Jose Carillo's Forum


European ventures seek to fill a void in world news
By Eric Pfanner, The New York Times
PARIS, May 8, 2011—As news organizations around the world close down foreign bureaus, journalists, entrepreneurs and even government bodies in Europe are creating news ventures to try to fill the void.

As a result, readers seeking international news are increasingly spoiled for choice—especially if they read English, the common second language of many Europeans and the favored tongue for many of the new outlets.

Worldcrunch, a Web-based start-up in Paris, offers English translations of newspaper articles from around the world. Presseurop, another new site edited from Paris, does something similar for European newspapers, translating articles into 10 languages, including English.

The Huffington Post, one of the most popular American news aggregators on the Web, has Europe in its sights, saying it plans to introduce a British edition soon. In Brussels, a site called Europe Today aggregates news from across the region, gathering snippets from a variety of European sources and translating them into English. Its founders want to start a pan-European newspaper—in print, no less.

Why the flurry of activity? European readers seeking international news in English could already choose from a variety of sources, including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal Europe and The International Herald Tribune, which is the global edition of The New York Times. British newspapers and their Web sites are available across the Continent. Other publications, like the German magazine Der Spiegel, long ago introduced Web sites in English.

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Language barrier limits European Internet users, study shows

May 11, 2011—A European Union-wide survey finds that 90 percent of Internet users prefer to surf online in their own language, and may be an online barrier. Nearly half say that they never spend money online in a language that isn't their own.

Not surprisingly, the survey confirmed that English is Europe's lingua franca online: Nearly half (48 percent) of those interviewed said they use English "occasionally" online.

According to a new study released Wednesday by Eurobarometer, the public opinion research wing of the European Commission, over half of EU Internet users occasionally use a language online that is not their native language. The study also found that 90 percent of EU Internet users prefer to use sites in their own language.

However, according to the study, 44 percent of such users felt that they were missing something interesting online because some websites are not in a language that they understand. The Eurobarometer survey questioned 500 people in each of the 27 member states, or a total of 13,500 people.

"If we are serious about making every European digital, we need to make sure that they can understand the web content they want,” wrote Neelie Kroes, the EU's comissioner for the digital agenda, in a statement. "We are developing new technologies that can help people that cannot understand a foreign language."

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UK slashes number of trusted English language testers

May 10, 2011—UK immigration authorities have drastically cut the number of language assessment providers they deem suitable to offer tests to demonstrate the English skills of visa applicants.

Last month the UK Border Agency, which controls visa processing, unveiled its revised list of English language tests that will be accepted as part of visa applications to come to the UK to live, work and study.

The new list will come into effect by July for applicants for work visas under the "highly skilled" Tier 1 or "general worker" Tier 2 categories and spouses or civil partners who are applying to join a partner in the UK. The list already applies to students who require visas under the Tier 4 category.

More than 12 providers included since language testing was introduced four years ago as part of the points based visa system have been dropped, with just six remaining. The deleted providers include the Academy of Oriental Cuisine, in Leeds, and the College of Excellence, north-west London.

All categories of visa applicants will use the new list, which indicates the scores required in each of 26 tests that can be used to demonstrate the range of language proficiency levels required under different visa categories.

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Parents’ limited English may prolong child’s hospital stay

May 5, 2011 (HealthDay News)—Children have longer hospital stays if their parents or other main caregivers have poor English language skills, a U.S. study finds.

The research, published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, included almost 1,300 children admitted to a children's hospital in the Midwest for treatment of infections requiring long-term antibiotics.

Among the parents or primary caregivers of those children, about 97 percent were proficient in English and the rest had limited English proficiency. The parents/caregivers with poorer English were more likely to be Hispanic and either uninsured or covered by Medicaid.

The median length of hospital stay for all patients was about four days, but was about six days for children with less fluent parents, said the researchers from Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.

The study also found that children of parents with less-than-proficient English were less likely to receive a home health care referral than those with English-proficient parents (6.9 percent vs. 32.6 percent).

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French radio stations fall victim to anglophone artists
By Henry Samuel,

PARIS, May 4, 2011—French radio stations are struggling to stem the tide of English-language pop songs on their airwaves, as stations say they can no longer fulfill quotas on French-language titles because less are being produced.

Music industry representatives convened at France's broadcast watchdog, the CSA, to discuss the quota system, which forces national radio to play 40 per cent of its songs in French, half from new artists.

The 1994 law was introduced in an attempt to stem an anglophone song invasion and foster home-grown talent.

As a result French record labels long preferred to take on francophone talent rather than compete with the likes of Coldplay.

But in recent years, a growing number of French singers have switched to English for their lyrics, seen as more suited to pop music and far more easily exportable.

The best female artist at this year's Victoires de la Musique – France's Mercury awards – was Yael Naim, a Franco-Israeli artist most of whose songs are in English.

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A tip for financial advisers: when possible, use English
By Brett Arends, Wall Street Journal Online

May 2, 2011—If you're in the finance industry, there's a simple way to make your clients a lot happier: speak English.

Too often, when an adviser or some other pro talks to an investor, the result is glazed eyes and shuffling feet. And "finglish" is to blame, says Scott West, head of consulting at Invesco Van Kampen Consulting, a unit of fund manager Invesco Ltd. There's too big of a gap between financial jargon and what normal people speak.

"You've basically got a language problem," Mr. West says.

If advisers want to keep investors happier, try speaking more plain English, says WSJ's Brett Arends. He talks with Simon Constable about these and other tips for improving relations.

Invesco just completed a survey of 800 investors to find out which words and techniques work best, and which don't. The results were loud and clear: Investors hate jargon and technical language.

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One in three Danes like their literature in English

April 30, 2011—Nearly a third of all Danes over the age of 14 read at least one book in English every year, according to a new study by the Danish Booksellers Association.

The study found that between 25 and 30 percent of readers read English books. Those numbers have remained steady for at least a decade, and association director, Olaf Winsløw, says the statistics show that Danes are undaunted by books in English, whether at school, work or home.

“In countries like Italy and Germany, you can study to be a doctor without ever having to open a book in a foreign language,” Winsløw told metroXpress newspaper. ”But in Denmark you cannot get an education without bumping into books in English.”

Booksellers particularly see growth in sales of English-language fiction.

“In general, we are seeing rising demand for English literature. And it is particularly fiction that more people want to read in English,” said Urik Mølgaard, a book buyer for the bookstore chain Arnold Busck.

That demand also led Gyldendal, the country’s largest and second-oldest publisher, to purchase the London-based book club Piccadilly, which was started by a Dane and which sold English-language books, at English prices, to Danish readers.

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English-language press flexing its muscles in Eastern Europe
By Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times
KIEV, Ukraine, April 24, 12011—Brian Bonner, the editor of The Kyiv Post, a small English-language newspaper here in the Ukrainian capital, received the first phone call even before his journalists had returned from their interview with the minister of agriculture. Other calls followed, growing increasingly shrill.

And soon enough, Mr. Bonner, a former reporter at The St. Paul Pioneer Press who moved here a few years ago for the adventure of working at an English-language newspaper abroad, found himself on a bizarre trip through the journalistic norms of former Soviet states.

Minutes later, an aide to the newspaper’s publisher began calling the editor, expressing concern about the tone of the questions to the minister, Mykola Prysyazhnyuk.

Eventually, the publisher called demanding that the newspaper drop the project and not write about the interview, Mr. Bonner said.

The ministry of agriculture later said it had not contacted the publisher asking that the article be withheld.

Media rights groups say that all too often at newspapers in this region, a phone call is all it takes to kill an article, even if only to save face for a public official who misspoke.

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Most expatriates in Europe are learning the local language

SWITZERLAND, April 27, 2011—How easy is it to learn the language of your host country? Do locals lend a helping hand, and are they patient enough? Here are the results of our Expatica language learning poll.

Nearly 150 expats living across Europe responded to our language learning poll. The results show that, despite help (or lack thereof) from locals and integration programmes, most expats begin to learn the local language through a combination of methods

Across the board, when it comes to locals helping expats learn their language, patience and interaction can vary. Although over half of expats polled hovered around locals being somewhat easy or somewhat difficult to practice conversing with, only 18 percent agree it's easy to do.

The Netherlands are notorious for being expert English speakers that rarely continue a conversation in Dutch with a foreigner. However, it seems like persistence, or just plain stubbornness about speaking Dutch, is an expat's best weapon against the "switch to English" dilemma.

"There is a tendency for locals to speak English if you don't speak fluent Dutch, but they'll speak Dutch if you insist," wrote one expat.

Another expat living in Belgium explains: "Until you really can string a full sentence together that they understand, most locals with any skill in English will switch…”

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Scientists trace world’s languages back to single African mother tongue

April 15, 2011—Scientists say they have traced the world's 6,000 modern languages—from English to Mandarin—back to a single "mother tongue," an ancestral language spoken in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.

New research published in the journal Science suggests this single ancient language resulted in human civilization—a Diaspora—as well as advances in art and hunting tool technology, and laid the groundwork for all the world's cultures.

The research, by Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, also found that speech evolved far earlier than previously thought. And the findings implied, though did not prove, that modern language originated only once, an issue of controversy among linguists, according to The New York Times.

Before Atkinson came up with the evidence for a single African origin of language, some scientists had argued that language evolved independently in different parts of the world.

Atkinson found that the first populations migrating from Africa laid the groundwork for all the world's cultures by taking their single language with them. "It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of," Atkinson said, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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How Shakespeare helped make English a world language
By the Big Think Editors,

April 18, 2011—In the ancient world, Latin became the dominant language through the Roman practice of cultural imperialism. Similarly, the international prominence of Arabic grew during and after the Islamic conquests of 632-732 AD.

It was said that the sun never set on the British Empire during the 19th and early 20th centuries. England conquered one quarter of the world's population, resulting in a period of British cultural imperialism and language imperialism. The economic and cultural influence of the United States after World War Two also greatly added to the dominance of the English language.

This dominance is seen in many ways today. English is the dominant language on the Internet. While French was the European diplomatic language of the 17th century through the middle of the 20th century, English today is the official language of the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee. English has also come to dominate the discipline of science. In 1997, the Science Citation Index reported that 95 percent of its articles were written in English, even though only half of them were written by authors in English-speaking countries.

So what accounts for the global dominance of the English language? The political and economic supremacy of England and the United States is just the beginning of the explanation. For it could be said that while the British Navy secured military victory for the British Empire, Shakespeare's words were used to secure the peace…

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English tests largely computer-based now but human assessors still a must

UNITED KINGDOM, April 12, 2011—Computer-based testing has made big advances in English language assessment in recent years, but the future remains bright for human examiners.

Last year the IELTS test of English was taken over 1.5m times and the speaking and writing sections of the test were evaluated by up to 5,500 examiners who assessed candidates in one-to-one interviews or read and marked their scripts.

Cambridge ESOL, which is part of the consortium responsible for IELTS, produces its own suite of English language exams and employs either directly, in the UK, or via local tests centres, about 15,000 examiners to carry out face-to-face oral assessment and to mark written work for exams ranging from tests for young learners to its advanced-level certificate.

So the demand for examiners remains strong, but what can humans bring to assessment that computers can't?

For Cambridge ESOL the key ability that it believes still eludes computers, is the accuracy by which humans can evaluate the language produced by other humans. But that ability doesn't come naturally, and Cambridge ESOL, like other recruiters of examiners, relies on the skills developed by English language teachers and their understanding of the productive and receptive skills of learners.

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China speaks better English than India, says study

NEW DELHI, April 8, 2011 (AFP)—Emerging market giant China has pipped neighbouring rival India in English language proficiency skills, despite the South Asian nation's strong anglophone tradition, according to a new study.

Both countries were given a "low-proficiency" score, with China standing 29th, one place ahead of India in a list of 44 countries rated according to an English proficiency index.

The study was carried out by EF Education (EF), the world's largest privately held education company that specialises in language training and other education areas.

"Despite its British colonial legacy, extensive use of English for administrative purposes and vibrant English media, India is now no more proficient in English than rapidly improving China," the study said.

A large English-speaking population has been one of the key factors behind the boom in outsourcing to India which has seen Western companies set up IT back-up or call centres in cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad.

But numerous experts have warned that India is losing this linguistic edge to its giant neighbour which is pouring far more resources into English-language teaching.

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