Jose Carillo's Forum


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

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

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

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

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

Q: Will the euro survive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quebec launching campaign to boost French language on signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inadequate English skills holding back IT professionals in Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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