Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Monthly Archives: September 2013

How did our linguistic ancestors talk? Listen in

How did our linguistic ancestors talk? Listen in

“Did the lost common language Proto-Indo-European sound like this? Listen to a linguist’s reconstructed fables about sheep, horses, and a king.”

Education Ministry Improving Content of Foreign Language Studies

Education Ministry Improving Content of Foreign Language Studies

“He stressed the need for Jamaican students to learn a second language in order to take advantage of the numerous scholarship and employment opportunities being offered both regionally and internationally.

He argued that learning another language enables students to relate to other cultures, expand opportunities for employment and scholarships, and sharpen skills in their own tongue.

He is imploring teachers to engage their students in other languages apart from the English language in order to expand their view of the world.”

Area-Studies Centers Are Vital but Vulnerable

Area-Studies Centers Are Vital but Vulnerable

“As the academic year gets under way, and as Congress begins debate on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, programs designed specifically to deepen our knowledge of foreign countries are under threat because of deep cuts in federal financing by the Department of Education. For decades, these programs—known as area-studies centers—have focused on specific geographic regions of critical scholarly and policy importance. Area-studies programs are struggling in the United States. Centers are threatened with closure, and they have shut down programs and limited language study.”

This article is available by subscription to the CHE.

US Confucius Institutes gather

US Confucius Institutes gather

“Hanban, the nonprofit agency that administers more than 400 Confucius institutes worldwide, will launch a certification test for global educators who teach Chinese to foreigners starting in 2014.”

Baltics are on top for learning foreign languages

Baltics are on top for learning foreign languages

“Latvia and Lithuania are two of the top countries in Europe for learning foreign languages, the latest research shows. New figures from the Central Statistical Bureau show 85 percent of the total number of pupils in general schools in Latvia learn foreign languages.

Latvia trails just behind neighbor Lithuania, where 97.3 percent of the population speaks at least one foreign language.”

Foreign Office beefs up diplomats’ language training

Foreign Office beefs up diplomats’ language training

“Language centre provides a permanent location where staff undergo intensive training to prepare for overseas postings.

This is part of the FCO’s drive to enhance diplomatic skills, of which intensely beefing up languages is a key component.

Once trained speakers are in place, the Foreign Office will have 40% more speakers of Mandarin and Arabic in posts overseas than in 2010 and 20% more in Latin American Spanish and Portuguese.”


Note: FCO = Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Russian Language Failing to Attract Ukrainian Youth

Russian Language Failing to Attract Ukrainian Youth

“Language has historically held a central role in Ukrainian politics, both uniting and dividing the country.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Education recently released new statistics on foreign language learning in Ukraine that hints at the country’s inexorable drift towards the West. Non-Russian European languages now account for an impressive 69 per cent of second foreign languages in the country among grade-schoolers – almost all learn English as their first foreign language.”

French minister opens Alliance Francaise center in Jeddah

French minister opens Alliance Francaise center in Jeddah

“The new Alliance Francaise d’Arabie Saoudite (AFAS) was officially opened Sunday by Helene Conway-Mouret, France’s minister delegate for French nationals abroad attached to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Jamjoom Center here.

The AFAS is a non-profit organization under the sponsorship of the French Embassy, created in 2010. It has three centers in Riyadh (2011), Al-Khobar (2012) and Jeddah (2013). The three centers currently host 2,500 students.

The Alliance Francaise is a unique cultural network in the world since 1883, with 1,040 centers in 136 countries.”

Obligatory English education may end

Obligatory English education may end

“ENGLISH language classes may no longer be compulsory for third grade primary school pupils, who instead would choose from six foreign languages, if the Education Ministry’s new national curriculum scheme goes through.”

Is English really the global lingua franca?

Bulgarians are among EU nations with lowest knowledge of foreign languages, Eurostat data shows

Bulgarians are among EU nations with lowest knowledge of foreign languages, Eurostat data shows

“Bulgarians appear to be a nation where studying and speaking a foreign language is at a very low level EU-wide.  In the group of working-age Bulgarians aged 25-64 – only 39% gave a positive response that they use at least one foreign language at  an EU average of 66% for this indicator.”