Jose Carillo's Forum


Oxford Dictionary recognizes “to twerk” after Miley Cyrus offers visual definition
By Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times

August 28, 2013—In the days following Miley Cyrus’s much-discussed bump-and-grind performance at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, the word “twerk” — that is, to dance “in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance” — seems to be ubiquitous. It’s on the tip of the tongue of nearly every television host, and a search of LexisNexis archives turns up the word in more than 250 news articles in the last week alone.

“Won’t twerking just go away?” the linguistically aggrieved ask. Well, no — and, in fact, the word is getting some acknowledgment from one of the English language’s most august reference volumes.

Oxford Dictionaries, which is responsible for the Oxford English Dictionary and other reference works, said that it would add “twerk” to its listings as part of a quarterly online update, The Associated Press reported. A definition for “twerk” can be found at (where helpful examples of the word’s use include “just wait till they catch their daughters twerking to this song”).

Though the word “twerk” may seem all too of the moment, Katherine Connor Martin, an editor at the Oxford Dictionaries site, told The A.P. that this verb was probably about two decades old.

“There are many theories about the origin of this word, and since it arose in oral use, we may never know the answer for sure,” Ms. Martin said. “We think the most likely theory is that it is an alteration of work, because that word has a history of being used in similar ways, with dancers being encouraged to ‘work it.’ The ‘t’ could be a result of blending with another word such as twist or twitch.”

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Woman says Richmond McDonald’s asked her to leave due to inadequate English

METRO VANCOUVER, Canada, August 23, 2013—People have the right to be served, no matter what their first language is. That’s the view of the son of Hai Xia Sun, who claims she was asked to leave McDonald's on No.3 Road and Granville Avenue last week after what the global restaurant chain is referring to as a “language barrier.”

The problem began when, after ordering a hot chocolate, Sun, 51, who’s lived in Canada for ten years, received a coffee instead.

And when she tried to have the mistake corrected, she claims she was dismissed by the manager on duty, who allegedly refused to serve Sun because staff couldn’t understand her English.

The only problem her son, Frank Zhao, has with that explanation is that he says his mother was speaking English and has never encountered an issue in ten years in the country.

“I think the point here is that people should get served no matter what their first language is,” Zhao told the News.

"My mom was speaking English, but what about tourists coming here who don't speak English? Are they going to get refused service as well?"

Zhao said his mom, who has to speak English first in her job in a local hotel, came to Canada because of the respect the country has for different cultures.

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Irate grammarians slam Google’s definition of the word “literally”
By Jaclyn Skurie, National Geographic News

August 16, 2013—The Internet is abuzz with irate grammarians criticizing the way Google defines the word “literally.”

In addition to the word’s original meaning—“in a literal manner or sense”—the Google definition also reads “used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.” The key words here: used to.

Bloggers are declaring it the end of the English language and a dark day for linguists. How can the definition of the word “literally” literally not be literal?

An employee at Words Worth Books, an Ontario bookstore, wrote on Twitter that “one of our staff was so upset about this, he had to go lie down. #literally.” “We did it guys! We killed English!” tweeted someone with the handle @magnus72.

But these quibblers are wrong. The un-literal definition of “literally” is not new. It has been used for at least 200 years, and we have the proof. Literally.

In 1769’s The History of Emily Montague, novelist Frances Brooke wrote, “He is a fortunate man to be introduced to such a party of fine women at his arrival; it is literally to feed among the lilies.” Was this lucky man of mystery literally eating lilies? No. He was simply surrounded by a selection of attractive women—figurative lilies.

The Oxford English Dictionary has also listed this secondary definition of the controversial term since 1903.

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Is the Oxford English Dictionary really redefining “marriage”?
By J. Bryan Lowder,

July 29, 2013—Following on an initial story last week from LGBT news site Gay Star News, news outlets across the Internet reported on Friday that the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary—the publication widely recognized as the premiere authority on the English language—are considering revising the definition of “marriage” to include same-sex unions. The change was attributed to recent decisions in favor of marriage equality in the U.K. and elsewhere and touted as a victory for the LGBT movement.

Though such a development would not be unwelcome, we had a sneaking suspicion while sorting through the coverage that this story might be a bit overblown. Here’s the original quote, from an OED spokeswoman, that caused all the hoopla: “We continually monitor the words in our dictionaries, paying particular [attention] to those words whose usage is shifting, so yes, this will happen with marriage.” By our reading, this statement simply confirms that the OED will consider revising the definition of marriage in the same way that it does for any word whose usage is changing—not that any new definition is definitely forthcoming. And indeed, the Director of U.S. Publicity for the Oxford University Press confirmed our interpretation today in an official statement:

Many of our dictionaries including the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as, already include references to same sex-marriage as part of their definitions. Dictionaries reflect changes in the use of language, rather than changes in law, and we are constantly monitoring usage in this area in order to consider what revisions and updates we may need to make. The English language is always developing and, along with many other words, we will continue to monitor the way in which ‘marriage’ is used.

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Facebook launches Graph Search to all English-speaking users
By Zach Miners, IDG News Service

August 7, 2013—Facebook is rolling out Graph Search, its newfangled social search engine, to everyone who uses the U.S. English language, the company announced Wednesday.

Graph Search provides a way for users to search for various topics and interests across the site based on their existing connections and friends. Graph Search lets users submit their queries in plain English, so people can search for things like, “Friends who live in my city,” or “Hotels in San Francisco visited by my friends,” or even, “Music liked by people who like the music that I like,” Facebook notes.

The company began rolling out the tool to a limited number of people in January. At an introductory press conference at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Graph Search as an early stage feature that is still years away from being complete.

“Graph Search is a really big project, and it's going to take years and years to index the whole map of the graph,” he said at the time.

Following Wednesday's expansion, people can continue to search for friends and Pages by name, Facebook said, or use simple phrases to find something specific across people, photos, places, interests and more.

Since its unveiling, Facebook has had to address tough questions over Graph Search's privacy implications. One major issue is the extent to which the tool makes it easier for people to unearth content or information about others who do not want that content to be seen.

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Rude English word enters German language

July 2, 2013—Germany’s standard dictionary has included a vulgar English term, used by Chancellor Angela Merkel among others, as an acceptable German word.

“Duden,” the equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary in the UK, said it was reflecting the common use of the word “shitstorm” among Germans.

The word, which is used in German to denote a public outcry, seems to have caught on during the eurozone crisis.

German language experts voted it “Anglicism of the year” in 2012.

One of them, Michael Mann, explained in a report by the Local newspaper, that the English word conveyed a “new kind of protest... clearly different in kind and degree from what could be expected in the past in response to a statement or action.”

In the past there have been controversies over German usage of words like “download”, “job-hopping” or “eye-catcher”, the BBC's Steve Evans reports from Berlin.

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No matter the cost, English-language requirements aren’t going anywhere
By Matt Berman,

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 27, 2013—In a sweeping new program to slash the welfare state, a government announced a statute on Wednesday that will prevent people who are not proficient in English—or at least enrolled in English language classes—from drawing unemployment benefits. This isn’t happening in the United States. This is a British proposal, announced in the United Kingdom, by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

But the emphasis on encouraging new residents to speak English isn’t just a British thing: It’s ingrained in the comprehensive immigration-reform bill that the Senate may pass Thursday, and it’s furthered by a big amendment that could go up for a vote from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

The new rule in the U.K. is pretty straightforward: As part of a program designed to cut £350 million in welfare spending in 2015-16, U.K. residents will not be able to receive unemployment benefits unless they are either proficient in English or enrolled in English language classes. The minimum level of language proficiency in the U.K. is that of a 9-year-old native.

In the U.S., as part of the Senate’s immigration bill, to receive a green card for permanent residency, immigrants must be either proficient in English or be taking English language classes. Under current law, English proficiency is required only to gain citizenship. Immigrants only need to have “developing” language skills to be considered proficient.

Rubio, however, is trying to make the English requirements in the Senate bill significantly stricter. He introduced an amendment that would require green-card recipients to be proficient in English—not just taking classes to get there. The fate of that amendment in the Senate isn’t clear, but it could be resolved Thursday.

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Japan’s public broadcaster sued over use of English words
By Justin McCurry,

TOKYO, June 27, 2013—Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, is in a spot of toraburu with a disgruntled viewer who has filed a damages lawsuit against the company for the “mental distress” caused by its excessive use of words derived from English.

Hoji Takahashi, who says he represents a pressure group that protects the Japanese language, is seeking 1.41 million yen (£9,300) in damages from NHK, reports said.

In his suit filed with the Nagoya district court, Takahashi said the deluge of English words used in NHK’s news and entertainment programmes had caused him emotional distress, and accused the broadcaster of ignoring its responsibility to use Japanese alternatives.

Among the words he cited as particularly troublesome were kea (care), toraburu (trouble), risuku (risk) and shisutemu (system). He also noted the frequent use of loan words in programme titles, such as BS Kosheruju (BS Concierge) and Sutajio Paaku Kara Konnichiwa (Hello from Studio Park).

The 71-year-old claims he and other elderly viewers had been left baffled by some of NHK’s content. “I contacted NHK to inquire about this, but there was no response so I decided to take the matter to court,” Kyodo News quoted him as saying. “I want the broadcaster to take into account elderly viewers like me when it is creating shows.”

The frequent use of words derived from English, plus a smaller number whose origins can be found in Portuguese, Dutch and other languages, is not confined to NHK.

But Takahashi said that given its considerable reach and influence, the company had a responsibility to remain neutral and appeal to as many viewers as possible.

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French stands nary a chance against a global English-language tsunami
By Evelyn Leopold,

UNITED NATIONS, New York, June 4, 2013—French, once the language of high culture, kings and queens, and pin-striped diplomats, is drowning in a global tsunami of English usage in commerce, science, education—and even at the multilingual United Nations.

The United Nations has six official languages but English and French are considered the “working” languages. Yet without fluent English, journalists can’t understand press conferences, diplomats can’t negotiate resolutions and officials in the field can’t file reports.

Still, many of the U.N. peacekeeping missions are in Africa—and in French-speaking lands, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Mali. Too often senior U.N. officials heading these operations, while fluent in French, are not native French speakers.

At a recent session at the Consulate General of France in New York, Stephane Dujarric, director of the U.N.’s News and Media Division, said:

“So my simple answer is: learn English!

“It’s not abdicating in the face of an English tsunami. It’s about making sure you know how to swim.”

If you don’t speak and especially write English fluently you will not be hired in an international organization or you will not be able to prosper in it. Let’s recognize that in this very point in human history, English is the dominant language. Nothing lasts forever. Tomorrow it may be Mandarin and a few hundred years later Arabic. But today it’s English. That’s an indisputable fact.

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The English language in the “Asian century”
By Phan Le Ha, University world News

June 2013—Asia is seen as the future for the internationalisation of higher education, and the globalisation of English is enabling this future. Countries in Asia have therefore started to align their internationalisation strategies towards this Asia focus.

For example, Singapore’s Minister of Education Heng Swee Keat concluded in his talk at the Singapore Management University on 16 February: “Asia is going to be a critical part of our future. The more we understand what is going on in Asia, the better our future will be. We must position ourselves as a global Asian hub that connects Asia with the world.”

The internationalisation of higher education and the English language play a key role in Singapore’s endeavour to become a ‘global Asian hub’ and to identify and create ‘advantages that others find relevant’.

However, it seems that the internationalisation policies of countries and universities in Asia seldom question the global dominance of English and what consequences it may have for knowledge and scholarship building and the general well-being of Asian societies in the long run.

Let me now turn to a few interrelated issues to elaborate this problem further.

Scholars continue to raise questions related to the overemphasis on the English-only curriculum and the English-only mentality when it comes to what counts as valid knowledge and as legitimate intellectual sources in knowledge exchanges and knowledge production.

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Language authorities break rules, add “tweet” to Oxford English Dictionary
By Rosa Golijan, TODAY

June 14, 2013—Authorities on the English language — the folks behind the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), to be specific — have once again seen it fit to acknowledge the existence of some terms which techies have been mumbling (and typing) for years.

Yes, that’s right — you can finally talk about “big data,” “crowdsourcing,” “e-readers,” “mouseovers,” “redirects,” “streams,” and more without fretting that you’re using the terms in an unsanctioned manner.

And you can also use “tweet” — as a verb or a noun — to discuss social networking. “This breaks at least one OED rule, namely that a new word needs to be current for 10 years before consideration for inclusion,” John Simpson, chief editor of the OED, explains in a blog post. “But it seems to be catching on.”

It'll be a few more years before Twitter-related terms will actually meet that OED standard, of course. One of the very first tweets went out on March 21, 2006, though the service didn't truly gain popularity until the next year's South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.

Mind you, the Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) — which focuses on the current state of the English language and includes modern meanings and uses of words — has already included “tweeps” and other Twitter-related terms for quite some time.

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English wins out a global language for science, new book says

June 5, 2013—English has become the preferred language for scientific research around the globe, says a new book. But what’s good for science might be bad for literature, as the dominance of English could limit the commercial appeal of books in other languages.
English is winning out as the preferred language for scientific research around the world, proclaims author Scott L. Montgomery in the new book Does Science Need a Global Language?

And yes, science does need an international language, says Montgomery, a faculty member in the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies.

English got a boost in the global scientific community following World War II, when U.S. science was well-funded and in high gear while much of Europe languished, Montgomery said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. Languages such as French, German or Japanese would have sufficed as well, if not for accidents of history, he said.

The use of a global scientific language — English — comes with a disadvantage, Montgomery said: the possibility of bias against researchers working in other languages.

“Those without skill in this language, however excellent their research may be, are forced to inhabit a borderland, unable to participate at the core of their field and its highest levels,” he said.

In the long view, the rise of a global language for scientific research is a good thing, in Montgomery’s view, though. Marginalization of research from countries where English is not the native tongue will decline as English instruction improves, he said.

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In 5-country comparison, Thais score lowest in English skill assessment

June 12, 2013—Thai workers got the lowest average score in English skills among counterparts in Southeast Asia while Singaporean workers scored highest, according to the English Language Assessment (JELA).

The results are from the 1,540,785 people who participated in the assessment in Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Thanaporn Satitpunwaycha, country manager of Recruitment (Thailand) Co, said the assessment scores indicated that new graduates need to improve their English communication skills. This problem must be addressed, as good English skills are one of the most important factors employers are looking for in new hires.

In other words, people who have a good command of the English language will have a higher chance of getting the better jobs.

JELA consists of 40 questions randomly picked from the 1,000 questions of the programme. Singaporeans obtained the highest scores at an average of 81 per cent, followed by Filipinos at 73 per cent, Malaysians at 72 per cent, Indonesians at 59 per cent and Thais at 55 per cent.

In Thailand, people with careers in news/editorial, marketing/business development, and secretarial/executive and personal assistant got the highest average scores.

JELA participants were from many positions and levels.

It was found that entry-level employees of three or less years' experience got the lowest scores on average.

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Truly global vocabulary needs “untranslatable” Chinese terms

SHANGHAI, June 5, 2013—Most people believe that the secret to promote Chinese culture is to have as many foreigners as possible studying the Chinese language.

There is a better way.

The difference between promoting and inhibiting one’s culture often lies in “translation.” All writers should be aware of the unwritten law of “cultural property rights”: WHEN to translate, WHAT translation does, and WHERE to avoid it.

The English language is often hailed as the “international language,” but it is not the global language. In fact, the global language will have to adopt tens of thousands of non-European concepts from China, India, and Japan. The list goes on.

As I write this, great efforts are made by Chinese scholars to promote East Asian terms into the global lexicon - Chinese words like tianxia, shengren and junzi, and even the mythical long.

The reason is simple: Scientists so far may have indexed the animal and plant kingdoms, and the material world. But the taxonomization of culture has only just begun.

The main task for Chinese artists, writers, journalists, and academics (no matter how international they are), as I see it, is to choose the correct Chinese names and terms each and every time over misleading English translations. Why?

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Amid mounting costs, EU prepares to adopt its 24th official language
Public Radio International

May 24, 2013—In the European Union, every language is an official language. Government officials speak in the official language of their country, and those comments are then translated into 22, soon to be 23, other languages. All of that costs $1.4 billion per year — and that total will increase when Croatian becomes an official language later this year.

The Treaty of Rome in 1957 founded what is now the European Union, and was supposed to be the beginning of the end of nationalism in Europe.

But over a half-century later, walking through any of the EU buildings in Brussels, it feels like nationalism never went away.

Officially, deputies and delegates will only speak in their national languages, as a matter of principle. Attending them is a small army of translators and interpreters who assure their message is translated into the languages of the rest of the union — at a current cost of $1.4 billion per year.

The big irony, though, is that once they are away from the podium or the microphone, and they are hanging out with other European bureaucrats by the water cooler, they comfortably switch into English, the de facto lingua franca of the union.

You might wonder then, when most, if not all, EU bureaucrats master English, what’s the point in maintaining 23 official languages, especially at such expense? Why not just use a single language and, what’s more, why not use the language all EU bureaucrats master — English?

“It’s tempting of course. With English you get through everywhere in the whole world,” said Andrea Dahman, head of communications for the Translation Unit of the European Commission. “On the other hand, I’m always saying, if you want to do business you’ve got to speak the language of the client.”

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France debating the wisdom of teaching courses in English
By Eleanor Beardsley,

May 25, 2013—Will teaching in English at France’s universities undermine the French language? That’s up for debate in the country now, and the argument is heated.

The lower house of parliament approved a measure Thursday that would allow courses to be taught in English, something that is currently against the law.

Those in favor of the proposal say it will attract more international students and improve English language skills of French students. But opponents say the move will only impoverish and marginalize the country’s tongue.

In the National Assembly this week, Genevieve Fioraso, the minister for higher education, explained why she believes universities need to start teaching English.

“We need to be able to welcome students from emerging countries like Korea, India and Brazil, to study science, economics and technology,” she said. “And they don’t come to France now because of the language barrier.”

On the other side of the fight, parliamentarian Daniel Fasquelle tried to shock his colleagues by speaking English.

“And my question is clearly, shall we speak English in this French Parliament one day?” he asked.

Fasquelle and other opponents of the measure say if science and technology are taught in English, the French language will lose vocabulary and gradually cease to be a modern, living language.

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English-French bilingualism in Canada’s population drops

TORONTO, May 29, 2013 (AP)—The bilingual English-French portion of Canada’s population is on the decline, as the number of immigrants whose first language is neither English nor French grows, the country’s statistics agency said.

Statistics Canada reported this week that English-French bilingualism declined over the past decade to 17.5 percent of Canada’s population, down from 17.7 percent. It was the first drop in the five decades that the government has tracked the statistic.

English and French are Canada’s official languages. In 1969, the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau passed the Official Languages Act, making government services available in both languages across Canada.

The agency noted that outside of French-speaking Quebec, the proportion of primary and secondary school students enrolled in French courses has declined, while the number of immigrants whose mother tongue was neither English nor French has increased.

“Canada as a country welcomes 250,000 immigrants every year and it is impossible to maintain the same level of French-English bilingualism when you are welcoming that number of newcomers every year,” Canada’s commissioner of official languages Graham Fraser said Wednesday.

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Japan to bolster teaching in English in 30 universities
By John Ross, The Australian

May 20, 2013—About 30 Japanese universities will teach in English, under reforms advocated by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s education reform panel.

The Japan Times has reported that Toshiaki Endo, head of the panel, will push to have some of its proposals included in the LDP’s campaign pledges for July’s upper house election.

The university proposal is part of a suite of policies to bolster English language levels, adopted by the panel in April.

The 30 universities would enter student exchange partnerships with overseas colleges, and would conduct more than half of their lectures in English.

The government would support another 100 universities to develop “special education programs for practical English”, the newspaper reported.

Under the proposals, the Test of English as a Foreign Language would be mandatory both for enrolment and graduation from public universities. Enrolment would require scores of at least 45, while English teachers would need at least 80.

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How the English language is, like, changing

May 28, 2013—A UK child is likely to say the word ‘like’ five times as much as his or her grandparents, language researchers say.

The word “love” is used more than six times as often as “hate,” while “save” is used with “money” twice as often as the word “spend.”

The research, which is part of the Cambridge English Corpus – a database of two billion words and thousands of hours of recordings – shows a marked decline in the correct use of grammar.

The study found that MPs and other public figures are speaking more informally, with words like “gonna” being used instead of “going to.”

Brian Sewell, the art critic, and historian David Starkey are shown to use formal English, in contrast to Janet Street-Porter and footballer David Beckham, who use colloquial speech.

Street-Porter responded to the study by writing in the Daily Mail: “Listen to Alan Sugar, David Beckham or Adele and it’s obvious that sounding downmarket no longer holds you back in life… Am I bovvered? Hardly – my grammar, when written, is pretty damn good.”

The Corpus also highlighted the most commonly misspelled words in the English language by global learners.

These are “because” (“becouse”), “which” (“wich”), “accommodation” (“accomodation”), “advertisement” (“advertisment”), and “beautiful” (“beatiful”).

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France’s prime minister orders colleagues to stop using English

April 30, 2013—France’s Prime Minister has ordered his cabinet to stop using English after two colleagues named a new proposal the “silver economy.”

Jean-Marc Ayrault wrote a sternly worded letter telling ministers: “The language of the republic is French.”

The PM’s edict comes after the French culture ministry to issued a list of English words to be banned from their language, including “email,” “blog,” “supermodel,” “take-away,” and “low-cost airline.”

Now Mr. Ayrault has told ministers: “Our language is able to express every contemporary reality, and describe innovations that are constantly being born in the areas of science and technology.

“French has been inscribed in the constitution since 1992 as the language of administration and of the courts.”

The “Silver Economy” is a plan being proposed by industry minister Arnaud Montebourg and pensioners’ minister Michele Delaunay to group together all businesses related to older generations.

One of their advisers attempted to justify the now-forbidden term saying: “The English term seems to us most appropriate for a sector planning to expand exports.”

In January, France’s official language police, the Academie Francaise, called for the French to stop using the words “hashtag” and “cloud computing.”

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California educators sued to improve English language education

LOS ANGELES, April 25 (AP)—About 20,000 students in California who need to learn English aren’t getting adequate language instruction, according to a lawsuit against the state and education workers filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under state and federal law, schools are required to teach non-English speakers the language, but by its own records, the state isn’t offering English instruction to nearly 20,000 students. The suit alleges that lack of instruction has meant some children had to be held back a grade or live with low proficiency scores because of a language barrier.

The ACLU brought the issue to the attention of the state with a letter in January, and officials say they’re working to ensure compliance at the local level.

Attorney Mark Rosenbaum said in Wednesday’s filing that English learners fall behind without proper language lessons, even as school districts collect federal funds for providing such education.

“These kids are not getting the differentiated learning they’re supposed to be getting,” Rosenbaum said.

Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Zeiger said in a statement that the state is determined to provide English learners appropriate instruction and encouraged parents to bring problems to the state’s attention.

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Business English: Who’s number 1? Really?
By R.L.G.,

NEW YORK, April 24, 2013—What country's non-native English-speakers speak the best business English in the world? Try to think of five countries before reading on.

Done? The answer, according to GlobalEnglish, is probably not what you think. (GlobalEnglish is owned by Pearson, which part-owns The Economist).


Remember that the survey tested non-native speakers, so don’t be too distracted by the placement of the Anglophone countries. Still, Global English’s results are very strange. If you thought that the Philippines has the best business English in the world, and that Germany would miss the top 25, you haven’t had the same work and travel experiences I have.

Global English says this about its Business English Index:

The GOE [Globalisation of English] and BEI [Business English Index] together give us a complete picture of the trends, achievements and challenges in business communication and the importance of Business English in the workplace.

If this is a complete picture, we have a genuine stop-the-presses moment here: Madagascar, Bulgaria and Romania well ahead of Denmark, Switzerland and Germany?  Spain just behind Angola? If this doesn’t violate your common sense about the relative quality of English around the world, look at a few neighboring and demographically similar countries. Slovenia miles ahead of Slovakia and the Czech Republic? Argentina and Uruguay leagues ahead of Chile?

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Bitter war against the English language intensifies in Quebec
By Hillary Brenhouse, Time Magazine

MONTREAL, April 8, 2013—To live in Quebec is to become accustomed to daily reminders that French in the Canadian province is the most regulated language in the world. Try, as I did recently, to shop at Anthropologie online and you’ll come up empty-handed. The retail chain (which bears a French name) opened its first Montreal boutique in October, but “due to the Charter of the French Language” has had its site shut down: “We hope you’ll visit us in store!”

Montreal’s transit authority maintains that under the present language law, its ticket takers must operate in French, which lately has spurred complaints from passengers. Last year, the city of Montreal erected 60 English safety signs nearby Anglophone schools in an effort to slow passing vehicles. The Quebec Board of the French Language and its squad of inspectors ordered that they be taken down; a snowy drive through town revealed that all had been replaced by French notices.

Since the Parti Québécois (PQ), which calls for national sovereignty for Quebec, won a minority government in September, the reminders have become increasingly less subtle. In February, a language inspector cited the swank supper club Buonanotte, which occupies a stretch of St. Laurent Boulevard, Montreal’s cultural and commercial artery, for using Italian words like pasta on its otherwise French menu. The ensuing scandal, which has come to be known as “pastagate,” took social media by storm. “These are problems we had in the 1980s,” says restaurant owner Massimo Lecas. “They were over and done with; we could finally concentrate on the economy and fixing potholes. And then this new government brought them all back. These issues might never go away now, and that is a scary sort of future.”

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The number of English-speaking imams in Britain is rising at last

LONDON, April 13, 2013—On Fridays about 6,000 men and women gather for prayers at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel. They are a diverse bunch: Algerian, Bangladeshi, Indian, Moroccan, Pakistani, Somali, South African. The mosque’s imams preach every sermon three times, in different languages. They are now looking for a new imam to join them. Among the requirements are that he be British-born and speak English.

The Muslims who came to Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly from Bangladesh and Pakistan, brought their religious leaders with them. Few spoke English, nor did the government require them to do so. Stranded in the smokestack towns of northern England, struggling to decode the broad local accents, Muslims found comfort in hearing their mother tongues at the local mosque.

That is now changing. Nobody knows exactly how many imams there are in Britain, let alone what languages they speak. But Muslim leaders such as Ibrahim Mogra, a Leicester imam and senior member of the Muslim Council of Britain, say that the number of English-speakers is growing. And fewer preachers are coming from abroad, he reckons.

Official pressure is one reason. In 2006, the year after Islamist suicide-bombers killed 52 other people in London, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board was established to develop standards on issues such as the accreditation of imams. A government review published in 2010 concluded that imams were not equipped to help young British Muslims cope with problems such as unemployment, racism and drugs. It suggested better accreditation and more thorough training in subjects beyond theology. The visa regime has gradually tightened and English language requirements have been introduced for those who wish to enter Britain specifically as religious ministers.

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China officials call for reform of English language assessments

March 22, 2013—Chinese political advisers have called for reforms of the English language testing system to make it more effective in cultivating actual language ability.

“Currently, the English testing system in China puts too much pressure on students to get high marks and ignores the development of their comprehensive language capabilities,” said Yang Xueyi, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee member and Party chief of Beijing Foreign Studies University.

“Some changes in the evaluation procedures of English examinations are necessary for the sound development of the national English education system,” he said.

Yang said the English component in the National College Entrance Examination for senior high school students, or gaokao, should diversify its evaluation criteria to get a more objective assessment of the students' English abilities.

“For English, the students' daily achievements in studying the language should be taken into account, instead of judging their ability with just one test,” said Yang, who is also a professor of English language and literature.

He pointed out that one of the biggest challenges in developing English education in China is a traditional lack of emphasis on spoken English.

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Japan takes aim at English education, seeks to boost TOEFL levels

March 29, 2013—The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is on a quest to reform the educational system in order to foster global talent to reverse the nation’s declining competitiveness on the world stage, and English-language studies have been especially targeted for improvement.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to spend ¥1 trillion to create a “globalized” workforce via educational reforms.

A key component will be English education. Abe set a goal to double the number of doctorates in the language to 35,000 and distribute tablet computers to all students from elementary school to high school by 2020 in a bid to rejuvenate science studies.

The LDP plan would mandate that people reach or exceed a threshold in scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to gain college admission and graduation, and to qualify for government jobs.

The LDP’s education revitalization headquarters sought approval Thursday from its member lawmakers before submitting the plan to Abe on Monday, but some lawmakers argued that high TOEFL scores do not necessarily equate with English fluency.

“Mandating (certain TOEFL scores for) all Japanese college (students) sounds to me like colonial policy,” said one LDP lawmaker who is against the introduction of the tests administered by an American company. “We should instead teach Japanese history and culture.”

In 2010, Japan’s average score TOEFL iBT score was 69 — among the worst three out of 33 Asian countries. The LDP plan would require that students at 30 select colleges score 90 to graduate and mandate that all high school students score 45 or better to earn a diploma.

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English language debated, faces uncertain future in Quebec with proposed rules
By Nadine Kalinauskas, Daily Brew

QUWBWC, March 22, 2013—Pauline Marois' proposed Bill 14, the first substantial revision of Bill 101, Quebec's 1977 Charter of the French language, has sparked a language crisis in the province.

Bill 14 contains a whopping 155 proposed amendments to the Charter of the French Language, all of which are designed to enable francophones to never have to speak a non-French language as long as they reside within Quebec's borders. Bilingualism will be a thing of the past.
Barbara Kay outlines what she considers “a pathological attack on the sin of speaking English” in the National Post:

“To this end Bill 14 would co-opt all public institutions, municipalities, school boards, unions, private enterprises and even ordinary Quebecers as participants and – not to put too fine a point on it – occasional spies in the great common project of suppressing English. That the project would radically diminish the freedoms and quality of life of non-francophones seems irrelevant, perhaps even a matter of satisfaction, to this government,” she writes.

She lists some of the proposed amendments by the Parti Quebecois:

1. English-speaking members of the Armed Forces living in Quebec temporarily will lose their right to send their children to English schools. Language Minister Diane de Courcy calls this current provision a loophole for people to use to bypass the French education system, something she wants to put an end to.

2. Municipalities with less than 50 per cent anglophone residents will lose their bilingual status.
“French as a common language is a noble, unifying objective. Apparently some Anglophones in these municipalities think that if they want to buy a bus ticket they should be able to buy it in English…can't they even use French that much?” Charles Castonguay, a member of Syndicalistes et progressistes pour un Québec libre, said at a hearing on Wednesday.

3. Employers will be required to justify their need for employees who speak any language other than French — and risk being sued by employees required to speak English.
On Thursday night, during a two-hour long panel on the future of English in Quebec, notable Quebecois raised their voices in heated debate.

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English-language studies “destructive” to China’s education, says Chinese official
March 13, 2013—The head of a national research institute in China said English-language studies were “destructive” to education, which is facing an “unprecedented crisis.”

Schools are placing too much emphasis on English, said Zhang Shuhua, head of the Intelligence Research Academy, adding that language studies should be treated as a means for social reform and development, but, instead, they are seen as an end.

He called it putting the cart before the horse. Zhang made the remarks on Monday at a discussion session during an annual gathering of China’s political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Zhang said many students with good academic performance have been blocked from universities because of poor English test scores, government news portal reported on Monday.

He added that recent “English enthusiasm” in China has taken up a large chunk of educational resources, at a high cost but with little gains.

Zhang argued it was “absolutely unnecessary” to impose English-language studies on students who pursue professions in Chinese medicine, ancient Chinese language, Chinese history and others that do not require the use of a foreign language.

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English-language invasion troubles Finnish academia

FINLAND, March 3, 2013—Today more and more university courses are being offered in English but not everyone’s happy about the development, which is seen as undermining Finland’s official languages.

“It’s hard to say what will happen if English continues to take over,” said Taina Saarinen, who researches languages in higher education at Jyväskylä University.

Saarinen calls the phenomenon—which is also being seen in the other Nordics—”anglophone asymmetry”.

“We’re small countries who want to use attractive English-language programmes to draw in foreign students and researchers,” she explained.

Nowadays it’s not uncommon for Finnish researchers to only publish scholarly papers in English.

Given the dominant role of English in the wider academic world, wouldn’t switching to English make sense?

Not according to Pirkko Nuolijärvi, who advocates on behalf of the country’s two official languages.

“It’s important that both languages are used in academic circles. If we don’t, we may start losing words and expressions, which will lead to impoverished vocabularies in daily life, too,” said Nuolijärvi, who heads the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland.

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New Folio Prize opens for all English-language fiction published in UK

LONDON, March 13, 2013—A new literary prize is hoping to beat the Booker to the title of Britain’s most prestigious fiction award—in part by including Americans.

Unlike the Booker Prize, which is open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers, organizers said Wednesday the new Folio Prize will be open to any English-language writer whose work has been published in Britain.

The Folio Prize will hand out its inaugural 40,000 pound ($60,000) purse in March 2014.

The award was set up by a group of writers, publishers and agents amid debate over whether the 44-year-old Booker Prize is guilty of dumbing down. Recent Booker winners have included relatively best-selling authors such as Hilary Mantel and Julian Barnes, leading to criticism that edgier voices are being overlooked.

The new prize is named for its sponsor, publisher The Folio Society.

The prize rules state that each year a panel of five judges will be drawn by lot from a 100-strong Folio Academy of “highly respected, award-winning writers and critics from across the globe.” It’s a high-profile group, dotted with Booker and Pulitzer winners, that includes novelists Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Peter Carey, Mohsin Hamid, Junot Diaz and Salman Rushdie.

The five judges will include three members from Britain and two from elsewhere, and can contain no more than three men or three women.

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Germany’s president advocating English as EU’s official language

BERLIN, February 22, 2013—Germany’s president has called for English to be made the language of the European Union as he appealed to the UK to stay in the EU.

Joachim Gauck earned applause for his remarks, made in Berlin on Friday in a speech on Europe’s future at a time of rising German skepticism towards Brussels.

“Dear English, Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish and new British citizens, we want to continue having you on board,” he said. “We need your experience as the oldest parliamentary democracy, we need your traditions, your sober-mindedness and your courage.”

He said that to encourage a greater sense of commonality, Europe needed a common language as well as encouraging multilingualism. “I am convinced that, in Europe, both can live side by side,” he said. “The sense of being at home in your mother tongue, with all its poetry, as well as a workable English for all of life’s situations and all age groups.”

Appealing to Britons’ sense of historical responsibility he emphasized the formative role the UK had played in founding modern Europe by its fight against Nazi Germany; if only for that reason, he said, the UK had an important role to play.

“You helped to save our Europe with your engagement in the second world war – it is also your Europe, and more Europe cannot mean a Europe without you. Only with you can we tackle the future.”

The remarks, which took up two minutes of his hour-long speech, followed David Cameron’s pledge to call a referendum on Britain’s EU relationship, a prospect that has caused much consternation and criticism in Berlin.

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English teenagers “worst in Europe” at languages
By Andrew Marszal,

February 15, 2013—British teenagers are trapped in a “vicious circle of monolingualism”, a report warned yesterday as figures showed English youngsters are among the worst in Europe at foreign languages.

Teenagers in 14 different European countries were tested on their ability to speak the first foreign language taught in schools, which for England was French.

In reading, writing and listening tests, English pupils were ranked bottom.

The study suggests youngsters are lagging far behind their European peers, with many unable to understand more than basic words or phrases.

Just 11 per cent of English pupils studying French were considered “independent users” in writing – the lowest in Europe for a first foreign language. In comparison, across all countries, two-fifths of students were at this level.

Only 9.2 per cent were ranked in the top category for French reading – again, the lowest in Europe for a first foreign language.

The highest performers overall, based on reading, listening and writing skills, were Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands, the research found.

But France, where students’ English skills were tested, also performed badly, perfoming second-worst in all three disciplines.

The study, conducted as part of the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC) was released on the same day a new report from the British Academy found that the UK’s poor foreign language skills were hurting the economy.

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Why speaking English can make you poor when you retire
By Tim Bowler, BBC News

February 23, 2013—Could the language we speak skew our financial decision-making, and does the fact that you’re reading this in English make you less likely than a Mandarin speaker to save for your old age?

It is a controversial theory which has been given some weight by new findings from a Yale University behavioral economist, Keith Chen.

Prof. Chen says his research proves that the grammar of the language we speak affects both our finances and our health.

Bluntly, he says, if you speak English you are likely to save less for your old age, smoke more and get less exercise than if you speak a language like Mandarin, Yoruba or Malay.

Prof. Chen divides the world’s languages into two groups, depending on how they treat the concept of time.

Strong future-time reference languages (strong FTR) require their speakers to use a different tense when speaking of the future. Weak future-time reference (weak FTR) languages do not.

“If I wanted to explain to an English-speaking colleague why I can’t attend a meeting later today, I could not say ‘I go to a seminar’, English grammar would oblige me to say ‘I will go, am going, or have to go to a seminar’.

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Polish is second most-spoken language in England and Wales

LONDON, February 1, 2013—Polish is the second-most spoken language in England and Wales, figures from the 2011 census have revealed, followed by Punjabi and Urdu.

More than 92 per cent of residents spoke English as their main language, and most of the rest spoke it well, although 138,000 residents—less than 0.5 per cent—did not speak English at all, the Office for National Statistics said.

One per cent, or 546,000 people, listed Polish as their main language, a reflection of the wave of eastern European migrants who moved to Britain after the enlargement of the European Union in 2004.

This week the former prime minister Tony Blair was given an award by Polish business leaders for opening the British labour market to Poland during his decade in office from 1997 to 2007.

Polish speakers were concentrated in London, which unsurprisingly had the highest proportion of non-native English speakers. Twenty-two per cent, or 1.7 million people, listed a main language other than English in the capital.

The figures are likely to fuel a row over immigration from Bulgaria and Romania, as the British government prepares for the lifting of controls on new EU arrivals at the end of the year.

Nationwide, Punjabi was the third most common language, spoken by 273,000 people or 0.5 per cent, concentrated in the West Midlands, where it is the second most popular language.

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Hong Kong trails rival Singapore in students’ English skills

HONG KONG, February 3, 2013—Every Saturday afternoon Cindy Tse takes her eight-year-old son to a private class near his school, where he joins other children for two hours under the guidance of an expatriate teacher.

“We want to increase his chances of listening and talking in English, as he goes to a Chinese-medium school,” says the doting mother.

Many others like her spare no efforts in brushing up their children’s language skills—and not just in English. Demand for Putonghua teachers is soaring as China’s clout in the global economy increases.

Since 2009, the Education Bureau has delivered HK$10 million under a special grant to 47 schools to promote six languages other than Chinese and English - Urdu, Hindi, German, Japanese, French and Spanish.

About 15,000 people study French in Hong Kong in primary, secondary and tertiary education classes, with private tutors, at private centres or at the Alliance Francaise—a global institute promoting French language and culture. The French consul said last year that French had become Hong Kong’s fourth language.

But while it has long been a key goal of the government to foster bilingualism in Hong Kong, the language skills of the city’s young people have become a cause of significant concern.

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The five most persuasive words in the English language
By Gregory Ciotti,

December 12, 2012—When it comes to assembling persuasive copy, like any other construction job, you need to rely on your skills, experience, and toolbox.

The toolbox of the writer is filled with words.

In defining what I believe is a critical element of crafting effective copy, I’ll make my case by amending the famous quote from Animal Farm: “All words are equal, but some words are more equal than others.”

And there are certain power words that hold more sway over our decision-making process than others. You might be surprised to find that these “power words” don’t seem ... well, all that powerful.

This speaks to just how damned efficient they are. Simple language is crystal-clear language, and these words make it clear just what you want your reader to do.

And you might be surprised just how effective these deceptively simple words can be.

I’ve listed these words below (along with studies related to their power) that will show you how to speak more persuasively to your audience.

[The words are, according to the author, “you,” “free,” “because,” “instantly,” and “new.”]

Warning: I can’t stress enough—just as in the application of writing headlines that work -- you must understand why these words are persuasive, and you must use them in the contexts that make sense for your audience and your business. If you just start slapping them on every piece of content you create for no apparent reason, you’ll quickly see just how unpersuasive they can be.

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Top 10 best U.S. universities in English language and literature

IRELAND, December 28, 2012—The English language is universal. If you know how to speak and write it well, there is a greater chance you’d be understood by people you meet even in non-English-speaking regions or countries. The thing is more and more people learn the language each day and as technology evolves, people are given easy access to tools they could use to learn to either speak, write or both.

Students majoring English Language and Literature can pursue careers in journalism, education and even technical. One of the countries people can learn correct English is the United States for two reasons; (1) English is the primary language and (2) there are many universities and colleges offering English Language and Literature courses. Here are 10 of them…

Harvard University. Being America’s first institution of higher learning, it is expected to excel in almost all curriculum. Many of the most successful personalities in print media, television and the internet come from Harvard. Based on the data presented by US News, the university comes with an overall score of 85.3 with academic reputation of 84.0.

Yale University. It is one of the most successful universities. It never stopped growing and expanding ever since it was founded in year 1701. It is ranked second after Harvard University because it has an overall score of 82.4 and academic reputation of 81.4.

University of California, Berkeley. Widely known as “Cal,” the university is popular for the size and quality of its laboratories and library, the scope of its research and publications, and the distinction of its faculty and students. With 81.1 as its overall score and academic reputation of 81.2, it is the closest rival of Yale.

Columbia University. It is one of the most important centers of research while being a good learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students. Columbia University comes with an overall score of 81.0 and academic reputation of 80.8.

Stanford University. Founded in 1885, Stanford is one of the leading educational and research institutions in the United States. An overall score of 79.2 and an academic reputation of 78.0 put the university on the fifth place in this list.

Princeton University. It is the fourth oldest university in the U.S. and considered one of the most historic universities. In 1783, Nasau Hall, which is located inside its campus, was the temporary capitol of the United States. Ranking data put it in the sixth place in this list for it has an academic score of 77.7 and overall score of 78.0.

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Learn English online: How the Internet is changing language
By Jane O’Brien, BBC News Magazine

December 14, 2012—Online, English has become a common language for users from around the world. In the process, the language itself is changing.

When America emerged from the ashes of a bruising war with Britain in 1814, the nation was far from united. Noah Webster thought that a common language would bring people together and help create a new identity that would make the country truly independent of the British.

Webster’s dictionary, now in its 11th edition, adopted the Americanised spellings familiar today - er instead of re in theatre, dropping the u from colour, and losing the double l from words such as traveller. It also documented new words that were uniquely American such as skunk, opossum, hickory, squash and chowder.

An American Dictionary of the English Language took 18 years to complete and Webster learned 26 other languages in order to research the etymology of its 70,000 entries.

The internet is creating a similar language evolution, but at a much faster pace.

There are now thought to be some 4.5 billion web pages worldwide. And with half the population of China now on line, many of them are written in Chinese.

Still, some linguists predict that within 10 years English will dominate the internet - but in forms very different to what we accept and recognise as English today.

That’s because people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the internet where less attention is paid to grammar and spelling and users don’t

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“Apocalypse” dominates the English language in 2012

December 27, 2012—“Apocalypse” is the most popular English word on the planet, at least according to the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based research group that uses computer tracking technology to follow the frequency of actual word and phrase usage across 275,000 print, online and social media sources on five continents.

The choice “reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it. This year the Mayan Apocalypse was well noted, but some eight of the top words and phrases were directly related to a sense of impending doom,” said Paul JJ Payack, president of the group.

“These included apocalypse, Bak’tun, Frankenstorm, global warming, climate change, God Particle, rogue nukes, solar max, near-Earth asteroid,” he explains. Even fleeting references to the U.S. presidential elections references such as “Obamageddon” or “Romneygeddon” come into play, he says.

No. 2 on the word list? It’s “deficit,” Mr. Payack advises.

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Professors claim English descended from Scandinavia, not Anglo-Saxon

November 30, 2012—Two leading Professors have rejected the idea that English descends from Anglo-Saxon, and instead claim they have proof that its origin derives from Scandinavia.

Professor of linguistics Jan Terje Faarlund from the University of Oslo and his colleague Professor Joseph Emmonds, from Palacký University in the Czech Republic, believe that English comes from the Northern Germanic language group, just like Norwegian. This breaks with other language researchers and the rest of the world, who believe that English descends directly from Old English.

Professor Faarlund says, “Modern English is a direct descendant of the language of Scandinavians who settled in the British Isles in the course of many centuries, before the French-speaking Normans conquered the country in 1066.”

He points out that Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is a West Germanic language, which the Angles and Saxons brought with them from northern Germany and southern Jylland when they settled in the British Isles in the fifth century.

The Professor continues, “Old English and Modern English are two very different languages. Why? We believe it is because Old English quite simply died out while Scandinavian survived, albeit strongly influenced of course by Old English.”

While many native English-speakers struggle to learn Norwegian, Professor Faarlund believes it’s no coincidence that Scandinavians, especially Norwegians, learn English relatively easily. He says: “It’s true that many of the English words resemble our own (in Norwegian, for example). But there is more behind it. Even the fundamental structure of the language is amazingly similar to Norwegian. We often avoid mistakes that others (speaking other languages) make in English, because the grammar is much the same.”

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English test creates workplace risks, says Australian nursing federation

November 30, 2012—Patients are at risk because some foreign nurses have poor English skills, the nurses’ union warns.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation claims a flawed English language test is responsible for unnecessary workplace risks and has called for it to be scrapped and replaced by one focused on testing language used in the workplace.

“It is not beneficial for the patients, colleagues, or that person to be floundering in an environment that is fast-paced because they are struggling with their English communication,” the federation's state secretary Elizabeth Dabars said.

 “There could be particularly unfortunate consequences and people who make mistakes have to live with that for the rest of their lives.”

The International English Language Testing System was adopted by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia in July 2010.

It requires a seven out of 10 pass mark in each of the listening, reading, writing and speaking tests.

The system is used as a test for “entry into an academic institution,” according to its website.

Examples of the tests include answering questions about an essay on introducing dung beetles into a pasture and answering questions after listening to a verbal description of how to send a package by ship.

New research by the Adelaide University Nursing School into the language test found foreign nurses whose secondary schooling was in English  such as in the Philippines  had a lower pass mark (17.7 per cent) than those who didn't, such as China (18.5 per cent).

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How trench talk from WW1 entrenched the English language

LONDON, November 26 (ANI)—In a new study, researchers have revealed the impact the First World War had on the English language and the words it introduced.

The new research has shown how the conflict meant that hundreds of words and phrases came into common parlance thanks to the trenches.

Among the list of everyday terms found to have originated or spread from the conflict are cushy, snapshot, bloke, wash out, conk out, blind spot, binge drink and pushing up daisies.

The research has been conducted by Peter Doyle, a military historian, and Julian Walker, an etymologist, who have analysed thousands of documents from the period - including letters from the front, trench newspapers, diaries, books and official military records - to trace how language changed during the four years of the war.

They found that the war brought military slang into the mainstream, imported French and even German words to English and saw words from local dialects become part of national conversation.

“The war was a melting plot of classes and nationalities, with people thrown together under conditions of stress,” the Telegraph quoted Walker, who works at the British Library, as saying.
“It was a very creative time for language. Soldiers have always had a genius for slang and coming up with terms.

“This was a citizen army—and also the first really literate army—and at the end of the war, those that survived took their new terms back to the general population,” he said.

The results of the research are included in a new book Trench Talk: Words of the First World War, which documents how new words and phrases originated, while others were spread from an earlier, narrow context, to gain new, wider meanings.

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Most European languages unlikely to survive online, says report

A new study warns that less-common languages are in danger of disappearing from the Internet.

Tongues including Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese simply have too few speakers to gain a foothold, and too few examples online to power translation engines. While they are among those with the highest risk for digital extinction, no language — other than English — is safe.

Even Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish were shown to have no better than “moderate support,” when it came to resources to fuel increasingly sophisticated technology such as speech-to-text and voice-controlled devices.

The study, “Europe’s Languages in the Digital Age,” was carried out by META-NET, a European nonprofit that aims to future-proof at least 30 of the 80 languages spoken in Europe. META-NET has designated Sept. 26 as The European Day of Languages.

The researchers assessed language technology software, including spell and grammar checkers, virtual personal assistants such as Siri on the iPhone, online translators such as Google Translate and car navigation systems to see how well languages are represented digitally.

Languages are often automatically translated by comparing each new sentence against thousands of sentences previously translated by people and stored in a database. The better the match, the more accurate the result. But statistical methods are doomed to fail in the case of languages with smaller pools of sample data, the study said.

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Language teaching on the rise, English still dominates

September 25, 2012—An increasing number of students are taught foreign languages in European schools, according to a new report.

From 2005 to 2010, the percentage of students enrolled in primary education in a European school and learning a foreign language rose from 67.5% to 79.2%.

This is one of the conclusions in the newly released report Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 by Eurydice and Eurostat, produced in cooperation with the European Commission.

The survey, which covers 15 educational systems in Europe, also found that while the age of students starting to learn a foreign language has decreased, the amount of time taught has not significantly increased.

“Taught time dedicated to foreign languages is rather low compared to other subjects,” the report stated.

In Europe, students are generally between 6 and 9 years old when they have to start learning a foreign language. In Belgium, children in the German-speaking community are even younger and start their first foreign language in pre-primary education from the age of 3.

Many other countries have in recent years introduced reforms which begin foreign language classes at an earlier age.

In the majority of European countries, learning two foreign languages for at least one year during compulsory education is an obligation for all students.

On average, 60.8% of students enrolled in lower secondary education in Europe were learning two or more foreign languages in the school year 2009/10 compared to 46.7% in the year 2004/05.

English is still by far the most taught foreign language in nearly all countries from primary level and onwards. Overall, English is a mandatory language in 14 countries or regions within countries.

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Chinese Internet users to overtake English language users by 2015
By Conrad Quilty-Harper,

The number of internet users accessing the web in Chinese is set to overtake English language users by 2015, according to a report by the UN Broadband Commission.

In May 2011, there were 565 million English internet users, compared to 510 million Chinese users, representing 27 per cent and 24 per cent of total global internet users, respectively.

The report predicts that if current growth rates continue, Chinese will overtake English as the main language used by internet users in 2015.

This switch is largely due to China’s massive population, now over 1.3 billion people.
Just under 40 per cent of people in China use the internet, compared to 82 per cent in the United Kingdom, and 78 in the United States.

Internet adoption in China is happening with a stronger emphasis on mobile phones. Nearly half of all smartphones are now sold in China, but only 12 out of every 100 individuals have a fixed broadband subscription.

The report ranks every country on various different measures of connectivity, including households with internet access, the number of individuals who use the internet, and the number of mobile and fixed broadband lines.

Nearly 2.26 billion people, a third of the world’s population, were using the internet by the end of 2011. By 2016 this number is expected to rise to 40 per cent, or 3 billion people, thanks in large part to the widespread adoption of mobile internet usage.

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Hong Kong loves weird English names
By Joyce Man,

HONG KONG, October 1, 2012—Devil. Whale. Chlorophyll, Violante, Treacle—you name it, Hong Kong probably has someone who goes by it. The former British colony is obsessed with weird English names.

Unusual appellations have been found on people of all kinds. The secretary for justice is Rimsky Yuen and the previous secretary for food and health was York Chow. Among celebrities, there is a Fanny Sit, Moses Chan, and Dodo Cheng. Models? We have a Vibeke, Bambi, Dada, and Vonnie. But lawyers take the prize. There is a Magnum, John Baptist, Ludwig, Ignatius, Bunny and four -- yes, four -- Benedicts.

Odd names make for odder situations. Last July, police arrested a woman named Ice Wong with 460 grams of ice—the drug, not frozen water. Months earlier, the law caught up with Devil Law when he was brought before a judge for drug possession and crashing his car into a bus. In 2010, a woman called Cash Leung was jailed for paying cabbies with fake cash.

There are so many examples that one blogger keeps a list titled “HKSAR Name of the Day.” HKSAR Blog, which is in its third year running, has almost 2,000 entries in the list.

Linguistics experts say English names, including unusual ones that would not be found in Western English-speaking countries, are becoming more prevalent, though they cannot pinpoint when the trend began.

“There are no signs of abating,” said David Li, a professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education's department of linguistics and modern language studies. “There are more and more exotic or unusual names if one cares to collect and document them.”

The immigration department, the government body overseeing identification registration, does not compile statistics on categories of names, but a cursory inspection suggests the experts may be right…

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Scholars upset with Modern Chinese Dictionary for including English phrases

August 30, 2012 (VoANews)—A group of scholars in China is calling for the removal of English words from a respected Chinese dictionary, saying their presence is harming the purity of the Chinese language.

China’s Xinhua news agency says the scholars have signed a petition arguing that the latest edition of the Modern Chinese Dictionary violates Chinese law by including 239 English words and acronyms.

Fu Zhenguo, a journalist who signed the petition, told Xinhua that if Chinese people continue to use English abbreviations such as “ATM” or “GDP,” they will eventually be speaking “a bizarre mixture of Chinese and English,” known by some as “Chinglish.”

The editor of the dictionary, Jiang Lansheng, tells the Shanghai Daily she does not want to replace Chinese words, but is only trying to make it easier for people to understand English phrases that are already commonly used in China.

It is not the first time that the dictionary has included English phrases. In its previous edition, the Modern Chinese Dictionary defined more than 120 English words. An earlier edition published in 1996 reportedly contained just 39 such terms.

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English standards in UK universities being set below recommended levels
By David Matthews,

LONDON, August 23, 2012—Nearly two in three UK universities are setting English language requirements below the recommended level for undergraduate students from outside the European Union, according to aTimes Higher Education survey.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which is one of the most commonly used tests and is partly owned by the British Council, recommends that a score of at least 6.5 is needed for any degree course.

Yet 58 of the 88 universities that responded to a THE Freedom of Information request say that their “standard minimum” requirement for undergraduates is 6.0, which IELTS says is “probably acceptable” for students on “linguistically demanding” training courses such as air traffic control, but not academic programmes.

The University of West London, Queen Margaret University and Glyndwr University have minimum entry requirements of 5.5, which IELTS says is “probably acceptable” for “less linguistically demanding training courses” in subjects such as animal husbandry and fire services.

Standards are higher for postgraduates, with no university accepting a score of 5.5, but 39 respondents say their minimum is 6.0.

However, many institutions point out that for some linguistically demanding subjects such as law or journalism, the entry requirements are higher at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Geoffrey Alderman, professor of history and politics at the University of Buckingham and a critic of standards in UK universities, said he thought that some institutions were setting English requirements “deliberately low in order not to discourage students.”

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