Jose Carillo's Forum


Global business English skills declining, 2011 research shows
By Stephanie Overby, CIO US
April 6, 2012—The language barrier has always been a concern for IT leaders sending corporate technology projects and support overseas. And the issue may not be abating, according to the results of an online business English placement test recently given to 108,000 employees around the world.

GlobalEnglish—a Brisbane, Calif.-based provider of on-demand English language instruction to customers including Cisco, Procter & Gamble and GM—analyzed the results of testing done at 216 companies in 76 countries over the course of the last year. The test for non-native English speakers assesses not only knowledge of the language itself, but also language application across different media from email to phone, language use in different contexts such as presentations or sales meetings, and understanding of nuance and complexity in business situations.

Based on a scale of one to ten—with one indicating an ability to read and communicate using only simple questions and statements and ten representing an ability to communicate and collaborate in the workplace like a native English speaker—the average test score was 4.15, down 7 percent from 4.46 the previous year.

That translates to a population of workers who, on average, can understand basic information on the telephone or in person, but cannot comprehend most business presentations or take a leadership role in business discussions or perform relatively complex tasks, according to the scoring system.

Nearly four out of 10 of the global workers were ranked as business English beginners, meaning that they can’t understand or communicate basic information during virtual or in-person meetings, read or write professional emails in English, or deal with complexity and rapid change…

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English: The mongrel language
By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers

April 4, 2012—If a lecture on the history of the English language has a metaphorical antithesis, it is most definitely the ice cream sandwich. (Hard/soft. Lasts too long/never lasts long enough. You get the idea.)

Which only partly explains the positively giddy mood at Merriam Webster associate editor Kory Stamper's recent seminar, “English and How it Got That Way.” As folks filed in one-by-one to hear Stamper speak at the Wyndham Hotel and Executive Meeting Center in Lisle, they were plied with treats more frequently found poolside than lectern-side:

Also, she opened with, “Don’t take notes.”

Stamper’s talk attempted to put our incredibly rich and multilayered and mind-numbingly confusing language into some historical context for audience members whose jobs are among the hardest in the world: teaching English as a second language.

Take “rough,” “though,” and “through,” for starters.

“They’re all spelled the same,” Stamper said, channeling countless English-language learners. “Why don’t they have the same sound?”

“That’s when you face-palm,” she continued, as a sketch of a frustrated sap with face buried in both palms popped onto her PowerPoint screen. Knowing laughs took over the room.

“Drink, drank, drunk. Sink, sank, sunk … so think, thank, thunk?”


“When you know the basic history of English,” she explained, “you know there are reasons for all of this. English is living and changing and always has been.”

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Parliament struggles to recruit English-language interpreters [fr]

April 6, 2012—Thirty years on, Margaret Thatcher's education policies have created a shortage of skills in the EU institutions, which are struggling to recruit English-language interpreters and translators. The UK’s House of Lords has called on the government to address Britain’s “monoglot culture” by re-instating compulsory language classes in schools.

“For years, we’ve been having great difficulty recruiting English people,” said Miguel Angel Martinez, a Spanish deputy in charge of the European Parliament’s multilingualism policy.

The EU Assembly was struggling to recruit native English speakers for its interpretation and translation services, he told EurActiv in an interview.

The issue has also been raised by the European Commission, which warned in 2009 that EU institutions were likely to face an acute shortage of English-language interpreters by 2015, when the current generation of officials retire.

Martinez said the skills shortage was “due to the fact that language teaching has been removed [from school curricula] during the days of Ms Thatcher because the British thought they would no longer need it.”

As a result, most young people of 25-30 years of age speak English only, Martinez said, which creates problems for the Parliament's interpretation and translation services.

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Apple’s iPad on the verge of changing the English language

NEW YORK, April 7, 2012 (AP)—Apple is on the verge of doing what few others have: change the English language.

When you have a boo-boo, you reach for a Band-Aid, not a bandage. When you need to blow your nose, you ask for Kleenex, not tissue. If you decide to look up something online, you Google instead of search for it. And if you want to buy a tablet computer, there’s a good chance there’s only one name you’ll remember.

“For the vast majority, the idea of a tablet is really captured by the idea of an iPad,” says Josh Davis, a manager at Abt Electronics in Chicago. “They gave birth to the whole category and brought it to life.”

Companies trip over themselves to make their brands household names. But only a few brands become so engrained in the lexicon that they’re synonymous with the products themselves. This so-called “genericization” can be both good and bad for companies like Apple, which must balance their desire for brand recognition with their disdain for brand deterioration.

It’s one of the biggest contradictions in business. Companies spend millions to create a brand. Then, they spend millions more on marketing that can have the unintended consequence of making those names so popular that they become shorthand for similar products. It’s like if people start calling station wagons Bentleys. It can diminish a brand’s reputation.

“There’s tension between legal departments concerned about ‘genericide’ and marketing departments concerned about sales,” says Michael Atkins, a Seattle trademark attorney. “Marketing people want the brand name as widespread as possible and trademark lawyers worry ... the brand will lose all trademark significance.”

It doesn’t happen often. In fact, it’s estimated that fewer than 5 percent of U.S. brand names become generic…

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Which of the foreign languages is the most difficult to learn?
By Yana Filimonova, Pravda

RUSSIA, March 27, 2012—Many of those who study foreign languages wonder which language is the most difficult one in the world. Linguists say that there is no precise answer to this question because everything depends on which language you speak. Neurophysiologists believe, though, that the Chinese or the Arabic could be described as world’s most difficult languages. The brain of native Chinese or Arab speakers may find it difficult to perceive those languages.

Specialists of linguistics say that complications in learning a foreign language depend on the language carried by the person who studies a foreign language. For example, the Russian language, which is generally considered to be one of the hardest in the world, will not be very hard to learn for Ukrainians or the Czechs. However, a Turkish or a Japanese student may never be able to study Russian—they may find it incredibly hard to learn.

From the point of view of affinity, the Basque language—Euskara—can be considered one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. This language is not connected with any other language group, whether live or dead.

The Guinness Book of World Records gives another example—the Chippewa. This is a dialect of Ojibwe, an Indian tribe in Canada and the USA. There is also the Haida, an Indian tribal language in the north-west of North America. The Tabasaran, a native language for an ethnic group in Dagestan is also extremely difficult, along with the Eskimo and Chinese languages.

The Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages are considered the world’s most difficult languages from the point of view of written language. In Japan, for example, children study for 12 years. A half of this time is devoted to only two subjects: the Japanese language and mathematics. To leave school, Japanese students have to pass the exams that test their knowledge of 1,850 hieroglyphs. To read a newspaper article, a Japanese person needs to know at least 3,000 hieroglyphs.

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Boy, 14, speaks seven languages

March 31, 2012 (UKPA)—A schoolboy who speaks seven languages has been named the most multilingual child in the UK.

Bruce Baillie-Hamilton, 14, can speak Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, French, German, Spanish and English.

He started learning French at the age of seven but fancied trying something more difficult and chose a language with a different alphabet.

He started Russian at the age of nine or 10 and then moved on to Mandarin and Arabic.
Bruce, from Callander near Stirling, has now been named the “Most Multilingual Child in Britain” after entering a competition run by publisher HarperCollins. He conversed with six language experts via Skype to convince them of his ability.

The teenager said: “I quite liked French and German at school so I wanted to try and expand my horizons so I started to learn Russian.

“After Russian I thought I may as well start something much harder so I decided to go for something without an alphabet and picked Chinese because it doesn’t really have one.”

He has put his languages to use on his travels and found that local people appreciate it. He said: “I found that when you are in China and you can speak Chinese they are much more friendly and the change is dramatic.”

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When global money talks, it speaks English
By Ken McGuffin,

TORONTO, March 23, 2012—English reigns supreme in international business, and it’s not just because some of the biggest economies speak it.

Countries that have English as at least one of their official languages, or whose main languages are linguistically close to English have higher rates of investment in other countries. Countries with high rates of English proficiency also do well, according to a new study from the University of Toronto.

“The vast majority of the world’s trade and investment is actually among or between or involves English-speaking countries,” says researcher Walid Hejazi, an associate professor of international business at the Rotman School of Management. Hejazi co-wrote the paper with Juan Ma, a PhD student at Harvard Business School.

The two researchers used a “gravity model” framework to conduct their analysis of the 30 countries within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The model allowed them to control for variables such as GDP, population, cultural similarities, colonial histories, and exchange rates.

Once that analysis had been done, the researchers could see whether there was any other residual difference in foreign investment levels and trade that could be explained by language.

The study found that countries with English as one of their official languages accounted for nearly half of all the OECD’s gross domestic product and nearly 47 percent of its foreign investment.

English-speaking countries also had the highest rates of bilateral foreign investment.
In cases where one country had English as a main language but the other did not, the highest rates of foreign investment were between English and German-speaking countries, which have some linguistic proximity to English.

“The closer a country’s language is to English, the bigger a kick they get,” Hejazi says of the study’s results.

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Regional unity in ASEAN Community by 2012 lies in sharing languages
BANGKOK, March 11, 2012—There has been a great deal said about the need to improve English-language skills ahead of the formation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015, but much less emphasis is put on communication between members in their native languages. While English is indispensable as a common international language, a multilingual approach also has clear advantages for building regional understanding and relations.

According to research released in January by Chulalongkorn University, in addition to English, people in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar are interested in studying Thai. Many Thais also express interest in learning regional languages to promote cultural understanding.

Consequently, in 2010 the government initiated a multilingual programme in border area schools at the Mathayom (Grade 6-12) level to teach the Lao, Khmer, Myanmar and Vietnamese languages. But a shortage of teachers skilled in these obstacles is preventing the programme from expanding.

Prayoon Songsil, an expert in Khmer and associate professor at Dhonburi Rajabhat University in Thon Buri, expressed concern over the scarcity of programmes at the college and university level geared toward teaching students and training teachers in regional languages, particularly Burmese and Vietnamese.

Students wishing to learn Khmer should have less difficulty, as there are about 20 universities nationwide offering courses.

“We have taught the Khmer language in universities for some time. Therefore we have the resources to accommodate the expected influx of students,”' she said.

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Dominance of English language marginalizes most EU citizens
January 31, 2012—The European Union has 27 member countries and 23 official languages, but its official business is carried out primarily in one language — English. Yet the striking findings of a new study show that barely a third of the EU's 500 million citizens speak English.

What about the other two-thirds? They are linguistically disenfranchised, say the study’s authors.

For the EU’s non-English speakers, their native languages are of limited use in the EU’s political, legal, communal and business spheres, conclude economists Shlomo Weber, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and Victor Ginsburgh, Free University of Brussels (ULB), the authors who conducted the study. As a result, people who are disenfranchised have limited access to EU laws, rules, regulations and debates in the governing body — all of which may violate the basic principles of EU society, the researchers say.

“Language is the proxy for engagement. People identify strongly with their language, which is integral to culture and traditions,” Weber says. “Language is so explosive; language is so close to how you feel.”

Weber and Ginsburgh base their findings on a methodology they developed to quantitatively evaluate both costs and benefits of government policies to either expand or reduce diversity. The methodology builds on a body of earlier published research by Weber, Ginsburgh and other economists.

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Shakespeare’s grammar may be the real source of his genius

January 31, 2012—Read a line from a William Shakespeare play and notice the cadence with which you speak. All of those breaths and pauses from the commas and semicolons spread seemingly sporadically within the flowery language are not just for theatrical drama; they may be the source of Shakespeare's genius.

Dr. Jonathan Hope, a reader in English in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, dedicates a majority of his research to figuring out what makes Shakespeare’s prose so, well, poetic. In an article titled “English in the World: History, Diversity, Change,” Hope writes about his findings.

Through computer-based linguistic analysis, Hope dissects the language of Early Modern literature, with a focus on the works of Shakespeare. His work has revealed that it is not an advanced vocabulary that makes the heart, and tongue, of literary experts and novices alike pine, and sometimes twist, but the linguistic, grammatical and syntactical aspects of his writing,

Though there is no doubt the writer had a knack for language (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, he coined more than 500 words), it was his liberal use of grammar that set him apart.

The English language was developing and evolving so rapidly during the 16th and 17th centuries that writers of the time period could essentially use the English language like clay; often molding and constructing a new vocabulary.

“He was writing at a time when the English language’s vocabulary was expanding rapidly but, while he had a rich vocabulary himself, it was on a par with other writers from the same time,” Hope wrote.

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Top 10 words of 2011 according to the Global Language Monitor

December 27, 2011—How would you summarize the year 2011 in just 10 words?

Each year, an organization called the Global Language Monitor produces just such a summary. Employing a technology known as NarrativeTracker, it analyzes English language usage on social media, the Internet, the blogosphere and in the top 75,000 print and electronic global media sources in order to select the 10 most tossed-around terms of the times.

“Our selections this year to a large extent reflect the ongoing political and economic uncertainty that seems to be affecting much of the developed world — with notable exceptions such as the Royal wedding and the continuing rise of China," said Paul J.J. Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor.

Without further ado, here are the Global Language Monitor’s top 10 words of 2011:
1. “Occupy”—The preferred verb of protesters occupies the top spot this year. Not only has “occupy” risen to fame because of the Occupy Movement (“Occupy Wall Street,” “Occupy Oakland,” etc.), it is also used in the context of the occupation of Iraq and the so-called “Occupied Territories.”
2. “Deficit”—Fiscal deficits are a growing and possibly intractable problem for many economies in the developed world, and have become a frequent topic of discussion.
3. “Fracking”—Hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting fossil fuels from otherwise unreachable places , has turned into a hot-button issue dividing ultra-capitalists and environmentalists.
4. “Drone”—An ever-increasing number of remotely piloted aircraft are being used for reconnaissance and attack purposes, especially to target wanted terrorists .

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Bilingualism fund in Singapore gets S$58 million in donations, pledges

SINGAPORE, December 31, 2011—The Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism, set up by former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew last month to supplement efforts by the Government in the teaching and learning of English and the Mother Tongue languages, has received more than S$58 million in donations and pledges.

Among those who made pledges and donations are Mr. Lee, with S$12 million, businessmen Robert Ng with S$5 million and Li Ka Shing, also with S$5 million, as well as Robert Kuok with S$3 million and Ong Beng Seng with S$2 million. To date, public donations amount to S$80,050.

A statement from the Office of Mr Lee Kuan Yew yesterday said the S$58 million in donations and pledges as of Tuesday included eligible matching grants from the Government, since the fund was announced last month.

Apart from the big donors, “many ordinary Singaporeans have donated small amounts to show their support for the fund,” the statement said.

While it does not aim to produce people who speak their Mother Tongue at the same level as they speak English, the fund will help give students a grounding that can be built on.

“Bilingual education is the cornerstone of our education system and learning two languages helps Singaporeans plug into a globalised world, while strengthening links to our Asian heritage,” the statement said.

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Picks of the year for bookworms
By Nick Walker,

December 25, 2011—Bookworms have enjoyed a thoroughly engaging year, with many superb titles coming out from established authors and emerging writers alike.

Regarding the former standouts, Stephen King’s mesmerising 11/22/63, Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard (partly set in Hong Kong), and The Litigators by John Grisham, provided particularly noteworthy and rewarding reading. Among the best of the newcomers were: Forgotten by Seattle’s most promising new author, Cat Patrick; Londoner Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree; and former Hong Kong resident Chris Thrall’s graphic memoir of his lost years in the former British colony, entitled Eating Smoke.

However, in general, the Asia Pacific region has not had quite such a distinguished 12 months, with only two books, the ferocious-parenting memoir Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, and the Haruki Murakami novel 1Q84, truly setting the world on fire and appearing on international bestsellers lists from Manhattan to Mongkok. And a case can be made for Chua being as much Western, or at least American, as she is Asian.

Meanwhile, Asian readers are increasingly turning to e-books and e-readers, following the global trend but at a slightly slower rate. Nevertheless, the appetite for books in any format remains healthy across the region, according to publishers and booksellers. And expectations are high for 2012.

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Quebec medicare to restrict English communications with immigrants

MONTREAL, DECEMBER 23, 2011—It will become more difficult for immigrants to communicate with Quebec’s medicare agency in English in the new year, the Canadian Press is reporting.

Beginning Jan. 30, the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec will impose a one-year limit on communicating in English for immigrants, even if their French is weak, according to the report.

Currently, immigrants corresponding with RAMQ in English automatically continue all communication in English for as long as they like.

However, even under the new system, immigrants will be able to make a request for communications in English – something Parti Québécois language critic Yves-Francois Blanchet is already opposing.

In a press release, Blanchet said immigrants need only make a request to continue using English and blasted the Liberals for legitimizing a practice that is contrary to the spirit of Bill 101.

“The responsibility of the minister of Immigration is to ensure that new immigrants integrate into francophone life in Quebec,” Blanchet said.

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Beijing's controversial project for “English-language town” abandoned
BEIJING, December 19, 2011 (Xinhua)—The controversial “English-language town” project in Miyun, a county in the northeast suburbs of Beijing, has not been approved by the local government, sources said Monday.

“Relevant departments argued the project and decided not to approve it,” an unnamed spokesman with the Miyun county government said without providing further details.

As the projected largest European-style town in Beijing, a private enterprise invested in the “English-language town” and planned to have it built within five years, hoping to attract fans of the English language and tourists from across the country who enjoy promoting the learning of English, local media have said.

“Visitors in the town are only allowed to speak English,” Wang Haichen, the head of the Miyun county government, said, as quoted in local media reports.

Wang said every visitor in the town would get a “tourist passport,” and the ones who break the language rule would have points deducted as a punishment.

However, some people said the rule forbidding visitors from speaking Chinese in the town demonstrated a worship of foreigners and discrimination against Chinese.

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China to build English market town that bans the Chinese language
By Peter Simpson,

BEIJING, December 15, 2011— China is to build a fake English market town where the Chinese language is banned.

The settlement will demand its residents and visitors to speak only English, with those caught gossiping in shops or at the bus stop in their native Chinese punished.

“We plan to build in the European architectural style of the English city. The town will be divided into 16 city blocks, with a castle,” said senior Miyun County official Wang Haichen.
“When people arrive in the town, it will be like going abroad. They have to get a ‘passport’ which has to be stamped,” he added.
Four miles of polluted rivers running through 1,000 acres of blighted semi-rural land will be restored and landscaped into scenic standards becoming of the English countryside, said Mr. Wang.

However, those who ask to hire a punt on the planned navigable waterways in Chinese or speak the local lingo anywhere in the English-only haven, will feel the long arm of the law, he warned.

The planned site for a fake slice of England’s green and pleasant land is located just over an hour’s drive from Beijing and lies in the shadow of the Great Wall.

Mr. Wang said the development will help the area become a sophisticated ecotourist destination and lure the middle classes seeking to boost their linguistic skills in an English-inspiring, green setting.

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Québec wants law requiring employers to justify English as hiring requirement
By Monique Muise, The Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL, December 12, 2011—More than 400 members of Québec solidaire gathered in Montreal this weekend to shape the party’s ideological future and prepare for what promises to be a tumultuous political year ahead.

The three-day congress was the seventh in the party’s history, and came on the heels of a strong showing in Monday’s byelection in Bonaventure. Their candidate, Patricia Chartier, came in third, with nine per cent of the vote – three times what she earned in the 2008 general election.

“She saw a lot of support from people who didn’t vote for her this time,” Amir Khadir, the party’s only elected MNA, said on Saturday. “She felt that they were really interested, but hadn’t decided yet to make that little change.”

Delegates rejected a resolution to extend Bill 101, Quebec’s French-language charter, to CEGEPs. However, they adopted a proposal against making the knowledge of English a hiring requirement unless it is shown to be indispensable for a position.

There are also measures to strengthen the learning of English in French schools so that many Quebecers who feel the need to go to English CEGEPs won’t be obliged to do so, Khadir said.

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South Koreans hardly use English despite emphasis on its importance
By Choi Won-hyung,

SEOUL, December 14, 2011—The Hangeul Culture Union, under president Go Gyeong-hui, and the Hankyoreh Language Research Institute ( recently conducted a study on language use among South Koreans. The sample group included 1,000 adult men and women aged 25 to 54, selected at random in proportion to their distribution among seven regions of the country, sex, and age. This marks the first study to determine the actual overall use of language in everyday life by South Koreans.

The most salient finding was the vast gulf between social expectations for English competence and actual use of the language. Participants were asked how often they spoke or wrote English sentences beyond beginner-level greetings or read English texts over the past year. The most frequent response was “never,” given by 20.3% of respondents, followed by “about two or three times a year,” given by 20.1%. This means that over 40% of survey participants selected the lowest English usage categories.

In response to a question about how often they had communicated with foreigners in English while working over the past year, the most frequent response was “never,” given by 37.8% of respondents, followed by “about 10 minutes,” given by 16.7%.

When asked when they were typically compelled to use English, the most frequent response, given by 40.1% of respondents, was “never, apart from logging in on the Internet or writing an email address.” The next most frequent response, given by 25.2%, was “when searching for or translating English documents on the web.” Only 11.9% answered “when engaging in verbal consultation, presenting, lecturing, or making a proposal.”

The findings indicate that English is used relatively little in daily life compared to the degree to which it is emphasized in South Korean society…

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Chinese state TV unveils major push to widen global audience
By Tania Branigan,

BEIJING, December 8, 2011—China’s state broadcaster is launching a major expansion in pursuit of an international audience, increasing its overseas staff fivefold by the end of next year and almost tenfold by 2016.

China Central Television hopes to win millions of viewers in the US and Africa with English-language services produced in Washington and Nairobi. It is the latest in a multibillion-pound soft power push, as Beijing searches for a “cultural aircraft carrier” to extend its global influence.

“Global competition nowadays is not just political and economic, but cultural … Countries that take the dominant position in cultural development and own strong cultural soft power are the ones that gain the initiative in fierce international competition,” argued an essay in Chinese journal Leadership Decision-Making Information last month.

Beijing has created almost 300 Confucius institutes around the world, teaching Chinese language and culture, and spent a reported £4bn on expanding state media. It has created a new English language newspaper, Russian and Arabic TV channels and a 24-hour English news station run by the Xinhua state news agency.

In a sign of how far the Chinese media reaches, you can buy the European edition of the English-language China Daily in a Sheffield and read Xinhua's Kenyan “mobile newspaper” on your phone in Nairobi.

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UK Metrological Office wins Golden Bull for gobbledygook

LONDON, December 9, 2011 (BBC)—The Meteorological Office’s description of its new weather forecasts has been branded as gobbledygook by the Plain English Campaign.

Talking about “probabilities of precipitation” instead of discussing whether “rain is likely,” is baffling, says the group.

It has chosen the UK weather service as a recipient of its Golden Bull booby prize.

But the Met Office has pointed out that precipitation does not only mean rain.

The change to the forecasts, introduced in November, refers to the percentage chance of precipitation.

A Met Office spokesman said: “Precipitation covers a wide range of stuff falling from the sky including rain, sleet, snow, hail, drizzle and even cats and dogs—but sums it up in just one word."

The Plain English Campaign says it aims to persuade UK and worldwide organisations to communicate with the public in plain language. It says the government needs to make it a legal duty that public communications are clear.

The founder of the Plain English Campaign, Chrissie Maher, said: “Even though most people agree that plain English is plain common sense, our government needs to make it a legal duty that public communications are crystal-clear.”

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Singapore maids to be spared English and cooking test
By Kate Hodal,

SINGAPORE, December 6, 2011—Singapore’s vast army of maids doesn’t have it easy.

Expected to cook and clean for their employers at a moment’s notice, they also have to pass a test to show they can speak English.

But this is now set to change, as the city-state’s mandatory examination for maids, which included English language testing, will be scrapped from June 2012 and replaced by a “settling-in programme,” with modules on stress management, safety awareness and adapting to life and work abroad. It will not offer English language training, nor any classes on cooking or cleaning.

One in six Singaporean families hires domestic help, but until now it’s often been English that has unified employer with employee. The majority of Singapore’s maids hail from its poorer neighbours, notably Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Burma.

The exam was introduced in 2005 to improve the calibre of domestic workers coming to Singapore, and has often been cited as a source of stress for new arrivals, many of whom have already paid high recruitment fees to agencies back home in anticipation of a new life.

Around 80 maids take the test every day, but failure is common. One Indonesian maid committed suicide last year after failing the test three times, the maximum number of tries allowed.

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Quebec language critic boycott English at news conferences
QUEBEC, December 8, 2011—Yves-François Blanchet, the Parti Québécois language critic, met with representatives of Quebec’s English-language media Wednesday to tell them he will continue to grant interviews in English but will no longer answer questions in English at “official” news conferences.

“When I give a press conference, I speak officially in the name of my party in the National Assembly,” Blanchet explained.

“When I do some official intervention, I want to do it in French because it is the only official language in Quebec,” he said.

“I don’t want to give the message that there are two official languages in Quebec. There is only one.”

Blanchet said he’s received many complaints via social media over his use of English.

“They thought that I have given as much importance to English," he said.

“They were right.”

Blanchet is the only member of the PQ caucus to take this position so far, although some PQ MNAs do not speak English as a rule and several ministers in the Charest government also do not speak any English.

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Europe’s financial crisis, in plain English
By A. Davidson, J. Goldstein, and C. Kenney, The New York Times

November 30, 2011—Much like our own recent housing crisis, the European financial mess is unfolding in a foreign language. It is the lingua franca of financial obscurity — “sovereign credit spreads” and other terms that most people don’t need, or care, to know.

Deep thoughts this week:
1. Don’t worry too much about Greece.
2. Instead, worry about Italy.
3. Portugal might do all right with the escudo.
4. Just as in ’08, it’s all about uncertainty.

Yet the bottom line is simple: Europe’s problems are a lot like ours, only worse. Like Wall Street, Germany is where the money is. Italy, like California, has let bad governance squander great natural resources. Greece is like a much older version of Mississippi — forever poor and living a bit too much off its richer neighbors. Slovenia, Slovakia and Estonia are like the heartland states that learned the hard way how entwined so-called Main Street is with Wall Street. Now remember that these countries share neither a government nor a language. Nor a realistic bailout plan, either.

Lack of fluency in financialese shouldn’t preclude anyone from understanding what is going on in Europe or what may yet happen. So we’ve answered some of the most pressing questions in a language everyone can comprehend. Though the word for “Lehman” in virtually any language is still “Lehman.”

Q: Will the euro survive?

It’s a dangerous question to ask out loud. Suppose a credible rumor spread throughout Greece that, rather than accept the harsh terms of another bailout package, the government was plotting to revert to the drachma…

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Twitter the medium of revolution in the Arab world
By David Rosenberg, The Media Line

November 27, 2011—Volume of public tweets in Arabic jumped 2,146% in past 12 months; Arab celebrities, diplomats start tweeting; only one in a thousand tweets is in Hebrew.

Twitter came into its own in the Arab world as the medium of revolution this year. But since then people from Morocco to Qatar have learned the value of 140-word spurts to broadcast news, comment, gossip and advertising.

As a result, Arabic has become the fastest growing Twitter language in the world over the past year, according to a study by Semiocast, a Paris-based company that provides data intelligence and research on social media. It found that the volume of public tweets in Arabic jumped 22-fold, or 2,146%, in the last 12 months, vaulting it to No. 8 among the most-used languages on Twitter. In October, some 2.2 million public messages were posted every day in Arabic, Semiocast said, based on an analysis of 5.6 billion tweets.

Other languages also enjoyed double- and triple-digit growth, but none of them approached Arabic. English, which accounts for 39% of all messages, or 70 million public tweets daily, increased 182% and Japanese by 85%. In the Middle East, Turkish usage grew by 290% and Farsi by 350%, even though Twitter is officially banned in Iran, the study found. Only one in a thousand tweets is in Hebrew, but that is because Israelis tend to use English to get their messages to the widest audiences.

Paul Guyot, chief executive officer of the French company, attributed the Twitter explosion in Arabic to the Arab Spring, which began in December of last year and gained momentum in January and February as the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt were forced out of power amid mass protests organized and chronicled over the social media.

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Airline vows to boost crews’ English
By Xu Junqian, China Daily

SHANGHAI, December 1, 2011—China Eastern Airlines has pledged to improve the English language skills of its flight crew amid investigations into claims that one of its planes took off in Japan without clearance from air traffic control.

Details of what happened on Monday in Osaka remain unclear, yet initial reports suggest that an Airbus 330 operated by the Shanghai-based airline used a runway at Kansai International Airport before getting authorization to do so.

According to Kyodo News Agency, the airport’s air traffic coordinator had told the pilot of flight MU516 in English to taxi to a runway and await further directions. However, the aircraft, which was carrying 245 passengers, instead took off.

The airplane landed safely later that afternoon at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said the pilot’s actions could be considered a breach of the International Civil Aviation Covenant, even if the plane was kept at a safe distance from other aircraft landing and taking off.

Authorities in Japan are trying to determine whether the pilot intentionally ignored the order to wait.

However, the ministry said the probe is intended largely to prevent similar cases from happening, adding that there will be no punishment for the pilot, regardless of the results.

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Unilingual anglophones least likely to value duality, poll finds
By Marian Scott, The Monreal Gazette

MONTREAL, November 28, 2011—Bilingualism opens the mind.

That is one conclusion of a public opinion survey showing that unilingual anglophones are the group least likely to value Canada’s linguistic duality and most likely to see relations between anglophones and francophones as a problem.

Among English-speaking Canadians who feel unable to conduct a conversation in French, six out of 10 have a negative perception of relations between the two language communities, according to the poll for the Association for Canadian Studies, an independent think tank.

Among anglophones who are somewhat uncomfortable speaking French, 46 per cent have a negative view of relations between Canada’s official-language communities.

Anglophones who feel comfortable in French, on the other hand, view anglo-franco relations in a more positive light, with only one in three viewing relations with francophones as problematic, according to the poll of 2,400 Canadians by Léger Marketing.

The Internet survey, conducted during the week of Oct. 21, is considered equivalent to a telephone survey that is accurate within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“The less bilingual you are, the poll suggests there’s a greater inclination to not value or appreciate our linguistic duality,” said Jack Jedwab, the association's executive director.

Overall, francophones were less likely to view relations between the two language groups negatively (33 per cent) than anglophones (48 per cent). Francophones were also more likely to value Canada's linguistic duality as a source of cultural enrichment (57 per cent) than anglophones (46 per cent).

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Al Jazeera English sees its model copied
By Torin Douglas, BBC

November 27, 2011—The broadcaster Al Jazeera is celebrating.

It is 15 years this month since it launched the original Al Jazeera Arabic channel, and five years since its English-language network brought its coverage to the centre of Washington and other western capitals.

The station was once accused of “peddling lies” by the former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but Al Jazeera is now credited with playing a crucial role in the Arab Spring.

It’s not the only global TV channel changing the world view of politics.

As Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year: “We are in an information war—and we are losing that war.

“Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English-language and multi-language television network. The Russians have opened up an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries and it’s quite instructive.”

Al Jazeera wouldn’t thank Hillary Clinton for bracketing it with the state television services of China and Russia.

Though owned by the government of Qatar, and now headed by a member of the Qatari royal family, it insists it’s an independent broadcaster.

Al Anstey, chief executive of Al Jazeera English, trained at CBS News and was head of foreign news at ITN.

He says Al Jazeera Arabic was set up with similar ambitions—“aiming at the Arab-speaking audience across the Middle East, as truth-telling in a very troubled region that was dominated by state-controller broadcasters, often mouthpieces of their own government.

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From Bible to latest Swedish thriller, 2011 is the year of the translator
By Robert McCrum, The Observer UK

November 27, 2011—We are told, in chapter 11 of Genesis, that once “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” In the aftermath of Noah’s flood, the survivors decided to celebrate their lucky escape in a time-honoured way: with triumphal architecture. “Let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach even to heaven” is how the Bible expresses this aspiration. “Let us make us a name,” said the children of Noah, “lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

Fat chance. According to the Old Testament, mankind’s urge to find a common purpose does not appeal to the Almighty. So the idea that men and women should be like gods was a non-starter, and the name of the doomed project was called Babel. As the King James version has it, “the Lord did there confound the language of all the Earth.” For good measure, he scattered the differently speaking peoples across the globe.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the world remains a patchwork of more than 5,000 separate and competing languages. But for those who still dream of the restoration of a universal language, the outlook has rarely been brighter: 2011 has been an extraordinary year for the art of translation. Could the tower of Babel actually be rebuilt?

Many language scholars now accept philosopher Noam Chomsky’s ground-breaking perception that, notwithstanding mutually unintelligible vocabularies, “Earthlings speak a single language” —an observation Chomsky claimed would be evident to a visiting Martian. For a variety of reasons, we are perhaps closer than ever to making it intelligible.

Through the power of global media, there is more than ever before a market for literature in translation where the default language for such translations will be British or American English. Such versions may sometimes bear as much resemblance to the original as the wrong side of a Turkish carpet, but that hardly seems to lessen their appeal.

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Anguish, celebration over 5th edition of the American Heritage Dictionary
By Merrill Perlman, Columbia Journalism Review

November 14, 2011—The Fifth Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is out, cause for celebration for some and anguish for others.

As Ben Zimmer wrote in the Boston Globe, the dictionary had its genesis in the outcry over the publication of the third edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary, in 1961. When that dictionary came out, CJR said in 1962, “it had fewer warning signs that sorted words into such disapproved classifications as ‘slang’ and ‘dialectical.’” Webster’s “seemed to say,” CJR said, “‘Do what you damn please, I couldn’t care less.’” A New York Times editorial said that such permissiveness was “disastrous, because, intentionally or unintentionally, it serves to reinforce the notion that good English is whatever is popular.”

Into that controversy stepped James Parton, editor of American Heritage magazine. Outraged over a dictionary that included so much slang and sanctioned loose usage, including “yakking” and “finalize,” Parton led the effort to create a new dictionary.

That first American Heritage Dictionary, published in 1969, became a best seller, mainly because it gave not just understandable definitions and was illustrated, but also because it had a “Usage Panel” of experts who discussed whether, for example, “hopefully” could mean “it is hoped,” the way many people used it. Fifty-six percent of the first Usage Panel nixed that usage; in the Fifth Edition, the Usage Note says that “its widespread use reflects popular recognition of its usefulness,” though, for its Usage Panel, “Opposition continues to run high or even higher to this usage than it did in the 1960s.”

“10,000 new words and senses,” brags the spadia around the print edition. (A “spadia,” whose definition you won’t find in AHD5, is a partial page wrapped around the spine of a book, newspaper, or magazine.)

Among those “new” words is “Bragg grating,” added to “Bragg angle” and “Bragg’s law,” all traceable to William Henry Bragg and his son William Lawrence Bragg, who shared a physics Nobel in 1915 for using X-rays to analyze crystal structures…

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Pay more attention to English skills of int’l students, Australian schools told
By John Ross, The Australian

November 17, 2011—The immigration department has put universities on notice that they need to pay more attention to the English language skills of their international students, suggesting they should raise entry requirements by up to 1.5 IELTS bands.

A draft ten-point document, which proposes ground rules for universities opting in to next year’s “streamlined” visa processing system, says institutions will be asked to outline the strategies they have in place to ensure students have “appropriate levels of English” when they start their courses.

The document notes IELTS advice that “7.5 is probably acceptable for linguistically demanding academic courses … and IELTS 6.5 is probably acceptable for less demanding courses”.

“Below this, English language study would be needed,” it says.

“Strategies could include IELTS or equivalent standards for courses set by the institution.”

Universities would also be asked about “strategies in place to ensure students continue to develop their English skills during their studies”.

Most universities require IELTS scores of 6.0 or 6.5 for undergraduate entry.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship itself requires only 6.0 for higher education visa applicants, and only if they’re from countries considered to pose high immigration risk.

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Quebec launching campaign to boost French language on signs

MONTREAL, November 13, 2011 (Canadian Press)—In a bid to protect the French language, Quebec’s language inspectors have launched a campaign targeting the commercial signs of multinational chains and big box stores operating in the province.

The awareness campaign, scheduled to begin Monday at a cost of $500,000, will target large corporations with anglophone trademark names.

Louise Marchand, president of the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise, said English names are permitted but they must be accompanied by a descriptive term or slogan in French.

Marchand is concerned that, if left unchecked, English-named stores will undermine Quebec’s status as a francophone society.

“Globalization has profoundly changed the economic reality of Quebec,” Marchand said at a news conference Sunday. “The expansion of multinational companies and chain stores are an example of that.”

Stores that meet the requirements include the Scores restaurant chain, which was allowed to keep its English brand name by including the descriptive “rotisserie”—the French term for grill.

Other names deemed acceptable are “Les Cafes Second Cup” and “New Look,” which added the word “lunetterie,” the French term for an eyeglasses shop, to the front of its name.

Marchand pointed out that several other chain stores opted to translate their names into French, even though it’s not required by law.

“That strategy has permitted them to integrate seamlessly into the Quebec landscape,” she said.

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English-language Mass to change for first time in over 40 years
By Lu-Ann Farrar,

KENTUCKY, November 11, 2011—On the first Sunday of Advent — which is Nov. 26 this year — the English-speaking Roman Catholic Church is changing the language in the ancient prayers, rubrics and readings used in the Mass. It’s the first significant change to the service in more than 40 years and only the third issued in the Church's 2,000 years.

“On the scale of things in the history of the Catholic Church, it isn’t terribly significant, but it’s not insignificant, either,” said Frank Russell, professor of history and classics at Transylvania University.

The Rev. Richard Watson, parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, said that the Mass “has been tweaked for years,” but this translation is not “correcting” the previous version. “What was going on many centuries ago is, in essence, the same.”

But the words in the Mass are changing, including some of the calls-and-responses, the Gloria, the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds. Even the first and last words spoken, the greeting and concluding rites, are different.

“The old translation has served us well. ... We’re not static. The spirit still moves in the Church. We’ve got the translation we need now,” Watson said. “In 50 years, we may need a new one. It’s the evolution of the church, with God leading us.”
According to information provided by the Church, this translation is intended more closely to reflect the Latin, “integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses.”

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English teaching gets lost in translation
By Li Yang in Qiqihar and Hu Yinan, China Daily

BEIJING, November 11, 2011—Li Lei, a biology freshman, had studied English for years at school. But he was soon at a loss in English class at college when he could not understand sentences read aloud in a listening test.

Li’s teacher spent 10 minutes explaining, word by word, the meaning of “rolling stones get no moss,” a misstatement of the adage. But at the end, he was still confused.

“I don’t think there’s a natural transition in teaching English from middle school to college,” Li said. A native of Shaanxi province, he attends Qiqihar University in Heilongjiang province, 2,500 kilometers northeast of his home.

English teaching in China has come a long way since the first national syllabus for college English was published in 1979, a year into the reform and opening-up initiative. It is now taught, as a requirement, in virtually all Chinese postsecondary institutions.

However, English teaching is designed without coordination for elementary schools, secondary schools and postsecondary institutions. That makes the transition from one stage to the next difficult, especially for students with test-conscious teachers and obsolete textbooks.

College English teaching for non-English majors is divided into six progressive levels, known as College English Test (CET) Bands 1-6. Every non-English major must take 280 hours of English courses - roughly five hours a week for 17 weeks, a semester - to meet the requirements of the twice-yearly CET-4.

Students must pass that test, or risk being disqualified for graduation or a job with the many employers that require a CET-4 certificate. Test results remain the sole criterion of CET assessment.

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UK-based linguist calls for dramatic changes in the teaching of English

November 2, 2011 (UK Press Association)—Dr. Mario Saraceni, of the University of Portsmouth, called on native English speakers to “give up their claim to be the guardians of the purest form of the language.”

He argued that the ways it has been used and changed by millions of people around the world are equally valid.

Writing in the latest issue of the journal Changing English, he suggests the way English is taught to non-native speakers, but whose mother tongue is English, needs a dramatic change.

He said: “It’s important the psychological umbilical cord linking English to its arbitrary centre in England is cut. The English are not the only legitimate owners of the language.

“English is the most dominant language on the planet and though it is spoken widely in the western world, westerners are in the minority of English language speakers. For many around the world, the ability to speak English has become as important as knowing how to use a computer. But the myth of the idealised native speaker needs to be abandoned.”

Dr. Saraceni, of the School of Languages and Area Studies, said it was time English language teachers abroad took down posters of double-decker buses and Parliament Square from their classrooms and taught English in a purely local context.

He said: “Critics might feel uncomfortable with what they see as a laissez-faire attitude but language use is not about getting closer to the ‘home’ of English, and it is not about bowing deferentially and self-consciously to the so-called superiority of the inner circle of the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.”

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Inadequate English skills holding back IT professionals in Brazil

November 1, 2011—English is not the national language of Brazil, Portuguese is. So why would English language knowledge be an important skill for IT professionals in Brazil?

Through centuries of global economic dominance by the UK and then the USA, English has become the dominant global language for trade. It is an essential tool for anyone working in a global company, or within a multinational team spread across various locations. In many countries that use multiple languages – such as India – English has become the lingua franca, allowing people from different regions of the same country to communicate.

But English is useful at a more fundamental level for IT professionals. Most programming languages, operating systems, and IT equipment have all originated from English-speaking engineers – usually American. This means that a knowledge of technical English is needed just to use computer systems, even if the professional cannot fluently debate the role of the Fool in King Lear.

This also leads to all kinds of translation problems as language coach and translator Kleber Pedroso described to IT Decisions recently. Cloud computing is really just cloud computing in any language. Try talking about computação em nuvem in Brazil and even the local Brazilian IT professionals will think you are a bit odd.

There are some in the IT industry in Brazil who fear that a lack of English holds them back, it’s impossible to progress to a management or executive grade without a good knowledge of English…

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Are Americans more dyslexic than Italians?
By Annie Murphy Paul,

November 2, 2011—At my house, the mealtime implement used for cutting is called a ka-nife. The joint located between thigh and calf is called a ka-nee. And the medieval warriors who wore suits of armor are called ka-ni-guh-ts.

We adopted these unusual pronunciations after my 5-year-old son, Teddy, noticed something odd about the English language. While sounding out words on the page in the way we’d taught him, he realized that many words didn’t sound at all the way they looked. Yacht. Trough. Colonel. And what was that letter k doing at the start of words that sounded like they began with n?

Such irregular spellings, my husband and I explained, were the result of the English language’s long, rich history: a mix of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, among other languages, melded over centuries of use. Teddy was unimpressed. Words should sound the way they look, he insisted: hence, ka-nife.

As anyone who’s lost a spelling bee or failed a spelling test will affirm, the English language is more ornery than most. About 25% of its words employ irregular spellings, and many of these terms are among the most frequently used in the language. Cross-cultural research demonstrates that the trickiness of English affects how quickly American children learn to read and write.

After just a few months of instruction, for example, children living in Italy are able to read and write any word they encounter, because their language is almost perfectly regular: each letter or combination of letters maps reliably onto a particular sound. Children in the U.S., on the other hand, must endure years of drills before they have mastered the intricacies of bough and bow, weigh and way…

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