Jose Carillo's Forum


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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Is proper English dying? And should us care?
By Jeff Yang, Wall Street Journal SpeakEasy (blog)

October 29, 2011— Apple’s Siri system can answer spoken restaurant requests.

If, as Laurie Anderson sang, language is a virus, then English is the common cold.

Already ubiquitous — English has an estimated 1.5 billion speakers — it’s only growing more so, given its status in fast-growing emerging markets. Especially the fastest-growing and emerging-est market of all, China, where it was estimated last year by the China Daily newspaper that up to 400 million people are currently actively learning English, or nearly a third of the population. (It’s this statistic that led Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China and soon-to-be-former GOP presidential candidate, to remark recently that in a few years, China will have more English-speakers than America.)

Of course, the thing about viruses is that they mutate rapidly and randomly, often with bizarre results. Websites like document its comically haphazard use in Asia, such as a warning sign at a lake in Nanjing, China that reads “TAKE THE CHILD, FALL INTO WATER CAREFULLY” or the Shanghai transit security bulletin that helpfully tells tourists “IF YOU ARE STOLEN, CALL THE POLICE AT ONCE.”

Though such bits of found humor are hilarious individually — they power many of the laughs in David Henry Hwang’s just-opened Broadway comedy “Chinglish,” for instance — collectively, they point to a serious issue. Learning English isn’t the same as knowing English, and knowing English isn’t the same as being able to speak good, or even intelligible English.

And with English serving as the lingua franca of trade and diplomacy, not to mention technology — it’s the de facto native tongue of the Internet, and the default language of next-gen interfaces like Apple’s Siri intelligent agent — concern is growing in China and other upwardly mobile markets that having poor English skills may be worse than having none at all, given that limited and halting speakers are increasingly relegated to a permanent second-class global citizen status.

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One man’s quest to tweet every English word
By Adrian Chen,

NEW YORK, October 28, 2011—Since late 2007, an obscure Twitter account has been automatically tweeting a single word every half an hour. The ultimate goal: to tweet every word in the English language. We spoke to the guy behind Everyword.

As of this writing, Everyword has tweeted 63,186 words. It’s on the letter N at the moment. A few minutes ago it tweeted “nudity.” I decided to look into Everyword yesterday after someone I follow on Twitter retweeted Everyword, putting “nubile,” discomfortingly alone, into my feed.

Everyword’s Twitter profile reads, “Twittering every word in the English language. Task will complete in 2013.” It sounds sort of ominous. What happens after all the words have been tweeted? Twitter shuts down? The Singularity?

Digital artist Adam Parrish started Everyword in late 2007 when he was enrolled in NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. He was inspired in part by Every Icon, a project by the artist John F. Simon which uses a 32 x 32 grid to attempt to “produce every possible image.”

“I like the idea of art works that deal with arranging mundane units (like pixels or words), algorithmically ‘exhausting’ themselves over a period of time," he told us in an email.

He also saw Everyword a way to poke fun at Twitter, then just a little over a year old.

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IELTS joined by 3 competitors in Australian student visa market

AUSTRALIA, October 17, 2011—TEST providers in competition with the International English Language Testing System are about to gain entry to the student visa market.

After November 5, immigration officials will accept results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Pearson's PTE Academic test and the Cambridge English Advanced test, the HES understands.

Under current rules, student visa applicants from so-called high-risk countries, such as China and India, must show an IELTS result as evidence of English proficiency.

In May, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced an end to the IELTS monopoly over tests for student visas.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has been working with test providers on a table of equivalent scores for each test.

DIAC began a review of the IELTS monopoly in 2008. The monopoly remains intact for some other visa categories.

The monopoly is no longer so significant because policy change has made it harder for overseas students to secure skilled migration visas, which still require an IELTS result.

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Catholics prepare for new translation of liturgy
By Peter Smith, Louisville Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, October 23, 2011—A dozen people sat in a circle in a small meeting room beside the darkened sanctuary of St. Barnabas Church in Louisville on a recent weekday morning, practicing new readings that will mark the biggest and most controversial overhaul of Roman Catholic liturgy in decades.

They gave a test run to a revised version of the confession of sins. They softly struck their chests with their fists as they read the repentance for sins committed through “my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.”

Many hadn’t made that gesture in nearly half a century, when they had used the Latin phrase, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” Since the Mass began to be recited in English, that clause, and the chest-striking, had been dropped from the confession of sin.

“OK, how did that feel with the change?:” asked a discussion leader, Mary Carol Kelly.

A chorus of voices from the mostly middle-aged and older group said it was familiar.

“Growing up, that’s what I did (at) Mass every morning in school," said one.

The class is part of an effort under way for months in archdioceses throughout the country. They were preparing for a revised text of the Mass that will take effect on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of the liturgical season of Advent and of the church year.

The revisions reflect a new translation for the English-speaking world of the Roman Missal, the official Latin-language set of worship documents…

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New study suggests bilingualism may buffer against Alzheimer’s

TORONTO, October 13, 2011 (CBC News)—Bilingualism may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a brain scanning study suggests.

The study by Canadian researchers in the journal Cortex offers the first physical evidence that speaking more than one language delays the onset of disease.

In the study, researchers studied CT scans of 40 people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They all had similar levels of education and cognitive skills, such as attention, memory and planning. Half were fluently bilingual and the other half spoke only one language.

“Bilingualism appears to contribute to increased cognitive reserve, thereby delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease and requiring the presence of greater amounts of neuropathology before the disease is manifest,” the study’s authors wrote.

But bilingualism does not prevent Alzheimer’s, said Tom Schweizer, a neuroscientist who headed the research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Once Alzheimer's symptoms appear in bilingual people, it is not clear whether the disease progresses at an accelerated rate.

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Canada wants immigrants to provide evidence of English or French fluency

OTTAWA, October 14, 2011—The federal government wants immigrants to provide upfront evidence that they’re fluent in one of Canada’s two official languages when they submit citizenship applications.

Ottawa is requesting comments on its proposal to require prospective immigrants to prove they have a Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4, in either English or French.

A notice says the proposed change would not increase the language level required for citizenship but would provide officials and judges with “objective evidence of an applicant’s language ability.”

Current citizenship regulations require applicants to make and understand basic spoken statements and questions in past, present and future tenses.

However, the Canada Immigration Service website acknowledges language abilities have been assessed by citizenship officials “inconsistently.”

“The written test is an inadequate proxy for assessing language as it does not adequately assess listening and speaking skills, which are the essential language skills for effective communication with fellow Canadians and for effective integration,” says the notice.

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France’s Académie française battles to protect language from English
By Henry Samuel, 

PARIS, October 11, 2011—France’s Académie française, official custodians of the French language, has taken its battle to fight the invasion of English and bad French to the Internet with a new interactive web service.

The Académie, a council of 40 writers and artists, is entrusted with protecting French from “Anglo-Saxon” attacks and writing an official dictionary, of which the latest unfinished version began in 1992.

One of its tasks is to come up with French equivalents to unwanted English words that slip into French – for example turning “email” into “courriel.”

Since the body was set up in 1635, luminaries have included Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Valérie Giscard d’Estaing, the former French President.

Membership is for life and new members only elected when a post is freed up by the death of an “immortal,” as they are known.

Criticised for being an elitist club for ageing linguistic reactionaries, the Académie last year decided to ban entry to anyone over the age of 75.

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China’s Tencent launches English version of Twitter-like service
By Michael Kan, IDG News

October 12, 2011—Chinese Internet giant Tencent has launched an English language interface to its popular microblogging service, putting the company in closer competition with Twitter.

The service, called Tencent Weibo, works much like Twitter, allowing users to post comments limited to 140 characters. It was previously offered only in the Chinese language and has gone on to attract more than 233 million registered users.

Tencent could not be reached for immediate comment. But on Tuesday, the Tencent Weibo site offered users an English language interface.

Tencent is best known as the company behind China’s largest instant messaging service QQ, which has more than 600 million registered accounts. The company also operates Chinese social networking sites and has a thriving online gaming business.

The Tencent Weibo user base is on par with Twitter, which reports having more than 200 million users. Both sites have also been affected by China's Internet censorship, but in different ways.

In 2009, Twitter was blocked by Chinese authorities in an information clampdown following an outbreak of ethnic violence in China's western Xinjiang region.

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Cheats force New Zealand to toughen English tests

October 15, 2011—Schools for international students will face tougher English language tests in response to widespread cheating.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is examining several options, including forcing schools to use an independently supervised international exam instead of their own internal tests.

Deputy chief executive Tim Fowler said in the last year he had noticed an increase in multiple problems at some schools, including poor English levels and pass marks given for substandard work.

This had prompted NZQA to review its English language requirements to stop schools from taking students who were not up to scratch.

Mr. Fowler said the exact changes had not been decided but once they were approved, all schools would be on notice.

“Under those new rules, any institution would have to meet them. If they don’t they’re in trouble."

He said 26 private training establishments were now under investigation for a range of suspected problems, such as poor academic performance, student complaints and fee payments missing from trust accounts.

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Harvard toppled from top of worldwide university rankings

October 6, 2011(AFP News)—US and British institutions once again dominate an annual worldwide league table of universities published Thursday, but there is a fresh name at the top, unseating long-time leader Harvard.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) knocked the famous Massachusetts institution from the summit of the Times Higher Education (THE) league table for the first time in eight years, with US schools claiming 75 of the top 200 places.

Next is Britain, which boasts 32 establishments in the top 200, but an overhaul in the way in which the country’s universities are funded has raised concerns over its continuing success.

Asia’s increasing presence in the annual table has stalled, with 30th placed University of Tokyo leading the continent's representation.

China’s top two universities hold on to their elite status, but no more institutions from the developing powerhouse managed to break into the top 200.

THE attributed Caltech’s success to "consistent results across the indicators and a steep rise in research funding.”

Caltech specialises in science and engineering and has its main campus a short distance north of Los Angeles.

365-year-old Harvard, which loses the top spot for the first time since THE began publishing a global university ranking, shares second place with Californian university Stanford.

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Self-sustaining Brazil finally learning to speak English
By Jill Langlois,

SAO PAULO, October 5, 2011—“Stand in the wall, run through the net, pick up the ball, hit the wall, and throw up,” said the teacher, in English, at a recent tennis lesson for 6-year-olds at an international school here.

The kids stared back blankly. Then one spoke up: “I’m sorry sir, can you repeat that? I didn’t understand.”

The teacher, a little frustrated, just repeated the same muddled instructions.

English in Brazil is a work in progress.

Until recently, Brazilians didn’t need to use English at all. With a self-sustaining society and a history of military dictatorship that cut the country off from most outside contact for 21 years, Portuguese was the only language anyone needed.

But now that Brazil has landed two major games — the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 — that has started to change. After the government won the bids, it began to require public schools in Rio de Janeiro to teach English to all children between the ages of 6 and 8, with plans to expand the program to Sao Paulo next year.

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English language the latest casualty of space race

October 5, 2011—Along with training in spacewalks, robotics, and piloting a spaceship, NASA is requiring that all future astronauts learn to speak and read Russian.

The rules are plain and simple: If you flunk the foreign language requirement, you can’t go into space.

A handful of NASA astronauts have taken Russian language training since the U.S. and the Soviet Union began work on the Mir space station in the ’80s, Duane Ross, manager for astronaut candidate training, told But in 2009, the space agency revamped its rules—and now all U.S. astronauts will have to learn Russian.

“English is the agreed-to language in space,” Ross explained. But due to the close collaboration with the Russian space agency, it’s now mandatory for America’s astronauts to speak Russian, he said.

NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in July, leaving Russia’s Soyuz rockets as the sole means of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a sign to many that the Russians have “won” the space race.

Many former astronauts, NASA administrators and government officials view conceding the space race as simply unacceptable.

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Money talks—in many different languages
By Tim Hume, Special to CNN

LONDON, October 7, 2011 (CNN)—As English has cemented its position as the default language of global business, Anglophone interest in foreign languages has steadily waned.

“We have taken a perverse pride in the fact that we do not speak foreign languages, and we just need to speak louder in English,” British education secretary Michael Gove lamented to a newspaper last week. His government hopes to reverse a decline in the number of British students sitting a language GCSE—a drop from 444,700 to 273,000 over 12 years—by teaching foreign languages from the age of five.

But how much do measures like this stand to benefit English speakers, given the dominance of their language? To an aspiring executive from an English speaking background, does it make sense to spend time acquiring another language when the world is learning yours? Or would you be wiser investing that time in other areas of your career instead?

Stephan Chambers, director of the MBA degree at Oxford University’s Saїd Business School, said while speaking English was “almost a precondition for success” for non-native speakers, a second language was not essential to English speakers.

“But if the question is: ‘Is learning a second language an advantage, and is that advantage going to increase?’ The answer’s got to be yes," he said. "Almost certainly, as the balance of economic power shifts, and as supply chains, sales and deals start happening outside of traditionally the most influential markets.”

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UK must embrace language learning, says leading educator

October 6, 2011—The UK risks being cut off from the rest of the world because of a reluctance to learn languages, a leading head teacher will warn.

Dr. Anthony Seldon, head of the fee-paying Wellington College, will argue that the UK should not always rely on other nationalities to learn English.

He will say Great Britain is rapidly becoming “little Britain.”

Speaking to a conference of language specialists organised by the Schools Network, Dr. Seldon will warn of crisis.

He will tell delegates: “As a nation we risk becoming deeply insular and cut off from abroad.

“In the run-up to the Olympics, and despite being more multicultural than ever in our history, Great Britain is rapidly becoming little Britain.

"Our record in language learning is uniquely bad in the developed world. We cannot simply assume the rest of the world will learn English to accommodate us.”

Dr. Seldon will say children see languages as the hard option.

"The perception in schools is that modern languages are hard and it is more difficult to gain good grades at them than in other subjects. We need to change this urgently.”

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Recent study shows more positive than negative English words
By Samantha Sawyer, Vermont Cynic

VERMONT, October 6, 2011—University researchers have successfully analyzed 361 billion words.

A study by a team of UVM mathematicians found that positive words far outnumber negative words in the English language, according to University Communications.

“It is exciting that data from online, public communications offers this grand opportunity to observe and explore the nature of humans and their behaviors,” said Isabel Klouman, a UVM alumni and team member.

The results of their study have many anthropological and sociological implications, she said.

“This result has implications for behavioral economics, sociology, and the study of language evolution in cultures,” Kloumann said. “We are making the data publicly available, and it will likely be used by linguists, computer scientists, economists, and business people.”

The team began working on the study in the fall of 2011 as part of UVM’s Complex Systems Center, and they used the supercomputer at the Vermont Advanced Computing Center, she said.

They covered millions of pages of material spanning from books to tweets and newspapers to song lyrics…

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Ruling affirms right to apply in Swedish for academic posts in Sweden

SWEDEN, September 25, 2011—Three Swedish universities, which had placed job advertisements requiring certain applications to be filed in English, are now being told to change their approach after a recent decision that gives a primary role to the national language.

According to the decision, which was handed down late last month, Swedish universities cannot demand applications only in English without the possibility of applying in Swedish.

The office of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen issued the ruling against three universities: the University of Goteborg, the Royal Institute of Technology and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Catrine Bjorkman, a case handler at the ombudsmen’s office, said that by requiring job applications to be completed in English, the universities were denying the right of Swedish applicants to use Swedish when communicating with public institutions, as required under a 2009 law.

“According to the Language Act, common citizens should be entitled to communicate with Swedish authorities in Swedish,” she said in a telephone interview from Stockholm last week.

The decision was made even though Sweden normally takes pride in its high level of English proficiency, especially in higher education.

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Fear for jobs ignites “English crisis” in Japan
By Mariko Katsumura, Reuters

TOKYO, September 22, 2011—It’s eight in the morning in a Tokyo office building, and a dozen middle-aged Japanese businessmen sit inside small booths, sweating as they try to talk English to the instructors in front of them.

“I hope my wife will understand my hobby,” one 40-something man says, opening his mouth widely around the English words.

He is one of legions of Japanese businessmen, or “salarymen,” struggling with a language they thought they had left behind them in school as fears mount that the growing push by Japanese companies into overseas business will mean a dark future for them without usable English.

This is especially true these days, with the strong yen and a lagging domestic market prompting more firms to look overseas for business opportunities essential for their bottom lines.

“I had a business trip to Amsterdam last year and that really was tough. My boss spoke no English, and I had to speak English for the first time in 10 years," said Masahide Tachibana, a 39-year-old software developer.

Tachibana now gets up at 5:00 a.m. to take morning lessons at a central Tokyo branch of Gaba, an English language school.

Japan, despite being the world’s third-largest economy and a major export powerhouse, is known for its poor English-speaking ability even though six years of study are required in middle and high school.

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Dictionary charts the ins and outs of word usage
By John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA, September 18, 2011—I’ll tell you what the key is,” says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster Inc. “The key is usage.”

He’s explaining how the folks at Merriam-Webster, the dictionary company, decide what words are in, out, and almost there.

They don’t go according to rules. Or according to notions of what’s “proper” or not. They go by how people today use English.

Duh? Pretty innocuous? It's just words, right? In a book?

In fact, such decisions affect the word choices of millions of people—and so they can be pretty controversial.

Which shows the difference between what we think language is (fixed, with eternally clear rights and wrongs) and what it really is (dynamic, organic, ever-changing).

This summer, Merriam-Webster, as it often does, released a list of words new to the 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Some of the 150 newbies are familiar from the Web: “tweet,” “crowdsourcing,” “social media.” Others, such as “boomerang child” and “helicopter parent,” are from social discourse. Still others, such as “bromance” and “cougar,” are good old slang. The “fist bump” has been around since at least the 1960s, but the affectionate Obamas have made it part of parlance.

They all belong, says Sokolowski. People have been using them a lot for a long time. And that gets you in.

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Global language league tables pointless, says British linguist
By David Graddol, Guardian Weekly

September 13, 2011—Does China now speak English better than India? Will Spain soon challenge Scandinavia in English-language abilities?

A global league table of English proficiency recently published by the multinational language education provider English First (the EF English Proficiency Index) suggests the answer to the first question is “yes,” and to the second, “no.” The EF index both confirms common knowledge, but will raise eyebrows elsewhere: the Scandinavian countries, with the Netherlands, are top of the list in “a high proficiency” group, but Poland beats Switzerland and Hong Kong, and is just below Malaysia. China, meanwhile, trumps India, which in turn only marginally betters Brazil. But is India really in the same league as Brazil when it comes to English?

I’ve been monitoring the changing fortunes of English in different countries for some years. Indeed, the EF report draws indirectly on my own publications. But I have never attempted to produce a “country index” of this kind, and for good reasons.

The first is lack of data. There is no standard way of describing language proficiency: in each country different kinds of tests are used, and results are often difficult to obtain. For example, the EF index claims China beats India but as I found out when I was researching my report for the British Council, English Next India, it remains a mystery exactly how many people in India speak English and to what level of proficiency.

Some countries regard the results of national exams as “state secrets,” and the detailed results of exams by independent organisations are often commercial secrets. Which independent exam provider would publish even the number of test-takers in each country?

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Most useful business language after English is Mandarin Chinese
By John Lauerman,

August 31, 2011—Mandarin, China’s official tongue, is also the top language worldwide for business other than English, according to Bloomberg Rankings.

Mandarin, spoken by 845 million people, scored highest in a ranking of languages, excluding English, based on business usefulness. The ranking scored languages according to the number of speakers, number of countries where the language is official, along with those nations’ populations, financial power, educational and literacy rates, and related measures.

French, spoken by 68 million people worldwide and the official language of 27 countries, was ranked second, followed by Arabic, which is spoken by 221 million people and is official in 23 nations. Mandarin is unlikely to supplant English soon as the primary language of business, said Leigh Hafrey, a senior lecturer in communications and ethics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

“In much the same way that the dollar remains the preferred currency, English will remain the preferred language for the foreseeable future,” Hafrey said in a telephone interview.

Mandarin speakers can gain an advantage in doing business in China, Hafrey said.

“Speaking the language confers a huge advantage for anyone who wants to do business in a non-English-speaking country,” he said. “It gives you flexibility, knowledge that you need, and personal connections that can make a difference in the speed and effectiveness of your negotiations.”

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Happy words trump negativity in the English language
By Brandon Keim,

August 30, 2011—A massive language study, spanning Google Books, Twitter, popular songs lyrics and The New York Times, has found that English tends to look on the bright side of things. Positive words outnumber the negative. The findings are preliminary, but they offer a glimpse of the origins and fundamental nature of English, and perhaps of language itself.

“In taking the view that humans are in part storytellers — Homo narrativus — we can look to language itself for quantifiable evidence of our social nature,” wrote mathematicians from Cornell University and the University of Vermont in an Aug. 29 arxiv paper.

While traditional explanations for the exceptionally rich evolution of human language have involved explicitly goal-directed behaviors like coordinating a hunt, some anthropologists see language as a vehicle for humanity’s essential social characteristics, especially our capacities for sharing, altruism and other “pro-social” behavior. From this perspective, language should reflect underlying social imperatives.

However, earlier research into emotional and social architectures underlying English has returned conflicting results. Relatively small-scale analyses find that frequently used words tend to have positive rather than negative emotional connotations: the so-called Pollyanna hypothesis, which states that pleasant, optimistic concepts spread more easily than negative, pessimistic sentiments. But in experimental settings, people prompted to convey emotion have tended to be negative.

Led by the University of Vermont’s Isabel Klouman, the researchers decided to approach the question with overwhelming mathematical force. They analyzed four enormous textual databases… and compiled for each a list of the 5,000 most-used words.

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Infants are quick to pick up languages, new study finds

August 29, 2011—Infants have a remarkable prowess at learning a second language, but that ability begins to fade as early as their first birthdays, according to a new study reported in the Journal of Phonetics.

In the current study by a postdoctoral researcher at University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, babies from monolingual (English or Spanish) and bilingual (English and Spanish) households wore caps fitted with electrodes to measure brain activity with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, a device that records the flow of energy in the brain.

The babies heard background speech sounds in one language, and then a contrasting sound in the other language occurred occasionally.

The researchers found that monolingual babies at 6-9 months of age showed the mismatch response for both the Spanish and English contrasting sounds, indicating that they noticed the change in both languages.

But at 10-12 months of age, monolingual babies only responded to the English contrasting sound. Bilingual babies showed a different pattern. At 6-9 months, bilinguals did not show the mismatch response, but at 10-12 months they showed the mismatch for both sounds.

This suggests that the bilingual brain remains flexible to languages for a longer period of time, possibly because bilingual infants are exposed to a greater variety of speech sounds at home, said postdoctoral researcher Adrian Garcia-Sierra, the study’s lead author.

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China’s presumptive premier-to-be busts out English skills
By Jason Dean and Chester Yung, Wall Street Journal

HONG KONG, August 17, 2011—Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, widely expected to replace Wen Jiabao as premier in 18 months, showed off his English-language skills at a speech Thursday morning on a high-profile trip to Hong Kong.

In the final moments of an 11-minute address at The University of Hong Kong, Mr. Li surprised an audience of top political and business leaders when he switched to speak in English, expressing confidently his praise for the accomplishments of Hong Kong’s oldest university. Unlike most universities in China and Hong Kong, English is HKU’s main language of instruction.

“HKU…has become a key higher education institution in China, playing an increasingly important role in China’s development and integration with the world,” Mr. Li said, at times pausing to ensure that each word was spoken clearly.

Previous Chinese leaders have been relatively eager to showcase their English acumen–in particular Jiang Zemin, who was known to recite the Gettysburg Address and croon Elvis Presley songs. The current crop of top officials has been less demonstrative of its foreign-language skills–and generally more guarded, especially President Hu Jintao

Even less is known about the rising generation of rulers: Mr. Li and current Vice President Xi Jinping…

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Improve your employability with an English language course

UNITED KINGDOM, August 18, 2011—Did you know a Malaysian pilot, with a Japanese co-pilot, flying in a South African plane, over Norwegian airspace, would communicate with a Swedish air-traffic controller in English?

The accepted language of international air travel for pilots and air-traffic control operators is English. And the fact remains that this language is still, for a high percentage of the world’s business population, the language of trade, industry and commerce. It is therefore highly likely that whatever your profession (or even if you are seeking work at present), the fact that you have a good understanding of the English language can be extremely useful, and can dramatically boost your employability.

As the Internet continues to make our local workplaces increasingly intertwined with global operations, the need for every worker to have at least a rudimentary grasp of a common language is vital. New technology is creating links between businesses that last much longer than a simple phone call. One company, for example, has taken advantage of super-fast broadband and Skype to set up a 24-hour link between the UK and Japan, so workers can discuss key elements of their work in real time with their Japanese or English counterparts. Suffice to say, the language in which this vital work is conducted is English.

The increasing ease with which we can travel the globe has resulted in many people choosing to live and work in a different country from the one in which they grew up. If you are part of a multi-national organisation it is relatively easy to transfer to an office in another country. The result of this is that many companies now conduct all their business in English. For employees coming from another country to work in England English courses in UK language schools offer an insight into how to develop language skills for their role.

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“Sexting,” “retweet” added as new words in Oxford Dictionary

MANILA, August 19, 2011—The newly-released edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has included social media and web-related terms such as “sexting,” “retweet,” and “woot” as new words.

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary added to its 12th edition over 400 new word entries.

“Sexting” is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone”; “retweet” as “repost or forward” of message on social networking site Twitter; and,
“woot” as a word used to express elation, enthusiasm, or triumph.

Other words such as “textspeak” and “cyberbullying” are also in the dictionary’s latest edition.

This is not the first time such terms have been included in the dictionary, which OED 12th edition editor Angus Stevenson said “has always sought to be progressive and up to date.”

“Google,” “iPod,” “podcasting” are already in the dictionary.

According to Stevenson, the creativity of today’s Internet-using generation has given birth to a range of unusual sounding words.

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Indian women bloggers find their voice, in their own language
By Nilanjana S. Roy, The New York Times
NEW DELHI, August 9, 2011—Rashmi Swaroop, who just completed her M.B.A. exams in the small tourist town of Ajmer, Rajasthan, is celebrating on her blog. Over at the popular Bengali-language site Desh-Bidesh, Nasim, a resident of Kolkata in her 60s, shares memories of the city in the years after India achieved independence in 1947. Kalki Subramaniam, an actress and transgender rights advocate, has kicked off a debate on marriage for transgendered people.

As the Internet opens up to different Indian languages, the profile of India’s female bloggers is turning out to be far more complex than many commentators might have suspected.

Ms. Swaroop writes in Hindi, Ms. Nasim and the other posters on Desh-Bidesh blog in Bengali, and Ms. Subramaniam’s two blogs are in Tamil and English.

Until recently, it would have been hard for anyone who did not speak the original languages to follow their blogs. The Indian blogosphere, a thriving community of millions now, was long constrained by language.

In 2006, Ravishankar Shrivastava, a Hindi blogger and freelance technical consultant and translator, estimated that there were fewer than 300 Hindi-language bloggers — abysmally low for a language with more than 400 million speakers in India — and about 2,000 Tamil bloggers across the whole of India. By contrast, English-language bloggers then were estimated at 40,000.

The problem was technical. At the time, the Internet in India was primarily in English. Though individual bloggers in various Indian languages have gone online for more than a decade, it required higher than average computer skills and comfort with a Roman alphabet keyboard. It was only about three years ago that access to Indic scripts became easy enough that ordinary users could engage in discussions in their own language.

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China’s drive to teach English stalls in the west
By Chris Tribble, Guardian Weekly

LANZHOU, August 2, 2011—Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, held its first international marathon last month. While this relatively remote city in north-west China has been attempting to raise its profile through the athletics event, thousands, if not millions, of students in the region are running their own personal marathons as they race to learn English.

Gansu is one of China's poorest provinces and is struggling to emulate the economic growth and prosperity of the country’s east coast regions. The population of Lanzhou has risen from 2 million in 2000 to over 3 million today. According to the environmental consultancy the Blacksmith Institute it ranks among the world's 30 most polluted cities.

In a bid to stem migration away from blighted cities such as Lanzhou and Xining, the capital of neighbouring Qinghai province, to the jobs and prosperity of the eastern cities, the central government in Beijing has been investing in infrastructure and jobs. These western cities are now doing everything they can to be part of China's next success story. A knowledge of English is seen as an essential skill to transform their populations into a high-value workforce.

While a national campaign for education renewal, including wholesale reform of English language teaching, started at the beginning of the last decade, its effects were only felt in Gansu and Qinghai in 2005…

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European framework in ascendancy on English competence
By John Ross, The Australian

AUSTRALIA, August 6, 2011—IELTS, which is about to lose its monopoly position as the English language test for student visa purposes, also risks losing its default position as a means of expressing English language competence.

IELTS is used generically in Australia to express minimum requirements for academic selection, skilled migration and professional entry in fields such as accounting and nursing. But a British expert said it could surrender this role to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

“There’s a lot of evidence that the CEFR will become the standard way people talk about language proficiency,” said Michael Milanovic, chief executive of IELTS co-owners Cambridge ESOL.

Dr Milanovic said the CEFR was already the standard reference in Europe and increasingly in Asia, the Middle East and parts of Latin America.

He said it was a more effective reference point because it had very detailed descriptors and wasn’t tied to a product. “Access to a product is always more limited than access to a concept,” he said.

Popular tests such as IELTS, Cambridge English Advanced, Pearson Test of English Academic and the Test of English as a Foreign Language all have their own scales, he said. “Equating them is difficult because you’re talking about different ways of testing, and testing different things.”

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