A series of Russian textbooks have caused a stir because of a language learning exercise, an example of which can be found below.
A policeman says in Russian: “I work a lot, sometimes even too much. … Winter or summer, rain or shine, I go from a bank to a store, from a store to a restaurant, from a restaurant to a market, looking for where to take money.”
The idea of the textbooks is for students to spot the mistake within the sentence, but a United Russia lawmaker believes that the texts could tarnish Russia’s image abroad. As well as corrupt policemen taking money, another passage features a drug taking professor who complains that ‘stupid girl students don’t come’ to his lectures. The authors of the textbooks are said to be astounded at the controversy as the first edition of the book was published a decade ago and the books are clearly labelled for adult learning. The issue has polarised opinion with some finding the texts a humorous and refreshing change from many Russian language textbooks still in print from the Soviet era, whereas others believe language textbooks should take a more serious, academic approach. Do you mind a little humour with your language learning?
via: The Moscow Times
Playwright Sir Tom Stoppard has presented to a committee of MSPs on the subject of languages.
In a petition, he told the committee that more needs to be done to protect lesser taught languages such as Polish, Russian and Czech. The teaching of these languages in Scottish institutions is currently under threat, with Glasgow University considering axing the teaching of five languages.
Sir Tom was born in Czechoslovakia and came to Britain as a refugee. He told the committee:
“For me the reputation for teaching language in general, and East European languages most particularly, gave Glasgow University, and by reflection the country, a distinction.
“It made it a place to be recommended everywhere.”
He warned: “It is on its way out, it will be gone.” (Source: BBC News)
Official letters will now be sent by the committee to Glasgow University and the Scottish government to ask what can be done about the decline.
Are you learning one of the “lesser taught” languages?
In a country where studying a language at GCSE level is currently non-compulsory, it’s interesting to see that business managers in the Czech Republic believe students should study more than one language.
The survey by Czech Position found that the majority of business managers think that more than one language should be compulsory in schools, with Russian, German, Hindi and Mandarin the preferred options. The survey was in response to the proposal by the National Economic Council (NERV) that students should only study English as a second language as they could “get by in life” if they were fluent in English. It also said that students should study subjects such as law, finance and IT instead of a second compulsory language.
Managers disagree, with many pointing to their business links with Russia and Germany as evidence for the need for students to study a second compulsory language. According to one, “some 85 percent of the Czech Republic’s business cooperation takes place with European Union member states, and more than half with German-speaking countries, above all Germany. Forgetting this fact would be a fatal error”.
Not all of the managers were in agreement however, with some pointing to the quality of language teaching in schools as an area that needs to be addressed before more languages are compulsory. Another said that schools and students should be allowed to focus on a discipline they are good at – “teaching several compulsory languages would reduce the capacity of the school and the students for specific subjects. Then it could easily happen that a student — a talented technician, for instance — would not pass his school leaving exam in a foreign language and, as a result, could not find an appropriate job because of something that is not directly connected with his professional qualities”.
What do you think?
Angelina Jolie recently proclaimed her love for the Russian language, but language learning isn’t just for A-list movie stars – as footballers from Manchester City recently showed.
Whilst Jolie learned Russian for her new movie, Salt, the footballers picked up some Arabic for the launch of a website in the United Arab Emirates. The Sun reports they had varying degrees of success, with the club’s Arabic media executive saying “I was surprised how fast some of the players picked it up. Adebayor was especially good.”
The footballers and Jolie had a common purpose for their learning – it was required for their work. And whilst they might not be fluent in the languages, they definitely made an effort.
Angelina also pinpoints one of the reasons for her success – practice!
I just had to practice over and over and over and I was told that I was getting it wrong a bunch of times and I had to keep practicing. (Source: US Weekly)
The internet is a great resource for language learning, but only if you can find the information you need.
Good news for English speakers and language learners as English is the language most used by internet users. According to research by Internet World Stats, English is the language used by almost 30% of users. This is quite closely followed by Chinese and then Spanish. Japanese, French, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Russian and Korean round out the top 10.
Keeping this in mind, try out this game to see if you can guess the world’s top 20 most spoken languages. I think the number one will surprise you!
Today is International Mother Language Day, designated as such by UNESCO in 1999 and first celebrated in 2000. Observed yearly by UNESCO member states, the day aims to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
The day has its origins in Language Movement Day, which was first commemorated in Bangladesh in 1952. Each year has a theme, with this year being the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Previous themes have included International Year of Languages (2008) and Linguistic Diversity (2002).
This year, in conjunction with International Mother Language Day, the UN will launch a new initiative called UN Language Days. These seek to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, two of the aims of Mother Language Day. It also aims to promote equal use of all six of the UN’s official working languages – Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic – through six new observance days.
UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova noted in her message for the Day:
“Languages are the best vehicles of mutual understanding and tolerance. Respect for all languages is a key factor for ensuring peaceful coexistence, without exclusion, of societies and all of their members,” she said. (Source: UN)
I posted recently about the European Union and the difficulties faced with translating their work in to the languages of its member countries.
So how does this work on a bigger scale, with more countries involved? Somewhere like the United Nations for example. This issue was recently highlighted by Colonel Gaddafi of Libya addressing the UN General Assembly in a regional dialect.
With 192 member states and a budget of around US$4 billion, the UN is made up of five main bodies, four of which are based on international territory at the UN headquarters in New York City, USA. The UN has six official languages – English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. When delivering a speech at the UN, speakers are supposed to talk in one of these languages.
…U.N. interpreters then translate the lecture into the other five languages. If the speaker doesn’t use an official language—either as a political statement or because he doesn’t know one—the speaker has to bring along his own interpreter. That interpreter then translates into one of the official languages—usually English or French—and the other interpreters translate from that interpretation. (Qaddafi brought his own interpreter.) Alternatively, the speaker can provide a written translation of his speech in one of the official languages, as long as he doesn’t deviate from the text in his remarks.
The United Nations uses simultaneous interpretation, which means translating on the fly without breaks (as opposed to consecutive interpretation, in which the speaker and translator alternate). At any given moment, the U.N. Interpretation Service has a dozen interpreters working six booths—one for every official language. The pair of interpreters in the English booth translates into English, the French booth translates into French, and so on. Attendees can then listen to the interpretations on headphones, clicking across channels for different languages. The job is exhausting, so interpreters will usually switch off every 20 minutes or so. They can also take breaks when the speech is in their language, since no translation is necessary. (Source: Slate Magazine)
To read more about interpreting at the UN, read the rest of the article at Slate Magazine here.