Jose Carillo's Forum


Sweden believes children can be raised in a gender-neutral society  
By Charlene Prince Birkeland, Team Mom

April 12, 2012—Can we really have gender-neutral sports?

Imagine if a girl were the only female on a co-ed basketball team and nobody tried to force her to stop playing, or even cared. What if a teenage boy tried out for an all-female cheerleading squad and it went unnoticed? Could gender truly be removed from the equation? It's unlikely. In the U.S., a girl being kicked off a baseball team because of her gender—or a boy being allowed on a girls’ swim team despite his gender—makes national headlines. And in Sweden, attempts to create a more gender-equal—or even gender-neutral—country are causing a stir.

In an effort to support gender neutrality, Sweden recently added a gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” to the country’s National Encyclopedia. Slate reports that several preschools in Sweden have stopped making references to the gender of their students. Instead of calling children
“boys and girls,” teachers are referring to students as “buddies.” One school even stopped allowing free playtime during the day because “stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying.” And the country just published its first gender-neutral children’s book, “Kivi och Monsterhund.”

The objective of creating a society that focuses on “hens,” of course, is to allow children to grow up without being limited by gender stereotypes. “It’s a laudible goal,” Stuart Lustig, M.D., a child psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Shine. “But the notion of gender is deeply ingrained,” he says, and depends on how children are socialized.

Elise Claeson, a columnist and a former equality expert at the Swedish Confederation of Professions, has been quoted as saying that the term “hen” could even confuse children because it introduces an “in between-gender.”

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The commonest noun in English is “time,” according to Oxford Dictionaries

OXFORD, United Kingdom, March 31, 2012 (—Oxford Dictionaries editors have found that “time” is the commonest noun in the English language, according to evidence from their English language database, the Oxford English Corpus. Runners up include “person” and “year,” followed by “way” and “day.”

The majority of the top 25 nouns are from Old English, and of the remainder, most came into medieval English from Old French, and before that from Latin. While “time” is the commonest noun in English, the commonest word overall is the humble “the,” which accounts for almost 100 million of all the words in the Oxford English Corpus.

“You may be surprised at the popularity of the word ‘time’ in the Oxford English Corpus,” said Head of Marketing Daniel Stewart, “but it’s important to remember that this word has many different definitions and also forms part of common phrases in English usage, such as ‘about time’ and ‘time after time’. If you search for the definition of ‘time’ on our free online English dictionary site, Oxford Dictionaries Online, you will see how just how many different senses are included in the dictionary entry.”

“The Oxford English Corpus is at the heart of dictionary-making at Oxford University Press,” said Head of Marketing Dan Stewart. “By analysing the corpus, we can find out how new words and senses are emerging in both written English and spoken English, as well as spotting other trends in English usage, spelling, and so on. We currently update our free online dictionary four times a year, with new words and senses, so it’s important that we keep track of how the English language is developing. We use the information we collect from the Oxford English Corpus to ensure that our online dictionary is always up to date, so whether you use our dictionary to check the spelling of a word, or to look up a word’s meaning, you can be confident that Oxford Dictionaries Online is up to date and accurate.”

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Language tests to become mandatory in Canada for some immigrants

April 11, 2012—Some people immigrating to Canada will soon be required to undergo language tests to prove basic proficiency in English or French, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.

Starting this July, a number of people immigrating under the provincial nominee program will face the language testing, Immigration Kenney announced Wednesday in Saskatoon.

“Speaking to Saskatchewan, this is an English-speaking society,” Kenney said. “You can’t succeed in a society if you don’t have the capacity to communicate in it. And it’s unfair, I think, to newcomers to make them believe otherwise.”

The tests will be mandatory for those applying for semi- and low-skilled jobs and will assess listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities. The new requirement is one of a number of changes to the immigration system discussed in last month's federal budget.

In an interview Wednesday with CBC’s Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, Kenney said all the data and research suggests language proficiency is the “single most important factor” for immigrants in achieving economic success.

He said the federal government wants to make sure the provinces avoid the mistakes of some Western European nations struggling with isolated immigrant communities.

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The (monkey) business of recognizing words
By Jon Hamilton,

April 12, 2012—New research shows that first-graders and baboons have at least one thing in common: Both can tell the difference between actual written words and random sequences of letters. This finding challenges some conventional ideas about what goes on in the human brain when we read.

Scientists have assumed that reading relies on the same brain circuits involved in spoken language, but now they are considering a more complicated explanation, thanks to six baboons who took part in an unusual experiment.

The baboons live in the south of France, spending their time in an enclosure that includes nine testing booths. Jonathan Grainger, a researcher at Aix-Marseille University, says that baboons, like first-graders, can be motivated by food and video games. So he put treats and touch-screen computers in the testing booths.

In an experiment in France, baboons were allowed to choose whether a string of four letters was an English word or not. If they chose the right answer, they received a food reward. After six weeks of tests, they chose correctly 75 percent of the time.

“(The baboons) just go up and do an experiment whenever they want, basically,” Grainger says. “There’s no stress to the animal. They’re doing this because they want to.”

Grainger says the baboons had to step into a booth and tap the screen.

“The first thing that comes up is a string of four letters, which at random could be a real English word or what we call a ‘non-word’ — a string of letters that’s not a real English word,” he says.

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Apple may change the English language with the IPad
By Chris Gabbard,

April 9, 2012—Did you know that aspirin was once a brand name? So was heroin, the escalator, thermos, yo-yo, and the zipper. All were new products at one time or another, and all of them became so engrained in American culture and our collective lexicon that they were deemed too generic to be referred to as brands anymore.

Branding experts are saying Apple may be in the same boat with the iPad. The product has come to represent the epitome of the tablet PC. So much so, that people may refer to any similar product as an iPad from here on out.

Brands fight for this kind of recognition all the time, and it comes with both good and bad consequences. Brand recognition is the obvious plus. Most brands would kill to become a household name like Apple, or the iPad. But the drawback is brand deterioration. With the name iPad being used for every tablet computer, customers can develop negative connotations about it, simply by the name being associated with a less quality product.

It’s a Catch-22 (Ironically, most people use that term without thinking of the book by Joseph Heller). Brands want to be a household name, but they don’t want to become so popular that the name loses all association to the company. How often do you ask someone for a Band-Aid and immediately think of Johnson & Johnson? Or ask someone for a Kleenex and think of Kimberly-Clark? Both of these names are trademarked, but rarely do they carry any significance for the company they represent when spoken about in daily life.

And there is really no way of stopping it. Once a term catches on, you cannot control its growth. You can’t make people stop using iPad to describe other tablets.

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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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