Jose Carillo's Forum


China aims to be the world’s top science nation, US experts say

WASHINGTON, February 19, 2011 (AFP)—China has its eye on becoming the top science nation in the world, a position held for decades by the United States and European nations, researchers at a US science conference said Friday.

After being the world's main source of cheap manufactured goods, "China hopes to become one of the leading sources of intellectual property in coming years," said Denis Simon, a professor at Penn State University who is also the science and technology adviser to the mayor of the Chinese city of Dalian.

At a time when the United States and Europe are hamstrung by shrinking budgets for science, China has increased spending on science and technology "significantly," Simon said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

"The Chinese have indicated that by 2020 they hope to spend around 2.5 percent of GDP on research and development," said Simon.

In the United States, meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are talking about trimming a billion dollars from the National Institutes of Health, the world's largest public research institute, and slashing funds for other science and research agencies, in a bid to narrow the trillion-dollar US trade deficit.

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Bilingual people are more adept at learning third language, says new study

February 4, 2011 (HealthDay News)—Children who know two languages find it easier to learn a third one than those who know only one language, a new study finds.

The research included two groups of sixth graders in Israel who were learning English. One group included 40 students from the former Soviet Union whose mother tongue was Russian and who spoke fluent Hebrew as a second language. The other group included 42 native Hebrew speakers with no fluency in another language.

The University of Haifa researchers tested the students' language abilities, and found that the students who spoke both Russian and Hebrew were more proficient in both English and Hebrew than the students who spoke only Hebrew.

The study authors said their findings show that preserving a mother tongue in a bilingual environment does not compromise the ability to learn a second language. In fact, proficiency in one language assists in the learning of a second language which, in turn, helps a person learn a third language.

"Gaining command of a number of languages improves proficiency in native languages. This is because languages reinforce one another, and provide tools to strengthen [language] skills," researcher Professor Salim Abu-Rabia said in a University of Haifa news release.

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“App” is named 2010 Word of the Year
By David Gardner, Daily Mail

January 10, 2011—High school English teachers across the country are crying into their textbooks today over the American Dialect Society’s choice for “Word of the Year”—“App.”

The abbreviated tech slang for a computer or smart phone application beat out another word that would have had language purists tearing their hair out even more.

“Nom”—a chat, tweet, and text-friendly syllable that connotes “yummy food”—was the runner-up. It derives from the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster’s sound as he devours his favorite food, and was popularized on blogs such as LOLcats.

BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico spawned many 2010 nominees, but none made the final cut, not even “spillion,” defined as an immeasurable number, in reference to the billions of gallons of oil that spilled into the ocean.

“App” was chosen by the linguist group as the word that best summed up the country’s preoccupation last year.

Critics complained the word was somewhat stale, while proponents said 2010 was the year the word became omnipresent—with one arguing that her elderly mother knows the term, even though the woman doesn't have any apps.

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Chinese to overtake English as the dominant language of the Internet
By Piers Dillon Scott, The Sociable

Chinese will overtake English as the dominate language on the Internet in the next five years, according to data collated by TheNextWeb (TNW).

TNW says that there are over 400m Chinese language internet users, a number approaching the 530 million English language internet users. Along with this already large number Chinese has also seen a 1,277% increase in online use in the past decade.

Other language have seen rapid growth in the same period, use of Arabic increased by 2,500% (totaling 65 million internet users) and Russian also saw a growth of 1,825% (totalling 58m users).

English saw one of the smallest growth rates of only 281%.

(The full story provides comparative charts of language dominance by country)

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The English language has doubled in size in the last century

DECEMBER 16, 2010—The English language is enjoying unprecedented growth causing it to have nearly doubled in size over the last century, claims a new study.

Researchers at Harvard University and Google found that the language was expanding by 8,500 words a year in the new millennium and now stands at 1,022,000 words.

The rate of increase over the years is shown by the fact the language has grown by more than 70 per cent since 1950, according to the study.

The previous half century it only grew by a tenth.

But nearly half of the new words are not included in any dictionary and are dubbed lexical “dark matter.” They are either slang or invented jargon.

The findings came from the computer analyses of 5,195,769 digitized books (approximately four per cent of all the books ever printed) published between 1800 and 2000.

Jean-Baptiste Michel and colleagues refer to this experiment as “culturomics,” and they say their study can be used to inform fields as diverse as the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, the effects of censorship and historical epidemiology—just to name a few.

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Digitized book analysis reveals culture’s quirks

DECEMBER 17, 2010—There’s a handy new way for researchers and the just plain curious to track how many words get added to the English language each year and the speed at which celebrities flame out of public consciousness: Google them.

The dominant web browser’s digital archive of books from around the world offers a vast new resource for investigating vocabulary and grammar changes, the rate at which new technologies get adopted, collective memory for major events and the changing nature of fame, to name a few research topics, according to a report published online December 16 in Science.

A team led by biologist Jean-Baptiste Michel and bioengineer Erez Lieberman-Aiden, both of Harvard, tracked the frequency with which various words appeared in nearly 5.2 million digitized books published between 1800 and 2000. That works out to about 4 percent of all books ever published, and roughly one-third of Google’s digital archive.

Michel, Lieberman-Aiden and their colleagues, including researchers at Google, Encyclopedia Britannica and the American Heritage Dictionary, refer to their mathematical analysis of texts over time as culturomics.

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Map the history of the English language, procrastinate
By Juli Weiner,

DECEMBER 17, 2010—The very same week The New York Times released its fascinating and dispiriting income-inequity map, Google has released an even more addictive interactive infographic. The Book N-Gram Viewer allows users to scan the search engine’s 5.2-million-book library for words and phrases and plots the frequency of their usage (relative to all written words at the time) on a chronological graph. The New York Times has declared the device “as addictive as the habit-forming game Angry Birds”—inestimable praise from a publication whose devotion to Angry Birds is well-documented.

Incidentally, the term Angry Birds first appeared in 1884 in Charles Conrad Abbott’s “A Naturalist’s Rambles About Home.”

Abbott wrote, “In spite of their noise, it is evident that it is the chatter of excited but not necessarily angry birds.” America’s second-favorite videogame (and jewelry manufacturer), “Silly Bandz,” does not appear in any text before 2008. The written record of “silly,” however, dates back to 1596: “Poore tame-witted silly.” A search for “Bandz” does not return any results.

The heyday of “fun” occurred in the 1770’s, the very same era that “responsibility” saw its lowest levels of frequency. There does not appear to be any correlation between “hipster” and “glasses,” the former entering the lexicon in the 1950’s and the latter peaking in the 1660’s...

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And the word of the year is...

DECEMBER 16, 2010—So it’s that time of year again, when various wordsmith(y) organizations set about to picking the word of the year. As scientific endeavours go, it’s questionable, but often revealing.

But the English language keeps churning out new words. According to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks new entries with a web search, we’re now at 1,007, 711. But we’ll make it easy for you.

And to give you some fun holiday verbiage to try out on the visiting relatives, here’s a sampling of this years winners.

Refudiate: Chosen by the people at the new Oxford American Dictionary, this word doesn’t even appear in its pages. It was the invention of Sarah Palin, who used it in several tweets and interviews this year...

Big Society: On the other side of the pond, the Oxford University Press chose this phrase, coined by British Prime Minister David Cameron. It’s a political concept, according to the dictionary staff, in which running society is largely left to local communities and volunteers.

Niveaulimbo: If you want to sound really hip (and cosmopolitan), the word voted most popular by Germany’s youth literally mean “limbo level,” a reference to the dumbing down of television shows and party chat. According to The virtual linguist blog, the second-place entry was “arschfax,” referring to the underwear label that shows when you wear your pants low...

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When the accent is on creating a good impression

Young British Asians are changing the way they speak in formal contexts, according to new research

We all have to avoid putting our foot in it during an interview, but young British Asians also have to take care of precisely where their tongue is in their mouth.

A study at the University of Manchester has shown that they make subtle changes in their tongue position in contexts where an economic motivation may exist – such as a job interview.

Why? Well, just think of Apu from The Simpsons, and that very distinct pronunciation of each and every t, d, and r sound. The sound is made by curling the tip of the tongue and striking it against the back part of the roof of the mouth, a sound referred to by linguists as a retroflex. It is this sound that helps you locate that annoying telephone salesperson as one from India (and not, say, Newcastle).

Thus it is the sound that has come to be associated with comedy or annoyance. Let’s face it: no one wants to be a comedian in a job interview. The sound used by British Asians is mostly subtle, and far from that used by Apu. Still, by simply switching the topic of conversation to career aspirations, my research showed that people’s tongues struck closer to the front of the mouth.

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China dotcom giant launches English language service

December 16, 2010 (CNN)—Tencent, the world’s third largest Internet company by market share, launched its popular instant messenger service in English, Japanese and French.

The launch of QQi Instant Messenger is an international version of its Chinese QQ instant messaging services, which has 600 million subscribers—the largest instant messaging subscriber base in the world.

Versions in Korean, Spanish and German are planned to be released early next year, a company spokesperson said. Tencent is also planning the release of its first English language social networking site in early 2011.

Marc Violo, product manager for QQi, said the launch marks a tentative step toward bringing products from the hugely popular Chinese Internet company to an overseas audience.

“We have no intention of trying to compete with Skype or MSN instant messenger," Violo said. “We’re looking to expand our reach outside of China to get involved with people who are interested in China.”

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Language is no barrier for stars

November 2010—Actress Juliette Binoche has had an Oscar sitting on her sideboard for her performance in The English Patient since 1997; this year, it was joined by the Best Actress Award from the Cannes film festival for Copie Conforme: two brilliant performances, two languages.

Make that three languages, as she also had to speak Italian in the film; the Hollywood Reporter said Binoche displayed “noteworthy gifts as a comedienne, switching effortlessly from English to French and Italian to build a character that is resentful, manipulative and seductive all at once.”

The film nearly never made it into the cinemas: production was delayed for two years and switched its main language from English to French during the hunt for a suitable leading man.

However, Binoche has admitted that she is sometimes confused when acting in English.

She said in an interview in 2006: “When I don’t think about it, it’s okay. When I think about, it’s not so. Some specific words come more to me in English, and it’s very confusing. I remember when I was working in English all the time, and I had to do an interview with French Elle magazine, and I couldn’t make a sentence. I was caught in the middle, not knowing which way to go.”

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Adults mimicking teen-speak “turning English language sloppy”

LONDON, December 8, 2010 (ANI)—An expert has said that adults mimicking teen-speak are to blame for spreading sloppy English, which is putting the future of the language at risk. 

Western society’s obsession with youth has led to older people trying to talk like teenagers, warned Marie Clair, of the Plain English Campaign.

As a result, it may be too late to “turn the tide on our declining English”, said Clair.

“Through Twitter, Facebook and texting, young people create their own language because they don’t want to sound like stuffy adults,” the Daily Mail quoted her as saying. “There is a worrying trend of adults mimicking teen-speak. They are using slang words and ignoring grammar. Their language is deteriorating. They are lowering the bar. Our language is flying off at all tangents, without the anchor of a solid foundation.

Speaking ahead of National Plain English Day on Friday, Clair said the loss of letter writing in schools was a major factor.

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Education activist lobs criticism back at Bill Gates in Internet mini-war
By Liz Goodwin,

December 1, 2010—You’d think a gazillionaire like Bill Gates would have plenty of swaggering, similarly flush enemies. But at least one reporter claims that the “biggest adversary” of the king of Microsoft is a contrarian education historian who rails against Obama-approved reforms like independent charter schools and linking teacher pay to test scores.

The heated Internet war between Gates, who now chiefly devotes his time to philanthropy and education reform, and New York University professor Diane Ravitch intensified this week when the Microsoft founder name-checked her in a Newsweek profile that focused on his extensive education efforts.

“Does she like the status quo? Is she sticking up for decline? Does she really like 400-page [union] contracts? Does she think all those ‘dropout factories’ are lonely? If there’s some other magic way to reduce the dropout rate, we’re all ears,” Gates told the magazine’s Jonathan Alter, who called Ravitch Gates’ “biggest adversary.”

Ravitch wrote extensive responses to each of Gates’ questions that were posted Tuesday on a Washington Post education blog. “I wonder why a man of his vast wealth spends so much time trying to figure out how to cut teachers’ pay,” she wrote, referring to Gates’ belief that teachers with master’s degrees should not be paid more than those without them. In another zinger, she said Gates should be praising teachers for their hard work, and pointed out many make less than secretaries who work at Microsoft.

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Watch your language: Your English might not speak to Europeans
By Bas van den Beld,

December 7, 2010—In my last post here I gave some tips on which events you could go and visit in Europe. One of the sentences I used was “The SES circus opens its tents in London.” After that post I got an e-mail from someone asking whether I meant that in a positive or a negative way. A “circus” in the US apparently isn’t always a positive thing. Over here in Europe it is. When a circus is in town everybody is happy. It’s a show which travels around and makes people happy, hence the analogy I chose.

The e-mail got me thinking, however, about the differences between Europe and the US and what I have been writing about here during the past one and a half years. There are more of these differences in language which make it hard for Europeans and US-based SEOs to work in each others areas.

Let’s take a closer look at three languages which you have to be careful with.

The first and most obvious one is the difference between UK English and US English. When you take a good look at both of them in some cases they can seem like two completely different languages.

The simplest examples of the differences you need to keep in mind in the two languages is that some words are written with different letters. In the UK for example it is “optimising” while in the US its called “optimizing.” There are other textual differences to keep in mind that go beyond using different letters in the same words...

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Oxford English Dictionary relaunches online version

December 4, 2010—The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) online version was relaunched on Tuesday, a decade after it first appeared on the internet.

According to Reuters, the new version contains 600,000 words, three million quotations and covers more than 1,000 years of the English language, organizers said.

As well as providing words’ meanings, the online dictionary allows readers to trace the evolution of the language with the help of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which is fully integrated into OED Online.

A search for “recession,” for example, will show that it first appeared in 1606 when it was used to describe “a temporary suspension of work or activity.”

In 1614 there are references to it meaning “a desertion of party principles,” and more than 200 years later a second definition, “the action of ceding back; a territory that has been ceded back” appeared.

But it was not until 1903 that a newspaper referred to a recession in an economic context.

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How words make it to the Oxford English Dictionary
By Harry Wallop, The Telegraph UK

There are 600,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, proof of the astonishing richness of the English language. But how do they end up in the book?

Each edition builds upon the epic and magisterial first edition, which was eventually published in 1928, though it had been worked upon since 1857.

Now, like then, the editors rely heavily upon a large team of unpaid volunteers, who send in on either slips of paper – the traditional method, still used by some – or email examples of what they think are new words.

Newspapers, specialist periodicals, manuals, novels and a whole host of publications are scoured. Now, less obvious language sources, such as television scripts, cookbooks and song lyrics are used as possible sources.

The OED, unlike other dictionaries, is marked by its fairly conservative decisions about which words make it into its pages; slang or "buzzwords" that appear frequently but – over a short period – in popular culture often don't make the cut.

“Staycation,” for instance, the portmanteau term coined by travel companies during the recession to describe holidays taken in Britain, has not so far made it into the online version of the OED, even though rival publications have acknowledged the word.

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Arabic-Asian influence on English language shines through in London exhibition
By Jessica Holland, TheNational.AE

November 22, 2010—The influence of Arabic and Asian languages on English is one strand in a spectacular new exhibition at London’s British Library, which includes treasures such as the first English-language Bible, the first printed book in English and the first example of the ancient form of the language, on a medallion dating from 450AD.

For example, the word “admiral” made its way into English from Arabic in 1208, as did “almanac” in 1391, “jar” in 1592 and “sofa” in 1624. Facts about these words and others were projected onto walls at the exhibition—entitled Evolving English—alongside priceless first editions, hand-drawn maps, Victorian posters and audio recordings of the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Muhammad Ali and Gandhi.

About 1.8 billion people around the world speak the language, but according to language expert David Crystal, who collaborated on Evolving English and wrote the accompanying book: “This is a first. No exhibition anywhere has been devoted to the entire history and present-day global use of the English language.”

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Exhibition: English is totally awesome, my crumpet

LONDON, November 19, 2010 (Reuters Life!)—“I wrote 2 U B4" pens a poet to his lady love, but don’t be deceived—the short message is not a snippet from an iPhone text, but a 19th century form of word play.

The abbreviated line—called emblematic poetry—is just one example of the transformations of the English language, as presented in the British Library’s “Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices,” the largest such exhibit in the world.

The language now spoken by a third of the world’s population came to Britain 1,600 years ago with marauding Germanic tribes, and has been shaped over the centuries by everyone from Viking invaders to French royalty and Caribbean immigrants.

“English has always been diverse and different, and it’s evolved, right from the beginning,” said Jonnie Robinson, a curator and specialist in sociolinguistics.

“One of the things we wanted to celebrate was creative uses of English.”

English developed through the literary and religious canon, with Chaucer and Shakespeare pioneering words like “hunchback” and “eyeball.”

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How the King James Bible shaped the English language
By Robert McCrum, The Observer 

November 21, 2010—Any day now the English-speaking world will start to celebrate a number one bestseller of unprecedented literary significance. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s actually a quatercentenary. I refer not to the collected works of William Shakespeare but a contemporary rival volume that has not only sold non-stop for 400 years but also shaped our imaginative landscape: the King James Bible.

As well as selling an estimated 1bn copies since 1611, the KJB went straight into our literary bloodstream like a lifesaving drug. Whenever we put words into someone’s mouth, or see the writing on the wall, or go from strength to strength, or eat, drink and be merry, or fight the good fight, or bemoan the signs of the times, or find a fly in the ointment, or use words such as “long-suffering,” “scapegoat,” and “peacemaker” we are unconsciously quoting the KJB. More astounding, compared to Shakespeare’s prodigal 31,000-word vocabulary, the KJB works its magic with a lexicon of just 12,000 words.

More than this enthralling matrix of linguistic influence, there’s the miracle of the translation itself, a triumph of creative collaboration (54 scholars in six committees), outright plagiarism and good old English pragmatism. The Authorized Version’s mission statement was a masterpiece of lowered expectations. Its aim, it declared, was not “to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, that hath been our endeavour.”

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Sarah Palin coins “word of the year,” books boffo cable debut

November 15, 2010—Sarah Palin’s reality show scored huge ratings for its premiere Sunday night, while the guardians of usage at the New Oxford American Dictionary awarded the former Alaska governor the higher-brow distinction of coining 2010’s “word of the year”—“refudiate”—via her Twitter account.

According to TLC, roughly 4.96 million people tuned in to watch the first episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” That’s the biggest premiere in the channel’s history.
And as if the ratings triumph weren’t enough, today the New Oxford American Dictionary declared “refudiate” the top word in 2010—a verb that Palin apparently invented.

The former governor used the word in a Twitter message last summer, calling on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” a planned mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York. When critics pounced on the made-up verb, Palin deleted the Tweet and replaced it with one that called on Muslims to “refute” the site—even though that usage made no sense, either, since to refute is to prove something to be untrue.

But in a release today, the New Oxford American Dictionary defended Palin’s use of the word: “From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used ‘refudiate,’ we have concluded that neither ‘refute’ nor ‘repudiate’ seems consistently precise, and that ‘refudiate’ more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of ‘reject.’”

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Russian becomes most popular foreign language in China

PRAVDA, November 12, 2010—While Russians are losing interest in their culture of speech, the Russian language has been gaining popularity in China, no matter how strange it may sound. The knowledge of the English language is considered very prestigious in Russia. If a Russian is fluent in English, he or she may consider themselves professionally successful. In China, students rush for special courses to study Russian.

The interest in the Russian language has been growing steadily in China recently. For example, one of the most popular TV shows in China is a Russian song contest. It is incredibly hard for a Chinese national to learn how to speak Russian. It is just as hard, as it is for a Russian to learn how to speak Chinese. However, Russian is becoming more and more important in China because the nation’s political and economic cooperation with Russia continues to expand every year.

Chinese students say that the knowledge of Russian will help them make from 3 to 5 thousand yuans a month (about $500-800). Such an amount is considered very good earnings for young specialists in the country.

There is nothing surprising about the fact that specialists with the knowledge of Russian are in great demand in China: a great deal of Chinese companies ship their products to Russia. In addition, many Chinese citizens intend to immigrate to Russia.

In 2009, about 40,000 Chinese students and 80,000 schoolchildren studied Russian. About 60,000 adult Chinese understand Russian.

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The foreign language Internet looms as the 21st century gold mine
By Christian Arno,

October 28, 2010—Times are tough in the English language Internet. With billions of pages of content competing for your attention, and many of them optimised for search engines, getting your web page into the broader search consciousness can be like running up the down escalator.

There is a place, though, where there’s less competition for keywords and domain names, and less content overall, and that place is the non-English or foreign language Internet.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Yes, we know that there’s money to be made with online marketing of multilingual websites,” but it never hurts to hammer the point home with some interesting statistics.

The future of the Internet is undeniably multilingual, as demonstrated by projects like the W3C Multilingual Web Workshop, which aims to develop standards for a universally accessible internet of diverse languages.

Internet marketers and e-commerce businesses that ignore the foreign language Internet are rejecting what will surely prove to be the great untapped resource of the 21st century.

Here’s why:

The English language currently only accounts for 31% of all online use.

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Early medieval manuscripts give new view of English life under the Normans
November 2, 2010—The culmination of a pioneering international project which has uncovered new insights on Norman England is to be celebrated on November 10 at the University of Leicester.

A new study of early medieval manuscripts written in the English language has revealed that the Normans, who conquered England in 1066, were not the destructive force of popular belief, sweeping away everything that had gone before.

The project, “The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060-1220,” was funded by the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) and provides contextual information and a catalogue of all the surviving books that were written between 1060 and 1220 that contain text written in the English language. This descriptive catalogue is freely available to other scholars in the field.

The new story shows English people living under Norman rule continued to write, read and preach in the English language as they had done under the Anglo-Saxon kings in earlier centuries, in the new social and political climate.

In particular it challenges the long-held view about the English language being driven underground after the Norman Conquest. 

“Hundreds of texts are written in English between 1060 and 1220 right across England – laws, sermons, saints’ lives, land charters, medicinal recipes and prayers,” said Dr. Orietta Da Rold, Lecturer in Chaucer and Medieval Literature at the University of Leicester, and Co-Director of the project. 

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Hunt is underway for 100 events that shaped the English language
By Rebecca Lefort, The Telegraph UK

October 24, 2010—From the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the fifth century to modern-day waves of immigration, the English language has been shaped by countless episodes in history.

Now The English Project, a charity dedicated to promoting the language, is compiling a list of the 100 most important events and locations which have made English what it is today.

The journey starts in Lakenheath in Suffolk, where the Undley Bracteate medallion was found, dated to 475 and bearing the first evidence of written English.

Then in 731 the Venerable Bede completed his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear – the first text to speak of the English language and the English people.

And by 871 King Alfred of Wessex, the first person to call the language “English,” was ordering translations from Latin into West Saxon, a dialect of Old English.

In recent times the language has adapted again and again, on its way to becoming the common tongue of 1.8 billion people worldwide.

The charity has already compiled a list of 20 of the most important events in the history of the language, and wants the public to help produce the final list of 100 crucial events.

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Best-selling foreign authors head to India

NEW DELHI, October 22, 2010—Indian readers of contemporary English fiction are reaping a rich harvest as top British and American authors head to India to promote their books. Best-selling names Ken Follet, Peter James, and Wilbur Smith are the latest to chart out trips to the country.

India has one of the biggest English language readerships outside the non-English speaking world and at 80 billion ($1.8 billion), the book publishing industry in India is also witnessing a boom unlike many Western countries which are still battling a downturn. 

Over the last two years at least a dozen top writers from the West have visited India to touch base with readers to boost sale.

Britain's best-selling author Follet will visit India in December on a three-city tour of Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai to promote his new book, Fall of Giants. He follows in the footsteps of best-selling writer Jeffrey Archer, who came to India in 2009 to promote his book Path of Glory.

Next will be a visit in February by James, a best-selling British author and movie producer, to promote his book, Dead Man’s Footsteps.

On the cards are promotional visits by cult novelists Wilbur Smith, who is of South African origin, known for mega epics like When the Lion Feeds and The Eye of the Tiger; and David Baldacci, the author of Absolute Power and Last Man Standing.

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A computer learns the hard way by reading the Internet
By Claire Evans,

NELL, for Never Ending Language Learner, reads the Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week, learning language like a human would — cumulatively, over a long period of time. It parses text on the Internet for ontological categories, like “plants,” “music” and “sports teams,” then uses contextual clues to sort out what things belong in which categories, like “Nirvana is a grunge band” and “Peyton Manning plays for the Indianapolis Colts.” And, perhaps most Skynet-horror-inducing, “anger is an emotion.”

In these estimations, NELL is 87 percent correct. And the more it learns, the more accurate it will become. Like the premise of a dystopian sci-fi story, Read the Web is both wonderful and terrifying — not unlike the idea of a “Semantic Web,” an Internet as comprehensible to computers as it is to humans, which has been in the computer science and AI discourse for years.

Upon discovering this project, I had tons of questions about NELL: Could it read other languages? Who gets the data in the end? Does it have parental controls on? To find out, we talked to Professor Tom Mitchell, chair of the Machine Learning Department of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and Burr Settles, a Carnegie Mellon postdoctoral fellow working on the project.

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French furious at move to make English the language of Europe
By Mark Reynolds,

A war of words has broken out across the Channel over a plea to make English the common language of Europe.

The Flemish Belgian education minister Pascal Smet riled his French-speaking colleagues by labelling English “the world’s most important language.”

Mr. Smet’s remarks yesterday sparked anger among French speakers in Belgium.
He insisted: “We have to admit European integration does not always go as smoothly as it should. One of the causes is that we don’t speak a common language – and that’s why I want to launch this idea. It seems logical to me to give more weight to English in education, maybe as early as from primary school.

“China introduced English as the second language two years ago. From an economic and political point of view, it’s the world’s most important language. And it’s also the common language in many companies.”

But the French community’s education spokeswoman Marie-Dominique Simonet hit back: “These unfortunate remarks are hardly going to help improve relations between the Flemish and French speakers in this country.”
And a leading French-Belgian political website said: “It is high time the Flemish stopped trying to dictate who speaks which language – and to stop trying to create a hierarchy of languages.”

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China wants more foreign students to consider using its universities

Sixty years ago there were just 20 foreign students studying in China. By 2020, there should be 500,000.

That’s what will happen if a plan released Tuesday by the Chinese Ministry of Education does what it sets out to do.

Easier visa access, an increase in the number of scholarships available and more English language courses are among the policies to be implemented by the MOE as it looks to open up China’s institutes of higher education to the outside world.

Money, of course, will help make the wheels of this project spin and China is hoping that most of those predicted 500,000 will be self-funding—a group that has grown to quite staggering numbers in recent years.

Last year there were a record almost 240,000 international students studying in China, according to the MOE, with representatives from 190 countries and regions around the world. In 1950, there were just 20 - and they all came from within the former Soviet Union.

While not releasing specific numbers, the ministry rated South Korea as the country which sends the greatest number of students to China, followed by the United States and Japan.

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Google unveils new tool to speed up searches
By Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO—Google, which can already feel like an appendage to our brains, is now predicting what people are thinking before they even type.

Google says its new tool will cumulatively save people more than 3.5 billion seconds every day.

On September 8, Google introduced Google Instant, which predicts Internet search queries and shows results as soon as someone begins to type, adjusting the results as each successive letter is typed.

“We want to make Google the third half of your brain,” said Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder and president of technology, speaking at a Google press event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for search products and user experience, added, “There’s even a psychic element to it.”

Google’s new psychic powers result in much faster searches, but the change might affect the many businesses that have been built around placing search ads on Google and helping Web sites figure out how to climb higher in search results to increase revenue.

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Students warned to beware of “laptop-it is”
By Alan Mozes, HealthDay

The very design of laptop computers encourages bad posture among college students and other heavy users, which can lead to headaches, muscle strain and debilitating neck, shoulder and hand injuries, researchers caution.

The issue stems from the unified body construction that defines laptops, researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, explained in a university news release. With an inseparable keyboard and monitor, users are not free to configure their equipment in a way that minimizes risk.

“When you use a laptop, you have to make some sort of sacrifice,” Dr. Kevin Carneiro, a physician in the UNC School of Medicine's department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, stated in the news release.

Such a sacrifice to convenience comes at a price, Carneiro noted. Awkward positioning of the fingers and body can cause nerve injury to the wrist and prompt the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, while poor neck position and shoulder posture can cause muscle strain and soreness in those areas.

Signs of trouble typically come in the form of headaches, wrist pain, tingling in the fingers or thumb, and neck and shoulder pain, he added.

Concern about such laptop health issues is driven by their rising popularity, as worldwide sales now exceed those of standard desktop computers. Students are particularly vulnerable, since laptops are a common feature of campus life.

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Microsoft Engkoo—intelligent English to Chinese translator
Engkoo is Microsoft’s linguistic equivalent of “teach a man to fish” when it comes down to enabling Chinese users to learn English.

Released by Bing in China, the new project delivers language assistance search technology which provides Chinese speakers with much more than a dictionary.

Instead, users can leverage the search engine linguistics capabilities of Engkoo to unravel the mysteries of the English language, including slang and idioms.

Engkoo provides search and translation capabilities, but also diverse results to queries, from text to images and to video. Of course, the focus here is to offer context, rather than simple translation.

At the same time, the software giant has taken it one step further and included text-to-speech functionality. Moreover, Engkoo is perfectly capable to understand the phonetic version of words, and still allow users to perform accurate searches.

“According to statistics, about 15 new words and uses for words appear in the English language every day,” noted Ming Zhou, senior researcher and research manager of the Natural Language Processing Group at Microsoft Research in Beijing.

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Online learning startup rises on wings of “angel investors”

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP)—A startup intent on making it simple for anyone to teach online announced Tuesday that it has received a million dollars in funding from “angel investors.” will use the cash to hire workers and ramp-up operations, co-founder Gagan Biyani told AFP.

“We want to essentially democratize education so that anyone can teach over the Internet,” Biyani said. “We make it really easy for anyone to develop an online course. We don’t give advice how to teach, but we provide the tools to do it.”

Biyani and the two other co-founders have been the entire workforce since Udemy launched in May in the northern California city of Palo Alto.

Most courses listed at Udemy on Tuesday were free to aspiring students. Topics ranged from how to start a business or use computer software tools to winning at poker or picking up women.

The course list included an online class by high-level Google executive Marissa Mayer titled “Ideas come from everywhere.”

More than a thousand instructors have created courses at Udemy, with a host of offerings coming from prestigious US universities including Stanford, Yale, and MIT.

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Japan removes language barrier in nursing exams

Japan will provide English translations in a professional nursing exam to remove a language hurdle for foreign applicants after almost all of them failed the test this year, officials said Wednesday.

Hundreds of nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines have been allowed to work temporarily in rapidly ageing Japan, but they have to pass the Japanese language test if they hope to stay longer than a few years.

To respond to rising complaints that the tests are discriminatory, the health ministry has also decided to simplify the wording of some of the exam questions ahead of the next test in February, ministry officials said.

Historically, Japan has imposed tight limits on immigration but has allowed several hundred certified nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines into the country to help make up a shortage of health-care workers.

Those who hope to stay longer than three years in the case of nurses, and four years in the case of caregivers, need to pass the examinations, forcing them to quickly learn thousands of Japanese characters and medical terms.

This year only three people—two Indonesian nurses and one from the Philippines—passed the test, while the other 251 applicants failed.

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Pupils do better at school if teachers are not fixated on test results

Children perform best in exams when teachers are not overly concerned about their test results, according to research in the United Kingdom published last August 13.

Pupils show greater motivation, are better behaved and are more likely to be independent and strategic thinkers when teachers are not obsessed by grades, the study by the Institute of Education found.

Government policy increasingly points teachers in the opposite direction, encouraging them to concentrate on students’ results, said the study’s author, Chris Watkins, a reader in education at the institute.

Ministers have placed teachers under so much pressure to ensure students perform well in national exams that they increasingly talk at their pupils, rather than talk to them and ask them open questions, he said. The latter leads students to deepen their learning and perform at their optimum, according to Watkins, who analyzed the findings of more than 100 international studies on how teachers can best help pupils to learn.

The word “learning” was rarely heard in classrooms, he said, while teachers were more worried about their pupils’ performance in exams. They had resorted to narrowing the curriculum and drilling pupils for tests, Watkins argued, and this made the students less motivated.

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Music in background during study may mess up memory, study finds
By Robert Preidt, HealthDay

Studying for an exam while listening to music is not smart, because background music can impair your ability to perform memory tasks, new research has found.

Study participants were asked to recall a list of eight consonants in the order they were presented. They did this while in five different sound environments: quiet surroundings; music they liked; music they disliked; changing state (a sequence of random digits); and steady state (a sequence of steady digits such as “3, 3, 3, 3”).

The participants’ recall ability was poorest when listening to music, regardless of whether they liked or disliked it, and in changing-state conditions. The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in steady-state environments, according to the study published online in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.

“The poorer performance of the music and changing-state sounds are due to the acoustical variation within those environments. This impairs the ability to recall the order of items, via rehearsal, within the presented list,” explained lead researcher Nick Perham, a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, in a news release from the journal's publisher.

“Mental arithmetic also requires the ability to retain order information in the short-term via rehearsal, and may be similarly affected by their performance in the presence of changing-state, background environments,” he added.

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Thousands of unused words in Oxford Press vault

“Wurfing,” “polkadodge” and “nonversation” are among the words stored in secret files after being rejected for inclusion by the Oxford English Dictionary, it has been disclosed.

Millions of “non words” which failed to make the dictionary lie unused in a vault owned by the Oxford University Press.

“Wurfing” means surfing the internet at work, while “polkadodge” describes the strange little dance two passing people do when they try to avoid each other but move in the same direction, and “nonversation” denotes a pointless chat.

These words were recently submitted for use in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) but will remain dormant unless they enter common parlance in the future.

Graphic designer Luke Ngakane, 22, uncovered hundreds of “non words” as part of a project for Kingston University, London.

He said: “I was fascinated when I read that the Oxford University Press has a vault where all their failed words, which didn’t make the dictionary, are kept. This storeroom contains millions of words and some of them date back hundreds of years.”

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Canada now global leader in young college graduates; US falls from 1st to 12th

Canada is now the global leader in higher education among young adults, with 55.8 percent of that population holding an associate degree or better as of 2007, while the  United States has fallen from first to 12th in the share of adults ages 25 to 34 with postsecondary degrees.

This is according to a new report from the College Board, which said that the US—with 40.4 percent of young adults holding postsecondary credentials—sits 11 places back of Canada. The United States ranks somewhat higher, sixth, among all nations when older adults are added to the equation, the report said.

The report, presented to Capitol Hill policymakers last July 22, is backed by a commission of highly placed educators who have set a goal for the United States to reclaim world leadership in college completion—and attain a 55 percent completion rate—by 2025.

The campaign mirrors President Obama’s quest to reclaim world leadership in college graduates by 2020, although it gives the country five more years to get there. The Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education set its goal in December 2008, seven months before Obama's American Graduation Initiative.

“I don’t think what we’re saying and what the president’s saying are that different,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, the New York nonprofit agency responsible for the SAT and AP tests.

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Debate on charging fees for online news content remains unresolved

ASPEN, Colorado—Top technology and media executives wrapped up a three-day conference here during which they grappled with—and left unresolved—the question of whether readers will pay for news online.

Firmly in the paid camp in the “paid vs. free” debate was News Corp.’s head of digital operations Jon Miller who said charging online readers is a notion that has been “accepted at a variety of levels.”

“It’s more about how it gets done,” Miller told participants in the Fortune Brainstorm Tech event which ended last July 24 in this Colorado ski resort.

With newspapers and magazines facing competition from free content on the Web and declining circulation and print advertising revenue, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has been leading the charge to get newspaper readers to pay online.

The Wall Street Journal, a News Corp. title, is currently the only major US newspaper to charge readers for full access to its website and one of the few to buck the trend of eroding circulation.

Miller said charging readers is “an idea whose time has come,” but others disagreed including Jimmy Pitaro, Yahoo!’s vice president for media.

“We firmly believe that free is the future,” said Pitaro, whose Yahoo! News is one of the most popular news destinations on the Web.

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As English spreads, Indonesians fear for their language
By Norimitsu Onishi, The New York Times

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Paulina Sugiarto’s three children played together at a mall here the other day, chattering not in Indonesia’s national language, but English. Their fluency often draws admiring questions from other Indonesian parents Ms. Sugiarto encounters in this city’s upscale malls.

At a mall in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, Paulina Sugiarto and her three children, who speak fluent English, looked over comic books in Indonesian.

But the children’s ability in English obscured the fact that, though born and raised in Indonesia, they were struggling with the Indonesian language, known as Bahasa Indonesia. Their parents, who grew up speaking the Indonesian language but went to college in the United States and Australia, talk to their children in English. And the children attend a private school where English is the main language of instruction.

“They know they’re Indonesian,” Ms. Sugiarto, 34, said. “They love Indonesia. They just can’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. It’s tragic.”

Indonesia’s linguistic legacy is increasingly under threat as growing numbers of wealthy and upper-middle-class families shun public schools where Indonesian remains the main language but English is often taught poorly. They are turning, instead, to private schools that focus on English and devote little time, if any, to Indonesian.

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Millions of books get digitized for the disabled
By Stephanie Steinberg, USA Today

For those who are blind, dyslexic or have diseases like multiple sclerosis and have difficulty turning book pages, reading the latest best seller just got easier.

Brewster Kahle, a digital librarian and founder of a virtual library called the Internet Archive, has launched a worldwide campaign to double the number of books available for print-disabled people.

The Internet Archive began scanning books in 2004 and now has more than 1 million available in DAISY format, or Digital Accessible Information System, a means of creating “talking” books that can be downloaded to a handheld device. Unlike books on tape, the digital format makes it easier for print-disabled people to navigate books because they can speed up, slow down and skip around from chapter to chapter.

About 7 million books are downloaded by Internet Archive users around the world each month, Kahle says. With 20 scanning centers in the USA and eight in countries around the world, the archive scans more than 1,000 books a day from more than 150 libraries, including the Library of Congress— the largest library in the world that also offers online digitalized collections of books, articles and newspapers.

The U.S. government, foundations and libraries provide funding for the Internet Archive. To help with the campaign, Kahle received a grant from the city of San Francisco to employ 100 “digital technicians” who work to scan books that people and organizations are donating for the project. The technicians were all formerly unemployed or underemployed single parents.

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Battle intensifies for $2 billion English-teaching business in China

In South Korea, pushy parents who want their children to get ahead in learning English send them for an operation to elongate the tongue, in the belief that it will make pronunciation easier.

Such is the national obsession with having a fluent command of the language that drastic measures are taken in some cases when children are just six months old. China has not yet reached the same level of fanaticism over spoken English, but it is not far off.

Chinese children with affluent parents are packed off to classes staffed by American, Canadian and British teachers as soon as they can speak. High school students are frequently enrolled in extra-curricular classes to cram for the English component of the university entrance exam. And young professionals aspiring to a more interesting and lucrative career flock to classrooms and online lessons and even stadiums alongside tens of thousands of other evangelical linguists.

To meet this rising demand, there are now an estimated 30,000 organizations or companies offering private English classes in China. The market has nearly doubled in size in the last five years and is now worth around $3.1bn.

Disney English, a subsidiary of the US entertainment giant, has rapidly expanded since launching in October 2008, after thousands of parents signed their toddlers up for its special curriculum of Disney-themed classes.

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Study shows teens benefit from later school day

CHICAGO (AP)—Giving teens 30 extra minutes to start their school day leads to more alertness in class, better moods, less tardiness, and even healthier breakfasts, a small study found.

“The results were stunning. There’s no other word to use,” said Patricia Moss, academic dean at the Rhode Island boarding school where the study was done. “We didn't think we'd get that much bang for the buck.”

The results appear in July’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results mirror those at a few schools that have delayed starting times more than half an hour.

Researchers say there’s a reason why even 30 minutes can make a big difference. Teens tend to be in their deepest sleep around dawn—when they typically need to arise for school. Interrupting that sleep can leave them groggy, especially since they also tend to have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m.

“There's biological science to this that I think provides compelling evidence as to why this makes sense,” said Brown University sleep researcher Dr. Judith Owens, the study's lead author and a pediatrician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.

An Archives editorial said the study adds to “a growing body of evidence that changing the start time for high schools is good for adolescents.”

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Aggressive teachers harm pupils’ education, says an academic
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor,

Shouting at children and handing out too many detentions in the classroom can seriously undermine pupils’ education, according to an academic.

A hard-line approach to discipline can easily backfire because children fail to learn properly when they are scared, it was claimed.

In a blow to traditionalists, Dr Andrew Curran said that pupils were better stimulated by rewards and a “loving” culture generated by teachers.

He said almost half of pupils were turned off lessons in the first six months of secondary education because of the shock caused by moving from the more secure surroundings of a small primary school.

It comes despite claims from Sir Alan Steer, the Government's chief advisor on behaviour, that the threat of a “right royal rollicking” was the best way to crack down on troublemakers.

But Dr Curran, paediatric neurologist at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Merseyside, said pupils could not learn in a hostile environment.

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“Inchoate” tops list of most-looked-up New York Times words

WASHINGTON (AFP)—What are the 50 words that stump readers of The New York Times the most?

The newspaper on Tuesday published its annual list of the words that readers have looked up the most frequently on using the website’ built-in American Heritage dictionary tool.

“Inchoate,” “profligacy,” “sui generis,” “austerity” and “profligate” topped the list followed by “baldenfreude,” a non-existent word that a New York Times columnist threw into an article, puzzling readers.

“Opprobrium,” “apostates,” “solipsistic” and “obduracy” were next on the list of the most-frequently looked up words followed by “internecine,” “soporific,” “Kristallnacht,” “peripatetic” and “nascent.”

The top word, “inchoate,” which means not yet completed, was used in 13 news articles and seven op-ed pieces or editorials between January 1 and May 26 of this year and was looked up a total of 8,172 times.

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Spelling champ’s victory hat-trick for Indian-Americans

Is it because of Indian colonial history with Britain or is it something at the level of genetic programming? Whatever the explanation, there is no denying that Indians have a penchant for the English language, a trans-generational, linguistic love affair that gets transmitted even to far-flung diaspora.

This week, the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States was—for the third consecutive year and for the eighth time in the last 11 years—won by an Indian-American, Anamika Veeramani of North Royalton, Ohio.

Anamika won after nine nerve-wracking rounds, culminating in her correctly spelling “stromuhr,” a device used to measure blood flow velocity. She fought her way through earlier rounds successfully spelling words like “foggara,” “osteomyelitis,” “mirin,” “nahcolite,” “epiphysis,” and, in the penultimate round, “juvia,” a term for a Brazilian nut.

Anamika, an eighth grade student at the Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights, was competing in her second consecutive Spelling Bee, after tying at fifth place last year. This year’s competition began on Wednesday with 273 competitors who qualified through locally sponsored bees in their home communities.

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Britain’s new romance language is English
By Jennifer Quinn, Associated Press

LONDON—Love may have its own language—but that’s not good enough for the British government.

It wants English, too.

Starting this fall, the spouse of a citizen who is coming from outside the European Union and wants to live in Britain will have to prove he or she has a basic command of English.

The move, announced Wednesday by the new Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron, comes as countries across Europe tighten their rules on immigration amid rising unemployment rates and concerns about the ability of newcomers to integrate.

The famously tolerant Netherlands was holding an election Wednesday in which a far-right party that wants to ban all immigration from nonwestern countries has a shot at doubling its seats in Parliament.

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Quebec government struggles with access to English-language education

QUEBEC (AHN)—Canada’s divisions between its English-speaking and French-speaking communities arose again this week in a dispute in Quebec’s legislature over access to English-language public education.

The separatist Parti Quebecois is using procedural maneuvers to block a vote on a law that would broaden the rights of children to receive education in English.

Members of the Liberal government proposed the law but set aside a vote on it in the face of fierce opposition.

The proposed legislation, Bill 103, would amend the Charter of the French Language.
The charter designates French as the official language of Quebec.

In 2002, Parti Quebecois succeeded in passing a law that limited children’s access to education in English.

Last October, the Supreme Court overturned it.

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