Jose Carillo's Forum


Are English-language media a double-edged sword?
By Lynette Lee Corporal, IPS/Asia Media Forum

HONG KONG—The English language, as a medium for reporting in the region, is both a boon and a bane for many countries in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of getting “heard” or generally being ignored by the global community.

“If you want to talk to each other in this region, you talk in English. Increasingly, the English-language press plays a key role regionally and internationally in keeping the information flow open and expanding the regional voice,” said The Jakarta Globe chief editor Lin Neumann at a discussion during the East-West Center’s second international media conference here.

The East-West Center is a Honolulu-based international education and research institution promoting better understanding among the United States, Asia and the Pacific.

Jointly organized by the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre, the event with the theme “Reporting New Realities in Asia and the Pacific” brought together some 200 journalists and other media professionals from the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. It ended last April 28.

The presence of an aggressive English-language local press, added Neumann, is a response to an information gap brought about by a shrinking news budget meant to send a western foreign correspondent to cover stories in the region.

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Listening to (and saving) the world’s languages
By James Estrin, The New York Times
The chances of overhearing a conversation in Vlashki, a variant of Istro-Romanian, are greater in Queens than in the remote mountain villages in Croatia that immigrants now living in New York left years ago.

At a Roman Catholic Church in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, Mass is said once a month in Garifuna, an Arawakan language that originated with descendants of African slaves shipwrecked near St. Vincent in the Caribbean and later exiled to Central America. Today, Garifuna is virtually as common in the Bronx and in Brooklyn as in Honduras and Belize.

And Rego Park, Queens, is home to Husni Husain, who, as far he knows, is the only person in New York who speaks Mamuju, the Austronesian language he learned growing up in the Indonesian province of West Sulawesi. Mr. Husain, 67, has nobody to talk to, not even his wife or children.

“My wife is from Java, and my children were born in Jakarta — they don’t associate with the Mamuju,” he said. “I don’t read books in Mamuju. They don’t publish any. I only speak Mamuju when I go back or when I talk to my brother on the telephone.”

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US Library of Congress to save Tweets
By Steve Lohr, The New York Times

Not everyone would think that the actor Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter musings on his daily doings constitute part of “the universal body of human knowledge.”

But the Library of Congress, the 210-year-old guardian of knowledge and cultural history, thinks so.

The library will archive the collected works of Twitter, the blogging service, whose users currently send a daily flood of 55 million messages, all that contain 140 or fewer characters.

Library officials explained the agreement as another step in the library’s embrace of digital media. Twitter, the Silicon Valley start-up, declared it “very exciting that tweets are becoming part of history.”

Academic researchers seem pleased as well. For hundreds of years, they say, the historical record has tended to be somewhat elitist because of its selectivity. In books, magazines and newspapers, they say, it is the prominent and the infamous who are written about most frequently.

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Policymakers urged to heed language lessons in major new handbook

UNITED KINGDOM—The teaching of literacy and language skills, both in the UK and overseas, needs significant reform to curb the “unproductive” effects of government standardization, a major new study suggests.

Writing in the Routledge International Handbook of English, Language and Literacy Teaching, scholars argue that excessive state control of the way in which English is taught and tested, both in Britain and abroad, has a recurring, restrictive effect on pupil performance and on teachers.

The international study found that education policy-makers all over the world succumb to the same cycle when trying to drive up children's attainment in language and literacy—first tightening their control of the curriculum, then loosening their grip as the approach proves “unworkable, uninspiring and ceases to provide the results it is intended to deliver.”

Researchers behind the study argue that teachers and pupils should be given more input into the shaping of curricula, and that the present system of assessment for children’s literacy skills in the UK should be redeveloped so that it becomes “the servant, rather than the master or mistress of learning.”

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Stop using English, China tells TV stations

BEIJING (AFP)—Basketball without “NBA”? The state of the economy without “GDP”? This could be the new reality for television viewers in China, as Beijing has reportedly curbed on-air use of English abbreviations.

China Central Television and Beijing Television told the state-run China Daily that they had received notification from the government to avoid using certain English abbreviations on Chinese programs. Broadcasters will now be asked to give the Chinese equivalent for such phrases as NBA (National Basketball Association), GDP (gross domestic product), CPI (consumer price index), and WTO (World Trade Organization).

It was not immediately clear how many English abbreviations had been listed in the government notice, Wednesday’s report said.

Last month, Huang Youyi—a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a body that advises lawmakers on political matters—proposed tougher measures to keep English from polluting Chinese.

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Media need multiple platforms, revenue streams to thrive

NEW YORK (Agence France-Presse)—Multiple platforms and revenue streams are going to be key for media industry players hoping to survive and thrive in the fast-changing digital landscape, top media executives said here recently.

With advertising revenue eroding and free content abundant, media companies are going to need to adapt their strategies to the new environment ushered in by the Internet, they said at the Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2010 Media Summit.

“The brand has to transcend all of the different platforms,” said Renee Plato, the vice president of digital video distribution at Walt Disney Co., whose properties include the ABC television network and sports giant ESPN.

“Our main goal is to reach the fans wherever they are on the best available screen,” Plato said, whether that be on mobile screens, computer screens or TV screens.

“Perhaps there’s a way that consumers are paying for that access, that convenience, and perhaps not,” she said.

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Boys read as much as girls but prefer the simpler books, survey shows

First the good news: boys are reading as much as girls. Now the bad: the books they choose are far less challenging and easier to comprehend than those selected by girls, and this gets worse as they grow older.

The findings of a major study of 100,000 children's reading habits coincide with national curriculum test results which show that – at all ages – girls score more highly on reading tests. “Boys are clearly reading nearly as much as girls, a finding that may surprise some onlookers,” said Professor Keith Topping, of the University of Dundee’s school of education, who headed the study. “But boys are tending to read easier books than girls. The general picture was of girls reading books of a consistently more difficult level than boys in the same year.”

The gap in the standard of their reading habits becomes most marked between the ages of 13 and 16, the report says. The favourite girl’s book in this age group is Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, the first in the vampire romance series that has sold 85 million copies worldwide. This was ranked far more difficult to read than the boys’ favourite, The Dark Never Hides, from the British novelist Peter Lancett's Dark Man series, illustrated fantasy novels aimed at reluctant teens and young adults struggling to read.

The study notes that both sexes tend to choose books that are easier to read once they reach the age of 11 and transfer to secondary school. Compared with a similar study two years ago, the Harry Potter author JK Rowling has tumbled down the top 10 most popular children’s authors, from second to ninth place.

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Breaking down language barriers on the web

The Internet is rapidly expanding around the world, with thousands of non-English web pages being added daily.

The number of non-English websites is expected to grow as the web opens up to more people across the world and domain names expand to include native character sets.

In late 2009, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the creation of internet addresses containing non-Latin characters.

The web provides billions of people with information, across a range of different languages. According to Internet World Stats ( in September 2009, the total number of English internet users made up only 27.6 percent of internet users around the world. Chinese language users followed closely behind with 22.1 percent.

Internet users speaking Spanish, Japanese, French, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Russian and Korean were in the top ten most used languages on the web.

Google introduced a new beta version of their Chrome web browser for Windows users on March 1 hoping to bridge the widening internet language gap and “make the world’s information universally accessible in an easy, frictionless way.”

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Colleges test Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader as study tool

Even before Apple announced the iPad, higher-education technologists predicted that e-book readers were on the brink of becoming a common accessory among college students; last fall, two-thirds of campus CIOs said they believed e-readers would become an "important platform for instructional resources" within five years, according to the Campus Computing Project.

Now, as several major universities finish analyzing data from pilot programs involving the latest version of the Amazon Kindle, officials are learning more about what students want out of their e-reader tablets. Generally, the colleges found that students missed some of the old-fashioned note-taking tools they enjoyed before. But they also noted that the shift had some key environmental benefits. Further, a minority of students embraced the Kindle fairly quickly as highly desirable for curricular use.

If one clear consensus emerged from the studies that have been finalized at Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, it is this: For students who were given the Kindle DX and tried to use it for coursework, the inability to easily highlight text was the biggest lowlight of the experience.

"Because it was difficult to take notes on the Kindle, because PDF documents could not be annotated or highlighted at all, and because it was hard to look at more than one document at once, the Kindle was occasionally a tool that was counter-productive to scholarship," Princeton researchers wrote in a summary of their study, released Monday.

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