to Beijing where they can test their language skills for real.

See the video.


Call for all schools to teach sign language 'to make world more inclusive'

16 February 2020 (Sky News)

Nearly 100,000 people have signed a petition set up by an 18-year-old calling for all schools to teach basic sign language.

Jade Kilduff, 18, launched the campaign after seeing how sign language transformed her younger brother's life. Christian, four, has brain damage and cerebral palsy and his family were told he would never be able to communicate, so Jade spent two years teaching him sign language.

"Christian communicates by using sign language and a lot of people when talking to Christian would have to talk through me," Jade told Sky News.

"And I thought it was unfair that he could only communicate to me and a few of our family members and I thought if everybody just knew a little bit of sign then it would make the world more inclusive."


‘Enormous’ interest in Gaelic language over last 18 months

15 February 2020 (STV News)

A surge in the number of people taking up Gaelic in the last 18 months has raised fresh hopes for the revival of the historic Scots language.

Community leaders say interest is at its highest in the past decade and are welcoming the introduction of online learning platforms, which are helping to swell the numbers of speakers.

One factor being credited with a recent spike is online language tutorial service, Duolingo. The global service launched a Gaelic version on November 30.

Around 200,000 people have signed up to learn the language in just 11 weeks.


Corpus Christi Primary pupils celebrate tapas night at Tennent’s Cook School

14 February 2020 (Clydebank Post)

Pupils from Corpus Christi Primary School marked the end of a weekly cooking club by celebrating a Spanish tapas night.

Youngsters who attend Spanish Club “El Club Español Familiar” along with family members, travelled to Tennent’s Cook School last Thursday - coinciding with Language Week Scotland.

The event marked their final week with a family celebration theme to apply all of their new language skills.


Hawaiian, Gaelic, Yiddish: so you want to learn an endangered language on Duolingo?

14 February 2020 (The Guardian)

Languages do not become endangered peacefully. Duolingo’s efforts to teach such languages have entangled the company in often fraught historical contexts.

In October last year, Meena Viswanath, a 31-year-old civil engineer from Berkeley, California, joined a small team of volunteers who were developing a Yiddish course on Duolingo, the free language learning app with over 300 million users. Having grown up in the only Yiddish-speaking family in a majority English-speaking New Jersey neighborhood, the prospect of broadcasting her mother tongue to a global network of students was exciting.

Throughout October, Viswanath and three other contributors regularly met to discuss the curriculum over a shared Slack channel. They had a target to get the course up and running towards the end of 2020, and to begin, progress was solid. But then they hit a roadblock.

Yiddish, which combines elements of German, Hebrew, Aramaic and Slavic, is a language of many dialects corresponding to the different regions of Europe where they emerged. The differences in pronunciation and grammar between these dialects are subtle, but for a native speaker they carry meaningful information about identity, culture and religious affiliation.


Skills shortage in UK tourism 'becoming critical'

10 February 2020 (TTG Media)

Brexit has already led to a crippling shortage of quality candidates for jobs in tourism in the UK, according to business leaders.

Speaking on a panel at the UKinbound Convention, Karen Robertson, managing director of Jac Travel, said staffing was “becoming critical”, with many of her foreign language-speaking employees having left the UK.

“Some employees from Germany and France are now working remotely for us, so we can retain their skills. It’s not ideal, but what choice do you have when you only get one application [for a vacancy]?” she asked.


‘Translation Opens the Door to Various Worlds’ — Winners of 13th Juvenes Translatores Announced

10 February 2020 (Slator)

The European Commission announced the winners of the 2019–2020 edition of Juvenes Translatores on January 30, 2020. Twenty-eight winners bested a field that saw 3,116 students from 740 secondary schools participate.

It was the first time since its inception in 2007 that Europe’s annual competition for young translators was conducted completely online. The students, who were given the option to translate between any two of the EU’s 24 official languages, used 150 of 552 possible language combinations.

As in most other years, the highest number of participants came from Italy and Germany. This time, however, the United Kingdom dislodged France to take third place in terms of number of entries, in a year that marked the UK’s leaving the European Union the day after the contest winners were announced.


Frozen 2’s ‘Into the Unknown’ gets a sweeping multilingual Oscar performance with 10 Elsas

9 February 2020 (Polygon)

Frozen 2’s only Oscar nomination is for “Into the Unknown” for Best Original song. But that didn’t stop Idina Menzel and nine other Elsa voice actresses from around the world from putting on one killer performance.

Joined by Norwegian singer-songwriter AURORA (the voice that goes “WoooO-oOOooh-oOOh-OOOoooH” in the background of the song), Menzel took the stage to start off the song clad in an icy white dress. Pretty soon, she was joined by Elsa voice actresses and singers from nine different countries singing the song in their own native languages, also while wearing white ensembles to channel their inner Elsas.

View the video of the performance.


New app launches courses in 150 languages with Scottish-voiced tuition

8 February 2020 (The Sunday Post)

A new app is aiming to help Scots learn 150 different languages from across the world, with the help of a Scottish voice.

Bluebird Languages, based in Wyoming, has teamed up with Highland broadcaster Colin Stone for the interactive audio lessons, which can be narrated in both Gaelic and English.

Scots can learn any of the 150 languages in their own dialect, something which creator Robert Savage saw as a gap in the market.


The Twinstitute - Learn a language

6 February 2020 (BBC)

In the heart of Birmingham, doctors Chris and Xand van Tulleken have set up a unique centre for science. 

But theirs is no ordinary lab because inside it is crammed with 30 pairs of identical twins! Thanks to their matching DNA, identical twins are the perfect candidates for scientific comparison.

In this episode, two pairs of identical twins are finding out the best way to learn a language - putting the two most popular styles of learning head to head in self-taught versus taught. With 65% of us saying we would like to be able to speak another language, this test will determine the best way to go about it for you! 

Watch the programme (available on iPlayer until 6 March 2020).


Mastering foreign languages is like playing a video game

6 February 2020 (Study International)

Did you know that for every native English speaker in the world, there are five non-native speakers? Approximately 96 percent of all English conversations involve non-native speakers. You could say that this language is an essential tool to navigate today’s world.

That’s why communication skills trainer Marianna Pascal has trained thousands of Southeast Asians to communicate effectively over her past two decades in Malaysia. Having observed several approaches to speaking in English, Pascal shared how the secrets to mastering foreign languages can be found in everyday behaviour.

Here are some tips from her speech at TEDxPenangRoad.

Pascal noticed that many non-native English speakers feel pressured when interacting with native speakers. However, she says that proficiency level should not be a barrier to getting your message across.

“In schools all around the world, English is not being taught like it’s a tool to play with. Students are judged more on correctness than clarity,” she said. “Instead of looking at a foreign language as an art to be mastered and perfected, think of it as a tool you can use to get a result.”

Languages are essential tools we use to navigate everyday life. When we begin to view them as such, we are able to shift our perspective and move past any fear or insecurity.


Attitudes to education: The teaching profession, higher education and foreign languages

6 February 2020 (FE News)

Applies to England

Today (6 Jan) DfE have published the research report ‘Attitudes to education: British Social Attitudes Survey 2018’.

The report represents a broad survey of 3,000 adults across a range of subjects including the teaching profession, higher education and foreign languages in school.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: 

“Foreign languages are not only increasingly important to a modern, global economy; they also open up opportunities for young people. It’s clear that society recognises the value in having a language qualification in later life, which is why we are working to increase language uptake in schools.

“The introduction of the EBacc helped halt the decline in languages. Since 2010 the proportion of pupils studying a language at GCSE has risen from 40% to 47% in 2019. We recognise that we need to increase that further which is why we are creating a network of schools to spread best practice and introducing funding schemes like the Mandarin Excellence Programme.”


We need to start using these strangely brilliant bits of workplace jargon from around the world

6 February 2020 (The Metro)

Bored of the overused buzzwords of the UK workplace? Tired of reminding yourself that teamwork makes the dream work? Rather than giving up saying meaningless career-themed platitudes, we have a far more fun idea: just adopt the idioms used in other languages around the world. Premier Inn has put together a list of the strangely brilliant buzzwords and phrases used in offices in countries other than the UK, including the inspiring ‘now it’s about the sausage!’ and ‘rubber time’.

Here's a breakdown of workplace phrases from around the world.


How Nicaragua's deaf children invented a new sign language

5 February 2020 (BBC)

In the 1980s deaf children in Nicaragua invented a completely new sign language of their own.

It was a remarkable achievement, which allowed experts a unique insight into how human communication develops.

"What we learnt from Nicaragua about language still isn't over," says American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl, who documented the emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language.

Visit the website to watch the video report.


The Upside Down - Why Are We So Quiet About Language Death?

3 February 2020 (Byline Times)

John Mitchinson on why biodiversity helps explain how we are all impoverished by the loss of languages.

We humans are an odd species. As individuals, our generosity is endless when applied to conservation of national environments or endangered animals, but we seem peculiarly uninterested in the plight of human cultures.

While the World Wildlife Fund for Nature boasts annual revenues in excess of £250 million, Survival International, one of the largest global charities dedicated to indigenous peoples’ rights, operates on a mere £1.5 million. This is because most of us are functionally ignorant when it comes to the cultural extinction crisis our species faces.

Here are some basic facts.

Of the 7,011 languages currently spoken, 2,895 (41%) are now endangered, each with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. A language goes extinct every 3.5 months. By 2050, some estimate that 90% of the currently spoken languages will have gone forever. And, rather like climate change, this isn’t an inevitable erosion over time. Of the 420 language families known to have existed, a quarter have already gone – 90% of those in the past 60 years. To put that in perspective, if a language extinction is akin to the loss of a species, the loss of a language family is like losing all the whales or big cats.


Martina Navratilova: ‘Learning multiple languages helped me on the court and in life’

3 February 2020 (The Independent)

Frustrated in her desire to learn the piano and unable to find anyone in her small Czech village to teach her English, Martina Navratilova sought out French and German lessons instead. Here, in an extract from a new book, the tennis superstar says the sport that made her name is a language too.

Two “passports” expanded my horizons, transformed my life and opened up the world: the game of tennis and languages. To learn a different language is to encounter a different logic, a different cadence, a different sequence of words. It prepares you to think differently and to adapt, and tennis is all about adapting, every point, every shot. You have to figure things out fast and react to instantly changing circumstances.

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Book review: The Bilingual Brain

2 February 2020 (TES)

Almost a quarter of pupils in English primary schools are bilingual. Their teachers need to understand the implications of this, says Victoria Murphy.

Bilingualism is now the norm globally, which means that bilingual language development is the default for most of the world’s population. 

Despite this, many countries (notably, English-speaking ones such as the UK) tend to adopt a monolingual mindset in thinking about educational provision. 

In England, just under 22 per cent of the primary-school population has English as an additional language, meaning they come to school with knowledge of another language, but at the same time learn English through their educational experiences.

It makes a lot of sense then for educators (and others) to familiarise themselves with the basic science underpinning what we know about bilingual language development. Albert Costa’s book is an excellent place to start. 

Costa was a talented researcher, whose work addressed key questions in bilingualism. But, sadly, this English version of the Spanish volume (2017) is posthumous. 

It makes it all the more poignant, then, that we have such a wonderful legacy from him of some of the major findings in bilingualism research of the past few decades, humanely and humorously presented. 

Bilingualism is an active field and growing all the time, which means that Costa has made decisions about what to include and what not to include. 

Because the book is written in a clear and companionable way, it feels like a conversation with Costa, in which he enthusiastically regales us with tales from the world of bilingualism.

This is a huge accomplishment, because language is, in and of itself, an incredibly complicated beast, with multiple layers just describing the “what” of language. 

When talking about two languages, and some of the key findings in the research field addressing multiple languages, we’re in a really complex world. 

Luckily, Costa has written the book in such a way that one does not need a degree in a cognate discipline, nor a good understanding of research design and methodology, to engage with the content. 

The content predictably begins at the start of human experience: explaining how bilingual babies (that is, babies who are set on the path towards bilingualism from birth) process and come to learn two different linguistic systems. 

He reviews very cool neuro-imaging studies, which illustrate that the same areas of the brain and activation patterns in monolinguals are evident in bilinguals.

Yet, at the same time, there are some interesting differences, which might relate to a whole host of variables (such as how competent the individual is in their respective languages). 

Costa uses the metaphor of juggling to describe how bilinguals manage their two linguistic systems, sometimes inhibiting one in favour of the other (for example, cognitive control).

He describes some evidence that speaks to the issue of whether and why bilinguals might be better language learners (that is: knowing two languages might mean that learning a third is easier for them than for the monolingual to learn a second). 

And he also discusses the evidence suggesting that bilinguals might have certain cognitive advantages over monolinguals.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


Caley Thistle to make home game announcements in Gaelic

1 February 2020 (The Scotsman)

Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club (ICTFC) is introducing Gaelic Tannoy announcements at games.

The move celebrates both the National Mod coming to Inverness this year and the wider movement of promoting the Gaelic language. Alasdair Barnett, convenor of the National Mod 2020 and also a Caley Thistle fan, approached the club – which is managed by John Robertson – last year about it being involved in promoting the National Mod on its return to the town.

Mr Barnett said: “I know several people at the club and spoke with them about ICTFC possibly hosting some fund raising events at the stadium. The club invited myself and some others from the Gaelic community in to a meeting and several projects around the Gaelic language have emerged from that. The first initiative to take place is the Gaelic announcements at home games."


The cost of Britain’s language problem

31 January 2020 (The New Statesman)

As chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne thought he had found a key to boosting British competitiveness: teaching more children Mandarin. In September 2015, he announced a £10m investment in the Mandarin Excellence Programme, which aimed for an extra 5,000 children in the UK to be learning the language by 2020. Two years later, the country’s first entirely bilingual English-Chinese school opened its doors in London. At Kensington Wade, founded in 2017, children shout out answers in Mandarin in one classroom, practice calligraphy in another, and sing English songs in the next. Pinned to the wall of the school’s waiting room is a quote from businessman Sir Martin Sorrell: “Chinese and computer code are the only two languages the next generation should need”.

But the 61 pupils at the £17,000-a-year establishment, expected to be fluent in Mandarin by the age of 11, will be in the minority of young Brits who speak a second language. According to Eurobarometer, only 32 per cent of Britons aged 15-30 can read and write in more than one language. The EU average is 80 per cent. Given that it is compulsory for children in Wales to take Welsh until GCSE, fluency in non-UK languages is likely to be even lower.


Securing Gaelic in the Western Isles and beyond

31 January 2020 (The National)

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) recently attracted a flurry of media attention by announcing that Gaelic-medium education (GME) will become the default model in the islands’ schools, so that parents preferring English-medium education will have to opt out. GME has been offered in the islands’ schools since 1987, but English has been the default option up to now.

The new policy is welcome but hardly radical. GME is a long-established and successful model, not only in the Western Isles but across Scotland. Parents will still have the option of English-medium education, unlike in northwest Wales where only Welsh-medium education is available.

There is a consensus in Gaelic circles that more must be done to secure the position of the language in the Western Isles, the only part of Scotland where the language remains widely spoken in the community. There is much less agreement on what steps ought to be taken – indeed there has been relatively little serious, focused discussion.


Championing Gaelic is an easy win for language learning

31 January 2020 (TESS)

When Scottish Conservative Liz Smith criticised Gaelic-medium education, she was way off the mark, writes Henry Hepburn.

Monsieur Boudon adored the English language. In a rural corner of France, where hardly anyone could string together more than a few words of English, he spent evenings decoding Bruce Springsteen concept albums and parsing the prose of Charles Dickens’ most doorstep-like novels.

I had just started as an English language assistant at a lycée in Le Puy-en-Velay, in Auvergne, where Monsieur Boudon was an English teacher. In what was both a benevolent gesture and a prime opportunity to test his linguistic mettle, he quickly invited me over for dinner along with two Irish students who were working in other schools.

[..] I thought about Monsieur Boudon last week for the first time in many a year when there was a political stooshie over Gaelic-medium education. Following news of the landmark move that Gaelic would become the default language of schools in the Western Isles, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokesperson, Liz Smith, was quoted in The Scotsman describing this as a “deeply troubling step” that could put children “at a distinct disadvantage to their peers”.

This felt like an echo of culture wars from a bygone era. There are still a few mutterings on social media about whether train station signs should be in Gaelic, but you rarely hear the overblown denunciations of the language that you used to get.

Now, middle-class parents in Edinburgh and Glasgow – often with no heritage in Gaelic’s heartlands – are clamouring for their children to be taught in the language. And a few weeks ago, it was reported that the Gaelic version of the Duolingo language learning app had become the company’s fastest-growing course ever, with 127,000 sign-ups in the month since its St Andrew’s Day launch.

[..] Attempts to boost Gaelic education should be celebrated, not disparaged – because we are all enriched by a plurality of languages.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

Watch young girl's hilarious rendition of well-known Scots poem ‘A Dug, A Dug’

29 January 2020 (Daily Record)

An Uddingston girl set the internet on fire this week with her hilarious rendition of a well-known Scots poem.

Youngster Amari Tade has amassed over 460,000 views online after her mum, Lindsay, uploaded the clip of the seven-year-old practising the role of the dad in Scots language poem ‘A Dug, A Dug’ by Bill Keys.

Amari, whose dad is former professional football player Gregory Tade, was tasked with learning the poem off by heart for a school recital as part of their Burns Day celebrations.

And the pupil took the internet by storm with her cute reactions to her mum, who reads the part of the child who pesters their dad for a ‘dug’.


Dumfries and Galloway Council weighs up Gaelic on welcome signs

28 January 2020 (BBC)

A Scottish council is being asked to consider adding Gaelic to its welcome signs on roads entering the region.

There are currently 20 such boards on routes into Dumfries and Galloway - written only in English.

The chairman of promotion group Gàidhlig Dumgal has contacted the council to ask it to look at the move.

The organisation is particularly keen to see the bilingual signs on the entry routes into Galloway like the A75, A77, A714 and A713.

Gàidhlig Dumgal, the organisation set up nearly a decade ago to promote the language in the region, said there was a "a strong degree of interest" from locals and visitors alike in the Gaelic heritage of the area.

It added that there could be long-term economic benefits, as well as increasing awareness of the language.

The group said a form of Gaelic - Galwegian Gaelic - was spoken in Galloway from around the 5th Century to some time between 1600 and 1800.

Dumfries and Galloway Council's Gaelic Language Plan (GLP) has also recognised the "important role" it played in the linguistic heritage of the region.

"Gaelic speakers resident in our council area form a small but important and culturally active part of our community," it said.


Parlez-vous français? Maybe not if you're a boy

27 January 2020 (BBC)

Applies to England

Girls are more than twice as likely as boys to pass a GCSE in a modern foreign language, a report suggests. Just 38% of boys in England took a foreign language at GCSE in 2018, compared with about 50% of girls, a report for the British Council says.

Using statistical modelling, the Education Policy Institute study found when factors like background and ability were accounted for, boys were 2.17 times less likely to succeed.

But some schools are bucking the trend.

Researchers used a set of characteristics to model the likelihood of different types of pupils achieving a pass in a language GCSE, finding different results for different groups. In most areas of education, the biggest achievement gap is between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers. In languages, however, a pupil's gender has the biggest effect on the likelihood of whether they will succeed.


The man teaching 300 million people a new language

27 January 2020 (BBC)

If anyone ever doubts the positive impact of immigration tell them about Luis von Ahn.

A 41-year-old from the Central American nation of Guatemala, he went to the US in 1996, aged 18, to do a maths degree at Duke University in North Carolina. After that he studied computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

[...] Fast forward to today, and Luis is the co-founder and boss of Pittsburgh-based Duolingo, the world's most popular language-learning app, which has more than 300 million users around the globe.

[...] The inspiration behind Duolingo was to create a language learning app that was free for people to use - be it in Guatemala, or around the world - so that they could gain the economic advantages that often come with being at least partially bilingual.


'It's no shock that boys are avoiding languages'

27 January 2020 (TES)

We need to think more about how language-learning in schools is seen through a teenage boy's eyes, says Isabelle Dépreux.

The news that boys are eschewing the learning of languages does, while sad to hear, not come as a shock to me.

As the head of language learning at an all-girls’ school, I am also the mother of two boys, one a teenager. Benefiting from a multilingual mother, my children are, I’m glad to say, language and culturally fluent.

However, had it not been for this parental input, I’m not so sure it would have been the case.

Learning a language is like having a baby: you are far removed from you normal comfort zone.

Beginning a new language at the often emotionally-fragile teenage years is hard enough as it is and, what's more, I find that boys are naturally more inhibited in general.

Not to mention that everyone is familiar with the jokes about women asking for directions while men drive around for hours rather than possibly losing face.

It’s the same in a language class. Girls bounce back from mistakes more easily, while boys are concerned about being seen as weak and having their peers’ judge. 

(Note - subscription required to access full article)


Scots speakers should learn from Gaelic and feel no shame – Alistair Heather

27 January 2020 (The Scotsman)

The decision to make Gaelic the default language in the early years of primary education on the Western Isles should be an inspiration to speakers of Scots, writes Alistair Heather.

The news that Gaelic will now become the default first language of education in Na h-Eileanan Siar is a remarkable positive step. It is policy reacting to a community preference for teaching to be conducted in the native language of the area. It has taken years of grassroots activism and pressure to bring this change to pass.

For those 1.5 million of us that speak Scots in Scotland, and especially those in Scots heartlands, we should learn lessons from this Hebridean development and apply them very quickly to Scotland’s other indigenous spoken minority language.


No history, no languages… the end of humanities only deepens divides

26 January 2020 (The Guardian)

Sunderland University wants to become more “career-focused”. So it is to shut down all its language, politics and history courses and promote instead degrees that “align with particular employment sectors”. It’s an illustration of what happens when universities turn into businesses, and their ethos is defined by the market. It’s also symbolic of the divisions that now rend Britain’s social fabric.


Dr Michael Dempster: More people are speaking up for Scots

24 January 2020 (The Scotsman)

While we’re celebrating the legacy of world-famous Scots ­language speaker Rabbie Burns tomorrow, it’s also a time to celebrate the many firsts that have taken place for the Scots language recently, and to celebrate its bright future.

Twinty nineteen wis a year o firsts fir Scots language...

There was the first Doric Film ­Festival, the first Scots Gaitherin conference, the first Scots Language Awards, and, of course, the first, free to all, 40-hour introductory course on Scots language and culture was launched by The Open University.

The first digital map of Scots place names was launched by the Deputy First Minister and the first Scottish Government Scots Publication Grant saw support going to many publishers to put out new work in Scots.


MSPs demand apology for 'highly offensive' Tory comments on Gaelic education

23 January 2020 (The Scotsman)

Children's education could suffer by a move which will see Gaelic as the main teaching language for all primary one pupils in the Western Isles from next year, the Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary has said. Liz Smith, MSP, described the new policy which will see Gaelic become the "default" language for P1 pupils as a "deeply troubling step".

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, is demanding that Ms Smith withdraw her “highly offensive” remarks and apologise.

John Finnie, Scottish Greens MSP for the Highlands and Island, also said Ms Smith's comments were "offensive and inaccurate".

Pupils starting lessons in Gaelic will learn English from P4 onwards. Parents who want to opt out of the new system can have their children taught in English from P1.

However, Ms Smith, said Gaelic should not be promoted over English: “This is a deeply troubling step and one that could put children in the Western Isles at a distinct disadvantage to their peers."


Gaelic to be 'default' language for new pupils in Western Isles schools

23 January 2020 (BBC)

Children starting school in the Western Isles this summer will be taught in Gaelic, unless their parents opt-out.

Until now parents had to opt in to Gaelic-medium education (GME) on the islands, where lessons in English was the default.

But from August, all new P1 children will enrol in GME unless their parents request otherwise.

The move was prompted because more than half of parents were expected to choose Gaelic-medium education.

Western Isles council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, is the first of Scotland's 32 local authorities to make the move.

The islands has Scotland's largest Gaelic speaking community.

GME sees lessons delivered in Gaelic until P4 and then English is introduced, with the aim of giving children a bilingual education.


DofE scheme draws up 'experience list' to build teen resilience

16 January 2020 (The Guardian)

The Duke of Edinburgh award scheme’s leaders are calling on the government to support character building in schools.

Teenagers who want to grow in confidence and resilience are being urged to try “character building” activities such as trying veganism, performing random acts of kindness, taking a digital detox, attending a music festival and going dancing.

The DofE scheme, best known among its millions of graduates for its intrepid, all-weather expeditions into the wilds of the British countryside, has drawn up the checklist of 25 experiences.

Other suggested activities on the list include: public speaking, learning a foreign language, doing work experience, spending time getting to know an older person, volunteering for a charity, campaigning for something you believe in, spending time in nature, engaging in politics, learning about climate change and becoming a mentor to someone younger.

While most teenagers will be able to tick off at least some of the activities on the list, leaders of the DofE scheme are calling on the government to do more to support character building in schools to help develop resilience in all young people.


Prince William impresses by using sign language at investiture ceremony

14 January 2020 (Hello magazine)

Prince William is a man of many talents! The royal impressed onlookers at a Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony on Tuesday by congratulating one of the guests using British Sign Language. William could be seen smiling at TV veteran Alex Duguid as he signed "Congratulations, Alex," with Alex replying, "Thank you." The thoughtful gesture no doubt meant a great deal to Alex, who was bestowed with an MBE for his services to deaf people and to British Sign Language education.

Watch the presentation video.


Ofsted starts subject reviews with maths and languages

13 January 2020 (TES)

Applies to England

Ofsted's reintroduction of thematic subject reviews will be "state of the nation" looks into teaching in maths and languages, it has been revealed

The reviews will be using data gathered by inspectors from "deep dives" into these subjects during school inspections.

Daniel Muijs, Ofsted’s deputy director for research and evaluation said the thematic subject reviews would be the the inspectorate’s "biggest programme of new research".

"For this, we will be using data from inspection deep dives to look at the state of the nation in different subject areas across key stages," he said.

"The first subjects we will be researching will be mathematics and languages. 

The plan for Ofsted to return to producing thematic subject reviews was first announced by chief inspector Amanda Spielman last year.

Ms Spielman told the Association of School and College Leaders conference, in Birmingham last year, that she hoped these reviews would start "thoughtful debate informed by evidence."

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


Everyone in Wales will be able to speak Welsh in 300 years - believe scientists

12 January 2020 (Wales Online)

Researchers say that the Welsh language will "thrive" and by 2300 two-thirds of the population could be Welsh speakers.

More than a third of the world's 7,000 languages are currently classified as endangered and more than half are expected to go extinct by 2100. There are a number of strategies in place in those countries to boost the language.

The researchers have developed a model which can predict changes in proficiency levels over time and, ultimately, whether a given endangered language is on a long-term trajectory towards extinction or recovery. The data, published by the Royal Society, compares Welsh and te reo Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand, as a case study. That shows that while Māori is on a pathway towards extinction, Welsh will "thrive in the long term".

The model is based on Welsh in Wales, where researchers say "significant development in bilingual and Welsh-medium education and the presence of the language throughout the public and private sectors have positively contributed to an increase in the number of Welsh speakers."


CalMac launches new bilingual customer care service for Gaelic speakers

12 January 2020 (The Press and Journal)

Britain’s biggest ferry and harbour operator is adding to its support for Gaelic speakers by offering a bi-lingual English and Gaelic customer care service.

CalMac created a new customer care centre in Stornoway last summer, bringing six new jobs to the town. It has now confirmed this will become a permanent fixture with staff at the venue enhancing the Gaelic face of the company.

In the past, assistance from a Gaelic speaker was only available to customers telephoning or visiting port offices in Gaelic-speaking areas, but now, anyone who would like to make an enquiry in Gaelic, can be transferred to a native speaker.

The Stornoway-based team will also be steadily transforming CalMac’s social media channels into a bi-lingual offering as well.


Languages affected differently by brain disease

11 January 2020 (BBC)

There are differences in the way English and Italian speakers are affected by dementia-related language problems, a small study suggests.

While English speakers had trouble pronouncing words, Italian speakers came out with shorter, simpler sentences.

The findings could help ensure accurate diagnoses for people from different cultures, the researchers said. Diagnostic criteria are often based on English-speaking patients.


Government decision to scrap Erasmus scheme will harm UK's bottom line

10 January 2020 (City AM)

The UK has always lagged behind its European neighbours in foreign language learning, and the vote this week to eradicate the Erasmus scheme will only slow that adoption further. 

For many, Erasmus was an opportunity to live and learn a new culture and language, free from class and income boundaries. The programme gave the UK’s youth an international edge. But now that the government has denied university students this exchange scheme, following Wednesday’s Brexit votes, it runs a serious risk of making British students more insular, constricted, and less culturally open.

Concerns about this decision don’t just begin and end with the loss of cultural and social benefits for students — it will inevitably affect the UK’s future workforce and bottom line. 

In the midst of the Brexit process, where we have already seen a reduction in net migration since the referendum, how will British industries fair without this source of diversity in learning and incoming talent?

This decision is arguably the worst one made for the British education system since 2004, when Tony Blair’s Labour government chose to scrap compulsory foreign language learning at the GCSE level, which led to a severe drop in the number of UK pupils taking subjects such as French and German. In fact, there has been a huge 63 per cent fall in GCSE entries for French and a 67 per cent for German since 2002. 

The government is setting a dangerous precedent. It sends the message to young Brits that foreign language skills aren’t important, and that English is the language of the world. 

It isn’t. In fact, only 20 per cent of the world’s population speaks English — this includes both native and second language speakers. 

In 2013, the now-dissolved Department of Business, Innovation and Skills revealed that the UK’s language skills deficit could be costing the economy up to £48bn each year. So it is concerning that this Brexit-driven decision has gone ahead without a regard for its implications. 


Learning foreign languages should be compulsory, says report

9 January 2020 (The Guardian)

Learning a new language should be compulsory for pupils up to the age of 16, according to a new report highlighting the UK’s recent abysmal record in encouraging young people to study languages other than English.

The report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) cites an EU-wide survey showing that just 32% of young people in the UK say they are able to read or write in more than one language, compared with 79% of their peers in France and more than 90% in Germany.

The report calls for the overturning of the government’s 2004 decision to drop compulsory study of languages at key stage four – when pupils take GCSE exams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – which has led to a steep decline in the numbers in England going on to study languages at colleges and universities.

It also recommends that the government should start subsidising the teaching of languages at universities, “in light of declining enrolments and growing vulnerability for lesser taught languages”, for strategic and cultural reasons.


Mandarin eclipses French, say private school heads

8 January 2020 (TES)

Mandarin is the best language for pupils to learn in today’s world, while French lags far behind in importance, according to girls’ school headteachers cited in a poll published today.

The survey, conducted by the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), which represents independent all-girls schools across the UK, found that 38 per cent of heads feel Mandarin is the most important modern language for pupils to learn.

This is despite pupils' quicker progress in European languages, according to a language expert, who also argues that more job opportunities area available for French and German speakers.

Spanish was the second most popular option among the headteachers polled, with 31 per cent choosing it as the most important language, while 7.1 per cent chose Russian.

Just 2 per cent of those surveyed said French is the most important language for pupils to know.

A further 21 per cent selected “other”, with many commenting that any modern foreign language is useful for pupils.

[..] But Teresa Tinsley, who wrote the British Council’s 2019 Language Trends report, said schools needed to consider the practicalities of opting for Mandarin over languages spoken by geographical neighbours, such as French and German.

[..] Ms Tinsley said she supported the introduction of Mandarin to give pupils more variety in the languages they learnt, but said European languages tended to support pupils’ literacy in English, which could not be said of Asian languages.

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What are the hardest GCSE subjects? A student's view

6 January 2020 (TES)

When it comes to GCSEs, a mixed bag of results is often expected by teachers and students alike. 

It’s generally accepted that students have stronger and weaker areas; some are more Stem-oriented, while others perform better in English and the arts.

But are all GCSE subjects of the same difficulty? 

And should we be concerned about this?

I propose that the difference in performance across subjects is partially down to disparities in the difficulty of the courses and exams.

I achieved 10 grade 9s last summer, but I did not find it easy. 

These are the subjects that I – and others – found the most difficult.


SEND: Why your school should sign up to BSL

3 January 2020 (TES)

How can you make inclusion a key part of your curriculum? One mainstream primary in London has taken the radical step of including British Sign Language – so that every child learns to use it. Headteacher Dani Lang and deaf instructor Tina Kemp explain how it’s benefited deaf and hearing pupils alike

It’s Tuesday morning and a Year 5 class are doing their daily maths lesson. A child looks confused and puts her hand up, but before the teacher can come over, the boy next to her puts his pencil down and signs “Can I help?”

The girl smiles back at him and signs that she can’t work out the answer and points to the question in her maths book. His quick, nimble fingers sign back to help her overcome her confusion about place value, and then they both pick up their pencils and continue with their work.

All this, without a single audible word uttered. This fluent interaction in British Sign Language (BSL) is common at Brimsdown Primary School in Enfield. We are a mainstream primary in North London with a hearing impairment resource base (HIRBiE). This is not an intervention tool, it’s a teaching tool. HIRBiE runs staff and family signing lessons during the day and after school, and teaches BSL to all children from Nursery to Year 6 in class time.

It works for us and we firmly believe it could – and should – work for you, too.

Admittedly, it has taken us some time to get to this point: HIRBiE has been operating for 13 years in the school but its full integration into the school day has been going on only for the past four years.

HIRBiE was set up because there were (and still are) a number of deaf children and staff at the school, and the leadership firmly believed that every child deserved the right to be treated equally and to receive the same quality of education. However, leaders also felt there was a need to bridge the gap between hearing and deaf people and so took the decision to make BSL a significant part of our school curriculum.

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Language apps: Can phones replace classrooms?

2 January 2020 (BBC)

Can apps ever replace classroom language learning or even help revive minority or dying languages?

Apps offer languages - real or invented - not popular enough to be taught at evening classes or most universities. Esperanto, invented to create world peace, Avatar's Na'vi, Elvish and Star Trek's Klingon are all on the table.


Duolingo sparks Gaelic boom as young Scots shrug off 'cringe' factor

2 January 2020 (The Guardian)

Almost double the number of people in Scotland who already speak Scottish Gaelic have signed up to learn the language on the popular free platform Duolingo in over a month, concluding a proliferation in courses, prizes and performance in Gaelic and Scots during 2019, as younger people in particular shrug off the “cultural cringe” associated with speaking indigenous languages.

The Duolingo course, which was launched just before St Andrew’s Day on 30 November and looks likely to be the company’s fastest-growing course ever, has garnered more than 127,000 sign-ups – 80% from Scotland itself, compared with just over 58,000 people who reported themselves as Gaelic speakers in the 2011 Scottish census.

And last month, the Open University Scotland launched a free online course – which has already attracted nearly 7,000 unique visitors from the UK, US, Canada and Australia – that teaches the Scots language in the context it is spoken, as well as highlighting its role in Scottish culture and society.


Related Links

Duolingo's Scots Gaelic course reaches 127,000 users (The National, 3 January 2020)

West Lothian Council to promote Gaelic language and Gaelic education

30 December 2019 (Daily Record)

West Lothian Council’s executive has agreed a draft Gaelic language plan for the authority. It will now be presented to the Bòrd na Gaidhlig. 

The body was set up by the Scottish Government in 2005 to promote the use and understanding of the Gaelic language and Gaelic education.

West Lothian is one of only four councils - the others are Midlothian, East Lothian and Scottish Borders - who have not created a Gaelic plan. A six-week public consultation produced 127 responses. The bulk were in favour of developing language classes and cultural events.


New interactive map can tell Scots folk ‘far it is they’re fae, ye ken?’

30 December 2019 (Evening Telegraph)

A new interactive map created by the University of Glasgow has revealed how and where the Scots language is used across the country.

The webpage aims to record and revitalise the ancient Scots tongue, with the website showing which areas in Scotland share the same lingo, expressions and colloquialisms.

Scots Syntax Atlas boasts recordings of true Scots sharing commonly-used phrases and words. The map shows which phrases are used where, explains the history behind some sayings and even has interactive examples of locals speaking in their mother tongue.


Why we offer Mandarin and Spanish, not German and French

20 December 2019 (TES)

Secondary head Chris Woolf explains why he ditched the modern language stalwarts in favour of giving all students the chance to learn Mandarin and Spanish.

It was very quiet. There was no one to talk to. There were no phones to ring. There was no one knocking on the door. Getting in early to make some progress before students and staff arrived for the day was pointless: they wouldn’t be here for another nine months. It was June 2015 and I had been appointed founding headteacher of Pinner High School.

Much of the next year was spent making and enacting plans. But foremost in my mind, on those quiet days when the school had not yet come into being, was the curriculum. What should it look like?

A lot of it would be traditional, of course: English, maths, science. However, there was an opportunity to make it a bit more exciting, too. This is how we came to ditch French and German, teaching Mandarin and Spanish to every child in the school instead.

Mandarin teaching has increased over the past 20 years but it is still offered by only a minority of state schools. Even then, it is usually in addition to the more traditional languages. We didn’t want it to be an add-on – we wanted it to be the main event.

Meanwhile, the number of students taking Spanish at GCSE has soared, while French has fallen markedly. But trying to counter the former and respond to the latter were not our only drivers.

Governors asked appropriately challenging questions. Why? What’s wrong with French and German? Through telling audiences about our language options as I toured local primaries to promote the school, I honed my response. When schools first started teaching modern foreign languages, we looked to our nearest neighbours in Europe for the most useful ones to learn: French and German.

But the world has changed. If we look to the future, we want jobseekers of the 2020s to be equipped for success, and that means a more dynamic approach. Teaching students in an English-speaking school Mandarin and Spanish means that they get to study the top three most widely spoken languages in the world. That must be a good thing.

Having settled on Mandarin and Spanish, I had to consider who would be eligible for these languages. This was an easy decision: everyone. We are a truly inclusive school and we believe that everyone can access the same curriculum, given the proper support.

Then I had to actually make it happen. I had expected recruiting Mandarin teachers to be difficult. However, when I advertised, there was a strong field to pick from and we now have brilliant colleagues.

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For Gaelic to survive in Scotland, it’s not enough to learn it – more people need to use it in their daily lives

18 December 2019 (The Conversation)

Launched to coincide with St Andrew’s Day this year on November 30, language app Duolingo’s Gaelic course attracted an impressive 103,000 active learners in its first two weeks – outstripping the number of actual Gaelic speakers in Scotland. The figure also represented more than 18 times the number of adults learning the language in 2018.

Gaelic was spoken in most of Scotland until the 11th century, but a gradual decline in the language means that today, most of the of the country’s Gaelic speakers in Scotland live in the Outer Hebrides (Na h-Eileanan Siar).

It is recognised as a national language of Scotland and initiatives such as the dedicated Gaelic language channel BBC Alba and the growth of Gaelic Medium Education have brought opportunities to those living across Scotland to hear and learn the language.

These initiatives were given a further boost when Gaelic joined a range of endangered languages (including Hawaiian, Navajo and Irish) to be added to the Duolingo platform after a successful social media campaign lobbied for its inclusion.

Of course, not all of the 103,000 people who signed up to Duolingo will be new to Gaelic – and not all will continue with it – but the potential to bring new speakers to the language is considerable. It also raises the question of how this can be used to support the long-term survival of the language, which is considered to be in trouble in Scotland.


Flag badges for languages could be rolled out for Met Police uniforms

18 December 2019 (Evening Standard)

Met police officers could wear world flag badges on their uniforms to show which foreign languages they speak.

Scotland Yard chiefs believe it could break down barriers in London where more than 300 languages are spoken.

Migrants and tourists who instantly recognise someone who can speak their mother tongue, via a badge on the officer’s stab vest, may be more likely to report crime or ask for help.

More than 1,000 officers already have at least one second language — mainly French, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindu, Spanish, Arabic, German, Turkish and Russian.

Among 120 other languages, dozens of officers say they are fluent in Jamaican Patois, Swahili, Welsh, Gaelic, Dutch, Mandarin, Romanian, Tamil, Kurdish Sorani or Wolof, a dialect of Senegal.


Big bosie for Doric as language gets a makar of its own

16 December 2019 (The Times)

Northeast Scotland is to get its own poet laureate to promote the region’s native tongue. Sheena Blackhall, a writer and linguist, has been named as the first Doric makar.

For decades it was forbidden in schools and derided as slang but now Doric, or northeast Scots, spoken from Montrose in Angus to Nairn in the Highlands, has official recognition alongside English and Gaelic.


The popularity of Gaelic on Duolingo should change how Scotland sees itself

8 December 2019 (The National)

Last week saw extraordinary explosion of interest in Gaelic learning on Duolingo – the world’s largest language learning platform. It has attracted about 65,000 learners in five days.

Ciaran Iòsaph MacAonghais – a primary teacher from Fort William and co-creator of the Scottish Gaelic Duolingo course told us: “Previously, there were around 5500 learning Gaelic in Scotland and we have already raised this number significantly and hopefully it will continue to rise in the coming weeks and months.

‘‘There is no single solution that will save the Gaelic language. Much more needs to be done to support native speakers in Gaelic speaking communities, but having a high profile starting point for learning is still a powerful thing. In a small language community like this, every speaker makes a real difference.”


Secondary students urged to learn foreign languages to boost career prospects

6 December 2019 (Irish Times)

Some 3,000 students attended an event in Dublin’s Convention Centre aimed at highlighting the personal, social, professional and economic benefits of language learning.

While most Irish students study foreign languages in school, surveys show Irish adults lag behind other Europeans in language competence.

Karen Ruddock, director of Post Primary Languages Ireland, said the global dominance of English has given rise to the mistaken belief that “English is enough”.

This, she said, can result in complacency and a lack of motivation to learn other languages.

“Today’s event is about delivering a message that learning a foreign langauge will create more work opportunties, more chances to make friends and have great life experiences,” she said.


The Glasgow school using play to boost literacy and numeracy

6 December 2019 (TESS)

From making imaginary pizzas to becoming interior designers for a doll’s house, learning through play isn’t just for the youngest pupils, argue two Glasgow teachers. They tell Emma Seith how they are using it to support children who speak English as an additional language – and to connect with colleagues around the world.

Have you heard the tale about play-based learning, a viral Facebook page and one of Scotland’s most diverse communities? It involves two young teachers in Glasgow, who have gained thousands of followers around the world for their imaginative use of play in the classroom.

The magic happens at Holy Cross Primary in the Govanhill area, which serves a truly multicultural community. Holy Cross has a significant Romanian and Slovakian pupil population, and there are a large number of children with Pakistani heritage, many of whom speak Urdu and Punjabi. Overall, 80 per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language – something that proved challenging for Rebecca Meighan and Claire Scally when they were both teaching P1.

So, what are they doing that has struck such a chord with teachers around the world?

Meighan and Scally quickly realised that before they could push on with reading and writing skills, they needed to first build up their pupils’ English vocabulary. But they didn’t want to simply show pictures – they wanted pupils to be able to “see and touch and feel these objects”. The solution was to enable them to acquire language in a more natural way: to let them play.

“When we got to teaching phonics, initial sounds and word blends, we were finding it really difficult because the children were coming either with little English or no English at all,” explains Scally. “You always start with the letter S – the ‘sss’ sound – but when we were trying to get them to think of words that start with the letter S, they were just looking at us blankly.”

Meighan and Scally decided to change tack. After brainstorming words with the sound they wanted children to learn that week, they set up play activities related to that sound. For instance, with the “V” sound, one activity was to make a volcano erupt (with lava produced by combining vinegar and baking soda). The children were also given the chance to role-play being a vet; one of the suggested activities was taking a pet dog for a vaccination.

The plan achieved the desired result: instead of looking blank when they were asked to give examples of words featuring the sound they were working on, the children were able to reel off a list. And, importantly, they remembered these words because they had been immersed in a world (albeit an imaginary one) where they were relevant.

“We knew that if we gave children the chance to interact with these objects – to do and not just see – they would remember them and gain some more language from that,” explains Meighan.

Meighan and Scally set up The Power of Play Facebook page to collaborate with teachers outside their school ( They quickly discovered that teachers across the UK – as well as from Finland, Norway, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – were on similar journeys and wanted to introduce more play into their classrooms.

At the time of writing, the page had attracted more than 17,000 followers and 16,000-plus likes. Some of Meighan and Scally’s posts, meanwhile, have attracted hundreds of comments.

Many Facebook commenters ask them where they get their resources from, including the miniature apples decorating their cardboard apple trees, brightly painted numbers with googly eyes and “bones” (dog biscuits) used for Halloween activities.

What they have created is a community of teachers helping each other. The ideas that go down well, they say, are the ones that are relatively easy to do, and which feature resources that can be adapted and used again.

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Tom McKean: Speaking from the heart in Doric, the language of home and family

5 December 2019 (Press and Journal)

The north-east of Scotland is home to an unmatched heritage of music, song, and story, history and folklore, and the creativity of the people who live and work here.

A significant part of this inheritance, and one which runs through all the others, is north-east Scots, often known as ‘Doric’ in the northern and western parts of our region, and by many other names as well – Mearns, Toonser, Aiberdeen, Fisher Doric, Buckie, oor tongue, spikkin, and more.

For well over a century, North-East children arriving in school would be taught, and at times coerced, to ‘talk’ as opposed to ‘spik’.

To ‘spik’ meant to use the language of family, hearth, and home, while English was thought to be the way to get ahead in the world.

This language of home and family is part of people’s character, world view, and wry sense of humour.

But it is less used in the more formal walks of life and we don’t hear enough north-east voices in the media, in civic life, and in our schools.

But the language of home, it turns out, is what’s needed for real progress, and real progress is not just about exams and university.

No, real progress is raising children who have confidence in themselves, their language, and in their communities.

[..]  But Doric is not just for native speakers. In fact, some of the best pupils doing Scots/Doric at Banff Academy are from outwith Scotland and they’ve picked up the language in no time at all.

Language is a great way to build bridges across communities and with people from other parts of the world.


'Gie it a shot' - OU offers free Scots language course

5 December 2019 (BBC)

A free online course has been developed that teaches the Scots language in the context it is spoken.

Developed by The Open University (OU) and Education Scotland, the course also highlights the role of the language in Scottish culture and society.

It takes about 40 hours to complete, and aims to boost understanding of Scots and its history.

The creators hope the course will be used in the classroom by teachers and other educators.

The Scots Language Centre defines Scots as the national name for Scottish dialects that are known collectively as the Scots language.

The new course will be split into two parts, with the first now available on the OU's OpenLearn Create platform.

The second part is expected to be online by the end of the month.

Sylvia Warnecke, OU senior lecturer in languages, said Scots was growing in popularity.

She said: "It feels right to show how as a language it has developed over time as a vital aspect of Scottish culture and history, and how it links to other European languages."


Why are British people such nervous linguists? Shame

4 December 2019 (The Guardian)

Adrian Chiles says he's failed at French, German and Croatian and now he's learning Welsh.

No other subject,” says my language teacher, “is the cause of so much shame. You might struggle with other subjects, but you’ll probably never berate yourself like you do about your shortcomings in language learning.”

That’s a good point or, as they say in Welsh, mae e’n gwneud pwynt da.

I’m learning Welsh because I thought it was about time I did so, having spent so much time there on holiday all my life. It struck me that I wasn’t much different to the kind of expats in Spain I might sniff at for not knowing any Spanish beyond dos cervezas por favor.

I expect many Guardian readers made a resolution earlier this year to learn a new language or “brush up” their school French. And now, as they are preparing to make the same resolution, they will be feeling a little, yes, ashamed.

What is this self-flagellation all about? My Croatian teacher thinks it is a peculiarly British thing.


The relationship between dementia and bilingualism

4 December 2019 (BBC Alba)

Listen to BBC Alba's interview (in Gaelic) with Dr Ingeborg Birnie, Education, on the bilingual and dementia project (1:19). 


Greenock pupils impress First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a show at the Scottish Parliament

3 December 2019 (Greenock Telegraph)

It's a case of mind your languages for Greenock school pupils who impressed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as they put on a superb show at the Scottish Parliament.

Whinhill Primary were invited to bring their culture and diversity showcase to Holyrood and blew everyone away with a special performance.

The Greenock school uses performing arts to bring languages to life and the children were able to express themselves in Gaelic, German and Tamil.

Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan arranged for them to come to parliament and said they proved great ambassadors.


Western Isles Gaelic debate comes to its conclusion this week

2 December 2019 (Stornoway Gazette)

The semi-finals of the National Secondary Schools’ Gaelic Debate will take place on Wednesday this week.The first semi-final will see Inverness Royal Academy B up against Lionacleit School. The second debate will see Bishopbriggs High School take on Sir E Scott.The two winning teams will meet in the Final, at The Scottish Parliament on Thursday, December 5th, at 7pm, where they will debate, ‘In 20 years time, the real Gàidhlig communities will be situated in the big cities’.

Looking forward to the final, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP, said: “Gaelic matters. “It is part of who we are and part of Scotland’s rich cultural identity. The humour, insight and linguistic skill displayed by young people in this competition year after year, convincingly demonstrates that the language continues to flourish. “It gives me immense pleasure that the final will be held on the floor of Holyrood’s debating chamber, marking this, our joint twentieth anniversary.”


What a boorach! The Scots words you need to get you through the next few weeks

30 November 2019 (The Herald)

We live in challenging times but do not despair. The Scots language in all its colourful glory will come to the rescue. Fed up with the political chaos? Call it a boorach and you’ll feel much better. Sick of the TV debates? Have a shout at the bunch of blellums and all their mince.

And if you want more, try this extract from the new book 100 Favourite Scots Words. For over a decade, The Herald has published the Scottish Language Dictionaries’ Scots Word of the Week and the new book gathers some of the best. The words demonstrate the breadth and diversity of the Scots language. And who knows, they might just get you through the election.


Celebrate Chinese New Year 2020 in Edinburgh

28 November 2019 (The List)

Kick off the Year of the Rat in the Scottish capital, with ceilidh dancing, larger-than-life art installations, language tasters and more.

Known for their charming nature and spirited wit, those born under the sign of the Rat will have extra reason to celebrate their astrological year in 2020, as the capital prepares to usher in Chinese New Year with a dynamic cultural programme to be found throughout the city.

The larger-than-life lantern spectacular returns to light up Edinburgh Zoo as Giant Lanterns: Lost Worlds (until Sun 26 Jan) transports visitors back 570 million years into Earth's pre-history. Come face-to-face with dinosaurs, beasts of the Ice Age and forgotten megafauna in this spectacular display of over 600 beautifully crafted lanterns. The zoo will also be hosting a Chinese New Year Reception to start the year on the right foot, with the date yet to be determined. Another welcome return to this year's programme is the Edinburgh Official Chinese New Year Concert (Tue 21 Jan), which will take place beneath the hallowed dome of Usher Hall and showcase the talents of the Guizhou Song and Dance Troupe.


Thousands sign up for new online Gaelic course on Duolingo

28 November 2019 (BBC)

More than 20,000 people have signed up to learn Scottish Gaelic on a free online learning app which launches the new course on St Andrew's Day.

The Duolingo course has been created on a "record-breaking timescale" with the help of bilingual volunteers.

Its official release on Saturday is eight months ahead of schedule and the course has already attracted more than 7,000 learners using its Beta version.

Duolingo has 91 courses in 30 languages and more than 300 million users.

It uses artificial intelligence and "gamification", where users compete against each other as they learn.

In the eight years since Duolingo was launched it has added dozens of languages including Navajo, Hawaiian, Welsh and Irish Gaelic.


Vibras! How J Balvin took on English-language pop - and won

27 November 2019 (The Guardian)

Balvin was a minor Colombian artist who became the fifth most streamed on the planet without using English, showing how embracing national pride can be a force for cultural good.


‘How learning a foreign language changed my life‘

26 November 2019 (Stock Daily Dish)

The number of teenagers learning foreign languages in UK secondary schools has dropped by 45% since the turn of the millennium.

The reaction to the research was mixed. Why learn a foreign language when English is spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, some people wondered.

Others questioned the need for a second language when translation technology is advancing so quickly.

But many speakers of foreign languages extolled the benefits. Four native English speakers tell how making the effort to learn a second language is important – and how it changed their life.

When Alex Chaffer moved to Germany four years ago, he could only say “hello” and “thank you” in German.

He had not learnt the language at school, but was starting off a career in sports journalism and had the opportunity to go to Germany.

When he first arrived, he discovered his accommodation had fallen through.

“I had been scammed,” he said. “I couldn‘t speak to anyone because I didn‘t have the language, I was lost.”

“The first year I was here I didn‘t learn a lot. I then had a German girlfriend that helped massively, having someone force me to do it and hearing it around all the time. She would speak in English and I would speak in German.”

The 23-year-old is now fluent and works on the website of Germany‘s top football league, Bundesliga.


Foreign languages ‘squeezed out‘ of schools in Wales

26 November 2019 (Stock Daily Dish)

Foreign languages are being squeezed out of school timetables by “core” subjects like the Welsh Baccalaureate, a survey suggests.

Schools and colleges were asked for reasons why there had been a major decline in pupils taking subjects such as French and German.

There has been a 29% fall in language GCSE entries in Wales in five years – a steeper fall than the rest of the UK.

The Welsh Government said its new curriculum would improve the situation.

More than half of all secondary schools and colleges in Wales responded to the survey about language teaching.

It found more than a third of schools had dropped one or more languages at GCSE in the last five years.

Teachers also said the perception modern languages were “too hard” was also having an effect on their uptake.


Peppa’s bonnie book: Iconic TV porker gets a Scots reboot

25 November 2019 (Sunday Post)

She has become one of the most iconic children’s characters of all time. And now Peppa Pig has developed a Scots twang.

Peppa’s Bonnie Unicorn – translated into Scots by school librarian Thomas Clark – has just hit the shelves, and it’s expected to be a Christmas best seller.

Scottish Borders-based Thomas, 39, who works at Hawick High School, has already translated Jeff Kinney’s best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid. His version won the Scots Language Awards Scots Bairns’ Book of the Year accolade last month.

Realising there was little Scots literature for younger children, he decided to tweak Peppa’s dialect.

Thomas, a member of Oor Vyce, which lobbies the Scottish Government to promote Scots language, said: “There are lots of Scots book translations for teenagers, like Harry Potter and Roald Dahl, but I noticed there’s nothing for pre-school kids, which is really the generation we should be promoting Scots to.

“Peppa was the obvious choice as she’s one of the biggest icons for that age group. Mention Peppa to any four-year-old and they’ll fall over themselves with excitement.”


'Brexit or not, MFL cannot be optional for Britain'

21 November 2019 (TES)

Despite the privilege of living in a multilingual country, the UK's monolingual English risk being left behind, writes Dr Heather Martin.

"If we can just get Brexit done", some seem to think, "we won’t have to worry about learning all those other languages!" English, that great linguistic success story, will be sufficient unto itself.

It’s a terrible delusion. All it would do is make the learning harder. 

It’s not as though language is a take-it-or-leave-it option in real life. Nor should it be in schools.

There was a time when we didn’t have language at all. We didn’t have much of anything back then. It was touch and go whether we would win out over our Neanderthal rivals, who by all anthropological accounts were tougher than us and better at tool-making.

But for some reason we were the ones to develop syntactical language, which turned out to be the best tool of all. Why? Because we could coordinate and cooperate with others. We could discuss, theorise, speculate, and line up plans B and C in case plan A fell through.

Later, when writing came along, we could count our crops and keep records and amass evidence. We were ahead of the game because we could speak each other’s language. The choices we made – what we did with that ability to plot and plan and scheme  – is another story.

Needless to say it wasn’t English. Like homo sapiens, modern English as we know it, dating from the late 17th century, is just a blip on the evolutionary calendar. A slightly larger and more luminous blip if you go back as far as Early Modern and Shakespeare.

Such ambiguous progress as we have made  – hey, we put a man on the moon! – is largely down to our hard-wired language-learning ability, our readiness to meet each other half way, to transition from Latin to Celtic to Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman and beyond, to respond, reflect and adapt. 

Which is the pragmatic philosophy behind the pop-up museum of languages that in late October, a ray of light in the wintry shadow of Brexit, popped up in a shopping centre in Cambridge – the first stop on an inaugural tour of Belfast, Edinburgh, Nottingham and London (March 2020).

The Cambridge University brains behind this innovative concept seek to address anyone from 4 to 84, but on the half-term day I was there the average age was around 8. Which seems about right for the ideal target audience. We can learn a new language at any time. It’s never too late to open our minds. But no doubt the sooner the better. 

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


Global partnerships, local learning

20 November 2019 (Stride Magazine)

Gemma Burnside from the Scotland Malawi Partnership, explains why all schools should consider the benefits an international school partnership can bring to their learning communities.

With current events threatening to make the UK ever more insular and closed off from the rest of the world, it’s important to consider the vital role international school partnerships play in introducing young people to other cultures and ways of life. By expanding their view of how their peers around the world experience life and education, these kinds of partnerships are creating the global citizens and activists of the future.

Working with around 250 schools across Scotland as members of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, I have the chance to see the incredible variety of school partnerships between Scotland and Malawi. No two are the same in what they want to achieve or the experiences they share. What they do have in common is the friendships that are created between teachers, pupils and communities in these two countries.


'Dreich' is named most popular Scots word by Scottish Book Trust

20 November 2019 (BBC)

A word that is commonly used to describe the Scottish weather has been named the "most iconic" Scots word.

"Dreich" - meaning dull or gloomy - topped a poll to mark Book Week Scotland, led by the Scottish Book Trust.

It beat off contenders including "glaikit", "scunnered" and "shoogle".

The charity said the first recorded use of the word "dreich" was in 1420, when it originally meant "enduring" or "slow, tedious".

A total of 1,895 votes were cast in the annual poll.


The importance of becoming multilingual in a global job market

19 November 2019 (Study International)

Does knowing more than one language really elevate your career prospects, allowing you to strategically position your talents in a competitive job market?

Citing numerous benefits of being multilingual, the British Academy considers language skills to be essential for thriving in the future of work and enhancing your professional and personal development.

In a shared statement, the British Academy, the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Academy of Engineering all maintain that the “UK’s poor language capacity has resulted in the loss of economic, social, cultural, and research opportunities,” stating that, “The economic cost of the UK’s linguistic underperformance in terms of lost trade and investment has been estimated at 3.5 percent of GDP.”

President of the British Academy, David Cannadine, requests a step-change in the way the nation approaches language learning.


Bilingualism and dementia: how some patients lose their second language and rediscover their first

18 November 2019 (Irish Examiner)

For many people with dementia, memories of early childhood appear more vivid than their fragile sense of the present. But what happens when the present is experienced through a different language than the one spoken in childhood? And how might carers and care homes cope with the additional level of complexity in looking after bilingual people living with dementia?

This is not just relevant for people living with dementia and those who care for them. It can provide insights into the human mind that are equally important to brain researchers, social scientists and even artists.

This relationship between dementia and bilingualism was the focus of a workshop we held recently in Glasgow. Bringing together healthcare professionals, volunteers, community activists, dementia researchers, translation experts, writers and actors, the workshop was organised around a reading of a new play performed by the Gaelic language group, Theatre Tog-ì.

The play, Five to Midnight, centres on a native Gaelic speaker from the Outer Hebrides whose English begins to fade as her dementia develops. Her English-speaking husband increasingly finds himself cut off from his wife as she retreats into the past and to a language he does not understand. The couple’s pain and frustration at their inability to communicate is harrowing.


Oor Scots langage is getting taen fae ben the hoose ance mair

17 November 2019 (The National)

THERE a wheeshit renaissance in literacy gaun on in Scotland the noo. Whither hit’s the floorishin o online sel-publishin thro social media, or fae the wullfu push tae fling aff the dreid “Scottish cultural cringe” oor Scots langage is getting taen fae ben the hoose an pit oot in public ance mair. Ae hing aboot wir Scots langage is oor unique vocabulary o wirds, an fir Book Week Scotland (November 18-24) Scottish Book Trust’ll annoonce the result o their iconic Scots wird vote on Thursday 21 November, via their social media channels.

Scots is the langage maist relatit tae the English langage. Hit’s near eneuch tae English, as a maitter o fack, thit fae the echteent century there a strang unitit effort fir tae hae fowk “spikk proper”.


The crisis in language education across the UK — what it means for schools and the future of business

16 November 2019 (iNews)

As a nation, we are not known for our proficiency in foreign languages. The stereotype of the Brit abroad, repeating English slowly and loudly to the locals, has more than a grain of truth.

In England, language study has declined so much that the exam regulator, Ofqual, recently decided to lower grade boundaries in GCSE French and German to encourage teenagers to take them.

Can anything be done about our struggles? Or should we lighten up about it? A former Downing Street education expert has told i that seriously improving our language ability is not a high-enough priority to justify the vast expense involved.

In Britain, 34.6 per cent of people aged between 25 and 64 report that they know one or more foreign language, compared with an EU average of 64.8 per cent.

GCSE and A-level language entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been declining since the turn of the century, although a rise in Spanish entries provides a shred of comfort.

In Scotland, language entries at National 4 and 5 level have dropped by about a fifth since 2014.

This has been accompanied by the quiet death of the foreign exchange, suffocated in part by exaggerated safety concerns. A survey by the British Council five years ago found that just four in 10 schools run trips involving a stay with a host family. Martha de Monclin, a British expat living in France, is often asked whether she knows British families who are happy to be involved in exchanges, but in seven years has found only one.

Where they do happen, pupils just go sightseeing and stay in hotels, she says. “With mobile phones, they are constantly connected to their friends and family at home. This makes it incredibly difficult to learn a language.”


Key subjects to be taught through Irish under plan to boost standards

11 November 2019 (The Irish Times)

Subjects such as physical education, maths and art are to be taught through Irish in about 20 primary, secondary and pre-schools under a new project aimed at boosting the teaching and learning of Irish.

The move has been partly prompted by concern over the quality of teaching and learning of Irish in schools.


Why learning Scots is having a moment

8 November 2019 (TES)

More than 1.5 million people said they spoke Scots in the 2011 census, and now this language is enjoying a resurgence in the classroom. The learning benefits are immense, writes Kirsty Crommie.

There are thought to be more than 7,000 languages spoken across the world, with many more not yet known outside the small communities in which they are spoken. Around 330 are spoken in Europe and more than 2,000 in Asia. Over 850 languages are spoken within Papua New Guinea alone (Miaschi, 2017) and, within the thousands of languages spoken worldwide, there are countless dialects and regional variations, rich in vocabulary and sounds.

Language lets us share, discover and make connections. But it is also a representation of culture and identity, and it symbolises the incredibly diverse world in which we live – so, with 75 per cent of the world’s population not speaking English, it is imperative that we encourage the learning of languages throughout school.

And this must include the Scots language: by studying our minority languages, such as Scots, we are celebrating our diverse and fascinating linguistic heritage, as we should.

In primary schools across Scotland, at least one additional language is being taught. The Scottish government’s 1+2 model for languages has a target of ensuring that by 2021, every Scottish school will offer children one additional language from P1 and a second from P5; many schools are well on their way to meeting that goal.

It is a target that is not without its challenges: staff must receive relevant training if they are to effectively deliver the teaching of a language of which they may have little or no experience. But the benefits are such that these challenges must be overcome.

Curriculum for Excellence: Modern Languages Experiences and Outcomes clearly lays out the benefits. Not only are literacy skills enhanced, but pupils learning a new language will also:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of their first language and appreciate the richness and interconnected nature of languages.
  • Enhance their understanding of their own and other languages and gain insights into other cultures.
  • Develop skills that they can use and enjoy in work and leisure throughout their lives.

The benefits apply just as much to children learning minority languages. In Scotland, there are three native languages: English, Scots and Gaelic. While English is the most common, more than 1.5 million people said they spoke Scots in the 2011 census, while over 57,000 said they spoke Gaelic.

A number of schools exist to provide teaching and learning through Gaelic, particularly in the areas where it is spoken most, but the teaching of Scots is generally left to schools and teachers with an interest in and enthusiasm for Scots, although some have opted to include Scots as part of their 1+2 approach.

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Languages: We can do better for our bilingual students

7 November 2019 (TES)

The UK is famously bad when it comes to learning languages, but this means we’re missing out on an amazing resource already in our schools, says Sameena Choudry.

One language, one person; two languages, two persons” – Turkish proverb

The lack of a coherent languages policy is evident in England. 

Our learning of languages is quite poor compared to many other countries (in 2016, we were voted the worst country in Europe for learning other languages).

This is despite calls from industry (and others) to increase the number of pupils learning languages. 

There is, however, a possible part-solution to this dire situation that needs to be drawn to the attention of policymakers: approximately 1.5 million young people in schools in England are either bilingual or multilingual in more than 300 different languages. 

This extremely valuable and rich resource is largely untapped and little attention, if any, has been given to how their linguistics skills could be nurtured and developed to support the individual, the community and the country as a whole. 

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The best languages to study for future job opportunities

6 November 2019 (The Telegraph)

Your Year 9 French teacher was right: learning a language can open a lot of doors. Not only will your fluency allow you to travel to distant corners of the globe, but having a degree in a language can make you highly employable.

Mastering a language has always been impressive to employers: it shows tenacity and commitment, but can also come in handy if they work with overseas clients. 

Now, language skills are more sought after than ever, given the potential impact of Brexit on British industry, according to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Report 2018. “The need for languages has been heightened by the UK’s departure from the European Union,” the report states.

The British Council has also stressed the need for young people to learn a foreign language in order for Britain to become a “truly global nation”. In their most recent Languages for the Future report in 2017, the British Council listed the following as the most important languages for the UK’s prosperity: Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian. 

Even though multilingualism is needed for the UK’s prosperity, just 1 in 3 Britons can hold a conversation in a foreign language, according to the report from the British Council. 

So, those who can speak another language are more needed than ever - as is clear from the 2018 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Report, which surveyed almost 500 British employers and calculated which languages are most desirable to them. The following are the results from that report and, thus, the best languages to study for graduate employment. 


French and German GCSEs to be marked less harshly, Ofqual rules

5 November 2019 (The Guardian)

French and German GCSEs are to be marked less severely from next year amid concerns that students are being put off studying modern foreign languages (MFL) because it is more difficult to get top grades in these than in other subjects.

The qualifications regulator Ofqual has ruled there should be an adjustment to grading standards in French and German GCSEs – entries for which have declined dramatically – but not in Spanish where numbers have been more buoyant.

The government also announced a review of the content of its recently reformed GCSEs in MFL after complaints from teachers that some of the questions are too difficult – particularly in listening and reading assessments – and may be discouraging students.

Ofqual said there were no plans to adjust GCSE grades retrospectively, but the regulator will now work with the examination boards in the run-up to next year’s exam season to bring the grading of French and German GCSEs in line with other subjects.

School leaders welcomed the move and called for a comparable adjustment in languages at A-level, where there has been a similar decline. The GCSE grading adjustments may need to be phased in over a longer period, and will affect grades 4 and above.

“We have conducted a thorough review of the evidence that GCSE French, German and Spanish are severely graded in comparison to other subjects,” an Ofqual statement said. “On the balance of the evidence we have gathered, we have judged that there is a sufficiently strong case to make an adjustment to grading standards in French and German, but not Spanish.”

The Ofqual announcement comes amid mounting concern about the dramatic decline in the study of modern foreign languages in schools in England over the past 15 years, with entries for language GCSEs down 48%. German has declined by 65%, while French is down by 62%.


Entries sought for Scots writing competition

3 November 2019 (Grampian Online)

Entries are being sought for an annual Scots language writing competition.

The Keith branch of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland are looking for entries for the Charles Murray Writing Competition, which encourages the passing down of the Scots language from generation to generation.

The competition was launched to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Murray, an Alford-born poet, and is now into its sixth year.

Work entered into the competition can be prose or poetry and can be written about anything – but has to be in Scots. The competition is open to anyone, of any age, but must be written by two or more people of different generations – for example mother and daughter or grandfather and grandson.


Course to create new generation of Gaelic-speaking professionals in Scotland

29 October 2019 (The Scotsman)

A new Gaelic 'immersion' course is being set up at Glasgow University to help create a new generation of Gaelic-speaking professionals in Scotland.

The one-year course at Glasgow University will offer an intensive language learning experience for students and adult learners.

Students will undertake eight-months of tuition at the university followed by a three-week residential school at Ceòlas Uibhist, the Gaelic education and cultural centre in South Uist.

The course has been set up with a grant of £455,000 from the Scottish Funding Council.

It comes as Glasgow City Council considers a £16m commitment to build a fourth Gaelic Medium Education (GME) school.

The new course will help meet demand for Gaelic-speaking teachers as pupil numbers rise.


Related Links

Does Scotland have enough Gaelic teachers? (The Scotsman, 30 October 2019)

Gaelic immersion opportunities expanded in Scotland (Scottish Funding Council, 29 October 2019)

DfE wants British sign language GCSE ‘as soon as possible’

28 October 2019 (Schools Week)

Applies to England.

Ministers are aiming to introduce a British sign language GCSE “as soon as possible” – and have pledged to consult on draft content next year.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, has confirmed Department for Education officials are now “working with subject experts to develop draft subject content” for the GCSE.

The government relaxed its position on the creation of a BSL GCSE in 2018 following threats of a legal challenge by the family of a 12-year-old deaf pupil.

Last May, Gibb said the government was “open to considering” a BSL GCSE “for possible introduction in the longer term”, but insisted there were no plans to do so until after the next election, at that point scheduled for 2022, “to allow schools a period of stability”.

But in August last year, Gibb said the government could make “an exception” to its moratorium on new qualifications.

Now, with a general election expected in the coming months, Gibb has given the strongest signal yet that the new qualification could become a reality.


Student in Peru makes history by writing thesis in the Incas’ language

27 October 2019 (The Guardian)

A doctoral student in Peru has made history by becoming the first person to write and defend a thesis in Quechua – the language of the Incas, which is still spoken by millions of people in the Andes.

Roxana Quispe Collantes received top marks from Lima’s San Marcos university, the oldest in the Americas, for her study on Peruvian and Latin American literature, which focused on poetry written in Quechua.

Scholars say it is the first time in the university’s 468-year history that a student has written and defended a thesis (answering questions from examiners) entirely in the native language – even though it is the most widely spoken indigenous tongue in South America, used by about 8 million people, half of them in Peru.


Bill for Glasgow's new Gaelic school could top £16 million

27 October 2019 (The Herald)

More than £16 million will be required to build Glasgow's newest Gaelic primary school, a report has revealed.

Glasgow City Council is mulling over a plan to use the disused St James' Primary building as the site of the local authority's fourth school offering Gaelic Medium Education (GME).

The disused school in the Calton area of the city has been listed as being in poor condition by Scotland’s Buildings at Risk register.

The bill for refurbishing the crumbling school is expected to be around £16.5 million, and would see the creation of 12 state-of-the-art teaching spaces and two general-purpose areas for pupils.


The 30 most well-loved Scottish words from glaikit to smoorikin

25 October 2019 (The Daily Record)

Do you ken what the most iconic Scots word is? If not, dinnae get yourself in a fankle, you soon will.

A panel organised by the Scottish Book Trust have whittled our favourite Scots words to 30. And now the public have the chance to vote for them.

Tying in with A Year of Conversation and the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the public were invited to submit iconic Scots words through the charity’s social media channels and website. More than 200 words were nominated, from various dialects such as Doric, Shetlandic, Dundonian and Glaswegian.


Do we think differently in different languages?

24 October 2019 (BBC)

This short video explores how much of an impact the language you speak has on how you actually think. 


Prestigious Scottish school to open Chinese campus

22 October 2019 (ECNS)

Architects have begun construction on the Chinese outpost of a top-ranked Scottish school that will offer bilingual education to elementary and high school students.

Fettes Guangzhou is a collaborative venture between Chinese education company Bright Scholar and Edinburgh-based Fettes College, opened in 1870, which counts former United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair among its alumni.

Set to open in September next year, Fettes Guangzhou will be the brand's first international campus.

The school will be dual-curricular, offering up to 2,000 students aspects of both the British and Chinese education systems. Fettes Guangzhou will teach boys and girls and take full boarders as well as day students.

"Fettes Guangzhou will be a true reflection of Fettes College internationally, fully adopt our ethos, provide an outstanding academic education, focus on sector-leading pastoral care and introduce a wealth of co-curricular activities to broaden the horizons of all of its students," said Bruce Dingwall, who is deputy chair of the Fettes Trust.

Situated on the northern outskirts of Edinburgh, Fettes College was named Scotland's top independent secondary school in 2018 by The Sunday Times School Guide, which uses results from General Certificate of Secondary Education, A-Level, and International Baccalaureate exams to determine its rankings.

Several high-profile individuals have attended Fettes, including 2015's Nobel Prize in Economics winner Angus Deaton, Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, and sinologist Roderick Mac-Farquhar, who served as director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.

Bright Scholar is China's largest operator of international and bilingual schools, and the company has made a string of investments in British education in recent years.


Celtic ace Ewan Henderson hails brother Liam as an inspiration after Serie A venture

20 October 2019 (The Scottish Sun)

Liam Henderson's Italian is coming on nicely — but brother Ewan reckons his success speaks for itself.

Celtic kid Ewan, 19, is following in Liam’s footsteps by coming through the ranks at Parkhead. Liam, 23, is playing for Hellas Verona in Serie A after helping them to promotion last season.

[...]“He’s taking Italian lessons and his language skills have improved a lot since he first went over.

“There aren’t many boys from Scotland who have gone over and done what he’s done. It shows it’s possible for Scottish players to try things like that."


Language museum hopes to stem a loss in translation

19 October 2019 (The Times)

Cambridge academics are opening the country’s first museum of languages today but it will be located in a shopping centre, not one of its historic colleges.

World-renowned professors of linguistics are desperately trying to stem the decline in modern foreign languages at schools. The number of teenagers taking French GCSE has more than halved in the 15 years since taking a language ceased to be compulsory.

The museum has been set up in a shopping centre alongside high street stores like Clintons and Claire’s accessories, to encourage people – particularly children – to learn.


If Britain’s young love Europe so much why aren’t they learning the lingo?

18 October 2019 (Life Spectator)

Most of my friends are moderate Remainers. There’s the odd fanatic, the sort who go on marches demanding a People’s Vote. What I can’t understand is why none of them can speak French, German, or indeed any European language.

They go on holiday to Europe, but only to those parts where they won’t have to speak the lingo because fortunately Johnny Foreigner has had the good sense to learn English.

Something else that confuses me is the belief, most pungently articulated by David Aaronovitch, that Brexit will be reversed in a few years because those stuck-in-the-past Gammons will shuffle off this mortal coil to be replaced in the electorate by a shiny new Briton: young, cosmopolitan and forward-looking, who believe the sun shines out of the Brussels’ class. In which case, why are fewer school children than ever bothering to learn a foreign language?

According to a report in the BBC this year, the learning of foreign languages is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium. Since 2013 there has been a decline of between 30 to 50 per cent in the numbers taking GCSE language courses with German and French suffering most. That’s in England; in Northern Ireland the drop in pupils learning modern languages at GSCE is 40% while in Scotland there has been a 19% decline since 2014. And there was me thinking those two countries couldn’t get enough of all things European.

Furthermore, in March this year the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Modern Languages released a report stating that since 2000 more than fifty UK universities have cut language courses, or done away with departments entirely.

I blame the parents. In 2013 a report revealed that only a quarter of British adults were capable of holding even a basic conversation in a language other than English; of those, French was the most common, followed by German.


Everyone should learn a second language

18 October 2019 (Varsity)

Olivia Halsall gives an account of her experiences learning Chinese Mandarin and French, whilst encouraging students to take the plunge into foreign language learning.

"But you’re British.” In a quaint hostel in Xiamen, a coastal city dubbed the “Mansion Gate” of China, I’ve been helping two new French arrivals translate their needs into Chinese Mandarin. The lack of English language between both parties has been making the process difficult, and it would be cruel not to step in and help. Caught in the act, a passing German soon discovers I’m British only to astutely declare that he’s never met a multilingual Brit.

Wanting to refute his seemingly absurd claim, instead I find myself reddening in shame. My parents and most of my British friends are monolingual. Their abridged reason is that where English is the world’s lingua franca, on the outset there seems no urgent need to learn an additional language. The age-old maxim confessed when a Brit is expressing remorse at their poor language skills is conventionally, “but I’m so bad at languages!” As a nation, we do not have the plethora of multilingual exposure and resources that many others take for granted. In 2019, this should no longer be an excuse.

Had I been brought up in Switzerland, I would have grown up surrounded by German, French, Italian, Romansh (and English). Had I been born Chinese, I would have spoken a provincial dialect at home and Chinese Mandarin at school. Like many countries around the world, had I not been born British, I’d have been pushed to learn English fluently before completing my secondary education. Brits shouldn’t look to these nations in awe; the linguistic vibrancy in other countries is simply a way of life, and multilingualism the norm.

The latest data from the European Commission (2016) shows the percentage of the population aged 25–64 reporting to know one or more foreign languages in the UK is 34.6%. This rises to 60.1% in France, 78.7% in Germany, and a staggering 96.6% in Sweden. The average across the European Union is 64.6%, which sets us apart not only linguistically, but culturally.

To make matters worse, a 2018 survey report by the British Council on language trends found that “just over a third (34%) of state secondary schools report that leaving the European Union is having a negative impact on language learning, either through student motivation and/or parental attitudes towards the subject”. In the aftermath of Brexit, there has never been a better time for the UK to plunge itself into foreign language learning.


Gaelic 'disappearing' from Scottish island communities

18 October 2019 (The Guardian)

The number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland’s island communities has plummeted in less than a decade, according to a leading Highland researcher who believes the language is on the point of “societal collapse” across Scotland.

Although just over 58,000 people reported themselves as Gaelic speakers in the 2011 Scottish census, Prof Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, the director of the Language Sciences Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands, will publish a study next year following extensive fieldwork in the Western Isles, Skye and Tiree that estimates that the vernacular group on the islands, where speakers are most heavily concentrated, does not exceed 11,000.

Ó Giollagáin believes that existing policies to promote Gaelic focus too heavily on encouraging new speakers, mainly in urban areas, or promoting it as a heritage language, and that without a significant shift to supporting existing speakers, Gaelic “will continue as the language of school and heritage but not as a living language”.


Related Links

Number of island Gaelic speakers ‘plummeting’ (The Scotsman, 20 October 2019)

Welsh, Hawaiian and Navajo … now Gaelic is in line for a rescue (The Guardian, 20 October 2019)

Spanish-speaking children learn English faster when parents read to them in their native language

17 October 2019 (Consumer Affairs)

Researchers from the University of Delaware have found that reading to Spanish-speaking children in their native language can help them better understand the English language. Their study shows that these children are more likely to excel in reading and writing in English when exposed to their native tongue at an early age.

“This suggests that well-developed Spanish reading proficiency early on likely plays a greater role in English reading development than a student’s proficiency in speaking English,” said researcher Steven Amendum.

Amendum and his team evaluated students from the time they were in kindergarten until they were in the fourth grade. All participants were read to by their parents in Spanish and were reading on their own to try to master English. 

Ultimately, the study revealed that early exposure to Spanish was crucial to children developing sharper English reading and speaking skills. This came as a surprise to the researchers because of how young the children were at the beginning of the study. 


Duolingo issues call for contributors and participants as languages app prepares to launch Scottish Gaelic course

17 October 2019 (Sunday Post)

From Spanish to German, and even Klingon and Valyrian from Game of Thrones, the Duolingo app has over 300 million people across the world learning new languages.

Soon, Scottish Gaelic will join the courses available, and it’s hoped that it will pique interest in the language, which has just under 60,000 speakers in Scotland, according to the 2011 Census.

It was announced on Thursday at the Royal National Mod in Glasgow that the course would be launched on the platform in the coming weeks.

It follows huge demand for the language to be added to the free learning app, and the work of a dedicated team of volunteers working in their spare time to get it off the ground.

Contributor Martin Baillie, an architect from Skye, told The Sunday Post: “It’s a great way to make it accessible to people. In the Gaelic world, we’re always talking about small numbers and Duolingo is a great way to raise awareness not just in Scotland but internationally.

“I teach night classes in Gaelic on Skye, and you go along once a week but what do you do in between?

“Duolingo is a great and fun way to do a wee ten minutes revision every day and that makes a huge difference learning a language if you just run over the words.

“You don’t need to get lost in a book, and it helps get it into your long term memory.”

Currently there are more than four million people learning Irish on the app, with 1.2 million signed up for Welsh courses.

“If we could get a number like that learning Scottish Gaelic then it would really show that there’s an interest there,” Martin says.

“It would give a lot of strength to efforts to keep the language alive.”


Bòrd na Gàidhlig launches campaign to spread Gaelic pride

15 October 2019 (The National)

Scotland's Gaelic development board has unveiled a new campaign inspired by a scheme in Wales aimed at spreading pride in the language.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig launched the “#cleachdi” hashtag at the Royal National Mod 2019 in Glasgow.

The body is urging Gaelic speakers and learners to include #cleachdi alongside #useit and #gaidhlig on social media, email signatures or by wearing the symbol on stickers, showing their pride in the language.

Shona MacLennan, Bòrd na Gàidhlig chief executive officer, said: “More and more people want to use and learn Gaelic and this initiative is a very positive and easy to use means to encourage more people to use more Gaelic in more situations.

“We will be joining all those who speak the language in displaying our pride at letting others know we are Gaelic speakers. We think #cleachdi is the perfect way to do this. So let’s #useit and put #gaidhlig firmly on the map.”

The new #cleachdi campaign is similar to the Welsh Language Commissioner’s “Iaith Gwaith”, or “Welsh at Work”, scheme, which is used in Wales to show that a service is available in Welsh.


SNP conference calls for new quango to promote the Scots language

14 October 2019 (The Herald)

THE SNP's conference has called for the creation of a new quango to boost the use of the Scots language.

Delegates voted to explore the idea of a Scots Language Board – or "Board fir the Scots Leid" – similar to Bòrd na Gàidhlig, which promotes Gaelic.

They called for Scots to be more widely taught, learned and promoted as part of Scottish public life, and noted the "years of linguistic prejudice" it has suffered.


Scotland’s £28m man Oliver Burke enjoying his Spanish adventure at Alaves

9 October 2019 (The Courier)

Twice the Kirkcaldy-born winger has become the most expensive Scottish player in history with big money transfers, costing Red Bull Leipzig and West Brom a combined total of £28 million.

And, after his recent loan move to Alaves, Burke can also tell the grandchildren he has played in the top leagues in England, Scotland, Germany and Spain.

Still only 22, he certainly couldn’t be accused of being reluctant to take himself out of a comfort zone.

“I was keen for another adventure,” admitted Burke, who moved to Alaves on a season-long loan.

“I’m really enjoying it. We’ve started off well and I feel really comfortable there.

“The team is good and have made me feel welcome and I’m playing football which is the main thing. It doesn’t really faze me moving to another country. Because I’ve already done it it’s a lot easier.

“I want to enjoy it because you only live one life so why not live it to the extreme and do everything you can?

“The main focus was to go there get and get game time.  That has happened and everything is going well which is good.”

He added: “We train at 11 in the morning and then of course there is a siesta and shops close at certain times, which is weird.

“It’s pretty normal other than the siesta part of thing where they all go to sleep for two hours and it’s a ghost town.

“I’ll go back and sleep after training and do what they’re doing so I can keep up.

“I’ve got to start having Spanish lessons three times a week. I’ve got a teacher already organised.

“Just now it’s only a short loan until the end of the season, but who knows what will happen after that, but it will be nice to learn the language.

“My team-mates are good. I go out for meals with them and stuff.

“I think a few of the players did some research into me before I went but the rest of them don’t really know anything about me. It is difficult to speak to some of them, because they don’t speak English. Sometimes you need somebody to translate. It’s like ‘tell him that’. So it is quite funny. I see their reaction about a minute later!


Translating for Mum and Dad

9 October 2019 (BBC)

When a family arrives in a new country, often the children are first to pick up the new language - and inevitably, they become the family translators. Researcher Dr Humera Iqbal describes what it's like to be a child responsible for dealing with doctors and landlords, bank staff or restaurant suppliers.

"Baba! Baba!" calls out the driving instructor. Thirteen-year-old Jiawei sits at the back of the car while her dad takes his driving lesson. Father and daughter exchange confused glances, then burst out laughing. The instructor, who has heard this Chinese word during one of Jiawei's father's previous lessons, looks puzzled.

"Doesn't 'baba' mean 'move forward' in Chinese?" he asks.

"No," says Jiawei. "It means 'father'!"

Jiawei was in the unusual position of acting as an interpreter for her dad as he learned to drive. She took notes and repeated in Chinese exactly what the instructor said in English - things like "Turn left at the roundabout," or "Slow down at the junction." She's proud that she helped her father pass his test.

"It was quite fun and I thought I was doing something to help my family," she says, looking back. "I was also learning how to drive myself without knowing it, doing something that other kids didn't get to do."

A year earlier, Jiawei's family had moved from China to the UK and while she had managed to pick up basic English at school, her father was struggling. Jiawei became a crucial link helping him find his way in a new country.

Thousands of migrant children in the UK translate for their families every day. My colleague Dr Sarah Crafter and I have come across child interpreters, some as young as seven, helping their parents communicate in shops, banks, and even police stations. It can be stressful for them, especially when adults are rude or aggressive.


Gaelic Play Warns of Climate Change Crisis

9 October 2019 (Stornoway Gazette)

A new Gaelic language play about climate change is nearing the end of a successful six week national tour of Gaelic medium primary schools.

An Rabhadh (The Warning), performed by Artair Donald and Katie Hammond, highlights the concerns regarding climate change and points to the positive changes that can be made to reduce waste and our carbon footprint.

The tour, which started at the end of August, will visit 47 schools across Scotland, taking in the central belt, Perthshire, Aberdeen, Argyllshire, Skye and Lochalsh and the Western Isles.

The final leg will include visits to schools in the Highland Council area, East Kilbride and the Isle of Tiree.

Aimed at upper primary pupils, the play has been produced through Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Gaelic language theatre-in-education project Meanbh-chuileag and was written and directed by Angus Macleod, Drama Officer with Fèisean nan Gàidheal. He explained: “The play features two environmentally-friendly aliens who are on a mission to rescue Earth in the year 2119.

“Unfortunately they find that reversing the effects of environmental damage is not possible but a time-travelling gizmo enables a journey back to 2019 to warn the planet’s occupants before it’s too late.”


Award for lecturer that likes to teach the world to sign

8 October 2019 (Deadline News)

A University of Dundee lecturer has been honoured for using sign language and music to bring youngsters together in harmony.

Sharon Tonner-Saunders, a lecturer in the University’s School of Education and Social Work, has been named as a recipient of a British Council eTwinning National Award for using songs and Makaton to break down international language barriers.

Unlike British Sign Language, which is the language of the UK’s deaf community, Makaton was developed to assist hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. Signs are developed to look like a word and be as simple as possible to perform, making it particularly easy for children to learn.

Her project, Hands of the World, has brought together learners of all ages and student teachers in schools from more than 40 countries, with classes contributing video clips of themselves singing and signing along to popular songs.


Be bold and Gaelic will prosper, insists bard of Glasgow Niall O’Gallagher

7 October 2019 (The Times)

Glasgow’s first Gaelic poet laureate has urged Scotland not to treat the language like a “fragile vase that you can’t afford to drop” after a big decline in its use.

Niall O’Gallagher — who was appointed bard baile Ghlaschu, or Glasgow city bard, in July — said that Gaelic was under threat but thinking of it as a dialect that must be carefully preserved could make the situation worse. He also admitted that speaking it in public had become “awkward”.

The poet is urging learners to grapple and experiment with the language, and has called for more public spaces to embrace events in the language.

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Learn Latin now: Why are people suddenly so interested in learning Latin?

7 October 2019 (Flux Magazine)

Cognita novum linguarum sunt interesting et fun. Didn’t catch that? Generally, this statement translates to “learning new languages is fun and interesting,” and it’s indeed true. In a world of development and innovations, learning a foreign language presents numerous benefits that people can find useful—not only for travelling to different places, but also for personal development and career advancement. Thus, a lot of people are interested in exploring foreign languages.

Among 6,909 distinct languages around the planet, one might encounter trouble in choosing which languages to learn. Languages and dialects from different parts of the world have their unique histories, and one of the oldest and most significant languages that are still evident today is Latin.

Lately, people suddenly want to learn Latin due to several reasons, and it’s time to know about them.


Science and language teachers to get £9,000 'staying on' bonus

5 October 2019 (The Guardian)

Applies to England

New science and modern languages teachers in England will receive “staying on” bonuses of up to £9,000 from next year, as the government announced a fresh round of trainee bursaries and scholarships on the heels of pre-election pay rises and increased school funding.

The Department for Education (DfE) said that from 2020, new teachers with degrees in physics or chemistry, or in languages such as French or Spanish, would join those with maths degrees in being eligible for “early-career payments” if they worked in state schools in England for four years after completing their training.


Gaelic culture takes centre stage at this year's Royal National Mòd

4 October 2019 (The Herald)

Along with the growing interest in Gaelic culture, the Royal National Mòd is flourishing into a celebration that is more inclusive and accessible than ever.

This year the biggest Gaelic festival in the world returns to Glasgow for the first time since 1990 for Mòd Ghlaschu, nine days filled with music, arts, and sport.

The birth of the Mòd came in 1891, and ever since then it has been organised by An Comunn Gàidhealach, which, for more than a century, has supported the teaching, learning, and use of the Gaelic language as well as the study and cultivation of Gaelic literature, history, music and art. The festival has held its royal charter since 1992, becoming Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail (The Royal National Mòd).

The main focus of the Mòd is competition, something that attracts the best in Gaelic sport and culture from Gaelic communities throughout the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the US.

Whether they are looking to compete or spectate, visitors can enjoy more than 200 competitive events in highland dancing, sport, literature, and drama, as well as Gaelic music and song. For example, this year sees the welcome return of the London Gaelic Choir after an absence from the Mòd.


Related Links

Mod Ghlaschu to celebrate city’s Gaelic history and culture (The National, 8 October 2019)

Mòd Ghlaschu 2019 Opening Ceremony and Concert (What's on Glasgow, 4 October 2019)

Stories, songs and shinty: Why Gaelic power endures after a century of Mods (Sunday Post, 9 October 2019)

Figures reveal bumper year for entrants at Royal National Mod (Press and Journal, 10 October 2019)

Welcome to Glasgow Mòd (Fringe Supplement - pdf)

Why you Should Introduce Writing Early in MFL

3 October 2019 (Teachwire)

Writing is often the skill that is left alone by the teachers of MFL beginners: “They’ll get mixed up with English… we have to focus on speaking… it’s too hard.”

However, learners will start to write in the new language whether we want them to or not, on any scrap of paper they can find, while we’re teaching.

They like to note down words to help them with speaking activities, for example. Primary language learners enjoy writing – it’s seen as “proper work” – and being able to write successfully in another language gives them a great sense of achievement.

What is writing all about in language learning? We want learners to:

  • Make intelligible marks on a piece of paper or other surface, and have the confidence to form those marks correctly
  • Put the marks together in a way that forms words, sentences and texts, according to the rules and conventions of the languages they’re studying
  • Give meaning to the words and use them to communicate

So, when children write in the foreign language, we want them to form the individual shapes and letters correctly, to be attentive to accuracy and spell correctly, and to understand structure and grammar and in order to create sentences that communicate.


Private schools warn uni cap would lead to brain drain

2 October 2019 (TES)

Private schools heads have warned of a possible “brain drain” if Labour were to introduce its proposed 7 per cent cap on university admissions from the independent sector, with pupils opting to study abroad instead.

Chris Ramsey, co-chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) universities committee, said some subjects like modern foreign languages could be severely impacted by such a cap.

“If you take a subject like MFL, our latest survey told us that 2,500 of our independently educated upper-sixth-formers were applying for modern languages courses," he said, speaking at the HMC annual conference in London.

"That’s one-fifth of the modern languages undergraduates that there are in the country. 

"So if you just take that one subject, if only 7 per cent came in, where are the modern linguists going to come from, or are we just going to shrink the numbers of language students in our country?

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Overseas experiences are 'invaluable' for pupils

1 October 2019 (TES)

Even when digital technology puts so much information at our fingertips, including the possibility of virtual travel, there is still no substitute for lived experience. This enables us to open up our perspective and appreciate fundamental similarities with peers elsewhere – important skills when collaborating with others in any context, especially in the workplace.

Studying overseas offers students fantastic preparation for the world of work. It pushes them to move outside their comfort zones and engage with a breadth of different people – students, teachers, host families – which is invaluable experience in preparing them for life beyond the classroom.

When working and living abroad, you are alert and receptive to all that is new around you, noticing and questioning so much more than when surrounded by all that is familiar. When away from home, our young people are learning to see the world from a completely different point of view, to have some of their values and preconceptions challenged and to see opportunities for themselves in the future that they simply would not have known about otherwise.

Studying overseas also brings a new dimension to learning – seeing something in context to help bring about a better understanding of the how and the why – of history, and literature, of geography, or of a language.

It encourages students to embrace and appreciate diversity, to spend time with people from different cultures and see how the world works elsewhere. It teaches them how to negotiate life overseas, giving them an understanding of cultural conventions and sensitivities that could trip them up otherwise.

Students from St George’s School for Girls who study abroad develop a strong sense of autonomy, essential when undertaking international travel and great preparation for the working world. I see students coming back from time away with much more confidence, having grown in maturity, having learned more about themselves and with a wonderful "yes I can" outlook on life.

[..] While international opportunities are great for our young people, it cannot be denied that the real value lies in exposing students to something that is new – a new environment or experience that leads them to ask questions – and this doesn’t have to be overseas. Our students have taken part in digital exchanges where experiences and learning are shared with peers in a different country online. They also benefit by observing how different countries manage and tackle problems such as climate change.

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We're losing the language of Goethe, Bach and handshoes

29 September 2019 (TES)

The German language is the widest-spoken in the EU. It is the key to German culture. And, says Hayley Gray, it is at risk of dying out in schools.

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutsch! After 27 years of sharing my love of all things German with thousands of students aged 11-18, I spent this summer shredding materials, donating books and binning years of precious resources. 

In June, I taught my last-ever German lesson. From this September, in addition to my senior leadership role, I will teach only French. It is with a deep sense of regret that I have had to accept that the subject I fell in love with aged 11 – the language of the country I have lived and worked in, travelled extensively around and developed in as a person – will never again appear on my timetable. Nor will it be formally taught at a school whose values and sense of moral purpose I feel equally passionate about.

As a former head of German, I remain as committed as ever to the importance of teaching languages in our schools. But, as a school leader and manager, I also understand the financial challenges facing schools. Once my own school lost its language-college funding a few years back, our language department could no longer afford the luxury of offering three languages to pupils. 

The decision to drop German was driven by numbers, staffing expertise and tightening budgets, and the benefit of learning German was not able to be a consideration. 

We fought a hard battle to retain German. We reduced our time allocation at key stage 5 to sustain smaller group sizes. We joined forces with the history department to introduce a popular Berlin trip. We delivered assemblies, organised cultural events and set up a key stage 3 German club, but to no avail. 

Our school’s decision merely reflects a national trend. GCSE entries in German were down by 12.5 per cent since last year. Coupled with declining numbers at A level and fewer applicants at university level, this means we no longer have the pipeline of teachers entering the profession. We will soon lose our ability to teach certain languages, and German will disappear from our state schools in the same way Latin did.

Soon there will be a shortage of language skills in general among our young people. This will mean the loss of more than just our ability to converse. To quote Charlemagne: “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”

I believe we nurture those second souls in our teaching of languages. The decision to learn a foreign language is an act of self-care and personal discovery. It’s not just a route to better communication, but also an opportunity to get to know yourself better and to consider your values and your culture, the way you operate and think. 

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Winners of first ever Scots language ‘Oscars’ revealed

29 September 2019 (The Scotsman)

Writers, broadcasters, singers, poets and schools have been honoured at the first ever Scots Language Oscars, in the latest addition to the nation’s traditional arts and culture calendar.

The event, which saw 11 awards presented at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow, was launched to coincide with the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages initiative.

The new Scots Language Awards celebrate the country’s original tongue, which dates back around 1,400 years and is thought to have been spoken by almost a third of the population.

The event, backed by arts agency Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Scots Language Centre, has been instigated by Hands Up for Trad, who are also behind the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year contest, which has been staged for the last 20 years, and the Scots Trad Music Awards, which were launched in 2003.


Want to boost language learning? Be creative

27 September 2019 (TES)

Could the recent slump in modern languages entries be down to students being put off by boring texts? Researchers Suzanne Graham and Linda Fisher put this idea to the test, and found that a broader range of literature and more creative teaching reaped rewards.

Describe your living room. Tell me about your local town. What is in your pencil case?

These requests are not the most inspiring starters for a conversation. They certainly would not inspire you to overcome the struggles of learning a new language in order to communicate your ideas and opinions: who wants to wax lyrical about the number of hairdressers and bakers in their home town?

And yet such functional questions are frequently used in language learning in the UK. We suspect that this is driving potential learners to boredom and leading them to ditch languages altogether. Are we right? Our research project, Linguistic Creativity in Language Learning, should tell us. It is exploring the impact of using poems (about such themes as love, death and migration) and different teaching approaches (“creative” versus “functional”) on 14-year-old language learners’ motivation and creativity levels.

Before beginning our classroom-based research, we wanted to understand why pupils weren’t choosing to continue with language study to GCSE level and beyond. We asked around 550 French and German learners (14-year-olds) whether they planned to continue studying languages in the future and what they thought of language learning. We also used a metaphor elicitation task to gain a greater understanding of how they viewed language learning, asking the pupils to finish the following sentence: “Learning a language is like …”

The results showed that, contrary to popular belief, most thought that it was important to learn a language, but this did not have an impact on whether they intended to continue with language study. What did impact on their decisions was instead whether they could imagine themselves using the languages in their future lives, and how confident they were in being able to express their thoughts and feelings in the language.

The metaphors revealed the learners’ lack of efficacy or self-belief in being able to achieve in language learning: “Learning a language is like trying to ice skate – I keep falling over and can’t get the hang of it”; “Learning a language is like trying to fly … I just can’t do it”.

We wanted to see whether we could alter this negative self-perception regarding language learning by using creative teaching methods and texts. Could putting the emphasis on feelings and emotions (through the exploration of creative texts), rather than just on grammar and vocabulary, have an impact on a language learners’ efficacy? And what would be the effects on other aspects of language learning, such as vocabulary development?

We devised an intervention where we compared text types (literary versus factual) and teaching methodologies (creative versus functional). Briefly, in the creative approach, learners engage with the text primarily on the level of personal, emotional and imaginative response. In the functional approach, the focus is on the text as a vehicle for teaching language, vocabulary and grammar, and for developing the skill of identifying key information in a text on a factual level.

The first step was to find poems suitable for use with Year 9 learners. We chose six for French and six for German, in consultation with the teachers involved in the project.

We then modified another 12 authentic texts so that they contained the same core vocabulary and grammar structures as the other chosen poems and were of a comparable difficulty level.

Next, we conducted baseline tests so that we could track the impact of the teaching materials and methodologies.

Then, in collaboration with language teachers, we developed around 50 PowerPoint presentations and lesson plans in French and German for the intervention phase. The themes we covered included some not often featured in language-teaching materials – for example, love, death and war. In the creative approach, we addressed them in some unusual ways.

[..] Based on findings from the research, teaching materials that combine both a creative and a functional approach will be uploaded and freely available on the Creative Multilingualism website.

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How to inspire pupils to love language learning

26 September 2019 (TES)

From sporting events to exchange programmes, there are many ways schools can spark an interest in modern languages.

This year’s GCSE results have provided a glimmer of hope that the long-term decline of students studying languages may be starting to change.

However, there is still more to be done. French entries have fallen by more than 40,000 and German by 25,000 since 2010.

So, how are we going to make language learning more appealing? How are we going to inspire our students to take up languages?

By taking languages out of the classroom, we can make them more real, relevant and fun. At our school, we have run Languages Weeks connected with sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

This involves activities such as an Opening Ceremony with flags, anthems and the draw conducted in French. Each class adopts a language of a team competing – anything from Chinese, Portuguese or Russian to Danish or Swedish – and different subjects look at the geography, history, music, food, famous scientists and artists of the countries involved.

Teachers can learn at the same time as their students. Or pupils who speak other languages can act as the teacher to explain the rudiments of their native tongue to their classmates – and their teacher.

The key thing is to give it a whole-school focus and get everyone involved with the idea of learning new languages and understanding different cultures.

Another fun way to boost language engagement is to take an MFL class into your local area to make a promotional tourist film in French, German or Spanish.


Scots language fans have a word with Nicola Sturgeon

22 September 2019 (The Times)

It could cause a stooshie or a hootenanny, depending on your viewpoint, but Scots, the dialect or language that has been spoken in Scotland for several centuries, may get its own agency to help it survive.

Nicola Sturgeon is under internal pressure from SNP activists in this UN year of indigenous languages to recognise Scots as an official language. It could mean it is treated like Gaelic, which was given its own statutory agency, Bord na Gaidhlig, after a catastrophic drop in native speaker numbers.

Some nationalists believe the move would help many more people to learn or promote the so-called “mither tongue”, with support for it to be more widely taught, learnt and promoted as part of public life in Scotland.

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Doric film festival to celebrate ‘crannies, colours and contermashes neuks’

21 September 2019 (The Press and Journal)

The announcement that the Doric Film Festival will return coincides with the news that last year’s inaugural event, and its creator Scots Radio, have been nominated for awards in the prestigious Scots Language Awards.

Also nominated is John Black, headteacher of Meethill Primary School in Peterhead which won the schools’ section of last year’s Festival competition.

And Sheena Blackhall, who wrote and read a special poem for the Doric Film Festival awards, will receive the Janet Paisley Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scots Language Awards.

The Doric Film Festival is the brainchild of Scots Radio director Frieda Morrison, who created the platform to celebrate the Doric language and its cultural identity.


Chinese tourism boom makes businesses mind their language

21 September 2019 (The Times)

They come for castles, clan history and clootie dumpling only to be thwarted by the language barrier.

Crowds of Chinese tourists who travel thousands of miles to visit Scotland every year are being wooed by canny restaurateurs and retailers keen to help them spend their currency and now Roy Brett, owner and head chef at the Ondine seafood bar, is looking for Mandarin-speaking serving staff.

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Explore 'Glesca' and 'Embra' on interactive Scots language map

20 September 2019 (The Scotsman)

An interactive map showing place names in Scots has been launched as part of a drive to raise awareness about the language.

The digital map allows people to view the original Scots names for cities, towns and villages such as Glesca/Glescae for Glasgow, Embra/Edinburrae for Edinburgh and Thirsa for Thurso.

Part of the site will allow users to submit more local names to be included on the map. The Scots Language Centre (SLC) will research the suggestions before deciding whether to add them.


Scots poem takes Wigtown international prize for first time

16 September 2019 (BBC)

A Scots language poem has won the international Wigtown Poetry Prize for the first time.

Shiftin, by Mhairi Owens, saw off entries from the USA, China, Canada and Ecuador for the £1,500 award.

This year the prize was opened up to entries in Scots, English and Gaelic for the first time.

Ms Owens, from Anstruther, who tutors in creative writing at the University of St Andrews, said she was delighted to be told she had won the award.

"It's literally a slim wee poem, but uses some very beautiful and unique Scots words and phrases," she said.

"It's right that many of us who use Scots in our everyday communication should use it in our poetry."


Secondary Scottish education must be reviewed, MSPs say

16 September 2019 (TES)

A review of the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence is needed to ensure that pupils' aspirations are being met and that they have a wide enough range of opportunities in schools, MSPs have found.

This is one of the recommendations of a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, following an inquiry into the number of subjects available to pupils and, in particular, concerns over subject choice at S4.

The committee heard that, following the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), there had been confusion and inadequate support from Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

[...] The committee also heard evidence that the changes to curriculum structure have had a negative impact on the number of pupils taking languages and Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, leading to concerns about the future of these subjects in Scotland’s schools.


Related Links

Review of senior phase (Scottish Government, 16 September 2019)

Education review ordered amid subject choice concern (BBC, 16 September 2019)

Switch to English ‘risks social relevance’ of European humanities

14 September 2019 (Times Higher Education)

Humanities and social science academics in continental Europe risk losing their social relevance if they continue to switch to English as the language of publication, according to a bibliometrics expert who has monitored this transition in Norway.

Gunnar Sivertsen, head of bibliometric research at the Oslo-based Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, warned a conference on the future of the humanities that, if the current trend continues so that no research is published in Norwegian, “I think we will lose our societal relevance, even with translations”.

In Norway, the proportion of humanities papers published in Norwegian has slumped from around 65 per cent in 2005 to less than 40 per cent by 2014, according to research presented to delegates by Professor Sivertsen.


In Britain, command of a foreign language is still à la mode

13 September 2019 (The Economist)

Unemployed Londoners hoping to work for Gucci, an Italian fashion retailer, may be surprised by the skills required. As well as knowledge of luxury products, including accessories and leather goods, and industry trends, candidates to be a “brand ambassador” at the outlet in Harrods need something extra. Because the posh department store’s customers include rich visitors from the Gulf, you must also speak Arabic.

Foreign languages remain a coveted skill in Britain, according to an analysis of data from Indeed, a recruitment website. Of the millions of jobs in Britain listed there, around one in 200 requires require foreign languages. German and French, the most desirable languages, feature in about 115 out of every 100,000 postings, over twice as often as Chinese, Italian or Spanish. Twenty-nine in 100,000 listings require Dutch; 20 call for Japanese, Polish or Russian. Despite the rise of translation software, people prefer to be served by fellow humans who can speak their mother tongue.


DfE uses Snapchat to continue languages revival at GCSE

11 September 2019 (TES)

Snapchat is being used by the Department for Education to nudge pupils into choosing to study a modern foreign language at GCSE.

A DfE video posted on the social media platform shows pupils reaping the benefits of knowing a foreign language: including playing video games online against opponents around the world, texting people around the world and "playing football in Spain".

The DfE says the video was posted too late to be a factor in helping the revival in GCSE languages entries this year, for which it says it has still to do analysis. 

But the Snapchat video is one of a number of measures being taken to pique pupils' interest. These include the opening of the country’s first modern foreign languages centre for excellence, a £4.8 million centre based within the University of York that coordinates the work of nine MFL hub schools across the country to promote pioneering teaching practices.

“In addition to this, we have launched a pilot project where undergraduates mentor secondary school pupils in MFL to drive up participation in the subjects, specifically targeting areas of high disadvantage to extend access to languages to all pupils,” a DfE spokesperson said.


Scottish Book Trust searching for teenage writers and illustrators

10 September 2019 (The Edinburgh Reporter)

Scottish Book Trust has announced that applications are open for their What’s Your Story? programme. Now in its fifth year, the scheme has helped around 30 young Scots to develop writing, illustration and performance projects. 

14 – 17 year olds living in Scotland are encouraged to apply for an all expenses paid opportunity to learn, grow and create as a writer or illustrator.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said : “Nurturing new young talent in the Scottish literary scene is so important and Scottish Book Trust is proud to launch the fifth year of What’s Your Story, focused on supporting young people.  The programme offers a truly unique opportunity and we urge parents and teachers to encourage the teens in their lives with a passion for writing or illustration to apply.”

[..] The Gaelic Books Council funds a Gaelic-language place. 

Applications close on 27 November 2019, and can be made online.


Quiz: Can you pronounce these tricky Scottish place names?

6 September 2019 (The Scotsman)

With some less than helpful spellings, there are some places in Scotland whose names get butchered on a daily basis.

Can you correctly identify the pronunciation of these Scottish places?


German GCSE skiing question highlights 'class biases'

6 September 2019 (TES)

Applies to England

A recent AQA examiners’ report on GCSE German has highlighted middle-class biases in modern foreign language exams, teachers have said.

Ruth Wilkes, principal of Castle Newnham School in Bedford, posted a photograph of the AQA examiners’ report for a GCSE German oral exam, where it was reported that: “Some students struggled to state advantages and/or disadvantages of a skiing holiday.”

Ms Wilkes said the question would put students from poorer families who did not take foreign holidays at a disadvantage.

“Pupils who’ve experienced a ski holiday are much more likely to be able to infer the answer to that particular question than those who haven’t, whatever their proficiency in the language, making such a question particularly unfair,” she said.

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'Yer Da sells Avon': 21 uniquely Scottish insults and their history

6 September 2019 (The Scotsman)

It’s aggressive without effort, with a few simple phrases able to send someone on their way. The Scots language was the country’s original tongue, dating back 1,400 years ago, and at one time Scots was the national language of Scotland, spoken by Scottish kings, and was used to write the official records of the country. Now the Scots language becomes a point of pride with some people, using words that - outside of some regions of Scotland - have never been heard. The opening of the Scottish Twitter exhibition in Edinburgh this August was a showcase of how funny an insult in Scots can be. With the ability to deliver a well timed insult viewed as almost an art form, by using some of these simple phrases, you’ll never be left tongue tied with a red face.


Do left-handed people really learn new languages easier?

5 September 2019 (The National UAE)

A new study suggests that left-handed people are better at verbal tasks, such as learning new languages, because of how they grow in the womb.

The research, conducted by Oxford University and published this week, detailed how scientists had unlocked the genetics hardwired into human DNA that caused people to be left-handed.

Left-handed people’s brains communicate with each other in a more coordinated way, giving them an advantage when it came to being able to speak different languages.

“We discovered that, in left-handed participants, the language areas of the left and right sides of the brain communicate with each other in a more coordinated way,” said Dr Akira Wiberg, a Medical Research Council fellow at the University of Oxford, who carried out the research.


Educate yourself in the cognitive and educative benefits of learning Gaelic at Bòrd na Gàidhlig

4 September 2019 (The Herald)

The discussion around the Gaelic language in Scotland has tended to veer towards the romantic, the ethereal, and occasionally the political. It can certainly fall under the banner of misinformation from kneejerk detractors.

What is rarely considered are the considerable cognitive and educative benefits of learning Gaelic or learning in the Gaelic medium.

Based in Inverness, Bòrd na Gàidhlig was established to promote the development of the language in Scotland. Its CEO is Shona McLennan, who explains that like many minority languages Gaelic has been in decline, but the mission of Bòrd na Gàidhlig is to promote Gaelic language, Gaelic education, and Gaelic culture with a view to reinvigorating the language.

“One of the most effective ways to do this is to provide education in the medium of the language,” says Shona. “Alongside education in the language, pupils also need opportunities to use it outside of the classroom. You need activity around the learning such as sports activities, arts and music.”


How K-pop and K-drama made learning Korean cool

1 September 2019 (Forbes)

When Mina Chae first began making videos in 2008, she found less than five Korean language lessons on YouTube. Feeling a need to ”contribute some pixels to the online community,” she created YouTube lessons with the equipment she had on hand: a laptop, some green screen fabric, and an impressive talent for caricature. Playing multiple members of a fun fictional family, she shared common Korean words and their context in a series of KWOW episodes.

[...] “Many k-pop fans want to learn Korean to sing their favorite songs, which can be especially awesome for audience participation at live concerts,” said Chae. “K-drama lovers can watch their episodes in the native Korean language without reading subtitles, which are not always translated accurately. How can you? There are cultural words and feelings that just cannot be perfectly translated into another language. So learning the language is a way to better understand the culture and people."


Shining a spotlight on the Scottish Clan system

30 August 2019 (Stornoway Gazette)

The Scottish Highland clans are one of the most immediately recognisable parts of Scotland’s history. Yet centuries of misrepresentation and romanticisation have created a range of persistent myths and stereotypes.

Now a new free online three-week course from the University of Glasgow, the ‘Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformations’, on the FutureLearn platform, hopes to debunk some of these misconceptions to provide a critical overview of how the clans functioned in Scottish society.

[...] Dr Andrew Mackillop, a senior lecturer in Scottish History at the University’s College of Arts, who has led the creation of the clans’ course, said the course had drawn on world-class levels of expertise on all aspects of Scottish society, language, history, literature and culture.

“One of the most exciting aspects is the inclusion of Scottish Gaelic material in the form of songs and poems,” he added.

“Making these unique historical sources more accessible is a key objective. Learners will be able to engage with Gaelic but will also have full English translations – so there is no need to worry if you have no Gaelic!


Monolinguals living in a linguistically diverse environment have an edge in language learning

29 August 2019 (News Medical)

Numerous studies have noted the brain benefits that come from being bilingual – among them increased executive-level cognitive function and a four- to five-year delay in the risk of developing dementia symptoms. A new University of California, Irvine study, however, has found that monolinguals living in a linguistically diverse environment may be reaping some rewards just by being in the vicinity of multiple languages.

"The phenomenon is known as ambient linguistic diversity, and we show – using EEG-measured brain activity – that it has the impact of increasing monolingual brain activity similar to what we see in bilinguals, even if the person doesn't speak or understand a second language." Co-author Judith Kroll, UCI Distinguished Professor of language science.

Kroll and graduate student Kinsey Bice, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, began their research on monolingual brain activity related to language exposure at Pennsylvania State University in 2015. They continued their work after relocations to the University of California, Riverside in 2016 and to UCI in 2019. They examined how single-language speakers responded neurally and behaviorally when presented with a new foreign language, in this case Finnish.

"Finnish was used because it adheres to vowel harmony, a phonological constraint on how words are formed that prevents front vowels from co-occurring with back vowels," Bice said. "We tested whether or not monolinguals would be able to implicitly detect, extract and generalize these patterns to new words."


Scots language should be part of everyday teaching

28 August 2019 (TES)

As educators, we are used to teaching our pupils in English. Sometimes we may use French or Spanish, consolidating our learning of these languages into our daily routine. But how often do we teach in or teach through Scots?

Every January, as we celebrate the life of Robert Burns, children across Scotland busily and eagerly learn a Scots poem ready to recite to their peers – but for many learners that is it.

Could we, and should we, be doing more?

In the 2011 census, over 1.5 million people self-identified as being able to speak Scots. With a language that is spoken that widely, shouldn’t we extend our teaching of Scots beyond a once-a-year celebration?

The Scots language is part of our culture and heritage and by teaching Scots – beyond dipping our toe in to celebrate Burns night – we are recognising and placing value on the diverse language and vocabulary that many pupils bring with them to school.


Paul McNamee: Languages can cut through the class gap

26 August 2019 (The Big Issue)

I am hugely impressed by people who can speak more than one language. If you’re up at three or more, I’m at your feet. I would have kept Roy Hodgson as England’s football manager for as long as he wanted purely because he once gave a post-match press conference moving easily from English to Italian to Swedish. He also has some Norwegian and Finnish.

There was a strange mixture of support and sniffiness when Boris Johnson spoke French last week during his meeting with Emmanuel Macron. On the one side, his supporters said, well he can’t be a non-European bigot because he speaks French. On the other, the argument was, well he still is. Neither stack up. And both miss the point.


What are the most popular subjects in Scotland?

23 August 2019 (TESS)

Earlier this month the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) published annual data on qualifications at all levels.

Tes Scotland has examined the figures to find the most popular subjects at Higher level in 2019, a list that includes all 27 subjects with at least 1,000 entries. Also included are four subjects which had more than 1,000 entries in 2016 – the first year that only the new version of the Higher was run – but which have now dipped below 1,000 entries.

In brackets are the number of Higher entries for each of the 31 subjects in 2016. This offers a better comparison that the figures for 2015, the first year in which the new version of Higher was offered, as for that year only the old Higher was also available.

Finally, below that, we also take a look at which subjects are losing popularity at Higher level, and which are on the rise, by calculating the percentage difference between entries in 2016 and 2019 for each of the 31 subjects.

The figures suggest that social subjects are being squeezed, with geography, in particular, seeing a fall in entries of almost 16 per cent between 2016 and 2019.

But there are even bigger falls in some subjects, including computing science (27.5 per cent) and French (25.4 per cent) and – the biggest fall proportionally – philosophy (34.8 per cent).

Few subjects have seen rises in entries, with Spanish among those to increase (17.5 per cent), although by far the biggest rise proportionally is in politics (55.3%).

For context, overall entries fell from 197,750 in 2016 to 185,914 in 2019, a drop of almost 6 per cent. In italics are all the subjects where the percentage drop in entries is Higher than the overall percentage drop in entries across all subjects.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


New Gaelic arm of Dunfermline arts festival is on the ball

23 August 2019 (The Courier)

For the first time, the Dunfermline arts festival, which runs from September 3 to 8, is launching a new strand of Gaelic and Scots events.

The main event is on the ball for Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers alike.

With regular appearances on BBC Scotland and BBC Alba the Gaelic voice of shinty and football, Hugh Dan MacLennan, is presenting an event in partnership with Dunfermline Athletic FC.

The two-hour interactive workshop at East End Park is for anyone who watched football on Gaelic TV channel, BBC Alba and wondered what on earth was going on.

The session will be delivered in English, and will give the participants the opportunity to learn key phrases used in commentating as well as some they can use at their next match.


Monolingual island and the “B word”

22 August 2019 (The Notification)

Everyone speaks English, don’t they? Isn’t it the third most common mother tongue and most frequently-learnt second language in the world, and anyway isn’t it the de facto international language of business, tourism, music and academia? And how are a Swede and Slovak meant to communicate otherwise, without resorting to mime or the questionable suggestions of Google Translate?

Comparing broad Glaswegian, Aussie drawl and Canadian lilt shows us the incredible diversity and geographical spread of our language, arguably the most useful mother tongue on the planet. However, the Anglophone phenomenon comes with its own bear traps. 61% of British people can’t speak a single other language. We thus receive the dubious award for the most monolingual country in Europe.

There’s something very British about the way we consistently overestimate the importance of our own language (only 38% of EU citizens outside the UK and Ireland know enough English to have a conversation, and 6 of the world’s 7.5 billion people speak no English at all) and find excuses not to learn anyone else’s.

We have an unfortunate tendency to reduce language to its functional value of bare bones communication: if person A from country B learns our word for C, we’re good. We persistently neglect that language is also intrinsically tied up with culture, identity and personality.

“A different language is a different vision of life”, quipped the Italian film director Federico Fellini. Speaking only the language handed down to us by our parents means we miss a whole dimension of the human experience, and the pleasure of authentically discovering another layer of the cultural richness of our world.


What’s the best way to teach children a second language? New research produces surprising results

22 August 2019 (The Conversation)

People often assume that children learn new languages easily and without effort, regardless of the situation they find themselves in. But is it really true that children soak up language like sponges?

Research has shown that children are highly successful learners if they have a lot of exposure to a new language over a long time, such as in the case of child immigrants who are surrounded by the new language all day, every day. In such a scenario, children become much more proficient in the new language over the long term than adults.

But if the amount of language children are exposed to is limited, as in classroom language learning, children are slow learners and overall less successful than teenagers or adults. How can we explain this apparent contrast?

Researchers have argued that children learn implicitly, that is, without conscious thought, reflection or effort. And implicit learning requires a large amount of language input over a long period of time.

As we get older, we develop the ability to learn explicitly – that is, analytically and with deliberate effort. Put differently, adults approach the learning task like scientists. This explains why more mature classroom learners have greater success: they can draw on more highly developed, efficient, explicit learning processes which also require more effort.

When it comes to learning a language, however, it is not a question of either implicit or explicit learning. They can coexist, so it is more often a question of how much of each approach is used.

In our new study, we asked whether younger children who are generally thought to learn implicitly had already developed some ability to learn explicitly as well. What’s more, we looked at whether the ability to analyse language can predict foreign language learning success in the classroom.


Google sign language AI turns hand gestures into speech

20 August 2019 (BBC)

Google says it has made it possible for a smartphone to interpret and "read aloud" sign language.

The tech firm has not made an app of its own but has published algorithms which it hopes developers will use to make their own apps.

Until now, this type of software has only worked on PCs.

Campaigners from the hearing-impaired community have welcomed the move, but say the tech might struggle to fully grasp some conversations.


Supporting EAL students in a mixed-language classroom

19 August 2019 (TES)

Entering a classroom packed with students who have little knowledge of English is every teacher's nightmare. We know how challenging it can be to create an inclusive environment and aid those struggling with English, so we've gathered some useful resources to help you support your EAL/ESL students.


Learn languages to find foreign love – BC

16 August 2019 (The Pie News)

More than half of Britons are missing out on finding love abroad after a British Council poll revealed that 54% would avoid striking up a holiday romance due to language barriers.

A mere one in five of Britons would consider finding a partner who did not speak English as their first language while holidaying abroad, it also showed.

Just 17% of UK adults have found love overseas with someone who did not speak English as their first language.

A total of 41% of men said they would consider or had had a holiday romance with someone whose first language was not English, while 29% of women said the same.

Men were also less likely to be put off by potential obstacles to starting or continuing such a relationship, such as distance, travel costs, time zones and cultural differences.

“The results show that speaking another language shifts from being seen as a barrier to romance to something interesting that people want to explore in a partner,” British Council spokesperson Vicky Gough said.

“Language differences might put off half of Brits from starting a holiday romance, but if you break that barrier, nearly two-thirds (63%) would want to learn their partner’s language.”

Romantics can find hope in this year’s UK A level results – after mathematics, languages were the three best performing subjects, with 40.4% of German candidates, 36.4% French and 34.9% Spanish achieving A or A*.

“For those of us heading off on holiday abroad, learning just a few phrases of the local language could see the beginning of a whole new relationship with a person and their culture,” Gough added.


A-level results: Spanish overtakes French

15 August 2019 (TES)

Spanish has overtaken French as the most popular modern foreign language at A level for the first time, figures show.

A total of 8,625 candidates were entered for Spanish A level this year, compared with 8,355 entries in French. In Spanish, the number of entries increased by 4.5 per cent compared with last year, while in French, the number of entries fell by 4.1 per cent.

The change could partly be due to higher numbers of specialist Spanish teachers. Data from the Teaching Regulation Agency’s annual report and accounts published in August showed that 1,365 Spanish-born teachers received QTS in 2018-19 compared with 46 French teachers.

The news backs up provisional A-level entry data from Ofqual released in May, which showed that while Spanish rose from 7,705 to 7,995, French fell slightly, from 7,945 to 7,680. 

It also echoes predictions in a report by the British Council in December 2018 that Spanish would overtake French as the UK’s most popular language at A level.

(Note - subscription required to access the full article).


Related Links

ALL comments on A-level results 2019 (ALL, 15 August 2019)

A-level results 2019 (Alcantra, 15 August 2019)

Two Galloway writers receive Scots Language Publication grants to support their work in Scots

14 August 2019 (Daily Record)

Two Galloway writers are among nine scrievers nationwide to be awarded funding to support their work in Scots.

Stuart A Paterson from Kirkbean and Susi Briggs from Gatehouse have both received Scots Language Publication grants.

The scheme, funded by the Scottish Government and administered by Scottish Book Trust, was created by the Scots Language Resource Network to support Scots publishers and to encourage Scots writers.


No-deal Brexit fears for Erasmus student exchange scheme

13 August 2019 (BBC)

The Scottish and Welsh governments have expressed fears over the future of the Erasmus student exchange programme in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Both administrations have jointly written to the UK education secretary to express their concerns.

The EU programme helps students study in other countries.

The UK government has guaranteed payments for successful applicants and said it is "exploring participation" in a successor scheme.

Erasmus is an EU-funded programme which enables students to either study part of their degree or undertake a work placement abroad.

About 53% of UK university students who learn abroad do so through the initiative.

Some countries which are not in the EU - including Iceland, Norway and Serbia - also take part.

The letter is signed by the Scottish higher education minister, Richard Lochhead, and the Welsh education minister, Kirsty Williams.

Both devolved administrations are opposed to a hard Brexit but if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, they would like participation in Erasmus to continue.

The letter argues that leaving the EU without a deal or an arrangement covering the scheme will result in universities, colleges, and schools being ineligible to submit applications to participate in the final year of the current Erasmus+ programme in 2020.

It says: "This will be a significant loss to both our education sectors.

"Between 2014 and 2018, Erasmus+ has enabled an estimate of over 10,000 students and staff in Wales to undertake mobility visits to benefit their learning and career development.

"In Scotland, proportionally more students take part in Erasmus+ than from any other country in the UK."

It calls for an urgent meeting of education ministers to discuss the steps being taken towards ensuring that a hard Brexit does not lead to a loss of provision and opportunities for universities, colleges and schools.


Related Links

Concerns raised over Erasmus student scheme as no-deal Brexit looms (The Guardian, 13 August 2019)

Doubts over Erasmus+ after EU exit (Scottish Government, 13 August 2019)

How Twitter is helping the Scots language thrive in the 21st century

13 August 2019 (The Conversation)

Rude, crude and extremely funny, “Scottish Twitter” has garnered much attention in recent years for its uniquely Celtic wit – and for the specific ways it uses language.

Journalist Eve Livingston’s recent article for The Face examines the many social and cultural features of Scottish Twitter. But the fact it has provided a medium for written Scots language to evolve in a way that wasn’t possible before the advent of social media is equally fascinating.

Scots is officially recognised as one of the minority languages of Scotland. It has existed and thrived for centuries in writing as well as speech. From poets Robert Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid and Sheena Blackhall to novelist Irvine Welsh, the language has a rich literary tradition, and even has its own dictionary. More recently, it has moved into the digital world, finding itself unexpectedly and enthusiastically embraced on social media.


May I have a word about… our love affair with the French language

11 August 2019 (The Guardian)

There’s nothing quite so guffaw-making to an Anglo-Saxon sensibility in need of its funny bone being tickled than a French worthy having a fit of the vapours.

Last week didn’t disappoint. And all over the delightful word “love”. Apparently, French online advertisers prefer it to “l’amour”, which has got the culture minister, Franck Riester, in a right royal Gallic tizzy. “In this linguistic globalisation, our duty is to refuse any tendency to move towards a single [world] language [and] any weakening of the diversity, as of cultures, in France and elsewhere.”


How Friends taught the world to speak English – from Jürgen Klopp to Korean pop megastars

9 August 2019 (The Guardian)

They were there for him. Jürgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool, has credited Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Joey and Chandler with teaching him English. Watching the long-running sitcom Friends helped him bridge the gaps in his language comprehension, he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast on Wednesday. “The easiest to follow for Germans in English is Friends. It’s easy conversation. You can understand pretty much each word, pretty early,” he said.

Friends is, in fact, a time-honoured English teacher. Both Luis Severino of the New York Yankees baseball team, who is from the Dominican Republic, and the Venezuelan Wilmer Flores, formerly of the rival Mets, have spoken about learning colloquial language from the show. (Flores, who has said he watches Friends almost daily, even changed his walk-up music to the theme tune by the Rembrandts.)


Language travel still popular for UK students, with Spain gaining foothold

8 August 2019 (The Pie News)

Despite headlines reporting drops in language studies in schools across the UK, youngsters from secondary schools around the UK are continuing to travel overseas in busloads, educational tour operators have said. And Spain – and its language – is becoming increasingly popular.

However, concerns surrounding Brexit and safety have caused issues of their own, and the lower uptake of languages at GCSE level is reflected in language travel industry trends.

The British Council’s Language Trends 2019 report found that entries for GCSE languages had declined by 19% over the past five years. French and German GCSE candidate levels saw reductions of 30%, the report explained.

“Spanish language trips are getting very close to the demand for French language”

At A-level, between 2017 and 2018, German was down by 16%, French by 7%,  and Spanish by 3%. However, provisional entry figures for 2019 show Spanish candidate numbers increasing by 10% and French increasing by 4%.

German instead is set to continue to fall by 2.5%.

Of the 776 primary schools and 845 secondary schools surveyed for this report, 8% said they had offered school trips abroad in the previous year.

In last year’s survey, that number was 12%, but more respondents were included in the 2019 report.

Michelle Evans, head of product & marketing at educational tour operator NST noted that a large proportion of its language trips were for students under GCSE age.

“Teachers are trying to engage the students in lower secondary years in languages, so that they can encourage them to take that subject at GCSE,” she told The PIE News.


SQA results day 2019

6 August 2019 (TESS)

Higher computing entries fall by 21%. Setting aside computing, the sciences fared better in terms of changes in uptake than the social subjects.

French experienced a 10% dip in entries, whilst Spanish saw a 9% increase from last year.


We need languages graduates to steer us through our post-Brexit troubled waters

31 July 2019 (The Guardian)

Just after the first world war, the UK produced its most comprehensive review of languages provision, the Leathes report. In the Brexit era we’re now faced yet again with different ideological, cultural and economic battles that have us examining our languages capacity, and discovering it falls well short of what is required.

After Brexit we will need a strong language base for trade, international relations and soft power. Yet instead of a growth in languages, we’re experiencing steep decline: the number of modern languages undergraduates fell by 54% between 2008–9 and 2017–18. With fewer students applying, at least 10 modern languages departments have closed in the last decade (the University of Hull is the most recent casualty), and many others have shrunk in size or reduced their range of languages. By one estimate, the number of German units has halved from more than 80 in 2002 to fewer than 40 today.

Second, if Brexit and the debate over the Irish backstop have taught us anything, it is that we need subject specialists with language skills – lawyers, economists, geographers, engineers, and business graduates with the language skills to understand, negotiate, and argue the details.

Third, we urgently need more language graduates with at least two languages to degree level to teach in schools and rebuild and sustain primary and secondary languages. At present we risk most state schools offering pupils only one language to GCSE and many offering none at all to A-level, in a way that would never be tolerated for the sciences.

To win back students, a new approach is needed. 


40% more MFL teacher trainees needed for 2020

5 November 2018 (TES)

An extra 641 teacher trainees in modern foreign languages are needed to start work in schools by 2020, according to government forecasts.

But this is among “challenging targets” for teacher recruitment which the government will yet again fail to meet, training providers have said.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that the number of MFL trainees for postgraduate initial teacher training needed for 2019-20 is 2,241 – compared to 1,600 this year – in order to provide sufficient numbers of newly qualified teachers for the autumn of 2020.

This represents a 40 per cent increase in postgraduate ITT places for MFL compared to 2018-19.

But James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the government had already failed for the last five years to meet recruitment targets for secondary schools and said this was another target which was unlikely to be met.


Queen Elizabeth II Can Speak This Foreign Language After Learning It Privately

5 November 2018 (International Business Times)

Queen Elizabeth II can speak at least one foreign language fluently after getting a private education by governess Marion Crawford.

Harriet Mallinson, a journalist for Express, revealed that Her Majesty can speak French fluently. French is regarded as the official language in 29 countries. But the Queen has used her knowledge in the language during her visits to France and Canada.

In 2014, the Queen went to Paris for a state visit and met with former President Francois Hollande. The two discussed the weather in French. During her fifth French State Visit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, the monarch also gave an address in both English and French. A year later, the Queen spoke with a schoolgirl from Dagenham in French.

But Mallinson noted that the most impressive instance was when the Queen went to Quebec in Canada and gave a speech in French for a straight 10 minutes. French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis commented on the Queen’s French-speaking videos.

“Her reading skills were excellent – both pronunciation and rhythm were very good, but you could feel she was quite tense,” she said.

In related news, the Queen isn’t the only royal that can speak French fluently. Prince Charles and the Queen’s three other children can all speak the language.


Related Links

Prince Harry greets audience in 6 languages (CNN, 31 October 2018)

EAL parents 'can't engage with school life'

1 November 2018 (TES)

More than half of teachers worry that parents whose native language is not English are missing out on critical elements of their children’s education, a survey shows.

Nearly seven out of 10 teachers said they were concerned parents couldn’t help with homework, and 51 per cent worried whether they could identify if their children had learning difficulties.

More than half (56 per cent) of teachers surveyed said they feared parents with English as an additional language (EAL) could not fully engage with school life.


UK to recruit 1,000 more diplomatic staff to maintain international clout after Brexit

31 October 2018 (The Indepedent)

Jeremy Hunt will vow to recruit 1,000 more diplomatic staff and boost their language skills, as he fights warnings that Brexit will weaken Britain’s international clout.

In a major speech, the foreign secretary will promise “the biggest expansion of Britain’s diplomatic network for a generation”, opening new embassies in Africa and South East Asia.

There will also be a doubling of diplomats who speak the local language to 1,000, Mr Hunt will say – and an increase in the number of languages the Foreign Office teaches, from 50 to 70.


Related Links

Jeremy Hunt to cast net wider to recruit top diplomats (The Guardian, 31 October 2018)

Glasgow's Gaelic heritage forms part of Celtic Connections festival

30 October 2018 (Glasgowist)

Glasgow’s Gaelic heritage is celebrated every year as part of the Celtic Connections festival. This year, there was also the Glaschu festival in August, with Gaelic poetry in Queens Park and a Ceilidh on Glasgow Green. Every year, the city is filled with the spirit of Scots Gaelic heritage, as tourists and Glaswegians unite for a celebration of Scottish tradition.

With song and dance at the heart of Gaelic culture, it is no wonder that it continues to fascinate the world. Recent books and television series have prompted a surge in interest in the Gaelic language, while Betfair hosts a slot game called Gaelic Luck. The University of Glasgow has been teaching Gaelic to undergrads for 50 years, and a recent literary festival and ad hoc lessons in Gaelic have responded to a surge in interest.


The 100 greatest foreign-language films

30 October 2018 (BBC)

BBC Culture polled 209 critics in 43 countries to find the best in world cinema.

We felt it was time to direct the spotlight away from Hollywood and celebrate the best cinema from around the world. We asked critics to vote for their favourite movies made primarily in a language other than English. The result is BBC Culture’s 100 greatest foreign-language films.


Harry greets NZ audience in six Pacific languages

30 October 2018 (BBC)

Prince Harry has delighted a gathering of Auckland's local Pasifika community, hosted by New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, by greeting them in six languages.

The royal opened his speech by saying greetings in Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Niuean, Cook Islands Maori and Maori.


What is the best age to learn a language?

26 October 2018 (BBC)

When it comes to learning a foreign language, we tend to think that children are the most adept. But that may not be the case – and there are added benefits to starting as an adult.

It’s a busy autumn morning at the Spanish Nursery, a bilingual nursery school in north London. Parents help their toddlers out of cycling helmets and jackets. Teachers greet the children with a cuddle and a chirpy “Buenos dias!”. In the playground, a little girl asks for her hair to be bunched up into a “coleta” (Spanish for ‘pigtail’), then rolls a ball and shouts “Catch!” in English.

“At this age, children don’t learn a language – they acquire it,” says the school’s director Carmen Rampersad. It seems to sum up the enviable effortlessness of the little polyglots around her. For many of the children, Spanish is a third or even fourth language. Mother tongues include Croatian, Hebrew, Korean and Dutch.

Compare this to the struggle of the average adult in a language class, and it would be easy to conclude that it’s best to start young.

But science offers a much more complex view of how our relationship with languages evolves over a lifetime – and there is much to encourage late beginners.


Gaelic is the talk of the town for Scottish tourists

25 October 2018 (Press and Journal)

Gaelic could add more than £82 million per year to tourism, Visit Scotland revealed yesterday.

Cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, Fiona Hyslop officially launched The Gaelic Tourism Strategy for Scotland 2018-2023 at The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh alongside Lord Thurso, chairman of VisitScotland and Shona Niclllinnein, chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The five-year plan is aimed at boosting the use of Gaelic in the tourism industry and using the language as a “unique selling point” to market to visitors.

The strategy will focus on using the language in everyday use with tourists, and developing the major benefits to businesses that come from the culture and arts associated with Gaeldom.

It will see the introduction of Gaelic ambassadors in every area of Scotland, and “Gaelic spoken here” badges for businesses, in a bid to promote the language to visitors.


Scottish Gaelic Awards 2018: The fantastic finalists are revealed

24 October 2018 (Daily Record)

The finalists have been announced for this year’s Daily Record and Bòrd na Gàidhlig Scottish Gaelic Awards.

The awards pay tribute to all aspects of Gaelic culture, education and language.

And the winners will be revealed on Wednesday, November 14, in Glasgow.


Calls for Scots children to be taught Chinese and Urdu

24 October 2018 (The Scotsman)

A new study suggests more pupils could learn Chinese and Urdu as part of a shake up in learning foreign languages.

The independent think tank, Reform Scotland, has published a report calling for a fresh approach to be taken towards the education of languages in Scottish schools.

The report indicates a practical model of learning should be introduced to help adapt to changing demand.

The number of Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) entries in “traditionally taught” languages has decreased over the last 20 years, with entries for higher grade French down by 18.2% and entries for German at the same level reduced by 58.4%.

In contrast, entries for higher Spanish exams increased by 219.8% increased over the same period, while Chinese entries have increased by 17.8% in the past two years.

Reform Scotland argue this highlights a changing global economy, with Asia seen as a growing economic market.

The report also calls for an end to distinctions between “community” and “modern” languages so that learning reflects the increasing number of communities in Scotland speaking languages such as Polish, Arabic and Urdu.

Reform Scotland Director Chris Deerin said: “If we want to see genuine growth in language skills in Scotland, rather than just paying lip service to the idea, we need to rethink our approach.

“There is a danger the languages currently on offer within the education system are not keeping up with Scottish or global society.

“We need to think much more freely - as many other countries do - about how best to equip ourselves to thrive in the modern global economy. Brexit, the shift of power from West to East, and Scotland’s pressing need to secure greater economic growth, all demand fresh ideas.”


‘Teaching linguistics improves language skills’

19 October 2018 (TES)

How much do your students know about linguistics? Probably not much, because linguistics (the scientific study of language) is conspicuously absent from the modern foreign language syllabus in schools. This is a shame, because linguistics has much to offer students.

(Note - registration required to read full article).


How language assistants can make a difference in your school

17 October 2018 (TES)

At Dane Royd Junior and Infant School, we’ve been employing modern language assistants (MLA) – mainly European and Chinese language assistants for over 15 years. We also lead training and support for schools within the local authority who employ language assistants.

Our MLAs have been key in boosting not only our teaching of modern foreign languages but also the teaching of global citizenship and British Values. We’ve seen our pupils’ understanding of their cultural heritage and place in the world grow by being able to compare and contrast their experiences and beliefs through their frequent interactions with an MLA.

In supporting other schools, I’ve seen the wealth of activities that MLAs can contribute which enable schools to deepen their language teaching, as well as dramatically improve language skills among pupils. Here are a few of the most effective activities to try in your school.


I woke up unable to speak English

17 October 2018 (BBC)

Hannah Jenkins speaks English in the morning and German in the afternoon. It's not a routine she chose to adopt - but something her brain requires her to do. It all started with a cycling accident.

Her partner Andrew Wilde was halfway up a mountain in the US state of Montana when he received a baffling text from Hannah.

He understood only two words - "dog" and "hospital" - but knew instinctively something was wrong.

The text was in German, a language Hannah had grown up with, but Andrew didn't really understand. They only ever communicated in English.


The problem with German

17 October 2018 (The Linguist)

Does the portrayal of Germans by the UK press stop pupils wanting to study the language, asks Heike Krüsemann.

Working as a secondary school German teacher for over two decades, I became more and more aware of how difficult British students seemed to find learning languages. This was playing out against the background of declining language uptake nationally, which has affected German the most. Currently, fewer than half of all 16-year-olds take a language GCSE. The number studying German has fallen by more than a third since 2010, while German A-level entries have dropped by three-quarters since 1997 to just 3,000. Experts now hold that German as a school subject is “headed for extinction”.

What my students heard about German, Germans and Germany often did not square with what they experienced in lessons, or through travel and contact with German people. This made me wonder whether motivation to learn German, including uptake at school, was related to public discourses around German. This question became a research focus of my PhD. The ’school’ part of my study involved just over 500 learners, their German teachers and head teachers from four English secondary schools; the ‘public’ part consisted of a large number of articles about German, Germans and Germany from a range of UK national newspapers.


Youth committee to lead Mod into the future

16 October 2018 (Press and Journal)

A youth committee is working with An Comunn Gàidhealach to shape the Mods of the future.

The group was set up this year giving a nod to The National Year of the Young Person – and so far has set its sights on modernising the way in which the historic organisation communicates with the public to secure its future.

The committee of three – Shannon MacLean, 21, Padruig Morrison, 22 and Katie MacInnes 18 – is supported by 25-year-old Alison Bruce who is also employed by An Comunn Gàidhealach.

Miss MacLean, from Mull, said: “Being on the committee has been very interesting. Our main goal is to get more young people to come to the mod and get them involved in local mods around the country.

“This is my third mod in Dunoon, and it is certainly the competitions that have helped me, as a non-native speaker, take the language seriously.

“My job is to make sure it survives for a long time yet.”


Related Links

Top Gaelic learner blooms at the Mòd (The Scotsman, 17 October 2018)

Bilingual pupils outperform native English

15 October 2018 (The Times)

Pupils who speak English fluently as a second language do better than native speakers throughout their whole time at school, according to a study.

The researchers found that bilingual children performed better than their monolingual classmates — and the national average — at the ages of five, seven, eleven and in GCSEs. Teenagers speaking English as a foreign language pulled ahead of native speakers in GCSEs for the first time this summer.


Celebration of Gaelic begins in Dunoon

14 October 2018 (Argyllshire Advertiser)

It’s Mòd time again, and the Gaelic party is well and truly up and running in Dunoon.

Storm Callum and well-publicised road closure problems at the Rest and be Thankful were never going to prevent Gaels from all over Scotland and beyond from enjoying themselves.

Friday saw the the Royal National Mòd (Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail) get into full swing with an energetic night of live music and celebrations, as Scotland’s biggest Gaelic cultural festival arrived in the Argyll town.

The Mòd is set to bring thousands of people to Dunoon as visitors and competitors until Saturday October 20.


Gaelic Ambassador of the Year announced at Royal National Mod

13 October 2018 (BBC)

A 22-year-old singer from Skye has been named Gaelic Ambassador of the Year, as the Royal National Mod gets under way.

Eilidh Cormack, from Portree, said she was "absolutely delighted".

The Gaelic cultural festival began in Dunoon on Friday night, with a special celebration honouring Scotland's Year of Young People.

Over the next eight days there will be more than 200 competitions and events in Highland dancing, sport, literature, drama, Gaelic music and song.


Why you can never truly understand another country without learning its language

11 October 2018 (The Telegraph)

The first thing I asked for on getting ashore in Spain was a glass of red wine. I had never been to the country before and could speak not a sentence of the language, so I pieced together the request from a dictionary.

The woman behind the bar was nonplussed, since each word I’d used and the whole sentence were erroneous. So she served the next customer while I stewed in confusion. Then she explained to me that she’d done this in order to attend to me without hurry. The funny thing was that I didn’t know any of the words she used to me, yet I understood.

(Note, subscription required to read full article).


How studying languages got Callum a job at Cardiff City

10 October 2018 (BBC)

There has been a further drop in the number of students from Wales taking language courses at university, according to admissions service Ucas.

The numbers starting foreign language courses was down by a third on the same time last year, in latest figures.

Cardiff University has been working with schools to encourage more pupils to take up subjects such as French.

Helping them is former student Callum Davies, now a player liaison officer at Cardiff City FC. He learnt modern foreign languages at school and spent a year in the south of France as part of the Erasmus programme while doing his degree course at Cardiff University.

He works helping French-speaking players and their families settle in the city.


Related Links

French and German language students from Wales fall again (BBC, 10 October 2018)

Edinburgh Council to open new Gaelic schools by 2024

10 October 2018 (The Scotsman)

The city council will press ahead with proposals to open new primary and secondary Gaelic schools despite a “problematic” shortage of teachers who speak the language.

The authority hopes to open a new primary school in 2023 where pupils are taught through the medium of Gaelic - while a secondary school could follow by 2024. A host of short-term improvements will also be taken forward.

The council is facing a growing demand for Gaelic education but council officers admit that at the Bun-Sgoil Taobh na Pairce primary school, “as the school has grown, the recruitment of sufficient Gaelic-speaking teachers has proven to be problematic.”

Conservative education spokesman, Cllr Callum Laidlaw, said: “Clearly, there’s a demand for it in Edinburgh for primary expansion. There’s a problem with the citywide catchment area for the current primary school with transport, which is provided by the council. If we move forward with any expansion of primary GME, I would like to see that geographic problem tackled by building it in the south west of the city.

“As it stands, the plan demonstrates ambition rather than reality. There’s a significant recruitment challenge the council has to address first before it moves forward. We need to focus on delivering the six priority high schools in the Wave 4 funding before we commit to the GME secondary school.”

The primary school in Bonnington now has 20 Gaelic-speaking teachers. At James Gillespie’s High School, the city’s Gaelic Medium Education (GME) secondary school, a recruitment drive has helped fill vacancies – but fewer lessons than expected have been taught in Gaelic.


BTS and K-pop: How to be the perfect fan

9 October 2018 (BBC)

They're the Beatles for the 21st Century, a global pop sensation that generates mania and devotion in equal measure, and they've sold out London's O2 Arena.

BTS, the South Korean seven-member boyband and pin-up stars of the K-pop genre, are performing in the UK for two nights only.

And their fans, who call themselves the Army, are over the Moon. We headed for the queues to find out what makes the perfect K-pop fan.

[..] Fans talk about how regularly listening to BTS, who mostly sing in Korean, has meant they are inadvertently learning Korean.

"You quite quickly become engrossed in Korean culture," says 24-year-old Najma Akther, from Scunthorpe.


Related Links

K-pop - BTS (BBC, 11 October 2018)

Agenda: Youth will be to the fore with Gaelic at the Mod

8 October 2018 (The Herald)

When cult Gaelic rock group Runrig signed off at their final concerts at Stirling some weeks ago their popularity with fans of all ages was abundantly evident. Forty years earlier these young Gaelic speakers launched their band and captured the lasting interest of many in their language and the challenging history of their people.

The group instilled new confidence and self-esteem among young Gaels and in communities in other countries. Runrig’s appearance coincided with renewed interest in Gaelic language revival and their music complemented and supported education and other cultural initiatives that have grown since.

Gaelic music’s international success reflects natural talent and continuing cultural confidence from the Runrig phenomenon of the 1970s. All involved in the promotion and revitalisation of Gaelic are acutely aware that the future of the language and culture depend on the interest and enthusiasm young people take in it.


Petition to make BSL first language for deaf children in Wales

5 October 2018 (BBC)

A petition for British Sign Language (BSL) to be recognised as the first language of many deaf children in Wales has been submitted.

Deffo! Cymru, a forum for young deaf people in Wales, wants the Welsh Government to widen access to education and services in BSL.

The petition gathered 1,162 signatures and the National Assembly's petitions committee has recommended changes.

The committee's report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

One of the report's recommendations is the development of a national charter for the delivery of services, including education, to deaf children, young people and their families.


Gaelic centre plan has backing of Inverness public

4 October 2018 (Inverness Courier)

A survey has shown that there is significant public support for a new Gaelic cultural centre in Inverness.

The research, which was carried out by the Alba Heritage Trust with the aim of establishing the level of interest in a project celebrating Gaelic heritage, was met with “overwhelming” backing from members of the public.

Alba Heritage Trust director Alastair Forbes says the reaction has from businesses and individuals across the board has been significant.

“We are delighted to have had so many responses to the survey,” he said.

“The reaction from the public and private sectors and from members of the community for the establishment of a Gaelic cultural centre has been extremely positive which has given us great confidence in moving forward with the project.”


Pas de 'fake news' – too many English words rile French defenders

4 October 2018 (The Guardian)

Defenders of the French language are calling on their compatriots to stop using the English term “fake news”, recommending instead that they refer to “information fallacieuse”.

The Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language (CELF) also proffered a newly coined expression, “infox”, for those who find “information fallacieuse” a bit of a mouthful.

“The Anglo-Saxon expression ‘fake news’, which refers to a range of behaviours contributing to the misinformation of the public, has rapidly prospered in French,” the commission lamented. “This is an occasion to draw on the resources of the language to find French equivalents.”

The encroachment of English expressions is a regular topic of debate in France, where young people, in particular, often sprinkle their conversations with English turns of phrase.


New language hub which helps dementia sufferers to open on Glasgow’s south side

3 October 2018 (Glasgow Live)

A new language hub which will help empower older adults living with dementia in Glasgow has opened on the south side of the city.

Lingo Flamingo, based on Deanston Drive in the Shawlands area, will be offering a selection of immersive foreign language courses for all ages.

And all profits from the classes will be used to fund dementia-friendly classes in care homes across Glasgow and beyond.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid gets bairn again with first ever Scots translation

29 September 2018 (Daily Record)

Teen classic Diary of a Wimpy Kid is to get a braw makeover - being translated into Scots for the first time.

Jeff Kinney’s best-selling book series has been given a Caledonian re-vamp by Itchy Coo, the Scots language imprint for children at Black & White Publishing,

The first book in the series is “Diary o’ a Wimpy Wean”, re-worked by Scots writer Thomas Clark.

In the translation, twelve-year-old hero, Greg Hefley, tells the reader all about his life in modern Scots patter.


John Edward: Languages skills essential for global citizens

29 September 2018 (The Scotsman)

Scotland’s independent schools maintain a track record of academic excellence, and this has continued in 2018 with another set of outstanding exam results, which is only strengthened by individual and collective success in sports, art, music and other community endeavours.

With upwards of 30,000 pupils across Scotland, these schools, represented by The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), strive to deliver the best level of service to their pupils and parents.

Independent schools aim to prepare their pupils for further and higher education, their chosen career and their place as global citizens. As an education sector that can design and implement a bespoke school curriculum, we are seeing modern languages continue as a popular and desired subject of choice within schools.

Nelson Mandela said: ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart.” This is a powerful reminder that we can’t just rely on English when wanting to build relationships and trust with people from other countries.

From this year’s recent exam results, we can see that languages are topping the league tables with the highest pass rates within independent schools. A total of 68 per cent of pupils who studied foreign languages achieved a Higher grade A.

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, showed that 72 per cent of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 72 per cent of those studying German, 69 per cent of those studying French and 63 per cent studying Spanish also achieved an A.

This demonstrates that independent schools in Scotland are supporting foreign languages as vital skills that children and young people will undoubtedly require in the future. Languages now, as a subject choice, are being held in the same regard as STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in independent school curriculums and elsewhere.


How the English Failed to Stamp Out the Scots Language

28 September 2018 (Atlas Obscura)

Over the past few decades, as efforts to save endangered languages have become governmental policy in the Netherlands (Frisian), Slovakia (Rusyn) and New Zealand (Maori), among many others, Scotland is in an unusual situation. A language known as Scottish Gaelic has become the figurehead for minority languages in Scotland. This is sensible; it is a very old and very distinctive language (it has three distinct rsounds!), and in 2011 the national census determined that fewer than 60,000 people speak it, making it a worthy target for preservation.

But there is another minority language in Scotland, one that is commonly dismissed. It’s called Scots, and it’s sometimes referred to as a joke, a weirdly spelled and -accented local variety of English. 


‘The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it’

25 September 2018 (Irish Times)

Learning a new language can seem like a mammoth challenge, but for those who are really intent on developing fluency, nothing beats full immersion by moving to the country where it is spoken day-to-day. Ahead of European Day of Languages on September 26th, readers living around the world share their experiences of the frustration and joy of learning a new tongue.