Latest News

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


Languages in the press

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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Subscription required to read full article

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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."

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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!

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Read more...

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.

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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.”

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.”

Read more...

‘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).

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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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.”

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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).

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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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.”

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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. 

Read more...

‘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.

Read more...

‘The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it’

25 September 2018 (The 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.

Read more...

Learn another European language – and give two fingers to Brexit Britain

21 September 2018 (The Guardian)

For someone who occasionally seems unsure whether their wife is Japanese or Chinese, Jeremy Hunt seems to speak pretty good Japanese.

Unless bits of it were Chinese, obviously. Given the way things have gone lately for Theresa May’s government we probably shouldn’t rule anything out, but let’s just assume the Tokyo audience he addressed in their native tongue this week wasn’t just being polite and that he did actually deliver the whole speech in the correct language.

Whatever you think of Hunt’s politics generally, there was something endearing about the sight of a foreign secretary actually trying to speak some foreign, at a time when much of Britain seems belligerently convinced that if the world doesn’t understand us then we should just shout louder at them. Foreign languages have been in decline in British schools for years, especially at A-level; German in particular is so unpopular now, with a 45% drop in entries since 2010, that some schools will be seriously debating dropping it from the timetable. Languages have become seen as subjects in which it’s too hard to excel, partly because native speakers tend to scoop the A* awards and push the bar higher for everyone else, which makes them too much of a risk for kids intent on getting the grades for university.

Lately there has been some tinkering with grade boundaries to encourage uptake. But while mathematicians and scientists have gone to great lengths to popularise subjects once seen as geeky or intimidatingly difficult, there has been no concerted push behind French or Spanish.

And if we’re honest, Britain’s solid international reputation for being rubbish at languages isn’t just down to the kids. How many of us slogged through years of irregular verbs and asking the way to the station, only to be reduced in middle age to fumbled holiday conversations in shops and frantic pointing?

But watching Hunt reminded me of something I’ve been wondering for a while, which is whether the prospect of leaving Europe will finally make learning a language feel less like a slog and more like a thrillingly subversive act; one great defiant two fingers to everything Brexit Britain stands for.

Languages are lovely things to learn in their own right, of course, if you’re so minded; living, breathing entities that weave in and out of each other, exchanging sounds and words and ideas. But they’re also one of the purest forms of soft power. Speaking to someone in their own tongue is a disarming act, a gesture of empathy and respect. If you’re not actually very good at it then in some ways all the better; at least it’s obvious you’re making an effort, which is why typing furiously into Google Translate doesn’t quite have the same effect.

Read more...

Exclusive: Hopes of languages revival snuffed out

19 September 2018 (TES)

A teaching union has questioned official figures showing that GCSE entries in modern foreign languages have increased for the first time in five years.

A “glimmer of hope” was offered to linguists on results day last month when it was revealed that there had been a 0.4 per cent increase in entries this year.

But the Association of School and College Leaders says this was probably due to some schools switching from iGCSEs (which no longer count in school performance tables) to the new reformed GCSE qualifications.

The ASCL says the number of iGCSE entries in England fell significantly, and that the statistics change when iGCSE and GCSE entries are combined.

Overall, the number of German entries fell by 3.5 per cent since last year, for example, and did not rise by 2 per cent as exam board GCSE entry figures show.

Similarly, the increase in Spanish entries was just 1.7 per cent when you include the drop in iGCSE entries, says the ASCL, and not the 4.4 per cent publicised this summer.

Lastly, the number of French candidates fell by 5.9 per cent, rather than the 2.9 per cent shown in just GCSE figures.

Read more...

Scottish Parliament publishes new Gaelic promotion plan

19 September 2018 (Daily Mail)

A new five-year plan for promoting Gaelic has been unveiled by the Scottish Parliament.

The proposals set out how the language will be supported between 2018 and 2022 within Holyrood.

They include providing awareness training to all front-of-house staff, showing it as much respect as English as well as creating a space where the Gaelic business community can raise issues with representatives.

Read more...

Related Links

Parliament publishes new 5-year Gaelic plan (Holyrood, 20 September 2018)

Castles light up in celebration of Gaelic and Scots (The Scotsman, 19 September 2018)

Scottish Parliament publishes new Gaelic promotion plan (Evening Express, 19 September 2018)

What’s on in October – Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2018

18 September 2018 (Edinburgh Reporter)

The 5th Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival takes place from 4-20 October 2018.

Festival Opens With First Ever Basque Film Screened At Edinburgh Filmhouse.

The 2018 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival presents a total of 15 feature films and 7 short films in Spanish from 4-20 October in Edinburgh (Filmhouse), Stirling (MacRobert Arts Centre) and Glasgow (Film Theatre).

[..] Many of the films are suitable for all ages and in addition there will be a special screening of Nur And The Dragon Temple for schools at 10am on Wednesday 3rd October. There will also be workshops which will explore Spanish language, cinema and youth taking place in schools throughout Scotland.

Read more...

Gaelic talent provide new video game's soundtrack

18 September 2018 (BBC)

Gaelic musicians, including an 82-year-old Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame inductee, have provided the soundtrack to a new video game.

The Bard's Tale IV Barrows Deep is a follow up to the 1980s game Bard's Tale.

Its soundtrack features celebrated piper and Gaelic singer Rona Lightfoot, and Peigi Barker, 16, who was the voice of Young Merida in Disney film Brave.

Simple Minds bass player Ged Grimes composed and produced the music.

Dundee-born Grimes was responsible for bringing together the Gaelic musicians.

The soundtrack features more than 30 songs. Among those singing on the tracks is a 40-member Gaelic choir.

Read more...

Translation apps on the One Show

18 September 2018 (BBC)

Digital translation apps were put to the test by the One Show on Tuesday 18 September, but guest Michael Palin expressed the view that there was no substitute for trying to speak the language on your travels. The programme is available on iPlayer until 18 October 2018 (NB - registration required. View from 13:54).

Read more...

Agenda: Let’s raise a toast to a decade of BBC Alba

17 September 2018 (The Herald)

In a world dominated by media the importance of broadcasting cannot be overemphasised in efforts to revive lesser used languages and so the 10th anniversary of the establishment of BBC Alba – launched on September 19, 2008 – is cause for celebration for all committed to the survival and advancement of the Gaelic language. That it was set up under the aegis of the BBC was a crucial achievement especially in the context of that year’s global financial crisis and the inevitable questions around the licence fee, charter renewal and the like. Therefore, to have our Scottish Gaelic channel on the first screen of the BBC iPlayer – located between the Parliament channel and S4C (the Welsh language channel) – remains a source of pleasure to language activists.

Indeed the creation of a dedicated Gaelic channel is now acknowledged as one of the key cultural developments of the new millennium in Scotland (cf National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee V & A) and crucially complements Gaelic-medium education; and arguably, in terms of impact, more significant than the Gaelic Language Act (2005).

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Youngsters wow crowds at Highland festival finale

17 September 2018 (Press and Journal)

A thousand young people took to the stage to sing an inspiration Gaelic song during a celebration of young musicians in Inverness on Saturday.

They brought the Blas Festival to a stunning close in front of a packed audience at the Northern meeting park.

Their performance came at the end of a day of outstanding music and song that featured some of the biggest names in Scottish traditional music.

Gathered together for the festival showcase Oran Mor – which means Great (or Big) Song – were young musicians from Feisean and various youth initiatives from across Scotland including the Highland Council Youth Music Groups, the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music and City of Inverness Youth Pipe Band.

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A Bilingual Brain Solves Problems Faster

12 September 2018 (Newsy)

Language allows us to share thoughts and feelings with somebody else. It's our cultural glue. Otherwise, we'd live in a world of babel. But there's much more to language, including elements that affect the structure and functioning of the brain. 

While the first words spoken may have been 250,000 years ago, now more than half of the people around the world – estimates vary from 60 to 75 percent – speak at least two languages. 

Eighty percent of primary and secondary students in 24 European countries are learning a foreign language, usually English. Across the United States the number is closer to 20 percent, but this varies by state. In New Jersey, 51 percent of students have a second language course included as part of the school day.

Learning those languages impacts our noggins. Brain scans show that people who speak more than one language have more gray matter in their anterior cingulate cortex, the area linked to everything from learning to social behavior to resolving conflicts. 

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EAL: Working with new arrivals

12 September 2018 (SecEd)

This September, many secondary schools will have new arrivals from abroad who have English as an additional language. Continuing our series on EAL, Dr Ruth Wilson gives some practical advice for you and your schools in meeting the needs of this diverse group of learners

New arrivals with English as an additional language (EAL) are a very diverse group. Their language proficiency can range from “new to English” to “fluent”. The young person can arrive at any age and with widely different socio-economic and educational backgrounds. Some students may come from an advantaged context with a high standard of education; others may have had little or interrupted schooling or experienced traumatic events. A new arrival could for example be a refugee from a war-torn country or a child of a German banker working in the City of London.

Data show that, on average, pupils arriving late into the English school system do less well in external exams than their first language English peers, and that the older the pupils are when they arrive the less likely they are to achieve good results in year 11 (Hutchinson, 2018).

This article gives some practical advice for you and your schools in meeting the needs of EAL learners who are newly arrived from abroad. 

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Dunoon gears up for Royal National Mòd

12 September 2018 (Oban Times)

Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail (The Royal National Mòd) will return to Dunoon next month (Friday 12 October – Saturday 20 October) for the eighth time – with a very special focus on Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018.

The nine-day spectacular of Gaelic music, arts and sport will take place in Dunoon for the first time since 2012, with a host of initiatives aimed at encouraging more young people to get involved already under way.

Throughout the year, Dunoon schools have welcomed tutors from FèisSgoil to help them prepare for Mòd competitions, as part of An Comunn Gàidhealach’s Mòd Academy initiative, which aims to help youngsters learn and develop their musical and Gaelic skills.

Local drama workshops for Dunoon’s youngsters were hosted in recent months in a bid to inspire more children to get involved with Gaelic drama, with a group set to perform at this year’s festival; and organisers have been working closely with the Camanachd Association to arrange a junior shinty Mòd Cup match before the annual senior match.

This year also saw the establishment of the first ever Young Person’s Committee, supported by the Year of Young People 2018 Event Fund, which has allowed young Gaels the opportunity to get involved in the Mòd planning process, and to have their say on what they would like to see.

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Bilingual Brain: Here's what happens when you flip between languages

10 September 2018 (Newsweek)

A study has shed light on the brain mechanisms which allow bilingual people to switch effortlessly from one language to another.

Neurolinguistics researchers already believe parts of the brain in charge of decision-making, the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, light up when we toggle between languages. Now, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents a potential new piece to the puzzle.

Esti Blanco-Elorrieta, graduate student at the NYU neurolinguistics lab, told Newsweek, “The process of switching languages entails [minimally] disengaging from the language that was being used until that point, and engaging in a new language. This study showed that it is turning off the previous language, and not ‘turning on’ a new language, that is effortful.”

And while those who swap between languages may make it seem easy, it is in fact “a remarkably complicated process that involves the successful coordination of two independent language systems,” he explained.

Article includes a video of polyglot, Alex Rawlings, providing 10 tips for learning a new language.

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Lithuanian and Korean to be taught in Irish schools

10 September 2018 (Irish Times)

Lithuanian and Korean will be taught from this week as part of a drive to diversify the number of languages on the curriculum in Irish schools.

Lithuanian will be a short course for junior cycle in schools in Dublin and Monaghan where there is the highest concentration of the country’s natives in Ireland.

According to the last census in 2016, 36,683 Lithuanians live in Ireland. However, the Lithuanian embassy estimates the real figure is twice that if the number of children of immigrants are taken into account.

The course is for a minimum of 100 hours over two years. Some 43 applicants were received from teachers of the language.

The introduction of Lithuanian into Irish school is part of the foreign languages strategy which identifies the need to support immigrant communities to maintain their own languages.

It was introduced last year as part of a 10-year strategy to prepare Ireland for Brexit through a series of steps such as potential bonus Central Applications Office (CAO) points for studying foreign languages.

The Korean language, the 17th most spoken language in the world, is being introduced as a module for transition year. Trade between South Korea and Ireland reached €1.8 billion in 2015.

The language will be introduced into four schools in Dublin.

French accounts for more than half of all language sits in the Leaving Certificate, followed by German (13 per cent), Spanish (11 per cent) and Italian (1 per cent).

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the teaching and learning of foreign languages is a priority in the post-Brexit world.

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Artist’s nature dictionary captures how Scots once described our landscape

9 September 2018 (The Herald)

No-one wants to hear the sound of a splorroch but a huam is another matter, at least if you had lived in Scotland 100 years ago or more.

Long forgotten words to describe the countryside have been uncovered and included in a new dictionary of words compiled during academic’s research in the Cairngorms. 

Dictionary author Amanda Thomson said: “These words reveal so much about our history, natural history, and our changing ways of life - they are indicative of the depth, richness and variety of the Scots language and its unique relationship to nature and the Scottish landscapes of Lowlands, Highlands and islands.”

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Related Links

Why Scots words like ‘splorrach’ can’t be allowed to die (The Scotsman, 12 September 2018)

‘Mither tongue’ Doric is given official status

8 September 2018 (The Times)

For decades it faced ridicule and was forbidden in schools, but now one of the native tongues of northeast Scotland has effectively been recognised as an official language. Doric, a dialect spoken from Montrose in Angus to Nairn in the Highlands, will be acknowledged alongside English and Gaelic.

As part of its commitment to the “mither tongue” Aberdeen city council this week published its cultural strategy in the language of the author Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

The document, Culture Aiberdeen, states: “In the last couple o year there’s been a lowp in the nummer of boorachs formed bi artists an performers."

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Languages in the Lords

6 September 2018 (They Work For You)

Baroness Coussins, co-chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages, calls for language skills to be prioritised in careers advice in schools in today's Lords' debate.

In contributing to the debate she highlighted the specific need for careers education and advice to convey the enormous and increasing value of language skills to school leavers and graduates as they make their career choices. Stating this advice must also start early enough for school students to have the opportunity to choose one or more foreign languages among their GCSE options. 

She went on to stress that it is often wrongly assumed that studying foreign languages is just for the brightest students, and that they can be beneficial for anyone, at whatever level. Foreign language skills are in use in practically every sector in the economy, with higher than average demand in the financial services, IT and telecommunications, passenger transport, fashion and design and hotel and catering industries. They are in use at all levels in the workforce, not just senior management. In fact, the greatest skills gaps are among administrative and clerical staff, and those working at elementary grades. All that is before we even mention the need for languages and linguists in diplomacy, defence and security.

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Still Game director creates new Gaelic sketch show

6 September 2018 (BBC)

A new Gaelic language sketch show created by Still Game director Michael Hines has been announced as part of BBC Alba's autumn season.

Func will feature new acting and writing talent.

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Trust me, I'm a doctor

5 September 2018 (BBC)

In last night's episode of the BBC2 series 'Trust me, I'm a doctor', Michael Mosley found out how learning a new language can stave off dementia.

The programme is available online until 4 October 2018. 

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Fifth dedicated Gaelic school officially opened

4 September 2018 (Holyrood)

A new Gaelic primary - the fifth school dedicated to the language in Scotland – has been officially opened in Skye.

Bun-Sgoil Ghàidhlig Phort Rìgh in Portree is the third Gaelic medium school in the Highland Council area.

It opened to its 133 primary and 47 nursery pupils in April this year, with Education Secretary John Swinney attending a special opening ceremony on Monday.

He said: “It is a pleasure to be involved in supporting Highland Council to realise their vision for the Gaelic language. 

“We are seeing growing demand from parents for access to Gaelic medium education across the country which clearly demonstrates that the Scottish Government’s commitments to supporting the language are a having a positive result. 

“I commend Highland Council for their actions and look forward to working with them on future projects.”

Gaelic medium education is available in 14 out of 32 Scottish local authorities to all children and young people.

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Consternation over suggested French grammar change

4 September 2018 (BBC)

The suggestion by a pair of Belgian teachers to drop a rule of grammar drilled into every French speaker at an early age has led to some amusement and consternation in France.

The teachers say rules for past participles that follow the verb avoir (to have) should be simplified.

The change would save some 80 hours of teaching time, they argue.

It has been endorsed by the linguistic authorities of Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region and Brussels.

Currently, the rule is that the past participle of a verb does not agree with the direct object of a sentence if it comes after it, but it does when the object comes before the participle.

So for instance, in the sentence j'ai mangé des frites (I ate chips), mangé remains the same. But in the sentence les frites que j'ai mangées (the chips that I have eaten), the participle agrees with the word chips, which is feminine and plural.

The two teachers, Arnaud Hoedt et Jérôme Piron, argue the rule is overly complicated and inconsistent, and that the participle should remain unchanged regardless of the position of the object in the sentence if used with the verb to have.

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Cognitive science is changing language learning

3 September 2018 (School Education Gateway)

In this article, Professor Jon Andoni Duñabeitia from the Universidad Nebrija in Madrid, Spain, talks about inclusive and scientifically validated approaches to language learning.

While my one-and-a-half-year-old son, who is growing up in a Basque-Spanish bilingual environment, shows a surprising ability to process things in either language, his mother still struggles with English when we go abroad, and his Spanish-speaking grandmother devotes considerable time and effort to learning Basque in a classroom environment. Obviously, the process of native language acquisition for toddlers, which naturally occurs at a very early age, is markedly different from the process of language acquisition for a multilingual older adult enrolled in a formal learning programme.

One could easily draw up an endless list of language learning scenarios between these two extremes – and cognitive scientists are working hard to uncover the role played by their respective factors.

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Study of Portuguese and Spanish explodes as China expands role in Latin America

2 September 2018 (The Guardian)

Thousands more Chinese students are taking up Latin American languages with an eye to improved employability.

When Zhang Fangming started learning Portuguese, it was with an eye to becoming a top Chinese diplomat in Brazil.

For Sun Jianglin, a Portuguese degree was about landing a job, but also a deeper knowledge of Brazilian music. “Bossa nova!” the 19-year-old undergraduate cooed. “I really like this kind-of-close-to-jazz music!”

The pair – who also go by the names Rodrigo and Antonia – are part of a new generation of Chinese students hoping a mastery of Latin America’s languages coupled with their country’s expanding role in the region will prove a recipe for success.

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British students are too focussed on getting top grades to go on years abroad, university body says as figures show UK behind Europe and US

1 September 2018 (The Telegraph)

he number of undergraduates at UK universities going on years abroad is lagging behind other countries, a report has warned, amid concerns that British students are more focused on getting top grades than gaining life experience.

A report released by Universities UK (UUK), a body which represents 136 British universities, shows that just 6.6 per cent of British students go on ‘year abroad’ programmes during their degrees, compared to 28 per cent of German students, 16 per cent of students in the United States and 20 per cent of Australians.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, suggested that UK students may be too focussed on their grades and securing jobs to go on a year abroad while they are studying, and while students worry about their grades, employers in the UK may actually value the soft skills more.

“At a time of political and economic uncertainty in the UK, it is understandable that students are seeking stability by focusing on their studies and getting a foot on the career ladder as soon as possible,” Ms Stern said.

“However, sacrificing opportunities to study abroad means that UK students are actually missing opportunities to enhance their careers: we know that graduates who have studied abroad are 24 per cent less likely to be unemployed than those who haven’t,” she told The Sunday Telegraph.

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Brexit prompts surge in Brits signing up to learn languages online

30 August 2018 (Sky News)

Some Britons unhappy with the UK's decision to leave the European Union have opted for an unusual form of protest - learning a new language.

In the days leading up to Article 50 being triggered on March 29, 2017, a leading language-learning app reports that it saw a 24% increase in new user sign-ups in the UK.

The CEO of Duolingo, which has 300 million users, told Sky News that the company noticed a spike in sign-ups at the time and saw its users commenting online that they had been motivated by Brexit.

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Caution over drop in numbers sitting language exams

30 August 2018 (SecEd)

Another fall in the number of pupils taking French and German exams does not reflect an overall decline in the health of languages in Scottish classrooms, according to a leading linguist.

French National 5 entries fell by about 10 per cent on last year, while at Higher the level was 17.5 per cent below 2016. German Higher entries were down 20 per cent on two years ago.

Spanish and Mandarin have made modest rises overall.

However, Fhiona Mackay, director of SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, said it was misleading to focus on this criterion alone because primary schools were “normalising” languages from P1 in a way that is widening exposure hugely.

“The French figures were disappointing, no doubt about it. But to say languages are disappearing from our schools is very far off the mark and really unfair on our teachers.

“Of course I would like to see more youngsters choosing languages because I fundamentally believe that is a good thing. But it needs to be voluntary – so we need to evaluate the barriers and do more to remove them.” 

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Narrowing of secondary options hits Gaelic

30 August 2018 (TES)

A leading light in Gaelic-medium education is calling for the Scottish government to investigate the impact of the narrowing of the curriculum in senior secondary.

He says teenagers are being “lost to the language” and that the teacher supply pipeline is “in danger of drying up” as a result.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).

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Related Links

Call for the right to be taught in Gaelic (TES, 31 August 2018) Subscription required to read full article.

Where next for Gaelic as it gains ground in education? (TES, 31 August 2018) Subscription required to read full article.

WYSE survey shows rise of mixed travel

28 August 2018 (The Pie News)

Young travellers are increasingly combining leisure and study in their holidays, a survey of the youth, student and educational travel market conducted by WYSE Travel Federation revealed.

[..] “More than 20% of the young travellers who responded to the New Horizons IV Survey in 2017 were mixing holiday with language learning. This is up from 14% in our 2012 survey.”

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Gaelic archive of songs and stories unlocked for first time

27 August 2018 (The Scotsman)

Their songs and stories speak of a different time.

Now an audio archive which documents the traditions of crofters, farm workers and fishermen - in English and Gaelic and some Scots - has opened up to the public for the first time.

More than 40 audio files are being published online by Glasgow University as it works to make traditional Gaelic speech more accessible to speakers and learners of the language.

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Gaelic Language plan brings forward a host of new volunteers

28 August 2018 (Press and Journal)

Gaelic speakers, and those with an interest in the language, are being invited to showcase bespoke tours for visitors at sites including Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban, Arnol Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis and Urquhart Castle, near Inverness, to promote the historic origins of the language and its place in Scotland’s rich history.

The Gaelic volunteer programme is part of the organisation’s five-year Gaelic Language Plan.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Gaelic is a distinct and unique part of Scotland’s history and culture which attracts visitors from all over the world, contributing significantly to Scotland’s economy.

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Related Links

Historic sites to offer bespoke Gaelic tours (The Herald, 28 August 2018)

Talking up Gaelic at historic sites (Stornoway Gazette, 27 August 2018)

Historic sites to offer bespoke Gaelic tours

28 August 2018 (The Herald)

It was once a language which had been pushed to the margins, spoken only in isolated communities and far-flung outposts.

But now Gaelic is undergoing something of a renaissance in Scotland with a fresh interest apparent in the country's songs, signposts and schools.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).

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Among D.C. United players, a new team-building drill: Spanish lessons

23 August 2018 (Washington Post)

After practice and lunch Wednesday, most D.C. United players headed home for the day. Others had meetings or media obligations.

For three players and two assistant coaches, the next stop was a windowless, cinder-block room around the corner and down the hallway from the locker room.

Each carried a textbook and, upon entering, grabbed a work sheet from a table in front of a screen and whiteboard in the middle of the room and settled at makeshift desks.

“Hola, David,” instructor Katherin Rodriguez said to her first arrival, David Ousted.

The Danish goalkeeper responded in kind.

Class was in session.

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Chinese tourists flock to North Yorkshire chippy

23 August 2018 (BBC)

A fish and chip shop in North Yorkshire has translated its menu for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers to cope with an influx of Chinese tourists.

Scotts Fish and Chips near York has seen coachloads of visitors wanting to try the traditional dish.

The passion for the chippy has been put down to the fish and chips Chinese president Xi Jinping shared with then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015.

Manager Roxy Vasai said more than 100 Chinese tourists were visiting a week.

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Foreign language speakers to be hired for classrooms

22 August 2018 (Irish Times)

(Applies to Ireland) Dozens of native speakers of foreign languages are to be hired to work in school classrooms to help boost the teaching of languages.

These “foreign language assistants” will be provided to schools to support the teaching and learning of languages such as Spanish, German, French and Italian.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has announced a 25 per cent increase in the number of these assistants, bringing the total number available to schools from this September to 140.

He said the move would help ensure Ireland is well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead such as Brexit and the increasing importance globally of non-English speaking countries.

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GCSE results: Language entries rise for first time since 2013

23 August 2018 (TES)

GCSE entries for modern foreign languages have increased for the first time in five years.

The small increase will give linguists hope that modern foreign languages (MFL) have turned the corner after four consecutive years of decline.

Today’s GCSE results show that total MFL entries across the UK rose from 298,066 in 2017 to 299,172 this year – a 0.4 per cent increase.

The increase is more impressive against the backdrop of a 2.7 per cent decline in the 16-year-old population – the age at which most pupils sit their GCSEs.

However, the overall increase in MFL entries masked varying fortunes for different subjects.

French, which continues to be the most popular language subject by a distance, saw its entries decline from 130,509 in 2017 to 126,750 this year – a 2.9 per cent fall.

German entries rose from 43,649 in 2017 to 44,535 this year – an increase of 2 per cent. This was in marked contrast to A-level German, for which entries plummeted by 16.5 per cent this year.

In Spanish, GCSE entries rose by 4.4 per cent from 91,040 in 2017 to 95,080 this year.

Chinese – which is now the third biggest language subject at A-level – saw its GCSE entries rise.

GCSE entries in Mandarin increased by 7.5 per cent from 4,104 in 2017 to 4,410 this year. The subject is now the fifth most popular GCSE language, after Italian.

While total MFL entries rose in 2018, they have a long way to go to regain the ground that has been lost in recent years.

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Outlander is boosting a renaissance of the Scots language – here’s how

20 August 2018 (The Conversation)

Pithy Scots brogue and throwaway insults punctuate Outlander, the phenomenally successful TV series that explores the final great Jacobite uprising of 1745 – the rebellion against King George II led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. Like 18th-century period dress or columns of troops, the Scots language is colourfully employed to lend authenticity to the drama.

The Scots spoken in Outlander may not be the language spoken today in Scotland, but rather a stage-Scots – essentially English dressed in tartan and cockade – yet it is still to be cheered. In fact, the presence of Scots in Outlander is a sign of how far an historically repressed language has come in just a few decades.

Full article written in Scots is also available.

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Learning German is just the job for savvy millennials

18 August 2018 (The Guardian)

Learning European languages may no longer have much cachet among schoolchildren, but for millennials eyeing the job market, German appears to be more attractive than ever. Growing numbers of young adults aged between 18 and 30 in Britain are learning the language of Friedrich Schiller, Christa Wolf and Thomas Mann, according to the Goethe-Institut, with more than 3,000 people signing up for courses run by the cultural institution.

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Dawn and Meg are on course for fabulous French lessons

17 August 2018 (The Courier)

A French language summer school has ensured that two Fife primary school teachers are fired up to teach their eager pupils le français. 

As pupils across Courier Country head back to school this week, one Fife primary school will be saying “Bienvenue” to the new academic year. Teachers Dawn Allan and Meg Allan (no relation) spent a week in France on a highly sought-after immersion language course, with the aim of enhancing their French lessons at Leuchars Primary School.

Dawn takes up the story: “Meg and I completed a 10-week French evening course at Bell Baxter High School in Cupar two years ago and that was when we first heard about the possibility of attending immersion courses in France or Spain, organised by Le Français en Ecosse,” she says.

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The benefits of language learning

17 August 2018 (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Listen to Antonella Sorace from Bilingualism Matters talking to Stephen Nolan about the multiple benefits of language learning on BBC Radio 5 Live. (Listen from 1:54). Broadcast is available until 15 September 2018.

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Steep year-on-year drop in languages entries

17 August 2018 (TESS)

French causes particular concern, but ‘more pupils than ever learning languages’ in Scotland

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Evening classes in Doric as Scots writing revival blossoms

16 August 2018 (The Herald)

Fancy learning a spot of Doric? Furry boots? Aiberdeen Varsity.

It's better known for its schools of medicine, law or international relations. But now one of Scotland's ancient seats of learning has launched evening classes in a language many of its scholars have derided: north-east Scots.

Aberdeen University's Elphinstone Institute has devised 10-week workshops in Doric, to help both locals and newcomers to the region learn to speak - and more importantly - write in the mither leid.

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Compulsory language education should be reintroduced, says Brighton College head

16 August 2018 (ITV)

A headmaster has called for the reintroduction of compulsory language classes in schools to prevent what he called the “worrying insularity” of society getting worse.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, said the “sorry decline” in the number of students studying languages is “damaging on so many levels” and that the Government needs a plan to reverse the problem.

His comments came as several of his students at the independent school in East Sussex achieved top marks in a range of languages at A-level, including Mandarin.

Experts have raised concerns because the number of students studying languages at state schools has dropped, and recent Press Association analysis of Ucas data revealed the number of applications for foreign language degrees plummeted in the last decade.

More students took A-level Chinese than German this year, according to data from the Joint Council for Qualifications released on Thursday, sparking fears that the European language is heading for extinction.

Mr Cairns said: “The sorry decline in numbers studying languages is damaging on so many levels but must be of particular concern to a Government that espouses a vision of Britain as open for business with the world.

“Compulsory language education needs to be reintroduced, with a national strategy emulating the success of those in the Netherlands or Scandinavia. Otherwise, the worrying insularity in our society will only deepen.

“Contrary to what seems to be happening nationally with pupils choosing not to study languages any more, we have seen a real interest in pursuing languages.

“Pupils can study French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Russian and Mandarin here. Back in 2006, we introduced Mandarin for our pupils from the age of four and the culture of language learning and its benefits are instilled early.”

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A-levels: proportion of students in England getting C or above falls

16 August 2018 (The Guardian)

The proportion of students in England gaining C grades or above in A-levels fell back this year, driven by a relatively weaker performance among girls, as schools and students continue to grapple with the introduction of new, more intensive exams.

[..] Modern languages continued their baleful downward trend, with nearly 8% fewer entries in French, German and Spanish. More A-level students took Chinese this year than German.

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The lessons Gaelic schools can teach us about learning

15 August 2018 (The National)

[..] Gaelic medium education succeeds in producing new generations of fluent Gaelic speakers because, as its name suggests, it makes use of the Gaelic language to teach other subjects. Kids don’t sit in classes where they are taught Gaelic in the same way that French or other foreign languages are taught in schools.

The difference in the fluency level that is achieved is stark. I was taught Gaelic the old-fashioned way, and am the proud possessor of a Gaelic Learner’s O Grade and a Gaelic Learner’s Higher. I was taught Gaelic in much the same way kids in modern Scottish schools are taught French or German, in a dedicated class, a couple of hours a week. The result is that although I can puzzle out a written text in the language and have a reasonably sized Gaelic vocabulary, I struggle to follow a Gaelic conversation and can’t express myself orally.

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Applications for languages degrees plummet, figures show

15 August 2018 (The Herald)

The number of applications for foreign language degrees has plummeted in the last decade, figures show.

Applications for both European and non-European language degree courses have fallen, according to an analysis of Ucas data carried out by the Press Association.

(Note - subscription required to read full article).

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Related Links

Number of students interested in studying foreign languages drops (The National, 15 August 2018)

Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet – podcast

13 August 2018 (The Guardian)

No language in history has dominated the world quite like English does today. Is there any point in resisting?

Listen to the podcast or read the text version online.

Read more...

Scottish youth to explore the way of the dragon...

13 August 2018 (4barsrest)

Carnoustie High School Band will head east this September to become the first youth brass band to tour China.

The remarkable opportunity came following a performance at the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow in 2016 for the renowned Confucius Institute for Scotland.

Such was the success that it led to the school's head teacher Donald Currie being contacted to set the ball rolling on the ambitious initiative — and now, after almost two years of research and fundraising the band will fly out on 7th September for 15 unforgettable days of music and cultural learning.

Confucius Hubs are based in schools and seek to make links with local communities throughout Scotland — with Carnoustie serving the Angus area. It promotes the joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture.

The band will fly out from Glasgow, and after a short stop in Dubai will carry on to China where they will enjoy seven days in Tianjin and seven more in Beijing before their return.

While in Tianjin, the band members will be learning Mandarin, as well as performing three concerts. They will also visit Chinese families and schools, enabling the young musicians to experience Chinese culture first hand with a chance to learn Gongfu (Chinese martial arts), Tai Chi, and the ancient arts of calligraphy and mask painting.

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Agenda: It's time to take an interest in cool Germania

11 August 2018 (The Herald)

Sometimes it seems there’s a perception that Germany is somehow ... well, boring. Apparently news stories about Germany, even in the Herald, get far fewer views than average ones. But why should Germany be such a journalistic turn-off for readers?

[...] Wherever one stands on Brexit, leaving the EU means that Germany is going to become more important to the UK and to Scotland, not less. Yet fewer and fewer people are learning German. (Which is odd, since, contrary to the widespread myth, it’s a relatively easy language to learn.)

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Scotland experiencing 'mass movement' of parents seeking Gaelic schools

10 August 2018 (The Herald)

Scotland is experiencing a “mass movement” of parents who want their children to be educated in Gaelic, creating increasing demand for more specialist schools to be built.

Allan MacDonald, chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the public body responsible for Gaelic, said there had been a “significant” boost in the number of families interested in Gaelic education in towns and cities.

He said the language was experiencing a “shift in emphasis” away from its heartlands and towards the Central Belt as populations continue to plummet in Scotland’s most rural areas.

He added: “The numbers are growing in the cities and the bigger towns all the time. And that contrasts quite significantly with the economic situation – not just in the Western Isles, but in other areas of the Highlands as well.”

t comes as a series of commitments aimed at boosting the strength of Gaelic were unveiled at a milestone meeting of public bodies chaired by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

This includes plans to publish the first ever Gaelic tourism strategy this autumn to help bring visitors into contact with the language.

Officials also want to increase the number of school subjects which can be taught in Gaelic.

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Related Links

Perth summit pledges action to accelerate use of Gaelic language (The Courier, 10th August 2018)

Thousands more pupils to learn Mandarin ahead of Brexit

7 August 2018 (TES)

An expanding academy chain plans to teach Mandarin to thousands of pupils across its schools, to prepare them for life in post-Brexit Britain.

The Co-op Academies Trust will offer Mandarin Chinese to more than 10,000 students.

The trust, which runs schools in Greater Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent, is working with the Swire Chinese Language Foundation, which supports the training of specialist Mandarin Chinese teachers.

(Subscription required to read full article)

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SQA: Scottish education exam results 2018

7 August 2018 (Relocate Magazine)

Scottish exam results are in - and more than 2/3rds of independent school pupils sitting exams achieved a Higher grade A in foreign languages, including Mandarin. 

Although the number of entries for Highers and the proportion of students who received a pass mark has fallen slightly, data from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) reveals that 68% of pupils studying foreign languages have achieved a Higher grade A.

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, shows that 72% of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 72% of those studying German, 69% of those studying French and 63% studying Spanish also achieved an A.

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Related Links

Language exam entries are falling, but pourquoi? (TESS, 17 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read article.

Review call after fall in pupils studying languages and science (The Herald, 10 August 2018)

John Swinney urged to review school subject choice after figures show collapse in modern languages (The Telegraph, 9 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read full article.

Two-thirds fewer Scottish S4 pupils passing French exams under new curriculum (The Telegraph, 8 August 2018) Note - subscription required to read full article.

Attainment Statistics (August) 2018 (SQA, 7 August 2018)

Death of the phrase book and rise of smartphone translation apps leads to holiday faux pas, British Council say

7 August 2018 (The Telegraph)

It was once considered a staple of any holiday packing list, on a par with sunscreen, a pack of cards and flip-flops.

But the phrasebook is now becoming a thing of a past, with its demise hastened by the rise of smartphone translation apps, according to research conducted by the British Council.

Google translate and other apps are increasingly popular among the younger generation, who have complained that inaccurate translations are leading to embarrassing faux pas.

Over 60 per cent of 16 to 34 year-olds said they have used their smartphones and apps to help understand the local language, with just 39 per cent opting for a phrasebook.  

A poll of a poll of 2,000 adults, commissioned by the British Council, found that relying on technology brings its own perils, with more than one in five of this age group reporting that an inaccurate translation on their phone has led to misunderstandings while on holiday.  

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Americans are losing out because so few speak a second language

6 August 2018 (San Francisco Chronicle)

The United States may be the single most powerful nation in the world militarily, and remains a global economic giant, but we have seen repeatedly that our influence is limited. In part, we are constrained by our inadequate understanding of other nations and peoples, and by our inability to communicate effectively with them.

It is therefore disturbing, and evidence of a dangerous myopia, that we continue to neglect training and education in languages other than English.

In 1979, I was a member of the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, which found that “Americans’ incompetence in foreign languages is nothing short of scandalous.” Last year, nearly 40 years later, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a similar report, “America’s Languages,” and its findings were eerily similar: “[T]he dominance of English, to the exclusion of other languages, has also had adverse and often unforeseen consequences at home and abroad — in business and diplomacy, in civic life, and in the exchange of ideas.”

Much has changed in the decades between these two reports, including the continuing spread of English globally. Today, English is an official language of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court, and NATO, as well as the unofficial language of international business.

What has not changed, however, is that English alone — an education in English to the exclusion of other languages — remains insufficient to meeting our needs in a global world.

In times of great national security challenges, such as those we face today, as well as in times of great opportunity, such as the opening of new international markets, we find ourselves scrambling for people who can speak, write, and think in languages other than English. In those moments, we search high and low for people who can communicate in Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, Pashto — and especially for people who understand the idioms and nuances that characterize true communication in any culture.

Because it is difficult to find such people immediately, we are at a disadvantage. Language acquisition is a marathon, not a sprint. By the time we educate and train the experts we need to help us address a particular language gap, we are often too late. The crisis has shifted. Others have captured the new market.

As a matter of public policy, this is a terribly inefficient way to operate.

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Government to Improve Foreign Language Teaching in Schools

3 August 2018 (Good Morning Britain)

The government has announced plans to improve teaching to boost the number of students opting to take foreign languages at GCSE level. Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, believes that learning an extra language is good for young people for traveling and opens more opportunities within the workplace. 

See the video interview broadcast on Good Morning Britain.

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Being bilingual or playing a musical instrument may improve brain function

2 August 2018 (Medical News Bulletin)

Canadian researchers determined whether learning a second language or learning to play a musical instrument can improve brain function.

When it comes to remembering items on a list or phone numbers, previous research has shown that musicians and individuals who are bilingual have a better working memory.  To investigate why this is the case, a team of Canadian researchers conducted functional brain imaging scans on 41 young adults (ages 19-35) to see how various regions of the brain were activated during the completion of spatial and non-spatial memory tasks.

The results of this study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, indicated that participants who were bilingual, and in particular, those who played a musical instrument, were better able to locate and identify sounds. In addition, these two experiences seemed to shape which neural networks were used to complete working memory tasks.

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Deaf boy’s campaign for new GCSE in sign language takes step forward

2 August 2018 (ITV)

A GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) could be introduced in this parliament after the government backed down on a decision to delay it.

Deaf schoolboy Daniel Jillings, 12, is campaigning for the new exam in time for his GCSEs, and his family launched a legal challenge to get one instated as quickly as possible.

The Department for Education had previously said no new GCSEs would be introduced in this parliament, but following submissions from the family’s lawyers it said it may consider making an “exception”.

Daniel’s family’s lawyers argue the lack of a GCSE in BSL may be “discriminatory and unlawful”.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said on Wednesday: “We will consider any proposals put forward for a GCSE in British Sign Language.

“As we have made clear previously, any new GCSE would need to meet the rigorous standards set by both the Department and Ofqual.

“If these expectations are met and a British Sign Language GCSE is ready to be introduced, we will then consider whether to make an exception to our general rule that there should be no new GCSEs in this parliament.”

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School where refugees are the teachers

1 August 2018 (BBC)

Teaching his native Arabic to students online has been a game changer for Syrian refugee Sami as he makes a fresh start in the UK.

The Aleppo University engineering graduate says that working for an online language learning platform in London has helped him find his feet and motivation as he begins life anew.

The tutors at the start-up firm Chatterbox are all refugees and their work helps them to integrate and adapt to their new surroundings.

"I think language is building bridges between people, because the language is not only in the language itself, the speaking or the words, it's also the culture," said the 35-year-old refugee, who arrived in the UK about two years ago.

The school is the brainchild of Mursal Hedayat, who came up with the idea during a trip to refugee camps in Calais in the summer of 2016.

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Can £27m a year bring a language back from near death?

1 August 2018 (BBC)

The feeling of walking barefoot across a beach in summer and the sun-warmed sand chafing my toes takes me the length of this sentence to describe. My great-great-grandfather, Angus Morrison, would have used one word: driùchcainn. 

That’s because, born and bred on the fringes of Western Europe, on Lewis, in the archipelago of the Outer Hebrides, his mother tongue was Scottish Gaelic.

It’s the ancient Celtic language heard by TV audiences tuning into the Highlands time-travelling saga Outlander.

In real life, working together crofting, fishing, weaving or cutting peat for fires, my ancestors spoke in Gaelic. It was spoken at home, sung at parties, used at church. But education in Angus’s day was strictly in English. As late as the 1970s, children were sometimes punished for speaking Gaelic at school.

Raised alongside Atlantic surf and storms, he became a sailor. Then, in the mid-nineteenth century, moved to Glasgow, and settled there working as a ship’s rigger. Among the principles he instilled in the family was the importance of education. But he did not pass on his cradle tongue.

My family story illustrates what linguistics experts call intergenerational breakdown. In 2018, along with about half of the world’s estimated 6,000 languages, Scottish Gaelic is considered at risk of dying out.

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Middle class parents use harder GCSEs like Mandarin as a 'signalling device', says Education Secretary

31 July 2018 (The Telegraph)

Middle class parents are using “harder” GCSEs like Mandarin to signal that their children are high achieving, the Education Secretary has said.  

Damian Hinds said it is not just an “attainment gap” that separates rich and poor students, but also a gulf in expectations and knowledge about the system.  

“For middle class parents there is an awareness that there are harder and easier subjects,” he said. “As parents we encourage their children to do the harder ones - whether that's Maths, History or these days Mandarin - because we know they can be a signalling device to universities and employers. 

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Language courses at risk amid staff shortage

30 July 2018 (The Times)

Head teachers may have to cut language courses in schools as a staffing shortage worsens.

With weeks to go until lectures begin, some modern language courses for teachers at leading universities are half empty. There is already a widespread recruitment crisis in the profession.

At the University of the West of Scotland only 11 of 20 places for one-year postgraduate teacher training courses in modern languages in secondary schools had been filled by mid-July.

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K-pop drives boom in Korean language lessons

11 July 2018 (BBC)

Korean is rapidly growing in popularity, in a language-learning boom driven by the popularity of the country's pop stars.

A desire to learn the lyrics of K-Pop hits like Gangnam Style has boosted the Korean language's popularity explode in countries like the US, Canada, Thailand and Malaysia.

A report by the Modern Language Association shows that Korean uptake in US universities rose by almost 14% between 2013 and 2016, while overall language enrolment was in decline.

The latest statistics show 14,000 students are learning Korean in the US, compared to only 163 two decades earlier.

The language learning website Duolingo launched a Korean course last year because of rising demand. It quickly attracted more than 200,000 pupils.

Read more...

App reveals Scots phrases foreigners struggle with the most

7 July 2018 (Daily Record)

Scots phrases may make perfect sense to us, but they can leave some folk scratching their heads.

Babbel, the language learning app, looked at some everyday Scottish patter and how they can confuse different nationalities.

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Family to challenge lack of GCSE in sign language

6 July 2018 (TES)

A 12-year-old deaf boy is at the heart of a planned legal battle to challenge the government’s "discriminatory" decision to delay the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL).

Daniel Jillings, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, uses BSL as his first language and is concerned that there will be no qualification in place related to signing when he takes his exams in a few years’ time.

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Can you raise an autistic child to be bilingual – and should you try?

5 July 2018 (The Conversation)

Diagnosed with autism and delayed language development, five-year-old Jose lives with his bilingual English-Spanish family in the UK. In addition to all the important decisions that a family with an autistic child has to take, Jose’s parents must also consider what languages to teach him and how. They would like Jose to learn English so he can make friends and do well at school. But they also value Spanish – the native language of Jose’s mother.

The family’s tricky situation was described in a study from 2013, and illustrates a problem that affects many families around the world. But is it possible to raise a child with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders to be bilingual? And, if so, does it help or hinder the autistic experience? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

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World Cup 2018: How do Belgian footballers speak to each other?

2 July 2018 (BBC)

Language is an essential part of playing football. Coaches give instructions to players and teammates talk to each other on the pitch.

How, one may wonder, does Belgium's multilingual team communicate?

Sources say the players speak neither Dutch nor French but English in the changing room, to avoid the perception of favouring one language over another.

They also speak English on the pitch, much to the surprise of many in the UK press during their game with England on Thursday night.

A majority of Belgians are Dutch-speakers who live in the Flemish north. Most of the rest speak French, and there is a small German-speaking community.

This divide can be seen in the mother tongues of the Belgian national team's star players.

Manchester City's playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is a Dutch-speaker from Ghent in the Flemish region, while Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard is a French-speaker from the Walloon region.

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Salve! Latin lessons offered to Aberdeen school kids

30 June 2018 (Press and Journal)

Aberdeen primary pupils may be greeting friends with ‘salve’ rather than ‘fit like’ next term after headteachers were offered the chance to boost Latin in their schools.

The Classical Association of Scotland said a similar campaign in Glasgow had led to 10 schools starting to teach the Roman language.

Now they have written to city council chiefs offering financial assistance to help with training that will enable Latin lessons to take place in city schools.

Learning other languages has proven benefits and the association believes Latin can help with understanding other European tongues.

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Why Brits aren’t interested in studying abroad

28 June 2018 (Study International)

To many people, studying abroad sounds like a dream. Spending a few months or years in a far-off country to gain a qualification while at the same time, learning a foreign language or soaking up the culture is an aspiration many, young and old, wish they could fulfill.

Apparently, this select group of people does not include the Brits.

While hundreds of thousands continue to travel the world to enrol at a British university, the same can’t be said for the outward mobility trends seen among British students.

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Manchester’s Language Army

28 June 2018 (CIOL)

Set in the culturally diverse Crumpsall/Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, Abraham Moss Community School is one of very few schools in northwest England to operate a formal programme that identifies bilingual pupils and offers them basic training in the skills required to act as language mediators within the school environment. 

More that 60 languages are spoken at Abraham Moss, which began the programme five years ago with a group of just eight pupils in Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16). Since then it has blossomed into an impressive ‘language army’ – nearly 40-strong – of ‘young interpreters’ aged 12-16, who cover languages as diverse as Arabic, Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Pashtun, Polish, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.

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Glasgow University hears its first Gaelic graduation speech in 567 years

28 June 2018 (The Herald)

Glasgow University has heard its first graduation speech in Gaelic in its 567-year history.

The ancient seat awarded a former moderator of the Church of Scotland with an honorary degree partly because of his commitment to the Celtic tongue.

And the Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison accepted with an oration partly in Gaelic.

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Never mind the Brexiteurs: why it’s time to learn French

28 June 2018 (The Guardian)

English children are increasingly unwilling to learn the language of Molière and MC Solaar, according to the British Council, which reports that within a few years Spanish will overtake it as the most-studied foreign language. At A-level, takeup has already fallen to 8,300, from 21,300 in 1997, while Spanish has climbed to 7,600.

Laziness seems to have a lot to do with it. As Vicky Gough, a schools adviser at the British Council, put it, “There is a perception of Spanish being easier to pick up than other languages, which may account in part for its popularity.” Which, one might say, confirms another perception: that the kids of today want everything handed to them on a plate, from chauffeur service to and from school, to first-class university degrees.

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'Brexit is the reason': Less than half of English teens learn a foreign language

27 June 2018 (Euronews)

Less than half of English pupils choose to learn a modern foreign language at school, a new report has found.

The proportion of English students sitting foreign language exams at the end of their compulsory education — at age 16 — stood at 47% in 2017, the British Council revealed in its Language Trends survey released on Wednesday.

In 2002, that figure stood at 76%.

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Spanish exam entries on track to surpass French in English schools

27 June 2018 (The Guardian)

Spanish is expected to overtake French as the main foreign language studied in classrooms in England in the next few years, and experts say German could face extinction from school timetables.

A report by the British Council says that although the study of languages continues to decline, Spanish is bucking the trend, with entries up in both GCSEs and A-levels.

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Language lesson gap means poorest miss out, says report

27 June 2018 (BBC)

Children from poorer backgrounds in England are increasingly likely to miss out on learning a foreign language, suggests a report.

Some teachers blame new tougher GCSEs for putting lower ability pupils off language learning.

There is also a perception that languages are less important since the vote to leave the European Union, says the British Council study.

The government says its reforms are boosting modern languages in schools.

The Language Trends Survey has published an annual report since 2002 when more than three-quarters of pupils (76%) took a modern language GCSE.

By 2011, only 40% of pupils took a language at GCSE.

The subject has recovered in recent years - in 2016 almost half of 16-year-olds took a language GCSE - but this figure fell to 47% last year.

There has been a similar long-term decline at A-level.

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Swimming lessons in Gaelic a first for Scotland

26 June 2018 (BBC)

Swimming lessons have been offered in Gaelic for the first time in Scotland.

More than 30 young Gaelic speakers have signed up for the classes at the High Life Highland-run Lochaber Leisure Centre in Fort William.

Eilidh Mcarthur, a student teacher working at the pool, suggested the idea after she found out that 11 of the site's staff were Gaelic speakers.

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How many words do you need to speak a language?

24 June 2018 (BBC)

Learning a new language can be tricky, but how many words do you need to know before you can actually get by in a foreign tongue?

That was the question posed to BBC Radio 4's More or Less programme by one frustrated listener. Despite learning German for three years, and practising nearly every day, they still couldn't seem to retain more than 500 words.

"I was hoping," they wrote, "you could give me a shortcut, by working out how many words we actually use on a regular basis."

To work out how many words you need to know to be able to speak a second language we decided to look into how many words we know in our first language, in our case English.

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Yell pupils pick up French language awards

20 June 2018 (Shetland News)

TEN pupils at Mid Yell Junior High School received prizes on Monday (18 June) as part of a celebration of the teaching and use of French in Scottish schools.

The S2 students, winners of this year's Concours de la francophonie competition, received their prizes during a special award ceremony at the school in the presence of education attaché of the French Embassy in the UK Thomas Chaurin and Shetland Gas Plant facilities management co-ordinator Jenny Wink, who was also representing sponsor Total E&P UK.

The VIP visit came after the Yell bairns were unable to attend the official award ceremony in Edinburgh in March.

With the majority of children now learning French from P1 in Scotland, la francophonie is said to be thriving.

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Crisis as Scots businesses struggle to hire Mandarin speakers amid Chinese tourist boom

17 June 2018 (Daily Record)

Shop owners in Scotland’s busiest tourist traps are struggling to hire Mandarin speakers to cope with a spike in Chinese customers.

Retail outlets, hotels and restaurants are advertising in shop windows as well as online to try to attract staff with specialised language skills.

Balmoral Cashmere in Edinburgh have put out a call for applicants in a street-front display. Last week saw the first direct flight from China to Scotland. 

Official figures show 41,000 Chinese visitors are coming to the country every year.

Highlands hotelier Willie Cameron said: “The Chinese are also buying into hotels and investing so there is business tourism too. “I struggled to get a Mandarin-speaking receptionist. There aren’t very many Mandarin speakers in Drumnadrochit but the websites for all my hotels are translated into Mandarin.” 

Visits from Chinese tourists are worth an estimated £36 million to the Scottish economy, with the average spend per day exceeding £70. Chinese visitors spend about £900 per visit across 12 nights. 

Dr Nathan Woolley, director of the Confucius Institute at Glasgow University, said there is an increasing interest from students and business workers to study Mandarin to augment their skills.

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e-Sgoil wins top praise from Swinney

15 June 2018 (We love Stornoway)

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP has praised Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s e-Sgoil project in a review document of its first year which has been circulated to all schools in Scotland.

Mr Swinney said “e-Sgoil makes use of our national education intranet, GLOW and it is effectively using this to bring teachers and learners together no matter their location. I would like to congratulate those involved at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for their vision, energy and commitment in bringing this project forward in such a short period of time.

“In concluding I would like to commend this report to you and hope you are encouraged by the success set out in the following pages.”

e-Sgoil is offering National 5 and Higher Gaelic (Learners) provision on-line to Local Authorities.

e-Sgoil e have identified the following periods for the delivery of National 5 and Higher Gaelic (Learners):

  • Mon - 08.50 to 09.40 and 09.40 to 10.30 
  • Wed - 13.35 to 14.45 
  • Thurs - 13.55 to 14.45 and 11.45 to 15.35 
  • Fri - 12.25 to 13.15

Any learners wishing to access these courses can do so using Glow, Office 365 and Vscene. 

e-Sgoil also has capacity to deliver weekly Gaelic Learner classes for any schools requiring support with the 1+2 agenda.

If your school or authority is interested in exploring these options contact e-sgoil@gnes.net or phone 01851 822850.

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China to create cultural heritage centres in universities

15 June 2018 (THE)

The Chinese government has announced plans to establish 100 “cultural heritage” centres at universities throughout the country that will run academic programmes and conduct scientific research in a bid to promote traditional Chinese culture.

The ministry of education said that it will “build about 100 excellent Chinese traditional cultural heritage sites” in universities and colleges nationwide by 2020, including 50 this year, and support institutions to “focus on ethnic folk music, ethnic folk arts” and folk dances, dramas and operas.

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Bilinguals use inter-language transfer to deal with dyslexia

13 June 2018 (Eurekalert)

Dyslexic children learning both a language that is pronounced as written -like Spanish- and a second language in which the same letter can have several sounds -such as English- are less affected by this alteration when reading or writing in the latter language. The authors of the Basque research centre BCBL warn that this is less a cure than a reduction of some of the symptoms.

Dyslexia or dsxyliea? Anyone without reading disorders could read the first word without any problem. But if read by someone who suffers from this alteration, he or she will see something similar to the second word.  

Dyslexia is a deficit of reading ability that hinders learning and affects between 3 and 10% of the population. Its transmission is partly genetic, and its diagnosis is made in children of between 8 and 9, although the symptoms appear before. So far, the only way to combat this disorder has been through early treatments adapted to the patient's age and symptoms. 

Now, however, research developed by the University of Bangor (Wales) and the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) of San Sebastian has shown that some combinations of bilingualism, transmitted from very early ages, contribute to reducing its symptoms.  

The main goal here was to verify if bilingualism acquired by children who learn to read in English and Welsh at the same time could benefit those suffering from dyslexia assessed in the English language. "And the answer is yes," as bluntly stated by Marie Lallier, a BCBL scientist and one of the authors of the study, published in Scientific Studies of Reading.

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Glasgow social enterprise tackling dementia through language learning

11 June 2018 (Glasgow Live)

A Glasgow social enterprise is tackling dementia through language learning.

Govan-based Lingo Flamingo teaches second languages to over 600 elderly people in care homes throughout the country, predominantly in Glasgow.

The social enterprise, founded by Robbie Norval, is the world's first not-for-profit organisation to provide bespoke language classes to older adults.  

Lingo Flamingo's work is based on research from the University of Edinburgh which shows language learning in older age can have a significant positive impact in terms of curbing the effects of dementia.

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Gaelic manuscripts join Unesco Memory of the World Register

9 June 2018 (The National)

The United Nations has paid Scotland’s Gaelic tongue a huge compliment by adding some of the earliest manuscripts in the language to the Unesco Memory of the World Register.

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) announced yesterday that its renowned collection of early Gaelic manuscripts will go on the register – which aims to preserve the world’s most important documents.

The Gaelic collection will join the likes of the Domesday Book, Magna Carta, the Churchill archives and Scotland’s own Declaration of Arbroath on the register.

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Should we take a more 'German' approach to MFL?

8 June 2018 (TES)

Applies to England

If you’re a modern foreign languages (MFL) teacher, you’re probably already familiar with the horror stories about your subject: more and more schools are cutting MFL at GCSE and A level, while fewer students are expressing interest in learning them.

Despite plans to increase the teaching of Mandarin in schools, European languages have sustained some heavy losses, German faring the worst with a 38 per cent fall in GCSE student entries since 2010.

Meanwhile, the German school system is efficient at producing confident English speakers, with an EU study claiming that 56 per cent of Germans can speak English "well enough to have a conversation", and it is rare to meet a recent high school graduate from Germany without near-fluent English skills.

So, why the gaping divide?

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150 hours to learn Mandarin – and teach it

7 June 2018 (TES)

Hundreds of primary school teachers will have the chance to learn and teach new languages within seven months, under a scheme being expanded after a successful trial.

The distance-learning programme - the first of its kind in the UK – sees primary teachers study either French, Spanish, German or Mandarin and develop the skills to teach the language in the primary classroom at the same time.

After a pilot involving 54 teachers from 49 Scottish schools across nine local authorities in 2017-18, next year the scheme will be available throughout Scotland. Welsh and Northern Irish schools are also expected to sign up.

Teachers taking part will spend about five hours a week from October to June - around 150 hours in total - but they will start teaching the languages to pupils before completing the course.

The scheme, run by The Open University and SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, will be launched in Edinburgh today.

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The Bilingual Advantage in the Global Workplace

7 June 2018 (Language Magazine)

For the last 30 years, the world economy has been more global and multicultural than ever before. In any given country, foreign-based companies operate every day, while overseas branches of the same companies are often present in various countries. The job market is consequently more global, multilingual, and multicultural in nature, and the workforce of the future will need to be more linguistically and culturally heterogeneous.

In that context, bilingual and bicultural individuals, even with limited knowledge of one or more languages and their attendant cultures, have a clear advantage, since more and more jobs will require experience in international and cross-cultural areas.

On the other hand, we also know that half of the world’s population speaks two or more languages and there are many places where bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm, for example in regions of Africa.2 So, will half the world then benefit from the new job opportunities created by a more global job market? Not exactly. 

Being bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate are not equivalent skills, and being bilingual is not the only condition to be hired for any job. It does not replace a solid further education, but it is becoming obvious that linguistic and cultural fluency enhances one’s “human capital” (the measure of the economic value of a person’s skill set). More and more, at equal technical skills, a bilingual individual will be chosen over a monolingual person.

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Britain must address its linguaphobia now to survive post-Brexit

7 June 2018 (The Conversation)

In addition to securing the UK’s departure from the EU, the June 2016 Brexit referendum exposed deep-seated prejudice against speakers of languages other than English. Politicians and pundits, including former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, fuelled xenophobic rhetoric by claiming that “in many parts of England you don’t hear English spoken any more”. Meanwhile the media has reported that people are being harassed or attacked on public transport, in shops or on the streets of British towns for “not speaking English”.

Though the EU itself has no plans to use English any less in meetings and documents, Britain cannot rely on this fact to justify its own monolingualism. Speaking other languages and working with other cultures is a global fact and, post-Brexit, Britain will need to work with countries all over the world more than ever.

The troubling presence of linguaphobia is just one legacy of the referendum campaign, but like so many other forms of prejudice, it is nothing new. Linguaphobia is a concept that first developed in the 1950s to identify a form of monolingualism that shows itself in a hostility towards learning other languages. For leading modern linguistics expert Charles Forsdick, post-referendum, this has translated itself into “an ideological phenomenon that judges national belonging in terms of the exclusive use of the English language”.

Yet as Forsdick and others assert, this “ideological monolingualism” is a deeply flawed perception of the history of languages in the UK. It distorts the past and present of multilingualism in the UK, and ill equips the population to face the brave new world of trade and cultural diplomacy it will need to master.

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Supporting your EAL learners

6 June 2018 (SecEd)

In a new series focused on supporting pupils with English as an additional language, Nic Kidston and Katherine Solomon discuss how schools can learn more about who their EAL learners are and how they can be empowered and supported to fulfil their potential

This article, the first in a series of articles on supporting EAL learners that will appear in the coming year, examines the recent research report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), with the Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy – entitled Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language.

The series will provide insights into, and best practice on, how to support individual learners through a whole school approach.

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More and more British children are learning Chinese – but there are problems with the teaching

6 June 2018 (The Conversation)

A drop in the number of secondary school students learning languages in UK schools is fuelling concerns about the country’s global competitiveness, particularly after Brexit. Discussions among both politicians and the media centre on the worry that the UK is being held back globally by its poor language skills. The UK economy loses roughly £50bn a year due to a lack of language skills in the workforce.

British Council and British Academy reports all critique modern foreign language (MFL) teaching in the UK. They also express concern about the lack of learning in state schools compared to independent schools and the widening gap between disadvantaged children and an internationally mobile elite. It is well acknowledged that there is a need to move beyond relying on English as a lingua franca.

In line with this, Chinese, an emerging key world business language – and widely predicted to be key to UK business post-Brexit – has become a foreign language option for some UK students in recent decades. Teaching is beginning to thrive across schools and universities as a principle modern foreign language.

Unsurprisingly, private schools – recognising the language as a new source of cultural capital – were the first to offer the new subject. But some newly established schools, especially particularly poor and disrupted schools in the state sector, have also shown interest in featuring Chinese in the school curriculum. They have been able to do so due to the Confucius Institute programme and the related Confucius Classroom programme initiated by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) in 2004.  

The Confucius Classroom program partners with UK secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials. The costs of such programmes are shared between Hanban and the host institutions (the UK colleges, universities, schools or school districts). By adopting Chinese as one of the taught languages in the curriculum, disadvantaged British schools hoped to indicate to parents that they provided something special and ambitious.

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The rise of translation and the death of foreign language learning

5 June 2018 (BBC Radio 3)

Professor Nicola McLelland and Vicky Gough of the British Councl to examine why, in UK schools and universities, the number of students learning a second language is collapsing - whilst the number of languages spoken in Britain is rising and translated fiction is becoming more available and popular. (Listen to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast from 33:30).

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Radio Edutalk: Gillian Campbell-Thow on ‘Language Learning in Scottish Education’

5 June 2018 (Radio Edutalk)

Listen to Gillian Campbell-Thow talk about ‘Language Learning in Scottish Education’ broadcast on Radio Edutalk on 5 June 2018.

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Can you learn a language with an app? What the research says

5 June 2018 (The Conversation)

Language learning apps are very popular in app stores worldwide – and are said to be revolutionising language learning. These apps offer opportunities to practise grammar and can be a very rewarding way to learn vocabulary. But there has been discussion about just how effective such apps can be – particularly when it comes to other skills such as writing and speaking.

Among the most popular language learning apps are Duolingo and busuu. Research has mainly found positive results on the use of both Duolingo and busuu. But most of this research concentrates on studies with learners who are also signed up to language courses – learners are using the apps for extra practice – so the results don’t provide a good snapshot of language learning through apps.

My recently published research study of 4,095 busuu users aimed to find out more about who uses these apps, how they use them, and what they think of app-based learning. Ultimately, I wanted to find out if users can actually learn a language with an app.

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Erasmus+ exchange programme set to open to all countries in 2021

31 May 2018 (THE)

The European Union’s next student exchange programme is set to be opened to any country in the world, paving the way for UK universities and students to take part in Erasmus+ post-Brexit.

In its proposal for the Erasmus+ programme for the period 2021-27, published on 30 May, the European Commission said that countries outside the EU and the European Economic Area would be able to participate fully as long as they do not have a “decisional power” on the programme and agree to a “fair balance” of contributions and benefits.

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Exclusive: National tests to be offered in Gaelic

30 May 2018 (TES)

Literacy and numeracy assessments to be offered to Scottish Gaelic schools from August after government investment.

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University guide 2019: league table for modern languages & linguistics

30 May 2018 (Guardian)

Find out more about studying modern languages from around the world and their literatures, as well as linguistics.

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Why using a foreign language could improve your work

29 May 2018 (BBC)

I recently spent four months working at the BBC in London, and English always sounded far smarter in my head than when it came out of my mouth. I often forgot words, made grammatical slips, and missed the usual precision of my native Spanish. It felt like trying to eat soup with a fork. As I write this, I have a dictionary open in front of me because I have learned to mistrust my ideas about what some words mean.

But there is a silver lining for those who are working in languages other than their native one. Research has recently shown that people who can speak a foreign language are likely to be more analytical. Other studies have suggested that people who are bilingual make decisions in different ways from those with one language.

It suggests that as well as giving you an extra string to your bow in terms of where you can work and who you can work with, a foreign language also makes you a different kind of worker. But the real question is – does it make you a better worker?

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Foreign postings help us become more self-aware

29 May 2018 (Financial Times)

I have lived in four countries: South Africa, where I grew up, the US, where I was a teenage exchange student, Greece, where I learnt how to be a journalist, and the UK or, more specifically, London, where I have now spent the majority of my life.

Each of those places changed me, but did they make me more self-aware? Did they give me a better understanding of my values and how they interacted with the culture surrounding me? And does that make me a better, more insightful employee than colleagues who stayed in the same place?

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British 'linguaphobia' has deepened since Brexit vote, say experts

28 May 2018 (The Guardian)

Britain faces further isolation after Brexit if it doesn’t adjust its citizens’ attitude towards learning foreign languages, a panel of experts has warned, with Britons becoming increasingly “linguaphobic” in the wake of the EU referendum.

Speaking at the Hay literary festival on Friday, a panel including Cardiff University professor Claire Gorrara and linguist Teresa Tinsley, said that Britons had too long relied on a false belief that English was the world’s lingua franca. Only 6% of the global population are native English speakers, with 75% of the world unable to speak English at all. But three-quarters of UK residents can only speak English.

“That English is somehow the norm is a complete misapprehension of the facts, but this notion that everyone is speaking English is persistent and believed by many in the UK,” said Gorrara, warning that economic opportunities and bridge-building with the rest of the world was at risk after Brexit if Britons did not become less “linguaphobic” and learn more languages. 

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'No barriers to stop you' - deaf referee aims to inspire [video]

27 May 2018 (BBC )

Category six referee Jason Taylor will become the Scottish Football Association’s first representative at the Deaf Champions League finals, which takes place in Milan from 28 May – 2 June.

Having started refereeing in 2005, Jason hopes to inspire other deaf people to "realise there are no barriers to stop you from doing what you want to do".

From Dunfermline, he says his refereeing idol is Hugh Dallas.

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Scots-Gaelic railway map uncovers meaning of station names

23 May 2018 (Scotsman)

Railway stations can tell you a lot about a country, from its economic development to its population centres. But their names also provide an insight into how language and its meaning evolves over time, from describing little more than fields to vanished religious centres.

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Related Links

'Chocolatine' vs 'pain au chocolat': French pastry war spills over into parliament

24 May 2018 (The Local)

The age-old French war over what to call France's famous chocolate-filled pastry treat - known to most as a "pain au chocolat" - has reached French parliament, where a group of MPs are fighting to have the the rival term "chocolatine" officially recognised.

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Can English remain the 'world's favourite' language?

23 May 2018 (BBC News)

English is spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, but do the development of translation technology and "hybrid" languages threaten its status?

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'You're getting on my biscuits': can you translate these world idioms? – quiz

21 May 2018 (Guardian)

With the 2018 Man Booker International prize winner to be announced on 22 May, nominated translators share their favourite sayings that don’t easily translate to English. Can you decipher the correct meanings?

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Why teachers shouldn’t be afraid of other languages being spoken in the classroom

21 May 2018 (The Conversation)

More than 20% of all primary school and 16% of secondary school children in the UK speak languages other than English. And there are now more than 360 languages spoken in British classrooms.

But more often than not, in mainstream schools in the UK, the “home languages” of children can be sidelined at best, and prohibited at worst. English is the language of the classroom – this is despite the fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that children from linguistic minorities should not be “denied the right” to use their own languages.

In my recent research, I found there was often a lot of fear associated with the use of “home” languages among the typically white, monolingual demographic of the teaching profession.

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Learning music or another language makes your brain more efficient, researchers find

17 May 2018 (The Independent)

If you’ve taken the time to learn music or to speak another language, you’ve also trained your brain into being more efficient, according to a new study.

Researchers at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute found that musicians and people who are bilingual utilised fewer brain resources when completing a working memory task.

According to the study, published in the journal, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, people with either a musical or bilingual background activated different brain networks and showed less brain activity while completing a task than people who only spoke one language or didn’t have formal music training.

Of the findings, Dr Claude Alain, one of the paper’s authors who works as a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and a professor at the University of Toronto's Institute of Medical Science, said: “These findings show that musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. "Our results also demonstrated that a person's experiences, whether it's learning how to play a musical instrument or another language, can shape how the brain functions and which networks are used."

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A tongue-lashing over teacher shortage as Gaelic plan agreed

16 May 2018 (The Scotsman)

Parents and pupils at Edinburgh’s only Gaelic high school have demanded action to address a teacher shortage and to stand up for children facing discrimination. The calls came as the city council yesterday agreed its Gaelic Language Plan for 2018-22.

It was revealed the authority only has one Gaelic teacher in employment for Gaelic medium education (GME) at James Gillespie’s High School where pupils are taught primarily through the medium of Gaelic. Speaking at a meeting of the council’s corporate policy and strategy committee, which unanimously agreed the plan, parent Marion Thompson raised worries about protection for GME pupils.

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Related Links

Edinburgh Council agrees new Gaelic Language Plan (The Scotsman, 15 May 2018)

UK's first sign language poetry slam

15 May 2018 (BBC)

Deaf poets fight it out in the UK's first ever poetry slam for users of sign language. Watch the video.

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Public consultation on list of Gaelic shellfish names

8 May 2018 (BBC)

A public consultation on recommended Gaelic names for the most common shellfish in Scotland's seas has been launched.

Scottish Natural Heritage has published a list of 85 marine mollusc names, Gaelic terms for parts of the animals and for different seashell shapes.

The meanings of many of the names have also been explained in English.

The recommendations have been produced by a team from Scottish Natural Heritage and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Gaelic-speaking environmental educator Roddy Maclean has been leading the project.

He interviewed 14 older Gaelic speakers, mostly from the Western Isles, to obtain guidance on the names they use for marine mollusc species.

Mr Maclean said: "There was a general agreement on the names for the most common species.

"But there were some species where people had different terms, or none at all. This challenged us to make a choice and also provide names for species with no recorded Gaelic form."

Some of the suggested names and terms include:

Mollusc - Moileasg
Seashell - Slige mhara
Filter feeder - Sìoltachair
Shellfish harvested by moonlight - Maorach-èalaidh

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Aberdeen primary school announces official launch of Mandarin language hub

7 May 2018 (Evening Express)

An Aberdeen primary school has announced its new hub for promoting the teaching of Mandarin.

Danestone School launched its Confucius Classroom, which will be a central location for all Aberdeen-based primary schools teaching the language to pupils.

It aims to boost skills in children in line with Scotland’s 1+2 languages policy, which allows every child the opportunity to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue by 2020.

The hub concept promotes joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture. The launch event included children singing in Mandarin, and a mixture of Scottish music and dance.

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Number of Scottish pupils passing foreign language exams has halved in 10 years

6 May 2018 (Daily Record)

The number of Scottish pupils passing foreign language exams has halved over 10 years.

The total at all levels has plunged from 60,176 in 2007 to just 28,503 in 2017.

The fall has been most severe in basic qualifications, raising concerns the figures could get worse in coming years as youngsters lack foundation skills. 

Opposition politicians and business leaders have voiced fears that Scotland’s ability to compete as a global economy could be at risk.

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Even when the likes of Macron foul up, multilingual politicians get it right

6 May 2018 (The Guardian)

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, never ceases to surprise his audience, especially when he speaks in English. While some of his compatriots were shocked that he should address the US Congress in its native tongue, it pleased a large number of French people who appreciated how he engaged directly in version originale.

A few days later, however, when President Macron thanked the Australian prime minister’s wife, Lucy Turnbull, for being “delicious” – conjuring up images of cannibalism and Hannibal Lecter – some commentators suddenly thought of Macron as creepy. It was hours before somebody thought to tell the Australians that the word “délicieuse” actually means delightful.

Speaking a foreign language is a minefield for anyone who ventures there but also a source of constant wonder, joy and fun. The rewards are manifold and it is even thought to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The smartest leaders either know many languages or understand the power of words enough to play with them to their advantage. Perhaps Macron used the word “delicious” on purpose; perhaps, even, the secret behind the strangely warm rapport between Macron, Trump and their wives is built on such deliciously faux amis? 

The fact is that multilinguists rule the world. That Angela Merkel is trilingual (she speaks German, Russian and English) should be no surprise. If David Cameron had not been a monoglot, maybe Britain would not have found itself in a Brexit nightmare. Just a thought.

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Critical window for learning a language

1 May 2018 (BBC)

There is a critical cut-off age for learning a language fluently, according to research.

If you want to have native-like knowledge of English grammar, for example, you should ideally start before age 10, say the researchers.

People remain highly skilled learners until 17 or 18, when ability tails off.

The findings, in the journal Cognition, come from an online grammar test taken by nearly 670,000 people of different ages and nationalities.

The grammar quiz was posted on Facebook to get enough people to take part.

Questions tested if participants could determine whether a sentence written in English, such as: "Yesterday John wanted to won the race," was grammatically correct.

Users were asked their age and how long they had been learning English, and in what setting - had they moved to an English-speaking country, for example?

About 246,000 of the people who took the test had grown up speaking only English, while the rest were bi- or multilingual.

The most common native languages (excluding English) were Finnish, Turkish, German, Russian and Hungarian.

Most of the people who completed the quiz were in their 20s and 30s. The youngest age was about 10 and the oldest late 70s.

When the researchers analysed the data using a computer model, the best explanation for the findings was that grammar-learning was strongest in childhood, persists into teenage years and then drops at adulthood.

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Yell school joins Chinese culture programme

1 May 2018 (Shetland News)

The Chinese ambassador to the UK was in Yell on Tuesday (1 May) to launch Shetland's second Confucius Classroom Hub.

Mid Yell Junior High School is now part of the Confucius programme, which aims to teach Scottish youngsters about Chinese culture and Mandarin language, after Sandwick Junior High School joined in 2016.

Ambassador Liu Xiaoming and his wife Hu Pinghua visited Yell alongside minister-counselor for education Wang Yongli and representatives of the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools.

They met councillors and staff from Shetland Islands Council, as well as Mid Yell pupils who entertained the guests with traditional Shetland music and songs - as well as Chinese songs and dance.

Read more...

Related Links

Good Evening Shetland (BBC Shetland, 1 May 2018) Listen to the news item about the new Confucius Hub from 00:48 onwards.

Confucius Classroom Hub launched at Mid Yell JHS (Shetland Islands Council, 1 May 2018)

#IsMiseGàidhlig spreads throughout the World

1 May 2018 (BBC)

A twitter hashtag #IsMiseGàidhlig took the Scottish internet by storm last week as members of the Gaelic community, fluent speakers and learners alike gave their positive experiences of Scotland’s oldest native language in response to negative stories in the press.

Thug an taga-hais #IsMiseGàidhlig os làimh Twitter na h-Alba an t-seachdain seo nuair a bha buill de choimhearsnachd na Gàidhlig, fileantaich agus luchd-ionnsachaidh le chèile, a’ sgaoileadh sgeulachdan togarrach mun a’ chànan mar fhreagairt air droch sgeulachdan anns na meadhanan.

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Arabic to be taught to Syrian refugee children in Scotland

28 April 2018 (The Scotsman)

E-Sgoil is now being expanded to teach a range of subjects to pupils all over Scotland after initially being created in response to teacher recruitment problems in the Western Isles. 

And Angus MacLennan, head teacher of e-Sgoil, said there were now plans to recruit a teacher to offer Arabic lessons. 

The move is in response to an anticipated demand from pupils.

[..] E-Sgoil is also hoping to recruit online tutors to teach Mandarin in response to a demand from pupils in the Western Isles. 

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Gaelic TV channel secures £5.2m of new content

27 April 2018 (The Herald)

A series of international deals has secured programmes worth £5.2 million for Scotland's Gaelic language channel.

Gaelic media service MG Alba said it had agreed the additional content for BBC Alba through deals led by its supplier companies.

(subscription required to read full article)

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New report calls on Wales to sell its language and culture to the world

26 April 2018 (Nation Cymru)

Wales should do much more to raise awareness of the Welsh language and its own culture in order to differentiate the country from the rest of the UK.

That is one of the recommendations of a new report from British Council Wales published today.

The report says Wales should better use the appeal of its ‘soft power’, its culture, education and sport sectors, to gain more recognition and influence on the world stage.

“We feel there is much that could be done with the language outside of Wales, effectively using it as a way to both raise interest in Wales and differentiate it from the rest of the UK,” the report says.

“As such, we recommend Wales make greater efforts to share the language with international audiences, incorporating it in tourism promotion campaigns.”

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Tories attack language teaching ‘failures’

26 April 2018 (The Times)

The number of pupils taking Higher French and German has fallen as interest in Italian and Chinese rises.

The number of pupils studying any Higher modern languages fell 6.2 per cent between 2016 and last year. Pupils studying Higher French fell by 14 per cent to 3,918 and German was down 13 per cent from 1,020 to 89. The number of students taking Higher Spanish hit 2,809, up 8 per cent on 2016; Italian rose 21 per cent to 264; Chinese languages grew in popularity by 16 per cent to 129; and Urdu rose by 13 per cent to 104. Those learning Gaelic at Higher level fell by 18 per cent, to 69.

(Subscription required to read full article).

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New funding of £2.5m for next phase of Gaelic dictionary

24 April 2018 (BBC)

Funding of £2.5m has been put in place for the next phase of the development of the first comprehensive Gaelic dictionary.

Faclair na Gàidhlig aims to document the history, development and use of every single word in the language.

It would be far more detailed than any dictionary available in bookshops.

The production is being made possible through a collaboration between several universities and the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

The latest funding announced by the Scottish government will be managed by the Scottish Funding Council.

The new dictionary is a long-term project and would be the equivalent of the multi-volume resources available for English and Scots.

It could take 30 years to produce and is likely to have around 100,000 entries.

The universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig are involved in the project, which has the support of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the national public body with responsibility for Gaelic.

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Glasgow set for third Gaelic school in Government language drive

24 April 2018 (The Scotsman)

John Swinney has announced that a third Gaelic school is to open in Glasgow as part of the Scottish Government’s drive to increase the number of speakers of the language. 

The new school will provide Gaelic medium education (GME) and is expected to open in the Cartvale area of the city.

Nearly 900 pupils are enrolled in Glasgow’s two existing GME schools at Glendale and Berkeley Street – both of which are now at capacity. The plans for the new school were announced during a Holyrood debate on the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23.

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Here's when it gets more difficult to learn a new language, according to science

23 April 2018 (Business Insider)

Perhaps you've toyed with the idea of learning a second or third language. But as an adult, is learning a new language too monumental of a task to undertake?

Let's look at what we know about language development. Early childhood — infancy until age 5 — is a particularly sensitive period when children's brains are primed to learn language.

According to Thomas Bak, Ph.D., a neuroscientist from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, children first learn sounds, and then acquire the basic rules of grammar. Then comes vocabulary, which continues to accumulate throughout life. (Microbiome, microagression, net neutrality, safe space, and Seussian are just a few of the 1000 new words that Merriam-Webster added in 2017.)

From birth through puberty , children learn language rapidly and efficiently due to their natural brain plasticity and cognitive flexibility. After puberty, however, language acquisition becomes progressively more difficult, and our ability to learn new languages steadily declines.

There's some individual variability in the age of this decline, Bak says, due to natural ability. But a slight decline does occur in all people at some point, whether it be in their 20s or 30s.

Nienke Meulman, who has published research on age and grammar acquisition effects on the brain, says the adage,"'The later, the harder' is definitely true, but there is no clear cut-off age." Even for late learners it is possible to become proficient in a second language, Meulman says.

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Irvine brothers wine and dine with First Minister in China

20 April 2018 (Irvine Times)

Two Irvine brothers have hosted a dinner with Nicola Sturgeon in China after winning a year-long scholarship in the Far East.

Twins Owen and Robin Wilson wined and dined the First Minster last week during her current visit to China.

The brothers, who are 18, flew out to Beijing last year after both winning a place on the coveted Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS) Scholarship Programme which, in partnership with Strathclyde University, sees 23 students picked to live in China and attend Tianjin Foreign Studies University for a full academic year.

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Spain is the most popular choice for students planning to study abroad

18 April 2018 (THE)

Spain is the number one destination for international students planning to study abroad, according to a survey conducted by GoEuro.

More than 5,700 students from 10 countries were surveyed by the travel platform, of which 18 per cent picked Spain as their top choice. The UK came in at a close second (16 per cent).

As well as Spain being the overall top choice, it was also selected by British students as their top choice, with more than a fifth (21 per cent) choosing the Mediterranean country. France (16 per cent), Germany (12 per cent), the Netherlands (10 per cent) and Italy (9 per cent) also proved to be popular choices for students from the UK.

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Glasgow hotel to teach staff 10 new languages so they can welcome international guests

16 April 2018 (Glasgow Live)

A city centre hotel is extending a warm welcome to guests from all over the world - and in 10 different languages too.

Apex City of Glasgow’s concierge and reception staff are learning key phrases from 10 of the most commonly spoken languages among the hotel’s guests.

The move is part of a #WarmerWelcome project rolled out across Apex hotels, the Bath Street branch included.

Staff will be learning a how to speak in German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese and Danish.

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£8.7million Gaelic School opens in Portree

16 April 2018 (Press and Journal)

Pupils from Portree will today attend different primary schools for the first time as a new Gaelic School opens its doors.

The school becomes the fifth dedicated Gaelic specific school across Scotland – and the third in the Highland region – to offer pupils the opportunity to be educated in the form of Gaelic medium education.

The construction phase of the £8.7million project began in September 2016 and concluded this month as parents and friends of the school will gather at the end of this week to celebrate the schools opening with a family ceilidh.

Read more...

Related Links

New beginnings as Gaelic school opens in Portree (West Highland Free Press, 19 April 2018)

Row over £10m Gaelic school opening on Isle of Skye (The Scotsman, 20 April 2018)

Isle of Skye's Gaelic-only school 'will divide community' (The Herald, 21 April 2018)

How Netflix’s increasing use of foreign language content is helping to fight xenophobia

14 April 2018 (The Independent)

Netflix’s increasing use of foreign languages is building a global community where English isn’t king.

And it’s about time, as we need every tool we have to fight rising xenophobia.

Narcos may have kicked off this trend, but it goes way beyond just reading the subtitles. An audience of 104 million Netflix subscribers are devouring content in Spanish, German and Arabic. 

Nielsen released viewer numbers on two original Netflix programmes that debuted the same week: the sci-fi movie Cloverfield Paradox drew in 5 million viewers in the first week, and Altered Carbon, a television series based on an English book, brought in 2.5 million viewers. In both instances, leads spoke a language other than English throughout its run time. Chinese actor Zhang Ziyi plays an engineer in Cloverfield, and all her lines are recited in Chinese. Mexican actor Martha Higareda’s dialogue in Altered Carbon is primarily English, delivered with a hint of accent. However, she frequently reverts to her native Spanish in the series, as do the actors who play her family members. Co-star Waleed Zuaiter, who plays her partner, also speaks Arabic in key scenes.

The streaming service is producing popular programming depicting foreign and first-generation English-speaking actors, each communicating in their native tongue. The English speakers simply respond without skipping a beat. The implication is that they understand one another and choose the language they’re most comfortable responding in.

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Scots language under threat from American English, Alexander McCall Smith warns

13 April 2018 (The Times)

The future of the Scots language is being put under threat by the unstoppable march of American English, Alexander McCall Smith has claimed.

The best-selling author fears that the enthusiastic adoption of US phrases means traditional words such as sleekit scunnered and shoogly are in danger of being lost forever.

McCall Smith’s works have been translated into more than 40 languages but he is concerned that Scots, and other tongues and dialects, are being undermined by the establishment of US English as a global lingua franca.

Subscription required to access full article

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Call for Gaelic to be included on Duolingo

13 April 2018 (Stornoway Gazette)

Western Isles Alasdair Allan is calling for Scottish Gaelic to be added to Duolingo, the world’s most popular online language learning service. 

Duolingo’s 200 million worldwide users can choose to learn minority languages Welsh and Irish as well as fictional languages from Star Trek and Game of Thrones for free on the app, however there are no Scottish languages currently on offer.

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Agenda: Our politicians should be doing more for Gaelic

7 April 2018 (The Herald)

Followers of social media and Scottish print media would be forgiven for thinking that there is widespread hostility toward Gaelic in Scotland. Yet, this does not appear to be the case. In 2012, for example, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey indicated that 76 per cent of respondents felt that Gaelic was either very or fairly important to Scottish heritage, and only four per cent felt it was not at all important.

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Pupils' French connection on language learning day

5 April 2018 (Dumbarton Reporter)

Budding linguists at St Mary’s Primary School in Alexandria celebrated their language skills with a French learning day.

Pupils were put into mixed groups of P1-3 and P4-7 and spent the day taking part in various activities including games, STEM tasks and letting their creative sides loose with some art.

The children also welcomed their parents into school for an afternoon to involve them in the fun and to show off their newly-acquired language skills.

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The time it takes to learn a new language depends on what you want to do with it

3 April 2018 (The Conversation)

If you go by the ads for some language learning apps, you can “have a conversation in a new language in three weeks”.

But the experience of most Australians when trying to learn a new language is more likely to resemble that of our prime minister who, a few years ago, wrote:

Learning any language at school is…difficult because there simply aren’t enough hours in the school calendar for most students to achieve any real facility – as many Australians have discovered when they tried out their schoolboy or schoolgirl French on their first visit to Paris!

The time it takes to learn a language depends on what you mean by “learning a language”. If your definition is being able to order a “café au lait” or ask for directions to “les toilettes, s’il vous plait” on your next trip to Paris, three weeks is perfectly realistic.

But if you need to study using another language, perform your job with it and negotiate all your relationships through that language – the answer changes dramatically. You’ll be looking at six years and more, where more may well mean never.

Language proficiency is therefore best thought of as the ability to do things with words. The things a tourist needs to do with words are vastly different from the things a migrant needs to do.

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The English language is the world’s Achilles heel

3 April 2018 (The Conversation)

English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.

But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of English, and their first (or “native”) language can change what they believe is being said.

When someone uses their second language, they seem to operate slightly differently than when they function in their native language. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “foreign language effect”. Research from our group has shown that native speakers of Chinese, for example, tended to take more risks in a gambling game when they received positive feedback in their native language (wins), when compared to negative feedback (losses). But this trend disappeared – that is, they became less impulsive – when the same positive feedback was given to them in English. It was as if they are more rational in their second language.

While reduced impulsiveness when dealing in a second language can be seen as a positive thing, the picture is potentially much darker when it comes to human interactions. In a second language, research has found that speakers are also likely to be less emotional and show less empathy and consideration for the emotional state of others.

For instance, we showed that Chinese-English bilinguals exposed to negative words in English unconsciously filtered out the mental impact of these words. And Polish-English bilinguals who are normally affected by sad statements in their native Polish appeared to be much less disturbed by the same statements in English.

In another recent study by our group, we found that second language use can even affect one’s inclination to believe the truth. Especially when conversations touch on culture and intimate beliefs.
Since second language speakers of English are a huge majority in the world today, native English speakers will frequently interact with non-native speakers in English, more so than any other language. And in an exchange between a native and a foreign speaker, the research suggests that the foreign speaker is more likely to be emotionally detached and can even show different moral judgements.

And there is more. While English provides a phenomenal opportunity for global communication, its prominence means that native speakers of English have low awareness of language diversity. This is a problem because there is good evidence that differences between languages go hand-in-hand with differences in conceptualisation of the world and even perception of it.

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Graeme High pupil wins multilingual poetry award

2 April 2018 (Falkirk Herald)

The multilingual talents of budding poets from Graeme High and Moray Primary were celebrated in the 2018 Mother Tongue Other Tongue awards. 

Graeme High pupil Danai Nikitea was crowned the winner of the Mother Tongue category during a prestigious ceremony at University of Strathclyde on March 17. 

While Kole Murray from Moray Primary and Harely Ewen and Simi Singh, both from Graeme High, were Highly Commended in the Other Tongue category. 

These students used their language skills to create and share poetry for the ceremony.

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Scottish Education Awards 2018 - Finalists announced!

29 March 2018 (Daily Record)

Following an editorial campaign running in the Daily Record, the finalists for this year's Scottish Education Awards have been announced.

Finalists will attend the prestigious awards ceremony at Glasgow's Doubletree by Hilton Glasgow Central on June 6th, where each of the fifteen winners will be announced.

Details of all the finalists can be found in the Daily Record news article online.

Congratulations and good luck to the schools shortlisted in the language-related categories!

Read more...

Related Links

Falkirk district schools aiming for top marks at Education Awards (Falkirk Herald, 16 April 2018)

Campaign to make state school pupils Latin lovers

29 March 2018 (The Herald)

A drive has been launched to revive a classical education in state schools across Scotland.

Leading classics organisations have joined forces to promote the study of Latin and the history and culture of Ancient Rome and Greece.

Once a fundamental pillar of education, Latin has declined dramatically since the 1970s and now very few state schools offer it.

In 2013, just 218 candidates sat Latin at Higher compared to 243 the previous year. Only 48 pupils took Latin as an Advanced Higher.

In order to lead a revival the UK charity Classics for All, which provides grant funding to schools, opened a Scottish hub in September last year. 

Alex Imrie, an academic from Edinburgh University and the charity’s Scotland representative, said the hub was seeking to introduce a Latin module aimed at primary school pupils.  

It also wants to revise and update existing qualifications in Classical Studies for secondary school pupils and to work with university departments to reintroduce the subject as a specialism within postgraduate teaching qualifications. 

He said: “We’re approaching councils across Scotland to try and get them on board to try and reintroduce classics into the curriculum. 

“We are enjoying a lot of enthusiasm with the people we are speaking to, but it is early days and we need to get more momentum and spread the word even further.  

“There are academic benefits with improvements to English and other areas of the curriculum and it is long overdue that we break the myth that classics is only for the elite or only for those who go to independent schools.”

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MSP to give Holyrood address in Gaelic to raise language profile

29 March 2018 (The Scotsman)

An MSP is seeking to raise the profile of Gaelic by delivering an entire speech in the language at Holyrood. 

Kate Forbes will become just the second female MSP, and the first in the current Scottish Parliament chamber, to deliver a whole contribution in Gaelic during a plenary debate. 

Ms Forbes, who chairs Holyrood’s cross-party group on the language, will speak as MSPs consider a motion on Scotland’s support for the (Unesco) convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. 

Read more...

North-East language board set up to promote Doric

28 March 2018 (BBC)

A new body to promote Doric and the North-East Scots language is being launched in Aberdeen.

The North-East Scots Language Board aims to promote the language with the goal of making it more visible in everyday life, including Doric signage.

The body will be made up of representatives from Aberdeen's two universities and north east councils.

As well as the Doric, the board aims to promote other local dialects from the north east of Scotland.

A Scots language course is also being launched at the University of Aberdeen.

Read more...

Bilingual benefits: why two tongues are better than one

27 March 2018 (Irish Times)

Ireland is speaking more languages than ever before with Polish, French, Romanian, Lithuanian and Spanish all echoing through our family homes.

For years, there was a belief that bilingual children lagged behind academically and intellectually.

More recent studies, however, comprehensively show this is untrue: switching between two or more languages gives the brain a dexterousness and improves our attention, planning, memory and problem-solving skills.

Evidence shows bilingual children score better across a range of cognitive tests than their monolingual classmates.

In an Irish context, speakers of a second language have an advantage in a jobs market that places significant value on both their linguistic and cognitive skills. And bilingual children who sit minority language subjects in the Leaving Cert consistently get top grades.

In spite of the clear benefits, many newcomer parents have concerns about bilingualism.  

Dr Francesca La Morgia is assistant professor in clinical speech and language studies at Trinity College Dublin and the founder and director of an organisation called Mother Tongues, which supports parents in passing on their native language.

Read more...

The state secondary school where the only language taught is Mandarin

22 March 2018 (TES)

In a school serving one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh, Mandarin is the only language on offer. 

Learning Mandarin has tended to be an opportunity only available to a minority of Scottish pupils, often in private schools.

But in a school serving one of the most deprived areas of Edinburgh, Mandarin is currently the only language on offer.

In October, when Castlebrae Community High's only modern languages teacher left for maternity leave, it struggled to replace her – but then the school received some external investment to teach Mandarin.

This enables it to share a teacher with several other schools in the city. The subject is taught in the first and second year. Next year, some pupils hope to continue it in their third year, with the aim of achieving a national qualification in the language.

In October, 12 pupils will head to Beijing to experience Chinese language and culture for themselves.

Read more...

Is this the best time in history to learn languages?

BBC (21 March 2018)

Hillary Yip is a 13-year-old student from Hong Kong. She’s also an ambitious app developer and CEO.

Designed by a kid, for kids, her smartphone app, Minor Mynas, connects children from around the world for a specific purpose: to learn each other’s mother tongue.

Yip epitomises the globalised, digitally connected teen of today’s youngest generation, which has grown up through the unique conditions the 21st Century – technology that connects people all over the world, an increasingly culturally diverse global population, and the rise of personalised educational apps and games.

Could these factors combine to create the most multilingual generation yet?

The youngest generation is growing up in a time in history that provides a lot of opportunity. Cultural diversity is increasing globally, especially due to increasing levels of international migration, says professor Steven Vertovec, managing director of the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. He points to the latest UN World Migration Report, which found that 258 million people live in a country other than their country of birth — an increase of 49% since 2000. “Hence more people, from more diverse backgrounds, are coming into contact with each other in cities around the world,” he says. “This is set to continue, again globally.”

This increased migration, especially in cities, brings people with a wide variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds into close contact. Could a more multicultural world lead to a more multilingual generation?

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The benefits of learning a new language

20 March 2018 (Blasting News)

It is one of the universal truths: being bilingual or polyglot can only be considered as something positive.

We have the ability to travel constantly to another country, to interact with people with whom otherwise we could not communicate, to really understand another culture and to immerse ourselves in it. We live in an increasingly globalized world and when we are aware of the positive side of knowing a new #Language, we realize the doors of a different culture are open and it can teach us a different way of viewing the world.

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Listening to foreign language while you sleep can help you learn it, study finds

20 March 2018 (The Independent)

Are you struggling to pick up a second language? Well, you’re not alone because as part of a vote organised for European Day of Languages, Britain was previously revealed to be the most monolingual country in the continent.

But with so few hours in the day, how are we ever meant to find the time to learn another lingo?

Well the answer, it seems, could be to do it while you sleep. According to research by the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg listening to recordings of new words while you sleep could actually help you learn them.

Read more...

English-speaking Macron campaigns for French to be global language

20 March 2018 (The Telegraph)

Emmanuel Macron launched an international drive to promote French as a “world language” on Tuesday, urging Francophone countries to resist the temptation to turn to English.

“France today should be proud of being one country among others that learns, speaks and writes in French,” he told the Académie Française, an august body of luminaries that has struggled for decades to turn back the relentless tide of English expressions flooding into French. “French should become the language that creates tomorrow’s world.”

However, French commentators were quick to point out that the 40-year-old president, a fluent English-speaker, is himself fond of using English expressions.

“France is back” and “start-up nation” have become catch-phrases associated with him.

Read more...

Related Links

Listen to Ludovica Serratrice from the University of Reading on BBC Radio Berkshire (from 1 hr 47 mins) talking about President Macron's bid to boost the French language. (Recording available until 20 April 2018).

Scots language initiative hopes to celebrate our unique tongue

20 March 2018 (The National)

A new push is to begin to strengthen the status of Scots as two language bodies form a new advocacy partnership.

The Scots Leid Board and the North-East Scots Language Board (NESLB) will launch their initiative at Aberdeen University on March 28, promising to be an “apolitical” voice for the promotion and protection of the medium.

It also aims to encourage its use in broadcasting and increase the provision of Scots-language education to the same level as Gaelic for youngsters aged three to 18.

Read more...

15 Years On, The Time For A BSL Act Is Now

19 March 2018 (Huffington Post)

Sunday 18th March marked the 15th anniversary since British Sign Language (BSL) was given official recognition as a language under the last Labour government. This date, which fell within British Sign Language Week, was an occasion to celebrate with great pride, as it gave deaf people the basic recognition they deserve.

I was truly honoured to become the first ever Member of Parliament to ask a question in the House of Commons using BSL, during the week of last year’s anniversary. I have a level two qualification in BSL having learnt it many years ago so that I could communicate with a work colleague, and as Ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club this is an issue which is very close to my heart.

It is estimated that there are about nine million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This includes an estimated 151,000 BSL users, 87,000 of whom are deaf. BSL is a beautiful, unique language and deaf and hard of hearing people deserve the right to communicate and live their lives using their preferred language.

Despite the importance of celebrating this anniversary, we must recognise there is still some way to go until BSL is equal under the law. I am firmly of the belief that the only way to give the deaf community the equality and recognition they deserve is to bring a BSL Act before Parliament.

Read more...

Plans submitted for multi-million pound Gaelic cultural centre on Uist

20 March 2018 (Press and Journal)

The £7 million Cnoc Soilleir Project is a joint venture between Lews Castle College UHI and Ceolas Gaelic, the arts and heritage organisation in Daliburgh, South Uist.

It will receive investment from the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Capital Plan and is expected to create 40 jobs.

The area is recognised as a key community for the revitalisation of the Gaelic language in Scotland and Cnoc Soilleir has a significant role in leading this development.

Read more...

SCEN Digital Map

18 March 2018 (SCEN)

After the work of the Mapping Chinese Working Group, driven by SCEN and the Confucius Institute for Scotland, SCEN has created a Digital Map of schools, colleges and universities in Scotland involved in the teaching and learning of Chinese and about China. The principal aim is to encourage more sharing and collaboration.

Read more...

‘Inequity for students’ as secondary subject options narrow

16 March 2018 (TESS)

Fewer subjects studied at some Scottish schools means some pupils are losing out, says study. New analysis of schools’ curricular offerings has found that, as pupils enter the crucial senior years of secondary, the range of courses they can take is shrinking.

Read more...

Six reasons why everyone should learn Español

12 March 2018 (The Independent)

We've read the arguments for learning French, but let's be honest: Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, or any other language with growing global importance would be a better choice.

Spanish may be the best choice of all for a second language, which is why its popularity in schools is soaring worldwide.

In honour of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some reasons why you should estudiar.

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Sweden's Finns fear minority language rights are under threat

13 March 2018 (The Guardian)

As rising immigration increasingly puts Scandinavia’s reputation for tolerance to the test, Sweden’s largest national minority fears its language rights are threatened and children will grow up with little or no knowledge of their mother tongue.

Finnish-speaking Swedes, known as Sweden Finns (sverigefinnar), make up more than 7% of the country’s 10 million-strong population and are entitled to Finnish lessons in school since Sweden reversed an earlier postwar approach of forced assimilation.

But complaints that minority language policies are not being respected are mounting. Reports for the Swedish government in the past 12 months point to failures with respect to Sweden Finns in particular, but paint “a dark picture” of the situation for national minority languages in Sweden as a whole.

Read more...

Ten years of “Me gusta” – Facebook celebrates a decade in Spanish

8 March 2018 (El País)

Facebook is celebrating its 10th year in Spanish, buoyed by having broken the barrier of two billion active monthly users. The language was the first choice for translation of the site, and after English continues to be the most popular on the social network, being used by 290 million people. Around 80 million people use Facebook in European Spanish, which is officially called Castilian by the site.

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Calls for Doric to have same status as English and Gaelic

6 March 2018 (Scotsman)

Doric is to be promoted and protected on a new scale in Scotland with a body now set up in Aberdeen to secure the same status for North-East Scots as English and Gaelic. The North-East Scots Language Board is being led by academics, key figures and institutions in the region to normalise the use of the language in civic life, media, business and education.

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Launch a British Sign Language GCSE, MPs urge

6 March 2018 (BBC News)

British Sign Language should be turned into a GCSE that is taught in schools, MPs were told. The appeal came as a petition calling for British Sign Language to be made part of the national curriculum attracted more than 32,500 signatures. It also follows the success of Oscar winning film The Silent Child, starring profoundly deaf Maisie Sly, aged six.

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Oscars 2018: Ex-Hollyoaks star uses sign language in acceptance speech

5 March 2018 (BBC)

A film starring a six-year-old deaf British girl and made by two former Hollyoaks stars has won an Oscar.

The Silent Child, which tells the story of a girl who struggles to communicate, was named best live action short film.

It stars Maisie Sly, aged six, from Swindon, and Rachel Shenton, who played Mitzeee Minniver in the Channel 4 soap.

Shenton also wrote it and used sign language in her acceptance speech. It was directed by Chris Overton - AKA Hollyoaks cage fighter Liam McAllister.

"I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I would sign this speech," Shenton said while accepting the statuette at Sunday's ceremony in Hollywood.

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Translators are the vanguard of literary change: we need better recognition

1 March 2018 (Guardian)

In 2017, working with the Society of Authors and with support from the British Council, I established the TA first translation prize, using my €25,000 (£22,000) winnings from another award, the International Dublin literary award. Its aim was to highlight the work of translators new to the profession, and of the editors who work with them.

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Have we reached peak English in the world?

27 February 2018 (Guardian)

One of Britain’s greatest strengths is set to diminish as China asserts itself on the world stage.

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Icelandic language battles threat of 'digital extinction'

26 February 2018 (Guardian)

Unlike most languages, when Icelandic needs a new word it rarely imports one. Instead, enthusiasts coin a new term rooted in the tongue’s ancient Norse past: a neologism that looks, sounds and behaves like Icelandic. [...]

But as old, pure and inventive as it may be, as much as it is key to Icelanders’ sense of national and cultural identity, Icelandic is spoken today by barely 340,000 people - and Siri and Alexa are not among them. In an age of Facebook, YouTube and Netflix, smartphones, voice recognition and digital personal assistants, the language of the Icelandic sagas – written on calfskin between AD1200 and 1300 – is sinking in an ocean of English.

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The Winter Olympics reminds us of the value of learning a second language

22 February 2018 (The Conversation)

Big-ticket sporting events are an opportunity for countries to showcase their cultures. TV broadcasts show stories about the cultural, historical and social aspects of the host country – which, for this year’s Winter Olympics, is South Korea. We hear other languages at global sporting events, too. Almost 80 million people speak Korean; it’s the world’s 13th-most-widely spoken language.

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United Nations International Mother Language Day 21st February

21 February 2018 (Speak to the future)

Today, across the world, we are celebrating our languages and cultures. International Mother Language Day is an annual observance which was introduced by UNESCO in 1999.

In a world that is constantly in flux, our languages and cultures matter more and more, giving us a sense of identity and confidence. The more we share our languages and cultures, the more we develop a sense of community and a wider and deeper understanding of one another. With each new language and culture that we encounter, we broaden our world view, become culturally curious and keener to learn new ways of thinking. We could say that by sharing our languages and cultures, we become more aware of what it is to be human.

Read more...

Related Links

Secondary schools consider dropping languages due to teacher shortages

20 February 2018 (Irish Times)

Applies to Ireland

Some secondary schools are considering dropping languages such as French, Spanish and German due to a “crisis” in the supply of teachers, according to school managers. The Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools will tell an Oireachtas committee that “the integrity of student tuition time is being seriously undermined” due to staff shortages across key subjects.

Read more...

Macron's French language crusade bolsters imperialism – Congo novelist

19 February 2018 (Guardian)

Alain Mabanckou, the acclaimed Congolese writer, has rejected Emmanuel Macron’s project to boost French speaking worldwide, calling instead for a complete overhaul of the club of French-speaking countries known as la Francophonie, which he said had become an instrument of French imperialism propping up African dictators.

Read more...

The article that changed my view…of how bilingualism can improve society

17 February 2018 (The Guardian)

Guardian supporter Emilio Battaglia explains how an opinion piece by Tobias Jones clarified his view of bilingualism’s power to build bridges:

As someone who has dedicated so much of his life to the study and exploration of languages, Tobias Jones’s article 'The joys and benefits of bilingualism' immediately caught my eye. The Guardian is not a paper I know well but it is quite popular in Toronto, and becoming increasingly so. And this piece, written with a huge amount of research and an openness of spirit, seems to sum up so much of what the publication stands for. It made me gain a better understanding of how bilingualism can effect positive change, but it also sparked my appreciation of the Guardian’s journalism more widely.

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Council’s plan aims to ensure language thrives in 21st century and beyond

16 February 2018 (The Falkirk Herald)

To some its a dead language of the past while others see it as a vital part of Scotland’s heritage. Whatever your feelings, no one can deny the Scottish Government is keeping it firmly front and centre in the national consciousness, making it a legal requirement for all local authorities in the country to create a plan outlining how they will support and increase Gaelic language culture in their area. 

At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive committee on Tuesday members gave their backing to the local authority’s draft Gaelic Language Plan. 

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “It’s very important our young people learn about our local history and our local heritage. Gaelic is not just a North of Scotland or Western Isles language – it was used in the Central Lowlands as well. There is an increase in interest in the Gaelic and it’s not just about language. It’s the whole culture as well and it’s something we should encourage where we can.”

Read more...

Edinburgh Zoo hosts Scotland's biggest celebration of Chinese New Year

15 February 2018 (Herald)

The Giant Lanterns of China at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo is set to host Scotland’s biggest celebration of Chinese New Year, which begins on Friday, February 16 to welcome the Year of the Dog featuring traditional performers and street food native to China.

Read more...

There must be easier fads to follow than teaching Mandarin

15 February 2018 (Guardian)

The Foreign Service Institute of the US state department says it takes a native English speaker roughly 2,200 hours to become proficient in Mandarin. To learn Spanish – or French, or any number of other nontonal languages that use the Roman alphabet – the FSI estimates it takes roughly 600 hours. I may be wrong about this, and am happy to be proved so, but my hunch is that my children will never be proficient in Mandarin, in spite of the New York public school system’s vague belief to the contrary.

Read more...

Our Story: Chinese New Year in Perth

13 February 2018 (BBC Radio Sotland)

BBC Radio Scotland recorded a radio programme called Our Story: Chinese New Year in Perth. This tells the story of the Chinese Community in Perth. As part of the programme the BBC visited Kinross High School to record pupils being taught Mandarin, preparing a Chinese dance performance and discussing their summer Bridge camp experience.

Read more...

Thinking in a second language hinders imagination, study finds

12 February 2018 (Independent)

As anyone who’s ever learned a foreign language will know, thinking in anything other than your mother tongue requires a lot of effort. But according to a new study, doing so actually drains the brain of some of its ability to conjure up mental imagery.

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£500,000 funding boost for Gaelic media firm behind BBC Alba

10 February 2018 (The Herald)

THE media company which provides services in Gaelic across Scotland has awarded £500,000 from the Gaelic Capital Fund. 

MG ALBA said it would use the investment to redevelop the Seaforth Road Studio in Stornoway to provide improved facilities for programming, which will be used to increase training in creative digital media, learning, arts and cultural heritage.

Funding will enable MG ALBA, which operates BBC Alba in partnership with the BBC, to develop a training programme for young people with an interest in working in the media.

Read more...

Students to learn more foreign languages under post-Brexit plan

7 February 2018 (Irish Times)

Applies to Ireland

More students will be encouraged to learn foreign languages and study abroad under a plan to build closer links with Europe following Brexit. The Government’s action plan for education acknowledges that Ireland needs to prepare for a changed dynamic in the EU following the UK’s departure and the rising importance of non-English speaking countries globally.

Teaching languages: Some tips and a call to action!

7 February 2018 (SecEd)

Language education is under pressure at a time when language learning could not be more important for the next generation.

Read more...

How young is too young to start learning another language?

2 February 2018 (Financial Times)

For the past few months, my three-year-old daughter has spent an hour every week learning a foreign language. She taps along the corridor to a small room in a local school, where she and a handful of three- and four-year-olds spend the next hour dancing to “La Vaca Lola”, a song about a Spanish cow, creating finger puppets to voice what they like and don’t like (me gusta, no me gusta) and shouting out which animals are big (grande) or small (pequeño).

Why ‘The Sunday Times’ guide to ‘How to be Spanish’ missed the mark

31 January 2018 (El País)

An article written by the paper’s chief travel writer has raised the ire of Spaniards online, but left English Edition editor Simon Hunter somewhat conflicted.

Read more...

Related Links

Study into how language delays onset of dementia

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Workshops offering older adults lessons in foreign languages to help delay the effects of dementia are being studied by researchers.

Social enterprise Lingo Flamingo was set up in Govan in Glasgow in 2015.

Dr Thomas Bak, from the University of Edinburgh, said the research he was involved in was seeking "measurable effects" from the language classes.

Dr Bak has previously studied the benefits of intensive Gaelic lessons at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college on Skye.

Read more...

Weather forecasts to include “regional slang”

31 January 2018 (The Herald)

We are the nation which has more words for rain than the Eskimos have for snow.

From a yillen to a lashin, from a murr to a haar, Scots know how to describe every possible way to get drookit. 

Now, at long last, the Met Office has decided to tell us just how wet we will be in wur ain leid.

Britain’s forecaster has formally announced that it will use what it rather controversially calls “regional slang” in its broadcasts.

It says even people using standard English across the UK have a huge variety of terms for the weather they are experiencing. Crucially, the experts at the Met Office think these words could be more accurate than scientific terms they prefer as they perform in front of their isobars.

Read more...

Children to learn sign language through Welsh

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Applies to Wales

A new project has been launched which aims to teach sign language to young children through the medium of Welsh. 

The scheme, run by Mudiad Meithrin and funded by Bangor University, is the first to teach British Sign Language (BSL) through Welsh rather than English.

It will introduce one word per week in Welsh and BSL which will be shown to as many as 12,500 children under four.

Read more...

Brainwaves: Dr Thomas Bak

28 January 2018 (BBC Radio Sotland)

Should we offer language classes on the NHS? Could bilingualism be more beneficial than medication when it comes to a strong, healthy brain and is monolingualism making us ill? In this Brainwaves, Pennie Latin meets the man behind those bold ideas, Dr Thomas Bak.

Available until 2 March 2018

Read more...

Only by speaking European languages will Britain rebuild the bridges burned by Brexit

26 January 2018 (Times)

We take it for granted that public figures from the rest of Europe can speak flawless English, as Emmanuel Macron did in his interview on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday. We expect the presidents and prime ministers of France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Sweden or Norway to be able to conduct their politics and diplomacy with us in English. And yet we are impressed when a British political leader reciprocates.

Subscription required to read this article.

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Kirk consults on Gaelic Plan

23 January 2018 (Stornoway Gazette)

A comprehensive survey on the use of Gaelic within the Church of Scotland is being launched. 

The Kirk’s Gaelic Group is laying the groundwork for a new plan that will look at how the language is currently being used in ministry. The audit will help determine how Gaelic-led ministry could be supported in future. 

It will include a questionnaire for ministers, including student ministers, probationers and ordained local ministers, that is designed to build a complete picture of Gaelic ministry within the church today. 

Read more...

British children aren’t learning foreign languages after the Brexit vote

22 January 2018 (Metro)

Britain is facing huge problems after the Brexit vote because not enough children are learning other languages, the British Council has warned. 

The council claims the lack of language skills is holding back international trade performance by nearly £50 billion each year and worries there could be a gulf once the UK leaves the EU. 

Schools advisor Vicky Gough said: ‘At a time when the UK is preparing to leave the European Union, I think it’s worrying that we’re facing a language deficit. And I think without tackling that, we stand to lose out both economically, but also culturally. So I think it’s really important that we have a push for the value of languages.’

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The joys and benefits of bilingualism

21 January 2018 (The Guardian)

More than half the world’s population is now bilingual. Now thought to encourage flexibility of mind and empathy, bilingualism is also transforming societies.

Read more...

Glasgow pensioners learn Spanish to prevent dementia

16 January 2018 (Glasgow Live)

Pensioners in Glasgow are being given language lessons in a bid to prevent the early onset of dementia.

Over 60s at Bield’s Coxton Gardens development in Glasgow, have been boosting their memory skills thanks to the weekly Spanish classes put on by one of the care assistants.

Mariana Popa, care assistant at Coxton Gardens, said: “I was looking into some activities that we could organise for our tenants here in Glasgow as part of my personal development framework, and was keen to break away from the stereotypical notion that all older people want to play games such as bingo and dominoes."

Read more...

Related Links

Bield residents say ‘¡Adios a Dementia!’ (Scottish Housing News, 16 January 2018)

Gaelic language something to embrace: Readers' Letters

16 January 2018 (The Courier)

I was motivated to write in to your letters page following a number of negative comments featured recently relating to the Gaelic language. While I can appreciate individuals’ concerns, I have to say that my own experience within the past year has been very different.

Since travelling around Scotland and taking an interest in local history and culture, I have become aware of the opportunities to learn more about Scots Gaelic. There are many myths that are perpetuated around the money spent on promoting and supporting Gaelic without thinking of the social, cultural and economic benefits to all.

Read more...

‘The future’s still Mandarin’ despite lack of interest

12 January 2018 (TESS)

Undeterred by a low uptake, campaigners vow to keep pushing the language in Scotland

Subscription required to access full article.

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Brexit risks 'major disaster' for biggest exchange programme in the world

12 January 2018 (TESS)

Brexit will cause a “major disaster” for schools and colleges if it removes access to the biggest student exchange programme in the world, politicians have heard. The potential loss of the long-running Erasmus+ scheme would not only deny thousands of young people potentially life-changing opportunities in other countries, but could also harm teachers’ professional development, according to experts.

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Dundee lecturer warns of ‘major disaster’ if Brexit kills off Erasmus programme

11 January 2018 (The Courier)

The loss of a European student exchange programme would be a “major disaster” for language teaching in Scottish schools, says a Dundee lecturer.

The Erasmus+ scheme allows young Scots to study for part of their degree elsewhere in the Europe, but its future is uncertain after Brexit.

Marion Spöring, a languages lecturer at Dundee University said the programme is vital in training Scotland’s teachers and improving education standards.

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Language skills for industry

8 January 2018 (Parliament Live)

Watch Baroness Coussins speech in Lords debate on need for MFL skills in the UK Government's Industrial Strategy.

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Iran bans English from being taught in primary schools

8 January 2018 (BBC News)

Iran has banned teaching the English language in primary schools, calling the subject a "cultural invasion". The education ministry "envisages strengthening Persian language skills and Iranian Islamic culture of pupils at the primary school stage", its secretary told state media.

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Secret Teacher: subjects like art are being sidelined – but they matter

6 January 2018 (Guardian)

In trying to improve outcomes in a limited range of subjects, we may struggle to realise the potential of those whose strengths lie elsewhere.

The 3 languages children should start learning now for a better future

2 January 2018 (The Independent)

Which language should you encourage your child to learn to benefit them a decade down the line?

Historically, the answer has often been Spanish, given the number of countries around the world that speak it and the close proximity of the country to the UK. But recent research disagrees, preferring French, German and Mandarin.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research and Opinion, in partnership with Heathrow Airport, surveyed 2,001 parents with children under the age of 18, alongside an additional survey of more than 500 business leaders across the UK.

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Learning a language is resolution for one in five Brits, survey says

29 December 2017 (BBC)

Learning a language will be a new year's resolution for about one in five Britons in 2018, a survey suggests.

About one in three said they intend to learn at least some key phrases. Spanish was the most popular language among 2,109 UK adults questioned by Populus for the British Council.

"If we are to remain globally competitive post-Brexit, we need more people who can speak languages," said British Council schools advisor, Vicky Gough.

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Related Links

Learning new language popular resolution for 2018, says survey (The Herald, 28 December 2017)

New Celtic signing Marvin Compper might speak SIX languages but insists his talking in Scotland will be done on the pitch

21 December 2017 (Daily Record)

Marvin Compper speaks six languages. Now the new Celtic defender hopes to speak the language of football in Glasgow.

Compper signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the Scottish Premiership champions.

The international reeled off his impressive linguistic skills which include speaking German, French, Italian and English fluently with a touch of Dutch and Russian thrown in for good measure. However he insisted that he much prefers to do all his talking on the pitch.

Compper said: “I speak four languages fluently and one if I was to spend a week in Holland I would also speak that fluently.

“I also speak a bit of Russian so it is five-and-a-half. I am half-French half-German, so I speak those languages and I did English at school and developed it from there watching television shows and then my team mates.

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Gaelic row over Scotland’s hygge campaign

14 December 2017 (Scotsman)

It was meant to sum up that feeling of being all cosy, warm and settled indoors as the cold and the dark lurk outside. But the Gaelic word picked by VisitScotland to promote its’s own version of Danish hygge - a way of life characterised by candlelight, warm glows and logs on the fire - appears to have ruined the moment for some.

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Related Links

VisitScotland campaign sparks war of words that’s far from cosy (The Herald, 16 December 2017)

#ToYouFromTes: Why schools need to speak the same language on EAL support

11 December 2017 (TES)

Despite one in five pupils now speaking English as an additional language, Sameena Choudry says schools are still not doing enough to support EAL pupils. She sets out seven steps to put that right.

Across the globe, being bilingual is the norm. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population can speak at least two languages. Yet in the UK, primarily as a result of the dominance of English in the world, a child that converses in more than one tongue is still viewed as being “different”, particularly within education.

This is despite the number of bilingual pupils in our schools increasing. Over 1 in 5 (1.25 million) of our pupils are recorded as having English as an additional language (EAL), according to 2016 government figures.

Have schools adapted to this? Not enough, in my view. For example, EAL pupils tend to be seen as a homogenous group, a remnant of that view of bilingualism as being a deviation from the norm, not the standard. But they are nothing of the sort.

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‘Languages After Brexit’, edited by Michael Kelly

11 December 2017 (Financial Times)

If managers in decent-sized UK companies need someone who speaks German, Finnish or Polish, all they need to do is send a group email or wander through the office and ask. More than four decades of EU membership have made British employers lazy about languages: freedom of movement has brought hundreds of thousands of European workers to the UK, and their languages have come with them. What will happen if fewer of them arrive, and more go home, as is already happening?

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Text in mither tongue — we help develop the first Scots-speaking smartphone keyboard

8 December 2017 (The National)

TEXTS in a fankle because your phone disnae ken whit yer oan aboot? Dinnae fash, the world’s first Scots-speaking predictive text keyboard is here — and The National helped developers build it. Techies at Microsoft subsidiary SwiftKey used material from this newspaper to teach their programme how to recognise, autocorrect and autopredict in Scotland’s ither national language. The system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt to the user’s writing style and is capable of running between both Scots and English at once.

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High school move paves way for city's first secondary dedicated to Gaelic

8 December 2017 (The Herald)

Plans to move a Gaelic school in Edinburgh will pave the way for the city's first high school dedicated to the language, if demand grows.

Edinburgh City Council is consulting on plans to move its existing Gaelic medium education (GME) provision from James Gillespie's High School in Marchmont to Drummond Community High School in Bellevue. The informal consultation is to begin in the new year after reports that projections for James Gillespie's suggest it will have issues accommodating pupil intake in the future.

The council said transfer of GME provision to Drummond Community High School means it could become a dedicated Gaelic secondary in several years' time.

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Duolingo Rolls Out New Language-Learning Podcast

8 December 2017 (Language Magazine)

The language-learning app, Duolingo has decided to add NPR style podcasts to their arsenal of tools to get people speaking. 

The company, which is typically known for gamifying language in their app, has launched Duolingo Spanish Podcast, aimed at English speakers who are seeking to learn Spanish. The first podcast is available here https://podcast.duolingo.com/ and is about reporter Rodrigo Soberanes meeting his childhood soccer hero. Soberanes is a seasoned journalist, and his and host Martina Castro’s banter is not only easy to understand for intermediate Spanish speakers, but is also interesting and engaging.

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Map: How the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers has changed since 1891

8 December 2017 (The Scotsman)

The prevalence of Scottish Gaelic speakers has waned dramatically in the last 100 years. The language was once widely spoken across much of the Highlands and western regions of Scotland but now only around 1 in 100 Scots can speak it.

This video from UK Languages Mapping charts the decline in the language from 1891-2011 using census date.

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James Eglinton: Why Gaelic speakers talk about God in English

7 December 2017 (The Scotsman)

At present, the Gaelic language is both blossoming and vulnerable. The number of young and new Gaelic speakers is increasing, although this upturn is overshadowed by the declining number of elderly speakers.

In its commitment to grow the number of fluent speakers, the Scottish Government continues to support Gaelic in education and the media. In 2017, Gaelic is doing fairly well as a language of education, media and entertainment: it is heard in news broadcasts, spoken in classrooms across the country, and enjoyed by children in the form of cartoons like Peppa and Charlie is Lola. 

Against this backdrop the Scottish Bible Society has unveiled a new translation of the New Testament in modern Scottish Gaelic.

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Glasgow home to largest number of Gaelic speakers outwith highlands and islands

7 December 2017 (GlasgowLive)

A public consultation has been launched on Glasgow City Council's draft Gaelic language plan for the next few years. Views are being sought for the 2018 - 2022 proposals, designed to ensure a sustainable future for the language in Scotland's biggest city and recognise its contribution to the history of the local area. Glasgow City Council currently operates three Gaelic nurseries, two primary schools and one secondary school. There are more than 1,000 young people aged from three to 18 years in Gaelic Medium Education in the city and, in response to demand, the council is currently in discussions about the creation of another school.

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Plan for more school pupils to study foreign languages

4 December 2017 (The Irish Times)

An ambitious Government strategy aims to dramatically increase the number of students taking two foreign languages in the State exams despite an acute shortage of qualified teachers for these subjects.

The 10-year foreign language strategy seeks to prepare Ireland for Brexit through a series of steps such as potential bonus Central Applications Office (CAO) points for studying foreign languages, boosting the availability of languages in schools and the introduction of Chinese to the curriculum.

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Related Links

Ireland seeks five-fold rise in students studying languages (THE, 12 December 2017)

Scottish pupils release Gaelic Christmas song to highlight its importance in North Lanarkshire

2 December 2017 (The National)

A new Christmas song is highlighting the importance of Gaelic in North Lanarkshire.

’S e Nollaig a th’ ann! (It’s Christmas!) was recorded by Làn Chomais, a rock band made up of pupils from Greenfaulds High School in Cumbernauld, with the backing of almost 1000 young voices from the area.

Gaelic teacher Kevin Rodgers mentored the young musicians and helped them make their first recording, and was supported by North Lanarkshire Council and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Rodgers said: “At Greenfaulds High School, we have been searching for a way to make the North Lanarkshire community more aware of the fact that Gaelic is alive and well in our area.”

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French the new lingua franca of the world – vraiment?

2 December 2017 (Guardian)

Are we turning into a French-speaking planet? That was the surprising possibility raised by president Emmanuel Macron on a recent visit to Burkina Faso. “French will be the first language of Africa,” he said, plausibly, before adding, “perhaps the world.” Ah, oui? C’est vrai?

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Oh là là! The appeal of international picturebooks

1 December 2017 (TES)

Picturebooks enable language learning using a familiar, non-intimidating format that is accessible across all reading levels.

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Canadian students celebrate St Andrew’s Day by translating Scots words

30 October 2017 (Scotsman)

To celebrate St Andrew’s Day, the British High Commission in Ottawa asked students to translate some Scots words. The hilarious video shows the students havering as they struggle with the lingo.

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Google’s translation headphones: you can order a meal but they won’t help you understand the culture

28 November 2017 (The Conversation)

Language learning will be vital for the future of the UK economy in a post Brexit world. This is in part why employers are desperately looking for graduates with language skills – and, more importantly, intercultural awareness and empathy.

According to a CBI Pearson Education Survey 58% of employers are dissatisfied with school leavers’ language skills. The survey also found that 55% of employers would like to see improvements in students’ intercultural awareness.

Similarly, the British Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Survey of International Trade states that a large majority of non-exporters cite language and cultural factors as barriers to success.

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Glasgow factory workers learn sign language to communicate with deaf colleagues

29 November 2017 (Evening Times)

A group of city factory workers have been learning sign language to allow them to communicate with their deaf colleagues.

Window factory staff at RSBi, the manufacturing arm of City Building, are being taught British Sign Language as part of a new national scheme to boost opportunities for deaf people.

The Scottish Government scheme, the first of its kind, aims to make Scotland the most inclusive place for BSL users to work, live and visit.

Royal Strathclyde Blind Industry got involved by enlisting the help of non-hearing BSL approved employee Mark McGowan to teach classes at its window factory in Queenslie.

The lessons have been running since October and the firm says they have increased day-to-day communication among workmates creating a more happy and confident team.

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Number of British students studying abroad plummets, report finds

29 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

The number of British students studying abroad has plummeted, a British Council report has found.

A reluctance to leave family and friends and a lack of foreign language skills have dampened the desire of UK students to venture overseas, according to a survey of more than 1,000 undergraduates.

Just 18 per cent were interested in some form of overseas study, down from 34 per cent in 2015.

The report by education organisation the British Council said living costs abroad and tuition fees were the biggest turn-off for more than half of those who said they did not want to study abroad. This was followed by difficulty leaving loved ones, being happy in their life in the UK and a lack of confidence in foreign languages.

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Video: Ten Gaelic phrases you can use every day

28 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

On November 30, the Scottish Parliament will be hosting a number of Gaelic pop-up facilities to help you brush up on your conversational Gaelic.

A pop-up stall in the main hall will be erected charged to give you a crash course in the native Scottish language in five minutes. Challenge accepted. Then there’s a free one-hour tour of the Parliament for Gaelic speakers and learners, followed by a beginner’s level Gaelic speaking class in the Parliament’s Chat Room.

[...]We’ve picked ten everyday, run-of-the-mill phrases to test your mettle as a warm-up to Thursday’s activities at the Parliament.

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Study abroad is invaluable – students deserve clarity on Erasmus

27 November 2017 (The Guardian)

As a hopeless optimist, I am finding it difficult to adjust to the growing possibility of a no-deal Brexit. For universities – as for many other sectors of the economy and society – there is a huge amount at stake. While the rhetoric on both sides in relation to higher education and research has been very positive, the frequently expressed mutual desire to maintain co-operation will be more difficult to achieve in the absence of an agreement on our future relationship with the EU.

Based on the public comments of ministers, including the prime minister, and of our European counterparts, a deal would almost certainly secure the UK’s continued participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus + until the end of the current programmes. It could also pave the way for the UK to participate in future programmes under association agreements. Without a deal, however, we could find ourselves reliving the experience of our Swiss colleagues, who were shut out of these programmes overnight in 2014.

For students planning to study abroad, this continued uncertainty is a growing problem. This autumn, students starting at UK universities for whom a third year abroad is a compulsory element of their programmes arrived on campus not knowing how that year abroad would be organised. Universities could not tell them with any certainty whether the UK will still be eligible to participate in the Erasmus + scheme – and the same was true for our European counterparts whose students might be planning to come to the UK.

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Languages graduates are now the least employable in Britain, new figures show

24 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

Languages graduates are now the least employable in Britain, new figures show. 

Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that recent graduates who have studied languages have an employment rate of 84 per cent, the lowest of any degree subject, and their average annual salary has fallen by more than £5,000 in four years. 

The figure has fallen from 87 per cent in 2013, the last time the data, was released, and puts the discipline below arts, humanities and social sciences in terms of employment rates. 

Entries to university for modern languages have declined sharply in recent years, as fewer students take the subjects at GCSE and A-Level. 

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Five languages Brexit Britons should learn

24 November 2017 (Financial Times)

On trips to the Netherlands, I always ponder how long it would take me, a competent Afrikaans speaker, to learn Dutch. Not long, I think, but it would probably be fruitless. English is widely and fluently spoken in the Netherlands; I imagine my initial halting Dutch would be met with amusement.

So I was surprised to see that a recent British Council report of the top 10 languages young Britons should learn put Dutch in seventh place. The top-10 table was based on a study of the UK’s export and tourism markets, emerging high-growth economies, diplomatic and security priorities and job and educational opportunities.

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'Sexist' inclusive writing row riles France

23 November 2017 (BBC News)

The French, as is well known, are obsessed by one thing - language. The latest topic to consume a nation of lexicologists is "inclusive writing". This is the attempt to erase all trace of sexism in a language where gender is a central feature - French nouns are either masculine or feminine, dictating all adjectives and some verbal forms (a point that is sometimes made painfully clear to foreigners who happen to get those wrong).

Why teaching in English may not be such a good idea

22 November 2017 (THE)

Research suggests that students learn better in their native tongue, and English fails to prepare international students for a job after graduation.

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English as a second language? Schools need to stop treating it as an obstacle to success

21 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

When columnist Andrew Pierce tweeted earlier this year that 1.3 million children “do not speak English as a first language, underlining strain immigration puts on schools”  he understandably caused something of a social media stir.

Alongside some tweets of support, others were quick to point out that not having English as a mother tongue need not correlate to a student’s ability to learn in their second, or third language. Even the author JK Rowling, a former teacher herself, joined the argument to point out that “second and third languages can be fluent”.   

With over 300 languages spoken in classrooms across the UK, and many schools in big towns and cities such as London and Birmingham, it is understandable that many will wonder how schools will be able to cater to all pupils and students equally.    

However, as an educator who has taught in international schools across Europe, I strongly believe that such language issues needn’t be a problem. In fact, if embraced they can stand to benefit all students, and by extension aid in supporting better understanding in areas with culturally diverse populations.    

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The degrees that make you rich... and the ones that don't

17 November 2017 (BBC news)

Why study languages? According to research undertaken by Institute for Fiscal Studies, when ranking subjects according to how much graduates earn five years after graduation, languages come out in the top ten — ahead of both business and law.

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Don’t trip over the obstacles left by Brexit

17 November 2017 (TESS)

Building partnerships with schools overseas may seem like a less attractive prospect after the UK exits the European Union, but the benefits to pupils make these continental forays worth fighting for.

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Brexit blamed as language assistant numbers dive

17 November 2017 (TESS)

The number of modern-language assistants (MLAs) in Scotland has almost halved in a year, amid fears that Brexit has deterred European students from working in the UK.

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UK risks mass exodus of EU academics post-Brexit, finds report

Guardian (14 November 2017)

The potential risk to UK universities from post-Brexit academic flight has been laid bare in a report that reveals there are regions where up to half of academic staff in some departments are EU nationals.

The British Academy report warns that economics and modern language departments will be particularly badly hit if European academics leave the UK, with more than a third of staff in each discipline currently from EU member states.

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Related Links

Brexit risks to social sciences and humanities highlighted (THE, 14 November 2017)

University explores benefits of speaking Gaelic in business

14 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

A university is to discuss whether speaking one of Scotland’s mother tongues could offer an advantage to businesses. 

International business expert Seonaidh MacDonald will talk about his experiences of using Gaelic in a global business context at a lunchtime seminar offered by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

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Actors taking sign language to the stage

13 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

A group of actors from the UK’s only degree course for deaf performers are taking their show on the road for the first time this week, with the hope that it will challenge public perceptions. 

The production, which blends British Sign Language (BSL) with spoken English, will be performed by students from the Glasgow-based Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The group of ten actors are all studying Performance in British Sign Language and English, a three-year degree course which is the only one of its kind in the UK.

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The Scottish Gaelic Awards are a night to celebrate the surge in Gaelic speakers

13 November 2017 (Daily Record)

The Scottish Gaelic Awards bring together the very best in learning, achievement and development and celebrate the great work being done by Gaels in every corner of Scotland.

From inner cities to the Western Isles, traditional language and culture is being developed and promoted by amazing people from every walk of life.

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Study abroad: ‘I like being part of an international community’

10 November 2017 (The Guardian)

Kate Pemberton, 24, spent a semester of her undergraduate anthropology and international relations degree at the University of Copenhagen. She loved it – so when it came to choosing a master’s, the city was her first choice.

[...] Pemberton feels the experience of studying abroad has given her valuable skills. “I’ve been learning Danish, which isn’t the most useful language, but I think any language is a bonus on your CV,” she says. “Plus, employers want what moving abroad and living in a different country gives you – you become more adaptable and can survive in stressful situations. It makes you more resilient and you open yourself up to more opportunities.”

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First book in Harry Potter series translated into Scots

10 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

The first book in the Harry Potter series has been translated into Scots. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane marks the 20th anniversary of the first publication of the boy wizard’s adventures. 

The first book in the series introduces Harry as he discovers that he is a wizard and leaves his family to go to Hogwarts and study magic. 

Matthew Fitt, who translated the novel, said: “I wanted tae dae this for a lang time but kent I wanted tae get it richt. I’m that honoured tae be the Scots translator o this warld-famous Harry Potter buik and chuffed tae ma bitts that Scots speakers, baith young and no sae young, can noo read the novel again, this time in oor gallus braw Mither Tongue.”

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A love of languages stops them becoming lost in translation

10 November 2017 (TES)

The recent Scottish Association for Language Teaching conference proved the sector has the staff to enable it to flourish

The language I work and live in, day to day, is not my first language. It is a language I learned in school. I first started learning English aged 10 – in the first year attending my local secondary school in rural Germany – and I fell in love with it immediately.

It is therefore no surprise that the learning of modern languages in school – or any foreign language, for that matter – is something close to my heart. Learning English – and later Latin and French – opened up a new world to me and gave me opportunities I never would have had otherwise. It also shaped how I see and engage with the world.

So it was my pleasure to attend and speak at the annual conference of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching (SALT) last weekend in Glasgow, which this year was titled “Still here”.

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Language graduates targeted by Glasgow marketing firm

9 November 2017 (The Herald)

Glasgow-based Pursuit Marketing has announced its creation of 75 jobs, citing a “surge” in demand for its services from the technology sector, writes Ian McConnell.

The telemarketing and digital marketing services business, which was founded six years ago, said about 30 of the new positions were English-speaking roles.

Pursuit Marketing, which currently employs more than 80 people, added that it was also seeking “bilingual and native speakers fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and key Nordic languages”.

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National award for modern language GCSE scheme

8 November 2017 (BBC)

A mentoring project which has doubled the uptake of modern languages at GCSE in some areas has won a UK-wide award.

The modern foreign language (MFL) scheme trains students from Welsh universities to talk to pupils about the benefits of studying languages.

Cardiff University, which led the work, was awarded the Threlford Cup by the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

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The dos and don'ts of writing a personal statement for languages

8 November 2017 (The Guardian)

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein may have made a good case for studying languages when he said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” But be warned: if you quote him in your personal statement, you may test the admission tutor’s patience.

Students often start by quoting someone famous, says Mike Nicholson, director of admissions at the University of Bath, who thinks it’s a “waste of space” and “just demonstrates that you can copy and paste”. Hilary Potter, a teaching fellow at the University of Leeds, adds that quotes “don’t tell us anything about the student”.

Whether you’re interested in French, Spanish, Arabic or Japanese, your first step will be to impress admissions tutors and convince them you deserve a place on their course. A strong, cliche-free personal statement is a must, but what else should you include? And what mistakes should you avoid?

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How the Guardian helped me to teach a foreign language

8 November 2017 (The Guardian)

Trevor Stevens notes that your editorial (4 November) lamenting Britain’s lack of competence in foreign languages “was devoid of solutions to this problem” (Letters, 7 November).

In the 1990s, however, one section of the Guardian contained a weekly feature article in a European language which, as a linguist and secondary school teacher, I regularly used as a stimulus for spoken and comprehension work with examination classes.

Another simple technique to promote engagement with foreign languages is for news media to be encouraged to broadcast more subtitled interviews, so that listeners can hear the original Catalan, Chinese, German etc. Vorsprung durch Brexit vielleicht?

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French schoolteachers push for 'gender neutral' grammar in row with language purists

8 November 2017 (The Telegraph)

French grammar is sexist, according to hundreds of French teachers who insist they will no longer mark alternatives to male-dominated rules as wrong.

The call from 314 French teachers placed them on collision course with the Académie Française, the hallowed guardians of the French language, which has warned that moves to make French more gender-neutral is placing it in "mortal peril".

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The Guardian view on languages and the British: Brexit and an Anglosphere prison

3 November 2017 (The Guardian)

The language (or languages) spoken in a society help to define its identity. That is as true of Britain as of every other nation. Most countries, like Britain, have one or sometimes more official languages. To become British, for instance, a person must prove knowledge of English. Equivalent provisions exist in almost all other countries.

Language rules can be positive or negative in effect. In linguistically polarised Belgium, the rival tongues are a permanent source of tension. In others, they are a source of vibrancy; Catalonia’s renewed sense of itself, for example, is grounded in the distinctness of its language and by a history of discrimination against it. Elsewhere, the issues are more tangled. Sinn Féin’s current demands for Irish language parity in Northern Ireland are holding up the restoration of devolved government there. They do not reflect widespread Irish speaking (only 6% of Northern Irish people speak Irish) so much as a determination not to be defined, through the language spoken by unionists, as British.

Modern Britain has a decent tradition of nurturing minority languages. But Britons have long been getting more parochial about speaking foreign ones. Three-quarters of UK residents can’t hold a conversation in any language other than English. This linguistic monoculture would be even more hegemonic if it were not for bilingual migrants. It reflects many things, but the decline in language teaching is one of the most important. GCSE entries in most foreign languages tend to fall each year. A long decline in the numbers with language qualifications has translated into a loss of those able to teach them.

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Dundee Dialect is ‘as good as second language’, say researchers

3 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

To those from outside Dundee, the bakery order “twa pehs, a plehn bridie an’ an inyin in an’ a” (Two pies, a plain bridie and an onion one as well) might be mistaken for a foreign language. Now, international research shows that the human brain treats the distinctive Dundonian brogue - and regional dialects in Britain and abroad - in exactly the same way as a second language.

The study at Abertay University in Dundee, and by researchers in Germany, suggests that while people from the city who converse in dialect may not be regarded generally as bilingual, cognitively there is little difference.

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Edinburgh school pupils experience ‘Day of the Dead’

3 November 2017 (Edinburgh Reporter)

Liberton High School students visited Mexican restaurant El Toro Loco to learn about Mexican culture.

Mexican restaurant El Toro Loco, located in Edinburgh’s Greater Grassmarket, hosted an exclusive, tailor-made Day of the Dead event for Modern Language pupils of Liberton High School on Thursday 2nd November.

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Bilingual toddlers have incredible advantage over other children, finds study

2 November 2017 (The Independent)

Bilingual children have an advantage over others who speak only one language, a study has shown. 

Children aged four and younger who speak two languages or are learning a second have more rapid improvements in inhibitory control, a study by the University of Oregon has said. 

Inhibitory control is the ability to stop a hasty reflexive response in behaviour or decision-making and use higher control to react in a more adaptive way. 

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Dual language police van hits the road in Dumfries and Galloway

1 November 2017 (BBC)

The first new police vehicle carrying the logo in both English and Gaelic has hit the road in Dumfries and Galloway. Police Scotland introduced the new branding earlier this year.

The change is being made as part of the force's commitment to its five-year Gaelic Language Plan.
It said it was keen to ensure that Gaelic-speaking communities across the country were "well served and ably represented" by the national police service.

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Will learning a language abroad for a year make you fluent?

27 October 2017 (The Guardian)

There’s no right way to learn a new language; some people prefer poring over books, while others go for apps or traditional lessons with a tutor. Immersing yourself is a surefire way to accelerate the process, though, and a year abroad is an opportunity to do just that. Which is not to say that it’ll be easy. The road to fluency is long and likely to be littered with confusing – and often embarrassing – moments. Here’s a quick guide to help you get there.

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Sign language users in Scotland 'to gain new rights'

24 October 2017 (BBC)

The Scottish government is expected to announce plans to integrate the use of British Sign Language (BSL) into every element of daily and public life.

It will reveal its national plan for people with hearing loss later.

Measures expected to be in the plan include moves to remove barriers which prevent deaf people becoming teachers.

It is also likely to address "fair and equal access" to employment opportunities, including apprenticeships and internships.

Minister Mark McDonald is to visit the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, which offers the UK's only degree course for deaf performers.

He will then outline the details of the national plan to the Scottish Parliament.

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‘Sing songs to learn Gaelic’, say education experts

23 October 2017 (Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig)

A second language can be learned more easily when it is taught through music, was the message given out at the Royal National Mod in Lochaber earlier this month.

Jackie Mullen, a consultant trainer for the Go! Gaelic programme being run by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann, has seen first hand how effective music is as a learning tool. The Go! Gaelic programme includes a comprehensive programme of online resources that are used in primary schools across the country to teach some Gaelic to children who are in English Medium Education.

Visit the website or see the attached press release for more information.

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'I fell in love with these words, and despite my efforts to move on and let go of the past, Gaelic would not let me do it'

22 October 2017 (The Herald)

“Dad, I’m going to tell it to you straight,” I said at the dinner table, aged 17 and ready to jump into the big wide world. My parents put down their cutlery in preparation for whatever was to come. “I’m not going to do Celtic Studies,” I blurted out, and I remember their faces still, choking on their sprouts in their efforts to hide their amusement.

Celtic Studies was my father’s all-consuming passion, and 16 years after his early retirement from Edinburgh University, it still is. We have no family connections to the Highlands and Islands – growing up in a house in Glasgow full of French, English and Italian (and a smattering of Arabic), my father took an interest in the Gaelic he heard about him in the trams and streets and classrooms of the city.

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Alcohol can help foreign language skills, study finds

19 October 2017 (The Independent)

Isn’t it amazing how despite not having studied German since you got a B in your GCSE many moons ago, when you’ve had a few drinks and you bump into a few Germans on a night out, you're suddenly fluent?

Erstaunlich, oder?

Well according to a new study, this isn’t just all in your head - bilingual people actually are better at speaking foreign languages after a drink or two.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King’s College London studied 50 native German speakers who were studying at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands and had recently learned to read, write and speak the local language, Dutch.

Participants were then given either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink and asked to have a conversation in Dutch for a few minutes.

How much alcohol they were given depended on body weight, but it was equivalent to just under a pint (460ml) of five per cent beer, for a 70kg male.

Their conversations were recorded and their foreign language skills rated by native Dutch speakers, who didn’t know which participants had consumed alcohol.

The researchers found that those who were slightly intoxicated had better pronunciation than their sober colleagues.

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Could instant translation technology revolutionise world HE?

17 October 2017 (THE)

Language is often cited as one of the main obstacles to universities’ internationalisation efforts, blamed for everything from the low number of UK students studying abroad to Japan’s lagging behind on numbers of foreign academics and internationally co-authored publications.

So could new technology allow students and academics to transcend language barriers – and therefore transform international higher education?

Earlier this month Google launched Pixel Buds – a new set of wireless earbud headphones that deliver real-time translation between 40 different languages using Google Translate on a Pixel smartphone.

Bragi’s Dash Pro earbuds deliver the same feature using the iTranslate app on an iPhone.

Colin Mitchell, learning technologist at Leeds Beckett University, said that the technology has the potential to benefit scholars and students.

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Oor Wullie gets a new life as Uilleam Againne

17 October 2017 (Press and Journal)

Stories about one of the most popular Scottish characters of all time have now been translated into Gaelic.

The Oor Wullie – or Uilleam Againne – book is being launched today at the Royal National Mod in Fort William.

The book, described as a “huge piece of work” was a labour of love for Dr Domnhnall Uilleam Stiubhart of the University of the Highlands and Islands who is based at the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, on Skye and colleague, Mairi Kidd.

The young rascal, who has immortalised catchphrases such as Jings, Crivvens and Help ma Boab, and is always getting into mischief, set his translators quite a challenge – especially with the speech bubbles that come out of his mouth.

Dr Stiubhart said: “Every speech bubble had to be changed and made as simple as possible so that a child could read them. We felt that all the young Gaelic speakers were missing out by not having stories such as these in their language.

“My two sons, Alasdair who is 10 and Seumas, seven, just love Oor Wullie, so we thought it would be great to do a book on him that youngsters can start reading by themselves. Lots of adults love the Oor Wullie adventures too, so it can really be for everyone.”

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Call for Gaelic language czar for Scotland

16 October 2017 (The Herald)

A Gaelic tsar would ensure Scotland’s mother tongue flourishes in the classroom in the wake of a controversial failed bid to create a new Gaelic primary school, an academic has claimed.

Professor Rob Dunbar, chair of Celtic languages at Edinburgh University, said the current mechanism to force councils and other bodies to promote the language was too weak.

It comes after a bid by parents for Gaelic primary school education was rejected by East Renfrewshire Council despite new laws designed to encourage the spread of the language.

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Gaelic study sees decline in its heartland of the Outer Hebrides

12 October 2017 (The Herald)

The long-term future of the Gaelic language in the Outer Hebrides is under threat, according to a leading academic.

The warning came after new figures showed a decline in pupils studying Gaelic in parts of the Western Isles.

Once regarded as the traditional stronghold of the language, numbers sitting Gaelic exams in the third and fourth year of secondary school have fallen from 78 to just 24 in the past decade.

The decline mirrors a drop across Scotland with a nine per cent fall in entries for all Gaelic exams in 2017 including National 5 and Higher.

Professor Rob Dunbar, chair of Celtic languages at Edinburgh University, said he was concerned for the future of the language.

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Related Links

Sharp drop in island learners raises fears for future of Gaelic (The Times, 12 October 2017)

Global Britain needs more linguists if we are to succeed after Brexit

12 October 2017 (The Telegraph)

Ours is a trading nation, connected to countries in every continent by shared history, shared values and, on occasion, shared language.

We are a country that thrives in making its way in the world. Once we leave the European Union we will, once again, be free to forge mutually beneficial relationships with peoples all over the globe.

Drawing on the genius of the great economists of our Union’s history, this Kingdom will once again be at the forefront of global free trade. Once again, it will fall to Britain and her close allies to make the Smith, Mill and Ricardo’s moral and economic case for markets, free trade and comparative advantage.

Key to our success in this endeavour is the preparedness of the next generation to compete and sell their wares in a global economy. In an ever more technical world, it is important that pupils leave school with the knowledge that will best prepare them for the demands of life in 21st century Britain.

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Pupils losing out as schools prepare for GCSE early, says Ofsted

11 October 2017 (TES)

It is unnecessary to shorten key stage 3 to make more time for GCSEs, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Ofsted, has said.

An investigation by the schools watchdog has found that schools are often shortening KS3, which means “some pupils never study history, geography or a language after the age of 12 or 13”.

The intensity of exam preparation is getting in the way of pupils receiving the subject knowledge they need, the watchdog has said.

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Strathclyde University says ‘arrivederci’ to joint honours degrees in Italian

9 October 2017 (The Herald)

A university has downgraded the teaching of Italian sparking wider fears for the study of the country’s language and culture in Scotland.

Strathclyde University, in Glasgow, will no longer offer students the opportunity to study joint honours degrees in Italian.

Instead, the language will be taught at a more basic level in only the first and second years of a four year degree course.

The move brings to an end a long tradition at Strathclyde where students could combine subjects as diverse as architecture, engineering, law and politics with Italian to degree level.

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The week ahead: The Mod

9 October 2017 (The Herald)

Behold Alba, the peculiar country. One of Scotland’s peculiarities is the way that people get their drathais in a twist about language.

And when we say language we mean Gaelic. Only last week, announcements that Gaelic would appear on road signs in Edinburgh and efforts made to revive the language in Tayside gave rise to frothing of the mouth and gnashing of the teeth therein from the usual suspects.

Odd thing: a desire to kill a language. Fair enough, it has declined on its own, as it were, submerged in a larger culture that for a while outlawed it. But it isn’t dead yet, and the urge to kick it when it is down is a strange aspect of the Scottish character, one with which we are familiar in its wider context of national self-loathing.

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Gender neutral version of French sparks backlash

7 October 2017 (The Independent)

A new gender-neutral version of the French language has caused anger among purists.

A member of the prestigious Académie Française has hit back at the adaption, which looks to reduce the masculine domination of grammatical gender. 

The French Academy is France’s 400-year-old voice of authority on language and its sole British member, Sir Michael Edwards, has deemed the gender neutral words “gibberish”.

As reported by The Times, the French government department responsible for equal rights said the masculine ending was a form of sexual tyranny.

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GCSE modern languages scheme 'doubles uptake' in some areas

7 October 2017 (BBC)

A scheme to encourage more pupils in Wales to take modern languages at GCSE has reported "significant" success.

More than a third of Welsh schools now have less than 10% of Year 10 pupils studying a foreign language.

But the Welsh Government-funded modern foreign languages (MFL) mentoring project said it had seen uptake double in some schools.

The scheme trains students from Welsh universities to talk to pupils about the benefits of studying languages.

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Inside the UK’s first bilingual English and Chinese primary school

7 October 2017 (Financial Times)

As a girl growing up in an English-speaking household in Singapore, Prema Gurunathan grudgingly studied Mandarin. Now a mother in west London, she is taking no chances with her own son.

When he turned one Ms Gurunathan insisted their household in Hammersmith speak Mandarin for half of each week. She recruited an au pair from east Asia (she prefers not to say exactly where, for fear of tipping off the competition). And last month, she and her husband enrolled the three-and-a-half year-old at Kensington Wade in London, Britain’s first primary school to offer full Mandarin immersion for its pupils.

“It’s intellectual, it’s cultural and it’s ‘future-proofing’, if you will,” said Ms Gurunathan, a self-confessed “tiger mom” and policy wonk, explaining her school choice. “And it’s fun.”

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Gaelic school rejected after council shuns parents' bid

7 October 2017 (The Herald)

A bid by parents for Gaelic primary school education has been rejected despite new laws which were supposed to encourage the spread of the language.

A group of 49 families from East Renfrewshire contacted the council asking them to explore the possibility of a Gaelic primary unit or school in the area.

However, East Renfrewshire Council sent letters to all those involved warning families children would no longer be able to attend their local catchment area school if a Gaelic facility was set up.

“Instead, your child would attend another establishment in a location yet to be decided,” the letter said.

The council also highlighted the importance of parents learning Gaelic stating: “It is considered that it is crucial prospective parents ... who are not already Gaelic speakers are committed to learning Gaelic.”

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Google's new headphones translate foreign languages in real time

5 October 2017 (The Independent)

Google has built a pair of headphones that can translate foreign languages in real time.

The Pixel Buds are like a real-world equivalent of the Babel fish, the famous fictional creature from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

They both translate and enable you to speak in foreign languages, and worked incredibly impressively in a demo at Google’s launch event this week, enabling an English speaker to hold a smooth conversation with a Swedish speaker.

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'Post-Brexit, we need language more than ever. Why is the government ignoring the decline of MFL in our schools?'

4 October 2017 (TES)

'Instead of focusing on narrowing the curriculum with the Ebacc, the government needs to focus increasing MFL knowledge in schools – it will be crucial in a post-Brexit Britain'.

A press release landed in my inbox earlier this week warning of a looming languages deficit in the UK, post-Brexit.

According to its figures, 61 per cent of Brits speak no other language than English – a proportion, it's speculated that will rise as EU nationals and British linguists leave the country for jobs abroad, taking their skills with them. At the same time, English will decline as a global language – it's already been replaced by Chinese, Hindi and Spanish, which all have more native speakers.

Languages float my boat. I was a first-generation child born in the UK, of immigrant parents, who started school with no English. This was in the days before teaching assistants, EAL and other interventions. I don’t actually recall how, or when, I learned English but it didn’t take long. "Just get on with it" was the approach. I think they called it immersion.

The press release turned out to be promoting a language-learning app but setting that to one side, it raised some important questions.

Are we bad at languages in this country because of the quality of teaching and teacher shortages? Or is it because we’re ambivalent about others and their culture?

As we hurtle towards March 2019, it is one of many issues ministers need to address. As we face the reality of leaving the EU, languages are just one aspect of the deficits in our education system. And, so far, there has been little evidence of any joined-up thinking between government rhetoric and domestic practicalities.

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Edinburgh Council publish Gaelic language plan ahead of consultation

2 October 2017 (The Scotsman)

Edinburgh Council have released their Gaelic language plan to support and promote the language and culture ahead of consultation. The plan aims to promote a city that develops and supports more fluent and  confident Gaelic speakers as well as promoting thriving Gaelic communities and cultures.

The ‘Draft Gaelic Language Plan’ was published by the City of Edinburgh Council today and is open for consultation until December 15. It is part of the Council’s commitment to work in partnership with Gaelic communities, organisations who deliver Gaelic services, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Scottish Government to support the language and culture.

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Related Links

Gaelic learning to be expanded in Edinburgh (The Herald, 2 October 2017)

Early Bilingualism Helps With Learning Languages Later in Life, Study Shows

2 October 2017 (Education Week)

Bilingual people may be better equipped to learn new languages than those who only speak one language, according to a study published in the academic journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

The research points to a distinct language-learning benefit for people who grow up bilingual or learn another language at an early age.

A team of researchers paired 13 bilingual college students who grew up in the United States with Mandarin-speaking parents, and learned both English and Mandarin at an early age, against a group of 16 monolingual college students, who spoke only English.

The researchers studied Mandarin-English bilinguals because both of these languages differ structurally from the new language being learned.

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Short-term study abroad ‘better for building teamwork skills’

2 October 2017 (THE)

Students who go abroad as part of their degree for a short period of time develop better teamwork skills than those who go overseas for a year, while other areas of development are unaffected by the duration of international study, according to a survey of alumni [...] A longer period of studying abroad had a “significantly positive effect” on the development of 11 of the 15 skills surveyed, including language skills, self-awareness, intercultural skills and confidence.

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Only bampots will girn about BBC’s poetic delight

1 October 2017 (The Guardian)

It won’t be long now before BBC Scotland is assailed by the sentinels of right thinking over the content of Thursday’s morning radio news show. What on earth was the national broadcaster thinking of? To mark National Poetry Day the station asked its new poet-in-residence, Stuart A Paterson, to read a poem he had written for the occasion.

It is called Here’s the Weather, an appropriate topic at this time of the year, as the seasons prepare to turn one last time and Scotland looks at its best in copper and gold.

Paterson’s poem is written mainly in the Scots tongue and so we were treated to a joyous cascade of words and images half-remembered from a childhood untroubled by the conventions of the classroom. “Forfochen” and “scunnert” were in there, as well as “girn” and “haiver”. And I was delighted to see one of my favourites, “molocate”, which, roughly translated, can mean to interact with someone or something with a degree of physical belligerence. I was also hoping to see the word “chib” in there, one of my other favourites; perhaps the next time.

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Related Links

Here's the Weather by Stuart A Paterson (BBC Scotland, 28 September 2017)

One Hundred Years of Russian: but what next?

1 October 2017 (Cable Magazine)

As the study of Russian in Scotland passes a notable milestone, Jenny Carr of the Scottish-Russia Forum casts an eye across the educational landscape and asks whether we should be doing more to enhance our knowledge of the Russian language and culture. The University of Glasgow celebrates the centenary of Russian studies at the university this year. Celebrations began in September with a conference and other events at the university, and will continue throughout the semester.

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Virtual Gaelic school commended for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development

29 September 2017 (Holyrood Magazine)

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s virtual Gaelic school has been praised in an independent evaluation for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development.

A report of the e-Sgoil’s virtual school’s first year commended the council’s leadership team for its desire to help other local authorities and said the “energy and commitment” of those involved in the project had been “most impressive”.

The independent report by former Highland Council director of education Bruce Robertson and Martin Finnigan of consultants Caledonian Economics was presented to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services earlier this week.

It also praised the use of e-Sgoil for professional development in education and suggested the e-Sgoil approach could be rolled out across Scotland.

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Appeal launched to collect poetry in endangered languages

28 September 2017 (Guardian)

Marking the UK’s National Poetry Day, an international call for readers to submit poems that could be lost to future generations has gone out.

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The languages that let you say more with less

28 September 2017 (Washington Post)

Twitter's decision this week to test 280-character tweets is a nod to a fundamental linguistic truth: Some written languages are more concise than others. The social media company's engineers noticed that people writing tweets in English were far more likely to hit the 140-character limit than people writing in, say, Japanese. “This is because in languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French,” the company wrote in announcing the change.

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Science plus arts — the best of both worlds

26 September 2017 (Times)

The STEM revolution sweeping schools has boosted the popularity of science subjects at university. However, what if scientifically gifted teens are not ready to give up history, English and the arts? Universities are increasingly offering broader-based degrees based on US-style liberal arts courses. These hybrid STEAM (STEM plus arts) degrees enable students to combine a wide range of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences courses, according to what they are interested in. They also provide the opportunity to learn a language and study abroad for a year.

Subscription required to access full article

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An t-Alltan conference

22 September 2017 (Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig)

Teachers involved in Gaelic Medium Education from all over the country will be gathering in Aviemore next week for the annual An t-Alltan conference.

Organised by Gaelic educational resources organisation Stòrlann Naiseanta na Gaidhlig, based in Stornoway, this will be the ninth year of An t-Alltan and the number of attendees has been growing every year.

It is taking place in the Macdonald Aviemore Conference Centre, on September 27 and 28.

Around 200 teachers from the early years sector through to high school are expected to attend and the keynote speech will be delivered by Joan Mackay, assistant director at Education Scotland, on the theme of ‘developing the young workforce’ and ‘what kind of leaders we need to be’.

There will be nearly 30 workshops held across the two days and 18 exhibitors.

See the full press release attached for more information.
photos from An t-Alltan conference

Glasgow named one of the top cities in the world to learn about Chinese language and culture

20 September 2017 (Glasgow Live)

Glasgow is officially home to a world leader in the teaching of Chinese language and culture.

The Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools (CISS) has been appointed a Model Confucius Institute by the global headquarters, Hanban.

The centre, based at the University of Strathclyde, is one of only 40 facilities out of 500 across the globe to be given the status.

Bosses have also announced the institute, which is open to people from all over the country, is set for a move to a new HQ at the university's Ramshorn Theatre.

The Grade A-Listed building is being given a £2 million refurbishment - which includes a substantial investment by Hanban - to develop it as a publicly-accessible hub for learning and cultural exchange.

The new premises will have the capacity to host performances, conferences and exhibitions.

A plaque marking the new status of the institute was unveiled at a conference attended by Scottish Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Liu Xiaoming, China’s Ambassador to the UK, was also a keynote speaker at the event, held to mark the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “As a leading international university, we are extremely proud of our academic links around the globe and our diverse student and staff community.

“This prestigious accolade for our Confucius Institute reflects the important role it plays in improving understanding of Chinese language and culture across Scotland, and we congratulate everyone involved on their fantastic achievement.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Institute’s move to its new headquarters on campus will enable even more schools, businesses and community groups to benefit from increased educational and economic opportunities, with a further 10 Confucius Classroom Hubs being announced today.”

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Related Links

China bolsters Confucius Institute culture scheme in Scotland (The Times, 20 September 2017)

Confucius Hub opens at Braehead Primary (Stirling Council, 21 September 2017)

Council to spend £160,000 teaching staff to speak Gaelic

20 September 2017 (The Herald)

A council plans to spend £160,000 teaching its staff to speak Gaelic.

Perth and Kinross aims to reverse the decline which has left just 1,287 locals speaking the language.

The local authority has revealed proposals for a £160,000 Gaelic Language Plan to be rolled out over the next five years.

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Police Scotland rolls out dual English-Gaelic Logo

19 September 2017 (Fife Today)

Police Scotland has today (Tuesday, September 19) introduced its dual language logo featuring both English and Gaelic.

The branding, which carries both Police Scotland and Poileas Alba, will be introduced on the service’s website and intranet.

It will also be carried on signage, stationery and vehicles, and will be introduced on these items as they are replaced on reaching the end of their serviceable life.

The changes are being made as part of the force’s commitment to implementing its Gaelic Language Plan, which sets out the service’s pledge to creating a sustainable future for the language in Scotland by integrating it within Police Scotland’s services and corporate identity.

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Bilingual people process maths differently depending on the language

18 September 2017 (The Independent)

People who speak more than one language fluently will process maths differently when they switch between languages, a new study has found.

Intuition enables the brain to recognise numbers up to four. However, when calculating mathematical problems, we depend on language.

This fact led researchers at the University of Luxembourg to explore just how the arithmetic skills are affected when bilingual people use different languages.

The study’s authors recruited students for whom Luxembourgish was their mother tongue and had carried on studying in Belgium and were therefore fluent in both German and French.

In two distinct tasks, participants were asked to solve a mixture of simple and complex maths problems in both languages.

While they were able to solve the simple tasks with equal proficiency, they took longer to calculate the complex task in French and made more errors than they did when doing the identical task in German.

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Related Links

The bilingual brain calculates differently depending on the language used (Science Daily, 14 September 2017)

Former Carnoustie High pupils in dream China scholarship trip

16 September 2017 (The Courier)

For most young university freshers, leaving the nest for the first time is a daunting experience. But two former Carnoustie High pupils have taken a bigger leap than most by flying half way around the world as part of a prestigious scholarship programme.

[...] The pair are two of only 22 young people from across Scotland to be awarded a full scholarship to study Mandarin at Tianjin Foreign Studies University for the 2017/18 academic session.

They both studied the language at the school’s Confucius Classroom Hub - one of only 34 in Scotland - and were active members of the Mandarin Club.

The pair successfully interviewed for the programme after initially attending a 17-day language immersion course in Tianjin last year, organised by the university’s Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS).

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The e-Sgoil is ‘a reason to come back to teaching’

15 September 2017 (TESS)

A project that allows lessons to be beamed into Scottish classrooms has been described as “one of the best things” happening in Scottish education by a former education director who has conducted an independent review of the scheme.

The e-Sgoil – or e-school – based in the Western Isles became a reality at the beginning of 2016-17 to help tackle the teacher shortage, particularly in Gaelic, and to give secondary pupils in remote and rural schools a wider range of subjects.

Access the full article in TESS online, 15 September 2017 (subscription may be required).

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Three ways schools need to change their approach to boost MFL

11 September 2017 (TES)

Applies to England

MFL entries at A level are still falling, but there is hope on the horizon if schools seize the initiative, says this assistant headteacher.

It seems to have become a scheduled event in the modern languages’ calendar to lament the ever-depressing fate of uptake of the subject at A level. Reformed specifications have made the gap between GCSE and A level even wider, fuelling the notion that A-level languages are for native speakers only. 

Yet more depressing: A-level MFL provision has almost disappeared in the North East, accounting for only 3% of all entries. University language departments are on the brink of closure and revised visa requirements for EU nationals could result in further exacerbation of an already difficult recruitment market. The death knell of routine A-level MFL provision in all schools is deafening. 

And yet – whisper it softly – the stars of a more illustrious future for modern languages may be coming into alignment. The reformed specifications are a vast improvement on their predecessors, with film, literature, history and politics at their core, making for exciting and engaging courses. 

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Weird and wonderful poster art of Gaelic's FilmG

9 September 2017 (BBC)

Gaelic short film competition FilmG is this year celebrating the running of its 10th contest. To help mark the anniversary, organisers held an exhibition of the competition's colourful posters at Tramway, an arts space in Glasgow.

The posters were created by Steven McKenzie, senior designer at Cànan Graphics Studio on Skye. The posters are designed to reflect each year's theme. Previously these have included "strì" meaning endeavour/conflict and "cliù" meaning prestige, fame or reputation. The theme chosen for the 10th FilmG is "fìrinn" meaning truth.

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British Sign Language alphabet: How an intricate system of gestures gave a voice to millions

7 September 2017 (The Independent)

As Britain’s pupils return to school for the start of the new academic year, Google marks the occasion with a new Doodle paying tribute to British Sign Language (BSL).

BSL is a vital tool that has enabled generations of young deaf and speech-impaired students in the UK to communicate with their teachers and classmates, ensuring their disability does not have a negative impact on their opportunities in the classroom.

But how was BSL first conceived and how has it developed?

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10 of the best language with activity holidays around the world

5 September 2017 (The Guardian)

Spanish and tango? German and skiing? Or even Japanese and manga? Learn a language in the native country and add some extracurricular fun with these holiday courses that offer a skill or some culture, too.

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How to improve children’s language awareness at primary school

4 September 2017 (The Conversation)

Young children have a lot to fit into each school day. So making the best use of the little time allocated to learning a foreign language is paramount. In England, state primary schools have been required to offer children aged seven to 11 a foreign language since 2014. This seems to chime with the common assumption, supported by research, that the earlier we start learning a foreign language, the better we will eventually be able to speak it.

Yet the situation is quite different when learners have just a few hours’ exposure each week. In these circumstances – unlike full immersion in a second language – younger is not necessarily better. Large-scale classroom-based research in Spain has shown that after the same number of lessons, students who began learning after age 18 achieved greater success in English than students who started at age eight, 11 or 14.

A likely reason for the different effects of starting age in different learning environments is the type of learning mechanism in operation. Primarily, young children learn implicitly – without effort or awareness. By contrast, adolescents and adults can learn explicitly, with the intention to learn and with conscious effort. Implicit learning only works well if there is ample exposure to language input, while explicit learning can work even with little language input. So having just a few hours a week of language lessons at a young age doesn’t meant a child will learn that language successfully.

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Scots language 'helps pupils in English exams'

2 September 2017 (The Herald)

The teaching of the Scots language is having a positive impact on the attainment of pupils in English qualifications, according to a new report.

Research shows teachers believe the language can particularly help disengaged pupils and those who are not high academic achievers.

The findings comes in a report from curriculum body Education Scotland which explores the use of Scots in primary and secondary schools.

Read more...

Related Links

Scots Language in Curriculum for Excellence (30 August 2017, Education Scotland)

How relevant is Gaelic to modern Scotland today?

2 September 2017 (The Press and Journal)

Chan eil aon chànan gu leòr.

How many readers can understand this sentiment or indeed recognise the Gaelic phrase which aptly translates as one language is never enough?

Sadly, or depending in the light in which one views Gaelic, it would seem one language in Scotland is indeed enough with just 1.1% of the population speaking Gaelic.

It is no secret that Gaelic has been in decline for many years despite road signs in the Highlands and islands and even in the north-east including the Gaelic place name.

Classed as an indigenous language, it is believed Gaelic was brought to Scotland around the fourth or fifth century by settlers from Ireland, reaching its peak in 1018.

Some historians pinpoint its decline to the reign of King Malcom Canmore, although his brother re-introduced the language when he inherited the throne.

History aside, how relevant is Gaelic to modern Scotland today on both a social and economic level?

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Here’s how Outlander Sam Heughan is doing his bit to save an award-winning museum in the Scottish Highlands

1 September 2017 (Scottish Sun)

Outlander stars are doing their bit to save an award-winning museum in the Scottish Highlands.

The Gairloch Herittage Museum – dubbed “one of the best in Scotland” by the National Trust – will lose its home next year.

And telly hunk Sam Heughan is getting behind a crowdfunding campaign to raise the final £60,000 needed for its proposed new location.

Fans of the hit time travel show now have the chance to get their hands on some coveted Outlander goodies.

Some of the prizes up for grabs include a limited number of Gaelic dictionaries signed by Sam and the Outlander cast.

Fans can also win Gaelic lessons with Adhamh O’Broin, who is the Gaelic consultant on the show.

Adhamh said: “Not many people are aware but Gairloch and Wester Ross have played an integral part to the creation of the TV series, Outlander.

“We use the Wester Ross Gaelic dialect throughout the series and I often called upon Gairloch man, the late Roddy Mackenzie, for advice when we were on set.

“Roddy, who was also heavily involved in the Gairloch Heritage Museum, helped us by providing accurate translations and local sayings to ensure we were portraying the language as authentically as possible.”

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Russian ambassador confronts Sturgeon over Scottish curriculum

30 August 2017 (The Courier)

Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK, expressed his disappointment to Nicola Sturgeon over the Scottish Qualifications Authority dropping the language from the curriculum.

In a letter, which has been published under freedom of information laws, Mr Yakovenko called on Ms Sturgeon to intervene.

The correspondence also revealed the FM has declined invitations to official Russian functions in Edinburgh and London on four occasions since June 2016.

Mr Yakovenko, who was previously deputy minister of foreign affairs, said: “The cancellation of the exams seriously affected the resources available for cultural and business links, for people-to-people contacts and the personal development of individuals.”

He added: “I believe there may be ways for the Scottish Government to have the above decisions revisited, and I would hugely appreciate your attention to the matter.”

However, he did highlight Dundee Russian School for its valuable work in teaching children and adults the language, which is the fifth most prevalent in the world.

The First Minster left it to her deputy John Swinney to reply, which he did about two months after the original letter was sent in December 2016.

Mr Swinney, who is also Education Secretary, said: “The decision to remove courses was made entirely on practical grounds, reflecting difficulties in maintaining standards in subjects experiencing consistently low uptake.”

He added: “I would assure you that SQA’s decision bore no reflection on the relative merit or value of Russian language or literature – which are considerable.”

Mr Swinney said Scots could learn the language through modern languages for work purposes units and the Language for Life and Work Award.

Read more...

Gaelic ‘bear hunting’ kids are internet sensations

30 August 2017 (The Scotsman)

A group of primary school children from the east end of Glasgow have become internet sensations after their Gaelic musical version of ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ went viral on YouTube. Views of the film, which features youngsters from Caledonia Primary enacting the story in their school grounds in Baillieston, have climbed to nearly 2.2 million.

The film, made with the help of the Grounds for Learning charity, is just under five minutes long and shows the pupils from P1 and 2 ‘hunting’ for a bear. Dressed in oilskins and wellies, they go splashing through the mud and creeping through concrete tunnels, while they sing the words to Tha Sinn a’ Dol a Shireadh Mathan, a Gaelic version of the kids classic story by Michael Rosen.

Read more...

Six ways to build a supportive, language-rich EAL community

28 August 2017 (TES)

Supporting EAL students is personal to this assistant headteacher. Here she gives her six tips to ensure these students – and their families – get the right assistance.

Read more...

Six ways to build a supportive, language-rich EAL community

28 August 2017 (TES)

Supporting EAL students is personal to this assistant headteacher. Here she gives her six tips to ensure these students – and their families – get the right assistance.

Read more...

Thought for the Day - Learn a language

28 August 2017 (BBC)

The Reverend Nick Baines shares his 'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 about the importance of children learning languages. The broadcast is available on iPlayer until 27 September. (Please note registration is required to access).

Read more...

Ignore the panic. There’s little point learning languages at school

25 August 2017 (The Guardian)

Education policy is like defence policy. It is always fighting the last war but one. Predictable woe has greeted the plummeting number of pupils studying modern languages, which have fallen by roughly 10% in a year and German by one-third since 2010. Only Chinese and Arabic look reasonably healthy – I wonder if this might be because rising numbers of Chinese and Arabic-speakers are studying?

Read more...

Related Links

Why learn German? (The Times Literary Supplement, 27 August 2017)

Just speaking English won’t get us very far in the world  (The Guardian, 28 August 2017)

The Importance Of Young People Studying Languages  (Huffington Post, 29 August 2017)

Learn languages at school – and expand your horizons (The Guardian, 3 September 2017)

Why asking struggling pupils to take a language GCSE early is a winner

25 August 2017 (TES)

How do you encourage lower-ability students to stick with learning a new language? By offering them the chance to take the subject at GCSE … a whole two years early. The results speak for themselves, says Eva Vicente.

Learning languages didn’t come easy to Jack when he first joined secondary school. Ordinarily, he would have dropped the subject when he was choosing which GCSEs to study at key stage 4. So imagine his delight that he’d already notched up a Spanish GCSE by the end of Year 9, two years before his more proficient friends would have the opportunity to do the same.

His impressive achievement was made possible by the unconventional system we have implemented at Rushcliffe School, which allows struggling pupils the chance to study for their Spanish GCSE in Years 8 and 9. Asking teenagers to sit what is supposed to be one of the hardest GCSE subjects two years early may seem a little crazy – even more so when you consider the pupils in question are the ones who are struggling the most with the subject – but there is method in our madness.

Britain is at the back of the queue in terms of language skills. Why? Because children here don’t study languages as early, as often or for as long as those in other countries. Despite endless changes in policy, the UK simply does not invest in language learning.

But at Rushcliffe we don’t buy into the idea that learning a language is only for a handful of very academic students who are able to leap over the education system’s barriers – delayed exposure to learning languages and limited timetable allocation. We decided to turn things around and commit to ensuring that as many students as possible get a language qualification, without it impacting on their GCSE choices at key stage 4. So how does it work?

Read more...

Just what “global Britain” needs—a crisis in language learning

24 August 2017 (Prospect Magazine)

Ever since 2004, when the Labour government gave schools the freedom to make languages optional, education ministers have awaited GCSE and A level entry figures with the trepidation of candidates who know they have messed up their French oral. Numbers for foreign languages GCSEs have dropped by a whopping 44 per cent and numbers for French and German A levels have declined by more than a third over the past 13 years.

This year’s crop of A level exam figures have been greeted with relief by government and exam boards alike. “Steady” and “stable” have been the preferred adjectives. But GCSE numbers published on Thursday show another huge decline which appears to wipe out earlier increases linked to some of Michael Gove’s reforms.

The headline statistics here are troubling indeed. Numbers for French are down 10 per cent on last year, and for German 13 per cent, making this year’s figures the lowest yet. But even this does not do justice to the true extent of the crisis in language learning, which runs through all parts of the education system. To appreciate the full scale of the problem, you have to dig deeper into the numbers. As we approach Brexit and the readjustment of the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world, we would do well to take this seriously.

Read more...

Related Links

Anne McElvoy: ‘Open Britain’ needs to have more masters of language (Evening Standard, 19 August 2017)

Number of language GCSEs plummets as academics warn students are relying on Google Translate

24 August 2017 (The Telegraph)

The number of students taking modern foreign languages has plummeted because British children are have become reliant on English translations and tools like “Google Translate,” academics have warned.

Figures published on Thursday by the Joint Qualifications Council (JCQ) show that the number of entries for modern foreign languages has fallen by more than 7 per cent per cent overall, with the number of French exams falling by a tenth and German by 13.2 per cent.

Similar declines were recorded in last week's A-level results, whilst the number of British students taking languages has almost halved over the last two decades.

Read more...

Hundreds of languages are spoken in the UK, but this isn’t always reflected in the classroom

21 August 2017 (The Conversation)

More than 300 different languages are now spoken in British schools. And in England, over 20% of primary school children use English as an additional language.

This equates to over 900,000 children for whom English is not their first language. These children might have been born in another country, their parents might speak another language to them at home, or they might just know a few words of another language because their grandparents immigrated to England a long time ago. But just like any other pupil, they attend schools across the country, speak (or learn to speak) in English and participate in the national curriculum. Yet the fact these children also bring with them a rich understanding of another language and culture can often go unnoticed.

Bilingualism is something we usually celebrate in adults yet not always in the classroom, where English is usually prioritised. This is despite the fact that many communities in Britain, speak more than one language.

In the 2011 British Census, for example, 4.2m people reported having a main language other than English. And just over half of all Europeans claim to speak at least one other language in addition to their mother tongue.

Research shows that some children never have the opportunity to use their home language at school. And in some cases, their teachers might not even know they speak another language.

In the absence of school or community support, these children can sometimes end up losing their home languages. This is something that may be particularly true in highly monolingual areas which experience less immigration.

The problem then is that these areas – where English is the only language spoken – become even more monolingual. All while other areas of the country grow and celebrate their linguistic diversity.

Read more...

Funding for Gaelic Centre

17 August 2017 (Scottish Government)

A Gaelic music, culture and heritage centre planned in South Uist has been awarded £1 million funding.

The £7 million Cnoc Soilleir project will receive the investment from the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Capital Plan and is expected to create around 40 jobs.

Cnoc Soilleir will support the growth of Ceòlas Uibhist community-led activity around Gaelic language learning, music and dance, as well as the Lews Castle College UHI music programmes. Additional creative industry courses will be provided to enable further growth in student numbers.

Established in 1996, Ceòlas Uibhist has grown from a week-long music and dance school to become one of Scotland’s leading Gaelic culture, heritage and arts organisations.

Read more...

A-level results 2017: Decline in entries for arts and languages 'makes mockery of social mobility claims'

17 August 2017 (TES)

Heads' union warns of the consequences of a drop in entries for creative subjects and languages, as the number of students sitting music plummets by 9.4 per cent.

A decline in A-level entries for music, drama, French and German is "making a mockery of the government's claim to be promoting social mobility", a heads' union has said.

The Association of School and College Leaders said that schools are having to cut courses in these subjects because the relatively small number of candidates signing up to them means they are no longer financially viable.

The number of A-level entries in England dropped by 1.2 per cent in French compared with last year, 4.2 per cent in German, 4 per cent in drama and by 9.4 per cent in music, according to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications.

The ASCL said schools cutting back on these subjects was a reflection of "severe budget pressures" on post-16 education, which has experienced a real-terms cut since 2010.

Given the 42 per cent drop in AS-level entries after they were "decoupled" from A levels, ASCL said it was concerned about a narrowing of the curriculum, which was "reducing student choice".

Read more...

A-level results show first rise in top grades in six years

17 August 2017 (The Guardian)

The proportion of top marks awarded at A-level has risen overall for the first time in six years and boys did better than girls at gaining A and A* grades.

The published national results of 2017’s exams show that in the bulk of subjects the proportion of A and A* grades awarded went up to 26.3%, a rise of half a percentage point compared with 2016.

[..] As expected, there were sizeable increases in the top grades awarded to students taking modern foreign languages, with A and A*s rising by 2.5% in Spanish and 1.8% in German and 1.7% in French – after years of complaints that the exams were graded too harshly.

The improved performance came after the exam regulator in England, Ofqual, adjusted the proportion of top grades awarded to candidates, following research showing that native speakers taking the subjects had skewed the results.

Read more...

New hub for e-Sgoil virtual Gaelic school opened in North Uist

17 August 2017 (Holyrood)

A new satellite hub for the online distance learning Gaelic school e-Sgoil has been opened in the former Carinish School building in North Uist by Education Secretary John Swinney.

The virtual Gaelic school was launched just over a year ago by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Gaelic language board, to provide connectivity between schools in the Western Isles and beyond, and to offer improved subject access and learning opportunities for Gaelic-medium secondaries and teachers across the country.

Read more...

Number of top grades awarded in language A-levels increases amid decline in students taking French and German

17 August 2017 (The Telegraph)

Changes to A-level language subjects to prevent non-native speakers from being penalised has led to a surge in top grades, figures published today suggest.

The proportion of A grades awarded in French, German and Spanish entries increased this year, after the exams regulator Ofqual asked exam boards to lower the grade boundaries.

Publication of the new guidance has seen the number of A grades awarded in French rise to 39 per cent, up from 37.3 per cent, whilst top grades in German has risen by 1.8 per cent.

The changes, outlined in a letter circulated among headteachers by Ofqual earlier this summer, said: "We have recently published research on the effect of native speakers in A-level French, German and Spanish.

"The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that the proportion of native speakers taking these qualifications may have increased in recent years, as the overall entry has declined.

"Informed by this research, we believe there is a case for making a small upward adjustment to the predictions used to set grade A, and we will implement this for the summer 2017 A-levels."

The changes, outlined in a letter circulated among headteachers by Ofqual earlier this summer, said: "We have recently published research on the effect of native speakers in A-level French, German and Spanish.

"The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that the proportion of native speakers taking these qualifications may have increased in recent years, as the overall entry has declined.

"Informed by this research, we believe there is a case for making a small upward adjustment to the predictions used to set grade A, and we will implement this for the summer 2017 A-levels."

However, the increase in top grades has been overshadowed by continuing drop-off in students taking up in traditionally popular modern languages, with the exception of Spanish, which saw entries increase by 1.7 per cent.

International languages are also gaining in popularity, including Arabic, Chinese and Italian.

Read more...

Related Links

A-Level and AS results published by JCQ (UCML, 17 August 2017) Overall, results show that entries for both Spanish and Other languages continue to grow (with an increase of 1.7 and 2% on last year's figures respectively). Article links to comprehensive data for all languages.

How Exercise Could Help You Learn a New Language

16 August 2017 (New York Times)

Learning a second language as an adult is difficult. But the process may be eased if you exercise while learning.

A new study reports that working out during a language class amplifies people’s ability to memorize, retain and understand new vocabulary. The findings provide more evidence that to engage our minds, we should move our bodies.

In recent years, a wealth of studies in both animals and people have shown that we learn differently if we also exercise. Lab rodents given access to running wheels create and maintain memories better than animals that are sedentary, for instance. And students consistently perform better on academic tests if they participate in some kind of physical activity during the school day.

Many scientists suspect that exercise alters the biology of the brain in ways that make it more malleable and receptive to new information, a process that scientists refer to as plasticity.

But many questions have remained unanswered about movement and learning, including whether exercise is most beneficial before, during or after instruction and how much and what types of exercise might be best.

So for the new study, which was published recently in PLOS One, researchers in China and Italy decided to home in on language learning and the adult brain.

Read more...

Scotland enjoys tourism boost thanks to interest in Gaelic

15 August 2017 (The Scotsman)

Proposals have been put forward to investigate Gaelic links with historic properties as use of the language has seen a surge in visitor interest.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has launched a consultation for its Draft Gaelic Language Plan 2018-2023.

Under its proposals are a number of strategies aimed at increasing its use and discovering links with the properties in its care.

Alex Paterson, chief executive of HES, said: “We have developed an ambitious plan, which will help to illustrate the place of Gaelic within Scottish culture, while increasing resources for Gaelic speakers and learners.

“We want this consultation to reach as many people as possible so we can ensure that the final plan is robust and representative. We very much look forward to reviewing the feedback.”

The use of Gaelic in the hit TV series Outlander has sparked increased interest amongst visitors to Scotland and historic sites linked to the show are continuing to see significant rises in tourist numbers.

Read more...

Foreign languages set for less ‘harsh grading’

11 August 2017 (TES)

Move set to encourage take-up of subjects and create more language teachers.

The number of top grades awarded in modern foreign language A levels is likely to increase this summer, after a change brought in by Ofqual to help non-native speakers.

Exam boards have been asked to increase the proportion of students expected to achieve a grade A and above by one percentage point for French, German and Spanish A levels.

The exam regulator decided to intervene after carrying out research that showed native speakers were far more likely to achieve A* or A grades than non-native speakers.

If the ability of this year’s cohort is consistent with previous years, the uplift will be applied to the three A-level subjects.

However, relatively few candidates look set to benefit: a Tes analysis of last year’s A-level results suggests that an adjustment last summer would have resulted in around 200 extra A and A* grades being awarded.

The move from Ofqual has been widely welcomed across the sector, but headteacher organisations argue that it should not be the last word in solving what they see as a long-standing problem.

Read more...

Gaelic school planned for Edinburgh as demand soars

11 August 2017 (The Times)

A dedicated Gaelic school could open in Edinburgh to cope with rising pupil numbers and soaring demand.

Edinburgh city council expects there to be more pupils than places at James Gillespie’s High School, where Gaelic education is currently provided, as soon as 2021.

The number of new pupils starting this month at Taobh na Pàirce primary, Edinburgh’s only Gaelic primary school, has also been far higher than anticipated.

Read more...

Languages under pressure after fall in pupils taking German and French

9 August 2017 (The Herald)

THE number of pupils choosing key modern languages has fallen sharply.

Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show the number of entries for Higher French dropped from 4,581 in 2016 to 3,918 this year.

The figures for German have also fallen, with entries declining from 1,019 to 890 year-on-year.

However, the increasing popularity of Spanish has continued, with entries rising from 2,600 last year to 2,809.

Entries at the lower National 5 level for French and German have also fallen.

Read more...

Related Links

'Disappointing' decline in pupils sitting Gaelic qualifications (The Herald, 10 August 2017)

Top marks for pupil who attended three Glasgow schools

9 August 2017 (Evening Times)

One student has defied the odds to become one of Glasgow’s top achievers while attending not one but three city schools. 

Valentina Kanife moved to Glasgow from her home country of Italy in September 2015. When the 16-year-old joined the S4 class in St Margaret Mary’s in Castlemilk, she could not speak any English. Soon after starting the school, it became apparent that Valentina had a skill for languages and began working towards gaining her National 4’s. 

Staff at St Margaret Mary’s staff organised for Valentina to attend Holyrood Secondary for Higher Italian and Kings Park Secondary for Higher ESOL, while being taught Higher Spanish and National 5 maths at her own school. With the help of a bus pass, the teenager travelled between the three schools, sometimes on the same day. After a year of handwork, Valentia managed to gain all three Highers and a National 5 Maths qualifications, all within two years of being in Glasgow.

Read more...

Bilingual babies can distinguish between languages before they are two, study reveals

9 August 2017 (The Independent)

Ever dreamed of raising a bilingual baby?

It might be easier than you think, as a new study reveals that babies can differentiate between words from different languages at just 20 months old.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences determined infants’ propensity to monitor and control language through a series of experiments.

24 French-English children were shown pairs of photographs of familiar objects and listened to sentences in both a single language (“Find the dog!”) and a mixture of two languages (“Find the chien!”).

In a second test, they heard language switches that crossed sentences, named code switches, which are regularly spoken by children in bilingual households i.e. “That one looks fun! Le Chien!”

Through eye-tracking measures, the researchers were able to determine the infants’ cognitive efforts, in other words, how hard their brains were working to understand what was in the photographs being shown to them.

When they heard the language switches, their pupils dilated, proving immediate comprehension.

Read more...

Scottish MSPs warn of narrow curriculum as uptake of creative subjects declines

8 August 2017 (The Guardian)

The number of Scottish school pupils and students taking modern languages, social sciences and arts has fallen, prompting warnings from opposition parties over the dangers of a narrowing curriculum.

Official data showed the number of exam passes at Higher, a near equivalent to English A-levels, across Scotland’s schools and colleges held steady at 77%, falling very slightly by 0.2%.

But Labour and the Conservatives expressed concern that the Scottish curriculum was narrowing after the Scottish Qualifications Authority figures showed the numbers sitting modern languages at Higher fell by 6% overall, with history down by nearly 4% and geography by 2.6%.

Read more...

No more music, Spanish or engineering: parents angry at cuts to GCSEs

8 August 2017 (The Guardian)

(Applies to England) Come through the main doors at Gateacre school in Liverpool, into an atrium with furniture in bright colours; on your right there’s a drama studio. On the door someone has put up a notice: “More than 9,994 students studying at Russell Group universities since 2012 have an A-level in drama and theatre.”

Gateacre still offers A-levels and GCSEs in drama and other creative subjects, despite having had to make some tough decisions about the curriculum. But across England, secondary pupils are finding themselves with fewer and fewer subject options, and teachers in the arts are feeling the pressure.

The government’s Ebacc accountability measure, which judges secondary schools according to the proportion of pupils gaining good GCSE grades in English, maths, sciences, a language and geography or history, has taken the brunt of the blame. Researchers from the University of Sussex who interviewed 650 state school teachers found two-thirds felt the Ebacc was responsible for fewer students taking GCSE music in their schools, for instance.

Read more...

The Future of French in the EU and Beyond

7 August 2017 (Language Magazine)

While the 2016 UK European Union (EU) Membership Referendum launched the current public conversation on the status of English in the EU, it has been—just as much, if not more—a conversation on the future of French within the EU.

In order to understand the significance of this conversation about language, and languages, it is necessary to begin with the significance of multilingualism as a core value of the EU, which has implemented and supported plurilingualism, often referred to as “mother tongue plus two,” as a pragmatic educational objective.

In alignment with this core value of multilingualism, Europe accounts for more than half (53.9%) of the global language-services sector, which is valued at USD 38.2 billion per year, and the French Hewlett-Packard’s Application and Content Localization group (HPPACG) is the third-largest language-services provider in the world.

From the original four official languages of the European Community, the number has grown to 24, with English, French, and German (in alphabetical order) the informal de facto working/procedural languages, and the French government has long been an active advocate for the use of French.

But as the UK prepares to leave the EU, leaving no member nation with English registered as its official language, the role of English within the EU has been questioned, with suggestions made that French and German should be the sole working/procedural languages.

Read more...

Pupils who learn in second language ‘catch up on listening skills within a year'

7 August 2017 (TES)

Seven- and eight-year-olds from immigrant families make faster progress than their native-speaking peers, research shows.

Primary pupils who learn in a language other than the one they speak at home start out with poorer listening and reading skills, but “catch up” with native-speaking peers within one school year, researchers have found.

In a paper in the British Educational Research Journal, researchers from Ghent University in Belgium also looked at how pupils' listening and reading comprehension was affected by the proportion of their classmates who spoke a different language at home.

They found that classes with a greater proportion of non-native-speaking students achieved lower than average results at the start of the year, but by the end of the year this link had "disappeared".

Read more...

British Sign Language will count as 'foreign language' for university applicants

7 August 2017 (TES)

A leading university has announced plans to recognise British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications in its entry requirements.

University College London (UCL) said that in future, BSL will be considered as meeting the institution's modern foreign language (MFL) requirement.

The university is the only UK institution that requires all of its UK undergraduates to hold at least a C grade at GCSE in another language or to sign up for courses as part of their degree.

It has now announced that it will recognise sign language as part of the requirement, saying it hopes the decision will increase awareness and access to the language.

Read more...

Slump in foreign language students sparks fear for UK competitiveness

5 August 2017 (The Herald)

FRESH concerns have been raised that not enough youngsters are learning foreign languages, as figures show a slump in applications to study the subject at university.

The numbers of applications for degree courses linked to European languages have fallen by almost a quarter in the past five years, while the numbers for other language courses have dropped by almost a fifth, according to an analysis by the Press Association. At the same time, there has been a decline in the numbers studying languages traditionally offered by schools, such as French and German, to GCSE and A-level.

The analysis indicates Spanish has grown in popularity in recent times along with other courses, such as Arabic and Chinese.

The British Council, which specialises in international cultural relations, warned that if the UK is to remain globally competitive in the wake of Brexit it needs more young people to be learning languages.

Read more...

Glasgow's elderly combat dementia symptoms with fun foreign language classes

4 August 2017 (Glasgow Live)

A Glasgow based organisation is blazing a trail in the battle against dementia faced by Glasgow’s elderly population.

Lingo Flamingo, based in Govan, is the world’s first non-profit organisation that provides outreach foreign language classes tailored to older adults.

It is currently launching a drive for more students, enlisting the use of their pink flamingo mascot to help spread the word to places across Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Their 10 week foreign language workshops are provided in German, Italian, Spanish and French and take place in care homes, sheltered accommodation and day centres across the city.

Read more...

Language immersion in Australian schools

4 August 2017 (ABC News)

Video report from ABC News on South Australia's Department for Education and Child Development's (DECD) language immersion programmes in schools.

The news story highlights that in just six months students at two schools have immersed themselves in the French and Chinese language.

See the video online on the DECD Facebook page, or read an earlier published news item 'Adelaide schools finding success with bilingual classes in French and Chinese' on the policy (ABC, 23 June 2017).

Read more...

Shy holiday Britons 'point at menus' to avoid foreign words

4 August 2017 (BBC)

Over half of Britons who holiday abroad say they have pointed at a restaurant menu to avoid having to pronounce non-English words, a survey suggests.

And almost half said they were embarrassed at not being able to speak the local language while away.

But 80% of more than 1,700 people questioned for the British Council felt it was important to learn some phrases.

"Trying out a few words is the perfect way to get started," said Vicky Gough, British Council schools advisor.

The Populus survey found 37% of British holidaymakers always tried to speak a few words in the local language but 29% said they were too scared to try.

It also found that 36% felt guilty at asking locals to speak English, while:
  • 56% resorted to pointing at menus
  • 45% relied on the assumption that all locals would speak English
  • 42% spoke English more slowly and loudly
  • 15% even tried speaking English in a foreign accent
A minority (15%) admitted to being so unwilling to try pronouncing words from other languages that they would only eat in British or fast food restaurants while overseas, rather than sampling local cuisine.

A similar number said they preferred staying in self-contained resorts to avoid local culture.

Read more...

Parents 'key' to securing future of Gaelic in Scotland

3 August 2017 (BBC)

The future of Gaelic in Scotland could be down to parents - even if they do not speak the language themselves, according to researchers.

The University of Strathclyde said increased use of a language at home was a "first step" in its use in wider society.

Researchers surveyed 236 parents and children on the Isle of Lewis and on Sardinia.

The study included speakers and non-speakers of Gaelic and Sardinian.

Three quarters of respondents felt speaking a minority language was equally important to speaking their national tongue.

Dr Fraser Lauchlan, of the University of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences and Health, said: "Previous research from more than two decades ago found that there was almost a level of embarrassment about speaking such languages and they were discouraged for many years.

"It is only in recent times that there has been a re-emergence of the importance placed on these languages - possibly because of a better understanding of the benefits that being bilingual can bring, but also because of their promotion at national or regional level by governments, including the specific introduction of legislation."

He suggested parents could encourage their children to read and to watch TV programmes in a minority language, which may even lead to them learning it themselves.

Read more...

Related Links

Parents may hold the key to securing the future of Gaelic (The National, 3 August 2017)

Parents' encouragement could keep Gaelic alive (Press and Journal, 3 August 2017)

Future of Gaelic lies with non-speakers, study finds (The Herald, 4 August 2017)

These are the languages employers want most - and how much it could add to your salary

2 August 2017 (Birmingham Mail / The Mirror)

A new study has found the most lucrative foreign languages for British workers to learn.

Apparently, Japanese and the Chinese languages offer average salaries of more than £31,000 for those who can speak them.

Adzuna compiled the study to mark the anniversary of the Brexit vote.

And researchers uncovered the languages most in demand by UK employers, alongside how much they are willing to pay for them.

A growing interest in non-European languages was revealed, with Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and Russian all featuring in the UK's top 10 most wanted languages, according to the Mirror.

Read more...

UK students ‘may be barred from Erasmus after Brexit’

1 August 2017 (THE)

Erasmus, the world's largest student exchange scheme, is celebrating its 30th birthday.

With more than three million participants since 1987, it is one of the best known and most successful policies of the European Union. 

Now including adult learners, vocational students and those on work placements, in addition to university students, it has created an “Erasmus generation”, having been responsible for more than a million babies born from couples who met as part of the scheme.

About 16,000 UK students now spend a semester or a year abroad as part of Erasmus every year. France, Spain and Germany remain the most popular destinations for these students, reflecting the traditional emphasis on students taking modern language or combination degrees. However, many universities across continental Europe now offer modules in English, which has helped to increase the number of UK students able to participate who do not have prior language skills. As students strive to add distinctiveness to their CVs, the number of UK participants has increased.

In addition, the UK is one of the most popular destinations for European students, with these study placements becoming part of Britain's cultural and educational ‘soft power’ by creating thousands of de-facto UK alumni across Europe.

However, while the House of Commons Education Committee believes that “continued membership of Erasmus+ would be the best outcome for the UK”, its future participation was not mentioned in the government’s recent White Paper.  The government has only committed itself to considering future participation.

The question therefore is “can the UK continue to be part of it post-Brexit?”

Since Erasmus is a programme of the European Union and established by EU law, the initial answer is no.

However, as with everything else, all depends on the exit agreement between the UK and EU before the UK leaves in March 2019. It may be that the UK continues to be a part of the scheme up to the end of the current programme (2014-2020) with future involvement subject to a separate agreement.

Read more...

‘Worrying’ fall in pupils taking foreign languages

31 July 2017 (The Scotsman)

Scotland has seen a “worry-
ing” fall in the number of pupils studying languages, it has emerged.

There are now fears that the next generation will not be equipped to deal with the demands of the global 
economy.

There has been a dramatic fall in the number of 
youngsters sitting French and German, although more are learning Spanish.

Opposition parties called on the SNP to focus on the “day job” of running schools. But ministers insist there has been a rise in the number of pupils gaining languages qualification at Higher level.

There were more than 56,000 pupils taking modern languages at Standard Grade level a decade ago. By last year, under the new exam system, this had fallen to just over 23,000 – a 59 per cent decline.

Labour’s shadow education minister Daniel Johnson said: “Learning a foreign language is such a valuable skill for 
Scotland’s next generation.

“Whether for travel, employment or just breaking down barriers between people from different countries, a new 
language can open up the world to a young person.

“It is therefore incredibly worrying to see such a huge decline in the number of pupils sitting modern language courses. The SNP talks about connecting Scotland with the world, but that can only happen if people are equipped with the 
languages they need. In the 21st century, the workforce is becoming more global and economic growth here in Scotland depends on interaction with our European neighbours.

“We need to reduce as many barriers to economic growth as possible, and these figures show how important it is for SNP ministers to get back to the day job of improving 
standards in our schools.”

Read more...

Related Links

Dramatic decline in number of pupils learning foreign languages (The Times, 31 July 2017)

Scots pupils saying ‘Non’ to languages (Sunday Post, 30 July 2017)

Survey shows long-term impacts of language travel

27 July 2017 (The Pie)

When asked what helped them improve their language skill the most, 90% of respondents to global language provider Sprachcaffe’s Language Learning Sustainability Project said it was face-to-face interaction with other people.

Over half said they are more confident speaking the language thanks to the experience of learning abroad while 20% said it helped them travel more and 13% said it contributed to a change in their work life.

“Our product [study travel] is unique because it’s learning and travel. When it comes to language learning you can do it online quick and easy but if you want something more valuable you have language learning trips,” said Pauline Pitte, the study’s co-author.

Taken over six months in 2016, the survey attracted former students from all over the world who had been on a language course abroad within the last five to 10 years. The project aims to show the long-term impacts of language learning abroad, said Pitte.

“We don’t want to make this about online versus in-class learning, we just wanted to explore the package students get when they go on language exchanges. Is it efficient for everyone?”.

Read more...

Bonnyrigg school establishes links with China

21 July 2017 (Midlothian Advertiser)

It’s been a very busy time for Hawthornden Primary School.

Following their successful school show ‘Hairspray’, Hawthornden pupils have excelled themselves again by performing at the launch of the Confucius Primary Hub.

The audience was entertained by P7s performing a Dragon Dance, a Fan Dance and Looking for a Friend. P6s performed a colours song in Mandarin. P3 pupils, who attend Mandarin classes at the Children’s University at Queen Margaret, amazed everyone by reading and translating a Mandarin story. Chinese colleagues praised their accents and pronunciation.

S4 Lasswade High School pupils also performed a dance to show primary pupils how Mandarin can be continued in high school.

Read more...

Why schools need to speak the same language on EAL support

21 July 2017 (TESS)

Across the globe, being bilingual is the norm. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population can speak at least two languages. Yet in the UK, primarily as a result of the dominance of English in the world, a child that converses in more than one tongue is still viewed as being “different”, particularly within education.

This is despite the number of bilingual pupils in our schools increasing. Over 1 in 5 (1.25 million) of our pupils are recorded as having English as an additional language (EAL), according to 2016 government figures.

Have schools adapted to this? Not enough, in my view. For example, EAL pupils tend to be seen as a homogenous group, a remnant of that view of bilingualism as being a deviation from the norm, not the standard. But they are nothing of the sort.

The definition of EAL used by the Department for Education is if a child is exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be one other than English (1). This definition covers pupils who may have recently arrived in the country, as well as families that have been here for many generations.

Each EAL pupil will also vary in their level of proficiency in their mother tongue, as well as in English, across the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Quite simply, teachers are not being prepared well enough to support EAL students’ range of needs. Many newly qualified teachers, in particular, cite low levels of preparedness for meeting the needs of this group (2).

Sure, there are success stories. The attainment of EAL pupils is often cited as a key narrative in attainment improvements in England. This is certainly worthy of praise, with schools and communities deserving recognition for their hard work in this area. However, attainment of EAL pupils is extremely variable across regions and cities outside of London and its surrounding areas.

In addition, recent research (3) has shown that attainment varies considerably by the language spoken by pupils, with Japanese speakers being the highest-performing and Czech speakers the lowest.

So what can schools do to effectively support their EAL pupils and ensure they attain high standards?

Read the full article in TESS online, 21 July 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Related Links

TES talks to...Madeleine Arnot (TES, 28 July 2017) - Migrant children are lumped together in the ‘English as additional language’ category, with no systemic understanding of their unique cultural and social needs. It’s about time we had a joined-up education strategy, the academic tells Simon Creasey.

Calls to boost Gaelic language with Unesco status

20 July 2017 (The Scotsman)

A campaign to boost Gaelic language and its cultural heritage is seeking Unesco status.

A parliamentary committee is leading the call for UNESCO to award special status to the language.

Currently around 60,000 people speak the language, with numbers drastically decreasing. In the 2011 census, 1.1% of the population stated that they could speak the language.

However, the chairwoman of the cross party committee on Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament, Kate Forbes believes that securing a special UNESCO status would help preserve historical traditions and ensure they are kept alive for future generations.

Read more...

Young Brits to make German connections

19 July 2017 (UK Government)

More British youngsters will be able to learn about German language and culture after a new agreement was made between the Foreign Secretary and the German Foreign Minister.

Boris Johnson and Sigmar Gabriel have signed off on a doubling of funding for UK-German Connection (UKGC), which means an increase in the number of places available on the scheme.

The funding increase, to around £230,000 and matched by the German government, will expand the scheme’s work in bringing together children and teachers in both countries to learn about each other’s language, history, and culture.

Read more...

Le Petit Prince is printed for first time in Scots

18 July 2017 (The National)

Another classic literary tale has been given the Scots treatment as Le Petit Prince becomes The Wee Prince.

Language specialist Dr Susan Rennie of Glasgow University, author of ABC: a Scots Alphabet, has brought the classic to life in Scots for the first time.

Originally published in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s timeless tale is believed to have sold 150 million copies worldwide, read by around 400 million readers and officially translated more than 320 times.

The book, released last week, reveals the life of the enigmatic Wee Prince, including the secrets of his dowff an dowie life, his fondness for sundouns and his love for a wondrous bonnie. The poignancy of the original remains, with its message that the things that really matter in life – the muckle maitters – are takkin guid tent of your hame planet, and cultivating the deep ties of friendship and love.

Read more...

Scots Emojis

18 July 2017 (Scottish Sun)

A language expert has come up with a Scots meaning for almost every emoji you can think of.

Dr Michael Dempster put together the incredible list spanning around 200 mobile emoticons.

Read more...

Babies can distinguish between familiar and foreign languages while still in the womb

18 July 2017 (Daily Mail)

Fetuses can distinguish between someone speaking to them in English and Japanese one month before they are born, researchers have found.

Fetuses can hear things in the womb, including speech - although it's muffled.

But they can still perceive the rhythm of a language, and the study suggests that fetuses discriminate between different types of language based on rhythmic patterns.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center, has implications for fetal research in other fields, says the lead author.

'Research suggests that human language development may start really early - a few days after birth,' said Dr Utako Minai, associate professor of linguistics and the team leader on the study.

'Babies a few days old have been shown to be sensitive to the rhythmic differences between languages.

'Previous studies have demonstrated this by measuring changes in babies' behavior; for example, by measuring whether babies change the rate of sucking on a pacifier when the speech changes from one language to a different language with different rhythmic properties.

'This early discrimination led us to wonder when children's sensitivity to the rhythmic properties of language emerges, including whether it may in fact emerge before birth.

Read more...

Government to spend £10m recruiting 600 foreign teachers to fill maths, physics and languages roles

15 July 2017 (The Independent)

The government is to spend up to £10m recruiting foreign teachers to fill shortages in maths, physics and languages roles.

The multi-million pound sum, to be funded by the taxpayer, will be spent on finding and training 600 new teachers, potentially equating to a cost of more than £16,000 per teacher.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) have published a tender outlining plans to recruit the teachers over three years, with the first intake beginning in September 2018.

Last week it was revealed that a quarter of teachers who qualified since 2011 have left the job.

Read more...

Ambulance service reveals Gaelic language plan

14 July 2017 (The Oban Times)

The Scottish Ambulance Service has published a Gaelic language plan for the next five years.

The plan, which is a statutory requirement for public bodies in Scotland under the Gaelic Language Scotland Act 2005, sets out how the service will harness and enhance language skills within the organisation.

A key part of the plan is to conduct an audit to establish how many staff members have Gaelic language skills and where the demand for these skills is greatest. This will help to inform training and ensure staff members with language skills are utilised effectively.

Read more...

The Welshest word on the planet – and nine other phrasebook essentials

12 July 2017 (The Guardian)

Hŵre! The Welsh government has said it wants to increase the number of Welsh speakers to a million by 2050. The plans irritated some anti-Welsh detractors, who seem to believe the language is only spoken when English people walk into a Welsh pub. With our help, you, too, can scare monoglots in your area! Here are some Welsh words and phrases (with pronunciation) that you might find useful.

Read more...

Poorer children are being left behind when it comes to learning languages

10 July 2017 (The Conversation)

The British have a reputation (rightly or wrongly) for struggling to learn foreign languages. A recent survey showed, for example, that 62% of the population can’t speak any other language apart from English.

Part of the issue is that language learning in schools faces huge challenges. GCSE uptake remains stuck at around 50% and the number of students taking an A-level in a language has declined by about a third since 1996. And the latest Language Trends Survey, which looks at uptake of language learning in England, makes for worrying reading.

Read more...

Speaking with Smaller Tongues

7 July 2017 (BBC Radio 4)

Penzance-born Rory McGrath writes and performs a Cornish song at the SUNS International Festival - a multilingual alternative to the Eurovision song contest, where English is banned.

Rory talks with fellow performers, and to academics, about how the internet and the spread of English as a lingua franca is threatening to smother small languages. The United Nations predicts that 90% of Europe's 200 minority languages will have ceased to exist by the end of the 21st century.

Read more...

A traffic-light system to drive pupils towards learning Chinese

7 July 2017 (TESS)

Forgive me if I get straight to the point, but I know time is sparse for teachers and this message is important. There are five key reasons that every child should learn Mandarin Chinese. And they are as follows:
  1. China is one of the world’s oldest and richest cultures, with more than 5,000 years of history and the world’s longest continuous writing system. Learning Mandarin Chinese will open the door to a wealth of literature, poetry and art and gives students a unique insight into a fascinating culture.
  2. China is also the most populous nation in the world and Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more than one billion people. In many countries, Mandarin Chinese is becoming the most popular foreign language and it is likely to become Asia’s future lingua franca. Speaking Mandarin will create opportunities for work and travel throughout Asia – and beyond.
  3. Almost a quarter of internet usage is conducted in Chinese, while China’s economy is the second largest in the world. Proficiency in Mandarin Chinese is hugely beneficial for a career in business or the diplomatic service, and it is now one of the priority languages for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  4. Learning Mandarin Chinese is mentally stimulating and challenging; research has shown that while English speakers only use the left temporal lobe, speakers of Mandarin use both left and right. One advantage of this increased brain activity is that Mandarin speakers are more likely to have perfect pitch. In addition, learning to write characters can help with motor skills and visual recognition.
  5. The unique challenges of learning Chinese engage and motivate learners who might not be your “typical linguists”: mathematicians enjoy the logicality of the language; artistic children may enjoy “drawing” characters; musical children can distinguish and recall the tones more easily; children who struggle with dyslexia find relief in not having to learn another set of spelling and phonology rules.
That’s all very well, you might claim, but the school timetable is crowded and integrating a new subject area would take up that time we don’t have.

To counter this line of argument, I offer you a traffic light of options to ensure every child in your school can learn Mandarin.

Read the full article in TESS online, 7 July 2017 (subscription required).

Read more...

Murray faces his toughest interview yet!

6 July 2017 (BBC Sport)

Andy Murray faces his toughest interview yet as children get the chance to quiz the British number one.

How will Andy respond to the first question: "How many languages do you speak?"

Read more...

An open letter to my student peers: why you need to rethink languages

5 July 2017 (TES)

Language learning in school suffers from negative attitudes, cultural issues and an approach to teaching that is too guarded and not ambitious enough, says this Year 12 student.

Read more...

Why we should learn German - John le Carré

2 July 2017 (Observer)

To help make the European debate decent and civilised, it is now more important than ever to value the skills of the linguist.

Read more...

16 Glaswegian phrases translated into Spanish just in time for your summer holiday

2 July 2017 (Glasgow Live)

Whether it be a quiet family holiday to Santa Ponsa or on the randan with your pals in Magaluf, Spain is the most popular destination for Glaswegians to go to looking to escape the dreich weather and soak up some summer sun.

And to help shave off those extra Euros on the taxi fare, become best pals with the local bar staff or to give you a helping hand if you're looking for a lumber, we've come up with a list of Spanish phrases to do the trick.

Read more...

Teachers in Wales 'worried' about future of foreign languages

2 July 2017 (BBC)

Teachers in Wales are "extremely worried" about the future of foreign languages in the country, according to a British Council survey.

It found more than a third of Welsh schools now have less than 10% of Year 10 pupils studying a modern foreign language.

British Council Wales said prospects remained "extremely challenging".

The Welsh Government said its action plan to improve take-up of languages was already under way.

Other findings of the survey included:
  • 44% of schools have fewer than five pupils studying a foreign language at AS level
  • 61% of schools have fewer than five foreign language pupils at A-level
  • 64% of modern foreign language departments have just one or two full-time teachers, with one third depend on non-British EU nationals for their staff
Between 2002 and 2016, the number of pupils studying a foreign language to GCSE level has fallen by 48% to 6,891 pupils last year.

At A-level, numbers have fallen by 44% since 2001.

The report said the outlook for foreign languages looked "even more fragile in the context of financial pressures on schools and the potential impact of leaving the European Union".

Read more...

Initiative means apprentices to learn Gaelic on job

1 July 2017 (The National)

Apprenticeships are to be delivered in Gaelic as part of measures to support the language.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) plans to deliver existing Foundation and Modern Apprenticeships in Gaelic where there is a recognised need — with Health and Social Care and Childcare as well as the Creative Industries identified as areas of demand.

Other measures that are part of SDS’s new Gaelic Language Plan include: working with partners to develop resources including up-to-date Gaelic labour market information; using Gaelic staff resources to expand services in schools delivered through the medium of Gaelic; developing web resources; and promoting Gaelic careers.

Read more...

Harry Potter to become a Scots speaker in new book

28 June 2017 (The Scotsman)

As the literary world celebrates the 20th anniversay of Harry Potter first hitting the bookstands, a new version of the first book is to be published in Scots language. ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane’ will become the 80th translation of the global phenonenon, telling the introduction to the world of JK Rowling’s wizard hero.

Read more...

Modern languages: four reforms to reclaim the future of our discipline

26 June 2017 (THE)

Recent measures taken at a number of UK universities – including cutbacks on modern languages staffing, redundancies and in some cases the closure of courses – show the unprecedented pressures that UK universities are facing (and the serious implications these pressures have for an already embattled modern languages community).

Modern languages disciplines can exercise some control over their future, if they are prepared to be pro-active, to countenance radical reform of their programmes, to rethink their relationships with other disciplines and to engage in a creative reimagining of the place of languages in a globalised world.

Below we offer some suggestions that, if they do not represent a water-tight, universally applicable solution, may at least initiate the sort of conversation across our community that is urgently required.

Read more...

Glasgow promoted as the 'heart of Gaelic Scotland' as city prepares to host Mod

23 June 2017 (Evening Times)

Glasgow is being promoted as "the heart of Gaelic Scotland" as the city prepares to host the Royal National Mod.

Pupils from the city's schools launched the grand unveiling of a new logo for the event, which will be held in the city in 2019 and is a celebration of the ancient language in music and song.

It is the first time the Mod has been hosted in Glasgow in 29 years.

Read more...

Understanding the amazing complexity of sign language

21 June 2017 (The Conversation)

Most people are familiar with sign language, the system that deaf people use to communicate. What fewer may know is that there are many different sign languages around the world, just as there are many different spoken languages.

So how does the grammar of sign language work?

Unlike in spoken languages, in which grammar is expressed through sound-based signifiers for tense, aspect, mood and syntax (the way we organise individual words), sign languages use hand movements, sign order as well as body and facial cues to create grammar. This is called non-manual activity.

To find out whether these cues are comprehensible to signers and non-signers of a country, my team of deaf and hearing linguists and translators conducted two studies. The results, which will be published in July, demonstrate the incredible complexity of sign language.

Read more...

MFL teacher challenge looms

21 June 2017 (Sec Ed)

The recruitment of more suitably qualified languages teachers is “likely to become more critical” because of the need to increase up-take at GCSE.

The annual Languages Trends report warns that schools are finding it “challenging” to recruit language teachers who are able to offer two languages to GCSE and A level standard.

The report states: “This difficulty most affects lower-attaining schools and those working in more disadvantaged circumstances.” Language GCSEs form part of the EBacc and Progress 8 accountability measures and as such schools are incentivised to increase uptake.

However, recruitment has proved challenging for some schools, including for language positions.

Recent research by the NFER has shown that schools are seeing particularly high leaving rates for teachers of maths, science and languages. The recruitment target for trainee language teachers was also missed this year, according to Department for Education figures published in November.

Meanwhile, figures released by Ofqual this week (see story above) show that entries for GCSE languages this year are down on 2016. This includes:

French (Down from 135,200 to 121,800).
German (Down from 48,000 to 42,050).
Spanish (Down from 88,150 to 85,500).
Other MFL (Down from 33,900 to 33,000).

However, the Languages Trends report, which is published by the British Council, says that 38 per cent of state schools plan to increase language GCSE entries year-on-year.

Read more...

New earpiece translates foreign languages as you have a conversation

20 June 2017 (The Independent)

A new device that delivers foreign language translations directly to your ear almost instantly has just gone on sale.

The Translate One2One has been hailed as a real-world equivalent of the Babel fish, the famous fictional creature from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s powered by IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, and takes between three and five seconds to complete a translation and play it to you.

It currently works across English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese.

However, both people in a conversation need to be wearing one.

Lingmo International, the company behind it, claims the Translate One2One is clever enough to avoid common translation stumbling blocks.

Read more...

New film inspired by soldiers who used Gaelic to escape Nazis

19 June 2017 (BBC)

The true story of a trio of Gaelic-speaking soldiers who used their native tongue to "bamboozle" the Germans has inspired a new feature film.

Pte William Kemp, Cpl Sandy MacDonald, and L/Cpl James Wilson escaped their captors after convincing them they were from the Soviet Union.

Now film producers have used the tale as a premise for new World War Two drama In the Darkest Hour.

Read more...

Related Links

Story of Gaelic speaking soldiers who escaped Nazis will be film (The Scotsman, 18 June 2017)

Why just speaking English isn’t going to cut it anymore

15 June 2017 (The Conversation)

Britain is facing an uncertain future and an uneasy relationship with Europe after Brexit and the latest general election. Among other things, a key determiner of the success of Brexit will be the UK’s ability to conduct negotiations without language barriers. But the country’s woeful inability to learn languages, and the decline in foreign language learning among school and university students across Britain, does not bode well.

Of course, Welsh, Gaelic, Irish and Cornish are already spoken in some parts of the UK. And while it’s great to see many of these minority languages experiencing something of a revival over recent years, when it comes to life after Brexit it’s languages from further afield that will likely be most useful to Brits.

Many people in the UK may well ask “why we need languages” when “everyone in Europe speaks English anyway”. Indeed, all Brexit negotiations will be conducted in English. But given that the UK’s lack of foreign language skill is estimated to cost the nation up to £48 billion a year, this isn’t something that can just be ignored. Especially considering this figure is unlikely to decrease in post-Brexit Britain.

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More school pupils to benefit from Bangor University language mentors

13 June 2017 (Daily Post)

More school students across North Wales will be able to take part in a successful Modern Languages Mentoring programme thanks to a further Welsh Government investment of £140,000 for the third year of the project.

Launched in 2015, the Modern Foreign Languages Student Mentoring project places undergraduates from Bangor, Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea universities into local schools to mentor pupils and encourage them to consider modern foreign languages when choosing their GCSE options.

The mentoring project is part of the Welsh Government’s Global Futures plan, which aims to improve and promote the take-up of modern foreign languages in schools in Wales.

Over the last two years the mentoring scheme has had a significant impact on partner schools, who have reported an increase in pupils choosing languages at GCSE as well as improved motivation to continue learning languages and to consider university.

The Welsh Government is now extending the project to include a new digital platform to increase its reach to schools and pupils who have not been able to engage with the project due to geographical location.

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Language alters our experience of time

13 June 2017 (The Conversation)

It turns out, Hollywood got it half right. In the film Arrival, Amy Adams plays linguist Louise Banks who is trying to decipher an alien language. She discovers the way the aliens talk about time gives them the power to see into the future – so as Banks learns their language, she also begins to see through time. As one character in the movie says: “Learning a foreign language rewires your brain.”

My new study – which I worked on with linguist Emanuel Bylund – shows that bilinguals do indeed think about time differently, depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events. But unlike Hollywood, bilinguals sadly can’t see into the future. However, this study does show that learning a new way to talk about time really does rewire the brain. Our findings are the first psycho-physical evidence of cognitive flexibility in bilinguals.

Read more...

Top tips for kids learning a foreign language in Glasgow

13 June 2017 (Glasgow Live)

It's no secret that Glaswegians, and Brits, are guilty of being reluctant to speak foreign languages.

However Glasgow City Council, along with many other local authorities, are under increasing pressure to make foreign language learning one of their top priorities in education - particularly at primary level.

And it appears they have good reason to do so.

Studies show that children who study a language from as young as three years old possess better critical thinking skills and score higher in maths and problem solving.

It can also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers in later years.

Of course, leaning a language takes time and dedication.

But according to Rose McGinty, principal teacher at Glasgow's first Spanish immersion camp for children, Oso Spanish, there are plenty of ways to make language learning effective and great fun.

Why Learning A New Language Is Always A Good Career Move

8 June 2017 (Huffington Post)

In a global economy, simply telling your potential employer that you have what it takes to get the job done doesn’t cut it anymore. Hiring managers at top firms weigh in many factors – some of which might be out of your control. In trying to land that dream job, you may find yourself outmaneuvered by a well-connected candidate or, in many cases, simply pitted against more accomplished peers.

In spite of tough competition, there’s a way for you to stand out: master a foreign language.

In a recent report by the New American Economy, the number of U.S. companies looking for bilingual workers has more than doubled in the last five years. The demand for foreign language proficiency is now at 630,000, a huge jump from 240,000 open positions for candidates with bilingual abilities in 2010. This trend will only continue despite the recent misguided shifts towards nationalism in the US and abroad.

In the past, the majority of listings involved hospitality and customer-service industries. Much has changed over time. Today, the fastest growing categories for bilingual positions now includes financial managers, industrial engineers and editors. We currently have presidents of investment firms, tech giants, and manufacturing companies taking our language courses. They see the value in gaining at least a basic level of understanding in a foreign language. The benefits of language training however are not only for high level executives. Over the years, it has become more evident that bilingual employees have an edge, no matter where they are in the skills-spectrum.

Read more...

Are Chinese-English bilingual schools the future of primary education?

7 June 2017 (The Telegraph)

There are just two classrooms at Kensington Wade, a shiny new independent prep school opening in west London in September, and at a glance, they look the same. Colourful charts cover the walls, storybooks line the shelves, the odd toy lies around. Peer a little closer, however, and a certain difference becomes clear.

“There isn’t a word of English in here,” the headmistress, Jo Wallace, says as we pause in one of them. It’s true – the charts contain only Chinese symbols, the books are in Mandarin, and laid out are traditional oriental fans, scrolls and artwork. Even the school’s world map, which might normally have Europe at the centre of the picture, instead shows gives Asia and the Pacific the limelight.

“That’s what we mean by this being totally immersive learning,” Wallace says, “the children will switch as soon as they’re in here, and that’s how they’ll begin to think in two ways.”

Read more...

Super-Brainy Translation Tools Mean Language Barriers Are Falling Fast

6 June 2017 (NBC)

Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, the dream of speaking to anyone regardless of language is closer to reality than ever.

Scientists say there are more than 6,900 languages in the world, and anyone who’s traveled abroad knows how hard it can be to get even simple points across in a foreign tongue.

Breaking down language barriers has long been a dream of science fiction — “Star Trek” had its Universal Translator to help the Enterprise crew understand exotic alien speech, and C3PO from “Star Wars” knew more than 6 million forms of communication from across the galaxy.

Now, thanks to advances in real-time translation software, the dream of speaking to anyone regardless of language is closer to reality than ever. Experts say human translators won’t be out of work anytime soon — they’re vital for legal proceedings, diplomatic discussions, and scenarios when exact word choice and tone are necessary — but new inexpensive digital tools allow people to speak easily in situations where communication once seemed impossible.

With software from the Austrian-based tech company iTranslate and a compatible set of wireless earphones, you can now have nearly 40 languages translated directly into your ear. But the tool doesn’t help users understand everything they’d hear on a crowded street yet. Currently, it’s focused on letting people speak with someone else using connected smartphones tethered to iTranslate-enabled earphones. It can facilitate basic transactions and everyday small talk between people who until recently couldn’t exchange a word.

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Mandarin success in Scottish schools

6 June 2017 (Spectrum Sino)

Recently-launched efforts to teach Mandarin in Scottish schools have been hailed for the interest they have created amongst children to learn more about Chinese culture, history and language.

Schools across the country have celebrated the opening of their Confucius classroom hubs.

Read more...

Related Links

Mother Language Dictates Reading Strategy

4 June 2017 (Language Magazine)

The way bilingual people read is conditioned by the languages they speak, according to researchers at Spain’s Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL), who found that the languages spoken by bilingual people (when they learned to read in two languages at the same time) affect their reading strategies and even the cognitive foundations that form the basis for the capacity to read.

“Monolingual speakers of transparent [phonetic] languages—where letters are pronounced the same independently of the word they are included in, such as Basque or Spanish—have a greater tendency to use analytical reading strategies, where they read words in parts,” according to Marie Lallier, one of the authors of the article, “Cross-Linguistic Transfer in Bilinguals Reading in Two Alphabetic Orthographies: The grain size accommodation hypothesis,” published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

On the other hand, speakers of opaque languages, where the sounds of letters differ depending on the word (for example English or French) are more likely to use a global reading strategy. In other words, they tend to read whole words to understand their meaning.

Researchers also observed that bilingual people who learned to read two languages at the same time do not read the same way as monolingual speakers; rather, they follow a different pattern which had not previously been described—a contamination effect takes place between the two reading strategies in speakers of two languages. Therefore, a person learning to read in Spanish and in English will have a greater tendency toward a global strategy, even when reading in Spanish, than a monolingual Spanish speaker.

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Not speaking another language stops almost five MILLION adults from going abroad

2 June 2017 (Daily Express)

Almost two thirds of Britons admit that they wish they were better at languages as it would allow them to become more deeply immersed in other cultures.

An international study from booking site Hostelworld, questioned more than 8,000 people in six countries about how their language skills impact on travel plans.

The research reveals that one in 10 UK adults (10 per cent) - the equivalent of 4.7 million adults - are put-off traveling because of language barriers, which particularly affects the younger generation (18-24s) where it rises to 15 per cent.

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Israeli woman invents new typeface combining Arabic and Hebrew to promote co-existence

2 June 2017 (The Independent)

Typography designer Liron Lavi Turkenich creates 638 character alphabet which can be read by speakers of both languages.

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In an age of Brexit and closing borders we need to embrace multilingualism

2 June 2017 (The Independent)

Being able to speak to people in their own tongue instantly breaks down hostility and broadens the mind. But in the age of Brexit, the acquisition of other languages has become a political act. Andy Martin wonders was there ever a Big Bang moment when we all understood each other?

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Robot priest unveiled in Germany to mark 500 years since Reformation

30 May 2017 (The Guardian)

Five hundred years after revolutionary printing presses spread news of Martin Luther’s radical call for church reform across Europe, technology is again challenging religious tradition in the small German town of Wittenberg.

A robot priest that delivers blessings in five languages and beams light from its hands has been unveiled as part of an exhibition to mark the anniversary of the start of the Reformation, a Europe-wide religious, political and cultural upheaval sparked when Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door in the town.

Half a millennium later, the robot, called BlessU-2, is intended to trigger debate about the future of the church and the potential of artificial intelligence.

The item includes a short video demonstration in German.

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Which languages Americans learn and why

26 May 2017 (BBC News)

John Kerry joked about Americans learning Russian, but global politics do influence languages studied.

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Which language would ease our way in the post-Brexit world?

24 May 2017 (The Guardian)

We Brits are pretty settled in our role as monoglots. Our default tactic of “speak English slowly and loudly so others can understand you” served us well enough – and then Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, put the boot in by claiming recently that “English is losing importance.”

Is this really the case? Experts are divided.

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Belfast council unveils policy to promote Irish and Ulster-Scots

23 May 2017 (Belfast Telegraph)

Belfast City Council is to transform how it treats minority languages, with a major promotion of both Irish and Ulster-Scots.
 
In a new policy, which was revealed on Tuesday, May 22 as a public consultation was launched into the proposals, the council will create micro-sites on its website in the languages, as well as responding to correspondence in both.

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Meet the linguists: the new French government is packing some pretty intimidating skills

22 May 2017 (The Conversation)

One of the most striking features of the recent French presidential elections and the subsequent nomination of a new prime minister and his cabinet has been the attention paid by the French media to the linguistic competences of the nation’s politicians.

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Alarm raised over modern language cuts at Manchester University

20 May 2017 (Guardian)

Planned staffing cuts that will hit modern languages teaching and research at Britain’s largest university should be scrapped, a group of senior academics have warned in a letter to the Guardian. The plan to shed as many as 35 jobs from the University of Manchester’s school of arts – a third of its strength – would do harm to the UK in the long run, they said.

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The first map of Gaelic speakers in Scotland

18 May 2017 (The Scotsman)

Produced by Edinburgh map company Bartholomew’s, the map contains information distilled from the first census, in 1881, that counted Gaelic speakers in Scotland.

The article follows the trend of Gaelic speakers in Scotland thereafter and includes links to Gaelic phrases for beginners.

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Vast majority of young people think there should be a GCSE in sign language

15 May 2017 (TES)

Deaf charity finds that 97 per cent of 8-25 year-olds think sign language should be taught in schools. Almost all deaf young people think British Sign Language (BSL) should be taught in schools, according to a new survey. The National Deaf Children’s Society surveyed more than 2,000 deaf and hearing people, aged between eight and 25 and living across the UK, for its Right to Sign report. The charity found 97 per cent of young people thought that the language should be taught and 92 per cent thought it should be offered as a GCSE.

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Want a job in tech? Learn another language

15 May 2017 (Tech World)

When I ask the question ‘what’s the golden ticket to getting a job here’ to any of the major tech giants – the answer is universal. Being multilingual is the key. Partly for obvious reasons – but also because multilingual candidates bring a lot more to the table than fluency in languages.

Let’s dissect the obvious reason first. Currently two thirds of the world’s population speak two or more languages; this represents over 3.5 billion people.

Tech companies are fundamentally global, spanning every country, culture and race. Their customer base is worldwide and therefore they need to recruit people that can communicate with more than one target audience. In an increasingly competitive and international jobs market, European languages such as Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian and German are increasingly valuable to employers, while fluency in languages relating to emerging markets such as Mandarin and Russian are like pure gold.

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Brits are terrible tourists who don’t learn languages, don’t talk to strangers, and don’t respect other cultures

13 May 2017 (Metro)

Brits haven’t got the best reputation as tourists. We’re loud, we drink, we’re awful at languages, and we have a history of starting fights at football matches. But now we have some proof, as a recent survey found that almost half of British tourists choose not to respect a country’s culture when they visit.

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Graduate jobs: top 12 degree subjects for getting a job

12 May 2017 (The Telegraph)

Competition for graduate jobs has never been more fierce. With tuition fees and living costs representing financial sacrifices for many, students reasonably demand degree courses that offer them the best value for money in today's tough jobs market.

Languages feature in the list of the top 12 degree subjects.

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Leaving Certificate language students ‘learning off’ exam answers

11 May 2017 (Irish Examiner)

(Relates to Ireland) In a series of reports on student performance in language exams last June, chief examiners say students must learn how to adapt, instead of using learned-off answers.

The issues were most acute in the 2016 Leaving Certificate exams in Spanish, French, and Italian.

There are many positive aspects, particularly about the competencies of more able students of the six languages, which also included German, Japanese, and Russian.

But in oral exams, which are worth between 20% and 25% of marks in language subjects, a common concern is that students have prepared answers.

The Spanish Leaving Certificate examiner reported, for example, that a number of students had been taught in a “rote-learning” manner that prevented the natural flow of conversation.

“Many candidates had prepared a range of topics in the general conversation, but, when gently disengaged from rote-learned topics, found it difficult to communicate effectively in the target language,” the reports said.

The reports are published today by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), whose chief examiner in Leaving Certificate French said most students were well-prepared for the orals and had a high degree of proficiency and fluency.

However, at the other end of the scale, some of the 25,758 students examined in the subject had difficulty answering even simple questions.

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Consul General Pan Xinchun Visits Fettes College

9 May 2017 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China)

On 4 May, Consul General Pan Xinchun paid a visit to Fettes College where he delivered a speech to the students and had a cordial meeting with the headmaster Michael Spens.

In his speech, Mr. Pan spoke highly of the Fettes College for its outstanding achievements in education. He indicated that well-educated students with global vision need knowledge about China. As the second largest economy, China has made huge contributions to the global development. He introduced the close links between China and Scotland by giving examples of people's daily life. Mr. Pan said, the demand in other countries for Mandarin speakers is increasing as China's cooperation with the rest of the world is deepening with a growing number of people learning Chinese language and culture. In Scotland alone, nearly 30,000 students from primary and secondary schools are learning. He encouraged the students to work hard and gain more understanding about China so as to build a bridge of friendship and cooperation between China and Scotland.

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Pupil's sign language address to Scottish Parliament

9 May 2017 (BBC)

A profoundly deaf Falkirk High School pupil has delivered the Scottish Parliament's Time for Reflection in sign language.

Jemma Skelding, 12, is the youngest person to deliver the address, which is the parliament's first item of business of the week in the chamber.

Miss Skelding said she was pleased be at Holyrood ahead of next week's Deaf Awareness Week.

She told MSPs her parents and an older sister were also deaf.

Miss Skelding shared her experiences of using sign language in the address, which was translated by Mary McDevitt.

She said she grew up using sign language at home and thought everyone could use it, until she attended her first nursery.

Miss Skelding said that her next nursery taught everyone sign language half a day a week.

She said: "This was a really happy time for me.

"I was with my friends and I just felt like everyone else, we played together and we laughed a lot, we even had special sign names for each other."

Miss Skelding said things changed in P3, and by the following year she was "unhappy and felt very lonely."

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Brexit leads to surge in Brits wanting to learn new language, data finds

8 May 2017 (The Independent)

The British public’s appetite for learning foreign languages has increased significantly after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, according to newly released data.

Languages app Lingvist says it has seen a 91 per cent increase in UK users since the EU referendum last June, having compared its user base during the nine months before the vote to its user base in the nine months after the vote.

The popularity of English-Spanish courses has grown by 427 per cent, according to the data, with English-French courses experiencing a 342 per cent increase in popularity amongst British users.

“With Brexit around the corner, the growing concerns around how the UK will be able to bridge the language skills gap have been brought to the fore,” said Lingvist co-founder and COO Ott Jalakas.

“Government statistics show that the UK is already losing £50bn a year due to poor language skills with an over-reliance on one language affecting business turnover, profitability and expansion to new markets.

“Our data shows that the UK is on the right path to bridge the language learning gap.”

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Brexit: English language 'losing importance' - EU's Juncker

5 May 2017 (BBC)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told a conference in Italy on the EU that "English is losing importance in Europe".

Amid tensions with the UK over looming Brexit negotiations, he said he was delivering his speech in French.

"Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election," he said, explaining his choice of language.

[..] Before the UK joined in 1973, French was the main language of EU business.

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More sign language classes are to be held in Moffat due to demand

4 May 2017 (DNG24)

Resident Fiona Stewart, who is herself deaf, will lead the four sessions, starting on the evening of Wednesday May 17 and also running the 24 and 31 and June 7.

It comes after she hosted a successful initial introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) course earlier this year, attended by 50 people.

It was initiated by Catherine Jackson, whose children wanted to learn BSL.

She said: “The class was so popular that we ended up running two groups, both over four sessions. And there’s still a waiting list and requests for us to run more.”

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Prince George has learnt to count in Spanish

3 May 2017 (The Telegraph)

Prince George can already count to ten in Spanish, the Duchess of Cambridge has disclosed, as she lifts the lid on their idyllic rural Good Life in Norfolk.

The Duchess said Prince George, who is not yet four, and Princess Charlotte, two, are both learning a second language, with the future king already cleverly picking it up.

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Bilingual speakers experience time differently to people who only speak one language, study finds

3 May 2017 (The Independent)

For those who can only speak one language, people who have the ability to speak multiple are often a source of fascination. What language do they think in? Can they switch mid-way through? Do they only dream in one language or both?

It turns out, these questions are not without merit as people who can speak two languages actually experience time in a different way.

A study from Lancaster University and Stockholm University, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that people who are bilingual think about time differently depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events.

Linguists Professor Panos Athanasopoulos and Professor Emanuel Bylund explained that bilinguals often go back and forth being their languages both consciously and unconsciously.

Additionally, different languages often refer to time differently. For example, Swedish and English speakers refer to physical distances: ‘Taking a short break’ while Spanish speakers refer to physical quantities and volume: ‘Taking a small break’.

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Pupils with poor English get lost in translation

28 April 2017 (TES)

Thousands of children in Scotland who have English as an additional language are missing out on the funding and support they need, warns one charity chief.

Recent figures speak of more than 1 million English as an additional language (EAL) pupils in mainstream UK education today. For Scotland alone, the 2016 Census mentions 39,000. These figures are so considerable that it’s hard to understand why education authorities in Scotland, England and Wales do not acknowledge the presence of children and young people who require English language support.

There is no government ring-fenced budget for EAL; neither are there clear recommendations for using available funds. In fact, there is much confusion surrounding EAL. This has to be addressed before more pupils leave school feeling that they have underachieved due to language issues.

Problems start the moment schools have to identify who is and isn’t EAL. Since September 2016, the Department for Education has expected all schools in England and Wales to assess the language development of all children identified as EAL. This was a great step forward – only the DfE has not yet provided a clear, uniform EAL assessment framework that schools can use.

An experienced language teacher can assess a child’s level of English after conducting an oral interview and doing some writing exercises, but not every school has such a teacher. A positive development is that the Cambridge-based Bell Foundation has commissioned a research and development team at King’s College, London to prepare an EAL assessment toolkit, which recently became available on its website. It will take some time and effort to learn how to use the kit, but it’s a very comprehensive assessment.

For Scotland, the situation is quite different. The government does not ask for a level assessment for EAL; in fact, EAL departments confirm that schools do not have to identify EAL pupils. Instead, it is left to the parents to say if their child speaks English as an additional language.

Each parent of a schoolchild in Scotland is given a form to complete, which asks the ethnic group of the child and which language is his or her mother tongue.

This can lead to confusion, as parents will state that the child’s first language is, for example, Polish if the child uses this language at home and spoke it first as a baby; however, this child may also be fully proficient in English and not require any support at all.

On the other hand, a parent may state that their child’s first language is English, implying that the child is fluent – but that parent may be misjudging the child’s competency.

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Campaign seeks to double share of UK students studying abroad

25 April 2017 (THE)

A campaign aimed at doubling the proportion of UK students who spend time abroad during their degree has been launched by Universities UK International.

The new target forms the second phase of the organisation’s UK Strategy for Outward Mobility, which since 2013 has aimed to increase the share of students who have an international experience. However, the strategy has not previously set a figure.

Just 6.6 per cent of full-time undergraduates in the UK undertook international placements during their degree in 2014. The campaign seeks to increase this figure to 13.2 per cent by 2020 in order to “create a new generation of global graduates and a higher education culture in which international opportunities are an aspiration for all students”.

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Launch of British Sign Language (BSL) Bookbug session in Fife

25 April 2017 (Fife Today)

Bookbug – a free story, song and rhyme session for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their families is set to launch Fife’s debut British Sign Language friendly group at Kirkcaldy Libraries next month.

All deaf parents with hearing children, hearing parents with deaf children and deaf parents with deaf children are invited to book a place.

Depending on uptake, the hope is to continue these specialised sessions on a monthly basis.

The event, on May 15 at 10.30am, is part of Bookbug Week 2017, which takes place between May 15-21 in celebration of ‘Bookbug’s Big Giggle’. This fun and playful theme will inspire children and adults alike to feel good by sharing songs and rhymes.

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Learn a language to delay dementia

23 April 2017 (The Sunday Times)

Learning a second language can delay the onset of some kinds of dementia by six years, according to new research.

Even five hours a week of learning can build up a “cognitive reserve” counteracting the effects of brain disease and boosting function in all age groups.

Thomas Bak, a neuroscientist at Edinburgh University, found that people benefited by attempting a second language even if they were far from fluent.

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Setting grade standards in A level modern foreign languages

21 April 2017 (UK Government)

Ofqual has today (21 April 2017) announced that it will take action this summer to ensure standards are set appropriately in A level French, German and Spanish.

The decision stems from new research, published by the regulator today, which suggests that awarding should take into account the fact that native language speakers take these subjects. The adjustment to grade standards will be decided in early summer. If the ability of the cohorts is similar to previous years we would anticipate small increases in the proportion of students getting top grades in each subject this August.

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Related Links

A-level language grades skewed by results of native speakers - study (The Guardian, 21 April 2017)

A-level language grades skewed by results of native speakers – study

21 April 2017 (The Guardian)

For years the British stereotype of Germans has been that they get the best of everything, from sun-loungers to football trophies – and now it seems they have been achieving the best A-level grades.

Research published by the exam regulator Ofqual has found that German-speaking children in the UK have been sitting A-level exams in their native language – and winning a disproportionate amount of A and A* grades on offer.

The Ofqual research estimated that about 17% of the students taking German A-levels in Britain may be native speakers, and gained about half of the top A* grades on offer – making it harder for non-native speakers sitting the exam.

The new research is good news for pupils taking this summer’s A-levels, with Ofqual suggesting it could increase the number of top grades it hands out, to ensure a level playing field between grades awarded in modern foreign languages and other subjects.

“If the ability of the cohorts is similar to previous years we would anticipate small increases in the proportion of students getting top grades in each subject this August,” Ofqual said in a statement.

The researchers found similar results in French and Spanish, with native speakers gaining higher than average GCSE scores. In Spanish, native speakers are almost 10 times more likely to achieve a grade A or A* than non-native speakers. Native-speaking Germans are 28 times more likely to achieve a grade A, and 11 times more likely to get an A*.

The research comes after complaints from leading schools that modern foreign languages are graded less generously than other subjects. But until now there has been no effort to account for native speakers as exam candidates.

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All Junior Cert pupils to study a foreign language under new plan

19 April 2017 (News Talk)

(Applies to Ireland) All pupils will study a foreign language for their Junior Cert by 2021 under ambitious new plans being announced by the Education Minister.

The strategy also aims to increase the number of Leaving Cert students studying a foreign language by 10%.

Chinese will be introduced as a Leaving Cert subject for the first time, while so-called 'heritage languages' such as Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese will get a proper curriculum.

Speaking to Pat Kenny, Minister Richard Bruton explained: "We are going to have to, post-Brexit, realise that one of the common weaknesses of English speaking countries - that we disregard foreign languages - has to be addressed in Ireland.

"We need now to trade in the growth areas - and many of those speak Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. Those are the languages that we need to learn to continue to trade successfully."

On the subject of Eastern European languages, he observed: "We now have many Lithuanians and Polish here, and we can develop those languages.

"We also need to use programmes like Erasmus - we want to increase our participation there by 50%. Clearly it has to become more immersed in the language.

"At the moment if you look at Leaving Cert and Junior Cert, French dominates. French is a lovely language, but we need to recognise that we need to diversify into other languages."

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China visit a Scottish first for brass band

14 April 2017 (Guide and Gazette)

Carnoustie High School Brass Band will play in the People’s Republic of China following a concert they performed earlier this year in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow.

The concert was for the Confucius Institute for Scotland who were so impressed by their standard of playing that they set in motion a plan to have the youngsters visit China in a cultural exchange.

The institute contacted Donald Currie, headteacher at Carnoustie High School, and requested the band make the trip next year.

Carnoustie High is the Confucius Hub for Angus and the Confucius classrooms are hubs based in schools and serving the local community.

The hub concept promotes joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture.

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If Theresa May really wants to make Brexit a success, why is her Government making it so hard to learn a language?

13 April 2017 (The Independent)

I can still remember a conversation I had as a teenager about GCSE subject. I had the choice between doing Spanish or Geography. My late father was unequivocal: do Spanish because you have no idea how many doors another language will open for you. Three decades later I am still thankful for heeding his advice, given just how much of an influence it has had on my career and my personal life.

The Conservative Party political broadcast this week, and its 2017 local election campaign, talk about us becoming a new "Global Britain". But this Government is simultaneously failing to address the problem to achieving that ambition – that so many British people cannot speak a second language.

Boris Johnson enjoyed travelling the world to promote London at any opportunity when he was Mayor. But while Boris speaks very good French, as did Tony Blair, these politicians are hardly representative of the rest of the country. Our inability to speak other languages is an international joke which ranks as embarrassing as our perpetual failure to progress in international football tournaments. Three quarters of adults surveyed by YouGov back in 2013 admitted they were unable to hold a conversation in another major foreign language.

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Related Links

This is the best way to prepare kids for Brexit (The Independent, 15 April 2017)

Learning a second language isn’t just good for your brain—it’s good for democracy, too

13 April 2017 (Quartz Media)

We live in narrow-minded times, wherein insularity and nationalism are pervasive in public discourse. If you’re among the many people looking for ways to take political action, one of the most effective things you can do is devote yourself to learning a new foreign language.

Learning a new language is a way to foster community and understanding between people of all political persuasions and nationalities. This can act both as a potent corrective force to any tendencies of narrow-mindedness we may be harboring, and as a form of political resistance. It’s a concrete action that all of us can take to move the needle toward a more just and open-minded mentality.

To understand why this is the case, it’s useful to consider all the ways in which learning a language helps steel us against the prevailing small-mindedness of our times.

Learning a language helps you understand your own culture better.

Though we speak our own language all the time, we don’t tend to notice how it works until we learn another one. Until then, we lack the necessary perspective: As the German poet Goethe said, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

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Polish ambassador calls for Polish to be taught in Scottish schools

12 April 2017 (Press and Journal)

The Polish ambassador has called for his country’s language to be taught in Scottish schools.

Arkady Rzegocki said he had raised the issue with ministers since taking up his post last year.

He also told the Press and Journal that schools in Poland have “much more knowledge” about Britain and Scotland than their counterparts here.

Mr Rzegocki, who visited Scotland two weeks ago, said: “From my perspective it’s a really great opportunity and great chance because we need more information about Poland and about central Europe generally in British schools, in Scottish schools.

“And also the Polish language should be learned as a foreign language.”

He added: “This lack of knowledge is a real barrier from my perspective, a real barrier to better economical cooperation.

“It’s fair to say we have much, much more knowledge about Britain, about Scotland in Polish schools, in Poland, so we have to make it more equal.”

He also said he is trying to encourage more Polish people to visit Scotland and vice versa.

And he highlighted Polish Heritage Day next month, which he described as an opportunity for British and Polish people to learn more about each other’s history and customs.

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Related Links

Polish language advocates lament lack of classes (The Times, 14 April 2017)

Blantyre primary school children celebrate the language and culture of Spain

12 April 2017 (Daily Record)

St Joseph’s Primary School in Blantyre embraced the Scottish Government’s approach to modern languages learning by celebrating the language and culture of Spain last week.

During a dedicated Spanish week of events aimed at developing learners’ use of the Spanish language pupils learned about the Spanish culture and Spanish-speaking countries worldwide.

Learners participated in a range of stimulating experiences and opportunities which supported them in their journey towards Global Citizenship by enabling them to deepen and extend their knowledge and understanding of Spanish cities, food, music, dance, architecture, sport, famous people, festivals, film and media.

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Half of young adults in the UK do not feel European, poll reveals

11 April 2017 (The Guardian)

Only half of the UK’s young adults see themselves as having a European identity and one in five do not identify as being British, a survey has found.

The poll also found that exposure to different nationalities among 18- to 30-year-olds in the UK was low, with just 13% ever having worked abroad and just one in three proficient enough to speak Spanish, French or any other foreign language at a “simple” level.

According to the study, commissioned by thinktank Demos and supported by the British Council as part of the Next Generation research series, young people were also less well travelled than reports on student gap years would imply.

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Prepare British children for life after Brexit – teach them another language

10 April 2017 (The Conversation)

The formal negotiations to untangle the UK from the intricacies of the European Union are now well underway. And it is clear that looking forward, Britain’s new relationship with the EU will necessitate conducting trade and political communications in a new dynamic – one which is unlikely to be done in the medium of English.

When the UK leaves the EU there will be no member state remaining where English is the lead official language. “Ah”, you say, “what about Ireland, they speak English there”. Yes they do, but in Ireland, Irish Gaelic is considered the first official language.

So to trade with the EU, the UK will need high-level negotiators fluent in German, French and Spanish, which it currently does not have.

Additionally, leaving the EU will result in a restriction of immigrants from across EU member states. The need for visas will drastically reduce the number of workers who can come to the UK to fill jobs British people are either unwilling or unable to do.

And recognising this gap, the Foreign and Common Wealth office and the Ministry of Defence have opened in-house training centres to provide lessons in up to 80 different languages for their staff.

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Gaelic Enrichment Course for GLE & GME Teachers

7 April 2017 (Ceòlas)

Ceòlas will be running teacher training courses again this year, in July during the Summer School (2--7/7; Dalabrog) and the symposium (23-27/7; Ìochdar).

Six different levels will run, making this course suitable for teachers who are beginners up to fluent who wish to learn Gaelic as it is used within the community. Teachers really enjoy this course, many of whom have not 'experienced' a Gaelic community before.

See the attached flyer or visit the website for more information.

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Why Britain's monolingualism could be costly for the nation

5 April 2017 (World Economic Forum)

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it has a huge number of considerations to ensure its economy prospers. One, which is perhaps overlooked, is Britain’s language policy and how important this is as an economic resource. A strategic language policy and the cultivation of language experts in post-Brexit Britain are essential if it wants to connect with fresh markets overseas.

This has long been a feature of international diplomacy – stretching back long before globalisation as we know it. All the big powers of the Old World depended on understanding other people’s languages to trade across cultures. A “modern” solution was found in Babylonia, an ancient commercial metropolitan hub in the Near East, where a polyglot community of traders came together from the Mediterranean, Persia and Turkey, and beyond.

There are accounts of King Hammurabi deftly exploiting his city’s growing cultural mix as a resource in the 1790s BC. He used bilingual foreign traders as cross-cultural brokers. With their language skills, they played a key role in facilitating long-range trade with distant markets.

One of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy now is a skills shortage. Although funding is promised to support technical skills training, UK business also requires professionals with language skills to achieve sales in fresh markets. These experts will need to speak the languages of trading partners and understand the cultures of new overseas contacts to negotiate and seal deals. Investment in this crucial soft skill is needed.

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Dingwall Academy's pioneering sign language work hailed at Holyrood

2 April 2017 (Ross-shire Journal)

Dingwall Academy’s leadership in promoting British Sign Language (BSL) has been applauded by the Scottish Parliament – after the school was highly praised by Strathpeffer-based MSP, Maree Todd.

She used the recent debate on the consultation on the Draft BSL National Plan to highlight the initiative of Dingwall Academy’s unit. During her speech, she used BSL to welcome former Dingwall Academy pupil, Caitlin Bogan, who was watching the debate from the viewing gallery.

The MSP later said: “We should all be proud of what is being done in the Highlands. Dingwall Academy is one of the few schools to deliver a BSL unit – all students in first year, including my son Gregor this year, take BSL classes as a taster along with other languages, including French, Gaelic and German.

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How London's Goethe-Institut is fighting for foreign languages amidst Brexit

29 March 2017 (Deutsche Welle)

What does Brexit mean for language-learning and cultural exchange in the UK? The head of London's Goethe-Institut told DW that the impact is already being felt - but she remains optimistic for the future.

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Bad language: why being bilingual makes swearing easier

27 March 2017 (The Guardian)

Many bilinguals report “feeling less” in their second language; it does not bear the same emotional weight as your native language. Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary, which is precisely what I was experiencing with my ease of swearing and talking about sensitive topics in English. The scientific term for this is reduced emotional resonance of language. It is a fairly well-established phenomenon, but many specific questions still remain unanswered. For example, what exactly makes one’s second language less emotional? How does this affect different immigrant communities? My research project aims to address these questions by looking into the reasons and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language.

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Edinburgh primary leads way with Japanese lessons pilot

27 March 2017 (Edinburgh Evening News)

They already love manga, Pokemon and Nintendo and now schoolchildren in the Capital have been given the chance to learn about the language behind some of their favourite pastimes.

Liberton Primary School has become a language trailblazer thanks to a new scheme designed to introduce youngsters to Japanese from an early age.

The Japanese for Young Learners project has seen two P5 classes give the language a go, as well as learning about the history and culture of the far eastern country.

While Liberton already teaches a number of other languages – such as French, German, Spanish and Mandarin – it is the first Edinburgh primary school in many years to add Japanese to its offering.

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Tongue twisting: What Brexit means for minority languages

24 March 2017 (The New European)

In what could be a perfect metaphor for the chaos unleashed by Brexit, the future of the British Isles’ minority languages has been thrown into doubt by the decision to leave the EU. And, says Maurice Smith, that uncertainty could have profound cultural and economic implications

From street signs, to television stations, schools, music and literature, the British Isles is a linguistically diverse archipelago, home to various native languages, whose fortunes have always fluctuated through the centuries.

But with Brexit has come a new threat, to menace them all. The situation is politically acute in Ireland, where promotion of Irish Gaelic education is a key element of the peace agreement in the North, and has particularly strong overtones as a result. At Stormont, in recent months, the two main parties – Democratic Unionists (DUP) and Sinn Fein – have been at loggerheads over the latter’s demand that Irish becomes the devolved government’s second official language.

There may be a less abrasive political dimension in Scotland and Wales, but Scots Gaelic and Welsh have nevertheless become increasingly important in terms of preservation, education and broadcasting investment. But as Scotland moves towards another referendum on independence, we can expect more abrasion on this issue.

The politics of language funding is the politics of national diversity, and Brexit, and agitation for a vote on Scottish independence, are bringing such differences into sharp relief.

These minority languages, and others such as Cornish, have all benefited from UK and devolved government support. But that has been underpinned by their status as recognised minority languages within the EU. The fear is that Brexit will lead to less support, and especially less money, for education, promotion and cultural support.

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British business will need its foreign language speakers

22 March 2017 (FT)

Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29, but much of UK business has no idea what Brexit will mean for them. During discussions in the past few weeks, I have heard of financial services companies applying for licences in EU countries in case they need to move some of their operations there. But most businesses are watching and waiting to assess what comes out of the negotiations.

There is one thing many companies are sure of: they cannot manage without their EU staff. It is not just the numbers of EU nationals working in many industries. Some companies are also desperate to hold on to the languages those citizens speak.

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Learn another language and keep your brain fit

20 March 2017 (Irish Times)

Most people in this part of the world have a smattering of French or Spanish which comes in useful when ordering dinner on holiday, but because much of the developed world speaks English there is less incentive for us to really try to become fluent, as it is generally accepted that wherever we may find ourselves someone will understand what we are trying to say.

However, if research is to be believed, learning a new language has huge benefits and not just for social reasons either. A new study from Scotland involving elderly participants revealed that those who began learning a completely new language had far better mental responses than those who were engaging in other learning activities.

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Young Scots whae hae

20 March 2017 (The Southern Reporter)

Galashiels Academy played host to the annual Eildon West Primary Schools Celebration of Scots Language and Culture, held on Friday, March 3.

All primary schools, from Tweedbank to Heriot, were represented. Medals, presented by Alistair Christie, vice-president of the Galashiels Burns Club, were awarded for Scots writing and recitation of Scots poetry.

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How to revive a 500-year-old dying language

19 March 2017 (BBC)

Until two years ago, university student Kevin Martens Wong had never even heard of his ancestral tongue, let alone spoken it.

The Singaporean linguist was researching endangered languages when he stumbled upon Kristang in a book. As he dug deeper, he realised it was the language of his maternal grandparents.

Mr Wong had heard smatterings of Kristang while growing up. But his grandparents were hardly fluent. His mother couldn't speak Kristang at all.

"As a child I had learnt Mandarin and English in school, and my parents speak in English to me. So I never really recognised that side of my heritage," says Mr Wong, who is half Chinese and half Portuguese Eurasian.

Kristang is the language of the Portuguese Eurasians, a minority group descended from Portuguese settlers who arrived in the region in the 16th Century and married locals.

A unique creole of Portuguese and Malay, with elements of Chinese languages such as Mandarin and Hokkien, it was spoken by at least 2,000 people across the Malayan archipelago at its peak in the 19th Century.

But today there may be as little as 50 fluent speakers left, according to researchers' estimates.

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Learning a language should be compulsory in schools, says report

16 March 2017 (BBC News)

(Applies to Northern Ireland) Learning a foreign language should be made compulsory in primary schools here, a new report has said.

In Northern Ireland, learning a second language is not a statutory part of the primary school curriculum.

In England and Scotland, by contrast, primary school pupils are expected to learn a foreign language.

The review of primary languages in Northern Ireland has been carried out by researchers from Stranmillis University College. The authors surveyed language learning at over 100 schools.

They found that Spanish and French were most popular in schools where languages were taught. Some pupils also learned German or Mandarin.

However, not all primary schools taught an additional language.

This led the authors to conclude that there was "a lack of equity in provision for children" across the country.

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Brain Fitness - Learn a New Language

15 March 2017 (Huffington Post)

Research has shown that it’s important to “exercise” your brain and language learning is one of the most effective and practical ways to do this. Speaking and learning a foreign language gives your brain a good workout, keeps your mind sharp, and defends your brain against aging.

Surprisingly, being bilingual wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Some educators and scientists thought that learning a foreign language, especially from a young age, had a negative effect on brain development and caused confusion. They also claimed being bilingual would hinder academic performance. We now know that exactly the opposite is true. Science now shows that learning a second language helps strengthen the brain.

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Related Links

Learning a second language can add years to your life (Lee's Summit Journal, 14 March 2017)

Should pupils have to learn sign language?

15 March 2017 (BBC News)

"When I meet hearing children who can sign, I feel happy and confident," says Emmanuel, seven.

"I want to teach everyone British sign language - the whole world."

Faiza, 11, says: "If children learnt more sign, it would mean I'd try to play with them more. Communication would be easier.

"If my hearing friends didn't sign, I would feel lonely and sad."

For these deaf children at Blanche Nevile School in north London, helping hearing peers learn British sign language (BSL) is a chance to break down barriers and make new friends.
Their school shares a site with Highgate Primary School, and the schools work in partnership so that deaf and hearing children can learn alongside each other.

While BSL was recognised as a language in its own right 14 years ago, it is not included in the national curriculum in England.

Now, an online petition set up by Wayne Barrow, who grew up with deaf parents, is aiming to change that.

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Related Links

Should hearing children learn sign language? (BBC News, 15 March 2017) - meet school pupils learning to sign and learning alongside deaf children (video report)

Sign language costs 'too high' for some families
(BBC News, 15 March 2017)

Watch as MP uses British Sign Language in the House of Commons (Daily Mirror, 16 March 2017)

MP Dawn Butler praised for using sign language in Commons (BBC News, 16 March 2017)

Teachers ‘ill-prepared’ for primary language strategy

14 March 2017 (The Herald)

Teachers have warned an ambitious strategy to expand language learning in Scottish primary schools lacks direction.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said training for school staff was variable and had led to lower confidence levels in some areas.

The criticism centres on the Scottish Government’s flagship 1+2 languages policy under which primary pupils are to be taught at least two modern languages in addition to their mother tongue, starting in the first year of schooling and adding a second foreign language no later than P5.

The government has argued primaries should incorporate as large a pool of languages as possible, including Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu and Polish.

However, critics say schools and teacher training universities need a much smaller group of languages to focus on to ensure continuity of study and expertise among staff.

In a letter to councils, Andrea Bradley, EIS assistant secretary for education, said information from primary teachers had identified training that was not of a consistently appropriate standard.

She said members had highlighted a “lack of direction” as to which languages would be taught at which stage as well as “variable quality of teachers’ experience of training course delivery”.

She also said there was “inconsistency” in the duration of training courses and therefore inconsistency in “outcomes for our members in terms of their levels of confidence to teach foreign languages”.

She added: “The EIS therefore calls upon all local authorities to work with Scottish Government to address the issues that are raised here, with a view to ensuring coherence of approach and adequate resourcing in order that the worthy aims of the policy can be met.”

The concerns were echoed by Gillian Campbell-Thow, chairwoman of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching.

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Related Links

SALT's response to EIS (SALT, 15 March 2017)

13 words we borrowed from Arabic

11 March 2017 (The Independent)

Arabic is one of the five most spoken languages in the world, with some 400 million users.

It's also one of the most ancient, varied and beautifully scripted languages in existence.

Its influence on Spanish since the time of the Moors is well known, but what's less well known is how many commonly used English words were actually taken from Arabic.

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Emotional celebration of Perth Polish Saturday School's 10th year in the Fair City

10 March 2017 (Daily Record)

A school in Perth has been hailed for keeping Polish children and those with connections to the eastern European community in touch with their history and culture.

The Perth Polish Saturday School celebrated its 10th anniversary and a special ‘Jubilee’ reception was held at North Inch Community Campus on March 4.

On Saturdays the school based at St John’s Academy teaches Polish history, geography, culture and language from 10.30am to 1.30pm.

Many children from Polish families have been born in the Fair City and the school provides them with a link to their family’s origins.

They learn nursery rhymes, songs and poems which keep their culture alive, as well as mastering the notoriously difficult Polish spellings and grammar.

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Languages and IT staff are ‘leaving and won’t return’

10 March 2017 (TESS)

Brexit will “impoverish” pupils’ education by driving away staff, removing opportunities to study abroad and diminishing language teaching, independent schools are warning.

John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), told TESS that teachers of modern languages and IT were leaving the UK “and not coming back”.

Mr Edward predicted that the departures would mount steadily in the next three to four years and have a “big impact” on Scottish schools.

The full article can be accessed via TESS online, 10 March 2017 (subscription required).

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Cash-strapped schools axing classes and cutting back on trips, headteachers say

10 March 2017 (The Independent)

Schools are being forced to scrap GCSE and A-level courses, increase class sizes and cut back on trips and after-school clubs as a result of a funding crisis, headteachers have warned.

Design and technology, languages and arts are among the subjects being dropped as schools struggle to deal with severe budget pressures, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In a new report, based on a poll of more than 1,000 members, the union warned that pressure to cut costs is having an impact on all areas of school life.

Interim general secretary Malcolm Trobe said school leaders are being forced to make “impossible choices”.

The Government has argued that school funding is at its highest ever level.

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Related Links

Warning over schools axing courses amid funding crisis (ITV News, 10 March 2017) - Of the language course cuts, German in particular is suffering.

Pupils celebrate success at multilingual poetry competition

9 March 2017 (Renfrewshire 24)

Six bilingual pupils from Renfrewshire have scooped up awards at a national poetry competition for their creative writing talents.

Of the 14 awards up for grabs through the ‘Mother Tongue Other Tongue’ competition run by SCILT – Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, six were awarded to pupils from St John Ogilvie Primary School, St James Primary School and Castlehead High School, who had written poetry in their native tongue in order to share their “other voices”.

Renfrewshire EAL (English as an additional language) teachers helped support bilingual pupils to create a collection of poems written in languages such as; Polish, Hungarian, Chinese, Punjabi, Catalan, Arabic, Greek, Filipino, Korean and Dutch.

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