Latest News

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


Languages in the press

Cornish language revives on back of psych-pop and Covid

16 June 2024 (The Guardian)

The ancient Cornish language has been declared dehwelans dhyworth an marow – back from the dead – amid a rise in popularity thanks to Covid-19 and a critically acclaimed psych-pop star.

There has been a significant rise in the number of people learning Cornish since the pandemic lockdown forced classes online, according to the volunteer network An Rosweyth.

“We have people in America, we have people in Australia, Mexico, Spain, Turkey,” said Emma Jenkin, its support officer, who said her last online lesson had “a couple of people in Cornwall – but mostly people are dotted all over the place”.

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Awards ceremony for indigenous Scots language returns

13 June 2024 (The Herald)

An awards ceremony celebrating the indigenous Scots Language will return this year for it’s fifth outing.

The Scots Language Awards 2024, organised by Hands up for Trad, launches today on the Scottish Poetry Library’s ‘Gie’s a Scots Poem Day’, in a bid to highlight the importance of the Scots language in daily life, education, business, arts, and culture.

For the first time, the awards ceremony will be hosted in Ayrshire at Cumnock Town Hall on Saturday 14 September, with the opportunity to nominate an individual or organisation available next month.

Celebrating figures who champion the Scots language, categories at the sixth annual Scots Language Awards will include Scots Business of the Year, Scots Writer of the Year, Scots Teacher of the Year and the widely regarded Janet Paisley Services to Scots Award.

As one of Scotland’s three indigenous languages, organisers say Scots is a growing tongue. The latest census saw the number of people in Scotland with some skills in Scots increase to over 46 per cent, with speakers spanning several dialects, including Doric, and stretching across regions from the Borders to Orkney.

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'The last map I'll ever make': Map of Cornwall in Cornish language created

12 June 2024 (Yahoo News)

A new map of Cornwall in the Cornish language has been created – in what is likely to be "the last map" the creator ever makes.

Cities, towns and features across the region are written with accurate Cornish placenames, as are the legend and other map details.

Paul Kavanagh, the writer of the Wee Ginger Dug blog, created the map over the span of ten years along with an academic authority covering the Cornish language.

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I started a Gaelic metalcore band

6 June 2024 (BBC)

Musician and broadcaster Colin Stone is pioneering a new sound for the Gaelic music scene - metalcore.

Linkin Park, Slipknot and Knocked Loose are among bands associated with the music, which is often described as a fusion of extreme metal and hardcore punk.

Stone records his own songs at his studio in Larbert and fronts the band, Gun Ghaol - Gaelic for "without love".

He said: “I think it is very important to write and record music in a different kind of style – it’s about spreading Gaelic around the world."

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Award-winning language expert hosts learning event for Scots teachers

5 June 2024 (Aberdeen Business News)

Modern language teachers across Scotland will have the opportunity to hear from world renowned language specialist, Gianfranco Conti at an innovative training event which turns traditional language teaching on its head. The full-day of immersive learning will take place at St Margaret’s School for Girls in Aberdeen on June 12th from 9am and will equip primary and secondary language teachers with practical learning and teaching activities, encouraging them to use the language specialists’ techniques effectively within their classrooms.

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Why we can read Finnish without understanding it – a look at ‘transparent’ languages

5 June 2024 (The Conversation)

Picture this: you find yourself in a Helsinki karaoke bar one night, and someone encourages you to get up and sing a well known song in Finnish. Without knowing a word of the language you grab the microphone and, to your surprise, manage to follow the rhythm of the lyrics appearing on the screen with no idea of what you are actually saying. Fans of Eurovision can try this out for themselves with Käärijä’s 2023 Finnish language hit “Cha Cha Cha”.

But why is this possible? The secret lies in the “transparency” of Finnish, and many other languages.

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Is being bilingual good for your brain?

2 June 2024 (BBC Ideas)

What does bilingualism do to the brain? Are there benefits to speaking more than one language?

Watch the BBC Ideas video to find out.

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Fewer pupils in England studying drama and media at GCSE and A-level

30 May 2024 (The Guardian)

Fewer pupils in England are studying drama, media and performing arts at GCSE and A-level, while the popularity of statistics, computing, physics and maths has gone up.

Provisional figures for exam entries in England this summer, published by the exams regulator Ofqual on Thursday, also reveal a growing enthusiasm for modern foreign languages, which had been in long-term decline.

The number of French A-level candidates has grown by 8% over the last year, Spanish by 2.3% and German by 3.1%, the last albeit from a very low base, taking numbers up to 2,280. The biggest jump at A-level is in further maths, where entry numbers have shot up by almost 20%.

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Welsh-learning teacher brings choir to Eisteddfod

29 May 2024 (BBC)

When Jonny Small moved to Wales from Surrey a decade ago, he had no idea he would be leading a school choir in Welsh-language song at the country’s national youth arts festival.

Mr Small, a Year 4 teacher at an English medium school in Penperlleni, Monmouthshire, said learning Welsh had changed his life and he was delighted to "open that door" to his students.

On Wednesday, the Urdd Eisteddfod celebrated Welsh learners with a variety of competitions and prizes.

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Larbert High School languages teacher up for national Teacher of the Year award

28 May 2024 (Falkirk Herald)

A Larbert High School languages teacher has been praised for her dedication after being nominated in a national Teacher of the Year competition, led by Miconex and sponsored by group collecting platform GiftRound.

Kirsty McLaren was nominated for the award by a parent at the school, Cara Welsh.

Cara says that Mrs McLaren has done a huge amount to support her daughter with languages during recent exams:

“My daughter is in the fourth year and was really struggling with German and feeling quite down about it. We had a parents’ evening with Mrs McLaren and told her about this and straight away, Mrs McLaren volunteered extra time to help my daughter and offered her strategies for learning vocabulary.

[..] “Mrs McLaren is really positive in the way she communicates and is so supportive, telling my daughter that she can do it. This has boosted my daughter’s confidence in German, but that confidence has also transferred into other subjects. She’s looking at her other subjects with new eyes now. And after the extra support my daughter has had with learning German, languages are now back on the table as a possible subject for further study. That wouldn’t have happened before."

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Gaelic schools thrive while native language declines

21 May 2024 (BBC Scotland)

The number of people using Gaelic has increased across Scotland despite a decline in the language's heartland, according to the latest census data. Experts say the increase in Gaelic medium education (GME) accounts for the rise.

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The war on Scots and why internet unionists are out of line

19 May 2024 (Herald)

A little more than 30 years ago a teenager was thrown behind bars for uttering a single word of Scots. Kevin Mathieson, 18, was sent down - albeit just for an hour and a half - for answering a question in court with an ‘aye” rather than a ‘yes’.

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Edinburgh project supports young Ukrainian writers

19 May 2024 (BBC News)

A group of young people from Ukraine have battled power cuts and internet blackouts to share their stories of living through the war there... Five Ukrainian poets, including one living in Russian-occupied Ukraine, and five translation students worked through adverse conditions to create a collection of poems now published in Scotland.

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Scottish Languages Bill: what might it look like in schools?

19 May 2024 (TES)

Teachers need more support if attempts to raise the status of Gaelic and Scots language in schools are to succeed.

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Glasgow airport uses Irish Gaelic on new pub sign

15 May 2024 (BBC Scotland)

Glasgow Airport has been criticised after accidentally using Irish Gaelic in an advertising sign for its new Caledonian Bar and Restaurant.

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The pandemic taught me the benefits of flipped homework

15 May 2024 (THE)

In this extract from “Online Education During Covid-19 and Beyond“ by Silvia Puiu and Samuel O. Idowu, Olga Amarie shares what she learned about flipped homework while teaching pandemic-era French lessons.

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Mary Russell School come runners up in national competition

15 May 2024 (The Gazette)

Pupils at a Paisley school have been commended for their "attitude to modern languages" after coming runners up in a national competition. Seven youngsters from S4 and S5 at Mary Russell School helped secure the position after their teacher, Laura Muir, signed them up to compete in a national French competition with the Institut Francais in Edinburgh. The education hub, for people with additional support needs (ASN), discovered that many pupils were fond of learning a new language. 

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National search to find Teacher of the Year goes live in Scotland

13 May 2024 (The Scotsman)

Nominations are now open in a national Teacher of the Year competition in Scotland. Led by fintech Miconex and sponsored by group collecting platform GiftRound, the competition has £1250 in local gift cards as the prize.

The teacher who is crowned as Teacher of the Year, and their school, will each win a £500 Town & City Gift Card or Scotland Loves Local Gift Card. One person who nominated the Teacher of the Year will also win a £250 local gift card.

It is free for people to nominate their Teacher of the Year, and all types of teachers are eligible including primary and secondary school teachers, higher education teachers, early years teachers and special educational needs teachers in the UK.

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Language scheme a 'win-win' for Ballyclare pupils

9 May 2024 (BBC)

Sharing knowledge between schools is a "win-win situation" when it comes to learning a second language, according to a Ballyclare teacher.

Pupils in the County Antrim town have come together to tackle the falling numbers of children who learn a second language in Northern Ireland.

Sixth form students from Ballyclare High School teach language classes to pupils in several local primary schools.

Jonny Nelson, head of Spanish at the school, said the lessons are mutually beneficial for the students.

Learning a second language is not compulsory for primary school children in Northern Ireland.

The 'Language Leaders' scheme allows primary school pupils to get a taste of German, French and Spanish, which they would not otherwise learn on the primary curriculum.

The sixth form students lead lessons including games and interactive activities for younger pupils, while they in turn are provided with leadership and teaching experience.

"Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK at the moment that doesn't have a primary languages programme as part of the curriculum so we have to take the steps to try and instil that knowledge and enthusiasm from day one," Mr Nelson told BBC News NI.

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Gaelic and Scots education in need of more support

8 May 2024 (The Herald)

A lack of Gaelic-speaking support staff and early years of Gaelic learning could be holding back the spread of Gaelic Medium Education (GME) across the country.

Meanwhile, a leader in Scots language education said that the lack of an official definition for “Scots language” and the included dialects risk alienating the varieties of language lessons in different local authorities.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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NAC outline their priorities for British Sign Language users

2 May 2024 (Largs & Millport News)

A new initiative to support sign language users across the county was approved by North Ayrshire Council's cabinet on Tuesday.

The Scottish Government wants to make the country the best place in the world for British Sign Language users to live, work and visit.

And the BSL Local Plan for 2023-30 means those who use sign language will be fully involved in public life.

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Gaelic provision in Scottish schools ‘limited and marginal’

1 May 2024 (TES)

Gaelic campaigners have reiterated their call for a legal right to Gaelic-medium education (GME), saying that it is “profoundly disappointing” that this is “again omitted” from a proposed new law making its way through the Scottish Parliament.

Wilson McLeod, emeritus professor of Gaelic at the University of Edinburgh, says that up to now, legislation aimed at increasing access to Gaelic education has had a “disappointingly limited impact”.

Data for 2022-23 shows fewer than 1 per cent of Scottish pupils received GME or Gaelic learners Education (GLE). Approximately 95 per cent of primary schools did not offer GME or GLE, while around a third of councils (11 out of 32) offered neither GME nor GLE “in any of their schools”.

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University of Bolton student paramedics learn sign language

29 April 2024 (The Bolton News)

Student paramedics at the University of Bolton are learning sign language skills that could prove vital in emergencies.

One of the modules, titled ‘Introducing Paramedic Professional Capabilities’, includes breaking down communication barriers.

Students can take a three-week courses on British Sign Language, led by sign language training company Oh Happy Sign.

Student Matt Hewlett, who began his course in September 2023, said: “The British Sign Language classes have been fantastic.

“I am going to take what I have learned with me for the rest of my career, both professionally and personally.

"Communication is 80 per cent of our job role.

“The classes have given me the confidence in dealing not only deaf people or British Sign Language users, but anybody that has a barrier.

“Bolton has set the trend now and I'm sure as soon as other universities find out they will be rushing to do it.”

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‘Expelliarmus!’ The primary schools ditching French for Latin

26 April 2024 (The Times)

It came, it saw, it conquered. Latin is booming at some state schools, supplanting modern languages and capturing a new generation of classicists.

Now an academy trust has made it the main language at more than 20 of its primaries, with weekly lessons for seven to eleven-year-olds — so that it is not just the preserve of the wealthy.

It is thought to be the biggest single uptake of Latin for younger children. In total, almost 400 primary schools in England are estimated to be teaching the not-so-dead language.

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Is AI the final nail in the coffin for modern languages?

25 April 2024 (Times Higher Education)

Anglophone scepticism about the value of language study had been rising for many years before anyone had heard of Duolingo or ChatGPT. But while some academics believe technology will kill off universities’ remaining language departments, others dare to hope it will be their saviour. Patrick Jack reports.

The rise of high-quality automated translation may be the latest threat to the viability of modern language degrees, but it is far from the first. The decline of these time-honoured university subjects has been lamented for at least two decades.

In the UK, several cash-strapped universities have recently contemplated closing their modern languages departments, often as part of a wider downsizing of humanities degrees. The universities of Kent and Aberdeen may have fully and partially rowed back on plans to close their language degrees, but others, such as the University of Hull and Leeds Beckett University, have followed through. Applications for voluntary redundancy at Queen Mary University of London, meanwhile, are being particularly encouraged from the Schools of English and Drama and the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, though the university stresses that the changes are driven not by financial struggles but by the need to meet "the demands of future students" and to "deliver leading research to address the ever-changing challenges facing society".

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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Modern language assistants disappear from Scottish state schools

24 April 2024 (TES)

There are no foreign language assistants working in Scottish state schools this academic year, Tes Scotland can reveal.

While a small number of modern language assistants (MLAs) remain working in Scottish schools, all are operating in the independent sector.

Once a mainstay of many schools’ language-teaching offerings, MLAs appear to have been sacrificed en masse in the midst of councils’ budget crises and a decline in interest in languages in Scottish schools.

Data obtained from the British Council Scotland, which arranges for MLAs to work in schools, shows that in 2023-24, the total number employed in Scotland is 33. None is in a state school.

This was also the case in 2022-23. The last time any MLAs were hosted by local authorities was in 2021-22, when 10 were employed to work in state schools.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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Young people in Britain aren’t bad at learning languages – but the school system doesn’t make it easy for them

22 April 2024 (The Conversation)

According to a senior British diplomat, British young people’s poor language skills played a role in the UK’s decision not to stay in the Erasmus+ European student exchange programme after Brexit.

“There’s always been an imbalance between our inability to speak languages very well and therefore to take advantage of the outward mobility opportunities, and people wanting to come to the UK,” Nick Leake told a committee meeting in Brussels, as reported by news site Politico.

Leake commented that this caused a financial burden to the UK, and Erasmus+ proved too expensive. “The interests of the UK taxpayer is why we decided not to participate in Erasmus+,” he said.

But are the British really bad at learning foreign languages? I’m certainly not the first academic researching language learning to ask this question. And there’s no reason to think that British students are any worse than anyone else – but they are let down by an environment that doesn’t prioritise learning international languages.

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The UK is poorer without Erasmus – it’s time to rejoin the European exchange programme

19 April 2024 (The Conversation)

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Erasmus+ scheme – a reciprocal exchange process that let UK students study at European universities, and European students come to the UK – is again under the spotlight.

Campaigns for the UK’s re-entry to the scheme are ongoing. But diplomat Nick Leake told a committee meeting in Brussels that the terms for the UK to remain part of Erasmus+ were too expensive, and that Brits’ poor language skills caused an imbalance between the numbers of UK students travelling abroad and EU students coming to the UK.

My research focuses on language and intercultural education. The British are not inherently bad at learning languages, but there has been a decline in international language learning among young people. However, this should not be a pretext to justify the withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme.

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Cast announced for BBC's first Gaelic crime thriller

18 April 2024 (BBC)

The BBC has released details of the cast for its first Gaelic language crime drama, which has started filming in the Hebrides and Glasgow.

Called The Island and costing more than £1m per episode, BBC Alba's four-part thriller is centred around a murder investigation.

Sorcha Groundsell, who grew up in Lewis and Glasgow, has been cast in the lead role - a family liaison officer who returns to her home island following the murder of a millionaire's wife.

She has previously appeared in HBO series His Dark Materials, BBC drama Shetland and Netflix's The Innocents.

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How can a baby learn two languages at the same time?

27 March 2024 (The Conversation)

Language acquisition in children is one of the most fascinating features of the human species, as well as one of the most difficult problems in linguistics and cognitive science. What are the processes that enable a child to completely master its native language in just a few years, and to a degree of competence that adult learners of a second language can almost never match?

[..] If it’s so impressive that a baby can learn even just one language, then how do we explain that it can go on to learn two, three or even more?

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Saving Scotland’s ‘languages ecosystem’ from collapse

25 March 2024 (TES)

The recent announcement that the University of Aberdeen has lifted the threat of compulsory redundancy from its languages staff and will continue to deliver joint degrees in languages was a rare moment of good news for the languages sector.

But the focus on universities hides a much greater opportunity to secure a sustainable future for languages. The curriculum review taking place following the publication of Professor Louise Hayward’s report, It’s Our Future, is a chance to reflect on what languages should look like going forward.

This is a critical moment. Global citizenship is intrinsic to the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), and since 2011 the Scottish government has signalled the strategic importance of languages by investing over £36 million in languages provision in the “broad general education (BGE)”. The introduction of languages from the age of 5 established language-learning as the norm, and many schools embraced it as an opportunity to revise their BGE provision.

But with the implementation and funding of the 1+2 languages policy now complete, there is a real danger that this progress will be squandered. 

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BBC ALBA: Gaelic drama series set to hit international screens

18 March 2024 (Scottish Field)

BBC ALBA has commissioned a brand-new crime thriller which will be the biggest Gaelic drama series in the channel’s history – with an estimated budget of more than £1 million per episode.

The ambitious four-part series, An t-Eilean (The Island), is set to put Gaelic-language drama on the global map with a gripping storyline from screenwriter and creator Nicholas Osborne.

Set against the elemental landscape of the Outer Hebrides, An t-Eilean is a compelling crime story that follows a family caught up in a murder investigation very close to home.

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Nationwide Building Society launches British Sign Language service

18 March 2024 (Yahoo News)

Nationwide Building Society has rolled out a new digital service by providing its website in British Sign Language (BSL).

It has partnered with BSL technology company Signly to help improve access to financial services.

BSL content is in the form of pre-recorded signed videos, with the most popular web pages becoming available first, the Society said.

Nationwide said content will grow over time and users can select any new pages to be translated.

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Doric bootcamp aims to help protect traditional Scots language

17 March 2024 (The National)

A Doric bootcamp is to be held in a Scottish town this summer as part of a bid to help beginners get to grips with the language.

Dr Jamie Fairbairn, a Scots language teacher and head of humanities at Banff Academy, has helped to organise the programme and said it is “absolutely vital” to protect the language.

The course is due to take place in Portsoy and Fairbairn says the idea originated following a conversation with BBC Alba journalist Andreas Wolff.

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BDA launches new ‘BSL In Our Hands’ early years campaign for Sign Language Week 2024 (BSL)

14 March 2024 (Limping Chicken)

The British Deaf Association (BDA) has announced the launch of a new “BSL In Our Hands” early years campaign to mark Sign Language Week 2024, which takes place next week, from 18-24 March.

You can see the charity’s press release in BSL here.

Sign Language Week, celebrated annually in March since 2003, commemorates the UK Government’s recognition of BSL as a language in its own right on 18 March 2003. This year, Sign Language Week will focus on promoting BSL and ISL as indigenous languages of the UK as well as launching the BDA’s early years campaign.

The charity’s campaign’s message is that every deaf child in the UK deserves access to British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish Sign Language (ISL), in addition to English, recognising the formative years from birth to five as pivotal for language acquisition.

[..] As part of the new campaign, the charity is partnering with the BSL awarding body Signature to host the UK’s largest BSL lesson online with primary schools across the UK, with the lesson  being available online from 10am on Wednesday 20 March 2024. [..] For the first time, the BDA is also inviting companies to participate in Sign Language Week 2024 by taking part in free BSL lessons on 18 and 21 March. 

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'A wonderful opportunity': The adventure of raising bilingual children

11 March 2024 (BBC Future)

Isabelle Gerretsen, who grew up speaking Dutch and English, investigates the latest science on helping children become fluent in two or more languages – including advice for parents who speak one language but would like their children to be multilingual.

When I was seven years old, I went away to a school camp for the first time. While there, we were all encouraged to write letters back home. I wrote a detailed letter in English to my mum, telling her about all the activities we'd been doing. I then translated the letter word-for-word into Dutch for my dad, a native Dutch speaker. This story still makes my dad, who is fluent in both Dutch and English, laugh.

My parents raised my sisters and I bilingually from birth. They sought advice and were told to only speak their respective languages to us. They stuck to this so strictly that for an embarrassingly long time we did not realise that they both spoke Dutch and English fluently. Nowadays, we speak a Dutch-English blend at home, often switching between languages mid-sentence. However, there is still a common idea that the model my parents followed is the best guarantee of raising truly bilingual children: start at birth, with each parent strictly sticking to their native language. Among language experts, it's known as the OPOL strategy, short for "one parent, one language". But is that really the only way of achieving bilingualism? And do you need to already have two languages in your life when you start the process, or can you raise a bilingual child even if you and others around you only speak one language?

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Doncaster School for the Deaf gets inventive for Science Week!

11 March 2024 (Doncaster Free Press)

Children from Doncaster School for the Deaf are gearing up to take part in a special event to mark British Science Week (8-17 March 2024).

Pupils from Y7-9 at Doncaster School for the Deaf, part of Doncaster Deaf Trust, will be taking part in the online event along with St Roch’s Secondary School in Glasgow, Heathlands School in St Albans and the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby to explore the wonders of science in British Sign Language (BSL).

During the event there will be online BSL sessions from leading deaf science teachers, practical activities for the young people to take part in and the event will culminate with an opportunity for pupils from all the schools to showcase their own science projects.

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Fears for future of Gaelic language as community workers’ jobs under threat

10 March 2024 (The Guardian)

Gaelic-language campaigners and MSPs have protested furiously about plans to axe a network of Gaelic community workers, raising fresh fears about the survival of the language.

Up to 27 Gaelic development workers based in Hebridean islands, rural counties and Scotland’s major cities are being laid off after the Scottish government cut funding to Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG), the body charged with protecting and reviving Gaelic.

The job losses have alarmed activists, who said these development workers were essential to their efforts to promote and reinvigorate the language and Gaelic communities, after decades of decline.

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Top 10 most spoken languages in the UK as German doesn't even make the list

9 March 2024 (Daily Express)

The UK is a cultural and linguistic melting pot, with people from across the world moving to our island.

There are more than 300 languages spoken in London alone and according to the Office of National Statistics, for 4.1 million people in the UK, English is not their first language.

These are in addition to the languages native to the UK such as Scots, Welsh, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Cornish.

The most spoken non-native language is Polish with almost 550,000 speakers.

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Union calls off Aberdeen University strike

8 March 2024 (BBC)

A strike by staff at the University of Aberdeen has been called off after the threat of compulsory redundancy was lifted from 26 employees.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) had planned to take six days of strike action throughout March.

The dispute centred on the university deciding to cut single degrees in modern languages.

The move had put the jobs of 26 staff at risk but the university said that was no longer the case.

In a statement, the university said it had been able to remove the possibility of compulsory redundancies after "receiving a strong set of proposals from staff in modern languages to grow income and reform the curriculum".

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Organisers celebrate as World Gaelic Week reaches 100 international locations

28 February 2024 (Yahoo News)

Organisers of Seachdain na Gàidhlig (World Gaelic Week) 2024 have shared their pride after "multiple generations from across the globe" took part in events to celebrate Gaelic.

Returning for its third edition, the global event took place from 19-25 February with over 170 events across Scotland.

New York, Nova Scotia and London, were among the 100 international locations reached during Seachdain na Gàidhlig 2024 - which united Gaelic speakers around the theme of Do Chànan. Do Chothrom. which translates to Your Language. Your Opportunity.

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‘Let’s increase language learning education’ – Foysol Choudhury

24 February 2024 (North Edinburgh News)

Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury has this week given a speech at an International Mother Language Day event in Edinburgh City Chambers, highlighting the importance of language learning education and calling for more investment and partnership work to deliver the Gaelic Language Plan.

International Mother Language Day, proposed by Bangladesh and memorialised by UNESCO on 21st February each year, focuses on promoting linguistic diversity and the importance of sharing our differences in culture and languages to foster tolerance and respect in our multi-cultural communities.

The initiative is significant in preserving heritage through language and maintaining multilingual education policies to promote lifelong learning of languages. 

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Related Links

Let’s take lessons from International Mother Language Day - Foysol Choudhury (Edinburgh Evening News, 24 February 2024)

Clydeview Academy pupils make a movie about world peace

23 February 2024 (Greenock Telegraph)

A bunch of rookie movie makers have made the cut by reaching the final of a national film competition.

Pupils at Clydeview Academy created their own storyboard to enter a filmmaking contest run by The Scottish European Educational Trust (SEET).

The project is entitled Our World and aims to encourage global citizenship, language learning and uptake among pupils.

Language teacher Vanessa Hall, who runs the club with colleague Lucy McCue, said: "It started in August, we were trying to widen pupils' use of language and making a film makes it more fun.

"The storyboard was based on the UN's sustainable goals and the pupils used two languages, Ukrainian and French.

"The theme is based on World Peace and is entitled Open Your Eyes."

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Disappearing tongues: the endangered language crisis

22 February 2024 (The Guardian)

At the heart of linguistics is a radical premise: all languages are equal. This underlies everything we do at the Endangered Language Alliance, an eccentric extended family of linguists, language activists, polyglots and ordinary people, whose mission is to document endangered languages and support linguistic diversity, especially in the world’s hyperdiverse cities.

Language is a universal and democratic fact cutting across all human societies: no human group is without it, and no language is superior to any other. More than race or religion, language is a window on to the deepest levels of human diversity. The familiar map of the world’s 200 or so nation-states is superficial compared with the little-known map of its 7000 languages. Some languages may specialise in talking about melancholy, seaweed or atomic structure; some grammars may glory in conjugating verbs while others bristle with syntactic invention. Languages represent thousands of natural experiments: ways of seeing, understanding and living that should form part of any meaningful account of what it is to be human.

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Eslei! How a new generation is reinventing Spanglish

15 February 2024 (BBC Future)

When Spanish meets English, new dialects emerge – giving us real-time insight into language evolution, linguists say.

"Vamos de punches punches punches", Yamilet Muñoz texted her friends in Austin, Texas. It means "let's go and party", but it's not a phrase you'll find in any dictionary. It's a remix of Spanish and English words seasoned with a in-joke about punching the air as you dance, and it's just one example of the countless linguistic innovations happening every day as these two major American languages meet.

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'Preserving language, reinforcing communities': the school saving one of Louisiana's oldest dialects

14 February 2024 (The Guardian)

Preserving Indian French, as community members call it, has taken on new urgency as climate-related hurricanes and coastal erosion threaten to displace the tribe

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Hermitage Primary pupils take part in Language Week Scotland

8 February 2024 (Helensburgh Advertiser)

Pupils at a Helensburgh Primary school “thoroughly enjoyed” a week of learning about different cultures around the globe.

Hermitage Primary pupils discovered all about a variety of countries and languages for Language Week Scotland which ran from Monday, January 29 to Friday, February 2.

Children participated in many fun activities including researching and presenting the impact global warming is having on the country their class focused on, listening to and watching short stories and fairy tales in the county’s native language, and learning and performing a traditional dance.

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Successful singer visits Fernhill School to inspire youngsters about learning languages

7 February 2024 (Daily Record)

A successful singer has visited Fernhill School to inspire youngsters to learn languages.

As part of Languages Week Scotland, singer-songwriter Christine Bovill visited Fernhill School to discuss how learning languages shaped her unique career and life.

Pupils spent the morning basking in her stories and finding out how despite, initially being a reluctant learner of French, it shaped her life.

After an early career as a school teacher of English and French, Christine finally left the classroom to pursue a career as a live performer.

At the heart of Christine's journey till now has been her devotion to French Song.

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Teachers sign up for course embedding Scots language into classrooms

6 February 2024 (STV)

More than 120 teachers have signed up to a training course on embedding Scots language into the classroom.

The first-of-its-kind resource is set to be delivered by the Open University, with funding supplied by the Scottish Government.

The current cohort of teachers are from all across Scotland and specialise in different subjects.

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth is set to officially launch the course on Tuesday at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

Ms Gilruth said the course is an “important step” towards embedding and protecting the language in Scottish education.

Read more...

Related Links

Scots language ‘milestone’ reached with course for teachers (TES, 6 February 2024)

Teachers sign up for course embedding Scots language into classrooms (The National, 6 February 2024)

Scots language course for teachers hailed as 'significant step forward' for Scottish Education (The Scotsman, 6 February 2024) - note, subscription required to access article. 

'People didn't believe a black man would speak Gaelic'

4 February 2024 (BBC)

How two Gaelic-speaking black brothers inspired Victorian writer Rudyard Kipling has been told in a new documentary.

Twins John and George Maxwell were part of a Scottish Gaelic community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in Canada, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Kipling, best known for The Jungle Book, came across the twins while researching a story and they went on to influence the creation of a character in his tale, Captain Courageous.

But film-maker Colette Thomas said there was a backlash from some readers at the time, adding: "They thought Kipling was lying - there was no way a black man would speak Gaelic."

Freelance film-maker Thomas is a Nova Scotian who studied Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture in Skye.

Her five-minute documentary, Na Gàidheal Dubha, external, is on the shortlist for Scotland's FilmG Gaelic short film awards.

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Glasgow Gaelic School students celebrate Languages Week

3 February 2024 (Glasgow Times)

Proud students have shared their love of language after their school spent a week celebrating different cultures.

Fionnlagh Moireasdan, a student at the Glasgow Gaelic School, explained why embracing Gaelic as a second language meant celebrating his family history.

The 15-year-old said: "Gaelic has always been important to me because I'm passionate about keeping the language of my family and ancestors alive."

[..] Last week, pupils were treated to events to promote learning an additional language and reflect on the benefits as part of Languages Week Scotland.

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Stress over modern language cuts leaves students at "non-functional level"

30 January 2024 (The Gaudie)

As University bosses ponder the future of the modern language department, students have raised concerns about their lack of involvement in the process.

At a student welfare meeting held last week, nearly two dozen modern language students spoke of experiencing anxiety and stress due to ongoing uncertainty over the outcome of their degrees.

According to a written transcript of the meeting, Dean of Student Support Jason Bohan was told that many students have been operating at a “non-functional level” in recent months, lacking the capacity to concentrate on their lectures or meet deadlines.

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School languages initiative axed despite praise by ministers

22 January 2024 (The Herald)

An initiative to support the teaching of foreign languages in schools has been quietly axed by ministers despite the Scottish Government praising its work.

The withdrawal of the programme was buried in the detail of budget documents published last month which have come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of other funding reductions which have recently emerged. 

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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Holyrood launches call for views on bill to protect Scots and Gaelic

22 January 2024 (The National)

Holyrood has launched a call for views on a bill that would give Gaelic and Scots languages official status in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee are seeking views from the public as they begin to scrutinise the Scottish Languages Bill.

The legislation would change the status of Scots and Gaelic and change the responsibilities of both the Scottish Government and other public bodies to support the languages.

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Scottish Parliament to Debate University of Aberdeen Language Cuts

16 January 2024 (Aberdeen Business News)

Following cross-party support from more than 30 MSPs, a motion to stop the controversial consultation and save language degrees at the University of Aberdeen is tabled for discussion at Holyrood today (Tuesday 16th January).

The motion, submitted by Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart in December last year, and backed by additional SNP, Green, and Labour party members, references the widespread support for retaining language teaching at the University from students, staff, alumni, Gaelic organisations and even several international consulates. 

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Scotland’s favourite Scots language songs revealed ahead of Burns Night

15 January 2024 (Renfrewshire 24)

As Burns Night approaches, we celebrate not just Robert Burns’ poetry but also the wider heritage found in the Scots language.

With lively readings of Burns’ verses and traditional Scottish music, this spirited celebration highlights the importance of the Scottish language in preserving and expressing the unique identity and cultural richness of the nation. 

Beyond language, music plays a paramount role in preserving a country’s traditions and songs can be incredible time-capsules that preserve a nation’s cultural heritage. The tradition of children in Scottish schools learning Scots songs is longstanding and embedded in Scottish culture, so much so that it is part of the Scottish school curriculum.  

To celebrate all things Scots language ahead of Burns Night on 25th January, VisitScotland surveyed more than 1,000 Scottish adults to see exactly what their favourite Scots songs are, their memories of learning Scots songs in school, and whether they enjoyed their time learning Scots language songs as part of their schooling.  

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Zayn Malik: Fans rejoice at ex-One Direction member's Urdu single

15 January 2024 (BBC)

Zayn Malik's collaboration with popular Pakistani band Aur has given fans much to celebrate - with many psyched that the British singer is fluent in Urdu.

A remake of Aur's breakout hit Tu Hai Kahan features the ex-One Direction singer providing vocals in Urdu.

The original version of the song has more than 95m views though the remake, released last Friday, is fast catching up, with 3m views.

[..] The song was quick to gain fans online - with some social media users urging Malik to release "more Urdu songs please".

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The Big Question: Learning multiple languages shows you ‘care’, says Nestlé Chairman

8 January 2024 (Euronews)

The Big Question is a series from Euronews Business where we sit down with industry leaders and experts to discuss some of the most important topics on today’s agenda. In this episode James Thomas met with Paul Bulcke, the chairman of Nestlé, to discuss whether speaking multiple languages is an important skill for international business.

Read the article and listen to the interview online.

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Scottish language teaching is in decline: This is how we can save it

8 January 2024 (The Herald)

Teaching a modern language in the UK was once described by the eminent languages educator Eric Hawkins as “gardening in a gale”. But as a languages teacher, the well documented decline in pupils learning a language, and the subsequent cuts to languages degrees have made it feel more like a category five hurricane.

Aberdeen University, one of the oldest in the UK, is making major cuts to its languages degree courses, having already proposed abolishing them entirely. This prompted an unprecented intervention from diplomats from four countries, urging the university to reconsider its proposals.

This is happening against falling numbers of pupils taking a language to Higher level. The German Ambassador to the UK recently warned the First Minister Humza Yousaf about the “dramatic” decline in German teaching in Scottish schools, despite Germany being the UK’s second largest trading partner for goods and services.

Widening access to languages education could be worth billions to the UK economy, according to a 2022 report by the University of Cambridge. Moreover, the languages classroom is the place where pupils learn to become global citizens, by understanding other cultures and challenging racism and cultural sterotypes.

So how can we motivate more Scottish young people to discover the joy of learning a language? As a languages teacher, here are the six things we need to change if we are to avert a full blown crisis in languages learning.

Read more...

Related Links

Language learning in 'terminal decline' warns Labour (Glasgow Times, 29 December 2023)

Aberdeen university strike ballot opens after cuts to languages

4 January 2024 (BBC)

Staff at the University of Aberdeen are balloting on potential strike action after the institution decided to cut single degrees in modern languages.

The University and College Union (UCU) said about 30 people were at risk of redundancy due to the changes.

From the next academic year, students will not be able to start single honours degrees in French, German, Spanish or Gaelic.

Those wishing to study them will have to do so as part of a joint degree.

The university court announced the decision in December, based on a recommendation from the senior vice principal, Professor Karl Leydecker.

Its management said low uptake of the courses meant the current model is not sustainable.

Read more...

Dating someone with a different mother tongue? Learning each other’s language will enrich your relationship

2 January 2024 (The Conversation)

Are you in a relationship with someone who grew up speaking a different language to you? Perhaps you’re dating, and wondering about your long-term future. You’re far from alone.

In 2021, 9.5 million of the people in the UK – 14.1% of the population – had been born abroad. This means that the landscape of relationships is likely to have become more diverse. These relationships often unite people from varied linguistic and cultural backgrounds, offering both enrichment and challenges.

Effective communication is a cornerstone of success for intercultural relationships and will help in avoiding potential pitfalls. Language is our primary conduit for communication, and when partners do not share a common language, it can lead to misinterpretations, frustration and conflicts.

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Language learning in 'terminal decline' warns Labour

29 December 2023 (Glasgow Times)

The learning of foreign languages in schools is in "terminal decline" Labour has claimed, after figures revealed a sharp drop in the number of students over the last four years.

Statistics show the number of pupils choosing to learn modern languages between National 4 and Higher level has fallen from 24,510 in 2019 to 23,990 in 2023.

The drop comes despite the overall S4 to S6 school roll rising by more than 10,500 pupils over the same period.

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Unlock the gift of communication: Embrace the joy of learning British Sign Language this festive season

21 December 2023 (Doncaster Free Press)

Pupils, students, and staff at Doncaster School for the Deaf and Communication Specialist College Doncaster are asking people to take the time to learn to sign this Christmas.

Doncaster Deaf Trust, who manage the school and college, have a free online British Sign Language (BSL) course, developed thanks to a lottery funded website.

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British Sign Language to be introduced as GCSE in England

21 December 2023 (BBC)

British Sign Language (BSL) will be taught as a GCSE in England from September 2025, the government says.

It says the qualification will be open to all pupils, who will learn about 1,000 signs, as well as an important life skill and advance inclusivity.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the subject will "open so many doors for young people".

The exams regulator Ofqual will review and accredit the syllabus before it can be taught in schools and colleges.

The curriculum has been finalised after a 12-week public consultation with input from parents, teachers and organisations from the deaf and hearing communities.

Read more...

Do subtitled films really help you learn languages?

20 December 2023 (The Conversation)

In general, films in the original language and versions with subtitles in a range of different languages are both widely available in Europe. If the main aim of subtitles is allowing viewers to understand dialogue in films where they don’t know the language, subtitles are also being seen to an ever-greater extent through an educational lens.

Clearly, watching a film in a foreign language that you’re studying is a good way to pick up vocabulary in that language.

Nevertheless, depending on our learning level and abilities in the language of the film, the impact of subtitles on our understanding varies quite considerably. So, with that film you want to watch: with or without subtitles?

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BBC Young Reporter: Calls for more funding for language schools

18 December 2023 (BBC)

A 14-year-old girl has called for more funding for language schools.

Julia’s parents are from Poland and every Saturday she attends a Polish school in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

She said the school relies solely on contributions from parents to stay afloat.

View the video report on the BBC website.

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First winner of Gaelic Scrabble World Championships

11 December 2023 (BBC)

The first Gaelic Scrabble World Championships have taken place in the Hebrides - and been won with a score of 353.

The Gaelic edition of the popular board game has been launched as part of efforts to promote the language.

Four competitors were brave enough to put their knowledge of Gaelic words to the test in Saturday's contest in Stornoway, Lewis.

Murdo MacDonald, from Back in Lewis, won the first world title.

Read more...

Controversial uni modern languages proposal to be discussed

11 December 2023 (BBC)

Controversial University of Aberdeen proposals which could see its modern languages degrees scrapped are set to be discussed.

The university has blamed a steep fall in the number of students studying modern languages for the move.

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposals, and a protest meeting was held on Monday evening.

The university court will meet later to discuss the future of modern languages provision.

Edward Welch: North would be poorer in so many ways without language learning opportunities

11 December 2023 (Press and Journal)

It was a pleasure recently to visit Cults Academy and talk to S3 pupils about the horizons broadened by language learning.

We were joined by a final-year student from the University of Aberdeen, who enthused them with stories about her placement year in France. As many do, she had found her time abroad transformative.

Being part of daily life and culture in another country is a hothouse for language skills. And living on one’s wits in another language is ideal for building personal confidence and resilience.

With their passion for global languages and cultures, our students are ideal ambassadors. They can inspire the next generation of learners and remind them that all the hard work of “getting the grammar right” is worth the effort, because it unlocks the door to new ways of seeing the world.

In partnership with SCILT, Scotland’s national centre for languages, the University of Aberdeen has developed a new language mentoring scheme that pairs languages students with budding linguists in schools.

Read more...

Future of French, German and Gaelic at Aberdeen University at risk

4 December 2023 (Press and Journal)

Staff members have reacted with dismay after learning the future of modern languages at Aberdeen University is under threat.

The university is considering the future of modern languages provision, with a steering group outlining three options that have now been put to staff for consultation.

The university cited a “steep fall” in student numbers in modern languages, with high staff numbers relative to student numbers.

This means the department’s “income does not cover even the direct costs of staff”, leading to a projected deficit of £1.64m in 2023/24.

Read more...

Glasgow University: Gaelic immersion programme made permanent

4 December 2023 (The Herald)

A Gaelic language immersion year pilot at the University of Glasgow is being made permanent, it was announced today (Monday December 4).

The Gaelic with Immersion Programme has received a long-term funding commitment from the College of Arts & Humanities at the university.

This announcement will establish Gaelic with Immersion as an integral part of the College’s Celtic & Gaelic diverse programme offering.

In 2017, the College commissioned a feasibility study to consider an immersion experience in Glasgow and this revealed a demand for more intensive language opportunities amongst students and adult learners.

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Pupils say languages not key to careers - report

4 December 2023 (BBC)

Modern foreign languages are being shunned by pupils who do not want to study them at GCSE because they do not think they will need them in their future careers, a new report suggests.

A British Council survey of 2,083 pupils at the end of their first year of secondary school across the UK found just 20% saying they planned to study a language at GCSE.

It comes against a backdrop of declining numbers of pupils taking modern foreign language subjects past the age of 14.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the government was committed to taking "long-term decisions" on modern foreign languages "to ensure every child has a brighter future".

The survey, taken across 36 schools, suggested that many pupils enjoy learning languages and want opportunities to do so.

Read more...

Related Links

Our European neighbours have solutions to our language learning woes (The National, 5 December 2023). Note - subscription required to access full article.

Scotland must embrace and learn the languages of Europe (The National, 6 December 2023). Note - subscription required to access full article.

Are languages disappearing from Scotland's schools?

2 December 2023 (The Herald)

Earlier this month, the German Ambassador raised concerns with the First Minister about the decline in language learning in Scotland. As exclusively revealed by The Herald, Miguel Berger pointed to the “dramatically low” numbers of young people studying German and spoke of his wish to engage with the Scottish Government in order to find ways of reversing the trend.

But how severe has the decline in language learning really been, what is being done to address the issues, and can we ever expect to see student numbers rise again?

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Scots language to be recognised a ‘invaluable part of Scotland’s culture’ in new bill

30 November 2023 (Scottish Legal News)

Proposals to help the Gaelic and Scots languages prosper in the years ahead have been set out in legislation today, as Scotland marks St Andrew’s Day.

One of the proposals in the Scottish Languages Bill is the creation of new Areas of Linguistic Significance, which would give Gaelic communities a greater say in how the language is supported locally.

The bill also provides greater support for Gaelic medium education and strengthens and adjusts the functions of Bòrd na Gàidhlig to help it continue to contribute to the promotion of Gaelic.

It will also establish legislative protection for the Scots language.

Read more...

Teachers use AI for planning and marking, says report

28 November 2023 (BBC)

Teachers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to save time by "automating tasks", says a government report first seen by the BBC.

Adapting the reading age of texts, making handouts, and writing emails to parents were cited as popular uses, with a "small number" saying they used it for grading and feedback.

Teachers said it gave them more time to do "more impactful" work.

Ben Merritt, head of modern foreign languages at a Sheffield school, used artificial intelligence to help with preparing content for a lesson.

Read more...

Diplomats urge Aberdeen University to halt proposed cuts

27 November 2023 (The Herald)

The French, German, Spanish and Italian consulates in Scotland have written to the University of Aberdeen urging the institution not to proceed with proposed cuts to modern language degree courses.

A joint letter was sent ahead of the expected publication of plans this week which will outline the future of language courses at the university.

It is the second time in weeks that figures from European Union countries have intervened in the situation regarding the take up of languages in Scottish education.

Last week The Herald on Sunday revealed that the German Ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger raised his fears with the First Minister at the dramatic drop in pupils learning French and German in schools during a face to face meeting at Bute House at the end of October.

Responding to the article, the Scottish Government underlined its commitment to modern language teaching in schools. 

According to a BBC report today it is understood the withdrawal of honours degrees courses at the University of Aberdeen is an option being considered with the university saying it had seen falling demand for language degrees.

Read more...

Related Links

Aberdeen’s language degrees at risk (The PIE News, 27 November 2023)

University of Aberdeen modern languages 'unsustainable in current form' (BBC, 30 November 2023)

The Nine (BBC, 30 November 2023) - hear SCILT Director, Fhiona Mackay's response to the language degree closures at University of  Aberdeen, listen from 23:53 (note - only available until 10pm 1/12/23)

Scottish university considers scrapping all language degrees (STV, 1 December 2023)

Scots language: Should the ‘mither tongue’ be promoted and protected?

25 November 2023 (The Courier)

It is the language that Courier columnist and Scots language expert Alistair Heather once described as the “partially submerged language of a partially submerged nation”.

Scots, known as the “mither tongue” is spoken by over 1.5 million people in Scotland, principally in the lowlands and northern isles.

It’s been the language used by government, kings and courts in Scotland, as well as by poets and playwrights like Rabbie Burns and Rona Munro.

Yet in the latter half of the 20th century, Scots began to be seen as vulgar, or common, and has been denigrated as ‘slang’ or ‘ned speak’.

Read more...

Related Links

Scots language grants available to Dundee, Tayside and Fife creatives (The Courier, 24 November 2023)

‘Your United States was normal’: has translation tech really made language learning redundant?

21 November 2023 (The Conversation)

Every day, millions of people start the day by posting a greeting on social media. None of them expect to be arrested for their friendly morning ritual.

But that’s exactly what happened to a Palestinian construction worker in 2017, when the caption “يصبحهم” (“good morning”) on his Facebook selfie was auto-translated as “attack them.”

A human Arabic speaker would have immediately recognized “يصبحهم” as an informal way to say “good morning”. Not so AI. Machines are notoriously bad at dealing with variation, a key characteristic of all human languages.

With recent advances in automated translation, the belief is taking hold that humans, particularly English speakers, no longer need to learn other languages. Why bother with the effort when Google Translate and a host of other apps can do it for us?

In fact, some Anglophone universities are making precisely this argument to dismantle their language programs.

Unfortunately, language technologies are nowhere near being able to replace human language skills and will not be able to do so in the foreseeable future because machine language learning and human language learning differ in fundamental ways.

Read more...

Motivating students to stick with language learning

20 November 2023 (SecEd)

In an increasingly globalised and diverse world, the role of languages in supporting open communication, effective collaboration, and solving some of the world’s greatest shared challenges seems irrefutable.

Indeed, countless organisations have testified to the central role of international languages to the prosperity of the UK as a whole – economically, socially, and culturally (British Academy et al, 2020) – and yet, uptake of international languages at key curriculum stages continues to decline across the UK (Gorrara et al, 2020; Henderson & Carruthers, 2022).

With the belief that languages are more important now than they were 20 years ago, why are languages so overlooked by learners? And how can we, as practitioners, support a renewed and revitalised understanding of the critical role of languages?

Read more...

Gaelic gets its own edition of Scrabble

20 November 2023 (BBC)

The word game Scrabble has been made available in Gaelic for the first time.

The new edition features 18 characters, rather than 26, because the Gaelic alphabet does not use the letters J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y or Z.

The grave accent, a mark indicating that a letter should be pronounced a particular way, also appear on the vowels À, È, Ì, Ò and Ù.

Stornoway-based cultural centre and community café, An Taigh Cèilidh, worked with Tinderbox Games in London to license the Gaelic version of the game.

Read more...

Ambassador raises alarm with FM over fall in pupils taking German

19 November 2023 (The Herald)

A senior European diplomat has urged the First Minister to help reverse the trend in the falling number of pupils in Scotland studying German and other languages.

The German Ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger raised his concerns with Humza Yousaf about the matter when he met him at Bute House in Edinburgh.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Related Links

BBC Scotland Lunchtime Live (BBC, 20 November 2023) - hear SCILT Director, Fhiona Mackay's response on language learning and teaching in Scotland. (Listen from 1:20:54. Available until 17 December 2023).

How to successfully increase MFL uptake at GCSE

13 November 2023 (SecEd)

How did one school manage to double the number of students opting for a modern foreign language at GCSE? Raul Ramirez explains.

Read more...

Teaching modern languages without culture will harm global relations

13 November 2023 (Times Higher Education)

Aberdeen’s proposal to close language degree programmes might save money but it will impoverish international understanding.

Read more...

Gaelic used to encourage debate on climate threats

13 November 2023 (BBC News)

What has been described as the world's first Gaelic Climate Convention has taken place in the Western Isles, the language's heartland area.

The event was attended by more than 60 people, and heard islanders' concerns about the impacts of climate change on their communities.

Read more...

Is time finally running out for Orkney's unique dialect?

12 November 2023 (Herald)

Rooted in the 9th century, for generations Orcadians have spoken with their unique dialect that for some outsiders, required a well-tuned ear to decipher. While within its expanse of islands, communities developed individual accents, making the Orkney Islands a rich tapestry of language and voice.

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Natalie Don welcomes new plans to support British Sign Language users

7 November 2023 (The Gazette)

Renfrewshire North and West MSP Natalie Don has welcomed the Scottish Government's new proposals to support British Sign Language (BSL) users. 

An action plan consisting of 45 commitments has been published as part of ongoing work to make the country the best place to live, work and visit for people that use the language.

Read more...

New powers proposed to support Gaelic and Scots

3 November 2023 (BBC)

Councils could get the power to designate areas in which the Gaelic language could receive special support, BBC Naidheachdan understands. The Scottish government is expected to publish a new languages bill around St Andrew's Day later this month. The proposed legislation is also expected to include provisions to promote and protect the use of Scots.

Read more...

Daniella Theis: It’s sad to see fewer people learning languages

30 October 2023 (The Herald)

Apart from life itself (and the fact she loves me so much still, despite me pushing her buttons for so many of my younger years) it is probably the greatest gift my mum gave me: her language.

Those that have read more of what I write will have seen me talk of my roots before. I was born and raised in Germany to a German father and an American mother, and moved to the UK in my late teens. Born into this setup, I was blessed with not learning one, but two languages from day one. Part of it was a necessity: my mother didn't speak much German when I arrived, although she is fully fluent now.

However, there was another reason I was pushed towards languages growing up: pure pragmatism. I had a teacher in Germany that warned us that unless we wanted to spend our whole life holidaying on Sylt, an island on the north coast of Germany, we would have to learn to speak a language that wasn’t German. Obviously, learning languages isn’t just to make holidays go more smoothly, but what they said holds true: most people outside of Germany do not speak German and, if we wanted to communicate, we would have to adapt.

It is common for most Germans to learn at least two foreign languages while at school. We learned English in school from when we were about eight or nine, followed by French when I was about 12.

Knowing English was a big part of me moving to the UK and staying here. Growing up bilingual, I took comfort in the knowledge that the culture shock a move to a new country would bring, would at least not be paired with a language barrier, and I was right. That is something I see as a gift, and I’m forever grateful for.

Read more...

Language Learning: One of the most rewarding (yet overlooked) pastimes of our nation

28 October 2023 (The Scotsman)

Please know that this observation is not meant judgmentally. Talent is diverse and if you only speak one language it isn’t a crime. However, it is curious when we observe neighbouring nations. Last year, the language-learning platform Lingoda wrote that “around 62% of the UK population are monolingual.”

Meanwhile, reports indicate that Norwegians boast around 90% bilingual proficiency. So, why should we differ? 

Read more...

Do we need to make learning a language a priority for kids?

19 October 2023 (BBC)

Following a recent survey indicating most adults believe studying a modern language should be compulsory in school, BBC radio broadcaster, Stephen Jardine, asks his guests whether we need to make learning a language a priority for young people.

The broadcast is available to registered users until 18 November 2023 (listen from 2:46).

Read more...

Majority of adults support compulsory language learning in schools – poll

18 October 2023 (The National)

The majority of British adults believe studying a modern language should be compulsory in school, a survey suggests.

Only one in five (21%) UK adults said they can have a conversation in a modern language that is not their mother tongue, according to a poll commissioned by the British Academy.

More than a third (35%) said they were not able to study their preferred language at school, the survey has found.

The YouGov poll of more than 2,000 UK adults suggests most agree that studying a modern language should be compulsory in primary school (64%) and in secondary school (71%).

Read more...

Italian and Polish GCSEs to go digital in 2026, says England’s largest exam board

17 October 2023 (The Guardian)

GCSEs in Italian and Polish are to be assessed digitally in England from 2026, with plans to move at least one large-entry subject such as English to partial digital assessment by the end of the decade, a major exam board has announced.

England’s largest exam provider, AQA, said that subject to regulatory approval, the reading and listening components of the two language GCSEs would be examined through digital assessment for the first time.

Read more...

Tes Scotland’s 10 questions with... Gillian Campbell-Thow

13 October 2023 (TES)

Gillian Campbell-Thow took over as secondary headteacher at Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (Glasgow Gaelic School) earlier this year.

A languages teacher by background, she tells us about broadening approaches to Gaelic-medium education (GME), the need to stay calm during pupils’ crises and how the culture around teaching has changed during her time in the profession.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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People Who Speak Backward Reveal the Brain’s Endless Ability to Play with Language

12 October 2023 (Scientific American)

Argentine researchers studied a regional slang that reverses the order of word syllables or letters. Their findings give insight into our natural ability to engage in wordplay.

In 2020 Adolfo García, a neurolinguist at Argentina’s University of San Andrés, had a chance encounter with a photographer who amused his models by chattering to them backward—the Spanish word casa (house) became “asac,” for instance. Upon learning that the photographer had been fluent in “backward speech” since childhood and was capable of holding a conversation entirely in reverse, García set out to study the phenomenon.

Read more...

BSL: Signs of success for all to see as Dingwall Academy takes lead in tackling interpreter crisis

11 October 2023 (Press and Journal)

Dingwall Academy is leading the way in addressing an interpreter crisis by producing the next generation of British Sign Language (BSL) experts.

The Highland school has been at the forefront of deaf education for more than 30 years. As well as having additional resources for deaf pupils, the school is specially soundproofed.

And now it’s offering SQA qualifications in BSL up to the equivalent of Higher.

Which is timely, given the Scottish Government has now recognised the “ongoing issues surrounding the shortages” of BSL interpreters.

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Many NI pupils see languages as ‘too difficult’

3 October 2023 (TES)

Learning a language is seen as too hard by many pupils in Northern Ireland, leading to concerns among teachers about poor uptake of languages at GCSE level.

The finding is particularly galling for languages teachers because it emerges in a new report that shows students who do take these subjects typically find them “fun and engaging”.

These concerns about the uptake of languages echo trends in other parts of the UK, with data from Scotland in August showing a downturn in interest at exam level - despite a long-established policy to teach two additional languages in primary school - and similar worries about GCSE and A-level entries in England.

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Motivating students to study languages

19 September 2023 (SecEd)

How can we motivate our students to do well, to become independent learners and embrace the learning of languages? Esmeralda Saldago discusses the idea of the Big Match and the Goldilocks Effect

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‘I couldn’t believe the data’: how thinking in a foreign language improves decision-making

17 September 2023 (The Guardian)

Research shows people who speak another language are more utilitarian and flexible, less risk-averse and egotistical, and better able to cope with traumatic memories.

“This re-Englishing of a Russian re-version of what had been an English re-telling of Russian memories in the first place, proved to be a diabolical task,” he wrote. “But some consolation was given me by the thought that such multiple metamorphosis, familiar to butterflies, had not been tried by any human before.”

Over the past decade, psychologists have become increasingly interested in using such mental metamorphoses. Besides altering the quality of our memories, switching between languages can influence people’s financial decision-making and their appraisal of moral dilemmas. By speaking a second language, we can even become more rational, more open-minded and better equipped to deal with uncertainty. This phenomenon is known as the “foreign language effect” and the benefits may be an inspiration for anyone who would like to enrich their mind with the words of another tongue.

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Scottish Gaelic is worth learning says our Scotsman readers and here are 21 reasons why

12 September 2023 (The Scotsman)

Scotland’s endangered Celtic tongue has struggled against critics discounting its worth time and again. So, we took the national debate to our Scotsman readers who confirm that Gaelic is worth learning and here’s why.

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TUI becomes first UK tour operator to offer British Sign Language interpretation

12 September 2023 (The Mirror)

Deaf holidaymakers can now book their holidays with TUI with the help of a British Sign Language interpreter.

The travel firm has become the first in the UK to give customers the option to have their conversations with the travel firm interpreted into British Sign Language (BSL), having joined with forces with SignLive.

Deaf customers can sign up for free to SignLive and call via the online directory to have their telephone conversations with TUI Accessibility teams interpreted in real time.

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‘It redefined my values’: should you go on a year abroad?

10 September 2023 (The Guardian)

For Sonya Barlow, studying in Rome was the best experience of her life. Now a BBC presenter, she believes spending part of her business degree in Italy in 2013/14 “made me who I am”.

“I had never lived away from my family home but suddenly I was living alone in a different country. It redefined my values and allowed me to be me: I explored Italy, focused on studying, balanced that with fun and laid great foundations for moving into the world of work,” she says.

By her second semester in Rome, Barlow was able to take her classes in Italian: “It was hard, but stepping out of my comfort zone set me up for success.”

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SNP grassroots demand more language teaching provision in schools

9 September 2023 (The Herald)

Ministers are facing a demand from the SNP grassroots to improve language teaching provision in Scottish schools after falling Higher entries for French and German.

A motion on the draft agenda to the party's conference raises concerns over the teaching in European languages for senior pupils at secondary school.

It underlines the importance of language learning as a life skill "particularly if we are striving for membership of the EU post-independence" and calls for native speakers to be recruited as language assistants to help secondary school students gain qualifications.

A total of 4,239 pupils sat French Higher in 2013 with the number falling to 2280 this year, according to the Scottish Qualifications Authority's statistics. In 2013 a total of 1051 entered German Higher compared to 520 this year.

The figures also showed an increasing trend towards pupils taking Spanish, with 1,645 Higher entries in the subject in 2013 rising to 2605 this year (overtaking French).

However, Scotland is considerably lagging behind the Republic of Ireland which has made language teaching a central part of its successful economic strategy with GDP growing by 12% in 2022, compared to 4% for the UK's.

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Scottish Gaelic and Scots Difference Explained: Scotland’s oldest living language revealed

4 September 2023 (The Scotsman)

English has been Scotland’s main language since the 18th century, prior to that many people spoke ‘Scottish’ whether that was Scots or Gaelic [..] here is an overview of Scots and Scottish Gaelic that explains their differences, the heritage that underpins them and which is considered Scotland’s oldest living language.

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Interview: The BBC’s Katya Adler

2 September 2023 (The Guardian)

In 30 years of frontline reporting, the multilingual Europe editor has had her share of seismic news stories. But she still loves conversing with irate callers and is not above giving viewers a laugh at her own expense.

[..] Having grown up in London, Adler studied Italian and German at university and is vehement about the importance of learning foreign languages. It’s a belief that was instilled in childhood, like her passion for journalism...

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Parlez-vous... Anglais? Is a langauge skills shortage holding the UK travel sector back?

31 August 2023 (TTG Media)

The UK’s outbound travel sector is a global industry that touches every part of the globe – yet for all the good it does bringing the world closer together, is the sector doing everything in its power to bridge these divides once the journey is over?

Travel has a language problem. And with second languages increasingly becoming more than just a nice-to-have for employers, not to mention a vital differentiator for candidates, the sector’s language skills gap is all the more incomprehensible in 2023. In fact, it would appear the industry has gone backwards.

Research published earlier this year by the University of Portsmouth revealed that most job adverts in the UK – not just those in travel – now list a second language as a requirement or a necessity, and not simply as desirable.

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Why you never forget the languages you learn in school

28 August 2023 (RTE)

How many of us remember the language we studied in school? Despite what you may think, it turns out that we know as much now as we did in the classroom. A study from the University of York found that those who learned French 50 years ago and have never used it since, have similar recall to those who have just taken their exams. Feargal Murphy, lecturer in linguistics at UCD joined RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime to discuss why that is. 

"What's surprising would be for people who have the experience of not being able to use a language or feeling that their language isn't good enough. I think it surprises those people, rather than someone who works in linguistics." Many people might find that they can only remember a couple of words from the language they studied for years in school, but as the study showed, "in an emergency, you suddenly find that you do have this vocabulary available to you, because your brain goes looking for it," says Murphy.

(Article includes a link to hear the discussion in full)

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Many GCSE students still aren’t taking modern foreign languages – how to motivate them to consider it

24 August 2023 (The Conversation)

Figures for GCSEs taken in 2023 show that entries for GCSEs in languages have increased slightly from last year. Despite this, the number of pupils taking a modern foreign language stands at less than 60% of those that did in the peak year of 2001.

The decline in the number of pupils taking modern foreign languages at GCSE dates back to the government’s decision to make the subject optional from 2004. At this point, the number of students taking an exam in the subject declined sharply and have never recovered.

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Languages open window to the world

21 August 2023 (The Times)

As an Italian-Scot who grew up in the Netherlands, I have spent my life switching between languages. While I no longer use these languages extensively, I have always found them useful in understanding cultural nuances. There is a Chinese proverb: “To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world” and this is certainly true.

Bilingualism increases the chances of being able to learn another language quickly. My knowledge of Dutch and Italian helped me pick up French (albeit imperfectly), and elements of Spanish and German. Educationally the benefits are significant: bilingual students outperform their peers, particularly in subjects requiring cognitive flexibility, such as mathematics. Studies also suggest the health benefits of bilingualism are compelling, potentially protecting against diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Economically, having a population who can speak more than one language opens up a range of opportunities, particularly for developing trade and exports. 

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Why bilinguals may have a memory advantage – new research

16 August 2023 (The Conversation)

Think about being in a conversation with your best friend or partner. How often do you finish each other’s words and sentences? How do you know what they are going to say before they have said it? We like to think it is romantic intuition, but it’s just down to how the human brain works.

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Why we must end the Stem vs Shape debate

16 August 2023 (TES)

Across the country A-level and GCSE students anxiously await the results that they hope will unlock an exciting future.

As presidents of the British Science Association (BSA), a charity with a vision for science to be more representative and connected to society, and the British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences, we wish them the best of luck - not just because we want them to do well but because society needs them to.

A climate emergency is engulfing the world, artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to transform society in ways we do not fully understand, driverless cars are becoming ever more commonplace, quantum computing is developing rapidly and numerous other innovations are emerging all the time.

With so many challenges, we need today’s students to become the bold and effective leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers of tomorrow. To do so, they will need a truly broad range of skills, expertise and experience - and yet we fear that our education culture is failing them.

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Climate change update for British sign language

11 August 2023 (BBC)

Deaf scientists and sign language experts have updated British Sign Language (BSL) to include climate change-related terms like "greenhouse gas" and "carbon footprint".

There were no official signs for these, meaning children, teachers and scientists would often have to finger-spell long, complex, scientific terms.

The change added 200 new terms to BSL.

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Oh là là - concerns over uptake of languages Highers

10 August 2023 (TES)

New Scottish national data shows a drop in uptake of languages at Higher since 2019, the last year before the Covid pandemic.

The decrease in French entries is particularly steep and, after many years as the most popular language in Scottish schools, uptake is now lower than for Spanish.

However, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (widely known as SCILT) says there is better news in National 5 figures, which suggest there may be the beginnings of a comeback from the Covid years.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Related Links

Exams 2023: Tackling the decline in languages in state schools (TES, 8 August 2023) - Note, subscription required to access full article

A-Level and other level 3 results 2023: The main trends in grades and entries (FFT Education Data Lab, 17 August 2023) - Subjects with the largest fall in entries are Spanish, French and German.

A-Levels 2023: 10 key trends for teachers to know about (TES, 17 August 2023) - Languages in decline.

The Guardian view on language apps: a reminder that millions aspire to be multilingual

8 August 2023 (The Guardian)

Computer tutors such as Duolingo may not create polyglots, but they are a lesson to all who think language teaching is not valued.

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Exams 2023: Tackling the decline in languages in state schools

8 August 2023 (TES)

Vocational subjects will be all the rage on A-level and GCSE results days in England this year, with data showing how subject choices are changing with the times.

For example, computing entries will be up by around 10 per cent, while provisional GCSE entries for business studies are up by 27 per cent since 2019 and A-level entries in the subject are up by 34 per cent.

But as one field of study grows, another shrinks, and modern foreign languages are some of the hardest hit subjects. Entries for German, for example, have dropped by 17 per cent, while French stagnated with just 0.3 per cent growth.

This is not good news - language and intercultural skills are needed in the UK as it repositions itself on the global stage after Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Unfortunately, though, the resource for language learning is not the same in every school and there is concerning evidence of a growing social divide.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Related Links

A-Level and other level 3 results 2023: The main trends in grades and entries (FFT Education Data Lab, 17 August 2023) - Subjects with the largest fall in entries are Spanish, French and German.

New Edinburgh University degree to address decline in BSL teachers

5 August 2023 (The Herald)

The University of Edinburgh is to create a new undergraduate degree in Primary Education with British Sign Language (BSL) to help tackle a decline in the number of qualified teachers of deaf children. 

Research for/by the National Deaf Children’s Society shows that the number of Teachers of the Deaf (TOD) in Scotland has decreased by 40% in the past decade, with 45% of remaining teachers expected to retire over the next 10 years. In addition, statistics from the Consortium for Research Into Deaf Education found that almost 40% of councils in Scotland did not involve a ToD in the three statutory early years checks. These are regular reviews that assess young children on their development in numerous areas, such as, their hearing, which is where the expertise of a ToD would be crucial for a Deaf child. 

Alison Hendry, the former BSL Development Officer at the University of Edinburgh praised the announcement of the new degree. She said: “I think it is a really positive development because by having the degree, it will allow Deaf people to become Teachers of the Deaf and provide positive role models for young Deaf people coming through the system.”

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Languages are both acquired and learned – so conscious and unconscious effort is needed when picking up a new one

2 August 2023 (The Conversation)

Two concepts – acquisition and learning – play key roles in the study of language. Although there are people who use the two terms interchangeably, in reality they embody two different processes in the development of communicative competence.

Language acquisition is an intuitive and subconscious process, similar to that of children when they develop their mother tongue. Acquiring a language happens naturally, it does not require conscious effort or formal instruction; it is something incidental and often unconscious. A child will begin to speak by being exposed to the language and by interacting with its environment, without the need for grammar lessons.

Language learning, by contrast, is a conscious process that involves studying rules and structures. When grammatical rules are explained to us in a language class, this is a formal context. In the classroom, the acquisition of communication skills occurs through explicit instruction and methodical study, and that conscious effort is what we call learning.

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How to motivate yourself to learn a language

31 July 2023 (The Conversation)

Are you thinking about learning a language? Perhaps you’ve decided that it’s time to dust off your classroom French. Maybe you’re planning a trip to Japan and feel like you should make the effort to learn the basics, or work is sending you to the Cairo office for a year and you’ll need Arabic.

Learning a language is a hugely worthwhile endeavour, but two things are certain: it will take a while, and motivation will be crucial.

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Deaf rappers who lay down rhymes in sign languages are changing what it means for music to be heard

27 July 2023 (The Conversation)

In April 2023, DJ Supalee hosted Supafest Reunion 2023 to celebrate entertainers and promoters within the U.S. Deaf community.

The event included performances by R&B artist and rapper Sho’Roc, female rapper Beautiful The Artist, the group Sunshine 2.0, DJs Key-Yo and Hear No Evil, as well as ASL performer and former rapper Polar Bear, who now goes by Red Menace.

Many of these artists, activists and entrepreneurs have contributed to an ever-growing hip-hop scene within the Deaf community, which includes a subgenre of rap known as dip hop.

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Scotland’s Gaelic Landscape: Do you know how to read a Scottish map? 21 Gaelic terms for beginners

20 July 2023 (The Scotsman)

Spoken only by a small percentage of Scots today, Gaelic was once Scotland’s main language which is why it is intrinsically linked to the Scottish landscape where we see Gaelic place names that connect us to our heritage.

Here is an essential guide for beginners to get you acquainted with Scotland’s most-used Gaelic vocabulary and test your knowledge at the end with the wee quiz!

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Scots Language Awards launch search for leid's 'heroes'

18 July 2023 (The National)

Nominations have opened for the 2023 Scots Language Awards, giving the public a chance to commend their personal Scots language heroes.

The awards ceremony will take place at Johnstone Town Hall, in partnership with Paisley.is, on Saturday, September 16, showcasing the best of Scots language and culture.

[..] The awards, which began in 2019, celebrate the importance of Scots language within arts and culture but also in daily life, education, and business. Nominations will close on Sunday 30 July.

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Rural schools disproportionately affected by lack of language teachers

17 July 2023 (The Herald)

Rural schools are being disproportionately affected by falling numbers of language teachers. 

According to the recent Scottish Teacher census, there have been huge drops in the number of English, French, German and Italian teachers since 2010.

Analysis by the Scottish Conservatives found that rural schools account for 58.9% of all losses. 

The learning of at least one language is compulsory until the third year of secondary school, and there is growing evidence that they boost brain power and improve performance in other academic areas.

Nationally, English teacher numbers have declined by 141, from 2,788 in 2010 to 2,647, with rural schools losing 153.

In French, 319 teachers were lost, declining from 947 to 628, and 135 affecting local authorities in remote areas.

German teachers declined by 83, from 166 in 2010, across Scotland, 34 of which came from rural schools.

Meanwhile, Italian teachers declined from 10 in 2010 to seven in 2022. There are currently no rural schools with an Italian teacher.

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Deaf councillor hails move for British Sign Language option in South Lanarkshire high schools

10 July 2023 (Daily Record)

Calderside Academy in Blantyre will pilot British Sign Language as a language option this August when the schools return from their summer break.

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Buckie High strikes gold with languages award

7 July 2023 (The Northern Scot)

Buckie High have become the first Moray school to strike gold with a major languages award.

The school finished the term on a high by celebrating achieving their Gold Scottish Languages Employability Award (SLEA), which is valid for two years. The award helps schools and businesses to build partnerships through languages in order to develop young people's learning about the world of work and the value of language skills.

It follows on from BCHS claiming their silver award last year when they worked with major local employer Associated Seafoods Ltd (ASL), a collaboration which has been running for the last six or seven years. This time around, Buckie High expanded on the employer base involved, with Chivas Bros, Johnston's of Elgin and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Moray joining ASL in working with the school.

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Readers reply: what languages do native speakers of Mandarin and Arabic find the hardest to learn?

9 July 2023 (The Guardian)

Mandarin and Arabic often top the list of languages that are hardest to learn. But what do native speakers of those languages find the hardest to master, and why?

See what readers had to say.

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Parlez-vous Valyrian? Meet the people creating languages for Game of Thrones, Avatar and more

7 July 2023 (The Guardian)

Half a million Duolingo users are currently learning High Valyrian. But how do you make a language out of nothing? The linguists behind top fantasy TV shows and films explain.

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Clydebank school pupils praised after landing top award

6 July 2023 (Clydebank Post)

A Clydebank school was said to have 'impressed judges' on their way to picking up a top educational award for languages.

Pupils across three age groups at St Peter the Apostle High School were praised for their 'passion' for languages such as Gaelic and Spanish as they landed the Gold Scottish Languages Employability Award from SCILT - Gold Scottish Languages Employability Award from SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages and the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools.

The recognition award - launched in 2019 -  was developed by SCILT as a way of delivering DYW (Developing the Young Workforce) through languages, encouraging school-business partnerships and recognising good practice in this area.

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Scottish Gaelic Edinburgh Place Names: 13 Locations in the capital city rooted in Gaelic

30 June 2023 (The Scotsman)

While the origins of Gaelic are rooted in the Highlands and Islands, the language forms a major part of Scottish heritage and has found its place even in lowland areas like Edinburgh.

[..] Here are 13 place names connected to Scottish Gaelic according to Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland.

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GCSEs: Spanish set to become most popular MFL subject

29 June 2023 (TES)

Spanish is set to overtake French as the most popular GCSE language choice at schools in England, a new report has predicted.

The new Language Trends 2023 report, conducted by the British Council, has found that having been the most selected language at A level for the last four years, Spanish now looks set to replicate that popularity at GCSE level.

While Spanish, French and German remain the most popular languages at GCSE, German is falling increasingly behind, and there were more than 35,000 entries for other modern languages, the highest number recorded so far.

Read more...

Related Links

Two in three state secondary schools in England teach just one foreign language (The Guardian, 29 June 2023)

British Council Language Trends Report 2023 (British Council, 29 June 2023) - Language teaching in primary and secondary schools in England

Students switch to AI to learn languages

23 June 2023 (BBC)

I tell my Argentinian pal that I've been using ChatGPT to practise my Spanish and, excitedly, I explain what it can do.

It can correct my errors, I tell him, and it's able to give me regional variations in Spanish, including Mexican Spanish, Argentinian Spanish and, amusingly, Spanglish.

And, unlike when I'm chatting to him on WhatsApp, I don't have to factor in time zone differences.

My friend is less enthused. "So you've replaced me?" he jokes.

I haven't, of course. The convenience and breadth of an AI chatbot can't compete with the pleasures of chatting with someone whose personality quirks I've learned over the course of years. It is however a useful supplement.

And I'm just one of many people who have discovered in recent months the benefits of AI-based chat for language learning.

Read more...

Related Links

AI Language Learning Apps (Julia Morris blog, 28 June 2023) - List of AI apps with pros and cons.

New, ‘real-world’ French GCSE receives Ofqual approval as Pearson leads accessible and inclusive approach to language learning

21 June 2023 (FE News)

A new future-focused French GCSE, designed to better equip all students for life and careers in a global setting, has received full approval from Ofqual for first teaching in 2024. 

The reformed qualification from leading awarding body Pearson Edexcel, has been developed in close partnership with schools, language experts and multilinguists to reduce the continued decline in language uptake at GCSE and A level.

Paving the way for updates to Pearson’s language GCSEs in German and Spanish, the new French qualification (for first assessment in 2026), is specifically designed to be more inclusive and accessible to students, with real-world content that reflects and represents the diverse backgrounds, experiences and abilities of young learners today.

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Glasgow school's mission to help families break down language barriers

21 June 2023 (Glasgow Times)

A Glasgow secondary school where 35 different languages are spoken by pupils and their families held a successful pilot for a new Saturday morning club.

Rosshall Academy on the Southside of the city offered parents an ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) workshop as part of Refugee Festival Scotland Week.

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Lawyer translates Bible into Doric over 17 years

21 June 2023 (BBC)

The full Bible has been translated into the north east Scotland dialect of Doric after a man's 17-year project.

Gordon Hay began his epic scheme in 2006 with the New Testament while still working, and finished it six years later.

The now retired Aberdeenshire solicitor has now finished the Old - or Aul in Doric - Testament translation, which was about three times longer.

The text has been published and he said he was delighted at finishing.

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Chris Hemsworth caught with useful Spanish phrase on palm at Extraction film premiere in Madrid

13 June 2023 (The Independent)

Chris Hemsworth inadvertently revealed his way of remembering a handy Spanish phrase at a recent film premiere.

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Language learning in Northern Ireland ‘slowly recovering from pandemic’ – report

13 June 2023 (The National / British Council)

The popularity of learning languages at Northern Ireland’s schools is “slowly recovering from the pandemic”, a report by the British Council has found.

The Language Trends Northern Ireland report found that the decline in language learning at post-primary schools is plateauing, with Spanish emerging as the most popular, overtaking French.

The research was led by Dr Ian Collen, director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT) at Queen’s University Belfast, and follows a previous report which found that language lessons were “hardest hit” during Covid-19.

This year’s report found that Spanish is now the language most frequently taught in Northern Ireland’s schools at both GCSE and A-level, overtaking French as the most popular GCSE language in summer 2021.

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Is Welsh the most spoken Celtic tongue? How the small UK nation punched above its weight explained

5 June 2023 (The Scotsman)

Wales has 900,600 speakers of Welsh (impressive for a nation of around three million) but of Scotland’s five and a half million roughly 60,000 alone speak Gaelic - how did this happen?

According to data published by the Welsh Government in last year’s Annual Population Survey, an estimated 29.5% of their population was able to speak Welsh i.e., 900,600. Impressively, of our Celtic heritage languages in Britain, Welsh is the only one that is not considered endangered by UNESCO.

For others like Scottish Gaelic and Irish, the census data instils less confidence. Gaelic inclusion has been fostered by the likes of Outlander and Duolingo, yet at most only 87,000 Scots have some ability in the language.

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Education experts call for 10-year plan to boost foreign language learning in schools

3 June 2023 (National World)

Education experts have told NationalWorld the government needs a 10-year plan for foreign language teaching in schools - after figures showed the number of students taking French, German and Spanish A Levels fell again this year in England.

Business leaders are also calling for a “fundamental change” in approach so the next generation of UK entrepreneurs are “born global”. Ministers say they’re spending nearly £15 million improving teaching and promoting the benefits of language learning.

The exams regulator Ofqual said on Thursday (1 June) there were just 2,210 German A Level entries this summer - a fall of 17% on last year, the biggest percentage drop of any subject on the curriculum, and 24% down on five years ago.

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The worries parents from ethnic minority backgrounds have about their children’s experiences at school

2 June 2023 (The Conversation)

Children and young people should be able to study in schools that recognise and respect their diverse backgrounds. But teachers sometimes struggle to handle this diversity in the classroom.

Findings from research conducted in Ireland have shown that teachers may not receive adequate training in intercultural education.

My research investigated how parents from minority ethnic (non-white) backgrounds who had immigrated to Ireland felt about their children’s school education.

I carried out five group discussions with 20 parents from minority-ethnic backgrounds in Ireland in early 2020. I wanted to understand the parents’ experiences with schooling in Ireland and other countries, their opinions on teaching and learning in Irish schools, their relationships with teachers and schools, and their advice for creating culturally inclusive learning environments.

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Languages and creative arts losing favour with GCSE and A-level students

1 June 2023 (The Guardian)

Languages and the creative arts are falling out of favour among GCSE and A-level students, who are increasingly opting for more vocational subjects such as computing and business studies.

Provisional figures for England show exam entries for German have fallen by 17% for A-level students and 6% for GCSE studies, while Spanish and French have fallen 13% at A-level, although there has been a 5% increase for Spanish GCSEs, and French entries stayed at a similar level.

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How I Made It: I’m the UK’s first deaf football pundit using British Sign Language at half time

27 May 2023 (Metro)

Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.

This week we're chatting with Damaris Cooke, 39, who is the UK's first deaf football pundit.

The Londoner will provide British Sign Language (BSL) presentation around a range of BT Sport programming in 2023, including June’s UEFA Champions League Final, after being chosen by BT Sport and EE for the role.

Before this, Damaris played the game herself, and was a captain for the GB Deaf Women and England Deaf Women football teams.

Working as an accountant by day, Damaris works in football during her evenings and weekends - meaning life if pretty non-stop.

She's passionate about inclusion and footie, so this job marries the two.

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Complex Languages May Shape Bilingual Brains Differently

24 May 2023 (Language Magazine)

In a recent study published in the journal Science Advances, French researchers examined how bilingual people neurologically process their respective languages in written form.

The study carried out by a team of clinical neurologists, neuropsychologists and researchers, and funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, found that a part of the brain called the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) behaves differently for English-Chinese speakers compared to English-French speakers. It has also shed light on specific research towards different forms of bilingualism, with most accredited research comparing monolingualism and bilingualism. 

There is much scientific evidence to credit bilingualism beyond its cultural and communication benefits. Being able to speak more than one language is proven to physically change the brain, including increased neuroplasticity and fighting cognitive decline. 

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Kannst du Deutsch sprechen? Popularity of Netflix's Oscar-winning war film All Quiet On The Western Front prompts surge in Britons studying German as number of learners rises by a third

21 May 2023 (Daily Mail)

There has been a surge in the number of Britons studying German – thanks to the popularity of the anti-war film All Quiet On The Western Front. Since the release in October of the First World War Oscar-winner, which is in German, there has been a 32 per cent rise in learners in the UK and Ireland, according to the education app Duolingo. It is now the fourth most popular language for British users of the app, which offers free lessons in more than 100 languages.

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Welsh language: Lack of teachers threatens one million target

19 May 2023 (BBC)

Plans for a million Welsh speakers by 2050 will fail without a substantial increase in teachers speaking the language, a Senedd report has warned.

According to the 2021 Census, the number of Welsh speakers has dropped from 562,000 to 538,000 since 2011.

The report said there was not enough staff for the expansion to Welsh medium education needed and insufficient Welsh teaching in English-medium schools.

Ministers said they had set out ways to develop the Welsh-speaking workforce.

Census data also found a decrease in children and young people able to speak Welsh - particularly between the ages of three and 15.

The Welsh government funds training programmes for teachers wanting to learn or improve their Welsh.

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Esol English classes are crucial for migrant integration, yet challenges remain unaddressed

15 May 2023 (The Conversation)

In the year ending September 2022, more than 70,000 people had claimed asylum in the UK. The vast majority were from countries that do not use English as a first language.

Being able to communicate in English is essential for newly arrived migrants. People who have gone through traumatic experiences are, understandably, often desperate to build new lives. They want to use the skills and knowledge they have to access work and education. To do that, they have to navigate the health, social security, housing and education systems.

Language is the single most important area that can promote integration for migrants. My research has shown that language teachers are uniquely placed to positively affect the lives of people in these situations.

In fact, the 2016 Casey review, a government-commissioned report on the state of social cohesion in Britain, highlighted that developing fluency in English is critical to integration.

Read more...

How to use sign language for an inclusive and successful classroom

12 May 2023 (RSC Education)

BSL can help students learn vocabulary and concepts as well as retrieve existing knowledge.

When I started learning British Sign Language (BSL) a few years ago with the intention of communicating better with colleagues who sign, I had no idea that I’d soon be reaping the benefits in the classroom. Thanks to BSL’s descriptive and functional nature, I’ve found it really useful in my teaching.

It’s only relatively recently that BSL has been legally recognised as a language (2015 in Scotland and 2022 for the rest of the UK), but there are gaps in the language, for example in the field of STEM education. Thankfully the University of Edinburgh is helping to change that, as my colleague Audrey Cameron explains: ‘The BSL Glossary Project at the University of Edinburgh’s Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) has been working with a team of 36 deaf scientists and sign linguists to collate and create nearly 4000 specialist signs for STEM concepts.’ And they’re all in the online glossary of videos of BSL signs, definitions and demonstrations with English text – ready for use in your science classroom.

Read more...

How schools and teachers can make refugee children feel welcome

11 May 2023 (The Conversation)

Teachers in the UK are welcoming children seeking sanctuary into their classrooms. In 2022, 46,000 young people aged under 18 arrived in the UK from Ukraine. More than 5,000 asylum applications were made by unaccompanied children in 2022.

Studies have shown that teachers can feel ill-equipped or may not receive formal training to meet the needs of these new arrivals in their classrooms.

In a range of research projects, my colleagues and I have explored teachers’ approaches to welcoming refugee children. We found that by taking specific steps to create an inclusive school environment, schools and teachers can provide a place where a newly arrived child can feel safe and able to trust the adults in their community.

Read more...

Languages in schools: how we’re trying to win hearts and minds

10 May 2023 (TES)

Few would contest that the ability to communicate in more than one language is a very good thing. Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT), driven by this belief, supports languages wherever they are spoken, used and learned across the country, because there is growing evidence that they boost brain power, improve memory, enhance multi-tasking ability and improve performance in other academic areas.

It is therefore troubling to see a growing trend in recent years for learners in secondary schools to drop languages in favour of other subjects as they progress into later years of study.

For several years, young people in Wales have benefited from a mentoring scheme led by colleagues at the University of Cardiff, which appears to be winning hearts and minds. So, when we heard that the Northern Alliance, the University of Aberdeen and the Open University were planning a similar collaboration, we at SCILT felt compelled to get involved so that similar opportunities could be offered to young people in Scotland. From these initial discussions, Scotland’s Language Explorer Programme was born.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

Read more...

Languages in schools: how we’re trying to win hearts and minds

10 May 2023 (TES)

Few would contest that the ability to communicate in more than one language is a very good thing. Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT), driven by this belief, supports languages wherever they are spoken, used and learned across the country, because there is growing evidence that they boost brain power, improve memory, enhance multi-tasking ability and improve performance in other academic areas.

It is therefore troubling to see a growing trend in recent years for learners in secondary schools to drop languages in favour of other subjects as they progress into later years of study.

For several years, young people in Wales have benefited from a mentoring scheme led by colleagues at the University of Cardiff, which appears to be winning hearts and minds. So, when we heard that the Northern Alliance, the University of Aberdeen and the Open University were planning a similar collaboration, we at SCILT felt compelled to get involved so that similar opportunities could be offered to young people in Scotland. From these initial discussions, Scotland’s Language Explorer Programme was born.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

Read more...

A Coronation with Celtic Languages: Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Irish to appear for the first time

5 May 2023 (The Scotsman)

The influence of Celtic languages can still be felt in our world today. Place names in Scotland and even United States locations feature traces of languages like Scottish Gaelic and Pictish.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Celtic languages including Gaelic, Irish and Welsh will feature in King Charles’ coronation this week - after all he is the UK monarch and these Celtic tongues are tied to this land.

Sadly, this does not include all surviving Celtic languages such as Cornish or Manx, but it is a step in the right direction for inclusion in the languages’ heartlands.

Read more...

Scottish Gaelic Edinburgh Place Names: 13 locations in the capital rooted in Gaelic

5 May 2023 (The Scotsman)

While the origins of Gaelic are rooted in the Highlands and Islands, the language forms a major part of Scottish heritage and has found its place even in lowland areas like Edinburgh.

Well over a decade ago, the Scottish Census revealed that Edinburgh held 5,935 people who were ‘skilled’ in Gaelic. The Scottish capital is internationally renowned as a cultural hub with fascinating history (and even a UNESCO World Heritage site) so it’s unsurprising that the heritage language found its place there.

Read more...

British Deaf Association announces Kabir Kapoor as UK’s first BSL Poet Laureate

5 May 2023 (Limping Chicken)

A British Sign Language (BSL) version of this news story, released by the British Deaf Association (BDA) is available to watch now on Vimeo.

Kabir Kapoor, a Deaf designer from London, has been selected as the UK’s first BSL Poet Laureate – the BDA has announced.

Kapoor’s poem was selected out of 12 submitted, after the charity invited Deaf people to apply for the role which would see the winner “encouraged to create poetic works in BSL around major national events in the UK from a Deaf perspective”.

Rebecca Mansell, the BDA’s CEO, previously said of the opportunity: “Scotland has a Makar, Wales has a National Poet, and Northern Ireland has its own Poet Laureate. We feel the time is now right for a Poet Laureate for British Sign Language.

“We want to show the nation that British Sign Language is a rich, expressive, visual language that can do anything English can – and more!”

Read more...

UK students are abandoning language learning, so we’re looking for a more creative approach

4 May 2023 (The Conversation)

There is a storm brewing for modern language education in the UK. The uptake in higher education has more than halved in the past 15 years. And in the same period, ten modern language university departments have closed, while a further nine have been significantly downsized.

Meanwhile, language provision in schools is patchy. There are substantial regional differences, and only half of pupils in England learn a language at GCSE level. Together, these issues have created an overall problem with access to language learning.

Given these challenges, as language lecturers we believe the way we teach and assess modern languages in our universities needs a rethink. That’s why we want to explore how more creativity in the subject could help to make language learning more attractive and sustainable in the future.

Read more...

Caitlin learned Ukrainian to welcome her friend to Monifieth High – and won poetry competition

4 May 2023 (Dundee Courier)

When Caitlin Anderson, 14, was asked to look after a Ukrainian refugee joining her school it was the start of a special friendship.

As Caitlin helped Veronika Raziievska, also 14, improve her English and settle into her new surroundings, she decided she should make the effort to learn her language.

And as well as making Veronika’s new life at Monifieth High School a little easier, that resulted in Caitlin winning a national competition for a poem she subsequently wrote in Ukrainian.

When she entered the Mother Tongue Other Tongue contest, Caitlin told Veronika’s story to raise awareness of what she and other refugees had endured as a result of the war in Ukraine.

We met the S2 pupils to hear about their friendship and how that resulted in Caitlin’s award-winning poem.

Read more...

Firefighters learn sign language with video created by deaf school children

3 May 2023 (BBC Newsround)

Deaf students from two schools in Newcastle have created a video and fact sheet providing simple sign language phrases to be used by firefighters.

The aim is to teach firefighters from Newcastle Central Community Fire Station essential signs which they can use if they ever attend a house fire or serious incident where they may interact with people who are deaf.

Some of the words and phrases the children who took part in the project cover in their video include "Where is the fire?", "How many people inside?" and "Stay calm".

Read more...

How a giant panda livestream celebrated International Chinese Language Day and promoted cultural exchange

27 April 2023 (My London)

April 20 this year marked the 14th United Nations Chinese Language Day, and also the 4th International Chinese Language Day, jointly initiated by the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation and Chinese Plus.

To celebrate this festival for Chinese language enthusiasts across the globe, the School of Foreign Languages of Southwest Jiaotong University teamed up with Pandaful to launch the 'An Adventure with Pandas' series of five livestreams targeting Chinese language enthusiasts in the UK and the US, with support provided by the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

More than 9,500 students from some 430 primary and secondary schools in the UK and the US, including eight American universities, signed up for the event, with audiences putting forth more than 60 questions related to the giant panda.

Read more...

Speaking a tonal language could boost your melodic ability, but at the cost of rhythm

26 April 2023 (Phys Org)

Your native language could impact your musical ability. A global study that compared the melodic and rhythmic abilities of almost half a million people speaking 54 different languages found that tonal speakers are better able to discern between subtly different melodies, while non-tonal speakers are better able to tell whether a rhythm is beating in time with the music.

The researchers report April 26 in the journal Current Biology that these advantages—in melodic perception for tonal speakers and rhythm perception for non-tonal speakers—were equivalent to about half the boost that you would have from taking music lessons.

Read more...

Research on 2,400 languages shows nearly half the world’s language diversity is at risk

20 April 2023 (The Conversation)

There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, and their grammar can vary a lot. Linguists are interested in these differences because of what they tell us about our history, our cognitive abilities and what it means to be human.

But this great diversity is threatened as more and more languages aren’t taught to children and fall into slumber.

In a new paper published in Science Advances, we’ve launched an extensive database of language grammars called Grambank. With this resource, we can answer many research questions about language and see how much grammatical diversity we may lose if the crisis isn’t stopped.

Our findings are alarming: we’re losing languages, we’re losing language diversity, and unless we do something, these windows into our collective history will close.

Read more...

National BSL Day confirmed for 28 April as British Deaf Association searches for first ‘Deaf Poet Laureate’

13 April 2023 (Limping Chicken)

The UK’s first National British Sign Language (BSL) Day to “celebrate” the language will take place on 28 April – the same day the BSL Act received Royal Assent last year – the British Deaf Association (BDA) has confirmed.

The day was first announced last month, at the Deaf charity’s inaugural BSL Conference.

In a message to members on Wednesday, BDA CEO Rebecca Mansell said: “Our aim for the day is to celebrate our language – BSL, to encourage more people to learn to sign, and remind the Government that we have high expectations for the implementation of the BSL Act.”

Read more...

Watch: King Charles speaking German in Berlin

29 March 2023 (BBC)

King Charles has delivered a speech partly in German at Bellevue Palace in Berlin during a state visit to the country, his first since becoming monarch.

The monarch made several jokes and praised the ties between the UK and Germany.

Read more...

How Latin aims to expand its reach in Scottish state schools

28 March 2023 (TES)

Despite Scotland not producing any new Latin or classical studies teachers, a new project is raising hopes that the language of ancient Rome can be revived in schools.

[..] Dr Henry Stead (of the University of St Andrews) and I (at Monifieth High School, in Angus) initiated a new project - the St Andrews Latin Outreach Scheme (Stalos) - to introduce more state-school pupils to the language of the ancient Romans.

Last year, instructors from St Andrews travelled to Monifieth in Angus once per week, where a lunchtime group of 20 enthusiastic S4-6 pupils were guided through sections of the Cambridge Latin Course over nine weeks. The class then went to the university for an end-of-course certificate presentation event. This opportunity came without the obligation of the full course - they could try an ancient language out to see if it was for them, an opportunity they would otherwise be denied.

The wider impact of the scheme has been remarkable in showing an appetite for Latin in our school. It has provided an opportunity for pupils to visit and experience the University of St Andrews and - crucially - made a case for Latin as an examination subject for us.

(Note - subscription required to access the full article)

Read more...

Márquez overtakes Cervantes as most translated Spanish-language writer

27 March 2023 (The Guardian)

The solitary denizens of Macondo appear to have proved too much for a famously insane knight errant, according to research that shows Gabriel García Márquez has overtaken Miguel de Cervantes to become the most translated Spanish-language writer of the century so far.

However, the genius who gave the world Don Quixote – and with him the first modern novel and a byword for impractical idealism – can take comfort in the fact that he remains the most translated writer in Spanish over the past eight decades.

The findings emerged after the Instituto Cervantes, which promotes Spanish language and culture around the world, began crunching data to put together its new World Translation Map.

Read more...

Kirkcaldy pupils celebrate success in national poetry competition

18 March 2023 (Fife Today)

Pupils from Valley Primary School, Kirkcaldy, have been celebrating their success in a National Poetry Competition, Mother Tongue Other Tongue.

Six P7 pupils wrote original poems in their first language to showcase and celebrate the many languages spoken at Valley Primary School.

As well as entering the competition they also shared their poems at school along with pupils reciting a range of Scots poetry.

Read more...

Glasgow Gaelic School appoints new head Gillian Campbell-Thow

17 March 2023 (The Herald)

Glasgow Gaelic School’s first ‘learner’ head teacher has been appointed to lead the flagship campus as record numbers of pupils are expected to enroll this year.

In common with more than 90% of pupils at the school, Gillian Campbell-Thow is not a native speaker of the ancient Scots language. 

When the city’s first primary opened in 1999 the roll was predominantly made up of pupils whose parents had ‘heritage’ Gaelic.

While the Ayrshire-born teacher’s appointment might have raised eyebrows in the early days of the school, she says “for the most part” the reaction from the community has been positive.

The 44-year-old is working towards an additional teaching qualification in Gaelic at Strathclyde University and has her own homework to do this evening.

Da chanan, da chultar, iomadh cothrom, is written on her coffee mug: two languages, two cultures, many opportunities.

The new head certainly practices what she preaches. She is fluent in Spanish and French, competent in German and could comfortably chat in Mandarin.

Read more...

How dyslexia changes in other languages

10 March 2023 (BBC)

Alex loved books and languages. His parents were native English speakers, and the family lived in Japan, so Alex spoke English at home, and Japanese at school. At the age of 13, however, Alex was diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning difficulty that affects reading and writing. According to test results, his English reading level was that of a six-year-old.

The results were a shock. "This test came along and they were like, actually, your writing is horrible," Alex recalls. "I thought I was doing ok. Yes, there was a bit of a struggle, but I assumed everyone else was struggling. In fact, the numbers that came out were quite devastating from my perspective."

To researchers, the even bigger surprise was his performance in the other language he used. When he was tested in Japanese at the age of 16, his literacy was not just good. It was excellent.

Read more...

Susie Dent explores the foreign words for universal experiences that we have no equivalent for

8 March 2023 (Daily Mail)

There are emotions and situations so universal, it's astonishing we don't have a word for them in English.

What, for example, might we call the feeling of exiting the hairdresser's looking worse than when we went in?

Or perhaps, the extra weight we put on after a break-up?

And what about those brilliant ideas you come up with after several bottles of wine that in the cold light of day seem utterly ridiculous?

For all its richness and depth, its breadth and beauty, the English language doesn't always quite cut it when it comes to these sentiments that fall between the cracks of our vocabulary. 

Fear not, however, because the chances are that another language almost certainly will.

One of the joys of learning a foreign tongue is not just the insight we get into a different culture and people, but also the joyful serendipity of coming across a word that we can't believe we lived without.

Read more...

Language news in TES magazine

7 March 2023 (TES)

This week's TES contains the following items relating to language learning and teaching across the UK. Please note, subscription may be required to access the full articles:

Podcast gives East Renfrewshire pupils chance to use Spanish skills

3 March 2023 (Barrhead News)

Senior pupils at an East Renfrewshire school have put their foreign language skills to good use by taking part in an international podcast.

Francesca Bell, Sam Wells, Rachael Martin and head boy James Orr, of Mearns Castle High, were interviewed for the show by Ángela Gutiérrez, from Spain, and Mariana Mejía, from Colombia.

[..] The episode featuring the four S6 pupils is called ‘Entrevistamos a estudiantes de Glasgow’ and was fully recorded in Spanish.

Read more...

Ministers put £15m towards tackling decline in language learning in England

3 March 2023 (The Guardian)

Ministers have awarded an almost £15m contract to tackle the systemic decline in the number of pupils in England taking foreign languages at GCSE and A-level.

University College London’s Institute of Education will develop and roll out the Department of Education’s £14.9m language programme in primary and secondary schools over the next three years, with a focus on increasing opportunities among disadvantaged pupils.

The IoE will establish a National Centre for Languages Education (NCLE) made up of up to 25 lead schools specialising in languages to work with up to 105 partner secondary schools. The centre aims to develop strategies to persuade more boys, as well as pupils with special educational needs or disabilities and other disadvantaged pupils, to choose languages, while up to five schools will be chosen to expand the Home Languages Accreditation project, which helps bilingual pupils gain GCSEs or A-levels in their home or heritage language.

Read more...

Related Links

German given boost as part of new schools language programme (UK Government, 3 March 2023)

Vorsprung durch Deutsch (Goethe-Institut, 3 March 2023)

Lanarkshire youngsters mark world Gaelic week

2 March 2023 (Daily Record)

Pupils at a Lanarkshire nursery celebrated world Gaelic week with a range of activities and shared the language with a special visitor.

Youngsters at Sgoil Araich, the Gaelic-language nursery at Tollbrae Primary in Airdrie, welcomed Anum Qaisar MP to their classrooms during the celebration week.

She took part in a lesson on colours and saw the pupils perform a number of “fantastic” Gaelic songs.

The recent celebration week aims to raise the profile of Gaelic in communities across the country and internationally, with figures from last year estimating that nearly a third of Scotland’s population can speak Gaelic.

Read more...

New study reveals UK ‘hubs’ set to raise next multilingual generation

23 February 2023 (FE News)

Global learning platform Preply takes a look at some of the most nurturing factors to encourage multilingualism, revealing the UK hubs set to raise the next multilingual generation.

Over half of the world’s population can speak more than one language, with 43% classifying as bilingual and a further 17% identifying as multilingual. Although a respectable one-third of Brits (36%) speak more than one language, the world’s topmost bilingual nation is Indonesia, where ¾ of the population speak a second language.

Taking over 110 UK towns and cities, Preply’s latest research reveals the UK ‘hubs’ set to raise the next multilingual generation. The study considers bilingual/international schools, the demand for learning a language and the size of the bilingual community (bilingual population), to reveal the country’s top locations for nurturing multilingualism in children.

Ranking as the UK's top ten are:

  • Cambridge
  • Reading
  • Ipswich
  • Manchester
  • London
  • Oxford
  • Bristol
  • Derby / Leicester (joint 8th)
  • Nottingham
  • Edinburgh / Exeter (joint 10th)

Read more...

Putting Gaelic firmly on the tourism map

23 February 2023 (The Herald)

Scotland is famous for many things, its scenery, its history, its people and of course, our distinct and vibrant culture.

Seachdain na Gàidhlig (World Gaelic Week) is a fantastic celebration of one of the most valuable aspects of our cultural heritage; our language. It helps recognise the role Gaelic plays in shaping our culture and raise awareness of the language with audiences the world over. We are hugely excited to be part of it and share this story with our visitors.

But this week is also a timely reminder of why we must preserve Gaelic for future generations, for our future visitors but also for the communities who use it.

Responsible tourism is at the heart of everything we do at VisitScotland, and this includes protecting Scotland’s culture and heritage. We recognise the importance of preserving those assets, which are so vital to Scotland’s brand and make Scotland so unique.

Gaelic and its rich culture provide an extra layer of authenticity for visitors with a unique experience you can only truly have in Scotland. This only strengthens the destination connection we know means so much to visitors.

Read more...

My children don’t speak my mother tongue – as a second-generation migrant, it fills me with sadness

21 February 2023 (The Guardian)

Which language immigrant parents should speak at home has been endlessly debated. For now, we have not passed Urdu onto our children.

As a second-generation British Pakistani growing up in Bradford, I was surrounded by Urdu and smatterings of Punjabi. English came later, and I can remember not being able to understand my teacher on the first day of nursery. This was all part of my parents’ plan: to speak in Urdu to my siblings and I because they knew we would learn English at school. They were right.

There have been countless debates over the years about which language immigrant parents should speak to their children, and the impact of that on their studies. I’ve never been convinced of the benefit of dropping one language in favour of the other. Because of my parents’ decision, I’m able to speak both languages fluently. I write for a living and worked as a journalist for the BBC, and my multilingualism has only enhanced my life. 

Read more...

Related Links

Speaking a mother tongue fosters a sense of cultural identity (The Guardian, 27 February 2023)

Why we can dream in more than one language

17 February 2023 (BBC)

Sleep has a more powerful role in language-learning than was previously thought. What does this reveal about our night-time brain?

Just after I began work on this article, I had a very fitting dream. I was hosting a party in a hotel suite, with guests from the US, Pakistan, and other countries. Most of the guests were chatting away in English; one or two spoke German, my mother tongue. At one point I couldn't find my son, and panicked. When I spotted him, I sighed a relieved "Ach, da bist du ja!" – "There you are!", in German – and gave him a hug.

If you speak more than one language, you may have had similar experiences of them mingling in your sleep. My own dreams often feature English, which I speak in daily life here in London, as well as German, my childhood language. But how and why do our brains come up with these multilingual dreams – and could they have an impact on our real-life language skills?

Read more...

How to support multilingual international students in the classroom

14 February 2023 (Times Higher Education )

Multilingual students face unique challenges that affect their participation and communication in the classroom, but educators can take steps to make them feel welcome.

[..] Working with multilingual learners can present challenges but can also be rewarding. Multilingual learners come to the classroom with an array of experience and backgrounds. By recognising the needs of these students and supporting them, you can create a more inclusive, safe and welcoming learning environment for everyone. 

Read more...

‘Most adults’ should be able to speak a foreign language

3 February 2023 (TES)

For a decade it has been government policy in Scotland that children should learn two languages in school - starting their first language in P1 and their second in P5, and continuing with them until at least the third year of secondary.

However, the figures show the policy - which began being introduced in 2013 and was supposed to be fully implemented by August 2021 - has yet to be fully realised.

Research published by the government in April last year, based on a survey of 86 per cent of primary schools and 88 per cent of secondaries, shows that just 69 per cent of primary schools were delivering a second language continuously from P1 to P7.

A further 29 per cent were “partially” delivering a second language and 2 per cent were delivering no second language whatsoever.

All secondaries were delivering a second language in S1 to S3 - but not all of them were doing so continuously: 70 per cent said they were delivering the entitlement to a second language in full.

And that’s before we get to the third language.

Read more...

Your native tongue holds a special place in your brain, even if you speak 10 languages

3 February 2023 (Science Daily)

Most people will learn one or two languages in their lives. But Vaughn Smith, a 47-year-old carpet cleaner from Washington, D.C., speaks 24. Smith is a hyperpolyglot—a rare individual who speaks more than 10 languages.

In a new brain imaging study, researchers peered inside the minds of polyglots like Smith to tease out how language-specific regions in their brains respond to hearing different languages. Familiar languages elicited a stronger reaction than unfamiliar ones, they found, with one important exception: native languages, which provoked relatively little brain activity. This, the authors note, suggests there’s something special about the languages we learn early in life.

Read more...

Curious Kids: are some languages more difficult than others?

2 February 2023 (The Conversation)

Some languages seem harder than others. Does that mean that the brains of people who speak those languages are more stimulated? – Maria Júlia, aged 14, São Lourenço, Brazil

Are some languages harder than others? For example, is Japanese more difficult than English?

To answer the question, the first thing we have to do is distinguish between babies learning their first language and children or adults learning a second language. For babies who learn their first language, no language is harder than another. Babies all learn their first language in about the same period of time. This is because learning a language is natural for all babies, like learning to walk.

[..] But that changes if you already speak a language and are learning a second one. A language that is very different to the one you already know is going to seem harder than one that’s quite similar to your first language.

Read more...

UK business groups call for more foreign-language teaching in colleges

30 January 2023 (The Guardian)

Business groups and language experts are calling on ministers to make linguistic skills a core part of vocational training, after research found young people are unable to study languages at large numbers of further education colleges.

A report by the British Academy published on Monday, shows that despite the importance of linguistic skills in many jobs, the ability to learn French, German or Spanish, let alone less common languages, has become a postcode lottery.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast analysed all 204 further education colleges (FE) in the UK, excluding sixth-form colleges. They found barely half offered some form of language teaching.

Read more...

11 Fascinating Scottish place names and their meanings from Gaelic, to Norse, to Pictish

27 January 2023 (The Scotsman)

Scotland boasts a wealth of fascinating place names with their meanings rooted in Gaelic, Norse and Pictish, here are 10 examples that reveal this diversity of language across Scottish history.

Read more...

Portishead boy joins Mensa after teaching himself to read aged two

23 January 2023 (BBC)

A boy who taught himself to read as a toddler has been accepted as the UK's youngest member of Mensa.

Four-year-old Teddy, from Portishead in Somerset, can count to 100 in six non-native languages, including Mandarin.

Mensa accepts people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on an approved intelligence test.

Teddy's mother, Beth Hobbs, said he learned to read at just 26 months old "by watching children's television and copying the sounds of letters".

Read more...

Why Gaelic is the talk of Scotland

23 January 2023 (The Herald)

Bòrd na Gàidhlig is the principal public body in Scotland responsible for promoting Gaelic development, including providing advice to Scottish Ministers on Gaelic issues.  

Amongst a range of functions, it produces the National Gaelic Language Plan for Ministerial approval, oversees the development and implementation of Gaelic Language Plans by Public Authorities, distributes funds for the development of the Gaelic language, provides leadership and advice in support of Gaelic language initiatives and initiates and implements other projects. 

It also promotes Gaelic locally, nationally and internationally, with this work being informed by listening and reacting to the needs of communities.

[..] Thanks to support from Bòrd Na Gàidhlig, and huge interest from Gaelic speakers across Scotland and around the world, February 2023 sees the second official global Scottish Gaelic language week; Seachdain na Gàidhlig (World Gaelic Week) taking place through a series of in-person and online events.

Read more...

Welsh: Covid lockdowns blamed for drop in speakers

21 January 2023 (BBC)

Covid lockdowns have been partly blamed for a drop in young Welsh speakers, who were not able to use the language regularly for two years.

The 2021 census showed a 5.7% drop in the number of school-age children able to speak Welsh since 2011.

This is despite the number of pupils in Welsh-medium education rising by 11,000 in that period.

Students in a Welsh-speaking heartland said Covid may have hit the confidence of some to use it socially.

Read more...

The importance of language learning in an interconnected world

16 January 2023 (FE News)

‘I desire the Poles carnally,’ US President Jimmy Carter was interpreted to have said in a speech while visiting Poland in 1977.

And more recently Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s speech on TV was lost in translation with subtitles about ‘Nazi innings’ and various gibberish.

The first mistranslation was down to human error; the second due to speech recognition software limitations.

And digital marketer Philip Graves warns mistranslations are no laughing matter – with serious risks attached, from losing business opportunities to a breakdown in negotiations.

Philip, who is an analyst and copywriter at the Bristol-based digital marketing agency GWS Media, whose specialities include multilingual websites, said:

“Throughout history we have seen how misinterpretations can lead to disastrous misunderstandings and even bring countries to the brink of war.

“Poor translations can at the very least cause confusion. In some cases, they can cause offence. Clear communication is vital to building trust and where language barriers are involved, accurate translations play a key role.”

Read more...

Lennie Pennie: Let's not forget the arts and languages

14 January 2023 (The Herald)

In an effort to combat innumeracy prime minister Rishi Sunak recently proposed compulsory maths until the age of 18 in England.

Weirdly enough "should *insert subject* be compulsory until 18" was actually an essay topic in one of my Spanish exams, and I'm just relieved I get to speak about this in English without sweating through my blazer worrying about conjugations and noun agreements.

I’ll start by acknowledging that as education is devolved to the control of the Scottish Government, and it’s been a wee while since I was at high school, this discussion is purely academic, however I think it’s an important conversation.

I’ll get a few cheeky wee disclaimers out of the way first of all: I don’t hate maths, it’s a wonderful, useful subject that I’m sure brings many people joy every day.

I’m not going to say ‘I never use maths’ because, in truth, I use it all the time. I’m grateful to my maths teachers for persevering with me, and I’m proud of myself for persevering with maths for as long as I could.

I’m also not a fan of the whole Arts versus STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths) debate, as they are both valid, and have a place within our society.

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Why being bilingual can open doors for children with developmental disabilities, not close them

10 January 2023 (The Conversation)

When parents learn their child has a developmental disability, they often have questions about what their child may or may not be able to do.

Children with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, often have challenges and delays in language development. And for some families, one of these questions may be: “Will speaking two languages be detrimental to their development?”

However, studies consistently demonstrate exposure to an additional language, including a minority language, does not impact language outcomes negatively. This highlights the importance of giving children the opportunity to become bilingual.

Many parents feel speaking one language would be easier than two. Some may feel bilingualism would be too confusing for a child with a developmental disability. This is a belief which is also sometimes held by teachers and clinicians who may be consulted on their view towards bilingual exposure.

With good intentions, paediatricians, speech–language therapists, teachers or social workers may advise parents to avoid using a heritage or minority language in the home, as children will also be exposed to the majority community language.

Research also shows children with disabilities may have fewer opportunities to access services in a second language.

However, bilingualism is possible for children with developmental disabilities, as our research on children learning both Welsh and English shows. 

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TikTok: Welsh speakers use social media to teach others

28 December 2022 (BBC)

Welsh speakers are turning to TikTok to promote the language and teach it to others.

The social media platform is helping to connect lovers of the language with new learners.

"I think the one thing with TikTok that's different is the videos are short and sweet. You're able to engage with people," said one creator.

It comes as recent census data shows that there is a decline in Welsh speakers.

Bethany Davies from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, has about 44,000 TikTok followers and has made a career out of sharing the Welsh language and culture.

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The British Sign Language project stretching back 2,000 years

22 December 2022 (BBC)

Sign language has experienced a surge of interest in the past couple of years. Deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis wowed on Strictly Come Dancing last year - and the film Coda, about a teenager who is the only hearing member of a deaf family, won best picture at the 2022 Oscars. But there's now another project under way with its roots stretching back more than 2,000 years. The Bible is being translated into British Sign Language (BSL).

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Scottish school subjects could be axed due to cuts, union warns

19 December 2022 (BBC)

Some school subjects will have to scrapped as a result of the Scottish government's budget, a teaching union chief has said.

The general secretary of School Leaders Scotland claimed the number of pupils per class would also rise, with teacher vacancies to remain unfilled.

[..] Mr Thewliss said teachers across the country were expecting increases in class sizes and said some subjects would be removed if "deemed as non-viable".

He gave the example of higher modern languages subjects, which he said often had small class sizes of four or five pupils.

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Ukraine: Refugee children learn Welsh in 11 weeks

16 December 2022 (BBC)

A group of Ukrainian children have been learning Welsh to help settle into life in the country.

More than 1,000 miles away from home they have been welcomed with open arms into their communities on Anglesey.

After 11 weeks, Natalia, nine, is almost fluent. She comes from Odessa, a city that has borne the brunt of some of the most fierce fighting, and she said she loves Welsh.

Her and her friends' grasp of the language has been called "astounding".

Sofiia, Natalia and Danylo have all been attending a specialist Welsh immersion unit at Ysgol Moelfre every day since September.

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Number of Welsh speakers has declined – pandemic disruption to education may be a cause

15 December 2022 (The Conversation)

The recent 2022 census held unexpected news for Wales. It found the number of Welsh speakers in the country had decreased by 1.2% since the previous 2011 census, from 19% to 17.8%.

This represents an estimated loss of almost 24,000 Welsh speakers between 2011 (562,000) and 2021 (538,300). Despite the introduction of the Welsh government’s language strategy, the number of Welsh speakers in Wales has continued a downward trajectory begun in 2001.

One of the reasons for this decline could be found in the disruption caused to Welsh-medium education by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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English is picking up brilliant new words from around the world – and that’s a gift

12 December 2022 (The Guardian)

Who owns the English language? The answer to this question is no longer as straightforward as “the English”. According to the latest figures from the British Council, English is “spoken at a useful level” by about 1.75 billion people. Counted among this vast anglophone population are not only the hundreds of millions who speak English as a first language, but also the hundreds of millions more who speak it as a second or foreign language in different parts of the world.

English spread across the globe largely as a result of imperialism, as the language was imposed on colonies in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas. When these former colonies achieved independence, many chose to retain the use of English, usually to function as a primary working language and neutral medium of communication for their diverse populations. As countries such as India, Nigeria, South Africa, Jamaica and Singapore adopted English as a language, they also adapted it – making significant changes to its pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, and giving rise to new varieties now collectively known as World Englishes.

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Lesley Duncan: You can help the Scots language thrive

11 December 2022 (The Herald)

The Herald has long backed Scottish writers, whether writing in Scots or 'standard' English. In recent years, young Scots poet and Herald columnist Len Pennie has popularised the language via her online Scots Word of the Day. And, of course, we run a Scots Word of the Week each Saturday from our friends at the Dictionaries of the Scots Language.

So we are delighted to get behind annual McCash Scots Poetry Competition, run jointly by The Herald and Glasgow University.

The contest celebrates our traditional language in all its forms, and aims to support it. This year a first prize of £200 and three runner-up prizes of £100 are to be won. Poets can submit material on any theme of their choice.

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The donated building keeping Ukrainians connected to home

11 December 2022 (BBC)

Ukrainian refugees have opened a new cultural centre in East Renfrewshire to give people a place to stay in touch with their community and traditions.

The Church of Scotland donated the space in church grounds in Clarkston.

The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) will use it to teach English, as well as for activities like art, music and cooking.

More than 20,000 Ukrainians have come to Scotland under the government's super sponsor scheme.

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First British Sign Language channel launches on ITVX, broadcaster says

6 December 2022 (Express and Star)

The first British Sign Language (BSL) channel globally has been launched on ITVX, the broadcaster said.

ITV’s new streaming platform will host a station that only has signed programming and be regularly updated with new and archive programs.

When it begins, Emmerdale and Coronation Street omnibus episodes, Cilla, Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow, Vera, Lewis, and The Saint will be available in BSL.

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Britain’s linguistic insularity remains a source of shame

5 December 2022 (The Times)

The World Cup studios are dripping with football talent. That’s hardly surprising — but they are also awash with linguistic excellence. Jürgen Klinsmann, Didier Drogba, Pablo Zabaleta, Laura Georges and a string of others who thrilled us on the pitch can now be found swapping insights, banter and — let’s forgive them — the occasional cliché with Lineker and co, all in fluent English.

This should not be taken for granted, because it could scarcely happen the other way round. Very few British footballers are going to make it as pundits outside Britain but they are decidedly not to blame. They are innocent victims of a longlasting and profound national complacency about the value of foreign languages. We simply can’t be bothered.

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Arabic lessons: 'It's respectful, the Irish people learning my language'

5 December 2022 (BBC)

"I find it respectful that the Irish students are learning my language."

These are the words of Mohammad. He is 14 years old and moved from Syria to Northern Ireland in 2019.

In school, his Northern Irish friends come up to him and speak to him in Arabic, greeting him with "Marhaba (hello)", "Sabah alkhaer (good morning)," and "How are you (kifak)?"

English-speaking students in Sacred Heart College Omagh, County Tyrone, are learning his native language as part of a five-week online course.

Pauline McAnea, a language teacher, said the main motivation for wanting her students to take part in the course was due to an increase in Syrian students who have attended the school in recent years.

"It is important for us to show that we respect them and their language and culture," she said.

"They have made such an effort to learn our language so it is important that we reach out and make a bit of an effort to learn theirs."

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Prejudice and ridicule, the fate of minority languages in these isles

3 December 2022 (The Herald)

He was talking ahead of what at least one Fleet St tabloid billed as a rematch between St George and the Dragon.

But few people were paying attention to what Cymru defender Ben Davies had to say about one of the biggest games of his life, a World Cup clash with England. They were far more worked up about the language he was using: Welsh.

The 29-year-old, appearing at a press conference in Qatar, spoke in his own native tongue.

You would like to think this – for most players from most countries – would be a pretty pedestrian and mundane event. For Mr Davies, it was anything but.

The player’s language provoked rage, abuse and mockery. Twitter lit up with indignant England supporters accusing Mr Davies of “trying to be different”; of being an “idiot”, a “weapon”.

Bizarrely, some objected to the defender’s Welsh because – Shock! Horror! – Mr Davies plays for a London club, Spurs. There is nothing unusual about more voluble and partisan football supporters being boorish about minority languages – as even a quick scroll through Scottish Twitter comments on Scots or Gaelic will show.

But this was a pretty nasty episode.

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Lennie Pennie: Debunking the myths about the Scots language

2 December 2022 (The Herald)

I’m biased when it comes to the Scots language: I'm a speaker, educator and a massive nerd.

I acknowledge not everyone has the same level of passion when it comes to research and engagement, so they might not know much about the language and its cultural context.

This week, I've enlisted the help of an independent fact-checker, Ferret Fact Service (FFS), to look at the truth behind some common claims which endure about Scots.

I encourage everyone to form conclusions based on independently-verified information. If you do find yourself shifting perspective once seeing the facts, I applaud your open-mindedness.

I like to think of ignorance as an essential, yet temporary part of every learning journey, so whether you know nothing about Scots yet or you've already formed your own opinions, I hope this article can be of use to you.

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Could the Netherlands crack the secret of language learning using this approach?

30 November 2022 (The Conversation)

From the UK government’s latest post-Brexit language-learning reforms to France’s eternal debates over the supposed linguistic inadequacy of its youth, governments regularly scratch their heads over how to improve how languages are taught.

While the Netherlands carried out a major reform to its modern foreign language education as early as 1968, the current courses are seen by many as no longer preparing students well enough for the modern world. The baccalaureate exams do not test students’ actual skills and knowledge so much as their ability to strategically answer multiple-choice questions.

This is particularly true for modern languages, where the final exam – a reading-comprehension exercise – receives hundreds of complaints from students who find it either too difficult or too ambiguous.

In the Netherlands, French is compulsory for students from age 11 to 15, yet a declining number continue to study it beyond that age. In such a context, educators in the Netherlands are asking how other methods might better meet the needs of students. Supported by many teacher trainers in the country and the language learning team at the University of Groningen, a usage-based approach to French has gained ground.

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Irish language: 'People have different reasons for wanting to learn'

28 November 2022 (BBC)

From building a connection with a family history to challenging the brain to think a little differently, there are many reasons why people choose to learn a new language.

Michelle Furey has heard many of those motivations given that she is teaching the Irish language to some 200 people from all around the world.

She runs online lessons for people in countries such as the United States, Canada, Argentina and Finland, as well as closer to home in the UK.

"Within the demographic of my classes we have people from all aspects of all communities and I am very much Irish for everybody," she says.

Michelle, from Plumbridge in County Tyrone, was working part time as an Irish teacher at a secondary school and running classes through her local council before the Covid pandemic.

But when lockdown hit she had to move her teaching online, allowing her to spread the word globally.

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‘After a while it eats you up’: Kevin De Bruyne on dealing with the spotlight, life at home and whether he gets paid too much

26 November 2022 (The Guardian)

The Manchester City midfielder – currently leading Belgium’s golden generation in their last stab at World Cup glory – is football’s quiet genius. He gives a rare look at the family life of a Premier League superstar.

[..] I ask why so many European footballers seem better educated than their British counterparts. Perhaps the difference is languages, he says.

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‘Still here’: Welsh world cup song Yma o Hyd and how the language is adapting to survive

22 November 2022 (The Conversation)

The official Wales song for the FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022 is “Yma o Hyd” (“Still here”), a protest song first released by Dafydd Iwan and Ar Lôg in 1983. Its unashamedly patriotic verses describe the adversity that Welsh people have endured over the centuries, including:

Byddwn yma hyd ddiwedd amser,
a bydd yr iaith Gymraeg yn fyw.
(We’ll be here until the end of time,
and the Welsh language will be alive.)

The Welsh government has a language strategy that aims to have a million people speaking Welsh by 2050. And it seems to be working: recently on TV channel S4C, 230,000 children from more than 1,000 schools across Wales sang “Yma o Hyd” together at the same time. They included children not only from Welsh-speaking households or so-called Welsh-speaking heartlands, but from across Wales.

The Welsh language, Cymraeg, has changed linguistically a lot over the centuries, which means the words, sounds and grammar used today are very different to 1,000 years ago. Welsh will continue to change – and if we want to see and hear a living Welsh language in the future, its grammar changing isn’t something that should worry us.

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BBC Future Voices Programme

22 November 2022 (BBC)

Are you over 18, passionate about journalism and able to speak a second language? The BBC Future Voices programme is an exciting six-week journalism training scheme with BBC World Service Languages. Applicants should be available between January and February or March and April 2023.

Visit the BBC careers website for more information about the opportunity.

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We need a languages revolution - not just an injection of cash

18 November 2022 (TES)

As a German teacher by trade, I welcomed the renewed commitment to modern foreign languages set out by the Department for Education this week. The declining take-up of MFL at GCSE, A level and beyond is regrettable and anything that can reinvigorate interest is a good thing.

My fear, though, is that this latest “marketing” initiative will do little to help. And, indeed, schools minister Nick Gibb’s injection of cash for language champions and specialist hubs focuses too narrowly on promoting the subject to have much impact.

Instead, we need much more meaningful policy change on how MFL is perceived and taught. And this is why. 

The first thing to admit is that there is nowhere near enough incentive for children in England to learn a foreign language, compared with the incentives for their peers abroad to learn English. 

Children overseas want to learn English because of its dominant use in the film and music business. They also recognise (as do their countries and teachers) that learning English will help them tremendously in a global employment market.

Consequently, the core learning of English takes place organically, outside of the classroom, and lessons are where they go to refine it. So they are at a far higher level earlier.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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Wolof is reclaiming ground in Senegal as the French language wanes

17 November 2022 (The Conversation)

The French language was introduced into Senegal through colonisation. According to Papa Alioune Ndao, professor of linguistics at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar:

"French was taught in Senegal as a mother tongue, as France taught its own children. It 1964 it was decided that French should be taught as a foreign language. This continues to be the status of the French language in education today."

However, the first article of the 2001 Constitution mentions French as the only official language. The other major languages – Malinke, Wolof, Serer, Diola, Soninke and Pular – have the status of “national languages”.

French is the official language of Senegal and is spoken by about one third of the population. National languages are used in the media, in education and in the National Assembly.

However, the golden age of the French language in Senegal seems to be over. Like a coil spring that returns to its original shape after a temporary force is removed, local languages, such as Wolof, are reclaiming territory that was lost to colonisation in the fields of knowledge and work.

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How EAL learners can boost your teaching

14 November 2022 (TES)

The UK is a wonderfully diverse society. Around 19 per cent of pupils in our schools come from a multilingual heritage, and between them, they speak more than 300 different non-English languages. 

Research suggests that teachers can learn from this linguistic diversity - and use that learning to shape how they teach.

Although English is the main language of teaching in schools in England, we must assume there is no hierarchy in languages. 

It’s important to recognise that, even among English speakers, there is variety: English varies from place to place, and the English we use and learn in school - the language of books and texts, of subjects and curricula - is not the same as the language we speak elsewhere. 

Texts are constructed according to the conventions of their discipline. We do not speak like a biology textbook or use the language of fiction to tell our friends what we did at the weekend. 

According to researcher Jim Cummins, we can understand these differences in terms of the distinction between the social language of general communication - basic common interpersonal skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP).

In schools, we should be helping all students to develop CALP, but we should also be creating opportunities for multilingual children to draw on all their languages to enhance their learning across the curriculum. 

Studies have shown that when multilingual children are educated in all of their languages, there are detectable and meaningful advantages for all students within that community. For example, we may find that children have developed ideas, knowledge and learning in their home language that they do not yet have the ability to express in English. Providing ways for them to contribute and contextualise that learning adds richness to any classroom.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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‘I lie in the bath, imagining that I am wandering the Rialto in Venice’: my obsession with Duolingo

14 November 2022 (The Guardian)

First it was Italian, then I added French, Portuguese and even Latin. But does the language learning app, which has almost 15 million people using it, really work?

Duolingo is a language learning app and pretty simple to use. After you’ve chosen which language you want to learn, you are presented with about 100 skill-sets divided by scenario or grammar (grocery shopping, the future tense and so on). Each level is structured like branches of a tree, and when you complete one, you move down the tree earning gems to “spend” on the app or hearts that you need to perform the exercises. Make a mistake, and you must correct it before moving on. It’s all fun and games until you make too many mistakes, run out of hearts and lose your progress. This is when you’ll engage with Duolingo’s mascot, an officious green owl called Duo who, if you’re anything like me, will eventually define your self-esteem. Duo’s face is the first thing I see each day and increasingly, the last thing, too.

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Art, drama and languages to become ‘preserve of private schools’ as state sector cuts bite

12 November 2022 (The Guardian)

Subjects including German, French, art, drama and design technology could soon be shut off to many state school students as heads say they are being forced into cutting expensive and less popular lessons to address crippling deficits.

The vast majority of English state schools expect to be in the red by the next school year, pushed under by enormous energy bills and an unfunded pay rise for teachers.

Thousands of schools are now planning to make teachers and teaching assistants redundant or cut their hours. But unions and heads say that with schools forced to ramp up class sizes, subject choice in secondary schools will suffer as heads scrap courses that have smaller uptake and are less economical to teach.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Subjects we have always seen as culturally really important will increasingly become the preserve of private schools because state schools can’t afford to teach them.”

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Bilingual MPs explain the importance of speaking another language

11 November 2022 (BBC)

Bilingual MPs have told the BBC about the importance to them of their cultural languages in politics.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle says language diversity in Parliament is something that “brings the House alive” and should be encouraged.

MPs can use their mother tongue language when swearing into Parliament, but under the rules, they should use English when speaking in debates.

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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig: Gaelic college 'should get university status'

10 November 2022 (The Herald)

Respected Scottish writer and historian Professor James Hunter is calling for an internationally renowned college on the Isle of Skye to become Scotland’s first Gaelic University.

The move, which would require the backing of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC), would give Sabhal Mòr Ostaig its own university degree-awarding powers for the first time.

It comes as ministers warned of a crisis in a bid to keep Gaelic alive because of a dramatic shortage of teachers.

Based in the Sleat peninsula, in the south of Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, is currently a currently a college delivering both Further and Higher Education, and an independent academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

With the unique distinction of having Scottish Gaelic as the sole language of instruction on its courses, the college is regarded as having played a crucial role in the linguistic and cultural renaissance of the Gaelic language in Scotland.

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Displaced Ukrainians staying connected to mother tongue with 'Mini Library' project

7 November 2022 (The Herald)

A fundraiser has been launched to help expand mini libraries that have been set up to allow displaced people from Ukraine now living in Glasgow to access literature in the own language and children to stay connected to their mother tongue and culture. 

The Mini Libraries project allows Ukrainians who have sought safety in Glasgow to access books in their native tongue at four locations in and around Glasgow: Scotland's National Centre for Languages (SCILT) at the University of Strathclyde, The Sikorski Polish Club, The Ukrainian East Renfrewshire Hub and at the MS Ambition cruise ship docked on the River Clyde, which is currently offering temporary accommodation to over 1,000 Ukrainian refugees. 

The project, which has been several months in the making, is the brainchild of The Glasgow Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB). 

With the help of Glasgow east end community hub Cranhill Development Trust and the The Sikorski Polish Club - a centre for the Polish community in Glasgow - books for both children and adults have been purchased in Ukraine from popular Ukrainian publishing houses. 

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Scotland falling behind Wales in replacing Erasmus, say Lib Dems

25 October 2022 (TESS)

A replacement for the Erasmus+ student exchange scheme for Scotland is still being worked on more than two years after Brexit, says minister.

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Why are schools teaching French and German – not Arabic or Somali?

233 October 2022 (Independent)

Earlier this year, Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch stated that the modern foreign languages (MFL) curriculum currently taught in schools does not need decolonising. This is despite Badenoch having no first-hand experience of studying in a UK secondary school, or of teaching in one.

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Languages ‘attainment benchmarks’ proposed to boost GCSE take-up

21 October 2022 (Schools Week)

Ministers plan to draw up new “benchmarks” setting out expected attainment levels in languages as they attempt to “improve” primary pupils’ transition into secondaries.

It is part of the government push to increase the uptake of languages at GCSE level and its pledge for 90 per cent of year 10 pupils entering the English baccalaureate (EBacc) by 2025.

Official data published yesterday shows that 87.6 per cent of pupils taking four EBacc subjects in 2020-21 were missing the language component, compared with 86 per cent in 2018-19.

The Department for Education plans to appoint a new advisory panel to draw up non-statutory guidance for languages education for 7 to 14-year-olds. It will be published later next year.

As part of that, an early contract notice states the panel will produce a document that “seeks to improve transition between key stage 2 and key stage 3, benchmarking expected attainment levels”.

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Gaelic broadcasting 'needs better support'

20 October 2022 (BBC)

The UK government says it is considering whether new legislation or funding would better support Gaelic broadcasting.

During a debate at Westminster, Conservative former Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said the service required the same status enjoyed by Welsh language broadcasters.

He said Gaelic broadcasting was vital culturally and socially and delivered a positive economic impact, but needed public sector broadcast status in legislation.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said options to improve support for the service was being looked at as part the forthcoming Media Bill.

Broadcasting is a matter reserved to Westminster.

The Scottish government said support for the Gaelic language was vital.

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Can you learn a language in your sleep? We found you may be able to pick up some words

6 October 2022 (The Conversation)

From Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to Dexter’s Laboratory cartoon series, sleep-learning has been a recurring theme in fiction. The idea that we can learn while asleep has fascinated many, but whether it is sheer fantasy or scientifically possible has long remained a mystery.

Now, thanks to neuroimaging, we know that the brain is far from inactive while we sleep and continually reacts to information from the world around it. But can it really memorise this information and retain it once we are awake?

In fact, we have known for close to a decade that the brain is capable of taking in new information during sleep, as first evidenced in experiments on tone and odour associations.

Individuals who wished to quit smoking, for instance, have been found to reduce their consumption by 35% when the scent of tobacco is presented to them during sleep in association with unpleasant scents of rotten fish.

We thus set out to understand whether the brain was capable of more complex learning processes, such as those involved in foreign language acquisition. Together with Sid Kouider at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) - Paris Science et Lettres (PSL), and Maxime Elbaz and Damien Léger of the Paris Hospitals Public Trust (AP-HP) Hôtel-Dieu, we designed a protocol for learning the meaning of Japanese words while asleep.

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'Ground-breaking' language plan paves way for Scots to flourish in Shetland

5 October 2022 (The National)

A “groundbreaking” language plan in Shetland should pave the way for Scots to “gain the foothold it deserves”, a linguistics expert has said.

Professor Viveka Velupillai told The National that the language plan for Shaetlan was “an important first step” in getting it and the macro Scots language stronger recognition.

In conjunction with Dr Beth Mouat, Velupillai has succeeded in getting the University of the Highlands and Islands Shetland board to sign up to the Shaetlan Language Plan.

It means that the variant of Scots will be used on signage and in learning environments in an effort to raise the profile of Shaetlan “locally, nationally, and internationally”.

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Royal National Mòd: Perth prepares for thousands of visitors

4 October 2022 (BBC)

Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on Perth later this month for the Royal National Mòd.

Scotland's annual festival of Gaelic language, culture and sport is returning to the city for the first time in 18 years.

City leaders are preparing for an influx of about 7,500 people for the eight-day event, predicted to be worth £1m to the local economy.

It begins on 14 October with a torchlit procession and an opening concert.

The Mòd will feature more than 200 competitions in music, dancing, storytelling and sport. For the first time it will also feature an art contest this year.

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Warning of crisis in Gaelic teacher recruitment

4 October 2022 (BBC)

The teaching of Gaelic in schools is in crisis due to a shortage of new teachers, according to a study.

It suggests over the next five years a minimum of 225 teachers would be needed to meet demand, but only 25 qualified for the whole of this year.

The analysis comes from a former leader and a former education boss at Highland Council.

The Scottish government said it was committed to supporting Gaelic medium education.

Dr Michael Foxley and Prof Bruce Robertson, a former director of education at Highland Council and visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde, carried out the study. Their paper has been submitted to a Scottish government consultation on Gaelic and Scots education.

Dr Foxley and Prof Robertson said their study suggested there was already a recruitment crisis and the situation was likely to get significantly worse, with rural and island schools being the hardest hit.

They said a minimum of 135 new primary and 90 new secondary teachers would be required over the next five years to meet the needs of 19 local authorities already with Gaelic provision, or planning to introduce it.

Read more...

Related Links

Crisis over bid to keep Gaelic alive - due to shortage of new teachers (The Herald, 4 October 2022) - note subscription required to access full article.

Crisis over bid to keep Gaelic alive – due to shortage of new teachers (Fastnewz, 4 October 2022)

A short history of language in Ukraine

2 October 2022 (The Spectator)

After six months of war in Ukraine, most observers agree that the roots of Russian aggression lie in the country’s deep-rooted attitudes to culture and history. In line with Russia’s nationalist traditions, Putin denies any place for a separate Ukrainian identity.

The Ukrainians, in contrast, see themselves as a proud nation with their own history, culture, centuries long struggle for independence, and, of course, language. And while Ukrainian has been dismissed as a dialect of Russian in Moscow, it in fact has a long history – and is very much a language in its own right.

That independence can be seen in the genesis of the word ‘Ukraine’ itself. In most Slavonic languages, the letter ‘U’ – and written in Cyrillic as У – is a preposition of location; according to context it can be translated as ‘in’, ’on’ ‘at’ or ‘near’, and it is followed by nouns in the genitive case. In Ukrainian, the word Kray means ‘edge’ (although in Russian it means ‘land’ or ‘country’). So ‘U Krayu’ stands for ‘At the Edge’, and Ukraina for ‘the Land on the Edge’ or ‘Borderland’. It is very similar to the American idea of the ‘Frontier’.

The question ‘on the edge of what?’, however, sparks controversy.

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Does learning a language improve cognitive skills?

1 October 2022 (TES)

Survey data shows us that the majority of the British public believe that learning a language sharpens the mind and improves memory. But is that belief supported by research? Kate Parker takes a look at the evidence.

When it was revealed earlier this year that entries had fallen for GCSE modern foreign languages, many in education reacted with dismay.

Speaking to Tes, Ofqual adviser Professor Robert Coe said that languages were in a “vicious circle” of decline that could only be broken by a change in policy.

“Do we think it’s important for young people to have this opportunity and be encouraged or pressured to take that opportunity?” he asked.

The benefits of learning a language are well publicised. A quick internet search says it boosts problem-solving skills, verbal and spatial abilities, memory, creative thinking and performance on academic tests. 

The wider public also sees learning a language as worthwhile. According to research from the British Council, published in 2020, 62 per cent of adults think learning a foreign language sharpens the mind and improves memory.

But is there any robust evidence to suggest learning a language improves cognitive skills? 

Li Wei, a professor in applied linguistics and dean of UCL Institute of Education, says the research isn’t as extensive as many people believe.

In 2019, Wei, with Professor Bencie Woll from the faculty of brain sciences at University College London, published a paper, Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning: Broadening our perspectives, which found far more evidence for the link between the cognitive benefits of being bilingual, than evidence for the cognitive benefits of language learning. 

The limited research that does exist tends to focus on children in different countries learning English. This, Wei says, is down to policy decisions by the government. 

“The lack of research from the UK is partly because the teaching of modern foreign languages in this country has never been on top of the agenda, so the desire for research hasn’t been strong,” he says.

“However, it’s like the chicken and the egg; unless we can convince people this is going to be really beneficial, especially for children in disadvantaged circumstances, who are struggling with lots of things, it won’t become a priority.” 

Despite the limited research, Wei says what does exist “suggests learning a language does improve cognitive skills, including problem solving, attention and various other skills.” 

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Sorry if it bothers you, but the Scots language is thriving

1 October 2022 (The Herald)

The last time I wrote an article about the Scots language, the comments were a bit of a mixed bag. A few people dropped by to announce that they didn’t think Scots was a language, which was nice of them, and almost half of comments were removed by the moderator for breaking community guidelines.

A surprising number of people asked why I was writing in English, which never happens when I write in Spanish or French. Indeed, I feel the need to personally apologise to the man who said that my columns for The Herald would cause the entire newspaper to collapse. I'm still getting used to my god-like powers of destruction and will try my absolute best not to ruin things while I'm here.

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Scottish Gaelic you already speak: 12 English words derived from Gaelic that we still use today

27 September 2022 (The Scotsman)

As most Scots are not Gaelic-speaking, they may think the language is completely detached from their lexicon, but it turns out often-used English words are derived from Gaelic.

Here are 12 English words you know of and probably use that are all derived from Gaelic.

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Scots is more than a dialect, say award-winning students

27 September 2022 (Press and Journal)

Mearns Academy has been crowned Scots School of the Year in 2022 for its students work in keeping Doric Scots alive.

Renowned Scots author Lewis Grassic Gibbon grew up in the Mearns. His famous novel Sunset Song is partly set there and the Scots language features throughout.

The first lesson that Mearns Academy’s Rosie Bircham tries to teach her students is that Scots is a language in itself, and not just a dialect of English.

Her message resonated with one of her classes at Mearns Academy, who are now determined to get Scots back in the conversation.

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The future’s bright, the future’s bilingual: Meet the north-east children speaking multiple languages

26 September 2022 (Press and Journal)

We all want our children to grow up to be open-minded citizens of the world.

One of the best ways to broaden our horizons is to learn another language – and the younger the better.

To mark today’s European Day of Languages, the P&J spoke to five multilingual families living in Aberdeen.

The Granite City has long been a multicultural place, particularly since the oil industry took off in the 1970s.

As an example, Hanover Street School pupils speak a whopping 19 different languages at home.

Juliette Kinn Valdelievre doesn’t exaggerate when she says hers is an “international family”.

The fact that Arthur, seven, and five-year-old twins Hadrien and Thomas speak French at home tells barely half the story.

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Universities work together to make Scotland top place to study BSL

23 September 2022 (STV)

Four universities in Edinburgh are working together to make Scotland one of the top cities in the UK to study BSL, as well as becoming more welcoming to the deaf community.

The University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh Napier and Heriot-Watt universities are signing a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’, which agrees a collaborative effort for them to further strengthen BSL and deaf studies education and research.

Each institute has an area of expertise in BSL and deaf studies, such as embedding BSL in particular degrees, growing a mixed deaf-hearing academic team, and implementing BSL development officers.

The formally signed agreement will show a commitment of the universities to continue to share resources to strengthen BSL education, and put Scotland at the forefront of development.

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Related Links

A whole new world: Why British Sign Language can open doors for everyone (Press and Journal, 23 September 2022)

Gaelic education in Scotland: how much progress has been made?

23 September 2022 (TES)

In August, Renfrewshire Council became the latest Scottish local authority to introduce Gaelic-medium education for primary pupils. Now, half of Scottish councils (16 out of 32 authorities) offer primary Gaelic-medium education almost four decades on from the first primary units being established in 1985 in Glasgow and Inverness.

They began with a couple of dozen pupils in total. Now over 3,500 primary pupils are taught through the medium of Gaelic in Scotland, while many people more generally are being drawn to Gaelic - by February this year over a million people had accessed the Duolingo language learning app’s Gaelic course.

Still, experts say that the language’s future remains precarious. Wilson McLeod, professor of Gaelic at the University of Edinburgh, says it is becoming a “network language” - spoken between family members and between friends and acquaintances with the linguistic skills - but not tied to a particular geographic area.

“The idea of the tight-knit rural community where everyone speaks the same language seems less likely at this stage,” he says, while adding that “nothing is impossible with the right support and the right commitment”.

However, discussion about how far interventions should go - and the role that education should play in the promotion and preservation of Gaelic - can become clouded by politics, with the promotion of Gaelic decried by critics as a nationalist project.

But McLeod disagrees with the portrayal of the SNP “forcing Gaelic down people’s throats”. Indeed, he is highly critical of the Scottish government, accusing it of being “tentative” and “half-hearted” in its approach to the language.

The Labour-Lib Dem administration from 1999 to 2007 did more for Gaelic than has been done since the SNP came to power, he says. He describes the amount being invested by the Scottish government in Gaelic as “pitiful” and says there has been “very little serious policy in relation to Gaelic” and some “serious opportunities” missed.

In fact, McLeod argues, parents rather than politics have been the driving force behind the growth of Gaelic-medium education (GME).

Certainly, it was parents who got the first GME classes up and running in 1985 and it was parents who made the case for introducing GME in Renfrewshire in August - albeit new laws introduced by the Scottish government set out the process for such a request.

But with a Scottish Languages Bill in the offing and the government consulting until mid-November on matters Gaelic and Scots, might parents hope that in the future there will be less onus on them, that a more strategic approach be taken to Gaelic-medium education?

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Death by Machine Translation?

21 September 2022 (Slate)

Imagine you are in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and your small child unexpectedly starts to have a fever seizure. You take them to the hospital, and the doctors use an online translator to let you know that your kid is going to be OK. But “your child is having a seizure” accidentally comes up in your mother tongue is “your child is dead.”

This specific example is a very real possibility, according to a 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal about the limited usefulness of AI-powered machine translation in communications between patients and doctors. 

Machine translation tools like Google Translate can be super handy, and Big Tech often promotes them as accurate and accessible tools that’ll break down many intra-linguistic barriers in the modern world. But the truth is that things can go awfully wrong. Misplaced trust in these MT tools’ ability is already leading to their misuse by authorities in high-stake situations, according to experts—ordering a coffee in a foreign country or translating lyrics can only do so much harm, but think about emergency situations involving firefighters, police, border patrol, or immigration. And without proper regulation and clear guidelines, it could get worse.

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Vote now as Scots language award nominees published ahead of Dundee awards event

6 September 2022 (The Courier)

Scotland’s traditional culture music and arts organisation Hands Up For Trad have published the public’s nominees for 2022’s top Scots language champions.

The public now have until Sunday September 18 to see who’s set to take home the ultimate award in the sparkling ceremony on Saturday September 24.

Scots culture and language will be celebrated at Dundee’s Gardyne Theatre alongside performers including live music from Bath Malcom, Robyn Stapleton, poet Hamish MacDonald, and comedian Bruce Fummey.

The awards have recognised local heroes and teachers alongside well known celebrities such as comedian Janey Godley and singer Iona Fyfe.

All 12 prizes, plus the prestigious Janet Paisley Services to Scots Award, will be presented by social media star and poet Len Pennie and broadcaster and columnist Alistair Heather, and live streamed to international audiences.

Simon Thoumire of organisers Hands Up For Trad said: “I’m thrilled by the growth of our ongoing campaign for Scots Language, to be holding our live event in Dundee again, a community which has supported the campaign from day one, and at the calibre of this year’s brilliant nominees for the 2022’s Scots Language Awards.”

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Brussels experts warn of a shortage of skilled workers in Scotland

4 September 2022 (UK Daily News)

According to leading Brussels experts, Scotland may struggle to fully participate in the EU in the coming years due to a lack of skills and relevant knowledge among the country’s workforce.

Dr Fabian Zuleeg, executive director of the European Policy Center based in the Belgian capital, warned of a sharp downward trend in students learning French, German and Spanish at a higher level.

His concerns were shared by fellow EU expert Anthony Salamone, who said a declining number of qualified linguists would be “deeply problematic” for Scotland as a new EU member.

Dr Zuleeg called on the Scottish Government to invest in language training and specialised university courses on EU politics to ensure there continue to be a sufficient number of people with the skills to work in the European civil service.

The senior expert also called for support for students wishing to study on the continent, including at the College of Europe, which prepares graduates for work in EU institutions and in Member States. It has bases in Bruges and Warsaw.

He also called on Scottish ministers to put in place a process allowing talented students to be hired in the civil service ‘fast stream’ to spend part of their careers in EU institutions. The program was suspended by the UK government following Brexit.

“Mastering European languages ​​is certainly an advantage when applying for European civil service jobs and promotions,” he told The Herald on Sunday.

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Britain’s multilingual children: ‘We speak whatever language gets the job done’

4 September 2022 (The Guardian)

In modern Britain, millions of kids grow up learning two languages or more – and experts believe fluidity in language has some surprising advantages.

In 2021 there were around 6 million people with non-British nationality living in the UK, with 9.6m people born abroad – 35% of whom live in London. In the social sciences, this relatively new landscape of such diverse national origins is often referred to as “superdiversity” – a term coined by the German anthropologist Professor Steven Vertovec. The UK’s superdiversity is reflected in our school system, with around 20% of pupils speaking English as an additional language. In London schools, more than 300 different languages are spoken.

Bart, three, who lives in London, happily juggles Italian, Dutch and English in his household, with a smattering of Spanish too, thanks to his nursery carer. His dad, Riccardo Attanasio, is the son of Italian immigrants and his mum, Gwen Jansen, moved to the UK from the Netherlands 10 years ago. They are able to switch between different languages in a fluid, organic way. “We have busy, hectic lives,” says Attanasio. “When toys are being thrown around while you’re trying to cook dinner, or doing bedtime, you speak whatever language gets the job done.”

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Modern language GCSEs continue to fall in popularity – but new research shows language knowledge will last you a lifetime

30 August 2022 (The Conversation)

You might think that if you stop using a language after studying it at school, you will end up forgetting everything you knew. But this isn’t true. Language knowledge will stay in your brain for decades.

In 2022, around 25,000 A-levels and around 315,000 GCSEs were taken in a modern foreign language. This means that language GCSEs taken have fallen by more than 40%, and A-levels by around 25%, over the past 20 years. Between 2014 and 2019, entries to modern language GCSEs fell by 19%.

This is a worrying trend, not least because learning a language is valuable in and of itself. Among the many benefits are better performance on general standardised tests and a boost to your wage.

There is another reason why studying a language at school will serve you well. As my new research shows, the knowledge you acquire in a foreign language appears to be astonishingly stable over long periods of time.

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Rebecca Baird: What language do you dream in? Why every Scottish pupil deserves the chance to be bilingual

26 August 2022 (The Courier)

Scotland has always been bilingual, but never formally.

The national identity is caught somewhere between a renaissance and an existential crisis, and nowhere is that more apparent than on our tongues.

So much of the discourse around Scotland’s languages centres on our native ones – English, Gaelic and Scots.

And there’s no doubt that each has become ever more heavily politicised as debates over Brexit and independence boil on.

To push romantic-sounding Gaelic is seen to be naïve and clinging to an outdated, pastoral vision of Scotland.

Let’s be honest, when non-speakers see all those vowels on road signs, they’re picturing will o’ the wisps leading unicorns through misty old glens.

Or BBC Alba.

Meanwhile Scots has that whole trendy, mildly cringe but lovably sincere thing going on in its current resurgence among forward-thinking young indy activists.

And mumsy old English is cast in the role of the staid, conservative Karen of Scotland’s tongues.

Reliable, sure, but a bit behind the times.

I’m being glib of course – I think all three languages are gorgeous.

But I do reckon each has enough cultural weight to inflame debates about national identity.

Suddenly it’s not just what you say, but the language you say it in, which tells others where you stand politically.

And using these languages (or any languages) as political virtue signals is doing a disservice to our nation – its identity, and more importantly, its children.

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Lennie Pennie: Thanks to the Scots language, we are raising a post-cringe generation

26 August 2022 (The Herald)

Everyone has something that they’re really, really into. Some people like cars, or football, or yoga. I love the Scots language.

For the past 785 days, rain, hail or shine, I have made a Scots word of the day video online, where I explain the meaning and usage of one Scots word. I credit the Scots language with my career, my passion for language education and the protection of minority languages, and about 90% of my self-confidence.

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Perthshire parents reveal why they chose a Gaelic speaking school for their kids

25 August 2022 (The Courier)

Parents have revealed why they chose to send their children to a Gaelic speaking school in Perthshire and the benefits and opportunities it has opened up to their kids.

Mums Emma Allen-Crow and Ruth Birse both chose to send their children to Goodlyburn Primary School – a Gaelic medium education school in Perth, where P1-3 children are fully immersed in the language.

And in doing so, both mums – neither of whom speak Gaelic themselves – say there have been scores of benefits for their children, who are now bilingual.

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GCSE results day 2022: Results at a glance

25 August 2022 (TES)

GCSE German, Spanish and French results 2022.

[..] while provisional entries were up this year, the final number of students to sit the exam fell across all three subjects. 

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Related Links

ALL Statement on 2022 GCSE Results (ALL, 25 August 2022)

GCSE results 2022: The main trends in grades and entries (FFT Education Data Lab)

New push to help Gaelic and Scots languages ‘thrive and grow’

24 August 2022 (TES)

A new consultation aimed at ensuring the long-term growth of the Gaelic and Scots languages has been launched today by the Scottish government.

The consultation seeks views on how to raise the profile of Scots, a new strategic approach to Gaelic-medium education (GME) and the growth of areas with a high percentage of Gaelic speakers. The consultation also covers the structure and function of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the principal public body promoting Gaelic in Scotland.

The feedback received through the consultation will help to develop the forthcoming Scottish Languages Bill. The SNP promised in its 2021 Scottish Parliament election manifesto to bring forward “a new Scottish languages Bill which takes further steps to support Gaelic, acts on the Scots language and recognises that Scotland is a multilingual society”.

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GCSEs 2022: EBacc is ‘done for’ as MFL take-up stalls, says exams expert

22 August 2022 (TES)

The government’s English Baccalaureate subject target at GCSE is “done for” and “will be quietly phased out” because not enough pupils are studying a modern language for it to be met, a new report claims today.

The report, looking ahead to this week’s GCSE results, has suggested the measure will be succeeded by Attainment 8, which “allows for a wider range of subjects and does not depend on taking a language”.

The prediction is made by Professor Alan Smithers in his report published by the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER).

The EBacc is made up of English language and literature, double science, maths, a humanities subject and a modern foreign language.

It was created as a performance measure in 2011 by the government to encourage schools to ensure more pupils study traditional academic subjects.

Speaking ahead of GCSE results day this Thursday, Professor Smithers said that ”provisional entries for GCSEs in England suggest there is no great revival of interest” in modern languages.

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Scots and Gaelic languages should be preserved just like Scotland's wildcats and crossbills

20 August 2022 (The Scotsman)

In August 2002 Itchy Coo, an imprint dedicated to publishing books in Scots for young readers, launched its first four titles at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Twenty years on, Itchy Coo has produced more than 80 titles, ranging from board books to graphic novels and collections of poems, fables, fairy tales and stories. The list includes many translations of works by the likes of Julia Donaldson, JK Rowling, Roald Dahl and Jeff Kinney.

As one of Itchy Coo’s founders as well as an editor and contributing author, I am of course pleased by the continuing success of the project. Not only has it put thousands of braw books into the hands of bairns, their families and their teachers, it has also challenged some deep-rooted negative perceptions of Scots, both within the education system and more generally across society.

This does not mean that the negativity − equating Scots with ‘slang’ or ‘bad English’, for example, or the vilification of individual writers or performers simply for using Scots − has entirely disappeared; nor does it mean that the loss of Scots vocabulary and idiom has not been substantial in many areas. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be hopeful.

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A levels 2022: Results at a glance

18 August 2022 (TES)

The latest A-level results broken down by gender, subject and grades show language entries were down.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Related Links

ALL Statement on 2022 A level results (Association for Language Learning, 18 August 2022)

Experience: I speak more than 50 languages

12 August 2022 (The Guardian)

From a young age, I was fascinated by language. I grew up in Chester, to Merseyside-born parents, with Welsh and English heritage. I absorbed the Welsh words my nan taught me and parroted my relatives’ scouse accents.

I remember a holiday in Spain, aged seven, when two boys asked if I spoke Norwegian. When I couldn’t respond, they ran off, leaving me sad. Back home, I’d search shops for old language books and enjoyed trying all these different words to express what was in my head. I thought it was amazing, and still do.

The first language I learned was French, at school, aged five. I got top marks each year. The teachers wouldn’t let me study German too, though, and I was devastated. In high school, I joined a geography trip to Germany, just to be around the language.

At sixth-form college, I completed Spanish GCSE, then A-level. From there, it became a way of life. I did a combined languages degree at the University of Hull, studying French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. I sat in on Swedish and Old Icelandic lectures, and did language exchanges for Romanian and Catalan. I went to Lyon, playing darts with the French gas and electricity trainees who were sharing my accommodation, then to Málaga. I spent time in Verona, where I read the Bible in Italian (I had never even read it in English).

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SQA results: huge drop in students studying higher languages ​​and sciences

9 August 2022 (News Headlines UK)

The number of pupils studying modern languages, science and maths at higher level has fallen significantly, figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority show.

Only 505 students took higher German in 2022, compared to 780 students in 2020, while the number of students taking French and Spanish at higher level also fell significantly.

Around 3,165 students took Higher Level French in 2020, a number that dropped to 2,500 this year. A total of 2,900 students took Higher Level Spanish in 2020, a drop to 2,465 this year.

The reasons for the sharp drop in the number of students studying modern languages ​​at higher level are not clear, but the question of the affordability of language teaching in schools has been addressed by Holyrood’s inquiry education committee before the pandemic.

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Related Links

SQA results: Huge drop in pupils taking Higher languages and sciences (The Herald, 9 August 2022) - Note, subscription required to access full article.

Crown Care group learn Italian

7 August 2022 (Greenock Telegraph)

Crown Care Centre clients and staff celebrated in style as they finished off a ten-week course of language learning.

A celebratory bash was held at the King Street centre following the conclusion of an Italian language course, which explored the country's food, culture and geography.

The programme was delivered by Glasgow-based Lingo Flamingo, which provide foreign language workshops for vulnerable adults across Scotland.

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Centenary celebration of poet who wrote in three languages

19 July 2022 (BBC)

A celebration of the centenary of a poet who wrote in three languages is being held in southern Scotland.

William Neill was born in Ayrshire in 1922 but lived in Dumfries and Galloway for much of his life.

A book of recollections, memories and tributes is being launched in Gatehouse of Fleet as part of the Big Lit festival on Thursday.

Poet Hugh McMillan said Mr Neill was not as well known as he deserved to be on the strength of his work in Scots, Gaelic and English.

Along with fellow poet Stuart Paterson, they have put together the book in his honour entitled The Leaves of the Years.

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New research reveals Gaelic speakers' tongue movements

26 July 2022 (BBC)

Ultrasound recordings have been made of people speaking Gaelic to reveal how the tongue moves to produce the language's different sounds.

Gaelic has a large consonant system and some sounds - l, n and r - are each sounded three different ways.

The videos have been made available on a new website, Teangannan na Gàidhlig.

Researchers said the recordings could help people to learn Gaelic, and said they also shed new light on the "mechanics of bilingual speech".

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Philip Gerrard: The new, long-awaited Edinburgh festival that will advance deaf culture

22 July 2022 (The Herald)

The Scottish Government wants Scotland to be “the best place for British Sign Language (BSL) users to live, work, learn and visit”.

Since the introduction of the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015, the everyday lives of Scottish deaf people have certainly improved, but there is still work to be done. Edinburgh is a world-renowned festival city, yet to date the access for deaf people to this cultural event has been patchy and unco-ordinated.

As a deaf BSL user, my overriding memory of the Fringe is one of feeling overwhelmed, but wanting to be part of it all. Deaf Action, where I have been CEO since 2017, wants to change this.

We have been a pioneering force at the forefront of the community for nearly 190 years and don’t do things by halves, so just making the festival season accessible with the add-on provision of captions and BSL/English interpreters didn’t feel enough.

Instead, we’ve added an extra dimension to this year’s season – the Edinburgh Deaf Festival, which takes place from 12-19 August 2022; a week of deaf culturally-specific events alongside an accessible festival season.

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How our brains cope with speaking more than one language

20 July 2022 (BBC)

Speaking a second or even a third language can bring obvious advantages, but occasionally the words, grammar and even accents can get mixed up. This can reveal surprising things about how our brains work.

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UK school Latin course overhauled to reflect diversity of Roman world

10 July 2022 (The Guardian)

A popular Latin course used to teach generations of British schoolchildren has undergone its biggest overhaul in 50 years to include more prominent female characters and better reflect ethnic diversity in the Roman world.

A fifth edition of the Cambridge Latin Course (CLC), a mainstay of mainly private schools since the 1970s, is being published later this month, in response to concerns from teachers, academics and students about the representation of women, minorities and enslaved people in earlier versions.

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Youngsters can learns Scots language at Paisley school for the first time

9 July 2022 (Daily Record)

Children from across Renfrewshire will be able to learn their lessons while speaking and writing in Scottish Gaelic at a Paisley school.

For the first time, pupils can benefit from special Gaelic provision, which initially consists of one class at West Primary School, rather than going to a Gaelic school in nearby council areas.

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Plurilingual parenting: why many experts think families who speak multiple languages should just go with the flow

8 July 2022 (The Conversation)

Many of us live not just in diverse societies, but what anthropologist Steven Vertovec terms “super-diverse” societies. More and more people are moving around and bringing their languages and cultures with them.

In the UK, 20% of school children are multilingual. They speak at least one other language in addition to English.

Parents, of course, have a lot on their plate simply keeping their children fed, safe and educated. But if you do have more than one language in your family, then decisions have to be made on how to navigate that terrain too.

If linguists have long paid attention to the idea of bilingual parenting, a new appreciation of linguistic and cultural complexity in super-diverse societies has seen the advent of a new approach. What experts call plurilingualism views language use as fluid and dynamic.

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‘One in four’ primaries struggle with weekly language teaching

7 July 2022 (TES)

Weekly language learning does not take place in one in four primary schools, according to survey findings published today.

Primary schools have had a legal responsibility to teach languages since 2014, but there is significant variation in schools’ provision, according to the British Council survey of more than 1,500 state primary, state secondary and private schools.

The survey found that, in practice, weekly language learning does not take place in one in four primary schools because of issues such as split teacher time between year groups (whereby Year 5 might have languages for half the year and Year 6 for the other half), staffing issues and extracurricular activities.

The data revealed significant variation in the amount of time primary pupils spent on languages, with some schools spending less than half an hour on teaching per week, whereas ideally pupils would be taught for at least one hour per week by a teacher with degree-level proficiency in the language.

The survey also showed that four in five primary schools had been teaching languages for more than five years, representing a 2 per cent increase on 2021 and a 5 per cent increase on 2019, with pupils making progress in one foreign language in most of these schools. 

French is the most commonly taught language at primary, and is significantly ahead of Spanish, although this trend is not mirrored at A level.

The survey also found that the government is on track to meet all its targets for the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) - apart from languages.

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Related Links

Languages learning in ‘slow recovery’ following the pandemic (MSN News/Evening Standard, 7 July 2022)

Buckie High kids speak language of success!

4 July 2022 (Northern Scot)

Buckie High's partnership with a major local employer has seen them scoop a prestigious national award.

For the past six years, BCHS has been working closely with Associated Seafoods Ltd (ASL), who export their salmon and other products across the globe. One of the many benefits accruing from the partnership has been the opportunity to use and expand a range of languages.

Most recently, the school and ASL were able to resume the S1 seafood project, which brought together a whole host of skills.

The hard work has brought its own rewards in that shape of a silver Scottish Languages Employability Award.

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

30 June 2022 (The Conversation)

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

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Children learn sign language to support classmate

28 June 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

27 June 2022 (Belfast Telegraph)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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George Orwell's Animal Farm to be translated into Scots

20 June 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sign language 999 BSL service launched for deaf people

18 June 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Times Education Commission calls for schooling reset

15 June 2022 (The Times)

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

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

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

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Related Links

APPG Modern Languages response on Twitter (15 June 2022)

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

31 May 2022 (Belfast Live)

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

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

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

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

Read more...

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

19 May 2022 (Herald)

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

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Google Translate learns 24 new languages

11 May 2022 (Google)

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

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10 benefits of bilingualism, according to science

10 May 2022 (Big Think)

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

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

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

8 May 2022 (The Travel)

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

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Rose Ayling-Ellis to sign CBeebies Bedtime Story

7 May 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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How to boost MFL entries at GCSE and A level

6 May 2022 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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

5 May 2022 (Daily Record)

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

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

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

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Parents more influential over MFL success than teachers

3 May 2022 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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

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Taking TikTok by storm with the Scots language

1 May 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 April 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How language assistants can transform MFL teaching

27 April 2022 (TES/British Council)

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

The benefits of learning a language at school are vast.  

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

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

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

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

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

27 April 2022 (Mirage News)

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

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

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

20 April 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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BSL: Newsround launches signed weekday bulletins

19 April 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

8 April 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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Disney and Taylor Swift lyrics used to increase Latin appeal

7 April 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 April 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

31 March 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 March 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 March 2022 (The Times)

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

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

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

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

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Alton Towers: Theme park staff to be trained in Makaton

26 March 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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House of Lords marks first live use of sign language interpretation

25 March 2022 (Irish News)

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

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

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

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

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

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More than one million learners for Duolingo's Gaelic course

24 March 2022 (The Herald)

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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

21 March 2022 (The Times)

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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How easy is it to work in a foreign language?

21 March 2022 (The Times)

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

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

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

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

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Sharp rise in tourists interested in exploring the Gaelic language

21 March 2022 (The Herald)

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

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

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

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

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

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Birmingham teen sign language teacher stars in animated class

15 March 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 March 2022 (The National)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 March 2022 (Herald)

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

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Oban parents saved almost 2,000 dumped Gaelic books

10 March 2022 (BBC News)

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

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Gaelic books dumped in skip in Oban prompts probe

8 March 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

3 March 2022 (The Courier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were perhaps a dozen of us.

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

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

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

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Teaching in a Chinese bilingual school: a guide

1 March 2022 (TES)

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

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

26 February 2022 (Daily Record)

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

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

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

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

25 February 2022 (The Guardian)

Kiev or Kyiv?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more...

Investment in Languages Education Could Return Double for UK Economy

22 February 2022 (RAND Corporation)

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

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

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

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Speaking in mother tongues shows heritage is a class act

15 February 2022 (Irish Times)

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

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

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

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

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Bòrd na Gàidhlig provides new resource for career in Gaelic teaching

8 February 2022 (The Herald)

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

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

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By the numbers: languages uptake in Scotland

4 February 2022 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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Covid: Learning abroad in pandemic invaluable, say students

2 February 2022 (BBC)

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

The UK left that scheme following Brexit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aberdeen MRI scanner speaks in Doric dialect to comfort patients

28 January 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

Experts think it could also help those with dementia.

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Mary Queen of Scots letter in French to be sold

28 January 2022 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

25 January 2022 (The Courier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words, phrases and how we pronounce them trigger emotions.

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

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

17 January 2022 (Daily Mail)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chinese dialects in decline as government enforces Mandarin

16 January 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

14 January 2022 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

13 January 2022 (iNews)

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

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

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

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

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

11 January 2022 (The Guardian)

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

Coffee Break Languages

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

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

11 January 2022 (Yahoo News)

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

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

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

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

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I perform songs in sign language alongside famous artists

2 January 2022 (The Metro)

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

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

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

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

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

31 December 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

27 December 2021 (Eminetra/FT)

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

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'My friends are learning to sign with me'

17 December 2021 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

Read more...

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

9 December 2021 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

Read more...

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

4 December 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

Read more...

Related Links

2021 Duolingo Language Report (Duolingo, 6 December 2021)

SNP conference: British Sign Language qualification needed

27 November 2021 (The National)

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 November 2021 (Geographical)

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

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

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

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

25 November 2021 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Speaking multiple languages: The benefits of a bilingual brain

23 November 2021 (France 24)

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

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

20 November 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

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

18 November 2021 (The Courier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 November 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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Where have all the translators gone?

14 November 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 November 2021 (The Irish News)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 November 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

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

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

3 November 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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How teacher collaboration can boost climate education

1 November 2021 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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Why mixing languages can improve students’ academic performance

26 October 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, many studies have proven otherwise.

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

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

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

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The world's most unusual languages

19 October 2021 (Daily Mail)

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

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

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

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

18 October 2021 (iNews)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leading awarding organisation announces British Sign Language for beginners’ course

11 October 2021 (FE News)

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

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

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

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

7 October 2021 (BBC)

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

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

It is currently not compulsory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 October 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 October 2021 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why learning a new language is good for the whole family

28 September 2021 (National Geographic)

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

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

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

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

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

28 September 2021 (Scottish Sun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 September 2021 (The National)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stranded British teenager opens up world of Disney to deaf people

25 September 2021 (The Times)

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

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Could whistling shed light on the origins of speech?

25 September 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

23 September 2021 (The Independent)

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

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

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

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

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

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Sign language could be taught to Glasgow's councillors

22 September 2021 (Glasgow Times)

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

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

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

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

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5 ways immigrant parents support children’s home language learning

20 September 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

20 September 2021 (Stornoway Gazette)

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

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

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

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

16 September 2021 (Press and Journal)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Guardian University Guide 2022: Modern Languages & Linguistics

11 September 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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How Language Classes Are Moving Past the Gender Binary

1 September 2021 (New York Times)

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 August 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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New fund will encourage island communities to increase use of Gaelic

23 August 2021 (Press and Journal)

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

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

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

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

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Global Britain needs to improve its language learning

17 August 2021 (Financial Times)

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

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The lessons from Ireland that could help save Gaelic in Scotland

15 August 2021 (The Scotsman)

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

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

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

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

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

10 August 2021 (The National)

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

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

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

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

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

Read more...

Related Links

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

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

Latin to be introduced at 40 state secondaries in England

31 July 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 July 2021 (Daily Star)

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

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

12 July 2021 (The Times)

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

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

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Social media duo set to front Gaelic language initiative

11 July 2021 (Grampian Online)

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

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

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

8 July 2021 (The Telegraph)

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 July 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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Related Links

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

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

2 July 2021 (Press and Journal)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What next for Gaelic – new parliament, new start?

25 June 2021 (Bella Caledonia)

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

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

14 June 2021 (Glasgow Times)

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

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

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

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

13 June 2021 (The Scotsman)

It can feel as if there are two Lilian Thurams. 

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

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

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

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

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What makes someone bilingual? There’s no easy answer

9 June 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

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

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

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Knowledge of medicinal plants at risk as languages die out

8 June 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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Ofsted: 9 barriers facing languages teaching

7 June 2021 (TES)

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

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

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

7 June 2021 (Politico)

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

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

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

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

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

And then there are the meetings. 

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

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

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

6 June 2021 (Press and Journal)

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

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

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

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

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

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How many languages can Novak Djokovic speak?

5 June 2021 (Essentially Sports)

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

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

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

4 June 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gaelic campaigners accuse SNP of 'sidelining' crisis facing language

31 May 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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

30 May 2021 (Press and Journal)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 May 2021 (THE)

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

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

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

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

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5 ways to teach global citizenship and collaboration

24 May 2021 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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

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Why English-speakers should not give up on foreign languages

22 May 2021 (The Economist)

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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

13 May 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

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

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

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

13 May 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

6 May 2021 (TES)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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

4 May 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

4 May 2021 (Planet Radio)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Free Gaelic lessons for Glasgow City Council staff

3 May 2021 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

29 April 2021 (The Courier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 April 2021 (Stornoway Gazette)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The case for diving into another language

21 April 2021 (Financial Times)

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

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

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A Linguistic Guide to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

21 April 2021 (Wired)

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

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

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

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

14 April 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

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

BnG has been the focus of criticism over its performance. 

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

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

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

25 March 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

25 March 2021 (BBC)

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

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

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

Test your knowledge with our quiz.

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

18 March 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 March 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

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The health of UK language study is lost in translation

9 March 2021 (THE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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French senior citizens link up with language students in lockdown

7 March 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

5 March 2021 (The Scotsman)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related Links

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

How Scottish Gaelic is helping protect Scotland’s seas

5 March 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 March 2021 (Nation Cymru)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 February 2021 (The Herald)

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

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

27 February 2021 (Grantham Journal)

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

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

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

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‘SQA has been dumbing down languages exams for years’

25 February 2021 (TES)

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

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

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

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

23 February 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 February 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 February 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 February 2021 (Glasgow Evening Times)

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

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

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

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

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

14 February 2021 (The Scotsman)

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

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

6 February 2021 (Press and Journal)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 February 2021 (Design Week)

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

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

31 January 2021 (Glasgow Evening Times)

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

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

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

31 January 2021 (The Courier)

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

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

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

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

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Speaking removed from modern languages qualifications

29 January 2021 (TESS)

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

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

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

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Welsh language centre partners with Duolingo in million speaker goal

24 January 2021 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

15 January 2021 (The Scotsman)

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

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

Learn about the event in the explainer video.

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Four tips for learning language through film and TV

14 January 2021 (The Conversation)

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

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

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

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World of Languages

14 January 2021 (Stride Magazine)

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

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

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

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

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

11 January 2021 (The Scotsman)

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

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

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

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

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Why are we learning languages in a closed world?

6 January 2021 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 December 2020 (The Scotsman)

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 December 2020 (The Herald)

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 December 2020 (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Covid: Students and retirees form long-distance friendships

10 December 2020 (BBC)

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

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

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

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

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

"She was just so lovely from the first few sentences," Millie told the BBC.

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Duolingo Gaelic app deemed a huge success worldwide

1 December 2020 (The Herald)

More than 560,000 people around the world have signed up to learn Gaelic - nearly ten times the official number of native speakers. 

Bosses at language learning app Duolingo hailed their Scottish Gaelic course a 'huge success', following a surge in popularity - despite only launching last year. 

Around a third of learners on the site are from Scotland, with another third from the US, and the remainder from around the world, including 8 per cent from Canada. 

It comes after Scottish campaign groups issued stark warnings over the decline of the language - claiming for first time in history there is a danger it could become extinct.

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Spikkin Scots: Listen to the different dialects of Scotland with our interactive map

25 November 2020 (Press and Journal)

With voices changing every 20 miles, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how many dialects come under the Scots language umbrella.

But a rough count suggests lucky number 13, divided up as Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, Black Isle, Moray, Aberdeenshire, South Northern (South Kincardineshire and Northern Angus), North-East Central, East Central, West Central, South Central, Boarders and Ulster (yep, Scots made it over the water to Ireland too with Irish Gaelic).

Inverness and the Outer Hebrides may seem curiously absent from this list. But as these regions were predominantly Gaelic speaking areas, the Scots language didn’t take hold with the same intensity, meaning there’s no specific Scots dialect recorded for these regions – though we have included them on the map here for comparison.

The article also includes links to other features in the Spikkin Scots series.

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North Berwick High School teacher Suzanne Ritchie wins 'German Teacher of the Year' award from German Embassy

24 November 2020 (East Lothian Courier)

A teacher at North Berwick High School has been named ‘German Teacher of the Year’ by the German Embassy in London.

Suzanne Ritchie was presented with the award in recognition of her “outstanding dedication to and tireless support of the teaching of the German language”.

Miss Ritchie, a former pupil at Musselburgh Grammar School, lived and worked abroad for several years after university.

Her work mainly consisted of translating for the football organisation FIFA in Zurich in Switzerland.

In 2006, she decided to retrain as a teacher and joined North Berwick High School the following year.

She was encouraged to enter the competition by Ann Robertson, who leads East Lothian Council’s 1+2 languages development programme.

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Fèis Rois launches new songwriting project for young Gaels passionate about the environment

18 November 2020 (The Herald)

Young Gaelic speakers who have a passion for the environment and a talent for songwriting could have their chance to shine, thanks to a new songwriting project launched by Highland arts organisation, Fèis Rois. 

The competition, which is open to applicants until November, Monday 23, is calling on budding Gaelic songwriters from secondary schools across the Highlands to come up with new Gaelic material, connected to the environment and Scotland's landscape. 

Fèis Rois, an arts organisation based in Dingwall, Ross-shire, has collaborated with NatureScot to launch 'Caithream na Cruinne', aimed at emerging Gaelic songwriters who take their inspiration from nature and the current environmental challenges. 

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4 quick and easy ways to make language learning fun

14 November 2020 (TES)

Why can't a student have a three-eyed cat at home? After all, if it makes language learning fun and engaging it should be welcomed, says this teacher.

It really doesn’t matter where I get my hair cut, or what remains of it at least.

As a French and Spanish teacher, the response is inevitable as soon as the stylist asks what I do. “Ooh, I’m jealous. I did French at school and I wish I’d kept it up, but I wasn’t interested when I was younger.”

At this point, I imagine many language teacher colleagues across the globe are nodding their head, all too familiar with having to justify their subject’s place in the curriculum to students and, occasionally, even to school administrators.

In a world where a rapidly growing number of people use English as a second language and where translation technology is progressing, justifying the need for language learning to unmotivated learners is increasingly difficult.

Yet as practitioners, we know second language acquisition is beneficial to the learner in so many ways. Research has shown motivation may be the second most important factor in successful language acquisition after aptitude.

So, what can we do to motivate our learners during the short time we have with them, and leave them with positive experiences in language learning?

(Note - Subscription required to access full article).

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Edinburgh considers sites for Gaelic-language school

7 November 2020 (The Times)

Plans to create a dedicated Gaelic secondary school in Edinburgh have been boosted by a surge of interest from parents keen for their children to become immersed in the language.

Councillors have begun a consultation on where the facility should be located after committing to turning the project into a reality.

The Glasgow Gaelic School regularly outperforms every other secondary in the city, with half of sixth-years achieving five or more Highers. It is hoped that a new minority language school in the capital would mirror its success.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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GCSEs 2021: MFL 'one-off' speaking tests allowed

5 November 2020 (TES)

Teachers will have the choice to assess their students’ spoken language skills during normal classroom activities or as individual, one-off assessments for modern foreign language GCSEs next year.

This is according to new requirements published by Ofqual today in response to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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4 top tips for using Scots language in the classroom

30 October 2020 (TES)

Student Len Pennie – better known online as Miss Punny Pennie – has become an internet star with videos that share a Scots language word of the day. One of her most popular videos, in which she recites her poem I'm No Havin' Children (see below), has been viewed nearly 250,000 times on Twitter.

Here are her four top tips for using Scots in school.

(Subscription required to access full article).

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Language GCSEs biased against poor pupils, say teachers

29 October 2020 (TES)

The majority of language teachers believe GCSE exams are biased against poorer students, children in care and those with special needs, research reveals.

Being asked to describe the disadvantages of a skiing holiday or to describe family members are among examples highlighted by the National Association of Language Advisers (NALA), which has published its research in a report today.

The research, which investigated the past two years of languages GCSE papers, particularly speaking and writing test questions, found that questions about holidays, family relationships, descriptions of a student’s house, restaurant visits and live events were “potentially problematic for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils”.

And the NALA now recommends that languages GCSE and curriculum should be reviewed carefully “to ensure that no particular group of students is disadvantaged”.

NALA president Jenny Carpenter said: “One of the things we found was that there were a number of contexts that were beyond the experience of some students. The obvious example of this was the question which asked what are the advantages and disadvantages of a skiing holiday.

“Not only are you asking some pupils to invent an answer, but you’re asking them to express it in a foreign language as well. It’s a double whammy in a sense.”

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New drive to bring Arabic into Scottish schools

27 October 2020 (TES)

A new initiative aims to bring the teaching of Arabic into both primary and secondary schools in Scotland.

This week the Scottish primaries involved in a new programme offering an insight into Arabic language and culture will receive boxes of Arabic artefacts, such as books, scarves, musical instruments and tea sets.

Scottish schools are open but movement in and out of buildings remains restricted as a result of Covid-19. Scilt, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, has, however, found a way to bring the wider world to pupils at a time when their ability to travel is also much reduced.

The centre, based at the University of Strathclyde, is offering an insight into Arabic language and culture in 15 primary and secondary schools around Scotland. The courses include online lessons from native-speaking teachers of Arabic in the UK and link-ups with native Arabic speakers overseas.

The centre was keen to make the experience tangible, hence the delivery of the boxes.

Scilt director Fhiona Mackay says: “It’s really important that we encourage diversity in language learning. That’s what the 1+2 approach to language learning [in Scotland] should be all about – particularly language three should be an opportunity to explore languages that otherwise children would not be exposed to. It is absolutely right that they should have the chance to experience a language that does not have the same script or alphabet as Latin or Germanic-based languages.

“We also wanted to make sure that children were getting a view of the Arabic world that was not about war, terrorism or refugees. We wanted them to see there is something quite wonderful about this ancient civilisation and help them relate that back to their own experience in Scotland.”

The courses offer learners the chance to explore the secular culture of Arabic nations and to receive a grounding in the Arabic language, which is a first language in more than 20 countries and the fifth most widely spoken in the world.

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Learning in Gaelic helps improve English

26 October 2020 (The Herald)

It is the secret to learning good English – go to a Gaelic school.

Research has shown that learning in a minority language makes you better at speaking a global one.

Scientists have long known that being bilingual in two major languages – such as Spanish and French or German and Russian – helps develop cognitive abilities.

A study led by Heriot-Watt associate professor Maria Garraffa has now compared the English of monolingual children with those who were immersed in Gaelic Medium Education (GME).

Ms Garraffa, a native Italian, and her team found the GME youngsters outperformed those taught in English – in English.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Ms Garraffa said: “The research revealed that speaking Gaelic does not affect the ability to speak well in English and that being bilingual actually improves competency. We found bilingual pupils are better in complex language in English and also have better concentration, as reported in other studies on bilingualism.

“We clearly proved the positive effects of bilingualism are not contingent upon learning a global, widely spoken language, like French or Spanish, but are also true when it comes to a small heritage language like Gaelic.”

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£10m Mandarin scheme set for expansion despite teacher recruitment struggles

24 October 2020 (Schools Week)

A £10 million programme to improve children’s fluency in Mandarin is set to be extended.

The government-funded Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) was launched in 2016 to get “at least 5,000 young people on track towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020” and train “at least 100 new qualified Chinese teachers by the end of the programme”.

When the programme, run by University College London’s Institute of Education (IOE) and the British Council, started there were 1,000 pupils across England learning Mandarin.

The IOE said the 5,000-pupil target had been exceeded by the last academic year.

The contract has been extended to this year, with about 7,000 pupils now taking part in 75 schools nationally.

But in contrast, 69 teachers have achieved qualified status on the UCL IOE Chinese Language PGCE – 31 shy of the target.

An IOE spokesperson said by summer next year, 83 IOE PGCE graduates will have finished their courses, adding that “in collaboration with other providers a grand total of more than 100 newly qualified teachers of Chinese will have been trained since 2016”.

A spokesperson for the Association for Language Learning praised the MEP for its success, but said it wanted “to see the funding of such projects extended to other languages to allow everyone access to learning a language”.

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Gaelic language expected to die out in a decade, but can it be saved?

23 October 2020 (Channel 5 News)

Scottish Gaelic is a language which is set to die out in the next decade. The University of the Highlands and Islands says only 11,000 people can speak it, most over the age of 50. So how can it be saved?

See the Channel 5 video report on YouTube.

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Scottish pupils among top performers in new Pisa test

22 October 2020 (TES)

Recent Pisa results have brought bad news for Scotland but a new test suggests students are being well equipped to deal with globalisation.

Scottish pupils are among the most likely in the developed world to understand and appreciate the perspective of others, demonstrate some of the most positive attitudes towards immigrants, and score highly on a test that assesses the ability to evaluate information and analyse multiple perspectives.

Students from 27 countries and economies, including Scotland, took part in Pisa’s 2018 assessment of global competence, which included a test focusing on three areas: the ability to evaluate information, formulate arguments and explain issues and situations; to identify and analyse multiple perspectives; and to evaluate actions and consequences.

[..] Dr Tarek Mostafa, the policy analyst in the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills who was in charge of the global competence report, told Tes Scotland: “The main takeaway messages from the report are: students in Scotland have very positive attitudes towards immigrants and when it comes to respect for people from other cultures. In addition to this, they perform well on the global competence cognitive test and Scotland is among the three top-ranking countries on the test.”

[..] “For the other indices, students report values close to the OECD average,” he added.

Scottish pupils were also among the least likely to speak several languages: 64.5 per cent of Scottish pupils said they did not learn foreign languages at school, which was around five times the OECD average of 11.7 per cent.  

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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How a Gaelic education brings bilingual benefits

21 October 2020 (TES)

Being educated in Gaelic – even if you don’t speak it outside school – delivers the benefits of bilingualism, study shows.

Gaelic is not my first or second language – I’m from Italy originally and my second language is English – but for the past 10 years I have been researching the effects of learning Gaelic, a language that is not dominant in the community in Scotland.

Why? Because I wanted to know if the positive effects on the brain of bilingualism, as shown in past research, are apparent even if the language is a minority language and one that is only spoken – by some pupils – in school.

Crucially, we have found that they are.

We have now finalised the first study on cognition and language abilities in secondary school students attending Gaelic medium education. In this first piece of research, just published, we found significant benefits of speaking Gaelic alongside a global language such as English.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).

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The Glasgow teacher who has led Gaelic education surge

18 October 2020 (The Herald)

The head teacher who has overseen a surge in demand for Gaelic Medium Education in Glasgow has said her own childhood experience of English-only lessons as a native speaker fuelled efforts to improve access to the language in schools.

Donalda McComb will now say “Beannach Leibh” to teaching after 34 years and heading up the city’s first joint campus, which combines a nursery, primary and secondary that was ranked ninth best performing high in this year’s league tables.

Glasgow is home to the largest number of Gaelic speakers outwith the Highlands and Islands, a mix of native speakers who move for university or jobs and those coming through Gaelic medium education (GME) or learning independently. 

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Virtual Mod is certain to be a highlight of the Gaelic year

9 October 2020 (The Herald)

It’s the highlight of the Gaelic year and the community has come together to make sure the Mod will still take place – albeit in virtual form.

In common with all other major cultural events, the annual Mod has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but although this has resulted in a dramatic change to the format there has been a positive outcome, according to James Graham, Chief Executive of An Comunn Gàidhealach.

The decision to cancel the week long physical event was taken in May but the organisers, aware of the huge impact this would have on the Mod community, agreed to create an online version to fill the void in October.

While Mr Graham admits it was a daunting task, the switch has resulted in many more entries from across the world.

“We have had a lot of interest from people who would not necessarily got over to the Mod because of the travel costs,” he said. “But one of the positives this year was that they could actually take part by recording from where they were.”

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How does being bilingual affect your brain? It depends on how you use language

6 October 2020 (The Conversation)

Depending on what you read, speaking more than one language may or may not make you smarter. These mixed messages are understandably confusing, and they’re due to the fact that nothing is quite as simple as it’s typically portrayed when it comes to neuroscience.

We can’t give a simple “yes” or “no” to the question of whether being bilingual benefits your brain. Instead, it is becoming increasingly evident that whether and how your brain adapts to using multiple languages depends on what they are and how you use them.

Research suggests that as you learn or regularly use a second language, it becomes constantly “active” alongside your native language in your brain. To enable communication, your brain has to select one language and inhibit the other.

This process takes effort and the brain adapts to do this more effectively. It is altered both structurally (through changes in the size or shape of specific regions, and the integrity of white matter pathways that connect them) and functionally (through changes how much specific regions are used).

These adaptations usually occur in brain regions and pathways that are also used for other cognitive processes known as “executive functions”. These include things like working memory and attentional control (for example, the ability to ignore competing, irrelevant information and focus on a target).

Researchers measure these cognitive processes with specifically designed tasks. One example of such tests is the flanker task, in which participants have to indicate the direction of a specific arrow that is surrounded by other arrows that face in the same or opposite direction. Being bilingual can potentially improve performance on tasks like these, typically in either faster reaction times or higher accuracy.

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Edinburgh Napier is third university in Scotland to cut their foreign language programme

5 October 2020 (Edinburgh Evening News)

Deeming their language courses as “economically unsustainable”, Napier will terminate the teaching of French, Spanish and German from the beginning of the next academic year.

The announcement comes amid warnings of an “intellectual Brexit” in higher education and a drastic cut in income to higher education institutions due to the Covid-19 pandemic..

The changes will see Napier follow in the footsteps of fellow Edinburgh-based University, Heriot Watt, who are to launch an external review of their language programmes, despite their Scotland-leading position in translation. Meanwhile, Dundee University announced it will drop its German programmes.

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Class acts: three lockdown teaching stars discuss being back in school

3 October 2020 (The Guardian)

Staff who made headlines for their dedication during closures talk about the joy of reuniting with pupils and the impact of more restrictions.

[..] When James Innes, AKA the “Joe Wicks for French”, made the decision to share videos of his French lessons online over lockdown, he had no idea that he would return to his school a YouTube sensation.

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'Teachers key to development of Gaelic language in Scotland' claim as new three-year plan unveiled

2 October 2020 (Ross-shire Journal)

The vital role of teachers in the promotion of the Gaelic language in Scotland is acknowledged in a new three-year plan.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland) has launched its revised Gaelic Language Plan.

The plan sets out four key commitments:

  • To raise awareness of Gaelic as a language and to support its use through integrated communications.
  • To support the development of learning and teaching in Gaelic throughout Scotland.
  • To encourage growth of the Gaelic language both within GTC Scotland and externally.
  • To promote and support teacher professional development in the Gaelic language.

It complements the National Gaelic Language Plan which aims to promote the language and culture in Scotland. It outlines the need to explore new routes to promote, recruit, educate and retain the Gaelic education workforce and review existing routes into the profession.

And it acknowledges the role GTC Scotland has to play in addressing these challenges.

Read more...

Related Links

New plan to promote Gaelic revealed (The Northern Times, 3 October 2020)

 

Misneachd: Gaelic campaign group launches radical manifesto ahead of Holyrood election

30 September 2020 (The Herald)

A Gaelic campaign group has published a new manifesto urging Scotland’s political parties to embrace radical measures to reverse the decline of the language.

Misneachd is calling for controls on second homes and consideration of Gaelic-speaking housing developments alongside a raft of other proposals.

It said a new government-backed target should aim for all those living in the Western Isles to be able to speak at least some Gaelic.

Read more...

Alive and kicking: From Billy Connolly to Robert Burns – author Robin Crawford says the Scots tongue is alive & well

30 September 2020 (The Scottish Sun)

Author Robin Crawford has charted 1,000 uniquely Scots words that have been used from the era of Robert Burns to the modern world of Twitter.

The 56-year-old, from Auchtermuchty, Fife, wanted to record both old and new language that is still in everyday use for his new book Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers.

And he also set out to highlight the different regional phrases used around Scotland.

He said: “Many people use the word ‘rovies’ for slippers whereas in Fife I would say ‘baffies’. But every  region,  in fact probably every family, has their own words. That’s what helps make Scots so vibrant.

“We may all be Jock Tamson’s Bairns but we don’t necessarily speak the same words.”

Robin also believes  the phrases of The Big Yin are just as important as the verse of The Bard.

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Why it’s great Scotland is bucking the trend on learning languages

26 September 2020 (The National)

In a report entitled Breaking the Language Barrier, published by Reform Scotland in October 2018, it is noted that the UK Government estimates poor language skills cost the economy £48 billion annually, equivalent to 3.5% of GDP. While Anglophone countries often dismiss other languages, Scotland is demonstrating an appetite to turn the tide.

The flagship for change is the Scottish Government’s 1+2 policy, launched in 2012, providing children with the opportunity to learn a first additional language from primary one and a second from primary five. Seven years later, the 1+2 generation is now starting secondary school.

There are already encouraging signs at Higher level, where, according to recent research by Dr Hannah Doughty on trends over a seven-year period, languages as a whole enjoy a higher percentage uptake than biology or physics.

Further encouragement comes from Holyrood. Ivan McKee, the Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, recently stated that: “It is essential we inspire young people to learn languages, to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to take full advantage of opportunities in our fast-changing world.”

Crucial here is that McKee mentions “skills”. Languages are not simply about the ability to move between tongues, mechanically expressing information and ideas. Arguably the greatest benefit from the study of languages lies not in their mastery, but in other skills acquired on the journey.

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Don't take away the one thing that will guarantee a thriving global Britain

16 September 2020 (The Telegraph)

Language learning always seems to be the first casualty of budget cuts in education. Nothing could be more short-sighted.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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Bilingualism: why boosting the rights of minority language speakers could help save Gaelic in Scotland

15 September 2020 (The Conversation)

In recent months there has been talk of a “Gaelic crisis” in Scotland, based on a study that predicts Gaelic may be disappearing across the country. I do not speak Gaelic, but I have spent five years researching bilingualism, and as a German native speaker who has lived in Scotland for over a decade, I am intimately familiar with what it means to communicate in a second language.

When we talk about bilingualism, we often assume that people are equally fluent in both languages and use them equally often. The reality is that some bilinguals may be more proficient in one language than the other and, while some will use both languages equally often, others will use one language more frequently than the other.

The question of how frequently a bilingual person uses a particular language brings us back to the decline in the number of of active Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Despite the ubiquity of bilingual English-Gaelic road signs and the historic presence of the Scots language, Scotland has remained mostly monolingually English. This in itself is not surprising. Just seeing a language pictured does little to help us learn it; we need to actively use a language to accomplish this and, perhaps more importantly, continue to use it.

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Oh fit fine! University set to launch its first Doric course

13 September 2020 (The Scotsman)

Doric, a form of North East Scots that is spoken by 49 per cent of people in Aberdeenshire, will now be taught to undergraduates at Aberdeen University with the course counting towards a student’s degree.

The history of Doric is due to be taught on the course, as well as linguistics, vocabulary and its context in a European setting, with many words and phrases linking Doric with Scandinavian languages, said Dr Thomas McKean, director of Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute which researches and protects the North East’s distinct cultural heritage.

He said: “It’s about building a parity of esteem of the language so that it is thought of in equal terms with other European languages."

Read more...

In Quarantine, Kids Pick Up Parents’ Mother Tongues

10 September 2020 (New York Times)

A few days into the lockdown here in London, I noticed a surprising side-effect of the pandemic: My 3-year-old son was speaking more German.

German is my mother tongue, and I have used it with him since he was born, but because everyone around us speaks English, including my British husband, we settled into a pattern typical of mixed families. I spoke to my son in German, and he replied in English. Then Covid-19 reshuffled our linguistic deck. As all of us quarantined at home, my son embraced German with unprecedented enthusiasm. Now, almost six months on, it has become his preferred language. In a complete reversal, he even replies to my husband in German.

Read more...

Success of language teacher SCITT must now 'go viral'

9 September 2020 (TES)

The Department for Education has made a bold pledge as to the percentage of children it wants to be taking the 16+ EBacc, including a foreign language GCSE, within the next five years: 75 per cent by 2022, and 90 per cent by 2025.

However, achieving this will only be possible if there are teachers available to deliver high-quality language lessons.

Indeed, around a third of state schools and a quarter of independent schools report recruitment difficulties, and a proportion says that retention is also a problem.

These difficulties are only likely to be exacerbated by the announcement earlier this month that EU nationals will no longer be eligible for home fee status and student loans from 2021.

This will impact further on teacher supply in languages given that teachers from the EU constitute over a third of MFL teachers in UK secondary schools – and some of them are considering leaving Britain in the wake of Brexit.

However, there is a ray of hope for those concerned about the decline of languages in schools. The government-sponsored National Modern Languages School Centred Initial Teacher Training (NML SCITT) scheme which, as Tes reports today, is having the positive impact that was hoped when it was first envisioned.

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UK accused of failing to promote minority languages

8 September 2020 (The Guardian)

The UK has failed to uphold its treaty obligations to promote the minority languages of Cornish, Irish and Ulster Scots, a council of European ministers has found.

A report by the Council of Europe, a civil and legal rights body, has accused the UK of failing to support indigenous minority languages in schools, the media, public life and in government, despite signing the European charter on regional or minority languages.

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Boost your job prospects or do what you love? How to pick the right uni subject

5 September 2020 (The Guardian)

For many students, working out what to study at university is guided by whether they want a route directly to a job, or to keep their options open. But sometimes it’s not easy to decide between the two.

This was Morgan McArthur’s experience. She’s now a 21-year-old languages student at the University of Sheffield – but she nearly became a dentist. 

Read more...

Bilingual education in Wales: despite lockdown difficulties, parents should persevere

3 September 2020 (The Conversation)

Bilingualism can result in changes in the brains of children, potentially offering increased problem-solving skills. Pupils who are competent in two or more languages may have academic advantages over monolingual children.

In Wales, children have the opportunity to become bilingual by attending Welsh-medium primary and secondary schools, where the sole or main language of instruction is Welsh.

However, parents who do not speak Welsh but send their children to be educated in the language have reported finding home schooling challenging during the lockdown. Some may even be considering moving their children to English schools in order to be better able to support them at home – perhaps because of fears of future lockdowns or quarantines.

Nevertheless, where they can, parents should keep the faith. The benefits of a bilingual education are huge, and turning their backs on Welsh-medium education might be detrimental to increasing the number of young Welsh speakers.

[..] Increasing numbers of parents around the world are giving their children access to education not only in two languages but in three or more languages. Where a minority language exists in the community, trilingual education is gaining in popularity. Pupils receive their education in the minority language and the majority language of the region as well as taking lessons in a foreign language.

One example is the Basque country, where pupils receive their education in Euskara (the Basque language) and Castilian (Spanish) and also learn English as a foreign language.

Read more...

Coronavirus: Covid-19 cuts short students' year abroad studying

24 August 2020 (BBC)

Swapping Port Talbot for Paris was a big deal for Maia Evans. It was the first time she'd left home and the reason she chose to study French.

So you can imagine the 21-year-old's frustration when she had to abruptly leave her class, leave her adopted French family and leave France altogether when coronavirus took hold.

"I was loving it," recalled Maia. "The children were great, my family was lovely and my French was improving massively. Then France shut down overnight."

When Maia bid au revoir to Aberavon Beach she was excited to immerse herself in French culture - not just living with different people for the first time, but people who spoke another language.

It was going to be more Seine and Sacre-Coeur than the steelworks and Swansea Bay of home for Maia and she enjoyed every second in Paris' bustling suburbs.

Read more...

GCSEs 2020: French and Spanish revival continues

20 August 2020 (TES)

New figures show more pupils were entered for GCSE French and Spanish this year than in 2019.

Combined GCSE entries for the main modern languages have risen again this year, with Spanish seeing the biggest increase.

Tables published this morning by Ofqual show that there were 3 per cent more pupils entering either French, Spanish or German in 2020 in England than in the exams of 2019.

(Note - subscription required to access full article)

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How technology kept Scotland's Gaelic-speaking community connected during lockdown

19 August 2020 (The Herald)

With lockdown cutting us off physically from the communities around us, technology has been a vital tool for keeping connected.

This was particularly true for Scotland’s Gaelic-speaking community, with some pioneering young people using online methods to keep the language alive - and its community of speakers connected.

Calum Ferguson, 25, and Donnie Forbes, 23, decided to team up to combine their passion for Gaelic with a love of football. During lockdown, they created YouTube videos that challenged youngsters to practice football tricks while speaking Gaelic phrases.

“If I film myself passing a ball while saying the phrase ‘pass the ball’ in Gaelic, kids eventually put two and two together and learn the language that way,” explains Donnie. “People are seeing us deliver the action, say the action at the same time- that helps the language click.”

“People learn languages in different ways,” adds Calum. “Some will learn by sitting down and reading a textbook, some by speaking it, but others might find that visual learning is best. What we feel is important is giving as many resources as you can to people, to offer plenty of opportunities to speak the language.”

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Kirk on a mission to save Gaelic by spreading the word

11 August 2020 (The Times)

The battle to save Gaelic from extinction is taking divine inspiration from the Church of Scotland, which has vowed to promote the language in its services and sermons.

Research published last week suggested that Gaelic would struggle to survive beyond the current decade without urgent preservation measures.

In response the Kirk has produced a guide which will encourage people to speak, preach, read and write in Gaelic during worship and Bible study.

Read more...

Turn on the TV to boost your lockdown language learning

10 August 2020 (SW Londoner)

Watching more TV could be the key to language learning for the two-thirds of the UK population unable to speak anything but English.

Two British polyglots who between them speak more than 65 languages, agreed that popular culture was key to learning a language.

Alex Rawlings, 28, a journalist and documentary filmmaker from Ham, said: “Language learning shouldn’t be: ‘I’m learning French because I want to learn all the irregular verbs’, it should be ‘I’m learning French because I want to understand this amazing detective series better and if I don’t speak French I’m going to miss out on it’.

“That’s essentially how English is learnt in other countries – it’s very deeply embedded in popular culture, so people take it for granted that they’re going to learn English.”

Richard Simcott, 43, the languages director for the Social Element who grew up in Chester, said: “Children from Scandinavia particularly learn very very quickly that people don’t speak their language, and they have TV in English, their films tend to be in English with subtitles.

“When they go to school they don’t start with ‘hello, my name is’, they go straight into literature.”

Neither Mr Rawlings nor Mr Simcott live in the UK anymore – Mr Rawlings has been living in Barcelona since 2018, and Mr Simcott calls North Macedonia home.

Mr Rawlings, who currently speaks 15 languages, was crowned the UK’s most multilingual student in 2012, after starting to teach himself languages at the age of 14 (although he was speaking Greek with his mother by age 8).

He said: “I really can’t imagine my life without speaking languages.

“When you speak multiple languages you can go anywhere in the world, you have all sorts of opportunities, you have a very different feeling about foreign places… they become less foreign, because you understand what’s going on.”

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Revealed: A levels with teacher grades odds-on to stay

10 August 2020 (TES)

New analysis has produced a list of A-level subjects where the grades that teachers have assessed are least likely to be changed.

On Friday Tes revealed that teacher assessed grades will not be used as part of the final grade calculation where GCSE and A-level subjects in a school have more than more 15 entries, with statistical modelling used instead.

By contrast, in subjects with no more than five entries in a school, pupils will be awarded their teacher-assessed grades, as statistical modelling would be inaccurate with such a small cohort. 

Now in a blog by Philip Nye for FFT Education Datalab, A-level subjects with the greatest share of entries coming from schools or colleges with five or fewer entries has been estimated. 

"There are three subjects – German, Latin and music – where we estimate that over half of the total number of entries come from establishments with five or fewer entries," Mr Nye said.

Read more...

Heriot-Watt’s search for £9m cuts puts university’s languages department at risk

6 August 2020 (The Times)

A Scottish university is reviewing the future of its entire foreign languages department as it looks at how to cut its wage bill by £9 million over two years.

Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, widely seen as Scotland’s centre of excellence for translation studies, has commissioned an external review into French, German, Spanish and Chinese classes.

Read more...

Fall in Welsh-capable teachers risks missing language target, report warns

6 August 2020 (The Guardian)

A “striking” decline in the number of newly qualified teachers able to teach in Welsh could undermine the country’s ambition to have a million speakers of the language in 30 years’ time, a report warns.

The Welsh language commissioner, Aled Roberts, expressed concern about the trend and called for the devolved government to take urgent action to reverse the fall.

Three years ago ministers in Wales launched a plan to almost double the number of Welsh speakers by 2050, with a key plank of the strategy being a steady increase the number of professionals teaching through the language.

Read more...

Will the UK ever love foreign-language pop?

5 August 2020 (The Guardian)

Three summers ago, Despacito’s lilting Spanish lyrics dominated the UK charts, but since then nearly all pop hits have been in English. Is it just a language barrier – or a sign of a narrow culture?

In 2017, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s huge No 1 summer hit Despacito seemed to herald a new age where the domination of the English language in western pop was eroding. Global streaming has since allowed for the overwhelming popularity of slick K-pop titans BTS, the doleful flamenco flourishes of Spanish artist Rosalía and the multilingual Nigerian superstar Burna Boy among others, suggesting that, at last, non-English-language hits are moving beyond novelties such as The Ketchup Song and Dragostea Din Tei.

But three summers on from Despacito, the UK remains dominated by English-language pop. Latin music hasn’t had nearly the same impact here as in the US, and Christine and the Queens’ “Ne me cherche pas, je ne suis plus la, baby” was a very rare burst of French on British radio, via Gone, her hit song with Charli XCX last year.

Read more...

Gaelic language in 'crisis' in island heartlands

2 July 2020 (BBC)

Gaelic-speaking island communities could vanish within 10 years unless language policies are changed dramatically, according to a new study.

Researchers said daily use of Gaelic was too low in its remaining native island areas to sustain it as a community language in the future.

They have called for a shift away from institutional policies to more community-based efforts.

The study surveyed Gaelic communities in the Western Isles, Skye and Tiree.

The Scottish government said Gaelic was a vital part of Scotland's cultural identity and it was interested in the proposals set out in the new study.

Read more...

The Big Interview: Meet the Moray man helping to keep dying languages alive across the world

29 June 2020 (Press and Journal)

From the age of 10 Finlay Macleod was fascinated with languages – how they are formed, how they are spoken and what they represent.

Today dozens of tongues across the world continue to be spoken due to the work the linguist has done to help keep them alive.

For weeks at a time the Western Isles native, who runs the Moray Language Centre from his home in Portessie near Buckie, travels to the US and Canada to work with indigenous groups to teach techniques about sustaining one of the most sacred parts of their culture.

Some have blossomed again from being spoken by as few as 10 people in remote locations, while others have grown from hundreds to communities of thousands that have spanned entire regions.

The projects the 65-year-old runs with the worldwide Indigenous Language Institute are on top of the work he does to grow Gaelic in Scotland through nursery classes and immersive experiences – a move he says is in opposition to the UK school curriculum for leaning new tongues remaining rooted in centuries-old traditions.

Read more...

Surge in online Gaelic learners during coronavirus lockdown

24 June 2020 (The Herald)

It seemed to be on a one-way road to extinction but now signs of a revival are emerging.

The number of people looking to take online lessons in Gaelic has surged to a record high since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, new data shows.

MG ALBA, the Gaelic media service, said that over 114,000 unique users accessed the LearnGaelic website between March 23 and June 2.

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Furloughed Eurostar staff become French teachers

24 June 2020 (BBC)

Eurostar staff furloughed during the lockdown are helping London schools with online French lessons.

Rail staff not currently working, including train drivers, have volunteered to help pupils learning at home online.

Only a limited number of Eurostar's services to France and Belgium are running - and about 30 staff have been helping with French lessons.

Read more...

‘I just need a connection’: the refugees teaching languages across borders

17 June 2020 (The Guardian)

A unique platform lets teachers from Venezuela to Syria to Burundi earn a living teaching their language online.

Louisa Waugh and Ghaith Alhallak have met for language lessons in seven countries. “We counted it up the other day,” says Waugh, recalling the list of places from which she has video-called Alhallak: Britain, Mali, Senegal and Greece. Alhallak has answered from Lebanon, France and Italy, where he is now studying for a master’s degree in political science at the University of Padua.

“You just need a connection,” he says.

The 770 students and 64 teachers at NaTakallam - “we speak” in Arabic – conduct their lessons entirely online, allowing refugees to speak to students who might not otherwise have contact with displaced people. The service also circumvents restrictions on work for refugees and asylum seekers in their new countries of residence, which means they can earn money.

“I really see it as solving two problems,” says one of NaTakallam’s founders, Aline Sara. “Refugees need access to an income, but with no work permit they’re often stuck in limbo. Yet they have innate talents within them in the form of their language, their story and culture, while so many people want flexible language practice,” she says. “There’s an idea that people always want to train and help refugees, but really they can help us.”

Read more...

UK language students prepare for virtual year abroad in their bedrooms

13 June 2020 (The Guardian)

What is a virtual year abroad – and is there any point in it? That is the question Reece Jack, of Troon, South Ayrshire, is asking, along with thousands of other languages students whose year abroad has been cancelled or is in doubt.

Jack, a second-year student of business and French at Strathclyde University, thinks the idea of shared “virtual year abroad” resources across universities, being offered as a partial replacement for the real experience, is “delusional”. “Students will not pick up a natural fluency staying in the UK – the most anti-learning-a-language country there is,” he says.

His plans to start university in Dijon in September, for him the highlight of his course, have been thrown into doubt. With no guarantee this can happen, he is considering suspending his degree for a year.

“It is a huge frustration,” he says. “A lot of us chose to study a language because of the year abroad.”

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Language learning needs to be protected from becoming a casualty of coronavirus

12 June 2020 (iNews)

With travel limited and schools closed, our ability to speak to the world is under threat.

When learning a new language, you begin with the words you would normally need every day: words for meeting people, going to cafés and restaurants, asking for the way to the station. Now – in a world where a summer holiday, let alone living abroad, feels like a fading possibility – that rule seems ironic.

While terms like self-isolation and social distancing have become basic vocabulary in English, those classic foreign phrases have evoked a strange sort of wanderlust, tainted by a festering frustration.

With millions of pupils now staying at home until September at the earliest – language degrees and lessons could be among the most disrupted – and foreign travel affected for the foreseeable future, it is vital our ability to talk to the world does not turn into another casualty of coronavirus.

Read more...

Language GCSE entries up but a mixed picture at A level

11 June 2020 (TES)

Provisional data on GCSE entries in 2020 released today reveals a rise in the number of pupils studying for a modern foreign language at GCSE.

Overall, language entries increased by 2 per cent, from 268,955 to 275,000. Entries for Spanish and German rose by 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively, while French entries remained stable.

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Coronavirus: French teacher's Hebridean lockdown

9 June 2020 (BBC)

A French language assistant who remained in the Western Isles during the coronavirus lockdown has been praised for the unique contribution she has made to young people's education.

Mathilde Forgerit arrived in Lewis last August for what was her first experience of teaching French abroad.

During the pandemic she has been able to use the islands' digital learning facilities to deliver classes to young people in other parts of Scotland too.

She said that despite being far from her family, the kindness of islanders stopped her from feeling isolated.

[..] Mathilde returned home to France last week, but the comhairle said she had left behind a positive language learning legacy across island schools.

Senior education officer Mary Clare Ferguson said: "She proved to be such an asset and a natural teacher.

"The pupils loved working with her and gained so much insight from a young person about her life in France, her culture and language. She really motivated them to improve their language skills."

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There is a monument in Georgia with instructions in 8 languages on how to re-build a post-apocalyptic society

3 June 2020 (Time Out)

Seems like the world might need this right now.

They're called the Georgia Guidestones and they actually look like the Ten Commandments. The five 16-feet-tall granite walls overlook a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia, supporting a 25,000-pound capstone. But what's even more astonishing than their massiveness (four of the five slabs weigh more than 20 tons each!) is what is inscribed on the rock: carved on the polished granite are directions in eight different languages instructing the survivors of a supposed apocalypse on how to properly rebuild society.

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Genes And Musical Ability Both Affect How People Hear Tonal Languages

27 May 2020 (Forbes)

In some languages, the meaning of each word is not only conveyed by the order of its syllables, but also by the pitch. Tonal languages such as Cantonese, Mandarin or Yoruba are difficult to learn for people who are used to non-tonal languages like English. They require you to be able to pick up on subtle pitch differences, and new research suggests that your ability to do so may be genetic. However, they also noted that genetics only played a small role. Whether or not someone had taken music lessons was more likely to affect how well they hear lexical tones.

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Gary Lineker: Learning a language is one of the most important things you can do – in Spain once I really ballsed it up

27 May 2020 (The Sun)

Want to get a real sense of Spanish? Then learn from a footie legend who picked up the lingo while playing for one of the country’s top teams.

Sports pundit Gary Lineker is among a host of famous faces who have signed up to teach kids on CBBC show Celebrity Supply Teacher.

[..] Gary will be livening up the classroom by helping little ones learn Spanish through football.

The ex-England striker learned the language when he transferred from Everton to Barcelona in 1986. He also attempted to master Japanese during two seasons at League club Nagoya Grampus Eight.

Read more...

New Website Harnesses The Power Of Music And Drama To Teach Welsh And Spanish

27 May 2020 (Wales 247)

Primary school teachers and parents can now harness music and drama to help children learn Welsh and Spanish by using a new, free to use website. 

The website includes more than 30 activities, such as simple drama games and songs in three languages.

Everything needed to lead children through the activities is provided, including full instructions, demonstration videos, downloadable sheet music, lyrics, audio files and suggestions for extension and reflection.

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'Visual poetry': taking physical languages beyond the Deaf community

10 May 2020 (The Guardian)

Addressing the camera, Ryan Pendley’s arms swipe the air, his hands fly with ferocity and pent-up frustration, his fingers crawl up his neck and clasp over his mouth. The subtitle explains, “like struggling to breathe”, but you hardly need the translation. What we’re watching looks like sign language, mime and dance rolled into one. It’s actually visual vernacular, or VV, an art form little known beyond the Deaf community (Deaf, with a capital D, refers to a distinctive culture as opposed to a solely audiological condition). And it’s part of a new film Here/Not Here by director Bim Ajadi, that finds connections between three seemingly disparate physical languages: krump dance, football and British Sign Language (BSL).

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Thousands sign up for Birmingham teen's BSL lessons

6 May 2020 (BBC)

A 15-year-old has created a series of videos teaching British Sign Language (BSL) during lockdown.

Tyrese Dibba, who has Charge Syndrome, and is deaf and partially sighted, released the videos with charity Sense in a bid to tackle isolation among people with disabilities.

The Birmingham student said more people learning BSL would "help the deaf community feel part of wider society".

More than 7,000 people have signed up for the free classes.

Read more...

How generations are joining forces to give the Scots language its proper place

26 April 2020 (The National)

The Scots language is the source of many of the first words we hear. Bairn. Greet. Bonnie. For many of us it is the language of those we love most, those who raised us, who taught us about the world. The tongue of couthy grannies, freenly neebors, loving parents. It’s the language of funny rhymes an sangs like Ally Bally Bee an the Three Craws.

For a huge number of us it is the language of childhood but for almost as many it is not the language of adulthood. When we go to school, Scots switches to English. Scots has its place in the playground but not in maths or chemistry. So we store away so many great words – shoogle, bahookie, fankle, haver – that mean so much to us but that we seldom get to use.

Scots is the language of 1.5 million of us, about 30% of the population. In entire chunks of the country – the Borders, Shetland, the north-east – it is the everyday language of the clear majority. But there are many more areas of Scotland, particularly urban areas, where Scots is strictly socially policed. And across the nation as a whole, Scots remains almost entirely absent from classrooms, from publicly funded media and from the business of government.

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Life on the inside: 10 educational activities to make the best of lockdown

18 April 2020 (Largs and Millport News)

People in the UK are spending more time at home than ever before during the coronavirus lockdown. While this may mean less activity outdoors, it can also be the perfect opportunity to learn something new.

Here are 10 educational activities to try during lockdown:

1. Learn a language

Learning a language can be time-consuming, and with plenty of unfilled hours, understanding an extra vocabulary may be a useful skill to acquire. Though it always looks good in a CV, learning a language could also enable you to work abroad, or to socialise with locals while travelling overseas.

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Coronavirus: Homeschooling in a language you don't speak

18 April 2020 (BBC)

Until a few weeks ago, non-Welsh speaking parents who had chosen Welsh-medium education assumed their children would spend about 30 hours a week immersed in the language - at school. Now attempting to "home school" in a language they don't speak, they face an extra layer of challenge.

In Cardiff, for example, about 63% of pupils in Welsh-medium schools come from homes where no Welsh is spoken. On top of anxiety about coronavirus and general concern about education, some parents are worried their children's Welsh language skills will suffer.

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Test your knowledge of Scots with our words and phrases quiz

17 April 2020 (Edinburgh Evening News)

Even if you don’t hail from this country, chances are you’ll be aware of some Scots words – the success of shows such as Outlander and films like Trainspotting, Brave, and Sunshine on Leith to name but a few have brought the language to even greater prominence.

This quiz, comprising 25 questions, asks you to define several words or phrases commonly used in Scotland.

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Kelly Clarkson drops new single, ‘I Dare You,’ with duets in five languages

16 April 2020 (Variety)

Kelly Clarkson dropped her new single “I Dare You” – along with duets of the song performed with five different singers in their native languages. The bundle sees Clarkson joined by Zaz (“Appelle Ton Amour” – French Version), Faouzia (“كنتحداك” – Arabic Version), Blas Cantó (“Te Reto A Amar” – Spanish Version), Glasperlenspiel (“Trau Dich” – German Version) and Maya Buskila (“בוא נראה” – Hebrew Version).

Clarkson will also share a world premiere performance music video for “I Dare You” on an episode of “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” singing virtually with her global duet partners.

[...] “This is my favorite/hardest project that I’ve ever worked on” explained Clarkson. “It has always been a dream of mine, as I grew up singing in different languages, to find that perfect song, with the perfect message, to connect us all globally and then record that song with several other artists around the world in their native languages."

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50 Scottish slang words translated: funniest and best sayings and slang phrases from Scotland - and what they mean in English

15 April 2020 (The Scotsman)

Though English is the first language in Scotland, Scots and Gaelic have both played a vital part in shaping everyday language often used by citizens of Scotland up and down the country.

From everyday turns of phrase to cutting insults, Scottish slang is capable of being both poetic and humorous.

Here’s a starter glossary of essentials for anyone new to Scotland or anyone looking to reacquaint themselves with Caledonian colloquialisms.

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The many languages missing from the internet

15 April 2020 (BBC)

English and a handful of other languages dominate the internet, but this is leaving indigenous cultures without a voice online. Now they are fighting to get their own languages on the web.

Imagine your favourite social media platform does not let you post in English. Now think of a keyboard that won’t allow you to type in your own words. You would have two options: either switch to another language or remain digitally silent. This is the reality for most people that speak indigenous languages and dialects.

There are nearly 7,000 languages and dialects in the world, yet only 7% are reflected in published online material, according to Whose knowledge?, a campaign that aims to make visible the knowledge of marginalised communities online.

While Facebook supports up to 111 languages, making it the most multilingual online platform, a survey published by Unesco in 2008 found that 98% of the internet’s web pages are published in just 12 languages, and more than half of them are in English. This reduces linguistic diversity online to a handful of tongues, making it harder for those that speak one of the excluded languages of the internet.

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More Gaelic TV from BBC Alba to help pupils in lockdown

14 April 2020 (The National)

Gaelic broadcasting bosses are to show more children’s content to support young speakers while schools are off.

Extra programmes on science, maths and other curriculum mainstays will be shown on BBC Alba from today.

The Gaelic-medium channel already runs children’s shows from 5pm-7pm every day. Additional content will also be available on the BBC iPlayer.

It is hoped that “children won’t even realise they are learning and developing their skills” when watching the tailored material.

Margaret Mary Murray, head of service at BBC Alba, said: “We hope these fabulous learning programmes will offer useful support to teachers, parents and carers and fun learning opportunities for children.”

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Number of Gaelic learners outstrips entire population of Highlands and Islands

13 April 2020 (The Scotsman)

Around 300,000 people are now learning Scottish Gaelic on the free Duolingo app with the course launched just over five months ago.

The number of Gaelic learners using the app now outstrips the entire population of the Highland and Western Isles council areas, where a total of around 265,000 people live.

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Coronavirus: ‘Pupils need live online teaching’

13 April 2020 (TESS)

Scotland’s e-Sgoil – based in the Western Isles – has revealed its plans to deliver a national timetable of live lessons that will be streamed online in a bid to support teachers and pupils in the wake of the UK wide school closures, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to Tes Scotland the e-Sgoil – which has four years’ experience in beaming lessons into schools across the country – said it was hoping to partner with online learning platform Scholar in order to deliver live national qualification lessons in a wide range of subjects, as well as offering some lessons aimed at primary pupils.

Scholar – a partnership between Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and education directors’ association Ades – runs online courses in a range of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher subjects, providing pupils with learning materials and assessments.

Meanwhile e-Sgoil – which was set up to ensure equal access to courses and subjects for pupils irrespective of where they live – has a team of teachers on its books who have experience of delivering remote lessons in real time in everything from Higher physics, to primary Gaelic. This year it has had a presence in 15 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The plan is to start streaming the lessons incrementally, beginning with maths and languages – thanks to Scotland's National Centre for Languages (Scilt), and Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools.

Together the languages bodies and e-Sgoil plan to offer taster courses in Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Gaelic and Mandarin suitable for primary and secondary pupils, as well as delivering national qualification courses in French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Gaelic.

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