Metaglossia: The Translation World
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Metaglossia: The Translation World
News about translation, interpreting, intercultural communication, terminology and lexicography - as it happens
Curated by Charles Tiayon
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Does the medium affect the message for students? - Daily News | Opinion |

October 31 2012 at 10:15am
By Dr Marcelyn Oostendorp
Most South African students are not being educated in their first language, says the writer.
Most South African students in higher education are not being educated in their first language. English dominates the higher educational context, including learning material and the circulation and distribution of new knowledge.
The debate about the language of instruction in higher education is usually reduced to the position that English is an “international” and a “common” language and should therefore be the main medium of instruction. In South Africa, other languages are usually only mentioned when proclamations are made that Afrikaans should be used in higher education to maintain the status of the language, while African languages are seldom mentioned.
Surprisingly, very little research exists on the effects of increased exposure to a second language on students, perpetuating myths or pieces of folk wisdom. One such notion is that English has to be the primary medium of instruction at school if one is to succeed at university. Another is that the use of a second language negatively affects one’s first language, and that learning should therefore ideally take place through the medium of the first language. However, based on my research, neither of these two arguments is necessarily true, and the debate should really be about more than just language.!
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The Language (D)efect

South Africa is one of a few countries that can boast about having a multicultural society which is so proudly reflected in our colourful flag. We have gone as far as dubbing ourselves the “Rainbow nation” in celebration of our diversity.
This of course has placed us in a unique position when it comes to most countries considering that they have no more than 2 to 3 official languages. We as the Republic of South Africa have a total of 11 official languages. You heard right, we can say hello in eleven languages including English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Tswana, Zulu, Sesotho among others (this column is not enough to list all of them).
While this may be something we hold dear to our hearts, it does present its own challenges.
Breaking barriers
A colleague of mine recently quizzed me about my generation’s (I don’t know what that means) lack of appreciate for the vernacular language. To quote her she said “kutheni uthanda uthetha isilungu kangaka kodwa uthetha nomntu omnyama” and my immediate response was why shouldn’t I? Does speaking English to my fellow black brother mean I have no respect for the Xhosa language? I don’t think so but sometimes it’s better to say things in the queen’s language.
There have been calls to most schools and universities to start offering classes and lectures in other languages as English and Afrikaans do not represent most of the people in this country.
While I completely agree with this sentiment, how practical is it to have academic institutions offering lectures in all eleven official languages. With our current ailing education system, can it handle the infrastructure that would be needed to implement these plans to promote these ‘neglected’ languages?
Direct translation
President Jacob Zuma in August came under fire for saying that single women need to have kids in order to practice to be mothers. The President further fuelled the fires by saying that in a democracy the minority have less rights to the majority after a parliamentary question was posed by the tenacious DA leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Another colleague of mine (I have lots of those) said the media misunderstands the president because he thinks in Isizulu therefore he screws up when he is trying to covert his thoughts to English. The accuracy of this may be a mystery but it’s not completely improbable. Now direct translation is something that is prevalent in a multicultural society like ours.!
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Birth, language and empowerment |

I realize that some women prefer to walk into the hospital to birth their babies with the mindset that the medical care providers are the experts and they are prepared to hand their care over with complete trust. I also realize that generally this works out, and generally women are satisfied with their care. This column is not for them. This column is to address the lack of knowledge and empowerment and the dissatisfaction that many other women feel after childbirth.

What might happen if we educated families about birth processes and came to see birth as a normal and natural state of being?
From a feminist standpoint of empowerment through knowledge and the ability to choose, this is problematic. I suppose one could argue that women make the choice to not have knowledge about the birthing process and to hand their care over, but I’m not sure if a choice can be made without the relevant information. Too often I hear that women do so because they are afraid of “something” happening, or a story of a friend who had a specific tragedy. Women don’t seem to know what those somethings are when questioned specifically about it, or to know if their risk factors were comparable to the women in the stories they’ve heard. This seems to lead to women being saddened by aspects of their birth experience, who learn only after it’s too late that they didn’t know things would unfold in the way they did. As I teach about standard medications and routine procedures used during childbirth, the moms (and dads) who are choosing to become educated are shocked at things that are being done to themselves and their babies as a matter of routine care without their consent or knowledge, and without medical indication for the procedures. Informed consent cannot be given without the ability to refuse.

What might happen if we educated families about birth processes and came to see birth as a normal and natural state of being?

Need for education

Education around birth is in fact not happening to women’s satisfaction. In a recent survey of 1,252 women in the United States conducted by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, 62% said they did not have conversations with their care providers about how to stay healthy during pregnancy, and 80% said they did not discuss how to prepare for motherhood. If we are to make decisions about our health and the health of our children, we need the relevant information to do so. Women need to be empowered to ask the questions they need, with care providers they feel have time for them. Changing our language around birth may be a first step in this process.

The language inherent in the medical framework is pathology driven. It can be a struggle to view the body, especially in pregnancy, as a healthy variation or as normal. Words like “labour” and “contraction” imply pain and hardship and “failure to progress”, “trial of labour” or “incompetent cervix” suggest that women inherently do not have the ability to give birth. I suggest that we apply an awareness to the words that are used around us, so that we are aware of the unconscious perceptions we have about birth, and life in general. This is not only a cornerstone of the child birth education program I am involved with, but is important for overall health and well being in my counseling practice.!
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IMO view: Better language skills come from practice | The Jakarta Post

Some friends of mine send me messages via Facebook; “How do you constantly come up with ideas to write in English?” I have frowned over this ...!
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English should be taught as a language

Prof Ganjam Venkatasubbaiah, popularly known as GV, a former professor of Kannada and a lexicographer, who has edited the modern Kannada dictionary — a 9,000-page, 8-volume work — turned 100 on August 23. His is a household name in the state and if anybody doesn’t know the meaning of any complex Kannada word or face difficulty in finding that in general dictionaries, they refer to his Klishta Padakosha (a dictionary of complex words). He is also a writer of repute and has penned some books in Kannada and English.
Igo Kannada, his column in Kannada newspaper Prajavani was popular f o r 18 long years. In an interview, the grand old man of Kannada letters spoke to Express at length about his 100 years, Kannada language, literature and more.
I am excited to be 100 years old… But really I don’t feel I am 100 years old because I interact with younger generation. They are all 20-30 years or even much younger than me. I share their thoughts and enthusiasm. My attitude towards life is that of a young man. The 100 years are in my genes. My mother lived for 107 years and my maternal uncle lived for 103 years and my father also lived a long life.
Kannada language is still growing… Language has the quality of growing and it changes in every 30 years. Kannada is 1,500 years old. We have primitive, old, medieval and modern forms of the language. There was a renaissance of Kannada literature in the last century. A great body of work was produced in the form of novels, stories and poems during this time. D R Bendre, Pu Thi Narasimhachar and K V Puttappa enhanced the glory of Kannada. Contemporary Kannada has more spoken words in it. Nowadays, we have more of fiction than of poetry. Our literature can be compared with the best works of any other language today. It is still in a transition!
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Endangered Languages and Cultures » Blog Archive » Languages and language policy of Timor Leste

Kirsty Sword Gusmão gave a terrific public lecture Language, language policies and education in Timor-Leste on 20th July at ANU. You can watch the talk here. Key points for me were:

her passionate commitment to expanding opportunity for Timor-Leste’s children through education
her belief that mother tongue medium instruction in the early years is a key to this education
the problems faced in a country with 2 official languages, 2 working languages – how to create effective multilingualism
the hard question of how you go about mother tongue medium instruction in a small and poor country which has to start from scratch
documenting languages
training teachers
creating school materials
If you had, as I had, ideas about whizz-bangery stuff on computers [1], forget them for the moment in a country like Timor-Leste where kids are lucky to have books.!
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Into how many languages can you successfully translate? (Translation Theory and Practice)

Discussion among translators, entitled: Into how many languages can you successfully translate? .!
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EducationCing!: Sociolinguistics: Pidgin & Creole and Language Shift

Pidgin language is nobody's native language; it may arise when two speakers of different languages with no common language try to hold a conversation, i.e., a pidgin is a language developed by people whose mother tongues are different in order to facilitate communication between them. Lexicon usually comes from one language, structure often from the other. It has a very simple structure and doesn’t last for a long period of time. Its complexity varies according to the communicative demands placed on it. The more there are functional demands, the more powerful and complex the pidgin is. It is used as a second language and within a very limited domain (trade).!
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Reclaiming Behaviourist Language

A bit of precision is required when communicating effectively as part of a scientific field and behaviour analysts are no strangers to this endeavour.  Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is full of jargon and its short forms.!
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How I Learned a Language in 90 Days

Becoming bilingual opens up a whole new world of different people, different cultures, and different emotions. It also takes a huge time commitment—one that many of us can't dedicate to.!
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Attention on language (and linguistic boundaries of identity)

Attention is distinct from language. Attention is this “nothing” that is back “here” reading this language out there on the screen (that “not me” of little shape...!
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Les jeunes Français seraient-ils nuls en langues ? - Publié le Vendredi 20 Juillet 2012

L'Education nationale vient de publier une étude sur l'illettrisme des jeunes français pendant que la Commission européenne dévoilait le niveau des élèves en anglais. Le constat est pour le moins inquiétant : les élèves français sont les moins bons d'Europe dans la langue de Shakespeare, et 10,3 % d'entre eux ont des difficultés à lire leur langue maternelle…

De nombreux jeunes Français
ont des difficultés en langues.
Deux enquêtes publiées pratiquement en même temps montrent que les Français présentent plus ou moins de difficultés en langues… Même avec celle dont ils se servent tous les jours : le français ! Mais les chiffres sont encore plus inquiétants concernant le niveau en anglais des élèves à la fin de scolarité obligatoire.!
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Mitzi Perdue: Language learning has benefits for children

Does the acronym FLES mean anything to you?

It stands for Foreign Language in Elementary Schools, and Dr. Arlene White of Salisbury University's Department of Education Specialties would be beyond delighted if you took an interest in FLES. Since she knows the benefits of early language education, White is passionate about encouraging both parents and school boards to have more students study languages at an early age.

What are these benefits?

"Studying languages provides unparalleled life advantages," she said. "These begin with brain training. Research shows that studying a second language activates areas of the brain that foster creativity."

She also points to other research that shows students do better on standardized tests in English and other subject areas when they study a second language.

"That's because the skills they learn for listening, speaking, reading and writing are all easily transferable. In addition, well-designed programs can include studying math and other subjects in the second language.!
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Language translators play a crucial role in court | Language Translation

Erica De La Rosa appears in court nearly every day, but she never speaks for herself. As a certified court interpreter she literally speaks for others.!
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Free The Role of Intercultural Competence in Foreign Language Teaching Research Paper - Neothomas

The Role of Intercultural Competence in Foreign Language Teaching Throughout the history of foreign language teaching, there has always been this concern...!
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Babelan microblog: Ten Commandments for language learning

Kató Lomb was a Hungarian interpreter, translator, language genius and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. She spoke 17 different languages. And she suggested the Ten Commandments for language learning. They're really interesting, so do not miss out on them:....!
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A Linguist Particle?

This week, physicists revealed to the world that they’ve all but confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, called the “God Particle” in layman’s terms. The discovery is said to answer the riddle of how subatomic particles were formed, and what gives them their mass. As an interpreter and translator who’s dabbled in more than one specialty within the scope of being a linguist, and in the shadow of such an exciting moment for mankind, I started exploring what makes us tick, a “Linguist Particle,” if you will.

This week, physicists revealed to the world that they’ve all but confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, called the “God Particle” in layman’s terms. The discovery is said to answer the riddle of how subatomic particles were formed, and what gives them their mass. As an interpreter and translator who’s dabbled in more than one specialty within the scope of being a linguist, and in the shadow of such an exciting moment for mankind, I started exploring what makes us tick, a “Linguist Particle,” if you will.!
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Language Policy and Development: Lost in Translation | Fragile States Resource Center

Language is one of the most neglected areas in the development field. It barely registers on any agenda to help poor countries despite its importance to a number of crucial areas and it being a barrier to progress in many fragile states. Why is this?

Language is how individuals communicate, acquire knowledge, and work with others. It is how societies pass on culture and institutions, import new ideas and technology, and forge links among members. It can unite as well as divide, act as an instrument of empowerment as well as a barrier to advancement, and influence how societies evolve.

Language Policy in Less Developed Countries

In the least developed countries, language policy should have two basic aims:

1) Maximize the ability of a population to acquire knowledge so as to increase education levels and productivity;

2) Maximize the cohesion of a population so as to increase its ability to cooperate to promote national development.

These are among the most important issues facing fragile states, which are typically plagued by social divisions and low education levels.

Yet, many countries have policies that work against both these aims. By using a national—European—language as the basis of education and government, they entrench elites in power, and reduce the ability of the general population to acquire knowledge. Half a century after colonialism ended in Africa, for instance, English, French, and Portuguese still matter much more than African languages in most countries even though they are not well spoken by the rural population and urban underclass, which consists of the majority of people. The disadvantages the poor face directly contribute to the stark inequities and social divisions that plague such countries.

The Disconnect Between Language and People

Such policies hold back whole countries by undermining indigenous cultures and knowledge, and forcing people to become dependent on imported institutions, language, and concepts that they are unfamiliar with. As Kwesi Kwaa Prah, Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society in Cape Town, argued in a Background Paper for the 2004 Human Development Report, it is in local languages that!
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Language and words in the news – 5th July 2012 | Macmillan

This post contains a selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular. Feel free to contact us if you would like to submit a link for us to include, or just add a comment to the post, with the link(s) you’d like to share.!
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Wordless language vital for intercultural communication

Language is a system which can be studied, described, and taught. We know much more about language and languages than about any of the other areas.

If one is speaking a second or third language and makes a mistake, it may immediately be apparent to a native speaker, and it can be questioned and corrected.

It is far easier psychologically as well as physiologically, to repeat a word and ask its meaning than to repeat a raised eyebrow or frown and ask what such gestures mean. Dictionaries can be helpful, within limits, but we have no dictionaries for nonverbal behaviors, values, culturally different patterns of thinking and reasoning, and attitudes.

I do not mean to suggest that learning another language is a simple matter. Language study is demonstrably more systematic, and far better understood. When a person hears words in a language he has never studied, he does not understand the words. In many cases, a person can completely misunderstand without ever realizing that he has misunderstood.

For example, when a Hawaiian waves her hand vertically, palm outward, it means "goodbye". But Koreans take it as a signal "to come here.’’

Unlike verbal and nonverbal behavior, cultural values cannot be recorded directly on tape or film. Values are abstractions, concepts, or ways of organizing a large amount of otherwise apparently unrelated behavior.

We often talk about the differences between “American English” and “British English,” noting differences in spellings and pronunciation. These are minor, superficial differences. The greater differences, at least as they lead to misunderstandings, are in values which may be expressed in words or other kinds of behavior. If an American and an Englishman meet for tea at the home of the Englishman, the American may reach over and help himself to some sugar or cream. If he does so, the English host might be annoyed, for as a guest the American should wait until he is offered the sugar and cream. The Englishman’s value here might be said to be: “be my guest.” The American’s value might be expressed as: “make yourself at home.” The Englishman might interpret the American’s behavior as rude or arrogant.!
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The Sound-Word Index Helps You Express Yourself Online

Communicating in plain text can be really tough; it just doesn't allow the subtlety, nuance and level of emotion that humans need to understand conversations properly.!
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Luis von Ahn: The crowdsourcerer

Language does not come naturally to machines. Unlike humans, computers cannot easily distinguish between, say, a river bank and a savings bank. Satire and jokes? Algorithms have great trouble with that. Irony? Wordplay? Cultural context? Forget it.
That human edge in decoding what things mean is what a computer scientist turned entrepreneur, Luis von Ahn, is betting on. His startup, Duolingo, which has just opened to the public, proposes to put armies of language learners to work translating text on the web.

Read more:!
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EUROPA - Press Releases - Eurobarometer: 98% say language learning is good for their children, but tests highlight skills gap

European Commission Press release Brussels, 21 June 2012 Eurobarometer: 98% say language learning is good for their children, but tests highlight skills gap Almost nine out of ten EU citizens believe that the ability to speak foreign languages is ...!
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New project lets language learners practice by translating the Web |

A fascinating new project from Carnegie Mellon University, called Duolingo, invites language learners to practice their...!
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